Greenwillow Books has acquired a story collection that has its roots in a blog written by four middle-grade authors. Launched in January, the site features weekly postings of “short fictions for the young and mischievous” by Stefan Bachmann, Emma Trevayne, Claire Legrand, and Katherine Catmull. The book, which tentatively shares the title of the blog – The Cabinet of Curiosities – will be released in summer 2014.
The idea for the blog project was born last fall on a beach in Mexico, where Trevayne was vacationing after completing her first middle-grade novel, Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, a dark fairytale due from Simon & Schuster in summer 2014. “It was an enormous challenge – the book, not the beach,” said the author. “But as soon as I finished, I missed it already. My next contracted book was the sequel to my YA debut, Coda (Running Press Kids), and I wasn’t quite willing to give up the middle-grade magic. I thought about doing short stories for fun and posting then online, and then I wondered about doing it as part of a group. In a group there are different voices and interests, and it keeps the pressure off just one person.”
Bachmann sprung to mind immediately when Trevayne thought about potential coauthors for the blog. The two had known each other for several months, she said, “having bonded over a common aspect to our books, namely – and strangely – clockwork birds,” which appear in both Bachmann’s The Peculiar (Greenwillow) and Trevayne’s debut middle-grade novel. “When we discovered this, we agreed to critique each other’s manuscripts when they were ready,” she explained. “So he read Flights and Chimes for me, and I read The Whatnot for him – for which I think I’m the envy of many! And then I e-mailed him to ask if he was interested in the idea of this blog.”
Bachmann, a self-described “crazy fan of Katherine, Claire, and Emma,” was keen on the idea of starting a short story blog, he said, “to keep us sane between bouts of editing. I was completely on-board. Short stories were some of the first things I wrote and got published, and it’s been great to get back into writing them and to use up ideas that I don’t have space for in books.”
Legrand (author of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls; The Year of Shadows, an August release; and Winterspell, scheduled for fall 2014 – all S&S) said she was also pleased to be asked to join The Cabinet: “Here was a chance not only to work with some amazing writers, but also stretch myself creatively, as I’d never tried to write short stories before but always loved reading them. The experience so far has been even more wonderful than I’d hoped. The four of us have such a great time together.”
Trevayne emphasizes that although the “original spark of the idea” was hers, “that’s the only thing I take the tiniest bit of credit for. This is absolutely a joint effort – we are all curators of The Cabinet – and it wouldn’t be what it is without everyone. Our personalities complement each other, as do the kinds of stories we like to tell, and we all have tremendous respect for each other as artists and friends. I’ve learned an immense amount from all of them and am in awe of their talent.”
The authors’ collective writing talent also impressed Virginia Duncan, v-p and publisher of Greenwillow Bools, who brokered deals for world rights to the book with Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency (for Bachmann), David Dunton at Harvey Klinger (for Catmull), Diana Fox at Fox Literary (for Legrand), and Brooks Sherman at FinePrint Literary Management (for Trevayne).
Duncan edited Bachmann’s The Peculiar and The Whatnot (due out in September) and quickly became a fan of The Cabinet of Curiosities blog. “These are all such great writers, and I admire then all,” she said. “The stories on the blog were so much fun, and it occurred to me that they would make a great book. Some of the stories are scarier than others, but they’re all a bit curious and creepy – and very original and imaginative. I think it will be a great book to take to summer camp, to read aloud in the classroom, or to read around Halloween.”
Duncan explained that the anthology will contain 40 stories: each author will contribute eight pieces previously published online and two new ones. The book will feature black-and-white interior art and a full-color cover by Alexander Jansson. “I’ve published a lot of anthologies, but this seems a little different to me, with the four authors working so closely together,” said the editor. “They seem to have a really great relationship and are supportive of one another. They’re clearly having a lot of fun with this, and I’m very excited about the book.”
The authors obviously share that excitement. Trevayne said that Duncan’s offer “to put the stories in a book so they can be shared with a wider audience was the most amazing, jump-up-and-down-squealing kind of surprise.”
“I already felt so lucky to be part of the blog project – even before Greenwillow made the offer,” added Catmull, author of Summer and Bird and a second, still untitled, novel due from Dutton in fall 2014. “I loved creepy stories as a kid and wore out several Alfred Hitchcock collections. On top of that, working with Emma, Stefan, and Claire has been a hilarious joy. So the stories’ being published as a book is some kind of crazy-delicious icing on a wonderful three-layer cake.”