Would You Read It Wednesday – The 44th Pitch

Well, we saw some great colleges in Boston (which should probably be known as the college capital of the world because seriously there are so many there that you cannot spit without hitting one.  And I’m not even a competitive long-distance spitter, just an average one :))

Somehow we and all the Boston drivers survived the adventure, but not because I was doing anything right.  I do not like one way streets.  I do not like traffic.  I really do not like roundabouts!  Who thought those up and why are they all over Massachusetts? They are terrifying!

And all the while my GPS was chirping cheerfully, “Proceed to highlighted route.  Go southeast on Cambridge Street.  In point one miles turn right, then turn left, then turn left,” while I thought things like if I knew how to get to the highlighted route, I wouldn’t need you! and how am I supposed to know which way is southeast? and we’re going in a circle!  City driving is all well in good in a city that makes sense, like New York, but otherwise forget it!  I was very happy to get back to normal roads.

not actually our bear but a look-alike

While we were gone, my daughter and the dogs had a run-in with our local bear (this has been like wild kingdom week!)  She was out running, and came around a bend in the road.  Brave Scouty sensed danger and charged ahead barking fiercely.  Jemma skittered anxiously behind Scout and gave a few half-hearted  woofs – as back-up she is very back-up and not much help but her heart is in the right place.  The bear turned and looked at them all, but then turned away again and continued down the edge of the road toward our house.  Being an intelligent lass, my daughter chose not to follow him.  She rounded up the dogs (who needed no encouragement!) and went back the way she’d come to her grandparents’ house where she got grandpa to give her and the dogs a ride home.  When they arrived, what should they see but the bear circling our house!  The dogs ricocheted around the inside of the car barking like mad, and the bear ran off into the woods and really, the drama!  The excitement!  And I missed the whole thing and had to hear about it on the phone later!

There is never a dull moment around here!

And speaking of excitement, Phyllis had what I’m pretty sure was her last world tour stop.  If you didn’t get to see it yet, please hop over to Robyn’s Place.  There are strawberries involved.  And a bikini.  And rodeo riding! 🙂

And as if that wasn’t excitement enough, it’s time for Would You Read It!  So grab your Something Chocolate (Au Bon Pain anyone?) and something to sip and see what you think about today’s pitch!

Today’s pitch comes to us from Rita.  Rita says, “I have always loved writing letters, plays, stories any thing really since the age of 9. I have 3 kids that have made me stop writing for awhile but now two of them are at university and the youngest is 15. I used to be a dog sitter, an airline hostess and a secretary but now I spend lots of time as storyteller (costumes and strange voices and all) and my most frustrating of jobs: a writer. I write in my basement and I love children, animals and travelling. Teaching children how to read is a parental necessity.”

You can visit her website HERE.

Here is her pitch:

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.

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 Rita improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in August, so you have time to polish 🙂 for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Rita is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am going to try very hard to catch up with everything I missed in the last two days! 🙂  Have a great day, everyone!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Way Home

Wow!  What a week it has been!

Joanna’s book Snow Games was published, as was Miranda’s book Fly With Kai.  Ruth has an agent – woo-hoo! – and I have joined twitter!

(OK.  So maybe that last part isn’t in quite the same category of awesomeness.  But it gave me a good excuse to mention how happy I am for my friends 🙂  Feel free to hop over and do the happy dance with them and buy their books but then please come back for PPBF! :))

(And please stay tuned for a few important announcements after the picture book, including the April Pitch Winner!)

Now, at first glance, this book might not seem to have anything to do with spring or Mother’s Day.  That is because it is about geese migrating in the fall.  But Canada Geese mate for life, which is kind of peripherally related to Mother’s Day, and although they fly south in the fall, they come back in the spring.  And although I usually like to tease you about the endings so you’ll read the book, I’m going to tell this one so you get it 🙂

The Way Home
Written & Illustrated By: Nan Parson Rossiter
Dutton Children’s Books, 1999
Suitable For: ages 5-9

Themes/Topics: animals, seasons, migration, helping others, kindness, responsibility

Opening: “It was late in the October afternoon when Samuel and his father finished the day’s chores at the farm and set out for a walk with Ben, their yellow Lab. The sun was already behind the hills, but they had just enough time to walk around the pond before it got dark.”

