April 29, 2013

Let's Talk Sheep - BAAH! A CAAHNTEST!!!

Well, folks, not only is there always adventure around here, there is always excitement! :)

First of all, I'm pretty sure my hair has grown at least a millimeter since last week :)


Pretty sure!!

But even more exciting than that, I just found out that Can't Sleep Without Sheep is being released to E-Book on May 7!!!
 It will be available on all platforms, and it is one of 4 books that Walker has chosen to launch their E-Book line.  For that reason, it is very important that it do well.  It is a representative!  Sallying forth and bearing the flag of honor!  So I really want to help spread the word so that Woolliam and Ava don't end up hanging their heads in disgrace!

Phyllis is sulking.  She thinks everything should be about her.  And usually it is.

But this week I really think Woolliam and Ava deserve their turn in the limelight.

illustration copyright Mike Wohnoutka 2010
So I put on my Old Thinking Cap and thought to myself, what can we do that will be fun and also help spread the word about the E-Book?

Right away I thought of cake.

Because, as you may have noticed, that is often my first thought.

But although I feel quite sure there will be cake involved, I think this occasion calls for even more than cake.

I know.

The mind reels.

But I want Ava and the sheep to have a chance to kick up their heels and have some fun.

So here's what I'm thinking...


You know how I love contests :)

Here's what we'll do:

Write a jingle that makes Can't Sleep Without Sheep sound irresistible!  So that everyone will want to read it!!  On whatever electronic device they happen to have!!!

You can do straight rhyme like the old roadside Burma Shave commercials, you know, like:

I've heard it praised
By drugstore clerks
I tried the stuff
Hot dog!  It works!
Burma Shave!

Or you can do it to a tune (just tell us what is is so we can sing it :)), like:

My bologna has a first name
It's O-S-C-A-R
My bologna has a second name
It's M-A-Y-E-R
I love to eat it every day
And if you ask my why I'll say...
'Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B-O-L-O-G-N-A!
(I'm assuming everyone is familiar with that one, but if not you can view it HERE :))

If you're REALLY feeling creative, you can post a photo or slide show to accompany your rhyme/jingle, or do a short video so we can hear your rhyme/jingle, preferably featuring the book cover, or a sheep in pajamas or tucked in bed, or a stuffed animal pajama party, or a pillow fight, or stuffed animals demolishing Lincoln Log fences..., or anything fun to do with the story whilst you recite or sing! (And I'll tell you right now, any entry like this is bound to get extra love from the judges! :))

Doesn't that sound fun?  Plus it can count as your Short & Sweet for the week :)

So that's it.  You have a whole week to come up with an awesome jingle to help Woolliam and Ava in their quest for fame and fortune :)

On Monday May 6 - Tuesday May 7, please post your jingle of awesomeness on your blog and include the link (which I will hopefully have by then to give you!) to the E-Book.  Add your post-specific link to the list that will be here on my post that day.  (And as always, if you'd like to participate but don't have a blog, you may either post in the comments or email me and I'll add your entry to my blog post.)

Earn extra points by spreading the word on Face Book and Twitter (and make sure I know by tagging me - Susanna Hill on FB, @SusannaLHill on twitter).  You may do this to your heart's content all week :)

Because of course there's a prize!

On Monday May 13, we will vote for a winner.  If we get fewer than 15 participants (*sob*) I will post them all here for popular vote.  If we get 16 or more (YAY! :)) my lovely assistant and I will select up to 10 finalists for your voting pleasure.

The winner will receive his or her choice of the following prizes:
#1 The Serenity Spa Gift Basket from It's Only Natural - a $55 value of organic soaps and lotions!
#2 A $50 gift certificate to Amazon!
#3 Tangy lemon bars, fudgy brownies, and sugared butter cookies from Sweet Sally's Bakeshop! (A $40+ value)
#4 Winner's choice of any 3 of my books, specially signed for whoever you like (A $30-$50 value depending on which books you choose)
#5 Winner's choice of my online picture book writing course (a $99 value) OR a picture book manuscript critique by yours truly (a $75 value)

If we get more than 25 entries, prizes will be given for 1st - 3rd!

IN ADDITION there will be a special contest FOR KIDS!

Download The Sheep Drawing Activity so your child/children/preschool or kindergarten class :) can draw something for Ava to count and/or The Sheep Hats Activity so they can draw hats on the sheep and/or write entertaining captions for what the sheep are saying.

Scan the gorgeous results and post them on your blog and link to the same link list that will be posted here on Monday May 6-Tuesday May 7 - just put (kids) so we'll know :)  (Again, if you want to participate and don't have a blog, just email me the scanned pictures and I'll post them for you.)

