Monday, December 26, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown, Ltd

Ginger Knowlton is an agent with over twenty years of experience. She is the Executive Vice President of Curtis Brown Ltd who represents many great authors for children, including picture book authors! You can read a bit about Ginger Knowlton on her page on the Curtis Brown Ltd website. I saw Ms. Knowlton speak at a SCBWI conference and she seemed smart, kind, and genuine. And she really knew her stuff when it came to children's books! Here are some links for further research so you can decide whether Ginger Knowlton might be a good match for you and your writing:

There's a December 2011 SCBWI Pre-Conference interview with Ginger Knowlton on Cuppa Jolie. You can check out the 2012 Annual SCBWI Winter Conference Faculty list at the SCBWI website.

You can find an older (2006) yet still relevant interview with Ginger on K.L. Going's website.

You can see the Curtis Brown Ltd. listing in Children's Writers and Illustrators Market online. (That doesn't seem right, yet there it is.)

You can read a list of Ginger Knowlton's leading clients on her Publishers Marketplace Listing. There's a fun post where Ginger interviews her client, Cynthea Letitch Smith at Cynsations and Debbi Ridpath Ohi has a fun post: 10 Reason Why My Agent (Ginger Knowlton) Rocks.

There's a nice roundup of information about Ginger Knowlton on Literay Rambles.

Ginger Knowlton represents Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, Greg and Cynthea Letitch Smith, and J. Patrick Lewis, among others.

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!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Waiting. Ack!

As I sit here waiting for my photos to upload so I can show you all the new place I am living—they are taking forever to upload—I have started to think about patience. Obviously, it’s something we need in life in general. But when you’re a writer you have to be more patient that a pregnant African Elephant (they’re pregnant for an average of 660 days, in case you were wondering). Now I’m not saying that you need to wait two years on submissions, although I have actually received a couple of rejections two and even three years after I sent in a manuscript!

The thing is, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen or heard someone say it’s been a month, or two, or even three, should I status query? Or worse, I status queried and didn’t hear back, well forget them. Ack!

First of all, most places that you query will have a response time listed somewhere. Whatever that response time is, I find it’s best to just forget about it for as long as you can. Why? Because you don’t want to go crazy with anticipation, that’s why! Of course, you probably won’t be able to forget because you studied the market and chose to send your precious manuscript to this particular agent/editor/publisher for a reason, right? So, take that response time and add a few months to it. The horror! But people in publishing are busy! They have stacks and stacks and stacks of words to read. A person can only do so much so fast. What I like to do is wait until I can barely stand it. (Funny how this usually coincides with the listed response time) and then wait at least another two months before I status query. Yes, I said two months. Maybe even three. Why? To give the person the time to read my manuscript without the added knowledge that I have been bugging them to do so.

Actually, I have gotten pretty good at forgetting (I like to think it’s a skill, not old age creeping up on me) and have found that status querying doesn’t usually matter. I do hear back on submissions eventually. I know there is that rare occasion when something has been lost or forgotten. So, if it makes you feel better and you have waited for what feels like an excruciatingly long amount of time past the stated response time, send a short status query. But be aware that you might not hear back on that either. Policies change. All in all, no response = no. And boy, can those places with a no response policy make the wait easier, because getting a response is a great surprise!

In case you’re wondering, when you have an agent the response times do get shorter, usually. And the responses are often times specific and helpful. But there is still waiting!

Well, my picture still won’t load so I’m going to go do something else for a while. Guess I’ll have to make you wait to see it.

Do you have a personal policy on waiting to hear back on submissions? I'd love to hear what it is.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency

For this month's addition to The Monster List of Picture Book agents I've chosen to feature Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency. As with many agents, there isn't a ton of information on what she's looking for with regards to picture books, but according to Susan's submission guidelines she represents "authors who write for children of all ages, babies to teenage". That combined with the fact that she's part of a great agency sounds to me like a great opportunity for any children's book writer!

Susan introduced herself on Jenny Bent's blog: Bent On Books and she has recently stated her own blog, Susan Says.

You can find out a bit about Susan's background on her Linkedin profile.

There is a great interview with Susan on Mother. Write. Repeat.

Susan talks about marketing at Market My Words. She states that, "it's important for authors to have some sort of online presence." (If you don't have any online presence and are getting ready to query, this is certainly something you want to consider getting together in my opinion!)

At Writing and Illustrating, Kathleen Temean posted some tips from a First Pages session that Susan participated in.

You can find Susan Hawk on Twitter @susanhawk.

Update 2/21/2012: To find out more about Susan and what she looks for, especially in regards to picture books, read the interview she did with me.
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, November 25, 2011


This past month has been a crazy adventure. My family moved from one mountain to another. Of course, all the moving took place during one snow-stormy week. Funny how things happen like that. We moved into an inn to care take it. It's a beautiful place but the previous occupant had left it quite a mess. My husband and I have been cleaning it for the past two weeks! It's now back to being clean and beautiful so, of course, we had the family over for Thanksgiving and tonight we've invited some friends over for a music party. (There are lots of musicians around these parts it seems.)

I've been trying to do a bit of writing, but the inn really had to take priority for a while. Starting tomorrow I'm hoping to get back to my normal writing life. I've even quit my accounting job and am going to get back to doing things I love to do--especially writing. It doesn't hurt that I've even have had some good writing things happen amongst all my daily chaos. Makes me know that writing is what I need to focus on.

