Thursday, March 29, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Stephen McCranie

I feel so hip having a blog. Despite my rebellious gray hairs and new-found back aches, playing a part in cyberspace makes me feel so, well, young... in touch... savvy. At least that WAS how I felt up until this last week. I just can't out-hip this week's Banana Peelin' author, Stephen McCranie. The poor soul had to deal with my constant questioning on how to download, lift, copy and paste his illustrations from  multiple links emailed to me. Eeek. I was catapulted into feeling super with-it to older than dirt in a matter of hours.

SCORE: Banana Peels  64, Elizabeth  2.

I listened to Stephen McCranie describe his experiences with children's literature on Katie Davis's, Brain Burps About Books podcast a while back. I was incredibly impressed with Stephen's success at such a young age and the creativity he demonstrated in launching his Journal Comic .

I am so drawn to comics and graphic novels as a way to reach young readers, whether they be emergent, reluctant or advanced.  They were important to both my husband and I growing up and I felt they served as a great resource to my students in the high school classroom.

I feel so lucky to share with you today the experiences of the talented, Stephen McCranie.


Waiting is a such a big part of being a writer. The publishing world is akin to waiting in line at a theme park: You rush to get in line, wait forever, and then get on a roller coaster of victory and excitement, only to get off and race over to the next line to begin waiting again.

You wait for an agent to be interested. You wait for a publisher to call. You wait for an editor to give you corrections. You wait for your book to be published. You wait for your book to sell.

I feel like a writer who can practice patience and contentment will have overcome a majority of the struggles a writer faces. But some times it's not so easy.

A while back I was waiting and waiting and waiting, so I decided to draw a series of journal comics to keep working while I waited. Here's one of them:

I think a nice way to wait is to have side projects to keep yourself occupied.

I work on a series of children's comic books called Mal and Chad. When I am waiting for my editor to get back to me, or someone to sign something or do something so I can continue, I work on side projects. My current side project is a blog that uses comics to speak about sustaining creativity, and being a creator. This blog is called Doodle Alley, please check it out!

In whatever struggle you guys are facing, please keep on waiting. It's worth it!


Thank you SO much Stephen for sharing your work here with us.

P.S. I, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, promise to you, Stephen McCranie to never ask you a technical question ever again, for as long as we both shall live. =)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Phyllis Comes to Chico!

MARCH 20, 2012
Hi: 59
Lo: 46

Our favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phyllis made an overnight stop here in Chico, California on her World Tour. Of course, we were just thrilled to have her. We had BIG plans for her stay. Picnics, walking tours of our university, some wildflower hikes...and then, as fast as a jackrabbit, the wind changed.

It's gusts pushed in billowing clouds the color of charcoal. Not to mention the cold, whose bite stung like a bee.  There would be no picnics, tours or hikes for us. What on earth could we do? We had to think fast.

 Lucky for us, Phyllis was pretty exhausted from her travels when we found her waiting for us patiently on the porch. 

 Lucky for her, it was nap time! (Did you know groundhogs snore?)

After a little shut-eye, Phyllis was ready to see the town by bike! Chico has a large biking community. Rain or shine, you'll find people's legs-a-pumpin', pedaling away. Notice how she wore a helmet? Bike safety is important. Brains before beauty! =)

We raced as fast as our little legs would allow us down the street to the public library. With the wind in our hair, not to mention a few rain drops plopping right onto our eyeballs, we barely beat the storm that was moving in from the west, or was it the east? The south?

"Shhh," we were told when we shuffled through the library's doors.  But let me tell you folks, it was pretty hard to stay quiet with all of the fun books around! Phyllis was in good company. 

After such an exciting afternoon, we hit the hay pretty early.  Who knew what the next day would bring?!

MARCH 21, 2012
Hi: 67
Lo: 48

This was Phyllis's last day here in Chico. It was cloudy with a chance of meatballs  rain...and FREEZING! (Well, not technically freezing, but really cold for our central Sacramento valley, California standards.   

INTERESTING FACT:  As Phyllis told her story of April Fool's Day, some of these California kids had no idea what a blizzard was! Some have never seen snow.

Phyllis told us she really wanted to see some of the town's wildlife. Here she is feeding some exotic birds: Bert, Ernie and Elmo.

Next she had a hot playdate that is! As you can see, Phyllis was very good at taking turns with the toys.  The get-together was hugely successful with no time-outs or castle-building squabbles.

I don't know about you, but at our house, we LOVE to eat! This means we made sure to feed Phyllis a nutritious and hardy meal before it was time for her to jet off to San Jose, CA.   Wouldn't want her little  groundhog belly grumbling on the trip south, now would we? She still has a lot of road to cover!

Despite the poor weather, we had a lovely time with our favorite groundhog. We will never look at a rodent the same way again.  =) We love you Phyllis! KIT.

Best Wishes,
The Omlors.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Marsha Diane Arnold

Sometimes people leave impressions on you without you ever having to really get to know them too well. Have I ever met this week's Banana Peelin' author in person? Nope. But my interactions with her lead me to believe that she is a kind, gentle, and remarkable human being. Even Blogger sensed this about her. I have never had an easier time formatting the body and pictures for a blog post than I did for today's. All is right with the universe as I introduce this week's guest author, Marsha Diane Arnold...

