Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 18, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Abigail Rajunov

Abigail Rajunov is an illustrator from Dallas, Texas. She loves to illustrate cute and quirky subjects with a strong focus on storytelling. She is incredibly passionate about KidLit, comic, and picture book illustration. Her favorite tool to create with is Procreate, but she also loves experimenting with traditional media as well – lately she has been loving colored pencil, gouache, and even riso printing!

Abigail graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design with a B.F.A in Illustration. She has created graphic novel work for the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Ringling College’s annual Meanwhile publication. In her spare time, she loves to cafe doodle in her sketchbook drawing silly characters, whimsical scenes, and emotional moments, and playing guitar. Abigail now resides in Sarasota, Florida.

HERE IS ABIGAIL DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

Thumbnail Sketch: First I loosely sketch out a composition and characters for the illustration. I usually do this digitally so I can move things around easier.

Pencil Drawing: For this piece, I wanted to do the drawing traditionally with a pencil. I printed the sketch and transferred it to a large piece of paper and finished the drawing, focusing mainly on value contrast.

Color the Pencil Drawing: After scanning the pencil drawing, I used Photoshop to color the lines of the pencil. I opted for a pink/purple gradient to give the piece more warmth.

1st Color Layer: I transferred the drawing to Procreate to paint into it. I wanted certain elements to glow, so I placed a yellow gradient on the goose, egg, and stars using transparent multiply layers.

2nd Color Layer: I glazed on a dark blue in the background to establish the time of day and further enhance the glowing effect

3rd Color Layer: Still using transparent multiply layers, I started to add local colors, like the green on the frog and snake and the brown in the trees. I also began to define textures in the goose.

Final Painting: I begin using opaque brush strokes to paint on top of the drawing. I further define textures, shapes, and lighting. After I finish painting in Procreate, I transfer the image back into Photoshop to make final value and color tweaks.

INTERVIEW WITH ABIGAIL RAJUNOV:

When did you realize that you had a talent for art?

When I was little my best friend and I used to draw Pokemon a lot for fun, and I remember being really proud of how accurately I could make my drawings look like the actual characters!

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

I believe the first instance I was paid for my art was in high school when my mom commissioned me to paint a portrait of our family dog!

Your website says you grew up in Dallas, Texas, but it sounds like you might be living in Florida. Do you plan to move back?

Yes, I was born and raised in Texas, but I moved to Sarasota for college. I will probably move back to Dallas after graduating, but I would eventually love to live somewhere on the west coast one day!

 In you junior year in Highschool you participated in Early College Program with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then in your senior year you participated in a PreCollege illustration program with Ringling College of Art and Design. Did you do this online?

Both of these programs were in person. They were kind of like art summer camps – I got to live on campus and take art classes! They were both really fun experiences.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the precollege Illustration program?

I actually took visual development classes as a precollege student, since I initially wanted to do character design for animation. While I would still love to do character design one day, I realized my passion was illustration instead. Last summer I was able to teach a precollege illustration course though, so I’m glad I got to experience the curriculum that time around!

 Did you attend a special high school that focused on the arts?

Nope! I attended a public high school, but I was very actively involved in my school’s art and music programs (shoutout to Reedy Orchestra!)

 

Was it your love for comics that lead you forwards wanting to do graphic novels?

I actually started reading manga before reading American comics, which sparked my interest in sequential art. However, it was artists like Jen Wang, Jillian Tamaki, Tillie Walden, and Jo Rioux who made me fall in love with graphic novels. Their styles are so distinctive and illustrative – they’re able to create graphic novels in ways I had never seen before. They are definitely huge inspirations to me!

When did you decide you wanted a career in Illustrating children’s books?

My style definitely influenced my career path. Drawing silly creatures with bright colors came very naturally to me, so children’s books seemed like a no-brainer! I also love books – the whole process of writing, illustrating, and designing books for print is so fun to me. I also love the potential for visual storytelling in children’s books, since it’s so reliant on illustrations, rather than words, to tell a story.

 

What were your favorite classes?

I really enjoyed my figure drawing and painting classes at Ringling, they helped me loosen up and experiment with different styles. They definitely helped give my art more versatility. It was also really fun to paint and draw with my friends in class – it felt like a sacred time when I could just turn my brain off and just make art.

 

Do you still play the harp?

I wish I did! But unfortunately, it’s too big/expensive for a college student. It’s definitely a life goal of mine to pick it up again when I settle down!

 

Did you take any animation classes while in college?

I, unfortunately, did not. Our illustration curriculum was so rigorous that there wasn’t much space for animation. But I would love to learn some 2D animation someday!

 Did you do any freelance work while attending college?

Yes! I would do small paintings for family and friends in between school projects. I also did some graphic novel work for the Smithsonian American Art Museum during my 2nd and 3rd years.

 

Is anyone at the Ringling College of Art and Design helping you kick off your career after you graduate in 2023?

My children’s book professor, Oliver Dominguez, helped a lot during the process of applying to agencies. His support means a lot to me! My graphic novel professor, Gary Barker, has also been so encouraging of my work and has helped me strengthen my narrative illustration skills.

How did you get the Internship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum · Jun 2022 – Aug 2022?

The internship for the Smithsonian was an extension of the comic project I worked on with them. It was an opportunity for Ringling students to continue working on the publication and advertising for the webcomics we illustrated.

What type of things did you do while at the Smithsonian?

I helped edit and format the comics done by me and the other artists! I also helped create advertisements and social media material.

Did you have to get an apartment in DC?

It was a remote internship, so I was able to stay in Sarasota.

 How are you marketing yourself as a children’s illustrator?

I am very active on social media, and I am working with Aliza at the Cat Agency to help get my name out there!

 

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

At the end of 2022, I emailed the agency to ask for representation since a lot of artists I look up to are rep’d by them. Aliza loved my work, and offered to sign me! We just clicked, and I couldn’t ask for a better agent. I was able to meet a lot of the other agents and artists at Cat in NYC last month, and they were so incredibly sweet and welcoming. I am beyond happy to be part of such an amazing group!

You say your favorite tool you use is Procreate. Did you study that in college?

I use Procreate for a lot of my school projects, but it was never formally taught to me. We took Photoshop classes, though, and because the two programs have similar features, Procreate was pretty easy to pick up. I prefer it because it’s so much more convenient and mobile!

 

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I use Photoshop near the end of my process to fine-tune my colors since it has more editing capabilities than Procreate. But most of my digital art is done 99% with Procreate!

What do you think helped develop your style?

I am super inspired by other illustrators and cartoonists, and they definitely helped me develop my own personal style. Artists like Natalie Andrewson, Jamie Green, and Lisa Hanawalt are especially inspiring! I also don’t try and force a style, I just let myself do whatever comes naturally.

