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The creators of PEEP & EGG, author Laura Gehl and illustrator Joyce Wan, are letting us hear a peep from their recent conversation about making this seriously cute new book…which is just in time for Easter! It’s all it’s cracked up to be! (Man, I’m really pushing the puns lately.)

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Joyce Asks Laura….

Joyce: How did you first come up with the idea for this book?
Laura: With four kids of my own, I spent many years hearing I’M NOT every day. And by every day, I really mean every minute. But on the rare occasion that I got a full night’s sleep, or a full bar of chocolate, I could recognize that my kids and their peers weren’t actually trying to drive adults crazy (most of the time). A lot of the hesitation and I’M NOT came from nervousness, rather than stubbornness. I hope Peep and Egg will help parents start conversations with their kids about fears—however ridiculous those fears may seem. And I hope Peep and Egg will remind toddlers and preschoolers that they can overcome their fears.

Joyce: You left a lot of room in the text for illustrations, which was great for me! Is that a challenging thing to do as a writer?
Laura: YES!!!!!!!!! It is extremely hard to do! As an author, you have to resist the temptation to write a zillion detailed illustration notes and instead trust the illustrator to make magic happen. I always need to remind myself that if I am doing my job correctly, then my words—without the pictures—should only tell part of the story. If a child could hear only the words and get the full experience of my story, then I’ve totally failed.

Joyce: When you were writing this book, how did you imagine the illustrations?
Laura: I imagined the illustrations like Richard Scarry’s illustrations in I Am A Bunny. Just as you can see every hair on his bunny, I imagined seeing every feather on Peep. It’s hilarious to think about that now, since your style is totally different and yet I LOVE LOVE LOVE your interpretation of my words, and the magic we made together. That’s what I mean about trusting the illustrator—and also trusting the editor to make the perfect partnership between words and pictures. I know Janine, our wonderful editor, had you in mind from the beginning. It was her wisdom that made Peep and Egg the adorable book it is today!

Joyce: Peep and Egg is also written entirely in dialogue. Was that something that evolved as you were writing the story or was that something you decided from the start?
Laura: Over the various versions of Peep and Egg, certain aspects of the story changed—the ending most of all. But the story started in dialogue and stayed that way through every revision.

Joyce: Would you say you are more like Peep or more like Egg? (I’m more like Peep and tend to jump head first into everything!)
Laura: Now I know why we make a great team. I am definitely an Egg. I worry about everything and most days would love to stay inside my safe, cozy shell (as long as I could have chocolate inside, and a good book to read!).

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Laura Asks Joyce…

Laura: When you began developing the characters, who was more difficult to draw–Peep or Egg? (In this case, I mean Egg as an egg. I still can’t believe how much personality you bring out for Egg without the benefit of facial expressions!)
Joyce: The voice in the manuscript was so strong I could see the characters in my head right away. They were a joy to draw because they are such opposites personality-wise, and so expressive in their dialogue. Yes, Egg as an egg was hardest as I was unable to show facial expressions or body movements, but it was a fun challenge.

Laura: How did you decide on the color palate that you used? Did you experiment with other colors before narrowing in?
Joyce: I tend to gravitate to a particular color palette in a lot of my work and they’re usually colors that are a little off from the traditional rainbow colors. So instead of straight red, green and blue, I love colors like blush pink, olive, teal, lime, and aqua, which you will see a lot of in Peep and Egg.

Laura: Can you tell us a little about the process of designing the ridiculously adorable cover?
Joyce: What initially started as a two-book project became a four-book project over the course of working on the first two books [side note from Laura: WOO-HOO!] so I felt like this first book cover needed to be branded in a way so that recognizable design elements could be carried over a few books. I even sought feedback from my design-savvy agent on a number of design ideas, which helped me tremendously throughout the cover design process. That is one of the nice things about having an agent who worked on the design side of publishing before becoming an agent. It took a few rounds of different ideas before I reached a final design that the editor loved.

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Laura: Which illustration from the book is your favorite? Mine is Egg wearing the football helmet.
Joyce: I like the front endpaper, as I hid a little surprise for readers to discover.

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I suppose you’ll have to pick up PEEP AND EGG to find out!

Thanks, ladies. I can see this adorable series easily growing into a dozen books! A DOZEN! GET IT? (Groan, Tara.)

