Perfect Picture Book Friday – Teddy, Let’s Go!

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Is it just me, or has this been a crazy, busy week?

Also, an exciting week as just yesterday I got my author copies of ALPHABEDTIME! Want to see? 😊

Violet is so excited to have a new book to read!

For anyone who might be in the area, I will be at Warwick Children’s Book Festival on Saturday along with many other fabulous children’s authors and illustrators! And (fingers crossed!) I will hopefully have copies of ALPHABEDTIME, available before the official release date just for Warwick! I hope you’ll join us if you can!

But now, I have a lovely book to show you. It has been a casualty of supply chain issues and so had its release date pushed back, but that just gives you more time to preorder it 😊

Title: Teddy, Let’s Go!

Written By: Michelle Nott

Illustrated By: Nahid Kazemi

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, December 6, 2022, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: transitional object, new sibling, family, love

Opening: “The wavy-haired woman with love in her eyes pulled me close and whispered in my ear.
Then she wrapped me up. And I floated.”

These are the first words of the story, but it begins earlier with the art, showing Grandma at her sewing machine making Teddy.

text copyright Michelle Nott 2022, illustration copyright Nahid Kazemi 2022, Enchanted Lion Books
text copyright Michelle Nott 2022, illustration copyright Nahid Kazemi 2022, Enchanted Lion Books
text copyright Michelle Nott 2022, illustration copyright Nahid Kazemi 2022, Enchanted Lion Books

Brief Synopsis: My’s beloved Teddy Bear goes with her everywhere. Through her early childhood he is a constant companion and friend. As she grows older, she relies on him less, but he still holds a special place in her heart. So special that when her little brother comes along, she knows just what she must do.

text copyright Michelle Nott 2022, illustration copyright Nahid Kazemi 2022, Enchanted Lion Books

Links To Resources: Make a teddy bear for yourself, a new sibling, a friend, or anyone you love

Why I Like This Book: This is such a sweet story! So many children have transitional objects, those loveys they carry with them everywhere to lend strength and comfort. This little girl has a Teddy who was made with love especially for her by her grandma. From her crib to camp, Teddy goes with her, always listening for her words: “Teddy, let’s go!” And he always goes. As she grows older, he goes less and stays home more. She doesn’t need him all the time, which is as it should be, but she still needs him sometimes. Then things begin to feel different around the house. In the art, preparations are being made. A mom whose shape is changing. A crib with a mobile. And then, one night, a small voice cries, and the girl takes her beloved Teddy to their first bed and tucks him in next to her brand new little brother. (Moms and Dads, I dare you not to tear up 😊) Young readers will relate to this love for a special stuffed animal or blankie, as so many of us have had something like that, to the comfort it brings, and the love with which it is bestowed. And maybe one day some of them will pass their loveys on to a new sibling, too.

text copyright Michelle Nott 2022, illustration copyright Nahid Kazemi 2022, Enchanted Lion Books

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Brown Is Warm, Black Is Bright

Just a smidge behind with the post this morning (oops! 😊) but woohoo! It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a book I thought was gorgeous on this level. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I highly recommend finding a copy because it is not to be missed!

Let’s have a look, shall we?

Title: Brown Is Warm, Black Is Bright

Written By: Sarah L. Thomson

Illustrated By: Keith Mallett

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers, August 30, 2022, lyrical fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Brown, Black, natural world, dreams

text copyright Sarah L. Thomson 2022, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2022, Little Brown

Opening: “Brown is crisp. . .
crunch and crackle,
catch me as I fall.
Black is splash. . .
Spray! Splatter!
to send a puddle flying.”

text copyright Sarah L. Thomson 2022, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2022, Little Brown

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: “Have you ever paused to savor the power and beauty of brown and black? Brown is strong as a tree and sweet as honey in tea; black is the hopeful promise of a seed and the grace of a bird in flight… and the quiet space where dreams begin.”

text copyright Sarah L. Thomson 2022, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2022, Little Brown

Links To Resources: what do Black and Brown (or other colors) mean to you? How do they make you feel? Draw a picture of it, or write a haiku or a poem about it. What do you think of when you think of Black or Brown (or other colors)? Recipes to make? Make them! Flowers or vegetables to plant? Plant them! What is one dream you have? Is it something you’d like to share? Or something to hold in your heart just for you?

text copyright Sarah L. Thomson 2022, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2022, Little Brown

Why I Like This Book: This book is a perfect example of what picture books should be – a beautiful marriage of text and art. It is a celebration of Black and Brown, but also of love and hope and wonder, strength and dreams and play, warmth and safety, and the beauty of the natural world. The words are lyrical and evocative, and the art is warm and lush and gorgeous. It makes you feel the text. And Keith Mallett’s skill with facial expression is remarkable. A lovely read that will create a feeling of calm and safety and encourage children to explore all that the world has to offer outside, and all the dreams they may have inside.

text copyright Sarah L. Thomson 2022, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2022, Little Brown
text copyright Sarah L. Thomson 2022, illustration copyright Keith Mallett 2022, Little Brown

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Shachi Kaushik!

Hi, Everyone!

Welcome to today’s edition of Tuesday Debut!

I’m thrilled to present debut author Shachi Kaushik and her beautiful book about Diwali, DIWALI IN MY NEW HOME! She has a lot of great tips and advice to share, so let’s get right to it! 😊

Diwali In My New Home by Shachi Kaushik
Illustrated by Aishwarya Tondoon
Published By: Beaming Books
Releasing: September 27th, 2022
Age: Early Grades (5-8 years)

Priya loves being with family and friends to watch fireworks and celebrate Diwali. But this year Priya and her parents are living in the United States, and no one seems to know about the holiday. Priya misses the traditions in India. But as the day passes she celebrates the day with her neighbors. And even though the celebration is different this year, it’s still Diwali.
 



SUSANNA: Welcome, Shachi! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today and share your journey to publication. We can’t wait to hear about it! Where did the idea for this book come from?

SHACHI: For the past few years, I had been doing Diwali events for children at the RoundRock Public Library. This event grew bigger and bigger each year. Seeing the joy on children’s faces bought so much satisfaction to me that I wanted to write a Diwali book. The story of Priya is drawn from my own personal experience. The ideas are always floating around us. We just need to catch one and make it our story.
 
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
 
SHACHI: Most of my manuscripts are a result of the Writing Barn classes. For me taking classes are a self-investment. These classes keep me focused, I learn new techniques, I get to make new friends and most importantly one can find their critique group. I took classes from The Writing Barn, The Storyteller Academy, SCBWI and the monthly 12×12 webinars. 
 
