Halloweensie 2019 : Franken’s Potion Notion

It’s as much a part of fall for me as mild temps and rainy days. (Because that’s what it looks like in South Louisiana.) I’m so excited that it’s finally time for Susanna Hill’s 9th Annual Halloweensie writing contest!

halloweensie-pumpkin

Read on and you’ll find the contest rules and my first every rhyming entry! (At least I think, it’s hard to keep track.) Featured Image courtesy of iStock Photo.

Good luck to everyone participating! Happy Halloween!! 

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words potion, cobweb, and trick.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂

Franken’s Potion Notion

Little Franken had the notion,

To make Mummy’s secret potion.

For his neighbor Mrs. Sweet,

To give her during trick-or-treat.

 

Franken guessed she wasn’t well.

He hadn’t seen her in a spell.

It always helped when he was sick.

He hoped for her, it’d do the trick.

 

He walked next door and knocked three times,

Then pressed and heard the door bell chime.

But he found cobwebs, stacks of mail

And empty, knocked down garbage pails.

 

So, he ran home. He told his mom.

She didn’t panic. She stayed calm

“There’s a simple explanation

Mrs. Sweet is …on vacation!”

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk, Heather Gale!

This month, I’m thrilled to share my conversation with another incredible debut author, Heather Gale.  I invite you to read along as Heather and I talk about her incredible and timely non-fiction picture book HO’ONANI HULA WARRIOR. Everything about this book is as wonderful and inspiring as the foodspiration you’ll find at the end of the interview! Yep, I just dropped a teaser there! Read on to learn about this book’s unexpected path to publication (and a STARRED REVIEW!) 


Welcome, Heather! Before we get started, can I get you something to drink? 
Oh, thanks so much, Jennifer. I’d love my favorite if you have it – fresh mint leaves in hot water! And if you have a fresh slice of ginger that’s a great combination too.

Of course, coming right up! That sounds wonderfully refreshing, in a warm and cozy kind of way. I’ll have one too! Since we have some creative wiggle-room here, I’ll get fresh mint leaves from my imaginary herb garden. (Also since we’re imagining things, I’m pretending its not 90 degrees outside; such is fall in the south.)

Reading your bio, it mentions you fell in love with your family telling stories on long car trips. What kind of stories did you all love the most? Was there ever a recurring theme or character? Yes, we had both. When we were younger most of our characters were farm animals and my brother usually added a stinky smell to his. And, except for the storyteller, all of us had to hold our breath until he declared the smell gone. On hindsight, we must have all cheated. Once we moved to a haunted house, we were a little older and our stories expanded. As you can imagine, with four brothers we used to try and out-scare each other.

I carried on the story telling tradition with my sons, with some changes, mostly because we no longer lived in a small town or a scary house. We took turns so no one else knew where or when each chapter would end. And some stories had an ever-lasting feel with many of them returning for a new series and extra characters.

I love everything about this! I never considered myself a ‘story teller’ but everything changed when I had kids of my own. Amazing things happen when you give them a blank to fill in with their own imagination. I could go on, but back to the book! You had a very unusual journey to publication with the idea stemming from a documentary. How did you channel all of the information and inspiration into a picture book manuscript? You’re so right, this isn’t a traditional debut journey, but I loved every moment of it. I respected Joe Wilson and Dean Hammer’s authenticity in A Place in the Middle and wanted that same feeling woven through the story for kids to also sense. I also wanted multiple layers of culture, society, families, and respect.

Then, I needed three escalating obstacles. Once those were in place, it was time to dig deeper for the emotions. I watched the documentary over and over again, picking up character traits and facial expressions. That’s when I put pen to paper and started my draft.
 

I can see why Ho’onani’s story spoke to you, it’s so timely and important. I have a daughter and two sons and we speak often about authenticity and acceptance. (We also talk frequently about the importance of supporting each other as siblings, which is another great lesson from the story.)

I have a favorite question to ask non-fiction writers… What’s your favorite nugget of information that didn’t make it into the book? One of my biggest nuggets was Kumu Hina’s all-important role in the story. As a Mahu herself, Kumu Hina understood Ho’onani’s predicament more than anyone at school. In the documentary A Place in the Middle she reminded the troupe of their strengths, encouraging them through honesty and respect. So, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to find Mika Song’s illustrations exemplified Kumu Hina’s integrity.

I would like to include a link to Kumu Hina’s Ted Talk for your readers. Here Kumu Hina discusses the inner turmoil of her journey. You will gain an understanding and appreciation for what it was like for Kumu Hina to be Mahu, a person in the middle, neither male or, female but both.  Watch the video here!

What a wonderful treasure to share! And yes, Mika Song’s art is equal parts powerful and peaceful. Can we talk a little about your experience collaborating with her? I know you had a mental image of what the characters should look like, but what was it like when you saw them on paper? I was fortunate to be part of Mika’s process from the beginning so there are three parts to this. When I saw Mika’s early sketches, I knew in that instant, her heart was in the story as much as mine. Ho'onani parentsThen, when I saw the watercolors and had the chance to study each person’s face I knew Mika had enjoyed illustrating this story as much as I had writing it. And as I opened my first copy of the book I wept. The illustrations were more than I had ever dreamed they could have been. My kids filmed the grand opening and I couldn’t see the pages – the illustrations were swimming before me!

What I adore most in the illustrations are the details. How Ho’onani’s parents hold hands on the first page to her determination as she faced the crowd, her biggest obstacle, to the last page showing the person Ho’onani knew she always was.

In the spirit of honesty, I cry every time I read this book. (All good tears!) The refrain, “Strong, sure and steady,” shows up a few times and is one of my favorite parts of the story. Was it always written that way in your manuscript or did it evolve during the revision process? Strong, sure and steady were in the manuscript from the beginning and they represent the three qualities I admired in Ho’onani as a person. She is a strong character who stands by her beliefs. She is sure about her place as a Mahu and steady, never wavering from her decisions or commitments.

Do you have an agent or did you negotiate this contract yourself?
I negotiated this contract myself but it probably helped that I knew what I wanted and needed. For example, from the beginning I promised the producers of A Place in the Middle that, should I ever sell this story, they would remain part of the process.
Penguin Random House’s contract was straight forward and whenever I had a question, my editor, Samantha Swenson, found the answer.

Do you have marketing plans now that your book is finally out in the wild? I do! My publicist, Samantha Devotta, at Tundra Books and I have brainstormed many ideas. She’s been wonderful, always there for any marketing ideas I send along. So far, I’m booking interviews, library Story Time for kids and school visits.

