Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 21, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Kurestin Armada Agent Interview – Part 2

kurestinarmada-wpcf_240x240Kurestin Armada is our featured agent for the month of October. I met her at the NJSCBWI conference in June and invited her to the Avalon Writer’s Retreat, so I am happy to introduce her to everyone.

Kurestin began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.

Genre Wish List: Picture-Book, Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Graphic-Novel, Nonfiction, High-Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Edgy, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction, Magic Realism, Alternative History, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ (any genre), Graphic Novels, Mystery and Romance.

Here is part two of the interview I had with Kurestin:

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Absolutely! In fact, if I don’t have any ideas on how to make a manuscript better then I begin to suspect that I’m not a good match for it. I always take things through at least one round of revisions before we go on submission, and usually it’s a few rounds (with one round focusing on big picture items, one round focused on cutting down the word count, one round focused on more specific stylistic issues, etc., all depending on what’s necessary).

Do you have an editorial style?

I tend to lean away from line editing, and instead focus on big picture items or overall style changes. I like to be able to tell my authors that, for example, their transitions are awkward, highlight an example, and then trust them to find and smooth out the rest without me having to highlight every single one.

In the end, the author and I are working together because we share a vision for the manuscript. That shared vision directs all of my notes, as I try to highlight the particular strengths of each author and make the manuscript the best version of itself that it can be.

How many clients do you have or want to build up to?

Right now I have nine clients, and I’m definitely open to signing more. I don’t have a set number that’s my limit, because I tend to bring on more clients in a cycle that’s dependent on my other work. If I’ve moved everything off of my plate editorially, and my current projects are either back with the authors for revision or ready to go out on submission, then I feel that need to sign more authors! I suppose I’ll know that I’ve hit my maximum comfortable number of clients when I don’t have that stage of a clear editing desk anymore and there’s always another project to tackle.

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

For emails I try to respond within 48 hours, and that can vary depending on if they just need a quick confirmation of receipt or if it’s an email full of questions that I want to sit down and really think about. All of my phone calls are prescheduled; while I’ve never said that my clients can’t call me out of the blue, with many in different time zones (or across the world!) it’s easier for all of us if random communications are handled over email.

In general, I prefer to give an estimated date on when they can expect an edit letter back from me (or when we’ll be going on submission). This way they’re (hopefully!) never in a place where they wonder if I’ve read something yet, or what exactly I’m doing with their manuscript at any given stage.

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

I do prefer email, but I’ve started moving toward phone calls for edit discussions. It really makes the process more of a conversation, and I’ve found that it’s more productive in a lot of cases to have that back and forth in the moment.

In the submission process, I usually send my authors regularly scheduled updates (often monthly) on where the manuscript has been sent, who has passed, etc. And then of course I’ll reach out immediately if we’re moving forward somewhere! That said, I have a couple of clients who prefer to know these things right away (even the rejections), and I’m happy to accommodate that.

What happens if you don’t sell this book?

This is a great question, and an important one to ask on The Call with an agent. At P.S. Literary we’re very focused on growing authors over the course of their career. That means that as soon as we’re out on submission with one book, I ask authors to begin working on their next book. This way we’ll be prepared with another manuscript already in the works if the first book doesn’t sell, and we can dive right into it with full force.

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

It definitely varies depending on the project. For adult science fiction and fantasy, there are only so many places that publish those genres. That will naturally limit my pool of editors, compared to the wide pool of places that I could send a YA manuscript to.

In general, I like to have at least two rounds planned for a submission (although this might not be possible for some manuscripts). That way we have the opportunity to pivot depending on feedback from the first round. And of course, I never think of it as giving up! Instead, it’s just changing what project we’re putting our main focus on.

How long is your average client relationship?

As long as I’ve been building a list! So anywhere from a bit over a year to a few months.

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

All of our foreign rights are handled by Taryn Fagerness, who is tireless and amazing and full of knowledge and excitement for everything we send to her. I honestly can’t say enough good things about Taryn!

Are you open to authors who write multiple genres?

Absolutely, I love authors who are full of ideas and ready to try new things. Of course once a book is sold it’s best to focus on building the author in that genre for a few books, but that doesn’t mean we can’t branch out through the course of their career.

Are you interested in being invited to writer’s conferences?

Definitely, I love meeting authors and getting the chance to chat about the industry and their work!

Check back next Friday for Kurestin’s first page critiques.
Talk tomorrow,
Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 20, 2016

SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award


Given with the Golden Kite Awards, the Sid Fleischman Humor Award is an award for authors whose work exemplifies the excellence of writing in the genre of humor. The SCBWI established the award to honor humorous work, so often overlooked in children’s literature by other award committees. SCBWI reserves the right not to confer this award in any given year.

The inaugural recipient of the SCBWI Humor Award, Fleischman was honored for his extensive body of work at the 32nd Annual SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles, in August 2003. SCBWI President Stephen Mooser joined Executive Director Lin Oliver in presenting the award. “Sid the Magician may not be as famous as Sid the Writer. It’s one thing to make someone laugh. But his ability to do that in so many stories with such poignancy is nothing short of magic,” said Mooser. “I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious award and honor.”

Fleischman has written over 35 books for children, including the classic McBroom series, Jim Ugly, Humbug Mountain, The Midnight Horse, By the Great Horn Spoon!, and his autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid, about his early career as a young magician. He was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1987 for The Whipping Boy. In addition to this illustrious turn in children’s literature, Fleischman has also written motion pictures that featured such talents as John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Lauren Bacall.


