Tuesday, September 10, 2019

THINK QUICK with Corey Rosen Schwartz

Hi Corey! 

Congratulations on the release of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS next Tuesday! I love how this story shows that our differences help us connect with each other.  

All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On trucks:
Fun to drive or terrified of driving them?


On friendship:
Many acquaintances or a few close friends?

A few close friends.

On Opposites attract:
True or false?


On Personality type:
Extrovert or Introvert?

Extrovert turned introvert

On State of Mind:
Anxious or Calm?

Anxious (I'd lie on this one, but you know me too well :)

On Learning:
Jump right in or Ease into it?

Jump right tin!

On complaining:
All the time or Never?

Um, often? (Gosh, I sound like such a curmudgeon. How do I have any friends at all?)

On writing rhyme:
A fun puzzle or a difficult challenge?

A super fun challenging puzzle!

On vehicle books:
Love them or leave them?

Love them!

On Two Tough Trucks:
Two Tough Trucks or Two Tough Trucks

Two Tough Trucks.

Kirsti's Review of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS

"Good grief, grumbled Mac. "My partner's a drag."
"That hotshot," said Rig. "He sure loves to brag."

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS is a story of teamwork and friendship despite differences.  This story is filled emotive illustrations, clever rhymes and two likable trucks.  I love how this story demonstrates how our different talents and characteristics can help us connect with others. Mac and Rig are opposites and that's what helps them work together in the end.  My son picked this book up as soon as he saw it, drawn in by the bright colors and topic!  It was a hit. This is a fantastic read aloud---I highly recommend it.

Corey is the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and several other rhyming picture books and fractured fairy tales. Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: David Michael Slater

David Michael Slater is a word whiz. When he isn’t teaching school aged tweens and teens, he’s writing picture books, chapter books, and books for the tween, teen, and adult market. This post looks at his books written for his youngest fans.


Puns, idioms, wordplay, oh my!


On the very first page of Battle of the Books, Jeff Ebbeler (Illustrator), Slater introduces a mystery novel and Paige, a romance novel both new to the library. The mystery book approaches Paige and says, “Wait till everyone checks you out!” On the next page a book dressed with tweed hat and pipe tells the newcomers, “I’m afraid this library is all booked up” and the reader knows this book will be filled with wordplay.

When One forgets how to count past six in Seven Ate Nine,
Zachary Trover (Illustrator), Seven bullies her and Nine comes to her defense. The other numbers start to argue. “They could be very negative numbers.” One takes off to be alone and saw Seven eat Nine. “Seven ate Nine” One screamed, but the other numbers ignore her until they meet the same fate.



Besides fun wordplay, kids take away important messages from Slater’s stories filled with humor and emotion.


Cheese Louise! Steve Cowden, (Illustrator).
Everyone deals with problems because “nobody is perfect.”

Jacques & Spock, Debbie Tilley (Illustrator).
When two sock brothers who are rarely "a foot away from each other" are separated they find each other again because "together is better".


Slater writes from a child’s point of view masterfully using imagination


How would a young nonreader treat a book?  In The Boy & the Book: [a wordless story], Bob Kolar (Illustrator), Slater’s character drags, tears, and tosses his favorite book at the library like a toy. Each time the boy returns the battered book hides from him. How does the character need to change, so he interacts appropriately with the book? He must learn what books are for.

In The Ring Bear: A Rascally Wedding Adventure, S. G. Brooks, (Illustrator), a young
boy with an active imagination has a close relationship with his single parent mother. He becomes anxious after hearing the news she is engaged. When his soon to be stepdad asks him to be the ring bearer at the ceremony, he hears ring bear and decides becoming a rascally bear is exactly what could put a stop to this marriage. The bear acts out up to the wedding day until his stepdad comforts him and he changes back to a boy.

More picture books by David Michael Slater:




Slater’s books are wonderful mentor texts to study how he uses language, theme, and character arc to write books that appeal to audiences of all ages.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Using Comp Titles in Your Query

By Cindy Williams Schrauben

Over the past year or so, one of my roles on the ReFoReMo team has been to discuss comp titles. For a refresher, follow these links to my old posts.

While choosing comp titles is arguably the most difficult task, describing them in your pitch or query letter can be a challenge, as well. How you choose to describe comps can strategically highlight specific qualities of your book. I may be overthinking this (me? never!), but it does warrant a discussion.

Option #1: Mention each comp separately. I would caution this option works only if the comparison is obvious and needs no further explanation.  Examples:

for fans of Elaine Kiely Kearns and Colin Jack’s NOAH NOARAURUS.
… for fans of Fancy Nancy (character)
… similar to THE GRUFFALO (title)
… similar to picture books by Ryan T. Higgins (author)

Option #2: Create a more unique and thorough description of your manuscript by combining two or more comp titles, authors, or characters. Examples: 
… a cross between MOTHER BRUCE and Pete the Cat (character).
… reads like a mix of DRAGONS LOVE TACOS and I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG.
… a mash-up of THE BAD SEED and picture books by Josh Funk.

Option #3: An even more effective strategy is to use comps to highlight specific qualities of your manuscript. This answers WHY you’ve chosen these comps. Examples: 
… the snarky voice of HOW TO BABYSIT GRANDPA combined with the humor of PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE.
...with the tenderness of WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE and the interactive quality of PRESS HERE.
… with STEM aspects similar to ADA TWIST SCIENTIST and a nod to self-acceptance like JULIÁN IS A MERMAID.

