Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Debut Author Interview: Lily LaMotte and Measuring Up Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Lily LaMotte here to share about her MG contemporary graphic novel, Measuring Up. It sounds like a great story about friendship, family, fitting in, and food. I haven’t read a graphic novel but am looking forward to reading this one.

 Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Twelve-year-old Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to celebrate her grandmother, A-má’s, seventieth birthday together.

Since she can’t go to A-má, Cici cooks up a plan to bring A-má to her by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to pay for A-má’s plane ticket! There’s just one problem: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food.

And after her pickled cucumber debacle at lunch, she’s determined to channel her inner Julia Child. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too?

Hi Lily! Thanks so much for joining us.

 1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thank you for having me! I’ve always loved reading and spent many hours at my local public library. So when I had kids, I had to read to them and give them the same love of books. It dawned on me at some point that I wanted to write for kids. I had to wait until my kids were older to pursue it.

Then I took writing classes through my local community college, the University of Washington continuing ed, Highlights Foundation, and most recently through Hamline’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I also took advantage of virtual classes with Mediabistro when they still offered fiction writing classes and webinars with 12x12 and Storyteller Academy. I joined SCBWI and a huge shoutout to my amazing weekly critique groups the Imagineers, the EmGees, the HamlinePB, and the Grou. It took many, many, many years to learn to write well enough to become a debut author. And I’m still learning.

 2. It's sounds like you've really worked hard to improve your writing. Where did you get the idea for Measuring Up?

When I worked with Gene Luen Yang for my post-grad semester in Hamline’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, I brainstormed ideas with developmental editor and author Lisa Cron. We were talking about an idea that I had about tomato magic. What if tomatoes were magical? That led to mentioning that I love food and cooking shows. At some point during our conversation, I had the idea to center the story around a cooking contest, a girl who wants to bring her A-má to celebrate her special birthday, and the idea that food brings together friends and family despite differences in cultures. The rest of the story quickly came together after that. Lisa is very good at asking questions to get the writing brain to come up with ideas. To put unconnected ideas together in new ways.

 3. What was the process of plotting out your story like? Was it harder not knowing exactly how the illustrator would illustrate the story?

Gene requires his students to write a synopsis/outline. That was very helpful as I was able to work out

some plot problems before I even started writing the script for my graphic novel. Having his eyes on the overall story and character arc helped me to avoid writing myself into a corner.

As for the illustrations, I wrote very detailed panel descriptions. That’s another thing that Gene makes his students do. I found it very helpful since I had to really visualize and describe the setting, how the characters stood, sat, expressed joy, sadness. By going so in-depth with the characters, they became real to me.

 4. That's great that you developed the idea for your story while you were in the MFA program and could get the help of your instructor. You like to cook like Cici. Did your own cooking help in developing Cici’s talents?

I definitely drew from my experience of not knowing how to cook when I graduated from college and had to cook for myself to years later making elaborate meals for friends. I also collected cookbooks. At one point, I had a couple of bookcases devoted to my cookbooks. Everyone knew to gift me cookbooks. I moved those cookbooks from one house to the next. Regretfully, during one of my last moves, I decided that I no longer had time to cook so what was the point of keeping them. I do wish I had them back.

 5. My late husband used to collect cookbooks too, though he didn't make many of the recipes. Share a bit about Cici as a character. Did you learn a lot about her as you wrote her story or did you have a clear vision of her when you started writing your manuscript?

I knew some things about Cici when I began writing her. I knew she had a good life in Taiwan and worried about moving to Seattle. I knew that she loved her A-má and was loved in return. I knew she would feel like she didn’t quite belong in her new home. I knew the tight family that she had in Taiwan would be different because A-má wasn’t there. Knowing all that gave me the illusion that I knew Cici.

But those are just broad strokes and it wasn’t until I started moving her through the panels and the pages that I really got to know her. It was through deciding how she did specific things. For example, how she sat in her chair during her virtual calls with A-má or that they would reach out to each other by touching the computer display or that when she felt uncertain, she would stand behind her friends as if they are a shield.

 6. What was a challenge you faced in writing Measuring Up and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was that I had to send Gene forty pages a month. There was no time for slacking. I read and re-read two books that got me through the semester: Deep Work by Cal Newport and The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. Cal Newport reminded me that I could get through the semester by focusing on the work and various strategies to do that. Kelly McGonigal reminded me that the stress I felt was eustress, i.e., stress that was not just good for me but would strengthen me.

 7. Your agent is Laura Rennert. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I actually found my way to my wonderful agent Laura Rennert through a manuscript critique. Interestingly, the critique was with Jennifer Laughran who is also with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Jennifer requested my full manuscript after reading the ten pages I sent her for the critique. I was blown away by the request and very nervous so I revised and revised and revised and then revised some more. She finally nudged me to ask if I’d sent my full to her yet. After she got my full, she sent it around to the other agents at Andrea Brown. So when an Andrea Brown agent says that they share manuscripts, they really do. Laura saw my manuscript and was interested so Jennifer connected the two of us together. I had a lovely conversation with Laura on the phone. I felt like we connected in how we saw our relationship as a partnership. I am absolutely thrilled that I have been able to work with Laura.

 8. What a cool story about getting your agent. How are you promoting your book in these challenging times? What advice do you have to debut authors releasing their book during the pandemic and in general?

My publicity and marketing team has been amazing during these challenging times. They are so supportive of MEASURING UP. I’ve been on several panels including one for the NYC Comic Con, Tween Reads Festival, and the HarperAlley imprint launch. They’ve run giveaways on Goodreads and Instagram and created a very fun recipe name generator.

Then there are the things that I did. I made a cooking video for the HarperCollins YouTube Shelf Stuff channel. That was very fun to do. I roped in my son and my husband to put that video together. Also, I ordered a couple of tote bags for the giveaways with my book cover. And I’m sewing tea towels with fabric that I created with the book cover and other images through Spoonflower. For my book launch, I’m partnering with Studio East, a local theater school for kids. We recorded a reading of Chapter One with their students and alumni. You can watch the recording here. Also, I have an exciting guest for my virtual book launch. It’ll be fun to just have a casual conversation with him during my virtual event. And I’m doing blog posts like yours. Thank you again for having me!

I think the main thing is to be a part of your local community. Find partnerships with other people, groups, and organizations. And be a good partner.

Do what you can but mostly write that next book.

 9. That's great that your publisher is being so supportive. What are you working on now?

My second middle grade graphic novel is in copyedit so I’m kicking around some middle grade graphic novel ideas for my next book and hope to start soon. And of course, since reading picture books to my kids is what started this writing journey, I’m always in the middle of revising one picture book or another.

 Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lily. You can find Lily at https://lilylamotte.com.

Giveaway Details

Lily and her publisher have generously offered an ARC of Measuring Up for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by November 7th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. only.

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Sunday, November 1st I'm participating in the November 2020 of Books Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, November 3rd I have an interview with debut author Chole Gong and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Violent Delights and my IWSG post

Monday, November 9th I have an interview with debut author Sheila Averbuch and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Friend Me

Tuesday, November 10th I'm participating in the Super Stocking Giveaway Hop 

Monday, November 16th I have an interview with debut author Rachel Short and a giveaway of her MG spooky mystery The Mutant Mushroom Takover

Wednesday, November 18th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tori Sharp and a query critique giveaway

Monday, November 23rd I have an interview with debut author Carol Coven Grannick and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Renni's Turn

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great creative approaches to promo during these tough times! This looks like a great book. I can tell a lot of hard work went into it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You don't hear much about graphic novel authors although it's a huge, huge business.

Beth said...

Great interview, Natalie! I have been watching Lily's progress for years. So happy for her book birthday. Cannot wait to read the one I ordered!

Nick Wilford said...

Congrats to Lily! I like the story behind the book's development, and it sounds like she's been taking innovative approaches to promo. We could all learn from that.

Test said...

Tweeted as well. Great book, interview, and great giveaway!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Writing a graphic novel would be fun!

K.A. Cummins said...

Congrats, Lily! Thanks for sharing about your experiences and all the hard work you put into your writing. It’s encouraging and inspiring!

Computer Tutor said...

What a fun book and a fresh approach. Graphic novels are becoming quite popular. I'll have to check yours out!

Patricia T. said...

Congratulations, Lily! How thrilling it must have been to have such a prominent literary agency request your complete MS. A graphic novel involving a cooking contest! I love the idea and am glad to see more books with teens cooking. I loved her comment about food bringing people together despite their culture. I really enjoyed the interview and learning about how the writing her panel descriptions. That's a lot of work.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great insights into Lily's road to the bookshelf. Stories with endearing characters and food are a plus for me. Another superb interview about an author and book new to me.

Brenda said...

Congratulations Lily, love the sound of Measuring Up! A graphic novel with cooking, such fun.

Sue Heavenrich said...

What a fun idea for a novel - and thank you so much for the wonderful interview with Lily! I cannot wait to read this book.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a fascinating interview, Ladies. Congratulations, Lily.

Liz A. said...

That is so cool. And what a great idea for a novel. Cooking shows are such the rage right now, and I can see how MG readers would get into this, too.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

I've been looking forward to Measuring Up for a while, so I'm so thrilled to see this interview! It was interesting to hear about how LaMotte plotted out the story and got to know Cici as a character. I'll pass on the giveaway, since I already preordered the book, but thanks for the wonderful interview!

nashvillecats2 said...

Vongrats to Lily on an excellent book and thanks to you also Natalie on a wonderful post.

Happy week alniet I'm a day late.

BetW said...

Lily, your book sounds great. The idea of a young girl trying to win money through a cooking contest to bring her grandmother over to celebrate her birthday is so unique. I'm eager to read your book. Terrific interview!

Melissa Miles said...

Congrats on your book. I love the premise. It was encouraging to read that the agents shared the manuscript and you made a great connection with yours! Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Lily! I love how you mix food and cooking into the tale...and how you got to this point. Interesting!

Danielle H. said...

I love reading graphic novels and was thrilled when New Kid won the Newbery Award. I am a self-taught cook and baker and am continually learning more techniques and trying new recipes every week. I can't wait to read your book! I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/633147339491655680/debut-author-interview-lily-lamotte-and-measuring

Rosi said...

What a great story Lily has. Very inspirational. The book sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for the post.

tetewa said...

Don't read many graphic novels but this sounds good! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

Sandra Cox said...

Great interview, ladies.
Wishing you much success, Lily.
'Lo, Natalie:)

DMS said...

I am a big fan of graphic novels. So much fun to read. This sounds like a great book and I loved reading about how Lily developed the idea. Wishing her all the best and thanks for the chance to win a copy. :)

Pat Hatt said...

Great when you can find an agent and have a great connection indeed.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats, Lilly. So exciting for you!

lkrichmanauthor said...

Food and culture are such a powerful combination! Congrats :)

Angie Quantrell said...

Wow, I am impressed by how hard you threw yourself into the learning about writing and the actual writing. Loved reading about your journey. Congrats!

Will share on Twitter. ;)I also follow you there.