Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 4, 2022

Book Giveaway: YOU ARE MY FAVORITE COLOR by Gillian Sze

Gillian Sze has a new picture book, YOU ARE MY FAVORITE COLOR, illustrated by Nina Mata and published by Philomel Books is available in bookstores. 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 Gillian and Nina.

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 lyrical story of parental love that celebrates and takes pride in the many shades of brown skin. Perfect for fans of I Am EnoughHey Black ChildHair Love, and Our Skin.

When you ask me why your skin is brown,
I will tell you that you are my favorite color.
I will say that your skin was decided long, long ago.
Time was just waiting for you.

So begins a mother’s celebration of her children’s brown skin, told through warm and vivid poetry. With sweeping descriptions of what brown skin means—it is the brawny bear whose paws know the ground of its home, the sequoia tree that reaches up and touches the sun, the glossy shell of roasted chestnuts—this is a book that empowers as it embraces, and that reminds young readers that they have shades of color that only they can discover and express.

With beautiful, lyrical text by powerhouse poet Gillian Sze and vibrant, engaging art by illustrator Nina Mata, the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of LeBron James’s I Promise, this is more than a story of love—it is a song that rings out for brown kids everywhere.


Thank you, Kathy, for inviting me to speak about the journey leading to this book!

The idea behind You Are My Favorite Color came about when my son asked me why his skin is brown. He asked shortly before his third birthday when he put his hand against mine and observed a difference. As a WOC, I was taken aback and quick to worry about where that question came from: did someone make an untoward comment? Was he feeling self-conscious about his brown skin? I realize now that he was just asking a question, the same way a curious child asks why the sky is blue.

In that moment though, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer him in a way that was accessible and effective. I also didn’t want to rely on a discussion about genetics! His skin, for me, was more than just the outcome of DNA. His small, strong, curious, and growing brown body took up so much space in my world. How could I adequately express all of the things that made him unique, exceptional, and miraculous? The book, I feel, is a much-delayed answer to my son’s question.

You Are My Favorite Color explores the “whys” behind a child’s beautiful brown skin, using the five senses and a myriad of analogies to describe the color. Brown skin is associated with confidence (such as “the brawny bear whose paws know the ground of its home”), strength (also found in the hickory tree), and joy (as seen in “the sandy shore that the sea rushes to greet”). Written in second person, the book features a parent-narrator addressing the child as they lovingly explore how brown skin carries beauty, history, and individuality, while anticipating all of the wonderful things to come.

I was so fortunate to work with Niña Mata, another WOC, who understands the stakes implicit in a question about skin color. Her artwork is so vivid and memorable and contains a joy that lasts long after the book is closed. When I saw her sketches of a multiracial family, I was overcome. The beauty of the cover gets me every time.

The text hinges on the refrain and opening line, “When you ask me why your skin is brown…” The book is, more personally, a response to my Chinese-Indian children about their skin colour, but also a celebration for all people who identify as brown. I hope that You Are My Favorite Color provides an answer that soothes, reassures, celebrates, and empowers the child who listens or reads.


GILLIAN SZE is a writer and teacher. She is the author of multiple poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014), Redrafting Winter (BuschekBooks, 2015), and Panicle (ECW Press, 2017), which were finalists for the QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.

She has also published creative nonfiction, articles, interviews, and book reviews. More recently, she has started writing for children and has published two picture books: The Night Is Deep and Wide (illustrated by Sue Todd) and My Love for You Is Always (illustrated by Michelle Lee). Sze’s work has been supported by the Canada Council of the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, and has received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 3Macs carte blanche Prize.

Her work has also attained starred reviews from Quill & Quire, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews and has been translated into Slovenian, French, Italian, Turkish, Hebrew, and Greek. She has served as a judge for a number of national and international literary competitions, such as the Montreal International Poetry Prize, the National Magazine Awards, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, and the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize. She studied Creative Writing and English Literature and received a Ph.D. in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal where she teaches creative writing and literature.

She has worked with:

Philomel (Penguin Random House USA), Groundwood Books, Gaspereau Press, ECW Press, DC Books, BuschekBooks, Orca Book, Baseline Press, Withwords Press, Cumulus Press, Véhicule Press, Quebec Writers’ Federation, Poetry London, Frye Festival, The Word on the Street Festival, Days of Poetry and Wine (Slovenia), Blue Metropolis, Ottawa International Writers’ Festival, Summer Literary Seminars, The Atwater Poetry Project, Nuit Blanche, La poésie partout, Festival de la poésie de Montréal, Salon du livre de Montréal, CBC, the National Magazine Awards, This Magazine, The Malahat Review, Literary Review of Canada, Room Magazine, Ricepaper Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Prairie Fire, Arc Poetry Magazine, Maisonneuve, CV2, The Toronto Quarterly, mRb, carte blanche, Poetry-Quebec, among others.


Author and Illustrator Nina Mata is the #1 New York Times Bestselling Illustrator of “I Promise” by LeBron James (nominated for the 52nd NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature). She is also 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honoree for her work in “Ty’s Travels, Zip Zoom by Kelly Starling Lyons”.

Nina grew up a typical latchkey kid in Queens, New York. Her family emigrated from the Philippines when she was 6 years old. Because her parents worked and went to night school, Nina spent a lot (like a whole lot) of time drawing. Her after school activities usually involved watching Bob Ross, Reading Rainbow and looking for adventures in the library (which she still does). 

Nina studied Illustration at The Fashion Institute of Technology of NY. During her editorial internship at Sesame Workshop, Nina discovered her love of children’s books. She now creates illustrations for childrens publishing and is passionate about representing the beauty and diversity of the world.

She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, their daughter and Tabi, the cat.

Nina is a proud member of the SCBWI and The Society of Illustrators. She is represented by The Cat Agency.

Gillian, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love when I pick up a book and feel the author’s words radiating from their heart and off the page. That is what I felt while working on sharing your book with everyone. As a mother you made me think about the beauty of a new baby and wanting them to grow up feeling loved and happy. It is a very heartwarming book. I am a fan of Nina’s art and love the sweet illustrations she created for this book. They really helped convey your feelings to the reader. Love the story. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 3, 2022

Book Giveaway” THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS by Jocelyn Watkinson

Jocelyn Watkinson has written a new picture book, THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS, illustrated by Marcus Cutler, and published by Sleeping Bear Press. 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 Jocelyn and Marcus.

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!


The three pigs are just finishing up a hockey practice session when the Big Bad Wolf drops by and declares them Canadian bacon–and lunch. When north country bad boys Bear and Moose join the fray, the pigs invite the gang to settle their disputes The Canadian Way–with a rousing game of hockey. Will the big guys overtake the pigs with brute force? Or will the pigs skate circles around the lumbering baddies? One thing is certain, the trial is likely to end with a meal (poutine, please!). But will the piggies be on the menu?


Thank you Kathy for the invitation to be featured on your blog! I am honoured! THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY is my debut picture book published by Sleeping Bear Press. I’m excited to share the journey of this book with you and your readers. I’d like to apologize in advance (How Canadian, eh? SORRY!) for a long winded book journey!

Almost five years ago now, I quit my good paying, safe and secure government job in Ontario, Canada to join my husband in the United States – he had finally found his dream job as a professor. We uprooted our family and moved across the continent to California where I found myself pretty bored and quite honestly lonely, really missing my family, friends and country.

I was taking what I joked was a “forced sabbatical” because I was not yet able to work in the United States. My then three year old son and I spent lots of time together reading the many board and picture books that we brought with us on our move and I thought maybe I could write stories too! (Since I had a lot of spare time on my hands).  After many failed manuscripts, I joined SCBWI and other critique groups and signed up for Renee LaTulippe’s rhyme and meter course.

I found myself drawn to fractured fairytales and began working on a fractured fairytale that had some promise. I LOVE fractured fairytales. They are usually quite silly and punny, clever and entertaining. As critique partners were scarce in the beginning, I began reading my work in progress to my mother on one of our daily chats. She liked it, but offered another suggestion, “why not re-do The Three Little Pigs, but make them Canadian!” Great idea – thanks Mom!

And so I got to work. With an existing story structure to work from, it definitely helped create good pacing and story arc for me. I wanted to incorporate everything that Canada is known for; snow, hockey, poutine and maple syrup (and some other yummy treats as well). I wanted it to be funny/silly with a good message and incorporate what I missed about home. I  also thought it would be entertaining to include what I was teased about by my new American friends, my Canadian accent, eh? (which I didn’t think I had until I moved away from Canada, but I definitely do!) Once I realized that the Wolf would want to eat their “Canadian Bacon” the puns really started to flow; “not by the pads on our shinny-shin-shins” is another good example!

Mid-draft of this story, I also entered and won Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie competition (2019) with my silly rhyming entry of Vampire Stains 2019 Halloweensie Finalists and with that won the opportunity to “Pass the Slush Pile” with Alayne Christain of Blue Whale Press. While the story wasn’t picked up, Alayne was instrumental in helping me raise the stakes and shape the arc of the story. Thank you Alayne!

From there, I decided to enlist the help of Shannon Stocker, a wonderful writer and all around fantastic human being. Shannon had helped me with a previous manuscript and her feedback was amazing. I knew she’d be able to help me here as well, which she did! Shannon is also the author of a Sleeping Bear Press book, How U Saved The Day! Check out Shannon’s critique services and her books on her website.

Then the pandemic started! Eek! What an awful time for writing (and lots of other things as well, obviously). This manuscript sat for a while since my focus was diverted to staying healthy…that is…until the call for the PBChat 2020 Applications opened up. The PBChat Mentorship Program was founded and is managed by kidlit enthusiast and soon to be published author Justin Colón, where unpublished and unagented creators are paired up with a professional author and/or illustrator for 3 months with a goal of being published and/or agented shortly thereafter.

I had my eye on one mentor – Lori Degman – another amazing human being in the kidlit world. Author of six, soon to be seven, picture books such as Cock-a-Doodle Oops, One Zany Zoo and Sleeping Bear Press’ Nobert’s Big Dream, Lori saw promise in my manuscript and selected me as one of her mentees! Lori worked her magic and helped smooth out the story and any trip hazards with the meter to get the story ready for submission.

I should also take the opportunity to let readers know that Lori and I teamed up after the mentorship to tackle a sequel to her most recently published story; Travel Guide for Monsters and Canadian-ized it (of course!). Travel Guide for Monsters Part Deux: A Canadian Adventure is due to be released by Sleeping Bear Press on April 15, 2023!

Anyways, back to the journey…then came the end of the mentorship which wrapped up with a big showcase of all the mentees work. The showcase was open for a week and many agents and editors in the kidlit community were invited to “shop” the samples of work that were provided. I (im)patiently waited for the week without any interest until the very last day when Sarah Rockett of Sleeping Bear Press came in and requested to see the manuscript! Apparently, Sleeping Bear Press loves hockey stories! Not even a month later, I had an offer for publication!! As you can tell, this story was really put together by a lot of supportive kidlit community members, critique partners, family and friends. It takes a village!

Working with Sarah and Sleeping Bear Press was amazing. The first 3/4 of the manuscript was pretty solid but we still hadn’t quite nailed the ending. Previous endings included, the Wolf moving in with the Pigs (living in peace and signing a lease!), and even the Wolf being apprehended by undercover RCMP officers, but we opted for an ending with reconciliation, an apology and comradery. Thanks to Sarah for helping end the story on a wonderful note of friendship!

It was important to me that the illustrator also be Canadian, and wow did Marcus Cutler, hit it out of the park. Being a huge hockey fan himself, he captured so much hockey and Canadian-ness in this book. (Check out “Terry Fox”, the names on the Stanley Cup, and all the yummy Canadian treats!) Kudos to the design team for really nailing the design of this book! Check out Marcus’ other work here!

I hope readers will enjoy the silliness of this book and want to read it over and over with their kiddos, grandkiddos or student kiddos. Thank you Kathy for featuring me and THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY and the journey!


Jocelyn Watkinson grew up with a love of reading, so much so that she was the only hockey sister in the cold arena reading Babysitter Club books while rambunctious crowds cheered, and her little brother played goalie for the local rep hockey team. Perhaps if there were more opportunities for girls in sports at the time, she would have been on the ice, rather than sitting in the stands!

BUT, with a well developed love of literature and sports, Jocelyn loves to write sports-themed books for children and most importantly, writing in rhyme!

Jocelyn is an ex-pat Canadian living in California with her husband, son and golden retriever, Sinclair. When not fussing over stanzas and rhyming couplets, Jocelyn likes to play soccer, play board games, craft anything from cross stitch, to string art to refurbishing old furniture all while sipping on a hot cup of tea. Jocelyn hopes to one day finally get on the ice to learn how to play the sport of her homeland; hockey.


Marcus Cutler loves writing and drawing things! His favourite things to draw are funny and weird characters doing funny and weird things. When he is not making art he likes to watch movies, cook breakfast, and practice kung fu.

He lives in Tecumseh, Ontario with his wife and two daughters.

His Clients Include:

Cheneliere Education, chickaDEE Magazine, Click Magazine, Duck Duck Moose, The Edmonton Journal, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Humpty Dumpty Magazine, Inhabit Education, Jack and Jill Magazine, Kids Can Press, Learning A to Z, Macmillan Publishers Limited, OWL Magazine, Orca Book Publishers, Oxford University Press, Parks Canada, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sleeping Bear Press, The Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, TBWA Helsinki, Turtle Magazine

Thank you, Jocelyn for sharing your book and journey with us. What a fun idea – Three Canadian pigs that play hockey. I love that as a Canadian you took all the things that scream CANADA and wrote a rhyming story filled with silly stuff and lots of laughs. Kids love rhyme. They love silly, and they all know the three little pigs and love hockey. Even American kids love hockey. I am so happy Sleeping Bear Press found Marcus who lives in Ontario and loves hockey to illustrate your book. The two of you have made this funny action story pop off the page. I can hear the little giggles from here. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 2, 2022

November Agent of the Month – Ellen Goff – First Page Results



Ellen graduated from The University of Chicago with a BA in English, a minor in Cinema and Media Studies, and a focus in Creative Writing. Ellen has worked everywhere from The White House under the Obama administration to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At HG Literary, she assists partner and agent Carrie Hannigan on all children’s titles from picture books to middle grade to young adult. Ellen’s own list consists of YA writers and illustrators, as well as middle grade and picture book writers. She is also a member of HG Literary’s foreign rights team.

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Commercial, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Historical, Horror, Literary, Middle Grade, New Adult, Picture Books, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

For picture books: Ellen is looking for author-illustrators, and projects that highlight the sparse and simple.

For MG: Ellen is looking contemporary realistic MG, also MG with hints of magical realism. Humor is a must!

For YA: She is interested in all genres and formats of any kind of YA. She especially likes anything spooky, historical fiction, martial arts, graphic novels, and novels-in-verse.

Older YA: The stuff you’re not sure is YA but not sure it’s adult either (anything you might label “New Adult” like Red, White, & Royal Blue)

Non-Fiction: Ellen might be convinced on a nonfiction project if it involves food. Cookbooks, History, Humor, Illustrated, Travel.

She has a soft spot for Shakespeare as well as southern stories that remind her of her home state of Kentucky.

Favorite sub-genres: Gothic, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction YA, Southern Gothic, Speculative Fiction, horror


McKelway -THE KEY TO TIME, YA contemporary-speculative


Time gave up on this high school, which is what I like most. It’s beat up. Left behind. Scuffed up but still useful. The [EG1]: In these two lines, we’re saying the same thing here! Could these be condensed? I’m intrigued by the small town of Appleton, but we’re also starting two different thoughts here. Is this beginning about the high school or the town? teachers know everyone’s name and they know their grandparents’ names and their aunts’ and uncles’ names. In Appleton, Vermont everyone knows everyone. Not that anyone knows me, which is my other favorite thing. It’s easier to like people when you don’t know all that much about them.

I pull [EG2]: I don’t think we need this first line. Let’s start inside! the wooden doors of the school open and go inside. There’s a crowd and I recognize the configuration – the high school version of gladiator. Someone’s going to fight someone and everyone else is going to watch. In a few ticks of the clock, I won’t be anonymous and Appleton will prove it isn’t some haven of happy ever after, all colorful fall leaves and tree shaded streets.

I weasel myself to the front of the crowd and sure enough, some huge guy is glowering at a pale skinny boy who’s trying not to snivel though he’s got plenty to cry about. His hair is all chopped up shaggy on one side of his head and shaved clean on the other. It’s a statement, but it’s not working for him the way he’d hoped. He can’t help himself; he sniffles back a tear which is exactly what the bully wants. Rule number one. Never give a bully what he wants.

I step [EG3]:I love this part! Very intriguing. We get a good sense of who she is. And we’ve already got questions galore, which is important for page one: Why are people fighting, why does Mina step in, why is she leaving? Could we add some specifics here that will help color the world? What kind of hurt? Is Mina expecting a bloody nose or a broken arm? How often does she do this? into the center of the crowd and stick my hand out to the hulking guy. “I’m Mina,” I say by way of introduction because I haven’t met this particular bully.  Things could go any number of ways. I could get hurt. Skinny loser guy could get hurt. We could both get hurt. Or the big guy could get hurt. I’m probably going to be suspended for fighting, not that I care. I’m out of here in a few weeks, just like always.

McKelway -THE KEY TO TIME, YA contemporary-speculative


This first page is intriguing! The set-up has an obvious hook: A fight is about to break out at school in an otherwise scenic and peaceful small Vermont town. There’s clearly a less rosy underbelly and facades are hiding truths. What’s really going on in this town? Why does our narrator Mina step up to stop the fight? Why is she leaving this town before we’ve gotten to know it? This first page does a great job of introducing key questions that will take us into the next pages and chapters.

For books in first person POV, it’s important to watch those “I” statements. We have several of them here and they often lead into sentences that aren’t quite necessary and steal from word count. “I pull the wooden doors of the school open and go inside.” This sentence doesn’t actually give us a ton of information and is taking up page real estate. We can just start inside the school! Or better yet, watching Mina enter the fight. The sooner we can get into the main scene of chapter one, the better. The first paragraph also tries to introduce two different ideas: Mina’s thoughts about the town and her thoughts about the school. They can be connected, but right now on a first page and as the first paragraph, it comes across as if the author is not quite sure where to start. Given the following scene is in school, the author might want to have Mina’s thoughts on the school FIRST and then move on to Mina’s opinions of the wider town in the next chapter when perhaps Mina is out and about in town. We have no context for the town yet, but we do have some for the school since that’s where we are right now. We can probably learn some of these points about Appleton and the high school via dialogue in the following scene, too. With contemporary stories, you can jump into the story more quickly and save description or exposition for later, or weave it in.


DINGER by S. K. Van Zandt – Middle Grade Contemporary

The Bixby Baseball Museum didn’t look haunted. [EG1]: Great first line! Matter of fact, if you happened to walk by the place, you’d think it was just an old, run-down house, sitting on the edge of our town’s only park and baseball field. An old, {EG2]: Different word choice? We repeat the world Old a lot here. two-story house with peeling paint and broken windows and a roof mostly buried in moldy leaves.

But I knew it was haunted. So did all the other kids in town. Ever since the owner had died there two years ago, weird things went on inside that house at night. Loud thumping noises. Lights that floated from room to room. A strange face in the window.

The truth is, if it wasn’t for my neighbor, Mr. Yarbi, I wouldn’t be standing here right now, in front of the museum, about to do what I was going to do.

“You ready to go in, T. W.?” Bo asked. Bo was my best friend, and even though he didn’t think this was a great idea, he showed up, and we stood together outside the museum.

I held up the old baseball. It glowed in the moonlight.

I’d stolen the ball a few weeks earlier. Now I was returning it to its rightful place in the museum.

“Ready,” I said, flicking on my flashlight.

The clock in the town square began to strike midnight. I walked to the sagging front door and pushed it open. What I saw next was not what I wanted to see.

It was exactly the last thing I wanted to see.

But before I tell you what happened, I need to tell you how it all began.

I made a wish. [EG3]: Oooh love the voice! A great end to a first page, this will definitely keep us flipping

And it came true.

K. Van Zandt/DINGER Middle Grade Contemporary


This is a great example of a first page, especially for Middle Grade.

In MG, voice is so crucial and important, and this page has it! We’re quickly drawn into what is a clear setting of the stage: Two rebellious kids confident in their belief that this house is haunted are taking action to prove something, and they meet a surprise on the very first page. This page is doing a ton of legwork overall: We have a sense of our protagonist’s scared-but-still-brave personality (he’ll do what it takes to seek out the truth); there’s a maybe-haunted building in town that is the topic of much speculation; we’re diving in to a climactic scene just long enough to get interested before the protagonist sits down to tell us his story; we know the friendship dynamics; we know there’s a unique interest in baseball that will play a role. Also, we’ve got hook of a first line that pulls us IN, and we’ve also got a great ending line that asks so many questions and will have the reader flipping to the next page. First and last lines should feel like invitations, no matter if we’re reading MG or Adult. The first line should invite the reader in to this 300-some page journey. And to carry the reader into the next scene and encourage them to keep flipping pages, ending a chapter with a question or an unresolved point (or even a few minutes before you think the chapter ends) will go a long way toward keeping readers invested.


Fate: Are You Kidding Me?  by Suzanne Morrone – Contemporary YA with speculative elements.

After it was all over they asked me a bunch of questions. Well, of course the police did first. And then, well, everyone else. But there’s lots of stuff I had to leave out for obvious reasons. [EG1]: I like the voice in this first paragraph, although the character is beginning to repeat themself a bit. Is there a way to condense these 6 lines into 4 maybe? Recording it all is probably the best way to make sense of it, because I’m still a little confused. I’ll try [EG2]: I like this transition, it sounds like she’s making a confession after she’s been caught at the scene of a crime. Intriguing!not to leave anything out, not one little detail.  This was how it started:

Glory bumps my leg with her nose as if to say, Wake up! Let’s get moving. But I don’t move. We’ve been in this neighborhood for less than six months and suddenly the only boy I ever liked, the only real friend I’ve had, who of-course-just-my-luck vanished from my life when we were in the middle of 6th grade, is right there, not more than a hundred yards away. Playing basketball at the park. My park, the one Glory and I walk through nearly every day. [EG3]: There is a LOT of information in this one paragraph. Perhaps it can be spread around a bit? What’s the most important thing to know here, is it that she spots this boy? Or that she’s moved? Or her history with said boy?

Could it be fate that made us move to this neighborhood? Yeah, right. What made us move was Dad earning a shit-load of money and him wanting to buy a fancier house in a “good” neighborhood. Well. Better. Who cares if it was in a different school district. So here I am in the same town, but a new place and I haven’t made a single friend. Not that I want any. And as fabulous as Tomas looks, I mean Oh. My. Dog. But I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t need any friends. I don’t need anyone but Glory. That’s enough. [EG4]: This is a great YA set up (old friend/flame suddenly appears in new town with protagonist), but it’s happening a bit too quickly. We don’t need ALL of this info on page one. We need a little context first about her relationship with him in the past before we can understand why seeing him is significant in the present.

Speaking of dogs, [EG5]: Again, this is a new paragraph taking us down an entirely new topic path. We were on her family’s move, then Tomas, then Glory and now her motivation issues/pressure from school and parents. All of these layers can work together, but they don’t all need to be highlighted on page one. Maybe across 10 pages in chapter 1.she looks up at me, wondering what the heck’s going on. Why aren’t we walking? I lean over and kiss her black forehead right above her two dramatic brown

eyebrows. The thing I love to do most in the world is to walk Glory. But as everyone can’t wait to tell me, that’s not exactly a career path. And since Career Paths are the topic du jour for about-to-be seniors in high school, the message is I’m pretty much screwed. It’s like the whole world only focuses on the future for people my age. If Glory [EG6]: I love the humor here! had to decide on a career path it would

definitely involve chasing squirrels. And maybe even catching them. She knows what she wants, unequivocally. Me, not so much.

Fate: Are You Kidding Me?  Suzanne Morrone Contemporary YA with speculative elements.


I found the concept here on this first page to be such a great set up for a YA novel. The hook is clear and juicy: A girl moves into a new neighborhood and suddenly sees her old, estranged flame/friend from years past just hanging out in her park. Bombshell! It raises so many good questions from page one: What’s their history, why are they estranged, why did our protagonist move and why does she have so much tension with her dad and family…A big characteristic of kid lit is that these stories create scenarios that encourage readers to empathize and think about what they’d do in that situation. What would WE do if someone from our childhood was suddenly our neighbor?

My main note about this first page is that we have a LOT going on; the author is asking the reader to hold on to and juggle several different balls here: 1. We have the initial set-up, where we’re jumping ahead in time and the protagonist might be in trouble and recounting a confession. 2. We have our protagonist’s tension with her family and specifically father. 3. We have the classic “new town, new school, no friends” situation. 4. We have our protagonist’s relationship with Glory and how it contrasts with a lack of friends her own age. 5. We have this unresolved mystery of the boy Tomas and how our protagonist is still caught up in it. And lastly, we have the actual inciting incident, which is #6—Tomas is back. These layers are all important and clearly weave through each other—this layering is what makes a compelling story, after all—but since this is a YA novel, you’ve got room to introduce these points a bit more slowly as each one becomes relevant. Maybe we learn about all of this by the end of the first chapter, not the first page. As is, the different points here are all competing for attention. What’s the MOST important thing the reader needs to know first. Is it Tomas’ appearance? We need to know a little bit about Tomas first though before we understand why him appearing is significant. Perhaps Glory is the most important aspect of this chapter for the exposition? Or is it the family dynamics? WHEN does the reader need to know something is often more important than WHAT.


Marilyn Ostermiller     CRASH!         Middle Grade Historical   

I hate liars. I hate banks that lose people’s money. I especially hate Zelle. Even now, six weeks later, she won’t talk to me because she says I betrayed her.

I don’t see it that way. I did what I had to do. But now, without Zelle in my life it felt like I lost a part of me. My name is Dorsey [EG1] I wonder if this page might be stronger if we start with Dorsey’s name? Instead of Zelle’s? There is a fair amount happening here and it might be nice to be grounded with Dorsey first as our narrator. Gould. I’m [EG2] Watch out for “I” statements! They pop up a lot in first person POV, which is natural, but varying the sentence structure can make the text flow better for the reader.twelve years old. I live near Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota and I love words. When I learn how to spell a word, I own it. No one can take words away from me, like how the bank took my family’s money.  More on that, [EG3]I like the personality that comes through here! This is a funny aside. But it pops up again in “That’s a subject for another day.” I would hesitate to try to use that device twice so close together. later. I’ve always wanted to be the best speller in my town. Okay, the world. Some kids think I’m loony about spelling, maybe even stuck on myself. That’s a subject for another day. My problem with Zelle and the thing with my family losing our life savings. That’s all I can think about right now.  

Zelle [EG4] Do we need this short paragraph? We know they’ve been fighting, and you’re maintaining the mystery already. It’s pretty implied they got into a bad fight and there isn’t a lot of talking happening between them.and I had been best friends since forever. Then, one Saturday afternoon we got in a terrible fight. Now, she won’t speak to me and I refuse to apologize because I did the right thing.

When it came to looks, I was kinda skinny, with freckles. and hazel eyes. I had Mama to thank for my auburn hair, the prettiest thing about me. Zelle, [EG5] Since we haven’t yet met Zelle in person, we can save her physical description for the first moment she appears on the page herself. Right now, too much description won’t resonate with the reader quite yet since we don’t have a character to attach it to. All we have is the narrator’s voice. on the other hand, reminded me of a tall, icy glass of lemonade on a summer day: silky blonde hair in a chin length bob, creamy complexion and posture so straight she could be a statue, if she ever stood still, that is.

Last May, 1932, lots of banks ran out of money and my little family — Mama, Lily and me — lost our all our savings. That was also about the time Zelle and I were invited to compete for the chance to go to the National Spelling Championship, in Washington, DC. There could only be one first place winner. It had to be me. I had to do whatever it took to bring home that bag of gold worth one thousand dollars. We were desperate [EG6}Is this novel going to go back in time to show us the events, or is this novel about the fall out after the spelling bee doesn’t go as planned? for cash so we could survive the Great Depression together as a family, Mama, Lily and me.

Marilyn Ostermiller  CRASH!         Middle Grade Historical      


I’m always a fan of historical fiction, although first pages are always a bit tricky as you must introduce characters and plot AND then also the worldbuilding of an unfamiliar setting in the past. It’s demanding a lot of a first page, but I think this one manages to pull it off well. The voice here is engaging and makes me want to lean in like I’m waiting for a whispered confession, so bravo! This voice is crucial for MG.

