Remember your 13th birthday? Chances are it wasn't anything like the ones in the Beaumont family, whose members usher in their 13th year by receiving their “savvy,” or supernatural ability. Such is the magical premise of Ingrid Law's Savvy (Dial/Walden Media).
“I wanted to write a book about children with huge abilities—a magical book,” says Law of her initial inspiration, “but there are so many books about magic already out there.” Aiming to take a distinctly different tack, she says, “I didn't use the word 'magic' and set the story in the U.S. hoping to give it a very strong sense of Americana and the look-forward spirit of a larger-than-life tall tale.”
While the characters in her book can cause hurricanes or generate electricity, it turns out Law's savvy may be in landing a publishing contract. Always interested in creative arts and a longtime fan of books for young readers (“I never stopped reading them, even before my daughter was born,” she says) single mom Law began sneaking free time to write in the genre, “just for fun,” about 10 years ago when her daughter, now 13, was just a toddler.
Law tried to sell a previous novel and has the requisite shoebox full of rejections to show for it. But a few of the 45 agents she queried encouraged her to send any future projects. “I thought, 'Oh, I better have a future project,' ” she recalls with a laugh.
In January 2007 she was determined to get that next project started, and vowed to write “whatever came into my head first. And it's still the first sentence of Savvy,” she notes. (“When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of the inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.”) By May, Law had a finished manuscript to pitch. Daniel Lazar at Writers House responded to her email query in just a few days, offering representation, and after two weeks of polishing, Law's potential novel landed on editors' desks. It took less than 24 hours to get a bite from Alisha Niehaus at Dial, which at the time had a joint venture with Walden Media, the muscle behind such family-oriented book-to-film hits as Holes and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “In three weeks I went from finished manuscript to publishing deal. My head was spinning,” Law says.
Both Walden and Dial demonstrated the kind of broad-spectrum support (editorial, marketing, promotion) that Law had hoped for. “Everyone's enthusiasm swayed my decision,” she says, in accepting a two-book contract. She was also swayed to say yes to Walden's first option of the book for film rights. “During an early discussion with Walden, we discovered a really funny coincidence,” Law recalls. “My daughter and I were diehard season-ticket holders at the Walden Family Playhouse in Lakewood, Colorado, which isn't even open anymore. They joked that we must have been the only ones.”
Much like the onset of one of her fictional savvies, this whirlwind turn of events has changed the course of Law's life. “I was fortunate that I got an advance that allowed me to write full-time for a year or two,” she says, a circumstance that enabled her to homeschool her daughter this past year and eventually resign from her county government job in December 2007. This summer will see more change, as Law and her daughter move from their Boulder mobile home of many years to a new townhouse in nearby Lafayette.
Local book events as well as some promotional travel have been a thrill, Law notes, but she especially enjoys talking with kids who have read her work. “So many kids ask me, 'What do you think my savvy is?'” she says. “I'm glad that a savvy is something that any kid could think is somewhat attainable. It gets them thinking, 'I'm a really fast runner' or 'I'm really good at math.' I wanted the book to be motivating and uplifting in that way.”
Whether they've found their savvy yet or not, readers will be pleased that Law has just turned in her first draft of a sequel, which takes place nine years after Savvy and is “about a boy no one has met yet, but also includes some familiar characters,” she explains. After that, Law plans to work on other book ideas kicking around in her imagination. And in the meantime, she's enjoying the “scary, fun and exciting” ride of her first success.