Archive for ‘Publishing’

November 14, 2011

Free Books! Seriously.

Today I’m donning my editor hat because I have something really fun to share with you, reader friends—especially you mommies and anyone else who loves picture books.

A few weeks ago, I met with the founder of a pretty cool new digital picture book platform called uTales. It’s a subscription-based picture book service, kind of like Netflix, kind of like Spotify. The cool thing—okay, there are lots of cool things—is that you can not only read picture books, but you can create them, too. The books on the site are not ones you’re going to find at your library or local bookstore. They were created on the site, and while they may be published in print in the future, currently, they’re only digital.

Lest you be wary about the quality, as I initially was, know that there is an editorial panel—of both professionals and hand-picked “uTalers”—who determine which books are worthy of being “published”. From what I’ve read thus far, probably a dozen of the 150 titles, there are a few punctuation issues, but the stories and illustrations are top-notch.

So where do the free books come in?  Well, having met with the founder (fingers crossed that I find a place on the editorial panel in the future), he offered me a free 15-day trial to share with you!

This isn’t a contest; there’s no limit to the number of people who can take advantage of it. It’s simply an effort to get the word out about this new take on what “picture book” means and how readers interact with them.

Here’s the link for the free sign-up: http://utales.com/users/sign_up

I really encourage you to give it a shot. The books work on computers, iPads, and iPhones. The site just launched at the beginning of November, and the more people who try it now, the more the folks behind it will know about the public’s interest. I currently have no professional association with them, I just think it’s pretty cool. So does Jacob. To him, it would only be better if I let him press the buttons on the computer.

Happy reading, reader friends!

P.S. You can also buy individual titles. For now, ignore the “Buy” buttons under the titles. The free trial really is free, and the entire library is open to you!

P.P.S. This one’s for you, Uncle Michael:

October 18, 2011

Dear Mr. Darcy, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Maybe I’m taking a step in the opposite direction from the trajectory of current technology, but my new favorite thing is the audio book. Jacob won’t yet sit still for me to read a story to him—not even a board book—and when I try to read while he’s playing, he literally takes the story into his own hands.

Enter: the audio book.

A while back I used an audio book to try to teach Jacob some naptime/bedtime cues. A nap-solutions book I’d read suggested audio books can do the same work as lullabies, but could provide something more interesting for parents. Unfortunately, Jacob couldn’t sleep with the audio book on; he kept looking around the room, trying to figure out where the voice was coming from.

Perhaps he’s a little more oblivious now, or maybe he’s just okay with a voice coming from a box. He still talks and plays and makes noise, but I think he must be listening at least a little because he is generally calmer when the nice lady’s voice tells him stories.

Either way, his current disposition means I am at liberty to indulge my newfound obsession with Jane Austen. Oh. My. Goodness.  Why did it take me twenty-something years to discover the wit, the romance, and the charmingly paradoxical world of Regency England? Although I enjoyed Emma in college, I must have read it too quickly. Actually I know I did. I read it in, like, two days. I remember finishing it in the hallway of my suite at three a.m. and then writing a reflection paper. So not the way to really appreciate it!

This time I started with Pride and Prejudice, and I am totally hooked. Apart from making a good blog post title, Mr. Darcy is a great love interest, but I found I loved the ridiculously shallow and insipid characters more. Mr. Collins! Mrs. Bennett! Lydia! Wickham! So. Good.

I am absolutely in love with the writing, the language, the pacing—everything.

The only problem is that when you get as engrossed as I’ve been, it’s tough to transition back to life in the twenty-first century. If Jacob ends up with a British accent, using words like “felicity,” and wondering how many pounds per annum he’ll have in inheritance, at least we’ll all know why.

August 12, 2011

Books for Babies: All the World

Some of you kind reader folks know that before Jacob was born, I worked in children’s publishing. Actually, I still work in children’s publishing, but now I am a freelance editor and writer rather than an assistant at a publishing house or a literary agency.  (Shameless plug: check me out.)

Children’s publishing is a happy, wonderful world of adorable illustrations, sweetly rhyming texts, and—in my experience—brightly colored office doors and lax dress codes.  It’s place where incredibly intelligent, funny, and well-meaning people get together to say “cute” seventeen thousand times a day—and mean it every time.

As incredible as my time in the more corporate side of things was, I didn’t have a complete perspective on what makes a children’s book work before Jacob was born.  Sure, I had books I loved as a child, and I’d read to kids while babysitting and during story time at Borders, but before I was a mother, before I held Jacob in my arms, before I watched him react to the stories I read him, I was missing a very important piece of the puzzle.

Most people take “children’s publishing” to mean simply board books or picture books.  Those are part of the industry, but not all of it.  Middle grade novels (like Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and young adult novels (Twilight and so on) fall under this umbrella as well.  But considering Jacob’s less than a year old, I’ve really only had experience as a mother with picture books.  So now, finally, we can get to the point of this post.

When I was more thoroughly entrenched in the midtown-Manhattan-based part of the industry, I knew which books I appreciated as an adult.  Of course I was more familiar with those published by my house, Simon & Schuster, than any other, so as much as I wanted to make recommendations to friends, I knew I was kind of biased when I did.

Now with some distance (almost a year!) from my time in that office and many, many snuggles with my own little Peanut, I feel ready to make some tried and true suggestions for good books to read to babies.  I hope my recommendations will help moms grab some good reads at the library or the bookstore, or maybe even help someone find a baby shower gift or two.

The first book I recommend is All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. (Did you know that in German books, the illustrator of a picture book is often listed first?  It’s not relevant here, just a fun fact I thought I’d share).

 

 

Anyway, All the World is, I admit, published by Simon & Schuster, but not a part that I worked for.  It was also awarded a well-deserved Caldecott Honor, which is one of the highest honors for illustrated children’s books, so there’s proof that more people than just me think this book is something very special.

I knew this book was gorgeous when I was at S&S.  I had a couple of sample pages taped to my desk wall.  I wasn’t the only one.  All of us were in love with the lyrical, ultimately spiritual tone of the book and the perspective that it brought each of us, wherever we were in our lives.  But even with all that, it wasn’t until I read it to Jacob the other day that I just about cried.

All the World follows a family through an ordinary day and takes note of all the simple things that make our world what it is—the good things and the bad, the joys and the mistakes along the way.  There is playing at the beach and sharing of meals, and in the end, it’s all about family and friends, and what we mean to each other.  The text rhymes, but beautifully and richly.  Take one peek at the illustrations and you’ll want to buy an extra copy (or six) to wallpaper your house.  And I don’t even like wallpaper.

I sometimes wonder why we focus on sharing things this pure and true with little ones, and not with older people, who are more likely to be jaded and bitter about the tough stuff.  This book puts things—all the things of this world—in a very true and very accessible light.

Moral of the story:  Read this book.  Then buy a copy for yourself and anyone else you know—baby or adult—who needs a little reminder of all the good that’s in the world, all the love that exists, all the wonderful things that make our world the blessed place that it is.

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