However, there is a good deal of recounting happening here as our protagonist catches us up to speed. At first, I thought maybe what happened will be left a secret and revealed to us only is suspenseful snippets. But then our protagonist goes on to tell us that she and her friend had a falling out over an argument about a spelling bee, which our protagonist needed to win to win the prize money. So, a fair amount of our plot comes through on this first page. This left me as the reader wondering if this novel is going to jump back in time and tell us the story as it leads up to the spelling bee? Or is this novel going to be aftermath of the spelling bee disaster and the damage it caused to relationships? I would love to see these events unfold in real time – the stakes of needing to win the bee are so clear and defined and poignant. Usually, stakes are a tough part to lock down in a novel, but we’ve got them here, if the author does choose to tell the story of the spelling bee. As it’s written now, though, it feels like we’re going to be reading a story about the aftermath.


Ellen, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. I am sure many writer’s will use your comments to improve their own writing. We enjoyed getting to know you this month.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 1, 2022

Book Giveaway: BRAVE EVERY DAY by Trudy Ludwig

Trudy Ludwig has a new picture book, BRAVE EVERY DAY, illustrated by Patrice Barton and published by Alfred A. Knopf BFYR. They have agreed to share a copy of the book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Trudy and Patrice!

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. Thanks!


From social-emotional learning expert Trudy Ludwig and award-winning picture book illustrator Patrice Barton (co-creators of The Invisible Boy) comes a story about managing anxiety and finding the courage to stand up for yourself and others.

Most kids love hide-and-seek, but Camila just wants to hide. Hiding is what she does best when she worries, and she worries a LOT.What if… I can’t… I’m scared!

A class trip to the aquarium causes her worries to pile up like never before. But when an anxious classmate asks for help, Camila discovers that her heart is bigger than her fears.

From social-emotional learning expert Trudy Ludwig and award-winning illustrator Patrice Barton, this tale of courage and compassion will embolden readers to face their own fears.

“A sweet and powerful gem of a book sure to help young worriers.” –Dawn Huebner, PhD, author of What to Do When You Worry Too Much.


Over the years, many school administrators and teachers have shared with me their growing concerns over the significant increase in anxiety among students as young as preschoolers. In fact, they consider it to be one of their top concerns, right up there with friendship and bullying issues! While one can easily attribute the COVID pandemic for the substantial rise of anxiety among youth, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that anxiety was already on the rise prior to the pandemic. The pandemic and its ongoing fallout have, unfortunately, turbo boosted this upward trend.

The reality is that everyone in life has fears and worries. These are normal and natural emotions. But there are times when our anxieties can overwhelm us. If we don’t talk about what worries us with people we trust, the fears we keep bottled up inside can become even bigger. Also, if left unchecked, they can negatively affect our relationships and the wonderful, yet-to-be-revealed opportunities and experiences heading our way.

Educators, parents, and counseling professionals who are familiar with my work to promote social and emotional learning skills in young children have shared with me their need for stories that help generate more thoughtful discussions about anxiety in an age-appropriate way. Having personal and ongoing experience with anxiety struggles myself, I knew I could tap into my inner fearful child to write BRAVE EVERY DAY.

Before writing my story, it helped me to think about my own worries and discover how they fall into one of three categories: What if? I can’t, and I’m scared. Next, as I thought about each worry, I asked myself, “Which situations are most likely to happen and least likely to happen?” I then brainstormed to figure out what I could say to myself to help push away negative thoughts and be more self-confident. (You’ll have to read my story to find out what those words are!)

When I submitted the BRAVE EVERY DAY manuscript to my editor at Alfred A. Knopf, I specifically asked if Patrice Barton could be the illustrator because she did such a brilliant job illustrating my stories The Invisible Boy and Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! I told my editor that I wrote specific scenes with Patrice in mind because she knows how to make my words come alive with her playful and poignant illustrations! Luckily, my editor wholeheartedly agreed with my request!

Now that the book is available, I hope BRAVE EVERY DAY will show readers of all ages that we worriers are true warriors because we push ourselves beyond our comfort zones every single day to do what needs to be done–despite our fears. When it comes right down to it, only when we are afraid can we truly learn to be brave.


Trudy Ludwig is a nationally acclaimed speaker and award-winning author of numerous children’s books including The Invisible Boy, a School Library Journal Best Picture Books Selection and a recommended back-to-school book by USA Today and Scholastic Instructor. Her books and presentations help empower children to be kinder and more inclusive in their social world.

Trudy has collaborated with leading experts and organizations including Sesame Workshop, International Bullying Prevention Association, Committee for Children, and  For more information about Trudy and her work, visit


Patrice Barton is an American illustrator of children’s literature. She has created the art for more than 20 books in the picture book and chapter book formats. Barton earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Before illustrating for children, she worked as a house painter, a needlepoint designer, a copy shop technician, and a graphic designer. Her first illustration job was for the state of Texas, largely creating courtroom displays; she began freelancing during off-hours drawing for the children’s publishing market. Eventually Barton left that job and has been working for herself since then from her studio in Austin. Patrice’s work that has been included in Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibits.

This book, BRAVE EVERY DAY is the fourth book she illustrated for Trudy Ludwig. The first one was Trudy Ludwig’s The Invisible Boy,  She represented by The Cat Agency.

Trudy, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love Camilia. While the o ther children want to play Hide and Seek, Camilia is so filled with fear, that all she wants to do is hide. But Camilia meets a little boy with the same fears, she finally realizes her heart is bigger than her fears and the more her empathy increases, her anxiety decreases. This book 9along with the back matter) will provide parents and teachers ideas to how to help frightful children and encourage anxiety filled children to say, “I’ll try. Patrice’s illustrations are wonderful. I have loved her work for years. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



Danielle Hammelef won Good Morning Sunshine by Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Lindsay Hindman won SOME BODIES by Sophie Kennen

Rosie Hollinback won STORY QUILTS: Appalachian Women Speak by Shannon Hitchcock

Melanie B won MENDING THE MOON by Emma Pearl

Winners send your addresses to Kathy(dot)temean(at)hotmail(dot)com


Did you realize that Writing and Illustrating’s Holiday Book Extravaganza started last week? There is a great line-up of daily wonderful books.


Agent Charlotte Wenger – Prospect Agency

Charlotte received an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons. Prior to joining Prospect Agency, she was an associate editor for just over two years with Page Street Kids, where she acquired and edited more than twenty picture books and grew relationships with authors, illustrators, agents, and other editors.

As an agent, she loves working with debut talent and building relationships with the authors and illustrators she represents and the industry professionals she works with. She has, also, mentored Simmons MFA students.

She is interested in working with authors and illustrators of children’s books—board books through YA, but especially picture books—as well as adult nonfiction, particularly biographies and memoirs. She brings the same mindset to agenting that she did as an editor, valuing the developmental and relational work that goes into creating successful stories and fostering long-lasting collaborations.

Charlotte’s open to representing writers and illustrators of children’s books—board books through graphic novels and YA, but especially picture books—as well as adult nonfiction, particularly biographies and memoirs.

Picture books:

Sports narratives
Global stories
Performing arts
Social awareness and justice
Informational fiction

She is looking for authors and author-illustrators with strong writing skills and distinct art styles. In narrative picture books (fiction and nonfiction), she looks for well-developed characters with distinct voices; a strong plot with an earned resolution; and a clever, unexpected, yet satisfying ending. She is always open to stories that break formula and just work – that have that special something that you can’t quite put your finger on – either in the art or the words. She likes both prose and poetry, but she is typically not a fan of rhyme unless it feels authentic to the tone of the story.


Sibling and family stories, especially those with nontraditional or underrepresented family structures
Magical realism and contemporary fantasy
Historical fiction

Young Adult:

Contemporary with strong female characters, complex relationships
Novels in verse

She is always on the lookout for what hasn’t been done yet – stories that haven’t been told and voices that haven’t been heard.

She’s NOT the best fit for:

Military/war nonfiction


Agent Megan Manzano – Steven’s Literary

Megan fell in love with reading and writing from a young age. She grew up to receive a BA in English with a minor in philosophy; eager to stay as close to books as possible. With several years of publishing experience under her belt, she currently works dual roles as a marketing manager for Trade books and a Literary Agent at D4EO. She has previously mentored for the Pitch Wars class of 2018 and the RevPit 2020 contest. She is now an agent with Stephen Literary and is actically building her list.

Megan represents middle grade, young adult, and adult literary fiction across multiple genres. She is a sucker for atmosphere (in setting and in tone), voice that leaps off the page, characters who will make me laugh and cry all at the same time, and a deep exploration of interpersonal relationships.

Traditionally underrepresented creators are encouraged to query me! Your voices and stories are needed by so many readers.


  • Contemporary: Give me darker contemporary with complex family dynamics or odd jobs or shadows lurking in a forest. I’d also love to see fluffy contemporary stories about friendships, developing first crushes, beginning to question/learn about your identity and quieter plots – ie stories with more personal and character driven stakes. Anything that explores what it means to grow up is a favorite of mine and really important for younger reads to have in their hands.
  • Thrillers: She’d love a mystery set in a small town, a survival thriller, a story driven by an unreliable narrator, a group of misfits working together to solve a case, or a thriller blended with speculative elements.
  • Romance: Give me more diverse romances: best friends to lovers, slow burn, and stories that make me feel good while reading and have happy endings. If you have a queer rom-com, please send it immediately! Romances that are in the backdrop of a speculative world are more than welcome too.
  • Fantasy: Give her light fantasy, magical realism, and everyday society with a spark of magic. Bonus points if you have Fae! She’s NOT accepting high fantasy at this time.


