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by Maria Gianferrari

Maria_Nov2013

The Katz is out of the bag!! Tomorrow’s the book birthday of my latest picture book, OFFICER KATZ & HOUNDINI: A TALE OF TWO TAILS, illustrated by Danny Chatzikonstantinou. Aladdin gets extra points for fitting two very long surnames on its spine!

khcover

Since the blog tour’s kicking off right here at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), I thought I’d celebrate its release with a sneak peek at some of my favorite images from the book.

There are two kinds of magic in the book. The first is a kind of practical magic. Officer Katz is an inventor. This is his most prized and pawsome invention, the Katzapult:

katz-interior_page_32

Houndini’s magic is more elusive. Like his namesake, Houdini, he’s an escape artiste, practiced in the art of disappearance. I love his exuberance as he bursts out of a box here:

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Officer Katz and Houndini have sidekicks, Deputy Catbird and Squirrel.

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And I absolutely adore the hilarious endpapers:

khendpapers

Which place would you like to visit, New Pork, or perhaps Mane?

Leave a comment, and you will be eligible for one of THREE prizes:

  1. A query pass from agent extraordinaire, Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary (either a query plus a whole PB manuscript or a query plus first five novel pages).
  2. A picture book critique from Maria—either fiction or nonfiction.
  3. Your own copy of OFFICER KATZ & HOUNDINI (US residents only—sorry!).

Thanks again for having me here, Tara! It was pawsitively purrfect!

The prizes will be given away in early November.

OFFICER KATZ & HOUNDINI BLOG TOUR! BOOK GIVEAWAYS EVERY DAY!

Tuesday, Oct. 18th: Librarian’s Quest
Wednesday, Oct. 19th: Bildebok
Thursday, Oct. 20th: Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love
Friday, Oct. 21st: Pragmaticmom + THREE book giveaway
Monday, Oct. 24th: Homemade City
Tuesday, Oct. 25th: ReFoReMo THINK QUICK Interview with Carrie Charley Brown

 

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!

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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!

Another sunny summer morning! I hope you’ve got a cuppa java or your favorite AM liquid mojo and you’re settling into a day of writing.

As promised, here are the two winners for debut author Maria Gianferrari’s PENNY & JELLY book and critique giveaway!

Penny and Jelly

Book Winner:

DAVID ROBERTSON!

Critique Winner:

HEATHER HATCH!

Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you shortly!

Now, onto some shenanigans…

This week I did a bookstore appearance.

emptychairs

Now, I debated if I should post this publicly. It doesn’t look so good for me, does it? It’s downright embarrassing!

But I wanted to let aspiring authors know that THESE THINGS HAPPEN. Sometimes, on a sunny Monday afternoon in the summer (or a crisp autumn Saturday, or a frigid winter morning, or an ordinary Wednesday evening) people just don’t show up.

Every author has had this happen to them at one time or another. You laugh it off. And you go on.

But you also remember that once you have a book published, it doesn’t mean people will come rushing to see you. Most people don’t know who you are. And they probably don’t care. You MUST have another reason, besides having a published book, for appearing at a bookstore. A book is not enough to bring people in to see you. Offer something you know your readers will want. Add value. Add other authors. Add games, activities, a writing workshop, SOMETHING.

I posted this picture on my Facebook timeline this week and received over a hundred responses, mostly from other authors and illustrators saying, “Been there, done that.” You see, IT HAPPENS. (It’s like a break-up cliché: “It’s not you; it’s them.”)

Also on Facebook this week, PiBoIdMo participants suggested adding writing prompt videos to this year’s challenge, so I’m seriously thinking about it!

FBPiBovideo

If you have suggestions for this year’s PiBoIdMo, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

In the meantime, here’s a Kidlit.TV video that I filmed on Monday, the HOTTEST day of the year. OUTSIDE. (What was I thinking?) It contains behind-the-scenes secrets about I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK, which releases in 12 days, not that I’m counting or anything. LOL.

Bear Book final cover

Enjoy your summer weekend, everyone. And stay tuned because more giveaways are happening very soon!

One of the most exciting parts about signing with an agent, besides SIGNING WITH AN AGENT (!!!!), is being adopted into an instant family. Your agent-sisters-and-brothers are so supportive, kind and blow-you-away talented. I’ve known Maria for years, and I knew that when Ammi-Joan Paquette signed her, she’d skyrocket to fame.

Penny and Jelly

PENNY & JELLY: THE SCHOOL SHOW is Maria’s debut, but she already has a half dozen more books to come! Phew! She’s got some serious talent.

And since PENNY & JELLY is about a school talent show, I thought Maria, illustrator Thyra Heder and editor Cynthia Platt might like to share their HIDDEN talents for the PENNY & JELLY blog tour.

Maria Gianferrari, Author

My hidden talent: I am the plant whisperer. Here are some of my favorite plants, and flowers:

clematis

I took this Clematis in for the winter and here it is blooming. It’s now back on our deck.

jade

My very happy jade plant.

philodendron

This is my heartleaf philodendron. It keeps growing. And growing. And growing. It just might take over our house.

floweringorchid

But somehow I haven’t figured out how to speak orchid. A friend recently gave me this lovely specimen.

orchid

But I’m afraid it may end up looking like this.

Time will tell!

Thyra Heder, Illustrator

My hidden talent is not so hidden. I like to dance so much that once I start I usually cannot stop until the party is over and everyone is gone and I open my eyes and I’m the only one left. Here is a photo of me dancing to my walkman at age 11 in front of painted portraits of my Hungarian great grandparents.

dancinginnewrochelle

Cynthia Platt, Editor

Maria might be a plant whisperer, but I like to think of myself as a guinea pig whisperer.

While I never thought of myself as a rodent person–and was, in fact, deeply squeamish about having one in the house–the loud, demanding, rather snuggly Flicksbee (I take no credit for her name, alas) has wormed her way into my heart. So maybe my hidden talent isn’t so much being a guinea pig whisperer as being open to new things? Regardless, my guinea pig is awesome.

cynthiaplatt

So now that you know these book creators’ secret talents, it’s time to pick up PENNY & JELLY so you can discover their talent! 

And Maria will take a look at your talent, too. She’s giving away a picture book critique to one lucky random commenter. Leave a comment about YOUR hidden talent! (Seriously, I can’t wait to read these.)

Plus, there’s also a copy of PENNY & JELLY for a second winner. So comment away! Two winners will be chosen in mid-July.

Good luck!

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Maria writes both fiction and nonfiction picture books from her sunny, book-lined study in northern Virginia, with dog Becca as her muse. Maria’s debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder, will be released on July 7th, 2015 (HMH Books for Young Readers). A second Penny & Jelly book titled, Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars, will be released in June 2016. Maria has five additional books forthcoming from Roaring Brook and Boyds Mills Presses as well as Aladdin Books for Young Readers in the coming years. To learn more about Maria, visit her website: mariagianferrari.com and on Facebook.

And you can visit Penny & Jelly at their website: pennyandjelly.com, and on Instagram: @pennyandjelly.

Maria_Nov2013by Maria Gianferrari

Embrace Failure: A Recipe for Success

Prep Time: Indeterminable

Yield: Infinite Possibilities

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Inspiration
  • 10 cups of Perspiration
  • Spread with Failure
  • Sprinkle with Hope

With the lightbulb logo as inspiration, I thought I’d quote Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So get out that deodorant and sweat away!

Now that you have a bunch of ideas, it’s time to play with them, and fail. Most of the time, we have to fail before we can succeed. Let’s face it, failure sucks. I hate failing. It’s painful. I go through cycles where I feel like a fraud and a complete loser. Some days I still want to give up. But I can’t—it’s in my blood, and yours. Writers, Artists, Scientists, Musicians, Inventors, all creators, more often get it wrong before they get it right. Failure is integral to the creative process.

Giving ourselves permission to fail is very liberating. How can we fail at writing a sh*tty first draft? The only way we can truly fail is by not writing. Not drawing that first line. Not trying. Being too afraid.

So jump right in and fail! Here are some ways to embrace failure:

recipeforsuccess

  • Keep Kneading: Change genres/formats

I had my first close encounter with a coyote on a moonlit night in January 2007. I became obsessed with coyotes. I researched—I even interviewed a biologist for the nonfiction article I’d be submitting to Highlights. I subbed. I waited. I hoped…REJECTION. But the coyotes kept howling in my head. This failure was an opportunity to begin anew. I re-worked the article into a poetic nonfiction picture book manuscript. I submitted, got rejections, revised. Three years later it received a Barbara Karlin commendation, and helped me land the incredible Ammi-Joan Paquette as my agent. In May 2013, COYOTE MOON sold to canine lover Emily Feinberg at Roaring Brook Press—six years after the early version failed.

  • Marinate: Let It Sit a Bit

I’ve love raptors, especially red-tailed hawks. In 2009, Highlights rejected “Highway Hawks” because they had too many bird stories. It sat for three years before re-surfacing as PiBoIdMo idea #21 last year: convert hawks article to a haiku picture book! It didn’t end up in haiku form, but it also sold to Emily at Roaring Brook this past summer—four years after the initial rejection. And even better—it will be illustrated by the phenomenal Brian Floca!

  • Fold in: A New Point of View

“Terrific Tongues” began as a poem in 2004 when my then 2 ½-year-old daughter became obsessed with tongues. Tongues everywhere were greeted with the German word “Zunge” since we were then living in Berlin. Inspired by her fascination, I penned a poem for Highlights, though I never submitted it because it felt incomplete. I toiled, researched creature tongues and it evolved into a nonfiction picture book. I revised, incorporating a second person interrogative refrain that gave the story an interactive feel. Though I received some nice comments from editors on its originality and kid appeal, it continued to be rejected.

In 2008, I submitted it to the PEN New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award contest. I received the form rejection letter and filed it away. A month later I received a phone call from Judge Susan Goodman explaining that my manuscript had been a contender, but for the failure of a too-technical ending. Grateful for her encouragement, I re-worked the ending and re-subbed it to the contest in 2009 when it was one of the winners! Though the award didn’t lead to acquisition, it was how I first met Joan. This manuscript sold to Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills Press in June 2013—nine years after the initial inspiration.

  • Set Aside: Take a Break and Procrastinate!

One of my all-time favorite movies is “High Fidelity,” starring John Cusack. It’s one of those rare movies that’s actually better than the book (no offense Nick Hornby!) The main character, Rob, is a charming cad who owns a record store and confesses to the camera like he’s our friend. He and his musical snob sidekicks, Dick and Barry, make “Top 5” lists for: Mondays, memorable break-ups, death. Watching the movie inspired me to insert lists into the picture book I was then revising. PENNY AND JELLY was my first sale, acquired in a two-book deal by the lovely Cynthia Platt at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! Newcomer Thyra Heder’s humorous and warm illustrations will accompany the text.

Find inspiration in creative procrastination: watch a movie; go to a museum; explore nature; read poetry; listen to/play music; dance; garden; bake; craft. If you’re an artist, try another medium: switch sketching for sculpting; exchange knitting for painting; choose collage over clay.

womanbaking

Here are a few other ingredients to spice up your failing manuscripts:

  • Stir in a new setting
  • Truss with structure: lists; recipes; manuals; formulas; diary/letter formats; musical compositions
  • Beat in a dance tempo: waltz; disco; cha-cha anyone?
  • Frost with layering or a dual narrative (works especially well for nonfiction)
  • Blend poetic forms: sonnets; haikus; acrostics; ballads
  • Render your MC from human to animal; female to male; animate to inanimate object (or vice versa)
  • Mince previous PiBoIdMo ideas together to form something new

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” said Thomas Edison.

Give yourself the permission to fail—you never know what you might discover in the process! It will take time, but don’t give up! You will get there! If you’re completely passionate, perhaps even obsessed with your manuscript, all the better. This energy will give you the momentum to glide over bumps in the road.

So try that picture book text, those illustrations, just one more time. Embrace failure, and you will surely find success!

guestbio

Maria is currently failing on 2012’s PiBoIdMo idea #29. She is a nature, creature and dog lover who grew up near a farm in New Hampshire climbing trees, smelling maple syrup clouds, and slapping cow patties. She now lives in northern Virginia with her German-scientist husband, Niko, their artist daughter, Anya, their Dixie Chick rescue dog, Becca, and two rescue rats, Lucia and Nera. She has three fiction picture books forthcoming: two PENNY AND JELLY books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) as well as OFFICER KATZ AND HOUNDINI (Aladdin); and three non-fiction books: COYOTE MOON & HIGHWAY HAWKS (Roaring Brook Press) and TERRIFIC TONGUES (Boyds Mills Press). To learn more, check out her website: MariaGianferrari.com.

prizeinfo

Maria is giving away a picture book critique!

