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May 2011

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May. 25th, 2011

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Signings, Past and Future

I had a fantastic time on my very first visit to Brooklyn. I signed copies of Jeremy Bender alongside one of my favorite authors, Emily Jenkins, at the Book Court in Cobble Hill. Emily has a new book out called Invisible Inkling which I am really looking forward to reading.

   

Cupcakes were graciously provided by HarperCollins and the kids who came out to see us (as well as many adults) enjoyed them. We both spoke to the kids for a few minutes about our new books and then answered questions. It was fun fielding questions alongside another author as attendees could see the similarities and differences between us.

Here are some really cool photos a friend of mine took when he dropped by:




Coming Up: So, if you couldn't make the signing at the Book Court or last week's signing at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, give Troy, NY a try! I will be signing copies of all my books at Market Block Books this Friday night from 6pm until ???. It's "Troy Night Out" so leave extra time to wander around the streets of Troy and check out all the cool boutiques, restaurants and arts! Another cool surprise is that we are going to have a visit from the Bettie's Cakes truck! Don't miss it!

May. 2nd, 2011

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Cool Cupcake Cadets Contest!

Hows that for alliteration? We are one day away from the release of my newest novel (my first for middle-grade readers!) and the excitement is ramping up! I wanted to kick off this week of celebrations with a quick and easy contest, so keep reading!!!

Here is the cover of Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets which comes out on May 3rd:



The Cool Cupcake Cadet Contest

I have designed a small number of highly embellished and signed copies of Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets. Here is one version:



Have you ever seen a book signed so marvelously? It's cute enough to eat! If you are interested in obtaining one of these limited-edition signed and embellished copies for yourself or a loved one (or if you hate it so much you want to burn it in a funeral pyre), there are a few ways to get one.

The first is to sign up for my very occasional newsletter at www.ericluper.com. I promise to only send emails once in awhile and only for really good reasons (like big events, awards, new books, etc). I will be giving away one embellished copy of Jeremy Bender to one new subscriber. But if you're already on my mailing list, don't fret. I'll be giving another copy away to one lucky person already registered for my newsletter.

But wait, there's another way to win...

Just post the following (or something similar) on Facebook or Twitter:

Facebook:
Sign up for Eric Luper's occasional email newsletter at ericluper.com for a chance to win a signed copy of his newest book, Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets (out in stores 5/3)! Check out the details at http://eluper.livejournal.com/

Twitter:
Retweet or sign up for @ericluper newsletter at ericluper.com for a chance to win a signed copy of Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets!

One copy will go out to a Twitter entry and one copy will go out to a Facebook entry! Be sure to tag me in your post or message me below to alert me of the post(s). Otherwise, I won't know you've entered. Feel free to enter in as many ways as you like and feel free to enter once today (5/2) and once tomorrow (5/3) to up your chances!

Best of luck and CUPCAKES FOR EVERYONE!!!!

Mar. 18th, 2011

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Rebecca Black and Writing

I was going to post an entry about one of the worst songs ever to plague mankind. It's this one called FRIDAY by Rebecca Black:



This song is so fomulaic and thoughtless that it amazes me it ever sprang from the pen of someone who thought he or she was a writer of lyrics. I was in the process of thinking of a suitable comparison in the world of children's literature. Then, Jackson Pearce did my work for me. Check out this great video blog entry. Then, check out her awesome book, The Sisters Red.



Thank you, Rebecca Black for inspiring interesting dialogue in the world of children's literature, and thank you Jackson Pearce for putting a wicked awesome book out there! Oh, and thank you for doing my work for me...

Mar. 11th, 2011

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Celebrity Apprentice

On Sunday night, they will be airing an episode on Celebrity Apprentice where the two teams have to write and create a children's book. It seems the two 'celebrity' teams will be assisted by an editor from Marshall Cavendish and the winning team will earn money for their charity.

Whenever serious children's authors catch a whiff of a celebrity book, the rumblings begin. Questions begin to fly. "What does Celebrity X know about writing for children?" "How could Publishing Company Y think about giving a contract to that idiot?"

