Q&A With Editor Erin Molta, Plus Pitch Pick #9, Plus The Giveaway Winners!

Apparently I have too many things to post for the number of post days I have.  I have no idea how this happens.  I’m usually so reserved with my words 🙂  (I hear you laughing!  Don’t worry – I couldn’t say it with a straight face either :))

ANYWAY, today we have a bit of a smorgasbord.

First, we’re a little behind on the June Pitch Pick.  See what happens when we all go on vacation? 🙂

Here is a little refresher:

#1 Laura

Working Title:  Uncle Larry
Age/Genre:  PB
The Pitch:  A true story about Uncle Larry, a special child/adult who grew up on a farm, trained and loved animals, liked to play and work, got into mischief, and taught us how to love someone a little different by loving everyone himself.

#2 Rita

Working Title: Elephant And Dolphin
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-7)
The Pitch:  Elephant and Dolphin meet every morning by the sea. But Elephant lives on the land and Dolphin lives in the ocean.  Elephant eats grass while Dolphin eats fish. Elephant trumpets and Dolphin clicks.  How can these two play together with the differences they have between them?  Elephant and Dolphin find out how friendship overcomes everything.

#3 Lori

Working Title:  These Little Piggies
Age/Genre: Rhyming Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  In this Mother Goose mash-up, five little piggies are living happily in a shoe until a callous old woman forces her way in and turns their lives head over tails.  The piggies decide to set a trap for the old woman so, the first little piggy goes to market… the second little piggy stays home…  Will they succeed in giving the old coot the boot?

#4 Anna

Working Title:  Hug-A-Bug Travels To Egypt
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 3-8)
The Pitch:  Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a high-flying trip with Hug-A-Bug to the famous Giza Pyramids. On his visit, he wows the reader with the exploration of hieroglyphics and Egyptian phrases. During his travels, he meets up with someone who needs a hug. Who will he meet this time? 

Please vote below for your favorite by Wednesday July 11 at 11:59PM EDT.

The winner’s pitch will go for a read by editor Erin Molta (who is here with us today! – so exciting!)

But hang on for one more second before we get to Erin because I have other exciting news, too – the winners of the giveaways from our generous self-publishing mini-series authors!

And the winners (as chosen by random.org) are…..

For the set of 3 hardcover Gator’s Gang picture books from Suzanne McGovern – Catherine J!!!

For a paperback copy of the fabulous Show Me How from Vivian Kirkfield – Beth S!!!

For an e-book of The Adventures Of Lucy Snigglefritz from Patrick Milne – Vivian K!!!

And for a paperback picture book of Meg The Egg from Rita Borg –  Erik (I don’t know you’re last initial :))!!!

Catherine, Beth, Vivian, and Erik, please email me so we can organize book signing and mailing!

And now, the post we’ve all been looking forward to for some time, our Q&A with the fabulous Erin Molta.  Erin is an experienced senior editor of picture book, early readers, chapter, middle grade, and YA books, as well as novelty and licensed titles. She has been in children’s publishing for more than twenty years and has a keen understanding of early reader through YA audiences. She has an excellent reputation with established authors, illustrators, and agents.  She is currently evaluating manuscripts for 
publishers as well as freelance editing for prospective authors before submission to publishing houses.


Questions from readers are below in blue, answers from Erin in green.


From Clar:  For Erin: I wonder if a ms with monsters and bedtime is has been written about too much and if she would just throw it in the trash without reading the whole pitch or does she think there’s a chance for it to go through. 
Though it has been done, it’s all in the matter of the telling — because it’s such a universal topic a fresh take on it is always welcome.
From Coleen:  I’m always curious to hear what kinds of manuscripts publishers are buying right now. 🙂
Ha! They wish they knew! Publishing usually goes in cycles. For a while it was Harry Potter and fantasy. Then there was Twilight and other paranormal-type books. Now it seems, in YA at least,that suspense is the up and coming genre. For middle grade books there doesn’t tend to be such a flocking to the genres and subgenres. Every publisher is looking for the next best thing—the next Harry Potter or Goosebumps, Percy Jackson . . .
From Julie H:  I guess I’d have to say my top curiosity right now is whether editors are still finding picture books to be a hard sell and, if so, whether she thinks that will change any time soon.
I think the picture book market is picking up a bit—mostly because it follows the baby booms. And there are more babies now.  Even with e-books and Apps, parents still want books to sit down and read to their kids.
From Darshana:  Any tips for PB authors (not PB author/illustrator) for writing unique/quirky PB under 300 words. I have noticed a lot of PBs I like are written by author/illustrators that are short on text, where the humor and quirkiness is carried in the pictures. I know I can come up with clever stories however since I am only a PB author, I get nervous about using too many illustrator notes, as that could turn-off an editor. 
Illustrator notes don’t necessarily turn off an editor, but they should only be used to point out what may not be obvious from the text—for instance if you are imagining that the characters are animals as opposed to people or if you are envisioning a twist that must be present in the art. No need to describe clothing or setting unless it directly impacts the story.
From Julie R-Z:  Questions for Erin:
Vocabulary: when and why does an editor like or dislike BIG words (son’s 1st gr. teacher called them million dollar words!) in a PB manuscript?
It’s all about appropriateness. If big words further the plot or are essential and are the best word choice for the story, then they are OK. You don’t want to have the story that as a parent etc. is reading they have to stop to explain every 5th word to a child. Then it becomes a vocab lesson and not an enjoyable read. The more important part of writing is not the words themselves but how they are used. If you say Jane is melancholy you are saying she is sad but if you show us why she is sad—“Usually when Jane came home from school, Gramma would be sitting at the table stirring milk into her coffee, reading the historical romances they liked to share. There would be an apple on a plate for Jane. Today there was no Gramma and no paperback book. Just an apple—on a napkin. Jane’s chest felt heavy and her eyes welled up.” You bring the scene alive and a reader will get the melancholy feeling by showing rather than telling.

Cliches: I understand that’s a no-no, but when used sparingly is it not appropriate if it can teach apre-schooler about the meaning behind a cliche?
Again, it’s all about the story. If you are writing a story about clichés or if they serve to bring the scene alive—then used sparingly, they are fine.

In general do editor’s agree on common mistakes or are the peeves more often personal? If so, give us the dirt Erin!
There are no general peeves—but words for the sake of the words as opposed to the story is a common mistake that most editors detest –and typos and spelling mistakes in a query are a nonofor us all.
From Jarm:  I also would like to know what place there is in the publishing world for picture books with more than 800 word counts. I was thinking of PBs for older children on non-fiction topics, that are woven into a story, such as “Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride” by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Any place—again it depends on the editor. Nonfiction normally does lend itself to longer text, but check publisher’s lists and see who tends to publish more nonfiction picture books. Clarion tends to, as does Charlesbridge and smaller presses like Eerdmans and Bearport Publishing.
From Kirsten:  I’m most interested in hearing what makes it out of the slushpile (for nonfiction) and why. What are editors looking for on the nonfiction side?
Editors tend to follow the school curriculum so check out a standard curriculum—say 4th graders do the American Revolution and 2nd graders learn about the night sky and maps. Seasonal topics, too—books about apples, pumpkins, and growing things, if done in a fresh unique way, are some popular topics. Animals are popular, too, but again, something new like unusual animal friendships or animals that have strange stories—like a penguin who shows up on a beach in Florida. Cute animals don’t hurt either.
From Penny:  a question that I have been wondering about…when I read online in submission guidelines that a publishing house/agent is closed to submissions except for folks they’ve met at a conference OR REFERRALS FROM OTHER PROFESSIONALS…I always wonder just who all is included in those OTHER professionals. Does it mean just other editors/agents? Can it mean another published author? Does it ever happen that a published someone that runs a critique service happens upon a manuscript they refer onto one of the publishing houses/agents who is closed to submissions except for the circumstances I mentioned. 
Yes J A referral from a published author will make it past the editorial assistant’s eagle eyes. It has happened that a published author has recommended someone and they have been published.
From Erik:  I would like to know the top three common mistakes writers make and what makes her want to read a MS.
Hmm . . . top three mistakes. #1 is when an author tells the story rather than showing—see above for how describing a scene and making a reader feel the character’s feelings works better than using big words or just saying, Jane was sad. #2 is sending manuscripts full of errors. That’s an immediate turn-off. #3 When an author tells you how their kindergarten class or their kids and kids friends love the manuscript. Of course they do. What kids are going to tell their teacher/parent/grandparent that they DON’T like their story?

I do hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did, and Erin’s answers will be helpful to you!

Come on over on Wednesday and help Rita with her MG pitch!  Have a great day!

Welcome To Summer Short And Sweets!!!

Did everyone have a nice 4th of July?  I hope so!

I’m happy to report that we celebrated with homemade blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream (that’s white and blue, anyway, even if we a little short in the red department) and watching the fireworks above the valley from my parents’ back deck 🙂

And now, at last, it’s finally Friday and time to kick off Summer Short & Sweets!!!

First things first…..

Please help yourself to a beach cookie (or 2 or 5)…

…and some fresh lemonade 🙂

Ah!  Summery 🙂

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (or at least the moment I’ve all been waiting for :))
duhn duhn duhn…. the big unveiling!!!

TA-DA!

Badge created by the incomparable Loni Edwards

Just look at this creation of beauty which you may all help yourselves to if you so desire!!!  I hope you’re able to read the part that says “Writing For Kittens” 🙂  (I also hope that if you need any art work done for any reason you will contact Loni – she does such great art and is a joy to work with 🙂  Same goes for Heather… but more about that in a few weeks… I am all about the surprises up my sleeve :))

Let’s start with a brief explanation of SS&S because I’m not actually sure I wrote this down yet anywhere 🙂

The object of Summer Short & Sweets is to keep our writing oars in even as we are caught up in the happy, busy, outdoor fun of summer.  We do not want our writing brains to go on luxury vacation because they are SO hard to jump start when school starts.  The Short & Sweets will be little fun exercises we can do together and share to keep those writing sparks flying and to make sure we write a little even while we’re playing whiffle ball, backyard volleyball, and frisbee golf, making sure our toddlers don’t fall in the pool or get swept away by ocean waves or buried by their older siblings in the sandbox, taking our pre-teens to Little League or Lego Tournaments or tap lessons, teaching our 16-year-olds to drive (I personally am sporting a whole new streak of gray hair, and the imaginary brake on the passenger side of the car is getting quite a workout :)), and tending campfires while we watch the summer sun swim down below the western hills and the fireflies come out (and if you’re at my house, watch the marshmallows catch on fire and become charcoal covered goo on a stick :))

Short & Sweets will last for 8 weeks, each Friday from today through Friday August 24.  For every Short & Sweet entry you write into the comments you will receive 1 point.  You may of course write 2 entries, (or even 3 or 5 or 7 if you are feeling inspired!)  At the end of Short & Sweets there will be prizes (which I am still working on) that will be based on the total points for the summer.  The minimum number to qualify for a prize will be 8 points – 1 each week of Short & Sweets.  If you choose to do more, you can rack up points and I’ll make sure you get something good! but you must do at least one each week to qualify.  The more points you have, the better the prizes.  I’m going to try to get you some critiques as well as signed books and other goodies 🙂  Feel free to let me know if there’s something in particular your little hearts desire as a prize.

The other advantage of Short & Sweets?  We will all inspire each other’s creativity.  Once you’ve put your challenge response in the comments, scroll through everyone else’s and see what they came up with.  Maybe your own entry won’t spark a story idea for you, but maybe someone else’s will!  (And don’t worry – everything will be vague enough that there’s no way 2 people will ever write the same story off the same prompt.  It just doesn’t work that way :))

Now then.  Are you ready for some Short & Sweet fun???

Here’s today’s challenge.  We’ll start nice and easy 🙂

In the comment section below, list the first five nouns, the first five adjectives, and the first five verbs that come to mind when you think about either the beach, the town pool, or the local ice cream shop.  (And when I say the first five, I just mean don’t spend forever on it – you can tweak the words that come to mind into more descriptive ones if you like – run into chase for example – but this whole exercise shouldn’t take more than about 2 or 3 minutes.)  Then pick one each of your nouns, adjectives and verbs and write a sentence that could start a story!

Here’s an example for the beach:
Nouns: shells, waves, sun, seagulls, kite
Adjectives: windy, salty, bright, wet, sandy
Verbs: dig, chase, squeal, laugh, splash
Howard was digging down through the wet sand when his shovel hit something hard that glinted in the sun.

See how easy?  Now you try!

And as an example of where you might go with this, if anyone wants to take Howard and run with him while you’re lifeguarding at the edge of the pool later or chauffeuring the littles around town, the obvious thing for his shovel to hit would be a pirate’s treasure chest, but what if it was something else?  An old English car that had somehow crossed the ocean and wound up on Howard’s beach… A genie’s lamp… A silver medallion with a huge emerald in the center and words in a mysterious language around the edge…  A dinosaur scale… that was still attached to the dinosaur!…  A giant’s gold-capped tooth…! 🙂

I hope you will think this is Short, Sweet, and fun!  I’m really looking forward to seeing what people come up with!  And if anyone ends up getting a story idea out of this, please tell us!  Any 12x12ers, this might be a great place to start thinking for your July manuscript 🙂

Have fun, have a great weekend, and please tune in Monday for Q&A with the fabulous editor, Erin Molta!

Self-Publishing Mini-Series – Meet Rita Borg

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to the lovely and talented Rita Borg!  Thank you so much for joining us, Rita!

First, a little background.  Rita says,

I started writing when I was 9 years old. I loved the Waltons and Little House on the Prarie. John boy and Laura set me off writing. But when my 7 year old sister died of cancer, I could not pick up a pen. I was 23 then. But after my third child was born, my husband told me of a writing competition he found on the local newspaper. I entered but I did not win. But the editor called me up and told me how much she enjoyed my essay about the murder of a toddler in England. She asked if would I like to start writing articles for the paper? I said yes and my writing career started.I have been writing and learning about writing ever since.
I was educated at Blessed Sacrament School and St. Jean Baptiste High School in New York and studied children’s writing with the Institute of Children’s and Teen’s Literature in Connecticut. I also read for a diploma in child psychology at the European Institute of Education. I reside on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where I regularly perform storytelling and creative writing workshops in schools across the country. I am also a freelance writer for local magazines and newspapers, a mother of three, and have published four picture books aimed at early readers, as well as an anthology of short stories for older children. My books have received multiple printings as well as peer-acclaim and recognition at the Malta National Annual Literary Awards. My last book, Don’t Cross the Road, Holly!, was chosen as the best 2009 Children’s Book in English. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators of the USA, as well as its chapter in the British Isles.

Now then, onto the interview and all those helpful tidbits you guys are eagerly awaiting 🙂

SLH: Did you try the traditional publishing route?  What was your experience?
RB: I have been studying the craft of writing for the past 12 years. Lately, I got in contact with an editor. She helped me out with several picture book manuscripts. I chose the best one and sent it off to 20 publishers and some agents in England. Most of the publishers I contacted wrote back saying how charming the book was, or it is a great story, or it would be great illustrated. Yet, no one wanted to take a chance of publishing it. Is it because I live so far away in Malta? So I decided to do it myself.

SLH:What made you decide to pursue self-publishing?
RB: I already have two published books but they are in the Maltese language. The publishers here in Malta obviously want to promote their language. However I grew up in New York City, my first language is English. So, I self-published three bilingual Maltese English picture books. But they could only be distributed in Malta which has a population of only half a million people. So I started thinking about self publishing outside the country with a company like CreateSpace.
Rita’s office

SLH: How did you go about self-publishing? (specific details about how you researched and located the company you went with would be great)
RB: I didn’t do that much research to be honest. I heard about CreateSpace; many authors were using it, so I decided for my first book it would be good to go with the experts.

SLH: Did you hire an editor?
RB: Hiring an editor is a must. I had one during the writing of the story and hired another one through the company and was part of the publishing package.

SLH: How did you choose your illustrator?  How did you work out paying the illustrator and did you have a contract?  Did you have a lot of back and forth discussions with your illustrator about the art?
RB: The illustrations are again part of the package if you so wish. CreateSpace sent me four names of illustrators and I chose the one that I saw best fitted the theme of my book. I chose two that I really liked. My first choice was available to work and in six weeks she drew all the illustrations. There was one or two which I changed some aspects of the pictures. But I was lucky, I had little to change and I loved the simple, colourful illustrations at the start.

SLH: Did you hire a cover designer or did your illustrator design the cover?
RB: I hired both. The cover designer was again part of the package which I purchased. The cover designer sent me 3 different types of covers. I especially liked one and then the illustrator drew it. I just added more hay in the nest under the egg for comfort’s sake 🙂

SLH: What formats is your book available in?  Hardcover?  Paperback?  E-book?  Print-on-demand?
RB: So far, my book is only as a Print-On-Demand paperback picture book. I first want to see how well the book sells before I turn it into an e-book. Self-publishing can be quite expensive if you are not careful with your money.

SLH: How have you gone about marketing your book?  What has been most successful?
RB: Along with advertising on Facebook, being interviewed here is my first attempt at marketing. I still have lots of work to do! I need to contact reviewers, give giveaways, and do more interviews. It’s going to be fun. Also, if I had been traditionally published, I still would need to market myself. So I am learning a great deal from all of this.

SLH: Do you do school/library visits or library/bookstore readings/signings?  How did you go about getting them?  How have sales been in relation to those visits?
RB: I visit libraries and schools all the time in Malta. I am a storyteller by trade. This is the best way to sell books. It is the personal touch rather then a book on the shelf. I plan to do a lot of visits to bookshops, libraries and schools for my book Meg the Egg, too.

SLH: What advice would you give other authors who are thinking about self-publishing?
RB: JUST DO IT! Don’t let the people at the gateways of publishing ruin your dreams.

SLH: Any particular pitfalls to avoid?
RB: Check and check everything you do. Don’t be flippant; be diligent. No one cares about your book more than you do.

SLH: Anything else you’d like to say? 🙂
RB: This was an adventure, a scary, intrepid adventure but if my book sells and the children love reading it, it is very worth it when you have given up on traditional publishing.

Thank you so much, Rita!

If you’d like to find Rita online, you can visit her Website and like her on Face Book.

And, as if all that information weren’t enough, Rita has kindly offered to be available to answer any questions you might have so fire away, AND she is giving away a copy of Meg The Egg (which is very cute – I have read it!) to one lucky winner!

All you have to do is leave a comment saying why you’d like the book.  And if you want to be nice and “like” Rita on Face Book while you’re here, that would be lovely but we are not twisting any arms 🙂

And that, my friends, concludes our mini-series on self-publishing.  I know some of the posts were long – our authors were so very generous with their knowledge and expertise!  I hope you all learned a lot, and that those of you who were previously hesitant about self-publishing now feel more confident and prepared to take it on!

Self-Publishing Mini-Series – Meet Patrick Milne

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to the third guest in our self-publishing mini-series, Patrick Milne.

By way of introduction, Patrick says, “I always enjoyed writing stories as far back as I can remember, though by the time I hit high school, I’d lost interest. It wasn’t until I took a writing course in university as an elective that I really started taking any creative impulses seriously again and eventually majored in professional writing and communications. It was chiefly short prose that I studied throughout school and it wasn’t until my sister, Stephanie Faye, embraced her animation talents that we decided to try a children’s picture book together.”

SLH:  Did you try the traditional publishing route?  What was your experience?

PM:  We didn’t really even think of the traditional publishing route initially. We just tried to get the story together as much as possible in a 32-page structure, which was difficult because it was the first time we’d done anything so short. It was definitely an exercise in brevity! During the process, it seemed any time we brought up the idea of a publisher and looked around at their respective websites, or researched agents, either they weren’t accepting manuscripts or you had to jump through hoops to get it to them. We continued working away until the story took shape and by then, we both really loved it and couldn’t have fathomed changing anything about it. 

SLH:  What made you decide to pursue self-publishing?

PM:  Once we got our hard copy proof copy back from the printer, Stephanie, the book’s artist, took it to a small publisher’s fair in Vancouver. She got interest from several companies but each had their own list of changes they wanted to make. By that point, we’d been working on the book for so long, Stephanie especially with all of the art and coloring, that thinking about incorporating their changes was just too overwhelming. At that point, we officially decided to move ahead on our own.  

SLH:  How did you go about self-publishing?

PM:  We found a small printing company in Winnipeg, Manitoba called Art Book Bindery that had a great reputation. We knew we wanted to do at least a small run of print copies so we worked with them. The electronic version was formatted and uploaded to Amazon several months later.

SLH:  Did you hire an editor?

PM:  No, I’ve had several jobs as a copy editor in the past so I was very confident in my own abilities. We also passed it around to some family and friends to make sure everything was coherent and had a nice flow and rhythm to it, but the words, sentences, and grammar I was very possessive about. Outside opinions were really key for us because when you work on the same story and the same sentences, you can miss little things

SLH:  How did you choose your illustrator?  What kind of contract do you have with her?  Did you have a lot of back and forth contact with her as she created the illustrations?

PM:  My illustrator was my sister, Stephanie Faye, who is a graduate of Capilano University in British Columbia and had been working in children’s television and animation for several years previous. We sent the manuscript back and forth over email and had conversations over Skype about it. Once she began the illustrations, she sent her drafts to me through email and we discussed them every few days. It was a very collaborative effort for being so far apart.


SLH:  How did you get your book from conception to e-book format?  Is it also available in hardcover or paperback?  Print on demand?

PM:  We currently sell the print version through our website and at various local craft sales around Christmas time and it does quite well. The ebook version, Stephanie formatted from her finished files and they were formatted in a .mobi file for the Kindle and uploaded to Amazon. We’re working on getting it into different places on the web to broaden Lucy’s availability but as of right now, those are the primary outlets.

SLH:  How have you gone about marketing your book?  What has been most successful?

PM:  Selling the print copies at various fairs has been the most successful approach for the print version. The electronic version has been totally different. There are thousands of ways of going about marketing our book, the only problem is where to start. We currently use Twitter and Facebook and I’ve started a blog called So Much To Be Read to help build a community and get the word out on other children’s authors and illustrators just like me who are self-published. There is so much more to do and I feel like all we have to do is just start!

SLH:  Do you do school/library visits?  How has that worked with an e-book?  How have sales been in relation to the visits?

PM:  We did a seminar with a local grade seven English class that was doing a unit on writing their own picture book and sold many of the print copies there but no e-book versions that I know of. It’s something we’d certainly like to keep doing.

Patrick’s office

SLH:  What advice would you give other authors who are thinking about self-publishing?

PM:  I think the single most important thing to understand is that finishing the book is only a small part of what self-publishing is all about. Depending on your hopes for the book and what it might become, all the rest is marketing – thinking about who your audience is and where to find them and how to get the word out about your book without coming across as a desperate spammer! On the one hand, it’s a very frustrating process, but on the other, you’re only as limited as your imagination. Furthermore, there has never been a time in history when reaching people has been as simple as this. We get a lot of motivation and inspiration from keeping that in our mindset.


SLH:  Any particular pitfalls to avoid?

PM:  Trust your instincts and stay true to what your book is all about and why you wanted to write it in the first place. If we had decided to incorporate the changes suggested to us by the various publishers, I don’t think I would feel quite as passionately about Lucy Snigglefritz as I do now, or as proud. If it set us back from getting a publishing contract, so be it. I don’t see any evidence these days that working with a publisher is any less challenging than the self-publishing route.

Thank you so much, Patrick!  It is so interesting to hear from different authors who have chosen this route.  We all have a lot to learn from you.

Folks, please feel free to visit Patrick on his Website, follow him on Twitter @fayemousbooks, or network with him on LinkedIn.  Patrick has kindly offered to be available for questions, so please ask if you have any!  In addition, he is giving away a free e-copy of The Adventures Of Lucy Snigglefritz – I have seen it and it’s very cute even on my black and white Kindle! – so if you’re interested in qualifying, please leave a comment saying why you’d like to have the book!

Thank you all for joining us!  Have a great weekend!

Self-Publishing Mini-Series – Meet Vivian Kirkfield

Whether you’re a parent or grandparent, a teacher, a writer, or any combination of the above, you guys are in for a treat today!

Our guest has a lot of knowledge, information, and advice to share, so make sure you’ve got a snack (I’m offering homemade blueberry muffins today if anyone would like one… or two… :))

and your cup of coffee/tea and get comfy!

And now please join me in giving a warm welcome to the lovely Vivian Kirkfield!

First, a few words about Vivian for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting her.

Vivian Kirkfield is a mother of three and an educator and author who lives in the Colorado Rockies. She’s passionate about picture books, enjoys hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, loves reading, crafting and cooking with kids during school and library programs and shares tips and tactics for building self-esteem and literacy in her parenting workshops. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a reader and a lover of books, please visit herPositive Parental Participation blog or contact her at vivian@positiveparentalparticipation.com.

Vivian adds: for almost 50 years, I’ve been involved with the care and education of young children…teaching kindergarten and Head Start and operating a successful home daycare while raising three amazing children.   Throughout my life, I’ve had a passion for picture books…I’ve always loved to listen to them, look at them and read them…and I’ve always wanted to write them.  When my childen were young, I entertained them with stories I made up in my head…often scribbling little stick figures and pictures to accompany the tales.  Several years ago, my daughter-in-law drew illustrations for one of those stories.  Perhaps, one day, The Balloon Man, will be published.  Thanks to Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Challenge and Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’ve had one of the most joyous years of my life, giving free rein to the picture book ideas that tumble around in my head and connecting with an amazing kidlit community.

Now, on to the educational, informational, inspirational, so-sensational interview 🙂  (I almost said the Muppet Show – where did that come from? :))

SLH:  Good Morning, Vivian!  Thank you so much for joining us today.  Let’s jump right in with the first question, shall we? Did you try the traditional publishing route?  What was your experience?

VK:  I started writing Show Me How! in 2005 and sent out several dozen one page letter and email queries to literary agents who, from looking at various lists (in books and online), seemed to be involved in parenting/activity books.  I got back many nice no’s…and five or six positive responses.  Each wanted to see a book proposal.  I picked a husband and wife team with a small literary agency in Massachusetts…she said that was the type of book she specialized in.  I won’t say our relationship was of no benefit to me…however, she did nothing by computer and so everything was a slow, snail-mail process.  She had a specific book proposal format in mind and I spent 3 years, honing the proposal until it was “perfect” in her eyes. My husband wanted me to go elsewhere with the proposal…but I was so timid, I was unable to push myself to change…even though I was not happy with how the process was going.  When the proposal was “perfect” she began “shopping it around”…again all communication was through the mail, although she was always available to me for phone calls…but because of my shyness, I wasn’t really comfortable talking to her on the phone.  After a year of submitting the proposal to many publishers with no success, I decided to self-publish, a route my husband had pursued to do a second edition in 1999 of his book that had been published by Stackpole Press in 1986.  In 2003, he also self-published a small paperback on a different topic, so we felt we had, at least, a little experience and some good contacts.  When I sent the agent a letter, informing her of my decision, she replied that she thought that would be a great path for me to take.  A WORD OF ADVICE: If you opt to have a literary agent represent you, make sure you feel very comfortable with the way he or she goes through the process and ask questions of anything you are unsure of.
SLH:   What made you decide to pursue self-publishing?
VK:  Well, part of that answer can be found in #1.  In addition, traditional publishing these days is different from the way it used to be…now the author is expected to do his or her own marketing and promotion…unless of course your name is Sarah Palin or Barack Obama or Madonna.  Also, there is the financial side to consider…when a traditional house publishes your book, you might get a small advance (unless you are Sarah Palin, Barack Obama or Madonna) and then a tiny piece of each book sold…after the advance amount is deducted from the first profits.  When you self-publish, the book is yours and the profits are yours…after deducting your expenses to publish…and these can vary quite a bit, depending on whether you publish electronically or by print…and that can vary depending on who prints it and how many copies you have printed and the type of paper, whether color or black and white, binding, etc. A WORD OF ADVICE: Before making the decision to self-publish, find out how much it might cost and think about how much time you have to devote to the marketing and promoting of your book and also how you will market and promote it.
SLH:   How did you go about self-publishing?
VK:  As I mentioned in #1, my husband had already self-published two books, so we felt we had a relationship with the printer he had used. We had already set up a company (MoneyPenny Press, Ltd.) as an LLC (for that we had to get a lawyer to draw up papers…but a person could do it more easily and cheaply by being a sole proprietor…but that gets into legal issues which I am not qualified to say anything about) and so all we basically needed was the company that would print the books.  I did go online to check out some of the ones that were available at that time and we felt that Jostens (the company that had done his books) offered the best prices…and we already trusted them.  They are a nationwide company that does the class rings and class yearbooks…but they also have a small press business printing section.  I called and they assigned me an account rep and she fielded the questions and concerns and would email me the answers.  They were also very easy to speak with on the phone and were great to work with.
In addition, I got copies of John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Books and Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, as well as several other self-publishing books from the library…and read them cover to cover.  There is also a wealth of knowledge and info available on the Internet now.  A WORD OF ADVICE: Do your research and then ask others who have self-published before you make the final decisions about who will print your book or where you will electronically publish it…the choices are overwhelming…advice and info from someone who’s been there is priceless.
SLH:   Did you hire an editor?
VK:  I did not. 🙂  My husband, son and sister all read the manuscript several times…my husband for technical corrections, my son for technical and word usage and word flow corrections (looking at it from the point of view of the age group of parents I was targeting) and my sister for technical, word usage, word flow and functionality corrections (looking at it from a mom’s point of view…she, by the way, suggested having pictures of the completed crafts and/or recipes…but it was too late for that…the next book in the series will definitely be much shorter and will include pictures, even if they are black and white photos for cost reasons).  Then my daughter took on the job of formatting the manuscript with some input and advice from a friend who is VP and website guru at a small publishing company. His help was amazing…I should have taken him up on his offer to help me with my book website.  A WORD OF ADVICE: Decide what you can do on your own…and what you can’t…and find the dollars to pay for what you can’t because it is so very important to put out a professional piece of work…especially something that is self-published.
SLH:  How did you choose your illustrator?  If you hired an illustrator did you have a contract?  Did you have a lot of back and forth discussions?
VK:  I was very lucky…my daughter-in-law is a fashion designer and she is very artistic.  Andrea had already done some charming illustrations for a picture book I had written many years ago. (We never went ahead with publishing it…although I did send it to Random House…my niece had worked there years before but still knew someone who walked it over to one of the editors…I received a lovely personal letter that said it was a sweet book and encouraged me to pursue other publishing houses…however, I was involved with Show Me How at that time, so it sits in a drawer…maybe it’s time to dust it off. 🙂)  My daughter-in-law drew the cover and also the images that appear on every page…so I didn’t have to worry about image rights.
SLH:  Did you hire a cover designer?
VK:  No, as I explained in #5, my daughter-in-law did the cover.  The book recommends three activities that can help build self-esteem…reading, crafting and cooking.  She borrowed photos of my own children when they were in the two to five-year old age range and she drew them in the cover picture…so Jason, the oldest who was always book-crazy, is the one reading the book, Peter (her husband), who loves to cook and is an amazing amateur chef, is stirring up the bowl of veggies and Caroline, my youngest who loves to craft and makes beautiful framed scrapbook-like pictures to give as gifts, is sitting with a bouquet of construction paper flowers.  So for me, the cover is extremely meaningful.  Because of Andrea’s artistic eye, it is also balanced and eye-catching.  A WORD OF ADVICE: They say the cover is one of the most important elements of your book…and I believe it.  If you have your book traditionally published, you have nothing to say about it.  But, if you self-publish, your input should be important to whomever you hire…make sure it is a cover that would compel you to take the book off the shelf.
SLH:  What formats is your book available in?  Hardcover?  Paperback?  E-book?  Print-on-demand?  How did you get it into each format (e.g. if it’s available on Kindle and Smashwords did you need different formats and were you able to get the book into those formats yourself or did you hire someone?)
VK:  Show Me How is available in paperback.  We did not do print-on-demand…Jostens is a traditional off-set printer…so the printing quality is great and their staff have quite a lot of experience.   That said, even though I specified early on that I wanted the pages of the book to stay open when someone opened it and put it on the table, they used the wrong type of paper (short as opposed to long…or the other way around) and so the book snaps shut.  They sent the first copy of the book in advance of the delivery of the order…and when I saw the problem, I called and they were amenable to giving me a discount…and free shipping.  There is also a Kindle edition of the book which was converted from the word/pdf file into the Kindle format by the publishing friend of my daughter…for a reasonable fee…that was an area I was not willing to try myself.  A WORD OF ADVICE: Do your research and know what you want and make it clear and put it in writing when contracting with anyone concerning your book.
SLH:  How have you gone about marketing your book?  What has been most successful?
VK:  If only I had known…how often do we hear that?  I took a “Build Book Buzz” course with Sandra Beckwith in the summer of 2010 and learned about the whole new world of book marketing and promotion.  That course was one of the smartest things I did in this book journey…it helped me focus on what I needed to do and gave me many of the tools I would need to do it.  But it couldn’t do it for me.
My book was published in September of 2010…I started my website and blog and Twitter and Facebook (personal page…still have not completed the page for Show Me How..why the resistance, I don’t know…I guess I’m not sure I am doing it correctly) in August of 2010. The internet can be an extremely valuable marketing tool…but you need to be established and have a following.  If only I had known…I would have started years before.  In addition, I believe it would have been better had I hired a professional web designer who understood the complexities of SEO optimization, keywords and the other elements that are important in having a successful website.  Again, I opted for my daughter and daughter-in-law…both did a fantastic job…but neither was an expert in that…and both have full-time jobs…so after they set everything up, I took over and maintain everything myself.  Although I’ve learned a great deal, I still have a long way to go.
As soon as my books were delivered:
·       I put out a press release through PRWeb…this did get some buzz going…but I know that a press release program consists of multiple releases…at least one a month if one wants to get good publicity results and I was not able to fund a program like that.
·       I began sending out copies to everyone who had done an endorsement.  (I got quite a few wonderful endorsements by contacting authors and illustrators of the picture books recommended in Show Me How…they read the book and loved it…never be shy about asking for a testimonial if you are proud of what you wrote). 
·       I also began to connect with mom bloggers and others who I thought might be willing to read the book and review it.  Over the last year and a half, there have been over three dozen reviews and guest posts.
·       My attempt to connect with the media (local reporters, parenting section of the local newspaper) has had limited success.
·       I contacted the volunteer department of our local school district and arranged to do a Show-Me-How Story-time with Miss Vivian program of reading and crafting in the kindergartens and Pre-K’s on a bi-weekly basis. 
·       I also contacted the local children’s librarian and have done several library story and craft programs.
·       I walked into a few local bookstores (really hard for me because of my shyness) and was able to place my book in them.  I also connected with a children’s boutique in Chicago (where my son lives) and was able to place the book there (and have done an event there as well).
·       I contacted the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and was lucky enough to have them endorse the book and recommend it to their chapters as a great resource for families who have children with diabetes (one of the chapters bought 15 copies…but I never heard from any of the other chapters). 
·       I took part in several local events, paying for a booth in two of them (Fun Fest where I partnered with PBS and Festival of Trees where I partnered with the Ecumenical Social Ministries) where I crafted with children…at the PBS Kids Fun Fest last summer, over 200 children did crafts at the Show Me How table.
·       I was interviewed on two blog radio programs.
·       I entered Show Me How in the Indie Awards for Excellence in Books…and was a finalist in the Parenting/Family category.
·       I respond to HARO queries (Help A Reporter Out) and Reporter Connection queries.  These are free services (of course, their parent companies are each selling publicity packages) that send you an email every day or several times a day.  In each email you will find queries from journalists, reporters, authors and others who are looking for experts in different fields.  If you see a query that speaks to your expertise, you can answer it and hopefully, the journalist will want to use something you said.  This, I have found, is great free publicity, especially for a non-fiction book like mine.  Last December, I answered a query from a writer for Parenting Magazine.  I was quoted in the lead article of the February issue and my book was mentioned. Before February, I had only sold a few copies of my book on Amazon.  During the month of February, 65 copies sold on Amazon. I’ll be quoted again in an article in the September issue and also in Parents Magazine…not sure which month yet.  This avenue of marketing does take a lot of time…and you have to be willing to write something of value to people who may not want it or need it…however, I’ve seen that it can work really well.
·       I connected with Lexie Lane who runs www.Wikimommy.com, a site like Wikipedia, but specifically for moms.  I’m the Portal Mom for the Children’s Portal and have contributed a dozen or more articles. Again, it’s a lot of writing…but hopefully, the exposure will pay off.  At the very least, I know I am contributing articles that will be of value to parents who can easily access the website.
I’ve definitely tried a bunch of marketing avenues…probably too many!  For me, the school/library programs, event booths, blog reviews and giveaways, books in bookstores, bookstore events and media coverage (a few articles in a small local paper) have provided a very poor sales result.  The article in Parenting Magazine was by far the leading sales getter.  A WORD OF ADVICE: Each of us has a particular comfort zone…some people love speaking in front of groups…others love social media.  Check out the various ways you can market your book and pick the ones that you enjoy…and make sure you leave time in your day for your family and yourself…the blogging/social networking/school visits/etc. can wear you down…and the whole idea of it all is, after all, to enjoy what you are doing!
SLH:  Do you do school/library visits or library/bookstore readings/signings?  How have sales been in relation to those visits?
VK:  As I mentioned in #8, I have done school visits (21 classroom presentations this school year and 24 last year and 3 PTA programs this year) plus 3 library programs and 6 bookstore events (and I work four days a week…now you know why I sometimes miss commenting on some of the PPBF posts).  At every presentation and event, all the children and/or parents receive a printed flyer that has a short bio and contact info along with a sample book summary, craft project and recipe from the book and a bookmark that has a picture of my book cover, two endorsements from famous picture book authors (Clifford the Big Red Dog and Angelina Ballerina) and my contact info.  I’m sorry to say that all those school presentations only resulted in less than half a dozen books sold…at one PTA meeting I sold 4 books, none at the library programs and only a few at the bookstore events, which are usually poorly attended.  They say it is not the book…but the hook…that gets people to buy a copy.  To be fair, I think when parents come to a library, school or kid’s event, they are not coming with the thought of buying a book…they are coming with the intention of enjoying a story or craft with their children.   And I think that if the bookstore does not do a good job of getting the word out, the author needs to…the question is how?  Before a story and craft event in August (geared to kids who would be starting school for the first time) at a local Family Christian Bookstore, I put up posters at the local Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods and Sunflower Market (after obtaining permission from the managers of each store…another difficult hill to summit for a shy person) and tweeted about it and posted it in the online parenting calendar of the local newspaper…one person showed up from a town 40 miles away because she had seen it in that online calendar and had a daughter who was hesitant about going to kindergarten.  I was thrilled to do the program for this child…and there were a few other kids who wandered over and took part…their parents were shopping in the store and made their way over when they were ready to leave…but I have to be honest and say the turnout was disappointing.  If someone has the secret of how to publicize this type of event, I hope they will share it. 🙂  A WORD OF ADVICE: They say it is important to plant the seed.  If you want to get your book out there, you have to get out there with your book.
SLH:  What advice would you give other authors who are thinking about self-publishing?
VK:  Self-publishing takes effort…and patience…and determination…and motivation…you need to do your homework…it takes some outlay of money…but the rewards can be wonderful.  A WORD OF ADVICE: A support group is a necessary resource…whether it is family, friends and/or an online community.
SLH:  Any particular pitfalls to avoid?
VK:  As I said in the answers above, know what you want as far as type of book format…get recommendations for printers, PR companies, etc. from people who have done it already…put everything in writing (if you are paying out your money, you want to make sure you get what you pay for)…make sure your manuscript is word perfect (because there will only be a few mistakes instead of many when it has been checked over and over and over again and is word perfect).  A WORD OF ADVICE: Before you sign anything, read it several times…and have someone you trust read it also.  Don’t rush into anything…but don’t procrastinate either…your book won’t get out there unless you take a leap of faith!
SLH:  Anything else you’d like to add?
VK:  Authors who self-publish need to think about how they will price their book…you need to be competitive…but you need to make a profit.  There are various formulas and templates you can find online and in printed material to guide you.  From experience, I would say it is important not to overprice your book…the potential buyer who takes it off the shelf may experience sticker-shock.  Unfortunately, I did that…but lowered the price as time went on and I got a better sense of what people were willing to pay.  That said, it’s also important not to underprice the book, as when you place the book in bookstores or other venues, they will want between 30% and 50% of the final sales price.  When you list your book on Amazon, they also take a cut (I think it is 20%)…if you have your book listed on Amazon through their Fulfillment Program (they keep copies in their warehouse and they ship it out), their take is 55%.  If you sell your book on your own website, using PayPal to enable purchasers to easily buy it, PayPal takes a small cut…a little more than 5%, I think.

Thank you so much for that wealth of information, Vivian!  I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say we have all learned so much!

If you’d like to find, visit, follow, like Vivian, you can find her here:

And now, you all have the opportunity to be the lucky person who wins a signed copy of Show Me How, a book that any teacher or parent will find invaluable, and that writers can use as a resource for great picture books!  Just leave a comment telling why you’d like the book!

Thank you all for joining us for today’s interview.  I know it was long, but I hope you all found it as enlightening as I did

Self-Publishing Mini-Series – Meet Suzanne McGovern (And A Giveaway!)

I’m sure we’re all in a little bit of withdrawal on our first Friday without PPBF, so to lessen the sting a little – well, a LOT really! – I have a fantastic and educational post to share with you, the first in our 4 part mini-series on self-publishing!

(Also, a large plate of assorted danish… help yourselves :))

Also, there will be an awesome giveaway at the end of this post!

So without further ado, let’s welcome Suzanne McGovern.  Thank you so much for joining us, Suzanne!

Suzanne McGovern
SLH:  When did you first become interested in writing?  Was it something you always did, or something you came to later in life?

SM:  I’ve been an avid reader since I was a young child, and writing assignments were always my favorite in school, but I wouldn’t say that writing stories was something I always did. What has been clear for as long as anyone can remember, however, is that I am horse crazy.
Suzanne with Gator (dk. bay) and Milo (gray)

SLH:  If you began as a child, were you encouraged by family/teachers?

SM:  I was encouraged by my parents to pursue all of my interests and got positive feedback on my writing from family and friends (though, again, writing wasn’t a spoken passion at the time). In high school, for me, writing became part of my self-identity.

SLH:  If you began later, what drew you to it?

SM:  The opportunity to express myself – to talk about a particular topic or situation through my own lens. As a Communications and English/Journalism double major at the University of Delaware, I always enjoyed writing features and “column” type stories more than reporting news.

SLH:  Is there an author who has been especially inspirational or instrumental in your own development as a writer?

SM:  So many writers have impacted me as a reader – it’s much too hard to choose just one or two. I can say that when it came to writing my Gator books, the gold standard I had in mind was a poem written by Jimmy Cagney about his deceased dog – “A Dog Named Beau.” It was so simple, so illustrative, so poignant and so pure.  That’s what I wanted my stories to be.

SLH:  You are self-published.  How and why did you decide to go that route?

SM:  Though I had crafted my Gator idea and written several scripts, I had virtually no access to publishers. I’d heard the endless stories of manuscripts sitting in piles on publishers’ desks with little chance of ever being read and considered. And I heard horror stories about writers who lost all input and access to their stories once they signed a deal. I had one friend of a friend in publishing who told me that my stories were nice, but that rhyme doesn’t sell – that, at minimum, I needed to rewrite them as prose. To me, this was sacrilege, as I believe the rhyme in my stories is a critical part of what I have to offer as a writer. I like the rhyme. And moms who read the stories said they liked reading it aloud. Long story short, I decided to focus my efforts on publishing the series as I envisioned it, end to end, vs. trying to please publishers (if and when I actually connected with one!). This required a tremendous investment of time, energy and dollars on my part, but it enabled me to maintain control of the entire process. This was important to me, as I only had one idea (I’m not prolific like some writers I know!)  and that idea was based on personal experience, so I wanted to keep it pure.  I realized in making this choice that I would be severely limiting my ability to publish and market my work, but it was a choice I made regardless.

SLH:  Can you describe the process?  How did you get your illustrator?  How did you manage paying the illustrator (flat fee, royalties?) Did you have a contract with your illustrator?  How did you decide where to have your book printed?  Did you hire an editor at any stage?

SM:  I didn’t have an editor at any time, but an advertising copy writer friend did proof the stories and offer a few suggestions in terms of word choice and punctuation.
I found my illustrator Donna in an unusual way… I started with an extensive online search, which yielded a few illustrators of interest; however, all had agents and I’d been told by a few friends to avoid illustrators with an agent if at all possible, as the agent’s fee drives the total cost of hiring an illustrator up quite a bit.
At the same time, at the suggestion of a friend, I phoned SCBWI to ask for guidance on negotiating Illustrators’ fees. (I had zero experience at any of this!) The woman at SCBWI offered to post my job on the SCBWI online bulletin board, for members to consider. So, I submitted a short classified ad and, within days, started receiving emails and links to portfolios – 20+ in all. One or two even took the initiative to draw a spec illustration based on the requirements I’d outlined in my ad. I considered each one carefully, made a short list of two, interviewed both by phone and requested additional spec work. In the process, it became clear to me that Donna Bizjak was the one and only illustrator for Gator and me.
Donna and I sign a contract for each Gator book (three so far). I believe doing is is critical — it is both professional and practical; it protects us both. We negotiated a flat fee, which was my preference, given that I had no idea where this project was headed and I wanted to be sure Donna felt she was being fairly compensated for her amazing work.
For printing, I again conducted an in-depth online exploratory around domestic, digital, on demand and printing abroad. For my purposes and given several key considerations, printing abroad proved to be the best option.

SLH:  As a self-published author, how do you handle marketing and distribution?  What has worked best for you?

SM:  By day, I work a career in advertising, so I have a solid foundation in marketing. At the same time, the time I have to focus on marketing my Gator series is limited to nights and a few hours on the weekend. I got the three books I’ve published so far on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. I built a web site. I did some readings and book fairs. And, I sold the books to local shops door to door. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time or wherewithal to pursue the type of marketing efforts I know have the best potential to build awareness and drive sales. This is frustrating, but I console myself by believing that the books are timeless – they will still be relevant whenever I have the opportunity to make them a priority.

SLH:  Have you tried digital publishing in any format?  Can you share your experience?

SM:  No, I have not tried digital publishing. My exploratory indicated that digital publishing options are inhibitive for a classic children’s storybook – no hard covers, no sewn binding, sometimes no color, limited page sizes. As with publishing, I had a very specific vision of what I wanted the books to be and digital printing wasn’t able to meet my needs. Important to note — this was about seven years ago and things may have changed by now. I do recall that digital printing was the most economical option for modest quantities, a major pro for that route!

SLH:  Have you done apps for any device?  Can you share your experience?

SM:  No, but it’s a great idea. I’d love to pursue the Gator series as both e-books and apps. For me, there’s nothing like books printed on paper, but digital is an absolutely critical path to pursue today.

SLH:  Where/when/how do you get your ideas?

SM:  Horses have always been my passion. I’d wanted a horse of my own since I was about eight years old but, given realities, it took me until my mid-30’s to make it happen. Until that time, as much as I loved a good book, and as much as I wanted to write, I never felt I had anything of interest to say…no story to tell, no ideas. That all changed when my first horse, Gator (aka Montana) came into my life – then the Gator stories just started popping out of me. My childhood dream come true was also the lens through which I realized what I wanted to say and how to say it.

SLH:  What has been the most challenging thing you have faced as an author and/or as a self-published author?

SM:  Too little time to make it happen. If I had the time, I’d probably be most challenged by the financial investment required. When you self publish, you’re on your own for everything – figuring out how who to sell to, how to sell, marketing, distribution, franchise development, finding a partner/investor, etc. As best I can tell, traditional distribution points (i.e., retail chains and larger independent booksellers, as well as smaller independents beyond driving distance) are not accessible to those without a publisher. Non-traditional marketing is the way to go for the self publisher – I believe there’s major success to be had via clever efforts online.

SLH:  What has been the most wonderful thing that has happened to you as an author?

SM:  I’ve created something I’m proud of, so I’d say the most wonderful thing is the sense of accomplishment at having actually become the writer I’ve aspired to be since college (albeit in my own small way). There’s nothing like a child telling me how much he or she loves Gator, or calling out a favorite detail from the books. Or, a parent telling me that my Gator books are bedtime favorites on the night stand, alongside famous classics handled by major publishers.

SLH:  Do you do school visits?  Would you be kind enough to briefly describe your program/presentation?  What is your preferred age range and group size?  Do you have materials available for parents/teachers to go along with your books(s)?

SM:  I’ve done a few, but not enough to intelligently comment here.

SLH:  What advice do you have for authors just starting out?

SM:  Frankly, I think I’m the wrong person to ask, as I consciously chose not to follow the traditional rules of writing for or pursuing publishers. In doing so, I understood that I was not setting myself up to create a writing career, but it was more important to me to bring my personal project to life exactly as I’d envisioned. All I can suggest is to be honest with yourself about your objective, do the necessary homework to understand how to pursue that objective (unbelievable how much information and how many resources are available online), and keep the energy flowing as you go. The process can be both exciting and gratifying (as well as scary and frustrating) – whether you win or lose, it’s a great life adventure and fantastic learning experience.

SLH:  Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?

SM:  As previously mentioned, my “day job” has absorbed all of my time over the past couple of years. (After all, it is the day job that funds the self publishing!). So, I’m not working anything new. Just looking forward to a time when I can really dig into all the ideas I have for Gator.

SLH:  Do you attend writer’s conferences?  Enter contests?

SM:  No, not since I entered a few contests with the first book.

SLH:  What has been your best selling book so far?  Which book’s sales (if any) did not do as well as expected?  Why do you think that might have been?  Were you surprised by one book’s success over another’s?

SM:  As previously noted, all of my sales have come through local door-to-door distribution and personal sales. I’ve sold the most of the first book in the series, Gator and Pete – More Alike Than It Seems. But I think that’s because I was able to focus the most time and energy on that one. Less for Blue Ribbon Gator . And, less still for Gator to the Rescue.
One interesting learning for me – Moms seem to like Gator and Pete best, because they love the sweet story and the moral. They say they love to read it to their little ones. At the same, kids seem to like Blue Ribbon Gator best, because it shows lots of horses, has lots of movement and has lots of bright, primary colors. They also say they like winning – go figure!
My personal favorite is Gator and Pete, so I published it first to ensure it made it to print if I was only able to do one.

Where can we find you?
gatorsgang.com; suzanne@gatorsgang.com


Books can be ordered direct from Suzanne’s website, or from Amazon!

Just for fun quick questions:
Agented or not?  Not
Traditionally or self-published?  Self
Hard copy or digital? Hard copy
Apps or not? Unfortunately, not (yet!)
Plotter or pantser? Not sure what this meansJ
Laptop or desktop?  Laptop
Mac or PC?  PC
Day or night worker?  Night
Coffee or tea?  Hot chocolate
Snack or not?  Absolutely
Salty or sweet?  Sweet
Quiet or music?  Depends on the day but, generally, quiet if I’m creating.
Cat or dog?  Horse!
Currently reading?  The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and A Respectable Wife by Robert Goolrick.

Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and expertise with us, Suzanne!  We all really appreciate it!


Now then, Suzanne has graciously offered to answer any questions y’all might have, but she is traveling, so please be patient for your answers 🙂


In addition, we are offering a fantastic giveaway – a complete set of the Gator and Pete books – that’s 3 hardcover picture books, folks! – signed by the author!  All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment saying who you would like the books for (it’s okay to say yourself :))

I hope you will all be back Monday for our visit with Vivian (and just so you know, I know this was a long interview and post – Vivian’s is long too – she was incredibly generous with her knowledge and advice – but the other two are not this long! :))

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – My Side Of The Car

Happy PPBF everyone!  I’ve got such a good one today – I think you’re going to love it 🙂  And please stay tuned afterwards for the winner of the Lisa Thiesing giveaway, as well as the winner of the Puzzled By Pink giveaway!

OK.  Ready?  Fasten your seat belts because here we go! 🙂

My Side Of The Car
Written By: Kate Feiffer
Illustrated By: Jules Feiffer
Candlewick, April 2011, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 4-8

Themes/Topics: patience, imagination, father-daughter love, optimism

Opening:  “My dad and I are going to the zoo.  We’ve tried to go to the zoo before.  But we never get there.  Something always happens.”

Brief Synopsis:  Sadie and her dad are going to the zoo.  Their plans have been thwarted three previous times, but this time they’re really going.  Except… on the way… it starts to rain.  They can’t go to the zoo in the rain.  But Sadie’s not about to let the fact that her dad sees rain deter her.  I look out my window, and the sun is shining on my side of the car. People are putting on their sunglasses and heading to zoos all over the world on my side of the car.” While her dad sees nothing but rain, Sadie sees people mowing their laws and eating ice cream.  Is it raining or not?  Will Sadie and her dad get to the zoo this time or will they have to wait for another day?

Links To Resources:  Fun Zoo-Related Activities, Zoo Lessons And Activities, a page in the back of the book tells the true story of what happened (which is always fun :))

Why I Like This Book:  Anyone who has lived with kids knows that their perception of reality is not necessarily the same as yours… especially when they really want something! 🙂  What’s wonderful about this book is both Sadie’s determined optimism and her father’s patience and his loving understanding of how she needs to cope with her disappointment.  This book is also delightful because it’s written and illustrated by a father-daughter team about an incident that actually happened.  I’m not going to tell you whether they get to the zoo or not, though.  You’ll have to go read the book 🙂

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

Now then!

I know you’ve all been holding your breath in anticipation of the winner announcements, so I won’t make you wait any longer 🙂

The winner of a signed copy of Lisa Thiesing’s wonderful book, A Dark And Noisy Night, is Catherine Johnson!  Catherine, come on down!  Pleas send me an email with your address and who you’d like the book signed to and Lisa and I will get right on the job of mailing it out to you!

And I want to extend a hearty thank you to everyone who tried to help me with my theme struggles.  I got quite a few good examples, and also discovered that I am not alone in my inability to articulate theme in a meaningful way, so all in all, it was a good exercise 🙂  And the winner of Puzzled By Pink is Beth!!!  Thank you ALL for your help! and Beth, you’d better email me your address…. 🙂

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below so we can all come visit you 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone!

Meet Lisa Thiesing Author/Illustrator!… And A Giveaway!

I know.  It’s Monday.  It’s raining.  And if you’re like me you’ve eaten all of your black jelly beans.  Also the red and orange ones.  Also the yellow ones.  And you’re down to the reject colors like white and pink.  Seriously, does anyone like white jelly beans?  Why do they even make them?

But cheer up!  You’re here, among friends, in our happy little corner of the blogosphere!  And I have someone awesome for you to meet, AND you could get a present!

So tell me, doesn’t the day seem brighter already? 🙂

(Oh, but just one tiny thing before we get started.  Tina put up an awesome post on Phyllis’s visit to South Korea!  If you haven’t had a chance, please check it out!  And I heard a rumor that her visit to Corey in New Jersey might be up today… fingers crossed 🙂  Also, fabulous news, she will be visiting St. Lucia and maybe, hopefully Africa!!!  Okay!  Enough digression… :))

Today I am so excited to be introducing a fabulous author/illustrator to you all.  Please give a warm welcome to the wonderful and talented Lisa Thiesing!
Author/illustrator Lisa Thiesing

Hi Lisa!  Thanks so much for joining us today!!
Hi Susanna!  Thanks so much for inviting me!  I’m excited to be here!
SLH:  When did you first become interested in writing and/or illustrating?  Was it something you always did, or something you came to later in life?
LT:  I first became interested in children’s books when I was very little.  My mother always read to me and she was very excited about all the new books that were coming out at the time.  Things like the Little Bear books and Eloise were brand new!  Can you believe it?  Eloise was a character I particularly related to since I grew up in Manhattan, just a few blocks away from you!   We even had a mail chute by the elevator.  It was tempting but I never did pour water down it! Oh! and Harriet the Spy…. I often ran around the park pretending to be her. These characters seemed so real and were my friends.  My mother would also point out interesting things in the drawings, like how a certain expression on a character was just so perfect for the story.  She made books seem important and fun.  Also, this is probably bad, but she would let me stay home “sick” from school so that I could work on my tremendously original novel about Old Boy, a dog that was constantly saving his boy from falling down wells and other disasters.
SLH:  Were you encouraged by family/teachers?
     
      LT:  I was definitely encouraged by my mother.  I was VERY shy as a girl and I think she saw writing and drawing as my way of communicating.
SLH:  You are both an author and an illustrator.  Which comes first for you, the story or the art?
LT:  The story comes first.  When I write a story, what usually happens is that a certain phrase will keep repeating in my head.  Sometimes it’s the beginning of the story, sometimes it’s the ending.  When I wrote my first picture book, Me &You, my daughter was very little and she kept doing things that I used to do when I was that age.  So I kept saying to her that I used to do whatever it was, just like you!  That would be my beginning.  And I knew I wanted to end it with And when I grew up, I wanted to have a little girl…just like you!  I had a beginning and I had an ending.  I just needed to fill in the middle.  I had lots of photos of me and Katherine doing the same things but completely differently.  So that took care of the middle.  And with the photos for reference, I was able to tell the other part of the story – the differences in time, place, personality, attitude – through the illustrations.
                        
SLH:  Is there an author/illustrator who has been especially inspirational or instrumental in your own development as a writer/illustrator?
      LT:  I really like the early reader genre.  So people like Arnold Lobel, Syd Hoff and James Marshall are particularly inspirational.
      SLH:  What was your first published children’s book?  Tell us about the moment when you got your first offer!
      LT:  My first book assignment was The Ghosts of Hungryhouse Lane by Sam McBratney.  I had been taking my portfolio around to all the various publishing houses for a couple of years, with no luck.  I did keep working on my portfolio, showing it again and again, and kept sending out postcards to editors.  I was close to giving up when the phone rang and it was Brenda Bowen, then at Henry Holt!  She asked if I might be interested in illustrating a middle grade novel!  I nearly fell on the floor!  I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me?!?!”  But I was cool and instead shouted, “YES!!!!”  I got to go to her office, but now as an actual illustrator because I had a real book to do and we’d talk about our project!  It felt wonderful.
      SLH:  Where/when/how do you get your ideas?
      LT:  It seems I often get ideas for stories while driving.  I don’t know why that is.  Or doing the dishes.  My Peggy the Pig books were adaptations of stories I already knew.  The Viper is based on the old campfire scary joke.  The Aliens Are Coming!  is a variation on War of the Worlds.  A Dark and Noisy Night is a combination of The Tell Tale Heart and my cousin’s daughter’s fear that the tree branches scratching at her window were witches’ fingers!  And The Scarecrow’s New Clothes is from an old story a friend’s mother used to tell. 
      If I’m illustrating someone else’s story, then the ideas, of course, stem from the story.  Except that I do get to make the characters look how I want and set the scenes where I want.  It’s like being a movie director.  You get the story and then you can interpret it visually as you like.
SLH:  What has been the most challenging thing you have faced as an author/illustrator?
      LT:  The most challenging thing I have faced is the current climate of publishing in general.  It used to be that even if you were not a super star, bestselling author/illustrator you could still work and still publish books.  It seems that now you are given a small window of opportunity and if in that time you don’t produce a best seller, that’s it.  As Heidi Klum would say, “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out.”
SLH:  What has been the most wonderful thing that has happened to you as an author/illustrator?
      LT:  That’s a difficult question.  A couple of things come to mind.  A few parents have told me that their children actually learned to read with my All Better book. That is really gratifying.  There is a lot of repetition in that book and it was my goal to help kids learn to read and to enjoy it.  And they did!
      Also, the first time I saw my Two Silly Trolls in the front of the I Can Read display at Barnes & Noble.  I took a picture of that and then the sales person said I wasn’t allowed to do that.  And I said, “But that’s my book!”  And he said, “Well, it’s our policy, blah, blah, blah…”
      It’s also really wonderful at school visits when kids say, “I LOVE you!  You are the best writer and illustrator ever!  Don’t ever leave!!!”
SLH:  Do you do school visits?  Would you be kind enough to briefly describe your program/presentation?  What is your preferred age range and group size?  Do you have materials available for parents/teachers to go along with your books(s)?
kid’s drawing of Peggy 🙂
      LT:  So, yes, I do school visits.  I have a PowerPoint presentation of one of my books, complete with sound effects!  Currently I’m doing The Viper.  There’s also a little bit about printing and binding because I have found that kids really want to know how a book is actually made.  My books are geared toward K-4 and I prefer smaller groups.  After we do questions and answers, I also give a short drawing lesson.  I’ve been using basic shapes and have the kids follow me step by step. We draw Peggy and also do other animals or a scene.  All of them, even the youngest, have made beautiful, wonderful pictures which they are really excited about.  
SLH:  Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?
      LT:  This seems an unlikely turn of events.  But recently I was contacted by someone from The Guggenheim to work on a project with them!  I will be writing a narrative for children that will be performed at the end of the month for the museum’s Family Day.  It is part of the “still spotting” project, which finds different places in the city that inspire peace, quietness, “home”, transformation. This will be in Jackson Heights, Queens. http://stillspotting.guggenheim.org/about/
SLH:  Do you attend writer’s conferences?
      LT:  I have attended conferences.  I think they are valuable when you are starting out because they do provide a lot of information.  Sometimes there is a really great keynote speaker and that can be inspiring.
SLH:  What has been your best-selling book so far?  Which book’s sales (if any) did not do as well as expected?  Why do you think that might have been?  Have all your titles earned out?  Are they all still in print?  Have sales affected publishers’ willingness to do further projects in a good or bad way?
      LT:  My best-selling books so far have been the Two Silly Trolls books.  They were part of the HarperCollins I Can Read program, which is one of the best, most trusted and well-loved group of books ever.  So there is a built-in safety umbrella.  Both retail customers and educational outlets are going to buy books that are published by them.  That doesn’t happen with most books.
Lisa’s studio (nice, isn’t it?:))
      Most of my books have earned out and I’ve received royalties.  But ALL of my books should have sold better than they did and they are now out of print.  And that, of course, does affect publishers’ willingness to publish more.
SLH:  Where can we find you?

Website:           
Facebook:
Info on School Visits:
I’ve started giving art lessons to kids in my studio!  It’s been really fun!
Info on Art Lessons:
Also, I’ll be participating in the Hudson Children’s Book Festival on May 5th.  I would love to see everyone there!  It’s a great opportunity for people who love children’s books to come out and meet some of their favorite authors and illustrators.  Bring the kids!
Reader question:  how important is it to have a story?  Can you just entertain and make people think, or do you have to have a story to make a picture book?
LT:  A story is very important.  But I’m not sure what you mean by story.  Even a concept book about color, for example, is a story.  And I think it is tremendously important that a book be entertaining.  Reading is fun!  A silly book can also be thought provoking and that’s a challenge as a writer for children.
  
Just for fun quick questions:
Agented or not?  Not.
Traditionally or self-published?   Traditionally.
Hard copy or digital?   Hard Copy.
Apps or not?   Not.
Plotter or pantser?   Don’t even know what that means!
Laptop or desktop?   Desktop.
Mac or PC?   PC.
Day or night worker?   Day worker.
Coffee or tea?   Coffee!
Snack or not?   Not.
Salty or sweet?   Both.
Quiet or music?   Quiet for writing.  Music for drawing.
Cat or dog?   Dog.  (But I have 3 cats, too.)

Thanks for visiting everyone!  And now you have a chance to win a personalized signed copy of Lisa’s fun and popular book A Dark And Noisy Night!  (And I just want to say that I’m trying out Rafflecoptor for the very first time and pretty much just hoping it works!!! 🙂 – If you don’t’ see the Rafflecoptor widget, try hitting the comments button and see if it shows up!)


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Would You Read It Wednesday – The 32nd Pitch, And A Tour Update, And A Winner!!!

As of yesterday, it is officially spring!  For pretty much the first time I can remember (and please, no comments about senility) it actually feels like spring on March 21st.  We don’t have one of these cuties

but the lawn is greening, even up here on the mountain where we are usually two weeks behind the valley.  The lilac bush is unfurling tiny new leaves.  And my Brown Dog spent most of yesterday’s romp in a nearby pond looking for all the world like an otter 🙂

I realize it may not last.  It is only March, and this kind of weather usually doesn’t arrive until late April… or late May… !  But boy is it nice while it’s here!

Before we get to our Would You Read It pitch for today, we have a couple little items of business.

First, that rascally groundhog Phyllis is in Philadelphia with our friend Erik!  Please hop over and check out his post on Phyllis’s visit to the City of Brotherly Love HERE 🙂

If you didn’t get to see her visit to The Land of Living Skies, please check Beth’s post HERE.  (It’s not every day you get to see a groundhog in a Mountie’s hat, and you will love the deal she and Beth struck!)

Tomorrow (Thursday) we will get to hear all about her visit to Nice, France with Joanna, so be sure to check HERE!  As well as her visit with Penny in Abilene, TX (I think there’s going to be video footage in this one!) which you can see HERE!

Anyone who wants to browse or catch up, check out Phyllis’s World Tour Page on the tab above or click HERE.

I just have to say, I hope you all are having as much fun with Phyllis’s tour as I am.  When I came up with this wacky idea, I never dreamed that everyone would be so incredibly enthusiastic and creative and wonderful!  You have all done such an amazing job, and every time I think you can’t be any more awesome, you are!  So thank you to everyone who is hosting and posting Phyllis, and to everyone who is reading and commenting and lending their support in other ways.  This tour is only what it is because of you!

Now then, this seems like the perfect moment to announce the winner of Iza’s book.  I must say, there were some very entertaining poems in Monday’s comments!   Some of them were more entertaining then they were intended to be (Penny!) and we all had a good laugh 🙂

Everyone who submitted 4 rhyming lines about a bear by 5 PM EDT yesterday had their name fed to random.org.  And the winner of the brand new, hot off the presses, hard cover, signed copy of The Bear Went Over The Mountain, written and illustrated by the fabulous Iza Trapani is…………

TERI!!!  (Who has amazing luck with random.org – I believe she won a book giveaway last year too!)

Congratulations, Teri!  Lucky you 🙂  I hope you enjoy the book.  Please email me and let me know your address and how you’d like the book signed so I can pass the info along to Iza!

And now, the other moment you’ve all been waiting for, today’s pitch!

Today’s pitch comes to us from Rebecca, a talented young writer who loves her pony and her friends and who, at 14, is the youngest person to participate in Would You Read It so far.  She does not have a blog or a website (yet!:)) so you’ll just have to visit with her here.  Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Everett
Age/Genre:  YA Paranormal
The Pitch:  Ever since Bria Stone was a little girl, she has had nightmares about shadow-like monsters who claim they’re coming to get her. At age six, Bria had another dream, in which a man with glowing skin told her the monsters are real.  When Bria encounters this man – who claims his last name is Everett and that he has no first name – in real life after her nineteenth birthday party, she starts to wonder: if good dreams can come true, does that mean the bad ones can too?

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 Rebecca 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.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Rebecca is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
And I am really looking forward to hearing about what Phyllis got up to in France, and Texas!  Stay tuned…!

Meet Iza Trapani, Author/Illustrator – And A Giveaway!

Happy Monday Everyone!  I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

You know, I struggle a little with this blog schedule.  On the one hand, I don’t want to post more than three days a week.  On the other hand, I don’t want to cram so much into a post that you the one look at all that text and skip on to the next blog (I know – I haven’t quite mastered that one :)).  On the other hand, I don’t want to post twice in a day because that’s as bad as adding a day –  I know how busy everyone is, how many great blogs there are to read out there, and how limited your time is.  On the other hand (I believe we’re up to four hands now… so you see the struggle!) there’s is so much to share!!!  I had thought I could solve one problem by posting the monthly interviews on Saturday or Sunday, but I didn’t like that and neither, I think, did you.  We all need a break.  So I’m booting Oh Susanna this week and putting the interview in here.

And oh I have such a treat for you today!  Please join me in welcoming the incomparable Iza Trapani!

SLH:  When did you first become interested in writing and/or illustrating?  Was it something you always did, or something you came to later in life?
Author/Illustrator Iza Trapani
IT:  I have been an artist since I could hold a pencil in my hand (or lipstick for that matter; as a toddler, I used my mom‘s lipstick to paint a masterpiece on our wall.) I have also always enjoyed writing, especially poetry. In high school and college, while art was my main focus, I took as many creative writing courses as I could.
SLH:  Were you encouraged by family/teachers?
IT:  Yes, as long as I stayed away from the lipstick, my family encouraged me. They read and sang to me and instilled in me a lifelong love of art, language and music. Friends and teachers did as well, throughout my whole life. Their belief in me has always been and continues to be empowering.
SLH:  You are both an author and an illustrator.  Which comes first for you, the story or the art?
        
IT:  The story comes first, but I  envision the pictures as I write it. I want to be sure that the story suggests wonderful imagery and that scenes vary from page to page.
SLH:  Where/when/how do you get your ideas?
At the most inopportune times- in the middle of the night, in the shower, when I am driving…The idea for my first children‘s book, What am I? An Animal Guessing Game came to me  when I was on  a long mountain bike ride twenty-two years ago. When a turtle crosed the trail in front of me, I made up a little rhyming riddle about him. By the time I returned home an hour or so later, I had the book roughed out and some of the verses composed.  I  never really thought of myself as a writer until that point.  I had a portfolio packed with children‘s book art but not one story. And then one day (thank you turtle), I tapped into that part of my brain, and after that ideas kept pouring out.
SLH:  What has been the most challenging thing you have faced as an author/illustrator?
IT:  Maybe two things: The waiting- hearing back from editors and art directors, waiting for the book to be printed, waiting for reviews, waiting for royalty statements…The other challenge is  having my illustrations in progress (especially covers) reviewed by, not just the art director and editor, but the marketing team, the sales team, the editorial departments etc. I am very easy to work with and totally open to viable suggestions, but after a while it becomes art by committee.Have you ever heard the expression that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee?Well, it‘s something like that!
SLH:  What has been the most wonderful thing that has happened to you as an author/illustrator?
IT:  I can‘t put my finger on one thing. There have been so many exciting and gratifying moments. What warms my heart the most is the love and loyalty from my generous fan base – the parents, the early educators, the children, the supportive fellow authors, like you, Susanna. I have met so many wonderful people on this great journey!
SLH:  What has been your best selling book so far?
IT:  The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I am proud (and amazed) to say it has sold over a million copies  and is still going strong.
SLH:  Why do you think that might have been?
IT:  Timing might have had something to do with it. There weren‘t many retellings of nursery rhymes at the time (that I know of ) and so I found a niche in the market. The book became instantly popular with teachers, especially Pre-K to K. I had very positive feedback from early educators telling me how useful the book was in teaching young children to read – that the kids recognized the title so they were eager to look inside the book, that they already knew the first verse so that gave them confidence to learn the other verses. Plus the book could be sung for even easier learning.

SLH:  Were you surprised by one book’s success over another’s?
IT:  With over twenty years of practice, both my writing and illustration have improved, so it surprises me that my fifteenth book, Froggie Went A-Courtin’, which has some of my best artwork, is not doing anywhere near as well as my second book,  The Itsy Bitsy Spider.
SLH:  Have all your titles earned out?
IT:  Fifteen of the seventeen books that I haveboth written and illustrated have earned out. I have also illustrated four books for other authors and two of those have earned out.
SLH:  Are they all still in print?
IT:  All but one of my titles, a non-nursery rhyme book, My Jack are still in print. Of the four books I illustrated for other authors, only one, The Wedding by Eve Bunting, is still in print.  I have worked with small presses, who keep books in print longer than some of the big houses. My books have had a long run. I have been very lucky.

SLH:  Have sales affected publishers’ willingness to do further projects in a good or bad way?
IT:  The publishing world is in such a sea of change right now and publishers are wary and much more discriminating. It’s a very tough market right now- even for those of us with good track records.
SLH:  Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?

IT:  I have a new book coming out Apri11, 2012- The Bear Went Over the Mountain. As for works in progress, I have a few children’s stories brewing and am  also working on the last chapter of an adult(maybe YA) memoir.

SLH:  What advice do you have for authors/illustrators just starting out?

IT:  Spend A LOT of time reading and studying childrens books. Read adult books on writing and/or illustrating. Practice and work hard on your stories and art. Take classes, workshops, join a critique group. Look honestly at your work and polish it to the best of your ability before submitting. There is a wealth of information on the internet. Check out writing/illustrating blogs.  Join the SCBWI  (society for childrens book writers and illustrators)who offer great advice and opportunities for those hoping to become published.

SLH:  Where can we find you?
IT:  My website: www.izatrapani.com
Twitter: @IzaTrapani

And now the quick, fun questions for the end! 🙂

Agented or not? agented
Traditionally or self-published? traditionally
Hard copy or digital? hard copy
Apps or not? no
Left-handed or right?  I”m a rightie (hands only :-), though I have suspicions I was born leftie and my parents raised me to use my right hand. I lead with my left hand in so many things…Long answer!
Plotter or pantser? plonster
Laptop or desktop? laptop
Mac or PC? Mac
Day or night worker? day
Coffee or tea? Both
Snack or not? Snack
Salty or sweet? Yes!
Quiet or music? quiet when writing/music when illustrating
Cat or dog? One of each (although – SLH here – I’ve seen her dog and he’s more like a pony :))
Currently reading? Besides blogs? 🙂 Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Thank you so much for joining us, Iza!

And now, as if that very informative interview wasn’t enough, you all have a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of Iza’s brand new book which isn’t even officially out until April 1!!!  To qualify, leave a comment below in which (in addition to whatever else you might or might not say) you include 4 rhyming lines about a bear 🙂  Qualified comments will be loaded into random.org and one lucky winner will receive The Bear Went Over The Mountain before the rest of the world 🙂

Now, very quickly before we go:
1.  Look for Phyllis’s visit to Saskatchewan on Beth’s blog tomorrow (Tuesday, March 20) – it promises to be quite something!
2.  I will be featured on Children’s Literature Network’s new feature – Bookscope: The Story Behind The Story – with the story behind Not Yet, Rose tomorrow also! (link will be added when I have it!)
3.  Phyllis had an AMAZING visit to Missouri which you won’t want to miss (especially if you’re a CARS fan :)) so please visit Andi 🙂  And be sure to check in with Phyllis’s World Tour page for updates between blog posts here!

Thank you all for visiting with Iza!  Now write those 4 rhyming lines about a bear 🙂 – you could WIN!!!  (Oh, and please get your rhyming lines in by 5 PM EDT Tuesday March 20 – the winner will be announced Wednesday!)