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1. Why is my Dummy still a Dummy?!

Writers and artists work so hard at conceiving, then executing wonderful stories and images for potential picture books, only to be left holding rejection letters and wondering “WHY NOT?”

I wish I had answers…it would make an agent’s job much easier!  But I do have some possible reasons to share with you today.  Number one, your manuscript (ms) and your images (dummy) need to be as ready for publication as possible.  Not just a ‘good idea.’  Those are everywhere.  Not just a few sketches, but a well thought out flow of visual story telling.  OK, now you are ready to be ‘snapped up.’

There are good market reasons that even the BEST stories might get missed or rejected by well meaning houses.  First of all keep in mind that picture books are VERY expensive to print!  When the economy is down or slow (!) it’s likely that houses might not do as many.  When the dollar is weak, as it is now, it’s more expensive to print even in China! Fewer books means more care in selection.

PREFERANCES also vary yearly and are very cyclical. “Spunky” over “quiet” etc.  What was ‘hot’ last year, might not be this year.  Your story might have been perfect for last year, but not this.  But remember it might be perfect 3 years from now again! This past year or two, more novels have been published than picture books.  They are all the rage, and without pictures, much cheaper to print. Yet picture book sales have held their own, proving that they ARE worth the expense in the long run.

Speaking of the long run, the Back List effects what they take on new.  Editors need to bring in books to ADD to the bottom line, and which promise to ADD to the strong Back List for the house.  Often they ‘borrow’ from that back list and redo books that are strong. This all means they won’t be able to publish all the new stories they might want to. I’ve noticed that this seems to be a trend these days (which is nice for illustrators!). They are constantly ‘balancing’ their lists as well as adding to the imprints list balance.  A Publisher may have 2-4 lists a year.  Each tries to add balance and income, minimize risk and loss.  The “P & L” (profit and loss) is ALL important these days! They project several years in advance! Your book might not pass that test. They want to add new writers and illustrators, but will they ‘last?’  Will they produce on-going to add value to the imprint? And of course, the bottom line: will they sell well?

Another trend I see is ‘in house’ ideas being developed, particularly for series ideas.  They go through the same scrutiny as other proposals, but that might make it harder for ‘outside’ ideas to be considered.  Often writers worry as well that their ‘ideas’ will be ‘borrowed.’  That is possible of course, but I find it rarely a problem in this honest, supportive industry. That does bring us to another LEGAL point that might mean they do NOT take on your dummy.  Many houses will not accept unsolicited  manuscripts.  One legal reason is that they might find themselves turning down an idea that is actually being developed in-house currently!  This can LOOK like a ‘stealing of ideas’, when it is pure coincidence.  If you look at new lists in stores, you will see how often this does happen even between houses!  Two ‘bird’ books, or three ‘princess’ books etc. that are too close in feel.  Trends happen and it’s like a wave at times!  So houses protect themselves by not taking on ‘outside’ ideas at all.  Therefore, your ‘perfect dummy’ won’t even be looked at by these publishers.

It’s a tight market these days, and the stakes are high. Do your best, understand it’s NOT personal, and keep trying! A good story, well done, will find a publisher at the right time.

and I had to share this ‘artist’s block’ image of my 21 month old granddaughter, Billie….. we all know the feeling! (thanks Christy!)

artist block

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2. NY Artist lunch…. and so much more

Time seems to be just running away this long awaited spring! Part of the race for CATugeau Agency was run in NYC recently…the first visitation trip Christy and I have done together.  Thank you to the wonderfully welcoming editors and AD’s at Penguin Group’s Grosset & Dunlap, Dial and Viking for letting us practice on you! :) I think Christy thinks this is all FUN! and I think I agree.

We started with a very special, fun lunch at Westville Hudson with our four NYC artists. They surprised Christy with a silver pin with two cats sitting together! So perfect and she wore it all day! Thank you CAT gals…

NYC artist partyleft to right: Melissa Iwai, Lisa Fields, Christy Tugeau Ewers (coral sweater), Chris Tugeau (me!), Heather Maione, Nina Mata

The next day we started BEA at the early Children’s Breakfast…always special and inspirational. Then we ‘walked the halls’ seeing publishing people from out of town, and literally bumping into others from ‘town.’  Always fun.  We loved seeing so many great children’s books displayed (though I might have picked up a couple of ‘advance’ adult books too!) We passed out lots of our BEA BOOK BRAG SHEET too.  Here it is for you to peruse as well. We’re very proud! Hope you’ll check them out at your local bookstore.


So now the follow-ups are done, and we’re settling back into the ‘day to day.’ Oh I almost forgot - Christy and 6 other of our artists have a new email Blast about ready for June’s “Adopt a CAT Month!” How perfect is that?  come back soon to see that one…. and of course, we wish all a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!                    image by Michelle Hazelwood

fathers day



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3. first quarter news good….

Well, things are looking better for books…at least kids books which seem to lead the markets often these days. A bit ago the first quarter stats were discussed in PW, and I wanted to share only a bit of all that.  Stay positive.  Trade sales are reported UP across the board in kids… 1200 publishers were feeling ‘solid’ in Jan 14.  Divergent trilogy (which I loved!) was a big driver…congrats Veronica Roth and Katherine Tegen Books!  and thanks!

They said the “surging children’s/YA sales’ were up 44 million in Jan where adult was up 10 million.  GO KIDS!  but UP is UP and all good.  E book sales up 12% also…and is the largest selling format in adult books.  I just bought a nook myself recently…. it’s light and easy to hold (becoming important even though I love a big fat hard cover too! Try GOLDFINCH on…yummy)  and I like the back light.  Nice as an option.

So lets jump happily into the spring books and next quarter.  FINALLY it’s warm more than not everywhere.  And BEA is next week!  Christy and I can’t wait to attend…. hope there are some freebies left Friday!

