Erin Murphy

Mentor Monday ~ Laura Resau

A gigantus MENTOR MONDAY welcome to Laura Resau, author of six novels including RED GLASS, WHAT THE MOON SAW, RUBY NOTEBOOK, and the newly minted, THE QUEEN OF WATER (co-authored with María Virginia Farinango). This novel, which is based on a true story, begins in an impoverished Andean village where seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her indigenous family to be an unpaid servant. For the next eight years, she struggles to hold on to her spirit and humor in the face of oppression. But once she’s found her freedom, will Virginia – now a teenager caught between cultures – also find a place where she belongs? I have my copy—can’t wait to dive in!
* “[A] riveting tale… by turns heartbreaking, infuriating and ultimately inspiring.” – Kirkus, STARRED
“A richly described coming-of-age story set in a culture both foreign and and familiar …by turns shocking and funny.” – VOYA
“A moving, lyrical novel that will particularly resonate with teens caught between cultures.” Booklist STARRED review
Feel free to go to Laura’s website page to read an excerpt from THE QUEEN OF WATER, as well as the poignant inspiration for this wonderful book.

I first met Laura as I arrived as a wide-eyed, freshman member of the Gangos (Erin Murphy Literary clients) who traveled out to Portland, OR., for an agency retreat back in 2009. I was actually awed enough to be quiet for two hours. From reading Laura’s work, I knew she was a fabulous writer. She also had all of these wonderful stories of her travels and how her adventures fed her written stories. Fascinating. Beautiful. Sad. Inspiring.

However, the strongest impression that I came away with of Laura, was that she has a “steeped in wisdom” quality about her. (Remember those EF Hutton commercials? Well, when Laura spoke, I’d stop to listen.) About writing, about marketing , and about the writing life. When I expressed some nervousness about school visits down the road (before my ms had even been submitted to editors), she looked me in the eye and told me that I was a natural story teller and that I had nothing to worry about. And you know what? I believed her! I was instantly at ease with the whole thing. Speaks to the power of words and small kindnesses, doesn’t it? So, I guess, Laura mentored me that weekend!

Without further ado….

~~Laura Resau – Mentor Post~~

My mentor came on the scene later in my writing journey, but at what turned out to be the perfect time. Mentor-less for many years, I’d managed to bumble my way through writing and revising my first YA novel, What the Moon Saw, thanks to a smattering of enthusiastic teachers and writing group members (and my mom) who gave me guidance. Of course, it would have been wonderful (and time-saving!) to have had a mentor during the five years it took me to write the book. But a mentor-of-sorts did come along, just in time to help me navigate the rough waters of the publication process and beyond.

Lauren Myracle (of the Luv Ya Bunches and TTYL series) became an invaluable (and supercute, superfriendly, supersmart) resource for me. She’d always been supportive of me and other prepublished writers when I saw her at events in Fort Collins (where we both live). So, when I got a voicemail message from an editor at Delacorte saying she was interested in my manuscript (but that she would be out of the office for vacation and wanted me to call her back after one torturous week), I called up Lauren for advice. I was agent-less at the time, and Lauren was the only industry expert I knew who felt approachable. She squealed and congratulated me and cheerfully told me that if the editor made me an offer, to bump it up a few thousand dollars, since that’s what they expect.

A week later, I called the editor back, my hands shaking, my throat parched, nervous sweat gushing from my armpits. She offered me a typical debut literary novel advance—about the price of a small, used car. “Yes!” I said. “Yes! Thank you thank you thank you!”

She paused. “Are you officially accepting the offer, then?”

Terrified that she would suddenly change her mind, I said, “Yes, yes, officially, yes! Thank you!” (Oh, if only Lauren had been right there with me on speaker phone…)

After the discovery that I was terrible at negotiating book contracts, I called Lauren. I told her the good news and, a bit embarrassed, said that I suspected it would be a good idea for me to get an agent. ASAP.

