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26. Right to Write What You Write

erikaphoto-45Hi. Jersey Farm Scribe here on:

You’re Right to Write What You Write

I have important information. It’s big guys. I mean, hold on to your seats B-I-G. Ready? Okay. Here goes:

Getting published is hard.

Phew! Wait, what? You knew that?

Truth is, getting published is hard no matter what you write. I’m always surprised when I hear someone say, they REALLY write (fill in the blank), but they know they’ll never get their first book deal with that, so for now, they write (fill in the blank) so they can get an agent.

In my opinion, this simply won’t work. First of all, the relationship you’ll have with your agent must be based on openness, trust and honesty. This feels misleading to me; as if they’re presenting themselves as someone they don’t really want to be.

But even more than that, a pre-published author has a hard row to hoe. A pre-published author not writing the work that’s truly in their heart?? They will have twice as hard a time, no matter how “marketable” their genre or topic is.

I write picture books and chapter books; quite possibly two of the hardest first sells. But that’s what I write. It’s not even a decision that I made. It’s simply the type of stories that I have right now. I could force the stories to be something that they’re not, but then I wouldn’t be putting my best foot forward, not fair to me, my manuscripts or the agent. We all know our stories have a heartbeat, a LIFE of their own. The best writers allow the stories to flow through them, instead of forcing them into the box they think they SHOULD fit in.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to look around, see how your book falls into the current market. If YA or middle grade is saturated in vampire and witch novels, you need to know that if you’re writing one. But NOT because it should stop you from writing the vampire story you’ve been telling yourself for years. That story needs to be told.

Instead, use your market research as a way to learn what makes your manuscript different. Why is yours an important addition to a child’s already established collection of vampire tales?

Often times, we have stories inside of us because we feel there is something missing in the books already out there. The piles of somewhat similar novels we’ve read have only enhanced this craving inside of us, a longing to feel the thrill of a story with just the right amount of ____________ and that really touches on the _________, in a way that no other book does!

What goes in those blanks? You tell me.

THAT is what’s important about YOUR book. No matter how saturated the market is in your theme or genre, what matters is filling in those blanks.

Sure, agents have “not-interested” lists. And they’re important. Search for them. Read them. Respect them. Plan your submissions around them. But do NOT plan your manuscripts around them.

If you write slice-of-life picture books and notice that some agents are not interested in them, be happy that you learned they’re not the right agent for you. Part of finding the right agent, is learning who it’s not. You want someone who is going to see your story and say THIS is it! THIS is what I’ve been looking for!

And they’re out there.

Don’t try to mold your story into what you think an agent is looking for. Most agents say nothing trumps writing, trends are always changing, and ultimately, Marketability and Greatness are somewhat interchangeable. What agents really look for, is greatness. Use your knowledge of the market to find the greatness in your own story, what makes it different, what drives the need to write it, to give it life?

Your story is important. It has something special to give the world. And writing what is truly inside of you is what will make you successful. The best thing you can do as a writer, is to write. And to trust that it will find it’s own unique place in the market.

You’re right to write what you write, because you’re bringing the story inside of you into the world.

And the manuscripts that live inside you are worth it!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Process, writing Tagged: Erika Wassell, Jersey Farm Scribe, Right to Write What You Write

10 Comments on Right to Write What You Write, last added: 10/9/2014
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27. Right to Write What You Write

erikaphoto-45Hi. Jersey Farm Scribe here on:

You’re Right to Write What You Write

I have important information. It’s big guys. I mean, hold on to your seats B-I-G. Ready? Okay. Here goes:

Getting published is hard.

Phew! Wait, what? You knew that?

Truth is, getting published is hard no matter what you write. I’m always surprised when I hear someone say, they REALLY write (fill in the blank), but they know they’ll never get their first book deal with that, so for now, they write (fill in the blank) so they can get an agent.

In my opinion, this simply won’t work. First of all, the relationship you’ll have with your agent must be based on openness, trust and honesty. This feels misleading to me; as if they’re presenting themselves as someone they don’t really want to be.

But even more than that, a pre-published author has a hard row to hoe. A pre-published author not writing the work that’s truly in their heart?? They will have twice as hard a time, no matter how “marketable” their genre or topic is.

I write picture books and chapter books; quite possibly two of the hardest first sells. But that’s what I write. It’s not even a decision that I made. It’s simply the type of stories that I have right now. I could force the stories to be something that they’re not, but then I wouldn’t be putting my best foot forward, not fair to me, my manuscripts or the agent. We all know our stories have a heartbeat, a LIFE of their own. The best writers allow the stories to flow through them, instead of forcing them into the box they think they SHOULD fit in.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to look around, see how your book falls into the current market. If YA or middle grade is saturated in vampire and witch novels, you need to know that if you’re writing one. But NOT because it should stop you from writing the vampire story you’ve been telling yourself for years. That story needs to be told.

Instead, use your market research as a way to learn what makes your manuscript different. Why is yours an important addition to a child’s already established collection of vampire tales?

Often times, we have stories inside of us because we feel there is something missing in the books already out there. The piles of somewhat similar novels we’ve read have only enhanced this craving inside of us, a longing to feel the thrill of a story with just the right amount of ____________ and that really touches on the _________, in a way that no other book does!

What goes in those blanks? You tell me.

THAT is what’s important about YOUR book. No matter how saturated the market is in your theme or genre, what matters is filling in those blanks.

Sure, agents have “not-interested” lists. And they’re important. Search for them. Read them. Respect them. Plan your submissions around them. But do NOT plan your manuscripts around them.

If you write slice-of-life picture books and notice that some agents are not interested in them, be happy that you learned they’re not the right agent for you. Part of finding the right agent, is learning who it’s not. You want someone who is going to see your story and say THIS is it! THIS is what I’ve been looking for!

And they’re out there.

Don’t try to mold your story into what you think an agent is looking for. Most agents say nothing trumps writing, trends are always changing, and ultimately, Marketability and Greatness are somewhat interchangeable. What agents really look for, is greatness. Use your knowledge of the market to find the greatness in your own story, what makes it different, what drives the need to write it, to give it life?

Your story is important. It has something special to give the world. And writing what is truly inside of you is what will make you successful. The best thing you can do as a writer, is to write. And to trust that it will find it’s own unique place in the market.

You’re right to write what you write, because you’re bringing the story inside of you into the world.

And the manuscripts that live inside you are worth it!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Process, writing Tagged: Erika Wassell, Jersey Farm Scribe, Right to Write What You Write

0 Comments on Right to Write What You Write as of 1/1/1900
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28. Agent Looking to Build List

mllacropped

Patricia Nelson

Patricia Nelson joined the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency as assistant to Kevan Lyon in March 2014, and became an agent in September 2014. Previously, she interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press.

Patricia represents adult and young adult fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. On the adult side, she is interested in literary fiction and commercial fiction in the New Adult, women’s fiction, and romance genres. For YA, she is looking for contemporary/realistic fiction as well YA mystery/thriller, horror, magical realism, science fiction and fantasy. She is also interested in finding exciting multicultural and LGBTQ fiction, both YA and adult. In general, Patricia loves stories with complex characters that jump off the page and thoughtfully drawn, believable relationships – along with writing that makes her feel completely pulled into these characters’ lives and worlds.

Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the world of publishing, she spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing.

Follow Patricia on Twitter at @patricianels.

Send a query letter by email to: Patricia [at] MarsalLyonLiteraryAgency.com and write “QUERY” in the subject line of the email. Please note that the agency now accepts electronic submissions only. In all submissions, please include a contact phone number as well as your email address. “If we are interested in your work, we will call or email you. If not, we will respond via email. Our response time is generally 1-4 weeks for queries and 4-8 weeks for sample pages and manuscripts. We welcome unsolicited materials and look forward to reading your work.”

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Editor & Agent Info, opportunity, Places to sumit, Publishers and Agencies, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Agent Building List, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Patricia Nelson, Running Press

1 Comments on Agent Looking to Build List, last added: 10/9/2014
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29. Agent Looking to Build List

mllacropped

Patricia Nelson

Patricia Nelson joined the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency as assistant to Kevan Lyon in March 2014, and became an agent in September 2014. Previously, she interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press.

Patricia represents adult and young adult fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. On the adult side, she is interested in literary fiction and commercial fiction in the New Adult, women’s fiction, and romance genres. For YA, she is looking for contemporary/realistic fiction as well YA mystery/thriller, horror, magical realism, science fiction and fantasy. She is also interested in finding exciting multicultural and LGBTQ fiction, both YA and adult. In general, Patricia loves stories with complex characters that jump off the page and thoughtfully drawn, believable relationships – along with writing that makes her feel completely pulled into these characters’ lives and worlds.

Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the world of publishing, she spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing.

Follow Patricia on Twitter at @patricianels.

Send a query letter by email to: Patricia [at] MarsalLyonLiteraryAgency.com and write “QUERY” in the subject line of the email. Please note that the agency now accepts electronic submissions only. In all submissions, please include a contact phone number as well as your email address. “If we are interested in your work, we will call or email you. If not, we will respond via email. Our response time is generally 1-4 weeks for queries and 4-8 weeks for sample pages and manuscripts. We welcome unsolicited materials and look forward to reading your work.”

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Editor & Agent Info, opportunity, Places to sumit, Publishers and Agencies, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Agent Building List, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Patricia Nelson, Running Press

0 Comments on Agent Looking to Build List as of 1/1/1900
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30. The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend

juiliephendI met Julie Phend at the recent Avalon Writer’s Retreat. She was in my group and I was so impressed because her manuscript was the most polished piece of writing I had ever seen. I found out that Julie is a English teacher and begged her to be a guest blogger and share some common errors that people could easily fix in their own manuscripts.

Here is what she sent.

Notes from a Grammar Nazi by Julie Phend

Arghh! No writer wants to have her grammar questioned. BUT the truth is that as writers, we are judged as much by our grammar and punctuation as by our witty characters and suspenseful plots. So it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with some rules we’ll use over and over again. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid common problems.

CAPITALIZATION OF PROPER NOUNS:

Names of Family Members: As writers for children and youth, we will frequently reference moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. When do you capitalize these words?

Rule: Capitalize family members only when part of a name or used instead of a name. Don’t capitalize when used with a possessive pronoun.

Examples: I wish my mom would listen. I wish Mom would listen.
I bought a gift for Aunt Alice. I bought a gift for my aunt.

Names of School Subjects: Again, as writers for kids, we’ll often reference classes they take.

Rule: School subjects are only capitalized when they are a specific title or when used with a number.

Examples: My math class is boring, but the worst class I ever took was Math 101. Or maybe it was Advanced Algebra.

PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE: Good fiction is filled with snappy dialogue, so let’s be sure the reader (or agent or editor) is not distracted by incorrect punctuation.

Rules: If a quote is interrupted by a dialogue tag, whether you use a period or a comma depends on whether the second part of the quote is a complete sentence. If the second part of the quote is a separate sentence, use a period after the dialogue tag and a capital letter to begin the next sentence.

Example: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” Jenny groaned. “That hamburger weighed a whole pound!”

BUT when a dialogue tag interrupts a sentence, use commas around the tag, and lower case letters when the sentence is completed.

Example: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed, “or I’ll shoot!”

OTHER DIALOGUE RULES:

Rule: Periods and commas ALWAYS go within quotation marks.

Examples: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed.
My favorite quotation is “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

Other punctuation marks, such as exclamation points and question marks, go within the quotation marks if they are part of the quote, but NOT if they aren’t part of the quote.

Examples:
Are you familiar with the famous quotation, “You can run, but you cannot hide”?
“Who said that?” Jenny asked. “I can’t remember.”

Rule: If there is a quote within a line of dialogue, the quote goes in single quotation marks.

Example: “A famous person once said, ‘You can run, but you can’t hide,’” Jenny said.

A FEW PESKY COMMA RULES: Modern writing uses fewer commas than were once taught, but commas show a reader where to pause. Without them, a reader struggles to make sense of a line of type. Similarly, unnecessary commas slow the reader down or break a sentence in strange places. Hence, a couple of useful rules.

Rules: Use a comma before ‘but’ and ‘and’ when they are used as conjunctions to join two complete sentences.

Examples: I have often walked down this street, but I never noticed all the flowers.
I often walk down this street, and I always stop to smell the flowers.

Do not use a comma before ‘and’ or ‘but’ when used to join verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or clauses. (In other words, if the second part is not a complete sentence.)

Examples: She loved to run and play.
She loved to run through the meadow and stretch her long legs.
I loved him long but not well.

Never use a comma before the word because.
Example: She often paused to smell the flowers because her mother taught her to appreciate the little things.

A useful rule of thumb: Read the sentence aloud. If you need to pause, you probably need a comma. If what follows the pause is a complete sentence, you need a period instead of a comma.

Example: I couldn’t go home. The police were waiting at my door.
NOT: I couldn’t go home, the police were waiting at my door.

Thank you Julie for sharing your expertise. I know your manuscript will be snatched up, published, and people will be clamoring for more books.  You may be interested in her current book, D-Day and Beyond: A True Story of Escape and POW Survival or you may want to check out her webite: http://juliephend.com/and read about her lively WWII and writing presentations for schools, book clubs, and veterans’ organizations.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: D-Day and Beyond, Grammar Nazi, Guest Blogger, Julie Phend, World War ll

6 Comments on The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend, last added: 10/10/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
31. The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend

juiliephendI met Julie Phend at the recent Avalon Writer’s Retreat. She was in my group and I was so impressed because her manuscript was the most polished piece of writing I had ever seen. I found out that Julie is a English teacher and begged her to be a guest blogger and share some common errors that people could easily fix in their own manuscripts.

Here is what she sent.

Notes from a Grammar Nazi by Julie Phend

Arghh! No writer wants to have her grammar questioned. BUT the truth is that as writers, we are judged as much by our grammar and punctuation as by our witty characters and suspenseful plots. So it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with some rules we’ll use over and over again. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid common problems.

CAPITALIZATION OF PROPER NOUNS:

Names of Family Members: As writers for children and youth, we will frequently reference moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. When do you capitalize these words?

Rule: Capitalize family members only when part of a name or used instead of a name. Don’t capitalize when used with a possessive pronoun.

Examples: I wish my mom would listen. I wish Mom would listen.
I bought a gift for Aunt Alice. I bought a gift for my aunt.

Names of School Subjects: Again, as writers for kids, we’ll often reference classes they take.

Rule: School subjects are only capitalized when they are a specific title or when used with a number.

Examples: My math class is boring, but the worst class I ever took was Math 101. Or maybe it was Advanced Algebra.

PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE: Good fiction is filled with snappy dialogue, so let’s be sure the reader (or agent or editor) is not distracted by incorrect punctuation.

Rules: If a quote is interrupted by a dialogue tag, whether you use a period or a comma depends on whether the second part of the quote is a complete sentence. If the second part of the quote is a separate sentence, use a period after the dialogue tag and a capital letter to begin the next sentence.

Example: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” Jenny groaned. “That hamburger weighed a whole pound!”

BUT when a dialogue tag interrupts a sentence, use commas around the tag, and lower case letters when the sentence is completed.

Example: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed, “or I’ll shoot!”

OTHER DIALOGUE RULES:

Rule: Periods and commas ALWAYS go within quotation marks.

Examples: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed.
My favorite quotation is “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

Other punctuation marks, such as exclamation points and question marks, go within the quotation marks if they are part of the quote, but NOT if they aren’t part of the quote.

Examples:
Are you familiar with the famous quotation, “You can run, but you cannot hide”?
“Who said that?” Jenny asked. “I can’t remember.”

Rule: If there is a quote within a line of dialogue, the quote goes in single quotation marks.

Example: “A famous person once said, ‘You can run, but you can’t hide,’” Jenny said.

A FEW PESKY COMMA RULES: Modern writing uses fewer commas than were once taught, but commas show a reader where to pause. Without them, a reader struggles to make sense of a line of type. Similarly, unnecessary commas slow the reader down or break a sentence in strange places. Hence, a couple of useful rules.

Rules: Use a comma before ‘but’ and ‘and’ when they are used as conjunctions to join two complete sentences.

Examples: I have often walked down this street, but I never noticed all the flowers.
I often walk down this street, and I always stop to smell the flowers.

Do not use a comma before ‘and’ or ‘but’ when used to join verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or clauses. (In other words, if the second part is not a complete sentence.)

Examples: She loved to run and play.
She loved to run through the meadow and stretch her long legs.
I loved him long but not well.

Never use a comma before the word because.
Example: She often paused to smell the flowers because her mother taught her to appreciate the little things.

A useful rule of thumb: Read the sentence aloud. If you need to pause, you probably need a comma. If what follows the pause is a complete sentence, you need a period instead of a comma.

Example: I couldn’t go home. The police were waiting at my door.
NOT: I couldn’t go home, the police were waiting at my door.

Thank you Julie for sharing your expertise. I know your manuscript will be snatched up, published, and people will be clamoring for more books.  You may be interested in her current book, D-Day and Beyond: A True Story of Escape and POW Survival or you may want to check out her webite: http://juliephend.com/and read about her lively WWII and writing presentations for schools, book clubs, and veterans’ organizations.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: D-Day and Beyond, Grammar Nazi, Guest Blogger, Julie Phend, World War ll

0 Comments on The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
32. Kindergarten Story Contest

KG-Story-contest-header

Warm up your computer and write a 150-word Kindergarten story and win $500.00!

The winning stories in this Kindergarten Story Contest will be published in the January eNews newsletter.

In addition, we will publish the winning entries our website.

Win one of five cash prizes

The contest offers five cash prizes: $500 for the winner, $250 for second place, and $100 for third, fourth, and fifth places. These alone are a lot of good reasons to write and enter.

To enter our Kindergarten Story Contest, submit a fiction or nonfiction story about family, friends, life, play, or school—really anything—for ages 5 to 6, up to 150 words. The story should be appropriate for kindergarteners who are just learning to read on their own. It should be fun, use appropriate vocabulary and syntax, and be interesting to youngest readers.

Please take care to not write too high for this age group. Know what a five- or six-year-old can and cannot read. Originality and the overall quality of writing will be important. Publishability is the ultimate criterion.

Entries must be received by November 7, 2014

Entries must be received by November 7, 2014. All entries pay a reading fee of $15, which includes a six-month subscription to Children’s Book Insider newsletter and a six-month membership in the writer’s community CBI Clubhouse. Winners will be announced in the January eNews newsletter. Prizes: $500 for first place, $250 for second place, and $100 for third, fourth, and fifth places.

Obtain Official Entry Form or make online submission

You may submit your entry either online or by regular mail.

If you choose to enter online, you’ll need to first save your manuscript to a file on your computer and submit it through our safe and secure entry page. Please make sure to submit your entry and reading fee at the same time.

Your online entry is encouraged. Please click here to continue to the submission page.

You will be directed to the section requiring the pre-payment of a $15 reading fee.

For Mail-in Entries:
To submit manuscript entries through the mail, please click here to obtain an entry form.

Contest Rules

Submission Requirements: Any original, unpublished piece not accepted by any publisher at the time of submission is eligible.
  • Entries must be accompanied by a reading fee of $15 (credit card, check or money order accepted).  Please add GST for entries from Canada.
  • The fee will also entitle you to a six month subscription to Children’s Book Insider plus six months access to the CBI Clubhouse website, an interesting and active community for writers.
  • We encourage entries to be submitted online, however, you may submit your entries either online or by mail. Please be sure to read and follow the directions carefully for the method you select.
  • We cannot return submissions, please retain a copy of your manuscript.
  • All manuscript submissions must meet the entry deadline outlined in each contest
Manuscripts should be typed double-spaced. Please put your name and address on the first page of your manuscript, and your name on all following pages.To see an example of how to format your contest entry, please click here.

No entries containing violence or derogatory, racist, or sexist language or situations will be accepted, at the sole discretion of the judges. No employees or relatives of employees or former employees of the Institute or its divisions are eligible.

Obtain Official Entry Form or Make Online Submission You may submit your entry either online, using our safe and secure entry page, or by regular mail. If you choose to submit online, you’ll need to complete your manuscript and save it to a file on your computer. You will be directed to the payment section first, then to the online entry page.For Online Submissions: Please click here to continue.

You will be directed to the section requiring the pre-payment of a $15 reading fee.

For Mail-in Entries: To submit manuscript entries through the mail, please click here to obtain an entry form.

Word Count:  Kindergarten Story Contest: 150 words.

Judges: All entries will be read by faculty and editorial staff members of the Institute. Winners will be notified by mail approximately 105 days after the close of the contest. Once the winners are announced, all entries are released for submission elsewhere.

Winners: The winners will be announced in the January eNews newsletter, which receives first rights to the prize-winning manuscripts, after which all rights revert to the authors.

Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: children writing, Contest, magazine, opportunity, Picture Book, Places to sumit, publishers, Win Tagged: Children's Book Insider, Institute of Chidlren's Literature, Kindergarten Story Contest

0 Comments on Kindergarten Story Contest as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
33. Kindergarten Story Contest

KG-Story-contest-header

Warm up your computer and write a 150-word Kindergarten story and win $500.00!

The winning stories in this Kindergarten Story Contest will be published in the January eNews newsletter.

In addition, we will publish the winning entries our website.

Win one of five cash prizes

The contest offers five cash prizes: $500 for the winner, $250 for second place, and $100 for third, fourth, and fifth places. These alone are a lot of good reasons to write and enter.

To enter our Kindergarten Story Contest, submit a fiction or nonfiction story about family, friends, life, play, or school—really anything—for ages 5 to 6, up to 150 words. The story should be appropriate for kindergarteners who are just learning to read on their own. It should be fun, use appropriate vocabulary and syntax, and be interesting to youngest readers.

Please take care to not write too high for this age group. Know what a five- or six-year-old can and cannot read. Originality and the overall quality of writing will be important. Publishability is the ultimate criterion.

Entries must be received by November 7, 2014

Entries must be received by November 7, 2014. All entries pay a reading fee of $15, which includes a six-month subscription to Children’s Book Insider newsletter and a six-month membership in the writer’s community CBI Clubhouse. Winners will be announced in the January eNews newsletter. Prizes: $500 for first place, $250 for second place, and $100 for third, fourth, and fifth places.

Obtain Official Entry Form or make online submission

You may submit your entry either online or by regular mail.

If you choose to enter online, you’ll need to first save your manuscript to a file on your computer and submit it through our safe and secure entry page. Please make sure to submit your entry and reading fee at the same time.

Your online entry is encouraged. Please click here to continue to the submission page.

You will be directed to the section requiring the pre-payment of a $15 reading fee.

For Mail-in Entries:
To submit manuscript entries through the mail, please click here to obtain an entry form.

Contest Rules

Submission Requirements: Any original, unpublished piece not accepted by any publisher at the time of submission is eligible.
  • Entries must be accompanied by a reading fee of $15 (credit card, check or money order accepted).  Please add GST for entries from Canada.
  • The fee will also entitle you to a six month subscription to Children’s Book Insider plus six months access to the CBI Clubhouse website, an interesting and active community for writers.
  • We encourage entries to be submitted online, however, you may submit your entries either online or by mail. Please be sure to read and follow the directions carefully for the method you select.
  • We cannot return submissions, please retain a copy of your manuscript.
  • All manuscript submissions must meet the entry deadline outlined in each contest
Manuscripts should be typed double-spaced. Please put your name and address on the first page of your manuscript, and your name on all following pages.To see an example of how to format your contest entry, please click here.

No entries containing violence or derogatory, racist, or sexist language or situations will be accepted, at the sole discretion of the judges. No employees or relatives of employees or former employees of the Institute or its divisions are eligible.

Obtain Official Entry Form or Make Online Submission You may submit your entry either online, using our safe and secure entry page, or by regular mail. If you choose to submit online, you’ll need to complete your manuscript and save it to a file on your computer. You will be directed to the payment section first, then to the online entry page.For Online Submissions: Please click here to continue.

You will be directed to the section requiring the pre-payment of a $15 reading fee.

For Mail-in Entries: To submit manuscript entries through the mail, please click here to obtain an entry form.

Word Count:  Kindergarten Story Contest: 150 words.

Judges: All entries will be read by faculty and editorial staff members of the Institute. Winners will be notified by mail approximately 105 days after the close of the contest. Once the winners are announced, all entries are released for submission elsewhere.

Winners: The winners will be announced in the January eNews newsletter, which receives first rights to the prize-winning manuscripts, after which all rights revert to the authors.

Good Luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: children writing, Contest, magazine, opportunity, Picture Book, Places to sumit, publishers, Win Tagged: Children's Book Insider, Institute of Chidlren's Literature, Kindergarten Story Contest

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34. SCBWI SPARK AWARD – Self Published Books

The Spark Award is an annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.


 

THE INAUGURAL SPARK AWARD WINNERS

 

Deadline:  Books may be submitted between September 15th and December 15th, 2014 for books published in the 2014 calendar year. Books published in previous years and re-issues are ineligible. Books submitted outside of that period will not be considered. You may only submit one title each award period.

Award: The winner and honor recipients will receive: a Spark seal to display on their book;  commemorative plaque; the opportunity to have their book featured and autographed at an SCBWI conference of their choosing during the year the award is won, featured in the SCBWI online bookstore and publicized through SCBWI social networking sites. The winners will also get the opportunity to attend any conference of their choice tuition free (other than for extras such as critiques and intensives).  Winners will be announced in March 2015.

Guidelines:

1. You must be a current SCBWI member with membership current through April of the following year to apply.  If you are a member now but your membership is scheduled to expire before that time, you will need to renew your membership in order to be eligible for the award.

2. Both the author and illustrator (if the illustrator’s name appears on the book) must be members to apply.

3. You must have published a book intended for the children’s or YA market in one of the following categories: Board Book, Picture Book, Chapter Book, Middle Grade, or Young Adult.

4. The book may be fiction or nonfiction.

5. The book should have been self-published either through an established self-publishing enterprise or individually self-published.  The book cannot have been previously published in any print or digital form prior to the self-published form.

6. SCBWI reserves the right to disqualify books published by enterprises that we believe, in our discretion, operate in a predatory or unbusiness-like manner.

7. The entry must be submitted in traditionally bound form, contain an ISBN number, and provide evidence of Copyright Registration.

Evidence of Copyright Registration can be an electronic recipt or email showing you filed with the US Copyright office. If your book originated outside the US you must follow the copyright laws in your country.

8. All applicants must include a cover letter with your name, the name of your book, the genre of your book, the publishing method for your book (including the name of any editor/copyeditor/designer who was retained in the creation of the book), your book’s ISBN and a synopsis of your book.

9. Applicants must submit one copy of a printed and bound copy of the book and a cover letter to SCBWI via a traceable mailing method (i.e. FedEx, UPS, US or International Mail with tracking number). Please do not double package your book.

Send copies to:
SCBWI Spark Award
8271 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Please note that books submitted will not be returned.

10. One winner and two Honor Book recipients will be chosen in two categories:

Novels: This includes: young adult, middle grade and chapter books

Picture Books: This includes: board books, picture books, readers, and fully illustrated novelty books.

There will be two rounds of judging. The first round will be judged by an SCBWI panel; the second round will be judged by a panel selected from industry editors, agents, authors, illustrators and/or booksellers.

11. Books may be entered for either the Spark Award or The Golden Kite Award, but not both.

12. Judging will be based on a number of criteria, including but not limited to: quality of writing and concept, quality of illustrations (if applicable), professional presentation, editing and design, appropriateness of content for the targeted age group of the book.

SCBWI reserves the right not to award a SPARK AWARD in any given year.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, awards, children writing, Competition, need to know, opportunity Tagged: SCBWI, Self Published Authors, Self Published Books, Spark Award

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35. SCBWI SPARK AWARD – Self Published Books

The Spark Award is an annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.


 

THE INAUGURAL SPARK AWARD WINNERS

 

Deadline:  Books may be submitted between September 15th and December 15th, 2014 for books published in the 2014 calendar year. Books published in previous years and re-issues are ineligible. Books submitted outside of that period will not be considered. You may only submit one title each award period.

Award: The winner and honor recipients will receive: a Spark seal to display on their book;  commemorative plaque; the opportunity to have their book featured and autographed at an SCBWI conference of their choosing during the year the award is won, featured in the SCBWI online bookstore and publicized through SCBWI social networking sites. The winners will also get the opportunity to attend any conference of their choice tuition free (other than for extras such as critiques and intensives).  Winners will be announced in March 2015.

Guidelines:

1. You must be a current SCBWI member with membership current through April of the following year to apply.  If you are a member now but your membership is scheduled to expire before that time, you will need to renew your membership in order to be eligible for the award.

2. Both the author and illustrator (if the illustrator’s name appears on the book) must be members to apply.

3. You must have published a book intended for the children’s or YA market in one of the following categories: Board Book, Picture Book, Chapter Book, Middle Grade, or Young Adult.

4. The book may be fiction or nonfiction.

5. The book should have been self-published either through an established self-publishing enterprise or individually self-published.  The book cannot have been previously published in any print or digital form prior to the self-published form.

6. SCBWI reserves the right to disqualify books published by enterprises that we believe, in our discretion, operate in a predatory or unbusiness-like manner.

7. The entry must be submitted in traditionally bound form, contain an ISBN number, and provide evidence of Copyright Registration.

Evidence of Copyright Registration can be an electronic recipt or email showing you filed with the US Copyright office. If your book originated outside the US you must follow the copyright laws in your country.

8. All applicants must include a cover letter with your name, the name of your book, the genre of your book, the publishing method for your book (including the name of any editor/copyeditor/designer who was retained in the creation of the book), your book’s ISBN and a synopsis of your book.

9. Applicants must submit one copy of a printed and bound copy of the book and a cover letter to SCBWI via a traceable mailing method (i.e. FedEx, UPS, US or International Mail with tracking number). Please do not double package your book.

Send copies to:
SCBWI Spark Award
8271 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Please note that books submitted will not be returned.

10. One winner and two Honor Book recipients will be chosen in two categories:

Novels: This includes: young adult, middle grade and chapter books

Picture Books: This includes: board books, picture books, readers, and fully illustrated novelty books.

