When writing any book, I always cut more than I keep. I just have to go through a lot of sentences, try out a lot of ideas, before discovering what works just right. Sometimes what I cut I really like but doesn't work for the best of the story. In this case, Dean and I adored the Epilogue to The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party. It made us laugh. But we cut it for two reasons.
1. Originally we didn't have a chapter about Frimplepants in book 2, but we decided to add one in order to introduce him again. New readers might not yet be familiar with him. And besides, I just never tire of saying the name Frimplepants. Adding the new chapter 2 also added several pages. We want to be mindful of page count. The more pages, the longer the book for young readers and their parents, the more illustrations LeUyen must complete, and the more expensive for the publisher to print it. This book was already longer than the first, so we had to watch that page count!
2. It was nice to end the story in the celebratory moment with Princess Magnolia and all the princesses enjoying the party. Cutting away to Monster Land after that was funny but also anti-climactic.
But at the least, I'll post it here. It might be fun to read it with a young PIB reader and help them understand a little bit about the process of writing and editing a book. This epilogue would also be a good one to discuss in terms of reading comprehension and inference.
The pink monster could not get out of that goat pasture fast enough. It was good to be back in Monster Land. No shiny sunlight. No unpleasantly fresh air. No yelling princesses.
The pink monster put its clawed hands in its pockets. It went for a stroll.
A slimy monster was heading toward the hole. It had its nose in the air. It was taking in the smell of goats.
The pink monster put out a clawed hand to stop it.
“ROOAARR!” it said.
That meant, “No goat hunting today, my slimy friend. Things are awkward up there. It’s the Princess in Black’s birthday, you see. I wouldn’t dare go up without a gift.”
The slimy monster said, “ROOAAARRR.”
That meant, “Thank you for the warning. You have been most helpful.”
The slimy monster turned away from the hole. It went home.
It wrapped a gift.
Hopefully the Princess in Black liked toenail clippings.
I'm finding it difficult to keep up with blogging as well as writing and mothering. I'm pretty active on twitter. And I post semi-regularly on Facebook and tumblr. And I will continue post here as well, but not weekly.
My upcoming events!
Saturday Sept. 26 - Salt Lake Comic Con
Saturday Oct. 10, 10am - Girls Books, Boys Books, and Just Good Books: A Conversation on Gender and Young Adult Literature Featuring Valynne Maetani, Shannon Hale, Matthew Kirby and Ann Cannon. Viridian Event Center, West Jordan, Utah
Tuesday, Oct 13, 7pm - joining Margaret Stohl to launch her new book BLACK WIDOW: FOREVER RED at the Viridian Event Center, West Jordan, UT. This is also the release day for THE PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE PERFECT PRINCESS PARTY (PIB #2) so I can sign those for you that night.
Thursday, Oct 15 - The launch party for THE PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE PERFECT PRINCESS PARTY at The King's English, 1500 So. 1500 Ea. Salt Lake City, UT, with Dean Hale
Oct 18-20 - Events in San Francisco for the launch of the 2nd PRINCESS IN BLACK, with Dean Hale and LeUyen Pham
Nov 6-7 - AASL conference and a public bookstore event in Ohio, details TBA
Princess Magnolia wasn't her original name. I hesitated to name her after our daughter but eventually gave in. She was game for it, and since she doesn't go by Magnolia hopefully the character's name won't haunt her into adulthood.
Frimplepants was Frimplepants from the first draft. I don't know where the name came from, but I'm so glad that it came.
Duchess Wigtower had many different names that didn't work. Then Dean wrote up a list of 20+ possible names and Wigtower won.
Duff the Goatboy I named after Duff Rich, who introduced me to Jerusha Hess, leading to the AUSTENLAND movie.
Book 2 (out this fall) introduces Princess Sneezewort. Prepare yourselves for a new literary superstar. I adore Princess Sneezewort to my toenails. LeUyen Pham* based her look on her own younger self. Adorable and hysterical.
It's only 2500 words long, but we spent many many hours on those 2500 words. Shorter text requires more precision.
One thing that was essential was re-reading the book aloud to our kids over and over again, fine-tuning. After dozens of readings, I found a sentence that just didn't work. I would have missed that if I hadn't read it aloud so often. I'm so relieved I got a chance to fix it.
*in case you're not sure, her name is pronounced "Lay-Win Fam"
Twinkle Twinkle Little SMASH! The Princess in Black is off to an amazing start. It's currently on the New York Times best seller list and was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year (see me and Dean in a short video interview) and an Amazon Best Book. We've been overwhelmed by parents reporting that it's become a favorite book at their house, with some precious children sleeping with it hugged to their chest. Yes, that sound you hear is me choking up.
