Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


As mentioned earlier, Melissa Rabey, who contributes to Tea Cozy and Pop Goes the Library and the YALSA blog, as well as has her own blog, Librarian by Day, is running for the 2011 Printz. Melissa is a teen librarian at the C. Burr Artz branch of the Frederick Co. (MD) Public Library and will be sharing her expertise in historical fiction to the YALSA Genre Galaxy preconference in Chicago this June. And, she has YALSA experience on several committees, including Popular Paperbacks and Organization & Bylaws.

Liz B: Tell us something about yourself.

Melissa Rabey: In some ways, I think I'm more interesting because of the things I can't do. I'm unable to snap my fingers, and I can hardly whistle. To hear me sing is to wish for me to stop--quickly.

Yet I think this lack of ability has actually helped me. I spend a lot of time contemplating ideas and talking them over with others, so I don't make snap judgments.

I'm determined to help other people get a chance to sing their own song--just like the Mama Cass song says.

And although I can't whistle while I work, I do try to stay positive and proactive, and not just at work.

Liz B: Name one YA title, published pre-1998, that would have made an excellent Printz Award winner.

Melissa Rabey: I know that there's lots of people who would support either Rats Saw Godby Rob Thomas or Weetzie Batby Francesca Lia Block as the best answer to this question. And both of those books are fantastic examples of the quality of young adult literature.

But there's another book, one which has stuck with me ever since I read it: Eva by Peter Dickinson. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, but the plot twist in this novel still gives me the willies, five years after I read it. In addition, the language and characterization in this novel are rich and compelling; without this, an interesting idea would fall flat.

I think the best books have two aspects: what they're saying and how they're saying it. I feel Eva succeeds on both counts, and therefore would have been my pick for a Printz Award, if this award had existed in 1989.

Liz B: What has prepared you to read for the Printz?

Melissa Rabey: Over the last nine months, I've been consciously preparing for the Printz Committee. I started a blog to review teen literature and have started posting at Liz Burns' Tea Cozy blog. At my blog, I evaluated the Morris Award shortlist as a way to practice my analytical skills. I served on the Maryland Author Award committee, reviewing the works of young adult authors with Maryland ties in order to select a winner. In this period, I've strived to read more books in general, and to read these books in a more critical manner.

Yet I've also been preparing for the Printz committee ever since I became a teen librarian. I've always sought to be aware of the important and/or popular books published for teens, and to read as many as I could. Through my service on Popular Paperbacks, I learned how to manage a reading workload and discuss books with my colleagues.

I feel that this mix of conscious and unconscious planning has me as ready as possible for the Printz committee. I don't know if anyone is really prepared for the amount of work that's involved in the Printz committee, but I think I can do a good job. I hope you believe that, too.

Liz B: What's your area of pop culture expertise?

Melissa Rabey: I seem to be an expert at nitpicking historical inaccuracies in movies and TV shows. I understand why history gets changed to create or enhance drama--or at least, what's seen as drama. I feel that if you can't see the tragedy, the humor, the entertainment in historical fact, you've got an unusual definition of drama. It's for this reason I haven't watched any of The Tudors : it's a marvelous time period, full of sex and fights and political wranglings, yet all that isn't interesting enough on its own, apparently. But if, in the end, a show like the Tudors gets people more interested in history, then I can't really complain all that much.

Liz B: I guess I should confess now that I've never read Eva. Oh, well, I better start reading! Thanks, Melissa!

As a reminder to all YALSA members:

Here's the official YALSA slate

And video interviews with the candidates, including Melissa

The Election category on the blog with all Election information

Cross-posted at Tea Cozy.

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Princeton Children's Book Festival

What are you doing this weekend?

Are you near Princeton?

If so, you may want to check out the Princeton Public Library's Third Annual Princeton Children's Book Festival on Saturday, September 13, from 12 to 5.

Allison Santos of the Princeton Public Library took some time to answer some questions, for those of you who may be thinking, "looks cool...but what is it?" or "that is so cool, how can my library do it"?

Liz B: I've never been to the Princeton Children's Book Festival. What can I expect at the Book Festival?

Allison: The Princeton Children's Book Festival is an afternoon event that showcases the talents of well know and not so well authors and illustrators. Under tents on the Library Plaza children and their families can meet their favorite authors, ask questions, hear them discuss or read from their works, buy their books and have them autographed or have a photo taken with them. The day is rounded out by lots of fun live entertainment for people of all ages. This year we'll have musicians, unicyclists, jugglers, a magician and face painting.

Liz B: Who will be there?

Allison: Here are some of the more well known participants; Peter Brown, Michael Buckley, Margery Cuyler, Dan Gutman, Amy Hest, Daniel Kirk, Wendy Mass and Donna Jo Napoli. For a full list of authors and illustrators and other details please visit our website at www.princetonlibrary.org/children/festival/index.html

Liz B: What will be happening?

Allison: Author readings, illustrator presentations, podcasting of the event, books for sale and for autographs, live entertainment and lots of great fun.

Liz B: How did the Princeton Children's Book Festival start?

Allison: Our first Book Festival was three years ago. It was a small event that was primarily focused on showcasing local, Princeton area authors and illustrators. Word spread about the event and by the second year authors and illustrators were contacting me to be a part of this growing annual Book Festival.

Liz B: From a library perspective, what is entailed in planning the Book Festival?

Allison: First, the support from your department is the most important. I spend approximately 8-9 months planning the Princeton Children's Book Festival on top of regular duties in the Youth Services department and my other responsibilities with NJLA, ALA and CSLP. It also doesn't hurt to know where your financial support is coming from, so developing strong partnerships is imperative. Also, you need a thick skin, don't take anything personally if an author or illustrator turns your offer down. Lastly, you need to get organized and stay organized. There are lots of little details that can sneak up on you, so as I like to say "I anticipate everything going wrong and then I am thrilled when all goes right!"

Liz B: Thanks so much, Allison!

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Interview with Heidi Tandy: Fair use, copyright, and what it means

I've mentioned my friend Heidi Tandy before, she who makes very adorable Supernatural fanvids and owns more pink clothing than anyone I know. What I haven't mentioned is that Heidi works as an intellectual property lawyer and has been involved in the administrative side of one of the largest Harry Potter fan sites on the web, FictionAlley.org, for many years. Recently, Heidi posted in her blog her happiness in the ruling of Lenz vs. Universal Music, which states that the Fair Use doctrine "permits limited use of copyright materials without the owner's permission."

Why does this matter to librarians? Because in this field, we get asked a lot of questions about what constitutes copyright and fair use, especially in school libraries. With the fandom presentation that Liz Burns and I are giving at the upcoming YALSA YA Lit Symposium in Nashville, we're talking about an entire set of activities that revolves around fair use and transformative works (works derived from the creations of another person). Because I don't even pretend to speak Lawyerese, I interviewed Heidi, who is very good at translating Lawyerese into English, via email about what this ruling means for fandomers and transformative works everywhere.

Carlie Webber: Tell us what constitutes "fair use" and why it matters to librarians?

Heidi Tandy: Fair use is a lawful use of copyright, as the Northern District of California said in Lenz v. Universal Music. Basically, fair use allows someone who is not the copyright owner, and who is not licensed by the copyright owner, to reproduce a copyrighted work. Generally, fair use exists when a portion of the first work is incorporated into a second work, perhaps in a review, or in educational materials, or in fanfic, or in a parody, or in a transformative work.

CW: How has this ruling changed what we can and cannot do with original works?

HT:That's the nifty thing - it didn't change anything. It clarified things. There was no case that said that it was copyright infringement to upload a video to YouTube that featured a video of a toddler dancing to a Prince song - and the new case affirmatively stated that it may be fair use.

CW: What do teachers, librarians, fan writers, etc. still have to be careful of in terms of how we use another's work for teaching or transformation?

HT:You need to look to the four factors that the US Copyright Office has stated need to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

For example, f you're teaching writing or literature or history and have students write a story based on another work, and the student is instructed not to copy extensively from the first story, it's likely that the student's story will be fair use.

CW: Give us some examples of things that are thought to be fair use, but really aren't.

HT: Oh, that's a difficult one. Anything transformative may be fair use, so something isn't fair use if there's nothing transformative about it. Splitting an episode of a TV show into five parts so you can upload it onto YouTube isn't transformative, but using five minutes of clips from a tv show to create a fanvid about that episode may be fair use, because you have taken a small portion of the work, there's no
commercial purpose, and the effect on the potential market is minimal. Photocopying a textbook and sharing it with a class isn't transformative and under the Kinko's case it isn't fair use, either. But putting a quotation from that book on a mural on the wall is probably fair use.

CW: Twitter just suspended account of people who were Twittering as characters from Mad Men. If the author or creator of an original work states that he or she does not want derivative works created from his books/films/TV shows but a fan creates it anyway, does the creator of the original work have any recourse? In the past, writers like Anne Rice and Nora Roberts have requested that people not write fanfic about their characters.

HT: It depends on what's created, but generally, the wishes of the original creator won't impact a court's analysis under copyright or trademark law, although it might make it more likely that the creator
will send his or her fans a cease and desist letter, or even take them to court. The original creator can always take fanwork creators to court - the real question is whether the original creator can win. The court would use the fair use analysis to determine if the fanwork is fair use, because if it is, it is a lawful use of copyright.

It's going to be more difficult for copyright owners to claim that a fan creation should be taken down via a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice now, at least in California, because of the recent ruling. A copyright holder now has to at least examine whether something is fair use before sending the DMCA notice, and a claim of fair use can be used to fight back against the copyright holder's assertion that something is fair use.

CW: I know there are always questions in the library world about what copyright covers and how long it lasts. Can you give us a crash course in copyright?

HT:The copyright office has an excellent collection of information at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf - but it primarily talks about works that are created now. For works that were created before the 1970s, the situation can be a little different. If you need to find out whether a work is still protected by copyright, check out the Public Domain Sherpa.

Basically, copyright gives the creator of a work a bundle of rights - including the rights of duplication and distribution. The creator can give those rights away temporarily - that's a license - or permanently
- that's an assignment.

Thanks, Heidi!

this interview also appears at Librarilly Blonde

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Fun Friday: Reed Memorial Library Cake Pan Collection

A friend in Ohio informed me recently that her local public library, Reed Memorial in Ravenna, has a collection of cake pans that it loans out to its members. Not only that! They provide OPAC access to them, too. Alf! Playboy Bunny Head! Elmo! Diego! He-Man! NASCAR! R2-D2! The list goes on! You can't place holds online, but there's a friendly note in the record directing interested patrons to the Children's Desk, where you can flip through the book of photos of the pans, and place a hold in person. According to the library's Policies page, cake pans (like DVDs) may be borrowed for 7 days, and the fine for overdues is $1/day.

Obviously, I had to know more about this collection, so I e-mailed the library and was granted this interview with Esther Cross, Head of Children's Services, and the creator/maintainer of the cake pan collections.

1) How did you decide to start the Reed Memorial Library's Cake Pan Collection?

We were doing Birthday boxes with theme cake pans. The pans were popular, not the boxes.
[In a previous e-mail, Esther also noted the following:] I started the cake pan collection in the early eighties. It has been growing every year. I bought the first cake pans from a donation. Our collection now grows from donated pans and buying the newest pans. We have over 300 pans.

2) I see you've got quite a range of pan styles -- how popular is the collection? What kind of patron feedback do you receive?

The circulation varies from pan to pan. Barney has gone out 68 times. Others only once or twice. We sometimes add pans because of patron requests.

3) How easy is it to maintain the collection? Do you ever retire certain pans, either because of lack of use, or due to overuse (for example, if a non-stick pan loses its non-stick coating)?

We wash the pans that need a little extra care. They are circulated in bags with the barcode on the bag and a note to please wash before and after use. We have had to retire pans that came back damaged but not often. They are more likely to just not be returned.

