Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy, thank you

The other day I had this wonderful, overwhelming sense that all was right with the world. It isn't, of course (I've actually got some rather frustrating things happening in my life right now), so it was particularly delightful to feel so very content with my life.

It made me think of the movie HappyThankYouMorePlease. I love the concept: acknowledge when you are happy, say thanks, and respectfully ask for more of the same. (Exactly who or what you thank depends on your belief system).

I think it's important to pause and be grateful for the good things in life when you've got them. When things go well, it's far too easy to take them for granted. And when they go wrong, it can be hard not to dwell on them. But in my experience, when I stop to acknowledge the good things--to be grateful for them--I tend to get more of the same.

So here are the things for which I am incredibly grateful, in no particular order:
  • Spring is here and the sun is out.
  • The plants I put in last fall survived the very dry winter. Some are already blooming.
  • Trees are flowering everywhere, and the air is perfumed with their scent. It reminds me of springtime in Berlin, which I sorely miss.
  • I am currently working on an article for a science magazine for kids (can't tell you which one, just yet)--it's a fantastic opportunity and lots of fun.
  • An editor asked me to revise and resubmit one of my non-fiction PB manuscripts and gave me an estimated time frame to hear back from him on the revision.
  • I have an amazing group of critique partners and beta readers who have helped me make my work shine; without them the previous item would not have happened. 
  • My mom came to visit and helped me paint the library (a realtor would probably call it the formal dining room, but we keep books there instead of a table).
  • Koda has figured out he's not alpha (he tried for a while, but he's finally realized he's on the bottom rung). Now that he knows his place, he's the sweetest dog we could have hoped for.
  • And of course, my wonderful family, who put up with more than their fair share of craziness with me.

These are growing in my yard--love 'em! (source)

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not a drop to drink

Thanks for the great comments on Monday's post! I think sometimes people see those of us who advocate for nature as thinking we need to do away with all things tech. Although there may be people like that out there, I'm not one of them. Technology has lots of great things to offer, and it's not going away (nor should it).

I'm simply advocating for incorporating some "nature time" into daily life--half an hour or so to recuperate from a crazy day and find some sense of balance.

And in other news ...

Did you know today is World Water Day?


Water day? Why do we need a water day? Personally, I think it's so I can share some mind-blowing facts with you (all but the last are from
  • it takes 109 liters of water to make one glass of wine
  • 15,400 liters of water are needed to produce one kg (just under half a pound) of beef
  • chicken is better at 4300 liters for one kg of meat
  • the average water footprint for one kg of bread is 1608 liters
  • it takes 5060 liters of water to make one kg of cheese
  • a 100-gram chocolate bar requires 1700 liters of water to make
  • 560 liters of water go into growing 1 kg of oranges
  • 1 kg dry pasta takes nearly 1850 liters of water to make
  • one pair of Levi's jeans uses over 3,000 liters of water over its lifetime (from growing the cotton to laundering) (source)
And that doesn't take into account the cooking process, washing up after preparing food, or any other direct use of water involved in food prep. Hmm, makes drought look downright scary, doesn't it? (That's why I write novels about it, mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

I'm actually writing (on the non-fiction side) a profile about the founder of the Water Footprint Network, so World Water Day was timely. There are some amazing graphics (and more mind-blowing facts) on the WFN website--go check them out!

If you had to guess, what part of your day uses the most water?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where the wild things aren't

Where are the wild things? Not in children's books (or, to be accurate, less so with every decade that passes). So says a team of researchers who studied Caldecott winners and honor books from the past 70 years. The recent study determined that scenes depicting nature have declined steadily over time.

That's not really all that surprising, is it? It mirrors what's happening in our lives. Most children spend the vast majority of their time indoors or in built environments (e.g., cities), so why would we expect characters in books to do otherwise?

And does it really matter, anyway? As one discussant in a recent LinkedIn discussion asked, should we be disturbed by this trend?