Brief Synopsis:  On their walk, Samuel finds an injured goose, and he and his father take her back to the farm, hoping she will heal.  But even if she does, will she be strong enough to make the long flight south for the winter?  And will she and her mate make it in time?

Links To Resources:  National Geographic Creature Feature: Canada Geese, Kidzone – Canada Geese, Kid Video – Canada Geese, Canada Goose Coloring Page.  This story is a nice opening to discussion about disposing of trash responsibly, caring for animals, and allowing wild animals to be free.

Why I Like This Book:  Although this isn’t a true story, it almost could be.  An animal injured because of human carelessness is helped back to health by a kind, responsible family.  But they don’t try to keep her. When she’s well, they let her go back to her wild life, even though they are sad to see her go and will miss her.  Although the book’s ending would most probably not happen in real life, it is a lovely ending that brings the story full circle for child readers and will leave them feeling happy and satisfied.  The geese return to the pond in the spring, and Ben finds them, complete with a brand new family of goslings (that’s the marginally Mother’s Day part :))  The art is painted in the warm reds and golds of autumn – very appealing.  And the longer text makes it a satisfying read for older children or children with a longer attention span.

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

And now, I am pleased to announce that the winner of the April Pitch Pick, whose pitch will be sent to editor Erin Molta for review and comment, is none other than the fabulous Rebecca with her pitch for Broomstick Rodeo!  Congratulations, Rebecca!  And congratulations and thank you to all our brave pitchers – I wish you could all win!

Before we all go off to read all the other PPBs and cruise on into the weekend, let me remind you that the Birthday Contest is just over a week away (which I hope means everyone is writing busily!)

Also!!!  Phyllis terrorized had a fabulous visit to Italy, and if you haven’t had a chance to see it, it’s a must read!  Hop on over to Renee’s at NoWaterRiver!  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Phyllis as Juliet 🙂

PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific links below.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms, grandmoms, step-moms, new moms, moms-to-be, like-moms, etc. out there.  These are for you 🙂

because you make the world a better place 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Camel Who Took A Walk, And The April PPBF Prize

Happy Friday, everyone!  Would anyone care for a donut?

Please!  Help yourselves!

For those of you who expressed concern, thank you, my sprained pancreas appears to be on the mend 🙂  But there will be no more interpretive dance for a while… 🙂

I’ve been trying to resist posting today’s Perfect Picture Book for a while because it is out of print.  But it is one of my all time favorite books ever, and since I got notification this week that one of my books is going out of print, I thought this would be a nice time to celebrate books that don’t always get as much recognition as one might hope.  This is a story my parents read to me, and that I read to my kids.  It was always a favorite in our house.  I hope you’ll be able to find a copy at your local library, or get a used one through some channel or other.  It’s really wonderful!

The Camel Who Took A Walk
Written By: Jack Tworkov
Illustrated By: Roger Duvoisin
Aladdin Books, 1951

Suitable For: ages 4-8

Themes/Topics: expectation/suspense, cause & effect/chain reaction, unexpected outcomes

Opening:  “The forest was dark and very quiet.
Not a creature was stirring.
Even the wind had stopped breathing.
Not a leaf was falling, not a blade of grass was moving.
And do you know why this was so?
Because
it was just the time between night and day,
when night was ending
and day was about to begin.”

Brief Synopsis:  A very beautiful camel goes for a walk in the forest.  Unbeknownst to her, a tiger waits hidden “by leaves, flowers, vines and grasses.  He was hidden also by the darkness.”  But the tiger is not the only one waiting and watching.  Each of the creatures hidden in the forest has its own secret plan.  What will happen to the very beautiful camel?

Links To Resources: Camel Coloring Pages, Tiger Coloring Pages, Monkey Coloring Pages, discuss cause and effect, read other books where one thing leads to another, like If You Give A Pig A Pancake or Stuck.

Why I Like This Book:  For starters, the language is lyrical.  Just read that opening aloud to yourself and hear the music of those words!  The whole book is like this – simply a delight to read aloud because of the rhythm of the language.  For writers, it’s a great example of how to do language really well.  The description is also beautiful, and not the kind of thing we find so much in PBs these days:
Night in the forest is very dark, and it creeps away slowly.”
Suddenly the first glimmer of light trembled in the sky.
Her nose smelled the early morning sweetness, and her eyes took in all the blue and pink colors of the sky.”
Isn’t is beautiful?  But aside from the exquisite language, I love the way the book builds tension.  The camel approaches the hidden tiger.  She comes closer… and closer… and you just have to wonder, how will she get out of this?  The ending is deliciously unexpected!

