Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Star In The Christmas Play

Boy!  What with the Halloweensie Contest and Thanksgiving, it’s been awhile since we had a Perfect Picture Book Friday!  And I guess this will be the last one before the holidays, since the Holiday Contest will be running by this time next week!

So what better to share today than a new holiday book?  This is a sweet one I think you and your kids will enjoy!

Star In Xmas Play

Title: The Star In The Christmas Play

Written By: Lynne Marie

Illustrated By: Lorna Hussey

Beaming Books,  October 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: being yourself, holidays (Christmas), finding your place

Opening: “‘I wish I were any animal but a giraffe,’ said Raffi.  Instead of running toward savanna school like usual, he dragged his hooves.

Brief Synopsis: Raffi desperately wants a part in the school Christmas play, but he’s too big to be Baby Jesus, too tall to be Joseph, too heavy to be an angel.  It seems there’s no place for him at all.  But his mother’s loving words to him give him an idea and in the end he finds there’s a perfect place for everyone.

Links To Resources: 30 Easy Ornaments To Make With Kids; 30 Homemade Ornaments For Kids; 10 Star Crafts For Kids

Why I Like This Book: This is a sweet story that many kids will relate to.  We’ve all had moments where we don’t feel comfortable in our own skin, where we wish we were different so we’d have an easier time fitting in.  Raffi the giraffe struggles with being too big, too tall, too heavy to take part in the school Christmas play.  But he’s in a very nurturing environment among both adults and children who try to understand and help.   In the end he comes up with his own solution which is just right and he finds a way to accept himself as the others have accepted him all along.  A lovely message for any time of year, but especially nice at Christmas.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

(Oh, and I’ll give you a heads up now that I have a special extra post, last-minute scheduled for Monday for a couple of writer/illustrator friends, so please plan to stop by!)

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Kate Narita!

Welcome to another scintillating episode of Tuesday Debuts, everyone!

More by luck than design, we’ve had a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction so far – wonderful so we can learn about the approach to publication of different types of picture books.  Today’s book is informational fiction – something a little different still – so I’m sure you’re as eager as I am to jump right in and see what today’s Debutess has to share!  Let’s have a look at her beautiful book!

100 Bugs! A Counting Book
Author: Kate Narita
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Farrar Straus Giroux, a Macmillan Imprint
June 12, 2018
Informational Fiction
Ages 3-7

100Bugs

“Little explorers will learn 10 different ways to count to 10, using 10 different kinds of bugs—and will get all the way to 100 by the end of their adventure. With Suzanne Kaufman’s bright, whimsical illustrations and Kate Narita’s clever rhyming text, 100 Bugs! is part look-and-find, part learning experience, and all kinds of fun!”

 

SUSANNA: Hi Kate!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

KATE: The secretary at the school I work at has a sign behind her desk. It reads, “You can learn something new every day if you listen.” That’s what happened. I was on the interview committee for a math specialist when my colleague said, “If students don’t understand the combinations of ten, they won’t be successful in math.” As the day passed, I became more and more excited because I couldn’t think of one book about the combinations of ten. That night at my writing group, I tried to give the idea to another author who was revising a book about math. She said, “I don’t want to write that book. You write it.” So, I did. As I drove home, the first line of the text came to me like magic, “Dragonflies, dragonflies, zipping all about.” The rest of the words continued to flow and as soon as I was home, I wrote it all down. If you’re interested in reading about more experiences like this, check out Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Narita2

 

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

KATE: As I mentioned above, this book came to me very quickly. But, I’d been writing for twelve years before I had my first sale. When I woke up the next morning after the idea came, a few more verses streamed into my consciousness and I wrote them down. Two weeks later I took the first draft to my writing group and they all said, “This is the one.” They were right. The original draft featured five different dragonfly species and five different damselfly species. They convinced me I needed to add more bugs. So, I revised the manuscript to include two dragonflies, two damselflies, two butterflies, two bumblebees, one ladybug and one firefly species. There were no other revisions until the publisher bought the manuscript. The words were a gift from the universe.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KATE: In addition to what I mentioned above, when my writing group saw the first draft, they pointed out that one of the verses contained a forced rhyme: farrow and cosmos. That’s because I love cosmos. But, I had to give them up and go with yarrow instead. It sounds so much better! Unfortunately, nothing rhymes with cosmos except for gizmos and that word didn’t fit the tone of the book. Other than that, there were no revisions until the sale.

 

Narita3 . Narita4
The ill-fated Cosmos                                 The Yarrow that made the cut!

 

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

KATE: This was a very unusual circumstance because I knew the manuscript was ready from the get go. I took the revised manuscript back to my critique group, and they agreed it was ready to go. This particular critique group meets twice a month. So from inception to submission was only a month—much shorter than anything else I’ve written.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KATE: The manuscript came to me in late spring of 2015. First, I sent it to an editor who had mentored me during my MFA program. She rejected it because she already had an insect book on her list. Then, I attended Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conferencehttp://ruccl.org/

If you haven’t attended this conference, you’re missing out. It was my fifth time attending. So, I knew what to expect. I had researched all eight editors and agents who would be attending. Since I’d been writing for twelve years, I had several manuscripts that were ready to submit.

At Rutgers, you get a forty-five minute one-on-one critique with your mentor and later in the day you get a forty-five minute group session with your mentor and four other mentor/mentee pairs. I knew the manuscript I had brought wasn’t a match for my mentor, but she still gave me lots of helpful feedback. Then, during the five-on-five session, Susan Dobinick, an editor at FSG at the time, said she loved publishing books by teachers and librarians. This surprised me because I hadn’t read that about her or FSG anywhere. As soon as I returned home, I emailed her 100 Bugs!

I also emailed my agent, Stacey Glick https://www.dystel.com/meet-our-agents/

Stacey’s one of the conference organizers and had presented at a panel. She had recently sold a counting book, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. So, I thought maybe she’d be interested in my manuscript. She was.

The conference occurred on October 17th. The call from the editor came on November tenth, and the call from the agent occurred later the same week.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

KATE: When I opened the email from Susan Dobinick, I thought for sure it would be another rejection. After all, I’d received hundreds over the years. Why would this one be different? But it was. When we spoke on the tenth, she said they loved the manuscript. It was shocking. I didn’t say much. I listened. At the end of the conversations she said that they knew I was a full-time teacher and they knew I had a family, but that in addition to the text they had, they wanted ten different insects, not the six I had. Also, they wanted scientific back matter on the ten different insects and plants within a month’s time. Every day for a month I researched two-to-three before school and two-to-three hours after school. It was intense, but I’d do it all over again in a second.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KATE: It took a while to sign the contract. I submitted the scientific back matter in December and the contract came in April. Why the delay? The editorial team had to figure out which illustrator they would pitch the manuscript with to make the manuscript appealing to acquisitions. When I signed the contract, we went out for an expensive family dinner and bought a television that we could all watch together. That sounds funny coming from an author, but our boys were young teens at the time and we were looking for more ways to spend time together as a family.

 

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

KATE: Yes, it was. On average, large publication companies offer between $5,000-$10,000 to a writer for the first sale. One of the benefits of having an agent, is that they can advocate for small increases in all of the above. There are 10,000 copies in the first print run, and the book has to sell over 20,000 copies before my royalty percentage increases. Bottom line is, you become a children’s writer because you’re passionate about children and writing, not because you’re looking to make a quick buck or become rich.

