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by Tammi Sauer

I have been a part of Storystorm (formerly known as PiBoIdMo) ever since Tara introduced it back in 2009. Each year, as a guest blogger, I have shared one of my idea-getting strategies. I’ve mentioned everything from “celebrating the weird stuff in your life” to starting with a setting to playing with various structures. Each year, I have also accepted the challenge to come up with at least 30 picture book ideas.

And, each year, do you know how many of my 30+ ideas are good ones?

25? 10? 5?!

The answer is 1. Occasionally 2.

My other 29+ ideas? They are okay ideas. But okay ideas do not result in offers.

During PiBoIdMo 2013, I jotted down this snippet of an idea: funny rules for having an unusual pet.

I felt the idea had potential. But I needed a story. I needed a beginning, middle, and end. I needed a character readers could care about. I needed conflict. I, um, needed a lot.

Also, around this time, I had been wanting to write a book using the how-to structure.

Hmm.

Then one spring day, while I was in PetSmart with my son, everything clicked.

I saw a rack filled with brochures. Each brochure provided information on caring for a particular pet. There was a brochure on dwarf hamsters, a brochure on guinea pigs, a brochure on geckos.

 

I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to do! I was going to write a pet care guide for a lion!

My favorite part about working on this manuscript was that I wanted the text to play the straight man to the art. I wanted the text to read as if caring for a lion is easy. I wanted the art to show that it is anything but. Because of this, I included more art notes than usual.

CARING FOR YOUR LION sold at auction to Sterling.

We ended up finding the perfect illustrator in Troy Cummings. Not only did Troy get the humor of the manuscript, but he amped it up to ridiculously wonderful proportions. Plus, he created the purrr-fect case cover for this book. (I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I won’t reveal it here.)

This is what Kirkus had to say about Caring for Your Lion:

“Sauer’s terse text, presented as the steps in the care manual for the lion, are tongue-in-cheek smile-inducing, as are accompanying black-and-white diagrams from the manual. However, their interaction with Cummings’ full-color, digitally created illustrations of a light-brown-skinned child and the full-grown male lion that was delivered instead of a kitten are laugh-out-loud fun. Allow plenty of time to giggle over the details.”

I am so grateful to Tara for creating this challenge. Because of StoryStorm, the following books got their start:

  • Nugget & Fang (HMH, 2013)
  • Your Alien (Sterling, 2015)
  • Your Alien Returns (Sterling, 2016)
  • Caring for Your Lion (Sterling, 2017)
  • Truck, Truck, Goose! (HarperCollins, 2017)
  • Wordy Birdy + a sequel (Doubleday BFYR, 2018, 2019)
  • Knock, Knock (Scholastic, 2018)
  • Go Fish! (HarperCollins, 2018)
  • The Farm that Mac Built (HMH, TBA)
  • Quiet Wyatt (HMH, TBA)

Plus, I recently received an offer on a book that began as an idea in StoryStorm 2017. I think this world needs Tara Lazar Day. Until then, I came up with one small way to celebrate Tara. One of the aforementioned books is dedicated to her.

Tammi Sauer is a full time children’s book author who presents at schools and conferences across the nation. She has sold 29 picture books to major publishing houses including Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. Tammi and her family live in Edmond, Oklahoma, with one dog, two geckos, and a tank full of random fish (but no lions). Visit her at tammisauer.com.

 

Tammi is giving away a Caring for Your Lion prize pack to one lucky commenter. A random winner will be selected in two weeks.

This pack may or may not come with a real lion.

You’ve been warned.

One day I’m not home. ONE. DAY.

Ah, the glamorous life of a kidlit author!

Truth be told, that sink is almost always full of dirty dishes…and the day was somewhat glamorous…as I appeared at an Eastern PA SCBWI event.

During the “squibby” shindig at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, an attendee asked me what the best book marketing methods were. I answered honestly: I DO NOT KNOW. (I wish I did.)

There are a multitude of things I do to promote my work, but I really have no way to gauge the effectiveness of any of it. Sometimes I will show up to a book reading and stare at this…

…and think it has been a total disaster. I go home to a pile of dirty dishes and cry.