There will be two rounds of judging. The first round will be judged by an SCBWI panel; the second round will be judged by a panel selected from industry editors, agents, authors, illustrators and/or booksellers.

11. Books may be entered for either the Spark Award or The Golden Kite Award, but not both.

12. Judging will be based on a number of criteria, including but not limited to: quality of writing and concept, quality of illustrations (if applicable), professional presentation, editing and design, appropriateness of content for the targeted age group of the book.

SCBWI reserves the right not to award a SPARK AWARD in any given year.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, awards, children writing, Competition, need to know, opportunity Tagged: SCBWI, Self Published Authors, Self Published Books, Spark Award

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36. Illustrator Saturday – Lita Judge

masthead_11

19_me_and_crittersLita Judge is a writer and artist whose greatest passion is creating children’s books. She is the author/illustrator for over a dozen fiction and nonfiction picture books including Flight School (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Red Hat (S&S, 2013), Red Sled (S&S, 2011), Bird Talk (Roaring Brook, 2012), One Thousand Tracings, and Pennies for Elephants (Disney-Hyperion). Her background in geology, paleontology and biology inspires her nonfiction books. Lita spent several years working for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology before turning to writing about dinosaurs and other natural history subjects. But her background with animals also inspires her whimsical fictional tales filled with characters who forge big dreams.

Several of her books have been selected as Junior Library Guild picks and they have received numerous awards including the 2013 Sterling North Award, the Jane Addams Honor Book, ALA Notable Children’s Book, the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, Michigan Notable Book, and Kirkus Best Children’s book of 2011. She enjoys teaching both writing and illustration to students of all ages and shares much about her creative process in classrooms and on her blog and website.

Lita lives with her husband, two cats and a little green parrot named Beatrix Potter in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

toad_2

Here is Lita talking about her process:

For me, creating art for one of my books involves a lot of drawing to capture a character’s gesture or body movement and expression. For example in my newest book, Born in the Wild, to be released this October, I had to draw a lot of animals. But I didn’t want my readers to just know what a chimpanzee or orangutan looks like. I want them to feel a connection to them. I want them to look into the faces of my animals and feel like there is an animal looking back at them. I also want them to get an understanding of the intimate world of animals within their own world. How does a mother panda hold her baby, or a baby orangutan curl up and feel safe with its parent? To capture all this I first do hundreds of very loose sketches, focusing on body language long before I worry about details and paint.

A

B

C

D

Once I feel like I’ve captured that intimate portrait between the animals, I start focusing on the details, which describe their faces and bodies. Slowly my drawings become more refined until at last, it is ready for a light watercolor wash at the end.

E

F 09_Born_in_the_WildCover for BORN IN THE WILD

10_Born_in_the_Wild

Interior and end pages

11_Born

How long have you been illustrating?

The first book I illustrated came out in 2006. Then my first picture book, One Thousand Tracings, which I wrote and illustrated was released in 2007.

untitled

Above: Cover of One Thousand Tracings, 2007 Hyperion)

How did you get to work at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology?

Many kids outgrow the dinosaur-crazed phase after elementary school, but when I was 14, during the summer before high school, I still had set my cap on becoming a paleontologist. I was eager to get started so I wrote dozens of letters to museums, curators and paleontologists who were working in the field, and basically pleaded with them to let me work on their dig. I had heard the Tyrrell Museum was working on a dig with literally thousands of dinosaurs in a bonebed and they were from the Cretaceous, the age I particularly wanted to study. I guess I ended up writing so many letters to Phil Currie, he eventually called and said welcome aboard. So the day after school let out the following summer, I was on a bus to Canada. I returned every year to work there and went on to graduate with a degree in Geology.

K-2_Dinosaurs

Lita on dinosaur dig

Did you do illustrating work for them?

Not really, we didn’t have much time for anything other than digging up fossils. But I did do a few drawings on my own, and they asked if they could use them for t-shirts and mugs. That was a boost, to think I could draw dinosaurs perhaps someday for pay.

how-big_500

Cover of How Big, released 2013, Roaring Brook Press

Did you go to School to study art? If so, when and where?

My only schooling was in Geology, at Oregon State University. I never studied art in school. I credit all the bird watching and sketching I did as a kid for teaching me how to see, how to observe. Then later, I traveled to many great museums all over the world which, painting on location, and looking at great art.

05_Stockholm_cemetary

Field paintings from Europe. Above: Stockholm cemetery. Below: Paris museum.04_Paris

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think I sold a painting of a humming bird for about $35 at a Christmas fair. Back when I was a Geologist, I started drawing notecard and bookmark designs to get into doing art. Eventually I had over a hundred wildlife designs and sold them all over the country with a homemade catalogue I ran on a xerox machine. Then I started doing shows and craft fairs. Eventually I sold the business because I was spending all my time folding and filling notecard orders rather than painting. The dream was to paint, not fill orders. So I started showing and selling work in galleries. But I didn’t find my real home in art until I turned to writing and illustrating children books. The element of story is what made my art feel complete for me.

redhat

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I was an environmental geologist for the Forest Service. Spent a lot of time in the mud and rain working on the Oregon Coast.

RedHat_interior-7

What do you think influenced your style?

I don’t really think in terms of style. My art changes and evolves each time I do a story. I think it’s because I also write them and I have a wide range of interests — science, nature, historical, fiction, whimsical — so I do a broad range of stories. Each time I create a story it needs it’s own approach to the art.

RedHat_interior-8

thumb8

When did you do your the first illustration for children?

In 2006, my first book was to illustrate the middle grade book, Ugly, written by Donna Jo Napoli.

ugly

How did that come about?

I had sent an art dummy of a story I had written into Hyperion and my soon-to-be editor, Namrata Tripathi, called and asked if I’d like to do a cover for a book. Of course I said yes! I was so excited I illustrated several interior pieces as well, which made it into the book, so it turned into a nice project, and a lovely friendship with Namrata. When that was done I sent her another dummy and we were off and running on my first picture book together.

01_Cover-450x450

How many children’s books have you illustrated?

I’m working on my 20th right now. Several in the pipeline also.

redsled

About_001

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I’ve always wanted to on some level but when I was living in really remote areas on the west coast it just didn’t seem possible. I had never met an illustrator and really didn’t know how to go about getting published. When My husband and I moved to New Hampshire I was able to meet people in the field and soon after I began submitting work. Once my first book was in the works, I knew this would be what I would spend the rest of my life doing, I LOVE it!

bearsled

How long did it take you after that to get your first picture book contract?

I was pretty fortunate. I sent out work I think in early November and got that first project on Valentine’s Day 2005. But I had been drawing and drawing and drawing, and painting for years before then. I had built up a huge body of work before attempting to get published and I think that helped me.

14_RedSled

I see you illustrated a second book by Donna Jo Napoli. Did you know you were doing that book when you signed to do UGLY?

No, Donna Jo hadn’t even written it. It just grew naturally from the fact that Ugly was received well and we both had fun on that project.

bearmoose2

What was the first book that you wrote and illustrated?

One Thousand Tracings. It’s a true story about a relief effort my grandparents did to help people who had lost their homes in Europe after WWII. I found letters and foot tracings in my grandmother’s attic after she died and knew immediately I wanted to write about this amazing thing they had done to help all those families.

06_Red_Sled

How did you find a home for that book?

I sent it to my editor at Hyperion about a week after I turned the art in for Ugly.

07_Flight_School

08_FlightSchool

12_FlightSchool

What book would you say has been your most successful?

Hmmm, I really don’t think of success in terms of how many books sold or how many editions. I think a book is successful if I as an artist got to create something I feel passionately about, and it connects with readers who also feel passionately about the same thing. Some of my nonfiction books may not sell as many books as Red Sled or Flight School, but I still feel like that little girl obsessed with dinosaurs craving to make a living as an artist when I create them and that is better than any measured success. And they solicit such beautiful responses from kids who share the same obsession, so it’s a pretty wonderful feeling. And my fiction, well that’s a dream too. To create a character that people respond to, that makes them smile or feel a connection, that is the best. I leave others to worry about book sales and things, and I just worry about making the stories I love. My career feels like a dream come true, so I guess all my books are successful in their own little ways.

13_FlightSchool

What book award are you the most proud of winning?

Kind of the same feeling, I’m just so grateful when any group of librarians or teachers or reviewers gathers a group of books together that they love and decides to bestow an honor on one of my books. I treasure each nod I’ve received and am thankful because they always make me believe a little more each time I really get to keep doing this beautiful, fantastic, crazy career!

flight_school-_interior-17

Have you worked with educational publishers?

No.

23_FlightSchool

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No. I’ve been asked for both, but I can never seem to pull away on the stories I’m brewing up. My imagination seems to keep my docket pretty darn full these days.

flight_school-_interior-12

Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you?

I work with a literary agent, Linda Pratt, who I adore because she keeps life sane for me, juggling all the contracts and turn-in dates. But more importantly, she is my sounding board for stories. She always gives me a safe creative place to bounce around ideas.

BTBG_feet_1

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Nothing, other than I just keep writing stories. I work on them nearly every day. As soon as one is turned in to my editor and I’m waiting for feedback, I turn to the next. I don’t worry about projects, just about stories, and somehow that has kept me fully employed since the day I started.

protoceratops

What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil and watercolor.

15_BITW

Has that changed over time?

My approach changes each time I launch into a new story. Sometimes I have a whimsical story that has to be light and fresh and very gestural. Another time, I may be working on a nonfiction that needs a more detailed approach. I’m working now on a book that takes place at night and has an element of mystery so things are dark with kind of magical lighting and a big beautiful moon. Another story I’m working on now is for much older kids and it’s kind of dark and at times very sad and scary, so that means a huge departure on my approach. I love not having a set style. It means I have to reinvent myself a lot, and that can take a lot of hours at the easel, but it is never boring.

HowBigSlider4

What I really want to know is how did you find such a great studio? Did you buy the house because of that room? Had it been a church?

I build it. My husband and I found a piece of land and I designed it. We had been saving and dreaming for a very long time, so the studio grew out of that energy. I found a salvaged church window and lugged some niches home from France that were made out of 15th century oak and were in a church that was sadly destroyed in WWI, but they have a home with me now. And I carved ravens for the roofline outside to reflect my background. I was born on the Tlingit Indian reservation in Alaska and the ravens are my homage to their beautiful art and culture that inspires me. I’m grateful for everyday I get to create in this space!

16_studio

17_studio
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Natural light and my critters!

18_studio

IMG_8236

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I just work. Really I don’t keep hours. I just wake up every day eager to get back to the stories, and march on through the day and into the night and through the weekends. I hate being sick because that’s about the only time I’m not working and that for me is just plain boring. There is always at least 3 unfinished stories on my easel and a few more whispering in my ears, so as long as that is true, I’ll be working. I occasionally slip out for a bike ride, but I’m pretty much to be found with pencil or brush in hand.

20

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I do lots of research and quite often take pictures. That is always a fun part. My parents are wildlife photographers and my grandparents were research biologists. So I think I came to love that part of the work naturally. I do a lot of photo shoots with kids and animals, whatever the need may be. Have had fun over the years, travelling to places I paint, working with elephants, taking back trips up into the back country, feeding giraffes. Research is the fun part indeed!

22

21

Which illustrated book is your favorite?

Ah, that is like asking a mom which is her favorite kid. OK, I may have a special fondness for a certain penguin (in Flight School) but don’t tell the others. And I’m working on two books now that I’m bursting to let out in to the world, but that will have to wait. I’ll just say Paris, Owlets, moons and fun!

thumb4

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Oh yes, it’s a wonderful way to connect with people you would never meet otherwise. I get offers to speak and all sorts of wonderful things come out of the fact that people can so easily find your website and get a sense of what you have to offer. And I’m grateful for wonderful friendships with other writers whom I rarely see but keep in touch with.

entering

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do a lot of planning with Photoshop. I find it a wonderful creative tool hat helps me really explore and push a composition in a way I can’t with just pencil. I love how I can really play around with values as well so that you don’t have to muck around too much in guesswork with real paint. That never works well with watercolors.

04molly_tony

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I do use one a lot in the planning stages. And a little in the final art- again it really depends on the story and what effect I’m trying to get. They are wonderful for some things, but I find a good old fashioned brush loaded in paint my favorite tool.

penniesfor elephants

last-spread-art

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To keep doing books that excite and interest me for the rest of my life! To never ever have the feeling that I want to slow down. And to travel to more wonderful places that allow me to soak up their beauty and capture their essence in a story. To continue connecting with kids, teachers, and parents over stories and feel in some small way your work was a part of their imagination and life. That’s all I want.

24_Born

What are you working on now?

Well I have 5 books in various stages. Some I can let out of the bag, and a couple that need to stay inside where it’s safe and warm just a little longer. My next nonfiction book, BORN IN THE WILD, coming out with Roaring Brook has already gotten two starred reviews and will be released on October 21st, so that’s exciting. Then I have a picture book about my Parrot, Beatrix, coming out next spring with Atheneum entitled, GOOD MORNIGN TO ME! It’s a fun story about life with a very happy and exuberant parrot. Then I have a book I’m illustrating about a pygmy marmoset that has been a delight work on and took me on a mental journey to the Amazon, pretty fun (coming out with Boyd’s Mill). And then my owlet book set in Paris which I’m working on now (to be released with Dial), and then… oops, I can’t tell you what I’m working on after that, but it’s a big project that has pushed me to extremes and I can’t wait for it to be ready to break out of the studio and into the world.

02_GoodMorning_covers_Page_2

Cover of Good Morning to Me, to be released Spring 2015, Ateneum

Cover_1000

ducks

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My all time favorite brush is an Isabey Petite Gris brush, all sizes. It’s shaped kind of flat and fat so it holds gobs of paint while still keeping a good point. I bought my first in Paris after I dropped my brushes in the Seine, and man am I glad I did, because this brush paints like a dream. I also love cheep bamboo calligraphy brushes as I do a lot of line work. My tools are pretty simple 4b pencils, arches watercolor paper, Windsor Newton paint.

Tricycle

scan098

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

It sounds kind of flippant, but I mean it in all sincerity – don’t worry about success. Just worry about the writing and/or the art. People want good stories, they crave them, if you focus on the craft, on making it the best piece of art or writing humanly possible, the “success” part of it will fall into place, at least enough so that you get to make a comfortable living at it and keep doing it. I honestly don’t think about number of books sold, etc, I’d go crazy second guessing every whisper of an idea that comes into my brain and I’d give up on it long before it had the time and nurturing from me to grow into a real story. But if you just focus on the art, and the writing, it will grow into something others can love. Just make a Utopia for yourself of your work, and the other “career” part of things will come out of that.

26

Sketch for upcoming book, Born in the Wild

BTBG

teeth

parrot

Thank you Lita for sharing you journey and process with us. Please let us know when your new picture books come out. We’d love to see them and cheer you on. You can visit Lita at: http://www.litajudge.net

If you have a moment I am sure Lita would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if sometimes I don’t have time to reply to all of them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Born in the Wild, Flight School, Lita Judge, Red Sledge

16 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Lita Judge, last added: 10/4/2014
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37. Illustrator Saturday – Lita Judge

masthead_11

19_me_and_crittersLita Judge is a writer and artist whose greatest passion is creating children’s books. She is the author/illustrator for over a dozen fiction and nonfiction picture books including Flight School (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Red Hat (S&S, 2013), Red Sled (S&S, 2011), Bird Talk (Roaring Brook, 2012), One Thousand Tracings, and Pennies for Elephants (Disney-Hyperion). Her background in geology, paleontology and biology inspires her nonfiction books. Lita spent several years working for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology before turning to writing about dinosaurs and other natural history subjects. But her background with animals also inspires her whimsical fictional tales filled with characters who forge big dreams.

Several of her books have been selected as Junior Library Guild picks and they have received numerous awards including the 2013 Sterling North Award, the Jane Addams Honor Book, ALA Notable Children’s Book, the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, Michigan Notable Book, and Kirkus Best Children’s book of 2011. She enjoys teaching both writing and illustration to students of all ages and shares much about her creative process in classrooms and on her blog and website.

Lita lives with her husband, two cats and a little green parrot named Beatrix Potter in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

toad_2

Here is Lita talking about her process:

For me, creating art for one of my books involves a lot of drawing to capture a character’s gesture or body movement and expression. For example in my newest book, Born in the Wild, to be released this October, I had to draw a lot of animals. But I didn’t want my readers to just know what a chimpanzee or orangutan looks like. I want them to feel a connection to them. I want them to look into the faces of my animals and feel like there is an animal looking back at them. I also want them to get an understanding of the intimate world of animals within their own world. How does a mother panda hold her baby, or a baby orangutan curl up and feel safe with its parent? To capture all this I first do hundreds of very loose sketches, focusing on body language long before I worry about details and paint.

A

B

C

D

Once I feel like I’ve captured that intimate portrait between the animals, I start focusing on the details, which describe their faces and bodies. Slowly my drawings become more refined until at last, it is ready for a light watercolor wash at the end.

E

F 09_Born_in_the_WildCover for BORN IN THE WILD

10_Born_in_the_Wild

Interior and end pages

11_Born

How long have you been illustrating?

The first book I illustrated came out in 2006. Then my first picture book, One Thousand Tracings, which I wrote and illustrated was released in 2007.

untitled

Above: Cover of One Thousand Tracings, 2007 Hyperion)

How did you get to work at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology?

Many kids outgrow the dinosaur-crazed phase after elementary school, but when I was 14, during the summer before high school, I still had set my cap on becoming a paleontologist. I was eager to get started so I wrote dozens of letters to museums, curators and paleontologists who were working in the field, and basically pleaded with them to let me work on their dig. I had heard the Tyrrell Museum was working on a dig with literally thousands of dinosaurs in a bonebed and they were from the Cretaceous, the age I particularly wanted to study. I guess I ended up writing so many letters to Phil Currie, he eventually called and said welcome aboard. So the day after school let out the following summer, I was on a bus to Canada. I returned every year to work there and went on to graduate with a degree in Geology.

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Lita on dinosaur dig

Did you do illustrating work for them?

Not really, we didn’t have much time for anything other than digging up fossils. But I did do a few drawings on my own, and they asked if they could use them for t-shirts and mugs. That was a boost, to think I could draw dinosaurs perhaps someday for pay.

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Cover of How Big, released 2013, Roaring Brook Press

Did you go to School to study art? If so, when and where?

My only schooling was in Geology, at Oregon State University. I never studied art in school. I credit all the bird watching and sketching I did as a kid for teaching me how to see, how to observe. Then later, I traveled to many great museums all over the world which, painting on location, and looking at great art.

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Field paintings from Europe. Above: Stockholm cemetery. Below: Paris museum.04_Paris

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think I sold a painting of a humming bird for about $35 at a Christmas fair. Back when I was a Geologist, I started drawing notecard and bookmark designs to get into doing art. Eventually I had over a hundred wildlife designs and sold them all over the country with a homemade catalogue I ran on a xerox machine. Then I started doing shows and craft fairs. Eventually I sold the business because I was spending all my time folding and filling notecard orders rather than painting. The dream was to paint, not fill orders. So I started showing and selling work in galleries. But I didn’t find my real home in art until I turned to writing and illustrating children books. The element of story is what made my art feel complete for me.

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What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I was an environmental geologist for the Forest Service. Spent a lot of time in the mud and rain working on the Oregon Coast.

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What do you think influenced your style?

I don’t really think in terms of style. My art changes and evolves each time I do a story. I think it’s because I also write them and I have a wide range of interests — science, nature, historical, fiction, whimsical — so I do a broad range of stories. Each time I create a story it needs it’s own approach to the art.

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When did you do your the first illustration for children?

In 2006, my first book was to illustrate the middle grade book, Ugly, written by Donna Jo Napoli.

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How did that come about?

I had sent an art dummy of a story I had written into Hyperion and my soon-to-be editor, Namrata Tripathi, called and asked if I’d like to do a cover for a book. Of course I said yes! I was so excited I illustrated several interior pieces as well, which made it into the book, so it turned into a nice project, and a lovely friendship with Namrata. When that was done I sent her another dummy and we were off and running on my first picture book together.

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How many children’s books have you illustrated?

I’m working on my 20th right now. Several in the pipeline also.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I’ve always wanted to on some level but when I was living in really remote areas on the west coast it just didn’t seem possible. I had never met an illustrator and really didn’t know how to go about getting published. When My husband and I moved to New Hampshire I was able to meet people in the field and soon after I began submitting work. Once my first book was in the works, I knew this would be what I would spend the rest of my life doing, I LOVE it!

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How long did it take you after that to get your first picture book contract?

I was pretty fortunate. I sent out work I think in early November and got that first project on Valentine’s Day 2005. But I had been drawing and drawing and drawing, and painting for years before then. I had built up a huge body of work before attempting to get published and I think that helped me.

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I see you illustrated a second book by Donna Jo Napoli. Did you know you were doing that book when you signed to do UGLY?

No, Donna Jo hadn’t even written it. It just grew naturally from the fact that Ugly was received well and we both had fun on that project.

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What was the first book that you wrote and illustrated?

One Thousand Tracings. It’s a true story about a relief effort my grandparents did to help people who had lost their homes in Europe after WWII. I found letters and foot tracings in my grandmother’s attic after she died and knew immediately I wanted to write about this amazing thing they had done to help all those families.

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How did you find a home for that book?

I sent it to my editor at Hyperion about a week after I turned the art in for Ugly.

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What book would you say has been your most successful?

Hmmm, I really don’t think of success in terms of how many books sold or how many editions. I think a book is successful if I as an artist got to create something I feel passionately about, and it connects with readers who also feel passionately about the same thing. Some of my nonfiction books may not sell as many books as Red Sled or Flight School, but I still feel like that little girl obsessed with dinosaurs craving to make a living as an artist when I create them and that is better than any measured success. And they solicit such beautiful responses from kids who share the same obsession, so it’s a pretty wonderful feeling. And my fiction, well that’s a dream too. To create a character that people respond to, that makes them smile or feel a connection, that is the best. I leave others to worry about book sales and things, and I just worry about making the stories I love. My career feels like a dream come true, so I guess all my books are successful in their own little ways.

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What book award are you the most proud of winning?

Kind of the same feeling, I’m just so grateful when any group of librarians or teachers or reviewers gathers a group of books together that they love and decides to bestow an honor on one of my books. I treasure each nod I’ve received and am thankful because they always make me believe a little more each time I really get to keep doing this beautiful, fantastic, crazy career!

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Have you worked with educational publishers?

No.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No. I’ve been asked for both, but I can never seem to pull away on the stories I’m brewing up. My imagination seems to keep my docket pretty darn full these days.

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Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you?

I work with a literary agent, Linda Pratt, who I adore because she keeps life sane for me, juggling all the contracts and turn-in dates. But more importantly, she is my sounding board for stories. She always gives me a safe creative place to bounce around ideas.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Nothing, other than I just keep writing stories. I work on them nearly every day. As soon as one is turned in to my editor and I’m waiting for feedback, I turn to the next. I don’t worry about projects, just about stories, and somehow that has kept me fully employed since the day I started.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil and watercolor.

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Has that changed over time?

My approach changes each time I launch into a new story. Sometimes I have a whimsical story that has to be light and fresh and very gestural. Another time, I may be working on a nonfiction that needs a more detailed approach. I’m working now on a book that takes place at night and has an element of mystery so things are dark with kind of magical lighting and a big beautiful moon. Another story I’m working on now is for much older kids and it’s kind of dark and at times very sad and scary, so that means a huge departure on my approach. I love not having a set style. It means I have to reinvent myself a lot, and that can take a lot of hours at the easel, but it is never boring.

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What I really want to know is how did you find such a great studio? Did you buy the house because of that room? Had it been a church?

I build it. My husband and I found a piece of land and I designed it. We had been saving and dreaming for a very long time, so the studio grew out of that energy. I found a salvaged church window and lugged some niches home from France that were made out of 15th century oak and were in a church that was sadly destroyed in WWI, but they have a home with me now. And I carved ravens for the roofline outside to reflect my background. I was born on the Tlingit Indian reservation in Alaska and the ravens are my homage to their beautiful art and culture that inspires me. I’m grateful for everyday I get to create in this space!

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Natural light and my critters!

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I just work. Really I don’t keep hours. I just wake up every day eager to get back to the stories, and march on through the day and into the night and through the weekends. I hate being sick because that’s about the only time I’m not working and that for me is just plain boring. There is always at least 3 unfinished stories on my easel and a few more whispering in my ears, so as long as that is true, I’ll be working. I occasionally slip out for a bike ride, but I’m pretty much to be found with pencil or brush in hand.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I do lots of research and quite often take pictures. That is always a fun part. My parents are wildlife photographers and my grandparents were research biologists. So I think I came to love that part of the work naturally. I do a lot of photo shoots with kids and animals, whatever the need may be. Have had fun over the years, travelling to places I paint, working with elephants, taking back trips up into the back country, feeding giraffes. Research is the fun part indeed!

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Which illustrated book is your favorite?

Ah, that is like asking a mom which is her favorite kid. OK, I may have a special fondness for a certain penguin (in Flight School) but don’t tell the others. And I’m working on two books now that I’m bursting to let out in to the world, but that will have to wait. I’ll just say Paris, Owlets, moons and fun!

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Oh yes, it’s a wonderful way to connect with people you would never meet otherwise. I get offers to speak and all sorts of wonderful things come out of the fact that people can so easily find your website and get a sense of what you have to offer. And I’m grateful for wonderful friendships with other writers whom I rarely see but keep in touch with.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do a lot of planning with Photoshop. I find it a wonderful creative tool hat helps me really explore and push a composition in a way I can’t with just pencil. I love how I can really play around with values as well so that you don’t have to muck around too much in guesswork with real paint. That never works well with watercolors.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I do use one a lot in the planning stages. And a little in the final art- again it really depends on the story and what effect I’m trying to get. They are wonderful for some things, but I find a good old fashioned brush loaded in paint my favorite tool.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To keep doing books that excite and interest me for the rest of my life! To never ever have the feeling that I want to slow down. And to travel to more wonderful places that allow me to soak up their beauty and capture their essence in a story. To continue connecting with kids, teachers, and parents over stories and feel in some small way your work was a part of their imagination and life. That’s all I want.

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What are you working on now?

Well I have 5 books in various stages. Some I can let out of the bag, and a couple that need to stay inside where it’s safe and warm just a little longer. My next nonfiction book, BORN IN THE WILD, coming out with Roaring Brook has already gotten two starred reviews and will be released on October 21st, so that’s exciting. Then I have a picture book about my Parrot, Beatrix, coming out next spring with Atheneum entitled, GOOD MORNIGN TO ME! It’s a fun story about life with a very happy and exuberant parrot. Then I have a book I’m illustrating about a pygmy marmoset that has been a delight work on and took me on a mental journey to the Amazon, pretty fun (coming out with Boyd’s Mill). And then my owlet book set in Paris which I’m working on now (to be released with Dial), and then… oops, I can’t tell you what I’m working on after that, but it’s a big project that has pushed me to extremes and I can’t wait for it to be ready to break out of the studio and into the world.

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Cover of Good Morning to Me, to be released Spring 2015, Ateneum

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My all time favorite brush is an Isabey Petite Gris brush, all sizes. It’s shaped kind of flat and fat so it holds gobs of paint while still keeping a good point. I bought my first in Paris after I dropped my brushes in the Seine, and man am I glad I did, because this brush paints like a dream. I also love cheep bamboo calligraphy brushes as I do a lot of line work. My tools are pretty simple 4b pencils, arches watercolor paper, Windsor Newton paint.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

It sounds kind of flippant, but I mean it in all sincerity – don’t worry about success. Just worry about the writing and/or the art. People want good stories, they crave them, if you focus on the craft, on making it the best piece of art or writing humanly possible, the “success” part of it will fall into place, at least enough so that you get to make a comfortable living at it and keep doing it. I honestly don’t think about number of books sold, etc, I’d go crazy second guessing every whisper of an idea that comes into my brain and I’d give up on it long before it had the time and nurturing from me to grow into a real story. But if you just focus on the art, and the writing, it will grow into something others can love. Just make a Utopia for yourself of your work, and the other “career” part of things will come out of that.

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Sketch for upcoming book, Born in the Wild

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Thank you Lita for sharing you journey and process with us. Please let us know when your new picture books come out. We’d love to see them and cheer you on. You can visit Lita at: http://www.litajudge.net

If you have a moment I am sure Lita would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if sometimes I don’t have time to reply to all of them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Born in the Wild, Flight School, Lita Judge, Red Sledge

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38. Free Fall Friday – NaNoWriMo – PiBoIdMo

Here are the guidelines for submitting a First Page in October: In the subject line, please write “October First Page Critique” and paste the text in the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Plus attach your first page Word doc. to email. Format using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Guidelines must be followed. Four first page will be critiqued and the rtesults posted.

DEADLINE: September 24th.

RESULTS: October 31st.

ILLUSTRATORS: Illustrations needed for this blog.

IF YOU LIVE IN THE AREA DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY BELOW:

NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo Kick-Off night.

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FREE EVENT!* 

Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Adams House, Princeton Theological Seminary, Library Place. Princeton.

Cost: * FREE SCBWI Members / $35 Non-SCBWI Members

Join presenters—and published authors—Charlotte Bennardo and Tara Lazar for tips, tricks and ways to prepare for November’s National Novel Writing Month or Picture Book Idea Month.

A great way to light the motivational fire under your writing buns!

If you’re a novelist and want to finish up that first draft, try out a new story idea, and beyond, come and meet Charlotte Bennardo and learn how to prepare for thirty days and thirty nights of literary abandon! The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words of your novel. That’s it plain and simple. So, join to chat about novel writing and learn how to stay on target, keep track of your word count, receive motivational tips, ask questions, and more!

For more about NaNoWriMo, visit http://nanowrimo.org

New to generate some new ideas? Read on …

If you are a picture book writer (and/or illustrator), PiBoIdMo is for you! 

