Boy, I am buried in prizes to give away! I’ve opened Random.org to help me select them all, so let’s get started…

Winner of an original sketch by IF MY LOVE WERE A FIRE TRUCK’s Jeff Mack:
Katie Giorgio

Winner of BONAPARTE FALLS APART by Margery Cuyler:
Tracy Abell

Winner of FORT BUILDING TIME by Megan Wagner Lloyd:
Tiffany Dickinson

Winner of Lori Alexander’s FAMOUSLY PHOEBE Prize Pack:
Ashley Bankhead

Winner of A COOKED UP FAIRYTALE by Penny Parker Klostermann:
Sandi Lawson

Winner of TRUCK, TRUCK, GOOSE by Tammi Sauer:
Sharon Coffey

Winner of MASTERPIECE MIX by Roxie Munro:
Julie Lacombe

Winner of HELLO GOODBYE DOG by Maria Gianferrari:
Sheri Dillard

Winner of SHARK LADY by Jess Keating:
Lauren Kerstein

Winner of RACE! by Sue Fliess:
Alicia Minor

Congratulations to all the winners…and be on the lookout for an email from me.

Next up, I’m busy planning the STORYSTORM idea challenge for January.

Registration will go live the last week in December right here on this blog…and remain open through the first week in January.

I’ve already confirmed the following guest bloggers for January:

  • Doreen Cronin
  • Heidi Stemple
  • Alicia Padron
  • Jarrett Lerner
  • Annie Silvestro
  • Robin Newman
  • Corey Rosen Schwartz
  • Kate Dopirak & Mary Peterson
  • Miranda & Baptiste Paul

Many more to come. I’m putting on my big girl pants and getting organized…which is not easy for me…I think messes are bestest for my creativity. (Didn’t mean to rhyme, but hey, let’s go with it.)

 

 

Today IF MY LOVE WERE A FIRE TRUCK illustrator Jeff Mack takes us on a whirlwind ride through his creation process.

Jeff, when you first read a manuscript, how do you begin generating the style and vision of what the art will look like?

I start by making some really rough scribbles on the paper. I don’t think too hard about it. I just sketch whatever first comes to my mind. The sketches suggest the general shapes of the things in the picture because, at that point, I have only a vague idea of what the picture might look like. Some of the scribbly marks may serendipitously give me ideas for details that I didn’t think of at first. So I stay open to those possibilities as I redraw the picture over and over. Then I start adding a range of values in black and white.

For FIRE TRUCK, I used a combination of watercolor, cut paper, and digital to get the style I wanted. So my next step was to create the characters in watercolor and cut paper. Then using my computer, I added the background colors. On some of the pages, such as the lion image, the cut paper really stands out. On other pages, like the dragon image, I used the computer to blur the edges a bit.

FIRE TRUCK went through many versions in the sketch stage. For instance, I considered animating each of the vehicles that the characters rode on. I also created a version that included lots of different fathers with both sons and daughters. But, in the end, I decided that one father and one son was the best way to lead the reader through the story.

For IF MY LOVE WERE A FIRE TRUCK, you insert surprising moments of humor, such as the scene where the small dragon’s fire enables the young boy to toast his marshmallow. How do you arrive at funny additions like this?

One of the things that drew me to the story was how Luke Reynolds’ text leaves plenty of room for visual interpretation. In the best picture books, where the text and images support each other, leaving this kind of space for the illustrations this is the mark of a highly skilled and clever author. Overall, FIRE TRUCK has a perfect little story arc. At the same time, each of Luke’s rhymes suggests a story of its own. So when I was thinking about each image, I wondered what else could be going on in the scene. What details could I add to make the scene spin off into its own story? What will give the readers something extra fun to talk about? On the dragon page, it’s the marshmallows. On the elephant page, the monkey has swiped the dad’s watch and hat. On the whale page, they’ve hooked a giant blue whale from their tiny fishing boat.

How do you decide what projects to work on, and how long does it take for you to craft the art for an entire book?

I take on few stories by other authors because most of the time I’m working on projects I have written myself. So I have to really love a story to illustrate it. When I’m considering a manuscript, I ask myself “What job does this story do?” or “What important thing will this book add to a young reader’s life?” I ask the same questions of my own stories.