Peel them, don’t slip on them.

Banana peels hold delicious fruit.  Don’t be afraid of them.  Peel them and enjoy.  That’s my recommendation.

Seriously, we slip on banana peels for two main reasons: we’re too busy to see them in our path or we’re not prepared.  At least two of my banana peel slips are directly the result of these reasons.

The Bookstore Slip

It was a lovely little independent bookstore in San Francisco.   They’d invited me to visit during an already overbooked month, but I was determined to support their store and promote my books.  I’d be returning from two weeks of out-of-state visits, then flying off again the following week, but I was intent on fitting the bookstore into my out-of-control schedule. I arranged my flight to arrive home the night before the bookstore visit. I felt like Wonder Woman.

     I arrived home absolutely exhausted, not feeling like Wonder Woman at all.  The next morning I was so grateful to be home.  I made a cup of tea, walked to my office, and stared at 200 emails awaiting my response.  I started responding.  Half an hour before I was supposed to be reading Roar of a Snore in front of a roomful of children at the bookstore, I stood up and screamed.  I’d totally blacked out the bookstore visit.  There was no way I could make it in time unless I turned into Wonder Woman herself, and I didn’t think that was going to happen.  My face turned red even though no one was around.  I made the call, embarrassed and apologetic. 

What was the reason for this banana peel moment?  No, truly, it wasn’t old age or lack of intelligence.  The reason was I was too busy.  Overbooked. It’s been years since that slip occurred and I still feel guilty about it. 

What to me is overbooked may be a walk in the park to some “energizer bunny” authors.  But that’s not me.  If it’s not you, don’t overbook.  Stay away from that banana peel.

The School Visit Slip

I’ve done lots of school visits over my author career.  Usually I’m well prepared and we have a great time.  But sometimes, after several full days of presentations, my voice starts to waver.  The voice waver was the beginning of this banana peel moment.

Standing in front of a group of 200 4th and 5th graders, I was doing my thing, walking the walk, and talking the talk.  I had a hands free lavalier mic, my favorite.  Sometimes though, even with a mic, the voice breaks down.  I started to cough.  I couldn’t stop. I looked in desperation at the closest teacher and handed her one of my books.  She started reading as I hurried back stage to find my magic cough syrup and get my voice under control.  I must have been back stage a full 40 seconds before another teacher arrived to remind me my mic was still on.  An auditorium full of kids and educators had been listening to me cough for nearly a minute!  Thankfully, I don’t think I cursed between coughs, but even so, it was a definite banana peel slip.  Very unprofessional. 

Truthfully, I might not have been able to prepare for this.  Oh, maybe I could have taken voice lessons or practiced strengthening my voice an hour a day.  But I’d rather spend my time writing.  Maybe I could have been smart and calm enough to turn off my mic.  But I panicked.  If you’re unprepared, you panic. 

So, be prepared.  Stay calm.  Avoid that banana peel slip.

There’s one more slip I feel compelled to share.  It’s the dreaded…dum, da, dum, dum…

Procrastination Slip

There have been many times when I had a wonderful idea for a story, but I didn’t move on it.  It sat in my “story seeds” file or the back of my mind for a month or a year or five years.  I always believed I would get to it “some day”.  Then the day comes when I see “my story” sitting on a bookstore shelf or “my story” winning an award.  Of course, that’s illogical as I may never have been able to pull it off.  Still, it saddens me and it’s all because of procrastination. 

We all have more ideas and more stories than we’ll ever have time to write.  But every so often, we should take the time to consider those ideas and prioritize them.  There might be one that is timely or unique or so compelling that you’ll want to put other projects aside for awhile. This is not to say you should abandon the story closest to your heart.  That story always has priority.

Looking at the procrastination slip from another angle, it may also be true that if you procrastinate and never move at all, you will never slip on a banana.  But if you want your writing dreams to come true, you must risk a bruise or two and move ahead.  Almost all writers endure what feels like a banana peel slip when their precious story is rejected.  Those are slips we must get used to.  We must slip right back up after those rejections and work smarter and write better.  My first book, Heart of a Tiger, was rejected 13 times before I found the editor who loved it as much as I did.  It’s my top award winner now, still in print after 17 years.  So, always pick yourself up and try again.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for inviting me to share my slips. 

I wish you all delicious bananas in pursuit of your writing dreams and very few banana peel slips.