And we wish you all a very memorable Memorial Day this weekend (actually the 30th, but hey….)  Michelle Hazelwood has a fun piece to share with you….

BetsyRossHazelwood (3)

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4. Wonderful Books…….

I wanted to share this review of the BOOKS OF WONDER presentation/panel that our Melissa Iwai participated in last weekend…big names and such a cool place.  When you get to NYC DO go and visit.  They have original copies of Oz and other wonderful old books. (so do I actually which I cherish!)  anyway….enjoy Melissa’s tale of Wonder….

Sunday was an amazing event at Books of Wonder on 18th Street in Manhattan.  If you have never been there before, it is a fantastic independent bookstore devoted solely to children’s books.  They do not carry any licensing products — you will not find any Disney or Nickeloden books here!  All the picture books are arranged alphabetically by illustrator, rather than author.  It’s the only bookstore I know of that does this!

>We love it there and go often for events of which there are many.  It’s been a wonderful opportunity to meet legendary book people, like the late Tomi Ungerer or Chris Van Allsberg as well as newer, well-known authors and illustrators.  One of our favorite events was listening to Nortan Juster and Jules Feiffer talk about creating The Phantom Tollbooth last year in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

This Sunday, though, I was on a panel there!  My panel mates are all exceptional picture book creators.  I was honored to be included in the group.

With Brian Floca, Anne Rockwell, Robie Harris, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heiligman.  Not pictured are Leyuen Pham, Doreen Cronin, and Betsy Lewin.

With Brian Floca, Anne Rockwell, Robie Harris, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heiligman. Not pictured are Leyuen Pham, Doreen Cronin, and Betsy Lewin.

I was totally nervous before the event – I am not so comfortable speaking in public anyway, but my anxiety was heightened by the stellar company I was keeping.  Anne Rockwell, who is the most sweetest, generous, warmest person ever, put me at ease.  I was so thankful she was able to make it.  She is a “living legend” as Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, said in his introduction of her.  She has written over 100 books, many of which she herself illustrated.  You can imagine my immense relief when she told me she love the illustrations for her warm story, Truck Stop!

Anne and I both spoke a bit about how the book came to be and our process of creating it.  Brian Floca spoke about his amazing book, Locamotive.   He actually got to drive an old fashioned locamotive for an afternoon as part of his research.   Robie Harris and Chris Racshka discussed writing and illustrating a book about child fears, When Lions Roar.  The challenge was creating something that wasn’t too scary, but scary enough, and what a delicate line that is.  Deborah Heiligman and Leuyen Pham talked about their book on the life and work of Paul Erdos (The Boy Who Loved Math)  as well as the esoteric system of Erdos numbers.  The wonderful Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin of Click, Clack, Moo! fame have been collaborating for 18 years.  Their newest is Click, Clack, Boo! They spoke about their collaboration and how much trust and respect they have for each other — also how they both share the same sense of humor (obvious if you’ve ever read their hilarious books about duck and Farmer Brown).

Everyone had such an interesting perspective on the work of picture book creating. It was really fascinating and inspirational.  I was so happy to meet finally Chris Raschka and Betsy Lewin  whose illustrations I adore and whose books Jamie grew up with (along with many of Anne’s).

Anne Rockwell and me outside of Books of Wonder after the event.  Do I look relieved?

Anne Rockwell and me outside of Books of Wonder after the event. Do I look relieved?

It really is such a gift for kids to be able to meet authors and illustrators of the books they love.  If you ever have the opportunity, please do so!  Not every place is like  NYC where there are book events all the time, but in cities across the country, especially at independent book stores, there are events taking place often — and they are free!

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5. Teaching and learning….

This past weekend I had the privilege of being on the faculty for the Mid Atlantic SCBWI Fall conference and Intensive. What a wonderful time of teaching, sharing and as always, learning.  A most creative time for all.  And boy did they treat us well!  Wonderful time.

My Friday afternoon title was DOWN AND DIRTY: The basics and beyond.  Hopefully we hit on lots of the topics artists, new and older in this industry, wonder about.  I shared words from the buyers mouths… many fortunately are very good about sharing.  Over all I’d say buyers (AD, editors, designers who assign) want PROFESSIONALS (ask questions, honest, team players, meet deadlines), consistent style, great characters, samples sent on big POST cards so they can KEEP them on walls and attach to ms as they think about ways to go with the art etc.  (some hints for all!)

Then I did a fast “first look” for all those participating artists who dared!  It’s a great tool to see and understand how a buyer might VIEW your art given the “10 second rule.” Truly, those of us who see SO much art for the industry can determine if we can use your style in generally 10 seconds.  We’ll want to see more or move on.  I tried to share some of the intuitive thoughts that go through our head when we view art…instantaneously.  I was kind, but honest.  OH course you can tell given this ‘rule’ that you need to show ONLY your very very best art, and a sample that shows a lot of what you are capable of for THIS industry’s needs.

Sat. was the more general conference and other than some portfolio reviews, I was on a AGENTS PANEL with three other reps, all more Lit Agents. (Brooks Sherman from FinePrint, John Cusick, Greenhouse Lit, and Susan Hawk from Bent Agency ) We have different hooks but look for very much the same sort of unique talent and ‘voice’… this and talking during the weekend was my learning point.  Love that.  Frances Gilbert from Doubleday/Random was a speaker and on the Editors Panel too.  Loved seeing her as we hope to be working on a two book project very soon together. (with one of our CAT artists obviously…more on that) . We might look a little fuzzy…that happens at these conferences! lol

Frances Gilbert and me

I got to chat a bit with Annie Stone from Harlequin Teen, Emillia Zamani from Scholastic, and Melissa Miller from Katherine Tegan (HC) Books as well.  I also enjoyed the author speakers, Keynote Cynthia Lord and Mary Quattlebaum… and other talents attending.

me and authorshere I am with Joan Waites, Mary and Cynthia  quite the two day adventure! Thank you Mid Atlantic…lovely time and region!!!