4) Do you offer Interlibrary Loans of your pans? Do you also offer cake decorating supplies or workshops?

No, we don't interlibrary loan our pans. They do not transport well. People outside our county have gotten a library card here so that they could check out our pans. We do not offer decorating supplies, but do include directions for decorating the pan. We are updating the instructions to color pictures since we have the new technology.

5) I love that the list of cake pans is accessible through your OPAC -- any chance you'll be adding photos to the records online?

We are working on adding pictures to our catalog but have no idea when it will be done. We have pictures of the pans in the Children's Room for people to look at.

6) Do you do any programming with the pans? Cake taste testing, recipe contests, cake decorating programs, etc.? How extensive is your cookbook collection, particularly the baking books?

We often use our pans for library programs. I have done simple decorating programs but most often people use our pans with classes they take at other places. We have had people use our pans for the county fair and to make wedding cakes.

Thank you, Esther! I love this (so far as I know) unique collection idea, and my head is spinning with tie-ins -- cake-decorating programs, events with master bakers in the community, cookbook collections designed to tie in with the pans themselves, baking contests, a library cookbook! Fabulous.

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Interview with Carlie Webber

Carlie Webber is running for the Printz; if you're a YALSA member, you either have (or soon will have) your ballot. Eight people are running for four slots on the committee; the YALSA blog has a Q and Q with all candidates.

Carlie is a contributor here at Pop; and also began contributing to Tea Cozy several months ago. Here's a chance to get to know her a little bit better, with a few questions about Printz type matters.

Liz B: How do you define "Young Adult" literature, as opposed to "children's" or "adult"?

Carlie: YA literature should capture the coming-of-age experience and the independence and identity that a teen character gains through it. To me, what separates a YA novel from an adult novel with a teen main character is the lack of perspective on the part of the main character. A YA novel describes coming-of-age events as they happen, with no sense of looking back and thinking about what could've been.

Regarding the separation of children's literature from YA, I have a few points. The age of the main character is the obvious one. The not-so-obvious one is looking at the coming-of-age events I mentioned before. In a YA novel, the main character has a definite separation from his or her parents, establishing independence. Events will happen that will make the main character reconsider the world he or she knows and s/he'll take the first steps towards establishing a place of his/her own within it. There are some novels that there's an argument for either way, children's versus YA, but the establishment of independence separate from parents is a big litmus test for me.

Liz B: This is cheating a bit, but I liked this question when YALSA Blog asked it last year. Give us one YA title, published in 1998 or before, that you think would have made an excellent Printz Award Winner if the award had been in existence then?

Carlie: I know the popular answers to this question are The Golden Compass and Weetzie Bat, but I'm going to be the maverick here and say Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas.

Half of what makes a book literary is how the author chooses to use language in the context of his or her setting. Thomas used language and first person perspective to emphasize how Steve York's view of himself changed as he wrote the essay. As a result of these language choices the reader saw Steve as raw, simultaneously bewildered and jaded by his relationships with his father and Dub, and Thomas created someone unforgettable. The sort of bitter humor Thomas used is something we've seen in a number of lauded books lately, like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Liz B: What is your pop-culture area of expertise?

Carlie: I have a few of those!

First, classic and hard rock. As I explain to fellow fans of Supernatural, I have Dean Winchester's taste in music. Some of my favorite bands include Led Zeppelin, Rush, Shinedown, AC/DC, Seether, Audioslave, Nirvana, and Velvet Revolver. I even filled out the 92.3 K-Rock March Bracket Brawl...but I lost because I picked Tom Petty to win over Pink Floyd in today's afternoon round.

Second, crime shows. Much of the father-daughter bonding in my parents' home was done over episodes of Law & Order and I've never lost my love of crimesolver shows, both fictional and documentary. My current favorites are Numb3rs and NCIS, and I thought Cynthia Nixon was completely brilliant on Law & Order: SVU earlier this season.