Anyhow, just wanted to check in and let you all know that this month's Monster List of Picture Book Agents post will be a little late. Hopefully I'll have it up tomorrow. I have the post partially done, but the party starts in about a half an hour and I should at least brush my hair. Don't want to become known as the crazy writer around here. At least not too quickly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Write Like I Pack

As many of you know, I live on a mountain. It's pretty secluded, especially in winter. We have to maintain about two miles of road. It's not your average straight, flat road either. There's a couple super steep parts, a little dam, and lots of twists and turns. But really, that's not so bad. It's the wind--it makes it really hard to keep the road open so we usually end up snowmobiling, or skiing, or just plain walking, which can be really fun and sometimes not so fun when it's freezing cold and the snow is tearing into your face like little shards of glass and you have kids and groceries to bring safely home from your car you've parked miles away. It also makes you write run on sentences. So, this year my husband and I decided that it would make life easier (and maybe my writing would improve) if we moved for the winter to somewhere that the roads are plowed by someone other than ourselves. Brilliant, aren't we?

I've been packing for the past couple of days. I'm not very good at it. I wander from room to room and look at stuff. I stand around and think things like, do I need to bring this jar of loose change? It is money. Everyone needs money. Every once in a while I put something in a box, and after a ridiculous amount of rounds I am happy and even relieved to find that a box is finally packed and ready to be added to the huge stack of boxes my family has packed. (Amazingly quickly, by the way.)

I realized that this is how I write picture books too. I wander from story to story. Stare at them a lot. Read them over and over. Add some words. Wonder if I need them. Let them sit on the page for a while. Come back and look at them again. Take some words back out. Put in more new ones. I do this over and over until eventually I'm happy and even relieved to find that I have an actual story. Sure, there may still be stuff I don't need or stuff I should add. But it has really shaped up and is ready to move somewhere new--like my critique partners inbox.

Now, for my family's sake we should all hope that I am faster with the packing than the writing. Unfortunately I'm starting to wonder. I'm hoping I'll at least have some stories figured out by the time winter is over. If I don't they'll wait patiently for me to come back to them. So will my jar of change.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Haven't Had an Idea for Picture Book Idea Month Yet? It's Okay!

As all of you fellow PiBoIdMo'ers know, yesterday was the day to come up with your first picture book idea. (Don't know what PiBoIdMo is? Click here to learn about Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month.) My entire day zipped by. It was a busy one (as I'm sure days are for most of us.) I got the kids ready for school, went to work, ran errands, did the laundry, cleaned up around the house, did some work on the new business I'm launching, made the bed, then finally--laid down! Phew. Still, I couldn't rest. I hadn't come up with a single picture book idea all day! Worse yet, I'd barely even had time to think about anything having to do with picture books or writing.

I told myself it was okay, a person can only do so much in a day. I gave up on the idea of having an idea and started reading a nonfiction book, which is what I tend to do when I'm not writing. But I couldn't concentrate. I'm a writer and I felt like I had to write! So I flipped through my notebook and read over a bunch of my old ideas and partially written stories. Man, there are SO MANY stories I need to finish! (These things take time!) I fooled around with a couple. Then I started composing this little blog post here in my head about how it's okay to not have an idea, when out of nowhere I came up with a new idea! I was definitely not even trying. And maybe that's where it's at. It's hard to pressure creativity.

All this is said because I want to send out a little support to those of you who see people posting that they are doing great or have 26 ideas or whatever fabulous picture book idea happening and perhaps feel a little bad. It's great, don't get me wrong. But it's also okay to not have had an idea yet. Sometimes we are just tired, or trying too hard, or just plain and simple haven't had an idea! Some days are like that. Some weeks are even like that.

Tara does have lots of great guest posts coming up to get our creative juices flowing which will definitely help! I really like Karma Wilson's reminder to ask the magic question, What if? It's the same I've heard from other writers including Gordon Korman when I saw him speak to a group of students recently. These are authors with many, many books to their credit. What if? does seem to be a magic question for writers. I'm certainly going to give it a try.

Hang in there my writing friends. The ideas will come, one way or another!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Do I Really Need More Ideas?

Picture book ideas. I have a lot of them. In notebooks, on napkins, on teeny weeny scraps of paper. Do I really need more of them?!

For the first time ever since I had my kids, I've been working a regular old nine to five job. It's been four months and I have to say, I now have mad respect for writers who have families and full time jobs. I mean, knowing it must be hard and actually doing it and feeling how hard it is are two different things. I've had book ideas, sure, but I have been terrible about writing them down! And I certainly haven't had as many ideas as usual with my focus being pulled in an entirely different direction. Numbers! I work in an accounting department. My chat status since I started? wORkiNg WiTh nuMbERs. PleASe SeND hElp!

I'm looking to this year's Picture Book Idea Month to give me a kick in the butt and get me back in the right direction--carrying that notebook and writing things down, and allowing myself to revel in work that is wholly important to me despite having to focus on other things as well. You never know what little nugget of an idea may turn into a great picture book. So, do I really need more ideas? Yes. Yes I do.

Don't know what Picture Book Idea Month is? Wanna join in? Check out Tara Lazar's blog.

Oh, and you see that super cuter banner for Picture Book Idea Month up there? That was created by Bonnie Adamson, illustrator of Bedtime Monster. How cool is that!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Paul Rodeen of Rodeen Literary Management

Take a look at the Rodeen Literary Management website and you might start drooling. What a great bio! What a fabulous list of clients!(Although from my research I suspect it may not have been updated lately. He just may be too busy selling books! I don't subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace but from my search results it looks like he's still making sales.)

Like many agents that will take on picture book authors, information on Paul Rodeen is a little tough to find. But there definitely seems to be enough to help decide whether or not he may be the right agent for what you write.

Mr. Rodeen has a shelf of books by his clients on Shelfari.

