Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 4, 2020

Book Giveaway: CAN I GIVE YOU A SQUISH? by Emily Neilson

Emily Neilson debut author/illustrator picture book, CAN I GIVE YOU A SQUISH? and published by Dial Books comes out on June 9th. She has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Emily, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Kai is a little mer-boy who loves giving hugs, or squishes, as he and his mermaid mama call them. But when Kai meets a shy little puffer fish, he quickly learns that not every fish wants to be squished. A book about friendship, consent, and how to give love in new ways—“Can I Give You a Squish?” a fun and useful conversation starter, especially now in the age of social distancing.

BOOK JOURNEY:

This book started in a fish tank. I was in my little studio apartment, making a strange tiny mermaid doll out of oven-bake clay, yarn and nail polish, when I decided that the best thing to do would be to suspend it in a tank full of water and take pictures to use as illustrations for a book.

The idea wasn’t as big a stretch as it sounds. I work as a stop motion fabricator. At the time, I was at Laika, making little taxidermy animals, umbrellas, and chairs for the film Missing Link. So, naturally, I got out all my plastic plants, rocks, and miniature mermaids, dunked them in the fish tank and splashed around with my camera for a weekend. Great, I thought, I have my ‘look.’ It’s unique, it’s interesting, maybe a bit creepy…but whatever! Onward.

But then I sat down and the story came out. It was right around the time that #metoo was trending, and while I tried again and again to write a story that matched my strange tank full of mermaids, what came out was a sweet lesson on consent and physical affection for young kids.

I love Kai’s character so much. He is like this little ball of boundless optimism, so exuberantly affectionate. Even when he makes a mistake and frightens his puffer fish friend, he does his best to work things out and strengthen his relationship with the fish that he frightened.

The overt lesson of the story is one of consent and bodily autonomy, but the thing I love about picture books is that you can build in other, equally hopeful messages just through all the things that are treated as non-issues—like having a racially ambiguous, sorta genderless, but mostly boy mer-person, who happens to love showing affection to his friends and his mom, and is innately connected to his emotions. Plus a mermaid mama whose body looks like it could have feasibly been through pregnancy.

After a month or so of working on the story, and falling in love with the characters, it soon became clear that my weird tank method wasn’t going to cut it. I was determined to put the story first, and that meant scrapping the tank and learning to draw.

I hadn’t drawn for ages. Not really. Not with a purpose, a story in mind. For years I’d used drawing as a tool for discovery, not as an end in itself. But by then I cared enough about Kai and his underwater friends that I really wanted to do justice to their characters. After several months of stalling and several more filled with some very ugly drawings, I had something good enough to show, and maybe, good enough to sell.

So I dove into the SCBWI handbook and started the truly terrible cold-querying process. With each rejection came another round of revisions and another hard look at my art. By the time I emailed Christy, an incredible agent at The Cat Agency, I had just about given up on the story and was ready to move on. So of course that’s when it happened.

Christy decided to rep the book. Within a month she had sold it to Lucia Monfried, a delightful, now recently retired editor at Dial. I couldn’t believe it. Then, of course, the real work began. Thanks to Lucia, Mina Chung and the whole Dial team, the book grew into something better than I ever thought it could be. Just a few months ago all I could think was, I can’t wait for summer 2020…

Well, summer 2020 is here and it isn’t the world any of us could’ve imagined. But still, I’m glad that ‘Can I Give You a Squish?’ is coming out now. Kids need new books. Now more than ever. And since this is a book about thinking up new ways to show affection, there’s a chance it’ll help ease some of the tough lessons we are all having to work through in the era of social distancing. It’s a hard time for all the kids (and adults) who, like Kai, just love to give squishes. But with some luck and some help from friends, we can all work through it together.

…And I will say this: there has never been a more perfect time to get out your oven bake clay, yarn, and nail polish, make yourself a mermaid and dunk it in a fish tank.

EMILY’S BIO:

Emily is a children’s book author/illustrator and a stop motion fabricator based in Portland, OR.

As a kid she always wanted to write and illustrate books, and thinks if she had known that animated films were made by actual humans, she’d have wanted to work on those too! So when a variety of stars aligned, bringing her into the world of stop motion, she was ridiculously happy. She’d skip into work every day and chip away at a miniature mountain, or tree, or prop and then skip home and make things for herself.

It was in her free time that her book “Can I Give You a Squish?” started to take shape. Then she says, “by some miracle”, Christy Tugeau Ewers at the wonderful Cat Agency decided to represent her book, and Dial Books decided to publish it. And now it coming out on June 9th.

This past year, she’ve been working as a set dresser and model maker on a Netflix stop motion feature called Wendell and Wild, directed by Henry Selick.

Instagram: @emilyeneilso

Thank you Emily for sharing your debut book and its journey with us. It sounds like a fun heartwarming book. You did a great job with the illustrations. Good luck with the book. I look forward to showing you off on Illustrator Saturday later this month.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 3, 2020

ILLUSTRATOR OPPORTUNITY: CHAD W. BECKERMAN & INTERVIEW

CHAD W. BECKERMAN HAS JOINED THE CAT AGENCY

and building his list.

Agent Chad W. Beckerman brings over 20 years of illustration and design experience to the Agency. After studying illustration as an undergrad at RISD, Chad went on to be a Designer at Scholastic, a Senior Designer at Greenwillow Books, and then became the Creative Director at ABRAMS Kids and Comic Arts, where he spent 13 years overseeing the design of 250 books a year – from picture books, to novels, to graphic novels, and art and entertainment books. Chad is behind the aesthetic for over forty New York Times bestselling and award-winning books including the blockbuster Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, the Caldecott honor and Corretta Scott King Award winning Trombone Story, illustrated by Brian Collier, and the Newbury Medal honor books El Deafo, and Heart of the Samurai.

He executed the design architecture for countless series including Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger, The Questioneers (Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, Ada Twist) by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs, The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, The Sisters Grimm and Jared Chapman’s Vegetables in Underwear.

Chad’s greatest joy is working with illustrators, and as an agent he is busy curating and cultivating a unique group of artists who are inspiring and innovating in children’s literature. Chad represents illustrators and author/illustrators from all over the globe, who create artwork for all ages and genres. In addition to representing illustrators, Chad offers packaging of picture books, graphic novels and middle-grade series books through his design studio CWB Art & Design (www.chadwbeckerman.com).

Chad lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his cat, Kentucky. He has an impeccable eye, a quick wit and gave himself a pandemic haircut that you should ask to see.

I see you are already representing five illustrators. Did you work with them in your previous jobs or did you just see their work and contact them?

Actually six!

The only illustrator that I worked with before was Dion MBD, we worked on at the cover design for Boys in the Back Row ny Mike Jung, soon to be published by Arthur Levine at Levine Querido.

Dion MBD, because Dionisius Mehaga Bangun Djayasaputra is way too long to remember as he informed me, is an Indonesian illustrator/designer who is based in Brooklyn, NY. He works on ranges of projects such as editorial, publishing, and TV commercials. Dion received his Illustration BFA from Ringling College of Art Design in Florida where he grew his fascinations with clouds. Occasionally you can find him cloud-watching at one of the parks in Brooklyn. He enjoys YA, graphic novels, and picture books as they remind him of his childhood. He often gravitates towards stories that are tender with themes such as coming-of-age, grief, romance, and others that are close to our daily lives. Dion MBD : http://www.catugeau.com/#/dion-mbd/

Everyone else I have had my eye on for sometime or they were recommended to me.

Kyle Webster was first to join the team. We really wanted to work with each other while I was at ABRAMS but the timing didn’t work out as he was very busy. Developing. His digital brushes, for his own company https://www.kylebrush.com/,  the brand behind the world’s best-selling Photoshop brushes for professional illustrators, animators, and designers. His brushes were the first to be officially licensed by Adobe for inclusion in the Adobe library of tools for Photoshop.  These are the same brushed that a majority of illustrators use today. Thats amazing! So clearly Kyle is a master with his brushes. He is one of the most creative and versatile creators I know.

Each of the illustrators I am signing on are very different stylistically from each other. But similar that they are all more than just illustrators they are creators. They all fit into many different age groups, middle-grade, picture books, and graphic novels. They are storytellers not just with the images but they write as well. Kyle Webster : http://www.catugeau.com/#/kyle-webster/

Sarah Rebar is an illustrator based in Los Angeles.

She worked as a Senior Illustrator for the kid’s TV show, Sesame Street. She collaborated to create new muppets for Ahlan Sim Sim, an international co-production for young Syrian refugees, funded by the MacArthur genius grant. In addition, she illustrates kid’s books. She is part of the art collective, Ten Paces and Draw. She has done improv and comedy writing at The Magnet Theater, PIT, and UCB – and likes to tell weird stories with a sense of humor. Sarah Rebar : http://www.catugeau.com/#/sarah-rebar/

Melisa Fernández Nitsche is an illustrator, graphic designer and creative born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has a bachelor’s degree in “Advertising and Communication”  She mainly works with digital pencil and gouache brushes. Her work has been featured in advertisement, children’s games and digital media. She seeks to create picture books, board books, book covers and early readers/chapter books. Melisa is interested in stories that convey tenderness, sensitivity, and imagination. Melisa Fernández Nitsche : http://www.catugeau.com/#/melisa-fernandez-nitsche/

Rachel Dukes is a cartoonist, illustrator, and the creator of the cat-centric webcomic collection Frankie Comics (Oni Press). A 2013 MFA graduate from The Center for Cartoon Studies, Rachel has created comics, illustration, and background designs for The Nib, BOOM! Studios, Lion Forge Comics, and Oni Press, among others. Rachel’s comic work has appeared in several anthologies, including BeyondOathBottoms UpAs You Were, and Tim’rous Beastie. Rachel is interested in creating graphic novels, picture books, and board books. They love coming-of-age and middle grade stories with stubborn protagonists, queer feelings, magical realism, and ⁠—of course!⁠— cats. Rachel Dukes : http://www.catugeau.com/#/new-artist-racheldukes/

Jamie Green is a maker and professional curious person living in Greenville, South Carolina. She just graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design. In 2019, she was recognized by the Society of Illustrators as the Zankel Scholar. Much like her hobbies, her work can be described as the feeling of being bundled up around a campfire or hiking through the autumn woods. It is a goal of hers to both intrigue and educate, combining nature and whimsy and creating a space for curiosity (as well as a bit of magic). Jamie strives to create picture books, illustrated educational books, magazine covers, interactive materials, and chapter book covers/interiors.

Every illustrator I am working with I have asked to work up a list of 100 things they like to draw. This exersice helps me understand who they are as illustrator and creators through their own personal interest. And in turn helps them understand them selves in that moment. And who knows there might be a book idea in that list. The idea was spawned John Hendrix’s book Drawing is Magic. Jamie Green : http://www.catugeau.com/#/jamie-green/

Since you studied illustration at RISD, do you find time to create any of your own illustrations?

I do occasionally . . . but I haven’t put those skills to use in quite some time professionally. I mainly doodle for myself these days. That said I do feel guilty I haven’t spent more time with my brushes, making.   While I was at RISD I was a TE for three classes. I learned later that this experince of helping individuals get better at their craft was more rewarding than developing my own craft. The  understanding of how and illustrator thought, felt and the anxieties of making came in handy when I need to communicate to an illustrator.

Can you tell us more about your design studio CWB Art & Design? 

Currently we are an all purpose book design studio. We design and concept childrens books from 0-5, design middle grade covers and interiors, art direct picture books, design adult art books and on our down time review illustrators portfolios. Not to sign or represent them but just to help them get to there next creative level. I have reviews portfolios from the most seasoned illustrator to the beginning illustrator and they all have the same thing in common, every one needs to step outside of there work to see it more clearly to figure out were to go next. To be able to help with that is an amazing feeling.

  1. http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/comic-artdirection
  2. http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/illustrationinfoandreviewsIn addition we collaborate with my brother’s photography studio, http://www.beckermanphotography.com/ to create photos for book covers  interior photos

When you say you package picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade books. Do you mean you will match up the agency’s illustrators with author’s who do not illustrate?

Yes, in time we aim to do just that. With my experience of developing the design and aesthetic of  multiple best-selling series  I will work with our team to help them make there picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade books more marketable by helping develop them as brands. Like I did at ABRAMS with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger, The Questioneers (Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, Ada Twist) by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs, The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John and Jared Chapman’s Vegetables in Underwear.

http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/picturebooks#/vegetablesanunderwear/
http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/picturebooks#/rosiandiggy/
http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/novels#/theterribbletwo/
http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/novels#/wimpykid/
http://www.chadwbeckerman.com/novels#/nathahale/

Congratulations Chad! You have joined a great agency. I look forward to seeing the things you accomplished there.

The CAT Agency, Inc., formerly the CATugeau Artist Agency, is celebrating its 26th year in 2020! Thr boutique agency, founded in 1994 by Christina Tugeau, believes in the hands-on approach in representing a diverse group of talent from all over the world. Now led by Christy Ewers, and newly welcoming Chad W. Beckerman, they continue to strive for excellence in children’s literature, representing an ever-growing client list; offering an eclectic mix of styles, voices and talent. They represent many NYT Bestselling illustrators and award-winning authors and illustrators. http://www.catugeau.com 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 2, 2020

Book Giveaway: DUSK EXPLORERS by Lindsay Leslie

Lindsay Leslie has a new picture book, DUSK EXPLORERS, illustrated by Ellen Rooney and published by Page Street Kids. It hits bookstory today. Page Street Kids has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Lindsay and Ellen, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

It’s that special time of evening, when the hours and the possibilities seem endless: Light is fading. A buzz of excitement and wonder takes over the neighborhood….What outdoor adventures await? Join a diverse group of suburban kids as they dash and dodge in classic street games like tag and kick-the-can and reconnect with nature’s simple pleasures catching frogs, hunting fireflies, and climbing trees. These explorers play, laugh, and make the most of their own front yards right up until their parents call out that “It’s time to come home!” But when the sun begins to set tomorrow, they’ll be back for more evening excitement!

This ode to the timeless magic of summer evenings spent outside will remind kids of the fun and friends that wait just outside their doors and leave adults smiling with nostalgia for their own dusk explorations.

BOOK JOURNEY:

DUSK EXPLORERS jumped into my mind or was recalled from the depths of my subconscious while taking a session called The Verse Curse with Julie Hedlund during the 2016 Picture Book Summit. Many of us in the children’s literature world have heard that you shouldn’t write in rhyme unless you really really know what you are doing. I really didn’t, so I was curious to begin my learning on the subject. During the session, I didn’t fall in love with rhyme. In fact, I wonder if I will ever write in rhyme. Probably not. But I did fall head-over-heels in love with free verse and playing with the rhythm of words. I became a huge fan of lyrical writing and pulling on all the senses to bring a reader into the story.

During this session, I believe Julie asked us to think back to a childhood memory that might have staying power today. Our best way to relate to children is often to call up our own memories and take a modern twist, if need be. The moment in time that rushed forward for me was the many summer nights I would spend outside after dinner with my older sister and neighborhood friends. We would play old-fashioned games that still stand the test of time. We would catch toads and fireflies. We would share secrets and climb trees. We would all wait for the streetlights to blink on and give us the warning that our parents would soon call us home, and when they did, we would try to ignore them. I needed to write about that.

I first approached the manuscript from the perspective of the outdoors calling the children to come play because it missed having them. That’s how I connected it to the children of today. There are so many distractions, ahem … video games, that keep kids from enjoying the simple pleasures and wonders of playing outdoors. Plus, safety seems to be more of a concern today than earlier decades and parents may not be letting their kids go and explore on their own. The story took a gentle shift from that perspective, but the whole of the story stayed true to what I had written in my first draft. My other stories up to this point were heavily edited and shaped. This one seemed almost fully baked from the first draft. My editor, Charlotte Wenger, and I played a little bit with the flow of the various stanzas and a few word choices here and there. We tweaked the intro and ending and renamed the story. Otherwise, the meat of the story stayed pretty much the same. And that’s how Dusk Explorers came to be.

LINDSAY’S BIO:

A diary keeper, a journalism major, a public relations executive, now a children’s author—Lindsay Leslie has always operated in a world of written words. She likes to bring her unique outlook on life, quirky humor, and play with words to the page in picture books.

Lindsay is the author of THIS BOOK IS SPINELESSNOVA THE STAR EATER, and DUSK EXPLORERS (Page Street Kids). She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two boys, two fur-beasts, a guinea pig, and a tortoise.

ELLEN’S BIO:

Ellen is an illustrator, designer, and artist. She’s from the state of Massachusetts, but now lives in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Her first picture book as illustrator, Her Fearless Run, was published in April, 2019. She is busy working on more!

Ellen loves graphic shapes, textured colour, printmaking, drawing outdoors, painting. Her hidden art powers are released when cutting up paper. As a designer, her superpower is x-ray vision: if she stares at dense information, she can see its lovely skeleton just waiting to be shown to the world. Ellen thinks this is why she really loves interpretive design (stuff like museum exhibits and nature trails). Or, she says, “maybe I’m just a big nerd. Who can say?”

Lindsay, thank you for sharing your book and its journey with us. It brings back memories of the summer nights running around catching lightning bugs. That was so much fun; just like your book. Ellen’s wonderful illustrations kick up all the fun another notch. Kids and their parents will love to read this. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 1, 2020

The Four Principles of Series Writing

The Four Principles of Series Writing by Hillary Homzie

Last year when I started working on the Kate the Chemist middle grade series (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House) with Dr. Kate Biberdorf, I was given a great gift. Dr. Biberdorf doesn’t teach chemistry in a ho hum way. She teaches in a jump-up-and-down manner as she demonstrates a phase change with a blow-torch-in-her-hand. This is a woman who literally swallows fire to make a point. Talk about showing versus telling—that’s Kate.

Together, our charge was to create a young middle grade series about a fictionalized version of a younger Kate as she used chemistry to solve everyday problems and mysteries at her school, home and neighborhood.

Due to Dr. Kate’s personality, this series practically wrote itself.

To understand, let’s look at four principles of series writing.

  • Series should have the ability to engage children with characters with whom they care deeply. This means presenting an engaging and unique main character (or characters) with a particular way of seeing the world.

Kate Crawford, the 10-year-old star of the Kate the Chemist series, views the world through the lens of chemistry. This gives her a unique way of seeing things. In the first book, Dragons vs. Unicorns, which came out at the end of March, the titular character declares that “chemistry is way more than a bunch of facts in a book. Chemistry is what you eat, it’s how you sleep, it’s why shampoo stings your eyes in the shower. You can taste science, you can smell it.”

This fifth grader’s passion for science defines who she is and it’s her strength. It also gives her a particularity in terms of her voice. She doesn’t just say that I’m bummed. Instead, she says “regret zipped inside me like hot gas molecules.”

  • Series typically feature an ordinary character in an extraordinary world or an extraordinary character in an ordinary world.

Kate the Chemist’s knowledge about science, chemistry in particular, makes her an extraordinary kid. However, the goal of the series is to ensure that in the future kids like Kate won’t be extraordinary at all, but rather commonplace. An example of ordinary kids in an extraordinary world is seen in the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull. In these fantasy books, kids discover a secret preserve for magical creatures at their grandparents’ home. A classic example of ordinary characters in an extraordinary world be the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series by C.S. Lewis.

  • Series should present a fully realized world.

This means that a child will be transported to a particular setting, even if the locale is completely made up. The deal is that this fictional setting should feel so real that you would recognize it if you were transported there. It honestly doesn’t matter whether the series is contemporary realistic fiction or science fantasy. The point is that you should include enough details that the reader will feel as if you’ve created an actual place.

For the Kate books, we created Rosalind Franklin Elementary, a school in Michigan where science is truly honored. After all, this school was named after one of the greatest chemists ever—Rosalind Franklin who helped crack the code of DNA. There’s a science lab, and special lake and an ice cream store nearby. In other words, there is a particularity of place.

  • Secondary characters contrast with the primary character

In the Kate the Chemist books, Birinda a.k.a. “Birdie” Bhatt is Kate’s best friend. Birdie is a talented artist, who takes all the time in the world to eat her lunch, compared to the do-everything quick Kate. Birdie can also get a little jealous when Kate meets new friends. Memito Alvarez, another one of Kate’s buddies, loves to cook and can be a little skeptical, which contrasts with the always positive Kate. Elijah Williams, another friend, is more relaxed than Kate, although he can be annoying in the way he always drums on his desk. Avery Cooper tends to be braggy and theatrical, but also is a great teammate for Kate on her soccer team. All of these kids serve as contrast characters and organically provide conflict and tension as they have clashing needs and wants.

In other words, these characters are friends who also serve as necessary foils. In Dragon Vs. Unicorns (Kate the Chemist, book 1), Avery and Kate both want to be assistant director of the school play which creates a through-line of struggle throughout the book.

I hope this is a helpful peek at writing series fiction. Of course, there’s a lot more to discuss such as the difference between loosely connected titles in a branded imprint and open-ended versus closed series, as well as the essential steps to creating the perfect proposal from writing the plot summaries, to the character breakdowns to the pitch. All of this will be discussed in Middle Grade Mastery, a four-week interactive e-course (with an additional two bonus instant access weeks), and a whole lot more. I’m co-teaching the course with Mira Reisberg (Spork/Clearfork) and Rosie Ahmed (Dial/Penguin Random House).  The Children’s Book Academy course covers both chapter books and middle grade and is truly chock full of information. It includes submission opportunities, worksheets, handouts, live critiques, lessons, webinars with agent and editors, multiple submission opportunities  and lots of other goodies too numerous to list here. To find out about the course, which starts June 15, go here https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/middle-grade-mastery.html.

Hope to see you there!

ABOUT HILLARY:

Hillary Homzie is the author of the Ellie May chapter book series (Charlesbridge, 2018), Apple Pie Promises (Sky Pony/Swirl, 2018), Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009) as well as the Alien Clones From Outer Space (Simon & Schuster Aladdin 2002) chapter book series. She’s also a contributor to the new Kate the Chemist middle grade series (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House 2020). During the year, Hillary teaches at Sonoma State University and teaches in the summer graduate program in children’s literature, writing and illustration at Hollins University. She also is an instructor for the Children’s Book Academy. She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page as well as on Twitter.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 31, 2020

Book Winners & SCBWI Book Launch Award

BOOK WINNERS:

Beth Gallagher won THE LITTLE BLUE COTTAGE by Kelly Jordan

Laurie Wilson won THIS IS THE DAY by Amy Parker

Carl Scott won HELLO, LITTLE ONE by Zeena M. Pliska

PJ Taub won MIA MAYHEM by Leeza Hernandez

The Book Launch Award provides authors or illustrators with $2,000 in funds to help the promotion of their newly published work and take the marketing strategy into their own creative hands.


Congratulations to the 2019 winner Karol Ruth Silverstein for Cursed (Charlesbridge).

Deadline: July 1, 2020. Winners will be announced in October.

Eligibility: You must be a current SCBWI member.  PAL and full members are eligible and must have a book with a publication date of 2020.

Guidelines:

1. One to two Grants of up to $2,000 each will be awarded annually.

2. Money from the Grant may be used to promote your book including (but not limited to):

-Launch events

-Speaking engagements and book tours

-Curriculum materials

-Advertising, posters, postcards

-Book trailers

-Website development

-Book donations to local schools and libraries

-School visits

3. Grants will be awarded based on:

-Strong marketing and implementation plan

-Demonstrated need (e.g. your publishing house is not dedicating a lot of marketing money for your book)

-Quality and professionalism of your synopsis

4. Winners must use the money in the first calendar year and provide SCBWI with documentation of use of grant money.

5. Winners will also send in a 250-word article appropriate for publication in the SCBWI Bulletin about your marketing experience.

6. Email to: sarahdiamond@scbwi.org with “First Name_Last Name Book Launch App” in the subject line.

Include:

– A very brief cover letter in the body of the email with the name of your book, the publication date, and a short bio.

– A short synopsis of why you are applying for this grant AND your marketing plan of no more than one page attached as a PDF.

7. Applications must not exceed TWO pages.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are self-published authors eligible? Not for this award. Please see the SPARK Award.

Can I apply for a book that has been published prior to the current year? No, the award is to provide a big marketing push right when the book is launched.

SCBWI reserves the right not to confer this award in any given year.

Other questions? Email: sarahdiamond@scbwi.org

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 30, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Jessica Courtney Tickle​ is an illustrator who graduated from Kingston University in July 2014. Her absolute favorite thing to draw or paint is nature, finding a focus on foliage of any kind as well as children’s stories about adventure and exploration. She also has a penchant for drawing theater from music makers to dancers and even singing animals. Jessica is most influenced by vintage picture books, travel posters, and folk art as well as numerous painters and printmakers.

Jessica currently is based in Cambridgeshire, England. She makes her work using a combination of scanned watercolour washes and Photoshop, sometimes throwing in the odd pencil mark too! She has worked with several clients, most recently Hachette, Frances Lincoln and Walker Books. Jessica also sells her own work through her online shop and at markets across the UK.

HERE IS JESSICA EXPLAINING HER PROCESS:

My working process is usually same for every project. I’ll start by reading the text through again and again to get a feel for the book and the rhythm of the story.  Then I’ll collate a mood board (see above) of the colours, textures, imagery that I think goes with the ‘feeling’ or atmosphere of the words. For Kelly’s text my board was filled with old travel posters, picture book illustrations from the 1950’s, paintings of the sea and research into American houses (they are quite different here in the UK). I wanted the spreads to feel retro and almost sun bleached to reflect the wistful, summertime mood of the story.

Once I’ve got a feel for the direction of the illustrations, I’ll start roughing out the pages in black and white. This stage takes quite a long time as myself and the designer have to make sure each page feels organic, as though text and image were made together, not separately. I come up with lots of different sketches during this time but many of them are discarded and redrawn.

During this time I’ll also colour one spread as an experiment to demonstrate to the publishers and the author how I envisage the book to look at the end. This first spread took me quite a while to get right as I kept changing the colours on the left hand side. As you can see- I don’t always stick to my rough and the perspective changes quite a lot!

Eventually after lots of back and forth emailing, we come to a place where the text and the sketches blend together and feel secure, that’s when my favourite part comes in and I get the go ahead to move to full colour spreads. This part is usually straightforward, though I do often add in little, unplanned details and swap things around if they aren’t working.

This stage usually takes around three to four months to complete depending on the level of detail the book requires. The very final stage of working on The Little Blue Cottage was the front cover. Depending which publisher you’re working with this stage can be at the very beginning of the project, through the middle or at the end. I quite liked that we worked on this last as I had the interiors of the book to inform the cover which made it much easier to visualize. I was really lucky with this cover in that I only had to draw a few cover ideas before we all agreed on one; the image of the cottage from far away, taking in the landscape and the ocean surrounding it.

My working process is usually same for every project. I’ll start by reading the text through again and again to get a feel for the book and the rhythm of the story.  Then I’ll collate a mood board of the colours, textures, imagery that I think goes with the ‘feeling’ or atmosphere of the words. For Kelly’s text my board was filled with old travel posters, picture book illustrations from the 1950’s, paintings of the sea and research into American houses (they are quite different here in the UK). I wanted the spreads to feel retro and almost sun bleached to reflect the wistful, summertime mood of the story.

Interview with Jessica Courtney-Tickle

How long have you been illustrating?

Almost five years in August.

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

It was a cover job for Grimms Fairy Tales, published by Puffin classics. It was my very first job and I remember spending hours and hours fine tuning it, I wanted to impress the designer so much!

What did you study at Kingston University?

I studied Illustration and Animation in the first year and then I focused on Illustration for the remaining two years.

What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

I really loved printmaking. I’m a big fan of using texture and grains in images so that was a really interesting module for me.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

Mostly the university helped us before graduation, they showed us how to fill our portfolios and encouraged us to reach out to potential clients early on. After graduation it was a case of putting those skills into practice and being very, very brave!

What type of art were you doing after you graduated?

Following graduation I spent a year working in childcare and experimented with my work in my spare time. I’d heard it would be quicker to find paid work if you could work digitally so I got to grips with Photoshop, bought a graphics tablet and started posting my work on Twitter. It was in that year that I discovered I loved the combination of traditional watercolour painting and digital drawing. The Photoshop work adds a sense of movement and magic to my drawings that I have never been able to do with a paintbrush.

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

I remember thinking as a teenager that I loved drawing people and I loved writing and that if I could combine the two somehow I might actually find a job I enjoyed! At university I kind of put the two together and realized that children’s books were a natural fit for me.

Was The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day published on Oct 4, 2016 the first book you illustrated?

Four Seasons was the first book I finished. I worked on The Unexpected Visitor around the same time but the text took much longer to finalize.

How many books are in the series and do you think you will illustrate more?

