Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 22, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Jesse Graber


Jesse Graber is a freelance illustrator working in Kansas City, Kansas. When he’s not drawing I play a lot of music on the fiddle and banjo. He attended Bethel College in North Newton, KS and The American Academy of Art in Chicago. He illustrate books, magazines and educational materials for clients such as McGraw-Hill, Scholastic, Oxford University Press, and Highlights for Children, and he is represented in the children’s market by Cornell & Company.


The image I’m working towards is an image of three kids looking at a passed-out bigfoot in a passenger train with passengers freaking out.


Character sketches usually happen in my sketchbook. For whatever reason, it’s still easier for me to write in my sketchbook than on a tablet. Nothing got really nailed down here, but I have a basic idea of what I want the kids to look like.


I have a file called NEW in my current projects folder. It is a large PS document that opens to this page of 9 small thumbnails. The rule is that I can’t zoom in to work on detail, which defeats the purpose of thumbnails, which is to design your overall image and see what works without falling in love with anything you draw. It’s really really hard not to zoom in.


I usually have an idea for an image before I start, and generally it turns out to be the least interesting one. For me, thumbnails let me play around in the space of the picture quickly to get acquainted with the shapes and the environment. I drew an arrow at the one I went with. It seemed to be both dynamic (lots of vertical lines) and best at showing everything I need to show.


First pass= super boring. The actual perspective really seems to kill the vibe, but I didn’t realize that yet. I do have things kinda spaced out where I want them and I can see how this is going for the first time.


Another pass. A real problem through this entire piece is that there’s a lot going on around the main subjects, so I really need to make them stand out. Here they’re too big. Bigfoot is too small.


I finally wise up and give the perspective some flair. It looks weird, but it’ll get better. I remember a breakthrough moment in school was learning to draw the whole background first, and fitting my characters within the space, rather than drawing the background around my characters. It makes everything easier.


At each new pass of a drawing I lower a layer’s opacity and draw on a new layer over it.  I might do that 20 times to get everything right. PS is particularly great at this part of the process. I can resize and move things on the fly. I also looked at a bunch of pictures of passenger train interiors, to figure out what a convincing chair might look like. I always figured illustrating was just drawing people, but it turns out there’s a lot of drawing couches and shoes and refrigerators and clothes and doors and windows and cars and everything else you can imagine. My style is pretty loose, but I still try to make sure things are reasonably structural. Good enough to not distract by how poorly it’s drawn, but not too realistic where the viewer thinks “Hey! That’s a really good dishwasher back there!”


Here’s my first legit pencil. I’m part of a great critique group online. The comments I got about this were: the big kid grabs everyone’s attention first, BF’s feet are too small, the hand in the lower left is distracting, and the space seems too tall. Critique has taught me more about illustration than anything, and accepting critique of my own work is the only way I can make a piece better. “The first thing I notice is…” is a good way to start a critique. It’s honest, and it usually leads to figuring out some big problems.

Final Pencil.

I start by “inking” everything in a neutral color. As I’m painting I’ll place an opacity lock on the line layer and color or erase the lines as I go.


As with the pencils I paint the entire background so I can tell how my character’s colors will interact with it. The only colors I know for sure at this point is that bigfoot is brown, and The main character’s jacket clothes are blue, so I base all the other colors around that, hoping the cool will pop against a warm background.


Here’s  a closeup of everything. My brushes are a combination of my own and Kyle Webster’s sets. I totally recommend checking his brushes out. Probably the best deal ever. This is a watercolor style piece, and you can see how I build colors. You can also see the white mask I’ve got on the layer above the background. I have all my character’s paints on a locked layer, paint on a new layer, click the visibility on and off to see if I like what I did, and if I do like it, I’ll collapse it down and start a new layer. When I first started I had a new layer for practically every stroke. I was pretty organized but it was still too much for me to deal with. This way I’ve only ever got 4 or 5 layers at a time for a project, though I go through dozens and dozens.


Final paint. Here’s how it looks just with painting

11-finish-4And here’s the final final. I added a Color Dodge layer on top of everything to add spot colors to just add a bit of sweetness to specific areas.


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for about 10(!) years now. It doesn’t seem like that’s possible, and I feel like a newbie. There’s a lot of things I want to do.


Where do you live?

Three years ago my wife and I moved to Kansas City, Kansas. We both grew up in central Kansas, went to school in and lived in Chicago for awhile, and find KC to be a happy medium between Newton, KS and Chicago, IL. There’s a lot of great kid lit authors and illustrators in the city and some neat projects like


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

When I was in high school the owner of a local hardware store wanted someone to draw portraits of him and four other executives. I was a pretty good artist for a 17 year old, but I’d never done anything like this where likeness, a professional look, and finishing in a timely matter was expected. I can’t imagine they looked great, and I had a heck of a time trying to figure out how much to charge, but I loved it, and the owner was kind.