There are five things Paul Rodeen looks for when reading submissions in a short post at the Chinook Update.

You can find a couple of interesting tidbits from Dori Butler's conference notes on her livejournal page. Yes, it's an old post but the way he judges a picture book is pretty tried and true.

In an agent profile on page 4 of The Acorn, Mr. Rodeen states that rhyming verse is nearly impossible for him to sell. So if you're a rhymer, he's probably not your guy.

You can find submission guidelines on the Rodeen Literary Management contact page.

Paul Rodeen represents: Stephen Shaskan and Aaron Reynolds.

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!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Only One Published Book? Aaack!

What do you do when you are asked to do a library visit but only have one published picture book that takes mere minutes to read? First, you panic. Ha ha. Kidding.


After you stop kicking yourself for immediately saying yes and wondering what you were thinking, a good idea would be to go and talk to a librarian. Maybe even a librarian at the library you are going to visit. Why? Librarians know their audience when it comes to storytimes and they just might have some ideas for you.

I went and talked to one of North Central Regional Library's great librarians and regional supervisor, Sharon. She was so enthusiastic about me visiting that she didn't even see me having only one published books as a problem. Her brilliant solution? "Read some picture books from childhood that inspired you." Viola! Easy solution! Now why didn't I think of that?

I took Sharon's idea and ran with it. To go along with my reading of Bedtime Monster I chose two of my favorite monster books from childhood, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and There's a Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer. Those two books along with a little talk about being an author then a craft, and my program lasted over an hour. Happy kids, parents, and librarians. I definitely call that a success.

Now, I could have been a sport and read two more recently released picture books. Maybe even books written by friends. I actually had a couple in mind and suggested it. The thinking here? It was my time to shine as the author of a new book. Reading classics helped me have a little something special juxtaposed to these great books.

Well, it seemed to work out. Nobody asked my why I didn't write those other books instead of mine. Not even close. They applauded me. People told me they loved my book. Huh. A girl could actually get used to this.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Trying to pull up information on agents that represent picture books has me thinking, it can be difficult to find enough information on an agent to tell whether or not they may be a good match for you and your writing. But, you have to do the best you can with what you find and take a chance. That's my submission philosophy anyway.

This month's addition to the Monster List of Picture Book Agents is Jennifer Mattson, one of the agents at the great Andrea Brown Literary Agency. There is not a ton of information on her but I did find tidbits about Jennifer's preferences in a few posts online.

You can find Jennifer Mattson's agent profile on the Andrea Brown Agents page. You can also see some representative deals.

There is a must read interview with Jennifer on Guide to Literary Agents: Agent Advice.

Janet Tuttle blogged about a workshop she went to that Jennifer gave. She talks a bit about picture books.

Jennifer did an auction critique. Her bio talks a little about what she loves in picture books.

You can find out how to submit to Jennifer Mattson on the Andrea Brown Literary Agency submission page. Note that the Andrea Brown Agency wants to see a full picture book manuscript and that no response in 6-8 weeks means that they are not interested. Jennifer is but one of the agents at Andrea Brown that represents picture books so take a good look at all of the agent bios on the agency website and choose wisely.

Jennifer Mattson represents Kim Norman and Linda Ashman.

12/14/2015 Update:

Jennifer is now on Twitter @jannmatt

There is also some good information on Jennifer in this post by Julie Hedlund.

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!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fun With Rejections!

Rejections—trees really shouldn’t be wasted on such horrible news. That bad writing juju needs to be recycled into something good. Yes, there’s the wallpaper option, but that’s so depressing. Why not use them for fun?

How can a rejection letter be fun?
  1. Use them as a dartboard. “Sorry it’s not right for us,” is worth zip.
  2. Put all your rejection letters in a binder so you can show your family and friends that yes, you actually do work. Watch the looks of dismay and confusion on their faces as you show off your personal rejections.
  3. Make a happy-faced mask to hide those bad feelings rejection brings.
  4. Rip them up and jump in them. Who needs leaves!
  5. Cut out the words in your rejection letters and rearrange them into acceptances: Your manuscript is right for us. Sorry you are not accepting submission requests at this time. Best of luck with your publisher.
  6. Decoupage something for a successful friend that needs to be reminded of what it feels like to not get what she wants.
  7. Light a bonfire. Roast some marshmallows and make s’mores.  Your family will be begging you to get more rejections.
  8. Stuff a pillow —or a mattress —or a friend’s mouth (see #6).
  9. Make paper maché bookends to hold up others’ books that have been published. Every time you grab a book you’ll be reminded that successful authors have been rejected too.
  10. Seal those form rejects in envelopes and mail them to others at random. If everyone knew how bluntly writers are rejected they might sympathize with us a little more.
If you can’t bear to do any of these things, put those rejection letters in a suitcase and take them on vacation. They’ll feel much better in paradise.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Resources for Picture Book Writers

I wanted to give all of my picture book writing friends a heads up. Susan Uhlig has put together a great list of resources for picture book writers. From Getting Started to Layouts and Standards to Revising. She even gave the Monster List of Picture Book Agents a heads up. But shameless self promotion aside, this is a great list! I plan to dive right in and study up. I don't think I can ever learn enough about writing picture books!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Kathleen Rushall is a newer agent who is still building her list, always a good opportunity for a writer looking to find an agent. But first, of course, you must figure out if she would be a good match for you.

You can read Kathleen's agent bio at the Marsal Lyon Literary Website where it states she "is open to unique, quirky picture books."

She talks a little bit about what types of picture books she is looking for in an interview at YA Fusion.

If you take a look at Kathleen's AgentQuery listing (she sent in the info herself) it's good to note that, "She looks for strong voices & characterizations, and is interested in multi-cultural stories."