By husband had driven me to Sterling for this and then nicely ‘low profiled’ it so I could work and visit. He rode the bike trail both days along the Potomac River from DC to Alexandria and south to Mt. Vernon…in wind and cool temps!  On our way home we visited both George Washington’s birth place at Pope’s Creek (his mothers maiden name) and then Robert E. Lee’s family estate just down river… the Big House and Gris Mill and more.  Both are on the Potomac and so very peaceful and special to just walk around. Do visit if you are in area (Northern Neck of VA south of DC)  Enjoy some peace…..

Pope's Creek Washington's birthplacethis is one garden and view of Washington’s home…he lived there only till 3 or so, but lovely place. these barns and horses and oxen (back) were part of the extended grounds there too.

barns at Lee's

the big house LEES     Lee's gris mill

this first is the BIG HOUSE at the Lee estate…3 generations of outstanding VA family…and the Gris Mill down closer to the beach area.   ALL in all quite the weekend of adventures…both educational and teaching moments…both I love and cherish.


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I’ve enjoyed all the talk and articles lately about the adoption of the Current Educational Common Core with its emphasis on critical thinking and non-fiction facts by using trade books in our school classrooms.  I thought that was what good teachers were doing all along? and parents too.  It’s common sense.  We are trying to educate kids to the world around them….history and human interaction so they can understand people better as they grow.  Information about other lands so their eyes will be open to not only the differences but the ‘sameness’ of kids and adults, and animals all over our small earth. Good story telling has always been the draw with fiction and non fiction.  Learning comes in between the lines, if you will.

The advantage of this being ‘official’ now is that publishers are searching their backlists and bringing back good non-fiction as well as fiction, and grabbing up informational but fun new stories. And of course my agency artists are thrilled to have such a need for story telling pictures for these books…for all ages. Picture books are often a child’s first introduction to people and life outside their own family and neighborhood. They have always been vital to early learning, mental growth, thinking skills and maturity.  Ever more so today in preparation for school and during the so important early school years.

What IS new is that Publishers and marketing departments are writing up guidelines that will help teachers use these books they might not have recognized as appropriate for the standards set by this Common Core. Several publishers have new sites where teachers and parents can keep knowledgeable about books on” technology, writing, math, and early literacy” (PW).  Some books have had ‘back of book’ questions added to encourage the conversations that lead to exploration and learning.  Several houses have launched new lines of books based on the Core Concepts.

Some examples of current books from our agency that are perfect for this Core are: Nicole Tadgell illustrated “FRIENDS FOR FREEDOM: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass” (Susanne Slade from Charlesbridge Fall 14).  KarBen Lerner will bring “Goldie Takes a Stand” about Goulda Meir, illustrated by Kelsey Garrity Riley also Fall 14.  Patrice Barton illustrated “I Pledge Allegiance” by Pat Mora and Elizabeth Martinez for Knopf/Random.(14), and Larry Day’s illustrations for “Voices From Oregon Trail” from Dial and Kay Winters, tell the story! (summer 14) But even the newly launched “Isabelle and Isabella’s Little Book of Rules” from Little Simon and illustrated by our Priscilla Burris is a lovely, observant, non fiction from the mouths of the very children we’re trying to start the conversation with!  Pick these up and see! Use your common sense and enjoy the Common Core!             

SF_causes TADGELLpledge in courthouse BARTONfrom “Pledge”

from “Friends for Freedom”

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7. I’ve noticed…..Balance Finding!

With the country in what feels like such IMbalance these days, it was actually a treat to read in PW this week (Nov 18)  about the slowdown in the sales of e-books!  Earlier they’d reported a decline of sales with established publishers the last 5 months!  E-books had seen only growth up till now.  The slowdown is good because it feels like a balance is being found… better predictability (thus better publishing plans) for publishers, bookstores, and e-book sellers.  Most who didn’t panic felt this would happen. It’s a matter of time and finding the balance of different formats, and what that will mean to all in the industry when sales in all formats stabilize.  It’s a hybrid market and healthy for all I’m sure. Reminds me of TV and movies back when. Some books sell better with e-book, and others are always going to be better in print.  Pricing continues to be challenging, but that too will find it’s balance point eventually. It’s really still all about getting CONTENT in all formats available to the readers who want it.  And doing it in a way that all can stay in business! That sounds like good news to me.

1 Comments on I’ve noticed…..Balance Finding!, last added: 11/25/2013
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8. LAUNCH: Maggie and Milo: frog hunters

Just in time for spring, a grandma (!) sends a surprise package of JUST what you need to Frog Hunt…so off go Maggie, a wee lively gal, and Milo, a huge loving dog!  Our Priscilla Burris brings the characters alive in her usual adorable and spunky way:  do check it out…. and it just begs for more adventures!  Kirkus Review loves it! as do others…. go Maggie and Milo!  and happy Spring finally to all….

A Maggi and Milo pic (3)cover, and below author reading to class….

milo author




What do you need for a frog hunt? Big polka-dot boots, a book about frogs and one giant border collie best friend.