Founded online by http://taralazar.com the goal of PiBoIdMo, during the month of November, is for each participant to jot down one new picture book concept daily in their personal “idea notebook”. To help you along on this journey, each day http://taralazar.com will feature published authors and illustrators blogging about their sources of inspiration. The ideas you create this November will fuel your writing for the coming year.

Click here to register for the NaNoWriMo/PiBoIdMo event

About Charlotte: 

As the co-author of the YA Sirenz Series (Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion- Flux) and Blonde Ops (Thomas Dunne 2014) Charlotte also writes solo novels (MG, YA) which she is working on and shopping around. She has written numerous articles for publications like NJSCBWI ‘Sprouts’, Centauri, Happy, Working Mother and other magazines, and given numerous workshops at the NJSCBWI annual conferences. She’s looking for her backyard squirrel who lost his home when the tree was trimmed (He answers to “Jack.”)

About Tara:
Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, is available now from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Tara has several more books being released in the coming years with Random House, Sterling and Disney-Hyperion. Tara is the founder of PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month, an online picture book writer’s event held every November at taralazar.com or piboidmo.com.

This year’s event marks the 6th year of PiBoIdMo, and more than 1200 writers are expected to register.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, children writing, Contest, Events, inspiration, opportunity Tagged: Charlotte Bennardo, First Page Contest Critique, Free Fall Friday, NJSCBWI Free Event, Tara Lazar

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39. 5 WAYS TO FOLLOW UP WITH AN EDITOR OR AGENT

I receive so many questions about what to do when you do not get a reply to what you submitted. I think we all will be interested in this article written by Elizabeth Law about how to handle the situation.

5 WAYS TO FOLLOW UP WITH AN EDITOR OR AGENT AND WHEN TO DO IT :

Waiting for a reply can seem like watching the tumbleweeds roll...

Waiting for a reply can seem like watching the tumbleweeds roll…

#1.  Maybe an editor said something encouraging to you at a conference, and, as requested, you sent them your manuscript.  Since then it has been radio silence.  Here’s what you can do.  After 10-12 weeks, follow up with an email, reminding him or her, “we met at XXX, you said you’d like to take a look at my story about XXX, and because 10-12 weeks have passed, I wanted to follow up.  Here is my manuscript again, thank you very much for your time and consideration.”  That’s right, attach the manuscript, don’t have the editor go hunting for your email from 10 weeks ago. This way they can click and start reading.  If you haven’t heard back in another month, move on.

Mandy and Bernadette knew it in Sunday in the Park with George: you've got to Move On.

Mandy and Bernadette knew it in Sunday in the Park with George: you’ve got to Move On.

(In this case, move on means submit to the next person on your list, and don’t expect ever to hear back from the original publishing house. You don’t need to officially withdraw the manuscript.  If by some miracle the first editor later says he or she is interested in your book, and you haven’t yet sold it, then great.  But meanwhile you’ve taken your career into your own hands.)<img Mandy and Bernadette knew it in Sunday in the Park with George: you’ve got to Move On.”

Mandy and Bernadette knew it in Sunday in the Park with George: you’ve got to Move On.

#2.  Regrettably, in this era, silence is the new no.  Many literary agents have realized they don’t have the time to reply to every query they receive, so they’ve enacted a policy of “if you don’t hear from us in ___ weeks, assume we’ve passed.”

Here’s what to do when you’ve queried and agent and the allotted time to hear back has passed: MOVE ON.

Waiting for just the right literary agent or editor to say yes to you is like being in 7th grade and waiting for just the right boy, the one you know is perfect and you will spend the rest of your life with, to ask you out.  You are much, much better off moving on to the guy standing right next to him in the lunch line.

This is also a good rule for a publishing house accepting unsolicited manuscripts, and for editors or publishers who are accepting submissions for a certain period after a conference. If you don’t hear back from them after 12-16 weeks, assume it’s a no and move on.

#3.  You have signed with a literary agent, but they aren’t getting back to you.  Maybe they don’t return your calls, maybe they don’t answer your emails.  Everyone slips up now and again, of course, and that’s not what I’m talking about.  Have you left a few messages in a row for your agent, either by email or phone, and not gotten a reply? Has that happened several times? End the relationship.  The LAST thing you want is an agent who doesn’t return your calls or emailsThe publishing process is frustratingly slow and thorny and fraught with all sorts of issues.  Your agent is your champion; he or she goes into battle for you.  You do not want to be in that battle not knowing when your weaponry is going to show up.  Send an email and say you’re terminating the relationship. Do it now.

(And don’t be scared. Most agents are excellent.  But I get asked about this every few months, so I’m including it.)

#4.   An editor tells you he is taking your manuscript to an acquisitions meeting, then you don’t hear anything further. Follow up, by phone or email, remembering the rule, “always be polite and to the point.”  Say “You said you were bringing my book to the committee, has there been a response?” I know, I know, who wants to send that email and hasten the chance of hearing “I’m afraid the committee passed?”  But it’s better to hear “no” and move on. It’s also possible your editor needs to be prodded to get that book onto the meeting agenda.  You just don’t know.  You need to follow up.

Nota bene: ALWAYS be nice. Never lose your cool and yell at an editor, even by email, even when he deserves it.  First, you never know the full story—I got screamed at, really screamed at, once when it was my boss causing the delay, but what could I do but take the heat? And second, venting is what you have friends for.  The editor is disorganized, doesn’t value your time, has kept you hanging, repeatedly breaks her word about when she’s going to reply… all true.  Still, be professional, courteous, and polite. For one thing, when a writer is nice and understanding, we, the editors, only feel more guilty and determined to treat you well and to finally get you an answer.  Secondly, one day you may need that person you just reamed out.  He may be sitting in the audience at sales conference, and be able to tell a rep “Oh, I know that author, so talented.” Or you may end up sitting next to that editor on a panel at a conference, who knows? Don’t burn bridges.  Act professionally and then go out for drinks with your BFF and get it all off your chest.

manuscript#5:  Perhaps your book is under contract, but your editor isn’t getting back to you with editorial notes, or with anything else.  You want to revise, you have another book you need to work on, and you need to know what’s going on.  But although you’ve emailed the editor three times to ask about the book’s schedule, you hear nothing.  If you have an agent, easy, just tell the agent and he or she will deal with it.  (Unless the agent doesn’t return your calls, in which case, see #2).  But if you don’t have an agent, and you aren’t hearing back from your editor? Email their boss.  Yup.  Email the publisher, remembering to be professional and concise, saying “I haven’t had an answer to my questions about the book’s schedule and I’m getting worried that my revision might conflict with another project; of course I understand how busy my editor is, but I wonder if you have information for me?”  The publisher then forwards it to the editor who deals with it immediately.

Ok, everyone hates that answer, but it really works.

Click to read Elizabeth’s Bonus Tip and the rest of the article.

Elizabeth Law is available for consultation on your manuscript and career and for social networking tutorials, among other services. See her website, ELawReads.com, for more information.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Editors, need to know, reference, submissions, Tips Tagged: 5 Ways to Follow Up With An Editor or Agent, Elizabeth Law

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40. Agent Starting Out – Building List

brent-taylor-literary-agentUwe Stender, agent and owner of TriadaUS Literary Agency, Inc. located northwest of Pittsburgh recently hired Brent Taylor who recently completed an Internship at The Bent Agency.

According to Publishers Marketplace, owner Uwe Stender has sold six books so far this year. Here is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a new agent, Brent Taylor (pictured on left), at a fairly new agency.

Here is what Brent says he is looking for: “My tastes are eclectic, but all of my favorite novels are similar in that they have big commercial hooks and fantastic writing. I am seeking smart, fun, and exciting books for readers of middle grade, young adult, new adult, and select mystery/crime and women’s fiction.

Middle Grade: For younger readers I am on the hunt for a humorous, intelligent fantasy; a scare-the-pants-off-me ghost or haunting story; fast-paced literary writing similar in style to Jerry Spinelli and Cynthia Lord. I have soft spots for larger-than-life characters and atmospheric setting (creepy and/or quirky).

Young Adult: I’m always looking for genre-bending books that can be an exciting puzzlement when thinking about how precisely to market; specifically mystery and crime for teens, the grittier the better; high-concept contemporary stories with addicting romantic tension. I’m a sucker for themes of finding your place in the world, new beginnings, and summer-before-college stories.

New Adult: My tastes in New Adult tend to be more darkly skewed but I would love a well-executed story that shares the same excitement, wonder, and invigoration of books like LOSING IT. Although I appreciate any story that’s told well in great language, in New Adult I’m more concerned with being entertained and gripped by the edge of my seat than in being stimulated.

Adult: I would love a psychological suspense based on actual events, i.e. CARTWHEEL by Jennifer Dubois which fictionalized the Amanda Knox trial and hooked me from beginning to end. Alternatively, I’d love high-concept women’s fiction; either an exquisitely told story huge in size and scope, or a less ambitious novel that simply warms my heart.”

How to submit:  Send your query letter and first ten pages pasted in the body of the message to brent [at] triadaus.com. Or follow him on twitter: @NaughtyBrent

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Editor & Agent Info, Middle Grade Novels, Places to sumit, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Accepting Query Letters, Agent Building List, Brent Taylor, New Agent, TriadaUS Literary Agency, Uwe Stender

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41. Literary vs. Commerical Fiction

Don’t be afraid of the difference between literary and commercial fiction like these Scaredy Scouts illustrated by B.L. Bachmann below. B.L. is a writer and illustrator living in Los Angeles. Her mission is to make people smile, and even giggle :) See more at http://www.blbachmann.com

scardeyscoutsI spent last week running two writer’s retreats in Avalon, NJ. The agents at the first retreat were Sarah LaPolla from Bradford Literary and Carly Watters from P.S. Literary. The agents at the second retreat were Ammi-Joan Paguette from Erin Murphy Agency and Heather Alexander from Pippin Properties. 

It was a gorgeous week. Everyone received a full manuscript critique with an agent and a full manuscript critique from everyone in their group. I have to say, I think both of the sessions were the best retreats I have put together. The agents were top notched and each writer  in each group took extreme care with their critiques, so we walked away with lots of ideas for revisions and with many doors open with the agents. On top of that, everyone meshed well and we had a tons of fun. Can’t think of anything that was missing. 

Sarah-Bradford-Lit-photoDuring the week the question came up about the difference between Literary Fiction and Commercial Fiction. Lucky for us, Sarah LaPolla had written an explanation  on her blog and gave me permission to post it on Writing and Illustrating.

Here is Sarah:

I don’t think writers should get too hung up on labels, but it’s important to know what genre you’re writing. You’re expected to give an agent an immediate sense of where they can sell your book, but even more than that you should be able to know who you’ll be next to on a bookshelf so that you can read your comparison titles accordingly.

Figuring out thriller vs. mystery vs. suspense or paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy vs. supernatural horror can be difficult, I know. In these cases, it’s best to just choose the closest and let a professional decide the best way they can sell it. But the line between literary and commercial isn’t as vague. You shouldn’t claim your book is literary fiction if it isn’t. For one, it’s rare you’ll find an agent who looks for literary fiction and genre fiction with the same fervor, if they take on both at all. You don’t want to get a rejection based on a mislabel. Secondly, literary fiction is quite different than genre fiction, and not learning the difference can reflect a lack of research on your part.

The common argument, however, is that all books are technically literary. Right? Well, yes and no. Saying all books are literary is like saying all Young Adult novels are about characters under 25. The genre labels can be misleading, which is why it’s important to know what they mean.

If you’re unsure about which you’ve written, here’s a quick definition of each:

Literary fiction: The focus is on character arc, themes (often existential), and the use of language. I like to compare literary fiction authors to runway designers. The general public isn’t mean to wear the clothes models display on the runway. They exist to impress the other designers and show the fashion industry what they can do. Literary writing is a lot like that, but on a more accessible level. Many dismiss literary fiction as “too artsy” and “books without a plot,” but this isn’t true. At least not most of the time. The plot is there; it’s just incidental. Literary fiction is meant to make the reader reflect, and the author will almost always prefer a clever turn of phrase over plot development.

Commercial fiction: For the purposes of this blog post, I’ve been using this interchangeably with genre fiction. Basically, all genre fiction is commercial, but not all commercial fiction is genre. There is also “upmarket” commercial fiction, which I’ll get to later. Unlike literary fiction, genre fiction is written with a wide audience in mind (aka “commercial”) and always focuses on plot. There is still character development in genre fiction, but it is not as necessary. Characters get idiosyncratic quirks, clever dialogue, and often learn something new about life or themselves by the end. The difference is that their traits are only skin deep. The reader stays with them in the present. Rarely do we see a character’s past unless there is something pertinent to the plot back there. Genre fiction has a Point A and a Point B, and very little stands in the way of telling that story.

Keep in mind that an agent or editor will rarely prefer you to play with these formats, especially if you’re a debut author trying to find (and build) your audience. If you’re writing a plot-driven genre novel that adheres to a sci-fi, romance, or thriller structure, don’t try to load it with literary devices and huge character back-stories that aren’t relevant to the plot. It won’t impress an agent if you have a super literary genre novel. It will more likely confuse us and make your book harder to sell.

“Upmarket” fiction is where things get tricky. Books like The Help, Water for Elephants, Eat, Pray, Love, and authors like Nick Hornby, Ann Patchet, and Tom Perrotta are considered “upmarket.” Their concept and use of language appeal to a wider audience, but they have a slightly more sophisticated style than genre fiction and touch on themes and emotions that go deeper than the plot.

With debut authors, I think the main source of uncertainty tends to come from what they set out to write vs. what they actually write. Genre fiction is written with a clear purpose. The author has an idea and writes a story to accomplish their goal. Literary fiction can be more accidental. A writer may start with an idea, and then discover along the way that they don’t want to write about that anymore. They’ve fallen for their character’s personal tale or the images they want to evoke within the reader. If the writing ends up falling somewhere in the middle, then it might be considered “upmarket.” Or, it could mean it needs more focus one way or the other.

What’s important to remember is that none of these types of fiction is better than the other. It’s all about personal preference, based on what you like to read and how you write. If an agent doesn’t represent a certain genre, it doesn’t mean he or she think it’s bad. It just means you’re better off with someone else. Be aware that a genre label can influence an agent, but be honest about what your genre is. It wastes everyone’s time – most importantly, yours – if you try to guess what you think agents want. We want books we can fall in love with that fall under in genres and styles we represent, whether they’re young adult, adult genre fiction, or literary to a Proustian degree. That’s all.

You should drop by and take a look at Sarah’s blog: http://glasscasesblog.blogspot.com/ Sarah has agreed to be a Guest Blogger in the near future on a different subject, but another enjoyable post that will broaden your knowledge.

Thanks Sarah for sharing.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Agent, article, demystify, need to know, reference Tagged: Bradford Literary, Commercial Fiction definition, Literary Fiction definition, Sarah LaPolla

2 Comments on Literary vs. Commerical Fiction, last added: 9/30/2014
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42. Digital New Adult Publishers to Check Out

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PLEASE NOTE: The deals listed are only the deals reported to Publishers Marketplace between June 2013 and June 2014. Not all deals are reported.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Book Contracts, opportunity, Places to sumit, publishers, Publishing Industry, reference Tagged: Digital New Adult Deals, e-publishers to check out, ebooks, New Adult Publishers

0 Comments on Digital New Adult Publishers to Check Out as of 9/28/2014 1:58:00 AM
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43. Illustrator Saturday – Lisa Fields

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LisaFieldsLisa Fields is an illustrator based out of New York City and is represented by Chris Tugeau.

