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Author Interview: Sharon Giltrow

Jul

06, 2020 |

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Today we have another author interview! I’m so excited to have Sharon Giltrow on my blog just in time for Father’s Day! She is the author of Bedtime, Daddy! which released on May 12th. Let’s jump right in, and as always, I’m in bold green.

Hi Sharon, welcome to my blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?

Sure, I would love to 😊. I am the youngest of eight children and grew up on a farm in South Australia. My childhood was spent reading, making mud pies, exploring the salt lake and swimming at the beach. Now I am a part-time teacher of children who have a developmental language disorder and best of all a full-time writer. I started writing children’s books when my first child was born in 2006 but it wasn’t until 2015 that I started taking the idea that I could become an author seriously. I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 picture book challenge, enrolled in children’s book courses and started my journey towards becoming a published author.

Wow! SEVEN older brothers and sisters. As it happens, I grew up near a salt lake as well! Floating on the water is a pretty interesting experience. And I’m so glad you decided to write. Please tell us about your book!

Bedtime, Daddy! Is a humorous role reversal story, where the little bear in the story puts their daddy bear to bed. To do this the little bear must wrestle daddy bear into his pajamas, read just one more story, battle endless excuses, and use go-away monster spray to finally get daddy to bed. The story has a great balance between heart and humor. It would make a perfect bedtime and Father’s Day book, and there’s even a Teacher’s Guide.

I loved the role-reversal in Bedtime Daddy! What inspired you to write it?

My husband and my children. Over the last fourteen years my husband and I have taken turns reading to our children and putting them to bed.  During the nightly bedtime routine, I had a lightbulb thought… ‘wouldn’t it be funny if our children put us the parents to bed.’ The idea for Bedtime, Daddy! was born.

I love those lightbulb moments! And the steps of getting Daddy to bed are hilarious. One of my favorite parts is the monster spray. Do you have a favorite part of the story?

My favourite part of the story is when Daddy Bear and Little Bear are snuggled up in bed reading a story and Daddy Bear interrupts the story with these questions…

Why don’t ducks have arms?’ Or ‘Do sharks sneeze?

They were awesome questions! I love the randomness of it all. So true to life!  And let’s talk art. The art is so whimsical, and fits the book perfectly. It really helps the reader feel that the advice is coming from a kid. Did you have any input on the art or illustrator? What was your reaction at seeing the art?

EK Books asked Katrin Dreiling to illustrate Bedtime, Daddy! Before I signed the contract, they sent me Katrin’s early sketches of the characters. There was a daddy bear, a human dad, a little bear and a little child.  Anouska the editor made a suggestion that perhaps using bear characters would have a more universal appeal. I trusted Anouska’s advice and am very happy with the bear characters. I love Katrin’s illustrative style and colour palette and she has illustrated my words and vision perfectly. When I first saw the storyboard for Bedtime, Daddy! I was ecstatically happy.

How interesting! Very cool that you had a choice on that. Can we talk writing for a minute? How many picture books would you say you wrote before finally getting a deal on this one?

My first picture book I wrote was in 2006, I then went on to write nine more before I signed the deal for Bedtime, Daddy! Since signing the deal I have written four more picture book manuscripts and one chapter book manuscript.

That is a lot of books. This business takes a lot of perseverance! What helped you the most on the path to publication?

Not giving up and believing in myself! As well as the support of my critique partners and the Kidlit community. Surround yourself with like-minded writers.

That is great advice. Having that support makes all the difference!

One last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think Little Bear might choose for his personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!

Zzzzzzz!

Hahaha! I love it! So perfect. Okay, I know I already said last question, but where can we purchase Bedtime, Daddy!

Bedtime, Daddy! is now available to order around the world:

EK books

Booktopia

Amazon

Amazon Australia

Amazon UK

Abe Books

Book Depository

Thanks so much! And for my readers, see below for where to find and follow Sharon on social media platforms.

~~~

Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, WA with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. When not writing, Sharon works with children with Developmental Language Disorder. Sharon was awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship in 2019. Her debut PB Bedtime, Daddy, released May 2020 through EK books.

You can find Sharon on her WebsiteInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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Author Interview: Gabi Snyder

May

18, 2020 |

Filed in:

Books,Interview,Publishing

Please Welcome Gabi Snyder to my blog! I love Gabi. We met through a picture book group called 12×12, and are now both part of the Debut Crew. I confess, I may be fangirling to have her on my site. I actually read her book announcement before we met and thought it sounded brilliant! I’m excited for you all to learn more about her.

Now on to the interview! As always, I’m in green.

Hi Gabi, welcome to my blog!

Hi Janet! I’m excited to be here!

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?

Back in the day (early aughts), I studied English-Creative Writing at The University of Texas, with a focus on writing fiction for adults. After earning my MA, I took a succession of jobs that used writing (like grant writing and instructional design), but I wasn’t finding much time to do my own writing.

Fast forward to 2013: when my kids were little (3 and 5), we moved from Austin to Corvallis, Oregon. With a break from work following the move, I found time to get back to my own writing. Only, by then, reading daily with my two littles, I’d become immersed in the world of picture books and fallen in love with this form of storytelling.

Isn’t it an amazing form? I’m totally in love, too. Your book is so fun! Please tell us what it’s about.

TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE starts with a gate left open and a dog escaping her yard to join a poodle on a trike. Soon it’s three dogs on a scooter and then four dogs on a bike. With each new mode of transportation, a new dog is added to the fun. But what the pups don’t notice is that the original dog’s family cat is in hot pursuit.

It’s such a fun premise! I can just imagine kids giggling over that cat. What inspired you to write Two Dogs on a Trike?

If I had to guess which picture book I reread the most as a child, I’d name GO, DOG. GO! by P.D. Eastman. The silly dogs and sense of movement and fun in TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE are, in part, an homage to the P.D. Eastman classic. In TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, we count up to 10 and back down again while moving through different and escalating modes of transportation.

And the dog versus cat dynamic that plays out in the story was inspired, in part, by my childhood pets. I grew up with a cat we called Kinko (named for his kinked tail) and an assortment of dogs. Kinko was the undisputed boss. Now my family includes one daredevil dog and one cat who keeps us all in line.

Haha! I had cats growing up, too, and they definitely keep us all in line. 

I love that your book leaves so much room for the reader to create a story. Sparse text books can be really tricky, and yours makes it look easy! I would love to hear about your revision process. Was the initial draft pretty similar to this, or what kind of edits did you have to make?

Great question! Unlike most of my stories, drafting TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE was fairly quick and painless. It came out mostly whole. Of course, my brilliant critique partners still had suggestions for taking it to the next level. For instance, looking back at my first draft I see that the first line of the story initially read “One dog on the sidewalk.” With help from my critique partners, that line changed to “One dog, all alone…”. And then, when working with my editor, Meredith Mundy at Abrams, she pointed out that Sandra Boynton’s book HIPPOS GO BERSERK opens with this line: “One hippo, all alone . . ..” I wanted my opening line to vary more from the first line of that Boynton classic, so we changed that line to “One dog stands alone.”

So fun to see the evolution! Thank you for sharing. I feel like I just got a peek into your secret lab. 😊 

Okay, so hearing about the story, and knowing you have a dog and cat, any chance we can see a picture? Everyone loves pet pictures. 

Camille (the dog) and Henry (the cat) love to help me write! Camille likes to drape herself across my lap as I type, and Henry keeps my manuscripts warm and furry.

Adorable! What a cozy way to write. 😸🐶 

Finally, the art. I love the bold colors and the simple, yet intricate images (which is quite the feat!). The illustrator, Robin Rosenthal, conveys so much emotion and humor and makes it look effortless! What is your favorite image from the book, and why?

I am absolutely smitten with Robin’s illustrations. And I love the 80’s retro vibe of the fashion choices.

Aren’t those the best??! The 80’s rocked.

For the first half of the story, the dogs are oblivious to the fact that they’re being followed. When we reach “10 dogs,” there’s a realization. That last animal? Not a dog! The revelation spread and the one that follows are my favorite images in the story. And while my illustration notes made clear who that not a dog is, I didn’t specify where we are. Robin Rosenthal’s illustration for that spread is hilarious and unexpected! I gasped in surprise when I saw it, and yet it feels like the inevitable “of course!” choice. Truly perfection.

It totally felt inevitable! It’s a neat thing to watch an illustrator’s work not only bring a story to life, but add that extra to make it that much MORE. 

Okay, one last question. Here on my blog, I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think the dogs (and the cat!) in your story might choose for a personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!

Dogs: OffLeash

Cat: Purrsuit

Those are purrfect! (I couldn’t resist! Haha!) Thanks so much for stopping in!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Janet! 😊

TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE will be released on May 19th. To learn more about Gabi, her book, and where to find her on social media, see below!

~~~

Reader. Writer. Lover of chocolate. Watch for Gabi Snyder’s debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, coming from Abrams/Appleseed in spring 2020, and her second picture book, LISTEN (working title) from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books in spring 2021. Gabi lives in Oregon with her family, including one daredevil dog and the cat who keeps everyone in line.

You can find her website HERE, and follow her on TwitterGoodreads, and Instagram.

If possible, consider buying TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE from your local bookstore. You can use Indiebound to find a local store.

If you don’t have a local indie or if they’re not able to take online orders, consider supporting local bookstores by ordering from Bookshop.

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Author Interview:Claire Annette Noland

Apr

30, 2020 |

Filed in:

Books,Interview,Writing

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted an author interview, but I have some great ones coming up this month to make up for it!

First up is Claire Annette Noland. We met through our debut author group, The Debut Crew. She is one of our fearless leaders, and I’ve been so happy to get to know her even better through this interview.