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about the editorial process…

KATE: A different editor, Janine O’Malley, edited the story. She had an amazing, incredible vision for the story. She knew right away that Suzanne Kaufman would be the perfect illustrator for the book. After she viewed one of Suzanne’s earlier dummies, Janine also knew the book had to start with the kids waking up. So, I had to write a new opening and closing spread that showed the kids in bed. I asked Melissa Stewart, April Jones Prince and Joannie Duris, critique group members, to help me out. They had lots of insightful suggestions but in the end the words for the first and last spread came to me in stream of conscious, just like the rest of the book. This time it happened as I was waking up in bed and the sun streamed through the window.

Narita5

Kate Narita and Suzanne Kaufman

 

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

KATE: The illustration process was phenomenal. Usually authors and illustrators don’t collaborate, but Suzanne reached out to me because she had a few questions. Here are two examples of changes that wouldn’t have happened had Suzanne and I not been in contact. The bugbane that’s featured in the book isn’t the original bugbane I wrote about; however, Suzanne wanted to use this particular bugbane because of the shape and color of the leaf. It was easy for me to reflect the species change in the back matter. Suzanne also made a change to her art. When damselflies land, their wings fold over their body instead of stretching flat out like a dragonfly’s wings. But the damselfly spread featured ten flying damselflies. So, Suzanne revised and drew one perched on the wishing well.

Narita6

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

KATE: The advance review from Kirkus was a dream come true. Here’s a snippet: “Packed with great extension possibilities, visually engaging illustrations, and quick rhymes, this read-aloud would be a great addition to any STEM shelf. (Picture book. 3-6)”

 

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

KATE: Two years.

 

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

KATE: It hasn’t been out that long—fingers crossed!

 

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

KATE: The publisher sent the book to review journals and various bloggers. The publicist also helped me set up some book events during my family vacations.

 

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

KATE: I’ve done quite a bit of marketing/promotion for the book. It’s a good thing I didn’t realize how much time, energy and work would go into promotion before I had my first sale—I might have had second thoughts about publication and then I would have missed out!

My book trailer features my class and our book buddies. I collaborated with high school students in the district where I work to film, create and edit the trailer. My older son and his friend composed and played the trailer’s background music.

In addition to making a book trailer, I featured 100 book trailers on my blog for the first 100 days of 2018. I released my trailer on the 100thday of last year, April 10th. You can check it out here: http://www.katenarita.com/blog/archives/04-2018

Educators can find ready-to-print, Common Core correlated activities here: http://www.katenarita.com/for-educators.html  I created each of the activities and my colleague, Lisandra Flynn, designed them. Suzanne Kaufman generously gave us permission to use her artwork so that students could enjoy her whimsical work while engaging with the activities.

Suzanne was kind enough to make postcards to help promote the book.

As I mentioned above, I did several bookstore and library events around home and during our family trips. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet talented and energetic librarians and booksellers at amazing independent bookstores such as The Reading Bug, Anderson’s Bookshop, The Book Stall, The Silver Unicorn, Concord Bookshop, Brookline Booksmith and Enchanted Passage.

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At The Silver Unicorn with one of my students.

 

Finally, I’ve been working on expanding my Professional Learning Network. Last week, I spoke at The Global Education Symposium—my agent arranged that. In April of 2019, I’ll be speaking at the 2019 MRA Conference.

Narita8

 

SUSANNA: Wow!  You have been busy!  Lots of creative ideas for the rest of us to learn from!

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

KATE: Twelve years.The average amount of time is ten years.

 

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

KATE: Thanks so much for the opportunity to share the story of 100 Bugs! Here’s the best advice I ever got from the sage April Jones Prince: “Whatever you do, never give up.”

 

Narita9

April Jones Prince and Kate Narita

 

 

Naritaheadshot

Kate Narita

www.katenarita.com
@KateNarita

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Kate!  We are all grateful to you for sharing your experience and wish you great success with your book!

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

You may purchase Kate’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

– 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

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Sherry Howard!

Good morning, my friends!

Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

Pull up your favorite comfy chair, help yourself to some breakfast…

Continental Breakfast

…and get ready to enjoy chatting with Sherry about her book!

ROCK AND ROLL WOODS
Author: Sherry Howard
Illustrator: Anika A. Wolf
Clear Fork Publishing
October 5, 2018
Fiction Picture Book
Ages 4-8

Cover Rock and Roll Woods

Kuda is a bit of a grumpy bear when loud noises invade his quiet woods. He finds the courage to join his friends, and discovers he loves music after all.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Sherry!  We are thrilled to have the opportunity to hear about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SHERRY: This is one of my favorite things to talk about. I asked my then 8-year-old writing partner what she’d like to write about next. She suggested a bear named Kuda, the name of her bearded dragon. Kamora is very excited that she’s recognized for the idea in the back of the book. She often helps at book events.

The rough draft poured out from the initial idea, combining my love for rock and roll with my heart for special needs children. It was a family collaboration to determine what the loud noise would be. We needed something not obvious to a wooded setting.

Whenever I get an idea, I write it down immediately, even if it’s in the middle of the night or driving. (I dictate then.) I have more ideas than I’ll ever have a chance to write.

 

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

SHERRY: The first draft poured out. The revisions didn’t change anything substantial except the title. For this manuscript, it was a pretty quick journey, a couple of months of tweaking. I wish I could say that for all of my writing. It’s important to know the manuscripts that show the most promise if you’re a prolific writer. I knew right away that this was a manuscript that “worked” and should find a home.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SHERRY: ROCK AND ROLL WOODS went through different critique groups several times. I’m in several critique groups, which I find helpful.

My personal bias is that fresh eyes are really important during revision, especially at the end when your regular partners might have seen a manuscript several times. I usually have “blind” eyes look at a manuscript through either a paid professional review or somewhere like Rate Your Story, which I’ve been a fan of for years! These are my last steps before submission.

 

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

SHERRY: That’s hard to quantify! I think when critique suggestions are minor, and when your gut says it’s ready, then you can try. That’s how I judged ROCK AND ROLL WOODS.

I’m not agented, so I don’t have the benefit of an agent’s eyes on my work, and my writer friends who do have agents like to be sure their work is really polished before they send it to an agent. But, that layer would be nice for feeling confident about submissions to publishers and editors.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SHERRY: I’m not agented. I submitted directly to Clear Fork. I sent Callie Metler-Smith, the lovely owner of CF, a query for another book. I’d met her on Facebook, and saw her interaction related to criticism of small publishers. She was gracious, and not defensive in that conversation. I really admired that. I made sure they were recognized as a PAL publisher through SCBWI. She didn’t accept the first manuscript I sent, but offered to look at other work, so I eventually sent this one. I’d only sent this to a handful of agents.

I go to SCBWI conferences and sometimes follow up on submission opportunities, but most often I don’t.

I enter contests sometimes, and have done well in some. The one time I won a query opportunity, it involved one of the agents who has experienced some problems, so that opportunity was lost.

I don’t have much of a submission plan. Unfortunately, I enjoy the writing more than I do querying and submitting. If I see an opportunity that fits something I have, I’ll submit. I queried some of the 12×12 opportunities. But, I actually query and submit seldom. 2019 will be my submissions year! It’s hard for me to take a break long enough from the writing to do it.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

SHERRY: Callie’s acceptance was by email, and at first I wasn’t sure she’d accepted it. Yes, when she said that I had a publisher, it was super exciting. She was one of the only places I’d submitted ROCK AND ROLL WOODS because it was recently finished. Callie asked for the ending to be tweaked. When I didn’t hear back from her for a month after I changed the ending, I assumed she didn’t want it, but I checked with her to be sure before I queried further. She did want it.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SHERRY: I didn’t. I know that sounds terribly boring, but it’s true. I was happy, but no one in my immediate life understood what it meant, so it was just me. I might’ve eaten a Snickers!

 

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

SHERRY: I worked with an entertainment attorney who happened to be one of my critique partners. One member had very graciously told our group that she’d review our first contracts free. With small houses like Clear Fork, there’s not much wiggle room in contracts, and I understood that. Generally, with small publishers, the advances are small, but the royalties are there. When you consider that advances are just that, an advance on royalties, it may not make as much difference to you as you think. It was most important to me that Callie shared my vision: This is a picture book that I wrote thinking of children who struggle with “new” in the way children with autism usually do. I wrote it to have a broader appeal, but that was in my heart as a I wrote and revised.

 

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about the editorial process…

SHERRY: I was privileged to have the AMAZING Mira Reisberg as both editor and art director. She was so kind, and thorough. She made videos to collaborate and made it all so simple. She and I chopped lots of words after illustrations were completed, and we could see the actual illustrations.

There was one major editorial session with Mira, and we were on the same track. The revisions were primarily losing words that weren’t necessary. The heart and vision for the story never changed. Along the way, we decided to add an author’s note and back matter about sensory integration, and that had to be written, and tweaked.

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

SHERRY: I saw only a few preliminary sketches at first. I’ll share one of the first illustrations, and when I saw it I fell in love!

Howard1

When I saw the art in digital files, it was pretty much finished, but we did exchange over thirty emails for one facial expression. I think we drove Anika crazy with that one!

When I saw the cover, I was shocked. I’d imagined an ordinary scene in the woods. My limited imagination could never have seen anything as awesome as they produced! Kids are so drawn to the bright cover, both boys and girls!

Anika’s vision, with Mira, was better than mine could ever have been! The art added immensely to the story! I have nothing but LOVE for the art!

I only had two illustration notes.

The first was this one:  (Illustration note: Please join our rock and roll celebration.)
which turned out like this:

Howard2

 

 

 

The second was this one: (Illustration note: tiny print: boom, whappa, whappa)
which turned out like this:

Howard3

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

SHERRY: Because Clear Fork is a small publisher, those reviews weren’t available to me. (I think Callie is working on changing that as she moves forward.) There weren’t advance copies to send out in time for reviews. It’s a print on demand company, so that limited certain things. I didn’t understand all of those limitations ahead of time, but that wouldn’t have changed my decision if I had. I look forward to a continued relationship with Callie and Clear Fork. Callie just announced the sequel for Rock and Roll Woods, which she contracted soon after this manuscript.  (Insert from SLH: Ooh! Squeeeee!  Congratulations, Sherry!!! 🙂 )

I did submit to Kirkus when I received the digital ARC. I happily paid the fee to have an independent review. ROCK AND ROLL WOODS earned a rare starred review through Kirkus. I literally had to sit down for that. And, while I didn’t celebrate when I was offered the contract, I shared the Kirkus news with anyone who would listen! (Another insert from SLH: Ooh!  Squeeeeee again!!!  That is fantastic, Sherry!)

 

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

SHERRY: The timeline was less than two years, which is very rare! Contract was signed in April, 2017, and I held the book in my hands September, 2018.

 

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

SHERRY: The book just released, so I don’t really know how it’s doing yet.

 

 

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

SHERRY: I think Callie has plans for a big push for ROCK AND ROLL WOODS this spring. Callie uses Facebook for promotion. She also owns a bookstore in Texas. She does market fairs in Texas as well, and I assume she takes her published books to those.

 

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

SHERRY: I’m still working on marketing, but I’ve done a book trailer, bookmarks, a Kuda model crocheted to order, book signings at Barnes and Noble, blog visits, social media giveaways, created a teacher’s guide with coloring pages, participated in fairs, and tried to work with kidlit influencers. It’s an ongoing process since the book just released. I have an appearance coming up with Jedlie’s Reading with Your Kids, a video coming soon from a little reviewer in Canada, and the book will visit Story Time with Miss Becky. My granddaughter has a book review channel on YouTube, and she just posted her review.

I haven’t sent out press releases yet, but plan to. I have an article coming out soon in a local magazine that I pitched, and they loved.

The School of Rock is involving me in their local program in an ongoing basis, which is fun.

 

 

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

SHERRY: In short, a few years. But really longer.

I’ve written and taken classes for the last twenty years, but only zeroed in on kidlit six or seven years ago. Of course, with degrees in Education, I already had a strong background, but writing for publication is different.

At first I wrote novel length, and have several finished novels, which have been revised to death. One recently came very close to getting picked up by an agent, phone call and all. (My novels have won or placed with RATE YOUR STORY openers for the past several years.)

When I had eye surgeries, and some real struggles with my vision, I worked more on short stories, poetry, and picture books. The novel-length books were too hard with my vision for a while. The vision is still a struggle, but I’m back to doing all age levels again.

 

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

SHERRY: I was just reaching my career goals as a successful principal in a large middle school when I was assaulted and left with a spinal cord injury that crippled me. I was devastated at having to leave my work for children. Fast forward many difficult years, and I feel like I’m once again able to help and inspire children. I use a walker to make appearances. I use adaptive pens to write lying down, so I can write whenever I want to. I keep two iPads rotating to accommodate my vision problems. I’m not saying this for pity, but to tell writers: No barrier will keep you from writing if it’s in your heart to do it. Carry on!!

SUSANNA: Sherry, I’m so sorry to hear of what you went through – are still going through – but you are an inspiration to us all.  I know your courage will help give all of us some as we go forth in our writing.  Thank you for sharing.

SHERRY: Thank you for having me, Susanna! I love to meet other readers and writers, so please be in touch on social media here:

Sherry Howard| Facebook| Twitter| Instagram

Meet Kuda and Rock and Roll Woods here.

 

Sherry Howard (4)

Sherry Howard

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. During her career in education, she served as a middle school principal in one of the largest metro school districts in the US; she and cat-herders share many common skills. Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. She credits her ability to write a complete sentence in English to her training in classical Latin. Now her picture books and chapter books are arriving through Clear Fork Publishing. She also writes for the educational market.

 

Sherry, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with your book!

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

You may purchase Sherry’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melissa Stoller!

Hello, Everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

First, just a quick note: The Halloweensie Contest finalists will be announced for your reading and voting pleasure on Thursday.  Since I wasn’t able to get them up before the weekend, and I already had today’s Tuesday Debut and tomorrow’s Would You Read It scheduled, I thought it was best just to wait until Thursday when we could have an uninterrupted stretch of days for reading and voting.  The winners will be announced on Monday.  I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting so long, and truly appreciate your patience.  The judging was extremely difficult, and kept getting interrupted with family stuff and work deadlines and other things of that nature which have a tendency to suddenly appear out of nowhere when you’re trying to get something done!  If by some chance you’ve been under a rock and not seen the Halloweensie Contest entries, hop on over and have a look – well over 200 amazing stories await your enjoyment!