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

I mainly use my iPad to draw! However, if I need to do anything on Photoshop I use the tablets in the school labs.

 

Have you done any art exhibits?

I have! My favorite exhibition to be a part of is Ringling’s Illest of Illustration gallery, which features student illustration work juried by a student-elected professional illustrator. It was amazing having my work seen by such incredible artists!

Do you think you will go on to get an MFA?

Maybe! I would love to be a professor later on in my career, so I could see myself pursuing an MFA.

Are there writer and illustrator groups in your area that you can join?

My friends at Ringling are my main illustration support group right now! They are so talented, supportive, and inspiring, and I am so thankful to have met them.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate you own book in the future?

I would LOVE to author-illustrate! I have written and illustrated a picture book before for a school project, but I would love to do more. I am especially interested in writing stories about friendship, nature, and music!

Would you be willing to work with a self-publisher picture book writer on a project?

Possibly, if I really connect with the material, but right now I am focused on working on manuscripts with a publisher attached or author-illustrating my own work.

Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

I have done a couple of projects for local magazines! I did an illustration for Ringling’s CONTXT Magazine and the Texas Jewish Post. I’d love to do more magazine work!

What do you think was your biggest success?

Receiving the SCBWI Student Illustrator scholarship earlier this year was such a surreal experience, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to go to the conference in NYC and meet so many children’s book folks! I felt proud to display my work in the portfolio showcase, and taking that huge step in putting my work out there felt like such a big personal success. 

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Right now I’m working on some fun personal projects, but I am definitely looking for opportunities to illustrate picture books or graphic novels!

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

Instagram and Twitter have helped me connect to other illustrators across the country that I wouldn’t have been able to meet offline. I definitely value the sense of community that comes with posting art on social media!

What are your career goals?

My first career goal is to land a book deal! I would ideally like to start by illustrating manuscripts in collaboration with a writer, but eventually would like to start author-illustrating my own stories. I have one picture book idea in particular that is very near and dear to me, and I would love to publish it one day. It would make me so happy to have my work connect with people, especially in a medium I am endlessly passionate about: books!

What are you working on now?

I am working on finishing up my senior thesis book Avian Art History! It’s an art history book but all the subjects of the paintings are birds. It’s very silly and I am having so much fun working on it. Follow my Instagram (@abigailrajunov) for updates on the book!

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

If you’re a digital artist, try turning on color jitter in your brush settings! Color jitter makes every stroke you put down a slightly different color, which I find helps give my work a more traditional colored pencil look. Also, I love using textured stamp brushes to give my work a grittier quality (shoutout to Nik Henderson’s stamp brushes!) Overlay layers are your best friend as well, they can really help give your work that extra sizzle.

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

I definitely feel like I am in that position now, and though I’m really excited to get my illustration career started, there’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty that comes with it. I heard a quote from the amazing illustrator Anoosha Syed that really resonated with me: “If a door closes, don’t try and force it open. It probably means what’s behind it isn’t right for you.” This quote helped me a lot because it made me realize I am not alone in feeling anxious or worried about rejections. I am so grateful for the career opportunities I have had this past year, but I definitely still have a lot of imposter syndrome regarding my work. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself. Celebrate your achievements, your talent, and your passion – it’s why we do what we do.

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

You can visit Abigail using the following links:

WEBSITE: https://www.abigailrajunov.net/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/abigailrajunov/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-rajunov/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/abigailrajunov

ANGENCY: https://catagencyinc.com/#/abigail-rajunov/

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 17, 2023

March Agent of the Month: Adria Goetz – Interview Part Two

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

What I represent, in general:

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

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

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

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

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

PICTURE BOOKS:

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

MIDDLE GRADE:

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

YOUNG ADULT:

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

ADULT:

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

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

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

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INTERVIEW WITH ADRIA GOETZ – PART TWO:

How important is the query letter?

For me, it’s crucial. I make most of my passes at the query letter stage. If the concept/premise of the book that you’re describing in your query doesn’t entice me then I don’t jump to the pages. I have to love the concept of the project itself.

Would you have a sample of a good query letter or a link to one you saw on the Internet that would help writers?

My rather brilliant colleague Eric Smith keeps a great list of strong query letters on his website, and breaks down why they’re so good too. It’s a really helpful resource for writers looking for guidance on writing query letters. Here’s an example query from his website for a YA thriller I love called KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF by Tom Ryan—https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/blog/perfect-pitch-keep-this-to-yourself

Do you have any tips on how to find comps to use in a submission query letter?

When I’m having a tough time finding perfect comps for client books, I take multiple approaches. I’ll comb through my Goodreads and Pinterest boards to see if I’m forgetting about something I’ve already read that would be a good comp. I’ll search a couple similar books on Amazon and see what they list under the “People who viewed this also viewed” section. I’ll also ask around if I get truly stuck! I’ll ask clients, colleagues, and agent friends to see if anything comes to mind. For writers, I think asking writer friends, booksellers and librarians if anything comes to mind could give you some titles to use for your query, or they can give you more jumping off points for further digging.

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

It might sound trite, but all you need is beautiful writing and an intriguing concept!

After you request more, how long do you think it will take to respond?

I try to respond within six weeks, but sometimes I need a bit more time. I do try to keep people in the loop though.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Of course! I call these “No Soup for You” moments because they are seemingly benign things that will usually make me (and other agents) automatically reject something the way the soup guy from Seinfeld will reject you for any itty bitty thing. Like when someone pitches their book as the first book in a 9-book series. When someone says their book is sure to become a NYT Bestseller. When writers send a mass submission to 50 other agents. When people say things like, “I’m confident that you are the right agent to represent me and I am determined to keep submitting to you until you say yes.” And if someone tracks down my cell phone number to pitch me their book, or sends submission materials to my home address, that isn’t just a pet peeve—that really bothers me.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

I think a lot of writers don’t cast a wide enough net when they’re querying. I’ll often talk to writers at conferences who have a small list of five or ten dream agents they’d like to work with, and they don’t query outside of that tiny list, and I think that’s a mistake. It’s of course alright to have a dream list, but I think it’s more strategic to keep an open mind and explore your options. The caveat being that you should of course only query people you trust and feel confident in—but that goes without saying.

What are your feelings about prologues?

I like them when they serve a purpose. I often read prologues and think, “Was there a purpose to this or was this just there for the vibes?”

Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

I regularly update my manuscript wishlist on my website, adriagoetz.com, as well as my MSWL Pinterest boards, and Twitter.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Definitely! Every manuscript that goes out on submission goes through several rounds of edits before we begin shopping it.

LOOK FOR PART THREE NEXT FRIDAY. 