One winner will be randomly selected 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!

Wow, that’s kinda unheard of, isn’t it? A debut deal for TWO picture books?! I’m blown away. I know you are, too. So let’s meet the NOT UNTALENTED Maria Gianferrari!

I met Maria online a couple years ago when she signed up for PiBoIdMo. She’s also purchased my jewelry. And now she’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette, which makes us agent-mates. I mean, we’re practically sisters at this point, right?

OK, I will stop asking questions and give answers now. How did Maria land her agent? What is the two-book deal about? (Oh wait, that’s more questions, huh?)

pm

Maria Gianferrari’s debut PENELOPE, UNTALENTED, focusing on a girl who’s having a difficult time deciding on what talent she might have (if any!) to put on display for her school talent show; with a little help from her dog, she tries out various talents with disastrous results — until she realizes that she and her dog have a talent to share that’s unique to them, to Cynthia Platt at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, for publication Spring 2014, in a two-book deal, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Now take it away, Maria!

Maria...on the path to publication!

Maria…on the path to publication!

I first met Joan in 2009 at the PEN New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award ceremony. I was lucky to have been chosen as one of the winners for one of my nonfiction picture book manuscripts, and she introduced herself to me. At the time, I only had two submission-ready picture book manuscripts (and several in progress) so the timing wasn’t right, but she told me to keep in touch.

In May 2011, I saw Joan briefly at the New England SCBWI conference and she encouraged me to send her some manuscripts. We were getting ready to drive cross-country and live in San Diego for a year for my husband’s sabbatical, so I told her I’d be in touch at the end of the summer. I sent her a bunch of picture book manuscripts in late August, and then I heard back in October that she liked several of them, and asked me to revise two of them. I did two rounds of revisions for Joan, with the able assistance of my online critique group (Go CP!), and in late August 2012, I became her client. I felt overjoyed, and very lucky again, because Joan took me on based on my picture book manuscripts, knowing it would be more work, because there would be multiple editors involved. Ultimately, she told me that she had to have them on her list, which was a very nice compliment.

Joan began sending out three of my manuscripts almost immediately, and I began to receive some lovely rejections, and even a couple of revision requests. I was coming home from picking up my daughter at school, when I heard a voice on the answering machine. I picked it up and to my great surprise and delight it was Joan telling me we had an offer from Houghton Mifflin for my fiction picture book PENELOPE, UNTALENTED! I must have sounded like a complete and total idiot. All I could say was “Oh My God” about a thousand times.

Meanwhile my 11 year-old-daughter, Anya, was screeching in the background—“Mom—what is it? Who is it?”—so I told her that I sold a book. Then if I’m remembering correctly, I think Joan asked me if I wanted to sit down, so I did, and then she started telling me that I got a two-book deal! I was completely flabbergasted. Most of the conversation was pretty hazy, but I do remember thanking her, and telling her that this was beyond my wildest dreams—it was & is! After we hung up the phone, Anya and I did a happy dance in our living room. Our dog, Becca, thought we were nuts. The hardest part was having to wait to share my news because Joan had a hard time getting in touch with the other two editors to whom it had been sent since both had been out sick—flu season!

The lovely Cynthia Platt is “my” editor at Houghton. I live in the Boston area, so we recently met for lunch, and I was also able to meet Mary Wilcox and Monica Perez. It was so surreal that they knew my MC Penelope, and were excited about the book! I’m really looking forward to working with Cynthia on both of these books, and to finding out who will be chosen as the illustrator!

Thanks for sharing your success story with us, Maria! 

Now aspiring picture book authors, what does this teach us? Patience and perseverance is key! Maria first met Joan three years before she became her client. Make those connections and keep in touch! Take advantage of SCBWI events (like the NJ Chapter’s annual conference in June) to improve your craft and network with agents, editors and fellow kidlit professionals. It all pays off!

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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COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

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