Now then, allow me to introduce today’s Debutess, Melissa Stoller!  She shares her first picture book with us, but has a series of chapter books already to her credit (The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island and The Liberty Bell Train Ride) as well as another picture book forthcoming any minute (Ready, Set, GOrilla!)

MELISSA: I’m so happy to be included in your new blog series, Susanna! You know I am a huge fan of your Making Picture Book Magic course and of your books!

SUSANNA: I am thrilled to have you, Melissa, and you are very sweet to say such nice things.  There will be a little extra something chocolate for you in your holiday celebrations this year 🙂 Now then, let’s have a look at your beautiful debut picture book!!!

SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH
Written by Melissa Stoller
Illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
October 16, 2018
Fiction, Picture Book
Ages 4-8

Picture1

Scarlet paints perfect pictures with her magic paintbrush until the brush is lost, and she fears she’ll never be able to paint again. When the brush is found, will Scarlet’s own magical creativity emerge?

 

SUSANNA: LOVE that gorgeous cover! 🙂 Where did the idea for this book come from?

MELISSA: The idea for SCARLET came to me when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City gazing at my favorite Impressionist paintings. Standing in front of a Monet canvas, I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. Over time, I thought of other questions: Would the brush would help me paint everything perfectly? What would happen if I lost the brush and then found it later? And what would I do if I wanted to paint something and the brush wouldn’t let me? These questions became the basis for my story.

Picture4

Melissa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of a Monet

 

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

MELISSA: It took several months to write this story. My mother is always my first reader! And then my children and husband weigh in as well. I have trusted critique partners who helped me dig in through multiple drafts to focus on the theme and underlying layers. And I also had a professional critique as well. Through it all, I kept refining and shaping the story.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MELISSA: I like to write in many drafts, making large and small changes as I go along, so my work always has many iterations.

 

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

MELISSA: I knew my manuscript was ready when my critique partners all came back saying “this one is done!”

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MELISSA: My publisher Callie Metler-Smith from Clear Fork Publishing was already publishing my chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection. Turns out Callie and I both love Impressionist paintings so I pitched her my art history-based idea and that manuscript became a book!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MELISSA: I definitely celebrated with my family and there were lots of smiles and tears of gratitude!

Picture5

Melissa’s dog Molly who sits patiently next to her when she works (and was no doubt part of the celebrations! 🙂 )

 

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

MELISSA: This was my second contract with Clear Fork so I knew what to expect.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

MELISSA: Mira Reisberg is editor/art director at Clear Fork/Spork. I know Mira well from many Children’s Book Academy courses and I was thrilled that she loved the manuscript and would be editing and art directing. We did several critiques and Mira offered many excellent suggestions during the editorial process. And I know that she worked closely with Sandie Sonke on the art. I am so proud of the final book!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

MELISSA: Mira selected the amazing artist Sandie Sonke as the book’s illustrator. I couldn’t be happier with this collaboration. Sandie’s vision surpassed my expectations. I just love all the details she added in the illustrations and I love the expressions on Scarlet, the magic paintbrush, and the adorable animals. One benefit to working with a small publisher is being involved throughout the process. Mira and Callie consulted me about the illustrations and I saw the art at various stages which was very exciting.

Picture3

 

SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

MELISSA: I didn’t include art notes with this manuscript. In fact, Sandie created a cute story line with the dog appearing in many illustrations that I had not even contemplated. I do include art notes in other manuscripts if they are integral to an understanding of the story.

 

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

MELISSA: I signed the contract in November 2016 and the release date is October 2018.

 

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

MELISSA: I am in the process of having a book trailer produced, and I have lots of swag including bookmarks, stickers, postcards, magnets, and a t-shirt. Kids love swag! I’m also having an educator guide created for teachers and librarians by Deb Gonzalez.

 

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

MELISSA: I started on this KidLit writing journey in 1997 when my oldest daughter was one! Seriously! I joined SCBWI that year and attended many workshops. And I have a file drawer full of rejections. After that initial burst, I worked on many other writing projects, including parenting articles and a parent-child book club resource book. About five years ago I got immersed again in writing for children. I started taking more classes and joined several critique groups. I started submitting picture books and ultimately signed my first contract for my chapter book series. My next picture book is Ready, Set, Gorilla!, illustrated by the very talented Sandy Steen Bartholomew.

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

MELISSA: It’s so amazing to hold the finished book in my hands! My message to pre-published writers is to keep going. Work hard; study your craft through in person or online courses (like Susanna’s Making Picture Book Magic which I took twice!); attend conferences; participate in writing challenges and workshops; make connections with other creatives; establish relationships with trusted critique partners; and just write and submit!

I’m so happy to be featured on your blog, Susanna! Thanks, again for chatting!

 

Picture2

Melissa Stoller, Children’s Author

Find Melissa online at:

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Melissa!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with ALL your books!

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

You may purchase Melissa’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

– 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

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

Happy Friday, Folks!

Tomorrow is the opening of the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest! (If you haven’t written your entry yet, click on that link to read the guidelines and get right to it – there’s still time! 🙂 And the prizes are worth it!!! )

I totally can’t wait (…except I haven’t written my sample yet so I’m a little worried about that…!) but I’m SOOOO looking forward to reading all of the stories you’ve written which I am sure, based on past experience, will be absolutely fabulous!

Since we all have last-minute writing to get to, I will jump right into today’s Perfect Picture Book, which is technically a board book – a lift-the-flap, actually! – but is so cute I couldn’t resist.  Plus, I really wanted something Halloween for today, since it’s the last PPBF before that spooky night! 🙂

Little Blue

Title: Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

Written By: Alice Schertle

Illustrated By: Jill McElmurry

HMH Books For Young Readers, July 2016, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-5

Themes/Topics: Holidays (Halloween), costumes

Opening: “Little Blue Truck
and his good friend Toad
are going to a party
just down the road.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”
says Little Blue.
“It’s Halloween!”
You come, too!

Brief Synopsis: It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too?

Links To Resources: make your own lift-the-flap: draw an animal, then, on another piece of paper, draw the same animal disguised in a costume.  Paste the costume picture over the animal picture, fastening only the top so you can lift it.  See if your friends can guess who it is, then let them lift the flap to see if they’re right!

Why I Like This Book: As you probably all know, I am a fan of Little Blue Truck 🙂 So I was of course thrilled to discover his Halloween adventure!  This is a sturdy board book with lift-the-flaps.  On each page, Alice Schertle’s trademark catchy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and one of Little Blue’s animal friends is dressed in costume…and you can lift the flat to discover who it is that’s dressed up.  Does it get more fun than that?  Why yes!  Because it’s just possible that Little Blue has a costume too!  But you’ll have to read the book to find out 🙂  Beautiful fall colors and a whole cast of woodland trick-or-treaters are featured in the illustrations.  All around, a delight!

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 9.47.01 PM

text copyright Alice Schertle 2016, illustration copyright Jill McElmurry 2016

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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

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

Now!  Last minute finishing touches on your Halloweensies and I will see you all tomorrow for the festivities!!! 🙂

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Annie Romano!

