Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 22, 2022

Book Giveaway: LISTEN by Gabi Snyder

Gabi Snyder has written a new picture book, LISTEN, and illustrated by Stephanie Groegin published by Paula Wiseman Books. Gabi has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Gabi and Stephanie.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“A memorable experience.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In the tradition of Tomie dePaola’s Quiet and Scott Magoon’s Breathe comes this lyrical, meditative picture book about listening and mindfulness.

BEEP!
WOOF!
VROOM!

Isn’t the world a noisy place?
But what if you
stopclose your eyes,
and LISTEN?

Can you hear each sound?
Can you listen past the noise
and hear the quiet, too?

Beautifully illustrated and poignant, this lovely picture book follows a girl through her school day as she listens to sounds across the city: caws of crows, shouts across the playground, and finally, the quiet beating of her heart and whispered goodnights.

BOOK JOURNEY:

The idea for LISTEN grew out of a desire to explore, in picture book form, the benefits of listening. I also wanted to capture the sense that the world can sometimes be so filled with noise – both literal and figurative – that it can be challenging to focus on what’s really important.

In addition, I wrote the book at a time when I was taking a great deal of inspiration and solace from getting outside for walks and paying attention to the sights, sounds, and sensations on those walks. I was also finding that the practice of mindfulness was helping me focus and feel less overwhelmed – a feeling I was especially prone to as a child and still occasionally struggle with as an adult. So I think the text for LISTEN grew from an exploration of the benefits of listening coupled with the practice of mindfulness.

I wrote the first draft of LISTEN in March 2018, and we sold the book to Simon & Schuster/Wiseman, following a revise and resubmit (R&R) request, in March 2019.  It was challenging, but ultimately satisfying, to revise based on the revision suggestions from my editor. She asked for a bit more structure and arc and for the story to progress from the loudest noises to quieter noises, forcing the protagonist and the reader to listen more carefully as the story progresses. With the help of my brilliant critique partners, I revised per the R&R and I think the resulting text is much stronger.

Originally, I had the onomatopoeia italicized and/or bolded within my text. Later, illustrator Stephanie Graegin and editor Sylvie Frank suggested that some of the sounds, like “Woof!” and “ERNT! ERNT!” could be pulled out of the text and included in the art instead. I think that thoughtful change makes the sounds feel like an integral part of the illustrations!

 

I’m pleased to report that there’s now a French version of LISTEN. It’s fun to compare how the onomatopoeia differs between the French and English versions!

GABI’S  BIO:

is a fan of the unexpected. Her love of dogs, counting, and unusual modes of transportation inspired her debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal and published by Abrams Appleseed (May 2020). Her second picture book, LISTEN, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, came out in July 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. Watch for her third picture book, COUNT ON US!: Climate Activists from One to a Billion, illustrated by Sarah Walsh, and arriving in September 2022 from Barefoot Books.

Gabi studied psychology at the University of Washington and creative writing at The University of Texas. When she’s not writing, she loves taking nature walks and baking sweet treats. She lives in Oregon with her family. Learn more at gabisnyder.com or connect with Gabi on Instagram or Twitter.

STEPHANIE’S BIO:

Born during a blizzard on Groundhog’s Day in Chicago, Illinois, Stephanie spent her childhood drawing and collecting fauna in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Houston, Texas. She received her BFA in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. She later attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, obtaining a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking. Stephanie now lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes and illustrates children’s books.

Clients include: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books,
Candlewick Press, Carus Publishing, Dial Books for Young Readers, Disney Hyperion, eeBoo, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Google, Little Brown for Young Readers, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Random House Studio, Roaring Brook Press, Schwartz and Wade, Simon & Schuster and Sterling Publishing.

Gabi, than you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love that your book will help children to take the time to listen to the world around them. We are all busy rushing through life so maybe this book will help the parents to take time to listen past the noise, too. The Stephanie’s illustrations are fabulous. Together you have a perfect book. Best of Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 21, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Alina Chau

Alina Chau 周曉芬 is an award-winning filmmaker and artist. Her credits include the Emmy Award-winning Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, and numerous best-selling games. She illustrated The Nian Monster, which received the 2018 APALA Picture Book Honor. Having grown up in Hong Kong in an Indonesian-Chinese family during the British colonial era, her creative vision is strongly influenced by a diverse mix of cultures. She finds inspiration in her grandmother’s stories, colorful sarongs, and delicate wooden sculptures from Southeast Asia, as well as in the aroma of stinky tofu, and the sound of Hong Kong tram bells chiming. Alina’s unique cultural heritage strongly influences her artistic and storytelling voice. Her whimsical illustration style is highly sought after for art exhibitions worldwide. Her lyrical watercolors have garnered her a devoted fan base and the accolades of her peers.

She is represented by:
Marietta B. Zacker
Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency

Here is a video Alina created to show you how she created MARSHMALLOW & JORDAN:

 

INTERVIEW WITH ALINA CHAU:

Where you born in Hong Kong?

I was born in Xiamen province in China. Our family moved to Hong Kong when I was a baby. So I considered Hong Kong my childhood hometown since I did not have many memories of China.

Did you physically go to the UK to get a Certificate, Art Education at the University of Liverpool?

I did. It was a college-level summer exchange program and my first time traveling to a foreign country. It was an exhilarating and inspiring life experience. Even though it was a short summer program, much of the art lessons I learned during the time had deeply ingrained in me and shaped my career path. I learned to view and experience art from a different perspective. 

Did you know English at the time?

Yes. At the time, Hong Kong was a British colony. English is the official second language, so I grew up learning English in school.

How did you decide to get your Bachelors of Social Science and Graphic Communications degree and attend Hong Kong Baptist University?

There wasn’t a wide range of college-level art programs with promising career options in Hong Kong. Back then, Hong Kong only had programs for performing arts, commercial/industrial designs, and fine arts. I couldn’t sing or dance, and I was not interested in designs. I hoped to get into architecture school. But, Architecture School required an engineering background, which I lacked. So, kind of not entirely by choice, a digital graphic communication major is my only option. I did not even know much about the major besides having something to do with making art on the computer. 

At the time, Disney started integrating computer animation into their animation productions. Visual effect movies, such as Jurassic Park, became popular. I was very fascinated and curious about these new computer animation technologies. Hong Kong Baptist University was the first college in Hong Kong to offer an animation program, so I signed up for it.

Did you know you would stay in the California when you left China to get your Masters at the School of Film, Theatre, and Television with a major in animation at UCLA?

When I entered UCLA, my focus was to keep up with the class. In my dream, I would love to work in Hollywood. But, my animation skills were a bit below average. Hong Kong’s animation education was not as strong as the schools in the states. My training was not very strong. UCLA is a very competitive school, so I had to study extra hard. 

As a foreign student on a visa, there were many employment restrictions. While I dreamed of staying after graduation, nothing was a guarantee. Even though there was much uncertainty, UCLA was one of my happiest times. 

Did you sell any of your art while going to school?

No. I was so scared of breaking immigration law that I didn’t dare to make money under the table. HA! HA!! 

Before social media and online business, there was little to no outlet for young artists to showcase or sell their works independently unless signed with galleries or an art agent. While social media can be overwhelming sometimes, it truly empowers diverse voices and independent creators to share their work. 

Did you do any in film making while at UCLA?

Yes, the UCLA animation program requires students to complete three independent films. If anyone is curious about what I did in school, they can check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/alinachau/videos

Did you UCLA help you get the job with Lucas Films?

No. I joined Lucas Films many years after I graduated from school. But, I did get my first job with EA Games through fellow alumni at UCLA.

What inspired you to want to illustrate Children’s books?

 I need to thank Oliver Chin and Phil Amara for introducing me to children’s book publishing. Phil invited me to collaborate with him on a picture book, The Treehouse Heroes and the Forgotten Beast. Oliver acquired the book. At the time, I was still in animation and knew nothing about publishing. I was always curious about the children’s book publishing world but didn’t know how to approach the industry. After finishing TreeHouse Heroes, I learned a lot from Phil and Olive and grew interested in learning more about publishing. 

