Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October THINK QUICK with Author Maria Gianferrari


Hi Maria! Congrats on the release of OFFICER KATZ AND HOUNDINI:  A TALE OF TWO TAILS. I think we can all relate to getting stuck in the rut of a washed-up routine or not achieving our goals. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On Routines:
Press through or change it up?

Press through (but change it up occasionally) 

On Cat Naps:

Catch them often or ya snooze, ya loose?

Cat naps! Every day—it’s a form of meditation.

On Reaching Goals:
Plan & practice or throw in the towel when the end is near?

Plan & practice. Perseverance is key. Set small, accomplishable goals.

On Rivals:
Team up or take sides?

Team up. Writing, especially picture book writing = collaboration.

On Paw-parazzi:
Smile pretty or head for the hills?

Without a doubt, head for the hills & beyond!  

On Teamwork:
There’s a time and a place or teamwork always wins?

Teamwork always wins.

On Inventions:
Experiment or research first?

Research first. Then, experiment (then research again if it doesn’t work). 

On New Opportunities:

Seize the moment or take baby steps?

Seize the moment!

On the Kat’s Meow:
Officer Katz or Houndini?


On Books:
Officer Katz and Houndini or Officer Katz and Houndini?

Officer Katz & Houndini; Houndini & Officer Katz.

Thanks for THINKing QUICK with us, Maria!
Review (By Carrie Charley Brown):
What do you get when you cross a mystical hound with the Great Houdini? HOUNDini himself! (And one ornery crafty cat who wants to catch him!) Fighting like cats and dogs takes on a whole new meaning for this pair, and only something new and inventive might solve their squabbles. With a shout-out to creative thinking and teamwork, this tale gets two tails up!

Simon and Schuster is giving away one copy of Officer Katz and Houndini! Enter the Rafflecopter below to be eligible.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, Oct. 17th:                 Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) THREE GIVEAWAYS: a query pass from the amazing Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary; picture book critique from me, and a copy of Officer Katz & Houndini!!
Tuesday, Oct. 18th:                Librarian’s Quest
Wednesday, Oct. 19th:           Bildebok
Thursday, Oct. 20th:              Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love
Friday, Oct. 21st:                    Pragmaticmom + THREE book giveaway
Monday, Oct. 24th:                 Homemade City
Tuesday, Oct. 25th:                ReFoReMo THINK QUICK Interview with Carrie Charley Brown

Photo Credit: Monogram Arts

Hot diggety dog! Maria Gianferrari’s a lucky dog—she gets to write stories about cats and dogs, and when she’s dog-tired, she can catnap in her office. Maria lives in northern Virginia with her cat’s meow of a family: her scientist husband, artist daughter, and top dog, Becca. She is the author of the Penny & Jelly books as well as Coyote Moon and the forthcoming Hello Goodbye Dog. To learn more about Maria, visit her website at mariagianferrari.com Facebook, and  Instagram.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October Mentor Text Check in and Challenge: Reading for Cybils

As a Cybils Award judge, I have the privilege of reading hundreds of nominated picture books and board books.  When I bring home more books to read, each day my two youngest children squeal with delight!  We're happy when we read together.

Reading picture books by the dozens helps me hone my reading and writing skills.  I'm now more certain of what resonates with me and what doesn't.  

I'm fascinated by the differences between my reaction to books and my kids' reactions.  Some books that I dislike are books that they request over and over again.  Reading so many books written within the past year has not only helps me better understand the types of stories that publishers are publishing right now, but also how unique each publisher is.  This kind of reading for research is what inspired Carrie to begin our Reading for Research challenge in the first place (she was a Cybils picture book judge for 2 years).   

Here's my challenge for you.  Check out at least 20 of the picture books on the Cybils Award nominations list here, read them, and ask yourself these questions:

1. Which publishers make books that you love?
2. What patterns do you find?  
3. What resonates with you?  
4. How many of the books written this year are books that you would want to re-read?  
5. How can you use what you've learned from this exercise to improve your manuscripts?  

Please share any aha moments with us below.  We'd love to know how reading recent picture books helps you in your writing journey!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Author Colleen Rowan Kosinski Talks Mentor Texts

by Kirsti Call
I met Colleen at the NJ SCBWI conference. I love the message of her lyrical and lovely debut picture book, Lilla's Sunflowers. Colleen's enthusiasm and artistic eye shine through her words and her art and I'm thrilled to have her discuss how Mentor Texts have influenced her writing and illustrating process.

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  -If so, how? 

Of course I read as many new books as I can to keep current with what is being published. I primarily use mentor texts as examples of how the text and illustrations work together. I also look at the range of perspectives, spot drawings, and full page spreads to help me lay out my dummy books.

