Quick, think of a picture book with a long title!

DUH, I KNOW.

alexanderterrible

Of course, Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz’s classic sports a long title for hyperbole purposes. The author wants you to know that Alexander’s day was straight-up disastrous…and that Alexander is perhaps a tad overdramatic. The title sets up the plot and character perfectly.

However, you don’t see long picture book titles like this one too often. Why?

Picture books tend to sell on concept. That concept must be communicated succinctly in order to capture a young child’s (and a parent’s) imagination. Yes, people really do judge a book by its cover.

If your picture book manuscript has an overly long title, it may suggest your concept is either too vague or too complicated for the format. You want to nail down your concept and make it snappy, catchy. BAM! SELL THAT BOOK!

Even though character name titles are short, I personally tend to shy away from them. The title ERIN & JOAN doesn’t tell my audience enough about who the characters are. Here’s an interesting case study: the talented Ame Dyckman’s WOLFIE THE BUNNY was originally called WOLFIE & DOT. The final title WOLFIE THE BUNNY practically sells itself (with Zacharia OHora’s bold artwork), whereas the original title doesn’t necessarily relay enough clues about the tale.

wolfie

But there are exceptions when two names work. GEORGE & MARTHA, one of the most popular picture books of all time, totally blows a hole in my theory.

So does Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s upcoming LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST. But here the names give you a lot to go on.

Lady Pancake Cover Image (2)

Now let’s examine SLJ/Fuse #8’s Top 100 Picture Books. The majority of titles are between one and four words. The longest title? THE LITTLE MOUSE, THE RED RIPE STRAWBERRY AND THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR, published in 1984. But let’s take a look at the cover…

thebighungrybear

…interestingly, THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR is emphasized in larger letters, juxtaposed against the image of the delicious strawberry and an anxious-looking mouse. I’m going to predict that in today’s market, an editor might have cut that title down to just the BEAR part. (But alas, the world will never know. Just like we still don’t know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop!)

tootsierollpop

Now here’s a title for ya:

POPPY THE PONY PICKS A PERFECTLY PATIENT PLAYMATE

This isn’t a real title, but notice how long it is and how it fell into an alliteration trap! Ahhhhh! I tend to see this often with new writers’ manuscripts.

The_Stinky_Cheese_Man_Book_Cover

THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES

This is a real title. It’s long but it’s allowed to be. It features “stinky” and “stupid,” two words especially beloved by the target audience. (Plus it’s Jon Scieszka! You gonna argue with JON SCIESZKA?)

jonscieszka

So take a close look at your picture book manuscript’s title. If you haven’t found a clever moniker, it may be that your story isn’t focused enough yet. If the title is long and complicated, maybe your story is, too. The title is going to be one of your most important selling points, so spend some time on it and get it right!

Bottom line: long titles can work, but be sure to know when they don’t.

Now it’s your turn:
What are some of your favorite picture book titles?

I typically don’t like to upload JUST a winner announcement…I like to shove something else in there to ensure the post is entertaining and informative as well.

So, here.

mcconaughey

OK, so that’s neither entertaining nor informative. But it is hilarious.

What do you think he was saying at that moment? (Guess in the comments.)

Personally, I think he was scatting.

Or casting a groovy employment spell upon the graduating masses.

Or perhaps asking for a sammich.

Performing “The Eensy-Weensy Spider”? (Deb Lund’s guess.)

Now that we’ve had a little fun, let’s get onto the winnahs.

The winnah of OWL BOY by Brian Schatell is:

JIM CHAIZE

The THREE winnahs of framed BE A FRIEND art from the incomparable Salina Yoon are:

SANDI LAWSON
DANIELLE DUFAYET
SHERI RAD

Whooppeee-do-dooo-beeee! (Hmm, this may be what McConaughey was saying.)

Congratulations to the winners and please be on the lookout for an email from me!

I’ve been wanting to do a book with Ryan Sias because his illustrations are so cartoony, bubbly and fun. Ryan’s free weekly Sias Studios emails feature creative worksheets with new characters I always want to call my own. But I can’t. They’re his. But they can be YOURS, too, because anyone can receive his free doodle and story pages by signing up at SiasStudios.com.

pizzaspace

(A PIZZA SPACESHIP! Why didn’t I think of that??? ANCHOVY ALIENS! PEPPERONI FROM PLUTO!)

