Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 31, 2023

March Agent of the Month: Adria Goetz – First Page Results

I look for books that delight readers, that help readers escape, that make readers feel seen, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that cultivate empathy and compassion, that comfort readers and make them feel safe, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that inspire reflection and conversation, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle Grade
  3. Graphic Novels (MG/YA/Adult)
  4. Adult Fiction

Visual MSWL—If you’re a visually minded person like me, head over to Pinterest to see my “visual manuscript wishlists.” I have one for kid lit, and one for adult books.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But if you don’t already know about, check them out too! They are a fantastic online book retailer that supports brick and mortar bookstores.) I also have a Pinterest board of books I’ve worked on.

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website. If you are an author/illustrator please include a link to your portfolio.

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. 🙂 I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove” because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me. It feels more like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!




Kerry Hansen, THE BAD FEELING – MG Contemporary Ghost Story

The second our tires crunch up the gravel driveway, my stomach drops through the floorboard of the car. I want to yell, “TURN THE CAR AROUND!” but my voice dries up in my throat.

Dad parks, grinning like he’s five instead of fifty-five. “We’re here, Son!”

I stare out the windshield, and now my stomach feels like Dad drove over it. In front of us, surrounded by weeds taller than my knees, looms our new house. And by new, I mean reeeeeally old. Like horse-and-buggy old.

My eyes scan the crumbly tan bricks, cracked front windows, and dark-green roof, missing so many tiles it looks like a jack-o’-lantern’s mouth. [AG] Great description. Black mold creeps up the corners by the rusty drain spouts, and the wrap-around porch is doing more collapsing than wrapping. [AG] Great line! Even the driveway is so full of potholes it reminds me of the surface of the moon. I like this imagery but it feels more whimsical than grim/haunted to me. It’s OK if the story has a whimsical feeling to it, but I thought I’d flag this line in case whimsy is not what you were trying to achieve.

We left Chicago for this? [AG]Perhaps he could wax poetic for a sentence or two describing some of the things he particularly loved about Chicago?

My heart twinges, missing my old room, where some new kid is probably playing video games right now.

When we get out of the car, my parents close their eyes and inhale, as if they’re absorbing a[AG]I’d add “steaming” here to add a bit more atmosphere mocha latte through their pores. Never mind that I haven’t seen a Starbucks for miles. Our closest neighbors are barns, corn stalks, and broken-down tractors.

“Smell that fresh country air,” Mom says. “Brings back memories.”

Neither of them mentions that the fresh country air is less fresh and all country—as in, manure. [AG] I love the moments of humor you have sprinkled in to your writing! Their happy memories of growing up in Wisconsin must be clouding their sense of smell.

“Retirement looks good on you,” Dad says, draping an arm around Mom. 

“You too, Mr. Silver Fox.” She runs her fingers through the gray hairs above his ears. [AG] I love seeing happy parents in middle grade 🙂

“I’m right here.” I groan. [AG] Sometimes it’s hard to weigh in on things based off only the first page, but I want to know what makes this haunted house story unique! What’s the hook/defining plot point that sets it apart?


Ghostless by Mark Kennedy – MG – Contemporary

Chapter One

“I need you to haunt my house.” [AG] Ha! Fun first line. 🙂 Yeah, that definitely sounds way more insane when I say it out loud, even though I knew it was a little (okay, a lot) crazy when the idea first popped into my head. But the yelling, or as my parents say disagreeing, is still at full blast at my house, so it’s time to take drastic action. And if there is anyone who can help me, it’s my best only friend Hunter.

As I blow by Hunter and walk into his family room, he gives me a raised eyebrow that almost touches the bottom of his backward Phillies hat. “Uhm, what?”

We have to sell the house! But this is our home! [AG] If he is still literally hearing these things (rather than hearing them in his mind) then I would probably put these lines in quotation marks.

I can still hear my parents’ voices through the super-thin walls when I come next door. [AG] I would tweak this slightly to be “Even when I come next door, I can still hear my parents’ voices through the super thin walls.” Or “I can still hear my parents’ voices through the super-thin walls, even when I come next door.” It’s been non-stop all week and if tonight is anything like the last few days, there are probably a few hours of this to go. And every time it gets quiet for a few minutes and I think it’s going to end…

We don’t have a choice, we can’t afford it!

I can’t take it anymore. Nothing helps. Not blasting music in my earbuds, not burying my head in the pillow, not playing Ghost Recon with my headphones on. [AG] Poor guy! They have to know I can hear them when I’m up in my room, right? But whenever I go downstairs they act like nothing is wrong. Seriously?! [AG] This is nitpicky, but I’d snip this.

I planned on heading over to Hunter’s and telling him I needed help with our science homework or something. Hang there until things cooled off. His parents aren’t home a lot at night since his parents are semi-famous paranormal investigators. [AG] Maybe this isn’t a question that needs to be answered on the first page, but my knee-jerk question here was, “What does semi-famous mean? Do they have a TV show? Or are they just local legends?” They’re always helping people get rid of ghosts so they aren’t scared in their own homes. Wishing that was my problem. And that’s when it hit me. Maybe it can be my problem. [AG] I love where this story is heading!


 PIPPA PARKER, PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER by Elizabeth James– Chapter Book

I hunched over my paper, while Miss Jones read questions to the class. I was busy [AG]I might reframe this, like “while Miss Jones quizzed the class with questions” or “while Miss Jones asked the class trivia questions.” Something about the use of past tense here sort of didn’t work for me. I tend to think of present tense working best for chapter books, but maybe this was an intentional decision, and maybe this is a subjective preference for me personally.  drawing clusters of crystals on the blank side of a worksheet when Miss Jones pulled a new card from the stack.

“What do you call a scientist who studies rocks?”

I sucked in my breath and looked up.

A geologist! That was too easy! Of course, [AG]I would tweak this sentence to something like “Of course, it helped that I’d been collecting all kinds of rocks since I was little.” Also, I’d love there to be a sentence that follows this where she talks about some of her favorite rocks in her collection. And maybe something about where she stores her rocks—does she have a special spot in her room where she can display them? I’d been collecting all kinds of rocks since I was little. I used to keep so many in my pockets that I even broke our washing machine once. (Oops!)

Mom never forgot to check my pockets again. Until now because she doesn’t do our laundry anymore. Now, a whole team of housekeepers takes care of it instead. [AG] Ooh intriguing! [AG] I’m being nitpicky here but I would tweak these lines to something like, “Until recently, because she obviously doesn’t do our laundry anymore. We have a whole team of housekeepers that takes care of it instead.”

Miss Jones continued, reading multiple-choice [AG] Should this be hyphenated? answers from the card. “Is it: An astronomer? A biologist? A rock star? Or, a geologist?”

I looked down at my paper, where crystal spikes and spines [AG] I’m not really sure what spines is in reference to here, since she’s looking at her doodles. Do rocks/crystals have spines? laced its edges, and squirmed in my seat. Of course, I knew the answer was a geologist. I bet I knew that answer back in preschool!

The problem was that I didn’t know how to answer it. I mean, some people don’t think twice about raising their hands in class. But some people do. And I’m one of those people.

I took a deep breath. I wanted to raise my hand. I wanted to show Miss Jones and everyone else in my class at Capitol Academy—especially Cooper and Dylan—that I knew more than just who the President was and what she had last night for dinner.[AG] I jumped into reading this before looking at the title! Fun premise! (Although, lately, it seemed like I didn’t even know that anymore.)

My best friend, Talia, turned in her seat and gave me a knowing smile. [AG] It’s really impressive how much you’ve already set the scene for this character in just this first page. We know she’s the President’s daughter, we know that it’s made school a mental minefield for her, we know that she’s having extra trouble with two classmates in particular, and we know that she misses quality time with her mom and feeling like a normal kid. And you accomplish all of that in about 300 words without it being an info dump. Nice work!  [AG] Yay for supportive best friend characters! 🙂 I took a deep breath. Then, I raised my hand…but not to answer the question. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t.


 Half-Truths by Carol Baldwin  –  Middle Grade Historical Fiction

I shove my broom under the display case so hard the glass shelves rattle. Daddy gives me a stern look, but I send him what he calls a Katie-wraps-me-around-my-finger smile.[AG]I might word this as “Kate-has-me-wrapped-around-her-finger smile” He knows I’d rather be shag dancing at Reid’s Soda Shop than sweeping floors or refilling nail bins.[AG] I think I’d add “at Smith’s Hardware” here to immediately ground the reader. My brain immediately went to “Oh, it’s a nail salon!” Ha 🙂

Each week I add a few dimes to Mama’s Mason jar hidden in the back of my closet. It’s going to take a lot of Saturdays helping Daddy close up Smith’s Hardware [AG] And then I’d swap this out with “the hardware store” to fill that jar. Plopping it down in front of Mama and Daddy and telling them I’m ready to start a bank account is worth the wait. [AG] I might reword this to something like “Once the jar is filled to the brim, I’m going to plop it down in from of Mama and Daddy and tell them that I’m ready to start a bank account.” Maybe then they’ll believe I’m serious about heading to college in a few years.

The shop bell jangles and I glance at the clock. Ten minutes to nine. Last-minute customers will push back closing time. [AG] I might simplify this to something like “It’s ten minutes to closing time.”

Earnestine Jackson, her mother,[AG] I would mention her first name Odessa here and her younger sister Ruth stand at the door. I swallow my irritation. Other stores in town won’t serve colored folk, but somehow Daddy persuaded Mr. Smith that it was the right thing to do. I’m glad, but this late? Really?

Earnestine’s eyes dart around the store like she’s afraid something bad might happen. I know because I’ve seen that look on her face[AG]I might swap this out with “in her eyes” before. We were little –maybe seven or so–making mud pies outside her house when two trucks drove up and four angry-looking men got out. Earnestine ran inside. I never found out what those men were doing there. When I told Daddy about it, his jaw clenched tight and he said people should mind their own business. I guess Earnestine is afraid they’ll get in trouble for shopping here. [AG]I think an additional line here would be helpful to help us understand what her current relationship with Earnestine is like. Are they still good friends or not anymore?

“Hello, Odessa.” Daddy stands up from arranging some buckets by the garden tools. “What can I help you find?”

Odessa takes out a piece of paper and hands it to Daddy. “Moses thought Mr. Smith would carry a gate strap that looks like this. He’s finishing up the fence and wants this kinda hinge. [AG] You’ve accomplished a lot in this first page!


Adria, great job! Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with us. It is much appreciated. I am sure many writer’s will use your comments to improve their own writing. I’m so glad everyone had a chance to know you this month.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 30, 2023

Book Giveaway: I WANT TO BE BIG by Tiffany Golden

Tiffany Golden has a new picture book, I WANT TO BE BIG , illustrated by Sawyer Cloud and being published by Page Street Kids on April 11th. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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


Jaiceon wishes he was big―bigger than his whole family, bigger than everyone! If he were big, he could reach the cookies on the counter, or make his own sandwich. He could stay up really late, swim with sharks, and even be best friends with Bigfoot! Nobody’s your boss when you’re big.

When Jaiceon’s wish is granted, rules shrink away, and he dives into a world of enormous fun. But as he grows, the situation grows out of control along with him, and Jaiceon starts to wonder if being small wasn’t so bad after all.

The sky’s the limit in this larger-than-life tale about how sometimes what we wish for isn’t exactly what we want, and how, with a little creativity and help, we can learn to love ourselves for who we are right now.


There is a certain amount of struggle while living Black. The struggle for social and economic justice and for healing around collective trauma. This struggle can be weighty and discouraging. We see its reflection in history and current affairs. I write about these things. I know people who write about these things. But it is just one side of a rich experience.

Recently, there have been hashtags like #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy to remind us of the breadth this richness has, and more importantly to give ourselves permission to experience the fullness of our humanity, including our resilience, joy and whimsy.

I Want to Be Big! is an ode to whimsy and #blackboyjoy.

Anyone who knows me knows that my great-nephew Jaiceon (jay-see-on) and I are stuck at the hip. It’s been like that since he was a baby. Our family is full of sisters and nieces, so a little boy was a different experience for us. Full of energy, there is always running and jumping and yelling—and breaking stuff. But, there are also precious quiet moments, where we just lay next to each other doing our own thing.

I am often inspired by the way he looks at the world.

One day, he was reaching for something and said, “I wish I was big.” He was very upset. We had a talk about him getting big one day, and the importance of patience. You know, how most adults do.

But I thought about it, what does being “big” look like for him? What does it mean? I had just graduated from Spalding University’s low-residency Creative Writing MFA program that same year (2020) and thought I’d take a crack at writing a picture book. I saw myself as more of a middle grade/YA writer and was encouraged by my mentor, Lesléa Newman, to give picture books a go. I drafted a 220-word manuscript that included Jaiceon’s love for sharks and bigfoot.

Soon after, I applied for the 2020 #PBChat Mentorship, run by Justin Colon. Awardees would receive a three-month mentorship with a published writer and be able to post a picture book pitch for editors and agents at the culminating showcase. I was accepted into the 2020 cohort and partnered with the awesome author Andrea Wang. Andrea was instrumental in helping me develop I Want to Be Big! and a few other manuscripts.

Before the #PBChat Showcase, Andrea helped me get ready for #DVPit, a Twitter event created to showcase pitches from unagented, marginalized voices that have been historically underrepresented in publishing. I entered IWTBB! and Kayla Tostevin at Page Street Kids expressed interest in celebrating #blackboyjoy. I found representation through #PBChat, and signed with Christa Heschke and Daniele Hunter at McIntosh & Otis.

From there, the hard work of getting the book ready for publishing was well on its way. There have been three years between signing with Page Street and our publication date. In those years, Jaiceon has gone from four-years-old to seven. When we got our advance copy of the book, we read it together. I was also able to read at his school for the 9th Annual African-American Read-In. He was so proud to be the star of a book. His peers were in awe. There was so much pride and joy in his eyes. I truly hope he never forgets that his joy inspires a world of stories. More than that, I hope my work contributes to a world where his full humanity is exercised, and his joy reverberates fully in this world.

Being a writer is one of the joys of my life. Writing for children is the other. I am grateful that a short manuscript and a deep love for my nephew has led to something BIG.


Tiffany Golden is an author, illustrator, and teaching artist. She is the winner of the 2020 New Visions Award by Lee & Low Books and the inaugural Judith Tannenbaum Teaching Artist Fellowship. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Her picture books, I Want to Be Big (Page Street Kids) and Wash Day (Mayo Clinic Press Kids), were released in 2023.

Also Tiffany Golden was a writer/director trained in Motion Picture Production at the Academy of Art University where she found a love for writing. She has worked creatively with school-aged youth for 15 years in an effort to support them in sharing their voices. As a result, dozens of her students have been published, had their films featured in festivals, had installations in major museums, and been the highlight of many community-based events.

Born in Carmel, California, Tiffany Golden has been working with school aged youth in the expressive arts for over 15 years. She currently lives in Oakland, CA.


Sawyer Cloud is a freelance artist based in Madagascar, her birth country. She is a passionate and dedicated illustrator specializing in children’s book, my all-time favorite job !

Though she didn’t have the chance to study in a proper art school, She has done a lot of researches around illustration and the publishing industry before leaving her position as a first-grade teacher to focus exclusively on my art. Thanks to the internet, she has managed to build a reputable “online career” from 2018 and worked remotely on a few books with independent publishers before getting representation in 2020 from a notorious agency specializing in children’s books.

So far, Sawyer has worked on more than 20 books published around the World and has collaborated with most of the major traditional publishers in children’s literature.

Here are 10 of Sawyer’s most recent books:

How to Love a Pony– May 2, 2023

I Want to Be Big! – April 11, 2023

The Many Fortunes of Maya – January 24, 2023

Delphine Denise and the Mardi Gras PrizeJanuary 1, 2022

Dear Mama’s Loving ArmsFebruary 1, 2022

The History of Juneteenth: A History Book for New Reader – May 24, 2022

A Family Looks Like LoveMay 31, 2022

Wanda the Blue WhaleJune 1, 2022

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United StatesJune 17, 2022

Black Swans – November 8, 2022

Sawyer loves sunny days and music. If not drawing, she would be singing out loud in her room, wearing her favourite fairy costume and sharing that moment with her ‘online friends’. She lives with her family and her two pets, Arya the dog and Potter the cat. Her dream is to travel and share her stories with the world. Website:

Tiffany, thank your for sharing your book and journey with us. Love this bigger than life story that reminds us to be careful what we wish for – it might not really be what we want. Jaiceon wants to be tall, until he gets his wish and things spiral out of control. He’s bigger than a whale, bigger than a mountain, and can’t do the normal things, like play on a slide or join in with his family’s backyard BBQ. When he realizes his mistake, he starts to shrink and see how he can do the things that he couldn’t do with a little help from things around the house. Sawyer did a wonderful job creating the illustrations to help tell the story. Children will love this story and after seeing what Jaiceon went through will think twice before making a wish. Good Luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 29, 2023

Book Winners – Kudos – Industry Changes


Susan Uhlig won IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! by Nicole Chen

Laurie L. Warchol won OPAL’S SPRINGTIME BIRDHOUSE by Emily Matheis

Danielle Hammelef won WHEN SUNLIGHT TIPTOES by Gillian Sze

Winners please send in your address to receive your book.



strong>is coming out on April 18, 2023
by Elk Lake Publishing.

