San Francisco Blurbs

Recently a librarian from the Children’s Day School in San Francisco shared the feedback that many of her students wrote after reading The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful. I’ve been smiling ever since because of their kind words and insight into this story. They also shared some pictures of the dragons they imagined. I hope these Kindergarteners and First Graders inspire you as well! I’m now blessed to have an online visit with them scheduled for June. Can’t wait!

“I liked that…at first they thought that they had to frighten the dragon, but then they realized that the dragon just wanted something – that it didn’t mean to be frightening.” Arcadia

“Your story is very good. I like your story a lot because it has dragons and I like dragons.” Max

“I like the parts where Mei helps Wei. Thank you for sharing your story with us!” Zaina

“I appreciate the author for being really nice to write this story!” Aaron

“One thing I liked about the story was that one of the sisters helped the other sister!! Thank you for sharing your story with us!!” Riley

“It was a cool story and nice. They act dis-alike: One’s scared and one likes to fight and they both were brave at the end.” Yahli

“The sisters worked together as a team and didn’t give up until they did it. I like the details of the story and the handwriting. It was just so joyful to hear that story!” Rohan

“One of the things I like about your story is the part when Wei went to Kung Fu class. I also like the pictures!” Malinteotl 

“It was funny when you said the sticky buns for the dragon” Kalyani

“They’re both really brave because, well, Mei at the beginning thought she was NOT brave but she actually IS brave.” Lisana

“The Yin-Yang sisters are similar because they’re both very brave. I liked your story because the people are really brave.” Kalyani

“I appreciate Nancy Tupper Ling because the two sisters kept on trying. The brave one actually made the dragon feel better and the really brave one tried her very best – and they kept on trying until they got it!” Vera

“What I liked about the story was that they may be opposites but sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and do what your fears are. I was really scared to go on these swings and I went on there . . . I just took a deep breath and went on there.” Parker

 

Busy, Busy, Busy, During COVID-19

It’s been a bit daunting, this new world of COVID-19. As difficult and overwhelming as it’s been, however, there has been an amazing outpouring of goodness from the world of libraries and authors.

While my spring school visits have been canceled, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to still “meet” with children and families online. 

I had one visit with my coworker, Ms Kate, from the Morrill Memorial Library. You may find that conversation here

Likewise, I was able to lead a Double Happiness poetry workshop online that Kate Messner posted on her blog

I hope you find a little time in the midst of this chaos, to nurture your writing and your self. 

Blessings,

Nancy

 

Fall Schedule

Upcoming signings:

September 18th, Book Birthday, Putnam Books for Young Readers, The Yin-Yang Sisters and Frightful the Dragon

September 22nd, 10:30 am, The Boston Athenaeum

September 28th, 6-8 pm, nErDy Author Night, Freeport, ME

September 29th, 1:30 pm, Children’s Book Reading Feat, Gordon College Bookstore, Wenham, MA

October 13th, 11 am, Book Launch Party, The Blue Bunny Bookstore, Dedham, MA

October 27th, 11 am, Story Time, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

November 16th,  NCTE 18, Houston TX 12:30-1:45 pm, presenting on a panel “The Power of Quiet: Helping Introverts (Quietly) Speak Up” with four other awesome authors: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Erin Entrada Kelly, Nancy Tupper Ling, and Tamara Smith. 3:30 pm, Signing at the Penguin Booth on the exhibit floor. 

November 24th, Book Signing, Annie’s Book Stop, Worcester, MA

It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask

Funny thing! My Dad told me this a lot growing up: “Go ahead! It never hurts to ask!” As a shy child, I wasn’t so sure. Secretly I hoped things would work out on their own so I wouldn’t need to say a word. Requesting information, like “how much does that movie cost” or “where do you shelve the toilet paper,” took a monumental dose of bravery on my part. I am the model child for Susan Cain’s book Quiet.

Whether we like it or not, life provides opportunities to stretch ourselves, even on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t stick my head into books all the time as a librarian. I am called to be social and help our patrons. Likewise a big part of my day is spent answering patrons’ questions, which means asking a few of my own. And, as I’ve discovered, asking the right question at the right time can sometimes bring surprising results.

Case in point, several years ago I asked a question that changed my life. For years I’d submitted my poetry to June Cotner’s anthologies. When several of my poems first appeared in Baby Blessings, I was over the moon. After that first acceptance, June and I began corresponding regularly and she soon became my mentor in so many ways. 

Harmony, 2002
Andrews McMeel, 2017

 

Then in the summer of 2012 I discovered I’d be heading from Boston to Seattle for a writer’s retreat. At last June and I were to meet in person!

 

Before my trip June happened to mention that she was overwhelmed with work because her assistant had recently moved away. Without hesitation, I asked the simplest of questions: “June, is there any little thing I can do to help you from the East Coast?” I thought I might assist her by reading a few of the many submissions she receives regularly. 

I was completely shocked by her answer. “Well Nancy, how would you like to coauthor a book together?” 

I don’t think anything could have knocked my socks off more. I could barely reply with a “Wow!” and a “Really?” and yet my travels to Seattle began a new phase in our relationship. We were becoming coauthors! Of course, that initial question was followed by many more. What project should we work on first? How should I gather entries to our anthology? Who would we submit our proposal to?

As it turns out, Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion was our first book together. June graciously walked me through every step of the way. While I’d written poetry and children’s books before, this was a whole new experience for me. I had so much to learn. What am I talking about? I am still learning. 

This New Year’s Day we signed a contract with Andrews McMeel for our second co-authored book entitled Family Celebrations, and thanks to the fabulous work of our agent, Anne Marie O’Farrell (Marcil-O’Farrell Literary LLC), we are excited to say our first children’s anthology, For Every Little Thing, has been accepted by Eerdman’s Publishing. On top of that, we have co-authored a children’s manuscript called Be Creative that my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) is shopping around.

Yes, I have to say, I find that I am pinching myself on a regular basis these days. Could this all be real? It is hard to believe this long and winding road to publication is part of this shy girl’s journey. To think it all began with a question, or maybe two or three. What do you think about that? 

 

A Bit of Publishing Advice in a Letter

Illustrated by Jessica Lanan

In many ways, I’m still the girl who needs advice on how to get published. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in the last 10 years, I’ve had 7 books published, three of them for children.

That said, a lot of people have been asking me how to break into the world of children’s publishing lately. After a great guffaw (as in, “you’re asking me?”), I would say the following 6 items are essential. I’ve written them in the form of a letter.

Dear Future Children’s Author,

Here’s my advice to you:

1. Join a critique group. Yes, it may take a while to find the “right” group, but I don’t know anyone whose manuscript is ready to submit by the first draft, or even by the 25th draft, in the case of my story, Double Happiness.

2. Join and attend a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Not only will you meet others who are striving toward the same goal, but you will connect with agents, editors, and well-known authors who know their stuff.

3. Look for an agent. The right agent not only moves your manuscript out of the publisher’s infamous slush pile, she makes your stories shine. Not to mention, it’s a little known fact that the best agents are fully trained as counselors who will wipe away your tears and tell you to get back in the writing saddle.

4. Write (and illustrate) more than one story. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they have a story, but they haven’t written it yet. Or they’ve written one story, but that’s all. You need to have at least 5 quality manuscripts in your back pocket when you’re working on Steps 1-3 above.

5. Learn to listen and have a bucket load of patience. It’s the only way your dreams will come true. Each rejection, each road diverged, is a learning experience. If you close your ears to some of the best advice you can find along the way, you’re going to end up at a dead end vs the mountain top.

6. And, once you’ve “arrived,” once you’ve been published, never forget that you, yes you, asked a lot of questions along the way. Maybe it’s your turn to share your knowledge. After all, a generous author is a happy author.

All the best,

Nancy

(a grateful client of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency)

The May Days

So how crazy is this! We are now going into our third year of The May Days. I began this group in 2012 to find the will-power and accountability I needed through you, yes you, to finish my first novel. Guess what? I’m working on revising the final chapters but, three years later, I’m almost done. I’m hoping this is the final push for my mid-grade called Finding Anya. Looking back I see how faithful you guys have been. Many of you have traveled these May Days with me for all three years. I’m excited about our new members as well, though. If any of you are willing to share, I’d love to hear about what you’re working on this year. And anyone who wants to share some of their successes, failures, frustrations, please do so. Most of all, let the games begin, or something like that!

You Can Say That Again

One afternoon in July, my Grandmother and Auntie Babe decided to take me and my cousin, Beth, for a hike up Blue Hills. We were ten or eleven. I’m not sure. It was one of those memorable days, not because of the weather (hot and sticky) or the scenery (I remember watching for rattlers someone reported). No, it was because of our silly commentary. My cousin and I sounded more senior than the seniors we were with, as if we’d stepped off the nursing home bus.

“My legs are killing me,” I said.

“You can say that again,” my cousin chimed in.

With that my Grandmother and Aunt howled. We weren’t even a quarter of the way up the hill. And this became one of those legendary family stories. How wimpy the next generation is, or something like that. Doesn’t take much, does it?

Getting up that hill took quite a bit of effort. Needless to say we were pooped after the first few switchbacks. This was quite a surprise to us. We had our walking shoes and sticks. We were young and energetic. We thought we could beat our relatives to the top, no problem. Boy did we have a few things to learn.

So too with writing, and more so with publishing. I thought writing came easily. It was natural, a gift. After all, this is where I excelled. Chemistry was a natural disaster. Economics ruined my first semester in college, but give me an article to write, a short story to create, and I was golden.

Or so I thought. But when I began to submit my poetry for publication on a cold day in 1999, I got a reality check. My first rejection letter appeared in the mail. Soon I was keeping a pin cushion by my desk. I stuck red pins in for all of my rejections. Now and then I’d add green for a meager acceptance. I was starting to see this took leg work, and my legs were killing me.

You can say that again! It wasn’t as easy as whipping out a poem one night and seeing it in The New Yorker the next month. This was a climb. Allowing your work to be workshopped and critiqued is never easy, but for most of us, it’s the only way to perfect your art.

With picture books, it’s the same story. I can work and rework a story. I can revise for editors and agents, change my characters from boys to ducks. I can add words, subtract metaphors, and editors will claim to love it. Still, the Big Kahuna editor who sits on the top of Blue Hill may decide it’s not quirky enough or too quiet. *)(*^%&)_4%# So I rework it, and send it out again.

So when is it done? I have two answers. Ellen Bryant Voigt is famous for telling one poetry student, “Honey, it’s all draft until you die.” Certainly this is one thought, but I have another. When I received a phone call announcing my grand prize from Writer’s Digest, I was on a mountain, literally. I was attending the Frost Festival of Poetry in Franconia, New Hampshire. The poem (White Birch) that won the prize was being critiqued when I received that famous call. Some people had no idea what the poem was about. Some people suggested fewer words. Others thought I should expand it. And many had valid points. Still, in the middle of all that, several editors at Writer’s Digest thought it deserved grand prize.

My point? Work hard. Rewrite, and rewrite some more. At some point it will be a winner in an editor’s mind, even if “it’s all draft until you die.” Someone will always have another criticism to add to the pile. Only you, the author, can decide when it’s done. But it’s worth the back-breaking climb and then some. “You can say that again!”