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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Barnes and Noble Event Recap

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Me, Todd Mitchell, and Amy Ryan

Hey guys,

Just got back from Aspen... but before I write about that, I want to post these pics of the Barnes and Noble event from last week with my friends and co-finalists in the Colorado Book Award, Todd Mitchell (who is the winner in the YA category for The Secret to Lying-- yay, Todd-- well-deserved! (I LOVE that book!) and Amy Kathleen Ryan (another super-talented writer-- I just devoured the review copy of her upcoming sci-fi book Glow (Sept 2011 release).  I'll do a longer post about Aspen and the awards ceremony and everything, but since I just have a few minutes now, I thought I'd let you take a peek at these pics. 

Amy, Todd, and I did a panel on writing YA novels-- there was a really nice turn-out-- writers of all ages.  Great questions, interesting conversation.  The fun thing about being on panels is hearing about other writers' processes and philosophies and journeys... and since Amy and Todd are some of the smartest and funniest writers I know, it was a blast being on a panel with them. 

All three of us finalists in the YA category are from Fort Collins-- there's an incredibly supportive writing community here.  Here I am with Marianne Mitchell, fabulous children's and YA author (who used to live in Ft Collins and is here visiting).  Her book Joe Cinders-- a Wild West  version of Cinderella-- is one of Lil Dude's all-time favorite books!


And here I am with Sheralyn, who is always a friendly face at local writers' events.

Here I am with Jordan, who was one of the writers in the young writers camp Todd taught at last week. He had great questions, and we spoke a bit after the event. His questions (about how I keep track of my story ideas) made me remember the time in my life where I felt compelled to write down all my thoughts and musings on life and existence, but I couldn't write them down fast enough and I felt like I was going crazy.  (This was in my late teens/early twenties).  At some point, I began to feel less crazy, but I think that was a useful stage for me to go through on my writing journey...

Here we are with Teresa Funke, who  organizes the local SCBWI "schmooze group" in town. She and I were also involved in the Imaginantes workshops the week before last... she had interesting things to say about her Mexican ancestry and the relatives who inspired her book, V for Victory.

Thanks for reading! And if you're in the Grand Junction area, I hope to see you at one of my Mesa County Library events coming up in July!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jade Revision Time!

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Hello everyone!

Yesterday I got the long-awaited call from my new editor (Francoise Bui) about revisions for The Jade Notebook! I'd been kinda nervous anticipating this... it was her first time reading the whole series, and I worried whether she'd like it.  I especially worried whether she'd like The Jade Notebook-- a part of me feared she might say something along the lines of "throw the whole thing out and start over!"

But none of my fears came to pass.  She says she's enjoyed the whole series and that Jade might just be her favorite... Whew!  She had some small, totally do-able revision comments (with the help of Krista Vitola, who was an assistant to Stephanie, my former editor, and has been promoted to assistant editor (a well-deserved promotion-- she's fantastic!)

Soon I'll post the final cover for Jade-- it will make you want to drop whatever you're doing and go on a tropical vacation and swim with sea turtles-- at least, that's how it makes me feel!

Must go pick up Lil Dude from preschool now.  I'll write more next week!

Oh, and if you're in the Ft Collins area, please come to my event at Barnes and Noble tonight:

Tues, June 21, 6 pm, Barnes and Noble on 4045 S College Ave. Join me and my two friends and fellow finalists in the Colorado Book Awards young adult category-- Amy Kathleen Ryan and Todd Mitchell.  We're doing a panel on writing novels for teens-- come one, come all-- teens and adults-- and bring questions!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Queen Cover Art... behind the scenes!

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Hello dear readers!

I thought it might be interesting to do a post on the cover art for The Queen of Water.  Many readers have been excited to discover that this is a photo of Maria Virginia herself on the cover. Here's the scoop on how that came to be...

During the 6-year process of writing the book, we had plenty of time to imagine what the cover might look like.  I thought it would be good to incorporate a photo of Maria Virginia as a teen, to remind readers that this is a true story, that Virginia is a real person.  We did have  a few wonderful photos that were taken over 15 years ago by photographers of a French magazine for a feature article on a Queen competition in Otavalo (Maria Virginia doesn't remember which mag and doesn't have a copy of the mag-- only the photos.) Here's one of the photos, which was used in an Otavalo newspaper article from years ago:

Maria Virginia envisioned a book cover that somehow incorporated the gorgeous Andean landscape-- she saw the cover as vibrant and colorful. (Earlier on, she'd come up with the title A Dream in the Andes-- Un Sueno en los Andes-- which we decided to change at a later stage).

After getting the contract and turning in our final revision, we were really eager to see what Delacorte came up with... (Typically, with my book cover process, the design dept comes up with something and then sends it to my editor, who sends it to me, for my feedback.  They also show the cover idea to the sales team and other editors in-house to get their opinions. Different publishing houses seem to have varying degrees of author input in the cover design.)

Anyway, flashback to before we even got the contract: A few years ago, Maria Virginia was in town, and about to return to Ecuador in a couple days.  As a last-minute favor, our friend Ken Burgess (photographer by hobby at the time) set up a few lights and a white drape in his living room and took a bunch of shots that we intended to use as future author photos (for promotional purposes-- back flap of the book kind of pics)...  *if* we ever got a contract for the book, of course (little did we know we had many more revisions ahead of us!)