Eva Elliott uprooted her young daughter, Willow, to move to Moanna, a small Georgia coastal island. She hopes the scenery change and new job will help her deal with the guilt from a tragic death in her past. When local islander, Thad, saves little Willow from drowning in the Atlantic on their first day at the beach, there’s immediate chemistry between him and Eva. But shame, secrets on both sides, ex-lovers, and a killer hurricane all threaten the love and life they seek to share—and one of them may not survive.



Waterstones Children’s Book Prize went to Nadia Mikail’s The Cats We Meet Along the Way. It will be published in the US with the title At the End of the World by Feiwel & Friends in October.



THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST author Sophia Gholz’s BEAR AT THE FAIR, a humorous companion to BUG ON THE RUG, in which readers wonder if there’s more to a bristly bear who runs amuck at the local fair or if he’s really just a prickly pear, illustrated by Susan Batori, to Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press, for publication in 2024, by Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency for the author, and by Doreen Thorogood at Good Illustration for the illustrator (world).


Jana Hanson has joined D4EO Literary Agency as Agent.

Danielle Dieterich has joined William Morrow as senior editor. She was previously an editor at Putnam.

Claire Gilhuly has been promoted to associate editor at Chronicle Books.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 28, 2023

Book Giveaway: WATCH OUT FOR THE LION by Brooke Hartman

Brooke Hartman has a new picture book, WATCH OUT FOR THE LION, illustrated by Anna Süßbauer and published by Page Street Kids. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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


Readers beware―there’s a ferocious lion in this book! The book warns that it has seen the lion already. First its bristly tail, then clashing claws, twitchy ears, fearsome fangs… and it’s lying in wait to turn any unsuspecting passerby into a child cheeseburger or rugrat ravioli.

But does a brushy tail always belong to a lion? When you touch the curvy claws, will they be attached to a paw? You never really know what might be lurking around the corner in this surprising story that challenges readers to face their darkest fears, and maybe even laugh about them.


A Growling, Prowling Idea:

Whenever I do school visits, the most frequent question asked is, “Where do you get ideas for your books?” In response, I tell the students (and any attending teachers and faculty) to look around them. The blue plastic chair they’re sitting on, the basketball hoop hanging from the gym wall, even their friend’s favorite dinosaur sweatshirt. All of these could be pure idea gold!

If you’re a writer reading this, you know this is true. Book ideas can pounce anytime, anywhere, from anything. You’re grabbing a jar of pickles off the shelf at the store or engaged in some mundane conversation about the cost of a tire rotation, and suddenly your brain snatches you up and drags you on winding trail through the woods (and then, if you’re like me, you’re frantically jabbing a finger at the notes app on your phone to get the idea down before it slinks away again).

Writers can often even pinpoint the exact moment when an idea for a book struck us. For instance, with my 2022 release The Littlest Airplane, I got the idea while flying with my family in our bush plane across southwest Alaska. With Pega Sisters Go to Camp, I was playing My Little Ponies with my two little girls, when one of them announced that two of the ponies were “Pegasus Sisters,” or “Pega-Sisters.” Lotte’s Magical Paper Puppets was inspired by a Facebook post link to one of her films on YouYube.

With Watch Out for the Lion, though, it wasn’t like that at all. In its final form, the book’s concept is that the reader is told there’s a lion somewhere nearby. There are clear signs (claws, teeth, tail, snout), but when they turn the page, will it really be a lion they meet on the other side?

Looking back, though, I can’t parse the exact moment the concept for the book came to me. Instead of one “gotcha!” moment, the concept gradually surrounded me, stalking slowly through my mind over the course of weeks and months until it eventually swallowed me whole and I had no choice but to write it down. But if I stop to think about it, the story is a Frankensteined mashup of three concepts:

  • My oldest daughter has always had some anxiety with trying or doing anything new: meeting new people, going new places, and of course trying new foods (don’t even ask her to taste anything with sauce on it!) I wanted to write a book that showed that, even though all signs seem to be pointing to something scary, it might not turn out as frightening as you think. In fact, it might be something you enjoy!
  • I’ve always loved the parable of the three blind men and the elephant. Each of them feels a different part (trunk, tusk, legs) and declares it to be something different than the next. In one version of this parable, their misconception even starts a war as they think they’re being invaded by an army! It’s a great example of our innate human tendency to jump to conclusions before having all the facts.
  • And finally… my family has a chocolate lab named Wrangell (aka “Big Vicious”) who barks his furry brown head off at EVERY DANG CAR that passes our house. We tell him to stop barking. He replies in his mimed doggy voice (please tell me I’m not the only one who has a voice for their dog) that the car might be driven by a velociraptor or a saber tooth dolphin. We tell him velociraptors are extinct and saber tooth dolphins don’t exist. Wrangell doesn’t believe us and proceeds to bark at the next car again “just in case.”

How or when these vastly different ideas smashed and squashed and mushed their way into a picture book that ultimately became Watch Out for the Lion, I have no clue! But it’s a prime example of the way our brains work, especially our writerly brains. Like saber tooth dolphins, inspiration can truly come from anywhere, real or imaginary.

After I succumbed to the book’s demands, the text came together quickly. This was one of the first non-rhyming books I’d written, and the freedom of writing without needing to stick to any pre-ordained meter or rhyme scheme was exhilarating. My writing was free. Free! And my author voice really partied with this book. It was a blast.

One problem, though: this was a “break the third wall” book that spoke directly to readers, and after the roaring success of The Book With No Pictures, publishers had dished up interactive manuscripts up like syrup at a pancake feed. Watch Out for the Lion went on sub to a market still a little soggy with the weight of all those fabulous interactive books. However, I knew these books were still getting published (Josh Funk’s side-splitting It’s Not Fractured Fairytale series is a prime example) and clung hope. Did my funny Frankensteined Lion book stand a chance?

Hope was delivered in the form of Page Street Kids editor, Kayla Tostevin who was in love with this project from the moment it hit her inbox. I couldn’t have asked for a better editor for this book: not only did she help me hone the text to allow for perfectly primed page turns (we had to axe a few animals—bye bye, platypus and buffalo! I miss you!), she found the perfect illustrator with German artist Anna SüBbauer. I’d originally envisioned the book’s illustrations as a little more stark and subdued—it’s about a terrifying lion, after all—and Anna’s specialized in bright, smudgy art that popped off of the page. Then I saw her sloth. Her SLOTH! So adorable. Now, I can’t envision Watch Out for the Lion any other way. The book just released this February and it’s already received a starred review from School Library Journal, and is one of my most requested read-alouds for school and library visits.

So in conclusion, unlike the parable of the three blind men and the elephant, I’m not sure this blog has a moral. Unless to say, you never know when or where or even how inspiration will sneak up and snatch you in its jaws. But when it does, let it drag you with it, even if it’s on a dark, twisty path through the jungle filled with claws and teeth.

Because it just might lead you to a lion.


Brooke Hartman is an Alaskan mom and award-winning author of books for children. She serves as a member of the board of directors for the Alaska Writers Guild, a volunteer for the SCBWI Alaska Chapter, and an occasional instructor of writing for Alaska Pacific University.

She writes silly, serious, and sometimes strange stories for children and young adults. Her writing has garnered national awards, including honors from Writer’s Digest, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Her debut picture book, DREAM FLIGHTS ON ARCTIC NIGHTS, released in 2019 from West Margin Press and received a starred review from Kirkus. Her picture book biography, LOTTE’S MAGICAL PAPER PUPPETS, the Woman Behind the First Animated Feature Film, released in 2020 from Page Street Kids. Her second book, THE LITTLEST AIRPLANE with West Margin Press started 2022, folowed by PEGA SISTERS with Page Street Kids in May.