Now, it is true that the worst picture book ever created was by Billy Crystal and that celebrity books play an important role in the economy of children's literature, but I am not going to talk about those things. Instead, I am going to talk about raising awareness.

I believe celebrities writing books makes people aware of new literature out there. It gets them poking around the bookstore shelves rather than just grabbing the first book they recognize from their own childhood (which is rarely a good idea). I also think it inspires people to try their own hand at that kid's book idea that has been niggling at them for many years. In some cases, it gives rise to good literature, but in 99.9% of the cases it gets people to realize how hard it is to do what we do.

Not many people can live inside his or her head for hours at a time. Not many people can turn stories over and over again in their heads (and on paper) until it's just right. Not many people can look at their own work so objectively that they can axe thirty, forty or fifty pages from it, if necessary, and start again. What we do is hard.

Anyhow, do painters get irked when celebrities try their hand at painting or do musicians flip out when a celebrity begins a band? It's all creative expression. They are just as entitled as anyone to do it, even poorly.

So let the celebrities have at it this weekend. I assure you that every one of them will come out of the experience appreciating what we do a little more. Hopefully, so will the many viewers who decide to waste an hour of his or her life watching Celebrity Apprentice.

Mar. 4th, 2011

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Word Choice

I am deep in the middle of a major revision of my fifth novel (no, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about... sorry). For this pass, I made the mistake of printing out this 70,000-word monster. There are so many edits and additions that keying in changes has become a monumental task.

But everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?

In this case, it has helped me read this manuscript more closely. This morning as I was trying to decipher the scrawl I crammed between two lines of crossed-out text, I got to thinking about word choice. Why was I replacing the word ‘ran’ with the word ‘scrambled’?

With poetry, we consider the careful selection of each word paramount. We think about how the word sounds, what it does to the cadence of the sentence, how it affects the words around it. We do the same when we think about picture book text. The longer the piece, the less we talk about word choice. After all, more words means less importance per word, right?

My opinion: wrong.

I find myself toiling over word choice. Each word is just as important as the ones that precede and come after it. When I can’t find the right word, I flag it so I don’t forget to circle back at some point. Adverbs tell me I have not found the right verb. Word repetition and clichés tell me I’ve gotten lazy. Too many gerunds? Overuse of ‘that’ and ‘just’? I’m guilty of them all.

Sometimes it’s a matter of swapping out a word or phrase for a better one. Other times, I need to circle my wagons and figure out a better way to communicate something as a whole. New sentence. New paragraph. On occasion, new scene.

But that is what revision is for. It’s when I make sure every word in the book (and as I said earlier… in this case there are around 70,000 of them) is the right one and that it’s in the right spot in the sentence. And the sentence is in the right part of the paragraph and the paragraph 1) needs to be there and 2) is also in the right spot. Someone should draw me an algorithm.

For me, writing a book is a marathon. Getting out that first draft is only the first leg of the race. Revision is that long haul in the middle where you barely remember starting and the finish line seems so far away. But, just as with runner’s high, when I find that right word or phrase, there is no feeling like it.

Dec. 6th, 2010

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Google Books

Well, for better or worse, it's here. There has been much hoopla in the publishing world about Google and their attempts to digitize the entire compendium of human knowledge. Lawsuits, confusing emails to authors, you name it.

If you are involved in publishing and have not heard about this, it's time to pull your head out from under that rock. If you are not involved in publishing, then it's time to learn what all your book-geek friends will be talking about this week. Here is the story as relayed by the brilliance of the collective Wikipedia brain.

And here are how two of my books, Bug Boy and Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto, appear on Google Books.

Simply put, if your book is in the public domain it will appear in its entirety. If your book's copyright is still held by an entity, it will appear to whatever extent the copyright holder wishes: first chapter, cover only, first few pages, pages from beginning, middle and end, whatever.

So what does that mean to the regular person? It means that virtually every book that has a barcode on it will appear in some capacity on Google Books. So will magazines and reference materials. It will sort of be like going to the book store and being able to "flip through" books in a limited capacity. You can also read appreciable chunks or even all of some books. you also can search by keyword ro author or any other sort of Google-y thing. Kinda cool, right?

