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Book, book, book. I wanna become a book.

9 Jul

It is finally warm– no, HOT– in Paris. I have taken up to going to the park during the day and sitting under a tree to do reading on my thesis. Today I had a goal of getting some immigration policy reading done so I could start a new book later in the week.

But something even better happened. I woke up to an email from the agent who edited my book. I read through her email once, then got the coffee pot going with some Vietnamese coffee. I knew today was going to be a day spent working inside at the computer with the blackout blinds down and the fan going.

After initially reading the editor’s email with pure happiness, I sat down with my coffee cup to read her recommendations. I opened up a new doc to work on this version of the manuscript. I read through her recs once. I was not, how would you say, thrilled or jumping for joy to have some things changed.

So I did a re-read with my manuscript and her recs side by side and realized her voice is HER voice and not mine. I added my Karin-esque touches to her suggestions. I also highlighted things where I just haven’t smoothed it out.

This is what happens after you send something out into the world. Sometimes it morphs into something unexpected and not how you would have made it. But, heck, it’s still pretty awesome. Even more awesome than you could have imagined.

So my next step is to keep working my manuscript and, as per her suggestion, send it off to publishers instead of agents. She sounds confident in it and said that it was up to par, especially with it’s “tooth brushing” theme.

I spent the second half of the day researching some USA and UK publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts for picture books. Many of them only accept via postal mail. This will give me some time to perfect the manuscript, print it, and send it off with a big smile.

So, SMILE!

SMILE!

SMILE!

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Good news

24 Jun

Recently I spent one afternoon brushing up one of my picture book manuscripts and working on query letters to send to literary agents.

I sent out eight.

The week passed and I almost forgot about them because I had been teaching and working on my bilingual beginner reader’s book.

A few days ago I got an email from one of the lit agents that was not your “No thank you” template letter. She wrote back saying that she liked reading my mss (manuscript) but thought it was not quite ready and needed some polishing. I had originally sent a query to her agency because she was reputable on the SCBWI member’s directory, specialized in picture books, and offered editing.

I considered the email. I did some over-thinking and tried to read into everything she meant (as we all do sometimes). I decided to take what she said at face value — yes, my book could definitely use a professional critique and a market value evaluation. If I did some polishing I could send it out to more lit agents (or maybe this one would pick me up!). I could also use the advice she would give and apply it to the other books I have in the wings.

Last night I sent her an email with the manuscript and also a 32 page dummy book doc. Cross your fingers and hope for even better news. I’m ready for this book to take off!

But, excuse me for now. I have other books and my thesis reading to work on.

Publishing in France?

17 Jun

I have to admit something — I have had a story in my head for quite a while, but never could think of the end. I also have been thinking about a bilingual English-French early reader book (something short for beginner readers, like 12 pages, with short, simple sentences).

This morning, I succeeded.

I wrote the first version of a bilingual early reader about a fuzzy kitty who lives in Paris.

I remember at a SCBWI conference writer’s retreat an editor told us, “A cat is on the mat. So? What is so special about that cat?” Another literary agent told us, “Who cares?” So, what is so special about that cat on the mat?

Hopefully my cat in Paris is special enough.

It got me wondering though, why should I only pursue American literary agents for this book? Why not try to get it picked-up and published in France?

“Oh, but there are so many English picture books on the French market.” Exactly. I haven’t seen a lot of bilingual books on the market, especially for young beginner readers.

I have embarked on a new journey. I began a bit of research this morning starting at SCBWI and SCBWI France. Wish me luck on this new adventure!

The Path to Publishing

15 Jun

There are things that I am passionate about: yoga, eating, traveling, and books.

I have been slowly, but surely, been pursuing my dream of becoming a published children’s book author. I write picture books, easy readers, and create games and puzzles. My specialty is all that is fuzzy and cute.

I really like kids books. Last summer I read almost all YA (Young Adult) books. I buy pictures books and I am almost 30 years old. They fascinate me. I love stories.

How does one become a published children’s book author? Slowly.

