Speaking with Natalie Whipple on “Fish Out of Water” #ReadYourWorld

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Today I’m excited to welcome Natalie Whipple to the blog for a discussion of her new book, Fish Out of Water!

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Fish Out of Water
Author: Natalie Whipple
Publisher: Whipple House (US)/Hot Key Books (UK)
Editor: Jenny Jacoby
Agent: Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown Ltd.
Pub Date: February 10, 2015 (US)/Februray 5, 2015 (UK)
Review copy received: Author
Format: .pdf

 
 
 
 
My summary
Mika is one step away from landing her dream internship at the Monterey Bay Aquarium when the grandmother she never knew arrives on her doorstep. It’s not long until Betty has made herself persona-non-grata, and Mika’s parents realize that they’re all going to have to put their research (and Mika’s internship) on hold to take care of Betty, who has Alzheimer’s.

Meanwhile, Mika’s boss at AnimalZone has hired Dylan to help at the store. With his apathetic attitude towards fish and his general moodiness, Mika is not impressed with the boss’s rich, bad-boy nephew. Slowly, though, Mika sees that there’s more to Dylan than his first-class annoyingness.

In this contemporary YA novel, Mika has to navigate her first real love, shifts in her friendships, and how to love somebody that you barely like.


Betty Arlington can be monstrously offensive to Mika in one moment, and then sweet and friendly to Mika the next. How does Mika’s struggle to build a relationship with Betty parallel your struggle with your own grandmother?

Whipple-Natalie-_Author-Photo-209-by-314This is a really tough question because my relationship with my late grandmother became very strained and distant after my mid-teens (when she actively tried to convince me to leave the religion I was raised in, which was very uncomfortable for me). While Betty isn’t an exact replica of my grandmother—mine did not have Alzheimer’s, and I never heard her directly say things as cruel as Betty (though I did hear from my parents and got a lot of “softened” insults)—I did take some things personally from my own family dynamics.

The whole book, essentially, was based off of what my father told me happened when he went to see his mother on her deathbed. She essentially told him that she never forgave him for joining the LDS faith, and then she told my uncle that she never approved of his Filipino wife. And while I knew this, it was just so incredibly sad to me that these were some of the last things she chose to say to her children. When something impacts me that deeply, it usually ends up in my writing.

Because, see, at the same time that I knew these terrible things about my grandma, I also knew she was kind. She had a way of making people feel welcome when she wanted to, and she was a great conversationalist with a wonderful laugh. She worked hard for years to help provide for her family. She was faithful and passionate and had an amazing sense of humor.

And, well, I loved her. It was hard for me to understand how I could both dislike and love someone, and how that person could be both kind and cruel to me. That’s why the book is dedicated to her.

I really wanted to show that muddiness in humanity, I guess. How we have this amazing capacity for love and cruelty at the same time, and also a big capacity to accept both facets of a person.

Mika occasionally gives Betty a pass because, “She’s just a crazy old lady who doesn’t know what she’s saying” (69). These passes come at a personal price, though, as it’s not like Mika can unhear what’s been said. And when she finally speaks out about intolerance, it’s not to Betty. Why do you think some of us are so reluctant to address issues of racism or bigotry in our own families?

It’s just plain tough to tell anyone they are being racist. When I moved to Utah (from the Bay Area), I actually did try to do this! There were boys telling awful Mexican jokes in class, and I told them they were being racist. I mean, I had lived my whole life in the Bay Area and grown up in very diverse communities—I was taught this was not okay. What happened? I was the one who got bullied! Those boys were awful to me after that for years just because I stood up for something that was right. I wish families were different from strangers, but well…

I very intentionally gave Betty Alzheimer’s, because I knew it would be easier for some readers to take a “crazy old lady” than a person who was considered sane and still saying the things she says. We want so badly to pretend this doesn’t happen anymore, but I have seen it in my lifetime and I have even seen it in my young children’s age groups. So I guess this was my way of giving the topic one degree of distance from my own reality with my sane-but-still-racist grandmother.