Marsha’s Bio:

The media has called Marsha Diane Arnold a "born storyteller" and a "magician of literary innovations." Her literary pathway began with the much-loved, award-winning newspaper column "homegrown treasures." Soon Marsha was writing for kids' magazines and in 1995 came her first book, Heart of a Tiger, for which she won the Ridgway Award for Best First Book by a New Author.
Other awards include Smithsonian Notable Book for The Pumpkin Runner, Junior Library Guild Selection, IRA Distinguished Book, and state Children's Choice awards for Heart of a Tiger, Kansas State Library's 150 "Best" Books for The Bravest of Us All, Notable Social Studies Book for The Chicken Salad Club, and a Family Choice Award for Hugs on the Wind. Roar of a Snore was twice selected for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and her early reader Quick, Quack, Quick has sold over half a million copies. Her stories have been called "wacky," "whimsical," "inspiring," "beguiling," "heartwarming," "uplifting," "great read-alouds," and "a must-have for all libraries".
When not creating imaginative worlds and wacky characters at her home in northern California, Marsha enjoys traveling the world, scuba diving, and (like her characters) always trying new things. To learn more about Marsha's books or to contact her, visit her website,, or blog,


Thank you SO much Marsha for taking the time to contribute to this series. Between your story and one unforgettable episode of 30 Rock, I don't think I will EVER wear a microphone to present. I would just KNOW that some kind of humiliation would be inevitable!  Best of luck to you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taking Care of Business: Blog Awards and Giveaways

I have five things to address today. I will number them so you know how close you are to the end. =)


It's a bird. No, it's a plane. Actually, it's a blog award!!!!!

I don't about where you are,  but it has been raining blog awards in this part of the blogosphere. There are some really great opportunities through these awards to get to know our comrades in the blogging community so I feel incredibly grateful to have been tagged by some thoughtful individuals out there in cyberspace.

First of all I need to apologize for taking so long to share these awards, but I don't take them lightly and I really needed to do some soul searching  and blog formatting (BOLLOKS TO YOU BLOGGER FORMATTING!) before I shared this information and then passed them onto others:

Liebster/Sunshine/Kreativ Blogger Awards:

Thank you Bethany!
Thank you Lissa!
Thank you Dana!

 Thank you so much Dana Carey,  Bethany Telles and Lissa Clouser for honoring me with such wonderful awards! I did not forget! I have just been trying to figure out how to process all of this information! To make sure no one falls asleep on me just yet, I have combined the factoids into the ten requested under the Sunshine Blog Award:

According to the Sunshine Blog Award folks, you must:
  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself
  • Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you.
1. Favorite color: Green, especially the lighter shades.

2. Favorite animal: Elephant

3. Favorite number: I have always wanted one, but don't have one. I know. I'm so unglamourous.

4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Coffee! (Didn't even blink on that one! Actually, I haven't blinked all day...hmmm... maybe I drink too much coffee.)

5. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook

6. My passion: Just one? Reading. Right now, I am devouring middle grade novels that include  nontraditional family structures. I wish I could read for my day job. =)

7. Prefer giving or getting presents: I love finding just the right gift for someone. Something unexpected, but perfect. Sometimes I don't succeed (i.e. pillows with furry tufts for my sister were not a good choice). But it's the best when I do.

8. Favorite pattern: I love things in threes. My house has three of everything in terms of knick knacks. Three pictures, three candles, three dust bunnies....My husband blames HGTV for that.)

9. Favorite day of the week: Saturday (in the A.M.), but it has to be semi-productive, no staying in PJs until three o'clock (Exception Alert!: Writing in PJs is acceptable, because that feels VERY productive)

10. Favorite flower: Russian sage blooms, because they are dainty, rustic, whimsical, and simple.

Here are the blogs I nominate for the Sunshine Blog Award:

1. Audrey Vernick
2. EMU Debuts
3. Marcie Colleen
4. Heather Newman
5. Lori Degman
6. Natasha Yim Carter
7. Joanna Marple
8. Donna Martin
9. Renee LaTulippe
10. Iza Trapani


I am honored that Lori Degman thought of ME, (yes ME!), as one of the individuals with whom to share the  Lucky Seven Meme. So, while I cringe to share my own work (Vulnerability Alert!), I am delighted to share this with seven other bloggers. It thrills me to read other people's writing!

Here are the details:
1. Go to page 77 of your current ms. (I do picture books, so I'll skip to number two.)
2. Go to line 7
3.Copy down the next seven lines and post them as they are written. No cheating.
4. Tag other authors
So, here we go. (Cringe.)

Excerpt from my work-in-progress, picture book manuscript:


     In the morning, her whistle paraded through the kitchen where it shattered at least five water glasses and one dusty light bulb. It then galloped out the door to greet the crows that sat waiting on the lanky arms of the scarecrow, who of course was dressed as a pirate.

     Following the tune of her own whistle, wearing her most beloved princess dress and satchel, Penny would step out into her yard to scatter bird seed and squiggly worms for her feathered guests. Bursting with sunflowers, poppies and hollyhocks, it was to this garden that the birds would fly just to be in her company, for Penny was truly a great host.

     But sometimes, just sometimes, Penny wished she had a friend. A friend who thought her whistle was more beautiful than a lark’s song, or the morning sun, or a princess’s jewels. A friend for whom she could serve her homemade rosemary tea and deliciously sweet, secret-recipe, oatmeal raisin cookies.