And being the generous soul that she is, Lauren gushed excitement, then gave me her agent’s phone number. He ended up referring me to my unbelievably wonderful agent, Erin Murphy (who is also Lynda’s agent!) Erin proved to be worlds better at contract negotiations than I could ever dream of being.

Lauren continued to be a wise (and adorable) guide for me through the publication process. She explained authorly etiquette (like asking for blurbs), introduced me to other YA authors, and gave a beautiful, from-the-heart quote for the back cover of What the Moon Saw (which several people have told me made them buy the book). When I had questions about appearances at librarian and teacher conferences, she was the first person I asked (her advice: be generous and wear a cute dress). And when she had to turn down author appearance invitations for local events, she passed along my name, which helped spread the word about my book. It feels so reassuring to have someone like Lauren helping me figure out the YA book industry. (Even after six years, I still call her for advice.)

Thanks for reading! May you all find the perfect mentor at the perfect stage of your writing journey!

Categories: author, Erin Murphy, Mentor Monday

Mentor Monday ~ Cynthia Levinson

A big Mentor Monday welcome to Cynthia Levinson! She is a fabulous non-fiction writer, having authored piles of fascinating articles and a book coming out from Peachtree in 2012 entitled, WE HAVE A JOB: THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH.

I first heard an excerpt from this book about 18 months ago and was drawn in immediately. When I was young, non-fiction books merely spewed facts, but Cynthia’s writing is filled with character development, intrigue, action, and fascinating details. Actually, so is Cynthia! 😉

Here’s a taste:


Eight-year-old Audrey woke up Thursday morning with freedom on her mind. But, before she could be free, she knew she had to go to jail.

“I want to go to jail,” Audrey told her mother.

“OK,” her mother answered.

She asked her parents to buy her a game she’d been eyeing. She figured that Operation, in which you take the bones out of a plastic figure and put them back together, would entertain her in case she got bored during her week on a cellblock.

Her mother thought it would be polite for her to tell Miss Wills, her third-grade teacher at Center Street Elementary, that she’d be absent. Miss Wills cried.
“I think she was proud of me,” Audrey said.

She also hugged all four grandparents goodbye.

One of her grandmothers assured her, “You’ll be fine.”

Then, Audrey’s mother drove her to church so she could be arrested.
Wait a minute! What kind of eight-year-old volunteers to go to jail? And, what kind of mother says, “OK” and makes sure she gets there? And, why would she get arrested at church?

Is this real?

Yes. Audrey Faye Hendricks and her mother, Lola, are real. So is this story.

Audrey was one of the youngest of about 4,000 black children who marched, protested, sang, and prayed their way to jail during the first week of May 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama. Their goal was to end segregation in the most racially separated and violent city in America. Many young people suffered attacks by snarling German shepherds and days of being crammed into sweltering sweatboxes. Some wondered if they would survive. And, if they did, could they accept these punishments with dignity, as they had been taught? Or, would they retaliate against the white policemen who were abusing them?

Audrey and three other young people—Washington Booker III, James Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter—will be your guides through these harrowing events. Along the way, you’ll hear from others as well.

I knew that Cynthia’s agent, Erin Murphy, was shopping this ms around and I was so hoping that it would sell! When I got word that it did, I danced in my office to a blaring SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, I’M YOURS (my official book contract celebratory song! Go ahead and click it. You know you want to. Do it.)

I know that WE HAVE A JOB will be the first of many books that lucky children everywhere will read from Cynthia!

Here is Cynthia’s Mentor Story:

I didn’t know that Mary Jane was mentoring me until it was too late. Had I known, I would have inhaled every comment and suggestion she made in our critique group. Even her silences, head cocked, were tactfully telling. But, it’s only in retrospect that I realized how honored I should have felt to get guidance from Mary Jane Hopkins before she abruptly died.

