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by Joan Holub

The Goddess Girls series is up to #25 with CLOTHO THE FATE! I can hardly believe it. (Thank you, thank you, Simon and Schuster!) The Greek myth about the Three Fates, who decide, well, human fates, has been one of my faves since fifth grade.

THE GODDESS GIRLS series (ages 8-12) happened because I met Suzanne Williams at an SCBWI meeting and asked if she’d consider co-writing a series. We both pitched ideas and Goddess Girls wound up the front-runner. Book #1 Athena the Brain, in which Athena discovers she’s a goddess and is summoned by her dad Zeus to attend Mount Olympus Academy, pubbed in 2010. The GG books are each a riff on an actual Greek myth and star smart, adventurous girl goddesses. Quirky grown-ups include Mr. Cyclops teaching classes such as Hero-ology. Suzanne and I have since spun off two other series: LITTLE GODDESS GIRLS (ages 6-8) and HEROES-IN-TRAINING (ages 7-10).

Recently, I read an instagram from a favorite author, Julie Falatko, regarding the difficulties of balancing art, life, and income. I’m prolific with about 170 children’s books by now, and I realized that series writing has helped me maintain that balance Julie mentions. With a schedule of enjoyable series work on my desk, I can fit in picture books, board books, etc. as I have time and think of ideas. My creativity isn’t encumbered by angst regarding my publishing future. Still, it’s not fair (or helpful) to me or my editors if I were to have, say, two board books pub in the same season for different publishers. A bookstore might choose only to stock one of those two Joan Holub offerings. Instead, if I pub a board book, along with either a picture book or a middle grade book in the same season, I haven’t set up sales competition between two of my own books. They’ll be shelved in different areas of a store and browsed by parents and kids in different age groups.

Some of my books have become a series unexpectedly. I read every biography (starting with the girl ones) in my school library as a kid. So a few years ago, I wanted to write some simple board books bios. First came THIS LITTLE PRESIDENT (Little Simon). The format includes 10 spreads with 10 of the better-known presidents, plus a final spread mentioning numerous more and a call for kids to become part of the presidential group in future. It sold well enough to spin into a series: THIS LITTLE ARTIST, THIS LITTLE TRAILBLAZER: A Girl Power Primer, etc. Much of the series success is owed to my editor and the illustrator. I mean, who could not pick up these books after seeing Daniel Roode’s covers? I’ve also been lucky enough to also write for the Penguin Workshop’s bestselling WHO WAS series (WHO WAS BABE RUTH?). They’re the books with the big heads on the covers, and it seems like every kid has read at least one. I know I have. They’re addictive.

Thank you, Tara, so much for letting me visit today.

I’d love to give away three autographed copies of GODDESS GIRLS: CLOTHO THE FATE. They won’t arrive until 2020, but there’s always Valentine’s Day and birthday gifts! Thanks for reading!

You heard Joan!

Leave one comment below to enter the random giveaway. Three random winners will be chosen soon.

Good luck!


4 Joan Holub SIBA 2015 castle hat The Knights Before Christmasby Joan Holub

Yay, you guys, for taking part in PiBoIdMo 2015! Below are 3 things that work for me in my writing, and I hope you’ll find something in here that works for you.

1. Need a fresh way of inspiring new book ideas? Start with a title:

  • This is what R.L. Stine often does according to his interview with NPR. And about one third of my 130+ books began with a title (Goddess Girls series co-authored with Suzanne Williams; Zero the Hero).
  • Sources for titles you could tweak, mix-and-match, or reshape to inspire your next story include TV Guide, movie titles, book titles, idioms, fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhymes. Keep a list of intriguing, catchy phrases you dream up or overhear. Think: What could a book with this title be about?
  • Joan says to self: Little Red Writing. What could a book with this title be about? First thought: Main character is a red pencil. Second thought: This pencil is a student at Pencil School. With a teacher named Ms. 2 who tells her class to write stories. Next: I looked up positive attributes of the color red. Bravery is one. Aha! Now I knew what my Little Red pencil wanted—to be brave. Result: My Little Red Writing character is so brave that she foils the Wolf 3000, a crazed pencil sharpener pretending to be Principal Granny.

    1 Little Red Writing Joan Holub image

2. How do you decide which of your many ideas to spend your precious creativity and limited time on?

  • Try choosing an idea that is “interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. [Those two things] can be very different.” That’s a slightly paraphrased tweet I found, attributed to Emma Coats. I don’t think it means you should not have fun writing. I translate it to mean: What unmade movie would you really like to see, or unwritten book would you like to read? Write that idea. Make it the premise for your book. If your audience-self wants to read it, chances are good that there’s a broader audience for your idea as well.
  • Joan to self: “Wouldn’t it be funny if 3 silly knights would not let Santa into their castle to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve?”
    Result: The Knights Before Christmas. Knights rebuff Santa. Santa catapults gifts over the castle walls. This book unfolded in my brain’s eye, scene after scene like a movie, and I think it reads that way.

    2 The Knights Before Christmas Holub Magoon interior image 2 The Knights Before Christmas Joan Holub Scott Magoon cover

3. Book idea just not working?

  • Maybe it’s too thin or needs pizzaz. Try enriching your project by combining two of your non-working ideas into one idea that works. (Don’t hoard ideas. You’re not wasting them by combining them. And you’ll get more ideas.)
  • Joan to self: “This dog story of mine desperately needs a twist. And this school-picture-day premise of mine is just lying there on the page, boring me. What if I combined them?” Result: Shampoodle, in which dogs go wild at the groomer’s before dog picture day.

    3 Shampoodle Joan Holub Tim Bowers

Does every idea have the potential to become an amazing story? I think so. When you’re finished, you may not recognize it as the same idea you began with, but who cares? What matters is that you’ve successfully re-molded that original idea into a finished, great book. Here’s hoping PiBoIdMo 2015 gets your ideas flowing and zooms you all the way to the “finished” line!

Joan Holub is the author and/or illustrator of 130+ books for children including the acclaimed picture books Little Red Writing, The Knights Before Christmas, and Mighty Dads, a New York Times bestseller. Joan co-authors 3 series with Suzanne Williams: Goddess Girls (ages 8-12, Greek mythology with a middle school twist, 22 titles), Grimmtastic Girls (ages 8-12, fairy tale adventure), and Heroes in Training (mythology adventure chapter books). Coming in 2016: This Little President (NF board book) and What Was Woodstock? (NF chapter book).

this-little-president-9781481458504_holub_image 9780448486963 What Was Woodstock_ Joan Holub

Where to find Joan online:
Twitter @joanholub

PrizeDetails (2)
Joan is generously giving away this hinged, unpainted wooden castle, ready for the little knights in your castle to decorate and enjoy!

Here’s how Joan transformed her castle into a prop for The Knights Before Christmas events and school visits:

5 The Knights Before Christmas Joan Holub giveaway PiBoIdMo

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

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