I hereby tag the following individuals for the Lucky Seven MeMe:

1.  Renee LaTulippe
2.  Eric Van Raepenbusch
3.  Angela Pena Dahle
4.  Julie Hedlund
5.  Heather Newman
6.  Dana Carey
7.  Joanna Marple


 The Lori Degman Giveaway! The winners of these fabulous prizes (winners selected using are (drum roll please)....

1. Free copy of 1 Zany Zoo : Juliet Clare Bell
2. Free rhyming PB critique : Lori Mozdzierz

Congratulations you lucky ladies!


Thanks so much for your participation and make sure to check back in this week for the lovely, Marsha Diane Arnold, who will be sharing her experiences this Thursday. (We are so lucky! Aren't these authors great for doing this? I just can't believe it!)


P.S. If you are still awake or your eyes aren't too glazed over from reading about boring old me, I am a guest on Julie Hedlund's blog today! Check it out! =) ME, ME, ME! Again? I am so sick of myself that I now have a headache! Argh.  So sorry. =)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cheers to Critters and Seven Months

I love my critique groupers. They have given a whole new light to my attempts at writing. I feel like I am really in it now, that progress will be made...someday.  In fact, I am so appreciative for their feedback,  I feel like I should give them a new cuddly nickname like my critters. I love my critters. They do make me feel warm and fuzzy, just like this guy. Thanks ladies!

One thing I must say however is, never open critiques on a big day like your anniversary, or your birthday or your niece's bat mitzvah. Your insides will surely shrivel like a grape in the sun if you are in the wrong emotional state. This is my FIRST RULE OF FIGHT WRITE CLUB.

As  I mentioned in a previous post, if you aren't able to find me at my new writing station, you can probably find me hiding under here.

This is exactly where my loved ones found me this last Saturday, wallowing in self-pity. I know, I know. Ridiculous. The good news is, it only lasted a few hours, or perhaps several hours, okay, maybe a day.

If that was the first rule, the SECOND RULE OF FIGHT WRITE CLUB is:

Don't query manuscripts before you have found your voice. (At least this is a rule I have set for myself.)

How many queries have I sent out with manuscripts written in the world's most awkward voice? Too many. I have one thing to say about me finding my own voice:

 I stinkith so mucheth it hurteth.

I have a dark side. When I say dark side, I mean I like writing about homeless men...who are chipper.=) But I do so much like to write about more serious subject matter than the content of this blog tends to be. It just doesn't come as natural. What can I say? I just feel so comfy-cozy here in the blogosphere... So, I wonder, how do I transfer this thing called voice from my blog to my manuscripts while still touching on those serious issues that interest me?

Maybe it would be easier if I were to make it official by giving my desired transition a title:

Operation Transfer Blog Voice to Children's Book Manuscripts.
(OTBVCBM..which by the way, is just as hard for me to remember as the SCBWI acronym.)

 I just don't get it. It's hard. At least for me it's hard.

To me, I can equate finding my voice hard to trying to learn the SUBJUNCTIVE in Spanish hard. So abstract, so unattainable, so torturous! Will it ever happen? When Universe, when?


Give yourself some time to develop as a writer, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor.

I have been attempting to write for children for seven months. SEVEN MONTHS! Sometimes I forget that. I think of one of my favorite authors, Cynthia Rylant, who sent her first book off and then two months later it was on its way to being published. I want to be Cynthia Rylant! Don't you?

Must I toil? Must I suffer? Must I keep complaining? =) NO!

To make myself feel better, I've decided to make a list of all the things that take longer than seven months to develop/accomplish:

  • a human being in utero (I love that word, utero.)
  • an elephant in utero (Yowza! Two years is it? No wonder they're so amazing.)
  • a foreign langauge (Do you hear that public education policy makers?! (Me tardo tanto aprender el idioma. Si, es cierto. No estoy bromeando. La unica cosa es que no se poner la puntuacion correcta en Blogger.)
  • algebra skills  (Good Lord do they take longer than seven months. Hyperventilation has begun, along with flashbacks.  "Please don't make me solve for x, Mr. Wenzel!" )
  •  shedding baby weight in the real world...(If it took you less time, I'd definitely prefer not to hear about it or see any pictures.)
  • I'm beginning to feel better about myself
  • my daughter's bangs after an experimental self-trim (first AND second time)
  • learning to walk (unless you are a furry, four legged animal)
  • learning how to park without hitting the surrounding parked cars (Or was that just me? Yikes! I ALWAYS left a note.)
  • sewing skills (Eh.)
  • disposable diaper decomposition (But they are so easy! Sorry Mother Earth.)

I am sure there is so much more to add to this list. If you can think of any others, please by any means, let me know. My self-esteem will thank you.

Now, the real reason for this post...the book giveaway!

You read. (past tense)
You laughed.
You cried.
You wrote witty remarks in...CAVE MAN!

It was a tight race, but the winner of the Me Want Pet! book giveaway was....

Penny Klostermann

Congratulations Penny! If you missed her comments you must go take a look. I was very impressed. I was actually so impressed by all the funny posts that my Laugh-O-Meter needs replacing!

