Perfect Picture Book Friday – Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

If you can relate it to a holiday at all (which is a bit of a stretch 🙂 ) the book I’ve chosen to share today is a little more Thanksgiving-y than Halloween-y.  But even though Halloween comes first and is less than a week away, this book is too good not to share now 🙂

Fry Bread

Title: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Written By: Kevin Noble Maillard

Illustrated By: Juana Martinez-Neal

Roaring Brook Press, October 22 2019, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-6 (but older kids and adults will find the back matter very interesting!)

Themes/Topics: heritage, tradition, family, community

Opening: “FRY BREAD IS FOOD
Flour, salt, water
Cornmeal, baking powder
Perhaps milk, maybe sugar
All mixed together in a big bowl

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 1.09.39 PM

text copyright Kevin Noble Maillard 2019, illustration copyright Juana Martinez-Neal 2019 Roaring Brook Press

 

Brief Synopsis: A celebration of how this no-single-recipe-fits-all community food draws families and friends together and provides continuity from generation to generation.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 1.10.07 PM

text copyright Kevin Noble Maillard 2019, illustration copyright Juana Martinez-Neal 2019 Roaring Brook Press

 

Links To Resources: the back of the book contains extensive additional information that teachers and parents can use to round out the use of the book at home and in the classroom and that older readers will enjoy.  Topics include a recipe for the author’s own unique version of Fry Bread as well as information on Indigenous people, geography, history, and more.

Why I Like This Book: the text is simple, powerful, and accessible to readers of all ages, telling the story of how Fry Bread brings families and communities together and encourages tradition.  The back matter adds another layer with a great deal of very interesting information about a wide range of connected topics.  The art is warm and appealing, adding its own element to the story with illustrations of Native bowls and baskets, a wide array of physical appearances that can all be Native American, and a map that lacks the usual delineations in order to show how Indigenous people are in every population.  Beautifully done, and a wonderful addition to any library!

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 1.10.33 PM

text copyright Kevin Noble Maillard 2019, illustration copyright Juana Martinez-Neal 2019 Roaring Brook Press

 

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!!! 🙂

And get those Halloweensie entries finished up!  The contest opens Monday!!!  WOOHOO!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #340 – The Unexpected Suitcase (MG)

It’s Would You Read It Wednesday again and something about the title of today’s pitch made me think of that old game we used to play on long drives in the car.  I’m sure it goes by different names, but in my family we call it “I Packed My Grandmother’s Trunk.”  (e.g. I packed my Grandmother’s Trunk and in it I put something beginning with A – apple – and so on through the alphabet, and as each person took their turn they had to recite all the things that had come before) and it occurred to me out of nowhere (a lightning strike of inspiration!) that today we should start with Would You Write It Wednesday! 🙂

So why don’t we pack our October/Autumn/Halloween stories, and in them place something that begins with O (as in ghostly moans OOOOOOOHHHHH! 🙂 ) and then write an October/Autumn/Halloween story with your “O” word in it?

The obvious Halloween-related choices are October, Owl, and Orange, so feel free to write your Would You Write It Wednesday October/Autumn/Halloween story about one (or more) of those.  But I thought, why not go with something less obvious and challenge yourself to put that in a story?! So for those of you who want to go advanced, put an Orangutan in your story! 🙂

Since I have Halloween on the brain, and we are all writing our Halloweensie Contest stories (even if choose not to write about Halloween orangutans today) and therefore need serious creativity fuel, I think our Something Chocolate today should be this scarily delicious Death By Chocolate Halloween Cake!

Death By Chocolate Halloween Cake

 

If THAT doesn’t jump start your creative process, I don’t know what will! The amount of sugar and caffeine in a chocolate cake that dark and delicious-looking ought to be enough to set your pen on fire and have you writing like the wind!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Natalie who says, ” I have been writing for over a year now and I am loving every minute of it. I am a substitute teacher with three young kids. So, trying to write sometimes is impossible when they need my undivided attention. I am looking forward to one day having one of my own stories to be physically in my hands because I love the smell of a new book and its crisp pages.”

Find her on the web at Twiter@CohnNatalie

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Unexpected Suitcase

Age/Genre: MG Mystery (ages 8-12)

The Pitch: A clumsy, eager boy named Henry discovers a tattered suitcase under a floorboard, at grandma’s house. Figuring out the mystery of the suitcase won’t be easy, eventually, he will need to tell the truth to his grandmother, but when Henry falls inside the suitcase, he is taken on an unexpected journey back in time in the 1950s, maybe forever.

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 Natalie 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 January, which is not as far away as you might think! so sign up for a date and polish up your pitch because you could put it up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Natalie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to writing an Autumn/Halloween story that involves Orangutans, Oreos, and Ovaltine 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Dawn Young!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!

I realize of course that it’s the 22nd of October – 9 Nights Before Halloween, and 64 Nights Before Christmas – but if it’s okay for the local Stop & Shop to be putting out their holiday items already then it’s okay for us to share and enjoy today’s debut picture book!

I’m thrilled to introduce Tuesday Debut-ess Dawn Young and her fabulously fun picture book, The Night Baafore Christmas!

The Night Baafore Christmas
Written by Dawn Young
Illustrated by Pablo Pino
published by WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group
October 2019
fiction, ages 4-8

hi res for blog - jacket

It’s Christmas Eve and Bo can’t sleep, so he starts counting sheep. But when the sheep get a glimpse of the Christmas goodies, they scatter, wreaking holiday mayhem all over the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get to sleep before Santa comes? Find out in this hilarious story of a night before Christmas gone baa-dly wrong.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Dawn!  And thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us today and share your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

DAWN: The idea for The Night Baafore Christmas began a long time ago, when one of my daughters was having trouble falling asleep because she kept worrying about bad things after watching the movie Barnyard. Every night I’d tell her to think good thoughts and imagine herself at fun, happy places like the circus or the zoo.

With that in mind, I wrote about a child who, struggling to fall asleep due to bad thoughts, went to those same fun, happy places. But a story about a child going from adventure to adventure felt flat and needed something more, so I had the child attempt to count sheep to fall asleep. Soon, those mischievous sheep were tagging along on the adventures. At that point, the story had some spark but things went from flat to frenzied and I knew I needed to tighten the story.

Also, I wanted the story to start on a more positive note, so instead of having the child worry about bad things, I had the excitement over an upcoming event, like the eve of a birthday or a holiday, be the reason the child couldn’t fall sleep. I played around with both, but found myself heading down the birthday path. Then, after seeing the holiday mishap contest on Susanna’s blog, I shifted to Christmas, and wrote a draft of what is now The Night Baafore Christmas.

[And now a brief message from our sponsors – enter the Halloweensie Contest (which opens in a week)! You too could write a new story or find a new angle on a work-in-progress that might be worthy of publication just like Dawn!

…aaand back to our regularly scheduled programming…! 🙂 ]

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

DAWN: Years! I began writing the story in 2008. Getting feedback from my critique partners and creating dummies were a big part of getting the book to where it is today. I love to write in rhyme, and I wanted this story to be in rhyme. Knowing that most publishers prefer prose because too often (they say) they see rhyme that is subpar, I worked on my perfecting my rhyming skills. Also, I wanted this story to be fun and funny, so I focused on wordplay and humor.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

DAWN: This story went through many, many, many revisions. Even after adding the sheep, the story went through rounds and rounds of revisions. Early drafts were written in first person, and now the story is in third person. Playing around with POV is a great exercise.

Also, originally, the sheep appeared by number randomly to mirror the craziness of the story. Then, I received feedback suggesting I number the sheep in ascending order when the action escalates and in descending order when the momentum slows down. I revised accordingly, and it worked great and gave the story a smoother flow. I’m grateful for the feedback!

For me, critique groups/partners are key to the process. We look to our critique partners for feedback to help us revise our stories, and their suggestions are invaluable. I find that I make a great deal of progress with my manuscripts when I, not only consider the feedback I get, but also the feedback I give. When I do a critique, I think my inner self is trying to speak to me through someone else’s work. Often, I find myself saying, Wait I just did that same thing!  A critique you’re doing for someone can act as a mirror, enabling you to reflect on your own writing as well.

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

DAWN: When that nagging, unsettling, “something’s missing,” “if you stop now you’re cheating,” “you can do better than that,” feeling, the one that keeps me up at night, is gone, then I know the manuscript is ready for submission.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

DAWN: Unagented at the time, I read on Kathy Temean’s blog that WorthyKids was seeking submissions for holiday stories, so I subbed the old-school way, via snail mail! Shortly after the submission, I assigned with my (now) agent and she handled the contract.

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

DAWN: Four months after I submitted, I got an email from the editor asking if the story was still available. I was ecstatic! Then around ten months later I got the offer.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

DAWN: I cried, the happiest of tears, and eventually I went out to dinner with  my very supportive husband.

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

DAWN: At the time I submitted to WorthyKids, they were a smaller publisher so I figured the advance might be on the lower side. I really liked the publisher and the timeline for publication was unreal. I signed the contract in Nov 2018 and they gave me a Fall 2019 pub date. I felt so fortunate. In the meantime, WorthyKids became part of Hachette Book Group, so my small publisher isn’t so small anymore.

SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?

DAWN: They requested two minor changes and that was it.

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

DAWN: The illustration process was unlike most I’ve read about. The editor suggested that I send her names of illustrators that had a style similar to what I was envisioning for the book. One of the names I gave her was Pablo Pino. Since they had Pablo in mind as well, they asked him and he said yes. His illustrations went beyond what I could have ever hoped for. They’re are beautiful, fun and funny. I feel so fortunate that Pablo Pino is the illustrator. The Night Baafore Christmas couldn’t have been in better hands!

One way in which illustrator’s vision departed from mine was that I envisioned the sheep’s numbers to be on their bodies, but Pablo put their numbers on tags around their necks, and I’m so glad he did because they’re visible but subtle. Having big ole numbers on their backs may have overpowered the page.

I saw digital files of the entire book before it went to print and I was blown away! The editor asked for feedback. Other than saying Wow more times than I can count, I think I had only two (minor) comments.

I did have art notes. Looking back I can see that they weren’t necessary.

hi res for blog dancing

text copyright Dawn Young 2019, illustration copyright Pablo Pino 2019 WorthyKids/Hachette

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

DAWN: No, not yet.

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

DAWN: Ten months.

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

DAWN: It just released on Oct 1st.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

DAWN: My publisher has been amazing. They made the most lively, fun, festive trailer, and they’re contacting book reviewers, making memes, and doing a great deal of promotion.

 

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

DAWN: I had flyers, bookmarks, stickers and a banner made. I reached out to bloggers asking them I could be featured on their blogs to share my journey and the book’s journey. I will be featured at bookstores in November and December and I’m booking other events as well.

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

DAWN: I started writing in 2007, but at the time, my kids were small, and I was busy with toddlers and very involved at their school, so I’d say I was more of a part-time writer. Around 2010, I got really serious about writing and began attending conferences and writing retreats, taking classes, joining critique groups and writing ALL the time. Strictly a rhymer, I thought it would be best to branch out and be more diverse with my style, so around that time, I started writing in prose as well. In 2018, I sold my first picture book, Counting Elephants, which releases in March 2020 and sold The Night Baafore Christmas shortly after.

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

DAWN: Way back when, I submitted the very early versions of this story and they got their share of rejections, as they should have. Those versions were nowhere near ready and should not have been out in the world ‒ much like a 13 year old behind the wheel of a car! The rejections I received were a blessing. As much as I dreaded them and resented them, they made me work harder, thinker deeper and get more ingenious. I learned to welcome them. I have a quote I like to remember when things aren’t going as expected: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

I learned that getting published requires more patience and persistence than I ever thought I had.

I also learned to celebrate the positive things. Back in 2013, I submitted this story to an editor who spoke at a conference I attended. Shortly after I received a rejection letter from her, but this time, I also got positive feedback. The editor called the story “fun and engaging” and she called my writing “fresh” and had other nice things to say.  Even though it was a rejection, I celebrated her encouraging feedback, and to this day I still have her letter on my desk.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a fabulously generous and thoughtful kidlit community. The support and encouragement is incredible. No one knows a writer’s life like a writer does.

SUSANNA: Wow, Dawn!  Such a lot of wonderful, helpful insights you shared with us today!  I especially enjoyed your thoughts on critique groups/partners, when you know your manuscript is ready, and what it’s like to be a writer and part of the writing community.  I’m sure our readers will all have their favorite parts as well 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!

Young headshot

Author Dawn Young

Dawn Young bio:

Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona.

https://www.facebook.com/dawn.young.1865

https://twitter.com/dawnyoungPB

https://www.instagram.com/dawnyoungbooks/

www.dawnyoungbooks.com

Readers, if you have questions for Dawn, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Dawn’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Asleep At The Switch

Darlings!

What a week!

All good things, but SO. BUSY!!!  Just back from a New Jersey Booksellers Conference and let me tell you there’s nothing like driving through a Nor’easter made of rain, where your GPS starts by telling you you’ll arrive at 5:54 PM. . . and you actually arrive at 8PM. . . while she gleefully reports from time to time that, “Traffic is getting worse! You will now arrive at 6:24!”  “There is a 27 minute slow down.  You are still on the fastest route.”  “Traffic is getting worse!  You will now arrive at 7:43!”  etc 🙂

I believe traveling by upside down umbrella would have been faster 🙂

Christopher-Robin-Rainy-Day-Winnie-the-Pooh

Now I’m off to Sheep & Wool for the whole weekend with CAN’T SLEEP and LLAMA, those wooly upholders of fiber arts (as well as MOON and DEAR SANTA just because 🙂 ) where we will do our wooly hair up fancy and admire all the hand-knitted and crocheted sweaters and scarves and mittens and hats and even dresses parading past our little table while the tantalizing scent of apple crisp floats over from the building next door!

I’m putting up this post with the list for all of you to add your books to, but I am literally falling asleep on the keyboard, so I’m going to have to add my book in tomorrow if I have time.

If I don’t that will just be more time for you to read each other’s books! 🙂

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 wild and wooly weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #339 – Mandy’s Magical Quest (PB)

Today, it seems, is National Dictionary Day.

Made for writers, don’t you think? 🙂

When I was in elementary school, I had a Latin teacher who let us play a game she called “Dictionary” on the day before we got out for school vacations.  (Undoubtedly she realized we weren’t going to learn anything on those days, so there was no point in teaching! 🙂 )  Someone would randomly select a word from the dictionary and write the correct definition on a slip of paper, and the rest of us would try to make up a definitions that sounded plausible and write them on our own slips of paper.  Then the teacher would gather them up and read all the definitions aloud and we’d vote on which one we thought was the real definition.  Whoever got the most votes won… and usually we did NOT choose the actual definition.  It was fun!

It’s not a game we can play here, I don’t think, but instead we can celebrate National Dictionary Day by closing our eyes, opening the dictionary to a random point (this is assuming you all still HAVE an actual dictionary and don’t rely solely on online versions) and point to a word on the page you open to.  Whatever that word is, let it be a story prompt for your writing today!

Maybe you have to use the word, or the idea of the word, in your story.  Or maybe the theme of your story has to be what the meaning of the word is.  Or maybe you play anagrams with the word and come up with three words made out of the letters from your word and include those three words in your story.  Or maybe you choose the antonym of the word and write your story using that.  Or maybe your main character’s name has to be the word… which could make for some interesting names… and characters… 🙂 Who knows?

Give it a try and see what you come up with!

And to fuel your creative efforts, let’s have Something Chocolate!  After all, there’s nothing like chocolate to get the old brain in high gear! 🙂  I think today we should have Chocolate-Covered Coconut Chocolate Chip Macaroons.  Only 4 ingredients – that’s my kind of simple 🙂

Chocolate-Covered Coconut Chocolate Chip Macaroons

 

Now THAT’S a breakfast that will fill you with energy and ideas!!!

Alrighty then!  Onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Melissa who says, “As a girl, I roamed the hills and forests.  Connecting with nature is still a magical experience that leaves me fulfilled and happy.  I hope my manuscript encourages others to appreciate what lies just outside their door and inspires them to nurture our beautiful lands and creatures.”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Mandy’s Magical Quest

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: Mandy and her black crow, Bram, journey to the four elemental Goddesses in the far corners of the earth to save their grove of trees.  The journey is not easy, but they persevere.  Mandy is rewarded with a thriving grove and a magical thank you.

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 Melissa 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 January, 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, but it doesn’t hurt to snag a date now!

Melissa is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Fall Conference which I am attending today!  I’ve never been before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Susan Richmond!!!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, everyone!

You are reading this from all over the world today, and I’m so glad you’re here!  For some of you spring is just around the corner, and for others autumn approaches without any appreciable change in the weather, but here in the northeastern US, the trees have bedecked themselves in all their colored finery and the birds are on the move – some south to warmer climes, some settling in for the duration, checking out all the local bird feeders in order to select the best place to spend the winter 🙂

It’s a great time to enjoy today’s debut picture book!

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond
illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Peachtree Publishing Company, Inc.
October 1, 2019
Fiction PB
Ages 4 to 8

Bird Count_cover

Ava is excited when Big Al, the leader of their Christmas Bird Count team, asks her to record the tally this year. Using her most important tools—her eyes and ears—she eagerly identifies and counts the birds they observe on their assigned route around town.

 

SUSANNA:  Welcome, Susan!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re so looking forward to all you have to share about your publication journey!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SUSAN: Bird Count is based on the National Audubon Society’s annual bird census called the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). After being part of my town’s CBC for years, it occurred to me what a wonderful citizen science topic it would be for children, since there’s no age limit for participation. My original idea for the book was as a kind of seek-and-find, with more emphasis on counting than on birdwatching concepts.

 

Susan Edwards Richmond_birding with scope

 

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

SUSAN: I brought several drafts to my critique group over the course of a few months before feeling it was ready to send out. One of my early versions included parts of a poem I’d written about the count well before sitting down to write it as a picture book. So if you count those notes, the initial writing process took a couple of years.

 

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

SUSAN: As my critique group suggested, I paginated the final draft and crafted it until I was happy with the content of each spread. Then I polished the text, a couplet on each spread.  When my critique group didn’t have any more suggestions I felt I could use, I was ready!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SUSAN: I didn’t have an agent, so I selected two editors from houses I knew did great picture books on science topics, Charlesbridge and Peachtree Publishing Company. I had met the Charlesbridge editor at a conference, but an author in my critique group, Melissa Stewart, suggested I try her editor, Vicky Holified, at Peachtree. Because it was a picture book, I mailed off the complete manuscript.

 

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

SUSAN: Vicky, the editor at Peachtree, initially liked the book idea but rejected the manuscript. Still, she wanted to work with me. After three complete rewrites over the course of a year without an offer, I wasn’t sure I could keep going. My critique group saved me!  I brought in the email with my editors’ latest round of extensive comments, and they walked me through each point, helping me see how I could address her concerns.

I was waiting to hear the results of Bird Count’s second round of acquisition meetings, when Vicky wrote that she’d like to address a few more questions over the phone. After that call, I waited again. Finally, days later, I heard from the vice president that a contract was in the works. I was so grateful I’d persevered I was in tears. I have my critique group to thank, and my editor, who believed in the book so much that she spent a whole year working with me without knowing if it would ever be published.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SUSAN: Bottle of champagne—toasts all around!

 

talkin birds

Talkin’ Birds

 

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

SUSAN: Since this was my first book, and I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t know what to expect and felt pretty much on my own. I was so happy to be published, and I didn’t know what was normal!  I had a friend who was a lawyer look it over, and then signed. Later I found out that the advance, author copies, and rights were typical for a picture book for this house. I received 15 author copies and had my advance paid in three installments—at signing, at the point the book was sent to production, and on publication date.

 

SUSANNA: Can you tell us  a bit about the editorial process?

SUSAN: As I mentioned earlier, there were heavy rounds of revision before the contract. My editor had a strong vision for the book, and I’m now grateful for all the hard work we did together. I had envisioned it as a much simpler counting book, featuring birds in a variety of habitats. But Vicky was intrigued by the mechanics of the count itself and wanted to highlight all my birding knowledge. It seemed like a lot of information to put into one picture book. But we did it—and it works!

 
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

SUSAN: My original manuscript included just a few art notes—only where I thought the spread wouldn’t make sense without it. I’ve learned that you can almost always get rid of an art note. The illustrator has so many original ideas to contribute and usually does “get” the irony or subtlety in your text, and will probably come up with something way more interesting than you imagined!

I was lucky that my editor included me in the process from the beginning, asking me for ideas about illustrator and illustration style, and later providing time for me to review sketches as well as full color illustrations. Because the book had a lot of science content, she wanted to be sure I felt the birds and habitats were portrayed accurately. Fortunately, my illustrator Stephanie Fizer Coleman, is also passionate and knowledgeable about birds!

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illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2019

 

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

SUSAN: I have a publicist at Peachtree, Elyse Vincenty, and she’s wonderful. Peachtree mails out dozens of advance copies to reviewers, bloggers, and influencers. She forwarded the Kirkus Review to me as soon as it came out. I’ve also seen advance reviews on Goodreads and on a few blog sites. It felt amazing to read so many positive reviews!

 

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

SUSAN: It was accepted for publication in fall of 2015, and I received my first advance copy in April of this year. So three and a half years! Four between offer and release date.

 

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

SUSAN: I’m lucky that Peachtree does a lot of promotion for its books—which doesn’t mean you don’t have to do a lot of your own as well. But my publicist, Elyse, sends out review copies, communicates with the sales force about unique markets (for example, nature centers and bird stores), facilitates book placement at conferences, and helps authors carry out their marketing ideas.  Peachtree chose Bird Count’s cover as the cover image for their Fall catalog, which was incredible, and it has a two-page spread inside. They also do a great job presenting books on their website, including publishing a Teacher’s Guide for which I wrote the text, posting author bios, and linking to author websites.

 

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

SUSAN: No matter who your publisher is, expect to do a lot of marketing! The first thing I did was join Twitter; the second was join an author debut group—since this was my first children’s book—called On the Scene in 2019. The larger your community, the larger your promotional voice will carry.

In addition, my husband produced a book trailer for Bird Count, which Elyse arranged to have released by the Nerdy Book Club. You can see it there at https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/book-trailer-premiere-bird-count-by-susan-edwards-richmond/ or on my website. I had two sets of bookmarks, and a postcard designed and printed. I also developed a list of markets which I thought might sell my book, and got creative about expanding it. It’s not my job to sell to stores, but when a manager expresses interest, I give the information to my publicist, and she has a sales rep contact them. I also set up most of my own author appearances, including the launch, signings, story times, etc., although Peachtree arranged for me to sign at the NEIBA Discovery Show in Providence, RI, during my book release week, which was very exciting.

 

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

SUSAN: Honestly, it was more than 15 years. Although I became even more focused in the past 6 or 7.

 

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

SUSAN: My path to children’s book publication was longer than most, I think. Could I have gotten there faster? Maybe, but you also have to embrace your own journey. I raised a family and developed a local poetry following in the interim, as well as found my dream job—teaching at a Mass Audubon preschool.

All of my experiences led me to where I am today, with my first children’s book out from a fantastic house, represented by an amazing agent, Stephen Fraser at Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency, and surrounded by a wonderful, generous writing community.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Thank you so much, Susanna, for interviewing me about my publication story!  It’s been wonderful speaking with you.

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Author Susan Richmond

Website: www.susanedwardsrichmond.com
Twitter:  @SusanEdRichmond
Facebook:  Susan Edwards Richmond
Link at Peachtree online: https://peachtree-online.com/portfolio-items/bird-count/

SUSANNA: Thank YOU so much for taking the time to visit with us today, share your experience, and participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!  I know I speak for everyone when I say how much we appreciate it and that we all wish you the very best of success with this and future books!

Readers, if you have questions for Susan, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Susan’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Spooky Wheels On The Bus

It’s Friday!  It’s Friday!  The weekend awaits! 🙂

So what are y’all doing this weekend?

Apple picking? Visiting Granny? Washing the dog? Baking pumpkin-related items? Agonizing over costumes as Halloween approaches way too quickly for your busy schedule?  Making sure every flavor in the bag of fun-size candy is as delicious as the manufacturers purports them to be before you decide what to hand out to trick-or-treaters in a couple weeks?

That was a test!

The correct answer is “writing my Halloweensie Contest entry!” (Because in case any of you didn’t happen to notice, the rules for this year’s contest went up yesterday!!!)

Anyone who answered correctly may have one of these 🙂  You have earned it!  (And you’ll need it to give yourself time to write 🙂 )

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The other acceptable answer to the question of what you are doing this weekend is, “Going to the Warwick Children’s Book Festival to see Susanna and many other writing friends!” And you can have a get-out-of-housework free card for that too 🙂

Now!  Since we’re warming up for Halloween, onto today’s Perfect Picture Book! 🙂

spooky-wheels

Title: The Spooky Wheels On The Bus

Written By: J. Elizabeth Mills

Illustrated By: Ben Mantle

Cartwheel Books, July 2010, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: holidays (halloween), concepts (counting)

Opening: “One spooky bus goes RATTLE and SHAKE,
RATTLE and SHAKE, RATTLE and SHAKE.
One spooky bus goes RATTLE and SHAKE
All through the town.

Brief Synopsis: (From Amazon) “Count from One Spooky Bus up to Ten Goofy Ghosts as this Halloween ride races through town picking up a few unsuspecting passengers along the way.”

Links To Resources: Kids’ Halloween Crafts of all kinds!; Kid-friendly Halloween recipes; make up your own Wheels On The Bus song about Halloween, your birthday, or any other holiday!

Why I Like This Book: You can’t really go wrong with a fun Halloween-themed version of this popular song.  Kids can enjoy it as a story, or sing along with it.  In addition to being a story/song with an entertaining cast of Halloween characters, it is a counting book – great for youngest picture book enthusiasts.  The art is bright and warm, colorful and inviting, showing witches and ghosts and spiders in a way that is friendly and engaging and not at all scary.  The town looks like a cozy place to go trick-or-treating.  All-around Halloween fun!

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text copyright J. Elizabeth Mills 2010, illustration copyright Ben Mantle 2010

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!!! 🙂

 

. . . BOO!!! Announcing the 9th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!!!

It was a dark and stormy night!

Ghostly shadows lurked among the grave stones…

…and from the mist-shrouded forest a ghastly voice shrieked, “BOO!!!!”

Please ignore the fact that it’s morning and the kitchen smells comfortingly of fresh coffee and toast with strawberry jam and the only sound is your preschooler singing the alphabet song.  We’re setting a mood here! 🙂

And I bet you can guess why!

Because it’s time to announce the rules for. . .

The 9TH Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!

halloweensie-pumpkin

~ for children’s writers ~

 

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words potion, cobweb, and trick.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got over 235 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. potions, cobwebbed, trickery, whathaveyou 🙂  NO ILLUSTRATION NOTES PLEASE! (And yes, you may submit more than one entry if you’re so inclined 🙂 )

Post: your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Monday October 28th and Thursday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my special October 28th post.  There will be no Tuesday Debut, Perfect Picture Book or Would You Read It posts for the duration of the contest so the links will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy.  If you don’t have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of my October 28th post once it’s up (please include your byline if your posting handle is something like MamaWritesByNightlight so I can identify you.)  If you have difficulty posting in the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I’ll post it for you.  Please place your entry in the body of the email including your title and byline at the top – NO ATTACHMENTS!  And please do not submit entries before the start of the contest!

The Judging: in a grueling marathon over the following days, my devoted assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 3 top choices (hee hee hee – you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we’ll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday November 5th (if the judging takes longer than we expect if could be later…but we will do our best!)  The winner will be announced on Tuesday November 5th (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 🙂 ) If we get more than 25 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st – 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turnout we’ve had the past couple years, I may post as many as 10-12 finalists and I’ll probably end up giving everyone a prize 🙂  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Halloweeniness – the rules state a Halloween story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about Halloween, not just some random spooky night.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 🙂  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 🙂  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.

The Prizes:  SO AMAZING! What a generous community we have to donate so much awesomeness!!! 🙂

Go Directly To Go! Skip The Slushpile at Blue Whale Press and Get Your PB Manuscript Directly On The Editor’s Desk!!!

Submit your picture book manuscript directly to editor Alayne Christian for her consideration and critique. Helpful feedback is a certainty, publication could be a possibility!

blue whale logo

Who Will Will You Cover Reveal Official  thumbnail_randall-randall-cover-ISBN9780981493879-highres

Blue Whale Press is an SCBWI PAL publisher of children’s books that focuses on stories involving themes of friendship and/or personal challenge. Most often, stories are selected for publishing due to their inherent educational or moral value. But as a general rule, a good dose of humor or a tug at the heart doesn’t hurt their chances of being published either. While a few chapter books and a middle grade are on their list, their focus is picture books. As a boutique publisher who doesn’t mind taking risks, Blue Whale Press considers itself to be a launch pad for authors and illustrators hoping to establish themselves.

For more info: https://www.bluewhalepress.com/

Hone Your Skills with the Lyrical Language Lab Rhyme & Meter Self Study Crash Course (11 Lessons) from accomplished writer and poet Renee LaTulippe

INTENSIVE RHYME AND METER CRASH COURSE

This option contains all the same lessons as Module 1 of Renee’s fully guided course, including all supplemental materials, downloads, and audio/video components. This is the option to choose if you need to build a strong foundation in the mechanics of rhyming picture books and poetry. The major focus is on the four main types of meter and how to use mixed and varied meter. Other topics include rhythm, cadence, breath, scansion, rhyme, sound devices, figurative language, imagery, and diction.
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You also have the opportunity to submit two of your assignments to Renee for feedback, and have email access to ask questions about the lessons as you complete them. Although lessons will arrive every other day, you are free to complete them at your own pace.
See the course description above for more information.

For more info: https://www.reneelatulippe.com/writing-courses/ (scroll down)

Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming, Non-Rhyming, Fiction, or Nonfiction – Vivian is open to any type of picture book critique) from Vivian Kirkfield author of SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD (Little Bee, January 14, 2020), and more…

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Nonfiction Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Christine Evans, author of EVELYN THE ADVENTUROUS ENTOMOLOGIST (Innovation Press, September 2019)

Evelyn cover Christine Evans

Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Carrie Finison, author of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS and DON’T HUG DOUG, forthcoming from Putnam in August 2020 and Spring 2021.

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Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Janet Johnson author of HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (Capstone, March 2020) as well as the MG novel THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB & J SOCIETY (Capstone 2016)

must love books JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Fiction OR Nonfiction Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Darshana Khiani, author of HOW TO WEAR A SARI forthcoming from HMH/Versify, Spring 2021

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Picture Book Manuscript Critique (non-rhyming please) from Gabi Snyder, author of TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, forthcoming from Abrams Appleseed, May 2020 and LISTEN, forthcoming from S&S/Wiseman, Spring 2021

twodogsonatrike_cov gabi-snyder-profile-pic

Query Letter Critique from Dee Romito, author of PIES FROM NOWHERE: HOW GEORGIA GILMORE SUSTAINED THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT (Little Bee Books, 2018) as well as several middle grade books.

pies from nowhere dee romito

Book Bundle #1 – Nonfiction
Signed Copies of WAITING FOR PUMPSIE (Charlesbridge, 2017) and THE BOO-BOOS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (Charlesbridge, 2018) by Barry Wittenstein

waiting-for-pumpsie boo boos barry-wittenstein-photo

Book Bundle #2  – Board Books
Personalized Signed Copies of LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA (both Amicus Ink, 2019) by Julie Abery

Little Tiger Cover Little Panda Cover julie abery

Book Bundle #3  – Holiday Books
Personalized signed copy of NOT SO SCARY, JERRY (Spork, 2017) by Shelley Kinder

Personalized signed copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE (Albert Whitman, 2018) by Nancy Churnin

Jerry  The Queen and the First Christmas Tree

shelley-kinder_orig .         nancy churnin

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school visits, or supporting them in any other way you can dream up 🙂

Now!  Lay in a good chocolate supply (no better time than right before Halloween for THAT!)! Butt In Chair! Pencils, pens, or keyboards ready! Fire up the old idea generator!  And write those prize-winning stories!!!

I can’t wait to read them!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #338 – Furrysaurus Rex (PB)

Can you believe it?

It’s Would You Read It Wednesday again!

Where did the week go?

I’ve been thinking about it and I feel pretty certain that Would You Read It Wednesday needs a theme song!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

(Beverly Hillbillies tune)
Let me tell you all a story ’bout a perfect pitch

One for which an editor will find a niche…

Okay, so it needs a little work! 🙂

Feel free to submit theme songs in the comments! 🙂

Let’s have Something Chocolate, shall we?  It might help us write better pitches.  And theme songs!   I think this morning we’ll have fudge – the breakfast of champions!  (Well, one of the breakfasts of champions, the most well-known being Little Chocolate Donuts! 🙂 )

3 Ingredient Creamy Homemade Fudge

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Recipe HERE (including helpful video!) at iheartnaptime

Mmmmm!  Isn’t that delicious?  Creamy, chocolatey fudge and ooey-gooey salted caramel on top?  With a nice cup of coffee?

I admit it.  I’m swooning 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Greg who says, “I’m a chocolate loving, hockey playing  happily married, father of an energetic seven year old who keeps me young and inspires me to write silly stories.”

Find him on the web at:

Twitter: @GEBray19
Instagram: @gregoryebray

 

Here is his pitch:

Working Title: Furrysaurus Rex

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: Having seen a live furry dinosaur roaming around in his neighborhood, Edwin grabs his friend Jennifer to investigate. After several false dinosaur sightings, his amateur paleontologist title is on the line.

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.  At this point, we’re pretty much looking at the new year (there might be one spot left in December) 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!  But there’s no time like the present to secure your date! 🙂

Greg is looking forward to your thoughts on his pitch!  I am looking forward to Warwick Children’s Book Festival this weekend!  Always a well run, super fun event!  I hope I’ll get to see some of you there!!!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

Oh!  And P.S.! Hopefully a special post tomorrow on something we’ve all been anticipating…! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Karen Kiefer!

Hello, Everyone!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut!

One of the things I love about Tuesday Debut is what a wide variety of picture books we get to see – fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, subjects that range from hay-making machines, to reaching for the moon, friendship, loneliness, lullaby bedtime books, clouds, and bugs.

Today we have a debut topic – a gentle, thoughtful book about a little girl who attempts to draw God.

Drawing God
written by Karen Kiefer
illustrated by Kathy De Wit
Paraclete Press
religious fiction, ages 5 and up
October 8, 2019

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Picasso’s artistic inspiration takes hold of young Emma’s faith imagination in this beautifully illustrated debut picture book about how we all see God differently.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Karen!  We’re thrilled to have you!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

KAREN: It was an ordinary run to the grocery store, or so I thought. There I was, standing next to a mound of stacked peppers in the produce section when I overheard two little kids, a whisper away, talking to each other. “My mother said you shouldn’t talk about God at school, because it makes people feel uncomfortable,” said the young voice to the other. I stood still, shaking my head, as I uttered, “Oh— no,” under my breath. Needless to say, I felt uncomfortable.

For the next several weeks, that conversation would not leave my mind or heart. In a world propelled by wonder, invention and advanced communication, could “God talk” eventually become extinct?  It seemed to be an astonishing possibility. All I could do was pray about it, asking God to intervene. Then on a quiet Sunday morning, out of the blue, I began to write the children’s story, “Drawing God.”

 

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

KAREN: The process was pretty fluid, one sitting, about 2 hours THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME. Writing is usually such a challenging and complicated process.

I sat in my bed with my laptop and started typing away.

I began to write a story about a little girl named Emma, who visits an art museum and is so inspired by the works of Pablo Picasso that she decides that she is going to draw something “beyond spectacular.” Emma decides to draw God.

I remember tapping on my keyboard, just waiting to see what might happen next. I began typing…

Emma escapes to the comfort of her bedroom and draws a brilliant sun. “It was so dazzling and radiant my cheeks throbbed. Its rays were so long they poked at my heart.” Emma knew she had drawn God. The next day, Emma takes her drawing to school to show her best friend Peter. But Peter looked at Emma and said, “ Emma, that’ s not God, that’s the sun.”

Emma tries again and again to draw God, but her classmates can’t see God in any of her drawings. They actually find her attempts laughable.

Emma finally realizes, through a prayer answered, that she doesn’t need their approval.  “I knew I had drawn God. God knew I had drawn God, and maybe Picasso knew, too. That finally felt like enough.”

The story stopped there. But I remember feeling that urge to keep writing, because this wasn’t the end of the story.