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BELOW ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MARCH 2023 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

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

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

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

MUST USE WORD – I CAN’T OPEN PAGES

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

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

DEADLINE March 24th. – noon EST

RESULTS: March 31st 

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART THREE OF ADRIA’S INTERVIEW.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 16, 2023

Book Giveaway: EVERY LITTLE SEED by Cynthia Schumerth

Cynthia Schumerth has written a new picture book, EVERY LITTLE SEED illustrated by Elisa Paganelli and published by Sleeping Bear Press, which came out on Tuesday March 12th. SBP 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 Cynthia and Elisa.

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:

Grandpa told Mom, and Mom told me: The secret of a plant lives in every little seed. Seeds are truly amazing! Did you know that every seed, no matter how small (microscopic) or large (weighing up to 14 pounds), contains everything it needs to one day grow into a plant? Three generations of a gardening family work together to bring a backyard garden to full bloom. Young readers are taken through each important step, beginning with planting in the spring and ending with harvesting in the fall. And let’s not forget the buzzy and buggy inhabitants, including bees, butterflies, and other insects (friends as well as pests). At the end of the harvest season, the family collects and stores the seeds for next year’s garden. Rhyming text and lush artwork bring the wonders and joys of gardening to life. Back matter includes information about seeds.

BOOK JOURNEY:

A big thank you, Kathy, for giving me the opportunity to share my book journey for Every Little Seed on your blog.

The idea for Every Little Seed started back in 2017. The repeat line of the story, “Grandpa told Mom, and Mom told me, the secret of a plant lives in every little seed” kept spinning around in my head. The hard part was trying to figure out what I was going to do with that phrase. That line got me to start thinking about all the things I’d learned from my parents about gardening, and how they had learned those things from their parents. That was when the idea started to materialize.

My mom grew up in the country on a farm. My sister, brothers, and I spent many summer hours picking strawberries and green beans or shucking peas with Grandma while Grandpa was out tending the crops in the field. My dad was a city boy, but his parents had beautiful flower gardens all around their house. I learned so much about flowers from them. Of course, at home, we always had both vegetable and flower gardens.

It was really a no-brainer that a generational story about gardening was a perfect idea.  Like they say, write what you know and what you love.

I knew a simple story about gardening would be too common. I also knew that however I wrote it, it needed to have a fresh approach.  That’s where introducing the invasive Japanese Beetle came into play. I’m pretty certain the idea was spurred on by the fact that I was going out to my garden every day to pick these pests off my own plants.  It would also give the story an educational edge, and that never hurts these days. So, I sat down to write.

I kept the story in the drawer. I’d pull it out every once in a while to work on revisions until I finally got the manuscript where I wanted it to be. Right around that time my first book Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn, was released. I thought Every Little Seed would make a good companion book to Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn.  Maybe Sleeping Bear Press would be interested. So, I sent it off—and they said yes!

When I first submitted this story to my editor at Sleeping Bear, it was written in prose. They really liked it but asked if I could write it in rhyme? My initial thought was, ‘Yikes! Rhyme is tough.’, but of course I said, “Sure I can,” then I crossed my fingers hoping that I could. I worked day and night trying to change it—finding just the right words, making sure the rhythm was right, all without losing my story in the mix.  My critique group was priceless during the process; I was bouncing ideas off of them left and right.  The best advice I can give any writer is to find a good critique group—they are invaluable.

I sent the rewrite in and by December of 2021 I had a contract. I had an agent when I sold my first book, but we had since parted ways, and I was on my own with this contract. This was probably the most stressful process for me. But with the help of two of my very good writing friends, both with more experience than me, I learned how to negotiate a contract and can happily say I survived the process.

The editing process went really fast. Luckily for me there were no changes to the manuscript itself, just some grammatical and formatting edits.

The backmatter, however, was a lot more work. Sleeping Bear likes to include educational backmatter to their picture books. It helps parents and teachers who want to take kids a little farther into the science of things. All the facts have to be correct, but still easy enough for young kids to understand. The backmatter took a lot of research and some connecting with experts to verify I had things right. My editor also asked if I could work in some seed related activities into the backmatter. Several changes were requested until we all agreed on the final backmatter. Sleeping Bear added the photos and that really put a polish on the pages. I hope kids will not only learn from the backmatter, but also enjoy it as they learn.

While we were working on the backmatter in the US, Elisa Paganelli was hard at work on the sketches for the book over in the UK. When her art came in I was blown away. Elisa’s vision for illustration were fantastic. Once approved things started moving, and before long I was giving my final okay on the art and the cover. The colored sketches were even more amazing than I could have imagined! How lucky I was having Elisa as the Illustrator for this book! I didn’t hear anything more on the book until February 2023 when the advance copies of Every Little Seed arrived on my door step. I have a dream editor, a publisher (Sleeping Bear Press) that always puts out beautiful books, and such a talented illustrator. What more could I ask for!

CYNTHIA’S BIO:

Cynthia Schumerth knew she wanted write picture books since her own children were young.  She worked on her craft, writing on and off while raising a family and working full time at a maximum-security prison. Only after she retired did she have the real time she needed to pursue her dream of becoming an author. Besides Every Little Seed, Cynthia is also the author of the multiple award winning Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn (2021 Sleeping Bear Press), and the board book I Am Horton (2019 Random House Books for Young Readers). She lives in De Pere, WI with her husband and rescue dog, Chance.  She has two grown children.

ELISA BIO:

I was born in Modena (Italy) in 1985, and since childhood, I cannot resist the smell of paper and pencils.

I attended the Institute of Art and subsequently graduated from the European Institute of Design (IED) in Turin with a degree in illustration.

As a post-grad, I worked as an Art director in a communication and Adv agency, and also ran a successful design concept store/studio for six years, which made me win the Ascom Confcommercio award “The idea becomes Enterprise” and CNA “Emerging Women” award.

I now live and work in the UK as a freelance Illustrator and Creative Designer, accompanied by my beloved pets.

Cynthia, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. There is so much to love about this book. The rhyme is perfect. I can’t pick out my favorite, but here is one I thought I’d share since it’s hard to read on the page I showed:

When days grow short and nights grow cold,
our garden starts to thin.
As summer dances out the door,
fall knocks and marches in.

It not easy to write a story in rhyme, but you make it look so easy. I love the refrain throughout the book. 

Grandpa told Mom and Mom told me: The secret of a plant lives in every little seed.

I’m sure this book will spread it’s seed over its’ young readers and cause sprouts of desire that grow into generation of life long gardeners. And parents will love using the backmatter to help inspire a conversation between themselves and their children to keep the cycle going. Everyone of Elisa’s illustrations will keep parents and children looking for the small details. I was in awe of each gorgeous page. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 15, 2023

Book Winners – Kudos – Industry Changes

BOOK WINNERS

 Heather Stigall won The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel

Sarah Meade won THE NOTE WHO FACED THE MUSIC by Lindsay Bonilla

Winners please send me your mailing addresses.

*******

KUDOS:

*******

INDUSTRY CHANGES:

AT WORKMAN:

Analucia Zepeda has been promoted to assistant editor .

TOR PUBLISHING GROUP:

Carl Engle-Laird has been promoted to senior editor.

Matthew Rusin has been promoted to assistant editor.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 14, 2023

Book Giveaway: IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! by Nicole Chen

Today we have Nicole Cheng and her debut middle grade book, IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! published by Quill Tree Books. I included the first few paragraphs, so you could see how smoothly written and inviting this book is. Nicole has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Perfect for fans of Kelly Yang and Jessica Kim, this joyful, moving middle-grade contemporary standalone debut novel follows a big-hearted Taiwanese American girl as she aims to gain her family’s acceptance and save her favorite boba tea shop by selling her handcrafted amigurumi dolls.

Pearl Li is ready to spend the summer before seventh grade hanging out with her two best friends, crocheting the cutest amigurumi dolls, and frequenting her favorite tea shop, Boba Time. Its quirky owner, Auntie Cha, is the only adult Pearl can confide in about her art—if only her tech-obsessed family would understand her love of crafts! After Pearl learns of Boba Time’s financial troubles, she decides to sell her amigurumi to raise money for the shop. But as she navigates the ups and downs of running a business, Pearl realizes that monetizing her passion is more complicated than she could’ve ever imagined. Will she be able to stop Boba Time from closing and prove to her parents that her passion for crochet is worthy and serious?

A heartfelt story about advocating for one’s passions and uncovering big truths about friendship, family, and entrepreneurship along the way. Featuring fun backmatter, including a delicious boba tea recipe!

BOOK JOURNEY:

I talked about my overall journey into writing books for kids in my interview about my debut picture book, HOW WE SAY I LOVE YOU, but what prompted me to expand beyond picture books and try my hand at writing middle grade was two things:

First, it was my agent who planted the seed that I could (and should!) explore other formats of storytelling besides picture books. I had shown her a couple of picture book and chapter book manuscripts, and after we discussed what was working and what wasn’t, she gently encouraged me to explore longer format writing. She suggested that the themes around identity and pride that I wanted to explore could be more appropriately addressed and nuanced in stories for older kids, which made sense. I wasn’t so sure, though, so I picked up a few recently published middle grade books to get a feel for what middle grade kids were reading today and what publishers might be looking for.

And wow, oh wow! I read middle grade books featuring strong characters of color, like Jessica Kim’s STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!, Kelly Yang’s FRONT DESK, Janae Mark’s FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON. From page one, I was so impressed by how wonderfully optimistic, culturally relevant, and both bold and nuanced these stories, characters, and themes were. They were the books I didn’t know I craved when I was a young child, and knowing these books existed now gave me confidence that there was room for the type of books I could write, featuring fun and relatable Taiwanese American characters with a purpose/mission.

So I decided I wanted to try writing a middle grade novel. I sat down and started thinking about plots (I’m very much a plotter, not a pantser!). I grew up in Silicon Valley, went to college here, and now work in user experience design, which means I’ve always been surrounded by technology and innovation. But I also love making things, from ceramics to sketching to letterpress and printmaking, and have always envied those creative entrepreneurs who make and sell their goods. And so I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of technology, craft, and entrepreneurship, which made it a very natural theme to write about in BOBA TIME. And of course, being Taiwanese American and having a sweet tooth, I just had to bring Taiwanese desserts and boba tea into the story (although I grew up calling it pearl milk tea!)

IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! is also a story about family and friendship, about how these relationships need to be nurtured and we have to keep working on keeping them strong, especially as they change and shift and evolve as we explore different interests and facets of our identities. I wanted to build those themes in the book too, and I hope every reader can relate to that feeling of wanting to hold onto those important relationships, yet also learn when to flex and make room for each other so we can grow and make those relationships really last.

I loved reading as a child, but I didn’t get to see myself much in the books we had available to us at the time. And now, I’m so delighted by the fact that there are more and more Asian American protagonists in children’s literature today, and that with IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI!, I have contributed to that change in children’s literature. I hope to continue writing about and featuring joyful, relatable Asian American characters who anyone, regardless of their background, will fall in love with and see parts of themselves in. I want people to see that we belong here, as legitimate Americans, who live our lives much like everyone else. I hope I have the opportunity to continue highlighting our stories and experiences with the books I write for the kids growing up today!

Below are a couple of paragraphs to read.

NICOLE’S BIO:

Storytelling is what I do. During the day, I work as a product researcher, which means my job is to listen to people tell me about their lives, needs, and relationships with brands, businesses, and products. Then I translate what they tell me into stories that help the companies I work for design and develop delightful and useful experiences.

Nicole lives in sunny California with her Andorran husband and young daughter. Her experience growing up Taiwanese American in the Bay Area, plus the blend of Catalan, Spanish, Taiwanese and American influences in her home, energize her to tell stories that reflect a diverse and multicultural American identity.

Nicole’s debut picture book, HOW WE SAY I LOVE YOU, illustrated by Lenny Wen and published by Knopf BFYR, releases December 13, 2022, and her debut middle grade novel, IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI!, from Quill Tree/Harper Collins, releases February 28, 2023. She was chosen as a 2022 mentee for Diverse Voices’ DVdebut program, and was honored with SCBWI’s Out from the Margins Award in October 2022.

To learn more about Nicole, visit storiesbynicolechen.com.

Nicole, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I have read the first four chapters of the book. Thank you for giving us this cute story about kind hearted American girl and the Li household. I getting and glimpse of other cultures and Pearl threw me right into Taiwanese and Mandarian culture. I learn so much about the food and added a new word my vocabulary – Amigurumi, which is essentially the same as crochet, but is specifically used for the process of making 3D toys. I love that Pearl is so creative. Above is a picture of the amigurumi hotdog Pearl created in the book. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 13, 2023

WRITER’S DIGEST SELF-PUBLISHED BOOK AWARDS

DEADLINE: April 3, 2023.

Whether you’re a professional writer, a part-time freelancer or a self-starting student, here’s your chance to enter the premier self-published competition exclusively for self-published books. Writer’s Digest hosts the 31st annual self-published competition—the Annual Self-Published Book Awards. This self-published competition spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.

$100 ENTRY FEE. 