As for reluctance in a family, I honestly don’t have a good answer. I’m not even sure it’s reluctance so much as, perhaps, ignorance. I was taught how to be respectful because of a few factors—I actually lived in a diverse community as a child, and, while I don’t look it, I am Maori. My mother’s mother immigrated from New Zealand and we have a very rich Polynesian culture from her. But in families that don’t have these kinds of factors…it’s just very easy to keep on keeping on, to not even talk about it because, as a white person, you really don’t have to.

After Mika defends herself against London, Mika notes that London’s mother told London to stop, “though it seems half-hearted” (265). It reminds the reader not only that prejudice is learned from parents and peers, but also implies that for London’s mother, certain ideas are okay to believe but not okay to say in public. How do we avoid teaching this more subtle, but just as damaging, form of prejudice?

Oh, this is a juicy question! Actually, this scene is toned down from the original. The first draft had London’s mother being much more cruel and okay with her daughter’s statements, and—get this—I got accused by some crit partners of making the white, rich people in my book too mean. Because not all white rich people are that rude. And I was stereotyping them. This was very hard for me to take. These kinds of crits made me realize how deep racism can run subconsciously, because my very kind crit partners were, somehow, sympathizing with my antagonist who was white and mean over my protagonist who was half-Japanese and being insulted.

That was a surreal and disheartening moment for me. And a huge lesson and reminder for me to check my own privilege. It was also the moment I knew this book wouldn’t sell as easily as I thought it would, because my MC, by virtue of just not being white, would receive less sympathy.

So yeah, the scene got altered so that London’s mother is more subtle in her prejudices. What’s interesting is that some people read the scene like you, in that they believe Mika’s assessment that London’s mother is “half-hearted” in her chiding. And other people actually read it that Mika is being too judgmental of London’s mother who is trying to do the right thing. It very much depends on the point of view of the reader, what they end up taking away from this scene (or this book, really).

I’m not sure we can avoid some of these more subtle things sinking into us, but I think it’s very important that when we’re made aware of it that we stop, check ourselves, and do better. Even growing up in a pretty accepting household, there were things I mislearned and had to correct. We just need to be humble and willing to learn and acknowledge our faults.

I’ll be honest, I had so many conflicting feelings when Pavan was kicked out for bringing home a non-Indian girl. My first thought was, “That doesn’t still happen – it’s 2015!” And then I realized what an incredibly privileged feeling that was, particularly given the events of these last few months. What would you say to readers who might also have that reaction?

It IS tough to believe this actually still happens, but it does. It seriously does. Not just in Indian families but in many cultures. And it is just as sad and heartbreaking as it ever was. I introduced this dynamic with Pavan and Shreya’s family because I wanted to show a few things—that prejudice isn’t just in US culture but a worldwide struggle, that it IS still happening today, and sometimes things just don’t turn out perfectly when it happens.

To people who might not think it’s believable, I guess all I can say is that it happened, in a less extreme way, to my father’s family. There has been a divide between those my grandmother didn’t approve of and those she did. I myself have been told if I married outside my race my kids wouldn’t look like me, that I’d be “sinning,” that I’d get divorced because we just wouldn’t understand each other (and I’m just 31). I hope very much that it happens a lot less than it used to, but it certainly still happens.

There’s been a conversation in children’s literature about whether authors that are in a majority should or can accurately write characters that are in the minority, be it race, gender, class, sexuality, health status, etc. How do you approach writing characters with a different background than your own?

This is where it gets tricky, because in the US we base so much of what we assume about a person’s background by what we see. But the thing is…I’m part Maori. And I’m the whitest person in my family. I am the only blonde (before I went red, heh). I am the palest. I’m the only one of my siblings who hasn’t married a Polynesian. I grew up in a household strongly influenced by our Maori and Kiwi roots, but because I look white I’m not really allowed to claim my race. This is called “white-passing.”

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On top of that, I have social anxiety (which I am medicated for), and I am part of a religion many people view in a very negative light. I’m also, well, female. So while no one would guess that I am familiar with minority struggles, I do feel like I have a lot to pull from. When you’re white-passing, you’re painfully, horribly aware of your privilege because you see the way you’re treated in comparison to someone from your very same background who looks “the part.” You hate it. And you feel like there is a part of your culture you can never claim, never speak up about, because people either don’t believe you, accuse you of trying to be something you’re not, or just push you out.

