Perfect Picture Book Friday – Noah Webster And His Words

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday and – can you believe it? – the official last day of summer 2018!

I love the crisp air, the jeweled colors, and the cider donuts of autumn, but I feel like summer went by in a blink!

I hope all your falls get off to a lovely start this weekend with some family apple picking, or an outdoor music festival…or maybe a trip to Princeton Children’s Book Festival – that’s where I’m headed! 🙂

For today’s Perfect Picture Book I decided to go the educational route… but it’s also tons of fun!  Have a look!

Noah Webster

Title: Noah Webster And His Words

Written By: Jeri Chase Ferris

Illustrated By: Vincent X. Kirsch

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books For Young Readers, 2012, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages:  3-7

Themes/Topics: American history, vocabulary/language, dictionaries, biography, nonfiction

Opening: “Noah Webster always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so (even if, sometimes, he wasn’t).  He was, he said, “full of CON-FI-DENCE” [noun: belief that one is right] from the very beginning.

Brief Synopsis: This book tells the story of Noah Webster’s life and how he wrote the first American dictionary in an effort both to educate and to help unite the new United States.

Links To Resources: The book itself is a resource as it teaches the life of Noah Webster and the period of American history is was part of. There is a useful timeline in the back matter as well as a section entitled “More About Noah Webster” and a helpful bibliography.  For a fun classroom game, play Dictionary (where one student chooses a word from the dictionary and writes down the correct definition and everyone else writes down a made up definition.  All definitions are read aloud and the class votes for which is the real one…and you see if the real one wins or one of the made up ones!)

Why I Like This Book: Not only is this book interesting – full of information about Noah Wester and his creation of the first American dictionary – it’s fun!  There is a surprising amount of humor, both in the text and in the illustrations.  I also love the clever way some of the vocabulary words in the text are woven in like dictionary entries!  The book brings Noah Webster to life in a way that illuminates his personality.  It’s a perfect example of how to write nonfiction so that young readers enjoy the learning experience.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Hope to see anyone who is in the neighborhood at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival tomorrow! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #298 – Garden Bed (PB) PLUS The April Pitch Pick PLUS The March Pitch Pick Winner!

Are any of you guys Calvin and Hobbes fans?

There’s a Calvin and Hobbes collection called The Days Are Just Packed, and that title just says it all!  Really, doesn’t it seem like every day is just packed?  How is it Wednesday again already?! 🙂

Given the packed-ness of everyone’s days, let’s get right down to business, shall we?

First up, I’m happy to announce the winner of the March Pitch Pick! It is Jean with her picture book pitch for A Little Witchy!  Congratulations on a strong (and popular!) pitch, Jean!  It is on its way to editor Erin Molta for her expert review!

Congratulations to all our other pitchers as well for excellent pitches and wonderful story ideas!  I hope the WYRI experience has helped you strengthen your pitches so that all those stories pique the interest of agents and editors and result in multi-house bidding wars!

Now, let’s move on to the ARPIL Pitch Pick!  (I apologize again for getting so far behind with the pitch picks that we’re having to do one a week for eternity here – you guys are very patient with me!)

Please read through our WYRI contestants’ revised pitches below.  Choose the one you like best and think is most deserving of a read and comments by Erin Molta and vote by Sunday September 23 at 9PM Eastern.  Rachel, Candace, Amanda, Corine, and I all thank you and send virtual Snickers bars your way! 🙂

#1 – Rachel – The Littlest Astronaut – PB Ages 4-10

All Seren has ever wanted is to become an astronaut…but training at the academy is hard work and she cant keep up! If Seren doesn’t improve her grades she won’t be selected for an upcoming space mission. A crisis hits the International Space Station and only a pint sized hero can save the day. Seren has to step up in order to save a team of astronauts and to achieve her dream of going in to space.

#2 – Candace – Curious Cassandra – PB Ages 2-6

The pitch:  Cassandra overhears her mother talking about the plants their neighbor, Mrs Fulton, is growing in her garden – turtle’s heads, fox’s gloves, and lamb’s ears.  She wants to see these mysterious plants for herself but, Mrs Fulton is on vacation. There must be a way to spy over, under, or through the garden fence and Cassandra intends figure it out.

 

#3 – Amanda – Sylvia Swan And Cabot – PB Ages 4-10

Matilda + Big Hero 6 + Walle + Frankenstein

When Sylvia’s family is too busy to help her build a blanket fort, she takes matters into her own hands. She utilizes her pint-sized engineering skills: brainstorming, sketching, measuring, and drafting to create the perfect invention! She brings CABot, her Customized Assisting Robot, to life. CABot becomes her fort building solution—making her favorite pastime a reality. But Sylvia soon finds out that CABot can help her build more than just a fort when inspiration strikes again—solving her problem of eating eggplant parmesan for dinner.

#4 – Corine – Willamina the Wolf Spider – PB Ages 6-9

Willamina the wolf spider wants more than anything to keep her spiderlings safe, but when her tummy starts grumbling, she knows it’s time to hunt. Not an easy task with three hundred spiderlings on her back! To make matters worse, it is full moon, and she is not the only one who is hungry. Willamina has to outsmart an owl, a shrew, and, in the end, a woman with a broom—an incident that forces her to release her spiderlings, but not before telling them they are going on a flying adventure.