We will have five books in October when The Story Orchestra, The Carnival of the Animals comes out. After that we are definitely working on another one and I hope a few more following that depending on demand.

Why does the first book list you as the author and the rest say Katy Flint?

There are a few discrepancies on the online listings which I’m attempting to rectify. The author of The Four Seasons in One Day is Katie Cotton who was the first writer/ editor of the series. The series then got passed to the new editor, Katy Flint, on The Nutcracker. I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with both as they are so talented, as well as the designers Andrew Watson who worked on the Four Seasons and Karissa Santos who has designed the remaining four books.

Amazon also lists you as the author of The Unexpected Visitor published by Egmont UK – September 2017.Did someone from see your artwork at a conference or gallery in the UK which lead to this book?

This is my only author/ illustrator book. My first agent, Susie Brearley at The Bright Group, took it to Egmont because they had recently published Where’s The Elephant by Barroux, so they already had an interest in environmentally themed books. They really liked it and I got my first author-illustrator book deal.

Do you plan to write and illustrate more books?

The Unexpected Visitor was a real lesson for me in terms of writing, illustrating and navigating the publishing industry. It’s taken me about five years to realize that to produce my best work I need to be patient and thoughtful rather than think the quicker a book is published the better. I’m definitely planning to sit down and write a few more of my own now but they might take me quite a long time!

When did you illustrate Cinderella? I found a pub date on your website of 2018, but then I ran across a site that said you could pre-order the book. Is it coming out again?

I think it’s coming out in the US presently but it’s already out in the UK.

I found another book, THE KISS, published by Little Tiger Press without a pub date. When did you illustrate this book?

The Kiss was published in February last year in the UK. I hope it comes to the US too as it’s such a joyful book with an important message.

How did you get that contract?

The Kiss came through from my previous agency. They sent me the text via email and I knew pretty much instantly that I wanted to illustrate it!

In November of 2018, Come All You Little Persons by John Agard was published by Faber & Faber Children’s. How did they find you?

This one came through my previous agency too. Apparently the editor at Faber showed John a range of artists work to choose from and he amazingly picked mine! It’s one of my career highlights and I feel very lucky to have worked with him.

I just featured your latest book, The Little Blue Cottage by Kelly Jordan. I love the illustrations you created. How did Page Street Kids find you and how long did you have to do the illustraions? 

Thank you! Page Street saw an interview on the SAA website where I had talked about an old university project featuring an old house made out of wood and I think they immediately saw the potential pairing of Kelly’s text with my drawings. They contacted my agent who sent me the story. I knew I wanted to be involved because I absolutely love the way Kelly writes. In total I had about six months to make the artwork.

The Perfectly Perfect Wish Hardcover – February 4, 2020
by Lisa Mantchev  (Author), Jessica Courtney-Tickle  (Illustrator) Simon & Schuster

This one, written by the brilliant Lisa Mantchev, came out in February this year. It’s a beautiful book about kindness and empathy and it’s quite different too- the designer had the idea of drawing all of the book in black and white apart from when the ‘wish’ is fulfilled at which point the pages turn into full colour. It’s a bit like reading a fairytale!

My Nana’s Garden Kindle Edition is there any plan to publish a hard copy of the book? June 2020.

I really hope My Nana’s Garden will come out in hard copy in the US. It’s out in paperback in the UK on the 11th June and I think the publisher will wait and see whether it’s picked up after that. The book, written by Dawn Casey, is about loss, grief and ultimately, hope. I think it’s one of the most important books I’ve illustrated so far and I really hope it’s helpful to readers and parents who might be struggling to explain death and grief to children.

I noticed the artwork for POLLYANNA on Instagram. Is this from a book dummy you have done?

Pollyanna is another Puffin Classics cover I did, It was a real honour to be asked to illustrate a second book in the range and it was a nice contrast being able to work on two completely different briefs too, I got to experiment with brighter, more pastel toned colours for that one.

I found a picture of you holding a book titled Grimm’s Fairytales. It looks like it could be a middle grade book. Did you do the cover? Did you do any interior art for the book?

Grimms Fairytales was the first piece of paid work I ever finished- I didn’t get to do the chapter headings unfortunately, just the cover. It’s part of the Puffin Classics range where classic books are given a modern makeover. I think it is a middle grade book.

Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have you been with them? If not, would you like to find one?

At the moment I am agent-less for the first time in five years. I think next year I’ll start actively looking again but at the moment I’m enjoying taking time out and not feeling rushed.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book? I haven’t but I would love to try it! I can imagine the illustrations would need to be even more nuanced without words so it would be a great challenge.

Would you work with a self-published author to illustrate their book?

I think when I’ve written a few more of my own I’d like to open up my inbox again. I’m very open to who I work with- if I love a text then that’s that, I will do my absolute best to make it happen!

You have won any awards for your gorgeous art?

I was longlisted for the Prize for Illustration with the London Transport Museum back in 2015 but that’s about it!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I am very proud of The Story Orchestra series because they are really beautiful books. Both the writer and the designer work so hard to make each one unique and they feel incredibly special when you pick them up. It’s a bit of a dream to be illustrating them to be honest!

What is your favorite medium to use?

I really enjoy working digitally but I when I have the time and patience I love working with coloured chalk, I like the mistiness and the fact that you can’t always control what it does, sometimes I come out with some weird images.

Has that changed over time?

I definitely go through phases. At university I mostly worked with pencils and paper, cutting and layering my work together at the end. It was a bit of a relief when I discovered drawing with a tablet on Photoshop, there was much less mess! Nowadays I work mostly digitally with a little bit of painting on the side.

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

I have a trusty Wacom Intuos Pro tablet which I absolutely love. I also work on the Microsoft Surface Pro laptop which is fantastic, the screen comes off and you can sketch directly on to it.

What do you think helped the most to develop your style?

I think it’s definitely from looking at/ listening to and feeling the world around me. I love music in particular and find that this can really change the atmosphere of my work. I also love looking at old printed matter because I love seeing how texture can be added to an image to make it feel older or younger than it really is. I think there’s also a lot of visual material I store up from going out walking, I love all the very different shapes and colours of plants and skies and I also find that just being outside helps my work become more earthy in colour and texture.

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

There doesn’t seem to be a certain amount of time but there’s definitely a pattern. When I’m working on a book I’ll work on a spread until I like it which sometimes means skipping weekends and (when I’m really into it) meals. But then I can go a week or two without doing anything at all, just recovering from the previous week! I seem to have massive bursts of energy and then days on end where I can’t draw anything at all, it’s very up and down but I’ve always been that way.

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

I always like to research a project before I start it, it’s like warming up my mind. I have lots of Pinterest boards of photographs, colours and pattern ideas. I’ll often watch musicals and ballet performances while I work on the sketches too, I like watching movement while I draw because sometimes I can try and be too ‘perfect’ with the lines and lose the energy of the piece. I find lots of inspiration in set design too which I find so magical.

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

I want to write three more of my own books, probably more, but three is my goal at the moment. I also would love to try my hand at something new like a series of greetings cards or some beautiful food packaging.

What are you working on now?

I’m mostly taking time off at the moment, though I am still working on one small project, a sweet board book called ‘Sleep My Baby’ which should hopefully come out next year.

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 Bockingford Inkjet paper for my prints and paintings. It soaks the ink into it and I’ve never found a paper that mimics the original watercolour texture so well! I’d also say if you’re looking for work, join in with the #colourcollective group on Twitter or any similar art hashtags on Instagram. Agents and designers are constantly looking on those platforms and the hashtag will get your work shared. #colourcollective was how my first agent found me and I still get bits of work through Instagram.

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

I know that the illustration industry can feel very immediate and very competitive but I’d say take your time on your work when you can, be thoughtful and be careful about what you are putting out there, does it reflect who you are and what you want to say? I’d also say never give up! Great things will happen but it will take time and lots and lots of perseverance. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something either, with art everything is possible!

Thank you Jessica for sharing your talent and expertise with us. I really appreciate all your thorough answers. Make sure to let us know about your future books and books. I would love to share them with everyone.

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

Website: http://www.jessicatickle.co.uk/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-courtney-tickle-1b8b2851/?originalSubdomain=uk

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jctickle/?hl=en

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 29, 2020

Agent of the Month – First Page Results

I AM SENDING THIS OUT AGAIN. I had some problems with copying all of Nora’s wonderful comments and it resulted with typos in the post. Obviously, they were my mistakes and not Nora’s. Also a few people asked for me to add the first pages without the comments to make it easier for everyone to read, so I added that, too. Don’t miss Nora’s comments. She did a great job.

AGENT OF THE MONTH, NORA LONG AT WRITERS HOUSE. ENJOY!

NORA LONG: Junior Agent at Writers House

Nora primarily is interested in YA and adult fiction, as well as the stories that occupy the murky borderland in between. She thinks there’s a grand underexplored space for twenty-something coming-of-age novels, and she’d love to see more stories that deliberately appeal to the readers who are too old for YA but still end up reading YA because it feels more engaging. Everything she says below about genre applies more-or-less equally to YA and adult.  She is also open to some middle grade as well.

Click here to read what Nora likes to receive.

BELOW ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGES NORA CRITIQUED:

PLEASE NOTE: I have Nora’s thoughts and comments in red and the bolded black text refers to what she commenting on.

The Parris Letters –YA – Luan Pitsch

The uniformed officers stood in our furniture-crowded living room, all nerves and black sorrow, staring more at Mom’s paintings on the walls than at us. And if I was asked, I’d say that was the moment our lives fell into Twilight Zone crazy.

My eyes were narrowed against the excruciating agony of what their presence meant—and that’s when those two muddy-green uniformed soldiers blurred into gigantic toads. Mom flitted around them like a juicy dragonfly in her paint-flecked shirt and winged-black hair as they unfurled their long sticky tongues and probed at her with the words, “Your son, Parris,” and “Vietnam,” and “Missing-in-Action.”

I slumped against the archway separating the living and dining rooms, unable to grasp what those croaking men were saying about jungles, a helicopter, and death. I could only tell it wasn’t enough to gobble Mom whole. Instead, it stripped away all of her hippie love, leaving no speck of kindness for those hapless representatives of the U.S. Army.

“You murderers sent him to that killing field.” Her buzzing tone beat at them. “He shouldn’t have been forced to go. He never wanted to go.”

A fingernail found its way between my teeth. Should I say something about Parris’ choice to join the army?  But that was a secret, and as my life was filled with more lies than truth it was difficult to know what was best.

Fortunately, with a wave of her hand, Mom dismissed their news. “Parris isn’t dead anyway. I feel his heartbeat like it’s my own.”

My breath released slow and silent. If Parris was alive I needn’t clear up any misconceptions. The military men shifted and I saw the suffering in the taut lines of lip and

HERE IS NORA:

The Parris Letters –YA – Luan Pitsch

The uniformed officers stood in our furniture-crowded living room (Why is “furniture-crowded” the one detail of the living room worth highlighting here?) , all nerves and black sorrow, (This turn of phrase really sparks for me, both the energy of it and the strangeness of the officers being the ones who are nervous.) staring more at Mom’s paintings on the walls than at us. And if I was asked, I’d say that (I think that by narrating this story, implicitly the character has been asked for their opinions. The qualifier here just slows down the sentence.) was the moment our lives fell into Twilight Zone crazy.

My eyes were narrowed (This is nit-picky, but I would say “I narrowed my eyes” instead of “my eyes were narrowed”—the active voice helps keep the momentum.) against the excruciating agony of what their presence meant—and that’s when (This is another turn of phrase that feels just a little too wordy. Could just be “and then.”) those two muddy-green uniformed soldiers blurred into gigantic toads.(I think if I were picking this up as a book, I’d have some sense from the genre whether the soldiers literally turned into toads (as indicated by the Twilight Zone line) or if this is a metaphor/perception. But it is probably worth building in a few more context clues. Mom is only “like” a dragonfly, so I assume she at least didn’t transform.) Mom flitted around them like a juicy dragonfly in her paint-flecked shirt and winged-black (This is a cool turn of phrase but I’m not sure what it means. Does her hair look like wings? How so?) hair as they unfurled their long sticky tongues and probed at her (Assuming that this is a metaphor, toads don’t really “probe at” a dragonfly with their tongues—they try to catch and eat it. And I’m not sure probing is the right word in any case; they’re not trying to find anything out from Mom, right? They’re just giving her the news that Parris is MIA?) with the words, “Your son, Parris,” and “Vietnam,” and “Missing-in-Action.”

I slumped against the archway separating the living and dining rooms, unable to grasp what those croaking men were saying about jungles, a helicopter, and death. (Nice. I like the dazed feeling of all this.) I could only tell it wasn’t enough to gobble Mom whole. Instead, it stripped away all of her hippie love, leaving no speck of kindness for those hapless representatives of the U.S. Army. (This is perhaps just a pet peeve of mine, but it bugs me when a narrative feels like it’s trying to refer to a person or people a little differently every time—as “the uniformed officers,” “those two muddy-green uniformed soldiers,” “those two hapless representatives of the U.S. Army,” “the military men.” It draws more of my attention to how they’re referred to, rather than who they are. I suspect in this case the sentence could just end with “leaving no speck of kindness.”)

“You murderers sent him to that killing field.” Her buzzing tone beat at them. “He shouldn’t have been forced to go. He never wanted to go.”

A fingernail found its way between my teeth. (This phrasing is a little odd—makes it sound like the narrator’s finger had a mind of its own.) Should I say something about Parris’ choice to join the army?  But that was a secret, and as my life was filled with more lies than truth it was difficult to know what was best.

Fortunately, with a wave of her hand, Mom dismissed their news. “Parris isn’t dead anyway. I feel his heartbeat like it’s my own.”

My breath released slow and silent. If Parris was alive I needn’t clear up any misconceptions. The military men shifted and I saw the suffering in the taut lines of lip and

Overall: There are some nice images here. I like the language, I like the surreal mood being set for the delivery of bad news, and there’s a good hint of conflict to come, that the narrator is keeping not only the secret of their brother’s enlistment but also “more lies than truth.” I don’t necessarily think we even need the foreshadowing that the announcement was what made their lives Twilight Zone crazy; it’s momentous enough on its own. I do hope that the narrator enters the scene before too long—it can be tough keeping up momentum when the narrator is a passive observer.

*******

WELLS SPRING by Suzanne Morrone YA

Knowing someone isn’t coming back doesn’t mean you ever stop waiting. I’ve been holding my breath for over six years, and now it’s time I come up for air. If I don’t, I’ll drown. But, like any seal in the arctic already knows, breathing can be dangerous. They stick their nose out, and wham! Polar Bear breakfast.

Lucky me, at least I’m not in the arctic. I shove the front door open, battling the weeks worth of mail on the floor. Colors from the square stained glass panels in our old door rainbow the wall. Down the hall, Dad’s study door is shut. Like usual. I growl and mutter to myself. Why can’t he come out and pick up the mail, at least part of the time? It would pile up into Mt. Everest if it were up to him. up into Mt. Everest if it were up to him. It’s not like I don’t have enough to do, though I admit blowing off midterms did free up some time. I dump my books on the hall table, and kick at the pile, fanning the mess across the entry, wishing it would disappear with my best why do I have to do everything? sigh. But I have no audience. A heavy ivory colored envelope with an engraved return address is lurking among the thicket of bills and flyers. Goosebumps pop up on my arms. Dad’s lawyer. I slit the envelope: Filing date, court date. Deadlines. I smirk-laugh at the pun. He’s petitioning the court to make it official. I run my hand over the words, touch the sharp edge. The paper gives a satisfying crumpling sound as I wad it up.

No way Mom is dead.

There’s a whole archeological dig of layers when you have no idea, not one, about what happened to someone you love. Excavating down though the strata takes years. I guess that’s why you have to wait so long to declare someone dead.

My hand hurts with the strain of squeezing the lawyer’s letter so hard, it’s probably turned into a diamond by now.

I check, disappointed it’s still paper, and toss it in the garbage.

HERE IS NORA:

WELLS SPRING by Suzanne Morrone YA

Knowing someone isn’t coming back doesn’t mean you ever stop waiting.  (I like this as a first sentence—but then I’d rather it were immediately followed up with the specific, what it means that the character’s been waiting. That they’re holding off deciding where to go to college because they want Mom’s input. That they still sometimes automatically set her a place at the dinner table, or turn toward Mom’s room to say goodnight, or just have a constant unsettled feeling in their gut like they’ve forgotten something, but the thing they’ve forgotten is Mom. The generality followed by the “coming up for air” metaphor keeps it a little too distant for my taste.) I’ve been holding my breath for over six years, and now it’s time to come up for air. (Part of the reason this reads oddly to me is that instead of grounding me in the character’s waiting, it immediately adds another layer—that now is the moment to stop waiting—and then a third—that when they do stop waiting something bad will happen. Why do they think the six-year mark is the right moment to “come up for air?” And why is the “coming up for air” in itself dangerous? I do like the seal image but it’s a lot to pack into a first paragraph. If the first paragraph focused on the waiting, then we could get the scene of the character discarding the letter and then afterward they could meditate on how they, like their dad, probably does need to let go of the mystery of Mom and let go, and then bring forward the seal metaphor to explain why they’re not actually going to do that.) If I don’t, I’ll drown. But, like any seal in the arctic already knows, breathing can be dangerous. They stick their nose out, and wham! Polar Bear breakfast.

Lucky me, at least I’m not in the arctic. (This transition feels a little forced to me.) I shove the front door open, battling the weeks worth of mail on the floor. (This is a nice way to let me know the character hasn’t been home in a long time and Dad hasn’t been taking care of things in their absence. I don’t think it’s necessary to then say outright that Dad doesn’t pick up the mail.) Colors from the square stained glass panels in our old door rainbow the wall. Down the hall, Dad’s study door is shut. Like usual. I growl and mutter to myself. Why can’t he come out and pick up the mail, at least part of the time? It would pile up into Mt. Everest if it were up to him.   up into Mt. Everest if it were up to him. It’s not like I don’t have enough to do, though I admit blowing off midterms did free up some time. (This feels a little clunky, as a way to reveal this information. I would stay a little closer in the moment, with the character’s actions, and reveal backstory as it becomes relevant.) I dump my books on the hall table, and kick at the pile, fanning the mess across the entry, wishing it would disappear with my best why do I have to do everything? sigh. (The sentence feels a little long. I think it could end with “fanning the mess across the entry;” less is more with the character’s interior aggrieved monologue since their state of mind is clearly demonstrated in their actions.) But I have no audience. A heavy ivory colored envelope (I would put a paragraph break here, to let the reader take a breath and emphasize the importance of spotting the envelope.) with an engraved return address is lurking among the thicket of bills and flyers. Goosebumps pop up on my arms. Dad’s lawyer. I slit the envelope: Filing date, court date. Deadlines. I smirk-laugh at the pun. He’s petitioning the court to make it official. I run my hand over the words, touch the sharp edge. The paper gives a satisfying crumpling sound as I wad it up. (I like the specificity of this, the focus on sound as a way to emphasize the catharsis of crumpling the letter. You have a lot of really good sensory details here—I almost feel like it’s too many. Like the touch detail in the previous sentence means the sound detail here stands out less. Remember that sense details are only one tool at your disposal. You want to stretch the moment between reading the letter and the punctuation of crumpling it, well, in that time the character can drift into thought about what it will mean if Mom is declared dead, or have some bodily reaction to the idea, or there can just be another paragraph break to indicate a lack of thought between reading and crumpling.)

No way Mom is dead.

There’s a whole archeological dig of layers (Layers of what? Questions? Bureaucracy? Avenues of investigation?) when you have no idea, not one, about what happened to someone you love. Excavating down though the strata takes years. I guess that’s why you have to wait so long to declare someone dead.

My hand hurts with the strain of squeezing the lawyer’s letter so hard, it’s probably turned into a diamond by now. I check, disappointed it’s still paper, (This is the second time(first was the Arctic) that the character has taken their own metaphors literally. I think, again, it’s intended as a transition more than anything else, but it feels like it’s taking unnecessary space.) , and toss it in the garbage

Overall: What I know at the end of this page is that the character’s mother is missing-presumed-dead, their father isn’t coping well, and they aren’t ready to move forward and admit that she’s dead. That’s not a bad starting point—I think the language can just be simplified a touch. The image of the sea of letters just inside the door, one letter immediately standing out, the character reading and then crumpling that, is powerful on its own and could probably be conveyed a little faster.

*******

Jim Nicosia: The Jenny Beaufort Papers (YA novel)  1: The Exhibition at Ketcham Hall

The north stairway at Ketcham Hall has these huge, circular windows at every landing. They’re at least five feet wide and three feet deep. At each landing you can look out and see the whole Freemont campus, the surrounding towns and, on a clear day, straight through to Boston.

Nobody takes the north stairs in Ketcham Hall. The east and west entrances have speedy new elevators, and the stairways there are wide-open and spacious. So you can understand why I was surprised when Jenny asked me to meet her on the landing of Ketcham’s enclosed north stairway. I shouldn’t have been. Jenny knows every nook and cranny of this place. That’s how she introduced me to the freight elevator at Barton Hall, the basement of the music building and the glass-blowing furnace in the industrial arts building. But the stairway, that was unexpected.

I should have taken the elevator up, shot to the north, and walked the stairs down. But I wasn’t sure which floor Jenny said to meet her on, so I went right to the stairs, started climbing.

That’s the first time I noticed those windows. I also noticed that each of them had been repaired with spackle. That was strange, since Ketcham Hall was new and pristine and perfect. When I stopped to catch my breath between the third and fourth floors, I realized how far you could see out those massive windows. It was actually pretty amazing to see the grids of streets, offset and sometimes obscured by the abundant green of trees. New England looked quiet from there, and it seemed a shame no one took these stairs. They were missing something special.

I climbed, thinking of the earth below, amazed at how heavy my legs felt, when I heard her voice. “Hello, sailor. About time you got here.”

Like I said before, it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. She was lying there in the window, on her back, her head halfway up the arc at one end, her legs partially up the other curve. It had to be at least a little uncomfortable.

Oh, and, of course, she was naked.

HERE IS NORA:

Jim Nicosia: The Jenny Beaufort Papers (YA novel)  1: The Exhibition at Ketcham Hall

The north stairway at Ketcham Hall has these huge, circular windows at every landing. They’re at least five feet wide and three feet deep. At each landing you can look out and see the whole Freemont campus, the surrounding towns and, on a clear day, straight through to Boston.

Nobody takes the north stairs in Ketcham Hall. (My suggestion would be to start the novel with this sentence. It’s short, punchy, immediately begs the follow-up question “well, why not?” I’m less immediately intrigued by the current opening sentence stating that the stairway has cool windows. And the progression right now is tripping me up, from “the stairway has cool windows” to “nobody takes the stairway and it’s weird that Jenny asked me to” and then back to the character noticing the windows a few paragraphs later. I’m not sure why the detail of the windows deserves that double-back emphasis.) The east and west entrances have speedy new elevators, and the stairways there are wide-open and spacious. So you can understand (I will always suggest that authors be very sure they want to use direct second-person address in a novel. It can work well—if the plan is for the reader to be somehow a character in the book, or if the narrator is striking a super-casual, conversational tone. But here, I’m not seeing any clear reason not to just say “So I was surprised…”) why I was surprised when Jenny asked me to meet her on the landing of Ketcham’s enclosed north stairway. I shouldn’t have been. Jenny knows every nook and cranny of this place. (I thought briefly that “this place” just meant Ketcham Hall—partly that’s me not being a careful reader and picking up the Freemont mention in the first paragraph, but it’d be easy enough, and more specific, to say “Jenny knows every nook and cranny for every building on campus,” or similar.) That’s how (I think I could use a time reference here, to ground me in how well the narrator knows Jenny. Like, “Over the past X years Jenny’s proposed meeting up in…”) she introduced me to the freight elevator at Barton Hall, the basement of the music building and the glass-blowing furnace in the industrial arts building. But the stairway, that was unexpected. (Is the stairway more unexpected than these other places? Why? The glassblowing furnace sounds more interesting/unexpected to me.)

I should have taken the elevator up, shot to the north, and walked the stairs down. But I wasn’t sure which floor Jenny said to meet her on, so I went right to the stairs, started climbing.

That’s the first time I noticed those windows. I also noticed that each of them had been repaired with spackle. That was strange, since Ketcham Hall was new and pristine and perfect. (Nice detail—I always like when my attention is drawn to something strange.)When I stopped to catch my breath between the third and fourth floors, I realized how far you could see out those massive windows. It was actually pretty amazing to see the grids of streets, offset and sometimes obscured by the abundant green of trees. New England looked quiet from there, and it seemed a shame no one took these stairs. They were missing something special. (None of this is bad, but I wish it were more idiosyncratic to the character. Anyone could notice that the area looks “quiet”; whereas if the character zeroes in on specific details that tells us something about what they value.)

I climbed, (Should be “was climbing,” methinks. Little things like verb tense can be disproportionately important in a first page.) thinking of the earth below, amazed at how heavy my legs felt, when I heard her voice. “Hello, sailor. About time you got here.”

Like I said before, (This again feels like an unnecessary bit of direct address. And the character said before that they shouldn’t have been surprised that Jenny chose the staircase as a meeting place; whereas now, they’re thinking they shouldn’t be surprised that she’s lying in the window specifically.) it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. She was lying there in the window, on her back, her head halfway up the arc at one end, her legs partially up the other curve. It had to be at least a little uncomfortable. (Love the specificity here—I can picture the position clearly, though of course I’m assuming that Jenny is clothed. And I know a little about our narrator because their first thought is about the discomfort rather than the nudity.)

Oh, and, of course, she was naked.

Overall: I think this is a pretty solid beginning. I’m strongly grounded in the setting, I’m starting to know a little about the character, and the surprise of Jenny being naked in the window is a clear hook. The only thing I’d say is that the details could be even more vivid—the spackle on the windows is interesting, and it’s interesting that the character knows it. Whereas adjectives like “amazing” and “special” don’t tell me as much, either about the setting or about the character’s experience of it.

*******

Susan Milano: THE EYE OF THE TIGLON, middle grade

I wore my jacket with the big pockets. You could carry all kinds of good stuff in them, like my marbles, jackknife, and two-inch salutes, which are nice firecrackers. They’re bigger than the standard Chinese kind and come wrapped in cardboard instead of paper. But I’d change before I met up with the guys. Big pockets were a sure-fire way to get caught.

My bike leaned up against the garage. Mom had one errand for me to do. I had just enough time to make it down to the docks and back before the guys would need my help. I couldn’t be late. I rode quickly and quietly. I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself and risk getting stopped or waved over for a talk, so I concentrated on the road and kept my head down. Normally on a Saturday, I’d go over to Wolf’s Delicatessen and Bakery on Campbell Avenue to get some rolls and baked ham for sandwiches, but not today. Things had changed.  Our town had a different feel—like all of the fun had been sucked out of it.

War raged all around the world. Tens of thousands of men had joined the military and were overseas battling it out. Women were working in the factories to keep the war effort going. And almost all of the major league baseball players were gone—signed up—even Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. The 1943 season was in trouble before it had even begun.

I took a right onto 1st Avenue. There were no new cars on the streets or in the driveways along my route, not with the shortages of steel and gasoline. And you better not get a flat tire; there was no rubber to get a new one. We might not be facing nightly bombing raids, but signs of war were everywhere. Even the Saturday Matinee monster movies started with newsreels which showed fierce fighting in the Atlantic and the Pacific.  As I rode by the local recruiter’s office, I could see the line already starting to form. Sometimes I’d stand with the men who were waiting to sign up. Someday I’d be in that line for real. I was itching to do my part. We all were. The older boys had already gone. So had a lot of the people I had grown up with. When my uncle left

HERE IS NORA:

Susan Milano: THE EYE OF THE TIGLON, middle grade

I wore my jacket with the big pockets. (I’m of two minds about this first sentence. On the one hand, I do like when books open with the specific—it’s easier to connect to a character deciding to wear a specific jacket than if it’d started with a generalization like the later “war raged all around the world.” But it also feels a little abrupt—like, there’s a context for why the character needs to choose a jacket, why they’re choosing one with big pockets now but will change out of it later so as not to “get caught,” whatever getting caught means in this situation. I think there are enough question marks that I feel more off balance than drawn in. You could carry all kinds of good stuff in them, like my marbles, jackknife, and two-inch salutes, which are nice firecrackers. They’re bigger than the standard Chinese kind and come wrapped in cardboard instead of paper. (Some nice specific detail here. Gives us a first hint of character, that they have opinions about different kinds of firecrackers and like to carry some around.) But I’d change before I met up with the guys. Big pockets were a sure-fire way to get caught.

My bike leaned up against the garage. Mom had one errand for me to do. (Again, in the name of making sure the reader stays on the same page as the character, I don’t think there’s a downside to telling us what the errand is. It doesn’t take many more words to say “Mom had asked me to go down to the docks and buy us some fish for dinner,” or whatever the case may be. Unless the point is that the errand itself is a surprise.)  I had just enough time to make it down to the docks and back before the guys would need my help. I couldn’t be late. I rode quickly and quietly. (I’m definitely not anti-adverb as a blanket policy, but this is a case where I think you could get more evocative language without the adverbs—either just “I rode,” to get the full punch of the short sentence, or get into the sense details of the character pressing all their weight into the pedals, trying to keep the motion smooth so the gears won’t grind and attract attention.) I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself and risk getting stopped or waved over for a talk, (Does this mean there are people the character knows out on the street, people who would normally want to chat with the character when they’re out on their bike? Is the character ducking away from meeting old Mrs. Johnson’s eye lest she start up a long conversation about her rheumatism? It’s an interesting concern to have, even better if grounded in specifics. But also, this paints a small-town-friendliness picture at odds with the later assessment that all the fun has been sucked away)  so I concentrated on the road and kept my head down. Normally on a Saturday, I’d go over to Wolf’s Delicatessen and Bakery on Campbell Avenue to get some rolls and baked ham for sandwiches, but not today. Things had changed.  Our town had a different feel—like all of the fun had been sucked out of it. (I’m not sure how the not-fun vibe is demonstrated in not being able to go get sandwich supplies. Is the bakery closed because of rationing, maybe?)

War raged all around the world. Tens of thousands of men had joined the military and were overseas battling it out. Women were working in the factories to keep the war effort going. And almost all of the major league baseball players were gone—signed up—even Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. The 1943 season was in trouble before it had even begun. (I like this addition—suggests to me that our character is a baseball fan and that’s the main thing they’re concerned about when they think of the war. There have been a ton of books set during WWII—as much as you can make it about this one person, this one town’s experience of the war rather than an overview of the war as a whole, the better.)

   I took a right onto 1st Avenue. (I don’t live here (or, probably not. I don’t yet know where “here” is). Why do I need to know what road the character is on? What’s distinctive about 1st Avenue, either in terms of a landmark on the character’s route (“I turned onto 1st Avenue, which marked the halfway point to the docks”) or in terms of significance to the character (“I hung a right on 1st Avenue, and as always glanced over at my buddy John’s house on the corner to see if I could catch a glimpse of him through the window”). The driving directions by themselves don’t mean much to me.)There were no new cars on the streets or in the driveways along my route, not with the shortages of steel and gasoline. And you better not get a flat tire; there was no rubber to get a new one. (I like this—an insight into the character’s world that’s very directly tied to what they see as they’re biking along.) We might not be facing nightly bombing raids, but signs of war were everywhere. Even the Saturday Matinee monster movies started with newsreels which showed fierce fighting in the Atlantic and the Pacific. (This is more good worldbuilding, but since it’s not tied to anything the character is seeing, I’d perhaps save it for a bit lest it come off as pure exposition.) As I rode by the local recruiter’s office, I could see the line already starting to form. Sometimes I’d stand with the men who were waiting to sign up. Someday I’d be in that line for real. I was itching to do my part. We all were. The older boys had already gone. So had a lot of the people I had grown up with. (This is quite a few short sentences in a row—I’m not sure the choppiness is necessarily serving you.) When my uncle left

Overall: The page does a good job putting me into the character’s WWII-era town, starting to show what life in wartime is like for the character. I don’t know much about the character, though—I’m not really getting a distinctive voice from him yet. I feel like ideally, even before we know the character’s name and gender, every action and thought should feel like it has to come from a specific kind of person, someone I’m curious to learn more about. The two details that stand out to me are the fireworks and the concern about Joe DiMaggio. It’s a hard page to judge without context, and if I were looking at it with the grounding of a query letter telling me what to expect I might feel differently. But I do find myself wishing for a slightly sharper hook to tell me right away why I’m coming along with this specific child on this specific bike ride.

Nora, great job. Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. All your hard work is really appreciated. So nice working with you.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Keri Claiborne Boyle has a new picture book, OTIS P. OLIVER PROTESTS, illustrated by Daniel Duncan and published by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Keri and Daniel, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Otis P. Oliver is taking a stand. He is NOT taking another bath–ever. But when your opinions matter to the rest of the family about as much as the opinions of the family dog (who, it’s worth mentioning, only has to bathe once a month), you have to get serious. So Otis borrows a spiffy suit from his dad and rouses a rabble of neighbor kids to stand up for what the know is right: a bathtub ban. This hilarious story about standing up for what you believe in, compromise, and family will have readers of all ages ready to hit the pavement for their cause–whatever it may be.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Perhaps the thing I find most interesting about the craft of writing is the many different ways one can approach it. For some, it’s a daily commitment to a set number of hours, or words, or pages. For others, the screen is blank until there’s a sudden rush of inspiration. I tend to fall into the “sudden rush” category. I often hear my characters well before I’ve developed a plot to deliver them. Which is exactly what happened with OTIS P. OLIVER PROTESTS.

When Otis popped into my head several years ago, here’s what I knew: he was both feisty and bath resistant. But that was it. I spent months trying various plots—none of them delivering Otis the way I wanted. So, I put the manuscript aside and moved on to other projects.

But months later (with Otis still collecting dust), I attended the SCBWI conference in NYC where, on my last morning there, I attended a PB seminar with a highly-respected editor. The topic of tropes and “are there really any new PB ideas” came up and in response to a question, the editor said (off the cuff), “Well, maybe not everything’s been done. I’ve never seen a story about, I don’t know, kids protesting or something.”

Bam. There it was. I knew immediately that Otis would stage a bath time protest. It just…worked. (I’d also just come off attending the Boston Women’s March where, in the heated aftermath of the election, thousands of people proudly and peacefully made their voices heard.)

Later that same day, on the train from NYC back to Boston, the entire story poured out of me. And very little has changed from that first draft to what now sits on bookshelves (which, as most writers know, almost never happens). I was even more thrilled when the story found a champion in Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press who then brought the fantastically talented illustrator, Daniel Duncan, on board. The rest, as they say, is history. Of course, none of us expected to launch a new book in the middle of a pandemic, so that’s been an interesting challenge to say the least. Also, the irony has not been lost on me that my character eschews hygiene in a time when hygiene has never been more important. So, here’s my new message: Otis is a good example of a bad example. Don’t be like Otis – #WashYourHands!

My parting advice to those on a journey to publication is this: You never know where inspiration will come from. So expose yourself to everything—other writers, conferences, new scenery, new ideas. And of course, read, read, read.

KERI’S BIO:

Keri is the author of three children’s books: Otis P. Oliver Protests (April 2020, Sleeping Bear Press), Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog, and Teddy the Dog: Almost Best in Show (HarperCollins Children’s Books 2016/2017).

Keri is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Writers’ Loft, the 12×12 Picture Book Forum, and she holds a master’s degree in communications from Northwestern University. Keri lives outside Boston with her husband, three kids, one dog, two Guinea pigs, and a fish named Fluffy. www.kericboyle.com 

DANIEL DUNCAN’S BIO:

Daniel is a freelance illustrator who creates most of his work in an old stable turned studio on the outskirts of London. He likes to illustrate narratives, vibrant characters and environments with pencil and a digital process.

Inspired by stories, films, old photos and sports.

Daniel has been highly commended by Macmillan for the 2013 Children’s book competition, as well as being shortlisted for the 2014 AOI awards for the Children’s books New Talent category.

Daniel Duncan is represented by Anne Moore Armstrong at the Bright Agency.

Keri thank you for sharing your book and its’ journey with us. You text and Daniel’s illustrations are so much fun. This is a great book to open conversations on getting your point across, peacefull protests, and standing up for what you believe in. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 27, 2020

What Makes Middle Grade and Chapter Books Magical?

What Makes Middle Grade and Chapter Books Magical? And a Peek at Harry Potter Twists
by Mira Reisberg and Gus Glasheen

Hullo FOKs (Friends of Kathy’s). It’s so much fun to write these special guest posts. Thank you for having me. I am delighted to say that this one is a bit of a collaboration with my assistant’s 17-year-old son Gus who is a massive Harry Potter fan with a wonderfully analytical mind. But first, I want to talk about what makes Middle Grade and Chapter Books so magical. One of the main things for me is that this age is the age when kids decide whether to be readers or not, and these books are the books that will inspire them for the rest of their lives. Chapter books are written for kids ages 6 to 9 and can vary anywhere from 1500 to 20,000 words. On the other hand, Middle Grade novels are written for kids ages 8 to 12 and can go anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 words. There are so many kinds of stories in this genre, friendship stories, immigration stories, horror sendups, mashups, historical fiction, westerns, humor, and mysteries.

These books are also the ones that movie studios love to read and make films or series from – like, a Series of Unfortunate Events, Coraline, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and of course the Harry Potter series. Because the Harry Potter books were such game-changers, opening the doors for many more chapter books and middle grade novels, we’d like to narrow our focus and look at them.

So what is it that makes the Harry Potter books so successful?

Well it boils down to three things –  Character, Plot and Voice. In our fabulous FREE webinar happening June 6th, award-winning author Hillary Homzie, Penguin/RH/Dial Asst. Editor Rosie Ahmed and I will be going into depth about these 3 things for writing Chapter Books and Middle Grade novels. Register here for that: bit.ly/CBA-MG-FREE But for now I want to just explore one area of the craft of writing plots with you – Twists with a focus on the Harry Potter Series.

