January 30, 2012

Pitch Pick # 5 AND Oh Susanna: How Do You FInd And Pay For Illustrators?

Happy Monday Morning Everyone!

In case you need a little cuteness to start your week (or maybe spark a story) here is some cute overload for you :)
cute overload piglet :)
Doesn't your day feel brighter and happier now?  Really, how could it not in the face of that extreme cuteness?! :)

I have about 30 things I want to share with you today, but that would really take too long, so I'm going to keep it down to 2.  (Very restrained of me, don't you think?)

First, the December/January Pitch Pick.  Because of the holidays, we only had 2 pitches in December, so they've been added into January's for the vote.

Here is your quick pitch pick refresher:  (try saying "quick pitch pick" three times fast, especially on Monday morning :))

#1 Christie 1

Working Title:  Draggin' My Tail
Age/Genre: PB
The Pitch:  Orville the dragon loves to fly, but when he quits breathing fire, his wings fail him.  Orville has to figure out how to get his fire back so he can lift off again.

#2  Vicki
Working Title:  Finding Sophie
Age/Genre:  YA
The Pitch:  When Sophie is forced backward in time to 1895 Paris, she takes the identity of a missing Jewish girl and falls for a young Zionist. As the window home closes, Sophie must decide whether to unlock a mysterious heirloom’s secrets and return to her own life of a potential prima ballerina, or live as someone else in the past and lose herself forever.

#3  Abby
Working Title:  What If?
Age/Genre:  Early Picture Book (ages 2-5)
The Pitch:  Little Lucy has a vivid imagination which shines through all of the "what if" questions she asks about the world around her.  With her creative perspective on things, the world holds limitless possibilities for both her and the reader.

#4  Jane
Working Title:  Nana, I Miss You
Age/Genre:  Picture Book
The Pitch:  Jamie, who wants to spend time with his nana, is upset because she becomes seriously ill.  But her thoughtful gift, when she finally goes into a hospice, reveals her love and gives him a new interest.

#5  Margaret

Working Title:  Home Is Where The Bird Is
Age/Genre:  Picture Book
The Pitch:  Bird thought he found his perfect birdhouse – until he encountered the mouse living inside.  After a feather-raising experience house hunting on his own, Bird asks Mouse for help.  Mouse leads Bird on a hilarious tour of unconventional housing options.  As winter looms, will Bird accept anything but his perfect birdhouse?


#6  Christie 2

Working Title:  Solomon's Raisin Farm
Age/Genre:  PB
The Pitch:  Last year, Solomon was finally old enough to help with the harvesting of the raisins, but it rained. This year, he prays for no rain so the crops won't get ruined and the family can make money at the festival. Will the rain hold off this year so Solomon can finally prove to his family that he really is old enough to help out?

OY!  What a tough choice!  But please vote for your favorite below.



The poll will be open until, oh, let's say Wednesday Feb. 1 at 11:59 PM EST.  I think I can squeeze announcing the winner in with Friday's Perfect Picture Book :)

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, our very first installment of Oh Susanna!  Wouldn't you know the very first question to come in was a REALLY hard one!  One might even call it a doozy!  But I am too much of a play-by-the-rules type to skip it and start with an easier one :) so here it is...

Joanna asks:

I have a manuscript that I have written for uTales (eBooks), and am struggling to find an illustrator as they are either too busy or don't want to do the 50/50 standard uTales collaboration, but want money up front, which I do understand. I am not sure I want to go this route, but have been wondering where to go to find out how much one would pay an illustrator independently for a typical length PB? and what sort of contract would be drawn up? i.e. Who then owns the book etc?

Well, Joanna, you have asked a question that is out of the realm of my experience.  But here's what I think:


I'm guessing the answer to this may be on a person-by-person basis.  Different people are going to feel comfortable with different arrangements.  I can understand why an illustrator would want to be paid up front - doing the illustrations would be a big investment of time and energy - but if that isn't workable or comfortable for you perhaps it's a question of finding an illustrator who is willing to work "on spec" so to speak.  Right in our own 12X12 group there are any number of talented illustrators.  Many more on LinkedIn.  Perhaps you can post (in Linked In groups, 12X12, Children's Book Hub, etc.) that you're looking for an illustrator willing to work on spec.  An illustrator who is looking to break into picture books might be more willing to wait for the pay off because of the opportunity for a publishing credit.  Even if the project doesn't end up selling, the illustrator would  own the illustrations and could use them as part of his/her portfolio and will be able to show future interested parties that they are capable of producing a picture book length work.  If you're up front about what you want, hopefully you'll get responses from people who are interested in doing it that way.

