Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 28, 2015

Free Fall Friday – Results


Pull up a chair, brew a little tea, and read this month’s four first pages drawn for review to illustrator Martha Aviles’ cute little girl. She’s waiting to listen. Check back tomorrow to see more fun illustrations from Martha and get to read about her process.


Jazmyn, Jalen, and Basketball by Gloria Jean Berry (Picture Book)


Usually, Jazmyn loved to hear that sound, especially when her big brother Jalen played

basketball—but not today!

She wasn’t even excited anymore about starting kindergarten.   Jalen was going off to

begin high school at Achievement Academy.

No more funny jokes. No more basketball coach.

She wanted to play like the big girls in the neighborhood and on television.

“Jazz, let me see you dribble,” shouted Jalen.

After passing her the ball, his mouth flew open.

Jazmyn dropped it! She hardly ever did that.

She snatched up the ball and ran around slapping it with her palm. Jalen’s eyes bulged.

Jazmyn didn’t use her fingertips or lift her chin as Jalen taught her.

“What’s wrong?” asked Jazmyn.

“Let’s take a break,” Jalen responded.

“Why shouldn’t you tell an egg a joke?”

Jazmyn thought awhile.   Laughing, Jalen said, “Because it might crack up!”

Jazmyn giggled; then frowned.

“Why are you acting SO strange?” he asked.



This is a solid concept – the idea of an older sibling growing up and not being around as much – and I love sibling stories. The use of basketball as a bonding point and a reason for his absence really works. It starts off strong, with wonderful specifics (I can visualize how the art might look!). I’d like to see more of a lead in to the scene of Jazmyn and Jalen playing basketball, to separate from the setup of the story, and a transition to the telling of the joke. I’d want to read more of Jazmyn and Jalen’s story and I’d definitely want to see what the takeaway ends up being.


CHRYSALIS  by Donna Maloy   (Young Adult)

London. 1829.

“Sally Naught. There y’are, luv.” Tolly grinned and threw his arms wide.

“I’m not your love.” I ducked under his elbow and sped up as I made my way home through Beetledung Alley. “Now go away. You’re drunk as an admiral.”

“That I am.” He nodded cheerfully. “An’ you’re so pretty. Come and give us a kiss, Sally. I got ye a present, right here.”

He fell into me then, shoving me up against wall. At first I thought he’d stumbled. But then he started tearing at my bodice and I knew he meant to have a go at ruining me, right there in front of the Dancing Pig.

I pushed and wheedled a while. Then I tried screaming. Of course everyone in the alley was either deaf or suddenly visiting somewhere else. So I stuck him.

But my pricker was cheaply made and Tolly’s arm was thick as a tree. With a horrifying snap, my blade broke off before it hit bone. All that remained was the blood-slick handle, as useless as a cannon without balls. I’d be lucky if he bled enough to pass out. But I’m neither lucky nor skilled at being on my own. Putting a hole in Tolly’s meat hadn’t soured his lust, only made him angry.

Barely a glimmer of moonlight made it past the sagging tenant rooms, staircases and laundry lines that overhung the alley. Even so, when he fisted his paws around my throat, stars began to pop out in front of my eyes. First one, then a thousand. All of ‘em shimmering to the roar of Hell in my ears.

Scratching and kicking weren’t working. But I couldn’t—wouldn’t—simply hang there from Tolly’s fist and die. Not now. Milady was gone and I finally had chances, choices. Yet what could I do quick enough to make a difference with only a ruined knife handle?

I swung again as hard as I could, aiming for his squinty eyes. He saw the blow coming and turned his head, but that proved to be his undoing. I slammed my five inches of horn hard against his neck, right below his fat ugly ear. There must’ve been some bit of blade still attached, because I saw a splash of hot blood. With a last bellow, he let go, clapped a hand to his sliced-up neck, and ran for his mam.

In truth, I had no idea where he’d run to and didn’t care. I slid down the nearest garbage-spattered wall and concentrated on sucking in enough air to make those sham stars disappear.


CHRYSALIS by Donna Maloy   

It’s tough to open with a specific name and slang being used as dialogue. I admire the jump into action here, but I’d like a little more setup of who it is we are seeing the world through. There is some lovely imagery and it seems like the beginning of an interesting tale. I’m not fully convinced by the voice, though, and the action is a bit unclear and hard to follow in the middle paragraphs (Where did the knife come from? Etc). I’d be interested to see where the story goes, because the main character seems fierce!


First Kiss Club by Natasha Wing (Middle Grade)

You wouldn’t think French fries would be the reason why five girls became best friends, but it’s true.

Since I’m the leader in the group, I’ll tell you how it happened so that you don’t get five different stories. ‘Cause Richelle would say that if it weren’t for her knowing about the free French fries, we five might not have met. And Krista would say that the name we came up with for our group was all her idea. And Miracle would be overly dramatic reinacting how Jane splatted ketchup everywhere. And Jane. Well, you’d have to ask her a million questions to pull the story out of her. So I, Emily, am going to tell the story of how five very awesome girls met.

It happened three summers ago at Paugusset Club. We call it Paugy, as in Paw-gee, because it’s easier. It’s this pool and tennis club named after American Indians who used to live in the woods here in Orange, Connecticut. Only they spelled it with two ts. Anyway, my family belongs to Paugy because it’s right down the street so I can walk there.

My neighbor, Richelle, belongs to the club, too. Her dad joined after her parents divorced so Richelle would have a place to go in the summer when she visited. She lives with her mom in New York City during school. Richelle doesn’t play tennis or swim or dive, but she’s into hanging out at the snack bar. It’s the best viewing area. You can see the pool and the tennis courts from there.