Prizes
One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • NEW! $10,000 in cash
  • An interview with them in Writer’s Digest (March/April 2024 issue) and on WritersDigest.com
  • A paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, including a special trophy presentation at the keynote
  • A coveted Pitch Slam slot at the Writer’s Digest Conference where the winner will receive one on one attention from editors or agents
  • Publication of an excerpt from their winning book on WritersDigest.com

One First Prize winner in each category will receive:

  • $1,000 in cash
  • Their name and the winning book’s title published in Writer’s Digest (March/April 2024 issue) and on WritersDigest.com

All Grand Prize and First Prize winners will also receive:

  • A one-year subscription (new or renewal) to Writer’s Digest magazine
  • A one-year subscription to Writer’s Digest Tutorials
  • 20% discount off of purchases made at Writer’s Digest University
  • A special graphic recognizing their winning status

Honorable Mention Recipients will receive promotion on http://www.writersdigest.com and a special graphic for use in promoting your selection.

All entrants will receive a brief commentary from one of the judges.

Categories

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Nonfiction/Reference (General Nonfiction, Cookbooks, Guidebooks, Textbooks, How-To, etc.)
  • Inspirational/Self-Help
  • Memoirs/Life Stories (Biographies, Autobiographies, Family Histories)
  • Early Readers/Children’s Picture books
  • Middle-Grade/Young Adult
  • Poetry Collections

More Details:  https://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions/self-published-book-awards

ENTERING IS EASY!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 12, 2023

Book Giveaway: OPAL’S SPRINGTIME BIRDHOUSE by Emily Matheis

Emily Matheis has written and illustrated a new picture book, OPAL’S SPRINGTIME BIRDHOUSE, illustrated by Albert Arrayas and being published by Yeehoo Press on March 28th. Yeehoo Press has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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

BOOK DESCIPTION:

A charming picture book tale that showcases how the rewards of our efforts can come from the most unexpected of places.

Bang! Whack! Whirr!

It’s time for a birdhouse-building contest!

Opal’s friends all have endless ideas on how to make their constructions stand out. There are bells, pom-poms, basketballs, and many more materials to use―and yet Opal still feels stuck.

Maybe a simple, sturdy piece wood…a few nails and screws will be just right. But when the judges don’t pick Opal’s birdhouse, she may still discover that her humble home is just right for someone else.

In this charming picture book tale, creators Emily Matheis and Albert Arrayásor showcase how the rewards of our efforts can come from the most unexpected of places.

BOOK JOURNEY:

The journey of OPAL’S SPRINGTIME BIRDHOUSE getting published is a long one! I actually conceived the idea for this character–Opal–about four years ago now, and I’m proud to say the original concept of a hammer-and-nails loving little girl has stayed with every iteration this book has taken. STEM themes in young people’s literature are important, but with Opal, the angle puts those STEM applications in the literal hands of kids. We’re building something from nothing. It’s creativity, functionality, sustainability, and a little bit of dirt all thrown together to create a passion. When I first started thinking about how to tell Opal’s story, it was much bigger. There were forts, simple machines, and all told in rhyme! It was all over the place. The character was getting lost, her passion was too complicated, and Opal’s goal was diluted. I had to go back to the drawing board.

Between real life inspiration along with thinking outwardly about taking Opal’s love of building and using that for good, the birdhouse concept started to take shape. From there, I got rid of the rhyme and replaced the linguistic fun of writing with onomatopoeias. Later, it was more refining, refining, refining. Like taking one grain of sand out and adding another back. Picture books often have a misunderstood conception story with many thinking that with such few words, they must be quick to write. But instead, it’s a constant negotiation within the author with how to convey messaging without being didactic–over-explaining–and enough room for the reader to see themselves within the book to find what resonates in their space. It’s like trying to sit down next to a child and listening with understanding, supporting without lecturing, and being a safety net when exploring new feelings. It’s a lot to take on in about five-hundred words, and I love it.

The final version showcases her love for her tools–as always–along with a compassion for nature, learning, and that winning can come in the most unexpected of places.
I’m so proud of the character Opal became with the tremendous support of so many critique partners, beta readers, my agent, and of course my editors.

EMILY’S BIO:

Emily Matheis writes picture books and adult novels with a focus on STEM and showing women and girls in positions of power. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and is a first-place award-winning writer through the organization.

She got her first taste of writing books as a member of the Young Author’s Club in elementary school, where she wrote and illustrated a story titled “The Silly Crocdiel [sic]” that, sadly, is not likely to be published. She worked as a journalist for her university newspaper interviewing anyone from mayors and nonprofit leaders to student activists. Her post-graduate opportunities moved her into technical proposal writing. A few years later, she was inspired to write books for children, as she found published books to be woefully lacking in stories of female heroism. From there, she branched out into novels, adhering to the same focus and drive for women in intelligent, adaptable, and exemplifying roles.

Whether it’s mysteries and suspense for all of their captivating puzzles and intricate characters, romantic comedies that flourish with charming hope for a Happily Ever After, or the all-important genre of picture books and the profound windows and mirrors they provide for children to be seen and valued, Emily explores it all in her writing.

ALBERT’S BIO:

Albert Aarrayas was born in Barcelona, Spain (1990). He studied Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona and then I did a course at The Women School (Escola de la Dona) and I am still working as a professional illustrator.

He has 25 children’s books published. For the moment he has published in Spain, Portugal, Germany, China, South Korea and Brazil.

In 2014 he published ´The pirate of stars´ in Spain. It was my first children’s book as an author and illustrator. It has been published in Germany. In 2017 he published The Mistery of Chickentown in Spain by Babulinka Books and for his second book as an author and illustrator.

He just published his third book as author and illustrator, A Thousand Hugs and a Sweet Nudgeen Spain by Lumen.

Albert regularly collaborates with magazines and publishers all over Spain.

Below are a few books he has published as an illustrator:

– Mahatma Gandhi, 2019, Alba Editorial, Little People & Big Dreams, UK, USA, Spain, Portugal, Germany (…)
– Om. The wild boy, Alba Editorial, 2016, Spain.
– Where’s the moon? 2015, Akiara Books, Spain, Portugal, China & South Korea.

Albert is represented by Lilla Rogers Studio (LRS) For illustration work please contact Lilla Rogers Studio: info@lillarogers.com

If you are from Spain write mail him at: albertarrayas@gmail.com

Emily, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. Opal sets a wonderful example for children on the power of perseverance even in the face of a setback. I love that this book could help inspire future bird watchers and inspire parents and teachers to try building a birdhouse at home or at school. Both birdwatching and building a home for birds is something  children will remember and enjoy for the rest of their lives. Kids will love Albert’s colorful Illustrations and keep them turning every page. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 11, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Alexander Mostov

Alexander (he/him) grew up in central Ohio, but has been drawing in Seattle since 2013. With a background in architecture, his illustration style incorporates playful angles, dynamic perspectives, and a focus on how characters interact in a space. He is inspired by plants, animals, and mid-century modern design. Alexander uses a variety of mediums including digital, ink, and gouache.

