Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Happy Holidays

Happy Tuesday!

I am so excited to announce the winner of Amy Dixon's, Marathon Mouse, is 


I hope this book will inspire you Pam, to keep on keepin' on. Best of luck to you with your full load of classes!

And now a word from our sponsor.

Thank you so much for all of you that took the time to read and comment on Amy's post. It resonated with so many visitors which just goes to show what an amazing resource and outlet a blogging community can be.  I am so grateful to Amy for sharing something so personal and also for those of you who described your own experiences with making hard choices.

This blog series has surpassed my expectations. I am in disbelief that busy authors take time out of their schedules to contribute their most humbling moments. I feel this act of generosity is a testament to the goodness of the kid lit community, which I am so happy to have found.

I would love to continue this series after the New Year, when things settle down, (things will settle down, right?) and would love for you to join me! Please stay tuned and have a wonderfully peaceful and creative holiday season!



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Amy Dixon

I just love today's banana peelin' author. I have had the privilege to meet her in person not once, but TWICE! Each time I was just blown away by how absolutely genuine and kind she was.  I feel fortunate to be included in the blog tour for the release of her first picture book, Marathon Mouse. Today Amy shares her less than glamorous experiences in writing for children and I am sure that any of you who don't yet know her will just fall in love with her through the complete awesomeness that is Amy. Please welcome children's author, Amy Dixon!

When I sat down to write this post, I was planning to tell you a funny anecdote. You know, the kind of banana peel slip that sends you down on your tush with a comic book THUNK splashed across the page. A bruised tailbone at best, a bruised ego at worst… that was the kind of story I was going to tell. But as my fingers moved across the keyboard, something else came out. Because the truth is that while I do have laugh-out-loud stories to tell about awkward book events or mortifying editor interactions, the story that my heart wants to tell is a different one.  Because not all banana peels are of the comic book variety. Some banana peels knock you down and break bones. And I was recently laid up in traction for a while.

You see, I am the most calm, centered person that most people know. Rock-solid. Unflappable. Rob and I have been married 15 years and he can count on his own two hands the number of times he has seen me really, truly cryI am an extremely high “T” on the Myers-BriggsEvery problem has a solution. I don’talways think this is always a good thing. But it is who I am.

It was about 2 weeks before my book was scheduled to release. Being the wee babe I am in the realm of published authorhood, I felt that I needed to say yes to everything. Website, yes! Blogging and guest-blogging, yes! Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google +, GoodreadsShelfari, yes! Designing and producing bookmarks, stickers, promotional materials in preparation for 3 upcoming events, yes! So many yeses, and all for good, productive things. The problem was that in the midst of all those yeses, the reality of my life as a mom of four kids didn’t stop. I certainly wasn’t going to say no to my four-year-old’s birthday that week. Or no to the 2 extra days in the school library that I volunteered for so our librarian could attend her son’s wedding. Or no to the 10 mile run I had to accomplish that week so I would be ready for the half-marathon I had been training for. Perhaps I could have said no to the soccer practices, had my husband and I not been the coaches.  And maybe I should have said no to the cross-country meet, the school play try-out, or driving five 8-year-olds to a sleepover. But I didn’t.
For some reason that week, all of these things and more swirled together in a perfect storm of madness. So Thursday night, afterrunning the sports/homework/bathing gauntlet, the kids were finally in bed and I set about mopping the floors. Because what does a person who feels totally out of control of their world do?Yup, clean the house, thinking maybe if I can just get this one thing checked off of the list, then I can feel better about my life. But in the middle of mopping, something happened. I had what I can recognize now as a full-blown panic attack. Sweating, shaking, nausea, heart-palpitations. Sobbing. I was pretty sure I was going to be one of those stories of fit women in their 30s that out of nowhere have a heart attack and die. My husband was completely mystified. Who was this woman?
I didn’t recognize her either. Where was the calm? Where was the center? Whose life was this?

It was too much. I said yes to all of these things…all of them great things…but it was too much. The unflappable had been majorly flapped. So what did I do? I started to say no. And most of the things I had to say no to were writing things. Two weeks before my book release, my blog went dark. The box of promotional postcards sat unsent. My Goodreads account collected dust. Was this the way I wanted to lead up to my debut? Absolutely not. But I found by letting those things go, I could breathe. Literally.
An hour or so after the panic attack, I was in the shower, still shaken up from the whole thing. Being of the praying persuasion, I began to pray and ask God why I was such a mess(and please don’t let me die). What came to mind was a passage from Anne Lamott’s profound book, TRAVELING MERCIES:

“I don’t know why life isn’t constructed to be seamless and safe, why we make such glaring mistakes, things fall so short of our expectations, and our hearts get broken and our kids do scary things and our parents get old and don’t always remember to put pants on before they go out for a stroll. I don’t know why it’s not more like it is in the movies, why things don’t come out neatly and lessons can’t be learned when you’re in the mood for learning them, why love and grace often come in such motley packaging.”
And somehow, in that moment, I was able to see this giant banana peel as love and grace…certainly in motley packaging…but love and grace nonetheless. Slowing down and saying no were necessary, and my logical-brain-thinking with a capital T-ways would never have allowed me to do it. So my body rebelled. LOVE. And my brain shut down. GRACE. It wasn’t neat and I wasn’t in the mood, but it made me stop and feel what I needed to feel to be able to move forward with more balance. More calm. More center. And as I toddle my way through this writing and publishing business, I’ll take all the grace and love I can get…even if it means a few broken bones along the way.

To win a copy of Amy's book, Marathon Mouse, please leave a comment answering one of the two questions below:

Saying no is a hard thing to do. Unless you are my son. He's two.  What was the last thing you said "no" to and felt really great about? Or if you never say no, what is an example of a time when you KNEW you should have said no, but didn't AND disaster resulted? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

hello! hello!

Hello! Hello! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with family and friends.

Today, I would like to share with you my very first, podcast! This was a homework assignment if you can believe it,  and in it, I tried my hardest to merge a few of my passions: education, parenting, and children's books.  In this groundbreaking podcast =), I very obviously read from a script briefly discuss issues of raising children with technology and profess my love for hello! hello!, Matthew Cordell's newest picture book.

(Please forgive my stutters, squeaky voice and lack of know-how. =) )  Props to Katie Davis. HOW DO YOU DO IT?!

Just so you know, the generous Matthew Cordell is giving away free signed stuff for buying his newest masterpiece, if you contact him by December 1st. GET ON IT! Here is a peek at my personalized bookplate.


In order to help us prepare for the podcasting experience, my Digital Media and Online learning professor asked us to watch This American Life host, Ira Glass discuss storytelling.

It is a MUST WATCH. 

There are four segments and I found them all to be so validating as a children's writer! (The third segment especially resonated with me, as a professional banana peeler and doubty writer.

Next up, I would also like to announce the winner of Linda Boyden's amazing, Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas.

Congratulations Julie Hedlund!

Aaaaaannnnd lastly, I am SO EXCITED to share that this week's Banana Peelin' author is none other than Marathon Mouse's, Amy Dixon! I just love her and am so excited to have her on the blog. PLUS, she has agreed to give away a copy of Preston and his little Marathon Mouse-self to one lucky commenter. Check in on Thursday for more details!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Looking for Authenticity: Indigenous Cultures in Picture Books An Interview with Linda Boyden

Welcome to day two of Lindapalooza! I am super excited about today's post. If you read Linda's Banana Peelin' post, you know that I am a huge fan of her ABC book, Giveaways. It's beautiful, smart and witty...hey, just like Linda! It is also respectful and reflects the beauty and diversity of indigenous cultures across the Americas.

I love learning about different cultures. People are interesting! Everyone has a story and I hope you find today's interview as interesting as I did. I also hope that it makes people think about what they see and read in a new light.

Linda is offering her book Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas, to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment below describing one reaction, thought or feeling you had related to this post and you will be entered. The winner will be selected next week! 

Can you tell us a little about your Native American background? 