I'll let you come to your own conclusions on this, but first, a few items of interest.
  • Children who live near natural settings experience less stress. (source)
  • Kids who move to greener locations demonstrate improved cognitive abilities. (source)
  • Kids with ADHD have milder symptoms when they have regular "green time"--time spent in nature. (source)
  • Symptoms of ADHD decrease immediately following a 20-minute walk through a park. (source)
  • Inner-city girls with a view of nature (e.g., trees outside their windows) have greater self-discipline and are better able to concentrate. (source)
  • Areas with trees provide better opportunities for play, and play is an important part of childhood development. (source)
  • Young children who spend time in "outdoor classrooms" have longer attention spans and better motor coordination than children who spend only short periods of time outdoors. (source

What if you're all grown up, or don't suffer from ADHD? Not to worry, nature affects adults, too.
  • People living in green areas are less likely to procrastinate, find their problems less overwhelming, and are better able to overcome them. (source)
  • People living in housing near green areas (trees and grass) are less likely to be involved in domestic violence. (source)
  • People living in areas with more natural settings are healthier. (source)
  • Patients with a view of natural scenery recover faster from surgery and request less pain medication. (source)
  • College students with natural views outside their dorm windows are better able to concentrate. (source)
So what do you think? Do you think there's reason for concern?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Library Fun

I love when I get to experience something unexpected. Most days go by, relatively the same, but every now and then something comes along to shake things up. Like this.

Look who came to our local library:

There's a great horned owl in the children's fiction section. How awesome is that?

The raptor rehabilitators brought others, too, including this screech owl, a European barn owl, and a peregrine falcon. Gorgeous birds that have all been injured in some way (most were hit by a car while hunting). They were rescued but unable to be re-released into the wild.

It was an incredible afternoon with rarely-seen hunters. I'd do it again in a heart-beat.

When was the last time you got close to an animal that wasn't a pet?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marketing Monday: Angela Cerrito and Holiday House marketing

As promised, today I have young adult author Angela Cerrito and Terry Borzumato-Greenberg, VP of Marketing at Holiday House for an extra-special edition of Marketing Monday.

Critics have had wonderful things to say about Angela's debut novel, THE END OF THE LINE:

"A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief," Kirkus Reviews

"Robbie's story has the potential to make young people think, care, and possibly change." VOYA

So let's find out how Angela and the Holiday House marketing team made it such a success! (Note: the first response is from Terry, the rest from Angela.)

Terry, THE END OF THE LINE is for ages 12+, which means that some of the target audience is young adults, and the rest is gatekeepers: parents, teachers, librarians. How do you market a book like this to effectively reach all of those potential readers/buyers? Do you put an emphasis on trying to reach a particular group?

Holiday House has always marketed to the gatekeepers, especially librarians and teachers. There are the tried and true ways which really are essential to establishing a book, such as sending advance copies to the key reviewers, to library systems and educators nationwide, and to the appropriate awards committees. Now with the internet, and social networking, there are so many additional opportunities!

We were so excited when Angela Cerrito’s debut novel was signed up for the Holiday House list. And one of the nice things that worked in the book’s favor was that seven of the eight novels published on the same list were all first novels! So with that, we created a fabulous marketing campaign: “7 Novels, 7 New Voices, 7 Incredible Stories.” We created reader’s guides and bookmarks, and we began promoting the list months in advance of publication at conventions as well as online. Librarians, educators, and booksellers all love to be in at the ground level to introduce new authors to young readers, so we gave them the tools to do that. Two professors were so impressed with Holiday House’s commitment, and to the books, that they put together a program at a national teacher convention to showcase the talent. It was a rousing success!

Getting the book into the hands of the right people goes a long way. And then the book needs to do the rest of the work, which of course THE END OF THE LINE did. We’re lucky to have Angela and her novel on the Holiday House list. They both have made an impact with readers. And we thank those all-important gatekeepers. . . .

Angela, how did you and Holiday House go about creating a marketing plan for TEOTL? To what extent was it a joint venture (hammering out what you could do versus what would best be handled by the Holiday House team)?

Holiday House did wonders with marketing THE END OF THE LINE from the start. The novel tackles serious subjects but the main character is fairly young. My editor, Julie Amper, guided the revision process with the end reader in mind. Holiday House’s marketing department created the marketing plan as Terry Borzumato-Greenberg mentioned above. When I learned of opportunities to promote the novel (a book launch in my home town, Skype visits with classrooms, speaking at a teachers’ workshop and displaying the novel at the SCBWI LA conference) I simply sent an email to the Holiday House to work out the details.

Basically, Holiday House is there for me when I have a question. Okay, Alison I’ll admit this embarrassing tidbit. I was concerned about the use of the word “gatekeepers” in question 1. I work in healthcare and in this industry a “gatekeeper” is someone who denies access to health care or specialized care. I was a bit concerned about the term being applied to parents, teachers and librarians who I really see as “gate openers” for literature. Haylee Gonnason, publicist at Holiday House, responded to assure me that the term was common in publishing and not negative. I think that publicists have at least two jobs in one. They have to work with professionals in the industry and the media to promote books and they must also educate authors who may be very new to publishing.

(I had no idea the term had such a drastically different meaning in healthcare. In fact, I love your term: gate openers. How can we change it?!)