Essentially, JK Rowling’s books are fantasy mysteries. And the core of any mystery is suspense. When it comes to the climax of a narrative, nothing harnesses suspense better than a plot twist. A good plot twist makes the reader completely rethink everything they think they knew about the characters they have developed an intimate relationship with. In a best-case scenario, a plot twist encourages the reader to invest more time into returning to the book with a new perception of the character’s actions and motivations, all the while scouring the pages for any hints of what they may have missed leading to the big reveal. Harry Potter, one of, if not the, most popular mystery series of all time, utilizes the plot twist for some of the largest reveals.

Gus’s favorite plot twist comes at the end of the third novel, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (PoA for short). For those who don’t know, Harry’s parents were killed before the series starts, and it’s later revealed, in PoA, that the only reason they were killed was because Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, revealed the location of Harry’s parents to Voldemort. At the start of PoA, Harry is informed that Sirius has escaped from prison, and the rest of the novel details the hurdles Harry and his friends go through to avoid the escaped killer. At the climax, after Sirius’ guilt is corroborated for the entire book, it is revealed that he actually was not the murderer, but rather a man who was thought killed by Sirius, Peter Pettigrew. This is a powerful twist  because it incorporates two key features: crushing expectations and predictability. It crushes expectations because we never meet Sirius, so all our preconceived notions of him are only from anecdotal accounts. These notions are shattered for us, the reader, and Harry at the same time. The other tenet is predictability, and there are so many clues that could have informed us of the untruth in Sirius’ crime. The largest of these was that Peter Pettigrew was supposedly murdered by Sirius as he was fleeing the Potter’s house. But about halfway through the novel, a magical map, called the Marauder’s Map, revealed that Peter Pettigrew was alive and well, walking around in Hogwarts castle. That moment casts doubt on the story so far, but it doesn’t make sense why, until this big reveal at the end.

Most plot twists are based in a narrative or event, but in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, there’s a twist that doesn’t affect the story, but rather shakes the foundations of an important character in Harry’s life. Raised as an orphan, and excluding his abhorrent aunt and uncle, Harry has always been told great things about his father. From his Quidditch accomplishments to his friends reinforcing his strength, James Potter was painted as a great person in Harry’s mind. Snape, Harry’s potions teacher, and everyone’s teacher to hate, has never liked Harry and constantly sends him to detention. Harry has no way to rationalize the hatred Snape has for him other than as jealousy of him or his father. But then, about halfway through PoA, Harry is thrust into “The Pensive,” a magical device that lets someone delve into the memories of a willing subject. Here he relives the memories of a young Severus Snape attending Hogwarts. In these memories he sees his father bullying Snape by hexing him and making fun of his large nose. Finally, 5 books in, Harry and the reader gets an understanding for Snape’s malicious motivations towards Harry, and we can now relate to this character who has belittled and tormented Harry for the past five years at Hogwarts. Harry now feels guilty about what his father did, and we, as the readers, start to feel bad for rooting against Snape for so long. Once again, this could be seen coming, all the information we have about James Potter comes from his friends or teachers who enjoyed him, and because we never get to meet Harry’s late father, we aren’t able to form our own opinions of him, and instead take the stories at face value.

So here’s the genius of JK Rowling that can be applied to any mystery type chapter book or middle grade novel:
Inventing characters that connect with mythological and popular culture archetypes with their  hopes, dreams, fears, quirks, and complexities

Building suspense where we don’t know what’s coming next but are desperate to find out. Plotting with red herrings that take us down diverging or misleading paths, helping set up unexpected twists and turns for later

Creating twists that end with great reveals challenging the reader to rethink what they previously thought they knew

Casting breadcrumbs beforehand, so that when the reveal happens it all makes sense

Creating great chapter cliffhangers that compel the reader to keep reading until the end and leave them caring and still wanting more.

We hope you enjoyed this little journey into JK Rowling’s twists in Harry Potter and why chapter book and middle grade novels are wonderful to both read and write. We hope that you’ll join us in our fab free webinar here:bit.ly/CBA-MG-FREE

Or the course here: bit.ly/2020MGM

BIOS:

About Gus


Gus Glasheen is a junior at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, where he is a fierce competitor in soccer, track, debate and math. Chemistry, and physics are his best subjects.  He has over 300 wins on iMessage 8ball, and he’s been told he carries on entire conversations in his sleep.  Gus’s favorite novel is The Giver by Lois Lowry

 

About Mira

Mira Reisberg’s life is all about children’s books helping others write, illustrate and publish kid’s books through the Children’s Book Academy. Mira has worn just about every hat in the children’s book industry including award-winning illustrator, author, editor, art director, kid lit professor and children’s literary agent. Her students have published over 380 books and won every major North American award. Mira also acquires, edits and art directs for small press Clearfork Publishing/Spork. Find out more about her here: https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/about-us.html

Connect here: @ChildrensBookAc and https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChildrensBookCommunity/

Thank you Mira and Guss. Interesting article.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 26, 2020

Book Giveaway: KINDERGARTEN HAT by Janet Lawler

Janet Lawler has a new picture book, KINDERGARTEN HAT, illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez and published by Little Bee on June 9th. Janet just received a Starred KIRKUS REVIEW – Congraultations Janet!

Janet has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Janet and Geraldine, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Carlos Abredo is scared to start kindergarten, but a special teacher with an amazing hat helps give him the confidence to start the school year with a smile.

Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos receives a letter from his new teacher, Mrs. Bashay, asking him to send a photo of himself doing something he loves, he starts to feel a little better. She also requests that he bring a flower for her huge hat on the first day of school. He sends a photo of him gardening. The morning school starts, he picks his biggest daisy for her and takes it on the bus. But his insecurity grows—everyone seems to know each other, and his flower is accidentally destroyed.  When he finally meets Mrs. Bashay, she greets him warmly. Carlos comes up with a clever solution to his destroyed-daisy dilemma and gains the courage to start his first day with a great big kindergarten smile.

BOOK JOURNEY:

I don’t keep perfect records of the many drafts of my manuscripts. The earliest, but undated, version of KINDERGARTEN HAT that I can locate has a word count of 1,100—much too long! A May 2007 revision was down to 835. I continued to revise and pare the story many times, and I received quite a few encouraging and not-so-encouraging rejections over the several years it went in and out of the “active” drawer. I actually forgot about this project for a while.

Then, in 2017 Brett Duquette at Sterling acquired Mirabel’s Missing Valentines. He loved the heart and hope in that story, and we really connected throughout the editing process. Brett moved to Little Bee just shortly before that book published, and we kept in touch. My agent and I thought he’d like KINDERGARTEN HAT, and that it would be a match for Little Bee, and we were right! The polished version that I submitted was 625 words.

Revision before and after acquisition

I agreed to do a revision of the story before Brett presented it for acquisition. I trusted his instincts when he suggested that I focus more on Carlos’s anxiety and nervousness about going to school and less about the state of his flower on the bus. Brett also wanted the bus driver and other kids to be encouraging potential friends.

When an editor recognizes the core of your story, you need to be open to his or her suggestions to better develop it to connect with readers. This is sometimes difficult to do, especially if one is wedded to a particular approach to a story, or to particular words or phrases that may be tied to one’s own personal history. I am glad that the revision process for KINDERGARTEN HAT resulted in a picture book that will better make universal connections than the one I first submitted for acquisition.

 

And in lieu of words and phrases I had to let go while revising this story, I now have new favorite ones. I kept gardening as a bright spot among all of Carlos’s anxieties, sharing my love of gardening in a way that hopefully will resonate with readers young and old:

But most of all, he loved gardening—the fun of his fingers in the dirt, the surprise of seeds sprouting, and the brightness of the blooms.

Illustrations and beyond

Illustrator Geraldine Rodriguez has done a fabulous job bringing Carlos’s story and world to life with color, depth, and emotional resonance. I love her delightful depiction of his garden, complete with toy figurines and a “Carlos’s Garden” sign. And Mrs. Bashay’s hat is truly magnificent, stupendous, and tremendous!

It is likely that little ones starting school this fall following the coronavirus crisis may be struggling with messy feelings and worries. Hopefully, the humor and heart of KINDERGARTEN HAT will make them feel less alone and help each of them start their first day with a great big kindergarten smile. Thank you, Kathy, for spreading the word about my latest picture book!

At my book’s page on my website, visitors can download a free KINDERGARTEN HAT coloring sheet/craft and a CCSS Curriculum/Parent Guide. https://janetlawler.com/book/kindergarten-hat/

And please stop by my blog, Janet’s Jottings and sign up for my periodic musings on writing and nature. https://janetlawler.com/blog/

JANET’S BIO:

Janet Lawler’s critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction children’s books, published by major, specialty, and mid-publishers, include If Kisses Were Colors, Snowzilla, The Prehistoric Games, Love Is Real, Fright School, and Mirabel’s Missing Valentines. Ocean Counting (Nat’l. Geo.), featuring undersea photos by award-winning Brian Skerry, was named an Outstanding Trade Science Book by the Nat’l. Science Teachers Association and was followed by Rain Forest Colors.

Her coffee-table quality pop-up books include several for major holidays, as well as ones offering thematic, early non-fiction (LEAVES; SHELLS).

Janet’s love of family, nature, and “all things silly” inspires much of her writing. Her family shares their home in Connecticut with a dog and assorted wildlife visiting the backyard.

Janet enjoys visiting schools and libraries. Visit her website at http://www.JanetLawler.com

GERALDINE’S BIO:

Geraline was born in Mexico and an artist since as long as she can remember – as a child she was always drawing (especially sketching over-the-top of Mexican cooking books). Art has always been a part of her life- colour and simple forms are the way she express herself.

She is always willing to see the good in every situation. The world around gives her the inspiration to create.
Geraldine Rodríguez is represented by Lucie Luddington at the Bright Agency.

Janet, thank you for sharing your book and your book journey with us. I love Carlos’ teacher Mrs. Bashay. I wish every child had a smart loving teacher like her. Kids will love her hat. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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