Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 19, 2018

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Welcome to the 26th annual Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. Submit published or unpublished work. $5,000 in prizes.

Deadline: April 30, 2018.


  • STORY: First Prize, $2,000
  • ESSAY: First Prize, $2,000
  • 10 Honorable Mentions will receive $100 each (any category)
  • Top 12 entries published online

For this contest, a story is any short work of fiction, and an essay is any short work of nonfiction. Judge: Dennis Norris II, assisted by Lauren Singer. Please submit as many entries as you like. All themes accepted. Entries may be published or unpublished. Length limit: 6,000 words. No restrictions on age or country. Please click the Submittable button below for full details. Fee: $20 per entry. Read the winning entries from the 25th contest. The results of our 26th contest will be announced on October 15, 2018.


What to Submit

Short stories, essays or other works of prose. There are no restrictions on style or theme. Each entry should be your own original work. You may submit the same work simultaneously to this contest and to others, and you may submit works that have been published or won prizes elsewhere. (However, please do not submit work that has previously received recognition at Winning Writers.)

Prizes and Publication
Fiction Category
First Prize, $2,000 cash

Essay Category
First Prize, $2,000 cash

Ten Honorable Mention entries will receive $100 cash each (any category)

All entries that win cash prizes will be published on the Winning Writers website and announced in the Winning Writers Newsletter (circulation 50,000+). Finalists may also be recognized.

No Country Restriction; English Language
Writers of all nations may enter. However, the works you submit should be in English. If you have written a work in another language, you may submit an English translation.

Anonymous Judging
Entries are judged anonymously. Please omit your name and all identifying information from your entry. Please also omit any publishing credits from your entry. All the information we need is collected on our online entry form.

No Age Restriction
Writers of all ages may enter.

Your privacy is assured. We will not rent your information to third parties.

If your entry wins any cash prize, you agree to give both John H. Reid and Winning Writers a nonexclusive license to publish your work online. This includes possible publication in one or more ebooks. From time to time, selected winning entries may also be published in printed collections. If you win a prize, we may ask you for permission to include your entry in one of these books. You may accept or decline this invitation as you choose. Your entry will not be published in print without your consent, and you retain all other rights. You are free, for example, to publish your work in print or online elsewhere, and to enter it into other contests, whether or not you win a prize in this contest.

Generally entry fees are not refundable. However, if you believe you have an exceptional circumstance, please contact us within one year of your entry.

Advisors to the Contest
John Howard Reid has won first prizes and other awards in prestigious literary events. A former journalist and magazine editor, he has published several historical novels, a collection of poetry, a guide to winning literary contests, and over fifty books of film criticism and movie history. See his work at Lulu. He lives in Wyong, Australia. Mr. Reid is assisted by Dee C. Konrad. A leading educator and published author, Mrs. Konrad was Associate Professor in the English faculty of Barat College of DePaul University, and served as Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the year 2000-2001.

If you have questions, please email the contest administrator at

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 18, 2018

Agent Looking for Clients – Jennifer Udden

Jennifer Udden was born in Houston, TX, and spent many of her formative years hiding books under tables while she was meant to be paying attention to something else. She has a BA from Mount Holyoke College, and graduated in 2008 with a major in Politics, a minor in Chinese, and honors thesis work on anxiety in British detective fiction of the early 20th century. She has worked in fundraising for an off-Broadway theater company and joined the publishing industry in 2010 at the Donald Maass Literary Agency.  She is the co-host of the podcast Shipping & Handling ( with Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc. To query Jen, follow the directions on the submission guidelines page. She blogs at and

Jen is looking for: speculative fiction of all stripes, especially innovative science fiction or fantasy that explores worlds we haven’t seen before; contemporary/erotic/LGBT/paranormal/historical romance; contemporary or speculative YA; select mysteries, thrillers, and urban fantasies. Please, do not send to Jen: any middle-grade, chapter, or picture books; nonfiction.

Some of Jen’s most recent favorite reads include: THE FIFTH SEASON by NK Jemisin; TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by Connie Willis; CAPTIVE PRINCE & PRINCE’S GAMBIT by CS Pacat; WOLF IN WHITE VAN by Jon Darnielle; The LYNBURN LEGACY books by Sarah Rees Brennan; DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy; CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Submission Guidelines:

To query Jen Udden specifically, e-mail queries can be sent to and put include the word “query” in the subject line. Please know that we will read and respond to every e-query that we receive, provided it is properly addressed and follows the submission guidelines below. We will not respond to e-queries that are addressed to no one, or to multiple recipients.

Your email query should include the following within the body of the email: your query letter, a synopsis of the book, and the first five pages of your manuscript. We will not open or respond to any e-mails that have attachments. If we like the sound of your work, we will request more material from you. Our response time is four weeks on queries, six to eight weeks on full manuscripts. If you haven’t heard from us within that time, feel free to check in via email.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 17, 2018


On the third Tuesday Christina or Christy Ewers Tugeau of the Cat Agency will answer questions and talk about things illustrators need to know to further their career. It could be a question about an illustration you are working on, too. Please email your questions to me and put ASK CAT in the subject box.


What is the first thing to do if an artist wants an agent?

This is a GREAT and ‘basic’ question for artists and writers that could be a long presentation or course of an answer!  In fact it HAS been in years past!  We will attempt to simplify things here and then expand on any points in on-going articles if the interest is there.