For example, even though I love and support and know the people behind We Need Diverse Books, I’ve really struggled with even pointing out that some of my books have POC characters. I certainly cannot get myself to point out that, technically, I’m a POC writer—because I don’t look it and have not been discriminated against in the same way. So would I be included or accused of trying to take advantage? That’s my whole life in a nutshell when it comes to my heritage. Even now I feel embarrassed just for pointing this out. I didn’t apply for college identifying my culture because someone said I just wanted scholarships. I have gotten laughed at and called a liar when I mention my Maori side. I’ve been told by other Polynesian people that I don’t belong. This is all stuff that’s shaped who I am.

So yes, I do feel like I have some familiarity with the topics I tackle in all my novels with POC characters. And where I don’t know something, I learn and research and ask. That’s really the best thing you can do. Before I submitted this book, I asked a friend who was from this culture to read and flag anything I might have gotten wrong, just to be extra sure. No one is perfect—and every POC experience is as individual as all human experience—so there will always be criticism. But I would rather have that than not write diversely at all.

Why was it important for you to write this particular book now?

As I mentioned before, it was my way of coming to terms with my own family struggles. In all honesty, I thought I was writing a pretty mainstream YA Contemporary Romance. HA. It wasn’t until I got my first crits and saw the responses to the topics I tackle that I realized it was a lot more than that.

Honestly, I didn’t write about Mika to try and send any huge message. I didn’t set out to write a book about racism. I wanted to write about this girl who happens to be Japanese-American and falls in love and learns to love despite hard things…who really faces “normal” stuff that many POC have faced in their lives. They seem huge to white people, I think, but as I was writing it just was part of Mika’s daily life to face some “casual” racism and some not-so “casual.” It doesn’t encompass all of Mika’s life, and she doesn’t sit around pondering about it constantly. Mostly she lets it roll off her back unless it’s really horrible. This was realistic to me, and I try to write as authentically as I can.

Fish Out Of Water is published by Hot Key Books in the UK, and independently here in the US, making it a ‘hybrid book’ of sorts. How did this change the editing, distribution and marketing process?

It’s been very interesting! I am so pleased Hot Key wanted this book, and they have adored it as much as me. It was very reassuring to know they thought I did a great job with this book and believed it was important, because at the same time I was on submission in the US getting rejection after rejection. Ultimately it became clear this wasn’t a book that traditional publishers wanted to take on in the States, so I had a couple choices—sell US rights to Hot Key or use my indie imprint to publish it on my own.

I chose to go indie because Hot Key doesn’t have a strong distribution network in the US. I learned this from my 2nd book with them (BLINDSIDED), which also didn’t sell to a US publisher. Between that book and now, I had gone indie for another project I couldn’t sell (RELAX, I’M A NINJA), so I knew that I could provide better distribution myself in the US than Hot Key could. Not that my distribution is as strong as a traditional publisher, but it was a happy medium considering my options.

It really didn’t change much of the editing process. Hot Key edited the novel, and that meant I didn’t have to pay for that on the indie side (which is one of the biggest expenses). I did have to design and pay for a new cover, and I’ve had to also work with my lovely agent instead of going completely alone (she did sell the UK rights and I believed she deserved her cut of US sales as well).

As far as marketing, honestly, I haven’t been able to garner much. Both because of money and time. I never have received much marketing in trad pub or indie, so I don’t think it’s been that different overall.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t thought to ask?

I guess just that, if anyone reading this interview does read FISH OUT OF WATER, I hope you enjoy it! It’s been a very interesting book for me to get feedback on, because I’ve found in many ways that, instead of the feedback reflecting me, it tells me a lot about the people who read about Mika and her life. It’s made me really grateful, because I keep learning something new every time I talk to someone who has read it. This is a story of my heart, with many pieces of me throughout, and I just feel really lucky that I get to share it at all.

Thank you for stopping by, Natalie!

Natalie Whipple grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook.

