Tuesday, August 3, 2021

THINK QUICK with Kirsti Call and Corey Rosen Schwartz

We've come to Day 7, the last of our Goodbye ReFoReMo Celebration, and we have some exciting news. The spirit of ReFoReMo will March On through a new free challenge coordinated by author and editor Lynne Marie! In true ReFoReMo fashion it will take place every March and celebrate the education that mentor texts provide. You will find details about the March On Challenge at this link as they unfold. We are thrilled to pass the baton to Lynne! (And we might even see you there...wink, wink!)

But now, it is time to say goodbye to ReFoReMo. And what better way to go out than to THINK QUICK with my ReFoReMo partner, Kirsti Call? She has a brand new book coming out in October with author Corey Rosen Schwartz.  So, here they are...let's welcome them!

Hi Corey and Kirsti! 

Congratulations on your upcoming October release of Cold Turkey! I love the way this book celebrates compassion, giving, and gratefulness with doses of humor, too! All of the THINK QUICK themes and events below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean. 

Remember… THINK QUICK!

On Helping Others:

Help yourself or others first?

Kirsti and Corey: If I were Turkey, I’d help others first.

On Giving:

Give everything you have or in moderation?

Kirsti: Again, if I were Turkey, I’d give everything.
Corey: Depends on who I’m giving to.

On Compassion:
Put yourself in their shoes or wear the shoes?

Kirsti and Corey: Give them more shoes?

On Being Cold:
Cover your head or feet first?

Kirsti: I always like to plunge headfirst—so hats are essential.
Corey: My feet! Always sleep in socks, even in the summer.

On Quitting:
Cold turkey or a little at a time?

Kirsti and Corey: Cold turkey, definitely.

On Farm Animals:
Turkeys or cows?

Kirsti: Both are mooovelous!
Corey: Cows. No moo-stake about it.

On Friends:
Treat others how you like to be treated or how they like to be treated?

Kirsti and Corey: Both.

On Winter Weather:
Bring extra layers or just bundle up?

Kirsti: I’m always c-c-cold, so I always b-b-bundle up.
Corey: Bring lots of extra layers so I can share if necessary.

On Teamwork:
Every little bit counts or equal shares?

Kirsti: If we were talking about food, I’d try not to gobble more than my equal share. But, for teamwork, every little bit counts!
Corey: Every little bit counts.

On Books: (wink, wink)
Cold Turkey or Cold Turkey?

Both: C-c-cold Turkey!

Carrie’s Review of Cold Turkey
This catchy title delves beyond the expected! Featuring super cold barnyard buddies who warm up to one very giving turkey, perfect rhyme, and udderly humorous illustrations (a cow with an udder-scarf? I’m sold!), this story is sure to prompt kids to beg for the reread. And it S-S-SUPER f-f-fun to read aloud, whether your c-c-cold or not!

Kirsti Call co-hosts the PICTURE BOOK LOOK podcast and co-runs ReFoReMo. She’s a critique ninja and elf for 12×12, a blogger for Writers’ Rumpus, and a Rate Your Story judge. She’s judged the CYBILS award for fiction picture books since 2015. She's a therapist trained life coach for creatives and she's the author of MOOTILDA’S BAD MOOD (Little Bee), COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) which release on October 12th! Kirstine has an MSW from Boston College and is represented by Charlotte Wenger at Prospect Agency.


Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of The Three Ninja Pigs, Ninja Red Riding Hood, and many other rhyming picture books.  Corey hates the c-c-cold and spends winters c-c-curled up with a good book.  She lives in New Jersey but dreams of one day moving to the Caribbean. 


Web site: www.coreyrosenschwartz.com

Twitter: @CoreyPBNinja

With that, the ReFoReMo blog and challenge says its final goodbye! 

Keep writing reviews, analyzing mentor texts, and writing what makes your heart happy!

Love always,

Carrie Charley Brown & Kirsti Call

Monday, August 2, 2021

Mentor Text Talk with Susan Hughes

Hello Susan! Congratulations on your electric year in publishing, and thanks for chatting with us about mentor texts today!

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

Reading picture books, especially the most recent ones, is so freeing! I’ve always liked to try different things creatively, playing with different structures and forms, trying out different concepts or ways of storytelling, but I used to sometimes worry that I should be trying to follow conventional forms and fit into established templates. Now, I read and explore the incredible expanding range of voices, writing styles, and themes in today’s picture books. I see the publishing world opening up to so many more possibilities—welcoming them! My reading encourages me to take more creative risks. I feel even more inspired as a writer to ask more of myself!  


How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts to learn more about craft?


Sometimes, after reading a picture book that I really admire—whether because of its economy of expression, its lyricism, its unique structure or form, its particular subject matter—I’ll type it out and save it so I can come back to it again—to just the words alone. I find it powerful to read the words of a picture book isolated, without the art, as a reminder of what words alone can and must do, of their power. And also, to refresh my understanding of how much they also must rely on accompanying art to achieve their full lift-off as a story. I’ll sometimes add comments below the text, reminding myself what initially drew me to it and, if I can, explaining how the writer achieved this or why. I’ll return to these texts for inspiration when I’m struggling with specific issues in a manuscript I’m writing.


I also find it helpful to read picture books aloud, or to close my eyes and listen to someone else reading aloud, whether in person or, more commonly these days, someone reading via an online video. The physical experience of hearing the story read aloud shows us why so many of Hearing the words of a story spoken aloud, the pause for the page turn, the story being resumed … Hearing the cadence and flow of the story, the dialogue … Hearing the effect of a gathering of many words, and the effect of the sprinkling of very few words … the craft elements we read about or use are important, shows us how they are effective in supporting the storyline.  


Copying out texts, listening to stories read aloud, and, of course, reading the actual picture books themselves are ways of experiencing the various elements of stories using different senses. My hope is that what I learned and absorbed from these experiences help me craft and shape my own stories, both as something akin to “muscle memory” and by helping me make thoughtful decisions along the way. 


Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of your picture books?

I am fortunate to have had four picture books published this year! My picture book Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built (Owl Kids Books, 2021) is fiction but is based on, and includes, some real facts and people, including the famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. While playing with possibilities for this story and revising its many drafts, I found it helpful to read picture books which feature a real (famous) person meeting a mostly-invented child character, for example, The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt.

When my story, Walking for Water: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality (Kids Can, 2021), was contracted, I learned the publisher planned to include it in their series, Citizen Kids. So I read several of the wonderful books in that series to get a sense of how my story might be positioned alongside them, for example Monica Kulling’s On Our Way to Oyster Bay and Jude Isabella’s The Red Bicycle.

While researching for my first two books in The Science of How series (Kids Can), Sounds All Around and Lights Day and Night, I read many picture books but only fiction, rather than non-fiction. I read during my writing and revising process to help me try to achieve and maintain an accessible and friendly narrative style.  


Susan Hughes is a writer, editor, and story coach, specializing in working with writers of children’s and YA manuscripts. She is the author of many children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, from board books and picture books to chapter books, MG, YA, and graphic novels too. Her most recent picture books are Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works, illustrated by Ellen Rooney (Kids Can, 2021) and Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works, illustrated by Ellen Rooney (Kids Can, 2021); Walking for Water: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality, illustrated by Nicole Miles (Kids Can, 2021); and Carmen and the House that Gaudi Built, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer (Owl Kids, 2021). She lives in a house with a red door in Toronto, Canada. You can learn more about Susan at www.susanhughes.ca or on twitter and Instagram.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Mentor Text Talk with Charlotte Offsay

After recently celebrating her debut in March, Charlotte Offsay is already celebrating her second picture book! How To Return a Monster hits shelves in early September! And she has a third coming in the spring! With so many books deals is such a short period of time, I knew we had to learn from her mentor text perspective.

Welcome, Charlotte! And congratulations on your newest picture book!

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

As we all know, picture books are subjective – what resonates with one person won’t necessarily resonate with the next. Reading countless picture books has allowed me to discover what types I enjoy (and equally important what I don’t) and therefore what kind of picture books I want to create and put out into the world.


How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts to learn more about craft?


Studying what made me laugh, cry, flip right back to the front page to read again, or even put down without finishing (guilty), helped me to figure out what and how to put into my own work.

Take for example Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson – I absolutely adore this book for so many reasons:

It is fun to read aloud

The rhyme is flawless

The storyline is engaging, funny, clever AND surprising

It is filled with heart


Studying this book helped me to realize…

  • The way a book sounds when read aloud is extremely important to me. I want to make sure that my own writing flows and if possible, sings (even when not rhyming). This means really thinking about each and every word and how they sound when strung together and read aloud.
  • I adore rhyming picture books and this book inspired me to take Renee LaTulippe's Lyrical Language Lab class to study rhyme and learn how to use meter to enhance my stories (no small challenge!).
  • I want to write stories that entertain and surprise. This means pushing myself past the initial idea/word choices to the ones way in the back which aren’t as immediately obvious.
  • That heart is the core of a book for me. I like books that have a takeaway/moment of connection and it is important to me to thread heart throughout my own work. This often means that before I begin writing a new story, I write the heart or my ‘why’ at the top of the document.

I also use mentor texts to study what has been done and how to bring my own unique voice/perspective and make sure it stands out in the marketplace.


Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of How to Return a Monster?


Absolutely. How to Return a Monster at its core is a story about sibling relationships.


While I was writing it, I read countless sibling stories including:

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

You were the First by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols

What resonated with me most when reading these books was that they were filled with heart and I paid particular attention to how they evoke emotion.

I also wanted my book to be funny and have a loud voice and so I pulled out a few of my favorites to study and get inspiration from:

TEACH YOUR GIRAFEE TO SKI by Viviane Elbee, illustrated by Danni Gowdy

HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish

WHEN GRANDMA GIVES YOU A LEMON TREE by Jamie Deenihan, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

How to Return a Monster is a humorous how to story about a child’s attempts to reverse course when a new baby joins the family. It is illustrated by Rea Zhai and published September 7, 2021 with Beaming Books.

After seeing all the wonderful mentor texts that you used to learn more about craft, I'm curious whether or not you used any of them as comps when you queried How to Return a Monster over two years ago? Would you mind sharing?

Here is the comp section of my query letter:

"Aimed at children ages 3 to 6, HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER is a 240-word picture book manuscript in the vein of Jean Reagan's HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA and Lauren Child's THE NEW SMALL PERSON, but with a post office and counting twist."

Such a bonus to learn from your query, too! I have no doubt that our readers will be motivated to review the mentor texts you suggested and then read your book! So much to learn! Thanks again for sharing your perspective, Charlotte. 

CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again. She is the author of The Big Beach Cleanup (Albert Whitman 2021), How to Return a Monster (Beaming Books September 2021) and A Grandma’s Magic (Doubleday Books for Young Readers March 2022). Learn more about Charlotte's work at charlotteoffsay.com and follow her on Twitter at @coffsay and on Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.