Her debut picture book, Evie’s Field Day, illustrated by Alicia Teba, comes out on May 1st. It’s a fun one, and you can find my review HERE.

But let’s get to it! As always, my comments are in green:

Hi Claire, welcome to my blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?


I’ve always been a reader. I became a writer in high school when I took a creative writing class and realized kid lit was my happy place. I decided I wanted a career focused on children and books and I’ve been able to do that as a bookseller, children’s librarian,  reading specialist, kindergarten teacher, mom to four children, and now author!

Wow, your list of jobs is like my dream list! Kid lit is my happy place, too. Can you please tell us about your upcoming book?

Evie’s Field Day is about a girl who loves to win and looks  forward to getting more ribbons at the annual field day. Unfortunately, things don’t work out as planned and Evie is not a very good loser. When she is finally ahead, she is faced with a decision. Should she race ahead and win or make a choice to stop and be a friend.

Field days are the best! But I totally get how Evie feels. It’s easy to get caught up in winning. What inspired you to write this story?

No one likes to lose but it is a fact of life. We can’t always win. As a child, I never seemed to win anything but games of chance, like BINGO. As a mom and teacher, I saw how frustrated and upset children can get when they lose. I want to encourage children to enjoy the game, focus on doing their best, and on being a good friend and teammate. I hope Evie’s Field Day will be help children to be good sports.

It’s a good lesson to learn young. Still, I love how spunky Evie is as a character. She reminded me of myself when I was a kid. I loved winning! Did you base her off of anyone you know?

Actually, she is a combination of my four children who each struggled with competitors and learned many valuable lessons in the process.

I love that! Kids are the best inspiration. And I also loved all the fun field day games in your book. How did you choose them? Did it require research?

Field Day is always one of the most anticipated days in the school year and the games included in the book are student favorites. I had many to choose from!

I guess it helps when you’ve been a teacher for a few years! The suggestions on teaching good sportsmanship in the back matter are great! Was that part of the initial drafts or your submission package or did it come later? How did you develop that?

Cardinal Rule Press has a very clear vision for the books they publish. They want realistic stories about children and the issues they face. They want to empower children as well as encourage parents and teachers. Each of their books have suggestions and activities that support the topic.

The back matter was developed after the contract was signed. I read many articles on sportsmanship and talked to coaches. I also included techniques that I personally developed as a teacher and parent.

Fascinating to see how the process works for different publishers. 


So let’s talk about the art. I love how the illustrator, Alicia Teba, uses color to really spotlight the kids in the story and bring focus to the action. Was this something you had discussed with your editor/art-director beforehand, or was it a fun surprise? What was your reaction on seeing it? 

I love the illustrations done by Alicia. The color palate was the brilliant idea of Maria Dismondy, publisher of Cardinal Rule Press. I was able to see the draft illustrations throughout the process and I am thrilled with each page. I especially love how Evie’s emotions are so clearly evident.

So clear! Now, I have to ask. The timeline is so long for picture books. You’ve been looking forward to release day for years now. How has COVID-19 affected your release day plans?

Evie’s Field Day was planned to launch in time for end of the school year activities. Unfortunately, things are turning out differently than planned because children are not at school. The book is being launched virtually and we are planning a big #AtHomeFieldDay on May 21st.

The field day will be celebrated on Instagram. Families can post pictures on Instagram with the hashtags #EviesFieldDay and #AtHomeFieldDay to be eligible for prizes. Here’s a blog post with some fun activity ideas: At Home Field Day- 10 ways to play, and here’s information from Cardinal Rule Press about the #AtHomeFieldDay contest.  I hope many families will join the fun!

Sounds super fun! What a great way to celebrate. 😊

Okay, one last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think Evie might choose for a personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go! 

PLAY4FUN!

Love it! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Claire, I loved learning more about you and your book. Wishing it a very successful launch!


And for the rest of you,  thanks so much for stopping in and reading! You can find all the links for following Claire on social media below, as well as links for where you can get your own copy of EVIE’S FIELD DAY

~~~

Claire Noland is the author of easy readers, board books, and picture books for young children. She knows that everyone who reads is a winner and as a children’s librarian, reading specialist, and author, her life’s goal is to excite kids about books and reading. She writes from her home in Central California.

You can follow her on TwitterGoodreadsFacebook, and Instagram.

EVIE’S FIELD DAY is available now from Claire’s local indie book store, Petunia’s Place Books,  through bookshopAmazonB&N, and wherever books are sold.

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HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS Release Day!!

Mar

02, 2020 |

Filed in:

Help Wanted Must Love Books

Woo hoo!! This day has been a long time coming, but it’s here! My first picture book, HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (illustrated by Courtney Dawson) is out in the world! Because it’s such an exciting day, I didn’t want to post just any blog post. Today, you get a Vlog!!

You can read about how this story was born over on Dawn Prochovnic’s blog. So today, I wanted to give you Girlie and Mr. Daddy’s version of what happened that night! So sit back, relax, and listen to this most interesting interview.

 

Hope you enjoyed it! And I hope you enjoy reading HELP WANTED MUST LOVE BOOKS!!

Before I end, a big congratulations to Melanie Mortensen who won the giveaway of a copy of my book, and one book of her choice from one of my fellow Debut Crew members!

~~~

You can purchase HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS on bookshop.org, which helps support local indie bookstores. Or if you don’t have a local indie, you can always find it on Amazon or B&N.

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Computer Animation (& Books!)

Dec

09, 2019 |

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Uncategorized
Today’s the day! I finally get to share an animated page from HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS! But before we go there, let’s talk Computer Animation (& Books! . . . because of course). And I want to start with a story:

Many moons ago, I was at an auction to raise money for some youth camps. One of the offerings was an animated image done by Ira Baker (who happens to be THE GUY who works with Sandra Boynton on her very fabulous videos). Cool right??!

Well, at that time, I did not have a book out. I had a very recent book deal, but for middle grade. I didn’t see how I could use this offering, but my husband is a visionary. Without telling me, he bid on it and won.Ira and I chatted about ways I could use it, but I just didn’t have the right project, and he very kindly let me put it on hold. Fast forward five years (yes, FIVE), and I finally had the perfect images from HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS, my upcoming picture book.

I got permission from my publisher, Capstone, to animate a page, and sent Ira my ideas along with some of the images done by Courtney Dawson, the illustrator.

He was brilliant! 

I think I watched the clip he sent for a good half-hour on repeat. And guess what??! Not only will I be sharing that clip with you, today, but when I learned Ira also does book trailers for other authors, I convinced him to answer some questions about computer animation, book trailers, and more.  

On to the interview! (Like usual, I’m the one in bold green type.)

How did you get started working with computer animation?

I enjoyed animation as a child but never thought it could actually be a career path for me.  However, I was very into making videos which eventually led me to the BYU film department.  While there, I tried to get exposure to all aspects of filmmaking, and even became proficient in 3D animation. I was struck by how I could tell a story all by myself, and that story would be a simpler and “purer” representation of my ideas than I could achieve in live action. After college I went on to have a career as a video editor, but it was my new ability to create imagery through animation that proved to be the most valued skill to my clients. After a few years, I realized that I was rushing through my edits just so I could get to “the fun stuff.” I wondered “why can’t I do the ‘fun stuff’ all the time?” So I made a few tweaks to my career path and became a full-time animator.

I love that you figured it out and made changes. So tell us more about the “fun stuff.” What is your favorite project that you’ve gotten to work on? 

Sandra Boynton’s TYRANNOSAURUS FUNK – Sung by Samuel L. Jackson.

Okay, I may have watched this video two or twenty times. I love Tyrannosaurus Funk so much! Samuel L. Jackson is amazing. His voice!! And wow, Sandra Boynton is a brilliant writer. How cool is it that you’ve worked with Sandra Boynton on so many projects! How did you get that gig?

I worked for a time with a company in Provo called Kaleidoscope Pictures who handled the film production for Franklin Covey. Kaleidoscope wanted to use a song that Sandra had written to illustrate one of the Seven Principles. I was the only person on staff at the time that had any animation experience, so the whole production fell on my shoulders. For one whole gloriously creative month, I lived and breathed 2D animation and became forever enamored with it’s aesthetic and charm. When the animation was finished, we all held our breath and waited for Sandra’s approval. She loved it! After a few years she wanted to do some animated projects herself and she called me up. We’ve been working together ever since.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I think it’s so inspiring to see how giving something your best can lead to opportunities you never could have foreseen. 

So I’d love to know more about the process of making a book trailer. When you work with an author to create a book trailer, how does the collaboration work? Does the author plan it, and then you carry it out? Do you help coordinate the content? Or something totally different? Tell us about it!

Sometimes the author has very specific ideas, sometimes I’m given more free reign to tell the story as I see it. There’s no right way to do it as long as we’re both proud of the end result. The important thing is to keep the author constantly informed of my progress and showing him/her everything as it is finished.

Communication is so important! It makes all the difference. So how much new art do you have to create for a book trailer? 

Usually the animation is based on the book illustrations, because that’s all that exists. I go through a lot of Photoshop work separating the characters from the background and then breaking the characters down into layers that can be individually moved. After that, I rig the characters so they can go through the full range of motions and/or expressions that each scene demands.

I usually approach each illustration as a frozen moment in time and ask myself “what events brought these characters to this exact moment in time?” and “what happens immediately after this moment?” Then I make the characters do what those answers suggest; always trying to infuse as much charm, personality and storytelling into the process. If the author and I disagree, I will make adjustments until the author is happy with the result.

So fascinating! As an author, I ask a lot of those same questions when writing. Story is so important. I love that it’s at the heart of a good book trailer. 

What advice do you have for any future computer animators out there?

