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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Barbara Ehrentreu visits

Due to technical difficulties Barbara was unable to visit when scheduled. We couldn't miss out on her post so I'm delighted to say Barbara rescheduled and will be visiting my blog today. Welcome Barbara.

Thank you Sue for inviting me and today I am going to talk about trying to use a quote from a well known book. In my new novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, I used a quote from a Dr. Seuss book in an important scene. Without thinking about it I thought just using quotation marks for it would be enough. The book, Horton Hatches the Egg, has been published since 1940. So I thought the quotes would be fine. However, when my publisher saw the quote she told me I had to get permission to use them.

In a panic I realized if I couldn't get permission for the quote I would have to rewrite an entire passage that to my mind and my editor's was fine as it was. So I set to work figuring out how to get permission. Lucky for me when I looked up Dr. Seuss books I found the foundation and it is affiliated with the original publisher, Random House. 

"Oh, no," I thought. "I have to deal with a big publisher like Random House!" However, it turned out there are forms to get permission for any quotation. Not only did I have to fill out the form, but I had to find the book and photocopy the pages where I found the quotation. I sent all of this to the address on the form by FAX. Then I waited weeks and weeks. I thought they had lost my form, but an email arrived and sure enough, they couldn't read the FAX. So I had to scan and email it to them. Then I waited more weeks. Meanwhile, my book was going through edits and then they wanted to see the exact passage where I used the quote. So I had to copy and send that too.
Again, I waited weeks and weeks. Then finally, months after I had sent the original form a letter came from Random House approving my use of the quotation!!! 

I learned a lesson from this. The next time I want to use a quotation from any book I will start the permissions cycle much earlier. For any authors who are thinking of using a quotation in your novel, the process start to finish is more than three months. So start as soon as you can to get the permission. 

If you get a copy of my book you will see the three lines that they required me to put to acknowledge the quotation with a little bit of the passage:

“Yes, Janie, I promised, and a promise is a promise is a promise.”
“Right, do you remember from that Dr. Seuss book? ‘An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.’” Becky laughs. This was our favorite book in first grade. 
 (from If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, by Barbara Ehrentreu)

Carolyn Samuels’ freshman year  becomes a series of lies to cover Jennifer Taylor’s terrible secret in return for popularity.

Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a Math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain.With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky Junior quarterback Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. After Jennifer’s the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to sleep over to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter One
I spot him walking toward my locker with a small box in one hand and a plastic fork in the other. My Crush! He hands me the box, and I open it. Inside is a piece of luscious chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I look up into his blue eyes and give him the box so I can touch his cheek as I smooth his dark hair.
“You always know just what I like.”
He smiles and feeds me a forkful of cake. I don’t have to worry about eating it because I can eat anything I want and not gain weight. He places the cake box in my locker so he can put his arms around me.
The first bell rings in my ears. I ignore it because I’m thin and blonde and floating in the arms of my dark-haired crush. The other cheerleaders run up to us laughing and kidding around, and I’m about to speak. The ringing gets louder.
The dream evaporates, and I realize it’s the darn alarm piercing my sleep. Slamming my fist onto the snooze button, I get this nagging feeling. Then I remember. I have something to do. Worse luck, I have to do it, not as the slender blonde beauty in my dream, but as the real Carolyn Samuels with my brown curly hair hanging like shriveled spaghetti, mud brown eyes, and a body too large for fashion.
I see my new book bag is packed and ready by the door with the initials C. S. in blue, my favorite color. Suddenly it hits me, and I get this dizzy let-me-plop-on-the-pillow feeling. Freshman year of high school—first day. My brain is ready, but my body isn't. Jennifer will be there. Math class and Jennifer; gym class with Jennifer. My body curls into a fetal position, and I throw the covers over my head. Don’t faint Carolyn, I tell myself, panting.
Dangling over the chair are those size twelve jeans, clown pants—hardly a fashion statement. I groan. Paired with the red long-sleeved T-shirt, they looked so good on the mannequin; I’ll look like a stoplight. What was I thinking? How could I possibly go to school looking like such a freak?
Actually, the real reason I can’t go is Jennifer, with her long straight blonde hair, perfect body, and clothes from magazines like Teen and Seventeen.
Yuck. I feel sick, sick with Jenniferitis.
I hear Mom's footsteps on the stairs.
“Why are you still in bed?” She comes upstairs and peeks into my room with a puzzled look on her face.
Moving the blanket up to my nose, I say, “Mom, I can't stop shivering, and my stomach and head hurt.”
She feels my head and looks at me with mother vision. “Carolyn, did you think I'd fall for your tricks?”
I cringe. Now my stomach and head ache for real. Defeated, I climb out of bed and get washed. I slip the hated outfit onto my body and glance at my bloated reflection in the mirror. It's too late to change. I’m stuck with this. If only I could be like Jennifer Taylor. 

Barbara Ehrentreu Bio
Barbara, a retired teacher with a Masters degree in Reading and Writing K-12 and seventeen years of teaching experience lives with her family in Stamford, Connecticut. When she received her Masters degree she began writing seriously. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Barbara’s first YA novel, was inspired by Paula Danziger. Barbara is a NY Literature Examiner for with several articles for them. Her blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, is networked on both Facebook and Blog Catalog. She hosts Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages on Blog Talk Radio every 4th Thursday. In addition, her children's story, “The Trouble with Follow the Leader” and an adult story, “Out on a Ledge” are published online She writes book reviews for and several of her reviews have been on Acewriters and Celebrity CafĂ©. She is a member of SCBWI. Writing is her life!


Sue Perkins said...

Thank you so much for visiting Barbara. What an wonderful title.

Emily Pikkasso said...

Hi Barbara and Sue. Love your post Barbara and hope others take note of the lengthy process involved in obtaining permissions.
Best of luck with If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor.


lionmother said...

Thank you, Sue, for inviting me! I am very happy tone here on your beautiful blog!!

Nancy, thank you for visiting! I do hope people learn from my experience. I dealt with a very nice person, but the process was still annoying. The whole time my book was in edits I had that question of whether I would have to rewrite that passage. I'm sure as an editor it was there for you too!!

lionmother said...

Meant "to be":) IPhones like to change words!

June Foster said...

Barbara, From one retired teacher to another. Thank you for relaying your experience about using a quote. Valuable information. June

Adriana said...

I've been curious about that title for a loooong time, Barbara! I'm so glad I got to finally solve the mystery. :) The book sounds absolutely awesome, sort of Mean Girls meets Jennifer Weiner's books. Can't go wrong with a combination like that! :)


Michelle Pickett said...

Wow! I use lyrics to a couple of songs in my MS. I probably should start finding out how to get permission to use them. Thank you for sharing!

Concilium, July 2012
michelle_kp on twitter

BarbaraB said...

Hi Barbara and Sue. Great post. I also had to deal with Random House for a Dr. Seuss quote for Wounds. I agree, it's important to start the permissions process early.

Rochelle Weber--Author said...

Hi, Barbara:

Thanks for the great advice on using quotes. And for a thought-provoking article on keeping secrets, Barbara's still over on my blog the rest of this week. Come see what she has to say and leave a comment there, as well. A lucky person will win a prize!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for a great post, Barbara - it's a mine field using quotes, isn't it? And song lyrics are often impossibel! Your book is on my list.

Sadie and Sophie said...

Wow - who would've thought so much tizzy of one little quote! One time we asked Mary Englebreit if we could use one of her calendar pictures for our Animal Shelter newsletter - no sales involved - and she said no. I respect the process, but don't quite understand it. Oh well. We'll think twice before quoting, that's for sure. Thanks so much for this insightful information!