Friday, December 28, 2012

Monster List of Picture Book Agents--Evan Gregory, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency

Evan Gregory is an Associate Agent at Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency who is actively looking for clients. You can read his short bio on the agency website:

Writer's Digest has an interview with Evan Gregory on their website.

You can see some response time statistics for Evan on Querytracker.

Evan has a little used but interesting blog: as well as a little used Facebook page. You can also read about Evan's work experience on Linkedin.

The place where you can learn the most from Evan Gregory is on twitter. He's funny and he talks a lot about queries:

Before you submit to Ethan, be sure to go over the agency's very thorough submission guidelines. There are instructions on how to submit by both snail and email. The instructions do say, "if applicable" to include sample illustrations. They say they are open to all genres and no where does it say only author-illustrators so I take it that providing sample illos doesn't apply to non-illustrators. Also if you have read through the links you will see that Evan says he does consider picture books.

The Ethan Ellenberg Agency represents Candace Fleming and Marthe Jocelyn.

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, December 24, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure

If you have arrived in the middle of the adventure, you may start at the beginning by going HERE.

Erik chooses the righthand path (after meeting the woodcutter)

Benton trotted willingly along the snowy forest path and Erik kept his eye on the two sets of hoof prints.  They continued side by side, uninterrupted except where they were crossed now and then by deer or rabbit tracks.

The path narrowed as it dropped down between two walls of granite, the cliffs rearing up high on either side, then widened as it leveled out into evergreen woods again.  As they crested the rise, Erik spied a small log cabin with smoke curling from the chimney.  Behind the cabin was an even smaller barn.  The attached pasture held two sturdy brown farm horses.  They raised their heads and nickered a greeting to Benton who nickered back.

Erik sighed with disappointment.  If he needed any more evidence that the hoof prints did not belong to the black horse, the tracks churned up the ground at the cabin gate and did not continue.  They clearly belonged to the two brown horses.  Oh, well.

He was about to turn back the way he had come when he noticed that just beyond the cabin the evergreens clustered together so thickly that little snow had managed to penetrate.  The path was a soft carpet of pine needles that wouldn't hold a hoof print for long.  Although it was unlikely, it was possible that one set of tracks leading up to the cabin belonged to one of the brown horses and the other set of tracks belonged to the mysterious black horse, who had continued on to the pine-needle path alone.

He had come far enough that he thought it was worth investigating, so he urged Benton forward into the deep woods.

It was surprisingly dark.  Like the snow, light had trouble penetrating the dense boughs of spruce and fir.  Erik pulled Benton to a walk, not wanting him to stumble over something he couldn't see.

They came around a sharp right-hand bend and Benton planted his front feet - BAM! - and shied violently into the underbrush where he stood, head up, ears pricked, muscles trembling.

Erik managed to stay on, but only just.

"Benton!" he chided.  "What's wrong with you?"

He peered ahead into the dimness and saw what had spooked his pony: a tiny wizened man standing smack in the middle of the path.  His long hair and beard were snowy white, and fluffed out around him like a cloud.  His back was hunched and he leaned on a gnarled stick, but the brown eyes looking up at Erik were bright and quick.

"None shall pass!" said the old man in a high quavery voice which was nonetheless determined.  "Who goes there?" he demanded.

"'Tis I, Erik," said Erik.  "Who are you?"

The old man shook his head sadly.  "Do you really have to ask?"

"Uh.., yeah," said Erik.

The little man sighed.  "No one knows me anymore.  I used to be famous.  Knights the world over feared to cross my path.  And now... now! you don't even know who I am.  What is the world coming to?"

"I don't know," said Erik, "but you still haven't introduced yourself."

"Oh!  Right!"  The hunched figure bowed even lower and said to his own ankles, because that's where his face was pointing by now, "I am Berwyn.  Berwyn The Bamboozler!"  He straightened up and pinned Erik with his bright brown eyes, waiting for recognition.

"Nice to meet you Berwyn," said Erik.

"It is NOT nice to meet me!" said Berwyn petulantly.  "No one is supposed to want to meet me!  I'm a danger to be avoided at all costs!"

"Uh, okay," said Erik doubtfully.  Really.  The old man didn't look like much of a threat.  "If you'd be so kind, Your. uh, Bamboozlerness, I was wondering if I could ask you a question?"

This sent the little man into a frenzy of howling and stamping in circles and tugging at his wild beard.  "No! No!  No!  No!  NO!" he shouted.  "I ask the questions!!!"

Erik was thoroughly confused by now.  "Fine," he said.  "You ask the questions."

"That's better!" said Berwyn, calming down slightly.  "Now.  You stand over there."  He indicated a spot on Erik's side of a dark line drawn across the forest floor which Erik hadn't noticed before.  Obediently, Erik rode Benton over to the the spot and stood on it.  "That's right," said Berwyn.  "Now.  I stand over here."  He took his place on a mossy rock on his side of the line.  "And now, I ask the questions."

