Hello folks! Just a quick update on the “What’s-Robbi-Up-To” front. I’m working on the next Idiots’Book, you see. Because yesterday I drove over to Columbia (MD) to pick up the many boxes of Bobbledy Books Volume 15, The Luckiest, (http://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/products/the-luckiest) which we’ll be packaging up and sending out tomorrow. So, of course, that leaves today full of nothing but the next thing to do.
Matthew has written an odd tale about a kitchen sponge, whose working title is “Mobley the Kitchen Sponge”. Or maybe it’s “Mobley the Kitchen Sponge Goes to the Moon”. Before we started Bobbledy, he tried to write a children’s book a day as an experiment to see if he actually had enough ideas to make Bobbledy happen. Mobley was one of the bad ideas that is definitely not a children’s book, but the story just charms me. And so I’ve willed him into being, more or less:
(http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/mobley NULL.jpg)
Now, it was only after I drew it that I realized that SpongeBob Squarepants is actually a sponge. How could I not have known that? For some reason I thought he was a piece of toast or something. Ah well. This is not a book about SpongeBob.
I’ve started thumbnailing, which every good illustrator does, but which I never did until I started working on the version of Babies Ruin Everything (http://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/products/babies-ruin-everything) that will be published by a real, live, big-time publisher.
(http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/thumbnailing NULL.jpg)
It turns out that good illustrators know what they’re doing. It saves me a lot of time. Mostly, it saves me from getting way too type A working out the details of a composition that Matthew ends up telling me stinks (he’s usually right).
With all that time I’m saving, I could probably finish a couple more books. But don’t tell Matthew. I’ll be eating ice cream and looking at hedgehogs on youtube instead (OMG THEY ARE SO CUTE (https://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=-nkEPsSsH68)).
Idiots’Books subscriber Tara Scherner de la Fuente (no joke) has just moved across the country, taking all of her belongings to the Pacific Northwest to start a new chapter in her life. Being a woman of letters, she took a lot of books. Boxes and boxes, each one heavier than the last. Moving the books was a sacrifice—an act of loyalty and love.
And when she got to her new apartment and set up her bookshelf and prepared to set up her library on the far coast, where did she begin? What was the very first book she removed from the boxes and placed on the shelf?
In case you are unfamiliar, it is none other than Nasty Chipmunk (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.com/ProductDetails NULL.asp?ProductCode=IB023-01), our tribute to the unappreciated virtues of profound unpleasantness.
In honor of Tara’s ultimate compliment, we have slashed the cover price of Nasty (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.com/ProductDetails NULL.asp?ProductCode=IB023-01) for a limited time, that others may get a taste of this slender volume and all it’s cringe-inducing wisdom.
Which is to say, if you’ve been hoping for discounts on any of our other titles, all you have to do is move across the country, put that book on your new bookshelf, snap a photo, and send it our way. We’re not easy, but we are susceptible to flattery.
Which is to say, thank you Tara. May Nasty enjoy his new home. And you yours.
We have some extremely exciting news.
About six months ago, we got an email from our literary agent saying that she had just gotten an email from an editor at LB Kids (http://www NULL.hachettebookgroup NULL.com/kids/) with an offer to publish one of our books.
This is how the email made us feel.
We were pleased for the obvious reason: that another of our books is being acquired by a major publisher.
But we were particularly excited in the photo above because that email was a pivotal moment in a journey that began long ago, and which will continue for several more years, at least.
Only the most astute among you will remember this post from November of 2011, reflecting on our visit to New York City to visit with “the titans of the publishing world.”
At the time, we were purposefully coy about the identity of our hosts and the true purpose of our visit (not wanting to jinx ourselves, you know), but today we are delighted to say that the gorgeous glass elevator and towering atrium of that monument to the gods of publishing was conveying us to the offices of none other than the Hachette Group, home of the esteemed Little, Brown and Company (http://www NULL.littlebrown NULL.com/).
Back then, Robbi was in a very different state of mind and body.
Back then, I was nervous out of my mind at the thought of sharing our work with the titans. Robbi had to ply me with herbal tea to calm me down.
Back then, we had yet to start making and publishing children’s books through Bobbledy (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.com/blog/). But our heads were already swirling with ideas, and with the help of our agent, we set up a meeting with an editor and art director at Little, Brown’s children’s book imprint LB Kids (https://www NULL.hachettebookgroup NULL.com/kids/) (This editor, whose name is Erin, is the same person who hired us to do the Super Hero Squad book back in the fall of 2010). We brought a bunch of Idiots’Books and a handful of potential children’s book manuscripts with us and spent an hour or so sharing our work and presenting our ideas.
The meeting was a pleasant blur, and we left having no idea whether or not it would lead anywhere. A few months later, Erin reached out to say that she had really liked our stuff, and that one manuscript in particular had captured her imagination. She and I passed it back and forth for a while without coming up with a satisfying draft.
But Erin had another idea, which was to adapt our Idiots’Books title Babies Ruin Everything (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.com/ProductDetails NULL.asp?ProductCode=IB028-01) into a children’s book. The original is an open lament on the part of the older sibling upon the arrival of the new baby. It’s a book for adults, with an adult sensibility, but there were kernels that Erin thought might translate to the children’s market. Apparently, there is a niche for books that one might gift to parents expecting a second child. Again, Erin and I passed a manuscript back and forth. Last spring we went back to New York to meet with her and discuss possible edits.
This time, Robbi was not pregnant (thank goodness), and I was somewhat less nervous (though nervous still).