She received her BFA in Illustration from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida and attended The Illustration Academy.

Lisa is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Some clients include:

Boys’ Life
Cobblestone Magazine
Cricket Magazine
Dig Magazine
Faces Magazine
Highlights for Children
Houghton Mifflin
Kaeden Books
Odyssey Magazine
Pelican Publishing
Pinata Books
Ranger Rick Magazine
Tricycle Press

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1. How long have you been illustrating?

I graduated from college in 2006. After graduating I moved back home with my parents for a while so I could start my freelance illustration career…but obviously like most artists I have been drawing for as long as I can remember.

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How did you end up attending the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida to get your BFA?

I can’t remember how exactly I came across Ringling in my art school research. I know I had my portfolio reviewed by them at one of the school fairs. Ringling was rated one of the best art schools and it was in Florida by the beach! As an 18 year old I was very excited about both of those things. I went to visit the school with my mom and after the visit decided that out of all the art schools I had seen it was the best fit for me as a person and as an artist.

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What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

I learned a lot in figure drawing/painting classes. It is amazing how much you learn from drawing from life.

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Tell us about the Illustration Academy. Is that an online college?

The illustration Academy really changed my life. It is a summer program that I attended after my junior year and then again after my senior year of College. I found out about it because Ringling actually hosted them for a few years. They gave a presentation to my school and once I saw it I knew that it was something I needed to do. Along with the amazing faculty that stays the entire workshop, every week there is a guest artist that comes in and gives you an assignment, critiques your work and talks about the industry in general. You get to meet, work with, and get advice from the top illustrators in the industry today. I encourage artists of any level to check them out: http://www.artconnectionacademy.com/IllustrationAcademy.aspx.

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What did attending the Illustration Academy bring to the table for you?

I learned invaluable advice from all the faculty at the illustration academy. They helped me round out my portfolio and gave me a realistic view of what to expect once I got out of school. It was also a great time and REALLY inspiring.

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What was the first things you did that you got paid to do?

The first assignment I was paid for was for a Magazine called Las Olas magazine. I illustrated portraits of five local chefs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Have any of your college connections ended up helping you get work?

 

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How did you end up leaving in Florida to live in New York?

The first assignment I was paid for was for a Magazine called Las Olas magazine. I illustrated portraits of five local chefs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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How and when did you decide that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

Illustrating children’s books was something that I was always interested in but for some reason coming out of school I really did not have that many images of children in my portfolio. When I got out of school adding more images of kids to my portfolio was one of the first things I worked on.

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What was the title of your first book? When and how did you get that contract?

The first children’s book I illustrated was The Triple Banana Split Boy with Pinata books. The art director contacted me after a promotional mailing that I did. I would send out postcards every couple of months to a mailing list that I had created. The mailing list was mostly compiled from this book: http://www.amazon.com/2014-Childrens-Writers-Illustrators-Market/dp/159963726X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-1&keywords=childrens+book+artist+guide.

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How long have your been represented by Christina Tugeau? How did the two of you connect?

I am fairly new to Chris’ agency. I have been represented by her for a little over a year now. One of her former artists that she used to represent was a teacher at Ringling and I remember him telling me and my friend to check out her site. I didn’t think I was ready for an agent at the time but agency with the Cat was always in the back of my mind. When I decided I wanted to get an agent she was the first person I emailed and I was thrilled that she wanted to set up a meeting the next time she came to New York City.

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What types of things do you personally do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I still send out postcards myself every now again but that is mostly for editorial work. I try my best to stay active on social media because you never know who might end up on your page. I have a Facebook page and a twitter account. I have to admit I don’t think I have quite grasped the world of Twitter but I still tweet out new images just in case! I also try to keep my website and blog up to date with my most recent work. I am always bummed myself when I go to artists blogs that I like and it has not been updated in a few years so I try my best to keep on top of it.

 

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Have you ever tried to write and illustrate your own story?

This is definitely something that I am interested in. I have a few ideas floating around my head that I have to get on paper. I used to write stories and illustrate them all the time when I was a kid. It is hilarious to find them and read them now. I remember in elementary school we would get to write a story every year that would be published in the “publishing center” (ie a cardboard cover wrapped in wallpaper). It was the best time of the school year. One of my masterpieces was called The Princess and the Unicorn. You can’t get any more girly than that!

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What is your favorite medium to use?

These days I have been working digitally. I got a Wacom cintiq a couple of years ago and fell in love with it. I live in a little NYC apartment so it is more practical for me to sit down at the computer instead of setting out all the paints.

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Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

I think my style has changed a lot. I learn with every project that I do and I am always trying to do better than my last assignment. I think someone would probably be able to tell that the images were drawn by the same person but I think my work looks a little more polished and consistent now.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

I am currently working on my 4th book with Pinata books. I have illustrated two books for Pelican Publishing and one for Tricyle Press which was an imprint at Random House.

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How did you get the contract with Pinata Books to illustrate GRADMA’S CHOCOLATE?

I had already illustrated The Triple Banana Split boy with Pinata Books. I think the art director I worked with thought that Grandma’s chocolate would be a good fit for me as well.

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I see you, also illustrated TRIPLE BANANA SPLIY BOY with Pinata Books, too. Was that a two book deal?

It was! It was the first book that I illustrated.

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What is your biggest success story? The thing you are most proud of?

I am always proud if a client comes back and asks me to do more work for them. After leaving school you don’t really get critiques anymore which is something that you were so used to all the time. When a client comes back to you and asks you to do more work for them that’s how you really know they were happy with what you did for them in the past. There are so many artists out there to choose from so it means a lot!

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Are you open to working with self-published authors or is that something Christina would not let you do?

Typically I work with publishing houses but I might be open to it if it was a story that I really liked as well.

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Have you thought about writing and illustrating your own books?

 

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Is Lewis Tewanima: Born to Run your latest picture book? How did Christine get that contract for you?

Lewis Tewanima: Born to Run was the second book that I did for Pelican Publishing. I already had a contact at Pelican before I was represented by Chris. Again, I got the first book from a postcard mailing. The art director told me she had been keeping my postcards for years so you shouldn’t give up hope if you do not hear back from people right away.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, I have done a lot of work in the past year for educational publishers through jobs that Chris has gotten me. I am currently working on my 4th reader for Heinemann Books at Houghton Mifflin. These types of jobs I think would be very hard to find without an agent so it has been really great working with Chris.

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Do you use Photoshop in your work?

I do use Photoshop on my wacom cintiq.

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

I have a big wacom cintiq at my desk and also a portable one so I can take my illustrations on the go with me (or sometimes it is nice to just sit on the couch and work in a differnet room). I am able to sync my files between the two devices with Adobe’s cloud service.

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How much time do you spend illustrating?

I draw every day. If I don’t have an assignment to work on I work on some of my own stuff.

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Do you have a studio set up in your house?

I have a studio area does that count?…NYC apartment living. One day I will have a house with a studio! J

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Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes, that you couldn’t live without?

I have a rather large collection of children’s books and art books. I often look at them for inspiration. The children’s books have a wide range of styles. It is fun to see how different artist approach illustrating a book. My all time favorite is probably Kadir Nelson and I am loving Peter Brown and LeUyen Pham books these days as well.

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Do you take pictures or any other type of research before you start a project?

Yes, reference pictures are important for me. I usually find photos online or I take photo reference myself. The internet is an amazing tool. I don’t know what I would do without it. It would be nice to take reference pictures myself all the time but often projects call for different ages and ethnicities and the chances of knowing a model that fits the bill is not very likely in most cases.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The internet has definitely opened doors. Being able to have your portfolio online, up to date and accessible at all times is important.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to write and illustrate a book.

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What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on some pirates for an article in Appleseeds magazine. The art director would like the pirates to be a bit menecing…which is not something that I typically do. It is a challenge and I am having a lot of fun with it! I am trying my best to make sure they are not cute, menecing pirates. I am also working on sketches for a reader for Heinemann and sketches for a book for Pinata.

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Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I know that I have mentioned it a couple of times already but I love my Wacom cintiq. If you work digitally you should definitely look into it. It is expensive…but it is so worth it!

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Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

One of my favorite things to do is go to the bookstore and check out what is on the shelves. You will be inspired and will also see what art directors are looking for. If there are books that look like something your work would be a good fit for write down the name of the publisher/imprint and add them to your mailing list. I have had multiple people tell me that they saved my postcards until a project comes along that I would be a good fit for so stick with it and don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from people right away.

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Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Lisa Fields, The Ringling School of Art and Design

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44. Illustrator Saturday – Sarolta Szulyovszky

Sarolta_SzulyovszkycroppedSarolta Szulyovszky was born and grew up in Budapest (Hungary), she studied Applied Art, after which she moved to Italy. Since 2004 she start activity in the field of graphics and illustration working in a graphic design studio in Udine (Italy). Now she lives and works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in a little city in northern Italy: San Daniele del Friuli.

She works for children’ s books, magazines, cover books, Brochure Design and Packaging Design.

Sarolta works both traditionally in acrylics, pencil and digitally.

In 2012 her work has been selected for the ‘Annual Illustratori Italiani 2012′ (Society of Italian Illustrators) and for the 30th edition of the exhibition ‘Le immagini della fantasia’ (Sàrmede, Italy) – 60 illustrators from all over the world.
2011 – selected for the 23rd Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava.
In 2010 she won the 1st Prize (Category Children’s Book) at the ‘Marosvásárhely Book Fair Award (Romania).

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Draft drawn in Photoshop, and the final illustration for a magazine. The commission was to illustrate the month of July. (Image: Progress_1)

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I needed a model to draw the woman so I photographed my son for the face and my hand for the hand!

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I found the fruit and vegetables on the internet.

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After sketching out the draft, I prepare an acrylic base for the background colour and, with carbon paper, I transfer the draft I have printed onto the base I have prepared. (Image: Progress_4)

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Here is the final illustration entirely painted with acrylics.

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Book Covers

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Book Covers

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How long have you been illustrating?

I began to illustrate children’s books 11 years ago. My first publication (2003) was a drawing for an anthology of world fables published in Italy, but I have only thought of myself as an illustrator since I began to devote myself entirely to this work in 2009.

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Did you go to college to study graphic design?

I began to study drawing at the age of 14, attending evening classes while I was studying at a science academy school in Budapest (Hungary). My dream was always to become a designer, so once I graduated from high school, I attended a textile design college and another college to study interior decoration, then went to the university “Nyugat-magyarországi Egyetem” on a Packaging Design course, but I never imagined that one day I would be illustrating books! I became involved in the world of children’s books illustration in Italy where I attended courses on advertising graphics and editorial illustration.

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What were you favorite classes?

At university, I really liked design and drawing from life, especially portraits.

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How did you decide to move from Hungary to Italy?

I moved to Italy not for work but for love. I met my husband in Budapest and, after we got married in 1997, I came with him to Italy.

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Do you feel the illustrating opportunities are better in Italy?

I don’t think Italy offers more opportunities for work in the field of illustration compared to Hungary or other European countries. Italy is currently undergoing a severe social, cultural and economic crisis and illustrators (and anyone who works in the cultural sphere in general) is often considered an amateur, and not a professional, and so they are paid little or nothing. However, I do think that Italy is an excellent place to study illustration: it is a country that boasts 50% of the world’s cultural and artistic heritage, a very stimulating environment for an artist, and there are excellent schools specializing in illustration.

It is very true that “no-one is a prophet in his own land” and so the first publications I had in Italy were due to the fact I was a foreigner: they were looking for foreign artists for multicultural editorial projects. After that, I was published in my home country and in other states.

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What was the first art related work that you were paid?

The first paid work was for the illustration of a children’s book translated into Italian from Hungarian, “Ha én felnőtt volnék” (If I were big) by Eva Janikovszky, published by L’Omino Rosso Editore, a small publisher in the region where I live. The book is a major classic in Hungary, a very entertaining story that I illustrated using digital techniques (Adobe Illustrator), which did not turn out to be my style.

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What do you think influenced you style?

I think my style has been influenced by many things: the popular Hungarian art passed on to me by my grandmother, who taught me embroidery, the late Renaissance painters in the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, where I acted as tourist guide when I was a student and, of course, many contemporary illustrators that I discovered in books, exhibitions and on the web (Gianni De Conno, Gabriel Pacheco, Alice Wellinger, Pierre Mornet……. the list would be very long!).

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What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

After university, I gave birth to my two children and for 6 years I concentrated on being a mother….. although it was during that period that I discovered illustrated children’s books!

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How did you connect with the Wilkinson Studios? When did you join them?

I came across Wilkinson Studios in 2011 thanks to an illustrator friend of mine who was already working for them. I sent them my portfolio and they immediately gave me a job. The client was very pleased with the illustration and so we continued to collaborate and they included me among the artists they represent. It was a great honour for me.

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Do you do any exhibits to show off your work?

Yes, I am often invited to take part in joint exhibitions and I have had various personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad. In 2011 and 2013, my work was exhibited at the Biennale of Illustration of Bratislava, Slovakia and, 2007- 2012 every year at the “Le immagini della fantasia” of Sàrmede, the most important exhibition of children’s illustrations in Italy.

The last exhibition has just ended and it was “Il posto delle favole” (The place of fables), a joint exhibition by international artists in Rocca Sinibalda, a picturesque little town in central Italy. The next exhibition will be a personal exhibition of my work in Hungary in October 2014.

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When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?

The first book that I illustrated was, luckily, the one I mentioned as my first paid work.

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How did that contract come about?

The contact with the publisher came about through a friend we had in common, who was a book translator.

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Do you consider that book to be your first big success?

My first book was an important experience for me, I learned a lot, but I don’t consider it a great success.

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Have you published about children’s picture books for a US publisher?

So far, in the United States, they have published my illustrations in academic books and magazines, but I haven’t yet illustrated a whole book in the United States and I can’t wait to do so!

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Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?

My first successful book was actually one that I wrote and illustrated: “A hálás virág “(The grateful flower) is an autobiographical book that deals with the subject of diversity and the Great Mystery of death, life and rebirth. The story came from an episode that actually happened in my grandparent’s garden in Budapest. In 2008, the album won first prize for the best unpublished illustrated album for children aged between 6 and 9 years at the 11th International Competition “Syria Poletti: On the wings of butterflies”. It was subsequently published in 3 languages: Italian, Hungarian and Polish.

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Does the area where you live have a large artist community?

I live in the countryside near a little town in northeast Italy that lies between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, a land of excellent white wines and ham. There isn’t a large community of artists here, but you live and eat well!

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What type of illustration work do you do?

I work both on children’s books and books for adults, and on Packaging. I work both digitally and with traditional techniques. I like to adapt my style to the text and always try out new things so that I continue to grow and renew myself.

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Have you won any awards for our art?