My father grew up in a small town in Tennessee and his family was of Irish/Cherokee ancestry. My mother’s parents’ families emigrated from Quebec, Canada, in the early 1900s eventually to southeastern Massachusetts where my siblings and I grew up.

Like many of my generation, my family only spoke about being “American.” Of course I was a child in the 1950s when it was not cool to be anything but American. As I matured I wanted to know more about Cherokee history and traditions.

How does your heritage influence your writing?

I came to my heritage late; my family isn’t enrolled in any tribal nation and I wasn’t raised in a traditional Native way. Mixed-blood people often wonder where they belong and that longing for “home” comes through in my poetry, for example.

In all my writing, I think how might this impact the Seventh Generation down the road? I strive to create books or art that would make my parents, children, and grandchildren proud; to produce works that will educate and enlighten non-Native people.

What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions society has of Native American cultures?

First, the terms, Indian and Native American, really convey nothing. They are simply gross generalizations. I think indigenous is more accurate, meaning the people who originally inhabited the land. Regardless this semantic debate goes on and on so I take the simple road: use them all! Truthfully, most Indians prefer to be called by their actual tribal affiliation, for example Cherokee, Abenaki or Lakota.

The underlying misconception with any of these generic terms is that all Indians were the same, and nothing could be further from the truth. The indigenous peoples of the Americas possessed and still do possess great diversity within their cultures.

 Another misconception is that all Native people vanished after their tribal lands were taken; that there are no modern Indian people alive today and that is completely untrue.

What inaccurate images of Native American cultures in picture books do you see the most? What should the public know about each?

In picture books, things have vastly improved within the last twenty years. Publishers are actively more sensitive to our concerns and act upon them. That said there are still not enough Native American authors, illustrators, and publishers in the publishing world.

 As mentioned already, books, especially picture books for young children, need to show accurate specifics of Native Americans whether set in present day or in the past. We did not all live in tipis! Indigenous peoples of the Americas lived in many different types of houses, wore clothing with ornamentation specific to their clan or tribe that reflected their tribal affiliations as well as their geographic regions.

What are three to five questions teachers, parents, and young readers can ask themselves to evaluate the authenticity of a picture book on Native American cultures?

~Have the authors/illustrators done their research? Have they interviewed tribal members/leaders? Have they listened to tribal elders?

~Is there anything in this book—words or pictures or any underlying theme--that could embarrass a Native child and misinform a non-Native child?

~Does the story contain positive Native role models for both Native and non-Native children to identify with?​

~Does this book foster positive American Indian family values, such as cooperation, sharing, and respect for tradition?

Do you have any favorite picture book titles that you would recommend to educators and families that accurately portray Native American cultures?
There are so many, but here are a few of my favorites:

 Margaret Bruchac’s “1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving.” This nonfiction book is the REAL Pilgrim/Indian story with excellent photos.

 Joseph Bruchac’s “A Boy Called Slow” and “Crazy Horse’s Vision.” The first is a snapshot of Sitting Bull as a young boy and how he earns his adult name. The second is also a glimpse into the life of the Lakota warrior-leader, Crazy Horse.

 Cynthia Leitich Smith, “Jingle Dancer.” A delightful story about how a young girl and her female relatives work together to make her jingle dress for powwow.

 James Rumford’s “Sequoyah.” Although a non-Native, Jim’s biography of the Cherokee genius, Sequoyah, is accurate, sensitive and beautifully illustrated; plus each page is printed in both Cherokee and English.

 Richard Van Camp’s “A Man Called Raven.” This story set in contemporary Northwest Territories of Canada blends the past with the present to helps kids value the natural world.

 And of course, my own!

“The Blue Roses.” The winner of Lee and Low’s first New Voices Award, this book helps kids understand the circle of life through the metaphor of a garden.

“Powwow’s Coming.” A contemporary Indian family introduces the Native tradition of powwow to young readers.

