Friday, March 26, 2010

My Fair Godmother, German style

I just got the German version of My Fair Godmother. They changed the title, of course. (The play on words doesn’t work in other languages.) Their title is Real Fairies, False Princes, which I have to say, is one cool title. I totally wish I had thought of it, and I’m sad it won’t work for the sequel. (Sorry, no princes, but there is a single king.)

When I turned in My Fair Godmother to Walker it was 111,000 words--over 400 pages. They thought this was too long and wanted me to cut nearly a 100 pages out. They did have a point. It needed to be trimmed. I clearly learned my lesson because this time when I wrote the sequel it was only 103,000 words. Yeah, I know, the first revision request I’m expecting is that I cut the text down—which I’m dreading because I already cut 7,000 words from it before I sent it in.

Granting three wishes just takes some time.

Anyway, so the interesting thing about the German version of My Fair Godmother is that it is 419 pages long. I feel strangely vindicated by this fact. I also wonder what is in those extra pages. Is German like Russian and it takes them more syllables to say the same thing? Did the translator go into more depth explaining things? Maybe the romance scenes are more romantic. It makes me wish I spoke German.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In all fairness, the response.

My husband woke me up this morning and said, "Roger Responded."

My first thought was, "Why don't I know when to keep my mouth shut?" Followed quickly by thoughts of the conversation I would have to have with my editor about how I had managed to offend somebody else in the book world. Luckily, Roger was very nice, here is his response:

Thanks for coming by, Janette. I am not picking on your book in particular or on the genre of commercial fiction in general, either, just pointing out that our attitude towards it (as evinced by the comments that follow yours) differs from the way we regard similar books for adults. When you say your editor asked you to write it, do you mean that you were presented with a concept and asked to write a book that would fit? To me, that is definitionally commercial fiction. That's not to say it "needs to go out with the trash" and I'm not sure how Amber inferred that from what I wrote. I read and enjoy tons of commercial fiction (those who know me know I can quote entire passages verbatim from the complete works of Judith Krantz).

But I think librarians who believe that it doesn't matter what people read need to examine that credo closely. First: Really? It doesn't matter what people read? People read all the time on their computers; does that count? Or do you mean it doesn't matter what people read so long as they read books? Why are books special? And so on. My point is that most defenders of the innate value of reading "anything" are in fact far more particular in their definitions than they admit.

And why is reading, beyond the kind of functional reading people need to do to survive in contemporary society, good? Why is recreational reading better than watching TV or playing a game or whatever else a non-reader might prefer to do? Why is reading "something" better than reading nothing? Is "at least they're reading" truly a powerful defense of the practice?

Okay, Janette here again. So of course I couldn't keep my mouth shut after that post. (After all, he did ask me a question and getting-kids-to-read is one of my favorite soap boxes.) Here is my response (unabridged with typos included--why don't I catch those before I hit post?)

Hi Roger,
Putnam likes me to present them with a bunch of plot ideas I could turn into novels and then they choose which one I write. That way, if they already have a novel coming out about a girl who decides to climb Mt. Everest, I don’t inadvertently write another one. This last time I sent in many well thought out and meaningful plot outlines and I also sent in a one line idea: A girl who doubles for someone famous.

That’s the one they choose. I quickly realized it was a very narrow plot idea. For example, if you’re writing a romance about a girl who doubles for a rock star (and there’s very few jobs a teenager could have that she would be famous enough to need a double) there is really only one possibility of who she can fall in love with: another famous rock star. If she fell in love with some guy from the lighting crew there would be no danger for her character, and thus no tension. He wouldn’t care that she wasn’t famous. He might even be glad. Nope, it has to be someone way out of her league so she has something to lose if the truth comes out.

The more I plotted this story out, the more I realized the plot points had already been determined in those original seven words.

I didn’t want the book to just be about fame and money, so I choose a character who is looking for a father who doesn’t know she exists. Her job as a double allows her to meet him. In my mind the story is all about family and the desire kids have to be loved and accepted by their parents. But that doesn’t sound nearly as cool on a flap copy.

As for getting kids to read and what they should read, I could talk for an hour on that subject since I have two reluctant reader sons. Keep in mind that 1 in 5 children have a reading disability. I myself am dyslexic. (Thank goodness for spell check!) When my oldest son was in 4th grade his teacher came to me (after the school refused to get him extra reading help) and she told me, “I’ve seen this happen a thousand times. Kids struggle with reading, then they fall behind in school, then they hate school, then they get in trouble and drop out of school. If you don’t want that to happen, you need to get your son reading help.”

I homeschooled him for fifth grade so we could concentrate just on reading.

My Harvard educated father was aghast that I let my son read Calvin and Hobbes and counted it as reading time, but comic books are a great thing for reluctant readers. The pictures and punch lines keep the kids there reading, and while they’re doing that, they’re learning important reading skills like vocabulary and visualization techniques.

I went from disdaining Captain Underpants to getting every book in the series. And when my son stayed up until 3:00 a.m. in the morning to read The Lightening Thief, I decided that if I ever meet Rick Riordan I’m going to kiss him. A lot. Security will have to pull me away.

This same son is reading The Iliad now. (Okay, not willingly, but he’s still reading it.) My philosophy is that kids need to learn that reading is fun first. It’s not like calculus homework that very few people do for enjoyment. Once we’ve taught kids that reading is fun, we open up a world of possibilities to them. Until they think it’s fun. It might as well be calculus homework.

Again, thank you for the part you play in helping kids connect with books.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

In which Horn Book disses commercial fiction and me by name

Okay, actually Horn Book only dissed the flap copy and premise of my book, which I don't feel too badly about since Tim, the Bow-Tied One, came up with both. And I rewrote the flap copy for the book and was surprised that the older version was on the ARCs. (Note to self, make sure it's not on the real books.)

But this is from the editor in chief at Horn Book's blog:

Not as rhetorical a question as you might have wished

From the promo blurb for My Double Life, by Janette Rallison:

You know how they say everyone has a twin somewhere in the world, a person chance has formed to be their mirror image? Well, mine happens to be rock star Kari Kingsley. How crazy is that?

Not crazy at all, when you, like I, have just spent two days combing through dozens (and dozens) of new YA novels, every other one of which seeming to encapsulate a formula of romance novel plus high-concept commercial hook plus glamorama cover art. In my day we called these paperbacks.

One of the more interesting of post-Harry Potter developments has been the emergence of commercial fiction for young people; that is, books designed to be purchased by kids/teens themselves, written in an undemanding style and with an alluring, quickly graspable premise. Airport books. Except if they were airport books, I wouldn't have to think twice about not reviewing them. And. There. Are. So. Many. And so many that seem to want desperately to be just like some other book that has already been a hit. Little Vampire Women, I'm looking at you.

Okay, now it's Janette typing again.

My first reaction when I read this was to laugh and go write Little Vampire Women. (You know somebody is going to do it, and it will be a bestseller.) But it did get me thinking about the whole issue. Then today I went back to reread the blog and noticed that somebody had left a scathing anonymous comment so I figured I had better leave a comment because otherwise everyone would think I was the anonymous commenter. Here is my comment:

Hi Roger,
To tell you the truth, when my editor asked me to write this book, I had some similar thoughts to yours and joked with him more than once that we should call the book: Yes, Hannah Montana Fans, This Book is for You!

But really, there are no new plots, just new characters to live in them. I asked myself what elements I could add to this much used Prince and the Pauper plot to make it meaningful. Trust me, the issues in the book do run deeper than the flap copy suggests.

As far as the benefits of commercial fiction go, I'll just say this: I've had teenagers tell me they didn't like reading until they started reading my books. I had two reluctant reader sons who learned that reading could be fun by reading Captain Underpants. Whatever works! Now they're reading the classics.

And thank you, Roger, for all you do to bring the wonderful world of reading to kids too!

Now I think I'll sit down and start writing that Little Vampire Women book you mentioned. It's going to be gold!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Double Life from youngest daughter's point of view

My youngest daughter is still at that point where she reads with Mom and Dad listening to help her with the big words. While we were driving to visit cousins, I thought I would make good use of time and have her read to me from the beginning of the book. Here is the first paragraph of the book: (Which reminds me, as soon as I get someone to update my website, the first three chapters will be on my website along with extra scenes not in the book.)

I didn’t want to write this. Really, there’s a lot that’s happened in the last few months that I’d rather forget. But Mom says I need to have an autobiography on hand, that I need to record all the facts, in case someone writes a trashy tell-all book about me. Mom also told me I should describe her as ten pounds thinner, looking like a fashion model, and being an immaculate housekeeper. So here’s the disclaimer: Whatever else you might think about the events in this story, please keep in mind that my mom is gorgeous and our bathrooms were always clean.

My daughter read the first sentence, I didn’t want to write this, and asked, "Is this book about you?"

"No," I said. "In novels sometimes authors pretend to be the main character."

My daughter thought about this for a moment. "So you really did want to write this book?"

"No, actually I didn't want to write the book. It was my editor's idea. I wanted to write a fantasy book about wizards."

This seemed to just confuse my daughter about the whole real-not real aspect of the book. She read through the rest of the paragraph until she came to the last sentence: Whatever else you might think about the events in this story, please keep in mind that my mom is gorgeous and our bathrooms were always clean.
"Oh," she said, understanding dawning over her, "This book is pretend. Our bathrooms aren't always clean."

And that in a nutshell is the difference between fiction and nonfiction.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tucson Book Festival March 13-14

If any of you are in the area, I hope you'll stop by and see me at the Tucson Book Festival so it looks like I have fans. (I like to pretend, often bribing near strangers into filling this role.)

My schedule for Saturday, March 13:

1:00-2:00 - Workshop on writing
2:00-2:30, autographing
4:00-4:30 - Teen Author Lounge

You can find out about the other 400 authors attending by checking out the website:

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Career Day

Yesterday my daughter told me her school was having a dress-in-the-career-you're going-to-have day. She couldn't decide whether to go as an artist, a crazy cat lady, or an editor.

"What do editors wear?" she asked.
"Bow ties," I said.
"What do the girl editors wear?" she asked.
"Probably business casual," I told her.
She wasn't thrilled with this answer. I have some of those outfits but she didn't want to go to school wearing my "old lady" clothes. "No one will know what I'm supposed to be," she said.

I thought up the perfect solution for her. She went to school with a red pen tucked behind her ear(I told her to use it liberally)and a stack of rejection letters to hand out.

"You don't have to wait for people to submit to you," I said, "just go up and tell random people that you think they have no talent."

Here is what her rejection letter said:

Dear Hopeful Writer,
Thank you for letting us consider your manuscript. After careful deliberation (we looked at it for several seconds) we have decided that your work doesn’t meet our stringent standards. (We all laughed ourselves silly.) We wish you all the best in your writing career. (Give up now and get a job at Burger King.)

The editor

When my daughter came home from school, I asked her if she handed out all the rejection slips.

"Yeah," she said. "And I wished I'd brought more to give out."

Yep, she nailed being an editor.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010 has chosen the winner

I love the website because it boasts that it is truly random. As opposed to all those other things in life that are only pseudo-random. (Like, say, certain people's editorial comments.) The first sentence on the site says:

Perhaps you have wondered how predictable machines like computers can generate randomness.

Actually, no, I have never wondered that. I generally take randomness for granted.

But not today when I need a number. And today the random number generator chose Brenda as the winner.

You know the drill, Brenda. Send me your address at jrallisonfans at yahoo dot com and I'll send you your book.

And for another chance to win an ARC of My Double Life, supposedly one is being given away on the giveaway page. (I myself haven't figured out how to get to the giveaway page so I haven't actually checked this out, but hopefully it's there.)