I have just opted to use for future contests. Which reminds me, if you haven't yet, make sure you read and comment on Lori Degman's post. She is giving away a copy of her book, 1 Zany Zoo and a critique for a rhyming picture book!

One last Tuesday, March 20th, I will be featured on Julie Hedlund's blog, Write Up My Life! Her Tuesday series spotlights pre-published authors and I would LOVE to see you there!
Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Lori Degman

I love Cheerios and I love moms. Both are so different, but they share one unique quality...intuitive geniusness. 

How would Cheerios know that by unleashing Honey Nut Cheerios serendipitously the year before I was born they would produce a cereal that would bring so much joy to my little heart to this day?

Or, more relevant to this post, how genius was it for the same company to sponsor a children's book writing contest and include children's literature with their product, therefore accomplishing their goal to "nourish everyone by making lives healthier, easier and richer"?

Moms are great too, don't get me wrong. They have a long history of being intuitive geniuses. I know this because I have one and I am one. =) Also, I am sitting here to today, alive, surely not from the intuitive geniusness passed down from father to father, who may have sometimes (historically speaking), unintentionally, overlooked things like sharp scissors and permanent markers in the hands of little ones. =)

I digress.

The point I am trying to make is that both moms and Cheerios alike, know things. Like who is who in Children's Literature. To prove it, we are graced with today's Banana Peelin' author, Lori Degman who was not only chosen to be the recipient of the Gold Mom's Choice Award for Picture Book Humor, but she also won the 2008 Spoonfuls of Stories Contest. I feel so incredibly lucky to have Lori here today to share her own banana peel slips!

Please welcome, Lori Degman!


Let me start by thanking Elizabeth for allowing me to contribute to Banana Peel  Thursday and to apologize for the stress my absentmindedness must have caused her! My most recent banana peel is occurring as we speak (as I type). I had emailed Elizabeth on January 12th, asking if I could do a Banana Peel Thursday post and she very kindly said yes. She scheduled me for February 16th and, on the 13th she emailed asking if I was still planning on posting. I apologized for forgetting about it and she sweetly asked if the second or third week in March would be better. I said either would be fine and she assigned me the 15h. At the end of February, she again emailed and asked me to send my post by March 11th. I apologized again and optimistically said I would get it to her within a week! Then, tonight, she sent me a gentle reminder (sheʼs SO patient) that my post was to appear in three days! I emailed an apology (are you noticing a pattern here?) and swore Iʼd get it to her ASAP. So, here you have it - an unpolished gem of a post! I couldn't have created a better example of the thousands of banana peels Iʼve thrown in front of myself in the past 20 years!

I know, after I send this to Elizabeth, Iʼll think of a bunch (no pun intended) of awesome banana peel stories I could have told - oh well - such is life. I will, however, leave you with the most embarrassing slip I can think of at this moment. After you read it, youʼll be amazed I was brave enough to share it - I know I am!

In March, 2008, I sent out a manuscript to six large publishing houses - on the same day. I was sure at least one - maybe all - would be sending offers within a week - it was that good! When I returned from the post office, I read my story aloud, imagining the editorsʼ delight, when I noticed three typos in the first two stanzas!! When I finally calmed down (several hours later) I came up with a brilliant solution!


I knew just what to do - Iʼd write a new cover letter and resend the corrected manuscript. It should arrive just a day or two after the first and surely the editor would remember the original version I had sent - it was that good (despite the typos)! But wait . . . an ordinary cover letter would never do - Iʼd need to show them how extremely creative I am! Below is my “clever” cover letter. This takes guts, if I must say so myself! Gulp!

Dear Editor,

Title: Mia Culpa
Main Character: Me
Problem: I sent you the wrong, imperfect version of my manuscript.
Climax: I panic when I realize my mistake.
Resolution: Very understanding editor reads the attached, updated version and discards the original.
Lesson Learned: ALWAYS have someone proofread your manuscript before sending it out.
Main Characterʼs final line of dialogue: “Iʼm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!”


I know youʼre dying to find out how many offers I received - Iʼll let you figure that out for yourselves :-)

Wow, I canʼt believe I just shared that story! I hope it helps you feel better about some of your own banana peel slips!!

Thanks again, Elizabeth for your graciousness and sorry for the added stress! Do I get to put the cool badge on my blog now?!


I knew I'd think of another story - Elizabeth was nice enough to add it to my post after the fact. A few weeks ago, I was at a friend's house, waiting to do a talk at her library's Young Author Award Ceremony. Her 7-year old son brought me a piece of paper and asked me to write my name on it. I thought it was so sweet that he wanted my autograph - what a cutie! Of course, I said I'd be happy to. He handed me a pen and as I began to write, a shock shot all the way up my arm! It was a trick pen!! My friend was so sweet for not letting on that she knew I thought he wanted an autograph. It's a good friend who pretends not to notice when you slip on a banana peel!

Lori Degman is a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students and lives in Vernon Hills with her husband, John. She has two sons, Sean, 25 and Brian, 22. Her first picture book, 1 Zany Zoo, was the winner of the 2008 Spoonfuls of Stories Contest and was released by Simon & Schuster in July, 2010 . It won the Gold Mom's Choice Award for Picture Book Humor in February, 2012. She is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.


