Please welcome Jody Lamb,
author of the new middle grade novel,
EASTER ANN PETERS: OPERATION COOL
This is a guest post by Jody Lamb, author of the
middle-grade novel Easter
Ann Peters’ Operation Cool – which has been praised by the
National Director of Children’s Programs at Betty Ford Center. Jody writes stories for the young in age and at
heart. Luckily, she’s pretty much the same person today that she was at twelve
years old. She’s a lifelong fan of middle-grade fiction. She is also a
passionate advocate for kids with alcoholic loved ones, and she hopes her books
generate greater discussion and awareness about coping with the effects of
loved ones’ alcoholism. Check out her blog.
If you asked the eight-year-old version of me what I did
every day after school, it’s unlikely I would have confessed.
Those were days of Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog video
games and my story writing didn’t seem so cool. Every day, I hurried through my
homework for more time to write screenplays for my tiny toy animal families to
act out in the elaborate village I created for them in my parents’ basement.
I loved the way I could solve problems for the families
the way I wished I could for my own family. It shooed away the worry clouds
that followed me throughout the day. Writing those stories gave me joy no video
game win could ever provide me.
Alcoholism is a major problem for several of my loved ones
in my large family. Growing up, I felt the detrimental effects of it very early
on, and I thought this problem was unique to my family.
In high school, I stopped reading stories and swapped
creative writing for journalism (because people told me I couldn’t make a
living writing creatively). After earning a B.A. in journalism from Michigan
State University, I read books and research on alcoholism, addiction and its
impact on families. I discovered that alcoholism is extremely common. An
estimated 10 to 25 percent of kids in the U.S. have at least one alcohol-addicted
parent. I found few contemporary, relatable books on the subject for tweens.
That bothered me. A lot.
the summer of 2009, I was 26 years old and in the midst of a quarter-life
crisis. I had quickly moved up the corporate ladder in marketing and PR. My
peers appeared to be settling into grownup life and letting dreams slip away –
and were okay with it. I felt lost, longed for a sense of purpose and feared I
was alone in my struggles with lack of satisfaction.
One day, someone told me I’d have to settle for life as it
was because that’s what you do at that age. Get married already. Keep climbing the corporate ladder. Gear up for
the next 30 years of your life. That’s what everyone does….
That weekend, I read my childhood diaries and cried over the
grand plans I'd had for life in grownup land. I realized little kid me
would be so disappointed! I was missing something. I missed me, the
real me. I studied many
grownups around me. I found that many of them are full of regrets and give up
on dreams. They ignore their inner compass and their purpose. I discovered
that they are stupid.
I didn’t want to be that kind of grownup, but I’d never
felt so lost about changing my life. I was
depressed with a pasted-on smile.
The only thing I could think to do to feel better was to
write. Like I did as a girl. The next day I enrolled in a creative writing
course at my local community college.
It was as fun as I remembered.
Quickly came a short story about a twelve-year-old girl’s
step-by-step plan to make seventh grade awesome that’s derailed as she copes
with and helps her depressed, alcoholic mother in a tiny lakeside town. My
wonderful instructor and classmates encouraged me to keep going with it. I
wanted to know what would happen to the characters, too!
every class, I sat in my car and carefully took in the hundreds of penciled
corrections and kudos my instructor had written in margins.
long, I had a whole novel manuscript.
quadrupled the number of books I read monthly, joined the Society of Children’s
Book Writers and Illustrators, attended conferences and participated in
workshops, joined critique groups with other middle-grade writers, networked,
made friends with the most wonderfully sweet-souled authors and was a sponge to
everything that would help me create a better story.
People told me that writing a novel is a waste of time
because the odds of getting a book deal are so slim and it’s a game of luck.
I mustered up my courage and sent it out.
At a SCBWI conference, an editor said the manuscript may
have been easily sold before the age of vampires and wizards, but the world
today is different. Realistic fiction is hard to sell. They told me to change
it. Completely. I politely thanked her for the advice and promptly went to my
hotel room and cried.
I couldn’t change the novel.
It’d lose its whole purpose.
It was the story I would have been moved by as a child.
Writing that story was cathartic. I felt like me again for the first time in
more than a decade. My relationship with my alcoholic loved ones dramatically
improved. I began taking better care of myself. I smiled. A lot.
the next two and a half years, I wrote three more whole drafts, completed
dozens of revisions in mini draft overhauls and participated in workshops.
It was rejected 30 times by
agents and editors. It was so disappointing because I felt a sense of urgency
in sharing the story.
Then I learned of a
brand-new publisher – shockingly not far from my home in Michigan. The founder
wrote that she wanted to do things differently than the big publishers. She
said her love of good stories would always guide her decisions, not trends in
She wasn’t interested in
middle-grade fiction, though, so there’d be no point in sending her a query
letter. I wanted to meet her anyway so I decided to write her a note, breaking
every single query letter rule there is to break. I wrote the way I’d speak if
I met her in person – friendly, casual and real. I wanted her to know me and
know the story behind the story.
explained how writing again helped me find my inner compass and my drive to
help young people coping with the effects of loved ones’ alcoholism. I hope to inspire at least one kid the way I wish someone
had for me.
Two weeks later, Jennifer
Baum of Scribe
Publishing Company, replied and requested the full manuscript. I figured she was just
being polite. Three weeks later, she sent me a message in the wee hours of the
morning. Though she hadn’t intended to publish children’s books, she loved the
story – she laughed, she cried, she believed in the characters, she believed
others would love the story, too, and she believed in me.
Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool is now available and I’m
absolutely thrilled to share it with young people. It’s the story of
12-year-old girl Easter Ann Peters who has a plan—Operation Cool—to make her
seventh grade year awesome and erase years of being known only as a quiet,
straight-A student who can’t think of a comeback to her bully. When the
confident new girl, Wreni, becomes her long-needed best friend, Easter lets her
personality shine. The coolest guy in school takes a sudden interest. But as
tough times at school fade away, so does a happy life at home. Easter’s mother
is drinking a lot, and Easter works double overtime to keep their secret in the
tiny lakeside town. Operation Cool derails, fast, and Easter must discover a
solution. Told by the lovable Easter character, it’s a witty, tender and
heartwarming story of friendship, fitting in, first crushes, family drama and
I hope that young people will enjoy getting to know the
Easter character and perhaps identify with her struggles at school and at home.
I hope they’re moved by her determination and hope. For readers with alcoholics
in their lives, I hope that they’re reminded that they are not alone and that
they’re inspired by Easter’s discovery of the solution to improve her life
situation. For readers who do not have alcoholics in their lives, I hope
they’ll gain a more solid understanding of what alcoholism is, how it affects
others and sensitivity to what their classmates, teammates and neighbors may be
coping with at home.
now, my first young adult novel is in progress. Yes, Easter is in this story,
because I wondered how she’s doing (and I missed her…you writers know what I’m
talking about). I’m also currently writing proposals for several non-fiction
books for kids related to coping when loved ones are addicted to alcohol or
If a kid ever says to me, “Hey, thanks for this,” well,
those four words alone will be infinitely more meaningful to me than forty
years of success in the business world.
And you, my fellow writers, write the story that you want to
read. The world of publishing is rapidly evolving. The only thing you can
control is your story. Pay more
attention to your heart than what the publishing industry editors and agents
say about what they’re looking for to be the next big hit. The best story is
going to be the one you love. And of course, don’t ever give up. Make proud the
little kid version of yourself, grownup you!
Like what Jody’s writing about? Support her and keep in
touch through Facebook, Twitter, and
Learn more about Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool here.
Jody hopes you’ll say hi. She loves meeting fellow story lovers! Have a tween
(or tween-at-heart) in your life? Get them a copy of Easter
Ann Peters' Operation Cool at Amazon or BN.com or your local bookseller.
There’s also a Kindle edition.
If you believe there’s need for greater awareness about
alcoholism or if you just like to spread the word about a good story, please
consider spreading the word:
Here are sample Facebook posts or Tweets:
Check out recent reviews of Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool on Goodreads.