In an older interview at Love YA from when Kathleen was with Waterside Productions, she gives some interesting, and still relevant, answers to how and why she became an agent and what kinds of books she likes.

Query letter info is one of the good things you will find in an interview with Kathleen at Deana Barnhart's blog.

Kathleen is scheduled to speak at the Central California Writer's Conference in April 2012, and I found her bio to be informative.

At QueryTracker a few picture book writers have left some priceless nuggests of pb rejection info.

You can find Kathleen Rushall on Twitter @katrushall

Marsal Lyon Literary accepts electronic queries and hard copy submissions. Check out their submission guidelines.

I could not find any actual picture book authors that Kathleen represents, but I do know that she really likes Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan. How do I know? I read it on twitter. Join in if you haven't already!

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!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Running into Kidlit Peeps, Right Here On My Mountain

You may already know this, but I live on a secluded mountain in the state of Washington. Needless to say, I don't get the opportunity to hang around with many writers, let alone kidlit writers. And I certainly doubt I will ever run into any agents or editors around here...or will I?

Well, maybe not in person, but that's why there's Twitter. Maybe you're on it already so you know what I'm talking about. But if you're not, I suggest you give it a try. I've learned a lot about different agents and what they're looking for. I've gotten to ask editors questions. I've even been asked to submit something to a publisher! But best of all, I get to "hang out" with writers. Now that may sound silly, but it's true. I can just  turn on Twitter and there are writers right here at 3500 feet, chatting it up. I've made some good friends on Twitter too. That's not something I ever even considered when I reluctantly joined.

So, if you haven't tried Twitter, as you can see, there are lots of good reasons why you should. Don't know who to follow? Well, Twitter gives the capability to create lists, and as a professional list maker I just have to list everyone! Here are some of my lists that are good starting points for children's book writers and illustrators:

Kidlit writers:!/heatherayris/kidlit-writers
(These people have taught me that kidlit writers are AMAZING!)

Illustrators:!/heatherayris/illustrators(They all have rad avatars, because ILLUSTRATORS ARE COOL LIKE THAT.)

Kidlit agents:!/heatherayris/kidlit-agents
(Some agents are so sharing and helpful on Twitter it is ridiculous. OF COURSE I MEAN THAT IN A GOOD WAY. They do #askagent chats for crying out loud! Just because they want to!)

(I try to keep this to publishers who do children's books, but a few adult only publishers may have snuck in there.)

You can follow an entire list if you like. Or you can go through the list and follow individuals. I would recommend that because chances are high that they will follow you back and then you can have a conversation. And that's what it's all about.

If you need some help just ask me. You can find me @heatherayris

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This is Just a Test

My life seems to be experiencing a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

I have so many things going on right now, I just can't seem to keep up! Of course, family comes first. Then writing. Those two responsibilities are demanding all of my time and attention right now. Plus the baby goat keeps escaping and jumping on the car! And our bees keep swarming and we have to chase the swarms down and capture them! And, well, you get the picture. I just keep telling myself that having so many demands on my time is only a test. (Insert annoying Emergency Broadcast System noise here!)

So, I'm going to have to postpone my Monster List post for now. I do have some news to share with you all soon so...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake--and I Love Betty Bunny!

My friend Stella recommended a book she'd heard about at the SCBWI New Jersey conference. She said it was hilarious. So, of course, I had to check it out. I was not disappointed. BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE is laugh out loud funny!

Michael B. Kaplan wrote some amazing lines in this book. From beginning to end, I have laughed every time I've read BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE. And I've read it quite a few times. In the beginning Betty Bunny doesn't even know what chocolate cake is. The way she refuses the cake then falls in love with it is quite entertaining. When she announces her love of cake, her brothers and sisters have the greatest comebacks. Every scene in the book has some little joke in it that is bound to entertain.

One thing I definitely noticed about this story, besides it being so funny, is that each character in this book is well rounded and has their own personality. There's a lot going on in such a short amount of text. Stéphane Jorisch's illustrations are playful and add just the right touch of comedy. With the sweet story and fabulous use of humor, there's at least one agent who would love to find a picture book like it.

A question I tried to answer by reading the book to various children is, do they get the humor? Some of it seems more for the adults reading to the kids. We can see the way kids act and the caricature rings so true. I mean, I crack up when I read it, while my little one laughs at some of the jokes. Before reading the book my guy did not know what a handful was, even though he is one. But he knows now. Nothing wrong with learning a new word (and that you're a handful). For sure different jokes tickled different kids' funny bones. It's kind of like what you see in movies like CARS and THE INCREDIBLES. Jokes for the adults as well as the kids. I like that it's a picture book that will appeal to adult readers. Any way we can encourage adults to read to kids is a good thing!

BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE is written by Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch, and published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents -- Jennifer Unter, The Unter Agency

There isn't a lot of information on Jennifer Unter and The Unter Agency that I can find online. But from the few picture book writers that she does represent it seems that Jennifer Unter is an agent picture book writers should consider.

There's a great, recent interview with Jennifer Unter at Mother. Write. (Repeat.)

Her New Agent Alert on Guide to Literary Agents from January 2010 tells a little bit about Jennifer's background.

There's an informative interview with Jennifer from when she was VP of RLR Associates Literary Division at Absolute Write.

The Unter Agency website has a bit of information about the agency and a submission form.

Jennifer Unter represents Sue Fliess and Barbara Bottner.

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!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Things that take time...

Sometime last fall, my husband and I decided that we should start doing some farming, so we planted some garlic...

The garlic is growing well so far.

