Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 25, 2019

Book Giveaway: WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE

Author Jamie L. B. Deenihan has a new picture book titled, WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE. Lorraine Rocha, who was featured on Illustrator Saturday illustrated the book. Jamie has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Jamie!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When Grandma gives you a lemon tree, definitely don’t make a face! Care for the tree, and you might be surprised at how new things, and new ideas, bloom. 

Charms from cover to cover.” —Kirkus (Starred review)

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this imaginative take on that popular saying, a child is surprised (and disappointed) to receive a lemon tree from Grandma for her birthday. After all, she DID ask for a new gadget! But when she follows the narrator’s careful—and funny—instructions, she discovers that the tree might be exactly what she wanted after all. This clever story, complete with a recipe for lemonade, celebrates the pleasures of patience, hard work, nature, community . . . and putting down the electronic devices just for a while.

Here’s Jamie L.B. Deenihan’s journey with WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE:

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

My debut picture book, WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOUR A LEMON TREE, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha, is about a girl who asks for electronic gifts for her birthday, but instead, receives a lemon tree from her Grandma. It’s a story that celebrates the pleasures of patience, hard work, community, and putting the electronic devices down just for a while.

 

This story was inspired by childhood memories of trying to grow citrus fruit trees at my grandparents’ house from the seeds we found in our fruit, growing up on a farm, and of course, the popular saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ In 2015, I was a first-grade teacher, picture book-lover, and parent of a three and four-year-old at the time. One day, I caught myself thinking about how funny it would be to give a kid a lemon tree for their birthday and see how they’d react. I scribbled down a few notes and that’s how the very first draft was born.

 

Ironically, I wrote the first draft one month before my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor which is when the story took on a whole new meaning and became a labor of love and source of hope for me and my family. Although my husband has health challenges and ongoing treatments to face, he carries on with strength and a hopeful outlook thanks to his incredible team of doctors and our family and friends who have been there for us every step of the way. So, although this story was written to be light-hearted and funny, I also hope that readers will be inspired to turn whatever lemons they’re facing, into lemonade.

I think kids love this book because of the lemons to lemonade message and of course,  Lorraine Rocha’s incredible illustrations that brought this story to life! Lorraine and I are thrilled to share our next book in this series, When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox, next spring!

 JAMIE’S BIO:

Jamie L. B. Deenihan is a former elementary school teacher and certified reading specialist turned picture book author. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha, is her debut picture book. Her next picture book, The Tooth Fairy VS. Santa, illustrated by Erin Hunting, is now available for pre-order!

Jamie was a first grade teacher and certified reading specialist in Western Massachusetts for ten years. After her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015, she took time away from her classroom to be home with her family, teach part-time, and pursue a writing career.

Jamie lives in Connecticut, near the family farm she grew up on, with her husband, two children, and a growing collection of lemon trees. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 Picture Book Challenge. Jamie is represented by Linda Camacho at Gallt & Zacker Agency.  

Jamie, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It look like a great book and it’s so nice to see Lorraine’s illustrations. And what a great idea for the grandmother out there – a book and a lemon tree for their grandaughter’s birthday. Maybe this book will make that a traditional birthday gift. Best of luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 24, 2019

Opportunity at Nobrow for Picture Book Writers & Illustrators

Nobrow burst into existence in late 2008 as the joint creative endeavour of two friends and ex-St Martin’s alumni: Sam Arthur and Alex Spiro. Since its inception Nobrow Ltd. has sought to make great design, ground-breaking art and narrative, luscious production values and environmental consciousness central to its mission. We have striven both to bring fresh, young talent to wider audiences, as well as to remind the world of the great talents that have been producing stunning work for many years. We have sought to bring new stories to life, as well as to revive well-worn yarns for new generations of people. We have played with concepts, narratives, genres, formats, printing methods, production processes and design in ways that have come to redefine the standards of quality in visual publishing the world over. We have also, thankfully, picked up some awards and accolades along the way.

Most of all, over the last 8 years, we have been privileged enough to work with some of the best international artists, storytellers, and designers, and for that we are most grateful! We have also benefitted from having the world’s best fans, followers and adherents and to them we pledge to never disappoint, and to keep delivering the very best in visual publishing, in whatever format, in whichever medium and to whichever point on the globe.

What was then the vision of two has since grown into a team of more than 14 amazing people who work tirelessly every day to bring you the best and most beautiful books and products you can fathom. We speak with boldness because we are proud: of our team, our collaborators and our fans.

to maximise your chances of working with us. In general, there are three golden rules that you should follow:

  1. Know what you want from us.We are a publisher, not an illustration agency! You should have a specific type of work collaboration in mind when you submit work to us. In other words: would you like to submit a picture book for consideration? Or perhaps a graphic novel? Or maybe a non-fiction picture book for children? Whatever it is you submit, make sure it is in line with something that we actually do.
  2. Be clear and concise.We have to sift through a lot of submissions, so please try to be clear and to the point in your pitch, whatever it may be. If you have a long manuscript or a long form graphic novel to submit, or even a completed picture book – that is fine, please send it in attachment. However, in your email please provide us with a brief summary and overview of your project so that we can quickly review the pitch before delving into the main body of work.
  3. Look at what we do. Look at our body of work and think, does what I want to pitch fit in with the Nobrow canon of works? Even if it is something we have never done before, if you think your project is in line with our core values as a publisher, submit whatever you want!

We have separated the submissions process into two distinct groups to help us organise your brilliant submissions and to ensure that the right person sees them.

General technical guidelines:

– Please make sure your emailed submissions are less than 5mb and preferably less than 3mb and that any images attached to your pitch are jpegs or in pdf format.
– Please ensure your text documents are Word or rtf format.
– Please make sure to provide your contact details, including your phone number so that we can contact you if we need to.

