Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting Your Picture Book to the Right Re-Seller

Okay, I've ceased feeling guilty for the infrequent posts here (day job is crazy busy) since the alternative is to delete and focus on my non-fiction science blog. But's what's the fun in that?

Anyway, I recently got to see how knowing your audience (and in this case, your re-seller) really makes a difference between a ho-hum response to a book and over-the-top excitement (at least by the sales staff).

Last Friday while in Houston, TX. visiting family, I stopped by the Museum of Health and Medical Sciences gift shop. I thought a personal visit would allow me to provide background on why I wrote Alphabet Puke: Monsters' Medicine A-Z (take the scary out of sickness and health stuff) and rave about the great illustrations by Charles Eubanks. I'm much more animated in person than in correspondence. I was even able to mention the YouTube AP  book trailer.

The response was fantastic! A museum gift shop PLUS a children's picture book on medical terms and health. Who knew?! Anyway, the person who actually orders was out, but based on the initial response, I'm optimistic.

Fingers crossed! And let me know how your targeted conversations go with potential resellers. -Q

Friday, August 22, 2014

Happy National Tooth Fairy Day!

As children's writers, this may be the closest we get to having a day dedicated to us. Or childhood. Or imagination. 

Just reading the post title makes me smile and realize that no matter how many times a topic has been covered, it can be imagined in a new way. 

How have you pictured the tooth fairy in your imagination? Here are just a few books on the subject. All wonderful in different ways.
  • The Night before the Tooth Fairy by Natasha Wing
  • Silverlicious by Victoria Kann
  • The Tooth Fairy Trap by Rachelle Burk
  • Caraboose, The Tooth Fairy Moose by Janelle Cox
  • Junie B. - Toothless Wonder by Barbara Parks
  • Bear's Loose Tooth by Karma Wilson
  • The Tooth Fairy by Peter Collington
  • Mary the Tooth Fairy by Nick Bell
  • Tooth Fairy's First Night by Anne Bowen
  • April Underhill, Tooth Fairy by Bob Graham 
  • The Tooth Book by Theo LeSieg
  • You Think It's Easy Being the Tooth Fairy? by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt
  • Emma and the Tooth Fairy by Alexander Zavlavsky
  • Dear Tooth Fairy by Alan Durant
  • Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby Beeler
Power up your imagination. Today is your day too. Happy Children's Authors Day! Happy National Tooth Fairy Day!  -Q


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vacation Time is Divine

As many people do, I have fond memories of summer vacation. School was out and except for household chores and sometimes grueling (if I didn't have a stack of books) car trips, the 3 months of summer were divine. Being known as a children's writer helps when people see me light up with joy at the start of June and don't dim until after Labor Day. 

Even though I have to work at the day job all summer, I do get a couple of weeks off for good behavior. (Yes, Oregon. It was good to see you too!)

In my writing, I try to capture that child-like glee of summer freedom as well. Anything that detracts from that feeling is "the problem" and the return of joy is the solution. Simple, right? Not really, but I like to think of childhood in those terms. (Yes, I am a bit of a Pollyanna. I admit it, but its better than the grumpy alternative.) 

As you embark on your summer writing, try to use favorite summer home/vacation memories to pull the wonder of freedom and anticipation into your work. The exercise may surprise you and help develop depth to your work that you didn't anticipate. Happy summer! - Q

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Social Media, Pinterest and Me

We all have our favorites. Favorite color - purple, favorite fruit - blueberry, favorite fish - salmon. How about favorite social media? They are many. It's a maze. 

The question I hear many authors ask is - "Which social media is best for my writing career?" No idea. There are too many variables. Do you want to reach other authors, agents, or editors? Or do you want to reach readers? Or do you want to communicate only with family or friends on social media? 

Your ultimate goal determines which social media is best for you. Personally, I can't keep up with the latest and greatest. My theory is that when a new site overtakes the social media I am now on, I will look into it. Life is too short to chase social media to the detriment of writing time. 

Okay, that said, my super visual self loves Pinterest. (don't judge.) I have a children's writing account, Picbooksrock and a science/steampunk/ 3Dprinting/non-fiction account, Sciwhisperer account. These are relaxing, stimulating, and fantastically fun places to connect! Show and Tell for adults! 

On Pinterest, I don't have to stress about which demographic is interested in an awesome illustration, "The Blue Monster" by Christa Unzne or intricate 3D art by Kevin Mack, Steampunk story starter, "Modern Steam Monobike 1896" by Stefano Marchettiv or picture book video, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. I just pin what strikes me and like-minded folks do the same. Perfect. 

Is is a time suck? Can be. Does it help me keep track of writing resources shared by others? Absolutely. Does it spark tons of creative ideas? Every day! But the best thing about Pinterest? It's FUN! and I am exposed to tons of many different people and their favorite things. 

Pinterest. Stop by and share a favorite. I will too. - Q

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cowboys, Campfires, and Growing Up in the West

Some of you know that I grew up on a ranch in western Nevada. John Wayne and my dad were my heroes. I got my own horse, a good-natured Palomino at age 11. I was so overcome by happiness, I cried. Which really confused my parents until I explained they were happy tears. So how has this colorful upbringing affected my writing? 

Well, a lot of family stories have been percolating like coffee on the campfire for years. Recently, I started pulling them together to share with my own native Texans and other children.

My stories are coming along, but have you thought about the special features of your upbringing? How does your writing reflect those early roots? Your unique insights could add the sparkle to an already interesting and fun story. -Q

Thursday, May 29, 2014

You Never Know Who Will Be Reading

If you are like me, reading and books have been part of your life since before you could remember. My mom was a career librarian, so I grew up in the library. Instead of rural Nevada, I could live in far away real and imagined places. I only ever met children's authors face-to-face through their writing. Hundreds of authors shaped my mind and values without us ever speaking a word.

Now as a published author, I have the thrill of meeting children and discussing their favorite books and characters. I'm honored to pay-it-forward from those wonderful writers of my childhood.

Whether talking non-fiction and STEM topics or fiction and flying monkeys, the chance to share ideas with readers never gets old. It is one of the main things that keeps me encouraged when the rejections roll in or the day job gets busy and family asks me why I keep at it. 

How about you? What part of writing for children do you enjoy most? - Q

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Board Book Bias?

I've noticed over the past couple of years that a lot of popular picture books have been condensed into board books. The art is still great, but the stories and concepts often suffer. Plus, as was pointed out in a Horn Book article from nearly twenty years ago, publishers seem to put much less thought into making original board books (designed specifically for toddlers) than they do repackaging $ making picture books.

Here are a few examples of books that were written for older kids but are now available for toddlers, On the Night You Were Born, Little Blue Truck, and Giraffes Can't Dance. These are great 32 page picture books with colorful illustrations, but I'm not convinced a toddler will understand the concepts (e.g. self esteem) as the author intended when it is shortened to a handful of pages. 

Silly me, but writers and illustrators are directed by agents, editors and publishing contracts to write for a designated age group. A completed story is worked and reworked to fit into the intended category with age appropriate words, art, etc. 

So, it seems important to speak up in support of writers who write original board books! Writer/illustrator Sandra Boynton comes to mind. 

By the way, I admit I have a huge writer crush on Sandra's ability to tell a complete story in a very short word count. (Plus I love her art!) Books like Blue Hat, Green Hat (which we call the "Oops! book" at our house), Doggies, and The Going to Bed Book are wonderful for 1-2 year olds because they are written for them.

Anyway, it's something to think about as writers and book buyers. I know what I plan to do. What do you think? Who are your favorite board book authors/illustrators? - Q

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Day Job

It has been over a month since I posted here. Did I forget you? Never! In fact, I have had a substantial amount of guilt over all the writing tasks that have taken a back seat in the last 2 months to my day job. 

March and April I run a large event in addition to my normal job tasks. This year, my management had even more confidence in my "endless" energy. I was given another 3 only slightly smaller events to coordinate in March/April on top of the huge event and my usual work. 

Anyway, you get the idea. Tons of day job responsibilities that pay the bills, but zap most creative energy. Make dinner, feed the animals, shower, fall into bed, repeat.

Apparently, this is not a modern affliction. Many well know writers in history had day jobs and did fine. I enjoyed this blog post by Mason CurreyThanks! 

Guilt is sliding away. Hope is creeping in. The pressures of the day job recede and creativity is back in the driver's seat. Are you in the same place? Hang in there with me. We will succeed. -Q

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Break for Writers

There are a lot of students and families on spring break in March. Lucky! Though my thoughts may take brief creative vacations from the day job, I am still sitting at my desk. 

Plus, I want to be ready if/when the muse shows up. Although, maybe SHE is at the beach waiting for me to show up? Gulp!

Do you have traditional family activities or plan fun vacations for spring break? 

Write about them! They could be just the unique idea or slant that a publisher is looking for. 
Good luck! -Q

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How Sweet It Is!

I just heard from my publisher that my medical picture book, Alphabet Puke - Monster's Medicine A-Z was named as a finalist in the Picture book - Early Reader section of the ForeWord Reviews 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards today!

As you can imagine, I'm thrilled. If you haven't seen it, you have to check out the wonderful illustrations by Charles Eubanks. They lend just the right amount of silliness to take the edge off any illness and lend plenty of medicinal giggles.  

Wahoo!! Tell your friends! Tell your pets! Tell the person sitting next to you on the bus/subway/airplane! Oh wait, that's my job. 

I'm only a little excited...-Q

Monday, March 3, 2014

Heart Connections in Children's Books

When I was little, my mother read The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton to me. By the time she got to the end, I was so happy TLH had made it back to the country. Fast forward to adulthood. When I read TLH now, tears roll down my face half way through. 

Why? Why after many years and life changes does this children's book still affect me? I believe it's the heart connections made in childhood. In TLH, the house was built on a pretty hill surrounded by daisies out in the country. Eventually the city expands until TLH is surrounded by high rise buildings that block out the sun. TLH longs for the sunny hillside. 

I grew up in the country and eventually moved to Houston, TX amid high rise buildings that blocked out the sun. I seriously missed the open countryside and seeing the stars at night. My childhood connections to The Little House can't be unmade. I can't unsee the illustrations. 

Now as I write this, I'm living in Arkansas and looking out the window at bright snow and woods. Like TLH, I'm back in the country.

Today I read The Boy who was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris. By the end, I was more than misty. Why? Another heart connection. My mother was a career librarian. I have been in a library nearly every day of my life. I connected in a very personal way to this story.

So here's what I'm thinking. As a children's author, I need to pay more attention to the story ideas that come from a heart connection in my life. I believe those are the ones where my best writing will emerge. Those stories will have connecting power. What do you think? -Q

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good to Great in Picture Books

It has been super motivational to complete PiBoIdMo two years in a row. I now have nearly 70 picture book ideas in the hopper. Several, I've developed into full-fledged stories. Polishing is ongoing after critique partners have taken a look.

But this year, the idea hit home that there are thousands, sigh, of good picture book stories pitched every day. What makes that one story take off and become great in the eyes of agents, editors, publishers, and readers? 

I think the answer is surprise. What is it about a title or cover illustration that makes you take a second look or smile at the cleverness of the story? I've started thinking about my book ideas like an act at the circus. Will it cause readers to gasp at the suspense, giggle at the clowning, or rather take on a "been there, seen that" attitude.

Here are some of the books that lead me to my hypothesis.

  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Huh! Pigeons can't drive!)
  • Boy + Bot (love all things robotic plus the 2 points of view add interest)
  • Exclamation! (extremely clever)
  • I Want My Hat (grumpy bear is a fashion horse?)
  • Extra Yarn (hmm...yarn everywhere. I love knitting so this caught my eye)
  • This Moose Belongs to Me (Huh. Huge moose won't follow small boy's rules)
  • Press Here (quite inventive)
  • This is Not My Hat (fish with a blue bowler and visual humor)
You get the idea. These books are all fairly unique. There is not a vampire or magical boy in the bunch. They entertain and teach in different non-standard ways. And a lot comes out in the art.

So it seems that to really stand out in a busy picture book market, you have to REALLY stand out. I have tons of fun story ideas that I love, but most don't have the wow factor yet. I'll keep honing my craft and see where it leads. If it was easy, everyone would be publishing. - Q

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Write What You Wish You Knew

We've all heard the advice to "write what you know." But what about sci-fi and historical topics? I love books in these genres and the old/new settings and civilizations described. How then can authors write something they know about if they didn't live hundreds of years ago or thousands of years in the future? It's a mystery!

But, if I were to guess. I would say historical research in the first case and research+science+imagination in the latter case. At least that's how I would tackle it. For science fiction, I would imagine all kinds of science gadgets that I wish I had or dreaded having, then give them to some young characters to figure out. I would do the same thing with clothing, environment, and family relationships to name a few. Then, I would start fiddling with a mashup of several of the threads. Conflicts? Characters? Journeys? Resolutions?

I wouldn't start out knowing much about the story, but with a lot of analysis and (for me) outlining. I would know a lot by the time I finished the story. How about you? Do you wonder about writing in the past or future, invisible or  unknown? - Q

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Gaggle of Picture Books

I go to the library every week and troll for new picture books. I bring home 8-10 and study format, theme, voice, and topic. Sometimes, to mix things up I wander into the stacks and choose more books by the same author or illustrator as one of the new books I've selected. 


Lots of reasons: 1) I'm always in learning mode, 2) it's helpful to see how the illustrations represent more or less of the story, 3) when the text rhymes, does it support or lend impact to the story? or not? 4) sometimes ideas springboard from the PB ideas, 5) what is the market highlighting today or drowning in (new idea or another vampire book?), and most importantly, 6) I love to read picture books! 

That said, I ran across a South Carolina list of 2013-2104 Picture Book Award Nominees. Of all the books listed, I've only read Caldecott Honor Book One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo. However, there is a broad selection of great books on the list and I plan to read as many as I can. Interested? Check them out and let's compare notes. - Q

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

2014! Hurray! A new year, new ideas, new conferences, new drafts, and new agents! Sensing a theme? The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider your mindset a "do over" in creativity.

After all the cliches about success and persistence are revisited, it seems that writers have to accept the fact that to be happy, they need to write. 

Publication is desirable and fun, but even if I had never been published, I would still write because I must. As I explained to someone over the holidays, I've had sabbaticals from writing over the years for various family and career reasons, but eventually the need to create (art, photography, and writing) builds like steam in a pressure cooker. Unless it's given an outlet, I'm not a happy camper. My life outlook and joy are dulled. 

So begin 2014 with a fresh outlook. Put a sticky on the bathroom mirror that says, "You are a successful writer. Write!" You'd be surprised how well that works. 

Happy New Year and success to us all! -Q