Friday, January 11, 2013

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food...



and Other Life Lessons. Today we talk to Jodi Carmichael, the newest author at Little Pickle Press about her first publication, a middle grade novel about a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Dani:  Jodi, how did you come to write Spaghetti?

Jodi: It’s a funny story. I was asleep and Connor, the 8-year-old main character in Spaghetti, woke me up chatting about his day. He wouldn’t stop talking until I typed out everything he had to say. It was like I was channeling him. It was the single coolest experience I’ve had as a writer.

Dani: Did you submit it to various publishers?

Jodi: Only to a few. Connor feels like my third child and holds a special place in my heart, so I was careful about which publisher I contacted. Plus receiving rejections on his story felt more personal, like my own child was being rejected.

Dani: What were your expectations around getting the book published?

Jodi: I’d read a lot about how greatly publishing has changed over the past five to ten years, so I was ready for anything. From speaking to other new authors, I expected to have no marketing support, little attention, and have to do a majority of the PR. (This is now fairly typical in publishing.) With Little Pickle Press my experience has been a welcome surprise. They spend a lot on money on marketing and it shows.

I not only want my book to excel, but I want to make a decent living as a working author, so I’ve been willing to do anything and everything to make Spaghetti successful. Little Pickle Press has been very open to me helping out wherever possible. It feels like I’m a part of the team – which is pretty awesome.

Dani:  What in the publication process was different from what you expected?


Jodi: The e-book has got to be the biggest. At first, it was hard to wrap my head around, but I am so glad I followed my intuition and went with Rana’s (LPP's chief executive pickle) vision. We’ve been doing extremely well on Amazon and we have still to launch on the other platforms.

Editing was a dream. I got to work with Judy O’Malley who has worked with some of the biggest names in children’s literature. I never expected my chapter book to have so many beautiful illustrations, either and because we launched digitally first, we were able to do this.

Dani:  How is the book being promoted and to whom? Is this a niche topic? Who is your largest audience?

Jodi: We hope our largest audience to be every 8 to12-year-old child on earth! Yes, we have set our sights high! We do have a primary audience of kids that are on the autism spectrum, as Connor has Asperger’s Syndrome. I purposely left his diagnosis out of the text for a few reasons. I wanted the book to have a mass appeal; I wanted any child that was having difficulties in school to relate to Connor; and I didn’t want it to be Connor’s main characteristic. My goal was to have Connor be a smart, quirky boy who just happened to have Asperger’s.

Dani: Will the book have a print version in the future?

Jodi: Little Pickle Press has a print version ready to go – we’re just waiting for a sufficiently large order to justify a print run. Even though the e-book is amazing and we’re meeting our environmentally responsible mandate, I am really jonesing for a paper copy.

Dani: Where can we download the book? And how can we connect with you?

Jodi: Currently you can download a Kindle version from either Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. After March 3, the e-book will be available on iOS, NOOK, KOBO, and Sony. 

And, you can reach me on my website at www.writingandotherlifelessons.blogspot.ca or on Twitter at @Jodi_Carmichael  or on Facebook!

Dani: Thanks for joining us, Jodi. Terrific article about your book and Asperger's in the Winnipeg Free Press. It's loaded with all kinds of good information, readers, if you have questions about Asperger's.

If you have questions for Jodi, please leave them in the comments. She'll be dropping in to visit and respond.

46 comments :

  1. Hi Jodi

    I love the story of your character waking you up chatting until you wrote down what he was saying. I can just picture him from that description. Sounds like a wonderful book.

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  2. Thanks Elle! One of the other remarkable moments, with Connor was when Sarah Ackerley - the talented illustrator - sent me her first sketch. She drew him, exactly as I "saw" him. Perhaps, she "channeled" Connor, too! Definitely a question I need to ask her.

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  3. "My goal was to have Connor be a smart, quirky boy who just happened to have Asperger’s." You certainly achieved that goal! All my children enjoyed the book, even those outside the age range it is written for, and none of them have Asperger's. They enjoyed Connor as a person, as well as loving the storyline.
    I really can't wait for the book to come out in print, I know it will be a huge success there as well.

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  4. I found out through a friend on Face book that a teacher in North Bay, Ontario is already reading it to her grade 5 class! And she wants me to Skype in and talk to the class. Apparently, they love Connor and not all those kids have Aspergers. It gives me a thrill thinking how we'll open their minds and hearts to kids that are different and are struggling.

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  5. Hey Dani!

    We're off to a stellar start! You are an awesome host, Sarge!