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
 
SHACHI: The rough draft of this manuscript had 1200 words, which now is under 500. So there have been several revisions. The first draft is never your final draft. I wrote drafts from the point of view of first person and third, in past tenses and present tenses. Once I have my manuscript I do storyboarding where I put the layout the text onto thirty pages. This helps me see the story more clearly and helps with my edits. One can use Canva or sticky notes for storyboarding.



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

SHACHI: I took my manuscript to different of critique groups and took a lot of feedback.  I eventually submitted it for the Austin 2019 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference where this manuscript was nominee of Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award. At that time, I knew I could start submitting it to agents.
 
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
 
SHACHI: I first submitted this manuscript for LEE & LOW BOOKS – New Voices Writing Competition. When I did not get a response for three months, I signed up with an agent and the manuscript went out for submissions.
 
SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?
 
SHACHI: This book got a number of rejections, and it took almost 9 months when the ‘Yes’ came my way. But it came from three publishers. One of them wanted me to make changes, which they did not quite like and rejected. In the end I had two offers. The 9 months were worth a wait.
 
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

SHACHI: We all want to hear that good news as early as our book is out for submissions, but it doesn’t always happen. I got several rejections for this book. At one point I rebranded my book, by changing the title and changing the name of the main character. The book was earlier titled ‘Diwali Away from Home’ and the main character was a boy character which now is a girl.
 
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

SHACHI: I got the offer in June 2021 and signed the contract in July 2021.
 
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
 
SHACHI: I had moved from Austin to Toronto, without my husband behind.  Due to covid restrictions, Toronto was still under a a lockdown. I celebrated virtually with my husband eating pizza and later celebrated the big news with my new friends in a new city, Toronto.



SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
 
SHACHI: When I had two offers, I evaluated both the publishing houses on the publication timeline and the marketing of their books.  I signed the contract with Beaming Books and negotiated on the number of author copies.



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

 
SHACHI: My editor Andrea Hall made the process helpful. Andrea gave notes with explanation which helped me learn why the change was necessary.  There were a few changes that I had to make, and nothing major that would make the story go off track.
 
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

 
SHACHI: My publisher involved me from the early process. They shared Aishwarya’s work and asked what my thoughts were. I loved her work. It was colorful and beautifully detailed. Knowing that Aishwarya is from India, I was happy cause she too celebrates Diwali and could bring out all the colors of festival. 
The illustrator and art director did a wonderful job in bringing the story to life. I added my personal elements to the story with my words and similarly Aishwarya added her personal elements and touch to the story with her art.

It was lovely to meet Aishwarya and hear what her thoughts were when she read my manuscript and how she filled the story with colors. In the cover you see the character wearing a sweater with a sun, the sun is the sign of Beaming Books.

I did add my notes because I wasn’t sure if the illustrator would be someone who would have experienced the holiday. Aishwarya did get a few notes but not all.



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

SHACHI: The Kirkus review wasn’t so great. It said, “A book about Diwali that doesn’t quite crackle.” First, I was disappointed but as a creative I’ve learned not everyone will like your book.  I get more satisfaction when an immigrant tells me that they relate to the story and share their experience. 

SUSANNA: Reviews can be tough. It’s wonderful that you were able to focus on what was important – your readers! How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

SHACHI: 15 months.

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

SHACHI: Beaming Books is good with their promotion. They meet you in advance and have one on one with you to discuss the marketing plans. The publicist has reached out to several bookstores for events, made connections with media companies for my book. 

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

SHACHI: I joined a picture book promotional group, and we help each other promote. I did create a book trailer. As my book is on the holiday Diwali, I’ve made a special Diwali Kit, which has my book, bookmarks, stickers and a few Diwali goodies.

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

SHACHI: When I started writing I thought of self-publishing, but when I came out of Carmen Oliver’s class at the Writing Barn, my perspective changed. I started writing seriously in January 2019 and sold my book in June 2021.

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

SHACHI: Read, Write, Critique, go out for events and have patience because it takes time.

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

SHACHI: One thing I’ve learned if you can believe it, you can achieve it. Just keep working towards it.

SUSANNA: That is great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Shachi! We all wish you the best with this and future titles!

Author Shachi Kaushik and illustrator Aishwarya Tondoon. Shachi was finally able to take a trip to India and met her in Jaipur.

website: www.storiesbyshachi.com
Facebook: storiesbyshachi
Twitter: @KaushikShachi
Instagram: storiesbyshachi

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

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

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

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

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

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

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

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

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

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

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

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

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

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

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

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

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

John Bray – The End

Jocelyn Watkinson – The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story

Katie Mazeika – Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (nonfiction)

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Little Bear

Hi, Everyone!

Are you ready for this week’s list of Perfect Picture Books? I am! And I have such a sweet one to start you off with!

Title: The Little Bear

Written & Illustrated By: Nicola Killen

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, June 28, 2022, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: first day of school, apprehension

Opening: “It was the night before school started and Ollie was feeling nervous.
She filled her little bear backpack, ready for the morning, and had one last practice lesson on the way to bed.”

text and illustration copyright Nicola Killen 2022, Paula Wiseman Books

Brief Synopsis: [From the publisher] “The end of summer can be a bittersweet time, and Ollie isn’t sure if she’s ready to go back to school. But the night before her first day back, Ollie dreams about a magical schoolhouse in the woods full of friendly little animals who make learning an adventure. When Ollie wakes up, she can’t wait to go to school!”

text and illustration copyright Nicola Killen 2022, Paula Wiseman Books

Links To Resources: 15 Fabulous Icebreaker Games for Preschoolers; 20 Creative Friendship Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers; if you were going to write a recipe for friendship, what would it be? A teaspoon or kindness? a sprinkle of fun? two heaping cups of great ideas? What do you think are the essential ingredients of friendship?

text and illustration copyright Nicola Killen 2022, Paula Wiseman Books

Why I Like This Book: I am such a fan of Nicola Killen’s books. They are all lovely, sweet, friendly, and comforting, and this one is no exception. Ollie is excited about school, but a little nervous. The night before school begins, she dreams that she follows an owl on a magical journey into the woods, where she finds a little school house filled with friendly animals. A little bear is standing outside looking nervous. Knowing exactly how he feels, Ollie suggests they go in together. One fun activity follows another and everyone has a wonderful day. When Ollie awakens in the morning, she is excited and ready for her first day! The story makes school look so fun and friendly that any young reader who is feeling anxious about school will feel encouraged to give it a try with a positive attitude. The art is charming – so appealing! – with a little cut-out like a magical door at the beginning and end of the journey, and highlights of shiny foil here and there to add sparkle. A sweet, quiet read that will reassure anyone who is apprehensive about their first day of school.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – I Cannot Draw A Horse PLUS Giveaway Winner!

Hi Everyone!

It’s Friday, so you know what that means!