It was Mary Jane, who, looking at my tediously over-long and expository manuscripts, suggested I switch from writing fiction to nonfiction. Finding that niche on my own took me another five years, at least 30 rejections of inept fiction, and an exasperated dismissal by a famous writer of my amateurish novel at an expensive weeklong retreat.

While I stubbornly insisted I was going to write picture books, she urged me to write for the magazine market. She was right about that, too, though I didn’t realize it until years later when a famous editor scribbled all over the first chapter of that very same novel at another expensive weeklong retreat.

Along the way, Mary Jane patiently helped me pare words, hone the story, find a rhythm. It’s only because of her that I finally sold two stories—to magazines, of course. The effusiveness of her congratulations masked her own role in these successes. Still, my own blinkered, I-can-do-it-myself attitude meant that one story had to be heavily edited, and the other was never printed.

Just before she suffered the stroke, she had been working on a beautifully crafted novel about a boy whose parents were divorcing and another who was entering the adoption system. Every chapter tightened the emotional grip of the one before. We were nearly as devastated to lose the progress of her story as we were to lose Mary Jane. When her husband asked our critique group to finish the novel, we sorrowfully explained that the distinctive voice, the clean writing, and the characters we looked forward to visiting with every week were hers alone. Mary Jane’s daughter, who inherited her mother’s writing genes, found a page of notes and questions her mother had kept. Question #10, I believe, was “How does it end?”

My writing—almost all nonfiction and, thanks to success in the magazine market, finally branching out to a trade book—would find its flow and reach its end so much more effectively if I could still hear Mary Jane. Fortunately, she taught me, posthumously, to listen, which I do, avidly, to my later mentors, whose advice I embrace.

Thank you, Cynthia! Very touching and a good message for us all!

Here is another song–a beautiful tribute.

Categories: author, EMLA, Erin Murphy, interview, Mentor Monday, writing

Mentor Monday ~ Tamara Ellis Smith

A BIG welcome to Tamara Ellis Smith who is completely and utterly awesome!I met Tam at Erin Murphy’s retreat out in Portland, Oregon a year and a half ago. I liked her immediately and more and more as the week went on. No question that she is a gifted writer but also a super great human being—wicked nice. The real deal. (and the BEST tattoos ever!) The only thing that I’d change about her is her geography—too far away for lunch dates!

Tam’s middle grade novel, MARBLE BOYS, won an Honorable Mention in the 2008 PEN New England Discovery Awards and was runner up for the 2008 SCBWI Works-In-Progress grant. I’ve heard an excerpt of this and it’s beautiful. Visual. I still have images from it in my head after all this time. I know in my heart of hearts that Erin, our over-the-top awesome agent, will find a lucky editor for it soon! And, I’ll be one of the first to celebrate!!!

Tam also has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College—a top program in the country! God! I can hardly get my socks mated! Clearly, this girl is in for BIG things! 😉

Welcome, Tam!

Kathy Appelt

By Tamara Ellis Smith

Anyone who has been in a room with Kathi Appelt for more than a few minutes has probably heard her utter her famous words “Write like your fingers are on fire!” She lives this. She is passionate, full of energy, and the words that pour out of her heart and mind are piping, steaming hot!

I was lucky enough to have Kathi as my second semester advisor when I was a graduate student in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College for the Arts. At that point, I had been in school for one semester—long enough to know that this was exactly what I was meant to do with my life and that I had no idea how to do make it actually happen. It was a mucky, murky time. I was in it, for sure, but I was kicking up a lot of debris and I couldn’t see very clearly.

Kathi nurtured me that semester in so many different ways.

She nurtured my craft: I was working on a novel for the first time (I had only ever written picture books before that) and she gave me permission to finish a whole draft. She urged me to do it, asked me to let go and let it flow out of me. Feel what that felt like. She nurtured my soul: She created a real community from the five of us students who had her as an advisor that semester. She asked us to connect, to talk to each other, and support each other as we all dug deep to do our work. And she nurtured my heart: Kathi and I talked over email—probably over twenty hours all told—about the craft of writing…but also about raising children, managing writer’s block, and balancing family and work.