Good Morning, Everyone!

It’s time to BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee, Bring Your Own Chocolate, Bring Your Own Chair 🙂 ) and settle in among friends for today’s exciting edition of Tuesday Debuts!!!

I am thrilled to introduce to you for the first time in Picture Book Authorship, Annie Romano and her debut picture book, BEFORE YOU SLEEP: A BEDTIME BOOK OF GRATITUDE.

Welcome, Annie, and congratulations!!!

Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude
by Annie Cronin Romano
Illustrated by Ioana Hobao
Page Street Kids
October 16, 2018
Fiction
ages 3-7

Final Cover BEFORE YOU SLEEP

Synopsis:
This winsome bedtime book has the makings to become a classic and an important part of families’ nightly rituals. Reflecting on various activities through each of the five senses, detailed poetic text and illustrations show memorable scenes.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Annie!  We are excited for you and thrilled to have you here to tell us about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

 

ANNIE: I worked for nearly 15 years as a speech-language pathologist. One exercise I would do with some of my students involved describing items using the five senses. One night I was having difficulty sleeping. The phrase “before you sleep, before you dream” popped up in my mind (probably because sleep was eluding me), and I wrote it down as a potential refrain for a story. The next day, I played around with the phrase and eventually linked it with the five senses exercise I used with my students. It blossomed from there and became a lyrical bedtime story with a theme of gratitude structured around the five senses.

 

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

ANNIE: Once I had the idea for BEFORE YOU SLEEP in mind, I wrote the extremely rough draft in one weekend. It was by no means finished. I sent it off to my critique group and let them sink their editorial teeth into it.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

ANNIE: Yes, I tend to use a combination of critiques and time when revising. Once I’ve reviewed the feedback I receive from my critique group and incorporated what makes the story stronger, I put the manuscript in a drawer for a while I work on other projects. This could be a few weeks or many months, depending on the project. I find this “let it sit” technique helpful as I can look at the story with a fresh perspective after not reading it for a while. For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I also drafted a non-rhyming version while the rhyming version was in the drawer. My critique group critiqued that one, too, but ultimately it didn’t come together as well and I returned to the original version. I expanded the verse manuscript based on additional feedback. All in all, the manuscript went through about six drafts over two years. This doesn’t include the revisions I did for the publisher once I sold it.

 

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

ANNIE: Once I’d gone through several passes with my critique group and have let the manuscript sit so I could get that “fresh eyes” perspective several times, then I started submitting.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

ANNIE: Despite loving this manuscript, I was hesitant to query BEFORE YOU SLEEP because I thought it was far too quiet for the current market. But I researched agents who were open to queries and ultimately sent it to five agents I thought would be a good fit. I received three positive personalized rejections with helpful feedback, which is unusual, so I felt something was definitely working. I revised it based on some of the feedback. I then posted a pitch for it in February 2017’s #PBPitch Twitter event. I got a “like” from Kristen Nobles, an editor at an independent publishing company named Page Street that was adding a children’s division. Because I don’t have an agent, I communicated directly with Kristen.

 

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

ANNIE: Just three days after I sent Kristen Nobles my manuscript, she emailed me to ask about discussing the possibility of publication. That turnaround time is highly unusual, but because Page Street was just launching its children’s division, they didn’t have a backlog of projects. By early April, I had a signed contract.

SUSANNA: That is amazing!  You must have been over the moon!

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

ANNIE: My husband and kids actually planned a surprise celebration for me and took me for a getaway in Boston. We live about 45 minutes from the city and it’s one of our favorite places to explore, so it was wonderful to spend some quality time with my family in the city we enjoy so much. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, which I love visiting!

 

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

 

ANNIE: Because it was my first book contract, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did a lot of research online and asked a few friends who were already published for some guidance. Then I had a lawyer who specialized in publishing review the contract. She made a few suggestions and adjustments, but overall she reported that it was an honest and straightforward contract, so once a few items were revised, I felt confident moving forward. I recommend having a lawyer with experience in publishing review your contract. She had a much better idea of what was a solid offer in terms of royalty percentages and author copies than I did as a debut author.

I don’t have many contracts of my own to define “normal,” but based on the feedback my attorney gave me and what I’ve learned via research, my contract was fairly standard. From speaking with other debut picture book authors working with small to mid-size publishers, most seem to get an advance ranging from $1000 to $5,000, and mine was in that range. You want a decent advance, but you also want to be able to earn out in a reasonable amount of time. Standard royalties hover around 5% on hardcover. And most debut authors I know received between 10-20 author copies of their books.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

ANNIE: Most of my revisions took place after the initial sketches were done, and there were no major revisions. We changed a few words and phrases for pacing and flow, and a few minor changes were made to keep the text timely and to reflect an illustration choice.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

ANNIE: Page Street allowed me to have a say in who would illustrate my book, which was a terrific experience! They sent me several portfolios to consider and invited me to put forth names of illustrators whose work I thought might be a good match. When I received the portfolios, I knew from the styles that the publisher’s vision for the book was in line with mine. I was kept in the loop throughout the process, from initial sketches to final proofs, and they asked for my feedback. I adore Ioana Hobai’s illustrations. She captured the essence of BEFORE YOU SLEEP beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with how the artwork came together with the text!

BeforeYouSleep_3

 

SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

ANNIE: For BEFORE YOU SLEEP, I didn’t include any illustration notes because they weren’t necessary for that text. I do have some manuscripts that contain minimal (one to two) illustration notes, but in general I try to avoid using them unless that note is necessary to the plot and can’t be inferred from the text.

 

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

ANNIE: It was about 18 months. I think that’s fast, but again, my book was on Page Street Kids’ first list, so there wasn’t a backlog of projects. I think it would be longer now.
AnnieCR with book

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

ANNIE: I am fortunate to be on Page Street’s inaugural children’s list, so they’ve been doing a good amount of marketing for a small publisher. My publisher has sent out introductory mailings and F&G’s (folded and gathered) to reviewers, librarians, and key industry professionals. They also featured their titles at the New England Independent Booksellers Association conference in September, and they’ve had some events to introduce their children’s line to booksellers and librarians. They’re doing social media publicity as well.

 

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

ANNIE: My marketing consisted mainly of social media posts and scheduling signings and story time events. I didn’t make a book trailer. I created book plates to hand out at my launch and signings, and I did a Facebook event page for my book launch. I plan to run some giveaways on Goodreads and Twitter once the book is released, and I am doing guest blogs and interviews.

 

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

ANNIE: It was about fifteen years, but I also had three young children during the early years, so my writing productivity was definitely slower during that time.

 

SUSANNA: How many copies did your house do for first printing (if you know… and care to share)? The differences between large and small houses can be interesting.

 

ANNIE: My initial print run was under 10,000, which I think is to be expected for a debut author and a smaller publishing house launching its first children’s list. I hope my book finds its way into many people’s hands and we’ll need a second printing! Fingers crossed!

AnnieCroninRomano-head shot

Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! My website is www.anniecroninromano.com. I can be found on Twitter at @AnnieCRomano and Instagram at anniecroninromano.books.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Annie!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with your book!

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

You may purchase Annie’s book at:

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

– 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

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Look At Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Yay!  Here we are at Perfect Picture Book Friday!