Ryan’s new book SNIFF! SNIFF! just landed on my front porch and I could not resist this cuddly little doggie with the huge honker. How adorable! The bold, sketchy outlines and bright colors will attract the youngest readers with this tale of true friendship and love.

The curious star of the story gets into all kinds of mischief with “SNIFF, SNIFF” being a recurring theme. Repetitive phrases help new readers recognize words…and also practice their onomatopoeia out loud. The story is told through action and play while also showing kids all about having a pet. (Not easy, but rewarding!) A really fun read-aloud with lots to look at!

sniffsniff

Hey, do you want to learn how to draw this cute fella? Well, do you, boy? Yes, you do! YES, YOU DO!!!

Sniff_p01

Ryan, what were your thoughts behind the design of your dog and how did you accomplish them?

For my Dog I wanted the design to be animated, super cute with a BIG NOSE (but not a gross nose). Originally he was more normal dog proportions, but the more I drew him, the bigger his head and nose got. When I create characters I draw them again and again and quicker each time, to get a loose and fluid design. Then “Ta da!” I end up with the final design!

I wanted him to look like pure energy and love. To have tons of expression and while he was being bad, not look mean but full of curiosity and wonder.

The dog doesn’t have a name in the book, but does he have a name in your head?

In my head his name is Simon, which is the dog I dedicated the book to. He was my BFF and a golden retriever. He has the attitude of the dog in my book. Full of joy and love plus a destructive side. Here is a photo from ’95 of me and Simon.

Simon_and_Ryan

You offer fun weekly drawing lessons and creativity activities for kids, delivered via email. We all know art education is shrinking in some school districts. Why do you think art education is so important?

To me art education is THE most important because it teaches abstract problem solving, and that is the key to a kid’s success in life. I am not saying every kid needs to be a painter, but learning how to think “outside” the box will grant success in any field. Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein were amazing abstract problem solvers.

So since arts are getting cut, I have developed Sias Studios free weekly emails. They’re designed to promote creative thinking and foster children’s imaginations. Our original art projects encourage kids to invent their own stories and make art without boundaries. We provide a springboard for children to dive into artistic discovery!

Well, the springboard is strong enough for adults, too! I know I enjoy jumping in every week! SPLASH! SPLASH!

Ryan, you happen to be dyslexic, which I find amazing considering your profession. How do you overcome the difficulties of Dyslexia as an author?

Short answer: A lot of people go over my work to make sure it’s all spelled and punctuated correctly.

Long answer: My mom is a teacher and had me tested in first grade, so i’ve known my whole life and I’ve grown to see Dyslexia as an advantage—as a creative my brain works differently than a lot of people. A lot of huge creatives are dyslexic: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Picasso, Jim Carrey and John Lennon to name a few. It didn’t get in their way. I can always find people to spell check, but not everyone knows how to use their creativity.

For books, I am lucky that I write and Illustrate, so I let my artwork do most of the talking. Then I use words to fill in what I can’t show. In my new book SNIFF! SNIFF! it’s mostly visual with just 12 words.

But that is not to say it’s easy for me. My problem comes through in emails, which have errors, which is a REAL problem at first, because I’m emailing editors who are spelling kings! So I have to have those emails gone over also. As my relationships progress, they quickly learn that I am dyslexic (also I tell them pretty early on) so they understand. I also have a great agent who helps fill in the holes.

So while it is more work for me, I just know I can’t send anything out with out a group of people checking it and rechecking it.

I think what you accomplish is incredible considering this disability! Thank you for sharing your creativity with us.

Ryan’s also sharing a copy of SNIFF! SNIFF! with a lucky winner.

Leave a comment below to enter. In the comment, tell us what you think the doggie’s name is. I’ll call him Mr. Scruffles. (One comment per person, please. No taking “Mr. Scruffles,” either.)

A random winner will be selected in two weeks! Good luck! 

Releasing on January 5, 2016 is Salina Yoon’s 158th book, BE A FRIEND. (Yes, it really is her 158th book. Salina is the most prolific author-illustrator on the planet!)