But I forget the efforts to market the event—my books that sat in the window display for weeks, the mentions in the paper, the little things that helped to promote the unfortunate empty-seat syndrome. It was just dumb luck that the event occurred on the first sunny weekend in October and everyone went pumpkin picking instead. (Hey, can you blame them?) So I do not know how all that publicity actually fared in the long run. I may never know. And so, I keep plugging away.

So today, I have for you WAY PAST BEDTIME Pre-Order Prize Packs.

WAY PAST BEDTIME features a precocious hero who’s determined to stay up late. Joseph imagines a party of epic proportions going on and he doesn’t want to miss all the frivolous fun.

Kirkus Reviews says, “It’s not all DJ dance parties and hot-fudge fountains when parents stay up late…or is it? Forget staying up to wait for Santa Claus. After reading this, kids will clamor to investigate someone a little closer to home.”

If you pre-order WAY PAST BEDTIME before the release on April 25, leave a comment below stating so. (This is on the honor system. No need to send me a receipt. I will believe you.)

You will then be entered to win one of THREE PRIZE PACKS.

Grand Prize Pack:

  • Edu Science 3D Night-Sight Goggles
  • Sleeping Emoji Pillow
  • Superhero cape
  • Three Signed & Personalized Books
  • 45-minute SKYPE visit (with your child’s class or your class if you teach)

Two Runner-Up Prize Packs:

  • Two Signed & Personalized Books
  • 45-minute SKYPE visit (with your child’s class or your class if you teach)

You can preorder a signed copy by calling my local indie, The Bookworm at 908-766-4599.

Or you can order via your favorite local or online bookseller. The choice is yours.

Leave your comment below confirming your order—with one comment per pre-order made—and you will be entered to win.

Winners announced on release day, April 25!

GOOD LUCK!

I’m a sucker for monsters.

And in Aaron Zenz’s new picture book, monsters are suckers for suckers.

TeethB

When Aaron told me about MONSTERS GO NIGHT-NIGHT, I have to admit, I got a bit panicked. I have a bedtime book coming out, too! But leave it to Aaron to create a fresh and giggle-worthy take on the bedtime ritual. We may have written on the same subject, but his book is a monster all its own. A snuggly one.

On first glance, if MONSTERS GO NIGHT-NIGHT seems like just another going-to-bed read, you’d be monstrously mistaken. Yes, like children, monsters like to eat bedtime snacks, put on pajamas and give kisses. But…monsters do it in their unique monster way.

The page turn surprise is key to the humor in this book. The child reading the book is told “Monsters eat bedtime snacks” and is then presented with a range of delectable options–milk, bread, carrots or an…umbrella? You must turn the page to find out what the monsters prefer.

There are many monsterly midnight conundrums to solve. What kind of pajamas do monsters wear? What do monsters snuggle with? What do monsters take baths with?

You guessed it, chocolate pudding! (Pass the whipped cream shampoo, please.)

monsterpudding

The illustrations use contrasting colors to POP those adorable creatures right off the page. There’s a blue monster on an orange background, a yellow monster on a purple background. While the monsters are bright and bold, there is also something soft and lovable about them. Maybe that’s because of the monsters’ creator…and I don’t mean Aaron. I’m talking about Elijah. Who’s Elijah, you ask? Watch this:

.

Parents, MONSTERS GO NIGHT-NIGHT is my new top-rated pick for bedtime with toddlers and preschoolers. If you aren’t snuggled up with a tuba by book’s end, I guarantee you’ll be cuddling with your own little monster.

Night-night!

yawn

Win a copy of MONSTERS GO NIGHT-NIGHT! Just leave a comment below. One comment per person, US addresses only, please. A winner will be randomly selected in early September. Good luck!

monstersgonightnight

Available now from Abrams!

 

mybigtreeMaria Ashworth is a dedicated children’s book writer who has just released a big new venture, a picture book entitled MY BIG TREE, illustrated by Bailey Beougher. What makes this book different than the ones I typically feature? It is with a smaller, independent publisher…but it has led to big things for Maria’s career. (You note the theme is BIG here, right?)

MY BIG TREE features a sweet little blue bird who has found a favorite place to nest in a big, swirling tree. Soon other animals think it’s the ideal place to be, too. The little blue bird isn’t ready to share her space and decides it’s no longer the “best tree to nest in.” She finds a new tree, but something is missing. In the end, the little bluebird realizes there is one thing more valuable than nesting in her favorite tree…

Maria, what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to challenge myself to write a concept book with a message. An idea came along where what if there was a bird who had something she loved, a big tree. And then what if everyone thought it was their favorite tree too. Would bird be happy sharing…???