Do you do freelance art direction and story development in addition to illustrating children’s books?

Yes, from time to time, I do animation freelance. But in recent years, my focus has been more focused on publishing. 

Acquerello I & IIfeatured over 100 gallery paintings from 2010 – 2013. How did you decide t to put together this book of over 100 gallery paintings?

Many of my artist friends self-published their artwork into books. Getting inspired by what they did, I decided to try it. At the time, I really didn’t know much about how to put together an art book, so I just put everything in it. Even if it didn’t sell, I figured a pretty artbook would make a handy art portfolio for jobs. 

When did you publish Acquerello 1?

I think it was around 2010. That’s when I tried to reach out to a broader gallery circle. Are these Acquerellobooks exclusively filled with your art you exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Paris, Japan, and Spain?

Yes, they are exclusively my gallery paintings from different exhibitions. 

Does Acquerello IIIWatercolors and Beyond that was published in 2015 have different art from the first two books?

Yes. The first two Acquerello are collections from 2010 to 2013. Acquerello III is art collected from 2013 to around 2016.

Were Acquerello l, ll, and IIIall self-published books?

Yes, they are all self-published. 

Amazon lists that The Year of the Sheep (Tales from the Chinese Zodiac, 10)was published in 2014. Was this your first illustrated book?

This would be the second book after The TreeHouse Heroes and the Forgotten Beast. 

Amazon says, this book series written by Oliver Chin has eleven books, and that The Year of the Sheep is the tenth book, but looking at the dates, it looks like The Year of the Sheep should be the fourth book. Is this a mistake on Amazon?

Humm… I am not sure. Oliver’s Chinese Zodiac series followed the order of the Chinese Zodiac. I am not sure which Zodiac is his first book in the series. The Immedium website (http://www.immedium.com) probably has more accurate information about the series.

How did Chronical books discover your illustrations and offer you the contract to illustrate Double Happinessby Nancy Tupper Lingin?

It was through Shannon Associates, my art rep at the time. 

Did Albert Whitman & Co ask you to make a friendly looking monster for The Nian Monster or was that your idea?

They did want The Nian Monster to be more friendly-looking. 

You illustrated the fourth book. Lunar New Year (Celebrate the World)by Hannah Eliot Pub. Date Dec 11, 2018 by little Simon. Do you think Hannah Eliot will find other ways to continue this series? Did you learn anything about your culture while illustrating the book? 

Celebrate the World is series published by Simon and Schuster. As an illustrator, we didn’t get to know about the bigger plan within a publishing house. Personally, I love the series and would love to see more Celebrate the World books.  

I am pretty familiar with most Lunar New Year stories, but I did not know about the story of Sui until I read the book. 

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leadersby Harry Belafonte and and illustrated by Sixteen award-winning children’s book artists. Published by Chronicle Books in 2019, each illustrator illustrated a civil rights quotation from Harry Belafonte, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. Is the illustration on your website under the quote from Helen Kelle, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” an illustration you did for that book?

Yes, I illustrated the Helen Kelle spread. 

Did the art director at Disney request a certain look for the princess in Megan Roth’sThe World Is Yours (Disney Princess)?

For this particular book, Disney gave us a lot of creative freedom to interpret the princesses in our personal style. 

How long did it take you to write and illustrate your 384 page graphic novel, Marshmallow & Jordan?

It took about 18 months to complete the book. But the book ended up taking close to three years to publish because of the pandemic. 

Do you plan on writing and illustrating another book?

Yes, I am currently writing new graphic novels and picture book stories.

I see that your are represented by Marietta Zacker at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency. How did the two of you connect? How long has she been representing you?

Before Marietta, I had an art rep. When I discovered I wanted to focus on publishing and start writing my own book, I knew I needed to find a lit agent. I applied online via the literary agency’s website. Marietta has been representing me since 2016.

In January 2021 Immedium publishes a book y illustrated The Treehouse Heroes: and the Forgotten Beast by Phil Amara.Would you say Immedium is a publisher that focuses on Asian Writers and Illustrators books?

The TreeHouse Heroes: and the Forgotten Beast is published before The Year of Sheep, around 2012. Immedium is a publisher located in San Francisco focused on Asian American books. 

On the cover of In the Spirit of a Dream: 13 Stories of American Immigrants of Color

It says written by Aida Salazar and Created Alina Chau Since there are 13 stories and 13 illustrators, including you. Which story did you illustrate and did you illustrate additional pages, too?

I illustrated David Tran, the front cover, the interior cover, the copyright page, and the first and the last poems. 

I recently featured The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chanby Kristen Mai Giangand illustrated by you. You did a fabulous job. How long did it take you to illustrate the book?

Thank you. It took about four months to create the final art. But, before that, it took roughly a month of research and another couple of months to develop the sketch dummy.

Bonnie’s Rocketby Emeline Lee is your next book to come out at the end of September. Is this a non-fiction book? Did you have to do more reseach before illustrating this book?

Yes. I did extensive research into the Apollo Lunar mission. I watched many NASA documentaries and dug through their web-site to hunt down their rocket blue-prints, blackboard notes, mission photos, posters and sound recordings. As a rocket science nerd, I had a blast with the research.

Do you use galleries and exhibits to show off you work?  

I still participate in gallery exhibitions. Many galleries are very supportive of children’s book illustrations. Gallery Nucleus (https://www.gallerynucleus.com), one of the galleries I frequent, often host book launch parties and art shows for authors and illustrators. They did a lovely book launch party for Marshmallow and Jordan last year. 

I love to explore new art techniques and styles with my gallery pieces. It provides me a sandbox to experiment and learn new skills that could later apply in book illustrations. 

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

I usually spend a lot of time doing the research before illustrating a book. The research step often takes more time than creating the sketches. For non-fiction, research would need to be more meticulous. 

What do you think helped develop your style?

Growing up in Hong Kong during the British colonial era in a Chinese Indonesian family and then moving to the US, my cultural heritages strongly influence my voice and style. I learned and spoke three languages simultaneously, and therefore, I have mixed accents. Growing up, I felt a bit of a misfit with my cultural identity in a dominant Chinese society. While this could be confusing for a kid, it taught me to appreciate and be open-minded to different cultures and voices; and see the beauty in the differences. 

Many of these experiences were ingrained in my art on a subconscious level. I learned to be playful and not take one art style too seriously. I allow myself the freedom to explore and experiment, which eventually becomes my own style.  

What do you think is your biggest success?

I don’t know whether this defines success. I would say… my broad range of experiences in different creative fields. Even though some lessons were not by choice but by necessity. Dots that didn’t make sense before began to connect as I journeyed forward. I am grateful to have had all the experiences. It helps me grow, stays curious, be creative, and be flexible. 

How you use your Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

The final art is traditional watercolor on paper. I do all my sketches digitally. I use a Wacom Cintiq for Photoshop and an iPad Pro for Procreate. The final art would be scanned into Photoshop and composited digitally for the convenience of collaborating with the art director and editor. This makes it easier for the art team to make changes during the design phase. 

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

Be a best-selling author, get recognized with some big national awards, and have my books made into movies or TV shows! LOL

Joking aside, I want to continue to grow as an author and illustrator. I want to keep writing more new books and make graphic novel series.

What are you working on now?

I am illustrating a Little Brown picture book, Love Like Chocolate, written by Tracy Banghart. Inspired by the adoption of Tracy’s daughter, the story follows an older child teaching a newly adopted sibling about how their family shows love through traditions (and chocolate). The story is as delicious and sweet as the title. 

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.

My favorite art medium is watercolor. I use Winsor Newton Professional watercolor.

As for paper, I love Arches watercolor block cold press for book illustration for watercolor paper. It gives the right among of paper texture but is subtle enough that the texture doesn’t become distracting in printed form.

I order my art supply online from Blick Art Materials. They often have great seasonal coupons, especially during back-to-school. I would stock up a year’s supply worth during their big sale. 