The delightful cover is being revealed by Bloomsbury exclusively here today!

Isn’t it sweet?

beafriendcover

Salina, I know with my books the cover has come at the end of the book-making process…but I recently spoke with Matthew Cordell and his latest book’s cover idea came to him early on. When did you create this cover and what about the story did you want to convey through the images?

The cover was the first thing I designed and illustrated when I conceived of the idea to prepare it for submission. But since then, the cover’s changed a few times, even its title, and only recently was everything finalized. The book itself was completed much earlier.

Conveying the story with just one image and one title is so challenging with any book. In BE A FRIEND, it was important to show the two main characters having a deep connection to one another. It’s a unique kind of friendship because one child is silent, and he lives in a world of his own imagination. But here, we see the girl looking straight into his eyes, accepting the gift he dreamed up in his mind. She accepts him, just the way he is, and that’s a strong theme in the book. Like a mother who blows a kiss across a room and the child snatching it up, even gifts of the imagination are felt if the heart is in them.

Could you tell us a little more about the book?

BE A FRIEND is about a boy named Dennis who expresses himself through the silent art of mime, which alienates him from the other kids. No one seems to notice him, except one girl. Her name is Joy. Even without words, they can laugh and play. And most importantly, they can be friends. Joy shows Dennis that he can still be himself while including others—that his world needn’t be solitary.

beafriendspread1

This book is for any child (or adult) who has ever felt different that made them feel alone, and the importance of reaching out and making connections.

beafriendspread

BE A FRIEND is a heartwarming celebration of individuality, imagination, and the power of friendship. (Bloomsbury/January 2016)

Salina is giving away three signed, framed art prints from BE A FRIEND just for visiting her cover reveal today.

Leave a comment below; one comment per person, please. Three random winners will  be drawn on May 18th. Good luck!

Oh boy, it’s a new picture book by Brian Schatell, OWL BOY!

BrianSchatellphotoFor those of you who don’t know Brian, he co-chairs the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One conference…and has been doing so for YEARS. You will not find anyone more giving of his time and talents to help aspiring kidlit authors and illustrators reach the next level in their careers. What he pulls together—over 80 publishing mentors in a jam-packed day of learning, networking and professional growth—for YOUR benefit is mind-boggling!

(What’s that? You don’t know about RUCCL? Well then GO HERE. The 2015 application is live now!)

So when I saw Brian’s new book and its pure adorableness, I had to talk to him about it. He’s OWLWAYS got some fantastic pieces of wisdom.

Brian, when I first heard you talking about OWL BOY, you said it was autobiographical, “except for the owls.” What did you mean?

owlboy

This is a book about an obsessed, hyper-focused child; the sort of kid who when he’s interested in something, he’s interested all the way! That’s the sort of child I was, and that’s the sort of person I am today, still. Owls were not my own particular childhood focus. But one of my daughter’s elementary school classmates was a boy who knew every owl fact you could ever want to know, as well as every NY Yankee baseball statistic, among other things. That boy was certainly an inspiration for the owl part, but as I told his parents, the book is really about me!

As an author-illustrator, which part comes first for you, the owl or the egg? Er, I mean, the story or the pictures?

Owl Boy character sketch

Well, the concept comes first, and stews around in my brain for some time. Often this concept will include certain visual elements—a key spread, a visual joke. Picture books are a visual storytelling medium, after all. I carry a note book with me and when I get an idea pertaining to a particular book concept, I jot down the idea, but it may be a sketch or it may be a snippet of text, or often both together. I stuff these notebook pages into a folder, and when they start to accumulate, they begin to coalesce into a coherent book with a beginning, middle and end. Years ago, I used to type up the manuscript, sans pictures, as a first step, and then move to thumbnails, and then a dummy. More recently, the first time I commit something to paper, I’m sketching words and pictures together from the get-go, using my earlier notebook pages as reference. For OWL BOY, there was never a separately typed manuscript until after contract, when my editor and I were finessing it. The initial version of OWL BOY was a collection of sketches done on index cards.

Your last book was a few years ago. What changes in picture books have you noted from then to now and did that influence OWL BOY in any way?