WATCH OUT FOR THE LION! (Page Street Kids) hit bookstores on February 7th, 2023 (KLYDE THE KRAKEN WANTS A FRIEND on April 25th 2023, Hazy Dell Press), LITTLE NARWHAL LOST (2023, West Margin Press), and ALL ABOARD THE ALASKA TRAIN (2023, West Margin Press).

When Brooke isn’t writing, you can find her flying, fishing, and having fun with her family, enjoying all the magic life has to offer in her home state of Alaska.

Follow her Alaskan writing adventures on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram at @BrookesBooksAK


Anna  grew up in Cologne, Germany and has loved drawing and reading since she was a child. After having her daughter Emilia, she decided to illustrate picture books due to her passion for graphic design and the love for clear structures and bright colors.

Anna Suessbauer is an illustrator focusing on children’s book and editorial illustration. Her career path included various steps. She discovered the creative aspects of every job, but after the birth of her daughter she knew that she wanted to have a career in the creative industry.

She has been a freelance illustrator since 2017, represented by Plum Pudding illustration agency. Her illustrations are humorous and whimsical and feature bright colours and expressive textures. She likes building characters with graphical elements and making them special with a lot of texture and exciting colour combinations.

Anna has worked for Brigitte Magazin and Highlights Magazine and has illustrated children’s books for Usborne, Harper Collins, Combel Editorial, Little Tiger, Hachette Worthy Kids, Pat-a-cake, DK Kids and Page Street Kids.

With my daughter and two dogs I live and work in Cologne.

Brooke thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is such a funny and clever book. I can tell how much you had writing this book. That really shines through the whole book. I love how the book show you don’t jump to assumptions. Just because you see a bushy tail, doesn’t mean it’s attached to a lion. It could be a giraffe. Or spying curvy claws could belong to another animal, like a sloth. Very, very clever. Teachers and parents will love reading this aloud to their class and children at home. It makes me smile imagining the giggles and belly laugh from the kids. Anna’s illustrations adorable and purr-fect for the story. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


The Ann Whitford Paul – Writer’s Digest Manuscript Award is an annual award given to a Most Promising Picture Book manuscript.

Winners will be selected in two categories: Fiction and Nonfiction. The two winners will each receive a $1000 grant to encourage the development of an excellent picture book manuscript.

Get your manuscripts ready. Submissions open April 1, 2023. Deadline is April 30, 2023.



  • This award is open to any SCBWI members with picture books who are not under contract and/or have not sold a picture book manuscript in the last five years.
  • Please include a cover sheet that has the title of the manuscript and all of your contact information. Please submit text-only manuscripts – no dummies or published work.
  • You may only submit one manuscript (fiction OR nonfiction), which should not exceed 1000 words.
  • We are only accepting electronic submissions. Email your manuscript to
  • Include manuscript as a PDF attachment.

Questions? Please email Sarah Diamond at

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 26, 2023

Book Giveaway: HUMPHREY THE EGG-SPLORER by Nadia Ali

Nadia Ali has written a new picture book, HUMPHREY THE EGG-SPLORER, illustrated by Valenti Gubianas being published by Yeehoo Press on April 4th. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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


A rollicking story that expands the famous tale of a fragile egg to a new story about bravery, creativity, and forging your own path.

Eggs are fragile and bought specifically to be cracked. . . but what if they don’t want to be cracked and have their own ambitions and goals for life like becoming a great egg-splorer? Humphrey has long known the cautionary tale of his grandfather, Humpty Dumpty. Being an egg means he can easily slip and crack at any time . . . but what does that mean for his dreams of becoming an egg-splorer and going on grand adventures? But Humphrey is determined, and he’ll do whatever it takes to become a brave adventurer―even if that means putting himself through the fieriest trials to get there. Inspired by the beloved nursery rhyme, author Nadia Ali and artist Valentí Gubianas deliver a rollicking story that expands the famous tale of a fragile egg to a new story about bravery, creativity, and forging your own path.


Thank you Kathy for the opportunity to share my book journey of ‘Humphrey the Egg-splorer.’

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the realm of nursery rhymes. After all, who doesn’t like reading aloud those familiar short songs or verses like, ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.’

When I started writing I did not realize that a majority of these are in the public domain and thus can be re-written and adapted. I remember seeing the fractured-fairy tale series by Josh Funk and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD by Tara Lazar. But it was ‘AFTER THE FALL: HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP by Dan Santat that ignited my thoughts. It sparked my imagination and got me thinking about the character of Humpty Dumpty. He sat on a wall, fell and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again. I Humpty Dumpty was still alive – how would today’s kids relate to him, surely, he would be a grandpa at the very least. So, there would need to be a new relatable character for kids, someone they could identify with, such as grandpa Humpty’s grandson – Humphrey Dumpty.

From that point the story started evolving. Humphrey wants to be an egg-splorer like his grandpa but with one big difference – he doesn’t want to end up as a cracked egg on the ground. So, he devises ways to become stronger, going against his dozen of eggs and forging his own path to become an egg-splorer.

By June 2021, I began submitting Humphrey to publishers. Yeehoo Press expressed an interest. At the end of September, I signed with my agent Joyce Sweeney and by January 2022 we signed a contract with Yeehoo Press sealing the book deal for Humphrey the Egg-splorer.

Working on ‘Humphrey’ with my editor Siqin was such a wonderful experience and together the story evolved even more. I was soon invited to give my opinion on the pencil sketches created  by Valenti Gubianas an illustrator of children’s books and murals. Honestly, seeing those first pencil sketches of the character of Humphrey was overwhelming and when the color illustrations arrived, my eyes brimmed with happy tears wanting to print the whole PDF to hold it in my hands. I love the warmth of the colors he used – the orange, red and yellow that welcome readers to each page. My favorite spread is the one with a fire-breathing dragon, a fiery volcano and an enormous smiling sun. Valenti also cleverly added a wordless story element played out through the sun’s expression at the window. He also added a wordless family to the household who go about making tea, being busy in the kitchen and simply share the space with Humphrey and his dozen – just the sheer creative genius of Valenti.

The text and illustrations were finalized and with nothing more for me to do, I sat and waited while writing. Then, one day, I received an email from Yeehoo Press with a few attachments. On opening them there were photographs from the printing process and actual video clips of Humphrey being printed! I watched mesmerized at the spinning of the rolling press, the swishing of paper filtering through and there printed on the paper were my words and Valenti’s illustrations forming the pages of Humphrey the Egg-splorer. I was egg-cited! Egg-static and egg-stremely grateful.

Fast forward to December 2022, a courier van pulled up outside my place, beep-beep! The courier man stood there with a box-in-hand from Yeehoo Press.  I suddenly felt like I was not formerly attired to accept the box of author copies. I should have prepared! Hair, make-up, evening gown, and glided down the driveway waving slowly to adoring neighbors who peeped through curtains. Standing side-by-side with the courier man, I gave him my first author’s signature on the received bill to which he screeched away at speed unaware of the auspicious occasion.

Now in 2023, marketing begins, the pre-order campaign is in full swing with editorial and early reviews starting to roll in. There’s a lot of egg-citement and eggs-pectation in the air. Come Tuesday 4th April, Humphrey the Egg-splorer will be released. May it inspire those who read it, to be strong, be positive and let their adventure begin.


Nadia Ali is a children’s author who writes fiction and nonfiction picture books. Her stories range from funny to fanciful to factual. She was born in London, UK and currently resides in the Caribbean where she happily swapped out London’s gray skies for clear blue skies.

She is active on social media making valued connections and networking with fellow writers. She is a member of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Community and Sue Atkins Book Club. She was honored to be a Grand Prize Winner in the #SunFunWrite2022 Contest, a #DVPit Critique Winner and a 2021 Picture Book Party Finalist. You can follow her on:

Twitter: @NadiaAwriter




Valenti Gubianas was born in front of the station of a train that was not in a rush. It had so few things that it was taken away after a while. Everything was done in a hurry, and nobody wanted the poor train anymore. He grew up making play-huts in Alzineta there when there were still a lot of tall, beautiful pines, the bonfires of San Juan on the Pla del Gubianas, playing in the bell tower, as the door was always open, discovering the world with the Boy Scouts, making the best gift packages in the world at the shop in his town, playing football with friends every day of the week and watching how the flocks of farm animals went past the house. He drew, painted, like everyone in my house. One day a teacher told him they would not be drawing in class anymore, because he was now 9 years old. Later he discovered there were people who were professional illustrators and who were adults. When he grew-up, he didn’t know what he wanted to be, except for being happy. Like those at home, like his friends in the boy scouts, like the people people who make the giants dance in the town fairs, like so many other great and happy people.

There is no train, or station, there are many pines less in the Alzineta, the bell tower is always locked. But Valenti has discovered that there are adults who write stories and tales about trains, trees, and bell towers. And of lambs like those in the flocks that used to pass by in front of his house. He likes to imagine worlds, and tries to change them and paint them with new colours. He has discovered that the happiest people he knows, are adults, who change the colour of the world whenever they can.

Valenti studied for a time at the Massana School and discovered the art of illustrating stories. Discovering the work of Carme Solé Vendrell, Montse Ginesta, Mariscal, Peret, Arnal Ballester or Montse Tobella was what drove him to begin his adventures in this world. Training with Carme Solé Vendrell was motivated his professionalism. He published his first book in 1995, it was written by Elena O’Callaghan. Since then he has illustrated books for various publishers, both children’s and youth literature and textbooks.

His interest in discovering new paths has led him to create large-scale murals for schools, libraries, on building facades and in live performances. Transforming a wall allows him to create a story, to create a small universe, and to feel free, as if he were flying.

Valenti’s real school has been the scout movement. Illustrating books and murals is his craft, which he does, above all, with his heart and head.

Nadia, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. What a fun to read. Humphey Dumpty is the grandson of Humpty Dumpty, the famous adventurer and egg-splorer. Humphrey wants to follow in his grandpa’s footsteps – minus his fall and demise.

No one else in his dozen shares his enthusiasm and tries to talk him out of his dream, but he says, “I am going to go where no egg has gone before.” He must get strong, so he egg-xcerzises. His friends tell him he needs to get warm for 10 minutes to get stronger, then he remembers it’s cake baking day. He doesn’t want to end up in a cake, so he runs to the stove, jumps in a pot of warm water until he feels weird and jumps out. He feels heavier and his friends tell him he’s hard-boiled and indeed heavier and stronger. Humphey is egg-cited and goes off to start his new adventure.

This book is so creative and so much fun. I love the egg play on words. Sure to get a bunch of giggles and belly laughs from kids. They’ll love this book. Valenti’s illustrations are great and really add to the action and fun of the book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 25, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Lavanya Naidu

Lavanya Naidu is an animator, designer and award-winning children’s book illustrator, born and raised in Kolkata, India. She has illustrated for numerous children’s books. Her work has most recently been featured at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content as a selection for their Digital Gallery 2020. Lavanya now lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Lavanya Naidu is a children’s book illustrator and animator, born and raised in Kolkata, India. Over the last decade she has worked on numerous kids’ books, animation projects and animation production. She now lives in Melbourne, Australia and recently completed her role as the head of design and episode director on the animated kids series The Strange Chores (season 2). In her spare time Lavanya enjoys collecting dinosaur models and tending to her ever-growing collection of plants!


I start off with a really simple and rough thumbnail just to put the idea in place.

Then I take the thumbnail to roughs. Sketching it out to scale on Photoshop. I also add some rough values in to see if I can create areas of interest and focus before taking it to colour.

I block in rough colours and experiment to see what might work.

While working on fleshing out the background here I changed my mind about the character in the foreground because I didn’t think the idea was landing as much as I wanted it to. And this can happen sometimes even after proceeding to colour! If I feel stuck I usually take some time away from the artwork and come back to it later with a fresh set of eyes and it usually helps!

This stage for me is the most fun! I enjoy drawing in all the little details and seeing something gain a life and identity of its own!

Here is the finished Illustration


When did you first realize you could draw?

I was very young, maybe three or four years old? My father would ask me to sit by his desk so he could sketch a portrait of me. I believe it was a clever way of making me sit still, an otherwise restless child! I would wait patiently and every time I saw the finished drawing, I wanted to do the same. I believe this is where my love for drawing started! I was lucky to have had a some beautifully illustrated books growing up and they too left quite the impression on me. I would spend all my free time looking at the details and trying to imitate them in my drawings. This is probably when I realized that maybe I could draw!

What was the first art thing that you did where someone paid you?

It was probably in my 3rd year at NID (National Institute of Design) where a friend of mine from a senior year asked if I might be interested in illustrating for children’s books. As a student with expenses and bills to pay I jumped at the opportunity. They were short projects, mostly for kids workbooks, but I was very happy to be drawing and getting paid for it to boot! Thus began my journey into the world of children’s literature.

Were you nervous about getting into the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India? I read that is one of the most difficult schools to get into in India.

Growing up, NID was a name that came up every now and then as my paternal aunt had attended the school. My ambitions were different at the time, I was keen to pursue medicine and become a doctor. Post my 12th standard results I did sit for the Med school entrance examination.  While I was awaiting the results, I remember my parents coming to me one morning with the admissions form for NID. This wasn’t something any of us had talked about previously so I was quite surprised. They believed that it was worth a try because of how much I loved to draw. Theysaw something in me that I didn’t at the time and I am forever grateful for that fateful day! I decided to give it a shot and have never looked back since!

Is that where you studied animation?

Yes! This would be where I studied animation film design!

Did you take illustrating classes?

We had a short course in illustration for 6 weeks in our second year at NID but that’s about it.

Did you do any freelance artwork while at NID?

Yes! As I mentioned earlier, I started to work on freelance artwork around my third year.

Did NID help you make contacts with companies who might hire you after graduation?

In our 3rd and 4th years we had the opportunity to gain work experience and intern at an animation studio for a couple of months and a semester respectively. This gave us the opportunity to create connections with the industry for when we would graduate. Though to be completely honest, there were not a lot of traditional hand-drawn animation gigs at the time!

What type of work did you do after graduation?

In 2011, I was lucky enough to have had my final graduate film selected for a Japanese animation festival, TBS Digicon 6. It gave me my very first opportunity to travel internationally and opened my eyes to all the possibilities in the field. I was both intimidated and in complete awe of the incredibly talented artists present at the festival. It inspired me to keep pursuing traditional animation and work on improving my skills even though the local opportunities were scarce.

It was around this time that I had heard of a summer school character animation workshop that Gobelins – École de l’image (Paris, France), was organizing and I decided that I had to apply for it! Once again, I was lucky enough to have been accepted into the program. I worked on a few small gigs and saved up enough for the trip and a kind friend of mine based in Paris offered to host me while I was there. This experience changed my life! All of a sudden, I was in the presence of mentors whose work I had only seen on the big screen. Watching them work and share their passion for the field was an incredibly humbling experience. Post this workshop I worked on a new showreel and landed a gig with a small German studio, Otataa, that was interested in creating children’s apps. Apps were still very new at the time and I loved the format that they were pursuing – interactive storytelling with animated characters, two of my passions!

What made you decide to illustrate children’s books?

One of my first introductions to art were illustrated children’s books. It has always been a love of mine even before I knew it could be a career. All the while pursuing animation I continued to illustrate for children’s books. Animation timelines can be long, sometimes years before we see the end result. Books on the other hand have a different energy. The added treat of reading all of these beautiful stories was (and continues to be!) too hard to resist! It gave me an opportunity to try different styles and experiment, to experience new worlds and new characters each time! These books provided me an escape from hectic production schedules and allowed me to really enjoy the process of drawing.

How did you end up in Australia?

My partner was based in Singapore as of 2012. Some advantages of being a freelance artist allowed me to work from anywhere so I moved to Singapore.  In 2017 we were looking for change and new opportunities so decided that it was time to move. Australia had a growing animation industry and my husband had some exciting things happening in his line of work as well so we packed our bags and moved to Melbourne! This is also where I began my journey in animation television production.

When did you decide to focus on illustrating children’s books?

This happened very recently! I had been in animation productions for both tv and film for the past 5 years and the pace was starting to catch up with me. Simultaneously I was illustrating a couple of picture books and it’s through working on these books that I realized just how much I enjoyed the process. It allowed for independent expression and this brought me immense joy! When the timing felt right, I decided to start dedicating to focus more on children’s books.