 

Now then!  I think we’ve all earned Something Chocolate, don’t you?  What should we have today…?  How about some chocolate pound cake with chocolate ganache? That sounds like breakfast, doesn’t it? 🙂

Chocolate Pound Cake

Mmm!  Delish!  Goes great with coffee, tea or milk, and is guaranteed to either pep us up or put us down for a nap 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Lily.  Lily Erlic is a member of the SCBWI. She has authored many books included Finger Rhymes for Manners and Glaciers: Landscape Carvers. She is a preschool and daycare teacher (ECE) with a BA degree from the University of Victoria.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Garden Bed

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 2-5)

The Pitch: Garden Bed is a lyrical rhyming book that takes place in the garden. Each plant is put to sleep gently. Tomato, cucumber, parsley, eggplant, kale, purple potato, lettuce, carrots and peas are lulled to sleep. At the end, a young child is placed in a “garden bed” and gently lulled to sleep as well. An early picture book for children five and under, this book will find an audience in preschool and daycares across the country. This book will resonate with parents especially for nap time or before bed. I can provide back matter for each type of vegetable.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Lily improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in October, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Lily is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to the Princeton Children’s Book Festival this Saturday!!!  Will any of you be there?  I hope you’ll stop by and say hi!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jessie Oliveros!

TOO TOOTLE TOOT-TOOT TOOT TOOOOOOOT!

(Try to imagine that was royal trumpets! 🙂 )

(It’s pretty lucky we are all creative types who are good at imagining things 🙂 )

But trumpets!!!

Because it’s time for another Tuesday Debut – the thrilling new series where you get the inside scoop on how pre-published picture book writers became Published Picture Book AUTHORS!

What could be better?!

After dipping our toe into the Tuesday Debut experience a month ago with Christy Mihaly, we are now going full steam ahead with a new debut every Tuesday for the next 9 weeks (minus a week or two while Halloweensie is running and pre-empting all regular programming on this blog)!

And let me take this opportunity to say that if YOU have a debut picture book coming out and you’d like to be center stage here, sing out!  If the date’s free it’s yours!

Alrighty!

Let’s have a round of applause for today’s lovely debutee (is that a word? n. one who debuts? Let’s make it a word!  Pronounce it day-bew-tay – it sounds more accomplished and French that way 🙂 )

ANYway! Queen of the Day – Jessie Oliveros!!!  (clapclapclapclapclap!!!!!)

THE REMEMBER BALLOONS
Written by Jessie Oliveros
Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
August 28, 2018
Fiction
Ages 5-9

Jessie1
James and Grandpa keep their memories in balloons, and James loves to hear all of Grandpa’s stories. When Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James tries to catch them—but he can’t. He must discover another way to reclaim Grandpa’s balloons.

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

JESSIE: THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was inspired by my paternal grandfather who has Alzheimer’s.

Jessie2

James this summer, age 92

 

A few summers ago, while visiting my grandparents in Kansas with my children, my thoughts turned to writing a picture book. I only knew that it would be about a boy and his grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s. I started out writing a straight forward story. I can’t say exactly when the metaphorical angle came to me. I knew balloons would be an accessible idea for children. And, when I was visiting my grandparents, I had recorded some of their histories on a voice recorder. This made their memories more of a tangible thing for me, I think. Plus, there was that act of capturing their memories before they were no longer with us. All of these things came together, and the THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was born.

 

(Also, one of my favorite methods of idea-seeking is to mash two unlikely ideas together, which I think my brain did out of habit when I thought of balloons while also contemplating memories.)

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

JESSIE: Once the idea of the memory balloons came to me, this story flowed fairly quickly. I had a cohesive draft in an afternoon. I definitely cannot say that about all of my picture book manuscripts! When I get an idea, I typically let it form in my mind for awhile before writing anything down. Sometimes it takes a ridiculous amount of drafts to make it a cohesive story. And that’s before any real revisions!

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JESSIE: THE REMEMBER BALLOONS went through my own revisions before I felt it was ready for other eyes. I sent it to a trusted critique partner and implemented her feedback. It may have been about ten revisions before my agent saw it. Once he had his hands on it, the revision process had just begun!

I advise letting a manuscript sit for awhile and coming back to it. You see things a little differently with the passage of time.

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

JESSIE: Well, when I send a child off to kindergarten, I know she’s ready. She’s been at home for five years and is itching to get out (even if there are some tears). I’ve dressed her in nice clothes, brushed her hair, & packed her bag and lunch. She’s ready for the world.

I guess it’s that way with your manuscript. You know you’ve done your best. It’s itching to get out. You feel it’s ready for the world. (There I go speaking in metaphors again.)

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JESSIE: I submitted to about 12 agents before I found my agent. I had just finished querying a middle grade very widely, and I was a little burnt out. So, I went much slower this time. Plus, there was a bit of a personal stamp on this one which I think made me more careful with my “baby.”

I entered a Twitter Pitch contest the Friday before Christmas (#pitchmas). I pitched THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. My agent, Mike Hoogland of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret, “liked” my pitch. I sent him my manuscript the next day. Monday, Mike contacted me via email. Tuesday we were on the phone talking representation. (BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER.) This all happened fast, but the process leading up to it was several years!

