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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: Susan Verde

Before Susan Verde became a New York Times award-winning author, she was an elementary school teacher and yoga instructor. Her books show how kids navigate the world and how to write from a child’s point of view.



Verde’s first picture book The Museum, Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator), is written in a series of rhyming couplets from the point of view of a girl visiting a museum. Verde’s text shows how the girl reacts to each piece of art. Reynolds’ choice of masterpieces is a tribute to some of the greatest artists of our time. The ending is a tribute to creativity and artistic self-expression.

When I see a work of art,
something happens in my heart.

I cannot stifle my reaction.
My body just goes into action.

This one makes me
want to pose
and stand up on
                                           my tippy-toes.                                            

In Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community, John Parra (Illustrator), a boy speaks to and about a wall as though it is a living part of his community. Elders recall when it was beautiful and had stories to tell. But over time the wall became “lonely concrete” and one day the boy decides it doesn’t have to be this way. “You are stone but you don’t have to be hard.” Verde’s character takes action and through street art the wall once again reflects the wonderful things happening in the neighborhood. This is an inspiring story of community activism.

Maybe once you were full of style,
but no one has taken care of you.
You are nothing to look at.
You are cold,


Aware of the need for children to slow down and reset, she helps children examine their own bodies, reflect, and manage the noise they hear from the outside world.

How would a child fully grasp concepts like empathy, compassion, and mindfulness? Susan Verde and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, explores these concepts in her series on wellness.


The opening from I AM YOGA, the first book in the series sets the tone:

When I feel
in a world
so big,
When I wonder how I fit in,
When the world is spinning so fast…
I tell my wiggling body:
be still.
I tell my thinking mind:
be quiet.
I tell my racing breath:
be slow.


In The Water Princess, Peter H. Reynolds, (Illustrator), Verde collaborated with Burkina Faso supermodel Georgie Badiel to tell the story of a young girl faced who doesn’t have easy access to water. Using a first-person point of view and lyrical prose Verde gives and emotional account of a day in the life of the girl who has to walk miles for water.

The thirst comes quick – dry lips, dry throat.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
I see it.
I dip my toes in it.
I scoop it up and bring it to my lips.
Slowly, I open my eyes.

Susan Verde’s stories are wonderful examples of how books can be quiet or active as long as the focus is on the child and their experiences.

Don’t miss other books by Susan Verde: