Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 18, 2022

Book Giveaway: Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt by Kathleen Whitford

Kathleen Wilford has a new middle grade book, CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT being published by Blue Bronco Books on September 1st. Kathleen has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Kathleen.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


A historical middle-grade novel that drops you right into 1870’s Kansas, with a whole lot of drama and a little bit of romance.

Housemaid? What a horrible word! Not that I’d ever actually seen a housemaid, but I could picture one: a meek, aproned, pale-faced girl who never saw the sun.

When her parents force her to work at grand Ashford Manor, 12-year-old Cabby Potts will do anything to escape, including playing matchmaker between her sister and the rich young lord of the manor. If it succeeds, her scheme will save her family’s struggling homestead. If it fails . . .

Can Cabby find the courage to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers?

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, is a tale of the prairie with humor, heart, and a dash of romance.


I’m honored to share my book journey with Kathy Temean. She’s done so much to make NJ SCBWI a success, and her unselfish support for other writers is a real inspiration.

My writing journey began when I was a book-obsessed kid. In the fourth grade, I published a poem about snowflakes in the school newspaper. I lived in New Orleans and had never seen snow at the time, and the poem was truly awful, proving the wisdom of the adage, “write what you know.”

Despite studying literature in college and teaching English for several years, I didn’t have the courage to return to writing after my fourth-grade debut. I thought authors were special, a breed apart. Then a friend invited me to join a critique group, and I said “yes” despite not having anything to share with the group. I plunged into a historical novel about Henry Knox and carrying guns to Boston—well written, I was told, but no one wants a long MG about the Revolutionary War. Proving the truth of the adage, “know your market.”

After joining SCBWI and actually learning something about the kidlit market, I stumbled on a book called Prairie Fever, about the fascination of the British upper classes with the American West. A group of aristocrats, I learned, had started a settlement, a “community of culture and refinement,” on the plains of Kansas in the 1870’s. What if, I wondered, a young American homesteader, someone from a sod house, went to work in one of their grand homes? And the character of Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt was born.


I plunged into research and writing again, this time with more support and more knowledge of the industry. I wasn’t writing what I knew, since I’ve never lived in Kansas, but I’ve always been fascinated by the homesteading experience, and I immersed myself in journals, memoirs, and other primary sources. Since I teach at Rutgers, I have access to great materials that I could check out for a year at a time (surprisingly, no one else wanted books about how to build sod houses). After many trials, I honed the plot and also Cabby’s voice: funny, feisty and earthy. I actually fell in love with my main character.

When it was time to query, self-doubt kicked in again. I received a few requests for the full manuscript from agents, and even an R & R from one agent who eventually passed after giving me excellent advice. Ignoring the adage “keep trying—most writers get lots of rejections” (okay, I made that one up), I stopped querying. I dabbled in picture books, which are not really my strong suit, and basically spun my wheels.

Until . . .  on a whim, I submitted a pitch for Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt to #PitMad in 2021. To my utter astonishment, Michele McAvoy from Little Press liked my entry, asked for the full manuscript, and offered to publish it. And here we are today. I’m so grateful to Michele for her guidance through the publishing and marketing process and for her patience with my questions and continued self-doubt. I’m so excited to share my book with the world!

So, my advice to writers: “write what you know”—or what you can learn about through lots and lots of research. “Know themarket”—join SCBWI, read tons of comps, and educate yourself. And “keep trying—most writers get lots of rejections.”

Kathleen’s Bio:

Kathleen Wilford was born in Panama and has lived in four different countries and three different states—but never in Kansas. She studied literature at Cornell University and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she now teaches writing. When she’s not teaching or writing, Kathleen can be found outdoors, chasing her disobedient dog.

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is Kathleen’s debut novel for kids.

Connect with Kathleen at

Kathleen, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I haven’t read the book, but it sound intriguing. A young girl who plays matchmaker, with her sister and well-off Lord. hoping that will solve all her problems. Just reading the title Parts of the book: A tragic and Ironic Fate; Brilliant Inspiration; A Holiday and a Horse; A mysterious Letter; A pair of Scoundrels; amd A Gift, all add to the intrigue. Love the cover and can’t wait to read. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow.


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 17, 2022

Book Winners & the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction – No Fee


Lee Y. Miao won WE BELONG by Laura Purdie Salas

Angie Quantrell won ABUELITA AND I MAKE FLAN by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom


Would you like to win an Agent First Page Critique? Don’t Miss Out! High chance to win this month!

Click to Read Submission Guidelines.

Do you have a book being published between September 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022, then make sure your publisher takes advantage of The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. They must submit your book by November 18, 2022?

Carol Shields Prize for Fiction is a major new English-language literary award to celebrate creativity and excellence in fiction by women writers in the United States and Canada.

  • The winner of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction will be awarded $150,000 Canadian dollars.

  • Four finalists will each receive $12,500 Canadian dollars.

General Guidelines:
  • The prize is open to novels, short story collections and graphic novels written by women and non-binary writers for an adult audience.

  • All books and entry forms must be submitted and filled out by the book’s publisher.

  • Publishers may submit only two titles per imprint, per publishing house.

  • Publishers must be American or Canadian companies.

  • Incomplete entry forms or books (both digital and physical copies) that fail to meet the submission deadlines will be deemed ineligible. See Prize Submissions Deadlines for details.

  • Self-published books or books submitted by authors directly are not eligible.

  • All entries for the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction are strictly confidential and may not be used to publicize an author in the future, unless they have been named to the longlist or shortlist or chosen as the winner.

Submission Guidelines:
  • Works of fiction in the form of novels, short story collections, and graphic novels are eligible for submission. The books must be scheduled to be published between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022.

  • Works written by women or non-binary authors are eligible for submission. The Prize welcomes and encourages submissions by transgender woman authors. The Prize recognizes trans women as women without qualification.

  • Publishers are encouraged to submit up to two eligible books from each imprint from their publishing company. Each imprint must be editorially independent, including a different name, from other imprints in order to be considered separate from the parent publisher.

  • This prize is for literary excellence and publishers are encouraged to only submit titles that meet this broad requirement.

  • Publishers must submit one digital copy (galley or final e-pub book) eligible title, along with a completed online submission form. Incomplete submission forms or digital and/or print copies that are not received by the appropriate deadline will render the book ineligible. See Prize Submissions Deadlines for all relevant dates.

  • Publishers will have to submit five published hardcopies of the books they have submitted for the prize. The prize administrator will contact publishers to request those books. Hardcopies are not to be submitted until requested by the prize administrator. Publishers will have thirty (30) days from the request for hardcopies to submit the final published book to the prize.

  • Final deadlines for submissions are listed below under Prize Submissions Deadlines. Books not received by the appropriate deadlines will be deemed ineligible.

  • Books must be first edition English-language books written by a Canadian or American citizen or permanent resident of either country.

  • Authors must be living at the time of publication in order to be eligible for submission.

  • Books that have been translated from another language are eligible and will be considered in the year that the English translation is published. The book in translation must be authored by an American or Canadian citizen or permanent resident who has resided in either country for the past five years. In the event that a translation wins the prize, the prize winnings will be split with the translator in the following way: $100,000 to the writer; $50,000 to the translator.

  • Books must be published by publishing houses with a professional editorial process, independent of the authors. Authors must not pay for the publishing house’s editorial, marketing, or publicity services. Self-published books are ineligible.

  • All books must have an ISBN and be available for sale in bookstores.

  • Books only available as eBook or audio editions are not eligible.

  • All books must be authored by a single writer. Books with multiple authors are not eligible. Anthologies are not eligible.

  • Graphic novels must be authored and illustrated by a single creator in order to be eligible. For example, if a graphic novel has been written by an author and illustrated by an artist who is not the author, it is ineligible.

  • If more than 20% of a submitted book has been previously published in book form, the book is ineligible.

Conditions of Prize Entry for Publishers:
  • Publishers who submit books for prize consideration are bound by the following conditions:

  • If a publisher’s book is one of the five shortlisted books, they must contribute $2,000 to the prize for the advertising and marketing of the shortlist. Publishers are requested to submit twenty additional hardcopies of the shortlisted book for promotional purposes.

  • Publishers must arrange for authors to sign a letter of agreement stipulating that, should their book be shortlisted, the author agrees to fulfill the obligation to attend the prize event and to participate in any events—including interviews, readings and appearances—promoting the prize and its finalists for a fifteen-day period, one week before and one week after the gala.

  • The publisher agrees to market and promote the shortlisted book.

  • The publisher agrees to sticker the book, including reprints, with the prize insignia. The artwork for the sticker will be provided electronically by the prize.

  • The publisher shall agree to provide permissions for excerpts of the shortlisted books to be used in prize materials for the gala, promotional events, and for media excerpts.

Prize Submission Deadlines:

  • There are three submission periods based on publication date. All publishers must submit one completed entry form for each submitted title, one digital advance reading copy for each submitted title, and five physical copies of the final book by the following dates.

Submission Period 1:

Entries for books published between January 1, 2022 – April 30, 2022, must be received on or before March 18, 2022

Submission Period 2:

Entries for books published between May 1, 2022 – August 31, 2022, must be received on or before July 22, 2022

Submission Period 3:

Entries for books published between September 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022, must be received on or before November 18, 2022


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 16, 2022

Book Giveaway: WHERE DO BUTTERFLIES GO AT NIGHT? by Jeanne Balsam

Jeanne Balsam debut picture book, WHERE DO BUTTERFLIES GO AT NIGHT?, illustrated by Stella Mongodi and published by Ethicool Books is coming out on August 30th. Jeanne has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Jeanne and Stella.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


‘Magical’, ‘evocative’ and a ‘masterclass in children’s writing and illustrating’ are just a few words that have been used to describe this stunning book. And yes, you should believe the hype.

Inspired by the author’s own observations of the butterflies just outside her window, comes a story of a child’s enchantment with the small cabbage white. They dance by the dozens among the flowers, slowly disappearing when shadows grow long.

As sleep calls, our little one wonders, “Where do butterflies go at night?”


You might say the journey of “Where Do Butterflies Go at Night?” started a long time ago when I took 3 courses in the Writing and Illustration of Children’s Books  with Uri Shulevitz at the New School. I was hooked, but my life took me in a different direction. However, the desire to be in this world and be published had been seeded inside me and was waiting for the right time to re-emerge.

That opportunity arose in 2008 when a call went out in the local paper looking for members to join a critique group. I attended and my children’s book journey began again. I’d actually written the first version of Butterflies in 2007, then titled “Where Do Butterflies Go?” The poem was inspired by what I saw outside my downstairs office window. In mid-morning, the privet hedge was covered by dancing cabbage white butterflies. As the day wore on, they slowly disappeared. I couldn’t help but wonder where they went. And then I imagined it through a child’s eyes, and it became just so magical.

I continued working on and improving Butterflies, often in between other manuscripts, and submitted it here and there at conferences, but the industry’s reception to stories in rhyme (and this is my only one in verse), was not very enthusiastic. So, as we often do with stories that don’t find a home, I shelved it. In the spring of last year, 2021, a friend brought my attention to a new and growing publisher, Ethicool, whose interests were in nature, the environment, and other subjects that truly mattered to kids. I submitted Butterflies; they loved it, and wanted to add it to their 2022 Spring releases.

I have been so excited and pleased to work with Ethicool and with Stella Mongodi, my illustrator. My own illustration style could not do justice to the magical nighttime journey taken by the cabbage whites, but Stella did it in spades. It is beyond rich and gorgeous. We’ve had some printing and delivery delays with supply chain issues and our release date had been pushed back a bit, but we are now looking at late July, and I sure hope Butterflies will be dancing into everyone’s hearts and homes. It’s still all magical to me.


Jeanne Balsam is an author, illustrator, graphic designer and Frenchie artist. She has also done extensive fundraising work on behalf of animals for decades. She began writing and illustrating for children quite some time ago, but life took her on a different path. She continued her education and became a psychotherapist, and some time later, the fundraiser manager and graphic artist for the largest humane organization in New Jersey. In 2008, she finally returned to children’s books. Jeanne currently lives in Hunterdon County where she continues writing and illustrating, as well as designing on a freelance basis and helping people self-publish.


Stella Mongodi was born in Italy but now lives in London. She earned her degree in Ancient theatre, while studying art and illustration for many years with renowned professionals such as Alessandra Cimatoribus, Anna Castagnoli, Carll Cneut and Stefano Moroni.

Even though she started with oil colors, acrylics and watercolors, her illustrations are now entirely digital. Still she thinks they have a “traditional media flavor” characterized by a dreamy, feathery but playful style.

Besides illustrating Where Do Butterflies Go At Night, she has illustrated Wally and Freya; Watermelon Pip; Wilbur’s Wish; Dance StanceSiamo stelle/We are stars; and Brielle’s Birthday Ball.

Jeanne, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I am so excited for you. I know how much effort you put into your illustrating and Writing. It is always nice to see someone you know succeed. The book is lovely and a wonderful reminder of the things around us and the stories they tell. I can’t wait to read it. Stella did a wonderful job helping you tell the story.  Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 15, 2022

Dr. Mira’s Pitch and Bio Make Over – Wendy Parciak




When twelve-year-old Game Master Angus Gale enters the forest to search for his missing brother, the dangerous world he’d created in his role-playing game comes alive. To save not only his brother but himself, he must make a deal with his villains—the Water, Earth, Wind, and Fire Tyrants. He vows to protect their world … or they’ll destroy the real one.

Wendy Parciak’s Bio:

As someone who experienced a life-changing injury, I wrote this story to help empower kids to choose a new path if necessary, no matter how much it differs from their original expectations. Two of my manuscripts have been finalists in the PNWA Literary Contest, and my literary novel REQUIEM FOR LOCUSTS (Two Canoes Press) received the Montana Honor Book Award.

Mira’s Suggestions:

Hi Wendy this pitch sounds great, but a couple of things are confusing. Is the forest in the real world or the virtual world? Did Angus create the role-playing game or his missing brother? I’m going to assume that it’s two separate worlds and that Angus created the dangerous world. Your bulleted notes make this clearer so I’m going to trust them. I’m also seeing how making these bulleted notes help in getting a clearer picture of what’s going on and encourage you to reference them in future.

Your original pitch was very lively, which I tried to follow but I wanted to establish the brother’s relationship with each other a little more from your notes and I gave him a name to clarify who you’re referring to. I also pumped up the alliteration and clarified the stakes a bit more. I hope I got the plot right. I would have loved to have include the earth, air, fire and water elements but couldn’t because of word count. Maybe you could create a hybrid pitch from both of these, or just use whichever one you like best.

In terms of your bio, while the part about your life-changing injury is interesting, all it does is make me a bit frustrated wanting to know what happened, while taking up a lot of words, which I’d rather use for your accomplishments and delightful personality. If your life-changing injury led to a disability and you are comfy using it, maybe just include #disability, which fits with your bio and if it relates to your story, you’d want to include that in the pitch and if comfy in the bio. I hope this helps love.

Mira’s Suggested Pitch:

Twelve-year-old Angus isn’t sporty like his older brother Ewan, but he is brilliant at creating virtual role-playing games that they both love. Then Ewan disappears, forcing Angus to venture into the frightening forbidden forest known as “The Tangle” to save him. When the Tangle makes Angus’s dangerous game come alive, he has to promise to protect the Tangle’s Elemental Tyrant’s worlds… or they’ll destroy everyone AND Planet Earth. 69 words. Environmental fiction.

Mira’s Suggested Bio:

Game-loving, environmentalist, Wendy Parciak loves empowering children with the knowledge that life offers many possibilities and choices. A member of SCBWI and PNWA, she has received awards and honors from SCBWI, the NSF, and the O. Marvin Lewis Award. Her literary novel REQUIEM FOR LOCUSTS also received the Montana Honor Book Award. Wendy earned a PhD in Ecology and trains dogs in her spare time.

Bio: Dr. Mira Reisberg has worked as a former acquiring editor & art director, literary agent, children’s literature professor, & as the Director of the Children’s Book Academy for many years. Her former students have published over 860 books & won every major children’s book award that she knows of. She’s excited to be co-teaching at the upcoming 2022 KidLit Palooza scholarship fundraiser. Starring amazingly brilliant authors, illustrators, editors, agents & art directors right here:

Mira has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kid lit. Find her at the Children’s Book Academy here or on Twitter @ChildrensBookAc

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 14, 2022

Book Giveaway: THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN by Shirin Shamsi

Shirin Shamsi has a new picture book, THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN, illustrated by Tarun Lak and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on September 13th. Shirin has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Shirin and Tarun.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


In time for the 75th anniversary of the Partition of British India, this picture book is a stirring account of the harrowing journey faced by millions of migrants in the aftermath of the division of India and Pakistan.

Azra knows that wherever she goes, her doll Gurya will follow. Even if it’s on a train that will take her far away from the house her family has lived in for generations. Even if there is a new flag flying in Dehradun, and no place left in it for Azra. At least she will be taking a piece of home with her.

But when Abba comes home and says they must leave right now, Gurya gets left behind in the scramble. Will Azra be strong enough to face the long journey alone? And what will happen to Gurya, now hundreds of miles behind them?

Inspired by the author’s family story, this lyrical, moving picture book is a testament to the strength, courage, and perseverance of the over 10 million refugees displaced by the largest forced migration in recorded history, and shares a young girl’s journey from her old home to a new one.


Though THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN is a work of fiction, it was inspired by my mother’s personal experience of the Partition of British India in 1947. I remember hearing this story as a child, several times throughout my childhood.

When I became a mother, I felt compelled to write stories for my children, about their faith, culture and heritage, so they would feel seen and represented.

I often thought of this story, but felt it was too sad to share with children. So I put it out of my mind, thinking I would return to it at some point.

Years passed, and I felt my mother’s story call to me more urgently.  I wanted to share it not only with my children, but with all the children of the world. For this history is little known. So many voices of those who experienced this event, history’s largest forced migration, have now been silenced.

I felt it was time to write it. I began it in 2015. Writing it was hard. Research was more painful. I have wept a great many tears over this manuscript. But I think there is a catharsis in sharing this story.

I write for children with the hope that in some way I’m making the world better. For to be seen, to be represented in books is crucial for every child. And to experience other’s stories surely brings people together with empathy and understanding.

I pitched this story on Twitter’s #DVPit in April 2020. We were in the early weeks of lockdown, and I felt I had nothing to lose. It was because of this story that I signed with my wonderful agent, Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary. It has been an amazing writing journey, and I’m so grateful it will be released in just a few weeks.


Shirin has lived on three continents and sees herself as a global citizen. Through sharing stories from her heritage, she hopes to inspire an appreciation for all the diversity of our beautiful planet.

Shirin is a member of SCBWI since 2010, and is now represented by Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Agency.


Tarun Lak is an Indian American animator and illustrator. Born in Miami, Florida, and raised in Chennai, India, he attended Ringling College of Art and Design to study computer animation.

He has since worked as a character animator on commercials and feature films including Spider Man: Into the Spider-VerseSoul, and Luca. Tarun currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys drinking coffee and making art in his spare time. The Moon from Dehradun is his first picture book.

Shirin, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love that you are telling a story that needs to be shared, but also one that many children can identify with when they have to move, or just misplace or lose something precious to them. It is never too early to learn about strength, courage, and perseverance. Turan’s Illustrations really capture the essence of the book and helps tell the story. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 13, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Carlos Vélez Aguilera

Carlos Vélez Aguilera was born in Mexico City in 1980. For 12 years he has been a professional illustrator and dedicated full time to editorial illustration. He is a graduate of the National School of Plastic Arts of the National University Autonomous of Mexico. He takes different workshops and illustration seminars with teachers such as Javier Sáez, Kveta Pakovska, Adellci Galloni, Noemí Villamuza, Santiago Caruso, Andres Neves, Roberto Inoccenti, among others. He has illustrated books for various publishers in Mexico such as: Santillana, Ediciones Castillo, Norma, SM, Trillas, Richmond, Alfaguara, Porrua, among others. As well as a large number of magazines and animation projects.

He has illustrated more than 20 books for children’s literature as well as a book of author “Salón Destino”. He has been recognized with two illustration awards in the catalogue for the International Children’s and Youth Book Fair in Mexico.


The first thing I do is make small thumbnails while I read the text, I make many, then I make the thumbnails of the book itself.

Since I have them, then I look for references, which I divide into 3: some for inspiration, with compositions and styles that I like, others for specific things that I will have to draw (like binoculars, for example) and others for color palettes.

Since I gathered the references, I make the character designs and then I start to make the sketches, I do these with a pencil and markers at a larger size.  I send the sketches to the publisher to wait for their comments, then I make the adjustments.

When they have approved me, I start with the technique, which is to make black and white images with graphite, watercolor and ink, a very detailed drawing that is generally 20% larger than what will be printed.  then I scan everything and put it together on the computer and then put digital color.

I send an illustration for color approval and once approved I make all the illustrations, print and see them all together to see if anything can be improved. Afterwards there are almost always adjustments to make since the author, the art director and the editor reviewed it. in the end I make the cover and you keep them, all this while they are approving me, although sometimes they ask me.



How long have you been illustrating?

I have been working as an illustrator since 2010.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

My first job was in a design studio called “a corazón abierto” and there I made illustrations, then I worked in a publishing house in Mexico making didactic illustrations.

What made you decide to attend the National School of Plastic Arts of the National University Autonomous of Mexico?

When I was in high school I knew very well that I loved drawing and that I wanted to dedicate myself to something related to it, the Autonomous University of Mexico is the most important public university in Mexico, so I applied there and stayed, which made me very happy.

What type of things did you study there?

I studied Design with an orientation towards illustration, every semester I took drawing and representation techniques, in addition to the fact that I was also studying plastic arts, I went to engraving and painting workshops.

What classes were your favorite?

my favorites were always the drawing ones because the teachers were very good.

Did college help you find work before leaving school?

In reality, not much because at that time the links to work as an illustrator were very scarce, but because of an advertisement I saw at the university requesting assistants to illustrate children’s texts, it was where I got my first job in the design studio.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

After attending a seminar on children’s illustration in Oaxaca, where Antony Brown and Uri Shulevitz talked, I fell in love with the way they talked about children’s books, I also met very good Mexican illustrators who were doing incredible things, I began to really like the picture books, I was amazed to see the books of Chris Van Allsburg  for example or the illustrations by Felipe Dávalos in Mexico.

Do you still live inMexico?

Yes, that’s right, in Xochimilco.


What type of things did you do to get illustrating work when you finished school?

The first thing was to make a portfolio, then I began to gather my best works from the university and make other more specific ones, then I sent emails to Mexican publishers, because at that time there were no social networks, I also participated in illustration contests because although you won’t win, with luck you could appear in the catalogs and then the editors could call you from there.  Now it is easier to spread my work as an illustrator because with social networks it has become easier.  But before it was much more complicated.

Has Astound been represent your illustrating work? How did connect with them?

Yes, it is the best thing that has happened to me in recent years because that has allowed me to do illustrations for books outside my country.  I sent an email with a sample of my work and when they accepted me I couldn’t be happier.  Astound is a great agency and they have landed me wonderful jobs.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

I have been influenced by the things I like, many illustrators and also comics and painting.  I have been influenced by my context and the colors I see around me every day.  I like symbolist painting, illustrators like Shaun Tan, Rébecca Dautremer, Isol… among others.

Was El Puntito your first illustrated picture book?

Yes, it was my first book and all the profits went to the Guadalajara hospital for children with kidney failure, which made me very happy because as a child I lost a kidney and I know what it means to be sick and to be a child who does not understand a lot is going on.  “El puntito“ is one of my most beloved works.

How did you get that contract?

I was contacted directly by the author who is a musician from a famous band in Mexico called “the blind worm” and saw my blog.

I see Salón Destino mentioned in a number of places on the Internet. Did you win any awards for the book?

yes, he won an award to develop it, it’s a scholarship for young creators who give in Mexico, then he won an award to be able to publish it, it’s my first book as an author and illustrator and I love it because it talks about another of the things I love to do in the life that is dancing.

How did you get that contract?

I Directly contact a small publisher in Mexico and then win support to print it in Mexico.

Lina Catarina was published in May 2020. Had it been published in 2014?

I thought I saw some artwork for it dated before It was originally published in 2014, then in 2020 they made a reprint. It is a beautiful book about the relationship of a mother with her daughter and many ladybugs.

Is Sleeping with the light one a MIDDLE GRADE book?


Did you do any interior art for this book or just the cover?

I did 11 black and white illustrations, and I really liked them because the text was very good.

Three lines in a Circle has Carlos Vélez, but book say illustrated by Carlos Vélez Aguilera. Why is that?

Yes, it’s true, what an observer.  My last name on my mother’s side is Aguilera, and she complained that in all my books I don’t put the “Aguilera” so after she told me that I thought I’d include the Aguilera.

Amazon has a “look inside” link for The Thing in the Deep. The illustrations they showed are very nice. How many illustrations did you do for this phonic book?

6 illustrations, I liked them because they are scary.

How did Carolrhoda Books find you to illustrate We Belong?

It was from Astound, my agent Kate took care of it which I really appreciate.

A Billion Balloons of Questions is being published by Floris Books located in Scotland this September. Their offices are closed due to covid. Did this affect your normal process with illustrating the book or did the book pub date need to be changed due to Covid?

Actually not so much, but on the other hand while I was doing that book I got sick with COVID and it took me a long time to recover so it rather affected my process because I had a month when I couldn’t work.

How long did it take you to illustrate for Kind World Publishing?

About 3 months.

Are you finished illustrating Hanukkah in Little Havana coming out in October with Kar-Ben Publishing?

Yes, it is a book that I am very proud of.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Yes, the dot and another book called “butterfly wings”.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, a small room where I have my drawing table and my computer, many colorful objects and many comics.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Yes, for a children’s newspaper in Mexico called El Morbito and for other magazines like Chilango.

I know you are early in your career, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Being able to publish Salón Destino as well as how to be represented by Astound.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Graphite pencil and watercolor.

Has that changed over time?

It changed the fact that now I edit color more on the computer and I love doing that traditional mix with digital.

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

Yes, I try to dedicate at least one day of the week, but the reality is that lately I have a lot of work and in my free time I prefer to read and rest.  But I always carry a notebook with me to write down ideas or notes.

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

Yes, always, I also make a list of music that brings me closer to the environment that I want to project..

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, very much thanks to that I was able to contact astound and also many jobs have come to me from people who have seen my work on the internet.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes I use a Wacom tablet.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Yes,  Photoshop

Do you have any career dreams you want to fulfill?

I would like to write my own books, I would like to make a graphic novel with the history of my family, I would like to paint and have an exhibition of huge paintings, I would like to travel to Japan for example and make a graphic journal of the trip.

What are you working on now?

I am illustrating two books: one called a cloud in a jar and another that is about the Day of the Dead offerings.

Do you have any suggestion for a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.?

I think that for watercolor paper is very important and it was something that took me a while to realize because I focused more on the brushes and the watercolor marks, but a good paper makes all the difference.

When it comes to graphite it is good to use a wide range from 4h to 8b and start with the b’s and work out the details with the h’s. I already order everything online because not much material arrives in Mexico, so I order many things online.

It is good to experiment, painting with coffee for example is something great, or tar, which are materials that one would think are not for painting, also making monotypes, in short, experimenting is always a lot of fun and it is good not to repeat yourself so much.

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

I don’t feel authoritative yet to give success advice, but I’d say a lot of it is about finding a balance between being disciplined but not being too hard on yourself.  It is also a balance between repetition, discipline, and surprise, freedom; Appropriating a good technique but not getting used to it always trying to surprise oneself.

It’s good to be demanding with yourself, but you don’t have to question so much what our themes are, it doesn’t matter that you like to draw as long as you have the strength to continue doing it, don’t question it, don’t stop doing it, keep drawing and painting, perseverance is important, it’s a long-distance race, little by little a good one is becoming. It’s like dancing, you have to have a great technique based on repetition, but you have to love what you do and for that you need the joy of whoever is creating, feeling…

Carlos, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Carlos using the following links:





Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 12, 2022

August Agent of the Month – Bethany Fulk



Scroll to bottom for First Page Submission Guidelines


Bethany Fulk – Holloway Literary

Bethany Fulk is a junior agent at Holloway Literary.   Prior to being promoted to her current position, she has been with the agency as an intern and then an assistant for the past two years.  She graduated from Davis and Elkins College cum laude in 2017 with a BA in English. Following graduation, Bethany worked as a public relations assistant and most recently as an editorial assistant. Before joining Holloway Literary, Bethany interned with North Star Editions and Foundry Literary and Media.
What she is seeking: MG, YA and adult fantasy Historical Fiction/Fantasy, Retellings (myth, folklore, legends, fairytales), Mysteries/Speculative/Suspense.
How to submit: Read guidelines HERE.

*I love strong characters, unique and diverse voices, and new takes on favorite tropes*

Please know that this list isn’t comprehensive. If you think I would be a great fit for you and your book, send it my way!

Middle Grade

Fantasy (all types)
Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Adventure stories
Retellings (myth, folklore, legends, fairytales)
Friendship stories

Young Adult

Fantasy (all types)
Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Gothic/Horror (more suspense, less gore)
Retellings (myth, folklore, legends, fairytales)
Romance (Rom-Coms!)

Special Requests

Lore, myths, and fairytales from around the world
Something that makes me feel like I’m on vacation
Theme parks
Paranormal (witches, ghosts, werewolves–give me all of them!)
Fun sports stories (I love lacrosse and soccer)

Not Interested In

Picture/Chapter books
Anything with excessive gore
Political stories
Incest, suicide, rape, or abuse
Super scary stories (I like creepy and suspense, not being scared to go to bed).


When did you decide you wanted to become an agent?

I’ve always loved reading and writing, and when I went to college I also started editing more. That’s when I really realized how much I enjoyed it, so I started looking at internships in publishing. After my first one I knew I had found something I really loved and started searching for ways to make it a reality!

How did you get the job with Holloway Literary Agency?

In my search for remote internships, I came across Holloway. I was excited because, not only did they have an internship, but they had a way for you to rise through the ranks to eventually become an agent. After some time, I ended up getting an interview and landed the internship. From there, I worked my way up to Assistant and eventually became a Junior Agent.

Do you work from home or go into the office?

I’m lucky enough to be able to work from. I absolutely love it.

What made you choose to get your BA in English from Davis and Elkins College?

I loved D&E the second I saw the campus. I knew I wanted to stay in WV for school, and the small, tight-knit campus felt perfect for me. I actually switched from English to Hospitality Management when I started school and, though I loved what I did, I realized I wasn’t doing what made me happy. I met with the English Department Chair and as we got to talking, I knew that’s where I belonged. I learned so much from the English Department and my peers there—that’s where I really began to see and read literature critically, work on my editor’s eye, and fall in love with books all over again.

Do you think interning with North Star Editions and Foundry Literary and Media before joining Holloway has helped you with your agenting career?

Absolutely! Not only did it allow me to make some great connections and meet some wonderful people along the way, but it gave me a great foundation to build on. Everything I learned there, I have brought with me and it has shaped me as the agent I am!

Do you have a limit on number of clients you will represent?

Right now, I don’t really have a number in mind. I’m taking my time and finding clients that I want to work with in the long run, and I’ve built a great list so far! I love how much time I’m able to give each of my clients right now, and I want to be able to continue doing that. It’s hard to see a limit right now as I slowly grow my list with amazing authors.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

On the YA side, I would love to see some gothic, dark submissions—but I’m also looking for fun rom-coms! Fantasy is my first love, but I really want to see some other genres in my inbox. For MG, I’d love to see a fun adventure story, and more myths/folklore from around the world!

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

I think right now I lean more towards commercial, but I’m really open to just a good story, with good writing, that makes me fall in love with it.

What do you like to see in a submission?

I’m a big dialogue person, so it’s important to me that it feels real and authentic. Of course, I have to be invested in the characters and the story as well!

 How important is the query letter?

The query letter doesn’t have to be perfect, but it is the first impression I get of an author so that makes it important. Seeing that the author follows the guidelines of what needs to be included, that they can pitch their story, and present themselves in a professional manner is important to me.

 Would you have a sample of a good query letter or a link to one you saw on the Internet that would help writers?

While I don’t have one that I can personally share, one of my clients, Alex Kennington, has shared her query on her website. Also, Pub Rants at the Nelson Literary Agency has a section dedicated to queries from their authors.


Do you have any tips on how to find comps to use in a submission query letter?

Comping is a hot topic. I’ve seen some good Twitter threads on comping recently. Really, comps should be books (even shows, movies, music, etc) that are fairly recent in your genre that you use to show agents where your book fits into the market. The more knowledgeable you are about the current market, the easier it should be for you to find comps!.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

I have to care and be invested really quickly. The faster I’m wondering what comes next or what’s going on in this world, the better!

Will you let people know if you are not interested in their submission?

Yes, everyone will get a response even if it takes a bit of time for me to get to them.

After you request more, how long do you think it will take to respond?

Right now, I’m a bit behind on full requests, unfortunately. I’m doing my best to catch up, but right now I’m several months out.



In the subject line, please write “AUGUST 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2022 AUGUST FIRST PAGE  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.


DEADLINE: August 19th. – noon EST

RESULTS: August 26th.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 11, 2022

Book Giveaway: BATTLE OF THE BOOKS by Melanie Ellsworth

Melanie Ellsworth has a new picture book, BATTLE OF THE BOOKS, illustrated by James Rey Sanchez and published by Little Bee Books on August 23rd. Melanie has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Melanie and James.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


“A humorous approach to the dilemma of choosing just one bedtime story.”–Kirkus Reviews

In this competition to be chosen as bedtime story, may the best book win!

In Josh’s bedroom, tension mounts as each of his books battle over who will be chosen for story time. It’s every book for itself-until Pirate Book needs rescuing, and the books must use their unique talents to save him. But when story time arrives, the battle resumes.

This energetic picture book celebrates the magic of stories and the joy of choosing your favorite books.


