Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 20, 2019

Book Giveaway – BOOMER AT YOUR SERVICE by Vanessa Keel

Vanessa Keel’s debut picture book titled, BOOMER AT YOUR SERVICE. It is coming out in October. The illustrator is Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom and is published by Spork. Vanessa 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 Vanessa!

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!


When disaster strikes at Boomer’s Service Dog Graduation Day, he sets off to find a family on his own. Catastrophe after calamity leave him feeling hopeless until a furry feline changes his fate forever. Boomer discovers friendship, his happily-ever-after home, and his special purpose in life.


In one way or another, I’ve been storytelling through my advertising career for over fifteen years. But there was something that happened two years ago that led me to write for a different purpose. I lost my father to a long battle with Mesothelioma. For over seven years, I lived in fear that he would miss important milestones in my life. My worst nightmare came true when he passed a week before my baby was born. It was a very difficult time filled with many emotions. It was like a scary roller coaster from which I could not get off. I was happy one moment holding my new son, and in the next I couldn’t control my sobbing. This went on for a couple of months until I started feeling a little like myself again. I began writing in the quiet moments. Stories and characters just started finding their way to the page and it became the cathartic experience I needed to start the healing process.

When my maternity leave was coming to an end (much sooner than I was ready to accept), I had a serious conversation with my husband. I decided I needed a major life change. I wanted to spend as much time with my family as possible and really explore this whole writing thing. I knew my career in advertising would not afford that luxury. We decided I would take one year off from my job to pursue this dream. Well, I never looked back.

I began speaking to anyone in the industry who was willing to talk to me. I connected with other writers, agents, publishers and just started asking questions about how to get started. Early on, I was pointed to Kathy Temean’s blog which I followed religiously. I read about the Children’s Book Academy, joined a free webinar, and became hooked. I enrolled in my first course – The Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Books in 2018. It was a crash course in everything I needed to know about breaking into the business. Before this class, I was writing manuscripts but I still needed to hone the techniques to make them great.

About midway through the class I took what I had learned and started writing a new manuscript about a dog named, Boomer. I fell in love with him right away because he is a complete klutz oblivious to what is happening around him. He longs to be a service dog but he is misunderstood and doesn’t quite have all the required characteristics to become one. Boomer eventually does find his happily-ever-after home and he is accepted for who he is, finding his true purpose in life.

I won a Golden Ticket contest in the class which gave me a chance at publication. To my surprise and delight, Boomer At Your Service captured the attention of Dr. Mira Reisberg and Callie Metler-Smith of Clear Fork Publishing/Spork Children’s Books. It has been a fabulous and exciting ride ever since.

Mira contracted the amazing Adriana Hernández Bergstrom to illustrate and I was just blown away by her work. I loved the soft color palette she chose and the way she captured Boomer’s emotions. Adriana brought life to my story and characters and has been so delightful to work with on this project.

I also knew I wanted to do something special with this book. I partnered with a non-profit organization called Merlin’s KIDS. They rescue shelter dogs, train them to be service dogs, and pair them with special needs children. I worked with the founder of Merlin’s KIDS, canine behaviorist Janice Wolfe, to create educational back matter about how to interact with service dogs. I’ve been engrossed in the organization ever since and I’m inspired by their work every day. I therefore pledged to donate the profits from my preorder book sales in honor of National Service Dog month this September to Merlin’s KIDS. I recently created this video about a young girl with autism who received a service dog from this organization. I hope it inspires you to preorder my book and share this message with friends and family. Boomer At Your Service releases officially on October 15, 2019.


Boomer At Your Service is Vanessa Keel’s debut picture book. With over fifteen years of creative advertising experience, Vanessa writes with commercial possibilities in mind. She’s an active SCBWI member, Children’s Book Academy graduate, and co-founder of the debut author group, #OntheScenein19. She lives in New Jersey with her British husband and boisterous baby boy. To learn more, please visit And follow Vanessa on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The year 2017 was a pivotal one for me. I lost my father to a long battle with cancer two weeks before giving birth to my baby boy. I was grieving, while trying to figure out how to be a first-time mom. I didn’t know what I was doing at all!  I’m sure many of you can relate. It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least and it took me a long time to feel “normal” again. Writing became the outlet I needed to get me through.

Before I knew it, my maternity leave was coming to an end and I made the very difficult decision to leave my career in Integrated Marketing. I’ve never quit anything in my life! But if there’s one thing I learned during that tumultuous time, it’s that life is too short. We need to do what inspires us and spend the time we have doing what we love. For me, that meant spending every moment possible with my family and embarking on a new journey writing picture books.

​​That’s how this all started. The ideas, characters, and stories began pouring out of me. Working for more than 15 years in advertising for some of the biggest names in the biz (Sony Entertainment, Disney, New Line Cinema, Yahoo) has not only prepared me for the deadline-driven world of an author, it has also created the foundation for storytelling to many different audiences.

“One Door Opens…” is a catchy name for my blog. It’s also my mantra because while I made the scary decision to close one door, I can’t wait to see what awaits behind the next.

Thank you Vanessa for sharing your book and Journey with us. This is such a unique book. I am sure children will be drawn to the text and the cute illustrations. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 19, 2019

Agent Hillary Jacobson ICM Partners

Hillary Jacobson is actively building a list consisting of commercial and literary fiction, YA, select middle grade, as well as narrative non-fiction and memoir. She reads widely and is on the hunt for any and all writing that provokes a strong emotional reaction, adds an important perspective to the cultural conversation or forces the reader to challenge what they think. (Or ideally all of the above!) She’s especially invested in promoting underrepresented voices and eager to read stories not set in the US. While she certainly is drawn to the very dark, she does love more joyful stories too.

More specifically, she wants:

  • Any fiction or non-fiction that explores the unique burdens and pleasures of the modern female experience. Sally Rooney, Curtis Sittenfeld, Carmen Maria Machado and Meg Wolitzer are some of my favorite writers working in this space!
  • In that vein, she wants to see anything that promotes, analyzes, or incorporates feminism.
  • Memoirs that read like tightly plotted and suspenseful fiction a la BRAIN ON FIRE, HOUSE IN THE SKY, EDUCATED or THE FACT OF A BODY
  • Similarly, she loves true crime that feels as immersive and suspenseful as the best thrillers. SAY NOTHING, I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK and RED NOTICE are some of her recent favorites.
  • Suspense, or what she likes to call “secrets & lies” novels. She definitely gravitates toward the dark and disturbing, and she LOVES feeling unsettled. Think THEN SHE WAS GONE, TANGERINE, THE PERFECT NANNY, ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, WATCH ME DISAPPEAR, BITTERSWEET, TELL ME LIES or all of Liane Moriarty.
  • She’d especially love to see these stories told from diverse perspectives like in THE EXPATRIATES, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, THE MOTHERS, BEHOLD THE DREAMERS, or STAY WITH ME
  • She’s a sucker for a truly shocking and mind-blowing twist, in the vein of I LET YOU GO or BEHIND HER EYES
  • Speculative fiction that features a world like ours, but with a twist. The everyday with just a touch of the unreal. Books like THE IMMORTALISTS, STATION ELEVEN, THE AGE OF MIRACLES, PROVIDENCE, or NEVER LET ME GO
  • For YA:
    • Incredibly inventive and distinctive world-building like in THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR, WARCROSS, or GRACELING
    • Contemporary is all about the voice. Favorites include I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER, DEAR MARTIN, SPEAK, FANGIRL, THE HATE U GIVE, and PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.
    • High concept executed brilliantly like ELSEWHERE, EVERY DAY or EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING.
    • Historical from unique perspectives and/or with a magical twist. She loved THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE, THE DIVINERS, and PASSENGER
    • Always a plus if you can subvert the tropes of the genre!
  • #ownvoices!

But sometimes she surprises myself with what she falls in love with, so please do query her even if your manuscript falls outside these guidelines!

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to

Please send her your pitch and the first ten pages of your manuscript in the body of an email. I respond to every query, hopefully within about a month or so.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 18, 2019

Book Winners & Kudos

Claire Annette won ONE RED SOCK by Jennifer Sattler

Linda Mitchell won Who Will? Will You? by Sarah Hoppe

Becky Levine won CROW SPIRIT by Debra Bartsch

Kristen Picone won THE BRAVE CYCLIST: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero


Please send your name, address, title of the book you won to kathy.temean(at) – PUT BOOK WINNER and the name of the book in the subject line.

Thank you!



Wendi Gu has returned to Sanford J. Greenburger Associates as agent; she spent the last two years at Janklow & Nesbit as associate agent. Sarah Phair has joined SJGA as agent after 6 years at Trident Media Group, and Edward Maxwell has been promoted to agent.

Jenny Stephens has been promoted to agent at Sterling Lord Literistic.

Olivia Russo will join Penguin Children’s as senior director, publicity on September 3. She was formerly publicity director, Harper Children’s.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 17, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Ela Smietanka

Ela Smietanka is a Polish illustrator. Her adventure with drawings started when she was a little girl. In order to make her dreams come true, she graduated from the Faculty of Graphics at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, where she now lives with her husband, two sons, a cat named Zuzia, and some other cats from the neighbourhood. She is a freelancer. In her work she combines pencils, paints and Photoshop, happily discovering again and again new digital techniques. When she is preparing draft illustrations, she listens to audiobooks, and with a good novel she may work until dawn. In her free time, she likes to cycle listening to energetic music. If she were to choose a job other than an illustrator, she would be a dancer.


Layout of publications is essential. On its base, I make a black and white sketch in Photoshop.

The second stage is coloring the drawing.

In the final, I make a correction of the illustration taking into account the comments from the publishing house.

Below are some book covers:


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve just realized it’s been a long time already, 25 years! I started during my last academic year.

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

I made my first money on designing some characters for an animated movie for children, commissioned by a small, Krakow-based, animated movie studio.

Have you always lived in Poland?

Yes. I only moved to Krakow from a smaller town where I grew up.

What made you decide to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow?

I drew ever since I can recall. I never had doubts or hesitations what I wanted to do. The Academy in Krakow was the closest location. I passed exams and started studying at the Faculty of Graphic Arts.

I was the happiest student ever.

What type of classes were your favorite?

Drawing and illustration courses.

Did art school help you get illustrating work when you graduated?

For my graduation diploma I prepared illustrations for “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”. My work was awarded with a distinction, which enabled me to start a paid internship at a graphic company. It was a place where I learnt how to prepare my diploma to print and, at the same time, designed labels for beer bottles. After a year of such work I knew it wouldn’t be my choice for my professional life and I wanted to focus on illustrating books.

What type of illustrating did you do when you first were starting out?

It was a simple book for very small children, simple single illustrations.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

One day I took my printed diploma and took a train to the capital city, Warsaw.

This is where the majority of large publishing houses were based. I spent a whole torrid day walking from one publisher to another. The situation was extremely stressful, but brought fruit in the form of cooperation with a magazine addressed to children and a contact from an educational publishing house. I liked making illustrations for children, but illustrations for grown-ups were a rare thing in the publishing market.

Was PIRATES STICKER BOOK with Sterling Children’s Books the first book you illustrated?

It was the first book I illustrated for a foreign publisher. It was Salariya, an English publishing house.

How did they find you to illustrate that book?

2014 saw a crisis in the market of educational publishing in Poland. Thank crises! This made me create my own website. Next, a friend of mine, an IT guy who had an e-mail address search engine, found contacts for me. I sent e-mails with a link to my website, although I was not sure whether the contacts were art directors or e.g. accountants in the publishing houses in Europe. But just on the next day I got an answer from David Salariya, and later from two German publishing houses.

How did the contract to illustrate your latest book, WINTER CATS come your way?

It was thanks to the cooperation with the Advocate-Arts. After a year of my cooperation with this agency I was offered to illustrate a book about cats. And I love drawing animals.

Can you tell us a little bit about Advocate-Arts. How long have they been representing you and how did that come about?

I’ve been cooperating with Advocate-Arts from 2017. A year before, me and some of my friends also involved in illustration had visited the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. It is a great event for illustrators – not only can you watch beautiful books for children but also talk with representatives of publishing houses and agencies. On the stands you can find information on meeting schedules. There were long lines of artists, I also showed my portfolio with printed illustrations. This is how I got contacts to some agencies, including Advocate-Arts.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Unfortunately I don’t feel capable for such a project, albeit I admire illustrators who did it.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

I watch loads of illustrations, some delight and inspire me.

Do you work full time as a free-lance illustrator?

Yes, in my case it’s a full-time job, which includes weekends. The deadlines for books rule my time, sometimes it is not easy when they overlap.

Does the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI) have a chapter in Poland? If so, do you belong? If not, are you involved with another illustrator group?

No, there is no such institution or an SCBWI branch in Poland.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I have a studio in my house – and lots of audiobooks and podcasts. They help me better concentrate on my work.

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

At the moment I’d rather cooperate with publishing houses.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

My work was based primarily on cooperation with publishing houses for a very long time. The ones I still cooperate with are Wsip, Nowa Era and Mak.

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

I worked for two such magazines in Poland, I made comics for them. Unfortunately they don’t exist anymore.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

It is a great idea, although work-consuming. I made some large boards of this type for educational publishers.

What do you think is your biggest success?

That I can do what I like best and get paid for it.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Now it’s Photoshop which I combine with lines and spots made on paper.

Has that changed over time?

At the beginning I used watercolor, tempera, combined with ink drawing. Then I made drawing with pencil, graphitized it in Photoshop, changed color and colored in the second layer. Now I don’t use contour which gives more pictorial effect to my illustrations.

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

Deadlines which I must keep make me spend a lot of time on my work. Some artists devote their sleep to meet a deadline, which I find admirable. It has never happened to me, I would be unable to work after a night without sleep.

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

Of course, it’s fundamental. This is the starting point for my work on a book. I don’t take pictures, but browse the Internet, use Pinterest. For example I’ve discovered American illustrations from the 1950s there. For me it’s awesome. Recently, during the work on “Little Women”, I discovered dolls from the Civil War period and I was amazed how beautiful they were. I like this stage of work very much, it’s enjoyable.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. I still cannot believe that I make books for publishing houses in the UK, Germany, the USA, and Korea. A good thing is also the time difference – 6 hours between the USA and Poland gives me this feeling of having a lot of space before deadline. It’s worse with the publishing house from Korea – 8 hours backward makes me anxious as I think I’m late.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Photoshop is the program I know best.

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

Currently I use the Ciniq graphic tablet. The shop assistant who sold me the tablet, said that after some time graphic designers tend to hug this device. I fully agree.

The work with my previous Wacom was very tiring, my brain got crazy. A direct painting on a tablet is priceless to me.

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

It is rather a wish that the joy I feel when I make illustrations does not become a routine.

What are you working on now?

A book on dinosaurs and a book on unicorns.

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

I’m sorry, I can’t give any advice. For drawings, spots and imprinted textures I use ordinary copying paper.

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

In addition to answering a question: “Do I really like spending time on illustrating?” children book fair are also a good experience. Direct talks with publishers, their reaction to your artwork, and their feedback are priceless.

Thank you Ela for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Ela’s work, you can visit her at:

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

Talk tomorrow,


I am delighted to introduce August’s Agent of the Month, Danielle Burby, agent at Nelson Literary Agency. Danielle is attending the Fall Avalon Retreat in September 2020. Here is a chance for you to submit a first page for the chance to win a first page critique with her. Summer submissions are always low, so this is the time to submit a first page and get lucky.

Agent Danielle Burby at Nelson Literary Agency

Based in New York City, Danielle became an agent at Nelson Literary Agency (NLA) in January 2017. Previously, she was an agent at a NYC-based firm where she managed foreign rights in addition to building her client roster. She also interned at several top agencies and publishers before graduating from Hamilton College with a dual degree in creative writing and women’s studies.

Danielle represents all genres of YA and MG along with picture books and select passion projects in women’s fiction. She particularly enjoys complex female characters, quirky adventures, narratives that ask readers to think deeply, girls with swords, and seaside novels. Danielle also looks for a strong narrative voice and characters she wants to spend time with. For more information about her wishlist, check out NLA’s Submission Guidelines page.

Daneille says, “I’m the kind of nerd who always has the book I’m reading in my bag plus a backup book plus my Kindle just in case. Growing up, I was completely obsessed with Harry Potter (Fun fact: I would fluff my hair so I could look like Hermione). I also ravenously devoured anything Tamora Pierce, Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen are her best novels and I will fight you about it), Robin McKinley, Gareth Nix, Diana Wynne Jones, Judy Blume, Jane Austen…you get the picture. I have a Virginia Woolf quote tattooed on my shoulder blade. Authors have always been my biggest stars. In fact, one of my most exciting high school moments was when Newsday hired me to review the Ella Enchanted movie and then gave me a choice between interviewing Anne Hathaway and Gail Carson Levine–I chose Gail Carson Levine. My job gives me the excuse to professionally fangirl on a daily basis.

“I double majored in creative writing and women’s studies at Hamilton College (both “impractical majors” that have been incredibly practical for me) and figured out that creative writing classes do a really great job of honing your editing and critiquing skills. After internships at several top literary agencies and publishers, I spent four years at New York agency and began building a client list before moving to NLA in January 2017. Now, I work out of my NYC apartment where my office cat likes to remind me that she is boss.”

Danielle is seeking:

  • Middle grade and young adult (all genres)
  • Select passion projects in women’s fiction
  • A strong voice, nuanced writing, plots with unexpected twists, high concept
  • Complex female characters, quirky adventures, complicated family dynamics, romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative but don’t dominate it, seaside novels, girls with swords, stories that take place in the aftermath of disaster (whether personal such as the death of a loved one or bigger picture such as a revolution), magical realism, YA psychological thrillers, sister stories
  • Social justice themes, own voices authors, a special interest in LGBTQ+ stories
  • Recent reads I have loved include (in no particular order) The Thing About Jellyfish, It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, We Are Okay, Landline, The Sun Is Also a Star, Uprooted, Salt to the Sea, We Were Liars, A Spool of Blue Thread, When Dimple Met Rishi, Six of Crows, anything Liane Moriarty, anything Kristin Cashore, anything Sarah Dessen

She gravitates toward stories with a high concept and strong voice. She particularly enjoy complex female characters, quirky/humorous adventures, narratives that explore social justice issues, stories with a sense of wonder, complicated family dynamics, girls with swords, seaside narratives, and #ownvoices narratives. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it. Mainly, she’s looking to represent novels that keep her spellbound, no matter the genre.

You can find details about her recent sales on Publishers Marketplace.



I hear writers talk about low middle grade, high middle grade, and teen. Is that acceptable or should they just say middle grade and leave it up to you to decide?

I think it is acceptable to describe your middle grade with those distinctions if you’d like to, but I tend to disregard those descriptors in my assessment. It isn’t how I would pitch a book to an editor so it isn’t very relevant to my read.

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

It comes down to a compelling query letter and strong writing!

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

It depends. When I’m reading queries, I only read a couple of sentences of the manuscript pages. If those first sentences are strong enough, I keep reading. If they aren’t, I move on to the next. When I’m reading requested materials, I read until the book loses my interest. If I don’t feel compelled to read the whole novel, I’m not likely to feel passionate enough to advocate for the project.

Do you let people know if you are not interested?

I always respond to every query and requested manuscript because I think that is the professional and respectful thing to do.

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material? And query letters?

I try to respond to queries within three weeks, though often it is closer to a month. Requested material can take a bit longer because it requires more time and because I have to prioritize my clients and their material. But I try to respond to requested material within two months.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

I think it is pretty common for less experienced writers to query before a manuscript is actually ready for an agent. That can be really tough on my end because I see a lot of projects with massive potential that I would love to be able to help with, but that just isn’t in my job description and it isn’t my role as an agent. I wish I had the energy or the hours in the day to encourage those writers and give them feedback, but it just isn’t possible. That’s where critique groups, trusted readers, and conferences are more appropriate. My advice here would be—make sure your manuscript is at the most professional and polished level you can get it to before you start to query.



In the subject line, please write “AUGUST 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).

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: August 23rd.

RESULTS: August 30th.


Talk tomorrow,


Jody Jensen Shaffer has a new picture book titled, IT’S A FIELD TRIP, BUSY BUS. Claire Messer created the fun illustrations. It is being published by Beach Lane Books and will hit the book shelves on September 3rd.

Jody 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 Jody and Claire!

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!


Busy Bus takes a field trip—and becomes a little jealous of a shiny red fire truck—in a warm-hearted sequel to It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Today is Busy Bus’s very first field trip! He takes the children to a fire house, where they meet Engine Four, a big, shiny, red firetruck. Engine Four has a hose to put out fires, a ladder to reach tall buildings, and a loud and impressive siren. Busy Bus has none of these things. Will the children still like him? This darling picture book offers a gentle exploration of jealousy and a reminder that we each have our own unique talents that make us special.


In November of 2017, I was looking forward to the July 2018 release of It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! with Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster. Claire Messer had done a fabulous job with the art, and I couldn’t wait for kids to meet Busy Bus. I also couldn’t wait to see if Busy Bus had another story to tell. I began brainstorming. What else could a school bus do? Where could it go? Then I thought about my own experiences riding school buses, and I knew: a field trip!

In my first draft of It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus!, Busy Bus took the kids to the zoo. But I quickly discovered that once they arrived, Busy Bus could only look on from the parking lot as the kids met various animals. That wasn’t much fun. I had to choose a different kind of field trip, one where Busy Bus was more active. Then I thought of a fire station. Community helpers! More vehicles! Perfect!

I drafted that story fairly quickly, and although conventional wisdom says a publisher won’t sign the second book in a series before the first has come out, we sent it off and crossed our blinkers. Within a couple months, Andrea Welch had made an offer, and by June, we had a contract. Of course, none of this would have happened had Claire not agreed to illustrate again. Fortunately, she did. Whew!

It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! releases on September 3, 2019, and just as with It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!, I can’t wait for kids to see Claire’s art, meet Engine 4, and welcome Busy Bus on their own adventures.


I loved illustrating It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!, so I was thrilled to hear that Jody had written another adventure for Busy Bus. As soon as I read the manuscript for It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus!, I was instantly smitten!

I created the artwork in exactly the same way as the first book, by drawing onto Linoleum in reverse and then carving out the areas that were to remain white, before rolling out and applying black ink to the blocks. I then laid the paper on top of the inked up blocks and applied pressure mostly with a glass baren. Finally, I scanned in the black lino prints and applied each layer of colour digitally in Photoshop – this process takes many, many hours!

Unlike Busy Bus’s first outing, where the majority of the book takes place within the bus barn, in his second adventure, he is outside from the get-go so I had to create more of his outside community and imagine what sort of town or city he lived in. The biggest challenge though was trying to show off Fire Engine 4 and Busy Bus on the same spread as they’re both quite large vehicles! I also did a lot of research into different types of fire engines and how they worked as I live in the UK where believe it or not, our fleets are quite different! As part of this research, I toured around California searching out different fire stations and  had a wonderful in depth tour of a station in Santa Monica. Engine 4 and indeed the fire station in the book are based on this real life station!

I also had a very specific vision of how I imagined the teacher would look as soon as I read Jody’s manuscript -I immediately pictured a male teacher wearing bright blue glasses. I also envisaged the Fire Captain to be female. Funnily enough, the editor and art director were on the same wavelength as they made both those suggestions as I was working on the first sketches!


Jody Jensen Shaffer is an award-winning poet and the author of more than thirty-five books of fiction and nonfiction for children. Her books include Prudence the Part-Time Cow, which was chosen to represent Missouri at the National Book Festival in 2017 and has been nominated for the 2019–2020 Show Me Award; A Chip Off the Old BlockIt’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus!; and more. Jody’s poetry and fiction have been published in great children’s magazines like HighlightsLadybug, and Clubhouse Jr. Jody lives in Liberty, Missouri, with her family. You can find Jody online at and on Twitter at @JodyWrites4Kids.

Claire Messer is a graduate of the Cambridge School of Art. She works by hand, using traditional printmaking processes to create her picture books, which include the Busy Bus series by Jody Jensen Shaffer and her own Grumpy Pants. She lives in the UK.


Claire Messer is a children’s author and Illustrator. Her debut picture book ‘Grumpy Pants’ was published in 2016 and received several starred reviews. She also wrote and illustrated LAZYBONES and is the illustrator for the Busy Bus series written by Jody Jensen Shaffer.

Claire grew up in Scotland and studied Illustration & Printmaking at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. In 2015 she graduated from Cambridge School of Art with a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration. Claire loves to work with linoleum printing to create her art and is usually very closely supervised by her dog. She loves working with relief printing techniques to create her art and she does this from under a thatch near Cambridge, England, where she lives with her husband and their dog. Visit Claire at

Thank you Jody and Claire for sharing your book and it’s journey with us. Kid’s seem to have a fascination with fire truck, so they should love visiting the station in your book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,



Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 14, 2019

Author and Editor Collaboration

An Author and Editor Collaborate

Vanessa Keel and Dr. Mira Reisberg


Vanessa: Hi. I’m Vanessa Keel, debut Author of Boomer At Your Service

Mira: And I’m Dr. Mira Reisberg, Director of the Children’s Book Academy and Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork/Spork Children’s Books. I first met Vanessa in our Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books course where it was clear she was very talented and a real go-getter, which I loved. She also participated and helped others, which made me love her even more.