And I have to ask, you live in Canada (SO FAR from the islands), but you grew up in New Zealand. I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed anyone who lived on such opposite ends of the world! Where is your favorite place on the planet? I have so many favorite places it’s hard to choose one, however, I love Portugal as the lifestyle reminds me of NZ, taking the dogs day down the bush ravines in Toronto reminds me of NZ, and while at the cottage on the lake . . . yup you guessed it, I’m reminded of NZ.

Do you have anything else coming down the pipe? Where can my readers find/follow you on social media? I’m working on several manuscripts right now, one which is submitted to a conference for this October. It’s another non-fiction picture book based on a true story about an autistic boy who learns through string how to overcome exclusion because he is different.

Heather-head-shotI’m easily found on Twitter & FaceBook! And if any of you are interested in food, I blog for fun at Whole Food Studio, find me on Instagram & Pinterest

Also, For readers who are interested in exploring more behind Ho’onani: Hula Warrior, I’d like to add a link to the documentary A Place in the Middle.

There is so much goodness right there, I don’t even know where to start! Maybe check out her gorgeous food photos, find inspiration for a snack, then settle in with the documentary! Thanks so much for being here, Heather! I can’t wait to watch the rest of the world love Ho’onani! 

There are few things I love as much as celebrating picture books and the success of my kidlit friends! I hope you love this book as much as I do.

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Let’s Talk, Shannon Stocker!

Things might appear quiet on the blog front, but I’ve been having the best conversations over the past few weeks. I’m so glad it’s finally time so share one with you!  Today, Shannon Stocker and I talk about her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY? I’m sure you’ve seen the hype for this precious book, and let me tell you it absolutely lives up to it! Get to know a little bit more about the girl behind the rhyme, then grab a copy for your own shelves. You’ll be so glad you did!

Shannon, it’s so great having you here! I would be remis if I didn’t let my southern hospitality shine though so, before we get started, can I get you something to drink? 

I love this question! It depends on the day. At home, I typically drink tea in the mornings. When I’m on vacation, I like coffee with a splash of Godiva White and Bailey’s. I’ll drink water throughout the day, and then I might have a glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail in the evening—depends on my mood. I’ve been in Kentucky long enough now that bourbon is often my go-to!

So many good choices! Since we’re celebrating, how about a cold beer for each of us! It’s blisteringly hot down here and that’s about as refreshing as it gets at the end of the day! (But for anyone reading this before 5pm, we’re drinking lemon water 😉) You’ve had quite an interesting road to writing children’s books! Was there a moment when you thought “THIS is what I want to do?”

Oh my gosh, yes. Many moments, actually! I’ve always been drawn to children and writing, but it took me a while to land on picture books. In med school, I did most of my electives in pediatrics or some pediatric sub-specialty. I’ve always known I wanted to do something with children. But I’ve also always been creative. Throughout my adult life including during med school, I played gigs and wrote songs (though I always felt more skilled at writing lyrics than melodies). Toward the end of medical school, I became sick and battled Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy for seven years. During that time, music was my only creative outlet.

When I got better and had children, I discovered picture books for the first time in my life. With every book that I read to my children, I thought, “Man—I would LOVE to do this for a living.” That desire nagged at me for six or seven years before I finally decided to try my hand seriously at writing them. The big moment really came in the summer of 2015, I guess. For years, my husband and I both traveled for our jobs, which became harder as our children got older. I tried to work part-time, but the travel expectations were still too much for our family. Since I had this dream of becoming a writer, we both agreed that our family would be better off if I quit my job to stay home with the kids and pursue my passion.

 On your website, you describe reading picture books as Magic. I completely agree! It’s my favorite form of magic.  What were your favorite books to read aloud to your kiddos? Do they get to hear your manuscripts before the rest of the world does?

Yes, for sure! My kids love hearing my manuscripts, though I think they’re often more disappointed than I am when something doesn’t immediately sell. I have a few manuscripts that they ask about repeatedly, so I hope they’ll sell one day. My son’s favorite picture books are THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES (BJ Novak), THE INVISIBLE STRING (Patrice Karst), THE KISSING HAND (Audrey Penn), and honestly, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (my debut–I’ve caught Tye reading the pdf on my computer several times). He also loves DRAWN TOGETHER (Minh Lê/Dan Santat) and THE DOT (Peter Reynolds) he’s artistic, so he adores any picture book about drawing. My daughter loves anything by Deborah Underwood (INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA and BRAVE are special to her). She’s also very interested in nonfiction picture books right now. She loves nature and animals, so JOAN PROCTER DRAGON DOCTOR (Patricia Valdez/Felicita Sala) was a favorite. I know that’s more than two or three—sorry!

 Many of our most-read books are on that list! One of my favorite interviews to date was with Patricia Valdez. (Read it here!) Writing picture books is a unique undertaking in that there is equal emphasis placed on quality AND quantity of manuscripts. Where did this one fall in order of manuscripts you’ve written?

Although this was only the second manuscript I’d ever written, I believed in the concept from the moment it first hit me, right as I was falling asleep. I told my husband it would be my debut the next morning when he woke up. I wrote several other manuscripts over the course of the next year, but I kept coming back to this one. I got some champagne rejections from agents, a nibble from an editor, and a great reaction from classmates in an online class, all of which encouraged me to keep revising. The word play, the rhythm, the story…I just loved everything about it, and I couldn’t find anything like it out there. I truly believed in it from Word One.

There is so much to love about it! Going back to one of your earlier answers, I think many of us have found writing picture books as a second or third career. But, I’m sure the population of physicians-turned-picture-book-writers is small, and the number of those who write in rhyme even smaller. You are definitely a rare breed! How did you discover this gift?

I’ve always thought of myself as a musician/writer more than anything. Even when I was in medical school, I often brought my guitar with me when I was on call in case, I needed a break or we had a slow night. I have dozens of journals filled with lyrics and poems, since I started writing as a teenager—the musicality and rhythm of language has always called to me. I love thinking of different ways to say the same thing with an eye on meter, alliteration, assonance, and other poetic devices. So, when I had children and fell in love with picture books, rhyming felt natural.

 At my second SCBWI conference, an editor critiqued CAN U SAVE THE DAY. She gave me tons of feedback including the suggestion that I should consider writing the story in prose, since so many people don’t accept rhyme. “Of all the things I’ve suggested, what do you think would be the most difficult change to make?” she asked. I remember feeling like she’d asked a trick question, but I decided to answer honestly. 