That’s a really interesting question!

First of all, a lot of illustrators are doing their art on computers these days. For other illustration work I do, for the children’s apparel industry, I work nearly exclusively in Adobe Illustrator/photoshop, yet for my books I stubbornly cling to pen and watercolor. Nevertheless, the digital age has wrought some changes in my process. Specific to OWL BOY there are pages where I combined separate elements in digital layers, as opposed to actual overlays as done in the old days, or as opposed to cutting out and pasting down elements. There’s a spread in the book—the owl extravaganza spread—where the background sky and foreground objects are two different paintings which I separately scanned and combined digitally. Makes life much easier! It’s not as if I’m against full digital illustration in my books, but to try to recreate my hand-painted look on a computer wouldn’t save me any time, not the way I work, not for OWL BOY. However, I have a couple of book ideas in mind that I do specifically see as appropriate for all-digital art.

OWL BOY bedroom sketch

Another change these days is that pretty much all picture books are simultaneously released as e-books. This did have a pretty big impact on OWL BOY. In the book I employ speech balloons for certain dialogue elements, and my intention was to hand-letter the text in these balloons, as opposed to using a font for the regular text. But as my editor told me, the age of hand-lettered type is over! Because in an ebook the text pops up in size when the cursor hits it, I was required to use set type for the speech balloons, which I was not happy about. It took us a while to arrive upon an available font that approximated my concept of hand lettering, but I’m happy now. But it was a big adjustment!

As for changes in the picture book genre these past few years, I’ll just say that I write the stories that I have to write. Trends do evolve, there are good books and bad, there are always “hot” books, but to my mind, the attributes of a successful picture book remain the same: genuine voice, strong characters, warmth, empathy and emotion, a plot with an organic beginning, middle and denouement, words and pictures that complement each other to create a whole that is more than the sum of the parts, among other things.

Good to know some things will never change!

Winding the clock back a bit further, how did you first get involved in picture books and why is RUCCL so important to you?

As someone who drew my entire life, I had no particular interest in picture books until college. While attending Parsons School of Design, I discovered a new comic strip in New York City’s weekly alternative paper, The Village Voice, by a guy named Mark Alan Stamaty. It was called “MacDoodle Street” and something about its humor and aesthetic and crammed-with-detail drawings spoke to me immediately, and began to influence my own illustration style.

macdoodlestreet

A year or so later, I saw that Stamaty was teaching a class at Parsons: a children’s book illustration and writing class. As I said, I hadn’t previously had the slightest interest in children’s books, but I enrolled anyway just to meet this guy. He could have been teaching a class in taxidermy—I still would have signed up! But as it happened, he had done some interesting books and was a very good teacher. The big semester project involved writing and illustrating an original picture book dummy. There and in other college classes I began creating freestanding illustrations with the juvenile market in mind, though in retrospect I was not very sophisticated about it.

After graduation, I visited the Children’s Book Council, which compiled lists of publishers and their submission/portfolio requirements. Things were a bit simpler then. This was prior to the big wave of conglomeration in publishing, so there were dozens of major independent houses to submit to. As an illustrator, most publishers had a weekly portfolio appointment day—actual appointments, not drop off! One such appointment eventually resulted in an offer to illustrate a nonfiction picture book, this only a few months after graduation. Once I completed that, I dug out the old picture book dummy I had made in Mark Stamaty’s class and submitted it to the people I had been working with, and they actually took it!

Goff-coverThat book was Farmer Goff and His Turkey Sam, which ended up being named an SLJ Best Book when it came out. One might suppose it was all smooth sailing from that point, but of course that’s not how the industry works.

The next book I submitted to my editor was rejected. The one after that they took. There were long periods when I wasn’t working on anything at all, and times when I worked on one idea for years. I’m not the most prolific author, and sometimes I just waited for an illustration assignment to come along. OWL BOY, which just came out, was begun five years ago! I do feel fortunate that following my first book, I’ve always been able to submit ideas to people I already know.

twocrazypigsEarly in my career I was invited to teach a children’s book illustration and writing course at Parsons School of Design, more or less the same type of class I had taken with Mark Stamaty. Naturally I called him for advice. I ended up teaching this class for 12 years. One of the most gratifying aspects of teaching was the ability to help people make creative breakthroughs, to help them raise their work to the next level. Some of my students eventually published!