BATTLE OF THE BOOKS features book characters of various genres, from poetry to pirates to pop-ups. It’s my love letter to picture books and an ode to the wonder of getting lost in a great read-aloud. It’s also a story about cooperation and forgiveness, as the books put their battle on the back burner when one of them is in trouble.

I first conceived of BATTLE OF THE BOOKS in 2013 after participating in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (now called Story Storm). I was thinking about my daughter’s ritual of selecting picture books for bedtime, and what that would look like from the books’ point of view. The first placeholder title was “Bedtime Story Selection Competition.” Yikes!

I went through over a dozen title ideas with help from my critique partners, like “The Choosing Game” and “Read ME!” before finally settling on BATTLE OF THE BOOKS. The title needed to be active and energetic to reflect the energy of the book characters, who are all vying to be the book that Josh picks for story time that night!

I wrote several drafts of the story in 2014, and then went on to work on other books, returning occasionally to this story. Because it was a rhyming manuscript, it took longer to get every stanza working well. In 2017, I submitted the manuscript to Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s “Writing with the Stars” competition and was thrilled when author Beth Ferry selected me for a 3-month mentorship. Beth steered me towards prose for this book, and that resulted in some happy changes in arc and plot, faster pacing, and more humor as I was less constrained by the rhyme.

My agent submitted BATTLE OF THE BOOKS, and we got an offer from Little Bee Books in February 2021. The first editor for the book took another publishing job overseas, so BATTLE OF THE BOOKS had two dedicated editors during the revision and illustration process. The Little Bee team suggested James Rey Sanchez to illustrate the book – hooray!! I had admired his art in IRVING BERLIN: THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING and also in THIS MAGICAL, MUSICAL NIGHT. Now I can’t even imagine the characters looking any other way than how James depicted them. Pirate Book is especially endearing!

This is one of those books that had a long journey from conception (2013) to publication (2022). I hope that serves as a reminder to other writers and illustrators to hold onto those older stories that you love. Give them time to grow!

And now – run to the library and pick out a picture book. Watch very carefully – they are likely battling for your attention. Which one will YOU choose?


Melanie Ellsworth writes in an old barn in Maine, surrounded by books. Her picture book titles include Hip, Hip…Beret!, Clarinet and Trumpet, and the upcoming Battle of the Books.

With an M.Ed in Language and Literacy, Melanie has also worked as an ESOL teacher and a literacy specialist and is currently a member of the Equity & Inclusion Committee for the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Melanie loves creating books that make children laugh while they learn! Visit Melanie at


James Rey Sanchez grew up in a humble home in Santa Maria, California, where his love for art came from countless hours of reading comics and 90’s Saturday morning cartoons. He has traveled all throughout America snagging inspiration from every forest camped in, bodies of water swam in, and cities roamed. Most recently he has been absorbing every influence he can from his Mexican culture in order to bring more of his heritage into the literary world.

James graduated from the Academy of Art University with a BFA in Visual Development, studies in Children’s book Illustration, and top honors with award winning pieces of art at the annual Spring Show. He has Illustrated award winning children’s books and is looking forward to writing his own to bring the vibrancy of his Mexican-American culture front and center.

Melanie, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. Such a cute idea for a picture having the book compete for who is chosen to be read at bedtime. It sounds so real life when it’s every book for itself-until Pirate Book needs rescuing, and the books must use their unique talents to save him. But when story time arrives, the battle resumes. I’m sure kids will love this book and have a few belly laughs reading it with an adult. I love that James’ illustrations add to the fun of the book. Good luck with the book. Check back on August 27th to see more of James’ artwork on Illustrator Saturday.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 10, 2022

Book Winner & LEE AND LOW NEW VOICES AWARD _ Short Deadline


Carol Balwin won A HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER by Sophia Gholz

About the Award

The New Voices Award is given annually by children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color or Indigenous/Native writer.

Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color and Indigenous/Native writers to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past New Voices Award submissions we have published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Honor.

The New Voices Seal was redesigned in 2022 to commemorate our co-founder, Tom Low, who passed in 2020. Tom Low was a staunch supporter of new voices and conceived of the idea of of the New Voices Award as a way for Lee & Low to stay true to its roots of nurturing unpublished BIPOC authors.

2021 Winner and Honor

Maleeha Malik of Baltimore, Maryland, is the winner of the company’s twenty-second annual New Voices Award. Her picture-book manuscript At Home in My Skin features a child with vitiligo—a skin disorder that causes depigmentation—who embraces their individuality by drawing connections between their skin’s ever-changing patterns and the designs in nature. Jessica Mehta from Hillsboro, Oregon, will receive the New Voices Award Honor for her picture-book manuscript One of Kokum’s Kids. Inspired by Mehta’s experience adopting her daughters, One of Kokum’s Kids explores the everyday life of an Indigenous/Native child in the foster care system and the meaningful friendships and bonds they build with others in their community.

Read more about the 2021 winner and honor recipients.


  1. The contest is open to writers of color and Indigenous/Native writers who are residents of the United States and at least 18 years old at the time of entry, and who have not previously had a children’s picture book traditionally published.
  2. Participants remain eligible if they have published work in other venues and genres, including children’s magazines, middle-grade and young adult fiction or nonfiction, and adult fiction or nonfiction. Authors of self-published books are also eligible, but they should submit a new manuscript, not a project that has been previously self-published. Writers cannot have had a picture book traditionally published if they’re applying for the New Voices Award.
  3. Only unagented manuscripts will be considered.
  4. Manuscripts previously submitted for this award or to LEE & LOW BOOKS’ general submissions will not be considered.


