LizPortait2013_0001-(ZF-0850-58463-1-006)by Liz Garton Scanlon

Recently, while discussing poetry with a bunch of 5th graders, I discovered a word that’s pretty much left our daily vernacular: loafe.

Whitman used it in SONG OF MYSELF…

I loafe and invite my soul
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass

…but not a single student knew what the word meant. There were jokes about loaves of bread, and one girl thought she had it, but it turns out she’d gotten it mixed up with loathe. Which, you’ll agree, is another thing entirely.

Image via http://becuo.com

Image via becuo.com

Once I defined the word for them, they loved it. I said, “Pretty great, right? To be given permission–even encouragement–to loafe about?!” and everybody laughed with relief. (Except for one boy who said, “I try to loafe about a LOT, but my mom won’t let me.” :-) )

So I stepped away from the session with kind of a two-part reminder to myself, and since it’s fresh on my mind, I’ll remind you, too:

  1. Loafe about. Seriously. Creativity can’t be rushed. You need to absorb before you can express. You need to walk and garden and bathe and dream and breathe. These things are the stuff that art is made of, the places ideas come from, the source of a sustained head and heart. Really, loafing about isn’t just important when making picture books–it’s important when living life. Professor Omid Safi asked, in a recent column called The Disease of Being Busy, “When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?” We know this, right? Right. This is just a reminder.
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  2. And here’s the other one. Let’s not let really great words like loafe go by the by. Let’s use them. I snuck the word kin into my book ALL THE WORLD, and strut into NOODLE & LOU. I used crimp in THE GOOD-PIE PARTY and hue in THINK BIG. These words are evocative and specific and rich and onomatopoeic–they’re too good to let go! And, as writers, it’s our duty to make sure that we’re not just left with a bunch of OMGs and LOLs on judgment day.

How about you make a list of words you used to hear and use, but never do anymore? What if you wrote down all the phrases your granddad used to say? And what if one of them gave you an idea? Picture books aren’t designed to dumb down; they’re meant to open up and out.  clicktotweet They’re meant to expand the words and the world that a child has at hand. Lucky us to be a part of all that.

So go ahead, make that list.

And then, what the heck, loafe about for a bit.

guestbloggerbio2014

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of the highly-acclaimed Caldecott-honored children’s book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, as well as this year’s The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady McDonald Denton. Other books include Happy Birthday, Bunny; Think Big, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, and more. Her next picture book (called In The Canyon) and her first novel for young readers, The Great Good Summer, are both due in 2015. Ms. Scanlon is also a poet, teacher and a frequent and popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. To learn more, visit her web site at LizGartonScanlon.com.

prizedetails2014

Liz is giving away two copies of her latest picture book, THE GOOD-PIE PARTY! (YUMMY!)

good-pie-party

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

vesperstamperby Vesper Stamper

When I was growing up as a latch key kid in New York, two things formed my sense of place and identity in the world: my grandfather’s freckled arms and my picture books. There is something about visualizing a chosen reality that is so vital for kids as they transition from the Waldorf educational concept of the childhood dream-world to the brass-tacks world of adults. In a picture book, the world is presented as navigable, even through challenge. Whether the challenge is fear of closing one’s eyes to sleep, or losing a favorite bunny, or getting through the classic Grimms’ three-challenge arc, kids need to know that on the other side of something insurmountable is a green valley brimming with potential.

I am currently in the MFA program in Illustration as Visual Essay at School of Visual Arts, and most of the work I’m doing is a departure from my usual picture book work that you see here. I’m exploring my grandmother’s aging in one book project, and writing a love story set in post-Holocaust Germany which I will be illustrating this spring. I had a bit of a crisis about this, especially since I just signed with Rodeen Literary Management this summer and we’re just about to send one of my picture books out. But I realized that much of my work, even for kids, has to do with thriving after trauma, and that by exploring these more “adult” themes in my MFA, my picture book work will become more nuanced.

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Far from being just about cute stories, picture books are the vehicle for survival for many kids as they were for me. That is why they are so, so
important. And…they’re gorgeous to look at!

finding-nest

bedreader

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bwaygirls

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kickingleaves

babybear

downtheshore-sat

 

vespermonster_color

cranes

 

guestbloggerbio2014

Hopelessly lost among the wintry wardrobes of Pauline Baynes’ Narnia, Shaun Tan’s mysterious foreign lands, and the watery open spaces in Lisbeth Zwerger’s illustrations, Vesper Stamper’s calling as an illustrator began when she cracked open Hilary Knight’s Cinderella and spent the rest of her childhood meticulously copying each graceful page.

Vesper has a BFA degree in Illustration with Honors from Parsons School of Design. Her career has spanned fifteen years, dozens of album covers, four picture books and countless other exciting projects. Vesper brings a refined style and emotional depth to her work that pays homage to the rich illustrative tradition from which she comes.

Vesper was named the 2013 People’s Choice Finalist in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search and is the recipient of the 2012 Lincoln City Fellowship for her graphic novel, The Sea-King’s Children. She lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, filmmaker Ben Stamper, and their two children. She is the winner of both the 2014 NJ SCBWI Juried Show and People’s Choice awards, and is an MFA candidate in the Illustration as Visual Essay at School of Visual Arts, NYC.

Vesper is represented by Lori Kilkelly at Rodeen Literary Management, Inc.

I asked the kidlit agents participating in PiBoIdMo as your “grand prizes” to tell us why they love picture books. Their answers are sure to inspire!


Heather Alexander, Pippin Properties
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Picture books are easy to love because they are tiny little windows that offer beautiful glimpses out into the whole, wide, wonderful world, and into hearts like and unlike our own.

 

 

 

 

Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
stephenfraser
I do love picture books! There is nothing more satisfying that to find a picture book manuscript which has been carefully crafted to share a story with the youngest readers.  The Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir said that painting is “making love visible” and I can’t help thinking that is why some picture books are so endearing and everlasting. They make the love we feel for our children, our grandchildren, and the children within us very visible. It is a true craft which needs to be learned and practiced. And I honor those who learn this craft and honor children.

 

Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency
Kirsten Hall
Picture books pretty much have me wrapped around their finger. I’m obsessed by the story-telling opportunities offered by this highly-visual genre! Picture books (as a format) seem simple at first blush, but they are often in fact quite layered and even poetic, displaying an elegant interplay between text and art. Best of all, picture books are accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be able to read in order to love them. They can be savored for what they offer visually, and when read aloud, until a reader has command over the written word. Simply, what format is better than the first one that takes children by the hand and turns them into book-lovers?

 

Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
susanhawk
The best part of picture books, for me, is way words and illustration marry together to create a sum greater than its parts.  I love the way art builds meaning in the story, and how the simplest of texts can be full of emotion and heart.  I remember so well the picture books that I poured over as a child — mystified and delighted to be invited into the world of reading and books.  For me, it’s an honor to represent picture books!

 

 

Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

trishagentI love picture books because they celebrate a time in our life we all look back on so fondly. I love being a part of helping to create them because we’re creating books for kids who will look back on them for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
erinmurphy
I became a reader because of picture books, and I became an agent because of picture books. They are one of the richest and most influential forms of literature. So much feeling, so many laughs, in so few pages, meant to be read over and over again!

 

 

 

 

Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
joanagent
I love picture books because they speak to the quintessential child in each of us. They reach across the gaps of age and culture and language and bring us under their spell. A perfectly-crafted picture book is a full-senses experience that can last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency
rachel_orr
I love the breadth of story and emotion—from clever and comical, to poetic and pondering—that can be found within the framework of a 32-page picture book.  I love the right prose, the visual subplots, the rhythm and rhyme and repetition (and repetition, and repetition).  But, most of all, I love them because they’re short.

 

 

 

Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

kathleenrushallI love working with picture books because they remind me that the earliest literature we read in life can be some of the most memorable (and the most fun!).

 

 

 

 

Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
joannavolpe
I love picture books because they’re fun to read aloud, and they’re meant to be read with someone else.They can’t not be shared! Even now, I don’t have kids, but when I read a good picturebook, my husband gets to be the audience. He’s very understanding. :-)

 

 

 

 

by Ammi-Joan Paquette

Let me say one thing straight out: My picture book, GHOST IN THE HOUSE, is very close to my heart. Of my published picture books, it’s the one that’s gotten the most visibility so far, including a fabulous review in the New York Times, several “Best of the Year” roundups, and a pickup by the Scholastic Clubs and Fairs. Needless to say, these small joys absolutely thrilled me.

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But also? I have to be honest: They surprised me a little. Those of you who have heard me speak about GHOST IN THE HOUSE will have heard how it came about: Following the rejection of another Halloween manuscript, an editor asked if I “had any other spooky rhyming picture books.” At that moment, I did not. Several weeks, much brainstorming, and a torrent of writing later, I did.

Don’t get me wrong. I worked hard on GHOST IN THE HOUSE. But compared to many of my picture book texts, over which I toiled ad infinitum, this text came relatively easy. The end result also felt, well, simple. It was a sweet, zippy rhyming story. Short and to the point. Fun characters, neat twist. But when lined up against my other laboriously crafted stories—and, in particular, the one it had originally supplanted—it felt uncomfortably ordinary.

Still, someone wanted to publish my picture book! Joy!

In the months following publication, I gained more respect for my modest little manuscript. But it took one final thing to bring me fully around. And that was this: One day I received an email from my editor at Candlewick, asking what I would think about writing a companion book. It might, she suggested, be called ELF IN THE HOUSE.

Well! Ask no further—I was on it. GHOST was just a simple, puny little story, right? I could crank out another one of those in a flash. No worries!

Instead? I hit the blank page. Hard.

Frustrated at my false starts, I sat down and listed the elements that made up GHOST IN THE HOUSE, so I could attempt to replicate them (in a perfectly organic, all-new-and-fresh way, with a Christmas spin) in the sequel. Here’s what I needed:

  • recognizable creatures
  • a reason for the creatures to accumulate
  • tension—what’s keeping the reader turning the pages?
  • perfect fit to the rhyming scheme
  • surprising twist
  • satisfying, feel-good ending

Let’s just say (if that list wasn’t clear enough), that this exercise made me look at GHOST in a whole new light. Short? Yes. Simple-easy-basic-ordinary? Not so much.

Astute readers will likely have seen this coming, but ELF IN THE HOUSE did not come in a flash. More than once I doubted if I could pull it off at all. It took writing, and rewriting, and re-rewriting. Forget inspiration: This was deliberate, backbreaking effort: Lists and brainstorming and trial-and-error and throw-it-all-out-and-start-over. Time after time after time. I’d almost have it… but not quite. This angle might work… only not.

It did not come easy. Not even close.

But finally, in the end, it did come. And great was my delight when my editor received my final manuscript, and made a publication offer. (Woohoo!)

Once ELF IN THE HOUSE is published, I imagine most readers won’t see much difference in tone between the two stories. From the outside, it’s likely that they’ll both appear effortless and breezy. But what this experience crystalized for me was that stories can be born in all sorts of ways. Some arrive on the magical wings of inspiration, landing lightly on your shoulder and seeping onto the screen with the greatest of ease. Others bare their bloody fangs and force you to wrestle them into submission.

One method, one origin, one final story is not necessarily greater than any other. We are authors: we take what we can get, and we make it our own. It’s the making—however long or short, easy or gut-hard—that brings the magic.

guestbloggerbio2014

joanagent

Ammi-Joan Paquette is an author and a literary agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She’s a mother, friend, reader, traveler, food-lover, chocolate connoisseur. She is not especially tidy, a fan of mushy vegetables, or good at coming up with spur-of-the-moment self-portraits.

Learn more about Joan and her books at ajpaquette.com and follow her on Twitter @JoanPaq.

DianaMurrayBioPhotoby Diana Murray

Picture books are as varied as the potions in a witch’s cupboard. Some are spicy and bubbly, while others are mellow and sweet. So which kinds of stories are editors and agents clamoring for? Well, their tastes are just as varied. But one thing that seems to be on everyone’s wish list is this: character-driven stories. A few examples include FANCY NANCY by Jane O’Connor, LLAMA LLAMA RED PAJAMA by Anna Dewdney, PINKALICIOUS by Elizabeth Kann, RUSSELL THE SHEEP by Rob Scotton, SKIPPYJON JONES by Judy Schachner, PETE THE CAT by Eric Litwin, LADYBUG GIRL by David Soman and Jacky Davis, MAX AND RUBY by Rosemary Wells, and SCAREDY SQUIRREL by Mélanie Watt. As you can see, character-driven books have great series potential and overall marketing potential. When readers fall in love with a character, they want to read more about him/her, and it’s fun to visualize what other sorts of situations the character may get into.

This doesn’t mean that character-driven stories are the only kinds that sell or do well in the marketplace. Nor does it mean that writers should focus primarily on pleasing editors or following trends. The best writing comes from the heart! But with that in mind, if you want to explore the possibilities of a character-driven story, here is one quick and easy recipe for brewing up a strong concept. Two ingredients are all you need!

  • Personality Trait
  • Conflicting Goal

I recommend you start off with a list of your own personality traits. This will make it easy for you to feel an emotional connection with (and understanding of) the trait.

