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So the release date for THE MONSTORE finally arrived!

Dude, I was bustin’ out!

swag

OK, I wasn’t that hot to trot. After all, I had known this was coming for three years. So my excitement was more, um, subdued.

billcosby

But inside, I was like this.

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And this.

snoopydance

And this.

edgrimley

But I soon found out Barnes & Noble wouldn’t be carrying THE MONSTORE.

At first, I thought it was no biggie.

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I would overcome!

zooeywink

But then, I slept on it.

nooooo

Somehow, I didn’t break down.

breakdown

With a little help, I kept it together.

bianca

In fact, I had something to say to that brick-and-mortar behemoth.

conanno

So I rallied the troops.

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And people went to bat for me. For me?!

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They’ve even told me funny stories about how B&N has been ‘splainin’ the book’s absence. (Yeah, they got a lotta ‘splainin’ to do.)

lucychocolate

They said: “It’s with a small publisher.”

whaaat

“It has to be reviewed first.”

notreally

“It’s a Halloween title.”

duh

So, maybe this means it will be there in October?

dance

Doesn’t matter, though. My peeps got my back.

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These peeps, too.

peeps

Yeah, the response to THE MONSTORE has been pretty insane.

bynes

Oops, not Bynes insane. Stone insane.

emmastone

And the fun has only just begun.

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Because, remember…

musicmakers

rgnewyear

Ryan and I would like to say “thank you” for visiting my blog this year. Now go rock the Auld Lang Syne.

Yes, it’s finally here!

Congratulations to my great friend, picture book champion and critique partner, Corey Rosen Schwartz. And a round of applause for Dan Santat, whom I knew would be the perfect illustrator for this story.

My rating? Five stars, of course. (And I’m not just saying that. It’s a rollicking good read! Just ask the NY Times.)

Order your copy today!

IndieBound
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Special thanks to illustrator Kayla Skogh for the Photoshop help! (Check out her illustrative work, she’s amazing!)

My debut book is still 9 months away, but what I’m hearing from friends is that the promotion process is fraught with dilemmas and doubts. Yes, we managed to write a book, submit it and get it accepted for publication, BUT WILL ANYONE BUY IT? And what if some bookstores don’t even carry it?

Well, don’t worry. Ryan Gosling is here again today to calm your fears.

*Photo Credit: WENN.com

“Tara Lazar’s LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, with an icy twist on the familiar fairy tale, where Little Red is desperately searching for a partner in the upcoming pairs skating competition, to Heidi Kilgras at Random House Children’s, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).”

Thanks for making my announcement, Ryan. *blush*

It couldn’t have come on a better day!

This was a deal that required a lot of perseverance. It proved to me that writers should never give up on a story.

And I must say that I am thrilled beyond all beyond (is that even an idiom?) to be working with Heidi Kilgras, who has edited titles of industry legends such as Jane Yolen. WOWZA.

From the very beginning, Heidi had a particular illustrator in mind for this project. I hope to share that news with you soon because it’s pretty darn awesome!

Congratulations to all the writers and illustrators featured in PM today! In picture book news, Marilyn Sadler sold ALICE FROM DALLAS to Abrams Children’s and Susan Reagan sold PINGO AND PUFF to Hyperion Children’s.

And now, it’s time to PAR-TAY!

In 2008, I had the most nerve-wracking 20-minute drive of my life. My knuckles paled, my stomach gurgled, and my thoughts raced faster than the 35 MPH I could manage to clock on the highway. I was on my way to my first kidlit conference ever: the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Conference. AHHHH! Somebody help me!

Thanks, Ryan. I know you would have, honey. But I digress…

I knew practically nada about writing for kids, but I had the start to a middle grade novel that had gotten good feedback from my critique group. So I slipped the first three pages into an envelope earlier that summer and waited patiently for the response. Thankfully, I was on vacation for the final two weeks of the countdown. It made my vacation go by much more slowly. I recommend this tactic to anyone who must wait—go to a beach and plop a lounge chair in the sand, facing the ocean. Or facing Ryan Gosling in surfing trunks. You’ll come to love the waiting.

But when the vacation was over and the car hit our driveway, I jumped out and dashed to the post office. Awaiting me was a thick envelope, and remembering the drill from college admissions, I knew this meant a “yes”!

So off I went. I was so green. (Although I wore a cute purple blouse.) But when the event was done, I blogged all about it. It helped me absorb the information like a SCBWI sponge. Hopefully my notes help prepare you for this year’s conference. You can review them all here: RUCCL 2008.

