Tara Lazar: Mother, Author, & Blogger Extraordinaire

 

 

Back in 2009, Tara Lazar posted a review of Otto Grows Down on her blog, Writing for Children While Raising Them. Her review was so beautifully written and so enthusiastic that I immediately got in touch with her and we’ve been friends ever since. We critiqued each other’s manuscripts, commiserated with each other’s personal and professional struggles, and shared news and publishing industry gossip.

At the time, Tara had yet to have a story accepted for publication. Now, I’m thrilled to report, she has three! The Monstore will be published next June by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. They will also publish I Thought This Was A Bear Book in 2014, and that year will also see the publication of Little Red Gliding Hood by Random House.

I admire how Tara has accomplished all this while raising two young daughters as well as writing and managing one of the premiere kidlit blogs on the Internet. She is my hero!

So check out Tara’s blog. This week she features an interview with me and is also giving away a copy of Crashing Eden. I can’t wait to see Tara’s books in print!

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God Condemns Crashing Eden

 

 

In a rare interview on Good Morning America, God denounced my YA novel, Crashing Eden, as “blasphemous rubbish.”

With His face blurred and His voice artificially altered, God proclaimed, “This book will corrupt young minds with its irreverent tone, sacrilegious content, and contemptuous portrayal of Me. It ought to be banned from schools, libraries, and any remaining bookstores.” God also criticized the story’s uneven pacing and weak character development.

Likening the novel to The Last Temptation of Christ and The Da Vinci Code, the Lord declared that “Crashing Eden distorts history and makes a mockery of sacred texts.” Asked about his one-star rating of the book, God replied that He would have given the book zero stars “if that was permitted by Amazon.”

 

 

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OTTO GROWS DOWN Goes Out of Print

 

 

 

My debut picture book, Otto Grows Down, was published by Sterling in 2009. I was lucky to be paired with the illustrator, Scott Magoon, a fabulous artist who has gone on to illustrate a bunch of wonderful books, including Spoon, Mostly Monsterly, and Chopsticks. Scott was a delight to work with, and Otto turned into a true collaboration.

Otto may not have won any awards, but it sold well, and it won the hearts and minds of many children and parents across the country. It has been gratifying to hear from parents, booksellers, and librarians that kids adore the story. In her blog post titled “What is Your Kid’s Favorite Book?”, Carissa Rogers wrote:

“I hope I can say this clearly enough. My little boy LOVES this book.
No. That was pathetic. Let me try again.
–He sprinkles this book on his cereal for breakfast.
–He sleeps with it.
–His older sister likes it just as much and often BEGS to read it to him!
–I’m not exaggerating. He would forgo a trip to the park, for an extra reading of Otto Grows Down.
–It travels on vacation with us.

–He plans to name his firstborn child Otto, regardless of gender.”

A college student was so taken with the story that she wrote a song about it and performed her creation on YouTube.

For those who never read the book, it’s the story of a boy who becomes trapped in backward time after making a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born. Like Crashing Eden, the central theme involves guilt and remorse over mistreating a sibling, and the wish to repair the damage.

Both stories probably emerged from my own remorse for having teased and harassed my younger brother. This theme of having harmed a sibling is such an abiding part of my psyche that at times I’ve wondered whether I’m a “womb twin survivor.” That’s someone who started life as a twin but was born alone, perhaps resulting in unconscious survivor guilt. (Yes, I realize that sounds bizarre, but who knows?)

Anyhow, it’s with some sadness that I announce that Otto Grows Down has gone out of print. Yet I take some comfort from Einstein’s belief that the past, present, and future coexist simultaneously, and that “the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” If this is the case, then as Otto bows out he simultaneously arrives, and will exist eternally.

Here’s a poem I wrote that never quite made it into the book:

 

What Is Time?

 

What is Time? What is Time?

Can anybody say?

Can you go to sleep tomorrow night

And wake up yesterday?

 

Will last Tuesday ever come again?

Or next year come round twice?

If summer never went away,

Now wouldn’t that be nice?

 

What is Time? What is Time?

Have you solved the riddle yet?

Can you stuff Time in your pocket?

Can you catch it with a net?

 

The Past is now behind us

And the Future’s yet to show.

Let’s celebrate the Present—

It’s the only time we know!

 

 

 

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Crashing Eden Giveaway

 

I am giving away two free copies of Crashing Eden. Enter to win at Goodreads, where the contest runs from today through June 8th. Open to anyone from the U.S. or Canada.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Crashing Eden by Michael Sussman

Crashing Eden

by Michael Sussman

Giveaway ends June 08, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

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Crashing Eden is now in Paperback

 

 

 


I’m happy to announce that my novel, Crashing Eden, is now out in paperback. It’s available at Solstice Publishing and at Amazon, where it has garnered several 5-star reviews.

I’ve also been busy doing interviews on various book blogs, including Nicki J. Markus, I Am a Reader Not a Writer, and Books R Us.

I’m grateful to those generous bloggers and invite others who might be interested in doing a review, interview, and/or giveaway to contact me.

And any filmmakers who might be interested in making the novel into a movie can access my dreamworld via this portal. 😉

 

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My Son; My Muse

As a baby, my son was high maintenance. I stayed home with Ollie for the first couple of years and he always demanded my full attention.

At the time of his birth, I was preparing to record a CD of my own piano compositions. Ollie, however, had other plans for me. My job was to entertain him, and he made it clear that this did not include playing piano. The only time available to practice was during his naps, but I didn’t want to wake him.

So I canceled the hours I’d booked at the recording studio and shifted from playing music to writing fiction. Since it was a quiet activity, I could write during my son’s naps and in the evenings after he went to bed.

I wrote a comic mystery novel, titled Soup to Nuts, which I never managed to publish. But my writing continued to improve.

By the time Ollie was five, I’d read him hundreds of picture books. I didn’t care for most of them, and decided I could do better. So I began writing for children, and in 2009 my debut picture book—Otto Grows Down—was published by Sterling.

As Ollie aged, I started writing for older kids. He had an incredible imagination and became something of a writing partner. He supplied me with ideas and gave me invaluable feedback on my stories. He was even a good editor.

When Ollie was eleven, I began working on a young adult novel. Being precocious, he was already reading some YA novels himself. Ollie helped me construct the plot, develop characters, and refine the manuscript. The result, Crashing Eden, has been released by Solstice Publishing. I dedicated the book to Ollie. In truth, his name should accompany mine on the cover.

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Crashing Eden is out!

 

 

 

I’m pleased to announce that the e-book releases today. The paperback will soon be available as well.

Like most novels, this one has its flaws. Like most works of art, the finished product pales in comparison to the original vision.

Still, I’m genuinely happy with the book and feel proud to have written it.

I’d like to be one of those authors who ignores reviews, but I’m incapable of such restraint. Reading negative reviews can be tough, of course, but I take comfort in noting that all my favorite novels have plenty of 1-star reviews on Amazon.

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to feedback from followers of this blog. And I’m looking forward to starting a new project!

 

Cover Reveal!

The front cover of my soon-to-be-published novel has arrived. Pretty cool, no?

I’d love to hear any feedback, especially about the lettering (which can still be altered.)

Favorite Quotes on Writing

I like to collect quotations, especially about writing. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.”
     Goethe

“Narrative is the human way of working through a chaotic and unforgiving world.”
     E.O. Wilson

“Always try to put the funniest word at the end of your sentence underpants.”
     Gene Weingarten

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.”
     Jules Renard

“What’s so hard about the first sentence is that you’re stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you’ve laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone.”
     Joan Didion

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”
     Franz Kafka

“Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.”
E.B. White

“It is not my intent as a writer necessarily to help young readers escape this world we live in so much as to show it as a place imbued with magical potential.”
     Tim Wynne-Jones

“He was listening to what I like to call the wisdom of the novel. Every true novelist listens for that suprapersonal wisdom, which explains why great novels are always a little more intelligent than their authors. Novelists who are more intelligent than their books should go into another line of work.”
     Milan Kundera

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
     T.S. Eliot

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
     E. L. Doctorow

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
     Elmore Leonard

“Writers are troublemakers. A psychotherapist tries to relieve stress, strain, and pressure. Writers are not psychotherapists. Their job is to give readers stress, strain, and pressure. The fact is that readers who hate those things in life love them in fiction”
     Sol Stein

“Start as close to the end as possible.”
     Kurt Vonnegut

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
     W. Somerset Maugham

 “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”
     Oscar Wilde

“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
     Robert Benchley

“Fiction writers are by their very nature, middle children—they are searchers, doubters, malcontents. They believe themselves somehow abandoned, uncoddled, unloved.”
     John Gregory Brown

“When you catch an adjective, kill it.”
     Mark Twain

“Jewish humor uses crazy logic as a way of coping with the incomprehensible.”
     Jim Holt

“Writing is the mask and the unveiling.”
     E.B. White

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
     Ray Bradbury

“This is not a book that should be tossed aside lightly. It should be hurled with great force.”
     Dorothy Parker

 

 Do you have other favorites? Feel free to share them below.

 

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Can’t Wait

Who doesn’t hate to wait?

The facial expressions of people in post offices and waiting rooms across the globe tell the story. Waiting is hell.

From childhood onward we’re told to be patient. But as Ambrose Bierce succinctly put it, patience is “a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.”

Many jobs and professions entail a good deal of waiting, but perhaps writers have it worst of all.

We query agents and editors, and then wait weeks or months to hear whether we can submit a manuscript. (These days, we may never hear back at all; an increasingly popular policy among these folks is to reply only to queries that interest them.)

If you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to submit your work, entire seasons may come and go before a response arrives.

And if you’re fortunate enough to receive a contract from a publisher, you’re waiting has just begun; it can easily take two years before your book hits the marketplace.

Currently I’m waiting for an illustrator to complete the cover art for my novel, Crashing Eden. I’m also waiting to hear back from reviewers who have advance copies of the book.

The usual advice writers hear for dealing with this ongoing dilemma is to start work on your next project. Makes sense. Now I just have to wait for my damn muse to get in the mood…

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