Alexander has illustrated many picture books ranging everywhere from board books to middle grade nonfiction titles. Outside of children’s books Alexander has been commissioned by Google, Facebook, and the New York Times.

When not drawing, Alexander can be found riding his little silver motorcycle through the farmlands of rural Washington, snowshoeing, and drinking lots and lots of coffee.

Step 1: First I make loose sketches with a soft graphite pencil. The point of these is simply to figure out how the page will be laid out. I like to show the publisher what my general idea is for the page and where the text will go before getting into any fine details.

Step 2: Next, I create detailed sketches, incorporating any feedback that comes in from the client. I try to make these pretty tight so that any changes in the artwork can be addressed here rather than needing to rework the layered, color illustration that comes next.

Step 3: Now I color, shade, and texture the illustrations in Procreate. I mostly use brushes that simulate gouache because I love the opaqueness with grainy pencil-type brushes on top.

Step 4: After any final tweaks that come in from the publisher and color adjustments on my end, the artwork is complete! The publisher will add in the text and the book is ready for print.

INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER MOSTOV:

When did you first realize you could draw?

Like many illustrators, I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. The first time I thought, “Oh, I might be OK at this,” was in sixth grade. We had to draw a castle from our imagination and the teacher really praised mine. My mom actually still has the picture— she hung it beside a few other drawings and painting of buildings I’ve done since then.

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

It wasn’t until I was out of college. I was working as an intern at the Williamstown Theatre Festival Massachusetts. I illustrated and designed posters for some of the shows.

You grew up in Ohio. Went to College in South Carolina. How did you end up in Seattle?

I bopped around a lot right after college. I was in Massachusetts for a summer, then in Louisville, Kentucky for about a year. My then girlfriend (now my wife) got an internship in Seattle and we decided to move there. It was pretty spontaneous but now we love it here.

What made you to decide to attend Clemson University and study architecture and design for
your BA?

I decided I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid and persued that path through my junior year of college. Clemson has a really reputable architecture program and a fantastic study-abroad program Italy that I wanted to do. I also just wanted to try living in a place totally different from where I grew up, which Clemson, South Carolina certainly was.

You LinkedIn page mentions Russian, design, and illustration. Where you particularly interested in studying Russian architecture?

I’m definitely a cultural Russophile. I’m of Russian descent, and during college I became infatuated with Russian architecture, film, graphic design, and literature. My minor was in Russian Studies and I took four years of the language. Russian aesthetics, specifically that of the early and mid-Soviet Union have had a big affect on my design sensibility.

Did you do any freelance illustrating while at Clemson University?

I did not. I was first considering pursuing graphic design and was dabbling more in that than illustration. I was writing and drawing my own short comics at that time, too.

Did you get an architecture job after graduating for Clemson in 2012?

I was accepted into Parson’s architecture graduate program and almost went! It was an uncertain time of my life and I couldn’t decide whether or not to pursue architecture as a career. Ultimately, I went in a different direction and pursued graphic design, which eventually led me to illustration.

You have done editorial illustrations for: The New York Times, Real Simple, Teach for America, Fine Gardening, Notre Dame Magazine, Purdue Alumnus Magazine, Rhode Island Monthly; what did you do to find these jobs?

I can’t say for certain, but I believe most came from me sending physical postcards to art directors. Before the pandemic, I did that 2-3 times a year. The payoff was often very delayed, but I believe I got in front of a lot art directors that way.

Who was your first editorial client?

My very first client was a super tiny literary magazine, which is sadly now defunct. They can’t pay much, but literary magazines are a great way to learn about the process of working with editorial clients and to get some published work into your portfolio.

Under commercial you list Google, Uber, Facebook, Amazon (among others). What type of work did you do for them? And how did you make the connections for these jobs?

I have done quite a bit of commercial work alongside my editorial and children’s books. For Google, I was hired to illustrate icons for the Google Translate app. For Uber, I did some editorial-type work for their employee magazine. I worked on a Facebook animation about mental health awareness. And lastly, I worked in-house for Amazon for one week developing
their Amazon-One brand system. So, as you can see, it ranges pretty widely. For most of these types of projects, I am contracted by design agencies.

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

As I was developing my illustration style for editorial work, I found myself attracted to the work of illustrators in the kid-lit market. While I love editorial, I started to recognize that my whimsical animals and characters were a great fit for children’s books, too. I also just loved the idea of making something that would be seen and enjoyed by kids.

Was Go, Bikes Go!(2019, Sasquatch Books, 2019) your first published children’s book?

It was! I was so over-the-moon to get that book. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

It looks like you have illustrated three other board books for Sasquatch Books. Go, Boats, Go!, Go, Planes, Go!, Go, Trucks, Go!, How did you make the connection with them?

I first got on Sasquatch’s radar via physical postcards. One of their art directors really liked my work and we ended up making four books together.

Also in 2019, D-Day: Untold stories of the Normandy, was published by Quarto. How did you connect with them?

An editor at Quarto reached out to me on Behance. They said they loved my work and were looking for an illustrator for a book about WWI. The WWI book was nixed before I even started sketches, but the editor remembered me later when they decided to do D-Day.

The Secret Life of Spies was published by Quarto, too. Did you sign a multiple book contract with them?
They were separate contracts. I don’t think it was originally intended to be a series. But I’m glad it became one!

Was it your relationship with Quarto that got you the job to illustrate Let’s Save Our Planet: Forests, Ivy Kids, in 2020? I ask, since it looks like they may be an imprint of Quarto.

No, actually not. A completely different editor at Ivy Kids reached out to me. I’d included her in an email campaign the year before and she’d kept me in mind.

Last year Frances Lincoln Children’s Books published Nikola Tesla: Little People, Big Dreams. How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

That book was really fast! I think the entire project was only 4 or 5 months long. That series is huge, and they have a pretty streamlined process. Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, who writes and creative directs Little People, Big Dreams is really great at what she does.

How and when did you connect with Christy Ewers at the CAT Agency?

I reached out to Christy for representation in early 2020. She was my top choice for an agent, and I’m so glad she brought me on board.

Did Christy secure the contract for The Our Stories, Our Lives: The British Empire: A Powerful Retelling of the British Empire through 20 True Stories coming out in September 2023?

That series of books, which started with D-Day and Spies, began before I joined the CAT Agency. Those are the only books that I still represent myself on.

How many illustrations did you do for this book?

We’re still putting on the finish touches, but it is a big book. There are 20+ full-bleed illustrated scenes. And then lots of illustrated front and back matter. The book has been a ton of work, but also fun, educational, and important.