I recently signed about 60 copies of the book for people in my neighborhood, which was a lovely experience. However, I noticed that the parents all asked me to sign the book for their daughters. I know these families so I knew that almost all of them also had sons in the book's age range. It reminded me again that adults are the ones who tell kids what they should and shouldn't be reading. I've met loads of 3-4 year old boys who don't think twice about wanting to read The Princess in Black. By age 5-7, however, they've been shamed for liking something about a girl, often subtly. If we don't give our boys books about girls (princesses even!) then we're quietly saying, these books aren't for you.
I have seen several times, right in front of me, dads shoo their sons away from my books.
"Are you sure you want to read something called Princess Academy?"
"Those are for girls."
Moms aren't usually so obvious. It's more subtle, like getting a book about a girl signed for "The Anderson girls" or "Mama's princesses" while a son lingers nearby.
About three years ago I got a bookcase for my son's room, and as I went through all our middle grade books, I found myself picking out the ones about boys for his shelves and setting aside the ones about girls for my daughter's, until finally I was like, wait, what am I doing?? It's so easy to fall into this trap. Parents are all trying our best. I know we don't mean any harm. But I hope that if I keep talking about this, we'll all become more aware. I believe reading books is one of the best ways to gain real empathy for people different from ourselves, and helping boys develop empathy for girls is a cause worth fighting for.
I've talked before about how reviews aren't for writers but for readers, and I mostly don't read them, but when a new book comes out, I allow myself to break my own rules and read some reviews. A book has been cooking for years often and hearing what people think is just too tempting! This morning I tiptoed to amazon and read this review by SallyBWT. When I read it to my husband, I started crying and then just sobbing. It does mean so much when your book finds a home.
She wears glass slippers.
She sleeps in a tower.
She sings to birds.
She is the perfect princess.
And for a monster-fighting heroine, that is the perfect disguise.
Princess Magnolia is...
The Princess in Black
When she was four years old, my daughter Maggie (aka Magnolia) was examining her favorite article of clothing: a multicolored, butterfly-covered skort, the kind of thing that makes her feel pretty and princessy while still allowing her tumble about with ease.
She pointed to each of the butterfly colors.
“Pink is a girl color,” she said. “And purple, and yellow. But not black.”
“Girls can wear black,” I said. "I wear black all the time."
She looked at me as if to say, you're not a girl, you're a mama.
“Well, what about Batgirl?” I said, sure I'd won the argument.
Maggie said, “Mama, princesses don’t wear black.”
It was like being struck by lightning.
All day I couldn't stop thinking about a princess who did wear black. I took inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She'd be a seemingly typical princess with a secret. She'd secretly be a superhero, working hard to keep her kingdom free of monsters. And like Superman needs Clark Kent, the Princess in Black would maintain a secret identity. To all the world, she is Princess Magnolia. But when trouble calls, she sheds her fluffy dresses and glass slippers, dons a black mask, leaps onto her valiant pony, and rides off to save the day!
I pulled my husband Dean into writing it with me, because he's awesome. And funny. And clever. And I like working with him. And there would be monsters, so he'd have insight to offer, being of their own kind. LeUyen Pham agreed to lend her bedazzling illustration sorcery to the project, Candlewick published it with aplomb, and the result is something I love dearly. Here are things that are important to me about this book.
1. The kind of book you can read to a four-year-old, because even though it's a longer chapter book (15 chapters, 80+ pages, over 2000 words), there are full-color illustrations every page that will keep their interest.
2. The kind of book a 6-7 year old might be able to read to you, and feel so proud doing it! Because the font is larger, a young reader will be capable of reading a big, thick book in one sitting and feel a surge of self-confidence afterward.
3. The kind of a book a mom like me can read to all my kids at the same time--10yo, 7yo, and 4yo--because the slightly more complicated plot interests older readers and high-concept story and ubiquitous illustrations keep the younger readers interested.
4. A book unashamedly about a girl (a princess even!) that any boy can enjoy too. She's a ninja! She fights monsters! There's an awesome goat boy! It's very important to me that from a young age, boys realize they can read and enjoy books about girls. If they start young, they're more likely to keep reading about girls and more likely to develop empathy for that other gender.
5. This is a girl who enjoys wearing the fluffy pink dresses and glass slippers and having tea parties. And this is also a girl who enjoys wearing black combat boots and galloping on horses and waging battle against huge monsters. She's not an either/or, just like my daughters. Girls are more complicated than some characters make us out to be.
6. This is not a traditional early reader. While the sentences are short and manageable and most words are short and manageable, and there's lots of repitition to aid in learning new things, there are also lots of wonderful, fun, big and crunchy words for new readers to sharpen their teeth on, like: "minced," "pranced," and "swished." Like "handkerchiefs," "snuffling," and "hog-tying." Why, there's even "hornswaggle."
7. As a parent, it's hard for me to find those transitional books that can carry a my kids from picture books and early readers to chapter books. This is longer and more complex than Fly Guy, Go, Dog, Go!, etc., but shorter and simpler than Junie B. Jones, Magic Treehouse, etc. I think the best comparison is Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson books.