Then we got some alpacas. They are happy out in their pasture.

Next we decided we should keep some bees. We had to have them down in town for a while because it was so cold and snowy up here on the mountain for so long, but they're home now. It's nice to sit and listen to the buzz of the bees.

Then we got three lambs. They were so tiny they could ride in the back of the car.

We plowed up some field. The whole family got in on it. Don't worry, the tractor goes like two miles an hour.

We even managed to get a herd of goats--sorry, they wouldn't pose for me.

So now we've got wheat planted.

And oats.

The lambs are getting big....

So there is a lot going on around here while we wait for things to grow. (I didn't even get a photo of my garden!) But I'm patient--I'm a writer after all. Plus I have lots of new inspirations all around. I just need to wander outside and sit in the grass. I hope that you take the time to find some summer inspiration too. I'd love to hear about what you find!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MY DAD, MY HERO by Ethan Long

Dads can be heroes... but maybe not in the superhero type of way. In MY DAD, MY HERO, Ethan Long shows us the ways one boy's dad is like a superhero. Not!

So dad has his own way of leaping tall buildings, his super strength is lacking, and shooting webs out of his wrists is pretty impossible. Why is dad still super and why is he a hero? Well, he might be able to see through walls, but the real reasons are the ones all kids can identify with.

The illustrations in MY DAD, MY HERO are funny! And they're done in a style that makes them jump off the page which adds to the comic feel of the story. It's a fun read for Father's Day--or anytime. Reading this one definitely makes me want to check out Ethan Long's other books! And I love ZE FRONK!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pimpin' my Peep!

If you live in the Bay Area, tomorrow you must drop everything and get yourself to Walnut Creek to see the stupendously amazing Mike Jung! He's going to talk about how to not be a pinhead. He will also have some stuff about building an online presence before a book deal. Okay, that's mostly what it's about. Probably. But maybe not. I hear there is going to be heckling, and heckling by proxy, so who cares what it's about right? Anyway, Mike's debut novel, GEEKS, GIRLS & SECRET IDENTITIES, is under contract with Arthur A. Levine Books and he already has a multitude of adoring fans so no matter what genre you write in Mike will have some great advice to share.

Mike will stun the world with his awesomeness from 2-4pm at:
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
1924 Trinity Avenue
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

*If you do go, I am in dire need of a proxy confetti thrower!!!  Just bring a big bag of confetti and shower Mike with it at inappropriate times. Heckling with tiny pieces of paper! You could write tiny notes to Mike on it too--okay maybe that's pushing it. See Mike's blog for proxy and event details!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Lit

Casey McCormick has done a great Agent Spotlight on Stephen Fraser at Literary Rambles that encompasses most of the great stuff you can find about Stephen Fraser online, but I wanted to add Mr. Fraser to the Monster List since he represents picture books and sounds like a great agent to work with. I found a few recent and interesting posts that you also won't want to miss.

There's a current, in depth interview with Mr. Fraser at Humor Me. I would highly recommend reading it if you're interested in querying Mr. Fraser. He says he adores picture books!

Stephanie Theban shared some conference notes at Stories. Read 'em. Write'em.

There's also a good interview at Joyce Shor Johnson's blog.

You can find submission guidelines for Stephen Fraser at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

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, May 13, 2011

I Wrote a Book, Now What? (#2) --Market Research

I did post #1 in I Wrote a Book, Now What? about critiques and revising. But, if you're looking to get published there's a lot more to it than that. You've got to learn about the market, what it wants, and how to approach it.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books 3th (third) edition Text OnlyThere are some really good books on writing for children (and writing in general) and reading a stack or two of them will open your eyes to a lot of things. If you aren't sure where to get started I recommend The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold Underdown. He's really knowledgeable about the children's publishing industry and his book covers all the basics. Harold's website is a great place to learn too.

And I would definitely recommend you join Verla Kay's Blue Board. It's a great place to learn, keep up to date, and "hang out" with writers.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators offers lots of opportunities for learning about writing and the market. They have conferences and a monthly magazine plus lots on online info on how to go about all sorts of things that children's writers need to know. You can find them at

Get educated on what the market is publishing by reading tons of newer books in the genre you are writing. Learn how to approach the market (Harold Underdown's book covers this nicely.) Learn the standard way to format a manuscript (Cynthea Liu's site will show you how.) Little steps like these will help you make a good presentation when you're ready to submit a manuscript.

Okay, so maybe all of this talk of research sounds dry. Lucky for us children's book writers, research is fun! For my research today I read a bunch of TumbleBooks at my library's website. I could do that type of research all day!

Monday, May 9, 2011

My First Critique Week Giveaway!

I've been wanting to do this for a while so I'm just going to go for it--Critique Week. I'm going to give away a picture book critique! Come all my fellow picture book writers and enter!

(As a side note, I've been thinking of how I can have a giveaway that includes all of my writer friends and all of the many genres they write in. So, the next giveaway will be for a query critique. When? When I have time, of course! I'll let you know around the net.)

As for this week's contest, here are a few guidelines:

  • Up to 1000 words (but 700 or less is preferable, just like for most publishers)
  • No rhyming (it's not my cup of tea a.k.a. I'm not good at it)
  • Fiction or nonfiction is okay
  • The winner should email me the manuscript within 3 days
  • I will finish the critique as soon as I possibly can, but I cannot foresee my future from day to day so be a little patient with me

Just put a comment on this post to enter. Entries are open up through May 16th. I'll announce the winner in the comment section of this post on Tuesday, May 17. Extras are fun, so one extra entry for each. (Please let me know in your comment):
  • follow my blog
  • tweet
  • facebook
  • blog
  • share it some other way--maybe there are social networking sites I don't even know about...maybe. :)
*disclaimer--I am not a picture book editor or agent, but I have done a lot of critiques! I will point out the things in your manuscript I see that can be improved and will give you an honest critique. I can promise nothing more than that.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bee Books!

