Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 8, 2016

Book Giveaway: Sweet Tea

Wendy Lynn Decker has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with her latest book SWEET TEA.

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

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BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The fourth anniversary of Olivia’s daddy and John Lennon’s death is approaching. Like the shot heard ‘round the world, TV and radio stations keep the frenzy alive and recognize Lennon’s life, while Olivia’s mama remembers Daddy’s death. Instead of healing, Mama’s strange behavior keeps getting worse.

After viewing an afternoon talk show, Olivia discovers her mother might have more than a case of eccentricity–she may be mentally ill. When those fears are confirmed, Olivia is faced with more decisions than any sixteen-year-old should have to make. With no adult family members to turn to, she is forced to trust the only people who’ve offered help: one strange man and a friend her mother makes at the mental institution.

Facing the intricacies of her mother’s illness one minute and decisions about her relationship with her new boyfriend the next, Olivia finds that through faith and determination, she can conquer it all in this poignant story of love, intuition, compassion, and hope. Available on Amazon.

SWEET TEA’S JOURNEY:

Since it’s inception, SWEET TEA has taken many lumps, and not all were sugary. The novel actually had two previous titles before it made it to publication. Its first acknowledgment by the literary world occurred after the fiftieth query to a literary agent. Prior to that, I knew I was getting closer because my previous queries had been returned with handwritten notes of encouragement. I had learned this tidbit of information after attending a SCBWI workshop. And then came the day I nearly hung up on a call that I assumed was just another telemarketer using a New York City phone number. That day, the fiftieth agent reached out to me. Not a telemarketer, but an absolutely marvelous agent. The agent said he loved my manuscript, suggested a title change, a few revisions, and within three months my paper-baby sat on the desks of the big six.

As the weeks went by, the agent forwarded me several editorial letters of rejection, all having subjective merit, but he encouraged me not to despair. Then, several weeks later, my baby finally sat on the acquisition table of a well-known young adult publisher. But alas, like the actor who has all of the necessary elements for the role, yet doesn’t get it because another actor was a “better fit,” my hopes and dreams sunk and my first novel headed toward literary limbo.

My agent said, “Sadly, your manuscript has been shopped. Write something else.”

So, I did write something new and sent it to my agent as soon as it was finished. However, I soon learned that my great agent had gotten so great that he was promoted to Vice-President of the West Coast office of his literary agency. To his credit, he made many great book deals in his new position, but meanwhile my new manuscript fell to the wayside. In retrospect, the new work wasn’t exactly ready for submission, and today I’m grateful that it never moved.

Then, as many writers do when struggling to get published, I fell into a “woe is me” pity party for a good amount of time, and focused on reading instead of writing or submitting.  Though, my muse lured me back to the keyboard and I found myself in creative motion again.

Not long after, I discovered an independent, hybrid publisher who wanted to work with me, suggesting that jointly we could see my book to publication. I took the suggestion and immediately began working hard and fast to get my baby out there. But once again, my book stalled when I discovered that the publisher had made some unexpected and unfortunate choices that I could not accept.

At that point, I felt my only option was to self-publish, so I rolled up my sleeves once again, and went to work. I saw to it that my book was professionally edited and critiqued by many well-established people in the publishing industry. Marketing was difficult for me, but I had help along the way. Because I sing and entertain in adult/senior communities, much to my surprise my young adult book received more interest from the senior citizens I was entertaining before it ever made it to high school seniors. In addition, because mental illness is a major part of the book’s premise, I found myself speaking on that subject in addition to speaking about the craft of writing. This offered me a platform that I never realized would be a part of my or SWEET TEA’s journey

In October of 2015, SWEET TEA was picked up by Vox Dei, a small, independent publisher who gave it a fabulous new cover and one more round of edits. They then delivered it into the hands of readers once again. Unfortunately, eight months later the publisher folded! Despite yet another setback, I remained determined that my SWEET TEA would never turn bitter. Enter Serenity Books, LLC (my publishing company) to reclaim the rights to SWEET TEA.

As I said earlier, SWEET TEA has taken its share of lumps along the way. But perhaps it’s apropos, because after all, SWEET TEA is a book about survival, hope, coming-of-age, and a family dealing with difficult mental health issues. The novel was inspired by true events, and touches upon issues that many young adults deal with on a daily basis.  For that reason, I believe it will continue it’s journey and offer readers an opportunity to be enlightened, entertained and find value in it’s story of perseverance, both figuratively and literally.

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WENDY’S BIO:

Wendy lived the first twelve years of her life in the small town of Garwood, NJ, where she spent most of her time riding her bike or staring out the window of her third-floor apartment dreaming up stories. Toys were scarce, but she could always find paper and a pen. She began sharing her writing with her grandmother, who would pay her small amounts of money for her work. Her grandma also paid her money for creating just about anything. However, quite a few years passed before she received payment for writing again.

She moved around a lot during her teen years, but always stayed in New Jersey. During that time, she wrote poetry, lyrics and short stories, and often got into mischief. However, she always dreamed of completing a novel.

Finally, in 2006, she added the long-awaited title of author to her list. The Bedazzling Bowl is a story about Aly M. Bellisher, a ten year old teller of tall tales, who learns about life while attempting to make sense from words of wisdom her mother leaves hanging from magnets on the refrigerator door.

Website: http://www.wendylynndeckerauthor.com/

Wendy, thanks for sharing your book and journey with us. Have a happy holiday.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 7, 2016

Book Giveaway: The Magic Words – Cheryl Klein

The talented executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Cheryl Kline has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with her new book for writers titled, The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults. It is sitting on my desk and it’s jammed pack with everything a writer would need to improve their skills. I know I am impressed. Available on Amazon.

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

the-magic-words

BOOK’S DESCRIPTION:

This master class in writing children’s and young adult novels will teach you everything you need to know to write and publish a great book.

The best children’s and young adult novels take readers on wonderful outward adventures and stirring inward journeys. In The Magic Words, editor Cheryl B. Klein guides writers on an enjoyable and practical-minded voyage of their own, from developing a saleable premise for a novel to finding a dream agent. She delves deep into the major elements of fiction—intention, character, plot, and voice—while addressing important topics like diversity, world-building, and the differences between middle-grade and YA novels. In addition, the book’s exercises, questions, and straightforward rules of thumb help writers apply these insights to their own creative works. With its generous tone and useful tools for story analysis and revision, The Magic Words is an essential handbook for writers of children’s and young adult fiction.

