I’ve been going to BEA for the past eight years, and Book Con for every year it’s existed… but this year’s Book Expo America and Book Con was extra special. I feel like a little recap is required this time around.
So. Here we go.
The great thing about conferences like these, is you’re able to sit down and talk to industry people in-real-life. Publishing is a personal business. Books and reading taste, it’s all subjective. Being able to talk about what you’re reading, what you love… that in-person experience doing that is so valuable. And I’m so thankful for all the editors who wanted to hangout while I was in town.
But the most emotional part of the entire event, was watching one of my authors do a signing at the convention, and get a copy of her book for the first time.
When Sangu Mandanna first pitched me her novel, I shared the query with some of my colleagues at P.S. Literary. I even told a few book nerd friends. I was absolutely freaking out. I’d loved Sangu’s debut novel, The Lost Girl, which came out with Balzer + Bray a few years ago. I was such a fan. I’d even blogged about her before.
The response from friends? “Calm down go read the book.” On the agency side of things? My coworker and pal Maria told me to “drop everything and read it.”
So I did.
I mean, of course I did. Not only did I adore Sangu as an author already, but her new book sounded incredible. A YA sci-fi / fantasy mashup space opera inspired by the Mahabharata?! WHAT?! And as I dove in, the prose was gorgeous. The story was heartbreaking. The characters and the world were diverse and lush. And it felt so very important.
Sangu pitched me on December 14th. I requested the full manuscript that day. I sent her a very professional Twitter DM six days later to tell her how much I loved the book. No, really. I did. I am a professional. Read more
THE GIRL AND THE GROVE will be out with Flux on May 8th, 2018!
Me and the team at Flux all agreed that the original title didn’t quite sound Young Adult, and the story isn’t entirely about the magic. It’s more about the character’s journey as she wrestles with identity. So I really love this new title. Thank you to Flux’s Mari Kesselring and Megan Naidl and my agent Dawn for the brainstorming session. I’m so happy with the result.
Anna Hecker queried me on my birthday last year, with one wonderful gift.
Her next novel.
It was wild to me, to discover that there weren’t any YA novels about EDM… Electronic Dance Music. Considering the current popularity of The Chainsmokers, the easy listening joy that is Owl City, and my absolute favorites, Daft Punk, how hasn’t this been explored?
Well. Enter Anna with When the Beat Drops.
In Anna’s latest novel, she introduces readers to Mira Alden, a teen girl who wants nothing more than to ace her audition to the prestigious Fulton Jazz Conservatory. See, she’s essentially a teen jazz prodigy, writing beautiful music with her best friends as a somewhat band-geek outcast. And then she falls into the EDM scene when her sister comes home… and discovers a surprise gift for DJing.
The book is Pitch Perfect and Save the Last Dance meets This Song Will Save Your Life, with a heavy splash of Daft Punk, as a teen girl has to choose between what she thought was always her passion, and the exciting new world she’s getting swept up in. There’s drugs, toxic relationships, and oh my, so much music.
I fell in love with this book hard, and loved pitching it around while listening to dance music. Some of my favorite YA contemporary reads are music-filled, like Ashley Poston’s The Sound of Us and We Own the Night, Charlotte Huang’s For the Record, Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments, and Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. I can’t wait to see Anna’s book on shelves and lists with these.
Sometimes, books start in the quirkiest of places.
Like in a Facebook conversation with a friend from back home.
Steve Clark, a storyteller from back in Philadelphia who I’ve seen numerous time at various First Person Arts events, sent me a message one fateful day. He’s one incredibly gifted guy, and my goodness, I look forward to seeing his book in stores one day. And when he brought up his friend, I was happy to take a look at the project, and recommend other agents for it, in the event it wasn’t for me.
Bassey and I exchanged really long emails discussing her work. The essays she’d written. Her poetry and time with Def Poetry Jam. The articles for places like The Root, Essence, XO Jane, and more. She wanted to put together a book that would help push her mission… erasing the stigma around mental health for women of color.
My wife often writes about mental health, on her blog Down to Utopia, so this was something really close to me. I absolutely had to be the agent who worked on this project with Bassey.
We spent a lot of time pouring over this project together. And the resulting book, Making Friends With Giants, is a memoir about living with mental illness, and my goodness, I can’t wait for it to be out there in the world, making a difference. It’s my hope people will pick up Bassey’s story, and feel less alone.
And I’m thrilled to say Making Friends With Giants will be published by Harper Perennial in 2018. Here are the details, from Publisher’s Marketplace:
Go ahead and follow Bassey, her editrix Erin Wicks, and Harper Perennial on Twitter, and wish them all the congrats. And here’s to making books that help make the world a better place.