Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 19, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Ana Latese

Ana Latese is a yellow obsessed African American illustrator who happily lives between North Carolina and Florida. She graduated in 2021 from Jacksonville University with a BFA in Illustration. Her work, which ranges from editorial to narrative, focuses on communicating positive ideas and images of people of color. Her current client list includes The Washington Post, Hulu, and Scholastic. When she’s not illustrating, she enjoys playing video games, bundling up with her dogs, and watching Criminal Minds 24/7.

As a black artist, Ana strives to communicate positive ideas and images of people of color with her art. She likes creating work that not only illustrates the beauty and strength of a person of color, but also create work that is identifiable and relatable to us.

HERE IS ANA DISCUSSING HER PROCESS WITH: The Night Is Ours

This is one of the last illustrations that I did for university, a mock book cover called “The Night Is Ours”. To keep their forbidden relationship alive, the prince and the local baker’s daughter must sneak out once the sun has fallen.

I usually start out all my book cover projects with multiple thumbnails to see what I can come up with by myself. Then, I’ll take a few of the thumbnails and find references to make them a little bit more interesting. Below are the ones that I choose.

The next step is to do the linework, which is my favorite part! I use the program Procreate on my iPad 12.9 inch and use the 6B pencil brush for all my lines. I think of my whole process like a coloring book, except I’m creating everything myself.

Usually, I would start out with the flat colors of my characters first but decided to go straight into the background. I like to have a somewhat limited color palette when I start my illustrations and decided that I wanted my background to be mainly blues and purples. I try to keep in mind of values, contrasts, and any lighting situations I can apply to help bring the subject of the piece out. For this one, it would be my characters Eli and Madison.

I love any chance to add plants! Using the references from before, I created some foliage to help frame Eli and Madison to draw your eye to them.

Next, I went in and filled the colors of Eli and Madison. Since they would be near each other throughout the whole story, if there were interior art, I wanted to make sure their colors looked well together.

Finally, onto the shading and lighting. Using mostly the 6b pencil brush, the bonobo chalk brush, and multiple blending modes, I go into the final details of the illustration!

INTERVIEW WITH ANA LATESE:

Have you always lived in North Carolina and Florida?

Yes and no, haha! I was born and raised in North Carolina, but always had family in Florida. My immediate family would travel so often to Florida that I just always considered it my second home.

How do you split your time between the two states?

Before I went to university, my immediate family would visit Florida during the summer and of course we had to go for holidays. Then, the university I ended up choosing just so happened to be in Florida!

What was the first thing you illustrated that you were paid for?

I believe it was illustrations for a small mug company back in summer 2018.

How long have you been illustrating?

Just like any artist, I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. I still remember drawing on the walls in my bedroom with crayons. With the intent to make art my profession, I started in 2018 after leaving the film program at my university.

What made you chose Jacksonville University for your BFA in Illustration?

Fun fact: I actually went to Jacksonville University for film! I wanted to become a video editor, but realized the program at the time wasn’t for me. After taking a digital art class, dedicated to learning photoshop and illustrator, I rediscovered my love for drawing again. I learned from the associate professor of illustration that was teaching the class about the illustration program and was completely sold!

What classes did you enjoy the most?

I truly enjoyed figure drawing! Not only did it improve and change my art style in so many ways, but it was the first time I really worked with traditional mediums such as pastel and charcoal.

Did JU help you find Illustrating work?

JU didn’t really help me find illustration work, but they did provide resources on how to find work. They encouraged the use of postcards, social media, and networking.

Do you want to illustrate Children’s picture books?

Yes! One day, I would love the opportunity to illustrate a children’s book for a big publisher.

Was How The Home Was Built your first illustrated book?

“How The Home Was Built” was my very first one!

How did that opportunity come about?

The author, Seyhandra Benjamin, found my illustrations on twitter and DM’d me on creating an illustration for her self-published book.

What type of book is Brown Boy Dreams?

Brown Boy Dreams, written by Clamentia Hall Jr., is a children’s book about a boy discovering all the possible career choices he could have.

Did you do just the cover or did you also do some interior art?

I did the cover, and I did all the interior art.

You mention The Washington Post in your bio. Did you provide an illustration for one of their articles?

I illustrated 3 articles for them! Two for the Real Estate section and one for the Juneteenth issue of the Washington Post Magazine.

How did Erik Robertson find you to Illustrate his self-published book, Don’t Bite the Orange?

Erik Robertson found me on Instagram and decided to email me about illustrating his book.

It looks like you have illustrated another book, Dear Little Black Girl written by self-published author. How were you able to find those jobs?

Most of the jobs that I acquired before I joined The Cat Agency were all from social media, mainly Instagram.

What type of illustration work did you do for Hulu, and Scholastic?

For Hulu, I was commissioned to illustrate a promo piece of Andra Day as Billie Holiday for the premiere of the Hulu Original Film, The United States Vs. Billie Holiday.

For Scholastic, I created four quarter size illustrations of Mae C. Jemison, the first black female astronaut.

You have just joined The Cat Agency. How did you make that connection with Christy?

I noticed Christy followed me on Instagram around Summer or Fall of 2019. After watching a SCBWI webinar from her about building a children’s book portfolio. I decided to send mine months later!

Since you just graduated from Jacksonville University, you must of done all your illustration work while your were working on your degree. Did the school encourage you to pursue this?

I would say the school encouraged this but made sure I thought about what I was able to handle.

Where any of the illustrations you show on your website part of a Senior project at school?

Yes, I have a couple of pieces on my website that came straight from my book, “Born to Dream: Black Women Who Never Gave Up”. The book illustrates and tells the stories and dreams of fifteen amazing black women in diverse careers. Two of them on my website are Mariya Russell, the first African American female chef of a Michelin starred restaurant, and Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet to write and recite at a presidential inauguration in US history.

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

It would be a dream come true to illustrate my own children’s book! The ability to provide more diversity onto the bookshelves and have children find a character that looked like them would be amazing!

Would you still interested in illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-published?

Currently, I’m only taking on self-published cover work with no interior art.

Do you take pictures or do research before you illustrate a book?

Most definitely! I personally feel that taking references and researching is key to a successful project.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes! I illustrated for Scholastic’s children’s magazine on their article for Mae C. Jemison.

What do you think helped develop your style?

Not stressing out about my style was the first step! Finding my style was something I struggled a lot with. It was probably the hardest obstacle to overcome during my art journey. Instead, I began focusing on my art fundamentals and getting better at drawing. Once I started gathering more knowledge of the basics, eventually my style developed as I was influenced by other art styles I liked and wanted to create shortcuts for the objects I see in reality.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Haha, I have a small corner in my room dedicated as my studio.

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

It would be a dream come true to illustrate my own children’s book! The ability to provide more diversity onto the bookshelves would be amazing!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I believe my biggest success was graduating university. It was a long and hard journey that I can proudly say that I conquered!

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

Majority of my pieces are painted in Procreate with a 12.9-inch iPad. I also use Photoshop and my Wacom Cintiq 13HD whenever I work with large files.

Has that changed over time?

I believe it’s currently changing now. Since I have been working on bigger projects that require more layers than Procreate can handle, I’m slowly transitioning from Procreate to Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop.

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

When I first started my art journey, I owned a Wacom Intuos Draw. It’s a great way to introduce someone into digital art!

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

I try to spend as much as I can working on my craft. I love learning and experimenting with new techniques that I might’ve found exploring books or the internet.

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

Most definitely! I personally feel that taking references and researching is key to a successful project.

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

I would love to illustrate a graphic novel or create my own book!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently developing my portfolio, working on package design for a company, and coming up with story ideas.

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.

Recently, I have been enjoying the Max Pack watercolor brushes!

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Don’t be afraid to put your work out there on social media! We are in such a digital age right now, that it is much easier for art directors to find you just by your Instagram. You never know what one little post can do for you!

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

To see more of Ana’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://www.analatese.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anacandraw/?hl=en
Twitter: https://twitter.com/analatese
Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AnaLatese
Agency: https://catagencyinc.com/#/ana-latese/

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

JUNE AGENT OF THE MONTH

KELLY DYKSTERHOUSE, Literary Agent

Raven Quill Literary Agency

Kelly Dyksterhouse grew up with a book always in her hands and a story always in her head. The important role that books played in her early years developed into a passion for children’s literature in her adult life. Kelly holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults for Vermont College of Fine Arts and has interned as an editorial reader at leading literary agencies and worked as an independent developmental editor and writing mentor. She considers the opportunity to help bring books into existence to be a great honor, and it is a particular joy for her to work alongside authors as they develop their project from idea to polished manuscript. The best feeling of all is when those manuscripts end up as books in the hands of children.

I am looking to acquire middle grade and young adult novels and narrative nonfiction, as well as picture books and graphic novels.

For 2021, I am especially looking for graphic novels. I’ll consider text only, but am hungry for author/illustrators.

For picture books, I am drawn to books that are character driven with a strong narrative arc, and I particularly love books with a surprise or subversive twist to them that make me laugh. I also love lyrical texts with a classic feel, and am looking for nonfiction picture books about a little known period of history or that focus on the natural world. Author/Illustrators are always a plus.

In middle grade, I’m looking for a wide range of genres. I enjoy high-concept, fast-paced adventure books with a commercial hook, either contemporary or speculative, as well as literary works featuring lush, lyrical writing. I love ghost stories, magical realism, historical fiction and mysteries–books that get you to look at the familiar in a different light and to see the possible in the impossible. I enjoy books that feature ensemble casts, unlikely heroes, underdogs, surprise friendships and complicated, yet hopeful, family dynamics. I am particularly interested in books written by and featuring underrepresented voices in ways that showcase kids being kids in all the above scenarios. For nonfiction, I’m interested in projects that shed a light on a little known historical time period or discovery, projects that focus on the natural world, and issues of social justice. In all genres, I’m looking for beautiful writing and strong voice.

For YA, I’m looking for speculative fiction that is layered, has a distinct voice, and is grounded in a universal emotional desire. I seem to be drawn toward literary works that have a commercial hook, and I’m interested in genre mash-ups. So whereas I don’t love sci-fi, I’d jump at a mystery set in space; I would also really love a historical that feels relevant or that has a light magical twist. I find that I’m especially drawn to YA that has vivid, immersive and contained settings–settings that almost function as a character themselves (Think Scorpio Races or Frankie Landau Banks). As with MG, I enjoy books with ensemble casts and fast action. I’m not usually a great fit for straight romance, but I do enjoy a romantic thread. I always enjoy a good enemies to lovers story. A couple of specific wishes: I would love a smart, funny heist and a moving novel in verse along the lines of Poet X. 

Fun facts about me:On my nightstand right now: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, The Way Back by Gavriel Savit, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, and Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri.

What I miss most about life “Pre-COVID”: live music and breweries, soccer, traveling, working in coffee shops.

What I am thankful for during these months of social distancing: Long walks in the woods. Zoom. Chocolate. Books (duh). Animals-dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, foxes, deer, owls…anything living and breathing I can watch or talk to during the day.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to QueryMe.Online/KellyDyksterhouse https://querymanager.com/query/KellyDyksterhouse 

Submissions are only accepted through Query Manager. You may submit one project at a time to one RQLA agent at a time. If that agent passes on your query, you may then query another RQLA agent after a period of one month. For picture books, you may submit the entire manuscript in addition to your query. For novels, please submit a query, a one-page synopsis, and the first ten pages of your work. Authors and artists from underrepresented groups are invited to make note of that in the referral box.

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INTERVIEW WITH AGENT KELLY DYKSTERHOUSE – PART ONE 

9. Would you have an example of a query letter that got your attention that you could share?

Here you go. This is from my client Kellye Crocker, whose MG novel now titled Dad’s Girlfriend, Ground Squirrels, and Other Anxieties is on track to be published in Spring 2022. It is a WONDERFUL book and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands!

Dear Kelly,

As a new agent, you’re looking for potential clients, and I’m looking for the right agent for me. Because of your interest in middle grade with a clear narrative arc and a strong emotional core, I hope you’ll be interested in Ava’s story.
Ten-year-old Ava isn’t a liar, a saboteur, or a wrecker of lives. At least, not usually. But when her dad forces her to travel to Colorado to meet his long-distance girlfriend—it’s kidnapping, practically—Ava is determined to keep herself safe. That’s not easy in a state brimming with deadly dangers, including mountains, costumed Mud Runs, and plague-infested ground squirrels. Plus, Colorado doesn’t have enough air.

As if that weren’t enough for Ava to worry about—and, as her newly diagnosed anxiety disorder confirms, she always has plenty to worry about—The Girlfriend has a daughter who’s eleven, a larger-than-life chatterbox, with her own cell phone and a famous dad. After Ava’s single-minded quest to avoid the mountains fails—and she reveals The Girlfriend’s secret pregnancy—Ava takes a hard look at her behavior and the fear driving it. But finding the courage to do the right thing can be hard, especially if it means she’ll likely move to Colorado.

“Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Colorado Catastrophes,” which includes occasional lists from Ava’s Very Important Notebook, is an #ownvoices story of anxiety, the most common (and growing) mental health disorder among children and teens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. (And that was before the pandemic.) The novel offers a modern take on perfectly imperfect families—with a dash of yoga and a sprinkle of quantum physics. I hope it appeals to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s “Raymie Nightingale,” Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s “Fish in a Tree,” and Kate Beasley’s “Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.”
The only thing I knew about Colorado when I moved here five years ago was that my partner had a job in Denver. After twenty-six years in Iowa, I’d assumed I’d die happy there. In writing Ava’s story, I knew I’d never again see the state with new eyes—and Sarah Aronson encouraged me to play on the page.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I’d love to send you the full manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.

This is a good one to share after the question about whether or not a writer should try to be funny in their letter. Dad’s Girlfriend is a really funny book–at times laugh out loud funny. There’s a hint of humor in this letter, but even moreso, the letter manages to capture Ava’s voice and worldview.
I’ve omitted a couple of personal sentences at the beginning for the sake of privacy. But one tidbit of info they gave was that Kellye was querying because of author and teacher Sarah Aronson, which showed me she’d done her homework on me. I’ve arranged workshops with and have sat under Sarah’s awesome teaching at Highlights. (FYI, Sarah always encourages writers to play on the page, hence the reference at the end of the letter and fabulous advice!)
After a couple of great paragraphs in the voice of the story telling what the story is about (note: Character’s desire and stakes are evident.), there’s a wonderful paragraph with comps that continues to not only give me more info on the book, but that pique my interest (quantum physics??). And then there’s a personal paragraph that ties Kellye to the work in important ways.
This is an excellent query: professional, personal, and showcasing the voice of the story while relaying important information about the book.

10. Have you ever read something that is not for you, but you feel another agent at your agency might like and pass it on?

Yes, this happens all the time.

11. Would you be interested in representing a writer/illustrator?

Yes!

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

I always read the entire submission, but I can generally have an idea if something will hold my interest within the first few paragraphs. Occasionally, I’m surprised, though. Which is why I always keep reading.

13. Do you let people know if you are not interested?

Yes, always. If writers don’t hear from me, they’re welcome to reach out and check in. Very occasionally something falls through the cracks.

14. Lately, there seems to be various age groups for MG and YA novels. Is it acceptable to just say middle grade and leave it up to you and the editor to decide how to classify the book?