The dog in the story doesn’t have a speaking role in this production, so how did he come to be?
At first I had the animals in the tree and was satisfied. The illustrator perfected a dog in her portfolio so I thought, huh, wouldn’t it be neat to add a dog in each page doing his own thing? It would get the reader curious, maybe even make them suspect the dog was up to no good, especially near a big tree. But he is just a dog doing his thing on every page with no real purpose other than to create more curiosity surrounding the big tree.

page9mybigtree

What do you want kids to take away after reading MY BIG TREE?
The message is about friendship but also that materialistic things are not what is important in life. Building relationships with others, having friends is what matters. Toys and things are just stuff. They are a temporary happy. Relationships are forever and can last a lifetime.

Your book has a classic feel. It’s a friendship book, a counting book and a search-and-find book. How would you describe it?
It has a BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR feel with a hint of Handford’s WHERE’S WALDO? books, but aimed at the younger set. I wanted the animals to be placed randomly throughout the book so kids would have fun finding the animals in the tree. Then at the end, the animals join together in their grouping so children can make sure all the animals are accounted for. And I snuck in some chicks so they’d better not miss those!

This book is with the Spork imprint of Clear Fork Publishing in your home state of Texas. Can you tell us how you decided to self-publish at first and then sign with them?
My critique group enticed me into self-publishing. I have a couple of gals who are gurus in the self-publishing market. One of them is Indie and boasted how being an independent author reaps more benefits. I felt I had put in my time into the writing world and was salivating to get myself out there. To date, I’ve accumulated a hundred and seventy-five rejections from my submitted work. I’m a salesperson by nature and knew I could do it myself instead of waiting on rejections.

So I was all ready to self-publish MY BIG TREE–I found the perfect illustrator and had my finger on the “send” button to the printer…but then I went to my first Texas Library Association conference. I met an editor from Clear Fork and we grabbed coffee together. I told the editor about MY BIG TREE, which she loved, and offered to be my publisher. She also asked what else I had stirring in the pot! It’s all a fairy-tale ending after that, with a multi-book deal. IGGY LOO is coming out this winter, with TOMMY JAMES, THE LITTLEST COWBOY IN RECKON’ series following next year. I am blessed.

What are the advantages to working with a small publisher in your own backyard?
I see for ME a BIG advantage and that is I am asked my opinion on everything. Right down to who I see as an illustrator for the book to the vision and look of my characters. I’m not sure it’s this way with all small press editors. Matter of fact I know it’s not, because a writer friend is with a small press and doesn’t have the same relationship I do. I think after seeing the work I put into MY BIG TREE she saw my vision as a writer. The editor and I hit it off like sisters. Joining forces with her felt right. The publisher is only three years old. I want to make them just as much as a success as I hope to be for them.

Congratulations, Maria. Your experience just proves that it pays to keep writing…and always have more than one story ready to go. You never know when someone will ask for MORE! Best wishes with THE BIG TREE and your upcoming titles.

Hey, BIG NEWS! You can win a copy of MY BIG TREE, just leave a comment below. What BIG things are you planning for your writing career? One comment per person. US addresses only, please. A winner will be randomly chosen in early September.

mariaashcroftMaria Ashworth volunteers her time when she’s not writing for the Maud Marks Library Friends Board in Katy, Texas where she serves as President, as well as a Member-At-Large for the Friends of the Harris County Library. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Some of Ms. Ashworth’s picture books and middle grade novel manuscripts have been nominated as finalists in several contests. She’s published a handful of short stories through contests and a women’s anthology. Visit her at MariaAshworth.com.

Lately I’ve been walking around my house saying, “Nose friend! I want to roll in this smell with you!”

I know you thought picture book writers were crazy, but maybe not this insane. My kids certainly think I’ve lost it.

bogartandvinnieBut, once you’ve read BOGART & VINNIE: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship, you might be repeating the same thing.