Okay, so it was free French fry day at the snack bar. Richelle and I – we were ten then – each got a large order of fries and sat down at a picnic table right near the snack bar so we could check out what everyone was ordering. We were dousing our fries in ketchup and this girl sits down with us with a large order of free fries.


FIRST KISS CLUB by Natasha Wing 

I’m really digging this first page (I could be biased –I love french fries). It has a solid first line that pulls me in, and the MS immediately identifies the familiar qualities of this group of characters (a pack of young girl friends). It’s light with a fun sense of humor, and has a definite voice and sense of storytelling. There’s a nice setup of setting, and the brief snippet of characterization here is well done. I’m reminded of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I would definitely keep reading this one! I’m intrigued by the title, for sure.


MOLDILOCKS and the THREE SCARES by Lynne Marie Pisano, PB / 665 Wds

Once upon a time, lived three Scares: Papa Scare [Frankenstein], Mama Scare [Mummy], and Baby Scare [Vampire].

Late one night Papa Scare worked in the lab, Mama Scare cut finger sandwiches, and Baby Scare swept bats from the belfry.

“I haven’t had a playmate for 100 years,” whined Baby Scare.

“I haven’t had a girl around for 1,000 years,” complained Mama Scare.

“I haven’t had a good scare for a long time,” grumbled Papa Scare.

“All we can do is wish,” said Mama Scare, “and eat some dis-comfort food.” She ladled out Alpha-bat Soup with a dollop of Monster Mashed Potatoes into…a huge cauldron for Papa Scare, a middle-sized cauldron for herself, and an itty-bitty cauldron for Baby Scare.

“This soup’s so hot, I’m getting a headache,” said Papa Scare, rubbing his bolts.

“This soup’s so hot, I’m unravelling,” said Mama Scare, tucking in a strip.

“This soup’s so hot, it’s giving me a pain in the neck,” said Baby Scare, flashing his fangs [Art Note: Showing Red Teeth].

“Let’s take Plasma [Bloodhound] for a walk while it cools,” suggested Papa Scare.

“The Crypt-Kicker 5 are playing tonight,” said Mama Scare, putting on her wrap. “I dig their sound.”

“I dig graves,” said Baby Scare, grabbing a shovel.

So, the three Scares and Plasma creeped out.

Beneath a tombstone, Moldilocks [Art: Wearing a Braincoat] woke from a dead sleep. Hungry, she set out to find someone to eat. [Art: Her pet Zombee flies around her throughout the story.]



The title throws me off a bit right away, because I’m wondering if Moldilocks is made up of actual mold. There is a typo in the first sentence (“there” is missing) and that can be an instant turnoff – always proofread twice! I like the idea of this Halloween/spooky version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but I don’t think the puns are fully working for me (for example, I don’t know if “dis-comfort food” would make sense to kids). There are some cute details that I enjoy (“rubbing his bolts”, “tucking in a strip”, “cut finger sandwiches”) that I’d like to see more of! By the end of this first page, though, I’m still unsure what Moldilocks is, and I feel bogged down in details without enough idea of what the plot is (other than the traditional tale).


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 27, 2015

Agent Looking to Build List

DongWon Song

DongWon Song – Agent at Howard Morhaim Literary

DongWon Song is a literary Agent at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. He was formerly an editor at Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. There, he launched multiple New York Times bestselling series, including FEED by Mira Grant and LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey. He was the first hire at a publishing startup, Zola Books, and while there oversaw content and eventually became the head of product for the ecommerce and ebook apps.

He is a graduate of Duke University with a BA in English and Economics.

He is looking for science fiction and fantasy – especially epic fantasy or high fantasy for both adults and teens. He is also interested in non-fiction especially food writing, science, and pop-culture.

What should I include with my submission?

For fiction, we like to see a concise cover letter and three sample chapters – the first three. For non-fiction, please send a full proposal. Attachments are fine.

I haven’t heard from you in a while, what should I do?

Be patient. We do try to respond to everyone, but sometimes it can take a little while. We aim to respond to queries in 6 to 8 weeks. Please don’t call to ask.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 26, 2015

Supporting Characters


Erika Wassall – The New Jersey Farm Scribe

Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here, with the first of a series of posts on Supporting Characters:

Supporting Characters – The Comic Relief

I wanted to touch on the importance, and some of the struggles with writing supporting characters. And instead of shoving it all into one post, I decided to do a few posts, each focusing on a specific type of character.

Sometimes, the idea for a story is so focused around “the idea” that the layering of additional characters and arcs of interest can get lost. So let’s talk about a few characters that can help to bring a sense of completion to any story, whether it’s a picture book or a young adult novel.

Let’s start with a definition:

Actually, scratch that. The official definition was much too full of words like “interposition of a comic episode” and “relief from emotional tension” to be helpful.

(Personally, I’ve never understood how the definition of a word is allowed to have variations of the same word in it. How is that helpful?)

But it did bring up an interesting point. Does comic relief remove us from emotional tension? Or does it sometimes feed into it? Is it purely to make us laugh?

The comic relief does more than check the box marked “funny”. They can bring a few important literary aspects to the table.

Genuine Relief and Reprieve

Intense stories bring us to our emotional knees, leaving us achingly vulnerable. This is the power of literature. These are the moments, the build-ups and the characters we remember. But at the same time, a balance must be struck or else the page turning becomes… well, exhausting.

