Behind the Announcement
It was gloriously nerve-wracking and surreal to create and post my Big Announcement video. Surrounded by my family, I signed and announced my 5-book deal with Level Best Books. The video itself was about 4 minutes long, but there was so much more behind it. Here's the rest ...
The Stack of Paper
When I took off my green SCBWI-Carolinas "newbie" beads given to me at the 2018 conference, I placed them on a stack of paper. That stack was a pile of edited hard copies of SOCIETY OF THE SENTINELIA*. It included at least seven or eight full manuscripts filled with hand-written edits. I also did at least that much editing onscreen. The pile of paper that needs to be recycled represented the heart and soul and countless hours spent creating a castle (the most recent version) out of a pile of wet sand (the original draft).
Speaking of the book, when I practiced my announcement speech, I gave an overview of SOCIETY OF THE SENTINELIA* as well as the rest of the series. Somehow, none of that fell out of my face during filming. To make up for it, here's my pitch:
Zahra, a sprite-like tween no bigger than a loblolly pine cone, befriends an 11-year-old human in a quest to find her family; but when the neighbor muddles their plans, Zahra discovers unnerving truths about herself and her family in this first of five novels that tell the story of Zahra saving her species.
Another tidbit I forgot to mention was that this contract is the first children's literature contract for Level Best Books. They've been toying with the idea of expanding into children's literature for some time. With my contract executed, Level Best Books is officially doing just that. The new imprint will be announced soon.
I did mention at the end that Zahra, the main character, has her own Instagram account. Follow her at Zahra_Aylward for a tween/woodland creature perspective on the world—or at least her world, which includes the Birkhead Wilderness and surrounding communities. She'll probably throw in some book updates now and again, too.
Okay, so, what I envisioned was five mini-bottles of bubbly exploding behind me after the contract was signed—one for each book. The mini-bottles, we found out while filming, don't explode. The plastic safety tops simply twist off with no fanfare. That's why at least one of my sons threw a plastic twist top toward the camera. Quick thinking on his part. The flying cap certainly added a little excitement after the awkward anti-climax. My brother and another son simply took a sip as if to toast the milestone. Another quick-thinking quick fix in front of the camera!
Magnolia trees and their blooms play a critical role in the plot of SOCIETY OF THE SENTINELIA* and the rest of the series. My announcement was made in August, which is well after our trees lose their blooms. To accommodate, I bought a silk magnolia bloom for the video. Then while walking back from our big family dinner at a local restaurant, we noticed a fresh bloom about midway up our oldest magnolia tree. I like to think there's someone like Zahra, the main character, living in that tree. I imagine she or he coaxed the magnolia bloom just for my big day. You'll understand what I mean by coaxing blooms once you've read the fist book!
The Goofballs and the Girl Standing Behind Me
"Surrounded by family" is often how a person's dying moments are described. For me, "surrounded by family" is the way to mark all the big milestones. It's a philosophy I inherited from my grandparents through my parents. Whether it's a birth, a graduation, a wedding, a great job, a new house, the realization of a life-long dream, or those final breaths, sharing it with family deepens the meaning. Family doesn't necessarily have to be blood (another tidbit I picked up from my grands). Best friends, close neighbors, mentors, work mates—all of these can be called family. To be surrounded by those who cheer you on, support you, and are there through it all makes the milestone that much sweeter—even when they throw up the rabbit ears and act a little goofy. Actually, let me rephrase—especially when they throw up the rabbit ears and act a little goofy.