Monday, January 28, 2013

Q&A: Wait For It...

Dear Jeebies – What are you like when you’re waiting to hear back from your agent or editors on a submission? 

I am the most impatient person in the world. To cope with the waiting, I usually immerse myself in something else that I'm working on – and I'm always working on several things at once. If a shiny new idea catches my attention, that's even better. But all the while, in the back of my mind, I'm wondering and hoping. There's a song by Brett Dennen I've been listening to that talks about finding something to hold onto "to help you through the hard nights like a flask full of hope..." My flask full of hope contains my works-in-progress and my writing friends – and the feeling that anything can happen. 

I love the submission wait time. I feel as if the ball is in someone else’s court, and until I hear back, I’m totally free to let that project go from my mind and work on something else. It may be the least stressful part of the book-creation life cycle for me. Of course, by this time, I’m already stressing about the next project/idea/deadline.

I have a love-hate relationship with the waiting process. On the one hand, I'm as impatient as a 4-year-old at Christmas, and I hate feeling that way. But I also love the excitement that comes with that curiosity. It's kind of too bad that the publishing process can be so slow that sometimes, you've almost lost interest in a project by the time there's forward motion on it.

Sometimes, by the time a contract comes through and it's time to work on revisions with an editor, the manuscript seems like it was written by someone else. Often, I'm surprised by it. "Did I write that?!" And that's nice, I suppose. A little distance can give you a new perspective.

Okay, brace yourselves. I actually love having a manuscript Out There. It offers a sense of possibility, and that, to me, is such a thrill. I get caught up in the maybe of it all. Anything can happen.

I use this time to read. I (gasp!) clean a closet. I visit the bookstore. I meet a friend for lunch. I live outside my office for a bit. But always there is a hum of excitement underneath everything I do. That hopeful part of me that thinks today might bring with it a yes.

Leslie Muir, our guest Jeebie, has her own sub-strategy.

Well, after I hit send and begin the process of waiting, I calm my mind by staying occupied with other productive refreshing my email. I do this a lot because I believe in staying very refreshed. Then after some time has passed (maybe 3 minutes), I continue to engage my brain with other really important crunchy things, often an entire bag, or can. As weeks drag by and I've consumed, well, face-crammed an aisle's worth of crunchy things and begun to develop facial tics, I head out to the backyard and hurl expired fruit to the squirrels, aiming away from them, of course, because I'd never take out my frustrations on cute fuzzy squirrels--even though they pig out on all the birdseed and gnaw on my window sills, making tiny little teeth marks... Yes, for me, keeping the mind Zen-like is key when waiting freakin' forever for answers about submissions. Vodka is also good. I certainly hope this advice will prove helpful to others.

Leslie is the author of Barry B. Wary and The Little Bitty Bakery, Disney-Hyperion, and Gibbus Mooney Wants to Bite You and C. R. Mudgeon, Atheneum. To find out more about Leslie and her books, visit her website.

What about you
Zen master or nervous wreck – just how patient are you about your subs? We can’t wait to hear!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Q&A: What About Art Notes?

Dear Jeebies – What about art notes? When and how do you use them?

When it comes to art notes, I try to use them only when I need to convey information that is not readily available in the text but still necessary to the understanding of the story. For instance, in my book Princess in Training, a dragon shows up near the book's end. I didn't just want to have the dragon come out of nowhere, so, earlier in the story, I foreshadowed it's existence in an art note.

[ Unbeknownst to the princesses, a hungry dragon is in the area.]

I've been using a lot more art notes since PBJeebies started, because I saw you guys using them. I think it makes for a better ms. If I'm too generous about it, Jennifer gently suggests a few removals, then off it goes.

I may not be the best example for how to do art notes! While I try not to include extraneous information and direction, I have some manuscripts where the text and image work together in a way that makes it necessary to include notes, and some that are almost wordless (one has seven words). In cases like these, I either do the notes in italics and brackets to the right of the text or in italics and brackets within the text (especially if the note is for a wordless spread). Either way, I try not to overuse them – I love to let the art director and illustrator take the text and run with it!

Since I'm generally planning to illustrate my own work, my art notes are often more notes to myself than anyone else. I'm always grateful when the Jeebies point out an area where the manuscript doesn't make sense without an art note because it reinforces (and often improves) my ideas for the illustration. I set my art notes in brackets and italicize the text which I also set in a light blue. I like the blue because it allows the reader to easily skip the art notes if they're just reading the text to see how it paces and flows. The italics make it very easy to strip the art notes out of the manuscript with the search and replace feature in Word.

We also have an honorary Jeebie today – Ame Dyckman!

I LOVE art notes. (Shows notebook cover: “Ame + art notes.”) Art notes let me communicate what my short text sometimes doesn’t.

But I also LOVE illustrators. (Reveals heart-shaped tattoo: “Illustrators.”) And I want my future illustrator to have fun with our story, too.

So in my manuscripts, I only use art notes when they’re necessary to show a plot point or character action that isn’t conveyed in my text. And I keep my art notes short too, like this: 
It wasn’t their cat. (Hungry crocodile.)

Not this:
It wasn’t their cat. (Enormous bright-green crocodile holding a knife and fork and grinning and wearing a bib that says, “Bring on the Grub!” And there’s a bit of drool on his chin to show he’s really, really hungry.)

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I need to go find my cat. 
And maybe make art notes a mix tape. (Winks.)

Ame is the author of Boy+BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino and the forthcoming Tea Party Rules, illustrated by K.G. Campbell and coming in 2013 from Viking. You can catch up with Ame on her website ( and keep up with her on Twitter (@AmeDyckman).


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