Macmillan is giving away a copy of PEEP & EGG: I’M NOT HATCHING to one lucky blog commenter. U.S. addresses only, please. Just leave a comment below to enter. Giveaway closes March 14th!

 


Laura Gehl is the author of ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title, International Literacy Association Honor Book, and Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice for 2014; HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL and AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP (both PJ library selections for 2015 and 2016); and the PEEP AND EGG series. A former science and reading teacher, she also writes about science for children and adults. Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and four children. Visit her online at lauragehl.com.

Joyce Wan is an award-winning author and illustrator of many best-selling books for children, including YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE, WE BELONG TOGETHER, and THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL, which was a Junior Library Guild Spring 2015 selection. When she’s not working on books, she teaches courses at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Joyce is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and currently lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Through all her work, she hopes to inspire people to embrace the spirit of childhood and follow their dreams. Visit Joyce online at wanart.com.

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It’s NOVEMBER ALREADY?

Well, almost. October will whip by in a sugar-induced haze. Especially because a) I’ll buy candy way too early and eat it all; and b) my kids will change their minds about their Halloween costumes umpteen times. “I wanna be Frankie Stein! No, Draculaura! No, a zombie mermaid! Ooh, I know, a picture book author! I can trick-or-treat in my jammies with a story stuck to my forehead! You’re sorta like a zombie, right, Mommy?”

Um, YEAH.

October is NOT the month of jack-o-lanterns, candy corn (BLECH!) and costumes. It’s the month of PiBoIdMo-eve!

Don’t know what PiBoIdMo is? Check it.

Our 5th anniversary logo, banners and badges have been designed by the kawaii-cutie, author-illustrator Joyce Wan.

Joyce knows my penchant for hot-air balloons. (My husband almost proposed on one. But I think he was afraid I’d drop the ring.)

So this year’s theme is IDEAS TAKING FLIGHT!

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WAIT A MINUTE! DID THE BANNER UP TOP SAY 5TH ANNIVERSARY?!

Yep, it sure did. Which means I’ll have to come up with something super-snazzy for this year. So how ’bout JANE YOLEN?

Besides the legendary Ms. Yolen, here are some of the authors and illustrators who’ll be blogging all November long, helping you to fill your idea notebook with 30 picture book concepts:

  • Drew Daywalt
  • Michael Garland
  • Melissa Guion
  • Leeza Hernandez
  • Lenore & Daniel Jennewein
  • Renee Kurilla
  • Mike Allegra
  • Elizabeth Rose Stanton
  • Bitsy Kemper
  • Julie Falatko
  • Adam Lehrhaupt
  • Wendy Martin
  • The McQueen Brothers
  • Pat Miller
  • Pat Zietlow Miller
  • Anne Marie Pace
  • Betsy Devany
  • Paul Schmid
  • Annette Simon
  • Tammi Sauer
  • Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
  • Kami Kinard
  • Dianne de las Casas
  • Dorina Lazo Gilmore
  • James Proimos
  • Marcie Colleen
  • Karen Henry Clark
  • Maria Gianferrari
  • Laurie Keller
  • Katie Davis
  • Ryan Sias
  • Zachariah Ohora
  • Kelly Light
  • Steve Barr
  • Greg Pizzoli

And even more to be announced…

Official registration will begin on this blog on OCTOBER 24th and run through NOVEMBER 4th. Watch for it! (It’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy if you just follow this blog. See left column.) Only officially registered participants will be eligible for PRIZES, like a consultation with a picture book agent!

But you can grab the “Official Participant” Badge NOW and proudly slap it on your blog or social network site. Kindly link it back to taralazar.com/piboidmo so folks know where to join the challenge. You can also grab the “Ideas Taking Flight!” slogan above.

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Do you Tweet? Add a PiBoIdMo Twibbon to your Twitter avatar. Just visit the PiBoIdMo 2013 Campaign to upload it.

And here’s some adorbs lightbulb balloons! Use them when you’re blogging about PiBoIdMo to express yourself!

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The only thing that’s missing is the PiBoIdMo 2013 merchandise to benefit RIF—like your official idea notebook—so I’ll be announcing that soon.

In the meantime, let us know how YOU’RE gearing up for PiBoIdMo. Blog about it or leave a comment below. What are you looking forward to this November?