There are so many resources available now that I never had! You can take courses online and watch free tutorials on YouTube if the college route is not for you. The secret is to find a story to tell and then start making animation right away! Even if you don’t fully understand the software, you can learn quickly as you go if you are passionate about your ideas. 

Where can authors contact you if they are interested in having you create a book trailer for them?

You can email me at iratheanimator@gmail.com or follow me on instagram @iratheanimator.

Thank you so much for your time! Computer animation is such an interesting field, and I’ve really enjoyed learning more about what you do and especially how it connects to books and stories.

And so, without further ado, here is the page from my book that Ira animated:
Isn’t it so fun! I love how the book flops and the hair bounces. Those details really make it shine! Thank you so much, Ira!
HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS is available for pre-order now!

IndieBound ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Goodreads

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Top Five Halloween Picture Books!

Oct

28, 2019 |

Filed in:

Books

Only three days to Halloween, and I’m in a spooky mood. So today, I want to share my top five Halloween picture books! From creepy to spooky, from silly to plain old fun, Halloween books can delight readers old and young. With the number of great Halloween picture books out there, this list barely scratches the surface, but maybe you’ll find a fun new book to delight your Halloween lovers out there.

On to the list! First up . . .

THE SPOOKY OLD TREE by Stan & Jan Berenstain

In this super fun (and super spare of words) story, three bears get their brave on to explore a spooky old tree. It has the perfect amount of scare factor for both young and old readers.

PLUS, not only is this book fun to listen to, it is fun to read! You can’t help but get out your spooky voice and start making all the sound effects. I so highly recommend this book, you might just have to make a trek to the Himalayas to get it.

 

 

Next up is the super creepy CREEP CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown.

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. He eats them for lunch, he eats them for snacks, he eats them every chance he gets. And his favorite carrots come from Crackenhopper Field. But when Jasper starts seeing carrots everywhere . . . creepy carrots . . . Jasper is no longer a fan, and something must be done.

As an author, I totally wish I would have thought of this. So clever, so fun, and SO CREEPY! The pictures brilliantly capture the dark and creepy atmosphere that such a book requires. Go read this one! You won’t regret it . . . unless you, too, start seeing creepy carrots everywhere!

 

 

EVEN MONSTERS NEED HAIRCUTS by Matthew McElligott is a favorite at our house. Technically, it is not a Halloween book, but it fits right in

Once a month, on the night of the full moon, a young barber sneaks off to his father’s barber shop to follow in his dad’s footsteps. All night long he snips and snaps, buzzes, and gels his client’s hair to perfection.

I love the hilarious ending, and the whole thing is just monstrously clever. I giggle right along with my kids when we read this together. (And I giggle all by myself when I read it just for me!😉) You don’t want to miss this one!

 

 

A fun new favorite is SAMURAI SCARECROWA VERY NINJA HALLOWEEN by Rubin Pingk.

Yukio loves Halloween, and he loves his little sister, but he is tired of her always copying him! From jack-o-lanterns to trick-or-treating routes, his sister is always right there in the way. But when Yukio goes too far, can he make it up to her? Or has he brought on the curse of the Samurai Scarecrow?

I can totally relate to Yukio in this super fun story, but I feel so bad for his little sister. I don’t want to spoil any endings, but this book takes some fun twists and turns, and let’s just say that Yukio definitely learns his lesson. This book was delightfully surprising, and a perfect Halloween book.

 

And of course, no list about spooky books could ever be complete without THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK STARRING LOVABLE, FURRY OLD GROVER by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael J. Smollin.

When Grover learns that there is a monster at the end of the book, he does everything he can to stop the reader from getting to the end of the book. From asking nicely, to building walls, to begging on hands and knees, but a determined reader can be hard to stop. What’s a Grover to do?

This is another one that is technically not a Halloween book. But with a monster at the end of it, how can it not be perfect for such a holiday? My mom read this to me when I was a kid, and I read this to my own kids when they were younger, and sometimes, I read it just because I can. This book is pretty much perfect in my estimation, and if you haven’t read it yet . . . WHY NOT??!

 

Voila! My top five Halloween picture books. Now, how about you? What are your favorite Halloween books?

 

 

 

 

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My Year in Review

Jan

04, 2016 |

Filed in:

Writing

Happy New Year!

With all the Christmas rush, I have been absentee the last couple of weeks, but I didn’t want to miss again. Because this is the time of year where I hold myself accountable for the goals I set at the beginning of last year. And if I don’t hold myself accountable, who will?

So here we go. My goals from last year and my assessment:

1. Write 5 days a week.
I started out well with this, then wow. A big fail on this goal. BUT, if you consider all the non-book-writing things I wrote, perhaps I didn’t do so terribly. That said, I hope to do better this coming year. But I realize that for me, this type of goal will always be a fail, because I hate being tied down. I do much better when I assign myself a project to accomplish, as you’ll see in the next goal . . .