Kids Contest participants will also be voted on May 13, and of course there will be a prize for that too!  The winner of the Kids Contest will receive either the new Can't Sleep Without Sheep E-Book on the platform of his/her choice or a signed hardcover copy PLUS a Folkmanis Sheep puppet!

WHEW!  That is so much excitement I'm feeling a little faint.  I think I'm ready for a nap.  And a brownie.  Not necessarily in that order :)

I hope you will all join me in going hog-wild (well, I guess SHEEP-wild would be more appropriate in this situation... perhaps BAAHzerk? :)) to help launch this little e-book out into the wide world.  I will be truly and deeply grateful for any and all participation, and I hope the prizes will help make it worthwhile for you :)

Thank you, my friends, and have a wonderful day! :)

April 26, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Hooray For Amanda And Her Alligator

Yippee-aye-oh-ky-yay!  It's Friday!  And you know what that means :)

I have a totally fun book to share today.  It reminds me, just in a vague way, of Frog And Toad by Arnold Lobel which are some of my favorite stories ever.

Title: Hooray For Amanda And Her Alligator!
Written & Illustrated By: Mo Willems
Balzer & Bray, April 2011, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, reading is fun

Opening: "Amanda was at the library getting books for the week.
Her aligator was not.
He was waiting for Amanda to get back.
I do not like it when Amanda is gone, thought Alligator.  I am no good at waiting.
He paced around the room.
He fiddled with his tail.
When Amanda comes home we will have fun, thought Alligator.
Maybe she will have a surprise for me!
Alligator smiled."

Brief Synopsis:  Amanda and Alligator are best friends.  They love to surprise each other.  Sometimes the surprises are more surprising than others.  One day Amanda brings home a special surprise that may not be too welcome... and the result is another surprise!

Links To Resources: HERE is a great list of fun friendship activities based on the book; this blog has a quick review of the book, but scroll down a bit and there are some wonderful suggestions for activities.

Why I Like This Book: It's subtitled "6 1/2 surprising stories about 2 surprising friends."  It stars a stuffed alligator... who sometimes wears his Old Thinking Cap :)  It champions the idea that "books beat boredom."  It's by Mo Willems!  Really - what's not to like? :)  Although it is technically a picture book, it is also almost an early reader and thus makes a great transition book - first listen, then read alone.  And the stories are charming and sweet and fun.  For example, when Alligator feels sad because he was in the sale bucket for 7 cents because no one wanted to buy him, Amanda tells him no one wanted to buy him because they knew he was meant to be her best friend :)

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

Now then.  After the haircut debacle, some people asked for photos.  I really don't like photos of myself.  I try not to get within range of a camera if I can possibly think of a reason to be elsewhere.  But I love you.  So here you go.  Just remember that I'm one of those people who is best photographed from a distance... like the moon... but since I had to take the after photo myself I couldn't get that far away.  Shield your eyes :)
I borrowed this from Joanna - that's me, Emma and her - I'm the shortest one :)
That's the most recent "before" I have

and here's the after - just GAK on so many levels
I hope you're happy now!  (And yeah, I may have exaggerated a bit about the earlobe length, but it IS way too short for a ponytail!)

Now.  Let's put that horror behind us, shall we?  I have something fun to tell you!

But I think it will have to wait for Monday.  Because I'm in the middle of thinking up a hare-brained scheme to go with it.  A kind of a contest maybe, methinks.  Or something.  I'm still pondering... Feel free to make suggestions of what you feel like doing and what prize you'd like to win in the comments!

So see you Monday!

Have a great weekend everyone!

And PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to the list below! :)

April 24, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #85 - A Noise In The Dark (PB)

You know, there is always adventure around here! :)

I went for my annual haircut.

Now just hold your horses!  How do you know haircuts aren't an adventure?  I haven't told it yet!

AS I was saying...!  I went for my annual haircut.

I know.  Once a year might be more than is strictly necessary here in the boondocks, but I like to keep somewhat properly groomed so the bears don't think I'm one of them.

But the lovely salon girl and I seem to have had a breakdown in communication.

I said, "Shoulder length so I can still put it in a ponytail when I go running."

She apparently heard, "Earlobe length, or even a little higher if you feel like it."

An easy mistake.  Anyone could make it.

Shoulder-length.  Temple fringe.

They sound practically the same.


So, yeah, my hair is pretty short, and not by any feat of brushing, combing or hair product is it going to be in a ponytail for a while :)

Luckily hair grows :)  eventually :)

Also luckily, an unexpected haircut outcome is nothing a little Something Chocolate can't fix! :)  Hmm... what should we have today?  How about...
MILKSHAKES!  I, of course, opt for chocolate, but for those of you who have trouble facing it at this hour of the morning (Julie R-Z! :)) I'm offering strawberry as well, which is made of fruit and that's good for you :)

Now then, let's get comfy for Would You Read It.

Today's pitch comes to us from Cynthia who says, "I'm a writer, a mother and an animal lover on the road to publication. I write poems, young adult and picture books. Visit my website at Random Thought at   You can find me there every Tuesday. "

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: A Noise In The Dark
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5 and up)
The Pitch: Nicky's closet is making so much noise that it's scaring him half to death.  So much so that he's clutching at his chest.  His mother says its just a branch against a window pane, but Nicky knows what lurks beyond is so much more then rain.  Come with Nicky into the dark, and tame the fears that are hidden in the heart.

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 Cynthia 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 June so you have time to polish your pitch for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Cynthia is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to my hair growing.  That's probably like watching a pot of water and waiting for it to boil, though...  :)

Have a great day, everyone... you know, whatever blows your hair back! :)

April 22, 2013

Oh Susanna - How Do You Handle Illustrator Notes In Picture Book Manuscripts?

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

And Happy Birthday to my wonderful dad!!!  I have been exceptionally lucky in the parent department! :)  I'm a writer, I know.  I'm supposed to be good at words.  But for some things, there just aren't good enough words, or I'm not good enough with them, so here's a picture.  They say that's worth 1000 :)
in case you were wondering,
that beauty in the saggy diaper is yours truly, age 15 months :)
And now that you've had your comic relief for the day :) let's get on with Oh Susanna, shall we?

Today's question comes to us from Pam who asks:  I was wondering how many illustrator's notes you use in your writing.  For example, inApril Fool, Phyllis! did you give any since most of the story could be understood with your words alone?  And, in Not Yet, Rose, did you decide that Rose was a mouse, or was that decided by Nicole Rutten?  I'm utterly confused about illustrator's notes.  I keep hearing that editors don't like them unless they're absolutely necessary, but then I also keep hearing that nowadays editors really want half the story to be told through pictures and half through words, in which case illustrator notes are essential.  Can you help me navigate this dilemma?  Would you be willing to share a portion of a MS in which you designated an illustrator's note?

We had a similar question back in March of 2012, so I refer you to THIS POST for some information on the subject.

But your question is slightly different... so I will add a little more detail in another direction in case that might be helpful.  (And as always, I hope you alert readers out there will chime in with your two cents - it is always such a contribution!)

In response to your overall question about "how many illustrator's notes I use" my answer is hardly any.  I try to let the story and the writing speak for themselves as much as possible.

But of course it is not always possible to convey your whole intent, especially for something that's meant as a secret twist, or a surprise, or an added element of humor, or various other things.  Sometimes a few words to the wise are necessary.

My personal feeling is that illustrator notes break up the flow of your writing when an editor is reading. I know they are trained to kind of skim over them and not get distracted, but I still try to avoid them when I can.

For example, in the case of both April Fool, Phyllis! and Not Yet, Rose, I put the illustration suggestions, such as they were, in the cover letter.    If you recall the story line of April Fool, Phyllis!, you will remember that Phyllis is able to lead her little cousins back to safety by following the sap line.  I didn't want to give away the ending by calling attention to the sap line too early in the story, but it couldn't come completely out of nowhere either.  I also wanted the weather to sneak up on the story characters, but I wanted the reader to be able to see it coming.  So I included a note in the cover letter that said that the sap line should be visible in the illustration at various points (so that a reader going back to check Phyllis's clever solution would see the sap line had been there all along) and that there should be indicators of the coming blizzard in the illustrations - a darkening sky... a few snowflakes... a bit more snow etc. so that the reader could see it coming even while the characters were so caught up in their treasure hunt that they didn't notice.

For Not Yet, Rose, I did a similar thing.  I included a note in the cover letter pointing out that, although I'd written the story with a human girl in mind, there was no reason why the characters couldn't be animals, which might be helpful in adding a comforting layer of distance in a story whose emotional arc cut close to the concerns and confusion that many children feel when a sibling arrives - concerns and confusion that are hard for a child to own.  The editor agreed this could work nicely, which is how Rose and her family came to be hamsters (I will not tell Nicole you thought her hamsters were mice :) tee-hee :))

In both cases, those were rather global things that were better mentioned/described in the cover letter.

