Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kidlit Summer School!

Have you heard about Kidlit Summer School? If not you should head on over! This summer they're focusing on plot. You need to register to join. But it's free! The faculty is amazing you'll definitely want to check out what they're offering.

Besides some amazing authors and illustrators, editors and agents are participating. I know it's short notice but my fabulous agent, Sean McCarthy will be doing a pitch critique session on Monday. You have to register by tomorrow morning to participate live (sorry for the short notice!) but by it looks like you can still listen in if you register later. Sean gives the best advice and you can learn a lot by listening to pitch critiques so I highly recommend taking part if you at all can!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to Format Illustration Notes

I recently talked about illustration notes and when you should and shouldn’t use them. Today I’m going to share with you how to format those notes. But first, some rules:

·         Keep your notes simple
·         Do your best to make your illustration notes flow with the story so you don’t interrupt the text
·         Don’t use colored text for your illustration notes (or any of your manuscript for that matter)
·         Revise, edit, and proofread your notes as you do the rest of your manuscript. This includes reading them out loud
·         Never use illustration notes to dictate anything that isn’t crucial to your story. Ever. The illustrator is a partner in your book and will put their creativity to work from what your story brings to their mind. You have to trust in this

Okay, no matter how much we writers try not to use them, sometimes illustration notes are necessary. You definitely want them to be formatted in an easy to read and understand way. They shouldn't take center stage or be overpowering. They should be there because they must.

There are a few ways that I have formatted illustration notes in my picture book manuscripts. Almost every time I simply put them in italic parenthesis in line with the text like this: (Illustration note: Jim is a dog.) Placement is important. You want to put the note by the text that the illustration needs to make clear but you don't want to break a sentence or paragraph up and make it choppy. I usually opt to place the note at the end of the paragraph.

When I’ve had manuscripts that contain italicized thoughts I have bolded my illustration notes instead of italicizing. This seemed to not be too overpowering since there were only a couple of notes amongst a lot of text. I suppose you could use ALL CAPS if you wanted as well. Take a look at overall manuscript and decide on how it works best aesthetically. 

If you have one overall illustration note for the story that needs to be told a good place to put it is right up at the top right corner header on your manuscript under your word count. (If you don't know how to format a picture book go here.) I have seen it said to put the note in your cover letter but if readers need to know that information for your story to work (which I assume they do otherwise you shouldn’t be using the note) you want it on that manuscript. Things get separated, may not be read at the same time, etc.


Of course you could use other words besides "Illustration note" such as Illustration suggestion, Art or Art note. You could use [brackets] instead of parenthesis. The basics are not too big of a deal. What is important is how and when you choose to use illustration notes. Choose wisely! Any questions?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Using Illustration Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

             You may have heard that using illustration notes in your picture book manuscript is a big no no. Why? Illustration notes can get a bad rap when writers are too heavy handed and try to dictate illustrations. The thing is, picture books are a visual medium. While it is best to use none or as few illustration notes as possible there can definitely be things conveyed in your story by the illustrations that aren’t part of the text. Sometimes, as writers, we have to give a clue as to what is happening in the story when it can’t be taken from the words. So when is it okay to use illustration notes?

When something critical to the storyline happens that is not evident in the text. This means that if an agent, editor, or illustrator is reading your manuscript that the image your words will bring to mind is different or even opposite of what you have said.

For example: You’re text says, “Meredith put the book back nicely onto the shelf.” But really, Meredith does not put the book onto the shelf nicely at all because there’s going to be a catastrophic book pile up that comes crashing down and it is all Meredith’s fault. Perhaps this scenario could use an illustration note.

Or maybe Jake put his very best clothes on because he has something important to do, but yikes! In the illustration he has put on two different colored socks and is going to be very embarrassed when he sits down for his recital and people start to laugh. He doesn’t know that his socks are two different colors, so the text doesn’t say it. This might be a good place for a note, depending on how the story unfolds, of course.