A few years after I started teaching, I was invited to be a mentor at the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. And some years after that I joined the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, which organizes the conference.

firstnightofhanukkahMy feelings about the conference are similar to my feelings about teaching. Juvenile publishing is not the most glamorous nor remunerative branch of publishing —JK Rowling and her ilk aside—so most of us do it out of a true love for the genre. But it is a small industry, and can be difficult to break into, so many of those fortunate enough to be working in it are very grateful to be able to do so, and want to “pay it forward,” as the saying goes. At the Rutgers conference, as in teaching, I want people to get published! I want them to make creative breakthroughs, I want to connect them to professionals who might be able to help their careers. And at Rutgers, I and my colleagues on the Council have been able to do just that.

PupandPop4The One-on-One Plus Conference, as it is now called, is unique in that we have a faculty of over 80 editors, agents, art directors, well-published authors and illustrators, and that every aspiring author or illustrator who attends is guaranteed a forty-five minute one-on-one session with one of these professional mentors, to discuss the work that they have submitted. As I’ve personally benefited from mentors like Mark Alan Stamaty, and the editor who took on my first book, I’m only too happy to see others go on to success from this conference that I help organize.

A few years ago I found myself doing an author/illustrator presentation at an elementary school on the same day that Mark Stamaty was making an appearance. He actually sat in the audience during my presentation, all those years after I had taken his class, and speaking in front of him, I felt like the kid who had hit a home run in the big game in front of all his friends and relatives! I’m very lucky to be able to do picture books, but I owe my career to the generosity of mentors. Rutgers is a great mentoring conference, and that’s why it is so important to me.

Thank you, Brian, for the hundreds of hours you’ve put into RUCCL. I’m sure everyone who has ever attended is full of gratitude, too. Many kudos to you on OWL BOY.

And OH BOY, you can win OWL BOY from Holiday House!

Just leave a comment to be entered. One comment per person, please. A winner will be announced in two weeks.

Good luck! 

I grew up with a funny guy.

walterdad

(No, Walter Matthau isn’t my dad, but I don’t have a digital photo of my father and he looks just like Mr. Wilson from “Dennis the Menace.” So this will have to do.)

Anyway, he’s the one who passed along his sharp, dry humor to me. He was actually a Chemical Patent Attorney for a large petroleum company and used to speak about opening a law firm together when I grew up. Only being a Chemical Patent Attorney is quite possibly the career of my nightmares. I suppose his job is why he’s so funny—it didn’t provide gas for humor so he had to create his own laughs. (It did provide gas, though.)

A simple man, he has means but always preferred to live in a small apartment or condo. When I asked him why he didn’t buy something larger, he quipped, “Why? You can only be in one room at a time.”

mcmansion

Smart, Pops.

So I began thinking about this concept recently…as it applies to picture books, of course. You know I suffer from PBOTB (Picture Books on the Brain, not Picture Book Off-Track Betting). Here’s what I came up with:

“You can only be on one spread at a time.”

Aha!!!

So what does this mean?

When you’re finished with your tale, cut it in pieces.

You may already be aware of my layout templates:

selfends

Look at each spread of your story individually and ask yourself some questions:

  • Does it move the story forward?
  • Does it provide a page-turn surprise?
  • Does it provide ample opportunity for illustrative interpretation or an illustrative subtext?
  • Is it interesting and entertaining? Does the reader want to linger?
  • Is it active?
  • Does it have too much text?
  • Does the scene change from the previous page?

Remember, you can only be on one spread at a time. Make each one MATTER.

Maybe you’d like to comment with your interpretation of this witty Pops-inspired picture book phrase…? Please do!

SD_01

And now, the winner of my March giveaway–Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell’s SPECIAL DELIVERY!

DIANA DELOSH!

Congratulations, Diana, I’ll be emailing you!

Now I usually end with something witty, so I called my dad for comment. He says being a children’s book author is quite possibly the career of his nightmares. And with that, he’s ready for a nap…albeit a scary one.