But sometimes you can't escape it :) you have to put some art notes in.  My suggestion is to format them correctly and keep them to a minimum.  You are correct that neither editors nor illustrators want too much interference.  They prefer not to have the art dictated to them by the author.  But sometimes it really is necessary to get your point across and/or crucial to the reader's comprehension of the story.

I'm sure people have been taught differently, and I expect we will get some alternative methods in the comments, but I have been taught that art notes should be bracketed in square brackets, begun with ART in all caps and followed by your notes, single spaced, in small font and kept to the right-hand side as much as possible.  I will try to put an example in here, but I know blogger isn't going to let me format it right so I won't be able to do more than one line of art note.

(From Can't Sleep Without Sheep):

The cows were a complete disaster!  [ART: the cow completely smashes the fence]

Can you get the general idea?  It's not perfect... if you had more description of your art, it would drop down a line or more, so you would single space and tab over to keep it all on the right-hand side, as easy as possible for the editor to skim over for the time being... but hopefully you can kind of see how you would do it.

I guess as a general rule I'd say if it's something broad (like the characters could work equally well as humans or animals) you can put it in your cover letter, or in an art note at the start of your manuscript.  If it's something quite specific to a point in the story, a particular line of text, that would call for an art note.

I understand your concern about editors wanting "half through the pictures and half through the words."  As authors who don't draw, this is hard for us!  How will we get across what we're imagining in our heads?  How will we be sure the editor "gets" our stories?

But remember this:  the pictures are the illustrators' job.  They are fantastic at what they do - excellent, gifted individuals who see things differently than we do and bring a whole other dimension to our stories.  We don't need to tell them how to do their jobs - they know :)  We only need to be sure that the story concept is clear - to the editor and to the illustrator.  The words are our job, the art is theirs.  So write the best story you can write.  Add a little note in your cover letter if there's something that can be well explained there.  Put a judicious art note or two in your manuscript if necessary.  And then be prepared to be surprised and delighted by what your illustrator brings to your story :)

I hope this helps answer your questions, Pam.  If not, feel free to ask for clarification in the comments and all our helpful readers and I will do our best to make it more understandable.

Helpful Readers, I invite you to add anything from your experience that might be of use to Pam, whether your opinion/experience corroborates mine or yours is different and will add another avenue of help.

Have a terrific Monday, everyone! :)

April 19, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Adventures Of Tinker And Tanker

Yippee!  It's Perfect Picture Book Friday!  And I have such a good one!

Hop into your time capsules, because we're going back to my childhood today... and we all know how long ago THAT was! :)

This was one of my most favorite books when I was little.  I remember the characters, the pictures, and the stories so clearly! - but the book itself got lost somewhere (or more likely my brother has it and isn't sharing :))  Anyway, I'd been thinking about it for some time, and when I looked on Amazon, I found a used copy.  It's not in great condition, but it's exactly as I remember it :)  I hope you'll be able to find it in your libraries and that you'll get a chance to read it.  They don't make 'em like this any more! :)

Title: The Adventures Of Tinker And Tanker
Written & Illustrated By: Richard Scarry
Doubleday & Company, 1960, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, helping others, adventure, problem solving, books for boys

Opening: "Two close friends - Tinker, a brown rabbit and a very good mechanic, and Tanker, a big strong hippopotamus - were out in their car looking for work and for a place to live."

Brief Synopsis: Tinker and Tanker are two good friends who help people in need wherever they go.  This book actually contains three stories: Tinker And Tanker, Tinker And Tanker Out West, and Tinker And Tanker And Their Space Ship.

Links To Resources: HERE you can make your own hot air balloon; I couldn't find Richard Scarry exactly, but HERE are some farm animal finger puppets to make; Tinker and Tanker love to try new things and they always turn into adventures - think up an adventure you could have, play dress up, and act it out.

Why I Like This Book:  The things I loved as a little girl are the same things I still love.  I love the friendship between Tinker and Tanker.  I love their arrival in a friendly town, and how they fix up the empty broken down repair shop behind the train station to be their workshop.  I love the (let's face it!) wackiness of their adventures - Tanker lifts a train, Tinker disguises himself as a papoose
when Tanker dresses as a squaw to fool the bad guys out west, they build a space ship out of sail cloth and a basket - all exactly the kinds of things I did, tried to do, or imagined myself doing when I was 5 :)  The art is classic Richard Scarry - cozy and fun.  But reading the stories again, one of my favorite things is how totally they break pretty much every rule we're given about writing today.  There's loads of "telling".  The train derails and crashes off the track.  A house is burning down.  Little mice are floating out to sea and in danger of being eaten by a giant fish.  Out west, someone fires a gun.  The baby Gloria gets kidnapped.  The term "Indian" is used more than once and the "Indian" speech is terribly stereotypical... I could go on :)  And yet the stories are FUN.  They aren't in the least bit frightening.  And it's kind of great to see how a book that doesn't follow any of the "rules" can still be a wonderful book! :)
Can you imagine this in a PB today?
That's Tinker, disguised as baby Gloria, holding the gun!
For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

