My Fourth Book Deal

I've always loved fairy tales. As a child, I sought them out in whatever form they took--picture books, short story collections, Disney films. 

I used to love horses (I still like them, but the passion doesn't run as deep). My friend Heather had one. I vividly remember a photo of her atop it in her chic riding gear. It blew my mind that a kid my age could OWN A HORSE. 

As a children's book editor, I've enjoyed reading fairy tale reimaginings, though I've yet to work on any (hint, hint). So, I decided to write one of my own. Happily, the always brilliant Justin Chanda wanted to work on it, and he reached out to the magnificent Jessie Sima to see if she might illustrate it. (See? I told you--brilliant.) She said yes.

Add It to the List: THE ANCHOR & SOPHIA

Picture it: Bologna. Dusk. A crowded plaza of happy tourists and locals in light coats and sweaters, enjoying the gorgeous spring weather. The pigeons stay close in hopes of enjoying some of the food the city is so famous for. An Aperol Spritz rests in front of me and across from it sits the legendary John Cusick. "I have something I'd like to pitch to you," he says. And so it begins...

Nearly four months later, I'm so HAPPY that I can finally talk about this deal. I'm also ecstatic that I have three more manuscripts to look forward to from the truly gifted Tommy Wallach. I was first introduced to Tommy's work in July 2013 (two years ago!) when John submitted the manuscript for We All Looked Up. I instantly fell in love with the writing and was overjoyed to add the novel, plus an untitled second novel, to my list. That second novel became Thanks for the Trouble, which is so different from We All Looked Up. For one thing, it's written in first person from a single point-of-view. Still, as my boss mentioned in his recent presentation of the novel at our Spring 2016 Sales Conference, the beauty of the writing is unmistakably Tommy Wallach. And so is the case with Tommy's next project, a plot-driven tale of two brothers who will play key--and opposing--roles in a growing conflict in their young civilization. 

Book One in the Anchor & Sophia trilogy comes out in Spring 2017.

John and I dined here after he was done pitching. Photo (C) John Cusick

John and I dined here after he was done pitching. Photo (C) John Cusick

Add It to the List: NOT QUITE NARWHAL

I made an offer on this book the day I received it. THE DAY I RECEIVED IT! I think that might be a first for me. But I immediately fell in love with Kelp, who is the unicorn at the heart of the story, the art, and the writing. The supremely gifted Jessie Sima knocked it out of the park.

Though Jessie is brand new to all of this, she speaks like a seasoned veteran, expertly discussing how she approaches her illustrations, the numerous revisions she made to each drawing to get the angle, emotion, and narrative quality just right, and her feelings about the industry. I know this because I had a chance to speak with her ahead of the auction that agent Thao Le organized (I wasn't the only one who saw the potential in Not Quite Narwhal). Jessie and I chatted for nearly an hour. (When was the last time you spoke on the phone for an hour?!) We had such a lovely conversation, and I hung up the phone wanting the book even more. 

I was on vacation the day of the auction, so my fearless boss went into battle for me. As I came out of the New Amsterdam theater after seeing Aladdin with my partner's kids (and getting a backstage tour!)...

...I checked my email and discovered that I, Christian Trimmer, was going to be the editor of Not Quite Narhwal, along with a to-be-determined second picture book.

It was a great vacation.

Not Quite Narwhal is scheduled for Spring 2017.

My Second Book Deal

Dear Readers, I have another book on the way! It's called Mimi and Shu in I'll Race You! The brilliant Melissa van der Paardt, who provided the genius art for Simon's New Bed, taps into a whole new style to bring Mimi the Kitten, Shu the Mouse, and all of their friends to life. As with my first book, the charming Justin Chanda is serving up editorial realness, and Lauren Rille is on design. Mimi and Shu in I'll Race You! comes out on January 26, 2016.

The front cover of my next book!

The front cover of my next book!

When I was little, I'd often head to Little Saigon in Chicago with my mom and my brother, Britton, to buy groceries and to have lunch at one of the many fantastic Vietnamese restaurants there. All of the restaurants had a number of things in common, including terrible lighting, amazing pho, and Chinese Zodiac menus. Britton and I would pore over the menus, first studying our own signs (I'm a Dragon*, he's a Rat) and then moving on to the signs of other friends and family members.

*I'm not a Dragon. I learned this after many years of thinking I was a Dragon. The bulk of my birth year coincides with the Dragon, but as I was born prior to the Chinese New Year, I'm actually a Rabbit. My mother loved the idea of having a Dragon, so she raised me as such. It took me a while to come to terms with being a Rabbit**, but I've found peace with it.

**In the Vietnamese Zodiac, I'm actually a Cat!

As a teen, I regularly ate and then worked at Luong Loi, a Vietnamese restaurant in Wheaton, Illinois. The restaurant had the same menus, and my little sister, Nicole, and I would study the different signs while eating banh xeo or ga xa ot.

One thing always stood out to me--there is no Cat in the Chinese Zodiac. Isn't that odd? I thought so, and when I decided to try my hand at writing picture book manuscripts, I knew that I wanted to begin with a story that answered the question, "Why is there no Cat in the Chinese Zodiac?"

It turns out there's a hilarious folktale that explains why. Briefly, all of the animals in the kingdom are asked by Jade Emperor to participate in a race. The first twelve who cross the finish line get to be in the Zodiac. Rat and Cat are best friends, and they do most of the race side by side. Then they come upon a river. Neither is a good swimmer, so they enlist the help of Ox. As they're comfortably crossing the river on Ox's back, Rat has the realization that Cat will likely win the race once they reach shore. So he pushes her into the river. HE PUSHES HER INTO THE RIVER! And then he wins the race! Isn't that amazing? (The actual reason? It's postulated that cats weren't introduced into Chinese society until after the Zodiac was developed.)

To make the story palatable for the gentle American readership, I finessed the ending and added a lot of cupcakes.

I hope to be able to tell more Mimi and Shu tales. I already have titles: Mimi and Shu in Horsin' Around!Mimi and Shu in Rise and Shine!Mimi and Shu in Monkey Business! I wrote the manuscript shortly after I left Disney Hyperion, where I had worked on a number of Elephant and Piggie books with the great Mo Willems, so I had "series" on the brain. We will see! For now, I'm just really excited to see I'll Race You! come together. And I can't wait to share it with you. 

My First Book Deal

Dear Readers, I'm thrilled to announce that I've sold my first manuscript! Simon's New Bed is a picture book with art by Melissa van der Paardt. The great Justin Chanda, publisher extraordinaire of numerous imprints at Simon & Schuster, is editing; the talented Lauren Rille is handling design. Simon's New Bed will be on sale 25 August 2015. 

The cover of my first book!

The cover of my first book!

My journey to becoming a published author has been long in the making...and then happened all at once. I never thought of myself as a creative type. Or, rather, I never allowed myself to think that way. Which is odd, considering I regularly got the solo in my choir, I loved dancing, and I had a pretty constant urge to put on costumes. 

Me as Barbra Streisand in  The Main Event . I'm from a tennis family.

Me as Barbra Streisand in The Main Event. I'm from a tennis family.

Still, my strongest subject was math, and kids who are good at math (and also have Asian mothers) are often encouraged to pursue paths more secure than the arts. For me, that was medicine.

From age five to nineteen, I was certain I was going to be a doctor. Every decision I made - selecting classes, participating in extracurriculars, skipping parties I wasn't invited to - was meant to bring me closer to my goal of getting into a university with a stellar pre-med program. 

Once I got to college (Northwestern University), I soon realized that my chosen path might not be the right fit. Not only was I struggling through organic chemistry and physics (admittedly, instead of buying the textbook for the class, I purchased a sweater), but also I had become completely enamored with the theater crowd. Never had I met such charismatic, talented individuals. They could sing! They could dance! They could over-act! I wanted to be just like them.

But I was not a creative type. Unlike these peers, I had not devoted my childhood to honing my singing and dancing skills. I did not deserve to be in their shows. Really, I didn't even have the right to audition.

With pre-med behind me and no clear plan what to do after college, I decided to move to Los Angeles (as one does). One of my first jobs was doing script coverage, and I found I was quite good at tearing apart other people's hard work. Uninspired dialogue, plot holes, weak transitions--I discovered that I had a natural gift for sussing out these problems. Additionally, a number of my friends were aspiring screenwriters, and we had long talks about process and spent many nights dissecting and criticizing primetime television shows.

Side bar: The pilot for Felicity is masterful. 

Simultaneously, at the urging of a great friend, I started to take acting classes. There, I learned the importance of back story and character development. I started to audition (the talent pool in LA was less intimidating than the one at NU), but I felt like an impostor. Even though I knew none of them, the other young people aspiring to be Guy #1 in the new Taco Bell commercial struck me as more worthy. I could commit in class, but at auditions, I found biting into imaginary burritos and driving through fake drive-thrus a bit embarrassing. And for anyone who wants to be an artist, commitment is key.

In addition to head shots, my agency wanted modeling shots. Here I am, "modeling" on a roof in downtown LA. (I miss that coat...)

In addition to head shots, my agency wanted modeling shots. Here I am, "modeling" on a roof in downtown LA. (I miss that coat...)

Though I loved the art of acting, I couldn't stomach the business. I had also grown tired of Los Angeles and was looking for jobs in New York City. And I landed a great one, one that would greatly enhance my understanding of storytelling. Thomas Schumacher, then president of Disney Feature Animation and Theatrical Group, who oversaw the production of many of my favorite movies, was opening an office in New York and needed an assistant. I'd never worked for someone so charismatic and passionate--his every breath was about great storytelling. On top of that, Tom was brilliant with talent. He knew how to bring out the best in people, to tap into their most creative selves, to comfort bruised egos and gently reign in inflated ones. Little did I know that I was receiving some of the best training for my future job as a book editor.

Through Tom, I met many other great storytellers: Rick Elice, Roger Rees, Francesca Zambello, Julie Taymor, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Phil Collins, Doug Wright, Julian Fellowes. While deeply inspiring, my interactions with these folks intimidated the wannabe artist inside me. I hungered to do the things they did, but as I had been doing for many years, I convinced myself to leave the art-making to the real experts.

After two years working for Tom, I switched to publishing. (In today's market, landing an editorial job is akin to winning the Hunger Games, so I was very lucky to get in when I did. I just happened to have the right skill set and can-do attitude my new boss, Brenda Bowen, was looking for.) The desire to create lingered, but at long last, at least I was in a position that would allow me to produce.

Brenda threw me into the process, first teaching me the basics and then helping me to develop my skills. Tom had instilled in me the value of systems, and I incorporated them into my process. As an editor at Disney Hyperion, I was exposed to the works of Jonathan Stroud, Eoin Colfer, Melissa de la Cruz, E. Lockhart, Mo Willems, and Rick Riordan, many of whom I would eventually have the great pleasure of editing. (Or rather, mostly the great pleasure.) Over the years, I've worked for and with some truly legendary editors, and if/when I win a Golden Globe, they will all be thanked in my speech.

My understanding of story blossomed in these years, and with it, a belief that I could create something of my very own. I decided to try my hand at screenwriting because, as everyone knows, selling a screenplay is super easy. My first effort, in partnership with a friend with some experience with the format, was a female-driven comedy about motherhood, of all things. We never finished the first draft, but I took a lot away from the experience, particularly that writing is hard!

I next tried a screenplay on my own, one that I completed and one that will eventually win me that Golden Globe. A good friend who has worked on a number of Oscar-winning films gave me priceless feedback...that I've yet to address. In essence, I need to rewrite the whole thing, and I'm struggling to find the time to tackle the revision. Let's just say I now empathize with my authors who are facing a lengthy editorial letter. (Not to suggest that I didn't before, but let's be honest--I didn't.)

In April of 2013, after eight years with Disney Publishing and thirteen--my youth!--with The Walt Disney Company, I moved over to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. This post is about my book deal, so I won't go into how much I love being an editor at S & S. I will write, though, that I felt much more comfortable pursuing my artistic endeavors once I started there. Emboldened by the fact that I had finished a 100-page screenplay, I began writing more regularly. There were a couple of picture book ideas I wanted to tackle. As part of the terms of my employment, I shared the manuscripts with my boss, Justin. He liked them. He made offers on both. I accepted them. Less than a year after starting at S & S, I had signed two contracts for two manuscripts I had written in that timeframe. (I'll tell you more about the other book very soon.)

Years ago, I often spoke with Schumacher about my desire to create something and my insecurities about competing with folks with so much more experience. He pointed out the obvious: "Everyone has their own path." They were words I needed to hear, words that I eventually internalized. I'm happy that I finally decided to take the chance on my own work. I'm thrilled that my name appears on the cover of a beautiful book. And I can't wait for you all to read it!

Learn more about Simon's New Bed here.