I used an illustration note in my manuscript for Bedtime Monster because Dad being a bit of a monster himself wasn't evident in the text. At all. Would the editor and illustrator have known that (spoiler alert!) dad had a tail at the end of the story? Definitely not. I put in a very simple, straight to the point note: (Illustration note: Dad has a tail.)

Some of my picture book manuscripts have a lot going on visually that is not hinted to in the text so, yes, they are a bit illustration note heavy. This has been fine with my agent and with editors. They need to see a complete story and sometimes I need illustration notes to make the story complete. Others of my manuscripts have no illustration notes at all. The story doesn't need them. Each manuscript is different. You have to choose what is right for each one. (Hint: Let the manuscript with notes rest. Read it through without the notes. Do you still see places you need them? If not then take them out. Read the manuscript with the notes. Are they 100% necessary? If not, cut them. Be brutal!)

No matter what, I work just as hard on my illustration notes as I do the rest of my manuscript. I revise and edit them, putting them to the same rigorous test as I do the rest of my words. You should too.

For do's and don'ts and how to format notes in your manuscript click here!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Happy Book Birthday to Paul Greci!

A while back I interviewed Paul Greci for a series I really loved doing called
Okay, my while may be longer than other's whiles but we're talking the publishing world here. Anyway, today is a day to celebrate as Paul has moved into the ranks of The Read! Paul's debut novel, SURVIVING BEAR ISLAND is out today! Not only that, his book is a 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection. I am so thrilled and cannot wait to read this book!


Paul really does live the type of lifestyle that leads to adventure so he knows about what he writes! Go read Paul's Unread interview to learn about him and his writing. You won't be disappointed. 

And go help Paul celebrate his book release and enter to win a copy of his book. Paul is giving away not one, but 10 copies of SURVIVING BEAR ISLAND on his blog!


If you want to know more about SURVIVING BEAR ISLAND check out this from Kirkus Review:

A fateful kayaking trip forces Tom to grow up fast while he faces dangers he only ever dreamed about. When his mother died in a biking accident three years ago, Tom had to struggle to find his way back to a normal life. Dad was no help, as he reacted to the loss of his wife by shutting down and shutting out the rest of the world. But a kayaking trip in Alaska’s Prince William Sound seems to be a turning point for the two of them, a chance to start living the rest of their lives as a family again. Unfortunately, a choppy sea and a bad accident rip them apart, and Tom is forced to struggle for his own survival on Bear Island. Facing starvation, injury and the eponymous bears, Tom relies on the hope of finding his father to get him through his ordeal. Greci delivers a compelling narrative that manages to keep a quick pace despite being built around one character alone in the wilds. Flashbacks to the moments before the accident and memories of life before the trip work well to explain certain plot points and to add texture and meaning to the first-person narrative. The tension is well-crafted and realistic. Bear Island is a challenging environment to survive but a terrific thrill on the page. (Adventure. 9-14)
Pub Date: March 25th, 2015
Page count: 192pp
Age Range: 9-14
Publisher: Move Books
Review Posted Online: Jan. 10th, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2015

Can't wait to read it? You can go read a preview of chapter 1 on Paul's blog to tide you over! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Linda Pratt of Wernick & Pratt Agency

by Dana Carey                                          
Today's Monster List post features agent Linda Pratt of Wernick & Pratt Agency. Marcia Wernick and Linda Pratt started Wernick & Pratt Agency in 2011 after both agenting at the renown Sheldon Fogelman Literary Agency. Together they have years of experience in the industry. Wernick & Pratt is a career agency, meaning the agents are looking to represent writers and illustrators for the long term.

I had the pleasure of receiving my very first professional critique from Linda a long time ago at the first SCBWI conference I ever attended. She was so kind and helpful, I could just feel that I was in the right industry. I know that critique, as well as the feedback she gave me on the subsequent submission, helped me leap forward in terms of my writing and I will always be appreciative of the time she gave me.