One page of my crazy edits

One page of my crazy edits

2. Finish revising my 2 WIPS (Works in Progress).
WOOT! TOTAL WIN! Granted, I now have more revising to do on WIP #2, BUT I finished 2 other rounds of revisions on it (2 other MAJOR rounds of revision), and this next round won’t be so terrible. WIP #1 is now on submission. *curls up in fetal position*

3. Finish a first draft of a new book.
Okay. Total fail. I just started yesterday. But in my defense, I didn’t expect the majorness of the revisions for WIP #2. Plus I wrote a bonus story for PB&J SOCIETY (hoping you will all love it!), and a bunch of other PB&J-related things. The next book just didn’t happen. However, it is STARTED, so finishing the first draft at the very least is this year’s goal.

4. Write at least two picture books.
Sigh. Nope. I did take a PB class, but I was so busy, I mostly skimmed through it. Turns out that when you have a book contract (which I didn’t have when I made these goals), you suddenly become much busier. While I would like to do this again, I realize debut year will be full of too many other things.

5. Attend at least one writing conference.
And Hooray!! Another accomplished goal! I will definitely be keeping this goal. I am attending LDStorymakers again as an attendee (my husband will be presenting!), and I will be presenting at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI conference in April. So check and check! It really is good to plan a goal that you have already facilitated the accomplishment of.

And there you have it. Not a great showing, to be sure. However, life sometimes mixes things up for you. It is somewhat surreal to realize that last year at this time, I had no idea what was in store for me. I had no idea I was on the verge of signing my first book contract . . . which changed the course of my whole year.

So while I didn’t accomplish all the specific goals I set for myself, I DID accomplish some pretty major things. And I am a firm believer in being flexible. Yes, I could have killed myself to accomplish every one of these goals above, but I feel pretty proud of all I accomplished this past year.

Now it’s your turn. Please tell me what you accomplished this past year so I can celebrate with you! 🙂

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Revealing My Secret and an Interview

Oct

27, 2014 |

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So I have this secret.
 
Okay, maybe it’s not as secret as I like to think. I love picture books. Like LOVE. I check them out at the library by the dozens, and tell myself they’re “for the kids.” Ha! Nope. Definitely for me.
 
But the real secret is that I want to write picture books. I have played at it for years. Studied the greats endlessly. Taken classes at conferences. Paid for critiques by professionals. Even written several ugly drafts of would be stories. But I could tell I had a long way to go.
 
So when my lovely CP (Dee Romito) told me she had signed up for an online picture book writing class called “Making Picture Book Magic,” I was all ears. And then, THEN, she told me it was by one of my favorite author/bloggers (who I also consider a friend), Susanna Leonard Hill. I didn’t even know she had a class! So of course I signed up right away.
 
Her class is so popular, I had to wait a few months to get in, but let me tell you, it blew me away! It’s not even that she told me anything I didn’t already know. But the way she broke everything down into the perfect sized daily lessons was awesome. It felt like I had a friend walking me through the process from start to finish. I felt productive. Capable. Excited to write!
 
And even better, as part of the lessons, there was a facebook group where we could share and discuss with the other participants and get feedback from Susanna (and each other). And let me tell you, the feedback was pure gold. GOLD. And not just the feedback on my work. I learned tons reading the feedback on the others’ work.
 
Honestly, the money I paid for Susanna’s class is the best spent money I have ever put into my writing career.
 
I was so excited by the class, that I asked Susanna if she would be my guest on the blog and answer a few questions. And she said yes! So I welcome Susanna to my blog.
 
Me: When did you begin your Making Picture Book Magic class, and what inspired you to do so?
 
Susanna: I started Making Picture Book Magic in February 2012, after I’d spent the better part of 9 months writing the course, beta testing it, and commissioning art to decorate the lessons and inspire writers.  I got the idea for the class because I do critiques for people on a pretty regular basis, and I found that many of the manuscripts I received from beginning writers were showing similar types of problems.  It got me to thinking that maybe I could offer a class that covered some of the basics.  I wanted the class to be interactive so that people would have the opportunity to ask questions, not just generally about writing, but specifically about the stories they were working on.  I wanted writers to be able to learn from each other as well as from me.  I wanted the class to be affordable, because lots of writers don’t have a lot of money to spend on such things.  I also wanted it to be something the average person could manage in the small amounts of time they could find in their busy life.  So that was my aim.  You’ve taken the class, so you can say if you think I succeeded or not 🙂
 
Me: Yes! You definitely succeeded. I particularly loved being able to ask specific questions about my work. So helpful!
 
So let’s talk about your writing. One of my favorite books of yours is Can’t Sleep Without Sheep. My kids and I (and my husband) were cracking up! I think the cows were my favorite. Where did you get your inspiration for that book? How long did it take you to write it?
 