The very first thing to do of course before going and looking for an agent to represent you in this market is be the BEST and most prepared children’s book artist in your style you can be! (and/or writer, but I will address artists mostly here now)  What does that mean?  You have done YOUR homework.  Studied picture books and educational materials at library and good book store, to see what is HOT and what is NOT today.  

Join for a wealth of information about this market and the players, and a connection with other artists, editors, and art directors from around the world to help your preparation.  There are links to other artists sights so you can SEE your competition (friendly).  You will find also links to Agent sites and these you should study closely.  Analyze WHO each rep is by studying the artists they represent.  See the quality, the areas of concentration (maybe more TRADE book or more educational etc.)  Read about them on the site.  Link with their Instagram and Facebook and other Social Media to get a feel for the way they work and think.  Talk to other artists with them about their experiences! Some agencies are very large and ‘hands off’ and others are more ‘boutique’ with much contact and guidance.  Different artists need and want different amounts of interaction.  You need to know YOU and your needs.  Make a list of those you think might be a match for your style and personality.

One hint that I think is very important if a bit hard to hear:  Be brutally honest with yourself.  I mentioned KNOWING yourself as an artist and business person. This really is important ! The expectations you have for an agent, and the expectations they and the clients have for you, will be high.  This is a very competitive and professional industry!  As an fine artist myself, I understand how this can feel like you are standing on stage naked.  So be hard on yourself first and then you will find the process much easier as you are thoroughly prepared and ready.  One nice truth is that the people in this Kidlit industry are very very lovely….smart, talented, honest and approachable… more than lots of other markets.  You will find help and feedback and you will learn….meeting many many good and special people along the way.  So open yourself up and jump in!

As to the practical part of what you need:  an on-line portfolio = WEBSITE! it’s how agents and buyers SEE who you are! With maybe 20 wonderful samples it should show off the ‘you’ and your style you have perfected and most wish to present for representation and hiring.  About 12-15 pieces in a not too large physical portfolio (9×12”) is also a good idea (or conferences and possible visits with buyers and agents). Put in ONLY THE BEST!  N0 weak hands, or awkward compositions even if the rest is ‘wonderful.’  Do it again till it’s right.  Show characters (kids of all ages if you do that, and animals – show FACES!). This is a STORY TELLING industry and you need to show you can tell stories with your art. Best way to do that is to take a character or a few characters interacting, and show them in 2 or 3 narrative, sequential scene spreads showing a change of attitude, emotion, activity, situation and/or background.  This can SHOW the character(s) off well, and SHOW that you can do stories.  Getting the hint probably … SHOW, don’t tell.

Then it’s time for Self Promotion which you should do with mailings to your Client A and B lists (formed like the Agent lists by studying the on-line presence of each publisher and reading the Submission Guidelines). Do this while you are trying to find an agent.  It’s a lot easier to get an agent if you are published, and have a ‘record’ of keeping deadlines, being professional in dealing successfully with all the business end of this industry.  Agents will seldom take on an artist with no track record…it happens, but why make it harder for yourself. The agency represents you, but YOU represent the agency as well.  We agents have to be comfortable with what we are presenting to our buying clients.

We have found that 5×7 postcards (art on both sides…don’t forget contact info!!)  are generally most loved by buyers. Inexpensive for the artist, easy to post or save for the buyers.  Send out 3-4 times a year maybe. (we do!)  Keep a consistent style that they can recognize.  If they like it, they WILL keep it! sometimes for years!  Get jobs! develop relationships.  Another hint: even when you have an agent, these personal relationships are vital for you to make and keep over the long haul.

How to contact agents:  read the Submission Guidelines for the agents you are interested in.  It’s all on-line.  WE, at The CAT Agency Inc., like 3-4 good image examples of your style attached with a short letter of introduction  in an email with a link to your website .  That’s it.  We make it a practice to respond to every submission, and as fast as possible.  (though we understand most do not…it means ‘NO’)  If we are interested we’ll want to chat more, or have suggestions for further interaction with us.  It varies accordingly and might include out taking ‘you’ into NYC for a round of visits to get market feedback.  We like to stay a smaller agency (32 artists presently) so we really have to be impressed.  Timing can play a part, and it might be worth while to reconnect with an agency after a year.  You’ll know from the response or lack there of.  Don’t bug agents or buyers.  We/they are very busy people and you really don’t want to annoy. But it’s fine to be sure we received your samples and interest with a follow up email once if it goes too long.

So that’s the secret!  pretty straight forward really.  You take your talent to another level – prepare – study – make lists and great samples – do the contacting and self promotion and wait.  And while you wait you continue the above!  Keep making the sample images and improving, so you have new work to show off on those postcards.  Keep studying the constantly changing Kidlit world.  Read and talk and share.  Jump right in and join the fun!

(We hope this will generate new and more precise questions….bring them on!)

Thank you Chris for your efforts to answer these important questions to help the illustrating community. 

Please help keep this column going by sending in your questions.


Hope this illustration by Adelina Lirius (http://adelinalirius.comwill inspire everyone to send in a question to Chris and Christy. 

Send them to kathy(dot) and put ASK CAT in the Subject Area.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 16, 2018

Book Giveaway: CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS by David L Harrison


This collection of laugh-out-loud poems explores the daily life of insect students and staff at Crawly School for Bugs.

Welcome to Crawly School for Bugs! Termites, stink bugs, gnats, and every insect in between attend this buzzy school where crickets take classes like “How to Be Annoying in 4 Easy Steps.” Some students struggle with the temptation to eat fellow classmates, while others deal with a mosquito nurse who always wants to draw blood, or attempt to make friends despite their own microscopic size. With funny illustrations by Julie Bayless, these humorous poems by award-winning author David L. Harrison are perfect for poetry fans and bug enthusiasts alike.


You might say that CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS became inevitable back in 1992. That’s when SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK, my first book of school poems, was published. I was lucky. HOMEWORK went into second and third printings within months. Kirkus gave it a starred review. I got lots of strokes. And of course I started right away to create another collection of school poems.

Although it was nine years in the making, a sequel titled THE MOUSE WAS OUT AT RECESS eventually made it into print in 2003, eleven years after HOMEWORK.

Fast forward another ten years to 2013. I got a new urge to write school poems, but this time, to make it different, I proposed to my editor that all the poems be for two or more voices – partner poems.

I finished the new manuscript. He liked it, but he retired and a new editor took over. She did not like it and said I needed to start over with a different twist, perhaps make it a school for bugs. Two voices? She didn’t see the point. I had a pity party but tried to act grown up about it and finally sat down to consider my new editor’s suggestions.

She was right! Her instinct was good. I discarded the entire first manuscript and started over with an all new cast of characters that attended a school for bugs. My new editor liked it. I tweaked and revised per her sensibilities until we were ready. I got a contract. Then she quit.

My third editor liked the poems a lot, except for several that she did not. Months of tweaking and revising later, I had satisfied my third editor. Then she quit.

My fourth editor came on shortly before CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS came out. As far as I know, she likes it just the way it is.

As reported by Publishers Lunch:

Skyhorse Cuts 16 Jobs, 25 Percent of New Titles

Skyhorse Publishing announced “a major reorganization” that includes significant job cuts and plans to reduce their new-title output. The company says that 16 full-time positions were eliminated from a workforce that had totaled 77 people, and they plant to reduce new titles published by “approximately 25 percent” in 2018, down from an abundant 1,120 titles published in 2017. President and publisher Tony Lyons indicated the changes are “in response to shortfalls in Skyhorse revenues in 2017 and in early 2018, including issues related to its distribution deal and paper shortages, as well as changes in the marketplace in general,” according to the statement.

Lyons said: “These are difficult decisions, but we believe they will allow us to become more nimble, respond to trends, focus more on what our customers want, increase the quality of the books we publish, and create more impactful marketing plans. These changes will allow us to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace and position the company for future success.”

As reported by Publishers Lunch:

At the London Book Fair Non-fiction Topped the Dealmaking:

Consistent with our deal stats preview from Friday,  –the most notable trend from this London Book Fair dealmaking season is the surge of big deals – and “major” deals in particular — for nonfiction. And that’s without counting Hachette’s pickup of Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein’s next book, or other just-announced nonfiction from today including books from Ash Carter, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Senator Doug Jones. (Our LBF count covers the five weeks leading up to the show, from Monday, March 5 to Monday, April 9.) The 11 major nonfiction deals are the most we have ever reported in an LBF lead-up:

Overall six-figure domestic deal activity was just below flat, similar to the past two years, and relatively consistent for six years now. But you can see that big LBF fiction sales have been declining pretty steadily over the past five years as well:

Debut fiction sales are often the most closely watched — or at least covered — ahead of the big fairs. Consistent with the bigger picture, this has been a softer season there as well:

27 debut fiction sales
2 major deals; 2 significant deals; 3 good deals

37 debut fiction sales
4 major deals; 1 good deal (plus 2 major deals for debut thrillers)

34 debut fiction sales
2 major deals, 2 significant deals, and 4 good deals.

In the final count, total deal volume with traditional publishers modestly reversed a four-year decline. Fiction sales were at their lowest level yet, in line with the statistics on big fiction deals, with nonfiction and children’s reasonably strong:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 14, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Helen Cann

Helen Cann is an author and illustrator specializing in children’s books, mapping, drawing and lettering.  She’s contributed to over 30 books, won several awards and exhibited around the world.  Her book illustrations are mainly hand produced using watercolour, collage and graphite and have been used in picture books, anthologies and chapter books. She also loves anything to do with maps and type. Sometimes the two things even come together!  Illustrations, drawings and lettering have been used for business branding and props for TV and film. She currently works in a studio above a milkshake shop in sunny seaside Brighton in the UK.

Occasionally she works as a fine artist and information about her maps, paintings and drawings (and current exhibitions) can be found on her fine art website. She is represented by ONCA Gallery in Brighton and Art Republic.

Uncharacteristic extrovert moments have included learning to blacksmith; a brief employment as a forger (legitimately!); employment as a ‘hand double’ for a BBC costume drama (although they never actually made it to the screen); performing in a theatre show based in London’s West End; drinking reindeer blood with Sami herders; driving a dog sled above the Arctic circle and sailing as crew 1300 miles across the North Atlantic tracking whales.


All of my work is hand done. Here are two examples of a rough sketch and finished artwork from an illustrated poem (The Country Mouse and the City Mouse) for Lady Bug Magazine. I use Photoshop to clean up and occasionally to intensify colours if the scan isn’t particularly strong. The joy of being an illustrator for me has always been in the physical process of drawing and painting, feeling the pencil on paper and getting my hands dirty, so I have actively chosen to use digital technology as little as possible. I’d rather be using my hands than sitting in front of a computer all day…

For books, I start by creating thumbnails so that I can see how it will look overall and get a feel for the flow and pace of the narrative. For single illustrations I create a few drawings in my sketchbook till I feel happy with the composition. At this stage, there’s usually lots of research so that I get details right.