A fabulous list of Perfect Picture Books just in time for the weekend!

But FIRST! I’m happy to announce the randomly selected winner of last week’s giveaway, Rosanne Kurstedt’s beautiful AND I THINK ABOUT YOU!

ANDREA MACK, come on down! YOU are the lucky winner! Congratulations!!! Please email me (you can use the handy contact form in the menu above if you don’t have my email) and let me know your snail mail address so I can send you the book!

Lovely!

Onward!

Today I have a very entertaining book to share called I CANNOT DRAW A HORSE.

Now, I don’t want to brag, but I actually CAN draw a horse.

Look:

I drew that myself – a Susanna Hill original – no artistic training whatsoever!

I know. It’s a gift.

But for those of you who might need a little instruction, (not to mention a fun story) check out this book!

Title: I Cannot Draw A Horse

Written & Illustrated By: Charise Mericle Harper

Publisher: Union Square Kids, October 11, 2022, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: creativity, imagination, self-belief, art

text and illustration copyright Charise Mericle Harper 2022, Union Square Kids

Opening: “This is my shape.
Hello, shape!
“What am I?” asked the shape.
I am a nothing shape.
You are not a nothing shape.
Look!
I can draw a cat.
I want a horse.

text and illustration copyright Charise Mericle Harper 2022, Union Square Kids

Brief Synopsis: The book has a shape. It can make the shape a cat. The cat wants a horse. The book cannot draw a horse, but it can draw lots of other things to give the cat fun and excitement. But the cat still wants a horse. Can the book find a way to supply one?

Links To Resources: the book itself is a fun art resource. The pages are like graph paper, and all of the images are made from simple, easy-to-copy shapes and lines that kids can have fun trying their hands at. Start by trying the ones from the book, then see what you can make on your own! Topic for discussion: how important is it to believe you can do something? Does believing you can do something make you able to do it? Does believing you can’t make it impossible?

text and illustration copyright Charise Mericle Harper 2022, Union Square Kids

Why I Like This Book: For starters, this book is a clever departure from standard story telling. The book itself plays an important role by creating all the images that appear. It begins with a shape that looks like a gumdrop. When the shape complains it is nothing, the book makes it into a cat. The cat demands a horse, which the book says it cannot draw, but it willingly supplies other friends – a squirrel, a beaver, a bunny, and a dog. It provides fun in the form of a pool for splashing and a skateboard for going fast. The cat, however, will not be happy until it gets a horse. So at last the book grudgingly makes an attempt. I will not give away the ending – you must read it for yourself or it will be spoiled – but it made me laugh out loud! This picture book, which is like an introduction to graphic novels, is sure to have kids giggling, and experimenting with shapes to see what they can draw!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊 Practice your horse drawing 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Katie Mazeika!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s edition of Tuesday Debut!

Today’s debut-ess, Katie Mazeika, is both author and illustrator, so she knows both halves of the picture book publication journey. Let’s have a look at her fascinating book, ANNETTE FEELS FREE: THE TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WORLD-CLASS SWIMMER, FASHION PIONEER, AND REAL-LIFE MERMAID, and hear about how it got from idea to bookstore shelf!

ANNETTE FEELS FREE: THE TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WORLD-CLASS SWIMMER, FASHION PIONEER, AND REAL-LIFE MERMAID
by Katie Mazeika (author and illustrator)
S&S/Beach Lane Books, Sept. 13/2022
Nonfiction PB Biography, ages 4-8

The incredible true story of “The Original Mermaid,” Annette Kellerman, a girl who wanted to dance, swim, and feel free—and who grew into a woman who fought for the right to do just that!


SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! It’s always a treat to have an author/illustrator because we get to learn about both sides of the picture book writing process. Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

KATIE: I did an illustration of Annette Kellerman in 2017 as portfolio piece. At the time I read a little bit about her, and found her story intriguing.  I think I related to Annette’s disability, having lost my eye as a toddler, and so I continued researching her.

The words and images came together for ANNETTE FEELS FREE (and with my current picture book biography). Once I began researching Annette, as an illustrator, I couldn’t help but visualize her story. Certain events stood out to me, and I knew I wanted to illustrate them for the book. For example, Annette swimming in the Melbourne Aquarium as a teen (the first spread of the book) and the confrontation between Annette and the police officer on the beach.

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

KATIE: To get to the first polished dummy was probably 9 moths. But it was in spare time between other illustration projects. Once we sold ANNETTE and I could focus on it full time I finished the art in about 3 months.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KATIE: I did one giant overhaul of the dummy. After some feedback I made some major stylistic changes. Once ANNETTE sold my editor and I spent time going through the text and removing anything unnecessary or expanding where it was needed. And after the final art was turned it we did the same-fine tuning the images to make sure they read clearly and there was plenty of room for text.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KATIE: I am represented by the wonderful Sorche Fairbank at Fairbank Literary Representation. She helped me with putting together a proposal and then she submitted that, with the text and dummy to a list of editors she thought might be interested.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

KATIE: It was right before my birthday. I got a text from Sorche that said “call me!!” with a line of swimmer emojis. When I called her I learned that Allyn Johnston at Beach Lane wanted to acquire ANNETTE.

ANNETTE went out just after Covid hit. No one was in the office, then everyone was working from home but there were questions if publishers were acquiring. So I was unsure of what to expect.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

KATIE: It was a long time between the offer and contract (4-5 months)-which I understand is typical but Covid didn’t help.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KATIE: A special dinner with my family.

SUSANNA: Many of us are authors, so we understand the concept of text revision, but can you give us an example of how you go about making editorial illustration changes?

KATIE: These are “before” and “after” versions of the same spread:

text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane

The first image is a scene I did for my first dummy for ANNETTE FEELS FREE. It was one of the 3 final spreads in the dummy. I posted this spread on Twitter in April 2019 with a pitch for DVpit. That was how my agent found me. With her insights, I strengthened the text, and then I decided to redo the artwork. My style evolved, but the composition didn’t change much. Notice the brighter color scheme in the second image. It’s much more engaging and kid-friendly. Sometimes there is a germ of a good idea in a weak piece of art or writing, and fresh eyes can make all the difference, whether it’s somebody else’s or your own, after a period away. You can see that difference here:

text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane

Here are a few other images from the book:

text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane
text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane
text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane

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

KATIE: My first review was from Kirkus. I was a little nervous because I had heard Kirkus can be tough in reviews, They called ANNETTE  “Swim-pressive”. Then I learned that ANNETTE was a Jr Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. That was a very gratifying. It also means kids everywhere will read about Annette. So I was all smiles when I got that news.

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

KATIE: It took about 18 before I had a copy the final digital book-all put together as a PDF. It was another 3-4 months before I received my first print copy.

