LITTLE ROBOT Launch Party Recap

Posted by annastan on March 26th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

I know this is about a week late, but I wanted to do a quick recap of the launch party for Power Down, Little Robot. I was so grateful to see so many friends (old and new) come out to the Brookline Booksmith to celebrate. You’d think that book launches would get less exciting over time, but I think they might get more so, especially when I have a chance to show off my maternity robo-PJs!

 

little robot launch 5

Wondering what’s on my shirt? This! (The internet really does have everything.)

little robot launch shirt

The event started with a short intro and a dramatic reading of Little Robot. I was losing my voice, so I wasn’t able to do robot voices, but luckily people still laughed at all the right places.

little robot launch 1

Yes, that is an awesomely enthusiastic robo-child in full costume sitting at my feet! Here’s a better view:

little robot launch 4

Then it was time to party! I was beyond excited to have the children’s band In the Nick of Time there to perform their adorable Little Robot theme song. I’ve known Nick and Tracey (the members of the band) since high school, so it was surreal/awesome to see them again after all these years and watch them rock out robo-style.

little robot launch 3

After the music, we made robots, and colored robots, and even had some robot snacks. (I’m pretty sure someone actually turned into a robot by the end of the afternoon.)

little robot launch 2

I loved chatting with people and signing books, although (as usual) I felt like I could have used a lot more time to talk to everyone. People seemed to have a good time, and I was thrilled to see how many folks actually wore their PJs and joined in the fun!

I have one more book event coming up–if you’re in the Dedham, Mass. area tomorrow (March 27th) please come by the Blue Bunny at 6:3opm–and after that I’ll be taking a break to focus on book deadlines and the baby’s arrival. If it’s a bit quiet around here, that’s probably why, but I’ll be sure to share updates (and cute baby pics) when I can.

A reminder that if you’re itching to get your hands on a signed copy of Little Robot or an ARC of I’m With Cupid, I have two Goodreads giveaways going on right now. :) Power on!

What If? Or Re-Imagining the Classics with Michelle Ray

Posted by annastan on March 18th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

I’m excited to welcome author Michelle Ray whose first novel, Falling for Hamlet, was the inspiration behind the E! television show The Royals. How cool is that? Michelle has just released a brand new retelling, this one of Macbeth, and she’s here to talk about how she finds her own modern spin on classic stories.


What If? by Michelle Ray

I love reimagining classics. I guess my whole writing life started with re-imagining stories. See, I couldn’t sleep when I was a kid. My parents told me that I wasn’t allowed out of bed, so if I couldn’t sleep, I should just try and tell myself a story. I thought about stories I already knew from TV and books. I started by asking myself: “What if?” What if Laura Ingalls had another sister on the prairie? What if I traveled to Oz? As I grew older, I kept still couldn’t sleep, so I considered new issues.

Most stories I loved in my teens were all boys. What if a girl were traveling with the boys from Stand By Me? What if Johnny from The Outsiders had a sister who had a crush on Ponyboy? (Not hard to imagine since I had a crush on Ponyboy.) What if different characters in Dead Poet’s Society had a girlfriend? How would things change depending on who she was with? The amazing thing is how the original stories morphed. I found it such an all-consuming pursuit that sometimes the very activity that was meant to help me sleep kept me up. It still does!

Falling for Hamlet came about after I saw a wonderful version of Hamlet on stage. I got to thinking, “What if Ophelia didn’t die?” It changes so much in the story. What if people thought she was responsible for the tragedies? What if Hamlet was modern royalty? What if the paparazzi, plus regular people with phones, tried to document Hamlet and Ophelia everywhere they went? What if his family had been responsible for her mother’s death? What if the press said he cheated but he said he didn’t? What if she wanted to get away? The questions kept coming, and they changed everything. And didn’t.

The ‘what-ifs’ are the key to any good story, I think, but a ‘what-if’ in a re-imagining is huge. The trick to me is balancing the ‘what if I change this’ with ‘what if I don’t.’ People reading a re-telling or a re-imagining want their story to be recognizable. Some stories do more of an allusion (like Warm Bodies took me until ¾ in to realize it was a zombie Romeo and Juliet), but if I’m doing a story to help people feel like a classic work is accessible or I want to honor its greatness, I don’t want to stray too far.