The Backstory

Thanks to both nature and nurture, I am a total children’s book dork. My grandfather was a professor of children’s literature and founded one of the nation’s first children’s author festivals, so I grew up reading kids’ books long after it was socially acceptable to do so. I decided I wanted to go into publishing while I was still in high school; I read Publishers Weekly at Carleton College (where I majored in English, of course); I became an editorial assistant within three months of my graduation in 2000, and I gave my first talk on craft at a writers’ conference fewer than nine months after that.

I’m now the executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of the children’s and young-adult publisher Scholastic Inc., where I’ve worked on everything from cheerful picture books to thoughtful young adult novels to the last two books of the Harry Potter series. (For more on the books I’ve published and what I’m looking for, please see the Editorial Work page.) I think of my work as an editor as being a mechanic for stories: I take books apart, examine their component pieces, and help my authors assemble them again as more elegant and polished machines. My writing for writers, from this point of view, is the instruction manual that comes with the cars — how I articulate the instincts and knowledge about fiction I’ve gained over fifteen-plus years of working with writers and their books.

In 2005, I started a blog, Brooklyn Arden, and put up a few talks on the first iteration of this website. The two sites quickly became popular among writers, and in April 2011, I self-published a collection of my best speeches and blog posts, entitled Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. The book went through four printings, but as the years passed, I found myself writing more material and refining and deepening a lot of my thinking about the major components of fiction. My new book, The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults, thus shares some key concepts and a few talks with Second Sight, but it is about 75% different from the first book, with a clearer structure, new essays on everything from the elements of writerly talent to writing diverse characters to what makes a great first chapter, and revised presentations of my core ideas about character and plot. I hope readers will love it just as much as the first book. (I think they will love it more.)

INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL:

What was the inspiration for this book and when did you decide to make it happen?

In 2011, I self-published a collection of my conference talks and blog posts under the title SECOND SIGHT. The book sold steadily, but as the years passed, I discovered I had more to say, and I also wanted to revise some of my original ideas. However, my life and responsibilities had changed since 2011, and I realized I wanted to find a traditional publisher for any revision. A literary agent expressed her admiration for the book one day, and I more or less blurted out, “Do you think you could sell a revision of it?” She said yes, we talked about it, and I wrote up a proposal, which sold in about a month.

How long did it take to write this book?

The revision and additional writing process took about eight months, from March to November 2015.

How did you start? Did you outline the subjects and lay everything out before starting to write?

Writing the book proposal forced me to describe how I hoped to reorganize, reedit, and add to the material in SECOND SIGHT, so I made a lot of my initial decisions there. Once the book sold, I compiled the text I’d described in the proposal, read it through, & basically wrote my own editorial letter on it, saying, “This is how I think I should revise this further.” My editor gave that vision of it her blessing, & I embarked on that revision.

Do you feel all the conference workshops and talks helped you prepare for bringing together this book?

As many of the essays in the book are based upon my conference talk, yes, certainly!

Do you feel that in writing SECOND SIGHT, you learn things that made this a better book?

I’ll say I learned things from the reviews of SECOND SIGHT that shaped this book: that readers wanted less repetition and more organization in the material, and they really appreciated the practical tools I provided — charts, checklists, etc. That encouraged me to add more such tools in THE MAGIC WORDS.

Was it hard to come up with all the great excerpts that you included to help make your points?

In many cases, they were passages I’d long admired or used in teaching, or that I’d edited myself, so it wasn’t hard at all! In others, I had to look for material that would demonstrate a particular point . . .  which was a lot of fun, actually, to dig through old favorites and new books to find the just-right illustration of an idea.

Did anyone help come up with the writing exercises in the book?

Some of the exercises are inspired by other people’s work, and my husband talked through the “how to develop an idea” chapter with me.

How much research did you have to do?

I consulted a number of writers and writing instructors on what they’d hope to see in the book, and I did a lot of additional reading on topics where I struggled to articulate complex ideas coherently–voice and race, basically.

What was the hardest thing you had to do to make this book shine?

The hardest essay to write in the book was the piece on writing outside your own cultural perspective, as it’s a topic that requires a lot of thought, understanding, and nuance. That essay went through multiple approaches before it found its final form.

It was also an interesting challenge for *me* to be edited…. When I got my first line-edits back from my editor, I felt terrified reading them and absorbing all the judgment they implied. Then I remembered that as an editor, I’m not interested in judging a book’s author; I’m only interested in making the book *work*, and all my edits are always designed to get the book to work. That helped me relax and revise in a better frame of mind.

Being the talented editor that you are, did you still feel the need to have other readers critique and edit this book?

Yes, definitely! Beyond my editor at W. W. Norton, the lovely middle-grade novelist Linda Urban was kind enough to read and give feedback on the text, and six or seven people read various iterations of the cultural-perspective essay.

Did you have a vision for the cover or did you leave that to the person you hired to design the book?

My editor at W. W. Norton was kind enough to consult me about what I’d like to see on the cover, and I said that I didn’t have any specific ideas, but I’d appreciate something colorful, friendly, and  sophisticated. She took that back to the designer in-house, who delivered a gorgeous cover, in my opinion.

Last, but not least, do you see another book about writing in your (and our) future?

If this one does well, I imagine I’ll have enough new ideas to do a revision in another five years! And I recently sold a picture book manuscript to Simon & Schuster, which will be published in 2019.

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Cheryl Klein’s Bio:

Cheryl Klein is the executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where she edits and publishes books for children, teenagers, and discerning adults. She is also the author of The Magic Words:  Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults (W. W. Norton) and Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults (self-published). She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and cat, and can be found online here and as @chavelaque.

Cheryl, thanks for sharing your book and journey with us. Have a happy holiday.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 6, 2016

Book Giveaway: Heather Petty’s Lock & Mori

Heather Petty has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with her new book LOCK & MORI.

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

lori-and-lock

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sherlock Holmes and Miss James “Mori” Moriarty may have closed their first case, but the mystery is far from over in the thrilling sequel to Lock & Mori, perfect for fans of Maureen Johnson and Sherlock.

You know their names. Now discover their beginnings.

Mori’s abusive father is behind bars…and she has never felt less safe. Threatening letters have started appearing on her doorstep, and the police are receiving anonymous tips suggesting that Mori—not her father—is the Regent’s Park killer. To make matters worse, the police are beginning to believe them.

Through it all, Lock—frustrating, brilliant, gorgeous Lock—is by her side. The two of them set out to discover who is framing Mori, but in a city full of suspects, the task is easier said than done. With the clock ticking, Mori will discover just how far she is willing to go to make sure that justice is served, and no one—not even Lock—will be able to stop her.