What  made you chose The American Academy of Art in Chicago to study art?

I’d earned BA in Art and Education at Bethel College, in North Newton, KS, and while I received a great education there, I was not very receptive to it. In fact, throughout high school and college, I felt that one didn’t learn art, there was just natural talent and practice made you better. It’s a poor outlook to have as an Art and Education major. During my student teaching, a high school student came up to me and asked how to draw a nose. “What do you mean? You just draw it” was my first thought, and I realized I didn’t know how I did what I did.

After a few years of various uninspiring jobs, I realized I wanted to learn art, and learn how I do what I do, and how I could do it better. We were living in Elkhart, Indiana at the time, so Chicago was right there. I visited the school and I remember walking down a hall with Alex Ross art up and down both sides and just being speechless. I’m sure my admissions guide thought I was having some sort of episode or something, but seeing Jill Thompson, Gil Elvgren and Joyce Ballantyne work up on the walls, I knew I was right were I needed to be.


What did you study there?

At the American Academy of Art in Chicago I studied illustration. To me, putting a box around ART and giving it some objectives and boundaries really gave me a focus that I didn’t have just studying art. I’d always worked on the technical side of art, the how, but at AAA I learned a lot about the conceptual side, the why, and using both to tell stories and being able to asses how successful I was by showing it to strangers to see if they could tell what was going on really delighted me.


Did getting your MFA helped develop your style?

I didn’t enter the masters program at AAA. I went back and got a BFA in illustration. It was pretty clear to me that I wanted to start from the beginning rather than building on what I could already do in an MFA program. I’m the guy who likes to read the instructions before I do things, and this made a lot of sense to my brain. I’m happy I did what I did.


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

Right out of school I got a job illustrating a series of self published books written by someone who owned and ran a marketing agency where I interned. It was steady work for 3 or 4 years, and having that opportunity to earn a living working on my craft was the greatest gift I’ve ever had. The agency itself was in a Chicago suburb about 8 miles away, we didn’t have a car, and there wasn’t a great public transit option, so I biked. Everyday. Rain or shine. I’m not a biker, but it was such a great opportunity I became one. I also did some freelancing on the side.


Did the school help you get work after you graduated?

One of my instructors, whose husband worked at the marketing agency I ended up at, recommended me for the job.


Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Every year I look back at old work and wince. I guess that’s good, and it does seem to be slowing down, but I’m not sure what it means if I ever stop. Style wise, in school I developed a style using heavy outlines and  feathering to blend solid colors together. I was never completely satisfied with it, but I made it work.

After working on three books, I was sick of it. I initially started using photoshop because I’m partially colorblind, and the color wheel in PS lets me know exactly what color I’m working with. If I had to guess, I’d say I developed a style feathering colors together so that the viewer would blend the colors in their mind, and I wouldn’t have to. Painting, even with the aid of the color picker, scared me. I’d had enough weird experiences with traditional media. And yet. (cont.)


So I learned about color and I made it work. I think I made it a much bigger obstacle in my head than it turned out to be. On the other hand, I didn’t know anyone who was doing what I was doing colorblind. I don’t even know how much help that could have been. It all boiled down to showing pieces to my wife saying “this doesn’t look weird, does it?” and her smiling and helping me along. That’s how I learned my color system. (Cont.)


After I started painting in photoshop, and by that I mean mixing colors, using under coats and over coats and different opacity brushes, I started really eschewing lines, with the mindset that they were amateurish and something I should strive to overcome. And I did, and I don’t think it did my work any favors. Line work is one of my strengths, one of my loves, so they’re back.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It was less a decision and more the natural progression of what I was doing and the opportunities that opened up to me. It wasn’t obvious to me right out of school, but in hindsight it seems staggeringly inevitable that I would end up doing ridiculous illustrations that make kids laugh.


What was your first book?

My first book was for a self published author. It was called Treasure Hunt, and told a story of kids playing the game and gave rules so you could play it yourself. I was pretty green. But the author was patient and I learned so much while working on that book. Like how to draw kids the don’t just look like weird short adults. How to work on more than one illo at a time. How to add to the story with the pictures. And, of course, how to draw characters that look the same from page to page. (Answer- draw them a lot!)


How did that contract come about?

One of my teachers realized I had some capacity to draw and (just as important) I could finish things on time and not flake out. Just the ability to meet deadlines really is a big up.


