Tag Archives: Picture book

WHOOO WHOOO! Interview with Whobert Whover’s Illustrator Jess Pauwels!

We’re wrapping up the party for Jason Gallaher’s debut picture book Whobert Whover, Owl Detective with an interview with Jess Pauwels, the talented illustrator. It’s such a thrill for me to chat with Jess, because not only do I love this “whodunnit” fun story starring an owl (one of my favorite animals), but I adore the wonderful illustrations!

First, WHO is Jess Pauwels? In her own words:

I live in Brussels Belgium. I grew up in a family of professional dancers, but pencils were more appealing to me (and less exhausting ^!^) ! I studied arts and I graduated in illustration from St Luc-Brussels. For a few years, I was both an illustrator and a bookseller.

Six years ago, I chose to concentrate only on my graphic career. I drew for magazines, music labels, and picture books publishers. Since then, I have illustrated great stories, mostly in France, and some of them have been translated into Chinese and Italian.

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is my very first USA picture book

And now, on to the interview!

Tell us a little about your creative process. What are the steps you take before you start working on the book’s illustrations? How did you come up with Whobert and the other cast of characters?

First, I sketched all the characters. Like a « forest theme » movie casting – how should they look like to stick to the story? It helped me to get their reactions and to find the appropriate facial expressions for each one.

Then, I waited for the publisher’s creatives to send me the text layout – the way they want the text to be spread from one page to another.

After they decided where to put the text and where my illustrations would stand, I made several storyboards (small fast drawings with the same proportions of the book) to settle who is in the picture doing what and what is the general ambiance. I tried to find a balance between close ups, large views, etc. It helps with the dramatization of the image.

The drawings part was the most creative, fun, personal touch part. I was able to choose how I would tell Jason’s great story with my own touch.

Then, when the publisher’s team validated this part, they pretty much left me to decide on the rest of the job. They gave me advice more than asked for changes.

So next, I drew properly the whole thing, with all the details and the intentions I wanted – every image at the final book size, this time. Sometimes when the image is bigger than in my storyboard, things didn’t work anymore, so I changed or got rid of some stuff. I’m not usually very satisfied with the firsts results. Slowly, I found the right tone to satisfy me.

To complete and color, I scanned my drawings to the computer. This helped me to make final changes (eyes too close together or add a feather here and there, resize a worm …). If I had to do it in traditional techniques it would have taken ages.The computer can be a wonderful tool if you don’t skip important first creative steps.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered during the process? Any particular joys?

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is my first USA picture book collaboration. Humor is very different over there (in the USA). You are less serious and you seem to trust more the kids’s sense of humor. It’s very liberating to illustrate.

But the most challenging thing for me was the long wait before the launch of the book. In Europe, it takes around 3 to 6 months. With my project for Whobert, it took more than a year between the finished illustrations to the real printed copies.

But the real challenge for me was when I was finishing the pictures, because my 10-year-old French bulldog became very hill. Rushing into work helped me not to be too depressed about it, as he was my hairy muse for so long. He left us in February 2016.

A year and a half later we are welcoming our new puppy and Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is going out. It’s been a long, dog-free, but projects-full year in my studio. The wait for this fun picture book gave me hope and kept me focused on my other books to finish.

Meeting Jason through this project and seeing him be so enthusiastic, proud, and thrilled with the result was a vitamin shot to my self esteem.

Who is your favorite character from Whobert Whover, Owl Detective? Why?

This is quite a tough question, because when I draw a story I need to step into the shoes of every character. But, I think it’s really Whobert I like the most. He is so funny and stubborn. He’s a determined hero even if he’s mostly naive. With that kind of character you just cannot stay serious about life. He’s kind of a mix between Sherlock Holmes and Kimmy Schmidt, and I’d love to be this kind of mix! ^!^

(I LOVE Jess’s answer!)

Finally, can you show us a picture of your work space (I’m obsessed with creative work spaces.) What is your favorite part of your work area? Do you have any special rituals or talismans?

I work at home in our apartment in Brussels Belgium. I have my own studio. I tried to work in an outside place with other creative friends, but I was suddenly not so productive (morning coffee talks/lunch breaks talks/afternoon coffee talks). It became harder to focus on the jobs. I love to socialize a little too much.

So back home I’m more effective. I have my morning coffee in front of my social media and news, and I’m launched.

As talismans, I need several things to reassure myself, like music (Nina Simone, Laura Veirs, Joan As police Woman). On the walls, inspiring images like Lewis Carroll’s drawing of Alice in Wonderland, other illustrators’ prints. or pictures of our trips. On my desk are my favorites pencils and markers and two mini statues of Ganesh, brought from India and Lao, which are taking care of my projects.

…and lately COOPER our new companion, watching me from his pillow…not very calmly yet. !-)

Thank you, Jess! Congratulations to you and Jason on Whobert Whover, Owl Detective! You and Jason make a fabulous team!


Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her puppy, Kiku; 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 is now available from Farrar Straus Giroux. Two more books will follow next year: Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (4/3/18) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (7/3/18).

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, Illustrators, Interviews, Launch, Picture books, process, 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

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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Filed under Book Launch, Launch, Picture books

It Only Takes One (Not Really)

It only takes one. From the moment I began writing in earnest, this was the mantra I heard. It only takes one agent who loves your work, the reasoning went. Or, it only takes one editor who wants to buy your story. I heard it at conferences, in critique groups, and at almost every gathering of pre-published writers. I even repeated it, to myself and to others.

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As a mantra, it was supposed to instill hope, to inspire perseverance, to infuse me with faith. And it did. But as I look back at my journey to publication, I realize that the thing about this mantra is that it’s not completely true. To say that it only takes one person to turn a manuscript into a published book is to discount all those who helped me along the way. To even get my manuscript submission-ready took many people: critique partners, mentors, and conference faculty. After I began submitting the manuscript, the rejections I received were painful but necessary and helpful in their own ways. Aided by my agent, The Nian Monster was acquired by Albert Whitman, and then a whole team of people stepped in to breathe life into my book with beautiful illustrations and a physical form. All along the way, I relied on the support of my family and the encouragement of my friends. And I don’t want to forget the publicists, marketers, bloggers, and educators who created resources and are helping to get my book into the hands of readers. Every one of these people deserve credit. It doesn’t only take one; it takes a village to create a book.

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For those just starting out on the road to publication, find your community. Reach out to other writers, get involved in a critique group, go to conferences, start leaving comments on writing blogs, join another writer’s “village” and support their endeavors. Writing may be solitary, but making a book is not. And helping other writers doesn’t detract from your own publishing efforts — it enhances them.

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Having moved from Boston to Denver right before my book released, I fretted that I’d left my community behind just when I needed them most. But thanks to EMLA, I found friends waiting for me in my new hometown who welcomed me and made sure people actually attended my launch party. (Yay! And whew!) And thanks to social media, my book village goes with me wherever I am. I’ve been awed and gratified and slightly surprised by the people who have rallied around me and The Nian Monster. From old friends to brand-new friends to friends that I hadn’t been in touch with since 6th grade — thank you for being part of my village and for sharing the journey with me! I love my book, but the journey itself really has been the true reward.

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Giveaway Winner! Thank you to all who left comments during my book launch week. The lucky winner of a copy of The Nian Monster is Jen Petro Roy! Jen, please email your address to me at andreaATandreaywangDOTcom. Congrats!


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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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Filed under Farewell, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Uncharted Space

If you missed Donna’s eye-opening blog post last week about her To Do List sixteen days before her book launches, check it out here. I’ve also been thinking a lot about my own pre-pub-date To Do List. Even though my own book doesn’t launch until December 1st, it feels like the date is approaching at high speed. Maximum warp, in fact. In the back of my head, I can hear Captain Jean-Luc Picard exhorting me to “Engage!”

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I might not be helming the Enterprise into deep space, but I am trying to steer my book into readers’ hands. So I’m taking his directive to heart, figuring out how to engage potential readers of my book after (and even before) it releases. Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing:

 

  • Researching printers for business cards, postcards, bookmarks, and other paper swag. This involves making dozens of seemingly monumental decisions. Matte or glossy paper? (Tip: choose at least one matte side if you want to write on it later.) Square or rounded corners? (Rounded. So I can’t poke myself in the eye with it.) Stickers or bookplates or magnets? (Um, maybe.) Where is a replicator when I need one?

 

  • Setting up my SCBWI Book Blast page. This is a promotional event that will be run by SCBWI from October 10 – November 18, 2016. The templates provided made setting up my page so easy, I didn’t feel like I needed an android to help me.

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  • Teaching myself how to use iMovie. Okay, maybe I didn’t really teach myself. I watched a couple of great YouTube tutorials and then dived in. There was a lot of trial and error. The Undo button was my BFF. But over the course of a week, I was able to put together a simple book trailer. It’s not the holodeck, but I’m pretty proud of it.

 

  • Taking advantage of events organized by others, such as Trick or Reaters, a spook-tacular program to “make Halloween a day to discover stories and literature.” Run by Curious City and sponsored by EMLA, this event is less frightening than a Ferengi and way more cool.

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I’m trying to heed the advice to only do as much promotion and marketing as I’m comfortable with, but it’s hard. I want so badly for my book to engage readers and it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough. I want to have an event kit and a teacher’s guide, but I know those things are beyond my current abilities. I’ve decided to delegate those pieces to other, more qualified people, and I trust them to “make it so.” Despite that, I’m filled with a nagging sense that there is still so much left to do. As a debut author, I often feel like I’m steering through uncharted space, never sure what is beyond the next bend (wormhole?), not confident that I can make it. But, as Capt. Picard said:

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Andrea Wang

Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, THE NIAN MONSTER (Albert Whitman, 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.

Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. Now she sits at her desk, but she’s still happiest surrounded by piles of books. Andrea is a former environmental consultant who helped clean up hazardous waste sites. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog. She loves trying new foods and named her dog Mochi, after one of her favorite desserts.

You can find Andrea online at her website, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Promotion

Laurie Thompson is the BEST.

Sometimes we pick up a book because it simply looks excellent, and sometimes we pick up a book because we want to support an author who happens to be an excellent human being.

Laurie Ann Thompson head shot

She is also extra pretty.

Today, we can do both.

Laurie Ann Thompson is wonderful. Her debut picture book, MY DOG IS THE BEST, is wonderful too. She and illustrator Paul Schmid have created a gem that’s full of charm, heart, and huggable warmth – much like Laurie herself. Today, we celebrate not only MY DOG IS THE BEST, but also the bestness of its author, whose kindness and guidance has helped every single one of us Emus to become more sure-footed on this publishing journey. Everyone lucky enough to know Laurie is ready and willing to sing her praises. Here’s why.

Lindsey Lane

Laurie is community. She believes in it. She fosters it. She creates it. Whether I have a bumbling tech question or a crisis of confidence or a query about the politics of social media, she is ALWAYS there to help and advise. Her generosity of spirit is beyond compare. Laurie Thompson is the best. Really. I feel lucky to know her.

 Ammi-Joan Paquette

Laurie is an incredible multi-tasker: fiction PBs? Non-fiction PBs? Non-fiction for teens? You name it, she can do it. She’s organized and creative and her research skills—and attention to detail—never cease to amaze me. What’s more, she does it all with a smile and warm glow about her that just can’t be faked. Laurie Thompson is the real deal!

Tamara Ellis Smith

I’m not sure I can do brief when it comes to describing supportive and Laurie Thompson in the same breath. Laurie has been such a wonderful support to me personally, both emotionally (with such kind words about my book deal and my first EMU blog post and and and… the list goes on) and logistically (giving me technical pointers and book launch ideas and and and…THAT list goes on too!)  And the thing is…I know she is this way for so many people.  Laurie is just simply kind hearted and articulate.  At her core. Which is a very lovely, very unique combination!  🙂  She is a gentle, smart leader and a creative, intuitive soul.  I am grateful to know her.  (And I will never forget FINALLY meeting her in Vermont at the 2014 EMLA retreat.  it was a little like coming home.)

Christine Hayes

When I was nervous about joining EMU’s Debuts, Laurie welcomed me in and answered my many questions with kindness and patience. Throughout my time here she has been a steady presence: calm, smart, down-to-earth, supportive, super talented…I could go on and on! My favorite memory, though, is going horseback riding with Laurie and her family during the EMLA retreat in Montana. Although my back was mad at me for a few days afterward, I will never forget the spectacular scenery and the unique opportunity to chat with Laurie and learn first-hand what a fantastic human being she is.

Penny Parker Klostermann

Laurie Thompson is the BEST because she’s an expert at spreading EMU love. She’s a HUGE supporter of EMUs, as well as children’s authors in general. Luckily, she’s always there to answer technical WordPress questions. Laurie’s an EMU guru and we’re going to miss her terribly when she moves on to the EMU Emeriti Lounge. Love you, Laurie!

Maria Gianferrari

Laurie Thompson is the BEST—period .  I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Laurie in person, and yet, through all of our online exchanges, I feel very connected to her. I think it’s a combination of things: we have a lot in common, but she also just generally exudes warmth and kindness, and that’s not an easy thing to do in the cyber world, let alone in the real one. Laurie’s books, especially Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream, are so inspirational and moving. They make me want to be a better person. And My Dog is the Best is sweet and funny. I really look forward to the day when we’ll finally meet in person!

Elaine Braithwaite Vickers

Laurie Thompson is the best! I met Laurie about two years ago and was immediately impressed by how kind she is. There are people who preach kindness (which is good!), and then there are people like Laurie, who embody it in a hundred ways each day. And that’s the best.

Mylisa Larsen

Laurie Thompson is the best because she can write fiction and nonfiction, long form and short form, she can herd emus with grace and good humor, she can steer people through trauma-with-technology crises with endless patience, and she does all this with a smile and a sense of humor. She may just be the best of the best.

Kevan Atteberry

Laurie Thompson is the best. As a support group member she is supportive (natch) and enthusiastic and so damn smart! As a friend she is also supportive and enthusiastic and caring. Her cheer is contagious. She has the best smile, the best laugh and is always a pleasure to be around. Laurie has a heart that not only sings, but takes requests.

Megan Morrison

Laurie Thompson is the best because she is truly kind. When she finds good in the world, she happy cries. When someone is flailing, her first instinct is to help. I wrote a whole post based on her helpful spirit. Laurie was the person who took me under her wing at my first Kid Lit Drinks Night and introduced me to everyone so that I wouldn’t have to stand around feeling new and awkward. She’s a class act from the old school, who promptly sends handwritten thank-you notes when they are called for (I know this because she sent one to my mother that surprised and delighted her). She also genuinely supports kids in their endeavors. One of my students is devoted to another of Laurie’s books, BE A CHANGEMAKER, and Laurie has sent him supportive e-mails, encouraging swag, and links to grant applications throughout the school year. Truly, she is outstanding.

Laurie Ann Thompson, congratulations on this debut, and thank you for being you.

 

Laurie’s debut fiction picture book, MY DOG IS THE BEST, is available at University Book Store, Amazon, Powell’s, and Indiebound.

Laurie herself, unlike her book, unfortunately cannot be cloned and distributed nationwide. But if you ever get a chance to attend one of her author visits or to meet her at SCBWI, you should take the opportunity.

You should also comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of MY DOG IS THE BEST!

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Filed under Launch

It’s the launch party for BUNNIES!!! by Kevan Atteberry!

!!!

Please forgive me if I use too many exclamation points in this post, but with a title like BUNNIES!!!, it’s easy to get excited!

First, if you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you’ve already gotten some sneak peeks from the talented (and wonderful) author/illustrator Kevan Atteberry himself (like this one, or this one, or this one)! If you’re new, check out this Publishers Weekly review!

Second, you gotta love this adorable cover, with its expressive characters and eye-poppingly bright colors!

BUNNIES cover

 

Third, just take look at this unbelievably cute book trailer!

 

Finally, let me tell you a little backstory. Kevan is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I’m fortunate enough to be part of an amazing critique group with him, and we all try to meet every two weeks to give each other feedback and cheer each other on. It’s a talented, generous, supportive group, but it’s also got the perfect amount of honesty and tough love. We don’t hold back if we see something that isn’t working for us or have a question, idea, or suggestion. We all have strong opinions, and sometimes it can even get a little loud. But that is exactly what you want from a critique group! There have been very few times when we don’t have much to say about a manuscript. I’ll never forget the night Kevan came in with even more humility than usual, giving us disclaimers about this new thing he’d done, and telling us not to hold back on any opinions. We read it through the way we usually do, then went around the group asking for comments. You could have heard CRICKETS!!! All of us unanimously agreed it was done. Not just ready, but perfect! OMG! Brilliant! We all loved BUNNIES!!!

And I know you’re going to love BUNNIES!!! as much as we did (and still do)! For a chance to win a signed copy of your very own, just comment on this or any other post this week! Or, if you can’t wait (and trust me, you don’t want to), you can order one (or ten) right now from any of the following links!

Oh, and you can also add it on Goodreads!

Be sure to check back every day this week, as we’ll be putting up special posts to celebrate this very special book!

Welcome to the world, BUNNIES!!! We’re so glad you’re here!

 

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Celebrations, Launch

Two new covers: EMMANUEL’S DREAM and MY DOG IS THE BEST

Oh my goodness, what a great time the last two weeks have been, with two book launch celebration parties in a row! We Emu’s are a little hungover from all that partying (in the best kinds of ways), so today we’ll keep it simple and I’ll share some pictures with you. You may have noticed them in the left-hand sidebar, since I sneakily put them up there a few weeks ago, but here’s the official unveiling. Drum roll, please…

First, the cover for EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH (Schwartz & Wade/January 2015), illustrated by Sean Qualls:

Emmanuel's Dream cover

 

Second, the cover for MY DOG IS THE BEST (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/June 2015), illustrated by Paul Schmid:

My Dog Is the Best cover

 

So different, yet each perfectly fits their book, and I couldn’t be happier with the results!

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Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Happiness, Picture books, Thankfulness

Waiting by Rebecca Van Slyke

Waiting

Lord, please grant me patience. And I want it RIGHT NOW!

 

Last month I wrote about getting The Call. As with most deals, I had to wait until it was official to be able to share my joy with my family and friends. When I could finally announce something, I got the same reaction over and over: “That’s WONDERFUL! You certainly have waited a long time for this to happen!”

Yes.

Yes I have.

I’ve been waiting to be a “real author” for a long time. When I was four years old, I discovered that books were made by real people. I wanted to be one of those magical people called “authors” and “illustrators.” So I wrote stories on my Big Chief notebook and drew pictures on typewriter paper.

Skipping ahead to college, I took an educational literacy class where the professor offered us this choice: write a research paper, or write a children’s book. That was a no-brainer for me. I spent happy hours writing and illustrating a picture book. The professor liked it so well that he gave me an A… and passed the book along to his publisher. Unfortunately, they did not publish picture books, but it was all the encouragement I needed. The next thirty-mumble years were spent sending manuscripts out. I started with the first story, but gradually added others. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I joined SCBWI. I learned. I wrote. I sent out new manuscripts. I read. I went to conferences, to classes, to lectures. I learned more. And I waited. Every time I sent out a manuscript I knew that this could be the time.  And it wasn’t. Again and again it wasn’t.

I just went back and re-read this last paragraph and realize how pathetic it sounds. Good gravy, what was wrong with me? Why didn’t I give up? Thirty years without a nibble? That right there is some special kind of stupid.

Except I was making progress, I could tell. I finally took the plunge and decided to do more than take an occasional class. By now I was a teacher, and I did what teachers do. I went back to school. I got a master’s degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. That led to getting an agent. Now I was guaranteed to get an offer.

But the offers didn’t materialize. I watched classmates sell a book. Or several books. I had several near-yesses. I tried not to be jealous. I kept writing. I kept waiting.

A quote from Anne Lamott’s book, BIRD BY BIRD helped:

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

You wait and watch and work. You don’t give up.

So while I waited, I watched and I worked. I cheered on my published friends. I became more involved in my regional chapter of SCBWI. I started giving talks on writing. I critiqued. I mentored. I didn’t give up.  And the dawn DID come. I switched agents, and, after still more waiting, I got The Call in June.

So now that the excitement has settled down, what am I doing? Waiting. Waiting on revision notes, decisions on illustrators, opinions and decisions on new projects.

I have several friends who are waiting to get The Call. They’re close, I can tell. I know because they’re showing up. They’re waiting, and watching, and working.

Some of you reading this are in “waiting for The Call” mode. I need to tell you not to quit. Keep waiting, but while you’re waiting, keep watching for the next opportunity. Will it be a class? A conference? A chance to help someone else on the journey? Keep working to improve your craft. Write. Read strong literature. Illustrate. Study. Read craft books. Show up. And never, never, NEVER quit. Because The Call could be waiting just around the corner for you, too.

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Filed under Advice, Agents, Anxiety, Education, jealousy, Rejection, rejection and success, Thankfulness, The Call