Perfect Picture Book Friday – Except If

Hi Everyone!

Time for another week’s round-up of fantastic picture books!

As you can tell by the age of the last few books I’ve reviewed, I am calling on my personal library for choices during this time when visits to the bookstore and local public library are impossible.  Luckily, I have so many gems! 😊

With Spring in the air, and Easter this weekend, it seems like a perfect time for a perfect picture book about eggs!  This book is an amazing example of how much story you can convey with only 125 words!

Except If

Title: Except If

Written & Illustrated By: Jim Averbeck

Atheneum Books For Young Readers, January 2011, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-8

Themes/Topics: imagination, potential, unexpected outcomes

Opening: “An egg is not a baby bird
but it will become one
except if
it becomes a baby snake.

Brief Synopsis: From the Amazon book description: “In this young, clever, and whimsical picture book in the spirit of Not a Box and First the Egg, an egg is not just an egg, but a symbol of the potential a child’s imagination holds. As each image melds smoothly, but unexpectedly, into the next, readers are invited to stretch the limits of their imagination.”

except if int.

text and illustration copyright Jim Averbeck 2011 Atheneum Books For young Readers

 

Links To Resources: Chick Hatching Activity including video, craft, song, snack idea, and more! And to make it even more fun, you could let kids put whatever they want inside the egg – frog, turtle, snake, dinosaur, etc…!

Why I Like This Book: I love this book because the first time I read it it stretched my imagination!  I turned the pages wondering where would the author go next? How could he keep the surprises going? As a writer, it’s a great example of giving your imagination free rein and letting it take you to unexpected places, as well as how much story you can tell in very few words.  As a reader (child or adult 😊), it gives just enough hints to make you think you might know what comes next…only to discover it’s something else!  For teachers, it’s a great model of how you could encourage students to explore their own concepts/ideas in a story form in an unexpected way.  The book is deceptively simple, a fun read for youngest readers, but just intriguing for older ones!

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!!!  Happy Passover and Happy Easter to those who celebrate! 🙂

Easter eggs

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Heather Ferranti Kinser!

Hey, Everyone!

Welcome to today’s installment of Tuesday Debut!

I’m delighted to be introducing you to Heather Ferranti Kinser, the talented author of Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen, a nonfiction picture book about the tiniest details of animal adaptation.  I believe she has the distinction of being the first debut author in this series to have a book “illustrated” with high resolution photographs from scanning electron microscopes (cool, right???!!!)

So let’s hear what she has to share!

SMALL MATTERS: THE HIDDEN POWER OF THE UNSEEN
Written By: Heather Ferranti Kinser
Millbrook Press (an imprint of Lerner Publications)
April 7, 2020
Nonfiction
Ages 4-9

SmallMattersApprovedCoverImage

Take a super-close look at animal adaptations too tiny to be seen with a light microscope. High-resolution images from scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) show shark skin, bird feathers, gecko toes, and more—proving that tiny details can make a BIG difference.

 

SUSANNA:  Welcome, Heather!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re so excited to hear about your book’s journey!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

HEATHER: The initial credit goes to Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm challenge. In 2018, idea #12 on my StoryStorm list was “Magnify Me!” What was on my mind when I wrote that? Probably my older daughter’s love of insects, and the times she went into our yard (as a preschooler) to observe ants, mites, mosquito larvae—whatever tiny living things caught her interest.

The following month, I expanded on that idea for Vivian Kirkfield’s “50 Precious Words” contest. I posted my 50-word entry, Magnify Me, on my blog (you can read it here: http://www.heatherkinser.com/blog/archives/03-2018). It didn’t win, but the real ‘prize’ came later, when I expanded the concept once more.

The final push came from an open call for submissions, which Millbrook editorial director Carol Hinz posted on the Lerner blog in early 2018. My long-time critique partner, Gabi Snyder (author of Two Dogs on a Trike), alerted me to it. I thought I’d try to expand my little Magnify Me poem. A little research on magnification quickly brought up images from scanning electron microscopes, and wow! I thought it would be incredible to share those high-resolution images with young readers.

 

 

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

HEATHER: From the time I sat down to expand on my “50 Precious Words” poem, to the time I submitted—about 15 days. During that time, I saved my document under 30 different names! I’m not sure if I would officially call that 30 revisions, but suffice to say, I was putting in a lot of work. After I submitted, I received an invitation from Millbrook editorial director Carol Hinz to revise and resubmit the piece in a prose format (the original was in rhyme). Boy oh boy, did Carol’s note get my attention! In roughly 20 days—with loads of advice from my fabulous critique partners—I produced not one but two new manuscripts. One was a longer, more expository option, and the other was a shorter option with a literary tone and layered text.

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Heather’s nearly non-existent work space – kitchen table by day, living room chair by night!

 

SUSANNA: What was your research process like? And did you go through many revisions?

HEATHER: Absolutely! My ever-ready critique partners saw them all and generously offered their time and opinions. Meanwhile, I was writing, revising, and madly researching each animal feature. In the revise and resubmit process, Carol had asked me to include just a few more creatures and a bit more information about how each nano-sized adaptation helps its animal to thrive.

Developing that new layer of depth proved challenging. In the world of nano-sized animal features, the minute you begin to describe an adaptation, you’re plunged into complex physics—topics like tensile strength, drag, lift, iridescence, thin-film reflection, friction, and van der Waal’s forces. Luckily, I discovered the Google Scholar search engine, and my husband is a rocket scientist with an undergrad degree in physics. We had plenty of fascinating consultations during the writing/revising process—often about a small but critical word choice. For the back matter on SEMs, I wrote the material first and then consulted with an expert at Stanford University. And much later on, during the editing process, Millbrook searched long and hard to find the perfect technical consultant—the director of a SEM lab specializing in biomimicry—to review the book in its entirety. I’m so glad to have received her stamp of approval.

My decision process for which animal features to include in the book began with Internet searches for fascinating SEM photos. First and foremost, the visuals had to pop. Very early on, I made a decision to only write about animals that kids had some chance of being familiar with. I didn’t want to get too obscure. So that was another criterion. And there needed to be something cool and surprising that had recently been discovered about that animal feature—the discovery had to address a previously unanswered “how” or “why” question.

Once I found a promising animal feature, I’d research it through a combination of news articles and reports from scientific journals. As I mentioned, the Google Scholar search engine was a lifesaver. There, I found scientific research reports pertaining to each animal feature in the book. (And if I couldn’t find research reports, that animal was dropped, and I’d go back to the drawing board.) I didn’t need to understand every nitty-gritty detail or calculation in the reports. For my purposes, I could usually gain enough information by perusing the Abstract, Introduction, and conclusions. (To get to the Google Scholar search engine, all you need to do is type “Google Scholar” as a search term. This search-engine-within-a-search-engine will pop up as the first option!)

 

 

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

HEATHER: For my longer manuscript (Zoom In!)—I knew because my critique partners had fewer and fewer critiques and started telling me it was good to go. Also, I was up against a deadline. So, ready or not, here it came! For my shorter manuscript (Small Matters)—I knew because I felt the work pulling at my heartstrings with a deeper level of meaning that was hard to quantify.

By the way, I labored over Zoom In! for weeks, but I wrote the first draft of Small Matters in a single evening. I had Zoom In! all polished and ready to submit. The only task left was to spend an evening with the Chicago Manual of Style, creating a reference list. I took my work with me to my daughter’s choir rehearsal. Maybe it was procrastination (I did not want to create that reference list), serendipity, or the angelic voices from the girls’ choir drifting into the room, but something magical happened that night. I started over, with the title Small Matters as my inspiration, and wrote the lyrical piece that eventually became my book—all within that two-hour choir-rehearsal time period. Roughly a week later, after two short days of back-and-forth with critique partners, I submitted BOTH manuscripts to Carol. She was “taken with” the shorter one, brought it to an acquisitions meeting, and the rest is history.

 

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Heather’s writing buddies: her dog, Chelsea (above) and her golden mystery snail who is elegant but nameless 😊 (below)

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SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

HEATHER: I don’t have an agent yet. I submitted via email, directly to Millbrook’s editorial director, Carol Hinz, in response to and open call for submissions which she had posted on Lerner’s blog in early 2018. (That open call has ended, by the way, and Lerner is not generally open to unsolicited work.)

 

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

HEATHER: On October 24, 2018, I received an email from Carol, informing me that things had gone well at the acquisitions meeting and Millbrook wanted to publish my manuscript. It was the day after my older daughter’s birthday. What a gift, to be able to tell your kids that mom’s hard work has paid off, and she’s going to be an author!

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

HEATHER: I believe my critique partners were first to know. They are my biggest cheerleaders, and I love sharing successes with them. I rejoiced with my family (squealing and dancing around) and privately enjoyed a big root beer float (with chocolate ice cream, never vanilla) on my patio. But there was still lots of work to be done to develop the book’s highly condensed back matter, so I didn’t pause to celebrate for long. I remember being too newbie-nervous to let my hair down until the revision process was done.

 

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

HEATHER: I received a fair advance, a percentage of the net royalties, and 15 copies of the book. I don’t have an agent yet, so I negotiated on my own, with a little guidance from my neighbor and his sister, who are both lawyers. (I think I owe them each a bottle of wine). My contract was just what I would expect, considering that Small Matters is my first book and the publishing house put loads of work into seeking out excellent photographic images and purchasing the rights to use them.

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Heather’s picture book reference library

 

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process. . .

HEATHER: During the editorial phase of production, I worked with Allison Juda at Millbrook. Allison went through my text with a fine-toothed comb, kept me honest on every fact and word choice, and made sure my language was on target for our young reading audience. It was an intense time of cordial communication, careful fact checking, thematic refinement, more careful fact checking, lots of particular wordsmithing, still more careful fact checking, and thoughtful attention to the needs of our future readers. We worked on edits for a little over three months.

 

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

HEATHER: My book is photo-illustrated. I knew it would be, even at the concept stage, because that was one of the parameters of the call for submissions. Just prior to the acquisitions meeting, Carol asked me to provide suggestions for the types of photos they might include. Once the book was in production, the photo-acquisitions team at Millbrook took over and worked magic in hunting down high-quality photos and obtaining permissions.

SMInteriorImage-feathers

We ran into a few snags along the way. For instance, there used to be an octopus in my book, but good SEM photos of octopus skin in the process of changing its texture could not be found. (Go figure!) So, after a bit of a research scramble, I swapped my octopus for a snake!

 

 

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

HEATHER: I did get to see an advance review from Kirkus. I received it roughly two weeks before publication. What a thrill! As pleased as I have been with the book’s production process, it’s a different feeling to have that first glimpse of a book entering the world—and being well received. I hope there will be many more reviews to come! But the best reviews will be (I hope!) from kids loving the book.

 

SUSANNA: I’m sure kids are going to love it, Heather!  How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

HEATHER: I received my offer letter on October 25, 2018 and first held an advance copy of the book on January 13, 2020. So altogether, about a year and 3 months.

 

 

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

HEATHER: So far… My book is listed in Lerner’s Spring Catalog. They have submitted it for review to Kirkus and a number of other journals. Early copies seem to have gone out to some bloggers, too. And Lerner displayed Small Matters at their booth at the ALA Midwinter conference. I’m not sure what other marketing tricks they have up their sleeve, but I can’t wait to find out.

 

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

HEATHER: I’ve created bookmarks to promote Small Matters. I’ve joined a book debut group, the 2020 Debut Crew. We help promote each other’s debut books on social media, and I run the Twitter giveaways for the group (follow us: @2020DebutCrew). Additionally, I’ve created a book trailer, which I’ll post in early March. And I’m working with my daughter’s school librarian to plan a book-talk presentation. Oh, and thank you, Susanna, for allowing me to tell my story here! I’ve also reached out to a few other bloggers, and to KidLit411.

 

 

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

HEATHER: About 5 years. I’ve identified as a ‘writer’ since I was in the third grade. But I started seriously focusing on studying picture-book craft once my youngest child entered grade school.