But Tara, what does this all mean?

It means that the RUCCL 2012 Application is now available!

And guess who’s your morning “Success Story” speaker?

As Miss Piggy would say, “MOI!”

Yeah, I was pretty floored they asked me. Trinka Hakes Noble sent me an email saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I put your name forward as our Inspiration Speaker for the mentee breakfast.  Would you be interested?”

Would I be interested? Are you kidding? Of course I am! Wow! Whoopee! Holy macaroni! Keeno Yaccarino!

Wait a second, what did I just agree to…? Pale knuckles and gurgling stomach again?

Well, I am hoping many of my blog readers will be accepted to the conference this year. Because not only do I want to see you succeed, I’ll need your help during my presentation. (Details to come. No, you won’t need to hold a barf bucket. Well, maybe. OK, don’t hold me to that promise.)

So polish up those manuscripts! You’ve got until July 2 to postmark them.

And if you have any questions about the conference, please ask away in the comments!

Among those represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Luke Reynolds is known as the *real* Ryan Gosling (you had to be there). Although, I happen to think Luke is cuter, don’t you? Just look at that dimple! And I happen to know he’s a heckuva lot funnier.

He’s also smarter than my Ryan Gosling when it comes to publishing, writing and living.

Luke is the author of KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON: NOTES ON WRITING (AND LIVING) WITH HOPE. And he’s here today to give you that: HOPE. (Plus a copy of his book, plus a query critique, plus a personal “pep talk” phone call!)

Half of Luke’s book includes some reflections for writers on perseverance, hope, humor, gratitude, and work ethic, while the other half includes interviews with writers like Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Katherine Erskine, Jane Smiley, and 11 other authors.

Without further Ryan Gosling references, take it away, Ryan! Erm…I mean Luke!

Making a Life

by Luke Reynolds

There are two places where fast, easy manoeuvres and accomplishments are both warranted and worthwhile: 1) In a snowball fight, when your opponents are slinging well-packed cold stuff at you faster than re-runs of Friends episodes appear on TBS; and 2) In getting the kids to bed when they’re already overtired after a long day of snowball fighting.

Most other pursuits in life don’t lend themselves to easy success. And at the top of a very, very long list of Stuff That Takes Forever comes the pursuit of writing. But that’s a good thing—a terribly hard, but fantastically good thing. Because deep down, none of us who love writing want it to be easy anyway. That’s not why we fall in love with something in the first place.

When we were children, people asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Very few of us, I’m guessing, responded, “I’d really love to find something easy—something that requires little skill, almost no perseverance, and happens fast.” Instead, most of us said we wanted to fly into outer space wearing massive white suits; or we said we wanted to sing on stage in front of a roaring audience; or we wanted to be pilots or race car drivers or scientists who found cures for every kind of disease or explorers who found distant lands.

Or we wanted to be writers.

Novelist John Dufresne writes in his Foreword to KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON the following: “Writers want to write, not to have written.” Even though the manuscript of Keep Calm had been finished and proofed and was ready for publication, that line from John’s Foreword hit me hard and fast—much like a well-packed snowball or like a child screaming wildly that he isn’t ready for bed. The line speaks so loudly because it captures the essence of this pursuit we’ve chosen: a creative calling that is about making a life, not a living.

We write because we love the small giddy feeling that rises up like regurgitated food after we’ve eaten too much and then laughed too hard. We write because we like the problems (deep down) that our characters encounter, and we like the fact that there is no easy way out—either for our characters themselves or for us as we make plotting decisions. We write because we know that hearing no enough times and going back to our desks, reworking material, forging new work, and venturing back out into the wild, beautiful possibility of publishing makes our hearts beat fast.

So, deep down, we know it’s not easy. Nor do we want it to be. That’s not why we love it in the first place.

Why do we love films and stories about underdogs? Why—for instance—does Atticus Finch inspire me to no end? It’s not because he took an easy case that guaranteed a sure-fire victory with no obstacles. I love Atticus because he took an impossible case that guaranteed a loss but his conscience demanded it and his soul echoed the call.

You love the books and characters and films you do, I believe, because you know that triumph is only beautiful when the journey is difficult, that getting the story right is profoundly moving only because you’ve known the story has been so stubbornly wrong—however slightly—in its previous lives.

The MG novel that my agent, the lovely Joan Paquette, signed me on was originally entitled ATTICUS AND ME. It was a story that came down my arteries and out through my fingertips. The first draft, though, would have guaranteed a speedy rejection from Joan. So she didn’t see Atticus until his fourth revision. And then Joan continued to revise Atticus into a character who was more authentic, more real—a character whose story meant more. Joan raised the stakes in the novel. And after quite a few rounds, Atticus is still growing, still changing.

And various picture book manuscripts are in their own worlds of revision, each entering a fifth, ninth, and eleventh or more incantation of their possible lives.

We write because we want to write, not because we want to have written. As writers, we start to accept the fact that—much like us—the characters that people our stories are going to need second-chances, harder obstacles, higher walls, deeper pain—and that all of this, eventually, leads to greater love. In the writing, for the writing, and through the writing.

So, then, the question remains: if we don’t want writing and publishing to be easy, what do we really want? I’d venture a humble guess: we want support. We want somebody—anybody, the mailman, Grandma, our children, our students, and maybe one day an agent and editor—to tell us that we have what it takes. We want support. We want to know that our work is worth it. That ninth draft of an MG novel or our twentieth time through a PB manuscript that has changed completely and become almost an entirely new book are both pursuits for which support is not only helpful, but essential.

In short, we need someone in our corner, shouting in a voice of accountability, conviction, and faith to keep going. You have what it takes. Get through this draft. Try it from a different POV. Try it from a different character’s perspective. Try the story in present tense. Throw in a cow who believes he is Ryan Gosling. Throw in a turtle who eats books. Throw in a kid who thinks it’s over, until—

Until that voice. Listen it to it clanging inside the damn-near defeated walls of your heart. That voice confirms what you and I already know: we don’t want it to be easy. It’s hard. We know that. What we want is the pluck and the nerve and the faith to keep going—to make a life with our pursuit of writing and the way we embody it, rather than simply a living.

We want more than a contract and some cash. We want to craft the words that get us excited—that get readers excited. Or, as John Dufresne put it, we want to write, not to have written.

So: a toast. (I wish I had wine, but coffee feeds the writer in me more). To the very act of writing—in all its difficulty, stubbornness, painstakingly slow but remarkably beautiful worth. May we all, as writers and as people, keep calm and query on.

Thanks, Luke! Very inspiring. I need a tissue now. *sniff*

And you folks need to comment! Luke is giving away THREE PRIZES!

1. A signed copy of KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON.
2. A query critique.
3. A personal phone call and pep talk to discuss your writing career.

Your comment counts as one entry. You get an extra entry for each mention on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Just mention it in your comment. Comments close the end of April 1 and winners will be randomly selected on April 2.

Now keep calm and comment on!

Luke Reynolds is editor of the forthcoming book for teens and tweens BREAK THESE RULES (Chicago Review Press, 2013). He has also co-edited BURNED IN: FUELING THE FIRE TO TEACH (Teachers College Press 2011) and DEDICATED TO THE PEOPLE OF DARFUR (Rutgers University Press, 2009). His newest books are KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON: NOTES ON WRITING (AND LIVING) WITH HOPE (Divertir Publishing, 2012) and A CALL TO CREATIVITY: WRITING, READING, AND INSPIRING STUDENTS IN AN AGE OF STANDARDIZATION (Teachers College Press, 2012). He loves garlic bread with passion, and loves children just about as much. He has taught grades 7-12 and he’s now a nightschool teacher and home-dad by day. His writing for children is represented by the formidably wise and oft-inspiring Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Keep calm and visit on at www.lukewreynolds.com.

Following up on last week’s Ryan Gosling meme, I’ve got a green fellow with a few special messages for you.

So  ladies, I know you love Kermit…but you should really watch out for someone…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The internet has been abuzz with Ryan Gosling memes—there’s the feminist Ryan Gosling, Silicon Valley Ryan Gosling, and even a Ryan Gosling who reads young adult literature. Just like NaNoWriMo, I’m feeling like picture book writers are being left out of the fun. So, I’m jumping into the fray with these:

(Special shout-out to Julie Falatko who inspired some of these.)

But you know, Ryan is a little young for me. I need an older, more experienced man for my picture book meme. So I’m thinking about him instead:

Follow Me on Pinterest As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the road to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books


Available now at:

Coming Soon:

I THOUGHT THIS
WAS A BEAR BOOK
illustrated by Benji Davies
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
illustrator TBA
Random House
October 2015

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY
illustrator TBA
Disney*Hyperion
2016

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