Here are the submission categories:

Category 1: Comics and Graphic Novels

email your submission to: gnsubs [at] nobrow [dot] net

Guidelines for submission:

  1. We will require a full synopsis and sample of writing with brief written character studies with principal character sketches.
  2. If you are an illustrator/author or an illustrator and author duo, you should supply a minimum of ten finished pages in the pitch to give us a taste of the ‘look and feel’ of the proposed book.

Category 2: Picture Books and Illustrated Non-Fiction for Children

email your submission to: flyingeyesubs [at] nobrow [dot] net

Guidelines for submission:

  1. We will accept submissions for picture books that are 24 pages or 32 pages long (story) with a word count 500 words (1000 max) for picture books. For children’s non-fiction submissions we will accept pitches for books of up to 90 pages.
  2. We will require a brief synopsis of the story and the complete first draft of the text, this must be sent in attachment.
  3. If you are an illustrator/author or an illustrator author duo, you should supply a minimum of two finished double page spreads. In the case of a picture book submission, the remainder of the pages should ideally be visually roughed out as a first draft.

_________________________

We are not currently accepting open portfolio or website link submissions.

Thank you in advance for your hard work and we look forward to seeing your submissions. Due to the number of submissions we receive, it may take some time for us to contact you, but we will contact you whether you have succeeded in your pitch or not.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 23, 2019

Book Giveaway: JUST READ by Lori Digman

Author Lori Digman has a new picture book titled, JUST READ. Victoria Tentler-Krylor illustrated the book. Lori has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Lori!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

These kids all love to read—alone or together, on a bus or in a parade. And every time they open a book, they open up a whole new world, too!

Learning to read is a big accomplishment, and this exuberant picture book celebrates reading in its many forms. In lively rhyme, it follows a diverse group of word-loving children who grab the opportunity to read wherever and whenever they can. They read while waiting and while sliding or swinging; they read music and in Braille and the signs on the road. And, sometimes, they even read together, in a special fort they’ve built. The colorful, fanciful art and rollicking text will get every child more excited about reading!

“A delightful tribute to reading anything and everything all the time. . . . There’s something for everyone.” —Booklist
“A chipper, colorful celebration of the limitless possibilities for what, where, and when one can read.” —Publishers Weekly

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

When I do school visits, I am usually asked “How long does it take to write your stories?”  And my answer is always, “It depends on the story”.  I spent several years revising my first book,1 Zany Zoo, and it was many more years before it was published.  In contrast, I spent five months revising Just Read and it sold about nine months later.  Sometimes a story just pours onto the page without the struggle others impose. I think one reason Just Read was easier to write and edit is because it doesn’t have a true story arc – and plotting is usually what slows me down.

Here’s how the story came about: 

Growing up, reading was hard for me – I was always in the lowest reading group.  Actually, I’m still a really slow reader.  It wasn’t until I discovered the type of books I really love to read (murder mysteries with short chapters and anything by Stephen King) and figured out the best place and ways for me to read (ie: not laying down or I’ll fall asleep), that I started to enjoy reading. Because of this, I wanted to write a story that would encourage kids to read – and to do it any way they want or can. JUST READ!  I wrote my first draft as more of a traditional story about a girl who has just learned how to read and loves it so much, she reads anything and everything she sees – cereal boxes, washing instruction tags on clothes, street signs.  It gets out of control because she just can’t stop reading**.  While writing that story, I thought it might be better to have a group of diverse kids who love to read and have a book club in a tree fort. Then I got the idea to break it down into when, where, what, how and with whom you can read.  At that point, it was just a matter of creating reading scenarios with those things in mind.

**I’ve started working on that story again – so I call DIBS!

I shared the manuscript with my critique groups and other writer-friends and got some helpful feedback and a lot of encouragement to send it out – so I did and Meredith Mundy (then at Sterling) bought it.  Sterling found the perfect illustrator – Victoria Tentler-Krylov!  She had just been a runner up in the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Winter Conference Portfolio Showcase.  She topped herself this year – she was the grand prize winner of the showcase this past February!  So, needless to say, the illustrations for Just Read are amazing!

Looking back, I realized my last post on your blog, about Norbert’s Big Dream, was a huge shout out to SCBWI.  Well, this one has an SCBWI connection too!  I’d attended the SCBWI-New Jersey annual conference in 2015 and did a “First Pages” session with Meredith Mundy and another editor.  I was happy when they laughed in all the right places, but they both seemed uninterested in seeing more of the manuscript – or more from me.  I’m a professional rejectee, so I took it in my stride.  Well, five months later, I received an email from Meredith asking if the story was still available and to send it if it was.  Of course it was available (and it still is in case any editors are interested J)!  I sent her the story, and she took a pass, but invited me to send more manuscripts.  I did and one of them was Just Read.  Thanks, SCBWI!

LORI’S BIO:

Growing up, Lori Degman struggled with reading, but the more she read, the easier it got! Now she reads all the time. She is the award-winning author of 1 Zany Zoo and Cock-a-Doodle Oops!, Norbert’s Big Dream, and Just Read. Lori was a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing and is now a full-time author. She is a frequent presenter at schools and conferences.

Lori’s forthcoming books are Like a Girl (2019) and Travel Guide for Monsters (2020). Learn more about Lori at Loridegman.com.

Lori, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It look like such and fun picture book. I am sure it will be a big hit with kids and encourage them to read.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Middle Grade Novels Versus Chapter Book Humor with Hillary Homzie

Hi there,

I’m so happy to share a bit about Chapter Books and Middle Grade Novels with you with this exclusive tell-all from Award-Winning Author Hillary Homzie, one of the FABULOUS co-teachers in the Children’s Book Academy’s Middle Grade Mastery course, along with the amazingly talented Rachel Stein, Acquiring Editor at Sterling Books for Children, and Editor/Art Director, Dr. Mira Reisberg.

