Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 28, 2014

Free Fall Friday – Results

Alexander SlaterI want to thank Alexander Slater from the Trident Media Group for agreeing to be November’s First Page Critiquer. All the agents and editors who have been Guest Critiquers are doing this for free because they want to help writers improve their writing. So please realize what a big deal this is to have an industry professional take their valuable time and share their expertise with all of us.

I also want to thank everyone who submits their work for the chance of review. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, but it is the fearless who end up making it to the published book goal line.

This is the last First Page Critique session for 2014. I will announce January’s guest in December.

Here are November’s winners and Alex’s thoughts:

 

TILENIKA, LEGEND OF DEO by Richard Bisbee – YA

Darkness surrounds me as I float, lost, on the wild sea…

“Ghemmi, you must take rest and come to bed this day,” Kiyami said. “Our Tilenika is away now three days. She is young; she cannot swim forever. Even you, stronger than most, would find difficulty swimming in these wild and powerful seas we now have. You also know,” she swallowed hard, “that the giant bullwah fish rise from their depths seeking prey in waters so restless.”

“I know Kiyami, but I will not leave this spot until she returns. I smell Tilenika on the wind and taste her on the sea spray. The waves whisper that she yet swims. Her heart throbs with life as surely as mine. I feel she has not parted from our world.”

Kiyami lowered her head as the wind whipped through her long black hair and blew the tears from her eyes. “I too wish to believe as you, my husband, but…I will pass by later.” She turned and slowly walked away.

Ghemmi’s deep blue eyes continued scanning the water as his floating samong community moved with the waves and currents of the sea. He thought, ‘Tilenika, your spirit is strong, but I feel you are weakening. Take care not to distance yourself from life. I sense you are close, so please come to the signal float I tend. Death only offers change of life…with understanding and wisdom too late to use.’ He closed his eyes as he rocked upon one of the bulbous seaweed kiila floats of the samong. His mind reached out to hers, rippling, spreading, reaching out, like circular rings expanding when a shell is dropped in still water…rippling…reaching out…reaching out.

Suddenly, he felt a strong tug on the line. He sprang to his feet and began pulling length after length of dripping line. “Kiyami!” he yelled, “Sound the alarm! We have a fight ahead!”

Here’s Alex:

TILENIKA, LEGEND OF DEO

The dialogue here has the old-fashioned feel of a 1930’s Hollywood film, with its grandiosity, detail, and heightened exposition. I see this style utilized in many high fantasy projects, as the ornate and otherworldly setting tends to mirror itself in the language. My problem is that I often have a tough time connecting to this lofty speak, as it might simply feel unnatural and overexposed, as in this sample with descriptions like, “stronger than most,” and, “rise from their depths seeking prey.” These are examples of dialogue that tell, rather than show, and in so doing, the voice feels forced, rather than organic. I would say be careful with such a high style, as it leads to easy traps where characters blend into the narrative, rather than stand out. Also, I think it would be for the readers benefit if Tilenika is given just a bit more description – I cannot tell from this first page if this name is that of a character, or a pet, or what, and therefore, it is difficult to get hooked immediately without that knowledge.

 

Fool’s Mate by Chris Friden – YA

Constance Yearly lashed out across the chessboard and stabbed an ice pick into the table beside her opponent’s king. She let it thrum. This pre-match ritual intimidated most foes, but Alastair “The Bellman” Brown didn’t flinch. He kept his focus on the black and white universe at their fingertips.

Constance sat back, concealing her pleasure in his brave resistance. Like so many boys, he was sure of his impending victory. Sure that everything in reach was his to take. Sure of his invulnerability, and that left him entirely vulnerable.

Constance watched him scan the playing pieces again while he tried to ignore the damnable space she’d left empty in the back row. She let that missing matriarch vex him and simmer his impatience as she waited for a sign of weakness.

And as reliably as a Caro-Kann defense, it came. Alastair’s left eye twitched.

Constance lowered her red-gloved hand into a Styrofoam cooler at her feet. She searched for her prize and an apropos expression. Revenge is best served cold? That expression didn’t do this justice.

“I’ll have the match before my Ice Queen melts,” she promised in a tone as chilled as the frozen figurine she dangled from the pinch of her fingers. She clinked her lady––clear except for the small drop of suspended red where a tiny heart might have been––onto the place beside her widower king. “Let’s begin.”

Here’s Alex: 

FOOL’S MATE

This opening sentence contains great action and violence. It’s captivating, original, and memorable. However, by introducing a universally known game like chess, prepare yourself for the reader’s intuitions. Sentences like, “missing matriarch,” confused me until I realized they were still setting up the game. Let that be clearer. Also, I am still left perplexed that Constance is able to stab the ice pick, “beside her opponent’s king,” leaving me wondering where Alastair’s queen is? The great reveal of her piece makes sense, but I’m still unsure of Alastair’s pieces. Overall, an interesting opening, with clear characters and mini-plot set to reveal itself. I like openings that feel they can stand on their own, as this does.

 

Mad Cow Science Club by Jennifer Swanson – Middle Grade

Nick Newton stepped on his shovel and pushed it deep into the dirt. Today was the day. He could feel it. He was going to find something amazing.

“Hey over, here!” Nick’s best friend Rudi Patel shouted excitedly. “Look at this.”

Nick’ heart beat fast as he raced to Rudi’s side. A treaure!

“Omph!” Nick tipped sideways as their other friend and fellow treasure hunter, Rebecca Raintree, elbowed him out of the way. “Take it easy, Beccs, this isn’t the lacrosse field.”

She snorted. “As if you could handle that.” Her dancing eyes and swift grin took the edge off the words. Nick flushed. Rebecca was right. He wasn’t good at sports. Especially lacrosse. Holding the stick while running, throwing, and catching a ball, required way more skill than his

awkward arms and legs could manage. Now science he could do. Nick was awesome at science.

“A skull!” Nick shouted. Yes, today was a good day.

“I thought we were supposed to be looking for dinosaur bones,” said Rebecca. “That doesn’t look like a dinosaur to me. It looks like a cow skull. What’s so special about finding that? This place used to be a farm.”

Nick thrust out his chin. “I think it’s great.” He wasn’t about to let Rebecca take the wind out of his sails. This was the first big discovery for their new science club. And it was going to have a place of honor in their garage clubhouse

“ This would make a great drawing.” Rudi pushed his glasses up on his nose, his brown eyes gleaming, and studied the rock intently.

“Who cares about a dumb ol’ skull, let’s go down to the river and see if we can clean up the shore. That’s what a real science club would do,” said Rebecca.

Nick sighed. Maybe Rebecca was right. This field was a bust. Nick was about to toss the skull aside when he stopped suddenly. His hand froze. Had the sightless skull just winked at him?

Here’s Alex: 

MAD COW SCIENCE CLUB

This first page sets up a fun premise that will seem to blend some fantasy and adventure elements, told with a light touch. I like Rebecca’s strong will, and especially Rudi’s contribution that the skull would make a “great drawing.” This subtle detail speaks volumes about Rudi’s character, and it works to allow the reader to discover Rudi on their own. I feel like more subtlety could be employed for Nick, rather than stopping the action with sentences like, “He wasn’t good at sports. Especially lacrosse.” I know these are essential lines to painting Nick’s character early on, but they stall the action for me in these important first paragraphs. I don’t care that Nick is more inclined towards science class right now – I already kind of understand that with the tension between he and Becca. What I care about is discovering, along with the characters, what they’ve dug up, so avoid characterization when your narrative is in the middle of plot-building.

 

Winter Hare By Laurie J. Edwards – MG

The wolves bared their teeth and slunk closer. Achen scrabbled for a foothold on a huge oak. Splinters bit into her hands and bare feet. Blood pounded in her head and made her ears throb.

A wolf lunged.

Achen yanked her foot upward, scraping it raw. The wolf’s teeth snapped shut, just shy of her foot. The damp breath from its nostrils heated her toes and sent tremors through her body.

Terror propelled her higher. Inch by inch, she dragged her shaking limbs above slavering tongues. Below her, the beasts fanned in a semicircle. Fangs glinted. Yellow eyes glowed, feral in the gloom of winter dusk.

Achen trembled. They waited only for her to tire and lose her grip.

A snarl pierced the air, followed by a high-pitched scream. Then a slab of meat, splattering blood as it flew, arced over the wolves’ heads. The beasts turned, growling, to fight over this chunk of flesh.

While they were occupied, a black-cloaked figure stepped from the trees, drew a bow, and with deadly accuracy sent arrows quivering into the wolves, one by one. When the last carcass lay twitching, the shrouded figure threw back its hood, revealing a mass of coppery curls.

“Mama!” Achen slid down the trunk, not caring that splinters embedded themselves in her palms. She flung herself into her mother’s outstretched arms. Drawing in a shuddery breath, she begged, “Please don’t leave me again, Mama.”

Her mother’s eyes shimmered with tears. “I must, dear heart. You know that.”

Here’s Alex: 

WINTER HARE

This is an action-filled opening that grabs the reader by the throat. I can see the scene, thanks to details like, “heated her toes,” “winter dusk,” and, “quivering into.” The use of fresh language, and spare details allows the reader to fill in the missing details, and that’s a rewarding experience. Trusting the reader always pays off. After re-reading, the only think I am concerned about is Achen’s age, or size. The feral request of not being left along feels rather young, while the ability to climb such a tree is difficult. I think providing the age in this opening would be a detail best kept for later, but again, a word about her size or ability might paint her clearer in my mind. Overall, compelling.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving – Inspiration & Winners

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Michelle Henninger sent this illustration in to help us celebrate Thanksgiving. Michelle prefers a traditional approach of pen/ink, and watercolor: with a touch of digital thrown in for good measure. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she was a New England SCBWI Ann Barrows Illustration Scholarship recipient. She was the first 2014 featured illustrator on Illustrator Saturday. She is represented by Christina Tugeau at CATugeau.

THANKSGIVING PRAYER
by Eileen Spinelli

Thank you for the world–still sweet.

Thank you for the food we eat.

Thank you for the honeyed sun

that spoons its light on everyone.

Thank you for the leaves that fall

in glowing piles near the wall,

for kindness in a stranger’s face

and every unexpected grace.

Thank you for the starry dark,

for children laughing in the park,

for cozy towns and sleepy farms,

for dreamers, dancers, babes in arms.

Than you for all hearts that sing

of hope in spite of everything.

Fall Favorites
by Carol Murray

Pumpkins, round, upon the ground,

and children playing ball,

Scarecrow tips his tattered hat,

and waves to one and all.

Sleek black cats on fuzzy mats,

reclining, large and small,

and every size has starlit eyes,

like diamonds at The Mall.

Wine is chilled, and home is filled

with friends, both short and tall.

Hooray! Hooray! Thanksgiving Day.

Favorite things of Fall.
by Carol Murray

A Thanksgiving Toast

Here’s to years of happiness

and months of sunny skies,

To weeks of reaching mountain peaks,

and days of caring eyes,

To hours of hope and tenderness,

and minutes of delight,

On second thought, we wish you love,

We’re giving thanks tonight.

Thank you to Michelle, Eileen, and Carol for sharing their work to help us celebrate Thanksgiving. Hope everyone enjoys the day.

Winners:

Darlene Beck-Jacobson won Gayle Aanensen’s book BETTER THAN GOLD.

Joanne Roberts won SPAGHETTI SMILES by Margo Sorenson.

Congratulations! Winner please send me your addresses so they can be sent out.

You may wonder why I did not post the poems for the Thanksgiving Poem Contest yesterday. That is because Carol Murray was the only one to send in a poem for the contest and the default winner. Thank you Carol.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 25, 2014

Publisher Call For Submissions

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ANNOUNCING NEW INSPIRATIONAL/FAMILY LINE!

HIGHLAND PRESS PUBLISHING
Actively seeking Inspirational and/or Sweet themed manuscripts. Think Hallmark Hall of Fame, Janette Oke, Little House on the Prairie, etc. Accepting full manuscripts for adults or young adult lines.

Submission Guidelines

If you are interested in submitting your manuscript to Highland Press Publishing, please take a few minutes to review the following and acquaint yourself with our guidelines:

Highland Press is at the present particularly interested in expanding our Christian/Inspirational/family line—both historical and contemporary stories.

We’re looking for outstanding manuscripts of all genres and timeframes—with the exception of erotica. (Absolutely no graphic sex scenes, please!) We want love and romance. A HEA. Emotion. Not just sex.

While some swearing is understood, it is preferable that you use swear words as little as possible. One thing we are firm on is not using the Lord’s name in vain.

We want historicals similar to what many of us grew up with and fell in love with. This does NOT mean we want manuscripts with history dumps! Please ensure the history is sprinkled throughout your manuscript. Also, it is imperative that your historical facts are accurate. Please research your facts at multiple sites, not just one.

While we have predominantly focused on historical novels to date, this doesn’t mean we’re not willing to consider well written stories of every time period. We look forward to receiving them. We have released several Young Adult books, including our first Young Adult inspirational. We have a few non-fiction books, including a reference book we believe every author will want to have. Use it to help your creativity come to life.

Each manuscript e-query packet must include the following:

~ Cover letter with total word count, brief synopsis, and information about yourself (publishing credits, writing memberships, etc.)

~ Make your cover letter interesting; tell us why we’ll love your manuscript

~ Be sure to let us know what marketing strategy you plan for your book

~ First three chapters of your manuscript (in standard manuscript format)

~ Do NOT staple chapters; use standard binder clips

Each full e-manuscript submission packet (when requested) must include the following items:

~Cover letter with total word count, brief synopsis, and applicable publishing credits

~Include a one to two page outline of your specific marketing strategy

~One e-copy of the full manuscript in Word – in standard format

~ Since we write notes and see how much editing will be required while we’re using the e-copy, the version you send us will not be returned if the story is not accepted.

Do not send your full manuscript if we have not requested it.

Standard Manuscript Format:

~8 1/2 x 11 document

~Times New Roman 12pt font/black ink

~1-inch margin on all sides

~25 lines per page

~Align text left, do not justify

~Header containing author name, manuscript title, word count, and page number

Capital letters at the beginning of sentences and proper nouns

~Show new paragraphs by indenting first line of new paragraph to .3 (not .5)

~Do not add blank line between paragraphs

~Show scene breaks with ~ * ~ centered in the appropriate line between paragraphs

All correspondence must include:

~Name (and pseudonym if applicable)

~Mailing address

~Phone number

~E-mail address

~Web address (if available)

Due to overwhelming number of submissions, response time for manuscript submissions cannot be guaranteed at this time. We will do our best to get to your manuscript as expeditiously as possible.

Please note: We do not accept email submissions without prior arrangement. We must request the full document from you before you send it. Unsolicited submissions sent via email will not be considered.

Please direct all email queries in the body of an email (no unsolicited attachments) to: Submissions.hp@gmail.com

General questions about Highland Press Publishing should be addressed to: The.Highland.Press@gmail.com

If you wish to send a partial query via regular mail, please send the necessary cover letter, brief synopsis, marketing plan, and the first three chapters to:

Highland Press Publishing
Submissions Department
PO Box 2292
High Springs, FL 32655

Full submissions of your print document, when requested, should be sent to the same address.

