Lisa Robinson’s debut nonfiction picture book is MADAME SAQUI, REVOLUTIONARY ROPEDANCER, illustrated by Rebecca Green and published by Random House/Schwartz and Wade hit book shelves on March 24th. Lisa has agreed to share a copy with 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 Lisa and Rebecca, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

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!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A stunning picture book biography about the tightrope walker who dazzled Paris as she danced across the sky with impeccable balance and unparalleled skill during the French Revolution.

In revolutionary France, a girl named Marguerite Lalanne longed to perform above large crowds on a tightrope, just like her acrobatic parents. Sneaking off to the fairgrounds for secret tightrope walking lessons, Marguerite finessed her performance skills, ultimately performing for crowds as a young rope dancer. And eventually, Marguerite would perform as Madame Saqui, waltzing and pirouetting across- and never falling off- countless ropes above adoring crowds. Her daring feats—including walking across the Seine and between the towers of Notre Dame—led to her becoming a darling of Parisians and a favorite of Emperor Napoleon. A nouvelle chérie de Paris, Madame Saqui cemented her place in circus history, winning the adoration of the French people and royalty alike, including Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Her story adds a woman to the cast of characters on the stage of circus history.

This remarkable biography unveils the inspiring story of a trailblazing woman who revolutionized the circus world– without ever missing a step.

BOOK JOURNEY:

INSPIRATION

Although Madame Saqui never fell off the wire, this project did—many times. The journey began with my family’s love of circus. My daughters and I do aerial arts as well as tightwire and juggling. I wanted to learn more about the history of circus arts, so I read AN ORDINARY ACROBAT, by Duncan Wall. In one chapter, Wall made a brief mention of Madame Saqui, a brave woman wirewalker. I already knew about Philippe Petit, the man who walked between the Twin Towers in NYC, and Charles Blondin, the acrobat who walked over Niagara Falls. I wanted to learn more about this unknown woman whose accomplishments came well before these two. But it was hard to find information about her, aside from a few short articles from the 1800s. So I almost gave up . . .

FRUSTRATION

Finally, I found a biography online, in French. My French wasn’t strong enough to translate it accurately. And I couldn’t find anyone available to help. So I fell off the wire: I gave up.

Then the universe smiled upon the project. My daughters and I had begun circus arts training at Moody Street Circus and I mentioned my research to the wonderful Melinda Pavlata who runs the circus studio. As luck would have it, she is fluent in French and has a PhD in Medieval French Literature! She was interested in Saqui’s story and willing to help me out. I was back on the wire! Without her translation, I would not have been able to discover the fascinating details of Madame Saqui’s life.

OFFER OF PUBLICATION

Next came a different high wire act: submissions! My agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, loved the story and sent it out to a variety of editors. Anne Schwartz, of Schwartz and Wade books, was about to leave for Paris when she received the submission. She told Alyssa that she’d make an offer when she returned. I was thrilled to learn that Anne was going to visit the places where Saqui had performed her ropedancing acts.

Anne Schwartz chose Rebecca Green to illustrate the book. In my opinion, the art is gorgeous and perfectly suited to the story. I’m impressed with the overall book design, too.

COMPLICATION

The final stage of this high wire act was the book’s release and promotion. Six months prior to publication, I decided to learn to wire walk on a low tight wire we own. I thought it would be fun to do a storytime event at bookstores that included reading the book aloud as well as walking across the wire (it’s portable so I can bring it to bookstores!) With the help of Sacha Pavlata of Moody Street Circus (he walked the high wire with the Flying Wallendas!) I learned various wire walking steps and designed a routine accompanied by the music of Louise Farrenc, a woman composer from the 1800s (1804-1875).

March 2020 arrived and I was ready to go! Terrible timing! A novel coronavirus brought a global pandemic. All bookstore events are postponed . . . nevertheless, I’m persisting with promoting the book. Look out for a video of me dressed as Madame Saqui and performing my routine. It will be on Facebook and my website.

Be on the lookout for a fun storytime activity kit designed by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City. There will be a DIY wirewalking activity where kids can simulate walking on a wire (while staying firmly on the ground), while pretending to be Madame Saqui.

LISA ROBINSON’S BIO:

Lisa Robinson is a child psychiatrist, voracious reader, and children’s book author (PIRATES DON’T GO TO KINDERGARTEN and PIPPA’S NIGHT PARADE). She lives outside Boston with her family and three Spice Cats: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Paprika. Lisa is the daughter of two world-traveling diplomats and grew up around the world—Senegal, the UK, and Russia. She has an M.D. from Tufts University and an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. When she’s not practicing psychotherapy or reading, she’s flying on aerial silks at her local circus studio. And wire walking, of course, every day at home.

Lisa was born in Kampala, Uganda to Peace Corps volunteers who later became world-traveling diplomats. When she was a child, her family moved frequently, from Seattle to Dakar to London to Moscow, so books became my best friends. Lisa is particularly thankful for the large collection of Nancy Drew mysteries she discovered in the library at Dakar Academy in Senegal.

Her favorite childhood memories include going on safari at the Niokolo Koba park, exploring castles in the English countryside, and vacationing on a sheep farm near Loch Ness in Scotland. Now she works as a therapist for children, teenagers, and adults, read voraciously—everything from newspapers to novels—and write stories for children and young adults. She has a BA in Psychology from Cornell University, an M.D. From Tufts University, and an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University.

Lisa lives in Massachusetts with my scientist husband, two daughters, and a family of cats, the Spice Cats—Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Paprika.

More recently, as a result of watching her daughters learn and practice circus arts, she has taken up aerial silks, so you can find her flying through the air at her local circus gym.

Lisa’s website: author-lisa-robinson.com/ or on twitter: @elisaitw

 

REBECCA GREEN’S BIO:

Rebecca Green is an American illustrator, painter and make-believe maker who spends her days (and sometimes nights) illustrating for children’s and young adult books, magazines and galleries. She works primarily with gouache and colored pencil but also loves to explore mixed media, sculpture, and writing. Her debut picture book How To Make Friends With A Ghost was published in 2017. Illustrated titles include The Unicorn In the Barn, How To Be A Good Creature, The Glasstown Game, From Far Away, and A Year With Mama Earth. When she isn’t making art, she can be found cooking new recipes, hiking in the woods, or thrift shopping. She currently lives in Osaka, Japan with her husband.

Rebecca, along with her husband Matt, has spent time living and working in Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, and Tennessee and are now enjoying a stint in Osaka, Japan. We have two precious animal babies, Mori and Junie B.

Her clients include: Tundra Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, Schwartz & Wade, Viking Press, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Annick Press, Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers,  Kids Can Press, Frankie, Wall Street Journal, Flow Magazine, Meijer, Sal Oppenhiem, Amnesty International, Portland Alternative Dwellings, Amtrak, CraftSanity Magazine.”

Lisa, Thank you for sharing your book and its journey with us. I love that you learn wirewalking to help write this book. Rebecca’s illustrations are gorgeous.  I am sure everyone will love the book and its unique story. Gook Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 28, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Rogério Coelho

Rogério Coelho has illustrated more than 100 literature books for Brazilian and foreign publishers. He has received several awards for his work such as the “Highly Recommendable” seal by FNLIJ (National Foundation for Children’s and Youth Books), the HQMIX Trophy in 2016 (national designer) and the Jabuti Award in 2012 (1st place didactic and educational category) and 2016 (1st place category for children’s or youth books). He was also a finalist for the Jabuti Award in 2016 in the “illustration” and “children’s book” categories and received the gold medal in the category “children’s picture books” (for all ages) at the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2017, for the American edition of my image book “The Boat of Dreams”, published in the USA by Tilbury House Publishers as “Boat of Dreams “.

Here is Rogério discussing his process for Eileen Spinelli’s One Earth:

Layout for the book cover illustration. A drawing just to indicate the main idea and the general composition.

The detailed outline of the cover, with all elements and final composition defined.

A color base is created with a basic marking of the elements.

The color base begins to be complemented with indications of areas of light and shadow, looking for a way to obtain the desired visual impact.

The color base starts to receive the most refined details of the illustration. This step is the one that requires the most time and work.

The finished illustration.

The final illustration receives the title and the name of the authors, the design is by Eve DeGrie.

Below is a sneak peak of two illustrations from The GRAY BUTTERFLY (work-in-progress) from Rogério’s new wordless picture book “The Gray Butterfly” to be published in Brazil.

Below is the cover Rogério illustrated for YOU BE YOU written by Richard Brehm. It is unpublished unpublished and looking for a publisher in the United States. Below: Interior art.

Louco Book Cover:


Interview with Rogério

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for 23 years. I started with school books and newspapers and, from the year 2000 on, I started to illustrate children’s literature.

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

Professionally, it was in 1997, when I was working in a small studio that used to get work from advertising agencies and we also did short-film cartoons.

Do you live in Brazil?

Yes, I am Brazilian and I live in Brazil. I was born in Sao Paulo, but I live in a city in southern Brazil, called Curitiba.

Have you always lived there? Did you go to college to study art?

I’ve been to other countries but I’ve always lived in Brazil. In fact, here in Brazil, I lived in several cities in different regions of the country. And I studied art in college but didn’t complete my degree.

What do you think helped you develop you style?

Encouragement from my parents and other family members, hard work, curiosity and a lot of reading.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

Illustrations for school books and small newspapers, in those jobs I made caricatures of politicians and other personalities.

How did you find your first illustrating job?

Through a newspaper ad. My father saw the ad and informed me, I put up a portfolio with the drawings I had and went to the job interview, in which, fortunately, I was hired.

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

When I started to illustrate school books, I started to get to know this market and its artists better, and I identified a lot with this work. I always liked illustrated books, but my initial intention was to draw comics, drawing books was an interest that came later, it happened between 1998/1999, approximately.

Was Amor Pega Feito Um Bocejo your first illustrated picture book?

No, this book is much more recent. My first children’s book was published in Brazil, the author is a Brazilian poet well known to Brazilian readers, called Elias José, the name of the book, in free translation, is “What do you read over there?”, and it was published in the year 2000.

How did you get that contract?

The writer saw my work in school books and liked it. So the publisher invited me to illustrate his book.

Was Books Do Not Have Wings your first book published by a United States publisher?

Yes, it was my first job for a publisher in the United States and I am very grateful for the opportunity that Sleeping Bear Press offered me.

I just featured the book you illustrated, One Earth by Eileen Spinelli. How did you get that contract?

This contract was obtained through the work of Illozzo, which is the agency that represents my work. Illozzo presented some samples of my illustrations and the publisher liked it and thought it identified with the book, so they asked me to do it. I have had some opportunities through Illozoo and I am grateful to them for representing my work.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

I have already written and illustrated some short comics and also a graphic novel called “Louco – Fuga” (in free translation, it would be something like “Madman – Escape”). My author’s illustrated books are books without text, composed only with illustrations, one of them was published in the USA by Tilbury House Publishers, it is called “Boat of Dreams”.

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

Yes, at least 8 hours a day. But it is usually more than that.

What was the first award that you won for Illustrating?

An award given by the National Children’s and Youth Book Foundation (“FNLIJ” in Brazil) called “Highly Recommended” for books that stand out in the year and are evaluated by this entity, which is the Brazilian section of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People).

It looks like you have won a number of awards for your illustrating. How many have you won and which ones are you most proud of winning?

I won several awards for my work, in Brazil I highlight the “Jabuti” Award, which is the most important literary award in the country, I received the award in 2012 and in 2016. I also received the IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) the gold medal in the category “illustrated book for all ages”, awarded to my book “Boat of Dreams”.

How many picture books have you illustrated?

I lost count, certainly more than 100 among those published in Brazil and the USA.

How many of your books have been published in the US?

I published six books in the United States. I illustrated another book called “You be You” written by an American author named Richard Brehm that has not yet been published, but is ready, as soon as an interested editor publishes it in the United States.

Initially, through my direct contact over the internet, sending my portfolio. Thus I got my first job in the US. Then, through the work of Illozoo, which started to manage me.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

Here in Brazil I illustrated for many of them, the most prominent one was a magazine called “Recreio”, which I illustrated for 5 years. It was a weekly magazine for children, and I illustrated different sections of it. I also worked for an English magazine called Storytime Magazine.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes, I published two of them, the “Boat of Dreams” that was published in the USA, and also “O Gato e a Árvore” (in free translation, it would be “The cat and the tree”) published only in Brazil.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, all my work equipment and library as well.

Do you have an artist rep? And how long have you been with them? How did you meet them?

I have been represented by Illozoo since 2016. The invitation to be part of the agency was sent by email, after one of its owners got to know my work.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes, I have already worked in these terms, it is something specific and depends on the negotiation.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Without a doubt, my most successful work is the “Boat of Dreams”, for being an authorial book and composed only of images, and for the various awards and recognitions I received from it.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I work 100% digitally and I feel completely at ease this way.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, until 2007 I worked with traditional artistic techniques in my illustrations: watercolor, colored pencils, acrylic paint. Gradually, I migrated the processes to the digital environment, until I got to do all the work in this way.

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

I use a Wacom Intuos graphic drawing tablet and, before that, I already had others, from other models and brands.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Basically it is my computer, a Dell, the Wacom graphic drawing tablet and Adobe Photoshop.

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

I try, but I’m usually working on several projects at the same time. A book can be made in 3 months or even a year, it depends a lot on the project and the decisions for it.      

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

Yes, I always try to read the text and establish different approaches to it, think how the illustration can dialogue with the text without just repeating what the text says, and research is essential to make my work richer in a way that I can offer the reader something more than a well-made illustration.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Surely, without it I could not work remotely with publishers from different places as I do today, it has shortened all distances.

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

My dream is to do better with each job. In general I think I have already realized my career dream, which has always been to work as an illustrator, now the goal is to continue and make small dreams come true within a bigger dream.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a new authorial book that will be published in Brazil in 2020, the name of the book is “A Borboleta Cinza” (in free translation, it would be “The Gray Butterfly”)  and it will also be a book with only images and will have a lot of pages. In addition to this project, I am finishing two books for Brazilian publishers, with texts by other authors and also a book for an American publisher.

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

Today my work material is Adobe Photoshop and I have obtained from it an artistic expression that satisfies me in relation to the plasticity and results that I would have with traditional techniques. So I recommend Photoshop, the software is excellent.

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

The whole idea is to try to be happy. And keep that motivation. If you are happy, your work develops and the results will come.

Thank you Rogério for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. To see more of Rogério’s work, you can visit him at: 

https://www.facebook.com/rogeriocoelhoilustrador/

https://www.artstation.com/rogeriocoelho

http://rogeriocoelhoilustrador.blogspot.com/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Rogério. I am sure he’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 27, 2020

March Agent of the Month – Katie Grimm – First Page Results

KATIE GRIMM

Don Congdon Associates

Originally from Colorado, Katie earned her BA in History and Spanish Literature from Bowdoin College. She joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007 as the assistant for the agency, and she still works with many of the agency’s Estates in addition to her own list of novelists, essayists, academics, scientists, critics, and translators. Her clients have been awarded the Booker International Prize, the O. Henry Award, and the Pura Belpré Honor, and they have been long- and shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the National Book Award for Translated Literature, and New England Book Award, among others. Her clients’ books are frequently selected for the Junior Library Guild, Indie Next List, and yearly “Best of” lists. She currently splits her time between New York and North Carolina and is actively looking for new voices from the South while she’s there.

Here is Katie:

Most generally, I focus on adult literary fiction, narrative and creative non-fiction, and literary fiction for middle grade and young adult audiences. Across all genres and ages, I’ll always be interested in the darker and weirder side of the human condition as well as previously under- or misrepresented experiences and voices. I look for books with a heartbeat, and “tragicomic” is one of my favorite descriptors.

In adult fiction, I enjoy literary and up-market fiction and cohesive short story collections with a unique voice that evokes a strong emotion and necessitates a conversation—be it contemporary, historical, mysterious or speculative. I’m delighted when an unusual structure or form functions at a higher level.

In non-fiction, I’m also looking for distinct voice and new perspectives. I enjoy narratives that blend the personal and investigative, are nerdy deep-dives into a particular topic, and/or use individual stories as a lens to analyze a systemic problem or issue.

In children’s fiction, I love the idea of finding a new middle grade classic that I wished I had as a child to guide me through complicated feelings or take me to faraway lands. I’m also looking for contemporary and speculative young adult novels that use genre tropes and form to create an emotional space to work through issues in a new way. In MG and YA, I’m open to every genre—from magical realism to horror to high fantasy to sci-fi—as long as the focus is on the characters’ personal growth and relationships, with an emphasis on creating wonder and building empathy.

How to Submit to Katie at Don Congdon:

Submissions should be emailed to dca@doncongdon.com

Please include a first chapter or 15 pages with your query letter (if you have a prologue, you can include both, for alternating POV, please include a chapter from each) in the body of the email as we don’t open unsolicited attachments. I usually respond within eight weeks if I’m interested in seeing more, but please do follow up if there are any changes on your end. I do not accept paper queries.

Visit: www.doncongdon.com/submissions.shtml for more guideline details.

*******

BELOW ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGES WITH KATIE’S COMMENTS:

 

IMPROVISANDO by Wendy Parciak – MG

Chapter 1. The Conquest

You have to attack that first note. The B. It tells your audience everything about what’s to come. Quasi improvisando, the music says. You need to put your life into it. You need to show that you can be wild, fanciful, dramatic, free. [Love the voice in these first lines, grabbing me right away with the direct address to reader. Also the punch of the next line nicely sets up the major tension.]

Basically, everything I’m not.

Mr. Loyola would announce the results any moment. …And first place in Gleam’s Champion Cellist Competition goes to Briar Palustra, he’d say. [Nit-picky, but not sure you need the ellipsis and “he’d say.” and consider not using italics here if you’ll also have italics for interior monologue.] I adjusted my tortoiseshell glasses so I didn’t have to look at the other finalists standing next to me in the wings. Especially Damian Silver. I could feel his dark glare from a meter away.

He knows you’re a fake. Heat spread across my cheeks to my ears. My hair usually covered them, but Mother insisted on pinning it up in some sort of lumpy braided thing. I adjusted the silvery feather earrings that my brother Brook made for me to wear for finals. [Really like how these visual details like the braid and earrings also reveal more about familial expectations/dynamics.]

“I’m supposed to win,” Damian hissed. “You haven’t even had your Career Commitment Recital yet. You’re not a real musician.” [I am feeling a little in the weeds about here, as I am not understanding how not having a “career commitment” recital makes her a fake. When she said “fake” I assumed it meant she was pretending to play type of “fake” not that she didn’t follow a (seemingly arbitrary if they easily changed the rules) progression. They’re in middle school after all, so also wondering a bit too much on “career commitment” bit—as in, if this is contemporary MG or if we’re in another world where kids choose their career when they’re 13? Just trying to guess from context clues, which is pulling me out of the page, but if I had the query, I probably wouldn’t get so stuck.]

“They changed the rules, remember?” Entirely for me—not a teenager for two more days—because Mr. Loyola thought I deserved it. If I won this contest, I’d become an official Champion as soon as I performed the customary thirteenth-birthday Commitment Recital. [Again, confused by this—she should have waited until she was 13 when she would do this special recital, and then she could be Champion? So why did Mr. Loyola give her the ability to skip forward if she weren’t very good (aka a fake)? What’s the advantage/disadvantage of skipping step? Does this mean Damian will never get to be a Champion?]

“Come on, Briar.” He gouged the backstage floor with the pointy tip of his cello’s endpin. “You could’ve waited.” [I got a little disoriented spatially, maybe because I was thinking of the wings as something different than backstage, you can tell I’m not a performer!]

SUMMARY OF KATIE’S THOUGHTS:

      I think this is a great opening, aside from perhaps either too much detail or not enough about the Champion and Commitment Recital, which as capitalized, make me wonder about this world we’re in a touch too much (though again, if I had the query, I’m sure it would make sense). I do think it’s worth either glossing over the details a little more to get us further into the scene before giving us everything about why skipping the recital is a big deal OR give us a bit more information. It’s hard to understand if this is a “big deal” (as Damian thinks) or not (as Mr. Loyola obviously could unilaterally change the rules) given the (lack of) context we have right now. I love the idea that she knows how she’s supposed to be a goof performer/champion but is instead a “fake” from the opening lines, but all the following details make me question her original assertion—not necessarily feel lied too, but distrustful of Briar. Is she exaggerating her “fake” status or has she just not properly explained her deception of Mr. Loyola? As a MG reader, I want to be on her side, and as presented, I am questioning her more than I should so consider continuing to tweak the context information. Otherwise, great use of voice and hooking the reader—thanks for sharing!

*******

 

Daily Bread by AT Martin  – Historial fiction – MG     

Chapter 1   Wait For Me!

“Wait for me!” shouted Lily.

Lily’s breath hung in the black cold. [“Black cold” is simple but evocative.] She slid down the stoop and caught the railing before she slipped off the bottom step. [A little confusing here—she slid down the steps of the stoop? I thought she was sliding down the stoop railing at first.] Her hand stung from grabbing the frozen metal. There was no time to race up four flights of stairs for mittens. Lily held her book and ran down Mott Street. [Where did the book come from? Hard to imagine it was in her hand during the sliding down the stairs moment, so maybe introduce it sooner then so we get a better sense of her juggling a few things and why sliding down the (snowy? icy?) stairs seemed like a good idea.] If she weren’t so mad at her sister, she would have feared the frozen darkness.  Margaret was not in sight. Lily’s coat flapped as she ran on the icy sidewalk.

A bundled form approached a dimming gaslight. [How was she not in sight and then ahead of her? Did Lily turn the corner shortly after running on the sidewalk? An easy add because otherwise, I got spatially confused. I appreciate the detail about the gaslight, I now know we are in the past.]

“Margaret, you have to stop!”

The figure turned. Margaret’s head, nose, and mouth were wrapped in her gray shawl. She wore the dark peacoat Papa brought home two nights ago. It had originally belonged to a smaller man. Although not meant for a girl, Margaret appreciated its thick warmth. [Watch for head-hopping—we seemed to be in a limited 3rd person from Lily, but now we know Margaret appreciated its warmth. Consider changing “appreciated” (since anyone would) to Margaret “needed” it to get across the same beggars can’t be choosers idea across. Or even consider cutting the line as probably not necessary anyway.] Everyone knew not to ask Papa why the small man no longer needed the coat. [Good.]

Lily slid to the lamppost and crashed into Margaret, her arms bracing for Margaret’s steadfast catch. [Good use of “steadfast,” already situating Margaret as trustworth even if she had left Lily behind—we now know that Margaret wasn’t running away from home, but Lily was the one late.]

“You have to wait for me, Margaret. Mama said—”

“I know what Mama said,” said Margaret. She tugged on Lily’s coat to close the buttons. “There’s a lot I have to do. Where is your hat?” [Nice job with this—I love how Margaret closing Lily’s coat immediately cements their relationship without having to tell us who is older/more responsible.]

“With my mittens,” said Lily.

“You make me crazy,” said Margaret. She sighed a long cold breath and added Lily’s book to the books under her arm. “Put your hands in your pockets.” [Also good, but now I’m orienting a bit more to Margaret’s perspective rather than Lily’s, and I’d like a touch more from the narrative voice to tip the balance toward Lily—could be acknowledging it wasn’t that cold or Margaret worried too much or it was more important to be not left behind than warm.]

SUMMARY OF KATIE’S THOUGHTS:

            I think this is a great opening to a MG historical—I know so much already from the dynamics between the sisters with just a few key word choices and descriptions. While MG novels often do open with more scene setting or descriptions to contextualize (at least, more often than YA), young readers will appreciate that the narrative voice isn’t talking down to them, as they’ll be able to pick up on these clues on their own. Watch though the (almost) wandering narrative voice. While there’s more 1st person MG in the market than before, 3rd still works—but I prefer limited rather than omniscient (or objective), as it more mimics 1st with the window into the protagonist’s emotional state with the (sometimes narratively helpful) mystery into what others are thinking. Maybe you’d want omniscient f you gave the narrator more personality—as in MG you can have a narrator that becomes a character figuratively or literally too (Lemony Snicket being a classic example), but not sure if that would fit with your tone or emotional goals here so I’d stick with close third on Lily to get the benefits of 1st person and 3rd in one. Otherwise, a promising start and thanks for sharing!

*******

 

I’m Counting on You by Patrick Thornton–  YA

He looks over at me and smiles. “We’re cool.”

Stan’s the best friend a girl ever had. [Because he didn’t take her honest reaction to his platitude personally? Not quite sure he’s doing enough here for me to get “best friend” status, maybe she says something harsher?] I get to my feet. “I gotta go.”

“Hope you make it to the bathroom,” Stan says with the hint of a grin. [The dialogue here–both internal “best friend a girl ever had” and in conversation “Hope you make it to the bathroom”—strikes me as more MG than YA.]

I roll my eyes and flap a hand at him as I open my front door. [Flap a hand? Stumbled over this image, might be unusual use of “flap” instead of “waved”?]  There is a second when I turn back and our eyes meet. “See you tomorrow,” I say. He nods and I go inside.

Upstairs, I sit on the edge of my bed trying not to think about tomorrow. The chart I made

matching up the two time zones—here in Virginia and in Afghanistan where Dad will be—is on the wall. I’ll use it to know what time it is for Dad when I’m getting up in the morning or having [Wouldn’t she just use world clock set to Afghanistan time zone on her phone? Another detail that strikes me as not as contemporary, at least that’s how I remind myself of friends/clients in other countries, and surely a teen who never lived in a time without smartphones would be even more dependent on technology like this? Maybe indicative of character, but just a thought.]

SUMMARY OF KATIE’S THOUGHTS:

There are definitely intriguing aspects of the friendship dynamic between Dilla and Stan, but in both the way they speak with each other and the (lack of) depth emotionally here (I know it’s because she’s avoiding her feelings, but what if she let them all out for a moment?), it strikes me as more MG in handling of issues and friendship than YA. I’d like to see more nuance or layers to Dilla’s emotional state—she is avoiding thinking about tomorrow, and we can assume she’s scared and perhaps angry, but I want to know more. Part of the reason it strikes me as MG is the thing they’re dreading is a little more off page/removed, and they’re talking about her dad leaving like it’s the first time, the first time too they’re considering something bad might actually happen—and this distance and “first time dealing with intense issue” aspect could create a safe space for a MG reader to experience it alongside the protagonist. Whereas in YA, the volume is often turned up a bit more, emotional reactions can be rawer, as readers want to delve deeper into intense feelings. Dilla would maybe lash out more to Stan’s empty re-assurance, or he might not even say it will “all be okay,” because he knows it might not. I’d consider maybe it’s not the first time her dad has gone overseas, so she’d have a more intimate relationship with these feelings. Maybe in the past “it will all be okay” or burying her feelings has worked, but now nothing is helping the fear she feels? Worth thinking on what sort of emotional snapshot will really resonate and intrigue the reader and perhaps some details of the plot can be tweaked to bring this out. Also too consider checking out some contemporary MG as maybe that’s a better space for the story, depending on major themes? Has the potential of an important story regardless, so good luck in nailing the right age of your audience and thanks for sharing your work!

*******

 

Book of Shadows by Doherty – YA

One

With everything my mum had told me about them, I’d half expected my aunts’ house to be perched atop a cliff overlooking the cruel sea. [I stumbled over this line a couple times—“I’d half expected” especially. I’d simplify regardless and consider a completely different first line to open with to grab the reader. Even something like, “I always imagined my aunts’ house to be a ramshackle one, perched atop a cliff overlooking a cruel sea” puts the image first.]

It did not. [Will also admit I don’t understand the meaning behind the differing expectations—why a “cruel sea” and why is the below so different? If Ivy was imagining something rundown, I’d emphasize that (I added “ramshackle”), and also add that the house is a “stately” mansion or something similar, as the description of the below could be of a rundown house too, I can’t tell what I’m supposed to glean from these specific details.]

Its large white façade was built from wooden slats, coloured glass windows jutted out sideways on slim metal hinges. Ornate wooden columns, like twisted legs of barley sugar, held up the verandah, while speckled ivy clung to every surface, climbing for the corrugated roof. The large angular door was painted a deep, iridescent blue, like the sheen of a beetle.

I arrived on their doorstep while the air was thick and warm, with a heady scent of crushed flowers and overripe mangoes. I wasn’t used to Queensland weather. I wasn’t used to the sweat dribbling down my temples without exhaustion.

I was holding tight to my excessively wheeled suitcase, wishing I’d left it behind like everything else. Who thought eight wheels was a good idea? It was constantly biting at my ankles or rolling away in whichever direction it chose, as though it too had wanted to remain in Melbourne. [Not sure if the suitcase is as indicative of state of mind as the protagonist is implying. Consider focusing on something else.]

The mosaic plaque to the left of the door read, Hecate. Odd name for a house. [Think the editorialization can be unsaid or further pointed. Odd name or odd to name any house?] All up along the arched doorway were symbols etched into the wood. At the base, by the mat made from crisscrossed twigs, were two large pots of flourishing marigolds.

The bronze doorbell was in the shape of a strange-looking man – his hair and beard were oak leaves, I could see pointed ears ever-so slightly protruding, and his mouth was twisted into a mischievous grin. The bell was an acorn. [Great—these particular details are much more interesting!]

The door opened before I could ring the elven-man.

‘Ivy!’ exclaimed the woman who’d thrown the door wide. [I’d like her to say more here that foreshadows their relationship and gives us more data about how they feel about Ivy (perhaps versus Ivy’s expectations or fears).] Maia was my Aunt Lucy’s wife. I’d never met her before, but mum had told me stories. [I think more could be done with mom, but so far, still not sure what mom has said (or if she’s credible), so this “mum had told me stories” is less ominous than it could be, especially since I didn’t get as much out of the “cruel sea” reference at opening.]

SUMMARY OF KATIE’S THOUGHTS:

By the end of the page, I’m so intrigued by these aunts and what seems to be a magical house (and in a fresh way too with references to Hecate, magical symbols and an elven man), but I was confused enough by the first couple paragraphs, that I’d fear readers would stop sooner (depending on the query, some agents only read the first few lines to confirm/challenge what they thought of the premise). Rather than focusing on expectations of the house vs. reality, as this mires us perhaps too much in scene setting and architectural description, I’d like to see more emotionality from the protagonist (dread, excitement, something more than annoyance about the many-wheeled bag). In YA, readers expect to be dropped right into the middle of the emotion (even if there isn’t intense action), whereas here, it feels like the protagonist is clearing her throat perhaps too much, almost avoiding telling us about herself. Perhaps that’s true to her character at the moment, but it doesn’t seize our attention—we need to see both Ivy’s state of mind and hear her unique voice, even when balancing world building (it might help to flip to a few openings of other contemporary fantasies to be reminded how much readers expect to be packed into the opening). I’d also try writing out a couple pages of her inner monologue of this moment without any context/scene setting and see what comes out of that. I’m sure she’d have a lot to say that you could weave in more here. Best of luck on this promising magical premise and thanks for sharing!

Katie, great job! I am sure your thoughts will help the four writers and the rest of us, too.  No doubt we’ll find things to correct in our own writing. Loved having you this month. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Janet Hoffman has written a new non-fiction Chapter book titled, THE STORY OF CIVIL WAR HERO ROBERT SMALLS, Illustrated by Duane Smith and published by Lee & Low Books. Janet has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to 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 Janet and Duane!

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!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This exciting entry in the Story of line of chapter-book biographies introduces readers to Robert Smalls, an enslaved steamboat wheelman who commandeered a Confederate ship during the Civil War and escaped with his family and crew to freedom.

Growing up enslaved in South Carolina, Robert Smalls always dreamed of the moment freedom would be within his grasp. Now that moment was here.

Robert stood proudly at the Planter’s wheel. Only seven miles of water lay between the ship and the chance of freedom in Union territory. With precision and amazing courage, he navigated past the Confederate forts in the harbor and steered the ship toward the safety of the Union fleet. Just one miscalculation would be deadly, but for Robert, his family, and his crewmates, the risk was worth taking.

The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls is the compelling account of the daring escape of Robert Smalls, an enslaved steamboat wheelman who became one of the Civil War’s greatest heroes. His steadfast courage in the face of adversity is an inspiring model for all who attempt to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. This chapter book edition includes black-and-white illustrations as well as sidebars on related subjects, a timeline, a glossary, and recommended reading.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Journey to Writing my New Chapter Book, The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls

My journey for The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls,a chapter book for Grades 3-7, began more than fifteen years ago. Back then I happened upon a few lines about the daring Civil War escape of Robert Smalls and his crew when I was looking for minority people of achievement to spotlight. I wanted to do my small part to shine the light on people whom history had all but forgotten. Smalls’ dangerous escape thrilled me, and I thought it would kids as well.

Telling this escape story was difficult because at that time no recent historian had written a definitive work about Robert Smalls. I sought out every primary and other source I could find and in August 2005 finished writing the story and submitted it. In March 2006 Lee and Low Books expressed interest and asked for a rewrite that showed more of Smalls’ motivation. It took several rewrites before I was offered a contract, and many more rewrites before the story was published in 2008 as the picture book Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story.The book won a KirkusStar, my first! The book continues to be extremely popular, with fantastic teacher’s guides created both by the publisher and the Smithsonian.

About a year ago, the Editorial Director at Lee & Low told me the book had been chosen to be part of their new “The Story of” biography series of chapter books for older readers. Many of Lee & Low’s biographies including mine skew older than most picture books, and the school sales representatives at Lee & Low thought with added factual and historical material and a chapter book format, they would be popular with older kids. Thus “The Story of” series was born in June 2018, and now has twelve titles.

For the new format, I wrote five major sidebars to extend the original story, plus a timeline, glossary, and recommended reading. The book has illustrations by Duane Smith in black and white, plus additional sidebar graphics. The sidebars are Slavery, Sailing Ships in the 1800s, What Caused the Civil War? the Planter,and The Wedding Chest Escape.Writing sidebars on five very different topics required a lot of new research. I wanted these additions to tie in well with the original story, which made it even harder.

The Sailing Ships sidebar was the hardest one to tie to Robert Smalls and Charleston Harbor. Luckily, after lots of searching I found a firsthand account of the number and kinds of ships docked in Charleston Harbor at the time Robert would have been working there. That was the tie-in I needed.

One of the most fun sidebars to write was an in-depth look at the Planter,the steamboat on which Smalls, his crew, and their families escaped. In 2010 researchers found what they believe to be the remains of the Planteroff Cape Romain Island in South Carolina, where it was wrecked in 1876 as it tried to rescue another boat that had gone aground. The report written about the discovery provided lots of great information. I also was lucky to connect with Dennis Cannady of Smalls’ hometown of Beaufort, a retired mechanical engineer who has created several replicas of the Planter and knows its history inside and out.

The Wedding Chest Escape story is one that captivated me when I came across it several years ago when I read William Still’s book documenting hundreds of escape stories. I am happy that I got to share this story of Lear Green’s escape in a sailor’s chest so she and her fiancé could marry and have their children in freedom. My research led me beyond Still’s story to Elmira, NY, where the couple settled. Green took the name Elizabeth Adams in freedom and is honored in the city’s cemetery.

The story of Robert Smalls is better known now that it was in 2008 when my picture book came out. But the story still has lots of people to reach. I hope this new chapter book helps give Robert Smalls the recognition he deserves as a brave Civil War hero and five-term Congressman who fought all his life for the rights of all people.

JANET HALFMANN’S BIO:

is the author of more than forty books for children, including Lee & Low’s Midnight Teacher, which Kirkus called “An excellent homage to an African-American woman who taught ahead of her time” in a starred review. When she’s not writing, Halfmann enjoys working in the garden, exploring nature, visiting new places, especially wildlife areas and living-history museums, and watching movies. Halfmann lives with her husband in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Visit Janet Halfmann on the Web at janethalfmannauthor.com.

DUANE SMITH’S BIO:

Duane is an artist, illustrator, and graphic designer with a degree from Pratt Institute in New York City and a Master’s in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology. His wide-ranging works have been featured in periodicals, books, movie storyboards, and galleries. Smith also works in graphic design and interactive media development, and splits his time between homes in Brooklyn and Albany, New York. Visit him online at http://wwwdsmithillustrationcom.blogspot.com.

2010-Present: ALBANY, NEW YORK: Self Education: An expansion on Pratt Institute
BFA in Cyber Multimedia Illustration + Research in Engineering. 2005-07 Fashion Institute of Technology: NEW YORK, NEW YORK, MA (MASTERS IN ILLUSTRATION) 2007 ; 3.5 gpa; Major: Illustration | Historical Research | Design Media: Program includes of techniques within illustration digital and traditional media: Thesis & capstone entailing research, writing & design. *Studies included training of techniques within illustration and graphic design to improve work quality. 1993-2001 Pratt Institute: BROOKLYN, NY, BFA (BACHELORS OF FINE ARTS) SCHOOL OF ART AND DESIGN 2001 COMMUNICATION MEDIA ARTS: 3.0 gpa; 138 credits; Major: Illustration Minor: Multimedia Development:
interest in Communication Media Arts and drafting.

Paperback Cover

Thank you Janet for sharing your book and its journey with us. It is nice you are introducing another black hero in our history. I am sure teachers will be interested in reading this book and sharing it with their students. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 25, 2020

Make it Personal: Making Personal Connections by Mira Reisberg

Most writers do best when they make personal connections to whatever it is they are writing about whether it’s fiction, concept books, nonfiction or work for hire. Whenever you can draw from your personal life or history, it adds layers of authenticity, making your work so much more believable, emotional, and immediate. It also often makes it much more relatable to others, especially if your work involves issues of identity or universal themes like jealousy, insecurities, being scared of going to school, wanting a friend or a pet and so on. Even if you are doing work for hire where you’ve been given a topic to write about and research, whenever you can find some kind of parallel thread in your own life, or some kind of emotional connection to the work, it is going to be so much easier to write and read.

At the same time, whenever you are writing, whether it directly relates to or from your life in some way, and you’ve done the research and craft work to make it the very best it can be, your next step is submitting it and that’s where making personal connections with editors and agents comes in really handy. Much-loved multi-published former student Lynn Marie and I spent some time yesterday making a special mini course for the upcoming interactive  onlinepicture books writing about Strategic Researching, Writing, and Submitting Manuscripts. And one of the things that we didn’t talk about and should have is the importance of making personal connections (don’t worry, I’ll add this).

Up until recently, one of the best ways to do this was through conferences. Unfortunately conferences are mostly on hold for now until things get radically better with the pandemic affecting us all. Fortunately, we now have wonderful resources, such as the Children’s Book Academy, KidLit411.com, Kid Lit TV, this blog, Tara Lazar’s blog, and so many others to learn from and make connections. There are also lots of virtual ways of making connections via social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Editors and agents seem a bit less open and available on Facebook than they seem to be on Twitter and Instagram but not everyone. The key is to be warm, responsive and non stalker-ish or sycophant acting. There are scary people out there in all fields so that can be a bit off putting. I’ve been on the receiving end of one or two of them. In fact you don’t even need to necessarily directly connect with them at all, but you can learn a tremendous amount about their interests that way. For example anyone who follows me, especially on Facebook, probably has noticed that I have and love cats. And right now, I’m currently in the process of narrowing down scholarship winners for the upcoming course.

As part of the process, we ask people to tell us something interesting or quirky about themselves. One applicant said something quirky or strange about themselves was that they really hated cats. Needless to say that although this would definitely not knock them out of the running, it didn’t exactly endear them to me. My agent co-teacher for the class, Allison Remcheck and I were making a video about query/cover letters and she mentioned that she really appreciates it when someone says they’ve been following her on Twitter because it makes them look more professional that they are researching and not just submitting willy-nilly. I imagine there’s some little bio-chemical response that lights up our brains when we make connections, possibly releasing some kind of serotonins or endorphins and these kinds of feelings of connection and well-being definitely affect our judgments and responses.

Publishing, like most businesses, is about making connections and the lines between business and personal can overlap. If you follow an editor or agent online and you read that someone at a press or literary agency that you love loves pot-bellied pigs and you just happen to have a wonderful book about pot-bellied pigs with a really innovative plot plus a universal theme, plus layers connecting with other interests of that particular person, such as the environment, or girl-power, or diversity, or chocolate fudge cake, see if you can find a way to connect with them online or if they are participating in any Twitter parties, or online courses, or if they are open to unsolicited submissions – go for it.

I hope something here has resonated for you inspiring you to make those connections both in your work and in your submission process. Remember that agents and editors are people with interests, agendas, sensitivities, limits and a desire for connection too. Just don’t overdo it.

Finally, speaking of connections, I am also delighted to announce who the 12th editor or agent is participating in the Children’s Book Academy’s skip-the-slush-pile Golden Tickets looking at every student’s pitch and bio submission… Drumroll… it’s editor Taylor Norman from Chronicle Books.

Check Taylor and all the other editors and agent Golden Tickets out on Twitter. They are all wonderful! To find out more, visit, http://bit.ly/CBWPB-Yes  Also heads up, due to the general chaos, we are extending the $100.00 off discounts with the 2020PBLove code until March 29th!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 24, 2020

Book Giveaway: THE LITTLEST VOYAGEUR by Margi Preus

Margi Preus has a new middle grade book, THE LITTLEST VOYAGEUR, illustrated by Cheryl Pilgrim and published by Margaret Ferguson Books. Margi has agreed to share a copy with 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 Margi and Cheryl, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

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!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A red squirrel, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, stows away on a canoe to fulfill his dream of joining a group of voyageurs–men who paddle canoes filled with goods to a trading post thousands of miles away.

It is 1792 and unbeknownst to a group of voyageurs traveling from Montreal to Grand Portage, an intrepid squirrel, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, sneaks onto their canoe. Le Rouge is soon discovered because he can’t contain his excitement–mon dieu he is so enthusiastic. The smells! The vistas! The comradery! The voyageurs are not particularly happy to have him, especially because Le Rouge rides, but he does not paddle. He eats, but he does not cook. He doesn’t even carry anything on portages–sometimes it is he who has to be carried. He also has a terrible singing voice. What kind of voyageur is that?

When they finally arrive at the trading post Le Rouge is in for a terrible shock–the voyageurs have traveled all those miles to collect beaver pelts. With the help of Monique, a smart and sweet flying squirrel, Le Rouge organizes his fur-bearing friends of the forest to ambush the men and try and convince them to quit being voyageurs.

Written by a Newbery honor author, the book has over 20 black-and-white illustrations.

BOOK JOURNEY:

My journey with Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge (the littlest voyageur, a red squirrel) was shockingly long. I had not remembered just how long until, while digging around in some file drawers in my office, I came upon a folder marked “Littlest Voyageur, 2005.” So take heart, writer, if you have a moldering manuscript from the two thousand-aughts—something may yet come of it!

The story evolved considerably from those earlier drafts, which were set up as journal entries written by the squirrel about his journey. The premise was that I, the “editor,” had supposedly rescued a tiny, oil-cloth-wrapped journal where it had become trapped under a rock in a swiftly flowing rapids, then translated it from its original language (Squirrel), in which, fortunately, I am fluent.

Over the course of the project, the story shifted to a more standard storytelling format, along with many other changes, but the point of view is still firmly the squirrel’s, and I think his joie de vivre is very much alive, and brought to vivid and adorable life with charming illustrations by Cheryl Pilgrim.

I was inspired to write about voyageurs since what I love most in the world is to paddle a canoe on the waterways of northern Minnesota (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) or southern Ontario (Quetico Provincial Park) where the voyageurs once traveled. Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge echoes my sentiments when he says, “Some days the wind howled out of the north, cold and bitter. There were cool days and days of driving rain. On warm days the air was fragrant with pine. There were days of fog and days of dazzling sunlight. They were all good days.”

MARGI’S BIO:

Margi Preus is the author of the Newbery Honor book Heart of a Samurai and other books for young readers, including the Minnesota Book Award winning West of the Moon, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award book The Clue in the Trees, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series.

Her books have won multiple awards, landed on the New York Times bestseller list, been honored as ALA/ALSC Notables, selected as an NPR Backseat Book Club pick, chosen for community reads, and translated into many languages. When not writing, Margi enjoys traveling, speaking, and visiting schools all over the world.

CHERYL PILGRIM’S BIO:

Cheryl Pilgrim is an author/illustrator and public school art teacher living in the Houston area with her husband and a menagerie of rescue cats and dogs. She works mainly in acrylics, pencil and some digital. She always loved drawing, painting, and writing, but didn’t become serious about the kidlit world until she was approaching 50 and her two children were nearly grown.

Her first book she illustrated was Hound Dawg by Patricia Vermillion (TCU Press).  Since creating Big and Little, she has also illustrated a middle grade chapter, The Littlest Voyageur by Newberry Honor Winner Margi Preus. (Holiday House, March 2020). Cheryl continues to work on her stories. Her hope is that others will see it is never too late to start on your dream.

Thank you Margi for sharing your book and its journey with us. I am sure kids will love the adventurous nature and outdoor historical setting of this book. Cheryl’s illustrations are gorgeous and really brought your book to life. Parents and teachers will be drawn to a French pronunciation guide, and the historical notes included at the end of the book. Best of luck. Looks like a winner to me.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 23, 2020

Agent Allison Remcheck at Stimola Literary

Allison Remcheck Associate Agent at Stimoli Literary Studio

Allison is a member of the Stimola team. She loves the fulfilment of providing children with books that inspire them as much as she has been inspired herself. Even more so, she enjoys being able to watch the progression of a book from it’s idea to the final product.

Allison has known what she wanted to be when she grew up—ever since the age of eight when she read in the back of a Baby-Sitters’ Club book that the author, Ann M. Martin, was an editor before she became a writer. She had no idea what the word “editor” meant—but she knew it had to be a person who read a lot, and she knew she wanted to work in publishing. She’s so lucky to say that she has only ever worked with books—a journey that has taken her from a library, to a bookstore, to a publishing house, and finally to the Studio—and books, particularly those for children, have been her lifelong passion. She believes there is simply nothing better in the world than putting the perfect book in a child’s hand. But there is something extraordinary in nurturing a book from the start, and seeing it find its place in the world. To Allison, being an agent is a bit like a treasure hunt to find the books that speak to her most easily. She finds herself drawn to voices that speak for themselves, stories that only the author can tell, and books that reflect the lives of every child—especially the ones told least often.

I contacted Allison after seeing that she was going to be working with Mira Resiberg and asked her if I could interview her. She agreed, so here is my interview with Allison.

Did you work for a publisher before becoming an agent?

Allison: I did work for a publisher before I became an agent. Now, I find it very helpful to know what happens on the “other side of the desk.”

What made you decide you wanted to be an agent?

Allison: I love books, I love reading, and I have never wanted to do anything other than work in publishing. The best part of being an agent, is the ability to see all of the unfiltered submissions coming in, and thinking, how can I help champion these, to shape these, to finding the right person to connect with this book–so the book will ultimately get to the hands of the readers who need them.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

Allison: I’m glad you asked this question. I’ve found that as the days and weeks begin to unfold, as we all join together in doing our part and social distancing in this pandemic, my ideas about stories and themes that I hope to see are changing as I evaluate this situation day-by-day. I’m thinking a lot about, what books will a child who has endured this pandemic need to read in the next year or two? What would be helpful right now? I feel that we are all–including children and teenagers–in a state of stunned disbelief. There is a sense of grief, as if the world as we know it has changed–and it has. I feel that every one of us is going through trauma right now, and that books about handling trauma, and going through tough times are going to be extremely important. I feel that books about characters who have struggled during isolation are going to be very important. I have always been a fan of historical fiction–but found it to be a tricky thing most of the time to fit into the market–however, stories about how people functioned alone, such as pioneers or people in hiding; stories from historical events that parallel our situation today will be good resources. Further–I feel that stories that foster empathy and kindness will be needed now more than ever. Stories that reflect people from all countries and backgrounds, #ownvoices, are extremely important. Any book that allows us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.  I also feel that, while the genre became tired, we are going to see a renwed desire for the dystopian–but…not the same-old-same-old–someone is going to turn this on its head and bring something we haven’t seen before. I see an increased interest in science, and in particular, figures who play an important role in vaccines and research. And most of all–now is the time for humor. We need to connect with one another in a way that makes us laugh.

How important is the query letter? 

Allison: For an unagented writer, your query letter is the most important thing you will ever write. Agents receive an overwhelming number of submissions, and it’s extremely important that you not only stand out from the rest, but that you are able to quickly and concicely tell us what your story is about, and who you are, in a way that is intriguing enough that we want to read more. It’s extremely important that people who are querying are able to demonstrate that they are good writers in the query.

Does an author need to provide a pitch in their query letter?

Allison: Absolutely. I find that a one-to-two-line “elevator pitch” that sums up the concept of your story quickly is the best way to get my attention. Remember, the thing I’m most concerned about when scanning through my queries is: What is this book about? The body of your query should sum up your story in a way that is intriguing and leaves the reader wanting to know more–like book jacket copy. Then, I want to know that you know what the reader is going to take away from this story? What is the theme of the book? What is your character arc (how does the main character grow and change throughout?). Finally, tell me about you–and why this is a book that only you can write.

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

Allison: It really goes back to the query. If the writer is able to capture my attention with stand-out writing, with a concept that I haven’t seen before or seen enough of, if the author is able to tell me something particularly impactful about themselves that relates to their book–I will want to see more.

Any pet peeves?

Allison: Oh boy…I hate to say that these are pet peeves, because I know that most of the time writers are coming from a place of inexperience, and a lot of the time, not being great at writing queries doesn’t actually reflect whether an author can write or not. It’s just that query-writing (and the dreaded synopsis) are the hardest part of the job. So, I’ll rephrase this and say, I know that an author is coming from a place of inexperience, or hasn’t done enough research when: I am not addressed by name; when the author rambles instead of delivering a concise pitch and summary; when an authors tell me how many years they have been writing the book (please don’t do this!); when an author begs me to represent them (happens, weirdly more than you would think); when an author gives me weird demands about conditions they would need to have met with their publisher (a certain advance, a certain kind of paper…I’ve seen it all); when authors do or say anything that they wouldn’t during a typical job interview, or behave in a way that is unprofessional (this is a professional career!).

Do you find that you need to provide editorial feedback and have the author revise before you send something out for submission?

Allison: Almost always, yes, though there are exceptions. It’s very rare to see a piece of work that is completely polished, though it does happen. Sometimes I will see something in the bones of a submission, but I know that it needs revision to get it to the place where it either does the story justice, or is able to stand out in the market. I will have prospective-clients revise and resubmit to me often. I definitely spend time helping my clients form and shape their work. I am not trying to create perfect manuscripts before submission, necessarily, but I am trying to get books to the point that an editor can look at it, and see the books true potential.

Shannon Stocker’s picture book LISTEN: HOW ONE DEAF GIRL CHANGED PERCUSSION that you sold to Dial isn’t scheduled to come out until 2022. Does that mean your job is done or are there other things that you will need to do along the way? 

Allison: Generally, most of what an agent does with a book is done prior to and during the sale of the book–from shaping the manuscript before to submission, to negotatiating the deal and contract, but there are various check-in points throughout the publication process, that vary from project to project.

How did you connect with Mira Reisberg to work with her on her online course on writing picture books? 

Allison: I met Mira after I was introduced to her by an industry colleague, when I volunteered to be a Golden Ticket, and to do some online critiques with her during a previous course.

I understand that one of the things that makes this course different is the amount of feedback students get through critiques. How does that work?

Allison: Well there are 3 types of critiques in the course to help students move along and excel in their work:

1. The weekly critiquing webinars where Mira, a special guest editor or agent, and I join each week to critique students work. Everyone who submits is guaranteed at least one of these and depending on who submits that week sometimes 2 or more. These critiques focus on the different parts of writing a picture books so everyone learns from each other and at the end of the course most students have a polished manuscript ready to submit to the 12 agents and editors participating in the course and beyond.

2. There are also the optional individual face-to-face one-hour critiques. These cost a little more but are great value in terms of the extra in-depth education and hands on help a student receives. Unfortunately, Mira and my individual critiques are now sold out but Mira brought in Random House/Doubleday Books for Young Readers Editor in Chief Frances Gilbert and recent Full Circle Literary agent Nicole Geiger who is also an acquiring editor and publisher at a small press and was the multi-award winning publisher of Random House/Tricycle Books to do individual critiques instead.

3. And then finally there are the optional small peer critique groups, which are set up at no additional cost for students.

In addition, either Mira or myself, and one of the four now published assistants will be live in the Facebook group answering students questions and giving input into student’s work. Mira has told me that the students all help each other a lot to form a beautiful community.

Allison, thank you for taking the time to give us a chance to get to know you better. Good luck with the picture book course.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 22, 2020

Writing Angel Prayer by Eileen Spinelli

This has been a dark week for all of us, not just for the people in the United States, but all over the world. I received an unexpected email from a writer/illustrator friend, who said she had read my blog and wondered how I was doing. I told her I thought I was depressed being stuck in the house and watching the news constantly update the death toll. My friend told me to turn off the TV and take a walk, but she also said to keep blogging because it helped so many people. I said I should clean my office, since I knew getting that job done would make me happy, but as soon as I started, I found this poem from Eileen Spinelli. I shut off the TV, put in my ear buds, turned on my “walking fast” playlist, and spent an hour with the sun on my skins, breathing in the spring air, and waving to my neighbors. I thought of all of you and wondered if anyone else could use a boost, so on that walk I decided to share this blessing from the Writing Angel, hoping to inspire you to make the most of this time. It may help keep your spirits up.

Thanks to Dow Phumiruk MD for sharing her angel for this poem. Dow was featured on Illustrattor Saturday.
www.artbydow.com

And thank you Cathleen for brightening my day.

Please read my question at the bottom and let me know what you think. Thank you!

If you read my blog regularly, you know I have plans to run and full manuscript writers retreat in the fall in Princeton. I like doing it, since it has helped so many writers move their careers forward and get published, but maybe there is a better way to do it this year. I could redesign the retreat and do everything virtually. The critiques could be done with the agents, editors over the phone or via Skype. I could set up the critique groups long before sending in the manuscript to the agent/editors. Each group could decide between themselves how they wanted this to work. I would give ideas on the options and then the group could talk it over via email and decide. I could look it over and point out any pitfalls. Also, a writer who didn’t want to do the group critiques could opt out. Reading each others manuscript is a lot of work, but the value you get from the other members reading your work and hearing their ideas is more than worth it. If there were groups of four, that would mean you would only have to read three manuscripts. The group could decide to read one each month or spread them out to give you enough time to re-write before submitting to the professionals. Since it would be vitual, the cost would be lower and the travel costs would be zero.

What do you think? Would you be interested in doing something like this? I would love your feedback.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 21, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Vivien Milderberg

After graduating from ArtCenter College of Design with honors in Illustration, Vivien Mildenberger packed up her pencils and moved with to a lovely farm just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. There she works on her illustrations, pottery, and other general magic-making. She loves illustrating for children most of all. Her work has been featured by publications such as New American Paintings and American Illustration. Publishing clients include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, QuartoKids, Little Bee, Penguin and Macmillan/Henry Holt.

Website: http://vivien.mildenberger.com

Vivien Mildenberger is represented by Anne Moore Armstrong

I will add Vivien’s process pictures and discussion of how she works, when I receive them.

I featured THE VOICE THAT WON THE VOTE the other week. It is not too late to get in the running to win a copy. Here is the link:

https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/book-giveaway-the-voice-that-won-the-vote-how-one-womans-words-made-history/


  INTERVIEW WITH VIVIEN:        

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, but illustrating professionally for about 3 years.

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

Ooh boy! I did a few odd illustration jobs in college. I’m not quite sure what the very first drawing I ever did was now. Probably a forgotten spot for someone’s self published book a long time ago.

In 2011 you attended Camberwell College of Art a got a Foundation Diploma. What type of things did you study for that type of degree?

It was a really cool program that exposes you to all sorts of different artistic paths. Every few weeks you would rotate to a different practice like Graphic Design, Illustration, Fine Art, etc. It helped me to really narrow my focus to illustration because that was what I enjoyed most.

How did you decide to go for a BFA at the Art Center College of Design?

I decided to continue my studies at Art Center because they had a reputation having a very intense Illustration program that was very industry focused. I wanted to be challenged and put in a lot of hard work because I was determined to make drawing my career!

What was your area of focus? What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

I majored in Illustration where I dabbled in all sorts of different areas. I honestly didn’t consider children’s illustration until the very end of school when I took a class in the subject that ended up opening my eyes to the realm where I felt my work fit the best. It ended up being one of my favorite classes!

Do you feel school helped you develop you style?

Definitely! Developing a style is so mysterious and personal. As far as style goes, I think the best you can ask for from your art education and mentors is the vocabulary and tools to look critically at art. Art Center definitely guided me in developing a set of tools to think about who I am as an
artist, my work, and where I wanted it to go. It also gave me a good set of foundational drawing skills to build off of.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

It did. I’m still friends with a lot of my teachers and I have definitely gotten some cool opportunities through them.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I did a lot of odd jobs, pretty much anything I could get my hands on! I also started making ceramics and selling them online. It wasn’t anything glamorous but all of those little projects were stepping stones to the books that were in my future!

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

I think deep within myself I always knew I wanted to do children books, but I didn’t seriously consider it until I was almost graduating college. I got sidetracked for a while by what I believed was “serious” art, whatever that means. It seems so silly to me now, children’s books are so important and there are so many amazing and talented illustrators working on them. Once my eyes were opened to that magical world I knew I wanted to join them!

Was The Flourishing of Floralie Laurel by Fiadhnait Moser, the first picture book you illustrated book?

Yes! It was the first real book deal I ever got. I still remember getting that email, I was so excited!

How did you get that contract?

I got it shortly after I signed on with my agent, Anne Moore Armstrong, at Bright. Once I signed on with her things really started to get exciting!

In 2019 you illustrated Time Sight, by Lynne Jonell. Was that a middle grade book?

Yep!

Did you do Black and white illustrations throughout the book?

I did! It was a rather long and exciting book that spanned so many different eras and settings. I really loved the challenge of working on a big project like that. I was in love with the manuscript the second I started reading it.

You also illustrated Think Smart, Be Fearless by Sharon Mentyka and All in a Drop by Lori Alexander, HMH Kids in 2019. Was that hard to juggle illustrating three books at once? Did you finish one before starting on the others?

I worked on them all at once! I was also working on Famous Family Trees with Quarto at the time. I had to learn a lot on the go but it was a great experience. Each project was so different and posed new and unique challenges, I think I grew a lot as an illustrator in those short months! There were definitely a few tears and some frustrating moments, but I wouldn’t trade it!

The same thing happened this year with A Vote is a Voice by Eliza Boxer, Sleeping Bear Press Judah Touro Didn’t Want To Be Famous by Audrey Ades, Kar-Ben, coming out on April 7th, and later this yearEpic Voyages: Sacagawea by Gerry Bailey, Bramble? Is this old hat, now?

I’ve definitely gotten better at handling multiple projects at once. I’ve gotten quite quick! A big area of growth for me was learning that I needed time to play and experiment. It’s hard to take time off of work for a deadline to throw some paint around, but its a super important part of my process. Taking a breath and allowing myself that play has really helped me get more comfortable with my style and quicker with my painting! I’m really excited about the books coming out this year!

I have not heard of Bramble. Are they a new publisher?

I don’t think so! They’re in the UK.

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

I do!

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

I’ve worked with Cricket and Spider Magazines, along with a Turkish children’s magazine called Arastirmaci Cocuk Merkezi!

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do. I spend most of my time working there. I also share a studio space in Nashville with a bunch of other artists and illustrators. I love going in to town and visiting with my friends there. Working from home as a freelancer can definitely get lonely at times, even when you’re pretty introverted like me!

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

I’m actually working on one right now! It’s one of the first of my own books that I’m trying to get out there this year!

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate more picture books?

Definitely!! I’m working on a bunch of my own stories at the moment, alongside some fun new books. I love this job and I want to do as much if it as I can. Every book is like a new adventure.

How did you connect with Ann at The Bright Agency? And how long have you been with them?

I’ve been with them for about 3ish years now! Anne found me through Instagram and I’m so glad she did. At that point I was still pretty self conscious about my work and I was too scared to send it to Bright because I thought it wasn’t ready. Once we connected I started getting so many amazing books!

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

I did for a while when I was starting out, and I think there is definitely some merit to self publishing a project you really believe in! But I don’t often anymore.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Honestly, I’m just proud that I get to draw for a living! The fact that I can support myself with my biggest passion is really wonderful.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Everything! I’m a huge art supply dork and I love to experiment with anything I can get my hands on. No two of my paintings use exactly the same materials. But watercolors do have a special place in my heart.

Has that changed over time?

It’s always changing. Because I love to experiment my work is never the same for too long.

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

I do. I worked on the iPad with the Apple Pencil for a while. I still love it for sketching and traveling but working traditionally is where I am most happy.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I use all sorts of combinations of gouache, acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil, pastel, chalk, pan pastel, and sometimes digital media.

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

I definitely need lots of time for personal work to try out new things and move my work forward. So even when I don’t have project on I’m usually drawing almost every day. I really enjoy it so I don’t usually need to set a time to work on it. If anything I have to make sure I remember to take
breaks as to not burn out!

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

I often collect reference. Especially since a lot of the books I’ve worked on are nonfiction and had very specific settings. Though I don’t often draw from reference. I like to let all the research collect in my head and then interpret it in my own way on to the page.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely! If it wasn’t for Instagram my agent wouldn’t have found me. I also love the community of artists and creatives I’ve connected with online. There are so many people doing such inspiring things and sharing their knowledge.

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

Right now my big dream is to get my first author/illustrator picture book published!

What are you working on now?

I’m working on several of my own stories and a nonfiction biography with Chronicle.

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

Bind your own sketchbooks! There’s many informative tutorials on book binding online, and making your own sketchbooks is not only super cost effective but you can make them in your favorite sizes with your favorite paper!

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

Be honest with yourself. Work hard. Think critically about your work often. And try to make the work you want to see out in the world, not what you think fits with what everyone else is making.

Thank you Vivien for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. You have done a good job using social media to show off your talent, which is so important for an illustrtator. To see more of Vivien’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://vivien.mildenberger.com/

Bright Agency: https://thebrightagency.com/us/childrens/artists/vivien-mildenberger

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/B9zVAd_BqhS/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivien-mildenberger-b31563a1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vvmildenberger?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vvberger/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Vivien. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 20, 2020

March Agent of the Month – Katie Grimm Interview – Part Two

This week we have part one of my interview with agent, Katie Grimm. See submission guidelines at the bottom for how to submit a first page for a chance to win a critique with Katie.

KATIE GRIMM

Don Congdon Associates

Originally from Colorado, Katie earned her BA in History and Spanish Literature from Bowdoin College. She joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007 as the assistant for the agency, and she still works with many of the agency’s Estates in addition to her own list of novelists, essayists, academics, scientists, critics, and translators. Her clients have been awarded the Booker International Prize, the O. Henry Award, and the Pura Belpré Honor, and they have been long- and shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the National Book Award for Translated Literature, and New England Book Award, among others. Her clients’ books are frequently selected for the Junior Library Guild, Indie Next List, and yearly “Best of” lists. She currently splits her time between New York and North Carolina and is actively looking for new voices from the South while she’s there.

Here is Katie:

Most generally, I focus on adult literary fiction, narrative and creative non-fiction, and literary fiction for middle grade and young adult audiences. Across all genres and ages, I’ll always be interested in the darker and weirder side of the human condition as well as previously under- or misrepresented experiences and voices. I look for books with a heartbeat, and “tragicomic” is one of my favorite descriptors.

In adult fiction, I enjoy literary and up-market fiction and cohesive short story collections with a unique voice that evokes a strong emotion and necessitates a conversation—be it contemporary, historical, mysterious or speculative. I’m delighted when an unusual structure or form functions at a higher level.

In non-fiction, I’m also looking for distinct voice and new perspectives. I enjoy narratives that blend the personal and investigative, are nerdy deep-dives into a particular topic, and/or use individual stories as a lens to analyze a systemic problem or issue.

In children’s fiction, I love the idea of finding a new middle grade classic that I wished I had as a child to guide me through complicated feelings or take me to faraway lands. I’m also looking for contemporary and speculative young adult novels that use genre tropes and form to create an emotional space to work through issues in a new way. In MG and YA, I’m open to every genre—from magical realism to horror to high fantasy to sci-fi—as long as the focus is on the characters’ personal growth and relationships, with an emphasis on creating wonder and building empathy.

How to Submit to Katie a Don Congdon:

Submissions should be emailed to dca@doncongdon.com

Please include a first chapter or 15 pages with your query letter (if you have a prologue, you can include both, for alternating POV, please include a chapter from each) in the body of the email as we don’t open unsolicited attachments. I usually respond within eight weeks if I’m interested in seeing more, but please do follow up if there are any changes on your end. I do not accept paper queries.

Visit: www.doncongdon.com/submissions.shtml for more guideline details.

*******

HERE IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH KATIE:

What are your feelings about prologues?

I don’t mind them. I do think they’re helpful for a writer to write, in setting their intensions for the book or a mood. However, I don’t think they’re always necessary to stay in the book—as sometimes that throat clearing can be cut. If the prologue is purely a “flash forward” (to something more interesting than the first 10 chapters), it’s usually a sign the opening needs to be re-worked as it can be crutch in those instances.

Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

I tweet about clients and books I’m reading, and I try to update my Manuscript Wishlist, Publisher’s Marketplace, and agency website bio. For any agent, I recommend authors consult sites likes these that agents have direct control over first rather than other databases that can get outdated fast (and repeat said outdated information).

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes, I am very editorial—depending on the project, it can take months to years for something develop. I work hard with my clients to achieve the best possible version of the book they wanted to write before I submit, as I think it sets us all up for better long-term success.

Have you ever represented a children’s book illustrator? Does an illustrator have to write before you would represent them?

While I’m happy to advise existing novelist clients who want to write picture books, I don’t represent picture book writers or illustrators at this time.

What is your typical response time to email/phone calls with your clients?

It completely depends—it can be instantaneous or within a few days. There’s a classic quote about work-life balance in juggling glass and rubber balls (knowing which will shatter or bounce), and I think it’s true for clients. I tell all my clients that there will be a point in revision and submission process when they will get sick of my voice, wonder if I’m reading anything else other than their manuscript, or have other clients (and yes, maybe even if I’m sleeping). But there are other moments too when they won’t need me as intensely, that they can trust I’ll give them a substantive answer in a few days, not minutes. There are times when they are rubber and others when they’re glass—and it’s my job to communicate what stage they’re in and clients to trust I always have my eye on them. Or maybe another way of putting it is I want them to know I have a handle on them, that I’m nimble enough to catch them at a moment’s notice if they become more fragile than I thought, but that I will help them build long-term resilience too so they can bounce along in this sometimes unpredictable industry.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

I like editorial calls and explaining submission strategy on the phone, but sometimes email is most expedient. Or when working through a tricky issue, forcing myself to explain via email can clarify my message, and it gives the author something to refer to later. During the submission process, we will talk a lot before the submission, I will send them a list of imprints considering, and I will set check-in dates after the submission so they’re not expecting forwarded responses from editors at all hours. But if we have a lot of interest, they might hear from me many times a day. Other times it can take longer, so I’ll send them a digest of responses on a given date. All clients will get a full report of responses at the end, which is an important piece of data that all authors should ask for. In all communications, it’s important to set expectations on either end as each client has different needs and availability too.

What happens if you don’t sell a book? Would you drop the writer if he or she wanted to self-publish a book you could not place?

It completely depends on best next steps for a client. The market for self-published books can be limited depending on genre and age group, and not all writers are great self-promoters—a requirement for successful self-publishing. So it’s worth being realistic and honest before we get to that point. I tell my clients that even if we don’t sell the first book, we will learn a lot and be able to submit something even stronger as the next. But I don’t want any author to hold tightly to a relationship that might not be working anymore out of fear, so parting ways can be a logical next step too.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

I’ve submitted manuscripts to almost fifty editors on certain projects, whereas others, depending on how literary vs commercial, age, and topic, might not have as many options. I try to leave no stone left unturned, within reason.

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at Don Congdon Associates if it was good, but not your style?

We all have distinct areas of expertise, so it’s rarer, but we do have some overlap and occasionally pass queries. We also allow for subsequent submissions to other agents at the agency.

Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

We handle our own foreign rights and partner with co-agents across the world. We also partner with all the major film agencies, on a project by project basis. We manage all of our contracts in house, and with a client list as deep and varied as ours, it can lead to some really interesting projects—I’ve drafted contracts for opera adaptations, podcasts, and puppet shows—beyond, of course, traditional book deals, audio licenses, and magazine contracts. I am thankful for the institutional knowledge we carry on all aspects of the industry, and we take this stewardship for clients seriously.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

This isn’t a trend, I think all areas of the industry are thinking more critically about which voices we are amplifying, which ones we’re ignoring, and perhaps trickiest of all, voices we are inadvertently speaking over despite trying to highlight their experience. So I do think we’re all seeking out unique and representative voices as it’s what the market both needs and deserves.

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

Trust in your muse but read deeply in your genre and age group. Give yourself distance from your work and read craft books when you’re revising. Seek out trusted writer friends for fresh eyes and support. Be methodical in your pursuit of an agent, as your work deserves it, but know it’s a different skill than creative writing. Keep your eyes on your own work and pull others up the ladder. Try to think of a child whose life will be forever changed by your work, as that will carry you through challenging moments.

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

I do attend conferences and would be happy to be considered for more!

*******

Check back next Friday for Part Two of my interview with Katie.

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MARCH 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “MARCH 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2020 MARCH – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

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

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

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: March 20th. – noon EST

RESULTS: March 27th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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