“I think changing from rhyme to prose.” I remember the sideways look on her face as she considered me. “Is that because the rhyme is important to you in this story?” “It is. I think I could change the setting, the problem, the stakes…anything else. But the rhyme…to me, it adds so much to the story. It’s not superfluous and it doesn’t take away.” She nodded. “Then ignore me,” she said. “If the rhyme is important to you, then stay true to yourself and keep it. You’re a good rhymer. It’s just not something I do.” I think that critique buoyed me. It was almost as if someone in the industry had given me permission to break this unspoken “don’t rhyme” rule. I’m very grateful to her.

As an aspiring author, one of the hardest things can be to stay true to yourself and your stories! Major kudos to you for doing this with U! Next question: Do you have an agent or did you negotiate this contract yourself?

I did sign with someone while CAN U SAVE THE DAY was in Acquisitions, but I sold it and negotiated the contract on my own. That agent and I ended up parting ways and I was solo for almost two years before signing with my current agent, Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio. Just as with any break-up, it hurts to “divorce” your agent. More than anything, I think I learned to trust my gut. Honest, open communication is so important, and I knew I needed that as a foundation for any relationship moving forward. I feel very fortunate to be with Allison—she’s a great match for me. Before I signed with her, though, I also learned the importance of querying publishing houses. A writer with an offer in hand is a writer with determination and grit. I believe those qualities really help a person stand out in an otherwise very crowded sea of hopeful writers.

letter spreadMy kids and I talk often about our favorite things, letters included. I have a soft spot for J, and my second favorite letter is P (for obvious reasons.) I was quick to find them in the illustrations and they are right next to each other! (Plus, how cute are Tom Disbury’s illustrations!) Do you have a favorite letter? I’ve never considered which letter might be my favorite! Maybe S, since I married into an amazing family with the last name Stocker? Or maybe F, since both “family” and “friend” begins with that letter? Then again, who doesn’t love the versatility of Y? Hmmmm. I love words and letters so very much and actually have another alphabet book in Acquisitions at a house right now. I’m just not sure I can choose!

 Well now I have your wheels turning! Here’s another one: Do you have a favorite rhyme from the story? Was there one that was trickier than most?

Oooooo, this is a tough one. I make a strong effort to use some unusual rhymes in my stories, but I also love other poetic devices. I love the line, “But vowel-less, words wouldn’t flow, so B’s unease began to grow.” It’s not so much that flow/grow is an unusual rhyme, but more the internal rhyme, B’s + unease, as well as the alliteration of words/wouldn’t, and the assonance of flow/so/grow. I did a little jig when I wrote that sentence. It makes me happy!

I’m not going to give any of the story away, but I can tell you that Shannon wrote a  a seamless rhyme with the word ‘consonants’. It’s so impressive!! So, with all that you’ve been through on your path to publication, I bet you have a lot you could teach aspiring authors and I’m sure you’re still learning! (Side Note: Shannon has great things to say about the importance of Critique Partners and persistence over on Vivian Kirkfield’s blog. The giveaway is over but the info is still there.) The next phase involves getting this precious book into the hands of readers. Do you have marketing plans?

I’m doing a blog tour (obviously). I’ll be featured on a couple podcasts this fall/winter, promoting on social media, and I’m looking to do school visits. I’m also going to continue attending conferences, including SCBWI Midsouth in September and AASL in November. I’ve also written a song to go with the book, and we’ll be shooting a music video in late August that will be published on YouTube by late fall! (It’s pinned to the top of her Twitter profile!!) I’m excited about that aspect. It’s a great way to combine my love of both picture books and music.

That’s an exciting and completely unique twist! I can’t wait to hear it. You mentioned Shannon Stocker headshothaving a book in acquisitions (fingers crossed), do you have anything else coming down the pipe? Where can my readers find/follow you on social media?

Yes! I don’t have a date yet, but my next picture book is an #OwnVoices story. It’s a biography about an incredibly inspirational woman named Evelyn Glennie, who was the first person to ever make a full-time career as a solo percussionist. She’s won two GRAMMY awards, been knighted by the Queen of England, and she’s deaf. Every exchange with her (interviews, emails) has been awe-inspiring. The book is called LISTEN and will be published by Dial (Penguin/Random House). I’ve also founded a blog called #InHERview, highlighting pivotal moments in the lives of female authors. I would be thrilled to have your readers follow me on social media at:

Website/blog – www.shannonstocker.com (please subscribe!)

Twitter – @iwriteforkidz

Instagram – @iwriteforkidz

Facebook – personal page https://www.facebook.com/shannon.o.stocker

Facebook – author page https://www.facebook.com/shannonstockerauthor/

Thank you so much for having me!

I’m so glad our paths crossed and it worked out for us to ‘chat’! I know we’ll be reading (and hearing) more from you for years to come! Thanks for celebrating here with us!

And thank YOU for being here, too! Come back soon. Next month I have another great conversation to share as we celebrate the release of HO’ONANI HULA WARRIOR by debut author Heather Gale, illustrations by Mika Song.

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Let’s Talk, Patricia Saunders!

Somewhere in the range of 15 years ago, I spent the summer with my aunt & uncle working at a camp for gifted & talented students in the DFW area. My list of responsibilities was simple, prepare snacks and set-up/take-down/extra-set-of-hands kind of work; the teachers were the ones in charge of the kiddos. If my memory serves me well, one of my favorite rooms to help out in was the art room. The teacher was funny, passionate, down to earth and none other than my guest today! You can imagine my surprise a couple years ago when I crossed paths with her again, this time on an aspiring author level of the picture book variety. (Shout out to the same aunt who helped us to connect happens to be one of my most loyal followers! 😉) Patricia didn’t remain ‘aspiring’ for long after we reconnected and today, I’m thrilled to help her celebrate the release of her debut (and soon to follow second) picture book! She’s had a fascinating journey to publication, so I hope you’ll read on…

Hooray! I’m so excited it’s finally here! Before we get started, you know me (and my people), I can’t invite anyone over to visit without offering a drink. So, what’ll it be?!? Good question! I love milkshakes :>) and Mocha Frappuccino, but I don’t splurge that often. So, there’s nothing better than really good ice-cold water…like Ozarka from Arkansas.

I definitely think a book release calls for a splurge. Milkshakes for everyone!!! Your day job is an art teacher at an elementary school. How did you find picture books? Or better yet, how did picture books find you? It was through our visiting authors that got me excited about picture books. I used them with my lesson plans. And then there was the art history for kindergarten and 1st grade, which was Prehistoric Art. I wanted to teach the kids the substance of the art and I discovered The Altamira Cave located in Spain. That led to contacting the museum. In short, I created a power-point for the kids with maps, little stories, a printable coloring book and so on. Then in 2014 it turned into a picture book manuscript! I’ve revised many times and it will be published one day, I believe.