Then I complete the drawings to size on high quality watercolour paper, usually Arches or Fabriano 300gms hotpress.  My drawings are very accurate, not sketchy at all – what you see is what you will get.

Once approved by the art director, I go straight to paint. I use a variety of types of paint – really whatever colour or opacity suits whatever I’m painting. Paints range from gouache and watercolour to acrylic ink. I don’t have a favourite paint make but I always make sure it’s artist quality. My local art shop stocks Daler Rowney so nine times out of ten, that’s what I’ll be using by default. I work across all of the illustrations at a time, often using one colour at a time.

Then comes the collage stage. I have a huge ‘filing system’ of papers that I’ve collected: origami papers, the patterned insides of envelopes, wrapping papers etc… Each area to be collaged is traced and cut out from the paper using the tracing paper as a guide. The paper is then stuck down carefully with pva.
The last stage is using coloured pencil, mainly caran dache, to neaten up and add depth and shadow.
Then the illustrations are scanned and cleaned up digitally before being sent off.


Interview with Helen Cann

How long have you been illustrating?

A long time! A good 20 years or so…

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

I sold some framed illustrations (of scenes from the Greek myth of Danae and from the story of The Frog Prince) during my university final show. It was incredibly exciting!

Have you always lived in the UK?

I was born in the UK but also lived for a while in Germany. I had a German boyfriend and we lived in a farmhouse converted into flats in the orchard countryside of Baden-Wurttemburg. You could see the Alps from the window and we used to ride our vintage 1960s East German Scooter down to Lake Constance and watch the sea eagles.

I now live in Brighton, a small city by the sea in the UK that attracts many creative people and those with alternative lifestyles. There aren’t any sea eagles but plenty of gulls.

Did you go to college to study art?

Yes. I went to university and completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Postgraduate diploma in Visual Art. I think I did a lot of growing up there but learnt more about illustration and being an illustrator after I left.

Did the school help you find illustration work?

No. I did that myself.

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?


I see that you also do fine art. What percentage of what you do is fine art?

That depends on how much time I have and if there is illustration work. Although I have an established illustration practice, I would describe myself as an emerging fine artist at the beginning of a fine art career so work in that field isn’t always regular. If there is illustration work, that usually takes priority. My fine art practice is building so the art/illustration balance may change in the future.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I wanted to illustrate books for children when I was a child myself…I used to make tiny doll size books, sewn down the middle and filled with my own stories and illustrations.

Was Father and Daughter Tales your first book? If not what was the title and when was it published?

No, but it was one of the first. I think Mother and Daughter Tales came before that and there were a few gift books before then.

How did that illustrating job come your way?

I found an agent through a portfolio consultancy at the UK Association of Illustrators pretty much straight after university and she got the job for me.

Was The Loving Arms of God your first published book with a US publisher?

I’m not sure. I think it was the American coedition of Mother and Daughter Tales for Abbeville Kids…

How did you get interested in illustrating maps?

I worked in an antique print shop for a short time after university. I wasn’t very good and got the sack after about three weeks (!) but what I did take away from the experience was a love of the 17th century maps that were sold there. They were so beautifully illustrated and lettered –  the personality of the mapmaker always shone through….


I started creating my own maps and in 2017, ‘Hand Drawn Maps’, the first book I both wrote and illustrated was published by Thames and Hudson in the UK. Chronicle Books published it in the US this year.

Do you have an artist rep. to represent your illustrations? If so, who and how long. If not, would you like to find one.

I currently don’t have an artist rep. To illustrate children’s books, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to approach publishers without an agent. The majority won’t even look at your work without one if you write to them personally so for that reason, an agent would be useful. I market myself through social media: my website, blog, instagram, twitter, etc and publishers usually approach me. Marketing in this way is a more scatter-gun approach however and less directed.

Is Feathers for Peacock your latest picture book?

Yes. ‘Feathers for Peacock’ was the most recent picture book to be published. Since then I’ve worked on a classic chapter book ‘Call of the Wild’ for Miles Kelly and also a gift book tied in with the Harry Potter film franchise ‘ The Marauders’ Map Guide to Hogwarts’ for Scholastic (to be published in June 2018). (Nb- the cover image for the book comes from the Marauders’ Map in the films and I didn’t illustrate it….)    I also wrote and illustrated ‘Hand Drawn Maps’ as I mentioned and created further maps for books and as set props for film. My drawings have also been used for set props in a couple of BBC costume dramas. I have quite a varied practice!

How often do you exhibit your work?

My map work is represented by ONCA Gallery in Brighton and Art Republic Gallery so it’s on show in one way or another all of the time at the moment. I exhibit as part of a specific show occasionally when I have enough work to put something together or if I’m invited…

How did you get the job to illustrate MANGER by Lee Bennett Hopkins?

I had illustrated a book for WMBEerdmans a few years ago and they approached me to illustrate ‘Manger’. It’s been one of my favourite books to work on because I enjoy painting and drawing animals so much.

Have you done any book covers?

I’ve done covers integral to books that already include my illustrations but never as a separate piece of work for a cover alone.

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

I’d love to. I recently developed a picture book project about a garden but haven’t had time yet to approach potential publishers or agents with it.

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

I’ve provided a single illustration for a self-published book before, mainly because I was commissioned by a professional editor employed by the author. I wouldn’t usually work with authors who would like to self publish.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

Yes. Educational publishers are often bread and butter work.  Most recent educational publishers have included Scholastic and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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

Yes. Ladybug Magazine and Cricket Magazine for Cricket Media. I am the cover illustrator for the May edition for Cricket Magazine this year.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I haven’t but never say never! I think it would be fun.