1. Entrants must be members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

2. Every book written by an SCBWI member (fiction, nonfiction, picture book) is eligible for consideration during the year of original publication. This award is for writers only.

3. Books submitted to the Golden Kite Award competition will NOT automatically be considered for the Sid Fleischman Humor Award. All Sid Fleischman Humor Award books should be sent as separate submissions.  Please send 2 copies of your book to the address below:

Golden Kite Coordinator
Sid Fleischman Humor Award

4727 WIlshire Blvd. Suite 301

Los Angeles, CA 90010

All submissions for the award must be RECEIVED no later than December 1, 2016.

The Sid Fleischman Humor Award nominees will be given to separate panel of judges for further consideration. The winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award will be selected, and the author and his/her publishing house notified, in April, 2017.

The Sid Fleischman Humor Award is an award for authors whose work exemplifies superlative writing in the genre of humor. The SCBWI established the award to honor humorous work, so often overlooked in children’s literature by other award committees. This award is open to writers only.

Please note: books nominated for the Sid Fleischman Humor Award are still eligible to receive the Golden Kite Award but must additionally be submitted for that award as per the guidelines.

4. The nominated books will then be considered by a new, specially designated panel of judges, consisting of author SCBWI members who work in the humor genre.

5. The winner will be notified by April 30, 2017.

Submission Guidelines for PUBLISHERS

Submission Guidelines for INDIVIDUALS

Questions? Golden Kite Coordinator:


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 19, 2016

Book Giveaway: Liza Gardner Walsh – Ghost Hunter’s Handbook

Congratulations to Liza Gardner Walsh for her new book, GHOST HUNTER’S HANDBOOK. Liza has agreed to give do a book for the perfect Halloween giveaway. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back on November 1st to discover the winner.


Book Description:

Kids love ghosts, and this handy guide will help them explore the world of the supernatural. The fascinating range of ghostly lore will keep kids enthralled for hours and includes:
What is a ghost, and how do you know if you’ve seen one?
Famous ghosts and haunted houses
On the hunt with real-life ghost trackers
Ghost-hunting equipment
Where to look for ghosts
How to tell a good ghost story


The book’s journey and mine:

I have always had an interest in ghosts. I lived in a haunted house growing up and constantly felt eyes on me. Now that I know more about ghost hunting, I know my childhood house would’ve been the perfect site for a hunt. It was a doctor’s office and when people, um, perished, they would be kept in our basement until they were buried. Yikes. Rather than trying to pretend this wasn’t happening, I eagerly embraced the spooky world that surrounded me. I spent hours in the graveyard, read local history, and took notes on the bumps in the night. I also developed a real love for reading and telling a good ghost story.

Fast forward many years and my editor at Downeast Books asked if I would be interested in writing a book about the ghosts at Fort Knox, a colonial fort on the coast of Maine that had recently been featured on the television show, Ghost Hunters. I agreed and ended up spending time with some real ghost hunters and learning a lot about the hobby. I also had some bonafide supernatural experiences that were hard to explain.

But the greatest impetus for writing this book happened during my school visits. In the beginning of my presentation, I always talk a little bit about me and what I have written. I show the covers of my books along with a few key images, and at the end of the session almost every question was about my Fort Knox ghost book. Kids wanted to know if I had seen a ghost, if ghosts were real, and they wanted to tell me their own scary stories. After a particularly excited group of third graders shared this same response, I called my editor and said I thought I needed to write a book about ghosts for kids.

My own kids were overjoyed. We live three houses down from a graveyard and for years they had been leading their own informal ghost hunts. Their enthusiasm was a tremendous help as I wrote. And so was a group of local kids who gathered at the Rockport Library to practice telling ghost stories. Many of my books have photos from the field but it is harder to capture images of ghosts due to their allusive nature! But the book’s designer, Lynda Chilton and my editor, Michael Steere, did an amazing job at researching photos and creating a spooky yet kid-friendly design.

As I wrote this book, I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was first discovering an interest in ghosts as well as the book my kids would want. I loved doing the research for this book and although I am still not 100% sure ghosts exists, because a good ghost hunter always keeps a healthy amount of skepticism, I encountered some pretty strange things. So here’s to many spooky adventures!



Liza Gardner Walsh has written numerous books for children , including Muddy Boots, Treasure Hunter’s Handbook, Fairy Houses All Year, and Where Do Fairies Go When it Snows? illustrated by Hazel Mitchell. Liza has been a children’s librarian, high school English teacher, a Museum Educator and she holds an MFA from Vermont College. She lives with her family in Camden, Maine.

Thank you Lisa for sharing your journey with us and offering GHOST’S HUNTERS HANDBOOK to one lucky winner.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 18, 2016

Golden Kite Award Submissions


Instituted in 1973, the Golden Kite Awards are the only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. More than 1,000 books are entered each year. The Golden Kite Awards recognize excellence in children’s literatures in five categories: Young Reader and Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration. 

Click here for the 2016 winners!

DEADLINE: December 5, 2016

1. You must be a current member through April of the following year to have a book submitted to the Golden Kite Awards.

2. Only books written or translated into English are accepted.

3. Please Submit FOUR copies of your book.  All submissions MUST BE in completed, bound form.  NO GALLEYS.

4. You may submit your book to ONE category only, except in the case of Picture Book Text and Picture Book Illustration.

5. If submitting to both Picture Book Text and Picture Book Illustration BOTH author and illustrator must be current members and EIGHT copies must be submitted.