And, without further ado…

The Differences and Similarities Between Chapter Book and middle grade novel Humor

with Hillary Homzie

“I’m known for writing middle grade and chapter books that make kids laugh. It’s my fate since my name, Hillary, comes from the Latin, Hilaria, which means—you guessed it—hilarity and mirth.

Actually, I was a very serious child, and I learned humor as a defense mechanism. Since I was shy, I was just funny in my head, but never in real life. I’m telling you this, so you can relax. Because you don’t need to be a stand-up comic in order to write funny or serious books with a dash of levity. So now that you’re nice and relaxed and the pressure is off, let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between funny middle grade and chapter books.

To do this, let’s first look at the basics.

Let’s first define the categories. When you are writing chapter books, your readers are typically going to be ages five through nine. When you are writing middle grade, your readers will generally be seven through twelve. This means that developmentally there are definitely differences.

Primary school aged children are just beginning to solidly understand language norms, so that’s why it’s great if you can include puns and word play. Children are amused by these jokes because they have only just mastered the meaning of language themselves. They laugh, in essence, at their younger selves. For example, in my chapter book, Two Heads Are Better Than One, Beta (the clone) and Barton (the human) often switch places. The clone then constantly misunderstands language.”

Deciding which age group you want to write for will help you decide the sort of content and subject matter that you will write for. The Middle Grade Mastery co-teachers walk you through all of these steps within the course.

“Primary school aged children giggle and feel a sense of accomplishment at understanding words that have double meanings. This why they also really appreciate jokes such as:

How do you act like a squirrel? Climb up a tree and act like a nut.

Kids love knowing the double meaning of nut. And they also understand that it’s against a social norm to climb a tree and act crazy. Defying conventions is funny. Chapter book readers also relish their newly acquired academic knowledge. For example, this joke works well for primary school-aged students:

What did zero say to eight?

Nice belt.

In general, these sorts of jokes will not work as well for upper elementary Middle Grade level students because they’ve long since understood the difference between zero and eight. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use this sort of humor in middle grade. But reserve these sorts of jokes for your protagonist’s little brother or sisters to tell at the dinner table.”

If you need help nailing down your target reader and what works for them, while learning just about everything you need to know to successfully write, sell, and publish a middle grade novel (or chapter book if you register before April 24th) join us in Middle Grade Mastery starting May 13th and running for 4 glorious interactive weeks with two bonus work-at-your-own-pace weeks! To learn more about the course, visit: http://bit.ly/CBAMGM and to learn more about our amazing co-teachers, visit: HillaryHomzie.com, mirareisberg.com and mswishlist.com/editor/rachaeljstein.

Hope that that little sip of lesson filled your cup and inspired you to check out Rachael’s, Mira’s and my Middle Grade Mastery course at http://bit.ly/CBAMGM

PS If you sign up before April 24th you’ll receive both courses for the price of one PLUS a $100.00 Early Bird discount with the Special Code MGMAGIC

Hillary Homzie is the award-winning author of MANY children’s books, some of which have been made into animated series and optioned for movies. She is faculty at Hollins University, Summer MFA Children’s Literature & Writing; Sonoma State University, Communications & Internships; and the Children’s Book Academy.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 21, 2019

Happy Easter

MARCIN POLUDNIAK: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

EASTER RABBIT

Hippety-hopping,
nearly stopping traffic as he passes,
Two long ears are bouncing, bopping,
popping through the grasses.
Balancing his basket as he’s jumping through the air,
Such a grand, important, extraordinary hare!
Making children happy is the way he got his fame.
Now, kids across the land can shout:
The Easter bunny came!

Carol Murray

KAYLA HARREN: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

KATE COSGROVE: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

MARIFE GONZALES: Being featured on Illustrator Saturday on April 27th.

NOEL ILL: Featured yesterday on Illustrator Saturday.

AMY SCHIMLER SAFFORDFeatured on Illustrator Saturday

LOUISE GARDNER: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

LAURA LOGAN: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

BRETT CURZON: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

KIM GATTO: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

JACQUELINE EAST: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

DIANA DELOSH: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

ROGER ROTH: Roger was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

OLGA LEVITSKIY: Olga was featured on Illustrator Saturday

HANS WILHELM: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

ANA OCHOA: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

LOUISE GARDNER: Featured on Illustator Saturday.

PENNY WEBER: Penny was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

SARAH BEISE: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

BARBARA SPURLL: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

TIM BOWERS: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

 

LAURA HUGHES: Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 20, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Noel Ill

Noël ILL earned her BFA with honors in illustration from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Throughout her design and illustration career, she has had the opportunity to apply her artwork and tasteful design sense to the publishing and entertainment media fields. Her more notable commercial work includes production art for the quirky HBO animated series, The Life and Times of Tim, the “Be Mine” sticker pack for Facebook stickers, and “The Sweetest Little Ghost” her licensed illustration for Papyrus greeting cards. Currently, she is working on illustrations for a children’s Halloween book, titled, IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT is set for release with Familus publishing in August 2019.

HERE IS NOEL DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

I’m showing an example of my process using samples from If You’re Scary And You Know It.

First thing I do is thoroughly read the manuscript. The author’s story is what prompts my imagination and gives me an idea of what the reader would like to see.

Then I start researching. For this particular story, I searched for images online of Halloween and trick or treating. I even searched other sing along books to make sure I didn’t subconsciously create anything similar to what’s already on the market. Researching also helps me get layout ideas and color palette inspiration.

Next step is I start sketching. Because this book had 8 different main characters, I knew I had to make each child stand out. So, I really concentrated on their designs. I sketch these ideas with pencil in a sketchbook. The first idea sketches I create are not always exactly like my final illustrations. A big part of the creative process for me is the character’s spirits telling me who they are and I’m just jotting it down in my sketchbook as if I’m meeting them for the first time. I also rough sketch very small layout and composition ideas for the page spreads.