Was A Long Walk for Bina by Ruskin Bond, published by Rupa Publications India in 2012 your first published children’s book?

Yes! I had only done a few small illustrations for workbooks and a cover illustration before I landed my very first illustrated children’s book, Long Walk for Bina by Ruskin Bond!

How did you secure that job?

The Art Director on the project emailed me and asked if I might be available to take this on. I was surprised and I’m unsure to this day how it transpired! Ruskin Bond’s books were a childhood staple so being presented with the opportunity to illustrate one of his stories was a dream come true for an Indian illustrator starting their career!

In 2017 you illustrated another book by Ruskin Bond titled Prankenstein: The Book of Crazy Mischief. Did Ruskin ask Speaking Tiger Books for you to illustrate his book?

Oh! I wish I knew! That would be quite wonderful if it was the case, however I was approached by Speaking Tiger for this book.

The French editions of Comme un poisson dans l’eau ! (LIKE A FISH IN WATER) was published by Saga Egmont in September 2022. In December 2022, it was printed in Italian and Spanish. Do you think it will eventually be published in English? I Did see Razia Learns to Swim written by Divya Panicker, but published Pratham Books that looks similar in English. Is this the same book? It’s not available on Amazon.

It is indeed the same book that was first published online in English! Pratham Books is a nonprofit Indian publisher dedicated to bring a book in every child’s hand and spread the joy of reading. The stories are published in several languages to make books more accessible and they are also open source! Razia Learns to Swim was first published digitally hence you may not find physical copies on Amazon, but should be free to read on the Pratham Books Storyweaver website!

Was Home Is in Between by Mitali Perkins and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Bfyr) on February 23, 2021 your first published book with a USA publisher?

Yes, that’s right. And one of my absolute favourite picture books to have worked on too!

In October 2021 you illustrated Rick Riordan’s book, Daughter of the Deep with publisher Disney-Hyperion. How did you get this contract? How exciting was it to show off your work on the cover of his book?

I’m not completely sure how they may have found me, but they mentioned having seen my portfolio online. Our friends’ kids are obsessed with the Percy Jackson series and talk about Rick Riordan all the time! So, you can only imagine how excited I was to be working on his new book, that too with a female lead of Indian decent!

How did Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for You find your to illustrate The Katha Chest written by Radhiah Chowdhury that came out a year ago.

I believe that Allen and Unwin (Australia) had it submitted at book festivals and Salaam Reads were keen to add it to their list! It turned out to be the perfect match and avenue to bring The Katha Chest to the North American audience.

This is cool to see you have illustrated The Area 51 Files (2022) and The Big Flush (coming out in July) by Julia Buxbaum, published by Delacorte Press. I love her YA books. I will have to read these. How many b&w illustrations did you do for these books?

Julie’s books are a real treat to both read and illustrate! The Area 51 Files is a highly illustrated series so includes approximately 150 black and white illustrations of varying sizes throughout the book. I’m really looking forward to the release of the 2nd book in the series!

Doug the Pug by Karen Yin finished up 2022 with Scholastic. How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

I am a dog lover! And was waiting eagerly to work on a book with dogs as the primary subject. This turned out to be the most fitting of books! It took me around 4 to 5 months to complete this project.

Was it challenging to illustrated five books in 2022?

That might be 4 not 5, I think? – Two volumes of The Area 51 Files, Doug the Pug and The Hats of Marvello? Or am I missing one?

There were times where project schedules overlapped and made time management tricky. However, 2022 was the year I decided to make more time for books so although it was busy, I really enjoyed every bit of it!

How and when did you connect with Aliza Hoover at the CAT Agency?

I connected with Aliza early December 2022. She had initially reached out on Instagram to arrange a chat regarding representation. I had been considering it for a while so was keen to know more. My conversation with her was enlightening, insightful and effortless from the get go! She is amazing at what she does and an overall legend so I am very lucky to have her on my team!

Did Aliza secure you the contract for The Hats of Marvello by Amanda Graham that just came out in March with HarperCollins?

The Hats of Marvello came to me early September 2021 so much before I connected with Aliza!

It looks like there are a lot of wonderful b&w illustrations inside the book. How many did you do?

Amanda Graham has woven such a delightful and evocative world with her words, for Olive (the protagonist), the 101 rabbits and the portals created by the hats that it would be a pleasure for any illustrator to visually bring that to life! The book had 12 full page illustrations and 40 spot illustrations, all black and white. Fun fact – although the type on the cover initially was only done for placement, I was thrilled to see it be received well by the team internally and adopted on the final cover!

Are you still working on Bee Bakshi and the Gingerbread Sisters by Emi Pinto coming out on September 12, 2023?

I was given the opportunity to design the cover so am unsure of whether the book has internal illustrations. I’d always wanted to illustrate a spooky themed story, so was excited to have had the perfect opportunity with this thrilling book!

I noticed you wrote and illustrated My First Indian Dinosaur Book, published by Pratham Books. Was this the first published author/illustrator book? The publisher does not list the pub. Date. When was it published?

Officially yes! Pratham Books were familiar with my love of dinosaurs and asked if I might want to make a picture book with the dinosaurs of the Indian subcontinent. They are lesser known than the more popular ones we are used to seeing in books, movies and television. This was a wonderful chance to capture the prehistoric beasts in a book! I remember visiting the Indian Museum often as a child and they have a restored skull of a Rajasaurus on display there. I was always in awe of it but could never find it in any books or encyclopedias at the time. Imagine my joy when I finally got to draw this in my very own book!

Do you plan to write and illustrate another book?

Yes absolutely! I am certainly planning to lean a more into writing and illustrating my own picture books in the near future.

What do you think helped develop your style?

I think one of the biggest influences for me while I was in university was French animation. I absolutely love the stories, and how grey their characters can be, the worlds they build, really all of it! It was this beautiful meld of character and story that had an impact on me and I continue to carry this with me in my work to this day!

Where does all this magic happen? Do you have an in-home studio?

I long for the day where I’ll have an in-home studio! Currently I work out of a little area in my house teaming with stationery, wires, plants, dinos and books!

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Yes! I also like to take pictures of different textures on my walks to use in the colour stage and just to study them too. The Katha Chest was a special one, because I had asked my mum for pictures of some of her old sarees and Radhiah (the author) had also sent me pictures of some prints of sarees from her family. It was a lovely personal touch!

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I usually work digitally and Photoshop is my go-to software. Though I do enjoy traditional mediums in my personal work. Colour pencils are my favourite!

What book do you think was your biggest success?

For me The Katha Chest was a personal success I hold close to my heart. Radhiah is of Bangladeshi descent and I was born and raised in West Bengal (India) so we have many shared aspects of our culture celebrated in the book. It was a beautiful collaboration and a very nostalgic trip down memory lane. Also, the many strong and empowering women portrayed in the story, inspired by members of Radhi’s family remind me of my own. It was my very first Australian picture book too! The messages and emails I have received in response to the book have been heartwarming and ones that I will treasure for a long time to come!

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

Self-discipline, clear communication and managing time have been two things that I work hard to maintain especially when freelancing. And although I am still learning, a good work life balance to me is essential in avoiding burnout and continuing to feel inspired.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Yes! I’m currently working on an exciting picture book and have another fun book series starting later in the year. Can’t wait to share more!

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

Absolutely! When I first started out, the spaces online where one could share artwork and its reach were limited. Most of my projects came through email and word of mouth. But in recent years I’ve been approached for projects a lot more through social media. The internet has allowed for artists to connect and collaborate on a global scale, which is fantastic!

What are your career goals?

Now having more of a focus on children’s books, I hope to be able to write and illustrate my own stories in the near future and am very excited about this!

What are you working on now?

A picture book, a middle grade series and some exciting concept work for a possible animated series!


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

A tip that I can’t stress enough and that has always worked for me, is to start with rough thumbnails. I feel like this really gives me clarity before I begin a piece and it’s a quick way to experiment with composition and see what’s working. I also put in rough values to see if there’s a good balance at this stage. It really is so handy and quick and saves you from running into issues when you start working on final art.

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

When I first started my journey as an illustrator, I had this perception of an ideal artist. But as I’ve grown in my craft, I’ve learned to enjoy the journey of figuring things out much more than the outcome. Making mistakes is a part of the process! I have also embraced that what I want to achieve will constantly change.