Since my family is keeping bees the kids and I have, of course, been reading picture books about bees. You can learn a lot about bees from picture books! Here are a few of our favorites:

THE BEEMAN is about a boy and his grandfather who keeps bees. It's a really great introduction to beekeeping as it goes through the entire process from the smoker used to calm the bees to the different types of bees in the hive to the honey on the table. There's also a great nonfiction section at the end.

BUSY BUZZY BEE is interesting because it shows closeup photos of the inside of a hive and how the grubs grow into bees. My kids liked being able to see all the details so closely.

ARE YOU A BEE? does a nice job of showing how bees grow and live in the hive as well as how they collect pollen and what they do with it. The illustrations are really nice and it's a good read aloud.

As with all MAGIC SCHOOL BUS books, there is tons of fun stuff to read in INSIDE A BEEHIVE!

Check out one or all of these books and you're sure to know a little more about the world of bees, even if you're a grownup.

Monday, May 2, 2011


This winter my family decided that we wanted to keep bees. The world needs bees and they are disappearing at alarming rates due to pesticides and such. It's really quite scary to think about a world without bees. I don't even want to think about it, really. But I read about it because we started the project like we start most projects--by checking out lots of books and reading up!

We studied and ordered supplies and built hives from some blueprints that we found. The kids painted the hives and helped put together the honey frames. They were especially excited. Then we waited for the spring shipment of bees to arrive from California. It was a long wait, especially for the excited people in the family.

Another beekeeper in our area picked up the bees and drove them five hours to meet us. We met at the park and exchanged packages. The thing is, they'd already stopped and set their bees up, and a few had "gotten away" and were clinging onto the outside of the boxes. We had to drive eight long miles with them inside our car. We were a little worried, but needn't have been. The bees were totally mellow. They just wanted to stick together, and I have to admit, I felt kind of sad for the few that got left behind at the park. They no longer had a hive. My poor little pets!

The bees came in this box. There are about 3,000 of them in there I'm told. I'm not going to count though.

We set up the hives at an orchard in the valley since it's still so cold and flowerless up on our mountain. I find it amazing that the hives can be so close together yet the bees will only go to their own hive. Should be fun bringing the hives home in a month or so when it warms up. They're already reproducing. That means over 6,000 bees in the car. Eep!

It was a little bit scary when the cage was opened up. That's a whole lot of bees!

The queen is kept separate in a little teeny cage. She has to be removed first. Check out the man, no gloves or anything. Before the queen's cage can be placed in the hive a little cork has to be taken out and be replaced with a marshmallow so the bees can eat it and release the queen. With the first queen the cork was really tight and accidentally went inside the cage. It could have crushed the queen, but she escaped--onto my husbands hand!  Amazingly, he removed the cork from the cage, got the queen back into the dinky hole (without being stung) and stuffed the marshmallow in. I still can scarcely believe that fantastic feat!

The rest did not want to come out of the cage, silly bees! They actually had to be shaken and they plopped out in big clumps. We didn't even use smoke to calm them. I think they were tired out from their trip!

While the bees settled down into their hives my husband actually scooped some clumps of stragglers off the ground with his bare hand and put them on their hive. Why? He didn't want them to get left behind. And he's brave--very, very brave. After about fifteen minutes the bees had burrowed down into the frames so we put the lids on, filled their feeders with sugar water, and talked about how the workers look so different from the drones and how amazing it was that no one got stung and how long it would take before they would make honey; cool beekeeping stuff like that.

If you didn't notice, I'm not in any of the pictures. Like I said, I'm the helper and, well, there just wasn't much to help with. I guess pictures are helpful and hey, I was working! I mean, there's got to be a picture book story in here somewhere.

This was our favorite book that we found on beekeeping.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Kendra Marcus, Bookstop Literary

5/22/16: Closed to submissions until 9/1/2016. Please check the agency's submission guidelines for updates.

Kendra Marcus is an agent who knows picture books! She's the founder of Bookstop Literary and she represents some amazing authors. There is lots of information about Ms. Marcus online so you can decide whether or not she might be the agent for you.

There is a great interview with Kendra Marcus at Cynsations where Kendra tells the story of how she decided to be an agent and open her own agency. She also talks about what she looks for in a picture book. In an interview at SCBWI Bologna  Ms. Marcus talks about what qualities she thinks it takes to make a successful picture book.

Corey Rosen Schwartz, whose books The Three Ninja Pigs and Goldi Rocks are forthcoming from Putnam, is represented by Kenrda Marcus. You can read her How I Got My Agent post at Julie Hedlund's blog, Write Up My Life. You can also read the story of how Kristyn Crow came to be represented by Kendra Marcus at the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

D.L. King put together some interesting notes from a lecture Kendra Marcus gave at SCBWI Spokane. There's also a few good points from Kendra on Paul Greci's blog.

I really enjoyed this podcast at Just One More Book!! It was fun to hear straight from Kendra Marcus herself.

BookStop Literary has a Facebook page as well as a page at Publishers Marketplace.

Kendra Marcus accepts both mail and email submissions. You can learn more by reading Bookstop Literary's submission guidelines. Also be sure to check out the information page which gives a few tips on what Ms. Marcus is looking for.

Kendra Marcus represents:
Pam Muñoz Ryan

Megan McDonald

& Rebecca O'Connell 

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!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Signing!

