Fiction

Winners announced from SLUSH PILE Pass Contest from Blue Whale Press!

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Hello world!

I was amazed by the response we got for the slush pile pass contest with my publisher, Blue Whale Press. So many quality pitches rolled in, and Alayne went through every single one. The winners are posted below, along with a message from Alayne herself. Congrats to all! (Ps you should read them all to learn about strong pitches and get a sneak peek into the mind of an editor.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! What a response. We received so many fantastic pitches. Thank you all for joining in the fun.

Just like with the manuscripts that capture me as acquisitions editor, the first reason these pitches grabbed me is because they struck something in me personally. I mention this because I think it is so important to understand, as writers and illustrators, that the publishing business is subjective. When I say, “struck something in me personally” it might be something as simple as some sort of twinge that makes me feel connected to the story or idea. So, if I get a sense of, for example: curiosity, excitement, funny bone tickling or heartwarming tugs–I will dig deeper. Another reason a pitch might grab me on a personal level is simply my personal interests. But no matter how personal a pitch or manuscript feels to me, when I read on, if there isn’t something more compelling, it will be a pass. So, what does all this mean? It means a pitch has a huge job to do. And this means your manuscript/story has an enormous job to do. It must live up to your pitch! So when your pitch knocks it out of the park, make sure your manuscript can bring the story home 😉

This contest was a true challenge for me because all the pitches offered something. And the ones that ended up being contenders made it almost impossible to choose just one winner. But in the end, I found a clear winner. However, I found a close second, so I am offering a prize for second place. The second-place winner will receive free access to all of my webinars. https://alaynekaychristianauthor.com/webinars I will contact the winners after the holidays with information regarding how to claim your prizes.

I thought it might be helpful to all those who entered the contest to get an idea of why I chose the pitches I chose. So, below is a list of winners, strong contenders, and honorable mentions. Each pitch has a short blurb that explains why the pitch caught my interest.

Congratulations to the winners and to all who entered the contest. You are all winners because you are working to hone your craft. You can never go wrong doing that.

WINNERS

First Place goes to Carrie Karnes-Fannin (yay, you win the free pass with a guaranteed response)

SEEN: THROUGH THE LENS OF MARGARET BOURKE WHITE. (660 word NF PB) Camera-melting heat, dust storms, torpedoes—nothing kept Maggie from capturing a shot, her daring deeds breaking barriers for women as her photos taught us to see the world in a new light.

The title grabbed my attention on this one, but because I didn’t know who Margaret Bourke White is (or was), the real hook was the actual pitch. A picture is painted! Tension is built! A story is told! All in one little 32-word pitch. In addition, once I looked up Margaret Bourke White, I was even more intrigued.

Second place goes to Laurie Carmody (yay, you win free access to Alayne’s webinars)

When the GLOOP GAMES begin, slime molds from around the world blob together to face off in a series of challenges that test single-celled brain and brawn.

This title and simple 27-word pitch offered enough to entice me. It sounds like a great mix of fact and fiction all stirred in with action, possible humor, and fun!

STRONG CONTENDERS

Listed in no particular order.

Brittany Pomales

Mila’s box of memory jars is missing! She must recapture her memories and make a few new ones for her new house to feel like home in MILA’S MEMORY JARS.

I like the idea of a missing memory jar. What a great story problem. And I’m curious how Mila will recapture her memories, but even more, I want to know about her new memories. This one appeals to me not only for the reasons above, but because I imagine it will tug at the heart.

Susie Sawer

After years of being angry about a particular wolf blowing down his house, a MAD LITTLE PIG decides to give the wolf a piece of his mind, but when the truth comes out the pig gets a whole new perspective.

This grabbed my attention because I imagine it might be funny. I’m also very curious about the truth and new perspective. It sounds like a creative spin! And the title is good, too.

Jocelyn Watkinson

Meet Daisy; a very lazy English Bulldog. Lazy Daisy (198 words) chronicles the life of a staunch and sturdy English Bulldog from pup to doggy afterlife, while managing the delicate topic of the passing of a loved family pet. Targeting children from age 2-8, Lazy Daisy warms the heart while pulling on the heartstrings of doggy lovers who too often have to say goodbye to fur babies before they are ready to.

This pitch had me at “pulling on the heartstrings.” I’m curious about how the author turns Daisy’s life into a story that will appeal to children. I imagine it might be an excellent segue to conversation and expressions of feelings or concerns about aging or ill pets, or even loved ones—as well as those who have passed.

Jessica Whipple

ENOUGH- Somewhere between a little and a lot, there is Enough. You have to squint to see it past New and Better, but Enough is always there. Do you know it when you see it? Text is metaphor, proposed imagery is narrative.

This pitch makes me curious. The idea seems unique, and I would like to see what the author has done with the idea and metaphors. And I am curious about the proposed imagery. I believe it is different from most everything we have seen via submissions. I like the title as well.

Carolyn Bennet Fraiser

Ava loves to dance, but Grandma is busy. As Ava explores the old gray house, she discovers a closet full of color and the magic of her own imagination. THE COSTUME CLOSET includes back matter on the history of flowers in ballet.

I like the mix of story and the history of flowers in ballet. And I love the possibilities with a costume closet and the magic of a child’s imagination. I am curious! I also like the title.