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

KATIE: I guess about 7-8 years from when I was able to focus on illustrating seriously to getting my first book published as an author/illustrator. I had several books previously as an illustrator.

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

KATIE: Read the deals in PW Bookshelf. Look up the illustrators in those deals. Ask yourself what is in their portfolios that you are missing in your own.  

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

Author/Illustrator Katie Mazeika

https://twitter.com/kdmaz
https://www.instagram.com/kdmazart
https://www.facebook.com/kdmazillustration

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

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

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

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

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

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

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

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

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

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

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

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

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

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

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

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

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

John Bray – The End

Jocelyn Watkinson – The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story

Perfect Picture Book Friday – And I Think About You PLUS A Giveaway!

Howdy, Pardners!

Now that the summer hiatus is over, we’re back to Perfect Picture Book Fridays! And not a moment too soon! I have about 47 books I wanted to share today 😊 Luckily, other PPBF participants are likely to share some of them.

Which reminds me, if you’re one of the dedicated folks who consistently posted Perfect Picture Books all summer, please feel free to add them all to today’s list. That will be wonderful for everyone!

I have a lovely book to share today, one that seems especially appropriate with school just starting. In the story, the mother is at work thinking of her child, and the child is at school thinking of their mom.

AND, as if a glimpse of this beautiful book weren’t enough, we have a giveaway! One lucky person is going to win a copy of AND I THINK ABOUT YOU! All you have to do is leave a comment in the comment section below between now and Wednesday September 14 at 9PM Eastern and you’ll be in the running to be randomly selected. I will announce the winner next Friday.

Title: And I Think About You

Written By: Rosanne L. Kurstedt

Illustrated By: Ya-Ling Huang

Publisher: Kids Can Press, September 20, 2022, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: family love (mother/child), being apart, reassurance

Opening: “Together we eat breakfast.
I drink my coffee.
You scoop your milk-soaked cereal.”

Brief Synopsis: A mother bear goes through her work day describing what she’s doing while always thinking about her little one, only to come home and discover that her child has been thinking about her too.

Links To Resources:

Special treat! A craft supplied by the author! Thank you, Rosanne!

Why I Like This Book: This book lovingly shows how a mom at work does her job and simultaneously has her child in mind all day long. Though they may be apart, she is always thinking of her little one. The story flows seamlessly between what the mother is doing and thinking and what the child is doing, showing their parallel activities. As the mom reads her emails, she thinks about reading with her child, and on the page turn, her child is in school reading a story. As the mother eats lunch with a friend, she thinks about eating with her child, and on the page turn the child is eating lunch with school friends. This sweet story will reassure any child that whether mom and dad go out to work or work from home, any time they’re separated during the day they are always in their parents minds and hearts. The soft watercolor art captures the tender mood of the story perfectly. A wonderful choice for any bookshelf!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

Author Rosanne Kurstedt

Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D., has been an educator for over 20 years, supporting learners of all ages. She is the author of several books for teachers, including Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models and a series entitled 100+ Growth Mindset Comments. Rosanne loves picture books and anything kid-lit so she volunteers as the Assistant Regional Advisor for the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Her first book Karate Kid (Running Press Kids) was released in 2019 and her second book And I Think About You (Kids Can Press) was released in 2022.

She loves sharing her books and expertise with readers of all ages at various author events (e.g., school visits, festivals, teacher professional development, mom’s groups, etc.)

Rosanne is the founder of The Author Experience (www.TheAuthorExperience.org), a 501(c)(3) organization committed to the transformative power of sharing stories. In collaboration with students, families, and educators, TAE provides sustainable literacy-based experiences that build a culture of literacy—one that elevates connections and delivers lasting impact.

Rosanne lives in New Jersey with her family.

Rosanne’s Social Media:

Web: https://www.rlkurstedt.com/
Twitter: @rlkurstedt
Instagram: @rlkurstedt
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RLKurstedtAuthor

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jocelyn Watkinson!

Hello, my friends! Welcome back!

Here we are, ready to start another school year and pick up all our writing and reading pursuits once again 😊

I’m so glad to see you all, and I thank those of you who showed up for the random summer Tuesday Debut posts to support those new authors. It was much appreciated by them and by me!

Now, somehow it’s September! How did THAT happen?

It’s been such a busy summer, the time has just flown. It feels like June 1st was five minutes ago! I got to do lots of wonderful things, including spending time with my children and grandchildren and my parents and siblings, being walked by my dogs, and taking full advantage of the coffee/maple twist creemees at Cookie Love in Vermont 😊 I hope you all had happy summers as well!

September and back-to-school always feels as much like the New Year to me as much as the actual New Year. And what better way to kick off than with today’s debut-ess, Jocelyn Watkinson, and her delightful picture book THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY? (Publication is set for September 13th, so please feel free to pre-order your copies at the links provided below!)

THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY
Author: Jocelyn Watkinson
Illustrator: Marcus Cutler
Sleeping Bear Press
September 13th 2022
Fiction
Age Range: 6-7

In order to save their bacon, The Three Canadian Pigs face off against the big bad wolf and his team in a dramatic hockey game. In true Canadian fashion, after the pigs trounce their foes, they patch up their differences with delicious Canadian delicacies and friendship.

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

JOCELYN: I was drawn to writing kidlit when I moved to the U.S. from Canada in 2018. Since I wasn’t working yet, I was spending a lot of time being a mom and reading non-stop to my then three-year-old son. I was working on a different fractured fairytale and was reading it to my mother over the phone who still resides in Canada, who then out of the blue suggested to put a Canadian spin on The Three Little Pigs! Once I figured out (pretty early on) that the Wolf would want to eat their “Canadian Bacon,” the puns just stared flowing! The plot took a little while to come together, had many different endings and plot twists and took even longer to put together since it is written in rhyme.

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

JOCELYN: I started drafting this story in mid-2019. When I surprisingly won the Halloweensie 2019 contest (thanks Susanna for hosting such a super fun and challenging contest!) I was able to get an early version over to Alayne Christian at Blue Whale Press where I received very valuable feedback that helped build the stakes and the tension of the story. From there I relied on critique partners and the professional critique services of Shannon Stocker to really amp up the story, tension, perfect the meter and rhymes. It sat for a while (while the pandemic began), and then I used the manuscript to apply for the 2020 PBChat Mentorship. Again, surprisingly, I was selected by Lori Degman as a mentee and she and I massaged it until we felt it was ready for submission.    

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JOCELYN: “Many” is an understatement. I believe total, there were 47 versions of this story. Writing in rhyme and perfecting meter takes a lot of effort and re-writes to get correct, and then of course there are all the times I didn’t get the arc correct or the ending! With the help of some amazing CPs, mentors and my editor Sarah Rockett, we finally got the story that everyone was happy with.