Blogosphere, Lori is so generous! (Doesn't she have just the kindest eyes?) She has agreed to not only give away one copy of her book, 1 Zany Zoo, but also a critique for a RHYMING picture manuscript!

If you are interested in receiving either of the following, please leave a comment indicating so below!

Results will be generated through ( I think I have reached the end of the Smelly Hat Contest Results Generator) and will be announced early next week, so please make sure to leave a comment before Sunday, March 18th!

Also, you should know that Lori has a wonderful blog to follow as well an author website where she offers detailed critiques for rhyming manuscripts so if you don't win, mosey on over to her site to check out all she has to offer!

P.S. Lori...The badge is all yours! Thanks SO, SO much for contributing your stories to the series! =)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Tammi Sauer

Don't you ever just wish you could go back to the good ol' days when life was a little more simple?  When we didn't have to worry about things like traffic jams, computer malfunctions, too many choices on the shampoo aisle or tiny, wild children tugging at parents' heart's strings over wanting certain, eccentric pets?

What? Kids did that back then too? Nevermind. I guess the brilliant children's author, Tammi Sauer has discovered evidence from way back, when we all lived in caves and communicated by shifting our bushy unibrows up and down while shouting "Ooga!". Her new book, Me Want Pet!  offers some extremely rare, illustrated documentation of an actual cave boy wanting to bring inappropriate animals home to live as pets.

What's that? The same Tammi Sauer has also had some humbling/embarrassing experiences in her writing career? 

I'm impressed!

From cave boys to banana peels, let's give a big cave people welcome to the well rounded Tammi Sauer, today's Banana Peel Thursday guest author! (Ooga!)


Banana Peels:
Whew. I’ve been in this business since 2003, so I have had a lot of banana peels. Let me just share three:
I drove over an hour to get to a school visit only to arrive and realize I was wearing mismatched shoes.
At my daughter’s basketball game, a lady recognized me from a newspaper article. She brought her son over to me and said, “Garrett, this lady is an AUTHOR!” I pretty much did a hair toss in front of my friends because it was cool for them to see me in my author groove. Then Garrett said, “Are you ROSEMARY WELLS?!” Uh, no.
The Oklahoma SCBWI RA is Anna Myers. Anna does countless things for our group, including having her good-spirited husband Johnny help out behind the scenes at every conference.  Our most recent one was held at the First Baptist Church in a small Oklahoma town. Prior to the start of the conference, Anna and I were visiting in the church parking lot when a pick-up truck pulled up next to us.  Glancing at the driver and assuming he is Johnny, I say, “Hey, handsome. Come join us.” Turns out the driver wasn’t Johnny. He was the minister.
And now I’m forever known as the person who tried to pick up the minister at the SCBWI Conference.
Tammi Sauer has sold eleven picture books to a number of major publishing houses. In addition to winning numerous awards, her books have gone on to do great things. Cowboy Camp was developed into a musical by the Katy Visual & Performing Arts Center in Katy, Texas. Mostly Monsterly was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories® program. And Chicken Dance was recently released in French which makes her feel extra fancy.
Tammi’s latest book is Me Want Pet!, illustrated by Bob Shea. OOGA!

Bawk and Roll, illustrated by Dan Santat, will be available at a bookstore, library, or barnyard near you on April 3, 2012.
Tammi’s Books:
Cowboy Camp (Sterling, 2005)
Chicken Dance (Sterling, 2009)
Mostly Monsterly (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Mr. Duck Means Business (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Me Want Pet! (Simon & Schuster, 2012)
Bawk and Roll (Sterling, 2012)
Oh, Nuts (Bloomsbury, 2012)
Princess in Training (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma (Sterling, 2012)
Nugget and Fang (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
TBA!!!(TBA, 2014)

Did you notice a trend on Ms. Sauer's book list starting with Me Want Pet!? The year 2012 seems to be a pretty busy year for Tammi!  I am so grateful that she agreed to share her experiences on the Banana Peel Thursday series. 

This is just one of the stops she is making along her week-long blog tour. Please make sure to check out the other sites to learn more about the author and to enter to win her new book....Wait, what? Others are giving away her book, Me Want Pet?  Maybe I should too! 


Here is the deal. The thing that I have really liked about communicating with Tammi is that she has a great sense of humor. I have never seen or participated in so much cave man talk since buzz of her book began. 

So.... as a person that:

a) is fascinated with languages
b) loves to laugh

I am proposing that the person who creates the most humorous comment in reaction to Tammi's post in "cave man" language will win this wonderful new book!

(You can just devote a piece of your commentary for this purpose. Please indicate if you are interested in the book giveaway. Just post it below in the comment section by the end of Sunday, March 11th, PST.)

FINE PRINT: Contest results will be measured by a laugh-o-meter bought especially for this event. Know that objectivity is highly valued. Any complaints in regards to conduct or suspicions of foul play must  be directed to Lana Pinebane, official spokesperson for BPT.

