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. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Revealing ReFoReMo with Traci Bold

Traci Bold was an active participant during ReFoReMo 2016 and continues to participate in the Facebook group. We excited to have Traci share what she's learned from ReFoReMo!

Guest post by Traci Bold

I love the thrill of researching books.  For each of my works in progress, I enjoy finding mentor texts that show me what I'm missing.

During ReFoReMo 2016 I discovered...

1. The vast world of non-fiction.
I reference ‘Water is Water’ by Miranda Paul and “A Rock Can Be’ by Laura Purdie Salas frequently for bringing out the passion in my NF writing for nature. (Other highlights: Back Matter with: Marcie Flinchum Atkins; Non-Fiction with Laura Purdie Salas; Lively language/NF with Jen Swanson)

2. Books fall into different sub categories. I do not limit myself to just one. I let the book fall into place for its own merit. For example, I started writing a book about a majestic sequoia and what it endured through its lifetime. It was purely non-fiction. The idea came from using a Word of the Day selection and was inspired by reading Jason Chin’s ‘Redwoods. But as I rewrote the story, the non-fiction element remained and crossed into a fiction book. (Cross genres with Maria Gianferrari)

3. My love for words. Reading books I hadn’t yet read, especially the difficult subjects, deepened my love of words. There is a nuance to writing these, so I studied the subtle style and am using these mentor texts to help me with works of mine that are about uncomfortable topics.  (Uncomfortable topics with Tom Lichtenheld; Reader Experience with Debbie Ridpath Ohi)

4. The nuances of every page. 

5. The fun of researching and revising!

6. Others' comments on ReFoReMo posts bring fresh ideas and new perspective. 

7. I want my books to be like the guest posts;  succinct, powerful and always positive.

The kidlit community has a great camaraderie and support system and ReFoReMo is a wonderful part of it. I am humbled to be a part of it now too, even though I am not yet published (working on it J) So thank you Carrie and Kirsti for all that you do to support the #kidlit authors and illustrators and making us feel like we belong; you two rock!

Thanks so much for sharing, Traci! 

If you would also like to share your ReFoReMo experience, we welcome you to review our submission policy for the Revealing ReFoReMo series.

Traci bold lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two college daughters. She writes picture books and YA full time. She belongs to SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and ReFoReMo. You can find her on Twitter @1967BoldWriter, Facebook-Traci Bold, Pinterest and her webpage- boldwriter67.wordpress.com. Ghost and animal/nature stories are her favorite to read and write.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

THINK QUICK with Author Lori Degman

Hi Lori! Congrats on the release of NORBERT’S BIG DREAM.  I love how this story encourages children to break out of preconceived roles and dream big. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

 Thanks for having me here, Carrie!  I loved all the questions!

On Pigs:
Preferred pets or farm friends?   

Farm friends.  Unfortunately, my town has an ordinance against pet pigs.

On Dreams:
Wish on a star or make them happen?    

Wish first – then make them happen.  As Katherine Paterson said: “A dream without a plan is just a wish.”

On Swimming:
Splash around or swim for life?    

Splash for my life.

On Goals:

Set them high or start small? 

Set them high.  As Norman Vincent Peale said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”

On Mud:
Embrace the goo or wash it off?

Definitely embrace the goo!  It may be messy but it’s fun!

On Conflict:
Press through or take a break?

I’m a classic procrastinator, so I’m apt to take a break!

On Friends:
Roll with one pack or splatter some muddy love to many?

I’m a people person, so I love having a lot of friends – but I also have a pack of very close friends. 

On Staying Motivated:
Reward your achievements or seek support?

I’d be nowhere without the support of my writer friends, and together we celebrate our achievements – big and small!  Whether it’s completing a story, submitting a manuscript or signing a contract!

On Training:
Push hard & fast or take baby steps?

I have short legs, so I’m forced to take baby steps J   Seriously, I tend to jump into things with both feet.

On Books:
Norbert’s Big Dream or Norbert’s Big Dream?

Norbert’s Big Dream!

Of course! And I agree!

Review (By Carrie Charley Brown):

Breaking out of the rhyming mold and into prose, Lori Degman shines in this character-driven story about a motivated pig with big dreams. Children will fall in love with Norbert's spirit. He's not afraid to follow his dreams and be different. As a bonus, the young reader will learn (without even realizing) that it's a pretty good idea to think things through when planning for a big goal. With winks at additional themes of friendship, staying motivated, and facing conflict, this story scores big on the teaching scale. (It's a great one for the beginning of any school year!) Illustrator Marco Bucci renders bright, colorful illustrations that make Norbert feel like a favorite cartoon television show. From cover to cover, Norbert's Big Dream is a work of art that children will adore.

Lori Degman is the award-winning author of three picture books. 1 Zany Zoo (Simon & Schuster, 2010) won the Cheerios New Author Contest and a small paperback version was including inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios.  1 Zany Zoo was on the inaugural Illinois Reads List and was nominated for the South Carolina School Picture book Award.  Cock-a-Doodle Oops! (Creston Books, 2014) was an International Literacy Association Honor Book.  Norbert’s Big Dream (Sleeping Bear Press, 2016) was released August 1, 2016.  She lives in a northern suburb of Chicago.  Learn more about her at Loridegman.com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August Mentor Text Check in and Challenge: Emotion

By Kirsti Call

What do your favorite picture books have in common?  Do they make you laugh?  Do you they make you cry? Chances are, your favorite picture books evoke some sort of feeling. Without emotion in stories, we don't want to re-read or even finish a book.  We revisit stories that resonate us and help us feel.

Here's the August Mentor Text Challenge:  Read at least 3 picture books that evoke emotion for you and ask these questions.

1. Why do I feel this emotion?
2. What words or events in the story evoke this emotion?
3. What amps up the emotion in this story?

Now read your manuscripts and ask yourself the same questions:

1. Why do I feel this emotion?
2. What words or events in the story evoke this emotion?
3. What amps up the emotion in this story?

There are so many books that use emotion to speak to our hearts.  Let's use them as mentor texts so our stories evoke emotion!

What books do you recommend as stellar mentor texts for emotion?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Author Josh Funk Talks Mentor Texts

By Kirsti Call

I first met Josh when he joined my on-line critique group 3 years ago.  His stories are playful, witty and fun for everyone to read. He's a great author to discuss mentor texts with!  And this month Josh celebrates the release of his newest book, Pirasaurs! 

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

​I read a lot of picture books. Whenever I go to the library, I grab every picture book in the 'new' section that I haven't read. Sometimes I'll spend an hour at a book store reading all the face out books (or anything with an interesting spine). Every once in a while, I'll walk up and down the stacks and pick a book or two at random with my eyes closed (take that, 'judge a book by it's cover' cliche!).

However, I don't consciously use any books specifically as mentor texts. It's more the accumulation of all the books I read that inform my writing.

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

Sometimes I read picture books with my children. Other times I read them alone. I'll often come across a book I like a lot and I'll read it with everyone in my family (including my cats) to see what they think. Sometimes I find a book I really don't like and also ask my whole family to read it to see if I'm crazy and wrong (the answers are usually and sometimes, respectively). In that case, I try to understand what it is that didn't click for me - and I'll try to avoid writing stories with those features.

Every once in a while I'll find a book I *love* so much that I have to share it with everyone. Immediately. I'll interrupt whatever you're doing to share it with you (this becomes a problem when people are using bathrooms).

This happened three times last year with ONE DAY, THE END by Rebecca Kai-Dotlich and illustrated by Fred Koehler, UNDER A PIG TREE by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Chuck Groenink, and BOATS FOR PAPA by Jessixa Bagley. In all three cases, I don't think I've gone and written any stories emulating those three styles, but they've all helped develop my attitude as a writer.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, Pir​asaurs!​, and Dear Dragon (or any other upcoming books)?

Of course, there's IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts - a fabulously illustrated and gloriously clever rhyming picture book. It showed me that I could use advanced language in a book for children - like trestle, clods, Romanesque. That certainly encouraged me to get words like rappelled, legumes, and slathered into LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST.

Another all-time favorite picture book of mine is THE GARDENER by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. I don't think I consciously thought about the fact that one of my favorites was written in epistolary format as I drafted DEAR DRAGON (which is also written in letter form), but it wouldn't surprise me if it played a part.

And while the final version of PIRASAURS! is very different, early drafts had more of a concept-driven feel in the vein of SHARK VS. TRAIN by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.​

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

Mentor texts come in very handy when I'm feeling stuck. When I've drafted a story and sent it through critique groups, but something isn't quite clicking - that's when I search for mentor texts. Often times critique partners mention comparable titles when giving feedback. If someone says 'this story feels a bit like HAMPIRE! - I'll go find that book and see how Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen made that story work.​ Or maybe someone says it reminds them of SEAVER THE WEAVER and I realize that it's a little too close to Paul Czajak's text - so I need to change the direction up a bit.

And sometimes I find a book that I love so much that I wish I thought of the idea. It doesn't mean that I'll necessarily go out and try to write a story just like it. But every picture book I read informs and inspires the next manuscript I write.   

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books - such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin), LP&SFT: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (Sterling, 2017), IT'S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017), and more.
Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more information about Josh at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on twitter at @joshfunkbooks.