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Penny Parker Klostermann has cooked up a new fractured fairy tale with Ben Mantle…but the book wouldn’t be a reality without her fairy tale agent, Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Knowing many of you are hoping your fairy godmother will deliver a prince (or princess) of an agent, I asked Tricia how the two of them paired up to create kidlit magic.

       

Tricia, how did you and Penny connect? What made you fall in love with her work?

Penny was a referral from Erin. I was instantly interested because of her ability with rhyme. She’s got the elusive skill set and she still studies it all the time.

That’s like music to MY ears. I’m a Thomas Jefferson, INFJ, Hermione Granger personality type, so I love working with people who are always seeking to be better, and that, to a T, is Penny.

She is devoted to her writing. It’s her true love, but also a passion. That really does speak volumes to me. It reminds me of the book by Cal Newport called DEEP WORK, which inspires me constantly, about focused practice and preparation.

What about A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE do you adore?

Penny has an incredible sense of humor. THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT was full of it and A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE came right from that same vein of humor. You have this sense of “oh no!” as the familiar stories get cooked (oh no!), but there’s so much humor as it is happening. It is delightful.

How to you hope readers will react to it?

I hope readers (kids) get a kick out of it just like I did. Yes, I consider myself a reader (and a kid at heart).

Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s next in store for Penny?

Penny has always got something AMAZING cooking (ha, see what I did there) and right now is no different. But that’s all I can say!

You’ll have to ask me back to the blog another time to get the scoop.

Thanks, Tricia. You can count on it. 

Penny, this is your second fractured fairy tale. What do you enjoy about writing them?

I love taking something familiar and twisting it in a new way. And I believe that children connect quickly with the humor when they read something that has familiar parts but has been taken a different direction.

And what is uniquely challenging about writing them?

And the challenges (for me) mirror the reasons I love it.

It’s challenging to take something familiar and twist it in a new way. It’s tough to balance the familiar with the new and have a story arc that makes logical sense and flows smoothly.

Thanks, Penny. You know I love a good story, especially when it involves food.

A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE gives a new twist to the fish-out-of-water story (maybe it should be called a fish-out-of-soup story). William just wants to be a renowned chef, but the problem is that he lives in a fairy tale land where he cooks up a lot of trouble, especially when he bakes the Gingerbread Man.

But when William realizes fairy tales have their own special ingredients—like apples and pumpkins—he learns how to cook up ha-pea-ly ever-after endings.

This book is a delicious treat for all who love mash-ups (and mashed potatoes).

Penny is giving away a copy of A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE to a US resident. Enter by leaving one comment below.

A winner will be selected by release day, September 5th.

Good luck!

 

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 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!

by Catherine Bailey & Meg Walters

Thank you, Tara, for allowing Meg and I to reveal the super duper, mega official, cover of our book, LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony Press, 2017)! It’s very kind of you to host us, (and we didn’t even have to hypnotize you!). We’d like to share a behind the scenes sneak-peak of how our cover came to life. Meg will kick it off with her amazing illustrator insights,

An Illustrator’s Eye…
In March of 2015 I was contacted by Julie Matysik, then a senior editor at Sky Pony Press (SSP), the children’s imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Julie and SSP editor Nicole Frail, had acquired a wonderful picture book text written by Catherine Bailey, called LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. Julie had kept a promotional postcard of mine that she had picked up from a NJ-SCBWI Fall Workshop and thought, based on the postcard artwork, my illustrative style might be a good fit for this new project. Although I have been an illustrator and designer for a long time, and attended SCBWI events for years, this was the first picture book I have illustrated. I was beyond thrilled, and couldn’t wait to illustrate Catherine Bailey’s fun characters and bring her wacky story to life.

Julie sent me the LLS manuscript and I began creating sketches of Lucy and Sherman and thumbnails of the story. Lucy loves polka dots, and loves that Sherman also “wears” polka dots. So I wanted to incorporate dot graphics on the cover, as well as Lucy’s clothes. I also liked that the polka dots resembled water/bubbles. Blub, blub!

