A Monday Birthday Dog Day Short & Sweet

Good Morning Everyone!

Guess what day it is?

If you said International Skeptics Day, you’re right, but that’s not what I’m thinking of 🙂

Today is my Brown Dog’s birthday!  She is 7.  That means that she and I will be the same age this year.  (I’ll let you figure the math :))

I think she would enjoy a rousing chorus of

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear Stinky (yeah… she rolled in something awful yesterday and in spite of the bath is still a little odoriferous… which makes her very happy… have you noticed a theme here? :))
Happy Birthday to you!!!

And of course I will be making her a cake, so stop by later for a slice 🙂

Speaking of cake, which is sweet, reminds me that we haven’t done a Short & Sweet for a while, and what better time for inspiration than now?

badge created by Loni Edwards

In between navigating my basement by canoe and bailing (oh how do I love thee, unnatural January rain?  Let me count the ways… uh, okay, maybe not :)) I persuaded my old computer to part with this picture of Baby Brown Dog.

In honor of her birthday, let’s think up stories for her to star in :))

You can think up a title, or an opening line, or a one sentence pitch or, if you’re really ambitious, all three!

I’ll go first.

Title: One, Two, Three!  Play With Me!
Opening Line:  One, two, three!  Play with me!  How many puppies do you see?
Pitch: A little brown dog wants to play, eat, play, walk, play, roll, and play some more, counting everything as she goes.

Now it’s your turn 🙂  Miss Brown says thank you in advance – she knows she will love your ideas to turn her into a literary star! 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday everyone!  And don’t forget to stop by later for a slice of birthday cake (or two :))

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Little Dog In The Middle Of The Road PLUS An Author Interview & Giveaway!!!

Whoopee!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I had a couple holiday books I was thinking of sharing… but then I couldn’t decide which one to pick because this will likely be the only PPBF in December (unless you all clamor for PPBF on Dec. 20… if you want to do PPBF on Dec. 20 clamor loudly in the comments!)

And then I had the good fortune to read this book, and it was so sweet I had to share it because you will likely all want to go out and buy it as a holiday gift for someone in your circle of family and friends!  (That is a hint :))  (This is a LINK :))  So instead of a book about the holidays you’re getting a book you can give for the holidays 🙂

For extra special fun today, below the PPBF post we have a little Q&A with the author, Sharon Stanley, and a giveaway!!! so somebody will WIN a signed copy – lucky dog 🙂 – and a cute handmade toy!)

But first, here’s the book!

Title: The Little Dog In The Middle Of The Road
Written By: Sharon P. Stanley
Illustrated By: Deidre Carr
Silver Tongue Press, November 3, 2013, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: animals, emotion (sadness, feeling abandoned, determination, joy), love, pets, problem solving

Opening: “Once there was a little dog that lived in a pleasant house with a pleasant person on a pleasant street.
“I will be taking a trip,” said the little dog’s person one morning, “and you will stay here while I’m gone.  Mrs. Thistleberry will come and give you your supper.  You must not leave the yard.  When I return, I will bring you a juicy bone.”
And so it was.

Brief Synopsis:  Little Dog’s person is going away, so Little Dog is left in the care of Mrs. Thistleberry who neither likes nor understands him.  Longing for his person, he disobeys instructions and sets out to find her.

Links To Resources: check out these fun things kids can do to help shelter pets and give some of them a try ASPCA; 10 Ways Kids Can Help Animal Shelters; dog coloring pages; talk with your child or class about how to take good care of pets; draw a picture of a happy dog or a sad dog or an angry dog – tell or write a story about why the dog feels that way; if you have a dog (or want to donate to a shelter) bake dog biscuits recipe here!

Why I Like This Book: Well, you all know I love dogs 🙂 so I was an easy mark, but this story is so sweet even a non-dog-lover will enjoy it.  Little Dog is quirky and cute and brave and determined.  The story is beautifully written to evoke Little Dog’s emotions – young readers will feel his sadness over missing his person, his determination to find her, his worry that he’ll never see her again, and (spoiler alert!) his joy when they are reunited.  The art is just right for the story and includes the delightful detail of an ant pushing an olive for kids to find on every page (which Sharon will explain below in the interview.)  And it is based on a true story!  For anyone who has ever been left with a babysitter they don’t like, or who has ever worried about whether someone they love will return, this is a warm, reassuring story.

