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Let Nature Nurture You, and Wash Your Spirit Clean

Readers of Terry Pierce’s cozy MAMA LOVES YOU SO will encounter many poetic images of nature nurturing the young, reminding us that nature has room to nurture us at any age.  mama-loves-you-so-coverTerry will be giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. Enter by leaving a comment below, and she will enter your name into the giveaway (up to one comment per day.) Read on to see how nature nurtures Terry and some of her fellow kidlit writers.

Terry has always found solace in nature, going back to her childhood. “For hours, I could sit cradled in the branches of a tree, or perched on a rock watching the woods. Anytime I’m feeling restless, worried, or at a breaking point, if I can get out in nature I’m instantly calmed and can put things in perspective. And I love writing in the woods! I carry a waterproof journal and pencil in my backpack because my muse often appears in nature. In fact, I wrote MAMA LOVES YOU SO outside, inspired by the grandeur of the mountains.

 

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The place in nature that nurtures me the most are the Sierra Nevada mountains. Whether I’m sunning on a boulder, climbing, hiking, listening to a stream, or watching wildlife (hopefully with a camera in hand), I’m at peace in the mountains. I once spent five weeks hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

John Muir, one of my favorite writers, once wrote, ‘Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. So true! My hope is that MAMA LOVES YOU SO will inspire parents to take their little ones outdoors so they can learn to love nature and feel its benefits, too.”

 

Author Debbi Michiko Florence finds, “Whenever my mind gets too busy or I feel overwhelmed by my Things To Do list, all I need to do is step outside. I have two ducks (Darcy and Lizzy) and at least twice a day I have ‘duck time.’

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I let them out of their coop to wander the yard and I sit there, watching them, listening to bird song (and duck quacks), breathe the fresh air and watch the clouds roll by. My mind settles and I get present with what is. Duck time is meditative for me and nurtures me like nothing else.”

 

 

Author Hayely Barrett appreciates animals too. “As much as I love people, I’m deeply thankful that humans aren’t the only creatures on this planet. Life on Earth is spectacularly varied, and whether I watch a video of a jaguar slinking through the rainforest or spot a fisher slinking through my yard, I am cheered.

Me and Munchkin

Hayley and Munchkin, fully themselves

I enjoy the company of non-humans, horses and dogs especially. They are fully themselves—unchanging and at peace—and spending time with them helps me to remember who I am too.”

 

 

 

 

Author Katie Slivensky shares,

bluejoyNature calms me by giving me something to focus on that is external. I was stuck on some summary work during a snow day in February, and then a paused and spent an hour taking pictures of blue jays outside. That took my mind away from my book troubles, and when I came back around to work on those summaries later, I had a much easier time.”

 

Author Megan Lloyd’s debut picture book celebrates kids in nature, and she finds support there herself. “When I find myself getting anxious, with my heart racing and my thoughts swirling, going outside for a walk, or just taking a minute to sit in the sunshine, centers me. It helps me let go of my problems and instead feel absorbed in the beauty around me. And then I’m ready to take a deep breath…and return to my challenges (writing and otherwise), with a renewed sense of perspective and focus.”

Author and agent Ammi-Joan Paquette knows where writers can find an ever-present boost beyond their writing chair, saying, “Nature is nurturing because it is always accepting, always peaceful, always there. It’s like a personal magic kingdom that lies in wait for whenever you need it.”

And wherever any of us are in the writing and publishing process, there’s not one of us who couldn’t use plenty of that.

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Filed under Book Launch, Inspiration, Nature, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

MAMA LOVES YOU SO: An Interview with agent Tricia Lawrence

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I’m excited to celebrate the launch of this lovely book, Mama Loves You So, by author Terry Pierce. Terry is giving away a free copy of her book, so leave a comment below to enter the drawing. Today I am interviewing Terry’s agent, Tricia Lawrence, from Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Sarvinder: Hello Tricia Dear, Thank you for joining us as we celebrate the launch of Terry’s new board book, Mama Loves You So

Tricia: Terry is a writer with so many talents, from early readers to picture books, to board books, which is what we’re celebrating today, and this book, be still my heart, is the sweetest board book you’ll ever see. 

