GREEN GREEN’s Book Birthday!

green-green-front-cover“They say it’s your BIRTHDAY!” Yup, it’s true. Today is the official publication day of GREEN GREEN: A Community Gardening Story!!!¬† It’s my debut picture book, co-authored with my husband, Landscape Architect Baldev Lamba, and illustrated by the phenomenal artist Sonia Sanchez. School Library Journal calls it, “An attractive read-aloud for beginning lessons on gardening.” This book is available everywhere books are sold. To purchase it, please contact your wonderful local bookstore — they will be happy to help you! Or, to order online, click here for a number of choices.

In the book, green grass is wide and fresh and clean for a family to play in, and brown dirt is perfect for digging a garden. But when gray buildings start to rise up and a whole city builds, can there be any room for green space? The neighborhood children think so, and they inspire the community to join together and build a garden for everyone to share in the middle of the city.

This is a fun and busy book, full of action, digging, construction stuff, nature, silliness and engrossing pictures. Every time I look through the pages, I discover something new and delightful! Can I just say I’m in awe of Sonia’s illustrations?

And at the end of the story, the book includes easy ways children and families can be more GREEN GREEN, including ways to help threatened honeybees and Monarch butterflies. There’s even a fun craft for kids!

Community gardening is such an important movement throughout the country, bringing together people and transforming the ground into lush gardens that feed and delight. GREEN GREEN is all about sustainability, something so close to my heart. And this book shows how children can make a real difference in our world. I especially love the diverse cast of children throughout the pages.

Just as a community garden needs many busy hands in order to grow, GREEN GREEN required the care and talent of so many wonderful folk. Thank you to my amazing agent, Jennifer De Chiara, to my editor Susan Dobinick, who planted the seeds, to my editor Grace Kendall, who helped this book grow, and to the wonderful team at Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan for, oh, just EVERYTHING they have done to bring GREEN GREEN into the hands of children across the world.

DSCN5510And thank you to the many folks in my life who continue to support this wacky writer! My family, my wonderful friends, my network of amazing writer buddies…my community! You’ve all helped me grow. ūüôā¬† And thank you to the fabulous network of bookstore friends, librarians, and schools who are sharing GREEN GREEN!¬† And to readers out there? Adults who take the time to sit with a child in their lap and make a book come to life for a child? Wow. You are the real heroes of any book.

Yup – I’m a bit gushy here. But, hey, it is a birthday party, after all. ūüėȬ† Okay… just wanted to close with a huge THANK YOU to the fabulous indie bookstores Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA, and Clinton Books in Clinton, NJ for hosting us on our book launch weekend! (Both stores have author-signed copies of GREEN GREEN on their shelves right now for sale. To snag one, call or stop in at these stores.) And for an updated listing of where I’ll be doing future book signings and story times, you can check out my appearances page here.

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: First Impressions

MP900438811Hey gang! ¬†Happy Agent Monday, once again. ¬†This upcoming weekend I’ll be taking pitches at The Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. Taking pitches allows the writer to set up the purpose of their book, and for me to ask questions to fill in holes that remain in just what the book is about and why it stands out. This past weekend, however, I was doing something entirely different: critiquing first pages. ¬†It was at a special Writer’s Tea hosted by the Bucks County Romance Writers group at my fab local indie bookstore Doylestown Bookshop. In many ways it was the exact opposite of a pitch: I didn’t know the writer, or the genre, or the overall arc of the story. There were just words on the page. And they pointed out one thing loud and clear: the importance of first impressions!

By looking at the first page alone, the words really had to do the job. Is your first page working for your manuscript? Reading a book is an investment in time, so that first page needed to answer this question: Why do I want to take this long journey with you?

