WINTER Quote

"Scientists say that human beings are made of atoms, but a little bird told me that we are also made of stories." ~Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

High Five #34: Monster Hunter Rising

Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you for your debut picture book. Thanks for being here today, Justin!

Title: Monster Hunter
Author: Justin LaRocca Hansen
Illustrator: Justin LaRocca Hansen
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release date: October 2012
Word count: 560

Short summary:

Billy is a monster hunter. That’s because his home is infested with slimy, hairy, creeping, slithering, garbage-eating monsters! One week, Billy does battle with the monsters—in his bedroom, in the bathroom, even in the kitchen. But the problem is that monster hunting is a messy operation, and Billy’s mom isn’t so thrilled about all the messes she continues to find, whether it is water covering the floor, clothes thrown on the furniture, or food strewn about in the kitchen. So, when the hunting goes too far for Mom, Billy learns that monster hunting can—and must—be done with the proper tools. A vacuum or a rag with soapy water does wonders in defeating and cleaning up after a particularly troublesome Mud-Grass monster. With Billy’s new monster-hunting techniques, he and Mom come to an agreement, and Halloween (and the house) is never the same again!

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.

Very hard to pick only three but let’s go with Ish by Peter H. Reynolds, Tuesday by David Weisner and because I love a good tear jerker, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Question TWO: Despite not having any children of your own, how do you feel that you were drawn to write for them?

As a child I was always in love with stories, not just books and movies but people’s stories as well. Friends and family, I loved hearing people’s adventures and I loved sharing mine. When you’re young stories are fresh and new and leave a lasting touch. I still remember how I felt when ET lit his finger and said ouch, I remember the shock of Luke finding out about his father, the horror of Peter Pan when he finds Wendy has grown up, and the terror when Heckedy Peg is about to eat the mother’s children. When we get older we get more critical, we’ve seen and experienced so much, we don’t FEEL those moments as often or as much as we used to. I like the idea of telling stories that completely capture someone’s imagination. Just us other creators have influenced me, I want to tell stories and create moments that will stay with someone for their whole life. For me, those stories were from my childhood so I think that’s why writing for children comes easier than writing for adults.

Question THREE: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?

Monster Hunter has a lot of alliteration in it so it is great for teaching the repetition of those consonants. It is a fun read aloud with repetitious phrases that can be used for call and response. Children can also learn that it is important to clean up your messes and that you can use your imagination and have fun while you do it. I’ve also done presentations where a class of students will help me create a monster, they will tell me their ideas and then I will sketch their monster for them. The main point of the exercise is to brainstorm first, think about what your monster will look like, write those ideas down and then create it.

Question FOUR: What was your road to publication like?

The road to publication was long and windy for me. I initially was only submitting my illustration portfolio when I moved to New York in 2005 but I soon decided that if I really wanted to illustrate books, I was going to illustrate my own ideas. I had sketched out all of Monster Hunter in 2007 (I was calling it Monster Cleaner then) and finished three of the paintings (none of which would actually make it to the final book) and I made a book dummy and mailed it out EVERYWHERE. I got many rejections. Like a lot. One rejection came from Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic, however I happened to bump into an art director at Blue Sky and told her about the book. I was working at the Scholastic Store at the time with the sole purpose of bumping into editors and handing them my work. She asked me to send it to her personally, I did, and they were interested. This was very exciting I thought this was it! We went through several revisions of the book but nothing major; we changed the name from Monster Cleaner to Halloween Monster Hunter. I brought all of the sketches to fully penciled ready to paint drawings. Things were going along nicely but then I stopped getting phone calls and my emails weren’t being returned. We had not yet signed any agreements; the idea was to get the rough proposal as good looking as possible and then present to the acquisitions team. Now this was in 2008, right when the economy went down the toilet. It appeared that Scholastic, along with many other publishers, weren’t putting out any new authors it was just too risky. So just like that, Halloween Monster Hunter was dropped.

It was heartbreaking. Time went on, and I started developing a graphic novel which caught the attention of my agent Sarah Warner. We began developing my graphic novel, called Stretch and Brella, and I told her, “Hey I have this picture book dummy too.” She took a look; we undid a lot of the revisions from Blue Sky, changed the title to Monster Hunter and started getting a whole new pile of rejections. However on thanksgiving 2011 Sarah called me and let me know that Sky Pony Press was buying Monster Hunter. It was a heck of a journey but I’d finally done it. I got one in the books, and soon after Penguin picked up my graphic novel trilogy Stretch and Brella (which will be renamed) and should be out Summer 2015.

Question FIVE: What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

Write as much as you can, the more you do the better you get and when you get those golden ideas get them out of your head and onto paper, or your computer. Get that story out as fast as possible and then worry about edits.

Show people your work. Send to editors, assistant editors, agents, post the stories you like online, go to conferences, and send things to your friends. I truly feel that getting published has little to do with talent and lots to do with hard work and with getting your work in front of the right person at the right time and that can happen in a billion different ways. I got my agent because her child goes to a summer camp in Switzerland. A camp that a friend of mine works at and this friend had some copies of my work that she left out on a table. Sarah saw the samples and that was that.