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

Also, as you know, I like to thank all the wonderful participants in PPBF for their hard work each month by randomly selecting a blogger to receive a prize!  The winner for April is and the prize is JOANNA!!!  (And lest there be any confusion, as there was with Beth Doozenfloofer, that’s Joanna Marple :))  Please email me, Joanna, and let me know which you would like for your prize: *rummaging in my bag of goodies…* let’s see… your choice of The Writer’s Guide To Crafting Stories For Children by Nancy Lamb, Chloe by Peter McCarty (which I will be posting on PPBF next week or the week after – it doesn’t come out until May 15 but it’s really good!), or a $15 gift certificate to Merritt Bookstore (my own beloved local indie :))

Phyllis is still traveling – I hope you’ve all had a chance to keep up!  There should be posts from North Carolina and Italy, and maybe another from St, Lucia coming up soon!

I also hope you’re all hard at work on your Birthday Contest entries!  I am mulling… and hoping I’ve come up with an idea for the sample… but it remains to be seen 🙂

For those of you interested in Would You Read It (or simply in learning how to write a good pitch) there was an excellent post on Cheryl’s blog: How To Pitch Your Book.  The post uses a novel as an example, but it can easily be applied to picture books.  If you follow the basics rules, it will help you come up with a beautiful 3 sentence pitch.  Just right!

And as for NaPiBoWriWee, I’m happy to report that I’m technically ahead of schedule since as of this writing (on Thursday evening) I have already completed 4 PBs (which means I’m up-to-date until bedtime Saturday when I should have a fifth… which heaven knows how I will get written Saturday… Sunday either… hmm… maybe I’d better stay up a little longer!)  But RIGHT THIS SECOND, I’m ahead of the curve!

Now off you go to hop around the blogosphere and see all the Perfect Picture Books posted today.  PPB bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below.

Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious weekend everyone!  (I’m allowed to say that because Beth has dubbed me Susanna Poppins! :))

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 38th Pitch

In case you haven’t had your coffee yet, it’s Wednesday May 2, which means, in addition to being a Would You Read It day, it is Day 2 of NaPiBoWriWee.

Day 1 did not go well for me.

I have decided NaPiBoWriWee looks like this:

And apparently one of us got up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday!

Picture this:

Morning on Blueberry Hill.  A gentle rain is falling.  The lilac buds are trembling on the edge of blossoming.  The baby finches are a jumble of feathers crowded in the nest under the front entry way, getting close to trying their wings.  And I am poised to embark on my NaPiBoWriWee journey.

(Hey!  I hear you snickering!  What.  You think me and poised in the same sentence is oxymoronic?  Well, OK.  I’ll give you that 🙂  But anyway, to continue my riveting tale…)

I sit down before my faithful computer, steaming cup of coffee beside me, and place my fingers on the keyboard.

*imagine music swelling in the background*

*…swelling some more…*

*… and a little more…*

Nothing.

I take my fingers off the keyboard and sip my coffee.

OK.  I can do this.

*more music*

Once upon a time, I type.

Another sip of coffee.

Delete delete delete delete delete…..

Herbert was not like the other hedgehogs, I type.

Wait a minute.

That sounds a little too familiar 🙂

Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete…..

Herbert wanted a dog, I type.

Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete…

Herbert had a problem, I type.

Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete…

I reach for my coffee.  It’s cold.

As I get up to microwave it back to an acceptable temperature, I notice a dust puppy under the edge of the cabinet.  Hmmm… I think.  Maybe I should vacuum.

It is a bad sign when housecleaning starts to sound like a good way to spend time!

Perhaps some interpretive dance would waken the muse…

Oof!  Ouch!  I think I sprained my pancreas!

Thank goodness you didn’t see that.

OK.  Scratch the interpretive dance.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the agonizing details, but I ended up with 4 starts, three of them maybe with potential and 1 of them almost definitely hopeless, but no finishes.  Day 2 and I’m already playing catch-up.