Here’s what I wrote to my editor at Doubleday, Frances Gilbert, about the FIRE TRUCK manuscript:

“Have I mentioned how much I love this book? When I took on the project, it was Luke’s clever, lyrical, emotionally rich poetry that sold me on it. I love that this is about fathers and sons expressing their feelings for each other. Too many guys grow up in our culture with pressure to be tough and to hide their emotions. Luke’s story encourages them to communicate their feelings starting at an early age. He’s given kids and parents something they can really share and connect over. And the wild range of vehicles and animals make it so much fun! I imagine some parents will get a little teary over the ending too.”

It takes me about a month to make the dummy. That’s the process of drawing and redrawing and re-redrawing the sketches. The finished color pictures usually take me between two to three months depending on the style and the amount of detail.

What do you hope readers remember from your artwork in FIRE TRUCK?

When I was young, there were often odd little details that stuck with me about certain illustrations. For example, I loved the way H. A. Rey drew donuts in one of the Curious George books. Do I know why I became fixated on his donuts? I do nut. But I do know that I tried to draw donuts the same way. It got me practicing and working on my own drawing skills. So I guess I hope readers notice and remember some of the little details in the illustrations and that those might inspire them to make their own drawings. By the way, my three favorite images in FIRE TRUCK are the rocket page, the parade page, and the dragon page. But I’m sure readers will have their own favorites different from mine.

What’s your favorite snack while you work?

Coffee, Mint Chocolate Brownie Cliff Bars, more coffee, Skinny Pop popcorn, and then a lot more coffee.

Thanks for the fascinating inside look at your illustration process, Jeff! 

Blog readers, leave one comment below for a chance to win an original sketch by Jeff Mack.

I’m overdue selecting winners for many giveaways, so I will announce them all next MONDAY, just in time to give as holiday gifts!

Jeff Mack studied art at SUNY Oswego, Syracuse University, and Scuola Lorenzo De Medici in Florence, Italy.

In 2000, he moved to NYC to try to sell his stories to publishing companies. He didn’t have much luck at first. After a few more years of practice and persistence, he became a published author in 2008. 

Since then, he’s written and illustrated a long list of picture books, chapter books, and early readers. And his book GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS, which has only four words in it, has been published in twelve different languages!

Learn more about Jeff at JeffMack.com.

Today I’m posting as part of Tracy Marchini’s #Thankful4forPBs, interviewing picture book author Shelley Kinder about her debut book, NOT SO SCARY JERRY.

You can enter to win JERRY and all twelve participating books by visiting #Thankful4PBs at Tracy’s blog! 

Shelley, tells us a bit about your participating book…

NOT SO SCARY JERRY is a quirky monster story about friendship, individuality, and accepting people as they are. The twists and turns will keep readers on their toes (and giggling too).

What are three things your protagonist is grateful for, and why?

  1. Jerry is grateful for hugs because they make him feel all warm and gushy inside.
  2. He’s also grateful for lasagna because it’s the perfect middle-of-the-night snack.
  3. And Jerry loves his pink watch because it glows in the dark, making nighttime not so scary. Plus, it’s quite a fashion statement!

As the author, what picture book(s) are you thankful for, and why?

There are so many wonderful books, but I do love NO DAVID! by David Shannon for its simplicity and wonderful illustrations. And because my kids love it too.

Please share one person that’s made a big impact on your picture book career, and how?

I can’t narrow it down to just one person. I’d have to say that my mom and also my husband have played big roles in my career as a writer. My mom always believed in me and pushed me to follow my dreams. I always knew I could do what I put my mind to because of her affirming words in my life. My husband has always been supportive, as well, and he’s so good at reading my first drafts and sharing his thoughts on what could make them better.

What are you hopeful for (or looking forward to) in 2018?

I’m looking forward to my second picture book, THE MASTERPIECE, being published in the spring. It’s a faith-based book about God painting the sunrise. My mom is illustrating the book, and the process of working with her on this project has been amazing. It’s going to be beautiful! She doesn’t even realize how talented she is.

Thanks, Shelley…I am thankful you shared your story with us!

Shelley lives in Indiana with her not-so-scary husband and their four little monsters. Some of Shelley’s favorite things are family, photography, music, and sushi. NOT SO SCARY JERRY is her first picture book.

Learn more at ShelleyKinder.com.

Click the image below for the #Thankful4forPBs giveaway entry page!

by Jenna Grodzicki

2015 was the year I decided to finally give writing a go. Armed with my first idea, I began writing my first manuscript. Fast forward nine months—I was still working on that same story. Don’t get me wrong; it needed a LOT of work. But I hadn’t come up with any other ideas. I started to worry I was destined to be a one-trick pony.

Then I heard about Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo). I was hopeful this challenge would get my creative juices flowing and help me generate some new ideas. And it did. I had just read David Michael Slater’s guest post about listening for ideas in misunderstandings, jokes, and silly expressions, when my husband and I started a conversation about our favorite place, Cape Cod. We spend time there every summer, and there are always several great white shark sightings. My husband was joking and said, “What if those sharks were just looking for friends?” BOOM! There was a new idea.

The rest of the month provided more and more inspiration. While I didn’t manage to form 30 ideas, the handful I did come up with fueled the fire to keep me writing. And the shark idea wouldn’t let me go. I wrote and revised and received feedback from my critique group, and then I rewrote and revised some more.

I submitted my polished manuscript to many agents and publishers and received a lot of rejections. But as they say, it only takes one yes. Last November, I got a response from Callie Metler-Smith of Clear Fork Publishing. She loved my story!

Now, one year later, my very first idea from my very first Storystorm is about to become a book! FINN FINDS A FRIEND will be released on November 7th from Clear Fork Publishing.

Thank you so much, Tara, for organizing such a wonderful challenge. From the guest bloggers to the support from other participants, Storystorm has become something I look forward to every year. I can’t wait to see what inspiration Storystorm 2018 brings!

Storystorm 2018 begins in January, but you can register in late December. Follow this blog (email sign-up in left column) for all the details…


Jenna Grodzicki lives in Connecticut with her husband, two crazy awesome kids, a cat named Pixie, and a dog named Ozzy. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College and a Master’s in Education from the University of New England. Her first book, PIXIE’S ADVENTURE, was awarded two Honorable Mentions in the 2017 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. She recently traded in her librarian hat to become a full-time writer. At all hours of the day (and night) she can be found at her desk, drinking iced coffee and working on her next story. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Jenna LOVES to read! She also enjoys skiing and cheering for the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. Visit her website at JennaGrodzicki.com.

Photo credit: Richard Trenner

Margery Cuyler, editor extraordinaire, was the featured professional at a NJ-SCBWI first page session nine years ago. That evening I listened to everything this sharp kidlit veteran had to say and left with a notebook full of invaluable tips. Her comments about my writing gave me the confidence to keep working toward my dream of becoming published.

Although she no longer edits books, Margery Cuyler has continued to write them—and this fall she’s releasing three new titles, including her 50th, the humorous monster tale BONAPARTE FALLS APART, illustrated by Will Terry.

     

I was eager to talk to Margery about her career because she has ridden all the ups and downs and twists and turns of the children’s book market…and come out with her name ABOVE the title.

Margery, you have been successful in this business for more than forty years as an author and editor. What is different in children’s publishing now that you are launching your 50th book as opposed to when you were releasing your first book?

When I applied for my first publishing job in 1970, publishing was mainly a cottage industry; children’s books depended largely on library sales. Most publishers, for example Charles Scribner’s Sons and Harper & Row, focused on acquiring excellent books, not necessarily books that would elicit strong sales. The editors, such as Ursula Nordstrom at Harper, had a powerful voice in deciding what should be acquired, not necessarily consulting with the sales/marketing divisions.

All that changed when independent houses were sold to publicly traded corporations whose eye was mainly on sales growth. In addition, the chains—Borders and Barnes & Noble—became a significant vehicle for selling books as library funding contracted due to governmental budget cuts. Sales and marketing became increasingly involved in editorial decisions, thinking about the consumer as well as the librarian as their end customer.

Today, of course, publishers are selling books through many venues, maximizing exposure through online marketing. In addition, authors are expected to do more of their own marketing, utilizing social media as a tool by which to communicate. It’s really a whole different ballgame, although I firmly believe that editorial, design, marketing, and sales teams continue to work toward publishing excellent books, but excellent books that will sell. That’s the difference between now and 47 years ago.

I have heard recently that the market is saturated with picture books…but with good reason. What makes them more relevant than ever? What makes them the bright spot in publishing today?