We both still felt like fish out of water in that big, bad city.
When we got home, I noodled with the manuscript a bit more, and when I was finished, sent it back to Erin. Last summer, she pitched to her colleagues, who were, apparently, enthusiastic enough to make an offer.
And so the exciting email.
And then began nearly six months of contract negotiations between Erin and our agent. Not that there was any great controversy, mind you. These things just take a good long time to sort themselves out.
But in the middle of last week, we finally got the green light from our agent. The details had been sorted out, and we were free to start talking about the book itself.
And so this past Friday morning, we loaded everyone into the car and drove north. We left the kids in Brooklyn with an extremely kind and generous friend and headed back to the LB offices for the third time.
This time, Robbi was still not pregnant and I was far less nervous. After all, we were no longer selling ourselves. We had our foot in the door. It was time to make a book.
And so we met with Erin and the art director, PattiAnn and discussed the work ahead—everything from trim size (how big the book will be) to whether or not the book should have endpapers to character studies to cover ideas to timeline.
And, because it was Valentine’s Day, we shared cupcakes decorated in the colors of the day. I suppose I might have taken a photograph before Robbi got her hands on them.
Two whirlwind hours later, the meeting ended. It was a thrilling creative brainstorm. We learned a lot. Even though we’ve been making books together for a long time, this will be the first time that we’re making a new book, from scratch, with an editor and art director. We have a lot to learn. Which is a big part of what we’re looking forward to.
This time we had the presence of mind to get a photo of us with Erin, who has been an amazing champion of ours. Through more than two years of fits and starts, edits and revisions, she has had the patience and vision and belief in us to make this crazy dream a reality. We just can’t thank her enough.
Among the perks of being an LB Kids author and illustrator: free mugs!
And free books!
Lots and lots of free books.
Now we are home and trying to figure out how to wedge yet another project into an already full creative docket.
And so our adventure continues…in a completely new direction. A completely overhauled version of Babies Ruin Everything (with 100% new illustrations by Robbi) will be published by LB Kids in the spring of 2016.
For anyone who is counting, it will have been more than four years between that initial meeting with Erin and the time when the book hits the shelves. That’s just how it goes in the commercial publishing world. The funny thing is that, in that same time period, Robbi and I will have published more than 30 books of our own.
But we’re talking about apples and oranges, and lucky for us, we don’t have to choose between them.
We have a feeling this orange will be pretty special. The excitement has yet to subside. It continues to be kind of nutty in the barn.
Just wanted to share the good news. We’ll post about the rest of the adventure as it unfolds.
After a short illness-induced sojourn, I’m back to my early morning waking, running, and writing habits. In honor of November, I have decided to try NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo NULL.org/) for the first time. There’s something good (comforting/inspiring/affirming?) about knowing that I’m but one of 300,000+ people trying to write a book at the exact same moment.
I’ve picked a book I’ve been meaning to write for a while and am chipping away, one delirious session at a time.
There’s something in the right and left, back and forth repetition of my legs slogging over the bridge before my brain is even awake that makes magic happen. Or, if not magic, it makes something happen. When I get back and sit down at my desk, words come out, like water from a fountain. And, often, they are words that I can’t recognize. Most of the time, they seem to have been written by someone else. And later, looking back on the manuscript, I often cannot remember having written them at all.
But I really like this story that’s emerging, and I like squeezing an extra hour or so into the first part of the day. The black skies are beautiful, but not not as beautiful as the tiny, inadvertent night sounds of my otherwise slumbering household. The creaks of the floorboards are amplified when the light is gone. The hum of the fridge becomes a din. Iggy’s breathing is noisy as a waterfall.
There’s something in that negative space between dusk and dawn that’s deep and affirming. It’s my time to borrow someone else’s brain a while and tap into another mind that’s greater than my own.
I think it’s the dark that holds the power, the mystery, the ticket to that other place where books get written while we’re half asleep.
Imagine our surprise (and delight), when we got an email containing the image below from our friend Aaron yesterday.
Yes, it appears that Ten Thousand Stories is for sale in the gift shop at the Museum of Modern Art.
We were already excited just seeing the picture, but then Aaron went on to say that there was only one copy of the book remaining and that a number of people were having a loud and hostile argument over who would get to buy it. According to Aaron, he intervened and stopped what might otherwise have turned into a nasty, book-fueled riot. Right there in the MoMA gift shop.
There is a part of us that thinks Aaron was probably stretching the truth a bit, just to make us feel good about ourselves (he’s that kind of friend), but there’s another part of us that thinks it’s totally possible that consumer lust for our humble volume might instigate a fistfight.
Truly, could there be a finer compliment?
When I was a kid, I used to spend time with my mom in Boston. I’d walk from her house to Newbury Street, where I’d check out the offerings at FAO Schwarz and get a slice from Newbury Pizza (I haven’t been there in years, but I still remember it as the best pizza I ever ate). I never bought anything (except the pizza), but I could spend an entire afternoon walking that stretch of amazing stores, peering into windows, poring over merchandise. Never did I imagine that I would play a role in making something that would be sold there.
But over the weekend I got an email from our friend Chris, who just happened to be browsing at Trident Books (http://tridentbookscafe NULL.com/) when his eye noticed a familiar cover.
As exciting as it is to hold a copy of our book in the familiar surround of the studio, it’s more improbable still to think if it out there in the wilderness, being seen and maybe even looked at by total strangers.
But that is, after all, the fate of a book, to be judged by its cover.
I wonder what the little boys who happen to walk past it in the store might become one day.