Craft. Soul. Heart. Kathi held and lifted each one of them.

She taught me how to embrace it all—to open my arms wide and gather it up, to weave it all together, to let it organically be what it wants to be. In essence, Kathi got me to stand still. To let all of the pieces touch me, and float around me, and finally settle to the ground. Like standing still in a stream, and allowing the mucky, murky water to settle until it is clear. This feels intuitively right to me, but I don’t think I would have trusted that way of being if Kathi hadn’t guided me there.

Kathi writes like her fingers are on fire, but I believe that she also writes—and lives—like this. By embracing it all, by staying quiet and still in the cool water, by weaving all of the pieces together. You can see it in her work. And you can feel it when she teaches.

I am eternally grateful that Kathi is in my life—my mentor, my moon sister, my friend.

Thanks SO much, Tam! We so much enjoyed hearing about this fantastic mentor of yours—none other than Kathi Appelt! I hope to meet her in person some time soon…

Categories: EMLA, Erin Murphy, Mentor Monday

Mentor Monday ~ Erin Murphy


I am thrilled to announce the launch of my new series, MENTOR MONDAYS! Every Monday, I will post a piece by a professional in the wonderful world of kid lit (editors, agents, and authors) who have been kind enough to share their stories with me. I have been humbled by the generosity of these folks and am in awe of the list itself! Such incredibly accomplished, talented, and giving people. Without people like this—who share their talent and expertise, who advocate for children and good literature in a world that seems more and more about “screen time,” (She says, checking her Facebook! 😉 where would we be?

And, where would we be without mentors? The people who take us aboard and show us the ropes. Often, however, a mentor is dear friend as well. Someone who lights something inside you that you didn’t know was there. Gives you the road map to where you’re headed.

I had planned to start this series with an author, but decided that I should begin with the person that launched my career—officially, anyway!

My first post is from literary agent, Erin Murphy of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve heard that she’s a “dream agent.” As her client, I’m here to tell you that the rumors are true.

I did a ridiculous amount of research on agents and, when I was done with my ranked list, she was at the top. I drove five hours one way to meet her at a big book signing by several of her clients. The first time I set my eyes on her, she was scooping ice cream for a bunch of kids. She had an easy smile and, as the day progressed, I could tell that her clients adored her. We chatted (I had to stop mid-sentence to apologize for stumbling over my words) and left that day with an ache in my gut, thinking that it probably wouldn’t work out. I mean who signs with their first choice anyway?

Although Erin and I are of similar age, I consider her to be one of my mentors. I have learned a ton from her about the business of children’s lit and the craft of writing. I’ve learned that you can know someone for two years and feel like you’ve known them forever. I’ve learned what I’m truly capable of. I’ve learned that dreams come true.

~~So, . Here is Erin’s Mentor Story:

When I was a very newbie editor, back in (mmphmm), I was so fortunate to know Marlene Blessing through a regional publishing association. My boss, the person who had hired me into publishing in the first place, had passed away quite suddenly, and boy, was I in need of a mentor!
Marlene took me under her wing from afar, and we’d see each other now and then at conferences. She is really the one who empowered me as an editor: She demonstrated to me that the editor’s vision for shaping a list and the individual projects on it is critical, and that without vision, a list just doesn’t coalesce. She also helped me talk through author relationships and navigating the politics within a publishing house, and encouraged me to follow my instincts and to honor and value my authors as partners in the creative process and as friends–all lessons that served me well as both editor and as a literary agent.
I’m so glad you asked me this question, Lynda; I’d lost touch with Marlene over the years and this prompted me to look her up, to reach out anew, and to find that she is now editorial director at Interweave Books, and before that was overseeing some of Interweave’s craft magazines–so I’m certain she’s been instrumental in bringing together some things that I have loved in my off-time as a knitter and crafter!=
Thanks so much, Erin!
Categories: agent, author, Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Mentor Monday, publisher

Heaven in Boston—ALA, 2010

Hello ALL!