Maggi, a wisp of a girl with spindly legs and a large, wobbly head, is an excellent adventurer. She can’t wait to try out her new boots and search the pond for frogs. After a good night’s rest—and imparting forbiddingly specific instructions to her brother at the breakfast table (“Please keep the chitchat to a minimum. I’m in a hurry!”)—Maggi and her shaggy sidekick, Milo, are ready. However, after waiting “a million minutes” (or three) in the water, they haven’t found a single frog. With shoulders slumped and head bent low, Maggi declares frog hunting to be capital B-O-R-I-N-G. Until…Milo finds a frog! And another. And another. After 16 frogs total, Maggi and Milo rest. (Frog hunting is hard work.) As the sun sets and the palette changes to a dusky blue, the frogs quietly croak “good night” to their new friends. Debut author Brenning has created a charming duo; Milo’s steadfast loyalty (and joyful, lolling tongue, courtesy of Burris) fully balances Maggi’s quirky proclivities. A simple, everyday adventure is always better when shared with a friend.

Move over Ladybug Girl (2008), there’s a new spunky gal-and-canine twosome in town. (Picture book. 3-6)

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9. Pic Book Tips (borrowed but brilliant)….

I just read the end of the submission guidelines for an Australian/International Picture Book competition, and these TIPS were there.  Nothing new, but to read them all together is wonderful and possibly helpful to all.  Thank you Kathy Temean (Writing and Illustrating WordPress Blog- check out for contest guidelines).

and PRINT THESE….then place above your writing illustrating space… and remember!


Golden Rule: don’t use too much dialogue, text or description. Let the pictures do the talking—don’t say what the pictures can show. Cut and cull your text. Be ruthless! If your text is 400 words long, it should be vibrant and intensely edited.

Think carefully about rhythm and flow—this is one of the most common obstacles between a work-in-progress and a publisher-ready ms. Read the work out loud and listen to the way the words work together. ‘Hear’ the beat and flow as you read, and adjust words as necessary.

Don’t attempt rhyme. It is not popular with publishers but if you simply can’t resist, make sure it’s infallible. Two rhyming end-words do not a perfect rhyme make. Rhythm and beat is as important as word rhyme—in fact, even more so. Don’t create awkward sentences with odd word placement in order to make a rhyme; rewrite the entire stanza instead.

Look at your word usage and sentence structure. Is it dynamic and interesting? Does it pull the reader along and make them want to read more? or does the reader stumble or become confused? Does it delight? Does it sound good?

Never talk down to the reader. Use big words. Use unusual words. Use a unique voice. Don’t patronise and don’t explain. Never hammer readers with morals. If you simply must use them, thread them through the story in an imperceptible way.

Unless you want your book to appear like an information brochure, attempting to educate children on social, physical, emotional and mental issues and conditions needs to be done cryptically and cleverly. Add humour. Create an unexpected storyline that intimates things in a subtle way and you will have a winner with kids.

Think about the plot. A good story leads the reader through conflict to resolution in a Beginning Middle Ending way, or in a Cyclical way. Things HAPPEN. Showing someone going about their day and going to bed at night is not a story. It’s an account. Write a story, not an account.

Have a protagonist. Your protagonist, or main character, does not sit by and observe—they action, take part and instigate.

Think outside the square. Cover unusual topics, with untouched themes (avoid monsters, fairies, trucks, mud, grandma dying, rainbows, farmyard animals, dogs and other overdone topics). Use different writing voices and story structure. Do something DIFFERENT.

Think twice about supplying detailed illustration notes. Too many notes absolutely do hamper your text; rely on the reader’s ability to imagine what your words are showing. Only supply notes if the text is very cryptic and needs ‘explaining’, and even then—make notes extremely short.

Look objectively at your story. Is it clear and simple or cluttered and confused? Be wary of submitting something that is wrapped up in your own head and unable to be deciphered by someone else. This happens A LOT.

Have an ending. A PB ending needs to be shocking, surprising, funny, quirky or in some way resolving and/or related to the plot. Around sixty per cent of the ms endings we have seen are either non-existent, confusing or dull. Go out on a top note, not a kerplunk. A great ending demands a repeat reading—and that is exactly what you want.

Write your book for kids, not adults. If you hit the nail on the head for kids, most adults will love it, too.

Keep it simple.


picking books1

OK, this is my youngest granddaughter…a book lover already! Like my 8 year old granddaughter as well!

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10. 10 Minute Rule……

Last year during a NYC visit, I was visiting a certain Penguin Group AD (hi! Cecelia)  and she gave me a wonderful HINT about her take on viewing art and artists’ work…and I think it applies to writing too.  It’s stayed with me, and because I find I practice the same rule, I felt I should finally share it with you.

THE 10 MIN. RULE:  if the work generally doesn’t HIT me in less than 10 minutes, I move on. Done (often less!)

It’s true…. we see a LOT of art, and often we agents, ADs and designers and editors are artists ourselves.  We see a LOT of art over a LOT of years.  Sure, we filter through our own likes and dislikes, but we do keep an open-eyed ‘ overview’ for the market and it’s needs at any given time.  We make mistakes, but we make decisions fast.  Have to!

So what can you take from this?   WOW US!  start out GREAT and build from there!  Make the first piece (or paragraph) a winner and then must keep following it up with your best characters, your best drawing, your best color, your best expressions, your best action, your BEST!….. and UNlike everyone else’s BEST.                 10 minute rule rules!

so look in the mirror often and be honest about what you see…. your best?  and from my CAT artist and son Jeremy Tugeau, as a reminder= ’ mirror, mirror, on the wall’…’

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11. It’s Back To School! smiles……

Summer, as always, was too short…or too long…but full of adventures of all sorts.  My wonderful Ohio son Jeremy (and CAT artist!) and his wife Nicole (T2 agency) and my three grandkids from that Clan were here over Labor Day…a busy and noisy and so appreciated visit! Good to have them play with the 3 boys from my Wmsbrg son Morgan’s family crew of three boys and wife Stef.  So that was the “period” on the summer.  Now they all, and WE are ‘back to school’ and thinking Fall, Holidays, and Winter.  wow….