Andrew Fairchild

MUSIC OF THE HEART- Oliver, deaf to the music his family makes, fears he’ll never fit in. When Oliver discovers a joyous piano player who nurtures his musical curiosity, Oliver wonders if he’ll learn to play the music he hears in his heart.

I want to know if Oliver learns to play the music he hears in his heart! And I want to know if he ever fits in. I want to know if he learns to play music, how? I imagine this will be a touching story.

Stacey Miller

Punkerella hopes for a Hip, Hop and Happening Ever when Fairy Gig-Mother turns her into a Rock Goddess but her musical dream is smashed to smithereens by the Screeching Stepsisters and she ends up singing the blues.

I love the play on words and the idea. I am curious about this story. I imagine it will be very funny and active, and it may even have a nice darkest-moment heart tug. And if Punkerella ends up singing the blues, I want to know how she turns it around. The title is good as well.

Jenna Aery

On a seemingly routine evening walk, a child unexpectedly befriends the moon, and invites her to tag along on the journey to her Dad’s house. Follow Me, Miss Moon is a 470 word story about a girl, the moon, and their playful adventure up, down, around and through town.

Having watched the moon follow me as both a child and an adult, this story grabbed me on a personal level because it made me feel something. But it also grabbed me on a creative level. I am curious about this (what I imagine to be) very special friendship and adventure. I also suspect it might inspire some wonderful illustrations.

Abbi Lee

These honeybees have an unprecedented and possibly impossible mission: to build honeycomb on the 1984 Space Shuttle Challenger in only seven days… all while relearning to fly in outer space.

This pitch intrigues me. I’m curious how the story is told. Is it from the bees’ perspective? What age group will it appeal to? Is there a protagonist? Or are all the bees the star of the story. I love the tension of “only seven days.” I feel like this may be a unique, informative, and hopefully fun story for kids.

HONORABLE MENTION

Listed in no particular order.

Paulette Sharkey

Parker’s Piano Recital (480 words)- When a ringing cell phone derails Parker during his piano recital, he uses a tip from Mozart, a sparrow’s warble, and a bit of outside-the-box thinking to save his performance.

I’m curious about the “outside-the-box” thinking. And I’m curious about the sparrow’s warble. I’m curious about how this story is told.

Sharon Giltrow

Shopping with Grandma, a story for any child who has ever tried to take a grown-up shopping.

This pitch makes me curious with very few words—17 to be exact. However, I’d like a little taste of what makes this story really magical or unique. Why will it stand out? If it is a “How To” or an “If” book, maybe a few lines from the story. For example, “If you take a grown-up shopping (enter what comes next). I get that some pitch parties don’t give you room to do this. And I understand we need to keep our pitches short, but for a cover letter, just a little bit more might be what hooks.

Lindsey Hobson

OWL BLUES: Hooty the owl feels blue when he thinks about what he is missing during the day, but a feathered friend helps him learn to love his nocturnal roots.

This one sounds like a fiction story with facts built in, so it might be an interesting mix. The title also caught my eye.

Aileen Stewart

The Stray Dog – All through the day Billy thinks he sees his dog, Buster, only to find Buster is actually nearby in each instance; so the next morning, Billy rises early the to catch the mystery creature and ends up being the one surprised.

I’m curious about the mystery creature and the approach the writer takes to present the mystery and the surprise. I feel the title might use some reconsideration, and I’m concerned it may giveaway the surprise ending. But then again, one never knows.

Roxanne Troup

COUNTDOWN TO SPACE, a “faction” PB inspired by NASA’s commitment to put the first woman on the moon.

The idea of this story attracted me because of my interest in the space program, and because I am a woman. But it is not clear who will struggle in this story—the woman or NASA, or both? I feel like I need a little more info.

Megan Lukas

DINO WEEK! 385 wc- As the week goes on, Lizzy sees the city in a whole new Jurassic way, as cranes turn to apatosauruses, her pigtails turn to horns…. and is that a bald gentleman or a pachycephalasaurus reading the paper on the subway?

This seems like an illustrator’s dream and visual candy for children, not to mention expanding their imagination. My imagination is taking off just from reading the pitch. I’m curious if the author is able to make this great idea a purposeful story vs being an episodic story. I think given the excellent idea, it might be worthwhile to brainstorm a title that is just as powerful.

TeacherWriterAcker

Quick to shell out kind words to others but slow to believe in himself, Boxford, an eastern box turtle, mistakenly befriends kindness rocks and discovers the encouragement he needs to take his tiny legs on a big adventure.

This pitch and idea make me curious, and sometimes that’s all it takes. The idea of a turtle accidentally befriending kindness rocks, makes me think this will be a touching and thought provoking story. And then I wonder about the big adventure and where it leads.

Sharon J Wilson

It is just after WW2 and some children in Berlin have never tasted candy. Enter The Chocolate Bomber from the USAF. Parachutes made from handkerchiefs float the airmen’s sweets ration into eager hands. I am in touch with Gail Halverson and he has checked my ms for accuracy. Nonfiction.

This is a pitch that struck me personally—the reason will be revealed in a moment. The only reason I couldn’t fully consider this pitch and ended up placing it under “honorable mention” is because I’m working on a story from the perspective of a German child recipient of the drops. I felt to read the manuscript would be a conflict of interest. My German-born-and-raised friend who says, “Hunger hurts” and can’t stand to see food wasted shared his story at Thanksgiving dinner last year. I was so touched by it. But back to the pitch. . . . I love that the author of this pitch has been in touch with the “Berlin Candy Bomber” himself and that he checked it for accuracy. You go! I may never get my story out there. But I believe this author will get hers out there. I encourage you, Sharon, to continue submitting and pitching this story.

Happy holidays to all!

 

Win a Free SLUSH PILE Pass from Blue Whale Press!

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Hello world!

You’re in for a treat! I interviewed my most recent publisher, Blue Whale Press and got to chatting with Alayne Christian, content development and acquisitions editor, as well as co-owner. Here’s what her publishing house is up to, what they’ve published, and what projects are in the pipeline.

But here’s the best part: You can WIN A FREE SLUSH PILE pass! That’s right, one lucky winner will avoid the slush pile and get a VIP directly-to-the-front of line invitation to submit to Blue Whale Press. All you have to do is comment on this blog with a ONE line pitch detailing your story. Contest ends December 20, 2019. Good luck!

****Contest ended now****

 

Lydia: Please tell us about your recent, current and forthcoming books.

Alayne: Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of ground to cover! I’m so excited about our 2019 books, and we have a lot of top-notch books coming in 2020 as well. I hope my answer doesn’t overwhelm readers. But before I move on, I want to thank you, Lydia, for inviting me to be interviewed for your blog.

BOOKS RELEASED IN 2019

NO BEARS ALLOWED

By Lydia Lukidis (Congratulations, Lydia!) and illustrated by Tara J. Hannon is a multifaceted story. Please see Amazon reviews to read about the various messages that people have found in this very special book. It has so many layers and beautiful messages—all hidden inside a seemingly simple and classic story about a rabbit and a bear.

Rabbit is afraid of many things, but most of all he’s afraid of gigantic, monstery, BEARS! The very nervous Rabbit is soon confronted by his worst fear who appears to be far more interested in making new friends than causing Rabbit any real harm. Despite his apprehension, Rabbit agrees to join his jovial new acquaintance for dinner, but wait a minute . . . is Bear planning to “have” Rabbit for dinner? In this tender story about a very nervous rabbit and a lovable bear, Rabbit discovers that things aren’t always as scary as they seem, and sometimes you may just have more in common with others than you think.

“As Rabbit gets to know one real Bear, he discovers the roots of prejudice and changes his mind about generalizations. . . These excellent revelations encourage kids to face their fears and think about not just the reality of danger, but different personalities and choices involved in interacting with the world with notions that don’t stem from personal experience” —D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET

Porcupette and Moppet by Nadine Poper and illustrated by Alicia Young is an educational and funny story about a baby porcupine and a fisher.

Porcupette loves to spend days alone in the quiet forest reading. But when Moppet, a bumbling predator, comes along with his silly antics and non-stop rambling, Porcupette’s sanctuary is turned topsy-turvy. When Moppet finally makes his move, they both get a big surprise that suggests Moppet should read more, and Porcupette should listen more carefully. Alicia Young’s delightful art brings even more life and humor to Nadine Poper’s fun and educational story about a porcupine, a fisher, and their natural relationship in the wild.

Porcupette and Moppet was featured in the November 2019 issue of Kirkus Reviews magazine. Here is the link for the full Kirkus review. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/nadine-poper/porcupette-and-moppet/

“A fine lesson in differences, predators and prey, and the value of information. . . . Highly recommended both for its leisure value and its pointed insights about different personalities and creatures, Porcupette and Moppet is a lovely picture book that promises lasting attraction and interest to parents and library collections alike.” —D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

RANDALL AND RANDALL

Randall and Randall, also by Nadine Poper, is also funny and educational, but it has heart as well. Polina Gortaman’s art is a feast for eyes—young and old.

Randall, the pistol shrimp, is a master at excavation. Randall, the goby fish, is his skittish, yet happy-go-lucky watchman. The problem is that both have quirks that drive each other bananas until one day their relationship is driven to the breaking point. This very funny informational-fiction story about one of the sea’s naturally-existent odd couples illustrates how certain species depend upon their symbiotic relationship for survival. It also shows children how two very different beings can embrace each other’s peculiarities and become best of friends.

With a foreword written by Dr. John E. Randall, senior ichthyologist emeritus, Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, Randall and Randall received the prestigious Kirkus Review Blue Star. It has been featured in Kirkus Reveiws magazine twice and was one of their books of the month in November. Here is the link for the full Kirkus review https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/nadine-poper/randall-and-randall/

WHO WILL? WILL YOU?

Who Will? Will You? by Sarah Hoppe, and illustrated by Milanka Reardon, is another picture book that educates.

Lottie makes an unusual discovery while beachcombing one day. She’s found a pup, but it’s not your ordinary pup. Lottie quickly decides that she needs help. “Who will care for this little lost pup?” she asks along the beach. “Will you care for this little lost pup?” But no one wants her pup. Just when she is ready to give up, Lottie finds the perfect person to take care of her very special find. Children are kept guessing throughout this beautifully illustrated story what kind of creature Lottie has found while they learn about nature’s different kinds of pups along the way. This title was also featured in the Kirkus Reviews Magazine.

“A beautifully illustrated tale that’s sure to appeal to animal lovers and budding environmentalists. . . . Reardon’s realistic pastel-and-ink illustrations, populated with humans with a variety of skin tones, do an excellent job of hiding the identity of the pup and showing the adults’ shocked expressions.” —Kirkus Reviews

BOOKS COMING IN 2020

A HORN IS BORN by Bill Borders, and illustrated by Melizza Chernov

Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of musicians in a backstage room, Shoehorn has nothing to do but slide stocking feet into shoes, and life is dull. But he knows he is destined for something greater—something that will rival the group’s trio of bullies: Trumpet, Trombone, and Flute. Shoehorn takes their bullying in stride and refuses to let those blowhards dent his pride. He waits patiently for his big break until one day, with a twist of fate, Shoehorn saves the day and shines brighter than the best-in-the-band.

MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON, written and illustrated by Laurie Smollett Kutscera

Twelve-year-old Alex was taught illusion by the best. Misadventures of a Magician’s Son tells the story of Alexander Finn’s personal journey dealing with the death of his father, a celebrated magician, and the extraordinary gift he left behind. Uprooted from his childhood home for the seemingly hokey town of Orchard, Maine, Alex refuses to unpack and wants nothing to do with his new surroundings. But when he discovers an unusual deck of animated cards tucked in the back of his father’s old desk, things begin to unravel and Alex’s true adventure begins.

OLD MAN and HIS PENGUIN: How Joao Pereira de Souza Became an Honorary Penguin by Alayne Kay Christian and illustrated by Milanka Reardon

Based on a true story, Joao and Dindim make an odd pair—an old man and a young Magellanic penguin. But Joao loves Dindim, and Dindim loves Joao. They are family. When Joao rescues a lifeless, oil-covered penguin and nurses him back to health, the penguin adopts Joao as an honorary penguin. The steadfast friends do everything together. But there are real penguins somewhere across the sea. So Dindim leaves Joao. Village people tell Joao the penguin will never come back. Joao cannot say if he will or will not until . . . he does, again and again.

A TRAIN A MOOSE AND A MESS by Joan Sloane and illustrated by Mary Beth Benton

ALL ABOARD! A ringmaster is anxious to find his next great act. But when his circus train is forced to make an emergency stop for a moose asleep on the tracks, he must use his whistle to wake it. The moose doesn’t flinch, but the travel-weary animals on board mistake the familiar sound for their cue to leave. A rollicking chain of events follow in their path and an unexpected star is born.

SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY: COWBOY TROUBLE by Alayne Kay Christian, and illustrated by Blake Marsee

Aunt Rose is getting married, and guess who she’s asked to be her flower girl. Sienna’s sadder than a coyote without a howl. “I’d look mighty silly in a dress. I’d trip over my own feet in them fancy shoes. And I ain’t much good at manners neither.” Ma signs Sienna up for cowgirl charm school where Sienna discovers she’s even worse at being elegant than she thought she’d be. To make matters worse, Billy Bob and his band of bullies see Sienna in her charm school clothes and raise a ruckus. Maybe Sienna can teach those cowboys a thing or two about manners and poise. But can she learn enough at charm school to walk down the aisle without embarrassing herself and Aunt Rose?

UNTIL WATER MAKES MUD by Janie Reinart and illustrated by Morgan Taylor

When war forces two sisters to flee their home in South Sudan with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, Big Sister strives to help Little Sister smile again at the refugee settlement. But as quickly as Little Sister’s smile appears, it disappears: that is until water makes mud. In the end, Big Sister’s artistry and kindness brings hope to their situation. This title is a tribute to the resourcefulness of children who have no toys, but continue to play and is dedicated to the 200,000 refugee children living at the Bidibidi settlement in Uganda.

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: The Mostly True Story of the Toledo Christmas Weed by Alayne Kay Christian and illustrated by Polina Gortman

The story of a small gesture that turned into a phenomenon that was seen around the world. Partly truth and partly fiction, based on the inspiring true story of how the Toledo Christmas Weed helped spread the giving spirit far beyond its traffic-island home. All Weed wants is to be seen, but people are in too much of a hurry to notice each other, let alone Weed. Weed watches, wishes, and waits until finally someone does see it. But Weed discovers that there is something far bigger and more important than a little weed being noticed.

YOUR NURSERY IS AN EVERYWHERE by Carol Bullman and illustrated by Maureen McAfee

Having a baby opens up the world in so many ways, but it also closes it off in the sweetest of ways. “It seems, inside this little room, the walls are fading clear, and all the beauty in the world, is shining on us here.” In this beautifully written and illustrated book, a mother and baby savor the coziness of “now” in the nursery while the mother has expansive dreams for her baby’s future. The wall fades away, and the magical dreams come alive before readers’ eyes!

Lydia: You’re a published writer yourself, so what made you create your own publishing house?

Alayne: I’m sorry, but this is another long story 😉 Early in my writing career, I had written a picture book titled Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa, and my husband Steve, who is experienced in starting businesses and operating them, decided that he would start a publishing company and publish it himself. After finding an illustrator, he contracted a designer, multiple editors and an intellectual property rights lawyer, and Blue Whale Press was born. Unfortunately or fortunately, his career took a sudden upturn combined with a corporate relocation, and he decided to put Blue Whale Press on hold for a while. My decision to find a new home for Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Trying to Make it Rain just happened to coincide with his retirement from the corporate world, and he invited Sienna to Blue Whale Press. That’s when his old passion and dream reignited. He suggested that we would make a fantastic team in restarting Blue Whale Press. I thought about it, and he was right. Everything that my career path has resulted in has led me straight to Blue Whale Press. Our family enterprise combines Steve’s business savvy with my knowledge of children’s book writing, critiquing, and editing—and my desire to help aspiring writers and illustrators. We opened our doors to submissions and discovered some spectacular stories and talent. Our catalog is growing, and Sienna now has lots of good company.

Lydia: What are the challenges of running a small press?

Alayne: There are many challenges, but there are also many rewards. I believe we have published some outstanding, and what really should be award-winning, books. So, for me, the hardest pill to swallow as a small publisher is not being able to get seen and recognized. We are like the tiniest fish in a very large pond. Places that support larger publishing houses won’t give us the time of day. For example, it seems getting a review from some of the top reviewers isn’t possible, regardless how much a book stands out or how good it is. Small independent publishers seem to be lumped in with self-publishing. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a good place for publishers like us. I really wish good small publishers could be recognized as “real” publishing houses. Thank goodness, SCBWI has recognized us and Kirkus Reviews and Midwest reviews have both provided honest reviews that recognize many Blue Whale Press books for the exceptional works they are.

Lydia: What do you love the most about your work at Blue Whale Press?

Alayne: I love discovering the gems in the submission process. I really enjoy being creative director. But more than anything, I love making authors’ and illustrators’ dreams come true. To see their story come to life and make their way out into the world can bring tears for me. And then when we get some sort of recognition, such as the Kirkus Reviews Blue Star for Randall and Randall, it’s icing on the cake for authors and illustrators. So, I’m tickled to death when I get to share that kind of news.

Lydia: What is on your current manuscript wish list?

Alayne: Bill Borders, author of our 2020 picture book A Horn is Born, recently came up with a fun way to describe, some of our books. Randall and Randall, Porcupette and Moppet, and Who Will? Will You? all fit his word for it. He calls them “Functional” books. “Fictional, yes, but full of fun facts,” he says. We’ve been calling them informational fiction. I think someone once coined the term faction. Nevertheless, we seem to like these fictional stories that also educate. But they still need to have great arcs along with humor or heart, and unique characters never hurt.

We want unique stories that stand out from all the rest. Believe it or not, this is hard to find. We seem to gravitate toward humor, but we would love some stories that tug at the heartstrings, but again, in a unique standout way. We like stories that make us smile, laugh, or cry. The writing and character voices in all of our stories stand out. And they each have an arc that provides tension and lots of page-turners that make me absolutely have to know what is going to happen next. Now, having said all of that, we do have a few books that have subtle arcs, but they are so lovely and touching a subtle arc is all that these stories require. I also enjoy books that paint pictures with their words.

The best thing I can suggest is to read the Blue Whale Press books, and you will get a feel for what we are attracted to. We’ve learned that people who want to read our books have good luck getting them in their library by asking the librarian for them.

Lydia: What are the DOs and DON’Ts of query letters?

Alayne: I personally don’t concern myself with the query letter that much in our submission process. I don’t read the query letter before the manuscript because I believe it influences my experience of reading the manuscript for the first time. I want the story to speak for itself. If I like what I see in the story, I will read the query to learn more about the person who wrote the story. I will also sometimes refer to the query letter if I’m not “getting” the story or if I am confused about something in the story. This is usually not a good sign because it’s often an indication that the story needs more work. But once in a great while, gaining a little more understanding of what the author’s intention is sheds new light that pays off.

Even though, this is my process, I feel a query letter should still be well written.

I don’t get overly sensitive about things, such as whom the letter is addressed to. I have received letters addressed to agents or editors that have nothing to do with Blue Whale Press. Even that doesn’t bother me. However, there are plenty of agents and editors who might reject the submission for that.

This isn’t really “query letter” related, but I will say that one thing that bothers me more than anything is when it is very clear that the person has not read the submission guidelines or did not read them carefully. When we receive submissions outside of our submission window, it seems to me that the person didn’t bother to read our submissions page. When we get attachments instead of stories pasted in the body of the email, it is clear to me that the person either didn’t read the guidelines at all or did not pay close enough attention. It is super hard for me to ignore submissions with attachments or submissions sent outside of the submission window. But I have started doing so because I believe it is unfair to those who have taken the time to read the guidelines and respect what we have worked so hard to provide to anyone who would like to submit.

Again, this isn’t really about the query “letter” but don’t submit every story you have ever written in one submission.  Our guidelines clearly state “However, there are many reasons for rejections, so feel free to submit other manuscripts during open submission periods only, but no sooner than one month following your previous submission.” Still, I have received as many as forty (yes, you read that right: forty!) stories in one submission. That is worst case, of course. But it is not uncommon to receive more than one story from an author within the same one-month submission window.

So, my number one advice isn’t as much about query letters as it is about READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES CAREFULLY (no matter who you are submitting to) and then follow them carefully.

When it comes to query letters, I wouldn’t do it nearly the same justice by giving my two cents as I would by providing the following KidLit411 link. The “all about query letters” resource list is excellent!

http://www.kidlit411.com/2014/01/query-letters.html

Lydia: What are your favorite kidlit books that have inspired and mentored you as a writer?

Alayne: This is a question that I always find impossible to answer. And I really don’t like answering it when there is a possibility that authors will be reading this interview. It’s like giving a speech at an award show and forgetting to mention your spouse 😉 I admire so many authors for such huge variety of reasons. I mean, when you consider there are over fifteen picture book story structures, and then you throw in fiction vs nonfiction and rhyme vs prose and on and on, the world is our oyster when it comes to mentor texts and inspiration. Of course, I have my favorite authors, and I have some books that I admire more than others. I started to list some of my favorite authors and books, and I found myself going down that rabbit hole of “wait” but then there is this book or this author. I would have to write a whole book to cover them all. And then I would still feel like I left someone out.

I will say that early in my kid lit writing career, Tammi Sauer’s books were responsible for my long sought out understanding of story and character arcs. And I use her books to teach other writers about arc.

I will never miss an opportunity to suggest that any of our Blue Whale Press books would make excellent mentor texts. If they weren’t good examples to study, they would not have made their way through our acquisitions process.

I won’t leave people hanging though, when it comes to finding good mentor texts. For those looking for mentor texts, I recommend following Reading for Research and join their Reading for Research month here is a link to their site http://www.reforemo.com/.

Also Susanna Leonard Hill offers a list of titles by theme on her blog https://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/. In addition, if you go to her website you can follow Perfect Picture Book Friday entries all year long.

Here is a good article on the Reading for Research site that leads to some nice lists by category.

http://www.reforemo.com/2019/07/using-reforemo-lists-to-find-comp-titles.html?fbclid=IwAR0ZSjKcx1LhfazIdZiiVXgMBXeDFI247EDjFlNgpE4uR4srkLZyLIZtKsI

Bio for Blue Whale Press

Blue Whale Press is an independent publisher of children’s books who focuses on stories involving themes of friendship and/or personal challenge. Most often, stories are selected for publishing due to their inherent educational or moral value. But as a general rule, a good dose of humor or heartstring tugging doesn’t hurt their chances of being published either. While the vast majority of Blue Whale Press’s current and upcoming titles are picture books, there are a couple of chapter books thrown in the mix. As a boutique publisher who doesn’t mind taking risks, Blue Whale Press considers itself to be a launch pad for authors and illustrators hoping to establish themselves. To learn more about Blue Whale Press please visit www.bluewhalepress.com.

A Picture Book Giveaway!

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Dear world:

With the holidays right around the corner, I’m happy to do a giveaway of my latest picture book No Bears Allowed! The book, published by Blue Whale Press, was officially released on July 1 and has been on a whirlwind of a blog tour ever since. Please see links below. No Bears Allowed also received a 5 star rating from Reader’s Favorite, which was an honor.

Please click HERE to access the Rafflecopter giveaway link.

It only takes a few minutes to enter! Contest ends December 17, 2019, US residents only please.

April 29, 2019 – Melissa Stoller

May 29, 2019 – GROG

May 30, 2019 – Kirsti Call review on Goodreads

June 4, 2019 – Jedlie’s Reading with your Kids podcast

June 6, 2019 – Tara Lazar 

June 7, 2019 – Alayne Christian

June 10, 2019 – Genesis Potentia 

June 10. 2019 – Medium

June 15, 2019 – Helen Ishmurzin

June 18, 2019 – The Story Behind the Story by Lynne Marie

June 20, 2019 – Writing and Illustrating 

June 21, 2019 – Perfect Picture Book Friday by Vivian Kirkfield

July 12, 2019 – Perfect Picture Book Friday by Jilanne Hoffman 

July 22, 2019 – Five Fun Facts

August 13, 2019 – ReFoReMo

August 19, 2019 – Books & the Bear

August 23, 2019 – Picture Book Spotlight

September 23, 2019 – Beth Stillborn

September 26, 2019 – Two BookWorms review

September 27, 2019 – Readers’ Favorite 5 star review

October 1, 2019 – Let’s Write! 

October 7, 2019 – Two BookWorms interview

October 14, 2019 – Pick a Good Book 

October 18, 2019 – Author Spotlight on Kidlit 411

 

A BEARY fun Children’s Book Launch!

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Hello world!

We all know how slow the publishing industry can be, and how difficult it is to get published. So when that dream actually comes true, it’s time to celebrate!

My new picture book NO BEARS ALLOWED was published on July 1 this past summer, but it’s been a long, winding journey to get there. The initial idea came to me in 2012, and I wrote the book a year after that. A few agents and a slew of rejection letters later, Blue Whale Press acquired the book!

So now it’s time to celebrate. I’ll be hosting a fun family event, where I’ll be reading and signing my book and offering a free puppet making workshop. Plus I’ll be making delicious cupcakes!

Details are below. Hope to see some of you there!