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

JOCELYN: I thought it was ready many times and every time I thought it was ready, someone would find a way to elevate it or correct a plot hole of some kind. But I think that is how it is for your first book, you really think it is ready so many times before it is. Even after so many wonderful CPs and professionals looked at this manuscript with me, it took until I was working with my wonderful editor to get the ending and twist just right!

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JOCELYN: My submission process was very unique. As I was a mentee in the PBChat 2020 Mentorship program, the end of our mentorship ended in a showcase where editors and agents were invited to preview the available manuscripts. On the very last day, Sarah Rockett from Sleeping Bear Press, reached out to inquire about reading the entire manuscript.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

JOCELYN: I was told within a few minutes of sending it to Sarah that it would be previewed by the larger acquisitions team and then was offered just over a month after that! I considered this quite a quick turnaround because the this was over the winter holiday season.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

JOCELYN: About a month after I submitted it to Sarah, I was told they had interest in buying the manuscript! And yes! Best day ever!! And I do think it was relatively quick. Because of the unique submission process this manuscript went to, it was sort of an exclusive to any of the professionals that were invited to the PBChat Showcase.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

JOCELYN: There wasn’t too long of wait here either. I think it was only about a month between getting the “email” and receiving the contract.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JOCELYN: My husband surprised me with champagne and mint chocolate chip ice cream cake! My wonderful writer friend surprised me with a lovely flower arrangement too!

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

JOCELYN: I absolutely loved working with Sarah Rockett from Sleeping Bear. Originally, the story had the Wolf being invited to move in with the pigs which was a bit unearned since he hadn’t really redeemed himself. So, we agreed to have them just share a meal together and watch some hockey, basically, apologize and make amends, become friends! Her outside perspective was so helpful because as writers we are so in the weeds with our projects, especially with rhyme, that it is hard to see the forest through the trees. I am so so so happy with the final product. 😊

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

JOCELYN: I was very happy with the illustration process. It was important to me that a Canadian illustrator was used so that a lot of Canadian detail would get into the illustrations. Since the story is about a lot of Canadian silliness, Marcus was able to incorporate a lot of Canadian inside jokes into the art. Additionally, I learned that Marcus is a BIG hockey fan which I’m sure helped.  

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

JOCELYN: Offer came in on January 8, 2021 and first copy in hand was August 1, 2022

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

JOCELYN: I discovered CANVA and made my own book trailer as a teaser at first.

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

JOCELYN: I know I am one of the lucky ones. I started writing seriously in February 2019 and the offer to purchase this picture book was offered in January 2021.

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

JOCELYN: You don’t have to have every piece of your story figured out, and by that, I mean, pagination, illustrations, page turns etc. There is a much bigger team behind the scenes who are experts. Rather than spending time on where a page turn should happen or what the illustrations should be, work on upping the language in your story, make us fall in love with your characters or coming up with fun plot twists for your endings that make us want to open the book immediately and read it again. The author, while typically out front, is only one part of the puzzle; illustrator, designer, editor, etc. It’s a team effort!


SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today, Jocelyn, and for sharing your publication experience. It is so helpful! Wishing you all the best with this and future titles!

Author Jocelyn Watkinson

Website: www.jocelynwatkinson.com
Facebook: @jocelynwritesinrhyme
Instagram: @jocelynwritesinrhyme
Twitter: @JoceWatBooks

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

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

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

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

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

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

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

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

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

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

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

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

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

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

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

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

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

John Bray – The End

Tuesday Debut – Presenting John Bray!

Hello, my friends! Welcome to Tuesday Debut!

In this world of supply chain delays, many a book is arriving at its publication date… only for there to be NO BOOKS! Such is the case with today’s debut. So frustrating for author, illustrator, and publisher! Especially with a debut! But no reason not to jump right over to your favorite bookstore and pre-order a copy. The latest update promises they’ll be in stock in a week or two. There are links to the book at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble (Indiebound not available) at the bottom of this interview so you can be sure to get your copy the moment it’s available. 😊

But now, I am thrilled to introduce you to John Bray, debut picture book author of THE END!

The End
Written By: John Bray
Illustrated By: Josh Cleland
Starry Forest Books, August 30, 2022
Fiction, Ages 3-7 (and adults, too!)

Perfect for fans of B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures, this picture book is bound to entertain young readers who love to ask questions, read funny stories, build blanket forts, and complicate the passage of time. With vibrant illustrations by artist Josh Cleland, The End is just the beginning of a re-read!


SUSANNA: Welcome, John! Thank you so much for joining us today! We are all very excited to learn about your journey to publication with THE END. Where did the idea for this book come from?

JOHN: My main inspiration was Semisonic’s late 90s “Closing Time” (written by Semisonic frontman, Dan Wilson). Specifically, this line: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I know it’s a Seneca quote, but reading philosophy is certainly how I picked up on it as a teenager.

My life went through a host of big endings and beginnings in 2015 and that lyric was in my head the whole time. So, I owe a lot to Wilson’s excellent songwriting. The idea was mostly fully formed from the start. My final manuscript remains closely tied to my original draft. In fact, the beginning and the end are almost verbatim.

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

JOHN: When I sat to draft it, everything came out on the page in just a couple hours. But the total process, including revising and revising and revising, took a couple years. I was fitting it in around client projects (and probably procrastinating far too much) but kept coming back to it with fresh eyes until it reached its final form.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JOHN: Yes, I revise multiple times. The End saw more revisions than I can count, but probably about 3 major revisions before I decided it was ready for submission. The first draft, for example, was about 3 times longer than its final form, so a couple revisions were me ruthlessly cutting to reveal the core of the story. That’s been a constant practice for me. I tend to overwrite, so learning to cut is important.

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

JOHN: When it was 90% ready and a good friend said, “ship it.” I’ve come to accept that I’ll never think they’re truly ready, but when I think they’re almost ready and they’re grammatically polished, they’re probably ready to go. Sometimes you just need to believe in your effort or you’ll be revising forever.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JOHN: I’m currently un-agented and seeking representation and, while querying, I pitched The End for #PitMad on Twitter. Unfortunately, #PitMad ended about a year after my book made its way to Starry Forest Books, but I think there are similar initiatives in place. I tweeted my pitch in September of 2020, Allison Hunter Hill (my editor at the time) “liked” it, and I sent her the manuscript. So, The End is a #PitMad success story.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

JOHN: From me first sending in my manuscript to receiving a publishing contract was about four months. That included a set of heavy revisions (one last rewrite to edit middle) and a lot of waiting because publishing is a busy world.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

JOHN: Yes, it was an email (I probably would have let a call go to voicemail), and it came in two days before Christmas 2020. I looked at the email in my inbox for a few hours before I even let myself open it. I think I still have a screenshot of the unread email saved on my phone. It had been about 6 weeks since I sent the revisions and, as December drew on and holidays approached, I told myself I probably wouldn’t hear until the new year, if at all. Then there it was, landing in my email on a Wednesday afternoon.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

JOHN: I can’t remember exactly, but I remember this being a quick process. A week or two maybe?