Thank you for your interest in Highland Press Publishing. We look forward to hearing from you.

Submissions that do not adhere to these guidelines will be discarded.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 25, 2014

Outlining Your Novel

outlining your novelI am a big believer in creating an outline of your story and keep telling other writers how much it will help them with writing their novel. They nod their head, when they really want to pat me on the head and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So tonight read the beginning of K.M. Weiland’s “how to write book” titled, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL, hoping to find someone else who could help persuade others to realize how much it will help them with their manuscripts. After reading the excerpt below, I bought the book and I hope you will check it out. She lays out some good reasons to outline.

Here it is:

Benefits of Outlining Your Story

 

  1. Ensures Balance and Cohesion

In an outline, you can see at a glance if the inciting even take place too late in the sotry, if the middle sags, or if the climax doesn’t resonate. Instead of having to diagnose and remedy these problems after the first draft, you can fix problems in the outline in only a few keystrokes.

  1. Prevents Dead-End Ideas

How many times have you started writing an exciting new plot twist, only to realize – 5,000 words later – that it’s led you to a cul-de-sac? You either have to spend valuable time bactracking and trying to write your way around the roadblock – or you have to cut the subplot altogether and start afresh. Outlines allow you to follow plot twists and subplots to their logical end (or lack thereof) in much less time. You can identify the dead-end ideas and cull them before they become annoying and embarrassing ploy holes.

  1. Provides Foreshadowing

It’s nearly impossible for an author to foreshadow and event of which he has no idea. As a pantser, when a startling plot twist occurs late in the book, you’ll have to go back and sow your foreshadowing into earlier scenes. Not only is this extra work, it can often be difficult to make the new hints of what’s yet to come flow effortlessly with your already constructed scenes. Because an outline give you inside knowledge about what’s going to happen in subsequent scenes, it provides you the opportunity to plant some organic foreshadowing.

  1. Smoothes Pacing

Like foreshadowing, pacing often requires inside knowledge. If the author doesn’t know the protagonist is about to be shot in the back, he can hardly adjust the pacing to introduce this shocking new event in the right manner. An outline shows you the places where your story is running too fast and the places where it is lagging and sagging.

  1. Indicates Preferable POVs

When working with multiple points of view it can often be challenging to know which scene should be written from which POV. Too often, we write a scene from one character’s POV, only to realize a different character’s narrative perspective would probably have offered a better experience for the reader. As a result, we’re forced to go back and rewrite the entire scene. Outlines allow us to make educated decisions about POV, thanks to insights regarding plot and character. Just as importantly, outlines permit us to look at the balance of you POVs over the course of the entire novel, so we can ensure each character is getting an appropriate amount of time at the mic.

  1. Maintains Consistent Character Voice

When writing without an outline, we’re often discovering the characters right along with the readers, and because our perception and understanding of our character often evolve over the course of the story, the result can be an uneven presentation of the character’s voice.

  1. Offers Motivation and Assurance

Writing a novel can be overwhelming. Typing thousands of words is an undertaking in itself – but when those words all have to hang together in a way that is sensible, entertaining, and resonant, that’s enough to make our knees start shaking beneath our desks. Outlines give us the assurance that we can craft a complete story; all we have to do now is fill in the blanks. And because those blanks are ones that fascinate us, outlines also motivate us to keep on writing through the tough spots, so we can get to the good stuff.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 24, 2014

Before the Sale – Book Appeal

Have you ever thought about how you decide to buy a book? In my case, unless it is written by a friend or someone has told me I must read a book, I first look at the cover. If the cover has a good title and the cover art grabs me, then I look inside. If the flap jacket pitch sounds interesting, then I flip through the pages.

I look to see if the book has good margins, short paragraphs, and good amount of white space. Long blocky paragraphs exposition, narrative, and description make me think… SKIP!

Studies show that using white space is important because it helps make a book look friendly. And, it is dialogue that provides the eye candy for a reader. As a potential buyer flips through your book, rapid back-and-forth dialogue will make your book more appealing before the reader even reads a word.

So paying attention to dialogue when you revise it is worth the time and effort. I would start by flipping through the manuscript for places that look dense and circle them. Later go back to read and analyze. Ask yourself, “Can I use dialogue to breakup this long paragraph? Would dialogue work better here than what I have now?”

Here are ten things that dialogue can do to help keep your reader reading.

  1. Dialogue draws a reader into your story.
  2. Dialogue adds immediacy, picks up the pace, and makes your text easier and more fun to read.
  3. Dialogue can give the writer a more effective way to provide information about emotional states and inner thoughts.
  4. Dialogue can reveal motive, insight into a character without overt telling.
  5. Dialogue can help set the mood of the scene. Example: “This doesn’t feel right… It’s too quiet.”
  6. Dialogue can intensify the conflict. A confrontation conversation between adversaries can ramp up the tension and remind readers what’s at stake.
  7. Good Dialogue moves the story forward.
  8. Dialogue is a useful tool to provide information the reader must know without slowing down the pacing.
  9. Dialogue is good to use to get out critical bits of information, back-story, and background.
  10. Dialogue can even be use to suggest a theme.