After that I, I move over to Photoshop and create the rough sketch digitally and then clean up the rough sketch so that it’s basically an outline illustration. This is what I send to the art director for approval.

When the sketch has been approved, I began to color. In Photoshop, I have the sketch on one layer and each colored object on another layer. Having each object like eyes, legs, head, hat, will make it easier for me to change the color of any object at any time if needed. Sometimes I like to try out different color combinations and this technique makes it easy to do so.  The digital brushes I use are by Kyle T. Webster and they create a natural gouache texture as I paint.

I complete the main objects and characters first with their shadows and details and then I paint the background last which is also on it’s own layer. I tend to add more layers of texture on backgrounds so they look nice and painterly.

When all the layers are visible, the illustration is complete! 

Interview with Noel Ill 

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing since I was 3 years old, but I have been illustrating professionally for about thirteen years.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

When I was in high school, my neighbors across the street commissioned me to paint a mural on their little girl’s bedroom wall.

Did you choose to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA?

Yes, with the encouragement of friends and family who brought the school to my attention. I started taking night classes there while I was still in high school, to build up my figure drawing skills for my application portfolio. Art Center has always felt like my Hogwarts.

What type of classes were your favorites?

I enjoyed all my classes, but my favorite classes were the ones that allowed me to explore outside of the foundations of illustration. For example, I loved my independent publishing class where we learned how to fabricate our own comics, zines and books. I also loved my business in entertainment class where we learned how to take our art and ideas and brand them. Putting our designs on products and promoting them to an audience.

Is that where you learned what you needed to get into illustrating?

It definitely helped me learn what possibilities were out there for an artist. That there were many different paths an artist could take and many different industries that held career opportunities for illustrators.

Did the Art Center College of Design help you get illustrating work?

Not actively, but the school had a job bulletin where I found jobs to apply to and luckily got some of my first professional jobs that way.

What type of illustrating did you do when you were first starting out?

My first professional job was illustrating a children’s book for an educational publishing company.

You are holding a bag in your picture. It shows off one of your illustrations. Did you make the bag, too? Do you make them for customers?

Although I do like to sew, I did not sew the bag. There is a company called Zazzle and they help artists and designers put their artwork on retail products. I have a shop on zazzle.com called Little Paper Farm https://www.zazzle.com/littlepaperfarm where I sell products with my illustrations on them, like this tote bag and also greeting cards!

Tell us about working on the animated series with HBO. What type of things did you do and work on?

I worked on the animated TV series, The Life And Times Of Tim, that aired on HBO for three seasons. I digitally drew and colored backgrounds, props and designed characters using Photoshop. I mainly worked on Tim, the main character of the show. I would draw his movements frame by frame. The show had a very stop-motion-like animation style and this is where I picked up a few animation techniques. I had never worked in animation prior to working on the show. I learned later that I was hired because of that reason. The producers wanted a quirky naive style of art and animation. After I drew the different movements of the Tim character, I would then send those to the animators who would string all the drawings together in a proper animation program, adding extra movements if needed. The final result is what we see on screen. Working on the show gave me inspiration to explore animating my personal illustrations. To create my animated illustrations, I use the Timeline feature in Photoshop. I draw each individual movement on a separate frame and then save it as a GIF file. As a GIF, the sequence of frames play together and the image appears as if it’s moving. Animation is a very technical process that takes a lot of time to create. I don’t make animations often, but it’s always fun to see illustrations move, so I have fun with it every now and then.

How did you get that job?

I saw the job posted on the Art Center job bulletin and applied.

Do you still do animation?

No, not professionally, but I still create simple animations for fun and for myself. In 2018, I entered the GIPHY film festival with my 18 second animated short called, Chocolate Cake Asks Pumpkin, and the film was one of the finalists. https://youtu.be/XTkEbKO3LBM

When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I had decided that was something I wanted to do when I was in community college. I took several children’s book and children’s literature classes. I just love the stories and imagination in children’s literature.

Is IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT your debut illustrated picture book?

It is my debut illustrated picture book for trade publishing. I’ve illustrated a total of 11 books for educational publishing.

How did you get the contract?

The art director saw some of my illustrations I had posted on a website called Behance. He showed them to the author and out of three other artists, she picked me!

How many picture books have you illustrated?

Ten

Would you like to write and illustrate a book?

Yes, I would. I like writing poems, so I would like to write a book of poems and illustrate them. I wrote and illustrated a short story about my grandfather from Mexico as part of a contribution to the book, The Art of Memory published by Lectura Books.

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who and how long have you been with them? If not, would you be willing to consider representation?

No, I do not have a rep. I am very content with being a free agent.

Do you do freelance illustrating full time?

No. My other job is voice acting for mobile games and cartoons.

Have you done any book covers for novels?

No, but I would like to. That would be really neat.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Unfortunately, no. I only work with companies for contractual purposes.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

Illustrators from the 1950’s, 60’s and 80’s inspire me.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

Yes. I work a lot in the educational publishing field. I’ve illustrated 9 picture books and 2 young adult chapter books for the bilingual English and Spanish publishing company, Lectura Books, and The Latino Family Literacy Project. I’m half Mexican and I don’t speak fluent Spanish, so I get to learn more Spanish with the books I illustrate for that company.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

No and I really would love to!

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes of course! I would love to fill every page of a book with head to toe illustrations. It’s definitely something I have thought about.

What do you think is your biggest success?

