Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 2, 2021

April Agent of the Month

ANDREA WALKER – AZANTIAN LITERARY is April’s Agent of the Month. Scroll to bottom to read the submission guidelines for chance to win a first page critique with Andrea.

Andrea Walker started her career in publishing through several internships, eventually joining Olswanger Literary as a contracts intern. It was there she first began building her client list. As a writer herself, Andrea isn’t afraid to rework something several times to make it shine and will be your champion along the way. Before publishing, Andrea earned her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Creative Writing and Education from UCF and is currently working towards her Masters. When she’s not reading or writing, Andrea is enjoying time with her family and planning their next adventure.

Andrea represents PB, MG, and YA and is especially interested in seeing submissions from underrepresented voices.

PICTURE BOOKS

I’m looking for high-concept stories with a great hook. Text that is so well written, I visualize the illustrations as I’m reading. I love to laugh in the PB space and enjoy anything quirky or fun like I Want My Hat Back, lyrical as in Dreamers, or filled with heart like in A Sick Day For Amos McGee. While I love lyrical prose, I am not a good fit for rhyming text or anything that is overly sweet. Overall, I love to be surprised, if you’ve taken a concept and flipped it on its head, I’d love to see it!

MIDDLE GRADE

I am eager to build my middle grade list and on the lookout for lower mg and chapter books too. I’m always interested in high-concept, but I’m really looking for voice and the ability to capture the complex feelings of this age. I would love to visit lush worlds like The Night Gardener with characters you can’t help but root for a la Ghost, anything filled with heart and hope as in Front Desk or that helps kids deal with tough topics like The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise or The Thing About Jellyfish. I’m not a good fit for high fantasy, but I’m open to all else.

YOUNG ADULT

I absolutely love YA, it’s what really drew me to the world of publishing. Again, I’m drawn to high-concept and commercial young adult works. I’m looking for stories that stay with you long after you finish them like Slay and The Wilder Girls. Beautiful prose that sweeps you into the world with no looking back like Caraval or The Hazel Wood. Books that blend prose and epistolary like SADIE or RULES FOR VANISHING. Stories with standout voice like You Should See Me in A Crown and explore tough topics or deeper truths as in The Grace Year. I’m always interested in stories where magic is real and hiding in plain sight, books with speculative elements, and mysteries.

With that, tastes can be hard to pin down, and sometimes I really don’t know what I’m looking for until I see it. If it’s PB, MG, or YA and you think I might be a good fit, I’d love to take a look!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

For submission guidelines please visit: http://www.azantianlitagency.com/submit.html

When you are ready to submit, please use her form here: https://QueryManager.com/AndreaWalker

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HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR APRIL 2021 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “APRIL 2021 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 2021 April  – 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. Sending it to my hotmail account will probably keep me from seeing it and including you in the running.

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 23rd. – noon EST

RESULTS: April 30th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 1, 2021

Book Giveaway: EAT UP, BEAR by Terry Pierce

Terry Pierce has written a new board book, EAT UP, BEAR illustrated by Nadja Sarell and published by Yosemite Conservancy. It is available in bookstores on April 6thTerry has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do 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 Terry and Nadja.

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. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“A great introduction to enjoying nature without disturbing its rhythms.” —Foreword Reviews

Curious, hungry black bears just want to eat! Juicy berries, crunchy nuts, tender grubs, sticky honey—that’s good bear food. But if little park visitors and their families don’t watch out, their food will be bear food, too! The bouncy rhyming text and vibrant pictures in this board book show how people of all ages can help keep bears safe and thriving.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Eat Up, Bear! has had a journey that’s close to my heart. In 2018, my mom had passed away, and soon after my dad was put into hospice care. He lived in a facility where I went every day to oversee his care and keep him company. I told my agent at the time I wanted to continue writing, if for nothing else to occupy my mind. Knowing my love of nature and animals, she sent me a board book call out from Yosemite Conservancy. When I read their goal to “create books…that will inspire the next generation of stewards of our public lands,” I thought of bears.

I’ve hiked and backpacked all my life, having had many black bear encounters (such fascinating, curious creatures!). I also live in a mountain community where the town’s wildlife management expert Steve Searles has taught us how to coexist with bears through proper food storage. For years, I’ve admired Steve’s excellent work and advocacy for bears. So, when I thought about writing a book about being good stewards to these magnificent animals, I knew the focus would be proper food storage, which I’d never seen tackled in a children’s book.

As I sat in with my dad that late spring, I worked on the manuscript; storyboarding, tinkering with the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. I shared multiple drafts with my writing group, trying to find the sweet spot between entertainment and education. When I felt the manuscript was ready to submit, I sent it to my agent.

We waited for a few weeks to hear a response. During that time, in early summer, my dad passed away and life shifted under my feet as it does when one loses a parent. Life was so different, and I often retreated to the woods to write. One August day, while hiking alone, I even had a lovely bear encounter, which I took as a good sign of what was to come! A few days later, we received an R and R (revise and resubmit) request. ​​For the next few weeks,​ ​I worked with my editor, the incredible Nicole Geiger, and the Yosemite Conservancy staff​,​ exchanging revised drafts, massaging the manuscript to a place we liked.

The following February, we received an offer! What a “heart project” this was for me! I love Yosemite National Park. Its awesome beauty​ takes my breath away. When I found out our illustrator would be Nadja Sarell, I knew she would be perfect for the book. And when I saw her initial illustrations I just about jumped for joy—bright, saturated colors with adorable humans and bears set against nature’s backdrop. And the cover! Oh, that cover. Who can resist that adorable bright-eyed bear with its mouth full of berries?

But before we completed the final text and art, there was much collaboration with the Yosemite Conservancy’s partner, the National Park Service. Because the text was so sparse (as is typical in a board book), we relied upon the illustrations to convey much information—animal species, accurate food sources for bears, fauna details. The NPS experts and Yosemite Conservancy worked with us to strive for biological accuracy. The text also underwent additional revisions to portray the food storage rules in Yosemite National Park.

Our goal is for the book to entertain and educate little campers everywhere, and show how families can do their part to help keep bears wild by storing food properly (and keep humans and bears safe!). But for me, I’ll also think of my dad and all those amazing bear encounters I’ve had in my life—two things I treasure.

The official release date is April 13, 2021, but  Eat Up, Bear! is on sale now at the Yosemite Conservancy’s store: https://shop.yosemite.org/products/eat-up-bear.

TERRY’S BIO:

TERRY PIERCE is the author of twenty-five children’s books, including Love Can Come in Many Ways, Soccer Time, Mama Loves You So, and My Busy Green Garden.

She holds a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Development and an International A.M.I. Montessori teaching diploma. She was a Montessori teacher for twenty-two years before deciding to follow her dream of writing for children. Terry holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, including the Picture Book Concentration certification. She now writes full-time and teaches Picture Book Writing for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Terry lives in the high Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes, CA, where nature inspires her writing. She lives with her husband and is a servant to two lovable cats.

She’s looking forward to the release off her next easy reader, ¡Hora del fútbol! (Soccer Time! Spanish edition, Random House) on July 6, 2021. Please visit her at https://www.terrypiercebooks.com.

Terry is an outdoor enthusiast, enjoying backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, and, of course, bear sightings near her home in Mammoth Lakes, California.

NADJA’S BIO:

​Nadja is a freelance illustrator from Helsinki, Finland.

I graduated in 2004 from North Wales School of Art and Design with BA (1st class Hons) in Illustration for Children’s Publishing. Before my illustration studies I graduated as a dancer with MA in Dance from Theatre Academy in Helsinki. She works mainly for the children’s book publishers in Finland and abroad. Her passion is to create illustrations for children’s picture books, and loves working on chapter books and non-fiction books. She also create surface patterns and card designs for licensing. Currently she works through my lovely agents at Astound for commissions outside Scandinavia.

