Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 10, 2019

Book Giveaway: Mirabel’s Missing Valentines

Author Janet Lawler has a new picture book titled, MIRABEL’S MISSING VALENTINES. It is available in bookstores now. Janet 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 Janet!

BOOK’S DESCRIPTION:

When Mirabel’s valentines fall out of her bag on the way to school, the shy little mouse panics. But those lost cards brighten some days . . . before making their way back to her. 

“Mirabel was very shy.
She’d always been that way.
She trembled at the thought of
giving Valentines away.”

Poor Mirabel! It’s almost Valentine’s Day and the shy little mouse trembles at the thought of giving cards away. Yet she carefully crafts her valentines, drawing a heart on every one. In the morning, Mirabel forces herself to hurry to school. But, in her nervousness, she doesn’t notice her bag becoming lighter and lighter: her valentines are falling out! By the time she realizes what’s happened, they’re all gone. It turns out, though, that these lost valentines bring joy into the lives of all who find them. Then, with her valentines back in her pack, and some newfound friends, she musters up the courage to celebrate the holiday after all! This wonderful tale of overcoming insecurity will make its way to the hearts of all young readers.

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

Two of my most recently published picture books took over ten years each to find their way to print. Their writing, revision, submission, and acquisition journeys had so many twists and turns that you’d need a GPS to find your way from my idea to publication! I share this, not to discourage anyone, but rather to encourage writers to stay ever hopeful. Markets change, editors move, our craft improves, and a story-in-a-drawer will find a home one day—unless you have put it in that drawer for good, like I did with my first version of a Valentine’s Day story.

I began brainstorming Valentine’s Day ideas in early 2016. I had written books for several holidays, but none for the day of “love.” Looking back, I realize that I didn’t really have a clear plot as I started writing Mousey’s Missing Valentines. But one came to me as I wrote, or so I thought.  My plot idea? Mousey absolutely loves Valentine’s Day, but her classmate Kid (who is a goat) is a Valentine’s Day Grinch. He doesn’t bring a decorated box or cards to school, and he chews up Mousey’s valentines while everyone is out at recess. Just as Christmas comes without the presents in Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Valentine’s Day comes in this story without Mousey having cards to hand out. Kind Mousey still enjoys the class party and even makes another card for Kid. He comes back the next day to apologize and share with the class a post-Valentine’s Day pinata in the shape of a heart, giving Mousey an arrow-shaped stick for the first whack. And if you are laughing at this improbable plot, it’s okay. I am laughing as I type!

But I wasn’t laughing as I wrote it. I loved my story, just as I love all my stories. I thought it had great pacing, a good story arc, an endearing protagonist, and an antagonist worthy of reform. What happened next? I took this manuscript to my weekly critique group. Needless to say, I got a lot of comments. I re-wrote the story, trying to address most suggestions, and I read it to my group at least one or two more times.

I felt I had a pretty good manuscript several weeks later when I sent it to my then agent. But—she raised even more good questions about plot, character motivation, current Valentine’s Day school parties, and overall story message. I was very discouraged. After mulling for a few days, I finally realized that nobody loved Mousey as I did. So I decided to let her go—to the drawer.

I quickly took a completely different approach with MIRABEL’S MISSING VALENTINES. First, Mousey’s name morphed from Mousey to Marmalade (already taken by a cute UK story mouse) to Mirabel. Also, I began writing in rhyme instead of prose. My new story had “heart” and hearts, as shy Mirabel loses her valentines out of a hole in her bag on her way to school. The townsfolk who find them are cheered up and return them just before she heads into the building. She has a great time at her class party, and her new town friends tuck more valentines into her bag on the way home. The simple plot touches on social anxiety and shares a subtle message that “the more love you give, the more you get back.”

I made countless small revisions to refine the text after sharing this version with my critique group and agent. MIRABEL’S MISSING VALENTINES received early interest from Sterling Children’s Books. I did one pre-offer revision that involved targeted re-writing of text showing the townsfolk finding the valentines. Sterling felt that my efforts to create tension in the story made these scenes come across as too negative. For example:

A lady at her mailbox slumped,

appearing rather glum.

But after Mirabel went by,

she hummed a happy hum. 

I revised these lines to:

A lonely lady looked inside

her empty mailbox twice.

But after Mirabel went by,

She smiled and thought, how nice!

Once the manuscript was acquired in early 2017, I undertook more revisions following exchanges of editorial comments and replies. During an editorial conference call, the last remaining outstanding issues were resolved, including how best to portray the lonely lady who finds the first valentine. We had a long discussion about whether people wait for mail at mailboxes these days, since so much is done by e-mail. Should I change the lonely lady’s first lines? Perhaps those lines might read:

A lonely lady sat outside

and checked her e-mail twice.