Oh, that sounds fascinating! Back at the beginning of your journey, what were the first courses/classes/conferences that helped you kick start your writing journey? Spring 2014, I found Kristen Fulton’s archeological writing class, on line. That summer I attended her 1st WOW Retreat. That’s what really kick started my writing as a picture book author. There I met agents, editors and authors. I also attended Pat Miller’s Conference in Houston that following Fall and I took Susanna Hill’s online writing class. These were within the first months of my writing efforts.

Yes! You helped me to connect with the online WOW Community! I attending an online course at your encouraging and learned a TON. Let’s talk about your debut picture book, Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil in God’s Hand… CONGRATULATIONS!!! Where did you find the story nugget for this one? I always wondered how Mother Teresa grew into the woman she became. My book is dedicated to the caregivers in the world. I found my nugget by reading and found her childhood fascinating.

Mother Theresa page

Talk about starting strong right out the gate. You picked such a famous MC! I can only imagine that was daunting, although I’m sure there was no shortage of research material. What was the hardest point of the writing process for this book? The writing process wasn’t as hard as making sure what I was writing was truth! I was shocked to discover that a lot of information in books about Mother Teresa is not true at all. For instance, many books claim she had a clubfoot. Well, that’s false which I discovered through reaching out to the Mother Teresa Center in Rome. I found out by accident because I needed to know for illustration purposes. Not only was that not true, but the quote I had chosen had been paraphrased. In the end, the Mother Teresa Center offered three other equivalent options. I had to get written permission to use the quote and they also required a copy of my book.

So, what you’re saying, is your book has a permanent home in Rome?!? I bet not many debut authors can say that! Can we talk a little about illustrating… you found yourself wearing both author and illustrator hats unexpectedly for Mother Teresa. Did that change your approach to the story at all? No, my story was already written and it never changed. Even though I have a BA in Art and Performance, an M.A. in Art and an MFA, I never thought of myself as an illustrator. At first, I felt awkward but I found myself enjoying the picture making process.

And now your writing resume is stacked! I’m always curious when talking with non-fiction writers… Do you have a favorite fact that you learned about Mother Teresa in your research that you didn’t include in the book? What’s not in the story is in the back matter. I tried to get it all in and I think I did. Except I didn’t share how much Sister Teresa enjoyed teaching which is what she did in India. She later became the principal and Mother Teresa. I also didn’t share how she would help her brother climb up high to reach the sweets in their mother’s cupboard. She never tattle-tailed on him. We can’t imagine Mother Teresa doing something like this. But you have to realize that she was once a little girl . . . just an ordinary girl. It should make us see the human child within her.

How wonderful (& adorably sneaky!!) That really makes her so relatable for all of us, but especially the picture book audience. You have a second book coming soon… Can we talk about that one, too? Yes, we can. It’s about the origin of the muffuletta sandwich. It’s a Muffuletta! It’s a Whata? It’s a fun book and it practically wrote itself. I’m anxious to get to the illustrations. I’ve contacted the owners of the ‘shopa’ and we’ll be making our way down to New Orleans in a few weeks just to introduce myself. (Check out this sneak peek of her illustrations!)

Muffuletta-in-progress

It’s one of the greatest cities on earth, that’s for sure! I always enjoy time spent in New Orleans because you never have the same experience… and it’s definitely never boring. What a great place to have a story originate from. Now you really HAVE to go… aw shucks.😉. In the midst of your travels, how are you balancing writing new stories with the marketing of these books? I’m not sure yet :>) I’ve spent my time making bookmarks, having pencils made and I taught for three weeks in June. Now I’m working on stuff that I ignored. I do know that I’m going to have to make a schedule of when to do what :>)

I have a book signing with Logos Book Store in Dallas, September 21st. I’ve also connected with Carole Weitzel @ Authors and More who will handle all my events. (Learn more here.)

Just by what I’ve seen over social media, you seem to have a great relationship with your editor. Tell us about how you two found each other? Clear Fork Publishing and Callie Metler-Smith are a great fit for me. I don’t know if it’s a Texas thing or what but we’ve been on the same page since day one. I submitted my manuscript and she responded with a few questions. Then a few weeks passed and on Good Friday, 2017, she emailed me with a contract and apologized for taking so long! Really? I was on cloud ten :>) It seems like Callie is the Energizer Bunny. She owns the town’s newspaper, she’s on the school board, she’s a writer, and she has a family to raise. Callie is definitely an inspiration. I love Callie and I feel extremely blessed to know her. Established in 2009, Clear Fork Media published its first book in 2014 and is well on its way.

What’s next? Do you have anything coming down the pipe? I’m really excited about an Early Reader series that I started working on last November. It could end up being a chapter book series? I have five written. The MC is Wesley Rose a nine-year-old girl living in Texas. A few years ago, a cute, blonde, blue eyed nurse introduced herself, “I’m Wesley Rose”. I had to smile, “with a name like that, you should be a country western singer.” I never forgot :>)

Oh, she sounds adorable! I can’t wait to read more! So, where can my readers find & follow you on social media? Where can we get our hands on a copy of Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil in God’s Hand? My website http://www.patriciasaunders.com, on Twitter @writersaunders & Facebook. 

Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil In GodPatricia Saunders’s Hand can be purchased at: www.clearforkpublishing.com and on Amazon (click here).

And the best news is, she’s doing a giveaway! Enter HERE… winner be chose one week from today and will receive a copy of Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil in God’s Hand (plus maybe a few other goodies!) 

I’m so glad you stopped by today! I love nothing better than celebrating the success of one of my first writing friends. More good things to come… I hope no one is melting in this heat!

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!
-JP

What’s the Why? My Picture Book Equation

This morning, I witnessed magic in my living room.  The kind that gently pulls everyone together under the same spell before anyone realizes what’s happening. It was a sticky July morning, windows wet with condensation and the smell of pancakes still wafting from the kitchen. (OC gets credit those, she’s a whiz with a spatula.)  It was there, in the sweet spot after breakfast but before the day really got started that YC, he’s 5 now, came to me with a book. It wasn’t one of our newest ones. It wasn’t shiny, or silly but it was long overdue. This summer has been filled with family board games, movie nights and vacations. We’ve been soaking up the laughter and the late nights, but it has been light on bed time stories.