If you read my recent #ReFoReMo reverie, you know that I go out on a lot of dates. No, I’m not trying to relive my college days. I’m taking myself out on these dates…TO THE BOOKSTORE. There I get to sip a half-caff vanilla chai latte with a twist and pore over the newest picture books. Of course, I love the ones with a twist. Twist is the word-o-the-day, boys and girls!

So here are three books that I just had to buy. And, I’ll tell you why. PLUS, I’ll even chat with one of the creators and give away his book. Because it’s just that “special.”

In no particular order…

MY GRANDMA’S A NINJA
by Todd Tarpley and Danny Chatzikonstantinou

grandmaninja

Why I love it:
It’s absurd—imagine an elderly lady in pearls and readers with a stealthy, drop-from-the-ceiling approach. Her grandson Ethan is dubbed the cool kid for his zip-lining ninja nana, but her antics begin to wear on him and his friends. However, Grandma has a plan! (Plus there’s a twist!) Humor and heart abound in this tale, which is always a kickin’ combination.

.

HOME
by Carson Ellis

homecarsonellis

Why I love it:
The illustrations evoke the warmth and security of home. The reader travels around the world—real and imaginary—to view the variety of abodes that people, animals, even a Norse god, call their own. Then the author/illustrator circles back to her own home, her studio, the very place she created this charming book. She closes by asking the reader, “Where is your home?” What a heartfelt discussion HOME will elicit. It makes you want to hug the book tight. I can’t think of a better snuggle-up-at-home read right now.

.

SPECIAL DELIVERY
by Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell

SD_01

Why I love it:
Oh, the adventure! Oh, the absurdity! Sadie wants to deliver an elephant to her favorite aunt who “lives almost completely alone and could really use the company.” Sadie enlists many methods to get her treasure to Great-Aunt Josephine…by plane, by train, even by alligator. Two surprises come at the end—we finally learn the meaning of “almost” and we also know Sadie is a girl who stays true to her word.

SD_03

The illustrations by Matthew Cordell are a perfect accompaniment to this quirky tale, like mashed potatoes with gravy. One just makes the other even better. So I asked him about his process for SPECIAL DELIVERY. (Sadly, no mashed potatoes were involved.)

Special Delivery has a very loose, sketchy style. How did you arrive upon that design for the story?

My style in general has always been rather loose and sketchy. Early on I was a bit more timid about it, but as years have passed, I think it’s gotten looser and sketchier, and I’m happy about that. In my conversations with Phil about this, I think he tailored the story a bit to my art style and approach, and I really took it to the brink (or at least as close as I’ve yet come) with my loosey-goosey attack of pen to paper based on his story. The book is very fast-paced and madcap, which goes hand in hand with a very fast-paced and madcap line.

SD_04

The cover is a clever play on the famous “Inverted Jenny” postage stamp. How did you come up with that idea?

invertedjennyThis was really interesting… Usually the creation of a book cover is a long, drawn out, sometimes-grueling process. So many people at the publisher and beyond have to be satisfied with the book cover before it’s given approval. And it usually comes late in the process of making the book (at least it does for me). But I had just finished sharing the first sketch dummy with Phil and Neal Porter (our terrific editor) and the moment I hung up the phone, the cover image zapped into my head. One of the most–if not THE most–famous US postage stamps, the “Inverted Jenny” was the perfect solution to our cover. Not only does Special Delivery feature a wild ride in an old biplane, but it features stamps and other fun things postal. Heck, it’s called SPECIAL DELIVERY! A tip of our hats to this famous stamp was the answer. Roughly and quickly, I sketched up my re-imagining of the Inverted Jenny and emailed it to the guys I’d only just spoken to. And they loved it as much as I did. Thankfully, when we ran it up and up the flagpole at Macmillan, we got thumbs up all the way.

What was your favorite part of the entire project?

I love so much about this book. Its wild, free, and fun spirit. The story. The art and design of it. It is so fast and spontaneous and fearless in many ways. But the thing I love the most about SPECIAL DELIVERY–and I’m about to get sticky sweet here, but so be it–is the bond that formed between Neal and Phil and me during the making of it. There was this synergy happening as the book came together in its various stages, and our heads were always in the same electric place. I enjoyed getting to know them both better in the process and sharing in this thing together and being completely on the same page throughout. There was some weird, good magic at work here.

