EMMANUEL’S DREAM popping up in some exciting places!

My upcom­ing pic­ture-book biog­ra­phy, EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH, has been pop­ping up in a few excit­ing places lately!
First, I recent­ly got to see–for the first time–how the illus­tra­tions by Sean Qualls are pro­gress­ing, and the art­work is noth­ing short of amaz­ing! I was sit­ting in a qui­et cof­fee shop work­ing on my lap­top when I got my first glimpse, and it lit­er­al­ly brought tears to my eyes, in all the best ways. I want­ed to dance around the place and scream with excite­ment! I love the bold col­or palette he’s using, the expres­sions on the char­ac­ters’ faces, and the way he chose to show parts of the sto­ry in sil­hou­et­ted back­ground images. It’s breath­tak­ing! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I can share any of it with you just yet, but I can’t wait to be able to. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Sec­ond, the book is now list­ed on Goodreads! I hope you’ll click on this link or the but­ton below and add EMMANUEL’S DREAM to your “Want to Read” shelf.

Goodreads button for Emmanuel's Dream

Third, the book is avail­able for pre-order! If you’d like to reserve a signed copy, you may now order EMMANUEL’S DREAM from Secret Gar­den Books (please leave an extra week or so after the pub­li­ca­tion date for deliv­ery, and indi­cate how you’d like it per­son­al­ized in the “oth­er notes about your order” field). It Is also avail­able for pre-order on Amazon.comBarnes & NobleIndieBoundPowell’s, or direct­ly from the pub­lish­er, Schwartz & Wade/Random House.
Keep an eye out for more excit­ing news!

On overnight success (Surprise! It’s a lot like failure.)

I post­ed over on the Emu’s Debuts blog yes­ter­day about what makes an “overnight suc­cess.” If you missed it, here’s a lit­tle excerpt:

Both of last week’s posts here were about fail­ure, or at least the con­stant per­ceived threat of fail­ure that so often makes it hard for us to move for­ward. I’m going to con­tin­ue the theme, but on a slight­ly dif­fer­ent note. Our own Emu Empress, Erin MUrphy, once said some­thing along the lines of, “For every suc­cess, there is a wait­ing peri­od that feels like fail­ure.” And in a post on this very blog almost three years ago, she fol­lowed that up with, “But it’s NOT! It’s just waiting!”
Roosevelt quote about failure and successWhen she wrote that post back in 2011, I’d only been with the agency for a few months. One year from now, I’ll have three books pub­lished. That doesn’t seem like very much wait­ing, espe­cial­ly to those famil­iar with the pace of the pub­lish­ing indus­try. Many of my writer friends have walked up to me and said some­thing to the effect of, “Wow, you’re on FIRE!” Some say things like, “I guess you’ve been busy late­ly!” Oth­ers ask, “So, what’s your secret?” as if I’m hold­ing out on them. A few say, “Boy, did you get lucky!” nev­er think­ing that some authors might be a lit­tle bit offend­ed by that. (I nev­er am: Yes, indeed, I have got­ten very, very lucky!)
So, in the inter­ests of dis­pelling myths and keep­ing things real, I thought it might be help­ful to break down my “overnight success:”

You can read the rest of that post here.

2013: What a year!

EMLA Client Retreat group photo

I haven’t post­ed here for way too long, but 2013 turned out to be quite a year. I did man­age to squeeze in a few posts over at Emu’s Debuts, so I thought I’d share them here as a sort of roundup (and to par­tial­ly explain where I’ve been since the last post)…
In July, I had the amaz­ing expe­ri­ence of attend­ing my sec­ond Erin Mur­phy Lit­er­ary Agency client retreat, this time in Big Sky Mon­tana. Words can’t real­ly describe how won­der­ful these retreats are, but I post­ed a bit about it here.

EMLA Client Retreat group photo
The whole EMLA retreat gang (except me!)

Aside from that trip, I spent the sum­mer writ­ing, research­ing, writ­ing, inter­view­ing, writ­ing, revis­ing, writ­ing, revis­ing, revis­ing, and revis­ing to deliv­er the final man­u­script for BE A CHANGEMAKER. I wrote a bit about the process here.
A screen shot of the developmental edit
Tracked changes in the devel­op­men­tal edit stage

Despite the mad race to the fin­ish line, I feel real­ly good about how it all came togeth­er. And here’s a post about how it felt to get to THE END.
Then there was the dread­ed author pho­to, which actu­al­ly turned out to be sort of fun (and decent enough to share with the world, thank goodness!).

Laurie Thompson head shot

Oth­er news and high­lights from the year?