I have stories floating around in my head, but putting them down on the computer, then getting them publish is a mixture of science and good luck.

At my last job I worked with a LOT of artists. From graphic designers to web designers to comic book artists to fine artists. By chance I noticed a flyer for an author-illustrator, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, who was in Houston for a story time book reading of some of his books, PUNK FARM, BAG HEAD, BUBBLE BATH PIRATES, etc. His famous LUNCH LADY graphic novels were also on display. I was the only adult at story time that did not belong to a child in the audience.

I loved it!

He said it took him 2 years to get published. He also recommended I look into joining SCBWI (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I joined. I started going to SCBWI meetings. It was great to be in a room full of people who loved kids books as much as me. It was nice to hear after 6 years of sending in queries and manuscripts, you could get published.

Then I started going to conferences. I met Literary Agents and Editors. I had one of my manuscripts critiqued. Then I went home and did a 17 page character study of my main character… for a 500 word picture book.

In the meantime I continue to think of ideas, work on the good ones, work on the bad ones, and every once in a while I peruse the SCBWI members page of the Agent Directory and send out queries. Yesterday I sent out 8.

Every “no” is one closer to “yes.” I even keep them in a folder called “Pre-Published.” I can’t wait to get that YES!

To summarize:

-Write! A lot.

-Join SCBWI or other professional organizations

-Go to a conference

-Send out query letters to lit agents and/or editors

-Repeat

If you are interested in hearing more, please let me know! I am happy to share and love to hear back from other kid lit lovers!

Thanks to Studio JJK for the pictures of Punk Farm and the Lunch Lady!

To Do

17 May

Here is my to do for the next few weeks:

1. Host my mom.
Mama Cunningham is coming for her visit to Paris. (Hey, she loved Mexico and Columbia, she should like Paris, too.) Her one request: No Louvre!

2. Graduation ceremony.
Classes are over. I am participating in the AUP graduation ceremony but will not be awarded my Master’s degree until the completion and defense of my thesis.

4. Plan.
Establish case study and thesis writing schedule.

3. Read!
Get more and more info for my thesis research.

4. Read a book.
For leisure. Guess I’ll be riding the metro a lot.

5. Send in queries.
Rework query letters and send them out to literary agents to try to find a publisher for one of my picture books.

5. Reapply for French visas.
This time AJ will be a dependent under my student visa.

6. Sign new lease for apartment.
Upgrade to a whopping 31 meters (~300 square feet)!

7. Move to new apartment, Aug 1.
With 6 bags, 2 cats, and all the junk we collected over the past year.

8. Get the cats their annual vaccinations.
I will have to walk down 7 flights of stairs, over a few blocks, and back again from the vet’s office. With almost 40 pounds of cat.

9. Walk the Camino de Santiago.
Just bought tickets from Paris CDG to Pamplona. Walk from Pamplona to Burgos with my aunt and uncle. Perhaps do all 35 days of the pilgrimage?

10. Take a breath.
Breath.

 

A Year Later

6 May

It’s been a year. No, it’s been approximately 8 months since I blogged last. What got in the way? you ask. School and work.

Here is a brief recap since last September when I last left you…

In September I started classes at AUP and AJ started classes at Ferrandi. In October I started work at two private schools teaching English. In November we visited Belgium and kinda celebrated Thanksgiving. Then winter holidays were spent in India in the much needed SUNSHINE! In the Spring semester I stressed out about my thesis until after a Spring Break trip to Thailand and Vietnam.

Here we are on Lundi, 6 mai 2013 (read that in French so you sound cooler), and we have reached the last day of Master’s classes. Where has the time gone? I’m sitting here at the kitchen table leisurely sipping my coffee, looking a the grey sky, listening to AJ snore, and cuddling with the cats. It’s almost like a weekend off from work in Houston, Texas. But it’s not. I’m in Paris. Sipping coffee, etc.

This weekend a good friend of mine pointed out this lack of work now that classes are done. She texted me, “OMG! What do I do now?” I have the same sentiments.

