We Have a Winner!

The tweets are in from the first Peter Nimble giveway! I used a random number picker to determine the winner ... Zoe Rain Dasher Benji!

Congrats! Judging from the name, I'm pretty sure Zoe is a Jedi knight. You can learn more about her at her website, where she posts reviews and runs giveaways of upcoming YA books! Enjoy your copy of Peter Nimble, Zoe ... and thank you to everyone for participating!

* * *

Right now, the awesome folks at Penguin Canada have me hanging out with booksellers in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia.[1. I even got to meet the folks from Canadian trade publication Quill & Quire who gave Peter Nimble a wonderful writeup last week!]

Speaking of spreading the word, everyone should check out what Librarians Mr. Schu and Donna are up to on their annual road trip across the country. They stop along the way reading books at various attractions.[2. I think the official selections are Frankie Pickle and Owly ... I can hardly imagine better traveling companions!] Here's John Schu reading Peter Nimble at what seems to be a restaurant run by a serial killer -->

Later in the week, I'll announce another (EVEN BIGGER) giveaway! Stay tuned!

Advance Reviews and--OMG FREE BOOK!!!

When I was at ALA, I spoke with a number of different writers about what I should expect as I approach publication.  Invariably, the conversation would turn to one dreaded question: "Have you seen any reviews yet?"  This was always asked gently, in the same tone one might use to inquire whether a friend has any living grandparents.  

Every time, I gave people the same reply:  "Ask Mary." 

The thing you should know is that writers are famously sensitive to reviews.  Even a rave review with a single itty-bitty criticism lodged in the middle can feel like a crushing blow.  Most every author I know has a few "funny" stories about when they went over the edge, obsessing over stupid Amazon/Goodreads/Bookscan rankings until they had a nervous breakdown.[1. You doubt me? I dare you to google "author meltdown." Prepare to cringe.]

For that reason, Mary and I decided a few months back that I wouldn't read reviews.  Not a single one.  Instead she would read them and then tell me what they said.  She doesn't omit the bad stuff, but she does make a point of framing the criticisms (of which there have been mercifully few) in terms of things I might want to remember when a embark on a new project.  Because the fact is, Peter Nimble has already been written, and there's no real use in obsessing over a manuscript that I can't change.

That said, Peter Nimble reviews do exist -- and, frankly, they are pretty freaking awesome!  Here are a few highlights:

"What begins Dickensian turns Tolkien-esque in this quest replete with magic and mystery.... Auxier has a juggler’s dexterity with prose that makes this fantastical tale quicken the senses" - Kirkus Reviews

"Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes is both a pull-no-punches adventure with the darkness of the most authentic fairy tales, and a whimsical romp in a fictional world where anything is possible ... The book’s quirky nature, distinctive plot, and fresh themes will draw young readers in and spark their imaginations, earning it a place on the shelf for re-readings." - Quill & Quire Magazine

"the fast-paced, episodic story, accompanied by Auxier's occasional pen-and-ink drawings, is inventive, unpredictable, and -- like its hero -- nimble." - Publisher's Weekly

"When the book ended, I was not only left with the satisfaction a great story brings, but with the idea that each one of us is important and can make a difference in the world.... Indeed, this is a book that could quite possibly steal The Newbery right out from under all of the other books I have read so far this year." - The Lemme Library

"What is the most telling difference between works of children’s literature written long ago and those written today? I’ll answer for myself: Tone. The tone of a book like Wind in the Willows or The Secret Garden is difficult to replicate. What Peter Nimble manages to do is create a tone akin to those books of yore.... Kids will stay with Peter every step of the way. It’s like something you’ve seen before and nothing you’ve ever read." - School Library Journal (Fuse #8)

Now doesn't that sound like a book you want to read? 

Here's the good news: even if you missed ALA, there's still a chance to win a copy of the book before it hits shelves!  I'm giving away a copy of Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes right here!  To enter, follow these two easy steps:

1) Follow me on Twitter!

2) Retweet this link!