MacBeth_Ebook-2

For my Mac/Beth, the initial question was “What world today is closest to royalty that isn’t actual royalty?” The answer was Hollywood. So the questions began. What if Mac and Beth were teen stars? What if their friend (now Duncan King rather than King Duncan) was more famous and they were jealous? What if they killed their friend? What if it was an accident? What if she wasn’t sure that it was? What if she started seeing ghosts? Ghosts have come up in both of my re-imaginings because they’re an integral part of Shakespeare’s stories. However, I’m a modern gal and I (mostly) don’t believe in ghosts. But what if a character saw, or thought s/he saw one? What if it had a message for her? See? Interesting. How does one square the world of a classic with the modern world? I think it makes for a fun challenge.


Michelle Ray’s novels include the newly released Mac/Beth and Falling for Hamlet, which was adapted for E!’s The Royals. She teaches middle school in Silver Spring, MD, where she also lives with her family. Find out more at www.michelleraybooks.com.

Does Planning Out a Book Make It Easier to Write?

Posted by annastan on March 12th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

I know I’ve talked about how I’ve slowly evolved from a pantser into a planner (although still not an outliner), but I’ve been wondering recently if making that switch from pantser to planner has actually made it easier for me to write books. The short answer: Maybe.

Here’s the long answer. There are things that planning out books before I write them (by which I mean having a working synopsis and character goals/turning points before I dive into drafting) has helped me with.

-Finishing Projects

Back in my pantsing days, I would often abandon projects when they got too hard. But now that I have a plan for the story, I find that I can push myself to keep going because I know where the story needs to end up, even if I’m not sure how I’ll get there. (And, of course, writing on deadline is a big motivator, too.)

-Making Fewer Missteps

My first book, My Very UnFairy Tale Life, had to go through several HUGE revisions because I’d had absolutely no plan when I was drafting it. I’m happy with how the book ultimately turned out, but I spent most of my revision time undoing what I’d done in those earlier drafts. Now I spend less time undoing and more time improving what I have.

-Seeing the Bigger Picture

I used to really struggle with figuring out what my characters wanted, what was driving them, and how that all related to the overall plot. Now I make sure to figure all those things out first before I get too far into the drafting process. (I won’t launch into another infomercial for The Anatomy of Story, but seriously, I would be lost without it.) That doesn’t mean my initial plans are always right, though. Sometimes I get partway through the manuscript and realize that the character’s wants and needs aren’t working, and then I have to go back and rework them.

ON THE OTHER HAND…

Does this all mean writing books has gotten easier? As I said above, maybe. My confidence in my ability to finish projects in a timely manner has increased, partly because I’ve proven to myself that I can do it and partly because I know that if I get stuck, I have certain tools that I can use to help me keep going.

But the process hasn’t really gotten easier; I just spend more time focused on different things now. Instead of forging ahead and writing aimless chapters that I’ll probably have to cut later, now I try to think through what I’m going to write before I write it. Surprises still pop up all the time, which is part of the fun, but it rarely feels like the book is completely out of my control.

Then again, the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with a revision that simply wasn’t coming together. Finally, I realized that the plan I’d had for the book had been flawed from the beginning. I had to go back and think about how to make things stronger and more dynamic. Then I wound up scrapping a lot of scenes and putting in several new ones. I was reminded that you can make missteps anywhere, no matter how organized you are.

Bottom line: You can plan as much as you want, but writing is an art. Sometimes you’ll get stuck or have to backtrack or want to cry into your chocolate. I don’t think there’s any way around that. But I’m honestly glad I’ve become more of a planner because, as I said earlier, it gives me more of a sense of control. And in something like writing, which is done so much by feel and intuition, it’s nice to have at least one solid thing to cling to.

How about you guys? Has planning ahead made writing any easier?

LITTLE ROBOT Book Trailer

Posted by annastan on March 6th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

I’ve been teasing you guys for a couple of weeks now, but the day has finally arrived to reveal the official POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT book trailer. Here it is:

I hope you like it! If you’re wondering about that ridiculously catchy song in the background (which has been stuck in my head for the past month), it was written and performed by the awesome children’s band In the Nick of Time.  If you’d like to hear the entire song or download it for future rocking out, you can do so here.

By the way, if you come to the LITTLE ROBOT launch party on March 14th, In the Nick of Time will be performing the song live! Plus we’ll have crafts and fun robot-inspired activities. And some sort of robot snacks, of course. Cog cookies, perhaps?

Speaking of robot crafts, check out this adorable review of the book which includes a great robot-related project that helps kids with their bedtime routines. I love how people take the robot bedtime idea and run with it!