I know we have a lot of people who want to learn more about you as an agent. Are you an editorial agent? Do you give feedback for revisions before sending out to clients?

mama-loves-butterfly3I am an editorial agent, alas. I have been a freelance editor for almost 22 years and I can’t stop now. 😉  Yes, but revisions are not a guarantee. Sometimes, the manuscript is ready, so out it goes. Other times, the author and I revise together. tricia-lawrence

How many queries do you average per month? What percent are picture books, middle grade or young adult?

It really varies. Sometimes, there’s a lot to go read. I would say the majority of what I read are picture books currently.

What percent of queries do you take on?

Less than 1%. 

mama-loves-foxWhat do you see a lot of, in terms of repetitive ideas? 


Too-short and too-sweet manuscripts or overly long and too-sweet. Not that sweet isn’t good, but I see a lot of that same note sweet manuscript.mama-loves-butterfly

What is a common mistake writers make?                                                                mama-loves-butterfly2

Assuming that writing a picture book is easier than writing a novel. 

As a picture book writer, I LOVE that answer. What are you looking for and not looking for?

  I am looking for everything. I’m having to be super particular with picture books because I have to fit a new writer into a list of picture book authors (like Terry!) that I am already representing. I don’t want any of my clients to compete with each other.

What are some of your processes for considering a future client’s manuscript?

Read the text a few times, both to myself and aloud. Think about if the manuscript(s) feel too similar to what is out there on the market and then if not, think about if the manuscript(s) feel too similar to what my actual clients are already writing or planning to write.mama-loves-you-so-bear

How long does this process usually take?

It varies. For most of my submissions, I know this really quickly. Some, though, I have to sit on for a bit.

Do you respond to every query, or just those you are interested in? What is your usual response time?


mama-loves-butterfly2I respond to every query. I am extremely backlogged from 2016. I wish I could be faster, but my actual clients and their writing and submissions must come first.

How does one submit to you? (I assume look on the guidelines of the submissions page)

I’m closed to unsolicited submissions (as is all of EMLA), so if a writer wants to query me, they should attend a conference where I’m speaking.

What spoke to you about Terry’s manuscripts when she first queried you?

Terry had a real sensibility with her texts. She has a very good sense of fun and whimsy and is able to balance the sweet with beautiful words and a cohesive theme, so it doesn’t come across as too-sweet.tpierceheadshotucla-2

What’s next for you and Terry? 

Terry’s got some exciting things she’s working on that I’m very ready to talk about, but first we’re so excited about MAMA LOVES YOU SO going out to the world. It’s just a wonderful book and is just so lovely.

Sarvinder: Thank you so much Tricia for taking the time to answer these questions and to help celebrate the launch of Terry’s lovely lilting lullaby, Mama Loves You So. Congratulations to both of you!  XOXO
Visit Terry’s website at https://terrypiercebooks.com



sarvinder-naberhaus-1200Sarvinder 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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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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Countdown to Launch

jugglerIt’s 169 days until LOST BOYS is let loose to find it’s way in the world and into children’s hands. I recently got to meet my team at Henry Holt and confirmed what I’d been feeling over the last approximately 380 days we’ve been working together – I am lucky to be in their hands. Let me tell you people – there is nothing like walking through hall after hall of shiny bookcases filled with pretty children’s books and knowing yours is going to be there soon.

It’s been approximately 660 days since that champagne cloud of a day when the book sold, so you can imagine Launch Day brings equal parts elation and abject dread. I’m a juggler struggling to keep a large bowling pin, an apple and a chain saw in the air. Are we all done with edits? How will the book be viewed in this political climate? When shall I start the ARC tour? Is the website done? Have I thanked my new followers on Twitter? Am I getting new followers on Twitter? Have I booked my launch? And OMG – is the laundry done?

And in among that avalanche of questions is maybe the most crucial one. How is that work in progress – the next book? On this bright Monday morning I’m feeling good. I’ve finally jettisoned all those characters and scenes that weren’t serving my story and the path forward is clear. But Oh Lordy! Finding the headspace to give it the attention it deserves is not easy. That pure writing time is precious and dear and so different from the twirling tornado that is my everyday. So my friends, thank you for listening as I pledge to carve out time in the eye of my storm and hold in my sights an empty space on that shiny bookcase.

Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry darceyhighresHolt/MacMillan in August 2017. LOST BOYS, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and dances.

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Meet Our Newest EMU: Elizabeth Acevedo– Keeping it Real

The day my agent said we were going out on submission, I was completely taken aback. I’ve always heard publishing is sloth-slow, but exactly four weeks after becoming Joan’s client, we were sending the manuscript to editors! I didn’t feel at all ready. Although with Joan’s notes I had completed a full revision, although I had worked with two critique partners and felt ready to submit to Joan, although I had been working on this novel on and off for four years, the moment it became real that editors were going to read my work all I could think was “the novel isn’t ready! I’m not a real writer.”

But I didn’t say that out loud to Joan. What I emailed back to her was, “Wow. It’s happening! How exciting is this moment when anything is possible?” And that moment right before feedback, before any rejections, when the publishing world is your editorial oyster really is exciting. And then Joan sent me the words every fiction writer dreams about as they pick away at their keyboards late at night: the champagne and caviar dreams of unpublished writers who sustain themselves with whimsical fantasies: the words that I’d read about but never believed would be said to me: “We are going to auction, Liz.”

It was real. Not just one, but several editors were taken by this world I had penned. The auction? Was real. The interest level? Was real. The squeal I let loose at the restaurant in Kosovo where I was participating in a poetry festival? A whole real squeal. The day of the auctioned dawned with seven editors outbidding one another in an attempt to acquire my book. It should have been one of the most joyous days of my life. And it was glorious, don’t get me wrong. But it was still shadowed with the question: “What if this is all a hoax? I’m still not a real writer, am I?”

The question of “realness” is one I’ve carried for a long time. I found my way to creative writing through music (I really wanted to be a rap star in my teens) and slowly transitioned into poetry. Even while getting my Masters in Creative Writing, I questioned whether or not I should be in the program. Even while competing for—and eventually winning—a National Poetry Slam championship, I questioned if I was good enough to be on stage. So, it’s not surprising that the auction and book sale that should have been an incredibly validating experience was a mental exercise of pacing up and down the halls of self-doubt. When you’ve cloaked yourself in imposter syndrome for as long as I have, it’s not an easy thing to slide off your shoulders and hang up.

I don’t bring up the story of the length of my submission process and auction to brag; I know my process was quick and painless and not the norm. I was so, so lucky and the many years of studying and practicing writing and committing to the craft led me to writing something that resonated with folks. But I was wrong to believe there was a magic moment when something or someone would affirm me enough that I would no long doubt my position as a writer.

That will never be enough external affirmation that I am a real storyteller. There will never be any outside stamp, award, or sticker that will make me believe I deserve to occupy space in the literary world. Even when everything goes right, I question my right to be here, even a member of this EMU Debut blog group.

I grew up never seeing stories about girls like in books. I was the daughter of Dominican Immigrants, growing up in 90s New York City, dreaming of being a rap star or the first woman President and my story was on no bookshelf, in no library. I came from an untraditional path to children’s literature. I have too many scars of being told I don’t have the right to be in certain rooms to not always expect someone to pull the rug from under me. Which is why I know the only person who can determine if I’m a “real” writer has been the same person who had been determining since I was nine years old: me.

teen-liz

Teen Liz on her way to a poetry slam.

It sounds cliché, I know. But the reality is that when I began to actively work at seeing the world as a poet, when I began reading as a writer, when I began to scribble on grocery receipts and fill notebooks full of rhymes; when I wrote for hours and edited for hours more. When I followed ideas down rabbit holes, I never imagined being able to climb out of…that was when I became a real writer. When I was told directly and indirectly that these scribbles would never amount it anything it wasn’t the MFA degree, the book sale, the first collection of poetry winning a contest, not a national championship in slam poetry, it wasn’t any of those credentials that made me believe I was real. It’s been my continuously reminding myself I’m not just playing dress up. That someone isn’t going to magically snatch away what I’ve written.

Every day I think about my novel, The Poet X, being released into the world in a year. I catch myself going down the same path of worry. What if it isn’t any good? What if the world discovers I’m a fraud? What if…

And every day I remind myself to get back to my laptop and my current project and remember that magical moment before pressing send when everything is possible. Although writing means stretching the bounds of imagination, there is a tangible creation that is mine, and every time I make a poem, or a character, or a even something as small as a simple outline, that writing is real. And as its writer, so am I.

About Liz:20131031-DSC_7508 copy.jpg

ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance experience, Acevedo has toured her poetry nationally and internationally. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018) is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.

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Meet Our Newest Emu: Anna Crowley Redding

 

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Even now, I can still clearly see the view from my windshield as I drove along leafy, tree-lined streets with my three-year-old boy and his baby brother strapped into their car seats, slowly making our way home from the library.

“You can be anything you want,” I promised my sweet boys. “Anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.”

As soon as the words left my lips, I felt a twitch inside.  A pang. A thud of a forgotten memory, the whisper of a long lost dream.

A dream, quieted by the demands of life. School. Journalism Career. Raising Littles.

But, in that moment, after an afternoon surrounded by books, I couldn’t deny I heard it. It felt like an untied shoelace.

You can be anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.

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Anna Crowley Redding, Age 10. That little toothless girl had big dreams (and even bigger sunglasses. Some things just do not change.)

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a children’s book author. At 10, I used to a carry a wire bound notebook around with me, filling  the pages with a murder mystery. In my teens, I wrote picture books and poetry. All along, I collected children’s books. Even in my 20’s, my father still added to my collection every year during the holidays. I loved it!

But the dream of actually writing for children slowly, mindlessly, invisibly drifted to the back burner––until that drive home from the library. Until the talk about following one’s dreams. And I realized that if I want my boys to follow their dreams, I had better get busy leading by example.

The next morning, I woke up earlier, made coffee, climbed into a chair in front of my computer, and started. And it felt––ridiculous. I mean, truly, it felt absurd, silly, and small. How could I justify it? The boys, the nursing, the laundry, the schedule, the money, no assurance it would ever go anywhere at all, and on and on and on.

But the next morning, it felt less ridiculous. Defending the time to write came easier, with practice.

And that twitch, that pang, that thud of a long forgotten memory became a battle cry, day in and day out. Something that could only be calmed with writing.

I joined SCBWI and prepared to attend my first conference. Business cards, sharpened pencils, and fresh paper packed into my bag, I walked through the doors with big expectations. After two days of workshops, seminars, and talking to other writers, it hit me: I was standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain. And I had not a single clue as to how to climb it.

I felt defeated.

Until the next morning, that battle cry woke me up and I returned to the computer. The mornings added up. So did meetings with my invaluable critique group. Countless revisions, workshops, seminars, false starts, failed attempts to quit . . . every morning, the battle cry came for me. And I answered.

Nearly five years later, my agent called.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m about to run into the school for a parent teacher conference. I can talk for five minutes now or longer this afternoon.”

“Five minutes should be enough,” she said, “to tell you we have an offer.”

A book deal. A real live book deal.

All I remember after that is crying and feeling extreme gratitude, the kind of gratitude that’s built morning after morning, setback after setback, word by word, sentence by sentence, and draft by draft.

Maybe you, too, are in the throes of raising amazing little people, juggling the demands of an intense career, or fending off the terror of trying to make ends meet (or all three at once.) And maybe you, too, feel that twitch, that pang, or hear that thud of a memory long forgotten.

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up and get started, imagine me there with you, cheering you on . . . no matter how ridiculous it feels. Because actually what you are doing is quite brave.

Write on!

Anna

P.S. As a practical matter, here are some things I did that made all the difference:

  1. Join SCBWI
  2. Attend a conference
  3. Find a critique group (the number of times they have picked me up off the floor!)
  4. Don’t Give Up!

 

About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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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


sarvinder-naberhaus-1200

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

Come Along for the Ride

I’m so ridiculously happy to be introducing myself to you today. Hi. I’m Christina. I love to read and I love to write. And after I rode my bike across the United States, I’ve never been the same.

If I hadn’t pedaled from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco over the span of one crazy summer, I bicycle-girl_smallnever would have become an adventure tour guide, taking other people bicycling and hiking all over the place. If I’d never become an adventure tour guide, I’d never have decided to pedal down the entire span of the U.S. Pacific Coast with one equally intrepid (and equally unemployed) tour guide pal.

If my pal and I had never decided to ride down the Pacific Coast, I’d never have submitted an article about the experience to a magazine, and they never would have published it, and I never would have become a professional freelance writer scribbling and bibbling about the wonders of bicycling.

If I’d never published lots of bicycling articles, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to sit down and write a middle grade novel called THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE about a 12-year-old who pedals from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. Or the confidence to send it out to agents until I found one who believed in it like Ammi-Joan Paquette. (And who was tickled to find out big chunks of it are true, based on the real places and people I’ve met on my own rides.) And to have Ammi-Joan’s help to find an editor and publishing house who want to share THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE with the world.

book-cover

No, I wouldn’t! I would be someone else. And I’m so glad and grateful I’m me today.

Author Bruce Weber wrote in Life Is a Wheel, “Novelists will say that one reason their work is so agonizing is that no one out here is waiting for what they do; they have to create their own welcome in the world…a cross-country bicyclist feels the same way.”  I can’t tell you what it means to me that I’ve found a welcome in the U.S. many times as a cross-country bicyclist, and now I’ve found a welcome in the world as a children’s novelist.  My BICYCLE will be riding into kids’ hands and homes one year from now.  Whoa.

In case I’m making it sound like the life of a debut children’s author is all kittens and rainbows, let me assure you it resembles my cycling career in many ways: I often gasp for breath and want to give up while others around me seem to be surging ahead. Steep hills appear for me to climb that weren’t on my map. And just when I think I’ve hit smooth sailing, a pack of territorial farm dogs show up.

But today, I’m not complaining. Today, the farm dogs feel far behind. Today I get to introduce myself to you as a debut children’s book author. Hi! I’m Christina. This looks like it’s going to be one heck of a ride.


christina-ussCHRISTINA USS is a bike writer, bike rider, mother of twins and dweller of Massachusetts. Her debut novel THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE comes out January 2018 from Margaret Ferguson Books. Wheee! Visit her at http://www.christinauss.com.

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Filed under joy, process, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

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.

audrey-faye

“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

Inspiration from Songs, Chants, and Slogans

The launch of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, a picture book about the youngest civil rights marcher in Birmingham, Alabama, continues today! As Cynthia described on Tuesday, the strength in nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks’ voice was often boosted by music and protest chants. In that spirit, Emus gathered together to discuss different songs, chants, and slogans we found memorable and inspirational in civil rights movements.

Darcey Rosenblatt says that “It Could Have Been Me” by Holly Near was a life-changing song for her when she first heard it, and that it still carries power with her today. Holly Near sang this at a memorial for the four students shot at Kent State University as they protested the bombing of Cambodia in May 1970.

Jason Gallaher says he will never forget the immediacy and the impact of the NOH8 campaign after Proposition 8 passed in California, banning same-sex marriage. Thousands of people came together to get their pictures taken in a silent protest against the proposition. Even though the protest was silent, the amount of photos of people with NOH8 painted across their faces created a sort of hum in the air, moving more and more to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage. While same-sex marriage is legal today, the campaign still serves as a stand against any kind of discrimination.

Hayley Barrett says she thinks it’s hard to top the emotional impact of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. The strikers carried signs with the words “I AM A MAN” on them, fighting against dangerous working conditions and discrimination. You can find more information about the strike at the National Civil Rights Museum website. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his last speech, “Mountaintop,” to Memphis sanitation workers the night before he died.

Anna Crowley Redding says that Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” has stuck with her over the years. In addition, she read his “Christ in Alabama” in the seventh grade in Spartanburg, SC, and remembers thinking, “This is the best thing I have ever read. EVER.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus says that “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” is one song she found memorable in the Civil Rights Movement.

This article by Cynthia provides more information about the history of songs in the Civil Rights Movement.

Cynthia’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER is out now and can be found at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookseller.

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Filed under Activism, Book Launch, civil rights, Uncategorized