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
JESSIE: The manuscript was picked up about a month after we started subbing. This is quick—but I truly believe it’s all about landing on the right desk at the right time. I’ve subbed out more manuscripts since then, and it’s usually a months-long process! Fun story: I received the offer for THE REMEMBER BALLOONS the day after I brought my fourth baby home from the hospital (and we’d just closed on a house—ha!). It was a very full few days. I knew Simon and Schuster had been considering it, but I still had the surreal, heart-dropping moment when I read the email from Mike.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
JESSIE: I actually received my contract on my birthday! Ha! I didn’t do any special signing pictures or anything, but it was a bit of a dual celebration. Interesting fact: there is a delay between offer and contract signing. Mine was about two months. Offer in March. Contract in May.

 

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
JESSIE: I didn’t know what to expect! I did a lot of internet research on the terms, and I had a good agent to answer all of the questions. I would say that the terms were better than I could have hoped for for a debut author.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

JESSIE: I edited the manuscript with my acquiring editor, Christian, before he switched houses. He helped me hone the manuscript into what it is today. The structure of it remains close to the original. But Christian helped me dig deeper into the manuscript—most notably, he encouraged me to find James’ voice and to re-examine the silver balloon. He helped give it breath!

After that, Justin took on THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. He helped me pare it down some. We cut unnecessary phrasing as well as parts that were redundant with the illustrations.

I feel so lucky to have worked with both these editors—both great, visionary people and positive forces in children’s publishing.

SUSANNA: Can you share your experience of the illustration process?
JESSIE: When I first saw the sketches, I was very happy with the look and style. The people that Dana drew were actually very similar to how I had envisioned them as I drafted—sweet, sketchy, dreamy. I saw the sketches and art at several stages along the way. The combined visions of Lucy, the art director for THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, and Dana really superseded anything I could have ever dreamed of myself. There were a few things I suggested, tweaks really. I asked that a berry basket be added to the yellow balloon memory, for instance. I felt my input was listened to and taken seriously. But I mean, just look at the art.

 

Jessie3

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?  What was that like?

JESSIE: The trade reviews for THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was sent to Dana and me in advance. That means we had to hold in the news of our Kirkus star before sharing it on social media! One thing I didn’t know before that I know now—your editor may send all the trade reviewers your book, but that doesn’t mean they are all going to review it.

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

JESSIE: As I mentioned earlier, my baby was only a few days old when I received an offer. She’s 2 ½ now! I didn’t expect it to take that long, but those 2 ½ years were full. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on to design and promote the book. It takes a lot of time, and I think it was worth it!

 

Jessie 4

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

JESSIE: My book just released a few weeks ago so I’m a longways off from that!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

JESSIE: I’ve used social media quite a bit to promote my book. I’ve done a few interviews like this. I’m about to have launch events in two different cities. Honestly, I think the best thing for your book is word of mouth! I had a friend tell me the other day that her friend had seen someone talking about my book on Instagram. Being that many degrees removed from it felt pretty awesome!

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

JESSIE: I started writing seriously when my son was two. 7 ½ years later I sold my picture book! That’s ten years from outset of journey to actual book.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

JESSIE: This journey, like life, is unpredictable. It’s filled with mountains and cliffs and valleys. One thing I’ve learned (and am still learning!) is to step outside of it. Don’t let the rejections and the bad reviews cast a shadow over the things and people that give you joy.

Jessie5

My “book offer” baby today at 2 ½ years old.

Jessie6

www.jessieoliveros.com
Twitter: @JessieOliveros
Instagram: @jessieoliveros
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessie.oliveros.5

That is wonderful advice, Jessie!  Many thanks for joining us today and sharing your knowledge with us.  You are the second author in a row to point out that your first sale was many years in the making.  I hope everyone feels buoyed up by the knowledge that, if you’re feeling discouraged because it’s taking you awhile to get published, this is a marathon, not a sprint for ALL of us in the picture book world.  And though it may be taking more time than we’d like to cross the finish line, at least we’re surrounded by friends all the way ❤

If you have questions for Jessie, you may ask them in the comment section and if she has time she may be able to answer 🙂

Thank you all for joining today’s debut!  And maybe there’s someone in your life who would enjoy a copy of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS… 🙂

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Allie All Along

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday again, folks, and isn’t that nice?

Not only does it mean the weekend is basically here, it also gives us a great list of new picture books to enjoy during it!

So get ready to make a list for the library! 🙂

My choice for today is all about something a lot of kids (and adults) find hard – how to manage feeling angry.

Allie All Along

Title: Allie All Along

Written & Illustrated By: Sarah Lynne Reul

Sterling Children’s Books, August 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: emotions (anger), understanding, siblings

Opening: “SNAP! Allie’s crayon broke.  I blinked.  She was suddenly furious, fuming, frustrated, and so, so, sooo ANGRY!”

Brief Synopsis: When Allie’s crayon breaks, she gets really, really, really angry!  Her brother knows Allie is still in there somewhere, but it’s hard to see her under all that anger.  There has to be a way to make things right again.

Links To Resources: Anger Management Games And Activities For Kids (scroll down to that section); Helping Kids Learn About Facial Expressions and Feelings ; talk about what makes you angry and what are some constructive ways to cope with that anger.

Why I Like This Book: We all know that feeling when something happens – maybe even something that doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else – that sends us over the edge of fury.  Emotion that large is hard for anyone to manage, especially a young person who hasn’t had a lot of practice.  I love that this book shows the situation that causes the anger (a broken crayon), the immensity of the anger and how the individual feeling it can get lost within it, and a caring person (in this case Allie’s brother) who understands her anger and helps by offering a variety of constructive ways to deal with it until Allie emerges, once again herself.  It’s simply and beautifully done, and will remind your little ones that they are not alone in feeling angry sometimes.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #297 – The Adventures Of Lou And Barley (PB) PLUS The March Pitch Pick PLUS The January/Februry Pitch Pick Winner!

Wow!

You thought last Wednesday was busy!  Today is even busier!

Let’s jump right in, shall we?, by announcing the winner of the January/February Pitch Pick which was Erik with his MG pitch for Stoyanovich In Paris!!!  Congratulations, Erik!  Your pitch is winging it’s way to editor Erin Molta for her comments, and I’m sure she’ll be in touch shortly!

Congratulations, also, to all the other pitchers!  You all did a terrific job, with pitches for intriguing-sounding stories, all improved after feedback from our helpful readers.  Hopefully, even though your pitches won’t be read by Erin, you all feel that you have stronger pitches to go forward with than you had before!

From the winner of January/February, let’s dive right into choosing a winner for March with the March Pitch Pick!

Here are the revised and polished pitches updated by their authors in response to your helpful comments:

#1 – Pat – Baba Yaga’s Arrful Day (Chapter Book ages 7-10)

When pirate-witch Baba Yaga loses her magic, she finds trouble in the Schoolyard of Shame, the uber creepy Cedar Woods, and a seemingly innocent shoe store. She has to think outside the wand to turn the arr-ful day into a shipload of gold doubloons.

#2 – Nadine – Porcupette And Moppet (PB ages 4-8)

A young porcupine outsmarts a fisher, its natural enemy.  Porcupette narrowly escapes being eaten not by running away or hiding in a tree stump.  He outsmarts the fisher by reading a book!  

#3 – Gayle – Navy SEALs: BUD/S from A-Z (PB ages 4-8)

Boys learn their letters Navy SEAL-style while they explore the rigors of BUD/S, the first half of SEAL training, where a sugar cookie isn’t a snack and The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.

#4 – Jean – A Little Witchy (PB ages 4-8)

After Beatrice decides being a witch is more appealing than being mortal, she begins acting a little witchy. But her failed attempts at casting spells and mixing magic potions land her in lots of toil and trouble! And her bumbling exploits soon attract the ire of witches, who offer to help her improve her witchery skills. Now Beatrice must decide rather to become a witch or be the best mortal she can be, and leave the witching to the real witches.

 

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through them, please vote in the poll below for the pitch you feel is best and most deserving of a read and comments by editor Erin Molta by Sunday September 16 at 9PM Eastern.

 

Phew!  I think all that reading and voting calls for a little Something Chocolate, don’t you?  And since chances are high that you’re reading this post somewhere near time for breakfast… or second breakfast… or breakfast for dinner 🙂  how about some chocolate chocolate chip pancakes?!

Double Chocolate Pancakes

Dbl_choc_chip_pancake_low_3

Recipe HERE (along with helpful video!) at LauraFuentes.com

I don’t think you can ever go wrong with pancakes…especially not when there’s chocolate involved! 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Katie (different Katie, not last week’s Katie! 🙂 ) who says, “I’m a kindergarten teacher of nearly ten years, a writer, and an outdoor enthusiast on a mission to visit all of the National Parks with my family.”

Find her on the web at:
Twitter:@KWalsh1
Blog: katiewalsh.blog

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Adventures Of Lou And Barley

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-6)

The Pitch:  Oh no! When Lou leaves his stuffed Stegosaurus in the rain, he and his dog, Barley, set off on an imaginative quest to rescue him. Sailing giant waves, distracting hungry alligators, and battling the evil t-rex, this is one rip-roaring adventure!

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Katie improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in October, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Katie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to (hopefully very soon!) getting a computer that is a little less exhausted than this one!  You do not want to know how long it took to write this post, given that the computer had to keep “resting”!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – No Frogs In School

Welcome back to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

After a summer of not reviewing, I have so many books I want to share that it’s hard to choose just one!  But I opted for one that had a connection to school since a lot of us are pretty focused on that this week!  I hope you like it, too! 🙂

No Frogs In School

Title: No Frogs In School

Written By: A. LaFaye

Illustrated By: Eglantine Ceulemans

Sterling Children’s Books, August 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: pets, following rules, school

Opening: “Bartholomew Botts loved pets.  Hoppy pets, hairy pets, and scaly pets.He loved them all so much that he couldn’t go to school without one.”

Brief Synopsis:  Bartholomew Botts loves his pets so much that he wants to bring one to school.  But his teacher, Mr. Patanoose, has a whole lot of rules about what’s allowed in school!  Is there a way to follow the rules and still have a pet in school?

Links To Resources: make your own jumping frog (easy video tutorial); Frog Activities And Fun Ideas For Kids (crafts, games, recipes, etc.)

Why I Like This Book: Bartholomew is endearing, and his love for his pets is so genuine and relatable!  Who among us hasn’t wanted to bring a pet to school at least once?  I love that Bartholomew doesn’t limit his choice of pet to cute and furry.  Yes, he has a hamster, but he also has a frog and a salamander and a snake…among others :)… and he loves and appreciates them all.  I love how earnestly he tries to respect his teacher’s rules while still trying to find a way for his pets to accompany him.  And I love the clever solution he engineers at the end 🙂  The illustrations are lively and fun, and kids will have a great time finding all the animals on every page.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!  (And I apologize in advance – something has changed about the google form and spreadsheet and it looks wrong… I will try to figure out how to fix it before next week!)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #296 – Enough (PB) PLUS The January/February Pitch Pick!

Holy Lightning Bugs, Batman!

Where did summer go?

I blinked and somehow Labor Day weekend has come and gone and school buses are rumbling along the roads today!

I’m sad to see the days shortening, but I am so happy to be back with all of you!  I hope you all had wonderful summers and are renewed and refreshed and ready to launch into a flurry of writing!

As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, I have struggled a bit this year to keep up with everything.  My parents aren’t as young as they once were and have faced a number of challenges since the end of January.  I am fortunate to be in a position to help and care for them, but that added onto life-in-general leaves me with less time for other things.  As a result, I’m just now getting around to all the Pitch Picks for this year.  Sorry about that!

I don’t want to swamp you with all of them at once, so I’m going to add one a week into the next few Would Your Read It Wednesdays until we catch up, starting today with…

The January/February Pitch Pick (at long last!!!)

Our brave pitchers took all your helpful comments to heart and I present you now with their revised pitches.

#1 – Erik – Stoyanovich in Paris (MG historical fantasy)

Nikolai Stoyanovich Krisayev is the last of a long line of Russian rat nobility, living in exile in 1880’s Paris. When he rescues a visiting mouse princess from armed kidnappers, he is thrust into the midst of a silent war being waged secretly in the streets and sewers of the city.
With only his wits, his father’s sword, and the aid of a shadowy figure who may or may not be on their side, he will have to fight to save both the princess and the city he loves.

#2 – Kari – Kids Can’t Fetch (formerly: Training Your Human) (PB ages 4-8)

Kids don’t come with an owner’s manual, and Freckles the dog is having a RUFF time keeping his kid Zach out of the doghouse. After an ice cream truck chasing fiasco, Zach gets Freckles laughed right out of the dog park. If Freckles and his kid Zach can’t foster a friendship, life may turn into an epic dogpile.

 

#3 – Francis (Tim) – Murphy The Reluctant Potato (PB ages 4-8)

Murphy isn’t like all those other potatoes. He doesn’t dream of becoming a delicious side dish on the dinner table; of making beautiful art that gets displayed on the fridge; or of winning ribbons as a science fair project. Murphy is very happy kicking back in Farmer McCubbin’s cozy little garden. He has no plans for going on any “potato adventures” thank you very much. But when a shovel turns his world upside down, getting back to the garden turns into an adventure Murphy never imagined.

#4 – Jennifer – Taste of Summer  (PB ages 4-7)

It doesn’t matter if it’s sliced, diced, smashed into juice or dressed up like dessert, Wendy turns her nose up at any kind of fruit. But, on a class trip to a famous watermelon farm, all eyes are on her as she’s offered a deal that might be too sweet to resist.

 

#5 – Ann – The Lovesong of Jubal Jacques (chapter book ages 8-adult)

The ten-year-old narrator has been sent to stay with her grandmother on a small, green island, to convalesce after a long illness.

Her Uncle Jubal is in love with the honey-haired lady who lives on the hill. He writes her a beautiful lovesong and sings it to her, but the lady just sits on her verandah and weaves and weaves, never as much as turning her head. How can she be so cruel?

It is the child who finally guesses the secret that will enable Uncle Jubal’s lovesong to reach the honey-haired lady’s heart.

 

Now that you’ve had a chance to read through the revised pitches, please choose the one you like best and feel is most deserving of a read and comments from editor Erin Molta and vote for it in the poll below by Sunday September 9 at 9PM Eastern.  Thank you for taking the time to read and vote!

 

Phew!  All that voting made me a little faint from hunger.  Let’s have Something Chocolate, shall we?  Since it’s been so warm, I think some Oreo Ice Cream Cake would be just the thing!

Oreo Ice Cream Cake

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Recipe HERE at Foodtasia

Doesn’t that look like the perfect second breakfast?!  Plus, for those of you who like to double your chocolate, you can make it with chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla!  Or if you like coffee, you could use coffee ice cream!  The possibilities!!!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Katie, whom you will remember from her pitches in June and July for The Tooth Fairy Conference and The Boys Who Brushed Teeth Too Much (and almost destroyed the world) Katie says, “I’m an educator, Word Nerd, and Ice Cream-Loving Optimist. Faith, family, and fitness are my motivators. My #1 writing goal is picture books featuring Big Ideas for Young Minds (also the name of my main blog). My side gig is creating teaching resources (my own and for hire).”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Enough

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-9)

The Pitch: Elpis is an uncommon thing. With feathers sparkling, she spreads hope in brilliant cascades. Until… Moros throws deep, deep shade. Families, cities, and even nations suffer as Elpis sputters, shrinks, then sinks. Moros gloats…until he’s challenged by a few spirited youngsters. Is it enough? Does Moros prevail, or will Elpis rise to sparkle once again?

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Katie improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in October, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Katie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to all the fun things we’re going to do this year – Perfect Picture Books (which starts Friday), Tuesday Debuts (next one on September 18), Would You Read It, contests, and who knows what other high jinx and shenanigans!  Plus, there’s always plenty of chocolate around here! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

The Tuesday Debut Debut – Presenting Christy Mihaly!

Hey, Hey, Hay!  Welcome to Tuesday Debuts!

In this new series, we’re going to get all the juicy details from first-time picture book authors about how they went from pre-published to published.  I hope it will be interesting, informative, and inspirational for all of us – published and yet-to-be-published alike.  It’s always fun to hear the story behind the story, and there is always so much we can learn from each other!  I hope you’ll get a sense of the hands-on publishing process and that the information shared here might help you in your own journey by giving you tips or even giving you inspiration from another author’s process to spark new work of your own!

So!  Without further ado…

Introducing Christy’s first picture book:

Hey, Hey, Hay! (A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them)
By Christy Mihaly, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Holiday House, August 14, 2018
Informational picture book
4-8 years

HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover
In this joyful rhyming story, a farm girl brings the reader along as she and her mother make hay. She introduces each of the machines they use to cut, dry, and bale the grass, as they “store summer in a bale.”

And now, introducing Christy!

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Chirsty Mihaly, debut picture book author, canoeing (which may or may not have anything to do with either haying or writing but is still beautiful and fun 🙂 )

 

SLH: Welcome, Christy!  Thank you so much for joining us today, and for being the guinea pig for this new series – so brave of you!  There will be extra chocolate in your Christmas stocking 🙂  Let’s start from the beginning.  Where did the idea for this book come from?

CM: The idea for this book showed up right under my nose, in the summer of 2014. I was working on a couple of picture book biographies (which are still unpublished) when my family moved to a new home surrounded by hayfields. The process of turning grass into hay was beautiful and fascinating. The scent of new-mown grass filled the air and the rhythm of the machines (mower, tedder, baler, hay!) got into my head. Then these lines started running around in my mind: “Listen and I’ll tell the tale of storing summer in a bale.”

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Haying in action! The inspiration for this book!

SLH: How long did it take you to write this book?

CM: I wrote the first draft—which was basically a poem—over several weeks of on-and-off writing. It was short, sweet, and rhyming. But it wasn’t very good. Revising and polishing (with some sitting and stewing) took about seven months more.

SLH: Did you go through many revisions?

CM: Yes. I began with a poem called “Haying Time.” At first it didn’t occur to me that this could constitute a book. Then, when I realized that haymaking had picture book potential, I put on my nonfiction-writer hat. I could not find another book for kids about how hay is made. I researched all about hay and hayfields and haying technology and the history of hay. I wrote a manuscript with layered text and all kinds of sidebars (Monet painted famous pictures of haystacks! In the old days, people used scythes!) and footnotes. Eventually my critique partners convinced me to simplify (thank goodness) back down to a straightforward rhyming story.

I made many changes in the words of the text. How’s this for a sample stanza of the original poem: “The baler forms it into bales/While I keep watch, in case it fails.”

Um?

There’s one revision I’m particularly happy that I made: in the original version, the child narrator helped Dad with the haying; I changed it to helping Mom. Because many farmers are women.

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interior spread showing Farmer Mom 🙂

 

SLH: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

CM: I had been submitting other manuscripts, so I should have known, but I was so excited to send this one out that I made the mistake of submitting it too soon. And it was rejected.

After that, I took a break from it. Then I signed up for an online writing course and brought the HAY manuscript to the class for a critique. My classmates and instructor confirmed that it had potential, and they suggested ways to make it snappier. After about 5 months of revisions, I knew it was really ready to submit.

SLH: When and how did you submit?

CM: I give credit to my writing buddies for what finally happened with HAY. At the urging of several critique partners, I applied to the Falling Leaves writing conference, which was new to me. For the editor’s one-on-one critique, I submitted a different nonfiction manuscript, which I’d been working on forever. I was accepted to the conference, and my assigned editor loved that manuscript (though it’s unpublished still). She didn’t like HAY at all—she doesn’t do rhyming books.

But! Another editor at Falling Leaves that year was Grace Maccarone, executive editor at Holiday House. I was impressed with her; she seemed calm and wise and funny. Based on what she said she was seeking (and that she liked rhyme), I thought HAY might be a good fit for her. However, (see #4 above), I needed to revise first.

I reviewed other Holiday House books and saw that many were related to farming and food. That seemed like a good sign. So about four months after meeting Grace, I emailed my revised manuscript, now called “Mower, Tedder, Baler—Hay!” to her. I mentioned that we’d met at Falling Leaves, I cited other farm-related books from Holiday House, and I crossed my fingers.

SLH: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

CM: So … I have learned that this part is unusual (though remember HAY had been through prior rejections and revisions). I emailed the manuscript to Grace on a Friday. The following Monday, she emailed back. She said she thought HAY was “adorable” and that she’d share it with her colleagues at their next editorial meeting! [We interrupt this program to say how awesome is THAT?!  We all dream of a response like that, and speaking for myself, I’ve never gotten a positive reply in 3 days!  WOW! 🙂 ]

Of course, I didn’t know when that was going to be, and I was too nervous to ask, so I just waited. And waited. And waited. Two weeks later, Grace emailed again with an offer to publish the book.

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Christy’s dog, wildly excited about the book sale, pointing out a round bale in the field

SLH: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

CM: I believe it was a quiet celebration at home. I may have been in shock.

SLH: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

CM: I had no idea what to expect. I remember mostly the excitement of an offer. One thing that sticks in my mind is that it took much longer than I’d anticipated to receive the contract. The document didn’t arrive until several months after the offer (and negotiation), which I hadn’t realized was normal.

I didn’t have an agent, so I found a knowledgeable lawyer (referred by another writer I met at Falling Leaves) to help review the offer and contract—I think the cost was about $250 and it was well worth it. It was reassuring to have an experienced person evaluate the offer. She said the basics (advance, royalties, etc.) were good, and we just negotiated to improve little things like getting more author copies of the book.

Aside from SLH: for the curious, I usually get 10-20 author copies of my books, and 5% is a pretty standard royalty percentage for authors (may be different for illustrators or author/illustrators) on hard covers from traditional trade publishers although there is variation on both those things.

SLH: Tell us about the editorial process?

CM: I generally enjoy working with editors. With HAY, it was great. It was clear that Grace cared about the book as much as I did.

One editorial discussion we had was about switchel, the traditional haymakers’ drink. In the initial offer, Grace indicated that her colleagues had an issue with my use of the term switchel. They thought it was too obscure – kids wouldn’t know it. (Of course they wouldn’t! That was the point.) I argued that kids would enjoy learning this fun new word.

Eventually, in the final edits, switchel stayed. It helped that there’s a company in Brooklyn, NY, that makes and bottles switchel. We included “switchel” as a term in the book’s glossary of haymaking terms, and also added a recipe so families could make their own switchel. Win-win!

SLH: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

CM: About six months after we signed the contract, I went to the SCBWI conference in New York, and Grace invited me to meet her in her office on Madison Avenue. (Squeee!) She took me to lunch, where she told me she’d signed Joe Cepeda to illustrate HAY. I was excited because I knew his work – he is very well established, a great artist, and in fact had illustrated a friend’s picture book years before.

After that, there was more than a year of waiting for Joe to complete the art. When she received his illustrations, Grace worked on the layout of the book. She sent me a pdf of the first pass: scans of Joe’s paintings, with the text laid out page by page, and post-its and mark-ups with questions and notes. Woo! It was a thrill to see that. I loved the vision that Joe brought to the book. He took this little Vermont story and made it universal, painting a beautiful farm that could be in the Midwest or the west as easily as in the east. I’m especially thrilled that he portrayed my first-person narrator as a girl.

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Grace’s office with HAY underway

With the layout, Grace sent a mark-up of my text, with suggested revisions. After that, we had several phone conversations to go over questions. We adjusted a few lines to make the words consistent with the illustrations. Because it’s a rhyming book, those small revisions can be tricky. I provided Grace with alternatives for substitute couplets that might work, and she selected her favorite.

Then, Grace and the designers adjusted the page breaks, the end papers, the design and location of the glossary and the recipe, the dedication – all those little things that are so important in the book’s look and feel. Grace sent me updated pdf’s showing these steps. We made sure the illustrations accurately portrayed the haying process. Finally it was out of my hands and I could (try to) relax in the knowledge that our book was going to be gorgeous.

SLH: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

CM: Yes! Grace (and the publicity folks at Holiday House, who are also lovely) forwarded me advance copies of the Kirkus and SLJ reviews. I was really nervous about reviews, and very relieved when the reviewers “got” my book and wrote about it positively. Whew.

SLH: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

CM: Two years and 10 months.

Aside from SLH: I’ve had picture books come together in as short as just over a year to as long as one that’s been in process for 6 years and isn’t out yet, but I think 2 – 2.5 years is pretty average… in so far as anything in this business is average 🙂

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SLH: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

CM: Oh, now you are making me nervous.

SLH: That was a trick question for you because your book just came out today!  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention 🙂  Get back to us in 6-12 months 🙂

SLH: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

CM: As a committed introvert, I find all of this outside my comfort zone. But because this is my first trade book I resolved to learn what I needed to learn, and do what I needed to do, to promote it. I joined the “Epic Eighteen” gang, a group of debut picture book writers and illustrators whose first books are scheduled for 2018 release (many thanks to Hannah Holt and friends). This has been an incredibly helpful source of information-sharing and support through a shared Facebook page, a mutual blog, and some in-person meetings.

Leading up to the book’s release, I sent many emails to the very helpful publicity folks at Holiday House. They answered my clueless questions and explained how this stressful process works. They sent out hundreds of advance copies to reviewers, and submitted my book to book festivals, etc. They also explained that the writer is generally responsible for the rest of the promotional tasks.

I set up a pre-order campaign with my local indie bookstore, Bear Pond Books. Folks who place advance orders online from Bear Pond receive a discount and special gift, and once the book is out I sign the books, with a personalization if requested, and Bear Pond ships them out.

I also ordered postcards, bookmarks, and bookplates (to personalize books for people that buy their own elsewhere) using art from the book. (The author pays for these.) Preparing for readings at bookstores and libraries, I developed book-specific crafts and hay-related activities to engage the kids. To practice reading my book to kids, I read an advance copy to a local first grade class (and got some helpful feedback). And I read it to my 2-year-old grandson, who is too young for the book but who loved the tractor pictures and thereafter greeted me by saying “Nana! Book! Hey, Hey, Hay!!!”

DSCF1185

Future hay-er, Christy’s grandson 🙂

I arranged with some fabulous kidlit bloggers to do interviews and posts for a blog around the release. And I scheduled a bunch of HAY events: a reading and hay activities at a farm, library story times, bookstore readings, an appearance at university book festival, another at an arts festival in a small town . . . and we’ll see how all that goes!

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reading to first-graders

Things I didn’t do (because you can’t do everything): a book trailer, stickers, and tattoos. Oh, and a huge launch party. I decided a small celebration is more my speed.

SLH: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

CM: Short answer: almost four years.

More info: I started putting serious energy into writing for kids in the fall of 2011. I focused on magazine submissions, and was thrilled to see my first story published in an (unpaid) online magazine in 2012. As I learned more about the magazine market, I sent out queries and more submissions and started selling articles.

And it turned out that HAY was not my first published book, although it is my first trade book. In 2015 I began writing books for the educational market on a work-for-hire basis, and I’ve now published 7 in that market.

SLH: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

CM: I think of myself as a nonfiction writer, so it’s ironic that HAY, a book featuring a fictional narrator, is my first published picture book. It’s informational of course (back matter!), but fiction. I’m glad that when this unexpected idea came wafting over the hayfields to find me, even though was so unlike the historical stories I thought I was meant to tell, I ran with it.

SLH:  Christy, thank you so much for kicking off our new series so fabulously!  I know I speak for all of us when I wish you the very best with your book!  For those who would like to support Christy, please shop for her book at your favorite bookseller, make sure your local library has a copy (you can request they get one if they don’t already have it), read her book and post reviews on GoodReads and any online bookstore you frequent, or share a nice review on your blog or FB page, donate a copy to your child’s school library, consider as a gift to a young reader in your life, stand on a street corner and wave flyers, or anything else you can think of! 🙂

If you’d like to know more about Christy or be in touch with her online, you can find her here:

Website: www.christymihaly.com.Chris closeup

Twitter: @CMwriter4kids

Instagram: @Christy Mihaly

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/christymihaly/

Blogging at GROG: https://groggorg.blogspot.com/

Thanks again to Christy for participating, and to all of you for reading!  If you have any questions for Christy, please use the comment section below!

P.S. We started Tuesday Debuts today even though many of us (myself included) are technically on Summer Blogcation because today is the day of Christy’s book release.  The series will continue with regularity in September.  We’re just whetting your appetite 🙂

Dog Days

Happy August Everyone!

I hope you’re all on the beach with a great book, a cold lemonade, and people you love, having a wonderfully summery time!

We are Dog Day-ing it like the pros we are here on Blueberry Hill…

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I mean, can we lie down and sleep, or what?!

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It is extremely important not to overtax yourself in the heat 🙂

Traditionally, I take August off from blogging, but this year everything is so topsy-turvy that there’s no point in trying to pretend any kind of organization.

So I will mostly take August off from blogging… except for starting my new series on August 14th (because that’s the day it has to start)… and maybe having a little bit of a party on the 28th because some MONKEYS I know are having a book birthday… which gives us an excuse for cake 🙂

The new series, entitled Tuesday Debuts, will feature debut authors sharing the intimate details of how they sold their first picture book.  It is intended to be educational and inspiring for all picture book writers, but especially for those who have yet to make that first sale.  Who knows what nuggets of insight and wisdom and insider tips you might glean???!!!  I hope you will all read it while you’re on that beach we were just discussing and find out! 🙂

Please tune in on Tuesday August 14 for our debut debut author, Chris Mihaly!

Meantime, read something good, write something great, and don’t forget your sunscreen 🙂 🙂 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #295 – The Remindeer (PB)

Shhh!

(I don’t want my computer to hear this conversation!)

But between you, me and the fencepost, I’m afraid it’s going over to the dark side.

I mean, when I turn it on and it looks like this:

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it really can’t be good!

So I think I may be taking a little jaunt to the computer store soon…

…much as I hate the idea of change!

I’m such a tech dinosaur.  I like to keep the devices I’m used to.  (Witness last week’s phone screen disaster when I elected to replace the screen rather than the phone!)

Wait.

Is there a trend here?

Now that I think of it, it’s a bit worrying!  First my phone, now my computer!  I may be in some kind of electronic device black hole.  Do they have those on Blueberry Hill?  Maybe I should check with the neighbors…

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Well, she says she’s not having any problems with her electronic devices and she thinks the green screen is pretty and actually looks quite delicious.

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These guys agree.

So I guess everything’s okay.

It’s making me a little anxious, though, so I think Something Chocolate would be just the thing to settle my nerves 🙂

Scouting around for something delicious for today’s Something Chocolate, I came across the creation of a brilliant mind – someone who clearly said to themselves why have plain chocolate chip cookies when you could have them stuffed with cheesecake?  Really, it’s sheer genius.  Why has no one thought of this before? 🙂

Cheesecake Stuffed Cookies

choc chip cheesecake cookies

Recipe HERE (including helpful video!) at Delish.com

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…and the surprise inside! 🙂

I’m sure you can see the improved nutritional and healthful benefits of this beautiful creation – protein, dairy, whole grains and vegetables (don’t forget – chocolate comes from a bean!) in the cookie, and plenty of calcium in the cheesecake filling!  What could be a better breakfast?!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Greg who says, “I’m a husband, father, author, hockey player, geocacher, and cockeyed optimist. I enjoy cooking and baking, especially chocolatey goodies. I have two self-published books out and one traditional published book.”

LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/gregoryebray/

http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Twitter:  @GEBray19

Instagram: gregoryebray

Here is his pitch:

Working Title: The Remindeer

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-10)

The Pitch: Santa has departed to deliver Christmas presents, but one has been left behind. Wally, being Santa’s right hooved reindeer, has to find a way to deliver it.  Unlike the other reindeer, Wally can’t fly. He’ll have to find another means to deliver the present and save Christmas for the intended child.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Greg improve his pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in October, so you have time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Greg is looking forward to your thoughts on his pitch!  I am looking forward to looking…just looking…at new computers… and what might come of that no one knows so no current computers should take offense or feel insulted and stop working completely if they happen to be overhearing this conversation!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