Thursday, May 27, 2010

BEA: So much fun!! -- Part II

What's not to love about miles and miles (ok, slight exaggeration) of books, new and old or not yet released and, in some cases, free?!?

Yesterday I spent several hours wandering around the massive Javits Convention Center at BookExpo America. So many booths, freebies, people, performances, and, above all, books, books, BOOKS! One in particular holds a special place in my heart:
Video Display Screen in the HarperCollins BEA Booth

The highlight of the day by far was the signing I got to do at 4pm. It was just so thrilling to know that people have 1) heard of The Ivy so far in advance of its release and 2) are already very excited about it! 
Lauren Kunze signing galleys of her debut novel, The Ivy, at BEA on Wednesday, May 26 2010

To everyone who stopped by to pick up an autographed ARC: THANK YOU!!! You really made my day! In fact, some of you made my month :) 

My only regret is that we ran out of copies with one minute left to go. I hope those of you who missed out will be able to pick up one of these super-sweet, high-tech Symptio Cards I managed to snag yesterday before we run out of these too!

For more about the signing, check out this post on Greenwillow's Blog. And here are some more photos from the rest of the day:
BEA Signing: Advanced Reading Copies of The Ivy!

Lauren in the HC Booth with her awesome new "eGalley"

(Yeah, I saved my nametag/BEA pass like a giant cheeseball... so what??)

BEA: So much fun!!

On Tuesday night I attended ABC's Not a Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction at The Edison Ballroom in Manhattan. Also in attendance: my wonderful agent Rosemary, editor Virginia, and Steve, another editor from the Greenwillow Family. Go team Ivy!

It was quite crowded, so naturally everyone became fast friends (kind of hard not to, when you're all bumping up against each other!). I met so many awesome booksellers, publishers, authors, and other people from the industry.

The first surprise came in the form of the booksellers' program for the evening, which featured a rather unseemly photograph of my head beneath which I was supposed to sign, dance-card style. Surprise number two: at the Harper table, a lady told me she was saving two seats for "Lauren and Rosemary." Great, I thought. Now I can go find some food! (Surprise number three: there was actually food, in addition to cocktails, at the expressly not a dinner... go figure.) When I got back, however, the seats were taken. Turns out, there's a Rosemary at HarperTeen who was there with her author, Lauren Oliver (incidentally, I just picked up Lauren's debut novel Before I Fall--am now halfway through and really enjoying it!). Who knew there was more than one Lauren-Rosemary pair in this world? It's a sign of something, certainly, though of what I'm still not sure...

Rosemary & Lauren @ The Edison Ballroom

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lauren, Rina, and The Ivy

By some amazing stroke of luck, or perhaps it was the hand of fate, Lauren and Rina were paired together by the Harvard housing system. During their freshman year, they lived with two other girls in a dormitory called Wigglesworth, which is not terribly unlike the fictional dormitory Wigglesworth where much of The Ivy takes place. 
Over the summer before college, they were wary of one another. Lauren secretly wondered if "Rina from Istanbul" had a pet camel and, if so, did she ride him to school? Rina openly wondered if "Lauren from California" was a dumb jock who said "dude" with irritating frequency. (The latter turned out to be somewhat true--Lauren has been known to say dude. Rina, however, does not have a pet camel at present.)

Lauren and Rina first realized that they were friend-soulmates from another continent several weeks into freshman year. They were strolling through the brick-laden streets of Cambridge on a fine Autumn day, and as they walked, they began to hum. Perhaps you know the song. It begins with: "Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner, sometimes I feel like my only friend..." They don't know who started humming first, or how that humming progressed into straight up singing. They like to think it happened simultaneously, because they were vibrating on the same spiritual wavelength. Regardless, at some point between "I never worry" and "together we cry," Lauren and Rina froze in front of the green door that led to their entryway, turned to each other and belted at the tops of their lungs: "I DON'T EVER WANNA FEEL, LIKE I DID THAT DAY, TAKE ME TO THE PLACE I LOVE, TAKE ME ALL THE WAY... Hey... yeah, yeah." Then, they smiled and went inside. It was in this moment they knew that by george Louis, this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  

Lauren and Rina had many crazy adventures over the following year, several of which are encapsulated by the following work of art, a moving piece of modernism Lauren constructed over the course of several months using their common room wall, which was greatly beautified, as all four inhabitants of Wigg F-22 agreed:

Exhibit A. On the left of this photograph is Trevor, the inflatable flamingo and common room pet (highly convenient, extremely low maintenance). We "adopted" Trevor from one of the first big parties we attended together freshman year (HINT: reference The Ivy, Chapter 6). This was also the first night we learned that some of the Harvard parties had a "List." Supposedly, your name had to be on it if you wanted to come inside. We found this out in the wee hours of the morning when, Trevor in tow, we knocked on the door of a large brick building on Mt. Auburn Street. An angry looking senior answered the door.
"Names?" he asked irritably, waving a sheet of paper.
"Uh, what?" said we.
"Your names," he said slowly, clearly thinking, pssh, stupid freshmen. "Are you on The List?"
The one of us who had had more lemonade to drink that night stepped forward and said: "We may not be on the list... but have you met our friend Trevor? He's definitely invited to this party."
The guy looked at us for a moment. Then, he cracked an enormous smile. "Come on in, ladies; Trevor." 
Trevor was the life of the party that night. Plus, he made a great pet, because he never needed to eat. 

Exhibit B. In the middle of this photograph, you will find a pair of boxers that belonged to... well, the point is, we don't know, and we never did manage to find out. They showed up randomly one fine morning on the floor of our common room, and nobody would fess up and take responsibility for the crime against our floor and really, against humanity too. No strange men showed up underwearless at our door either. So, Lauren had no choice but to tape the boxers to the wall beneath a sign that read: "Help! Have you seen my owner?" She and Rina sincerely hoped that the culprit would come forward and claim their shame... but to this day... we're still waiting. 

Exhibit C. This groundbreaking work of art was completed with a bumper sticker that read: Arms are for Hugging. Lauren and Rina had two other roommates their freshman year, and there were some differences of opinion among the roommates over the interpretation of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Upon learning that one of his sister's roomies was pretty into assault weapons, Lauren's little brother sent them the sticker pictured above. Lauren and Rina do not remember if the amount of hugging in the room increased. 

Lauren and Rina had big expectations for Sophomore Year. They finally got to pick their own roommates. They declared concentrations (Responsible Career Path for Rina, Perpetually Unemployable for Lauren--Economics and English, respectively). They were moving into Winthrop, an upperclassman house. They were quite surprised to learn that their rooms were much tinier sophomore year than they had been back in Wigg. Only true friendship can survive such tiny, tiny quarters. Here is a picture of Lauren and Rina in their room sophomore year:

Don't let the angelic, loving quality fool you. They almost killed each other several times that year. Lauren was, apparently, a very loud sleeper, and Rina was a very loud typer. Also, their room had too much pink in it to facilitate normal levels of sanity. 

This is Lauren and Rina during their junior year. They were starting to feel all grown up and get ideas about what they were going to do after Harvard. They decided that before they left, they ought to do something great. They made a folder on Lauren's computer and labeled it "Great Ideas." "We'll put in one great idea each day," they decided. The folder stayed empty. 

But, during one late, mini-snickers and hot chocolate filled night, they were sitting around in their common room (also Rina's bedroom) discussing a fellow student who had written a novel for young adults that was almost very successful. (If you're clever, or have heard of google, you can probably guess which one.) How hard can this novel writing business be? they wondered. "I could probably do that," said Lauren.
"You could probably do that," Rina agreed. They paused, a gleam in their eyes. "We could definitely do that." Hence, the first seeds for The Ivy were sown. (Incidentally, writing a novel, any novel, is not as easy at it seems at midnight in your dorm room when you've just eaten your weight's worth of mini-snickers.)

Then, finally, came SENIOR YEAR... 

...most of which Lauren spent writing her thesis and Rina spent yelling at Lauren to "Finish your thesis so we can go out," or "Finish your thesis so you can write the book," or "Finish your thesis so I can stop listening to you talk about your thesis and yelling at you to finish it." Yet somehow, in part due to all this yelling, the plan for The Ivy slowly, ever so slowly, began to materialize...

Lauren had heard over the English Department Mailing list (Subject Heading: We really hope 5% of you graduate with jobs) that an editor and fellow Harvard alum from a major publishing house was coming to give a talk about working in the publishing industry. While most people attended that meeting hoping to gain inside information on how to be hired, Lauren--at Rina's urging--went in with a different agenda...

Lauren sat in the front row waiting patiently for... she wasn't sure what. Then, another girl raised her hand and asked the editor: "Do you ever accept unsolicited manuscripts?" (Unsolicited = unagented, unasked for, please-read-my-life's-work-please manuscripts.) "No," he said. "Not since 9/11 and the imminent anthrax threat." (Yeah, he really said this. But they also get so many, many, many manuscripts that unfortunately they can't accept things that haven't been asked for or vouched for by an agent.) "BUT," he continued, "if someone gets a hold of my personal email address and sends me an interesting letter, I will certainly read it."

BINGO lights flashed in Lauren's eyes. She could barely stay in her seat until the end of the talk, when she immediately accosted him at the podium and said: "I'm going to need your personal email address, sir, because I am going to send you a very interesting letter." Poor Mr. Publisher was so shocked that he actually gave it to her.

Thusly armed, and foot in the door, Lauren and Rina crafted a proposal to end all proposals. That none of the book had actually been written yet was but a minor concern. They mailed it off to the editor, and cc'd another editor whom they thought might be interested. Of course, they were totally unprepared for what happened next... The lady editor they had contacted was interested--but she wanted to see the first few chapters.

"You mean we actually have to write something now?!?" This proved detrimental to Lauren's thesis during the month of December, but eventually, the first three chapters were written and sent off the publisher for consideration. Then came the waiting. And waiting. And more waiting. And then, finally, came the first rejection. The editor's assistant emailed to say that the book was a little too "YA-y" for her tastes. "YA-y"? We didn't even know what that meant! Soon we looked it up and realized it stood for "young adult." Oh, we thought. We're writing for teens. Thank you for telling us!

We were pretty disheartened at this point--not to mention super busy with all the work and playtime that was senior year--but then something miraculous happened over spring break...
In the middle of a sun-filled week on Harbor Island in the Bahamas, Rina turned on her blackberry (to which she is shamelessly addicted) and noticed an email from another editor who worked at one of the publishing company's Young Adult imprints.
She had heard about the idea and was wondering if we could send her the first chapters!

We danced for joy:
And then we jumped for joy:
And then... we waited. And waited. And waited and waited. Back in Cambridge, spring, and final exams, were upon us, to be followed by senior week, then graduation, and then, horror of horrors, that thing they call 'Real Life.' Still, we had no word on those three chapters. Finally, Lauren cracked and emailed the editor. While she wasn't sold on the first three chapters, she did offer some very useful advice. But before Lauren and Rina could decide if The Ivy* should be filed away as a futile pipe dream, or to charge forward full speed ahead, there was something else they had to do first...

GRADUATE! After they got that whole hoopla out of the way, they could finally get back to their plans for the book. Over pizza at Cambridge One (a local Harvard Square favorite) and glasses of their favorite beer (Magic Hat #9), they processed the editor's advice. Rina had, unfortunately, signed on for full time indentured servitude at the London offices of a large investment banking firm, but Lauren had the entire summer before she was supposed to head off to Oxford or Cambridge for graduate school (incidentally, she had inadvertently told both that she was coming). She decided to take a part time job and try to write the first draft of a manuscript that would eventually become The Ivy. By the time fall rolled around, she'd written enough to justify deferring graduate school and finishing the novel. When Lauren completed a new chapter, she would email it to Rina, who was overjoyed to take a break from number crunching and relive their crazy college adventures via a fictional retelling. 

The manuscript was completed in December of 2009. Shortly thereafter, Lauren ad Rina signed with agent extraordinaire Rosemary Stimola, who then brokered a four book deal for The Ivy Series with the fabulous Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Now, Rina is still crunching numbers at a private equity firm in Turkey and waiting (impatiently) for new chapters from Lauren to pop up in her inbox, so she can sneakily read and offer ideas and input when the boss isn't looking! And Lauren now writes full time from wherever she feels like visiting, though her home base is still California.

Lauren and Rina are deeply indebted to email, gchat, and video skype, without which they would suffer extreme BFF withdrawal. Since freshman year when they became utterly inseparable throughout the duration of college, they have not gone more than 5 days without speaking. In fact, Lauren has learned that if she doesn't answer Rina's emails within 24 hours, Rina flies into a panic and assumes she is dead, crowding Lauren's inbox with emails to this effect (Subject Heading: DID YOU DIE?!?!). They are eagerly awaiting the day when they get famous enough for their publisher to want to send them on joint vacations--ahem--book tours--all over the world.

Lauren and Rina agree that college is, was, and probably always will be one of the best times in not only their lives, but in the lives of every young person. Words really cannot express how much fun they had reliving freshman year while in the process of creating this series, and how excited they are to share those good times with readers everywhere. So snag your copy of The Ivy today, and find out what life is really like in the Ivy League...

*The Ivy was originally titled "The Ivy Diaries," back when we thought rhyming, and "diaries," were cool. Now we know better.

Still craving more insider info about Lauren, Rina, and The Ivy? Check out our Author Assistant pages here!