The comic relief makes us smile, perhaps relieving some of the pent up anticipation or giving the reader a moment to simply smile, feeding a rush of fresh oxygen into the scene.

Lowering the Guard

On the opposite side of the coin, the comic relief can also intensify moments by creating a false sense of security. Ever read a plot arc that is TOO linear and predictable? Building up to the climax calls for a dramatic jump, a sense of sudden-ness that can be lost if it’s been steadily building for pages. Sometimes a few moments of lighthearted relief is just enough to give the next “big moment” an air of surprise.

The Curiously Intelligent Fool

The simplest characters can have a heavy significance under the surface. This was a powerful tool that Shakespeare used, such as The Porter in Macbeth or the aptly named “The Fool” in King Lear.

These characters may have an air of silliness, or may seem like half-wits, but their simplicity also gives them a sense of clarity. This type of fool can play on sarcasm, point out obvious flaws or the opposite side of the coin that the main character may not have seen.

Comic relief can be a powerful tool for foreshadowing or for reminding readers of concepts or character flaws the main character they try to push aside or deny. The “relief” in this sense, is that the character shows a fresh look at an idea, they revolve around different perspectives and keep the story, character or scene from being too one-sided.

Often, it is this type of character who speaks the truth in a way that no one else can.

By developing comic relief characters into more than just one-liners or funny habits we throw in when things get too intense, we allow our stories to come to life in multiple dimensions.

Laughter is not always silly. It’s a powerful literary tool that can wield great force and direction of any story.

So while Merriam-Webster may call it merely “humor” or “to interrupt intense tragedy”, it has much deeper connotations than any short set of words can give it. After all, we want to present a sense of reality, and laughter of all kinds, is something we all naturally seek out.

And our manuscripts are worth it!


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 25, 2015

Illustrators: New Opportunity




Have teamed up to help illustrators hone their illustration portfolios

For the next few months illustrators can submit two consecutive story illustrations for critique by CATugeau Agency. Each Sunday one illustrator will be chosen and their two 2 SEQUENTIAL illustrations – not just 2 pages of illustrations with the SAME “story/characters‎” will be featured and discussed.

If you do not have an agent and would like to be featured and hear what you should do or how it could be tweaked to help you sell your work, then please send Two SEQUENTIAL illustrations – not just 2 pages of illustrations, but two with the SAME “story/characters‎” to: Kathy.temean (at) Illustrations should be at least 500 pixels wide. Please put ILLUSTRATOR PORTFOLIO in the subject area and include a blurb about you that I can use to introduce you to everyone.


If everyone likes this we will continue until the end of the year.

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATORS: Remember I am always looking for illustrations that I can use with the articles I post. Send to: Kathy.temean (at) Put ILLUSTRATION FOR BLOG in the subject area. Remember all illustration need to be 500 pixels wide. Include a blurb about yourself, too.


Love this illustration by Priscilla Burris, who is represented by Catugeau Agency.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 24, 2015

Three Book Lists

The White House announced President Obama’s summer vacation reading list. As USA Today reminded us, the Lahiri and Salter novels were part of his 2013 Christmas book shopping spree:

All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
All That Is, by James Salter
Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow
Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Most Anticipated Children’s and YA Books of Fall 2015 reported from Publishers Weekly

Picture Books


The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, illus. by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, Aug.) – Daywalt and Jeffers’s The Day the Crayons Quit has been a stalwart on bestseller lists since it was published in 2013. This very funny follow-up sees the crayons writing postcards to their young owner after being left out of town on vacation, lost within the sofa, or otherwise abused.


The Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood and Don Wood (HMH, Sept.) – More than 30 years after the publication of bedtime favorite The Napping House, this husband-and-wife team takes readers back to a dwelling, where a certain granny, boy, dog, and cat are having trouble falling asleep under the light of an enormous moon.


Happy! by Pharrell Williams (Putnam, Oct.) – “Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.” Hmm, could a picture book adaptation of Williams’s chart-topping pop song essentially turn out to be a 21st-century version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It?” Readers can find out come October.


Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter, Oct.) – The Steads made a name for themselves with the Caldecott Medal–winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee and have been accumulating accolades ever since. Their latest tells of a boy who creates a pair of protector-companions as he adjusts to his new home.


Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illus. by Christian Robinson (Chronicle, Aug.) – Who says ghosts don’t have feelings? Not Barnett and Robinson, whose “ghost story” is alternately funny, sad, and sweet as a lonesome spirit named Leo tries to make a connection that doesn’t leave the other party fleeing in terror.

Middle Grade


Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel and Friends, Sept.) – Applegate is back with her first middle-grade novel since The One and Only Ivan, which won the 2013 Newbery Medal. In this equally sensitive story, fifth-grader Jackson worries that the reappearance of his childhood imaginary friend portends the return of problems for his family, too.



Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney (Abrams/Amulet, Nov.) – With more than 150 million copies in print, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is something of a global juggernaut, and this 10th entry in the series will be published simultaneously in 90 countries on November 3.



Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Random/Lamb, Aug.) – Stead returns to the Manhattan environs of her Newbery Medal–winning When You Reach Me as she explores the entwined and sometimes precarious friendships among a group of seventh-graders, shifting smoothly and perceptively between multiple points of view.



The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion, Oct.) – Having delved into Greek and Egyptian mythology in his Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and Kane Chronicles series, Riordan moves on to Norse legends in this first book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. Riordan’s fans should be ecstatic; trolls and frost giants, less so.


The Marvels by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, Sept.) – A shipwreck, the world of London theater, a home meticulously maintained as it would have existed in the 18th-century, and the magic of storytelling combine in Selznick’s latest, a full 500 pages of which consist solely of his intricately detailed pencil drawings.


Young Adult


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin, Sept.) – Rowell netted a substantial young adult (and adult) following with her YA novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Now she returns to the world of Fangirl—or, more specifically, the Harry Potteresque fantasyland that figured prominently in that book.



Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (Little, Brown, Aug.) – Three years after The Diviners, Bray takes readers back to her eerie version of Jazz Age New York City, where the bootleg gin flows freely, psychic “Diviners” are a bona fide craze—and people are succumbing to their dreams. Permanently.



Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (Quirk, Sept.) – Riggs brings to a close the series that began in 2011 with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, stories filled with monsters and children with unusual talents. Fans needn’t despair, though—the Tim Burton–directed film version of Miss Peregrine is slated to arrive in March.



The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (HarperTeen, Oct.) – Ness turns his eye on paranormal tropes and conventions as he skewers the idea of “Chosen One” heroes, focusing instead on the kids just trying to live a normal life in the background—Buffy and Bella’s ordinary, mortal classmates in Sunnydale and Forks, essentially.



Winter by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel and Friends, Nov.) – Now that Meyer has worked her way through futuristic retellings of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, she wraps up her Lunar Chronicles series this fall. Drawing from Snow White, Meyer unites the heroines from her previous books as they attempt to take on Queen Levana once and for all.


The Center for Fiction announced seven novels nominated for its annual First Novel Prize:

After the Parade by Lori Ostlund (Scribner)
Against the Country by Ben Metcalf (Random House)
Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam (Penguin)
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Little, Brown)
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press)
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus (Farrar, Straus)

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 23, 2015

No Fee Essay Contest – The Peyton Prize

The Payton James Freeman Essay Prize – “The Payton Prize”

Ends on 9/1/2015

$500, Publication, and a public reading and talk at Drake University

The Freeman Family and the Drake University Department of English invite you to submit outstanding unpublished non-fiction essays of up to 3500 words on the subject [ THE STUPID LITTLE THING THAT SAVED ME ].

Students and faculty of Drake University will read all entries and choose the finalists. The winner will be selected by final judge Emily Rapp.

The winner will be awarded $500, published in The Rumpus, and brought to Drake University in February 2016 to read from the winning essay and speak at a public event.

The first annual Payton Prize was won by Tammy Delatorre, whose essay Out of the Swollen Sea was selected by Cheryl Strayed.

There is no fee.

Payton James Freeman was a bright, loving child whose ability to move — even to smile — was stolen by a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Diagnosed as an infant, Payton was expected to live perhaps six months. Instead he fought for five and a half years as his parents worked with doctors and scientists, fundraising in hopes of a cure. SMA ultimately took his life, but his story lives on in all those who continue striving against uncountable odds, and who struggle to put life’s most complex and trying events into words.

SMA is the #1 genetic killer of children under age two. The Freeman Family would like you to learn about SMA and remember Payton as you submit your essays and as we read and celebrate the winning essay.

Submit one essay of up to 3500 words via Submittable. Deadline September 1, 2015. Winner and finalists will be announced in December 2015.

Authors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must agree to attend and participate in the reading at Drake University in February 2016 to receive the award. Current students and employees of Drake University, The Rumpus, and/or Emily Rapp are ineligible for the award.

Use the link to submit:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 22, 2015

Illustrator Saturday – Ellen Beier


Book Illustrator Eleen Beier

Ellen Beier started drawing as a small child at the side of her artist grandmother. Ellen says, “We’d take the train from her Brooklyn house to Coney Island Beach, to sketch the sleeping sunbathers. After architecture study (Cornell) and art courses in London, I graduated (BFA) from California College of the Arts.”

In London, a friend showed me Arthur Rackham’s books and an early ‘Alice’ illustrated by Tenniel. Working at the time as an architectural draftsperson, I filled the margins of my blueprints with fairy tale sketches.”

In Hamburg, Germany, where I lived 1987-97, I began my picture book career with ‘Mrs. Peachtree and the 8th Avenue Cat’ by Erica Silverman, ‘The Blue Hill Meadows’ by Cynthia Rylant and a Mrs. Peachtree sequel. Other books include ‘The 18 Penny Goose,’ ‘The Promise Quilt’ by Candice Ransom, an adaptation of ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ and Andrew Clements’ Pets to the Rescue nonfiction series. In 2011 ‘The Christmas Coat: Memories of my Sioux Childhood’ by Native American author Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, drawn from her childhood winter in 1945, won several major awards. I just finished illustrating an abridged version of ‘Les Miserables.'”

Here’s Ellen Discussing her process:

For the book that I have just completed, Les Miserables, the text was divided up into chapters, with 8-9 images per chapter. Part of my process was to read the original Les Miserables—as a source for details and background. (The abridged text that I was illustrating fairly closely followed the original.) After reading, I sketched out thumbnails on tracing paper for the chapter (about 1.5”x1”):


I used many sources for reference, including library books and images from the internet. For this particular image, I found a beautiful etching of a 19th-century French street, accompanied with a text that mentioned this etching had been copied from an earlier painting … I decided to continue the tradition and use it as a basis for my illustration, Chapter 2, image 5, of “He fled from the bishop’s house and the town as fast as he could,” referring to Jean Valjean:

2france city street

I also used sources from earlier illustrated renditions of Jean Valjean:


I also found images on the internet of stormy skies, to enhance the mood:


My b/w sketch looked like this:


The thumbnail sketch had been scanned into Photoshop, enlarged, sketched over, rescanned and tweaked and then submitted as above. Once the sketch was approved, I transferred it using pencil on a lightbox to a piece of Arches 140 lb cp watercolor paper, adding an 1/8” for bleed. Then I placed the paper on a 3/16 birch-plywood board, a little larger than the paper, wet the back of the paper, allowed to absorb the water, then turned over and stapled down with a staple-gun. (Generally I do this all together, when all the sketches are approved, I use the lightbox for all and then stretch all).
The next step is my favorite: painting with watercolors, pushing the paint around on the surface of the paper until it tells the story in the text:


Then I scan the image into Photoshop again, do any tweaking necessary, and submit to the publisher online.


How long have you been illustrating?

I started illustrating as child. The first drawing I did was at Coney Island Beach alongside my grandmother – she was a sculptor and painter, and always carried a sketchbook and pens. I spent some long periods with her from the age of three—she gave me my own sketchbook—and I filled it with drawings of people on the beach. I lost that sketchbook later on but I never stopped drawing.


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

The first paintings for which I was paid told the story of ducks, ducklings, a wise old owl and a field of flowers—commissioned for a slide show to promote the work of Dr. Ben Feingold, the allergist whose groundbreaking research in the mid-70s linked food additives with hyperactivity in children. (The first drawing for which I was paid was for a wine label: a sketch of the fox terrier and the gramophone—”His Master’s Choice”—not Voice—for a private vintage!)

Christmas coat

How did you end up taking art courses in London?

I started college as an architecture student at Cornell and left in the third year to study in London. I felt my skills were in drawing, not design, and transitioned in London from architecture to art—drawing, painting, photography. My best education in those days was at the British Museum, where I wandered the halls often.


What made you want to attend California College of the Arts?

I was fortunate enough to stay three years in London, because officially I was still on a “matriculation” visa for architectural studies. During the third year I spent some time crouched in a musty, dark, wood-paneled room at University College, London where college catalogs lined the walls, including those from U.S. art schools. From London I sent applications to several schools in the California Bay Area, and chose CCA when I arrived.



What did you study there?

My classes at CCA (it was California College of Arts and Crafts then) were a mix of drawing, printmaking, and graphic design. In an illustration class I completed my first series of paintings for a children’s story: a girl who follows a (rather single-minded?) snail, to destinations that actually closely resemble the magnificent California outdoors I was discovering then for the first time.


Do you feel College helped develop your style?

My style has developed from years and years of using the tools of brush, paper and watercolors, primarily. Occasionally in the past I used some colored pencil, liquid acrylic, or even some pastel on top of the watercolor. I was really only in college for a short time—although I still use watercolor, both my tools/materials and the way I use those tools has changed significantly over time.

fried mitten

What inspired you to study architecture study at Cornell?

When I was a child, my family spent frequent weekends walking through half-built houses, even though we’d already moved into our own house in a suburb of New York City when I was four. I had started drawing as a toddler by the side of my artist grandmother, and those drawings—of people at first—soon included their domiciles, complete with furnishings and the latest cars. I drew each family, their home and then made up stories in my head about them. By the time I was in high school, my house designs had become quite complex, and then I found myself pursuing architecture. However, I knew that my passion was the drawing. I worked for several architects, both in my home town and in London, while I was studying—however my blueprints often ended up covered with illustrated vignettes from my hand.


Did you take a job using your talent for architecture after you got out of school?

After graduating CCAC, BFA in Design I worked in paste-up/layout for various magazines in the Bay Area, first on staff and then freelance. After a few years I was entirely freelance, doing layout and illustration for magazines, advertising agencies and other clients. My first children’s illustration was for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Educational in San Francisco, where I worked with the staff on a Social Studies program for several years before they moved to Orlando.

walking to school

How did you end up spending ten years in Germany?

During my stay in London, I traveled with my musician housemates to participate in the magnificent Festival of Fools, Amsterdam 1975. While there, as support crew for some of the performers, I met Stuart Curtis, woodwind player with the Salt Lake Mime Troupe, an American performance troupe whose members have become my lifelong friends.


In 1987 I moved to Hamburg, Germany where Stu held the woodwinds chair in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Cats,” and later we married and had our son, Sam. Soon after I arrived in Hamburg, an American children’s book agent, with whom I’d worked occasionally, offered to represent me. Soon after, I was illustrating early biographies, such as Beethoven, Einstein, John Lennon and many others. Researching biographies set in Germany was a bonus—the Beatle’s first club gigs were located right on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, but I was thrilled to travel to Bonn to visit Beethoven’s home, sketching on the spot.

We returned to the U.S. in 1997 and settled in Corvallis, Oregon, in the lovely Willamette Valley, where I live now.


Do you feel the market is different in the US when you compare it to Germany?

I never worked for German clients but I know that for my German friends, the market was more difficult to break into, and harder to survive in. Of course there were fewer publishers to work with, especially in the children’s book market. One lovely advantage, however, was the annual visit to the Bologna Book Fair, which I was so fortunate to attend several times. Before we started driving down there and combining it with a spring ski trip (glorious!), we’d get on the train at midnight in Hamburg, and arrive in Bologna the next morning. I met some of my favorite illustrators there—Roberto Innocenti, Lisbeth Zwerger, Jerry Pinkney, Etienne Delessert, Michael Foreman, Tony Ross, Alan Marks … actually when I met Lisbeth Zwerger at first I opened my mouth to ask a question and no sound came out! But then later I was able to “chat” with her and others, about paper, ink and pens. That is an afternoon I will never forget!


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

When I lived in London I started doing sketches based on children’s literature—I was not one of those kids whose parents read fairy-tales to us before bed, however in London one of my British friends would sit and read aloud Alice in Wonderland and other stories by Lewis Carroll—I remember Sylvie and Bruno was a favorite. Another friend, one of several Scottish housemates whose affinity for the fairy-folk was palpable, gave me his treasured childhood book of fairy-tales to keep. My interest in children’s stories started there.

man walking

How did you get the contract to illustrate ‘Mrs. Peachtree and the 8th Avenue Cat’ ?

While I lived in Hamburg, my agent arranged the contract for “Mrs. Peachtree and the 8th Avenue Cat,” written by Erica Silverman—my first 32-page picture book. I based the character of Mrs. P loosely on my own grandmother, however I could not picture her dress pattern—light, dark, somber, playful? I had finished all the paintings but the dress was blank! I called my editor from Germany – it was night in Hamburg, afternoon in NYC, and she called the author on the west coast where it was late morning … the author wrote out a perfect paragraph of adjectives to describe Mrs. P’s taste in fashion, faxed it to the editor who called and recited it to me. The next day I was able to finish the paintings.


What other noteworthy picture books followed Mrs. Peachtree?

Mrs. Peachtree’s Bicycle was a sequel, followed by The Blue Hill Meadows by Cynthia Rylant, about one Appalachian family during the four seasons of one year; then, a picture book version of Anne of Green Gables by M. C. Helldorfer and The Promise Quilt by Candice F. Ransom. The Promise Quilt is a beautifully written tale of the Civil War told from the point of view of a young girl whose father does not return from fighting for the South.


How did “The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood” with Holiday House come your way?

The art director at Holiday House, Claire Counihan, was familiar with my work for several years, and had said to me that one day she would find the perfect manuscript for me. That was, indeed, The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. The author, who had written a short story version of this text many years earlier, and included it in her amazing autobiography Completing the Circle (1995), had also written many books for children about Native American life. This story particularly was drawn from her childhood on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota during one winter in the mid-20th century. Before illustrating this book, I read as much literature as I could—poetry, novels, biographies— by Virginia and other Native American authors, particularly of the Lakota Sioux. The Christmas Coat won several major awards, including the Smithsonian and American Indian Library Association Best Picture books. I have heard from a number of Native American readers that they see themselves in that book, and that is the best reward.

christmas tree

How Many picture books have you illustrated?

Thirty books all together, 15 of them picture books. The others are chapter books, ready-to-reads, middle-grade fiction, etc.

Blue Hill_front cover_web

Do you illustrate full time?

I have been illustrating full time, however I am about to embark upon a new chapter in my career: a few years ago I returned to university and earned a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. For my thesis I created a syllabus of “the history and future of books.” I will start teaching book history at Oregon State University this fall.


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

I have several unfinished manuscripts, which I’d like to finish and illustrate. I have even more great ideas! Too many things, not enough time.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how did you connect. If not, would you like to find an agent?

I do not have an agent at the moment—luckily, I have been contacted directly by clients who found me online for many years and have been given great assignments. Having just completed a huge project, I have a vision of where I want my work to go—if I met an agent who shared that vision—well that would be a worthwhile partnership. My favorite genre of book to illustrate is historical—I hope to illustrate more rich texts in the future.


Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to that?

I worked with one self-published author, J. P. Curington, on a book titled Where Are My Animals (2007). We worked well together, she offered me a reasonable fee, and we made what I believe is a beautiful book, produced by Amazon’s Create Space and available on-demand. The project was limited in distribution, which can be a problem with self-publishing; however it was the first step in a series of successful entrepreneurial pursuits by the author.

orange hair

Do you have a favorite medium you use?

I use pencil (graphite) and watercolor on watercolor paper.

Christmas eve

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I use a vast assortment of research images—some photos I take myself, some from library books, some from my own picture collection, and from the internet. For many years I used to pose people—all my neighbors, family and friends—for my characters, however now I draw figures out of my head, occasionally taking an odd pose and looking in the mirror.

Virginia coat

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I use Photoshop to scan and tweak my sketches (grayscale)—and later to scan and minimally tweak my finishes (in color). The job I have just completed—over 250 illustrations for an online version of Les Miserables for a Korean publisher—was submitted online as well, so in other words the final versions of these images are not paint on paper, even though they were created on paper. The book is released serially—kind of a throwback to Dickens in the 19th century—and by subscription: another throwback as well as a new model of the book for today.

virginia storm

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

No – I do not have nor use a graphic tablet.


Do you do exhibits to market your art?

I have exhibited my work in the past—it was not for marketing purposes but rather to sell original illustrations or glicees.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

I have done many illustrations for the Carus magazines: Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, etc.


Do you have a studio in your house?

I work in a north-facing back (bedroom) studio in my house. It’s a smallish room but with a big window, high ceiling, big closet, and a bathroom off to the side. There is plenty of room for my drawing table, book shelves, assorted other tables and supplies. My computer and printers are in my living room, as well as an easel and flat files.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

I have several cork-boards in my studio covered with photos and other memorabilia, copies of paintings from my sketchbooks, copies of my son’s poetry from his childhood, items from favorite illustrators, etc. I also have sketchbooks: whenever I travel, or start a new illustration project, or a research project, I make a new sketchbook out of various kinds of papers, and bind it myself or have it ring-bound. Those notebooks are on shelves in my studio closet—so much fun to pull out and look at. I always tell young artists to carry a sketch book and some pencils just in case they have a chance to draw. Or even make time to draw.


What are you working on now?

For almost the past two years I have been illustrating Les Miserables for a South Korean publisher—an abridged, online version for middle-school children overseas. Producing such an enormous volume of work has been fantastic—of course few texts are as fine as Victor Hugo’s classic. The process resembled somewhat the production of a different kind of narrative such as a graphic novel, since there are multiple sequential images to express each action.

old woman2

My illustration work is presently on ( as well as several other sites (SCBWI, —yes, the internet opened doors for me in that I was found on these sites through images that I had uploaded there. My next marketing goal is a website to feature my illustrations for Les Miserables. Currently I am focused on preparing a wealth of fascinating material to share with students in my upcoming book history course—hopefully these two aspects of my work will merge in the future.

green hair

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

I work with professional grade watercolors on Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper, using a #1 and #000 squirrel mop brush, and several Cheap Joes round wc brushes: #2 and #000 for details. I use mostly Winsor Newton wc paints because I find these have the fewest mold issues—important in this heat! The squirrel mop brushes are remarkable in that they hold a ton of liquid yet come to a fine point. Sometimes I work on Fabriano papers as well. With pencil (graphite/mechanical) I draw (trace) on the light-table and stretch paper onto 3/16″ birch plywood boards that I have cut to various sizes, wet the back of the paper and staple on with a staple gun.


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

My advice to aspiring illustrators is: pinpoint a story that inspires you, and illustrate it in, say, five finished images. Pay attention to narrative, consistency of characters, and a solid degree of finish. Put yourself right inside the story to tell it. When you have completed that work to a degree of finish that is satisfying, choose another story, and do it even better. In this way you can build up a portfolio which will demonstrate your story-telling skills, and of which you can be proud.

black and white

Thank you Ellen for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.

To see more of Ellen’s work, visit her Web site,

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 21, 2015

Free Fall Friday – In The News


Hope everyone out there is taking some time to play, feel the sand between your toes, and have some fun. Only a month left to summer.

The above illustration was created by Diana Ting Delosh. She is an illustrator, a hand letterer, and a writer. She creates whimsical and elegant art, independently and by assignment. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday

The Wylie Agency is launching a new venture, The Wylie Agency España, with Cristóbal Pera overseeing the new unit, starting in September. Pera previously spent more than a decade at Penguin Random House Mexico, where he was most recently editorial director.

Quarto will launch a new children’s book imprint, Seagrass Press, in fall 2016, publishing 12-16 titles annually. Overseeing the imprint is Josalyn Moran, who most recently was vp, publishing at Albert Whitman and children’s publishing director at Chronicle Books.

At Scholastic, Rick DeMonico has been promoted to senior art director and Elizabeth Herzog has been promoted to art director, Nonfiction and Branches. Finally, Elizabeth Schaefer has joined Scholastic as editor, licensed publishing. She was most recently an associate editor at Disney Book Group.

Samantha Metzger has joined Simon & Schuster Children’s as subsidiary rights manager. Previously she worked in subsidiary rights for Macmillan Children’s.

Nicole Tourtelot will join DeFiore and Company as an agent. She was most recently an agent at Kuhn Projects.

Maya Ziv will join Dutton as executive editor on September 8. Previously she was a senior editor at HarperCollins.

Judy Heiblum is leaving Sterling Lord Literistic after eight years with the agency. She will be taking on freelance editorial and consulting work and may be reached at

At Maria Campbell Associates, Rachel Horowitz has been appointed senior scout for US children’s publishing. Also joining the company as senior scout is Annabelle Saks, working with Warner Bros Feature, WBTV, New Line, and Horizon.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 20, 2015

Agent Looking to Build List


Associate Agent Susan Miller – Donaghy Literary Group

Sue Miller comes to Donaghy Literary with enthusiasm and experience in the industry. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from York University in Toronto, as well as a certificate in publishing, from Ryerson University. Sue previously worked in children’s publishing with Scholastic Canada. Upon connecting with publisher, Fernanda Viveiros, of Fidalgo Books, she was asked to host the Luso Reading Vox series at Dundas West Fest in Toronto. After spending time with these authors, she realized that representing an author and their work is exactly where she wanted her publishing career to be.

Sue began her career with DLG as an intern before moving into the role of Associate Agent. Prior to joining DLG, Sue interned for Bree Ogden during her time at the D4EO agency. She dabbles in writing and has edited short stories for other writers. An admitted social media junkie, Sue is always interested in the latest platforms for networking and relationship building within the industry. This led her to complete her Digital Marketing Management certificate from the University of Toronto. When it comes to her genre preferences, Sue is partial to romance, young adult, new adult and adult contemporary novels.

Sue is seeking new and exciting voices as she begins to build her client list.

I am excited to discover diverse new author voices.

Susan’s Interests:
• YA – any sub genre (think Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Cynthia Hand, Stephanie Perkins, Colleen Hoover)
• Urban Fantasy (think Sandy Williams, Patricia Briggs, Karen Marie Moning)
• Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/ Science Fiction/ Dystopian – mash-ups (think Laini Taylor, Samantha Shannon, Pierce Brown, Andy Weir)
• Contemporary Romance (think Jamie McGuire, Rachel Gibson, Jay Crownover, K.A. Tucker, Colleen Hoover)

WISH list:
• YA or Contemporary romance – fun and smart (not silly) and/or heart breaking, with angst, romantic, sometimes dark
•YA contemporary, authentic voices representing urban life (think Treasure E. Blue), multicultural (example: Afro-Latino etc.), social change (think Heidi Durrow, R.J. Palacio)
•Literary & Commercial fiction that mashes genres together such as, The Night Circus
•Contemporary Romance with memorable characters that I’ll fondly refer to throughout my life!

    1. TIP: We respond to all queries and requested manuscripts, if you do not follow our guidelines your submission will not be responded to.
    2.  Do not send queries to any address other than the query email sub address listed on this page.
    3. TIP: Make sure that you add the name of the agent that you are querying in your email subject line.
    4. Do not query more than one agent with the same project, we often refer queries internally that might  be a better fit for the other agents list.
    5. TIP: Be patient, while we review your manuscript.  We work hard to meet our clients needs first and equally as hard to find the “gems” in our query and manuscript queues.  Waiting isn’t easy, but it is necessary.


1.  We only accept electronic submissions.
2.  Send ONE submission at a time.
3.  Review our agent pages to ensure we represent your genre.




 Place the following information in the email’s subject line:
 Query” followed by story title, genre and the of the agent that you are querying.



–  Place your query letter in the body of the email.
–  Query letter size/format – standard business letter.
–  Recommended Structure of query letter . . .
i.      Salutation by name – no “Dear agent” or “To whom it may concern.”
ii.     First paragraph – include book title, genre, and word count.
iii.    Next two paragraphs – tell us about your story. Details belong in
your synopsis.  This should just be a teaser with a hook.
iv.    One short paragraph with your “bio”.
v.     Your name and contact information. Also, let us know about your
writing, awards, credentials, education or other information
relevant to your chosen genre.


–  Paste a 1 or 2-page synopsis below the query letter.
*(Do NOT include your synopsis as an attachment to the email.)


–  Paste the first 10 pages of your double spaced manuscript below the synopsis.
*(Do NOT include partial manuscript as an attachment to the email.)

Send your completed query email to:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 19, 2015

Query Letters Analyzed

sharkThought you might be interested in reading this post from agent Janet Reid’s blog, Query Shark.  She does all writers a great service by commenting on query letters she receives. 

Below is a query letter for a thriller novel that she has analyzed. If you feel this was helpful, you should use the link below to read the other query letters she has analyzed. It could improve your skills in this area. 

Here it is:

Dear Query Shark:

Most people, when offered a new job, find the decision process fairly straightforward. Since Sandra Lee Johnson’s profession is killing people, her decision process is understandably more complex.

If this is a query for a book about whether to take a job, you’ve set the stakes pretty low, even if the job is assassin.

Approached by her former ex-Army lover, Sandra is given the opportunity to kill terrorists for her country. And not just kill them, but to do so in ways that are so horrific they will dissuade the others from continuing with their radical ways.

Illegal? Perhaps.  Effective? Probably.  Fun? Hell, yeah!

I’m as much in favor of kick ass, violent thrillers as the next shark, but I’m having a hard time with “fun.” This is one of those things that can work well in a book where you have time to meet the characters and appreciate their dark humor, or coping mechanisms. In a query, this a pretty brutal thing to read.

Sandra has a more immediate concern, however: survival. Someone now knows that she’s an assassin for hire.  Her primary objective is to find a way to protect herself.

Is she? I thought she’d been offered the job and was mulling it over (see paragraph one)

The non-governmental organization (NGO) who wants to hire her considers her to be the perfect candidate, largely because she can kill without remorse. Sociopathic tendencies are considered a positive when your job is to inflict terror.

This is set up, and we’re five paragraphs in to the query. Either this goes earlier, or comes out.

The NGO’s leader has told her that, regardless of her decision, her secret is safe. Sandra can’t afford to believe them, as much as she’d like to, even though she considers the job perfect for her.

Someone knows she’s an assassin? that’s what’s at stake?

To protect herself, she sets up a computer file outlining what she knows about the NGO. She then contacts an old friend, US Representative Pamela Calvert. Sandra knows that her former pal, who is just as callous as she is, owes her a favor.

Sandra explains her dilemma in vague and general terms. She then asks for her friend’s help, telling her she’ll send her the file if the NGO exposes her, or through a failsafe release process should they decide to remove their risk by killing her.

Sandra’s congressional friend agrees in principle with the NGO’s goals. She also realizes that exposing the organization could provide her with much-needed positive publicity for her upcoming Senate run. Accordingly, Representative Calvert sets out to find proof of the organization’s existence, uncaring of what such exposure would mean to Sandra. Sandra would love nothing more than to take the torture game back to the terrorists. At the same time, her primary goal of self-protection may have unfortunate consequences.

If Sandra doesn’t play her balancing act perfectly, she may end up destroying both her organization and herself. Then again, as one of Sandra’s new colleagues puts it: how can you have any fun without a little risk?

Sandra couldn’t agree more. Then again, it all depends on how you define the word ‘fun.’    Shock Force is a 92,000 word International thriller. Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is a mess. You’ve got way too much focus on a question that doesn’t matter: will she take the job. The book doesn’t work unless she does take the job, so leave all that stuff out of the query. Remember the Raymond Chandler quotes about kill your darlings. Here’s where you see that in action.

Focus on what matters: Sandra’s ugly job gets her killed unless…what? If she keeps the job a secret what good thing happens? What bad thing also happens? What’s her skin in the game so to speak?

Talk tomorrow,


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