  • Her tastes in literary fiction are best summed up with Erin Morgenstern, Morgan Rogers, Madeline Miller, and N.K. Jemisin. She loves great prose with characters at the forefront. She’d especially love to see queer relationships, stories with some kind of speculative element, unusual settings, an exploration of family/found family, and dark academia.
  • While literary fiction is preferred for adult, I’m open to stories that lean upmarket.

Elements I’m always looking for:

  • Queer Rep
  • Stories by BIPOC authors
  • Neurodiversity
  • Polyamory
  • Teens who don’t go to college
  • Sex positive stories
  • Gray Morality/Anti-Heroes
  • Slow burn relationships
  • Angst
  • Mental health rep
  • Soft/Geeky Characters
  • Strong friendships/sibling relationships


Agent Regina Bernard-Carreno, Ladderbird Literary Agency

Regina has left Martin Literary Management and is now an agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. She holds a PhD in Education from the Graduate and University Center at the City University of New York, and graduate degrees in African American Studies from Columbia University and Philosophy from the Graduate Center (CUNY). Below is what Regina is looking for:

Middle Grade: Regina is seeking chapter books and middle-grade novels dealing especially with adventures, solving mysteries, and facing/overcoming hardships and developing friendships.

Graphic Novels: Regina is looking for Middle Grade, Young Adult, and adult graphic novels. She’d love to see more writers of color telling stories of MG & YA and has her eye out for BIPOC creators in this genre. For adult graphic novels, Regina is interested in projects in the vein of Marjane Satrapi’s work and projects in that spirit telling of immigrant stories.

Young Adults: Regina would love to receive rom coms of all kinds. Think Hallmark cards and movies geared towards young adults, complete with heartbreak, friendships, and triumph.

Non-Fiction: In non-fiction, she’s open to seeing true crime projects (No crimes against children or graphic gore against women/children) as well as memoir. Regina also loves cookbooks that help the reader travel to new places. She wants to see cookbooks that have personal narratives tied to them, whether that’s a personal story woven throughout, cultural traditions and practices, and/or dishes that tie together cultural memories. She is also accepting submissions for artisanal projects such as crafting (think knitting, sewing, crafting, home-gardening/homesteading, apothecary/healing, and alternative health practices).

Picture Books: From authors-illustrators.


Agent Kristen Terrette – Martin Literary Management.

Kristen is a literary manager/agent excited to build her list featuring titles in middle grade, young adult, female-driven crime thrillers, faith-based books, and the occasional picture book with an author/illustrator.

She has a BA in Early Childhood Education and MA in Theology and Religious Studies which led her into children’s ministry for many years. Eventually, her lifelong love of books and authors drew her back to her original dream of entering the publishing world. Kristen is a multi-published author and freelance writer. She’s held such positions as the Blog Manager for a national women’s ministry and the Social Media Manager for a publishing house. All these components landed her a spot in the coveted Writers House Intern Program. There, she received valuable hands-on agenting and publishing experience which she brings into her new position.

Kristen has long been a voice for diversity. She’s written extensively on topics of racial reconciliation and unity and is a facilitator of groups around these topics in her church. In all her focused genres, she welcomes books with BIPOC or disabled main characters and diverse friendships. She believes books change people in all the best ways and that every child should see themselves in the pages.

Kristin is intered in the following:

Middle Grade (All subgenres except Sci-fi): Kristen hearts Middle Grade. She would love to see books tackling themes like abandonment, bullying, loneliness, comparison, divorce, and body image but done so by instilling hope, growth, and healing. Send her the creepy, horrifying, supernatural, fantastical, historical, and contemporary. She is ready to see it all.

Young Adult (All subgenres except Sci-fi): Kristen’s background in writing YA and her extensive reading in this genre has given her a great love and understanding of it. Grab her attention within the first couple of pages. Send her books with first loves, unique friendships, interesting and/or challenging family dynamics, and hard-hitting subject matter (race relations, suicide, abuse, divorce, etc.) but leave her with a satisfying (not necessarily happy!) ending.

Women’s Crime Thriller: Kristen loves a good thriller with a woman main character, so send her the smart, tough, and brave lady crime solvers. If she can’t figure out what’s going to happen next or what the ending will be, you’ve gotten her attention.

Faith-Based Fiction and Memoirs: Kristen loves a good redemption or forgiveness story, a historically accurate saga, a clean and beautiful, yet realistic love story, or a memoir that has her crying and laughing within the span of a few pages. Surprise her with the beauty of God’s grace.

Picture Books with Authors/Illustrators: Picture books are an important part of establishing a love for literature at an early age, though, at this time, Kristen is only looking for authors who are also illustrators. If your work fits these criteria, she’d love to see it.

Kristen is not a good fit for Science Fiction (even in MG or YA), books with any political agenda, extremely foul-mouthed characters, or gratuitous sex scenes.


Everyone who attends receives two agent critiques: A full manuscript critique and a 25 page critique, plus a group first page session with two agents. Plus optional participation in an assigned writer’s group.

Novel Writers Receive: A One hour full manuscript novel critique up to 72,000 words – Plus, one 30 minute 25 page critique with a second agent. Also includes a first page session, plus an optional critique group (must read the other writer’s manuscripts to participate.)

Spots are limited. Please email: Kathy.temean (at), Put 2023 Spring Virtual Writer’s Retreat in Subject Box. Please include a little blurb about your manuscript – what you write and what you plan to submit – and I’ll will get back to you.

Cost: $800
Deposit: $400 – final Payment by February 15th
Manuscripts Due: February 15th

Writers can choose to be assigned to a critique group prior to submitting their manuscripts. Writer’s in groups will read each other’s manuscripts. Each writer will get an hour to discuss their manuscript with the other writers in your assigned group. I will try to limit a group to four writers. Can’t tell until people start signing up how the groups will lay out. Group participation is optional.

Please note: If I add another agent or editor, anyone will be able to ask to be moved to the new addtion.

If you want to be assigned a critique group, you will need to sign up in time to work with a group. It take time to read each others manuscript and then take that feedback and revise before the manuscript deadline. So sign up early.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 29, 2022

Book Giveaway: LOVE MADE ME MORE by Colleen Kosinski

Colleen Kosinski has written and illustrated a new picture book, LOVE MADE ME MORE, published by Two Lions is hitting in bookstores on December 13th. Colleen 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 Colleen.

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!


An unexpectedly heartfelt tale of a friendship between a boy and an origami crane that continues throughout the boy’s life.

When a boy’s grandmother shows him how to fold an origami crane, the boy and crane become instant friends. They sail around the room and play, but the crane also watches over the boy and comforts him in a time of loss. The crane is always on the boy’s nightstand—it’s the last thing he sees each night and the first thing he sees each morning.

Over time, the boy grows older, and the crane becomes dusty. But even when the boy becomes a young man, the crane plays a part in the most important moments of his life. And one day, just like his grandmother before him, the man shows his own son how to fold origami as the crane looks on.

Beautifully written and illustrated, this story of an unlikely friendship that spans generations reminds us how much one moment with a loved one can affect our lives in the most meaningful way.


While trying to fall asleep, ideas for new stories often swirl around in my mind. One night, while waiting for inspiration to hit, I glanced over at my bedside table. I spied a tiny origami crane that my daughter-in-law Sophia had made for me. Images began forming in my mind. I grabbed a pen and paper. The story flowed easily and I was excited to look at my notes the following morning. Sometimes my night time ideas are dull as coal but sometimes they are diamonds. After reading, I knew this was a gem.

I showed my critique partners, and after a few revisions I was ready to show the world. It was 2013 and I was unagented. I decided to test the waters with this story by entering it in the Barbara Karlin Grant competition. Months later I received a Barbara Karlin Letter of Commendation. Next, I submitted it for consideration to be included in the Rutgers One on One Mentoring Conference. I received a letter of acceptance and was later matched with author, Trinka Hakes Noble.  The mentoring process was a wonderful experience and her insights helped bring my novel to the next level.

Soon after, I was offered representation by my fantastic agent, Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors. At that time I was excited about another story called, Lilla’s Sunflowers. After selling that story, I decided to dust off my origami crane novel. The year was 2017. I fine tuned the text. My agent loved it and it sold quickly to Kelsea Skea at Two Lions. My editor wanted to make sure we found the perfect artist to illustrate this touching story. We knew Sonia Sanchez would be splendid. Sonia is an award-winning illustrator from Barcelona with a loose, whimsical style. She accepted the project and we were ready to move forward.

Her illustrations bring even more depth to the story and I love all the diversity she shows in the characters’ depictions. Then 2020 happened. Things slowed. Release dates changed. In the meantime, another one of my stories, A Home Again, had sold in 2018–after Love Made Me More. A Home Again’s release date changed to 2021 and Love Made Me More slid to Dec. 13th, 2022. Wile waiting for Love Made Me More’s release date I started folding origami cranes to give to children at my various signing and visits. I’ve folded well over a thousand cranes in the last five years! Now, finally after a long journey, Love Made Me More will be available to readers. Last month we received a starred review from School Library Jounal!

Love Made Me More tells the tale through the eyes of an origami crane. The crane is a beloved friend of a little boy. But as the boy grows, the crane’s place in his boy’s life changes. It’s a “tug-at-your-heartstrings” tale about relationships, and even as circumstances change, love is always at the core.

I hope readers love this story as much as I do.


Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always found joy in creating. She received her B.A. from Rutgers University in visual art, and is an alumna of Moore College of Art. She rediscovered her passion for writing after many years as a successful, freelance fine artist. When she discovered children’s book writing she knew she had found her passion. She’s written middle grade novels, young adult novels, and picture books. Colleen belongs to the SCBWI critique group and is active in her local chapter. You can contact her at info AT As a lover of nature and animals, in the spring you can usually find her nursing a sick rabbit or robin back to health. Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, and doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund.

Colleen writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her picture books include Lilla’s Sunflowers, A Home Again, and Love Made Me More (2022). Her middle grade novel is titled, A Promise Stitched In Time. For the last year she has been working as an editor at and teaching classes on picture book writing. She is also involved in her local chapter of the SCBWI, and the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. Colleen is a graduate of Rutgers University, as are her husband and sons. Her daughter followed the bright lights to work in the film industry in LA. Colleen works from her Cherry Hill, NJ studio with her canine assistant, Sage. You can visit Colleen at her website:

Colleen is represented by Isabel Atherton of Creative Authors Limited.

Thank you Colleen for sharing your book and journey with us. What an ingenious idea to have a grand mother teach her grandson to make an origami crane and how the boy and his crane bond and the crane becomes the narrator of the story. It come full circle when the boy grows up and teaches his son to fold his own origami crane. It’s a very sweet story of how you can carry a moment in time throughout your like. I love the illustration you created – so perfect for the book. Children will be drawn in by the beauty on each page. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 28, 2022

Book Giveaway: HELLO, TREE by Alastair Heim

Alastair Heim’s debut picture book, HELLO, TREE, illustrated by Alisa Coburn and published by Little Bee Books is available in bookstores. 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 Alistair and Alisa.

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 thieving, Christmas-loving fox causes holiday madness all around town…until Santa catches him!

Hello, tree.

Hello, twine.

Hello, wreath.

Hello, sign.

Roguish Fox makes Christmas mischief all over town! He takes a tree, a wreath, the carrot from a snowman’s nose, Christmas decorations, tons of toys, and tasty treats. Then he settles back at home for a cozy Christmas Eve with all the wonderful items he’s “collected.” He gets so cozy, in fact, that he falls asleep and almost forgets to prepare for Santa! But as the clock strikes midnight, Santa arrives and scolds naughty Fox, making him put back all the things he stole. On Christmas Day, Fox wakes up groggy, sad, and alone, until he hears the ding-dong of his doorbell. It’s Fox’s friends from town delivering a snowball right to his face…and also a Christmas tree! The final scene is a warm and bright Christmas party in Fox’s home with everyone from town.


As I mentioned on this very blog back in 2018 (thank you, Kathy!), I happened to be staring out of a window in 2012 trying to think up good titles for children’s picture books.  At that time, I had signed with my literary agent in 2011 – the wonderful Kelly Sonnack of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency – but hadn’t yet landed my first publishing deal. My creative process, at that time, was to try to come up with at least three new book titles per day and add them to my idea journal. On the day I reference above, the words HELLO DOOR popped into my brain, so I wrote them down in said ournal and thought nothing of it for quite some time.

Fast forward a few years to the summer of 2016, I was writing some new ideas in my journal and decided to flip back through its pages to refresh my memory on past titles I had come up with.  This time, when I saw HELLO DOOR on the page I was instantly struck by a question, “Why would someone say ‘hello’ to a door?” Then, a fox suddenly popped into my brain, as did an answer to the question: “He’s saying ‘hello’ to everything he sees and steals at a house that’s not his.”

Little Bee Books was lovely enough to publish HELLO, DOOR in January of 2018.  The story of this sneaky-yet-loveable fox was beautifully brought to life by the incredible Alisa Coburn, who had also illustrated my first book called LOVE YOU, TOO.  Our newest book would go on to be named one of the Best Books of 2018 by The New York Public Library and several foreign editions (French, Dutch, and Chinese) were published shortly thereafter.  Even before the book started to receive attention and accolades, I started to think about where “Foxy,” as Alisa calls him, could go next.  What new adventures could be in store for this roguishly endearing thief?

As it turned out, the holiday season was upon us at that time and, as I was brainstorming new adventures for Foxy, I envisioned him in a Santa hat and the story for HELLO, TREE instantly popped into my brain.  I opened a new Microsoft Word document and literally typed out the first draft of his follow-up in two hours that Saturday morning, then let it sit for a couple of weeks – before revising it a few more times and sending it to my agent.

When Kelly first sent the manuscript to Little Bee Books in 2017, they weren’t quite ready to commit to a sequel. Fast-forward, again, to 2019 and the reception to the story was strong and they loved that, whereas Mrs. Bear stops his thievery in the first book, it would be Santa Claus that would hold Foxy accountable for his holiday stealing and shenanigans.  I was especially excited about Foxy traveling all throughout the town he lives in, and the new animal characters Alisa was going to get to bring to life.  In fact, the way she made the town look really makes me wish I could spend the holidays there if it were at all possible.

I wrapped up final edits with the editor at Little Bee Books in February of 2021 and waited patiently for illustration samples to come in from Alisa, which they did in September of that year.  I was absolutely blown away with the creativity, charm, and love she put into this story, and it absolutely looks and feels like a classic, timeless Christmas book.

There are even a few not-so-subtle nods to HELLO, DOOR spread throughout the narrative, as well as lots of fun things to discover on each page and all throughout the book.  Alisa also added some cleverness to the book’s endpapers, as she did with the first title. One fun, interesting story detail to note is that the three rabbits introduced early in the book weren’t in my manuscript when I wrote it. That idea was all Alisa Coburn and their side story really serves as the glue that helps hold the narrative together and wraps the entire thing up in a beautifully bunny-ish bow at the end. As is the case with every book I write, the illustrator creates half of the story and Alisa is masterful at adding charm, humor, and substance that truly takes my books to the next level.

Since the HELLO, TREE debuted in September of 2022, I have received incredibly positive feedback from readers, teachers, and parents about Foxy’s holiday adventure.  Alisa and I couldn’t be prouder of this book, and we are forever grateful to Little Bee Books for publishing it AND both send our heartfelt thanks to all future readers who pick up a copy at their local libraries and bookstores.


Alastair Heim writes children’s picture books. He lives in Kansas City with my awesomely, awesome family who inspires me everyday. Laughter is his favorite sound, purple is his favorite color, and other-people-cooking-for-him is his favorite food.  He is a huge fan of music and has been known to play the guitar with impeccable mediocrity.

Alastair started writing picture books because of his kids – plain and simple. After experiencing the joy, laughter and wondrous awe picture books brought them (and still continues), he thought there would be nothing cooler than to see that same reaction come from one of Daddy’s stories.  And he says, “Boy, was I right.” He is grateful, everyday, for getting to write these books and hopes that, at the very least, one of his puts a smile on a kid’s face, too.


Alisa Coburn is an Illustrator/Designer specialising in the children’s market – illustrating picture books, middle grade books, online content, magazines and products for kids. I live and work in the beautiful Kent countryside, UK.

Originally trained as an Animation Assistant, Graphic Designer and Advertising Creative I’ve worked in a variety of creative roles in the animation, advertising and broadcast industries. I’ve absorbed countless skills along the way – from concept development through to design in every detail across a variety of media – all of which I am incredibly grateful for as they continue to inform every project.

Drawing is my first love, I love creating interesting characters and finding fresh ways to weave narrative with design. I’m hopelessly addicted to children’s books, animation, and the smell of coloured pencil shavings.

Selected Clients include:
FCG (Macmillan), Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), Ivy Kids, Bloomsbury, Simon & Schuster, Didier Jeunesse, Storytime Magazine, Little Bee Books (Bonnier), Hardie Grant Egmont, Chirpy Bird (HGE), Amazon Education, Cengage Learning …

Alistair, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. What a great book to give to a child for Christmas. I love sneaky Foxie. How he  all around town and we see the cute village as we follow him around town causing mischief. Looks like he is going to be on Santa’s naughty list, but Santa sets him straight and there is a happy ending for our sly fox. This book with it’s wonderful illustration done by Alisa Coburn is destin to be a Christmas classic. Looks like a great Christmas gift. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 27, 2022

Book Giveaway: CHRISTMAS WITH AUNTIE by Helen Foster James

Helen Foster James has a new picture book, CHRISTMAS WITH AUNTIE, illustrated by Petra Brown and published by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to share a copy of the book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Helen and Petra!

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. Thanks!


There is nothing like an auntie’s love. This sweet story celebrates the special bond between auntie and her little bunny at Christmas time. With a bedtime-friendly singsong rhythm and adorable holiday illustrations, this book is sure to charm children and aunties alike!


Some ideas simmer in an author’s imagination for a long time while others seem to come with one big blast of an idea.

People seem to really enjoy Auntie Loves You!, and I’m frequently thanked for writing a book for aunties. It was, of course, my pleasure to have written an auntie book as I have aunts who were very special to me growing up so I loved featuring a loving relationship between an auntie and her little bunny.

I love holidays. I was born on Labor Day and married on Memorial Day. I feel privileged my book, Grandma’s Christmas Wish, can be a part of a family’s Christmas since I loved our great, big family Christmas gatherings. This got me thinking about Christmas books, and the idea for Christmas with Auntie came in a jingle-bell-joyful moment. One day it occurred to me I should place my bunny auntie in a Christmas setting. I knew that instant I would write an auntie book set at Christmastime. I immediately started writing the manuscript.

I sent my manuscript to my editor, Sarah Rockett, at Sleeping Bear Press. She loved it, and then I got very lucky. Sleeping Bear Press loves Christmas books and there just happened to be a need for a Christmas book for a 2022 publication date. The manuscript went quickly to acquisitions and was fast tracked which pushed my manuscript that was going to pub in 2022 to 2023 as Sleeping Bear Press likes each book by an author to have the opportunity to have its time to shine in the spotlight alone.