Here's one I really like:

Isn't she radiant?! Her secret to youthful skin is taking only cold showers, which I'm way too wimpy to do (thus the lines that fan out from the corners of my eyes... too many steaming hot showers)! 

So here's the photo that I almost didn't send our editor because it didn't look very author-photo-ey... I decided to add it at the last minute because I loved how introspective Maria Virginia looked.

It was a complete surprise to us when our editor emailed us this cover soon after:

They touched up her face just a bit-- "powdered" her skin and plumped up her cheek to make her look more like a teen than a 30-something woman.   She felt a little shy at first at the idea of having her photo on the cover-- she hesitantly asked if I was sure people would want to buy the book with her face on it.  I assured her, yes!

Later, my editor mentioned that the design dept had originally planned on having an original painting (which they'd commissioned) on the cover.  When the artist completed it, my editor and her colleagues felt that although it was very beautiful, it was unfortunately too young-looking for The Queen of Water, which is geared toward older young adults and adults. (Unfortunately, I don't have permission to post the photo of that cover here- sorry!)

I agreed that the initial cover concept looked younger than the intended audience.  Also, the girl's outfit didn't reflect Maria Virginia's indigenous Otavalena Quichua clothing, which is important in the story, since it relates to her identity issues. We would've wanted to be sure that the girl's clothing on the cover accurately represented the culturally-specific clothing that Maria Virginia and other Otavalena Quichua women wear-- solid white blouse with wide lace ruffle around the neck and forearms of the blouse, a ring of flowered embroidery below the lace of the neck, gold bead necklaces and coral-colored bead bracelets.  If you go to Otavalo, you'll see that although there are slight variations on the smaller details, that women stick very closely to the basic clothing that you see Maria Virginia wearing here:

See how the colors of the embroidered flowers, the faja (waist wrap) color, and the lace texture/pattern vary, but the other elements are basically the same? (Oh, and the anaco (wrap-around skirt) color can vary-- either dark blue or black).  Women often add a fachalina-- a cream or black wool wrap-- knotted over their shoulder and/or folded on their head.

                     Me, Maria Virginia, and Alex (*before* the anaco unraveled!)

As a sidenote, Maria Virginia dressed me up in an outfit like this for a night on the town in Otavalo (an outing which ended with my anaco accidentally unraveled, pooled at my feet, as I stood in my underwear in a restaurant... not my best moment!) Extreme embarrassment aside, it was actually a really interesting "research" experience-- it helped me feel more "inside" Maria Virginia's body as we wrote the scenes involving anacos. You can read about it here!

Laura  * P.S.  I also want to add that the reason for featuring my name first was a purely practical one-- a decision that Maria Virginia and I made together after thorough discussions.  We felt that since there were already many English-speaking readers who were familiar with my name, that it would be simplest to put my name first. That way, in bookstores and libraries, the book would be alphabetized near my other books, and my reader base would be alerted to the book release.  Maria Virginia's goal (which I share) has always been to have our book reach as many readers as possible, and we agreed that having my name first would facilitate this.  We're hoping that this book will be translated to Spanish and available in Latin America (where there's little, if any, name recognition of me and my books at this point). If the translation happens, we'll push to have Maria Virginia's name first on the cover of a Latin American edition. I just wanted to clear that up, since I honestly feel weird about having my name first when it's a story that she actually lived through.  Okay, thanks for reading!

G'night again!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Agent's Retreat ( 6 weeks after the fact...)

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    Chris Barton and Erin Murphy (love the expressions!)
Hey all,

Finally getting around to posting pics of my agent's (Erin Murphy) annual retreat!  I went to the first one in Santa Fe a few years ago-- there were about twelve of us there. I think I missed the one after that (in Vermont) because that's the year Lil Dude came from Guatemala.  The next year was Portland, and the next Chicago, and this year, in Austin (which was our biggest yet-- over 40 amazing authors!)  I really  love these people-- it's a rare and wonderful bonding experience.  We spend time talking about writing and publishing, gleaning and sharing wisdom.  We also eat and laugh a lot (and even cry a little...)  I'm too pressed for time at the moment to link to everyone's individual websites, but if you go to Erin's  website, you'll find links to everyone else's.

 A glimpse of the goofiness that occurred (we went a bit wild that night... I think we scared the wait staff-- at times the shrieks of laughter were louder than those on Lil Dude's preschool playground)...

Ruth Barshaw, Audrey Vernick, and Penny Blubaugh at a signing event we did at Book People (fantastic indie bookstore in Austin!)

Me and Kathy Duval...

Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Penny...

 Liz Garton Scanlon and Deborah Underwood...

Ruth taking a photo of a white peacock in a tree outside a lovely restaurant where we dined.  (Usually she's sketching everything in her little sketchbook...)

Or playing harmonica... (something she and Lil Dude have in common)

Carrie Gordon Watson, Deborah, Conrad Wesselhoeft and Elizabeth Bluemle...

Anna Staniszewski and Lisa Schulman...

Ammi-Joan Paquette (author and agent), C.J. Omololu, Natalie Lorenzi

Lots of gushiness and giddiness...

And this is just a sampling!!  I'm so fortunate to be part of this group of supportive writers-- it's a giant and unexpected perk of being an author... getting to spend time with these brilliant, sensitive, kind souls.

Time for an evening walk around the neighborhood... have a great week!