Finally, I found out that LITTLE ROBOT has been chosen as one of Amazon’s “Big Spring Children’s Books for Ages 3-5” which completely blew my mind, especially after I saw my book on a list that includes Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex!

It really has been one heck of a week, and I’m so grateful that so many people have helped to spread the word about the book! Since I’m in the midst of deadlines and getting rather hugely pregnant these days, I can’t tell you how nice it’s been to have a supportive community of writers and friends to lean on.

A LITTLE ROBOT Is Born!

Posted by annastan on March 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

I’ve long admired people who wrote picture books, but for years I thought I could never be one of them. Not only was I too wordy and not visually oriented enough, but I never had a decent idea that demanded to be illustrated. But after working on those picture book muscles, I finally managed to strengthen my craft, and I even managed to find an editor who liked my projects. And today, I am officially a picture book author!

Power Down Robot final cover

Happy book birthday, Little Robot! It still doesn’t quite feel real. Even though my first novel came out in 2011, I sort of chuckle when I call myself a novelist, so I guess in a few years, maybe this whole picture book author thing will finally sink in. In the meantime, I can look at this adorable red robot (I can’t gush enough about Time Zeltner’s illustrations) and grin like a robo-monkey.

In honor of the book’s release, I’ve put two signed copies of LITTLE ROBOT up on Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski

Power Down, Little Robot

by Anna Staniszewski

Giveaway ends April 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

And adding to this week’s general awesomeness, I found out that the book was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal! (Isn’t that crazy?) They said:

“For parents and small children who experience bedtime as an ordeal, inspiring new vocabulary awaits in Anna Staniszewski’s “Power Down, Little Robot”…a fresh take on an old topic.”

Plus, I was really touched by this personal review of the book and this very thoughtful one. And I know of at least two people who use the term “power down” at bedtime now. There really isn’t any better compliment than that!

Stay tuned for the LITTLE ROBOT book trailer, which should be hitting YouTube any day now, and if you’re in the Boston area, I hope to see you at the book launch on March 14th at the Brookline Booksmith or at pajama storytime on March 27th at Blue Bunny Books. Don’t forget your robot pajamas! :)

Book Events and ARC Giveaways

Posted by annastan on February 26th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

I’ve been a bit swamped with deadlines and things, but I can’t really complain since life has been full of good things (except for all the snow). Here’s a little sampling of what’s new:

If anyone’s in the Boston area, I’ll be at the Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library in Brighton, Mass. this Monday at 4:30pm talking about the Dirt Diary series.

Also, advance copies of I’M WITH CUPID arrived on my doorstep this week! I’m putting four of them up on Goodreads for a giveaway, if you’re interested in winning a signed copy.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

I'm with Cupid by Anna Staniszewski

I’m with Cupid

by Anna Staniszewski

Giveaway ends May 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Finally, the release date of POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT is quickly approaching (next week!) and I’ll be revealing the Little Robot book trailer very soon, which includes a clip of the official Little Robot theme song. Stay tuned!

And speaking of book giveaways, if you’d like to enter to win a copy of LITTLE ROBOT, here’s your chance thanks to my publisher. Plus, there’s a lovely review of the book.

What’s new with you this week?

Huge Book Giveaway for Educators!

Posted by annastan on February 14th, 2015 | Comments Off

My agency-mate Lynda Mullaly Hunt is not only a lovely person, but she’s also a fantastic writer with a new novel, Fish in a Tree, that just released this month. When Lynda asked me if I’d be interested in taking part in a huge Valentine’s Day book giveaway for educators, of course I said yes, especially when I saw the titles in the lineup:

(Click on a cover to see the whole thing. By the way, isn’t it interesting how many pretty blue covers there are in the bunch?)

And these are just the middle grade books! There’s also a young adult contest going on at the same time.

So, if you’re a teacher, librarian, or reading specialist (basically any type of educator), and you want to be entered to win signed copies of all these books, you only have to do one of two things:

EITHER

1. Leave a comment on Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s blog,

OR

2. Tweet about the giveaway using the hashtag #MGAuthorsLoveTeachers

Your name will be entered into the virtual hat, and Lynda will draw the winner at 11:59 PM on Wednesday, February 18th. If you win, you’ll receive signed copies of all these books–not all at once, because some of them don’t publish until March or April, but won’t it be fun to get multiple packages in your mailbox?

Good luck!

And now back I go into the revision cave. I’m hoping to emerge in a week or two holding a much better manuscript and surrounded by much less snow!