Indeed, what to do? Plenty.

First, I’m refilling my coffee mug… Now the obvious first choice of what to do is WORK ON YOUR THESIS! Let’s not be too hasty. First I have to find a wonderful Point of Contact to facilitate acquiring research so I CAN write my thesis. Wish me luck.

I also need to start looking for part time work. Since I do not know if my contract for teaching at the schools will be extended, I need to earn a little extra money.

Then we need to reapply for our visas. Oh bureaucracy…

We also need to find out if an apartment we gave been scoping out is still available in the banlieu of Paris.

But for now I will enjoy today, as it is supposed to be 70 degrees, and my last day of class. Then AJ and I will jaunt off to Copenhagen for our first “together” vacation since Napa Valley in 2009. Our next big trip will be doing El Camino de Santiago this summer.

Thank you for coming back, Dear Readers. I will be busy blogging about India, Thailand, Vietnam, Denmark, and the journey about sending out manuscripts for my picture books and working on my Master’s thesis. As they say in French, “Bon courage!”

A Funny Thing Happened Last Night

8 Aug

(And no, we were not on the way to the forum.)

Something happened last night.

I had a reality check… 18 days… until departure… Eeeeeee!

 

Update:

Monday’s SCBWI meeting was awesome!  I love going because it energizes about me about getting things published and also gets me excited about new things.  We had a few members go to the Highlights for Kids Master’s class on non-fiction in Pennsylvania.  I am happy to say that I have a new writing project.  I told AJ all about it last night.  He patiently listened and told me, in his opinion, I should read and do my homework and get things packed before I start a new project.  (Now, one of my fond memories from undergrad was when AJ and I just started dating and he would ask me to bring my text book and homework where he could keep his eye on me while he cooked.)  I agree, when I write I get sucked in and could sit there all day.  I told him that one of my biggest take always, besides that I need to get moving towards getting published in non-fiction, was that someone could actually sit all day and write.  And get paid for it.  I never before actually had time to do that.  Funny thing about life.

I am now in San Antonio and it feels good to decompress.  I’m back with all my boys.  Reunited…  And it feels so good.  Jack and Willard were glued to me in a I’m-not-glued-to-you type of way.  Heck, they are cats after all!  AJ missed me too.

Last night AJ and I did something really fun.  We had really fallen in “like” with a building and every time we passed it, “That would be such a great spot for our restaurant.”  So, last night after driving by for the third time, we stopped and peeked through cupped hands into an idea.  It had the perfect address- 1900 Broadway.  Plenty of room- 4300 sq feet.  Had some ducts for the kitchen.  We imagined landscaping the front with greenery and gravel (instead of the concrete jungle it is).  AJ talked about where he would put the line and there was even a nook in the back for a bake shop.  Big windows on the front to write the Plats du Jour.  The only funny thing about that, we were not prepared with a few million dollars and the metal readiness for it.

“Aww, boo” you say.  But, no, this was a wonderful outing.  We squeezed hands on the way home, knowing we were on the same page.  The thing is– you need inspiration.  How do you think we are going to France?  Oh, yeah.  Planning, that’s right.

So, whether it be moving to Paris, getting published, or finding the perfect restaurant spot, there are always three steps everyone must go through:

Dream.  Plan.  Do it!

 

So to all of you out there with a dream, go start planning!

Bon Voyage, Phase I

6 Aug

Welcome to Phase 1, or Phase 10, of our move, however you want to look at it.

My last day at work was awesome.  My coworkers got me my favorites, coconut cake and apricot nectar Jumex, as a send off.  I left with a BIG smile.

We moved out of our Houston apartment yesterday.  We packed up the vehicles, had lunch at our fav restaurant, finished cleaning, and waited out the rain for about an hour and a half.  Adios, Houston!  AJ and the boys departed for San Antonio.  Jack meowed most of the way and Willard got scared and barfed in his carrier.  We hope that they will do well on our 19 ½ hour flight to Paris.  The last thing we will do is get their vet and USDA certificates 10 days before we leave.  (Check out catcommotionblog.com for pix of the boys and info on cat carriers or pettravel.com for pet travel certs). 