So the CAT artists wanted to share with you four BACK TO SCHOOL visuals to get you in the mood….and we’ll be sharing lots more in the months to come…. HERE on” THE WAY “, and in the mail, and in person perhaps!  So check us out over and over for the new and different… www.catugeau.com as well as here on our blog.  Change is in the air….lets hope it’s all good!  now open your new ‘box of Crayolas’ and create fun for Fall!

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12. “I’ve noticed”…reflecting OUR character….

My husband and I are just back from a mini reunion in CT with “The Originals”…a group of guys who came together, for my husband, in 5th grade through Jr High, HS, college and onward to our present ‘newly medicare’ status…  over 50 years!  I’ve known them since I was 16 and started dating the love of my life…but that’s another story.

What I NOTICED is that though we sometimes don’t see some of this group for 20+ years at a time, it’s only moments till we are all comfortable and ‘back’ together.  The old stories and the belly laughing starts, and it’s SO good to experience!  Friends like that take a life time to create…and it did. That coming together also reveals our TRUE CHARACTERS.  Gone the ’executive’ or the ‘naturalist’ or the ‘egg head.’  They are all just boys…and they KNOW each other’s core.  We girls also revert to a bit ’our younger selves’ as well. Though I’ve also noticed that the girls have perhaps grown more into who we always were…wonderful to see.  Just like writing or drawing good characters!

It takes a life time (however long your life time is so far!) of experiences and careful visual ‘noting’ to be able to come up with GOOD CHARACTER.  Stories are so often all about character.  You must get into your character big time to make your audience believe in him/her.  Explore all the tips and tricks you can to create the best.  REALLY KNOW THEM.  How would they be with old, old friends? new personalities? How would they react if something went wrong, or someone disappointed them?  How would they take a bike ride, swim in a lake, ride a hot air balloon, open a business, care for their aging parent?  This might not be in your current story, but if the character will be ’real’ you have to know how he/she would react in most life events.  Now, we who have lived a few years, know a character might surprise us big time with how they react to an event….and you need to be aware of that too.  The story, drawn or written, might just be in that difference of your character but it’ll only work if you and your audience really know the ‘normal’ for your character.

I just have to include a photo of five of ‘the girls’ (second from right is me) because we took this same photo 22 years ago at the last reunion and needed to revisit our characters in photo style.  Yes we’re that much older, as are our husbands, but we ARE OUR characters now and it shows.  Not all bad ladies!  Get into your characters…pull at them, test them with life, give them tough challenges….  THEN write or draw your story!

cheers ’girls’!

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13. Listening to Professional Hints:

I like to start a new year by going over the ‘visiting notes’ I take while showing off my portfolio of 30+ artists at publishing houses during the previous year.  Great reminders of who liked whom, and I usually find tons of industry ‘insider’ comments that help me focus for the new year.  So I thought I’d share some with you this Jan. … not in any order, and without credits to ‘protect the innocent’, but here you go!

You can only debut once!”      or first impressions might be the last impressions!  This goes for portfolio presentation, but also for your working experience with a client…don’t blow it!

“more idiosyncratic, quirky characters!”

“one look at the character and you know you want to go for the whole ride….”

style consistency SO important…”

crisp edges”

“writers (artist/writers) often mistake a good TOPIC for a good STORY.”

“no Quiet picture books….”   ” need apparent hook…”

“Go for the ‘Promotional Moment’ “    holiday, events, seasons etc.

Too high advances can end up being PLANNED FAILURE!”  a book doesn’t earn out the advance and it’s a black mark on your lasting record.  (ie…career management)

“Core Standard (educational) will be more Non Fiction going forward.”

“Passion is not the same as stamina“…. don’t overl-book yourself each year!

happy creating!                                                                   image from Jason Wolff



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I am most honored to be part of the Friday Feb. 1st Artist Intensive for the SCBWI Winter Conference (Grand Hyatt 42nd) this coming weekend!  Our panel discussion is “WHEN DO I QUITE MY DAY JOB?” and I’m looking forward to the subject and opportunity to share the basics (and not so basic) to the business of being an Illustrator.  Brenda Bowen (editor, now Lit Agent, and writer) and Jan Constantine (general counsel for The Authors Guild) and I (20 year artist agent) will be moderated by David Diaz.

The SCBWI conferences are always so very inspirational and done so professionally and with such care for the market and those who participate in it, that it’s always a joy to be part of and/or attend.  I’ll also be one of the judges for the Art Show which is a wonderful part of these events.  Sat. and Sun are full of other talks and sessions for writers and illustrators (or both) and an almost overwhelming opportunity to get an ‘insiders’ look at the children’s book industry. And you meet and chat with so many interesting people!

If you are planning to be there, please make yourself known to me.  And if not this year, do try to attend in LA,CA (Aug.) or NYC (Feb) at some point…invaluable!  See you there!

(“CAT”artist Melissa Iwai’s got the right idea about books!)

One more start IWAI

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15. Treasures from the mouths of talent!…..

Happily going over some notes I made while listening to the speakers at the conference… and want to share.  Didn’t make every speaker of course, but I’ll try to hit the ideas and quotes that spoke to me and I hope will speak to you! Highlights….

I’ll start with the most WONDERFUL opening talk from artist SHAUN TAN. at 8:35 Friday morning of the Artist Intensive.  What a way to wake up….truly the ‘WAY TUGEAU!”  It was about “Developing a Personal Style.”  His overall point was that your personal style needs to be free and encouraged to just ‘emerge.’  He talked about how drawing and painting at a very young gave him his ‘source of power,’  and how it was wonderful to work and not worry about how it was ‘received.’  He reminded all that ART is a distortion of reality…it’s NOT literal but more theatrical and manipulated.  How you do this grows into your style. It’s often good to let the viewer SEE this manipulation…be aware of the painting. The Deep Style that is or will become you is not so much how you draw or paint, but how you THINK.  That approach will change as the story and image changes, and your personal style can be ‘found’ at the intersection of where all the work meets.  (love that!)

You don’t choose a personality for yourself or a style really.  They evolve and happen from the interests of the day-to-day realities.  One way to teach yourself to know and appreciate others styles however is the age-old practice of copying master artists to LEARN from the effort…HOW and WHY it was done a certain way.  He likes to divide work into two parts…the ‘public’, known part, and the ‘private’ exploring, developing part.  Good to “think of yourself as a train station that ideas pass through.” (!)  Allow the dream to ‘bubble up’. The deep style just comes… it’s a conversation with yourself. “Swing with the current.”  Style often turns out to be ”what you do in an emergency” which he quoted from someone else…and isn’t that a truth!

Well that’s a touch of one talk I just HAD to share…wonderful.  Check out Shaun Tan’s work up…interesting talent and personality.

More tomorrow from others there at the WINTER SCBWI CONFERENCE 2013!

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16. When can I quit my day job?

OH the question!  and topic of the panel I was part of at the Winter SCBWI Art Intensive on Feb. 1.  David Diaz moderated Jan Constantine, Author’s Guild, Brenda Bowen, now Lit (and art) rep at Sanford Greenburger Associates and myself in a series of questions about the reality of the biz we all love.  Of course being PART of the panel….I have no memory of what we actually said!!!!…so maybe you all who were there can write crits about us in ‘comments!’  LOL.

“Though a living cannot be made at art, art makes life worth living…. it brings LIFE to life.”  this is a quote from fine artist and illustrator John Sloan that I used in the panel.  He was actually talking about FINE ART here as he DID make most of his living with illustration, and so can you…it IS commercial.  But as we talked about it is quite hard in the children’s publishing market itself.  Possible…but hard, even when you are repped.  The assignments come oddly timed…one year you are turning down work, and the next twiddling your thumbs! (hopefully actually practicing practicing and growing.)  One really must diversify into various areas of the arts, and maybe have a ‘day job.’  Try to find one that is involved with art of course so it FEEDS you.  But financial insecurity can work actively against the ‘expression’ and good choices you DO need to make to make a career in this industry, like most industries!  It IS a business was an all over theme.

A couple of points that were mentioned was about Your First Impression… you only get one of those with publishers.  It’s a small market – long memories.  Another was that too high advances CAN actually hurt your career if the sales records aren’t good for the books…. not earning out.  Do consider this when negotiating.  Ask questions when reading contracts! Team playing is ever so important if you want to be part of an agency…what YOU do professionally does reflect on every other artist/writer in the group! Staying Fresh and updated with your samples is very important…work to make new and promote them often to AD’s and editors. Consistency of style is also VERY important. Be Brutally Honest with yourself when considering giving up your day job…have a five-year business plan of action.

I do hope we get some ‘comments’ as I’m curious about what ‘spoke’ to you all there too!  REMINDER:  order your THE BOOK from SCBWI….the guide to it ALL!  and I wrote/revised the Artist Guide part of it again.  Hope you find it helpful!

this visual of the ‘rep me’ is from my son and artist Jeremy Tugeau, and husband to rep Nicole Tugeau of Tugeau2….check her agency out as well!


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Just in time for a fresh Spring renewing!  When I was in NYC last, on the second day of Spring, I met with editorial director Jeannette Larson of HMH trade, among others.  She uttered a phrase that has just stayed with me ever since and I had to share it with you all here:  the look being sought for is generally “spare and fresh!”  And I totally got that concept!   I’ve noticed this with almost all my visits with clients…especially for the very young, and picture books.  Not only do they need strong characters, and a layered story that will be revisited many times, but they want a clean, new, approachable look in the style of art.  Less saturation of color often, less texture (though that can play an interesting part in even a’ spare’ approach.)    Negative space (or “white space”) plays an important role…and must be respected.  Buyers want to see energy and a more spontaneous line generally…but not messy or careless.  Control is there, but comfortably and with sense of movement that fits the story illustrated.

There is much interest now again in the non fiction market due to the Standard Core for schools moving in this direction for all ages.  Realistic, historic artists may again see more work possible….but also more unique, FUN styles, and those with humor, might see increased interest as the non-fiction is approached in a more ……     (continue below Patrice Barton’s spring ‘Spare and Fresh’ visual……)  GinnyBarton…..accessible manner. But again the “spare and fresh” approach is a good montra….it allow the viewer to get ‘into’ the art, gleam much from it, and bring their own understanding and interpretation into the work viewed.  Less busy, but with all the important details…clear and understandable.  Rather like Spring itself….a fresh look at a world we thought we knew!

3 Comments on “SPARE AND FRESH!”, last added: 5/13/2013
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18. “I’ve Noticed !”…industry news

It’s finally spring and so much seems to suddenly happen! or need doing! or change in some way!  Love it and hate it.. but it’s never boring and slow like winter can be.

Bologna was sort of the big start of it all.  Word from clients is that it was as wonderful as always. (I went in ’04…how time flies!)  Some changes were seen generally around the world.  Middle grade and realistic fiction is “hot.”  Lightly illustrated middle grade…often stand-alones again, and more contemporary in feel… are wanted.  Some lessening in YA paranormal/dystopian stories and more “fang-free fiction.”  (love that expression! contributed to John Adams, of Adams Lit.)   Lots of interest in traditional, beautifully illustrated picture books it appears. Yipee!

In PW I keep reading about the changes in patterns for the public’s way of buying and finding books. Less the library or book store help this past year, and more Amazon and from word of mouth.  However, in general, over a third of parents seem to feel their kids actually have a “stong attachment to print books.” (Feb 25th)  I do hope this is true.  We need both to balance various needs and uses.

The Common Core State Standards, which has turned more ‘non-fiction,’  is always a big influence on publishers of course as they and schools find ways to incorporate the new mandate. Should bring more work to the ‘realistic’ artists I’d think, and those who love research and history of all styles.  Writers and artists can help by offering games,  crafts and such into their sites perhaps.  Working out ways the schools can get links to their free downloads…. to take the information and interactiveness further.

I read a quote somewhere recently (I DO notice….)  but can’t place who said it….want to share as it is SO true always.  Publishers want “writing that sings – art that expands on words – stories that inform developmentally.”   THAT is the ‘common core.’

Library Girl for ipad.jpgBURRISPriscilla Burris



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19. Spring BRAIN FOG?

Stay doubt - Burris
It’s spring! Time of renewal and creativity everywhere. Then WHY am I in a ‘brain fog?
Well there are lots of reasons probably…from lack of sleep (!?), to allergies, to ‘it’s still cold in VA!’ to …who knows! I just read a fun newsletter piece about just this from Simone Kaplan… check her out at simone@picturebookpeople.com . Loved her honesty in admitting she has ‘brain fog’ too, so here I am joining her honesty.

And it’s good to admit it when it hits. Use it! Take a break and step back from your projects…writing, illustrating, personal, whatever! If you are having trouble being clear, focused, concise and creatively fresh, don’t try so hard! Step away from the project if possible…maybe for a few weeks or more, and take a new look later. We only want to send out OUR BEST always. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. You can also ruin a good reputation by passing on unfinished or inferior work. Sometimes a deadline requires a ‘finish’…then you have to gut it out. But a step back of a few hours…take a walk, work out in gym or garden… might make all the difference in clearing the brain fog and letting the creativity break through! When are we and our work ‘finished?’ Well probably when the book is published! or the conference talk given! or time has run OUT! But we hope to feel that it’s THE BEST we can do with the situation… the plot is tight, the characters are real and credible and YOURS ALONE, and you’ve added something evocative and provocative to the world. Big order…not really. It’s just breaking through ‘the fog’ and seeing the day and its unique promise! enjoy the possibilities!…..

Image from Priscilla Burris who keeps clear always!

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20. Career Day question!

career day 1

Last Friday I had the opportunity to do a CAREER DAY talk…well 6, 15 min talks… to 6 groups of about 25 first and second graders at one of my grandson’s schools here in Williamsburg VA(Matoaka Elementary). (that’s my Coady with dark hair in left corner.) It was a hoot to do, and I was so impressed with how interested they were!  Could they, at this tender age, be interested in the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘career?’  and my industry particularly? They seemed to get it!  wow….

One question has haunted me since.  A cute little 2nd grader asked me just at the end “why do we have to have books?”    GULP

Now in the minute I had left to answer that on going industry question, I couldn’t even ask what she meant by that. Was she asking why Books rather than iPad’s etc? or why we have to make, distribute and sell Books of any kind…and why do they ‘have’ to read them?  I had to answer fast as the exit bell rang…. and jumped in with - ”both books and electronics are equally as viable and wonderful and fun! But do you prefer to cuddle up in bed with your iPad? or a book?”  the class yelled out “BOOKS!”

I don’t know if I assumed her question correctly, thus the ‘haunting’.  What a question!  I suspect we might have a future editor or maybe techie there!  Now you think on that question too…. love to hear what you might have answered in a quick half a minute. ;)

And now as to OUR “Career Days” at BEA… I’m missing it this year due to conflicts but I’ll be watching, reading and listening to any and all coming out about that weekend.  If YOU are there, please write my email (Chris@catugeau.com) and share!  I’ll write about it….

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21. Just follow THE RULES…..

borrowed from PW on-line…. this an announcement of our artist Priscilla Burris and her work on THE RULES BOOK~ for Little Simon,  fast and furious and oh so adorable.  Great story all around…and the PERFECT illustrator!

Just about done so watch for it in late FALL????  kudos Little Simon and Priscilla!



Home > Children’s > Book News

Lost and Bound: A Misplaced Notebook Finds a Publisher

By Sue Corbett |
May 23, 2013


 () –>

Cousins Isabella Thorsden (l.), and Isabelle Busath.


Earlier this year, Lisa Rao, an editor at Simon & Schuster, saw a segment on Good Morning America moments before she walked into an editorial meeting.


“I had my iPad and pulled up the clip and told them, ‘You have to watch this,’ ” Rao recalled about a story that involved a Walmart employee in suburban Sacramento, Calif., who found a spiral-bound notebook that contained 157 rules handwritten in a childlike scrawl. The book had nothing in it to identify the owner; Raymond Flores, a Walmart associate charged with corralling shopping carts, had found it in the parking lot. But he flipped through it and decided it could not have been discarded intentionally after reading rule no. 154: “Protect this rule book.”

So Flores, 20, posted a photo of the book on his Facebook page, hoping to reunite book and author. No luck. Then he contacted the local Fox TV affiliate. That story got picked up nationally.

Article continues below.



PW Daily Tip Sheet

By the time Rao and the rest of the S&S editorial team watched the GMA report, one thing was abundantly clear. “Our publisher, Valerie [Garfield], said immediately: ‘We must find the owner!’ ” And when Rao did, she offered the – co-authors, it turns out – a contract. And this October Simon & Schuster will publish Isabelle and Isabella’s Book of Rules, a jacketed hardcover in a “gifty” trim size, written by Isabelle Busath, age 10, and Isabella Thordsen, age 8, with illustrations by Priscilla Burris.


“The minute I saw the handwriting and heard all the hysterical and the sweet rules these two had written, I knew I wanted to publish it,” Rao said. “ ‘Don’t bite the dentist?’ How could you not want to publish that?”

Isabelle and Isabella created the rule book last Christmas break as an attempt to teach their younger siblings the ropes. “They had been coloring with crayons and one of the younger kids wrote on Isabelle, so one of the rules became ‘Don’t color on PEOPLE,’ ” Rao noted. “They had the sweetest of intentions.”


The text will be recreated pages from the girls’ journal in their own handwriting and original spelling. “We felt like it made it even more sincere if we kept their misspellings,” Rao said. “One of the rules is something like, ‘If you want something, don’t wine.’ Who would want to take that out?” Rao did edit out a few duplicates. The girls had taken turns making entries and both thought “Don’t waste paper” was a good rule to live by.


Once reunited with their book, the cousins immediately added rules they had thought of since they’d lost it. Rao says the published book will contain about 200 rules. Will one of the new ones be, “Let your mom check Facebook whenever she wants?” (Stories about Flores’s quest to find the book’s owner eventually appeared in Isabelle’s mother’s Facebook feed, which is how the book finally found its way back to its authors.) Or “Don’t trust the rule book with just anybody?” (After her pen exploded, Isabelle gave the book to a friend to hold while she went to wash her hands. The friend accidentally dropped it getting into the car in the Walmart parking lot.)

Maybe it will even include the one rule the girls let somebody else write in their book – their new hero, Raymond Flores. His rule was simple: “Stay in school.”

Also on PW

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22. CELEBRATE the Crystal Kite !

We’re so excited to announce that our artist PATRICE BARTON and Knopf’s book MINE ! has wond the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Texas/OK regions!!  Patty and all the CATugeau artists are so honored by the peer support!  Congratulations too to all the other winners.     Check it out!



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23. Shared interview with ‘an agent’… ME!

I was asked to do an interview with specific questions recently for the PEN AND INK BLOG, by artist and guest poster, Catherine Lee….they allowed me to share it here…. enjoy!  I guess this is MY STORY…and a lucky, happy  one it is, if I do say it myself!

(Come on….you know you want to.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Conversation with Christina Tugeau

Christina Tugeau
by Catherine Lee
Edited by L. Fernandez
Christina Tugeau is an artist’s agent. She founded the Christina A. Tugeau Agency LLC in 1994.
Here’s a happy terrific woman that loves her agency adorned with a full set of wonderful artists. Perhaps we can all get inspired to love the job that we do. I hope you love the read.
1. Start Agency
I had been working for 3 ½ years with another agent in the industry, and when it became time for me to leave, I decided to start my own agency. I’d fallen in love with picture books and the people who make them! That was in March 1994. The first year I hustled a lot… but by end of the year I was making money and truly a rep! That’s when the ‘shaking nerves’ started for a time! I’d DONE it!
2. First Artist
Stacey Schuett was one of my first artists in the group…. She had done a bunch of books, and I just happened to catch her when she felt she could no longer rep herself well. My first blessing! I think the world of her as a person and an artist still! Over 18 years!! There are several still with me who came on early, but change is inevitable and not a bad thing for an artist or an agency at times.
3. ARTIST Qualities
There are several… but I have to NOTICE their style, and kno

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24. I’ve noticed….the Good in the Bad

Oddly, we often find in hindsight that a ‘bad,’ or difficult situation can bring out a new or creative push that ultimately becomes very much a “good.”  Actually a GIFT.

The book that doesn’t work out…and leaves you a summer to explore new ways of painting that later leads to several new books.  The visit trip from hell in cold winter rains where you show up drenched and miserable but get a standing salute for showing up at all, and it’s memorable!  The agent that rejects your work for the agency but has one golden ‘tid bit’ that resonates and sets you on YOUR path.

I had such an experience recently, which is why my blog has been silent for a bit.  Back story:  I’d been asked to co host an Artist Intensive day for the FL SCBWI group in Orlando June 15th.  It was FABULOUS!, My buddy in this was the so talented, knowledgable and enthusiastic Laurent Linn, a S&S art director. (see photo below!)  The group there is a very talented bunch of workers and we couldn’t have had a better time hopefully helping them along their individual paths.  And the Disney Yacht Club was a bit of cool breeze paradise while there.  Perfect!  except I also picked up a bacterial lung infection that lead to over a month of pain, breathing and infection scares and serious recoup after probably two pneumonias with Asthmatic complications.  I’m getting there now, and seeing the GOOD in the BAD again, so wanted to share.  One night in hospital when there was no sleep to be found between horrific coughing bouts, I suddenly saw a “story” actually POP out of my  head!  and grabbed a pen and paper and wrote out the text for 15 spreads of a draft in one flourish! (ok, high level of steroids might have contributed!)  And notes and characters for the illustrations! It was amazing, and after  it was down on paper I actually did sleep a couple of hours.  It was a story I’d been mulling sort of.  I’m no picture book writer, and while an artist, not an illustrator.  I SO admire my group and what they can do!  So we’ll see if anything comes of it.  But the FACT of it was so GOOD!

My point of course is to ALLOW these good moments to ‘free up’ in all your extraordinary, or ordinary, other moments.  A lot of it is just being available for the inspiration to arrive. And we often just aren’t.  My situation was unique (and I do NOT recommend it!) but something exciting might have been allowed to begin there that might never have otherwise.  Good.  I may not be able to pull this together to present officially to the industry, but it will happen as a personal project.  I am pushed to give it a try. How can I not?

How can YOU not!

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We are very happy and proud to announce today is the official LAUNCH of HUSH LITTLE MONSTER from CAT artists Melissa Iwai, and her writer husband Denis Markell, and Little Simon (S&S) as publisher!  They’ve done a couple of books together and this one is such fun!  It received a recent STARRED review in PW too!  The story is great for Halloween, but it’s not JUST for that holiday…. we have ‘little monsters’ all year long.  Do take a fun look….

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