April 25, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 37th Pitch... And A Challenge!... With A Prize :)

YIKES!

I moseyed on over to my blog to write today's post and everything looks totally different and unfamiliar!  We're not in Kansas anymore!
What happened to blogger?

I guess this is that new format they've been threatening and I've been avoiding.

Well.

Let's just hope this post goes up the way it's supposed to!

Harrumph!

First things first.  Your friend and mine, Phyllis, cutest and fuzziest of all groundhogs, is still on tour.  Wonderful, amazing, awesome people are still hosting her and putting up terrific posts about her visits.  So if you have a second, please hop over and see what kind of high jinx and shenanigans she got up to with Saba in Washington!

Next, I'd like to throw out a challenge to all of you - and this is for everyone because you don't have to be a writer to do this.  In fact, some of you teachers might be really good at this!

It has come to my attention that I'm very bad at distilling picture books (or any other books for that matter) down to the nitty-gritty of their themes.  So for anyone who would like to take pity on me (and I'm guessing there are a fair number of others out there who could benefit from this as well :)) please be so kind as to give the title of a well-known picture book in the comments today along with a few words or a sentence that crystalize the theme of the book.  You may also do the plot if you want, but it's really the theme I'm interested in.

So, for example, what the flinging'-flangin' heck is the theme of Fancy Nancy?  Pinkalicious?  I Want My Hat Back?  I mean something like "love conquers all" or "if at first you don't succeed, keep trying"... that kind of thing.  Gosh.  They sound like proverbs.  Is that how this works?  You can see I need help :)  So PLEASE help!  For every book you put with a theme in the comments below today or tomorrow, I will put one entry into random.org and then on Friday, during Perfect Picture Books, I will give one lucky winner a copy of the brand new and fabulous Puzzled By Pink (of which I also can't state the theme) by Sarah Frances Hardy!!!

See how this works?  My desperation equals a great exercise for you and the possibility of an awesome book! :)  Nice, no?

Third, by popular demand, we will be doing one (or possibly a couple) of Q&A posts with editor Erin Molta, so if you have questions for her, please get them to me ASAP, either in the comments or by using that handy Email Me button over there on the right :)

Now then.  Time to get down to business.  Would You Read It business, that is.  Today's pitch comes to us from Anna who has a background in teaching and strives to entertain and teach children about different cultures in her writing.  (I believe this book has been self-published, but Anna is still hoping to strengthen her pitch for marketing purposes.)

Ready?

Working Title:  A Bug Who Needs A Hug
Age/Genre: Picture Books (ages 2-7)
The Pitch:  A Bug Who Needs A Hug is about a fuzzy little bug that goes out into the forest looking for someone to hug. The vivid and colorful illustrations in the book emphasize the importance of friendship and leave a positive message for children at the end of the story.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Anna improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in early July - not that far away! - so go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Anna is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And I am looking forward to your succinct statements of picture book themes and your questions for Erin!

Have a happy Wednesday everyone! :)

Wait!  Stop the presses!  I forgot to say that if anyone hasn't had a chance to read Monday's interview with Lisa Thiesing and enter the awesome book giveaway, there is still time!  Hop on over!
Reactions:

84 comments:

  1. I love the title and if left at that would probably read it. However, the pitch doesn't really tell me much more than the title, except that the bug is fuzzy and goes into the forest.

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  2. I'm sorry Anna, but it's a no from me. I gravitate towards books without a message or point (other than the beautiful language), which is why Susanna I'm not going to try and distill any picture books. I like fluff.

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  3. I'm a maybe Anna. I don't know what the conflict is. Why did the bug go into the forest for a hug? Will no one at home give him a hug? Did he fail a state standardized test? (Sorry, everyone around me seems to be taking those right now) Does he already know he can find one in the forest (is a friend/grandparent there)? The specifics about the illustration in the second line - I'm not sure how necessary that is. As a picture book reader, I'm expect vivid and colorful illustrations unless the tone of the book in the forest is dark. Best of luck Anna. (Susanna, if I were up to date with my Just Write for Kids lessons, I might be able to help you).

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  4. Mine is a maybe too, as I am also wondering about the conflict, like Stacy. I would leave out all the description and give us the BIG problem and what the tension is all about.

    I find themes tricky, too. For my PPPF books I always have several. I hope that's not bad.

    Blackout by John Rocco - I would say "unplugged fun".

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  5. Fair enough, Hannah! :) I'm trying to get the hang of it from other books so I can do it for my own stories! :)

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  6. Thanks for your helpful comment, Stacy, and good luck with your assignments! That was a lot to take on during A to Z month!

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  7. Thanks, Joanna! And for PPBF books, I think it's desirable to have a list of themes/topics because between the two there are often more than one. But for a statement of theme - which I think is important when you're writing to make sure that you actually HAVE a theme! :) - that's hard! Supposedly one of the requirements for re-readability - a must in today's market - is an underlying universal childhood theme. And I have a terrible time figuring that part out in my own books and others!

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  8. Like:
    Fear of the Dark
    Being a big brother
    Celebrating birthdays?

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  9. I think, in terms of theme, it would be more like "it's okay to feel afraid sometimes", or "being a big brother can be hard, but it can also be fun", or "birthdays are a celebration of many things, not just about cake"... something like that...













    Joanna Marple wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Like:
    Fear of the Dark
    Being a big brother
    Celebrating birthdays?


    Link to comment

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  10. Thank you, very helpful. :-)

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  11. Well, like I said, if only I could do it! :)














    Joanna Marple wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Thank you, very helpful. :-)


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  12. Pinkalicous - too much junk food? Ms. Jensen, I just finished my science state standarized test yesterday and I need a hug ;)
    I liked the pitch, but we need to know why he wants a hug. I'd take out the part about the illustrations and tell more about the book! Love the title!!! :)

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  13. I would probably read it as I would be curious as to what makes a bug need a hug and why there isn't anyone at home to give him/her one. Maybe the pitch could mention why this sad little bug needs a hug from a stranger and perhaps it could mention if he/she met with an exciting adventure along the way.

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  14. MAYBE for me-- it would depend . I agree the plot seems vague...but I'm always up for a book about hugs :) Perhaps something like "When Bug's best bug buddy flies to a new home [or whatever conflict is] his search for a new friend takes him on an adventure meeting many new and different critters." MANY blessings on your work!

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  15. Thanks so much for your comment, Laura!

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  16. Thanks of retaking a stab at Pinkaliscious, Erik! And sending you a virtual ((hug)) - science state standardized test - YIKES - but a good tongue twister :) Excellent suggestions for the pitch!

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  17. Maybe. I tend to be leery of books that announce that they have a message for kids. Every book needs to have a good story at it's core and when authors try to push a message, the story can get lost. I would suggest focusing your pitch on what the story is about and not worry about describing the illustrations or the fact that there is a message worked in. The message will be obvious when the editor reads the ms and the illustrations will be clear in the book dummy.

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  18. Bats at the Beach- a bat's view of a popular family outing.

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  19. Thanks Heather! But now, see, I would call that plot. SO what is the underlying theme? This is why I need help :)













    Heather (unregistered) wrote, in response to Heather (unregistered):

    Bats at the Beach- a bat's view of a popular family outing.


    User's profile
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  20. Whoops-time to turn my brain on! Theme-Family, Friendship and Fun.

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  21. Okay, so, without actually knowing the story, a statement of theme would be "a family outing can be fun even if it doesn't turn out as expected" - or something like that... ?













    Heather (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Whoops-time to turn my brain on! Theme-Family, Friendship and Fun.


    User's profile
    Link to comment

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  22. I would got with a Maybe for the pitch. What's missing from the pitch, for me, is why but goes out to find a hug. Is bug lacking hugs from home, maybe hugged his toys too much so he wants to find more things to hug because he loves to hug?

    And the first PB that comes to mind for me is The Very Noisy Night. It may have one or more themes. But the main theme I got from reading it a gabillion times to my daughter is "no need to fear what ears hear when big brother is near."

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  23. Thanks for your comment on the pitch, Angela. And thank you even more for this excellent theme statement! You are good at this! Do you know any more? :)

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  24. Maybe - "a family outing can be fun no matter what your species"

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  25. Ah! Okay! Thanks :)














    Heather (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Maybe - "a family outing can be fun no matter what your species"


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  26. I love the first line of the pitch but then it tells the theme instead of showing the story. I would mention a bit more plot in a second sentence and tease the reader without giving away the end. Sounds adorable!

    And a PB ooh you are so kind to us Susanna. I'll go for Bear Feels Scared. The theme is kindness, Bear is always looking out for everyone but now he needs compassion and help. (If I remember rightly :))

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  27. So glad to hear I'm not the only one who has trouble discerning the theme of a book. I'll be reading through your comments with interest.

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  28. Thanks for the pitch comment, Catherine. And Bear Feels Scared... I haven't read that one... but "even someone who helps others sometimes needs help her/himself" is an excellent theme - thank you!

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  29. You and me both, Ruth! :) I intend to learn something today! :)

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  30. Love the title...but the pitch isn't compelling. Perhaps less about the illustrations and more about why the bug needs to look for hugs or what obstacles he will confront on his search. But I would definitely read it on the strength of the title alone. "Sorry": family relationships, getting along, owning up to a mistake.

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  31. Is SORRY the title of a book? And you're saying the themes are something along the lines of "no matter what, your family will always be there for you", "sometimes it takes work to get along", and "it's important to own up to a mistake"? :)

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  32. I love the "George and Martha" series by James Marshall, which, incidentally, my best friend gave me. It's a lovely story of two hippos who show what a true friend is and does: encourages you in the bad times, and cheers you on in the good. "Honesty and faithfulness are the fine traits of a friend."

    Although bugs are not my favorite creatures, the idea of a fuzzy bug wanting a hug (and the rhyme involved) intrigues me! Yes, I would read it, Anna!

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  33. Excellent statement of theme, Jarm, and I LOVE George And Martha!!! Thanks also for you comment for Anna :)

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  34. Phyllis is going to demand celebrity status when she returns to you!

    Themes, I've probably been doing them wrong too. I seem to list the the topics like courage, autism, friendship, which are probably more like tags. If I think of a theme in one of my own WIP, one would be "Doing something for someone else feels even better than doing something for yourself." I guess I've been doing it wrong too and using more tags.

    Pitch: The book sounds wonderful, but the pitch sounds more like a review. Don't need to put the t itle and comments about illustrations in the pitch. I'd rather have a better snapshot of the story.

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  35. No Pat! you haven't been doing it wrong at all for PPBF!!! I'm asking about this for writing purposes, to make sure that I have that underlying universal theme I need to hold a story together. And I really like yours! I tend to write stories and then realize afterward they may be what editors refer to as "slight". But I need to get better at identifying them in other stories before I can apply the idea to my own! I figured some people out there would be good at this (as you seem to be :)) and others, like me, could really learn a lot!

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  36. A bug who needs a hug sounds sweet! Can't turn it down. :)

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  37. Anna, we would definitely read this book (as we are currently raising ladybugs). I echo many comments here when I agree that we need to hear more about the plot/conflict. Why does bug need a hug? Who does he meet? Are his initial attempts met with funny responses? And I agree, delete the comments about illustration and messages.

    Susanna, I am terrible at summarizing themes as well. I end up summarizing plot most of the time.

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  38. Stina LindenblattApril 25, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    LOL I read that as 'I miss Katniss'. Apparently I still have The Hunger Games in my mind.

    The pitch needs tightening and we need to know what the plot is about and what is the main conflict. I'm assuming needing a hug isn't it. Or maybe it is.

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  39. I'm still laughing over that fake trailer you posted for the Hunger Games whenever I think of it :)

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  40. I know! It's hard, right? Maybe I should switch to non-fiction - I don't think you need a theme for that :) - at least not the same kind! :)

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  41. Here's a theme summary for you: Punxsutawney Phyllis - Girls' Rule!

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  42. Hey! I know that book! So THAT'S what the theme is... :)














    Kirsten Larson (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Here's a theme summary for you: Punxsutawney Phyllis - Girls' Rule!


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  43. Don't mind my atrocious punctuation. Make that Girls Rule! (boys drool).

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  44. Ain't it the truth :) And you're a poet and you don't know it :)














    Kirsten Larson (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Don't mind my atrocious punctuation. Make that Girls Rule! (boys drool).

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  45. Well one thing for sure, I am learning a lot from reading this and the comments! This whole theme thing is h.a.r.d! I'm a maybe on the pitch. Like some others commenting, I think the illustration info could be left out. Perhaps another sentence to pique my interest as to what makes the bug search for the hug...The title is great! As to themes... I think an easy one is Harry Potter...Good will out over evil...here is a link for a chart that helps determine themes...
    http://www.bownet.org/draynard/Universal%20Themes%20documents.pdf...hope it helps!

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  46. Based on the pitch, sorry, but I wouldn't read it. I wouldn't need to, because the pitch has told me the lesson I'm going to learn. I'd like more action and more "heart" for want of a better word, in the pitch. Action verbs, bringing us right into the bug's thoughts and feelings about his search for a hug, will get us involved. We're not involved right now, we're just being told what the book is about. We need to be shown the bug in "real life" so to speak. (Also, it's unnecessary to repeat the title and say "is about" -- we know that a pitch is going to tell us what the book is about.) Sorry to be so wordy! I'd like this writer to succeed with her book!

    Themes are tricky... (duh...) I'll take a stab at it, though:

    Ish: Each person has a unique and valid way of expressing creativity.

    Can't Sleep Without Sheep: Sometimes we have to try many things before we realize what we had first was best.

    The Very Fairy Princess: Believing in yourself leads to being able to help others believe in themselves.

    ???? For me it's trying to express the general idea of the plot in a way that transforms it into a universal, rather than the specific recitation of the plot.

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  47. Bah! Blogger! BLEH! BLEH, I say!

    I need to more about the bug looking for the hug. You mention the illustrations, but I want more of the story. That said, I would want to read more, but if I was an agent I would need a sentence more on story. Good luck! Great job!

    Susanna, when you hear more about theme, will ya share? I'm in the same boat with you.

    I had this supercalafragalistic question, fell asleep and it's gone. *sob* I'm trying to think of it though. I really needed an answer. To something.

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  48. I'm finally starting to figure out the new blogger layout, but I switched over a while ago. I actually like it now, but it was so weird at first. So don't worry - you'll get the hang of it!

    On the pitch... love the idea. The pitch isn't really doing it's job though. First, does this bug have a name? Ex: Leo is a ladybug who is blue because... when Leo ventures out to find a hug....
    You get the idea. Give us details about this cute little bug and why he/she's looking for a hug. What does the bug encounter, etc. :)

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  49. Maybe. The title draws me (because I want to know why the bug needs a hug) but your pitch does not draw me in. Tell me something that makes me care about this bug or tell me something about the creatures he/she meets. Tell me something that makes me want to hear about this bugs adventure. Give me hint of the trouble or conflict he comes up against. As others have said I don't need to hear about the illustrations as I can look at the book cover for that. I hope this helps and good luck with your book.

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  50. Love the title for this book but agree with the comments of Leigh & Rena about the pitch. Best of luck with refining it! :-)

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  51. Thanks for you comment for Anna, and I KNOW - this theme thing is tricky! Don't worry about your question - it will come to you... And Erin's posts won't go up right away - she's busy, so there's a little time :)

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  52. Well, that's comforting to hear! It took me a while to figure out how to find my posts to edit! Thanks for your comments for Anna!

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  53. Thanks for the chart, Sharon! I will be high-tailing it right over to check that out! And thanks for your comments for Anna :)

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  54. YES! You've got it exactly right, Beth, and these are fabulous! You are totally good at this! Thanks so much for sharing and for articulating what theme is so well! And also thanks for your helpful comments for Anna!

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  55. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments for Anna, Rena!

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  56. I had to dig out our Fancy Nancy books and think for a while so I am late to post. I always identify with the very practical looking and acting mom in those books (wonder why???) and I think the general theme there is: Be True to Yourself. Or even Just Be Yourself.

    As for "I Want My Hat Back" - perhaps Honesty is the Best Policy. LOL - I enjoyed thinking about themes with you SLH!

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  57. Thank you so much, Cathy! You are a gem :) You are duly entered twice for Puzzled By Pink :)

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  58. Hahaha...yes, Sorry is the title (out of print)...a misunderstanding between two brothers becomes a long-standing feud that lasts for over 6 decades. Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience with this...maybe I will review this book for PPBF soon. :)

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  59. I actually haven't read any of those three books because my daughter isn't quite ready for them, but I'll take a stab anyway, based on what I've heard about them: Be yourself.

    And here's one for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: Tantrums don't work. (Hmm. Maybe my daughter and I need to read this one just a few more times...)

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  60. LOL, Caryn! :) Welcome, and thanks so much for stopping by and taking a stab at the knotty theme issue!

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  61. I found the pitch to be a little too vague for me to want to read it. Let us know more about this little bug and WHY he wants a hug, etc. Cute title though!

    Theme of Fancy Nancy = Be yourself
    Theme of Pinkalicious = Be true to yourself
    Theme of I Want My Hat Back = I have no earthly idea
    Theme of When Sophie Gets Angry = Anger is a normal and manageable emotion

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  62. Penny KlostermannApril 26, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    The pitch for me is a maybe. I read through the comments below and think if you take all the great suggestions and think them through that you will come up with the perfect pitch (and then you can sing it...sorry couldn't resist with the perfect pitch thing).

