Monday, December 26, 2011

winter scene writing prompt for the 500 Club

It's not exactly 500 words, but I've been up since 4 a.m. and I'm completely jet-lagged, so I'm cutting myself some slack. I have been reading headlines of weird news stories today to get ideas for stories. Then I remembered my friend Amy's site: The Parking Lot Confessional, and the challenge to write to prompts.

So, I checked out the prompts for this week and went for it.

This week's prompt (the one I chose): Describe a winter scene without using the words winter, cold, snow, ice or frozen.

It took me fifteen minutes just to bundle up. We hadn't had a storm like this since eighth grade. I braced myself and opened the front door. It was a good quarter mile to the mailbox. Why couldn't we have a mailbox at the end of our walkway like normal families did? Or better yet, one of those convenient slots in our garage door? No, we had to live in "the country". We were one notch above having an outhouse in the backyard.

Crap. I could see the top branches of the pines bending. This was going to suck. I started down the porch steps, holding onto the rail so I wouldn't slip. Trudging down the path took every bit of my energy and I could already feel my socks getting wet inside my boots. This had better be worth it. The wind was slapping at my face and pulling hair out from under my hat and swirling it around in front of my face, making it hard to see. It bit through my gloves, threatening to turn me back around the way I came. Squinting to keep the chilled air from drying out my eyes, I wished I'd worn my ski goggles. Finally, I reached the mailbox. I stood there for a minute, staring it down, half expecting it to laugh at me for coming all this way for nothing. Who was I kidding, anyway? No one in my family had ever gone to college. I held my breath and opened the little arched door. I fumbled three pieces of mail with numb fingers. A bill for Mom from Target, a plea for funding from the Democratic National Committee, surely signed personally by the President, and the letter. It was here. All I had to do now was open it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Amazon, Marshall Cavendish, and me

Wow. I was at my desk at eBay yesterday when the publisher of Marshall Cavendish sent through a press release about their sale of the Marshall Cavendish Children's Books line to Amazon. Wow.

The release was pretty vague, so of course I had about 63 questions after reading it. I touched base with my agent to see if she could distill any more from it and she said she had as many, if not more, questions than I did. She knew as much as I did, of course. My wonderful Cavendish editor invited me to call her to find out more. So I called her this morning.

My takeaway is complicated, my feelings complex, and leaves me (and I think all Cavendish authors) in an interesting position.

On the one hand, I am sad.

Sad for the wonderful booksellers of the world. But I'm sad for them for 2 reasons. One is that I'm reading that now they will 'never buy another Cavendish book' for their stores again. Basically, as an FU to Amazon. I totally get that, and understand and empathize with their anger. But then, how many amazing books will your customers miss out on because of this boycot? (I'm not saying this to toot my own horn - Cavendish books won several awards this year). Will booksellers be doing their customers a disservice to not carry MCCB books, just to take a stand against Amazon? Again, I don't fault them for feeling this way, as I might do the same thing. In my humble opinion, it's all about that personal touch and being able to recommend that perfect book for a child, and maybe that perfect book won't be on their shelves because they refuse to buy from Amazon.

Sad because I fear that my editor may have to change roles, not be my editor anymore (down the road), or even perhaps at some point be out of a job. Then I will be assigned an Amazon person who has never acquired or edited a children's book as my 'point of contact' within the behemoth company.  That makes me a bit nervous.

On the other hand, I am a little bit excited.

Amazon has reach like no other company out there. Where Cavendish had a small marketing staff and essentially I was/am my own publicist, perhaps Amazon may promote my books to their enormous customer base. Maybe my book will be in homes I could never have reached myself because I am simply one person and don't have the manpower or funds to tour the world.

They will likely make my book an eBook - which was only an inkling of a possibility before. It could be a color eBook for the new Kindle Fire. I like the idea of having a print and electronic version of my book.

Maybe I'll make more money with Amazon, and maybe not. But as I said to my agent today, no authors get into the children's book industry to 'make it rich.'

All I can hope for is that my books will still be relevant - to bookstores, to parents, and to children everywhere. I hope booksellers don't unintentionally punish the hardworking authors and illustrators who had no say in this decision. I hope with all my heart that my local bookstores - at least - will still allow me to do events in their stores, because I am still me.

I just want to keep sharing my books with children. Because that's all that really matters in the end.