Author Melissa Stoller on What it Takes to be Published

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome my friend and multi-book author Melissa Stoller. Her debut picture books SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH and READY, SET, GORILLA! were published by Clear Fork Publishing/Spork. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Melissa is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Oct 18, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
My debut picture books were published in 2018! First, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, illustrated by Sandie Sonke, and then READY, SET, GORILLA!, illustrated by Sandy Steen Bartholomew.
Callie Metler-Smith, publisher at Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, loved SCARLET and GORILLA when I first pitched them. I was so lucky that Mira Reisberg came on board as the art director/editor for both books. And when the illustrators signed on, we knew we had two #DreamTeams.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Inspiration can be found around every corner! I was inspired to write READY, SET, GORILLA! after seeing a billboard in New York City that stated, “Ready, Set, Go.” I thought that it would be cute if a mischievous gorilla said, “Ready, Set, GOrilla!” instead. And I was inspired to write SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH when standing in front of a Monet painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where I live. Staring at the Monet, I wondered what it would be like to paint with a magic paintbrush. I try to find inspiration wherever I am, and I always keep my eyes and mind open for ideas.

Please share some of your writing process.
My writing process is very iterative. I like to brainstorm, work on a first draft, and then craft lots of revisions. Also, I enjoy working on several projects at the same time. When I hit a roadblock on one project, I put it aside and move to the next. And usually, when I return to the first project, I can work out the kinks and move the story along.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In my previous careers, including lawyer and career counselor, I always enjoyed research and writing. When my older daughter was born, I decided to try writing for children. I also worked as a freelance writer/editor at this time and published many parenting articles as well as a parent resource book about organizing a family book club. It took a long time until my first children’s book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (a time travel adventure chapter book) was finally published in 2017. I celebrated that amazing moment!

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m so excited that I have two new books releasing in 2020: RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (illustrated by Lisa Goldberg). Both are releasing from Clear Fork Publishing. These stories are so close to my heart. I can’t wait to see the final versions of the artwork – both illustrators are bringing extra magic to the process.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I always love anything written by Judy Blume! And one of my favorite picture books now is Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro. I love the heart and unique voice. Plus, it’s about a book club. My own adult book club just celebrated 20 years together, and we’re still going strong!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
One piece of advice I can offer to other writers is: “Write from your heart. There are children out there just waiting to read your stories. Keep creating!”

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Oh that’s a fun question! I’m actually a huge frozen yogurt fan and my favorite flavor from Pinkberry is pomegranate/original swirl with blueberries on top! It’s such a sweet treat!

BIO
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2020); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). Upcoming picture books include Return of the Magic Paintbrush and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at Temple Shaaray Tefila, and a past Trustee at The Hewitt School. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.

Social Media:
www.MelissaStoller.com
www.MelissaStoller.com/blog
http://www.facebook.com/MelissaStoller
http://www.twitter.com/melissastoller
http://www.instagram.com/Melissa_Stoller
http://www.pinterest.com/melissa_stoller

Author Cecily Cline Walton on Diversity and Kidlit

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author-illustrator Cecily Cline Walton who wrote the picture book The Beauty of My Skin published by 13th and Joan Publishing. She explains her journey below.

But first, Cecily is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, click HERE.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I wrote this book over 15 years ago while working as an Assistant Director of a Child Development Center in New Jersey.  Initially I submitted the manuscript to several Big Publishing Companies that had a market for Picture Books.  I was turned down by all of them so I tucked the manuscript away for a few years.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Growing up with my older sister people would always ask if we were biological siblings because are skin tones were completely different.  It was extremely annoying and hurtful that people would assume that we did not have the same parents since my sister’s skin was darker than mine.  When I became pregnant with twins I was curiously thinking which one of us would they favor the most, what would their skin look like since I am much lighter than my husband’s complexion.

Please share some of your writing process.
The words came easy to put together because it is such a short picture book.  I wanted to make sure the illustrations matched perfectly to the descriptions.  Fortunately, my illustrator Alyssa Liles-Amponsah was able to capture the beautiful tones that I imagined.  We worked together matching each painting to the correct page.  She was purposeful about making sure we showed different variations of the parents on the pages.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I am not sure when I realized I wanted to become a writer but I’ve always been a voracious reader and enjoyed bringing books into my classroom when I was a Pre-Kindergarten teacher.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am planning to release another short picture book in the same format before challenging myself by going for a YA novel.  I choose to write this book because I want all child of color to see themselves represented in stories that they read at home, in school or while walking up and down the aisle of a bookstore.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
My two favorite children’s books are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archmabault,  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange.  I love the simplicity and easy rhyme of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  It flows like a smooth song.  Ezra Jack Keats was a brilliant author.  The illustrations are pure and simple.  They make you want to jump in the page and play in the snow along with Peter.   I am fascinated with the book Ellington Was Not a Street because it brings to light the names of wonderful men who are so important to the frame work of the African American Community, not to mention that illustrator Kardir Nelson brings to life that time period on every page.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
My advice to any writer is just “Keep Going”.  Whether you are self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher just “Keep Pushing”.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Butter Pecan – Smooth, Salty and Sweet all together

BIO
Cecily Cline Walton resides with her family between her hometown of Atlanta, Ga and Winston-Salem, NC. She loves reading books from all genres and surrounding herself with the beauty of purple tulips.  She and her three children enjoy visiting different beaches around the world, going to the movies and baking their favorite desserts.

Social Media:
**Instagram—  purpletulipscreations
**Twitter- @ClineCecily
**Facebook-  Cecily Cline Walton Children’s Book Author
Where to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Beauty-Skin-Cecily-Cline-Walton/dp/1732471266

Author Beth Stilborn Interviews Me!

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Hello world!

Today, author Beth Stilborn interviewed me about my new book NO BEARS ALLOWED with illustrations by Tara J. Hannon, published by Blue Whale Press. Check out her awesome questions below:

BETH: Lydia, I know you’ve done several interviews already, and there are links to those below that I will urge my readers to check out, so I’ll try to ask new and fresh things. I’ll try, anyway! What was it about this rabbit and bear that made you take the leap of faith to strike out into new waters after doing so many work-for-hire projects?

LYDIA:  Actually, it was the other way around. My first trade picture book came out in 2014, and the second, in 2016. For these projects, I wrote narratives about a character created by the publishing house. After those experiences, I was inspired to write my own stories and wrote a slew of books. I learned about the industry and set out to publish them. I spent a few years with the wrong agents (two in total) and accumulated dozens of rejection letters for each book. At the time, making a living off my books wasn’t viable, so I also gave writing workshops in elementary schools and I turned to work-for-hire as a way to supplement my income. I have come to love both these aspects of my job and still do them today, in addition to working on my own books.

BETH: Ah. Thank you for the clarification. Can you give us a quick recap of NO BEARS ALLOWED (without revealing too much!) and tell us what your favorite part is, and why?

LYDIA: NO BEARS ALLOWED, like a lot of my work, is character driven. It’s all about Rabbit, who’s afraid of everything, including his own shadow. His biggest fear is, lo and behold, bears. And wouldn’t you know it, one day on his way to fetch carrots for his daily stew, he comes face to face with a …bear! The themes of confronting ones fears and not judging others permeate the story.

BETH: This definitely sounds like my kind of book! What sort of adjustments, if any, have you had to make to your thought processes and your book-launch processes for this book?

LYDIA: Every book and subsequent launch is a different entity, so I treat them all individually. The audience for this book is 3-6 years old, ideally, so I’ll tailor my book launch to suit them, and offer some carrot cupcakes, a free puppet making workshop and other fun elements.

BETH: Yum. Carrot cupcakes! I know you’re Canadian, as am I (waves across the miles). Has that made a difference in your process and progress as a writer?

LYDIA: Not really, though you would think it would. I don’t think most agents or publishers mind where you’re from, so long as they love your work.

BETH: That’s good news! The subject of fears and overcoming them, which is paramount in your book, is a subject that is dear to my heart. What do you hope kids will take away from your book in terms of their fears?

LYDIA: The takeaway is to learn to step out of your comfort zone. If you never try, you’ll never know who you really are or what you’re capable of. I hope this book encourages, even in a small way, children to look at their fears critically and learn to somehow overcome them. At the end of my book, Rabbit realizes that bears aren’t so bad, after all. Children may also feel like way about their own fears that have been built up in their minds.

BETH: Great message. That’s one that adults could use these days, too! This segues into the other takeaways you hope for your book, and the needs you see in our society that we as writers can help to address. I know having empathy for others is important to you. Can you talk about that? How do you weave that into your stories without being didactic or message-driven?

LYDIA: I wanted the book to cultivate empathy, since this is such a critical skill to have, especially today. It’s really about learning to see things from another person’s point of view. As Rabbit lets down his walls and allows Bear into his world, they slowly develop an unlikely friendship. Rabbit learns to become empathetic towards what he previously saw as a scary enemy. The end result is him learning to not judge others and make assumptions about them. These are lessons we could all benefit from.

Regarding not being didactic, this was a work in progress! My earlier works have been ridiculously didactic and message-fueled, and I learned through those mistakes. I came to realize that children are intelligent, and don’t need messages banged over their heads, so to speak. They much prefer an enchanting narrative, and you can weave your themes throughout that narrative.

BETH: Great point, that kids don’t need messages banged over their heads. It’s important for those of us who are writers to remember that. Books are important tools, but not in that way. That leads me to wonder what are some of the key roles of books for kids in our society, in your view? How do you hope NO BEARS ALLOWED fulfils those roles? How would you encourage other writers to work with those roles in their own books?

LYDIA: I think books are critical for many reasons. Here are a just few of them:

-books ignite one’s imagination

-books broaden one’s horizons

-books help us understand ourselves, as well as each other

-books help us find our place in this world

I hope NO BEARS ALLOWED fulfills these roles, it was certainly my intention. I think the best advice is to focus on your audience, and really understand them. What would they like to hear? And what do they need to hear about? If you keep everything child-centric, it will flow organically.

BETH: That is a perfect mini-course in what is important in writing for kids, right there. Thank you. Is there anything you’d like to add?

LYDIA: Being a writer is a wonderful journey, but it’s filled with ups and downs. I’m grateful to have found a way to build a career on telling stories and reaching children. I’m especially grateful to Steve Kemp and Alayne Christian from Blue Whale Press for seeing the magic in NO BEARS ALLOWED, and to Tara J. Hannon for agreeing to illustrate it.

BETH: And we’re grateful to Steve, Alayne, Tara, and YOU for making this book come into being. Thank you again, Lydia, for being with us today, and for your thoughtful, insightful answers.

Thanks so much, Beth!

Publisher links:

Book trailer on Alayne Kay Christian’s blog

For more information on Blue Whale Press

Links to other recent interviews:

GROG blog

Jed Doherty’s “Reading With Your Kids”

Laura Sassi’s blog

Melissa Stoller’s blog

Tara Lazar’s blog