Vinnie is a lost yet crazy-happy dog, one of those mutt-types with a helicopter tail and an insatiable appetite for canine chatter. It doesn’t seem to bother Vinnie that he’s lost his boy—he’ll just make another bestie. And of course, no other animal has quite the bestial allure of a square-lipped rhinoceros named Bogart. But what’s Vinnie’s moniker for Bogart? What else can a pup call a double-horned behemoth? NOSE FRIEND.

Audrey Vernick’s the name, hilarious picture books are her game. You might know Audrey from IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?, which in my opinion is one of the finest get-ready-for-school stories ever published.

Audrey, how did you capture Vinnie’s doggy dialogue so well? I love his voice! (I do his voice. You might want to tap me for the audio version.)

AudreyAPThank you! I have dogs. I realize there are few readers who will say “Oh, how COOL that Audrey Vernick is!” when I reveal that I often talk in my dogs’ voices. I give them words, and I am confident that I give them the right words, and the right tone of voice, too. I do think some readers might nod and say “Well, duh, of course. Me too.”

Once I had the general idea of Vinnie’s voice, I just had to push it a bit so it was more over-the-top enthusiastic.

Bogart and Vinnie is about an unlikely friendship. Did you get your inspiration from one of your unusual associations?

In a bizarre show of life imitating art (or “art”), an unlikely friendship, along the lines of the one Bogart and Vinnie share, came about in our very own house when we brought an excitable, happy puppy, Hootie, into our lives when our soulful dog, Rookie, was 10 years old. They WERE Bogart and Vinnie. But Hootie didn’t enter our lives until after I had written this book. (She must have gotten her paws on an early draft somehow.)

The inspiration for this book was actually born of skepticism, I’m afraid. I had read all those nonfiction interspecies friendship picture books and wondered about the use of that word, friendship. I thought it would be fun to find out what happened if animals photographed in close proximity were mistaken for friends. And Vinnie had been waiting around for a book to appear in. He had been the narrator of a manuscript that never quite worked, A Puppy’s Guide to Training, and apparently what had been missing in his life, all along, was a rhinoceros who wanted nothing more than to be left alone.

Your blog is about literary friendships. What was the most surprising friendship story from your site?

Do you know how there are some authors and illustrators you just never really discovered when you were young? For some reason, I never read a Roald Dahl book as a child. And the biggest surprise for me has been how many authors and illustrators, but especially illustrators, cite him as an inspiration. He was always just a name to me. As an adult, I read his memoir, Boy, a sort of Angela’s Ashes for the younger set.

But maybe that doesn’t answer your question. The biggest blog surprise is that my most read post was not an interview with a brilliant writer or illustrator but a post about my mother and how my writer friends sort of fill part of the hole where she used to be.

I think that doesn’t answer your question either. I think maybe I suck at answering questions. The most surprising friendship story from my site is what I’ve learned from the wisdom of everyone who has visited. There are so many, from Ruth Barshaw, Erica Perl, Bob Shea, Liz Scanlon, but for some reason, this one springs to mind, from Linda Urban:

“(when I was young…) I was waiting for someone to see me and tell me I was responsible and smart and special and worth being the subject of a novel. Of course, these are things that we can’t wait for, can we? We have to tell ourselves those things, and then become them. Which is sort of what the kids in my books do. My characters are much smarter than I ever was.”

Isn’t she smart?

audreysmallWell, yeah, but I happen to think you’re darn smart, too, Audrey, my new NOSE FRIEND!

Do you have an unlikely friendship story to share? Leave a comment to enter the giveaway! You might win a copy of BOGART & VINNIE, guaranteed to make you talk like a dog (a crazy-happy one)!

In the meantime, you can visit Audrey’s blog at Literaryfriendships.wordpress.com.

Audrey Vernick writes funny picture books, nonfiction picture books, and middle-grade novels. Her picture book, Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2012. In 2014, two new books will hit the shelves–the funny/tender picture book Edgar’s Second Word, and the middle-grade novel Screaming at the Ump, and her first novel, Water Balloon, will be released in paperback. A two-time recipient of the New Jersey Arts Council’s fiction fellowship, Audrey lives near the ocean with her family.

KramericaSORRY FOR THE DELAY!

Geesh, I am full of apologies lately. I’m so far behind in everything, which might not surprise you if you read my Emu’s Debuts post about “balance” being overrated. Being a mother, an author, managing my book launch and Multiple Sclerosis…phew. Wanna be an intern? Inquire within. Better terms and conditions than Kramerica Industries!