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JOHN: In all honesty, I didn’t really. Historically, I haven’t been great about celebrating accomplishments because I’m always looking on to the next thing. I’m getting better at that. Slowly.

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

JOHN: Yes and no. But I only say that because I didn’t entirely know what to expect. The advance was lower than many of the highly publicized advanced you hear all about, of course, but it felt fair. Royalties were very new to me but, with a bit of research and a second set of eyes from a friend who worked in publishing (sales), they seemed fair as well. However, I think it’s always okay to negotiate, and that’s exactly what I did. As a result, the advance and author copies increased along with some of the royalties. Author copies were important to me because I’m very actively marketing The End and author copies are helpful with outreach.

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

JOHN: The process was straightforward. The biggest revision came because of feedback from my wonderful editor. That revision involved completely rewriting the middle 6-8 pages or so. That’s not what she asked for, but after spending time trying to rework the existing writing without any real progress, I deleted everything on those pages and started fresh. That’s what I should have done to begin with. I think having the old writing in front of me hindered my ability to see new ideas and help them take shape.

After that edit, the remaining revisions were small in scale (punctuation, word usage, and sentence placement on a given spread) but always up for discussion. And very, very detailed. Allison was great about talking through things. We even have an email thread that explored the etymology of the word “boredom.”

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

JOHN: It was a great experience. My input was welcome when discussing the overall feel for the book as we thought about potential illustrators, and I was looped in throughout the process after Josh Cleland came on board. I saw early sketches and spreads and passed feedback to Josh through my editor. However, it’s worth mentioning that most of the feedback was very minor. It was a bit of a nerve-wracking process knowing that my manuscript — a story that has lived only in my head for so long — would be read and visualized by someone I’d not met or spoken with, but Josh did a phenomenal job bringing The End to life.

text copyright John Bray 2022, illustration copyright Josh Cleland 2022, Starry Forest Books
text copyright John Bray 2022, illustration copyright Josh Cleland 2022, Starry Forest Books

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

JOHN: Yes! Kirkus gave a starred review!

SUSANNA: Congratulations! That is a real accomplishment! How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

JOHN: From offer to first F&G was about 18 months. But I also had the opportunity to see a final, hardcover copy when I attended the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington D.C. in June 2022. I spent a lot of time flipping through the pages, admiring the colors, etc. It’s beautiful.

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

JOHN: Starry Forest Books arranged for me to attend ALA for a book signing, sent copies for reviews, and continues to do a lot of outreach to influencers (social media and otherwise). They’ve also created bookmarks, assembled classrooms packs, made countless social graphics, and designed activity sheets. It’s been a real team effort, constantly tossing ideas back and forth with Kirsten Drew and Amy Dixon (in marketing at Starry Forest Books). They’ve both been incredibly helpful, and they’re always interested in hearing and supporting my many ideas for possible marketing opportunities.

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

JOHN: A good friend of mine, Sue Campbell at Pages & Platforms, helped steer many of my own efforts and has helped some of my ideas take shape, as well. On my end, I continue to engage in outreach to bloggers, podcasters, social media influencers, and others to try and spread the word and get The End into as many hands as possible. I’ve created stickers and an activity book, have reading events planned locally, and am working with librarians and teachers in more far-flung places to schedule events (virtual and in-person). A local bakery (Tiny Kitchen, also owned by a friend of mine; launching a book takes a community!) will also be making custom cookies for some of my upcoming events.

SUSANNA: Wow! So many great ideas! How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

JOHN: A good 10 years. Part of that is because I wasn’t actively trying to sell for the first several, but it was still a long, long road. I have a big pile of rejections.

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

JOHN: Sit, write, repeat and remember one thing: Rejection does not mean you’ve done something wrong; it means you’re in the game. It’s part of the process. The only guaranteed way to avoid it is by not putting yourself out there. Knowing that might not soften the blow of a rejection, but it does help you move forward. A stack of rejections means you’re putting in the work.

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

JOHN: Everyone will approach The End differently. That’s the nature of books. It might be the best part about them. But I think it’s worth nothing that The End wasn’t written to teach kids about endings and beginnings. It wasn’t meant to be a lesson. It was meant to be an exploration of the concept, maybe a conversation starter, but, above all else, a fun story to read aloud.

Author John Bray

Website: johnbraybooks.com
Newsletter (with a free book — a creative collaboration with a friend of mine from several year ago — at sign-up!): johnbraybooks.com/newsletter
Twitter: @jhnrbry
Instagram: @jhnrbry

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, John! We all so appreciate this opportunity to learn from you and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

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

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

Indiebound (no link available)
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

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

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

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

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

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

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

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

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

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

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

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

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

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

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

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

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Rebecca Gardyn Levington!

Hello, my friends!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying everything summer has to offer!

It’s been quite a while since we had a Tuesday Debut, but, HURRAY! We have one today!

I’m thrilled to introduce Rebecca Gardyn Levington, a graduate of Making Picture Book Magic and a frequent participant in the writing contests on this blog over the years, here today with her debut picture book, BRAINSTORM!, which I just love the whole concept of and I think you will, too!

Title: BRAINSTORM!
Author: Rebecca Gardyn Levington
Illustrator: Kate Kronreif
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Date of publication: August 3, 2022
Fiction, Age 4-8

BRAINSTORM! is a rhyming concept picture book that begins with a girl sitting at her desk at school, frustrated because she can’t think of anything to write about. As the girl stares at the storm brewing outside – kerplink! – a tiny thought falls from the sky. Soon the girl finds herself surrounded by a whirlwind of words, pictures, and ideas swirling all around her, and eventually gets caught in a happy downpour of her own creativity.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us today! We can’t wait to hear all about how Brainstorm! came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?

REBECCA: First of all, Susanna, Thank YOU so much for having me on the Tuesday Debut! I have been following this blog for YEARS and it’s such an honor to share my story with you and your readers. Thank you for all you do to help inspire and encourage us! 

As for where the idea for BRAINSTORM! came from….One rainy late October day in 2019, much like the little girl in my story, I had a terrible case of writer’s block. I was doing my best to keep my Butt In Chair, but my brain felt like the weather — cloudy, gloomy and gray. Instead of staring at the blank page, I found myself staring at the rain outside my window when I felt the drop of an idea…

What if…IDEAS poured down from the sky?… Like a…rain storm?…No! Wait! Like a….