Cheap and accessible! For sketchbooks and notebooks, dollar stores are my friend. Using a cheap sketchbook helps me stay free and not worry about making perfect drawings when I need to experiment and explore. The same goes for pens and pencils for sketching and writing as well. 

I often post my sketching and painting process on my social media. That would be the best place to find my how-to tips: I see links at the end of this feature.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

It is important to enjoy the journey and allow yourself to explore and experiment with new ideas, styles, and techniques. Be persistent. Getting a rejection is very common in any art industry. A rejection doesn’t mean you are not good. Sometimes it’s not the “right” match. So don’t keep up when the road gets a bit bumpy! It’s part of the process to help us grow. 

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

You can visit Alina using the following links:

WEBSITE: https://alinachau.com/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/alinachau/

FACBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/cubillodesign/

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTtiE9Ui7YwDy80QAF_DLAA

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 20, 2022

May Agent of the Month: Julie Byers – Interview Part Two

ANNOUNCING MAY’S AGENT OF THE MONTH

JULIA BYERS AT THE SHELDON FOGELMAN AGENCY

Julia Byers joined the Sheldon Fogelman Agency in 2018 as a temp, after spending several years interning around the publishing industry, working at a bookshop, and running a nonprofit organization for young writers. She enjoyed working with SFA so much, she decided to stay on, and is now excited to take on a more hands-on role by working with clients and foreign rights. She received her B.A. in Honors Creative Writing & Literature with a minor in Global Media Studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, as well as certificates from the St Peter’s College, Oxford University Summer School and the Columbia Publishing Course UK. Julia is enthusiastic about working with authors of children’s fiction, spanning picture books through YA, and looks forward to taking on new clients.

Julia enjoys working with children’s books for all age groups.

Fiction: Children’s, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Young Adult Favorite sub-genres: Contemporary Young Adult, Fantasy YA, Fiction Picture Books, Funny MG, High-concept YA, Humor YA, LGBT YA, MG Action Adventure, MG Fantasy, YA Rom-Coms, YA Sci-fi, YA Thrillers, contemporary MG secret identities

Within YA, I’ll read pretty much anything, as long as it has a strong voice, tight plotting, and a great sense of humor. I like to see protagonists struggle with big questions and their place in the world, no matter the circumstances, and welcome darker stories about contending with trauma and grief (as long as there’s still some humor and hope woven in). That said, I’m always a sucker for:

  • time travel
  • globetrotting adventures
  • high school theatre
  • anything dealing with movies/TV
  • socially conscious protagonists
  • super fluffy rom-coms

Also, if you can comp your book to Taylor Swift’s music (especially folklore), PLEASE send it my way, I beg of you.

Middle grade-wise, I generally tend toward books with a lot of heart, especially humorous mystery and adventure stories. I can never get enough of kids going on quests, whether that be to save the world or just to beat a mean girl at the local scavenger hunt. I’m not the best fit for stories from animals’ POVs, but if your protagonist has a cute animal companion who goes everywhere with them, sign me up (as long as said animal companion does not die; the last time I read a book with an animal death, I accidentally threw it across the room).

In terms of picture books, I prefer fiction, but otherwise my tastes are very open. I love both laugh-out-loud humor and quieter, more lyrical writing. What I really look for is a strong character arc and sense of plot structure.

Across all age groups, a priority is working with underrepresented voices. I’m especially interested in stories with incidental diversity, rather than issue-driven books, and happy (or at least bittersweet!) endings.

*******

BELOW IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JULIA:

Do you have any pet peeves?

a.) I’m personally really not a fan of authors who write outside of their lane when it comes to marginalizations.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

a.) So often, writers query before their projects are ready. Really take the time to hone and tighten every element of your story, from the prose to the plot to the character arcs, before sending it out. I’m so sad when I see stories that have a ton of potential but have gone out too soon.

What are your feelings about prologues?

a.) I am generally anti-prologue, because often it makes it feel like the story is starting at the wrong place. I do think prologues can be used effectively in select circumstances, but those circumstances are rare for me.

Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

a.) I am currently largely off social media and such, but my MSWL page is a good place to look! https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/julia-byers/

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

a.) Yes! I love working with our agency’s clients to really hone projects before they go on submission.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)?

a.) As all cliché Millennials do, I prefer emails over phone calls.

Once you submit a manuscript to a publisher, how often do you communicate with your client during the submission process?

a.) That depends on the client and how involved they want to be in the submission process.

What happens if you don’t sell a book and the author wants to self-publish a book? Would you be okay with that?

a.) I think self-publishing is great, but it’s also a really difficult path to tread, because the author is on their own for handling all the work that a traditional publisher would have a whole team to tackle. It’s also not something with which we can really help, on the agency side. So, I can’t really recommend agency clients go this route. That said, if a client is really passionate about getting a particular book out there and traditional publishers just aren’t biting for whatever reason, I’m happy to work with the author to revise the manuscript until a traditional publisher does buy it.

Do you seek help from other agents at your agency to get suggestions on editors and/or publishers to submit to for the clients you sign up to represent?

a.) Definitely. SFA is an incredibly collaborative agency, so we draw from the knowledge and expertise of the agency as a whole throughout every aspect of the publication process.

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at SFLA if it was good, but not what you want to represent?

a.) Yes! We’re always passing around submissions that show potential but aren’t quite right for the original agent queried.

What do you think of digital and audio books? Are they part of every sale these days?

a.) I love both digital and audiobooks! They aren’t part of every domestic sale, but they are part of the vast majority (and when they aren’t, it’s generally because we’ve fought for the client to keep those rights so that we can sell them separately, which means more income for the author).

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

a.) As SFA’s foreign rights manager, I work with a number of talented, hardworking subagents around the world to place our clients’ books in foreign territories. And as for film rights, the agency is all-hands-on-deck to make sure we get the client the best deal possible.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

a.) We’ve been hearing from editors that contemporary realistic YA fiction is a bit of a hard sell right now. On the picture book side of things, I’ve seen growth in editors looking for projects that really cater to the specific developmental stages young readers are at.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, secure an agent, and get published?

a.) Being an author is hard, because you need to be an expert at SO many different things before you’re likely to find success in this hyper-competitive industry. So, spend as much time as possible learning and growing at every stage of the process. There are more obvious things an author can do here, like participating in critique groups and attending workshops, but perhaps even more than those, I think what helps is simply analyzing what does and doesn’t work—and how and why—about the books, movies, television, stage plays, music, etc. you either love or hate. There are lessons to be found in every piece of media we consume, if we look for them.

Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

For sure! I’ll be accepting pitches at a couple of the online Writing Day Workshops this summer, with potentially some other events on the horizon as well.

*******

BELOW ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MAY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “MAY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2022 May  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

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

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

DEADLINE: MAY 20TH. – noon EST

RESULTS: MAY 27TH.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 19, 2022

Book Giveaway: SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! by Meeg Pincus

Meeg Pincus has a new picture book, SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! , illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Muller and published by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Meeg and Caroline.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Most folks know the same famous story of Helen Keller—a DeafBlind girl who learned to understand sign language at the family water pump.  Most stories about Helen Keller focus on the story of her deaf-blindness and scholarship, but there is more to Helen than her disability. But what do you really know about her? Did you know she was an activist, a rebel, a writer, a performer, a romantic?

There is so much more to Helen than we usually learn in school. Here, the story of Helen Keller’s passionate, boundless life unfolds—reminding us that she was, as we all are, so many things.

This bouncy, rhyming story is an excellent tool for teaching children to see beyond the surface with everyone they encounter.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Phase One: Going Way Back

The roots of this book go back to my own roots—well, to my teen years, when I developed a deep interest in Helen Keller. At my performing arts magnet high school, I begged our drama teacher each year to choose The Miracle Worker as our stage play (he never did!). So, I chose to do my senior passion project on Helen instead—I read all of her books and wrote my own stage play about her (complete with set design).

Why was I so intrigued by Helen? For one thing, I had attended an integrated hearing/Deaf middle school and was interested in Deaf culture and history. For another, I loved Helen’s feisty personality and drive. Also, I think I was subconsciously seeking out role models who didn’t let their physical limitations hold them back from pursuing their dreams.

Though I didn’t understand myself as having invisible disabilities at the time, I was born with chronic health issues (some of which my doctors now call fibromyalgia). I was often “not feeling well,” and feeling like I couldn’t keep up or be “normal.” Helen’s passionate writings—and her accomplishments in the face of much more serious physical challenges than mine—offered me perspective and motivation to find my own way when my body didn’t always make it easy.

Phase Two: Finding A Fresh Helen Story

So, several decades later, as a working nonfiction picture book author, I kept thinking about writing about my younger self’s role model. I knew Helen Keller is taught in most elementary schools. And I knew other picture books existed on her. But it was usually a similar main story told—the one enshrined in sculpture in the U.S. Capitol—of Helen learning her first ASL word at the family water pump.

I knew there was so much more to Helen than that single story. She had been a prolific writer, a political activist, a humanitarian, a vaudeville performer, a world traveler, a rebellious and adventurous spirit. I wanted to share with today’s kids what I’d learned as a teen—how incredibly multifaceted she was, and how she broke barriers for any woman of her time, let alone one with disabilities (and cultural misunderstandings of them).

So, how could I write that story?

Phase Three: Putting it Together

I’d briefly considered writing a narrative PB on the little-known childhood experience of Helen’s that I’d written my high school stage play about. But I knew that wouldn’t help me get across what I really wanted to today—the so much more to Helen that I kept thinking about with my own feisty passion! So, I decided to just dig into that.

I wrote down all the facets of Helen that I wanted kids to know about. Then I started figuring out how to share them in a compelling way. What I ended up with was a dual structure: each spread with a main rhyming couplet about one facet of Helen, then a box below with an anecdote or further explanation (and more in the back matter). So, kids could engage in the book at their level, and it had both lyricism and rich facts.

Lastly, I knew I wanted to end by bringing readers into the present, as we’d done in the final spread of Miep and the Most Famous Diary. So, I showcased a diverse group of multifaceted, modern-day people who’ve accomplished great things while living with disabilities—scientists, athletes, activists, artists, lawmakers. I wanted that spread to make a connection with kids, that we can embrace our disabilities while also knowing that we are all “so much more” than any single part of us.

Phase Four: Becoming a Book

When my manuscript was ready, I asked my agent to submit it exclusively to editor Sarah Rockett, with whom I’ve worked on three other books and thought would be the perfect-fit editor for this story. Luckily, Sarah and the Sleeping Bear Press team thought so, too, and they acquired it.

In truth, I’d originally imagined finding a Deaf illustrator, since my own disabilities are so different than Helen’s and I wanted the book to be authentic and sensitive, but we didn’t find one whose style fit our vision for the story. So, we chose a wonderful hearing illustrator whose style was the perfect fit, Caroline Bonne-Müller. Then we also hired a Deaf professional authenticity reader, to help us catch any inauthentic or ableist words or images. It turned out to be a perfect-fit team all around, with many hours of collaboration and individual work to get every word and image as right as we could.

When Booklist said in their recent starred review that So Much More to Helen! is “an inviting read-aloud about one of the most influential women of the twentieth century [and] also serves as powerful advocacy for individuals with disabilities,” I was touched and relieved to see we’d gotten our message across to at least one reader! And, hopefully, many more to come.

MEEG’S BIO:

Meeg Pincus writes nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” helping people, animals, and the planet—including Winged Wonders (Golden Kite Nonfiction Honor), Cougar Crossing (Cook Prize), Ocean Soup (Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award), Miep and the Most Famous Diary (Kirkus & SLJ starred reviews), and her two latest titles So Much More to Helen! (Booklist starred review) and Make Way for Animals! (SLJ starred review).

A longtime nonfiction writer/editor and educator, Meeg loves teaching nonfiction writing workshops, mentoring nonfiction writers, and sharing great (yep, nonfiction) books.

Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.MeegPincus.com.

CAROLINE’S BIO:

Caroline Bonne Muller is a Dutch artist living in Switzerland. She has an intrepid background; she was born in France, bred in the Netherlands, and has previously lived in Malaysia. Caroline has been fascinated by children’s books ever since she was a child herself. On the birth of her own family, she couldn’t stop buying beautifully illustrated picture books. This planted the seed of wishing to illustrate her own books. Her dream became reality when Quarto published her first picture book in 2020 (Portrait of an artist – Claude Monet).

Caroline studied Fashion Design in Amsterdam and worked 14 years as a fashion designer before persuing her career illustrating children’s books. Here is the link to Caroline’s website: https://www.carolinebonnemuller.com/

Meeg thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I really learned so many things I didn’t know about Helen Keller. I love that children will close the book realizing that individuals with visable and invisable disabilities are so much more than their challenges. Your book reminds us all to look beyond the surface of everyone they encounter. I love Caroline’s illustrations they are a perfect addition to help tell the story. I know every teacher and parent will love the back matter provided. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 18, 2022

Book Winners – Kudos – Industry Changes

BOOK WINNERS:

Susan Hutchens won THE RISE (AND FALLS) OF JACKIE CHAN by Kristen Mai Giang

Patricia Nozell won THE HAIR BOOK by LaTonya Yvette

Tammy Gransee won HELLO BABY! I’M YOUR MOM by Eve Bunting

Please email me your address.

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KUDOS:

CONGRATULAIONS TO PENNY PARKER KLOSTERMANN AND ANNE LAMBERT!

Carolyn Yoder at Astra/Calkins Creek has acquired North American right to Spider Lady: Nan Songer and Her Arachnid WWII Amry by Penny Parker Klostermann. illustrated by Anne Lambelet. This debute nonfiction picture book biography tell the story of a woman who raised thousands of piders in her home and harvested their silk for the war effort. Publication is planned for spring 2025; Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary Agency represented the author, and Stephaine Fretwell-Hill at Red Fox Literary represented the illustrator.

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CONGRATULATIONS TO YEVGENIA NAYBERG:

“New Children’s Books Chronicle the Lives of Prominent American Jews” by Erika Dreifus in Moment Magazine: “That A VISIT TO MOSCOW is beautifully illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, who was born in Ukraine and now lives in New York City, makes this encounter with the history of the Soviet Jewry movement, which was so much a part of the later 20th-century American Jewish experience, especially poignant and timely”: bit.ly/3NenBJq

 

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CONGRATULATIONS TO MELISSA IWAI DUMPLINGS FOR LILI AND JULIE ABERY FOR SWIM CLUB. BOTH MADE VIRGINA READS 2022-2023 PICTURE BOOK LIST.

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INDUSTRY CHANGES:

Marble Press is thrilled to announce our new editor, Michael Green! (Feel free to share.)
Michael Green is the former President and Publisher of Philomel, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers / Penguin Random House. At Philomel he helped redefine the imprint as a commercial force, acquiring and developing 30 New York Times bestselling titles, including several that went all the way to #1. He is most closely associated with The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, the Ranger’s Apprentice novels by John Flanagan, the Otis the Tractor picture books by Loren Long, the Alex Rider spy novels by Anthony Horowitz, the sports-themed novels of Mike Lupica, and the historical fiction novels of Ruta Sepetys… See more on Marble Press website.

Marble Press is our parent company, and it has three subsidiaries: Marble Books, which focuses on picture books, Bulooga Books, which publishes books for our youngest readers, and Taltos Books, which publishes middle-grade and young-adult materials.

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GALLERY BOOKS:

Molly Gregory and Max Meltzer have each been promoted to editor.

DIAL PRESS:

Emma Caruso has been promoted to editor, reporting to Whitney Frick.

PEACHTREE PRESS:

Jonah Heller has been promoted to editor.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 17, 2022

Book Giveaway: LIGHT THE SKY FIREFLY by Sheri Bestor

Sheri Bestor has a new picture book, LIGHT THE SKY FIREFLY, illustrated by Jonny Lambert and published by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Sheri and Jonny.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Fireflies (or lightning bugs) are some the world’s most fascinating–and illuminating!–insects. And one many children can find right in their backyards! With a simple story, perfect for read-alouds, and colorful illustrations, this scientific look at a firefly’s life-cycle will captivate little entomologists. Informative sidebars are included that let children learn even more about these amazing insects.

BOOK JOURNEY:

As a young child, my brothers and I would spend countless hours each summer day exploring the woods. We’d spot frogs, and crawfish. We’d follow butterflies and listen to bees. We’d watch rabbits and robins.

But the real magic came when the sun began to set. The skies would turn inky dark. The spring peepers would chirp, the breezes would calm and suddenly the night sky would begin to twinkle with tiny floating lights.  We’d sit on the ground and gaze into the black sky-trying to guess where the next glimmer would shimmer as the fireflies floated and flew through the air.

When my daughters were young, we did the same thing, sitting together in the dark stillness, waiting for the fireflies to light the sky.

Those evenings of searching for fireflies were some of my most favorite, because it was a way to connect with family. But it was more than that. It was a way to renew my awe of nature. It was peaceful and beautiful and helped nurture my respect for the wild.

When I began writing books for children, I decided early on that I would write stories based on not only what I knew about, but also what I wanted to know about. I thought that maybe what I was curious about, others might be curious about, too.  I would also write books that could help connect kids to nature, and help renew their appreciation for the wilderness.

When I decided to write about fireflies, I came up with the title and then began researching everything I could find about these little sparklers. I wrote the story about the lifecycle of a firefly at the same time that I gathered fascinating facts about them. Then I put it all together into the book that became LIGHT THE SKY FIREFLY!

LIGHT THE SKY, FIREFLY! is my 13th published book.

SHERI’S BIO:

Sheri Mabry Bestor has an MA in curriculum and instruction, has taught elementary school, and has written for newspapers and magazines. She works to accomplish their writing and publishing goals and dreams. Sheri is the founder of Willow Words Writing Services. Her past experience as a literary agent helps inform her writing services company, where she works with emerging and experienced writers around the country. She lives in small town in Wisconsin.

When I’m not writing books, I am running my writing services studio, Arts Mill Writing Loft, where I help others on their path to publication. I also teach yoga and meditation at my studio, Arts Mill Yoga and Well Being Studio.  I’m a painter and create jewelry in my free time. Mostly, if I’m not writing or creating, I’m in nature, hiking, learning, listening and exploring the beauty of the wild.

For more information about my books and services, visit. www.sherimabryinc.com 

JONNY LAMBERT’S BIO:

Jonny grew up in a converted barn on a farm in Surrey and always knew he wanted to be an artist of some sort. Encouraged and pushed by his art tutor at the Reigate School of Art and Design, Jonny is now an artist of many sorts: a talented illustrator with over 300 titles to his name, designer, paper engineer and most recently, Group Design Director at Templar Publishing.

Living with his wife, daughter and a menagerie of animals in West Sussex, Jonny is inspired by everything around him—anybody or anything, past or present, and his advice to aspiring artists is to believe in your own talents, be open to all stimuli, continue to learn, share your knowledge once experience has honed it and, finally, don’t tell people what you can do… show them.

Sheri, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how you guided readers through the firefly’s four developmental stages. It was so interesting to see the tiny eggs turn into twinkling bugs. Children and parents will love discovering how the magic of fireflies happen and Teachers will love all the additional scientfic information provided in the side bars. Jonny’s illustrations make the whole book feel enchanting. Gook luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 16, 2022

Ash Literary – Alice Sutherland-Hawes

Alice Sutherland-Hawes – ASH Literary

ASH Literary is a Children’s & YA focused agency set up in 2020 by Alice Sutherland-Hawes. Alice has been agenting for six years, most recently at Madeleine Milburn Agency and before that with Hilary Delamere at The Agency (London) Ltd. She has so far launched the careers of Namina Forna, Kereen Getten and Poonam Mistry, to name a few.

We are actively seeking creators working across picture books through to Young Adult, including graphic novels.

Fiction: Children’s, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Young Adult

For picture books we look for something fresh, a little quirky and definitely fun. We like to see texts tackling subjects in a new way and teaching the reader without being didactic. Some recent favourites include Look Up by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, Hair Love by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison, and Oi Puppies! by Kes Gray and Jim Field.

In picture books we are more actively seeking author/illustrators at this time.

In Middle Grade we are looking for magical realism and adventures both contemporary and fantastical, with a standout voice and unforgettable characters. Some recent favourites include The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski, Bloom by Nicola Skinner, and Pet by Akwaeke Emezi.

In Young Adult we are looking for delightful rom-coms, road trips and high school drama, along with the first year of college and subverted tropes. Some recent YA favourites include Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen, and You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson.

In graphic novels across all ages, we are looking for the fun, the surreal and the serious. We love fantasy, contemporary and magical realism, and are happy looking at script samples or full pitches with art. Some recent favourites include Spinning by Tillie Walden, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Stargazing by Jen Wang, along with the work of Joe Todd-Stanton.

Across all age ranges and genres we are actively seeking voices that have historically been underrepresented, particularly with tropes that are often said to be “over done”. For example, we are not interested in stories about white able bodied WW2 evacuees but would welcome that story from a disabled, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC perspective.

If your book is about an identity that is not yours, we will not be a good fit.

We are not a great fit for chapter books or sci-fi, and are very selective with the fantasy we take on though we are happy to consider work in these genres by BIPOC creators. We are also not a great fit for horror or talking animals.

Please note I have a phobia of flying so if your book is set mainly on a plane or features any form of emergency on a plane, I will not read it.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions must be made through QueryManager unless accommodations due to disability are required, in which case please email your submission to submissions@ashliterary.com. Submissions sent elsewhere and those sent to both QM and our email will be deleted unread.

We are actively seeking voices that have historically been underrepresented, particularly with tropes that are often said to be “over done”. For example, we are not interested in stories about white able bodied WW2 evacuees but would welcome that story from a disabled, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC perspective.

If your book is about an identity that is not yours, we will not be a good fit. This includes books based the experiences of family members and friends.

Currently we are not looking for issue-driven books.

Please note we will automatically pass on the following:

Animal POV storiesStories with any emergency on a planeStories set around or about the COVID-19 pandemicStories sent in recent history, eg. 1980s

Please allow 12 weeks for a response and please note we cannot give feedback unless we have requested a full manuscript, in which case we will give short feedback.

Twitter: @alibelle

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 15, 2022

Book Giveaway: BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP by Kenda Henthorn

Kenda Henthorn has a new picture book, BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP, illustrated by Lauren Gallegos and published by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Kenda and Lauren.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

As a trio of tired tots settles into bed for the night, the sheep who should be helping them count down to slumber kick up their hooves instead in an energetic dance performance. Starting with one little lamb and counting up to 10, these “sleep” sheep tap, waltz, tango, and even boogie as they get their nighttime groove on. But finally, after their energy is danced out, nap sheep lull everyone to sleep.

BOOK JOURNEY:

BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP was a blast to write and I used an entirely new (to me) process to write it!

I’m usually more of a muse-chasing, fly/write by the seat of my pants kind of person. That approach is oftentimes fun and full of surprises, too, but the initial outcomes (again, for me) were less than stellar and the revisions required some heavy lifting. After years of what we’ll call my “Rambling Rhymers” phase (looong, weak storylines, where the rhyme clearly steered the story), I decided to try another approach.  I set three writing goals for this project:

Goal #1Keep My Word Count Low!!

Goal #2 – Incorporate a Nursery Rhyme Tie-In.

And Goal #3 – Can There Please Be Dancing, too?!

Goal #1:  Write something short and snappy, ensuring the story remained the headliner, whether it was written in rhyme or prose.  AND, I set an additional personal challenge of keeping the final manuscript under 200 words. Challenge accepted!

Goal #2:  Incorporate a Nursery Rhyme Tie-In.  Whether it’s for reading enjoyment or writing inspiration, Nursery Rhymes are basic and bouncy, and they’re visually engaging for kids of all ages.  I wanted to focus on finding a way to incorporate some of those successful formulas into my writing. So while trolling through a list of old-time Nursery Rhymes, I paused on the old Baa, Baa, Black Sheep title. Hmmm. I loved that old rhymer.  The rhythmic, lyrical beat seemed so fun and familiar.  Maybe something fresh and special could be done with that. I kept that one in mind, and a few others.

I set Goal #3 because, well, who doesn’t love the TV show, Dancing With The Stars!  (I know you’re with me!  Who else is a DWTS groupie?)  The dance steps and choreography, the costumes and audience adoration?  I secretly longed to be that graceful myself, but alas, a dance-themed book is as good as it gets for me  (…and no toes were stepped on in the making!)

With that writing Goal #3 in mind, I began an online search of dancing terms and found a slew of fun-sounding dance steps…jazz, jive, tango, tap…TAP!  Jackpot!  I could revamp the Baa, Baa, Black Sheep Nursery Rhyme title with BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP, and perfectly incorporate a mash-up of all three of my writing Goals!

With the discovery of that one little word (TAP), the title was set, and its rhyme scheme and characters were predetermined (same rhythm, and a flock of sheep).

Next, I checked Rhymezone for short words that rhyme with TAP, and quickly found RAP and NAP.  Immediately, three characters began taking shape.  There would be a flock of TAP sheep (practicing swaying, slow dance moves to help toddlers get to sleep), a rowdy RAP sheep, followed by a lullaby-playing NAP sheep…which right there, gave me the makings of a three-part play.

ACT I – Status quo.  The sheep are contentedly Tapping.

ACT II:  Interrupted by one raucous Rapping sheep.  (This was my actual art note, by the way…[Illustration Note:  One persistent sheep doesn’t want the fun to end.  He commandeers the music and starts a crazy fast dance round, which startles the babies awake and tests the skeptical sheep’s new dancing skills.)]

ACT III:  By the finale, the whole flock, and kids, too, are Napping.

I swear, this book practically wrote itself before I even opened a WORD document!

I’d taken dancing lessons as a child (and hated it at the time [pre-DWTS era] since I wanted to be outside playing sports with my big brothers instead), but I remembered some of those very beginner dance lesson instructions.  Those early memories quickly became my opening stanza (fitted into the old Baa, Baa, Black Sheep rhythm), with some extra fun added in:

Baa, baa, tap sheep,

Learning how to dance.

Heel, toe, slide step,

Hokey-pokey, prance.

 

Gliding <Baa!>

Dipping <Ha!>

Leaping <Tra-la-la!>

My Goal #1 (keeping everything short and snappy, and under 200 words), was a challenge.  Remember me? “Rambling Rhymer” here?  I had to be doubly diligent in committing to NOT using pronouns, conjunctions, or descriptions and ensuring most sentences stayed at just two to five words in length. Surprisingly, when the manuscript was complete, critiqued and polished, my word count was 198! SCORE!

This manuscript, BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP also got me my agent, the wonderful Allison Remsheck (Stimola Literary Studio), after she’d critiqued it for me at an SCBWI conference.  She, too, adored the idea of a little lamb dancing in a tutu!!

She and my editor, the amazing Barb McNally (Sleeping Bear Press), were both on board with keeping the story tight.  Even so, I think I surprised Barb during our editing process, when I shouted, “Yeesss!” to her suggestion that we delete one word.  (Not the usual reaction she gets when deleting an author’s work!)  The book’s final word count came in at 197.  I proudly proclaim Challenge Met!!

When a manuscript is that light on words though, an author must trust that the illustrator (as well as the Editor and Art Director, too) all “get” the author’s vision.  In this case, they certainly did!  Award-winning illustrator, Lauren Gallegos did a stellar job of interpreting my words and illustration notes, to create The Most Gorgeous (aetheric, lovely, lively, and light) artwork to best support and supplement this story!  More so than I could have wished for or dreamed!! It’s truly a beautiful creation!

So my new approach to writing, and my advice to other creatives now, too, is to mix things up, mash them up and “TAP” into something new!

Try setting goals for yourself and your writing. The results could be golden…and as easy as counting sheep!  BAA-lieve me, it works!!

BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP is leaping into bookstores everywhere May 15th! ENJOY!!

Best of Books – indy bookstore:  https://bit.ly/3w3kw9y

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3MYpo6b

Barnes & Noble:  https://bit.ly/BNSHEEP

KENDA’S BIO:

Kenda is originally from Pennsylvania and grew up behind the scenes on her parents’ western movie sets. Those dramas fueled her dreams since she was a kid on a pony.

She works in the aviation industry now, so it’s no surprise that her writing inspirations and aspirations are sky-high, too! Kenda resides in Oklahoma and when the winds aren’t sweeping down the plains, she enjoys flying, kayaking, and riding horses or her motorcycle. (Vroom-vroom!)

She has served as a Regional Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI and a Best in Rhyme Award committee member and judge.

Kenda Henthorn | Kenda Henthorn

Kenda Henthorn | Facebook

Kenda Henthorn (@kendahenthorn) / Twitter

Kenda Henthorn (@kendakay24) • Instagram photos and videos

LAUREN’S BIO:

Lauren Gallegos earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Illustration from Cal State Fullerton in 2009 and has been illustrating ever since. When it comes to stories, Lauren has always loved books that warm the heart and touch the soul; timeless narratives that speak to your inner child. As a young girl she loved to pour over illustrations that were rich and full. Lauren still loves books that take you to mysterious places and let your imagination run wild with possibilities. Her biggest illustration influences are Chris Van Allsburg, Loren Long, Chris Sheban, Arthur Rackham, and Scott Gustafson to name only a few.

Lauren is always looking for opportunities to illustrate great stories with the desire to see how her work will impact the young minds of our future. She is a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Southern California with her husband and 2 young children.

Kenda, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love the fun of this book. Dancing sheep, perfect rhyme, and fantastic illustrations is the recipe for a wonderful book. Kids will love it. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 14, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Rebeca Koblick de Leon

Being a mom since 2019 keeps Beca immersed in her toddlers’ world and motivated to illustrate. She loves creating characters inside of warm and narrative compositions full of fun colorful pallets that have inspired her since she was born, back in Mexico where the colors are so warm and bright.

Now based in Marin County, California, Beca gets a lot of her inspiration from the amazing nature that surrounds her. The big red trees, the mountains and the beautiful ocean of the west coast are all part of it. She also loves painting and when she has a big studio she’ll dive into pottery as well. 

Beca loves getting her hands dirty and using traditional media such as gouache, watercolor, pastels and more. In the last couple of years, after becoming a mom, she has explored using digital illustration which has resulted in a lot of enjoyment and exploration as well. One thing she does need to do is always sketch first on a sketchbook before jumping into the screen.

If it’s not time to “work” (which makes her very happy) it’s definitely time to be out with her family searching for new adventures.

HERE IS BECA SHARING HER PROCESS FOR IN THE JUNGLE:

With all illustrations I always start by sketching, this jungle illustration shows a rough sketch because I was more free, so I didn’t really go for a more detailed final sketch.

When working with characters I tend to have a cleaner sketch to start coloring. Since these are mainly plans, I felt more free to just leave it like that.

After I select the background color that I am going to work with, then I start applying some base colors to my main elements. Of course I can modify the background color later on if I am not happy with it. Thats the beauty of Digital Illustration!

After I start adding color to what I consider are the secondary elements. I start adding more layers, in front of behind the elements that I already have. I have to be very organized and name my layers so that I know exactly where am I standing when I am coloring. In my opinion having more layers makes it easier to change things up like colors if you’re not convinced.

I continue to add layers and play with colors.

I forgot to mention that before I start with an illustration that is a personal project like this one and doesn’t require an specific palette I do have colors in mind but I do not stick to a limited palette. I really want to learn how to master this better, somehow it makes it challenging for me.

Usually its towards the end that I start adding the little details to the illustration.

I add definition lines and little details.

Here is the final of IN THE JUNGLE: It is not until the end that I add the lights and shadows. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole process. It gets me really excited to see the difference of my art after I add this details that for me certainly add a lot of value.

INTERVIEW WITH BECA KOBLICK DE LEON

How long have you been illustrating?

Since I was a kid, I have loved drawing. Its what I would do while waiting in my mom’s office, or the doctor’s office. Whenever my grandpa would pick me up from school, I would draw while he painted.

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

Back in Mexico, an employee of my father’s asked if I could paint a cheesy ocean illustration. With dolphins and fish. I was 15 or 16 years old at the time, so I thought I hit the big time.

What made you decide to attend Querétaro’s UVM to pursue a career in graphic arts?

I decided to pursue a career in graphic design because, at the time, I thought that route was the “safe” choice if I wanted to make money as an artist. It was a practical decision more than anything.

Were you doing freelance art during this time?

Certain graphic design gigs here and there, but nothing really on the artsy side of things.

How did you get the opportunity to study Art and Design at Santa Fe University of Art and Design in New Mexico?

The program in Santa Fe, NM and UVM began a partnership that allowed for students to study at either school. It was cheaper too. So I thought “I’ll get to study in the US and save money? Sign me up!” It kinda came to me more than anything.

Did you need to get a special visa to leave Mexico to study art in Santa Fe?

Yes, I had to get a student visa.

What were your favorite classes at Santa Fe University?

Mixed media and sculpture for sure. I don’t think it wazs just called “painting” but there was a painting class I really enjoyed as well.

What made you want to permanently move from Mexico to the US?

I met my husband while I was working as an au pair back in 2015. It was literally love at first sight because I had to go back to Mx just three weeks after we met, but I knew I had to know him. I came back a few months later. We have a 2½ year old named Santiago and have been happily married for more than 5 years now.

Did you know that you wanted to stay in the US after graduating from SFU?

Unfortunately, I was unable to graduate from SFU because of the 2008 Great Recession. I had to go back home, and finish my degree at UVM.

Did you have to go back to Mexico? Was it hard to get documents to get back to the US?

When I returned to the US, I did so through a program that places au pairs with families. I got matched to a family in Marin County, CA.

It looks like you and your husband decided to combine both of your last names. I am sure other have done that, but you are the first one I have crossed paths with. How did you decide to do that?

We just knew that we wanted to create a new family, to be the first in the lineage. Also, in Mexico, it is tradition to combine both your parents last names. My maiden name is Cubillo Ponce de Leon. Cubillo from my dad, Ponce de Leon from my mom. We wanted to do something similar, and think Koblick de Leon has a good ring to it.

It sounds like your son has been the inspiration for your taking your artistic talent into the Children’s book market or were you interested in going in that direction before he was born?

Even before Santi came along, Children’s illustration is something that always appealed to me, but the impression when I was living in Mexico was that it wasn’t profitable. After seeing what happened to my parent’s business because of the economy in 2009, I wanted to choose a path with the most security.

You have an illustration of a husband, wife an child on your website. At first I thought it must be your family, but the the names are Pato, Tim & José. Was this a commission work?

I wouldn’t say it is a commissioned piece. I made did that one as a gift to my dear friend, Patricia, for her birthday.

I discovered Bea the Friendly Bee on your website. Did you husband Zack write the book?

My husband and I came up with that idea, and we have a story-line, but it is still a project for the future. The near future, hopefully.

Is this something you will be selling in the future?

Hopefully! If publishers are reading this, we are always willing to entertain offers.

I noticed an illustration of a book cover titled Artist of the Harlem Renaissance by Gwendolyn Bennet. Was this a published book or something else like a pamphlet for a festival celebration?

This work was done as a project for a Make Art That Sells course with a focus on Black history. It is just a cover concept. Gwendolyn Bennet was an amazingly talented Artist during the Harlem Renaissance.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you happened to do this Illustration? Why did you add the Golden Gate Bridge? It’s a long way from Harlem, did you add that since you live near the bridge?

I can see how one would think that is the Golden Gate, but it is actually the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. I chose to do the bridge this way because it better fit the color pallet.

I love the cover that you illustrated for The Woman Behind the Bus by Jennie Stevenson. It looks like a picture book, but I can’t find it on Amazon. Was this a self-published book?

This is another piece I did as a project for the Make Art That Sells course I mentioned above. It is not a book, just a cover.

How did you connect with Jennie? Do you expect this book to be available for purchase?

Jennie and Zoe Tucker (whom I noticed is referenced below as an author I’ve collaborated with) were my former teachers from the Make Art That Sells courses I’ve taken over the past couple years. I would LOVE to have the opportunity to collaborate on a professional project in the future, but I did those pieces as assignments from the course.

It looks like you illustrated another book for Jennie Stevenson, titled Gulp the Unwise? This looks thicker than a picture book. Is it for older children?

I wish it was a real book, but this was also part of the Illustrating Children’s Books by Lilla Rogers at Make Art that Sells.

Do you plan to market the book or is the plan to sell it to a publisher?

I definitely would love to illustrate a whole book and not just proposals. I can’t wait to be illustrating my first children’s book.

You have illustrated another very nice cover for The Night Lights by Zoe Tucker. Again, this looks like a picture book that is not available on Amazon. Is this a book that is in development?

This one is also part of that amazing course I was talking about, I really recommend anyone who wants to be a children’s book professional illustrator to take the courses offered by Make Art that Sells, they have changed my life. I would say it was because of what I learned there that I was able to get representation by my agent.

How many books have you illustrated?

So far, I have illustrated one series of educational books for children that are to be used in a classroom setting. I am also currently in the beginning stages of a second project, which I am very excited about, but not sure how much about it I am allowed to discuss.

How did you connect with Nicole at the Tugeau2 Agency. How long have you been with her?

T2 was a top three agency with whom I wanted to work with. When I felt ready, I sent out emails to my top choices. Nicole responded right away. At the time I wasn’t ready to be represented by T2, but she came to me with advice on what to do to make my portfolio more marketable. After loading up my portfolio with more work, like the Make Art That Sells pieces among others, I contacted her again, and she was ready to sign me as an illustrator.

Do you still work on your portfolio?

I am always working on my portfolio. I want it to be a representation of what my current style is, and where I am as a person and an artist. I am constantly adding new work, so keep checking in to see updates!

What do you feel helped develop your style?

I paid attention to how I felt while trying new things. The more I practice, the more I know what makes me feel good. So I decided to do that: what makes me happy while creating art.

Have you illustrated anything for children’s magazines?

Not yet, but I am always open to it.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Absolutely, for the right project.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

That is very kind, and I hope so. My biggest success is being able to my days with my child and work on what makes me passionate every day.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I would say gauche is my favorite medium at the moment.

Has that changed over time?

The medium that I am exploring with changes regularly. I recently went through a watercolor stage as well.

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

I use an iPad Pro 11 with Procreate.

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

I find time when my son is sleeping, or if my husband can take him. He is also in pre-school two days a week which gives me more time as well.

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

Yes, always. I am always taking pictures of colors and shapes, things or flowers or perspectives that inspire me.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, definitely. Social media is so important now to make yourself known. It would be much more difficult to send my work or be seen.

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

I would love to publish Bae the Bee with Zach, my husband. I am always going to love Children’s Book illustration, ut I really want to create my own surface design collection and brand, for clothing and accessories especially. Eventually open my own store.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I am just starting on a project for Scholastic. It will be for older kids, but I am not able to share any work yet. It is in the very early stages. I wish I could offer more, I really do.

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 recommend the packages of brushes from “Visual Timmy” My favorite store is Ryley’s Art Supply Store. I love wondering around art stores and get lost.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

I still feel like I am a new illustrator. If I can share anything just starting is to keep working. Just keep building your portfolio no matter what. Take classes. I know it sounds cliché , but just be patient and keep working on something new.

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

You can visit Beca using the following links:

WEBSITE: https://www.becakdl.com/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecacubillo/

AGENCY: https://tugeau2.com/beca-koblick-de-leon

FACBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/cubillodesign/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BecaKdl

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 13, 2022

May Agent of the Month: Julia Byers – Interview Part One

ANNOUNCING MAY’S AGENT OF THE MONTH

JULIA BYERS AT THE SHELDON FOGELMAN AGENCY

Julia Byers joined the Sheldon Fogelman Agency in 2018 as a temp, after spending several years interning around the publishing industry, working at a bookshop, and running a nonprofit organization for young writers. She enjoyed working with SFA so much, she decided to stay on, and is now excited to take on a more hands-on role by working with clients and foreign rights. She received her B.A. in Honors Creative Writing & Literature with a minor in Global Media Studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, as well as certificates from the St Peter’s College, Oxford University Summer School and the Columbia Publishing Course UK. Julia is enthusiastic about working with authors of children’s fiction, spanning picture books through YA, and looks forward to taking on new clients.

Julia enjoys working with children’s books for all age groups.

Fiction: Children’s, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Young Adult Favorite sub-genres: Contemporary Young Adult, Fantasy YA, Fiction Picture Books, Funny MG, High-concept YA, Humor YA, LGBT YA, MG Action Adventure, MG Fantasy, YA Rom-Coms, YA Sci-fi, YA Thrillers, contemporary MG secret identities

Within YA, I’ll read pretty much anything, as long as it has a strong voice, tight plotting, and a great sense of humor. I like to see protagonists struggle with big questions and their place in the world, no matter the circumstances, and welcome darker stories about contending with trauma and grief (as long as there’s still some humor and hope woven in). That said, I’m always a sucker for:

  • time travel
  • globetrotting adventures
  • high school theatre
  • anything dealing with movies/TV
  • socially conscious protagonists
  • super fluffy rom-coms

Also, if you can comp your book to Taylor Swift’s music (especially folklore), PLEASE send it my way, I beg of you.

Middle grade-wise, I generally tend toward books with a lot of heart, especially humorous mystery and adventure stories. I can never get enough of kids going on quests, whether that be to save the world or just to beat a mean girl at the local scavenger hunt. I’m not the best fit for stories from animals’ POVs, but if your protagonist has a cute animal companion who goes everywhere with them, sign me up (as long as said animal companion does not die; the last time I read a book with an animal death, I accidentally threw it across the room).

In terms of picture books, I prefer fiction, but otherwise my tastes are very open. I love both laugh-out-loud humor and quieter, more lyrical writing. What I really look for is a strong character arc and sense of plot structure.

Across all age groups, a priority is working with underrepresented voices. I’m especially interested in stories with incidental diversity, rather than issue-driven books, and happy (or at least bittersweet!) endings.

*******

BELOW IS PART ONE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JULIA:

When did you decide you wanted to become an agent?

Believe it or not, not until after I’d already been working at SFA for a couple of years! I was convinced for ages that I wanted to spend my publishing career at a children’s book publisher instead, in either editorial or marketing. But life kept pushing me in the direction of agenting, and I love getting to work directly with authors and illustrators, so it ended up being something I fell into for the best.

How did you get the job with Sheldon Fogelman Literary Agency?

I was very lucky in that a friend happened to have attended the same undergraduate university as SFA agent Amy Stern. One day my friend heard through their alumni network that the agency was looking to hire a temp assistant, and she knew I was looking for a job in children’s book publishing, so she recommended me for the position. Half a year of temping turned into an offer to stay on indefinitely, and the rest is history.

Do you work from home or go into the office?

Mostly from home! We actually were almost fully remote even before the pandemic hit.

What made you choose to get your B.A. in Honors Creative Writing & Literature with a minor in Global Media Studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor?

I really love stories! In particular, I’ve always been intrigued by the mechanics of storytelling and how every decision, no matter how small, contributes to the bigger picture. In particular, I grew up obsessed with both books and movies, so getting to spend my college years writing and reading (for my concentration in Creative Writing & Literature) and watching movies/TV (for my minor in Global Media Studies, which was basically a minor in international film and television) felt like an absolute gift.

Going to the UK to receive certificates from the St Peter’s College, Oxford University Summer School and the Columbia Publishing Course UK sounds exciting. Can you tell us about your time in the UK?

Oh, studying abroad both times was wonderful! Both programs took place at colleges at Oxford University, which is absurdly rich in history and culture. It’s the kind of place where you never run out of incredible things to discover, from the museums, to the Bodleian library, to the colleges themselves. My undergraduate study abroad program through St Peter’s College was actually housed at Magdalen College, and focused on the Inklings of Oxford. As someone who was obsessed with Narnia as a kid, it was magical to get to study the works of C.S. Lewis in the place where he actually lived and wrote. Inevitably, I came out of that summer desperately in love with Oxford, so I was ecstatic when I got to return for the Columbia Publishing Course UK, which was an overview of international book publishing housed at Exeter College. I learned a ton and made lifelong friends at both programs—including the friend who recommended me for my job, actually!

Do you have a limit on number of clients you will represent?

Because I’m not only a literary agent, but also the foreign rights manager (amongst other duties) at SFA, I want to keep my list small in order to make sure I can give each client the time and attention they deserve.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

My sensibilities kind of split in two directions on this one. On one hand, I would love to see more just really fun adventure stories and rom-coms in my inbox. The world’s a particularly dark place right now and I think we could all use a little light. On the other hand, the past couple years have been ones of unprecedented loss, and I am definitely interested in seeing stories that tackle grief in an authentic and relatable way.

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

I definitely lean more towards commercial works, although I think my ideal is more commercial plotting with literary-leaning writing.

What do you like to see in a submission?

Honestly, the thing I like most is authors who take the time and effort to follow our submission guidelines. It streamlines the process of reviewing their submission, which means we can make sure we give their work the time and consideration it deserves.

How important is the query letter?

The query letter isn’t *not* important, per say, but it’s definitely not the most important part of a submission package, for me. I often will just skim the query before heading over to read the sample pages. If those show potential, I’ll then read the synopsis. And if that seems tight too, then finally I’ll loop back around to the query to actually read it all the way through, mainly to get a sense of the author’s background and personality and what they’re looking for from an agent.

Would you have a sample of a good query letter or a link to one you saw on the Internet that would help writers?

There are so many examples of great query letters online, but one I think is particularly solid is the query for NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis, which is one of the letters I studied when learning about the querying process: https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/successful-queries-agent-adriann-ranta-and-not-a-drop-to-drink

Do you have any tips on how to find comps to use in a submission query letter?

What I really love to see with comp titles is specificity. Maybe the author believes their book has a similar use of voice to X or fast-paced action scenes reminiscent of Y. A comp title doesn’t necessarily need to be something that overall is similar to the manuscript; it just needs to have that one key thing in common. So, I recommend authors look at the media they love (books, of course, along with short stories, movies, TV, etc.) and figure out specific ways their book maps onto those things. (Also, I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan, and since I mentioned on my MSWL page that I’d love to see authors comp their submissions to Taylor Swift songs, I’ve gotten some really fun and creative comps that tell me a ton about the projects in my inbox. So, definitely look out to see if agents have specific interests or favorite properties you can utilize for coming up with comps.)

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

The biggest thing, at the end of the day, is going to be strong writing! If your prose is tight and clean, with a good handle on voice, I will almost always ask to see more.

Will you let people know if you are not interested in their submission?

While I know it’s tough for writers, we unfortunately read so many queries every day, on top of our responsibilities to existing agency clients, there’s just no way to respond to every submission. But please know we do consider every single one that comes in and we do our best to send personalized rejections when possible.

After you request more, how long do you think it will take to respond?

We’ve had a number of promising projects come in recently, so I’m currently looking at a several month turnaround time.

BELOW ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MAY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “MAY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2022 May  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

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

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

DEADLINE: MAY 20TH. – noon EST

RESULTS: MAY 27TH.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART TWO INTERVIEW WITH JULIA.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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