 

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

HEATHER: The best moments of this experience so far have been with my daughters. When I received my contract, my older daughter picked it up and began reading long passages of the ‘legalese’ in a formal British accent—while I was in hysterics. And when I received my big box of advance copies, my younger daughter opened it with me, lifted out the first copy, and said, “It’s Mommy’s book!” I know this book is not about me. It was a group effort in every sense, and we all hope the real benefactors will be young readers. Still, it’s been a dream come true to share these moments of hard-earned success with my daughters, who are among my most valued readers, critics, and supporters.

aDSC_0155 - Copy

Author Heather Ferranti Kinser (Photo by Di Starr)

 

My Website Link:  www.HeatherKinser.com
Find me on Twitter here:  @hethfeth

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise with us, Heather!  I think we’ve all enjoyed the opportunity to learn something not only about your journey to publication but about nonfiction research, so thank you so much for expanding our knowledge!  We wish you all the best with this and future books!

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

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

Lerner Publications
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

 

 

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Big Friends

Hooray!

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

And what could be better under these stuck-inside circumstances than a new list of fantastic books with hopefully very time-consuming  😊 fun, entertaining activities to go along with them? (that will hopefully keep the little darlings busy for a loooooong time!) (oh, I’m sorry, did I say that out loud?! 😊)

You know how Christmas and birthdays with babies, toddlers, and young children often make you feel that you could have foregone the gifts…because all they want to do is play with the box?

I figured, what with all of us holed up in our homes (possibly feeling like we’re IN a box! 😊) this would be a good day to have a story about friendship and boxes and activities that are all kinds of things you can do with a cardboard box!

Big Friends

Title: Big Friends

Written By: Linda Sarah

Illustrated By: Benji Davies

Henry Holt & Co, January 2016, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, loneliness, imagination, play

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Opening: “Two cardboard boxes, big enough to sit in, hide inside.  Birt and Etho take them out each day, climb Sudden Hill, and sit in them.

Sometimes they’re kings, soldiers, astronauts.  Sometimes they’re pirates sailing wild seas and skies.

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Brief Synopsis: (From the jacket copy) “Birt and Etho are best friends. Together they play outside in big cardboard boxes. Sometimes they’re kings, soldiers, astronauts. Sometimes they’re pirates sailing wild seas and skies. But always, always they’re Big friends. Then one day a new boy arrives, and he wants to join them. Can two become three?”

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Links To Resources: 31 Things To Do With  A Cardboard Box (yes it’s a Buzzfeed link, but there are photos and how-to tutorials for all 31 and they’re so much fun!!!); 101 Things To Do With A Cardboard Box (never mind 31! :)); Make Your Own Friendship Bracelets (video tutorial)

Why I Like This Book: This is a lovely book, filled with the friendship and imaginative play of two boys who get along and understand each other… until a third boy shows up and threatens the balance not because he’s difficult or unpleasant – quite the opposite – but because he’s new and changes the dynamic.  It’s a story about struggling to incorporate someone new without losing the old.  It is not sentimental or sappy in any way, but I promise you will say “Aw!” on the last page 🙂  It’s an important story because integrating new friendships is a skill and a struggle that every child faces at some point.  The pull toward someone new and fun that calls to one member of a friendship, the jealously that threatens the other… or sometimes just the fear that things will change, a true friend will be lost, the friendship will not be the same.  Don’t miss this one!

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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 and stay well!!! 😊🌷🌸😊

 

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Susi Schaefer!

Hello, Everyone!

I truly hope this morning’s post finds you and your loved ones all healthy and well!

We are certainly in unusual times.  A lot of sad and scary things are happening in the world.  But at the same time, trouble seems to bring out the good in people and there are shining examples of love and kindness, people helping other people, all over the world.  In New York City at 7 PM each evening, a cheer goes up to thank all the health care professionals who are working so tirelessly and selflessly to help everyone – a moment of gratitude and solidarity that is profoundly uplifting.  (Turn your sound up so you can really hear the clapping and cheering, the clanging and cowbells and whooping!)

And that is just one example of so many around the world.

Here in the world of children’s literature, we have our own little moments.  For many debut authors whose are books are coming out between today and the end of June, the excitement of launching their very first picture books has been dampened by current events.  Bookstores and libraries are closed, so launch events have been cancelled.  Book festivals of all kinds have been postponed.  There can be no in-person publicity or promotion.  It doesn’t feel like much of a celebration of something they have worked so hard for.

So let’s pull together and do everything we can to help today’s debut author and all the others who will be introduced to you in the coming weeks celebrate and find joy in their launches.  Let’s help them spread the word.  Let’s cheer them on online through social media and to our friends and relatives over the phone.  Let’s help them enjoy this most wonderful moment in their lives and get their books the attention they deserve!

Without further ado, I am thrilled to present to you today’s debut author, Susi Schaefer, a talented writer and illustrator, a graduate of Making Picture Book Magic, and a fellow member of our kid lit community who needs our help to show off her book, which releases next Tuesday on April 7!

CAT LADIES
Written & Illustrated by Susi Schaefer (Author/Illustrator)
Published By Abrams Books For Young Readers
April 7th 2020
Fiction Picture Book

Cat Ladies

This witty picture book explores the loving bond between a cat and her humans.

SUSANNA:  Welcome, Susi!  Thank you so much for joining us today to share your journey to publication so we can all learn!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SUSI: Thank you for having me on your blog, Susanna! Here is a little background story on how CAT LADIES came to be.

My dad’s cousin, Maridl, lives in the Austrian Alps (where I was born and raised). Maridl has a semi-feral cat that chose her garden as her ”home”, and Maridl took on the task of feeding her. She named the cat Poppele, and the two have a loving bond. But when Maridl, who is in her 90s, experienced some health challenges, she had to move into a care home. Now my parents have taken over the cat’s care, and they still bring Maridl to the house often to visit with her beloved Poppele!

I was trying to imagine what it would be like if Poppele would have been able to go with Maridl to the care home. What would her life be like? What would matter to her, and what wouldn’t? How could I turn this into a story?