It’s every time I see my art published in any form. It still feels very surreal to me. When I saw my work from The Life And Times Of Tim on TV, I thought, “I drew that! My drawing is on TV!” Or when I look at the books I’ve illustrated I have to let it sink in that those are my illustrations and I illustrated a book. I also had one of my illustrations licensed by Papyrus Greetings. It’s called The Sweetest Little Ghost and it’s a Halloween greeting card. I have the card framed in my room to remind myself that I am a successful artist. It’s almost like looking in the mirror and giving myself motivational speaking.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I like working digitally because it makes it easier to test out different color palettes. I can create illustrations a lot quicker or do revisions for a client a lot easier too. It’s also less expensive. I don’t have to keep buying a lot of expensive painting or drawing materials. My other favorite medium is watercolor.

Has that changed over time?

Yes. The first two books I ever illustrated were painted with acrylics on illustration board. There were a series of books and I asked my publisher if I could try illustrating the third book in the series digitally because I knew I could work faster that way and also delivering the final illustrations would be easier. The illustrations could be sent to the publisher through the computer instead of having to be delivered and photographed. My publisher agreed to the idea and that’s when I started illustrating digitally.

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

I actually take as many days off from drawing as I can because when I work, I barely come up for a breath of fresh air. I really focus on my projects till they are completed. But, my days off are just as important because I use that time to get inspired by visiting book stores, gift shops, reading books and watching art history documentaries or biographies of well known artists throughout history. I also like to test out new brushes and textures in Photoshop.

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

Yes. I always research before every project, no matter how big or small the project is. It helps me get ideas and become inspired. I sometimes get introduced to new subjects through researching for a project. Researching is one of my favorite parts of the job.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

It has definitely opened doors for me. Thanks to the Internet and social media, there is a place where I can share my work to a wide audience. I’ve received most of my job opportunities from art directors coming across my artwork online.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes. I use a Wacom Tablet. I feel like they are already old fashion because I see a lot of my illustrator friends drawing on iPads and cintiqs. It would be nice to draw on an iPad when I sketch, but the reason why I use a Wacom Tablet is because I like to keep my arm down on the pad and my head looking straight at my computer screen. If I drew on an iPad, my head would be down and it would hurt my neck, and if I drew on a cintiq my arm would be elevated and it would get tired.

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

My number one career dream was to be a children’s book illustrator so I would like to continue fulfilling that dream. I would also like to license out more of my personal illustrations for paper goods, stationary, greeting cards and stickers. Or partner with a company to create a line of fun products. Maybe even some plush toys!

What are you working on now?

I just finished illustrating another educational bilingual book.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Actually, I have a business organization tip. There is an application for my Gmail that I have been raving about. It’s called Streak and it helps me organize my work emails into a chart with color-coded columns. I can categorize my emails into different stages, for example: New Projects, Books in Progress, Completed Projects. You can customize the chart to your needs. I think writers would like it a lot because it could help them keep track of manuscripts they have submitted to agents or publishers. It took a while to figure out how to customize it, but I recommend it tremendously.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Yes. I always remember two things; don’t be lazy and take healthy risks that take you a little bit out of your comfort zone. Personally for me, the second thing is hard to do, but I have to admit every time I go out of my comfort zone, my career leaps forward.

Thank you Noel for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Noel’s work, you can visit her at: Website: http://noelillart.com/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Noel. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 19, 2019

April Agent of the Month – Kristy Hunter -Interview Part Two

Kristy Hunter at The Knight Agency is April’s AGENT OF THE MONTH and will be critiquing 4 first pages submitted. See bottom of post for guidelines.

The Knight Agency, based in Madison, Georgia, is one of the industry’s leading literary agencies, specializing in a wide array of fiction and non-fiction. TKA’s diverse list boasts bestselling and award-winning titles in romance, women’s fiction, science-fiction, fantasy, young adult, self-help, finance, diet, parenting and inspirational genres, among others. The agency is known for personalized client attention and a comprehensive range of services, including editorial refinement, branding consultation and strategy, in-house subsidiary rights and publicity support.

As a graduate of Vanderbilt University and The Columbia Publishing Course, Kristy Hunter began her publishing career in New York City—first as an editorial intern at Bloomsbury Children’s Books and then as a book publicist at Grove/Atlantic and Random House Children’s Books. When she moved to the agenting side of the industry, she was closely mentored by Deidre Knight, president and founder of The Knight Agency, and her first co-agented project sold at auction soon after. As an associate agent, Kristy enjoys being able to bring a unique perspective to her clients thanks to her diverse publishing background. When she’s not curled up with a fantastic book or manuscript, she can be found kickboxing or hiking with her dog and is an active member of SCBWI.

You can query Kristy Hunter at Query Manager HERE

Currently, Kristy is looking for new talent to add to her list. She loves voice-driven stories, strong characters, and being surprised by the unexpected. As a result, she is open to most genres but is specifically looking for upmarket fiction with a strong hook, commercial fiction, romance, historical fiction, thrillers, young adult, and middle grade. Books that feature a diverse cast of characters are always at the top of her list and she’d love to see even more own-voices projects in her inbox. Her #MSWL includes the following:

In adult fiction:

High concept women’s fiction such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. As well, as stories that are literary but with commercial appeal such as Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. I especially love projects that capture the complicated nature of family.

Rom-coms set in wonderful urban settings such as The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Mainstream titles with hints of magic like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

In YA fiction:

Fantasy projects that allow me to be transported in a way that feels new and fresh. I’d especially love to find a contemporary fantasy with a wonderful atmospheric setting. I also wouldn’t say no to paranormal…but it would truly have to be something I haven’t seen before

Magical realism

Historical projects that are serious in nature like Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, as well as those that are more playful like The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I especially love historical mysteries and projects set in the Victorian and Regency periods.

Contemporary YA stories that are fun and unique, and overall present the perfect escape—even if they address larger issues. Think Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han and When We Collided by Emery Lord.

Thrillers and mysteries—either contemporary or historical. My favorites include Little Monsters by Kara Thomas and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

In MG fiction:

Contemporary projects in the vein of The First Rule of Punk by Celia Pérez, Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin, and Wish by Barbara O’Connor (I’m a sucker for a pet!).