BOOKS JOURNEY:

I came up with the idea for the LOCK & MORI series when I read an article about nemeses relationships in literature that used the relationship between Sherlock and Moriarty as one of the examples. The writer pointed out that the only information we have about Moriarty in the canon comes from Sherlock, because no one else meets Moriarty, not even Watson. I hadn’t noticed that when I read the books and stories as a kid, so I went back and reread that story, and the writer was completely correct.

I started to think, what if Sherlock lied to Watson for some reason? What if Sherlock and Moriarty had known each other in their past, had maybe even been close friends? What if something had happened in their past that turned them into enemies?

By the time I shared the idea with my agent, I’d tried to write the first chapter a few times, and the Moriarty character kept spinning feminine in my mind. So I finally gave into my frustration and wrote the character as a girl. It worked. Not only did the chapter come out more naturally for me, but I suddenly fell in love with the idea of writing a female villain–a villain that would use her intellect rather than her sexuality to get what she wanted. And I saw the opportunity to twist the Bad Boy/Good Girl trope on its head and write a Bad Girl/Good Boy story.

When I had written maybe sixty or seventy pages about a girl whose mom had died of cancer, I found out my mom had cancer. My mother passed away six weeks later. When I could write again, I was left raw and lost and trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to change Mori’s story or face down my own grief as I wrote hers.

I decided to face it, but it took me about a year to write the book.

MIND GAMES is the second book in the LOCK & MORI series, which means it came with its own set of stresses. But more than anything else, I just feel really lucky to have the opportunity to write these books and tell these stories. And I hope very much that you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed putting them out into the world!

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HEATHER’S BIO:

Heather has been obsessed with mysteries since she was twelve, which is when she decided that stories about murders in London drawing rooms and English seaside villages were far superior to all other stories. Lock & Mori is her first novel. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, daughter, and four hopelessly devious cats.

Heather, thanks for sharing your book and journey with us. Have a happy holiday.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 5, 2016

Jersey Shore Holiday Book Convention

Remember: $100 discount to attend the Children’s Book Academy Online Picture Book Course ends on December 7th and Scholarship Applications end on December 12th.

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Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 4, 2016

Take A Look Sunday – Julie Rosenbaum

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

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

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

HERE’S NICOLE:

Julia has shared two pieces of sequential art rendered in watercolor and colored pencil. The art is quite engaging as a mixed media expression and the characters, one of them in particular, is quite eccentric. Personally, I think little sister steals the show!

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The first picture depicts big brother swiping the jolly roger from his sister’s play set. It’s a lovely piece with several actions taking place. The sister reacting, the brother swiping and looking over his shoulder, the mysterious fuzzy onlooker with the unique headpiece making eye contact with the boy. The details here are nice from the wallpaper and hair curls expressed in line to the fringed lampshade and shadows.The only critical comment I have is the watercolor application in spots is heavy for the detail in small areas, like the boy’s pants and legs of the side table. Could pencil help round out those smaller areas with less paint?  Also, the girl is fully stylized in proportion, large head, small feet, something we see a lot of in children’s illustration. Her brother is more typical and semi-realistic in construction.The first picture depicts big brother swiping the jolly roger from his sister’s play set. It’s a lovely piece with several actions taking place. The sister reacting, the brother swiping and looking over his shoulder, the mysterious fuzzy onlooker with the unique headpiece making eye contact with the boy. The details here are nice from the wallpaper and hair curls expressed in line to the fringed lampshade and shadows.

The only critical comment I have is the watercolor application in spots is heavy for the detail in small areas, like the boy’s pants and legs of the side table. Could pencil help round out those smaller areas with less paint?  Also, the girl is fully stylized in proportion, large head, small feet, something we see a lot of in children’s illustration. Her brother is more typical and semi-realistic in construction.

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It’s the same day (assumed by outfits) in the second picture, and we’re introduced to a new place, the supermarket. The boy is pushing his sister away from the same fuzzy onlooker who was at his back in the last piece. They’re making eye contact again and the boy is obviously concerned. The fuzzy thing is eating apples. Little sister is content with a huge watermelon in her lap. I really like the depth of field in this piece. It’s a very interesting and satisfying perspective, too. The background is wonderfully rendered. There is one thing pulling me away from this illustration and that’s the size of the fuzzy onlooker. Either it’s growing at a rapid pace (thus the rabid eating) or it’s size is inconsistent from illustration 1 to 2. I simply don’t see the long legs and big feet in picture 2 as the same character perched on the side table in picture 1. This is the beauty of storytelling, there may well be a story behind that inconsistency!

Julia, this is a fun series. Your illustration style is entertaining and stylistically interesting. Best to you as you work to finish this project.

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

Here’s Julia Rosenbaum’s bio:

Julia Rosenbaum is an illustrator and author, and has worked as a graphic designer for many years. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has been chosen as a SCBWI Artist of the Month. You can visit her website at juliadraws.com to see her portfolio and blog.

Please contact her at juliasdesigns@yahoo.com.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

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

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

Each Sunday one illustrator will be featured.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 3, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Gretchen Ellen Powers

gretchen-ellen-powers-bw-profileGRETCHEN ELLEN POWERS is an artist and illustrator residing among the tall trees of Michigan. She loves that through painting and sketching she can share her dreams with those around her! Through her work she enjoys lassoing characters from her imagination and cradling them in all of the everyday good things. There’s always a bee in her bonnet, and in the constant pursuit of capturing it.

She draws inspiration from nature and everyday living around her. She enjoys combining realism with the surreal, to merge the heart with the mind. It’s her greatest hope to tell a story through the strokes of her brush.

Here is Gretchen explaining her process for her Christmas illustration, Santa’s Little Helpers.

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Step 1 – Ink (Santa’s Little Helpers)

After sketching the illustration, I carefully ink the image and set it aside to dry.

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Step 2 – Watercolor (Santa’s Little Helpers)

Laying the first light washes of color on the raccoon with watercolor.

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Step 3 – Watercolor (Santa’s Little Helpers)

Darker applications of color are applied in layers of washes to the squirrel, giving him more shape.

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Step 4 – Watercolor (Santa’s Little Helpers)

A glimpse of the illustration coming together, the animal fur is finished at this point, next light washes will be applied to their clothing and the toy elephant. Almost there!

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Step 5 – Finished Illustration (Santa’s Little Helpers)

The finished illustration, I was so happy with the results of this piece. It is one of my favorites that I have done, the red and green color palette are there to reinforce the holiday theme. And now they can get back to their work, helping that right jolly old elf, St. Nick himself!

