January 30, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #74 - Slurp, Slurp, Slurp (PB)

Woo-hoo!  It's Wednesday!  Which means it's only 2 days until February!  Which means it's only 3 days until GROUNDHOG DAY!!!!!

Sorry for the shouting, but Phyllis and I are just so darn excited! :)

Are you ready for Phyllis's Fun Photo Contest?  (If you need details and the downloadable Phyllis action figure check HERE.)

If you know any good groundhog/Groundhog Day riddles please post them on Phyllis's FB page.  Cathy and Beth have already put up some good ones!

Also, it's only 2 days until the official start of my course.  I'm very excited (and a little nervous!) about that!

So.  Who's in the mood for Something Chocolate?  Let me take a peek in my pantry and see what I have today....  Oooh!  Yummmm!

We could probably use a glass of milk to go with that...
chocolate... of course :)
Today's pitch comes to us from Elaine.  Elaine is an elementary school teacher by day, a mother of two (and two furry children) by night and a picture book author every minute in between. 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Slurp, Slurp, Slurp
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-6)
The Pitch: When Becca receives a gecko for her birthday, mayhem ensues when the crickets that were bought to feed it, spill to the floor.

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 Elaine 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 March, so we could really use some new pitches!  It's your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Elaine is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to starting my course... and Groundhog Day!!!

Have a great day, everyone! :)

Oh!  P.S.  I forgot to say, for anyone who was interested from Monday's Short & Sweet, that the books I took the beginnings from were 1. Harry And Horsie  2. Boris And The Snoozebox  3.  McDuff Moves In  4. Tops And Bottoms  5. Imogene's Antlers  6. The Carpenter's Gift  7. Mr. Duck Means Business  8. Crafty Chloe  9. Hedgehog Goes To Kindergarten  10. Jeremy Draws A Monster

January 28, 2013

Monday Short And Sweet Plus

Happy first day of the week in which Groundhog Day finally occurs!!!

Phyllis is hopping up and down with excitement!  (And I'm sure that has nothing to do with the WHOPPING pile of strawberry pancakes she consumed for breakfast... with about a gallon of strawberry syrup :))

I hope everyone is keeping in mind Phyllis's Fun Photo Contest (full description HERE) in which you can make your own Phyllis action figure and photograph her predicting spring in your neck of the woods on Groundhog Day.  Which is THIS SATURDAY!!!

Phyllis is hoping lots of people will join in the fun :)
badge created by Loni Edwards
Now then.  It's Short & Sweet day!  Here's what we're going to do... :)

On the honor system (that means no peeking :)) pick a number between 1 and 10.

Then pick a letter: A, B or C

Then pick another letter: D, E or F.

Got 'em?  You should have a combination like 3 B D or 6 A F or whatever.

Okay!  The number between 1 and 10 gets you an opening sentence of a published picture book (except I'm not identifying it because I don't want to prejudice your creativity by suggesting the actual story, and I may have changed a detail or two to make the openings less recognizable.)

Letter A, B, or C will fill in your first blank.

Letter D, E, or F will fill in your second blank.

And voila - you have a first sentence story prompt!  Please write in the comments what your opening sentence turns out to be, and then add a second sentence to continue the story.  (And a third if you're feeling very inspired :))  Hopefully we will end up with a large number of first sentence story starters!

First, here are your options:

1. It was way past bedtime, but ________________ wasn't tired.  Neither was Opie.  The moon was keeping them awake.  It was shining on the shelf where (name you chose)'s brand-new__________________ had been put away for the night.
A. Sarah
B. Lionel
C. Rover
D. baseball
E. flashlight
F. supersonic top

2. _________________ doesn't have a bed.  Actually, s/he doesn't have a home.  This is A-OK most of the time, but not when s/he is desperately in need of a ________________________.
A. Skippy
B. Josh
C. Violet
D. bath
E. nap
F. snack

3. In the back of _____________________'s truck sat a little white _________________ nobody wanted.
A. Farmer Joe
B. Mrs. Peabody
C. Officer Brown
D. duck
E. soccer ball
F. box

4. Once upon a time there lived a very lazy _____________________ who had lots of money and lots of land.  His father had been a hard worker and a smart businessman, and he had given all of his wealth to his son.  But all (character you chose) wanted to do was ____________________.
A. rabbit
B. farmer
C. florist
D. play basketball
E. drive a race car
F. explore the jungle

5. On Thursday, when ____________________ woke up, she found s/he had grown ______________.
A. Jessica
B. Kyle
C. Taffy
D. a tail
E. a foot taller
F. wings

6. Nearly a lifetime had passed, but ______________________ could still remember what it felt like to wake up in the ______________________________, especially during wintertime.
A. Finn
B. Jane
C. Carter
D. forest
E. little house
F. cave

7. ________________________ lived by him/herself at the ________________________.  Each day s/he followed a tight schedule.
A. Flopsy Bunny
B. Gilda
C. Wilson
D. firehouse
E. playground
F. ranch

8.  This is ___________________________.  S/he isn't very good at ________________________.  Video games were never her/his thing.  And when s/he took dance lessons, s/he had the grace of a camel on roller-skates.
A. Luigi
B. Carla
C. Cinnamon
D. knitting
E. playing trombone
F. horseback riding

9. _______________________ stared out the window toward the _____________________ and quivered.
A. Saucy
B. Olivia
C. Taylor
D. ocean
E. big city
F. volcano

10. One beautiful day __________________________ was up in his/her room.  (Name you chose) didn't like to be disturbed when s/he was ________________________.
A. Ursula
B. Froggy
C. Cleo
D. painting
E. singing
F. playing dress-up

And now, here's an example :)

I chose 8 B F which gives me:

This is Carla.  She isn't very good at horseback riding.  Video games were never her thing.  And when she took dance lessons she had the grace of a camel on roller skates.
(To which I add)
"I'll never be good at anything," Carla said sadly.
"Of course you will," said her mother, putting a bandaid on Carla's skinned knee.  "You just have to find out what your talent is.  What do you like to do?"