Arrgghh!

But never fear.  It’s a new day! 🙂

On a much more inspiring note, however, Phyllis is in St. Lucia!!!  Hop on over and check it out!  She also had a brief visit to Rosalind’s in Leicester, England, in case you didn’t get to see that yet.  She also visited Margaret in California.  And if you want to see the cutest thing EVER you must check out Phyllis at Pam’s Preschool Prom!

And now, even better, let’s get down to Would You Read It!

Today’s pitch comes to us from the lovely Darshana.  Her special talents by day are solving engineering problems, creating activities for her kids, and concocting ways to spend time with her husband. By night she reads and writes picture books, so one day she can realize her dream of becoming a published author. Check out her book reviews at Flowering Minds, and keep up to date on the latest in the kidlit world by “Liking” her onFaceBook.

Here is her pitch:

Title: Jay’s Big Day
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
Pitch: Jay’s super-sniffer dashes his dreams of becoming a Police Bird, but his special talent opens up another heroic opportunity.


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 Darshana improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in early July – not that far away! – so go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Darshana is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And I am off to do better on my mss today.  Look out, NaPiBoWriWee!

Oh Susanna – How To Explain Your Vision Of Marketing Strategy To A Publisher That Requests It?

Wow!  That was such a long title I feel like I’ve already written the post! 🙂

How is everyone this morning?  Feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?  I will readily confess to “bright-eyed”, but I’m not sure I’m up for discussing the rest of that question at this hour on a Monday morning 🙂  (Who thought up that question anyway?  I have a feeling it was a member of the marmot family…

… not that I’m mentioning any names…. :))

So anyway, being as how it’s Monday, which means the first day of May is on a Tuesday when I don’t post, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you all, so that you’ll have plenty of time to work on it, that we’re having a contest this month!!!  I’m so excited, because we haven’t had a contest since the Valentines one which was AGES ago and I miss them! 🙂  I do so hope someone will want to enter! 🙂

The contest is to write a children’s story about a very creative and/or unique birthday celebration in 300 words or less.  Poetry or prose, your choice.