Me Want Pet! Blog Tour

Monday, March 5th:       Literary Friendships
Tuesday, March 6th:      Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
Wednesday, March 7th:  Random Thoughts
Thursday, March 8th:     Banana Peelin’ ...(That's me! Eeek! I mean, ooga!)
Friday: March 9th:         Jama’s Alphabet Soup 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Me Love March

Me love March.

If you wonder why it is I am talking like a cave woman, well, I will just have to keep you in suspense for about 200 words. I do love March however. Let me tell you why:

1. It is my birth  month and I am very narcissistic.
2. It is the month of my wedding anniversary. What was I thinking having the two so close?
3. It is the beginning of spring.


4. and therefore my incredibly brief  period of feeling motivated and productive

What does that mean?

It means, opening the windows, cleaning house, and returning dead plants to Home Depot.

For me, this time of year always calls for the marvelling of all things beautiful.  The gentle sounds of the birds filtering in through our open windows, the birds' nests resting in the bare limbs of our trees, the birds' poop ornamenting our outdoor furniture. Ahhhh.....

But what is so beautiful to me right now is the air of generosity that seems to be floating through the atmosphere as of late. Whether it is due to the fact that people are beginning to come out of hibernation mode or the fact that they are counting down the days until they too can dress up as Katniss and attend the first showing of The Hunger Games...people are being nice.

Well, in case you haven't heard, published authors apparently are people too. They slip on banana peels just like you and me! It's true! These next two months are booked with some amazingly generous children's authors. I just can't believe it. Some of the authors who will be contributing to the Banana Peel Thursday series are:

Lori Degman
Marsha Diane Arnold
Stephen McCranie (Woo hoo! Some testosterone in the house!)
Audrey Vernick
Liz Garton Scanlon
Amy Novesky
George Shannon (Woo hoo! More testosterone!)

And this week, just in time for the release of her new book, ME WANT PET!, Tammi Sauer!

That's right! Author of Chicken Dance, Mostly Monsterly and other hugely popular, delightful books for children, Tammi Sauer will be here on Thursday to tell you about a couple of slips she has made as a published author.

Please check out some other wonderful sites she will be visiting on her ME WANT PET! blog tour this week:

Monday, March 5th: Literary Friendships
Wednesday, March 7th: Random Thoughts
Thursday, March 8th: Banana Peelin’ ...(That's me! Eeek! I mean, ooga!)
Friday: March 9th: Jama’s Alphabet Soup 

I don't know about you, but ME SO EXCITED!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Juliet Clare Bell

I'm a panicker. Are you a panicker? My daughter's a panicker. Hmmm...should I panic about that? Maybe I should just go buy our next author's book, Don't Panic, Annika! I am so excited to share with you the very insightful banana peel slips of this week's contributing, children's author. Please welcome Juliet Clare Bell!

Juliet Clare Bell with an Annika made of icing, stolen from an incredible cake made for the SCBWI British Isles’ 2011 Conference Mass Book Launch

You need a very tough skin in this industry. Mine’s much tougher than banana skin now but it wasn’t always. Here are two ways to wear a tough skin rather than slip on one…
1: Learn not to think of your stories as your babies.
I spent months working really hard on my first rhyming story, Scatterbrained Kate and the Party. The story was quite simple, the rhyme quite complex, but I’d worked on the meter and scansion and had come up with something that I felt was energetic and fun. And hey –I’d shown it to family who really liked it. So it must be good. I was excited. Really excited. And proud of my little baby… And then I used SCBWI’s old manuscript exchange list to show it to a few SCBWI writers who were up for swapping picture book manuscripts.
An older woman I’d never met with a very authoritative email voice told me simply that ‘this will never get published because…’ and listed the reasons. I hadn’t grown my thick skin yet and this was my baby! I was indignant (as well as upset). Surely that was only her opinion? I was so affronted by her manner that I completely dismissed everything she said and within days, I’d deleted her email as it made me feel sick every time I looked at it (and I couldn’t stop looking at it).
Of course, this woman was absolutely right. It was never going to sell –and I actually think now she was trying to do me a favour. I overlooked what she’d said before ‘THIS WILL NEVER GET PUBLISHED! I’M MUCH BETTER THAN YOU, YOU’RE AN AMATEUR’ (as I’d read it), which, if I remember right (you can’t reread a crit you’ve deleted) actually said she thought I was good at rhyming and good at other things. She wasn’t saying it was bad. She was saying it was unpublishable –which is different, and I think she was trying to save me time by encouraging me to start something new which might be more publishable.
Her manner was poor, but if I’d had a thick enough skin and hadn’t felt so personally attached to the story, I’d have [1] kept the critique, [2] discarded the superior tone in which she’d written it, [3] read it really, really carefully and actually benefited from the content (in spite of the tone).
Fortunately, I’m very stubborn and I picked myself up relatively quickly and set up a critique group which is still going strong six years later (where we’re frank with our feedback, but still completely respectful). By regularly exposing my stories to other people, I’ve learned to be less emotionally involved and listen –properly- to feedback that is about a particular story and not about me.
If you’re really serious about a manuscript (and I was about Scatterbrained Kate), it’s hard to believe that it might not be the one to launch your career. That doesn’t mean it won’t be playing a huge part in your getting there eventually, or that you don’t need to put as much work into it. It’s like an apprenticeship. And what you learn from writing it, editing it and then listening to feedback may well help your next book become something extraordinary –and publishable. If you want something published, professionals will have to read it and they will not give it more than a quick skim through unless it jumps out at them. Why not let go of it earlier in the process and get other writers whom you trust to enable you to present something that really will jump out at that editor or agent? If you think of your manuscript as your baby (loved, beautiful, doted on, and woe betide anyone who says anything against him or her), chances are he or she will never grow up into a book. 
Of course, it may be different for you –your early work might be fantastic and publishable. But don’t give up it it’s not.