Vanessa: I loved every moment of Mira’s Craft and Business of Writing Picture Book course and learned a tremendous amount about the industry, the craft, and tips for getting published. I actually worked on a different manuscript throughout the class but about midway through I leveraged what I had learned and wrote a whole new story in one sitting. That was Boomer At Your Service. It flowed easily because of the new techniques I had learned in class.

Mira: While I really liked Vanessa first story, it was the second one that really spoke to me, partly because I see disability as a civil rights issue and because Boomer was such a delightful character. I also really liked Boomer’s name, which reminded me of a Boomerang that keeps coming back and persevering, just like Boomer in the story. I also liked the pun of “Boomer At Your Service” as he wants to be a service dog. And then there’s my publisher, Callie Metler-Smith’s passion for publishing social justice and disability books, so it was a win, win, win for all of us.

Vanessa: When I hopped on a phone call with Mira, I was in shock. I was expecting to do a critique but she surprised me with incredible news instead. She told me she and Callie Metler-Smith wanted to acquire Boomer At Your Service and I just about jumped out of my chair! What an amazing opportunity to publish my debut with the woman who is known as the Picture Book Whisperer. Lucky me!

Mira: The first thing we needed to do was get the word count down so the illustrator would have plenty of space for her art. Having a lower word count also inspires tired parents, reading the book at night, to pull it off the book shelf because they know it will be a wonderful read that won’t take too long. Together, we edited it down from 550 to 483 words.

Next up for me was finding the perfect Illustrator. We needed someone who would be really good at drawing dogs and action because there is a lot of action in this book. So, I went through a list of former Children’s Book Academy illustration students and narrowed the list down before deciding on Adriana Hernández Bergstrom. I also really liked that Adriana was a Latina and we could make the little girl in the story Latina, further deepening the story and adding another layer. She also needed to be able to draw a wheelchair and bring visual humor into the story, so I asked her to do some character sketches and a couple of mini layouts to see how she would handle it, which I forwarded to both Callie and Vanessa before we agreed Adriana would be perfect, which she was!

Vanessa: I was absolutely thrilled to see Boomer brought to life for the first time. Adriana’s illustrations exceeded all my expectations. It was such an amazing feeling to see the character your pour your heart into writing come alive on the page. My background in marketing and advertising has always put me in the driver seat before, detailing out storyboards and my vision for a project. But, when authoring a picture book, you have to be able to let some of that control go and put your trust in your Editor, Art Director, and Illustrator. That was a hard step for me but I am so happy with the end result. Having an Editor and Art director like Mira, who takes the time to listen and understand your vision, is invaluable. I know I am one of the lucky ones.

Mira: Once Adriana was on board, it was easy to further edit the manuscript down as we saw the images evolve. Now, Vanessa and I worked on bringing the language to life with more onomatopoeia and alliteration and other little tweaks.

Vanessa already had the idea to include back matter information about the do’s and don’ts of interacting with service dogs and connecting with a service dog organization. But she became so enamored by the organization that her back matter word count got a little out of control. This was pretty much the only conflict we had during our author/editor collaboration process, which is a little disappointing because conflict is the essence of a good story or blog post where the characters argue and arm-wrestle over stuff before coming to a compromise. But Vanessa edited it way down so anyone interested would hopefully connect with Merlin’s KIDS, the organization that she is donating her pre-order sales money to.

Vanessa: Haha. It’s true, I can be a bit long-winded but Mira’s right…it’s because I’m really passionate about this cause. I have been a dog-lover all my life and when I started to learn about Merlin’s KID’s mission to rescue shelter dogs to turn them into service dogs for special needs children, I just knew I needed to do more. Like Boomer, I wanted my book to serve a special purpose and Mira believed in both Boomer and me.

Mira: I am incredibly proud and honored to be a part of this book that will do so much good in normalizing disability, educating kids on disability and therapy dogs and how to handle them if they meet any dogs who are not their own. I also love that this book also brings laughter and joy into the world.

Vanessa: This whole process was truly educational for me. Being able to see my book come to life at each step and having the chance to provide feedback was a major bonus as a debut Author. My writing has improved and my editor’s eye has sharpened as a direct result of working with Mira and Clear Fork/Spork Children’s Books. I can now better understand how to write text with the intention of leaving room for the Illustrator to add their magic.

Taking the Craft and Business of Writing Picture Book course with the Children’s Book Academy was life changing. I worked hard, set a goal, and achieved it but I know it wouldn’t have been possible had I not met the incomparable, Dr. Mira Reisberg. Thank you for everything. Next up…finding an agent.

Mira: Oh gosh Vanessa. Thank you. This really is my life’s work, helping bring meaningful, beautiful, and/or joy-filled children’s books into the world.

Author Bio: Boomer At Your Service is Vanessa Keel’s debut picture book. With over fifteen years of creative advertising experience, Vanessa writes with commercial possibilities in mind. She’s an active SCBWI member, Children’s Book Academy graduate, and co-founder of the debut author group, #OntheScenein19. She lives in New Jersey with her British husband and boisterous baby boy. To learn more, please visit  Facebook: @vanessakeelbooks  Instagram: @vform  Twitter: @keelbooks

Editor bio: Dr. Mira Reisberg is an award-winning children’s book creator, the Director of the Children’s Book Academy and an Editor and Art Director at Clearfork Publishing’s children’s imprint Spork. She has also worked as a university professor as well as a children’s literary agent among other things. Mira is very excited to be co-teaching a highly interactive children’s picture book writing course with Sterling editor Rachael Stein starting August 26th right here

Find Mira at:


Twitter: @ChildrensBookAc

Below are just some of the over 360 books published or contracted by her former students.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 13, 2019

Book Giveaway: YOU ARE YOUR STRONG by Danielle Dufayet

Danielle Dufayet has written and Illustrated a picture book titled, YOU ARE YOUR STRONG. Published by Magination Press. Danielle 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 Danielle!

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!


Soothing and empowering, You Are Your Strong reassures kids that they can handle big emotions and highlights the benefit of developing inner strength and confidence in oneself. With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships—from parents, to grandparents, to an older sister in the military—this book shows kids that they will have help along the way to being strong and in control. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers by Julia Martin Burch, PhD, with advice for building skills to navigate and cope with big emotions.


I have always been interested in health and psychology, especially positive psychology –what makes people tick –what makes people happy? I got my masters in Psychology about ten years ago and I think somehow I knew (subconsciously perhaps) I was going to eventually write a children’s book that dealt with psychological issues.

About 4 years ago, I found myself in an emotionally challenging situation (leaving an unhealthy marriage). I had a lot on my plate (work, school, kids, etc.) but I knew I had to “keep it together” and carry on, despite sometimes feeling like I was going to crumble. One day a friend asked me how I kept from falling apart. This made me start taking notice at the things I was doing to keep me strong and able to manage my difficult emotions. Right about the same time, I saw the movie, Room. In the movie, Jacob Tremblay plays five year old Jack who is being held captive in a room with his mom. At one point his mom wants to cut his long hair and he says no, because his hair is his strong. Later in the film (spoiler alert) he ends up cutting it and giving it to his mom when she has a nervous breakdown. I thought that was beautiful. His long hair gave him strength and then he shared his strength with his mom when she needed most. That’s when I knew I had a book.

I wrote You Are Your Strong in a very short time, compared to my other manuscripts. It took me about 3-4 months with about 5 rounds of critiques from my fabulous critique partners. I was so clear on my message: You are stronger than your emotions and you already have everything you need inside of you to overcome anything life throws at you. I really believe that. Many things keep us strong (family, friends, pets, blankets…long hair), but no matter what those outer things are, ultimately we are our own strength. When I wrote the book, I wanted children to know that they will have role models along the way to model healthy ways to manage difficult emotions (hopefully).  Eventually, however, we all need to learn how to manage them so that we feel self- empowered.  I learned to tap into my own inner strength and use things like nature, art, positive self-talk and intentional distraction to help me. I learned that I was my strong which left me feeling much more self-empowered. You Are Your Strong is kind of like the lemonade I made from lemons. I turned what felt like a negative into a positive.

When I submitted You Are Your Strong to Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary, I knew it was ready for submission. I had reduced some big concepts down to their essence. I used specific literary devices such as alliteration and I knew I had a powerful message that came from my heart. It wasn’t long before it found its home at Magination Press which is affiliated with APA – the American Psychological Association. It’s been a wonderful experience with them and they ended up buying a second book called Fantastic You –another positive message concept book about how to be your own best friend (also from my own experience). I never planned on writing books like these, but it sprouted from my life’s journey –   and I just had to share my message with the world and hopefully inspire children to be their strong.


Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and the other about self-love/compassion.



Art Website:




Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming an illustrator was a natural career path. She has been trained in media ranging from figure drawing to virtual reality, and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with highest distinction from the honors division of Indiana University.

During her professional career, Jennifer worked as a graphic designer and then as a creative director before finding her artistic niche illustrating children’s books. In addition to artwork, she enjoys reading, cooking, and ballroom dancing. Jennifer lives in Indiana with her family.

Jennifer is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and is represented by MB Artists.



Illustrator Saturday feature:

Thank you Danielle for sharing your book and journey with us. Helping children navigate and cope with big emotions is an important topic. It was nice to see Jennifer’s art in your book. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2016 (see link in bio). Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 12, 2019

Agent Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Jennifer began her career in agenting after working as a long-time children’s bookseller and buyer. She is also the founder of the extremely popular YA event series “Not Your Mother’s Book Club.” She joined the Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2007. Always on the lookout for sparkling YA and middle grade fiction with unusual and unforgettable characters and vivid settings, she is drawn to all kinds of books, whether realistic comedies or richly imagined magical adventures. However, the common thread in her favorite stories is an offbeat world-view. Jennifer adores simplicity, but she is not interested in the conventional, predictable, mechanical, gimmicky, or ordinary. Jennifer loves funny books, thrilling books, romantic books, books that make her cry, and all-around un-put-downable books…and her true favorites are all of the above. 

Jennifer is looking for sparkling middle grade and young adult fiction. I’m also open to graphic novels and picture books, particularly by author-illustrators. Great writing a must, high concept a plus. Authors from marginalized communities are encouraged to query. Diverse narratives of all kinds welcome.

For contemp, I like very voicey characters that I will laugh and cry with, and a hooky plot doesn’t hurt. I really want stories and perspectives that I may not have read before. I prefer upbeat to dismal – put the characters through hell if you must, but I hope they come out the other side stronger for it! I have a soft spot for all books featuring all shades of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. And did I mention UPBEAT? I love joyful, funny books. (I’m not saying everything about the book has to be joyful and funny! But… if nothing about it is, it might not be for me.)

For fantasy, my preference is “cute magic” and adventure involving human/humanoid POV characters we can relate to, with maybe some humor and romance, and recognizable earth or earth-like settings. I am probably not the best agent for extreme high fantasy. (I like GRACELING and Tamora Pierce… not so much GoT or LoTR). For SF, again, I prefer stories that are rooted in some version of our world.

For historical, well, I’m probably not the best person for historical unless it is pre-1929 and there’s something flashy about it. (Tudor, Regency, Victorian, WW1 and 1920’s or similar are all fine.) I have pretty much zero interest in the 1950’s-1990’s as a historical era. And I have a difficult time reading about the Holocaust. Unless the book is about punching Nazis! #PunchNazis

My personal website, with lots more of the books and clients I rep:

Fun facts about me:

  • I went to boarding school, and theatre school for both high school and college – I’m a sucker for stories set in and around theatres and boarding schools!
  • Though I am from California, my family hails from Louisiana and Mississippi, and I lived in New Orleans for a long time. I’m interested in stories about New Orleans and the south – particularly the modern South.
  • I have worked in bookstores since I was 12, but I’ve also had a variety of jobs ranging in oddness, including: a) Waitress at a mafia restaurant where all of the “upper management” was arrested because of an anti-racketeering FBI sting in the middle of dinner service!  b) Writer of love notes between Turkish gigolos and the foreign women they were wooing! c) professional audience seat filler for very dumb daytime TV talk shows (YES, you can get paid for that)! d) Puppeteer on stilts! . . . and THAT is just scratching the surface. 😉

Submission Guidelines

If you’d like to query Jennifer with your Children’s or YA work, please use the handy-dandy FORM!

Submissions should be emailed to http://QueryMe.Online/JenniferLaughran

Please use the form to query me: http://QueryMe.Online/JenniferLaughran

  • Choose ONE agent from ABLA to query. We share!
  • Write a compelling query letter that includes the genre/category you are writing in, a bit about you, your contact info, as well as a pitch for your book. (Not necessarily in that order.)
  • Paste the first ten pages of your manuscript into the form.
  • If you are an illustrator, please link to your website/portfolio.
  • If you have a dummy or other attachment, you can upload it into the form.
  • Queries sent to my email address may be deleted unread, or just go to spam and I’ll never see them. So please, use the form!

If you’ve followed these guidelines, you should get an auto-response telling you that your query has been received and is under consideration. I do try hard to respond to everyone who has followed the guidelines and who writes the kind of books I rep, but if it has been more than 8 weeks, consider it a no.

Guidelines & Details

Vital Info

Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 11, 2019

No Fee: The Seventeenth Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize

The seventeenth annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for the winning book-length manuscript by a poet residing in the Mid-Atlantic states (DE, MD, VA, PA, NJ, NY, WVA, NC and District of Columbia) will consist of $500, two cases of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Beer*, manuscript publication by Broadkill River Press, and 10 copies of the book (in lieu of royalties).

The rules are: Manuscripts must be received by midnight, August 15, 2019.  Manuscripts received after the closing date will not be considered.  Eligible poets must reside in the above listed states and be twenty-one years of age by the date of the award. *  The manuscript is to be submitted electronically in one MS Word document attachment.  Send to Prize coordinator Linda Blaskey at Snail mail submissions will not be accepted.

Two title pages are to be included with each submission: the first with the title of the manuscript, author’s name, address, phone numbers and e-mail address; the second with just the manuscript title.   No manuscript is to have any author-identifying information other than the one title page and will be rejected if it does. Judging is blind and double-tiered. The manuscript must be book-length (between 48 and 78 pages of original work – no translations) and no more than roughly thirty lines to a page, including the poem’s title and two line-spaces between the title and the body of the poem.  A poem may be more than one page. One submission per entrant.  There is no entry fee.

This year’s final judge will be Joseph Millar.

The award will be presented to the winner on Saturday evening, December 14, 2019 at the Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware.  The winner must agree to attend this event and to read from their winning book at a reception honoring the winner.  The prize will be officially awarded by Sam Calagione, Founder and CEO of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Distillery, or by another company official.

The author of the winning manuscript also agrees to provide, within ten days of notification, a color head-shot photograph, with photographer’s credit, for the back cover and a dedication page for the interior of the book. Also, an acknowledgement page of poems previously published, and in which publications and/or websites they appeared will need to be provided. The winner agrees to travel to Delaware at the winner’s expense for awarding of the prize.   Dogfish Head will provide the winner two nights lodging at the Dogfish Inn in the beach resort town of Lewes, Delaware.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales retains the right to use any of the winning work in promotional materials.

Co-workers of Dogfish Head and their families are ineligible to enter.  Previous winners of the prize are ineligible to enter.

For questions and more information contact Linda Blaskey, Prize coordinator, at

or at

Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,


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