Janet Sumner Johnson
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The Learning Curve of Publishing

Oct 26, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

It’s no secret that I’ve been on this ride of wanting to be
published for a long time. And the longer you are in something, the more you
learn about it. Bit by bit you gather information and before long you are no
longer a newbie.

By the time I found my agent, I was quite expert at drafting
query letters. I knew the best places to track the query letters I sent to
agents (querytracker.net in case anyone was wondering). I knew what writing conferences
I liked best. I knew what to expect timing wise, and I was the one answering
questions for those newbies who had just joined the fray.

Now that I’m on the next step of the publishing journey, I
am horrified to discover that I have to start over as a newbie. Only this time,
the learning curve is much, MUCH steeper since there is an actual deadline for
things (oh the forgotten joy of not having a deadline!).

My head is spinning as
I try to figure out marketing, and how to get my name out there and get on
panels and accepted as a presenter at conferences. And let’s not forget school
visits, and swag, and websites. Writing tag lines. Writing author bios. Writing discussion questions. Figuring out author pictures and poses. And of course navigating the world of
communicating with my publisher and editor and all the people involved there
(who are fortunately very lovely people!).

 
The things is, I’d read so many blog posts from debut
authors as they navigated the publishing world, and I’d learned so much about school
visits and marketing, etc. And I had notes from conference presentations on
such topics. I felt so prepared. I was SO ready for the next step! I just knew
I would make it through with ease.

So I’m left scratching my head about what went wrong.
 
And the only thing I can come up with is that having a book
published is a bit like becoming a parent for the first time. You can read all
kinds of books to prepare yourself. People will tell you all kinds of truths
and horror stories about “what it’s really like.” But it doesn’t matter.
The only thing that really helps you understand what it’s like to be a parent
is to actually BE A PARENT. And then suddenly you get it!
 
Not that it’s suddenly easy or that you suddenly know everything.
But you get it. You get how hard and
complicated and unpredictable it all is. And all you can do is your best. You
keep trying every day, and you learn new things. Sometimes it feels like you’ll never be as
good as those other parents you see at PTA meetings and stuff, and sometimes it
feels like you’re failing miserably.
 
But you aren’t.
 
Because HEY! You’re doing
it! And none of that other stuff matters. What matters is that you’re trying.
 
Because despite what Yoda says, there really is such a
thing.
 
(And yes, this is absolutely what I tell myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all . . . which is at least once a month . . . okay, weekly . . . fine! I meant daily. DAILY. Okay?? Satisfied?!) 😉

My Cover Reveal Day!!!

Oct 19, 2015 Uncategorized 5 comments

Today is the day!!!

The happy-dancing, random-screaming, exclamation-filled day that is otherwise known as my COVER REVEAL day!!


via GIPHY

So one interesting tid-bit before you head over to Pop! Goes The Reader to see what it looks like (finally!!!) . . .

A secret I’ve been holding for a while is that Amazon has a picture of my book on its site. BUT it IS NOT THE FINAL COVER. No. You have to got to Pop! Goes The Reader for that. I don’t know when it will be fixed to the final cover, but if you want to see what the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) cover looks like, you can check out Amazon, too. (And eeep! If you happen to want to pre-order it, it’s now available for pre-order!)

Okay, okay, I will detain you no longer! Go forth! Check out my beautiful book cover that I’m totally in love with at Pop! Goes The Reader.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to enter for a chance to win an ARC of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY by moi, Janet Sumner Johnson.


The Things I Don’t Know (aka Weird Research)

Oct 12, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

Writing books has been the most humbling experience of my life for so many reasons. SO. MANY. But today, I’ll just talk about one: The things I don’t know!

Oh, the things are vast, and many.

Silly things.
Important things.
Interesting things.
Things I SHOULD know.
Things I know I learned once upon a time.

Some of these things can be easily researched online. Some require experts (Hellooo Dr. Husband, you have been a life saver!). Sometimes I find a book on the subject. Some things require good hard study and mathematical equations (and then I’m back to seeking expert help . . . hellooo Father and Sister Mathematicians!! You’re the best!).

So before I bore you to death, here are some of the things I have had to research in the name of writing, though I won’t tell you why (bwahaha!):

Anyway, I could go on for a good long while. So many things I don’t know! And fascinating to discover that writing isn’t only about English and Grammar. Wasn’t I wishing I’d taken a few more math classes?

So how about you? Are you an expert in any of the above (And if so, please inform me so I can pick your brain!)? Do you want to learn about any of these things? What is the weirdest research you’ve ever done?


Books from my Childhood

Oct 05, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series to my kids, and it’s been awesome. And not just because I can get them to do their chores with the promise of reading another chapter. They’ve loved it!

But doing so has really brought back memories of my childhood. Curled up on the floor or in my bed, listening to my mom read stories to us. I even remember staying home sick from high school (HIGH SCHOOL !!!), and laying on the couch listening to her read to me. She has been a long-time lover of children’s literature, and I directly attribute my obsession with it to her.