 

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

SUSI: I started the manuscript in late 2017, and publication is on April 7th, 2020. While I always knew the POV, I wasn’t sure if first person or third person would be stronger. Also, since I’m the illustrator as well, I put together a dummy with several finished illustrations. So, that took some extra time.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SUSI: I went through a fair amount of revisions, but I don’t mind the process. I wrote the first draft in literally a day and also created a couple of initial illustrations. It was so much fun; I still smile thinking about that day. When I showed the idea to my family, critique partners, and illustrator friends, I knew that I had something worth pursuing further. Once I got the story to a point that felt substantial, I sent the project to my agent. He shared my enthusiasm and, with his editorial prowess, he made the story a lot stronger. And, after CAT LADIES was acquired, it was made even better by the fantastic notes of my editor, art director, and book designer.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SUSI: As I mentioned, I work with an agent and he sent the dummy to a list of houses that felt like a good fit.

 

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

SUSI: The book was picked up quickly, and I was thrilled that more than one publisher was interested in CAT LADIES. It ended up selling at auction.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SUSI: I volunteer for a cat rescue, so I gave all the cats extra treats that week.

rescue

SUSANNA: Oh!  I love that!  What a special way to celebrate!  Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

SUSI: My editor didn’t have any big changes, just some logistical input. I was happy to implement everything because it made the story more streamlined. Plus, I am a firm believer that the book creating process is a team effort.

 

SUSANNA: Please tell us about illustrating – something that is a bit of a mystery to many of us!

SUSI: As the illustrator, I got to work closely with the art director.  The notes I received were pretty minor, so the whole process went smoothly. I didn’t use art notes for CAT LADIES, but overall I find them useful and include them whenever I show a new manuscript to my agent. The trick is to keep them short and sweet, like (Art Note: Chases balloon).

Cat Ladies interior

 

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

SUSI: Yes! It was exciting and, naturally, a little nerve-wracking. But reviews are a great tool to help promote a book, so it’s par for the course.

 

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

SUSI: It took about two years to receive my advance author copy.

 

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

SUSI: My publisher has been promoting my book on social media, has sent it out for reviews, and brought it to literary conventions, amongst other things. However, several events had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

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

SUSI: I created a book trailer, some coloring sheets and scheduled blog interviews (including this fabulous one). In addition, I hosted a giveaway on Twitter and Instagram. I also have a YouTube channel where I post free drawing tutorials for artists of all ages, including a tutorial for Princess, the cat from my book.

Sadly, my in-person events had to be put on hold for now, to keep everyone safe.

SUSANNA: We will certainly all do what we can to help you out, Susi!  How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

SUSI: I started writing seriously in 2014, and I sold CAT LADIES in 2018.

 

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

SUSI: I had a lot of help, motivation, and inspiration along the way by joining the SCBWI, participating in Storystorm, Twitter chats, and Instagram prompts. Also, online courses like Making Picture Book Magic and SVS Learn helped me grow, both as an author and illustrator.

CAT LADIES is a story I would have told whether it ended up published or not. It brought me so much joy to tell, even if only my family and friends would have seen it. I find it rewarding to write for the love of storytelling. Luckily, my agent and publisher felt the same way I did about this book 😊

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Maridl – upon whom this wonderful story was based

 

SUSANNA:  Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series, Susi, and paying it forward to other writers!  We wish you all the best of luck with this and future books!

Abrams Author photo 2

Author/Illustrator Susi Schaefer

Here is my website:
Here are my Twitter and IG handles:
susischaeferart
Here is the cat drawing tutorial:
Here is the animal rescue group link:

 

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

You may purchase Susi’s book and have it in your hot little hands on publication day at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Abrams
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

Perfect Picture Book Friday – And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street

Woo hoo!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Today, we’re going to travel back in time to a book I loved back in my misspent youth in about 1969 😊

Stuck in our houses as we all are under the circumstances, what a perfect time to look out the window and see what we can see!

And maybe improve on what we actually see with a little imagination. . . 😊

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Title: And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street

Written & Illustrated By: Dr. Seuss

Vanguard Press, Inc.,  1937, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: Imagination/tall tales, language fun (rhyme)

Opening: “When I leave home to walk to school,
Dad always says to me,
“Marco, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”

But when I tell him where I’ve been
And what I think I’ve seen,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“Your eyesight’s much too keen.

“Stop telling such outlandish tales.
Stop turning minnows into whales.”

Now what can I say,
When I get home today?

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Brief Synopsis: Charged with keeping his eyes open and reporting back on what he sees on his way home from school, Marco simply can’t tell his father that all he saw was a plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street!  So as he walks along, he think of how he could jazz it up a bit… 😊

Links To Resources: Look out the window of your house or car, or take a little walk, and see what you can see, then imagine it into a grander version and draw a picture of what you imagine, or write or tell a story about it!  You can also see how many things you can see that start with the letter A (or any other letter), or count how many flowers (or other objects) you can see.   Construction paper little red wagon; Bumping Up And Down In My Little Red Wagon (song)

Why I Like This Book: This is Dr. Seuss’s very first book for children, and as you can tell by the condition of the book in the photo above, it was one of my very first books – much loved by me and my siblings back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and much loved by my children a couple decades later.  It is the classic cumulative tale, beginning with a plain horse and wagon and getting more and more embellished until he’s got a brass band with a man in a little house hitched on behind being pulled by an elephant ridden by a rajah and flanked by two giraffes… until he has a story that no one can beat – and to think that he saw it on Mulberry Street!!  I’m sure we’ve all felt the urge from time to time to make a story a little more interesting by adding a few details here and there. . . certainly kids like to do it. . . sometimes to see how far they can get and what people will believe!  But the end result in this story is that, despite the fun he had with his imagination, Marco tells the plain truth – dull as it may seem in comparison to his active imagination 😊

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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!!! 🙂

And stay safe and well!!! 🌷

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Storybook Knight

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday and it’s officially SPRING!!!

Woo hoo!

I think that calls for a little kicking up our heels, don’t you? 😊

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SQUEEEEE!!!!! 😊

After all that frolicking I suppose I should be sharing a book that celebrates cavorting… I didn’t quite manage that, but I’ve got one that celebrates adventure. . . 😊 🐉

storybook knight

Title: The Storybook Knight

Written By: Helen Docherty

Illustrated By: Thomas Docherty

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 2016, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: reading, being true to yourself, standing up for what you love

Opening: “Leo was a gentle knight
in thought and word and deed.
While other knights liked fighting,
Leo liked to sit and read.

He was kind to every creature.
He wouldn’t hurt a fly.

When Mom and Dad said,
“Knights must FIGHT!”
he couldn’t quite see why.”

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.54.29 PM

text copyright Helen Docherty 2016, illustration copyright Thomas Docherty 2016 Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Brief Synopsis: Leo is a small knight who is fond of adventures—at least the ones found in his books. His parents hope that the challenge of fighting a dragon with his new shield and sword will turn him into a brave, dragon-fighting knight. But Leo finds his own way to tame the dangerous beasts he comes across on his quest! 😊

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text copyright Helen Docherty 2016, illustration copyright Thomas Docherty 2016 Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Links To Resources: Easy Dragon Crafts for Kids; waffle dragon (recipe); dragon songs ; read with There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight by Penny Parker Klosterman

Why I Like This Book: fun read-aloud rhyme, active, engaging illustrations, and a fun story – what’s not to love? 😊 But one thing I especially love is how distinctly all the characters come across.  Leo is so appealing.  It’s wonderful to see his confidence in himself, and how he uses what he loves and believes in to solve the problems he comes across.  It’s a good message for all of us to use the tools we have 😊

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text copyright Helen Docherty 2016, illustration copyright Thomas Docherty 2016 Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

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!!! 🙂

And stay safe and healthy!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Jamie O’Rourke And The Big Potato: An Irish Folktale

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to share an Irish folktale that my kids loved when they were little.  It’s not about St. Patrick’s Day, but it does have a leprechaun in it 😊

Jamie O'Rourke

Title: Jamie O’Rourke And The Big Potato: An Irish Folktale

Written & Illustrated By: Tomie de Paola

A Paper Star Book, The Putnam & Grosset Group, 1997, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: folktale (Irish), laziness, luck, making assumptions, humor

Opening: “Jamie O’Rourke was the laziest man in all of Ireland.
He would do anything to avoid working, especially if it had to do with growing potatoes.”

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text and illustration copyright Tomie dePaola 1997 Putnam&Grosset Group

Brief Synopsis: Jamie O’Rourke is so lazy he makes his wife do all the work.  When she hurts her back, he figures they’ll starve so he goes to confess his sins.  On his way to church he comes upon a leprechaun who offers a solution – a seed to grow the biggest potato in the world.  The leprechaun thinks he’s tricked Jamie, but in the end, it is Jamie who wins!

Links To Resources: Leprechaun Crafts; Leprechaun Coloring Pages; Easy Shamrock Pretzel Pops (recipe)

Why I Like This Book: I love the folktale language and rhythm of this story.  Jamie is delightful in his laziness.  When his wife hurts her back, he assumes they will starve (because he’s not going to work!) so he goes to confess his sins to Father O’Malley.  In an Irish twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, Jamie comes upon a leprechaun and accepts a seed that will grow the biggest potato in the world instead of the leprechaun’s pot of gold.  The potato grows so big it takes the whole village to dig it up, and then, as things tend to happen in folk tales 😊 it rolls down the hill and blocks the only way into or out of town.  The end result? The whole village gets enough potato to last them through the winter but when spring comes they are SO TIRED of eating potato that they bargain with Jamie: if he promises not to plant another giant potato, they will gladly make sure he and his wife always have enough to eat.  So lazy Jamie wins the day!  This ending – a reversal of expectation (you’d assume that Jamie would learn to do an honest day’s work) gives a great opportunity to talk about making assumptions, what a more deserving solution might have been, and surprise endings.  A fun story all around. 😊

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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illustration copyright Tomie dePaola 1997 Putnam&Grosset Group

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!!! 😊☘️

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Janet Johnson!

Hi Everybody!

Tuesday Debut is always a fun and exciting day, but it’s especially fun and exciting when the debut-ess is a hackey-sack queen and a personalized license plate fan 🙂

I am thrilled to introduce you to Janet Johnson and her debut picture book!

Help Wanted, Must Love Books
Written by: Janet Sumner Johnson
Illustrated by: Courtney Dawson
Published by: Capstone
Fiction, ages 4-7
March 1, 2020

Cover.Help Wanted Must Love Books.small

When Shailey’s dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime story routine, Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Janet!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We are so excited to have you!!!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

JANET: This story idea came from my husband and daughter’s own bedtime story routine. One night, my then-7-year-old came in and announced it was time for bedtime stories. My husband had a work presentation the next morning and lots to prepare, so he told her he couldn’t. My daughter didn’t beg. She stomped her foot and said, “I’ll read my own story!”

I laughed, and said, “I think you just got fired!” And boom! The idea struck. It wasn’t fully formed, but over the next hour, I asked myself a bunch of questions: If she fires her dad, what will she do next? And if she puts up a help wanted sign, who can actually apply for the job? Siblings? Mom? Neighbors? I didn’t like those ideas, so I kept digging until I stumbled on the idea of book characters. That led to brainstorming a list of possible candidates, and what problems they would each bring to the story.

 

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

JANET: My first draft went fast. I had it done in about an hour. That is unusual for me. What really helped was that I had a great model for who my character was (through my daughter). I knew what my character’s problem was. I knew what she would do to try to fix the problem. And I knew how I wanted it to end. By answering those questions before I began writing, the actual writing went very quickly.

Revision took much longer.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JANET: Haha! Yep. Lots of revision. First, I had several rounds with my critique partners. They pointed out some problems I hadn’t thought of. For example, while Shailey put up the help wanted sign, she didn’t really do anything else in that first version, so I needed to make her more pro-active.

It was hard to hear, because I loved what I’d written, but I turned off that urge to argue, and instead worked on finding a solution. That took some more brainstorming. I had to re-organize my characters, and find some new ones that would work with the new structure. And amazing, I liked that new version even better!

My agent also asked for several revisions. She pointed out some characters who might be too obscure for kids. She also pointed out inconsistencies with who I’d chosen. For example, in that earlier draft, one candidate was the monster in her closet, who, she rightly pointed out, was not a book character. That meant more brainstorming to find more characters.

The key to good revision is listening. Readers could see things I couldn’t because I was too close to the story.

 

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

JANET: When my agent had no more comments on my draft! I’m a huge proponent of agents, and critique partners. If it had just been me, I would have sent that first draft because I loved it so much. If that had happened, it would not be a book now.

 

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JANET: I have an agent, so when the manuscript was ready, my agent sent me a list of publishers she was sending it to. She forwarded responses as she got them, and my main job was to sit back, forget all about it (haha!), and write the next thing.

 

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

JANET: The whole submission process was quite the ride. We went out in January, and in February, I got an R&R. The editor really liked it, but felt the ending was too obvious. I talked with my agent about it, and we decided to go for it, because we had ideas. This isn’t typical, but my agent decided to send the change to every editor who had it.

Once we did that, I had a lot of interest. My book went to several acquisitions meetings (some with the old ending, and some with the new), and I had a lot of close calls, but in the end, none of them offered. That was really hard.

By July, my agent and I had moved on to submitting the next book. So, when she called, I had zero expectations. I was in the kitchen, texting with some author friends, glumly reporting that I had nothing to report. And then everything changed with those four magic words: “We have an offer!”

And because I’m guessing some of you are curious, my editor allowed me to choose my preferred ending. I went with the original which she confessed was her favorite, too. Writing really is so subjective!

 

SUSANNA: Those words, “We have an offer!” really are magical, aren’t they?  There is nothing like them (except for maybe it’s a girl! or it’s a boy! 🙂 ) How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JANET: I went out to dinner with my family. (After an impromptu dance party in the kitchen!)

 

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

JANET: Because I had already published a middle grade book with my publisher (Capstone), my expectations were pretty grounded. However, the advance was significantly lower than I expected (under 5K) because they had recently gone through a re-organization.

We sold World Rights and negotiated royalties to 6% for hard cover and paperback, 12% for digital products, and 5% for audio. They were willing to negotiate on percentages, but not on the advance, which I found interesting. I will receive 20 copies as the author, and my agent will receive some as well.

Some other interesting contract things: we negotiated the non-compete clause to make it more narrow. We negotiated how much say I would have on images and cover (spoiler alert, not much, but more than zero!). And the contract included deadlines for both the publisher and me. It was a pretty straight-forward contract.

 

 

SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?

JANET: The editorial process really surprised me. I had an initial chat with my editor, who had almost no changes for me at the time. They wanted a new title, and we discussed adding back matter. I spent a month working on that.

Over the next several months, I got periodic emails with suggested changes—some big, some small. Often, they came because of feedback from another department (like marketing). This continued up until the day it was being sent to print (we literally made the last change that day!).

I considered all the comments thoughtfully, but there were times I still didn’t agree. When that happened, I would share my concerns with my editor, and explain why I disagreed. At that point we could talk it through and come to a solution we both felt good about—sometimes that meant we left it as it was, and sometimes that meant changing it.

I think communication is so important. There is so much give and take in the process—as an author you need to both listen and speak up for yourself. It can be a delicate balance. It helped to remember that we both loved the book and had the same goal of making the best story possible.

 

Captain Hook

 

SUSANNA: I have to say that the back matter in your book is one of my favorite parts – so entertaining! 🙂  Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?

JANET: As per my contract, I got to see the sketches and give input. However, in the case we disagreed, the publisher had the final say. Everything was sent digitally, so no F&Gs.

For the most part I loved what I saw. We were all definitely on the same page in terms of vision. However, I did have some concerns.

The publisher made a few changes based on my comments, but also chose not to make others. Some of that came down to cost, which I can respect. But it also meant that I had to change some of the text to work a little better with the images. I definitely hadn’t expected that! Still, I love how the book turned out.

My manuscript had quite a few art notes, and to my surprise, my editor made a point to thank me for having as many as I did. Here is one example of how my art note went from text to image:

This arrangement worked perfectly . . . until her dad got a new job.

[ART: Dad on cell phone; Dad studying a book; Dad tapping at laptop; Dad snoring on couch]

 

Janet's Favorite Spread

 

This is probably my favorite spread! I’m so happy with how it turned out.

 

 

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

JANET: The marketing department sends me all the advance reviews shortly before they publish. I’ve had some not-so-nice reviews in the past, so I have mixed feelings about this. I have to let those emails sit while I build up the courage to look.

When the reviewers like your book, it’s fabulous. And since they don’t review everything, it’s a really happy thing when they do. But the not-nice reviews are tough. I remind myself that not everyone will like my book, and that it’s not a critique of me personally.

 

 

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

JANET: From offer to copy in hand (I’m estimating, because I don’t actually have one yet!) was about 20 months. For a picture book, that feels really fast. The publishing date changed a couple of times and ended up being faster than expected.

 

 

 

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

JANET: My publisher offered advanced copies at ALA in 2019, and also put it on NetGalley. That’s made a huge impact on getting the word out about my book. They sent ARCs to bloggers and review groups, as well as to the industry reviewers like Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly. They regularly post about it on their social media accounts, and they also support my tweets. Recently they hosted a free webinar for teachers and librarians, and they book-talked all their upcoming titles, including mine.

One thing I’m really excited about is that they’re making a book trailer! It should be out soon.

 

 

SUSANNA: Ooh!  I can’t wait to see the book trailer!  Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

JANET: Marketing and promotion is something I’m constantly learning. One of the best things I’ve done is join a debut group for picture books: the Debut Crew 2020. We work together to promote each other’s work and to find opportunities to build our platforms. It’s been super helpful!

In addition, I had bookmarks made, and still plan to make some stickers and other swag for future events. I also hope to get some coloring pages made, as well as an activity guidebook.

While I’m not doing an official blog tour, I’ve been fortunate to be invited to interview or write a guest post on several blogs in the weeks surrounding my book’s release.

I’ve also booked several in-person events over the next few months: a book launch, bookstore signings, school visits, book festivals, conference presentations, and NerdCampSoCal. You can see the full list on my events page. I’m excited to have so many opportunities to make connections and promote my book.

A lot of these opportunities have come because of connections I’ve made with people at previous events or through online discussions. Others have come from participating in groups on social media where others have shared calls for proposals or information about upcoming events. Making connections is key.

 

 

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

JANET: It took about 8 years to get that first picture book deal. Granted, I was focusing on middle grade for a lot of that time, but I’ve had the dream of getting a picture book published from the beginning. It’s still hard to believe I’m a published picture book author!

Thanks so much for having me, Susanna! Your classes made such a difference for me!

JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Author Janet Johnson

Social Media Links:

Website: http://janetsumnerjohnson.com/
Twitter: @MsVerbose
Instagram: @janetsumnerjohnson
Facebook: @janetsumnerjohnson

 

SUSANNA:  Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your experience, Janet!  It was so interesting and enlightening – a real benefit for our readers!  I know I speak for all of us when I wish you all the best with this and future books!

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

You may purchase Janet’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!

 

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Marilyn’s Monster

Woo hoo!  It’s Friday!!!

And you know what that means, boys and girls…

It’s time for Perfect Picture Books!

(Although truth be told, I’m not even here today!)

I can’t say today’s choice relates to the time of year or anything that’s going on.  I just loved this book from the opening sentence, and I hope you will too!

Title: Marilyn’s Monster
Written By: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated By: Matt Phelan
Candlewick, March 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: patience/waiting, monsters, doing what you know is right

Opening: “Some of the kids in Marilyn’s class had monsters.  It was the latest thing.  Marilyn didn’t have a monster.  Not yet.  You couldn’t just go out and get one.  Your monster had to find you.  That’s just the way it worked.”

Brief Synopsis:  Marilyn longs for her monster to find her.  She tries to be patient and be the kind of girl no monster can resist.  But the longer she waits, the harder it gets, until finally Marilyn takes matters into her own hands.  And it’s a good thing she does!

Links To Resources: Marilyn’s Monster Story Time Kit; Q&A with Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan

Why I Like This Book: Oh, gosh!  Where to begin?  The story is wonderfully original and entertaining, and relates to a theme all kids can understand – having to wait for things!  Marilyn is so believably child-like in her behaviors and emotions.  The art is delightful, full of wacky monsters that are tons of fun to look at, and Marilyn’s face and body language are so expressive.  Marilyn goes against expectation without being disobedient or breaking any rules, so it’s a nice way to model doing what you know is right, or being true to yourself.  And the resolution is surprisingly sweet.  Across the board, this one is a winner!

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!!! 🙂

And wish me luck at today’s school visit!  New presentation. . . little bit o’ shaking in my astronaut boots. . .! 🙂

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Valerie Bolling!

Hi there, everyone!  It’s time for another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

As writers, I think we’ve all had the experience of getting a fantastic idea, writing the story . . .and then finding out that someone else has beaten us to it!  Great minds think alike, right?

But great minds may also begin at the same starting point and go in divergent directions.

I have a manuscript I love in my haven’t-got-it-quite-right-to-submit-yet file (and I’m not even going to tell you how many years it’s been sitting there waiting for the spark that will make it work 🙂 ) that has the same title as today’s debut, but is a completely different story!  Funny how that works!

It just goes to show how we all bring our own unique twist to ideas.

Today, I’m happy to introduce you to debut author Valerie Bolling and her unique and delightful twist on Let’s Dance!

Title: Let’s Dance!
Author: Valerie Bolling
Illustrator: Maine Diaz
Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Boyds Mills & Kane
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Book Cover

Let’s Dance! celebrates dances from around the world and the diverse children who enjoy them.

 

SUSANNA: Welcome, Valerie!  Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today!  Where did the idea for this book come from?

VALERIE: I have noticed that whenever music is played, most children start to dance. Babies who can barely walk will sway and /or raise their hands. Whenever music is played, my nieces dance. When they were two and four, they even danced while brushing their teeth. Now at ages five and seven, they still love to dance! They definitely inspired this book.

I thought it would be fun to write the book in rhyme to mimic the rhythms of music and dance movements.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I wrote the first draft in May 2017 and continued to revise the book throughout the year.

An earlier draft was entitled I Love to Dance, as this line was repeated between stanzas. Marianne McShane, a friend who is a writer, storyteller, and retired librarian, suggested I read Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka as a mentor text and that I start the story with a line that appeared later in the text: “Tappity-tap/Fingers snap.” Her recommendations helped significantly in revising the book.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I felt it was ready when my scansion was tight. Scansion must be perfect for rhyming picture books.

 

Desk.2.

Valerie’s work space

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

VALERIE: I sent my first query on Jan. 1, 2018 – what a way to start the year, huh?! I sent two more queries on Feb. 25, 2018, and an agent was interested in the story! She requested I send her two more manuscripts, but when I did, she wasn’t as interested in those stories, saying, “I foresee a harder sell for the other projects.” Thus, she decided to pass. I continued to submit queries and also participated in two Twitter pitches in June. I received a “like” in #PitMad that was turned down when I sent the manuscript, and I received another “like” later in the month during #PBPitch. When I sent the manuscript to Jes Negrón at Boyds Mills & Kane on June 18, 2018, she emailed me two weeks later on July 2, requesting to have a conversation. During that phone call, I learned that Jes was interested in acquiring the story!

I do not have an agent. I started with query letters. I had already been querying other stories since June 2017, so I was not new to querying when I started with Let’s Dance! I submitted to agents, editors, and publishing houses that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I entered Twitter pitches but didn’t submit this story to contests, though, more recently, I have submitted other stories to contests.

 

 

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

VALERIE: My editor is connected directly with a publisher, so there was no “shopping around.” The original publisher was StarBerry, an imprint of Kane Press. In May 2019 I received an email from the publisher that Kane Press had merged with Boyds Mills. My book would now be published by Boyds Mills & Kane.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

VALERIE: I didn’t celebrate, per se. I did share the news with family and friends who were all excited for me. My gratitude and their congratulations were celebration enough.

 

 

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

VALERIE: I honestly didn’t know what to expect in a contract. When I received the deal memo, the precursor to the contract, I reached out to author friends who I believed could offer some advice. One friend, Ramin Ganeshram, suggested I join the Authors Guild because that organization has lawyers who would read my contract and offer advice. I also reached out to SCBWI, and Stephen Mooser read through my contract. I was told by him and by the Authors Guild that my contract was fair for a debut author. I did negotiate a couple of things, like my percentage (after selling 20,000 books, my royalty percentages will increase by 1%), and I was able to get 25 author copies instead of 10. There may have been a couple of other changes, but I don’t recall now.

 

 

SUSANNA: How did you find the editorial process?

VALERIE: My editorial process was atypical. It’s remarkable that my editor, Jes, changed not ONE word of my manuscript. I did have to delete two stanzas to fit within the 32-page format though.

Jes had a vision for my story that I did not originally have, but I was thrilled with her ideas! She asked me to write illustrator notes next to each stanza to signify what type of dance my words described. I hadn’t connected all of my words to particular dances, so this was an interesting exercise. I shared with Jes that “I want a lot of brown kids in this book!” Jes assured me there would be. I also said I wanted children of differing abilities and from diverse backgrounds. I said I wanted the ballet spread to have a boy in a tutu, and Jes agreed. (In the end, I got something even better, a child in a blue tutu whose gender is indiscernible.) In October 2018, Jes shared that she thought we were missing out on an opportunity to make the story more global. She recognized that some of my words could describe cultural dances. For instance, where I saw “Tappity-tap/Fingers snap” as tap dance, Jes imagined flamenco from Spain. I envisioned the electric slide for “Glide and slide/Side to side,” but Jes suggested long sleeve dancing from China. I am thrilled to have this added layer of cultural representation in my book!

Jes later requested that I write two descriptive sentences about each dance to be included in the book as back matter. This wasn’t an enjoyable exercise for me, but I’m so glad that this is a component of Let’s Dance!, which, I believe, may add to its appeal and marketability.

 

 

SUSANNA: I love that you and your editor insisted on diversity and representing all different kinds of kids in dance!  What was your experience of the illustration process like?

VALERIE: Jes allowed me to weigh in on the selection of an illustrator, and she also shared sketches with me two or three times throughout the process and considered my feedback – even making changes based on it. I am aware that this does not usually happen. When I received the PDF of Let’s Dance!, before the F & G, I was THRILLED! Maine Diaz is such a talent. She brought my words, my vision, and Jes’ vision to life. Her gorgeous, energetic illustrations truly make my book dance!

One example:

My note:

Turn, twirl.

Twist, whirl. [Partner dancing, maybe ballroom but not sure how many young children do that; a child/ren could be looking over his/her/their shoulder as his/her/their body spins in the opposite direction]

 

Jes’note:

Turn, twirl.

Twist, whirl. [Kathak, Indian dance]

 

And here’s how the spread looks in the book:

Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 12.32.34 PMScreen Shot 2020-03-02 at 12.32.48 PM

text copyright Valerie Bolling 2020, illustration copyright Maine Diaz 2020
Boyds Mills & Kane

 

 

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

VALERIE: The publisher will share all reviews with me. So far, I’ve seen only one review from Kirkus. I was pleased to have Kirkus review Let’s Dance!, and it was mostly positive. The reviewer said, “Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children.” Also, “The snappy text will get toes tapping …”

There were two aspects of the review with which I disagreed, but I know that all reviews are subjective. Overall, I’m happy with my first official review. What has meant even more to me, however, is the enthusiastic reaction of librarians and bookstore personnel.

 

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

VALERIE: As I said, the book was picked up on July 2, 2018; I received two F & Gs on Nov. 21, 2019. I shared one with my husband that evening and took it to work the next day to share with my colleagues and boss. On January 27, 2020, I received my 25 author copies!!!

 

 

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

VALERIE: My publisher sent me an email in July 2019, detailing the marketing plan. I was also requested to complete a questionnaire with contact information for local libraries, bookstores, media, and my alumni magazines. Those are the contacts that have received F & Gs of Let’s Dance!

 

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

VALERIE: I have a website; I have emailed over 130 bloggers requesting reviews and/or interviews; I have an email list; and I’m trying to remember to tell everyone I know or meet about my book. I really want to spread the word. It’s a delicate balance of sharing news about the book but not sounding as if I’m boasting or as if my book is the only thing I can talk about.

I have already had several articles written about Let’s Dance!, and/or myself. Feel free to look at the bottom of this page to see them. I’ve done a podcast and have several school and library events already planned.

Lisa Stringfellow, a friend and fellow author, created a beautiful flyer for my book launch event that I emailed and posted on social media. In addition, the library where I’m hosting my event, will display their own flyers. The publisher created postcards for me; I plan to pass them out to dance studios and stores that sell dance apparel. My editor also designed a coloring sheet, using the end pages of the book, which I can give to children at my launch event as well as school, library, and bookstore events. I decided that I would share information about my book, where to purchase it, and how to make contact with me on the back of the coloring sheet, making use of both sides of the paper.

Let’s Dance! Coloring Sheet

 

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

VALERIE: I wrote two PBs in December 2016; each featured one of my nieces as the main character. I wrote other stories in 2017, and Let’s Dance! was acquired in July 2018. Therefore, it took a year and a half from the time I started writing seriously to the time I sold my first picture book.

 

Author Photo

Author Valerie Bolling

My social media links are:

Website: http://valeriebolling.com

Twitter: @valerie_bolling 

Instagram: @valeriebollingauthor and @letsdancebook.

 

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and pay it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise and wish you all the best with this and future books!

VALERIE: THANK YOU for your willingness to feature me in a Tuesday Debut!

 

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

You may purchase Valerie’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!

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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

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

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

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Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

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Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

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

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