  1. Manuscripts should address the needs of children of color and Native nations by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another. Themes relating to non-traditional family structures, gender identity, or disabilities may also be included.
  2. Submissions may be FICTION, NONFICTION, or POETRY for children ages 5 to 12. Only stories with human protagonists will be considered.
  3. Manuscripts should be no more than 1500 words in length and include the author’s full name. They should be accompanied by a cover letter that includes the author’s name, address, phone number, email address, brief biographical note, relevant cultural and ethnic information, how the author heard about the award, and publication history, if any.
  4. Manuscripts should be typed double-spaced. If Tracked Changes were used, they must be accepted and turned off before submitting the file.
  5. Up to two submissions per entrant. Each submission should be submitted separately.
  6. The manuscript you submit to the New Voices contest may not be submitted to other publishers, agents, mentorship contests, writing contests, or to LEE & LOW’s general submissions while under consideration for this award.
  7. LEE & LOW BOOKS is not responsible for late, lost, or incorrectly submitted manuscripts. Be sure you leave enough time to resubmit if technical difficulties occur.


Dates for Submission

All submissions must be submitted between May 1, 2022, and August 15, 2022 11:59 p.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time).


The Award winner receives a cash prize of $2,000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first-time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

Announcement of the Award

  1. The Award and/or Honor Award winners will be notified no later than December 31, 2022.
  2. We will announce the winners by January 18, 2023.
  3. The judges are the editors of LEE & LOW BOOKS. The decision of the judges is final.
  4. At least one Honor Award will be given each year, but LEE & LOW BOOKS reserves the right not to choose an Award winner.

Questions and Tips

Check out the New Voices Award Winners & Honors Collection.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 9, 2022

Book Giveaway: MISTER ROGERS GIFT OF MUSIC by Donna Cangelosi

Donna Cangelosi’s debut picture book, MISTER ROGERS GIFT OF MUSIC, illustrated by Amanda Calatzis and published by Page Street Kids is hitting book stores on August 23rd. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Donn and Amanda.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


Growing up with asthma, young Fred Rogers was often stuck inside while other kids played outdoors. He discovered that playing the piano was a great way to express loneliness and other emotions. Soft sinking sobs, loud rippling roars, and trickles of teardrops flowed through his fingertips. As an adult, Fred shared his gift of music with the world on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, inspiring and lifting countless young lives. MISTER ROGERS GIFT OF MUSIC shows how Fred’s honest lyrics and charming tunes helped children deal with emotions, reassured them that they were special and loved, and created a neighborhood of kindness throughout the country, for generations.


Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’ve always loved the word serendipity. It’s a great way to describe when fantastic, unexpected things happen as if by fate. It’s also the perfect word to describe my writing journey.

Chapter One: The idea

The heart of MISTER ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC grew from my work as a child psychologist and my frustration hearing story after story about kids being bullied. In early 2016, I decided to write a picture book biography about someone who helped children. After brainstorming, I had an aha moment!  I’ll write about Mister Rogers! Then, I read every article I could find.

Growing up, Fred Rogers was sick, lonely, and bullied. He learned to play the piano and discovered that it was a great way to express his feelings. Later in life, Fred trained with the child psychologists I had studied and admired for years. As everyone knows, he dedicated his life to helping children deal with difficult emotions. I felt like I was meant to write a picture book about Fred Rogers. Then, after years of research, writing, and revising, Charlotte Wenger, who was an editor at Page Street Kids bought my story, FRED’S BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBORHOOD.

Chapter Two: Changes

Several months later, Charlotte left Page Street Kids. My new editor asked me to find a fresh angle to tell the story. I came up with ideas about Mister Rogers’ sweaters, his puppets, and an array of other concepts. Then I dug deeper to what was central to Fred Rogers: music. I read more articles and books, watched interviews and episode after episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and visited Fred’s alma mater, Rollins College. I reimagined and rewrote the story several times. Many months and revisions later, MISTER ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC was finally on its way to being published.

Chapter Three: Serendipity!

During my winding road to publication, Charlotte Wenger became my agent. And of all the amazing kidlit illustrators, Page Street asked Amanda Calatzis, my Prospect sib and one of my favorite artists, to illustrate the story.

Booklist recently gave MISTER ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC a starred review saying, “Young fans will be tickled by the familiar lyrics and swirling colors, and their grownups will delight in gentle nostalgia. An affectionate tribute to both the remarkable man and his musical legacy.”

Reading this review, I realized that the book turned out the way it was supposed to be. Although each obstacle along the way to publication was challenging, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned to dig deeper when writing, reach out to my kidlit friends when I need help, and enjoy the fantastic, unexpected things that happen along the way.


Donna Cangelosi enjoys writing stories that entertain, enlighten, and inspire young readers. Her debut picture book, MISTER ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC, illustrated by Amanda Calatzis will be published by Page Street Kids, August 23, 2022.

Donna considers herself lucky to have the opportunity to work with children in her psychology practice and to write books for them. Like Mister Rogers, she helps kids deal with feelings using play, art, music, and of course, picture books!

You can visit her at Twitter @DonnaCangelosi2 and Instagram @donnacangelosi2


Amanda (Moeckel) Calatzis holds an MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. She is the illustrator of Mister Rogers’ Gift of Music (Page Street Kids, 2022), and author-illustrator of Khalida and the Most Beautiful Song (Page Street Kids, 2018).

Her first word was “light,” and her art shows her enduring obsession with it. Her stories for children are uplifting and soulful, with touches of magic. Her work has been featured on The Children’s Book PodcastSeven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and other popular kidlit blogs.

Amanda grew up near an old theme park in Massachusetts, then spent a couple decades as a city-dweller in DC, San Francisco and NYC. Now she calls NY’s Hudson Valley home, along with her husband, two children, and three senior dogs.

She is represented by Charlotte Wenger of Prospect Agency.

Donna, Thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It’s been so much fun seeing you grow as a writer and become successful. It is a beautiful book. It really captured the feel of Mister Rogers. Thank you for keeping him alive in our hearts and minds. Amanda did a fabulous job creating the art for this book. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday before she got married and added Calatzis to her name. Click here to view. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: