Author Kirsten Larson: From NASA to STEM Kidlit

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author (and my friend) Kirsten W. Larson. Trust me, this woman is going to make her mark in the world of kidlit. Jois us as she discusses her new book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE published by Calkins Creek. 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I first researched and wrote WOOD, WIRE, WINGS in March 2014 as part of Susanna Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic” class, so it took almost six years from first draft to published book. For two years, I revised with my critique group and in response to agent and editor feedback at conferences and from queries. In February 2016, I queried agents with the book and signed with my agent, Lara Perkins of ABLA, soon thereafter. This was the first manuscript we sent out. My editor, Carolyn Yoder, asked for an R&R (revise and resubmit) before offering in February 2017. After that, there were still two more rounds of revision. So my takeaway: The publishing process, especially for picture books, is slow.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts inspired this book. The name of Lilian Todd and a note that she was the first female airplane designer appeared in one of David’s illustrations. Though I’d lived and worked around airplanes my whole life, I’d never heard of Lilian. Neither had my husband, who’s a test pilot and aviation history buff. I knew Lilian’s story was one I needed to tell.

Please share some of your writing process.
My writing process has evolved quite a bit since WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, but for each book my research process is similar. I start with secondary sources and read widely about the person and/or time period I’m tackling. Secondary sources provide needed context for primary sources and also point the way to primary sources through endnotes and bibliographies. I typically have both a file box for books, copies of print sources, and drafts. But I also create a file in Evernote for electronic sources. I use the Evernote web clipper to clip journal and newspaper articles, online letters and diary entries, etc.

When I feel like I’m starting to see the same information over and over again, it’s time to write. Normally I start with a timeline or what I call my “kitchen sink draft,” which has all the names, dates, and details that probably won’t appear in the final draft. Then I can let all specifics go and be more creative with my structure, storytelling, and voice. I also carefully consider what must be said with words and what can appear in the illustrations.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, and my interest and experience has mostly been nonfiction, specifically journalism. I wrote a newsletter filled with articles about  my family when I was in high school. It included breaking news about birthday parties and trips to the dentist. In college I was a reporter and editor at the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and wrote for two different newspapers in my hometown. I also interned at NASA as a college student, working in the public relations department. (We call it Public Affairs at government agencies). That’s the career field I eventually went into. I didn’t turn to writing picture books until I had two children who devoured nonfiction children’s books about space, weather, and everything else imaginable. Reading those books, I realized I could write them and would probably have a blast doing it.

How did working at NASA influence your writing?
Working at NASA Public Affairs, I considered myself a translator for technical information. My job was to work with the news media providing the information they needed to inform the general public about NASA’s work. That often involved “translating” technical talk and engineer-speak into everyday language when writing press releases and newsletter articles, for example. This was great practice for writing STEM-based picture books where I often read journals and talk with experts. Working at NASA also influenced the subject matter of my first two picture books, which focus on women in aviation and astronomy.

Why do you write nonfiction?
I write primarily to satisfy my own curiosity. Whenever I tackle a new subject, it’s an excuse to become an expert in that field. If I can write a children’s book about the topic, then I know I truly understand the material myself.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have two more forthcoming nonfiction picture books, only one of which is announced. THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars are Made Of, is being illustrated by Katherine Roy and will be published by Chronicle Books. I continue to research and write nonfiction picture books but have also tackled graphic novels, another favorite genre. I’m revising a Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales-type graphic novel that marries history with fictional elements.

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’m a huge fan of mentor texts, and the books I use are tailored to each project. For WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I had Debbie Levy’s I DISSENT (illus. Elizabeth Baddeley, Simon & Schuster, 2016) by my side. That book really showed me how to provide just enough historical context in an interesting way. One of my favorites from childhood was THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, a Little Golden Book featuring Grover, by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin (1971). It’s such a perfect example of strong page turns propelling the story forward and a surprising ending. I still have a copy.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Because of the nature of publishing, I think the best thing we can do for our work is to enjoy the journey. We must make sure each book is the story we want to tell, even if it never sells. Finally, there are always people who can help us tell the story better, whether it’s a critique partner, an agent, an editor or an illustrator. Being able to really revise and reimagine a story in response feedback is perhaps the greatest skill a creator can have.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’m a big fan of pistachio gelato, which I learned to make in Italy.

BIO
Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020) and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Kirsten lives near Los Angeles with her husband, lhasa-poo, and two curious kids. Her house is filled with LEGOs, laughter, and lots of books!

Social Media
Website: www.kirsten –w-larson.com
Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest: @KirstenWLarson
Facebook: @KirstenLarsonWrites

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

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Yay! It’s the 7th edition of Multicultural Children’s Book Day! A quick word about this wonderful initiate:

“Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries. Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom have teamed up to create an ambitious — and much needed — national event. On January 27th five years ago, Jump into a Book and PragmaticMom created the first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.”

Click HERE to find out more information.

I’m participating in a few different ways this year. A few bloggers will review my book A Real Live Pet.

Book synopsis

JJ’s little sister, Nala, loves her pet stick. But JJ wants a real pet for his birthday. So when he catches a frog at the pond, he’ll do anything to keep it―but will his parents let him?
Kane Press’s Science Solves It! series merges fiction and science in storylines that intrigue youngsters and encourage them to observe, investigate, predict, and experiment! Young readers ages 5–8 will be inspired by the relatable characters in each story as they solve kid-sized mysteries and dilemmas.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Real-Live-Pet-Nonliving-Science/dp/1635920094

I also have the pleasure of reviewing two diverse books to honor Multicultural Children’s Book Day, so let’s get to that!

Book 1

The School Science Competition by Avril O’Reilly

Book synopsis

Uh oh. We have a problem. Mum and Dad want to go for a romantic dinner but who will look after Bekki the Fairy? Bekki’s naughty magic spells have frightened away most of the babysitters. Mikita the science student and physics genius agrees to help but she has a lot of homework to do. Is Bekki going to have a very boring night or can she use her magic to brighten up the evening? Those poor baby-sitters. All they want to do is get on with their science projects.

At the back of the book is a real-life scientist, Mumbi, who makes products for black hair. The baby-sitters all do STEM subjects and would love to be scientists like her when they grow up. What a cool job!

My Honest Review

(this book was gifted to me and the opinions expressed are my own)

Bekki the Fairy is helpful. Or at least, she tries to be. That’s what makes her character so endearing and charming. I had a good laugh reading about how she scared away almost all the babysitters, until Mikita came along. I appreciate having strong female characters who are smart, and well versed in subjects such as science and physics. Little girls, especially from a diverse background, should be reading books with positive role models. As Mikita tries to fix her science invention, Bekki tries to help. I like the way science facts are peppered through the story without it being too preachy or “educational” in tone. This is a great example of informational fiction, where kids can learn about various concepts such as what particles are. I also enjoyed the illustrations, which were photos of the characters in real time. Very original!

Author quote

“I wanted to make books for the kids in London who I felt did not have any books with girls on the cover who looked like them.”

-Avril O’Reilly

Avril’s Social Media

https://twitter.com/Avrilfrances

https://www.facebook.com/AvrilsStorybooks/

 

 

Book 2

This is the Earth, by Deedee Cummings, illustrated by Charlene Mosley

Book synopsis

A recent Purple Dragonfly Award First Place winner, Cummings uses bold and bright illustrations in This is the Earth  to share a message of peace, love, respect, compassion, and inclusion. Published in early 2019, the book’s core message is this: peace is meant for all of us and it is everyone’s responsibility to care for each other like the family that we are.

This vibrant diverse picture book encourages people of all backgrounds to unite together and create a force of peace and respect for all instead of viewing their part of the world as a secluded island. Kids and adults will love the lyrical message and thoughtful artwork that reinforces the fact that every human being is our neighbor and part of a larger family.{ages 2 and up}

My Honest Review

(this book was gifted to me and the opinions expressed are my own)

The book This is the Earth begins with a poignant quote:

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

What a beautiful planet we live on, yet discrimination and prejudice still run rampant. This is the Earth celebrates each individual, while respecting diversity. It’s okay to be different, is one of its central message. In fact, we should celebrate our differences. At the same time, we need to be cognisant of the earth we stand on each day, and give our respect to Mother Nature.

The book is filled with charming rhyming passages, simple enough for very young ones to understand. The message is positive and one that’s instilled in harmony. At the end, the author discusses the various notions of peace and encourages the reader to discover what peace can mean for them. A great read to share with the family!

Author quote

“My hope for This is the Earth is that it will spark conversations in schools and day cares, around dinner tables and during bedtimes,” Cummings noted. “These conversations can include discussions about why it has been so hard for humans to exist on the same planet together and how we can change that. I hope children read the story, look at the pictures, and are able to feel peace. My hope is that This is the Earth also helps readers of all ages understand that feeling ‘at peace’ and learning about each other with an open mind is a better way to go through life.”

-Deedee Cummings

Author Bio

Deedee Cummings is a veteran author of 11 diverse picture books and CEO of Make A Way Media. She is also a long-time MCBD Sponsor and a (for the second year!) is our exclusives SUPER PLATINUM SPONSOR for MCBD2020. The book she is focusing on this year is the multi-award-winning This is the Earth.

Deedee’s Social Media

https://deedeecummings.com/

https://twitter.com/AuthorDeedeeC

Author Annette Whipple on Creating Compelling Nonfiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Annette Whipple as she discusses her new book, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. It’s nonfiction, which I love!

  1. Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

Oh, it’s been a long journey! The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide began with the idea in 2014. In 2016 I had an offer from Chicago Review Press, but we put the contract on hold until I received all the permissions needed from the Little House people. We moved to contract in 2018. I turned in the manuscript in May 2019. It’ll be published in July!

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

Of course Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were my biggest inspiration. There’d be no book without them. However, I got the idea for the companion guide when I was reading Roar!: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia. My kids loved it and so did I.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

I read each the Little House books a few times and took notes in a chart I created. I noted the plot and events, people, food, and activity ideas that I might want to include in my book. I also noted words that might be included in my book as pioneer terms.
In The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, I help the reader understand the Little House story and especially the complicated history at that time. All of that took a lot of research! One of my favorite features are the “Fact or Fiction?” sidebars. My kids and I got hands-on experimenting for the 75 recipes, crafts, and activities included!
For those interested, I wrote an entire blog post last year about the writing for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. https://www.wildercompanion.com/2019/03/manuscript-process.html

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was well into my thirties before I realized I love to write. In 2009, I began blogging to share with family about my daughter’s progress overcoming a speech disorder. Soon I realized I wanted to share with a larger audience and began a new blog. After a few years I took a few writing classes and wrote a few magazine articles. And then I attended my first writing conference in 2015.

  1. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide is my sixth nonfiction book. I plan to keep writing for children, especially nonfiction because facts are fun. (That’s something I emphasize during my author visits as well as professional development workshops for teachers.) In the fall Reycraft Books plans to publish my book (tentatively titled) Whooo Knew?: Discover Owls. I’m thrilled Reycraft plans to illustrate the picture book with photographs. I also have another book under contract, but I can’t talk about that one yet! I can tell you it’s about some important people in American and world history.

6. Please share your favourite 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?

Obviously, I think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are full of inspiration for good storytelling. But Little Women by Louisa May Alcott strikes me differently every time I read it (which is just about every year). Terrific Tongues by Maria Gianferrari is a picture book that I’d love to use as a mentor text—though I haven’t yet. It’s fun and full of great facts.

  1. What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Every writer needs a good critique partner (or two or a group) they can depend upon. It’s best if they have experience writing in your genre.

Here’s a quote I find inspiring: “I write alone, but I depend on others to help me write well.”

Here are two posts I’ve written about the value of feedback.
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/01/writing-success-is-art-part-1.html
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/09/the-value-of-feedback-for-writers.html

And a bonus question just for kicks!
If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Ha! Maybe pecan. The pecans add just a bit of nuttiness to the vanilla…a perfect combination!

BIO
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. She’s the author of five published books. In 2020, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and Whooo Knew? Discover Owls (Reycraft Books) will be published. When she’s not reading or writing, you might find Annette snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies with her family in Pennsylvania. She explores the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder at WilderCompanion.com. Learn more about Annette’s books and presentations at AnnetteWhipple.com.

Social Media:
Book Link: https://amzn.to/2R3QPiD
Also, about the book:  https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/11/the-laura-ingalls-wilder-companion.html and
https://www.annettewhipple.com/
https://www.wildercompanion.com/
https://www.facebook.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks
https://www.facebook.com/LittleHouseCompanion/
https://twitter.com/AnnetteWhipple
https://www.instagram.com/annettewhipplebooks/
https://www.pinterest.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks/

A Nonfiction (and free) Festival!

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Attention all nonfiction writers! Whether you’re a newbie or experienced in the world of nonfiction, this new festival is a must-attend. You can participate from the comfort of your home. Plus, it’s absolutely free!

What is it? Here’s a snippet from the NF Fest website, https://www.nffest.com/

About NF Fest

NF Fest, organized by the Nonfiction Chicks in February, is a month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children. Participants will learn the craft from 29 authors and others in NF publishing through daily posts. Daily activities will get you writing and researching in small steps. It’s all free, and there will be prizes!

Join our NF Fest Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/NFFest/ for updates and discussion. You can also sign up for email notifications in the sidebar of this blog so you don’t miss a post. We hope you’ll join us in 2020 for this fun and educational event!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s organized a group of veteran nonfiction writers who are ready to share their knowledge with you.

Who are they?

Pat Miller
Linda Skeers
Lisa Amstutz
Nancy Churnin
Peggy Thomas
Stephanie Bearce
Susie Kralovansky

You can read up on them here:
https://www.nffest.com/p/meet-nf-chicks.html

This year’s bloggers will include:
Karen Blumenthal/Candace Fleming
Beth Anderson
Carla McClafferty
Melissa Stewart
Heidi Stemple
Barb Kramer
Sophia Gholz
Nancy Turminelly
Donna Bowman
Mary Kay Carson
Traci Sorrell
Cynthia Levinson
Jen Bryant
Jill Esbaum
Kerry McManus, Marketing Director
Don Tate
Meeg Pincus
Lisa Schnell
Susannah Deevers
Vivian Kirkfield
Kelly Halls
Stacey Graham, agent
Bethany Hegedus
Alice Duncan
Rob Sanders
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Chris Mihaly
Steve Swinburne

Registration begins TODAY and will go on until January 31, 2020.
Click HERE to register.

See you there!

Lydia

Author Tim Wynne-Jones on Creating Thrilling YA

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Tim Wynne-Jones as he discusses her new book, The Starlight Chain and its journey to publication. And oh, did I mention Tim is also a fellow Canadian? 🙂

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

The Starlight Claim is a weird kind of sequel to a novel called The Maestro, that came out way back in 1995. For ages, kids have asked me what happened to Burl, the protagonist of that book – and what happened to his horrible abusive father! I always meant to write a sequel but when I finally got around to it, Burl would have been old enough in real years to have a sixteen-year-old son of his own and I decided that would be more interesting. I could giver old fans the answer they wanted but set out on a whole new adventure.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

By now, I’m not at all sure what my writing process is. After 37 books, I’d have to say my process changes as the story requires it to. Kind of like the way we try to parent our kids the best way we know how but have to make allowances for their differences. At best, I like to write a first draft as quickly as I can. That way, I get to find out what’s going to happen! I’ve never been much good at outlining; I write to discover. I want to be as excited as the reader when I turn the page. It’s great idea, in theory, but it means you sometimes take a whole lot of wrong turns along the way.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Only when the door to my dreams of being an architect was slammed shut in my face. I failed out of third-year architecture and ended up as lead singer in a Toronto bar band. I started writing songs; the songs got longer; eventually they had chapters!

  1. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have a middle-grade novel almost finished, but the last part has proved obdurate. Grrr. Even after so many books and so many years, a story doesn’t always go smoothly. After that, who knows. I don’t feel I’m ready to hang up my hat but I look around and hear so many exciting new voices clamoring to be heard and I think, it’s somebody else’s turn. So I don’t have the same drive as I did twenty or even ten years ago, but I’m not ready to stop dead. I guess what it comes down to is that I’ll only want to throw myself into a project that feels so right I can’t resist putting my whole heart into it. Which is kind of what it’s always been like…

  1. Please share your favourite 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?

This is a hard one. I read all the time and pick up valuable tips, along the way. You never stop learning to be a better writer. I love A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. I love the cleanness of the writing, the humour. You’d be hard-pressed to find even a hint of Milne’s influence on my work. Or John Le Carré’s either. Or Barbara Kingsolver’s, for that matter. I wish! Probably my favourite book of the last few decades is Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, as well as the other two books in the series His Dark Materials. The inspiration I get from those books and many others is the desire to write as well as I can. To write to open up. To write to surprise. To write to discover something that matters.  

  1. What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Write the book you need to write. We all learn to write from emulation, but at some point, there is a story only you can tell. Write that.

BIO
Tim Wynne-Jones has written 37 books for people of all ages. He has won The Governor General’s Award twice and been short-listed six times. He has also won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award twice, the Arthur Ellis Award of the Crime Writers of Canada, twice, and, once upon a time, the Edgar Award presented by the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tim_wj
Website: http://www.timwynne-jones.com/
Blog: https://theresalwaysdinner.home.blog/

The Top 12 Author quotes from 2019

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Hello world-

I interviewed a host of talented authors in 2019:

And at the end of the year, I put together a list of the top 12 quotes to inspire, teach, and support other authors. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

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!

 

Author Jeanne Moran on Writing Historical Fiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jeanne Moran as she discusses her new book, The Path Divided, and its journey to publication.