I’ll say! The story feels absolutely timeless, as if it’s been around a long time and will be a favorite for years to come.

And why don’t you see for yourself, blog readers? I’m giving away a copy of SPECIAL DELIVERY to one random commenter. Please comment only once. I’ll randomly select a winner in two weeks and deliver it right to you! Good luck!

SD_09

It’s come to my attention that we need a collective noun for children’s book writers and authors.

I am therefore inviting your input.

If you’d like to suggest one for writers and a different one for authors, please feel free. (Can’t forget illustrators!) Leave as many collective nouns as you’d like. Of course, you get points for cleverness. I’ll pull them together in a future post so we can vote on them. And then, perhaps, when we see a gathering of these wonderful folks, we’ll know what to call them.

For those of you who didn't grow up on 80's music, this is A Flock of Seagulls.

For those of you who didn’t grow up on 80’s music, this is A Flock of Seagulls.

First, let’s announce some winners!

The winner of the LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD F&G is:

 NATALIE LYNN TANNER!

The winner of Dev Petty’s I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG is:

JHAYSLETT!

Congratulations! Be on the lookout for an email from me.

boatload

…So this week I did a boatload of Skype visits for World Read Aloud Day. Almost TWO DOZEN! Phew. My own kids are fed up with THE MONSTORE, as evidenced by my elder daughter’s video—mouthing the words and rolling her eyes while I read in another room. (She thought she’d get away with it, but I found it on her iPad! Oooooh! BUSTED!)

One of the most frequently asked questions during these Skypes was: “Out of all your books, which is your favorite?”

Now I know some authors claim—like parents of multiple children—to love them all equally, to not to have a favorite. But I do. And I’m not ashamed about it!

It’s whatever I just finished writing. My newest manuscript.

Once I complete a new story that my agent approves, I just go NUTSO with excitement. I dream of who may acquire it, which rock star illustrator will be tapped to illustrate it…plus I imagine Merry Makers creating the must-have accompanying plush toy. (Or maybe even a stuffed me!)

taramerrymakers

Yeah, I told you I go NUTSO.

There’s something about a fresh story. It’s a feeling I wish I could recreate as I BEGIN a new story, but often with a new manuscript, there’s a lotta chewing of fingernails (which is why I haven’t been able to put on my new Jamberry nails).

jamberrynails

How can you recreate that newly-subbed, fresh-and-juicy, shinier-than-Turtlewax feel?

The best way out is always through. Write something new and get-r-done. If writing were easy, then everyone would have a published book. There should be joyous celebrating once something is finished and submission-ready. If you’re feeling just ho-hum, that manuscript is not pumped up full of YOU.

Photo credit: Scott Beale

Photo credit: Scott Beale

That’s another thing I want to talk about today, finding YOU as a writer.

Years ago, when I was writing flash fiction for adults, I stumbled across a marvelous piece in an anthology. It was about two young women with a strained relationship going back to their parents’ house to pack it up. Their mother was fading away, doing strange things, leaving herself bizarre notes to capture pieces of her memory. The sisters found one of these notes in the bookshelf, held each other sobbing, and then laughed at the absurdity of it all. The story was so lyrically written, and so poignant. Why couldn’t I have written that?

So I tried writing something based upon that style—that lovely, lilting, poetic style. Like a sunset watercolor over the rippling bay. And you know what? It stunk. Worse than the bay.

Even though it was stilted and forced, that story taught me a little about who I was as a writer…by showing me who I WAS NOT. It was one step in finding my true voice.

I always say no piece of writing is wasted time. It’s all practice. Even the junk is worth something!

So, tell me, out of all that you’ve written, what is your favorite?

Please leave a comment (with a link, if appropriate).

May you share a boatload.

Oh, rejection!

We all face it. Even published authors. Even Jane Yolen!

This is how I consider rejections now, after seven years in the business:

rejected

But when you’re still unpublished, rejections somehow hurt more.

Besides applying a baking-powder-and-vinegar salve three times daily, how do you ease the sting?