Entries must be posted on your blog (or in the comment section of my contest blog post on May 19 if you don’t have a blog) between Saturday May 19 and 11:59 PM EDT Tuesday May 22.  Add your entry-specific link to the list that will go up with my special post that Saturday.  I will not post on Monday May 21 so the list will stay up.)  I’m still picking out prizes, but there will be prizes and they will be good and they will include things like a 3 pack of Perfect Picture Books, a duo of craft books, and/or a PB MS Critique by Yours Truly, or maybe something else awesome that I haven’t thought of yet… 🙂  (You are invited to suggest prizes if there’s something your little hearts especially desire :))  If there are fewer than 20 entries there will be one prize.  If there are more than 20 entries there will be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes!)  Finalists will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and will be posted for you to vote on Monday May 28.  (I’m trying not to skip Would You Read It or Perfect Picture Books or overload you with extra posts, hence the wait til Monday the 28th, which I realize is Memorial Day so the voting will stay up throughout Tuesday!)
I hope we’ll have lots of enthusiastic participants!  Remember, 12 X 12ers, this can do double duty as your May MS! 🙂
I would also like to take this opportunity to announce that I’m planning on taking a stab at NaPiBoWriWee this week… anyone else a glutton for punishment feeling motivated?
Also, Phyllis had an awesome Visit to Seattle where she made friends with A-Wall (gorgeous!) and saw the Space Needle 🙂  Please hop on over to Saba’s and read all about it!  And, if all goes according to plan, there will be a post up tomorrow (Tuesday May 1) about Phyllis’s Visit to Rosalind in England! (But it’s not there yet because she’s finishing A To Z!)
Now then!  Onto today’s Oh Susanna question, which comes to us from the lovely Jen:
“Submission guidelines to Sylvan Dell Publishing request that you include an explanation for how you envision the marketing of your book.  Besides stating that your marketing strategy would consist of book signings, blog tours, using various social media, and press releases, how else would you state on a query letter how you would envision the marketing of your book? Also, I’m not sure how to go about targeting an audience for my “platform” part of marketing my book. Any suggestions?”
Well, Jen, as to the first part of your question, I think you’ve covered most of what they would be looking for.  Certainly you would want to mention book signings, blog tours, social media, and press releases.
I would also mention school and library visits if you plan to do those.
But I think they’re looking for you to go a little further than that.  The publishing world is in a state of flux these days.  No one is anxious to take too much of a risk.  If possible, they’d like to know who exactly you think is going to buy your book – in other words, where you think the market is.
Identify the themes/topics/subjects of your story and present them in terms of market.
Is your story about a new baby?  Then it will appeal to parents who are expecting a second or subsequent child, be useful to preschool teachers, and make a great gift for relatives and friends to give to new big siblings.
Is your story about a very hungry caterpillar?  Then it will be useful in preschool and early elementary curriculum units on science, insects, metamorphosis, nutrition, and basic concepts like color and food types.
Is your story about a child in a non-traditional family?  Then it will be valuable to non-traditional families where children will be helped by knowing they aren’t alone, useful in curriculum units on family or acceptance/tolerance/difference, and helpful to traditional families who want to expand their children’s understanding of what makes a family.
Think about who your book would appeal to AND think specifically about the types of books this publisher tends to publish and where they market other books on their list.  Are they a big publisher with traditional marketing, or are they a smaller publisher who might only publish books about Maine (like Down East) or who might sell their books in zoo or museum gift shops, or other types of niches?  Make sure you’re directing your helpful marketing ideas in the right area.  A niche publisher might be thrilled to know that your book will appeal to everyone who has ever spent time on Monhegan Island, but a big six publisher isn’t going to want that book unless the setting is more incidental to a story with a much broader theme and appeal, in which case you would emphasize the broader theme rather than the niche setting… if that makes sense.
As to the second part of your question, about targeting an audience for your platform, that is something I think a lot of writers struggle with.
Writers tend to gravitate toward other writers.  If you’re a writer who writes a blog, chances are high that the vast majority of your followers are other writers, and a significant portion of the blogs you follow are also writing blogs.  Many of these people may also be parents or teachers or librarians or grandparents or others who have children in their lives for whom they buy books, but they may just as easily be people who don’t have kids yet, or whose kids have grown past the picture book age, or who aren’t around kids much.  I think it’s hard, as a writer, to get a huge following of your target audience in this instance which is, bluntly put, consumers.
The easier answer is for people who write non-fiction.  In that case, you always have a topic.  You are something of an expert on that topic (because hopefully you did your research well :)) so people may seek you out and you can also look for blogs and groups who are interested in that topic and get to know people there so you can eventually spread word of your book about butterflies, Martin Luther King Jr., saving wetlands, or whatever you happen to be writing about.
But for those of us who write children’s fiction, it’s much harder.  Our target audience is two-fold: the kids we write for who, unless we write upper middle grade or YA, are most likely not online, and the parents/teachers/librarians who buy books for them and read to them and who may or may not have much time in their busy days to be online.
It is great to connect with teachers and librarians who blog, as well as with mommy bloggers out there, but it is hard to do and it takes a lot of time – time to research which blogs might fit with your personality/style/books, time to forge relationships with those blogs, and time to see if and when a review of your book might fit into those blogs’ schedules.  And it can be hard to find that kind of time and still have time to write.  It’s a work in progress for most of us, I think.
I hope that answers your questions, Jen!  If you have any follow-up questions, please ask below.  As always, I would be thrilled if readers with experience in these areas would chime in with their thoughts – please comment!  It takes a village 🙂 and that’s one of the nicest things about the writing community – we are a village! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 37th Pitch… And A Challenge!… With A Prize :)

YIKES!

I moseyed on over to my blog to write today’s post and everything looks totally different and unfamiliar!  We’re not in Kansas anymore!

What happened to blogger?

I guess this is that new format they’ve been threatening and I’ve been avoiding.

Well.

Let’s just hope this post goes up the way it’s supposed to!

Harrumph!

First things first.  Your friend and mine, Phyllis, cutest and fuzziest of all groundhogs, is still on tour.  Wonderful, amazing, awesome people are still hosting her and putting up terrific posts about her visits.  So if you have a second, please hop over and see what kind of high jinx and shenanigans she got up to with Saba in Washington!

Next, I’d like to throw out a challenge to all of you – and this is for everyone because you don’t have to be a writer to do this.  In fact, some of you teachers might be really good at this!

It has come to my attention that I’m very bad at distilling picture books (or any other books for that matter) down to the nitty-gritty of their themes.  So for anyone who would like to take pity on me (and I’m guessing there are a fair number of others out there who could benefit from this as well :)) please be so kind as to give the title of a well-known picture book in the comments today along with a few words or a sentence that crystalize the theme of the book.  You may also do the plot if you want, but it’s really the theme I’m interested in.

So, for example, what the flinging’-flangin’ heck is the theme of Fancy Nancy?  Pinkalicious?  I Want My Hat Back?  I mean something like “love conquers all” or “if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying”… that kind of thing.  Gosh.  They sound like proverbs.  Is that how this works?  You can see I need help 🙂  So PLEASE help!  For every book you put with a theme in the comments below today or tomorrow, I will put one entry into random.org and then on Friday, during Perfect Picture Books, I will give one lucky winner a copy of the brand new and fabulous Puzzled By Pink (of which I also can’t state the theme) by Sarah Frances Hardy!!!

See how this works?  My desperation equals a great exercise for you and the possibility of an awesome book! 🙂  Nice, no?

Third, by popular demand, we will be doing one (or possibly a couple) of Q&A posts with editor Erin Molta, so if you have questions for her, please get them to me ASAP, either in the comments or by using that handy Email Me button over there on the right 🙂

Now then.  Time to get down to business.  Would You Read It business, that is.  Today’s pitch comes to us from Anna who has a background in teaching and strives to entertain and teach children about different cultures in her writing.  (I believe this book has been self-published, but Anna is still hoping to strengthen her pitch for marketing purposes.)

Ready?

Working Title:  A Bug Who Needs A Hug
Age/Genre: Picture Books (ages 2-7)
The Pitch:  A Bug Who Needs A Hug is about a fuzzy little bug that goes out into the forest looking for someone to hug. The vivid and colorful illustrations in the book emphasize the importance of friendship and leave a positive message for children at the end of the story.

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 Anna improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in early July – not that far away! – so go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Anna is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
And I am looking forward to your succinct statements of picture book themes and your questions for Erin!
Have a happy Wednesday everyone! 🙂
Wait!  Stop the presses!  I forgot to say that if anyone hasn’t had a chance to read Monday’s interview with Lisa Thiesing and enter the awesome book giveaway, there is still time!  Hop on over!

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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Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Bear Went Over The Mountain

Today I am thrilled to be showcasing a truly perfect picture book by one of my favorite author/illustrators!  It’s brand new, and if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, rush right out because it’s wonderful and you’re going to love it 🙂

The Bear Went Over The Mountain
Written & Illustrated By:  Iza Trapani
Sky Pony Press, April 2012, Fiction

Suitable For:  ages 3-7

Themes/Topics: Animals, Language Fun, Nature, Seasons, 5 Senses

Opening:  “The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain
To see what he could see.
He saw a dragonfly,
A bluebird flitting by,
Three fuzzy rabbits skipping,
Five happy ducklings dipping…”

Brief Synopsis:  The bear goes over the mountain to see what he can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, and he gets a few surprises while he’s at it! 🙂

Links To Resources:  Classroom Activities, Coloring Page, Maze, Connect-The-Dots, Word Search, Bookmarks.

Why I Like This Book:  This book, like all of Iza Trapani’s books, has impeccable, fun-to-read/sing aloud rhyme, a delightful child-friendly story, and gorgeous art that makes you want to crawl right into the pages and live there 🙂  The bear goes over the mountain and experiences nature through all five of his senses, some in rather unexpected ways.  Children will learn the song quickly because it’s a familiar tune, and they will delight in singing along to the bear’s adventures.  Perfect for bedtime, story time, preschoolers learning about the 5 senses, rides in the car – another winner from Iza!

Iza was kind enough to visit us here recently, and if you didn’t get to see her interview you can read it HERE.

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

Now, before we all rush off to read the other PPBs and enjoy our weekends, I have two three other things to tell you:

First, in case you haven’t had a chance to check it out, Phyllis visited Clar in Virginia, and Melissa in Australia.  She is currently flying home from England (I wonder if she’ll have an accent :)) and arrived in South Korea yesterday which was tomorrow over there at the time 🙂  She should be arriving at Saba’s in Washington today.  And this just in, she has been to see Alison in Georgia!

Second, by overwhelmingly popular demand, editor Erin Molta’s visit to our little corner of the blogosphere will be a Q&A, possibly divided into more than one post, so please check the comments from Wednesday’s post to see the questions currently on the table, and add any additional questions here when you think of them (or email me :))  There is not yet a set date for this extravaganza, but you can be sure I’ll let you know! 🙂

Finally, on Monday we will have a visit from the fabulous author/illustrator Lisa Thiesing!  Because I know people in high places (that would be me) I have already read her interview, and I can assure you it is really good!!!  So I hope you’ll all flock over here first thing Monday morning and show her some much-deserved love! 🙂

Now then.  PPB bloggers, please add your post-specific link below, and everyone have a super-fantastic fun-filled weekend!!!

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 36th Pitch… And Some Fun Stuff For You!

Boy do I have an awesome surprise for you today!  Are you ready?  Can you stand the excitement?

I will tell you in one second, but please promise that, even if you’re reeling with excitement, you’ll remain calm and focused enough to read and comment on today’s pitch! 🙂

Do you promise?

Cross your heart?

Okay.

Ready?

Really?

Are you sure?

Alrighty then…

I’m happy to announce that we have a great opportunity.  Editor Erin Molta (of Pitch Pick Critique fame :)) is going to visit my blog!!!  AND she is willing to do whatever would be most helpful to YOU!

So please tell me in the comments what you would most like Erin to talk about:  common mistakes editors see from writers? what editors look for in a PB ms?  how to tell if your book is a novelty book or a picture book? 10 best tips for writers from an editor?  what kinds of stories or non-fiction are needed?  a Q&A where you could submit questions ahead and Erin can answer….?  Use your fertile imaginations! 🙂  Sky’s the limit – you guys tell us what you want to know about.  And I’d love to have it be something that hasn’t been done before!  What do other posts/articles leave you still wondering about?

This is your chance to get questions answered by a real industry professional, so grab it by the horns (or something like that :))

Now.  Wasn’t that an awesome surprise? 🙂

I’m also happy to report that Phyllis is back on the trail.  There are fabulous blog posts up from Clar and Melissa, with others coming soon from Alison, Renee, and Denise.  Tina, Saba,  Margaret, and Robyn will be receiving her soon, and Rosalind in the UK has a post scheduled for May 1!  So don’t abandon our furry little friend yet! 🙂

Now, on to Would You Read It!

Today’s Would You Read It pitch comes to us from the amazing and wonderful Kirsten over at Creating Curious Kids.  Kirsten is a former NASA PR princess, current college instructor, and mom to two curious boys.  When she’s not breaking up wrestling matches she reads, writes, and runs (so she can keep up with the kiddos!)  Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Out Of This World Opposites
Age/Genre: Non-Fiction PB for ages 5+
The Pitch:  Space is a place of opposites. Burning stars and icy comets. Roaring rockets and silent stillness. An ancient universe and newborn planets. Everyday scientists discover something old, new, near, far, wet, dry, dark or light as they learn more about the cosmos. Come along and explore our amazing universe.

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 Kirsten improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in early June – not that far away! – so go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Kirsten is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
And I am looking forward to hearing what you’d like to hear from Erin!  Happy Wednesday everyone 🙂

Straight From The Editor! #7 and Oh Susanna – Board Book Length? and Resubmission To Publishers?

Greetings from the old folks’ home where some of us are a year older than we were last week 🙂

(That makes us 27 if anyone is counting… :))

My truly heartfelt thanks to all of you who took time out of your weekend to send me birthday wishes and read Eric’s Happy Birthday Author post – you are all the BEST and I feel so lucky and grateful to be part of such a wonderful group of people!  Thank you, thank you, so very much!!!

Now (lest I become overly sentimental :)) we’d best move right ahead to Straight From The Editor!

You will recall Miranda’s winning pitch:

Working Title:  Reef Stew
Age/Genre:  Rhyming Picture Book ages 4-8
The Pitch:  When a shipwreck destroys their reef, the shellfish grow selfish and every creature’s a crab.  Can Whale stir up happiness with a single piece of stony coral?  Filled with slurps, burps, and spicy sargassum, this quirky version of a classic tale will send ripples of laughter through any school of young guppies.

Here is editor Erin Molta’s comment:

I actually don’t have anything to say about this except for one thing: What you have written is lyrical and inviting and gets the point across, but if you’re pitching a rhyming picture book then it would be great to show some rhyme  — something to give an editor an idea of how you rhyme. Rhyming is not looked upon favorably, so either don’t tell them it’s rhyming because that might turn them off unnecessarily or show them example of how you rhyme.

Pretty interesting, don’t you think?  Looks like y’all picked the right winner 🙂 and I thought Erin’s comment about the rhyme was intriguing.  I hope we all learned something!

Moving right along, let’s jump on into Oh Susanna.  Today I’m actually going to answer two questions because they’re pretty short.

First, Laura asked, “In regard to Children’s Board Books –  Is there a magical number of pages required?  A minimum or maximum number (i.e. 32 pages for picture books)?” 

My answer to this question is that it depends on the publishing house/line you are writing for.  Board books have fewer spreads than picture books, as a general rule – they will not be 32 pages.  But I have seen them anywhere from 6 or 8 pages up to about 20.  So go to your local library or bookstore and look at a selection of board books.  Count the spreads/pages and make yourself a chart – for example, Little Simon’s board books tend to be about 8 spreads/16 pages.  This will help you on two levels: one, you will end up with a list of publishers who publish board books (many of them do not so it’s important to know who does), and two, you will have a good idea of the length each publisher/imprint leans toward so you can appropriately target your manuscript.

Second, Kirsten asked, “Can you ever approach a publisher more than once with the same piece. For example, if Publisher A rejects the piece, can you resubmit the same piece to Publisher A after you’ve made substantial rewrites and a substantial period of time has elapsed? Or is it “one strike and you’re out” for each manuscript?

Hmmm…. this is a bit tricky.  I would say “one strike you’re out” as a general rule.  If you’ve submitted and your manuscript has been read and passed on (that’s the euphemism for rejected :)), your work there (with that particular MS) is done and it’s time to move on to another publisher.

The exceptions to this rule would be:

1.  You submitted to Editor A at Publishing House A.  After some time and substantial rewrites that make your MS much stronger, Editor A leaves Publishing House A and is replaced by new Editor B who has never seen your MS.  If you still feel Publishing House A is a great fit for your book, you could try Editor B.  (This is not the same as resubmitting your MS to another editor in the same house.  Presumably you selected Editor A because s/he was involved with the imprint most suited to your work, so you wouldn’t resubmit to editors of other less well-suited imprints of the house just to get another editor’s eyes on your MS.  For example, you submit to the editor at Little Simon.  If she turns you down you wouldn’t turn around and resubmit to another editor at Little Simon or to an editor at Beach Lane (another S&S children’s imprint.))

2.  When you submitted to Publishing House A, they rejected your MS but indicated interest, saying they would like to see it again if you change X, Y, and Z.  In that case you could make changes and resubmit as soon as you comfortably could.

That is what I think, Kirsten, but I would be very interested to hear what some of you other experienced writers think about this subject, so please share your wisdom with all of us in the comments!

Kirsten or Laura, if you have follow up questions or anything I said wasn’t clear, please pursue it in the comments!!

Finally, in Phyllis Tour Update News, I’d like to point you all toward Kathy’s brand new blog where Phyllis visited Vermont, and Julie’s blog which posts about Phyllis’s visit to Colorado!  Please stop by when you have a second and share the love 🙂

Also, Phyllis took the liberty of posting a picture of her Kiwi Bird friend on Face Book (he arrived on Blueberry Hill all the way from New Zealand courtesy of Diane!) and Donna, being an alert sort even at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning, immediately suggested we have a contest to decide on a name for the bird.  You all know how I can’t resist a contest, so later today (or at some point when I get around to it) when I have had my coffee and we are all feeling as alert as Donna, I will post the contest on Phyllis’s FB page and everyone can put in their 2 cents 🙂  You may put your two cents here in the comments as to what you’d like the prize for the winner to be!

Now, I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something (you see, this is what happens when advanced age sets in :)) but since I can’t think what it is, off you all go to enjoy your Mondays.  Have a lovely day! 🙂