But first, YAY! Jeanne is generously giving away two FREE copies of her book, one in print, the other in eBook form. To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a blog comment below. (US residents only, ends Jan 1, 2020)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The Path Divided is the sequel I didn’t plan to write. Seriously, who wants to research and write a second novel set in Nazi Germany? After Risking Exposure was published, I was ready to move on to more pleasant subject matter. And I did, for a little while.
Then, (I tell you this in full trust that you won’t call the men in the white coats) I awoke in the middle of the night with a grouchy old man’s voice in my head. Without knowing who he was, I stumbled to the computer and documented his words. About five hundred words into his dictation, I realized he was an unrepentant Nazi. After another five hundred words, I recognized him as the antagonist from Risking Exposure, but six decades older. The seed for The Path Divided was sown.
I wouldn’t write about an old, unrepentant Nazi without a counterbalance of someone with decent morals and behavior. When I revisited the character of his more noble sister and found her still in 1938 (I’m not a time traveler, just a writer,) her story grew also. The Path Divided weaves together her historical narrative with his more contemporary one.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My novels were born of my curiosity and my ignorance. Books about Nazi Germany tend to focus on the war and the horrors inflicted on Nazi targets. They’re typically told by either the regime’s victims or the WWII victors.
Enter my curiosity. As a second-generation American of German descent, I wondered about the German experience. If my grandparents hadn’t emigrated, my parents would have grown up in Germany during the Nazi era. Their school curriculum would have been Nazi-designed and approved. They would have been members of Hitler Youth, as was the law. They would have been bombarded with the regime’s version of news through government-controlled media. Perhaps they would have been caught up in the fervor of a torchlight parade or an enormous rally.
I knew the Nazis were good at brainwashing their citizens; they spewed propaganda into German minds for six years before war broke out. But I wondered—what if a regular teenage German thought for herself? What if she was headstrong and independent and refused to go along with the crowd? Those ‘what if’ questions pushed me on.

Please share some of your writing process.
I typically start with a character and spend some time getting to know that character and her world before I write anything. I try to understand what she wants and why she wants it. I jot down ideas—settings, events, secondary characters, etc.
The writing itself tends to be in fits and starts as a scene takes shape in my mind. Don’t tell my English teachers this, but I don’t start by writing the opening scene. Gasp! I write scenes out of order, and I always write the ending before I write the beginning. Also, I avoid heavy edits until the entire first draft is finished.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was one of those kids who wrote stories and stuck them under the bed, but in my adult life, I worked as a pediatric physical therapist. We therapists ask children to do exercise that’s really hard, and the kids on my caseload struggled to participate. All that changed when I embedded the needed exercise into a story. The kids were no longer lifting a weight, they were raising their sword to defend against pirates! They weren’t walking to increase endurance, they were explorers on a jungle safari! Their cooperation (and their motor skills) soared.
Time and again, I was struck by story’s power to transform. I knew I had to do more of that, and I’m delighted to do so still.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
While I won’t discount the possibility of writing more historical fiction (I love research,) I’m delighted to say all the Nazis are out of my head! I’m currently writing a funny middle grade chapter book series tentatively called The Companion Finders. In it, a prank-loving Friendship Fairy must team up with the self-absorbed Fairy of Love to find human companions for the world’s loneliest creatures: Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, and Jack Frost.

Please share your favourite 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 love character-driven kidlit, and a classic favorite of mine is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. When I read it as a kid, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m crying about a spider!” and when I read it again as an adult, I was again touched to the core. The characters of Charlotte, Wilbur, and Fern still ring with authenticity. A more contemporary favorite is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. The unique voice and delightful character of Suzy were so well drawn that I actually missed her after I closed the book.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
When the reader truly experiences a story, that story becomes part of their understanding of the world.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Banana ice cream with chocolate coated almonds swirled through. Why? Because the color yellow brightens everything, the almonds swirled in because I’m a bit scattered and nutty, and the chocolate because, hello, it’s chocolate!

BIO
In my career as a pediatric physical therapist, I helped hundreds of children gain strength and motor skills. That left me spare time (ha!) to teach Sunday School, direct an after-school program, organize an international student-athlete exchange, and plan a new community playground. Along the way, I learned a bit about tang soo do and sudoku, tap dancing and German, whole foods cooking and the joy of selling on eBay. Anything to avoid cleaning!
I write fiction and creative non-fiction for young and young-minded readers surrounded inspirational quotes, vinyl records, countless books, and innumerable dust bunnies.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JmoranAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeannemoranauthor
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jeannemoran.author/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu5e32rKDY2CPkkIv8ZH_Q

To purchase book:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KGHFQLH
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-path-divided-jeanne-moran/1130061077?ean=9781987019278
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781728729152

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