“Giveaways, An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas.” Every entry word in this nonfiction book originated in a Native language and celebrates the contribution Native languages have made to modern English. It has won a number of awards, too.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for interviewing me for your blog. It’s been a pleasure.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

From the Archives: Banana Peelin' with Linda Boyden

Today we pull another Banana Peelin post from the archives. This week, we are celebrating author, illustrator, poet, Linda Boyden. There is actually a method to my madness, however.

Next week is Thanksgiving and festive picture books are floating around the universe to celebrate. Today's post will be followed TOMORROW by an extra special interview between Linda and myself where Linda describes her Native American heritage as well as some thoughts on  popular depictions of Native Americans in children's literature. Make sure to return tomorrow for a cornucopia of good information. I know. That was bad. I'm such a turkey. Okay. Now I can't stop. Gobble.

And now, a blast from the past!

Welcome to the 2nd official Banana Peel Thursday!

So excited you could join me. Eeek!

I don't know about you, but how many of us went straight to the library or bookstore last week after reading Susanna's stories to try and hold one of her books in our hands?

 I know I did!

There is something about learning the ins and outs of someone that makes me completely enamored with that person. Example, football. Eh. Take it or leave it for me. But as soon as I learn a player's story, I am hooked on their team and personal well being. LT, just one example. Aaron Rodgers, being from my town, makes him kind of interesting, another example.

With that said...I hope that all of us become hooked on these authors and choose to support them for having so graciously spilled their guts by checking out their books and by popping over to their website/blog to let them know how much we appreciate their work!

With that said...

Do you ever wonder where your words come from? In the age of free trade, and then thank goodness fair trade, we have become much more aware of the origins of our clothes, coffee and chocolate.

But what about our WORDS?

I received  Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas, as a gift from a classmate of mine at the end of a course that focused, so appropriately, on valuing the beauty of our nation's cultures and languages. It was the perfect gift. I was floored. Not only had I have never seen a more beautiful alphabet book in my life, but it came autographed by the author/illustrator, Linda Boyden.

Flash forward almost exactly one year later, this bloggin' fool discovers that she is in the same SCBWI region as Linda Boyden! (Executing ecstatic dance this very moment.) She is now even  her FACEBOOK FRIEND! (Delivering ecstatic dance one more time...whooo, I'm pooped!)

Not only is it beautiful, but this book is witty and the fact that it recognizes the often overlooked contributions of indigenous cultures and languages to our modern world gives it an A+ in my book!

THANK YOU Linda Boyden for choosing to participate in the second Banana Peel Thursday!


By Linda Boyden

            In the late 1990s when I was unpublished, my writing rules were simple: write everyday. Write about what you know. Fake the rest and write about that, too. Read. Read the genre in which you want to be published.
            The only issue: I wanted to be published in all of them, so I spent my days reading and writing and pretty much playing in a sandbox of words.
            When I had a number of picture book manuscripts ready--oh, the folly--I began the tedious process of sending them to editors. While waiting for two or three contracts, possibly more, to wing their way to my mailbox, I got serious about a middle grade novel.
            Did I know how to do this? Meh, so back I went to my local library to start reading. I attended SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers’ conferences, and listened and learned. Armed with all this knowledge, I considered the plot of my soon-to-be-best seller.
            If it’s true to write from your heart, then the choice for me was a no-brainer. As a child I devoured fairy tales. Loved the magic of them, the promises, the evil wickedness, the heroic rescues. Naturally, I didn’t want to do anything that had been done before so mine needed a twist. I imagined a middle grade, modern fairy tale complete with sassy fairy godmother sisters who needed to borrow a misfit eleven year old human boy to save their fanciful world.
             I had the most marvelous time creating that world, my own kind of magic with my own twist. When I finally had it pieced together enough to share with a writing friend, I suggested we meet at a local bookstore. She could read a section and I would pay her with coffee and muffin.
            When she finished, she smiled and beckoned me over to the children’s section.
            She pulled a book from the shelf and asked, “Have you read this yet?”
            I shrugged.
            “Maybe you should,” she said.
            The cover and topic had immediate appeal, plus I trusted my critique partner so I bought it. Later that evening, I fell into the most delicious modern fairy tale, about a boy named Harry, the boy who lived, albeit with a scar on his forehead….
            When I finished “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” I screamed for a long time.