Although the concept came quickly and I loved writing it, the difficult part was the title.  Originally I thought I’d write a companion book to Grandma’s Christmas Wish and title this manuscript Auntie’s Christmas Wish, but it didn’t quite work the way I wanted with the wish. The manuscript was really was about aunties enjoying Christmas activities with their favorite little bunny so I decided not to focus on a wish and, instead, to embrace holiday festivities.

My next book will continue the series of these adorable bunnies (illustrated by Petra Brown) and will feature a nana. I’ve had so many grandmothers tell me I HAD to write a nana book so I did and I hope nanas everywhere will enjoy it when it is published in 2023.

I also have another book featuring the same family of bunnies scheduled for publication in 2024 and I have just completed another manuscript with hopes it will be acquired. I’m keeping the titles on upcoming books quiet now as titles seem to have a way of changing.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story-behind-the-story of Auntie Loves You!


Helen Foster James is the author of Grandma Loves You!, Grandpa Loves You!, Mommy Loves You!, and Auntie Loves You! That’s a whole lot of love. Daddy Loves You! will be published in 2020 and Welcome to the World will arrive in the world in the fall of 2020. She is currently working on a nana book.

One of her newest books is With Love, Grandma. It’s a picture book told in letters from grandma to her little grandchild. The grandma is a hedgehog and has an adorable van to travel the countryside.

helen loves holidays and has published two Christmas books: Santa’s Christmas Train and Grandma’s Christmas Wish.

Her book, Daddy’s Girl, showcases a girly, girl throws a tea party for her daddy.

Helen is the author of S is for S’Mores: A Camping Alphabet. She started researching the book when she was four years old–when she went on her first camping trip! Since that time, she has been on more than one hundred camping trips including backpacking down (and up!) the Grand Canyon, hiking to the top of Sierra Mountain passes, and canoeing down the Colorado River. She even met her husband on a camping trip to Catalina Island.

She is also the author of E is for Enchantment: A New Mexico Alphabet (published by Sleeping Bear Press) illustrated by Neecy Twinem. She received a WILLA Literary Finalist award for the book from Women Writing the West. The book was named to the Land of Enchantment Booklist for 2006-2007 and selected by the New Mexico Library Association as their “Legislative Gift Book” for 2007.

Helen is a former educator serving as an elementary teacher, coordinator of library media services, elementary teacher, media specialist, and as a professor of children’s literature. She received my doctorate in Educational Administration from Northern Arizona University and recently received an award from the California Reading Association for my contribution to literacy.

She a native San Diegan. Her home is in Pacific Beach and she has a cabin in the San Diego mountains where she can hear coyotes serenade the moon. She enjoys watching raccoons, woodpeckers, wild turkey, deer, fox, and other wildlife outside her cabin’s windows.

When she’s not camping, hiking, and hanging out on Sail Bay in San Diego, you can find her reading, writing, watching movies, and planning her next travel adventure. You can visit Helen’s website at


Petra Brown has been a children’s book illustrator since 2006 when her first picture book If Big Can…I Can, written by Beth Shoshan and published by Meadowside, was shortlisted for the Booktrust Early Years Awards for Best Emerging Illustrator. was shortlisted for the Booktrust Early Years Awards for Best Emerging Illustrator. Since then she has been illustrating for a range of publishers in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Petra comments, “I love drawing animals with human expressions. I find it such fun creating, for example, a thoughtful fox, a happy hippo, a shy sheep, or a caring bear! The other thing I like is creating landscapes, places where my characters can run about and have adventures. Living in a magnificent place like Snowdonia helps a great deal.” Petra lives with her partner in Wales. She is also the author and illustrator of the children’s book When the Wind Blew.

Helen, thank you for sharing you book and journey with us. So happy that you and Petra have continued this series of book. Christmas With Auntie is a wonderful addition and I hope you find ways to add to this heartwarming series. Children and parents will love the rhythm and rhyme and might even spur ideas for things to do with a favortie Aunt. Would make a great Christmas gift even for an Aunt. As always, Petra did a wonderful job creating the animal character. The book is a whole package of gorgeous. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 26, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Sara Ugolotti

Sara Ugolotti was born in 1988 near Reggio Emilia, in the north of Italy. Since she was a child she have loved drawing. In 2012 she obtained a bachelors degree in Architecture at the University of Parma. In 2015 she took a three years degree in Illustration at the International School of Comics in Reggio Emilia with excellent results. Sara loves to draw and paint using different techniques but she mainly works digitally. She has collaborated on projects for magazines, children’s books and children’s cartoon animations.

Currently Sara works as an illustrator in a collective of creative freelancers and works now as a freelance illustrator specializing in Childrn’s books and working with clients worldwide. She’s been awarded in many Illustration competitions and her illustrations have been selected for exhibitions in Italy, Holland, Germany, Belgium, UK, China and Japan. She currently lives and work in Parma with my boyfriend and her french bulldog Murphy.


I feel immediately super excited for this picture book right after reading the manuscript for the first time! I knew it was the right story to illustrated with my style and had no doubt in accepting the job.

I started by sketching two main characters, Luna and Poppa and had clear ideas about how they should be. Also the publisher and author gave me some freedom.

While the team was approving the characters I worked on doodling the 32 pages and submitted to the team the whole storyboard in thumbnails.

A scene from the storybaord thumbnail looks like this, with some notes/comment of mine:

This particular spread was developed to final art before all the others and used as a test for the whole book. The team of Page Street Kids liked a lot the thumbnails, and asked me to finalize the sketch, and this is what looks like:

They then asked me to proceed to final art and i usually start with the background:

then i add the natural bg elements, in this case trees and bushes (the forest):

I then added the characters and the animals from the forest:

and so this is the final art, with the final touch of all the glittering moon shards, stars and magic!


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating since I was a little child and my best client was my Granpa as he loved to collect all my drawings, but I can consider myself a professional illustrator only after my graduation.

What was the first thing you did where they paid you for your art?

My very first commission was for an Italian magazine which shared an article about relationships between grandchildren and grandparents.

You were born and raised in Northern Italy. Do you still live in that area?

Yes, I’ve always lived here.

When did you learn English?

I started learning English since the primary school and then I continued to study it throughout my school and college career.

Why did you decide to attend the University of Parma to get BA degree in architecture in 2012?

I had graduated from high school in scientific studies and I had clear ideas about what I would like to do after, looking for something that would give me the freedom to create. Architecture seemed to me the right solution because it seemed to me that it could combine creativity with my scientific knowledge and that there could be good job opportunities in the future.

What made you decide in 2012 to attend the International School of Comics to study Illustration?

I sadly then discovered that I didn’t feel complete with the Architecture world and decided to follow my long-standing desire and complete my ambition to enter into the world of the Illustration.

Is this where you studies animation?

I never studied animation, but just traditional illustration but I did take a small part into an animated TV cartoon as a background artist.

Did you do any freelance illustrating while attending school?

No, just right after that.

Did you physically travel to Holland, UK, China and Japan to exhibit your artwork?

I did travel to Holland to get my prize after winning an Illustrations contest held by the Publishing House Leemniscaat. I then won other Illustration prizes but I sadly did not travel physically to those places

How did you find competitions to exhibit your art?

I paid attention to online websites and facebook pages which promoted those illustration competitions. I was also invited to submit my work to the Leemniscaat’s illustration competiton “Picture This!”, that I won among other illustrators, after having with them a portfolio review at the Bologna Children’s book Fair.

I am interested in how this collective of freelance illustrators you belong to works. You show nine books on you website. Example: You list Mes tres grands contes et legends de la Suisse published in 2020, which says it was illustrated by two illustrators. How did you decide who did what?

I don’t belong to any collective of illustrators, these books were just illustrated by many other talented artists that were directly selected by the publisher and/or Agency. Sometimes happens that some books, due to the huge amount of work/pages, needs more than one illustrator and these are those cases.

You show another collective book Le Grand Livre des creatures fantastique and show 10 illustrations. Are those illustrations you did for the book? How many illustrator were used to illustrate this book?

Yes, this is another collective book and I’ve done for the publisher 10 illustrations. There were 10 illustrators in total.

Did the International School of Comics steer you on how to find work after you graduated?

Unfortunately most Schools don’t spend enough time teaching how to find work after the studies. Basically you should be lucky enough to meet the right professor who is able to direct you on the good path but it is not in their learning program.

What type of things do you do to promote yourself as an illustrator?

I basically take care of my online website and portfolio on Behance, but I am sadly not a social media addicted as I am still not sure on how much social media play the role in getting you work and it takes for sure lot of effort and energies. On the other side my agency plays an important role in promoting and getting me jobs.

When did you start illustrating for children’s games and puzzles?

I started getting commissions into this sector around 4 years ago

How many books or games did you do before getting representation with Advocate Art?

I have illustrated around 10 among books, collective books and magazines.

When did you sign with Advocate Art and how did you connect with them?

I’ve signed with them around 5 years ago and I enjoyed the agency after a submission.

In April 2020 you illustrated The Girl and the Cathedral: The Story of Notre Dame de Paris by Nicolas Jeter. Was this a self-published book?

It was a kick-starter project

In October 2021 you illustrated My Little Prayer by David Archuleta Was this the first book you illustrated for Bushel & Peck?

No, I have illustrated other books for them before that.

You started out 2022 with Raquela’s Seder by Joel Edward Stein and published by Kar-ben. How long did they give you to do the illustrations?

Around 6 months

A month later Mommy Ever After by Rebecca Fox Starr was published by Familius. I’m looking forward to showing off this book on Writing and Illustrating Annual Holiday Book Extravaganza in December. Were you working on this book while working on Raquela’s Seder?

This book took a bit longer than Raquela’s Seder to publish but yes, I have spent few months working on both titles.

The Little Way: A Journey to the Summit of Love by Judith Bouilloc came out on Apr 17, 2022. Since this book is 80 pages, is it a middle grade book? 

Yes, it is a middle grade book basically but also opened to an adult audience.

How many illustrations did you do for the book?

I did for the book around 8 interior full page illustrations and 8 small vignettes, plus the cover.

In October, When You Open a Book by Caroline Derlatka was published by Bushell and a Peck. Another beautiful book I’m looking forward to showing off this book on Writing and Illustrating Annual Holiday Book Extravaganza in December. Did Bushell and a Peck give you more freedom to do what you wanted?

Yes, it was lovely to work with them and they gave me more freedom than other publishers. They wrote, together with the author, some basic art direction notes but I was then able enough to spread my creativity among the pages.

I just featured on Writing and Illustrating, MENDING THE MOON by Emma Pearl and it is a gorgeous. Just want to point out to everyone that is still open to comments and sharing on social media to win a copy. Did Page Street kids ask you to revise any of your illustrations when you submitted the interior art?

Thank you! It was lovely to work with their team, they revised each step of the book from doodling to final art in consultation with the author too. They gave me some art direction note for each interior spread to start but then left me more freedom to play with those suggestions. They asked me for some changes on the sketches but nothing too relevant as they remained mostly the same at the end. On the final art just a few little requests such as adding the same number of buttons on Poppa coat or adding a window to the house front to make it consistent throughout the book, for example.

On December 8, 2022  USBORNE is publishing, Greek Myths for Little Children by Rosie Dickins. There are 128 pages are 11 stories. Were there multiple illustrators working on this book?

No, I illustrated the entire book.

Also, Amazon lists a French edition of this book, but the illustrations they show are in English. Is this book available in English and French?

Yes, there are several co-editions in Italian, French, German and Spanish

Next year Bushel and Peck are publishing Cylinderella by David Miles, Are you working on that book now?


Would you like to write and illustrate a book?

I have just signed a contract for a classic story re-written and illustrated by me.

Are you open to illustrating a self-published book?

I have never illustrated a self-published book.

What do you think helped develop your your style?

I am not sure how to answer this question because I think that some way is the style that finds you after all. It’s something you should feel comfortable with.

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Some publishers give me directly some visuals to refer to and I don’t need to have any research in those cases (unless references are not clear enough). But in most cases I’ll have a look around and collect many reference images to fuel my creativity but I don’t actually use them directly as a model.

Do you try to spend a certain number of hours on illustrating?

I am a full-time illustrator and I work every day, more than 8 hours a day sometimes (but of course with lot of recreation pauses!)

What book do you think was your biggest success?

I really don’t have any so far, but probably the one re-written and illustrated by me when it will come out!

Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I don’t have an actual routine a part from doing a series of paid jobs throughout the year. I think that the most important thing is to choose wisely the project that suits you best and for which you can do your best.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Yes, next year there will be out some amazing new books and among them the sequel of “Mending the Moon”, “Saving the Sun” written by Emma Pearl! Also my very first illustrated picture book in Arabic language.

Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Yes, I think it is essential for an illustrator to show its art to the most wide audience possible

What are your career goals?

My goal is to create a character or a book that can enter everyone’s heart and be unforgettable.

What are you working on now?

I can’t talk too much about my current projects but I am illustrating many books which will be out in 2023 and 2024 including a huge collections of animal stories, a Christmas book, a Space Atlas, a book about different kind of homes and a mystic-guide-picture book written by an award winning author in addition to my own classic picture book adaptation. But there are still more on the horizon.

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

See my blog, illustration fixation. I’ve learned illustrating digital by myself and I really have a simple way of coloring and working, I usually use just 2-3 kind of brushes not more. I also use procreate for the sketches as It is so confortable to use!

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Just believe in yourself and work hard on your goals, create illustrations that can speak direct to the soul will help you to stand out of the crowd.

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

You can visit Sara using the following links:





Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 25, 2022

November Agent of the Month – Ellen Goff – Interview Part Three



Ellen graduated from The University of Chicago with a BA in English, a minor in Cinema and Media Studies, and a focus in Creative Writing. Ellen has worked everywhere from The White House under the Obama administration to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At HG Literary, she assists partner and agent Carrie Hannigan on all children’s titles from picture books to middle grade to young adult. Ellen’s own list consists of YA writers and illustrators, as well as middle grade and picture book writers. She is also a member of HG Literary’s foreign rights team.

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Commercial, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Historical, Horror, Literary, Middle Grade, New Adult, Picture Books, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

For picture books: Ellen is looking for author-illustrators, and projects that highlight the sparse and simple.

For MG: Ellen is looking contemporary realistic MG, also MG with hints of magical realism. Humor is a must!

For YA: She is interested in all genres and formats of any kind of YA. She especially likes anything spooky, historical fiction, martial arts, graphic novels, and novels-in-verse.

Older YA: The stuff you’re not sure is YA but not sure it’s adult either (anything you might label “New Adult” like Red, White, & Royal Blue)

Non-Fiction: Ellen might be convinced on a nonfiction project if it involves food. Cookbooks, History, Humor, Illustrated, Travel.

She has a soft spot for Shakespeare as well as southern stories that remind her of her home state of Kentucky.

Favorite sub-genres: Gothic, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction YA, Southern Gothic, Speculative Fiction, horror

Here are some of Ellen’s favorite things:

YA (of any kind)

Novels in Verse

Middle Grade Humor

Graphic novels

Spooky stuff (ghosts, vampires, lore)

Gothic/Southern Gothic

Southern settings

Shakespeare-inspired & retellings

Historical Fiction (only YA)

Inventive Cookbooks


Ellen runs a YA writing group and workshop in NYC.

To Query: Please send your query and the first five pages of your manuscript to



Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Always. We’re an editorially focused agency. We want the manuscript to be in the best shape it can be when it hits an editor’s desk so they have less to work through. They’re busy, too. I think every agent does 2 or 3 large edits with every existing client or new client, on debuts or on next novels.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)?

Email is best—there’s a lot of info in publishing. We’d forget everything on the phone.

Once you submit a manuscript to a publisher, how often do you communicate with your client during the submission process?

We will often pass along rejections from editors during this stage, IF the client wants to see them. Otherwise, we might check in about what they’re going to work on while they wait. Going on submission is a marathon, not a sprint, and involves a lot of waiting on both the part of the writer and agent. We might help brainstorm new ideas, or pass along promising leads from editors. But generally, it’s a slower time of communication.

What happens if you don’t sell a book and the author wants to self-publish a book? Would you be okay with that?

If we don’t sell a book, after a couple years of really trying, we might put the book in a drawer and come back to it and focus on a new one in the meantime. It won’t necessarily benefit the writer to self-publish that first one if we’re trying to traditionally publish the second. Authors typically publish or have a book out one at a time, once a year for novels or maybe twice a year for kidlit titles. And your agent will be focused on getting your next manuscript on the desk of editors at the publishing houses. Writers usually sign with agents to get traditionally published, so it’s much easier to see one path through before shifting focus and effort. We have many clients though who started in self-publishing, and then switched to the agent process to get traditionally published. We welcome all backgrounds.

Do you seek help from other agents at your agency to get suggestions on editors and/or publishers to submit to for the clients you sign up to represent?

All the time! We’re collaborative at every point in the process. We all have a grasp of different editors we meet, so we’re constantly recommending names and imprints. We even read our clients’ manuscripts for each other if an agent is stumped about where to take a revision for a client. We rely on each other to pool our collective knowledge, especially during deal negotiations and solving problems for clients. Our authors have an agency team behind them, not just one person.

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at HG Literary if it was good, but not what you want to represent?

For sure! We do this all the time. If it didn’t quite click but we see the merit, or if we’re just so swamped with our own workload but we know the writer would be a great addition to our team and we recognize their talent. My colleagues pass around manuscripts all the time, which is why often a rejection from one agent means a rejection from the entire agency. You’ll see that policy a lot on agency websites.

What do you think of digital and audio books? Are they part of every sale these days?

Absolutely. Often traditional publishing contracts for print editions contain clauses for ebooks and audiobooks at the same time. They can make up great portions of total sales numbers.

Do you handle all foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who will be handling those contracts?

Our agency is lucky enough to have an in-house foreign rights team. Our VP and Director of Foreign Rights, Soumeya Roberts, and I lead our foreign rights department. We try and retain translation rights in our clients’ contracts and deals so that we can sell those translation rights ourselves. On the film side, we work with film-coagents who help us pitch our clients’ books within the film community.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

We always recommend never chasing trends. By the time you see one in deal reports or on the shelves, it’s passed! Generally, we’re seeing a move toward joyful and fun and heartwarming titles lately. Perhaps warm and comforting content to help keep our minds at ease in the current news cycle of the world and with the impending winter. Romcoms, lighthearted snippets of life, romances.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, secure an agent, and get published?

READ widely and find a critique group of writers in your community; the writers you “grow up” with might be the published authors next to you on a publishing panel or at a book launch one day. Also, find a couple of trustworthy beta readers who will read your full manuscripts and give you honest feedback. These beta readers won’t necessarily be your best friends. They will be other writers who understand editing and how to offer helpful feedback. Also, truly don’t give up. If anything, just shift focus to new projects that excite you. It took me 5 years and 5 manuscripts to find my own agent for my writing, and I work in the heart of publishing.

Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

Yes, I love attending these. Something about everyone traveling to a common destination for a common goal is energizing and hopeful.


Talk tomorrow,


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