A couple of months ago I spent the most enjoyable afternoon at Follett Corporation in McHenry, talking to 30-40 engaged, polite, wonderful women about Zenn Diagram. It was seriously the most fun I've had promoting my book. Teens are amazing, but sometimes they are bored, disinterested, afraid to ask questions, sleepy, too cool to laugh at jokes made by a middle-aged woman, etc. They can be a tough crowd. But these women at Follett were absolutely lovely.
And right before our lunch together, I did an interview -- a VIDEO interview -- which was terrifying. But the woman who interviewed me (Shoot, I can't remember her name! Maybe it was Laurie?) was so calming and interested and interesting that I was put right at ease. Anyway, here is that interview. I don't really enjoy watching or listening to myself, but if you'd like to hear more about my writing journey, Zenn Diagram, or see my very first books from 1980, take a peek.
Follett Behind the Books interview
I can't believe it has taken me nearly three months to blog about Zenn Diagram's release. I feel like I've been walking around in a haze for the past year, so busy with my day job and the college search process and just life in general that I haven't had much time to reflect about what has actually happened. The experience has been surreal, in both good and not-so-good ways.
Mainly, I'm grateful and amazed that this lifelong dream has finally come true. Walking into a book store and seeing ZENN DIAGRAM on the shelf? Crazy. I'm forever thankful to my former agent (Bethany Buck) for taking a chance on me, to everyone at Kids Can Press/KCP Loft for seeing something in my book and bringing it into the world so beautifully, especially my editor Kate Egan, who is cool and amazing in all the ways. I'm honored and humbled to have such dear friends and family, who have supported me and bought my book and given me generous and thoughtful feedback. I will never forget the euphoric feeling the night of my book release, which I owe to everyone who came to my signing and release party, to the friends who made signs and t-shirts and special cocktails to honor the occasion. And to those who weren't there but sent messages of support and love. You all are seriously the best.
Knowing that hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people are now reading my words is both super cool and utterly terrifying. I've gotten some great reviews that make my day. They just get me, get my book, get what I was attempting to do. Engaging with "fans" has been so much fun -- one of the very best parts of the whole experience. But I've also gotten some reviews that make me sad, angry, and doubtful that my book has any merit. They hate my book, seemingly hate me, and leave me feeling like complete shit. It's a weird roller coaster of emotions, and I haven't yet thickened up my skin so that the negative reviews roll off me (or if that is impossible, at least I need to learn NOT to read them at all).
Likewise, this past year has been simultaneously one of the best and worst of my life, full of ups and downs that leave me feeling constantly unsettled. I went back to work full time in January of 2016 after 17 years of working only 2-3 days a week, and promptly sold my book 3 weeks later. I loved my part-time schedule. And it's not even a case where I didn't know what I had until it was gone -- I knew exactly how lucky I was and appreciated every bit of it for those 17 years. I know that in the real world most people work full time and that I shouldn't complain, but I seriously can't explain how much I miss those two days off every week. For writing, sure, but also for grocery shopping and doctor's appointments and exercise and just all the stuff that I now have to do in the evenings and on weekends. It has been a huge adjustment that I'm still trying to make peace with. And my writing time has taken a serious hit.
Then, six months ago my dear friend Nancy, who has always cheered me on and supported my writing dreams, passed away a few months before my book was released. The hole she left has been impossible to fill and sometimes, like last night (after I'd had a few drinks with friends to honor her), I am left breathless when I remember she really is gone. Especially when I'm in the presence of something she loved, like her family, or nature, or children, or art. Last night I was teary-eyed walking home from the local pub, across the river that she adored, down the streets of our beloved neighborhood, past her house. Thunder rolled in the distance and I dodged sporadic rain drops. The rum buckets I drank combined with missing her, and I fought back tears most of the way home. Her absence is a melancholy cloud over everything.
Now, my daughter is getting ready to head off across the country to college and, despite the fact that I've always handled the changing stages of my kids' lives pretty well, this one is throwing me for a loop. I can't imagine not having her in our house, not seeing her for months at a time. I'm excited for her and all the amazing experiences she will have, but I feel lost and sad.