She is the author of the TRANSPARENT series, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, the I’M A NINJA series, and FISH OUT OF WATER (Feb 5th, 2015 [UK], Feb 10th [US]). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.


More about Multicultural Children’s Book Day…

The mission of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to raise awareness for kid’s books that celebrate diversity, and to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries. The co-creators are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can also find the list of co-hosts here.

MCCBD is partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event.

MCCBD is also collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015 sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales PressDaybreak Press Global BookshopGold SponsorsSatya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic PoofSilver SponsorsJunior Library GuildCapstone PublishingLee and Low BooksThe Omnibus PublishingBronze Sponsors: Double Dutch DollsBliss Group BooksAuthor Richa Jha, Rainbow BooksAuthor Felicia Capers, Chronicle BooksMuslim Writers PublishingEast West Discovery Press.


More personally…

My latest book, Effie’s Senior Year: The Complete Effie Stories is available for pre-order on Amazon.

I’m also writing stories just for you! Take a look at these short short stories inspired by reader prompts and click here to submit your own prompt.

You can also receive two free short stories by signing up for updates about my books or editorial work here, and/or you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Goodreads.

Speaking with Jacqueline Jules on “Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow” #ReadYourWorld

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I’m thrilled to be participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day this year, and to have the opportunity to speak with Jacqueline Jules, author of Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow, the fifth book in the Zapato Power series.

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Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow (Zapato Power, #5)
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrator:Miguel Benítez
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Pub Date: March 1, 2014
Review copy received: Author/MCCBD
Format: Hardcover

From the jacket copy: When a freak spring blizzard buries Starwood Park, Freddie works with Mr. Vaslov to clear the sidewalks using a new invention–Zapato Power snowshoes! But not even the snow can stop a thief from causing trouble in the neighborhood. Can Freddie solve the case, even if it means helping Erika, the Starwood Park bully?


I’d love to hear more about the genesis of Zapato Power as a series and Freddie Ramos as a character. How did you get the idea for Freddie’s special shoes? Who was the inspiration for Freddie Ramos? 

Jules_Jacqueline Author Photo 222 by 300Freddie was the name of a student I taught as a librarian in a Title 1 elementary school. He was one of several boys who were always asking me for superhero books. My library had only a few battered copies of superhero themed stories and the kids fought over them. When I tried to find more superhero titles for my library collection, I found that most of the books were above the reading level of my elementary school students, many of whom were English Language Learners. This inspired me to try my hand at writing an easy-to-read about a boy with superpowers.

The shoe idea came from own sons who always thought a new pair of sneakers would help them run faster. (That is, when they were young. They are grown-ups now.) But the character of Freddie was entirely based on my students. Since they were the ones clamoring for a superhero story, I decided to write a book not only for them, but about them. Freddie’s name and the names of all the child characters come from the school where I taught. Freddie’s apartment complex is based on the housing development behind the elementary school where many of my students lived. Families really did camp out at the school during a winter break when there was a problem in one of the buildings, just as in Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow.

In speaking of the limited and limiting portrayals of women in the media, Jennifer Siebel Newsom has noted that, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Freddie Ramos is a Spanish-speaking superhero who defends his friends, solves a crime and helps around his apartment complex. What do you hope that readers see when they look at Freddie Ramos and his adventures?

It bothered me as a teacher and a librarian that most of the books I had on my shelves did not reflect my student’s lives. I was asking my students to learn to read with stories about middle-class white children who lived with two parents in a single family dwelling. What’s more, the books that did feature more diversity seemed to be about the challenges of being a minority. My students were happy kids, comfortable with their lives. They deserved to see themselves depicted in literature in a natural way, not as a problem to be solved. Personally, I like the term “casual diversity.” To me it means that there is absolutely nothing odd about a Hispanic child who is a superhero. No one questions the validity of a white superhero. Why should a non-white hero seem out of place? I want my readers to connect with Freddie Ramos as a character first and think about his cultural identity second. While I am proud of being a Jew, I don’t want to be identified only as a Jewish woman. I am a multi-faceted person. My minority religion should not override every other aspect of my existence. And that’s what I want for Freddie.