6. The book submitted must be published in the previous calendar year (2017 winners published in 2016).

7. Individuals and Publishers can submit for the Golden Kites.

8. Self-published books are eligible, however you may enter your book in EITHER the Golden Kite or the Spark Award for self-published books. You may not submit the same book to both awards. Please follow the Guidelines for Individuals if you are submitting a self-published book.

9. One Golden Kite Award Winner and one Honor Book will be chosen per category.  Winners and Honorees will receive a commemorative poster also sent to publishers, bookstores, libraries, and schools; a press release; an announcement on the SCBWI website; and on SCBWI Social Networks

10. Winners and publishing houses will be notified in March, 2017.


Submission Guidelines for  PUBLISHERS

Submission Guidelines for INDIVIDUALS

Questions? Contact the Golden Kite Coordinator:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 17, 2016

Opportunity: Big Bang Critique with Mira Resiberg

Available for a LIMITED TIME ONLY
Get a Big Bang Critique with Mira


What is a Big Bang Critique and what do you get?

Usually Mira Reisberg only does critiques as part of the course she is teaching, but starting October 24th through the end of the year, she is offering what she calls her Big Bang critiques complete with Payment Plans and a discounted rate. Read on to find out more.

Whether you need help with your characters, plotting, pacing, language, beginnings, endings, middles, titles, how and where to submit, or portfolio or website makeovers, join the many beginning and established writers and illustrators who have had critiques with Dr. Mira who are now published, agented, or closer to it.


A FULL PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE with up to 6 double-spaced pages (or longer by arrangement) plus a cover letter or cover letter draft
A CHAPTER BOOK CRITIQUE which includes the first 6-10 pages plus a 1-2 page chapter book summary
A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL CRITIQUES which includes the first 6-10 pages plus a 1-2 page chapter book summary

Illustrators, work with Mira on one of the following:





Mira will work WITH you to help you craft the most compelling submission possible in the time available, doing line edits right in front of you, and art makeovers to locate and heighten the drama, humor, and/or emotional core of your story or art.


Click the Smart Fox image link above to register now! Mira would love to help you do extraordinary things!!

Worried about money? We have payment plans! And for only $197 using the ILOVEKidLit Promo code – this is a steal!


•Both the “how tos” of children’s book writing and illustration and also the whys
•Underlying themes and universal truths
•The power of pacing
•The importance of emotions
•How to play with language or composition
•How to radically increase your chances of publication
•How to send targeted submissions


You will receive a link to an easy online calendar in your time zone where you can schedule your consultation at a time that works for you.

You’ll also receive instructions on where to send your materials ahead of your appointment time along with contact information in case you have any problems.

At your appointment, you’ll meet face-to-face for an intensive one-hour either via Skype or in a private webinar forum where Mira will:

1.Share your materials on her desktop to not only show you by actual demonstration how to make line edits or tweak your artwork, but also explain the whys of why her suggested changes will make your work more marketable
2.Working in concert with you, you’ll receive what in effect is a mini-course focused entirely on your work
3.You’ll be able to ask Mira any questions and she will work hard to problem solve them
4.Achieve more in an hour than what might take months elsewhere
5.Receive copies of all projects worked on during the meeting
6.Open new doors to creativity and publication for fiction and nonfiction writers and illustrators

registernow_2Book now for a priceless critique starting Monday October 24th on. These critiques are only available through the end of the year and are currently at a discounted price. So act now to secure your spot for a uniquely interactive intensive experience to help you transform your work, writing and/or illustrating knowledge, and career. You can click on the Rosie the Riveter badge on the left or Click here to register now.



You’ll be able to ask Mira any questions and she will work hard to problem solve them. Achieve more in an hour than what might take months elsewhere. Have a wonderful warm interaction and discover innovative ways of doing things you never imagined doing to open new doors to creativity and publication.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 16, 2016

Take A Look Sunday – Gregory Myers



T2 Children’s Illustrators is a diverse group of dedicated, timely, and enthusiastic illustrators and writers from across the United States and several countries abroad. Our focus is on children’s picture book and juvenile educational publishing. But our expertise does not stop there. T2 Illustrators have collaborated on advertising campaigns, editorial features, toys, games, gifts, children’s apps, and e-books. We’re a well-versed group ready to meet your needs.

Nicole and Jeremy Tugeau are the agent/owners behind the T2 Team. They are ecstatic about their ever-growing agency, and they are committed to working hard for the network of illustrators who surround them. Nicole heads up the agency on a day-to-day basis.

What she enjoys most about being an Agent is the partnership-making, the relationships and of course the success stories. Jeremy is a long-time children’s illustrator, and he continues to work as an artist in this field while maintaining some involvement with T2 Illustrators as a creative resource and promotional guru.


Hello! Gregory has put forth two illustrations created and hand-coloured on scraperboard/scratchboard.

Gregory’s pictures brought back fond memories of discovering the tools and trade of linoleum printmaking in studio art class. I loved it!  So tactile and deliberate. Like the scraperboard in many ways. It’s nice to see this illustration medium in action.  Thank you, Gregory.


