Choose Your Own Adventure

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

Hope you’re all doing great! It’s been about two months since my last post and I can’t believe how much has happened since then. On this site for instance, we have had thirty-four different posts and added thirteen new members. I wish all of our newbies the very best of luck and hope they enjoy writing here as much as I do. Also, hope you all enjoyed the huge welcome-aboard gift-basket like the one they sent me when I joined. In all honesty, I’ve never seen anything so extravagant. Between the chocolates and roses and over $2500 in gift certificates to all of my favorite stores, I didn’t know where to turn first. But, I digress. Let me get back to the reason why I’m here and why they pay me the big bucks, and that’s for my posts.

As you all know, well, the three of you who read my posts anyway, I usually have trouble deciding what it is that I want to write about whenever my turn rolls around. I mean, those months sneak up on you pretty fast. Well, this time, I actually knew what I was going to write about and had it all planned out, but then something happened that changed all of my plans, when I saw in the news that R.A. Montgomery passed away this week. For those of you who don’t know R.A. Montgomery, he was one of the creators of the Choose Your Own Adventure series.

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Now, for those of you who don’t know, or who lived under a rock for the 80’s and 90’s, Choose Your Own Adventure is an interactive series of books which allowed you to determine the path of each story by making choices about what you wanted the main character to do.  An example is:

If you want to fly over the volcano, turn to page 83

If you want to emergency land into the lake, turn to page 116

I would dog-ear so many pages, trying to retrace my steps to go back and try the alternate path, that my book collection was called the kennel. I loved the series and anxiously looked forward to each new one that came out. I would run in to the bookstore, scour the shelves and grab each new one and beg my parents to buy them for me. I devoured them. I loved the aspect that each book was in a different setting or even a different time, but still had the familiarity of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, because each book starred ME! That was the hook for me. They came out and said YOU are the star, making it easier for me to place myself in the shoes of the main character. I could be in outer space, back in time, fighting pirates or battling ninjas, each book had a different and exciting hook to offer. During the course of its run, the series expanded to 230 books, selling and sold a total of 250 million copies worldwide.

journey under the sea

As I got older and moved around a lot, I lost some of them, but always had the fondness for the books. When I started to have kids of my own, I went out and got them all again and now have just about a complete collection. I went through them again, and the magic I felt as a kid, was still there. I am happy to say, my daughter now loves them just as much as I did. We also bought a Choose Your Own Adventure movie about the abominable snowman, where we could choose different paths for the characters on the DVD to take, which was a lot of fun.

choose movie

His death hit me because of the role that series had in my childhood.  Like everybody, I had a few books that always stayed with me and can bring me back to that time. That whole Choose Your Own Adventure series will do it for me. I have other books that I will name as my favorites, but as a series, there was nothing better to me than Choose Your Own Adventure. Even now, I’ll occasionally pick one up and start reading again and love hearing my daughter read. I’m transported back immediately to how I felt in that bookstore when I would see a new copy on the shelf.  And as for the rest of you, if you haven’t ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book, what are you waiting for?mystery of the maya

R.I.P. R. A. Montgomery and thank you for so many fond memories through my childhood.

Now, you get to choose what you’d like to do!

If you would like to leave a comment, please scroll below.

If you’d like to leave without leaving a comment, then you have suffered a gruesome, horrifying fate and will have to start the story over.

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Until next time!

Jonathan

The Power of Words

So I was watching this video while working out at the gym the other day:

(Okay, I obviously wasn’t working out that hard, but hey, sometimes I just like to get on the elliptical and do some thinking between bursts of cardio…).

Anyway, watching all The Fault in Our Stars quotes stream by, I was reminded why I’ve always loved books so much. I mean, I’ve always been a sucker for a good story whatever the format, but books offer something more, something magical:

Words.

I know that seems sort of obvious. But all my fellow book lovers understand what I mean. There’s nothing quite like being immersed in a good book and coming across a turn of phrase so perfect it makes you stop in your tracks and catch your breath, just due to the sheer beauty of how the words come together. Sort of like taking a walk and being captivated by how the sunlight hits the leaves in the trees — a simple and fleeting reminder of how wonderful it is to think… To feel… To be alive and connected to the world.

When I was a tween and teen, I dog-eared countless books, marking words that spoke to me. Some quotes made it onto the covers of my notebooks or into the yearbooks of friends. Some just rattled around in my head, making me think. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been drawn to writing for this age group — words held such power for me back then, shaping me, helping me see things in new ways and understanding I wasn’t the only one who felt a certain way.

Of course, I still love words and continue to highlight phrases that speak to me — reading them over and over, rattling them around in my brain, making myself think. A couple of my recent favorites:

As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. — John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

It’s as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way. — Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere 

(Huh, looking back at those I clearly have a thing for books that reference the sky in the title somehow…)

So how about you? What are some of your favorite quotes (or quotable authors or books)? What makes you stop, catch your breath, and read something again? Tell me in the comments below!