To learn about Linda Pratt, read her bio on the Wernick & Pratt website and be sure to read Linda's Q & A as well to learn what she likes to see in submissions.

You will definitely want to read the interview with Linda at Quirk and Quill. It's really informative. 

Middle Grade Ninja did a 7 Questions with Linda. One of her top three favorite books is a picture book. And she talks about the qualities of her ideal client.

Read about some of the tips Ms. Pratt gave at a Kansas City Agent's Day. There's quick ones on picture book setup and deciphering standard rejection lines.

Joyce Shor Johnson has a NESCBWI Sneak Peek interview with Linda on her website.

Author Ann Marie Pace talks about working with Linda in her post called Agent Love!

You can find Wernick & Pratt Agency on Facebook and on Twitter. Linda Pratt is on Linkedin.

Linda represents picture book writers Ann Marie Pace, Karen Beaumont, and Hannah Rainforth, among others. 

If you think your work might be a good fit for Linda, read the very specific Submissions Policy posted on the Wernick & Pratt website. While the agency states they are most interested in picture book author/illustrators they do take submissions from picture book writers who do not illustrate as well at the time of this posting. Picture book writers are asked to send 2 different completed manuscripts of less than 750 words when submitting.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Agent Jodell Sadler Talks Picture Books

Have you heard? It's Kidlit Week over at Sub It Club! So far we have picture book critique giveaways from authors Amy Dixon and Katy S. Duffield, as well as a proofread from Dori Kleber. We have feedback opportunities and great posts for picture book writers and illustrators alike from Mark Fearing and Sarah Frances Hardy. Plus you can enter to win an autographed picture book from Corey Rosen Schwartz. And now I'm going to give you a scoop: Tomorrow on the Sub It Club blog we'll be giving away a free participation in agent Jodell Sadler's online course, Pacing Picture Books To Wow!

Jodell's agency, Sadler Children's Literary, represents authors as well as and author-illustrators. Jodell is open to picture book submissions and is here to talk about what she looks for when it comes to picture books in part 1 of my interview with her. You'll be able to find part 2 tomorrow on the Sub It Club blog. For now, read on to learn what Jodell looks for in picture book submissions and more:

Why do you choose to represent picture book authors?

I love picture books! Picture books remain that toy that spans from 1 to 101 and has staying power. I love the power of words and their magic and it feeds into my study on Pacing Picture Books to Wow. I have a picture book that I have kept a long time. It was one that was held by the many generations in my family, and I love it. It made it through my childhood, managed to escape a dog incident, and escorted me into my college years at Mount Mary University.

What types of stories do you see a place for in today’s picture book market?

Many. Whatever is in a writer’s heart-- if they can carry it onto the page in an original way. I know, not fair, but really, the minute we think a book cannot be done, one is birthed into the world. Picture book are just a visual and aural treat for kids. What would the world be like without them?

What types of picture books do you represent (or not represent) specifically?

I’m not a fan of message-driven, but love any type of picture book, fiction and nonfiction. I also enjoy graphic novel manuscripts that fit into that little older genre. 

How do you feel about picture books written in rhyme?

I love a rhyming picture book if it is done well. It has to be visual and concrete and so well done that it sings. When I see one that works, it will work. But it’s a tough write. A writer has to be 100% committed to do what it takes to make it move forward with a strong story arc.

On your website you say, “I’m really interested in working with you to get your story all sparkly and ‘just right’ and right into the hands of the right publisher.” In general, how much revision do you do with clients to get their picture books submission ready?

I love working with clients on picture book revision. It’s fun to work to really polish a piece of writing. I just recently worked on a picture book that was so honed, but only had a few words here and there that needed to be considered and challenged. The writer and I went back and forth until it we both felt like each word was ‘just right.’

If you take on a client because of their mass market appeal picture books, would you also represent other things they wrote, such as educational or board books, if they had merit?

Yes. I do work with clients from fiction board books to young adult (and new adult), but I also enjoy nonfiction picture books to nonfiction proposals. I would go outside my scope for titles my writers were working on like an adult memoir, for example.