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

Yes. I keep coming up with ideas that I wish someone would write already. Pretty soon I’m going to realize  how unlikely that would be and just take care of it myself.


What do you think is your biggest success?

Funny enough, one that’s never been seen. I’ve never followed sports, but the last two years I’ve been swept up in the excitement around a local professional sports team. The whole town went crazy. The only way I know how to express appreciation of pop culture is to draw interpretations of it, so I drew a few images of popular players as animals. This is the weird nexus where my abilities and sports overlap. I shared these on social media and the right people saw them. The next year I was hired to draw their whole lineup as animals which would be animated and played during the games. At one point I was trying to figure out if the dolphin player should be wearing pants or not, and I realized this was the best job ever.  I got paid, but the animations were never used. Once we get the rights back to the animations we’ll see what can be done with them. I’m sad it didn’t get used, but it was still a great job.


I see you’re represented at Cornell and Company. How did you connect with them? How long have you been with them?

I’ve been with Cornell & Co for maybe 5 or 6 years now. I researched a bunch of agencies and picked several that seemed to have work similar to mine. I sent out tear sheets to several and got a few responses and narrowed it down from there. I’m not good at negotiating, asking for a fair price for my work, reading contracts, financial do dads and what nots, but I can draw an owl that will make you sad. It seemed like a beneficial thing for me, and I’m eternally grateful that Merial saw something in my work that made her think I had a future.


Do you illustrate full time?

Yes. I do an odd graphic design job from time to time, but I’m either working on work, or working on my portfolio.


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

I primarily use Photoshop in my professional work, but I love ink. I’m still amazed how black lines on white paper can trick the mind into seeing dimension and depth. Or Charles Shultz’s other side of the coin, a flat world that was totally believable.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

The best class I ever took was Life Drawing for Illustrators, which was all about drawing the human body from your mind. I still take pictures of hands, or the whole body if a character is in a strange pose or if the pose is so specific to the action that not getting it exactly would diminish the final image. And I always look at google images to see what the particularities of what I’m drawing are. Not to copy, but to see what the little things are that makes a thing look like itself. At Bethel, I painted kid’s faces at the Fall Fest, mostly hearts and flowers and stars, and one time two SUPER EXCITED little girls came up. They were twins and had just gotten a Dalmatian puppy. Could I paint a Dalmatian on their faces? Dalmatians had four legs and spots and a head and probably a tail. No problem, I thought. After I started I quickly realized my painting was missing certain subtleties to the form, and also that it looked like a cow. The second twin’s excitement and smile quickly faded and after I was done she politely told me maybe she didn’t want her face painted after all and she heard her mother calling. That’s when I realized the value of looking at references.


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

I’ve done a lot of work for textbooks and workbooks. There is little room for interpretation of the assignment. It needs to be done effectively so the student knows exactly how it relates to the lesson. My first big job, finishing 60 images in a few weeks, really drove home the difference between an Artiste and a commercial artist.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Almost everything I do, from pencils to finished piece, is in PS. I love it. And that’s coming from someone who really cringed at computer art in the 90’s. I never thought I would be drawn to it, but as I mentioned before, it seemed to be a way around colorblind issues, and in the early 2000’s I was starting to see digital work that didn’t look digital. It just looked good.

Nevertheless, I grew up drawing, and any success I have in PS is because of that. Like a typewriter won’t make you a better writer, PS won’t make you a better artist. Besides that, one of my teachers at AAA always said the idea is 90% of an illustration. Photoshop doesn’t have a button for that yet.

space-mechanicDo you have and use a graphic tablet?

I started on a tablet, but in 2006 or so I got a Wacom Cintiq. It’s my favorite thing ever. Drawing right on the screen is a game changer. Now when I go back to a tablet, I feel dumb and clumsy. The Cintiq is just like drawing on paper. In fact for the first year I had it, every time I would use the other end of the stylus to erase something, I’d brush away the eraser dust, because that’s what I’d been doing my entire life, and this didn’t feel any different.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Soon after I graduated from AAA I did some work for Highlights. It was a big thrill to go to the dentist’s office and see that issue sitting there.


Do you studio a studio in your house?

Luckily two of the upstairs bedrooms had large closets, so I’m in one of them. I fantasize about having a little cabin studio in the woods or something, but I think I’d miss being close to my work. It did take awhile to get the hang of working from home, though. I learned that wearing shoes and clothes like a working adult (ie not sweats) put me in the right mindset to actually work. I learned to not get distracted by everything there is to do around the house. And I learned, reading a New Yorker article about the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners and feeling some of the symptoms seemed a little too familiar, that I need to have real life social interactions with real live humans now and then.


