Big news!

Well, you guys, I have some big news… I signed a contract with a literary agent!
I’m not sure if I talked about it much here, but about one year ago I started writing children’s picture books. Reading so many of them with Gabby, I always had an itch to write some myself. Of course, me being me, I wanted to dive in head first and really push to see how far I could go with it. I signed up for a society of children’s books authors and illustrators, attended some events for picture books writers, and even started my own picture book critique group in Santa Barbara! I’ve written quite a few manuscripts by now (not all of them winners), took a lot of input from my critique group (we meet monthly), and slowly created 2 polished manuscripts that I felt could be sold to publishers.
Now, a few publishing houses accept unsolicited manuscripts, meaning that anyone with a written story can submit it for consideration. In that case, your manuscript ends up in what they lovingly call the “slush pile.” The other, more traditional option is to get a literary agent. Your agent has a deep knowledge of the industry, can often help you further polish your manuscript, and knows exactly which editor at which publishing house would like your story so your story doesn’t end up in a slush pile. They also help you negotiate the best possible contract, because that’s how they get paid. They take a percentage of the money the publisher pays you to buy the rights to the manuscript.

Unfortunately, finding an agent is just as hard as finding a publisher! Agents have their own slush piles too, and that’s exactly where I sent mine. Fortunately, I eventually received a reply from someone who was interested! She liked my stories but wanted to see some changes before offering to represent me. That’s called “revise & resubmit”. Some people call that the “slow no”, but it worked out in my case. I put in a little more work to apply the suggestions she made and got an offer from them to represent me!.
Slowing things down a bit, my agent gave me a contract that I felt wasn’t entirely as thorough as I wanted. There was some additional procedures I wanted to see included to fully protect myself. I even got an entertainment lawyer to review the contract and make the changes I wanted. Unfortunately, the agency rejected most of the changes. That left me one choice: accept the contract anyway, or step away.
I thought about it a lot. In the end, the agency is a well-established one with a long history of successful authors represented by them. I contacted a couple of them, who said they were very happy. I asked around in the children’s books writer & illustrator society message boards, and heard good things about this agency again. So I decided to take a leap of fate and trust that they wouldn’t ruin their 40-year business just to screw me over for a minimal amount of money. It’s not like I’m a super famous and super wealthy author anyway. So I sent the signed contract in the mail last week!
The agent does have a few more changes for me to do before she feels the manuscripts will be ready to start pitching to publishers. I get to look forward to a little extra work soon, but then we’ll have to wait and see if my agent can sell my manuscripts quickly. Or at all. Meanwhile I’ll work on more manuscripts, and continue to hope I will be able to read my kids a book with my name on it before they outgrow picture books!
Gabby has been so sweet about all of this. At first I wasn’t telling her about it at all, but then I started telling her about my journey trying to find an agent and how long it would take for us to have a physical book in our hands even if my agent would sold one of my manuscripts tomorrow. I still have to make changes, have my agent sell it, have a publisher assign it an editor, an illustrator, a book designer, a copy editor, etc, and for all of those people to do their jobs. But Gabby is SUPER excited anyway at the idea of getting a book with mom’s name on it. She just lights up at the idea with such amazement, as if having a picture book with my name of it made me some kind of superstar. I like the way she thinks!

Advertisements

First days of Kindergarten

Gabby had her first two days of kindergarten! I can’t say it’s going super smoothly…
She was super excited about going to a new school. We arrived 10 minutes before the bell and I gave her a kiss and a hug and she happily ran off to the playground. But when I turned around, I noticed all the parents were sticking around, so I figured maybe I should stick around too. I didn’t want her to be sad because she was the only one with a parent not present, and I thought things might get really crowded and chaotic for her to handle alone. And I was totally right. The bell rang and the K teachers asked the kids to line up. With a crowd of parents around, it was a mess. It was loud, and it was impossible to spot the teachers. And then Gabby started crying. And I totally get it. It was overwhelming. I wish they would have not allowed any parents passed the fence, so that the kids wouldn’t have been so crowded and lost.
But she survived, including the afterschool program at another location and the van that picked her up after school to bring her there.

Today I saw fewer parents around and that made me really relieved. I told her I would kiss and and hug her and leave right away, so that hopefully more parents would follow my lead and do the same. She was totally cool with it, and I left her happy and smiling.

Then at 10:30 I get a call saying that the school doesn’t allow flip flops so they told Gabby she couldn’t go play on the playground, and she’d been crying and throwing tantrums for an hour in the school office. She was calmer and returning to class by the time I got their voicemail and returned the call, but I still went to school right away to bring her running shoes so she would be allowed to play during lunch.

While I was there, her teacher cornered me and told me that Gabby has been pushing her limits, pretty much doing the exact opposite of what the teacher tells her, and throwing tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. The teacher asked that I please help out by talking to Gabby about listening to the teacher and doing things the first time she’s asked. Well, yeah, we’ve been working on that for 5 years. She’s a kid, come on. Of course, she’s going to test the limits in a new environment and new authority figures. But I agreed politely, because I know Gabby’s extra talented at pushing everyone’s buttons.

After thinking about it, the shoe debacle makes me a little upset. Why couldn’t they just let her play outside with everyone while they asked me to bring new shoes right away? It seems crazy to have such a high punishment (not playing on the playground with everyone!) for a wardrobe decision she obviously can’t fix. It’s not like she can go in timeout and think about what she did. It’s just a rule we didn’t know. About shoes. She didn’t do anything wrong. Punish me by making me drive to school in the middle of my work day, yes, for not remembering that one rule from a whole booklet we were given 6 months ago. But don’t punish her. Argh!

So I don’t know. I’m sure Gabby’s not handling the transition perfectly, but I’m a little miffed about how they handled the shoe thing. And a little miffed they are so quick to talk about behavior problems about my child, when she’s only on day 2 of this HUGE transition. Cut her some slack! Double argh.

But she sure looks cute and innocent, doesn’t she?! 🙂

   

 

San Diego

We went through a period where Gabby was just screaming and screaming and screaming every morning about getting ready for school. So we started a reward system where she could earn a pompom if she got ready for school on time without her screaming or us having to yell at her. We store the pompoms in a vase shaped like an owl, and we said she could earn more pompoms by making “wise owl decisions”… Basically just being extra nice and use manners and whatnot.

Well she filled her pompom jar full of wise owl decisions! It was kinda big and we go through periods where we forget to give her some, so it took a while to fill. I asked her if she wanted to travel somewhere as a reward (I’d been meaning to take her out anyway) and she wanted to go to San Diego to visit uncle Philippe! We waited a few weeks because we’ve been having heat waves, but finally we decided to go this weekend as a last celebration before Kindergarten starts this week. School starts Wednesday and we don’t have daycare for her Monday and Tuesday so I asked for time off work. Perfect timing!

Gabby and I went to legoland yesterday, then a science center in Balboa Park with Philippe today. We leave tomorrow morning, with a stop at the science center in LA on the way home to meet some friends! Tuesday we will relax, and there’s an event at her new school so we’ll do that.

   
                 

There’s a lot of rides at Legoland and, as bold and confident and usually fearless as Gabby is, the girl is terrified of roller coasters. Or at least she was. I figured maybe she wouldn’t be so scared anymore since it’s been such a long time since we last tried. She was a little hesitant, but I convinced her to try at least one, and if she didn’t like it we wouldn’t do anymore at all. I picked the smallest of the legit roller coasters that were not for toddlers. It went pretty fast, with a few twists and a small drop. She spent the whole ride screaming “I HAAAAATE THIS!!!!” Poor thing, I probably scarred her for life! At least she was brave enough to try, and she didn’t cry after or anything. I would have never pushed her if she really had not wanted wanted to go, I think she was scared but curious. Well she wasn’t curious after! She was laughing about it after the fact, though, but definitively would not go on more! We found some other things to do. Boat rides on lazy rivers, things like that. To my surprise, she spent an insane amount of time looking at the mini land area with cities built out of Legos.

Today at the science center, there was a science festival. It was fun, but we spent most of the time with building blocks!  

 

I was terrified Gabby would accidentally knock  down that random guy’s tower on the right!   

Then I got in on the fun too. Mine on the right, Philippe’s on the left.  

More fun to come, but for today we are done and tired!

Calpurnia’s Axioms

We are so excited that Callie is talking a lot now. She can use two word sentences quite comfortably, and sometimes more.

I was explaining to her that if she goes on the potty, we will give her candy. She ran to the bathroom yelling “Go potty, get candy! Go potty, get candy!” It’s almost like she was repeating it to herself so she wouldn’t forget what she was doing in the way there! Unfortunately, the whole principle of the potty still evades her, but at least she’s got the language part down!

We are constantly reminding Gabby “it’s my turn to talk” otherwise she would keep going all day long and never listen to anyone. Now Callie says it too, “my turn talk!” She wants to be heard too!

Sweetness

I picked up the girls at school yesterday, and Gabby told me, “Mom, I made you something. It was Fathers’ Day last weekend and Papa got a lot of things and I thought you might be sad because you didn’t get anything, so I made you a drawing.”

Gah, that child can be so frustrating sometimes, but it melts my heart how sweet and considerate she can also be!

Another example from a couple of weeks ago, when we were driving to my parents’ house to see my grandma who was visiting from Canada. I was telling Gabby about how great-grandma would be there and then she replied, “I had another great-grandma who died, I miss her so dearly in my heart.”

Seriously, kid, tugging the heartstrings.

Gabrielle’s Axioms

Driving home, Chris gets off the freeway early to take the back roads.

Gabby: “WAIT WHY ARE YOU GETTING OFF HERE?!”
Me: “You know, it’s funny you’re yelling at Papa for taking the road you usually yell at me for not taking. I’m gonna start thinking you just like yelling.”

Gabby, nodding: “I do.”

At least she’s honest.

Illness May

Happy weekend! This week we were able to work a normal 5-day work week for the first time in a LONG time. No one had to work from home due to illness or take vacation time to care for a sick kid. I can’t remember the last time that happened. We’ve all been so sick with some variation of a cold-turned-infection that prior to this week, I had been in the office about 5 days in three weeks. It was getting kind of ridiculous. Callie had an ear infection that antibiotics couldn’t budge, Gabby turned up in fever every few days, and my cold turned into a month-long battle with sinus infection, bronchitis, topped with a bladder infection. RIDICULOUS.

Somehow we all made it into June.

Callie’s transition to preschool went smoothly. She did full days from the start without any issues. On the first couple of days, whenever she was feeling sad, the teachers gave her food and that always fixed the problem. A girl after my own heart 🙂

Callie did end up crying at drop-off in the morning for the first week, which sucked for me because she never cried at drop-off at daycare. It was short-lived though, because this week she did not cry and eventually she was too busy to even bother waving goodbye. It feels like we’re back to normal!

The biggest problem has been Gabby, who keeps asking her teachers if she can go hang out in the baby room to see Callie! Oh well, she might as well enjoy it while they are in the same place… it won’t be for long!!

Also, look who lost her first tooth! It had been wiggly for a while, and yesterday it fell out at school. She was excited to tell us her story. “Let me tell you how it all happened. I was sitting in class and all of a sudden, I felt a rock in my mouth. But it wasn’t a rock, it was my tooth!” I can just imagine how much she excited and amused she was about this, I’m sure class was completely derailed for the day. She tends to commandeer the classroom anyway.

  

Photo dump

We’ve been going to the high school sometimes when we finish dinner early and have a lot of time before bedtime. Get the kids walking and running before bed, tire them out! Gabby really enjoys the basketball court, and she can even make some baskets!  

  

 

Also, Gabby is just way too cute, no matter what crazy faces she makes.   

     

Changes

Well, Gabby turned 5 yesterday, but that’s not the only big thing happening around here… Today was Callie’s last day of daycare! 

I love the lady who watched Gabby and Callie when they were young, but we are so happy that Callie is starting preschool. Something about it just feels right. She is so happy at preschool when when I drop off Gabby in the morning. This so more space, more rooms, more yard activities, more toys, more kids, more teachers. We think she’s so ready for that. We didn’t start Gabby at the preschool until she was over 2 and that seemed right for her at that time, I think Gabby benefited from being in a smaller environment for longer since she’s so demanding and easily overwhelmed. But Callie’s a different child (like, REALLY different!) and we think this is the right time for her. She’s ready to take on more!

Plus, Gabby is super excited to have Callie be in school with her! She’s been asking every day for months if Callie can stay at school today. Not yet, but soon!

Tomorrow is Gabby’s preschool graduation! She’ll keep going to preschool through the summer until kindergarten starts, so as a celebration, it’s a little anticlimactic. She has to go right back to preschool the following Monday! This is not the end of preschool for her yet, but at least it’s a fun party.

As for me, I have an agent who is interested in representing me and my “career” as a picture book author! Career, ha! Right. Well, second career, maybe. Or maybe with my GeekMom writing, I should consider the picture book writing my third career? 

Anyway. She is in an agency specializing in children’s books, and they seem legit with a lot of experience and a good track record of award-winning authors. She was really excited to find someone who writes about girls in STEM, which is mostly what I write about, so this is great! She had some advice on changes to do to my stories before she submits them to her agency for approval to represent me, like reducing word count and such, so I am entering a stage called “R&R”… Revise and Resubmit. It’s basically a “maybe.” Not as good as a yes, but it’s not a no! She sounded really positive about the outcome and she’s invested in working with me through the revision process until we both feel they are perfect to submit to her team. So things are looking good! I told her to give me a month for the revisions, it’ll be a busy month!