Yes, I think that’s fine.

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

Write a fantastic book! I know that’s not really helpful, but that’s really the truth.

Beyond that, do your research as to what the agent is looking for–and this research can be tricky, as it needs to stay current since lists and interests change. It’s also hard because agents and editors tend to talk in wide, sweeping generalisms because we’re afraid of missing something amazing that we don’t know we really want. So, that goes back to my first point. Write a fantastic book.

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

My response time fluctuates a bit, based on my client workload. I do my best to get back to people within 2 months on queries. For fulls it can take a bit longer than that, but again, it’s very dependent on client workload.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY TO READ PART TWO ON MY INTERVIEW WITH KELLY

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HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR JUNE 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “JUNE 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2021 JUNE – 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. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and including you in the running.

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: JUNE 25th. – noon EST

RESULTS: JULY 2nd.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Barbara Joosse has written a new picture book, LULU & ROCKY IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, illustrated by Renee Graef and published by Sleeping Bear Press. SBP 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 other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Barbara and Renee.

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:

Lulu and her cousin Rocky are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado! There are so many fun things to see and do, like hiking, camping, star-gazing, and even participating in the Junior Ranger program as they learn about the special treasures found in the park. Written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Renée Graef, this fifth book in the Lulu & Rocky series explores the Rocky Mountain National Park.

BOOK JOURNEY:

How do you write about a distant park smack in the middle of Covid??

This is a challenge kids face all the time.  They’re asked to write about people, places or things they can’t experience first hand.  During author visits, I often talk to kids about this handicap, always demonstrating the proper amount of sympathy for their plight, always with a bunch of excellent ideas to overcome the problem. . . . only this time, it was me.

Over the past three years, illustrator Renee Graef and I developed a popular adventure travel series—Lulu & Rocky Adventures.  Think Eloise meets Rick Steves.  Although some elements are repeated (always a historic place to stay, always a hotel concierge so the fox cousins don’t ramble alone, and always a unique way to arrive—race car, band tour bus etc.), the books are NOT formula.  I introduce readers to a city the way they’d meet a new friend—layer upon layer, allowing the city to charm them with its unique personality.

To capture the true personality of a city, I could never rely on lists of popular tourist destinations.  Lists and internet sites aren’t a bad place to start, but my pre-visit research also includes conversations with visitors and residents, museum curators, visitor bureaus, etc.  After that—and this part is non-negotiable—I need to visit the destination.  Only a personal visit can reveal a city’s true essence—its diversity, bustle, smell, sound, and color.

Only after visiting Nashville could I write this aha! moment:

“At Bicentennial Mall, we walk to the middle of the carillon bell towers and search for the silver dot.  Then we sing, and our small voices become BIG!

Suddenly, all around us, the bells begin to ring—

bing bang bong,

almost as if they heard our song,

almost as if they’re applauding.

And that’s when we get it!  We may be small,

but music makes our voices loud.”

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville

Only after visiting Detroit could I write this aha! moment, so different from Nashville’s:

“And there it is.  The Fist.  Big and strong.

“The Fist” from Lulu & Rocky in Detroit

And then it hits me—POW!

Detroit is everybody’s voice, sounding like one.

It’s music and murals and motors . . .

and never giving up.”

Now it was time for a new adventure.  This time, our publisher, Sleeping Bear Press, wanted a departure from the usual city visit.  This time, the destination would be a national park. Pre-covid, it seemed like a genius plan.

But visiting during Covid was out of the question.  What to do?  My spinning little brain likes to torture me with detailed playbacks of me saying dumb stuff.  So now I was haunted by visions of talking to school kids with overinflated confidence about how to overcome the very problem I was now facing.  Dang.

Mired in a Covid funk, I pored over images and descriptions of dozens of national parks, all tantalizingly out of reach!  Double dang.  But I had to choose one, and quickly.

In the end, I didn’t feel I could write about a place completely unknown to me.  If I couldn’t visit the park with notebook in hand, sniffing out the curious, interesting, gob-smacking vistas, perhaps I could draw on memories.

My husband, Chuck, is a Colorado guy, having spent most of his life in this mountain state.  And for five years, he lead an outlaw lifestyle, living in an Airstream trailer, mostly in Rocky Mountain National Park, each morning fishing for breakfast, each winter night bundled in a sleeping bag with his cats and toothpaste (so the toothpaste wouldn’t freeze).  You just can’t beat someone’s first-hand accounts, especially if you share your breakfast burrito with them.

And over the years, Chuck infected me with a love of the Rockies.  We’d spent many vacations in Colorado, and I could happily recall the smell of ponderosa pine, eye-searing lightening slicing through the sky, the magic of meteor showers, and the “I can fly” feeling you get above the tree line.

Rocky Mountain National Park it was.  I bought a stack of books and maps and surfed the internet.  Then I began my customary phone calls, beginning with the park.  But Rocky Mountain National Park was closed for Covid.  Also closed?  The park’s internet sites that described each venue along with helpful photos.

My publisher helped me track down Katy Sykes, an information officer at the park, now working from home (a friend of a friend of a friend).  Katy was super helpful.  But then came the epic wildfire that burned 22,000 acres of the park and she was overwhelmed.  Communication was understandably slow.

This was a biblical combination of plague, fire and pestilence!

Like most picture books, “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park” appears deceptively simple.  But the park, itself, with its wide diversity of habitat and complex ecosystems is nothing, if not complex.  So I had to figure out complicated, hard-to-find details before I could write the breezy words that would make readers fall in love with this park.

For example, I wanted to include the double-meaning of this line:  “We fish for trout . . . and catch a rainbow,” capturing the twin delights of fishing and magical weather.  But the fishing stream had to be near the Moraine Park Campground.  And rainbow trout don’t populate most RMNP streams.  And finding one was a moving target because a recent fish count revealed shifting patterns.  After lots of digging, I settled on Glacier Creek.

Catching a rainbow from “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park.”

 

I wanted to include a spread with a vista of bobbing wildflowers, bees and butterflies, sunshine and big horn sheep—a quintessential RMNP experience.  But which vista would include this sublime combination?  And once I chose Horseshoe Park, my publisher wanted me to name the wildflowers . . . but which wildflowers bloom at the same time?

Horseshoe Park from “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park”

We sit down—close and all together—and let the sun melt on our faces. “We’re in the middle of awesome.” Lulu says.

I’m not complaining, but it would have been easy to figure this out with one teensy weensy visit.

But I’m a stubborn, stubborn woman, so I muscled through.  It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t nearly as good as being there.  But after finally gathering the details and impressions I needed, I wrote like a smoking hot she-devil.  And in the end, “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park” is my favorite in the series.  Go figure.

BARBARA BIO:

Barbara M. Joosse is an American children’s writer. She has been writing for children for over thirty years. She has published fifty-five books in 29 different languages for children, both picture books and chapter books. Her book titled, Mama, Do You Love Me? has sold over 3 million copies. Through her writing, she aspires to find the things that are the same, and the things that are different, between us all.

She has toured worldwide to promote her books, which have been translated into twenty-eight languages and attended college in Wisconsin, first at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and received her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She attended University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1977-80, taking creative writing classes. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Council for Wisconsin Writers.

RENEE’S BIO:

Renée Graef is an award-winning illustrator who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in art. She has illustrated over 80 books for children, including the Kirsten series in the American Girl collection and many of the My First Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Renée worked as a creative director for the Little House program at Harper Collins for five years and enjoyed traveling to the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites.

Renée has also illustrated classics such as The Nutcracker and My Favorite Things, as well as books about American icons: Mount Rushmore and Paul Bunyan. She has worked on books/cookbooks for Lidia Bastianich (of PBS’s Lidia’s Italy). Renée’s most recent alphabet books are on timekeeping and on lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Renée worked with the Getty Museum in Los Angeles on Thèrése Makes a Tapestry, a historical fiction highlighting the weaving of tapestries during the 1670’s in Paris.

Ms. Graef’s accomplishments have been honored by the Society of Illustrators-Los Angeles and the State of Wisconsin’s House of Representatives, among other groups and her work has been exhibited in numerous solo shows. Renée splits her time between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Los Angeles, California.

Barbara, thank you for sharing your journey and book with us. I LOVE these books. This one makes me want to drop everything and rush out the door to explore Rocky Mountain State Park. You and Renee are perfect together. The book is filled with stunning illustrations. What a great way for kids to learn about the wonders of the United States. I am sure families will have the same reaction as I had when I read the book and will add Rocky Mountain National Park to places they want to travel with the kids. Good luck with the book. Hope you continue to bring us more LuLu & Rocky adventures.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 16, 2021

Book Winners – Kudos – No Fee Contest

BOOK WINNERS: 

PJ Taub won OLD PEARL by Wendy Wahman

Carol Baldwin won THE DIRT BOOK by David L Harrison

Please send me your name and address and mention the book you won.

Put BOOK WINNER IN THE SUBJECT AREA.

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THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLDEDO CHRISTMAS WEED has won another award! The Independent Publishers Silver Medal for Holiday Books Congratulations to Alayne Kay Christian, Polina Gortman, and Blue Whale Press.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest.

NO FEE – DEADLINE: JUNE 30, 2021

Restrictions: Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment and at least 5,000 copies (or 5,000 hits for online publication).

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Horror. 17,000 words max.

Prize: $1,000 1st Prize awarded each quarter; one of those winners also receives the $5,000 annual “Golden Pen Award” grand prize. 2nd Prize $750, 3rd Prize $500.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 15, 2021

Book Giveaway: NEMESIS AND THE SWAN by Lindsay K. Bandy

Many of you may know Lindsay K Bandy from her position as SCBWI co-regional advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania. What you may not know is that her debut YA Novel NEMESIS AND THE SWAN published by Blackstone Publishing came out last year and was dominated for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award a few months ago. That is how I discovered this awsome book. As soon as I finished reading, I tracked Lindsay down to see if she would like to be featured on Writing and Illustrating. So here she is today and she has agreed to send the lucky USA winner a copy of her book. 

All you have to do 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, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Lindsay.

If you have receive my blog in your email box everyday, please let me know in the comments and you’ll earn an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

From her prison cell in revolutionary Paris, nineteen-year-old aristocrat Hélène d’Aubign recalls the events that led her to choose between following in her parents’ unforgivable footsteps or abandoning the man she loves.

Despite her world of privilege, Hélène is inspired early on by the radical ideas of her progressive governess. Though her family tries to intervene, the seeds of revolution have already been planted in Hélène’s heart, as are the seeds of love from an unlikely friendship with a young jeweler’s apprentice. Hélène’s determination to find true love is as revolutionary as her attempt to unravel the truth behind a concealed murder that tore her family apart.

As violence erupts in Paris, Hélène is forced into hiding with her estranged family, where the tangled secrets of their past become entwined with her own. When she finally returns to the blood-stained streets of Paris, she finds everything—and everyone—very much changed. In a city where alliances shift overnight, no one knows whom to trust.

Faced with looming war, the mystery of her family’s past, and the man she loves near death, Hélène will soon find out if doing one wrong thing will make everything right, or if it will simply push her closer to the guillotine.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Hi, booklovers!
Kathy so kindly invited me to introduce you to my debut YA historical novel, Nemesis and the Swan today, and I can’t wait! I’m a youth librarian, so I spend my days reading picture books in silly voices and playing parachute games, scouring catalogs and reviews for new titles I think our patrons would enjoy, and running a literary magazine for tweens and teens who love to write. When I’m not working at the library, I’m hanging out with my two smart, funny daughters and husband, thrift-shop treasure hunting, eating donuts, listening to music, and of course writing! Nemesis and the Swan is the product of so much love, research, and growth, and I hope it will find its way from my heart to yours.

Hélène d’Aubign’s story begins in pre-revolutionary Paris as a lonely little girl growing up in a chilly aristocratic circle. She loves art and music and her mind is intensely curious, but she asks too many questions—questions that annoy everyone but her governess and Théo, the young jeweler’s apprentice she falls in love with. Once her governess is fired, Hélène is on her own to figure out who she is and where she belongs in a world made up of neat categoriesshe doesn’t fit into—categories that soon mean the difference between life and death as Revolution consumes Paris. As the French people go to shocking lengths to claim their freedom from the monarchy, Hélène will have to decide just how far she’ll go to claim the life she dreams of—and if maybe doing one wrong thing can make everything else right.

Though Nemesis and the Swan begins in 1780s Paris, my journey with this book began two hundred years later, in 1980s Pennsylvania. Like Hélène, I grew up artistic and shy, feeling different from kids my age, asking too many questions, and sure I’d never belong anywhere. My family moved frequently, and my journal became the place to pour out my thoughts and feelings. In high school and college, I took up poetry, songwriting, and fiction, but I didn’t feel a real sense of belonging until I met my husband, Clay. Somehow, he convinced me it was okay to be my goofy, artsy, inquisitive self, and encouraged me to pursue my writing seriously.

After two beautiful baby girls and a few years of sleep deprivation, I joined SCBWI and finally found my people. If you have experienced this incredible community, it won’t surprise you to learn that Hélène finds herself working in a Parisian bookshop, writing and illustrating for children, finding a deep sense of belonging, love, and joy!

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830, Louvre, Paris, France.

In Nemesis and the Swan, Hélène must find her place in the world, but she also uncovers some pretty shocking family secrets along the way. Like Hélène, I spent most of my life trying to unravel the mystery of my own estranged family. Even after finally meeting my great-grandmother shortly before her death, I still didn’t know what happened to split my extended family apart. Nobody would tell me, and it was maddening! (The scene where Hélène meets her grandmother in Grasse mirrors this meeting….but you’ll have to read to find out what she learns!) As I learned more about my family’s past—which is not nearly as juicy as Hélène’s, I swear!—I started thinking a lot about identity in the context of the truths and lies our families tell us. Where do nature, nurture, and choice intersect? And what happens when you throw in political turmoil, riots in the streets, forbidden love, and a guillotine?

I started to write about it, and while researching period fashion, I came across the gorgeously creepy Lover’s Eye jewelry that found its way into the heart of Hélène’s family drama. I discovered that these painted eyes were designed for real-life secret lovers and had mysterious origins in 18th century Paris before becoming a 19th century British trend and….

This is the Lover’s Eye jewelry I came across in my research, which became the center of the mystery Hélène must unravel in Nemesis and the Swan.

This is Lover’s Eye jewelry sculpted by my cover designer, Zena Kanes, from Blackstone Publishing.

…..Viola! Nemesis and the Swan.
Okay, so viola is an oversimplification.
It took a LOT (years!) of research.
A LOT (years!) of edits.
Three agents.
Multiple editor rejections.
A few tantalizing almosts that led to more edits, which made the story (and me!) stronger.

There were days along the way when I was too discouraged or afraid to write, edit, or submit. Days when I felt like a total imposter—not one of those mythical chosen ones who effortlessly make magic come out of their fingertips, directly onto the page. However, as I attended conferences, developed friendships with my critique groups, and learned from writers whose work I admired, I discovered that even the most magical books are made with so many jagged pieces of reality, so many questions and joys and disappointments and journeys, and the continual encouragement from people who love and believe in us.


Choosing to take all the scrap metal life gives you and stubbornly forge it into something meaningful, beautiful, and shareable—that’s what makes you a chosen one.

As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.”
This is the stuff of revolutions on large scales and small ones, because the decision to tell your stories has the power to draw others into a shared experience, bond you together, and set you free!

Thank you so much, Kathy, for reading Nemesis and the Swan and inviting me to share it with your readers!

BRANDY’S BIO:

Bandy writes historical and contemporary young adult fiction as well as poetry. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and currently serves as the co-regional advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Web site: http://lindsaybandybooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lindsay_Bandy
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindsayBandyBooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lindsayfisherbandy/
Purchase Links:
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781094059471
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nemesis-Swan-Lindsay-K-Bandy/dp/1094059471

Lindsay, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. As you know, I LOVE this book. It is quite amazing for a debut book. A beautifully written and intriguing story that kept me turning every page and wanting to read more. When I closed Nemesis and the Swan the first word that came to mine was wow! It is on my list of memorial books. Can’t wait to read your next book. Good luck! 

Hopefully, the SCBWI will consider showing off all the book dominated books each year for the Crystal Kite Award, so all of us can find more wonderful books.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 14, 2021

Agent Beth Marshea – Ladderbird Literary Agency

Beth Marshea – Ladderbird Literary Agency

Beth is the owner and Lead Agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. I have a BA in Literature and a Masters in Business Administration and am always looking for new and exciting ways to bring more diversity into publishing at Ladderbird and beyond. She is interested in the following:

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Commercial, Family Saga, Fantasy, General, Historical, Horror, LGBTQ, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Picture Books, Science Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
Non-Fiction: Biography, History, Journalism, LGBTQ, Pop Culture, Travel

Favorite sub-genres: Diversity, Literary Middle Grade, Magical Realism, Multicultural, Narrative Nonfiction, Social Issues

I would like to see more works from disabled writers, from LGBTQIA+ writers, from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern, and all other groups who do not regularly get to see their stories in print. I would love to see more nonbinary representation across categories as well.

Fiction

Young Adult:

Contemporary- I am very actively looking for stories about found family, the difficulties of friendship, LGBTQIA+ Rom/Coms, anything that is really poignant and pulls at your heart strings, especially if it is set outside of the U.S.

Mysteries/Thrillers– Stories with high stakes, and complex friendships stretched thin. In YA, Mysteries/Thrillers of almost any kind are appealing as long as they are emotionally focused and bring a new point of view. I am not a fan of unreliable narrators.

Fantasy- Very similar to Adult Fantasy, I prefer dark folkloric tales, but am very glad to have a happy ending! I’m also interested in tales that feature friendships rather than romance as their base, but really dig in to the full emotions of that particular love and struggle.

Middle Grade:

I am starting to acquire a very select list of MG and PB: I’m looking for contemporary stories that  have fun, compelling characters dealing with real problems that Middle School kids face: friendship, divorce, gender identity, budding feelings of attraction or a lack of those feelings, feelings of isolation, and found family stories. I’m also interested in Fantasy that explores similar themes.

Picture Books:

I’m dying to find books with really cute hooks like “The Day the Crayons Quit”, or nice messaging like “Not Quite a Narwhal”. I’d love to find a book that brings parents and kids together with language simple enough for a young child to read, but engrossing enough for an adult to enjoy.

Adult:

Literary Fiction- I am looking for work with exceptional voice and beautiful style, unusual settings, and works that involve clever plots with dynamic characters. I want to see work that brings to light new perspectives on old ideas.  Of particular interest are multi-generational stories that show family dynamics, stories centered around found family or friendship. I am especially interested in seeing works by and about BIPOC communities, especially Latinx and Indigenous writers.

Mainstream/Commercial Fiction I’d love to see more multicultural Meet-Cutes/RomComs (especially LGBTQ+), Family Drama, stories about friendships of any kind, work that is light and fun, but emotionally poignant at the same time.

Mysteries- Cozies with a twist. It might be an unusual setting, or simply written from BIPOC perspective to give this genre a new voice.

Thrillers- I love a thriller that really keeps you on the edge of your seat guessing! I’m particularly looking for thrillers set outside of the United States. I do not love thrillers that feature violence towards women as their main plot.

Fantasy- Books that are fast-paced with wonderful (ideally non-European) characters. I’d love to see more dark fantasies based on non-European folklore, especially Latinx (new imaginings of El Cucuy, El Sombrerón, Duendes, etc…)!

Science Fiction- I really want grounded Sci-Fi with characters that are engrossing, tight plots, and really beautiful voice. I prefer stories set in the near future, featuring unusual tech, that are not focused around the US. I’m not the best candidate for a space opera or any military Sci-Fi.

Non-Fiction:

Adult: I am actively seeking narrative nonfiction centering around cultural phenomena, hidden or weird histories, issue-driven books, and books that offer new ways to look at spiritualism, witchcraft and paganism.

I am not a good fit for books on the Judeo-Christian religions.

Submission Guidelines

Submit to Beth:  queryme.online/bethmarshea

Guidelines & Details

Mike Ciccotello has written and illustrated a new picture book BEACH TOYS VS. SCHOOL SUPPLIES, published by FSG/Macmillan Books. It will hit bookstores on June 15th, but is available now for pre-ordered. Mike has agreed to give away one signed copy of the book as well as one pen-and-ink original illustration of some of the characters to one lucky winner in the US.

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 other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Mike.

If you my blog is delivered to you everyday, please let me know in the comments and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A fun-filled tale of summertime, teamwork, and the balance between having fun and buckling down, from Twins creator Mike Ciccotello!

Summer is winding down and school is just around the corner when two old rivals meet at the beach. Shovel thinks Ruler is a number-obsessed know-it-all. Ruler thinks Shovel is all play and no work. So when their two gangs challenge one another to a beachfront competition, the contest between beach toys and school supplies gets heated. Who will win? Who will have more fun? And will they be able to step up to help each other when unexpected disaster sweeps in?

This fresh take on the end-of-summer blues is bright, dynamic, and laugh-out-loud funny!

BOOK JOURNEY:

Whilebrainstorming for a back-to-school promotionalillustration, I found myself wanting to create something unexpected. Images of school busses and classroom suppliesseem logical, but I craved going beyond those typical images. Even though this project is where the inspiration for BEACH TOYS vs.SCHOOL SUPPLIES originated, the “aha!” moment came fromsomething else. Something… unexpected. On an afternoon spent with my boys playing in the sandbox, I noticed something resting upon the sand: a toy shovel. This unlikely item would spark my first character idea As soon as I could, I began sketching.

I refined my drawing until I created a character I liked. Finally satisfied, I designed the characters even further.

Once developing both color versions and postcard image for the back-school illustration promotion, I was ready to move forward with the story.

All the characters have personalities, and with these personalities comes tension. What woul the beach toye and school supplies battle over? I was stuck between two storylines. They could clash in a hole digging contest, or challenge each other to a shandcastle building competition. I’m sure you’re thinking, “duh, sandcastle building competition!” But as writers know, these things are not so obvious while you are in the weeds. Or, in my case, buried in the sand.

They always say don’t get attached to your ideas,but it’s hard not to when they’re both soentertaining.After some further debate, I chose the sandcastle competition.Itfeltthestrongestof the two.

With the characters developedanda storylinecrafted,BEACH TOYSvs.SCHOOL SUPPLIESfinally came to life. I’m grateful for my agent, Rachel Orr. She was right there by my side duringthis whole process. We sold the book on an exclusive submission to FSG/Macmillan. It was great to work with the FSG team again so soon after my first author-illustrated book, TWINS.My editor, Wes Adams, is the same editor I worked with on TWINS.

It was great to work with the FSG team again so soon after my first author-illustrated book, TWINS.My editor, Wes Adams, is the same editor I worked with on TWINS.Beach Toys vs. School Supplies is ready to go out into the world. It is a tale of balance betweenwork and play, something we can all relate to. I’m having a virtual launch party on FacebookLive on June 15th at 4 pm. We will draw together, learn some sandcastle building techniques,get a behind-the-scenes peek at making the book, and have a special guest—Bobby Beetcut.

Bobby will perform the BEACH TOYS vs. SCHOOL SUPPLIES song live. I hope you’ll join us. Follow this link for the event: https://fb.me/e/1lk2jC4vMAND if you would like to pre-order a signed copy of the book, order from mylocalIndependentBook Store, RiverRoad Books, here: https://www.riverroadbooks.net/book/9780374314040 You’ll also receive a signed print of all the characters while supplies last.

MIKE’S BIO:

MIKE CICCOTELLO is the author-illustrator of the picture book TWINS and BEACH TOYS VS. SCHOOL SUPPLIES (both from FSG/Macmillan). He is also the illustrator of Bridget Heos’s TREEMENDOUS and her forthcoming picture-book series SCIENCE BUDDIES (all from Crown/Penguin Random House), as well as CHEESE AND QUACKERS, an early graphic chapter-book series written by Prospect client Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (forthcoming from Aladdin/S&S). Mike is an active member of SCBWI and CBIG.

Mike is represented by Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency.

Here is the link for the virtual book launch:

https://fb.me/e/1lk2jC4vM

Here is the link for preordering the book:

https://www.riverroadbooks.net/book/9780374314040

Website:

BeachToysVsSchoolSupplies.com

Facebook:
Facebook.com/mciccotello
 
Twitter:
Twitter.com/Ciccotello
 
Instagram:
Instagram.com/Ciccotello

*******

Mike, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It was very interesting to hear your thoughts and see how to visually worked on the book. This is a very cute book and I love how your twins are inspiring your books. Keep them coming. Good luck with Beach Toys vs School Supplies!

Don’t miss Mike’s launch party on Wednesday: https://fb.me/e/1lk2jC4vM 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 12, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Sandra Herrgott

Sandra is a contemporary Australian illustrator, author, painter and Graphic Designer. In 2000 Sandra finished her studies in Landscape Architecture / Urban Design in Germany and graduated with a Master’s degree. For 8 years she worked in Germany, the UK and Australia in the Design Industry. In 2005 Sandra finished her studies in Art & Design at the London College of Communication in London.

She has been writing and illustrating professionally since 2010. She has worked in many mediums and has yearly exhibited her work in her local community in Brisbane as well as completed commissioned work.

In collaboration with Robert Herrgott, Sandra has written, illustrated and self-published three children’s picture books: “Mellie”, “Mellie learns to forgive” and “Red Rabbit loves to dream”. These days Sandra works part-time out of her studio in Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia focusing on her third Mellie book “Mellie’s special friend”.

After studying Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, she found her true passion for illustrating and have been working as a freelance illustrator since 2018.

Sandra works both digitally in Photoshop and traditionally with Watercolors and have developed a whimsical style in both mediums. Animals and children in nature are her favourite subjects to illustrate and she’s excited to be illustrating the kinds of books she loves reading to her own children.

HERE IS SANDRA DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

Often, I do color studies, but with this illustration I knew the colors I wanted to use. Here I added the base colors. Lots of my final illustrations don’t show the linework, but in this spread I kept the linework as part of the illustration.

And finally adding details, light and shadows to finish the illustration using different photoshop brushes and scanned in watercolor textures.

INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA HERRGOTT:

Have you always lived in Australia?

No, I grew up in Germany. Since I was 14, I wanted to be able to speak English. That’s why I went to live and work in London for four years after finishing university. I made so many Australian friends there, that I went to Australia on a working holiday visa in 2005. I planned to be here only for one year, but I got a job and a business visa and 4 years later I met my husband here. Australia is home now.

What was the first thing you illustrated that you were paid for?

When I worked in London as a Graphic Designer, I started to illustrate my own greeting cards and one card store was stocking those. It was very special to me.

How long have you been illustrating?

Just for fun since I took an evening illustration class at the London College of Communication in London in 2004. Professionally, I have been illustrating for clients from 2019.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

My first piece of art was on greeting cards in 2004.

What made you decide to study Landscape Architecture and Urban Design?

I didn’t really know what to do with my life, so I read through a book of professions and the most interesting job description I found was Landscape Architecture/Urban Design. I thought I would be either drawing/designing or spending time in nature. Both are still my favorite things to do.

Did you ever take a job doing Landscape Architecture and Urban Design?

Yes, I worked as a student with different companies in Germany and then also 4 years in Brisbane, Australia.

What made you decide to illustrate children’s picture books?

It was my dream to illustrate a picture book since I did the evening illustration class in London. My teacher encouraged me to send my book dummy to a publisher. It didn’t come to anything, but I started to create picture books for my friends and family members. It was so much fun creating personal stories for them. I have to thank my husband who explained to me that I spread myself to thin trying to many different creative adventures and that it would be better to focus on one main area. For me this was telling stories through watercolor illustrations.

Did you take any online courses for children’s illustrating?

Last year I was a member of ‘Let’s make picture books’ run by Stephanie Fizer Coleman and Denise Holmes. I learnt so much and created some portfolio pieces I really like. Right now, I am enrolled in Mira Reisberg’s course ‘Writing and Illustrating children’s picture books’.

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

When I started working as a freelance illustrator, I took on private commissions and worked with my husband on our first book together.

Was Mellie your first picture book?

Yes.

How did that opportunity come about?

I wrote and partly illustrated the Mellie book after a bible study understanding God’s grace for the first time. I asked my husband to edit it. He rewrote it into a great rhyming book. It was so much better than what I wrote, still having the same message about grace. I had to redo all the illustrations though, which in the end achieved a better product. It was both a great learning experience as well as a blessing getting feedback from parents and their children how this book helped them to understand grace.

You have so many beautiful illustrations. Was Tonight I Wear Jammies by Taylor Freeman April 2020 the start of illustrating picture books for self-published authors?

No, I illustrated Flight of Fancy by Debbie Sullivan first in 2019, even though it came out only in Dec 2020.

In June 2020, you illustrated 5 picture books by Katrina Villegas dealing with grief. How did the two of you connect?

Katrina contacted me. I think she found me on one of my social media platforms and my Esty store.

In July 2020, you illustrated Pink, The Furry-Godmother by Simon Perrie, Vaishi Thiru. This is a shorter book. Is it sold as a picture book?

Yes, it’s a shorter picture book available through Amazon.

In Aug 2020 Sweet Dreams, Sweet One, Good Night by Jamie Taylor and Sandra Herrgott you illustrated. Were you working on this book while illustrating the Godmother book?

Yes, for a while I worked on 3 books at the same time. It was intense and definitely taught be to be wiser with my time management. However, each book was in a different phase and by God’s grace I managed to get them all done in a suitable time frame.

In November 2020 you illustrated Good News for Me! by Brooke Kashou. How long did you work on this book?

I loved working with Brooke. I think it took me 3-4 months once I started the sketches. She was very patient to wait to work with me until I finished a few other deadlines.

You finished out 2020 with Flight of Fancy: A Book of Hopes and Dreams for Children of All Ages by Debbie Sullivan. How did Christian Faith Publishing, Inc find you to illustrate the book?

I created the illustrations for Flight of Fancy in 2019. The author, Debbie Sullivan, contacted me personally to create the illustrations for her.

March 2021 you illustrated Together in the Spring by Scott Ericksonand Sandra Herrgott. Would you say this is your first non-Christian book?

No ‘The Fairy-Godmother’ and ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet One, Good Nigh’ were the first two non-Christian books I illustrated.

Mimi’s Swing by Amy Fitchettjust came out at the end of April. What type of things do you do to keep finding books to illustrate?

Well as a Christian of course I pray. I do believe God opened all those doors for me. I wanted to illustrate picture books earlier, but also wanted to be a home stay mum for my two boys. Two conflicting desires. His timing is perfect. I got work when I really needed it.

But besides praying I also try to be regularly active on social media, add new products to my Etsy store and create new portfolio pieces.

Do you have an artist rep.? If not would you like find representation?

No, I don’t have an artist rep yet. I just finished my online portfolio and hope to find one when the time is right.

Do you take pictures or do research before you illustrate a book?

Yes definitely. It’s easy for me to get lost in research. That’s why I set my self a timer and write a list of things I need to research to stay focused.

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

Yes, I have written a few more stories, which I would like to illustrate. I am hoping to get some feedback on those stories during the course I am currently enrolled and then finish the book dummies for those stories.

Are you still interested in illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-published?

Yes, if I am a good fit for it.

Have you worked with educational publishers?

No, but I’d be interested.

Have you done any illustrations for children’s magazines?

No, that would be fun though.

What do you think helped develop your style?

I am still not sure if I have a recognizable style, but regularly drawing and experimenting helps me to be more confident, learn new things and improve my skills.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I have one room in the house where I have set up my studio.

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

Yes, I’d love to see my own books in print one day.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think getting our first book ‘Mellie’ published was a highlight. Especially after my husband asked me if I am one of those people who perfects the illustrations forever, but never finishes it? I was a procrastinating perfectionist at this stage. But really every illustrated book is a celebration for me.

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

Currently I work mainly digitally for picture book illustrations, as it speeds up the process and changes can be made so much easier. However I do sketch a lot on paper before working digitally and create different watercolor textures that I scan in and use in my illustrations. I still have the need to create small watercolor paintings just for fun or commissions and art licensing projects.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I used to work only in watercolors until I got confident creating illustrations digitally.

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

Yes, I work with a Cintique Wacom Tablet.

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

Yes, I try to either sketch or paint every day, besides Sunday.

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

Yes, definitely.

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

Yes, I would like to find representation and work with a traditional publishers illustrating picture books, as well as working as an author/illustrator.

What are you working on now?

Currently I am working on a picture book with Bethany Douglas and United House Publishing, I am also creating 50 illustrations for a card set for a Licensed Professional Counselor.

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 love painting with Windsor & Newton Watercolors on 200-300gsm Canson Cold Pressed watercolor paper.

For digital illustrations I use Photoshop and Kyle Webster Brushes. I couldn’t work without my Cintique now. I’d love to get a bigger size one day.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

I believe besides challenging yourself to master new skills it’s equally important to illustrate just for the joy of it. Find a subject matter that excites you and explore it. Don’t stop having fun to create and create something small daily. The small things help you master the big challenges.

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

To see more of Sandra’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://www.sandraherrgott.com/
Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/people/aisiu2kc
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sandra_herrgott
Behance: https://www.behance.net/sandraherrgott

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

JUNE AGENT OF THE MONTH

KELLY DYKSTERHOUSE, Literary Agent

Raven Quill Literary Agency

Kelly Dyksterhouse grew up with a book always in her hands and a story always in her head. The important role that books played in her early years developed into a passion for children’s literature in her adult life. Kelly holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults for Vermont College of Fine Arts and has interned as an editorial reader at leading literary agencies and worked as an independent developmental editor and writing mentor. She considers the opportunity to help bring books into existence to be a great honor, and it is a particular joy for her to work alongside authors as they develop their project from idea to polished manuscript. The best feeling of all is when those manuscripts end up as books in the hands of children.

I am looking to acquire middle grade and young adult novels and narrative nonfiction, as well as picture books and graphic novels.

For 2021, I am especially looking for graphic novels. I’ll consider text only, but am hungry for author/illustrators.

For picture books, I am drawn to books that are character driven with a strong narrative arc, and I particularly love books with a surprise or subversive twist to them that make me laugh. I also love lyrical texts with a classic feel, and am looking for nonfiction picture books about a little known period of history or that focus on the natural world. Author/Illustrators are always a plus.

In middle grade, I’m looking for a wide range of genres. I enjoy high-concept, fast-paced adventure books with a commercial hook, either contemporary or speculative, as well as literary works featuring lush, lyrical writing. I love ghost stories, magical realism, historical fiction and mysteries–books that get you to look at the familiar in a different light and to see the possible in the impossible. I enjoy books that feature ensemble casts, unlikely heroes, underdogs, surprise friendships and complicated, yet hopeful, family dynamics. I am particularly interested in books written by and featuring underrepresented voices in ways that showcase kids being kids in all the above scenarios. For nonfiction, I’m interested in projects that shed a light on a little known historical time period or discovery, projects that focus on the natural world, and issues of social justice. In all genres, I’m looking for beautiful writing and strong voice.

For YA, I’m looking for speculative fiction that is layered, has a distinct voice, and is grounded in a universal emotional desire. I seem to be drawn toward literary works that have a commercial hook, and I’m interested in genre mash-ups. So whereas I don’t love sci-fi, I’d jump at a mystery set in space; I would also really love a historical that feels relevant or that has a light magical twist. I find that I’m especially drawn to YA that has vivid, immersive and contained settings–settings that almost function as a character themselves (Think Scorpio Races or Frankie Landau Banks). As with MG, I enjoy books with ensemble casts and fast action. I’m not usually a great fit for straight romance, but I do enjoy a romantic thread. I always enjoy a good enemies to lovers story. A couple of specific wishes: I would love a smart, funny heist and a moving novel in verse along the lines of Poet X. 

Fun facts about me:On my nightstand right now: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, The Way Back by Gavriel Savit, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, and Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri.

What I miss most about life “Pre-COVID”: live music and breweries, soccer, traveling, working in coffee shops.

What I am thankful for during these months of social distancing: Long walks in the woods. Zoom. Chocolate. Books (duh). Animals-dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, foxes, deer, owls…anything living and breathing I can watch or talk to during the day.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to QueryMe.Online/KellyDyksterhouse https://querymanager.com/query/KellyDyksterhouse 

Submissions are only accepted through Query Manager. You may submit one project at a time to one RQLA agent at a time. If that agent passes on your query, you may then query another RQLA agent after a period of one month. For picture books, you may submit the entire manuscript in addition to your query. For novels, please submit a query, a one-page synopsis, and the first ten pages of your work. Authors and artists from underrepresented groups are invited to make note of that in the referral box.

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INTERVIEW WITH AGENT KELLY DYKSTERHOUSE – PART ONE 

1. When did you decide you get your MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults for Vermont College of Fine Arts?

I started looking seriously at VCFA’s WCYA program in 2010, and applied in 2011 for their January 2012 class, graduating in 2014. (One of the most important and transforming decisions I’ve made in my life, by the way.) At the time I was considering it, I realized that the kidlit world was one in which I wanted to be involved, both as a writer and as a teacher. Working within the publishing industry was not in the forefront of my mind. I knew I needed to study writing craft, and while a person can certainly do that on their own, I thought that concerted focus in an MFA program would get me where I wanted to be more quickly. In addition, I knew that having a terminal degree would be necessary should I want to teach at a higher level.

2. Is that what made you decide to become an agent?

I think everyone around me knew that I wanted to be an agent before I did. I did start working in a literary agency in 2012, as an intern, and then worked my way up to assistant. I worked in literary agencies for 8 years prior to joining Raven Quill, and I loved it. I think the value of what I learned through my MFA program was a love for writing craft, and my work at literary agencies took that further by helping me develop my editorial eye and an understanding of the market.

3. How did you get the job with Raven Quill Literary Agency?

I knew RQLA founder Jacqui Lipton through the years, working with her at Upstart Crow Literary, and also through VCFA channels. The kidlit world is small. When she founded RQLA, she asked if I’d be interested in joining her, and after careful thought and encouragement from my then boss and now mentor, Susan Hawk, I took the leap.

4. What are your thoughts about prologues? Any tips on how to best use them?

Ha! Ah, prologues. This could be a workshop lecture. I am actually not opposed to prologues on the whole, but tend to not encourage them because readers tend not to read them. Why write something readers don’t read? I’ve found that writers often use prologues to pull themselves into a story, and once the draft is polished and finished, they’re not necessary. But I do think that prologues can serve the story at times. They’re helpful if you need to provide a different point of view, particularly if that character’s insight is only needed once and provides a foundation for the story, for foreshadowing future events, or to give some sort of information that the reader can’t otherwise glean from the plot. Some questions writers should ask if considering the prologue are: How does it serve the story? Is it for you or for your reader? What information are you providing the reader, and why is it important to give it right away in this form? Is it possible to incorporate that information into the story in a scene or a chapter?

5. What would you like to see from a writer sending you a query letter?

Short answer: I want to know what your book is about, why you’re sending it to me, and who you are.

Longer answer: I personally like queries that open right away with a hook. In terms of a short synopsis paragraph, I want to know who your character is, what they want, and what’s at stake. That should provide me a good overview of the plot. I also want to know your target audience, genre and word count. Comps are always helpful, as well.

6. How important is the query letter?

Very! I liken the query letter to a first impression handshake at a job interview. It shows how prepared you are as an author, how seriously you take your work, and it provides a basic snapshot of your writing skills. I always read the synopsis and first pages that a querying writer sends me, but the query predisposes me to those pages by making either a good impression or a bad impression before I start reading. This can be daunting, I suppose, but I think a writer should instead consider the query letter to be a great opportunity. A well-written query will definitely work in your favor!

7. Should the writer try to be funny in their query to you or is it alright to be more business like? Do you prefer short?

A query should always be professional, but it should also showcase your voice and the voice of your work. If you write humor, then that should shine through. And yes, concise is always preferred. It’s important to remember that your query should provide just enough information to answer the question, what is your book about? And do so in an engaging way. It can be hard to whittle your entire novel down into a couple of sentences, but remember that you can go into more detail in your one page synopsis (which I also ask for.)

8. Do writers need to mention some comps in their query letter?

Oh, absolutely! Comps are a querying writer’s friend! They give an agent or editor a great idea of where you see your work in the market. They can give a broader view of your work’s genre (“Would fit nicely on the shelves with”), the plot/content (“Title meets Title”), your writing style and voice (“written in the vein of” or “with a voice reminiscent of”). Comps also show that you’ve done your homework as an author and know the market. TIP: don’t comp to blockbuster hits (like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games), but do choose comps that have a solid sales record. For more info on comp titles, Jacqui Lipton has a great blog post on how writers can use comps to their best advantage on our RQLA A Conspiracy of Ravens Blog.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY TO READ PART TWO ON MY INTERVIEW WITH KELLY

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HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR JUNE 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “JUNE 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2021 JUNE – 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. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and including you in the running.

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: JUNE 25th. – noon EST

RESULTS: JULY 2nd.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Dawn Young has a new picture book THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, illustrated by Pablo Pino and published by WorthyKids will hit bookstores on June 22nd and is available now for pre-ordered. Dawn has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

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 other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Dawn and Pablo.

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:

The sheep won’t let Bo sleep in this hilarious tale of what can go wrong when the sheep you count run amok the night before the first day of school.

Anxious for the first day of school, Bo just wants to fall asleep so he’ll be ready for the day. But when he tries counting sheep, the sheep get bored and scatter, and chaos ensues: “Sheep 5 snags a lunch bag and makes a strange creature. 6 swallows the apple Bo picked for his teacher. Sheep 7 grips scissors, and piece after piece, she snips and she clips, and she trims the flock’s fleece.” Children can count along with Bo as he finds the 10 mischievous sheep misbehaving throughout the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get enough sleep before his big day?

With 10 out-of-control sheep and the beleaguered Bo, this action-packed story will provide comic relief for anyone who might be a little nervous about the first day of school.

BOOK JOURNEY:

THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

In 2017, I read a post by the wonderful Kathy Temean informing us that WorthyKids Publishing was seeking holiday stories, so I submitted The Night Baafore Christmas, and in Oct 2019, it was published. Thank you, Kathy! After The Night Baafore Christmas was released, my editor asked if I had other Night Baafore stories, specifically Easter and the first day of school. I did have others, but not The Night Baafore Easter or the first day of school, so I got right to work.

I wrote The Night Baafore Easter next. Like Christmas, Easter gave me so much to work with – décor, traditions and goodies, but the first day of school, being a non-holiday, gave me much less to work with, or so I thought, until I realized I could give Bo a backpack and school supplies. With crayons, pencils, paint and glue to use, I was ready. However, I soon found that although a backpack and school supplies gave me a lot to work with, they didn’t give the sheep a reason to leave Bo’s bedroom. In fact, the sheep could have stayed in there all night and had a blast, so I had to find a way to get them out of Bo’s room and into the house. Then, I got an idea – have Bo mention taking the bus. As soon as he did, the sheep took off and so did the story.

Since this book is the third in The Night Baafore series, I had to find new mischief for the sheep to get into, and I wanted to make much of it school related. From making puppets and paper airplanes to painting, drawing and coloring, I tried to include as many school-related activities as possible.

I also wanted to give readers the opportunity to get crafty, so I had one sheep make a creature puppet that kids can easily make at home, another make paper airplanes and some draw and color which may inspire kids to do the same. Warning – the sheep also get a hold of the glue so keep that bottle close by.

When I finished the story, I sent it off to my wonderful critique group, of course. After I got their feedback, I made some more edits and then sent The Night Baafore the First Day of School to my agent.

My agent sent the story to my editor, and she loved it. I had a few minor changes to make, then the story was ready.  Pablo agreed to do the illustrations and, once again, he did an incredible job. He gave readers so much to look at and laugh at. The Night Baafore the First Day of School couldn’t be more perfect!

We all know that the first day of school is very big day. Super-excited or somewhat scared, kids have all kinds of emotions about the first day of school. Filled with crafty chaos and loads of fun, The Night Baafore the First Day of School aims to build excitement for the big day.

The Night Baafore the First Day of School, dedicated to readers, teacher and students everywhere, comes out June 22. 

AUTHOR DAWN YOUNG:

Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, as a manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. Dawn is an active member of SCBWI and many other children’s writing groups.

https://www.facebook.com/dawn.young.1865

https://twitter.com/dawnyoungPB

https://www.instagram.com/dawnyoungbooks/

www.dawnyoungbooks.com

ILLUSTRATOR PABLO PINO BIO:

Pablo Pino was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up watching cartoons, playing football and drawing a lot. These days, he doesn´t watch as much TV and only plays football once a week, but still has the joy of painting every day. Why? Because, for the last 10 years, he‘s been working as a professional illustrator for different print media. What he enjoys the most is illustrating books for children and teenagers. Besides the 40 published books Pablo’s illustrated, among novels and tales he also does characters designs, board games and collaborate on designs for schoolbooks and magazines with various worldwide publishing companies. Pablo is self-taught and his illustrations are mostly computer drawn, but he always adds textures that he makes with pencils, crayons, acrylics and pretty much any material that lets him get messy like when he was a child.

http://pablopinodib.wix.com/pablopino

https://www.facebook.com/PinoPablo

www.pino-ilustraciones.blogspot.com

Dawn, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. So glad to see your have continued to add books to this series. The sheep are always so funny with their shenanigans that cause so much chaos. Kids will love it!
The illustrations add to the fun. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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