This week, that means that tomorrow is the annual New York State Sheep and Wool Festival!

I love this festival, and highly recommend it to anyone who does any type of craft with yarn – so much gorgeous yarn to choose from! plus classes and exhibitions on how to  knit, crochet, weave, shear sheep, spin, etc, and tons of beautiful gifts – or to anyone who really likes hanging around with sheep, alpacas, and llamas and enjoys indulging in fall fair food 🙂

I will be signing copies of my books courtesy of Merritt Bookstore in Building B all day Saturday and Sunday.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hi!  My good friend and fellow author, Iza Trapani, will be there too with all of her wonderful books!

Anyway, on to Perfect Picture Books!

Quite by accident, I chose nature-oriented nonfiction books for older picture book readers two weeks in a row!  This is a beautiful one that I think you’ll really like!

look at me

Title: Look At Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Written & Illustrated By: Jim Arnosky

Sterling Children’s Books, September 4, 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: animals, nonfiction

Opening: From the introduction written by the author: “Whenever I view a distant bird up close through my camera’s telephoto lens or hold a glistening trout in my hands as I release it back into the water, I am awestruck by their beauty.  Why are wild animals so stunningly beautiful?

From the first section: Fanned Tails: “Behold the glorious peacock! When fully displayed, a peacock’s spectacular tail is four feet wide and two feet high. That’s eight square feet of tail! Combined with the bird’s loud, raucous call, a displaying peacock gets plenty of attention.

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher’s summary: “Meet the show-offs! With their wacky eyebrows, beautiful patterns, and bright feathers and scales, many animals seem to be saying: “Look at ME!” That behavior certainly won’t protect them from predators, so why do they do it?  Jim Arnosky explores a multitude of creatures from across the globe to reveal the reasons behind their attention-grabbing behavior.”

Links To Resources: the book itself is an incredible resource.  Full of interesting facts, and amazingly detailed illustrations. An author’s note at the back gives a glimpse into the author’s experience and process of writing the book.  A useful bibliography of further resources is also included.  Draw a bird, animal, or reptile and decorate with your own feathers, textures, sequins, etc.  Make it as realistic as possible or invent your own creature and make it as fanciful as you like!

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about animals and nature, and this book is terrific for that.  The information presented is interesting and accessible, but actually, I truly love this book for the art!  The illustrations are exquisite!  Most of the pages fold out so that the illustrations are the size of 4 pages.  The colors and attention to detail are incredible.  This is an excellent choice for the animal and/or nonfiction-loving young reader and would make a great addition to classroom, library, or home bookshelves!

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Look at the detail!

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And here’s one of the fold out spreads that is 4 pages wide

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story PLUS The Love Is Kind Giveaway Winner!!!

Woo hoo!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

And you know what that means . . .

The weekend is (for all intents and purposes) HERE!!!

Autumn weekends are the best, aren’t they?

Apple picking…cider donuts…fall foliage…cider donuts…pumpkin picking…cider donuts… hiking…cider donuts…I’m sure you get the point…cider donuts 🙂 )

Today, I’m sharing a book about nature – well, really about a person who truly loved and appreciated it – even though not specifically about autumn.  (And not at all about cider donuts – although I’m sure the book would be even more enjoyable with a plate of them to munch on 🙂 ) Have a look!

Gwen Frostic

Title: Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written By: Lindsey McDivitt

Illustrated By: Eileen Ryan Ewen

Sleeping Bear Press, July 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: nature/environment, overcoming disabilities, girl power, artists

Opening: “Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.  They roamed the woods and fields near Croswell – their tiny town tucked into the thumb of Michigan.  Gwen played and picked wildflowers.  But her hands were weakened from an illness as a baby.  Her speech was slurred, one small foot dragged, and she fell down often.  
     She bumped her shins.
          She bruised her knees.
               She banged her elbows.
“Gwen doesn’t need your help, Helen,” Mama called from the porch.  Mama knew Gwen could do whatever she put her mind to.

Brief Synopsis: A picture book biography of lesser-known environmental pioneer, artist, and businesswoman, Gwen Frostic, who rose above the challenges caused by a debilitating childhood illness to create nature-based artwork, help build WWII bombers, create her own printmaking business, and encourage people to appreciate, protect and cherish nature.

Links To Resources: the book itself is a resource, including back matter with additional biographical information on Gwen Frostic and a print-making art/nature activity; make your own leaf rubbings

Why I Like This Book: Most picture books are for kids up to age 8.  I love when the occasional one comes along that is intended for slightly older kids because, let’s face it – they love picture books too!  Educational and/or biographical information is so much more palatable in picture book format! :). This book is beautifully written, placing the emphasis on Gwen’s intelligence and determination to succeed in art, environmental protection and business, in spite of dire warnings in her youth that she’d never be able to write (never mind draw or carve) because her hands weren’t strong enough to hold a pencil and the fact that her physical disabilities made getting around difficult.  The repeated phrase that Gwen knew she could do whatever she set her mind to is inspirational and motivational for young readers.  I also love that Gwen was ahead of her time, doing things that women didn’t typically do.  Very empowering for young readers.  All around a very interesting book about a person I hadn’t heard of before!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Oh, and if you missed the Halloweensie Contest announcement and want to work on your story this weekend, click HERE for the guidelines!!!

OH!  And I almost forgot to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway!  Laura Sassi and her generous publisher, Zonderkidz, offered a copy of LOVE IS KIND to one lucky commenter.  And the winner is . . .

DUHN DUHN DUHN . . .

Becky Scharnhorst!!!

So, Becky, give me a holler and I’ll put you and Laura in touch with each other so you can get your book!!!

Many thanks, Laura and Zonderkidz!

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Renauld!

 

Welcome to another thrilling edition of Tuesday Debut!

I hope you’re enjoying these interviews as much as I am!  I love getting to see our authors’ unique stories as well as getting to see the areas where their experiences overlap.  Fiction and nonfiction. Large publishing houses and small.  Art notes or back matter for some, none for others.  A terrific array of different marketing and promotion ideas they’ve come up with.  But everyone draws strength and inspiration from their work, lives, and families.  Everyone discovers that even published authors have to vacuum and do the dishes 🙂 And no one seems quite sure exactly how they know when a manuscript is ready to submit, or to have gone into signing a contract with much idea of what the norm is.  Thankfully, by sharing their experiences here, these generous authors are helping all of us to be better prepared for what lies ahead, as well as showing us some tools that worked for them that may help us get there!

So without further ado, I’m delighted to introduce today’s debut author, Laura Renauld, and her book, PORCUPINE’S PIE!

PORCUPINE’S PIE
by Laura Renauld
illustrated by Jennie Poh
Beaming Books
October 9, 2018
Fiction
4-8

thumbnail_PorcupinesPie_COV copy

Synopsis:

Porcupine can’t wait to share Fall Feast with her woodland friends, so when everyone she greets is unable to bake their specialty due to a missing ingredient, Porcupine generously offers staples from her pantry. When Porcupine discovers that she, too, is missing a key ingredient, the friends all work together to create a new Fall Feast tradition.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Laura!  I know I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to hear about your journey to publication!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

LAURA: I have been an enthusiastic participant in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (now Storystorm) since 2011. I highly recommend this to writers at any point in their career. During the month of January, Tara offers daily guest posts that are intended to stimulate new ideas, with the goal of collecting 30 ideas in 30 days. Check it out here!