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  6. Sounds like a great book for kids to read and increase their understanding of Asperger's.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  7. I think Connor's appeal for any young reader is the same as Ramona Quimbyfrom that wonderful series by Beverly Cleary. In fact,reading the book made me think of the quirky Ramona. Kids love silly antics, and some grown ups do, too. (smile)

    Jodi, I loved the fact that you were "gifted" with this story. It is such a thrill for a writer when that happens.

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  8. Maryann,

    That is exactly how to put it - "gifted" with the story. It happened with the YA I'm working on too! I have a feeling it's about to happen with my next middle grade project too!

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  9. Maryann, I totally agree! What a great comparison, and so true. It seems like a lot of children's books today feature characters who are just bad, who I don't want my kids reading about or emulating. But that's not the case with Ramona and Connor, and it makes all the difference.

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  10. That is exactly what I wanted for Connor, Khadijah. Exactly. Connor is having challenges, some of his behaviour is unfavorable, but and this is a huge but, not it's not intentional. And he's trying so hard to figure it all out. Like all of us, really.

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  11. That's an amazing story on how you wrote the book. I haven't heard of that happening to anyone. Maybe Conner was channeling it to you.

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  12. Stephen, channeling is how I've always thought of how this story came to me. Hmm, sort of thought it happened to other writers. Yipes. lol!

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  13. I've actually heard a lot of novelists mention this "channeling" sort of feeling. When the characters take over and the writer is just pulled along. I've had it happen in short stories now and again, but I'm afraid of getting hooked on the feeling!

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  14. No, no, no! Don't be afraid, Dani. Lose yourself in the moment. It is soooooo incredible. Every word flows, and you "see" the world from your character's eyes. LOVE THAT FEELING. Almost like watching a movie, but you're the writer, director, and all the characters. I suppose it is the ultimate twist on being a control freak! :)

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  15. Great interview Jodi! Love how Connor came to life! I didn't mention it the other day when you were on Mom-ology, but I had told Khadijah... my son... he's 8... his diagnosis is asperger's and... his name is Connor. lol... I don't use his name on my blog, but one of the reasons that I jumped at the opportunity to participate in your blog book tour... it was just too coincidental!! lol
    Wishing you all a great day on Blood-Red Pencil!!
    Jen Cluff

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  16. Jodi: Had you eaten spaghetti the night before dreaming up Connor? Did you drink any special tea, perform any ritual? Had Sarah? Writers who desire such a thrilling channeling experience want the formula! ;)

    This does kind of support Carl Jung's notion that the stories are in the air. Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry has said of their enigmatic hit "If I Die Young" that it was a song ready to be written and she was grateful to have been the one holding the pen when it arrived. This truly underscores readiness, doesn't it? Good for you, Jodi!

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  17. Hi Jen! Fancy meeting you here. :)

    How cool is that about your Connor. That is the third Connor that I now know who is on the spectrum. Karma, by chance?

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  18. Kathryn,

    Such a cool quote on Carl Jung. Stories are in the air.

    Hmm. I think stories are in the deeper part of our unconscious. Yup. Doesn't that sound all esoteric?

    I'm sort of serious. Whenever I am at my stillest and my mind is allowed to wander, the best ideas and characters come to me. They start a conversation in my head and I just listen - while running to my computer.

    Going for a walk, having a shower, and drifting off to sleep are my most frequent channeling spots.

    Having a quiet mind is not usual for me, so I jump at these ideas when they come. Once they're on "paper" I can revisit and jump back in to the story.

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  19. It seems that not only does Connor have a gift, but that he has also been a gift to you and all that read his story. It's warm and wonderful, and applicable to so many different individual traits found in many folks going through something atypical. Congratulations on such a great project.

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  20. When I first joined Book-in-a-Week upteen years ago, I heard writers talking about this and thought it was a bunch of hooey. Then I got to know established authors with long-running series who talked about this magic happening, and it made me reconsider. Then it happened to me and I had a few of those "wow" moments. I think it's great when it happens - to me, it's just being "in the flow" and working on a deeper level. But I also think doing the hard work that doesn't feel quite so good - like getting started, revising, editing, proofreading, yadayada - is really important. More important for me really, since I tend toward hedonism and doing the fun stuff. ;) I'm not alone. Many writers do that, except they submit (and get rejected) and even self-publish and then we have a bunch of unpolished work hitting the book shelves. I know you've all seen some of that.

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  21. Hi Dani and Jodi! I appreciate your observations about the "wow"moments. I too have those moments when I am deeply in the flow of work. My motto, taken from Aldus Manutius, a 15th century typographer, is "Festina Lente." It's Latin for 'make haste slowly' and refers to that optimal balance of diligence and urgency.

