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.
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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 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.