  • I got to see an ear­ly study for a scene from the pic­ture-book biog­ra­phy of Emmanuel Ofo­su Yeboah, illus­trat­ed by Sean Qualls.
  • The above book also FINALLY has a title, EMMANUEL’S DREAM!
  • I also got to see pre­lim­i­nary sketch­es for MY DOG IS THE BEST (sor­ry, I can’t share them here, but Paul Schmid’s illus­tra­tions are ADORABLE!).
  • I fin­ished anoth­er fic­tion pic­ture book man­u­script and it will soon be going out on sub­mis­sion (fin­gers crossed!).
  • I par­tic­i­pat­ed in and fin­ished PiBoId­Mo 2013.

Stay tuned for my next post on how I plan to tack­le 2014. 🙂

Fantastic news–my first book sale!

Okay, so this post is a lit­tle late in com­ing. I’ve been care­ful­ly think­ing about relat­ed revi­sion notes as well as enjoy­ing just a lit­tle bit of bask­ing and cel­e­brat­ing (okay, a lot of bask­ing and cel­e­brat­ing!). Now that my feet are back on the ground, please allow me to share the offi­cial announcement…
I’ve sold my first book!

I can’t yet reveal all of the details (there’s a top-secret Awe­some Illus­tra­tor involved!), but I  can say that in my wildest dreams, I could­n’t have imag­ined any­thing bet­ter. My pic­ture-book biog­ra­phy about Emmanuel Oso­fu Yeboah (see pre­vi­ous post) will be edit­ed by the love­ly Anne Schwartz at Schwartz & Wade (Ran­dom House). Here’s a bit of a blurb about the book, cour­tesy of my amaz­ing agent, Ammi-Joan Paque­tte:

“When Emmanuel Ofo­su Yeboah was born, his right leg was short and twisted—completely use­less. It was 1977, and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in Ghana, West Africa, were con­sid­ered cursed, and left their homes only to beg for food or mon­ey. Emmanuel chal­lenged the norm from his youngest days. Then, in 2001, he decid­ed to prove that peo­ple with phys­i­cal chal­lenges could do amaz­ing things, so he bicy­cled across Ghana—almost 400 miles—with one leg. His ten-day ride helped make him a vir­tu­al celebri­ty, but also a nation­al hero. As a direct result of Emmanuel’s efforts, Ghana even­tu­al­ly enact­ed pro­gres­sive dis­abil­i­ty laws.”

Her full announce­ment is on the Erin Mur­phy Lit­er­ary Agency web­site, here.
Part of what makes this the ulti­mate dream come true for is that this is the sto­ry I could nev­er let go of. It’s the first book I ever tried to write and has been through at least 30 MAJOR rewrites, chang­ing gen­res and tar­get age groups sev­er­al times along the way, and vary­ing in length from 200 words to 1500 words and every­where in between. I’ve put it away, stud­ied and learned, pon­dered and thought, writ­ten oth­er things, and been pulled back to this one again count­less times, over and over, for almost 7 years. This project has been my own per­son­al 400-mile bike ride, one that I don’t know if I could have com­plet­ed with­out the inspi­ra­tion I’ve derived from the sto­ry itself. To have it be the first book of mine to sell AND to have it land in such a per­fect, won­der­ful home at S&W is tru­ly unbe­liev­able. But please don’t pinch me, because this is one dream I don’t want to end.

Teaching Social Issues in Elementary School

In my most recent issue of Social Stud­ies and the Young Learn­er (Vol­ume 23, Num­ber 4, March/April 2011) from the Nation­al Coun­cil for the Social Stud­ies, there’s a brief arti­cle enti­tled “The Uncom­pro­mised Cur­ricu­lum: Videos of Teach­ers Teach­ing Social Jus­tice Issues,” by Deb­bie Sonu. Deb­bie talks a bit about how dif­fi­cult it for today’s teach­ers to include social jus­tice lessons despite nar­row, test-focused cur­ricu­lums. She took videos of three of these deter­mined teach­ers in action, and they are noth­ing short of inspiring.
Watch the videos here.
These are class­rooms I would’ve loved to be in as a child (heck, I’d love to be in them now!), and you can see how engaged the kids are with the dif­fer­ent top­ics. What I love most about all three of these approach­es is the respect each of the teach­ers has for her stu­dents. In the first, the teacher tells her fifth graders that it’s okay to let their dis­cus­sions wan­der where they will and not stick to the pre­pared ques­tion list. In the sec­ond, the teacher tells her first graders they are not ask­ing first grade ques­tions, they are ask­ing col­lege ques­tions. And in the third, the teacher asserts that all children–gifted or not–have the abil­i­ty, and in fact the need, to dis­cuss these kinds of issues.
Kudos to these teach­ers, and to Deb­bie Sonu for shar­ing them with us!