Another option is to personalization your query to an agent by listing comp titles that match their wishlist or favorite titles. Caution - be sure you know this connection is strong. Examples:
... because you enjoyed SNAPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK), I thought you might be interested in my manuscript, which exhibits a similar meta quality.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Being diligent with your choice of comps and mindful of how they are described can make all the difference in a query. Please share your best ideas in the comments below.         

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pick the Perfect Pet- Monthly Challenge

By Janie Reinart

When I was little, I would pretend the pussy willows in my yard were my real pet kitties. What fur babies did you have for a pet when you were a child? Or did you care for more exotic pets? This month's challenge is to write a story about pets.

Perhaps you were like Bartholomew Botts and loved all pets.

By A. LaFaye
"Bartholomew Botts loved pets. Hoppy pets, hairy pets, and scaly pets. He loved them all so much
that he couldn't go to school without one." When Bartholomew starts taking a pet a day to class, his teacher, Mr. Patanoose started sharing new rules like "NO FROGS IN SCHOOL."

By Amy Young
Maybe you were like Lucy.
The ad said "Unicorn, 25 cents."
"Lucy sent in the money. She could hardly wait.  I will name him Sparkle. He will be blue with a pink tail and a pink mane... I will take him to show-and-tell. Everyone will love him."

But things don't always work out the way you hope they will. Ame Dyckman explains in You Don't Want a Unicorn.

Perchance your mum suggests you need a pet. Just ask Captain Crave as he and his crew chase critters in search of the perfect pet.

By Beth Ferry

"Think you're the Perfect Pirate Captain? she read.
Use our handy checklist to be sure.
Courage and daring?
Eye patch?
Peg leg? 0n me to-do list.
Well, shuck me an oyster and set sail for land. We needs to find me a pet."

And if you want a quieter sort of pet check out Charlotte's.

Share what kind of pets you had when you were young and what kind you have now. At present, I have several grand-doggy pets and my husband loves the fish in his aquarium. Happy writing. Metaphors be with you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mentor Text Talk with Lydia Ludikis

I'm excited to welcome Lydia to ReFoReMo! Her newest release, NO BEARS ALLOWED, is powerful story of fear growing into friendship. 

Hi Lydia! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  

When I started writing for children years ago, I didn’t study the art of writing at all. I just wrote. I was always an avid reader and have been writing since I was 6 years old, but I still didn’t know much about my own craft. In retrospect, I don’t recommend this strategy! It wasn’t until years later that I read Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul and my mind was blown. I started to become more conscious of the writing process and of the many literary devices.

Then I started following the ReFoReMo blog. My mind was blown again! The blog helped me understand the importance of reading and studying mentor texts. To become a strong writer, you need to not only write, but you need to research. The object is to understand key concepts like characters, development, story arcs, and tension. It’s one thing to read about these concepts, but it’s much more helpful to read a book that uses these writing devices effectively in the story. I buy a ton of books, borrow them from my library, and read them in classrooms on my breaks when I give writing workshops. This has shaped my practice.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of NO BEARS ALLOWED?

Yes! In particular, I was moved by the book Fox and Squirrel by Ruth Ohi. This was followed up by Fox and Squirrel Help Out and Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend. Fox and Squirrel have many differences (Squirrel is small and Fox is big; Squirrel lives in a nest and Fox in a burrow etc…) but as their friendship grows, they realize their differences are a good thing, and that they also have other things in common. I love this series because I wanted to write a sweet story about friendship, and they provided so much inspiration. I’m a big fan of Ruth Ohi. What I admire most about her is her ability to pare down language and still create an emotional resonance. I’m trying to learn this art myself, because I’m often too wordy. One of the keys is to always keep the young audience in mind.

How has reading Picture Books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

Reading mentor picture books has helped me understand all the key concepts a writer must know. The more you read, the better writer you become, it’s that simple. I think it’s important to study and be familiar with the classics, but it’s also important to keep a pulse on what’s happening with more contemporary books.

I admire my colleagues and look up to many of them. Here’s a short list of my favorite mentor picture books:
Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Love by Matt de la Peña
The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall by Hannah Holt
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs by Melissa Stewart
Chester (the whole series) by Melanie Watt

What do you feel is the BEST way to for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?
READ as many books as you can. Buy them, borrow them, read them at schools, visit libraries- whatever it takes. I try to keep organized and create folders on my computer with different kinds of pictures books (from fractured fairy tales to straight nonfiction) to keep track of them. Not everyone will respond to things in the same way, so when something moves me, I keep notes of that. I’ve compiled a lot of notes throughout the years! They provide sparks that light up my inspiration.
I also recommend following blogs like ReFoReMo, Kidlit 411, Sub it, and for the nonfiction fans, Celebrate Science by Melissa Stewart and The Nonfiction Detectives are excellent. Find some critique partners, discuss kidlit, and get involved in online forums. Writing can be a solitary endeavour but there’s a really generous writing community that surrounds it. I’m still reading, studying, and learning, and will be for the rest of my days!

Thank you, Lydia!  I'm excited to read more of your work in the future!

Lydia Lukidis is a children's author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books including her STEM books The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery. Her latest picture book, No Bears Allowed, was released by Blue Whale Press in July.

Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence. 

Social Media links
For more information on the publisher, please visit www.bluewhalepress.com