I stayed in Houston because I wanted to go to one last Houston SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting tonight.  Hey, if I’m missing the LA conference, I’m going to the meeting!  I am sad to leave SCBWI Houston behind, but thankfully there are chapters in France.  My next SCBWI meeting will be in Paris.  How cool is that?

The friends I am staying with asked me if I feel any different.  Honestly, no.  I see a lot of my fellow students getting things done at the last moment and stressing out.  I think that if we had not be prepared and had been rushing to get things done, I would feel differently.  On the same token, I do not feel particularly attached to our apartment or the stuff we had there.  It is awesome that we were able to move our stuff in just a few small loads and it all fits in a 5×10 foot storage unit.  The last time I could fit all my belongings in my car was when I was in undergrad.

A lot of what we are doing is a mental and physical check list: get visas done; check.  Move out; check.  Say goodbye; check.  Mentally be ok with saying goodbye; check… uncheck… recheck. Done.

I’m excited.  I am excited to start afresh.  AJ said to me, “We are starting a whole new life.” “No we’re not.  We are carrying on with the same exact life with just a change of scenery.”

We will be doing a lot of the same things in Paris.  (Thank God most of our stuff is portable.  Skydiving gear just takes up a whole two more pieces of luggage with a rig and gear bag).  I will admit one thing, though.  I can tell you one of AJ’s and my goals for this trip is to find a place to settle down.  We have been together for almost 10 years and have moved across Texas and back again, but never found that place to call home.  We are willingly to see if it will be France.  If not, there is always Beijing, Singapore, Portugal, Spain, or even Napa Valley or San Antonio.  I also still consider what I’m going to be when I grow up.  I’m interested in doing a lot of different things (mostly around teaching college, writing picture books, maybe even doing some travel writing).  The most exciting thing is the “We Shall See” factor.

Au revoir, Houston!  Bonjour, San Antonio!  À bientôt, Paris!

And P.S. I slept in a real bed last night!

It’s August

1 Aug

Simply, I can’t believe it is August.  It means a lot of things, so I want to take a moment and share with you.

First, today (as many of you know) was the day I rolled out my Beta version of kacjohnsbooks.com to friends and family to read.  It’s not quite done, but at least it’s out there.  I want to say a big “Thank You” to Kate Koeppel at Mi Piace Kate because her work really inspired me.  Plus her blog is really cool.  Check it out: http://mipiacekate.com/.

Next, on the way home I had a crazy thought, “So if my blog is pretty much done, does this mean I have to get back to writing my numerous picture book projects?” YES!  My husband has even started cartooning a character for my next book, MY DAD IS A GRIZZLY BEAR.  Guess I should get after it….  Writing a book only takes a year… or so.  In the same vein, I need to send out DRAGON BREATH to more lit agents since I got one more “No” closer to a “Yes” this week.

Reading follows as much as writing.  Today I began reading one of the books on my Summer Reading List for school, BOWLING ALONE (Putnam).  I’m actually excited about it.  I’m glad I’m not the only one with wonderings about society.  And that is just what anthropologists do.  So check back later on my thesis once I have had some headway in my Master’s program.  Arrival in France, t-minus 25 days.  Orientation for school, t-minus 30 days.

Finally, move out is in t-minus 3 days.  I write you from my living room floor.  I was able to count on one hand how many days I have left to sleep on the floor until I see a real bed.  I still tell AJ “It’s fine!”  Seriously, I’ll be so happy to see a couch or bed or something.  I ate Kix with almond milk because that is all we had.  We refuse to buy more groceries.  AJ cleaned the house today, I went to work.  Dang, I hope my boss brings breakfast tacos on Friday as my going away gift…

I’m not going to lie, my mind is here and there and I’m brain dead.  So, cheers to you, dear reader, and until next time, bon nuit!

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