Emma eventually returns to school on the following Monday, and something beyond spectacular happens. I won’t spoil the ending of the book, but when I finished writing, it was clear that if this story were ever published it might get more children and adults talking about and drawing God.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KAREN: I polished it up here and there over the course of the next couple of weeks. I had heard that there are successful authors that actually review manuscripts for a modest fee. I Googled around and came across Susanna Hill. It took a lot of courage to write the email to her and press send. Susanna was amazing, not only did she get back to me quickly, she offered me some minor edits and was so encouraging. She thought I had a book but now just had to find a publisher. My interaction with Susanna gave me the confidence I needed at a time when you are always second guessing the value of the work.

 

SUSANNA: It was a privilege to read your story, Karen, and I’m glad if I was able to help you find the courage to submit! 🙂  When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

KAREN: I felt comfortable that the manuscript was ready for submission shortly after my interactions with Susanna. I was literally Googling how to write a submission letter.

I knew nothing.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KAREN: Professionally, I’m the director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College. My job offers me many opportunities to form relationships with other professionals in the faith marketplace. I knew the editor of Paraclete Press and so I decided to start there. I sent him an email asking if he might be interested in looking at my manuscript. He responded, pretty quickly I might add, asking me to send it along.

I submitted it right away. I heard back within a few hours and he was very positive. He mentioned that he wanted to share it with a few other people to see what they thought.

About a week later, he mentioned that they were planning an emergency editorial meeting in the next week to review a few new manuscripts and mine was one. I was both excited and scared. That’s when self-doubt settles in. I wondered if it was good enough?

 

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

KAREN: A week later I got the call, it was unanimous, they wanted to publish the manuscript.

I was so excited. They didn’t want to make any changes to the story and wanted to keep the title, “Drawing God.”  However, they did want me to write a teaching guide, 1000 words or so, that they would add to the back of the book.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KAREN: It was all so surreal. I didn’t really celebrate because it still didn’t feel real.

 

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

KAREN: Had no idea what to expect. The contract seemed very fair. I wasn’t going to be making a lot of money and I would be paid in 3 installments. I was fine with that.

 

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

KAREN: The editorial process was smooth. The editor shared my vision for the book right from the start. I was so lucky.

 

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

KAREN: Again, I was very fortunate during this process too. I didn’t want to overstep, but I asked if I could recommend an illustrator. The editor assured me that they already had a group of great illustrators. I respectfully asked if I could send some samples from the illustrator who illustrated my first self-published children book, “The Misfit Sock” back in 2010.

I mentioned that we work well together. I also had to let him know that she lives in Belgium. He was very open, knowing that he believed we could TOGETHER make the book better. He reached out to Kathy De Wit and negotiated the partnership and sent her a contract. Kathy and I worked together throughout the process.

Regarding illustration notes, I did submit them in detail to the editor and he reviewed them, made a few changes and sent them to Kathy. The three of us worked together closely throughout the process. The editor kept things on track.

Here’s a sample of a sketch and a finished illustration.

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

KAREN: Seeing the reviews and features has been so exciting. The publishers has been wonderful about sharing every milestone with me along the way. Was reviewed by Kirkus and featured in Publisher’s Weekly. That’s hard to do for a children’s picture book.

 

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

KAREN: The process was about a year and a half. When I first saw the book, I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. That was another surreal moment.

 

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

KAREN: The book just came out today, but I’m happy to say it is the #1 release in its category on Amazon.

 

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

KAREN: Paraclete Press has been WONDERFUL. They have put the entire sales team behind this book. They have done a lot of social media, produce a beautiful book trailer, helped with flyers.

 

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

KAREN: We had journals printed up, bookmarks, lots of different flyers, events, fun promotional giveaways. Had a big book launch.

 

 

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

KAREN: NOT SURE??

 

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

KAREN: TODAY, Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the children’s picture book, “Drawing God” will be released into the world. May it be a catalyst for more God talk and inspire children and adults of all faiths to connect their very own faith imagination, to realize the contagious faith that lives powerfully within and to embrace the truth that we all see God differently.

The release of the book will be followed by the celebration of the first World Drawing God Day, on November 7th.  This day will be a chance for our world to “draw” God, whatever that might look like, using the hashtag: #drawinggod.

Today I am reminded of the words of a friend who said that books can’t necessarily change the world, but the people who read them can. To future readers of “Drawing God,” my hope is that this book will make you a little more comfortable, knowing that there will be a little more God talk in our world because of you.

For more information, visit: www.drawing-god.com

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Karen Kiefer is the director the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College and has worked at the university in various roles collectively for over two decades. A mother of four daughters, Kiefer has taught religious education at the parish level for 25 years. She is the co-founder of the grassroots bread-giving organization, Spread the Bread, and the anti-bullying initiative, the Million Misfit Sock March. Kiefer wrote “The Misfit Sock” children’s book in 2010 and is the author of the new children’s book, “Drawing God,” published by Paraclete Press. This latest book has inspired World Drawing God Day on November 7, 2019.

(www.drawing-god.com)
Drawing God on Facebook
Drawing God on Instagram – @drawingg0d (the “o” in God is the number zero)

SUSANNA: Such an exciting day, Karen!  There’s nothing like seeing your first book in print, especially if it’s #1 in its category on Amazon!  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today and share your experience so that we can all benefit from it!  I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with this and future books!

Readers, if you have questions for Karen, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Karen’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
Amazon
Paraclete Press

 

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist