Perfect Picture Book Friday – Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars PLUS Author Q&A, Special Activities, AND A Giveaway!

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for you!

I’m going to share the book first, so you can see what we’re talking about, and then I have a little Q&A with the author that I think writers, teachers, parents, and all readers will find very interesting as well as some activities that she prepared especially for us to do with our children and students! So please see below in the “Links to Resources” section for all that bonus material! (It includes a recipe for Disappearing Crunch Cookies and I know you won’t want to miss that! 😊)

As if all that weren’t enough, the publisher, Albert Whitman, is offering a copy! So if you leave a comment on this post between now and Thursday April 8, you will be eligible for the random drawing that could make you a winner!

Title: Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars

Written By: Jodie Parachini

Illustrated By: Alexandra Badiu

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2021, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: biography, astrophysics, astronomy, girl power

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Opening: “Does the galaxy have a sound?

Is it loud and full of thunderous booms?
Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?
Blips and bloops, like laughter and hiccups?

Silent?

When Jocelyn Bell was young,
she never dreamed that she would spend
her life listening to the stars.

But sometimes, if you open your mind,
you can hear the universe.”

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Brief Synopsis: A biography of astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who helped build a radio telescope that contributed to her discovery of pulsars, which some scientists consider to be the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century.

Links To Resources: the back of the book includes a glossary and an author’s note; and I have a special treat for you – some activities from author Jodie Parachini!

Welcome, Jodie! Thank you for joining us!

What drew you to this subject?

The first question people ask when I tell them I wrote a book about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is

“who’s that?”

When I explain that she’s an astrophysicist who discovered an astronomical marvel called pulsars, they ask,

“Why haven’t I heard of her?”

Exactly. Then when I mention that she wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize for it (it went to her male colleagues), they stare in wonder and say,

“Haven’t I heard this story before?”

Yes, sadly. Women such as Rosalind Franklin (who worked on the structure of DNA with Watson and Crick), Chien-Shiung Wu (who worked on the Manhattan Project), and Lise Meitner (who helped discover nuclear fission), were rarely acknowledged for the incredible contributions they made to science. But one of the reasons I love writing picture books is to get these stories out there. Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s story, like those of so many women who work in the STEM fields, should be read, discussed, treasured, and celebrated.

Which do you prefer writing, fiction or nonfiction?

Great question! But I can’t answer it—it’s like choosing which child is my favorite.

I’m drawn to telling stories and I tend to pounce on whatever idea strikes me at the moment. Which means I usually have a few picture book ideas in progress at once. Sometimes I can’t get a rhyme out of my head and other times I hear a story on the news and think I MUST research it further. I let my haphazard brain lead the way!

The nonfiction appeals to my inquisitive and curious nature, the fiction to my creative side. I’m sure there’s a right brain/left brain comment that could be made about this! Hmmm, Righty wants to go to the Library while Lefty wants to pick daisies… I sense a new picture book idea percolating!

I have four more nonfiction and three fiction books coming out in the next two years, so luckily I don’t have to choose between Righty and Lefty!

Do you have any advice for other writers on getting published?

I do not have a traditional publishing story. Like many writers, I spent years getting rejections (I still do). I’ve never had an agent (ahem, see what I mean about rejections?) but I’ve been persistent about following up every opportunity possible when it comes to my manuscripts. Sometimes that means:

1. Pursuing every lead with editors or publishers you meet (for example, I met an art director at a conference. He didn’t think the first story I pitched was right for his publishing house, but I followed up with another in an email, and that one will be published in 2022. I could have just licked my wounds and retreated after the first rejection but sometimes perseverance is key.)

2. Believe in your work, but be flexible enough to alter it. Editors often know the market better than writers. Sometimes it takes (what feels like) hundreds of rewrites to get to the final product. Why start out with a fixed, single-minded vision when collaboration (with awesome editors and amazing illustrators!) is so much fun!?

3. Most writers jump into querying agents/publishers too quickly. The dream of being published is powerful, but I have found that taking classes or joining writing groups and listening to the advice of teachers and peers when it comes to how to improve my work is invaluable. Learn to tell the difference between a first draft and a polished draft by getting the manuscript in front of readers. Their opinions or critiques can open up a whole world of ideas, and, eventually, make you a better writer.

Thanks for listening, kidlit folks, and I wish all of you success of your own writing journeys!

And now for the activities!!!

I have two artsy-fartsy (my mom’s term) crafts for today—the first is a spinning star…perfect to represent the pulsars that Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered (pulsars are neutron stars that spin and send off radiation, but luckily these ones are just made out of paper). I have to admit, origami and I have never gotten along. I’m more of a modernist, throw-paint-at-the-canvas type of artist so I find folding paper in a structured, precise way quite difficult. That’s why I added the second paper star video, which is much easier and although it’s supposedly a Christmas star, I see no reason why it can’t be made for Easter too! Just grab some pastel paper, scissors, and glue!

Origami Spinning Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq9_tNCGnSA

Here’s the easier “Easter” Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NqFYzHDQyg

Double plus, I have to leave you with an amazing recipe for Disappearing Crunch Bars. (So named because as soon as you make them, they disappear completely. Trust me.)

Only 4 Ingredients:

Saltines (a column or two)
Butter (2 sticks)
Light Brown Sugar (1 cup)
Chocolate chips (12 oz semi-sweet, milk/dark/white, whatever you like)

Method:

Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking pan with foil. Place 1 layer of saltines on the foil. Boil the butter and sugar for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, then pour the caramelly mixture directly over the saltines and use a baking brush to cover the saltines in the caramel. Place in oven for 7 minutes, then remove and immediately pour the chocolate chips over the pan. Spread the chocolate with a brush as it melts, to coat. Cool in the fridge or preferably freezer. Peel from the foil and break into bite size (or larger J ) bits and keep in the freezer. YUM.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, JODIE!!!

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about interesting people I previously knew nothing about! Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been a groundbreaker in astrophysics as well as a voice for gender equality in science. When I read about how what should have been her Nobel Prize (at least partly if not completely!) went to two male colleagues I was incensed on her behalf! Jocelyn’s dedication to her research is amazing. She worked her way through 3 miles of paper printout from the radio telescope to discover patterns that would lead her to neutron stars and pulsars. At age 77 she is still contributing to the field of astrophysics and leading the way for girls and women to achieve their scientific goals. She has truly been a pioneer. An inspirational read for all young readers!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Go out and look at the stars! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Moni Ritchie Hadley!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

Today I am thrilled to introduce debut author Moni Ritchie Hadley and show off her gorgeous book about the Japanese Star Festival which releases Thursday (April 1st) (no fooling 😊). Just look at that cover!

Title, THE STAR FESTIVAL
Author Moni Ritchie Hadley
Illustrator Mizuho Fujisawa
Publishing House – Albert Whitman & Co.
Date of Publication 4-1-21
Fiction, age range 4-7

When Keiko, Mama, and Oba attend the Japanese Festival of Tanabata Matsuri, Keiko saves the day by reliving the events of the folktale it celebrates.


SUSANNA: Welcome, Moni! Thank you so much for joining us today. We are looking forward to hearing all about how The Star Festival was born. Where did the idea for this book come from?

MONI: THE STAR FESTIVAL began as a multigenerational concept book about the similarities between caring for toddlers and caring for my mom. It remained in that state for a few months. Letting go of that first idea took some time. Eventually, I changed the perspective and the setting to the Japanese Tanabata Festival (The Star Festival). I celebrated many festivals in Japan as a child, but it wasn’t until I wrote this story that I discovered the origins and distinctions between each celebration. The research opened up a whole new world of ideas, and that is when the story blossomed.

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

MONI: The initial draft to submission took about five months, but I continued to revise until the signing of the contract, which put it at nine months. I edited for another month after the signing.

Moni’s (extremely tidy!) writing area (Although she also has workstations in the dining room, bedroom, and outside! A girl needs choices, right? 😊)


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions? 

MONI: Yes! It amazes me that other writers can count them. I’m continually fiddling and reworking manuscripts, and I forget to create new documents. So, I’ll give a ballpark figure, 20-30, including rewrites with the editor.  

For a long while, I couldn’t let go of what I wanted the story to be. When I allowed it the freedom to go where it needed to go, the story turned a corner. The bond between the main character and her grandmother, remained, but the details changed completely. 

One technique that I used was to put the story on a plot hill diagram on my wall. I assigned three stickies to each scene, one color for the setting, another color for the plot, and another for the emotion. I then went through and asked myself questions about the stakes and reactions of my character. This visual strategy was very effective. Sometimes when I’m stuck in the mucky middle, I cut apart my story and tape it sideways to my wall, and like magic, I see the areas that aren’t working. Changing the perspective and moving the pieces around helped me see the story’s flow more clearly. I’ve recently started to create dummies for some of my stories. Putting my ideas into a visual format, no matter how rough the drawings are, helps me address issues. Another strategy that works for me is to deformat the text. I find that I play more with structure when I do this. I hesitate to change blocks of text if I leave it in its original structure.

Moni’s writing buddies: Dogs in order – Patti, Rusy, Smiley; Cat – Numnums

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

MONI: There was an energy I felt when I finally grasped the story, I was meant to tell. I banged it out in the last couple of weeks of the class I was taking. The deadline really motivated me to get it submission-ready. And all my critique partners rallied and helped me get it into shape.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MONI: In the fall of 2019, I took an online class with Mira Reisberg at the Children’s Book Academy, The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books. In the end, I was able to submit a pitch for the participating editors and agents. Editor, Christina Pulles, liked my pitch and invited me to submit the manuscript.

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

MONI: I didn’t get a call!😆 My email submission was answered with a request for changes, which I agreed to. The editor liked the changes, and it quickly escalated from there, all through email! It was a month from the time I submitted to the time I heard back from the editor, late November to late December, around the holidays. We passed the manuscript back and forth for about another month. From there, I continued to make changes with the editor. It was intense, but it was a pleasure working with Christina. She had a gentle communication style and always considered my opinion and what was best for the book.

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

MONI: I had read that authors rarely get to see the sketches in progress. So it came as a surprise that Christina involved me at every major step. She sent me initial sketches and near-finished art for review. Since she asked, I gave honest opinions. 

She considered everything I said and then let me know which changes she agreed with and which she didn’t. It was nice to know that she valued my opinion. And if she felt strongly about something, I trusted her.

I was fortunate to be paired with illustrator Mizuho Fujisawa. She is Japanese as well and gave such nuanced details to every spread. I was blown away when I saw the cover for the first time. The colors on the cover were bold and vibrant. She brought the setting and character to life. Mizuho exceeded my expectations, and the illustration process proceeded very quickly. 

Up until writing this story, I rarely used art notes. Some editors do not like them. But for this manuscript, I decided to include them. Japanese words and customs needed notes, and I wanted my story to be understood in the way that I intended. Here some examples of notes that I thought were necessary and would make the reading clearer.

Keiko slips on her summer kimono. [incorrectly]  [image below]

text copyright Moni Ritchie Hadley 2021, illustration copyright Mizuho Fujisawa 2021, Albert Whitman

The skies explode. [fireworks]  [image below]

text copyright Moni Ritchie Hadley 2021, illustration copyright Mizuho Fujisawa 2021, Albert Whitman

“And look who helped me, the Emperor of the Heavens.” [security guard]  [no image supplied]

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

MONI: Christina shared a positive review from Kirkus privately about a week before it was available online. I was thrilled. I floated through that day! And the very next day, she shared a starred review from the School Library Journal! In all the time that lead up to that moment, I hadn’t thought about professional reviews, so it was a pleasant surprise to get those!

SUSANNA: Congratulations! How wonderful to get such great reviews! How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

MONI: 14 months.

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

MONI: I sent letters to schools, held giveaways, and made stickers and bookmarks. I have done many blog interviews and activities for the story. I also made a short gif and had a book trailer made for the book.


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

MONI: That’s a difficult question to answer. Define seriously? I feel like every story, revision, critique, submission is an effort to be a serious writer. 

When I was working full time, I struggled to balance writing with work and my home life. I think that the time I spent working on stories, critiquing, and learning in those thirteen years attributed to getting published. 

When I retired from teaching, it took me less than a year to get a contract. I feel strongly that it would not have been offered if I waited to start writing when I “had the time.” 

All the minutes here-and-there add up. All the failures, stories that went nowhere, and writing practice add up. It gets you ready for the right moment. It prepares you to get “lucky.”

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up-and-coming writers?)

MONI: Don’t get stuck on your early manuscripts. They will always hold a special place in your writer’s heart, but continue to evolve, discover other stories, and challenge yourself.

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

MONI: I tried not to make getting published my everyday goal. I changed my mindset and was grateful to be writing every day. Whether I was published or not, I figured I’d be doing the same thing anyway, working on my craft.

Author Moni Ritchie Hadley

Website: moniritchie.com
Twitter & Instagram: @bookthreader
Illustrator Instagram: @mizuhofujisawa

SUSANNA: So much wonderful advice, and so much helpful information! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Moni! We all really appreciate it. And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with this and future titles!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out! (There are nearly 70, so lots to learn from !)

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Lindsay H. Metcalf!

Hi there, Everyone!

Long time no see!

I realize summer is technically not quite over, and my blog won’t be back to regularly scheduled programming for a couple weeks, but when a debut debuts, you’ve got to be there with the spotlight!  And I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to introduce you to today’s Tuesday Debut, Lindsay H. Metcalf, and her gorgeous and interesting book, Beatrix Potter, Scientist! which has its book birthday TODAY!!! 🎉🎉🎉

Title: Beatrix Potter, Scientist
Author: Lindsay H. Metcalf
Illustrator: Junyi Wu
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Date of Publication: September 1, 2020
Fiction Ages 4-8

Beatrix Potter

Synopsis: As a child, Beatrix Potter collected nature specimens; as a young adult, she was an amateur mycologist presenting her research on fungi to England’s foremost experts. Like many women of her time, she remained unacknowledged by the scientific community, but her keen eye for observation led her to an acclaimed career as an artist and storyteller.

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Lindsay!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We are so looking forward to learning about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

LINDSAY: I read this Brain Pickings article and immediately became entranced with the scientific side of the author I’d always known as an all-caps name on the cover of some favorite books from childhood. After Googling, I saw that there would be a rich amount of primary and secondary sources for me to draw upon. I considered traveling to the UK for research (which still hasn’t happened yet). Before I committed too much time and money, I ran the idea past my agent, Emily Mitchell at Wernick & Pratt, to see if it was marketable. She was all in from the beginning because she knew this period of Beatrix’s life hadn’t explored fully in a children’s book.

 

 

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

LINDSAY: About nine months, from idea to the draft that was accepted. I sent that email to my agent on September 13, 2017, and had my first draft about a month later. Along the way I reached out to a mycologist who had been quoted about Beatrix Potter’s studies, as well as an expert with the Beatrix Potter Society in the UK. Both agreed to read and vet my manuscript, and I made small changes based on their feedback. The offer came in May 2019 after being on submission and mostly out of my mind for about a year.

 

 

SUSANNA:  Did you go through many revisions?

LINDSAY: I have about 11 distinct drafts of this manuscript on my computer. For me, a draft is when I feel like I’ve finished revising based on any amount of feedback, so I may pop into the same draft and tinker for a week or two.

My first draft came quickly in an experimental question-only style modeled loosely after Patricia MacLachlan’s exquisite THE IRIDESCENCE OF BIRDS. My critique partners wisely called my approach obtuse, in nicer words, because I am not Patricia MacLachlan. I purchased a conference critique from a nonfiction editor when I felt the manuscript was ready. She asked to see a revision, but declined to buy the book. Her encouraging feedback helped me polish and eventually sell what would become BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST to an editor at Albert Whitman.

thumbnail_workspace

Lindsay’s workspace and writing buddy, Meeko 😊

 

 

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

LINDSAY: When my editor bought it! LOL. I always think a manuscript is ready when I send it to critique partners and bristle a bit when they tell me it’s not. It’s like, can’t you people see the genius here?! Just kidding. They’re usually right. I revised based on the comments that resonated with me, and when they told me it was ready, I sent it to my agent, who had more suggestions. When she told me it was ready, we sent it to a handful of editors, and I submitted it for the conference critique. That editor even more suggestions.

 

 

SUSANNA:  When and how did you submit?

LINDSAY: My agent submitted on my behalf in the spring of 2018, and several editors politely declined. My agent sent the revision exclusively to the editor who had done the conference critique, but unfortunately, we never heard back from her. Even agents get ghosted sometimes. Then in the fall of 2018, I attended the Kansas/Missouri SCBWI annual conference, where I had purchased a critique with an editor at Albert Whitman. She gave solid feedback on the rhyming, fiction picture book manuscript I had submitted, but it still needed a lot of work. During her conference talk, though, she mentioned that if she weren’t an editor, she would be a literary tour guide in England. Bingo!

 

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

LINDSAY: It was an email from my agent—on her birthday! I doubt I’ll ever top that as a birthday gift to her. The offer came in May 2019, a year after first going on submission and six months sending to Albert Whitman. The offer actually came from a different editor at Whitman—Wendy McClure. We learned that the editor I had met at the conference had left her job, but the offer would not have happened if I hadn’t met her at our regional conference. Overall the manuscript went to only about five editors, but it was because I had other projects circulating at the time and was also heavily working on the first book I sold—NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY. That book, a poetry anthology edited by me, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, sold to Charlesbridge on proposal almost a year before BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST. But because of publishing mysteries I don’t understand, BEATRIX will release a few weeks before NVTS. 😊

 

SUSANNA:  How did you celebrate signing your contract?

LINDSAY: 1) I shrieked. 2) I ran into my husband’s home office, told him, and jumped up and down. 3) I danced in my kitchen and proceeded to be unable to do anymore work for the day. 4) I think I took my kids for ice cream after school and then the family to our fave Mexican restaurant that night. And I probably 5) cleaned up cat puke or something equally glamorous along the way.

 

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

LINDSAY: I probably shouldn’t get into specifics, but the contract came with a modest advance along the lines of what I would expect from a small publisher and a standard royalty split, and I think my agent negotiated a bit better deal on some aspects. I can’t remember how many author copies I’m getting – maybe 20? They haven’t arrived yet as of this writing on August 23!

 

 

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

LINDSAY: A few months after the offer, my editor sent a lovely two-page editorial letter. I had completed my previous revision about 15 months prior, so it took me awhile to wrap my head around her notes and re-immerse myself in the research. Once I dug in, I realized that her changes were largely to clarify and tweak. She did suggest some cuts to my extensive author’s note that helped bring the important parts forward. I love the final version! Once I heard from her at the end of August 2019, I was shocked to learn they wanted to release the book only a year later. They already had an illustrator working on cover sketches!