Nadja loves to teach art, dance and narrative illustration to both children and adults.

Nadja Sarell – Photo by Linda Manner

Nadja is the illustrator behind The One and Only Wolfgang, written by Instagram sensation Steve Greig aka @wolfgang2242 and author Mary Rand Hess, and the Frankie Sparks, Third Grade Inventor series.

Terry, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. You certainly achieved your goal to entertain and educate little campers and their families on how to enjoy the wilderness, while keeping everyone safe, inlcuding the bears. I love the color illustrations that Nadja did for the book. I know everyone will love this book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 31, 2021

How to Make An Animated Gif by Lucky Platt

Earlier this month while working on Illustrator Saturday featuring Lucky Platt, I was taken by her animated .gifs and asked her to put together a article that would walk everyone through putting one together. Today is the day I can share what she sent to me. See below:

 

One of my favorite ways to animate is by creating what I call a continuous drawing. Basically it’s one changing drawing scanned in a sequence and exported as a .gif. Here’s how it works:

I start by creating the initial drawing on a sturdy paper.

This drawing will be the first frame of the animation. I’m working on Arches Hot Press Watercolor 300lb paper with Yasutomo Black Sumi Ink, Uniball Signo broad white pens, black Micron pens and Gelly Rolls.

I scan the initial drawing using the Import Images from Devices under the Photoshop file menu, and save the image with a name and number.

For the next frame of the animation, I want to suggest a little bit of movement. The Sumi Ink is great for bold lines and washes – the tail swishes, the ear twitches.

I scan this second drawing like the first, and give it a sequential number.

For the third drawing, I’m moving the tail, opening one eye, and waking up the fur.

The Uniball white pen is great for covering the part of the tail that I want to move. It’s a remarkably opaque ink that works best with a slower controlled mark-making, and needs a little bit of drying time. I use it in combination with the Gelly Roll pen which is less opaque but moves quickly and easily, and is almost instantly dry. The Sumi Ink can be applied over the dry Uniball ink.

I check to make sure the drawing is dry and then scan it and give it a sequential number.

The drawing process continues in this way – canceling areas with opaque white pen, making bolder moves with the Sumi Ink and lighter airier action marks and flying hairs with the fine point Microns. You can see in this sequence that everything about the cat stays goofy and loose – the sense of movement is more important than fine detailing – while the chair structure is mostly static.




For the last drawing, I’m redrawing the cat under the chair, looking at little bit frazzled by the fall. 😉  


At this point I’m ready to create a moving picture. I use Scripts-Load Files into Stack under the File menu in Photoshop and select the eight image files in sequential order. I also check the box Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images so that the software will align using the aspects of the drawing that have remained the same throughout the sequence – in this case, most of the chair. The Scripts feature will open all eight images and automatically create a Photoshop document with eight layers. If needed, I reverse the order of the layers so that the last drawing is first in the Layers view. (Select all layers and choose Arrange-Reverse)


Now I’m ready to animate! (I’m using an older version of Photoshop (CC 2014) but should be very similar.) I open the Timeline panel under Window menu, and click Create Frame Animation. From the Timeline panel pulldown menu in the upper right corner, I choose Make Frames from Layers. The Timeline defaults to playing each frame for 0 seconds, and that’s usually too fast, so I change the timing on each frame, usually adding a half or whole second to each frame. I also select Forever under the drop down Menu (default is Once).

I view the animation and adjust timing as needed. When I’m happy with it, I select File-Save for Web and choose .gif under the file format menu. Like magic, the .gif file is a moving image that can be shared and viewed more easily than a video file.

Thank you so much for reading and happy animating to all of you!

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Lucky, thank you for taking the time to put this together. I hope people will have fun playing around with this. I have added it to my “To Do” list.

From IMAGINE A WOLF

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 30, 2021

Book Giveaway: A FLOOD OF KINDNESS by Blythe Russo

Ellen Leventhal has written a new picture book, A FLOOD OF KINDNESS illustrated by Blythe Russo and published by WorthyKids. It is available in bookstores on april 13th and available now for pre-order. Ellen has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do 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 Blythe.

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. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

Perfect for all children experiencing loss or grief, A Flood of Kindness gracefully confronts difficult feelings and celebrates the healing power of kindness.

“The night the river jumped its banks, everything changed.”

So begins A Flood of Kindness, a poignant picture book that addresses grief and loss and demonstrates how kindness can bring hope. Written in spare prose and told from an intimate first-person point of view, the story follows Charlotte, a young girl who watches floodwaters rise in her home and is forced to evacuate to a shelter with her parents. Kind people she doesn’t know give her food, socks and shoes to keep her feet warm, and a place to sleep. As Charlotte adjusts to the shelter–a strange, crowded place that is not home–she grapples with feelings of anger and sadness. But as the days go by, Charlotte starts to realize how grateful she is for the things that she does have–her parents, a cot to sleep on, food to eat–and starts looking for ways to help others in the shelter.

All children deal with sadness and loss in some way, whether it stems from a natural disaster, the death of a pet, or moving to a new place. A Flood of Kindness acknowledges those difficult feelings and helps readers process them in a healthy way. Children will be encouraged to be kind to those who need a friend and to help others in whatever way they can, no matter how small.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Thank you so much for featuring me and my book, A FLOOD OF KINDNESS. I’m happy to be here. This book, although fiction, is somewhat based on my own experience. Between Memorial Day 2015 and August 2017, I experienced three major floods. By the end, I lost everything, including my home. After the first flood, I did what Mr. Rogers suggested and “looked for the helpers.” I just had to open my eyes, and they were there. The amount of kindness people demonstrated was beyond anything I could have imagined. And that kindness was multiplied by three after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

It was difficult for me to accept help at first. I felt foolish when others were even worse off. However, I soon realized that accepting someone’s offer of support is a kind gesture in of itself.  As we worked together as a community to restore what we could, I noticed that my feeling of helplessness was fading. Giving back was doing as much for me as for the people I was helping. Working with children at that time, I saw firsthand how helpless and sad they felt. My goal was to instill in them a sense of  hope and empowerment while acknowledging and validating their feelings. Together we discovered that accepting kindness as well as offering it, often leads to the beginning of healing. That’s when this story of kindness, hope, and empowerment began to form in my head.

Of course, the story went through many revisions. The point of view, tense, and arc changed a few times. By 2019 I thought I had a submission-ready story. Scrolling through Facebook that year, I came across a contest called Picture Book Party. I hadn’t heard of it before, and it looked interesting, but I didn’t think I would ever have the nerve to enter, so I kept scrolling. But something pulled me back to this contest. I had a few stories that I thought were ready, but did I have the nerve to enter the first fifty words of my “heart story”? Was it good enough? I squashed my fears, took a breath, and hit “send.” Fast forward a few weeks, and  on April 11, 2019 (my birthday!), I signed a contract with Mary Cummings of Betsy Amster Literary for this manuscript. I was thrilled and kind of in shock!

Mary suggested some tweaks, and of course, I was more than happy to do them. I continued to tweak as we got comments from different editors, and in January 2020, I signed with WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group. When I saw the rough sketches, I was in awe of  the illustrator, Blythe Russo. But they were nothing compared to the final. I am delighted with how it turned out. The book releases on April 13 of this year. I am  grateful to Mary and editor, Peggy Schaefer for shepherding this book to publication. And of course, to Michelle Hauck and Mindy Alyse Weiss for hosting Picture Book Party that year.