Be happy. The whole point of any creative field is that you’re doing it because it makes you happy. So make sure whenever you are writing you are in a happy place, maybe you like to write with music, or by candlelight or with a bowl of candy next to you, do what makes you happy. Be proud of your work, you’ve created something and brought it into the world and, published or not, that is truly something.

Friday, March 25, 2016

High Five #33: Awww, yeah, Baby!

Please welcome Keila Dawson for the latest High Five interview! Take it away, Keila!

TitleThe King Cake Baby
Author: Keila V. Dawson
Illustrator: Vernon Smith
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company
Release date: January 2015
Word count: 666

Short summary:

In this lively adaptation of The Gingerbread Man set in the New Orleans, the runaway king cake baby escapes an old Creole couple, a praline lady, and a waiter at Cafe du Monde, but he can't outsmart the clever baker! Filled with Louisiana phrases and comic-book-style illustrations, this story brings the Crescent City to life from Jackson Square to the Creole Queen riverboat. It even comes with a recipe for homemade king cake. This new adaption of an old folktale brings a tasty Mardi Gras tradition to life for readers.

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.

Only three?!
1. Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena for the authentic voice and diverse content.
2. Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds for the humor and point of view.
3. Ish by Peter Reynolds for the inspiration and positive message.

Question TWO: How often did you read to your children when they were younger; do you feel like you have an extra special bond with your children because of books? 

We read to our children daily through elementary school. By middle and high school we switched to reading with them. In the younger elementary years we read books to them they were unable to independently read themselves. I believe language and critical thinking are both refined through reading to and with kids. By middle school, my husband and I would often read the novels they were assigned in classes. The discussion and feedback definitely helped create a special bond. During this special time together, especially during their tween and early teen years, we would discuss sensitive or confusing topics presented in the books they read. That allowed them to form their own opinions outside of peer pressure and become more confident individuals.

Question THREE: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?

Gingerbread Man stories are quite popular and studied in many pre-school and elementary classrooms. Because The King Cake Baby ties in the old world tradition of Mardi Gras still practiced in an American city, it's cultural setting can be used to compare and contrast with the traditional folktale or other adaptations. There are printable lessons, activities, and crafts available on my website at www.keiladawson.com.

Specifically, second grade teachers are use it to teach English common core standards. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy RL 2.1- 2.9). Two standards, RL.2.2 and RL.2.9 address using folktales from diverse cultures.

RL.2.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

RL.2.9 Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures. I have many fun. 

Question FOUR: What was your road to publication like? 

Writing for children is something I'd always want to do but didn't make the time or commitment to actually do it. Then one day some friends inspired me to just do it. That was my first step, making that commitment. But for months after, I didn't have an idea of what to write about. Then one day while making a king cake during the Mardi Gras season, a story idea popped into my head. Just as I described in The King Cake Baby, I couldn't find a little plastic baby we put inside the cake. The idea of retelling the Gingerbread Man story but set in New Orleans seemed like a unique idea. That same night I wrote my first draft.

With a rough draft in hand I started where all beginners do, with research. I didn't have any knowledge about the industry from the author or publisher perspective so knew there was a lot to learn. Children's Book Insiders (CBI) was the first online resource I found, became a member and read through their self- paced lessons and newsletters. CBI recommended finding a group of other writers to critique your work. More research led me to a local group of children's writers. The stars aligned and the first meeting I attended was critique night. I read my story to a group of published authors and listened carefully to their great advice. The manuscript was way too long, well over 1000 words. It also had too many characters and scenes. I was told to cut, cut, cut. I read some Gingerbread Man stories. I joined the national Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and independently researched and read everything I could about the craft and the industry. I returned to the next meeting with an edited copy and got the thumbs up! This wonderful group of mentors also helped me understand the business part of the industry. When I subbed my story and didn't hear anything for several months, it was my writer's group who taught me how to research publishing houses to determine if my story fit with what they publish. That's when I decided to sub my manuscript one more time, to a company that published children's stories about Louisiana, Pelican Publishing.

I don't have an agent at this time. I do have a manuscript in acquisitions at Pelican. It's another fractured fairy tale based in New Orleans. Fingers crossed they are interested in adding another to their list!

Question FIVE: What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
  1. Be authentic. I love hearing others describe my story that way. I do believe the only difference between stories that use the same topic or theme is the unique way in which the story is told by the writer.
  2. Immerse yourself in the kidlit community. Participate in free reading and writing challenges like Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo in November, Carrie Charley Brown's ReFoReMo in March, Susanna's Hill's pitch practice, Would You Read It on Wednesdays, her Perfect Picture Book Fridays, and the Debut PB Study Group on Facebook. Take classes, sign up for webinars, join SCBWI and attend conferences.
  3. Learn the business end of the industry. As small business proprietors, writers need to know how to negotiate publishing contracts, agent agreements, create marketing plans and file taxes.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Christie. Write on!