The final cover artwork was due to SPP January 2016.

lls_cover_a

But—as so often happens in publishing—there was a change after the deadline.

In March of 2016 the SPP Marketing Department wanted to move the book release date to coincide with Valentine’s Day to play up the LOVE in LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. They asked me to recreate the cover with more red and add hearts. Marketing also asked that I move an illustration that was on the title page onto the cover. The illustration showed Lucy and Sherman hugging. Here is previous title page art:

lls_titlepage_b

I created several new looks for the cover and after a few rounds of edits, here is new Valentines-ish cover March 2016.

lls_valentines_c

Then the publication date was switched to March of 2017. Since the focus was no longer a Valentine’s day release, we were able to go back to the original blue/turquoise background. SPP only asked that I still keep the characters hugging on the cover. And so, here she is – the final, final cover:

lls_final_d

Sky Pony Press’s Nicole Frail and Julie Matysik, and Catherine, have been fantastic to work with throughout this whole process. I am thrilled for the March 2017 launch of LUCY LOVES SHERMAN!

The Author’s Note…
I am so glad to talk about the cover design of this book, largely because people always ask me if I draw my own pictures. After a resounding “Nope,” I get the follow-up question about how much input that I—as the author—have in the book’s artwork. That answer is usually “Not a whole heck of a lot.” And that’s fine with me! I love that talented artists like Meg add new layers and depth my stories.

However, the wonderful Sky Pony folks invited my feedback on early drafts of LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. I was super flattered and excited. I poured over the images for days. Seriously. At one point my husband threatened to lock my laptop in the trunk of his car. But I couldn’t help myself. Meg did such a great job!

lucy-sketch-1

lucy-sketch-2

Then, as Meg mentioned, there was a big shift towards a more “Valentine’s” feel during the cover design process. My editor, Nicole, emailed me the revamped design. It was very red, very adorable, and very perfect for the holiday. But. (Oh yes, there’s a but!) I worried that Sherman’s red shell would get lost against the scarlet background. So I very carefully and very politely voiced my concerns. Nicole really took them to heart, but her hands were tied. The red had to stay but there was talk about adjusting the shade, which I thought was a great compromise. And then—lo and behold—the publication date was pushed back and the problem solved itself. The cover went back to primarily turquoise.

So there you have it. A blow-by-blow of our mini-rollercoaster ride towards the final cover for LUCY LOVES SHERMAN, which splashes out from Sky Pony Press this March. I think Meg and Nicole and Julie totally nailed it. And I hope you to do too!

Pssst! It wouldn’t be a cover reveal without a free giveaway (Free! Everybody loves free!).

Just leave one message in the comments below and you will be entered to win a 20-minute Skype visit with author Catherine Bailey. The visit can be used either by a teacher/media specialist as a school visit, or by aspiring authors who’d like to chat about writing and publishing.

Hey, do you know what time it is?

yayoclock

That’s right, it’s yay o’clock!

And you know what that means, don’t you?

It’s time to meet the SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS!

SuperHappyPartyBears

Welcome to the Grumpy Woods!

Just kidding. No one is welcome here.

No, I’m just kidding again. That’s how these brand-spanking new chapter books begin. See, you’re already laughing three sentences in.

So let me present a more welcoming welcome.

The SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS are unlike anything you’ve seen in a chapter book series. Firstly, they are not some formula regurgitated in rainbow, written by an illusive nom-de-plume. No! These are the first books by up-and-coming author Marcie Colleen. In addition to this series, Marcie has the picture book LOVE, TRIANGLE releasing next year with Bob Shea (BOB SHEA, PEOPLE!!!) and THE ADVENTURE OF THE PENGUINAUT is blasting off soon, too.

Next, these books feature adorable, full color illustrations by Steve James. OMG, you do not know how SUPER HAPPY that makes me!

partyhatbears

I have a reluctant reader at home (I know, can you believe it?!) and the thing she dislikes about chapter books are the black-and-white line drawings. She clings to picture books and their boundless art. With SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS, which she has SWIPED FROM ME to take to the first day of school, she doesn’t even realize she’s reading a chapter book because every page features a color illustration. Not only that, but there’s a flip-book animation in the corner of every title. In KNOCK KNOCK ON WOOD, Bubs shimmies with a hula hoop.

So let’s get back to the story. Every morning in the Grumpy Woods, where the SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS live, the other residents don their cranky pants (really, a whole outfit).

crankypants

Mayor Quill and his devoted subjects relish their grumpiness. They thrive on it. And the SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS? They are ecstatic, dancing, blissful bears no matter what the forest folk throw at them. Nothing can dampen their desire to party. They just wanna bear hug everyone. They see the positive in everything. And you know, what a great attitude to share.

Now, even though the Mayor, Humphrey Hedgehog, Dawn Fawn and the others make their harumphs for the bears loud and clear, the whole party crew, from Littlest Bear to Big Puff, fail to notice. In fact, they worship Mayor Quill. This, of course, annoys the prickly politician to no pointy end.

Therein lies the humor. But that’s not ALL the humor! For parents reading along, there are clever asides and pop-culture nods.

ziggyplaysguitar

Meet Ziggy. Ziggy plays guitar. ‘Nuff said.

Then there’s the famous SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS dance.

partybearsdancepartybearsdancetwo

You wanna dance with me? Well, grab yourself a copy and shimmy, shimmy, shake!

Actually, you can grab TWO copies right here, one GNAWING AROUND and one KNOCK KNOCK ON WOOD, the first two books in the series from Macmillan’s new imprint, imprint. (So nice I said it twice.)

superhappybooks

Just leave a comment to enter. PLUS, if you TWEET, FACEBOOK, REBLOG or otherwise share this review, you gain an extra entry, WOO-HOO! Just leave one comment per each method so I can tally your extra entries.

This will be a PARTY TO REMEMBER! GOOD LUCK!

 

 

by Colleen Rowan Kosinski

Not long ago I had the book launch for my debut picture book, LILLA’S SUNFLOWERS. It was an exciting, invigorating, and tiring day.

Now I am deep into the marketing phase—not a hat I was prepared to wear. My degree is in visual art, not marketing, but with the help of my husband we are making some progress.

Lilla's Sunflowers_cover_colleen_rowan_kosinski

Here is a synopsis of my story: Lilla and Papa enjoy spending magical times in Lilla’s sunflower patch. Before Papa leaves for a trip that will take him far away from home for a long time, Lilla gives him a sunflower seed. “To remember me, Papa,” Lilla whispers.

Seasons pass, and Lilla’s mood falls like autumn leaves.

sad_lilla_colleen_rowan_kosinski

Finally, news comes that her papa is coming home! The following summer, to her surprise, she receives letters from families with photos of their loved ones pictured with sunflowers. She learns that her gift to her father brightened the dark days for many people, and that her one small seed continued spreading sunshine across the country.

lilla_telling_stories_colleen_rowan_kosinski

Through the illustrations, the reader learns Lilla’s father has left for military deployment. The story was inspired by videos of children and pets being reunited with their loved ones who’d been deployed to serve our country.

As I wrote my story I knew I wanted it to be heartwarming. Funny stories are great, but not really me. Even as a small child my favorite book was a touching book called THE SHEEP OF THE LAL BAGH. It was about a sheep that was replaced by a lawnmower and is brought back when the townspeople realize what a unique contribution he made to their town.

So I wrote in my quiet style and hoped it would sell. And it did—within months. But I was not prepared for the impact the words and images that once only existed in my mind would have on others.

It didn’t hit me until after the book launch when I received a touching email from a reader who said my book was just what her family needed—her husband was being deployed in 2017 for a year.