My list might look something like this:

  • introverted
  • joker
  • nerdy
  • perfectionist
  • quiet
  • creative
  • analytical
  • messy
  • quirky
  • worrier

DianaMurrayBlogArtBG

Pick one trait (or several, if you’re feeling bold!). Next, choose a goal. Not just any goal, but specifically a goal that is in opposition to the trait you selected. When I wrote GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH, I chose the trait of being “messy” and made the goal “to find an item the character desperately wants/needs.” Or let’s say, for example, I choose “quiet”, then perhaps the goal would be to sing on stage, or speak out against something, or win an international yodeling contest. Sprinkle the goal in with your trait and–POOF! Instant conflict. And the conflict is intrinsically related to the essence of the main character. Adding conflict to a story is one way of encouraging readers to keep turning the pages. They’ll want to find out what happens next! Now, how will your character attempt to reach that goal or face that problem in his/her own unique way?

Feel that story bubbling to life? Now all you have to do is write (and revise, and revise) the rest. Of course, that’s the hard part. But a little inspiration magic can go a long way!

guestbloggerbio2014

Diana Murray is the author of several forthcoming picture books including, CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown, Spring 2016), NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: A SALTY YARN (Roaring Brook Press, Winter 2016), and GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH, plus a sequel (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, Summer 2016, 2017). Diana is the recipient of two SCBWI Magazine Merit Awards (2013 and 2014) and an Honor (2013) for poetry. She also won the 2010 SCBWI Barbara Karlin Work-In-Progress Grant for a picture book text. Diana is represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. She was raised in New York City and currently lives in a nearby suburb with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. Diana’s character GRIMELDA was brewed up during the first official PiBoIdMo, back in 2009! You can read more about that experience here.

For more information and news, you can visit DianaMurray.com or follow Diana on twitter: @DianaMWrites.

prizedetails2014

Diana is giving away a picture book critique!

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

Today I invited The Girllustrators, Austin-based kidlit artists, to guest blog for PiBoIdMo, so you’re getting THREE inspirational essays—by Emma Virján, Caitlin B. Alexander and Marsha Riti—for the price of one. (And they’re all FREE, LOL.) I recommend following these talented ladies on Twitter @Girllustrators.

EJVirjan(sm)

Up first: Emma Virján!

WHAT THIS STORY NEEDS IS A PIG IN A WIG started with this doodle of pig snouts.

WTSN_01 BWSnoutDoodle

Sketches of pigs started to fill my notebooks.

WTSN_02 PigSunHammock

 

After many drawings, I determined pig needed a name. I named her Pig.

It was also determined that she needed a wig.

WTSN_03 YellowWig 

I drew Pig wearing many different wigs.

WTSN_04 DiffWigs

I loved Pig in all of her wigs (still do) but this one became my favorite.

WTSN_05 FaveWigs

The story of Pig and her wig started to take shape. Work began on a manuscript.

WTSN_06 EarlyDraft

The words “on a boat” kept cropping up and I started drawing images of Pig near a boat.

Sometimes I only drew the boat. The boat always had a pig snout on the bow.

WTSN_07 Boats

The first of many thumbnails were created.

So began the real work of the images and words becoming a picture book.

WTSN_08 EarlyThumbnails

 

Revisions happened. Drawings were scrapped and new ones were drawn. More revisions happened and eventually What This Story Needs Is A Pig In A Wig was finalized.

WTSN_09 PigInaWig-Cover

WTSN_10 PigOnHerBoat

It’s amazing to think that a black and white doodle of pig snouts, drawn while on the phone with a client, became the inspiration for a character and a story.

And the endpapers.

WTSN_11 SnoutEndpaper

guestbloggerbio2014

Emma J Virján was born under an Aries moon on a Wednesday, her dad’s bowling night. This explains her attraction to hardwood floors. She likes to draw, work in her garden and often lets her dog sleep on the couch. She makes her home in Austin, Texas where she spends her days as an illustrator and graphic designer. 

She is the author-illustrator of Nacho the Party Puppy, Random House, 2008, and the forthcoming What This Story Needs Is A Pig In a Wig, HarperCollins, May 12, 2015.

You can visit Emma Virján at Emmavirjan.com and follow her illustrative moods on Twitter @EmmaVirjan.

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Caitlin bio image

Next is Caitlin B. Alexander! 

Being an illustrator, my concept for a story grows in tandem with my visual ideas. I look at children’s books that I admire, both old and new, and take note of what draws me to them. Is it the overarching message? The color palette? The scenery? What medium did they use for the art, and what kind of characters did they use? The art or writing may not resemble my work, but something about it can still inspire me. I have a massive collection of books that I turn to frequently.