In the first picture there’s a dog salivating over the smells of the city. I think the smells are wonderfully captured in the illustrated swirl. Much of it left to our imagination because the spot art in the swirl is not absolutely clear, but it is somehow specific and powerful. We know the smells!  The wiggle in the dog’s nose as he discerns the smells is my favorite part of the illustration, sending home the keenness of the dog’s sense of smell.  Right along with the eyelashes and expressive brows. Just great. The collar suggests that the dog has a home, so the salivating is a bit more endearing than threatening. The city buildings are clustered on the dog’s back, and while I get and read the suggestion of the city through the stylized placement, I wonder if the buildings wouldn’t be more effective if they were strategically and realistically (vertically) placed in the background behind the dog, standing upright and in perspective. Additional green additions of trees might suggest a middle ground if the dog is meant to be outside of the city a bit.  All in all, the close up is a good interaction for the viewer, and a wonderful way to show off the texture provided by the medium.


In the second spread, I’ll assume that we’re ‘in’ the city, and my read of the piece is that the butcher (apron/knife) has run into the street either to stop/greet/save the dog or chase down the dog. It’s unclear mostly because of the dog’s position and expression. The butcher is very intense and motivated…for something. But the dog is very passive despite being in the street amongst cars. I’m interested to know more.  I love the bristle of hair on the butcher’s head.  And again the textures are rich. IF the dog is meant to be the same dog we’re introduced to in spread 1 (I think he is) then Gregory needs to make that connection undeniable. Right now, the dog in spread 2 is a very different beast.  In looks and attitude. The wrinkle in the snout is there and the collar and the coloring, but we’ve lost the connection to the dog as character. His eyes have dimmed in the second piece, and he’s not actively participating like the butcher.

My very best to you and your continued work, Gregory!


Thank you Nicole for sharing your thoughts and expertise with us. I look forward to next Sunday.

Here’s Gregory’s bio:

Gregory is a freelance illustrator based in Sydney, Australia. He works mostly in editorial & children’s literature. These works are hand-coloured scraperboard but he works in a variety of media including digital.


If you do not have an agent and would like to be featured and hear what is working or how it could be tweaked to help you sell your work, then please send Two or Three SEQUENTIAL illustrations (Two/three with the SAME “story/characters‎”) to:

Kathy.temean (at) Illustrations should be at least 500 pixels wide and your name should be in the .jpg title. Please put ILLUSTRATOR PORTFOLIO in the subject area and include a blurb about yourself that I can use to introduce you to everyone.

Each Sunday one illustrator will be featured.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 15, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Julie Downing

julie_photoJulie Downing is an internationally published author and illustrator. She has written and or illustrated over 40 books for children

Julie Downing is a artist from San Francisco. She is known for her innovative approach in illustrating traditional stories, and her list of books include; The Night Before Christmas, Lullaby and Goodnight, and The Firekeeper’s Son.

Her most recent book, First Mothers, is a biography of all the mothers of the presidents. Publishers’ Weekly wrote::” Craftily mining the personalities of each woman, Downing contributes watercolor and colored pencil portraits of the mother s on their home turfs, humorously underscoring their many diverse eccentricities.”

Downing has won many awards for her work, including a Parent’s Choice Award, and the New York Public Library Best Books Award. She was selected to appear in Talking with Artists Too, a book about 12 of the nation’s best Children’s’ Book Illustrators.

Downing is most noted for her rich, jewel like watercolor illustrations. Her work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and England. She currently teaches watercolor and Children’s Book Illustration to both graduate and undergraduate students at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Here’s Julie discussing her process:


I always start by reading the story, over and over again. I like to think about what the story means and how I feel about it, emotionally. Sometimes I make notes in a sketchbook.  Sometimes I make lists and sometimes I make little drawings. I am not very organized when it comes to my sketchbooks, I just grab one that is close by and draw.


At the beginning, I tried to stay loose. I love to work on Post it notes, because they are so easy to throw away, cover up or re-draw. I did lots of small story boards as I worked out the sequence of the pictures and the design of the book.



After I sketched what felt  like a hundred story boards, I blew my thumbnails up and tightened up my sketches. The story had a lot of text for a picture book.  I designed the pages so the text was separated from the art and the book felt more picture heavy.


Now I had a road map of the book and could think about the individual illustrations.

One of my favorite spreads was in the middle of the book. Lotus plays her flute and Feather begins to dance. This is the moment when their friendship began. I sketched lots of versions of the 2 friends together. I wanted to capture how their friendship evolved. I photographed a friend’s daughter so I could get the proportions right. I sketched and re sketched the scene many times.





When I finally thought I got the poses the way I wanted, I drew a full size sketch and realized so sequence wasn’t right. So I revised and did another sketch.



Part of what interested me with Lotus and Feather was the way the light and seasons change. I did a story board in color so I could plan the color shifts in the book.


One of the things I like the best is collaborating with the editor and Art Director. When I work on a project for a long time I need fresh eyes to look at my art. I worked with the terrific team of Stephanie Lurie and Joann Hill at Disney and they gave me wonderful feedback. I appreciated it… most of the time.


The final art was a combination of traditional mediums, combined digitally. I have always considered myself a traditional illustrator. I love watercolor, pastel and pencil and love what traditional materials do. I love the unpredictability of traditional materials and have never rendered  a book digitally because frankly, I am lame when it comes to technology.  However, I am part of a wonderful critique group: Lisa Brown, Katherine Tillotson, Christy Hale, Ashley Wolff and Susan Gal, and each uses digital tools differently. So, I became interested in the flexibility that working with digital tools affords me. I started rendering loose backgrounds with watercolor on 140 pound cold press watercolor paper. I did the paintings onsite and each one took about 5 minutes.