 

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

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 8.25.13 PM

credit © 2020 Albert Whitman and Company

 

LINDSAY: On the first call with my editor, Wendy, I told her about all the visual research I’d compiled in a secret Pinterest board, and she was excited to pass that along to Junyi Wu, the illustrator. I also snapped pictures of a few descriptive passages in Beatrix Potter’s journal, as well as samples of Beatrix’s fungi artwork, to have my editor pass along to Junyi. Beatrix is well-understood and revered historical figure who has a whole society dedicated to her scholarship, so I wanted to make sure we got the book right. Fortunately, the team at Albert Whitman did, too. They looped me in for feedback at all stages of the illustration process, and I was able to annotate the PDFs for accuracy and request changes before Junyi went to final art. One example: Beatrix Potter’s mentor, Charles McIntosh, had severed several fingers in an accident, and was known to hide that hand. One of the sketches showed both hands and ten fingers. Another example showed Beatrix illustrating a character that would have been created decades after the scene that was depicted. They were happy to make changes like that. I absolutely love the way Junyi made this book her own, not mimicking Beatrix’s style, but providing enough detail to render the botanicals accurately and with a hint of nostalgia.

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 8.27.18 PM

credit © 2020 Albert Whitman and Company

I had a lot of art notes because I wanted the book to be accurate, so whenever I had a specific scene in mind, I included quoted descriptive passages from Beatrix’s journal. We removed some of the art notes for submission purposes, but after the first call with my editor, she requested to see the original version with all my art notes. The team was very good about doing what was needed to get the details right.

Here’s how I wrote one scene:

“She wrecks her parents’ kitchen in her hunger for answers. Day and night, she zooms in with a microscope to check and record her specimens. She can taste the breakthrough that is sure to come.

 [ART: She turned her kitchen into a messy lab for spore germination. She checked and recorded her specimens of basidiomycetes spores every six hours using a Beck’s microscope with 600x magnification.]”

This art note included historical and scientific details that would have cluttered the manuscript but were important for visual accuracy.

 

 

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

LINDSAY: Yes! The wait for reviews was nerve-wracking. When they finally came in, all positive so far, it was thrilling!

 

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

LINDSAY: It was exactly 51 weeks from offer to the day I unboxed advance reader copies of BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST. (And yes, I asked: the paperback, stapled copies I received are called ARCs and not F&Gs, or folded-and-gathered copies that picture book publishers usually print in advance of publication.)

 

 

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

LINDSAY: The publisher has sent my book to all the major reviewers, to ARC-sharing groups on Twitter, Bookstagrammers, and fungi lovers! They have submitted it wherever I have asked as well, and probably done a lot behind the scenes that I’m not aware of. I was surprised and impressed when I was contacted by a reporter from FantasticFungi.com for an interview, and their Instagram post about my book racked up more than 1,600 likes. Publisher support for the win!

 

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

LINDSAY: The best thing I have done is join a group of highly motivated and talented fellow debuts. The Soaring ’20s have been a godsend for marketing. We share speaking opportunities and team up on conference proposals; we review one another’s books; we request books from libraries; set up blog opportunities and maintain a group website. If you have a book coming out, comarketing is effective and much more fun than going it alone. Some of my Soaring ’20s colleagues are conducting a virtual ShopTalk for NESCBWI on September 22 if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts.

I have spent a lot of time applying to speak at conferences, since teachers and librarians will be such a big part of my market. Over the summer, I participated in nerdcampPA, nerdcampCT, and the Missouri Association of School Librarians book festival. This fall I’ll be at virtual events for the National Council of Teachers of English, the Association of Rural and Small Librarians, and a few others.

Other than that, I hired an expert to create a standards-aligned discussion and activity guide, set up a blog tour, and ran a handful of giveaways on Twitter for teachers and librarians to grow my following there as well as my newsletter audience.

 

 

SUSANNA:  How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
LINDSAY: That depends on how you calculate it. I have been writing seriously since 2001, when I took my first paying job as a writer. I was a newspaper reporting intern and went on to have a career as a reporter and editor at The Kansas City Star. But children’s books? I started getting serious about those in 2015—the very day my youngest went to preschool and I had time to myself. Shortly thereafter I took Making Picture Book Magic from you, Susanna. So the answer is either 17 years or three years, but probably a mix of both.

 

 

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

LINDSAY: I never imagined I would debut in the middle of a pandemic. But I’m trying to take things in stride and still find joy in the process. The advantage is that the prevalence of virtual events has opened up opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to access before. And I get to celebrate with all my friends, wherever they are! Thank you for having me, Susanna — it’s such an honor to be here after learning so much from you over the years!