Pic 1

I am somewhat of an overly-organized person, so I make all sorts of bubble charts and graphs, with ideas sprouting into other ideas. Some of these are just images I would love to incorporate into a story, like a sailboat, and others are larger concepts. Eventually, with a lot of scribbling, listing, doodling, highlighting, and sample-writing, I come up with a rough idea or two that can be explored further. It reminds me of a slab of clay that has barely taken shape, but has a lot of potential.

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I wish I could say that I know what perfect and repeating formula works for getting a book published, but there are probably few people who do. The rest of us just create things that we love, and keep learning, making mistakes and trying new things. If we’re lucky, we’ve hit the right combination, and someone else has fallen in love with the idea as much as we have.

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guestbloggerbio2014

Caitlin B. Alexander is an illustrator based in Austin, Texas with a particular love for dry-brush gouache painting. Both her life and work are heavily influenced by the aesthetics of the 1940’s, ’50s and ’60s. She fancies herself a collector of memories as much as a collector of things, andenjoys bringing this sense of nostalgia to her audience.

Clients include: Spider Magazine, Ladybug Magazine (Cricket Media), Geneologie, Texas Board of Tourism, Dallas Child Magazine, Bearded Lady Screen Prints, Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, PERC Coffee, The Kloud Agency, What’s Up Annapolis? Magazine

Visit Caitlin’s website at cbaillustration.com, follow her Tumblr at cbaillustration.tumblr.com and Tweet with her @cbaillustration.

____________________________________________________________________________

 

Marsha Riti

And now…Marsha Riti!

Because I consider myself an illustrator first and foremost, the way I approach storytelling is a bit different than a writer. My inspiration comes from sketching and playing around with materials.

I’m currently working on a dreamy story about a girl, a rabbit, and the moon. This story came about from playing around with loose watercolor techniques and other materials.

Image 1

Then I started playing with character sketches.

Image 2

 

I love to thumbnail out ideas. Tara Lazar has a great thumbnail guide on her website and so does Debbie Ohi.

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Here’s a small sample of a double-page layout.

Image 4

And here’s a finished spread.

Image 5

This process naturally lends itself to wordless storytelling, but I don’t want to limit myself. If the story needs words, then I’ll supply them. If it does not, then so be it.

One other place I find inspiration is this quote below from a Blake poem titled “Night.”

“The moon like a flower,
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight!
Sits and smiles on the night.” ~ William Blake

My husband and best friend Adam happened across it while reading “Songs of Innocence.” Adam is another source of inspiration. We have wonderful conversations about life and philosophy that are always giving me new ideas.

guestbloggerbio2014

Marsha Riti is a children’s book illustrator from Austin, Texas. She has been a member of SCBWI for a number of years, and is also a co-founder and member of a female illustrator collective called the Girllustrators. She is currently illustrating a chapter book series for Simon & Schuster, The Critter Club, and is represented by Teresa Kietlinksi of Prospect Agency. And she’s got a wicked sense of humor.

Tara featured Marsha in a “Portrait of an Aspiring Illustrator” in March 2009.

View Marsha’s artwork and latest projects at marshariti.com and follow along on Twitter @marshariti.

prizedetails2014

Emma is giving away a NACHO THE PARTY PUPPY book and tee!

Emma_Nacho

And Marsha is donating two books from THE CRITTER CLUB!

CritterClub_Amy CritterCLub_Marion

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 

 

by Henry Herz

Everything I know about writing picture books, I learned from animals.

Animals make great picture book characters. Just ask the Very Hungry Caterpillar. And animals offer authors and illustrators nine B’s of inspiration for creating PBs:

Be a sponge.

sponge

Soak up everything around you. View, listen, sniff, taste, and feel. Watch people (in public, not with a telescope from your house), read books (especially picture books), and watch TV and movies. Take notes. Even the most mundane situations can unexpectedly feed your muse.

Be a sharktopus.

sharktopus

OK, that’s not a real animal, but I’m making a point here, people. Combine elements into unlikely (and therefore hilarious) pairs, as in Doreen Cronin’s Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type. Practice riffing on the things you soak up. I did a classroom reading where this boy had a torn-up sneaker. I thought, picture book title: The Boy With Exploding Sneakers. Let your creativity run free. 

Be a honey badger.

honeybadger

Have no fear. Don’t be scared to put words to paper. Don’t flee from constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid of rejection. They all line the path to traditional publication. Honey badger don’t care, and neither should you! Get outside your comfort zone.