Interview:

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been drawing and painting for most of my life, it’s always been something that I have loved to do, and now I am just so thankful and excited that it has become my career! I have the best job in the world!

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Where do you live?

Among the tall trees of Michigan.

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

When I was ten or eleven, I was commissioned by my local library to design t-shirts, posters, and other promotional materials for a summer youth writing workshop. At that age, it was an accomplishment that I was very proud of.

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Did you go to college to study art? If so, where? What did you study there?

I am happy to say that I am self-taught!

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What influenced your style?

Nature, animals, days from by-gone-eras, and a good amount of make believe with a hint of pretend!

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

I knew that I wanted to work in the creative arts. So, I started by making a few illustrations into prints, and selling them online as well as in a brick-and-mortar boutique shop that asked to carry my work.

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Have you seen your work change since you started your illustrating career?

Oh my goodness, yes! That is one of the exciting things about being an illustrator, you are constantly seeing yourself grow as an artist and a person while you are on the journey.

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How did you get started painting eggs? Do you use them as hanging Christmas ornaments?

It’s always been a family tradition since I was very young to decorate eggs for Easter. We used real eggs, that were hard-boiled and dropped into tinted vinegar. My mother always encouraged me to be creative, and I am so thankful for those traditions, the effort she put into nurturing my imagination and bringing out the illustrator in me. As I grew, the time spent on these hard-boiled creations grew longer and more complicated. Recently in the past few years I have been too sad to see them simply thrown out once they reach an expiration date, and so I have been painting them on ceramic eggs to enjoy forever. Also this year, I have been painting on glass globes for Scandinavian inspired Christmas ornaments that I am selling in my shop.

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How long have you been making cards and stationery?

Shortly after I began making prints of my work, I received requests to turn them into greeting cards. It was fun knowing my paintings were holding special correspondences through the good old snail mail!

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

My work has always leaned towards the young and young at heart, but it occurred to me several years ago that what I really wanted to pursue was children’s illustration. My favorite place to discover new reading material has always been the children’s section in bookstores, and so I suppose it was something destined to be. Picture books are still on my never-ending book list, and my inner child couldn’t be happier.

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Have you had the opportunity to illustrate a picture book, yet?

Not as of yet, but I am so excited for what the future holds and for the adventures ahead of me in the publishing world!

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

Yes, very much so! I am working on a story of my own that I have written and will be illustrating myself.

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What do you think is your biggest success?

Having the courage to pursue a dream that I am passionate about.

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grandpabearschairHave you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

Not yet, but I am fascinated by silent pictures and the two seem like kindred spirits! I always have intended to create one, and I hope it will be on a near horizon.

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Do you have an artist rep.? How did the two of you connect?  How long have you been with them?

I am so excited to say that I have just recently begun being represented by Nicole Tugeau from Tugeau 2 Children’s Illustration Agency! I am just thrilled and thankful to be working with her, they are such a wonderful agency and have impacted the children’s market in such a delightful way! I have recently signed on with them in just the past month.

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Do you illustrate full time?

Yes!

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Do you have a favorite medium you use?

I use a wide variety of the mediums, gouache, watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils, and oil… But there is a soft spot in my heart for watercolor, we were made for each other.

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Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

My process differs from project to project, and I use a photo or two when I can, but occasionally you just can’t find research for what you are illustrating. A fox in a sweater, reaching for a pumpkin pie? That’s where a good imagination comes into play.

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Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Mainly just for editing and touching up my finished pieces.

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Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Nope, it’s good old brush and paint for me!

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Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Yes! The Telegraph (Stella Magazine), Mollie Makes, Betty Magazine, Babiekins Magazine, Lionheart Magazine, Oh Marie, Frrresh Magazine, Ardent Magazine, Old Tat Magazine, The Girls Are Music Magazine, and a few others.

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Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, it’s so wonderful that I get to work in my home. Tea is always easily accessible that way!

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

Good lighting, it can change the colors you are seeing dramatically. I use natural light when I can, but of course a good artificial light is important too (especially in the shorter winter hours, and into the wee hours of the night).

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

I try to get up early and start the day off right with coffee, from there I work. I use a good helping of determination and make believe, followed up by large pots of tea. Draw, sketch, paint, repeat.

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Any exciting projects on the horizon?

There are so many things that I am excited about, a future book I am working on, and breaking into the world of children’s publishing!

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

I believe that the world-wide-web has created many new opportunities for illustrators and creatives of all kinds. New and exciting things are always happening and with this tool and access to these things are always at our fingertips.

What are your career goals?

To write and illustrate for children. That is what I am putting all of my focus and energy into these days, it’s really a magical thing and I am over-the-moon happy about the entire process.

What are you working on now?

Being the merry month of December, I have just finished painting some Christmas illustrations, hand-painted ornaments, and recently did some live-painting locally for the holiday season as well.

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

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! You’ll constantly be learning and growing as an illustrator. It can be challenging at times, but in the end the rewards of your work and efforts are always worth it!

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

As far as advice, honestly the best I can give is to create work that makes you happy, and never give up!

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©2016 Gretchen Ellen Powers all rights reserved http://www.gretchenellenpowers.com

Thank you Gretchen 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 Gretchen’s work, you can visit her at her website: http://www.gretchenellenpowers.com/

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 2, 2016

Free Fall Friday – First Page Results

Kelly Delaney, Associate Editor at Alfred A. Knopf BFYR has agreed to be our featured Editor for December and critique four first pages.

For the last few years I’ve skipped first page critiques in December – people were busy and didn’t submit, so this provides a great opportunity and a higher chance of getting selected. Please note: The deadline to submit is December 15th. Send to: Kathy.temean (at) gmail.com – Put DECEMBER FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE in subject box.

Tanusri PrasannaTanusri Prasanna
tprasanna@hsgagency.com

Tanusri had a somewhat unorthodox transition into publishing. A lawyer by training, she has a PhD in legal philosophy & human rights from Oxford University, and a Master’s degree from Harvard Law School. Along the way she worked in the legal department of the World Bank in Washington and as a teaching fellow at Columbia Law School. An avid fan of children’s literature, Tanusri joined a book club devoted to kidlit in 2012, which sowed the seeds of her decision to become a literary agent specializing in children’s books. To this end, before joining HSG, she gained valuable experience interning at Knopf Young Readers and Foundry Literary+ Media.