Another thing that has really helped me improve my skills over the years is constructive criticism. It is an excellent way to learn even if it can be uncomfortable at times coming face to face with things that might challenge you.

And lastly, I intend to draw for the rest of my life. And I’ve learned this the hard way but it’s important to take breaks, unwind and introduce a good work life balance early so you can sustain your passion for the craft for many years to come!

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

You can visit Lavanya using the following links:





Talk tomorrow,


I look for books that delight readers, that help readers escape, that make readers feel seen, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that cultivate empathy and compassion, that comfort readers and make them feel safe, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that inspire reflection and conversation, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle Grade
  3. Graphic Novels (MG/YA/Adult)
  4. Adult Fiction

Visual MSWL—If you’re a visually minded person like me, head over to Pinterest to see my “visual manuscript wishlists.” I have one for kid lit, and one for adult books.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But if you don’t already know about, check them out too! They are a fantastic online book retailer that supports brick and mortar bookstores.) I also have a Pinterest board of books I’ve worked on.

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website. If you are an author/illustrator please include a link to your portfolio.

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. 🙂 I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I opt to refer to my slush pile as a “treasure trove” because it doesn’t feel like wading through slush to me. It feels more like sifting through gems. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!


  1. Picture book author/illustrators—I’m open to receiving submissions from authors, but I’m primarily looking to sign author-illustrator clients at this point. I’m open to many different illustration aesthetics from hand-drawn to digitally rendered to collage to unconventional mediums. I love having a wide range of styles on my list, and the main thing I’m looking for is a unique, distinctive look. Some of my favorite illustrators include Juana Martinez-Neal, Vashti Harrison, the Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, Anne Lambelet, Brian Selznick, Carson Ellis, Frank Morrison, and Emily Winfield Martin.
  2. Humor—I want the next hilarious, commercial-feeling, NYT Bestseller. It’s important to me that kids really love and are delighted by the books I represent, and humor is also a great entry point into reading for kids who are intimidated by books, so I take silly books seriously. 🙂 Some of my favorite humor-driven books are: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Dragons Love Tacos, The Bad Seed series, Where Bone?, A Spoonful of Frogs, When Unicorns Poop, The Day the Crayons Quit, Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, and Rot: the Cutest in the World.
  3. Family Narratives—I love books that reflect families and their everyday experiences. For me, the more specific the story, the better. Examples: Hair Love, Bedtime Bonnet, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Under My Hijab, Alma, Julian is a Mermaid, Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
  4. Magical books—I love magical stories that feel like the type of book that will stick with a child throughout their life. Anything by The Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, and Emily Winfield Martin. A few of my favorite magical books: The Night GardenerThe Antlered Ship, The Bear and the Piano, The Cloud Spinner, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, and Lights on Cotton Rock.
  5. Adventures—I would love to see more adventure stories in my inbox! Examples include The Greatest Adventure, It’s Not a Bed It’s a Time Machine, Ocean Meets Sky, and Stella’s Stellar Hair.
  6. Mermaids—Send me all of your mermaids!! (What kind of mermaid have you not seen before? I love when fantastical stories are pure fun but can also provide representation.)
  7. Karaoke—I’d love a joyful picture book about karaoke, sort of like the karaoke equivalent of Hip-Hop Lollipop.
  8. Traditions—I love picture books about family traditions/cultural traditions, especially when there is food, cooking, baking, or recipes involved. I’d also love to see other family traditions, like holiday traditions (loved Night Tree, Mooncakes), faith traditions, house-cleansing or blessing ceremonies/traditions, etc.
  9. Food—I love picture books about food! Some of my favorites are Amy Wu and the Perfect BaoFry Bread, Tomatoes for NeelaHalal Hot Dogs, and Anni Dreams of Biryani.
  10. Atmospheric—I love a unique atmosphere/strong sense of place in books across the board. Because picture books are fully illustrated, they create the unique opportunity to create a really visually dazzling atmosphere, and I’d love to have more atmospheric picture books on my list. I think Hello Lighthouse is a great example of this.
  11. Spooky—I love spooky stories! (And I loved them as a kid too.) Ghosts, haunted houses, cobwebs. Some of my favorites include How to Make Friends with a Ghost, and The Ugly Doodles and the upcoming book Knight Snacker.
  12. Creativity—I love picture books about art and creativity, like the The Dot, Ish, The Ugly Doodles, The WonderThe Storytellers Rule, and Beautiful Oops.


  1. Magical Realism or Contemporary Fantasy—I love any stories with light touches of magic or fantasy that are still accessible to readers who aren’t “genre readers.” Some of my favorite magical MG tales include Circus Mirandus, and No Ordinary Thing.
  2. Graphic Novels—I am open to taking a look at anything here, especially contemporary realistic, magical realism, fantasy, and historical fiction. I’m reallyeager to work on a historical fiction GN. Some recent faves of mine were PashminaWitch Boy, and Measuring Up. I’d also like to put out into the universe: I would love to find the next Brian Selznick type of creator that doesn’t shy away from hybrid, unconventional formats.
  3. Historical Fiction—I am a history lover and enjoy historical fiction that feels like it’s shining a spotlight on a piece of history that’s been glossed over in textbooks. I want to see a hook/premise that I think will appeal to young readers, and an engaging voice. I’m open to epistolary novels or novels in verse as well. I love Brown Girl DreamingShip of DollsHouse Without Walls, and Indian No More.
  4. Mystery—I’m hungry for a good mystery! I will never forget reading The Dollhouse Murders when I was in fifth grade and having to close the book for a moment because I was so scared. (But I loved it.) I want to work on books that inspire that same level of book-induced fright! Give me an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit.


  1. Graphic Novels—Right now in the Young Adult space, I am narrowly focused on graphic novels. I’m open to a wide range of genres and art styles here. My favorites include PumpkinheadsThe Prince and the DressmakerThe Girl from the SeaIsla to Island, and Batter Royale. Right now I’m specifically looking for something very atmospheric where the setting is a crucial element to the story.


  1. Book Club Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! When I think of book club fiction, I think of stories with wide appeal that are engaging and accessible reads, but still have layers and depth that lend themselves to discussion. I love the feeling of when I finish reading a book and immediately need to talk to someone about it. I’m a sucker for a dual timeline. I love interesting voices/POVs and rhythmic language. The biggest thing I’m looking for is a good hook and a distinctive voice. Some of my favorites include Lessons in Chemistry, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Dollhouse, Violeta, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Daisy Jones & The Six, RoomThe Maid.
  2. Thrillers/Mystery—I love page turning thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing them. I’m really looking for a hook here. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, and Lisa Jewell. I would love to see a fresh take on the genre from a POV we haven’t seen featured as prominently. Some of my favorite thrillers include Luckiest Girl Alive, Verity, The Woman in Cabin 10, Final Girls, Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Then She Was Gone, and Hunting Annabelle. I would also love to see something more in the mystery category that has a cheeky tone and engaging voice like The Maid.
  3. Romance/Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on rom coms that have a high concept commercial hook. I welcome tropes of all stripes, especially enemies to lovers, slow burn/friends to lovers, fake relationships, and so on. I’d love to see some speculative rom coms too, like The Ex Hex or The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. Some of my recent favorites include Beach Read, The Unhoneymooners, Real Men Knit, Maybe in Another Life, The Rosie Project, Waiting for Tom HanksNot Like the Movies, The Proposal, and After Hours on Milagro Street.
  4. Historical Fiction—I love historical fiction and am especially fascinated by lesser known historical occurrences or anything really “specific” like the focus on the Barbizon Hotel in The Dollhouse, and the focus on the Trinity Test in Come Down Somewhere. I love dual timelines. I look for engaging prose and a good hook. I have a special interest in the eras between the 1890s-1970s, but I’m happy to take a look at anything. I’m probably not the best fit for “ancient” historical fiction, though.
  5. Speculative—I am looking for adult fiction with light touches of magic/speculative elements such as magical realism, grounded fantasy, cozy fantasy, and magic-tinged rom coms. Think “a little bit of magic and a whole lot of heart” like The Inheritance of Orquídea DivinaThe Very Secret Society of Irregular WitchesThe House in the Cerulean Sea, and The Ex Hex.
  6. Graphic Novels—For adult graphic novels, I’m open to taking a look at anything. I’m especially interested in humor, romance, nonfiction, or just contemporary stories in general. I’m open to projects with speculative elements but epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me. If you’re not sure, feel free to send it to me anyway! I’d also love a really unique format outside the box of the traditional graphic novel format, something like Caroline Preston’s books The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt and The War Bride’s Scrapbook.
  7. Unique Format—I love stories that are told in unique formats, whether that be epistolary, e-epistolary (I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette), transcripts (like Daisy Jones & The Six), a unique POV (think Room), etc. If it’s slightly outside a traditional novel format or voice, send it my way!