There are other things -- minor health issues, hot flashes, college financing, etc. -- that have made this year a challenging one. But I keep reminding myself that I have accomplished something big, that my book will leave a permanent mark that I was here. That I did what I set out to do. That I didn't give up.
So, onward to the next. The next stage, the next book, the next agent, the next challenge. Thank you, all of you, for your part in making my dream come true.
So. We're getting close to pub date. REALLY close. And everyone is asking me if I'm excited because, you know, lifelong dream and all that. And I AM! I am SUPER excited! But I have to tell you that the excitement is tempered a bit by anxiety, because that's the kind of person I can be sometimes. I am absolutely thrilled my dream is coming true, but part of my dream is not just to get published, but to be able to someday, down the road (probably WAY down the road) make a living from writing. And how this book performs out in the world matters because the better it does, the closer I am to that next dream.
I know, I know. Savor the moment. Appreciate the journey. Baby steps. I know. I am so grateful to be where I am. I know what it's like to struggle and hope and think "If I could just get a book published, I'll be happy." But the truth is, I've been baby stepping for 25 years and this feels BIG, you guys. Just like when I wrote the darn book and started querying, it feels like it's now-or-never, shit-or-get-off-the-pot big. Spending the next 25 years baby stepping some more isn't exactly a super appealing option.
I'm also a bit anxious because I don't really enjoy being the center of attention out in public. I tend to be awkward and sweaty and chatty-to-hide-my-nerves. You know the type. An introvert trying to be extroverted is exhausting (for everyone involved!). Being onstage for even a few moments of local neighborhood fame is not really my thing. (Unless it's singing and dancing to 80s music when I've had a few cocktails. Then I'm totally fine with attention. Then, I'm all "Look at me! I'm the best. Singer. EVER" Which, trust me, I am NOT.) So this temporary focus on ME is a bit weird and uncomfortable.
So that's how I'm feeling. Excited. Sweaty. Grateful. Nervous. Happy. Tense. Exhausted. Energized. Pretty much all of the emotions.
Hang in there with me, friends. I'm a bit of a mess and need you now more than ever!
I figured I should check in here from time to time. You know, just to clear out the cobwebs. *cough cough* (Wow. It's a bit dusty.)
Friends, D-Day is getting very close. We are LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY from the release of ZENN DIAGRAM. I'm freaking out a little. Well, more than a little. It's been weird to have people reading and reviewing it, but it's going to be REALLY weird when all my friends and family start reading! Talk about being in a vulnerable and slightly uncomfortable spot! But ... this is what I have always wanted, so time to put my big girl pants on and suck it up!
I've gotten some really nice reviews from some major, national publications. You can check a few of them out on the ZENN DIAGRAM page. I've also got some reviews on Goodreads that leave me feeling frustrated and sad. I'm not supposed to read those. Everyone tells me not to. But sometimes I can't help it. This past weekend someone left a review that said she didn't like the "Insta-love" relationship between Zenn and Eva. Insta-love. I know what that is because I HATE it. It's when two characters fall in love, practically at first sight, and their relationship develops at light speed, often with no real explanation of why they are in love other than they are both (usually) exceptionally hot. Because I hate it so much, I thought I was particularly careful in developing Zenn and Eva's relationship to be about more than just a physical attraction. (Is there a physical attraction there? Sure. But I'd like to think there is more than that.) I won't get into specifics because I don't want to give away any spoilers, but after you read the book, let me know if you think it is insta-love. God, I hope not.
I recently saw a Tweet from a guy who said not to fret about reviews, because ... well ... here. You can read why yourself. It's pretty funny. So I'm going to try to think of those bad reviews as people who were disappointed that my book wasn't a 36-pack of Jimmy Deans sausage.
Thank you all for following along on my journey -- sorry I've been so spotty about checking in here. Follow me on Twitter (@wendyjobrant), Instagram (@wendyjobrant), or Facebook (/zenndiagram) for more regular updates!
If this little video doesn't make the teenage girl inside of you want to curl up in a cozy nook with a good book, I don't know what will. Kids Can Press put together a super sweet trailer introducing their new Young Adult Imprint, KCP Loft, and the four books they will publish this Spring. I think it's pretty cool how they gave a little wink/nod in the video to details from the books. Like, for Zenn Diagram, they have the book sitting by paint brushes and Zenn is an artist. Awww!
Anyway, I'm still working on getting my Advance Reading Copies out to various educators, bloggers, librarians, and friends. I had teacher conferences this week and gave a couple copies to my kids' English teachers. That felt kind of scary! Like, handing it over and saying, "Here ... I wrote this. Um ... hope you like it?" If you know of someone who has some influence in the teenage reading world, give me a shout and I'll try to get you a copy. If you've read it already and want to write me a review, head on over to Good Reads. I'm hovering at a 4 star rating right now, which is awesome, but I'd love to hear what more people think! Just ... be honest but gentle. :-)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I sure have so much to be thankful for this year.
My 15-year-old son has asked if a few of his friends could read my book, so he's been circulating a couple of copies. While it's pretty cool to think that people -- especially teenagers -- are reading it, it's also really nerve wracking. What if they hate it? What if they lose respect for me and think I'm a big dork? What if I got the voice all wrong? So many doubts run through my mind.
I've read, over and over again, that writers should write what they want to write and then let it go and move on to the next thing. To not let bad reviews or negative comments get under their skin. And I get that in theory. But even this week someone commented on Good Reads that my book read like a debut novel and, despite the fact that the reviewer liked it overall, I let that hurt my feelings. But the thing is: this IS my debut novel! I've got to get over myself. Everyone has different tastes and my book, my writing, my thoughts will not be everyone's cup of tea.
That being said, it's so cool when people actually like what I've written. Nathan's girlfriend, Ashley, wrote me this letter after finishing Zenn Diagram:
Hi! So, I read your book and I loved it! It was so well written. I actually laughed out loud a lot and I love the way you wrote your characters. The plot twist completely caught me off guard and threw me for a loop. I couldn't put it down when I started reading it. It was so witty and clever. Thank you so much for sharing this novel with me and letting me read it! I am so excited for you.
Gave me a boost of confidence right when I needed it. Thanks, Ashley!
You know how sometimes people cry when they see their babies for the first time? They're so overcome with emotion that they just can't help themselves? Well, let me tell you: Babies got NOTHIN' on your first book. (I'm kidding, of course. Well, sort of. Actually, I'm not kidding. Birthing this baby involved a much longer gestation period and just as much pain.) So, yeah. I definitely cried a little when I held this bundle of joy for the first time. When you have a dream for nearly 40 years and it finally comes true, it definitely warrants some joyful tears!
I now have Advance Reading Copies (aka ARCs or galleys) in my grubby not-so-little hands. They are beautiful. I can't stop carrying one around with me and staring at it lovingly. I'm actually disgusting myself a little -- I'm like one of those newly-in-love couples that is always gazing into each others' eyes.
I've had to part with a few of them. That is their purpose -- to go out into the world and make people fall in love with them. Like some teeny bopper Disney channel heartthrob. So I've had to give a few away and will gladly give away more. Are you an educator? A librarian? A book blogger? Contact me and let me know if you are interested and I'll make sure you get one. Just take good care of my babies. :-) And if you happen to be on GoodReads and want to write a review, have at it!
Just for fun, here are links to just a few little blog bits I've found out in the world:
I'm not sure anything has made this process feel more real than seeing my cover for the first time. I had so much trepidation, so much anxiety about it. What if it wasn't right? What if I hated it? My kids said that if it featured a teenage couple in near-kiss pose, they'd disown me. Can't say that I'd blame them.
So you can imagine when I got the email from the publisher presenting the cover ... I literally held my breath as I opened it.
And you guys. IT WAS PERFECT. Seriously. I'm not sure I could love it any more than I do. The little cover I made for myself when I was writing ZENN DIAGRAM is eerily similar to my actual cover -- even the font! (And you guys -- the font is called MATHLETE. And the book is about a math nerd! AAAHHHH! Perfect!) Anyway, I LOVE the cover, but I had to keep it on the down low until they said I could reveal it and now I can!
Notice a few of the little details that make it so great. The book is about Eva Walker, who is a math genius. And look! There are math equations in the background! And graph paper! And her love interest's name is Zenn, so the title is a play on Venn diagram, which is one of those graphs of overlapping circles that show what sets of data have in common. And since this is a romance, why not a HEART Venn diagram?! Because isn't that what all love stories are: the intersection of where two people's stories overlap?
See what I mean? It's perfect on so many levels. And I don't have the back cover to show you yet, but it's just as cute. Remember how you used to doodle the name of your crush on your brown paper bag book covers in high school? (I still doodle now, in meetings when I'm exceptionally bored.) The back cover has that kind of stuff. It's adorable.
Oh, and one more thing: I am a total sucker for symmetry. I just ... can't with random messiness. And this cover is a work of symmetrical art. Even my name is symmetrical.
Anyway, I'll let you feast your eyes on this beauty. I hope you love it, but even if you don't, I love it enough for the both of us!
I know. I KNOW. I really am not very good at this. My little blog has suffered since I've basically switched my attention over to Facebook, where it is a bit easier and quicker to post updates (follow my Zenn Diagram page HERE). But I thought I'd do a quick check-in so this place doesn't become completely obsolete. I am paying for the domain name, after all...
So ... Where did we leave off? Oh, right! Back in April, I announced that my book was being published by the awesome new teen imprint at Kids Can Press (KCP Loft) and that my editor is the AMAZING Kate Egan (editor of the Hunger Games series!)! Since then, I've been lucky enough to work with Kate on editing my story (she really is a magician, I tell you), as well as copy editing, proofreading, etc. Basically, this mostly involves me reading and rereading it a bunch of times and tweaking, fine tuning, looking for errors/typos, etc. Tedious work, but I kind of love that sort of thing. Especially if it means I'm a step closer to my book becoming a reality.
I've had my author photo taken (thank you Cindy Kennedy!), which was horrible and wonderful and completely out of my comfort zone. As unphotogenic as I am, Cindy worked her miracles and we actually had a few options. I don't know how models do it, you guys. Seriously. Soooo awkward for me.
And you guys -- I have seen my cover/book jacket, and it is amazing. AMAZING! Guh! I can't share it just yet, but I can tell you that I absolutely LOVE it. It is exactly what I pictured when I dreamed of what my book might look like from the start. Seriously, I am so, so very thrilled and can't wait to show you!
Next steps: I believe my book (along with the other three that KCP is publishing in the spring: Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi, Textrovert by Lindsey Summers, and Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff Norton) is shipping off to the printer any day now, and Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) will be out in October sometime. That is the moment I really might cry -- when I hold an actual book with my name on the cover. I get a little woozy just thinking about it.
ARCs are kind of the book preview -- an early version that the publisher sends out to librarians and booksellers and bloggers to try to get people to read it, love it, and share it. They are soft cover versions but they'll look pretty much like the real thing. KCP Loft people will be taking these babies to various conferences and talking them up to people in the know. I don't know about you, but that's enough to make me feel more than a little bit anxious.
So, yeah. The anxiety is kicking in a little bit, now. What if no one likes it? What if I only sell a handful of copies to friends and family? What if this is my only shot? But more than the anxiety is the excitement: What if ... what if I get to write and publish more books? What if people connect with my story and my characters? What if I inspire someone else to follow their dream? Those are the "what ifs" I prefer to think about.
I will try to get over here and post periodic updates, but follow me on Facebook to make sure you don't miss any big news. I'm at 175 followers and would LOVE to get to 200 this month! A girl can dream, right? (I'm hoping it will be amusing someday to look back and read that I once had only 175 followers.)
And thank you, as always, for all of your support -- it truly means so much to me.
You guys. YOU GUYS! I can finally officially announce my huge news! This is AMAZING!!! My book is in a press release! And my editor is KATE EGAN, who edited The Hunger Games series (among other things)! Totally a dream come true! So excited to have this opportunity to work with KCP Loft!