I hear the same thing—that the picture-book market is robust. I think it’s for several reasons: parents/grandparents seem to prefer to introduce their children to literature by offering them books that allow for a cozy, intimate reading experience. In addition, a finely produced picture book might be a child’s only exposure to high culture. Stunning artwork, a well-written text, and high quality paper and packaging could contribute to a child’s ability later to discriminate between good quality and poor quality books. I guess I sound like an elitist, which isn’t quite accurate because truthfully I’m happy if kids are exposed to any kind of book rather than no books at all. Still, I am partial to picture books that are works of art. I firmly believe they help build the interior architecture of a child and I think many adult buyers and librarians know this.

Finally, publishers have their eye on China, as China has woken up to the importance of picture books and has been active in acquiring the rights to English-language books to translate and sell in the Chinese marketplace. And last, a beautiful picture book is the perfect antidote to the hatred and tension in the larger world. Picture books are a great escape, and I’ve noticed that recently more have been published on the themes of kindness and peace.

What theme most often recurs in your work and why do you keep coming back to it?

biggestbestsnowmanI tend to write about friendship, perhaps because I remember how important my friends were when I was a child. I think all children value good friends, but as with adults, friendships can be challenged when trust is violated or circumstances, such as a friend moving to another community, destroys the relationship. Conflicting loyalties, shyness, lack of confidence are other psychological barriers to forming strong friendships. I strive for psychological verisimilitude and happy endings, which I hope helps give children the courage to overcome obstacles that impinge on their positive feelings about a friend. And then, too, I like to write humorous stories, since I think children—and the adults reading to them—need a pleasant way to escape some of the raw realities surrounding them in the larger world.

skeletonhiccupsOften my humorous stories (i.e., SKELETON HICCUPS or BONAPARTE FALLS APART) are populated with ghosts, monsters, skeletons, etc., perhaps because I grew up in a house that was built in 1685 and was allegedly haunted. I came from a family of storytellers and artists who loved to make the most of scary characters when we played, and some of those characters have popped up in my books.

Next time you will have to come back and tell us all about that haunted house!

But for now, let’s give away a copy of the punny BONAPARTE FALLS APART, which is now available from Random House/Crown.

bonaparteint

This is the tale of friends who try to help BONAPARTE from falling apart, leading up to the first day of school. It combines Margery’s love of friendship stories with her monstrous sensibilities.

Leave one comment below to enter (US only)...and a winner will be randomly selected before the end of the month! Good luck!

Margery Cuyler has had a distinguished career in the children’s book field. In addition to being the author of 50 children’s books, including the newly released Bonaparte Falls Apart, The Little Fire Truck, and Best Friends (a Step Into Reading title), she has held executive positions at Holiday House, Henry Holt and Company, Golden Books Family Entertainment, Marshall Cavendish, and Amazon Publishing. Although she retired from full time work in 2014, she continues to write and also consults for a variety of companies, including digital llc and PJ Library, a division of The Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Visit her online at MargeryCuyler.com.

This Build-a-Fort Kit was #1 on my kids’ holiday wish list last year. My ten-year-old wanted it. My teenager wanted it. Heck, even *I* wanted it! It’s got blankets, and clothes pins and ropes, oh my!

So when I heard that Megan Wagner Lloyd released a picture book titled FORT BUILDING TIME this week, I knew I had to get her on the blog pronto.

Megan, OMG! Doesn’t every kid (and grown-up kid) LOVE to build a fort? Why do you think that is?

I think part of it must be that when kids make a fort they’ve created a place over which they have complete ownership. They’ve made a place that’s meant to be occupied solely by them (visitors welcome upon invitation, of course!). Kids have so little say over so many aspects of their life—it’s got to be comforting to create this cozy space that they can control.

So how did you know you hit upon a winning subject for a PB?

I try to make sure there’s something that kids can really relate to in my books—something that is universal or near-universal to the kid experience. Fort building fit the bill!

How did you take it from the initial lightbulb idea to a fleshed-out concept?

I went through a lot of drafts, some of which have almost nothing in common except that core love of building forts. I took the manuscript in a lot of different directions, but, to my own surprise, ended up returning to an earlier version in the end, and fine-tuning that. I guess sometimes you have to figure out what’s not working to understand what will work best.

Could you share with us what didn’t work—and how you ultimately came to realize it?

I ended up rewriting the book as a traditional three-act story, with more developed characters. It was cute and fun to write, but I was really happy when my editor ultimately found something special about the earlier—simpler and more lyrical—draft, a version that really held more of my heart.

So when writing picture books, do you recommend that writers follow their heart and instincts more than solid advice that somehow doesn’t resonate?

Hmmm. I’m not sure. Sometimes I get advice that doesn’t resonate, but it’s just not resonating because I’m being stubborn—and later I’ll realize that the advice giver was, in fact, right. But other times I can tell when someone is just not understanding my vision for a project, and what I need to do is either reach out for more feedback from others or else burrow deep into my own perception of the project and try to make it really glow as brightly as possible. In short—I guess I just don’t have all the answers! Most important of all is to press forward and keep trying. Some manuscripts work out, some ultimately don’t find their way. Each project is a unique process and I’m always learning something new.

I always love learning something new. Maybe you can leave us today with your best fort-building tips…?

  1. Embrace the materials you have on hand, whether they be couch cushions, cardboard boxes, blankets, or driftwood. It can be such a great creative exercise for kids (and adults!) to try to figure out how to translate their ideas into reality without buying anything.
  2. For the inside of your fort, you can’t go wrong with a favorite blanket, a stack of books, and a tasty treat.
  3. Don’t forget to invite a friend or sibling to join in the fun! Little brothers or sisters will be especially honored to be invited . . . though they might end up toppling the whole thing!

But toppling over the whole thing can be a lot of fun, too.

Thanks to Megan and Knopf, we are giving away a copy of FORT BUILDING TIME to a lucky blog reader!

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected in about two weeks. (Or longer, as is known to happen on this blog.)

Good luck and happy building!

Megan Wagner Lloyd is the author Finding Wild and Fort-Building Time, as well as the upcoming picture books Building Books, Paper Mice, and The ABCs of Catching Zs. She lives with her family in the Washington D.C. area. For more about Megan and to sign up for her newsletter, stop by meganwagnerlloyd.com. And you can find her on Instagram @meganwagnerlloyd.

Hiya, friends and writers! It’s Kidlitbot here. I’m brand-new to your world, recently created by my editor-friend Alli Brydon! As she’s been oiling my joints, polishing my chrome, and booting up my systems, I’ve had a chance to take a peek around your human world a little bit. And boy, is it full of awesome stuff! Dogs, amusement parks, beaches, outer space, school…Twitter. I want to learn about it all! And I’ve heard that you folks love telling stories.

So, Alli and I have decided to bring you #kidlitbot. Here: I’ll let her tell you more about it, since it was kinda her idea.

Since starting my new children’s book editorial business, Alli Brydon Creative, I’ve been thinking about ways I can give back to a community which has given so much to me over the span of my career. So, I dreamed up #kidlitbot with the hopes of bringing more children’s book stories into the world! There are quite a few great picture book writing challenges already out there (like Tara’s own Storystorm), which energize authors to conceptualize book ideas and execute them. But I wanted to offer a new kind of challenge to kidlit writers, one that supplies prompts to help inspire those who might be stuck for ideas.

Introducing…#kidlitbot, your weekly kidlit writing prompt!

At 9am each Monday, we will post to Twitter a little tidbit to inspire you to start a writing exercise which will then hopefully wind up as a story. #kidlitbot is an idea generator for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators to use as a springboard to write a first draft. If the prompt inspires you, please feel free to “like” it, retweet it, or comment on it using the hashtag. You can even, if you’re comfortable doing so, post a line or two from your work-in-progress. Our hope—mine and Kidlitbot’s—is that our kernels of ideas will encourage and aid you in your writing process.

OK, back to you, Bot!

Thanks, Alli. 😊 (← I just learned about emojis while she was talking to you!) And big thanks to Tara for allowing us to spread the word here on her blog.

The best way to participate is to follow Alli on Twitter @allibrydon and look out for the hashtag #kidlitbot (named after me) every Monday morning! Write me some cool stories, OK guys?

Alli Brydon is an independent editorial professional located in the New York City area. With nearly 15 years of experience developing, editing, and selling children’s books with US publishing houses, she has spent a large part of her career nurturing writers and illustrators to reach their potential. Having worked both as an acquiring editor and as an agent for children’s book author/illustrators, Alli has a unique blend of skills and an insider’s view of the industry which she brings to all projects. Please drop in at allibrydon.com to learn more to say “hi!”

by Lori Alexander

DVD extras, artist interviews, author’s notes…I love going behind the scenes to learn how my favorite things were created. Here are some tidbits from the making of my latest picture book, FAMOUSLY PHOEBE, by the numbers:

24th idea:
In November 2014, deep into Picture Book Idea Month (now Storystorm), I jotted down my 24th idea: “A girl’s family takes so many pictures of her, she thinks she might be famous.” My daughter had been pestering me to take a picture of her new haircut and post it to Facebook. She was only seven! Kids these days. (Lesson learned: inspiration is everywhere.)

5 pitches:
After completing the month-long challenge, I had 30+ snippets of story ideas (some better than others). I selected my favorite five and crafted them into two-sentence pitches, like jacket flap copy. I emailed the five ideas to my agent, Kathleen Rushall, to see if she fancied any of them. FAMOUSLY PHOEBE stood out the most to her, so I expanded that idea into a complete story. (Lesson learned: a second opinion can be helpful, be it from an agent or a trusted critique partner)

9 critiques:
Once I finished my first draft, I sent it to various critique buddies, a few at a time. After receiving feedback and letting suggestions resonate for a couple days, I made revisions. Then the new draft went out to more fresh eyes. PHOEBE had at least nine critiques before I shared the completed story with my agent. (Lesson learned: take the time to get it right)

12 art notes:
Too many? Not sure, but there were lots of spots with little jokes and no way to understand them from the text alone. My critique partners didn’t seem bothered by them and neither did my agent. She loved the story and we were ready to submit. Hot dog! (Lesson learned: I’ll never know if I’m adding too many art notes)

13 rejections:
Ugh. Was it the art notes? We received no concrete feedback from editors on changes to be made. Some already had new-sibling stories in their pipeline. Others just weren’t feeling it. My agent continued to submit to editors, reminding me of her ever-encouraging mantra, “It only takes one.” (Lesson learned: don’t give up)

1 sale:
Sterling Children’s Books made an offer, about three months into the submission process. Hooray! (Lesson learned: rejection stinks but persistence pays.)

2 editors:
The acquiring editor for FAMOUSLY PHOEBE, Zaneta Jung, left Sterling about a year after the sale. Zaneta really “got” Phoebe and helped me revise the story into something funnier and sweeter than the original. I was crushed to see her go. But my new editor, Christina Pulles, has been amazing. She included me every step of the way, sharing sketches, color art, covers ideas. She listened to my suggestions and has been incredibly helpful on the marketing end of things. (Lesson learned: roll with the punches)

1 big thanks:
To Tara, for coordinating Storystorm and for sharing so much valuable information on her blog year-round, and for letting me celebrate the release of FAMOUSLY PHOEBE here, too. And get ready for your own success stories, picture book writers. Because…

89 days:
Storystorm 2018 is right around the corner!

1 giveaway:
Lori is giving away a signed copy of FAMOUSLY PHOEBE and a bunch of other Phoebe freebies. Leave a comment below to enter. A random winner will be selected in about two weeks. (Lesson learned: it’s fun to win free stuff!)

Lori Alexander is the author of BACKHOE JOE (Harper Children’s), FAMOUSLY PHOEBE (Sterling Children’s) and the upcoming ALL IN A DROP, a chapter book biography of scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She happily shares the spotlight with her husband and two children under the star-filled skies of Tucson, AZ. You can find out more about Lori on her website at lorialexanderbooks.com or on Twitter @LoriJAlexander.

Tonight the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art will present the winners of its prestigious Carle Honors. One recipient is selected in each of four categories: Artist, Angel, Mentor and Bridge.

 

I asked the honorees to answer one important question about the state of our craft and business, and I hope to elicit more responses from attendees this evening.

Children’s literature has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the last few years (as if people are rediscovering an art form that never faded away). What in particular makes picture books more relevant today than ever before?


Ed Young, Artist

Shadows dancing on cave walls by the crackling fire pit where an oral story is told under a starry sky….

Fast forward to a lone finger sliding make believe pages on a tiny screen where words and pictures are viewed in silence in pre-ordered sequences.

Yes, progress indeed has been made in the secured comfort of a home where everything is convenient and predictable. But at what price? Meanwhile, the heart is lost.

I came to America to learn making shelters for physical people, unwittingly ending by creating sanctuaries for impoverished inner ones.

Paper picture books are tiny lights in an increasingly dark and dehumanizing world of robots. Institutions like the free libraries and Eric Carle Museum provide refuge to keep those lights alive and thriving.

They keep us connected.


Dr. John Y. Cole, Angel
Historian, Library of Congress

The versatile and vibrant picture book has become an increasingly important part of the basic fabric of the Library of Congress annual National Book Festival. Since the first festival on September 8, 2001, dozens of picture book authors and illustrators have spoken directly to audiences, young and old; Eric Carle himself was featured in 2002 in one of the two pavilions for children and young adults. In 2004 children’s illustrator Floyd Cooper designed the cover of the festival’s printed program, inaugurating a tradition of featuring a well-known artist each year. A “Picture Book” pavilion in 2014 highlighted 11 writers and illustrators; in 2015 the number climbed to 16. Roz Chast was the featured artist at the 2017 festival; another popular favorite was graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, who also has served as the Library’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the past two years.

 
Bank Street Writers Lab, Mentor
Represented by Dr. Cynthia Weill, Director of the Center for Children’s Literature

My sense is that there are several reasons for the rebirth of children’s books and their relevance in the world.

Parents have realized that a picture book cannot be replaced with an e-book device. Young children need and want tactile experiences. They want to feel the pages of a book. They want to carry them. Young children may gnaw on a board book. It isn’t quite the same experience with a tablet.

Secondly, publishers are becoming more attuned to diverse writers and the point of views and experiences they can share. This helps more children to see themselves in the pages of a book and ultimately to want to read.

Thirdly, parents and educators are also more aware that children must be exposed to someone else’s experiences to grow. There is more encouragement to read books outside of one’s own reality.

Finally, publishers are now able to offer more timely subject matter on issues such as refugees, protest and the environment. These books help parents and teachers help children make sense of the world at a time when it is very necessary.

The fourth honoree is Anthea Bell in the Bridge Category, for translating foreign children’s books into English. She will be represented at the Awards this evening by her son, Oliver Kamm.

To learn more about The Carle Honors, please visit The Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Bid TODAY on original art to benefit the museum. Find treasures by Sandra Boynton, Mo Willems, Laurie Keller, Mike Curato and many more celebrated illustrators at 501auctions.com.

Bidding ends tonight at the awards but absentee bids are accepted via the 501auctions website!

 

by Kerri Kokias

I’ve been quietly participating in Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo) since 2009. You know the type, the writer who lurks on the sidelines, observing and taking notes, but not necessarily being vocal in the comments. Well, it’s time for me to speak up!

I owe Storystorm a big THANK YOU for helping me come up with the idea for my debut picture book, SNOW SISTERS!, which is illustrated by Teagan White and being published by Knopf in January.

Actually, many of my current manuscripts incorporate elements of ideas I came up with in Novembers and Januaries past, and Storystorm has also changed the way I recognize and record ideas throughout the year.

I always think it’s funny when Storystorm participants ask, “What counts as an idea?”

For me, it’s any thought that gives me a little tingle or flash of curiosity. I’ve never tried to come up with 30 developed book ideas. Instead I record little bits of inspiration. I may think of a potential character, a structure, a title, a nonfiction topic, a plot or concept idea, or even just a few words that I like the sound of together. I jot the idea down by category and when I’m ready to start a new story I pull out my list and combine ideas from here and there.

For SNOW SISTERS! I had the idea of writing a story in mirrored language in 2010. I took note of the idea but never tried to do anything with it.

In 2012, I made a note about writing a story about sisters who were opposites.

In 2013, I took note when an editor questioned on Twitter why there weren’t any books about characters who hated the snow.

I pulled out my idea list and brainstormed ways that the different past pieces of inspiration could work with that concept. Through the process of writing and revising, the story didn’t end up implementing the ideas in the way I first thought; the sisters aren’t exactly opposite, they just have their own distinct personalities, which gives them room to connect in unexpected ways. And neither hate the snow, they just interact with it differently. And that specific editor didn’t connect with the story…but someone else did!

And now, 8 years after its first piece of inspiration, it’s a book!

So, thank you to Tara, all of her guest bloggers, and all of the participants over the years for keeping Storystorm going strong! I very much look forward to being a participant and guest blogger this coming January.

Kerri’s writing features unique structures, playful language, humor, tension, tenderness, simple text, and complicated characters. She has a good vision for how text and art can work together to tell a complete story. Kerri credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two children, and three dogs.

You can learn more about Kerri at KerriKokias.com. Or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KerriKokias.

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

COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

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