Susanna: I’m so glad you like Can’t Sleep 🙂  I owe that story to my son and a mattress commercial.  (And yes, I know the main character in the story is a girl, and there are no mattresses to be seen :))  When my son was little, he wasn’t big on sleep.  Every night he’d get in bed and have what he called his “thinking time.”  Many nights, long after I thought he was asleep and had gone to bed myself, he’d come into our room wide awake and full of questions.  “What’s the temperature of the sun?”  “How many teeth does a t-rex have?”  “Where does the wind come from?” To which I would answer knowledgeably, “Uh….”  I’d take him back to bed, tuck him in, and tell him to count sheep, sitting beside him in the dark while he did so until he finally drifted off.  When I got to writing the story, for some reason (maybe so he wouldn’t know I was talking about him :)) I changed the main character to a girl.  But by itself a story about a child with a busy mind who couldn’t fall asleep was not enough.  I had that part rolling around in the back of my mind for a while, unwritten, unfinished, because I knew it needed more.  Then one day, when I was driving the kids to school, a commercial came on the radio.  It said something like, “Tired of counting sheep?  Buy our mattress!”  And I thought to myself, what if instead of getting tired of counting sheep, the sheep got tired of being counted?  And that’s when I finally had a story 🙂  The actual writing only took a few hours, but I’d been thinking about it for ages.
 
Me: It amazes me how much of ‘writing’ is really ‘thinking.’ And I love hearing how a story is born. So fascinating!
 
Seven of your picture books have been published. Have you ever considered dabbling in longer stories? Why or why not?
 
Susanna: I have considered it!  In fact, I have attempted it!  I have 4 completed novels (and by completed I mean I got to “The End” but boy do they need work!) and about 10 others in various stages.  I am the queen of jumping in, writing 30-45 pages, and then realizing I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going.  But I would love to figure it out, so I’m still working on it 🙂

Me: Haha! Sounds familiar. I always feel bad about the unfinished books of mine. Maybe someday I’ll go back. 🙂
 
Through your blog, you began the Perfect Picture Book database a couple of years ago. It is so useful, and I’ve learned of so many great books through it. Can you tell us a little about this, and what inspired you to start it (I seem to be all about inspiration today!)?
 
Susanna: My younger sister-in-law is actually responsible for inspiring Perfect Picture Books.  She asked me a couple different times if I knew of good picture books about one topic or another, and it got me to thinking that there were probably a lot of parents out there who didn’t have the kind of background we writers have in what’s out there for kids to read.  I thought it might be helpful if they had a place to go where they could find excellent, highly recommended picture books on various topics and themes.  Then I thought I could take it a step further (as long as I was doing it anyway :)) and add resources to the reviews so that parents, teachers and homeschoolers could easily find ways to expand on the use of picture books at home and in the classroom.  I knew it would take me a REALLY long time to build up a data base by myself, so I threw it out into the blogosphere to see who might want to do it with me, thereby finding a terrific group of people who show up every week with great picture books to share.  (I have to publicly confess, though, that keeping the list properly updated is a HUGE job and I have fallen woefully behind.  I am working on catching up, but the data base always lags well behind the books that have been done!  If anyone happens to be looking for an unpaid job, call me :))
 
Me: Hmmm . . . I might just be contacting you myself. What a great thing to be a part of!
 
Okay, okay, I’ve taken enough of your time, but I have to throw out a couple of fun ones. First, I have shared many a dessert with you on your blog. What, amongst all your offerings is your very favorite?
 
Susanna: Asking me to choose a favorite dessert is like asking me to choose a favorite child, Janet!  How can you?!  Let’s see…  How about three favorites?  1. Gingerbread with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream.  2. Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.  3. Chocolate mousse cake.  Oh, and brownies with coffee ice cream.  Okay.  That’s it.  Oh, except there’s nothing like a freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookie!  Okay. That’s really it.  Oh, except fresh cider donuts, especially this time of year, which aren’t technically dessert, but really you can eat them any time!   Okay.  I’ll stop.  But now I’m hungry.  What have you got?  It might be a new favorite 🙂

Me: Haha! I do ask the hard-hitting questions, don’t I? And yum. Now you have me drooling. Fresh cider donuts sound amazing right now! Alas, all I have to offer is a bucket or two of Halloween candy.
 
So, on to the most important question of all (I mean, this is ME, you had to know this was coming) what would your personalized license plate be? Or if you’d rather, you can tell us the personalized license plate for one of your characters. Punxatawny Phillis might have quite an interesting one. 🙂
 
Susanna: Oh gosh!  This is a hard one!  I’m not good at these. Maybe WRITRGRL?  Or GHOGSRUL?  Or LUVCHOCL8? 🙂  Maybe you’d better think one up for me!
 
Me: Oh dear. I’m afraid you’ve used too many letters in those plates. You are only allowed 7. 😉 Let me offer some suggestions: PBWRITR; GHOGPWR (Groundhog power); I ROCK; I WRITE or perhaps LVDSSRT (Love Dessert). What do you think?
 