What are some of the elements you think a picture book needs to be successful?

I completely believe in Pacing a Picture Book to Wow and really look for all the tools I talk about in my online 4-week course: words, rhythm, repetition, etc. because the musicality of language, the ability to get on the page of your writing, and really slow and speed the unfolding of a story to enhance reader experience is a must in today’s competitive marketplace. If you’d like to see more about this, please visit my website: http://www.sadlercreativeliterary.com/pacing-2-wow-class.html.  

Are there common mistakes you see in picture book submissions in particular?

Yes. I see cover pages that are far too long, poetry that is very abstract, and concepts that have been done so often they would be hard to sell like seasonal books. I also see books that have not been honed down to some 500 words. Writers really need to take the time to pull their words back and make their picture books an infectious experience. We should want to hear it again and again. In my recent Pacing Picture Books to Wow class for January, we had a few books like this. It’s a lot of fun to find that manuscript that is ready for editorial eyes.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you'd like to share with us?

We have a few upcoming projects: a MG nonfiction story about strong women, a great author-illustrator picture book about a feisty witch and even feistier cat, a picture book about a very small creature that one man works to save, and an illustrated MG series—and so much more in the works. We’ve done a game project and covers this past season as well, and I hope we will do a whole lot more in 2015, including one really exciting project that hugs my heart. 

Thank you so much, Jodell, for talking picture books here with us! Everyone, please come over to the Sub It Club blog to read part 2 of my interview with Jodell where she talks submissions and is giving away a chance to win her Pacing Picture Books To Wow! course to one lucky winner. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cheers to 2014!

You know what? I had an amazing number of wonderful clients this year! I want thank each and every one of you for sharing your work with me. It is so fantastic to see so many people taking on their dreams and working to create children's literature. I feel really honored to be a part of that.

And so many of you who have sent me kind notes about what helped you in a post or my blog in general. Thank you so much! You keep me going!

Here's to all of you! I wish we could get together for a New Years Party. One with a rejection pinata, great food and drinks, and lots of writing chit chat!

For me, 2014 has been a wonderfully buys year. I signed with agent Sean McCarthy. My family's garlic business more than doubled. And Sub It Club grew like wildfire. Yay yay and yay! It is really amazing for me to look back and see that I've actually accomplished some great things this year.

I resigned myself to the fact that success doesn't come quickly for me a long time ago. I've been working hard on my writing for so long that I can't even count how long it's been. My family has been growing garlic for quite a few years to build up our seed stock so we are just now beginning to find out if we can sell all that we grow. (Scary!) And well, Sub It Club, that's something I wanted to do for a long time but finally got the guts to do just about two years ago now and am amazed to see it take off like it has in 2014.

But if you want to hear the truth, I want to do more. I guess that's what keeps me going. I want write great stories and make Sean proud. I want to grow our family garlic business even more so we can hire employees and help give a few of the wonderful people in our community jobs. I want every writer and illustrator out there to find the support they need. So yup, there's more to do! But how am I going to do it? I'm just going to keep on keeping on!

As far as writing goes, I'm going to keep writing the best stories that I can. I'm going to keep learning from agent and editor notes, critique partners and books. I am going to work on learning to listen to myself better when I know something is working...and when it's not.

The garlic? Well, we planted twice as much garlic this year as we did last year so we should be harvesting twice as much come summer. (The weather has been a little wacky so I worry but there's nothing to do but wait!) I'm afraid I may get lost in the garlic abyss around August when there is harvesting, drying, cleaning, shipping, and planting to do, so I'm trying to get lots of writing things done this winter. I guess I'll see what happens!

And then there's Sub It Club. I love Sub It Club. Such a great group with so many amazing people. We just celebrated members' successes of 2014 and I couldn't be happier for each and every person! I hope we can keep bringing helpful information to writers and illustrators who need it, and keep fostering those helpful connections in our support and critique partner groups.

Cheers! To a wonderful 2015!