 

Lindsay Metcalf

Author Lindsay Metcalf (photo credit Anna Jackson)

Lindsay H. Metcalf is a journalist and author of nonfiction picture books: Beatrix Potter, Scientist, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020); Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices (Calkins Creek, 2020); and No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, a poetry anthology co-edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, 2020). Lindsay lives in north-central Kansas, not far from the farm where she grew up, with her husband, two sons, and a variety of pets. You can reach her at lindsayhmetcalf.com and @lindsayhmetcalf on Twitter and Instagram.

https://www.lindsayhmetcalf.com/

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much, Lindsay, for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate getting the opportunity to benefit and learn from your experience!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

 

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Round Up Of Groundhogs!

It’s the Perfect Picture Book Friday before Groundhog Day (which, as you know, we are very partial to around here 🙂 ) so Phyllis insisted I thought, for fun, that we feature her book I’d share a roundup of Groundhog Day titles – three that have already been reviewed for PPBF and one new one! 🙂

Some of my (and Phyllis’s 🙂 ) favorite Groundhog Day titles:

Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, Holiday House 2005 (yes, ok, we are biased 🙂 ) – reviewed for Perfect Picture Books by Beth Stilborn

punxsutawney_phyllis_cover-b

Substitute Groundhog by Pat Miller, illustrated by Kathi Ember, Albert Whitman & Co – reviewed for Perfect Picture Books by Jennifer Rumberger

Substitute Groundhog

Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise, Disney-Hyperion, December 2017  – reviewed for Perfect Picture Books HERE

groudhugday

And one that hasn’t been on PPBF yet (as far as I know) that is an older title but was well-loved in my house! 🙂

Gretchen Groundhog It’s Your Day

Greta Groundhog

Title: Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day!

Written By: Abby Levine

Illustrated By: Nancy Cote

Albert Whitman & Co, November 1998, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 5 and up

Themes/Topics: holidays (Groundhog Day), emotions (feeling shy), overcoming a fear

Opening: “It was a dark and snowy night.  Gretchen Groundhog sat in her burrow, worrying.  In a few days it would be February 2, when the world would be watching the little town of Piccadilly.
On that day, for the first time, Gretchen would step from her burrow to stand before TV cameras, newspaper reporters, tourists, all the townsfolk, and a brass band.  Everyone would be waiting as Gretchen looked for her shadow.

Brief Synopsis: Gretchen must carry on the family tradition of stepping out on the morning of February 2 to search for her shadow, but she is too shy to “Go Out” and face the crowd of people.  After much worrying, she musters up courage when she learns that throughout history groundhogs have been afraid to “Go Out” the first time.

Links To Resources: Groundhog Day Crafts and Activities; make your own Groundhog Day prediction: 6 more weeks of winter or early spring???!!! 🙂

Why I Like This Book: Any youngster who has ever felt apprehensive at the idea of being in the spotlight will relate to shy Gretchen.  Lots of children feel shy at the idea of meeting other kids for the first time, or of entering a new classroom, or of standing at the front of the class for a spelling bee or to give a report, so they will easily understand how Gretchen feels at the idea of having to face crowds of people, TV cameras and newspaper reporters.  Gretchen’s courage is bolstered when the town historian’s daughter arrives with a box of notes written by Gretchen’s ancestors (Goody Groundhog, who sailed on the Mayflower; George Groundhog, who fought at Valley Forge; and Gloria Groundhog, movie star 🙂 ), all confessing their fear of “Going Out.”  Gretchen writes a few words of her own for the history box and then finds she can face her fear.  A fun story accompanied by warm, appealing art that lots of kids will enjoy for Groundhog Day!

I hope you enjoy all of these titles as much as Phyllis and I do 🙂

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Happy Groundhog Day!!! (and here’s hoping we get an early spring 🙂 )