So what does this mean for authors and publishers? Good question. No one really knows the answer to this. There are people who think it is the end of publishing as we know it (sort of the way the printing press spelled disaster for the entire scribe profession). Others think that dissemination of information, in whatever means, only spells good things for the world of publishing.

I'm sort of in the middle of these two opinions, but if I had to choose I think I'm in that second camp.

I am a writer; it is my job to produce content. Whether someone reads it in a paper book or on a screen--heck, even if they spell it in smoke letters in the sky--the people in the world of publishing are going to need what I do. Believe me, if they could do it themselves they would.

It is the job of publishers to make heads or tails of all this eBook/Google/digital content thing.
It is the job of writers to write.

So get out there and do it!


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Dec. 3rd, 2010

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Cover Design

Although recipients of my "only once in a while" newsletter have already seen it, I have yet to reveal the cover of my forthcoming novel on my blog. So, here it is:



The incredible news is that illustrator extraordinaire, Brian Floca, did the illustrations. If you're not familiar with Mr. Floca, he is the author/illustrator of two Sibert Award honor books, Lightship and Moonshot. He also took the time to drop a mention of Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets on his own blog. If you went to check that out, did you notice that he's also done an Avi book? He is the illustrator for friend and critique partner, Kate Messner's forthcoming release, Marty McGuire, too!

Oh, and here is the flap copy:

When eleven-year-old Jeremy Bender does major damage to his father’s prized boat, he figures he has one way to avoid being grounded for life: Fix it before Dad finds out. But even if Jeremy and his best friend, Slater, combined their allowances for a year, they still wouldn’t have enough money for the cost of repairs. Inspiration strikes when the boys see an ad for the Windjammer Whirl. Sponsored by the Cupcake Cadets, the model sailboat race pays $500 to the winner. There’s just one problem: You must be a Cadet—and a girl—to compete.  Confident that it will be the easiest money they’ve ever made, Jeremy convinces Slater they should dress up like girls and infiltrate the troop. But as the boys proceed to botch everything from camping to field hockey, they realize that being a Cadet is no piece of cupcake.
Can Jeremy and Slater earn their badges and win the money? Or will their Cupcake careers be over faster than you can say "vanilla frosting"?

So there you have it. Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets hits shelves on 5/3/2011 with Balzer + Bray, a company I am so stoked to be associated with.

By the way, if you are interested in getting in on the very occasional newsletter, here is a registration form:











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Nov. 19th, 2010

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PubIt or Shut It

A few months ago I was at a party and the person I was with introduced me to her friend. "He's a published author," she boasted. The man looked down his nose at me and said, "Anyone can get published these days, what with self publishing and all."

Now despite my badass author photos (thanks Chris Sawicki), I am not a confrontational person. I smiled and looked past the guy for the cheese and crackers. However, the woman with me whose husband owns a large printing company rose to my defense.

"This isn't some low-budget downtown small press," she said. "This is Harper Collins!"

The man raised his eyebrows, took a sip of his gin and tonic, and gave me one of those "what's-the-difference?" expressions. Then, he wandered off, presumably to regale his friends about his new horse or his new BMW or his new wife.

My friend apologized for her friend's comment, but I shrugged it off. It's not the first time I've come across the attitude that anyone can get published and I'm sure it won't be the last. For the record, I applaud anyone who is able to write an entire book: beginning, middle and end. It's a difficult task that somehow seems to get more difficult with each completed book.

And it's true. Anyone can get published. The are dozens of print-on-demand, vanity and self publishing companies out there. All it has required is a few thousand dollars, in some cases many more thousand dollars, and acceptance of the fact that you'll be hand selling the bulk of your copies or ending up with a garage filled with unsold copies.

Until now.

PubIt is a new service being offered by Barnes & Noble to convert your masterpiece to eBook version for free. According to the website, the conversion is simple and the book will be able to be read by "most eReaders and mobile devices." It also gets listed on BN.com.

Yay for you!