Ultimately, we agreed that the mailbox lady was lonelier and would be more cheered up by Mirabel’s dropped valentine (after all, waiting with a computer might not be so lonely, since the lady could be browsing the internet while waiting on the porch for her e-mail…). As it turned out, the delightful art of Olivia Chin Mueller has a delicious, retro, small-town feel that makes the traditional mailbox scene exactly the right choice.

I was gratified to have opportunities to review and comment on preliminary cover and interior sketches once the text was finalized. My comments were filtered through Sterling editorial and art departments, and Olivia did a great job finalizing the art. Her end-papers and final pages guide the reader to understand that the townsfolk are sharing a unique Valentine’s Day journey and cards with Mirabel.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about MIRABEL’s path to publication. If you visit the book’s page on my website, you can download a sheet of cute, free Valentine’s Day cards featuring Olivia Chin Mueller’s illustrations. And I’ve also posted a free CCSS Curriculum Guide for educators and parents. https://janetlawler.com/book/mirabels-missing-valentines-picture-book/

Thanks so much, Kathy, for helping to spread the love of children’s literature and MIRABEL’S MISSING VALENTINES, and for all your terrific, helpful posts on Writing and Illustrating!

JANET’S BIO:

Janet Lawler is a prolific author specializing in children’s literature. Her critically acclaimed books have appeared in Scholastic Book Clubs and the Children’s Book of the Month Club. Her recent works include Ocean Counting, Love is Real, and Leaves. She loves sharing the humor of everyday life with young readers.

Janet’s books have been published across the globe and have been translated into several languages. Lawler received a BA in government and American studies from Connecticut College and went on to complete her JD at the University of Connecticut. She lives in Connecticut.

Thank you Janet for sharing your book and journey with us. A Valentine’s themed book – so much fun and so lucky to have Olivia Chin Mueller illustrate the book. Olivia was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Responses

  1. So much fun! Thanks for sharing the journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful story, Janet! The illustrations are gorgeous and I absolutely LOVE the message on the law of Abundance–the more love you give, the more you get in return. Such a wonderful Valentine’s story!

    (Kathy, I’m also sharing this on my twitter)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like a sweet story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved reading about your story – and the story of your story! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Heartfelt congratulations on publishing Mirabel’s story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed reading about your path to publication. Your books sounds delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved hearing all the twists and turns that happened before bringing this adorable story to life. The plot is unique and the illustrations perfectly complement the story. Congratulations to Janet and to Olivia, the artist who brought Mirabel’s journey to life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The book looks super cute! I can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing the editing journey that took place for this project and the “failed” project. They are good reality checks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it’s encouraging when you read how long a story’s journey can take to get published. Too often we are used to everything being done in the moment. My favorite books are written in rhyme. My goal some day is to write one of my own, once I learn to write in meter. Thanks for the great author interview.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ashley, if you contact me off my website, I can send you some helpful materials on writing in rhyme that I’ve created for use in SCBWI presentations.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Well done Janet! Thank you for sharing your book’s journey with us. So sweet!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The cover caught my eye and I couldn’t resist reading about Mirabel. Thank you, Janet for sharing insights into the publication process, it’s always fascinating to see how things come about. And the example of how you changed the text for the lady at the mailbox scene, I found incredibly helpful to my own work. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kaye. I almost cut all the mailbox revision detail out, since it was getting long, but then I thought writers might find it helpful. I’m glad I left it in!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Congratulations on Mirabel’s Missing Valentines, Janet – sounds wonderful! I always enjoy reading about the path from revision to publication.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for this wonderful peek inside your process! This story sounds delightful and the art is so sweet. I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Congratulations on your newest book. I’m so glad you took Mousy/Marmalade/Mirabel out of the drawer!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I love it when an author takes us on their journey from revision to publication. Mirabel is adorable. I love the story and the illustrations. Congratulations on such a lovely book.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sounds sooo sweet❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This book looks perfectly enchanting. Thanks for an interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks for sharing Mirabel’s journey with us dear Janet. Your story has been such an encouragement for me to be patient and going with my work.
    thank You.
    Good Luck Ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I appreciate everyone’s kind comments. Thanks for visiting Kathy’s blog and getting to know Mirabel!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Your book’s cover is so eye-catching and sweet. And it sounds like a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing, Janet, and congratulations on this new book!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you so much for this interview, and Ms. Lawler, I absolutely adored readinf abiut your process and revisions. Can’t wait to buy this one for my daughter!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. What a sweet story! And the illustrations are adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. such illustration.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. a cute

    Liked by 1 person


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