  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stories (I quit tee-ball when I was 4 and faked stomach aches in P.E., so I’m afraid I am not your gal.)
  3. Space operas
  4. Amish Fiction
  5. Angel/Demon narratives
  6. Ancient historical fiction
  7. High/Epic SFF
  8. Military/FBI/espionage thrillers
  9. Dystopian stories



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


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

They know basically everything I know! I have a designated email thread for submission updates, as well as a (color-coded, alphabetized) submissions spreadsheet that is a live document they have access to at all times. They know which editors/publishers I submit to, when I send submissions, when I follow up, how editors respond, etc. I err on the side of sharing too much information.

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

It depends on the situation. Usually I advise against it, because sales numbers of past books are often held against authors when we’re trying to negotiate future deals. It’s tougher to get strong sales numbers for self-published titles because of marketing and distribution challenges. I don’t think it’s a strategic way to go most of the time, but there have been some situations with specific projects where it’s made sense, and ultimately it’s a decision that’s up to the author.

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

Sometimes I run my sub lists past colleagues just to make sure I’m not missing anyone obvious. It’s always nice to get another set of eyeballs on things!

If you liked a manuscript, but it wasn’t right for you, would you pass it on to another agent at P.S. Literary?

Absolutely! We often share projects with each other.

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

Publishers often want to cling on to audio rights, so it’s like taking candy from a baby sometimes, but we try to retain them when we can. Audiobooks continue to be a popular format, and it seems to be a landscape that is expanding. For example, audiobooks for picture books used to not really be a thing, but now a market for them has emerged over the last few years. And they’re so beautifully produced! I’ve been really happy with how many of my clients’ audiobooks have turned out. The audiobook for THE CHRISTMAS BOOK FLOOD by Emily Kilgore and Kitty Moss is so magical and makes you want to curl up by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa. And the audiobook for SCHOOL IS WHEREVER I AM by Ellie Peterson is so upbeat and fun.

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

We work with Taryn Fagerness for foreign rights contracts, who I’m pretty sure is actually secretly Wonder Woman. And for film rights, we have several film agents within the industry we love working with.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

I think the most notable trend is the marketing machine that TikTok has become. It’s a powerful force for selling books. People have always loved finding out about books through word of mouth, and with the parasocial relationships we develop with people online, watching a BookTok video feels like listening to a friend rave about a book they loved, which is a really contagious thing.

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

The key, I think, is building a village around you. People! Relationships! And please don’t interpret this as me telling you to network—it’s so much more holistic than that. Make friends with fellow writers who you can turn to for emotional support through the mountains and valleys of the publishing experience. Find critique partners who give you helpful feedback on your work. Building relationships with people takes time and work, but you’ll be a better and happier writer once you find your village.

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

Yes! I particularly love events that are held in really special, beautiful locations. This year I’m particularly excited to teach The Art of Picture Book Writing in Tuscany, Italy this June through a company called Il Chiostro. And this fall I’m on faculty for a cozy writers retreat in the Catskills with Elixir Writers Retreats. Why be in a hotel conference center with fluorescent lighting when there are events like this, you know?



In the subject line, please write “MARCH 2023 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2023 MARCH FIRST PAGE  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

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


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


DEADLINE March 24th. – noon EST

RESULTS: March 31st 


Talk tomorrow,


Ellen Leventhal picture book, DEBBIE’S SONG: THE DEBBIE FRIEDMAN STORY, illustrated by Natalia Grebtsova and published by Kar-Ben Publishing on April 4th. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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


Debbie Friedman always had music inside her, and she dreamed of using her love of singing to do what no one else had done before—create Jewish music that would welcome, include, and honor the whole Jewish community.


During my teaching days in a Jewish Day School, the kids and staff sang Debbie Friedman songs all the time. I loved how she made her songs inclusive and fun to sing. Debbie drew inspiration from the folk singers of her time (which was my time too!), so I was drawn to her immediately.

One day after I retired from full time teaching, I was teaching part time, and I heard a class singing one of her songs. Memories came rushing back, and I realized that I hadn’t heard her or about her in a long time. I knew enough about Debbie to know how amazing her story is, and that was that day that I knew I had to tell it. Many people here in Houston knew her well, and I put a list together of who I wanted to interview. But I felt strongly that, although Debbie has passed away, I wanted permission from her family before I proceeded. Once I got it, I spoke to her sister often and went from there.

The next part of the journey is a funny story. I was told that one publishing house was looking for a story on Debbie, so I quickly worked on what I had already and sent it there. They were super nice and asked for a few R and Rs but ultimately passed. The day I got the pass, I sent it to Joni Sussman at Kar-Ben (with whom I’ve always wanted to work), and it wasn’t long before I found myself jumping up and down because I got an offer. It shows how subjective this business is. Working with Joni and the staff at Kar-Ben has been great, and I know I found a wonderful home for Debbie’s story. I am thankful to both Kar-Ben and the other house which did get their story from someone else, by the way.


Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. She is the author of DEBBIE’S SONG: THE STORY OF DEBBIE FRIEDMAN ( Kar-Ben Publishing/ Lerner Publishing Group 2023), A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group 2021) and LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Clear Fork Publishing 2018). Ellen is also the co-author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS, (Clear Fork publishing 2017)

Her work has appeared in various poetry and short story anthologies. Ellen frequently presents at schools and has been featured on both TV and radio. When visiting schools, she coordinates with and supports literacy programs as well as diversity and anti-bullying programs. To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, please go to Twitter: @EllenLWrites Instagram: @EllenL411


Natalia Grebtsova is an illustrator from Moscow, Russia.

Her pseudonym is ‘Belouhaya Marmozetka’ which means ‘White-Eared Marmoset’! Natalia draws digitally on her iPad Pro to create amazing worlds. She has worked with many publishers and private clients, illustrating books, cards and children’s games. She is inspired by her love of nature and animals, and loves working with other people.

Above all, Natalia values ensuring quality work and fulfilling her responsibilities to her clients. In her illustrations, she always strives to deliver a sense of goodness, love and magic.

Thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. Thank you for bring us this inspirational story of a young girl who grew up so filled with music that it bubbled out and created a new form of music where she blended English and Hebrew to the joy of people around the world. Here is a small snippet from the book.

Debbie wove the English and Hebrew words together like a tapestry.

The simple chords and easily sung lyrics welcomed everyone,

even those who didn’t know Hebrew.

Nobody felt alone with Debbie new music.

She wrote for those who felt different,

For those who felt left out,

For young children,

And for herself.

Her music took her all the way to Carnegie Hall, where she wowed the audiences who sang along with her. Natalia’s illustrations are gorgeous. Perfect for this book. I love how she wove the musical notes through every page. Parents and children will love this book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 22, 2023

Book Winners – Kudos – Industry Changes


Please let me know if you didn’t.


Laurie Calkhoven won MIRROR TO MIRROR by Rajani LaRocca

Ellen Leventhal won HIDDEN HOPE: How a Toy and a Hero Saved Lives During the Holocaust by Elisa Boxer


Winners please send me your mailing addresses.


Lynne Marie shared the cover of her new picture book coming out this September from Yeehoo Press.

Everyone will have a chance to win a copy on August 24th. 


Eliza Boxer’s FULL CIRCLE: CREATION MIGRATION AND COMING HOME, a look at the phenomenon of natal homing, where animals journey thousands of miles away, only to return to the exact same spot where they were born when it’s time to start their own families, illustrated by Vivian Minekar, to Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press, for publication in summer 2024, by Steven Chudney at The Chudney Agency for the author, and by Robyn Newton at The Bright Group for the illustrator (world).


Do you know a student with a talent for writing and a passion for journalism? Kids around the world, ages 10–14, can apply now to become reporters for Scholastic Kids Press. All applications must be received by June 1. Learn more at



Niyati Patel is promoted to assistant editor.


Lori Kusatzky promoted to assistant editor.

Anita Sheih promoted to assistant editor.


Karen Swenar has been promoted to art director.

Talk tomorrow,


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