Quirky mysteries that could be part of a larger series and stories involving shifting friend groups

Light fantasy and magical realism such as The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.

BELOW IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH KRISTY:

Do you let people know if you are not interested?

Yes, always.

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material? And query letters?

 I try to respond to query letters within 1-2 weeks. Response time to requested material varies, but I do try to get back to everyone as quickly as possible and provide constructive feedback should a project not be the right fit for my list.  

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

Often writers start their project in the wrong place. They either begin with too much background information and very little happening, or alternatively, they start in peak action. Both make it challenging for the reader to connect to the protagonist and become invested in the story

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Yes! I consider myself to be an editorial agent. When I offer on a project, I always provide a clear scope of my editorial vision and highlight the areas where I see room for improvement.  Should they become a client, it’s not unusual for us to do 2-3 rounds of edits before going out on submission.

If you receive something you think is good, but not for you, would you ask another agent working at your agency to take a peek?

Yes, definitely. If anyone ever receives a strong project that is better suited for another team member, we never hesitate to pass it along. One of my favorite things about The Knight Agency is how collaborative we are as a team—and this extends beyond sharing submissions.

How many editors do you submit to before giving up on a manuscript?

Each project is different and as a result, the submission journey varies quite a bit from project to project and largely depends on feedback. It’s all about finding that one right editor, and if I think they are still out there, we will keep going! I’ve had books sell in three days and I’ve had books sell in a year. Sometimes a project just doesn’t work in the market, but I never want a project not to place due to lack of effort.

What happens if you don’t sell a book?

Once a project is out on submission, my client is typically already working on their next story. Should their initial project not sell, we then evaluate the editorial feedback. Sometimes it’s simply an issue of not being the right book at the right time—it happens. But often it highlights areas where the author can continue to grow, and the subsequent project is stronger because of it. Once we feel that the next project is in the best possible shape, we will go out on submission.

Would you approve of a client who wants to self-published if they really believed in that book?

I wouldn’t be opposed to it, especially in certain situations, but this would be something I’d approach on a case to case basis and would likely lend itself to a larger discussion.

Could they have a separate agent for the other books?

This is something I would discuss with the author and it would depend on the situation. I don’t represent picture books, but in the right situation, I would absolutely consider it. I always urge potential clients to think about the full scope of their career when it comes to representation. If a writer is equally focused on picture books and middle grade, they may want to consider an agent who actively represents both.  

Alternatively, I represent MG, YA and Adult so if they are hoping to write across those genres, I would be a great fit.

Have you noticed any new trends building in the industry?

While we haven’t seen an overwhelming market trend like in the past (think dystopian or paranormal) there have been a few minor trends. Graphic novels are certainly on the rise, as are books the provide a lighthearted escape such as rom-coms. And although I wouldn’t consider it a trend, recently there has been a much-needed push to correct the lack of diversity in publishing which has been great to see.

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

Read widely and don’t give up. Reading will help you hone your craft and understand the market—two important things when it comes to landing an agent and getting published. But the process can take time and it’s important to be patient with yourself and your goals. Social media can make it seem as though everyone is having instant success, but for most, the journey to publication can be long and winding.

Would you like to be invited to other writer’s retreats, workshops, and conferences?

Yes! All the above! I love being able to connect to writers and other industry professionals.  

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR APRIL 2019 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “APRIL FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE”  Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, 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).

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

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

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: April 19th.

RESULTS: April 26th.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES WITH KRISTY.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 18, 2019

Book Giveaway: REMARKABLY YOU by Pat Zietlow Miller

Author Pat Zietlow Miller has a new picture book titled, REMARKABLY YOU, Illustrated by Patrice Barton, and published by HarperCollins. Pat has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Pat and Patrice!


BOOK DESCRIPTION:

New York Times bestselling author Pat Zietlow Miller celebrates individuality in her remarkablepicture book about the beauty of being yourself.

Heartfelt and timeless, Remarkably You is an inspirational manifesto about all of the things—little or small, loud or quiet—that make us who we are.

With encouraging text by Pat Zietlow Miller and exuberant illustrations by Patrice Barton, readers will delight in all the ways they can be their remarkable selves.

You might go unnoticed, or shine like a star,
but wherever you go and whoever you are…
don’t change how you act to be just like the rest.
Believe in yourself and the things you do best.

PAT’S BOOK JOURNEY:

Remarkably You started percolating in my head when I was thinking about all the different ways people can be smart and how some ways of being smart tend to be recognized more than others. For instance, kids who are great athletes tend to get more pubic recognition — school assemblies, pep rallies, media coverage, people clapping in the stands, athletic banquets and awards — than a child who quietly grows amazing carrots or crochets perfect baby booties. Yet all those skills are necessary and noteworthy. I wanted Remarkably You to recognize all the wonderful, interesting and quirky ways kids can excel. And, I wanted it to show that people can be good at more than one thing. You may be the best wrestler ever, but you also could be great at writing poetry or fixing cars.

So I made a list of all the ways I could think of that kids might excel and started turning it into a poem that celebrates all the things that make people remarkable. I hoped kids would read the book, pause on a page, and say: “Oh! That’s me!” And, I hoped the book would encourage them to honor what makes them special and pursue it enthusiastically, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing.

As a line in the book says: “Dream your own dreams. Hear your own heart. You could change the world, you just have to start.”

PAT ZIETLOW MILLER’S BIO:

Pat Zietlow Miller knew she wanted to be a writer ever since her seventh-grade English teacher read her paper about square-dancing skirts out loud in class and said: “This is the first time anything a student has written has given me chills.” (Thanks, Mrs. Mueller! You rock!)