    Jodi- I can't imagine sustaining one of these wow moments long enough to write a book! How many hours did it take to to write the rough draft of Connor's story?

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  22. Dani, thank you for this wonderful interview with Jodi and the great insight into her process. Thank you also for helping to get the word out about this amazing book!

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  23. Festina Lente. I love that, Sarah. Much more romantic sounding than "good planning". ;)

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  24. Hey all! Did you know that Spaghetti is FREE for download today from Amazon? You don't need a Kindle to enjoy Jodi's book, you can use Kindle for PC and download it right to your computer.

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  25. Sarah, I love your motto! It shows in your work, as well.

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  26. OMG the book is currently free on Amazon! bit.ly/spaghettikindle

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  27. Hi Jodi. Our two daughters (age 8 and 10) LOVED your book! They didn't know that Connor has Aperger's, but rather focused on the idea that all kids have "quirks" and have a need to fit in. I am definitely going to read your book my grade 5 and 6 students. I think it will fuel some excellent discussion about how people perceive each other, and how we all need to take some time to think about how we react to certain behaviours especially when somebody might be having a "not great day". I am sure that your book will be very successful and that kids all over the world of many ages will enjoy Connor!

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  28. I call "Wow" moments resonant moments. I agree, they are gifts of clarity, motivation, and creativity. Jodi is an exemplary author. We are honored to have her on our team. We have great expectations for Connor, and he is sure to exceed them with Jodi's enthusiasm and assistance. Thanks so much for the terrific interview, Dani. ~ Rane

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  29. What?! Did you say Spaghetti is currently FREE on Amazon?! bit.ly/spaghettikindle

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  30. Hey Dani,

    I really love the editing. Sometimes too much so and I get caught up in rewriting.

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  31. Sarah, writing the first draft of Spaghetti flew by, because I was in the zone. The editing took a bit longer and I had a few chapters with Mrs. Rosetti that needed quite a bit of tweaking. The began far too teachy-preachy.

    Long story short - it took about a year, maybe a bit longer. Then I sat on it for another year or so. Finally I read it at a workshop and got such positive feedback, I began to submit it, which was mid 2010. A Canadian publisher requested the full manuscript at that point, but it never went anywhere. Then I got brave and submitted to a handful more publishers in late 2011/early 2012. That's when Little Pickle offered me a contract!

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  32. Karen,

    That is awesome! You sound like an incredible teacher and I'm available either in person or via skype... :)

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  33. Rane,

    You are an exemplary publisher! In fact the whole Pickle Team is outstanding. I keep pinching myself and asking, "How can this really, truly be happening?"

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  34. Dave, it's nice to meet you! That is some daughter you have. :)

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  35. Tell me about it!

    WE have very strong relationship and I support, even if it takes me an HOUR!

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  36. My dad's the best. We busted a gut trying to get his post up. And I think his comment says it all - short, sweet, and to the point. Just like him. :)

    Love you Dadio xoxo!

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  37. Each stop on the book tour has revealed just a little bit more about Jodi (and Connor!) to me. I am so grateful for these great questions (and answers!)

    I am also totally loving Jodi's dad, Dave, and his comments.

    Look at all the great things this book is doing! Huzzah!

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  38. Mocha,

    You'd get a kick out of my mom, too! She has dyslexia, so posting for her is extra tricky.

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  39. Dani,

    I don't want this blog stop to end. It has been so fun. Thank you for hosting and asking the perfect questions.

    Hugs,
    Jodi

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  40. Jodi - that's interesting about the 'Connors'... they would be quite the bunch!!

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  41. It's been a boatload of fun, everyone! Thanks for joining the conversation, and special thanks to Dadio for plunging into the technology waters for his baby girl!:)

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  42. I may be coming late to the party...Jodi, I have always believed in how stories and ideas seem to whisper in our ears. It has happend many times in my life to me, it is getting into the natural flow of the universe and being open, connected. I agree with Dani, hard work is always involved. But once in while we an idea is whispered in an authors ear or perhaps planted in their subconscious. Thank you Dani for the interview, I admire your writing and loved reading about how Jodi met Connor.

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  44. This story is of particular interest because I have an autistic great-grandson.

    The idea of immediately writing down your character's words intrigues me. Sometimes a bit lazy when I awaken in the middle of the night (and my subconscious is working overtime), I promise myself I will remember everything in the morning. That never happens.

    Great post!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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