Spiderman is told “With great power comes great responsibility.” I was also intrigued by Freddie’s moral dilemma, especially when he asks, “Do superheroes have to help people they don’t like?” (50). What would you say Freddie Ramos’s moral code is when it comes to his zapato power?

The thing I like best about Freddie is that he has a good heart. As soon as he learns he has super speed, he looks for ways to rescue people. One of his main frustrations is that there are not enough superhero jobs at an elementary school. Many kids dream of superpowers but they have no idea of what they would do if the dream came true. In writing Zapato Power, I imagined how my students would react to having their fantasy realized. Since I often saw them take care of each other, particularly the students who had recently arrived in the United States, it was only natural for Freddie Ramos to be a boy interested in helping others.

One of the first things that stood out to me when reading Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow was the voice. Was first person a conscious decision? Did you try different points of view before you decided on a first person voice?

Jules_Jacqueline Freddie Ramos Takes Off Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow is the fifth book in the Zapato Power series. The first book, Freddie Ramos Takes Off was re-written at least twenty times. By the time it was ready for publication, I had his voice in my head. I still do. Freddie is a real person to me. I know what he would say and what he wouldn’t say. I understand the way he views the world. While the first book underwent massive revisions, starting from a 1,000 word easy reader to a 5,000 word early chapter book, it was always written in first person. Since childhood, I have been an avid reader. I enjoy all kinds of genres, including non-fiction, but my favorite is first person narrative. It is my first choice as a writer, too. If something doesn’t work in first person, I try it in third person, not the other way around.

I also enjoyed the way that the Spanish language was woven into the text for both speakers and non-speakers, as many writers struggle with adding dialogue, dialect and/or a second language in a way that feels natural. In a young chapter book, I’d imagine that balancing the needs of both Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, the needs of all early readers, and needs of the craft would be more difficult than in some other formats.  Could you share any guidelines or tools that you used as a writer?

My background as a teacher and librarian helps me with this. When I read a children’s book, I often evaluate it in terms of how students might like it in a story time setting. Would I get blank stares? Would the kids be restless and bored? What would require explanation? Teaching has given me a sixth sense about many of these things, mostly through trial and error. My recommendation would be to think about your reader. Will something be clear to him or her?

The narrator has some great one liners, like, “Some people can be bought with guacamole. Gio is one of them” (63). What would you say to authors looking to add a little humor for young readers into their work?

Listen to kids. They often say very cute things. If you base your characters on children you know (students, sons, daughters, nephews, neighbors, etc.) you will hear funny lines you can adapt in your writing.

I’m going to turn to one of your classroom questions and ask, “If you could have only one super power, what would it be?”

Long before I wrote the Zapato Power series, I used to discuss this question with students when I read a classic folktale called The Seven Chinese Brothers. In this story, seven brothers each possess a specific power such as super hearing, super sight, super strength, etc. My classes and I had fun debates over which brother’s power was the best. If I had to choose, I think I would choose super sight. I love nature and to be able to look out of my window and see a beautiful forest or ocean faraway would be amazing.

Finally, is there anything I neglected to ask you that you would like to share?

I have a new series coming out on February 1st called Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure with Picture Window Books. Sofia is a spunky seven year old who is always trying to be the center of attention in her big extended family. Please visit my website to read more about Sofia and my other titles. www.jacquelinejules.com

Thank you for stopping by, Jacqueline!


More about Multicultural Children’s Book Day…

The mission of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to raise awareness for kid’s books that celebrate diversity, and to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries. The co-creators are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can also find the list of co-hosts here.

MCCBD is partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event.

MCCBD is also collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015 sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales PressDaybreak Press Global BookshopGold SponsorsSatya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic PoofSilver SponsorsJunior Library GuildCapstone PublishingLee and Low BooksThe Omnibus PublishingBronze Sponsors: Double Dutch DollsBliss Group BooksAuthor Richa Jha, Rainbow BooksAuthor Felicia Capers, Chronicle BooksMuslim Writers PublishingEast West Discovery Press.


More personally…

My latest book, Effie’s Senior Year: The Complete Effie Stories is available for pre-order on Amazon.

I’m also writing stories just for you! Take a look at these short short stories inspired by reader prompts and click here to submit your own prompt.

You can also receive two free short stories by signing up for updates about my books or editorial work here, and/or you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Goodreads.

Looking Ahead to 2015

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Subtitle: The obligatory end of year wrap-up.

Last year was one where I moved (again), started a new/old job, graduated with my MFA in Writing for Children, started the redesign of this website, simplified some of my commitments, shortened the list of unread books on my Kindle down to just 67 (from over 200!) and continued to strengthen personal relationships. We also held our annual CWHV conference as well as a first page and query event in November, which resulted in some attendees receiving a manuscript request from our panelists. Ultimately, it was a pretty good year.

My one wish for 2015 is that I will be able to find more time to write and publish. While I was in grad school, I managed to publish six short stories over two pen names, including one Effie story (Effie Goes to Prom) and two stories in the Now Hear This! series (Don’t Haunt This Place and Lover I Don’t Have to Love). However, last year, in 2014, I didn’t publish anything.

It feels a bit like I’m starting from scratch – which is probably not too far from the truth, given the way that Amazon works their algorithms and how many other people have started producing indie books over these last two years.

That said, I’m excited to jump back in there!

Effie’s Senior Year: The Complete Effie Stories will publish on March 8, 2015, and will include all six Effie stories, including a brand new final story, Effie At Graduation.

Effie At The Wedding is currently available free on iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo in celebration of the return (and end) of the Effie series.

Also, if you want to be notified of future book updates, you can sign up for my mailing list and receive two free short stories – The Engine Driver and Haunting at Heidelburgh Mansion.

I’ll also be participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day this year, and as I re-evaluate how and where I want to connect with people (as it turns out, I’ll probably never make a Vine), I hope to spend more time with you on the blog in 2015.

Effie’s Senior Year – Cover reveal!

Effie's Senior Year Website Featured Image

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to share a new book with you, but I’m excited to say that the final short story in The Effie StoriesEffie At Graduation — is in the works.

And! And…!

I can share with you the cover of the compilation of all six stories, Effie’s Senior Year: The Complete Effie Stories!

Effie's Senior Year

If you can’t. breath. one. more. moment. without. updates…

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

But if you’re even just slightly short of breath and you would like a review copy, you can sign up here. You can also sign up for email updates about Effie’s Senior Year and all of my books, or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads.

“First Impressions: A First Page and Query Event” Event Wrap-Up

CWHV First Pages

On Saturday, Children’s Writers of the Hudson Valley hosted First Impressions: A First Page and Query Event. We had reached max capacity for critiques, but were able to accept a few listening registrations for those that still wanted to learn from the pages of others.

What really struck me as attendees walked in, was the sense of community that was there. You could see people catch sight of someone and walk over to give them a hug. Somehow, in all the planning, I’d forgotten that our event, though the third for us, is really an outgrowth of an already flourishing community of children’s writers and illustrators in the Hudson Valley.

But back to the conference! As this is 2014, nothing could be done before we turned off our phones.

Once we were ready to begin, my fellow committee members and I read each page or query letter individually.

tracy reads first page cwhv

Note to self: Bangs are your friend. You should get some back.

Afterwards, Susan Kochan and Jennie Dunham were each given the opportunity to respond with what was working for them on the page, and what could be improved upon.

susan kochan and jennie dunham cwhv

Our panel follows along on paper as the pages are read.

After all the pages and queries were read, we had about half an hour left for a Q&A session with the editor and agent.

Finally, it was all hands on deck for clean up!

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Fellow committee member Karen Shan

della ferrari cwhv

Fellow committee member Della Ross Ferrari

first pages teamwork

Teamwork FTW!

All in all, a very successful event. Also, our annual June conference featuring hands-on workshops for writers will be June 13, 2015. Save the date!

More personally…
I’ll be closing to editorial work for the holidays, but you can sign up for updates to hear when I reopen.

I’m also writing stories just for you! Take a look at these short short stories inspired by reader prompts and click here to submit your own prompt.

Finally, if this blog isn’t enough, you can also sign up for updates about my books or editorial work here, and/or you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Goodreads.