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Getting Ready for Your Debut Year by Christina Matula and The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Christina Matula here to celebrate the release of her MG contemporary The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei. It sounds like a fantastic story with compelling characters and it’s set in Hong Kong. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

This debut middle grade series follows a girl finding her place in a brand-new world of private school and frenemies when her family moves to Hong Kong.

Holly-Mei Jones couldn’t be more excited about moving to Hong Kong for her mother’s job. Her new school is right on the beach and her family’s apartment is beyond beautiful. Everything is going to be perfect . . . right?

Maybe not. It feels like everywhere she turns, there are new rules to follow and expectations to meet. On top of that, the most popular girl in her grade is quickly becoming a frenemy. And without the guidance of her loving Ah-ma, who stayed behind in Toronto, Holly-Mei just can’t seem to get it right.

It will take all of Holly-Mei’s determination and sparkle (and maybe even a tiny bit of stubbornness) to get through seventh grade and turn her life in Hong Kong into the ultimate adventure! 

Now here’s Christina!

Getting Ready for My MG Debut Year

Thank you, Natalie, for letting me share my journey to the publication of The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei with your readers.

I was thrilled to get an offer for my debut Middle-Grade book in the spring of 2020 from Inkyard Press. It was a time of much stress in the world and it was nice to have some good news. And the best part was the book would be part of a three-book series, all about Holly-Mei and her friends.

Twelve months to go

Working to the fact Book 1 would come out in April 2022, with Books 2 and 3 each one year after the other, I thought two years would be plenty of time to revise the book, but in the publishing world, a book needs to be ready a full year ahead so that advance reader copies can be printed and distributed.

I sent my final draft of The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei to my wonderful editor Claire Stetzer and turned my attention to other parts of the book, namely the Author’s Note (my motivation for writing the book), the Acknowledgements (to thank all the people who helped me on my journey), and the Glossary (to explain the Chinese phrases found throughout the book). I also got to test the two recipes I included in the back of the book – Ah-ma’s Dumplings and Millie’s Red Bean Creamsicles – which was an incredibly fun and tasty exercise.

Nine months to go

The book cover, by the talented Yao Xiao and designed by Erin Craig, was unveiled and I was able to share it across social media and my website. The image of Holly-Mei on Repulse Bay beach, one of my favorite places in Hong Kong, brought back so many memories of my time there.

After deciding which scenes would get illustrations (about a dozen throughout the book), I was able to review the draft sketches and give comments on some of the details, for example, in the Chapter 1 illustration, Holly-Mei should have a bike helmet because she follows rules, and in Chapter 3, Ah-ma should have wavy hair because she wears curlers in the morning.

The copyeditor came back with suggested changes and caught some of the echoes I had missed. Although I didn’t keep my Canadian spelling, (colour, flavour, etc), I kept some of the Canadianisms, such as Grade 7 instead of seventh grade, since the story begins in Canada.

I joined a 2022 Debuts group and it’s been a great resource for navigating the journey to my MG debut launch. The fellow authors are very helpful and supportive. The 22 Debuts group, the SCBWI Hong Kong chapter, and my Hong Kong University MFA writing group have all provided a wonderful and welcoming community.

Six months to go

The draft for Book 2 was handed in and a title agreed upon with my editor: The-Not-So-Perfect Plan (A Holly-Mei Book). I love that they kept the “The Not-So-” theme and I think it ties the series together nicely.

I am so lucky to have an accompanying audiobook and I got to hear samples from a few potential narrators. One of them stood out as what I imagined Holly-Mei would sound like and I’m so happy Natalie Naudus was able to record the audiobook.

I received the ARC of the book and was surprised to find a few errors even after meticulously going through the book countless times. One error was even in my Author’s Note – I wrote that my mom had ten siblings, but she had nine. It must have been a remnant of when I wrote she was “one of ten siblings” but changed the sentence without changing the number. I guess that’s why they call it an “uncorrected proof”.

On a happier note, the final book jacket was approved and I was thrilled to have some of my favorite authors write blurbs for my book – Erin Entrada Kelly, Kate Messner, Lauren Child, and Katie Zhao.

Three months to go

The final pass pages are what they call it when they send you the file as it would look in the final book. It was a bit nerve wracking going through it because this would be the last time I could read through the book before it went to print.  Luckily it was all good and ready to go.

I reached out to the librarians and teachers I met along my writing journey (some via school visits with my picture book, The Shadow in the Moon, some via volunteering at various literary festivals), and introduced my upcoming book to them.

The publisher sent me a draft of the educator discussion guide to read through. I was amazed at how some of the topics and themes I touched upon in the book could be used to enable deeper discussion with students.

One month to go

In the weeks and days running up to the launch, I spent a lot of time preparing guest blog posts and Q&As, making social media graphics (I’m getting really good at Canva), and having lots of back and forths with the marketing and publicity team at Inkyard.

I live in Finland and it wasn’t possible to do an event here, but the Saturday before my launch, I was thrilled to be invited to be on a Middle-Grade panel with Books of Wonder, an amazing NYC-based children’s bookstore. 

Launch day

It was actually a very calm day. After sharing my book birthday across social media, I had a low-key dinner with my husband and friends and treated myself to a glass of champagne. A perfectly peaceful end to a rather hectic year.

You can find me on Instagram @christinamatula and Twitter @MatulaChristina.

Christina Matula grew up in Ottawa, Canada. Being a child of immigrant parents, she has always been curious about other cultures and far-off places. Dumplings are her favorite food, especially her mother’s savory Taiwanese jiaozi and her father’s sweet Hungarian gomboc. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Hong Kong and now lives in Finland with her husband, two children, and puppy. Learn more at ChristinaMatula.com

Giveaway Details

Christina has generously offered a hardback of The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei 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 May 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. and Canada.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, May 4th I have an interview with debut author Betty Yee and a giveaway of her YA historical Gold Mountain

Monday, May 9th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Unter and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, May 10th I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Monday, May 16th I have a guest post by Donna Gallanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand, and I'm participating in the Moms Rock Giveaway Hop

Monday, May 23th I have an agent/author guest post by Natalie Lakosil and Tracie Badua with a giveaway of Tracie’s MG contemporary Freddie vs. The Family Curse and a query critique giveaway by Natalie

Hope to see you on Wednesday, May 4th!




Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your publication journey! Your book sounds really interesting.

Andrea Mack said...

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be anonymous.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like the pre-publication process went really smoothly, especially considering your acceptance was right when Covid was kicking off in 2020! Looks like a great read. :)

Danielle H. said...

I'm excited to "travel" to Hong Kong while reading this debut novel. Thank you for sharing the publication path for your book. I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/682509391950430208/getting-ready-for-your-debut-year-by-christina

Ms. YIngling said...

I really enjoyed this one, and I'm sure my students would be glad to read it without having to wait until next school year! msingling(at)yahoo(dot)com

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know all about prepping for marketing and posts!
Cool you had some input on the illustrations.

Brenda said...

Thanks for sharing your publication path, congratulations on the release also. Defiantly adding this to the TBR. Have a lovely week, Natalie.

Lisa Pineo said...

This sounds like a great book, I look forward to reading it! And congrats on your publication!

Patricia T. said...

Loved the interview with Holly and the countdown process she shared! Interesting for those of us who get ARCs. This series sounds like it will be a big hit. And, I do like how they keep the titles similar. Have always wanted to go Hong Kong. Made me think of the final Karate Kid with Jaden Smith set in Hong Kong. Not an easy transition! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating to read about the author's publication journey, and the book sounds really good, although sadly I am not eligible to enter for this one!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats on the new book. It must be especially interesting considering the crackdown on Hong Kong by mainland China.

Greg Pattridge said...

Thanks to Christina for detailing the lead up to her debut. The story has me anxious to read this one as the MC and setting are a perfect combination. A great choice for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Suzanne Warr said...

I'm feeling greedy to even enter since I just won a book, but this does sound really fun and right up my alley! Just in case, my email is spartan_writer(at)yahoo(dot)com, and of course I follow.
I also really enjoyed this timeline of the countdown to the book's release! It's always nice to know what this journey looked like for another author and pick up a few tips as well. Congratulaions to Christina and best of luck with the series!

Liz A. said...

Nice timeline. There's a lot that goes into a book launch.

Carol Baldwin said...

Congratulations! I'm interested in this book and shared on FB and Twitter.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

So much goes into producing a book!

Rosi said...

How fun to read through the timeline of this book being born. Very interesting. The book sounds great. Thanks for the post.

Maria Antonia said...

So cool to get blurbs from favorite authors! Loved reading the timeline :)

Valinora Troy said...

Sorry, didn't mean to be anonymous either!

Sandra Cox said...

Many congratulations, Christina.
'Lo, Natalie.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Love, love, love the cover. Best of luck to Christina!

Tara said...

This is definitely on my must-read list! I love that you included the pre-publication timeline. It's interesting to see how that works for each author.

Melissa Miles said...

This was such a helpful interview, and this cover is just gorgeous! Makes me want to pick it up immediately. Congrats on the book!!

Tonja Drecker said...

I really enjoy the way your publishing journey is so nicely described...so interesting! And this book is definitely going on my TBR list.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Hi Natalie! I already follow your blog. I've shared Christina Matula's MG book Launch post for Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei novel on both facebook and twitter.

What an amazing and productive year leading up to her launch. I've learned so much. Thank you, Christina and Natalie, for this opportunity to learn about book launches and have the opportunity to win a copy of Matula's new book. Have a beautiful day!