First I’d like to THANK YOU for backing my friend Ryan Hipp’s Kickstarter project, LITTLE STEPS. Ryan has exceeded his goal with more than a week to go. HIPP HIPP HOORAY!

Next, here are the winners from the past two giveaways! (Selected with the help of Random.org.)

WATCH YOUR TONGUE, CECILY BEASLEY by Lane Fredrickson:

Tina M. Cho!

NUGGET AND FANG PRIZE PACK from Tammi Sauer:

Laura Dineen!

CONGRATULATIONS! Watch for an email from me.

And that’s all folks. But stay tuned—lots of book reviews coming soon, including a rare “poisonous” foray into YA fiction! I’ll also be walking you through what it takes to plan a book launch, which today includes getting quotes for COOKIES. Sweet!

thatsallfolks

Ever heard of the picture book THE LOUDS MOVE IN? It’s one of my all-time favorites, with a cast of unique characters like Miss Shushermush, who eats quiet meals of leftover mashed potatoes. When the Loud family moves onto Earmuffle Avenue, the chaos begins and friendships are eventually [noisily] forged.

Ever since I read THE LOUDS I have been a huge fan of author Carolyn Crimi. So when I heard about her newest book PUGS IN A BUG, and then saw the illustrations by Stephanie Buscema, I nearly fell off my chair with an attack of acute cuteness. Punch-buggy green! Gotcha!

PUGS is a “catchy canine counting book” with a jaunty joy-ride rhyme and a groovin’ get-up-and-go beat. It’s so much fun to read aloud with its twists and turns in language—and in the road. Chugging along, the pugs meet up with a pooch parade, so there’s not only pugs in a bug, but bulldogs in a taxi and poodles on skateboards. This book proves that it’s not always about the destination but the journey. Beep, beep! Bow wow! I know you want to win it now!

So Carolyn and Stephanie are both here today to talk about the creation of PUGS…and yes, you can win it!

TL: Carolyn, are pugs your favorite kind of dog? Do you own a pug? Why PUGS?

CC: I actually love all kinds of dogs. I met a Newfoundland yesterday that I was ready to take home with me. Alas, she was a big dog and probably would not have fit in my car. But pugs are probably my favorite. They’re the comedians of the dog world. When I walk down the street with my pug Emerson people laugh. I kind of love that about him—he brings laughter with him wherever he goes.

Not that he cares about that. All he really cares about is food. If he had to choose between me and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken I’m afraid there would be no contest. KFC would win, paws down.

Not only do I own a pug, I also own a VW Bug. It’s even green, just like the one in the book. I came up with the entire idea for PUGS IN A BUG the very first time I took Emerson for a ride in my car. That was way back in 2001. I still have both the pug and the Bug. I highly recommend both!

I’ve attached a pic of Emerson for your amusement.

TL: Aww, I love Emerson! His tongue is hilarious.

So you had the idea for the book over 10 years ago. How long did it take you to write it?

CC: Boy, I wish I had a timeline for this book, but I don’t have a clear idea of when I wrote the first draft. I don’t think it was submitted until 2003. Of course the whole submission process takes forever and a day. I also probably revised it a bunch of times to no avail. Then I think it took a while to find the right illustrator.

In other words, same ole same ole.

My first drafts don’t usually take long at all. Maybe just a couple of days. It’s the many revisions I do that take years. Yup, years. I’ll put something away for a while if it doesn’t sell right away. I’ll take another look at it years later and will sometimes be able to see the changes that need to be made. Sometimes I can’t see how to change it. I have a lot of unsold manuscripts lurking in my computer just waiting for the day when I can fix them.

I often tell new writers that this is not a microwave career where you stick in a hastily written manuscript and a six figure income pops out thirty seconds later. It takes oodles of revisions and a lot of “thinking time” to polish a manuscript into submission-ready form.

TL: I remember you once said that an illustrator never does what you imagine—they do far better than you ever could have imagined. What did Stephanie do with PUGS that really surprised you?

CC: Lots of things!

She gave them all hats, which I love, especially since I have been known to, um, dress up my pug on occasion. This lends a distinct personality to each pug. Genius!