Last weekend, I went to Boston to ALA and it was incredible! Seriously, it was heaven for anyone who loves books!
Imagine having every publisher represented in one room! (I have a serious crush on Random House. I’m just sayin…) And, as you walk by their booths, these angelic people call out to you, “Excuse me! Would you like a complimentary copy of this ARC (Advanced Readers Copy)?” WAY better than a kid in a candy store! Way better!
I connected with old friends, too. So, I have to say that it doesn’t get better than this for a weekend away! Books, friends, books, talented authors, friends, books. This is how the day went!

On Friday, I had dinner at Emmet’s Pub with my agent, Erin Murphy, and her partner in crime, Joan Paquette. An absolutely perfect way to start out the whole adventure! I ordered the chicken pot pie to be a traditional Irishwoman but ate very little. I think I talked a lot. Nothing “Irish” about that, now is there?!

On Saturday, I attended ALA. If you EVER have the opportunity to go, DON’T pass it up! I met/reconnected with SO many great people and their work!

Andrew Clements, author of FRINDLE among other greats in children’s lit.

Barbara Johansen-Newman, author/illustrator of the adorable, kid-friendly TEX AND SUGAR. She’s a blast to talk with, too!

Thrilled to reconnect with Newbery winner, Cynthia Lord, and Printz winner, Ellen Wittlinger. Terrific authors! Even better people!!!

Incredibly talented writers/illustrators, Brian Lies (BATS ON THE BEACH and others in series) and Barbara Johansen Newman.

New friend and debut author, Jame Richards. I scored her ARC, THREE RIVERS RISING, A NOVEL OF THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD. Can’t wait to dive in! Well, you know what I mean…

Was so happy to reconnect with Alisa Libby, author of BLOOD CONFESSIONS. If you ever wnat to know about writing historical fiction, she’s your girl! Amazing wealth of info. And fun to talk with, too!

Here I am at the Tweet/Greet with fab author, Ann Hayward Leal. We met in a writers’ class a few months back and became instant friends! She’s a blast AND she wears Converse!!
Her debut novel, ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER is fantastic! Seriously.

I met Caldecott author/illustrator, Christopher Bing, for the first time. It is rare to be so blown away by someone’s artwork! I spent my lunch money on his books! An excellent trade off!
Not only is his talent stunning, but you’ll rarley meet such a good guy. He writes a paragraph in his books when he signs them. A Paragraph!!! And he chats with people because he thinks (and he’s right!) it makes a better memory.

And…he loves the Red Sox. Need I say more?
So, after I get my YA done, I’ll be working my way through my ARCs! Here are the ones I am most excited about:

KYLE’S ISLAND by Sally Derby (Charlesbridge)

BAMBOO PEOPLE By Mitali Perkins (Charlesbridge)
THREE RIVERS RISING by Jame Richards (Knopf)
THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE by Kimberly Newton Fusco (Knopf)
THIS MEANS WAR by Ellen Wittlinger (S&S)
STAR IN THE FOREST by Laura Resau (Delacorte)
SPLIT by Swati Avasthi (Knopf)
HOW TO GROW UP AND RULE THE WORLD by Vordak the Incomprehensible (Egmont) (My 12 year old son already read this in one sitting. LOVES it!)
I will be posting reviews here as soon as humanly possible. SO excited!!!
THANKS to ALA for putting on such an incredible event. THANKS to my agent, Erin Murphy, for being SO awesome! THANKS to Mitali Perkins who organized the Meet/Tweet event on Saturday night; this was a big high point of ALA for me! And THANKS to all of the authors and editors and publishers who…sigh…make such great books…
Categories: agent, ALA, Erin Murphy | 7 Comments

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