I did a book signing over the weekend. It's actually the first straight book signing I've done for Bedtime Monster. My two other events have been library presentations, so people come expecting a book. This signing was at a Spring Bazaar that promotes women in business. I suspect that no one's ever seen an author signing books at one of those in my little town. But, it was actually pretty fun.

The day started out with me winning the prize for being the last participant to register. My being last is really no surprise, but I've never gotten a prize for being a procrastinator. Now that's more like it. Awesome!

Someone from the city got my book for her kids and told me that she'd actually heard about my book! From where she couldn't remember, but I was just excited to know that someone who didn't know me had heard about Bedtime Monster and remembered it! (I know, little things can get me overly excited.)

There was a lady who was so happy to meet me. She is certain that I am going to be famous. She hugged me AND GAVE ME A PIE! Blueberry!!!

My favorite part...a little boy of around two years old was walking by my table, hand in hand with his grandma. She was looking straight ahead, headed somewhere else, but when he saw Bedtime Monster, he ran his hand across it, and let out a squeal of delight. Grandma stopped and bought him the book (grandmas are awesome like that) and I got to meet the sweetest little boy who is going to be reading Bedtime Monster over and over from the looks of things.

So, all in all, I sold some books, made some friends, and had a good time. Not too bad for a Saturday morning!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Favorite Picture Books

I'm so excited! I'm featured on Sergio Ruzzier's blog today! I love Sergio's books. I can so relate with AMANDINA and I love, love, love THE ROOM OF WONDERS.

Sergio asked me if I would share my list of favorite picture books with him. Of course, I said yes! It was hard to narrow it down, but I got the list down to ten I really love. If you want to check out my list you can see it on Sergio's blog.

I'd love to check out some of your favorite picture books if you want to share them with me in the comments. I'm always up for new favorites!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Manuscript and Query/Cover Letter Critque up for Bid

The Children's Authors and Illustrators for Japan auction was organized by children's book author, Greg R. Fishbone, to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. There are lots of great items up for bid from signed books to school visits to artwork.

Today my picture book manuscript and query/cover letter critique is up for bid. I should have added to my description that rhyming really isn't my thing although, like many before me, I have tried my hand at it a few times. I have done a ton of critiquing (and writing!) of both picture books and query and cover letters, have gotten a lot of good feedback on many a manuscript and *gasp* even sold a picture book! If you're interested you can check out my auction item at #kidlit4japan. The auction ends April 7, 2011 at 10 a.m. EDT.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Need a New Story Idea? Play with Puppets!

I wasn't planning on writing the other day when I was spending time with my little guy. We were busy playing. We got out the puppets. Then he sat back and said, "okay Mom, go."

"But I don't know any stories right now," I said. It was early and I am not a morning person. (Read, I have absolutely no meaningful thoughts until at least 10 a.m.) But, when your little person is waiting for you to tell them a story and you have all these cute little characters like red monkeys, fairies with rainbow hair, blue and lime dragons, and a crazy orange guy with fuzzy hair to choose tend to get ideas.

So I put on a little puppet show. "Do another one!" he said. (I guess I did okay, but I had a pretty lenient audience.) I did another. And another. And another. You know what? I was starting to get ideas. Lots of ideas. Some even worthy of fleshing out in a manuscript.

I got out a notepad and jotted some notes. I put on lots and lots of puppet plays. I had fun, my little guy was happy, and I guess I was working too. Can't beat that!

If you're looking for a way to come up with some new ideas try playing with some puppets. You never know what you'll come up with! It helps to have a little person around to put on a show for, but kids love puppet shows so I suspect that you'll be able to find someone to appreciate your puppetry if you look around.

Warning: Playing with puppets can cause the user to act extremely silly! Use without caution.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Liza Pulitzer-Voges, Eden Street

Liza Pulitzer-Voges represents a lot of amazing authors. She worked at Kirchoff Wohlberg for 25 years before starting her own agency, Eden Street.

It was hard to find much current information on Ms. Voges, but there is one recent  interview at Mother.Write. (Repeat.) which is a must read.

She has a page at AgentQuery with a little submission information.

You can see some response statistics on Querytracker. It looks like Eden Street does not always respond to submissions, but don't let that stop you. Ms. Voges' agency is top notch.

The Eden Street website is great. It lists authors, news, and submission guidelines. Note that along with the submission guidelines that although there is an email address listed, Ms. Voges requests submissions via postal mail.

Liza Pulitzer-Voges represents some well published clients such as:

Alyssa Satin Capucilli

There is a full list on clients on the Eden Street website.

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!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing on TV

Yes, I watched it--Celebrity Apprentice. The episode where the celebrities have to write a picture book and one team wins and gets their book published. As I watched I could hear my writer friend's eyes rolling, even from way up here on my mountain. Yup, writers know that writing a good picture book isn't as easy as it looks by any means.

But if you think about it, with all the reality shows that are on TV it is rare to see any that involve writing because watching someone write is, well, boring. So there's the conundrum. Do we want to see writing on TV? I'm not sure. But if they are going to show people writing on TV the picture book is the logical choice because it is short and visual. I know, I know. Now everyone is going to think writing a picture book is easy. They are going to think every one can do it. Slush piles are going to grow even bigger. The last remaining houses open to submissions are going to close and go agented only.

I actually did wonder if the closing of submissions by Marshall Cavendish the week or so prior to the airing of Celebrity Apprentice had anything to do with the foreseen numbers of submissions they might get from being on national TV and judging and therefore approving(to the untrained eye) picture books that were literally written overnight.