Something else that surprised me was that two sweet little birds appear on every spread. (TL: Can you find them below?) That’s the kind of thing kids love to follow in a book. Also, toward the end a rascally squirrel jumps onto the back of the Bug, unbeknownst to the pugs riding in it. So fun! Stephanie has added so many details like this. It’s the kind of book that has endless surprises in the illustrations. I’m still finding things in it that I hadn’t noticed before!

TL: Stephanie, what drew you to PUGS IN A BUG?

SB: When I got the manuscript for PUGS, I was thrilled with the subject matter (I love drawing and painting animals) and was immediately drawn to it! The story had so much room for play, color and lots of fun character designs. I’m a big fan of Carolyn’s work, so it was an honor to illustrate one of her books.

TL: What kind of tricks do you use to keep so many similar-looking characters diverse? Did you name the Pugs as you drew them?

SB: I didn’t name them, but I did add in little pug accessories so that the reader would know each pug was different (and so I could keep track, haha)!

TL: LOL! Yes, I love all the little details like the bow ties and hats, although I confess the girl with the flower in her fur is my favorite. Or maybe it’s the cool jazz dude. Or the one with the pink horn-rimmed glasses. Oh, I can’t choose!

What was your favorite spread to illustrate?

SB: I have to say, I enjoyed most of the spreads. I think my most favorite spreads to paint were the pages at the beginning of the book. It was really fun to push myself with the landscapes and scene changes. If I had to chose one? I think the spread with the 3 pugs driving into the city was my favorite to paint. The entire book was painted in gouache and cel-vinyl (animation) paints on watercolor paper.

TL: Do you do any Photoshop or computer work once your paintings are finished?

SB: Nope, I work 100% traditional. Sometimes we’ll have to clean up a little spot here or there, and of course in the proofing stage if something isn’t bright enough we’ll bump it up. But other then that, I don’t use Photoshop in the art stages at all.

TL: How do you hope readers will react to the illustrations?

SB: Like any job I do, I always hope the readers enjoy the visuals and pick up on the sense of joy I get out of painting a book.

TL: I think that is totally obvious with this book—the bright color and playfulness just jumps out and slaps a seatbelt on you. Sit down and enjoy the ride!

Carolyn, you  have published so many terrific books—WHERE’S MY MUMMY?, HENRY & THE BUCCANEER BUNNIES, DON’T NEED FRIENDS—and now PUGS is added to that list. Can you even pick a favorite?

CC: Well, I have to say based on the writing alone, I like my book DEAR TABBY the best. I love all my books, but I think DEAR TABBY is the funniest. And while I don’t believe in heavy-handed message books, if you read the last page you’ll know my philosophy of life. More importantly, I had a ton of fun writing it!

TL: And those are the best books–the ones that gave the author the most pleasure often give the audience the most fun. Your joy and enthusiasm shine through. 

Thanks, Carolyn and Stephanie! I know everyone will have a blast with PUGS…so let’s give them a chance to win it!

See the pugs on the cover above? Which is your favorite? And just what *is* that pugs name? Name that dog! (Which also happens to be another book illustrated by Stephanie.) I hope you come up with names as creative as Carolyn’s nicknames for Emerson: Sir Scratch and Sniff, Mr. Wiggle Butt, The Mayor and Circus Dog.

You get an extra entry for each share on social media—just mention it in the comments.

Comments close the end of April 30 and a random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Beep, beep! Bow wow!

Visit CarolynCrimi.com and StephanieBuscema.com to learn more about their books!

I am so absolutely thrilled that BOY + BOT releases today because I’ve been waiting for it for a long, long time.

It’s the debut picture book by my good friend, Ame Dyckman—and get this—it’s illustrated by the hugely talented Dan Yaccarino! I mean, this has got to be the best picture book EVER with an author-illustrator team just as lovable as Boy and Bot themselves.

And for this very special day, I’ve got prizes to give away! One AFFIRMATIVELY AWESOME prize pack including BOY + BOT, stickers, bookmarks, and an *exclusive* BOT keychain clip made by author-zoologist-educator-sculptor Jess Keating!

So let’s get on with the fun!

TL: Ame, you and I have been friends for a few years now, after meeting at NJ-SCBWI first page sessions. (I knew I had to get to know you, with your spiky pink hair and Lego bracelet.) Is that how you began your kidlit career, attending SCBWI events?

AD: *laughing* Was my hair pink back then? I don’t remember my hair color at the time (it’s blue, now), but I remember thinking, “Wow! This Tara person is funny and nice and she really knows her kidlit! I like her!” BAM! Friends!

And yes, attending SCBWI events–YAY, NJ-SCBWI!–started everything for me! When I first joined, I knew I wanted to write picture books, but I didn’t know how. My first manuscripts were REALLY bad, but nobody made fun of me. Everybody was helpful. (YOU taught me how to page a PB, remember? I still have your diagram!) I went to as many events as I could—First Page Sessions, Mentoring Workshops, Networking Dinners, Annual Conferences, etc. I learned tons—still do!—and met lots of amazing industry professionals and made lots of wonderful friends. At the 2009 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference, I pitched BOY + BOT to Super Agent Scott Treimel, and he said, “I love it! Let’s work together!”

TL: I distinctly remember the 2009 conference and a certain editor making goo-goo eyes at you during lunch…but he had read your manuscript and was bonkers over BOY + BOT. I thought to myself, GO AME! You could feel the buzz about that manuscript at the event. You were in deep conversation with several agents.

So we want to know—how did this beep-worthy book idea come about?

AD: The short answer: I love robots! (I used to doodle robots instead of doing my math homework. Even in college!) The long answer: I love robots and unusual friendship stories and mirror stories always make me laugh, so I hoped mine would make other people laugh, too.

TL: So BOY + BOT is your debut and it has something like 347 starred industry reviews! Are you thrilled or what?

AD: I’m SO happy, and really grateful for all the reviewer love. Here’s hoping the little Boys (and Girls!) and Bots that Dan and I made the book for love it, too!

TL: We’re chatting on the eve of your book’s release. Will you be able to sleep tonight? It’s a little like Christmas Eve, isn’t it?

AD: It feels like Christmas Eve and Birthday Eve and Leaving-for-Disney-World-Tomorrow Eve all smooshed together! I was up until 3:45 this morning because I was so excited already! (But, I think I’d better try to nap later today—I just searched the fridge and then the entire house looking for the bag of baby carrots, only to find I’d put them in the clothes dryer!)

TL: How awesome was it to see Dan Yaccarino’s vision of your characters? Were they anything like you imagined?

AD: Seeing Dan’s first sketches was the greatest! My family gathered around, we clicked “Open,” and then we all shouted, “Look! Bot’s… BIG! That’s BRILLIANT!” (Up until then, we’d envisioned Boy and Bot being the same small size! I dunno why!) But a small Boy and a big Bot is GENIUS! We could already see all the wonderful humor and affection Dan was putting into the characters, and knew his final artwork would be amazing. When it came in, I loved it SO MUCH, I hugged my computer!

TL: *insert clever segue to Dan here*

Howdy Dan, Mr. Keeno Yaccarino! Tell me, when you read Ame’s manuscript, it was love at first sight, right? Kind of like BOY + BOT themselves, right? RIGHT?! (Say “affirmative,” Dan.)

DY: AFFIRMATIVE.

TL: Ame said said when the illustrations came in, she was surprised to see BOT was a big bot and not a small one, like Boy. Why did you make the friends different sizes?

DY: Hmmm. I’m not sure. I guess it was the vision that formed in my mind when I read the manuscript.

There is rarely a logical reason why I do things visually. I listen to my impulse and trust my vision. If it feels right and is right for the book, then I do it.

Then perhaps I’ll rationalize it later.

TL: OK, would you care to rationalize why the inventor is bald?

DY: All inventors should be bald!

TL: *spittake* You’ve got a point there. Plus he reminds me of a lightbulb, so that’s very clever.

And here’s something else that’s clever—our contest to win the AFFIRMATIVELY AWESOME prize pack (book, Bot clip, stickers & bookmarks) PLUS there’s also TWO MORE copies of BOY + BOT to give away!

WOWZA!

Enter by telling us what you think Boy’s real name is. Ame says she’s always wondered about it. So let her know!

You get one entry for commenting and then one entry for every share on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Just mention it when you comment!

Have fun and good luck! Comments will close the end of April 20 and winners will be announced on April 21.

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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