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by Maria Gianferrari

To know me is to know that I love dogs. LOVE them! In fact, all of my fiction picture books currently under contract contain dogs as main characters (and I have several WIPs with dog characters too ☺).

So, to celebrate the release of HELLO GOODBYE DOG, it’s time to say “hello” to some of my favorite dogs, both real and literary:

It all begins with … Becca, the best dog in the universe. She’s a rescue dog from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and she’s the inspiration for many, most, OK ALL of the dog characters in my books. We adopted her when she was six months old. This photo taken by her rescuers, stole my heart.

Now she’s 11 ½, and the perfect writing companion.

Before Becca, there was quirky Elvis, our junk-yard dog, literally adopted from an auto-body shop:

And this is Mac, short for MacTavish, my parents’ dog (more accurately, my brother Michael’s dog):

Apparently, I was infatuated with dogs, even as a young baby. This was my Nonno’s beagle, Socco, and some random pup I was playing with:

Now it’s time to say “hello” to some of my favorite literary dogs…

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: Bob. LOVE his voice—he’s hilarious!

The Penderwick “tails” by Jeanne Birdsall:
Loyal and loving, Hound.

Kate DiCamillo’s Winn Dixie from the eponymous, Because of Winn Dixie, because whose dog doesn’t smile? In our household, we call it the “happy Hund” syndrome. (Hund is German for dog).

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron:
Tried and true, HMS Beagle.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Sweet stray, Wishbone.

Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins:
Rontu/Rontu-Aru—I so wanted to live on an island with my dog, BFF, an introvert’s dream-come-true!

Dismay from the heartbreakingly lovely Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles.

A few other favorites:
Ragweed

Gaston

Daisy

Of course, this doggone good post would not be complete without …
Thyra Heder’s adorable, Jelly:

The Great Houndini, by Danny Chatzikonstantinou:

And last, but not least, Moose, lovingly rendered by Patrice Barton!

And, you guessed it! There’s a new dog in my next fiction book, Operation Rescue Dog, coming from Little Bee in 2018: Lulu! It will be illustrated by Luisa Uribe. Here are two dogs from her book, Un Día, to give you an idea of her style:

Now it’s your turn to say “hello.” Who are your favorite literary dogs?

Leave a comment below, and you’ll be in the running for your very own copy of HELLO GOODBYE DOG! I’m sure that you’ll love Patrice Barton’s illustrations just as much as I do!

Thanks for letting me gush about all these pawsome dogs, Tara!!

HELLO GOODBYE DOG BLOG TOUR
GIVEAWAYS EVERY DAY!!

*Monday, July 24th: Pragmatic Mom + THREE book giveaway!
*Two for Tuesday, July 25th: Librarian’s Quest & Reading for Research
*Wednesday, July 26th: Homemade City
*Thursday, July 27th: Kid Lit Frenzy
*Friday, July 28th: Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
*Monday, July 31st: Picture Books Help Kids Soar
*Tuesday, August 1st: Bildebok
*Wednesday, August 2nd: The Loud Library Lady
*Thursday, August 3rd: DEBtastic Reads!
*Friday, August 4th: Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love

EXTRA: August 25th: Kidlit411—Interview with Patrice Barton

 

by Jess Keating

I can’t remember the exact time that Eugenie popped into my life. It feels like she’s always been there, alongside Jane Goodall, and other amazing scientists who changed the world, as well as my own heart. Back when I was studying zoology in university, I also knew that she was still kicking butt and contributing to science well into her eighties.

The road to SHARK LADY was a twisty one, for sure. One of my goals as an author is to always keep adapting and diversifying, learning new formats and picking up strengths here and there that play off my interests. When I first started writing for publication, I wrote nonfiction for magazines. After branching out into fiction with my middle grade series, I wanted to revisit my first loves and get more into nonfiction again. I’d started a funny expository series about animals, and I knew it was time to branch out. I wanted to create something different that still fit with my overall arc as an author and what I value.

Eugenie Clark

It was at that point that Eugenie crept back onto my radar. I recall reading an article online about her, and how she was still actively diving and sharing her love of sharks with students. Instantly, all of her work I’d read about in university came flooding back, and I knew in my gut that I was onto something. Genie was just one of those woman who inks an impression right on your heart with her passion, especially if you are a young, science-loving kid who wants to change the world.