A few weeks back I wrote about my struggles with our kids losing interest in picture books. Even the youngest, is choosing longer, more advanced stories that we read by chapters. But this book, this was an old favorite. We snuggled together on the sofa and I honestly don’t know who was more excited.  Most days, I would call for the other two the kiddos to join us, this time, I just started reading. It didn’t take long- two, maybe three pages into the book MC was sitting near his brother and OC was snuggled up by my shoulder.  For the beautiful few moments it took us to read about “Mike Mulligan, Mary Ann and some others…” the house was quiet and everyone was entranced.  Picture book magic, my favorite kind. I was elated to see it still exists, and reminded of the times I’ve seen its power in the past.  There have been teenage nieces and nephews, stopped in their tracks by a bed time story. Neighborhood kids who declare they don’t like reading, mesmerized by the power of words read from a picture book page.. Picture books are magic in its purest, most approachable form, and that is why I’m so drawn to write them. 

It’s easy to lose track of the ‘why I write picture books’ as I’m trying to find my own version of ‘how.’  I need to make sure that I stay driven by the ‘why’, and not bogged down by the ‘when’. I know that I have a lot to learn, but the answer to the ‘why’ will remind me that I don’t necessarily need to have a ‘who’ in order to find success.  There are no shortage of elements in the publishing equation, I need to remember that the ‘why’ is the most important. I write picture books because I want to connect with the most genuine members of the human race.  I want to speak in a language that they understand, and tell stories that resonate with their precious little spirits.  I want to make them laugh, and most importantly let them know they are seen.

In the past few months, I’ve doubled down on myself… I’ve taken a leap of faith and created more time to write. I purchased a domain name, just to have in my back pocket. I’m applying for the #PBCHAT Mentorship, and you should too.  I’m also knee deep into a summer writing challenge within my critique group and I have an exciting interview coming up. (I love celebrating the success of friends.) Keep your fingers crossed for me that if one of the mentors is a good fit, we find each other in the hundreds of applications… I promise to do the same for you.

 

Stay tuned for the interview!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Making Magic, Picture Book Style

Let’s say you have a bit of extra cash to spend on yourself and your writing aspirations: Where do you go? Which way do you turn?  Who can help? Arghhhh, the struggle! There are so many choices! It’s a great problem to have, really, because so many of the leaders in the kid-litosphere generously give of their time, talents and expertise.  Truly, there is no shortage of options or opportunities. For me, and I’m sure so many others, the trouble lies in deciding which course to invest in.  There’s a unique twist to each one and the author/instructors are incredibly talented, so you really can’t go wrong. The fact of the matter is, you do have to choose, though. So, if you’re sitting at the crossroads of one versus the other, all I can do is wish you luck and tell you about my latest experience with making magic… Making Picture Book Magic, that is.

If you aren’t familiar, Making Picture Book Magic is a month-long course offered by Susanna Hill, with small class sizes, daily assignments and feedback from Susanna, herself.  I’m always wary of buyer’s remorse and know the feeling of investing in a class/webinar that turns out to be disappointing so I eyed it for months and was exhaustive in my research.  I asked everyone I knew about their experience. Many had taken it ‘back when they were starting out’ and a few warned me that I probably knew everything she would review.  Some said I might find it too basic, others never made it thought all the lessons.  One of my nearest and dearest friends, however declared it “one of the best things” she’d ever done for herself.  She had yet to steer me wrong before, (I’m looking at you Judy Cooper) so, I bit the bullet and enrolled.  The tuition for the course was a belated birthday gift from two of my biggest fans (aka mom & dad).  As luck would have it, I was blessed with an incredible group to journey though the month of January with and it only got better from there.

Yes, some of the lessons brought me back to the basics, but I knew that’s exactly what I needed. (The day that I decide that I’ve learned enough about writing picture books should be my last day writing… am I right?) Going back to the basics, now that I have a foundation helped IMMENSLY.  You might call it cheating, but I used an existing manuscript through the course and basically stripped it down to the studs.  It was the most exhaustive revision I’ve ever done. I rethought and reworked every aspect of the story, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone for this project and got helpful feedback along the way, both from my groupmates and our fearless leader! (I want to pause and talk for a minute about the other writers in my group… they ROCKED! We all engaged with each other via the private Facebook group and I know that’s what pushed our course over the edge from good to GREAT! If you ever do decide to participate, do yourself a favor and go all in… participate, share, offer feedback, engage. You’ll get out everything you put in and then some!)

I’ve suggested this course every chance I get because I know it was a game-changer for me.  It changed the way I revise, it changed the way I approach my stories, and hopefully, it’ll change the trajectory of my pre-published journey. If you’re looking for a way to sharpen your skills, someone to hold you accountable or a handful of new revision techniques, look no farther and let Susanna Hill show you all about Making Picture Book Magic! (<- that’s the link right there, don’t miss it… click on it)

Oh! Before you go, I want to introduce you to my classmates! There were a couple poets (Rebecca & Liz) and an illustrator (Hannah) in the mix.  Liz has a collection of soccer poems called Soccerverse, set to release on June 4th! The other three writers will undoubtedly be names on your bookshelf one day, each with their own style but obviously and equally talented. Find them & follow them so you’ll be one the first to know when their clever and charming stories make it into the world.

          Rebecca Gardyn Levington on Twitter: @WriterRebeccaGL 

          Stephanie Williams aka @StephanieBoyer (also Twitter)

          Liz Steinglass, Twitter: @ESteinglass IG: @elizabethsteinglass & Facebook @ElizabethSteinglass

          Hannah Spiegleman, IG @HannahSpiegleman

 

As always,

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Questions & Answers

I didn’t understand… I had been eagerly anticipating this two-hour window all week. For the first time in longer than I’d care to admit, I was headed to the library and straight into the children’s section. I couldn’t wait to wander around, pulling new finds and old favorites off the shelf to soak up and read quietly. But I found myself speeding though the books, unsatisfied.  In fact, some of my favorites, I didn’t even finish! There was a restlessness and unsettled spirit I couldn’t put my finger on.  Fewer buildings brought me as much joy as a library, and never more so then surrounded by picture books. This was completely unprecedented in my happy place!

To be fair, I made this trip on a week that was rough.  I’ve written about conference hangovers before, and this year I’ve been struggling to shake it.  I mean really struggling. I haven’t been reading like I should, so I intentionally scheduled this library run for myself. It was supposed to brighten my mood and lift my spirits, instead I “wasted time” (I even started scrolling Facebook instead of turning pages, GASP.) I managed to eek out a few minutes of revisions on a manuscript that I was carrying, to save face (from myself) and limped out the door. I didn’t check out any books, I didn’t want to bring anything home tainted with the mood of the day. I felt lost.

The next few hours were a blur of homework, dance costumes and baseball practice. I had nearly forgotten about my dreadful afternoon. Then I turned off the lights, laid down in bed and started to cry.  The tears came with such intensity, I was completely stunned. I didn’t understand where they came from, or why they were happening… until I did. When I started this journey, my oldest was prime picture book age and most probably went over my youngest’s head. But here we are, 2 out of 3 of my kids read MG novels to themselves before bed at night. I’ve effectively instilled a love of reading in them, and now, they don’t need me. My youngest will be in Kindergarten next year and still loves to crawl on my lap and listen to a story, but I see how my time is running out. Soon, the picture books that I bring home from the library will be just for me.  It made me sad and if I’m honest, enormously disappointed.

I recognize how I felt at the library now, in my line of work, we call it anticipatory grief; the mourning of an expected loss, before it actually happens. I secretly hoped to be closer to being published by now.  I knew to anticipate the journey to be long, but that didn’t stop me from hoping for something different.  It was an unofficial, off the record, self-inflicted (grossly unrealistic) deadline that was about to pass me by. The tears also finally brought to the surface all the questions and self-doubt that I had been trying to silence. We all know that avoiding a question doesn’t make it go away, and so the longer I tried, the louder they got and the farther away I pushed my stories and social media; facing my characters and the kidlit world I love meant facing the questions.   Questions of my dedication to the dream, my abilities to write and the intention behind it all anyway.  No one ever told me that this journey would be easy. Nothing I’ve ever read said that publishing is for the faint of heart, quite the opposite actually.  A few years ago, I could easily answer the why’s and how’s… but lately, it’s been murky to say the least.  

Thankfully, tears are often the prequel to clarity.  I decided to continue showing up, writing a little each day, even if it didn’t feel earth-shattering, and re-engaging with my community. I even wrote myself a post-it note that says, SHOW UP TO WORK.  If I had to guess, that’s one of the greatest struggles as a pre-published, un-agented author.  No one is waiting on us to show up. No one, except for the main characters of our stories and the deep-seated desires of our own heart begging to be set free.  Since that day there have been enjoyable library trips, conversations with my kids about my WIPs with new stories (& blog posts) surging to the surface. I think I feel relief too, free from the burden of an approaching deadline that I was never supposed to meet. I’m excited to see what’s next. I’m eager to write each day, and I’ll keep showing up as long as you do too.

#favoritelinefriday

I had this idea and it all started with a dog.  Not just any dog, either, but … “the biggest and reddest dog on the street.”  To be fair, my first grader was the one reading, but as I was soaking the moment and the words spilling out of his precious, new-reader mouth I quietly marveled as this one particular line. It was perfect. Succinct enough for the picture books of today (even though it wasn’t) and clever enough to capture a kid’s imagination. Oh, how I yearn to write lines like that! (Ps- Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Birdwell)

 So, I decided that I’m designating Fridays as #favoritelinefridays, and continue to relish in the beauty of the best lines around. You know the ones that cause you to stop and think for a second or smile as it tugs at your heartstring. Maybe it’s the perfect punchline you didn’t see coming or the clever wording that speaks fluent 4-year-old but while allowing a 44-year-old to understand as well. I figure the best way to elevate the status of the lines that I write is to surround myself with better lines than I could’ve dreamed of writing. So, I’ll read them, relish them and share them too… on twitter, of course, every Friday. I’d love for you to share yours too, regardless of the genre because good lines are gifts that keep giving. 

Here are a few that I’ve shared so far:

          February 15th “I may have been swallowed but I have no intention of being eaten.” THE WOLF, THE DUCK & THE MOUSE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klaussen (Candlewick)

          February 22nd “So Mr. Tiger decided to return and he found that things were beginning to change.” MR TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown (Little, Brown & Co.)

          March 1st “Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along, you’ll start happening  too.” OH THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! By Dr. Seuss (Random House Kids)

          March 15th“Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, a little girl named Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests.” JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala (Alfred A Knopf)

          March 22nd“The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW that it was meant to be his.” THIS MOOSE BELONGS TO ME by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books)

         April 5th“Everything on land was strange and beautiful-but also kind of scary.” NOT QUITE NARWHAL by Jessie Sima (Simon & Schuster)

I’d love for you to share your favorite lines from picture books, too! Feel free to use the hashtag, and then we can all bathe in the brilliancy of picture books.

 

Happy Friday Y’all!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Let’s Talk, Otters & Sweet Dreams

Here we are for another dose of Vivian! Today, Vivian and I talk about her next TWO books FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGANING and SWEET DREAMS SARAH, both of which will be released in the next few days! You can read the first part of our conversation, here.

Vivian, welcome back! How about I freshen up your hot chocolate for you? Now let’s jump right back in… Each of these books have very different paths to publication… I read that Pippa’s story made it into the hands of an editor thanks to a talented and dedicated critique partner. How did the OTTERS & SARAH make it there? I wrote Sweet Dreams, Sarah in July of 2014. By the end of 2014, I felt it was ready and I began to submit it to agents. It got a lot of positive responses – four agents were interested and wanted to see more of my work. By the fall of 2015, I had decided to sign with Essie White and in October, she sent it out on a round of submissions and within a month, we had an offer from Creston Books. That was super-fast…rough draft in July and a book deal a year later. But this is a business of waiting and delays…and I think things even out in the end because even though SARAH was the first book deal, she will be the last of my debut triplets to launch in 2019.

Four Otters Toboggan, was written back in 2013. I also submitted it and got amazing feedback…one agent told me it was pure poetry. But no one grabbed it…or me. Some said it was too quiet. Shhhh…the animals are napping, I guess. 😊  When I signed with Essie, and SARAH was out on submission, she asked to see a bunch of my other stories. She loved OTTERS right away, but we were submitting other manuscripts. At the end of 2017, she sent it to Pomegranate, along with a couple of art samples from one of her illustrator clients, Mirka Hokkanen. Essie has an amazing eye and it was a perfect pairing and the editor at Pomegranate agreed and signed it immediately…my lyrical text and Mirka’s amazing talent.

With SARAH, I did not know the illustrator and unfortunately, did not get to see early sketches until the color layouts were done. And although this is how many editors work, I’m not a fan because I feel each book is a team effort. Many errors could be avoided if author and illustrator and editor work together. However, I do understand that some editors are hesitant because they fear the author will be unreasonable and not allow the illustrator to express his or her creativity. I can only speak from my own experience and I vote for collaboration!

four otters coverWhat started each of these the story in motion for you? Where did you find the thread of inspiration? Four Otters Toboggan was another manuscript that got its start during Tara’s challenge. The inspiration came from the fishing trips I took with my husband years ago in Colorado, hiking into the backcountry where wildlife abounds. And I’ve always been a strong supporter of animal conservation and habitat protection. The original title was Visitors to Deep Pool, but the editor felt that sounded a bit like a science fiction story.

The inspiration for Sweet Dreams, Sarah came from a list of female firsts. I’d just taken a class in nonfiction picture book writing and the mentor suggested we look at lists online of the best or the first of this or that. And when Sarah E. Goode’s name popped up and I read what she had done – become one of the first African American women to secure a U.S. patent, in a time when most women didn’t even own anything, I was intrigued and dug deeper. But, no matter how deep I dug, I kept reading the same 2 or 3 paltry lines about her. And that’s when I decided that this courageous trailblazer deserved a book.

Yes, indeed! We talked a little, last time, about your journey with three very different books making their way into the published world. What were the biggest challenges when hammering out and polishing up these manuscripts? Otters required me to put on my lyrical hat, with the help of Thesaurus.com. And again, my critique buddies helped point out where I needed to make changes and they made suggestions that helped the rhythm and pace of the story. It wasn’t a counting book originally. That suggestion actually came from Mira Reisberg, the Children’s Book Academy founder. I’d won a free critique with her many years ago and she suggested I add another layer to the story…perhaps make it a counting book, she said. And I did. 😉

Sweet Dreams Cover One of the biggest challenges with Sweet Dreams, Sarah was the research because there was so little information out there about her. No books. Just a few paragraphs in online websites. And one book with a mini-chapter. I reached out to my reference librarian and she reached out to librarians in Chicago and at Yale. And, although they didn’t have much, I was able to find enough to write an authentic story about this courageous trailblazing woman. I also contacted the cemetery in Chicago where Sarah Goode is buried and got information from the historical records person there.  But once the story was written and sold, there were more challenges because of illustration delays. Which is why I vote for collaboration with author and illustrator. From my experience, with five books now, things go more smoothly when everyone works as a team. Kind of like we wish our government could function. 😊 When people are divided and don’t work together, the project can suffer. But we now have a beautiful book to honor Sarah E. Goode and I am thrilled.

With three picture books published in as many months, I can imagine you have much to be proud of.  Is there something within each story that you’re MOST proud of with these next two, though? Mirka’s woodcut illustrations glow and my words come to life in FOUR OTTERS. I see this as a book that will encourage children to embrace the beauty of nature and appreciate the need for animal conservation and wildlife habitat preservation.

And, Sarah E. Goode forged a new path, but she did not get the recognition or reward she deserved in life. Now there is a book to honor her. And a book that will hopefully inspire children to embrace failure as just one more step towards realizing their goals.

Turtles with Text

My youngest calls himself ‘Nature boy’ and my daughter is the perfect age for soaking up non-fiction. I can’t wait to get both on my shelves.  Just a few more questions before we wrap up…What is your favorite animal fact that you learned during your research for OTTERS?  I learned that the fastest animal is the Peregrine falcon who can dive to catch prey at 242 miles per hour! The STEM-rich back matter has information and fun facts about all of the animals mentioned in the book. And it has a section on conservation and what factors contribute to the destruction of animal habitats. Also, Mirka has created a fabulous activity booklet with puzzles, games, and coloring pages which will be available on our websites soon and she is having print copies made that we can use as giveaways or sell alongside the book.

Sweet Dreams Sarah TextWhat is the most inspirational part of Sweet Sarah’s life that you did not (or could not) include in her story?  Sarah Goode led a very hard life. At age 24, she was a wife, mother, and working woman. In her day, most women, even white women, didn’t own anything. This was 1880 – women couldn’t vote and men called the shots. But the furniture store was in Sarah’s name and so was the patent. That is amazing! The sad part, which I don’t go into in the story, is that two years after Sarah secured the patent, her mother died and also one of her own children. And within another year, according to an advertisement in the newspaper that I found, her cabinet beds were on sale from a different vendor who claimed he had bought out the supply from a bankrupted owner. And all trace of Sarah is lost until she dies in 1905 at the age of 49.

Back in 2015, Kidlit 411 interviewed you and asked a question about inspiration. Your answer is one of my all-time favorites, “The universe is generous, don’t you think?” Is the universe still generous or do you have to work harder now to keep the fresh ideas flowing with all the balls you find yourself juggling (marketing, book promotion, reviews, conferences, etc.) I definitely don’t have a problem with inspiration, my only problem is that I have more fresh ideas than the time I have to write the stories! Someone once mentioned that pre-published authors need to appreciate the freedom that they have. I know this may sound silly, because who doesn’t want a book deal, right? But the thing of it is, once you have that book deal, you are on a deadline for revisions and you need to start thinking about how you will promote your book. These days, publishing houses don’t do very much for most of the picture books that are coming out and it is up to the author and illustrator to blog, use social media, arrange for book events, come up with marketing ideas that will engage book buyers. With picture books, it is difficult because you are not engaging with the young children who might love your book…you are engaging with the parents, teachers, and librarians who will buy your book. And once you get on that merry-go-round, as enjoyable as the ride might be, it gets more and more difficult (especially if you have multiple book deals, which you will, once things get rolling) to find the time to write new stories. And after all, we are writers…and we want to write stories…not sell books.

I loved what Barb Rosenstock said during a Q&A chat on the Missing Voices Picture Book Discussion Group on Facebook when someone asked about bookstore events. “I don’t worry about those, she said. I don’t ever do them. I worry about the writing.” Of course, she does do many wonderful school visits and lots of amazing conference presentations. Because if you have books out there, you need to get them out of boxes and into hands and the only way to do that is to spread the word somehow.

Can you remind us what else you have coming down the pipe? At this point, I have two books that are launching in 2020, with two other publishers. Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring, 2020), illustrated by Alleanna Harris and From Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020), illustrated by the award-winning Gilbert Ford.

And if you need a reminder… you can find Vivian on/around social media SOMEWHWERE Website, Facebook, TwitterInstagram!

Thanks again, Vivian for sticking around for such a wonderfully long three part chat!

Thank YOU, too for stopping by and reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Paper People: Patricia Valdez

Can you believe it? This is my first Paper People interview of 2019! I am so excited to share my conversation with debut author Patricia Valdez about her adorable and inspiring picture book, JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR. Along with it being my first Paper People of the year, it’s also my first interview with a non-fiction author and I’m fairly certain the first time I talk about reptiles! I hope you’ll read on… I might have inside scoop on a certain Twitter giveaway for those that do! 😉

Patricia, thanks for being here! Before we get started, can I get you something to drink? Thanks so much for having me! I’ll take a black tea, my caffeine source of choice. It’s always time for tea. Maybe that’s why I started and ended JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR with a tea party!

