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Results 26 - 50 of 1,231
26. Illustration Friday: Spark

There was never much of a spark between the two brothers.
IMG_0784

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27. Heidi in Bologna

Here are my five drawings that were selected for the upcoming 2014 Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s Illustrators Exhibition. The show will be at the Fair, and then travel to Japan for a museum tour.

 

heidisola72

morning  chimney birddwellers

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28. 2014 Bologna Book Fair: Selected Illustrators

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s website just posted one image for each of the illustrators selected for this year’s edition.

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Picture 11

Rebecca Palmer, U.K.

Picture 10

Min Jee Kim, Korea

Picture 9

Michio Watanabe, Japan

Picture 8

Marco Somà, Italy

 

 

 

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29. BEE A READER

Cropped Pic 2

Today I had the privilege of being a reader at a local elementary school.  I got to read one of my favorite books, The Bee Bully, and talk to the kids about being an author.  The energetic kindergartners made me feel very welcome and I really enjoyed spending some time with them.  We talked a little bit about what it means to be a bully and how important reading is.

Three reasons why reading is important to young children:

1).  Reading exercises our brains.  That’s right, our brains need a workout too.  Reading strengthens brain connections and can even create new ones so pick up a book and help your brain exercise.

2).  Reading improves concentration.  Kids have to focus when they read which can sometimes be a difficult task.  The more you read the longer you can extend that concentration time which will continue to improve.

3).  Reading helps develop imagination.  When you read your brain translates what is read to pictures.  Did you know you can create a movie in your head while you read?  We become engrossed in the story and we can connect with the characters.  We can sympathize with how a character feels and reflect on how we would feel in that same situation.

Now go grab a book and BEE A READER!

beecover


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30. WRAD!!!

Okay, I’ll admit, so when I signed up for World Read Aloud Day again this year, it was with a sense of “doing something nice for the kids” and “giving back a little.”  I was patting myself on the back.  Taking time from my busy week to read to children (besides Mose and Lew).

But here’s the thing… WRAD isn’t just for them. It’s for us too.

I remember, a few years back at AWP, my amazing sister was on a panel with Richard Ford, about writers in the schools, and how wonderful it is to work with kids.  And my sister made a point I’d never heard someone make. She said.  ”People see it as service. But they should be begging to volunteer their time in a school. If they knew how wonderful it was, they would.”  (or something like that. I didn’t write down exactly what she said.)

Her point was that writers work alone, and they use up a lot of their energy writing. They get drained. They tap out.  They forget why they began writing in the first place. They focus on the work of it. They lose their joy.

But kids? Kids are FULL of joy and eagerness and energy. They  fill you back up! They might tire you in other ways, but you can’t spend an hour with a bunch of excited kids, full of awesome questions, and awe and admiration for the fact that you MAKE BOOKS, and not come away reinvigorated.  You can’t work with kids and writing, and not remember why you started writing.

So today I skyped with eleven schools.  Eleven!  Oh, the wonders of technology.  Schools from all over the country. I read the kids picture books (my next book, Charlie & Mouse, as well as my old favorite, Rain Makes Applesauce, by Julian Scheer) and novels (both Seven Stories Up and my WIP, The Orphan Island). I answered questions, and I told them about my day. I introduced them to Lucy (my assistant, who works for carrot-bits and chew toys).

And now? I feel so ready to write. I feel so IN LOVE with The Orphan Island. I feel so… connected. Re-dedicated.

So now, while I have that boost,  I need to take a little time away,  to crank out a draft.  (I’m shooting for April).  I’m putting a moratorium on new skypes for the spring.  But I’ll be back in the fall. I promise.

And I will always always always do WRAD.

You should too.

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31. The Sadistic Overlord of Technology

Although outwardly it may appear that I am in full possession of my life’s reigns, I’ve come to realize that I control very few things besides my attitude. Most events occur around me while I jab at the air to try to influence their outcome. Like a giant game of cornhole, I throw the bean bag in the air, lean left, hold my tongue just right, and hope it goes in the hole. To give my analogy an Olympic flair, I’m swishing a broom violently in the hopes of pushing the stone to the left. I think we are all very reactionary in how we approach life because the demands of family, creditors, employers, government (and the list goes on) dictate most of our schedule.

I enjoyed my college philosophy classes, but remember nothing except my professor who had spindly legs supporting a massive belly. His poor knees creaked and cracked as he paced around the room. I’m sure he would say my theory is some type of classic Plato “–ism” where we are sitting back watching our lives on screens, only able to choose between limited outcomes.

Don’t overestimate my depth. I’m not philosophical at all. I only know that I have no choice in many things – even in my house. But at home, at least I am the Sadistic Overlord of Technology! Don’t you love the title? I gave it to myself. I should probably put it in bold. The Sadistic Overlord of Technology. If anything remotely technological doesn’t work the way one of my family hoped it would, I am to blame. I get blame, ergo, I get the title.

Take, for instance, our printer. It was one of the first wireless printers and worked perfectly for a long time. It still works fine…for some of us. Three of us have Windows 8 and it seems to like that OS. But it gave up trying for Windows 7. My wife and oldest daughter have Windows 7. I have updated the drivers and tried everything I know to do. But when they push print, it will print no more than one page before it dies. Usually it prints about half a page, violently spits the paper onto the floor, and goes into some form of cleaning mode that makes them scream in frustration. Since both are night owls, this nearly always occurs after the Overlord has gone to bed.

My attitude when awoken to fix the printer is where the word Sadistic got added to my title. I’m not much help after I’ve gone to sleep – part by mental capacity and part by groggy choice, I admit. The help desk is closed! I come out of the bedroom like Jack Nicholson poking his head through the door in The Shining – “Here’s Johnny!”

image

We’ve been dealing with this for a while and I’ve been dragging my heels on getting a new printer. I guess in some way, my sub-conscious sees this as one thing I can control. As you can imagine, there are ripple effects – mainly in attitude towards the overlord.

Come to think of it, control can be a dangerous thing…

Anyone have a recommendation for a wireless printer?

Photo credit: Jack & some cool app on my iPad

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32. In Memory of…

The wife of a friend of ours from high school recently lost her courageous battle with cancer. In her honor I  post this piece that I was commissioned to create for a client who’s friend also died from cancer. Thank you, Mary E. for permission to share on my site. RIP Margo McCabe.

Dragonfly Pond

Dragonfly Pond, commissioned in the memory of Shawn Oligmeuller 2009.

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33. Illustration Friday – Exotic

Illustration Friday – Exotic

Water and Ink on Moleskine

Illustration Friday Exotic

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34. Flutura Gets a New Look – $.99 through 1/17

Flutura Cover 011414

Our young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, has a new look.  Book one is completed and book two will be available this spring so get started with Flutura to follow the story of three best friends.  Alexis, Brittany and Caitlin have grown up together since birth. Caitlin is ready to become a woman, but she’s fourteen and has yet to experience her first French kiss or her first period. The summer before high school will change all of that.

Caitlin is taken by surprise when Joshua reveals his feelings for her. As Caitlin sorts out her own feelings toward Josh the memory of the kiss she shared with Trick on the beach continues to invade her thoughts.

Good thing she’ll never see Trick again or things could get complicated.

This first book will be on sale for $.99 through January 17th.

You can also sign up to hear about our future young adult releases by joining our mailing list.

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35. $.99 Ebook Sale

99kindle sale

Get ready to load up those new kindles with some fantastic ebooks that will be specially priced at $.99 from December 26th through December 29th.  Loads of authors in various genres are joining in on this holiday sale.  Click the logo above to check out the main page for this sale and start downloading today.

Our children’s holiday story, The Christmas Owl, will be reduced to $.99 during this sale.  An Amazon best selling children’s story, The Christmas Owl , is sure to become a holiday classic. A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word. This colorful tale told in verse is vividly illustrated to capture the attention of children aged eight and under.

OwlCover_Kindle_optimized


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36. Thinking about the new year… and the old…

So… I’m up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep.  Thinking about how 2013 is somehow already ending.  How did that happen?

One weird thing about being a blogger is that I have archives of my thoughts, so I get to leapfrog back to past resolutions each year, to see if I’ve accomplished my goals. It’s a funny kind of time travel.  Tonight I’m looking back at where I was a year ago.

I’ve been a little worried about this moment.   I haven’t been feeling terribly focused lately.   But it’s okay!  Last year I said I had only two goals.

#1 was “I want this to be the year I start taking better care of myself physically.”

And #2 was “I want to try very very hard not to think about selling the books I write.”