So, what's the catch? The catch is that they get some of the money from each sale. I also suspect that going this route will qualify your book as being already published and will close lots of doors in the world of traditional publishing.

I guess that guy at the cocktail party was correct after all. Anyone can get published nowadays. So, go ahead and do it. Publish your eBook. Let me know how that works out for you.

Now before you pounce for my snarky tone, let the record show that I believe there is a place for self pubbing. I've blogged about it before. I'm sure there is a place for PubIt as well. I'm just not sure what it is. I suppose time will tell...

But I will say that it's quite interesting to watch it all unfold!


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Nov. 15th, 2010

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Author to Author: Mark Shulman

Okay, so this is my first interview in a great while, but I think it might be interesting for people to see an author interviewed by another author. Maybe I’ll come up with some authorly questions, or something of the sort.

So, without any more ado, I give you Mark Shulman

SCRAWL (Roaring Brook, 2010) is your first foray into young adult fiction. What made you want to write for this age group?

I suppose the easy answer is that, like most men, I’m still a teenager at heart. For me, the teen years shared the prefix terri: terrific and terrible. It was my most volatile period, ripe with incredible highs and lows. Probably more than at any other age, who I am was defined by those few years of my life. So, to finally answer your question, I realized that I have so many memories of my teenage self, and my thought processes, that I could perhaps possibly write a novel from that point of view.

SCRAWL is the story of a boy who’s in serious trouble. He’s also at the threshold between acting like a bad guy and being one. For me, being a teenager was also about trying on roles. Unfortunately, a few of mine were photographed. Tod doesn’t think he has any choice but to be defined by his hard-luck neighborhood. But choices emerge. Will he take the clues and switch paths? Could I make a difference to a teenager on a similar trajectory? Perhaps some day this book can give someone hope. It’s not the first mistake that defines us, it’s the second.

Where and how did the story originate?

I never thought I could (or would) write a novel. That’s something that real writers did, not me. One day I was at lunch with an editor I admire, Neal Porter. He looked at all my books – picture books, nonfiction books, preschool and humor books – and he asked me what I really wanted to write. I casually uttered the words “write a novel” the way my young son says “be an astronaut” and the next thing I know, Neal’s making me live up to it. “Send me something,” said Neal, and I sent him a few paragraphs I’d recently written.

Those paragraphs have their own strange history. A writer friend, Alison James, gathered a few friends together and hypnotized us into starting a story from scratch. She landed us in our own random worlds and had us start scribbling. Alack! I was suddenly in my old high school, beating up some kid and busting his glasses. Having been the punching bag myself, and not the aggressor, my fictional bully had a connoisseur’s appreciation of how best to assault someone. And he was telling the story himself.

"It’s not the first mistake that defines us, it’s the second."
--Mark Shulman

Bullying is a hot topic these days. Do you have personal experience with bullying (either on the giving or receiving end)?

Fat, noisy Jewish kid in a huge, tough inner-city school in the 1970s. Need I say more?

There are not many books that have a bully as a main character. It must be tough to do that and still maintain sympathy for the character. What were the challenges in writing Tod and how did you overcome them?

You know those times when you can’t help but look bad in front of a particular person? And you know that circumstances are stacked against you, and you’re being woefully misunderstood? That’s how Tod spends every day of his entire life. He has a bad-guy exterior, but he’s got a real heart.

Tod also has an inviolable moral code, like a Hammett antihero. He will never sell out. There’s something alluring in that trait, and it makes a good character better when the tension is ratcheted up. Sure, he’s an extortionist and a thief and a punk and a thug and a bully… okay, fine, I’ll admit it. But he’s true to himself, and his eyes are wide open. That’s what made him intriguing to follow around.

There were two significant writing challenges for me to make Tod believable. First, I didn’t have any interest in beating people up, so Tod doesn’t either. He just wants some pocket change, and to be left alone. Tod clearly differentiates himself from the “hard guys” and “mean kids” who cause trouble for sport, not money.

Second, the book is told as a chronological journal, with some fun (but legal) cheating in the timeline. A stoic like Tod is going to be skimpy with the information until he gets it dragged out of him. So, not only does his character grow and change, but so does his writing within the story. I always like a challenge.

Both Tod and his mother have sewing skills. Can you sew or did you fake this well?

Darn socks. But that’s it.

The book is written as a series of journal entries. What were the challenges associated with that format?

I mentioned that Tod needed to open up in stages. That wasn’t easy, since chapters couldn’t readily be shuffled for pacing if the tone kept evolving. Another challenge was that, being a tough guy writing to his guidance counselor, Tod wouldn’t naturally confess all his misdeeds and inner thoughts. I needed to invent a way for Tod to finally tell all, and I’m happy with the solution near the end. Lastly, keeping the dates straight was no picnic. I had to use Google Calendar to plot out each day, and see how they related to each other. November 1st, Thanksgiving, and November 30th are all referenced, so everything else needed to fit the narrative timeline. Did I mention I like challenges?

You have a bunch of other books for younger readers out on the shelves. From a writer’s perspective, how was SCRAWL different from those books?

I’m proud of my many books, regardless of size or stature. I put thought into all of them. My picture books have unexpected moments; my nonfiction has interesting tidbits and humor; my sticker books have story lines; my novelty books acknowledge and build upon the novelty. All these books use paper and ink, and syntax, but that’s it for similarities to SCRAWL.

What I’ve usually done with my previous, shorter books, is to visualize the completed book and create the text to fill the shape. With the novel, I mainly followed my lead character around. No structure, no form. I had a plot to eventually come back to, and characters running amok. The wise sages before me assured me that the book would make sense altogether, and they were right. Characters who were meant to be good ended up not-so-good, and vice versa. A few minor characters barged in and took over entire scenes. Luz the artsy goth girl elbowed her way in, every chance she got, and she added great fizz to her scenes. And when slightly-psycho Rex met a street preacher, it was all I could do to type fast enough while Rex ran the show. That doesn’t usually happen in a Discovery Channel book about sharks.

What was the oddest or most interesting job you have ever had?

I am proud that I have had a number of strange jobs. Here’s one: In college I somehow ended up with a bluegrass radio show on the NPR station in Buffalo. I knew nothing about bluegrass, but I could read a playlist. The show began at 5 am on Sundays. Rather than wake up early, I simply didn’t go to sleep Saturday night. I would be delirious by 7 am and, with an hour to go, I would start featuring album sides. Once I woke up to the record skipping. Nobody noticed. Also on that station, I would read the news in the evenings with a British accent, or replace the names of politicians with the names of my friends. I also ran the trivia contest a few times. I have no idea why I wasn’t booted. It’s a fairly large station. 

What’s coming next from Mark Shulman?

A little more of everything. The second novel is outlined and underway; it should appeal to the readers of SCRAWL. I have finished an early reader, a picture book, and am working on a nonfiction book for a Big Nonfiction Publisher. Some other stuff is in the works, but I’ve learned not to report on primordial ooze. I’m also working on a sequel to Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto. Someone should.

Thanks so much for your time (and for the the plug), Mark. I urge readers to pick up this book. It's quite unique.

Thanks, Eric!

Scrawl
By
Mark Shulman
(Roaring Brook Press, Hardcover, 9781596434172, 240pp.)




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Nov. 5th, 2010

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...and we have a few winners!

I am so excited to be able to announce our winners for the JEREMY BENDER VS THE CUPCAKE CADETS contest. It was the first contest I've held for this book, which means it's the first time this book is out into the world... to anyone!

There are winners from all ways of entering and I'm blowing through all my spare advance copies with this contest. That means I have no additional ones to send out (hint, hint!). Believe me, if I get my hands on a few more, I'll get them out there.

So, without further ado, here are our winners:

@CarlyReads
@CCLibraryDiva
Kate Covintree
Jane O'Donnell

and
Brent Watson (who entered and didn't actually win, but I'm adding him because it's his birthday today)

Congratulations to all the winners. I'll be in touch to get your mailing address!

And if you're interested in my occasional newsletter, be sure to sign up here:










Now stay tuned for the cover reveal, which is coming soon!



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