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by Lydia Lukidis

I fell in love with writing at the age of six. I scribbled poems and stories everywhere I could. But when it came time to choose a field to pursue my studies in, I opted for practicality and studied Pure and Applied Science.

It was hard work and I earned my degree. YAY!

But then, OH NO! The sinking feeling in my heart was undeniable. I realized I didn’t want a career in science.

So it was back to the drawing board. Since writing was always my first love, I decided to study English Literature at McGill University. Cut to a few decades later, I’m a published children’s author and found a way to incorporate my science background into my writing. I finally had the opportunity to use my science degree in a fun way.

It came about unexpectedly, when I began to write for the educational market several years ago. I didn’t know I would love it until I tried it. Now I have over 40 educational books and eBooks under my belt, including two really exciting contracts I landed with Kane Publishing for their Science Solves It! series. I’m happy to announce both books are now officially released: A REAL LIVE PET! and THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY.

  

You may be wondering if the educational market is right for you. Here’s a list of common questions:

  • Can I submit my own work to educational publishers?
    There may be exceptions, but most educational publishers offer work-for-hire (WFH) contracts. They develop their concepts and specific guidelines in-house. Then they hire freelance authors who will create an outline and write the book under the guidance of an editor.
  • Will I get an advance and royalties?
    In general, most educational publishers don’t offer an advance or royalties. Rather, they pay a one-time flat fee and retain all rights to the work. In some cases, you may not even get credit. On the plus side, WFH contracts typically pay fast, and the turn-around is quicker.
  • Can WFH contracts help open doors to trade publishing?
    Landing WFH contracts can help you break into the market and gain experience working with editors and publishers. It’s also an opportunity to develop your writing skills and gain writing credits. This may help you on your path to traditional publishing, but there’s no guarantee as the two markets are separate.
  • Do I need an agent for the educational market?
    Nope! You can apply and negotiate your contracts on your own. The contracts are typically fairly straight forward. Another bonus is that it’s slightly easier to break into this market in comparison to commercial publishing.
  • How can I get started?
    Start compiling a list of educational publishers that work with the age brackets you’re interested in. In the SCBWI book, there are many great listings. Check the guidelines for each publisher and send them a cover letter detailing your experience and qualifications, along with your CV and some writing samples.

But as all writers know, you’ll need plenty of patience and perseverance. I remember my first attempt several years ago. I painstakingly crafted my cover letter and beefed up my CV as much as I could. I sent off 100 cover letters but didn’t get a single reply. Not even one! I experienced a moment of despair but decided to keep going. A year later, my body of work had grown and my writing samples improved. I sent off another batch of cover letters to the same publishers and lo and behold, I got my first break! From there, it snowballed.

While the educational market is not for everyone, it works well for authors who have a passion for writing nonfiction and want to supplement their income. For those interested in giving it a shot, I wish you luck on your journey! If you have any other specific questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.

Plus, leave a comment to enter to win a copy of A REAL LIVE PET!

A winner will be selected in a few weeks.

Good luck! 


Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with over forty books and eBooks published, along with numerous short stories, poems and plays. Her background is multi-disciplinary and spans the fields of literature, science and puppetry. Lydia writes fiction and nonfiction for children from K-6, and enjoys working with educational publishers such as Kane Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Red Line Editorial. She is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy and has been facilitating writing workshops for children since 1999. Visit Lydia at lydialukidis.com or connect with her on Twitter @LydiaLukidis.

Poor, sad, neglected blog!

I’ve been whisking off to school visits and conferences, but I’ve not been too busy to blog. Too lazy, perhaps. And I have an avalanche of awesome authors and illustrators waiting for me to post about their books. I need a swift kick in the pantaloons.

Remember when Twitter was introduced, “they” dubbed it a micro-blogging platform? (“They” are always busy, have you noticed?)

Well, I’ve been micro-blogging. Here are some recent tidbits of #pubtips…

Don’t follow me on Twitter?

Let’s fix that, shall we? (Does that make us a “they”?)

And now, here are “they” who won recent giveaways here:

Cate Berry’s PENGUIN & SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME
Amanda Sincavage

Tracy Marchini’s CHICKEN WANTS A NAP
Carole Calladine

Troy Cummings’ CAN I BE YOUR DOG?
Kara Newhouse

Congratulations, winners! I will email you shortly…

by Tracy Marchini

I’ve worn a number of hats in my career—and for the most part I have always had at least two hats on at once.

Now, I’m a children’s author who is celebrating her picture book debut, CHICKEN WANTS NAP, and a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary representing fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens.

But I’ve also been a newspaper correspondent, a children’s book reviewer, a freelance copywriter, a literary agents assistant, a freelance editor and a communications manager. (Well, and a pharmacy tech—which has nothing to do with this post—and very, very briefly an assistant at a wedding dress preservationist’s—which is the only job I’ve ever been let go from. I was relieved.)

Anyway, so many of these hats forced me to learn to write in a different way. Feature pieces vs. event wrap ups, editorial letters vs. pitch letters, book reviews vs. press releases—everything had a different format or tone, but there was also a lot of overlap. Ultimately, I think all of the above experience helped me with my writing and agenting career, and I hope that some of the below helps you too!

Character
I would get my newspaper assignments on Friday, do interviews and write the story over the weekend, and submit on Sunday so it’d be in my editor’s inbox by the Monday deadline. (Monday I’d be commuting to work as a literary assistant.)

My favorite pieces to write were feature pieces that honored another person’s life. People were generally so happy to talk about this person that they loved or admired, even though we’re all flawed, and I usually left the interviews feeling pretty inspired. I also felt like there was a little more room for creativity in a feature piece. A good features makes the reader feel like they’ve met the person, too.

Looking back on feature writing makes me think about a character exercise that I was once assigned in undergrad. The exercise says to pick a person you know and write about them as they would write about themselves. Then write about them through the eyes of someone that hated them. Then again through the eyes of someone that loved them. You have three different people on the page—or four, right? Because the primary subject is actually probably closer to a culmination of those three pieces than any one particular view—and I think that’s why the exercise can be so helpful when you’re struggling with rounding out your characters. Remember, even antagonists think they’re the hero of the story.

Hook
Book reviews, newspaper pieces, pitch letters, press releases, copywriting—all of it relied on being able to find a hook that was going to grab a reader and make them want to read more, attend the event, buy the book, click a link, etc.

As an author, particularly as a picture book author, you have to be thinking about what is going to make your story stand out on the shelves or in the submissions pile.

That said, your hook is not the plot summary. For example, I’ve pitched CHICKEN WANTS A NAP as “Remy Charlip’s Fortunately set in the barnyard,” but that’s not the summary.

One exercise I’ve done with friends when they’re having trouble with finding a strong concept for their own WIPs is to go through the bookstore or their own shelves, pull out and read a picture book, then find a hook. For example, DUCKS’S VACATION is THERE’S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK set on the beach. NUT JOB is “Ocean’s 11” with squirrels. Or, if I were to pitch a book without a comparison, I might say something like HOORAY FOR FISH is a fun and heartwarming celebration of a fish’s love for their mom.

Once you’ve had practice with some books on the shelves, tell your friend the hook for your WIP. If it’s a plot summary, your friend should make you try again. And if you can’t find the hook for your WIP—that thing that’s going to make it stand out from all the other queries/manuscripts in an agent or editor’s inbox—then perhaps it’s time to take another look at your WIP’s concept.

In truth, you might not use this hook in your query letter at all, but if you find that a common theme in your rejection letters is “not sure it can compete in the marketplace,” this is an excellent exercise to help punch up your concept!

Word Choice
Almost everything I wrote had a standard structure and/or expected word count, be it a press release, feature story, book review, pitch letter or pieces for a social media campaign. Just like in a picture book text, EVERY WORD COUNTED. I had to be concise—looking for that one perfect word instead of two to four less precise words.

So take out your picture book WIP. Are you in the sweet spot (300 – 500 words for fiction*)? Does every word convey the exact meaning you intend? If you’re using repetition, is it done in a way that builds tension, humor or otherwise adds to the story? If you’re not sure about a word or line, delete it and then read the story aloud (or bring it to somebody else). Does the story lose anything? If not, then permanently delete that line, phrase or word.

*CHICKEN WANTS A NAP is 165 words, and my current WIP is 600. CHICKEN is a read-aloud for younger picture book readers and the story just did not need another 140 words. My WIP is for older picture book readers who are starting to read by themselves. So I guess I’m saying to use the words you need and not one word more!

Speaking of one word more, I had started a different draft of this post where I went through each job individually and it quickly became a novel. And as I’m hitting that point again, I think it’s best to close here. I hope that these tricks help you in your own writing, and if you have the time or opportunity to do some freelance writing in another format—I say, why not! You’ll exercise a different writing muscle, and I’ll bet it’ll improve your current children’s writing as well!


Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary, where she represents fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens. She’s thrilled to represent a list of debut and award-winning authors and illustrators, and is currently open to submissions. To get a sense of what she’s looking for, you can follow her Twitter #MSWL, see her announced client books, and read her submission guidelines.

As an author, her debut picture book, CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, was called “A surprising gem” in a starred review from Kirkus. She’s been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer’s Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric.

Tracey is giving away a signed copy of CHICKEN WANTS A NAP.

Leave one comment below to enter and a winner will be chosen next week.

Good luck!

***STORYSTORM Registration is closed for 2018. You can still participate in the challenge by reading the inspirational daily posts, but you will not be eligible for prizes. Thank you.***

 

What a glorious feeling!

It’s that time of the year again, when you will be showered with inspiration!

Story ideas are gonna rain down like cats and dogs! (And maybe some will be about cats and dogs!)

Last year I changed the name and month of my annual writing challenge, from Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) to Storystorm. Why? Answer’s here.

Any writer interested in brainstorming new story ideas in January is invited to join. Any genre, any style; student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author or professional.

How does STORYSTORM work? It’s simple…

  • Register here by signing your name ONCE in the comments below. Teachers participating with a class can register under the teacher’s name.
  • Registering makes you eligible for prizes.
  • Visit this blog daily (right here at taralazar.com) in January for inspirational essays by guest bloggers—professional authors, illustrators and experts in creativity.

  • Instead of visiting the blog directly, you can receive the daily posts via email by clicking the “Follow Tara’s Blog” button in the left column—look under my photo for it.
  • After you have read the daily inspiration, jot down a daily story idea in a journal (the annual CafePress journal will be linked here when ready), computer, anywhere you like to write. Some days you might have no ideas, but some days you might have five or more.
  • At the end of January, if you have at least 30 ideas, sign the STORYSTORM pledge I will post and qualify for prizes.
  • Prizes include professional consults, signed books, original art, writerly gadgets and gizmos.

Remember, do not share your ideas publicly in January. They are YOURS. No need to  prove that you have them at the end of the month. The pledge you will sign is on the honor system.

Are you in? Awesome. Pick up your Official Participant badge below and affix it to any social media account you wish. (Right click to save to your computer, then upload it anywhere.)

The final piece? Join the STORYSTORM Facebook discussion group. You need friends for the journey!

The group is completely optional, but it remains a year-round source of writing information and support, mostly focused on picture books, I admit, because that is where this all began.

Registration will remain open through JANUARY 9TH.

What are you waiting for? Register and go celebrate! I’ll see you back here on New Year’s Day.

*Storstorm 2018 logo courtesy of Ross MacDonald, illustrator of 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY.

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!”

Being a children’s book author means you are a perpetual child. So…what kidlit writer can resist the Lego store, with its massive wall of colorful interlocking bricks? NOT THIS ONE!

So I whistled Pink Floyd, picked me a bucket of Legos and went home to play.

The result: a Lego Fidget Spinner!

Now, I know what you’re thinking–it doesn’t have the same heft or speed as the real thing (did I just call fidget spinners “real”?). And you would be right.

BUT…

It’s a fun activity for littler kids (3 to 6) and doesn’t require any messy hot glue or complicated directions. You can be creative with the color and design, too. And it only takes 24 pieces you can find on the WALL OF BRICKS.

The spinners come in two pieces that you snap together. Here’s what they look like:

Assembly is E-Z.

First, make a cross with your 2×8 pieces.

Snap your spinners together, then place one in the middle on the front and one on the back.

 

Decorate the ends of each bar with four 1×1 pieces in your desired colors and pattern. For extra pizzazz, give it a couple of googly eyes.

I was debating putting a dot of oil in the Lego spinner hole before snapping them together, to see if that improved the spinability. (Is that a word?) But I didn’t. (Womp, womp.)

Remember folks, after you’re done playing, your inner child will be recharged and you can get right back to WRITING.

Hope everyone is having a super summer!

by Asia Citro, M. Ed, Publisher

Thank you so much, Tara, for the chance to introduce your blog readers to The Innovation Press!

We are a Seattle-area children’s publisher that’s a bit new on the scene. In fact, this year is our first “big” year; we’ve got ten children’s titles coming out in 2017.

As I’m sure you have all discovered, small presses tend to have a “type” when it comes to the sort of books they’re looking for and we are no exception. Right now we’re focused on the K-5 market, but anything goes as long as it fits in that range—picture books, chapter books, and middle grade submissions are all great. If you take a peek at our titles, you’ll start to get a sense for the sort of books we’re after. As a former classroom teacher, I have a particular affinity for books that teach in some way. We love titles that promote creativity, diversity, laughter, and learning. If you take a close look, you’ll find that almost all of our 2017 titles are hybrid texts (a mix between fiction and nonfiction).

Though we are newer, we have international distribution, so our books are in stores, shops, libraries, and schools all over the world. We also have foreign rights representation (seeing our books printed in foreign languages is the coolest!). Oh, and we’re a member of the Children’s Book Council as well as an SCBWI PAL Publisher. We also believe in making our books available to all children, so for every ten books we sell, we donate one to First Book (an amazing nonprofit that pairs educators and students in low-income districts with books).

We pay an advance as well as royalties to our authors. In addition, we offer a lot of publicity help and support and we involve authors as much as possible in the decision-making process for things related to their book (such as illustrator, title, etc).  If you have something you think might be a great fit, we’d love to see it! You can find our full submission guidelines here.

Thanks for getting in touch, Asia. While I have not worked with The Innovation Press personally, this new publisher looks like an excellent opportunity for aspiring kidlit authors.

If you have questions about The Innovation Press, please leave them in the comments and Asia will answer them.

Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

santaslamdunk

SANTA SLAM DUNK!

OK, maybe not what you were expecting. A little holiday humor. Let’s move on…

Those of you who participate in Picture Book Idea Month already know I moved the annual writing challenge to January instead of November. And you also know I changed the name. The new, much-easier-to-pronounce moniker is…

storystorm

Did that just blow your mind?

amypoehlerhead

I hope so!

The new logo was designed by talented illustrator S.britt (of NORMAL NORMAN fame).

Now, I hear you asking some questions.

WHY THE NAME CHANGE?

The original challenge—to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days—was named “Picture Book Idea Month” or “PiBoIdMo” for short. Everyone pronounced the awkward acronym a different way. And if you managed to say it, it didn’t make sense to others.

“STORYSTORM” is a portmanteau of story and brainstorm that is more immediately understood.

The new name signals a broader scope—any type of writer interested in being inspired in January can now join the challenge. Novelists, short story writers, non-fiction authors and even teachers and their students are welcomed. Any writer, anyone who wants to brainstorm for a month. 

The goal is for STORYSTORM participants to jot down 30 story ideas in January. Then everyone will have thirty new shiny ideas to ponder, flesh out and write in 2017.

WHY THE MONTH CHANGE?

PiBoIdMo was originally held in November because it was modeled after NaNoWriMo, which runs at that time. But November is so busy with the start of the holiday season. Starting fresh in January—a new year, new goals—will hopefully prove to be both inspiring and motivating.

IS IT STILL FREE TO PARTICIPATE?

ABSOLUTELY.

WHEN CAN I REGISTER?

After the slam-dunking of presents down the chimney is over. In other words, Boxing Day. In other, other words, December 26th.

Registration will remain open for the entire first week of January. You do not have to register, but doing so makes you eligible to win prizes—agent consultations, books, critiques, and a whole lotta fabulous stuff that even Santa can’t make possible.

So THANK YOU for being patient while I pondered these changes. More announcements soon—like the guest-blogger line-up!

But in the meantime, join our STORYSTORM Facebook group which is active year-round for friendly support and discussion.

staytuned

 

 

 

holidaygifts-1

Once again it’s time for Santa to load up his sleigh—and good little writers everywhere will be hoping to discover inspiration in their stockings. These are the lovely trinkets, thingamabobs and tasty tidbits I’ve found that may tickle the fancy of that children’s writer you know (wink, wink, that’s you). I’ve also asked kidlit friends to suggest gifts. Plus, please feel free to leave a comment with your own holiday picks. Also remember there are many more selections on my Things Writers Like Pinterest board.

Of course, I wish publishing contracts for you all!

You get a book, YOU get a book, YOU ALL GET A BOOK!!!

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BUILD-ON-BRICK MUG
selected by Tara

brickmug

Available via ThinkGeek

Every writer needs a good cuppa while they’re compiling their next masterpiece. A morning chai allows me to think through what I want to accomplish for the day. Taking time to stop and ponder before committing pen to paper is always a good idea. I confess to playing a daily game or puzzle in the AM to get the gears moving. So I find this playful mug serves a dual purpose—delivering a dose of caffeine while also jump-starting the creative cogwheels.

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TYPEWRITER DESK ACCESSORIES
selected by Tara
typewritercoaster

Available via LTD Commodities

I admit it, I’m a sucker for anything TYPEWRITER. Not wanting to leave a mug ring on the pristine, polished surface of my new desk, or on a new manuscript, this coaster set seemed like a perfect solution.

typebookends
Available via Wild Orchid

I’ll take a pair of these bookends, too. Yes, I am running the risk of overdosing on Underwoods.

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S’WELL BOTTLE
VEGAN ENGLISH TOFFEE
PILOT METROPOLITAN FOUNTAIN PEN
selected by the indecisive Deborah Underwood, author

swell veganenglishtoffee

pilotfountainpen

Available via Teavana, Chocolate Inspirations, and Goulet Pens

Speaking of Underwoods, Deborah is one kidlit author you could never overdose on.

Deborah says, “I have many loves, so this was a tough decision. Should I recommend the beautiful S’well bottle that keeps my coffee hot? Or the vegan English toffee from Chocolate Inspirations (arguably the best candy in the world)? Heaven knows writers need both coffee and chocolate to fuel our work and drown our rejection sorrows.

But no—Tara said only one item. (Ha! See what I did there?) So, because writing comes first, my pick is the Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen, medium nib, in black. It’s reasonably priced, it has a pleasing weight in the hand, and it makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time to a slower-paced, more civil world. Go forth and create, elegantly!”

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FATBOY BEANBAG PILLOW
selected by Tara

fatboy

Available via hayneedle

When you need some R&R–rest and reading–the Fatboy provides a comfortable respite. This is not Greg Brady’s beanbag chair. Made in a variety of sizes, colors and nearly indestructible, washable materials, the Fatboy will shape up to be your favorite reading nook.

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ECHO SMARTPEN
selected by Tara

echosmartpen

Available via livescribe

This blog began when I decided to post my NJ-SCBWI notes online. I still take copious notes at every conference and writing event, and the Echo Smartpen is on my please-please-oh-please list because it records what you hear…and what you write…in-sync. So that doodle doohickey you cannot recognize? You will hear WHEN you scribbled it and it will make sense again. You could also talk to yourself while writing, as if you needed another reason for people to think you’re odd.

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ICEY DESIGNS JOURNALS, PENCILS, PINS
selected by Marcie Colleen, author & educational consultant

iceyjournal

Available via Icey Designs 

Marcie says, “It never fails, as soon as I proclaim to the heavens, *I do not need another journal,* along comes an Etsy shop like Icey Designs and I am hornswaggled. This shop is chockfull of amazing writerly gifts, including inspirational pocket journals and notepads reminding those who need it “To Thine Own Self Be True” and “Breathe.” While you are there, you have to check out the craft-inspired pencils–my favorite is the “Let the Madness Flow” pencil. I know I can relate to that! There are also adorable enamel pins. What Harry Potter fan wouldn’t want to wear “Mischief Managed” on their lapel? Bottomline, I can’t pick just one item from this fabulous store from designer and author, Hafsah Faizal. You can bet that when the business of writing gets me down I’m heading to Icey Designs for a little retail therapy and a reminder to “Live Wondrously” as their motto says.”

bookshappy

Tara says, woozy with whimsy, “The enamel pins!!!”

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JANSJO USB LED LAMP
selected by Tara

jansjo
Available via IKEA

I know I am partial to kitsch, so here’s something for the more pragmatic writer—a (an???) USB LED lamp. With the darker afternoons of winter, I need the extra light, especially when I am Skyping with a classroom. They can now see me and my jammies du jour. This smart and inexpensive little lamp stays in position and lights up the keyboard as well as your own fingertips do.

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DREW THE PENCIL LAMP
selected by Tara

drewthepencil

Available via GadgetFlow

See, I’m right back to kitsch. I adore this adorable lamp. Even the cord is a design feature–wind it any which way for an extra curlicue of quirk.

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WRITING CRAFT BOOKS
selected by Erin Murphy, literary agent

magicwords theheroisyou
Available wherever fine books are sold

Erin says, “My gift suggestion is (huge surprise) books! Every writer needs more books, and a gift certificate to a local indie is even better, so the writer can choose the books him or herself. But if you really want something with some heft for them to unwrap, you can’t go wrong with inspiration in the form of two outstanding books about craft and the writing life from two of the best editors in the children’s book business: Cheryl Klein’s THE MAGIC WORDS: WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS and Kendra Levin’s THE HERO IS YOU: SHARPEN YOUR FOCUS, CONQUER YOUR DEMONS, AND BECOME THE WRITER YOU WERE MEANT TO BE.”

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ROCK PAPER JOURNAL
selected by Tara

rockpaper

Available via Heart Stone Paper

At this spring’s NE-SCBWI conference, keynote speaker and NY Times bestselling author Wendy Mass confessed she likes to write in the bath. Knowing that could prove disastrous (and soggy) for a normal notebook, she told us she uses water-resistant, tear-resistant paper made from ROCKS. And then she gave everyone in attendance a rock paper journal. I was especially pleased because armed with my new notebook, I can now play Rock-Paper-Scissors FTW!

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MINI LIBRARY SCENTED TEA LIGHTS
selected by Tara

tealights

Available via Uncommon Goods

If you’re an avid writer, chances are you are a voracious reader. Your nose is always in a good book. Continue to take care of that nose with this set of ten scented tea lights inspired by classic novels.

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SISTER FOX’S FIELD GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE
BOOK SCARF
BANANAGRAMS

selected by Heidi Stemple & Jane Yolen, authors

sisterfoxfieldguide alicescarf

beachbanana

Available via Heidi StempleStoriarts and Serious Puzzles

Heidi says, “SISTER FOX’S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE by Jane Yolen is a collection of poems about writing. Some funny, some poignant, all a call to get your BIC (butt in chair) and get writing. It’s not easy to get (as it is published in the UK) but, I have a supply to sell from our office ($20 includes shipping and autograph—be sure to include a name; this offer is limited). Also, book scarves (or, honestly, anything by Storiarts) made with the text of some of your favorite books, are soft, well made, and wearable. But, more importantly, they are real conversation starters. I have 3 (plus the writing gloves). I am partial to, of course, Alice in Wonderland. Don’t just buy this scarf, though…search through their site. You will NOT be sorry.

Jane says, “When we’re both working, and one of us want a break, we’ll find the other and ask ‘Banangrams?’ We play almost every day.”

(Bonus: Tara found a jumbo outdoor edition of the popular game.)

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ANIMAL CARD HOLDER
selected by Tara

hedgehogcardholder

Available via Amazon

When I return home from an SCBWI conference, I love poring over the creative postcards and business cards of writers and illustrators. There are ones I want to keep in view because I love the artist’s style or I want to swap a manuscript with another author. This clever desk accessory is very practical…and comes in a variety of animal styles and colors. This one makes me want to write an albino hedgehog book.
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WHEN IN DOUBT TEE
selected by Tara

whenindoubt
Available via The Library Store

I always follow this advice. I bet you do, too.

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ROALD DAHL POSTCARDS
selected by Tara
roalddahlpostcards
Available via The Literary Gift Company

What a wangdoodle of a good idea. I bet a writing friend would love to receive this entire box…or even one sincere missive via post. Texting is so last week. Dahl is FOREVER.

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WRITER AT WORK SIGN
selected by Tara
donotdisturb
Available via GraphicsMore

Ah, if only we could give our favorite writer the gift of time.

Until that time, let’s continue to give them space. (Otherwise known as “the space-time continuum”?)

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WRITER’S TEARS WHISKEY
selected by Tara

writerstearsmini

Available via Celtic Whiskey Shop

Alas, if your favorite writer received another rejection, missed that deadline, or went out of print, this would be the perfect gift. Just remember—drink responsibly, folks.

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thingswriterslike2015

Happy Holidays!

For more writerly nonsense and giftsense, check out my Things Writers Like Pinterest board!

nadiaby Karlin Gray

What do I know about writing nonfiction picture books?

After my book NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL was published, someone said to me, “Great timing with the 40th Anniversary of the Perfect 10! How smart of you to write that book now!”

Um, no. Well, yes . . . but then no.

Four years ago, my writing instructor discussed nonfiction picture books in class. I couldn’t remember reading any when I was a kid so I thought back to my five-year-old self. Who or what fascinated me? If I could have read a picture book about any person or subject, what would it have been?

Well, in 1976, I was just a 5-year-old girl who loved gymnastics. (I mean, I was terrible at it but I LOVED it.) So, duh! Only one answer popped into my head—Nadia Comaneci.

That was smart—asking kid Karlin what she wanted to read. Someone else at my publisher was smart enough to look into the future and see the marketing stars align.

While working on my book, I didn’t pay attention to the dates of the next Olympics. I didn’t know that it would be the 40th Anniversary of Comaneci’s historic 10. (Math’s not really my thing.) I didn’t even know if my book would find a publisher! The only thing that I knew was that kid Karlin would have flipped for a picture book about Nadia Comaneci.

So, that’s the book I wrote for kid Karlin . . . and grown-up Karlin loved every minute of it!

nadiabeam

Here are some fellow writers sharing what they have learned about writing nonfiction picture books.

Audrey Vernick, author of THE KID FROM DIAMOND STREET:

thekidfromdiamondstreetI write both fiction and nonfiction. In the beginning, I thought the only place for voice was in fiction, and it’s probably where I feel more comfortable experimenting with it. But it’s totally worth the time to play around and explore unexpected possibilities because when a truly unique voice emerges, oh my! Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick wasn’t only beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall–what a story! Other examples that come to mind are Phil Bildner’s Marvelous Cornelius, illustrated by John Parra; Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad; and, because I can’t resist a baseball book, The You Never Heard of .. ? books written by Jonah Winter.

Susan Hood, author of ADA’S VIOLIN:

adasviolinDon’t be afraid to ask for help. In my experience, experts, scholars, curators, producers, reporters, and authors of adult books on your subject are more than happy to consult with you. Your passion is their passion! I offer them acknowledgement in the book, but make sure to ask permission to list their names and/or work. Kate Messner wrote an eye-opening blog about this: “Think Before You Thank.” I wouldn’t have dreamed that a public thank you might compromise someone professionally, but it might. So go ahead, ask for help, but ask for permission to use their names as well.

Maria Gianferrari, author of COYOTE MOON:

coyotemoonWhen you’re doing your research and note-taking, keep a list of “cool facts.” You might not have a place for them in your story, but they’ll be perfect for back matter! Think of a creative and engaging way to organize and present the material. For example, you might present the back matter in how-to form. I did this for one of my nonfiction books using How To Swallow A Pig: Step-by-Step Advice From the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page as a mentor text. A cool fact could also be a hook for beginning your story.

Nancy Churnin, author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY:

williamhoyEngage, learn from and share the journey with people who know and care deeply about your subject. I could not have written The William Hoy Story without the help of Steve Sandy, a Deaf man who is a friend of the Hoy family, and was able to answer questions about small details of William’s life while giving context about what it was like to grow up as a Deaf person in the late 19th century. Steve’s help continued after publication as he and his wife, Bonnie, have been amazing supporters of the book. I am also profoundly grateful to National Baseball Hall of Fame announcer Eric Nadel, a Hoy fan, who has written about him for adults. Eric advised me on baseball details, and has also been a fantastic supporter of the book.

Laban Hill, author of WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN:

whenthebeatwasbornWhat I’ve learned from writing nonfiction picture books is that the stories are about people and their emotions first and the facts are secondary. That does not mean you can make up facts, but that the motivations and fears and aspirations of the people involved reveal how the facts fit in.

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karlingrayThanks for all the non-fiction tips, Karlin!

In honor of Nadia Comaneci’s 40th Anniversary of the Perfect 10 and the 2016 Rio Olympics, we are giving away a copy of THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL. Simple comment below to enter. One comment per person, US addresses only, please.

Karlin Gray is the author of NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL and runs a weekly Q&A blog with writers about their first picture books. You can find her at karlingray.com@KarlinGray or on Facebook.

Enjoy watching the Olympics and check out the schedule on NBC.

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
black kite

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
Early 2019

YOUR FIRST DAY OF (CIRCUS) SCHOOL
illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
Summer 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
Fall 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

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