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

And now, for a little treat, please meet Sharon Stanley!

Sharon P. Stanley


SLH: Thank you so much for joining us today, Sharon!  Can you tell us a little about yourself?


SPS: I’m Sharon P Stanley and I write picture books.  I live with 5 chickens, 4 dogs, 3 cats, 2 sons, and one husband (and a partridge in a pear tree) and a couple hundred cows at White Oak Farm, a working farm in rural Virginia.  It’s a crop circle of craziness that affords me a never-ending supply of writing material.  Although I had always toyed with writing, I got serious after my youngest graduated high school two years ago.  The Little Dog in the Middle of the Road is my first published picture book in print.

(You can visit Sharon at her website: http://sharonpstanley.weebly.com and “like” her on FB HERE.)
SLH: What was the inspiration for Little Dog?

SPS: My niece found a tiny little black dog sitting calmly in the middle of the road one afternoon.  Worried, she carried him home and placed him in the garage leaving a small crack in the door.  The next morning when she left for work, there was the little dog once again sitting calmly in the middle of the road.  She was able to find his owner, but I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind…it seemed strange for such a little dog to just sit trustingly and calmly in the middle of a busy road, almost as if he knew if he sat there, his person would somehow find him.  I had to fill in a few blanks, but the story wrote itself.

The real Olive

Coincidently, I was looking for a puppy and right after that, bought Olive who looks very much like Little Dog in my story.  When Deidre Carr the illustrator heard this, she added the little ant with the “olive” as a little secret tribute to my own little dog.  Very clever!  I’m finding little ones seem to love looking for the little olive in the book as they read it.
SLH:  Tell us about your road to publication!

SPS:  When I decided to work towards having my book published, I joined SCBWI and an online writing group.  I found an editor to review my story and made lots of tweaks and changes over a period of time.  When I felt I had something worth reading, I researched and submitted to several small publishers and one agent.  I was rejected by the pubs, but the agent was very helpful.  We wrote back and forth several times and though she was not interested in the book, she gave me great feedback, and complimented my “voice,” which she thought was a bit unique.  I can’t begin to say just how much this helped me.  I wasn’t at all sure I had a voice as I don’t have a writing background or education.  She gave me confidence to continue submitting.  I heard through a writing group there was a small new publisher interested in children’s books, so I submitted.   Needless to say I was thrilled when they sent a contract!  It’s been a wonderful learning experience.

She’s serious about the cows, folks 🙂


SLH: What’s next for you?

SPS: I am so excited to have contracts with another small publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, for more picture books.  I seem to gravitate toward animal stories (!) and also have a book of children’s haiku coming out.  I hope to write and write and write till the cows come home.   Right now, Little Dog and I are having a ball promoting his book.
SLH: Do you have any Words of Wisdom for other writers?

SPS: Ha!  I’m not a good one to offer advice to anyone as I seem to do things a bit differently from “real writers.”   When I get an idea, I write.  Otherwise, it seems flat to me.  I have found that the books I have found homes for, took on a life of their own.  It’s as if they knew what they needed to be, and I tried not to get in the way.  For instance, I had a story idea about a donkey, but when the book was finished it was about a rabbit…not a donkey in site.   I don’t even know where it came from, suddenly there was just this little rabbit asking to have her story told.  I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to write.  I think you have to find your voice in whatever way works best for you.   When I started writing I set goals and then assigned methods to each goal so I had a real plan.  I followed it closely and it worked for me.
I knew I wanted to find a small publisher.   I like small.  I think it’s really important to be true to what feels right to you.  For some, that’s finding an agent, submitting to a large publisher, or taking classes. For others, it’s attending conferences, self-publishing or joining a critique group. 
Working with an editor before submitting is extremely helpful to me.  I read several writing blogs and find that more experienced writers are happy to share ideas and advice.  I read everything out loud, over and over, and  I always have notebook with me in case I get an idea.
Lastly, I suggest anyone considering publication read Mem Fox’s hints for writers on her website, and take each and every suggestion to heart.  I have her site bookmarked for that very reason.
An Idea:
One thing Little Dog and I are really excited about is partnering with a local nursery school for their Book Night.  We will be signing books, playing games, and enjoying doggie crafts and snacks in January, and we decided to invite each child to bring a can/bag of dog food for a local dog rescue group in our town.  B.A.R.K. will be there to receive our donations and hopefully our local newspaper will cover the story.  I’ll also donate a portion of book sale proceeds to the nursery school, so it should be a win, win, win situation!    

