The 2018 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize
Prize of $1,000 and publication with Elephant Rock Books YA.
Elephant Rock’s Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize is awarded to only the strongest full-length YA novel. We’ve had great success with the prize. The Carnival at Bray, our 2014 winner by Jessie Ann Foley, went on to become a Printz Honor Book; The Art of Holding On and Letting Go, our 2016 winner by Kristin Bartley Lenz, was a Junior Library Guild selection and has since been nominated for the Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award.
The press accepts electronic submissions through Submittable.
Elephant Rock does not read manuscripts outside of our contest.
·Eligibility: Novelists writing in English and with completed YA manuscripts. Submit the first fifty pages. Full manuscripts submitted during round two of evaluation. A manuscript may be submitted that is being considered elsewhere, but Elephant Rock should be notified upon the manuscript’s acceptance elsewhere.
o Cover letter: include a brief bio, relevant publication information, address, phone number, and title of the manuscript.
·Submission fee: $20 via Submittable.
·The winning manuscript will be announced in late fall of 2017 and published in 2018.
·Submissions window is open; submissions window closes on .
Today I’m thrilled to have Kat Zhang back on the blog to share about her new MG THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE. I first had Kat on the blog when her debut YA novel in The Hybrid Chronicles released in 2012. She wrote that book in high school and was debuting while in college. Since then she’s finished that trilogy and is now starting to write for middle graders. So excited for her new book because it is set in China. Some of you know that my daughter is adopted from there.
Here’s a blurb of THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE from Goodreads:
Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.
Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.
When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.
Hi Kat! Thanks so much for joining us!
1. Tell us about yourself and what has been going on in your life since we talked in 2012. Have you graduated from college?
Thanks for having me on the blog again! Wow, it seems like it’s been so long since 2012. I have graduated college, but decided to pursue even more school, so I’m going to be a student for a few years longer. In other news, I’ve moved out to the American Midwest for the first time in my life, and I’m enjoying the new surroundings 😊
2. Not surprising that you are continuing in your education. Where did you get the idea for THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE?
My parents are immigrants from China, and I’ve been hearing stories about their childhoods and about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which had a huge effect on their lives, since I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to write a book that touched on that, and on other aspects of Chinese history.
It all came together when my father mentioned that during his last trip to China, he’d gone to see an old burial site. According to local stories, the tomb was actually the secret tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor.
Hearing my father’s description of this tomb, and about the legend, I started to piece together the story that would become The Emperor’s Riddle.
3. I've read about the Cultural Revolution, and I can imagine how that affected your parents' lives. What made you decide to write a middle grade story instead of making this a YA story? What challenges did you face in writing for a younger audience?
From the beginning, I knew I wanted The Emperor’s Riddle to be:
a) a treasure-hunt/mystery of sorts
b) very much a family-based story
These are, of course, things that can be the backbone of a YA book, but they just worked really well in the world of middle grade. Plus, I didn’t get to read many action/adventure books about kids who looked like me when I was a preteen, and I wanted other Asian-American kids to have that opportunity.
I was a little nervous at first about trying to get back into a preteen mindset—being eleven-years-old seems so far away now! But I’m lucky to have hung out with a lot of kids through work and volunteer experiences, and it was really fun to try seeing the world from their point of view again.
4. Yes, my daughter and I felt the same way about the lack of kids who looked like her in MG
There seem to be few MG/YA books set in China, which is a shame, because it’s such a great place for a story, and full of so much rich history. I definitely did a lot of research on the legend interwoven into The Emperor’s Riddle, as well as on the various historic and cultural landmarks that Mia visits during her treasure hunt. It was a ton of fun to “visit” each location along with her through the internet.
5. Share about Mia, your main character. What was her character development like?
Mia was really fun to write—in general, I’ve found that this age range in general is really fun to write! She’s at a point where she’s still very much a kid, but also full of more understanding than some of the adults in her life expect. She’s got all these plans and strong emotions, and she doesn’t always quite know how to handle them all, and it was really great to be able to explore that.
6. She sounds really cool. What have you learned about marketing from your promotion of your first YA series? How is marketing this book the same and different than that series?
Honestly, the biggest thing I learned about marketing is that at the end of the day, it’s word of mouth that will make the biggest difference. Of course, everything else is important, too, and I love doing interviews, guest-posts, giveaways, and author visits, but the most important thing is still to write a great book that readers will love and talk about and recommend to their friends 😊
Marketing MG does seem to be a bit different than marketing YA, because the target audience is different—there’s more of an emphasis on reaching librarians/schools and the like, rather than online marketing. I’m very much still learning about it all, though!
Thank you! 😊
The only real tip I have is a pretty basic one—keep writing, and don’t be afraid to branch out. Of course, if you really only enjoy writing a particular kind of book, you don’t have to force yourself to write other things. But being open to different ideas and types of writing can not only be fun, but help your career move forward.
8. What is something that has surprised you about being a writer since you debuted?
I remember that early on, I was surprised by everything that goes on behind the scenes of publishing! There are a ton of people involved, and lots of moving parts.
9. What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on revisions for my second MG! It’s about parallel universes and misfit children, and I’m very excited about it.
Thanks for sharing your advice, Kat. You can find Kat at www.KatZhangWriter.Com and @KatZhang
Kat has generously offered a copy of THE EMPEROR'S RIDDLE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 3rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This is for U.S.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.
Wednesday, May 24th I've got an agent spotlight interview with Alyssa Jennette and a query critique giveaway
Monday, May 29th I'll be off for Memorial day and will be taking a blog break until Friday.
Friday, June 2nd I'm participating in the Beach Reads Giveaway Hop
Wednesday, June 7th I've got an interview with debut author Leah Henderson and giveaway of her MG contemporary ONE SHADOW on the WALL and my IWSG post
Monday, June 12th I've got an agent spotlight interview with Bibi Lewis and a query critique giveaway
Monday, June 19th I have a guest post with debut author Kayla Olson and possibly her agent with a giveaway of her YA science fiction THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE
Wednesday, June 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Van Sant and a query critique giveaway--my last until the fall
Monday, I have a guest post with debut author Emily Bain Murphy and her agent Peter Knapp with a giveaway of Erin's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES and a query critique giveaway by Peter
Hope to see you on Wednesday!