Pat started out as a newspaper reporter and wrote about everything from dartball and deer-hunting to diets and decoupage. Then, she joined an insurance company and edited its newsletter and magazine.

Now, she writes insurance information by day and children’s books by night.

Pat has one wonderful husband, two delightful daughters and two pampered cats. She doesn’t watch much TV, but she does love “Chopped.”

Pat lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit her website to view more of her books: https://www.patzietlowmiller.com/

ILLUSTRATOR PATRICE BARTON’S JOURNEY:

She had me at the title – Remarkably You. I was delighted with Pat’s manuscript. I love drawing children and here was a manuscript absolutely brimming with characters. So many personalities to capture! When I sketched them I loved stepping into their shoes and pretending how it might feel to be good at counting, or to play a cello, or lead a parade. It’s a bit like acting I guess… I’m not a doctor, but I play one on tv. 🙂 

To help me develop the characters for this book, I listed all the adjectives and actions Pat used to describe them.  Along with my word list, my inspiration for these characters comes from my own childhood memories, raising my son, and people watching in general. The baseball players were inspired by my brother, Tony. He and his friends never just walked down the street. They tossed the ball, ran back and forth, and tripped over curbs because they always had their eye on the ball, not where they were walking.  The reader is my son Seth, who has always been an avid reader/writer. And the funny little girl with the sticky note face is a nod to my sister, Janie, who is hilarious. Her bangs looked just like that, she cut them herself. 

The spread with the world map in the sky was a fun surprise. I was inspired by the line “you could change the world.” My first sketch for this page showed a child with a magnifying glass studying a globe. I realized this made the child seem large and the world small… not what I was looking for. So I took the child outside and put her under a vast sky. That was better. Then I added a telescope, so the child could see the whole world. That triggered adding the world map to the sky. For me, the answers come from doing the work.

Working with the publishing team (art directors, editors, etc)  is another part of the book journey I enjoyed. Working together, passing ideas back and forth, discovering what’s working, what isn’t, and then slowly but surely, it all falls into place. Such is the magic of making picture books. 

PATRICE’S BIO:

Everyone knew Patrice was an artist when she was found creating a mural on the dining room wall with a pastry brush and a can of Crisco at the age of three. Although the work itself was never fully appreciated by her parents, her interest in art was. They quickly gave her a better canvas and more appropriate supplies. Her passion for art grew, and she earned her Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Studio Art.

Her work appears in picture books, chapter books, children’s magazines, and the educational market. Patrice works digitally from her home in Austin, Texas which she shares with her husband, son and good dog Archer. Patrice was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here’s the link: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/illustrator-saturday-patrice-barton/ Or for more visit her website: www.patricebarton.com

Pat and Patrice, thank you for sharing your book and its’ journey with us. I love the story and the illustrations really make this an adorable book. I am sure kids will love it.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

BOOK WINNERS:

Kelly Purdy won SOME DAYS by Karen Kaufman Orloft

Carol Scott won THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL by Chantell and Burgen Thorne

Shiela Fuller & Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner won MILKWEED by Jerry Spinelli

Leslie Leibhardt Goodman won FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN by Vivian Kirkfield

Rosi Hollinbeck won ASTRO PEA by Amalia Hoffman

Winners please send me your addresses – Put BOOK WINNER in the subject box. Congratulations!

2019 New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference Saturday, June 1st & Sunday, June 2nd

SPECIAL 72-HOUR TAX DAY PRICE BREAK – $75 OFF
DEADLINE: April 18th – 9 p.m.

GREAT CRITIQUE SLOTS STILL AVAILABLE WITH OUR STELLAR EDITOR/AGENT FACULTY
AND WITH OUR GREAT AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR FACULTY TOO!
REGISTER NOW AND SAVE!

I registered for the conference when it first opened, but last night I went back in to see what authors were doing critiques. I always found that authors love to help and will go the extra mile to help you improve your work and that’s when I discovered the fabulous Elizabeth Law (editor at Holiday House with 30 years in the children’s book industry – click the faculty bios below to read about her) has spots – probably because by some glitch she is listed with the authors. I immediately grabbed a spot for $50. What a deal!  

Where: New Brunswick Hyatt, New Brunswick, NJ (a short walk from the train station; parking also available on site for a fee)
Cost: $475 ($75 off the $550 price) (4/15/19 6 p.m. – 4/18/19 9 p.m.)
(Non-SCBWI member surcharge; Join SCBWI Now and Save )

Scroll down for links to everything you need to plan your conference and register.

Conference Highlights:

Special Saturday cocktail hour performance by YA all-star rock band, Tiger Beat! Featuring Libba Bray, Dan Ehrenhaft, Barnabas Miller and Natalie Standiford
Special PAL track workshops for published authors!
Saturday afternoon break with snacks included!
Announcement and Reveal of Logo Contest Winners!
Keynote speakers: Bruce Coville and Laurie Wallmark!
Seated dinner and lunch with your choice of faculty! (Based on availability)
Book Fair, Juried Art Show, Door Prizes and more!
Optional Critiques/Portfolio Reviews

REGISTER https://www.regonline.com/2019njscbwiconference

Weekend Overview Schedule
Conference faculty bios
Workshop Descriptions (Workshops with industry professionals)
Optional Manuscript Critiques/Portfolio Reviews
Illustrator Intensives
Optional Manuscript Round Tables
The Most Important Thing of All: Your conference worksheet!

Don’t miss this tremendous opportunity to interact with industry professionals and fellow author/illustrators.

*****

Congratulations to Darlene Beck-Jacobson!

Marissa Moss at Creston Books has acquired Notable Social Studies Award winner Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s next middle grade, WISHES, DARES AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY. This novel in verse crystallizes a boy’s worries about his father, who is MIA in Vietnam, and how his family, new best-friend, and a bully unexpectedly help him find the courage to do the right thing, not just the easy thing. 