That's it![2. A few rules: Each person will only be entered once. The contest will end at 12pm EST on Monday, July 11. Winner will be selected by a randomizer and notified by Direct Message.]  You really have no excuse not to enter!  And plus, don't you remember all the great things those reviewer people said about the book?!  Now get Tweeting!

Five Things I Learned at ALA

After a brief and incredibly productive hiatus, I'm back in blogger mode![1. While I cannot promise that I will never take breaks from blogging, I can promise that I will only take breaks in order to write new books for you to read -- as was the case this month.]  This last week was an exciting one, as it officially marked the debut of Peter Nimble. Well, pre debut.

Every year the American Library Association holds an annual conference wherein a million librarians descend on an unsuspecting town.[2. I think the actual number was something under 30,000.  But still, that's a lot of ladies in glasses.  For a video-look at the weekend, check out Travis Jonker's post here.]  A post about ALA is basically a post about hanging out with amazing authors, librarians, editors, and illustrators.  Instead of name-checking all the swell people I spent time with (save that for Twitter), I've decided to write a post about the five things I learned from my time at ALA:

1)  Always Wear a Name Tag

For many years, I have considered myself too cool for name tags.  In the same way that I refuse to run across busy streets (why run when you can walk slow and scowl?), I also refused to wear name tags.  This changed at ALA.  As I was about to pocket my name tag, a woman beside me saw it and exclaimed "You're taller than I thought you'd be!"[3. I get this a lot.  Apparently I look short in my headshot.]  This woman was author Jo Whittemore, and she promptly introduced me to the Texas Sweethearts author clan.  Within seconds, I was on my way to lunch with a half-dozen YA novelists who had plenty of good advice for a nervous newbie.  That never would have happened without the name tag.

I also noticed that wearing a name tag seems to improve conversation.  I forgot to wear it to a few events, and those were the same events where small talk stayed small -- never really moving beyond "Where are you from?" and "Oh, the humidity!"   I realize now that the purpose of a name tag isn't to help identify yourself on a handshake, but to help five minutes after the handshake.  It allows the person talking to you to casually glance down and remind themselves who you are ... and the less time they spend thinking "What's his name again?" the more time they can spend actually having a real conversation.


2)  Ugly Ducklings Abound

I had a chance to to talk with a number of authors and illustrators about how their careers started.  More than a few of them had published in obscurity for years before hitting it big.  Some were trapped on the midlist.  Others had their aquiring editors change jobs, leaving their books orphaned at the house.   A few were even dropped outright.  This really hit home when I heard Brian Selznick talking with Horn Book editor Roger Sutton.  He alluded to a frustrating period during which he could only get hired to draw biographies of dead presidents.  From that dark period came Hugo Cabret -- a book that changed both his career and (arguably) children's literature.  This was but one of probably a dozen stories I heard with the same trajectory.

This is a good reminder for me as I'm about to send a book I love out into the world.  This industry can be a real crap shoot.  Sometimes great books can fall through the cracks.  Sometimes terrible books are huge hits.  The key thing for a writer is to keep believing that the greatest story they will ever tell has yet to be written.

3)  Stay Humble

Related to the above lesson, I noticed how much of an impression it makes when a successful author hasn't  lost sight of the fact that they were once merely aspiring.  This lesson was perfectly illustrated when I had the privilege of eating dinner with Abrams authors Tom Angleberger and Jeff Kinney.[4. Tom's kindness to me on this trip cannot be understated -- he is truly a Gentleman among men.]  Jeff is a HUGE author.  He's pretty much ruled the publishing industry for the last few years.  When he met both Tom and I, he asked us the same question:  "What was it like when you got the call saying you were going to be published?"  It was clearly a go-to question for him, and one that speaks to his character.  For him to ask other authors about "the call" not only graciously indicates that he considers us his peers, but also acts as a reminder that all the Wimpy Kid success he's enjoyed is actually just gravy.  The dream-come-true part of his life has nothing to do with bestseller lists, merchandising, or feature films ... it is simply that he got to be published at all.