I scanned the backgrounds at 600 dpi and they became the basis for the landscapes in Lotus and Feather.


I experimented with hot press illustration paper, and rendered the bird and the characters on this surface.  Hot press paper allows you to render incredible detail with pencil and paint and not have any of the paper texture show. I scanned all of these drawings into the computer too.


I also painted a number of simple textures on different types of paper. Sunsets, reeds, weird textures like ink and soap bubbles ( a texture from critique group member Susan Gal) and scanned them all into the computer.



Because I have worked traditionally and I paint my watercolors in layers, I replicated the same thing digitally. Often the files consisted of 70 layers, all transparent (the multiply layer… my favorite). I inverted layers, duplicated layers and after a while it felt like painting.  The process wasn’t faster, but in many ways I had more control over color and composition.



Interview Questions for Julie Downing

How long have you been illustrating?

My first picture book was published in 1984 and I have done 1 to 2 books a year ever since.


Where do you live?

I live a block away from the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco. My home is the bottom flat in a very tall Victorian building.


What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

My first paid job was a text book job for Houghton Mifflin. I had to draw a group of children waiting for a school bus.


Where did you study art? What made you chose that school?

I went to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI. I grew up in Denver, CO and I wanted to go to school somewhere very different. I hadn’t always dreamed of being an artist, in fact, I had a number of other careers in mind: a detective. ice skater or spy were all options. However, the first time I visited RISD, I just feel in love with the school and the idea of drawing and painting for 4 years.


What did you study there?

I studied illustration and discovered children’s books in my junior year. It was a perfect fit!


Did college help develop your style?

RISD helped me understand how to think about a book, A picture book is like a puzzle and much more complicated than many people realize. There are so many different parts to think about. The illustrator has to consider the overall design, the sequence of images, the characters, the story arc as well as the individual images that make up a book. RISD taught me how to make all the parts work together.


What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

I moved to NYC and worked as a designer for Macy’s in New Jersey. I was a display designer and designed posters, displays and banners.


Did they help you get work after you graduated?

My RISD education opened so many doors. My first illustration jobs came from an art director at Houghton Mifflin, who visited my RISD Children’s Book illustration class.


Have you seen your work change since you graduated?

I think my style has changed because I changed the way I work. When I started, I was a very traditional watercolor artist. Now, I use a number of different mediums and combine them digitally.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I didn’t realize I wanted to illustrate children’s books until my junior year at RISD. I took a class with Judy Sue Goodwin, a much loved professor at RISD. She introduced the world of children’s books to me.


Was Mr. Griggs’ Work your first book?

My first book was Prince Boghole, by Eric Haugaard.


How did that contract come about?

I was hired by a young art director at Macmillan, Cecilia Yung. Cecilia is currently a VP at Penguin. We recently saw each other and decided that after 30 years… we looked exactly the same!


Was it exciting to illustrate a picture book, The Firekeeper’s Son, for a Newbury winner like Linda Sue Parks?

It was, although at the time Linda Sue had not won the Newberry. She won the award after I started the illustrations for The Firekeeper’s Son. I remember reading the manuscript for the first time. I couldn’t put it down. I was amazed by the complexity of the message in a picture book format.


How did that book come your way?

The editor, Dinah Stevenson, told me she liked the way I handled light. I have always been interested in light and shadow and how it affect mood of the story. After 15 years, The Firekeeper’s son remains one of my favorite stories.


Lotus and Feather coming out in December looks wonderful. How long did it take you to illustrate it?

Lotus and Feather took almost a year to finish the illustrations.


Is this your first book with Disney – Hyperion? Who was your editor?

This is my first book for Disney. I worked with Stephanie Lurie and Joann Hill. Joann was the art director for The Firekeeper’s Son, and I worked with Stephanie years ago. They are a dynamic duo!scarlette

I see that you wrote and illustrated No Hugs Till Saturday. Do you have any desire to write and illustrate more of your own books?

I would love to write and illustrate more. I have written and illustrated a total of 6 books and am working on a new one now. It takes me a long time to develop a story. No Hugs Till Saturday took almost 2 years to write, a long time for a book with less than 500 words!


Did you need to get your MFA in order to teach watercolor and Children’s Book Illustration to graduate and undergraduate students at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco?

I did not have to get an MFA. I love teaching at AAU because they hire professionals in the field, so I teach with a great group of animators, illustrators and comic book artists. I learn as much as my students!


What do you think is your biggest success?

I consider my biggest success is the fact that I can make a living illustrating books. I have books that have sold over 200,000 copies and books that have sold 5,000 copies and I am just so happy to be able to work at something I love.


Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

I have never illustrated a wordless book. I think that is a huge challenge and I would love to try. I do love the challenge of expanding the text with my illustrations and bringing something new to the story with my pictures.


Do you have an artist rep.? If so, how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to find one?

I have a new rep, Danielle Smith, at Red Fox Literary. Many editors and art directors recommended Danielle and I am really excited to work with her.


Do you illustrate full time?

I split my time between illustrating and teaching, although I spend many more hours illustrating.