Interview with Dana Carey, Assistant Editor, Wendy Lamb Books

Today we welcome Dana Carey, Assistant Editor at Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, to share an inside look at the book editing and publishing process. I had the pleasure of working with Dana on my middle grade novel, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days.

Q: Welcome, Dana! So to start, what is your background? How did you arrive at Wendy Lamb Books?

A: I had a meandering journey to children’s publishing. After graduating college and doing trademark research for a year, I spent eight years in editorial at a professional nursing journal. Nurses are some fantastic and strong people! But I had this dream to work in children’s publishing that didn’t go away. So I took a big leap and went to school for an MS in Publishing at NYU. And I was extremely lucky to get an internship and then a position with Wendy Lamb Books.

tumblr_inline_mub7exSlaa1s70xgvQ: Tell us about a typical day.

A. What I love most about editorial is that there really isn’t a typical day! The many hats that you get to wear keeps an editor on his or her toes; it’s both exhilarating and challenging. A typical day for me could involve delving into a manuscript and writing notes (either for something under contract or a new submission), putting together jacket copy, researching comp (comparative or similar) titles during acquisition, pulling sales reports, starting a P&L (Profit and Loss) statement, writing copy for sales sheets, preparing for a presentation, sending out finished books or edited passes (drafts), talking with agents, authors, copy editing, design, subrights…just to name a few. Ha!

Q: Can you take us through the steps a book undergoes, from acquisitions to a final book?

A: When a manuscript is acquired it is usually assigned to a future span (a “span” is a book selling season in publishing-speak), which means the actual editing probably won’t start right away. When you do start editing, the author spends several months going back and forth with manuscript revisions using feedback from the editor in the form of a letter and marked manuscript pages and often a phone call to talk about the revisions. When that is done, the manuscript is sent on to copy editing. The author will review all of the copy editor’s changes and weigh in where appropriate. This is a helpful stage not only to clarify language and style if needed but also because the copy editor at this point has fresh eyes and can spot anything that was missed during editing.

Then the copy edited manuscript is sent to a compositor who will set the copy into the type of a book, which is very exciting because the manuscript is starting to look like an actual book! The proofreader will also provide a fresh set of eyes and pick up any small things that may have been missed previously. This is usually the last time an author will see the text before publication. But fear not, many people are still looking at these passes. And then finally you get a finished book.

Q: What grabs you in a manuscript when you’re reading? What tugs at your heart?

A: The first thing that grabs me in a manuscript is the voice. If the voice is unique, lyrical, authentic, and age-appropriate, you’ve caught my interest. The second thing that grabs me is the character. I love seeing a character who is basically a good kid and has this good quality challenged in some way, which often creates a deeper sense of tension and personal conflict.

IMG_5498The types of stories that pull me in are: heartwarming, funny, philosophical/psychological (what does it mean to be human, what does it mean to be a kid/teen now or at a point in history), adventure/journey stories…and who isn’t a sucker for a great Bildungsroman? I’m especially drawn to stories about kids who are struggling to belong, or are struggling with something they can’t change about themselves, such as race or sexuality. I’d also love to see more diversity in the traditional gender roles in children’s books.

Q: Is there a particular book you’ve worked on that you’re especially proud of?

A: This is a really tough question! I imagine it’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child! But if I had to choose, I’ve loved working with Wendy on our two series of illustrated chapter books: ZIGZAG KIDS by Patricia Reilly Giff, illustrated by Alastair Bright, and CALVIN COCONUT by Graham Salisbury, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers.

zig_zag_1Since there is less space as in a text-only middle grade book, the author has to be especially efficient at creating scenes and establishing characters. The process of the manuscript and art evolving independently and then coming together is a magical process.

More recently, I’ve loved working with Wendy on WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES by Susin Nielsen, coming May 2015. It’s laugh-out-loud funny (really!). It’s told from two perspectives, a boy named Stewart who is a genius but socially awkward (but working on it!) and Ashley, a girl who is not a genius academically (and not working on it!) but is well aware of her high position on the social ladder at school. When their parents decide to move in together, what happens next is hilarious, tender, dramatic, and heartwarming.

Q: What are some common mistakes or faults you see in manuscripts?

A: I often see submissions from new writers with too much description, in particular too much detail of physical movements or of telling the reader rather than showing. The reader can infer a lot, not everything needs to be spelled out explicitly. Also, it’s common to see kid characters who sound too old or too young for their age. And sometimes new authors will focus on small conflicts rather than having an overarching theme or plot for the main character.

Q: What advice would you give to writers?

A: Keep reading. Read your favorites to remind yourself why you love children’s books. Read new books so you know the market. And read outside of children’s books sometimes, you never know where you may find inspiration.

Q: And finally, what do you like to do in your spare time, when you’re not hard at work editing the next bestseller?

A: My favorite things to do outside of work are walking my dog, Charlie, taking care of my cats, Willie and Gracie, and either attending or teaching a yoga class.

Thank you so much, Dana, for sharing your insights with us!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both middle grade novels from Wendy Lamb Books. Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.