The interview tightrope

I’ve been work­ing on and off for years on a biog­ra­phy for kids. It’s get­ting real­ly close, but there’s still some­thing miss­ing. In a few weeks, though, I final­ly get to meet and inter­view the sub­ject, Emmanuel Oso­fu Yeboah, in per­son! No, I’m not fly­ing to his home in Ghana (bum­mer), but he’ll be in San Diego this month after rid­ing in the Chal­lenged Ath­lete’s Foun­da­tion Mil­lion Dol­lar Chal­lenge (a sev­en-day, 620-mile bike ride down the Cal­i­for­nia coast­line from San Fran­cis­co to San Diego). The meet­ing is sched­uled, and the plane tick­ets are pur­chased. Yay!
On one hand I’m shak­ing with excite­ment about meet­ing him sim­ply because he’s a per­son­al hero of mine. I find him to be so inter­est­ing and his sto­ry to be so inspi­ra­tional. In the five years since I first heard of him and his accom­plish­ments, I’ve not grown tired of read­ing, talk­ing, or writ­ing about him.
And I’m absolute­ly thrilled to get the chance to inter­view him in per­son. The phone and email inter­views haven’t been as pro­duc­tive as I’d like; they always feel way too for­mal. An in-per­son inter­view will hope­ful­ly allow me to final­ly fill in some of the gaps in my research. Even more impor­tant­ly, I want my read­ers to real­ly get to know him. If I have got­ten to know him myself, I’ll have a much bet­ter chance of shar­ing his char­ac­ter with my readers.
I also want to reas­sure him that I’m seri­ous about this project, and not a dream­er or a freak. (Okay, so it may be fair to say I’m both of those things, but not about this project!) An in-per­son inter­view feels like the piece that’s been miss­ing all along. I believe it will allow me to, final­ly, make this man­u­script into a book.

Pho­to used with per­mis­sion from flickr.com’s foxtongue

That’s where the nerves come in, though. What if he does think I’m too much of a dream­er or a freak? What if go all fan-girl on him and can’t think straight? What if I go too far the oth­er way and come off as too force­ful, too seri­ous? What if I can’t estab­lish the con­nec­tion I’m look­ing for or don’t get the answers I need? What­ev­er the rea­son, if I can’t take the man­u­script to the next step after this inter­view, will I ever be able to get it there? It’s feel­ing a bit like do or die time.
So, I’m feel­ing all the excite­ment and nerves of a tightrope walk­er before the big event. I want to be pre­pared to get all that I need as an inter­view­er (because I might not get anoth­er chance), but I don’t want to get so focused that I miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a human con­nec­tion with an amaz­ing individual.
Any tips on strik­ing the right balance?

Good news: ONE IS ENOUGH won an award!

In my last post, I was so busy gush­ing about the con­fer­ence awe­some­ness I for­got to men­tion the best news of all!
My man­u­script for ONE IS ENOUGH, a pic­ture-book biog­ra­phy about Emmanuel Ofo­su Yeboah, was one of those nom­i­nat­ed for the SCBWI West­ern Wash­ing­ton 2010 Out­stand­ing Work-in-Progress awards! Here’s the offi­cial slide:

This award is giv­en by the fac­ul­ty man­u­script con­sul­tants, who select their favorite manuscripts–those they feel show the most promise of being even­tu­al­ly published–for the hon­or. I am espe­cial­ly tick­led because my con­sul­ta­tion was with an edi­tor I real­ly like per­son­al­ly who works for a pub­lish­ing imprint whose list I would be incred­i­bly hon­ored to be a mem­ber of. Bet­ter yet, her revi­sion notes make per­fect sense to me. Of course, I still have to find a way to imple­ment them.
Con­grat­u­la­tions to all of the hon­orees! Now let’s get back to our key­boards, use what we’ve learned to pol­ish those man­u­scripts until they shine, and then sum­mon the courage to send them out into the world. I’ll be keep­ing my fin­gers crossed!

Busy, busy, busy…

I haven’t post­ed any new arti­cles for quite awhile now, so you’re prob­a­bly think­ing I’ve been sit­ting at home all day eat­ing bon-bons and watch­ing Oprah. No way! I’ve actu­al­ly been tak­ing a con­scious break from arti­cle writ­ing to focus on a book… or two. What start­ed out as an idea for one mid­dle grade book has now become a pic­ture book biog­ra­phy of Emmanuel Yeboah AND a teen how-to guide for Youth Ven­ture! I’m not sure work­ing on two so total­ly dif­fer­ent books at the same time is a good idea, but they’re slow­ly mov­ing along.

I also joined the Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee of our region­al SCBWI chap­ter last year, and was very busy help­ing to orga­nize our 17th Annu­al Writ­ing and Illus­trat­ing for Chil­dren Con­fer­ence. It was one of the most daunt­ing, eye-open­ing and reward­ing expe­ri­ences of my life, and I tru­ly can’t wait to do it again!

And now, back to work…