Me? Tonight I’m hosting one of NJ-SCBWI’s PiBoIdMo kick-off parties at the Manville Public Library. Maybe I’ll see some of you there? I promise I won’t be a zombie.

Joyce Wan, talented author/illustrator of “Greetings from Kiwi and Pear,” stops by the blog today to recap the recent NJ-SCBWI annual conference. I couldn’t attend this year so Joyce offered to share the juicy details. (Get it? Kiwi and pear…juicy? Ugh, stick to humor in picture books, Tara.)

Take it away, Joyce!

It was my first time attending the New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference and it was such a blast! There were intensives, workshops, lunches with editors/agents/art directors, a book fair, a juried art show, a raffle, auctions, one-on-one critiques, agent pitch sessions and portfolio reviews galore. A whopping 22 publishing houses/agents were represented. A round of applause to Kathy Temean (NJ-SCBWI RA), Laurie Wallmark (Assistant RA) and all the volunteers for coordinating such an amazing and well-organized event. The conference was informational yet inspiring and I left Princeton feeling excited and energized!

Highlights from two of the workshops I attended which stood out in my mind:

Sure it’s Cute, But Will it Sell?
Steve Meltzer
Associate Publisher/Executive Managing Editor
Dial, Dutton, & Celebra

He provided us with information on the business side of the industry and a snapshot of the current picture book market. The market is made up of four types of buyers:

  1. Independent Retailers
  2. Mass Market Retailers
  3. Institutional (Libraries and Schools)
  4. Book Clubs/Fairs

You want to write a book that hits ALL markets. Examples of current books that are hitting all markets:

  • Skippyjon Jones
  • Fancy Nancy
  • Ladybug Girl
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama

As mentioned in the recent #pblitchat on Twitter, Meltzer is looking for character-driven stories: stories with quirky characters that are unusual and original but realistic. Character stories invite sequels, branding, and licensing opportunities.

Finally, he suggested that writers should be able to pitch their story in one sentence. Compare it to something successful but then tell him how it’s different (ex. Like Skippyjon Jones but with whales).

Picture Books – What Works
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Author of 13 picture books and seven non-fiction books

Picture books should be 650 words or less. Story should consist of a character that has a conflict and makes three failed attempts to solve the problem and then has a successful attempt on the fourth try. The end of the book must surprise the reader (a twist), extending the story beyond the story, which makes the book re-readable. Although she did mention that there are no hard and fast rules to picture book writing–and that these are just what, in her experience, has worked for her–I do think it’s a handy little formula to follow for those of us beginning our journey in the world of picture books! Another little trick that can help add tension to any story is to add a ticking clock of some sort: the character has to reach the goal by a certain time (ex. by bedtime, by sundown, etc.).

In addition to the workshops, there were two really inspiring keynote presentations at the lunches given on the first day by David L. Harrison, author of 80 children’s books, and on the second day by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of Dairy Queen and other books. David Harrison reminded us all why we do what we do, which is to create literature for young people. Catherine Gilbert Murdock charmed us all with her self-deprecating humor and shared with us how her journey to becoming a successful author started in a not-so-successful career in screenwriting.

There was also a juried art show organized by Leeza Hernandez, which was a first for the NJ SCBWI conference. You can read about the winners of the art show and view some of their beautiful artwork on Kathy Temean’s blog.

I submitted this piece for the art show which is a scene from my picture book that came out last year called Greetings from Kiwi and Pear.

I had fun being part of such a visual part of the conference and even had a fellow attendee email me after the show saying how much she loved my work and what a bummer it was that we didn’t get to chat during the conference.

One of the best parts of the conference was the one-on-one critique with the editor/agent. I thought the one-on-ones alone were worth the price of the conference. The editor I had my critique with gave me very insightful feedback and ideas. I showed her the picture book dummy that went with the manuscript I submitted for the critique along with my picture book that came out last year and even my Wanart catalog so that she could get a better sense of my illustration style. She liked my picture book dummy so much she actually asked to keep it along with my catalog–how exciting!

One fun side note is that there was a High School prom at the hotel the first night of the conference. I got quite nostalgic at dinner watching all the kids in their tuxedos and glittering gowns make their grand appearances in the hotel lobby–it was quite a spectacle and felt like dinner theater!

Overall, the conference was fantastic in every way from the top notch venue (there were koi ponds in the atrium!) to the high calibur faculty. I’m already looking forward to next year!

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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