Thanks so much Susanna for the opportunity to share Little Dog’s publication journey with everyone (including Phyllis!) here on your blog.  There really is “something for everyone in the world of children’s books!”

Thank YOU so much for taking the time to join us, Sharon!

For those of you who might be interested, you can purchase Sharon’s book HERE.  And here’s the book trailer 🙂

And now, we have a lovely gift!  Sharon has generously donated a signed copy of her book for a giveaway as well as a little handmade toy of Little Dog!

All you have to do to be entered to win is leave a comment below!  We would love it if you have any dog stories to share… but realize not everyone has dogs… 🙂  so feel free to substitute the pet of your choice, or just tell us who you’d like the book for (and it’s fine if you say yourself :))

PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #107 – The Great UFO Hunt (ER) PLUS Straight From The Editor

I love my dogs.

I really do.

They keep me company while I work.  They are warm and cuddly and sweet and lovable.  They’re always up for an outing if the writing is not going well.

Really, how can you not love these two?
(Even though they are blurry because it’s next to impossible
to get them both in the same picture :))

But yesterday?

Yes, well, yesterday, I can’t say I was terribly happy with either one of them.

First, on a perfectly lovely morning run, during which I don’t recall losing sight of Scout (although Jemma disappeared for a while to investigate the neighbor’s compost heap), Scout somehow managed to get skunked.

we run here – no cars, so no leashes

Those of you who have dogs know that anything to do with skunks IS NOT FUN!

How could I have not seen it happen?  I was right there!

Nevertheless, skunked she was.  And I didn’t have time to wash her – I had to get my daughter to school!  So I had to gate her in the kitchen, open all the windows, and pray that her extreme odor wouldn’t asphyxiate either dog while I was gone and that I would somehow be able to get the smell out of the house when I returned.

Then came the bathing.

Although she will get in any scummy, algae covered, filth-laden mud puddle, pond or stream as long as it isn’t actually iced over, Scout does NOT like to be bathed!

And when I am alone, with no one to hold on to her, bathing Scout is an Olympic sport, let me tell you!

Afterwards, she sulked.

See?  She wouldn’t even look at me.

Then, while she was still QUITE wet (it’s hard to comprehend how much water that coat holds if you haven’t experienced it firsthand), the guy showed up out of nowhere to service the furnace.

“But you said October 3rd!” I sputtered, when he insisted the dogs be shut up before he got out of the truck.

So I had to shut them in my office… which now smells like wet skunk dog with a trace of lemon dish soap.  Quite the scent.  I think Febreze will be introducing it this fall.

So then, when he finally left, I put them out in hopes of airing out the house…

… and they conveniently found something dead to roll in….

…so we had another round of baths….

…and now my house smells like wet skunk dog mixed with barely concealed dead animal and a trace of lemon dish soap.

Truthfully it’s a miracle I was even able to write this 🙂

I think that calls for Something Chocolate if anything ever did!

Let’s go hog wild!!! (with many thanks to Kathy P. for the photo!! :))

It’s called Candy Shop Truffle!
(but it kind of looks like cereal so let’s pretend it’s good for us :))

So, after all that!, we have the August Straight From The Editor.  You will recall that Lisa won the August Pitch Pick with her pitch for The Golden Egg, a PB for ages 5-8.

Here is her pitch:

The golden egg that doesn’t hatch creates quite a stir among the feathered friends on the farm. The Eggsperts are called and the Whisperers weigh in. In the end, Mother Hen must decide whether to follow their advice or listen to her heart.

And here is what Erin had to say:

This sounds like it has potential, but in order for an editor to be intrigued you have to clarify it a bit. I love the Eggsperts and can imagine all the other hens giving advice, but who are the Whisperers? Are they the horses, or the cows? Some other animal entirely? If so, if you are envisioning the horses, perhaps you can say something like the Whisperers neighed their opinions or the Whisperers mooed their recommendations. If it’s a snake then the Whisperers would hiss . . .  It helps to draw a picture in the reader’s mind.  Good luck!