ELLEN’S BIO:

Ellen grew up in New Jersey and thought everyone in Texas rode a horse. She was kind of disappointed when she moved to Houston in 1983 and realized she needed a car. She raised two boys in Texas and now is a Nana to the most adorable little native Texans ever! Pops and her both agree on that.

She has been in education for more years than she’d like to say, but still loves working with kids and school author visits!

One of her great pleasures is wandering the aisles in book stores. I used to stop in book stores and say to myself “I could do that!” And then…her friend Ellen Rothberg and her put the pedal to the metal and entered a contest for picture book writers and they won! Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets was their first book, followed by HayfestA Holiday Quest, and then Bully in the Barnyard.

In 2018 Ellen’s picture book, Lola Can’t Leap, came out, and now her next book, A Flood of Kindness, will hit bookshelves on April 13th 2021.

Ellen has been writing for as long as she can remember. When she was supposed to be doing math in school, she was writing poems about how much she hated math. As a kid, she wrote stories and poems for almost every occasion. Some were decent, but most were pretty bad. That didn’t deter her. She still wrote poems for family and friends.
Ellen also writes short stories for both kids and adults.

BLYTHE’S BIO:

Blythe Russo is an author/illustrator living and working just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. When she isn’t busy making books, she spends her time sewing, building puppets, baking in the kitchen on a never-ending quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and undertaking all sorts of other creative projects. She holds an MFA in Illustration and doesn’t have a dog. Yet.

Blythe holds a masters in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Designand is an active member of SCBWI. You can finder at: www.blytherussoillustration.com or on Instagram and Twitter @blythe_russo<

Ellen thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how you took the disasters that happened in your life and wrote a story that shares the fear children experience. I am sure this will help kids and adults get through the dark times and look to the kindness of others in the community. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 29, 2021

Agent Eva Scalzo

Eva Scalzo Speilburg Literary Agency

Eva Scalzo was born in New Jersey, but has lived in Houston, Buenos Aires, San Juan, and Boston before settling down outside of Binghamton, New York. She has been reading romance since the fifth grade when she discovered the Sweet Valley High series. On inheriting her grandmother’s collection of vintage Harlequin Romances, she set a goal to someday finish reading them all on top of her already massive TBR.

Eva has a B.A. in the Humanities from the University of Puerto Rico and a M.A. in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. Since graduating in 2002, she has spent her career in scholarly publishing, working for Houghton Mifflin, Blackwell Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, and Cornell University in a variety of roles. She has been with Speilburg Literary since 2013, and started accepting clients in 2017. Eva is a member the AALA (formerly AAR), RWA, and SCBWI.

In Adult Fiction, Eva represents Romance (all subgenres but inspirational) and Science Fiction/Fantasy. She also represents all subgenres of Young Adult Fiction. Before you hit submit on any queries please check out the agency’s Writing Tips.

If you are a Diverse Author, please see Eva’s special call for manuscripts and, if interested, submit here.

If you’ve submitted to Eva, please wait for a response before sending to any other agents at Speilburg Literary Agency.

General Wants:

All the items below can and should be applied to my specific genre requests unless specified.

#OwnVoices #Latinx stories please! Especially from authors of Puerto Rican, Dominican or Cuban descent. I want to see my culture represented in the books I read, but I also just want to promote authors whose voices and stories can reflect the diversity in our world, a diversity that is still lacking in publishing.

Beyond #Latinx voices, I want to see multicultural, diverse fiction. #OwnVoices for people of all cultures, races, ethnicities, abilities. I am committed to making sure underrepresented voices have a seat at the table.

#LGBTQ stories of all flavors, but especially f/f and bi/pan/demi. I’d also love to see trans characters written by trans voices.

Invisible chronic conditions: I want to see characters with diabetes, epilepsy, other auto-immune diseases, where the condition is part of their identity, but not the whole of it. I want to see their joy more than their struggles, but I don’t want it to be token or forgotten either.

Stories from marginalized voices that focus on the joy. If it’s not obvious by now, I’m a fan of the happy-ever-after. Issues books have their place on the bookshelf, but that’s not my wheelhouse. Everyone deserves a little love (whatever form of love that takes), send me those stories, please. I want to feel ALL THE THINGS.

In Romance:

Rom-coms are still hot, but I like to see some heart and depth along with all the humor. Slapstick isn’t what draws me in, but I delight in the absurd, think Bridget Jones’s Diary for moments that inspire outright laughter.

Raunch-coms that embrace female sexuality and are fun and sexy with heroes who are supportive and never slut-shame.

A summer/vacation story. It can be at the beach or by the lake, or while on travel in an exotic city. I want to see a story about falling in love and figuring out what happens when summer/vacation ends and going back to “real life” means having to make difficult choices.

A F/F sports romance. I’m shipping Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, so if you have a story you’d comp to their story, please send it my way. Or you can comp it to Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris. Doesn’t have to be soccer either.

In historical romance, my tastes tend to Regency/Victorian England, Gilded Age America, Highland (any era). I’m not really looking for American West or Civil War. Other time periods/settings are fine to query, but the hook and writing must be compelling for me to want to read on.

In contemporary I’m especially hungry for stories where gender expectations are subverted, so something like a celebrity with a female bodyguard or STEM heroines with heroes are their perfect match.

I would love to see a hero inspired by @WinterforMT, the guy who found a dog on the campaign trail and rescued it and adopted it. No opposite side of the aisle stuff though, I DO NOT find that romantic.

Any retelling “but make it gay” pretty much would be something I want to read.

In Young Adult:

A friends-to-lovers, teenaged popstars love story. I’m totally shipping #Shawmila (Shawn Mendes-Camila Cabello) and if you have a story you’d comp to their story, I’m probably going to be sold. Big plus if this is #Latinx, #OwnVoices. Bonus points if it’s gay.

Anything with a road trip, especially if it is about the characters coming to terms with the baggage they carry before heading off to college.

Gothic or horror as long as it’s not too gory. I especially love atmospheric settings and psychological horror/suspense.

Contemporary fantasy that is inspired by non-European mythologies from #OwnVoices creators. I wouldn’t be mad if it were historical fantasy either. I’d really love some #Latinx creators to send me their stories.

I always enjoy a good superhero story, think Renegades or The Extraordinaries. Given the state of the world, where teen life in a contemporary setting has been indefinably altered, I think escaping into worlds where we all have superpowers might be just the thing.

Open to almost all subcategories, but stories must feature a strong romantic element. I am not a huge fan of coming-of-age stories, especially if they are boy narratives. Historical YA must have an incredible voice/hook for me to take the risk on it.

In Science Fiction and Fantasy:

Anything with a fairy tale at the root of the story is fair game, but also any retelling of a classic story in either sci-fi or fantasy would be right up my alley.

Stories that are feminist and intersectional, particularly in science fiction.

Historical Fantasy with a diverse bent and lots of magic. Like say a story about a bruja/o/x traveling transatlantically and owning all of Europe.

In Middle Grade:

Stories that are lyrical and on the more literary range of the spectrum.

Stories infused with magic and and mystery. With kids working together to save their world.

Diversity above all, kids in this age range need to see the a reality that reflects their world.

Both fantasy and contemporary, but the beauty of the prose will be what draws me in.

DO NOT SEND…

Inspirational Romance (Sweet Romance is okay, it’s the prayer/God stuff I don’t want.)

Nonfiction (If your story is autobiographical, I don’t want it.)

General fiction or women’s fiction that does not include a strong romantic element or a happy-ever-after. (If I fall in love with characters, for the most part, I want them alive and happy by the time “The End” rolls around.)

High or Epic Fantasy is not a good fit. (If you’re comping George R.R. Martin or Tolkein, it’s just not something I enjoy reading.)

Motorcycle Club Romance (Unless you’ve managed to write the MC f/f romance with no overt sexism/misogyny that I may secretly want to see! Bonus if the characters are #Latinx.)

I didn’t realize this needed to be said, but if your book features incest, that’s a hard NO for me. Also, no on the page rape or sexual abuse, these are not things I am okay with reading.

No COVID, not right now.

Chapter/picture books

Graphic novels (Love them but don’t know how to sell them)

Screenwriting/Short Stories/Poetry

Actual Fun Facts:
+My name is not pronounced with a long E sound. I’m of Puerto Rican, Lebanese, and Spanish descent.

Submission Guidelines

Please submit your query and first three chapters to:

http://QueryMe.Online/evascalzo

Guidelines & Details

Vital Info

@evascalzo

Facebook

Linkedin

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 28, 2021

Book Giveaway: OCEAN SOUP by Meeg Pincus

Meeg Pincus has written a new picture book, OCEAN SOUP illustrated by Lucy Semple and published by Sleeping Bear Press  It is available in bookstores nowSBP has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do 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 Meeg and Pincus.

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. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

From the shore, the ocean looks like clear, sparkling blue but look closely at a small scoop and you’ll find the ocean looks more like soup! Our oceans are filled with plastics, from water bottles and take-out containers to the teeny tiny plastic particles you need a microscope to see. But who exactly cooked up this stinky soup? And, more importantly, what is the recipe for getting (and keeping) our oceans clean? This bouncing, rhyming story pulls no punches about how we ended up in this sticky mess but also offers hope and help for cleaning up this ocean soup.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Phase One: The Concept

I’d wanted to write about ocean microplastics for young kids since I was working six years ago as a humane educator for a nonprofit, and one of the lessons I taught in elementary classrooms was on the topic. There wasn’t a picture book on it but I knew from teaching it that young kids can “get” it and be inspired to action. And I knew from learning about the microplastics problem that our youngest generation needs to understand it!

But, how to write it? I thought about profiling the two scientists we used in the lesson, who are incredibly inspiring. But this one felt more like a topical book than a PB bio-type book to me. So, I brainstormed for a while and kept coming back to the concept of “Ocean Soup” and a recipe book. I started to draft it as a recipe of how “we” created Ocean Soup.

Phase Two: Rhyming? Really?!

As I was writing the recipe, it kept coming to me in rhyme. “Noooo!” I thought to myself, remembering all the warnings about avoiding rhyme (unless you could do it really, really well). But the rhymes wouldn’t leave me. And I realized rhyming actually was an effective way to lighten up this heavy topic, to make it more accessible to young kids. So, there was a real reason to use it, but I needed to do it really, really well.

I’d written poetry throughout my life, but I needed a refresher on metered rhyme, and knew just where to turn. I enrolled in Renée LaTulippe’s online crash course in meter and rhyme and worked through all the lessons. My meter came quite naturally but I worked on making sure it was accurate and the rhymes weren’t forced or too trite.

Phase Three: Finding the POV

When I sent my first full draft of Ocean Soup to my critique partners, in a second-person, rhyming how-to recipe, one worried that kids would feel guilty that they made this problem happen. I had worried about that, too, so it validated my concern. (Here’s to great CPs!) It really wasn’t kids who created this mess, but adults and industries from generations before them.

So, I switched the POV from second-person to third-person. I revised it into sharing a “recipe” that had occurred before kids’ time (basically the history of microplastics turning oceans into “soup”), then called on kids to be “new chefs” with a “new recipe” to help turn it around. That really, finally, clicked and my agent gave it the green light to sub!

I was thrilled when Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press, my editor for Winged Wonders and Miep and the Most Famous Diary, acquired it.

Phase Four: The Perfect Illustrator

I have to admit, I was worried about how someone could effectively illustrate this poem/story. (Truth is, another editor loved the poem but passed because she just couldn’t visualize the illustrations.) Though it’s a fun, simple rhyme scheme, it’s also a long, complex poem based on science and history. How could an illustrator keep it light-hearted for kids and still get across the problem and the science? It was not an easy task!

But, Sarah had a vision and she found an illustrator who did, too—Lucy Semple. I was so grateful that they could visualize it, and when I saw Lucy’s first sketches, I got teary-eyed with joy and relief. It was perfect! Just the right balance of everything and I was in love.

Phase Five: Revisions

Revisions included two experts who both really upped the challenge and the quality of this book.

The first expert I consulted was poet/teacher Renée LaTulippe. I hired her with a portion of my advance, and the blessing of my editor, to make sure my metered rhyme was really, really good. And she did! She pushed me on my word choices, syllabic emphases, and more, and my first revision with her took the poetry to a new level. Then Sarah and I took it from there.

(Now, I believe this: Rhyming in PBs is fine to do, but for most of us it takes an investment—of time and effort for sure, and sometimes some money—to make sure it’s done really, really well!)

The second expert involved in our revision was our scientist expert reader. I was thrilled when one of those two scientists I’d taught about in that lesson years back agreed to do it! He read it like a scientist and pushed me on the science. Specifically, he wanted me to make clearer the fact that microplastics really can’t just be “cleaned up.” This meant I had to revise tight, metered rhyme, with illustrations already in place, to get this scientific message across. I can’t tell you how many hours that took! But I finally made it work, he and Sarah both approved, and I feel really good with the result.

Check out Ocean Soup and see for yourself!

About Meeg:

 

Meeg Pincus is the author of acclaimed trade nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet—including Winged Wonders (Golden Kite Honor Award Winner, Eureka! Honor Award Winner, Kirkus Best Picture Books of 2020), Miep and the Most Famous Diary (A Mighty Girl Best Books of 2019, Kirkus and School Library Journal starred reviews, “highly recommended” by the Jewish Book Council), and Cougar Crossing and Ocean Soup in 2021. She has also authored leveled readers, including 17 in the Itty-Bitty Bios series, for school/library publishers.

Meeg is a long-time nonfiction writer/editor (from newspapers and magazines to books), an educator (from university and elementary classrooms to SCBWI and Writing Barn workshops), and a diverse books advocate (highlighted on her website/blog Solutionary Stories: www.SolutionaryStories.com). She grew up and lives with her family in Southern California and can be found online at www.MeegPincus.com.

 

LUCY’S BIO:

Lucy Semple is an illustrator based in Nottinghamshire, having graduated with a degree from Loughborough University in Graphic Communication and Illustration.

She always dreamed of one day slotting into a creative career, as a child she would either be using the family video camera to direct a rendition of a Roald Dahl poem or have her head firmly buried in a book. Specialising in children’s illustration she now enjoys channeling that creative energy into drawing bright, bold and often furry characters.

When she isn’t bringing her scribbled creations to life, Lucy enjoys drinking considerable amounts of tea, baking and cuddling up to watch a film with her partner, daughter and their grumpy tom cat Nim.

Meeg, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I have a copy of this book and I love the way you walked us through how the problem started and how we help save the ocean. It is am important topic and one that presented in a fun way. Lucy did a wonderful job with the illustrations that are sure to make kids wanting to turn every page. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 27, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Renia Metallinou

Renia Metallinou is an illustrator from Greece. She studied graphic design in the Athenian Design College (AKTO) and a few years later, after winning a two-year scholarship she studied fashion design. Since 2014 she started working as a full time illustrator, creating books for publishers in Greece and abroad. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards in the children’s book category. She is a member of the Greek IBBY (INTERNATIONAL BOARD ON BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE).

I mostly work with pencils, ink and digital media but I also enjoy using gouache, watercolours and collage.

ReniaI lives a few miles away from Athens, in a small house by the sea, with her husband, two children, and lots of pets. Her favorite food is chocolate!

AWARDS/ACHIEVEMENTS:

2020 Moonbeam Awards Gold Medal for Picture Book, All Ages (For Willa’s House, PlumLeaf Press)
2019 Public book Awards / Books for Teens-Won (For Everything started the day they brought Zachary home! by Phychogios editions GR)
2018 Cypru’s National Literature Award for Young Children with special mention on illustration (For White Uniform by Teleia Editions).
2018 Little Hakka International Picture Book Award. Shortlisted for the professional group.
2017 World Illustration Awards 2017. Shortlisted for children’s books category

She is represented by the Bright Agency worldwide (ex. Greece and Cyprus).
Please contact Anne Moore Armstrong (anne@thebrightagency.com)for commissions or inquiries.

Here is Renia discussing her process:

Interview with Renia Metallinou:

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating since I was a kid but I started working as an illustrator 7-8 years ago.

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

To be honest I don’t really remember my first commission. I must have been some type of illustrated invitation I think.

What made you chose the Athenian Design College to study graphic design?

In Greece, when I finished school, there where only 2 state universities for studying arts and graphic design. The National School of Fine Arts and the Technological Educational Institution of Athens. As it was quite hard to get into these schools I decided to study at AKTO which was one of the best Art and Design colleges in Greece at the time.

Did you take any children’s book illustration classes at AKTO?

No. I was studying graphic design and I only had some traditional illustration and painting lessons as part of the educational program I was following.


Did you do any fashion design after winning a scholarship to study fashion design?

Unfortunately no, I didn’t, because I was working as an art director for a newspaper at the time. But fashion design studies put some foundations for my later career in illustration.

 Did the school help you find work after you graduated?

Not really. But I had got my first paid work as a graphic designer while I was still studying.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

At the beginning of my graphic design career I was mostly designing logos for small businesses, advertising leaflets and brochures, which were really interesting at the time.

What made you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I always loved illustration.  I originally started by creating some fashion illustrations for the magazines I was working for. I had no influences from children’s illustrations back then.

But when I became a mom and started buying all these wonderful illustrated clothes and books and accessories for kids I just fell in love with children’s illustration. At some point I began to work on an activity book for my kids that were 2-3 years old at the time, to help them learn the Greek alphabet and that project became really creative and interesting for me. I felt I had finally found a new path for my career, as I knew I was not interested in graphic design and magazines as much as I used to, plus it was something that I could do without leaving home and being able to stay with my kids.

What do you think help you develop your style?

I was drawing a lot! I was trying techniques and materials that I was not familiar with. I started following illustrators on social media and studying their work. I also read (and keep reading)
books about art and illustration. Style is something that constantly evolves.

It looks like you wrote and illustrated your first book in 2013. It is in Greek, so I cannot read the title. What is the title in English and what it was about?

The book’s title is “coloring, playing and learning the alphabet”. As I’ve mentioned before I started working on this book for my kids when they were around 2-3 years old. I couldn’t find a book in the Greek market that would combine writing practice and coloring activities with fun illustrations. So I decided to create a book that I thought it would be nice for my kids to have.

How did you get that contract with Patakis Editions?

In 2013 I created a Facebook page with some of my early illustrations (mostly fashion illustrations). A Greek author who was working with Patakis Editions saw my work and asked me to illustrate her new book. On my first appointment with the publisher I had my book with me to present a children’s illustration portfolio. The publisher liked my work and asked me if I would be interested in having my book published. I guess I was really lucky because on my first interview with a publisher I got to sign 2 contracts. One for my book, and the other to illustrate a children’s book.

In 2016, you wrote and illustrated published another book with the same publisher, Patakis Editions. Do you plan to write and illustrate more books?

Yes, of course I do! But not another activity book this time. I have 3-4 stories written but I haven’t had enough time to work on them yet.

You have illustrated 53 books. Ten have been published in English. In 2015, you illustrated Without Birthday Presents, with EdVenture books in Singapore Was that your first book published book in English?

Well, actually this book was in Chinese! But it was the first book that I did for a foreign publisher. The book’s editor send me the text in English, which I later replaced with the original. My first book in English was  “Romeo and Juliette, a coloring classic’’ published by Little Tiger Books in 2015.

How did they find you?

In 2015 I was working with another agency. The agency asked me to do some samples for a coloring book for adults, which was going to get published in England and worldwide. These books were really popular at the time. So I did some samples that the agency submitted to the publisher and I took the job.

In 2020, you illustrated Willa’s House published by Rubicon Publishing in Canada and were awarded the 2020 Moonbeam Gold Metal for Picture book, All Ages. Was that exciting for receive?

It was exciting and also unexpected because I had no idea that the publisher had submitted the book! This award made me really happy, it was a wonderful surprise for me.

Was Now I’m A Bird by Sue Schmitt your first US published book?

Yes, it was!

Do you think that is how Sleeping Bear Press found you to illustrate The Color Collector?

Oh, I don’t think so because Now I’m A Bird wasn’t published at the time I signed with Sleeping Bear Press. I think my agent submitted my work to the editor and I was asked to do a sample for the book before signing up with them.

Do you feel the Bright Agency is responsible for getting you into the US Market?

Yes, definitely! The Bright Agency has opened the doors to the US market for me and has given me great books to illustrate.

How long have you been with the Bright Agency? How did you connect with them?

I have joined the Bright Agency about three years ago, in 2018, after submitting my portfolio through their website for consideration.

In 2020, you exhibited your work at Time, Greek illustrators for the Hellenic Foundation of Culture. Was this by invitation or something where you submitted work and was accepted?

I was invited to participate as part of the Greek children’s illustrator’s community.

I love the animation Blu you did for AnimaSyros festival 2017. Did you take classes to learn how to do this type of animation?

Oh, thank you so much! No, I used my graphic designer’s skills.  It was made with Adobes Photoshop.  Almost all the graphic design programs allow you to do this kind of simple animations.

Do illustrators do school visits to help sell their books in Greece?

This is something that the authors usually do. Illustrators most often attend the book’s presentations. Of course this last year with the lockdown and quarantine nothing of these is possible.

Have you ever tried doing a wordless picture book?

Actually one of the books ideas I have is for a wordless picture book. I find this type of books really interesting and creative. I saw the winning books of the Silent Books Contest in Bologna a couple of years ago and they were all amazing pieces of art!

 Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I finally do have a studio. I originally had a corner inside our living room but eventually I needed more space. We had a storeroom right next to our home that my husband cleaned, painted and turned into a wonderful studio for me this December!

Have you done any illustrations for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

No, unfortunately I have not done any! But I would love to.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes, sure! I have already worked with a couple of self-published authors in Greece. I also worked with an author from Doha that met through a common friend.

What do you think is your biggest success?

My biggest success in my career is that I have followed my path in illustration and I’m really grateful for being able to work in the children’s books field.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My number one medium is ink, especially black Indian ink. I love the textures and imperfections that ink creates.

Has that changed over time?

Oh, yes, a lot! As a graphic designer I used to work mostly with computer design programs like Adobe’s Illustrator, so my very first illustrations were vectors. Later I started experimenting with Adobes Photoshop. Now I create mostly hand drawn illustrations with traditional media combined with a final digital touch.

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

Yes, I work with an iPad pro and Apple pen.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Pencil, ink, coloring markers, gouache and Procreate app. Procreate is a great and affordable app and it’s digital brushes combine great with traditional media.

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

For every project I undertake I make a time plan that I try to follow. I usually work every day for as many hours as I need to catch my deadlines. Some times that means working almost all day. But I try to have the weekends work free so I can rest and spend some time with my kids and family.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Oh, definitely! Internet is a great window to show your work to potential clients. I was a graphic designer/full time mom trying to be an illustrator. Sharing my work on social media was the key to achieve that.

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

I have many career dreams. My biggest is to have an author-illustrator picture book published outside Greece.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently illustrating a folk story for a Greek children’s book publisher.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Experiment with ink using different types of brushes and paper. Ink creates the most amazing textures. My favorite is Winsor & Neuton’s black Indian ink, which I use almost for all of my personal projects.

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

Work more, practice more.

Love what you do, set goals and always try to get better.

Avoid comparing your self with others and don’t let rejections get you down.

Renia, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Can’t wait to show off The Color Collector on April 6th Please let me know your future successes so I can share them with everyone.

To see more of Renia’s work, you can visit her at:

WEBSITE: https://www.reniametallinouillustration.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reniametallinou_illustration/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reniamet.illustration

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 26, 2021

March Agent of the Month – Ann Rose – First Page Results

ANN ROSE AT PROSPECT AGENCY:

I am a California native who now resides in Texas after a stint in Florida. Each place has its pros and cons, but I can say that I left my heart in San Diego and dream of going back one day (although that will probably never happen). My degree is in Communication from San Diego State University, and my resume holds a gamut of jobs from Life Guard to Business Systems Analyst/Portfolio Manager, but books have always been my passion. I’m excited to finally merge my love of literature with my past professional experiences as a literary agent with Prospect. It is my honor to help authors build successful, sustainable careers.

I fell in love with young adult books when my niece asked me to read with her and I remain devoted to YA of all genres. I am looking for characters who aren’t afraid to stand up for their convictions and beliefs — whether they fight with their fists or their words. I’m also open to all genres of middle grade, and especially love stories that push the MG boundary by exploring topics that affect middle graders but aren’t always broached in stories written for them. In the adult arena, I adore swoony romances, light sci-fi or fantasy, commercial fiction, and heartwarming — or heart wrenching — contemporaries. I’m always looking for unique voices, diverse perspectives, vivid settings, and stories that explore tough topics. Dark and edgy is totally okay too. Above all I’m looking for compelling characters who make me think in new ways, and laugh and cry, hopefully in the same story!

My clients know I’m ready to roll up my sleeves to help create the best books possible, from brainstorming at the idea stage all the way through submissions and beyond. I love attending conferences, and sharing my knowledge of the publishing industry. I am a member of the SCBWI, YARWA and RWA.

BELOW ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGES ANN READ AND HER THOUGHTS IN PURPLE:

Island Dark and Beautiful by Susan Williams Beckhorn, MG, historical fiction (survival, prehistory, Caribbean)

There was no earth-shudder of warning. In my dreaming, (Is this going to start with the character waking up?) there was the hiss of a great snake, which must have been the sea drawing herself back over broken shells on the beach. Then came a sound like a hurakan wind. I woke (And this is where I would stop reading. I don’t say this to be mean or cruel it is just a too common opening that I personally see too often, so for me, it just doesn’t work as a way to grab the reader and make it clear there is something unique or different about this story.) to a crushing wall of water, the canoe digging sideways, and my dog Biran scrambling desperately into the little space under the prow. We were lifted, spun around, the canoe half-swamped with water, and then sucked out away from the beach, with me clinging to the seat and screaming as new waves slammed and drenched us. Raging power. Fury. Away from shore. Out to sea. (There is a lot happening here right away and it’s unclear as to why. Why is the MC in a canoe asleep with their dog? Where are they? When are they? Where is everyone else? Why are they alone? This is MG so, where are their parents? It just doesn’t immediately ground the reader in what is happening. It’s a very cinematic start which is hard to pull of in books because we don’t have the music build up and the panning camera to immediately draw us into all the sights and sounds of this scene to understand what is going on.)

Scream as I might, the roar of the wave was louder.

At last, I fell silent, my throat raw. Above me, in the moonless sky, stars gleamed like unnumbered eyes—cold, unfeeling, watching our helplessness. (Lovely) The canoe was still moving, caught by the current and a steady breeze, but sluggish as a fat old woman (this feels like fat shaming, and I would encourage another way to describe this. Not all fat women are sluggish or out of shape.) with her burden of seawater.

Biran whimpered. I hugged him to me. He was soaked and shaking. He tried desperately to claw his way up my body, out of the water sloshing around us. I was soaked and shaking too, shocked by what had happened, but I could not let my poor dog be so terrified. “It is all right,” I whispered to him over and over—though nothing at all was right. (How can you not like a character who loves their dog. Very clever way of making us like them.)

I knew what had happened of course. Every few years, a great wave comes to our shore. Sometimes the earth shakes under our feet before it hits—sometimes not. I knew the sea wanted me. I had tempted her by hiding in my father’s canoe and she had come for me. What else did she have in mind?

What to do? The paddles of course! But where?

Gone.

No, not both!

The writing here is very solid and it’s almost impossible to not feel for this character who has found themselves washed out to sea.

But while I do feel for them, I’m not sure if I should care about them just yet because I just don’t really know anything about them at all.

I also just think the starting with a character waking up doesn’t feel fresh or original. There are probably at least ten different ways you could open this that don’t start with them waking up that would be even more effective for getting us to empathize and care about this MC, and I would encourage you to explore those.

*******

MONSTER (Did you say Monster? I’m listening.) REHAB by Monique Desir YA Fantasy

Someone wants to kill me; I can feel it. (You said monster, so someone or something? Also, I’m not sure I love the blatant telling of this with the filtering. I think showing us how the MC knows could be much stronger here. What do they “feel” that tells them this? Do they have some kind of power? Or sixth sense? You have an opportunity to really drop us into this MC’s head and give us a hint of who they are so consider really using it.)

While reviewing our (who is our) most recent case file, I sense this murderous intent. (Repetitious consider moving forward instead of repeating yourself here) In silence, I close the folder, fingers trembling. Fear reaches inside my chest and squeezes my heart. (Naming an emotion isn’t as powerful as showing it and while I don’t mean you have to show everything, here in the first page I think you could and it would be more compelling.) I don’t want to leave the safety of our (again who is our) family car, but a novice monster warden must master the art of numbness and feign courage because oftentimes our lives literally depend on it. (Love it.)

For some paranormal entities, fear is a five-course meal relished moments before they feast on your shrieking face. (YES!) I grab my terror by the throat and strangle it.

As my dad (consider just Dad, the “my” is implied in the first person POV) and I exit the sanctuary of our Mercedes minivan, I try to shake it: that ever-familiar, forever unnerving tingle inching up my spine then nips at the nape of my neck, as my brain screams: “Careful. You’re being hunted.” (Not to harp on it, but this is the third time they mention being afraid so I’m not sure you need to drive this home so hard. It’s already pretty clear. Also, we don’t know where they are, or when they are. There isn’t much grounding going on here so consider front loading just a little so we understand what they are stepping out to before they step out so we can visualize what you are in your head.)

This sixth sense assault pummels my nerves, and when I try to counterattack, it bobs and weaves, lingering just outside the fringes of my awareness. My father, (Do they call him Father or Dad? What do they call him? Consider just using that name. We are in their head so you can use the name they would call this character to keep us in deep POV) walking beside me, doesn’t seem to notice. He’s not the target. (Target of what? The killer? How do they know? Where are they, and what are they about to do?) Just when I think (I think is filtering, just like I feel, I see, I hear, I know, I realize, I wonder etc. and isn’t needed in a first person POV. The MC can’t mention any of those things unless they think, see, hear, feel, know, realize etc. Example: I see a red bird fly over my head. Or: A red bird flies over my head. Both tell us the MC sees the bird because they couldn’t mention it in a first person POV without seeing it. Make sense? So just allow your MC the ability to make observations without telling us they are making observations.) he’s oblivious to my obvious discomfort, one of his large hands squeezes my shoulder. “Nora, you okay?” (There’s the MC’s name – nice.)

I nod, inhaling the fresh outside air, a desperate attempt at grounding myself and realigning my aura. (What does this mean?) I detect (Filtering again – Nora can detect without telling us she detects.) the fragrant scent of jasmine growing alongside the heartthrob-red hibiscus bordering the landscaped sidewalk. Our client’s home is the last townhouse on the end of the row. Tall oak trees stretch toward the darkening sky, their silhouettes etched in chartreuse light and when a cool breeze blows, autumn leaves flutter and fall near the roots where the shadows seem to swallow them. (Here is the description and detail we need before Nora exits the car so we can visualize the scene as soon as possible) I don’t dare tell Dad (yes, like this—Dad works perfectly) the truth. I’ve got to prove I’m capable. (I kind of want a hint as to why and what is so important about this time, but I would totally read more.)

So this immediately grabbed me and reading this opening has me wanting more so while I left a number of notes, this is a solid opening and it does its job and does it well. I personally would love a little more of that scene setting right up at the front perhaps just after Nora’s discovery of someone wanting to kill her just so I can feel like I am grounded in the scene but otherwise it really is a solid start. Can I ask to see more of this? Because if I can, I would really, really like to.)

*******

Tim Donnelly – New Croatoan – YA Fantasy

Their eyes said it more harshly than their voices ever could, “Why do these boys run by our house every morning?” (It isn’t clear here where we are or who “they” are. While I feel this is supposed to draw intrigue it feels more jarring and leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Sometimes the most straightforward opening—including with immediately grounding the reader is the best choice. Or consider just being more specific here.)

We (pausing again here because we have a they and a we and the reader doesn’t know who either are. Plus, language like this, distances the POV) were running to Ranger Mathers’ house, and in a town with one road, it’s not like we could have taken another route. (You only need one space after a period. Find and replace is the easiest way to fix this. 😊)  Ranger Mathers was a 54-year-old former Army Ranger and he knew our only path to being seen as full-fledged humans was through the infantry.  So, he agreed to train any of us from the McClennon County Boys Home as long as we agreed to help tend to his property in return. (Lots of information on Ranger Mathers, but we still don’t know who the MC is. Or anything about them aside that they live in this home.)

Two weeks later, when I aged out of the home, I was going to enlist.   I would never run by those houses ever again.  I would never figure out which pair of eyes belonged to my real parents, despite years of searching for clues. (Interesting information, but I think you might be trying to give us a little too much set up here instead of just dropping us in the story.)

To be honest, I never got very far in that investigation.  I could never decide who I should suspect, the eyes that zeroed in on me as I ran down the street, or the ones that feigned distraction to avoid eye contact.  It was fun to make them uncomfortable by trying to lock eyes.  Their squirms made me giggle. (I’m a little confused. Do they think their parents live in this small town and yet no one has told them who they are? It seems like such a small town—only one road—so how could a secret like this have been kept? Again, I think there is just a little too much emphasis on this instead of starting the story.)  But two weeks later, it wouldn’t matter at all.  My wildest dreams had always begun by passing the ‘You Are Leaving West, Texas.  We’ll Be Here When You Get Back’ sign, and ignoring the second sentence.

But that day, we ran as a group just as we did every single day of every single summer.  I particularly loved the sound of it.  It was an orchestra, but it was much better than the holiday concerts the band put on at school.  The percussion-like rumble of sneakers pounding pavement.  The harmonious heavy breathing behind me.  The high pitched melody of my bare feet slapping hot asphalt.  I had learned quickly that our crosstown runs wore out sneakers much faster than I was given new pairs.    It all came together perfectly.

The writing is very smooth and there is a nice hint of mystery about this main character threaded through the piece. I also like the imagery of the group running here in the last paragraph.

One thing that stands out to me though is that this is said to be a YA fantasy and nothing in this page hints at all to that genre. It feels very much like a straight forward contemporary story.

Like I mentioned before I think you are trying to set up the backstory of this MC a little too much instead of allowing us to discover things about him as the story goes on. I’m not sure how necessary it is for me to know from the very first page that they don’t get sneakers enough, or that they enjoy making town people uncomfortable.

I would encourage you to ground the reader a little more in not just time and place but also in the genre of this story. Even if the “fantasy” part doesn’t come until later there are ways to hint that there will be fantasy elements.

While the writing is well done, I’m just not convinced this is the opening of this story.

*******

STOP MR. RYDEN  by Kim A. Larson – YA

Most kids my age dream (any time dream is mentioned in the first page I immediately start thinking—Is this going to start with the character waking up? Not saying it will but the talk of dreams and sleeping is used very often in openings so already I’m questioning which isn’t necessarily a good thing) about what they’ll do when they grow up. What I dream about actually happens. (In a bad way? In a good way? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this. I’m also not sure I understand the connection of dreaming what someone will be when they grow up and dreams that become real. It’s like comparing apples and oranges IMO and while both are fruit they’re not really the same thing.)

I dodge sweaty kids in the school supplies aisle at Walmart, holding my breath. Their grimy fingers maul boxes of crayons and markers. As I snatch a pack of colored pencils, a screechy cart lifts my attention. The middle-aged woman pushing it is wearing short shorts and a tight tank. Where have I seen her before?

I stare through the maze of shoppers.

Elle waves her hands in front of my face. “Earth to Anna.” (Good way to drop a MC’s name right here on the first page.)

The memory hits me—the woman appeared in my dream last night. She wore a red blouse, a white scarf, and navy pants. Like an American flag. She stood next to an open door, against a white backdrop with words written in black letters. Words I can’t remember. (Again, it’s unclear how I’m supposed to feel about this as it is unclear how the MC feels about this.)

“Anna … Anna …” my cousin continues.

My pulse quickens. Everything around me fades, illuminating the woman in today’s skimpy clothes. (Shorts and a tank top sounds normal for a summer day—which I assume because “school supplies” so I’m not sure why these are considered “skimpy” and this feels a little judgey on the part of the MC to describe this woman that way.)  I’m locked in some sort of a vision, like a dream but I’m awake. Seconds later, the scene disappears. Dazed, I nudge Elle and nod toward the woman. “She’s going to buy the yellow highlighters.” (I’m not sure how anything about what the MC saw brings her to this conclusion. What is the connection?)

The woman rummages through a bin of markers, note cards, and pens before tossing yellow highlighters into her cart.

“Wow. Good guess.”

“Not really.” I search my foggy brain for words to explain what just happened. “I saw this before—” (I’m a little confused because all we saw was nothing like what is happening here—not even the woman’s clothes. So I’m not sure what I should take from this.)

“Haven’t we all.” She flings her long, blonde hair over one shoulder. “Every August, getting new school stuff. You think we get our ninth-grade planners here or at school?”

This story sounds like it’s going to have a lot of intrigue in it coming down the line, but the woman and the markers I’m not sure is really setting this all off in the right way for you. I think you are trying to cram just a little too much here in this opening without allowing us to know anything about Anna first. And caring about her is much more important than any ability she may or may not have.

I think you might want to consider a different dropping in point. Of course I say this without knowing what comes next, but this just feels like it’s working too hard to try to be a grabbing opening and it shouldn’t have to. Anna seems like she is going to be a really interesting character and the snippets of voice we get from her are well done so trust that you are good enough and she is interesting enough without having to try to throw all the things at us at once. 

*******

Ann, thank you for sharing your time an expertise with us. I am sure many writers will be able to apply your thoughts to their own writing. Great job! Thanks. Feel free to send me any of your good news and I will share it with everyone to celebrate your successes. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 25, 2021

Book Giveaway: AVEN GREEN SLEUTHING MACHINE by Dusti Bowling

Dusti Bowling has written a new chapter book picture book, AVEN GREEN SLEUTHING MACHINE, illustrated by Gina Perry and published by Sterling Children’s Books. It is available in bookstores April 13th and available for pre-order on Amazon now. Sterling has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do 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 Dusti and Gina.

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. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Third-grader Aven Green has been solving mysteries for a whole month—cracking such cases as The Mystery of the Cranky Mom. But can this perceptive detective solve two cases at the same time? First her teacher’s lunch bag disappears. Then Aven’s great-grandma’s dog goes missing. Fortunately, since Aven was born without arms, all the “arm” cells went to her super-powered brain instead. (That’s her theory.) This hilarious chapter book showcases a new side to Dusti Bowling’s unforgettable protagonist.

Dusti and Letisha

BOOK JOURNEY:

The character of Aven Green first came to life for me in my middle grade books, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017) and Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus (2019). But the idea to write a story featuring a character with a limb difference was planted in my mind over a decade ago when I received a phone call about my cousin, Kyle, who was serving in Iraq. His vehicle had been hit by an RPG. He was severely injured. He was in a coma and had lost his eye. He was going to lose his arm.

Over the next couple of weeks, I thought a lot about what life would be like for Kyle with only one arm. I tried to read as much as I could about life with limb differences, and I discovered there were very few children’s books featuring characters with limb differences. Actually, at the time, I couldn’t find any. This bothered me because I’ve always felt that all children should be represented in books.

But Kyle passed away two weeks after he was injured, and I didn’t think about the lack of children’s literature featuring characters with limb differences again until several years later when I saw a video online of a woman taking care of her baby and working out at the gym. She didn’t have arms and did everything with her feet. It was incredibly eye-opening to me. This woman showed me that not having arms didn’t hold her back from doing what she wanted in life. She showed me how determined, adaptive, and resilient people can be, and I thought about her a lot until the character of Aven started to form in my mind.

Dusti with Barbie Thomas

Being armless is such a unique disability, I couldn’t find much to read on the experience. There are certainly books about limb differences, but I really wanted to gain as much information as I could about living specifically as an armless person. I read about as many armless people online as I could find, and I relied heavily on YouTube videos, particularly videos created by a woman who goes by Tisha Unarmed. Tisha demonstrates in her videos how she does everything without arms, from going through a drive-thru to putting on her bra to carving a pumpkin. Her videos were incredibly informative to me. The more I watched Tisha’s videos, the more I realized just how capable Aven would be.

After writing my story, I reached out to Tisha and asked her if she would be willing to read my manuscript for authenticity. I was so relieved she loved the story. Then a little while later I found out, through some pretty wild coincidence, that the woman in the original video I saw was Barbie Thomas, a bodybuilder who lives right in my own city. I reached out to her and she also agreed to read my story. I’m thrilled to say that she loved it as well. I think the only way I could have possibly ensured the authenticity of this story was through these important sensitivity readings. Having Tisha’s and Barbie’s support gave me the confidence to share Aven’s middle grade story with the world.

And now I’m incredibly excited to introduce younger readers to Aven in this new chapter book series. Each book will feature Aven tackling a new skill or hobby, from sleuthing (book 1) to baking (book 2) to playing an instrument (book 3) and playing soccer (book 4). I had always thought about what Aven may have been like as a younger child—smart, silly, incredibly capable, confident, and maybe a little bit bossy and stubborn at times. The more I thought about her at a younger age, the more ideas started occurring to me until I couldn’t hold back any longer and had to send my ideas to my publisher. I’m so happy they supported this new series and I’m thrilled to have the very talented Gina Perry for my illustrator. She’s done such an incredible job bringing Aven and her friends and family to life.

Jessica Cox on left – Dusti in middle – Letisha Wexstton on right.

I’m so grateful for this character who has enriched my world in so many ways, including bringing some amazing new people into my life and opening my eyes to several important issues. I hope everyone enjoys reading about eight-year-old Aven’s adventures just as much as I enjoy creating them!

DUSTI’S BIO:

DUSTI BOWLING is the award-winning, bestselling author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, 24 Hours in Nowhere, The Canyon’s Edge, and the forthcoming Across the Desert and Aven Green chapter book series.

Dusti’s books have won the Reading the West Award, the Sakura Medal, a Golden Kite Honor, the Silver Nautilus Award, and have been nominated for a Cybil and over twenty-five state awards. Her books are Junior Library Guild Selections and have been named best books of the year by the Chicago Public Library, Kirkus, Bank Street College of Education, A Mighty Girl, Shelf Awareness, and many more.

Dusti currently lives in New River, Arizona with her husband, three daughters, a dozen tarantulas, a gopher snake named Burrito, a king snake name Death Noodle, and a cockatiel named Gandalf the Grey.

Follow her on Twitter at @Dusti_Bowling.

GINA PERRY: 

Gina grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts and was the first in my family to graduate college. My BFA from Syracuse University got me started in animation. I moved on to become an art director for a stationery manufacturer. I discovered my true passion, writing and illustrating books for children and have been working in that field since 2005.

Gina lives and works on the small but lovely seacoast of New Hampshire with my family. Her debut picture book as author and illustrator, SMALL (little bee, 2017) was on the Bank Street Best Book list in 2018.

TOO MUCH! NOT ENOUGH! (Tundra, 2018) was selected for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Represented for books by Sean McCarthy

She loves to illustrate for all types of media (magazines, games, puzzles, corporate). Contact: ginacarey @ comcast . net

Dusti, thank you for sharing this important book. We all are aware of the importance of opening children’s minds and to providing books that represent diverse children. I went to high school with a girl whose arms stopped at her elbows, due a birth defect and she was very popular and was able to do almost everything. I am glad you are showing a positive role model for other children with disabilities.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 24, 2021

Agent Jessica Mileo

Jessica Mileo – InkWell Management

I have a BA in English Creative Writing from Binghamton University and a MS in Publishing degree from Pace University. I began my career interning everywhere from Writers House to Open Road and have joined InkWell Management after working in foreign rights at Janklow and Nesbit.

My interests include but are not limited to: upmarket women’s fiction, commercial fiction, cookbooks, crafting and do-it-yourself books, multicultural and LGBTQIA+, children’s , fantasy and literary fiction.

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Commercial, Family Saga, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Horror, LGBTQ, Middle Grade, New Adult, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Non-Fiction: Cookbooks, Crafts/DIY, LGBTQ, Memoir, Travel

Favorite sub-genres: C, Diversity, Feminism, Multicultural, Upmarket Women’s Fiction

I’m looking for novels that are as heartfelt as they are funny, think Sophie Kinsella’s SHOPAHOLIC SERIES, tell universal stories in a small scale setting, such as KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST, and have just enough magic to keep you guessing, such as Eowyn Ivey’s SNOW CHILD.

I lean towards the lighthearted, but will consider a book that explores darker matters if it’s done well.

Submission Guidelines

Please send submissions to me through QueryMe. If you query me through the link, you will receive a respond. I will only replied to emailed submission if I’m interested in reading further.

Guidelines & Details

@jessicamileo


Website

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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