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…