As always, I find Erin’s comments interesting and enlightening!  Thank you, Erin, and thank you Lisa!

Now, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Kari who says, “I live in upstate NY and resurrected this children’s series I started way back in elementary school.  My stories are based in part on things that happened to me and my friends when we were younger.  Living in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, you had to make your own fun, just like Mekayla and her friends do.”

Twitter (I just joined twitter so there’s not much there yet):https://twitter.com/kariwithey 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Great UFO Hunt
Age/Genre: Early Reader
The Pitch: Aspiring space explorer Mekayla is convinced she sees a UFO crash land in the woods behind her house.  But despite finding evidence of something from another world, no one but her friends believe her!  With weird things happening in their small, sleepy town, Mekayla and her friends are out to save their town and prove life from outerspace does exist.

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 Kari 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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in January so you have a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Kari is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to when my house no longer smells like wet skunk dog with barely concealed dead animal and a trace of lemon dish soap!

See you all on Friday for PPBF!

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone! 🙂

Tails From The Wild Side

As many of you know, I have two dogs.

They are high-strung, riled-up, frothing-at-the-mouth, snarling, razor-toothed, hair-on-end, exceptionally ferocious…

WHAT?

You don’t believe me?

Fine.  I’ll show you.  But remember, you were warned!

(WARNING: The following photographs may not be suitable for all audiences.  Please preview before allowing easily frightened individuals to view!)

See?

I beg your pardon!  Have you the temerity to suggest they are NOT ferocious?

Hmmpphh!  (Well, they do bark sometimes.  So there.)

ANYWAY, back to the point I was making before I was so rudely interrupted.  And as always, I do have one.

My ferocious dogs are being terrorized by a deer.

It’s true.  You heard me right.  A sweet, dainty, doe-eyed little white-tailed deer.  Except she isn’t.  She’s like the hand-maiden of Satan.

Yesterday, I was about to leave for my daughter’s lacrosse game (where we all got soaked for a change, but that’s another story…)  I let the dogs out to take care of their dogly business, and next thing I knew, I heard Scout’s Danger Bark!  Warning!  Warning!  Stay in the house!  Do not under any circumstances exit the premises!  Danger!

It was the wrong time of day for the UPS man, (who gives them cookies but is never allowed onto the property unchallenged as a matter of principal) but as I told you, the bear has been around.  So when I heard that bark I thought, Hmmm, maybe it’s the bear.  (I hope you were able to follow that leap of logic.)

So out the door I rushed lest my fierce ones need assistance chasing off the bear, heedless of my own safety (I’m that brave… or stupid….) and what should I see but a Mexican stand off.

But not with the bear.

Nope, my dogs were nearly muzzle-to-muzzle with a doe.

Quelle horreur!

The doe had the advantage of higher ground, but the dogs had the advantage of superior numbers.  It was bound to be a fearsome struggle.  The three of them stood in a triangle, with the doe at the top, almost equidistant from each other (what’s that called? not isosceles, the other one…) locked in mortal combat.  Really.

The doe snorted and threatened to step forward.

The dogs shrank back.

The dogs snarled and barked.

The doe shrank back.

Really, action this fast-paced was difficult to follow.  If only I’d had my video camera….

But seriously, we’re just at the brink of fawn season, and though it’s a little early, the only time I’ve ever seen a doe behave like this (and it’s happened twice before) was when she had a very young fawn nearby.  Does may look sweet, but they can, in fact, be lethal.  (Truthfully.  I’m not making this up – you can check.  To protect their fawns they will go after threats (dogs or people) with their front hooves, and the results are most unpleasant for the attacked.)

So I really was worried about my little sweetums.

“Scout!  Jemma!” I called desperately.  “Come!”

Now, ordinarily my dogs are the definition of obedience and jump to my command (hahahahahahahaha sorry, I couldn’t even say that with a straight face) but they were protecting me from the savage doe and would not be called off.  I was forced to use the age old ruse of opening the car door and calling sweetly, “Who wants to go for a ride in the car?”

Leaving one important duty (guard dogs!) for another (copilot and navigator!) they leapt aboard the Dog Mobile (that’s my 2002 Toyota Siena, for the uninitiated) and the doe went on her merry way, crisis averted without loss of face.