      Not because of jealousy or envy, but because of the many coincidences that occurred between our two stories, things like my protagonist’s best friends were the Beasley family who were red-headed and rambunctious (uh, think Ron Weasley et al); my villain’s castle was surrounded by the Grindylow Sea and Rowling had grindylows (water demons) in her stuff. I mean, really, who else knew about GRINDYLOWS?
            I have never submitted that manuscript, though surely enough time has now elapsed that I might do so with honor. What I did discover after much thinking is the How of this experience, my personal Banana Peel: Rowling and I both had both done extensive research on Celtic mythology and used it.
            Lately, another idea has been tickling my brain and won’t leave me alone. I’ve been itching to get back to illustrating so while listening to a kiddie cd with my young granddaughter, I was intrigued to discover that the Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star song we all know and love has a number of obscure verses.
So off I went researching and thinking. I decided to illustrate in fabric collage and was building up excitement and cleaning off the art area of my office when bam!

     This morning, January 11, 2012, I read how the celebrated author/illustrator, Jerry Pinkey’s latest
book, “Twinkle, Twinkle” is in the running for the Caldecott…and yes, it is a retelling of the song and of course, simply breathtaking.
           Seriously, I cannot be the only person stuff like this happens to…please? On one hand I feel I’m in good company or at least on the right track; on the other, I’m pretty sure I’ll smack every, single new idea with a sledge hammer from now on.
            When I do school visits and talk to kids about the writing process, I always answer their inevitable Where Do You Get Story Ideas From question with, “From the Cosmic Goo. It’s like a big, fat, imaginary vat of nothing where ideas are born and wait for artists to grab them.”
            Huh. It’s one of the better answers I’ve made up, and apparently quite true.

 Linda Boyden, author, storyteller, illustrator & poet

"The Blue Roses"  from Lee & Low Books 2002, winner New Voices Award, Paterson Prize and Wordcraft Circle's Book of the Year, 2003
My first illustrated book:   "Powwow's Coming" from the University of New Mexico Press, 2007
Newest book: "Giveaways, An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas", written & illustrated by Linda Boyden (University of New Mexico Press)

Check out  
www.lindaboyden.com for the GIVEAWAYS book trailer and Feathered Quill for a review.

"Giveaways", winner of three Finalist awards from the 2011 International Book Awards, two Finalist Awards from the 2011New Mexico Book Awards and included in 2012 California Collections form the CA. Reading Association. 
"Powwow's Coming" is included on Reading Is Fundamental's 2011 Multicultural Book List!  
Check out GIVEAWAYS' trailer.

"Poetry may not change the world, but its lack will."  Carol Willette Bachofner

Thank you so much Linda for sharing your slips with us!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Tara Lazar

Happy Banana Peel Thursday! Wait a minute...it's still Wednesday! But I am having issues with Blogger. So Thursday it is. (It's Thursday somewhere, right?) If you missed Wednesday's post, it's down there, past this one.  It's me blabbing about Povember. And if you are asking, "What the heck is Povember?", well, you just need to scroll down to check it out!

Today's post is from the archives, from way back when, in... January.
But first, a WINNER! The winner of Janee Trasler's masterpiece, Caveman: A B.C. Story, is...

                                                              ROMELLE BROAS

You go Romelle! (Which really means, you go and send me your address right away so I can forward it to Janee! Yay!)

And now, let us revisit the post where the brain behind PiBoIdMo shared some of her most humbling experiences while writing for children! 

Do I even need to introduce today's guest author? If you are involved in the online, children's writing community or perhaps have needed a 3AM boogeyman assassin, I highly doubt it.

Ladies and gents of  BaPeTh (AKA Banana Peel Thursdays)...may I present to you, the slips of PiBoIdMo's own Tara Lazar!

Banana peels? I've got a bunch.

Some of you know that my debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, will be out with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2013. Well, about six months before I signed the deal, I brought the manuscript to a conference to have a picture book consultant give me a critique. She read the story and then slowly, silently pushed it back across the table. Uh-oh. She called it "a practice manuscript" and recommended that I put it aside to work on something else--it was unsellable as-is. While I was extremely disappointed, after talking to this consultant for the next half-hour, I realized she was not the humorous-quirky type of picture book editor. She liked sweet and sentimental. Our styles didn't connect. I ignored her assessment and it's a good thing I did. So I call this slipping on a peel but landing on a bean bag chair. Remember that this industry is very subjective. Believe in your work.

I once began talking to an editor by telling him the name of his favorite book (I had researched him online). No hello, no pleasantries, just BOOK TITLE right in his face. Talk about stalkerish! No wonder he didn't talk to me for the rest of the conference.

I also made a total fool of myself while talking to an agent at another conference. I asked her a question and she leaned in, interested to engage in conversation, but her answer was terse. I had no follow-up question! My mind blanked. We stared at each other for an awkward moment. End of conversation.

I was convinced that the first thing I ever wrote would be published by the first editor who read it. I couldn't believe it when rejections piled up (and then toppled over). But I sent out a 1200-word manuscript about a homeless man with no child protagonist. DUH. Submitting too early happens to everyone. I just didn't think it would happen to ME. Wrong-o again.

I also submitted a middle grade novel to a first page session---and the attending agent requested the manuscript! I was so excited! But at the time, the manuscript wasn't done. It wasn't even near done. In fact, I was just two chapters into it. I missed out on a great opportunity by submitting something unfinished. At the time, I didn't know an agent won't work with you until something is completed, polished and ready-to-sell. Now I keep early work to myself.

And one of my biggest banana peels? Keeping my agent waiting for an answer. Ammi-Joan Paquette offered me representation in a phone call and I was excited, but I still had submissions out with four other agents. I knew to inform those agents, but I didn't know to give them a deadline to respond. So poor Joan is waiting for me, and poor me is waiting to hear from the other agents. Joan even sent me a message saying that she wanted me to be as enthusiastic about working with her as she was about working with me--and I was!!!!--but I didn't realize she was biting her nails waiting on me. ME?! You really want ME?! So I think I almost lost Joan due to my ignorance of how to deal with these things. And that would have been a tremendous FAIL because she is the BEST AGENT IN THE WORLD (for me).

I am sure there will be more banana peels. After all, my first book isn't even out yet! I haven't ventured into the world of book signings, school visits, appearances and the like. There is always some new mistake to make. But banana peels are great because you always learn from them. And if you're lucky, slipping on one means that someone nearby baked banana bread and you can nom on a slice.

Tara Lazar is a children’s book author, mother, foodie and boogeyman assassin (currently booked at 3am nightly).

Her first two picture books, The Monstore and I Thought This Was a Bear Book, will be published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

Keeping early work to myself? Shnikies! I wish I had that advice a few months ago! WOOPS!

Thank you so much Tara for taking the time participate in this week's BPT.  I am so eternally grateful to have had you as a guest. You are wonderful. I know I am much wiser having read this as I am sure many other readers are. =)  I wish you the best of luck in any future banana peels you may encounter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I am in the middle of an identity crisis.

When I started writing for children and blogging about all of my shining experiences, I was on a break from school. This fall, I have put my student hat back on and MAN, OH, MAN, am I a lost puppy.

The only other time I can compare it to is when I was a server in a semi-busy restaurant. The cups were clanging, voices muffled, Six Pence None the Richer playing faintly, seemingly on repeat in the background. The room would start to spin and I didn't know who the heck wanted what. 

Coffee? Please!

There are people on the patio? Oh yeah! 

I have to take all those dirty dishes off the table? Whoops!

And a lovely customer, screeching,  "IS SHE NEW?!" bringing the entire joint to a stop...(I'm pretty sure even silencing Six Pence None the Richer.)

That confusing, whirlwind of an expereince is EXACTLY what I am reliving now, only this time around I have kids, a muffin top, a messy house, grad courses, and a killer love for children's literature and blogging. The last couple of months, I've felt out of the loop. Due to the demands of schooling,  I have spent less time writing and reading for children than ever and I can't help but wonder, was this just a fluke thing, this whole writing for children business? Is it over? Was I dreamin'?! I mean HOW THE HECK DO PEOPLE DO THIS WITH DAY JOBS?!

And then November hit.

Thank goodness for November.

Actually, I think they should change it to Povember. We must honor the letter "P", because for many of us, it is the symbol of both community and indulgence. Besides being the month of massive amounts of pumpkin pie (double "P" goodness), November is the month of the picture book! While my picture book flame may have been reduced to slight flicker earlier this fall, Povember has really rekindled my writerly motivation, breathing oxygen with the strength of a Galaxy 9000 Leaf Blower DX.

Maybe Target does have it right. Christmas has come early as I far as I am concerned. In my world, Povember is filled with the sweetness of blog posts from children's book industry professionals, TWO FOLD.  First I have the daily posts of Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo then I click on over to Dianne de las Casa's Picture Book Month extravaganza. (And not always in that order.) The best part is, I get to take advantage of it all over here in my west coast time zone, sneaking peeks the night before. A little treat for me. I really look forward to it. Like a dessert. Just like pumkin pie. I heart Povember.

Here is an awesome video for Picture Book Month done by my amazingly talented and silly, motion graphics designer, friend CARTER HIGGINS!

Pretty inspiring, huh?

And with this I leave you, but not without a wonderfully, wacky quote from the late and great Maurice Sendak on the topic of inspiration:

"I feel it in me like a woman having a baby, all that life churning on inside me. I feel it every day: it moves and stretches, yawns. It's getting ready to get born. It knows exactly what it is."

                                                            THANKS POVEMBER!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Janee Trasler

I debated whether or not to post this week due to the events on the east coast .  I know that some of our friends are without electricity still, and this seems slightly indulgent…blogging, carrying on. I think many of us are feeling survivor’s guilt.

But I decided that a main goal of this blog and this series is to get a smile and maybe even a chuckle or two out of its readers.  And what better way to take someone’s mind off the ickiness that is catastrophic climate than someone else’s embarrassing moment? Let’s give it a shot, shall we?
This being the first post of November, a month traditionally reserved for giving thanks, my goal was to focus on gratitude.  Well, this week’s author Janee Trasler, has this amazing book that really makes you appreciate our fancy, modern conveniences, like…grocery stores. Caveman: A B.C. Story, (clever ain’t it?), follows a caveman and his buddies around on what appears to be just your average cave person day. Although there are only 26 words in its entirty (as it is an ABC book), they really pack a punch, especially when paired with the hilarious illustrations. It is one of our silliest books in the house.

I am grateful for so many things today: the safety our friends on the east coast, the health of my own family and friends, the grocery store, two buckets a bucket full of Halloween candy waiting for me on the kitchen counter… but I am also so thankful to have the wonderful Janee Trasler on the blog!

Having just left my job in corporate graphics, I was excited and eager to start my new career in children’s book. I was also greener than green eggs and ham.
Visit the library? Take a class? Actually read a picture book? Pshaw. When you’re walking around with that much blind optimism, you never even see the banana peel coming.
Within a week, I had my masterpiece! It was well over a thousand words, had 64 stanzas, and every other line ended in a rhyming “oo” sound. I packed up my single-spaced manuscript, mailed it to an agent, and waited for my contract.
I have to hand it to the agent (who did not even represent picture books, by the way). Somehow, he managed to send my “masterpiece” back to me without a big “SNORT!” written anywhere on it.
One picture book workshop and a trip or two to the bookstore later, I knew enough to be acutely embarrassed.
I learned so much from that slip. Now, I read a ton of current picture books, I watch the trends, and I’d never dream of sending anything out the door without running it by my critique group first (waves madly at the PBJeebies).
If I’d really researched the market before just barreling in the way I did, I’d probably have run screaming. It takes a lot of guts and hard work to get a book published; luckily, I was too green to know it.
 Janee has been generous enough to offer a copy of Caveman, to one person who responds to this question in the comments:
What is ONE modern convenience for which you are forever grateful?
The winner will be chosen via Radom.org and will be announced the beginning of next week! Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Tiffany Strelitz Haber

It’s almost Halloween and I know what you must be thinking. She’s had a robot, a vampire , a zombie, but NO flippin’ monsterly  peeps on the blog this month!  Wud up with that? Well, thankfully the wonderful and kind Tiffany Strelitz Haber couldn’t let that happen. The author of  The Monster Who Lost His Mean, (a book just written up in The New York Times Book Review), brings us a story that I am pretty sure most of us can identify with…

 Embarrassment bites the big one.  I’m actually embarrassed to even TELL this marginally absurd story of massive overreaction (by more than just one participant).  But alas…here goes….

 This particular Banana Peel Moment took place just as I started to pursue a career in children’s books. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I was stalking, er…checking out websites of publishing companies that seemed to have an affinity for rhyme.  I quickly discovered an editor I will now refer to as “Dragon of Death”.  Just Kidding.  I’ll call him, “Richard”.

Anyway, so there was an email address for “Richard” and I used it to send some samples of my writing and inquire about his submission policy.  (It was a small press that primarily published humorous poetry collections).  At the time I was writing tons of that stuff.

A couple of days later, I received an email back saying that not only did he love my work, but he had gone onto my website and learned more about me.  I DIED.   This was clearly my big chance to get my foot in the door of children’s book publishing and then pry it open and run through!  We go back and forth via email a couple times.  He’s super duper friendly, asking me all sorts of questions and being really complimentary and it was awesome.  He asks if I’ve written anything longer.  I say yes.  He asks to see it.  I say YES, and send it immediately. 

 And then I wait.  And I wait for what feels like a completely impossible amount of time.  Like my whole world has been sucked inside some sort of sci fi black hole of frozen silence hell and all I can hear in my head is TICK.  TOCK.  TICK.  TOCK.  I mean, we had been emailing back and forth for like 30 minutes.  Why would he suddenly go completely silent the moment I sent my story??  Something was wrong.  He must not have gotten it.  He’s just sitting there waiting for it, right?  And I’m sitting there waiting for him while he’s waiting for me and…oh lord, this can’t be good.  I need to send it again.

And so I did.  I sent it again with an adorable note saying I wasn’t sure that it had gone through, and just in case, this was my second attempt and if he could just let me know that he had in fact received it, that would be super duper fab.  And then came the silence.  Again with the silence!  Couldn’t he just say “thanks, got it!” and call it a day?  He must not have gotten it.  It must be something with the attachment.  It wasn’t going through and I was going mad and everything that had been going so well was now unraveling like a thrift store sweater.   But instead of walking away from the computer like a normal, sane, woman (maybe the man got up to pee!  Or do something that takes a bit longer than pee!)….I felt I needed to email again.  And so I did.  Just the one last time because I was absolutely certain that the attachment hadn’t gone through and that one last time couldn’t hurt and then I would close my computer and call it a day.  And then he wrote back. 

I don’t remember the subject line.   I do remember feeling a little sick inside when I read it though. 

I opened the email.


Yes…it’s harsh.  It’s completely unprofessional, and it is perhaps- borderline mentally insane.  And maybe so am I.  But it crushed me.   I truly believed, in that moment, that I demolished any chance I would ever have of getting anywhere in this business.  He would tell everyone to avoid me like the plague. I was the email of death and I would be black listed across all 50 states and probably Canada as well.


And now I look back….and it’s hilarious. Yup!  Like scream laugh, pee in your pants, fall on the floor funny!  (I’ve now referenced “pee” three times in this story and that’s weird)  But maybe that’s the thing about Banana Peels.  You slip and you fall and it hurts.  But when you look back, it’s all just pretty freaking ridiculous.  And also…maybe…you learn something.