Of course, dialogue is only one thing to work on while you revise, but the above list can help you can see the many things it can help improve in your novel.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Welcome to the 2015 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Best First Novel Competition!

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Please read all of the rules and guidelines before submitting your entry. You can find the complete rules and guidelines at us.macmillan.com/minotaurbooks/writing-competitions.
To enter, you must complete this form and upload an electronic file of your Manuscript.

Only electronic submissions, uploaded through this entry form, will be considered; do not mail or e-mail
manuscript submissions to Minotaur Books.

  • Before uploading, please ensure that your Manuscript is formatted as follows:
  • 1) The Manuscript must be either a Microsoft Word document or a PDF
  • 2) Text must be double spaced
  • 3) Pages must be numbered consecutively from beginning to end
  • 4) The Manuscript must be saved as “Manuscript Title_Entrant Name”

Because of the great volume of submissions we receive and the fact that judges are volunteers with full-time responsibilities elsewhere, it is important that you submit your Manuscript as early as possible. Submissions will get a more careful reading if the judge does not have to contend with a flood of last-minute entries.

To be considered for the 2015 competition, all submissions must be received by 11:59pm on December 15,
2014.

If you have questions or need further clarification regarding the rules and guidelines of this competition, you may contact us at MB-MWAFirstCrimeNovelCompetition@StMartins.com.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 22, 2014

Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez

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Leeza Hernandez is an award-winning illustrator and children’s book author, hails from the south of England, but has been living in New Jersey since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s books, and hasn’t looked back. With a few books now under her belt, she’s currently working on three new projects: a follow up to Dog Gone! called Cat Napped; a sequel to Eat Your Math Homework called Eat Your Science Homework, other released this year. In 2013 she illustrated a picture book written by acclaimed actor and author John Lithgow. Follow Leeza on Twitter @leezaworks. She also took over my place as the Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI chapter and is doing a great job.

Below is Leeza at six years old with her cat Minnie Weasle!

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Here is Leeza explaining her process:

The cover of Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo took a fair amount of working out—between not giving too much away and showing to little that it looked too vague. The images show a handful of the different covers that were sketched up, then the progression of the final color cover.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

These are the thumbnail sketches for the book layout.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Because there were so many animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo, I kept all my research pictures organized in a jumbo ring binder.

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But, no matter how hard I looked, I just couldn’t find an image of a yak playing a sax so had to use some creative license!

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Below you can see the process of the cover art.

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Below is an up close look at the final cover.

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What caused you to move from the UK to the US?

Work. I took an art director position at a newspaper in the late 90s which was the field I worked in back then.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It wasn’t a conscious decision really, but in the early 2000s I discovered Illustration Friday (www.illustrationfriday.com)—a great source of inspiration but also a way to help you create illustrations for yourself based upon a weekly word prompt. Browsing through the site, one link led to another and I eventually landed at SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) and that was that!

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This image was created for the Illustration Friday prompt “Wisdom” and received an American Illustration selection back in the early 2000s. I added it to my portfolio among a handful of painted images and it was what art directors responded to the most. I was encouraged to create more!

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What was the first picture book that you illustrated? And how did that contract come your way?

Eat Your Math Homework was the first trade picture book I was hired to illustrate, which came about after attending a Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference (ruccl.org). I met an editor at the luncheon who took my promo postcard away with her and about six months later the designer reached out to my agent asking if I was available-yay!

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How did you connect with John Lithgow to illustrate his book, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo ?

I was asked to do some samples (along with some other illustrators) for a book written by a ‘high-profile’ author but I didn’t know who it was until I found out I was picked for the project. It was all very mysterious and exciting!

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Have you met John Lithgow?

Yes, he’s lovely. We launched the book together in New York, it was so much fun. He sang his songs. I spared the audience and did not sing!

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How long did you have to illustrate Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo?

This was one of the quickest turnaround books I have worked on and it was 40 pages. From initial sketches, through revisions and to final art was a little less than eight months total.

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I see you illustrated a second book with Ann McCallum this year, titled Eat Your Science Homework. Did you sign a two-book deal when you illustrated Eat Your Math Homework in 2011?

No two-book deal. It was simply an organic progression. Ann had an idea and submitted her proposal for the science book and a few months after they acquired the manuscript, Charlesbridge asked if I’d
illustrate it.

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Will there be a third book with Ann?

Yes! Eat Your U.S. History Homework is due to release in late 2015.

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I am assuming that Cat Napped! published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons came about due to the previous book you wrote and illustrated titled, Dog Gone! Can you tell us the story behind these two books?

Back in 2009 I won the Tomie de Paola portfolio award at the New York SCBWI conference—which was amazing. As a result, I was invited in to the Penguin offices to meet with an editor, publisher and art director and they looked at my work as well as a sample and manuscript for Dog Gone! and they took it. I was beyond thrilled and so, so grateful for the opportunity.

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During the time I worked on Dog Gone! I had this idea that I wanted to create a cat book in the same vein and I already had the title Cat Napped! noodling around in my head, but it took a while to flesh out the story. I remember having submitted the story along with a couple of other ideas to the editor and right after Dog Gone! released they took it.

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Have any of the books you worked on won any awards?

Eat Your Science Homework was awarded a 2014 Junior Library Guild selection—awesomesauce!

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Do you have plans to write and illustrate another book?

Hahaha, yes of course! I hope I never stop.

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What do you consider your first big success?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure I can measure one big success that easily. Having a book published is amazing, but I also consider the ever-evolving process as a series of successful stepping-
stones and I do a little happy dance each time I move to the next one—because they all teach me something about myself and/or my work. Creative folks are such sensitive creatures and it can be
intimidating to put our work out there in front of people, so each time we are brave and face our fears head on, that’s a success. Actually, when I attended a SCBWI conference for the first time, I was so overwhelmed I almost didn’t go back the next day—so I’d say not giving up right off the bat was my first big success!

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For pencil work, I use 2H, HB, 2B and 5 or 6B pencils on Arches hotpress 140lb paper.

PencilOnArches2What is on the drawing board now?

My schedule has been a little nuts lately so I am taking a rest-of-the-year break and finally getting around to updating my website, which has been somewhat neglected.

eysh-6-7

Do you ever use Corel Painter or Photoshop when illustrating?

I ‘collage’ in Photoshop. I take all the pieces that I create by hand, scan them in, then slice ‘n’ dice them into a final illustration. I think of Photoshop as my digital scissors and glue, but I don’t actually illustrate with Photoshop if that makes sense, like, I’m not drawing or painting digitally using brushes and filters.

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

No. If you mean a Cintiq or Wacom, that is. I’ve seen them in action though, wow!

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Is there one thing that you did or happened that you feel really pushed your career to the next level?

I joined SCBWI. So far, this has been an amazing journey of education, connections, opportunities, projects and rewards, but it all started with this incredible organization that continues to play a role—LOVE SCBWI!

Hernandez_Wolf

Do you take pictures or other research before you start a project?

Before and during—yes. Having reference material gives me a much better understanding of what I am drawing than simply imagining. I like to begin by drawing realistically before I think about characterizing for a book because it gives me an accurate sense of anatomy, behavior, body language, etc., even though they’re very loose drawings. There were a number of animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo that I hadn’t drawn before, so I filled a ring binder with reference just for that project.

lhernandez_wolf

The original pick-up truck for Cat Napped! was a struggle, but after sharing with my editor, we realized it was too square and modern, so I went back and researched vintage trucks from the 40s and 50s. The end result was a bit of a hybrid but its softer, curvier edges suited the tone of the book far better than the angular truck I had originally drawn.

LeezaHernandez_Blog

The internet is a powerful tool—National Geographic (nationalgeographic.com), Nat Geo Kids (kids.nationalgeographic.com), NASA (nasa.gov), and Pinterest (pinterest.com) are some of my favorites but discipline is key. The amount of research I do depends upon the project but I have to be careful with the amount of time I spend researching versus creating the art.

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I use a timer to stay on top of it. And even if I am not researching for a particular project, I carry a sketchbook with me and either have my phone or camera for taking any pictures. Inspiration strikes when I least expect it so I like to be as prepared as possible.

dog

Have you found most art directors and editors give you a lot of freedom when illustrating a book? Do they want to be involved all the way through the process?

Once, I was given very specific art notes for an educational book but the turnaround time was tight, so the notes were helpful for me to jump right in. I’ve received minimal notes for nonfiction projects if there was a point that needed to be demonstrated visually for some specific text. For example: the Homework books sometimes have charts.

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For the fictional projects, I’m pretty much left to it for the first round of sketches, then the art director and/or editor and I discuss together. Sometimes, I’ll offer up additional sketch options for a handful of spreads if I have lots of ideas and can’t decide which direction to go. There can be a lot of back and forth on the cover, though.

leeza

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My art materials—pencils, brushes, paper, inks, sketchbooks—I’d be kinda lost without them!

leeza in and outcropped

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes, even if it’s only for ten minutes, that’s my rule.

leezaDG_lastSpreadFinal

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To travel, keep making art, and continue creating books for young readers—that would be lovely!

leeza rock bandcropped

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I discovered a Hobby Lobby (hobbylobby.com) near me recently. They have a better selection of art supplies (including papers) than my local crafting stores—although I do love Dick Blick (dickblick.com) too—they always have what I need.

For my pencil drawings I love to work on Arches hot press 140lb paper. Canson Pro Marker Layout pads are good for ink work and hold black gouache really well with minimal buckling—great for lineart and expressive brush work.(http://www.dickblick.com/products/canson-pro-layout-marker-paper/). I use Borden & Riley Boris layout paper (http://www.dickblick.com/products/borden-and-riley-boris-layout-paper-for-markers/) for sketching rather than tracing paper. Good transparency, less smudging.

A friend recently got me into aqua brushes (http://www.dickblick.com/products/sakura-koi-water-brush/?clickTracking=true&wmcp=pla&wmcid=items&wmckw=09094-1030&gclid=CI_Ev6GQicICFShp7AodSgcAZA). Paired with a travel watercolor palette (http://www.jerrysartarama.com/discount-art-supplies/watercolor-paints-and-mediums/winsor-and-newton-water-colours-and-mediums/winsor-and-newton-cotman-water-colour-sets.htm) they’re great for field work, sketch crawls, or just having handy for that moment when inspiration strikes!