Phew!

Really, I’m exhausted just telling you about it.  I think it’s time for lunch.

And if you’re wondering how this relates to writing, well…. hang on…  I’ll think of something….  Ah, yes!  Get ready for a pearl of wisdom:  If you find yourself locked in the mortal combat of writer’s block, go for a drive in the car, hang your head out the window and let the wind blow your ears back.  Sound advice, no?  Very refreshing.

Feel free to share your own stories from Wild Kingdom, compliment Scout and Jemma’s excessive bravery (they always like to be told what good dogs they are!), or tell me what the heck that triangle with equal sides is called 🙂

The Write Facts

Let’s begin the morning with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday!  Scout, my beloved brown dog, is 4 years old today.  (And, I might add, she shares her birthday with McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy – coincidence…?)

baby pictures…

…for your enjoyment
(because she’s so cute!)

In case you were wondering (admit it, you were!) there will definitely be cake 🙂  (Yellow, with vanilla icing, because chocolate, though delicious, is very bad for dogs!)

So anyway…

I’m always wondering about stuff.  Just the way my mind works (and no comments along the lines of, “What?  Your mind works?”!)

I’ve been writing for years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to publish a few books.  I know a lot more than when I started about the process a book goes through from idea to bookstore/library shelf.

I used to have no idea what a proof, a galley, or an F&G was.  Now I have some of each that I can share with kids on school visits so that they can know something about the writing business.  (I would have LOVED to have an author come visit my school when I was a kid… back in the olden days… before the invention of the wheel…!)

Just this year, I got a running sheet for the first time (thanks to my wonderful editor at Walker!)  If you’ve never seen one, it’s the coolest thing ever. The whole book is printed on one huge sheet, with pages all upside down, backwards, and out of order.  But when you fold it the right way and cut it in the right place, it’s the book!

But although I’m slightly less ignorant than I was, there are still a whole lot of things about the publishing world that I want to know!

For example, how many books do you have to sell for your publisher to feel you are doing well?  (And “as many as possible” though obvious, is not a helpful answer!)  And, if you don’t earn out your advance, do publishers perceive your book as a failure?  And, with so many amazing books and authors out there, how do you get people to notice your book?

So in case you, like me, wonder about stuff, here are some interesting tidbits I found out recently:

1.  The average picture book writer will write 10 books for every 1 their agent deems strong enough to submit – no guarantee of publishing.  (And if you don’t have an agent, you can figure for yourself that 1 out of every 10 books you write will hopefully be saleable.  I don’t think my average is that good – more like 1 out of 20 :))

2.  There are about 300 editors actively acquiring in children’s books at the moment (that’s all levels of children’s books, and editors from houses of all sizes across the board.)  Of these, only 70-100 are even looking for picture books.

3.  This year, 150,000 authors will finish their masterpiece, but only about 1/3 of all new titles sell more than 100 copies.

4.  Only a small percentage of published books earn out their advances.

I’m not trying to depress you!  It’s just, I wonder about this stuff, so I thought you might too.

Anyone who has any other interesting facts on file, please share!  I’m always interested!

Have a wonderful day, and eat some cake in honor of Scouty Brown – yours can be chocolate – she won’t mind 🙂

Snow Day!

Breaking news:  we are having our first official snow day of the year!  And it is actually snowing (which is not always the case – in these days of doppler radar (don’t you love it when I use technical terms I don’t really know the meanings of?) the school districts have been known to jump the gun with a little too much enthusiasm.)

I love snow days!

I’m no longer a kid (I know that comes as a shock :)) and I don’t attend school, so snow days shouldn’t be that different from regular days.  I still have plenty of work to do.

But somehow, snow days are still great.  The kids can sleep late and have a fun-filled, relaxing day.  We can have a fire in the fireplace before evening – so cozy:)  There’s an almost lazy feel to the day because if the school buses can’t venture out then I am certainly not going to endanger society by taking the Dog Mobile out of the garage!  So, no errands.  And something about being holed up, warm and dry, while the snow falls peacefully outside is very conducive to writing stories.  At least for me.  As long as I don’t get side-tracked into reading stories instead 🙂

Aside from writing, I have a special project for today.  I’m almost finished with the book trailer for April Fool, Phyllis!  I know you’ve all been counting the minutes until you can see it, so this is surely thrilling news 🙂  It just needs some more of that nit-picky tweaking I’m so not fond of, and then it needs some complimentary music.  Anyone have any ideas?  I’m open to suggestion.  I can’t wait until it’s completely done and I can share it with you!