Thank YOU, Keila. You can find Keila around the web on her following social sites:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wealth Through Words: A 12-Step Guide to Becoming a Career Author

Writing can be a lonely job. We all know advances and royalties don't pay that much. But if you want to be a career author, it's important that you surround yourself with successful authors.


Following these 12 steps will guarantee you success. However, how you determine that success - and more importantly, WHEN it will manifest itself is left to be written. Are you ready to write it?





After you read the guide, I'd love to know what you think! Share which of the 12 steps is your favorite and why in the comments below!

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you can visit the actual blog post to sign up and get the 12-Step Guide.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Types of Nonfiction in Children's Books

Nonfiction Picture Books
There are many more nonfiction books in the adult reading world than there are in the children's realm, but nonfiction children's books are HOT! And since picture books are a form, not a genre, each type of book listed here would be an example of a nonfiction genre or sub-genre, if you will.

TYPES OF NON-FICTION IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS


There are all kinds of nonfiction children's books out there waiting to be explored, and waiting to be written. The following are the most common types on nonfiction books found in children's literature.

Concept Books


This category of nonfiction books for children are typically for the younger audience, such as preschoolers. These books cover include topics such as counting, the alphabet, opposites, colors, days of the week, and more.

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

Animals


Animal books abound. There is always a market for more animal picture books. They can be about life cycles, compare/contrast, a day in the life of, habitat, or anything that has to do with teaching kids about animals.

  • No Two Alike by Keith Baker
  • A Warm Winter Tail by Carrie A. Pearson
  • Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde

Craft/How-to


Children love to do all kinds of things and want to learn how to do even more. These could be how-to craft books, cooking books, how to play certain games, how to start a collection, how to become an entrepreneur, anything really!

  • Draw the DC Universe by Klutz
  • Sleeping in a Sack: Camping Activities for Kids by Linda White
  • Origami for Children by Mari Uno

Biographies


Biographies for children are exploding right now. Publishers, teachers, and librarians can't seem to get enough of them. Autobiographies would be a sub-genre of this category. There are biographies about people in certain careers, inventors, famous people, lesser known people, presidents, athletes, scientists, artists, you name it! The blog, True Tales and a Cherry on Top by Jeanne Walker Harvey, reviews nothing but picture book biographies.

  • The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock
  • A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jennifer Fisher Bryant
  • Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris

History/Events


Children's books about historical events or current events create this genre of kids books. These could be books about a war, political events, social events, etc. They are not really about a certain person, but more about what happened. Oftentimes, biographies are historical because one person usually had a huge impact on what happened.

  • The Story of the Incredible Orchestra by Bruce Koscielniak
  • The Alamo from A to Z by William R. Chemerka
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet (this might actually fall under biography)
  • The Carpenter's Gift by David Rubel (technically, I think this one is actually historical fiction)

Special Topics


Anything else that children want to know about would go here. Weapons of war, gardening, becoming an entrepreneur, nature and the environment, human relationships - it all goes here.

  • Water is Water by Miranda Paul
  • Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals
  • The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson

Other


Anything else that doesn't fall into one of the above categories goes here. Alas, I do not have any examples.

What is your favorite genre of nonfiction books for children? Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WHY "Dancing Through Time and Space"?

Creative Commons, Pixabay
If you haven't noticed, "Dancing Through Time and Space" is my new blog motto, log line, subtitle, whatever. No, it's not Star Trek. No, I'm not aiming to find a portal in the universe, or a crack in the time/space continuum, but I would love to have a time machine (to create more of it). Or would that be a time tree? If you had a time machine/tree, what things would you want to do? How could you more fully spend your time?

I also love space and thinking about the universe, don't you? And then there's each person's own personal space, too. And of course, there's DANCING! I do love to twirl around and dance. I just imagine myself dancing around trying to get more done in my limited space and time. I kind of jump from one passion to the next, always trying to learn how to be more mindful of my time.

Every day, we all dance through time and space as we say hello to a loved one, pick up the phone and call a parent, pick up the dirty laundry and squeeze a hug with our children. A peck on the cheek, a bear hug, a high five. These are ways I dance through time and space with my family. Family is the most important thing in life. I try to teach my children to love the Lord, teach them good manners, teach them how to be respectful, honest, law-abiding citizens. Teach them what they need to know to be safe and happy here on this earth. I pray for my sisters. I'm happy when my parents call me. How do you dance with your family?

But, yet I still struggle. Sometimes I steal time from my family just so I can write. A lot of writers don't have a clean house, or maybe they don't take the time to cook a nice meal. I, for one, do neither most of the time. But we always have clean clothes to wear and food to eat. So, yeah, I'm always dancing through time and space - fleeting, sometimes focused, sometimes unfocused, happy, searching for love and how to share with others the deeper meaning of life. Will you dance through time and space with me?

When you leave a comment, you'll receive "dancing time-released space-kisses" to last for a whole week. I know you want a little more love in your life. 

Keep on keepin' on...