She is interested in all sorts of kidlit, ranging from picture books and middle-grade to YA (including YA/Adult crossovers). Tanusri is drawn to storytellers who deftly inveigle readers into their intricately-crafted plots with great voice and a touch of humor, and to writers with a vivid sense of the absurd. And while her primary interest is kidlit, she is also open to selective domestic suspense (Tana French and Sophie Hannah are two of her favorite authors in the genre) and voice-driven narrative non-fiction on social justice issues.

You can follow her on twitter at @TanusriPrasanna.

Here are the Four First Page Critiques for November:

Christine Read – The Trouble With Queenie – Middle grade

“Queenie, please try not to get into trouble at this new school. Grade Five is a Very Important Year.”

That’s what my mom said to me this morning – and last night, and so many times yesterday, and at least a hundred times a day, every single day, all summer. And before that she told me Grade 4 was a Very Big Year and I should try not to get in trouble then.

But the thing is I never try to get in trouble. Sometimes trouble just happens. And sometimes it sticks to me, you know, like gum on the bottom of your shoe. Nobody wants gum there, but sometimes you just end up with it.

Mom doesn’t understand.

And neither did Mrs. Franklin, the principal at my last school, the public one.

And I’m not sure that Mrs. Payne, the Headmistress at this private school does or even Miss Parfait, my Grade Five teacher.

Whatever, I just want to make lots and lots of cool new friends.

Well, a couple anyways.

But you know I’m not scared, even though this is my first day.

No way, not me.

Just ‘cause I spilt milk on my school tie and ugly kilt at breakfast this morning. And somehow managed to leave a trail of strawberry jam on my white button-down shirt, I’m not nervous.

Nope, not me.

Except… well…I’m so darn petrified and wound-up and I‘ve got the jigglies! Wow, there’s Mrs. Payne waiting for me at the front door.

“Hi there Mrs. Payne! Hi! Remember me – Queenie?!”

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Christine Read – The Trouble With Queenie

““Queenie, please try not to get into trouble at this new school. Grade Five is a Very Important Year.”

That’s what my mom said to me this morning – and last night, and so many times yesterday, and at least a hundred times a day, every single day, all summer. And before that she told me Grade 4 was a Very Big Year and I should try not to get in trouble then.

But the thing is I never try to get in trouble. Sometimes trouble just happens. And sometimes it sticks to me, you know, like gum on the bottom of your shoe. Nobody wants gum there, but sometimes you just end up with it.

Mom doesn’t understand.

And neither did Mrs. Franklin, the principal at my last school, the public one.

And I’m not sure that Mrs. Payne, the Headmistress at this private school does or even Miss Parfait, my Grade Five teacher.

Whatever, I just want to make lots and lots of cool new friends.

Well, a couple anyways.

But you know I’m not scared, even though this is my first day.

No way, not me.

[TP1]There are quite a few isolated sentences and the problem with those is that they have to carry a lot of weight to be able to stand on their own. I think this is trying to reflect Queenie’s thought process, but having the same passage in paragraph form will have the same effect without interrupting the flow of the text.

Just ‘cause I spilt milk on my school tie and ugly kilt at breakfast this morning. And somehow managed to leave a trail of strawberry jam on my white button-down shirt, I’m not nervous.

Nope, not me. [TP2]This is a good isolated sentence, on the other hand, because it has the effect of making the passage funnier and makes sense on its own.

Except… well…I’m so darn petrified and wound-up and I‘ve got the jigglies ! [TP3]She sounds older here when she uses big words so perhaps have a bit more of those to age her up. Wow, there’s Mrs. Payne waiting for me at the front door. [TP4]At the front door of the school? Why is she surprised by that?

“Hi there Mrs. Payne! Hi! Remember me – Queenie?!” [TP5]But I thought this was a new school, so how would Mrs Payne remember her?  From an interview?

Overall comments: 

I really like the opening–Queenie sounds like just the right mix of endearing and naughty! It’s pretty clear that she has a history of getting in trouble and that we should expect more of it in grade five, though I’m sure she has plenty of saving graces as well. The voice is funny and interesting from the get go, but there are two points you should keep in mind: first, Queenie sounds more like a seven or eight year-old than a ten year-old, so the voice reads a bit younger than you may want. And second, related to that, it sounds a bit reminiscent of other protagonist in this genre like Clementine or Bean (from Ivy and Bean), so make sure you are making Queenie distinctive enough to stand out in this crowded marketplace.

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Rosi Hollinbeck – Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom Refused to Clean Anything Up in His Room – PB

Thomas smelled bacon and quickly awoke.

His stomach was empty and let out a croak,

then grumbled and rumbled and started to roar.

He stood on his bed, and he looked for the door.

Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom

refused to clean anything up in his room.

Underwear jumbled in mounds near his bed.

Big piles of trash towered over his head.

Gym socks were scrunched up beneath some old jeans

on top of a plate full of stinky sardines.

His mother would threaten. His dad would implore.

But Thomas was able, it seemed, to ignore

dirty dishes and glasses and globs of dried mud.

A green vine took root and was growing a spud!

That was just fine with this slovenly boy

until he stepped hard on a sharp metal toy.

It lay underneath some wasabi-stained shirts.

Tom bellowed and hollered, “Owww, that really hurts!”

He hopped and he jumped and he hollered some more,

but his mom and his dad couldn’t get through the door.

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Rosi Hollinbeck

Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom Refused to Clean Anything Up in His Room [TP1]I think you should change the title to something shorter and more catchy.

Thomas smelled bacon and quickly awoke.

His stomach was empty and let out a croak,

then grumbled and rumbled and started to roar.

He stood on his bed, and he looked for the door.  [TP2]This first paragraph seems a bit disconnected from the following paras. This is about Thomas waking up hungry and from there we go on to learn about his messy habits, but what’s the narrative arc here?

Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom

refused to clean anything up in his room. [TP3]The cadence of this line is a little off.

Underwear jumbled in mounds near his bed.

Big piles of trash towered over his head.

Gym socks were scrunched up beneath some old jeans  [TP4]How old is Thomas supposed to be? Why would he have piles of trash near his bed?

on top of a plate full of stinky sardines.

His mother would threaten. His dad would implore.

But Thomas was able, it seemed, to ignore

dirty dishes and glasses and globs of dried mud.

A green vine took root and was growing a spud!

That was just fine with this slovenly boy

until he stepped hard on a sharp metal toy.

It lay underneath some wasabi-stained shirts. [TP5]Some kids may not know what that is.            

Tom bellowed and hollered, “Owww, that really hurts!”

He hopped and he jumped and he hollered some more,

but his mom and his dad couldn’t get through the door.

Overall Comments:

This is a pretty funny picture book! It reminded me a little of “Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore” by W.B. Rands, which I very much enjoyed as a child. I think it needs some restructuring so we get a better sense of the story and the character. At some points Thomas sounded a bit older than he would typically be in a picture book. Picture books are notoriously tough to sell and rhyming picture books are even harder, so it’s all the more important to have a strong hook to your story. But perhaps the ending is going to have a dramatic twist that teaches him the value of cleaning up!

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Sandy Green – My Little Gigantic Secret

Chapter One – What’s Up?

Fire ants scurried over mini mountains of mulch on their way to attacking a cricket. One part of my brain was amazed I saw the little buggers  so clearly. The other part of my brain joined my mouth in screaming because I was dangling head down from the monkey bars and wasn’t attached to them.

“Aaahh!” I flinched.

Theodore snickered. His peanut-buttered breath puffed in my face. “What’s up, Danny? Your feet?”

His two buddies loosened their grips on my ankles as they lay across the bars. I slipped another inch and watched the ground whirl under my head. Or over my head. My heart flipped in my ribcage, and my upside-down lungs smothered me.

My best friends, Franklin and Alex, sprinted toward me from the tetherball pole. Franklin thrust his arm in the air at a helicopter thip-thip-thipping  above the playground. “Get away from him. That’s Danny’s dad up there watching you. He’s got a camera.”

Theodore glanced at the sky and scowled. “You’re the boss. Let him go.”

Franklin rushed to wrap his arms around my back and braced. I flopped into his grasp, my legs waving in the air, as two pairs of sneakers from Theodore’s friends thudded on the ground. They kicked mulch in my face and sped off.

“Help.” I clutched my belt loops, slithering down Franklin’s arms like a snake shedding his skin. A few more inches and I’d have shown off my Superman whitie-tighties and what I had  for lunch.

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Sandy Green – My Little Gigantic Secret –  PB

Chapter One – WHAT’S UP?

Fire ants scurried over mini mountains of mulch on their way to attacking a cricket. One part of my brain was amazed I saw the little buggers [TP1]Word change recommended. so clearly. The other part of my brain joined my mouth in screaming because I was dangling head down from the monkey bars and wasn’t attached to them.

“Aaahh!” I flinched. [TP2]He’d do more than flinch in that situation, yes?

Theodore snickered. His peanut-buttered breath puffed in my face. “What’s up, Danny? Your feet?”

His two buddies loosened their grips on my ankles as they lay across the bars. I slipped another inch and watched the ground whirl under my head. Or over my head. My heart flipped in my ribcage, and my upside-down lungs smothered me. [TP3]Not literally, so perhaps add an “It felt like…”

My best friends, Franklin and Alex, sprinted toward me from the tetherball pole. Franklin thrust his arm in the air at a helicopter thip-thip-thipping [TP4]Are they talking about a drone? above the playground. “Get away from him. That’s Danny’s dad up there watching you. He’s got a camera.”

Theodore glanced at the sky and scowled. “You’re the boss. Let him go.”

[TP5]Will the reader understand later why Theodore would believe this is plausible?

Franklin rushed to wrap his arms around my back and braced. I flopped into his grasp, my legs waving in the air, as two pairs of sneakers from Theodore’s friends thudded on the ground. They kicked mulch in my face and sped off.

“Help.” I clutched my belt loops, slithering down Franklin’s arms like a snake shedding his skin. A few more inches and I’d have shown off my Superman whitie-tighties and what I had  [TP6]Perhaps instead “what I’d had” for lunch.

Overall comments:

This is a good opening because it puts us right into where the action is. Danny is clearly the target of some bullying by Theodore and his friends and we get to see that right away. The voice is funny and the writing flows smoothly, so this is a great start. The conflict facing the main character must be believable and internally consistent, so as you develop the chapter give the reader more details about Danny and his background, how old are he and his friends (that will determine the audience for your book), why is he being targeted in particular and what’s driving Theodore and his friends.

________________________________________________

Kristi Veitenheimer – A MATCH FOR ME – PB

Teacher posts another picture on the bulletin board. The whole class claps and cheers. I drop my head and try not to cry in front of everybody. {Art note: This is a school for monsters. The bulletin board is titled “Monster Matches” and has pictures of little monsters doing “monsterly” things they’re good at.}

Every monster has a picture on the board. Everyone but me. I still didn’t know what I’m good at. And school will be out for summer in four days.

Knocking on a neighbor’s door Tuesday morning, I picture myself as the best dog walker ever. An hour later, I hang my head as I return the wiener dog’s leash.

“I’m really sorry, but I got hungry.”

Stepping inside a haunted house Wednesday morning, I picture myself as the scariest creature ever. I raise my arms, bare my fangs, and growl…

“PURRRR.”

“What a wimp!” the kids shout. They want their money back.

At the circus arena Wednesday afternoon, I picture myself as the best, bravest lion tamer ever. I walk in just as the ringmaster and lion appear.

ROOAARRR!

A bunch of clowns help me down from a tree.

What am I gonna do? School’s out in two days! I’ve just got to get my picture on the board.

That night, I toss and twist in bed.

After breakfast Thursday morning, I have an idea.

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Kristi Veitenheimer –

A MATCH FOR ME [TP1]Perhaps think about slightly more specific title that has monster in it?

Teacher posts another picture on the bulletin board. The whole class claps and cheers. I drop my head and try not to cry in front of everybody. {Art note: This is a school for monsters. The bulletin board is titled “Monster Matches” and has pictures of little monsters doing “monsterly” things they’re good at.}

Every monster has a picture on the board. Everyone but me. I still didn’t know what I’m good at.  [TP2]Some examples here perhaps of what the others are good at? What are their “matches”? I know you have an art note above but when you submit the text of a picture book typically you wouldn’t want to include a lot of art notes. The text should speak for itself. And school will be out for summer in four days.

Knocking on a neighbor’s door Tuesday morning, I picture myself as the best dog walker ever. An hour later, I hang my head as I return the wiener dog’s leash.

I’m really sorry, but I got hungry.”  [TP3]This may be a bit scary for kids –the idea that he ate the dog!

Stepping inside a haunted house Wednesday morning, I picture myself as the scariest creature ever. I raise my arms, bare my fangs, and growl…

“PURRRR.”

“What a wimp!” [TP4]Word change recommended the kids shout. They want their money back.

At the circus arena Wednesday afternoon, I picture myself as the best, bravest lion tamer ever. I walk in just as the ringmaster and lion appear.

ROOAARRR!

A bunch of clowns help me down from a tree. [TP5]Let’s have one more example of something going wrong before he hits upon the right idea.

What am I gonna do? School’s out in two days! I’ve just got to get my picture on the board.

That night, I toss and twist in bed.

After breakfast Thursday morning, I have an idea.

Overall Comments

This is a really cute and funny picture book with a great message! I think it may read a bit better if you give the little monster a name and write it in third person. Provide a few examples within the text of what the others have been matched with and perhaps one or two more examples of what the protagonist has tried but found hard to do.

_____________________________________________________

Thank you Tanusri for sharing your time and expertise with us. Please keep in touch.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 1, 2016

Opportunity & Article: Hooking Your Reader

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Guest Blogger: Dr. Mira Reisberg

First of all, thank you Kathy for inviting me to guest post about writing compelling hooks that hook the reader in and make them want to keep reading, and for giving me the opportunity to let folks know about our Yuyi Morales scholarships for the upcoming, updated, interactive Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books that have helped so many students get published. Yuyi is a former student who is now a multi, multi award-winning best selling author illustrator who is also an exquisite human being, so we honor her with these scholarships – click here.

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If you’d like to find out more about this 5 week, time-flexible e-course, which l’m lucky enough to co-treach with brilliant Random House/Knopf editor Kelly Delaney, click here http://bit.ly/cbwpb Right now we have a $100 off early bird discount available until December 7th for this course that features tons of individual attention, bonuses, and fabulous submission opportunities with agents and editors. This course has a proven track record of now published and award winning students, plus a money back guarantee. The first live training start January 9th!

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Hooking Your Reader In and Keeping Them Reading

by Mira Reisberg

And now for the super fun world of hooking your reader in so that they want to, nay, have to, keep reading to find out what happens next. And for us children’s book creatives, remember our readers are agents, editors, and then yay, children.

Emmie felt goosebumps on her arm. Then she heard footsteps coming closer and closer. Was it really Mr. Toad come to get her?

Here’s a suspenseful hook that lures the reader in with sensory details of how Emmie was sensing impending danger. Then a hint at what that danger might be but no answer. There’s also some sense of place through “voice” in that it doesn’t say, “who had come to get her ” but “come to get her” which hints at a more spare, perhaps rural environment. I don’t know about you, but I really want to find out if it really is Mr. Toad come to get her and just who is Mr. Toad?

Direct or implied questions and conflict are great ways to hook your reader in and make them want to keep reading to find out the all important answer to what happens next.

Here’s a fun one:

Jacob’s weird, weird aunt was coming to visit. He couldn’t wait.

This is a similar hook that makes us curious about Jacob’s aunt and Jacob. Also kids love weird and weird is a wonderful word to say out loud. Try it.

And another one:

Not only was Catherine loud and whiny and stinky, she also hogged all the attention. What could Jeremy do to get the attention back where it rightfully belonged – on him?

The conflict here is the arrival of Jeremy’s new whiny, stinky sister and how he’s going to reclaim his rightful place at the top of the family hierarchy.  We just know that trouble lies ahead and trouble often means fun.

Here’s a softer more soulful one that relies more on slightly quirky but beautiful language to hook the reader in, conflict, and the universal theme of loss.

If only Nana Grace was here to help, things wouldn’t be so messed up, so mixed up, and so soul-sucking sad. But she wasn’t, and she wouldn’t be, ever again.

Originally I was going to use Nana Angela, which has a lovely rhythmic quality with a bit of rhyme at the end, but then I decided on Grace. Grace is a beautiful name that is more evocative of the essence of the story where the main character has to find her own inner grace to deal with the loss of her grandmother and what’s going on in her family. This short hook also features the poetic writing techniques of alliteration, repetition and rhythm.

Here’s a nonfiction hook that relies on our fascination with things weird or unusual.

It’s pink, it’s gooshy like jello, and it’s been described as the most disgusting looking thing alive. It’s… .

For those of you who didn’t guess, it’s a.. blobfish. Hooray. This is what’s known as a page-turner where you end the page with some sort of question or curiosity. Here l’m ending mid-sentence with some ellipses as part of a nonfiction concept book I’m writing about the natural world. I’m giving sensory information about what it looks like, feels like, and how it’s been emotionally described, before forcing you to turn the page to either find out what it is or confirm what you think it is. I’m also setting up what will hopefully be a delicious pattern of curiosity, page turn, payoff and extra info. Finally, there’s a wee poetic technique called assonance, where the inner vowels of gooshy and looking match.

The thing with a hook is that you only get one chance to make a great first impression. With YA, middle Grade and Chapter Books you have a little more time to set the stage before hooking the reader in, but with the economy of language so critical in picture books, you need to start with a bang.

Think of emotion, curiosity, action, conflict, adventure, poetic techniques, distinctive voice, unusual settings, humor, sensory detail, something weird or different, universal themes, and which of these elements your story needs to hook the reader in. Then keep using these techniques to keep the reader hooked until the very end!

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mira_pic2Bio: Dr. Mira Reisberg is an award-winning former kidlit university professor, a best-selling children’s book illustrator/writer, an editor and art director, and a former children’s literary agent.

She’s also the director of the Children’s Book Academy. Her passions (obsessions) include kid’s books (of course), creative problem solving, helping others get published, being creative and having a loving life.

Find her at www.childrensbookacademy.com on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/childrensbookacademy/ or here on Twitter @ChildrensBookAc

PLEASE NOTE: Editor Kelly Delaney is Writing and Illustrating’s Featured Editor for December and will be doing the first page critiques. Due to the holidays, the Deadline to submit is December 15th. Check back on December 9th for the first part of my interview with Kelly.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 30, 2016

Book Giveaway – Molly, by Golly!

Dianne Ochiltree has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with one of my favorite picture books MOLLY, BY GOLLY.

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

kathleenMolly-cover

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11. Relying on historic records and pictures and working closely with firefighting experts, Dianne Ochiltree and artist Kathleen Kemly not only bring this spunky and little-known heroine to life but also show how fires were fought in early America. Read more on Amazon.

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

As a writer, I’m always looking for a good idea for “the next book”. However, some of my best book ideas have come looking for me.  That’s what happened with my picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter. 

I’d just started research for a different picture book, a story taking place during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.  Because the disaster had set many parts of the city ablaze, I needed to know about historical firefighting methods.  While digging into a stack of reference books on the topic,  I found, on page 42 of Dennis Smith’s History of Firefighting in America: 300 Years of Courage, my new heroine and work-in-progress:

“While ‘running with volunteers’ is remembered as strictly a male avocation, there were a few highly colorful female exceptions. One was Molly Williams.  She took her work seriously and was proud to be ‘as good a fire laddie as many of the boys who bragged at being such.’ She is best remembered for the night a fire broke out during a blizzard in 1818.  Only a few volunteers were able to get through to answer the alarm, so Molly took hold of the drag-rope with them and began to pull on it ‘for dear life’, struggling to draw the pumper through the virtually impassable snow.”

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The drama inherent in her story, and the heroic character reflected by her actions, captivated me immediately.  Add in the fact that firefighters ‘run’ in our family, including an aunt who’d been the first woman to work with our township fire department as an EMT in the early 1970’s, and I was hooked!  The earthquake manuscript was set aside, and I set out to tell the story of a spunky, strong woman who was not afraid to jump into action when her neighbors needed help.

Flipping to the bibliography page, I noted other firefighting books that might give me more information or sources.  I googled websites, contacted fire museums and firefighting organizations, searching for details about Molly’s adventure. I checked databases to find out if there had ever been a children’s book published about Molly Williams. The answer was no.

I’d also discovered that few picture books had ever been published on historical firefighting techniques and tools.  Another plus—Molly’s legend could also help kids understand how fires were fought in early America.

My friendly, neighborhood research librarian helped track down hard-to-find documents and books. Trips to fire museums gave me a real sense of the size and weight of the picks, axes, and pumper engine Molly would have to handle.

I also sought the advice of firefighting experts to help me tell the story with as much technical accuracy as possible.  Two such experts generously gave me their time, expertise and knowledge:  David Lewis, Curator, Aurora Regional Fire Museum, Aurora, Illinois; and Damon Campagna, director and curator of the New York City Fire Museum.  These patient souls answered my many questions about firefighting tools, machines, methods, and protective gear that would have been common in Molly’s day.

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DIANNE’S BIO:

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

The wonderful illustrator of this book, Kathleen Kemly  was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here is the link. You can see her process for creating the artwork that makes this book come alive. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/illustrator-saturday-kathleen-kemly/

Dianne, thanks for sharing your book and journey with us. Have a happy holiday.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 29, 2016

Book Giveaway – Writing Irresistible Kidlit

It’s been three years since freelance editor and former literary agent Mary Kole published WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT, to help author’s improve their writing skills. I added it to my library of writing books when it came out. Mary has agreed to give one lucky winner a copy of her book.

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

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BOOK’S DESCRIPTION:

Captivate the hearts and minds of young adult readers!

Writing for young adult (YA) and middle grade (MG) audiences isn’t just “kid’s stuff” anymore–it’s kidlit! The YA and MG book markets are healthier and more robust than ever, and that means the competition is fiercer, too. In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, literary agent Mary Kole shares her expertise on writing novels for young adult and middle grade readers and teaches you how to:

  • Recognize the differences between middle grade and young adult audiences and how it impacts your writing.
  • Tailor your manuscript’s tone, length, and content to your readership.
  • Avoid common mistakes and cliches that are prevalent in YA and MG fiction, in respect to characters, story ideas, plot structure and more.
  • Develop themes and ideas in your novel that will strike emotional chords.

Mary Kole’s candid commentary and insightful observations, as well as a collection of book excerpts and personal insights from bestselling authors and editors who specialize in the children’s book market, are invaluable tools for your kidlit career.

If you want the skills, techniques, and know-how you need to craft memorable stories for teens and tweens, Writing Irresistible Kidlit can give them to you.

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

Like many people drawn to the publishing business, I’ve always been a reader and a writer. I worked on the literary magazine in high school, majored in English in college, and got my MFA in creative writing. In addition to consuming story, I became very curious about how story was made. Reading became an endurance sport. It wasn’t just, “Oh, I liked that book,” it was, “How did that book work? What made me react a certain way to the characters and plot?” When I became a literary agent and started working with writers on their craft, doing editorial work on manuscripts was always my favorite part. I loved pitching and negotiating with publishers, of course, but my happy place was always one-on-one with a client, providing feedback and analyzing the craft. In such a competitive market, this sort of guided revision was crucial to showcasing a manuscript’s best self when it came time to submit to publishers.

Meanwhile, I was fielding a lot of questions from writers via email and at conferences. I decided to start Kidlit.com as a way to answer common queries and share the craft ideas that I was encountering in my editorial work. People really responded to the voice and instruction on the blog. It was named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers each year since its inception, so I started doing more conference talks and webinar presentations with the same tone. After about three years, these talks crystalized into the outline of the book I ended up selling to F+W, the parent company of Writer’s Digest, in 2012. I called it WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT, after one of my favorite Ursula Nordstrom quotes. One of the big inspirations for the book was Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. He used examples from popular fiction to illustrate his teaching points, and I thought this was brilliant. I did the same, using some of my favorite middle grade and young adult novels.

I’d have to say that the three or four months I spent working on the book after it sold stand out as one of the best times of my life. I got to roll up my sleeves and get into the muck of fiction, pull things together, make connections…express myself. I read about 40 novels that I wanted to cite, so it was like assembling a huge book report. I also reached out to my peers at various publishers and some of my favorite authors for quotes and opinions on craft issues. Then I wove it into a manuscript. When an idea really comes together, I find that the writing itself is easy. The whole process was a blur, really. I don’t remember the exact timeline, but the book hit shelves in October, 2013. I was in Los Angeles at a Writer’s Digest conference when I saw it on a table at the event bookstore for the first time. I got to hold it in my arms. What a rush!

It’s been three years since KIDLIT was published, and still people email me constantly to say how helpful the book has been. I can think of no greater compliment. I am so grateful, and so happy that this book has connected to so many readers. My dream is that WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT will endure. Sure, the cited novels aren’t exactly contemporary anymore, but I’ve tried to reference them in a way that’s relevant and self-explanatory. As for me, I’m now working full-time as a freelance editor. So it has all come full circle, I’m once again doing that one-on-one craft work that drew me to the industry in the first place. As for my writing, I have a few projects in mind. A novel might be next. And I have another idea for a craft book, on a more specific topic, this time. All I want in life is to nurture my own writing spark, and to help other writers do the same. That, to me, is the good life.

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ABOUT MARY and KIDLIT.COM

Kidlit.com is an ongoing project for the passionate community of people who read and write children’s literature. My name is Mary Kole. I was a literary agent for six years with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Movable Type Management. My book on writing children’s book is WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT. I now offer freelance editing and consulting services to writers of all levels!

Mary, thank you for participating in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza and sharing your books journey with us.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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