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

I love watercolor and pencil. There is something magical that happens with traditional watercolor. Photoshop helps me use traditional mediums and combine them in a new way.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I look at or take a huge number of photos before I start a project. Contrary to what many people think, artists don’t draw everything from their imagination. Most people I know use photo reference as either inspiration or to provide information when they draw.


Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?

I started out doing educational work for publishers and have continued to work for them. I recently finished a big job for Pearson Education where they created new textbooks on the iPad. Usually textbooks have faster deadlines and I am illustrating just a few pages and not a whole book.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I do a lot of sketching with Photoshop. It is such a quick and easy way of putting ideas down and playing with compositions. I do use Photoshop when I do my final art as well. I create all my art traditionally using pencil, watercolor and pastel, but I combine it all digitally.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

I have a Wacom tablet and use it all the time.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

I have worked for Cricket Magazine, Highlights and Ladybug Magazine.


Do you have a studio in your house?

My studio is about a 15 minute walk from my house. It is across the street from Kezar Stadium where the San Francisco 49’er football team played for many years. The landlord’s father built the 15 X 15′ box so he could always have a good seat to watch the football games. Now I get to create my art and watch all of the high school athletic events from my desk.


Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?

My hair dryer. It speeds up the drying time for my watercolors.


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

I work every day, although on the days I don’t teach I am slow getting started. I get up, have coffee, run and finally start work around 11:00. I often work late at night and usually go back to work right after dinner.


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

The internet has allowed me to connect to so many talented people around the world. I have met illustrators, art directors and editors from many different places.


What are your career goals?

I am so lucky to be able to do what I love. I hope to write and illustrate books for many, many years.


What are you working on now?

I am illustrating a wonderful book, Tessa Takes Wing. The author is Richard Jackson, who was one of my very first editors and the publisher is Roaring Brook Press.


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

I love working with watercolors on cold press watercolor paper. My biggest indulgence is a pure sable brush from England.


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

Don’t give up. Success doesn’t always happen right away.


Thank you Julie for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Julie’s work, you can visit her at website at:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Julie. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 14, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Kurestin Armada Interview – Part One

kurestinarmada-wpcf_240x240Kurestin Armada is our featured agent for the month of October. I met her at the NJSCBWI conference in June and invited her to the Avalon Writer’s Retreat, so I am happy to introduce her to everyone.

Kurestin began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.

Genre Wish List: Picture-Book, Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Graphic-Novel, Nonfiction, High-Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Edgy, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction, Magic Realism, Alternative History, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ (any genre), Graphic Novels, Mystery and Romance.

Here is the first part of the interview I had with Kurestin:

Are there any genres that are less interesting to you?

Right now I’m not really looking for memoir (because it’s such a hard sell), and I’m also avoiding traditional thrillers because I’ve just never read that many of them. I love other works with thriller elements, but anything that has that ex-CIA agent kind of feeling isn’t for me.

Do you have any story or theme that you wished someone would submit?

Oh, definitely! There’s so many, but a few are:

• stories about siblings
• a good road trip book with a twist
• a funny, adventure-filled MG novel
• young girls with STEM interests/something traditionally masculine like being a carpenter or a mechanic
• a fantasy world where the heir feels a sense of duty and responsibility to their land

What do you like to see in a submission?

I like to see that the author knows their genre, knows what’s working and what’s fresh. I’m looking for that perfect combination where a reader is interested because it shares qualities with books they love, but has a little extra something that makes them pick it up instead of the books next to it.

How important is the query letter?

Very important! But it doesn’t have to be the most amazing piece of writing you’ve ever done. At heart, it just needs to tell me about your book. But it’s very important that it does that job well, and doesn’t describe a general plot that could apply to many other books as well. I want to know specific details about your characters and world!

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

Get me hooked on your main character. If I feel invested in them and like I already know them a bit, then I’ll want to find out how they tackle the issue facing them/get out of the mess they’re in/get that very important thing.

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

Assuming we’ve moved past the query stage, I’ll either read only a couple of pages or I’ll read the entire partial I’ve requested (50 pages to start). I know in the first few pages if the writer is at the level I’m looking for when it comes to the writing itself, on a sentence by sentence level. Once I know they are, then it’s a matter of building my interest in our main character and having something plot-wise happen in those 50 pages that leaves me wanting to read more.

I specifically request a partial before the full to build in that extra step of work for myself. If at the end of the 50 pages I’m kicking myself for not having the full, or I’m firing off the request for it and waiting with excitement when it finally arrives in my inbox, that’s a great sign. If I feel like I might get around to asking for it, I might not, then I’m clearly not excited enough by what’s happening in the story.

Would you lose interest in a submission if the writer missed correcting a few misspelled words?

Not necessarily, but it would become an unpleasant distraction if it happened repeatedly in the opening pages. Once I’m more drawn into the story those kinds of things aren’t a bother, but ideally there won’t be more than a handful in the entire manuscript.

Do you let people know if you are not interested in what they sent?

We do have an auto response for queries that confirms receipt and explains that we’re a “no response means no” agency. This only applies to the query stage, though. When we’ve requested material, we always respond! For me this also includes things I’ve requested through conferences or online pitch contests.

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

It can really vary (sorry)! For queries, usually four weeks at the latest. For partials it might take up to two or three months, and for fulls it could be anywhere from two months to six months. It really depends on how much time I have for reading submissions as opposed to client material/other tasks and how many submissions I’ve requested recently. I have read some things incredibly quickly because of how excited I am, but I’ve also offered rep on things that just took me a while to have time for!