 

Is That a Little Robot I See?

Posted by annastan on February 4th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

Things have been pretty nuts here in New England recently. Snow, snow, and more snow. Now ice and cold and more ice. In the midst of it, I’ve been trying to work on writing deadlines and getting-ready-for-baby deadlines. It’s all been piling up to the point where I think the snowdrifts in my brain are even higher than the ones outside my window.

But the other day, during yet another snowstorm, the UPS man delivered a box that made me temporarily forget about all of that. My author copies of Power Down, Little Robot had arrived!

little robot author copies

Suddenly the March 3rd release date feels much more real. And that, of course, means there’s a launch party on the horizon. Hooray!

If you’re in the area, please come by the Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass. on Saturday, March 14 at 2pm for a robot pajama party! I’ll be reading from the book and leading some robo-crafts, AND there will be live music! The fabulous In the Nick of Time band will be performing the world premier of the Little Robot theme song! Here is the Facebook invite with more info (and fewer exclamation points).

And now back I go to digging out from under all these piles of snow…and trying to find some maternity size robot pajamas. :)

What’s Your Story’s Big Idea?

Posted by annastan on January 27th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

On Sunday, I attended a panel on non-fiction writing at the Writers’ Loft with authors Sarah Albee, Loree Griffin Burns, Leslie Bulion, Susan Goodman, and April Prince Jones. It was an all-star line-up, and the panelists had lots of valuable things to say. I was especially struck by one thread of the conversation on finding your story’s Big Idea.

Several of the authors highly recommended writing a book proposal for a project before you start–whether or not you’re going to be trying to sell the project on proposal or not–to help you figure out your “big idea.” By this, they meant the approach to your story that will make it unique. So instead of simply writing yet another book about snakes, you can find a way of talking about snakes that makes the concept feel fresh and unique and you.

The wisdom in this advice is two-fold and applies to any type of writing, including fiction. When you’re starting a project, it’s a good idea to first take notes and brainstorm to get at the heart of your story. This is true even if you’re writing a picture book. I often jump in and write a terrible draft of a picture book first, but then I step back and work on pinpointing what’s going on below the surface of the story and how I can make it stronger. And when I’m working on a novel, by the time I’m done writing and revising the synopsis and opening chapters, I usually feel like I’ve found the novel’s voice and central conflict so that I can keep going all the way until the end.

The second part of the advice, though, about finding the “you” in your story, I think is even more important. When you’re working on a manuscript, it’s vital to think about how you can put your own unique spin on it. How is your story about friendship different from the other ones already out there? It can’t simply be fun or cute. It has to feel fresh, even if it’s a story that’s been told numerous times. That freshness will come from you–your voice, your perspective, your sense of humor, etc. No one else can write the book the same way you can, but make sure you’re pushing the “you” in it as far as it needs to go.

Do you put together a proposal when you begin working on a project? How do you go about finding your story’s Big Idea?

Launch Party Pics and Other Tidbits

Posted by annastan on January 20th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

It’s been a little quiet around here the past couple weeks while I’ve been locked away in the writing cave, but I wanted to pop in and share some pictures from the Gossip File launch party. The event was held at The Writers’ Loft, which seemed like a fitting place for it since I spent many hours writing and revising the book there. (Please forgive the wacky spacing. WordPress was not being terribly cooperative today.)

Gossip File Launch 1

You can definitely see my baby bump in this picture!

Gossip File Launch 2

Quiet, please. Author busily signing books.

Gossip File Launch 3

I put together a Gossip File raffle basket which included lots of chocolate (of course) and a copy of the book with little hand-written secrets throughout.

Gossip File Launch 4

My books look kind of pretty all lined up like that, don’t they? :)

And, of course, a picture of me grinning like an idiot.

And, of course, a picture of me grinning like an idiot.

Thank you to everyone who came to help me celebrate the book’s birthday! I have a couple other events coming up in March, so keep an eye on my Events page if you’re dying to come say hello in person.

One more bit of news: I found out that My Epic Fairy Tale Fail will be in the Scholastic Book Club where it will join the first UnFairy book and the Dirt Diary series. I could not be more excited to see my books working their way into the book club! It’s been so exciting to see my books reaching new readers thanks to the book clubs and fairs.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to lock myself up in the revision cave and start hacking away at my terrible first draft of FINDER REAPERS (sequel to I’M WITH CUPID). Wish me luck! I may need a machete.