So was it a good thing or a bad thing? I did like seeing a children's book editor and an illustrator on TV. I did like seeing picture books being featured and talked about. I guess it's just like everything else. You gotta take the good with the bad. Now wouldn't it be fun to see some real picture book authors compete to win a publication deal. What? No? Nobody would care because we're not famous? Oh. Okay. We'll just keep writing books for kids anyway, because that's what we do. And we're not afraid to work hard to get it right.

Friday, March 11, 2011


So, I just read a post by the awesome Mike Jung at the Emu's Debut blog. I was awed by his deep thoughts on success, his caring for writers, and amazed that the same quote by Marianne Williamson I go back to from time to time resonated with him too:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I also laughed about his thoughts on our interview. He had high hopes and aspirations. I would expect nothing less from him! So yeah, after reading all these deep and touching thoughts I remembered a story...about emu.

You see, when my husband and I moved to Washington state we took care of a farm on a one lane “highway” which was more of a long winding two-lane forested road through a bunch of farmhouses. There wasn't a lot of traffic besides the occasional car and logging trucks, all of which drove too fast in my opinion. It was winter, the road was covered in ice and snow, shouldn't people slow down a little?

Anyhow, we were out feeding the goats and chickens. We looked up to the road, and there in the middle of winter, running down the icy road was an EMU! Incase you don't know, emus--the animal type, not the debut author type--do not naturally belong in Washington state. It ran back and forth past the barn for quite a while slipping on the ice and freaking out. No one came looking for it, so we decided we'd better catch the poor thing.

'Our' Emu.

The thing is, emus are not that easy to catch. My husband, being the wild man he is, got his lasso and ran after the giant bird. He tried to lasso it while I kept it from running off into the forest. Once he got that lasso over the bird's head it was a wild and crazy ride. Of course, it tried to run. He sort of tackled it, but the bird was tough. And it fought back. Emus have really powerful legs and sharp claws. Very sharp. It kicked. It sliced! Right through my husband's sweatshirt like it was nothing. It tried to gut him! Luckily he was wearing lots of layers since it was so cold out. And, being the feisty animal lovers that we are, we wrangled that ungracious emu down to the farm and built it a nice little place to stay. It took all winter to find the person he belonged too, but they were really happy to have him back. And we were sorta glad to have him gone. Emus--at least the animal type--are not at all cuddly.

So, that's my emu story. Not nearly as touching as Mike's, but emu-y in it's own way.

Oh my gosh! I love this book cover!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bedtime Monster is an App!

I found out today that Bedtime Monster is available as an iphone app! How cool is that? I don't have an iphone or an ipad but I'm going to have to find a way to check it out. What are the chances I'm going to find a mountain person with an iphone? If you want to check it out, you can find it here. I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Agent Profile - Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Andrea Brown Literary Agency is one of the best agencies representing children's books, so if you're on the agent hunt I'm sure you've heard of them and Jennifer Laughran. She's all over the internet so there's lots of information to help you decide whether or not she might be the right agent for you.

Jennifer has an outstanding blog with lots of great advice and where she sometimes answers questions from writers; Jennifer Represents.

You can find her on Twitter where she hangs out a lot, so if you're not on Twitter consider giving it a try! She also has a Facebook page where she talks about clients and writing and such.

This is a really helpful link for picture book writers: Jennifer did a guest post of her list of favorite picture books on Sergio Ruzzier's blog.

There's an interview with her about how to get your children's book published at The Book Doctors.

I found an interesting quote from Jennifer on an Absolute Write Forum page. You have to scroll about half way down to see it and I can't link directly to it so I'll post it here, "...But yeah, it is hard to sell picture books. Not "nearly impossible", just hard. It is probably even harder to get an AGENT if you are a debut author with only picture books. It would probably be a good idea to "diversify your portfolio." <--Yup,  bad news, but we picture book writers know it's tough already, don't we!

Andrea Brown Literary Agency has a great website with a How to Submit page. Be sure to read the tips and submission advice pages too. You can find Jennifer Laughran on their Agent bio page. Scroll down to find her.

Jennifer Laughran represents:
Kate Messner
and Daniel Pinkwater

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What a Surprise!

I woke up to find a nice review of Bedtime Monster in my inbox! It was a nice warm fuzzy feeling on such a cold, snowy Winter's day. (We got around two feet of snow overnight.) The review is by a librarian too, so it feels extra special. I love librarians!
You can check out the review if you like at Waking Brain Cells.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brownie the Groundhog and the February Fox

Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox is not a story about Groundhog Day, although the date it briefly mentioned. Really, it's a story about waiting.  Brownie Groundhog is waiting for Spring. February Fox is waiting for a meal. He wants to eat Brownie Groundhog, but she's too tricky for him. Every time he's ready to eat her, Brownie tells him it's not time and gives him a job to do. Brownie is such a trickster and the fox so gullible, kids will get a kick out of it. And we all can relate to having to wait for something we want. The illustrations make this book feel like a nice Winter's day where a groundhog could definitely become friends with a hungry fox. It's a fun book to read while you're waiting for Spring!

Brownie the Groundhog and the February Fox is written by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Carmen Segovia, and published by Sterling Publishing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - John Schuster, The Literary Group International

The Literary Group International is a big agency that represents some children's authors, although I don't hear a lot of talk about them in the online kidlit world. You can read their submission guidelines on their website. What it doesn't tell you there is that John Schuster is their Acquisitions Editor.You can find his information at Querytracker. Yes, this agency is big and mysterious. You don't find a whole lot of kidlit information on a search so you have to dig deep! I can tell you from experience that John Schuster knows his stuff. John is also an author.

The Literary Group International represents Laura Vaccaro Seeger. (I love Dog and Bear!)

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!