Thursday, February 23, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Ann Haywood Leal

I don't know about where you are, but where I live, the weather has been absolutely amazing. Yesterday, as I was riding my bike home from work, with the warm sun shining on my back, the cool air hitting my face, my half-filled insulated mug of coffee spilling onto the most inconvenient of places, I thought, what better a time to host a banana peelin' author who writes so beautifully, than this? 

Welcome Ann Haywood Leal!
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We all have ways to clear out the sticky literary cobwebs, and one of the ways that I “up” the sanity meter in my writing life, is by running.
I’m not trying to give anyone the impression that I’m some fabulous fitness goddess or anything.  In fact, I am so slow, passersby have told me to have a good “walk”.  But I’m sprinting, I want to tell them. 
I ran the New York Marathon one year in a torrential downpour.  It took over five hours, and I’m sure the elite runners had already showered, packed, and flown home to a faraway country by the time I finished.  Race volunteers passed out orange wedges and bananas along the route, and I was so slow, the wet ground was completely saturated with orange and banana peels (great segue, huh?!) from the runners before me.  I was slipping and sliding all over the place.
So I’m using this sad little metaphor to illustrate the fact that there really is no right way, and part of the fun of the process is in the slipping and the muddling.  At least it gives you something to laugh and cringe about later on with your friends, right?
I went to my first SCBWI conference way back when my youngest was still in a stroller.  It was at P.S. Number-Something-or-Other on the Upper West Side, and I schlepped the entire family along.  They went in search of hot chocolate and to play in the park, and I unwittingly went inside to make a fool of myself.
I’m pretty sure that the SCBWI office has a poster in their back room with my face on it.  It’s of the What Not to Do variety. 
I had my manuscript in tow, which I fully planned to hand deliver to some poor, unsuspecting editor or agent.  I actually approached an agent with my rambling, unintelligible story pitch.  She was gracious as she searched out an opening in the crowd and got away from me as quickly as possible.  The only thing that makes me feel a little better now, is that I remember her as being elderly, meaning she may no longer be with us, or she’s deep in the throes of dementia and has no recollection of me.  Or she’s in the old folks home, still doing imitations of me for her friends.
But the embarrassment didn’t end there.  Ahead of time, I had submitted a query letter for a panel.  I was thrilled when mine was chosen!  …Until I realized they were using it as an example of What Not to Do.  I had even included a bit about how my kids had liked my manuscript, so I knew that other kids would like it, too.  The crowd was roaring by the time they finished reading it. 
So here’s the good that came out of all of it.  First and fortunately, I hadn’t put my name on that sample query letter!  Second, I didn’t let all of the banana peels give me a concussion.  I joined SCBWI and learned how to write a good query letter. I kept going to conferences and became an SCBWI sponge.  I’m still slipping on the peels, but I’ve learned to look for the dry pavement in between!
--Ann Haywood Leal     
 
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Ann Haywood Leal comes from a long line of musicians, artists, and teachers.  Since she’s never been able to carry a tune, she was always given plenty of writing supplies and allowed to use the sharp scissors.  Eventually, she put those writing supplies to good use and wrote her middle-grade novels, ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER and A FINDERS-KEEPERS PLACE. 
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Ann now lives, writes and teaches elementary school in southeastern Connecticut.
           





ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER was chosen by the Chicago Public Library for their Best of the Best List of 2009-2010 and was an ABC Good Morning America Summer Reading Choice for 2009.  It is currently on the Arkansas Charlie May Simon Master List, the Iowa Children’s Choice Award Master List, and the South Carolina Book Award Master List.  

Thank you SO much Annie for sharing your banana peel experiences. I am so glad to hear you have not suffered a concussion as a result of those slips.  Thank you for the SCBWI sponge analogy and for the tip to not mark anything submitted for What Not To Do workshops with our names! =) I am so incredibly grateful for your contribution to this series! Thanks again.

32 comments:

  1. Thanks Ann for sharing this post and some of your experience with us. :)

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  2. That was awfully hilarious... or hilariously awful. Thanks for sharing and so glad you lived to tell the tale!

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  3. Thanks for the inspiration, Amanda. I am not planning to run a marathon, but I ran an incredibly slow 10K (my first) on Saturday. My goal was to finish, which I did without walking. I am a runner because I run. I am a writer because I write. Fast or slow, published or unpublished, it is what it is.

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    1. Congrats on the 10K, Kirsten! Keep running and writing; they seem to fuel each other!

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  4. I love that you said "...part of the process is slipping and muddling. At least it gives you something to laugh and cringe about later on with your friends, right?" That is so true. I am always thankful for a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself.
    Thanks for telling us about your banana peel moments.

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    1. Thanks, Natasha! I loved yours, too!

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  6. Ann, I love you for sharing this stuff. You How-Not-To Query letter story is awesome! I am so glad you didn't stay down on the floor with those banana peels that day.

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  7. Appreciate your slippery stories and the laughs; they will help me take better measure of my own 'state of muddle'.

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  8. This was a great way to start my day! I am still chuckling over the image of an elderly woman entertaining her friends in the nursing home. Thank you for sharing your stories and congratulations on surviving the banana peels to publish your books.

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  9. Great story, Anne. I'm CERTAIN you are not the only person to fumble as you did. (Not that I have any personal experience or anything:) Thanks for sharing so honestly.

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    1. oops. Sorry Ann- no e. (Anne is my middle name, with the e. I always mess that up).

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  10. Oh, thanks for sharing your story, Annie! It reminds me of that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy's novel is used as a "don't let this happen to you" example! :) I guess we've all been there! But you certainly learned to step around the banana peels. Your books look terrific and I will be adding them to my TBR list ASAP :)

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  11. LOL! Thanks Annie for sharing these great stories. At least you know how to slip and land on your feet.

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  12. Ann, thanks for your stories. Another testament to importance of SCBWI!

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    1. Thank you, Eric. I don't know what I'd do without SCBWI!

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  13. Another great post! So glad to know we've all made those newbie mistakes.

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    1. Thanks, Julie! The path is never all the way smooth, is it? :)

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  14. Knowing that the SCBWI will welcome you even after such gross humiliation - oddly comforting. Ann, thanks for making it look (if not easy then) possible, even from here amidst the peels.

    Not Anonymously Yours,
    MelissaK

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    1. Thanks, Melissa! I am so grateful for SCBWI!

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  15. Thank you to you both for sharing such a funny post!

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  16. Thanks, Ann. Your story sounds all too believable. I agree that a sense of humour helps you not to quit from all those small humiliations. (SCBWI is great for that -you can make all those mistakes there but you've got hundreds of others who'll share your humiliation with recognition and affection.) Love/hate the query letter story. But I love the look and name of Also Known as Harper -I'm going to check it out over here in England.
    Good luck -Clare.

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