As for the standard fee, I'd be very interested to know the answer to that too!  My experience to date has been with publishers who choose and pay for the illustrators, so I have not been involved in paying illustrators.  In traditional publishing, the deal is 50/50 - the author and the illustrator usually get the same amount (so I'm told :))  They get paid an advance and an agreed upon percentage of royalties.  The publisher keeps the percentage until the advance has earned out.  After that, the author and illustrator receive the royalties, usually twice a year.  (For clarity's sake, if you get an advance of $1000 and a 5% royalty on a book that retails for $16.95, you'll earn .85 for each book sold, so you have to sell about 1177 books to earn out your advance.  After that, you get .85 for every book sold delivered in a royalty check twice a year.)

For uTales it looks as though you must submit a completed ms along with illustrations, but that doesn't guarantee uTales will accept your project.  Is that correct?  If they accept it, then you and the illustrator would each get 50%.  The problem, if I'm understanding, is if they don't accept.  Then you have both put in a lot of time and effort for no publishing contract.  I'm guessing that is where your question about who owns what comes in.  I would think a fairly simple contract would suffice - you own the story and they own the illustrations.  However, if you have to pay for the illustrations up front for a project that doesn't sell, than you have technically bought the illustrations and should own them.  Or if you pay up front for a project that does sell, you should get all the proceeds until your expense has ben covered.  Any deal is workable as long as you're very clear about the parameters and both parties are happy with the arrangement.  If you reach the point of having a completed book that didn't sell, however, nowadays you have the option of self-publishing.  There are many possibilities here, and if you and the illustrator agree to split proceeds 50/50 this could be another way the illustrator could end up getting compensation for his/her work. 

But Joanna and I would now both love to hear from all of you!!!  Have you hired an illustrator?  How did you handle the rights and payment?  Have you done a project for uTales or a similar entity?  How did you manage it?  Are you an illustrator?  What is your standard fee (or what have you heard is the going rate?)  Please share your knowledge and experience!  Joanna and I (and I'm guessing a lot of our readers, because this is a very interesting question!) will be eagerly awaiting your input!



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January 27, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Busy Life Of Ernestine Buckmeister

Hurray!  It's Perfect Picture Book Friday!  (And, right after the book, we'll find out who won the Michael Garland giveaway!!!)

Today's choice is as much for parents and teachers as it is for kids!

The Busy Life Of Ernestine Buckmeister
Written By: Linda Ravin Lodding
Illustrated By: Suzanne Beaky
Flashlight Press, October 2011, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 5 and up
Themes/Topics: the importance of play, over-scheduling
Opening: "Each morning, while Ernestine ate breakfast and Nanny O'Dear prepared lunch, Ernestine's father zoomed out to work and called, 'Live life to the fullest, Ern!'  And each morning Ernestine's mother zipped out to catch the bus and said, 'Make every moment count, E!'"

Brief synopsis: Ernestine's parents want her to have every experience she can, so they pack her days with sculpting and tuba,  yoga and yodeling.  It takes Ernestine to show them that one thing she absolutely shouldn't miss is having time to just play.

Links to resources:  What I really should say here is, "No resources!  Just go play!"  But here are some resources that are also playing :)  Coloring Page, and for activities, try making a daisy crown (or any kind of outdoorsy crown), or make clouds out of cotton or shaving cream and see what shapes you see in them, or build a fort out of sticks, or blocks, or an empty cardboard box.  Use you imagination!

Why I Like This Book:  Kids will enjoy Ernestine's ridiculous schedule, her amusing list of lessons, her teachers' funny names, the bold bright colors of the pictures, and Ernestine's inspired solution to her problem.  As a grown-up, I appreciate Ernestine's message that while organized activities arranged and taught by adults have their place, so too does the unstructured time to be a child and simply play.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, when I announce...  that I will be vacuuming this afternoon!

Nah!  I'm just foolin' with ya!

(I know you don't care whether I vacuum.  Although there are others who feel differently... :))

The winner of a Michael Garland book is none other than our delightful Robyn!!! Wahoo!  Yay Robyn!

So Robyn, please Email Me and let me know if you'd like Icarus Swinebuckle, Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook, or Grandpa's Tractor (which was added by popular demand :))

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and join us back here Monday for the first Oh Susanna and the December/January Pitch Pick which will have to share a post unless I boot Oh Susanna for another week.  You may feel free to share your opinion on the matter in the comments - I'm happy either way :)

Also, if you have a few free minutes over the weekend, please pop round to some of the wonderful bloggers who have been so kind as to interview me and Phyllis this week :)  I'll copy and paste the list from Wednesday to here for your convenience:

(From Tuesday Jan. 24):  Clarbojahn's Blog: Part 2 of our interview and a giveaway of a hard cover copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis.
From Wed. Jan. 25):  Sylvia Ramsey's Blog, Thoughtful Reflections.  This one I'm not too familiar with. I wrote the interview for her at the beginning of September so it will be all new to me too! :)
(From Thurs. Jan. 26): Corey Schwartz's Blog, Thing 1 and Thing 2.  This one is all about where the idea for Phyllis came from and will be in two parts.  I'm not sure yet when part 2 will be.
Friday Jan. 27:  Leigh Covington's Blog.  This one is a (brief!) interview with Phyllis herself!  She emerged from her burrow just because she likes Leigh.  There will be a giveaway of a hard cover copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis here too!
Sat. Jan. 28: Iza Trapani's Blog, In And Out Of My Studio.  A chat with one of my favorite author/illustrators who may or may not be appearing on this blog soon (I could tell you, but then it wouldn't be a secret :))  There will be a giveaway of a hardcover copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis on this one, too!


Perfect Picture Book bloggers, please remember to post your links in the list below so everyone can come see the wonderful books you've chosen this week!



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January 25, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 24th Pitch

I think it's a two-cups-of-hot-chocolate morning, my friends!

With whipped cream.

And a little cocoa sprinkled on top to look pretty.

Because look at all the happiness we have to share this morning!

First, through some unknown cosmic whirlijig (I just made that up because it sounds good and it looks good :)) I am being featured on 5 different blogs in the space of a week!  Normally I am not that popular.  I think this has to do with Phyllis :)  Who wants you to remember what's coming next week and how exceptional she looks in her tiara, so here:
This is me, Phyllis, wearing the tiara that the Grace Church preschoolers made me last year, and the scarf Aunt Leslie made me to match my first book.  Kind of takes your breath away, don't it? :)
Because most of the bloggers are my very good friends, I do hope you will go visit them.  (Also, there could be a book in it for you :))

Here's the run-down in case you're interested:

Yesterday (Tuesday Jan. 24):  Clarbojahn's Blog: Part 2 of our interview and a giveaway of a hard cover copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis.
Today (Wed. Jan. 25):  Sylvia Ramsey's Blog, Thoughtful Reflections.  This one I'm not too familiar with. I wrote the interview for her at the beginning of September so it will be all new to me too! :)
Tomorrow (Thurs. Jan. 26): Corey Schwartz's Blog, Thing 1 and Thing 2.  This one is all about where the idea for Phyllis came from and will be in two parts.  I'm not sure yet when part 2 will be.
Friday Jan. 27:  Leigh Covington's Blog.  This one is a (brief!) interview with Phyllis herself!  She emerged from her burrow just because she likes Leigh.  There will be a giveaway of a hard cover copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis here too!
Sat. Jan. 28: Iza Trapani's Blog, In And Out Of My Studio.  A chat with one of my favorite author/illustrators who may or may not be appearing on this blog soon (I could tell you, but then it wouldn't be a secret :))  There will be a giveaway of a hardcover copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis on this one, too!

I don't know Sylvia, but all the others are wonderful writers with great blogs.  I hope you will do them the favor of a visit!

Next, you still have today to comment on Monday's Author/Illustrator Interview with Michael Garland for a chance at one of his books!  If you haven't read the interview and commented yet, hop on over after you finish Would You Read It and leave your thoughts for today's participant.

Which brings me to today's participant, the lovely Christie whom you've already met thrice before - she's that prolific!

Here we go!

Working Title:  Solomon's Raisin Farm
Age/Genre:  PB
The Pitch:  Last year, Solomon was finally old enough to help with the harvesting of the raisins, but it rained. This year, he prays for no rain so the crops won't get ruined and the family can make money at the festival. Will the rain hold off this year so Solomon can finally prove to his family that he really is old enough to help out?

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 Christie 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.  Pitches are currently queued through March 14, but there are lots of openings after that, so send your pitch for a chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Christie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

Please join us Friday for Perfect Picture Books!  And the winner of the Michael Garland book giveaway!
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January 23, 2012

Author/Illustrator Interview: Meet Michael Garland (And There's A Giveaway!)

Happy Monday Everyone :)

I'm delighted to be reinstating this feature as a monthly special on my blog.  I love having the opportunity to talk with talented, creative people who are making a go of it in this very competitive field.  It's a wonderful opportunity to learn - about what works and what doesn't, what the particular challenges and rewards are, what is hard and what comes easy, and how different people go about accomplishing their work.

