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2011 has been a very interesting year for me, and I hope it’s been a fantastic one for you. I’m ready to relax for a few weeks and then hop right into what I hope is a tremendous 2012. Let’s make some books, live to the fullest, and see what adventures lie just around the bend!

I wish you lots of holiday love, warmth, time with family, good eats, laughter, creativity, and peace.

This Christmas, since I’m spending the month of December living in beautiful Napa, my family is coming up to visit and we’ll be sunning ourselves by a mineral hot springs pool. That’s right…a Christmas swim in 100 degree water. It’s going to be bliss!


It is with great pleasure that I share the following pictures from my wonderful visits to the Tokyo and Hong Kong SCBWI chapters. The first picture is me and the group from Tokyo. We met at the lovely Yokohama International School the Saturday before Halloween and then spent one long day talking about the marketplace, queries, craft, and the submission process. The Q&A session included concerns for the Aussie writers in attendance (there were several!) and, of course, curiosity about the digital changes coming to the publishing industry.

Overall, a talented group of writers and illustrators — and quite a few guys representing the SCBWI in Tokyo! (You don’t usually see a large male population at children’s writing conferences, though that’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful male children’s writers, both published and aspiring.) This brave crowd, well, braved about seven straight hours of talking, first pages, query analysis and Q&A from yours truly…

And then we all went out to dinner to celebrate the end of a long day! The only person missing from the above sea of beautiful faces is Holly Thompson, the intrepid leader of the Tokyo SCBWI chapter, as well as the author or the exquisite verse novel ORCHARDS, out from Delacorte.

Holly was kind enough to take me to the Sankeien Gardens in Yokohama after a more relaxed day of one-on-one critiques on Sunday. Because so much of my Japan trip revolved around food, here’s a picture of me from that afternoon with a soba noodle trio. I’m so grateful to her and all the SCBWI Tokyo members for the hospitality!

I’m so blessed to work from home and be able to add travel time to my conference duties. After ten nights in Japan, I flew over to Hong Kong on Thursday, November 3rd. There, I was greeted by Mio Debnam for critiques first thing Friday morning, then a delicious Shanghainese lunch. What a lovely introduction to a city that’s all about food. I would’ve posted a picture of the sea cucumber and abalone that we devoured, but it was gone too quickly. (A heads up: Sea cucumber does not stay on chopsticks well, and therefore doesn’t make very graceful eating. Sorry, Mio!)

On Saturday, I did another marathon day of talks, first pages, query critiques, and Q&A with the Hong Kong members. Here we are, below:

Everyone is looking pretty relaxed in those plush leather chairs. I’m glad you can’t see my feet in this shot, because this is probably after I took my shoes off. (That’s Kole Code for: “Now I mean business…”) Something about public speaking always makes me want to go barefoot.

I eventually shut my mouth and put my shoes on for a lovely post-conference dinner at the China Club with Mio, several members of the Hong Kong chapter, and Kathleen Ahrens, the International Coordinator for the entire SCBWI. She has the fascinating job of helping regions all over the world develop chapters and programming, and I also owe her a huge debt of gratitude for this amazing opportunity.

Here we all are at dinner. Mio, our gracious hostess, is wearing red in the back, and Kathleen is my gray-attired bookend on the opposite side of the bottom row. It was fantastic getting to know these writers over delicious soup dumplings.

Overall, the trip was wonderful. Truly the opportunity of a lifetime. And it was so great to meet writers in the larger SCBWI community. I’m still processing everything — and trying to find the energy to upload all of my pictures to share with friends and family.

Just as I was ready to go home this past Wednesday, my overseas adventure refused to sink quietly behind the International Date Line. My plane from Hong Kong took off in bad weather and suffered some kind of damage. They tried to fix it in the air for a few hours but were unsuccessful. The pilot decided he didn’t want to risk the trans-Pacific flight back to San Francisco. The plane was full up with enough gas for a 12-hour flight — a long-ish haul for a 747 — and we were too heavy to land, so we flew out over the ocean and dumped fuel for about two hours. That was a bit unnerving. In case anyone doesn’t have the memo, I’m an uneasy flier (even though I do it at least once a week…and, because I’m a glutton for punishment, apparently, I was home a day before jetting off to Southern California for the weekend, got back yesterday, and am flying again tomorrow). With jet fuel spraying out of the wing right outside my window and the plane shuddering from the aforementioned bad weather…let’s just say I was a bit on edge.

Long story short: We returned to Hong Kong, were rebooked on new flights, and I was back in the air about seven hours later c/o Singapore Airlines. I’m so happy with how it went, overall, and the United’s decision to turn around and be safe, even though it was the longest day I’ve ever had (40 hours). And that little hiccup was nothing compared to the absolutely tremendous time I had exploring Japan and Hong Kong and meeting my fellow children’s book enthusiasts across the globe!

I’m still having trouble sleeping because of jet lag, but I’m back stateside, baby, and ready for Big Sur, client business, and lots of new and awesome projects in my inbox! 🙂 If you’re still curious about my food adventures, head on over to my older post from Chowlit. I plan to add a Hong Kong edition tomorrow, if I ever get all those pictures organized…

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Austin, TX is the gift that keeps on giving, even when I’m in its hipster-sister city of Portland, OR. After my amazing weekend in Austin a few weeks back, I have been keeping up with my new friend Tolly Moseley (of PR By the Book and her own blog, the Austin Eavesdropper). It is through Tolly from Austin that I learned about this really awesome artist named — what a coincidence — Austin Kleon. (Fun fact: the guy who did my tattoo in Austin is also named Austin. Another fun fact: the woman who colors my hair in San Francisco is named California.)

Austin Kleon gave a graduation speech a few weeks ago to a college class in upstate New York about creativity. Even though he’s a visual artist (with a book out), there’s a lot of rich material there for any writer, artist, or creative person. I’ve been writing recently about creativity, because it’s so important to nourish that part of yourself, whether writing or just living life.

You can read his speech here. I don’t just love it because he quotes Kurt Vonnegut a lot, by the way, though that certainly helps. (Fun fact: for the longest time, I wanted epitaph to be a Vonnegut quote from GOD BLESS YOU, DR. KEVORKIAN: “Everything was beautiful. Nothing hurt,” but this weekend I changed my mind. Why? Because, per my whole “being alive” philosophy, life does hurt sometimes, and that’s what makes it even more beautiful.) As Lady Gaga says in a really fascinating interview (which I’ve linked to once before), here, her favorite quote is, “If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not standing in the light.”

My new epitaph candidates are: “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot) or “Only connect!” from HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster. If I really wanted to do Vonnegut, perhaps “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center,” from PLAYER PIANO. Or, you know, I could always do the favorite from SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE: “So it goes.” Why the gravestone thoughts? I just read STIFF by Mary Roach. Good, chilling, mind-bending fun, and really well-written.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity, authenticity, and the publishing industry lately. I’ve also been trying to get back in touch with my own creative self. I minister to the creative selves of others for a living. I find that, in order to do that well, I need to refuel my own creative source.

This past (looong) weekend was just the thing the doctor ordered. And it’s not even over yet. I’m writing this from Portland, OR, where I’ve been staying with my inimitable friends, Nate and April, in a rented salmon-colored summer house. They were actually called away to Eugene halfway through my trip and I’ve ended up spending a fair amount of time alone and carless…just me, the sloping green backyard, and the sound of the (everpresent) rain. It has actually been perfect.

On Thursday, I ate perhaps one of the best croissants ever, bought really cute sky blue shoes, and ordered a pair of über-hipster glasses that I just pray are ready before BEA, where I will blow all the other publishing hipsters out of the publishing hipster water with my hipsterness. (Not that I care about being hipper than other hipsters, of course, since I’m a hipster and hipsters, by definition, don’t care.) We spent the night at the Kennedy School and I relaxed in the saltwater soaking pool for hours and hours and hours. My dear Suzanne Young showed up to take me out to dinner and drinks on Friday, stoking my perma-fire for good Cajun food and getting me even more excited for the week I’m spending in NOLA in June for ALA. (Fact: I go to New Orleans at least twice a year because it is one of my favorite US cities.)