Well if we’re having a tea party then I’ll have some too! I’ve been meaning to drink more, there’s no better time than the present (with pretend tea) am I right? Right off the bat I have to say, there probably aren’t many picture book writers with a resume quite as impressive (and unrelated) as yours. When and where did you first feel the pull to write picture books? Was JOAN PROCTER the first manuscript you wrote? I’ve spent most of my life as a scientist and I currently work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I’m also a mother of a teen and pre-teen, and when my kids were young, I loved reading picture books with them. I quickly figured out elements that clicked for me and my children and those that didn’t. It’s so important to have text that is fun to read because as parents, we read some books over and over. I also noticed that there weren’t many books about science while my kids were fascinated with little stories I wrote about my research – the tiny armies in our bodies that fight off harmful invaders. I also realized there were simply not enough picture books about women scientists, and that’s is how I set myself on the road to JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR.

JP illustr 1

I think you’re the first nonfiction author that I’ve had on Paper People, and I am THRILLED about it. I know that nonfiction picture books are experiencing a bit of a renaissance right now, what a great time for a nonfiction debut! In the spirit of honesty though, I’ve often struggled to find nonfiction picture books that I can engage in and connect with… but that’s not true of JOAN PROCTER! In a way that reminds me of Jess Keating’s SHARK LADY, I was completely entranced with Dr. Procter from the very first line. As of right now, are your works in progress strictly nonfiction or a mix? Woo hoo! Thanks for giving nonfiction some love! Right now, all of my work is nonfiction, though I’ve dipped my toes into fiction and we’ll see where that leads. I often find that true life is stranger than fiction and I think Joan Procter’s story is just that. I think as authors we try to tell a story in a way that connects with both the child and the reader (often teachers or parents in the case of picture books). Sure, there are some kids that connect with straight expository nonfiction, but I feel that even more readers can connect with narrative nonfiction. Plus, these books often have expository material in the backmatter for those kids that crave it.
The research required to write nonfiction books is an added layer that not all fiction stories require. This means adding to the amount of time you need to hammer out and polish up a manuscript. How do you find time for writing amidst your work at the National Institute of Health and family life? Research is the most exciting part of the process for me. You never know what kinds of juicy tidbits you might find. Even if you don’t end up using all of the research in the main story, those details help give shape to a person’s life and personality (plus, you can always include it in the backmatter). With work and kids, I end up doing my writing at night and on the weekend. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband, who is also a scientist.

JP BookshelfNeedless to say, those long nights and weekends paid off! Do you remember the first time you saw JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR on a bookstore shelf? I held my book launch at our local independent bookstore, Politics and Prose. It was such a wonderful experience to see my book out and about. A friend of my daughter visited the Natural History Museum in London this last summer and told me that my book was in the gift shop. That was certainly thrilling since Joan Procter got her start right there! I’ve seen pics of my book for sale in New Zealand, France, and South Korea, so that’s been exciting, too!

Oh, she’s a world traveler! That makes you an international author! Let’s go back to the beginning for you, what were some of the most helpful resources you used when you were first starting out on your KidLit writing journey? I read as many picture book biographies as I could. I also joined SCBWI and read everything I could find about writing query letters once my manuscript was ready. I should also credit my kids for being both sounding boards and critics. 🙂

I mentioned above that you had me captivated by the first line of your story. (I’m JP illust 2even going to use it as a part of my #favoritelinefriday tweets!) First lines are some of the hardest to write, for me, because there is so much riding on them. What’s the most challenging part of writing picture books for you? Thanks so much! First lines are so important. In picture book biographies, I want the first line or two to evoke time, place, and theme. Plus, they have to really draw the reader into the story. I figured lizards at a tea party might do the trick. I also love tying the ending to the beginning (I’m a fan of the circular structure). Of course, you need a strong beginning for this to work. So, I have to agree with you that the first lines are indeed the most challenging.

We’ve all heard that a majority of the marketing of picture books falls to the author once a book is published. Was this your experience? How did you get JOAN PROCTER onto the shelves and into the hands of kids? The publisher gets books to trade publishers and reviewers, so that’s incredibly helpful. Beyond that, us picture book authors have to hustle for marketing. My agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, suggested that as a debut author, I focus on blog appearances (like this!) instead of holding book events. This advice was perfect for me since I have a full-time job and a family. I did a few book events here and there, but not a lot. I also did a few book giveaways on Twitter and with my debut picture book group, Epic 18.

You’ve been a published author for exactly one year today! Congrats on your Book-iversary! Do you have plans to celebrate? I plan to give away a signed copy of JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR on Twitter and have an adult beverage. It’s been quite a year!

Is there anything you learned in the past twelve months that surprised you? For some reason I had this idea that once the book was out there, it would be smooth sailing, but that’s not the case at all. There are many interviews and book events, though as I mentioned, I tried to limit those. I didn’t think about the amount of time I’d spend at the post office mailing off F&Gs and books. All the while, I was working on the second book. No pressure there, right? Ha!

 

Okay, so you have a busy day ahead of you… what with the Twitter giveaway and all. But I have one more question, before we wrap up, how do you feel about reptiles, honestly? Do you have a favorite or do they make you squirm? We have a pet turtle named Theo at home and I love turtles, but my favorite reptile has to be the Komodo dragon. I would never have found Joan Procter if it wasn’t for my need to know more about these amazing creatures. One sentence near the end of an article about Komodo dragons mentioned that Joan Procter was the first person to describe them in captivity. My cPatricia Valdez headshoturiosity led me to her amazing story which I’m so honored to share!

Scaly, slimy creatures have a special place in my life, too… I happen to live in the Frog Capital of the World! (Just don’t ask me how I really feel about them.) Thanks so much for joining me, Patricia! Where can my readers find and follow you on social media? Do you have anything else coming down the pipe? You can find me most often on Twitter @Patricia_Writer, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaValdezAuthor, and less often on Instagram @pvaldez11. Folks can also find and contact me via my website: www.patriciavaldezbooks.com. My next book hasn’t been announced yet, but I can tell you that it’s a picture book biography about a Latina scientist. I can’t wait to share it!

Oh goodness, I can’t wait! Congrats, again! Okay, now head over to Twitter before its too late to enter her drawing… go ahead, we’re finished here! Just promise me you’ll come back soon, there are always more good things to come!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!
-JP