Honestly,  I only half tackled the first goal. I did NOT go back to dance class.  I did NOT start running.  So I’ll roll all that exercise over to next year.  AND I MEAN THAT, REALLY, THIS TIME I WILL.  THIS TIME NEXT YEAR I’LL BE IN AMAZING SHAPE.  (Ahem)  But I DID do a much better job with other kinds of health stuff.  I’ve been taking my vitamins, and my teeth are in much better shape!  Ta da!  So that’s fine.  We’ll round up.

But I’d forgotten about the second goal, and I did tackle that one.  It’s been a really good thing for me.  Important.

Last spring I finished and turned in the book I was working on, SEVEN STORIES UP, which will be out next month.  (Yay!!)  But the revision process for that book was a tough one, and so when I was done, instead of trying to crank out a proposal for the next book,   I just let myself scribble all kinds of different things.  All spring I scribbled poems and picture books, and into the summer.  I wrote a lot of manuscripts nobody will ever see in that time, and I didn’t finish THE MAGICAL THAT  (mentioned in the post from a year ago), but I published some little essays, and in the end a few of the not-thinking-about-selling scribbles resulted in actual sales, namely  CHARLIE & MOUSE, and CHARLIE & MOUSE & GRUMPY.  Books I am deeply connected to. They’re so personal for me. I’m very happy about them.

But also– now I have a PILE of  new picture books to revise, and I have drafts of 2 totally different chapter books, (as well as several false starts I never finished, but might someday).  Also I have a very very clear outline, and the first chapters of a new novel, THE ORPHAN ISLAND.  Which I’m insanely excited about.

It was good, this letting-go-of-thinking-about-selling.  I didn’t stop making work.  Rather, I was hugely productive.  I only let go of my focus, my worry.  I let myself fiddle and poke at  my novel slowly, taking my time and not thinking about what exactly I was producing. Just letting the words come, in bits and snippets. Sitting on the couch, lazily.  The way I used to journal, as a kid.  Or the way I wrote poems in college.  It felt different… and I feel much better.

Now,  here’s what I find fascinating…

When I made my resolution last year, I felt like I needed a new model.  A better way to work. I wasn’t in love with my ideas at that moment, and I was at the end of writing a novel, needing a break.  I felt a little uninspired. Burned out.  So I took some time.

But you know what’s funny? I just realized that was my  SHMITA.

You know shmita?

In Jewish tradition, farmers leave their fields to lie fallow every seven years, so that the earth has a chance to replenish. It’s a sabbatical year. They can water and nurture the land.  But they  aren’t supposed to farm it, to work it. They call that shmita.

2007 was the year I really began my career as a children’s author.  That was the year I revised UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS for Random House.  The year I learned about “marketing a book.” I was getting ready to become an author in 2007. I saw my first galleys and my first line edits. I had my first meetings in New York.  A door opened, and I walked through it. My life got INTENSE in a whole new way  It was thrilling. And for six years, I put my head down and WORKED.

For SIX YEARS.  Then I took a break, without exactly meaning to.

Now, obviously I haven’t been on vacation for a year. I’ve been watering and fertilizing.  But I really did let up on myself in a lot of ways.  I didn’t have a novel come out , so I traveled a lot less.  But the main thing was this shift in how I thought about my work.  I worked slow and sloppy.  I let myself wander.  in 2013 I let the fields lie fallow. I let my earth renew itself.   I took a sabbatical.  And it was good.

It never fails to amaze me how much wisdom there is in the Jewish tradition.  So often I find a metaphor there, an analogy to my own life, though I’m not terribly observant.  I’d been thinking until today that  this slow and sloppy way of working was just my new method.  That it was time to step away from the head-down word-count-a-day mode.

But maybe not. Now, thinking about shmita, I’m feeling the opposite.  Maybe it’s exactly the time to get back out there in the fields with my plough, reap the bountiful harvest this renewed earth is supposed to yield.

I’m not ready to make resolutions yet, but I’m thinking about them.

What about you?

 

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37. Merry Christmas 2013

Happy Holidays to all of my fans from all over the world. I hope 2014 brings you lots of laughter, good health, and happiness. Here is a little painting I did for the season. Cheers!

 

Christmas 2013

 

Here is a quote from one of my favorite author’s Neil Gaiman. You can view the entire message and previous years wishes on his blog here.

 

I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind. -Neil Gaiman 2008

 

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38. The People We Touch…..

 

SUZYCOVER

I’ve done a few readings at a local independent bookstore and I always enjoy the reactions I get to see from children as I read my stories.  As an author I know there are many children whose reactions I never get to see.  Today I received an email from this bookstore detailing a visit from a faith-based school that blew me away.  Lots of first and second graders gathered in the store while one of my books, Suzy Snowflake, was read.  Suzy is a snowflake fairy who prays to God when she feels different than her friends and teaches her good friend, Frost, how to pray.  The children talked about how they can be a witness to their friends who may be in need of God’s grace.

Our books can have an impact on others that we never get to see.  I’m so thankful that the bookstore knew enough to capture this moment for me and tell me about it.  This reading….that I didn’t even attend, has reminded me that we touch other people every day.  I’m so thankful my stories are having a positive impact on children.

This is why I write.

 

Suzy Reading

 


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39. A Rant on WHY YOU NEED Decent Health Insurance…


This is the basic math of health care…

Let’s say you have a family of four, and you need to decide whether to pay for a dental plan, and the plan will cost an extra $150 a month.  Does that sound like a lot to you?

The plan will cover basic checkups twice a year, or about 85 percent of the cost for them. It will cover 50 percent of major dental work.  So… $150 a month is $1800 a year.  That’s a lot, yeah. And you still have to pay for some stuff. Ugh.

But as a parent I assume you plan to go for visits twice a year, right? Because you know that good dental care is something kids need to develop, right?  And modeling that care yourself is the best way to teach them? And you also know that preventative care of your teeth can help with things like heart disease?

So now let’s figure 8 visits (4 people twice a year) for basic exams and teeth cleaning.  And figure the exams and cleanings, even without X-rays and scaling and stuff, are $150 each.  So that’s roughly $1200 you’re “saving.”  (and I’m doing this rough and dirty, not calculating the co-pays, but that’s cheap for dental work, and you WILL need X-rays and so on, so this is conservative, trust me)

Now– all you have to do is have one procedure a year among the four of you that costs $600, and your dental coverage has paid for itself.  Right? One kid with a cracked tooth. One root canal.  Maybe two and a half small fillings on regular teeth.  Or an irrigation for gum issues.

But these numbers are actually looking pretty close. So maybe I’m wrong, and you’d do just as well to pay out of pocket, right? Especially in years when you don’t need any fillings? Maybe you’re better off skipping the dental insurance, after all…

WRONG!

Because the kicker is that you WOULD NOT. You would NOT go to the dentist twice a year if you had to pay $150 bucks just for the visit. You would NOT opt for the X-rays, if you had to pay extra for them. Maybe you’d take the kids in on schedule, because you feel bad not doing it, and the pediatrician might ask, but you’d TOTALLY skip your own visits.  You’d save the $150 and spend it on something else.  You would suffer a tooth ache, and hope it goes away. You would wait… and wait… and wait. You’d wait years.

And then, one day, you would find yourself at the ER in the night, because of sudden intolerable pain.  And the doc at the ER would say, “Wow, this is serious. You’ve got a major infection in there. We need to take out these two teeth and you might have a malignancy in the bone.  I SURE HOPE YOU HAVE INSURANCE!”

And in that moment you will cringe.  Because what you’re about to have done to your teeth–the surgery that could have been prevented with a $150 visit twice a year–it will  cost thousands and thousands of dollars.  (and be painful, and mean you’ll miss work too, which is another cost, actually, that we aren’t averaging in)

And once you’ve taken out a special medical credit card to pay for the abscess and the extraction, you’ll have to decide whether you want to get a tooth implant too, which will be another couple thousand.   Ouch.

So you’ll look back, at that moment, and think, “Why does stuff like this always happen to ME?”  And the answer will be, “Because you didn’t have health insurance.”

I know how obnoxious this sounds. I know I seem priggish. But this is so so so so important. It really is. And trust me, I’VE BEEN THERE.

And you know what else?  The other stuff, the non-teeth stuff? It’s all exactly like the teeth-stuff.  Only way scarier. I’ve been there too.

ANd unfortunately, you’ll be there one day yourself.  You will.  Because  you are a human being.  A soft machine, made of bone and tissue, and you WILL break down. It’s only a matter of time.    And when that happens, it will seem unfair, and unpredictable. WHO COULD HAVE EXPECTED SUCH A THING???

You could have.

When we  avoid the actual math, or we try not to think about the long game, I think it has to do with our basic fear of mortality. We want to believe we WON’T get sick. We want to believe our kids won’t break bones, or (God forbid) anything worse.  We prefer to be shocked and horrified when someone gets really sick or hurt.  ”How could this happen to such a nice young man?”

But it’s not shocking at all.  It’s inevitable. Every human being alive WILL GET SICK.  Every human being alive WILL LOSE TEETH.  Every human being alive WILL NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR.   ANd then we’ll ALL DIE.  In fact, about 40% of us will get cancer.  Probably more, as we live longer and longer.   Nobody wants to think about these things, but they are FACTS.

And the only thing you can do is floss your teeth and eat your kale and go see the doctor regularly. Get tests run  periodically. Do your best. Preventative care makes life cheaper in the long run, and gives us the best chance of living a longer, less painful life.  Preventative care.

Which you are (statistically) far more likely to bother with…  if you have reliable comprehensive insurance.

(and for the record… I am NOT AN EXPERT.  Unless you regularly turn to children’s book authors for help with your finances and heath issues.  I have no reason to be ranting about this, and you have no reason to listen to me.  But sometimes, a girl’s just got to yell)

0 Comments on A Rant on WHY YOU NEED Decent Health Insurance… as of 12/18/2013 9:12:00 AM
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40. Just a taste!!!

Today, if you’re curious, you can read the first chapter of Seven Stories Up!

Now, before it’s even published…

Over at Medium.

HERE, RIGHT HERE!!!

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41. Remember when books looked like this???

Okay, neither do I… not really.  This was published long before I was born.

But I had a lot of books as a kid that had been my mom’s, and my dad’s, and belonged to their parents before them, or come to them from used book stores. So I remember what it felt like to read and read, and wait for the next amazing color plate.  Or skip to it, because I couldn’t wait for the pretty shiny picture.

Like the one above.

Or like this one.

Little Women!  Treasure Island!  The Happy Prince! East O the Sun and West O the Moon!  The Cuckoo Clock!  These books all had amazing color plates in them, and I carry those pictures with me to this day.

I wonder if some evil wizard or conjurer has stolen all the art away? WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION CAN THERE POSSIBLY BE?

This morning I’m thinking about how graphic novels are hugely HUGELY popular.

And I’m thinking about how big visual  glowing movies like Hugo or Hunger Games or Narnia are being made from middle grade books.

And I’m thinking about how often I hear people lament about “What can we do to get the kids reading?”

And I’m thinking about how, last night, Mose and Lew asked me to read picture books instead of starting a new readaloud novel.  ”Because we like the pictures.”

And I’m wondering… WHY ARE WE REMOVING ALL THE INTERIOR ART FROM THE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS?

I mean, I know full color plates are too expensive to consider, but I so so so so love books with art in them.  Who decided that only baby books should have pictures?

WAS IT YOU?

9 Comments on Remember when books looked like this???, last added: 12/17/2013
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42. Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza

Holiday Hop Button

Welcome to our holiday hop!

We are so excited about our latest book, The Christmas Owl, that we are giving away two prizes to one lucky winner.  Our prize is a 5-inch stuffed owl and a signed hardcover version of The Christmas Owl.  This story follows a Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.  This colorful holiday tale is perfect for children aged eight and under.

Swoops Owl from Ty                  OwlCover_Kindle_optimized

This giveaway ends on December 13th at midnight so ENTER today.

Click to see the other blogs participating in our holiday hop hosted by Youth Literature Reviews and Mother Daughter Book Reviews.

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43. Women make picture books too…

Last night I noticed that Geek Dad had posted his favorite picture books, and so I popped over to check out the list.  And was shocked to find that they were almost all by men.  This made me cranky.  But I figured, “Eh, he’s just one guy.”

Then, this morning, I noticed that the Goodreads  ”Best of” is also virtually all men. And that… is more complicated. Because WE made that list. We, the readers of the world.

Now, if there weren’t a ton of amazing 2013 picture books by women, I could maybe accept this. But there TOTALLY are.  Which begs the question… WHAT’S GOING ON?

Do men actually just make better picture books than women? Do men get better marketing and publicity budgets than women for picture books?  Or… as I’m beginning to fear… do we, the (largely) women who buy and blog about picture books have a tendency to elevate books by men?

I want to make a list to post today, of the 2013 BEST PICTURE BOOKS BY WOMEN.  Help me out? What’s your favorite?  I’ll add them later.

A few of mine, for starters:


City Cat, by Lauren Castillo


Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault


If You Want to See a Whale, by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead

Seriously, add them up! We’ll make a Goodreads list later, and I’ll add the covers here too…

And I’d like to add that I’m a HUGE FAN of the books on Geek Dad’s list.  These are some of my favorite authors and illustrators too.  But the list is incomplete.

Let’s fix that.

13 Comments on Women make picture books too…, last added: 11/24/2013
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44. The first review to go public is SCARY…

WHEW!!!!

Thanks, Publisher’s Weekly!

“Snyder returns with a story that, like her Bigger Than a Breadbox (2011), offers a relatable heroine and a touch of magic. When 12-year-old Annie Jaffin and her mother visit Annie’s estranged, dying grandmother in the shuttered Baltimore hotel she grew up in, the woman Annie encounters is angry and aggressive. After a strange storm, however, Annie wakes up 50 years earlier, in 1937, where she meets her grandmother as a curious, kind, and deeply isolated child. Molly spends her days cloistered away in her “Lonely Room” because of her asthma; she wished for a friend and has no clue that Annie is actually her granddaughter. Because Annie knows that Molly will live to old age, they escape Molly’s locked room via the fire escape and seize the day. Through their adventures, Molly’s eyes gradually open to the realities outside the hotel walls, while Annie worries about getting home and whether she’s changing the future for better or worse. Friendship, connection, and understanding are at the heart of this warm, introspective story about the events that shape a person. Ages 8–12. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Jan.)”

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45. Crowdfunding a Picture Book 101

First completed illustration (by Susan Eaddy) for Julie Hedlund's "My Love for You is the Sun

First completed illustration for Julie Hedlund’s “My Love for You is the Sun”

My friend, fellow writer and editing client, Julie Foster Hedlund, is conducting a unique experiment in hybrid publishing – a process that may well become a model to help small publishers increase their lists and authors and illustrators find opportunities beyond self-publishing.  She’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund the production, publication and printing of one of her picture books – even though she has a traditional publisher committed to the project.

The book is a beauty – one I’m proud to say I served as editor for. “My Love for You is the Sun” is a love letter from parent to child, written in verse and expressing that timeless and unconditional love through metaphors from the natural world.  My Love for You is the Sun, a Tree, the Rain, a River… but of course, it’s also about more than familial or parental love, it’s about the universal, infinite nature of love itself, and as such, will hold crossover appeal for all ages. The book is being illustrated by Susan Eaddy, whose three-dimensional clay illustrations provide extraordinary depth and texture. Julie’s goal is for the end result to be a beautiful book in every way – from design to paper to binding, worthy of becoming a family keepsake for generations. If her crowdfunding efforts are successful, I have no doubt this will be the case.

This hybrid publishing concept is very intriguing, and in my view may well become an industry standard in the very near future.  Stacey Williams-Ng, editor and art director at Little Bahalia - a small indie publisher with a laser focus on quality – liked ”My Love for You is the Sun” and wanted to publish it, but her list was full. Julie proposed the idea of crowdfunding the initial production and printing costs, and a new contract model was created.

What’s really interesting about this project, though, is that Julie is documenting her process to help other authors and illustrators.  A couple of weeks ago, she posted a five-part series on “Why Crowdfunding?” on her blog, and recently shared the Top Five lessons she’s learned so far, as follows:

  1. If you are going to crowdfund, make it count. Select a project you are passionate about so your passion permeates every aspect of the campaign.
  2. Crowdfunding is a TON of work and is by no means an “easy route” to publishing. Another reason why having passion for your project is critical.
  3. WHY are you crowdfunding? Know the answer to that question, because you will be asked to answer it hundreds of times.
  4. Give yourself way more time than you think you need to pull everything together. Everything I did to prepare for the launch took longer than I expected, and there is SO much more I wish I could have done.
  5. Build a team. Even if you are crowdfunding a self-publishing project (mine is hybrid), pull together a group of people who will give you timely feedback on your video, your rewards, and your project description/pitch. You’d never publish a book without critiques and edits, so don’t launch a crowdfunding project without them either.

The good news is that within 24 hours of launching her Kickstarter campaign, Julie was already 60% funded – so it looks like this is going to fly.

If you are remotely interested in self- or hybrid publishing, it’s well worth following this project. You can find out more and become a part of Julie’s team (not to mention get an advance copy of this beautiful book once its published) here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022559326/my-love-for-you-is-the-sun-a-picture-book

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46. Perfect Picture Book Fridays – My Uncle Emily

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday book is about the nephew of the popular poet, Emily Dickinson and the special relationship they had.

TitleMy Uncle Emily

AuthorJane Yolen IllustratorNancy Carpenter

Publisher – Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Year 2009 Ages

Synopsis – This is a semi fictional tale told from the perspective of poet Emily Dickinson’s nephew. It is a warm tale of love, telling the truth, adversity, and loyalty. The classic style of the art pulls you back into time, where the special relationship between an Aunt and a boy is revealed.

Themes – love, telling the truth, adversity, family, loyalty, history.

Activities -

Emily Dickinson museum’s kids page http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/for%20kids

Emily Dickinson museum’s fun & games page http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/fun_and_games

Poetry lessons for kids http://www.poetry4kids.com/blog/lessons/poetry-writing-lessons/

What I liked about this book – Since I now live in Amherst, MA I have become very aware of Emily Dickinson and the impact she has had on her fans. When we went to the cemetery in which she is buried, we found numerous people at her grave site. Upon reaching it, we saw that many people had left tokens, pencils & pens, tablets, small notes with writing on them, and poems. It was very touching. The community here also has a poetry week in which a couple of the days she is honored. I think this book is a wonderful way to introduce children to this interesting and talented poet.

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are a weekly blog event where participants review some of their favorite picture books. The posts are compiled on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. They are categorized by theme to help parents, educators and readers find the perfect picture book easily. To learn more, please visit Susanna’s site where you will find the complete PPBF’s library.

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47. Manuscript Mentoring: The Children’s Lit Fellows Program

“What I need is someone who will make me do what I can.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Fellows LogoWould you like to finish a middle grade or YA novel, or complete four picture books by the end of next year, and start submitting to agents and editors?  What if you could be mentored by an award-winning children’s book author who would give you the structure, support and accountability to do just that?

Enter the Children’s Literature Fellows, a one-year certificate program launched last year by Stony Brook Southampton’s esteemed MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, and now accepting applications for 2014.  Admission to the program is highly selective; only twelve applicants are selected each year – and the application deadline for 2014 is December 1, so you’ll need to act fast if you’re interested.

My colleagues and I at Stony Brook Southampton developed this year-long course of instruction – accomplished mostly in distance learning format – to offer children’s book writers a more affordable and flexible option than matriculation in a two- or three-year MFA program.  Because not all writers who want to complete projects have the time or the funds to complete a full degree program, the Children’s Literature Fellows do their work within a framework tailored to their needs.  The program bears 16 graduate level credits, and is customized, affordable, comprehensive, and professionally useful.   

Fellows work independently with the gifted writers who make up Stony Brook Southampton’s outstanding faculty – including Patricia McCormick, Maryrose Wood, Jules Feiffer, Kate and Jim McMullan, Tor Seidler, Cindy Kane, Rachel Cohen, myself and others – in a highly individualized curriculum that is accomplished from home.  Twice a year, they come together as a cohort: once in July during the Summer Conference and a second time in January for a special Publishing and Editing Conference, during which they have the chance to meet with editors, agents and other members of the publishing industry.

Picture book author Julie Gribble, a 2013 Children’s Lit Fellow, says, “Being a Children’s Lit Fellow is like having a guided tour of a city you’d always wanted to explore – you learn so much more than you could traveling about on your own!”

“The Children’s Literature Fellowship is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” says middle grade novelist Janas Byrd.  “It is a one-on-one mentorship with awarding winning authors who are also brilliant teachers.   As a middle school teacher and mother of two, time is a hot commodity.  This fellowship allows me the flexibility to write when it is most convenient for me. I will finish and polish my novel in nine months, a feat that would not have been possible to accomplish on my own.”

For more information about the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows program and the application process, go to http://childrenslitfellows.org or visit http://www.stonybrook.edu/mfa and click on Children’s Lit Fellows. 

But do it quickly! December 1 is just two weeks away!

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48. How to Make Your Story Come True

When a drama rings true I want to cry. 

I do, it’s true, I confess, I’m hopeless, when the story rings true I just can’t help it. 

But in my defense let me put a finer point on this “ringing” business—I’m starting to say that the story has come true.  The protagonist has come true.  He or she has had a radical change of heart. 

There’s a word for that—METANOIAlook it up.  It really means a profound “change of mind.”  A no-going-back-to-the-way-things-were-before shift in worldview.  A new way of seeing things.

Three Burials of Melquiades EstradaTake The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.  (What, you haven’t seen it?) 

An extreme narcissist is dragged (literally) through the Siera Madre mountains of Mexico to his agonizing undoing in the film’s penultimate scene.  It is so truly acted that there is no doubt in my mind that I am in the presence of the human organizm experiencing a universal repentance—a metanoia. 

Here is a character so utterly disillusioned, so emptied of his personal bullshit that he finds himself escaping the gravity field of his small self.  I’m sorry, but when I am present to anyone (virtual or not) breaking free, I weep with joy.  

Now, you might want to argue about how growth occurs.  It’s the old geological issue—evolution by infinitesimal increment over millennia, or through cataclysm.  Well, both as it turns out.  But the notion of sudden, terrifying, and radical metanoia is relatively new, and it still challenges many writers.     

Of course, explosive change is nothing new to Eastern traditions.  Zen monks, by their austere practices, cultivate the essential condition of “emptiness” that invites a new way of seeing things.  Even Christian mystics claim that true poverty of spirit “requires that man shall be emptied of god and all his works.” ~ Meister Eckhart

My new best friend, the famous American Trappist monk Thomas Merton, went spelunking into this emptiness and returned with an appreciation of the mysterious Tao

According to Merton, we can’t begin to understand the nature of this charitable void “without a complete transformation, a change of heart, which Christianity would call metanoia.  Zen of course envisaged this problem, and studied how to arrive at satori, or the explosive rediscovery of the hidden and lost reality within us.”

Discovering their hidden selves, always painfully, this is what the best fictional protagonists do.  And by doing so—by freeing themselves—they make the human story come true. 

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada came true for me in a scene I can’t forget. 

The narcissist (and who isn’t one, really?), on his knees, emptied of his outmoded self, opens his arms to accept whatever punishment or grace existence may have in store for him.  This kind of surrender—whether explosive or discreet—is where we’re all headed. 

When I am witness to anyone breaking free, I am in profound sympathy with them.  It’s happening to me, there’s nothing vicarious about it!    

So let me ask you this—what if this was fiction’s function—to give us a taste of our own story coming true.

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49. RIP Charlotte Zolotow…

“Everything is the same color–one enormous listless gray world where not a breath stirs and the birds don’t sing.”

(the Storm Book)

I’m sad tonight. Charlotte Zolotow has died.

I’ll leave it to someone else to talk about Zolotow’s contribution to children’s literature.  I can only speak to how much she contributed to me, personally.

My grandmother loved her books, and I have a handful of signed first editions that she got for me.  They entered my life when I was just the right age for them.

Zolotow’s books were special to me. Different from other books.  Calm.  Complex,

I loved The Storm Book.

I loved Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present. Deeply.

“She likes birds in trees.”

But wow. I loved My Grandson Lew best of all.

I had a grandpa who died when I was little myself.  And I think Zolotow captured something in that book… the memory, the sense of loss, the vague memory.  But the presence of a death, as well as the absence.

Somehow, I got that, as a kid…

Though as an adult… I see it differently.


(My Lew with Zolotow’s Lew)

So I am going to sit down tonight, and read CZ’s books to my kids, and think about the power of a good book at the right time.

Not a joke. Not a “hook.” Not a product. But a book.

The right book. Speaking in a calm ture voice to the people who need to hear it…

Just the way a grandfather might speak.  With a crinkled eye, and a quiet laugh, or a wistful smile.

So that he can’t possibly be forgotten.

Not even when he’s gone.

“…now
we will remember him together
and neither of us
will be so lonely
as we would be
if we had to remember him
alone.”

(My Grandson Lew)

7 Comments on RIP Charlotte Zolotow…, last added: 12/4/2013
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50. Before the Journey…

Ready to have your mind blown?

So… I have this friend named Aaron.  We’ve known each other a long long looooong time. Since before I could write a full sentence or he knew not to stick his paintbrush in his ear.

Nowadays, he’s busy making the most beautiful wordless picture books you’ve ever seen. But years ago, before either of us had published a book, he and I tried to collaborate.

First, on a picture book that will never exist, called Lily and the Wily Corn Bears…

And then on Inside the Slidy Diner, which would become my first picture book, though with other art.

I guess the world just wasn’t ready for us *yet…

But Aaron found these old images on a CDRom today.  Isn’t that cool?

*in fact, Aaron DID do the cover of my adult anthology, Half/Life, but adult books don’t count. Everyone knows that.

 

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