These interviews will usually take place on either the third Saturday or the third Sunday of the month (I haven't decided yet :)), but since January started on a Sunday and there's so much going on as the new year kicks off, I bent the rules by a week.  Then, due to the squirrelly internet out here in the boondocks, the art for the post didn't come through in time, so I couldn't post yesterday.  So here it is today instead, bumping Oh, Susanna into next week.  Such is the way of things sometimes :)  But well worth it for today's interview!

It is my very great pleasure to present this month's Author/Illustrator, Michael Garland!
Michael Garland

SLH:  Michael, thank you so much for joining us today.  We're thrilled to have you!  Let's start with some just-for-fun quick warm-up questions :)

Agented or Not?  Not
Traditionally or Self-Published? Traditionally
Traditional or Digital Format? All books so far started in traditional format, but some have been converted to digital.
Apps or Not?  3 apps: Icarus SwinebuckleHenry's Parade, and Angel Cat.
Plotter or Pantser? Plontser :)
Laptop or Desk top?  Desk top
Mac or PC?  Mac
Day, Afternoon or Night Worker?  Writing - brain freshest in AM; drawing - second nature and can do any time.
Coffee or Tea?  Coffee
Quiet or Music?  Writing - complete silence; painting/drawing - any noise is fine but usually choose CNN, the Golf Channel or the History Channel.
Currently Reading?  In The Garden Of The Beasts by Eric Larson

SLH:  Now for the more involved stuff!  When did you first become interested in writing/illustrating?

MG:  I began drawing as a very young child.  I drew to entertain myself.  I even made little books, although I didn't really think of them that way at the time.  My parents were lavish with their praise and encouraged me.  When I reached Kindergarten, the teacher was equally enthusiastic about my work.  It was quickly and readily apparent that I could draw better than the other kids.  My teachers would hold up everything I drew to show the other students... which was never true of my math tests :)  I went to a Catholic boys high school where there was no real art curriculum.  But afterwards I attended the Pratt Institute.

(Here are a few samples of Michael's recent book covers to give you a sense of his talent!)



SLH:  So illustrating really came first for you.  When did you begin writing as well?

MG:  It was a leap for me to finally write a story myself.  I had always thought of myself as an illustrator, not a writer.  But after I had illustrated a number of books for other people, I began to think how much fun it would be to tell my own stories.  The first book that I both wrote and illustrated was called My Cousin Katie and was based on my own daughter.  Having written about one child, I wanted to wrote about the others, so My Cousin Katie was followed by Circus Girl and Dinner At Magritte's for my other children.  These three titles remain among my favorites, along with Leah's Pony, the house for which was modeled on a house near me even though it takes place in Texas; The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, which has remained in print for a long time; Santa Kid, which I illustrated for James Patterson; and The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle The Bulldog and Noelle's Treaure Tale which I illustrated for Gloria Estefan.

SLH:  How many books have you published?

MG:  I have published about 40 books that I illustrated but didn't write, and about 30 where I did both.

SLH:  Wow!  That is impressive!  Have you ever written anything that didn't sell?

MG:  Oh, sure!  I have about 5 or 6 projects that don't sell for every one that does.

SLH:  You're ahead of the curve, then :)  Most people say they have 10 unsold mss for every one that sells!  Do you consider yourself an author or an illustrator first, or are the two inseparable?

MG:  As I mentioned, I originally thought of myself as an illustrator.  But now the two are really inseparable.

SLH:  You were really a pioneer in digital art - one of the first to use that medium.  Can you tell us a little about that?

MG:  The first time I used digital art was for The Mouse Before Christmas which was published in 1997.  It was hard to get folks to accept back then, but interestingly enough, it was an older editor - in her seventies - who was willing to give it a try.  Editors quickly saw how much easier it was to work with digital art.  Changes that were time-consuming and difficult to pull off with traditional painting could often be fixed in matter of minutes in the digital format.  The equipment was expensive, and the disks were huge, cost about $60 each, and could only hold about 2 paintings each, so I would hand over a stack of disks for a single book, which I then, usually didn't get back to reuse.  But it turned out to be worth it!

SLH:  This leads into your new book - Fish Had A Wish - due out from Holiday House in February 2012 - just a couple weeks away.  You have pioneered another new art form with this.  Can you tell us about the book and the new art?

MG:  Fish Had A Wish (originally titled Fish Wishing, then Fish Wish, and finally Fish Had A Wish) was inspired because I love nature books and I wanted to write one.  So I started out with a fish.  He is bored of being a fish and imagines what it would be like if he could be something else.  It is intended for earliest readers and as such has a very short and simple text.  It was short and simple to begin with, and the editor cut it by about 1/3 again.  The new art you're referring to is what I like to call digi-woodcut.  It's a form of digital art that mimics woodcut.  I scan in all kinds of wood textures and then layer them in the painting.

SLH:  It's really beautiful.  Here is the cover of Fish Had A Wish (as well as a couple interior illustrations because they are so incredible I just have to share them!):

illustration copyright Michael Garland 2012

illustration copyright Michael Garland 2012

illustration copyright Michael Garland 2012

Aren't they gorgeous?!  Which brings me to the importance of art in picture books...  As both an author and an illustrator, what are your thoughts on the importance of writing vs. the importance of art?

MG:  A picture book is supposed to be 50/50.  The author, or the writing, tells half the story and the illustrations tell the other half.  It should be equal.  A good picture book is.  But in terms of how it's perceived, in my experience, in the publishing equation authors get a disproportionate amount of the credit.

SLH:  A few of your books have become apps - Icarus Swinebuckle, Henry's Parade, and Angel Cat.  What has your experience been like in this venue?

MG:  It's been fun to see the books developed into apps.  When Icarus Swinebuckle came out, it was on the itunes bestseller list for 2 weeks and was #1 in Jamaica!  But then you get into the problem of the infinite bookshelf.  New apps are coming in all the time.  When books are available in a library, they're right there on the shelf.  You can see everything there is to choose from.  It might not be the most extensive choice, and you might not notice everything that's there, but it's finite.  When apps go out, they become part of the infinite bookshelf.  Publishers are taking all their backlisted books and digitizing them.  EVERYthing is available.  So how do you even know what's out there?  How do you find things?  As an author or illustrator, how do you get people's attention?  This is one of the challenges facing us as we move forward.

SLH:  Do you have any advice for aspiring authors and/or illustrators?

MG:  Don't allow one rejection to discourage you.  Or even a bunch.  And it has to be enjoyable.  If you're not having fun, you shouldn't be doing it.  I have been 38 years in the business.  I've made the New York Times bestseller list 4 times - with Miss Smith And The Haunted Library, Santa Kid, The Magically Mysterious Adventures Of Noelle The Bulldog, and Noelle's Treasure Tale.  But what I consider to be one of my real successes is that I get to do something I love.  I have never had to go to a job I hated.

SLH:  Finally, Michael, I'd like to finish up with a question from one of our readers.  She asks, is it totally important to have a story, or can you just entertain and make people think?  She gives as an example a current idea which is an adventure with a lot of imaginative things, but no story per se.

MG:  In my opinion, story is the most important thing.  The writing tells half and the pictures tell half, but if you don't have a story, you have nothing.  You need a beginning, a middle and an end; a provocative opening, something has to happen, and then it has to resolve.  Story is everything.

SLH:  Michael, thank you so much for joining us!  It's been wonderful hearing all you have to say!

And now, my friends, just because I like you :), anyone who comments on this post by Wednesday January 25 at 11:59 PM EST will be eligible to win their choice of Icarus Swinebuckle or Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland.

Michael's book are available wherever books are sold.  Fish Had A Wish will be out in a couple of weeks, so go ahead and pre-order :)  And please visit Michael at his website where you can see the breadth of his work as well as learn about his availability for school visits.


For another great interview with Michael which focuses on his 2011 holiday book Oh, What A Christmas!, please visit Pat's blog at Children's Books Heal.
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January 20, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Red Sings From Treetops

Fasten your seat belts, everyone!  It's Perfect Picture Book Friday!  And if last week is anything to judge by we're in for quite a ride!

I'm REALLY excited to share today's book with you.  It is so incredibly beautiful.  Beautiful art, and even more beautiful language.  There, now see?  I'm getting ahead of myself telling you why I like it before I've even told you what it is!  But get ready, because this one is really special!

Red Sings From Treetops: A Year In Colors
Written By: Joyce Sidman
Illustrated By: Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin Books For Children, April 2009, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 5 and up
Themes: Colors, Seasons, Poetry
Opening:
"In SPRING,
Red sings from treetops:
cheer-cheer-cheer,
each note dropping
like a cherry
into my ear.


Red turns
the maples feathery,
sprouts in rhubarb spears;
Red squirms on the road after rain."


(Don't you just love that?  Can't you just hear that cardinal singing and see the worms wiggling on the pavement?)


Brief Synopsis:  From the jacket: "Color comes alive in this whimsical, innovative book."  That pretty much sums it up!


Links To Resources: Junior Library Guild Activity Guide, Poem Starters, Readers Guide


Why I Like This Book:  I love the lyrical language of this book.  The author was so creative in her thinking - the way she describes the colors makes you see, feel, hear, touch, and taste Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.  The art is exquisite and perfectly suited to the poetry.  How can you not love lines like,
"Green waits
in the hearts of trees,
feeling
the earth
turn."