As an author, I knew Eugenie’s story was perfect for this format, because of the strong, meaningful parallel between herself and the sharks she studied. She was underestimated, and so were her sharks! That’s a feeling that we can all relate to. As a scientist, I also can’t think of a better example of perseverance and the incredible role that curiosity can play in our lives. I wanted readers to be inspired by her story like I was, so I knew I’d have to tell it in such a way that really captured the wonder and excitement she carried for animals her whole life.

Fast forward a few months and dozens of revisions later, and SHARK LADY found it’s home with the same publishing house that gave me my first ever book deal! I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and every time I get sent a message or photo of a young reader enjoying the book, poring over the sharks on the page, I’m grateful that the path of my life overlapped even just a tiny bit with Eugenie’s. I hope it inspires young scientists out there to follow their curiosity wherever it leads. As for writers, nonfiction can be such a powerful force, and I’d love for this book to give you a little boost toward your dreams.

If you’d like to take a swing at nonfiction, I made a video sharing how I approach a new book or idea. It’s part pep talk, part how-to, and I hope it sparks something wonderful with your writing!

Thank you for sharing these valuable tips with us, Jess!

As a zoologist turned middle grade and picture book author, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her MY LIFE IS A ZOO series earned two Kirkus stars, a Red Maple nomination, a Rocky Mountain Book Award nomination, and a spot on the LA Times Summer Book Pick List.

Her quirky nonfiction picture book series kicks off with PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH, with sequels to follow in 2017.

Jess is also the creator, writer and host of Animals for Smart People, a Youtube series about animals, science, and nature.

You can also check out her ‘Write with Jess Keating’ video series, geared towards inspiring young writers in the classroom.

Jess lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves nerdy documentaries, hiking, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids. Visit her at jesskeating.com.

Jess is giving away a copy of SHARK LADY to one lucky blog reader. Leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected in a few weeks.

Good luck…and happy swimming in non-fiction waters! I hope you’re bitten by inspiration and your readers will gobble it up!

Does the cliché belief “women aren’t funny” still exist? Unfortunately, yes. I read a lot of social and psychological mumbo-jumbo to explain why it survives, but it wasn’t witty enough to reblog here. So let’s just do something about it instead.

Share your favorite funny females of kidlit with this hashtag: #FunnyFemalesofKidlit. There are tons of hysterical ladies, so let’s give them the shout-out they deserve.

I’m also giving a shout-out to winners of recent giveaways. (Nice segue, huh?)

(Ooh, that GIF is also apropos for the holiday weekend.)

WAY PAST BEDTIME PRE-ORDER PRIZE PACK
Darcie Durr

TAMMI SAUER’S CARING FOR YOUR LION
Gregory E. Bray

COURTNEY PIPPIN-MATHUR’S DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL
Hannah Holt

LAURIE WALLMARK’S GRACE HOPPER, QUEEN OF CODE
Elizabeth Curry

BEN CLANTON’S NARWHAL & JELLY
Marilyn U.

JOSH FUNK’S THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH
S.E. Schipper

Congratulations, winners. Watch for an email from me.

Didn’t win this time? Don’t fret. More giveaways coming soon…

 

 

WAY PAST BEDTIME is out today!

I was harrumphing and galumphing around the house, complaining that I had no trailer (once again) when my daughter took matters into her own hands…and handed me some video clips. Teenagers—you can’t live with ’em, and you can’t do technology without ’em!

 

Enjoy!

WAY PAST BEDTIME is available in bookstores everywhere.

Get one before bedtime!

by Lydia Lukidis

I spent many years as a puppeteer.

I wrote children’s plays.

I performed in them.

I created little people in the form of string marionettes and I crafted miniature sets.

My highlights were collaborating with Cirque du Soleil and participating in the 2012 World Puppetry Festival in Chengdu, China (with my 9 month old daughter attached to me)!

Then in 2013, I made a huge leap. I decided to leave the world of theater and return to my first love, literature. I wanted to pursue my dream of writing books for children.

What was the first thing I did? I became a member of SCBWI. And that, of course, was the best decision ever! Along with the multitude of resources available, I also learned about the SCBWI Eastern and Western chapters specifically devoted to Canadian authors. Then I began to wonder, what other resources were available for us Canadian authors? And the more I researched the Canuck kidlit and writing scene, the more I discovered how rich it is. Here are a few examples:

After a few years and countless rejection letters, I got my first book published, THE DILLY DALLY BEDTIME ROUTINE. Then I thought to myself, I would love to do school visits! But how?