Be a dung beetle.

dungbeetle

Be tenacious, even on crappy days. Becoming published isn’t easy. But it won’t happen if you stop trying. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a one step. Revise, revise, revise. But remember that perfect can be the enemy of good enough. At some point, you need to submit! 

 Be an armadillo.

armadillo

You need to be thick-skinned and learn to roll with the punches. Understand that a publisher’s or agent’s rejection isn’t personal, but it is highly subjective. Many great works of literature were rejected repeatedly before being published, so you’re in good company.  

Be an ant.

ants

No man is an island, and no ant is a bridge. Teamwork is your best friend. Take advantage of critique groups to hone your craft. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to develop a support network. Leverage social media to connect with fellow writers. You’re not alone.

Be a hagfish.

hagfish

Be flexible enough to incorporate helpful feedback. But feel free to ignore feedback that doesn’t resonate with your gut. Follow the rules, but recognize that they can be broken when the result is a success. Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit is a picture book with over 1,000 words and inanimate characters. But it’s also a New York Times bestseller.

Be a peacock spider.

Male peacock spiders don’t just have stunning colors. They have a delightfully entertaining mating dance (think MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”). They show the ladies some enthusiasm! They wear their passion on their, er, sleeves. Writing is also an act of passion. Write about what you love. Have fun writing. Write the story that is inside you, trying to get out. But hopefully not like a chestburster from Alien, or Ian Ziering in the final scene of Sharknado.

Be a cat.

cat

Cats are lucky. They always land on their feet, and have nine lives.

There’s an expression, “luck favors the prepared.” Working at the other eight B’s is the best way to earn some luck. Good luck to you!

guestbloggerbio2014

henryherzHenry Herz has masters degrees in engineering and political science, neither of which help him write children’s books. He enjoys moderating sci-fi/fantasy literature panels at conventions, eating Boston Creme Pie, and writing children’s books with his sons Josh and Harrison. Their indie-published Nimpentoad was featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, and CNN. Their picture book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, will be published by Pelican in January 2015. Henry edited the YA dark fantasy anthology, Beyond the Pale, with stories from Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Jane Yolen and others. He interviews KidLit authors and illustrators at www.henryherz.com.

prizedetails2014

Henry is offering two picture book critiques to two PiBoIdMo winners!

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 

dinerkellyby Kelly Light

“I want to be The Hardest Working WO-Man in Show Business”

But I’m tired. Are you?

It’s been an insane few months in my life. My book, Louise Loves Art, came out September 9th! Then I went on a 27-day book tour.

When I sit down to work and I have A LOT of work…sometimes, I got ‘nuthin.

Sometimes we feel like we just can’t go on.

We can’t do no more.

But you can. You can get back up. Like James.

You can find it in yourself. You have come this far.

You can still dance and spin.

You’ve got more ideas inside of you, dig. Dig deep.

Throw off that cape! Pull yourself up.

Let’s channel a little James this year.

Watch this:

James Brown.
The hardest working Man in show business.
Even he just has to fall on his knees and ask… Please.!?!?
Please, please, please, please.
Let’s grab the mic, Wacom pen, pencil or hairbrush … and sing with……PAIN.
(back up singers in parenthesis) (PiBoIdMo peeps – that’s you)

Spoken like James:
This year I gotta dig a little deeper.
Ya see ‘cause I am tired.
I’ve been working so hard.
(So hard. )
So hard.
(So hard.)

Start singing:

30 ideas in 30 days.
(Who came up with this idea?)
11 more to go, you’re in a daze
(I need a shot of tequila)
Pencil in hand, butt in chair.
(I gotta find a new idea)
Ideas, I can’t find you anywhere
(need to get my head in gear)

Yeah, oh yeah, ideas, I need you so..
(Please, please ideas don’t go)
Please, please, please, please….
(Please, please don’t go)
Please, please, please….
(Please, please ideas don’t go)

Can you hep me?
Somebody hep me!

Please, please, please, please….
(Please, please don’t go)
Please, please, please….
(Please, please ideas don’t go)

Imagination is all gone
(all dried up, ideas are gone)
Why did you leave and do me wrong?
(you are fried, you can’t hold on)

Please, please, please, please….
(Please, please don’t go)
Please, please, please….
(Please, please ideas don’t go)

I wrote so many ideas down
(So you wrote some good ideas)
I used some adjectives and some nouns
(these sound like bad ideas)

Doesn’t matter, I got 30 ideas out
(ideas on the page it’s a start)
Makes me wanna scream and shout!
(Keep on going, you’ve got heart!)