I hope you'll get a chance to read this book, linger over the language, enjoy the images it evokes, maybe challenge yourself or your children to come up with your own descriptions!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

As a special and related note, for parents who might be interested, I wanted to share something from Vivian over at Positive Parental Participation.  Vivian is encouraging parents to read with their children via her 2012 Challenge.  She describes it as follows:


The 2012 Positive Parental Participation Challenge
This is a challenge to read a book with your child every day and participate with your child in other activities like a craft project that might relate to the story.  To take part, just post a comment on my blog and tell us what book you read and what activity you did.
At the end of each month, we will randomly choose one comment to win the picture book prize.  In addition, everyone who comments is eligible to receive a $5 discount on my Show Me How book.  Please join in the fun...you will be helping build your child's self-esteem and literacy skills and it will be great to see what other parents are reading and doing...we can all use fresh ideas!

It might be a fun way to interact with other parents, share your reading choices and experiences, and win some books :)

I also want to say a special thanks to Penny who totally baled me out of my posting time quagmire.  Several of you (subscribers) commented that you weren't getting posts until very late at night or even the next day.  I can relate to this, as I have the same problem with several of your blogs, but I had no idea how to fix it.  Penny, bless her heart, worked google magic and found a link with step-by-step instructions that even I could follow :)  A little experimentation may be necessary but I'm hoping the problem is fixed.  Thank you, Penny :)

PPB Bloggers, please remember to add your link below - if you don't I can't promise I'll find you!  And it helps me tremendously to have the ages and themes listed on the post - it makes the archiving much easier!  Thank you all so much!  Our list is coming along beautifully.  We're up to 140 books covering 95 categories, posted by 29 devoted bloggers - you guys are awesome!  Can't wait to see what gets added today!

And don't forget to tune in specially on Sunday for our interview with Michael Garland, and Monday for our first installment of Oh Susanna!


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January 18, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 23rd Pitch

Wow!  There is so much fun stuff going on it's hard to keep track!

First off, thank you all for your enthusiastic response to Oh Susanna!  I've already got a couple questions, so I'll probably post the first episode of that feature on Monday.  Lest the first also be the last, though, please send more questions :)

Second, guess what I get to do today?  Interview the talented author/illustrator Michael Garland - in person! - so that I can share the interview with you on Sunday!!!  I know.  I said the author interviews this year were going to be the 3rd Sunday of the month.  But January started on a Sunday so that one doesn't count!  I hope you'll all tune in this Sunday January 22.  I'm sure Michael will have lots of wonderful things to share, and I will do a book giveaway in conjunction with the interview.  I think something along the lines of comment on which Michael Garland book you love most or would most like to own and why...  But maybe I'll think up something to make it more challenging... :)  I am open to suggestions... what do you think would be fun?

Third, (see, I TOLD you there was all kinds of fun stuff going on!) I am going to be hosting an event for the Ossining Open Door facility of Reach Out And Read on February 22.  Look at this totally cool poster:

And for our Spanish-speaking audience (which alas is not me!)...
sorry the bottoms got cut off - I had a terrible time uploading these!
How cool is that?!

Reach Out And Read seeks to get books into the hands of children ages 2-5 who otherwise wouldn't have any.  In conjunction with this event, we are trying to get as many donations of my books as possible to give away for free to the kids that attend.  If you'd be interested in donating a copy of Can't Sleep Without SheepPunxsutawney PhyllisApril Fool, PhyllisNot Yet, RoseAirplane Flight or Freight Train Trip, you can order from Merritt Bookstore at (845) 677-5857.  Tell them the book is for Susanna Hill's Reach Out And Read event and you will get a 20% discount and no tax on your purchase of the books for Reach Out And Read.  Open Door will collect the books on February 1st for inventory and transport, so if you're interested, please call before February 1.

And now, finally, grab your chocolate and get ready for Would You Read It!

This week's pitch comes to us from Margaret.  (Her blog is just getting started, so hop on over and make her feel welcome to our writing community!)  Margaret is from the Silicon Valley and is a full-time SAHM of 2 young children (SAHM is mom blogger speak for Stay-At-Home-Mom.)  She is also a budding entrepreneur and picture book writer.  Like all of us, she is looking for a formula to stretch time so if you find one... :)

Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Home Is Where The Bird Is
Age/Genre:  Picture Book
The Pitch:  Bird thought he found his perfect birdhouse – until he encountered the mouse living inside.  After a feather-raising experience house hunting on his own, Bird asks Mouse for help.  Mouse leads Bird on a hilarious tour of unconventional housing options.  As winter looms, will Bird accept anything but his perfect birdhouse?