Luckily, in Quebec we have a program called Culture in the Schools. It’s organized by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, and UNEQ juries the applicants. The program is designed for professional artists, both Anglophone and Francophone. They range from visual artists to dancers to writers. These artists are given the opportunity to visit schools across Quebec, share their craft, and offer workshops to children.

Since I had been giving puppetry and theatre workshops since 1999, I decided to apply to the program. And (yay), I got accepted! I got a shiny new profile in the repertory and got to work. I learned the ins and outs of the program and soon realized it’s extremely well organized. The Minister establishes the day rate for all artists (so we don’t have the pesky task of negotiating fees), and artists also get reimbursed for materials, per diems, gas, and accommodations if necessary. A day consists 3 workshops of 1 hour each, or 2 workshops of 2 hours each. I have come to love the program and school visits have become a significant part of my career. Here I am below, surrounded by the charismatic students at Westpark Elementary School. This was particularly thrilling for me because I attended the school years ago!

I’m happy to have found all these valuable resources in Canada that have helped carve my path as a professional author. Of course, writing is a universal craft. Though writers may hail from different parts of the world, we all share similar adventures and challenges. Thanks to social media, we can easily connect with one another. And I feel grateful for how generous and open the writing community is!

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with thirty three books and eBooks published, along with numerous short stories, poems and plays. Her background is multi-disciplinary and spans the fields of literature, theatre and puppetry. Lydia writes fiction and nonfiction, and also composes educational texts and lesson plans. She is passionate about spreading the love of literacy and has been facilitating workshops for children since 1999.

For more information, please visit lydialukidis.com.

Thank you, Tara, for hosting the very first peek (one year before publication) at the cover for book one of my upcoming chapter book series, BEEP AND BOB (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster), which I write and illustrate.

BeepComp2

Though BEEP AND BOB is my debut series, it is far from the first kidlit book I was supposed to publish. That honor goes to a picture book I wrote years ago. I assembled an illustrated dummy, submitted to the finest publishers (in an envelope with stamps!) and waited for greatness. Of course, for that and a second book, only rejection followed.

Luckily, around that time I found the organization SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). While networking at SCBWI conferences, I found a great community of dedicated and generous creators, always there with support. I also found an agent, who picked up my first middle-grade novel. She began to submit and got some genuine interest from well-known editors. Once again, I waited for greatness. But once again, even after a couple more MG novels and some almost-sales, came our friend rejection.

Of course, this story is heading for that age-old chestnut that the key to any success is PERSEVERANCE. Try and try again, and then try some more. It’s all about dedication and endurance. However, I also discovered one new gem that, for me at least, became a crucial part of the puzzle: GIVING UP.

Obviously I didn’t give up writing or I wouldn’t be here, but at some point after being endlessly battered by the waves, I gave up in the sense of letting go—letting go of being attached to the goal of publication. I stopped struggling so much and gave myself permission to just spit out whatever wanted to come out, no matter how silly or wild. In a short time, I had a draft of BEEP AND BOB, which is about a boy who is reluctantly sent to school in space, and his lost alien buddy. I let it burst with humor and heart, which for me are the two most important ingredients of my work.

But it didn’t take much stepping back to realize that trying to sell a zany, debut, sci-fi chapter-book series about unknown characters was going to be a quixotic challenge. Rare was the agent who even said they represented chapter books (I had since left my first agent). So back to perseverance, and that horrible chore of submission that all writers know.

Luckily, this time things turned out differently: I was soon signed by the awesome Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary, and within a month of submitting she sold it in a four-book-deal to Aladdin. Please don’t tell Natalie, or my editor Amy Cloud, that BEEP AND BOB was really just an exercise in embracing failure.

Besides Natalie and Amy, I’d like to thank Nina Simoneaux, who designed this cool cover (I provided the color character spots). Hope you enjoy! And never give up giving up.

jonathanrothThank you, Jonathan, for sharing your journey to publication.

Jonathan is giving away an original, personalized drawing of BEEP to one lucky commenter.

Leave a message below to win. Share this cover reveal and receive an extra entry for each share–just post a comment for each, letting us know where you shared. Good luck!

 

by Dr. Carrie Barron

Here is a wonderful quote I just found by psychologist and creator of the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, Abraham Maslow: “A first rate soup is more creative than a second rate painting.”

I think I can stop right here, as to me that says it all. When you follow an impulse, pour your heart, engage your hands and play around with the elements or ingredients, you are being creative. Make a soup and do it your own way.

soup

Inspiration? It’s great if it comes but not necessary. Just pick up the pot, spoon, chopping knife and throw your fresh, multicolored carrots on a cutting board. Sometimes, the feeling comes after the activity begins. If you wait for the muse, you might become anxious if she doesn’t show up. You might procrastinate, become inhibited, feel abandoned and twiddle your thumbs while fretting about your shortcomings. Take care of yourself and conjure your creativity at the same time, by starting something, anything, no matter what your mood. Because it can change your mood. And that is reason enough. Your soup doesn’t have to be that good. If you are practiced, maybe your soup will be stupendous. If it is less than you hoped, there are more opportunities to learn. The best thing is that you engaged your hands in a meaningful way, immersed in a process and tried to master something new, which is good for mental health. Meaningful hand use elevates mood and mind, according to researcher Dr. Kelly Lambert.

creativitycureThere are other forms of meaningful hand use. What about writing by hand versus typing? Writing by hand though not efficient, can fill a need. Putting the inner self on the page is an act of creativity. Holding a pen and handling paper is visceral. I think about the artist Louise Bourgeois and her Drawings for Sleep. Drawing helped her manage her insomnia. By creating absorbing problems to solve via hand to paper, she was transported to a different place. Many, many people tell me that handwritten lists are a way to deal with anxiety.

So whether it is a soup, a drawing, a list or a poem, bringing your true self fully to the task to is a creative act. I get really inspired when I find great quotes like the one above. If a first rate soup is more creative than a second rate painting, think of all the creative people out there who might be inspired, motivated and assured if they only knew who they really were and what they could do!


carrieheadshot-200x300Carrie Barron, M.D., (Grace Caroline Barron, M.D) is the Director of the Creativity for Resilience Program at Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas and a board-certified psychiatrist/psychoanalyst. She served on the faculty of the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and maintained a private practice in New York City for almost two decades. Carrie has published in peer-reviewed journals, won several academic awards and presented original works on creativity and self-expression at national meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Via articles, interviews and quotes, she contributes to many podcasts, radio shows, magazines and newspapers. Carrie maintains a blog on Psychology Today, has taught at en*theos Academy for Optimal Living, the Hudson Valley Writers Center and Columbia and is on the Honorary Board of RiverArts. Visit her at carriebarronmd.com.

prizedetails

Dr. Barron is giving away a copy of her book, THE CREATIVITY CURE.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I’m assuming that you’re all deep into your brainstorming about story ideas at this point and already have a meaty list after all the inspiring posts you’ve been reading during Storystorm. Good for you!

I sometimes equate this stage of story brainstorming to experimenting with a recipe for a cake. Why cake? Because cake is one of my favorite things in the world. And suppose it’s a recipe entry for a baking contest in which you can submit ONE entry.

ssdebbieohione

After Storystorm, I advise you to browse your list of ideas and choose the one that appeals to you the most. Maybe you’ll be so excited about this particular idea that you won’t be able to wait. Maybe you’ve already started working on expanding the story, plotting an outline and/or doodling rough sketches. Maybe you’ve just expanded the idea a wee bit, perhaps into a paragraph or a few pages of notes.

Excellent! Now put that story away and DON’T LOOK AT IT for a while. “A while” is up to you. For me, it’s at least two weeks but sometimes several months.

In our baking analogy: it means tweaking your cake recipe and then putting that experimental cake in the oven:

ss-debbieohi-03-hope-flat490

RESIST THE URGE TO TAKE IT OUT OF THE OVEN BEFORE IT’S READY.

Why?

Because if you take it out too soon, it’ll look pretty much the same as when you put it in. What you want: to give it enough time to settle, to bake, to reach a state where you can taste it objectively and see whether it’s really THE cake recipe you want to submit to the contest.