See how it works?  Yay!  Now you try! :)

Have a happy Monday everyone! :)

January 25, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Will We Miss Them? Endangered Species

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, everyone!

I hope it's a little warmer where you live than it is here! We're on day 4 of waking up to sub-zero temperatures and frankly? I've had my fill.  Scout and Jemma have had their fill too.  So has Phyllis.  It's time for drastic measures.  We're open to suggestions :)

Meanwhile, my Perfect Picture Book!

Will We Miss Them? Endangered Species
Written By: Alexandra Wright
Illustrated By: Marshall Peck III
Charlesbridge, 1992, Non-Fiction

Suitable For:  ages 5-8 - I might skip the sentence about poachers for younger readers.  The rest of the book is completely appropriate.

Themes/Topics: animals, endangered species, conservation

Opening: "This book is about some amazing animals that are disappearing from Earth,  Some are becoming scarce because poachers (people who hunt illegally) kill them for their horns, tusks, skins, or fur.  Others are vanishing because they cannot compete with people for space, water or food.  Will we miss these animals?  Can we help save them?  The first step is to learn who they are."

Brief Synopsis: This book introduces young readers to a number of animals that are considered endangered, with the idea that the first step toward helping them is learning about them.

Links To Resources: Endangered Species Activities, Kids Planet website, Endangered Animals Study Guide for Primary Classrooms, Classroom Guide for grades 6-8

Why I Like This Book:  I love animals, and always like books about them, especially endangered species who need our help.  The coolest thing about this book, though, is that it was written by an 11 year old girl!  Isn't that amazing?  Not only is the book full of interesting facts presented from the perspective of an 11 year old, I think the fact that it was written by such a young person and published is very inspiring!

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

And now, since everything around here, including my brain, is frozen, that's all folks!

PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific link on the list below.  Looking forward to seeing what everyone picked this week.  Have a great weekend, everyone! and stay warm! :)

January 23, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #73 - Cheeku The Cheeky Chinese Chicken (PB) AND The Groundhog Day Fun Photo Contest!!!

After my horrifying two entire minutes without chocolate on Monday, I think we better start today's post off right.  Brownies anyone?
And yes, brownies ARE for breakfast.  Need I remind you that they are made of eggs (protein and arguably one of the most popular breakfast foods), butter (calcium), flour (whole grains), and chocolate (which comes from the cocoa bean and is therefore indisputably a vegetable!)? A bite-sized bundle of nutrition!  A healthy start to a happy day :)

Now then.  We have something VERY IMPORTANT to discuss today.  As many of you know (because I so helpfully keep reminding you :)) Groundhog Day is only 10 days away.  And we certainly cannot let it pass by without some kind of high jinx and shenanigans!  So here's what I'm thinking...

(Yes... look out!... another hair-brained scheme is coming your way!)

Go HERE and download the colorable Phyllis action figure (because really that just sounds so much better than paper doll :)) and print it out (card stock is excellent for this but you can use regular paper too.)  Color her in and cut her out... or cut her out first if you prefer and then color her in... we are not particular :)  (And you won't need the dress-up stuff - it's for April Fools' Day - but you can use it if you want :))  You may ask your kids to do this if you like - kids are good at cutting out and coloring.

Now that you have your very own Phyllis action figure, take her outside to a location of your choosing on the morning of Saturday February 2 (also known as Groundhog Day!) and photograph Phyllis (she's very photogenic!)  You, your kids, your pets, your favorite shovel etc. may appear in the photo with her if you choose.  She can be standing (hint: a popsicle stick glued to her back may be helpful if you want her to stand up!), sledding, hot-air ballooning... be as imaginative or not as you wish :)  Creative photoshopping is also acceptable - it's just not an option for some of us... for various reasons... which may or may not include a total inability to operate photoshop...

Post the picture on your blog any time between Saturday February 2 and Monday February 4th and in the caption underneath (or a post if you're feeling expansive) tell us where she is (e.g. Mount Everest, Nepal or Chicago, Illinois), the weather conditions (e.g. sunny and -12 degrees) and whether or not she saw her shadow (and hence whether she's predicting an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter.)  Then pop over here and add your post-specific link to the link list that I will post on my special Groundhog Day post.

Hopefully we will end up with a fantastic list of photos of Phyllis ALL OVER THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE predicting spring, which we can convert into a chart... and then see who is right and who should not pursue a career in meteorology!  (And if you happen to live in the Southern hemisphere you can still play - Phyllis is a weather hog - she can predict fall just as easily :))

Just to up the stakes a little, Phyllis and I will give a prize for the best Groundhog Day photo of Phyllis (which shall be voted upon by you, the experts, on some as yet to be determined date in the week or so after Groundhog Day.)  The winner will receive a signed copy of Punxsutawney Phyllis (or, if you already have it or don't want it, an unsigned but still free copy of Gretchen Groundhog It's Your Day, or  Go To Sleep, Groundhog! or a $15 Amazon gift card!)

For anyone who is a teacher and would like to photograph Phyllis with his/her class, feel free to take your photo Friday or Monday and bonus points to you for getting lots of kids involved! - maybe they'd all like to color their own Phyllis action figure! - we'd love to see a vote from your class as to whether Phyllis will predict an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter!

I hope everyone will think this is as tons of fun as Phyllis and I do.  If you don't, well, we'll be sad, but we have lots of brownies :)

Okay!  Next item on the agenda...

The winner of the December pitch pick was Kim with her pitch for Oyster And Pearl!  Congratulations, Kim!  Your pitch has already flown through cyberspace to Erin Molta's inbox and I'm sure we'll hear from her soon!  And congratulations to the other pitchers - awesome job everyone!

And now, today's pitch comes to us from Catherine, whom you may remember from her pitch for Once Upon A Toilet in September.  She is a British Ex-pat living in Canada with her family. She writes picture books and children's poetry. You can find her on her blog at 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Cheeku The Cheeky Chinese Chicken
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Cheeku the cheeky Chinese karate-loving chicken hatches an escape plan when she discovers it's more than scrambled eggs the chef is putting on the menu.

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 Catherine 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 February - like in 3 weeks! so seriously we could really use some new pitches!  It's your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Catherine is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to the Groundhog Day contest which I really hope someone will want to participate in!  Think how much fun we'll have seeing Phyllis in so many different places predicting spring!

Have a great day, everyone! :)

January 21, 2013

Oh Susanna - What Is The Difference Between A Hook And A Pitch?

All right.

Someone around here has been just a little asleep at the switch (and I won't mention any names, but it's the person in charge so I think we all know who THAT is!)

What with all the holiday high jinx and shenanigans the lists got neglected and I have discovered in the last two days of posting that:

#1 we are nearly out of pitches for Would You Read It - we are only scheduled through mid-February - so if you have a pitch you'd like some friendly and constructive input on, as well as a potential chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta, please send it my way! (Please use the handy Email Me button in the righthand sidebar or send to susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and put Would You Read It in the subject line)

#2 we are COMPLETELY out of Oh Susanna questions!  Today's is the last one!  So if you're wondering anything about anything to do with reading, writing, or teaching picture books - great choices for a child with a certain need, what to do on a school visit, what book would complement your teaching unit on apple picking, etc... please send those my way as well!  (Please use the handy Email Me button in the righthand sidebar or send to susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and put Oh Susanna in the subject line)

and #3 it's only 12 days until Groundhog Day and SOMEONE (ahem ahem) has not thought up an excellent hair-brained scheme for Phyllis's celebration!  What is the world coming to?!

As of this moment, the person in charge will be put in time out and forbidden to have chocolate for two days hours minutes while she contemplates the error of her ways!

Meanwhile, here is today's Oh Susanna question:

What is the difference between a hook and a pitch, or are they the same thing? 
I often get these two confused. When I took a pb class the instructor taught us how to write a hook. But when we pitch our idea to the editor or agent, we're pitching our hook, right? 

I'm glad you asked, Tina, because this is an important distinction to understand, and a tricky one that can easily be confusing... as you will see by how convoluted my answer is :)

A hook, as I would define it, is essentially the opening of your story.  It's a well-contructed first line or two of writing that draws your reader in and makes her want to turn the page and find out what happens next.  It usually includes the main character and sets up the problem that character is going to have to deal with, making the reader wonder, well gee whiz!  How is Janie going to deal with that bully on the school bus (or whatever.)  For example:

"My hat is gone.  I want it back." (I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen)

"One hot summer in Itching Down
Four million wasps flew into town."  (The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord)

"Last winter I found a penguin.  He told me he'd been flying.  But... penguins can't fly."  (Learning To Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser)

These are all hooks.  They are the opening sentences of stories, and they set up the main character and the problem for us immediately, making us want to find out what happened to that hat, or how do you cope with four million wasps, or why would a penguin say he'd been flying when it must be untrue... or if it IS true, how did he manage it?  They make you turn the page.

A pitch, as I would define it, gives more of an overview of your story.  It might include the hook concept, but it will give a little more detail in a descriptive way, as opposed to quoting direct lines.  A pitch is still quite short, and is usually a teaser - trying to pique someone's interest without giving away the resolution of your story - but it's purpose is a little different from the hook's.  While the hook is part of the actual writing that draws your reader directly into the story, the pitch encourages someone to want to pick up your story to begin with.  For example:

Carrie's pitch for Would You Read It from  July

Working Title: Singin’ Sam, the Ice Cream Man
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
Pitch: Sam loves dishing out ice cream to his favorite customers. But when a rival ice cream truck shows up on his corner, Sam must find a way to out-sing, out-scoop, and out-serve the competition to keep his customers — and himself — happy.


Dana's pitch for Would You Read It, also from July

Working Title:  CJ's Tiger
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 4-8)
CJ has always dreamed of having a tiger for a pet, so he is thrilled when he awakens one day to find that his cat “Tiger” has transformed into a real tiger. However he soon learns that having a pet tiger is a lot harder than he imagined when the day turns into one big catastrophe!

Both of these give you a sense of what the story will be about, whetting your appetite and making you want to read it and find out how Sam will keep his customers and himself happy, or how owning a tiger turns out to be trouble.  But they are essentially descriptions of the story, not the writing of the story itself.

If you pitch to an editor or agent, you are most likely pitching the concept of your hook - the great idea behind your story... up until the point when she asks to read it :)  Then she'll get to read your hook!

Does that make any sense?  I hope all our devoted and very clever readers will chime in with their thoughts on hook and pitch definitions and what the differences are!!!  And if anyone has any great ideas for celebrating Groundhog Day I am open to suggestion!!! :)

Have a delightful Monday, everyone!  (Especially if you are excused from school/work today! :))

January 18, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - A Is For Musk Ox

I would just like to start today by saying that it's only 15 days until GROUNDHOG DAY (in case anyone besides me and Phyllis is counting :))
illustration copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler 2005
Also, Phyllis's FB page is feeling unloved (because I never do anything with it :)) so if anyone wants to go chat with her she would love that.  You're going to have to work hard to beat out Cathy as her number one fan though :)  Phyllis says comments on what makes groundhogs lovable would be a good start...  She also loves groundhog jokes, so if you know any, please share :)

Okay!  Are you ready for today's Perfect Picture Book selection?

Given my well-documented love for silly alphabet books and the title of today's pick, I'm sure you can already tell it's tons of fun!  Just wait until you hear about it - I DARE you not to go straight to the library! :)

A Is For Musk Ox
Written By: Erin Cabatingan
Illustrated By: Matthew Myers
Roaring Book Press, October 2012, Fiction

Suitable For: ages listed variously as Preschool - Grade 4, and ages 5 and up.  I would go with 5 and up - I think some of the humor might fly over the heads of the littlest ones.

Themes/Topics: alphabet, humor, animals (musk oxen), consequences

Opening: (Well, you've really got to start with the cover... which he has eaten through! :))  "HEY! Hey you, Musk Ox!  Did you do this?  Did you eat that apple?"
"Who me?  I can't remember."

Brief Synopsis:  After Joseph the musk ox eats the apple that "a" is supposed to be for, he proceeds to make the entire alphabet be all about him much to Zebra's annoyance!  But Zebra has the last laugh :)

Links To Resources:  Musk Oxen Pictures And Facts, Eco Field Guide - Musk Ox, Musk Ox Print Out, Coloring Page 1, Coloring Page 2

Why I Like This Book:  SO FUNNY!  Every letter is for musk ox except the odd one here and there...  P is for Wolf, T is for headache, (you'll just have to read it to follow that logic!) and my favorite, M is for apple... because he feels bad about eating it at the beginning :)  Musk ox is just a bit pushy in his insistence, and in the end gets his comeuppance, which is just a bit fair :)  This book may not be terribly helpful in teaching the alphabet, but it's sure to tickle the funny bone.  The art is particularly hilarious.

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

Now then, please don't keel over with shock, but that is the end of today's post.  I KNOW!  So brief!  But the truth is, I'm under the gun to get all the details squared away for my new writing course after the announcement leaked out a little ahead of schedule last week - nose to the grindstone and all that - and you know how me and technology get along... we DON'T... so enough said!  Wish me luck with my email template!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  And PPBF bloggers, please put your post-specific links in the list below - I can't wait to see what you picked this week!

January 16, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #72 - The Good For Plenty Bibs (PB) AND The December Pitch Pick

I just have to say, I love our writing community!

Where else, on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon, can you find mature adults making up rhymes about poets, or writing songs with animal noises in them for other writers' blogiversaries on Face Book?  (And yes, that certainly IS an excellent and productive use of time!  We're writing, aren't we?! :))

So let's see... what have I accomplished this week?  You mean, aside from the verse about the otter?  Ummm.....

Excuse me while I distract you with Something Chocolate :)
Please, help yourselves!  While your mouths are full, I'll explain what we're doing today.

Due to December's crazy schedule, we only had 2 pitches, and January has 5 Wednesdays which, for those of you who struggle with math (oh wait, that's me!), means there will be 5 pitches :), so to make the pitch picks more even I put Sidney's from the first Wednesday in January in with the 2 from December so that December's pitch pick will have 3 and January's (when we get there) will have 4.

I hope you were all able to follow my advanced math at this hour of the morning.  More cake?

So here are the revised pitches for the December+ Pitch Pick :)

#1 Julie
Differently Together (formerly Eddie Brick Visits The Aunts) - PB - ages 4-8
When their grandnephew Eddie's visit stirs up their tried-and-true routine, Emmie and Effie Brick find the upset quite upsetting.  Eddie's creativity might just help his aunts learn to enjoy doing things a little differently, together.

#2 Kim
Oyster And Pearl - PB - ages 4-8

Pearl is a tiny grain of sand that lives in the bottom of the ocean. She feels insignificant in her world and both envious AND enamored of the star that she can see far above her. As she sets her sights on joining the star, she encounters many challenges... until finally, one night, she meets Oyster, who helps her become a star of her own.

#3 Sidney
Astrid Climbs Her Family Tree - PB - ages 4-8

When Astrid discovers family photo albums, she can’t figure out how she is related to all these people. Join Astrid as she learns how to draw a family tree, create a gravestone rubbing, build an Aztec pyramid, march like George Washington and chase her boredom away. 

Which do you feel deserves a trip to editor Erin Molta's desk for a read and comments?  Please vote for your favorite by Friday January 18 at 11:59 PM EST and I'll announce the pitch pick winner next week.

Now on to today's pitch comes to us from Linda, whom you may remember from her pitch for Alpha Bitty in October.  Linda is a former gifted and talented teacher and the author of a number of books including the multi-award winning picture book, The Blue Roses.  Please take a moment to visit her website at  Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Good For Plenty Bibs
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4 and up)
The Pitch: A spanking new pair of bib overalls arrives at the Owens’ family cabin for the oldest boy, Jake’s birthday. Pretty soon he sprouts like a beanstalk and dumps them into Granny’s quilt pile saying, “Good for nothing bibs.” Granny argues, “They’re the good for plenty bibs.” She stitches a pocket up and passes them down to the next boy. So the bibs pass from brother to brother, Granny fixing them up each time. They cycle through rips and tears, ups and downs but finally when the last child and only girl, Annabella, outgrows them Granny agrees: they’ve been patched and re-patched; they’ve lost their midnight blue, their October sky blue, and even their milky morning blue. Now they’re finally the good for nothing bibs. This time Annabella disagrees. With a clever plan and her brothers’ help, the kids work out a surprise that leaves Granny speechless.

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 Linda 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 February - like in 3 weeks! so seriously we could really use some new pitches!  It's your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Linda is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to what kind of tomfoolery will show up on Face Book this afternoon :)  It better be good.  My expectations are raised now :)

Have a great day, everyone!

January 14, 2013

Monday Short And Sweet - Saying It Without Saying It

Good Monday, my friends!

After a really long time... seriously, I can't remember the last day we did this and that is only partly because of the memory lapses due to my advanced age :)... what was I saying?

Just kidding :)

It's a Short & Sweet day!
badge created by Loni Edwards
And today we're going to play Writer's Taboo, a fun new game I just made up right this very minute!

Here's how it works:

For your Short & Sweet you have to describe, in a few sentences, your choice of a setting common to childhood, or a common childhood experience or milestone (don't worry, there's a list!) without using the words most commonly associated with it!  And you have to do it well enough that we can guess what it is!

That means you have to crawl out onto the creative limb a bit and stretch your descriptive skills.

As writers, we focus a lot on words - choosing just the right words to say what we want to say.

But sometimes we take the easy way out.  We know, for example, that if we mention Valentine's Day our readers are instantly going to think of pink and red construction paper hearts, white lace doilies, chocolate candy with red foil wrappers, and those little Conversation Hearts that look and taste like chalk :)  So we say it's Valentine's Day and leave it at that.  (Okay, I'm oversimplifying a little, but you get the idea :))

The point is, don't go for the obvious or the easy.  Try for something a little fresher and more interesting.  If you do it well, your reader will feel transported and far more delighted than if you say something the same way it's been said a thousand times before.

Here are your choices:
(for those of you who like randomness or have trouble making decisions at this hour Monday morning, pick a number between 1 and 15 and go with whatever you get :))

You may not use the words of the thing itself (e.g. birthday and/or party for Birthday Party) or any of the 5 words listed after it in your description.  And I recommend you write your own description before you read the others in the comments - there are only 15 choices so it will be fun to see how alike or different they are but it will be really hard to do if you've read someone else's before you try to do your own.  Just write your description - don't tell which one you picked or what words you're avoiding.

1. Birthday Party: cake, present, balloon, candles, guests
2. Losing First Tooth: wiggle, loose, tongue, gap, pillow
3. Playground: swing, slide, sandbox, jungle gym, run
4. Picnic: basket, blanket, ants, lunch, grass
5. Doctor's Office: nurse, scale, needle, stethoscope, thermometer
6. Fourth Of July: firecrackers, barbecue, parade, bonfire, American flag
7. Getting Dressed Up: tight, itchy, hate, uncomfortable, stiff
8. School: book, teacher, classroom, recess, pencil
9. Tree House: ladder, rope, high, trap door, boards
10. Camp: summer, poison ivy, bunkhouse, swimming, arts & crafts
11. Riding A Bike: learn, wobble, two-wheeler, helmet, training wheels
12. Field Trip: bus, partner, bag lunch, museum, walk
13. Halloween: costume, jack o'lantern, spooky, candy, trick-or-treat
14. Getting A Pet: new, dog, cat, bowl, responsibility
15. Fear Of The Dark: scared, monsters, nightlight, shadows, black

(If anyone has a great idea of an item to add to the list, email me and I'll add it in so there are more choices - and of course I will credit whoever's brilliant idea it is!! :))

Here's an example.  I'll use an item that is not on the list so as not to ruin any of the 15 on the list for you.

The classroom smells like sugar and worry.  On each desk sits a box, made in art last week.  Ms. Rousseau, the art teacher, said we couldn't use the usual colors and shapes to decorate - she said we had to think outside the box.  Then she laughed at her own joke.  I painted mine rose (so there, Ms. Rousseau!) and pasted arrows cut out of lacy white doilies all over it, flying every which way, all of them missing the mark.  The boxes have a hole in the top so that kids can drop cards or small candies in.  I sneak a look around the classroom.  Dave Hannigan stuffs a football into the hole on top of his box and looks like he's getting ready to punt.  Missy O'Haus's is so full that little folded cards are spilling out the top.  Be Mine, says one with a cherry tootsie pop taped to it.  I'm afraid to pick my box up.  It looks empty.  What if it's empty?  Whose idea was this dumb February 14th holiday anyway?

Gosh!  It's surprising how hard it is to talk about something without using the words you most want to! But the idea is that it makes you reach for more - different sights, scents, sounds, tastes, emotions, experiences, and descriptions so you can hopefully come up with details you might not have otherwise.  Can you guess what mine was?  (And I will tell you I avoided the words red, pink, chocolate, heart, love.  Can you hear me sobbing that I wasn't allowed to mention chocolate?  Oh, the cruelty! :))

I think it's fun (even if I don't do it all that well) - but then you know how much I love games and puzzles and this is sort of like that :)

I hope you all enjoy trying this!  I can't wait to read your descriptions and see what you come up with to beat around the bush! :)  Remember, don't tell which one you're doing or what words you're avoiding!  And actually, if you're not up for the full challenge, if you even just want to write a setting/milestone/experience and the 5 things you can't use to describe it (as I did for the list above), that is helpful too - it gets you thinking about what the most obvious choices are, which is helpful in trying to avoid them!

Looking forward to what you all have to share, whether list items or creative descriptions!

Have a great day, both writing and otherwise! :)

January 11, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Jimi Sounds Like A Rainbow

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Let's jump right in, shall we?  I'm in a rush today because I'm going to be pretty busy this morning being nervous for my interview on the Take Your Talent To The Bank Virtual Conference - being nervous is incredibly time-consuming and I only have a few hours! :)

I have a great book to share today!

Jimi Sounds Like A Rainbow: A Story Of The Young Jimi Hendrix
Written By: Gary Golio
Illustrated By: Javaka Steptoe
Clarion Books, October 2010, Fact-based Fiction

Suitable For: publisher says ages 6 and up, I think maybe 7 or 8 and up

Themes/Topics: music, art, creativity, perseverance, pursuing dreams

Opening: "Seattle, Washington 1956.
Electricity ripped through the air.  A lightning flash lit up the room.  Thunder rocked the house.
     Jimmy's hand jumped, and a rainbow of colored pencils went tumbling to the floor.
     Outside, the rain began trickling off the roof and plinking into the metal gutter.  Drops bounced onto the windowsill.  A breeze rippled the glass chimes on the porch.
     For a moment, Jimmy thought he head a woman's name being blown on the wind."

Brief Synopsis: Jimmy Hendrix (before he was Jimi :)) grew up in a boarding house in Seattle with his father.  In everything around him, Jimmy heard music - children's laughter sounded like a squealing clarinet, a truck backfiring sounded like a bass drum, a rake on the sidewalk sounded like a snare.  "With every sound, a color glowed in Jimmy's mind."  He wanted to reproduce the things he heard and saw as music - to paint with sound - even though he owned nothing musical but a one-string ukelele and his voice.  He heard and saw the world differently from everyone else, and he wanted to color the world with his music.

Links To Resources: the back of the book has a list of resources about substance abuse (really only appropriate for older readers) and a fascinating illustrator's note about how the illustrations for the book were researched and created which everyone can enjoy.  There is also a bibliography and a list of selected discography, CDs, videos, and DVDs.  Again, much of this would be appropriate only for older readers than the usual picture book audience.  Younger readers could try drawing what they think the sound of a song or piece of music looks like, or how it makes them feel.  You could discuss what color a tuba, a flute, or a guitar (or any other instrument) sounds like to you.  Why?  What instrument or group of instruments would be a good choice to represent bird song? Traffic?  Water? (or anything else you'd like to try :)) Why?

Why I Like This Book:  To be honest, I picked up this book because I was wondering how the author would manage to turn the Jimi Hendrix experience into a children's picture book :)  The answer?  Very well indeed!  He focused on Jimmy's early years, his creativity and passion, how his humble beginnings didn't stop him from pursuing his dreams.  The story is very inspiring.  The language is lyrical and musical, conveying beautifully the way Jimmy saw and heard the world.  "Notes spun from the strings, flickering in the air like fireflies."  And the art is the perfect match for this story - wild and kaleidoscopic and colorful - the visual representation of Jimmy's difference and creativity, and with young Jimmy very much in the forefront of every illustration.  The book ends with the lines: "Dressed in the colors of the rainbow, he played for audiences far and wide, joining fiery sounds with tender feelings and painting the world with his songs."  It does not address his drug addictions or his tragic end, but the back matter of the book does.  So while the story is appropriate for younger readers, much of the back matter is really only suitable for an older audience, but for more mature readers, it's good that it's there.  The illustrator's notes are fascinating for everyone.  The combined text and art make this book a terrific read!

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

Now, I have some serious being nervous to do, so I will wish you all a happy weekend!  PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below.  I can't wait to see what everyone else picked this week!  So many great books out there! :)

January 9, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #71 - Civil (MG Fantasy/Adventure) AND A Huge Announcement!

Well, the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

Months have I slaved in secrecy, awaiting the moment to unveil my latest hair-brained scheme, and what should happen?  It accidentally gets unveiled elsewhere before I got to tell you!

I'm kind of hoping most of you didn't see it... but I know some of you did because you told me!  And on the off chance you did... or might... I thought you really ought to hear about it here first - straight from the horse's mouth, as it were :)  (I know - first with the cat, now the horse, all this ridiculous cliche...!  Sorry, it's nerves :))

So, slightly before I am truly ready, I will share my long-kept secret!

Ready?  (Steady now!  Deep breath...)

2013 is the first year since 1987 to have four different numbers!

Hee hee.  That is actually true but it's not my long-kept secret.  I'm just foolin' with you :)

Seriously, are you ready?

What's that?  You need Something Chocolate?  Well of course you do!  It's Wednesday!  Go get something.  I'll wait.  In fact, here, let me offer you some Monkey Cake!
Photo copyright Stacy S. Jensen 2012 used by permission
Mm mm good and chocolaty!!!

Now then, ready for the secret?

Frankly, I'm a little afraid to tell you in case you don't think it's as fun as I do.  Maybe that's why I've been hemming and hawing, tweaking and perfecting and generally mucking about and finding reasons not to tell you.  But the time has come.  Stiff upper lip and all that.  (See?  There's the cliche again!  It's like a disease... a disease of nerves! :))

Last May I thought to myself, you know, self? I think I'd like to write a writing course.  I know a little about writing and a little about teaching, and I would like to share with people who would like to learn.

So I got to work and, in between other writing and blogging and taking our son to visit every college on the eastern seaboard and westward into Ohio this summer and on into fall... and then winter..., I wrote a course on how to write picture books.  I polished and tweaked and roped in some beta testers (who shall not be named to protect the innocent but you all know them :))  I added lessons and took lessons away, turned some lessons into supplements and some supplements into lessons.  I reached out to 10 talented artists who very kindly contributed their fabulous work at a fraction of its worth to decorate the lessons and inspire my hopefully someday students.

And the result is my little writing course:  Making Picture Book Magic!  (I wish I could make that sparkle or something!  How about we all pretend it's sparkling? :))  Look!  Here's the awesome  header graphic designed by our own fantastic Loni Edwards!
illustration copyright Loni Edwards 2012
Making Picture Book Magic is designed to fit into a busy life-style and be fun, friendly, and affordable.  Each lesson will be delivered in a manageable-sized piece by email.  I did not reinvent the wheel, but I hope I do have something to offer that isn't quite like anything else out there.  It is my opinion, for what it's worth :), that it's helpful to take multiple courses if you can because different people say things and explain things in different ways, and sometimes one way will make more sense to you than another.  Different courses stress different things and offer different exercises, resources and experiences.  There are lots of great writing courses available - Emma Walton Hamilton's, Anastasia Suen's, the Institute Of Children's Literature's (which I took many years ago) just to name a few.  But I'd like to be able to add mine to the mix in case it's helpful.  And by working hard to make it affordable, I'm hoping it will be an option for lots of people.  You will note that there is now a tab in the header above.  You may click on it, or HERE, and learn all about the course if you are interested.

But in case you aren't, I won't go on about it any longer now.  It's time for Would You Read It!!!

Today's pitch comes to us from Wendy.  In what seems like a former life, Wendy was a middle school science teacher and principal. Now a writer and mom, she has published several personal essays and articles on parenting and education. When she is not pulling her sons around the backyard on a sled (100 laps on a recent afternoon), she works on her middle grade novel and her blog, The Family That Reads Together.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Civil
Age/Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy Adventure
The Pitch:  Five seventh graders--a sensitive ballplayer, a new student from Africa, a feared social outcast, a popular cheerleader, and a 9-year-old technical genius--are invited to join a secret time-traveling society. Soon, they must work together to chase an enemy through the bloody battlefields of Gettysburg, an increasingly dystopian Washington, DC, and their own dangerous school hallways. Charlie, Thabo, LV, Adriana, and Caitlin fight against time to restore history, rebuild a country, and survive middle school.

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 Wendy 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 February, so you have time to polish :) for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Wendy is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to getting the finishing touches done on my course just in case anyone ever wants to take it!

Oh, and if you haven't signed up yet but you'd still like to, the Free Virtual Conference runs until Saturday the 12th (one more expert was added) so hop over and check it out!

Have a supercalafragilisticexpialidocious kind of day, everyone :)

January 7, 2013

Oh Susanna - Will Agents Rep Poetry?

Happy Monday Everyone!

It feels like ages since we had an Oh Susanna day, and the next question in the queue seemed like a good one for the start of a new year.

Penny asked: I have noticed when researching agent blogs, that a lot of them don't represent poetry. So what if you write poetry along with picture books/middle grade, etc.? Do you have to submit poetry on your own? Or will agents usually work with you to find a home for your poems, too?

This is the first time an Oh Susanna question has come in that I really had no experience with, but I think it's something a lot of you might wonder about, so I wanted to address it.  Since I don't have any direct, personal knowledge on the topic, I of course reached out to writer friends who might know the answer.  And being children's writers they were of course all wonderful and helpful and wrote back immediately with the best information they could provide.

Laura Sassi whose poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications including Highlights for ChildrenCricketLadybugSpider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun and whose debut picture book GOODNIGHT, ARK is forthcoming from Zonderkidz, a division of HarperCollins says:

According to my contract, when I had an agent, she represented all of my writing, but what she was interested in were my rhyming picture books, so that's what I focussed on and sent her.  Not sure this answer helps in your question - except to point out that maybe part of the answer needs to be that it's a very individual thing.  Depends probably on name recognition of poet etc.

Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of many wonderful rhyming stories for children, including ITSY BITSY SPIDER (Whispering Coyote Press, 1993) and THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN (Sky Pony Press 2012) as well as 2 poetry compilations - RUFUS AND FRIENDS RHYME TIME (Charlesbridge 2008) and RUFUS AND FRIENDS SCHOOL DAYS (Charlesbridge 2010) says:

My agent represents me on picture books, individual poems, poem collections, whatever I write. But that's our agreement. I am sure some agents may be only interested in picture books, rhyming or not. Poetry continues to be a hard sell...

Laura Purdie Salas (not to be confused with Laura Sassi :)) who is the author of many books and poems for children including
A LEAF CAN BE... (Millbrook Press, 2012) (which was  Perfect Picture Book HERE)
BOOKSPEAK! (Clarion, 2011) NCTE Notable; 2012 Minnesota Book Award
STAMPEDE! (Clarion, 2009) Finalist, 2010 Minnesota Book Award says:

Good question. I've run into that same thing. What seems to be the
typical case is that if an agent represents you for picture books and
novels, she will also submit your poetry, but only for book
manuscripts for traditional publishers. Not individual poems for
anthologies, magazines, etc. Poetry, in general, makes so little money
that agents don't have a whole lot of interest in representing it,
even if they personally love it. They know that it's just not all that
salable (can you hear me sob as I type that?).

Just my 2 cents. Interested to hear if others have different

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater who is the author of FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion 2013) and READING TIME (Wordsong, date TBA) and who you can visit at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks in addition to her website linked to her name above has this to contribute:

I don't know the bigger answer to this question, only my own experience.  I met my agent through the generous introduction and sharing of my work by my teacher, Lee Bennett Hopkins.  Elizabeth Harding (Curtis Brown Ltd.) does represent and submit my poetry, and while I have not yet sold a picture book...she is encouraging me to write one.  

From this, I'd imagine that if you're already working with an agent, s/he would most likely work with you and your poems.  But poetry is such a tough sell these days, I wonder if agents hesitate to advertise that they might even read it.

I hope this helps?

Clearly this is a tough question to answer!  In general, it seems that if you write other children's genres, at least some agents will probably help you sub traditional book length poetry mss.  But it sounds like poetry by itself would be a hard way to secure an agent.  Thanks ever so much to Laura, Laura, Iza, and Amy for sharing their knowledge and expertise, and if anyone in the reading audience has experience in this area, please share!  We are all very curious to find out!  Catherine? Anyone?  Not to put you on the spot or anything :)

I hope we'll get some good information in the comments!  Thanks for a great question, Penny!

Have a wonderful day everyone! :)

January 4, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Step Gently Out AND Virtual Conference Info!

Wow!  Between the Holiday Contest and the holidays themselves, I've missed a few PPBFs!  I'm excited to show you today's book, though.  I hope you'll love it!  And I think it fits very nicely with the idea of the beginning of the new year - the concept of stepping out and looking closely at what's around you :)

Step Gently Out
Written By: Helen Frost
Photography By: Rick Lieder
Candlewick, March 2012, Fiction

Themes/Topics: nature, insects, taking time to look closely, poetry

Suitable For: ages 2-7

Opening: "Step gently out,/ be still, and watch a single blade of grass."

Brief Synopsis: (From the Booklist starred review) "Nature’s miracles are often small and hard to capture, but in a syncopated harmony of text and image, Frost and Lieder manage to depict tiny moments as seen through a bugs-eye-view of the world... Moving from day to night, the poem makes for a soothing bedtime lullaby that includes a reminder to children about the book’s small creatures: "In song and dance / and stillness, / they share the world / with you.""

Links To Resources: the back of the book includes lots of information on all the insects pictured - a resource all in itself.  In addition, here are some Insect Coloring Pages.  Try taking some photographs of your own.  Try writing a short poem about an insect.

Why I Like This Book:  I am always in favor of books that encourage kids to go outside and look closely at the real world around them, really observe it, think about it, be part of it.  I'm not an insect lover per se :), but this book is amazingly beautiful.  I cannot stress enough how absolutely exquisite the photography is.  Such detail!  Here's another little sample:
It's breathtaking, isn't it? and I think kids and adults alike will thoroughly enjoy looking at it, especially in combination with the poetic text which is as gorgeous in it's imagery as the photography is.  This book is a feast for eyes and ears and hearts!

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

Before we all run off for to read everyone's book choices for today and then head out for our weekends, I'd just like to thank everyone who took the time to visit Donna's blog Wednesday for my guest post, and also tell you a little more about something I might be able to offer you.

Patricia Morrison, who is a creativity coach (as well as a singer/songwriter) is starting a new website/blog called InnerFireOuterLight and she has put together a virtual conference for next week, January 8th - 11th entitled Take Your Talent To The Bank: Go From Starving Artist To Creative Rock Star.

Here's a little blurb Patricia prepared to give you an idea what it's all about:

The Take Your Talent To The Bank Virtual Conference in just one week away, on January 8th-11th!

You can attend the entire power-packed conference with EIGHT brilliant and successful creatives from the comfort of your home, for FREE! 

This [FREE] virtual conference is designed for brilliant, creative professionals and those who just might be ready to take a leap into sharing their creative voices and gifts in a bigger way.  Successful creatives who have been where you are share their struggles, tips, tricks and strategies for taking your talent to the bank and going from starving artist to creative rock star!

You’ll hear from:

  • An internationally touring performer, playwright, screenwriter & more
  • A best-selling author & photographer
  • An acclaimed children's picture book author of nearly a dozen books (you might recognize this one :)) 
  • A top 5% earning actor with NY & LA careers
  • A multi-6-figure creative business coach & actor
  • A celebrated visionary fiber artist and painter, author, editor & more
  • One of the most sought after Marilyn Tribute artists in the world today 
Ready to escape the starving artist mentality (and reality) and get the recognition, fans, and income you deserve? 
Share your creative gifts with a world hungry for vision, beauty and meaning AND make a grown-up living!
Looking forward to having you join us!

Okay, well the blurb was longer than that but I think that's enough to give you the general idea and the link to sign up! :)  And I'll save you the clicking for the time of my interview which is on Friday January 11th at 11 AM PST/2 PM EST.  I will likely sound like a somewhat confused and very frightened guinea pig since public speaking of any kind to grown-ups is not my forte, but one can hope for the best :)

Please feel free to share the word to anyone you think might be interested!  And if you have any questions about it, ask away in the comments... I may or may not be able to answer :)

And now, enjoy all the PPBs and have a wonderful weekend!  PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific links in the list below!

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