Susanna, thanks again for stopping in! And I hope you all have a great day. 😀
 
Susanna Leonard Hill grew up in New York City with her mom and dad, one sister
and two brothers, and an assortment of cats. Her first published book was The House That Mack Built,
released by Little Simon in 2002. Since then, she has published six more books: Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House, 2005), Taxi! (Little Simon, 2005), No Sword
Fighting In The House (Holiday House, 2007), Not Yet,
Rose (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009), and Airplane Flight! and Freight Train
Trip! (Little Simon, 2009.) Can’t Sleep Without
Sheep, released Fall of 2010 (Walker Books), is illustrated by Mike
Wohnoutka, and Jeff Ebbeler is illustrating April Fools,
Phyllis!, released in 2011 (
Holiday House).

You can find her on her blog a http://www.susannahill.com

 

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My 2011 Reading Habit

Jan

02, 2012 |

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Last year, I didn’t set a goal for a specific number of books to read, but I did set a goal to keep track of what I read. I think I mostly succeeded. Though I might have missed one or two. Anyway, my total?

84 books read in 2011, and here’s the list:
  1.  Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
  2.  Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch
  3.  The Janitor’s Boy by Andrew Clements
  4.  Song of the Lioness: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce 
  5.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Alexie Sherman
  6.  Leaving Fishers by Margaret Petersen Haddix
  7. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
  8. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  9. Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
  10. Ivy’s Ever After by Dawn Lairamore
  11. Judy Moody was in a mood by Megan McDonald
  12. Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
  13. Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar
  14. The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
  15. Crash by Jerry Spinelli
  16. Judy Moody Gets Famous! by Megan McDonald
  17. Judy Moody Saves the World by Megan McDonald
  18. Judy Moody Predicts the Future by Megan McDonald
  19. Crispin: The End of Time by Avi
  20. Revenge of the Snob Squad by Jane Anne Peters
  21. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  22. Judy Moody Declares Independence by Megan McDonald
  23. Children of the Lamp: The Five Fakirs of Faizabad by P.B. Kerr
  24. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
  25. The Thirty-nine Clues: Black Book of Buried Secrets by Rick Riordan et al.
  26. Sabotaged by Margaret Petersen Haddix
  27. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
  28. Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 ½ Days by Megan McDonald
  29. Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: The Glitter Girls and the Big Fake Out by Meg Cabot
  30. Junie B. Jones and the Monkey Business by Barbara Park
  31. Charlie Bones and the Red Knight by Jenna Nimmo
  32. The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck
  33. Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth by Barbara Park
  34. Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying by Barbara Park
  35. Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake by Barbara Park
  36. Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Blast from the Past by Meg Cabot
  37. Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Stage Fright by Meg Cabot
  38. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
  39. Tom Trueheart: The Land of Dark Stories by Ian Beck
  40. In the Hand of the Godess by Tamora Pierce
  41. The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker
  42. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  43. My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison
  44. Possession by Elana Johnson
  45. Junie B. Jones and that Meanie Jim’s Birthday by Barbara Park
  46. The Thirty-nine Clues: Vesper Rising (book 11) by Rick Riordan et al.
  47. Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under her Bed by Barbara Park
  48. Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook by Barbara Park
  49. Junie B. Jones Is a Party Animal by Barbara Park
  50. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  51. The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian by Lloyd Alexander
  52. Wings by E.D. Baker
  53. Junie B. Jones Is a Beauty Shop Guy by Barbara Park
  54. You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
  55. Chronicles of the Red King #1: The Secret Kingdom by Jenny Nimmo
  56. The Thirty-nine Clues: Maze of Bones (book 1) by Rick Riordan
  57. Much Ado About Grubstake by Jean Ferris
  58. Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy by Barbara Park
  59. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
  60. The Missing, Book 4:  Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  61. The Morpheus Road: The Black by D.J. MacHale
  62. Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren by Barbara Park
  63. Junie B. Jones is (almost) a Flower Girl by Barbara Park
  64. Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket Warren by Barbara Park
  65. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  66. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  67. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
  68.  Junie B. Jones is Captain Field Day by Barbara Park
  69. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
  70. Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine by Barbara Park
  71. Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl by Barbara Park
  72. Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at last!) by Barbara Park
  73. Junie B. Jones: Boss of Lunch by Barbara Park
  74. Junie B. Jones: Toothless Wonder by Barbara Park
  75. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
  76. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  77. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
  78. Matched by Ali Condie
  79. Crossed by Ali Condie
  80. What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb
  81. Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb
  82. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  83. Junie B. Jones: One-man Band by Barbara Park
  84. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Fyi, I didn’t record any of the picture books I read. That would have tripled my list or something, but I DEFINITELY count them as books read. 
Also, you might note a large portion of my list is from the Junie B. Jones series. I’d never read it, so I decided to rectify that. For research, of course. 😉
And I didn’t record any of the books I started and didn’t finish. There were a few of those. Still, this is a pretty good representation of my reading habit. Very MG-centric. Perhaps I should diversify a little more this coming year, no?
So how do our tastes compare? Any books you’d recommend for my 2012 reading habit?
P.S.  I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season!

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