I use the Levels function in Photoshop to clean up sketches before sending a submission. You can set a white point with the highlights eyedrop per and use the sliders to reduce increase contrast and rid your sketch of any unwanted smudges.

Skillshare.com is a great resource especially if you want to try your hand at something new before committing to a large investment. The sit e features short video tutorials given by working artists, entrepreneurs and gurus, ranging from art and design, to photography, public speaking, business and beyond. There’s a minimal monthly subscription fee to have full access but it’s totally worth it. You can even submit projects for feedback based upon the course you are taking, which is great if you need a little motivation.

1lezzaSquirrely_Joe

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Hmmm.. I will share what others have shared with me: stay true to yourself, go with your gut, always be open and willing to learn, spend at least 10 guilt-free minutes a day to nurture your inner creativity, smile, don’t give up, and practice gratitude through all the ups and especially the downs. While the ups help spur us on, the downs help us learn and grow.

1leezaPiggieonBass

Thank you Leeza haring your journey and process with us. Can’t wait to see your career go forward. You can visit Leeza at her website: http://www.leezaworks.com to see more of her work.

If you have a moment I am sure Leeza would love to read your comments. I enjoy them too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 21, 2014

Free Fall Friday – Mish Mash

CALL FOR HOLIDAY ILLUSTRATIONS – Needs to be at least 500 pixels wide. Send to Kathy.temean (at) gmail.com.

I forgot to give you the date for when I will announce the two book give-a-ways from my post on November 14th. I will announce the two winners on Thanksgiving. Good news! You still can leave a comment on that post for your chance to win up until Wednesday at 6pm EST.

Authors: Did you know that I am repeating what we did with the Halloween Poems? Please send in your Thanksgiving Poems and I will post them on November 26th and the public will vote for their favorite. The winner will receive a chit for a future post about them and or a book they have coming out.

undertheneversky2The first book of the UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy by Veronica Rossi price has dropped to only $1.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon.

From a New York Times bestselling author comes a dystopian masterpiece called “inspired, offbeat, and mesmerizing” (Kirkus Reviews). Though from different worlds, Aria and Perry must depend on one another for survival. “You won’t be able to put this book down” (Seventeen).

Great Buy! One of my favorite trilogies, BTW. Here is the link on Amazon.

grave mercy
Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy 1) by Robin LaFevers is $1.99 on the Kindle.

From a New York Times bestselling author comes an Amazon Best Book of the Month with over 300 five-star reviews. In medieval Europe, Ismae discovers her destiny as a handmaiden to Death. But can she kill the man she loves? “A page-turner — with grace” (Kirkus Reviews).

Here is the link on Amazon

 

VOTE NOW FOR THIS YEARS GOODREADS 2014 BEST BOOKS:

http://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014?utm_campaign=final_round&utm_content=choice_vote_button&utm_medium=email&utm_source=GRCA_2014

 

From Publisher’s Lunch:

Children’s/YA Sales Drive Sales Again In August

The AAP released their monthly Stat Shot statistics from approximately 1,200 reporting publishers for August, with sales remaining true to the pattern from all of 2014: Strong children’s/YA sales — in all formats — continue to carry the trade, accounting for all of the gains and then some, as new release adult hardcovers (and thus companion ebooks) remain lackluster.

For August itself, adult sales of $415 million did rise slightly from $408 million a year ago, and children’s/YA sales of $170 million were up from $141 million last August. Adult hardcover sales were down again, though, and have been weak all year (down 7.2 percent for the first 8 months of 2014); adult ebook sales for August were $107 million, down 2 percent from $109 million a year ago. Adult ebook sales for the year are barely below flat, at $853 million.

Remember that the AAP is measuring net shipments to and from accounts, not consumer sell-through (except for ebooks); so the August numbers reflect stores bringing in inventory to prepare for the big holiday season — but the lack of adult breakout titles may show itself in monthly numbers later this year and early into 2015. Informally, publishing and retail executives have expressed concern over the past month or two over the lack of new, breakout hits pulling consumers’ attention in advance of those holiday sales.

But the smaller children’s/YA market tells a different story. Registering their best month so far in a strong year (children’s sales are up $225 million, or more than 20 percent), August children’s sales were $170 million. Children’s ebook sales gained $5 million, rising to $17.9 million, still leaving total ebook sales of $124.6 up slightly from $122 million a year ago. eBooks accounted for 21 percent of August’s sales.

At Little, Brown Children’s, Alvina Ling has been promoted to vp, editor-in-chief, overseeing the publishing program (excluding licensing). Pam Gruber moves up to senior editor; and Allison Moore is now associate editor.
wendymcleodmacknight100cropped
Last Friday, Wendy McLeod MacKnight was signed by the LKG Literary Agency in New York City for her children’s chapter book! Woo-hoo!

Check back next week for November’s First Page Critiques by agent Alex Slater from Trident Media Group.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 20, 2014

Agent Looking to Build List

CSLOGO

Lana Popovic

lana-popovic-literary-agent

Lana Popovic

Lana Popovic holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, where she focused on intellectual property, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining Chalberg & Sussman, Lana worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, where she built a list of Young Adult and adult literary authors while managing foreign rights for the agency.