I have won various prizes but the most important was the one I received at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013: the cover I illustrated of “Folyékony tekintet” / Liquid gaze (published by Libri, Budapest) was selected from the 12 most beautiful covers at the Fair by the Wall Street Journal.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

So far, I have entirely illustrated 11 books, without counting the anthologies that include the drawings of several artists.

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What do you consider your biggest success?

The greatest success has been the last book I illustrated, “Folyékony tekintet” (Liquid gaze), a collection of poetry for which I drew the digital illustrations using only the colours black and red.

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Do you feel living in Italy has broaden your career as an illustrator?

For an illustrator, I don’t think it matters much these days where you live, an internet presence is more important because that’s where work meetings take place. 23. Yes, I have worked for Italian and Hungarian magazines and in the United States, for the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s Dwell Dive Magazine. 24. I use acrylic colours and sometimes I add some details in Photoshop.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I have worked for Italian and Hungarian magazines and in the United States, for the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s Dwell Dive Magazine.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I use acrylic colours and sometimes I add some details in Photoshop.

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What type of things do you do to find illustration work?

To find illustration work, it is important to have a website or a blog, send your portfolio to the illustration agencies and publishers, and go to specialist fairs, like the Children’s Book Fair of Bologna.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

The thing I miss the most is the view from my window: the hill with the historic centre and the mountains. When I’m at home staring at a sheet of paper or a monitor all day, it is important sometimes to turn and look into the distance!

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

It is very difficult to work set hours when you’re a freelance. I often work at night to meet deadlines…

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Research is the first phase of working on an illustrated project and that often takes whole days. I have a folder on my computer where I collect photos and texts that inspire me and that might be useful one day. If I don’t find the photos I need on the internet, people in certain poses, for example, then I’ll use relatives or myself, taking the photos I need.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, I think the internet has opened many doors, but it has also increased the competition.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Yes, I use Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Graphic Drawing Tablet to sketch out drafts and add details to my illustrations.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

My dream is to illustrate the Bible, especially St Paul’s Hymn to Love.

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What are you working on now?

At the moment, I’m working on two books: an illustrated album: The Garden of Tears, written by the French author, Laurie Cohen, and a Hungarian novel by Zoltán Hajdú Farkas.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Above all, it is important to inquire within and understand ourselves. What would I really like to do? Devote time to personal works that haven’t been commissioned, be humble (we always need to learn), have a little entrepreneurial ability (we have to promote our work ourselves) and great steadfastness.

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Thank you Sarolta for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.

To see more of Sarolta’s illustrations visit her at:

Website: http://www.saroltaszulyovszky.com/

Blog: http://saroltaszulyovszky.blogspot.it/  

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Sarolta, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Publishing Industry Tagged: 1st Prize (Category Children's Book) at the 'Marosvásárhely Book Fair Award, 30th edition of the exhibition 'Le immagini della fantasia', Applied Art in Budapest, Sarolta Szulyovszky

2 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Sarolta Szulyovszky, last added: 9/20/2014
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45. Schneider Family Book Award

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The Schneider Family Book Award The Schneider Family Book Awards honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

Bibliography of Children’s Books about the Disability Experience (pdf)

Administered by:
American Library Association Award and Frequency:

Three annual awards each consisting of $5000 and a framed plaque, will be given annually in each of the following categories:

Birth through grade school (age 0-10)

Middle school (age 11-13)

Teens (age 13-18). (Age groupings are approximations).

The book must emphasize the artistic expression of the disability experience for children and or adolescent audiences. The book must portray some aspect of living with a disability or that of a friend or family member, whether the disability is physical, mental or emotional.

This award is given out on an annual basis.

Eligibility:

1.The person with the disability may be the protagonist or a secondary character.
2.Definition of disability: Dr. Schneider has intentionally allowed for a broad interpretation by her wording, the book “must portray some aspect of living with a disability, whether the disability is physical, mental, or emotional.” This allows each committee to decide on the qualifications of particular titles.
3.Books with death as the main theme are generally disqualified.
4.The books must be published in English.
5.The award may be given posthumously.
6.Term of eligibility extends to publications from the preceding two years, e.g. 2007 awards given to titles published in 2006 and 2005. This may be changed to one year when the award is well established.
7.Books previously discussed and voted on are not eligible again.

Application Instructions:

1.Complete the online application for each submitted title.
2.Send one copy of each submitted title to the Schneider Family Book Awards Jury members. (addresses included in the online application)
3.Send one copy of each submitted title to the ALA Awards Program. (address included in the online application)
4.Titles submitted for the Schneider Family Book Awards will not be returned.
5.Books must be received by December 1, 2014 to be considered for the 2015 award.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, awards, children writing, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, Picture Book, Places to sumit, Young Adult Novel Tagged: America Library Association, Awards honors an author or illustrator, Schneider Family Book Award, Three Annual Awards

1 Comments on Schneider Family Book Award, last added: 9/22/2014
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46. 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before Writing

IF red g

Here is a character illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. Just from the picture we can see she likes to dress nice, is probably a princess, most likely loves the color red, and likes to dance with mice. This is just the tip of the iceberg for this beautiful girl.  Every agent and editor will tell you that it is a writers characters that make or break their story, so I made up a list of questions you can answer to help you get to know your character before you start writing. It can even help you with your next revision.

CHARCACTER CHECKLIST:

  1. How old is your character?
  2. What does your character look like?
  3. Are they tall, short, fat, shinny, big nose, big ears, long eyelashes, acne, etc.
  4. Is your character happy with the way they look?
  5. What kind of clothes do they like to wear?
  6. Does your character dream? What are they about?
  7. What are your character’s favorite food? Favorite junk food, Favorite ice cream flavor?
  8. What is their favorite color? Favorite flower? Favorite movie? Favorite game?
  9. Do the kids in school like him or her?
  10. Has that changed? Did the kids like them in a lower grade or vice versa?
  11. Are they interested in sports?
  12. Are they a natural athlete or someone who has to try hard to play a sport?
  13. What was their role in their family growing up?
  14. Do they love their parents, siblings, etc?
  15. Do they have a computer? What do they do on the computer? Are there any restrictions?
  16. Are they getting addicted to any technology?
  17. Do they have a cell phone? Any problems with how they use it?
  18. Do they talk on their cell phone when they should be sleeping? Do they text too much?
  19. Do they like to read?
  20. What type of books, magazines, etc. do they read?
  21. Do they play a musical instrument?
  22. What were they most proud of as a kid?
  23. What did they find terribly embarrassing as a kid?
  24. What still embarrasses them?
  25. Who is their best friend?
  26. Does your character have a best friend?
  27. Has that changed?
  28. What is their first best friend like?
  29. What do they like about their friend?
  30. Do they like to talk? Do they talk too much? Are they shy or a loner?
  31. Does your character cry alot? Gets mad easily? Laughs easily? Make jokes?
  32. What ‘group’ are they in during school?
  33. What do they want to be when they grew up–and how is that going?
  34. Have they ever been sick or in an accident?
  35. What music do they like? Do they hate the music that other people in their family like?
  36. What are their hobbies?
  37. Does your character collect anything?
  38. Do they play video games?
  39. Does your main character like getting dirty?
  40. Do they have good hygiene?
  41. Would you say your character is selfish?
  42. What annoys them?
  43. Are they a bully?
  44. What makes them laugh?
  45. Are they a dog, a cat, or an animal person?
  46. Does your character have a pet? Want a pet?
  47. What season do they enjoy most?
  48. Do they have a favorite holiday?
  49. Is your character religious? Does that play a role in their life?
  50. Is their family rich or poor?
  51. What type of house do they live in?
  52. Where do they live? City? Suburbs? Countryside?
  53. Has your character seen the ocean?
  54. Has your character traveled anywhere other than where they live? Would they like to travel?
  55. Does your character have money to spend?
  56. Do they care about money?
  57. Do they drink alcohol?
  58. Has anyone tried to get them to take drugs? Would they take drugs? Smoke?
  59. What is the worst thing your character has done?
  60. What do they feel most passionately about?
  61. What trait do they find most admirable in others?
  62. Do they want a job that helps people or a job that makes money?
  63. Are they a leader or a follower?
  64. What scares them?
  65. What are their long term goals?
  66. What are their short term goals?
  67. What are their bad habits?
  68. If they could have lived in another decade which would it have been?
  69. What do they do when they’re bored?
  70. What do they think happens after we die?
  71. If they were to come into money what would they do with it?
  72. Have they ever been in love?
  73. What happened to that person?
  74. Are they still interested in that person?
  75. Does the person know about that?
  76. What did the family think about this person?
  77. Who was or is the love of their life?
  78. Is your character afraid of anyone? Or anything?
  79. What is their biggest fear?
  80. Do they feel safe? Of not, who or what is causing that anxiety?
  81. Are they in a sexual relationship? Would they like to be?
  82. Do they look forward to growing up?
  83. What do they want the most?
  84. How close are they to getting what they want?
  85. What will happen if they don’t get what they want?
  86. Any negative forces around your character?
  87. Does your character have anyone to confide in?
  88. What is the best thing you character has ever done?
  89. Does your character get depressed? What depresses them?
  90. Does your character look at the world as being half full or half empty?

Thank you Dow for sending in the above illustration. Dow is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. She won the 2013 SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award that promotes diversity in children’s books. Please visit her newly organized portfolio site at http://www.artbydow.blogspot.com. She was also feature on Illustrator Saturday: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/illustrator-saturday-dow-phumiruk-md/

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: need to know, Process, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: 90 Things to answer about your characters before writing, Character Checklist, Character Questions, Dow Phumiruk

6 Comments on 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before Writing, last added: 9/24/2014
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47. Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on

Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!

We all know that our characters need to resonate with the audience. They need to relate to them, yearn to grow with them, feel their pain and celebrate their accomplishments.

It’s asking a lot. But it’s what keeps little fingers reaching for the same stories again and again.

It’s not as easy task when I’m working on an MG project, and I’m sure it’s a struggle for any authors no matter what the genre. But when I’m working on a picture book, I have an even smaller window to describe my characters, and far less opportunities to tell SHOW others what makes them so special.

The intimate relationship we have with our manuscripts sometimes makes it necessary to take a step or two back. WE may know Little Lucy or Bumbling Bradley just as well as we know living, breathing children in our life. But we are tasked with putting entire personalities into as few as 500 words and still having room for a story!

  1. I just re-read that last sentence. Putting it that way on paper makes it sound even more daunting.

But (deep breath) fear not! There is something truly beautiful hidden here as well.

One of my favorite things about writing picture books is that it is genuinely the epitome of the POWER of words. An entire story told in fewer words than this blog post will have. A full story arc with beginning, a middle and an end. And not just ANY story arc, one that will attract an agent, dazzle a publisher and make both parents and children reach to pull the story from the shelf time and time again.

Each word has a fingerprint.

Every word chosen MUST fit not only in the sentence, but in the essence of the story itself. Verbs are not only describing the action of the story, but setting the intangible style, the VIBE of the characters and of the story itself.   Adjectives do more than describe the subject they’re linked to, but represent the attitude and individuality of the characters they are entangled with.

Snort and giggle may have the same definition. But the aura of the characters they describe, are distinctly different.

Bounding, lurching and hopping may all describe the same actions, but one word may bring up stronger images of chaos, versus innocence or playfulness. And to make things more… let’s say exciting… there are no hard and fast rules. The same word used in one sentence may have different implications when used in a different way.

Well, that’s just not helpful at all, is it?

While a daunting task for sure, these word description choices also open almost limitless doors. The power is in our hands.   The slight change of a few words can alter an entire story, or give that extra shimmer of life that our characters so desire to have.

So okay, how do I DO that?

For me, something that helps me is when I assess every individual sentence in my picture books in two ways:

Auditory and Meaning

Auditory:

We have the benefit of knowing that 99 percent of the time picture books are read, out loud, TO our ultimate target audience. That’s powerful knowledge! And it’s important to capitalize on it. Of course, most picture book authors know the importance of reading your manuscript out loud from cover to cover. But you can go a step beyond that as well.

I take every individual sentence and read it out loud, numerous times in a row. Think about how the words sound together, how they physically feel coming off the tongue. Try different adjectives, new verbs, try to add or remove a comma, just to see if anything has a more pleasing flow, a more playful sound or something that fits better with the mood I want my readers to be experiencing.

And I ask myself, what would my character think of these sounds?

If I don’t feel that my character would have a natural and deep connection with the sounds and intonations throughout the story, than I’m probably not giving my readers a chance to connect with my character.

Meaning:

Again I take each and every word from each sentence individually and dissect it for meaning. As the great Ame Dyckman would say (author of Boy + Bot, Tea Party Rules and more), it’s the Picture Book Word Count SMACKDOWN! If a word does not make you tingle, if you don’t read it and say to yourself, THAT’S IT, that’s EXACTLY IT… find a better word or take it out!! Trust that your illustrators will know what they’re doing and that they will express the details and description so that you can focus on action.

Again, play with new verbs or adjectives and be sure that each word matches not only the scene that you’re painting in their minds, but the tone of the moment, the spirit of the main character and the emotion that the memory of reading the book will create.

The best picture books and characters are often burned into our memories for our entire lives. The words from these stories carried much more significance than their mere definitions. They were the medium for living, breathing characters that tiptoed off the pages and into our world. Your manuscripts have the opportunity to exercise the profound power of each individual word.

Your manuscripts… and the characters they will bring to life… are worth it!

Erika

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, inspiration, picture books, Process Tagged: Develop every word, Erika Wassell, Jersey Farm Scribe, Picture Book Characters

2 Comments on Picture Books: Character Development in Every Word!, last added: 9/24/2014
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48. Agent Looking to Build List

Rosh Hashanah Greetings‏ for the Start of Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah GreetingscroppedAmalia Hoffman sent in this illustration to mark the day. www.amaliahoffman.com

valerie1407901204Valerie Noble is an Associate Agent at Donaghy Literary Group, a Canadian based agency. While studying chemistry at California State University, Long Beach, Valerie mastered the art of doing proper research, particularly for technical writing. Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, Valerie researched all there was to know about publishing. She connected with agents, editors, and other writers, and interned for Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.

An education is never finished and Valerie continues to cultivate relationships and hopes to use her knowledge and skills in finding fresh new voices for Donaghy Literary Group.

She is interested in: Young Adult, and New Adult — in the following areas:

• Science Fiction YA/NA
• Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fiction YA/NA

Valerie loves YA/NA science fiction and fantasy (think Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins) but reads everything under the sun. For her, it’s more about the writing and less about the genre. In saying that, Valerie is generally not interested in romance or paranormal.

Submission Instructions: Electronic Submissions only. Send the query letter, 1-2 page synopsis and the first 10 pages of manuscript — all in body of email, no attachments. Send to query(at)donaghyliterary(dot)com.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Agent, Editor & Agent Info, opportunity, Places to sumit, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Agent Looking for Clients, Associate Agent, Donaghy Literary Group, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Valerie Noble, YA and New Adult

1 Comments on Agent Looking to Build List, last added: 9/24/2014
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49. NJSCBWI Fall Craft Weekend

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Princeton Theological Seminary
Stuart Hall and Mackay Campus Center
Princeton, NJ

Event kicks off at noon on Saturday November 1, 2914 and parts run through Sunday, finishing at 5 p.m.

Editors/agents include: Amy Cloud (editor, S&S), Janine Le (agent, Sheldon Fogelman Agency), Leon Husock (agent, L. Perkins Agency), Brooks Sherman (agent, The Bent Agency), Connie Hsu (editor, Roaring Brook Press), Shauna Rossano (editor, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), Patrick Collins (creative director, Henry Holt). Author/illustrators include: Joyce Wan (author/illustrator), Darlene Jacobson (author), Kit Grindstaff (author), Laurie Calkhoven (author), Yvonne Ventresca (author), Ame Dyckman (author),  … plus more to be announced!

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 ~ Craft Afternoon

(FREE SCBWI Members / $45 Non-SCBWI Members)
Noon to 5 p.m. (Stuart Hall)
Enjoy an afternoon of craft-related workshops with editors, agents and author/illustrator presenters, to help you further your writing/illustrating skills in the world of children’s books. Afternoon includes editor/agent panel, picture book, MG/YA workshops, and more! Bring a bag lunch.

*Registration is required, even for SCBWI members. 

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2013 ~ Dinner with the faculty

($65 SCBWI members / $85 Non-SCBWI Members)
Relax for dinner with our Saturday guest editors and agents.
6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (The Lounge, Mackay Center)

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 ~ Peer Group Critique

8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Stuart Hall)

(FREE SCBWI Members / $25 Non-SCBWI Members)
Meet with fellow PB, MG or YA writers to review each other’s manuscripts and get the feedback you need to revise, revise, revise and move forward on your path to publication.
*Registration is required for this free event.

Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 ~ Writers Day
8:00 a.m to 5 p.m. (Stuart Hall and Mackay Center)
($240 SCBWI Members / $275 Non-SCBWI Members)
Confirmed editors and agents:

  • AGENTS: Leon Husock, L. Perkins Agency;  Janine Le, Sheldon Fogelman Agency; Brooks Sherman, The Bent Agency.
  • EDITORS: Amy Cloud; Simon & Schuster, Connie Hsu, Roaring Brook Press; Shauna Rossano, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

This awesome, jam-packed day, all about the craft of writing books for young readers, has been created especially for you. Enjoy the benefits of our opening editor/agent panel, participate in a first-page session, gain feedback in a one-on-one manuscript critique with an assigned editor*, attend breakout sessions, eat breakfast and lunch, and enjoy afternoon tea/coffee. The deadline to submit your manuscript for critique is September 30 at 5 pm. (Note: You can only sign up for either Writers Day or Illustrators Day, not both.) *If attending both days, your one-on-one manuscript critique may be scheduled for Saturday.

*Writers Day manuscript submissions are due no later than 5 p.m., Sept 30, 2014.  

Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 ~ Illustrators Day
8 a.m to 5 p.m. (Stuart Hall and Mackay Center)
($240 SCBWI Members / $275 Non-SCBWI Members)
Prepare to work hard! Illustrators will work with Patrick Collins (Creative Director, Henry Holt) and Joyce Wan (published illustrator/author). The intensive will begin with everyone together, then illustrators break off with their pre-assigned illustration project mentor* for their group critique. The intensive also includes artwork display, portfolio and promo card display, breakfast, lunch and afternboon tea/coffee. (Note: You can only sign up for either Writers Day or Illustrators Day, not both.)

Talk tomorrow,
Kathy

Filed under: authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, Editor & Agent Info, Events, illustrating, opportunity, writing excercise Tagged: Fall Craft Weekend, NJSCBWI, Princeton Theological Seminary

1 Comments on NJSCBWI Fall Craft Weekend, last added: 9/25/2014
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50. Free Fall Friday – Results

deniseholmes

Let’s all brew a cup of tea and join the characters having tea in this illustration by Denise Holmes. Seems like a great way to enjoy reading the critiques done by Agent Rachel Brooks for September’s first page winners.

Denise Holmes created the above illustration for a collective called The Happy Happy Art Collective. She is represented by Nicole Tugeau over at T2 IllustratorsHer first picture book was released in June 2014 – If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback! Here is Denise’s website: www.niseemade.com

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Rachel_Brooks_LPA_photo_17781343_stdAgent Rachel Brooks from the L Perkins Agency critiqued the following first page winners. Hope you take the time to read. You can learn a lot from listening to what the experts have to say about a first page, even if it is written by someone else.

CODENAME FOX by Donna Maloy

PROLOGUE. London. September, 1800.

I was all of seven years old, but Noreen’s iron shovel looked to me as big as a Scots battle axe. It clanged on the stone floor, not an arm’s length from my head.

“Oh, please don’t hit her!” my brother cried, yanking on her skirts.

But the scullery maid was determined. Her shovel banged down again, this time against the hearth behind me. A piece of stone whizzed past my whiskers.

“Get out o’ me way,” she told Graham. “Nasty, dirty thing that is. Tracking flour all over me clean floor.”

With a yell like a savage pirate, four-year-old Graham chomped down on her arm. The shovel flew out of her hands, clattering to a stop—right in front of Papa’s black, spit-polished boots. He’d come to see what all the noise was about. Now I was in a different sort of trouble.

With a sob, Graham pulled at Papa’s leg. “Make Noreen stop trying to kill Celia!”

Papa’s head jerked up and he looked toward the corner where I crouched.

“Celia?”

I couldn’t see any point in lying. Shaking with fear, I looked up and nodded.

He stared at me. Of course I didn’t look much like an Ashleigh right then. I looked like a small, flour-speckled mouse.

“Come here,” he said, much too calmly. I could almost feel a spanking on the way.

“Miss Ce-Celia?” Noreen frowned. “But that’s only a dirty little mousie, idn’t it? What’s wrong with killin’ it?” She backed up against the chopping table, eyeing my father and me as if she didn’t know which of us worried her more.

“Get out,” Papa said quietly, speaking to the girl but never taking his eyes from me. Oh, I was in for it now. That was the voice Papa used with stable boys who played dice.

HERE IS RACHEL:

CODENAME FOX by Donna Maloy

This title is intriguing! Sounds like a story filled with fun adventure, although it doesn’t give me a 1800s London vibe, more sci-fi or spy.

I think this opening line could be stronger. It tells us the character’s age, rather than showing us how old the character is through how he talks, the story, etc. Also, the diction of this character doesn’t feel like a seven year old, but a much older character looking back and retelling the tale? If that’s the case, then the diction fits, but if he is in fact seven, the language needs reworked.

When the “stone whizzed past my whiskers” I thought it was a cat (or even fox as the title suggests) but it is actually a mouse. Maybe you can weave in some more clues that this is a mouse talking rather than telling us “I looked like a small, flour-speckled mouse” later down the page.

There’s quite a bit of repetition in this one page about the mouse/person being in trouble, being “in for it”, having a spanking on the way, etc. I don’t think we need to be told so much, since the shovel and yelling definitely tell us this isn’t going well.

Without knowing when chapter one starts in time and events, it’s hard to recommend whether you need this prologue or not. But the prologue camp is usually pretty divided on whether you should have one or cut it. It’s something for you to consider—do readers need this info for the rest of the story to make sense or is it setup that could be woven in throughout? If the answers is yes, readers do need it, then it’s good you have lots of action.

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A SPARROW IN THEHAND   MG by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Helen hurried down the dirt road, clutching her lunch sack in one hand.  She reached for  her sister Fran’s arm with her freehand, trying to get her to move faster.

Fran pulled away from Helen’s reach and continued to plod along. They were going to be late; why couldn’t Fran see that?

The sun poked out its head between two grey clouds just as they reached the schoolyard and the bell rang. Miss Thomson stood in the doorway of the one room building glaring at the sisters.

“I don’t tolerate tardiness.”

Helen stopped at the door, gasping. Her heart dropped like heavy stone as she struggled to steady her breathing. “I’m…sorry…Miss Thomson.” She took a deep breath, feeling calmer. “Ma needed our help this morning. It won’t happen again.”

Miss Thomson stared at Helen, lips pinched closed by an invisible clothespin.  “See that it doesn’t, Miss Wasekowski.” She looked at Fran.  “That goes for you too.”

“Yes, Miss Thomson,” Fran said, her plump cheeks flushed from hurrying.

Helen’s breathing finally settled as she smoothed her shoulder length hair from her face. Her eyes darted around the room, searching for her friend Mary. Why wasn’t she here?

Miss Thomson marched to the front of the room. Her stiff, proper skirt stood at attention. Helen bet her laced up shoes pinched her toes as tightly as the bun in her hair pulled at the corners of her cold, dark, eyes. She was nothing like Miss Norton, the teacher who left last year to get married. Miss Norton was like a willow tree, bending and flexible when the situation called for it. Helen doubted Miss Thomson liked teaching or children for that matter.

It was Miss Norton who had given Helen a thirst for learning that never seemed to be satisfied. She’d also ignited an ember that Helen kept buried deep in her soul. That ember was dormant. Waiting. It held Helen’s hope, dream, wish, to become a teacher one day.

No one – except her best friend Mary – knew of Helen’s deepest desire. Mary also held a secret desire of her own. To become a nurse. Both girls knew their dreams were like the wings of a bird – fragile and easily broken.

HERE’S RACHEL:

A SPARROW IN THE HAND by Darlene Beck Jacobson

The description of Miss Thomson is great with her pinched bun and skirt standing at attention. I can picture her for sure! But I’d like to see what Miss Thomson looks like sooner, while she glares out the doorway, rather than waiting until the kids are seated in class to describe her. It might make their tardiness feel more threatening.

Some of the language choices don’t feel MG-aged to me. For middle grade, I’m thinking Helen and Fran are somewhere between 10 to 14 ish? For example, I’m not sure “ignited an ember” or “a thirst for learning” are phrases that a kid of that age would use in that way. The author voice rather than the character’s voice is coming through here.

I’m also a bit confused about why the dreams of becoming a nurse and teacher are so fragile? These don’t seem like farfetched ambitions on the surface. I think I’m missing something here as far as setting that would reveal why these dreams are so fragile. It’s great to know their dreams early on, so the seeds are there, and just need a little nudge to get us to connect with why they’re at risk of being shattered.

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Michelle Kogan Early Chapter Book Through a Sunflower

Rhea wanted to grow a sunflower house more than anything in the world. But even more then that, she wanted to grow it all on her own. She was going to enter it in the Petalpath 10th anniversary magazine contest and try to win $100.00. Ever since her dad lost his job everyone in the family was helping out. Rhea wanted to show she was big enough to help too!

“Come on sunflower, stand up!” Rhea said.  “I’ve replanted you three times, ‘cause the squirrels ate the seeds.”

“Can I help?” called her mom.

“No, I want to do it myself!” said Rhea, “I’m growing my own sunflowers this year! I’ve been helping you for the last three years. This year you even said, I know enough to grow them all by myself!”

“You know sunflowers, you haven’t given me an easy time. This is the third time I’ve replanted your seeds, cause the squirrels kept on eating them. Now stop wiggling around so I can get you propped up!”

As Rhea wrangled with her sunflowers she noticed a caterpillar that was staring right at her. She slooowly moved closer bringing her eye-to-eye with the caterpillar, and stared right back. The next minute the caterpillar cocked it’s head and starred up, then back at Rhea, and then up again.

“Hey caterpillar, what’s going on up there?”

A goldfinch swooped down barely missing Rhea. It nosed right into her back pocket and plucked out her sketchbook. Her prize sketchbook where she had been keeping all her notes and

HERE’S RACHEL:

THROUGH A SUNFLOWER by Michelle Kogan

The idea of Rhea wanting to help out her family financially is great. It shows us how much she loves her parents, while being selfless in giving up the prize money.

Is a “sunflower house” a greenhouse for sunflowers? A house for one single special sunflower? I’m having trouble picturing this.

It switches between singular and plural for how many sunflowers Rhea’s growing, so whichever it is, don’t forget to be consistent. We need to be able to picture if she’s growing a flower or a whole bunch of them!

The transition from staring at the caterpillar to the goldfinch is a bit awkward. Why is the caterpillar important if the real action is the sketchbook getting stolen? The sketchbook list could be integrated in some way sooner too, so we know what is going on with the sunflower/contest from the start.

Integrating sunflower into the title is smart, but I think it could be tweaked, since it doesn’t sound as fun and grabbing for kids as it could be. It’s all about this awesome sunflower contest, so bouncing off of that could be cool.

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Alice Golin Normal – Young Adult Novel

The calendar on the wall stares at me. Stark diagonal lines drawn through bright blue numbers. Reaching under my pillow, I curl my fingers around the thick black crayon I use to mark each day. Each daty that Dad’s been missing. Twelve so far in September. Choking back tears, I put a slash through yesterday.

Leafing back through the months I come to the end of May. A red circle like an evil eye marks Memorial Day, the day we were told of Dad’s disappearance somewhere in Afghanistan. How? Why? We get no answers. Do they even know?

My phone rings. A real call. not a text. Ignoring it, I stare at the red circle desperately hoping for some message. some sign. But the numerals 31 tell me nothing. Unless choosing Memorial Day was some hidden code.

I shudder at the thought and let the pages slip through my fingers until I’m back to September. The box for today is fresh, unmarked.

“Please God,” I whisper, “let us hear today.” But unlike those early days, I have little hope.

My phone keeps ringing. Stops. Rings again. The caller has no mercy. Giving in, I grope around on the floor until I find the intruder.

“Get out of bed, Nikkia,” Micah says gently.  And then, more sharply, because he knows I don’t want to listen, “Now!”

I want to shout, ‘No, I won’t. Not until we hear from Dad.’ But Micah’s gone and besides there’s no point. If I don’t get up, Mom will come for me. And she’s got enough to deal with.

My phone rings again. I grip it tightly, tempted to throw it across the room. It’s Gillian. She and Micah must have planned this.

HERE’S RACHEL:

NORMAL by Alice Golin

It’s clear that your protagonist is in a lot of pain over missing her dad, and it’s great you let us in on this emotional connection from the first page.

It’s not clear why she isn’t answering the phone. This call seems important, but then she ignores it. Confused a bit here, since isn’t she desperately wanting to hear from her dad or any news about him? Wouldn’t she pounce on any call to see if it was news?

Micah appears, but where did he come from? It feels like the transition is a bit awkward from the phone to being told to get out of bed. Is he a friend, sibling? Was the door open, or did Micah have to open it, in which case wouldn’t she hear him coming in? I think the author is seeing this scene more clearly than I am.

This first page overall feels slower and more repetitive than it could be. The core information of her dad disappearing and not wanting to get up are there, but then the pacing and interest-level get dragged down some by talking about the calendar then searching for the ringing phone at-length. I’d rework this to keep the core info, but relay it in a more concise, emotion-heavy way. This will help us immediately feel for her that she wants to hear from her dad but hasn’t in so long.

Shorter titles can be good, but I think this one could be more grabbing. Maybe tweak it, possibly keeping NORMAL in it, but ramping up the grab-me-factor. Then we’ll be sucked in!

Thank you Rachel for sharing your time and expertise with us. It is truly appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Agent, authors and illustrators, illustrating, inspiration, revisions Tagged: Denise Holmes, Free Fall Friday - Results, L Perkins Agency, Rachel Brooks, T2 Illustrators

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