Also, I hope you all noticed the totally cool count-down thingy on the right side of the blog page.  It’s counting down to the release of April Fool, Phyllis!  So fun, don’t you think?

In other news, I have allowed myself to be talked into joining Month of Poetry.  Yes, it’s true.  My apologies to all the real poets out there.  I wrote my first Haiku poem yesterday.  It was not good.  Maybe today I’ll try a limerick…  There once was a dog on the hill/who loved to chase after a squirrel…  Maybe not.

But I’m thinking of dogs and squirrels because, at this very moment, Jemma is climbing a tree.  I am not making this up.  A squirrel ran up it (well, let’s be honest – she chased it there) and she’s doing her darndest to get up after it.  Four sets of claws are doggedly (:)) clinging to bark, and it is obvious she intends to catch that squirrel by sheer force of will.  Oops.  Sliding.  If only I’d been a little quicker with the camera!  Story idea here?

So it’s time to get to work (as soon as I take dem dogs for a snowy walk and give the squirrels a little break!)  I hope I’ll have the new trailer to share with you by Monday.

Have a great weekend, and if you live around here, happy snow day!

Meet Kathy Troidle Jackson

I am so pleased (at long last, after a few delays, but now with great fanfare!) to have the opportunity to introduce you all to the talented author/poet Kathy Troidle Jackson!

Kathy Troidle Jackson

Kathy works for IBM, but she still manages to find time to write.  Her books White Dog Haiku and Things I’ve Learned From My Westie were self-published on Lulu.  Kathy’s website is under construction but due to be launched imminently.  The tagline is write here, write now, and her new blog of the same name will be launched concurrently.  Write Here, Write Now describes how she thinks of good Haiku – the poet writes the moment as it is happening now and invites the reader in to feel it with her words.  Kathy’s other  blog, Ghent Fever, celebrates her life in New York’s upper Hudson Valley where she lives with her husband and their rescued Westie, Islay Bear.  Kathy recently had two Haiku poems published in Berry Blue Haiku – an online Haiku magazine for children.  She is available to teach Haiku workshops (if interested, please contact her at kathy [at] kathytroidlejackson [dot] com), and she would love for you to follow her on Face Book and Twitter, and to join her White Dog Fan Page!  Welcome, Kathy!

SLH:  How long have you been writing?

