Category Archives: Picture books

WHO, WHO IS YOUR AGENT? An interview with Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency

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As we continue the debut celebration of Jason Gallaher’s WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, I got to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how WHOBERT went from manuscript on submission to debuting picture book with the help of agent extraordinaire, Tricia Lawrence. For those of you interested in becoming agent-signed authors yourselves, here’s how the process worked for Jason and WHOBERT:

Tricia, I saw WHOBERT as an advance reader copy and was immediately charmed by this over-eager owl detective. Was WHOBERT WHOVER the manuscript that led you to sign Jason as a client? (If not, please tell us how you and Jason first connected!)

Actually, this wasn’t the only manuscript. Jason had a few more manuscripts and WHOBERT made me laugh out loud for the second time. The first time I laughed out loud was at his manuscript about a squirrel that hoards unusual sustenance for the winter (that one hasn’t sold yet, but if you love WHOBERT, you’ll love that one too!)

squirrelI’d love to see that one – I’m already trying to imagine what that squirrel is up to! What was it about Jason’s writing that drew you in?

 

His incredible sense and use of humor; his understanding of what makes a text strong enough to stand up to being illustrated; his vision coming through only the text (very sparse art notes) and the beauty and strong emotion of his writing. 

 
I understand you’re the kind of agent that helps her authors revise and polish their manuscripts before sending them out to editors. How did you and Jason work together to make sure WHOBERT was in tip-top shape before going out on submission?

I didn’t have to work on this one, and that is very rare. Usually, I am much more involved in manuscript revisions. This is why I knew I had to sign Jason immediately. The majority of his PB texts come to me ready to go. Jason has that strong eye to know when he needs revision before I even seen the manuscript.

Being on submission can be a nerve-wracking time for authors, since every day can Jason G.bring the chance of an offer…or the chance of another rejection. While WHOBERT was out on submission, did you do anything to keep up Jason’s spirits? (Did he even need spirit-up-keeping? He seems like one of the bubbliest and cheerfullest authors ever. And I know livens up any costume party.)

Jason doesn’t need much spirit up-keeping, true! But we keep in close contact anyway, because even if the submission process is going smoothly, he also writes novels and he is awesome about keeping me in the loop on his progress and always ready to ask for help when he needs it. 

 
Knowing when to ask for help is a skill in and of itself; Jason’s main character Whobert the owl certainly has trouble doing that! Have you ever done something Whobert-esque, where you were certain you were right but completely misunderstood the situation?

Oh, yes. Haven’t we all? It’s usually me intervening in the dog negotiations at our house. The big mastiff, Toledo, is a bit intimidated by his younger and smaller sister, husky-shepherd mix, Rue, and they have this long “Wookie”-esque conversation about who gets to come through the dog door first. I often think it’s Toledo trying to bug his sister, but he’s just trying to get inside out of the sun or outside into the sun. 

dog negotiationsDog negotiations do sound complicated. I know you are closed to unsolicited queries, so if there’s an author out there who thinks they have something special like WHOBERT, is there a way they can query you? And do you have a suggestion on how their query can shine as brightly as an owl’s talons among all the queries that come your way?

 

They can attend a conference where I’m on faculty (I’m done for 2017; stay tuned for the 2018 schedule) or they can get referred into Erin Murphy Literary Agency by an EMLA client or another industry professional. Write something good! The query should not shine brighter than the manuscript. Make your manuscript amazing first. Then get help with the query by reading aloud a lot or having someone more experienced read and review it for you. I am a BIG FAN of critique groups and beta readers. Use them.

I’m going to take a page from some previous Emu agent interviews and ask you to finish this sentence: the perfect reader for WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE is…

Who, Who, Who, Whover-ific!

Who could doubt that? Thanks, Tricia!


Christina UssChristina Uss loves being part of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency since she gets to hang out with terrific people like Jason Gallaher and Tricia Lawrence and see sneak previews of books like WHOBERT.

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Filed under Advice, Agents, Book Launch, Picture books, Uncategorized

Border Collies and Babies—It’s Never Too Soon To Start (plus a giveaway!)

The story I’m about to tell is relevant to Terry Pierce’s MAMA LOVES YOU SO. I promise.

mama-loves-you-so-coverYears ago, my brother got a beautiful border collie puppy. I remember how excited Warren was, and I remember the solemn advice the breeder gave him. It was this: Show the dog everything he’s ever going to see within the first six months of his life. In short, it was Warren and his family’s responsibility to quickly give intelligent, impressionable Comet the information he’d need to thrive.

*presses pause on dog story*

My first professional, if unrequited, love is midwifery. Permit me to geek out for a bit.

The importance of verbally communicating with babies—and I mean from about 6 months gestation onward—cannot be overstated. Auditory function in the human fetus is complete at 7 months. Not only do they hear and respond to outside noises, research suggests babies learn intonation and can develop a basic recognition of words before birth. After birth, newborns rapidly form brain synapses that correspond with their birth language. In fact, studies have shown that young children who leave their birth language behind through immigration or adoption retain an enhanced ability to relearn it. Cool, huh?

Now let’s talk about MAMA LOVES YOU SO. This book, meant for the tiny ears of the tiniest of people, employs exquisitely rich and melodic language. It describes a world that is sparkling, stony, and ablaze. These are words an adult would be happy to use on a given day. MAMA LOVES YOU SO is crammed full of such delicious and nutritious words. It’s a brain-building buffet for babies and a boon to the brave souls who care for them. Baby and Book

Babies are exhausting. I know. I’ve had two babies, and two aren’t many at all. My in-laws had ten. My parents had five. Have I wondered if  I’m a slacker in the baby department? Yes. But that’s not my point.

Babies require mountains of back-breaking, laundry-making, sleep-taking care, and that’s just to keep them alive. We’re also supposed to educate, encourage, and entertain them. While all forms of communication nourish babies’ language readiness, including singing and everyday conversation, it’s challenging to know what to sing or say to a baby all day, every day.

I ask you, how are sleep-deprived people, wracked as they are with desperate love and stabs of anxiety, supposed to dredge up words like ablaze? They need books. They need books to give them words when they are too tired or overwhelmed to think up their own. Their children are primed to quickly learn millions of discrete, dynamic words, and optimally, they’d possess this treasure trove before starting school.  Where language acquisition is concerned, variety isn’t the spice of life, it is life. Books like MAMA LOVES YOU SO are a sure and happy route to that variety.

We must encourage caregivers, all the caregivers, to talk to babies early and often. Encourage them to talk to the belly, to sing to it, explain stuff to it, and for the love of literacy, to read to it. Encourage them to talk to the newborn. To sing. To explain. To read. We can smile at them benevolently when they do all of this in public. If we get the chance, we can give the caregiver a minute to shower and eat something while we talk, sing, explain, and read.

It might be possible to show a puppy everything it’s ever going to see in six months, but it’s impossible for a human newborn. Luckily, we have opposable thumbs, and opposable thumbs are great for making bookstores and libraries. That’s where Terry Pierce’s beautiful and important MAMA LOVES YOU SO can be found, ready and waiting to offer intelligent, impressionable young people information they need to thrive.

*presses play on dog story* 

Comet lived a long and happy life. He understood his world and how to conduct himself in it, thanks to purposeful attention to his formative experiences. May we do the same for each new child. We have longer than six months to accomplish it, but we don’t have forever. It’s never too soon to start.

 

Terry is giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make this week—and please comment only once per day—she’ll enter your name into the giveaway.

Additional resources:

http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/book-mom

Valerie Garfield, Simon & Schuster editor of MAMA LOVES YOU SO, blogs about reading to and with children.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/about-us/mission-statement/


Enjoy the day,

Hayley
Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press, spring 2019. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, narrative nonfiction illustrated by Diana Sudyka, is also coming spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Inspiration, Picture books, reading, Uncategorized

Oh, Baby! Happy Launch Week Terry Pierce!

This week we are celebrating the launch of a book for newborns by Terry Pierce:

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Mama Loves You So by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Simone Shin (Little Simon/March 14, 2017)

This sweet book in rhyme celebrates nature and a mother’s love with gorgeous illustrations of animals and their young. A perfect bedtime (and really anytime) book to read to a little one.

We asked authors about a favorite baby book, either one read to them as infants or read to their own babies. Check out these baby pictures! And we’d love to hear about your favorite books from your childhood!

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Christina Uss: My twins’ favorite book as babies was Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance. Their eyes would get wide when I did this little dip-and-shuffle-thing and began “Stomp your feet…clap your hands…Everybody ready for the BARNYARD DANCE!”  Then their faces would crumble and tears began when I hit the last page – “The dance is done, but we’ll be back!”, so I’d just turn to the first page and start all over again. Literally for hours. I think they knew all the dancing and rhyme-reading must have meant their mama loved them so.

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Carole Gerber: My daughter’s favorite baby book was Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. We read it to her at least a thousand times. She and her husband welcomed their first child four months ago. Joanna Mae (JoJo to her Mimi – that’s me!). JoJo isn’t yet old enough to let us know her favorite book. I am hoping it will be Tuck-In Time by Carole Gerber (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).

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Hayley Barrett: My earliest memory of story doesn’t involve a book. My mom spent my babyhood singing songs and teaching me nursery rhymes. I knew them all, but my favorite was The Three Little Kittens. I recall reciting it with great dignity to the checkout ladies in Woolworth to much applause and laughter. I would have been about three years old then, similar to toddler Hayley in this picture. The earliest book Mom and I both recall was a Golden Book, The Little Red Hen. She created different voices for each character. I loved it then and still do.

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Jason Gallaher: The book that was a staple for my mom’s reading to me was Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

 And finally, the lovely author of the lovely book —

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Terry Pierce: Neither my mom nor I can recall a specific book I loved as a baby, but she reassures me that I did have many books. My earliest recollection of a favorite story was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’m not sure if it was because I identified with Goldilocks (notice my hair color in the photo) or the fact that there was something so satisfying about things eventually being “just right” but I loved hearing that story over and over again. In fact, the more I think on it, the more I realize that the classic fairy tales were amongst my favorite stories—The Gingerbread Man, The Little Red Hen,…Wait! Porridge, gingerbread, baking bread, a photo of me with my birthday cake—I think I’m seeing a theme here!

GIVE-AWAY ALERT!  Terry will be giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make, she will enter your name into the giveaway (up to one comment per day).


fullsizerender-2When Debbi Michiko Florence was young, she loved having her dad read Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. Her dad got quite good at reading those tongue twisters!

Today, Debbi writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her rabbit, Aki, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux on July 11, 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of an early reader series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Picture books

MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN: interview with Terry Pierce & Carol Schwartz

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I had the privilege of meeting author Terry Pierce a couple of years ago at a retreat. Her new book is brilliantly beautiful–a dream come true for science teachers. This book has gorgeous illustrations, as well as a bit of mystery. Who is lurking? And what is the surprise? Find out in this playful rhyme.

Terry is giving away a FREE COPY!!!  Just leave a comment below to enter.

I chose to ask the same questions to both the author and illustrator, to gain two different perspectives. Terry is the author of more than a dozen books, and Carol has illustrated more than 3 dozen!

Welcome Terry and Carol. I’m honored to be able to interview the duo that created this delightful book.

🐞 What inspires you?

Terry: Nature. Most of my books have some aspect of nature in them. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, the desert or simply observing a beautiful garden, nature fascinates me. As a child, I could sit in a tree for hours! As an adult, I don’t climb trees anymore but still find myself in nature for long periods of time. It’s calming, peaceful and inspiring.

Carol: Nature, the endless wonder and beauty of it all, inspires me every day. I take great pleasure in the study and research of creatures and plants. They reveal patterns, designs, colors, texture and uniqueness. There is so much to learn and interpret through my art.

🐞 How long have you been doing your craft?

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)Terry: I started writing for children in 1999. For ten years, I attended SCBWI events and read books to develop my writing skills. Then in 2009, I began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, which deepened my craft knowledge tenfold. It’s an amazing program I highly recommend.

Carol: I like to say I’ve been practicing my craft all my life. My mother says that at the age of a year and a half I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and it looked like Mickey. I started illustrating children’s books in 1989 with a local publisher in Maryland where I lived at the time. Two years later I had an agent and a Hyperion Press trade book, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme. Now sixty books later, I am still energized with each new project. They are all so different and, fortunately, there are tools I’ve learned throughout my career that help me to navigate the challenges associated with illustrating a picture book.

🐞 What kind of medium do you use?

Terry: I always write my first draft of a picture book with pencil and notepad. I love the feel of writing by hand as the words flow from my brain through my arm to my hand, then finally onto the paper. Doing it this way also slows the process, allowing me to be more mindful of my writing. After the first (very messy) draft, I type the story onto my computer and revise on printed drafts.

carol-schwartzCarol: I work primarily in gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. The opaque or transparent quality, depending on how thick the paint is mixed, make this medium versatile. Gouache is quick drying, which means no waiting time. That comes in handy when working under a deadline, which is most of the time. I also work in Photoshop. It has become indispensable in creating final art for books. I make a high resolution scan of my traditional work and continue to paint in Photoshop. Many details I used to hand render are now finished in Photoshop. In past years I depended on an airbrush for adding large smooth backgrounds or creating smooth textures. Now I use Photoshop to do the same thing.

🐞 How did you get started in the industry?

Terry: I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to try writing children’s books. She told me about the SCBWI so I joined. They’re a fantastic organization for anyone who wants to learn to write for kids. They’re what got me started and pushed me in the right direction. If it weren’t for my local SCBWI chapter, I wouldn’t have had my early publication successes.

Carol: I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, spending my senior year at Rhode Island School of Design in a mobility program. This gave me a good foundation to be an illustrator. When I decided to concentrate on illustrating picture books, I began attending every conference and workshop I could find. At a seminar in Maryland I signed up to have my portfolio critiqued by an artist’s representative. In time she became my agent and I began illustrating a long line of trade books for publishers such as Hyperion, Scholastic, Grosset & Dunlap and Sterling.

🐞 What is a good piece of advice you would give?

Terry: This is the toughest question! There’s so much good advice to give but what rings true to them all is to be persistent. Keep at it even when the going gets extraordinarily tough (and it will!). No matter what phase of writing you’re in, whether you’re developing your craft, submitting your work, or marketing your work, don’t give up! Identify your mistakes, learn from them and keep going. If you learn and persist, you’ll find success.

Carol: Believe in what you are doing. Become a mini expert in whatever the subject matter is you are illustrating or writing about. Find a way to get really excited about the subject. For me, its research that gives me inspiration and lets me know how to illustrate my subject.

🐞 Do you like gardening? Why did you choose to illustrate this book?

Terry: When I was a Montessori teacher, we had a school garden and I greatly enjoyed gardening with the children. There’s something about putting your hands in the soil, being close the earth, caring for the seedlings and watching them grow to maturity that’s amazing for kids. But that’s not what this book is really about…it’s about what happens in a garden! So why did I write it?

I had decided I wanted to write a cumulative story (where the text builds on itself). I recalled that my Montessori students LOVED Arnold Lobel’s cumulative book, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I looked at that story as a mentor text. Of course, my story had to be different (his showcased flowers), so I pondered how I might keep the same setting, but change the focus, plot and characters. I knew most kids love bugs so I decided to focus on bugs and other animals that inhabit a garden. Then when I got the idea to include the surprise element of the developing chrysalis I was ready to write (which meant a lot of playing with words—my favorite part of writing!).

Carol: I am a long time gardener and much of what I know I learned by illustrating gardening articles for the Home section of The Washington Post newspaper. Much of my gardening has been in the Mid-Atlantic region but I’ve also tended gardens in the South and Midwest. Working to make plants grow and being rewarded with flowers makes me smile. What could be better that illustrating that happy feeling of growing all those beautiful flowers with my paints.

🐞 What are some of your favorite insects?

Terry: When I was a kid, I loved “wooly bears.”  fuzzy
I mean, what kid could resist picking one up one of these cute little fuzzy guys? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out they turn into tiger moths!

As an adult, I think one of the coolest insects is the praying mantis (which also happens to be one of my favorite illustrations in the book!). Praying mantises are the rule-breakers of insects. They’re the only one that can turn their head 180 degrees (imagine the advantage that gives them), and after mating the female bites off the male’s head! And the way they hold their front legs ready to strike their prey, yeah, mantises are pretty cool.

Carol: I love how dragonflies and praying mantises look like big, alien creatures. Beetles are interesting because they come in an amazing variety of shapes sizes, colors and patterns. Who doesn’t like butterflies and moths for their many colors and patterns? I respect ants for their eusocial society but I hate coming in contact with them, especially fire ants.

🐞 As a child, what were your favorite books?

fave-books2Terry: I loved any of Dr. Seuss’s books. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was another favorite, along with GENTLE BEN by Walt Morey and RASCAL by Sterling North. Even as a child, books with nature and/or animals appealed to me. Oh, and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a girl after my own heart. Being a tomboy, I saw myself in Pippi. I probably read that book perched in a tree!

fave-booksCarol: I remember favorite childhood books as old friends, there was Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes. I had a bookcase full of Little Golden Books and two large volumes of nature books, Children’s Guide to Knowledge. That’s where I learned of extraordinary creatures such as giant clams, flying squirrels and a strange bird with an extra long tail called a quetzal. Those books fascinated me and, I believe, were the start of my love of nonfiction.

🐞Terry is giving away a FREE signed copy of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. Just add a comment below to enter.

If you’d like to know more about Terri and Carol, please visit their websites:

https://terrypiercebooks.com

http://www.csillustration.com

🐞LINKS TO CRAFTS:

Bug jar:

https://momeefriendsli.com/2013/09/04/diy-bug-jar-for-kids/

Make a footprint grasshopper:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/212935888610838461/

Make a colourful paper chain caterpillar with  wobbly eyes and antennae:

http://www.peekyme.com.au/take-a-peek


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About the interviewer: Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, cover art, Illustrating, Illustrators, Interviews, Picture books, Uncategorized, Writing

A Conversation with Vanessa Brantley-Newton, illustrator of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER

I’d like to start this post by noting that the subject of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, the late Audrey Faye Hendricks, was nine years old when she was imprisoned for her civil rights activism. She remained in prison—real prison—for a week. She was locked in a cell. Interrogated by adult strangers. She was in danger, both inside the prison and after her release. She is an American hero. As of this post, she does not have a Wikipedia page.

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“I’d never heard of Audrey Faye Hendricks,” says Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of over 75 books. vanessa-brantley-newton“When I read Cynthia Levinson’s manuscript, it broke me. It made me cry. I became fascinated by Audrey. I read the manuscript to myself and then had someone read it to me. Right away, I could see the pictures—that’s very important.”

Vanessa goes on to detail aspects of her research, “I read Cynthia’s previous book on the Children’s March, WE’VE GOT A JOB TO DO, and weve-got-a-jobwatched the PBS program on the event. I wanted my work to be emotional—to make it clear that Audrey was a child. As I worked, I listened to music from that time, songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” With one exception early in the process, Vanessa and the author did not actively collaborate on the project. “Cynthia wanted to see how I portrayed Martin Luther King Jr.—a friend of Audrey’s family—and once I showed her the sketch, we didn’t need to consult again.”

Like all of Vanessa’s work, THE YOUNGEST MARCHER glows with color and shimmers with texture. the-youngest-marcher“I’m a retro girl, heart and soul,” Vanessa says. “I love the colors of the sixties and seventies, the reds and oranges together.” She scanned vintage fabrics and included photographs in her collage work. Her use of marbleized paper adds swirling atmosphere to the image of a small, beloved child curled up on a prison cot.

Despite her age, Audrey’s bright-eyed conviction is made plain in Vanessa’s illustrations. As she heeds Dr. King’s call to fill the prisons, as she boards the police van in her starched skirt, bobby socks, and pink hair ribbons, she is full of hope and might as easily be headed to school or church. Although younger than the other marchers, she remains stalwart until the prisons are full to bursting and all are released. Hope intact, Audrey Faye Hendricks emerges to her parents’ arms and a changed world, one she helped to create.

“I hope that people can be inspired by my work,” Vanessa says. “As a child, I never saw children of color in books. We have this wonderful ability as authors and illustrators to tell stories that encompass what children go through so that kids feel included, like someone has captured their real world.”

I’d like to thank Vanessa for her time and for all of her efforts to bring Audrey Faye Hendricks and her story to vibrant, visual life. I’d like to thank author Cynthia Levinson for writing the story of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. I’m glad and grateful to know about this remarkable story of courage.


Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Activism, Book Launch, Celebrations, Character Development, Characters, cover art, Creativity, Illustrators, Inspiration, Interviews, Launch, Picture books, process, Research, Uncategorized

Family Recipes

This week we’re celebrating the launch of Cynthia Levinson’s debut picture book, The Youngest Marcher, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

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In 1963 in the city of Birmingham Alabama, when Audrey Faye Hendricks was in elementary school, she was inspired by dinner guests Dr. Martin Luther King, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and Reverend James Bevel. She didn’t think it was right that she couldn’t sit at the counter to eat ice cream, sit at the front of the bus, or ride the nice elevator at the department store with the white folks. So when the idea came to have a Children’s March and fill the jail with children to protest the inequity, Audrey volunteered. She was the youngest marcher and was in jail for a long seven days, which led to Birmingham rescinding its segregation ordinances. This is a powerful story about how one young girl made a difference by standing up for what she believed in.

One of the first things Audrey ate when she was released from jail was her mother’s Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter, a favorite. When Audrey and her sister grew up, they didn’t have a recipe but they experimented until they came up with something that tasted just like their mother’s rolls. The recipe is included in the book.

Today, authors share some of their favorite recipes that are associated with good memories and family.

Jason Gallaher: Here’s a recipe I absolutely love that has been passed through all the members of my family forever and ever. It’s beef stroganoff, so it’s nothing monumental or insanely unique, but all the family meals I’ve had with this make it so my heart soars whenever I know we are having it for dinner!

Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 – 10 1/2 ounce can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
Sliced mushrooms
2 tbsps ketchup
3-4 squirts of soy sauce
Dash of garlic
Brown the meat, onion, and mushrooms. Add remaining ingredients and heat through. Don’t boil. Serve over your favorite noodle or rice.
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Heather Bouwman: We have a super-easy recipe for “Green Eggs and (vegetarian) Ham” that was a go-to dish when my kids were little (and still something they ask for today). I created it by tweaking a quiche recipe into something much simpler…and then gave it a name that I thought would make the kids want to eat it.
Green Eggs and Ham
5 – 6 eggs
roll of refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury or other)
about 3 cups of fresh or frozen broccoli florets (thawed)
maybe a tablespoon of dijon mustard
feta cheese–about 1/2 cup
Baco’s or other vegetarian bacon
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Set oven to 350º
Steam the broccoli until it is very soft.
Butter the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Spread the crescent rolls out in the pan to make a crust. Brush generously with dijon mustard and sprinkle with feta. Set aside.
In a blender or with a hand blender, blend the soft broccoli with a little bit of egg until pureed. Small chunks are fine. Add the rest of the eggs and blend until frothy. Add a little pepper if desired and mix in.
Pour egg mixture slowly over feta. Sprinkle bacos on top. Cook about 20 minutes, until egg is set. (Dish will not rise–it’ll be more like tart height than quiche height.)
Read Green Eggs and Ham while eating.
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 Elly Swartz: My favorite family recipe is my mom’s chicken soup.  Made with a whole chicken, carrots, celery, onion, cooked slow for 5 hours and served with so much love.  My mom made this soup for Passover, and every time anyone in my family had a fever, a cough, a runny nose. She passed away over 20 years ago, but each time my kitchen fills with the smell of chicken soup, I think of her and am so grateful for all the love she ladled.
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Debbi Michiko Florence: The one thing that always reminds me of home and family is inari sushi, or as we affectionally used to call it, footballs. Mom always served these at family potlucks and holiday celebrations. I tried to make them a few years ago for New Year’s, and they were good, but not as good as the ones my mom made. A lot probably had to do with the fact that Mom made them for us.
Very Easy Inari
2 cups of cooked sushi rice
1 can of inari age or fried bean curd (found in Asian markets)
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Open can and carefully remove the fried bean curd. Open inari and scoop a small ball of  slightly cooled cooked rice into the pocket. Repeat until you use up all the fried bean curds. Serve and enjoy!
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What are your favorite recipes that remind you of home/family? We’d love to hear about them!

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Book Resources for The Nian Monster

Xingling, the main character in THE NIAN MONSTER, is a resourceful girl. When confronted by a ravenous monster, she keeps her wits about her in order to fend Nian off. She’s not afraid to ask for help, either. Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get THE NIAN MONSTER into the hands of readers. I heard over and over how everybody loves freebies. So in addition to swag like bookmarks and magnets, I decided to offer additional book-related resources. And, like Xingling, I reached out and asked for help from my community — the wonderful kidlit community.

Here are a few of the resources that were created for my book:

A Teacher’s Guide: Arguably, not every picture book needs a teacher’s guide, especially if it’s fiction. But I felt that there were enough cultural and geographical aspects to my book that a teacher, librarian, or parent might appreciate a guide with more information about Chinese New Year, curriculum-related activities, and discussion questions. I discovered that teacher’s guides can vary in length and cost. Being a debut author, I opted to hire Anna Chan Rekate, a debut teacher’s guide writer, but also a very experienced elementary school teacher. Anna did an amazing job — she even included a personal recipe for sesame noodles! You can download a copy of the teacher’s guide here.

A Book-Related Craft: I confess, I LOVE crafts. My basement is filled with boxes of craft materials and random objects that I save just in case I might need them for a craft. I did a lot of crafts with my sons when they were younger and I knew it would be great to have an activity for after my story time events. Kids love things that they can make themselves and bring home, plus it connects them to the story in a different, more tactile way. The incredibly creative Kirsten Cappy of Curious City (try saying that 3x fast!) developed an origami bookmark craft and illustrator Alina Chau drew the Nian Monster so that it looks like Nian is “eating” the corner of your page! Download the template here and make a Nian bookmark with your kids (or for yourself)! Kirsten and her intern Sophia even made an instructional video, which you can watch below or on YouTube.

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The Nian Monster bookmark will chomp on your page!

 

An Event Kit: I knew I needed to reach teachers and librarians, but I was at a loss about how to do so. Again, Kirsten Cappy came to my rescue. She has access to an extensive network of educators. Kirsten recommended creating an event kit so that educators could make story time with THE NIAN MONSTER an interactive experience. The event kit includes instructions and a template for creating a giant Nian mask. An adult can pretend to be Nian or the kids can “feed” Nian fish, noodles, and sticky rice cake just like in the book (fake fish are used — no live fish will be harmed during story time). The event kit is available at Curious City.

Here's me channeling my inner Nian Monster!

Here’s me channeling my inner Nian Monster!

Whether your book has yet to be sold or is headed for publication, it’s not too early to think about what kinds of resources you want to offer your readers. I added an Author’s Note to THE NIAN MONSTER when it was still in manuscript form, explaining the symbolism of the Chinese New Year foods in the story. If there’s an aspect of your story that you think readers would like to know more about, you might consider adding a short Author’s Note as well. And if you decide against it, there are plenty of opportunities to develop and offer educational resources after publication.

Good luck and thank you for celebrating my book launch week with me! Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post (or any EMUs Debuts post this week) to be entered into a giveaway of THE NIAN MONSTER.


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Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster (Albert Whitman & Co., December 2016), is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market and is working on a middle grade novel. Andrea is a former environmental consultant and now writes full-time. She recently moved from the Boston area to Denver, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog that will do anything for food. That pretty much describes her family, too.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com, on Twitter under @AndreaYWang, and on Instagram as @andreawhywang.

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It’s a Celebration!

Congratulations to Emu’s Debuter Andrea Wang on her fabulous debut picture book The Nian Monster, illustrated by Alina Chau.

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When the Nian Monster threatens to ruin the New Year’s celebration in Shanghai, clever and brave Xingling thwarts the monster and saves the city! I love so many things about this book, from the witty and upbeat Xingling to the bright and fun illustrations, but best of all, I love the descriptions of the food! MMmmm! So, I thought it would be appropriate  to start off Andrea’s launch week celebration by asking the Emu’s what their favorite holiday foods are.

Elly Swartz: My favorite holiday food is my husband’s homemade, strawberry, banana, cream pie. He makes it once a year for my birthday. This time of year coincides with Thanksgiving, so every turkey day, it’s our much anticipated dessert.  And, since I’ve become gluten and dairy free over the years, this pie takes a whole lot of love to make. What I love about it? To me, this pie is so much more than post-Thanksgiving breakfast, it’s family in a pie plate. It’s the time of year we are all together, sharing, laughing, loving. This pie is all the wonderment of family. All that I am grateful for.

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Terry Pierce: First, just ONE??? I have so many amazing memories of my family eating together during the holidays, but the one food item that just makes me smile is PIE. Everyone in my family LLLLOVES pie! For holiday dinners, we’d always have three pies (always a pecan because that’s my mom’s specialty, an apple because it’s my son’s favorite, and either pumpkin or chocolate). Pie is simply perfection on a fork!

But, probably the most memorable “holiday food memory” that I have with pie came at Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s home. My “sweeter-than-pie” mother-in-law was trying to spray whipped cream onto my father-in-law’s slice of pumpkin pie and for some reason, the whipped cream sprayed upward and into his face! He said, “What the heck, Dolly! What’d you do that for?” as he wiped the cream from his cheeks. We were all trying to suppress our laughter as she explained that she didn’t know, that the can malfunctioned. She said, “Let me try again” and then did the exact same thing! There sat my father-in-law, his face white with cream. At that point, everyone at the table completely lost it. Even my in-laws were laughing by then. Since then, I’ve never been able to look at a can of whipped cream without smiling at that memory.

Hayley Barrett: Every year I make a lamb-shaped cake for Easter. It’s a lemony pound cake dusted with powdered sugar. I add purple jelly bean eyes and a pink jelly bean nose. When my kids were little, we’d eat it after coloring eggs with the cousins. Now we usually have it for breakfast on Easter morning.

Like any traditional food, it takes a good bit of work to make. Results are not guaranteed, and occasionally I have to reattach a broken nose or missing ear with frosting. Sometimes I think I’ll skip it, but as the holiday gets closer, I always pull out the heavy aluminum mold and reach for the lemon zester. Easter isn’t Easter without Lambie Cake!

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Sweets are definitely awesome, but some Emu Debuters, lean toward the savory.

Christina Uss: My favorite holiday celebration food item is kielbasa, also known as polish sausage.

I think the two reasons it makes me so happy are:

1. My love of meat in tube form (hot dogs are also a favorite of mine) and

2. The fact I’m 100% Polish and my extended family always has kielbasa on the table at almost any and every holiday event.

This year I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house and made the choice to skip the turkey and replace it with two lovely locally-made garlicky pink kielbasas!

Darcy Rosenblatt: Oh so many to choose from but I have to go with matzo ball soup. Made by my grandmother when I was very little and then by my mother as I was growing up. The day before Passover it fills the house with yummy smells. Rich chicken soup with lighter than air matzo balls! It’s always a delicious way to start the meal after the long Passover service. (Everyone gets hungry). Some in my family only eat it on Passover, but we have adopted a new recipe – hot and sour matzo ball soup and we have it for smaller special occasions all year round. Yum. I think I’ll make some today with the turkey left overs!

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Debbi Michiko Florence: Fried won tons remind me of New Year’s Day celebration with my extended family. Growing up, New Year’s Day (not eve) was the big celebratory event in our family. Mom and aunts and grandma would cook a big feast and the rest of us would nosh all day. When I was old enough, I got to help make the won tons, scooping the meat mixture with a spoon and placing it carefully in the center of a square won ton skin.  It made eating the crispy fried treat all the more delicious! Now that our family is scattered around the country, we don’t get together regularly for the holidays. I miss those big family gatherings and all day feasting at the start of the year.

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And from the author herself, Andrea Wang: One of my favorite holiday celebration foods is the Chinese sticky rice stuffing my mom and grandma used to make for every Thanksgiving. It was full of shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp. Not only did it taste amazing (especially when my grandma used real lard instead of vegetable oil), but when combined with the traditional American turkey, it was the perfect fusion of East and West. I loved being able to celebrate my Chinese heritage at Thanksgiving.

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What is your favorite holiday food? Whatever it is, be sure to check out what clever Xingling does to thwart the Nian Monster in Andrea’s debut picture book. I promise it’s a delicious story!

Andrea will be giving away one copy of The Nian Monster this week. Just leave a comment on any of this week’s posts to enter!


web_edit6xx8t3624Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her rabbit, Aki, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux on July 11, 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books.

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

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Cover Reveal: THE NIAN MONSTER

At long last, the day is finally here! The day I get to reveal the cover of my debut picture book, THE NIAN MONSTER, to the world. The first time I saw a draft of the cover was in December 2015 — ten months ago! It’s been really hard to keep a secret for so long, especially one that’s this beautiful:

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Didn’t illustrator Alina Chau do a fabulous job?! And I’m thrilled that Mia Wenjen, AKA Pragmatic Mom, is hosting me today on her wonderful blog. Please check out my guest post on her site for more info about THE NIAN MONSTER and the book cover! Mia’s site is a treasure trove of kidlit resources, including lists of other Chinese New Year picture books as well as Chinese New Year crafts and activities. Chinese (Lunar) New Year is coming up soon on January 28, 2017 — it’s never too early to start preparing!

THE NIAN MONSTER releases on December 1st, but you can pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound if you feel inclined.

Xie xie! (Thank you!)


Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. At home, she dragged books, chocolate chips, and the family pet into her closet to read. Not much has changed since then, except for the closet part! Before becoming a writer, Andrea cleaned up hazardous waste sites as an environmental consultant. She recently moved to Colorado with her family and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog. You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com, on Twitter under @AndreaYWang, and on Instagram as @andreawhywang.

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Back to School, Emu Style

As a teacher and a mom, there are three words that describe this time of year for me: Back to School. There are so many great things associated with those words: freshly-sharpened pencils, blank pages, and a seemingly limitless opportunity to learn and grow. There’s a beautiful sense of a story just beginning.

It’s a little like what we experience as writers each time we start a new project, isn’t it?

With that in mind, and because every season of life calls for new books to be read, I asked the Emu experts to tell me their favorite Back to School stories. Here are their responses:

rubyHayley Barrett: I love RUBY THE COPYCAT by the brilliant Peggy Rathmann. The conflict is real as Ruby, a delightfully idiosyncratic little girl, imitates her very tolerant classmate Angela. With encouragement, Ruby learns to be her own wonderful self, and the resolution is perfectly hop-py.

Darcey Rosenblatt: My new favorite is Elizabeth Shreeve’s CAPTAIN FREDDY COUNTS DOWN TO SCHOOL. Freddy overcomes his kindergarten fears through his imagined space adventures. Sweet story and beautiful illustrations.captain freddy

Jason Gallaher: Audrey Vernick’s FIRST GRADE DROPOUT is amazing!! I love how Audrey captures the fear of going to full-time school but with such a humorous voice. She better never dropout of writing.

Elly Swartz: When my boys were little, our favorites were the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar and THE SECRET SHORTCUT by Mark Teague. These books captured my boys’ imagination and sense of adventure. My new favorites are FIRST GRADE DROPOUT by Audrey Vernick and SOPHIE’S SQUASH GO TO SCHOOL by Pat Zietlow Miller.

squash schoolKatie Slivensky: It’s more family than school focused, but TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume will always be one of my favorites. It acknowledges the difficulties of being in that age range so perfectly!

Andrea Wang: I love the middle grade mysteries CHASING VERMEER and THE WRIGHT 3 by Blue Balliett. They’re a wonderful mix of school, friendships, art, and puzzles, with a touch of the paranormal thrown in. What more could you want?!

Elaine Vickers: My kids can never get enough of YELLOWBELLY AND PLUM GO TO SCHOOL by Nathan Hale. The story is great, the illustrations are awesome, and it offers a great opportunity to talk about common fears and also diversity. For older readers, it would be hard to beat WONDER.

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profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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