                                    BRAINstorm!

I immediately began writing what I originally thought would remain a short little poem.

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

REBECCA: It honestly didn’t take long. Once I had the idea, the main core of the poem just poured out of me (pun intended!) It took a few more months of tinkering before it became a “real” picture book draft.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

REBECCA: As I said, BRAINSTORM! began as a poem. A pretty short poem– Just six couplets. I really thought that’s all it would be. It sat on my computer for a couple of months, but it kept calling to me, so I began tinkering. I wondered: what if it wasn’t just IDEAS that fell from the sky, but WORDS, like VERBS and NOUNS, and PHRASES and SENTENCES and CHARACTERS and PLOTS…. Suddenly, I found myself deluged in this amazing world where stories drizzled down and swirled all around us. I loved watching my MC play in the puddles! In the end, I saved 15 drafts of this story, so it definitely changed and grew over the months, but those initial six couplets (with some minor tweaks) are all still in the final version.

Rebecca’s work space

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

REBECCA: I have several critique groups and partners. I generally send a manuscript to one group at time, make changes, then send it to the next group and repeat. Once all my critique partners had seen it and no one had any major changes or suggestions, I felt it was ready.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

REBECCA: In summer 2019, Lori Degman chose me as one of her three #PBChat Mentees. Lori is an all-around amazing person (now good friend) and at the end of the 3-month-long mentorship she very generously offered to ask a few of the editors with whom she’d worked if they’d be willing to look at a submission from me. One of those editors was Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press.

So, in December, with Lori’s blessing and encouragement, I sent off my favorite manuscript at the time (not this one). Sarah ultimately passed, but said: “It’s really well done and I love your writing and rhythm…if you have anything else that is submission-ready, please feel free to send it my way.” I immediately sent her two more manuscripts (not this one) and heard NOTHING for months. Meanwhile, I had just polished up BRAINSTORM! and felt it was pretty strong. I wasn’t sure if I should send her a third manuscript, but I wasn’t agented at the time so my opportunities to submit were few and far between. I knew Sarah liked my writing, so I said “what the heck?!”

On March 6, 2020 (yup, just one week before we all went into quarantine!) I sent her an email, following up on the two previous manuscripts I’d sent and added, “Oh, by the way, I also have this new one called BRAINSTORM!…”  I attached it. And waited.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

REBECCA: So, as I mentioned, I sent BRAINSTORM! to Sleeping Bear in March 2020, just a week before the world shut down, so I didn’t expect to hear back for a while…and I didn’t. Two months later, in May, I followed up again and Sarah kindly responded that, thanks to the quarantine, Sleeping Bear had fallen behind with everything. However, she did chat with her editorial team and they were, unfortunately, passing on the two other manuscripts I’d sent. (whomp. whomp). BUT, she added, she loved BRAINSTORM! and wanted to bring it to their next acquisitions meeting. (WHOOHOO!)

Thanks to the ongoing pandemic — yada, yada, yada — that meeting didn’t happen until August and then finally, on August 27, 2020, I got the email that Sleeping Bear wanted to acquire it for their 2022 list! (So, to answer your question, it was about 6 months after submission, and 3 months after being told it was going to acquisitions, before I got the official “yes”!)

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! ☺)

REBECCA: Oops, sorry. I think I answered this in the previous question! I got the email on August 27, 2020! I remember standing in my kitchen with my phone in my hand and I just went mute and started shaking. My kids were at the table, obliviously eating lunch, and I think my husband asked me something, but I couldn’t hear him. I couldn’t stop staring at the email! Finally, one of my kids asked: “Mom, are you okay?” And I told them the news! I just couldn’t believe one of my stories was FINALLY going to be a book!

SUSANNA: Such an amazing feeling! How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

REBECCA: Exactly one month. I was at a Highlights retreat with one of my critique buddies, Kelly Conroy, and I had been complaining all weekend how long it was taking for them to send the contract. Turns out, it had been sitting in my SPAM folder for an entire day! Since I was unagented at the time, I hired a lawyer to help me look through it. After a very brief negotiation, I received my final executed contract another month later, at the end of October. It seemed like it took forever to get the contract, but now that I’ve sold more books, I realize that two months from offer to executed contract is actually LIGHTNING FAST!

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

REBECCA: I don’t remember celebrating signing the contract. I think by the time I’d signed it, I had already finished off all the champagne!  😊

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

REBECCA: My advance was lower than I’d expected, but because this was my first sale and because I didn’t have an agent at the time (and because I HATE confrontation) I was terrified of pushing back. The only thing I asked for was more author copies and a few changes to some of the wording. There was a part of me that believed that if I asked for too much the publisher would change their mind about the offer. Now that I’ve sold more books, I realize that was ridiculous. By the time you receive an offer, it has had to jump through SO many hoops that the publisher isn’t about to say “Oh, never mind then” if you respectfully ask for a little more. Publishers EXPECT to negotiate. I’ve learned now that it never hurts to ask. The absolutely WORST that will happen is that they will say “no” to that specific term. Since signing this contract, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with negotiation. (Although I definitely prefer having my agent do it for me!)

Oh, and one quick thing about royalties that may be helpful. I didn’t know this at the time, but some publishers pay royalties based upon the “suggested retail price” of the book and others pay based upon “net receipts,” so read your contract carefully! A 5% royalty is standard but ONLY if it’s based on “suggested retail price.” If you are getting royalties based on “net receipts” you want to be sure your royalties are much higher, or around 10%. Also, if you are unagented, I HIGHLY recommend all the incredible information available for FREE at The Author’s Guild. They have a “model contract” you can look at that is extremely helpful for understanding what is “normal” and what is a “red flag:” https://www.authorsguild.org/member-services/legal-services/model-book-contract/

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

REBECCA: Amazingly, there were very, very few changes to my original text. I think the biggest edit was changing the word “boots” to “shoes” because we weren’t sure what type of footwear the illustrator would choose for the MC. Ultimately Kate did end up having the MC wear boots, so we changed it back! There might have been another word or two that changed, but that was all.