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

When I critique queries in person, more of a dialogue develops with the author. Through those conversations I’ve noticed that a lot of writers aren’t mentioning the most interesting parts of their story in the query! This often happens when people lean towards the general to make it easier to digest. Instead, the interesting parts are all wrapped up in the specific details, so those are what I want to see in a query.

Another common mistake is to end your query on the wrong conflict. Ideally your query ends on the inciting incident, that initial conflict that propels our mains character into the action of the book. Instead, I often see what ends up being the ending conflict, or the question that decides the last 10% of the book. This will feel fairly weak to me when reading, because I feel like it can’t possibly carry an entire book and be interesting. This is of course because it doesn’t carry the entire book. Remember that the query is a tool to get me to read the manuscript, so leave me wanting more!

Any pet peeves?

This might sound obvious, but when people don’t describe their book! When a query opens and it’s a paragraph about how they found me, and then a paragraph about their inspiration, and so on, it feels a bit like a waste of time. A little bit of housekeeping in the beginning is okay, but I really want to dive into the matter at hand here—the manuscript. And by that I mean characters and plot, not themes or praise for your own book (another pet peeve). Also, this is a very minor/personal thing, but I don’t really like when people describe how their book is very funny/hilarious. I would prefer to be laughing as I read the query!

Check back next Friday for Part Two of Kurestin’s Interview.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 13, 2016

Winners – Kudos & Industry Changes


Please send me your addresses.

Lucy’s Lovey by Betsy Devany – Lauri Meyers
Aim by Joyce Moyer Hostetter – Jama Ratigan
Now You See Them, Now You Don’t by David Harrison – Kristi Dee Veitenheimer
The Hard Count by Ginger Scott – Bonnie Lambourn
Toby by Hazel Mitchell – Claire Lordon
And THE TREES CREPT IN by Dawn Kurtagich – Michael Gettel-Gilmartin

the-wardens-daughterMaster storyteller Jerry Spinelli spins a tale of loss and redemption like no other. The Warden’s Daughter shows that kindness and compassion can often be found where we least expect it.

It is now available for pre-order.

Cammie O’Reilly is the warden’s daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she’s also living in a prison of grief and anger about the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And prison has made her mad. This girl’s nickname is Cannonball.

In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie’s best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand. A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie’s coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.

doll-eyeMaria Cohen new book is available for pre-order.

All Hadley wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be—back when she didn’t have to share her mother with her stepfather and stepbrother. Back when she wasn’t forced to live in a musty, decomposing house. Back when she had a life in the city with her friends.

As Hadley whiles away what’s left of her summer, exploring the nearby woods and splitting her time between her strange, bug-obsessed neighbor Gabe and the nice old lady that lives above the garage, she begins to notice the house isn’t just old and creaky. It’s full of secrets, just like appearance of a mysterious dollhouse and the family of perfect dolls she finds.

Oh, how she wishes her family were more like those lovely dolls! Then one day, Hadley discovers a lone glass eye rolling around the floor of the attic. Holding it close one night, she makes a wish that just might change her world forever.

carol-roth-tigerCarol Roth’s new book is available for pre-order.

A playful look at managing tempers for tigers of every age.

Little Tiger has a temper! He stomps his paws, cries, and growls when he doesn’t want to do something. But when his mom says “Hold your temper or else,” Little Tiger has to make some changes. Where will he hold his temper? In his pocket . . . in his underwear?




October Indie Top YA Picks. Two of my favorite authors and their books made the list.


New Imprints:

Kensington’s Lyrical Press will add a digital first contemporary romance series imprint, Caress, and a digital romantic suspense imprint, Liaison, beginning fall 2017. Together the two lines will publish 50 titles annually and will be overseen Alexandra Nicolajsen.

Hogarth Lines Up Sarah Jessica Parker Imprint
After playing the writer in “Sex and the City,” actor Sarah Jessica Parker is the latest celebrity to set up an imprint. She will be editorial director of SJP for Hogarth, where she “will help to find, edit and publish three or four new novels a year.” Parker was enlisted by Crown publisher Molly Stern. Parker tells the NYT she’s looking for “great stories” and “global voices” which they note “is another way of saying she can’t say too much.”

Promotions & Industry Changes:

At Delacorte Press, Wendy Loggia and Krista Marino have both been promoted to senior executive editor, while Monica Jean moves up to assistant editor.

At Chronicle Books, Melissa Manlove and Naomi Kristen have both been promoted to senior editor, children’s.

At Crown Children’s, Emily Easton has been promoted to vp, publisher.

Becky Herrick has joined Skyhorse as editor at Sky Pony Press. She was previously with Scholastic.

At Harlequin, Karen Reid has been promoted to editor and Dana Grimaldi moves up to associate editor.

Sara Crowe leave Harvey Klinger and joins Pippin Properties as agent.

Congratulations to everyone!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 12, 2016

Book Giveaway – Bella’s Fall Coat

Lynn Plourde has greed to do a book giveaway for her new book, BELLA’S FALL COAT. Susan Gal illustrated the book and was feature on Illustrator Saturday on Sept. 26th. All you have to do to get in the running for Lynn’s book giveaway is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back on October 26th to discover the winner.