    Themes are so tough for me. So much so that just this week I bookmarked this sight to hopefully help me with my writing. I was doing a Google search for universal childhood themes and found this-
    http://writinginwonderland dot blogspot dot ca/2011/04/universal-themes-or-concepts dot html

    In fact, when I pick my themes for PPBF, I go to your list of Perfect Picture Books and scroll down to see if I think one fits...in other words I cheat! And now everyone knows :-) I know there is a theme for that "Cheaters Never Win...but they do get their PPBF post categorized".

    On a serious note, it is really hard! Some are obvious, like
    Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed-Be yourself
    A Visitor For Bear-Friendship
    But the hard ones evade me, too.

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  63. Thanks for the link, Penny, I will definitely go check that out! By gum, we're going to figure this thing out! :)

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  64. Now, see? Your assessment of I Want My Hat Back is my assessment of EVERY SINGLE BOOK! :)

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  65. First, my comment on the pitch: Maybe or probably, but not a definite yes. First of all, play on how it sounds while read aloud. Do you need the word "little?" Bugs are small. And the "positive message at the end of the story" seems to me like doctored up language for "I plopped a moral on the last page," something (from my understanding) that will make some editors cringe. It probably doesn't read that way, but your pitch sets it up to sound like that.

    Lastly - I have to say here, I think is being referring to as "theme" is not actually theme. Susanna, you're looking for the message, moral, or lesson or these books, correct (an imperative)? I think Joanna's comment hit "theme" on the head - more of a subject or topic - at least the way we teach it in HS English curriculum. Themes are shared among many, many books of all genres. A specific message, moral, or lesson to be picked up on, however, is more of an "imperative" - like wise words of advice or even a command. And that, I think, is what you're looking for, Susanna?

    Now, am I totally confused or are we all confused together??

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  66. Well, I was reading in a few different places (which of course I didn't write down so I'll have to go find them if you want to know) that a statement of theme is different from a statement of plot, and different from the topic/subject of the book. It does refer to the underlying message - the universal concept that makes it appealing to readers - and as a writer, you should be able to verbalize it in a sentence. But clearly I am confused... hence the reason I asked this to begin with! :)

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  67. Thank you for my comment, Randy. I will take it into consideration.

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  68. Thank you for your comment, I think when I wrote my pitch for the book I was writing more as an illustrator. I have learned that this book sells after someone sees the illustration on the front of the book. The fuzzy little character melts peoples hearts and they buy it. However, if I read the pitch only without seeing the front cover I would hesitate to buy it too!

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  69. I would like to say thank you for everyone's comments. I am sorry for the late entry. I have been taking care of my daughter-in-law, Laily, since late March in Florida. I am from Houston. She has been in and out of the hospital for gestational diabetes and early contractions. She is expecting identical twin girls. She is now 32 weeks long. Yee haw! The doctors want her to at least get to 37 weeks if possible.

    I am going to do my best to reply to everyone's comments today while Laily is taking her afternoon nap.

    Thanks again for your comments I appreciate it.

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  70. Thank you Penny! I am also going to check out the website.

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  71. Leigh, the little bug gets his name at the end of the book. His name is Hug-A-Bug.
    Thanks for your comments I will take it into consideration when I revise it.

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  72. Thanks, I am glad you liked it. However, I do agree it needs more revising.

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  73. Thanks I will take that into consideration when I revise it.

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  74. Jarmila, thanks for your comment.

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  75. Thanks for your comment on my pitch, I am going to revise it soon.

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  76. Thank you I will take this into consideration.

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  77. I agree, after reading many of the above comments I will revise my book so it will present better to the audience.

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  78. Thank you Miranda, Penny, Julie, Cally, Rena, Leigh, Robyn, Beth, Sharon, Stina, Kirsten, Coleen, Tiltonph, Jarmila, Vivian, Catherine, Angela, Heather, Laura, Delores, Erik, Joanna, Stacy, Hannah and Randy, each of your comments are appreciated and have given me much to think about. (I think I am going to concentrate on the 5 w's.)
    I am going to take another stab at this.
    "A Bug Who Needs A Hug"
    A lonely, fuzzy, little bug realizes he is different from all the other bustling bugs around him, so he takes a journey through the forest and meets up with other little critters. While on his adventure will he find someone to hug?

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