Last minute excitements

August 11, 2008

I don’t know why, but deals always seem to come to fruition just as I’m about to go off travelling. Take today, for example. I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow evening (back August 26) and have done virtually nothing to get ready. The suitcase is still in the basement, the socks are still in the dryer, and I’m trying to get my head round the idea of going somewhere cold and rainy. You’d think I’d know all about that kind of climate, but it’s amazing how soon you forget that there are parts of the world where people don’t live in shorts all summer.
So anyway, there I am, thinking towards the Big Pack. And slowly but surely, all the weeks and months of planning and strategy come together to mark today as the day when I shall sell my fourth debut author – the very wonderful Valerie Patterson.

I first encountered Valerie several months ago when I moved to Virginia. Ellen Braaf, head of the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI (my local branch), mentioned that she knew a very talented author whom I should probably seek out. I did so (of course) and Valerie became one of my very first Greenhouse authors. As soon as I read her elegant, evocative writing I knew I had found someone with a very special talent, and an extraordinary ear for the nuances of character, motivation, and language. Here was someone who I felt so richly deserved to be published, and I was really excited to have the opportunity to help her get there if I could.

Gradually, over several months, Val’s novel developed and changed in small but significant ways. The title changed – to THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE – which we felt reflected the evocative style of the story. As I mentioned the title to publishers at Bologna and New York I could see editors respond to it, which was a great sign. Finally, about three weeks ago I sent the manuscript out – and today have conducted a ‘best offers’ mini-auction between two great houses that have a fine track record for developing the best literary talent. Both editors who went for it absolutely loved BLUE and it was wonderful to hear their passsion for Valerie’s writing. But we had to find a winner – and that winner was confirmed today as Jennifer Wingertzahn of Clarion, who will publish THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE either in Fall 09 or Spring 2010. Even better, this was a two-book deal, which means that Valerie is really setting off on a professional writing adventure that we hope and believe will carry her forward into increasing success in the future.

THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE is a beautifully wrought debut. Han Nolan, winner of the National Book Award, describes Valerie as ‘a born writer. Her language feels so fresh, clean and spare – just perfect.’ Now that is some endorsement!

The story is about 15-year-old Cyan – named after the colour blue by her artist mother. And blue, in all its shades, is how it feels for Cyan to be back on the island of Curacao one year after the terrible loss of her father at sea. Expected to play host to a potential new stepsister – as perfectly pink as Cyan knows she can never be – the past and future are coloured by mystery. Did her mother drive Cyan’s father away? Why were an ice bucket and two glasses found on his overturned sailing boat? And why does local boy Mayur say that he alone can tell Cyan the truth? With a gulf as wide as the Caribbean between her mother and herself, Cyan must explore the depths of the colour blue – the blue of sadness, the sea, the horizon, and ultimately herself – in this exquisitely told story of family love, betrayal, and hope.

This is a very special story and I am so happy tonight that Valerie is going to be published. It’s a long journey for most writers and each deserves their time in the sun at a moment like this. So well done, Valerie, and I can’t wait to see how the future unfolds.

Raise a virtual glass, everyone, to THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE!

So now I’m off down to the basement to find the suitcase and throw in some clothes. And a raincoat. And some large boots. Take care – I’ll see you when I’m back from vacation. And don’t forget – enjoy your writing!