Lana’s clients include Leah Thomas (Because You’ll Never Meet Me, forthcoming from Bloomsbury), Rebecca Podos (The Mystery of Hollow Places, forthcoming from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), Michelle Smith (Play On, forthcoming from Spencer Hill Contemporary), and Marie Jaskulka (The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl and Random Boy, forthcoming from Skyhorse).

With an abiding love for dark themes and shamelessly nerdy fare—Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon are two of her great loves—Lana is looking for a broad spectrum of Young Adult and Middle Grade projects, from contemporary realism to speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. For the adult market, Lana is interested in literary thrillers, horror, fantasy, sophisticated erotica and romance, and select nonfiction. An avid traveler, she has a particular fondness for stories set in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, although she also loves reading about American subcultures.

Lana is accepting:

  1. Young Adult/Middle Grade Fiction: Contemporary/realistic, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical, horror, sci-fi
  2. Adult Fiction: Literary thrillers, sci-fi, horror, romance, erotica, women’s literary fiction
  3. Adult Nonfiction: Pop culture, blog-to-book, literary memoir

Twitter at @LanaPopovicLit.

To query Lana, please email lana@chalbergsussman.com with the first ten pages of the manuscript included in the body of the email. Lana accepts queries by email only.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 19, 2014

Keeping the Flame Alive – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here on…. 

Keeping the Flame Alive

The farther I dive into the world of writing, the busier I become. I have done small amounts of freelance writing for years, but about a year ago, in hopes of gaining experience and honing my craft, I dove deeper into the world of freelance. I wrote for a few online magazines like Honesty For Breakfast (aimed at girls in their 20s), I did some ghost web-copy writing for travel websites and a flower shop, am working on a project with RawSpiceBar.com , and do regular posts for Family Focus Blog with farm fresh recipes and family-friendly projects.

I learned a lot about my writing too. I learned that my instinctively conversational style makes me a natural fit for certain things and not others. I’ve found great success with product description writing and online course curriculum development, because I get to play with different styles of description and ways of engaging an audience. But grant or technical writing for things like computer software manuals… not for me.

So what’s my point? Well, between freelance writing and working on my manuscripts, I am doing hours of writing every single day. And while this has been great in many ways, forcing me to flex my writing and creativity muscles, working with deadlines and not being able to stop because I’m just not “feeling it”, it can also become cumbersome.

Bottom line: Writing is very hard work.

I needed a way to regularly stoke the fire, the furious passion that I’ve always had for the written word. A way to remind myself that writing is fun!

Once a week, I schedule two entire hours, where I sit down and write without a goal, and away from the computer. No deadlines, no projects, no one to tell me what’s wrong with it, just writing. It can be free association writing, prose, anything I want. I can use characters from my manuscripts, but I don’t allow myself to work on actual scenes. I write silly rhymes that follow absolutely no patterns, write sentences with horrible grammar, and break as many rules as I can in 120 minutes.

Sometimes I spend the whole two hours writing what turns into a sort of journal entry, and I am reminded of why I fell in love with writing in the first place… the hidden truths it has always seemed to bring forward.

Basically, I indulge myself.

For me, being away from the computer is an important aspect. I do my work from my computer as a writer and a business owner, so just sitting in the chair has innate associations with obligation. This is playtime not work time.

Curling up with a notebook, a pen and absolutely nothing but chaos to guide me connects with the teenager in me who found refuge in writing as words she was constantly scribbling in the margins seemed to bring her closer to understanding herself and the world around her.

Do I always look forward to it? Nope. Not at all. I’d say a solid 40-50 percent of the time, I’m going into this thinking, ech… this is dumb. I don’t have the time to waste just doing nothing. 

But (so far at least!) I have managed to convince myself to do it anyway.

The outcome?

Even when I didn’t FEEL like doing it, when the hours are up, I find myself unbelievably refreshed, both on a personal level, and as a writer. In fact, the times when I’ve wanted to do it the least have frequently been the times it’s had the most effect.

More often than not, I’ve sparked some new ideas for ways to handle scenes I was stuck on, or projects I wasn’t sure of. This means that these two hours actually end up SAVING me time, as I’m able to be more fluid in my work moving on.

And every single time, I renew that secret smile on my face that tells the story of how writing is a profoundly integral part of who I am.

So… do I think this strategy will work for everyone?

Well… sort of. (not exactly a deep meaningful answer there, I know. But bear with me!)  

I think finding a way to reconnect with the raw passion of your writing is essential for all of us. Will a two-hour scribble in a notebook once a week do that for you?

It just might. As writers, I’ve found that many of us have similar stories of falling in love with the written word. So I would highly suggest giving it a try. But if after a few times, you find yourself drawn to something else, don’t fight it. Let the wistful, playful side of you run this show, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

My two-hour decadent dive into the frivolous side of writing has become a stimulating catalyst for not only my writing but my own spirit and the spirit of my characters. And while I know it’s never always easy to find two hours of your time to put aside, I strongly believe that…

… you, and your manuscripts are worth it.

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post. I think everyone looks forward to your posts.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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