Publication is slated for Spring 2020; Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency negotiated the deal for world rights. 

*****

JOYCE MOYER HOSTETTER book AIM has come out in paperback with a new cover. Thought you’d like to see. Nice cover Joyce!

INDUSTRY CHANGES:

Alyssa Miele has been promoted to editor at Harper Children’s.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pilar Garcia-Brown and Sarah Kwak have both been promoted to associate editor.

Alessandra Preziosi and Bethany Vinhateiro have both been promoted to senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s.

Kate Meltzer has joined Roaring Brook Press as editor. She was formerly an editor at Penguin Children’s.

Mary Altman has been promoted to senior editor, Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Anna Membrino has joined as editor, Cartwheel and Orchard. She was most recently at Random House Children’s.

Maureen Moretti has joined P.S. Literary Agency as associate agent based in New York.

At Sourcebooks, Ashlyn Keil has been promoted to marketing associate, children’s and YA.

CONGRATULATIONS EVERYONE!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 16, 2019

Book Giveaway: HOLY SQUAWKAMOLE by Susan Wood

Author Susan Wood has a new picture book titled, HOLY SQUAWKAMOLE. Laura Gonzalez illustrated the book. Susan has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Susan!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This tasty take on the classic Little Red Hen story has a deliciously spicy twist! 

Yum, guacamole! That’s what Little Red Hen craves, and she could use some help gathering and mashing the ingredients. So she asks her friends, including an armadillo, snake, and iguana, to lend a hand. Every one just says “no.” But after Little Red Hen works hard to make the scrumptious fresh guac, all the animals want a taste. In a fun departure from the original tale, Little Red Hen cooks up a comeuppance for the slackers that they’ll never forget!

BOOK JOURNEY:

Holy Squawkamole! Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole is a perfect example of just how slow-rolling the path from initial book concept to publication can be. I’d bet most children’s literature creators are at least somewhat familiar with this sort of slo-mo creative process.

Way back in 2011, one of my kiddos misspoke during a taco meal, accidentally adding an S in front of the word “guacamole.” I heard it as “squawkamole,” which, dork that I am, kinda tickled me. Being a nerdy, word-y type, I played around with this new word in my head: Who would say that? Well, a squawking chicken, of course. In what context? Well, a squawk is a kind of fowl interjection, right? So maybe an excited exclamation, like “Holy squawkamole!”? It amused me so much, I jotted it down on a Post-it note and stuck it to my computer screen.

Where it sat.

For years.

Then in 2015, I read author Tara Lazar’s fun and instructive how-to for writing fractured fairy tales (https://taralazar.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/howtowriteafracturedfairytale.pdf) and—aha!—stumbled on the idea to pair my chicken-y exclamation with a beloved chicken-y tale, Little Red Hen. Following Tara’s suggestions, I tweaked a bunch of things. My hen’s making guacamole, not bread. My hen lives in Mexico, not a barnyard. My hen’s unhelpful pals are native Mexican critters, not farm animals. And my hen adds a secret ingredient that gives her story an extra-spicy twist.

These ideas didn’t all arrive at once. As often happens, one idea led to another and then another. To determine what ingredients my hen needed to gather on her culinary quest, I first researched guacamole recipes, which led to learning its fascinating history—it’s believed the Aztecs concocted ahuacamolli, or “avocado sauce,” in the 1300s—and about the way the dish is traditionally made—in a molcajete, a lava-stone mortar and pestle that’s used as a serving bowl as well. This info was so cool and interesting, I knew I had to include it in the book. So the intriguing history became the basis of the book’s back matter, and the molcajete became part of the story.

So if my hen’s using a molcajete, I reasoned, it would be most logical to have her living in Mexico; hooray, new setting! Next thought: So what animals live in Mexico, and all in generally the same region or habitat? Back to research, and, bingo, I found my cast of characters, keeping in mind that I needed creatures that could move or react in some visually engaging way within the illustrations. Hello, my hen’s new friends: Coati, Snake, Armadillo, and Iguana.

Then the retelling pretty much wrote itself. Unlike the typical Little Red Hen tale where she eats her finished product herself, though, I wanted my hen to share what she’s made with her friends. But I also wanted her to be a bit feisty, a bit wily, and not overlook their unhelpfulness entirely. So her surprise ingredient—which causes her lazy pals some gustatory discomfort—seemed a clever yet harmless payback.

To round out the back matter, I included a glossary of the Spanish words used in the book, plus facts about the animals. Then I added a kid-friendly recipe for Holy Squawkamole Guacamole, because, you know, squishing avocados is pretty darn fun, and slurping guacamole is pretty darn yum.

My agent took the manuscript to Sterling in February 2016, they made an offer that April, and the fabulous Laura González, laugonzalez.com, was brought on board to illustrate later that year. Laura’s illos are so bright and charming and whimsical­—I just adore iguana basking with his sun reflector and bottle of sunscreen—and the designer had a blast playing around with bold typography and colors. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the book turned out.

Guess I can take the tea-spattered Post-it note down at last, huh?

SUSAN WOOD’S BIO:

Susan Wood is an award-winning author of books for young readers, including Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted (Abrams), a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Book for Young People; American Gothic: The Life of Grant Wood (Abrams), a Junior Library Guild Selection; The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale (Sleeping Bear), a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Book for Young People; Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist (Charlesbridge), a Pura Belpré Honor Book and ALA Notable Children’s Book; and the forthcoming Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore (Sleeping Bear, Spring 2019).

Susan is a member of SCBWI and lives in Virginia. Learn more about Susan and her books at www.SusanWoodBooks.com.

Twitter: @SusanWoodBooks, www.twitter.com/SusanWoodBooks

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SusanWoodBooks

Susan, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It look like such and fun picture books. I am sure it will be a big hit with kids.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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