KTJ:  I have been writing as long as I can remember.  I grew up the oldest of four girls and nothing made me happier than to entertain them with funny stories and poems.
When given a writing project as a child, I not only did it but overachieved.  One assignment I remember was to write an idiom and illustrate it.  I put together an entire illustrated book of them including some choice ones like
He’s all thumbs
He flipped his lid
It blew her socks off
The drinks are on the house
There was something about combining art with words to paint a picture that captivated me even way back when. 
SLH:  When did you become interested in haiku?
KTJ:  I learned about haiku as most kids do in grammar school – the traditional three line 5-7-5 syllable format is accessible for all ages and fun to write.  But it wasn’t until recently that I got hooked on it in a big way.  I have been putting a lot of effort lately to live more in the moment, appreciate the abundance I have in my life, and celebrate the small things.  Haiku and my dog have helped me do that.
I never was allowed a pet growing up but my husband and I rescued a 5 ½ year old Westie (West Highland White Terrier) in August of 2009.  Islay Bear has been a joy to get to know and living in the moment is all he knows.   Once while I was away on business, my husband who discovered that people were doing haiku on Twitter, tweeted a couple haiku to tell me what the dog was up to….mostly to make me laugh out loud in my business meeting as he knew I’d be checking my blackberry during the meeting.  Here’s what he tweeted:
Islay Bear (pronounced eye-la)
White Dog walks
Gentle sprinkles fall on tree
Dog is now empty
He certainly accomplished his goal!  After that, I was delighted to find a whole community of haiku writers on Twitter.  @baffled puts out a word of the day that he calls the #haikuchallenge and we all write haiku with that word in it.  For a year now, mine have all been about the White Dog.
SLH:  Are there “tricks” to writing haiku that can make it easier/more accessible to beginning writers, especially children?  Or ways that teachers can use haiku in the classroom?
KTJ:  Good haiku uses words as imagery, contrast and seasonal words to invite the reader into the world of the poet and conveys a feeling of a particular moment in time in the poet’s life.  
Haiku can be a fun way to get kids interested in writing by asking them to write a three line poem about their favorite animal, describe what the animal is doing as if it was right there in the room right now.  A fun way to use haiku in a classroom is described in the latest issue of Berry Blue Haiku where a teacher brings in a bunch of photos of animals and/or nature events. The kids are asked to choose one and write a haiku about it. 
Another creative idea I like, also described in the December issue of Berry Blue Haiku, is to work with kids at holiday time to describe what the recipient might do with a gift they are giving with a haiku which is written up as the tag and placed on the wrapped item.
One of the best ways to describe haiku that I resonate most with is from the book The Haiku Apprentice by Abigail Friedman, where a haiku master asks her students to think of haiku as “a vessel into which you pour your feelings.”
Writing good haiku is not as easy as it first seems.  The three line 5-7-5 format came out of Japan, where the concept of haiku originated. Haiku was intended as a poem you could say in one breath.  In Japanese what is counted are sounds, not syllables.  There are a lot more Japanese sounds than syllables in most words.  Although the three line 5-7-5 syllable format can make the definition of haiku more tangible and perhaps easier to teach to children, it is thought now that strict adherence to the 5-7-5 syllable format forces poets to pad their thought with words like “a” and “the” and in Japanese these haiku would no longer be read in a single breath. 
Haiku groups, like the Haiku Society of America, now suggest that good haiku is more like 10-14 syllables, not the 17 of the popular 5-7-5 format.
SLH:  What is your typical work day like?  You have a job besides writing, so how do you fit writing time in?  Do you have work “rituals”/habits that help you think or be creative?
KTJ:  My day job is selling IBM services on Wall Street.  I am celebrating 23 years with IBM this month.   I sometimes work from home but often go into NYC on the train. I try to use at least part of the time on the train (2 hours each way) to work on my writing, add to the large White Dog haiku collection I have amassed.
Writing haiku is something I can fit in even on a busy day.  Some of my writing rituals include writing three pages in my journal every morning before I let the rest of the world in.   These are often just random thoughts clogging up my mind, odd dreams that I woke up remembering, to dos that are hanging over my head that I have to get done that day.  But sometimes, all sorts of haiku ideas come through – new ideas for books, my Write Here, Right Now Haiku Workshops, or my web site.  It’s a great way to get the creativity flowing.  
I also keep a gratitude journal and write a few haiku every day to remind me of a moment I particularly appreciated – usually something about Islay Bear but not always.
SLH:  Why did you decide to self-publish?  What was that experience like?  Advice for other authors considering self-publication?
KTJ:  I self published my first book, White Dog Haiku, in 2009 as a Christmas gift to family and friends, never expecting to take it farther than that. 
Since then I’ve submitted White Dog Haiku book and magazine ideas to several publishers and have submitted some individual haiku to a few online publications.  I have gotten some rejections, some constructive criticism and suggestions, and am waiting for the process to take it’s course in a few other cases.  The two haiku appearing in this month’s issue of Berry Blue Haiku is my first third party published work. This is a very slow process!  
Self publishing gave me a much faster sense of accomplishment and I had a copy of my book within just a few weeks of finishing it at lulu.com.  They provide templates you can use and all you have to do is bring in your content. They’ll even help you get an ISBN number and market it on Amazon and elsewhere.  It is on the expensive side though so my cost for the books doesn’t leave much room to make any money on them.  I donate my proceeds to Westie Rescue. 
There were a few lessons I learned through this process including to just do it!  The minute you write something down you are a writer!  Write it down and get it out there in the world. Enter writing contests, take writing challenges.  The mysterious world of publishing is changing fast in this uber-connected world and it’s less about being published by a big name publishing house and more about building and marketing to a community of “peeps” or followers that love what you have to say and eat up your material.
Also, get a coach…or a bunch of coaches!  At Christine Kane’s Uplevel Live event which I attended in 2009, no one in that class would let me call myself a budding author.  We were encouraged to set an intent, practice “imperfect action” and do something, which in my case meant write.  In my case, that got stuff out from my head, onto paper, and into print. Connecting with other authors at local SCBWI meetings, book fairs and signing events is another group of people who can guide and support you.  I regularly read great blogs like yours, Susanna, to keep me current on what’s going on in the world of children’s books.
And maybe most importantly, don’t let the process discourage you. Celebrate all successes.  Even a rejection is something to celebrate because it means someone looked at your work and if you are lucky has put some thinking into how it could be improved and shared that with you in the rejection letter.  Long after the event, the UpLevel Live participants continue to support each other’s successes, no matter how small they are and help each other get the word out about the release of our genius works.  Other authors on the SCBWI group lists support each other’s successes as well and that’s a great way to find out about local book signing events.
SLH:  Tell us about Berry Blue!
KTJ:  I am so excited about it! Berry Blue Haiku is a new quarterly digital magazine about haiku targeted to kids up to 13 years of age.  In addition to haiku of a seasonal nature, the magazine has sections for projects that use haiku as I have described above, articles on haiku writing techniques, and pointers to haiku resources. 
I heard about it at a local meeting of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and have been submitting White Dog themed haiku to them since January 2010.  After reading through their submission guidelines and trying a few times unsuccesfully, they accepted two of my haiku for the December issue and you can find them on p. 17. 
SLH:  Do you write prose?  What kind?  For what audience?
KTJ:  In addition to haiku, I do have several picture book manuscripts done – all based on characters I have invented for my stuffed animals.  I am working on revising them with the knowledge I have gained at children book writing conferences and plan to submit at least a few of them this year.
SLH:  What are you working on now?  Do you have mss out for consideration?