—–> This is me way back then, so you can better imagine me sitting on my mom’s lap, listening to stories.—->

There weren’t nearly as many choices back then, but what there was, she found them. I wanted to mention a few, because not only have all of these amazing books have influenced who I am, but these authors were the pioneers that made what I’m doing even possible.

As a little kid, my mom read picture books to us. A few stand out in my memory as ones we made her and my dad read over and over and over. THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK by Jon Stone was the BEST.

Fear of the unknown was a real thing for me back then. (Okay, it still is.) I remember hating to go downstairs on my own, because WHO KNEW what might come out of that big pot-belled wood-burning stove down there??? And it was dark. And it smelled funny. And the carpet had this crazy brown and orange pattern that could start spinning and might HYPNOTIZE me, and what would I do then???

Point being, I got Grover. I understood! I sympathized with his fears. But I still laughed every time we turned that page, and the story got messier and messier, and the pages got rattier and rattier (both figuratively and literally because we read that book so much). I LOVED being part of the story. It was all so real. Even though of course I knew it wasn’t.

And I don’t want to ruin the ending for any of you who might not have read it (and if so, watch out for the Goodreads link above . . . they aren’t so careful), but this book made me braver. It helped me step up my courage, and you know what? I dared go downstairs on my own (okay, maybe not at night, but baby steps, people). I dared press forward into the unknown. Because lets face it. Life is full of A LOT of unknown. This book was a real part of my childhood. One that influenced me big time. So thank you, Jon Stone for writing it! Thank you, Sesame Street Creators for making such a great character!

And I realize this is all going to take more space than one blog post can handle, so I’ll just have to blog about this again. In the mean time, tell me about a book that influenced your childhood. I’d love to hear!


Fancy Nancy Festivities (a fancy word for “parties”)

Sep 21, 2015 Uncategorized 2 comments

I was first introduced to Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor almost 6 years ago when I discovered the original book on display in the library. Even though I was never a Fancy Nancy, I thought it was brilliant! My daughter was an infant at the time, but I read it to her (and my boys who also thought it was very fun).

And who knew that my daughter would turn out to be the fanciest of Nancies?

So when my local library threw a Fancy Nancy party, I was all over that. And so was my daughter.

We RSVP’d, and my daughter dressed up in her fanciest clothes. She even borrowed a hat from our neighbor.

At the party we decorated tiaras.

We ate cookies and punch.

We listened to Fancy Nancy books.

And when it was over, we decided that we simply must throw a Fancy Nancy party of our own. The plans are in the works.

What I love about this book is that it encourages individualism, and that it finds a sneaky and fun way to introduce new vocabulary. Kids are tricked into learning! It doesn’t get much better than that. 😉

How about you? Who is one of your favorite characters from a book?


The End of Summer

Sep 14, 2015 Uncategorized 4 comments
Summer is officially over. The kids are back in school, the weather is cooling down, the summer frenzy is ending and the school one is beginning.
 
I planned so many times what I wanted to say on my “I’m back!!” blog post, but I’m not nearly as organized as I like to think I am. And whenever I tried to focus, the rush of it all filled my brain.

So the rush is what you get. Because so much happened this summer. SO MUCH! (and honestly, this is the abridged version):

Life Stuff:

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Book Stuff:
 
 
This Summer has been such a learning curve. I won’t prattle on
just yet about all the things I learned, but hopefully in the future.

In the mean time, what awesome things did you do this
summer?

My Crazy in Pictures

Jun 08, 2015 Uncategorized 9 comments

The last few months have been full of crazy. Or I could use other adjectives like exciting. Fun. Adventure. Sports. Play. Work. Celebration. Food. Art. Writing. Culture. Bonding. Homecomings.

Lots of good things. But LOTS of things. I’ll be going off-line for a bit since we will be moving in a couple of weeks. But for your viewing pleasure, my crazy (and by crazy, I mean awesome) life in pictures:

This might have been one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Ile de Ré on bikes!

Oh wait! I mean THIS was my favorite part. Tartelette aux fraises!

I could have stayed here forever. So peaceful!

You can’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.

Or the Mona Lisa.
 
(Do I look exhausted??? Yeah, it was the end of a full day of travel and site-seeing. I was EXHAUSTED. All-caps are needed to fully capture the feeling.)

And Versaille. (Though it wasn’t my favorite. Don’t hate me!)

My 11-yo and I took the stairs to get to Sacré Coeur.
Yep. We are that awesome.

And Crèpes. Need I say more?

Home never felt so good!
 

Because I got to watch my soccer star!

 
And play with my crazy, pink-loving Girlie.
 
 
And yes! This is me making my book deal all official. Release date is Spring 2016!!
 
I hope you all have a great summer! I’ll be back as soon as I get my world organized in my new place.

In Which I Gush About Librarians

Jun 01, 2015 Uncategorized 7 comments

I LOVE our local library. And more importantly, my kids love our local library. My sons aren’t shy about asking the wonderful librarians for help, and my daughter knows right where to go to find the cool computer with kid-friendly games (which are, of course, all educational).

One of our favorite things is the summer program. The nationwide theme this year is:

Every Hero has a story

 To add to the fun, our library made this awesome photo background (complete with cape and mask) for our photographing pleasure.

And see that kid right there? My second grade graduate? This reading program has fueled his love for reading. All year he’s been meh about it. Reading wasn’t horrible for him, but it was something he did when we made him.

But since the summer reading program started, he’s been determined to get in the minutes to earn those books and prizes . . . he’s a different child. He just finished Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.

And before that it was all three of the Case File 13 books by J. Scott Savage. And he’s now dying to write to Mr. Savage who is now his favorite. (My reluctant reader as a favorite author!)

Obviously I love the summer reading program as an author. How great that kids are reading!

But I love it even more as a mom. I just want to thank all you librarians out there who work so hard to encourage a love of reading. Who put awesome books on display, and make going to the library a treat. Thank you for sharing your passion. Thank you for making it fun. Thank you for opening doors upon doors of opportunity and adventure to my children, because that’s what reading does.

Is anyone else out there participating in their library’s summer reading program?


Gems from LDStorymakers Conference

May 25, 2015 Uncategorized 4 comments

Last weekend I went to LDStorymakers writing conference. I went with a critique partner and I got to meet my agent which was pretty awesome (!!!). And I should totally have a picture of this momentous occasion, but I don’t. I’m like the worst ever at remembering to take pictures. In fact, I didn’t even take one picture during the whole conference. I know, right??? I guess I was just too busy soaking in all the writerly Karma of the place. 🙂

The thing I love best about writing conferences is that they help me remember why I love writing in the first place. And they help me remember all those things that make my writing better.

I don’t want to re-hash everything I learned because one, that would be boring, and two, that would be copyright infringement. However, I did want to share a couple of gems.

FIRST: You may laugh at this one, but I said a big AMEN!  Peggy Eddleman gave a class on getting your writing mojo back. One point she made is that as writers, we seem to think we earn the writer’s badge by missing sleep. We stay up late. Work off of two hours sleep. And somehow this is a bragging point. Well it’s not. WE NEED SLEEP TO FUNCTION. Obviously everyone is different and we all need different amounts of sleep. But skipping sleep is not doing ourselves any favors!

So, don’t be afraid to go to bed on-time to get a full night’s sleep. Then you will be refreshed and ready to tackle a new day and fresh ideas. [And no, we won’t talk about the irony of the fact that I am staying up late to write this.]

SECOND: I attended a class by Chad Morris and Brandon Mull about the 3 parts that make an awesome story idea. While there was lots of good stuff, the gem I got was that every trouble needs a payoff. That may sound obvious. But I needed the reminder. I can’t just make my characters go through hard things and expect my readers to enjoy that. There has to be a moment that makes it all worth it. Both to the character and the reader.

And THIRD: This one came from a class on Description by Sarah Eden. We talked about all kinds of things, but one piece of advice that stuck out was this: Never interrupt your own story! Well, duh. Except I do this! Description should be organic, and if it disrupts the flow, then you’ve done it wrong.

I know. None of this stuff is new and exciting. But amazingly, what I need from conferences is not new and exciting info. What I need is a reminder (preferably in a not boring way) of all the things I know, but have forgotten.

When’s the last time you went to a conference? And what do you get out of them?


When Fortunes Come True

May 18, 2015 Uncategorized 5 comments

My family and I really like Chinese food. Our favorite part (okay, maybe tied with eating all the yummy food) is opening our fortune cookies.

I always get the best fortune.

Seriously. Like, even my kids want my fortune.

I’m just lucky that way.

Here is my latest.

*All your hard work will soon pay off*

So to understand how great this fortune is, you need to know why we were eating Chinese.

Why, you ask?  Because I’d just spent a week packing and cleaning to get our house ready to sell–solid days of doing nothing but that–and I didn’t want to dirty my newly immaculate kitchen.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled with this fortune! Because who wants to do a bunch of hard work and not have it pay off, right?

And happy for me, this fortune cookie really was all-knowing. Our house sold, and we are feeling all kinds of relieved.

The thing is, since that time, I’ve had an epiphany. This fortune came true not because of some omniscient cookie. This fortune came true because hard work ALWAYS pays off.

It just doesn’t always pay off in the way we would like.

For example:
Remember that manuscript you wrote and edited, then finally tucked away in a drawer? Remember that laundry you folded that your toddler then unfolded? Remember that bed you made that you then unmade later that SAME DAY??

Every one of those situations included pay-off. Think of the practice and skills that were gained in writing that manuscript. Think of the work ethic your toddler gained by watching your example. Think of the peace that made-up bed exuded in your room all day long (and peace exuding is totally a thing).

Hard work always pays off.

So don’t you go fearing that your efforts will be a waste. They won’t. Even if you don’t get what you want, they. are. not. wasted.

Peace out and work on my friends.