The past couple weeks have been a bit crazy with college revisits and life in general, and I have not had time to get around to all the PPBF posts the way I like to.  I apologize for that, and hope that I'll be able to do better today! :)  PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific links on the list below and I'll try! I'll really try! :)

Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

April 17, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #84 - Hurricane Enrique (PB)

Something Chocolate?

Why yes thank you, don't mind if I do!

There's nothing like a little chocolate mousse in the morning among friends!  Who's with me?

You will notice I added some healthful and nutritious raspberries, which are especially good for you on account of the phenolic phytochemicals like ellagic acid, but also they taste really good with chocolate mousse :)

And speaking of chocolate mousse, does anyone remember Fred Gwynne?  (No, I am not off my rocker!  I'm going somewhere with this...)  He was Herman on The Munsters, and he played the southern Judge Chamberlain Haller in one of my all-time favorite movies, My Cousin Vinny (I highly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it - SO funny - but not for you for a few years, Erik - I think it's rated R for language!)  ANYWAY, he also wrote several humorous picture books for children that illustrate idioms.  One of them happens to be called A Chocolate Moose For Dinner.  See?    I told you I was going somewhere with this.

That's as far as I go, though.  Chocolate mousse reminds me of A Chocolate Moose For Dinner.  You should read it some time.  Maybe I'll do it for Perfect Picture Books one of these days :)

Now, if you all could please get off the topic of chocolate mousse and on to something serious and important, I would like to announce the winner of the March Pitch Pick!

Duhn duhn-duhn duhn-duhn duhn DUHN!!! It was was ERIK!!! with his pitch for The Adventures Of Tomato And Pea!  Congratulations, Erik!  Your pitch has been sent to editor Erin Molta for her thoughts and comments :)  And congratulations to the other pitchers who also did an excellent job and in fact tied for the remaining votes that didn't go to Erik!  Thank you all for bravely pitching your work.  It gives us all an opportunity to learn and improve.

Now, onto today's pitch which comes to us from Deborah who says, "I'm a mother of five and Nana of three.  I've taught preschool and worked as a children's librarian, but now I work as a companion to elderly folks. My writing has appeared in several children's magazines, but my dream is to write a picture book that my grandkids will love."

Working Title: Hurricane Enrique
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-7)
The Pitch:  When a hurricane strikes, a young girl bravely rescues the awful dog that belongs to her dearest friend. 

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 Deborah 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 June so you have time to polish your pitch for a chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Deborah is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to taking my dogs for a run in the sunshine.  Look at them.  They're totally ready.

The weatherman promised sunshine today, and warm temperatures, and I intend to hold him to it.  There will be no chocolate mousse, with or without raspberries, for the weatherman if he doesn't come through!

Have a great day, everyone! :)

April 15, 2013

A Special Short And Sweet With Ryan Sias!

Good Morning, Everyone!

I'm sure you'll all be glad to know that despite my advanced age I'm still able to type :)

Thank you so much for all the lovely birthday wishes and cards and special pictures and banners... ooh, in case you didn't see the banner I'll put it here!
isn't this awesome? it even has Phyllis! with chocolate!
banner created by the amazing and talented Julie Rowan-Zoch
Oh!  And a coffee mug warmer from one very astute and thoughtful blog reader (thank you Caroline! :))  I am so lucky to have so many wonderful friends.  You are all so incredibly nice, and you made my birthday very special! :)

And now, I have something special for you!
Fun creativity projects for kids!  Click HERE

Ryan Sias
Rian Sias, who has worked in animation for 20 years and is the talented author/illustrator of Go Greenie! Are You Eating Something Red?, Balloon Toons: Zoe And Robot, Let's Pretend, and Go Greenie! Are You Eating Something Green? (36 Color-And-Learn Placemats) has started a new venture for kids which I think parents and teachers will enjoy knowing about!

Ryan says, "I wanted to let you know about a fun, art education email program I have created called

I love drawing with kids and letting them finish my drawings.  They come up with wild and crazy ideas which make me laugh.  So I started this for all my nieces and nephews who live in other cities, and now have opened it up to the world!
Here's an example of one of Ryan's free art projects

My goal with Sias Studios is to foster creative development in children by giving them 100% free weekly art projects that engage their creativity.  The projects have imaginative coloring pages, zany story prompts, unique drawing lessons, and wacky characters.  All of my material is silly and fun, which I believe creates positive art experiences."

And here is how one child finished it!
You can subscribe to this free, weekly creativity prompt by going HERE.  Sign up and then sit back and let the fun projects roll in!  Sias Studios activities are recommended for ages 4-11, or anyone who wants to have fun :)  Here are a few more examples:
Here is another project...
And here is one child's interpretation :)

Here's a link to a whole page of waffle fun CLICK HERE!

And here is a fun drawing lesson:)

I hope you'll all take a moment to check out Ryan's offerings and pass the word along to friends, family, your children's teachers... anyone you think might be interested!  Ryan has a great sense of what appeals to young artists and his drawings and activities are always fun!

And now, for today's Short & Sweet, one of Ryan's prompts!
badge created by the lovely and talented Loni Edwards

Take a look at that fierce viking aboard his dragon boat and write the first sentence (or 3 :)) of a story in the comment section below!

Here's my example:) 

"Faster! Faster!" cried Shigvid, doing a small jig of rage on his ship's bow.  "Brunhilda cannot get away with this!"

I hope you'll all get a chance to hop over to Ryan's place, and I hope you'll enjoy the prompt!  I look forward to reading your story openings!  And thank you all again for all the lovely birthday presents and wishes - you are the best! :)

April 12, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Fireman Small

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Just for a change, I'm on the road again!  But this time I managed to write my post before I left.  I hope you're as impressed with me as I am :)

Today, in honor of the fact that I'm traveling with my boy, I'd like to share a book that I read to him approximately 3 million times when he was little :)

Fireman Small
Written & Illustrated By: Wong Herbert Yee
Houghton Mifflin, 1994, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-6

Themes/Topics: firefighters, helping others

Opening: "In the middle of town, where buildings stand tall
There lives a little man called Fireman Small.
The only firefighter this side of the bay,
Fireman Small works night and day."

Brief Synopsis: Fireman Small wants nothing more than a good sleep, but as the only firefighter around, his work never seems to be done!

Links To Resources: HERE is a whole lesson plan on firefighting; Firetrucks and Firefighters from Enchanted Learning (coloring activities, crafts, and a game)

Why I Like This Book: Catchy rhyme, a plucky little fireman who always answers the call of duty no matter how tired he is, and sweet simple pictures make this a charming book that is fun to read aloud over and over... thank goodness because I have read it many, many times :)  Fireman Small is a model of helpfulness, and I love that the people he helps don't forget to say thank you :)  This one has stood the test of time and many reading in our house - I hope you'll enjoy it too!

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

Before I send you all off on your merry way, I want to tell you that on Monday for Short & Sweets we're going to have something a little different and special!  And that's all I'm saying.  You won't get another word out of me so don't even try!  Nope.  Uh-uh.  My lips are sealed.  Just be sure to tune in Monday, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel :)

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to the list below so we can all come read your selections!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

April 10, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #83 - Giant At The Gym (PB) AND The March Pitch Pick

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Let's start with the really important stuff, shall we?

Cake!  It's what's for breakfast :)

Because I decided (based on the fact that someone we all know and love is having a birthday within the next few days :)) that we should celebrate by having chocolate birthday cake for our Something Chocolate this morning.  So let's just throw caution to the wind, forget pretending that chocolate cake is good for you, and just go hog wild! :)

Help yourself to multiple slices and feel free to have a cup of coffee or a glass of milk to go with :)

Now that we have attended to our blood sugar levels, which I know were dangerously low before I came along with the cake, we can focus on the March Pitch Pick which, due to the In Just Spring Contest has only 3 contenders.  Here are the revised pitches ready for you to choose which one you think is best and deserves a read by editor Erin Molta:

#1 Linda
Twitch (MG)
After his father disappears, Twitch Taylor is forced to live with his uncle, reviving an old-time Cherokee custom where uncles teach nephews the ways of men. Twitch soon learns how important the traditional ways are: an ancient curse is attacking his family, something only he can control; should he fail, the curse will return to life with no one able to stop it. Can Twitch learn fast enough to become a Cherokee warrior? Can a kid save the world?

#2 Denise
Phewie Hughie (Picture Book ages 4-8)
Hughie loves his toots. The louder the better, but because Hughie thought everyone should love his toots, he had a hard time understanding why no one appreciated his wonderful ability until two children come to an important dinner and Hughie’s dad reminds to remember his manners.  Mayhem happens after Hughie realizes he just can’t hold it in.   Will Hughie find a way to control his engine’s noise and find friends along the way?

#3 Erik
The Adventures Of Tomato And Pea (Chapter Book ages 7 and up)
In a plan gone wrong, the evil villain Wintergreen tangles with super crime-stopper Tomato and his sidekick Pea in a runaway rocket ship that crashes on a strange planet called EAR-TH. Now these perennial enemies must learn to work together to survive the dangers on this strange world and find a way home to planet Oarg.

Please vote for your favorite in the poll below by 11:59 PM EDT on Saturday April 13.

Today's pitch comes to us from Elaine, who is a Mom of two, wife of one, mom to three furry kids and second grade school teacher. :)

Working Title: Giant At The Gym
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-7)
The Pitch: When a burly Giant enters the gym for a workout, he discovers that the weights are just too light. Too fix this problem he grabs unsuspecting gym goers, who are animals, to help him. The story gets funnier as the pile grows, finally ending with an unexpected surprise.

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 June so you have time to polish for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Elaine is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to what may be the last college revisit for #4 (or we may have one more... you never know :)) and to more CAKE! :)

Have a wonderful day, everyone! :)

April 8, 2013

Oh Susanna - What About Word Count?

Well, we made it.

Out to Ohio by way of Pennsylvania and West Virginia (thanks for that Jo-Jilly) and back again (the right way thank you very much because sometimes I just have to pull rank!)

In Ohio we saw a building shaped like a giant picnic basket - I kid you not!  I was driving, and hence unable to engage in photography, but luckily my copilot happened to be awake just then and had his iPhone and the picture came out.  Which is amazing because we were traveling at approximately 65 mph (which was the speed limit and when I say approximately I mean we were barely over it so don't raise those eyebrows at me :))  He took the photo out Princess Blue Kitty's window.  Check it out!

It is not everyday you see a building shaped like a giant basket!

So now, see?  I have added to your trivia fund.  Next time you need an icebreaker or a scintillating topic of conversation, you can say, "Did you know that there's a building shaped like a giant picnic basket in Newark, Ohio?"and thoroughly dazzle and amaze your companion.

We also saw this statue (which I LOVE) in front of the library in Granville - a boy, a girl, and a little dog...

Isn't it just the perfect statue for outside a library?

Also I can highly recommend Audible's recording of all of James Herriot's books up through The Lord God Made Them All which is what we are up to after all these drives (yes, we have driven through the unabridged All Creatures Great And Small, All Things Bright And Beautiful, and All Things Wise And Wonderful... as well as The DaVinci Code and about half of Divergent which we had to leave unfinished because the narrator was deemed whiny by my son, who also felt there was too much romance involved... luckily I had already read it :))

Also, in case you were wondering (and I know you were :)), Snickers is still hands down the best candy bar ever.

So now that we've got that settled, let's move on to Oh Susanna, which it feels like we haven't done in an age!

Today's excellent question comes to us from the lovely Cathy, and she says:

I have an Oh Susanna! question - is there a 'rounding' rule when adding your word count to a query?  As in, my manuscript is 509 words.  Or perhaps 497 words.  Do I say OH SUSANNA'S STORY is a 500 word fairy tale for readers ages 3-6?  Or should I use the exact number of words per my Microsoft Word for Windows count?  Just wondered if there is an word count convention that I should know.  

My personal feeling on the matter is that Microsoft Word makes it very easy to establish your word count, and it doesn't take much room at the top of our manuscript to pop it in there, so why not?  I always include it.  But I don't think it matters too much if you round slightly... you're just not likely to get away with passing off your 1506 word manuscript as "about 500 words" :)

But I figured an authority on the matter wouldn't hurt, so I asked editor Erin Molta, our friend from Would You Read It :)  She said:

Word counts are not that necessary for picture books UNLESS there is a certain restriction. Word counts are needed for easy readers because each level determines how many words. Though it doesn’t hurt to mention word counts in the query letter—only because some editors may be looking for something short and sweet to read right then . . . It doesn’t matter—unless there are guidelines—if the word count is exact or not. Though since WORD does give it to you fairly easily, it’s not hard to do so.