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 Margaret 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.  Pitches are currently queued through March 7, but there are lots of openings after that, so send your pitch for a chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Margaret is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

Please join us Friday for Perfect Picture Books!  I have such a wonderful book to share that I can barely wait to tell you what it is... but I will :)  See you Friday!

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January 16, 2012

Another Monday Morning Spark AND The New Feature!!!

Last week when I put up the Monday Morning Spark it was a total spur-of-the-moment thing.  But it seems quite a few people actually found it fun and/or useful.  So I thought, what the heck?  I'll put up another one :)
google images
Today's spark works like this:  pick 5 words you like.  You can do this by pointing at random words on the page of a book or in a dictionary, or by choosing words whose meanings you like, or whose sounds please you.  Or take 5 words from the song you're listening to on the radio in your car or the first five words your daughter ever spoke.   Any 5 words.  Or you can use mine :)  Here they are:

rose
gold
whisper
ocean
feather

Now.  Take those 5 words (mine or your own) and write a story that includes some or all of them.

Take a moment to think about your words and all their possibilities.  Rose, for example, can be a color, or a flower, or a name, or an action - the enchanted bathtub rose into the air!  Gold can also be a color, but in addition it can be treasure or money.  A feather can come from a hawk or a duckling.  Or feather can describe someone's hair, or the way grass looks, or how someone decorates or furnishes their nest or home.

See?  Possibilities!

Now, expand on your 5.  Rose might make you think of other flowers - tulips or tiger lilies or black-eyed Susan's; ocean might make you think of seashells or starfish or pirates; whisper might make you think of secrets or slumber parties or the sound of a snake winding through tall grass....  See what you come up with!

So take your 5 and go!  Let us know if you come up with a good idea from them, and if you're feeling generous, share your five in the comments for someone who is having trouble coming up with words!  (Even if your words seem obvious and unexotic to you, they might spark ideas in someone else :))

Alrighty, then!  Everyone feeling sparkly?  Then it's time for

THE NEW FEATURE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Are you excited?

I'm excited!

Okay!  Here it is!  Fun for writers, parents, and teachers!

It's called, Oh, Susanna! and it's a version of Dear Abby, except not about relationships (well, not yours - character relationships would be OK :))  An advice column/question forum for those of us in the children's book world, as it were :)

Oh, Susanna! (which you have to say like you're calling me across a wide field, not like you utterly disapprove of me :)) will be a chance for you to ask me any question you want about writing, reading, teaching writing, being an author etc.  (Primarily focusing on the picture book and early reader age group.)

For example:

Oh, Susanna!
I am half way through writing my picture book about a pirate who commandeers an enchanted bathtub.  He now has a ship and a crew, but I can't figure out what should happen next.  Can you help?
Love, Lost At Sea

Or:

Oh, Susanna!
My two year old son is afraid of the dark.  Can you recommend a picture book or two we could read that might help him feel safer at night?
Thanks, Owns Stock In Nightlights

Or:

Oh, Susanna!
Can you suggest an enjoyable writing activity for my kindergarten?  Writing is not my area of expertise, but I want to make it fun for my class!  We are currently studying penguins, if that helps at all...
Love, Wants To Inspire Six-Year-Olds

Or:

Oh, Susanna!
I'm giddy with excitement but also extremely nervous!  I'm doing my very first school visit as an author next week.  My picture book is about a chicken who crosses the road.  How will I entertain a roomful of kindergartners?
Please help!  Weak In The Knees

Get the idea?

I will answer, of course, but then, all our lovely and devoted readers can chime in with their ideas, too.  Any question you ask of Oh, Susanna! will (hopefully!) give you all kinds of helpful feedback.  Struggling with your query letter?  Wondering what the average advance is for a first picture book?  Interested in entering contests but don't know where to find them?  Want to try submitting to a magazine but have never done it?  Wondering whether you're the only one who sneaks into the bathroom at 2 AM to scribble ideas on toilet paper by the nightlight?  Want to know who makes bookmarks?  Need an opinion on your homemade book trailer?  Wondering if anyone besides you will be able to read your rhyming couplets successfully?  Curious as to whether Snickers or Milky Ways make a better writing snack?  Ask away!  If I should happen not to know the answer, surely one or more of our readers will!  And remember, there are no dumb questions :)

Shall we give it the old college try?  Please email your questions to me by using the handy Email Me button in the right sidebar or addressing them to susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com.  Please put Oh Susanna in the subject line.

This sounds like fun to me - I always want to know stuff from other authors! - so I'm really hoping you guys will like the idea too!

I'll look forward to hearing from you!

(And if I don't, then I guess I'll know what you think of this idea! :))

Have a marvelous Monday!
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January 13, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Officer Buckle And Gloria

My Perfect Picture Book is really here, I promise, and if you're in a hurry you can scroll down, but remember that special celebration I mentioned Wednesday?  Well, today is a special day so I have to digress for one second!

Not only is today Perfect Picture Book Friday, it also happens to be my Brown Dog's birthday!  She is 5 today - a very nice age if you ask her :)  so please join me in a rousing chorus of
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday, dear Scout-y!
Happy Birthday to you!
You are all invited for yellow cake with vanilla icing (which dogs are allowed to have a small piece of on their birthdays) after the post :)  (In case you hadn't noticed, we'll pretty much take any excuse for cake around here :))

And so you can see just how wonderful she is, here is a picture of her when we first met her:
how could anyone this cute have needed to be rescued?
And here she is in her mature beauty :)
Best Brown Dog Ever!

And now, in honor of Scout's birthday (and because this is one of my all-time favorite picture books in the whole world) today's selection will be Officer Buckle And Gloria.  In case you were wondering, Gloria is a Brown Dog too :)

Officer Buckle And Gloria
Written and Illustrated By: Peggy Rathmann
Putnam Juvenile, September 1995, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 4-8
Themes/Topics: friendship, safety, being sensitive to others' feelings
Opening:  "Officer Buckle knew more safety tips than anyone else in Napville.  Every time he thought of a new one, he thumbtacked it to his bulletin board.  Safety Tip #77 NEVER stand on a SWIVEL CHAIR."


Brief Synopsis:  Officer Buckle gives the most boring safety speeches ever until Gloria comes along.  All of a sudden, the students sit up and take notice.  When Officer Buckle realizes what's going on, his feelings are hurt.  "No more speeches," he says.  But Gloria is no better without him than he was without her.  In the end, they both learn the most important tip of all - "always stick with your buddy." :)

Links To Resources: Classroom Activity, More Classroom Activities, Safety Tip Poster Activity, Captioned Media Program, Home School Lesson Plan


Why I Like This Book:  This book is a touching and delightful story about friendship.  The illustrations are hilarious, bringing Gloria's outrageous antics to life.  The safety tips are true and a good lesson, but presented in such an amusing way that kids won't feel like they're being taught or preached at.  The same is true for the message about friendship and being sensitive to the feelings of others.  This is a book you will be happy to read again and again :)

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Also, another note about Perfect Picture Books.  Our list is growing so beautifully that it's getting harder to search.  I'm working on adding an alphabetical listing by book title (so it will be easy for you to see at a glance what's already been done) and by blogger (in case you love someone's particular style!)  If anyone finds any errors, please let me know!  Just so you know, before today's posts are even up, we have about 110 books on the list in about 75 categories, from about 24 devoted bloggers!  And that's after only 8 weeks!

And now- because I wouldn't be me if I wasn't teasing you about something :) - tune in Monday for the announcement of a brand new feature!!!  It's going to be a good one (I think!), but I'm afraid you'll have to wait until Monday to find out what it is :)

PPB bloggers, don't forget to add your link to the list below!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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January 11, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 22nd Pitch

I love Wednesdays because they bring Would You Read It, and Would You Read It means chocolate for breakfast :)  (In case you're new here, Something Chocolate is the official snack for Would You Read It.  Pretty much anything qualifies - chocolate chip muffins, chocolate donuts, chocolate croissants, chocolate cereal, hot chocolate or, for the purists, just a good old-fashioned chocolate bar :))  Right now, I'm thinking brownies, although some would say they are not technically breakfast food.  Still, they do have eggs in them... :)

In case you missed it, yesterday was National Clean Off Your Desk Day.
(google images)
I didn't end up observing it... (see above)... which is why I'm still working at the kitchen table...  I have a small problem keeping my desk visible clean.  I think it has something to do with creative chaos...  That's the story I'm going with, anyway :)

But enough about chocolate and chaos!

Today's pitch comes to us from Jane, a 75 years young pastoral care worker from Ontario who taught for 28 years, 5 of them in Malaysia.  She has written 10 books, mainly for children, which you can see on her website.  She blogs at Life Story Writing and has written 15 life stories, some for Hospice patients.  Welcome, Jane!

And here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Nana, I Miss You
Age/Genre:  Picture Book
The Pitch:  Jamie, who wants to spend time with his nana, is upset because she becomes seriously ill.  But her thoughtful gift, when she finally goes into a hospice, reveals her love and gives him a new interest.


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 Jane 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.  Pitches are currently queued through March 7, but there are lots of openings after that, so send your pitch for a chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Jane is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And don't forget to join us Friday for Perfect Picture Books and a special celebration!

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