4) Don't Tell Lauren Myracle Anything

One night at a party, a woman with whom I had been chatting mentioned that she thought I resembled Seth Rogen -- not the most flattering comparison I've ever gotten.[5. For the record, the most flattering comparison I've gotten is "they guy who plays Darth Maul" ... which I've gotten repeatedly.]   Even worse, my wife hates Seth Rogen, and she often uses his name as a sort of shorthand to describe all that is wrong with mankind.  I mentioned this unfortunate comparison to YA author Lauren Myracle at the Newbery Banquet.  Lauren is not one to pass up this sort of information (by "this sort of information," I mean information that will allow her to mock you), and she promptly brought it up to the whole table -- at which point I was forced to sit through a serious debate over whether or not the comparison was apt.  Then she started bringing other people into the mix.  For the rest of the night, I had strangers coming up to tell me I looked like this actor.  The highlight was when an older librarian tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was "Steph Rogaine" ...

I have a henceforth enacted a "Don't tell Lauren Myracle anything" policy;  I would advise you all to do the same.

5) Librarians Love Free Crap

This weekend marked my first ever Peter Nimble signing event!  Before the big night,  a few experienced authors warned me that signings for debut authors can be humbling -- nobody knows you, so why would they want to wait in a line to talk? This is probably true, but none of these authors knew that my publisher had armed me with a secret weapon:  free crap!

The above picture is of the special eyeball tote that Abrams was giving away with copies of Peter Nimble.  Within about thirty seconds of the doors opening, I had a line around the corner  -- all eager to get a bag.  Here is a picture of my first ever signature for librarian and blogger @Jenbigheart:

The second day was even better, and we ran out of ARCs after 20 minutes!  Even after the books were gone, people were running up to the booth asking about the eyeball bags.


Never again will I doubt the power of SWAG.  Speaking of, for those of you who missed out on scoring a free copy of the book, know that I will be doing a ton of Peter Nimble giveaways this month, so stay posted!

Peter Nimble in Brazil!

Just a short note to announce that Brazil is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of awesome countries that "get it"  ... and by "get it," I mean "are willing to publish my book!"  The publisher will be Leya, and they will also be using my illustrations -- Hooray! Really, this is just an excuse for me to include a video from Terry Gilliam's 1985 movie, Brazil:


Recognize that music?  You should, because it's used in a million trailers.  Have a swell weekend!

My Editor can Beat up Your Editor ...

A few months back, my editor and I were caught in a heated "discussion" regarding a certain passage of Peter Nimble.[1. My editor has a pretty low online profile, so I'll respect that by not publishing her name ... of course if you reallywant to know who she is, it's printed in back of Peter Nimble!]  Essentially, she wanted me to remove a paragraph on the grounds that it slowed down the action.  Understand that I am usually very eager to rip apart my own work in response to a note ... but this particular passage was different.[2. In fact, both my wife and agent have at times argued that I can be too eager in this regard. Perhaps that's a subject for another day.]  When I sat down to write a book, I essentially sat down to write this one passage -- and now I was being told to cut it out entirely! There were a LOT of phone calls, during which I would list countless reasons why these few sentences were necessary to the book.  Every time she would say she understood my feelings, but that she couldn't in good conscience agree.  Finally, after what seemed like weeks of back-and-forth, I tried cutting it out -- just to see how it read.

You know how this story goes:  she was right, I was wrong, "kill your darlings," blah, blah, blah.[3. Author and blogger Wendy Palmer has a neat little series on writing rules that are often misapplied -- including the infamous "Kill your darlings." It's worth reading, if for no other reason than to learn that Faulkner didn't originate that phrase.]

When I looked over the final proofs of that chapter a few weeks ago, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  My editor is a busy lady, and I'm sure it would have been much easier for her to just let me have my way.  But she stuck to her guns, and the book is better for it.

Shortly after that issue was resolved, I sent over a picture as a sort of peace offering:

Way to be awesome, Editorus Rex.

Drumroll Please ...

This has been in the works for a while now, and it has been killing me not to be able to share it.  But at long last Abrams has released their Fall 2011 catalog, which means I can finally unveil the cover for Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes!

It was drawn by Gilbert Ford (of "secret series" fame) and designed by Chad Beckerman (of Chad Beckerman fame).  The two of them went through a couple of rounds of brainstorming -- including a fairly involved cover involving cutaway eyes.  I am truly astounded with the final product.  Seriously.  Just look at the thing ...

To see a little bit more Peter Nimble (and to see the other wonderful books Abrams will be putting out this year) check out the catalog.  Then rush to Amazon and pre-order 100 copies.

Introducting ... PETER NIMBLE!

Abrams had previously requested that I not publish too much information on my book just yet, but after their own creative director released this info on his blog, the gig was up.  Below is a first peek at Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes:

This is a marketing sheet that was handed out at ALA Midwinter.  The figure in the top left was scanned from one of my old sketchbooks.  The silhouette and background were drawn by the brilliant Gilbert Ford, who created the book cover.[1. Just to be clear, this is not the cover of the book. The real cover is amazing and I can't wait to show it to you! In the meantime, here's a sneak preview!]  For those who can't be bothered to click through the image, I'll reprint the text here:

"Now for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door—be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle—at fifty paces. Moreover, their fingers are small enough to slip right through keyholes, and their ears keen enough to detect the faintest clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise. At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you’ve probably guessed, is Peter Nimble."

So begins PETER NIMBLE & HIS FANTASTIC EYES, the first novel from 29-year-old Jonathan Auxier. Overflowing with wit and invention, PETER NIMBLE is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery by his brutal master, Mr. Seamus.  One fateful afternoon, as he's picking the pockets of townspeople enraptured by a traveling haberdasher, he "discovers" (steals) a box of magical eyes.  When he tried on the first pair, he is instantly transported to an island at the top of the world, where he meets the maker of the eyes, Professor Cake.  The professor gives Peter a choice: travel to the mysterious Vanished Kingdom and try to rescue a people in need ... or return back to his master and a life of crime.  Peter chooses wisely, and together with Sir Tode, a knight errant who has been turned into a rather unfortunate combination of human, horse, and cat by a grumpy witch, he embarks on an unforgettable adventure in a book destined to become a classic.

At ALA, I noticed a typo in the first paragraph[2. To be fair to my copy editor, it was less a typo than an ambiguous pronoun.] and declared that whichever librarian spotted it first would win a hand-drawn portrait.  For about ten minutes there was much yelling and scrutinizing-of-text, until librarian and poet Nina Lindsay spotted the error.  Here she is:

Nice work, Nina!

Aaaaand, I'm back!

After weeks of being chained to my drafting table, I'm finally finished with the art for Peter Nimble! In the coming days, I'll be leaking some previews of the art and a bit about my process.  I'll also resume putting up marginalia quotes and blog posts again.[1. Thanks to all the friends who harassed me about getting back to blogging; it's nice to know I was missed.]  Please accept this first meager offering, a scan of a blotter sheet left over from the illustrations …

The last six weeks have been absolutely grueling.  I drew thirty-one pen-and-ink pictures, and each one took me approximately twenty hours to complete.  Do the math, and you’ll see that sleep was not really an option.  I've heard that marathon runners' bodies start to shut down as they round the last mile -- that might explain why in the last two days of drawing I couldn't hold a pen, eat, or walk straight.

Luckily, I was not alone.  I had the advice and guidance of the Abrams' designer Chad Beckerman as well as valuable input from my mother and sister, both of whom are artists.  And, most importantly, I had Mary who (other than briefly deserting me to attend a Dickens conference in Houston) was more supportive than I can say.

I've experienced my share of deadline-induced fatigue, but nothing like this.  Literally, the day after I handed in the final art, my eyes started acting strange.  I couldn't open them, and when I did, my eye muscles would start to spasm uncontrollably.  How ironic that after completing a book about a blind boy, I became effectively blind.  Hilarious!

A trip to the doctor informed me that all my time staring without blinking had given me an ulcer in my left eye.[2. I say “in” because an ulcer, as I learned from the doctor, is when a chunk is missing … basically, I have a cut in the white of my eye.]  Apparently this isn't a big deal, though it has forced me to take a longer rest than I originally planned.