Sometimes when you take it out of the oven, it’ll look like this:

ss-debbieohi-05-ick-v3-flat490

Though of course we all hope for this:

ss-debbieohi-06-masterpiece-flat490

But back to when your cake story looks like this:

ss-debbieohi-05-ick-v3-flat490

At this point, you may realize that it’s not worth salvaging, and you may want to just toss it. Sometimes your instinct will be right.

ss-debbieohi-06b-rubbish-v2-flat-490

However, there may still be SOMETHING about it that you just can’t let go of:

ss07-cake-creature-v2-flat-490

In that case, try experimenting some more. Maybe combine it with another idea, find a different spin, rework it in a different genre or format. Turn it upside down or reverse it, add an unexpected twist. You never know what will happen. Read this Veronica Bartles Storystorm post about how she substitutes story ingredients to familiar recipes to make them uniquely delicious. (Mmm, plus her Cranberry Sage Cookies With Almonds recipe sounds yummy….)

Then put it in the oven again to let it bake:

ss-debbieohi-08-creatureoven-v3-flat-490

As before, no matter how excited you are, force yourself to work on something else and NOT take your new creation out too soon. While you’re waiting, take a look at your other recipe ideas, start experimenting for another recipe.

And so on. Ok, I’ll drop the baking analogy…you get the message, right?

Sometimes I may feel SUPER excited with a new story idea and have the urge to IMMEDIATELY dive into the writing and editing and revision process. Sometimes the first draft of the story pours out onto the paper; I love when this happens. However, I have learned to let an idea or first draft sit for a while before coming back to it. If I’m still excited about it, then I go to the next stage. After another round of writing or sketching or revising, I let it sit again and then re-evaluate.

ss-debbieohi-10-cramface-v2-flat-490

The danger of letting yourself dive into developing a story idea too soon is that you’ll get so caught up with the “ooo shiny toy” honeymoon phase that you won’t be objective. You’re going to be pouring a lot of time and effort into this project, after all, as well as inevitably getting emotionally invested. It’s in your best interest to take your time before you commit.

ss-comictakeyourtime-v4-flat600

So stick with the rest of the Storystorm month! Keep reading Storystorm blog posts and coming up with ideas. By the end of the month, you’ll be able to look at your earlier ideas more objectively.

This is pretty much my story brainstorming process, by the way. I currently keep a notebook where I constantly jot down story ideas, fragments, bits of conversations and synopses for picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. I used to use a digital notebook but I currently prefer a paper notebook where I can doodle as well as scribble ideas PLUS I like being able to physically browse earlier ideas to see if they still excite me.

Whatever the method you use to keep track of your story ideas, I encourage you to GIVE THEM TIME to develop and before sending them out into the world.

Good luck!


debbieridpathohi-laugh-anniet-v-500x750Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster), a book that began as an idea generated during PiBoIdMo (now known as Storystorm). Her illustrations appear in books by Michael Ian Black and Judy Blume, among others. Upcoming books in 2017 include Debbie’s second solo picture book, Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster), Sea Monkey & Bob (Simon & Schuster, author Aaron Reynolds), Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective in The Secret Ingredient (Random House, author Lauren McLaughlin), and Ruby Rose, Big Bravos (HarperCollins, author Rob Sanders). Debbie posts about reading, writing and illustrating children’s books at Inkygirl.com. Twitter: @inkyelbows.

prizedetails

Debbie is giving away one of her original found object doodles, using a crumpled Lindor wrapper and drawn with a fountain pen. It’s about 5.7″ x 7″, and will be mailed in a protective cellophane wrapper with a cardboard backing.

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Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

by Jennifer Arena

A year ago last autumn in Chicago during the Architecture Biennial, one exhibit captured my imagination. Situated in the middle of a large room were several dozen waist-high stands, each holding small everyday objects, such as fake flowers, egg crate foam, or a crumpled mini plastic water bottle.

exhibit

What made the objects startling, though, was that the artist/architect had included tiny plastic people on or by each group of objects. Those plastic people changed the objects from everyday to fantastic—no longer just things you’d find in a junk drawer, they were now a whole new landscape for those little people. I had a moment of vertigo. I was looking at something small, a pile of Pringles, but to the plastic people, the Pringles were hills. And if the Pringles were hills, what did that make me?

pringles

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Did I click on the right blog? Isn’t this supposed to be about WRITING?” But writing is the first thing that came to mind when I saw the exhibit, particularly writing for children, because the everyday can become fantastic if you just change your perspective. We do it all the time as writers of kids’ books. We imagine ourselves as we were when we were three or seven or ten. We remember what it felt like to be younger, smaller, under our parents’ control.

But as writers, we’re not limited to imagining ourselves as children. We can imagine ourselves as anything at all. A monkey. A vampire. A purple two-headed dragon. A little plastic person in a field of giant fake flowers. We can picture ourselves on the outside looking in . . . or on the inside longing to get out.

Perspective has been on my mind a lot lately. This year, I had two books come out that look at perspective differently. The first, LADY LIBERTY’S HOLIDAY, features a larger-than-life main character, the Statue of Liberty, and views America through her eyes. To her, Niagara Falls isn’t just a gorgeous waterfall—it’s the perfect spot to shower. And the Golden Gate Bridge? A great place to nap. The only thing that makes her feel small is the Grand Canyon.

Lady Liberty_jkt_3p.indd

martaMARTA! BIG AND SMALL, on the other hand, takes on the idea of how perspective differs depending on what something is compared to. So compared to an elephant, Marta is small. Compared to a bug, she is big. (Or “grande”—it’s a bilingual book.) It’s the whole idea of me, the Pringles, and the tiny plastic people. We are all big, and we are all small. Everything is relative.

And this is where the inspiration comes from. If you’re looking for a new idea, change your perspective. What would it be like if you were the size of a mouse? What would you eat . . . or wear . . . or play with? What if you were as big as a Brachiosaurus?

twigsLook around. A pile of Pringles can be a hillside. A handful of twigs can be a forest. A piece of egg crate foam on its side can be a modern housing development. Lie on the floor. Crawl on your knees. Climb a ladder and see what it’s like to be eight feet tall. Take an elevator to the top of a tall building and look down. Then look up. Who sees the world that way? There’s your character. What challenges would they face? There’s your plot.

In one of the explanations of the exhibit, the artist/architect wrote “Anything stacked is architecture.” He found inspiration for his craft in the everyday, just as I found inspiration in his exhibit. Who knows where your next idea might come from? Like architecture, inspiration is everywhere!

For more on the exhibit, Sou Fujimoto’s “Architecture Is Everywhere,” click on this link.


0007_arena_Jen Arena writes, edits, and finds for inspiration in the world around her for everything from easy-to-reads to picture books to early chapter books. Her recent titles include BESOS FOR BABY (Little Brown), LADY LIBERTY’S HOLIDAY (Knopf), and MARTA! BIG AND SMALLl (Roaring Brook), which the Huffington Post named in its Best Picture Books of 2016 as an Honorable Mention in the category of—you guessed it—“Best on Perspective.” Her next picture book SLEEP TIGHT, SNOW WHITE will be published in 2017 by Knopf. Visit her on twitter at @hallojen or at her website: jenarenabooks.com.
prizedetails
In honor of the very first Storystorm, Jen is giving away a thirty-minute brainstorming session/Q&A/editorial consult phone call. She has twenty years of experience as an editor with Putnam, Golden Books, and Random House and has been writing for kids just as long. Ask away!

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

 

devbookstore

by Dev Petty

My first book, I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG, came out last February and it’s been a wild ride this year publicizing and reading my book across the San Francisco Bay area which I call home. It’s kind of been the year when I went from “person who wrote and sold a book” to “writer,” if only because I now actually say “Writer!” when people ask what I do instead of coughing and pretending I didn’t hear the question like before.

devreads

My journey from Visual Effects artist, to mom, to writer was fast. I didn’t have a ton of time to consider what being a writer would mean or what it would feel like to read my book to a room full of eager faces. I’ve visited many schools, dozens of bookstores, a few libraries, workshops and panels too. I had a lot to learn, if only about engaging with kids, which even though I’m a parent, I needed some work on. What was surprising, and exciting, was how much I learned about writing FOR kids through the process of reading TO kids. It turns out, if you do the same sort of spiel and read the same book enough times, you start to notice some things and, like so many other experiences, those things inform the act of writing picture books…who knew?! So here are a few WRITING lessons garnered from READING.

Kids are power-hungry little critters. What do I mean? It means they like to have the information, fill in the gaps, answer the questions, even guess the question all before you, another kid or another adult gets a word out. Every time I read a certain page of I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG, I get to the part where I say “Because you are a….”

and the kids all shout out FROG!

Which is infinitely more fun that me saying “frog” to them in my not-that-fun voice. Time after time, I realize that when given a chance to extrapolate and interpolate they’ll do it. What does this mean for writing? It means you can leave a little space. Kids can draw conclusions and they’ll feel good for doing so. It also means you can play with that phenomenon. It’s a fun technique to send ’em down one road and get them thinking they know the answer and then turn the page and it’s something else entirely…it’s kind of a safe way to be wrong about something.

devpjparty

Kids are smart. They OFTEN ask me about publishing, how a picture book is put together, how and where I write, etc. Unlike young Dev who spent a lot of time drawing some sort of hybrid human/hotdog people, these kids are sophisticated and curious and savvy. Spend an afternoon with a bunch of second graders and you’ll be jotting down words to look up when ou get home. I talk to them about paste downs, collaboration in a digital world, and revision. This ought to remind us writers to not dumb things down- it may take more than one read, but they’ll get it…and then they’ll teach you.

Dev's required reading shoes

Dev’s required reading shoes

Kids are also weird and they appreciate weird. I’ve written about this before, but many, many readings have reminded me of the truth of this statement. The best readings I have are the ones where I am revealing of my own oddities, shortcomings and foibles. It may get back to the power-hungry nature of the little guys, but they do love to feel that you’re on equal footing, that the writer is goofball, kid-like participant in the process and not button-up preacher sitting in the adult-sized chair above. What does it mean for writing? It means I’ve learned the joy of letting go a little and using a big brush to write strong, strange things and hope that kids, if not adults, will get it. Or at least enjoy it.

mikeboldtKids like pictures. Well, duh Dev—of course kids like pictures…they draw them ALL THE TIME…on paper! But seriously, I found when I incorporate images into my reading, even a simple 20 minute reading, they are much more involved and attentive. Examples: I used to just say Mike Boldt illustrated the book…but then I put a funny picture of Mike in a big flowery frame and started bringing it along…they love it. I bring the alternate language versions of my book and pass them around. I draw a little. It’s pretty obvious what this means for writing—it means, think about the pictures! It means letting the pictures do a lot of the work for you, it means present, don’t preach.

So in this year, I’ve sure learned a lot. I’ve come a long way since my first reading when my hands wouldn’t stop shaking and I had notes written on a scrap of paper so I’d know what to say. My writing has changed because of all these kids, parents, librarians and teachers who’ve welcomed into their rooms. In fact, these days when I’m writing a new story, I IMAGINE myself reading it to a room full of kids and I imagine the page turns and pauses and laugh lines, the open space for them to guess and wonder, and the possible reactions to things. Of course, in my head, the kids are all wearing overalls and red converse and yellow rain slickers and have rosy cheeks and bacteria-free hands and speak a little french and go fishing and think I’m terribly cool, like spy cool and that they might want to be like me some day. I digress…

Finally, in case you’re a new author and in the market for a few tips you may not have considered—here now a few Reading Your Picture Book Lessons I’ll offer for free:

  1. Don’t swear. Seems obvious, right? Harder for some of us than others.
  2. If you take questions, always ask the kid’s name before he/she talks.
  3. Bring along a little giveaway, not all kids can afford your book and you’ll feel good if you send em home with something.
  4. Show up early.
  5. Send a thank you note to the teacher, book store manager or librarian after.
  6. Connect with the parents and teachers, let them ask questions too
  7. .If you make a joke about something like eating bugs, be ready for the possibility that one of the kids in your audience has, and often does eat bugs as part of their culture and then be prepared to feel really, really awkward.
  8. Seriously, don’t swear.
  9. When signing books, bring scratch paper to write the names down before you pen them in your book. The kid might say “My name is Max” and that might have an umlaut and a couple h’s these days.
  10. Finally, remember what the whole point of this writing for kids thing is. It’s to delight, inspire, amuse…kids. I’m just the hired help–another reminder this is the best job on Earth.

Thanks, Dev. These are great tips. (And I second that umlaut warning. Also, don’t say another name while you are writing a name, otherwise a book for Marcie will wind up being a book for Autumn. True story.)

You can win a copy of Dev’s newest book, I DON’T WANT TO BE BIG. Just leave a comment below–include a reading aloud tip if you have one. A winner will be randomly selected in a couple weeks. US addresses only, please. GOOD LUCK!

idontwanttobebigDev Petty is the author of I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG, I DON’T WANT TO BE BIG, and CLAYMATES (L,B & Co. ’17). She is a former visual effects artist who loves writing picture books because they’re like tiny, paper movies. Dev is a Berkeley native, devout Californian, and she’s super good at word jumbles. She’s represented by Jen Rofé of ABLA. Visit her at DevPetty.com.

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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