Third, bad reality television. As I've explained to people: I spend the majority of my time reading books, giving the best advice I can to my fellow professionals, looking critically at developments in literature and technology, and generally doing the best I can to make the YA library world a good place. When I come home and watch TV, I want to shut off my brain and I believe in doing things right. So yes, I love House and Numb3rs and all those shows that require cerebral involvement, but I am also completely addicted to America's Next Top Model. I'm hooked on Flavor of Love, Rock of Love (I actually listened to Poison when I was a kid! I know who Bret Michaels is!), Hell's Kitchen, Celebrity Fit Club, The Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious, and even the not-so-bad reality shows like Top Chef and Project Runway.

Liz B: Thanks, Carlie! And hmmm... I haven't been watching NCIS... I guess I better go to Netflix and add it to my queue!

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

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The Writers Guild of America is on strike; their contract expired October 31, 2007.

Why are they striking? It's a brave new world; how we get our television has changed since the days of rabbit ears and a handful of stations. And, in a nutshell, the TV writers are saying, they want their fair share of the profits from their work product.

And all I have to say is ... four cents for each DVD sold? I'm shocked.

Jeff Gottesfeld kindly agreed to answer some questions for Pop (and agreed for this to be cross posted at Tea Cozy.) Those of you who read YA literature or watch daytime TV may be nodding your heads, recognizing his name. With his wife Cherie Bennett, is the associate head writer of The Young and the Restless on CBS. They are members of the Writers Guild of America (East) and are currently on strike. Working in TV, film (Broken Bridges), young adult fiction (Anne Frank and Me, Life in the Fat Lane, and A Heart Divided), adult fiction (Turn Me On, wring as Cherie Jeffrey ), as well as various other rumored pseudonymous projects, and stage (Reviving Ophelia, Searching for David's Heart), they live in Los Angeles with their son.

Liz B: I have to confess, one of my first reactions to the strike was selfish, oh, no, but my shows! Followed by, ah well, time to catch upon DVD watching. But then I wondered, hey, do the people who contributed to making the DVD get a fair share? (Seriously, even before the strike, I've wondered if the only people making money are the production company.)

I am also one of those people who think being a TV writer must be made of awesome. So, as I write these question, I'm both curious, and also a bit of a fangirl.

For the layperson, can you explain what exactly why the WGA (Writers Guild of America) decided to strike?

Jeff: Let me start with a caveat: I am not a member of my union's negotiating committee, and my understanding of these issues are a layman's understanding. The WGA offices in Los Angeles or New York, and particularly their websites www.wgaw.org and www.wgaeast.org, have more and better details than I could possibly provide here.

The WGA decided to strike because the only thing that would be worse than striking would be not to strike. We came to this decision with the greatest of reluctance, when it became apparent to our negotiating team that the AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers), the major-producers consortium with whom we negotiate our writers' deal every three years, was not willing to tackle in good faith our major issue: what to do about payments to writers for materials streamed or downloaded on the Internet. We took important contract proposal after contract proposal off the table in an effort to create negotiating movement, as late as six hours before the strike deadline. We got nowhere.

Liz B: Which networks are affected? Not to be silly, but being as I have BBC America (yay Torchwood!) and watch DeGrassi (Canadian) on Nick at Night, I just wondered if all TV shows are covered or not.) What writing is affected?

Jeff: Our strike runs against WGA signatory companies, of which there are a few hundred. Not only does it cover the major TV networks and movie studios, but also a plethora of production companies. We had to put our pencils, pens, and computer keyboards down.

Scripts in development that had been acquired or optioned have to be shelved until the end of the strike. For us, Cherie and I wrote The Young and the Restless script #8796, which airs on the day before Christmas, and submitted it just before the strike deadline. A few more hours would have sunk that script. Not only that, writers can't negotiate with a struck company. We've had to tell our agents to stop. Here are the full strike rules: http://www.wga.org/subpage_member.aspx?id=2493 They are extensive.

Here's what is largely affected on the TV side: scripted material that has yet to be written. Sitcoms, late-night TV, Saturday Night Live, Heroes, daytime dramas like our own The Young and the Restless, etc. Animation depends on whether the contact is with a Guild signatory. The WGA press office can give you more particulars on all these details. Canadian writers have been told to put down their pens on all the USA work. British shows are not affected. Nor are shows that have already been filmed, nor shows for which scripts were finished before the strike deadline. DeGrassi is safe; at least those episodes have already been filmed.

Liz B: What is the current contract (if any) for streaming media and DVD sales?

Jeff: DVDs. Currently, writers get four cents US for each DVD that is sold. That's split amongst the writers of the episodes on that DVD, remember, if it's a television compilation like Lost. This is a small fraction of the cost of the DVD. We'd like to see that increased, but the DVD proposal was reportedly one of those that we would have been willing to shelve had the producers been forthcoming on the new media side.

On streaming videos? We get zip. Zero. Nada. Our dear friends at Heroes (we know a couple of the writers from our Smallville days) get to see their shows streamed at abc.com, complete with commercials. There have reportedly been 90 million (no, that is not a misprint!) downloads. Know what the writers get? Zero. If they got a a tenth of a penny per download -- a tenth of a penny! -- that would be $90,000.

What we're looking for, as the distinction between broadcast and broadband whittles down to zero, is this: if the producers make money, then the writers ought to participate.

Liz B: Do the writers get anything for shows made before DVD or Internet technology was available?

Jeff: Answer: yes. That's the basis of our whole residuals structure. Every time that an episode of, say, Smallville is rebroadcast on television, the writer gets a certain payment as residuals. Those episodes of I Love Lucy that are shown on Nick at Night? Residuals. These residuals are the difference for many writers between financial disaster and a middle-class lifestyle. As the move to content delivery shifts to broadband, this classic residual structure will melt away.

Liz B: I watch reality TV, from Amazing Race to Kid Nation to Survivor. Are those writers covered by the WGA?

Jeff: For the most part, no. And we'd like to have them. Big time. Don't let anyone tell you differently: these producers are writers.

Liz B: What's a fan to do? What's a fan to do? Speaking for myself, as someone who loves stories: Hell ya, the writers are important. And as a capitalist, Hell ya, they should be paid fairly for what they do. So, is there anything we can do?

Jeff: First and foremost, understand the stakes of this negotiation, and that the only thing worse for us than striking would be for us to do nothing. For three generations, our union's willingness to sacrifice in the short term for the long term benefit has meant that generations of writers get things basic to so many industries -- health care. A pension fund. A decent wage.

Second, keep half an eye on who the writers are for your fave shows. If you hear that the show has taken on scab writers, stop watching. The good news is, this probably won't happen.

Lastly, it can't hurt to write to the prez of your favorite network and say: "Make a fair deal with the writers. They want to get back to work, and I want quality TV."

For our part, we love writing Y&R. The show has an astonishing history, amazing actors, fine writers, and one of the best production teams I've ever seen. We want to get back to writing it, and to telling the compelling romantic and human stories that have made so many people around the world soap opera watchers for so long. (Take the Jeff and Cherie dare: Watch Y&R for three days, and you'll be hooked for life). We hope that our union and the AMPTP can reach a satisfactory settlement as quickly as possible.

Liz B: Jeff, thank you very much!

And thanks for the ideas of what a fan can do. As I said over at the blog of Gotta Book (by kidlitosphere blogger, poet, and screenwriter Gregory K), I would love a button or banner or some such Internet thingee that said, "this blog supports the WGA strike." Alas, I am not techy enough to do this. Anyone?

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Poetry Friday: Interview With Alma Fullerton: What If's Are A Writer's Best Friend

Welcome to Pop Goes The Library's interview with Alma Fullerton. Fullerton writes for teens; In the Garage was published in 2006, and Walking On Glass in 2007. Fullerton lives in Canada, blogs, has a MySpace, and agreed to an interview. Fullerton knows what it's like to sit in the interviewer chair, and has several great author interviews at her website.

Liz B: Your books, In The Garage and Walking On Glass, were "born" close together -- practically twins, with one being published late 2006 and one 2007. Which was written first? Could you share a bit of the time frame involved with both of these books, from writing to an agent to publication?

Alma: I started writing Walking on Glass in about 2002. It went through several sets of revisions before I sent it out. I queried one publisher in June 2003, but then heard my acquiring editor at HarperCollins was looking for that type of book at the end of Nov. Not yet hearing back from the other publisher, I e-queried him. He responded within seconds for me to send it.

It was sent snail mail and only 1/2 of it got there so I had to resend it. By this time it was mid - Dec. 2003 . Soon after I heard back from the other editor that she also wanted the full. By the end Jan.2004 I had both houses take it to acquisitions.

At this time I approached an agent, who I was already acquainted with. She loved the book and took me on. My editor at HarperCollins called in Feb. 2004 with an offer. We pulled it from the other publisher.

In June my acquiring editor left and I got an new one. (I really liked her too so all was well). I didn't get a contract until late Sept. 2004.

By this time I was writing In the Garage. That book went to the publisher at RedDeer in October 2005. Within three day he got back to my agent saying he wanted it. I signed a contract in March 2006. The book went through one set of revisions in May and copy edits in July and came out in Nov. 2006.

Walking on Glass didn't come out until Jan. 2007 - almost three years after the contract was signed, so my publishing time line went from extremely slow to extremely fast. Someday I'd like to be able to get a book published in the average time of around 18 months.

Liz B: Both books are about teens facing traumatic events. In The Garage is about BJ and Alex's friendship and betrayals; and Walking On Glass, a act of despair by the narrator's mother. The teenagers in both are dealing with some pretty dark things. What inspired these stories? What attracted you to them?

Alma: Both books were inspired by real life events. I had a friend who committed suicide because he knew his family would never accept the fact that he was gay. Alex is loosely based on him, although I added a few 'what ifs' and changed what happens in the end. In the Garage started out as Alex's story but BJ just wouldn't shut up so I added her in. It became both of their stories and a much richer book because of it.

Walking on Glass was also inspired by real life. My husband had a friend whose husband committed suicide and I always wondered about their son and where it left him. I added a few what ifs to that story. What if the mother didn't die. What if the family knew she never wanted to end up on life support. Things like that.

'What ifs' are a writer's best friend.

Liz B: Poetry is important in both books. In In The Garage, Alex's part is told in verse; and Walking On Glass is told entirely in poetry. Was it always your intent to use verse to tell these stories, or did that happen further on in the creative process?

Alma: I don't think it was my intention, no. Walking on Glass just came out that way. I couldn't get a voice when I tried writing it in prose, it was just flat. I went for a long walk with my dog and the first poem popped into my head and then the second and so on. That's when I knew it had to be verse.

In the Garage started out all in verse but BJ's and Alex's voices came out too similar and the book didn't have any dips of happy and sad that it needed. It wasn't until I changed BJ's voice to prose that I got those little bits of sarcastic humor and a new voice.

Liz B: What are you working on now?

Alma: Right now I'm working on a young adult novel which I won an Ontario grant for titled Canary in a Coalmine, and a couple of chapter book series aimed towards boys and girls age 7-11.

Liz B: Since this will also be posted over at Pop Goes the Library, I'm going to include my standard Pop question: What is your Pop Culture area of expertise?

Alma: My area of expertise would probably have to be music or literature. I love both, and combine them constantly using different musicians - or types of music to write different books to.

Liz B: Thank you!

Cross Posted at Tea Cozy (a Poetry Friday post)

Jen Robinson's Book Page reviews In the Garage
Bildungsroman (Little Willow) reviews In the Garage

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Welcome, Margo Rabb!

Step right up to the latest stop in the Margo Rabb blog tour. Margo is the author of Cures for Heartbreak; you can find out more about Margo and her writing at her website, and at her MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/margorabb

The drawbacks of a blog tour: I cannot offer you a chair, or tea, or cookies.

On the positive, you can pick your own comfy chair, have the tea and cookies of your own choice (or not,) and read this in your PJs and smile happily as you think about the traffic you avoided by going to the blog tour.

And now, with drumroll, I give you: Margo Rabb!

Liz B: "Don't judge a book by it's cover" is one of those lies people tell. Covers do matter; and "Cures for Heartbreak" has a fabulous cover. How excited were you when you saw it? Did you have any input into the creative process or the selection? I know I've spent way too much time looking at all the images to figure out how they fit into the story.

Margo: Actually, the current cover isn’t the original one—neither my agent nor I felt the first cover design was right for the book. My editor came up with the idea for the current cover, and when I saw it I absolutely loved it. I’ve heard that lot of authors don’t get any say in their covers—I was lucky.

Liz B: Parts of Cures for Heartbreak appeared as short stories in various magazines. And your Afterword to the book said that this book was several years in the making. I'm curious; did the short stories come first, and then the book? What was the writing process that led to both the book and the stories?

Margo: The stories came first, though I revised them all heavily over many years so that they’d fit together as a novel. Five chapters were written within the space of a few years, from 1996-1999. I revised them and then I put the draft of the book aside for a number of years (I talk about why on my website here: http://www.margorabb.com/about_cures.html ) I also wrote a number of other stories featuring Mia, Alex and their father, which I decided weren’t very good and so I threw them out. I wrote The Healthy Heart and the Cures for Heartbreak chapters last.

Liz B: Cures for Heartbreak is based on your own personal story; but it's a work of fiction, not a memoir. What led you to tell your story as a work of fiction?

Margo: There’s a Tuscan proverb I have pinned above my desk: “A tale is not beautiful if nothing is added to it.” Writing nonfiction doesn’t usually give me anywhere near as much pleasure as writing fiction, because it’s the creative process of writing fiction that’s magical for me--imagining people, places, and conversations, letting the story take over with its revelations and surprises--which makes writing really enjoyable. Also, I feel like I can be more truthful in fiction—to get at the real heart and meaning of an experience is easier when I don’t have to stick to the facts.

Liz B: I totally didn't know you were also M.E. Rabb, author of YA mysteries (the "missing persons" series.) I love that series! What led you to decide to publish under different names?

Margo: I wrote the Missing Persons series during the break that I took from Cures for Heartbreak, in 2001-2004. Those books sold on proposal—just a sample chapter and synopsis of the series. Since they were sold unwritten, and since they were going to be more commercial books, I wanted to separate them from Cures, which is more literary (and which, at the time, I hoped I would soon finish.) I’d planned to use a pseudonym, but my editor wanted me to use my own name so that my previous story publications could be used in the publicity materials. So using the initials was a compromise. I had to write the Missing Persons series under really tight deadlines—I was only given three months to write the first draft of each book—which was extremely difficult for me, since Cures for Heartbreak went through about a thousand drafts. (And I honestly think that’s an accurate estimate!)

Liz B: And since this is also going to be posted at Pop Goes the Library (the library blog where I contribute posts) I have to ask: what is your pop culture area of expertise? (Mine, for the record, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Margo: Gilmore Girls! I’ve been a huge fan of Gilmore Girls since its first season—in fact I have a secret fantasy (well, not so secret anymore) of living in Stars Hollow and hanging out at Luke’s diner every day. My husband of course reminds me that Stars Hollow is located in a lot at the CW network in Burbank, California. Still…I keep dreaming.

Liz B: Thank you so much! And I would move to Stars Hollow in a New York Minute (Sunnydale...not so much. I'd live longer hanging out at Luke's diner than I would at the Bronze.)

Cross Posted at Tea Cozy.

The other stops in Margo Rabb's blog tour:

3/20: Lizzie Skurnick at theoldhag
3/21: Jen Robinson at Jen’s book page
3/22: Betsy Bird at Fuse #8
3/23: Kelly Herold at Big A Little A
3/26: Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
3/27: Jackie Parker at Interactive Reader
3/28: Little Willow at bildungsroman
3/29: Leila Roy at Bookshelves of Doom
3/30: Mindy at propernoun

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Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast

A little bit of self-promotion:

Head on over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to read their new interview series: Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast.

Interview # 1 is with -- drumroll, please -- me! (or is it I?) And please note that according to Seven Impossible... I am a red-headed babe.

Cross posted at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

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