You illustrated Think Like a Goat: The Wildly Smart Ways Animals Communicate, Cooperate and Innovate by Lisa Deresti Betik that is coming out on Oct 3, 2023 from Kids Can Press It looks like a very interesting book. Did you learn anything you didn’t know while illustrating it?

So many things! I especially loved learned about birds. Did you know that when chickadees sing, the number of “dee”s they say in a row reflect how dangerous a nearby predator is?

There isn’t anything up on Amazon for The Planets We Explore, being published by Magic Cat Publishing, coming out later this year?Are you still working on it?

That book has been done for a while, but it’s available exclusively in the Chinese market. Unfortunately, it will never be available in U.S. bookstores, which I knew when I accepted the project.

 

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

Yes, absolutely, that is a big goal of mine. I have several completed manuscripts that are still looking for the right home. The latest is about a family of squirrels who became master tailors and clothing designers, much to the dismay of a local merchant named Igor. It’s kind of a sustainability parable, with lots of fashionable squirrels.

What do you think helped develop your style?

I agree with the notion that artistic style is largely a reflection of what an artist consumes. My first love was vector illustration and those bold, clean shapes still play a big role in my designs. I love looking at vintage picture books that incorporate super loose graphite and/or ink linework on top of blocks of color. There are also dozens of astounding contemporary illustrators out there that inspire me.

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I don’t usually take my own photos, but I spend a ton of time searching the internet for reference material. Lately, I have been using photo references to make tight, accurate sketches and then relying on my imagination as I develop those to final art.

 

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I would say nearly every single piece of artwork I make finds its way into Photoshop at the end. Even when I paint and draw traditionally, I like to clean up my work— mostly getting rid of dog hairs—in Photoshop.

Would you be willing to work with a self-publisher picture book writer on a project?

Never say never, but it would have to be a really special circumstance. The compensation would have to make up for the fact that the book would realistically have very low sales and little distribution or longevity in the market.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do. I am so lucky because I currently have both a small home office AND a shared workspace in downtown Seattle. So I get to alternate depending on the project and where I feel like working that day.

What book do you think was your biggest success?

I think my biggest career success thus far was landing my first book, Go, Bikes, Go! It’s just so challenging to get that very first book and even though it was a short board book it felt, and still feels like a huge accomplishment.

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

Right now what I am doing is waking up and doing my “computer” work for two hours. This includes sending emails, marketing, social media posts and any other business-related administrative tasks. After that, I walk my dog and then draw for the majority of the rest of the day. And of course, I drink coffee throughout all of this.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I am about to sign on for two new books, but I can’t share any more at the moment. And I’m excited to see what else comes up in the year ahead.

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

It definitely has. It’s allowed me to connect with major publishers without living in New York City.. It also opened me up to the British market which is a big chunk of my clientele now.

What are your career goals?

I would like to be an author-illustrator, in addition to illustrating books by other authors. I want to paint a large-scale mural. And someday I’d like to illustrate a full-length graphic novel.

What are you working on now?

I am juggling four different books at the moment, all at different stages. I’m also doing commercial work for a tech client in the mental-health field called Brightline. I’m in the process of ramping up my print and merch business—my wife and I are actually launching a kid’s clothing company called Sleepy Tiger Club. Besides that, I have a few personal projects that I try
to spend time on whenever I can.

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

If you want to tape off the borders of your watercolor paper prior to painting to keep them white, first lay each strip of tape against a pant leg or the chest of your t-shirt. This will “dull” the adhesiveness enough so that the tape won’t rip the paper when you remove it at the end. I wish I had known that trick from the start!

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

Work really hard. But after you have done that, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a hard career path and very competitive. Not getting the exact projects you want is not a reflection of you as a person.

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

You can visit Alexander using the following links:

WEBSITE: https://alexandermostov.com/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/alexander_mostov/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexander-mostov

ANGENCY: https://catagencyinc.com/#/alexander-mostov

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 10, 2023

March Agent of the Month – Adria Goetz – P.S. Literary

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

What I represent, in general:

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

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

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

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

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

PICTURE BOOKS:

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

MIDDLE GRADE:

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

YOUNG ADULT:

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

ADULT:

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

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

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

*******

INTERVIEW WITH ADRIA GOETZ – PART ONE:

When did you decide you wanted to become an agent?

In college! I originally envisioned myself as an editor because I thought that sounded quite romantic, but when I was in college I got an internship at a local literary agency and it felt like Cinderella putting on her glass slipper—a perfect fit.

How did you end up working with P.S. Literary?

I was formerly at Martin Literary for nearly a decade—first as an intern, then an assistant, then began agenting the fall of 2016. In the spring of 2022 I made the switch to P.S. Literary.

Did you graduate from Columbia Publishing course in NYC after you started working at P.S. Literary?

I graduated from the Columbia Publishing Course before I began agenting. I wanted to have a better understanding of the innerworkings of the industry before I began agenting, and CPC definitely helped with that.

You graduated with a B.A. in English with a creative writing emphasis from the University of Washington in Seattle. Did they help make Literary Agency connections?

They did! I first heard about the Martin Literary internship, and other publishing or publishing-adjacent internships, through the UW English Major email list.

Did you start out at P.S. Literary working as an assistant to a Senior Agent?

I already had the Senior Literary agent title when I applied to P.S. Literary.

Are you able to work from home most days?

Yes! I love working from home. I have a cat curled up on my lap most of the time. J

Do you have a goal to represent a certain number of clients?

I don’t have a magical number in mind, no. I’m really happy with the list I’ve built and am becoming increasingly selective when it comes to signing new clients. At this point I’m only signing a couple new clients per year. I’m picky!

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

I would simply die of happiness to receive the perfect cozy mermaid novel.

Which do you lean more towards: Literary or Commercial?

I think I lean more commercial. I do like projects that live at the intersection of literary and commercial though.

What do you like to see in a submission?

Beautiful, fluid writing, an interesting plot, and a savvy and concise query letter.

How important is the query letter?

For me, it’s crucial. I make most of my passes at the query letter stage. If the concept/premise of the book that you’re describing in your query doesn’t entice me then I don’t jump to the pages. I have to love the concept of the project itself.

Would you have a sample of a good query letter or a link to one you saw on the Internet that would help writers?

My rather brilliant colleague Eric Smith keeps a great list of strong query letters on his website, and breaks down why they’re so good too. It’s a really helpful resource for writers looking for guidance on writing query letters. Here’s an example query from his website for a YA thriller I love called KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF by Tom Ryan—https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/blog/perfect-pitch-keep-this-to-yourself

Do you have any tips on how to find comps to use in a submission query letter?

When I’m having a tough time finding perfect comps for client books, I take multiple approaches. I’ll comb through my Goodreads and Pinterest boards to see if I’m forgetting about something I’ve already read that would be a good comp. I’ll search a couple similar books on Amazon and see what they list under the “People who viewed this also viewed” section. I’ll also ask around if I get truly stuck! I’ll ask clients, colleagues, and agent friends to see if anything comes to mind. For writers, I think asking writer friends, booksellers and librarians if anything comes to mind could give you some titles to use for your query, or they can give you more jumping off points for further digging.

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

It might sound trite, but all you need is beautiful writing and an intriguing concept!

After you request more, how long do you think it will take to respond?

I try to respond within six weeks, but sometimes I need a bit more time. I do try to keep people in the loop though.

LOOK FOR PART TWO NEXT FRIDAY. 

*******

BELOW ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MARCH 2023 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

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

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

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

MUST USE WORD – I CAN’T OPEN PAGES

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

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

DEADLINE March 24th. – noon EST

RESULTS: March 31st 

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR PART TWO OF ADRIA’S INTERVIEW.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 9, 2023

Book Giveaway: WHEN SUNLIGHT TIPTOES by Gillian Sze

Gillian Sze has written a new picture book, WHEN SUNLIGHT TIPTOES, illustrated by Soyeon Kim and published by Orca Books on March 15th. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

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

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

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Vibrant language and rhythm celebrate the start of a new day in this uplifting poem about a city waking up.

On a beautiful, sunny morning, a family runs errands along a city street. They visit a bakery, flower shop and fruit market. Exuberant in sounds and sights―a baker sugaring tarts, flowers greeting passers-by and pigeons cooing―the story ends as a new day of sparkling possibility begins. Written in pantoum form and illustrated with delightful three-dimensional diorama images that play with light and shadow, When Sunlight Tiptoes is sure to brighten the day of our littlest readers.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Thank you, Kathy, for inviting me back to your website to speak about the journey leading to my latest picture book, When Sunlight Tiptoes!

The truth is, I enjoyed writing my first picture book, The Night Is Deep and Wide (2021), so much that I wanted to write a sequel. When Sunlight Tiptoes, which is also published as a board book, feels like a natural and poetic follow-up. While The Night Is Deep and Wide is a soothing bedtime poem meant to be read at the end of the day, this new poem is an energetic text meant to be read in the morning.

It was clear that readers appreciated the villanelle form in the bedtime book. This time I used another poetic form (the pantoum) to create a text that was lively and rousing. The pantoum, like the villanelle, is a closed form that is characterized by its quatrains, repeated lines, and rhyme scheme. It was technically challenging to compose. I wanted to urge narrative movement within the confines of the pantoum, which calls for slowness. The final line not only circles back to the first line, offering a neat close, but it also has to work within a new context. In the end, the game for the reader is to determine how language repeats and changes from spread to spread, scene to scene.

I was thrilled to be paired with artist Soyeon Kim. I had been an admirer of her work and was so excited to see what she would come up with. I was in tears when I saw the first drafts. The little family she created looked so much like my own! I remember when The Night Is Deep and Wide was listed by SJL as a top board book of 2021, Betsy Bird noted:

…2021 did not see a marked increase in board books featuring a wide range of skin tones. Other areas of children’s       literature have stepped up and improved significantly over the last few years. Not board books. Indeed, I’d say that board books as a whole are lagging.

I really hope that the multiracial family depicted in When Sunlight Tiptoes marks an important change!

GILLIAN’S BIO:

GILLIAN SZE is a writer and teacher. She is the author of multiple poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014), Redrafting Winter (BuschekBooks, 2015), and Panicle (ECW Press, 2017), which were finalists for the QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.

She has also published creative nonfiction, articles, interviews, and book reviews. More recently, she has started writing for children and has published two picture books: The Night Is Deep and Wide (illustrated by Sue Todd) and My Love for You Is Always (illustrated by Michelle Lee). Sze’s work has been supported by the Canada Council of the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, and has received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 3Macs carte blanche Prize.

Her work has also attained starred reviews from Quill & Quire, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews and has been translated into Slovenian, French, Italian, Turkish, Hebrew, and Greek. She has served as a judge for a number of national and international literary competitions, such as the Montreal International Poetry Prize, the National Magazine Awards, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, and the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize. She studied Creative Writing and English Literature and received a Ph.D. in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal where she teaches creative writing and literature.

She has worked with:

Philomel (Penguin Random House USA), Groundwood Books, Gaspereau Press, ECW Press, DC Books, BuschekBooks, Orca Book, Baseline Press, Withwords Press, Cumulus Press, Véhicule Press, Quebec Writers’ Federation, Poetry London, Frye Festival, The Word on the Street Festival, Days of Poetry and Wine (Slovenia), Blue Metropolis, Ottawa International Writers’ Festival, Summer Literary Seminars, The Atwater Poetry Project, Nuit Blanche, La poésie partout, Festival de la poésie de Montréal, Salon du livre de Montréal, CBC, the National Magazine Awards, This Magazine, The Malahat Review, Literary Review of Canada, Room Magazine, Ricepaper Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Prairie Fire, Arc Poetry Magazine, Maisonneuve, CV2, The Toronto Quarterly, mRb, carte blanche, Poetry-Quebec, among others.

SOYEON’S BIO:

Soyeon Kim is a Korean-born artist and educator currently living in Ontario. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts and Bachelor of Education from York University. She has participated in artist residencies at The Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia), Spark Box Studios (Picton, Ontario), The Toronto Public Library for the Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence (Toronto, Ontario), and The Discovery Center Artist in Residence (Mississauga, Ontario).

As a children’s picture book illustrator, she has published: You Are Stardust, Wild Ideas, Is This Panama? Sukaq and the Raven, You Are Never Alone, A Last Goodbye, Once Upon an Hour, and When Sunlight Tiptoes. She has participated in TD Book Week 2018 and 2022, visiting schools and libraries across Canada. In 2017, she was invited to the Adelaide Writers’ Week (Australia) for the Kids’ Weekend, where she collaborated with kids and families to create a collaborative mural based on You Are Stardust. She is also a recipient of Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award.

For any inquiries, please send me an email! artbysoyeon@gmail.com

Gillian, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is such charming, bright, and cheery book. I love the repetitive words through out the story. Children will love hearing about a day where the sunlight tiptoes across the eyes. I really enjoyed how Soyeon was able to capture light and bright using her soft and sweet illustrations. I love this family. Dad holding his daughter up to touch the water in the fountain and the last page of him carrying her on his shoulders is so precious. Soyeon perfectly conveyed all the sweet feelings and emotions in your poem. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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