I’ll come back to these ideas one day
(Don’t leave them up on a shelf)

Soon You’ll see me signing at BEA!

(don’t get ahead of yourself, do 12 X 12)

Please, please, please, please….
(Please, please don’t go)
Please, please, please….
(Please, please ideas don’t go)

Danny! I can’t do no more…

WAIT! C’mon….

Now JUMP BACK! You’re super bad! You gotta kiss yourself!

Listen to this:

guestbloggerbio2014

Kelly Light is working hard out on the road with LOUISE LOVES ART while working on the second Louise book and the first Louise reader. Look for those next year from Balzer and Bray. Also out next year is JUST ADD GLITTER by Angela DiTerlizzi from Beach Lane Books. She’s got soul. She’s tired and she’s super bad.

prizedetails2014

louiselovesart

You can win a signed LOUISE LOVES ART book and a “Holiday Louise” print by Kelly!

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

devheadshotby Dev Petty

I know, I know…You’ve probably read or been told you should write every day. Twenty minutes? Thirty minutes? Some number of minutes that gets you off your behind and typing away.

But I’m here to suggest a different approach, something especially useful for picture book writers.

STOP Writing.

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Yes, you heard it here first. Stop. At least for a while.

Work with me here…

When I was first writing picture books and I found a story idea, I’d race home and get to writing it. Words streamed off my finger tips into my story, clickety-clack, clickety-clack and BOOM! I’d be done and I’d congratulate myself for finishing. Then I’d edit and revise and tinker and make little changes. I wrote a lot of stories this way, but they were often a bit one note. They were linear, a super straight shot at my story idea. Moving so fast from an idea to writing, I got mired in language and word choices, small stuff, instead of thinking about the idea itself. It’s one of those forest for the trees kinda things.

Somewhere along the way, I put the brakes on that process. What did I do? I started thinking.

Here’s what I’ve found. When I take some time, in some cases LOTS of time, to think about my idea and how to get that idea onto the page, I come up with a richer, more original story. I lie on my deck, I think in the shower, I think on a walk, I think on a rock, I think as I’m going to and coming out of sleep. Sometimes, if it’s a really juicy idea, I think for MONTHS about how that idea could turn into a story. Fair warning, thinking is hard. Our brains are filled with lunch making and appointments and things to do- it takes time to learn to think.

writingonthedeck

So, while I’m lying on the deck “writing” (Imagine my husband making an air quote gesture here), what am I thinking about? Well, I think about structure and about voice. I try my story in my head in different ways: Traditional, present tense, past tense, third person, sparse, only in dialogue, repetitive, wordless. When I’ve done this long enough something really strange happens. I start to hear it, I start to hear my story. Then, and only then, do I write down the words.

I also try to think about my story from many angles, to turn it around in my head. Can my idea be expressed as a metaphor or in a way that’s deeper? Is a story about a kid with head lice more interesting if it’s about a monkey with fleas? These are the deep questions I ask…”Monkey or no monkey?” Monkeys aside, a wonderful bi-product of thinking instead of writing is that you find new ideas. Ideas breed ideas, so it’s like you’re making tiny little baby stories while you’re bringing the first one into the world.

Finally, before I ever write a word, I force myself to ask myself this most basic question. WHAT IS THIS STORY ABOUT? (Hint: the answer does not have your main character’s name in it) If I can’t answer that, I’m not ready to write the story. Period.

When I finally do write words, it goes pretty fast and requires less tinkering, it comes out of the oven a little more baked. Still, in those first few moments of writing the story I’ve formed in my head, I will try the opening in a bunch of different ways to see what sticks. That opening forms the framework for the whole book and I’m always prepared to write the opening, read it back, throw it away and try again if it isn’t right before continuing.

It’s a good bet this method isn’t for everyone, but for me it has fundamentally changed my experience of writing picture books. My stories are now more ME. They have MY voice. They come out as I imagined. Also, I get to spend a lot of time in the sun just thinking. About monkeys.

guestbloggerbio2014

Dev Petty’s debut picture book, I Don’t Want to be a Frog (Random House/Doubleday) will be released on February 24th.  Told in hilarious dialogue, this book is about a frog who wants to be anything but a slimy, wet frog. Before writing children’s books, Dev worked as a senior visual effects artist in film on The Matrix films and dozens of others.  She lives in Albany with her husband, two daughters and critters. Connect with her at www.devpetty.com.

prizedetails2014

Dev is giving away a picture book critique!