I was inspired by Tammi Sauer’s post during PiBoIdMo 2014, which challenged writers to frame a story as a How-To Book. My brainstorming that day included this jot in my notebook: “How to make porcupine pie (or a pie for a porcupine)”. Even though it did not evolve into a How-To Book, that was the humble beginning of PORCUPINE’S PIE!

 

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

LAURA: This story took shape rather quickly. Four days after my initial idea, I brainstormed plots using a basic template that helped me think through the main character’s problem, obstacles, and solution. I came up with two possible angles and I drafted one of them that same day.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

LAURA: As I look back at my timeline, I can’t believe that I did this, but I revised it twice and then sent it off to Rate Your Story only three days later! (I do not move that quickly with my manuscripts anymore! I write them, I let them sit, I revise them, I bring them to my critique groups, I revise some more. Repeat, repeat, repeat!) I got a good rating, though. 3: Good story! Get a critique or two and polish before submitting. This gave me confidence that I was on the right track, so I kept revising. Something in the judge’s comments caused me to shift the plot in a significant way. And that is the version that clicked.

 

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

LAURA: I still have a really hard time knowing when a manuscript is ready to submit! Sometimes, if I’ve gotten positive feedback from writing partners and I feel it’s the best it can be, I just go for it.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

LAURA: At the time, I was unagented so I was open to a variety of submission opportunities. I submitted PORCUPINE’S PIE for the first time in February 2015 to an editor who spoke at the Fall 2014 SCBWI conference I attended. And then… crickets. I never did receive a response.

I set the manuscript aside for several months before sharing it with my critique group. I revised a couple more times in 2015 and then I didn’t touch it again until submitting it to the first annual Sparkhouse Family (now Beaming Books) Picture Book Contest in November 2016. And I won! I’d like to give a shout-out to Sub It Club, which posts an awesome contest calendar. That is where I heard about this opportunity.

Fun Fact: I tweaked my fall-themed story so that I could enter a pared-down version of it in Susanna’s 2016 Valentine-y contest!

 

SUSANNA: And all this time I thought the picture book came from the Valentiny Contest entry!  I guess it was the other way around!

 

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

LAURA: Just over a month after I submitted my story to the contest, I received the email from Sparkhouse Family that I had won and they would like to publish my book!

 

SUSANNA: That must have been so amazing!  How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

LAURA: With lots of hugs and phone calls. 🙂

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A family trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art this summer. Laura’s boys (on the edges) and her niece and nephew are her inspirations!

 

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

 
LAURA: I didn’t know what to expect with the contract. I relied heavily on SCBWI’s THE BOOK to negotiate a few contractual changes.

 

 

SUSANNA: Are you able to share any of the contract details?  It is clear from all our Tuesday Debut Authors’ answers to this question that most of us had no idea what to expect, so any light you can shed on specifics will be welcome so that when our readers get to their first contracts they will have some idea what to expect!

 

LAURA: Beaming Books is a small publisher. They hold an annual writing contest to generate interest and excitement for their house and brand. This is a clever way to encourage submissions during a certain period of time and to entice writers with prize money. Porcupine’s Pie won the first annual contest which offered a $5000 prize. It turned out that the prize money was actually my advance. And really, the biggest prize I was hoping for was to have my story published. The royalty ranges from 5%-7% as the number of copies sold increases. One thing that I did not know going into a book contract was that the listed royalty is split between author and illustrator. So if you are an author/illustrator, you’ll get the full 10% standard royalty. But if you are just an author, like me, you’ll receive 5% and your illustrator will receive 5%.

SUSANNA: Did you receive author copies?

LAURA: Yes, I received 10.

SUSANNA: Do you know what your initial hard cover print run is?

LAURA: The initial print run is 3,000 copies.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for being willing to provide such detail, Laura!  I know readers will be grateful for it!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

 
LAURA: Only minor revisions were made during the editorial process, mainly to align the text and the illustrations. For example, I originally had Porcupine wearing a shawl, but the illustration of a shawl full of quills looked awkward, so boots were suggested instead. And Porcupine looks good in her little blue boots!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

 

LAURA: I was pleasantly surprised when my editor asked me for styles of art that I like. I just happen to keep a Pinterest board of Illustrators I Admire, so I was able to share my tastes easily. When my editor informed me that Jennie Poh would be doing the illustrations, I was thrilled. I saw sketches of the woodland characters and was given a chance to comment. Then the cover was revealed, along with an internal spread in Fall 2017. Finally, I got to see a digital proof in May of this year. After a few more back-and-forths, the final digital proof arrived.

Jennie’s art is warm and whimsical. I love the color palette Jennie chose and Porcupine’s cozy den feels so inviting. The characters were friends in my text, but Jennie’s illustrations made those relationships believable.

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interior spread from PORCUPINE’S PIE

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

LAURA: Foreword Reviews published a review of Porcupine’s Pie in their Sept./Oct. issue. It was a bit surreal!

 

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

LAURA: 21 months. Fun fact: That’s about how long an elephant mama carries her baby before it is born!

 

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

LAURA: My publisher purchased ad space in Foreword Reviews in the form of an author interview to complement the review in the same issue. They also plan to promote my book on the Beaming Books blog.

 

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

LAURA: Before my book launched, I promoted it with a ‘Preorder Campaign’ where those who preordered would get a signed bookplate and be entered to win a pie-making kit. I also planned a launch party with children’s activities and a blog tour, stopping at various kidlit and mommy blogs. I decided not to invest in a book trailer, but I did have bookmarks and stickers printed. I also canvassed the neighborhood with launch party invitations!

 

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

 
LAURA: I started writing a bit and taking some kidlit workshops about ten years before PORCUPINE’S PIE won the Beaming Books Picture Book Contest. But it wasn’t until I joined SCBWI in 2011 and made writing a priority during the few hours my kids were in preschool that I really began to improve my craft. It was energizing to see my own progress and humbling to realize I should never have submitted to agents when I did! From my conversations with other writers, five to ten years to land a book contract is not unusual.

 

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

 
LAURA: If you have an idea for back matter that was not submitted with the original manuscript, pitch it to the editor! PORCUPINE’S PIE is a story with food at its core so it made sense to add a recipe at the end. I made a lot of trial pies, had friends and family taste test them, then created my recipe. And my editor ate it up! 🙂

 

Laura Renauld

 

Find Laura on the web at laurarenauld.comand on social media:

Twitter – @laura_renauld

Facebook – @kidlitlaura

Instagram – @laurarenauld

 

Thank you so much for a wonderful and very informative interview, Laura!  On behalf of all our readers, I appreciate you including Storystorm and Sub It Club, the specific details of your contract, author copies and print run, and your excellent advice about back matter.  So helpful!

Readers, you may purchase Laura’s book at:

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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Hannah Holt!

Welcome to the October 2nd edition of Tuesday Debut, everyone!

Not only do we have a fabulous new author and debut picture book to enjoy today, this particular author did some research into advances, royalties, and rights last year which she has very kindly shared with us below.  After last week’s questions, I know you’ll all find it interesting!

So without further ado, put your hands together for Hannah Holt and her debut picture book, The Diamond And The Boy!