KTJ:  I have a haiku board book for younger readers out for consideration with publishers now and am working up several other ideas for older kids all with a White Dog theme, including a workbook I can use for presenting/teaching haiku at school visits.
SLH:  What are your inspirations? Most difficult obstacles?

KTJ:  My inspiration comes from a passion to get kids to read and appreciate the value of the written word to capture a moment.  I am inspired by local authors like Susanna Hill, Hudson Talbott and Alexandra Skye who have created books that kids just love to read over and over again.

The biggest obstacle for me right now is that I don’t have a network of school contacts but hope to fix that this year.  Also, my first book does not have an ISBN so it is hard for people to find it easily.  Since I have come so much farther in my understanding of what makes good haiku, I may just leave that first book as is and go for ISBNs and eBook options for my future books.
SLH:  Do you do your own illustration/art/photos?
KTJ:  I am not an illustrator.  White Dog Haiku was done with photographs I took of Islay Bear.  Berry Blue Haiku had Doreen Dioro, one of their regular illustrators, do the drawing on the page with the White Dog haiku they chose to include in the December issue.  The manuscripts I have submitted to publishing were without illustration also.  

Kathy and Islay Bear



Thank you so much for joining us today, Kathy!  You and Islay Bear are an inspiration!

Readers, if you have questions for Kathy, please post them in the comments section!

Must Love Dogs

So apparently today is National Mutt Day!  Who knew?

I am always game for a celebration (and no, to answer your question, not just because it’s an excuse for cake!  Although, now that I think about it, cake is not a bad idea…)

Mutts are the best, especially those who have been rescued.  I have had three over the years, (two of whom are practicing their considerable powers of mental telepathy on me right now in the hopes that I will get the message that it’s time for walking not writing!) and they are the best dogs in the world.  Not that I’m biased.  Or prone to hyperbole…

While there are some great kids’ books that star dogs (Officer Buckle and Gloria, Biscuit, Lad A Dog, etc.) most of them are purebreds (German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Collie, respectively.)  Off the top of my head, the only kids’ story with a mutt I can think of is Benji.  There should be more!

Which is why I am writing some.  Yes, some – plural.  I currently have 3 dog stories in the works, all of which star mutts.  They just aren’t finished.  Maybe that’s because I’m blogging instead of working on them… hmm…  But I guess they’ll have to wait another half hour or so until after the walk.  Apparently mental telepathy works 🙂

For your viewing pleasure and in celebration of the day (with or without cake) let me introduce you to my 2 mutts.  Please share your mutt and rescue stories in the comments!

(That’s Jemma on the left and Scout on the right – sorry they’re a little blurry!)