What do you think is your biggest success?

That’s not an easy question to answer. The word ‘Success’ can only be defined on a very personal level.   I’m very proud to have written and illustrated ‘Hand Drawn Maps’ because I’d never written a book before. I’m also proud of the research and design that went into ‘The Inuk Quartet’, (Barefoot Books). The story was set in Inuit Greenland and the illustrations were inspired by Inuit folk art with lots of white space and fluid lines.  I learnt so much about Inuit culture and would love to travel to Greenland.  The series won several awards. And lastly, I’m proud of ‘Little Leap Forward’ (also Barefoot Books) that was included in the 2014 Diverse Voices List, a list of the top 50 British books celebrating multicultural diversity since 1950 (collated by The Guardian Newspaper, Francis Lincoln Books and Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books in the UK.). It’s a semi- autobiographical story for young readers set in Mao’s Beijing and my research for the book included talking to many Chinese people who had lived through that time. It also won a number of awards.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I work in mixed media, usually a mix of watercolour, gouache, ink, collage and coloured pencil. I don’t have a favourite medium but if the illustration’s not done by hand, it’s no fun!

Has that changed over time?

I have always worked in mixed media but over time I have introduced new media such as gouache and acrylic inks. I think it’s important to play.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio over the milkshake shop?

I’ve worked in studios of many shapes and sizes since I moved to Brighton. One was in an old Victorian building that used to house a meat store. There were still hooks in some of the ceilings and it was always freezing cold but it had huge arched windows looking over the rooftops and fantastic light. Another was in a converted stable down a cobbled mews. It was right next to a chocolaterie which used to smell incredible. My current studio is above a milkshake shop in the heart of the city. It can get very noisy sometimes with the buskers outside competing with the blenders downstairs but the location is great and sharing a space with others is very important to me. I have two studio mates and while we’re working, we drink coffee, listen to music, exchange ideas, laugh and set the world to rights…

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

Not really, other than I work every week day in the studio. I usually have a fairly late start but work evenings and weekends if I have to ( or choose to if the mood takes me).

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

I usually research projects heavily before I start a project. I try to the best of my ability to make sure details are right. Many of the books I’ve illustrated are anthologies of multicultural stories (for example ‘Dance Stories’ or ‘Fireside Tales’,  Barefoot) so I might have to find out what an ancient Japanese basket looks like, or a mud hut from Mali or a the traditional clothes worn by a Syrian shepherd boy.

Some years ago now, I also provided display illustrations for The Children’s Museum of Manhattan exhibition ‘Gods, Myths and Monsters’ which required huge amounts of research and images that were accurate to museum standard.

Do you Exhibit your fine art?

At  ONCA Gallery in Brighton and Art Republic.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The Internet has been invaluable in allowing me to research subjects easily and market myself widely, potentially to a worldwide audience. It also keeps me abreast of current illustration and art trends.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop occasionally to clean images up but my love of illustration comes partly from the physical process of drawing and painting so usually I prefer not to. I really like getting my hands dirty!

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


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

In general, I’d just like to continue working with some great publishers on further picture books. I’d love to see my ‘garden’ project published and perhaps be involved in illustrating for more films too. I was once employed to be a ‘hand double’ in a film. One of the characters in the film was supposed to be an artist and my hand would take the place of hers in close-up shots of her drawing. The scene was cut in the end so it would be great to have another opportunity and actually make it on to the screen this time.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently waiting on feedback on several projects (sample illustrations and chapters for a couple of new books) from London Book Fair. I can’t talk about those projects yet.

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

I’m not sure I do. Process is always something personal and what’s right for one person is wrong for another. It’s more a matter of experimenting with technique and tools and finding out what suits you best at that particular moment.

Other than that, I love using Daler Rowney Designers’ gouache in rose pink. It’s the most shockingly glorious colour…

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

Do what you enjoy rather than trying to fit into a style or market you think is fashionable but not really your taste.

If you feel that a particular style or piece of yours isn’t being picked up commercially, may be put it aside for a while, try something new, but remember you can revisit it at any time. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of the right timing.

Keep learning new skills and don’t be afraid to play and make mistakes at whatever stage you are in your career. You can learn so much from both. That’s how you develop and maintain professional longevity.

Don’t give up. Ever.

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

Twitter: @helen_cann

Instagram: @helencannfineart

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 13, 2018

Agent of the Month: Cari Lamba – Interview Part One

Prior to officially joining the team of agents, Cari Lamba interned for The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for eight years. It wasn’t long into her internship before she knew she wanted to join the publishing world and help writers bring their books to life. Cari graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She also studied literature at The Advanced Studies in England Program. She has experience as a bookseller and in publicity and content writing for online publications. Cari has been published in Writer’s Digest Magazine and has taught webinars for Writer’s Digest as well.

What Cari is looking for:

She is interested in middle grade fiction with wacky plots (Roald Dahl is a favorite of mine) and characters that drive the story. She would also like contemporary stories that are both humorous and heartfelt. While she is not interested in stories with high fantasy, she would welcome elements of the fantastic and otherworldly. She wants novels that will resonate with children without being didactic.

Both fiction and non-fiction picture books are welcome. She is looking for unique ideas with fun and quirky elements as well as sweet, endearing picture books. In non-fiction I’m especially looking for strong female role-models.

I’m looking for commercial fiction with original plots and clever characters. While I’m not interested in romance novels, elements of romance are welcome. She also has a particular interest in mystery/detective fiction, and novels with culinary ties. 

She NOT interested in science fiction, horror, high fantasy, Christian fiction, political novels, or books with extremely violent elements.


Did your mother influence your decision to become an agent?

I always knew I wanted to be in publishing, and I was fortunate enough to have a great internship with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for several years. So becoming an agent was something I always had in mind. It was helpful for me to see my mom’s experiences as an agent, and it really informed me about all the different aspects of being an agent. What influenced me the most from seeing my mom work was the career-long relationship with clients that she formed, and that is something I hope to bring to my work as well.

Do you have a goal for the amount of clients you will represent? 

I definitely think of clients in terms of quality over quantity. So while I’m actively growing my list of clients I don’t have a goal number I’m working towards. What I’m really looking for is talented authors with a lot of potential.

What are your favorite genres?

I have so many! I love cozy mysteries, I’m currently working my way through Agatha Christie’s works. I also really enjoy clever middle grade novels that have a strong voice. Across genres what I want to read is a story that makes you think.

Is there a reason why you are not interested in YA?

I find I just don’t connect with the YA voice as much as I want to which is why I’m not currently looking to represent YA fiction. This could definitely change though, but for now it’s not on my list.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

I would love to read a culinary mystery (in either middle grade or adult genre). Anything food related I’d be interested in. I also think it would be really cool to have a mystery set in a museum. I have a strong interest in ancient history so a story that could update ancient history and incorporate it into the plot would be great to see as well.

Do you consider a book with a character between 18 and 25 years old an adult book?

A book with characters that age are considered to be the new adult genre. I think the older end of that age group could definitely still be considered an adult book but it would depend on the plot and material that the story is dealing with.

Do you think it’s okay for an author to write picture books, middle grade novels, and YA novels? Or do you feel it is better to focus on one age group and genre?

I think it’s definitely okay for authors to write in different genres and age groups. Just because you write a story in one category doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to that one space. As an agent I always ask what other genres potential clients are interested in writing in because I know that writers don’t necessary stick to one.

How important is the query letter?

So very important! It is a first introduction to a potential client. Writers should always follow the submission guidelines for the agents they query and keep their query letter professional. Beyond being a great writer, I want to see that the author is someone who I would enjoy working with and that is something that can really come through in the query letter.

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

Having a work that is unique will definitely get me interested to see more. A lot of plots are things that I’ve seen before so having something new is always a great way to get an agent interested. Beyond that, having a strong writing style and a character I’m truly invested in will make me want to see more.

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

It really depends. If it’s a genre I don’t represent, or has element I say on my guidelines I don’t represent (religious works, violence, etc.) then I don’t read the sample pages. But if the query letter shows me that it is a work that has everything I’d be interested in, I can usually tell within the first few pages if I connect with voice and if I’m invested in the plot enough to read more.

Any pet peeves?

When authors query me or try to reach out through social media – including LinkedIn. I don’t respond to anything that doesn’t come through my email. I’ve had so many messages come in through social media accounts that just get deleted.

Do you let people know if you’re not interested?

Yes, I will always respond to query letters sent to me to tell them if I am interested or not.

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

I try to respond within a few month of getting the requested materials. Of course this doesn’t always happen and it can depend on how many other manuscripts I have requested previous to getting one in. I also have to focus on my client’s works as well which is a priority.



In the subject line, please write “April 2018 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

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

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

DEADLINE: April 19th.
RESULTS: April 27th.

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 12, 2018

KUDOS: Book Winner & Cover Reveals


by Vesper Stamper.

THREE BIG CONGRATULATIONS to NANCY VIAU. She has two books coming out at the end of summer! BEAUTY AND BERNICE, a middle Grade novel coming out on August 28th and a picture book titled First Snow coming out September 1st. Plus, the sequel to her middle grade novel, SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD will be published in 2019. The title is: SOMETHING IS BUGGING SAMANTHA HANSEN.

CONGRATULATIONS to MELISSA STOLLER for her book READY, SET, GORILLA coming out this fall. Nice cover Melissa!

CONGRATULATIONS to AMALIA HOFFMAN for her new book DREIDEL DAY coming out on August 1st. Here is a video Amalia created to promote her book.


Michelle Howry will join Putnam as executive editor on May 7, reporting to Sally Kim. Previously she was executive editor at Hachette Books.

Carina Mathern will join Harper Germany as executive editor for children’s books/YA on August 1, heading an expanded children’s program that will add middle grade and picture books to their existing young adult list.

Jaime Levine will join Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 30 as senior editor focusing on acquiring psychological suspense, thrillers, and mysteries.

Annette Pollert-Morgan has been promoted to editorial director of Sourcebooks Fire.

Jillian Rahn has been promoted to associate art director at Sourcebooks.

Janine Barlow and Samantha Zukergood have been promoted to assistant editors at Thomas Dunne Books.

At Random House, Erica Gonzalez has been promoted to associate editor.

Alyson Heller has been promoted to senior editor for Aladdin.

Talk tomorrow,



Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 11, 2018

Book Giveaway: Quincy by Barbara DiLorenzo

Author/illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo has a new picture book, QUINCY. Barbara has offered to do a book giveaway. Quincy hits bookshelves last week on April 3. 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.


Quincy the chameleon just can’t seem to blend in. Will he ever find a way to embrace his uniqueness?

Quincy wants to love chameleon school, but he’s not very good at blending in. No matter how hard he tries to stop it from happening, all of this thoughts keep popping up on his skin! In camouflage class, the leaves he’s supposed to blend in with remind him of rocket ships, so his skin changes to look like outer space. And when it’s Quincy’s turn to read his poem out loud, he realizes he has to pee-which the whole class realizes, too, when rolls of toilet paper appear on his skin!

The only thing Quincy loves about school is painting during art class with his favorite teacher, Mrs. Lin. But can painting help him find a way to blend in?


Quincy is a chameleon that has trouble blending in–which is a problem for his species and culture. Everything he thinks about pops up on his skin. While I cannot perform this cool trick myself, I tend to turn bright red when nervous–which only makes me more nervous. Quincy and I share the same struggle to blend into a community. Growing up, I was on the edge of the popular circle. I had close friends that constantly made me laugh. They were a lifeline in those early years. But when faced with the main group of popular kids, I always struggled with extreme shyness or the social awkwardness that probably made folks cringe. When I finally found my calling in the arts, I found other souls that understood me–and my tribe of people grew. When I discovered the kidlit community, I really had my niche! But that took years.

I wish I could say I wrote Quincy to help other kids overcome feeling bad about not fitting in. I partly did, but the main reason I wrote Quincy was to tell myself that it was ok. That I was ok. That all we need are a few people that love us as we are–we don’t need to win over everyone. Working on this book and sharing it during author visits (the F&Gs) has made me feel proud to tell people my story. 8-year-old me never would have thought all that awkwardness would be put to good use!

In terms of the timeline in making the book, the idea really came at the end of the keynote speech in the 2012 New York SCBWI Winter conference. I was drawing in my sketchbook while listening to a speech about writing the feelings that we know–more than the precise when and where and who. An image of a chameleon appeared in my drawings, and I realized as a kid I worked so hard to blend in–to no avail. My earliest versions were rough–a chameleon the size of a kid, going to a normal human school. All stories start somewhere, and though this early version doesn’t bear any resemblance to the book, the feelings of standing out were there. I remember finishing the drawings for this dummy, and showing them to some of my son’s friends on a field trip (wow, I was desperate to market-test this idea). They didn’t seem that impressed, nor did they have much to offer in terms of feedback. I knew I had to dig deeper.

I reworked the story into a bossy lizard named Farinella who dictated everything she and her friend Odin did together. Odin was a chameleon, and went along with everything Farinella said, until he couldn’t take it anymore, and got upset at her. While the illustrations were fun–it seemed too intense. I then focused on just Odin, who turned into Quincy. At first, it was about a chameleon who was quiet and non-confrontational. After several revisions, I did a small drawing of a chameleon reading a book on space, with planets and comets showing up on his skin. This was a turning point, as it seemed that would be more interesting.

Well into 2013 and 2014, I worked and reworked the plot. Shades of the earlier versions were there, but it was harder and harder for me to find the exact storyline. I produced a lot of fun art–many dummies and thumbnails, but also full-color oil paintings and watercolor paintings. I had fun with the one-off illustrations for my portfolio, but editing the story became a challenge. Even my critique partners were unclear on my concept. After so much work, I did cry when I realized people didn’t understand Quincy.

So I took a break. I focused on other work, and left Quincy alone. Maybe it was the elves that fix our stories in our absence, or it was just enough time to forget all the plot-wrangling I had been doing–but returning to Quincy was fun. I worked with editor Sarah Lyu at Boyds Mills Press. She would talk on the phone and explore the character and his motivations. Her nature is gentle, so she didn’t seem to want to force Quincy into any plot line that felt unnatural. We would bat an idea around, and I would draw it. We’d think about it and revise it. Sarah helped Quincy move from a big mess, into the book dummy that eventually caught the eye of little bee books.

When Sarah left publishing to pursue her own writing, I was sad to lose her help and companionship on the Quincy journey. But she quickly sold her first novel, TRUE ROMANTICS (out 2019 from Simon Pulse/S&S), so I was proud of her and happy she made that choice. Without a lead for Quincy, and Boyds Mills Press passing on it after several tries through acquisitions meetings–I again let Quincy sit in a drawer and worked on other projects.

In the spring of 2016, I attended the Prospect Agency Soiree, as my new agent was/is Rachel Orr. Rachel gave each one of us notes on who would be attending, and who to talk with. Her notes let us in on who was focused on YA versus picture books, and who was into nonfiction or unicorns, etc… I studied the list, but every time I approached an editor or art director, I couldn’t read their name tag until I was almost face-to-face with them. I didn’t want to be rude and turn away, so I spent a majority of the evening talking to all the wrong people (though the right people for someone else). At the end of the night, I gave up, and retreated to my easel next to the bar. There was a designer from little bee books ordering a drink, so we started talking. I was tired, and had no thought that a designer could have any pull in acquiring a book–mostly because Sarah as an editor in love with a book couldn’t get acquisitions on board. So we spoke honestly, and I shared my work with him. I had grabbed some old Quincy postcards that I had made up in more hopeful days, and those were on the top of the pile that David was looking through. He asked about Quincy, so I explained the character and the storyline. But I also told him, “I love the character, but the plot is all wrong.” He didn’t seem swayed, and asked to see the dummy. I said sure, but didn’t expect that would lead to anything. I told him again, “Some people love him, but a lot of people don’t get him. It’s really not a good story yet.” David listened politely, then after the party, built interest at little bee books until Jenna Pocius requested the dummy from Rachel. We were excited to send it over. But I wasn’t surprised at all when the notes we got back were that it wasn’t right yet. After all, that’s what I had been telling him!

But Jenna ended up working her magic on the manuscript, and nudged and tweaked the text, in what felt like a chiropractor aligning a spine. Suddenly things that had felt so off, made sense. Normally, I’d rip everything apart and tell a different story. But she nimbly worked with the text I had, and brought the best out in it. At that point, they bought it, and David and I got to work on the illustrations!

I have to say I am immensely proud to have Quincy become a book after so many years of hard work. I’m hoping other books gel faster–but this experience has taught me that 1. You can’t make a book without help and 2. Even the most challenging books can be tamed into something worthwhile. Now that I know this, I will have more faith that the exploratory phase will eventually lead to a polished book in the end.

And just like Quincy and his mural, I find myself pleasantly immersed in a world I love: art and books!


Barbara DiLorenzo is the author and illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (Viking, 6/20/17) and QUINCY (Little Bee Books, 2/8/18). She earned her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design, and spent a year painting with Mary Beth McKenzie at the Art Students League of New York. In 2014 she received the Dorothy Markinko Scholarship Award from the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. She is a signature member in the New England Watercolor Society as well as the Society of Illustrators. Currently she teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton, and is co-president of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group of New York. Barbara lives in Hopewell, New Jersey with her wonderful family–who constantly inspire new stories.

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency. Visit her portfolio at

Barbara, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I can’t wait to read it. If it is anywhere close to your wonderful illustrations and you, I know I will love it and I’m sure the winner will love to read it, too.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 10, 2018

ASK DIANNE: Rhyming Picture Books

Q:  When I go to the bookstore or library for market research, I see a lot of rhyming picture books on the shelves.  Kids love picture books that rhyme, obviously.  But a lot of editors and agents say that they don’t want rhyming picture book submissions from writers.  Why?

A:  While it may be relatively easy for a writer to put together lines that rhyme and have illustrative potential….it can be a bit more difficult to write a fully-functioning picture book story which also happens to rhyme.   There are a few reasons why—but first, let’s review what makes a story a story.

Whether it’s a picture book or novel, to succeed narratively your manuscript needs an interesting main character who faces a challenge, bumps into at least one obstacle, solves an age-appropriate problem, is somehow changed by the experience, and brings it all home to ‘THE END’ in a satisfying way.

All of this must happen whether the picture book text rhymes or not. Unless you’re creating a straight-up nonfiction concept book, you need a story to hang your razzle-dazzle rhythm and rhyme on.

Am I saying NOT to write in rhyme?  No.  I’m saying that if you choose to write a rhyming picture book manuscript, ask yourself these key questions throughout your creative process:

  1. Have I let rhyme dictate the story?  Think of it this way: if your manuscript were a new car in the showroom, telling the story with rhyme patterns would be considered an add-on option package of extras like premium tire rims, but rhyming isn’t the engine that rolls your car down the narrative road.  Using a predictable rhyme pattern using words such as ‘fun’/’run’/’sun’ help young readers develop reading skills, yes.  But to be read by an editor or agent seriously, your manuscript needs a solid narrative structure in addition to your funny and clever rhymes.      
  2. Have I established a strong and consistent rhythm throughout the piece? The rhyme scheme may be fun to play with, but if you don’t focus also on its partner in crime—rhythm—you will likely end up with awkward, uneven lines or breaks. You can do three things easily to avoid this: as you write, pause to read the lines aloud and note every bump in the narrative road.  Then have a friend read it aloud to you and see if you find more. Print out your manuscript and count the syllables of the words in each stanza’s lines:  do they match up?  This will help you fix the bumps and lumps in your writing.    
  3. Have I used unnatural sentence structure to enable a rhyme scheme? It may make perfect sense for nursery rhymes to say things like “and there the king, he found his shoe, and he did see that it was blue” but today’s beginning reader benefits more from a more natural and contemporary sentence structure. If you have twisted and tortured sentence structure only for the sake of rhyming ‘spoon’ with ‘moon’, or find yourself using antiquated words such as ‘twas or ‘til to force a rhythm count, you need to fix it…or re-think your decision to write the story in rhyme.  Ask yourself: would my story be better served in prose?
  4. Have I written a poem or a picture book story? A poem is a work of art worthy of respect and admiration. It takes a strong theme, beautiful language, a rhythm and rhyme scheme—but unlike a picture book, it doesn’t require the essential narrative elements of story to succeed.  Take an honest look at your manuscript to see that all of the key pieces are in place: characterization, setting, action, conflict, resolution, and so on.  Summarizing your stanzas in prose will help you evaluate it.  Printing out your prose summary and pasting chunks of your manuscript on blank pieces of paper representing each double page spread of the picture book you hope it will someday be will, help you figure out if you have the right pacing and page turns.  Each line, rhyming or not, has to carry its narrative weight: moving the story forward to a satisfying ending, all the while helping your main character to change in some way.     

It’s great to want to write a story in rhyme.  It can be fun to write, too.  But to succeed—by which I mean, end up with a manuscript that an editor or agent will wish to seriously consider for publication—you need to make sure that your story, and not the rhymes, can carry the day.  Happy writing!


Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves. Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to

Dianne, thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Another great article.

REMEMBER: To send in your questions for Dianne. Use Kathy(dot)Temean(at) Please put ASK DIANNE in the subject box.

Talk tomorrow,


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