Berwyn straightened up as best he could, drawing himself almost up to his full height of 3 feet 6 inches and said in a dramatic voice, "He who wants to passeth me must answer true these questions three!"

"Oh," said Erik.  "You're one of those guys."

"Shush!  Impudence!  Question 1:  what is the king's mother's sister-in-law's middle name?"

"Betsy?" guessed Erik, who had no idea.  "Gladys?  Edwina?"

"Wrong!" said Berwyn triumphantly.  "You shall perish in the fiery pit!"

"What fiery pit?" said Erik.  "We're in the middle of an evergreen forest."

"DRAT!" shrieked the little man.  "Double drat!  How am I supposed to do my job when they don't supply the fiery pit?  Management will be hearing from me about this, I can assure you.  I mean, budget cuts are all well and good, but you've got to have the basics.  How is anyone going to take me seriously if there are no consequences for wrong answers?  I ask you?!"

The old man continued to dance around and yell, so Erik guided Benton carefully around him and continued down the path until Berwyn's ranting faded in the distance..  After a few minutes he said, "You know, Benton, this looks awfully familiar."

And sure enough, they were back at the woodcutter's clearing.

To return to the woodcutter and choose the left-hand turn instead, go HERE.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Week 26: The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I’ve been asked to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by the fabulous Cheri Williams! Cheri is the author of the book of essays, HOW TO CASTRATE YOUR MAN IN 7 SIMPLE STEPS & OTHER ODDLY GODLY EPIPHANIES, and if she thinks I might be the next big thing it makes me think it’s possible. I certainly think she’s the next big thing! Be sure to check out her out at

Ginger Kolbaba, editor of says of Cheri's book, "...don't let the title mislead you. It may be edgy, but the content is filled with timeless truth about relationships, faith, and how to grow more mature--even while using potty humor."

My picture book, BEDTIME MONSTER, a story about a little boy who turns into an actual monster, tail and all, was published a while back. But in honor of Cheri and her love of potty humor I thought I'd tell you a little about something new. So, I'm going to answer some questions about a project I’m working on now that may just be the next big thing, if you're into potty jokes, karate, and talking sloths. Hey, you never know.

What is the title of your book?

Well, I'm not sure that I should say. It's kind of weird. Plus I always feel so sketchy talking about works in progress. Ack! This is scary! I will tell you that the title has the word dumpling in it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was eating dinner with my family one night and misheard something, after which ensued much laughing and joking and possibly some soup spewing out of people's mouths. Potty humor, it always goes over well at the table.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a humorous chapter book. I like to think that reluctant readers might dig it.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

If this manuscript was made into a book... which was then made into a movie... it could be animated or they could do it ZOOKEEPER style. Along with the humans there are a few talking animals. Okay, quite a few. I think Will Ferrell would be a good sloth. Maybe Jack Black could be the evil anaconda. The heroic red panda has a really high pitched voice so maybe Rosie Perez? I hadn’t ever thought about this before. Funny how I can come up with the people who could do the animals voices but can’t think of who could play the actual people! I know, Jada Pinkett Smith could be the mom. She’s a totally cool mom. And we'd definitely need to find a fun, and limber, grandmother to play the MC's grandma from China. She is really good at karate.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

While under attack by ninjas at their Chinese Food Restaurant, Clayton’s grandmother forces him to drink the broth of a magic dumpling, throwing him into a sinister plot by an evil anaconda whose plan is to rule the world.

Who is your publisher?

I’m not quite finished with revisions so I haven’t sent it out yet, but I’m getting close!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well, it’s taken a really long time because I’m easily distracted by my plethora of picture book manuscripts and I just kept rewriting the first four chapters until I could figure out an ending that would work. I’m about at the end of the revision stage now. Hooray! I think I came up with the idea about two years ago.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I just finished reading FAKE MUSTACHE by Tom Angleberger. If I could get somewhere close to that humor I would be ecstatic. That book is awesome! But I'm writing for a bit younger set. My story's more in the age range of the Adam Sharp books by George E. Stanley. I like writing for that age range.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My little boys and their fabulous funny bones make me want to create fun books they love. My husband and daughter even got in on this in on this one though, and they are the ones I can usually count on to poo-poo the potty talk while the boys and I are cracking up!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There is potty humor, ninjas, talking animals, and Chinese food. What could go wrong?

So, there you have it. Now you know about a little something I'm working on!

We're skipping a week in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop for a holiday break, but the hop will continue! Here is the list of authors who will be joining the hop for week 27 on January 2nd. I hope you’ll visit their blogs and learn more about their books. Maybe one of them will become your new favorite author!

Tiffany Strelitz Haber, author of The Monster Who Lost His Mean

Morgan Shamy, who is repped by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary

and last but definitely not least, my fabulous friend Branli Caidryn, author of Phoenix Splinter.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If a Manuscript Falls in the Forest Does it Make a Sound?

If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?

I have been in the woods and actually seen a tree suddenly implode and crumble-crash to the ground for seemingly no reason. It was loud. Very loud.

But what about manuscript submissions? If a manuscript sits in a slush pile does it get read? At first it’s just a single tree in a lush forest of envelopes. Okay, it’s probably more like a pebble on a mountain.

Most likely it is there for what seems like forever, at least to the writer. Finally, suddenly, unexpectedly, it is torn from its envelope (or the email is opened, but that’s so much less dramatic.) BOOM! Look at me!

In that short moment the cover letter, the hook, the manuscript, needs to speak loudly. Very loudly. Or it will join the masses of fallen manuscripts.

I do believe that in most all cases, if you have followed submission guidelines, your submission (or query) does get read. Yes, there are many publishing houses and even many agents who don’t respond if they aren’t interested. That’s just how it goes these days. There is too much to do and not enough time to do it. Yes, it can be hard to not ever know for certain when you don’t get the closure of a response. Things can happen. Postal mail can get lost. Emails can vanish. But we can't control that. I like to think that if it is meant to happen it will happen.

It’s best if we just keep moving forward. Keep sending out submissions. Keep trying. Putting all one’s hopes into one submission isn’t a very good plan for publication. Sure, it probably happens one in a billion times or so. But publishing really does have that luck of the draw aspect to it. So don’t worry about those non-responders. Query on and make your own luck!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bran Muffins of Doom? An Interview with Author & Illustrator Marty Kelley

Marty Kelley is a recovering second grade teacher living in New Hampshire. What does one do when recovering from being a teacher? Write and illustrate for kids, of course!

Marty has illustrated a number of books for kids, two of which he has also written. He is represented by Red Fox Literary Agency. Marty is frolicking by to give us the low down on his writing and illustrating. I even asked him how his unique book tour and how he feels about illustration notes.

How long have you been writing and illustrating for kids?
My first book, Fall Is Not Easy was published in 1998, so it’s been a while. Before that I worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for several small newspapers and magazines.

What are some of your favorite things to illustrate?
People, people, people. I love painting them. When I’m not doing children’s books, I actually create commissioned fine art portraits of people.

Do the things you enjoy illustrating affect what you decide to write about?
I have a terrible time with landscapes and tend to try to have my illustrations happen indoors, but that obviously doesn’t always work out. I don’t consciously adjust my writing to what I think the illustrations will be. In fact, it has happened that I’ve had a story written and then realized that I have no idea how I’m going to do the illustrations.

As an illustrator, how do you feel about an author putting illustration notes in a manuscript?
Unless it’s something very important to the story, I prefer that the author sit back and let me do my job. I completely understand how nerve-wracking it must be to not have any control over the look of something that you worked so hard on, but when authors start micro-managing, all the fun of creation gets sucked out of it for me. I’m glad to say that it’s only happened once or twice.

You did a tour of seafood restaurants for CRUSTACEAN VACATION, (which is awesome!) how did that opportunity come about? Do you think alternative venues are a good avenue for authors and illustrators to use when promoting their books?
That was a weird one and while I enjoyed it, I have had my fill of chowder for a while. It actually started because a manager at one restaurant of a local seafood chain called and asked me if I’d like to come in on their kids’ night and sell books. They didn’t ask for a cut of the profits and they offered to feed me. How could I say no? It actually went better than some of the signings I’ve had at bookstores over the years. I went back and did it a few more times and it always went well enough to make it worthwhile.
I mentioned the event to Melissa Kim, the editor at Islandport who worked on Crustacean Vacation with me. She jumped on it and arranged a tour of the 13 restaurants that the author and I split. A few of them went very well and some of them were dreadful, just like any event, I suppose.
I think the alternative venues are a great idea for anyone - not just authors and illustrators. You have to be flexible and willing to try whatever you can if you want to succeed. If nothing else, some of the odder events make good stories to tell your friends later.

You’ve written and illustrated a number of picture books, and your chapter book, FAME, FORTUNE, AND THE BRAN MUFFINS OF DOOM, was recently published by Holiday House. How was it to create a chapter book after previously focusing your work on picture books?
I loved it. It was difficult and the book–because of a long and occasionally unpleasant series of events–took almost 5 years to be published. I worked with Sylvie Frank at Holiday House. She was enthusiastic and full of great ideas. There were parts that were definitely a steep learning curve for me. The illustrations, done in pencil, were a big challenge and I learned the hard way about the difference between full color reproduction quality and black&white reproduction quality.
The book took something of a beating by a few big reviewers, but the feedback from kids has been completely and overwhelmingly positive. They’re the audience, so I’m happy with that.

You are signed with Abigail Samoun of Red Fox Literary, how has your career changed since obtaining representation?
You mean besides the jet-pack and the hot tub and the multi-million dollar advances? Other than that, it’s just about the same.
Abi edited a book I did with Tricycle called Twelve Terrible Things and I enjoyed her slightly twisted sense of humor. She helped hammer out the initial version of the chapter book. In fact, she is the one who kept pushing me in that direction.

It’s nice to have someone to look things over before they go out to publishers. She’s way more in tune with what editors want than I will ever be, so she can help guide the work that I do.

What are you working on now?
I’ve actually got several projects going at the same time. It’s not my favorite way to work, but you do what you have to do. I’m finishing up my final edits on another chapter book that I’m hoping Abi can get me that six figure advance for. I’ve also been working on a few beginning reader books. With 50-75 words and a very concise vocabulary, it’s a fun challenge to try to come up with an engaging, well-crafted story. I also have a few new picture book ideas that I’m still forcing into submission in my sketchbook.

You can find more from Marty Kelley on his website, and at his blog He also has a website for his book, Fame, Fortune, and the Bran Muffins of Doom called Simon's Plans where you can download the first chapter of the book, play the Bran Muffins of Doom Game, watch the book trailer, and more! And don't miss Marty's Free Books for Life offer. It's quite a deal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Laugh and Let Manuscripts Rest

I had a manuscript open yesterday when my husband went to use the computer.

Him: "You're still working on this!?"

Me: (Laughing) Yes, I found a publisher I want to send it to. They'll actually be the first to see this story. And I just sent out "x manuscript" to four publishers. It's a record!

He smirked, shook his head, and went about his business.

Yes, this pretty typical. It's a sort of conversationy-ish thing we have every so often. I don't talk about my writing all that much. I don't want to drive my husband crazy! He is supportive and will listen but I don't want to overwhelm him. I mean, I could just talk about writing and all that goes with it 24/7. Nobody wants to hear that, but us writers of course. We're crazy like that. ;) I think it's probably hard being married to a writer while not being one. It's a funny business. Things can take such long time. There is so much involved.

This manuscript I am sending out for the first time is over six months but maybe less than a year old. I don't really keep track of that kind of stuff. I do know that the manuscript has been sitting on my computer for at least a couple of months waiting for my attention. I'm back to reading it now. With very fresh eyes. I'm laughing at the jokes like I've never heard them before. I'm surprised by little things. I am enjoying reading! And I'm keen to pick out any little things that need to be fixed before I send it off to this perfect publisher that I have found. There is no way I would have seen all the things I see now if I did not take the time to "forget" about this manuscript and let it rest. I know it's easy to want things to happen with our writing "right now", (Geez, I feel like I've said that before on this blog. Maybe a few too many times! ;) but unless you are some perfect, amazing writer, you will find things that can be improved when you let your manuscripts sit for a month or two, or *gasp* even three!

"X manuscript" that I am finally sending out is really old. I wrote it I don't know how many years ago. It got a lot of interest from agents way back when. It has seen its share of contradictory revision notes. That kind of makes it a tough one to know what to do with. I've finally just decided to start sending it out into the world of publishers and give my sweet little characters, who I am now really attached to because I have known them for so long, a chance. After so much rest time I can see clearly now what all those seemingly contradictory revision notes were asking. I can also imagine my characters waiting around in those slush piles dancing around and yelling, "Woohoo! She didn't forget us! We're out on submission! We might get into a real book someday!" Yes. I have written a story about my characters being out on submission. I know. It's weird.

So anyway, rest your manuscripts and laugh along at yourself with significant others who aren't writers. I mean, it is kind of funny to work on an 800 word story for years, isn't it? Maybe not as funny as imagining your characters in the slush pile. I haven't told my husband about that one yet. There is only so much a man can take.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Sally Apokedak, Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency

Sally Apokedak is a new children's book agent who has recently joined the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency as their Children's Book Specialist, although she will be representing all genres according to the News Flash post on the agency website. where it says that, "Sally Apokedak has worked as editor for Suite101, and as Children’s Book editor for Bella Online. She currently serves as YA book editor for DMOZ and as YA contributor for Novel Rocket. She has had short works published in a variety of venues, including Highlights for Children." (scroll down to read the post.) You can also learn more about her from reading her bio.

Sally has a great website,, and looks to be very internet savvy. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+

You can read some of Sally's picture book reviews on her personal blog, Reading, Writing, and Ruminating on Young Adult Books.

Be sure to read her post, What I'm Looking For.

You also can read Sally's thoughts, and how she works *right now* in this post. Be sure to have a look around her blog and read some posts like this one, Replying to Rejections.

Sally's submission guidelines can be found on her website, not on the agency site at this time.

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!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Believing in Yourself

Okay, this may be way too honest...

I've been pretty down on myself lately. For not doing enough...not being enough...not being successful in this old writing business. I haven't felt like blogging or tweeting or any of the hoohaw I usually love to do. I just feel blah. I know publishing is a super tough business. Yes. I. Know.

I've had a number of people tell me that you won't succeed unless you believe in yourself. Well, I must believe in my writing because I let people look at it. (Yes, this is a big step from the way I used to be when I did not believe in my writing!) It helps that I've had interest from major publishers and yeah, I've sold a book. I know that my writing doesn't suck. But right at this moment it feels like its not enough. I want something new. Something amazing to happen. Like selling another book. It's a vicious circle this writing thing!

I'm not all that impatient. I'm pretty skilled at this waiting game. Lately though, while I'm waiting I'm wondering...will anything ever be good enough? I feel like it is, but maybe that's just me being silly. (I do tend to get quite silly so this is a real possibility.) Anyhow, my belief? Meh.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that I've had the successes I have had. I've tried quitting writing before and believe me, that's never going to happen. I guess I just wonder sometimes if I should be trying harder. Or maybe I'm trying too hard? I don't know. I have lots of manuscripts. Lots of works in progress. Way too many ideas. And there's always opportunities. I think I just need to avoid the thinking about whether or not I'm going to succeed in a material sense.

I don't think the way I feel is all that unusual. As creators we're the ones that have to believe in our work first, even when no one else knows about it. (Or when they do and keep asking when our next book is going to be out.) It's easy for a while. But to keep it up for months... years... there's bound to be those times we wonder if what we write is good enough.

There is more to writing than publishing. Being excited about a story. Enjoying the process. Loving the writing community. Loving that my kids like to hear my stories, and write with me. Those are the things that fill me with hope and make me succeed, whether I sell a book or not.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Querying and Submitting Manuscripts After Sandy

So, I don’t pay attention to the news much. I’d heard the rumblings that a storm was coming but I didn’t know where or when. I was busy writing. Subbing. Doing the things I usually do to move forward with my writing. Focusing.

And then…I couldn’t help but find out what was happening in New York and on the east coast and eek! It was horrible.

And you know what else? I’d emailed a sub there just before the chaos ensued. I had no idea. But it’s there now, waiting, for whenever the person it’s waiting for gets to it. Maybe they have lost their house, maybe they haven't been able to get back to work and when they do will come back to an overwhelming inbox that I will have added to! I don't want to add to their burden. I feel guilty.

I’ve been listening to the talk. Those of us not affected by the storm and still in subbing mode well, it may sound bad, but we get antsy. It’s part of the subbing process—the waiting and wondering. It’s only natural. Now? I’ve seen some say to wait a week to sub and some say to go ahead. Hmm.

I'm nowhere near the East coast. From what I can gather, some people are back to work with things as normal—as normal as they can be at this moment anyway, and some are still getting their lives back together. How is one to know whether it is okay to sub after Sandy? You can check Twitter. A lot of people in publishing tweet and have talked about what’s going on where they work. (I have lists of agents, editors, and publishers on Twitter.) So, you have to use your judgement.

My policy right now? Wait at least a month before subbing to the East coast. People just suffered a major traumatic event, lost time at work, and who knows what happened in their personal lives. They need time to catch up, regroup, heal.

I know, it’s hard. When we have a manuscript and are ready to send it out we want to do it now. We want to sell it now. We want it to be a book asap! It’s not realistic any day. Especially not after a natural disaster. The one thing I always remind myself when I send out a sub: I’m just waiting in line. It’s a long line, but I’ll get to the front eventually.

And yes, the eventually may be a little longer now. Be sure to give at least an additional month for response time before you status query. I give six to eight extra weeks in general so I'm thinking an extra three months would be kind.

Querying and submitting. It’s not for wimps.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Too Many Stories!

I've been sitting here trying to write a blog post for I'm not sure how long. I've started half a dozen and none of them seem quite right. There's too much going on. Too many topics I could write about. So here I am telling you about none of them.

This happens with my writing too. I have so many stories; so many manuscripts I want to get finished that I suddenly get into a holding pattern wondering which one to work on next. A friend of mine who is a disciplined and prolific writer of adult fiction told me to work on whichever is pulling at me the strongest. She was surprised when I told her they all were. Maybe it's like that for picture book writers, I don't know. I do have some non-pb projects that pull at me as well (although maybe not as strongly. Okay, that MG is really wanting to be finished too. Aaaarrrggghhhhhh!!!)

Anyhow, I'll flip thought my notebook, working on each story little by little until all of a sudden I'm writing and writing and...viola, I have a finished draft to type up and start revising!

Tell me, tell me, how do you work? Lots of stories at once or one at a time? How do you choose?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Monster List of Picture Book Agents -- Jennie Dunham, Dunham Literary Inc.

It's tough to find much online information about Jennie Dunham although she's been a literary agent since 1992. You can read about Jennie's experience in her bio at the Dunham Literary website. You can also learn a lot about how her agency, Dunham Literary Inc., works on the Terms and Services page.

I did find an interview with Jennie at K.L. Going's Writer's Resource Page. (Click on "Agent, Author, or Editor Interview" on the right hand side of the page and it will take you right to the interview.)

You can also read the Dunham Literary listing in the 2013 Children's Writers and Illustrators Market.

Jennie accepts query letters only via both email and snail mail. Check out the Dunham Literary submission guidelines. If you get a request be sure to take a look at the Requested Submissions page.

Jennie represents Jody Feldman, Juliet Bond, Robert Sabuda, and Matthew Reinhart. She also represents Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty books.

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, October 3, 2012

Natasha Yim Teaches Us How to Read... in Public!

Today I'm happy to be the first stop on Natasha Yim's blog tour celebrating the release of her latest book, Sacajawea of the Shoshone, part of the Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses series published by Goosebottom Books! Natasha's book, Cixi, the Dragon Empress, is also published by Goosebottom. Her picture book, Otto's Rainy Day, is published by Charlesbridge, plus she has a forthcoming book from Charlesbridge titled Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas. So, Natasha knows quite a bit about having to read in public! And when I say having to, I think most of you know what I mean. Getting up in front of a crowd is something most of us don't enjoy and something many of us think just might kill us! But, Natasha understands, and she has some great tips to get us up there, connecting with readers!

By Natasha Yim
Recently, I presented my new book Sacajawea of the Shoshone (Goosebottom Books, 2012) at the Sonoma County Book Festival. I even dressed as Sacajawea for the occasion. My stomach churned uncontrollably. I kept telling myself: “Get a grip! You’ve done this before. You know her story. Why are you so nervous?”

Well, that’s because for most of us authors, public speaking doesn’t come naturally. It’s something you have to work at. There are always things I worry about: I won’t speak clearly enough, my topic won’t engage the audience, I look ridiculous in this costume, I’ll trip and stumble on my way to the stage (this happened to me once), nobody will show up (this has also happened to me at an event). Unfortunately, Marketing and Promotion is a big part of being an author these days. After all, how are people going to find your book if they don’t know it exists?

When I had my first reading and signing at a book store for my first picture book, Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000), I was petrified! I had to ask my brother-in-law to read the book! School visits were even more terrifying. Speaking in front of 50, 100, 150 kids? Forget it. I avoided doing school visits for the longest time. I’ve come a long way. I’ve done quite a few public speaking engagements now and managed to have fun at most of them. And even though I can read my own books and get to the stage without stumbling, the nervousness never goes away.

So, here are a few tips about public speaking I’ve learned on my way to the podium. They may not make you a great orator, but it’ll help you manage your sweaty palms, hammering heart, and the urge to throw up all over your audience.

1. The only way to get a handle on your fear of public speaking is to just DO IT. Over...and over...and over again. The more you do, the less terrifying it becomes (note I’m not saying you won’t be terrified, I’m saying you’ll be less terrified).

2. Don’t think sales or marketing. Yes, you’re putting yourself out there and forcing yourself into this misery called public speaking because, in part, you’re promoting your book. But ultimately, what you’ll get the most joy and satisfaction from is connecting with your audience.

3. Use visuals. Power invention, ever! Actually, I have an Apple computer, so I use Keynotes which is more intuitive than Power Point, but you can include fun graphics and pictures, make them move across the page, shimmer or sparkle. Kids love the little airplane icon that flies across the map of the world from South East Asia to California when I talk about my childhood and journey to the US. You can enlarge the pages you’re reading from so they can see the illustrations better. And it takes the focus off of you as the speaker. When and if Power Point isn’t feasible, copy, blow up and laminate images, illustrations and graphics that relate to your book. Tip: pictures of pets are always a great hit.

4. Go with the flow. Sometimes, you’ll appear at an event and you’ll have one person in the audience or none at all, or the bookstore owner didn’t order enough books (or as the case may be—any books). I’ve turned book events into one-on-one chats (hey, she took the time to come), or signed free bookmarks for the attendees who didn’t want or couldn’t afford to buy the book. Make your time worthwhile, no matter how small.

5. Have a sense of humor. A friend of mine presented her book for ages 9 - 13 at an event where most of the kids who came were barely in pre-school, and the Q & A segment went something like this: “When is the skater lady going to be here?” (Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi was also scheduled to read her children’s book that day). You never know, those embarrassing moments could be the start of a new book! At any rate, they’ll make great stories to tell your grandkids...or your writer friends...who then put it in a blog post...

Want to hear more from Natasha?
Connect with Natasha on her website:
Her blog: (You can find the next stops on her blog tour in the sidebar.)
and check out the fan pages for Sacajawea of the Shoshone and Cixi, The Dragon Empress.

And if you're in the bay area, Goosebottom Books will be launching Sacajawea of the Shoshone and 2 other fall releases (Njinga, The Warrior Queen, and Horrible Hauntings) at Reach and Teach bookstore, San Mateo, on Oct. 27, 4 pm. Come join us for a Halloween-themed book party with scary treats, a scariest reading contest (the audience gets to pick the scariest reader), book readings and enter the best Sacajawea look-alike contest. More details on Natasha's blog to come.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Garlic and Exoskeletons

Yes, I realize I have been a bit absent as of late. You see, on top of apple harvest (my first one ever as an orchardist), it is also garlic planting time. Wanna know how much garlic the man and I are planting? I don't even want to think about it but I'll tell you--approximately 500 pounds. And he keeps talking about buying more. Zoinks!

Now, garlic planting is kind of nice. You get to be outside in the sun and soft dirt. There is the Diatomaceous Earth. It's basically fossilized remains of algae. You can eat it, but it has silica in it so you should not breathe it. We wear bandanas over our faces. Yay, we look like garlic planting bandits, which is fine as long as it's not too hot. What Diatomaceous Earth does is dehydrate bugs' exoskeletons. It also seems to dry out skin. Yeehaw! I'm really gonna look like a sundried cowboy if I'm not careful!

I do keep thinking about how nice it will be next spring when all the garlic is growing and how it will be great to work for ourselves and actually make a living, assuming all goes well of course. I also like that there's really nothing else I have to do in that moment when I'm planting garlic. I'm just planting. And talking with my husband for an extended period of quiet time, which I really don't get to do often enough these days.

It doesn't take long to slip from garlic planting serenity to the regular rush of life when the alarm goes off and it's time to rush down to school and get the kids, coach the soccer team, do the laundry, cook the dinner, get the kids to bed. Time has been going so quick lately. Here I am at almost two in the morning just finally caught up on emails! But life is good. And I have lots of time to think up stories. Mine is the notebook with all the dirt smudges on it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How Diana Murray got Her Agent, plus an interview with Brianne Johnson of Writers House

Not too long ago I featured Brianne Johnson of Writers House on my Monster List of Picture Book Agents. That led me to talking to Diana Murray, a fabulous picture book author who is represented by Brianne. Today I am happy to have Diana here to share with us how she signed with her agent. (I can't help but love hearing about her kicking the cyber-street to the curb!) Diana and Brianne were also kind enough to do a little question and answer for us! First, here's Diana's post:

How I Got My Agent

At first, I wasn’t even sure I wanted an agent. For one thing, I had always heard that getting an agent for picture books if you weren’t a) already published, b) also writing novels, and/or c) also an illustrator, was pretty much impossible. On top of that, I wrote exclusively in rhyme. Seemed like a sure recipe for rejection, according to the word on the cyber-street. In addition, I’d read about many agented writers who seemed unhappy or frustrated. Why bother? I figured I might as well continue subbing to publishers on my own. But then...
December 22

I read about Brianne Johnson on Verla Kay’s blueboards and headed over to the Writers House website to investigate further. It was like reading a personal ad and thinking, “Hey! I like long walks on the beach too!” I immediately felt in my gut that it might be a good match. Also, I felt particularly excited about the prospect of working with a go-getter junior agent at a big house. Seemed like a great opportunity. I decided to sub immediately, even though it was just days away from Christmas.

January 17

After a few weeks, I was excited to see an email from Brianne in my inbox. I did a double-take to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. It was true! Brianne said she really liked my manuscript and was getting some reads from colleagues. In the meantime, she wanted to see if I had any other work. Luckily, I had written lots of other picture book manuscripts over the years. But how to choose? I based my decision mostly on the feedback I had received during various SCBWI events, and on reactions from my own critique group. I chose to send her five. One manuscript was similar to the first one she liked (it was character-driven, wacky, had plenty of conflict, and was in the range of 500-700 words). Three of the manuscripts were much shorter, younger, and simpler. And the last manuscript was a humorous poetry collection.

I reset my email program to check for new mail “every 1 minute”. And I waited...

Feb 6

Twenty days later, I received a response! But before opening it, I had to go make a sandwich. I couldn’t face this news on an empty stomach, especially since no matter the outcome, there would probably be some cabernet involved.

When I finally opened that email, I read that Brianne liked my writing and wanted to speak with me!

Feb 7

On the phone, Brianne immediately made me feel comfortable and we had a great conversation. That was another good sign that we could work well together. She was enthusiastic and complimentary, but didn’t promise me the moon. Brianne was clear that rhyming picture books were a tough sell in the current market, and I didn’t disagree. By that night, I was signing a contract with her. Within a few months, she sold one picture book to Roaring Brook Press and then another (in a two-book deal) to Katherine Tegen Books.

Take that, cyber-street!

And now I’ve changed my mind about agents. It’s true that they’re not an absolute necessity when you write picture books. But when you find the right agent for you, it can make all the difference in your career.

Here are a few answers from Brianne Johnson at Writers House:

What kinds of picture book manuscripts tend to catch your eye?

Funny ones! I love clever, character-driven, LOL-funny manuscripts that leave a lot of room for art, feature somewhat offbeat protagonists, and hold up to repeat readings. In that sense, Diana and I are a truly great match (that, and our shared love of long walks on the beach). When I first read her work I could really see them as picture books, and her sense of humor is amazing. Absolutely no one can read NED THE KNITTING PIRATE or GRIMELDA without literally laughing out loud… I’ve read them both about a million times and LOL every time. You’ll see!

What are some common mistakes you see in query letters for picture books?

Not including the manuscript pasted below the letter! You’d be surprised how many queries I get that leave off the MS itself and just include the pitch. To be honest, with picture book queries, I skim over the letter quickly—paying attention mostly to the intro (big points for a personalized letter) and the bio, particularly if there’s previous publishing experience listed—and skip down to let the manuscript speak for itself. If the manuscript is really great I’ll go back and read the letter more carefully.

Are there certain picture book topics you’re particularly tired of seeing in your submissions pile?

Personally, I’m probably not the best fit for super-oozy-sweet, I-love-you-my-baby-muffin kind of manuscripts. I mean, I’ll always take a look, but I tend to gravitate toward somewhat edgier, funnier stories. Who knows, though? My query scouting style is largely instinct-based and very subjective. Try me! If I love it, I love it.

For those who write both picture books and novels, what do you recommend they query with first?

Probably the novel, although it’s worth mentioning in the letter that you have a picture book text or two up your sleeve.

Diana Murray is the author of forthcoming picture books, NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: A SALTY YARN (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan, 2014) and GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2014). Diana was awarded the 2010 SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant and has many poems published and forthcoming in magazines including Spider, Highlights for Children, and Highlights High Five, as well as the And the Crowd Goes Wild! sports-themed poetry anthology. Diana lives in New York City with her husband, two children, and a goldfish named Pickle. You can find Diana on her website, and on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting for Something Amazing to Happen aka Submitting Manuscripts

Submitting a manuscript can be hard! It can be scary to put your work out there. It can also be fun! I hear from lots of writers who are afraid to take that step. If you've done all the work; writing, critiquing, revising,more critiquing, more revising, editing ad nauseam, etc., etc., etc., and there is no more that you can possibly come up with to improve your manuscript it may be time to send out some submissions!

Be brave! When I first starting subbing I had to tell myself that it was no big deal. I would never meet this person that was reading my work (unless, of course, they liked it. Eep!) I had worked hard on my manuscripts and it was time to give them a chance. I was nervous, but I managed to get some work out there this way and I learned a lot in the process.

Now that I've had a little more experience with submissions, I see it as a challenge. It's exciting to send a story I've worked so hard on out into the world and see what comes back. Yes, this writing business can be tough, but when you have a manuscript out on submission, you never know what's going to happen. You may get a form rejection, but you may get back a letter saying how much your manuscript was liked, or a revision request, or *gasp* an offer! You are never going to experience any of those things if you don't send your manuscript out in the first place. I like to think of us writers as the kid on the tricycle from my very favorite movie of all time:

So here I am, sitting and waiting for something amazing to happen. If anyone wants to join me, there's plenty of room!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cutting Words in a Picture Book Manuscript

Chop chop! Word counts for picture books are tight. Every word has to count. Before you even think of submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher, be sure every word makes the cut.
  • Think about what the illustrations will show. Do you really need to say that your character is sitting by a stream? (Don't be afraid to use an illustration note if you need to, but only use them if absolutely necessary!)
  • Can you say with one word (better) something that you've said in two... or three... or four?
  • Contractions! Going though your manuscript and changing they are to they're and I am to I'm, etc.,  can cut quite a few words. Of course, you don't have to contract everything contractable. Use your judgement on what sounds best in your story. Remember to watch for it is. It's it's not its!
  • Check your descriptions. Can they be tightened?
  • Are there sentences that can be combined? 
  • Can words that end in -ed be changed to -ing, omitting the pronoun?
  • Don't be afraid to go even further. Can you rid the story of any scenes, characters or dialogue? If it isn't moving the story forward get rid of it!
  • Try Twitter. It's really great for helping make one aware of cuttable words. When you're trying to fit a thought into so few characters you can really see what needs to go!

    Here are some common word offenders to be on the lookout for:
as/as they

And of course: adjectives and adverbs!

My biggest offender? The horrible! The horrifying! Just. Oh how that word seems to make it into every single one of my manuscripts.

What are your biggest offenders? I'll add them to the list!

For more on cutting your picture book manuscript read STOP! Cut Picture Book Mss by 1/3 at Darcy Pattison's blog,  and Six Steps to Make Your Children's Story Sparkle by Laura Backes.

Of course, it can be hard to see what can be changed in our own work after we've looked at it for so long. If you've done your best to cut and still have a manuscript that's too long, ask a critique partner to look at it with an eye towards cutting!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Natalie Fischer Lakosil of Bradford Literary Agency

Natalie Fischer Lakosil is an Assistant Agent at Bradford Literary Agency. She was formerly at Sandra Dijkstra Literary agency for four years. According to her bio she is looking for "short, quirky picture books."

You can learn a whole bunch from Natalie on her blog, Adventures in Agentland. In her post, What I Like And Why I Like It, from October 2011 she says, "The only kind of picture book I’m really looking for is along the lines of Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker – short, funny text, preferably character-driven (650 words or less) – and I’m being VERY very selective on PBs."

You can see some on Natalie's sales on her Publisher's Marketplace page.

Natalie says she does not want ABC or boy books, and gives lots of other great info in her interview at Mother. Write. Repeat.

Natalie's article, From Pitch to Sale, at Wovenmyst is about YA but you might gain some insights from it regarding her process.

Beware, I learned that she doesn't like potty humor in her interview at Beyond Words.

You can find Natalie on Linkedin and Twitter.

Natalie represents Rosanne Thong and Kitty Griffin.

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!