When the doctor told me about this, I laughed out loud.  Firstly, because I was glad to hear I wasn't going blind.  Secondly, because just a few weeks before I had mocked[3. For any of you questioning why I would mock the suffering of a relative stranger, I would respond that you clearly don’t know me very well.] author Lisa Yee over lunch when she told me she had that very same ailment.

What’s the moral of this story?  Don’t mess with Lisa Yee.

The (Publishing) Gods Must Be Crazy!

Hey, readers!  I have a quick, exciting announcement about the forthcoming book:  Abrams is letting me illustrate! The good news is that I'm going to start posting drawings-in-progress and some other Peter Nimble-related tidbits in the coming weeks.  The bad news is that I'm on a tight deadline, which will be eating into my regular blogging schedule.  I'll still be posting at least twice a week, but I need to make a little extra time for drawing!  More to come ...

PETER NIMBLE in Korea ...

Mary brought back the mail today. In the pile was a contract from my agent for a Korean edition of Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes! The publisher will be Sodam & Taeil. I have exactly one friend living in Korea. He teaches English and runs a popular K-blog. Maybe he'll make his students buy copies? In the meantime, here's an awesome monster attack from the 2006 movie The Host. Warning: contains a monster.

In Which I Somehow Manage to Be the First to Learn Something...

If my casual google search for "penguin canada, lynne missen" is correct, this news has yet to hit the internets ... UPDATE: a smart reader (read: my mother) observed that the press release is marked "January 20, 2010." I'm pretty sure that's a typo, but if not then I'm actually the LAST person to learn this news. Which would be par for the course.



Toronto, January 20, 2010 … Nicole Winstanley, Publisher, Penguin Canada, announced today that Lynne Missen will take on the role of Publishing Director, Penguin Canada Young Readers, effective January 31st.

Missen will take responsibility for the publishing strategy and editorial direction of Penguin Canada’s illustrated children’s, middle grade and young adult titles; including brand and licensed properties.

“We are very excited,” said Mike Bryan, Penguin Canada President. “Lynne’s appointment comes at an exciting time, as the growth of commercial middle grade and teen fiction series continues unabated.”

Nicole Winstanley commented, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Lynne. Her dedication and commitment to publishing the very best in children’s literature is recognized by authors and agents in Canada and throughout the world. Lynne’s industry knowledge and keen judgment have led the authors she works with to great critical and commercial success and I am confident that under her leadership, the children’s program with grow and thrive.”

Lynne Missen said, "I look forward to this new challenge, working with Nicole and the great team at Penguin Canada, and following on the success of Penguin’s international Young Readers divisions.”

Lynne Missen has been editing books for over twenty years, and children's books for the past thirteen. In 2002, she joined HarperCollins Canada as children's book editor and was promoted to Executive Editor, Children's Books, in 2004. Lynne has worked with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Kenneth Oppel, Susan Juby, Eric Walters, Arthur Slade, Kit Pearson, Helen Dunmore, John Marsden, and Lemony Snicket.

The authors on her list have won numerous awards, including the Governor General's Award for Children's Fiction, the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, the CLA Young Adult Book Award, the Saskatchewan Book Award (young adult), the Arthur Ellis Award (Juvenile Fiction) and many children's choice awards. She has been nominated for the Libris Editor of the Year Award three times in the past five years.

Missen will oversee the highly anticipated publication of Lesley Livingston’s Once Every Never in July 2010. In the novel, Livingston, the critically acclaimed author of Wondrous Strange, introduces Clarinet Reid, a typical teenager who unknowingly carries a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse in her veins. With a single thoughtless act, what starts off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, save a Celtic warrior princess, and right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born.

She will also shepherd Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, by Canadian screenwriter Jonathan Auxier (for publication in Fall 2011); Queen of Pyres, an epic series inspired by India’s swayamvara ritual, a sorcerer king and the reincarnation of his seven deadly queens; and The Wildlings, a three book series from Charles de Lint, to Canadian readers.

I should also add that she once edited a fine collection of Canadian ghost stories that included a piece from my favorite adult author, Robertson Davies (among others). Welcome to the Penguin family, Lynne!