As far as things I did on my own:

Teachers Guide: Natalie Lorenz created a teacher’s guide for TEOTL. I think this was the best thing I did to promote the novel. It leads itself well to classroom and teachers can use all or select parts of the guide. I love how Natalie created lessons for students with a variety of different learning styles. In January, the guide was downloaded from my website about once per day. This month so far it has been downloaded about 15 times per week.

Website: I created an interactive website for the book. The main character in THE END OF THE LINE is required to make lists. The first list is about who he is. Readers can send me lists about who they are and I will post them on the website.

Book Trailer: My daughter and her friends made book trailers (in a few different languages) for the book.

Blog Interviews: It has been so much fun to be interviewed by bloggers. I keep a list with links to all of the interviews on my website. I was honored to be interviewed by Cynthia Leitich Smith on Cynsations, Cynthia had read an excerpt of an earlier version of the novel many years before it was published.

Angela, how did you use social networking to spread the word about your novel? Do you have a sense of how well it helped you reach your target audience?

I’m not alone in thinking social networking is difficult to measure. I first and foremost use social networking to connect with my family and friends. Most of my FB status updates and comments have to do with real events in my life (the things my children say or what our family is up to next). I don’t shy away from new social networking opportunities (like tumblr / pinterest) but I don’t spend a great deal of time on them either.

I’m not sure if any of my social networking efforts (or even my website) helped “spread the word” about THE END OF THE LINE. But they are all landing places for people to find me after they have read the novel. After a school visit or presentation, I often receive website lists and friend requests from people who were at the event. That is the best indication I have that social networking is working for me.

Note: I love getting handwritten letters too! My habit is to respond to emails with an email and to snail mail with a handwritten letter or card.

I love that you send handwritten notes in return! Such a great way to establish a connection with your readers. TEOTL is listed as one of YALSA's 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers and was selected for VOYA’s Top of the Top Shelf and Top Picks for Middle Grade Readers lists. Did marketing efforts lead to either of those honors, and if so, how?

I am thrilled and so grateful that TEOTL was selected to each of those lists. I have to credit the Holiday House marketing department for getting the book noticed.

TEOTL is a recent addition to the Great Scavenger Hunt Contest. Did marketing efforts lead to this?

I heard about the Great Scavenger Hunt from a reader a couple of years ago. But I wouldn’t have known how to participate as a novelist if it weren’t for The Elevensies, a group of debut authors whose first novels were published in 2011. I’m fortunate that my first novel came out at the right time for me to be part of this wonderful group of talented and generous writers.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed on your site!!

* * *

Thank you, Terry and Angela, for taking the time to share your experience with us. It's a wonderful book and you've marketed it well!

Angela grew up in Dearborn Michigan. She liked school but she loved summer visits to her grandparents’ cabin on Pontiac Lake where they lived “like the olden days.” She spent her summers trying to protect her strawberry patch from muskrats (and trying to protect the muskrats from her grandfather), swimming with her sister, reading and eating mulberries right off the tree. After high school she moved to Forest Grove, Oregon where she tried to balance many part-time jobs with full-time school, found the love of her life and got married over a weekend in graduate school. She went on to become a physical therapist and has worked in Oregon, Wisconsin, Georgia, Italy and Germany. She started writing when she had the good fortune to be unemployed while living in Italy.  After writing a few novels, joining several critique groups, attending many SCBWI conferences and what seemed like thousands of revisions, her first novel was acquired by Holiday House and released in 2011. She is represented by William Reiss of John Hawkins and Associates. 

If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Technical difficulties

I've been out of the loop, I know. For far too long. *ducks head in shame* I have a slew of posts in my head, but haven't had any time to get them here. But I will!

I will even figure out how to get the fabulous photos off my phone and post them (I really want to post these pics; I think that may be what's holding me back more than anything else). I keep emailing them to myself, but they never appear in my inbox. But I will conquer the Android. Oh yes, I will.

So what have I been doing? In the past week, I've become a new writer for a kids' science magazine (commissioned!), as well as a fact-checker and copy-editor for a small publisher. I'm actually earning a bit of money at this writing thing, now. I've also been working on revisions for a picture book (at the request of an editor!), and querying my MG. It's been busy, to say the least. But I'm feeling hopeful, and it's not just because spring is right around the corner.

I will be back on Monday with another fabulous Marketing Monday post, this time a joint interview with Angela Cerrito (author of The End Of The Line) and Terry Borzumato-Greenberg, VP of Marketing at Holiday House--how great is that?

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! See you on Monday.