Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

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!

CWIM Winners!

The winners of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, are…

Erik Metz
Laura Burdette

Email me your addresses at mary at kidlit dot com!

For the rest of you, it’s still not too late to treat yourself or the kidlit writer and/or illustrator in your life to this fantastic, info-packed book. It makes great pampering for yourself or a fabulous gift for others…or both. And don’t forget to review it on Amazon and Goodreads!

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, it’s important to stop and acknowledge how amazing it is that we’re all brought here together by the love of children’s books, creativity, and making something lasting that will inspire and teach others.

Meanwhile, I leave you with two of my favorite web comics. The first is about a common writing error and, if you haven’t seen it, you might want to check your pulse as you could very well be a ghost. I present, the Alot. (I often have to physically restrain myself from sending this link to people who make this mistake to me in email.)

The other perfectly encapsulates the existential malaise of social networking and building platform. You can find this “it’s funny because it’s true” bit of wisdom here. (Speaking of which, I just wrote about platform a few weeks ago.)

I wish you all the blessings of time spent together with family and friends this holiday season. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a turkey to brine…

Writing Questions?

Every once in a while, I cast around for writing questions that my readers have so I can know what’s on your minds. With my trip to Japan and Hong Kong coming up, I want to pre-load the blog with some Q&A. So what’s going on? What are you dying to know?

Do we want to talk queries? Craft? Publishing? Getting an agent? Anything. Just ask away in the comments.

Craft Book Giveaway Winner

The winner of K.L. Going’s WRITING AND SELLING THE YA NOVEL is Sam S.! Thanks for playing, everyone! Now go out and buy this book if you didn’t end up winning it, it’s a great resource.

CWIM Winner!

We have a winner for the 2012 edition of CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, edited by Chuck Sambuchino and out from Writer’s Digest Books: Gail Terp!

Sorry I don’t have more copies to give away, but those who got all excited about reading this year’s CWIM should go out and buy it anyway. It’s a really great resource.

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market on Sale Today!

Today is the official publication day for the 2012 edition of the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, out from Writer’s Digest Books and edited by Chuck Sambuchino.

Inside this handy volume, you will find articles on craft, writing, submitting, and landing an agent, interviews with kidlit glitterati like M.T. Anderson and Meg Cabot, and updated listings for agents, publishers, and magazines that take work from children’s writers and illustrators. If you want to land an agent or find a market for your work this year, this is the book for you.

I highly recommend it. In fact, you will see a familiar face featured on the back cover, and an official blurb from me that reads:

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is the most complete, trusted, definitive, and inspiring source of publishing opportunities for children’s writers and illustrators working today.

It’s true. Not only did I lend my mug and stamp of approval to the book, but I have two articles featured inside. One is about writer’s conferences and how to make the best of your investment in them (whether it’s your first or your fiftieth), and the other covers my three favorite craft issues: Voice, Character, and Authority, with lots of juicy annotated examples from my favorite MG and YA books on shelves.

So if you want to read about and see examples of Voice that works — an especially tricky topic that lots of writers struggle with — pick up a copy today! This elegant guide is crammed full of useful information and updated agency, publisher, and magazine listings to make your quest toward publication a no-brainer. Let 2012 be the year you really MARKET your writing!

Because I’m so proud of this year’s book, I am giving away one free copy of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET to a writer randomly selected from the comments. Leave a comment below (make sure to include your email address in the comment form, though know that only I will be able to see it and it won’t be published on the site). Deadline for entries is midnight, Tuesday, September 20th. The winner will be announced in Wednesday the 21st’s blog, and then I will ship your copy to you next week. (US residents only, please.)


I’m admitting it. Only one day back in town between two long trips is just not enough time for me to blog. Catch you all on Monday. In the time you would’ve spent reading an entry today, go buy Bethanie’s book, BUGLETTE, THE MESSY SLEEPER!

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.

Fine, Fine, Fine, I’ll Share…

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, www.marykole.com, 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 Chowlit.com on Fridays! Bon appetit and cheers!

Copyright © Mary Kole at Kidlit.com