Read on for more details:
Kids Can Press Announces New Young Adult Imprint:
Powerhouse YA editor Kate Egan joins KCP Loft as Editorial Director at Large. Imprint launches in 2017 with four fiction titles.
For immediate release
April 11, 2016, Toronto — Corus Entertainment’s Kids Can Press (KCP), the award-winning publisher of over 700 books for children, whose history spans over 40 years, announced today a new imprint, KCP Loft, which will focus entirely on Young Adult (YA) fiction and nonfiction, with respected editor Kate Egan at the helm as Editorial Director at Large.
Geared to readers 14 and up with crossover appeal to adult readers, KCP Loft explores the first loves and deep friendships, the heartbreak and life-altering crossroads on the road to adulthood. Engrossing, shareable, contemporary and smart, these are the must-haves for readers hungry for the next world to get lost in.
KCP Loft will release four novels in 2017, including Zenn Diagram from debut, Chicago-area novelist Wendy Brant;Textrovert, based on Lindsey Summers’s wildly popular Wattpad novel; Just a Normal Tuesday by Daytime Emmy Award–winning writer and producer Kim Turrisi; and Keeping the Beat, originally published as Drummer Girl to critical acclaim in the UK, from screenwriter and journalist Bridget Tyler and Canadian author and producer Jeff Norton.
“We are thrilled that our imprint will be expertly curated by Kate Egan,” said Lisa Lyons Johnston, President of Kids Can Press. “One of the genre’s most highly regarded editors, Kate has a 20-year publishing track record and is notable for her YA experience, including her work on the phenomenal Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Kate has already brought her considerable knowledge, talent and energy to Loft, and we look forward to the fresh voices she’ll discover.”
“I’m so excited to be working with Lisa and her team to build a new list from the ground up,” added Egan. “Opportunities like this don’t come around very often, especially from a publisher with the stature of Kids Can Press and a parent company like Corus that shares and supports our vision for a dynamic list with the potential to grow beyond books.”
Reporting to KCP President Lisa Lyons Johnston, Egan will make acquisitions decisions in collaboration with an advisory panel of Kids Can Press and Corus team members and serve as editor on all Loft titles. The KCP Loft team has the distinct advantage of being able to work with Corus colleagues to expand and develop projects from page to screen and vice versa. In some instances, books will be considered for Corus-affiliated TV or web programming, and appropriate broadcast content will be considered for book adaptations.
The first four books from KCP Loft are scheduled to release in 2017:
About Kate Egan
Kate Egan has worked in children’s publishing for 20 years, first at Scholastic and then as a freelancer based at her home in Maine. She has edited many award-winning authors and is the author of the picture book Kate and Nate Are Running Late! (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) and the chapter book series The Magic Shop (written with magician Mike Lane), all published by Feiwel and Friends. Kate lives with her family in a small college town, where she is also the president of her local public library.
About Kids Can Press
Kids Can Press, part of the Corus Entertainment family, is the largest Canadian-owned children’s publisher. Its catalog includes an award-winning list of over 700 picture books and nonfiction and fiction titles for young readers. For over 40 years, Kids Can Press has distinguished itself as a publisher of exceptional children’s books and continues this tradition with its digital publications, custom-publishing partnerships and brand marketing initiatives. Kids Can Press is distributed worldwide by Hachette Book Group. Browse Kids Can Press books at www.kidscanpress.com.
About Corus Entertainment Inc.
Corus Entertainment Inc. (TSX: CJR.B) is a leading media and content company that creates and delivers high quality brands and content across platforms for audiences around the world. The company’s portfolio of multimedia offerings encompasses 45 specialty television services, 39 radio stations, 15 conventional television stations, a global content business, digital assets, live events, children’s book publishing, animation software, technology and media services. Corus’ roster of premium brands include Global Television, W Network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network Canada, HGTV Canada, Food Network Canada, HISTORY®, Showcase, National Geographic Channel, Q107, CKNW, Fresh Radio, Disney Channel Canada, YTV and Nickelodeon Canada. Visit Corus at www.corusent.com.