This is me with my real babies, as drawn by Esther, baby number two, second from left. Whilst I know these guys are perfect and I don’t ever need feedback on them, I also know that every story I write will be improved by other writers’ feedback.

No. 2: Never send something to editors or agents you kind-of-know-isn’t-right for them just because you can do it quickly (via email), or so they don’t forget you after you’ve had some contact with them.
When I’d been writing picture book manuscripts for about five years and was getting lots of near misses from editors, I decided to contact a specific agent whose responses in interviews about picture books really fit with how I felt about them. She usually took on two or three writers out of the 3000 or so people who contacted her in a year but I thought I’d start with her anyway (and then make a list of other agents to approach whilst I was waiting for her rejection).
After six weeks, there was an email from her in my inbox. I knew it must be a rejection because it would be crazy to be anything else. In fact, it wasn’t. She said she really liked two of the five manuscripts I’d sent her and would I write her some more as she’d need at least three to take me on? And this is the bit where I didn’t quite listen well enough and jumped the gun with something that wasn’t right…
She had told me specifically what she liked about the two manuscripts and she wanted more in that vein (warm stories about family and everyday life). She’s said why she didn’t want the other three (too hard a sell). She said so. So I knew exactly what to send. Much quicker than I normally think up and write a story, I wrote one. And soon after, another. But whilst I was waiting for feedback on the second (I’d already send out and got feedback from my critique groups on the first), I got impatient. I had a great idea: whilst she was waiting for the kind of stories she’d specifically asked for, shouldn’t I send her something else I’d been working on that was completely different and educational in feel, even though a fellow writer I’d spoken to months before whom she represented had also said that that project didn’t sound like the agent’s style? (I’d tell her of course that I’d send the others soon…) I thought it would keep me in the forefront of her mind.
Why? What a hugely wasted opportunity –I was only another couple of weeks from sending her two really well revised warm stories about family and everyday life. I clearly hadn’t listened and had wasted her time with something irrelevant. The rejection wasn’t even from her. It was from her assistant –and it even said they were really sorry as they’d really liked the other manuscripts. This agent was an extremely busy woman, dealing with 60-odd hopefuls in a week on top of her job of representing her current clients. She had been really interested and had asked me for a very specific thing -and I’d blown my chances.
You don’t get loads of chances –don’t blow them by sending something too soon, or something irrelevant. Agents and editors are phenomenally busy and their main priority is not finding me –or you. Only ever send the best –and most relevant manuscripts you have.
The story had a happy ending though –I apologised profusely over email; she changed her mind and asked me to send them to her when they were ready. And although she finally decided against taking me on, she recommended another agent, Celia Catchpole –who was already top of my list of who to approach next- as she thought she’d like my stories. She did, and she’s the absolute right agent for me. The story I wrote in response to the first agent’s initial positive reply (I came up with the first line of it that evening) became my first picture book, Don’t Panic, Annika! You can see it here, read by one of my real babies, my (un-panicking) daughter, Annika.

Juliet Clare Bell is the author of Don’t Panic, Annika! (2011, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris; Piccadilly Press, UK; Koala Books, Australia; also in Dutch and soon to be in Chinese and Slovenian). Pirate Picnic, an early reader, is out in May, 2012 (Franklin Watts) and The Kite Princess (illustrated by Laura-Kate Chapman; Barefoot Books, UK and US), accompanied by a recording of the story read by Oscar-nominated Imelda Staunton, will be out in autumn, 2012. She’s an active member and volunteer of SCBWI (British Isles), an organisation she’d recommend highly to anyone who is serious about telling the very best stories they can in the very best way they can, and getting them picked up by editors or agents. Her website is and she’s just joined Picture Book Den, a blog by ten UK picture book authors, with additional guest spots (Julia Donaldson is doing a guest blog in March 2012): .


I don't know about you, but I feel about ten times smarter having read Clare's slips. (Juliet Clare becomes Clare after you share such intimate knowledge such as one's banana peel moments!)

Thank you SO much Clare for sharing your experiences. Also, for sharing your lovely daughter's reading of your work! What a sweet girl. (I know you don't need feedback, since she is perfect, but just thought I would let you know!) Good luck to you with your fall release of The Kite Princess! Can't WAIT to read it!