Bella loves the sights and sounds of fall–the crinkle-crackle of fallen leaves, the crunch of crisp, red apples, the honking and flapping of migrating geese. She wants the season to last forever. She also wants her fall coat–the one her Grams made especially for her–to last forever. But the coat is worn-out and too small. . . . With a snip and a whir, Grams makes sure Bella will be warm when the first snowflakes fall. And Bella finds a perfect use for her old favorite coat–on the first snowman of the season.



Bella’s Fall Coat likely started the day I was born more than 60 years ago. I’m serious! I was born in October in Maine and the season of fall has been in my soul ever since. I just said on a walk this morning with a whirlish of red, orange, and gold leaves raining down upon my husband and me that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful fall—but then, I think I say that every year =)! Actually, one of my first books published back in 1999 was Wild Child, a love story about autumn. I’m actually surprised that it has taken me this long to write another fall book. Bella’s Fall Coat takes me full circle—my first fall book was a mother-child book dedicated to my daughter and Bella is a grandmother-grandchild book dedicated to my first grandchild. He’s even more beautiful than fall.


Besides writing about my love of fall and grandchildren, two other things stand out to me for Bella’s Fall Coat—the editor and the illustrator. Stephanie Owens Lurie is a dream editor. She has edited more of my picture books than any other editor. We worked together when she was at Simon & Schuster (when we did Wild Child together), at Dutton, and now at Disney-Hyperion. Steph Lurie honors and nurtures what’s in my story “heart” at the same time she makes me a better writer.



How long have you been writing?

When I visit schools, I tell students I’ve been writing since I was in kindergarten. But as for writing children’s books, I’ve been writing them for 32 years (when I got married and had a ready-made family with 3-and-4-year-old stepsons), but I had 13 years of rejections before I ever got a book published.

How many books have your written?

Thirty-three published as of this year, but I’ve written many, many more that have not been published.

Were all the books you wrote picture books?

All picture books, except for one graphic novel and one middle grade novel.

What was the title of your first book?

Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud illustrated by John Schoenherr.


How did you get that first contract?

Actually, I got a rejection first on Pigs in the Mud from editor Kevin Lewis at Scholastic—which said some wonderful things about the story, but he didn’t like the ending. So I wrote a new ending, sent it back, and he called a few days later saying they wanted to sign it up.

Was Bella’s Fall Coat your first published book with Disney-Hyperion?

No, I had two other picture books with them—You’re Wearing THAT to School?! and You’re Doing THAT in the Talent Show?! both about over-the-top Penelope the Hippo and Tiny the Mouse.

Who is your agent? How long have you been with them? How did you connect?

My agent is Susan Cohen at Writers House in New York City. We’ve been together for all except my first book (which I signed up on my own). I found her in a book with agent listings—so by chance, but it turned out great. She’s the perfect agent for me.

How did you end up doing a graphic novel?

I wrote a graphic novel, Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness because it’s a true story about a friend of mine, Donn Fendler. He just turned 90 this summer, but when he was twelve, he got lost in the Maine wilderness for nine days. It’s an amazing survival story brought to life by Ben Bishop’s illustrations. Donn is a wonderful talker, but not a writer; he needed someone he trusted to work on the book with him. So I did. I interviewed him back and forth through eight drafts and eighteen months until we finished the story.


Was Maxi’s Secrets your only middle grade book?

So far, I’m starting on another one—stay tuned. It’s only in the early stages, too soon to talk about it.


Have you ever thought of illustrating your own book?

No, here’s how I draw!


How many school visits do you do each year?

It varies form year to year, but about 50-75. 

Do you have any words of the wisdom that might help writers get a book published?

Write what you read! Whatever books you most enjoy reading—picture books, historical fiction, fantasy, mysteries—those are the kinds of writing you might be best at.

Lynn Plourde


Lynn Plourde is the author of thirty-three children’s books including her newest in 2016—picture books: You’re Doing THAT in the Talent Show?! Bella’s Fall Coat, and the upcoming Baby Bear’s NOT Hibernating plus her first middle grade novel, Maxi’s Secrets (or, what you can learn from a dog). Some of her earlier books include Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud, Wild Child, and Dino Pets. Lynn’s books have received a variety of recognitions including Junior Library Guild selection, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Los Angeles Times Best Children’s Book, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, and Amelia Bloomer List. Plourde considers herself a “teaching author,” as she does numerous author visits to schools each year during which she teaches students how to write their own stories.

Video read-alouds, learning activities, and a blog on teaching writing are available on her website. Lynn lives in Winthrop, Maine.


Susan Gal’s illustrations in Bella’s Fall Coat are beyond my expectations—they are so fresh, so vibrant, so striking and they emanate LOVE—love of fall and love between a grandmother and granddaughter. Susan’s process for creating her art is beautifully shown in her September 24th interview with you, Kathy. And I was fortunate to have a say in choosing Susan Gal to illustrate Bella (that it not usually the case—readers are often surprised to learn that the publishing company usually chooses illustrators for picture books, not the author). But editor Steph Lurie sent me samples from three illustrators to consider for Bella’s Fall Coat and Susan Gal’s collage art just felt so perfect for the story since fall is not just about colors, but textures too. Fortunately, I’m not the only one thrilled with Susan Gal’s illustrations—the book was reviewed this past weekend in the New York Times and it received starred reviews from both Kirkus and School Library Journal, each exclaiming Susan’s art.


Thank you Lynn for sharing your journey with us and offering Bella’s Fall Coat to one lucky winner.

Talk tomorrow,


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