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

REBECCA: I was thrilled when I heard that Kate Kronreif would be illustrating! I was sent initial character sketches for review and my editor, Sarah, and I had a Zoom call to discuss the initial black and white sketches, as well as the color sketches once they were available. Sarah asked for my feedback on the cover as well. I felt very included in the process and that my opinion mattered, and Sarah was always open and willing to answer all my questions along the way. Now that I see the final product, I realize how difficult this story must’ve been to illustrate! I mean, how does someone illustrate “An easy breeze becomes a blast/of funny phrases flying past?” Thank goodness both Sarah and Kate totally understood my vision and took it to the next level!

text copyright Rebecca Gardyn Levington 2022, illustration copyright Kate Kronreif 2022, Sleeping Bear Press
text copyright Rebecca Gardyn Levington 2022, illustration copyright Kate Kronreif 2022, Sleeping Bear Press

I didn’t include any art notes in this manuscript, but I had a few ideas in my head about how I thought an illustrator might interpret this story. For instance, I was imagining a sort of “Wizard of Oz” scenario – where things started off super gloomy and gray and ended up in a whirlwind of color. So, I was a little surprised initially when I saw all the color Kate put into the book from the very first spread. BUT, it is PERFECT! And I absolutely LOVE everything she did and now I can’t imagine it any other way! The book is vibrant, exciting and playful, which is exact want kids to feel when they are stomping around in their idea puddles!  The only part of the illustration process that I was directly involved with was, at Sarah’s request, providing Kate with lists of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, titles, sentences, “funny phrases,” “wacky plots,” etc. that she could use as inspiration and to weave throughout the illustrations.

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

REBECCA: Yes! I received a Kirkus review — and it’s a good one! You can read the full review here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rebecca-gardyn-levington/brainstorm-levington/ and here’s the condensed blurb:

“…The metaphor nicely captures the creative process—from the frustration of waiting for inspiration to the anticipation of something gathering in the distance to the sought-after deluge of ideas […] Entertaining reassurance and lighthearted encouragement for those tough first moments of putting pencil to paper.” 

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

REBECCA: I still haven’t received my author copies! Unfortunately, due to supply chain issues, my book birthday was bumped from July 15th to August 3rd! I was told I’ll be getting my copies at the same time as everyone else, so if that’s true, it will be almost exactly 2 years from book offer book in hand!

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

REBECCA: My publisher sent a digital F&G of the book to all the major advanced reviewers and put it up on Edelweiss. They also organized a pre-order campaign with a local bookstore and designed a bookmark for me to use, as well as activity sheets and a teacher’s guide. They also created an adorable trailer that they posted on social media. I also discovered that the Association of School Librarians in my state (NJ) is holding a conference in December and they agreed to cover a good portion of my costs to attend.

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

REBECCA: I reached out to a bunch of podcasters and bloggers (like you!) about a year in advance to set up my #BrainstormBlogTour (I realize now, I started a bit too early – I probably only needed to start about 3-ish months in advance!) Once I received the digital review copy, I sent it to fellow authors to post early reviews on GoodReads and Barnes & Noble (Amazon doesn’t allow reviews to be posted until the release date). I also applied to have a table at several in-person book festivals in my area this fall, and I have been hosting giveaways on social media.

In addition, I hired a professional web designer to re-vamp my website, RebeccaGardynLevington.com. I used Jenny Medford at WebsyDaisy and she did an INCREDIBLE job. I can’t recommend her enough.

Lastly, I am part of a wonderful debut group called KidLit Caravan (www.kidlitcaravan.com). We are 13 picture book authors and author/illustrators who support each other’s journey, promoting cover reveals, pre-order announcements, and book birthdays/launches on social media. We review each other’s books and request that our local libraries order them. One of our members, Carrie Tillotson (author of the adorable Counting To Bananas), is a whiz when it comes to graphic design and I hired her to create a “sell sheet” for BRAINSTORM! that I could take with me to bookstores and libraries when I introduce myself so that they can have all the relevant information at hand and (hopefully!) place an order for the book.

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

REBECCA: About four years. In my life B.C. (“Before Kids”) I was a magazine editor and then a freelance journalist so I’d already had hundreds of articles published in various magazines and newspapers. I stopped writing once I started having kids but, after almost a decade of full time Mommy-ing, I realized how much I missed playing with words. I discovered SCBWI and attended my first regional NJ conference in the summer of 2016. I was blown away. I finally felt at home. I knew writing picture books and poems for kids was what I was meant to do.

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

REBECCA: Two things:

1) Put yourself and your work out into the world as much as you can. Enter ALL the contests (Like Susanna’s amazing Halloweensie, Valentiny, and Holiday contests, Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PreciousWords, Madness!Poetry, etc.), enter ALL the mentorships (like the #PBChat Mentorship Program), do ALL the Twitter parties (like #PBPitch, #PitMad and #PBParty), go to as many conferences and webinars as you can and join ALL the groups. Take advantage of professional critiques, if possible. If you don’t have an agent and have an opportunity to send your work to an editor, DO IT! (I sold my second book to HarperCollins via a submission opportunity after a conference and that helped me land my agent as well!). Be as active as you can in the KidLit community and always, ALWAYS be kind, respectful and supportive. The connections you make along the way will lead you to opportunities you can’t even imagine!

2) While you should, of course, write stories that come from your heart, it is crucial to remember that children’s book publishing is a BUSINESS. An editor may think your story is “cute” or “funny” or “heartfelt,” but before she can acquire it, she has to prove to all the financial and marketing people that your story will SELL. So you MUST think about “hooks.” Who is buying your book and WHY? Can your book be sold during a holiday? Can teachers use your book in a classroom (if so, consider adding back matter!). Does it have social-emotional themes that make it easy to explain a difficult subject matter? Etc. One thing I always do now is, once I’ve created my first draft, I stop everything, write my pitch and logline and research comp titles. As I continue to revise, I have a very clear idea of what the book is really about, what the hooks are, and how I will sell the idea to an editor.

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

REBECCA: So, this may sound completely counterintuitive to what I just said about “hooks” and marketability, BUT… When you have an idea that you feel you need to write about, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just GO WITH IT! Don’t stop to think too hard about marketability and hooks (yet!). Write what is in your heart. Get it down. BRAINSTORM! came to me in what felt like a rush of creativity. I couldn’t stop it. I had to write it! At the time I didn’t think at all about marketability. I was just having fun writing a poem. It wasn’t until after that I went back and said: “You know…I think if I add more of X,Y,Z, I bet teachers could use this in their classrooms….”  Once I realized that not only was this a FUN book for kids to read, but that it also had an educational “hook,” I knew I was on to something. 

Author Rebecca Gardyn Levington (photo credit Joy Yagid)

Website: http://www.RebeccaGardynLevington
Twitter: @WriterRebeccaGL
Facebook: @WriterRebeccaGL
Instagram: @RebeccaGardynLevington

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Rebecca, and for sharing your journey and answering our questions and giving us so much to think about! We so appreciate it! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!

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

To pre-order a personalized signed copy of BRAINSTORM!, visit Rebecca’s local indie: https://store.wordsbookstore.com/preorder-signed-copy-brainstorm

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

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

– sharing their books on social media

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

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

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

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

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

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

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

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

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

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

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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

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

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

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

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

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

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

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

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

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

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

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

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

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

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

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

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

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

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home