Welcome author Emma Walton Hamilton. She will teach you what those rejections really mean and how you can use them to your advantage.

EmmaHAMILTONby Emma Walton Hamilton

Manuscripts are like children–we birth them, nurture them, pour our heart and soul into helping them be the best they can be. Then we send them into the world, praying they have what it takes to succeed. If we’re lucky, and we’ve done our job right (we hope), they’ll fly. But inevitably, we–and they–must muddle through setbacks and tests of resolve before they can claim their place in the world.

One of those setbacks is rejection. Manuscript rejections are an unavoidable part of the writing life…but that doesn’t mean they aren’t painful. It also doesn’t mean they can’t be converted into learning opportunities. This is such an important distinction that Julie Hedlund and I devote an entire module to “Interpreting Rejections and Dealing with Feedback” in our new Complete Picture Book Submissions System, which we created to support picture book authors through every step of the submissions process, since we know firsthand how challenging that process can be. (Check out Julie’s recent blog post exposing one of her earliest query letters.)

Converting the experience of rejection from personally devastating to professionally useful begins with bearing a few important things in mind:

  1. Manuscripts get rejected, not writers themselves. Meaning, this is not about you–it’s about the manuscript not being a right fit with that agent or publisher.
  2. It’s business–not personal. The reasons for the rejection may in fact have less to do with the quality of your writing and more to do with the focus of the agent or publisher at this time, or the limitations of their current resources.
  3. Hundreds of famous children’s authors received rejection letters on what later became their most successful manuscripts, including Dr. Seuss, J.K Rowling, Madeline L’Engle, Stephanie Meyer, Meg Cabot, C.S. Lewis and many, many more. (Check out Literary Rejections if you don’t believe me, or could use a little company for that misery.)
  4. The wrong fit at one place can be the right fit somewhere else. Moreover, that somewhere else will serve you and your manuscript better than the first place would have, because they “got it.”
  5. There may be a gift accompanying the rejection at best, insight into how to improve your manuscript or query, and maximize your chances of nailing the next submission; and at least, the opportunity to strengthen your commitment and resolve. (An old acting teacher of mine used to say, “Never mind the talent, do you have the tenacity?” This is just as relevant for writers.)

Maybe the rejection includes some feedback worth considering (although it’s important to distinguish between meaningful feedback and form letter feedback, which is something else we focus on in the Complete Picture Book Submissions System… it’s easy to confuse the two.) But even without feedback, every rejection is an opportunity to revisit your query and/or your manuscript. Is it really submission-ready? Is it structurally sound, formatted correctly, typo-free? Is every word essential?

Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself during this time. Sending your creative work into the world can make you highly vulnerable, and it’s easy to lose perspective. Do whatever you do to nurture and reinvigorate yourself: take walks, meditate, see a movie, go shopping, get a massage. Seek the company and communion of fellow writers for support, learning and perspective. Most of all, keep writing–generate new material to keep building your portfolio, stay in the flow, and avoid having all your eggs in one basket. That is, after all, the real work of being a writer.

Picture Book Submissions System

Emma Walton Hamilton is a best-selling children’s book author, editor and writing coach. With her mother, actress/author Julie Andrews, Emma has co-authored over thirty children’s books, seven of which have been on the NY Times Bestseller list, including The Very Fairy Princess series (#1 Bestseller), Julie Andrews Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, the Dumpy the Dump Truck series, Simeon’s Gift, The Great American Mousical, and Thanks to You–Wisdom from Mother and Child. Emma’s own book, RAISING BOOKWORMS: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, premiered as a #1 best-seller on Amazon in the literacy category and won a Parent’s Choice Gold Medal.

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.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive kidlit news, writing tips, book reviews & giveaways via email. Wow, such incredible technology! Next up: flying cars.

Join 6,040 other followers

My Picture Books


Available now at:

Coming Soon:


Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015


Random House
October 2015

NORMAL NORMAN
illustrated by S.Britt
Sterling Children's Books
March 2016

WAY PAST BEDTIME
illustrator TBA
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Fall 2016

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY
illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
2017

My Other Books

Blog Topics

Archives

Twitter Updates

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,040 other followers