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

When I read picture books I discover what resonates with me. I've found that lyrical, quiet books are what I love most. I also tend to be drawn to books with a circular tale. And I am a sucker for beautiful illustrations.

 Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation Lilla's Sunflowers?

There wasn't one book that inspired me in the creation of Lilla's Sunflowers. Although I did examine many books to decide how to paginate my text and various books to help me figure out how I wanted to lay out my illustrations. 

What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

I think mentor texts are great to read when you are stuck. They may spark an idea and help you with the rhythm of your storytelling.

Thank you, Colleen!  I agree that mentor texts help spark ideas!

Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always found joy in
creating. She received her B.A. from Rutgers University in visual art, and is an alumna of Moore College of Art. She rediscovered her passion for writing after many years as a successful, freelance fine artist. When she discovered children’s book writing she knew she had found her passion. She’s written middle grade novels, young adult novels, and picture books. Her debut picture book, Lilla’s Sunflowers, was published by Sky Pony Press in 2016. Colleen belongs to the SCBWI and is active in her local chapter. You can contact her at Colleen AT myartsite.com. As a lover of nature and animals, in the spring you can usually find her nursing a sick rabbit or robin back to health. Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Revealing ReFoReMo with Author Sue Ganz-Schmitt

By Sue Ganz-Schmitt

The conscious use of mentor texts is a new part of the journey for me.  ReForWhat?!  I thought when my friend Maria first mentioned the challenge to me last February.  I had no idea what a mentor text was until the moment that I signed up. I had already written four picture books by then including my newest book:  Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit 
Anytime I’m near a store selling children’s books, I’m sucked in as powerfully as if I went too close to the event horizon of a black hole. It is an unstoppable force for me because reading great picture books is my happy space.   But, I have never poured through them as voraciously, or studied and analyzed them as deeply as I was inspired to do last March when I joined the ReFoReMo challenge.

My process has been to avoid reading picture books while writing them, so I am not subconsciously influenced by another writer's work, especially on a similar topic.  I want my writing to flow organically and without analysis first.  Then I get in several rounds of edits.  When my manuscript feels grounded, then I’m ready to pick up picture books again.

As a kid, I read piles and piles of Peanuts books.  After I wrote Planet Kindergarten, I realized that the voice of Charlie Brown (no relation right Carrie?) had influenced the voice of my hero ranting about his feelings of inadequacy and failure.  But unlike Charlie Brown, those rants turn into empowerment for my kindernaut character - "Failure is not an option!"  While I did not seek these out as mentor texts, I consider them retro-mentor texts that were filed away in my mental library from childhood.

Another book series filed away from my kids' childhood -that similarly influenced the voice of my hero was The Little Critter series.  I read many of these to my kids and always loved it when the protagonist would disguise his own fears by projecting them onto his parent. Here's how that looked in Planet Kindergarten when my hero was scared to separate from his mom:  "Mom slips her photo into my pocket, and squeezes my hand.  I don't want her to worry, so I stand tall."  

Planet Kindergarten was a guide for Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit to make sure the story elements and  NASA inspired dialogue carried over into my newest book.  I also used Even Superheroes Get Diabetes to remind myself to keep it short (my first book was over 1200 words and way too long).  So, if one can self-mentor text, I did that too.

What I have learned from ReFoRemo is that it's important to read forward - not just from the past, or from your own work - but to dig into the latest texts and consider how they were handled.  What worked and what didn't? How are other writers successfully able to create engaging relatable main characters? How do they raise the emotional temperature in the story? How did they surprise the reader?   

I still plan to wait until I have written my story to read similar topics.  But my new plan is to keep reading while writing.  Bring on the next ReFoRemo!

Thanks, Sue,and happy launch day for Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit!  

Registration for the third annual ReFoReMo 2017 opens February 12! Will you read and research along with us?

Sue Ganz-Schmitt is the author of: Planet Kindergarten, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale, and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes. She is co-founder of an AIDS orphanage in Haiti, produces children's musical theater,  performed in RENT on Broadway, and has been a NASA Social Media correspondent.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

THINK QUICK with Author Henry Hertz

by Kirsti Call

Hi Henry! Congrats on the release of Little Red Cuttlefish.  I love how this story encourages bravery and ingenuity in children.  All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean. Remember, THINK QUICK!

On Cuttlefish:
Preferred pets or ocean friend?

I have no idea how practical it would be, but I'd LOVE to have a cuttlefish pet!

On Tiger Sharks:
Malicious or Misunderstood?

Misunderstood. As was said in Finding Nemo, "Fish gotta' swim. Birds' gotta' eat." You can't blame predators for wanting to eat. It is in their nature.

On Bullies:
Stand up to them or Run Away?

While in some cases, it makes sense to run away, the only long-term solution to a bully is to stand up to them.

On Seafood:
Love it or Leave it?

Love some, leave some. Smoked salmon on bagel? You betcha'! But I cannot fathom what must have gone through the mind of the first person walking on the beach to spot an oyster and say, "Hey, I think I'll crack open this bumpy rock and slurp down the gooey, slimy contents."

On Strangers:
Talk to them or ignore them? (Or do you prefer to ink them?)

Ignore strangers, unless they offer to give you a ride in their car, in which case INK them!

On Journeys:
Adventure or Chore?

Yes to both. I'm a planner, not a pantser. Family vacations always start with the chore of planning to make sure we know where to go and have a place to stay. But once we're at our destination, the adventure begins. Better adventures through planning!

On Creativity:
Art or Music?

C'mon, that's like asking to choose between eating and breathing.

On Saving the Day:
Brain or Brawn?

Brains. Every. Time. As MacGuyver taught us, brains plus duct tape enable you to solve any problem.

On  Fairy Tales:
Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood?

If we're talking about the original fairy tales, then Cinderella. She is a good person who eventually is treated kindly. The original Little Red Riding Hood is a gullible girl who ends up in a wolf's belly.

On Books:
The Little Red Cuttlefish or The Little Red Cuttlefish? Of Course!

It's a tie! 

Of Course!  

Review by Kirsti Call

I love fractured fairy tales and this story of Little Red Cuttlefish is no exception. Little Red Cuttlefish encounters obstacles on her way to deliver crab cakes to her grandmother. Kids will relate to the main character and her adventures in protecting her grandmother.

The illustrations enhance the story with an expressive and colorful palette. Peppered with lively language and a few fun puns, this is a great read-aloud. I especially like Grandmother's line: "All this swimming has made me so hungry, she said. "I bet we could wolf down these crab cakes."

I recommend this for kids who enjoy fairy tale retellings and ocean stories. 

Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children. He is represented by Deborah Warren of East/West Literary Agency. He and his sons wrote MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES (Pelican, 2015), WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY (Pelican, 2016), MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer, 2016), LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican, 2016), and DINOSAUR PIRATES (Sterling, 2017).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September Mentor Text Check in and Challenge: Favorite Books

by Kirsti Call

What's the magic formula?  Is there something that all stellar books have in common?

If the answer were simple, we'd all be writing best-sellers. But that's why mentor texts are so helpful.  By reading our favorite texts, we can find commonalities and incorporate them into our manuscripts.

Here's the September Mentor Text Challenge.  Read your 3 favorite picture books and ask yourself these questions.

What do these books have in common?
Why do these books resonate with me?
How can I incorporate these things in my manuscripts?

What commonalities do you find in your 3 favorite picture books?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Andrea Beatty Talks Mentor Texts

by Kirsti Call

My kids and I adore Andrea Beatty's books! Rosie Revere, Engineer is one of our favorites. So we were very excited to read Andrea's new book, Ada Twist, Scientist, which came out this month.

Kirsti Call: Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  If so, how? 

Andrea Beatty: I don't really use other books as mentor texts when I'm writing. In fact, I rather avoid reading other books in a similar vein or topic to my story for fear that it will prevent me from writing the story that's in my head. In trying to avoid steering toward that text, I would inadvertently veer off the road in a different direction. It would all be too distracting from the story that I need to write. I have enough voices in my head without complicating things further.

KC: How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?  

AB: The quality of picture books in the last 20 years has been astounding. Much, much better than when I was a kid. There were some great ones, of course, but the variety and depth of prose and magnificent illustration was nothing compare to the books available today. Seeing such a spectrum of styles was liberating for me because it helped me realize that I should just write my own stories. If they were good enough, they would find a home out there in this brave new picture book world.

KC:  Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of Ada Twist Scientist or any of your other books?

There are certainly books which have influenced me as a writer. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and MISS SPIDER'S TEA PARTY come to mind. They showed me that rhyming books can include an emotional story arc and be very moving. I love rhyme, always. But often, rhyming books are sweet and silly but don't have much emotional heft to them. I still love those and have written some.  

I never set out to make a point or have a moral in my stories. I find that sort of quest tedious and I think kids' do too, but my stories sometimes find their heart during the adventure. I love it when that happens because readers connect to that. Fiction is magical!

Thank you Andrea! 

Andrea Beaty is the bestselling author of ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER which spent more than 62 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List and is even going to the International Space Station with Story Time From Space!
Andrea’s  other books include the award winners Iggy Peck, Architect, Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies, and Secrets of the Cicada Summer. Andrea’s characters are smart, funny, and unapologetic in their passion. They are doers. Curiosity, creativity, innovation and persistence are recurring themes in her work. Andrea visits dozens of schools each year and is also available for Skype visits. For more information, visit her website: www.AndreaBeaty.com.