So there you have it.  What does everyone else do?  Do you include your word count or not?  Do you give the exact count, or round?  Has anyone had a different experience with word counts than Erin or I? Have you ever seen a building shaped like a giant basket?  Or anything else interesting?  Please share! :)

Have a wonderful day and beginning of your week, everyone! :)

April 5, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Not So Much

Well, darlings, I warned you it would probably happen and it has.

Perfect Picture Book Friday has arrived and I have not managed to cobble a post together.

That is because I am in Ohio, where technically they do have books but I haven't had one single second to read any.

I have become Even More Educated in many aspects of going to college, though, so it "ain't been in vain fer nothin'" (bonus points to anyone who can tell me what movie that line comes from :))

I'm going to post the link list so all you wonderful dedicated types can put your books up and we can all come see what you picked.

And then I'm going to go have a serious talk with that Jo-Jilly (my direction-challenged GPS) who thought it would be very entertaining to get us to Ohio by way of West Virginia and much driving through tunnels under mountains.  Seriously.  I am not making that up.  And now we have to start heading back east and I don't want to do it by way of Japan.  Hence the talk.  Although I don't have much hope.  That Jo-Jilly is maddeningly unresponsive to talks!  It's like she doesn't hear a word I say. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

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

April 3, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #82 - Flood Dogs (PB) AND Straight From The Editor

Good Morning Everyone!

By the time you read this I will hopefully be heading west for a couple of college revisits.

(College revisits are not to be confused with college visits.  College visits are the ones you do to decide where you want to apply.  College revisits are the ones you do after you've been accepted and you're trying to decide where you want to go.  It's very technical.  Much more involved than when I was a lass... back in the last century... well, technically back in the last millennium... when you just applied to college and went.  But I digress... :))

Yep.  It's me, the boy, Princess Blue Kitty (my faithful car), and Jo-Jilly (my obnoxious less faithful GPS) on the road again!

If all goes according to plan we're leaving at 4ish AM give or take a few.  If you spent any time here over the summer during the college visits, you know how that Jo-Jilly riles me, so you will forgive me if we skip straight to Monkey Cake :)
photo copyright Stacy S. Jensen 2012 used by permission
Mmmm!  Chocolatey goodness!  Thank you, Stacy :)

Today we have a Straight From The Editor for Wendy's winning pitch from February.

You will recall Wendy's original pitch for Why Fireflies Should Never Drink Soda (PB ages 3-7):

Life is good for the insects at the campground—until something attracts a hungry bullfrog. When Herman, a feisty firefly, takes a sip the hiccuping winged beacon learns why he’s been taught that fireflies should NEVER drink soda.

Here are editor Erin Molta's comments:

This sounds very cute! And I can see the potential for humor—which is great in a picture book. However, I think you need to clarify what attracted the hungry bullfrog—was it the soda or the hiccupping firefly. Though you want an editor curious about your book it’s more that you want them to read to find out how it happens, not really make them wonder what exactly you mean.
 I think if you don’t want to repeat soda twice you can go with something like I’ve suggested and tell us what attracted the bullfrog—was it a loud repeating noise (the hiccups?) or a strobe light (because he was flashing erratically)? Then it’ll be clear and still funny.
 Life is good for the insects at the campground—until something (what?) attracts a hungry bullfrog. When Herman, a feisty firefly, takes a sip (of sweet bubbly nectar) thehiccuping winged beacon learns why he’s been taught that fireflies should NEVER drink soda.

As always, I find Erin's thoughts so helpful!  I hope you do too :)

Today's pitch comes to us from Pam B.  Pam says, "Professionally I was a 3rd and 6th grade teacher before becoming an instructor in Early Childhood and Adolescent Education at Bloomsburg University.  Currently I’m taking time away from teaching to focus on my family and my writing.  You can follow me on Twitter @PamBrunskill."

Working Title: Flood Dogs
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5-8)
The Pitch: Based on a true story, FLOOD DOGS tells of a girl, her dogs, and the flood that comes between them.  Cadence promises her dogs she’ll play fetch after school, then locks them in the mudroom on her way to the bus.  When the local creek floods, Cadence and her family can’t get home, and her dogs are trapped inside.  For three days, Cadence worries. 
Will her dogs survive?
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 Pam 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 June, so you have time to polish your pitch for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Pam is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to getting wherever it is we're going without incident and to hopefully having a couple of enlightening revisits that will help the decision process!

Have a great day, everyone, and wish me, the boy, Princess Blue Kitty and Jo-Jilly good luck :)

P.S. I'd better warn you in advance that I may not manage to pull a Perfect Picture Book out of the hat this week since I will presumably be somewhere in the midwest, but I will at least post the list for everyone else :)

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