On Saturday, Jeff Geiger (Grand Poobah of Radness) crammed into eight hours what would’ve otherwise taken eight days in Portland: a coffee tasting, three breweries, a beer festival, two meals, and even a little bit of Ben Folds goodness. Omakase is a Japanese phrase meaning “it’s up to you” or “I am in your hands.” If you want to make a sushi chef happy, say this and let them serve you whatever they want. That’s what I said to Jeff: I am in your hands. Give me the raddest, baddest, hippest tour of Portland. And he knocked it out of the park. And brought me the present of limited edition beer, to boot. (Bryan Bliss is decidedly unhip in that he did not show his face for these festivities. Boo. Hiss. Weak sauce. Martha Flynn and Melissa Manlove have hyperactive imaginations, but I would still like to invest in a limited print run of “What Wouldn’t Mary Do?” t-shirts. (Fun fact: ladies, you both like me more, so just admit it to yourselves and one another.))

I am so blessed to have these friends. I am so grateful for this time to recharge, listen to Ben Folds, read Kurt Vonnegut (BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, natch), think my thoughts, and methodically reread the New York Times Modern Love column archives (some of my favorite essays ever).

Speaking of cool things…I just found out (maybe I’m the last to know, I haven’t really been following the movie news) that my gorgeous, fierce, and talented friend from college, Tara Macken, is going to be a tribute in the HUNGER GAMES movie! Woo! Everybody go and “Like” her Facebook page, here.

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Being Alive

Now, I don’t write a super lot about my personal life on this blog, but sometimes I gotta. The reason this time? I have a cool and unusual fact in my history: I wrote my college thesis on Stephen Sondheim. Not a lot of kids can say that. I wrote my thesis on human relationships in two of Sondheim’s musicals: Company and Follies. In the former, Bobby is the eternal third wheel. He goes back and forth on the idea of marriage and companionship, love and what it means to be attached to another person. His foils are all of his “crazy married people” friends, some in the midst of a happy divorce, others happily hitched and unable to admit it, still others terrified on their wedding day.

Bobby is a flake, seemingly content to be alone, always taking the easy path. He’s a bit of a cipher character, actually. Until the last few minutes of the show. He goes from asking that someone “Marry Me A Little” at the end of Act 1 and singing “I’m ready now” when he doesn’t really mean it…to realizing that he must surrender himself to the possibilities of love, life, and other people, both good and bad, when he sings “Being Alive,” the penultimate song of the show. That’s when he’s really ready. Here are the lyrics:

“Being Alive”

What do you get?
Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep,
Someone to sit in your chair,
To ruin your sleep.

That’s true, but there’s more to it than that.
Is that all you think there is to it?
You’ve got so many reasons for not being with someone, but
Robert, you haven’t got one good reason for being alone.
Come on, you’re on to something, Bobby.
You’re on to something.

Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell.

You see what you look for, you know.
You’re not a kid anymore, Robby. I don’t think you’ll ever
be a kid again, kiddo.
Hey, buddy, don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect. The only thing
to be afraid of really is that it won’t be.
Don’t stop now. Keep going.

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot.

And what does all that mean?
Robert, how do you know so much about it when you’ve never
been there?
It’s much better living it than looking at it, Robert.
Add ’em up, Bobby. Add ’em up.

Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who’ll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive.

Blow out the candles, Robert, and make a wish.
something! Want something!

Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

This wasn’t the original ending for Company; it was added in previews. And it’s brilliant. I love the turning point of the song, after Amy begs him to “want something,” when Bobby realizes that he’s not rejecting “someone to hold you too close,” he actually wants that yet-unknown Somebody. He craves someone he can take care of (per the scene after “The Ladies Who Lunch”). For the first time, there’s a sense of ownership: he wants to be an “us” (that word is used very pointedly in the lyrics above) and swears “I’ll always be there.” Those are heavy words for a third wheel! Creativity, humanity, and a life lived well are all immense responsibilities. They take courage, and he’s finally found it.

In the 2006 John Doyle-directed Broadway revival of Company, all of the actors played their own instruments. There was no orchestra. In a very symbolic touch, Bobby (played by Raúl Esparza, who is the ultimate Bobby, in my opinion) was the only one in the cast to refrain from playing an instrument until he sat down at the piano for “Being Alive.” It is the turning point in his life, the moment he decides to participate, the second everything changes.

This song doesn’t just speak about this one character’s experience, it speaks to the nature of life and human relationships, to love and fear, to vulnerability and authenticity. Those are all things I have been thinking intensely about in 2011. This year so far has seen the end of a relationship and the death of my beloved Sushi cat, a deeper bond with my colleagues and family, new culinary inspirations, a new group of friends in New York and across the country and truly fulfilling career successes. I’m also happier, personally and professionally, than I have ever been in my life.

There is a lot of fear in “Being Alive,” but a lot of strength, too. And, finally, love. Life takes all of the above. So this song, for me, focuses on the intense, the vibrant, the close, the passionate, the terrifying, the inspiring…all the things life is if you just open yourself to it and make yourself vulnerable to truly being alive. That means love, and other people, and being yourself, and admitting when you’re afraid, and knowing that sometimes it feels like you’re just barely surviving, but survive you do because without feeling acutely all of the parts of life, you aren’t truly human. You’re not experiencing the immense power of your time here. (This intensity and immediacy of feeling is also, by the way, why I love great YA fiction.)

When Bobby finally decides to throw himself headfirst into life and love, which is my impression of this song, he’s deciding to open himself up. It may not work out, but, as Peter says, “don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect. The only thing to be afraid of really is that it won’t be.” So when I went to magical Austin, I decided to give myself a permanent reminder to be open, be creative, be positive, be vulnerable, be aware, be disciplined, be principled, be true, be inspired, be full of life, be a part of a community, be held too close, hurt too deep, crowded with love. In short, to simply be. Be alive.

It’s on the inside of my upper arm, a little bit private, mostly for me to read and remember. (Sorry, Mom!) Plus, it says a pretty universal thing that even the Sondheim uninitiated can understand, just in case I don’t feel like explaining the reference. My smartass response will be: “Well, it’s literally what I’m up to right now.” You can see Raúl Esparza’s performance of “Being Alive” here. I was definitely watching it a lot last weekend. 🙂 This moment in my life is one I’d like to remember. It’s me saying, like Bobby, that “I’m ready now” for the next step, the next love, the next move, whatever that might be.

My deepest gratitude to Austin at Black Cat Tattoo in Austin, TX for the excellent bedside manner and the great take on the font I chose (an adapted Steelplate Script), to Jeremy Howell at Francisco’s Salon, also in Austin for the recommendation (and the sizzlin’ hot haircut), to John Cusick for going with me, providing moral support, and for buying me whiskey afterward, to Barbara Fraser at Santa Clara University for igniting my Sondheim passion with her senior seminar, and, finally, to Stephen Sondheim himself for crafting the story and the music that has resonated with the world so deeply.


A few months (Weeks? Days? Time has been flying so fast…) ago, I mentioned that I was working on a secret blog and a secret project and a secret area of my agenting and life. I invited guesses. Was this Green Day related? (I wish.) Theatre or Stephen Sondheim related? (No, but I am going to see the New York Philharmonic production of Company tonight with Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Hendricks, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Cryer, and I am so excited that I literally can’t stop dancing.) People wondered if I’d be writing about all manner of stuff.

Well, wonder no more because all is revealed!

(Or, um, you could’ve gone to my personal website,, and figured it out instantly, but I don’t want to ruin the aura of mystery…)

FOOD, homeskillet. The answer is food.

I’ve had the food bug for as long as I can remember, and I was blessed and lucky in my life to have three things:

  1. An amazing mother who always cooked. Always. After we immigrated from Russia, she was so happy to have access to fresh and diverse food that she cooked all the time and sent me to school with delicious, homemade food every day.
  2. A New Yorker step-dad who is a very talented gourmet cook and took us to all the best restaurants whenever we would visit Manhattan from California.
  3. The incredible experience of working in a 2-star Michelin kitchen a few years ago. (I wrote a post about it a while back…that was your big hint!)

Since then, it’s been kidlit and food in my head, all day, every day. My adult reading hobbies, aside from all the children’s books I plow through, have always been cookbooks, travel and food memoirs, travel and food anthologies, and other food/culture/travel subject books. And it was only recently that I realized — duh! — that I could also represent food books like the kind I love to read (with Andrea’s blessing, of course). So that’s what’s going on. In the meantime, I’m learning about that arm of publishing, making contacts, and doing even more food reading, even more cooking, and even more learning. Don’t worry. My love of kidlit isn’t going anywhere…I just want to add to my portfolio so that I can pursue both of my passions!

The blog I’ve been working on is pretty bare bones so far, but you can now also find me on on Fridays! Bon appetit and cheers!


I’m sure some of you could see this coming. Long story short: I’m going to be branching out with not one but two new blogs. One now, one next month. I don’t expect a lot of my Kidlit audience to transfer over, because of the new blogs’ (in one case) slightly related and (in another case) not-at-all-related subject matters, but I’m writing about them here so that you know what I’ve been up to lately and so you can see some new directions in my career. I’m also telling you about my other online dalliances so you’ll come visit me and tell your friends.

The first blog, which I’m launching right this second is an extension of the Kidlit site but for digital children’s books and story apps, called…drumroll please!

An obvious choice, right? You’ll see and immediately recognize the playful matching header by my client Josh Ferrin. Here, I’ll be posting app reviews, tech news, developer thoughts, industry insights, and the things I learn from diving headfirst into the digital book side of publishing, both as an agent as as a former dot-commer from the Silicon Valley. My goal for this blog is to ask a lot of digital book questions from the publishing/client advocate perspective. I’m breaking it out into a separate site because I think some of you guys would quickly tire of all the tech blah blah blah in favor of my usual writing/publishing/agenting tips.

The second blog is one I won’t talk about yet. It will keep the “…” branding of the other two blogs, but it will be about a totally different area of publishing and, gasp, one that lies outside the children’s book realm. (No, don’t worry, I will never, ever leave children’s books!) This will be about a special niche that is a sweetheart love of mine, and that I am going to start working on in the near future. This change isn’t inspired by anything major, really, or anything bad. My career in kidlit is going really well. I’m super happy. I love my kidlit contacts. So why this change? I’m sick of ignoring my life’s other great passion. More on that soon. Cue the mysterious music…

Out of wild curiosity, I’d love to know what my readers think this area of publishing might be. It’s something I have mentioned on this blog before. And, no, it’s not Green Day publishing. (Though I did go see American Idiot with Billie Joe Armstrong last night… I still hate the “story” of this one, but seeing Billie Joe on a stage again gave me crazy teen flashbacks.) Or Stephen Sondheim publishing. (I wish!) There’s not a large enough market sector of books about Green Day or Sondheim to keep a literary agent productive, unless you’re Green Day’s or Sondheim’s agent, though Sondheim’s Knopf books (FINISHING THE HAT is the first) are gorgeous. Please leave your guesses in the comments! 🙂

How does that change things here at Kidlit? You’ll hardly notice. But it will change my schedule, effective immediately. Before this, I blogged at Kidlit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In order to make these new blog ventures work, I’ll have to take one Kidlit day away. My new blogging schedule will be:

Monday: Kidlit

Tuesday: KidlitApps

Wednesday: Kidlit

Thursday: KidlitApps

Friday: Secret Project of Mystery and Wonder / The occasional article round-up, conference post, or random thing over at Kidlit

Plus, I have about two years of older posts here on Kidlit that are evergreen. I’m going to do a better job of highlighting those for my new guests while still adding content for my loyal, longtime readers. This way, I also won’t run out of things to talk about! More soon. In short, I’m ambitious and maniacally excited, as usual, and can’t wait to see what other mischief I can cause on “teh interwebs.” We’ll see how it goes, and you’ll hear more soon. In the meantime, check out my latest over at!



I first started writing this post on May 3rd, 2010 when my cat, Sushi, sixteen years old and in kidney failure, was really, really sick and I feared the worst. With all of your lovely hopes and prayers and support, I felt so blessed and grateful when she pulled through. After that, she would get sick every few months, but would always buck up after a course of antibiotics and a week of subcutaneous fluids.

Still, nothing lasts forever, and this recent bout was different. Sushi had been losing weight pretty steadily by the time she fell ill last weekend. This wasn’t the usual infection and she wasn’t her usual, cheerful, goofy Sushi self. She stopped eating, couldn’t really get on the bed, and gave up on her litter box.

When I took her to the vet last Monday, I walked away with pain medicine instead of antibiotics, and the heartbreaking instructions to take her home, spoil the hell out of her with cuddles and delicious food, but to bring her back, and soon, so she wouldn’t have to be in pain for too much longer. In the Death Cab for Cutie song “What Sarah Said” from their album Plans (most depressing album ever, seriously), Ben Gibbard sings, “Love is watching someone die.” As much as I wanted to protect myself, drag it out, keep her alive with drugs and fluids, I knew I had to do the loving, merciful thing.

Long story short, the vet just left after a very caring home visit, and my little cuddlebug is finally at peace. My eternal gratitude to Dr. Mollica at the Carroll Gardens Vet Group. I put together the most wonderful — if I say so myself! — play list as she fell asleep. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” (Death Cab), “Magic” (Ben Folds Five), “Levon” (Elton John), “When I Fall” (Barenaked Ladies), and, finally, “Lullaby” (Ben Folds Five). Right now, as the music ebbs, I’m imagining her in one of those afternoon sunbeams she loved so much.

For almost exactly five years, I’ve been so incredibly lucky to share my life with two amazing cats. I lost Smokey to old age in July 2009, and it tore me apart to see Sushi fade from the same so soon after. A heart without a pet to love is truly a lonely thing, and I miss both of them so much. I always will. If this strikes a chord, please donate to the Humane Society of the Silicon Valley, the non-profit shelter that gave me both of my wonderful girls. I love them and every moment they’ve given me has been a joy and a gift. Even on this very sad day, I swear, I live an incredibly charmed life, in no small part because I got to be Sushi and Smokey’s “forever home,” as they say when you adopt.

I’ll let Ben Folds take it away perfectly because, well, he always does:

Goodnight, goodnight, sweet baby
The world has more for you
Than it seems
Goodnight, goodnight
Let the moonlight take the lid off your dreams.


I promise not to get all weepy and new-age-y on you — I am Tough Agent Lady! (Some of the time…) — but there’s this amazing photographer called Meg Perotti who works in the SF Bay Area and she posted a wonderful, inspiring image on her blog to ring in the New Year. (MK trivia time: I love photography. I have written for a photography trade magazine called Rangefinder. I’m better at appreciating it than doing it myself, but I am an absolute sucker for a stunning photograph, especially portraiture, which is how I fell in love with Meg Perotti’s blog in the first place!)

It’s a bit small here but if you click on it, you can blow it up, print it out, and look at it often, because that’s what I’m doing. I know that New Year’s Eve was, like, a week ago, and everyone is already over it and back to work and slogging through and waiting for the next vacation, but, dang it, there’s too much that’s good and creative and powerful about life to let it streak by unnoticed!

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the bottom of this picture is the beeeeeeautiful city of San Francisco, which I will be visiting next week.

I got a nice month’s break from traveling in December and now it’s back to the skies. I’m flying to ALA in San Diego today for some fun, meetings, and face time with my Southern California colleagues Kelly, Jen, and Jamie. Then on Monday I’m up to San Francisco to see family and friends and to meet with my NorCal colleagues, Andrea, Laura, and Caryn.

For a belated Christmas present, I’m taking my mom to go hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak next Friday. (I think this Gilbert lady wrote a book? Something about eating? Just kidding. It’s pretty hilarious, actually: my mom just discovered EAT, PRAY, LOVE. I’m all like, “Remember that whole collective ommmmmm hovering over 2006? No? Oh well!”) Then it’s back to NYC for a whirlwind!

On January 17th, I’m doing my last Learning Annex class for now. It’ll be in the evening, somewhere in midtown Manhattan, and you can find a link to the event here. If you’ve already gone to one, this will be the same material: an overview of the children’s publishing marketplace. Come out, see me, and get your work critiqued! Next weekend is the Writer’s Digest Conference (see you at the Pitch Slam!), then Digital Book World (more on this next week), and the NY SCBWI. (I’m not speaking or giving a workshop, I’m doing the roundtable critiques on Friday, so I’ll be around all weekend, but I’m not doing any Saturday or Sunday sessions that people can show up for. You’ll just have to find me. Hint: I’ll be near the coffee…) That’s all within two weeks, folks!

Whew! It’s no wonder I’m finding so much calm, solace, and inspiration from Meg’s lovely thought for 2011! I hope you all enjoy it. See you next week with ALA updates.

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I’m a huge believer in setting goals and declaring intentions, especially during the holidays, when the whiff of impending change is in the air. This has been a fantastic year for me, and I’m happily looking back at all my travel, at all the great new books that I’ve gotten under contract this year, all the fantastic new clients, and all of the wonderful editor contacts I’ve made.

What’s on the plate for 2011? A lot more sales! New clients, new friends, new contacts, new business opportunities. New travel, too. As of today, I’ve been to 27 of 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and Washington DC). In 2011, I’ll be speaking in new states (Indiana, anyone?) and new countries (the SCBWI has invited me Japan and Hong Kong!!!!!!!!). See my events page for what I’ve booked so far.

In 2011, I’ll also have a new marketing intern, I hope. Don’t forget…I’m still actively looking at applications! If you want to apply or know anyone who’s perfect for the job, read all about this opportunity here.

I’ve spent some time these last few weeks thinking and journaling about my goals. I even want to start writing again next year, after about six months off. What about your goals? What do you all want to learn, do, and achieve in 2011? Pour them out! What questions are still nagging you? Ask them! With 2010 wrapping up, what would you like to share? I’m so blessed and grateful to have this great community of readers on the blog. Get to know each other. And if anyone is still looking for a critique partner for the holidays, don’t be shy!

Check back here on Friday for my Holiday Gift Guide…books I recommend for the writers, readers, and kidlit enthusiasts in your life. (It’s totally cool to get these books for yourself, of course!)


Digital nesting dolls: MacBook Pro, MacBook, iPad (in black case, nuzzling Kindle), Kindle, iPhone.

Here’s a list of the computer stuff I had last week: MacBook Pro, MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. Plus, the black sheep of the Mac family: Kindle. The MacBook Pro is my “desktop” computer; it sits on my desk in my home office. The MacBook is my travel laptop. The Kindle is my submissions reader. I love flicking through requested fulls on it, as I tend to skim more when I read on the computer, and the ereader focuses my attention.

In April of this year, I let myself get swept up in the iPad tsunami that rushed through the media. It didn’t help that my boyfriend is a Mac fanatic and wanted to get one first thing. So we went and stood in line on the first day, having reserved our iPads online the previous week, and participated in what can only be described as a circus of consumerism.

When we walked into the echo-filled glass lobby of the Apple store in the Meatpacking district in Manhattan, all of the dozens of gathered Apple employees cheered. I felt like a rock star. The only thing missing was paparazzi as I made my way to the third floor. About $700 later, I had my iPad, my case, and a sincere “Congratulations!” from an Apple employee. They wouldn’t let us leave until they’d shown us exactly how excited they were to have our money. Some were giving out handshakes, others high-fives. It was a rush!

But it didn’t last. The only thing I wanted from my iPad was a MacBook replacement. The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds, about two pounds less than the laptop, and slips easily into a purse. More battery life means I don’t always have to lug around the charger.

While iPad fit the bill in terms of its portability, it let me down in all other areas. I edit manuscripts using Word and its Track Changes function. A lot of other agents and most editors do this. Pages, the word processor on the iPad, doesn’t have Track Changes or a similar function (yet…Pages for other Mac platforms has Track Changes, but I haven’t heard wind of an update like this for iPad). So I can’t bring manuscripts to edit when I travel with iPad. And the backlit display, even though I turned the brightness down, hurt my eyes after long periods, so I couldn’t use my iPad for submissions, either.

The other issue was the keyboard. When I took the iPad with me to editor meetings, I would then have to spend hours, in some cases, correcting typos and getting the notes in order afterward. Every third word or so would be illegible, and sometimes I lost whole swaths of my notes just because I was trying to type quickly…and looking at my hands the entire time!

The iPad was good for presentations. I’d have my talks loaded on it and would scan through them at the flick of a finger as I spoke. It was light enough to hold in one hand or prop up on a podium. I also loaded my clients’ artwork on it and showed art to editors that way during meetings.

But, even though it was useful in two small areas, it still wasn’t doing everything I wanted. So what did I do? For most trips, I brought my iPad (for presentations and art demos), my Kindle (to read submissions on the matte e-ink screen), and my MacBook (to edit client manuscripts with Track Changes).

Instead of getting a gadget that replaced two others (ereader and laptop), I wound up using three gadgets. In wanting to take a step forward and be more efficient, I’d ended up taking a step back. And it’s not like travel is a small part of my life — I’m flying every single weekend from October to December. The same with meetings — it’s a rare week if I don’t have anything scheduled with an editor.

So last week, when the new MacBook Air debuted (less than an inch thick, a full keyboard, long battery life!), I finally did what I should’ve done a lot earlier. I sold my iPad and my MacBook, and defrayed over half of the Air’s cost. So after an interesting six month experiment, I’m back to two: my Air for traveling and meetings, and my Kindle for reading requested material. I figure that I can put my talks on my Kindle and scroll through them that way, and that I can give editors an art show on my Air.

I can’t say I’m pleased with the iPad, overall. And I really dislike apps. I think most apps, unless you need them for a specific work function, embody exactly what I experienced by adding the iPad to my life: they make things more complicated instead of more simple. I like to make grocery lists on the backs of index cards. Sure, there’s an app for that, but do I really need to take every single aspect of my life to the digital realm?

I don’t mean to sound hopelessly old-fashioned. I grew up in the Silicon Valley and, in fact, a lot of the people telling me that I need these apps and widgets in my life are friends and former colleagues. But I don’t care. Nor do I need a gadget that’s, basically, one giant store made to sell me things I don’t need. Let the app developers make their millions (I hope, by licensing my clients’ books!), but leave me my analog grocery list.

I could’ve probably held on to the iPad in order to track how ebooks, book-related apps, and book-related games are developing, but it’d be collecting dust for a while that way. In my opinion, the iPad is ahead of its time and trying to usher in a technological revolution that most people (publishers) aren’t ready for, and some people (me) just don’t want. The revolution is coming, of course, and I’m staying on top of it because agents in this new digital world have to and their clients need them to, but I’ve decided that the iPad and all of its bells and whistles really doesn’t belong in my life.


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