Tag Archives: Picture books

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

What would You Do If You Encountered THE NIAN MONSTER???

Today we continue our celebration of the release of Andrea Wang’s picture book, The Nian Monster.

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I found so many things I loved about this book that it’s hard to focus on just one. Alina Chau’s illustrations are delightful (such a scary yet adorable Nian monster!). The notion of societal complacency requiring a sharp mind to resolve a problem it created gives a message of hope. But the writing is what struck me the most.

Andrea did a fabulous job of seamlessly weaving Chinese New Year traditions into a fiction story. It’s a lovely read, as we follow Xingling’s story of how she outsmarts the Nian monster, but along the way we’re enriched with culture. We hear the words and sounds, taste the foods, see the colors and of course, get to know that rascally Nian monster himself!

For a bit of fun, watch The Nian Monster book trailer.

 

When Andrea shared the book trailer with our flock of EMUs, a question came to mind:

What would you do if you encountered the Nian Monster?

So, I asked the wonderful folks here at EMU’s Debuts for their responses…

Elly Swartz: If I came face-to-face with the Nian monster, likely I would scream first. But then, in the hollow echo of my voice, I’d swallow my scared and reach out to the Nian monster. After all, something must connect us? Is it chocolate? Crossword puzzles? Going for a walk? Maybe it’s just a day hanging out with your favorite friend or a monster.

Debbi Michiko Florence: What would I do if I encountered the Nian Monster? Honestly? I’d probably scream and run for my life! But in a different world, I would like to believe I’d behave as cleverly and bravely as Xingling does. Maybe I’d trick the Nian Monster into taking a stroll to the river. I’d tell him about the delicious oysters and lobster we have in coastal Connecticut. Then he would jump into the river, and perhaps a big current would sweep him out to sea.

Christina Uss: My kids and I just watched Andrea’s trailer and our responses were:

Jack (age 9): “Hide.”

Me (age 43): “Run!”

Jack again: I’m changing my answer to “Run and then hide.”

Susannah (age 9) but sounding like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings: “Fight.”

Me and Jack: “We’re changing our answers. If you tell us how, we will stay and fight with you.”

*There’s nothing like a family who sticks together!

Terry Pierce:  For me personally, whenever I’ve felt threatened, I typically “freeze” while simultaneously trying to keep a level head. With the Nian Monster, I think my “level headed” response would offer to bake him a batch of my amazing chocolate chip cookies. Homemade cookies always have a way of taming even the wildest beast! And through a mutual love of baked goods, we could strike up a conversation and find other things to chat about.

You’ve seen how Xingling and a few EMUs have responded. Now, ask yourself (if you haven’t already), what would YOU do if the Nian Monster came after you?

*Andrea will be giving away a copy of The Nian Monster — just comment on one of the posts this week to enter!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

 

 

 

 

 

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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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10 BUSY BROOMS: Gremlins and Wheelers and Oz, Oh My!

It’s the final day of our launch week for Carole Gerber’s1732-40272-_2d00_-animated-cheering-fluttershy-pinkie_5f00_pie-twilight_5f00_sparkle 10 BUSY BROOMS. We’ve had so much fun celebrating!

To cap off the week, we’re going to talk about monsters. There is no shortage of monsters in 10 BUSY BROOMS. There is a goblin, a werewolf, a mummy, and much more. But Michael Fleming’s amazing illustrations render these baddies delightful instead of dreadful, appealing instead of appalling. Just look at the witches on the cover — how cute are they?!

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But what does scare an EMU? Safely huddled together in the nest, we recounted what movie or cartoon character we found most scary as kids, and why:

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Carole Gerber: Charles Lee Ray – nicknamed “Chucky,” was a serial killer in a horror film series called “Child’s Play.” I never watched a single one of the movies -seeing his face and just hearing about the movies was as much fright as I could handle.

Jason Gallaher: As I kid, I COULD NOT handle the gremlins from “Gremlins.” They terrified me! They are so sadistic and twisted and I just couldn’t understand how a cute little hamster-like muffin could become a bloodthirsty monster.

The weird thing is when I was little I would BEG my mom to let us rent the video, promising I would watch it all the way through, but I never once made it to the end. Only recently was I able to watch the movie without running away in terror, only to find out that one of the gremlins actually eats the science teacher, which made me even more terrified of these green slimy creatures. Then I read the description on the back of the box, and “Gremlins” was originally pegged as a holiday movie! Outrageous! As a fella robsessed with the holidays, I was offended. No science teachers get eaten when Santa is on his way!

Katie Slivensky: Oh, man. ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. 13775762_10106817460995333_2334941852642014925_nThat movie scared the pants off of me for so many reasons. The dream sequence in Hell was terrifying, for sure, but what really got me was the lady poodle angel dog. Her repeated, sing-song-y “You can never come back!” line as the main dog escapes Heaven to return to Earth haunts me to this day. Some serious psychological business goes down in that movie. Lady dog was mega creepy. (Okay, apparently she was a whippet, not a poodle. BUT THE POINT STANDS. She scared the bejeezus out of me.)

scooby-and-shaggy-ghostDonna Bowman recalls being scared of several characters: Since we’re not talking about grown up movies like Friday the 13th, I can’t mention Jason, right? Human monsters have always been more frightening to me than any animated or fantastical creatures.That said, I remember being creeped out by the ghosts in Scooby Doo cartoons. Also, the witch from the original Wizard of Oz movie, with her flying monkeys, scared the gumballs out of me.

Donna wasn’t the only EMU traumatized by the Oz movies.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Okay, this is going to sound silly since I wrote four Dorothy & Toto books (mind you, for early readers), but when I was a kid, the Wizard of Oz movie terrified me. Those flying monkeys! The wicked witch! Yet I watched the movie every year (and had a hard time sleeping after).

Elly Swartz: I was totally frightened by the flying, winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. I closed my eyes every time they came on the screen!

Elaine Vickers: The wheelers from Return to Oz. I just did a Google image search and I think I’m going to have a hard time falling asleep tonight. Beware the wheelers!

And that’s a wrap! Whew! Am I the only one who feels like they need to go hide under the covers with a good book now? Click on over to buy your own copy of 10 BUSY BROOMS and reassure yourself that not all villains are vile — some just want apple brew.

IndieBound       Amazon          Barnes & Noble


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.

If you’re wondering what character Andrea was afraid of as a kid, the answer is: all of the above!!

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Purposeful Patience

We each see the world through our own very particular lens and use our inclinations and experiences to help us make sense of life. Most people, I find, have distilled these influences into a sort of personal metaphor, something that can be held up for comparison  to everything else.

I have two such metaphors. I can make anything connect in a logical, natural way to either:

Horses    

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or Childbirth

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Today’s a childbirth kind of day.

When the idea for a book is…um… conceived by a writer, all things seems wonderfully possible. The future book is soft-focused, as if seen through a dusting of talcum powder and hope. It’s a maybe-baby. chinchilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

But unless the writer has the remarkable talent and good fortune to be an author-illustrator, a picture book cannot be born until it has complementary artwork made by someone else — an illustrator who will create a visual counterpart to the text and bring the whole into glorious being.

In other words, the writer’s adorable book-baby is going to have another parent.Bird gif

I think embracing this truth is one of the first steps to becoming a serious picture book writer. The sooner you understand that both the process and the end result are a shared enterprise, the better. No matter how much time you have put into crafting your (under 500 word) story, when it’s bought by a publisher, it’s only halfway finished.

Illustrations can take — I’m just going to say it — years. That can feel like a long time to wait. Breathless gif

It’s critical to remember that the chosen illustrator has only just begun to nurture the manuscript. To them, it’s still a maybe-baby and needs a lot of time and attention to come to full fruition.

Some things are worth the wait. Like babies. And picture books. As I wait for BABYMOON, I trust the process. Everyone who has taken an interest in my manuscript has its best prospects at heart. I will be purposefully patient. I will keep working. I will wait in talcum powder hope for a happy book-birthday. It will arrive when it’s ready, and I’ll be waiting with open arms.

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Enjoy the day!

Hayley


 

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I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press. Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Advice, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Editor, Faith, Illustrators, Inspiration, Patience, Picture books, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, waiting, Writing and Life

Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

Today on the blog we welcome fellow EMLA author Pat Zietlow Miller, whose latest picture book, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, was released last week. Pat is one of my picture book heroes–so kind, smart, talented, and incredibly hard working. She writes those rare picture books that have incredible amounts of appeal for both kids and parents. (Exhibit A: I got a copy of this book to review and left it on my kitchen table, and sure enough, by the time I got home from work, all my kids had read it already and wanted more. And I was happy to read it multiple times that night!) She’s also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Kite, Charlotte Zoltow Honor, and Ezra Jack Keats Honor. (She’s amazing, folks.)

Without further ado, here’s what Pat had to say about this beautiful book:

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EV: I know you’ve gone into detail about your revision process for this book elsewhere, but are there any other behind-the-scenes stories you can share about this book?

PZM: TheWilma_Rudolph_(1960) research for this book was really fun. Early versions featured double-dutch jump-roping, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos about it. Then, when Wilma Rudolph made an appearance, I watched more videos, read all the biographies I could find plus her autobiography and did a lot of website searching.

My first real job was as a newspaper reporter, and it was kind of like doing that again. I liked gathering all the facts and figuring out how to use them.

EV: You’ve already developed such a beautiful backlist and I know you have more books under contract. What is special about this book that will always make it stand out for you?
PZM: This is the first historical fiction book that I’ve written. It stands out to me because I think Wilma Rudolph’s story is one everyone should know. As I’ve tal631px-Wilma_Rudolphked with other people about the book, I’ve been surprised how many folks don’t know who Wilma Rudolph was. So I’m glad I was able to make it an element of my book.

I did a lot of research as I worked on this book, and learned more about Wilma than I had known before. I was able to put some of that information into an author’s note that I hope readers find as interesting as I do.

Finish this sentence: My favorite thing about the illustrations for THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE is . . .

PZM: The faces of the characters.

Frank Morrison put such a lot of emotion in every look the girls give each other. He tells a whole story just by their expressions. He made Alta and Charmaine real. I adore his work.

EV: Finish this sentence: The perfect reader for this book would be …

PZM: Any kid who has ever dreamed of being the best as something.

EV: As a mom of two tough daughters, one of my favorite things about this book is the strong, confident characters. What do you love most about these girls? And/or who are some of your favorite kidlit/PB characters?

PZM: I like how Alta and Charmaine are confident in their own abilities and don’t downplay their skills to keep the peace. But I also like how they are open enough to change their mind about each other and become friends.

And, oh wow. Favorite picture book characters. Here we go:

  • Olivia the pig for her unshakeable confidence and unbridled imagination.
  • The young Patricia Polacco in stories written by the grown-up Patricia Polacco like THE JUNKYARD WONDERS, THANK YOU MR. FALKER and CHICKEN SUNDAY. Everything she creates is perfect.
  • Henrietta of Mary Amato’s THE CHICKEN OF THE FAMILY for her willingness to believe the unbelievable and for her ability to eventually turn the tables on her annoying older sisters.
  • The determined narrator of Janice N. Harrington’s THE CHICKEN-CHASING QUEEN OF LAMAR COUNTY who never loses sight of her goal.

I’m sensing a chicken theme here, which I did not intend, so I will add Nadine the cow from Jill Esbaum’s I AM COW, HEAR ME MOO! Even when Nadine’s bragging gets her into trouble, she rises to the occasion and ends up learning new things about herself.

EV: Since this blog is grounded in the debut author experience, can you give any advice to writers who are still in the pre-publication part of the journey? What has surprised you most and/or what do you wish you’d known?

pzmPZM: I wish I had known – or maybe accepted – that there’s a limit to what you can control. I’m the kind of person who likes to make lists and check things off and who clings to the nice-but-untrue illusion that if I work hard enough and plan well enough, I can determine my own destiny.

That’s true to a point. But there’s so much in publishing you can’t control. Like what, you ask? Hmmm. Let’s see. Like:

  • What reviewers write.
  • How well your book sells.
  • How much marketing and publicity support it gets.
  • What else is released at the same time as your book.
  • Whether your editor or agent stays in publishing or pursues other opportunities.

So my advice would be to work your hardest to do your part of the job – the writing – as best you can. Also, make every effort to be professional and conscientious and responsible when you interact with editors and agents. And then, try to let the rest go.


View More: http://morgansladephotography.pass.us/vickersfamily

Elaine 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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Building A World

One of my favorite little worlds is this world created by Emilia Forstreuter. Take a minute and give it a look.

Isn’t that lovely–both oddly familiar and magically strange. I think about this animation quite often when I’m working on fantasy novels. How does this world manage to be something I recognize while still being full of surprises?

But picture books are little worlds too. One of the first things I got to do when I became an Emu was to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf about her illustrations for Sophie’s Squash. I asked her about her habit of doing illustrated endpapers and she said the reason that she does that is that “A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.”(See interview here.)

wilsdorf_01

Anne Wilsdorf

I’ve thought about that as I’ve tried to create my own worlds in my picture books. What are the things a writer can do with the text to make that world between the covers of a book complete. And I think one of the most important things the text brings to that creation is voice–that hard to define thing that, within a few words often, lets you know “this is where you are.” This book will be funny or sweet or sad or wise or brave.

I’ve gone to my bookcase to give you a few examples:

1)”One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.”

2)”A cow says moo. A sheep says baa. Three singing pigs say la, la, la!”

3)”Rock, stone, pebble, sand/Body, shoulder, arm, hand/A moat to dig, a shell to keep/All the world is wide and deep.”

4)”Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.”

Even without the illustrations (and if you know these books, you’ll know that the visual voice perfectly matches the heard voice), don’t you feel that you know exactly where you are, that in just a couple of sentences, you have a handle on the world of this story?

Voice. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing. Which picture books that you love  use voice to get you quickly into the world of the story?

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed coming out February 9, 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing in Reverse

In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the fact that my car was totaled in a June hailstorm. That unfortunate event necessitated a new car. My old car had a backup camera, but this car has a BACKUP CAMERA! It’s amazing. It has this beeping-warning system that lets me know if someone is passing behind me or if I’m getting close to backing into something. The other day I was backing out of my garage, looking at the view in the backup camera, when the phrase Writing in Reverse just popped into my head. You may have noticed from my posts here that I love analogies. So when I thought about Writing in Reverse, I knew I had to use this for a post.

Before Writing in Reverse, I have to get my my story down. So I just drive/write a first draft. Yes, I do need to have a destination in mind­—a character, the semblance of a plot or structure, events to drive my story forward, etc. I need to keep the Rules of the Road/Genre in mind as I write. I need to be aware of traffic/the audience I’m writing for, and I need to watch my speed limit/word count. OK, sometimes I do go a few MPH/WPM (word per manuscript) over knowing I can probably get by with it, but I don’t want my speed/word count to get completely out of control. So, pretty much, I just drive/write on. The first draft is a hugely important part of writing. If I never do this part, I’ll never get anywhere. My ideas will be stuck at home and never see the light of day. Never get out into the world. And once the first draft is finished, I do feel like I’ve been somewhere. But I know this same journey will become very familiar . . .

. . . because now comes Writing in Reverse/revision.

Screenshot 2014-12-20 19.58.47

It’s time to take the same drive using my backup camera. It will be much slower. I will cut my speed limit to a crawl. Each twist and turn will require my complete attention. I will be more cautious and more aware of any obstacles that will hinder my story. I will listen to my internal beeps. I will listen to my critique group who will make me aware of my blind spots. This journey will take much longer than my first draft, but it has to be taken to get to that “sweet spot” for submission. I know this. It’s tough. But it must be done. And it’s worth it.

Recently my second deal was announced. A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE sold to Maria Modugno at Random House Children’s who also bought THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT. It will be illustrated by Ben Mantle who also illustrated my dragon story. Talk about Writing in Reverse! I had 102 “Saved As” files of A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE. Not all were complete rewrites, but all had tweaks. Some major, some minor. That’s a lotta Writing in Reverse. But it served me well. When I emailed Tricia (love my agent) that 102nd file, she deemed it “ready to go”. In two days, we heard back from Maria. She wanted my story 🙂

So make sure you use a BACKUP CAMERA! A really good one. Take that slow, Writing-in-Reverse journey where you pay attention to every detail and find that “sweet spot” before submitting. It will be worth it!

writing in reverse final

 


penny editedPenny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHTis coming from Random House Children’s Publishing August 4, 2015. Also, coming from Random House Children’s is A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, Spring, 2016. You can follow Penny on on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence.

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