Often, when the writer came to hear the critique (which was delivered one on one), they said to me, “It really gets going on page two,” or “the book takes off in chapter three.” Hm. Now I don’t need to have the full action or plot poured out into the very first page, but what I do want to see is something that makes me think: “Turn the page. I have to see where this is going!” Now that can be a wide range of things from an interesting point of view, or an intriguing voice, or a question I care about that I’d like to see answered. ¬†All sorts of things can draw me in, so don’t feel you need to squeeze in that life changing moment into the first two paragraphs!

Sometimes writers use their first few pages, or even chapters, as a sort of throat-clearing warming up getting into things exercise. I say that’s fine for your draft, but then ask yourself: When do things really begin? And start the final polished draft there!

Here’s why a great start matters: If an agent is not drawn in by your opening pages, they will probably stop reading. If the agent sends a manuscript like this to an editor, the editor may stop reading. Why does this all happen? It’s up to the writer at the get-go to nail the structure and pacing of their novel. Agents and editors see a ton of books by writers who DO get this right, so they must ask themselves: Do I really want to spend time fixing all of this for the writer, or do I move on? Remember, in books that are tightly paced and structurally sound, there is often still plenty of editing that will be needed. It’s WORK and TIME and we folks must ask ourselves where to invest our limited time and resources. It is a business, right? ¬†In the end, we all think about the consumer, the reader of the published novel. Think about it. How do YOU buy books? Don’t you often read the first page or few pages to see if it’s worth purchasing?

But wait wait wait, Marie! (some of you may be thinking right about now)… Don’t agents and editors KNOW that writers sometimes take a while to get started and skip ahead to see if the story picks up? As a writer, I remember hearing that bit of wisdom once upon a time. And maybe it was true once upon a time when an agent or editor actually had a paper manuscript land on their desk. Today? We get things via email. Electronic files we load onto our computers or ereaders. We read from page one on. If I find myself skimming ahead because I’m bored, that’s a serious red flag to me, and zooming ahead 25 or 50 pages? Honestly, I just don’t. ¬†I won’t stick with your book unless YOU make me want to stick around. That’s all about the power of your words.

So back to those first page crits I just did… Some of the things that I saw that didn’t make me anxious to see page two included:

1. A ton of dialogue or first person thoughts that didn’t have a voice to them or point of view. Is this a woman? A kid? Who is talking or thinking and why do I care? Some hint would certainly help!

2. A ton of info. Blocks of prose that gave all sorts of info about the backstory. Do I need backstory when I still don’t know what the story is? Again, what draws me in?

3. Repetition. Saying the same thing in several different ways right on page one hints to me that this is a work that needs tightening, plus it doesn’t move the story along.

What worked in those first pages?

1. Voice! When I had an immediate grasp of the writer’s/character’s voice, and I liked it for some reason, I was willing to continue on the journey (and even forgive some rough spots).

2. Originality! Okay, so maybe that first page wasn’t perfect, but what an interesting situation! Yeah, I’ll turn that page.

3. Elegance! Show me some sign that you are a skilled writer, whether beauty in the prose or sharp wit or something that makes me nod and think, yup, I get that, or wow, the writer’s right about that and I never saw it that way… And I’ll turn that page.

4. Well-targeted writing! If it’s a middle grade novel, I should be able to tell without it being labeled as such. Ditto for women’s fiction, or thriller, or literary. If I’m embarking on a reading journey, I want to feel I’m in capable hands and going on a charted course in the direction the book wants to take me. (I hope that makes sense.)

So you can see that you, as the writer, can actually do a lot with your first page. You can reel me in and pull me deeper into your world. Do that, and I’ll want to read page 2, and page 3 and so on.

Take a hard look at your opening pages. First impressions definitely matter.

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the¬†Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency¬†in New York City. ¬†To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the ‚ÄúSubscribe to Marie‚Äôs site here‚ÄĚ link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Writer Wednesday: About those Book Signings…

I have a book signing coming up this Saturday at the beyond wonderful indie bookstore Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, PA. ¬†It’s from 1-4 p.m. Stop by if you can! ¬†I haven’t really done too many book signings this year, so this got me thinking about all those book signings I have done in the past.

I used to have several a month, sometimes even a few a week.  I kept my book signing stuff together in one spot in my office, ready to grab and go. A bag of book plates, pens, fliers, signs, and candy to give away (usually chocolate kisses).  But now I feel almost rusty.  Since it has been a while, well, needless to say the chocolates are all gone.  My fliers are used up or just out of date, missing the most recent reviews.  And is that sign seriously turning yellow?

Jeesh.

The last huge book signing I did was back at another beloved indie, Doylestown Bookshop. That was for the launch of DRAWN¬†way back in January. ¬†Since then, my books have been for sale at various events where I’ve put in appearances. At these, I’d sign a copy of ¬†a novel if someone approached me with one. ¬†But I haven’t really done one of those “sit at a table for a few hours and smile” thingees for DRAWN.

Book launches are a blast to do. It’s the first time your book hits the stands, and all your friends and family rally with readers to show up and celebrate and eat cake. At these the author feels an outpouring of love and appreciation. ¬†There’s constant conversation. And, as I mentioned, there’s cake. Many books are sold. ¬†You head home feeling awesome.

But other signings, well…

I’ve recently talked to a number of new writers all fired up for their very first signing. ¬†It’s such a landmark, and such a thrill. ¬†I never want to bring them down, but I wish there was some tactful way to prepare the new author for that second signing. Or that third and fourth. ¬†Not every signing will sell 100 copies like you did on launch night. If I could somehow make them lower their expectation and view every signing as a success even if not a single book was sold, it might spare them from that sinking feeling of misery. ¬†Same feeling you got as a kid when teams were picking sides and the captains argued over who would get stuck with you. Blech.

I’ve been at signings where not one person showed up. I’ve been at signings where someone came up and asked, “Do you people sell rubber bands?” ¬†I told them I didn’t work there, and I was the author. ¬†“Oh, really? ¬†You wrote these?” ¬†So, fine. Lesson learned. I started wearing a tag that said: Marie Lamba, AUTHOR. ¬†And I made a giant poster with the book cover, and my picture. ¬†And at the next signing someone walked up to me and asked, “Do you guys sell magazines?”

I’ve had people come and talk to me forever about my book, about writing, and then not buy the book. ¬†I’ve had people not stop or talk to me at all, which is far worse. ¬†I’ve been scheduled to give a talk, and showed up to a space with seating for 100, and only the bookstore person and my daughter came. ¬†I gave a talk at an urban Barnes and Noble, and the audience was made up of a sleeping homeless guy, and a woman who sat in that space every day just to knit. No clapping that day.

But you know what? ¬†It’s a total crap shoot. ¬†I’ve had talks that I thought would surely be a disaster, and when I got there, the room was so packed they had to drag in extra seating. ¬†And I sold a ton of books afterwards. ¬†I’ve done signings where people flocked to the table, eager to buy. I’ve been at signings where old high school friends showed up and brought their kids. ¬†I’ve been at bookstores where fans of my books came and acted like I was a rock star!

You never know. So you lower your expectations to none, and smile. ¬†Book signings can definitely keep you humble. You’ve got to remember that not everyone is a reader. That people are busy. That times are tough. That reading is a subjective thing, so not everyone will be interested in what you write about. That some people feel they can’t walk over to talk to you, because if they don’t then buy your book it’ll be weird.

So how can every book signing be a success? Well, I always use a signing as a newsworthy moment. An appropriate time to tell the area about my books through press releases and feature stories that I send out to press, and through announcements on social media. ¬†That’s a win. ¬†Someone could read about your book and buy it at a later time. At signings, I always enjoy interacting with the bookstore staff and supporting what they do. ¬†I work hard to make the event fun (bringing munchies for the booksellers, too), and I’m building relationships with these fellow book lovers. The bookstore also always has me sign the remaining stock, so that even if the signing felt like a bust, the books will probably be prominently displayed and sold.

And then there is the experience of meeting people…something we isolated authors don’t get to do on a daily basis. ¬†We can yak about books and writing, and share our book info with others.

So, if I could speak directly to those new authors out there, I would like to tell them to not count the success of a signing by the number of copies sold. To check egos at the door, but haul along your sense of humor.

And you may want to find out ahead of time if the bookstore sells rubber bands!

Wish me luck on Saturday…

Doylestown Bookshop Hosts DRAWN Launch

Here’s a quick shoutout to the wonderful independent bookstore The Doylestown Bookshop who hosted the launch party for my new paranormal novel DRAWN.

We had cake and goodies, and great people filling the store, and we sold a ton of books too! Heartfelt thanks to everyone who came. If you missed the event, the bookstore has on hand signed copies of DRAWN, plus my novels WHAT I MEANT… and OVER MY HEAD, and a few copies of the short story anthology LIAR LIAR in which I have a story.

I hope you’ll stop in and check these out, plus keep an eye on The Doylestown Bookshop’s events page for great upcoming author signings and fun.

And if you aren’t in the Doylestown, PA area, chances are pretty solid that you do have a bookstore near you. Make a point of visiting and supporting your area bookseller, and remember that you can order any of my novels through any bookstore! ¬†Just ask them.

And check out my Appearances page to see where I’ll be next. ¬†It’s always great to meet readers face to face.

Happy reads,

Marie

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Five YA Authors Walk into a Bookstore…

Sounds like the setup for a bad joke, but this was actually the start of a red-hot afternoon last Sunday, when I moderated a panel talk with some of my fellow YA paranormal authors: New York Times bestsellers Andrea Cremer and Beth Revis, and sizzling debut authors Marie Lu and Jessica Spotswood. It was part of Penguin’s “Breathless Reads” Tour hosted by the wonderful independent bookstore The Doylestown Bookshop.

The store had a fine crowd of fans on hand, as I introduced myself and my fellow authors. ¬†And let me intro us all to you folks now as well…

From left to right, there’s, well, me, Marie Lamba (Hi everyone!), Beth Revis, Jessica Spotswood, Marie Lu and Andrea Cremer.

And here’s more info about us…

Marie Lamba: I’m author of YA novels, including the newly published paranormal YA novel Drawn, and I’m an Associate Literary Agent at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in New York City. ¬†Drawn is about a teen artist who draws then meets and falls for a medieval ghost with a sketchy past. It’s been praised as “beautiful and endearing…I didn‚Äôt want to see it end” (The Cozy Reader), “Mysterious and enchanting…a breath of fresh air…a page turner with a unique twist” (TwilightMOMS),¬†and a “lushly romantic ghost story‚Ķcaptivating and haunting,” (paranormal author Cyn Balog).

Beth Revis: Beth is the¬†New York times¬†bestselling author of the¬†Across the Universe series, futuristic space-travel novels that feature Amy, who awakens light years away from home on an air ship and must face battling a tyrannical civilization. Her second book in the series,¬†A Million Suns, has¬†The Los Angeles Times saying, “Oftentimes, the second book in a series struggles to live up to the expectations set in its kickoff,¬†but not here.” ¬†Awesome!

Jessica Spotswood: Jessica is the debut author of¬†Born Wicked, which had¬†Entertainment Weekly so excited they actually told readers to “mark your calendars for the release.” An historical fantasy, it’s the first book in a series that features Cate Cahill and her dangerous destiny as
a witch. Sounds bewitching alright.

Marie Lu: Marie is the debut author of¬†Legend, a futuristic dystopian thriller set in a dark future where North America has split into two warring nations. It features two characters, each from a different nation, and each as different as you can get, and when murder makes their paths cross, it’s, well,¬†Legend.¬†The Wall Street Journal calls it a “new contender” in the race to “conjure the next Harry Potter.” Talk about high praise!

Andrea Cremer: Andrea is the¬†New York Times¬†bestselling author of the¬†Nightshade¬†series. The first two books,¬†Nightshade and¬†Wolfsbane introduced readers to Calla and her conflicted future as the mate of a sexy alpha wolf…When she saves a beautiful human boy out for a hike, everything is thrown into question. Bloodrose is the stunning conclusion to the series, which Romantic Times Magazine calls “sexy and intoxicating.” Hot stuff!

Okay, with the intros out of the way, I got right down to business, tossing away the question sheet provided by the tour (sorry Penguin), and asking things folks really like to know. ¬†Like: Can you tell us something about you that most people don’t know?

Andrea told us she has 3 tattoos, showing us the one on her wrist and the back of her neck, and saying that her third was inaccessible to show because it was on her ankle.

We learned that Beth is the “evil one,” and Andrea said that if any of them disappeared while on tour, authorities should immediately question Beth. ¬†Beth responded with a wicked glimmer in her eye… ¬†But it was all in good fun, right? ¬†Seriously though, they all seemed like good friends, honest officer.

We also discovered that Beth has one thumb much shorter than the other, and Jessica demonstrated her freakishly fascinating double jointed arms.

I know that Marie Lu also shared something unusual, but honestly after that double jointed arm thingee I blanked out! ¬†Marie did say that she¬†always thought it’d be cool if half the country was underwater, which led her to her idea for¬†Legend...

Next I moved on to the lightning round of questions (also NOT on the suggested question list…again, sorry Penguin!). ¬†I asked them to vote on these either/ors: Cats or dogs? ¬†50/50 split. (I’m dogs, myself.) Ice cream or chocolate? 50/50 again. (Chocolate for me, all the way.) Heels or flats? 50/50. (Flats for me…) Smart Car or SUV? 100% for Smart Car (yeah environment!) ¬†Country music or rock? 100% rock (me too!).

And here was the clincher: Twilight or Harry Potter? ¬†Remember, this is a bunch of paranormal/fantasy YA authors here. ¬†I was fascinated that they were wholeheartedly 100% for Harry Potter. ¬†Have to say I’m with them on that. ¬†Not that I don’t like a bit of Twilight now and then, but Harry Potter? That’s deep and amazing stuff.

With that info taken care of, I next told the authors I would now ask REALLY personal questions, and, well, this is what it looked like as they ran away from me:

Kidding! ¬†If you missed the event, I’m pretty sure the Doylestown Bookshop has extra signed copies of all of our books on hand, so stop in for your copies.

And look for my appearance at the Doylestown Bookshop on Friday, March 2nd from 6-9 pm when I officially launch the paperback of¬†Drawn.¬†My book launch party is part of the town’s First Friday celebrations, and should be a blast! The link for that event is here.

Hope to see you then.

Happy reads,

Marie

Taped Reading from Over My Head

Here’s a video of me reading an excerpt from my YA novel Over My Head during Lucas Mangum’s Awesome Reading Fest in 3-D at the Doylestown Bookshop… Thanks, Lucas for setting this event up! ¬†It most definitely was awesome.

 

Book Launch Party – Update! Prizes added to event!!!

Okay, this is so very cool. ¬†Not only will there be a book launch party for my new summery young adult novel¬†Over My Head at Doylestown Bookshop on August 5th from 7-9 pm. And not only will it be occurring during the town’s First Friday celebration. Now there will also be drawings for you to win free stuff from extremely amazing places that are featured in the novel!

Just show up, say hi, and you can put your name in to win. ¬†Prizes include a $25 gift certificate from Twenty East Vintage Jewelers, certificates for free pizzas from Nat’s Pizza, movie passes to the County Theater, and tickets for the Mercer Museum and for the Michener Art Museum. ¬†Also, since Fanny Chapman Swimming Pool plays such a big part in my book, if you happen to wear any Fanny Chapman gear to the book launch, you’ll get two chances to enter the drawing. ¬†Expect more items to be added to this drawing as the date nears!

Hope you can come!