The Diamond and the Boy
written by Hannah Holt
illustrated by Jay Fleck
Balzer+Bray, October 2, 2018
Nonfiction, ages 4-8

 

DiamondMan Final cover

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Hannah!  We are thrilled to have you here and so excited to hear all about your amazing book!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

HANNAH: Tracy Hall was my grandfather. The idea to write his biography was simple enough, but how to tell the story eluded me for years. I took the story in a dozen different directions before landing on the dual narrative with graphite.

 

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

HANNAH: About five years.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

HANNAH: Yes, about eighty.

SUSANNA: I am noticing a trend here, folks!  Last week, Beth told us her book had undergone 91 revisions.  It sounded like a LOT, but Hannah is giving her a run for her money!

 

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

HANNAH: When it was accepted for publication!
Kidding (sort of). I still struggle with knowing when my stories are “ready.”

I worked on this story for years. I had it professionally critiqued. The story won an award—and I still had to completely rewrite it before it was accepted for publication. A story can always be made better. However, every so often, you have to try the market. Sometimes you just have to let go and submit.

Yes, edit it and revise it. Rest it and rework it. Critique it and tweak it…and then send it out!

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

HANNAH: I wanted an agent, so I mostly submitted to them.

I sent in small batches of 5-8 at a time. When a rejection came in, I would send another query out. I was working towards a goal of 100 rejections in a year.

I didn’t quite make that goal because I signed with my agent, Laura Biagi, and we were fortunate to have The Diamond & the Boy picked up quickly.

Laura was actually my second agent. My first agent, Danielle Smith, is no longer working in the industry.

While working with Danielle, I received no rejections. None. My stories went out and nothing came back. After we parted ways, I set my rejection goal to take back control of my career.

If you aren’t getting rejected, you probably aren’t progressing towards publication.

Rejects are good! They are proof you are working.

Hannah and Zephyr

Hannah hard at work with her supervisor and neck-warmer, Zephyr 🙂

 

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

HANNAH: I spoke with my editor before I had an official offer.

Laura and I received interest from multiple houses for The Diamond & the Boy. My agent arranged phone calls with the interested editors, so I could hear their editorial ideas. Kristin Rens had a fantastic vision for the story, so I accepted the offer from Balzer+Bray.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

HANNAH: I signed my contract, and then finished washing the dishes.

Okay, later in the day, I went to dinner with my husband, but it’s funny how normal duties of life didn’t disappear just because a book contract is signed.

 

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

HANNAH: My advance was larger than expected, probably because of the interest from multiple houses. It still didn’t make me rich. I’ve sold more than this book, but I’m not living off my income from picture books.

I didn’t know what to expect in other areas, so I deferred to my agent’s judgment on those items. (Hurrah, for agents!)

 

SUSANNA: Readers of this series have expressed a strong interest in knowing a little more about the specifics of contracts.  As it happens, Hannah conducted a poll last year to gather information on that topic and she was kind enough to provide a graph and summary explanation which I hope everyone will find helpful.  Even though I’m sticking it smack in the middle of her interview 🙂

HANNAH:

I asked about advances as part of my children’s author survey last year. I had over 100 published picture book authors participate. The most common advance range for smaller houses is $1,000-$5,000. The most common advance range at Big 5 houses is $5,000-$10,000. However, I’ve attached an image to show you the spread. My debut advance was higher than average, but I had interest from multiple houses. That drove the offer up quite a bit.

My agent at the time was aggressive about pursuing international rights, so she only sold North American rights. I’ve spoken with editors about this. It’s more common for picture books to sell world rights because the words and illustrations are often created by different person. It can be easier to sell as a package. One editor I talked to said picture books at her house are about 2/3rds world rights. This same editor said it’s more common for novelists to retain world rights.

Q1 Large House vs small house advance

graph copyright Hannah Holt 2017

 

SUSANNA:  Thank you so much for sharing that, Hannah.  I think I can speak for all our readers when I say it is extremely helpful!

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

HANNAH: I was fortunate to talk to my editor before accepting the offer, so there weren’t any big surprises.

I had pitched the book as a dual narrative meet-in-the-middle story, and Kristin wanted a side-by-side telling. I fully supported this switch and working with Balzer+Bray was a delight. Kristin kept me in the loop for everything from copy editing to the progress on the illustrations.

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

HANNAH: I was involved from the very beginning.

My editor suggested four possible illustrators, and Jay Fleck was my top pick. Fortunately, he accepted the offer from my publisher. Yay!

My editor kept me in the loop as illustrations progressed. I saw sketches, and at some point, my editor asked if I would help supply research material. Of course, I was happy to help, and we went through a few rounds of sketches and tweaks.

I never spoke directly with the illustrator, and I tried to leave Jay as much stylistic freedom as possible in my notes while keeping the story technically accurate. I’m very happy with the result. The final artwork is stunning!

SUSANNA: Very cool that your editor sought your input on who the illustrator would be!

 

SUSANNA: Did you include art notes in your manuscript?  If so, can you share an example?

HANNAH: I only had one illustration note in the text for The Diamond & the Boy. It was describing something vaguely enough that I thought the illustrator might need some help:

“Once-frail sticks and sheets

become strong enough to lift his feet

off the earth. (illo note: huge kite)”

The resulting illustration looks like this:

The Change page

 

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

HANNAH: The Diamond and the Boy has had two trade reviews so far: Booklist (a STAR!) and Kirkus. I saw both reviews before they were made public and fortunately both were favorable.

 

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

HANNAH: About two years.

 

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

HANNAH: My publisher sent my book out for trade reviews and awards. They’ve brought The Diamond & the Boy to major book conferences, like Texas ALA. They’ve also had a digital copy available on Edelweiss+ and sent me several Folded & Gathered copies.

I won’t be going on a publisher sponsored book tour or anything fancy like that, but I’m happy with the level of support I’ve received.

 

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

HANNAH: I helped organize a picture book debut group with about 50 members. We recently ran a group giveaway for educators with over 1,600 entries. It’s much easier to market with friends. I highly recommend that approach.

I’m also writing blog posts (like this! Thanks, Susanna!), putting together a classroom guide, and recording videos for science experiments correlated with my book.

When focusing on promotional material, I try to spend time rather than money. Like I said earlier, writing books hasn’t made me rich.

 

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

HANNAH: Ten years.

In the last decade, I’ve watched many friends sign with agents and publishing houses. Some friends have become quite successful. Others have left the business. I’ve also seen books hit bestseller lists and then eventually go out of print.

Through all this, I’ve learned that quick success isn’t necessarily the path to happiness. Becoming “published” is not the end-all, be-all that budding authors sometimes think it is. It’s important to know what you want and not become distracted by the siren call of every opportunity.

Market trends come and go, but stories don’t expire. There is no deadline for success. Through it all, keep chasing your own dreams!

SUSANNA: That is excellent advice, Hannah!  Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us today.  We all really appreciate it and wish you the best of success with this book and all the books to follow!  Readers, if you have any questions for Hannah, I’m sure she’ll answer if she has time!

HannahHolt_small

Hannah Holt is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer+Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies. You can find her on Twitter and at her website: HannahHolt.com

You may purchase her book at:

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, our children’s teachers and librarians, and our local libraries and bookstores, by sharing their books on social media, and by 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