8. There's a unicorn named Frimplepants. (at least, he seems to be a unicorn...but is he reallly?)
9. The Princess in Black's signature battle move is "Twinkle Twinkle Little SMASH!"
10. This is the first of a series. I've seen LeUyen's sketches for book 2, and you are going to die when you meet Princess Sneezewort. Those who have read all of them often love book 3 the most (so funny, Dean worked some magic). And book 4 is going to make fans of book 1 very, very happy. I hope for years to come, Princess Magnolia/the Princess in Black and her pals will be your pals too.
Good morning, superheroes!
Just a week away from the release of The Princess in Black! I am so excited for this book, it may as well be my first. Instead of my nineteenth. Can that be true? (*counts*) Nope.
This book is my 18th.
This book is my 19th. It comes out Oct 21, a week after The Princess in Black. Did I tell you about this? A collection of Ever After High short stories. Some were previously published as free ebooks. Five are new, plus fun extras. I'm excited to see this one!
This book will be my 20th, out March 3, 2015.
For my Princess in Black tour, I'll be in the DC and Chicago areas as well as the Texas Book Festival in Austin and of course my home state of Utah. See my events page for details.
Today Mr. Schu's blog features a short video interview Candlewick (the PIB publisher) did with me. I hope I'll get to see many of you when I'm out on the road!
Ack, another super busy day, but I don't want to end my streak of posting each Monday. So if you haven't seen it, here's the cover for The Princess in Black, first in our early chapter book series publishing with Candlewick in October 2014! 80 pages, full color illustrations on each spread by the fantastic LeUyen Pham. I personally can't wait till this comes out so I can buy extra copies for everyone I know. I'm smitten!
So I have a lot of schtuff going on (and I promise, no new book announcements for sometime). To sum up:
August 16, 2013 - AUSTENLAND premieres in LA and NYC, more cities and dates TBA.
September 17, 2013 - GUYS READ: Other Worlds, an anthology of a science fiction and fantasy short stories. I have a story in it titled "Bouncing the Grinning Goat."
October 8, 2013 - EVER AFTER HIGH: The Storybook of Legends, a middle grade book about a boarding school for the children of famous fairytales, a tie-in book with Mattel's new Ever After High line of products.
April 1, 2014 - DANGEROUS, a young adult, scifi, superhero adventure novel. (btw, the setting is contemporary. Some assume that YA scifi is always dystopian.)
July 2014 - the fourth book in the SPIRIT ANIMALS series. Like 39 Clues and Infinity Ring, this is a 7-book series, each book written by a different author, supported by a huge online video game. The first book, written by Brandon Mull, launches Sept '13.
Fall 2014 - THE PRINCESS IN BLACK, the first book in Dean's and my early chapter book series, gorgeously and wittily illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Winter 2015 - PRINCESS ACADEMY: Dragonfly Sisters (working title), the third and final PA book. I imagine it'll be Jan or Feb '15.
And then, who knows? Well, there will be at least three more PIB books, and I have other books outlined and stories to tell. I want to write more Austenland books and wish I could have gotten to one to time it with the movie's release. It's almost maddening, how many books I want to write! And book writing takes so much time I have to tell those other stories just to sit down and shut up for a minute please, I can't get to you yet!
So...I thought I was slowing down, taking it easy for a few years. Funny what happens as soon as you say that. Thanks for sticking with me, guys! I'm excited about all the different kinds of stories and fun books I'm getting to create, and so grateful there are readers who are excited about them too.
Next post I'll tackle that question I get as often as any: how do you manage to write while being a mother? In the meantime, if you have specific questions about that or have thoughts about how to balance parenting/your work, school/your passion, etc. let us know in the comments.
We have news! (no, not Austenland movie news yet...)
Presenting the illustrator for The Princess in Black! As we announced earlier this year, The Princess in Black will be a series of early chapter books, written by me and my husband, published by Candlewick. The first is looking at a fall 2014 release. And I'm elated, ecstatic, and overjoyed to get to crow about the illustrator:
I met LeUyen (pronounced Le Win, or just call her Uyen/Win) many years ago when on tour in California. We kept in touch, and all the while I had secret, fervent wishes to one day work with her. I had no idea she might have felt the same about me! Dean and I are thrilled she's agreed to go on this adventure with us. She's a gorgeous, silly, thoughtful, imaginative, and obscenely skilled artist, mother, and human being. She's going to blow these books OUT OF THE WATER.
Here's her bio:
LeUyen Pham is the prolific and bestselling illustrator of many books for children, including Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio and Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore. Pham has also written and illustrated her own works, including All the Things I Love About You and Big Sister, Little Sister. She lives with her husband and two sons in San Francisco.
But really the best way to get to know an illustrator is through her art, no? Feast.
All image copyrights LeUyen Pham. See her website for even more lovelies. She's ridiculously versitile. I can't wait to see what she comes up with for Princess Magnolia--princess by day, monster hunter by night! (or by day too, really, depending on what time they crawl up out of Monster Land and into her kingdom.)