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

Every morning I start by taking a walk. At some point in the day I go on a little run (and I do mean little). I draw in my sketchbook everyday, and every week I try to spend a bit of time working in a different medium than I’m used to, or picking a tool in PS I’ve never used and seeing what it does. I don’t know that these habits focus specifically on career goals, but I think they put me in a good spot to accomplish them.


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

Oh yeah. I talked earlier about a job that led from the right people seeing my work on social media. Besides that, being exposed to current illustrators and editors and designers current thoughts and works is incredibly valuable. Though it can also be a time suck and ego destroyer if you let it get out of control.


What are your career goals?

I’d like a mini fridge up here at some point.


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

One of most amazing things I learned recently is that in PS you can set your brush’s mode to clear, which essentially acts as an eraser, but gives you the same texture your brush has. I’ve been working in PS for so long and I’m still surprised by things.


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

I just talked to a local middle school art club. Towards the end they showed me and everyone else their work. There were some good pieces, and while I heard a lot of compliments to the obvious talents in the room, I also heard a lot of kids say some variation of “If she can draw that good, I might as well give up.” Ben Franklin said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and it’s so easy these days to see so much absolutely wonderful work that I almost call it quits myself every other day. I knew where they were coming from. And if it were just about being technically proficient we probably should give up. (Cont.)



I really do believe, however, that technical ability can make you a good drawer, but not necessarily a good illustrator. The biggest part of an illustration is the idea and the manner by which you present it to the viewer and how they connect with it, and that all comes from your experiences, your history, the books you read and the movies you’ve seen, your weird brain chemistry (is that a thing?) and your unique physiology. Your style (as John Hartford said) is based on your limitations, and not in a bad way. We all have a unique voice and making something that connects with people is more important than drawing realistically. I said something like that to everyone in the class, and even the really talented kids looked relieved. Pretty pictures don’t solve problems.


Thank you Jesse 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 Jesse’s work, you can visit him at website at:

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 21, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Kurestin Armada Agent Interview – Part 2

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

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

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

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

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

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

Do you have an editorial style?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens if you don’t sell this book?

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

How many editors do you go to before giving up?

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

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

How long is your average client relationship?

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

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

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

Are you open to authors who write multiple genres?

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

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

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

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

SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award


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

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

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


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

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

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

Golden Kite Coordinator
Sid Fleischman Humor Award

4727 WIlshire Blvd. Suite 301

Los Angeles, CA 90010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submission Guidelines for PUBLISHERS

Submission Guidelines for INDIVIDUALS

Questions? Golden Kite Coordinator:


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 19, 2016

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

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


Book Description:

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


The book’s journey and mine:

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 18, 2016

Golden Kite Award Submissions


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

Click here for the 2016 winners!

DEADLINE: December 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Submission Guidelines for  PUBLISHERS

Submission Guidelines for INDIVIDUALS

Questions? Contact the Golden Kite Coordinator:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 17, 2016

Opportunity: Big Bang Critique with Mira Resiberg

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


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

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

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


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

Illustrators, work with Mira on one of the following:





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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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



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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 16, 2016

Take A Look Sunday – Gregory Myers



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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

Here’s Gregory’s bio:

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


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

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

Each Sunday one illustrator will be featured.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 15, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Julie Downing

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Julie discussing her process:


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


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



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


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

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





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



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


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


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

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


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


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



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



Interview Questions for Julie Downing

How long have you been illustrating?

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


Where do you live?

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


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

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


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

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


What did you study there?

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


Did college help develop your style?

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


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

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


Did they help you get work after you graduated?

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


Have you seen your work change since you graduated?

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


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

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


Was Mr. Griggs’ Work your first book?

My first book was Prince Boghole, by Eric Haugaard.


How did that contract come about?

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


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

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


How did that book come your way?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


What do you think is your biggest success?

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


Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

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


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

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


Do you illustrate full time?

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


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

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


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

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


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

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


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

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


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

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


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

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


Do you have a studio in your house?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


What are your career goals?

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


What are you working on now?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 14, 2016

Free Fall Friday – Kurestin Armada Interview – Part One

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

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

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

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

Are there any genres that are less interesting to you?

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

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

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

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

What do you like to see in a submission?

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

How important is the query letter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

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

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

Any pet peeves?

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

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

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 13, 2016

Winners – Kudos & Industry Changes


Please send me your addresses.

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

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

It is now available for pre-order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


New Imprints:

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

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

Promotions & Industry Changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to everyone!

Talk tomorrow,


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