Another surprise I received was from a veteran who read my book and bought it to read to his grandchildren. He planned to read to them as a way to open a discussion about how their mom handled his deployment during the Korean War.

CarePackage_20160826_2

Like the flowers in Lilla’s garden, I hope my little book of hope can continue to reach many readers and bring a little sunshine far and wide.

Colleen Rowan Kosinskibio_pic_colleen_rowan_kosinski is an author-illustrator of children’s books. As a lover of nature and animals, in the spring you can usually find her nursing a sick rabbit or robin back to health. Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, and Miniature Dachshund. Follow her journey @writergirlrowan.

Thank you, Colleen, for such a touching story behind the story. Colleen is giving away a copy of LILLA’S SUNFLOWERS to a random commenter. Leave a comment below, one comment per person, US addresses only, please. A winner will be randomly selected in two weeks.

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.

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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.

Say hello to Maria Gianferrari & Becca! (And their bookshelves! Impressive!)

I have known Maria for years now–first as a reader of this blog, then as a jewelry customer (I make earrings and necklaces in my spare time) and now as a fellow author and agent-sister! Maria has one of these rip-roaring breakout careers where she has sold umpteen books in no time and has even landed her first picture book series, PENNY & JELLY! Wow!

To celebrate the release of Maria’s second book in the PENNY & JELLY series, SLUMBER UNDER THE STARS, I asked editor Cynthia Platt and Maria a few questions—and they gave me three books to give away!

pennyjelly2

Cynthia, many writers dream of landing a picture book series. As an editor, what do you look for in a story that gives it series potential?

I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily on the lookout for picture book series as a general rule, but I am always pleased when something calls out for more than a single book. For me, the strength of the picture book character is everything in terms of determining whether there might be series potential. It has to be someone I want to spend a lot of time with—and about whom I think kids will feel similarly. Humor also plays a huge role. No one wants a dreary picture book series (at least I don’t). With Penny & Jelly, I was immediately drawn to Penny’s personality and also to the very warm, very loving relationship between girl and dog. I also loved—from the moment I read the first draft of the first book—the creativity Penny possesses. She’s got such a can-do attitude, and she makes things happen for herself (even if she has to work through a few lists and a lot of craft supplies to do it). So, the story hit a lot of sweet spots for me as an editor.

pennyjellyexcited

Was PENNY & JELLY originally pitched as a series, or was it something you decided would be made into a series?

It wasn’t pitched as a series. After reading Penny & Jelly: The School Show, we approached Maria and her agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, about doing more than one book. Then Maria came up with the brilliant idea of a Slumber Under the Stars theme for the second book.

Maria, did you envision Penny & Jelly as a series when you first wrote it? 

I didn’t initially envision it as a series, but I was thrilled that Cynthia and HMH presented me with a two-book deal because they felt that Penny & Jelly were lovable characters with a special bond that they could envision as a series.

Did you imagine what Penny & Jelly looked like? Did you have a role in helping to pick Thyra Heder as the illustrator?

I had a very vague sense of what Penny & Jelly might look like. Since Penny & Jelly were characters inspired by my daughter, Anya, and her canine BFF, Becca, it was hard to picture them any other way than this, my favorite photo of the two besties.

I didn’t have a direct role in selecting Thyra, but Cynthia presented her work to me and asked for my input. Of course, I loved it. I could tell right away she was a dog lover like me when I saw these early Jellys, and I knew she was just a perfect fit to illustrate the Penny & Jelly books!

Jelly_ideas

How adorable! I love her doggy design sense! (Is the middle pup available for adoption?)

Cynthia & Maria, thank you for stopping by on the PENNY & JELLY SLUMBER UNDER THE STARS blog tour. And thank you for the three-book giveaway!

Leave a comment below to enter, US residents only, please. Winners will be chosen by the end of the month.

GOOD LUCK!

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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THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

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