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 

Bella and me - David Peattie version!by Deborah Underwood

Congratulations, PiBoIdMo-ers! You’re more than halfway home! (56.6666% home, but who’s counting?)

At this point in the game, you may be a little stuck. Believe me, I know the feeling. When I’m devoid of ideas, sometimes remembering the origins of an existing manuscript yields clues about how I might forge ahead.

So, in hopes that it might help you, let me share the genesis of Here Comes the Easter Cat, illustrated by Claudia Rueda. The book resulted from three things that happened in June of 2011:

1) I was floundering around looking for inspiration, so I wrote to a friend, the founder of an animal museum. I asked if there was a kids’ book she saw a need for, something that might be helpful to her in her work. She mentioned that a woman she knew had trouble finding suitable Easter books for her vegan book review site. I didn’t find the idea of writing an Easter book particularly compelling, so I thanked her and promptly forgot about her suggestion. (Or so I thought!)

2) A few weeks later, I had a weirdly illustrator-centric week. I had coffee with one visiting illustrator, coffee another day with two others, and lunch with a local illustrator friend.

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3) Several days after that, I was sitting on my bed, still trying to come up with a viable idea. My cat Bella was sprawled in front of me, so I idly doodled a cat. The cat looked grumpy. I asked why, and, to my surprise, the cat held up a sign with the Easter Bunny on it. Intrigued, I continued to ask the cat questions, and Here Comes the Easter Cat took shape.

 

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Why did I decide to draw? I’m not sure, but I’ll bet it was because I’d just talked with all those illustrators.

And why did the Easter Bunny show up on Cat’s sign? Undoubtedly because my friend had mentioned that Easter book a few weeks earlier.

So the book idea came about because:

  • I actively sought input from someone outside my usual circle.
  • I took off my pajamas—horrors!—and got out into the world, and in doing so, learned more about how illustrators work.
  • I gave myself the space to think (sitting on my bed, trying to be receptive) and to play (doodling).

So I was active, and I was passive. I soaked up information from others, and I experimented with something outside my area of expertise. If any of those elements hadn’t been present, I suspect there would be no Cat.

Here are my original sketches alongside Claudia Rueda’s terrific finished art:

SC1

SC2

TwoCats

In particular, the drawing component was critical. So I encourage you to play around with doodling or sketching, even if you think you’re not an artist. Here Comes Easter Cat came out earlier this year, Here Comes Santa Cat was just released, and two more Cat books are in the queue. I’m very, very glad I did that first Cat sketch.

One more thing: when I began Easter Cat, I was not thinking of the market. I was definitely not saying, “What the world really needs is an 80-page picture book!” or “I’ll bet my editor is dying to see a stack of sketches by someone who can’t draw!”

Rather, I was having a conversation with Cat for the best of reasons: it amused me. It made me laugh. And what I loved turned out to be what my agent and my editor loved, too.

I am embarrassed to say that I need to remind myself of this over and over. It’s so easy to get caught up in questions like “What do editors want?” and “What can I sell?”

When really, the critical question is, “What do I love?”

So write with your heart. And draw! And if one of your sketches starts talking to you? You should probably pay attention. Best of luck!

guestbloggerbio2014

Deborah Underwood grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. When she was little, she wanted to be an astronomer. Then she wanted to be a singer. Then she wanted to be a writer. Today her jobs are writing and singing. Two out of three’s not bad! (Okay, she also wanted to work in a piano factory and paste the labels on new pianos, but let’s just ignore that one.)

She’s the author of THE QUIET BOOK, THE LOUD BOOK, PART-TIME PRINCESS, the SUGAR PLUM BALLERINAS series (with Whoopi Goldberg), and, of course THE CAT books, among others.

When she’s not writing, you might find her singing in a chamber choir, playing a ukulele (very badly), walking around in Golden Gate Park, baking vegan cookies, or petting any dogs, cats, pigs, or turkeys that happen to be nearby.

You can connect with her at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com or on Twitter @underwoodwriter.

prizedetails2014

Deborah is giving away one copy of EASTER CAT and one copy of SANTA CAT!

eastercat  Santa Cat

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

Follow Me on Pinterest As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books


Available now at:

Coming Soon:


I THOUGHT THIS
WAS A BEAR BOOK
illustrated by Benji Davies
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015

NORMAL NORMAN
illustrated by S.Britt
Sterling Children's Books
September 2015

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
illustrated by Troy Cummings
Random House
October 2015

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY
illustrator TBA
Disney*Hyperion
2016

WAY PAST BEDTIME
illustrator TBA
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
2016

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