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KidLit411 by Elaine Kiely Kearns - 5d ago
You GUYS! I have an awesome cover reveal AND a GIVEAWAY!



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KidLit411 by Sylvia Liu - 5d ago
© Katrin Dreiling
Dec. 7, 2018 vol. 49

The Weekly 411 gathers all the links added to Kidlit411 each week. To receive this post by email, sign up for our email updates. Are you on Facebook? Join our Kidlit411 group for conversations & camaraderie. This week's illustration is by Terry Runyan.


AUTHOR  & EDITOR SPOTLIGHTS


We are excited to feature debut young adult author M.K. England! M.K. is the author of THE DISASTERS (HarperCollins Children's, Fall 2018).  Enter to win an ARC of the book!



Today we feature former literary agent Mary Kole, who provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir. Be sure to enter her giveaway for a free query letter critique.





Diversity in Kidlit


So, You Wrote a Marginalized Protagonist

Dec 15 Multicultural Children's Book Day. Author and publisher sponsorships are available to participate in Multicultural Children's Book Day, a one-day annual celebration of diverse children's books on January 25, 2019. This on- and offline event's mission is to get diverse children's and YA books into homes, classrooms, daycares, and libraries. Authors can get involved by:
  • Donating books
  • Be an Author Sponsor
  • Connect on social media using #Readyourworld
  • Provide guest blog posts about your writing journey or the importance of diversity in children's literature

Contests & Awards

  • What: apply for a mentorship with an established picture book author or illustrator
  • Who: un-agented and not traditionally published in any format
  • Prize: 3-month mentorship (Feb-April 2019) 

SUPPORT KIDLIT411

If you enjoy this weekly update or our Facebook group of fellow authors and illustrators, please consider supporting Kidlit411. Any amount is appreciated. $12 is the equivalent of $1/month and $24 is $2/month.

  


Get this weekly update by email each Friday. We collect your email to send you the update and new posts when they go up.

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KidLit411 by Elaine Kiely Kearns - 5d ago



 December 7, 2018

We are excited to feature debut young adult author M.K. England! M.K. is the author of THE DISASTERS (HarperCollins Children's, Fall 2018).  Enter to win an ARC of the book!

Welcome, M.K.!


Cover design by Jenna Stempel-Lobell, artwork by Filip Hodas
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

I’m your pretty typical nerd, I think. I play games of all kinds (video, tabletop, D&D, etc.), read and write fanfic, love sci-fi TV shows, all the usual. I also love to garden and hike—being outside is key to my mental health! I’m a YA librarian as my day job, and it’s a perfect fit career for me. 

My love of YA came before either authoring or librarianing, though now that I think back on it, I think most of the ideas floating around in my head have always been YA-ish. I used to work for Books-a-Million, and that’s when I really first started to love and understand YA as its own category. I read Sabriel, Eragon, Tamora Pierce, and more. When I finally started to attempt writing for the first time in 2009-ish, it was YA. 

Those first attempts were completely shut down by my severe anxiety issues, though. I’d get 5,000 or 10,000 words in and hate myself so thoroughly that I’d quit and not muster up the courage to try again for another year or two. I finished my first book in February 2014 and, though it wasn’t very good, I proved to myself that I COULD actually write a whole book, that books are finite things that can be finished in finite amounts of time. Once I learned that, I was off to the races. 

Congrats on your debut YA novel, THE DISASTERS. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Yay, thanks! THE DISASTERS has a little something for everyone. Even if you aren’t a sci-fi reader or don’t like books set in space, I’ve been told there’s enough humor, loveable characters, and plotty mystery elements to please any reader. 

It’s about a hotshot pilot named Nax who fails out of his dream academy on the first day, only to witness that academy’s near destruction right as he and his fellow washouts are about to be shipped home forever. They’re the only survivors, and thus the perfect scapegoats, which kicks off a wild adventure with heists, crashing spaceships, arguing, getting shot, family drama, and a desperate attempt to stave off the biggest threat the galaxy’s ever faced. 

All my books start out as a vague little idea seed that appears out of nowhere and sits around in an Idea Dump google doc for months or years until it meets the right catalyst. In this case, the seed was “a hotshot pilot fails out of a space academy on his first day” and the catalyst was seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater in summer 2014. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it was so much fun, and it solidified for me what I wanted THE DISASTERS to feel like. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo later that year!


Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?

Fairly short-ish pre-book deal, I think, and positively eternal post-book deal!

I was very lucky to get an agent and book deal with the second book I wrote, especially because THE DISASTERS was a total mess at that point, in hindsight. Though I’ve loved reading and writing all my life, for the reasons mentioned above (and that I talk about more here), I didn’t start seriously writing until early 2014.

I revised THE DISASTERS throughout 2015 and was accepted into Pitch Wars with it late that summer. After PW, I got a call in late November 2015 from my now-agent, Barbara Poelle, who’d I’d reached out to with a regular old cold query. She gave me a Revise and Resumbit and hooked me up with two of her amazing clients for feedback. I resubmitted in early 2016, we signed and went out on sub very quickly, and had a book deal done that spring! Pretty quick, all things considered. 

From then, things slowed down a LOT. I’m a pretty type-A person, so I don’t handle dead time with no specific goal very well. Average turnaround from deal-to-debut is 18-24 months. For me, it’s been more like...31 months? Two and a half years-ish. Now, of course, I’m finishing up Book 2 deadlines, promoting for THE DISASTERS, pitching new projects, but there were definitely long stretches of time where the urge to just DO SOMETHING was overwhelming. 

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished line edits on my second book for HarperTeen, which will be out in January-ish 2020. I can’t say much about it yet, but I can’t wait to reveal the title! It’s a sci-fi/fantasy mashup with similar pacing and humor to THE DISASTERS, but a little more emotionally intense, in my opinion. It’s very Final Fantasy 7 meets Six of Crows. Right now, I’m turning my attention now to writing a proposal and sample chapters for another stand-alone YA sci-fi that’s grabbed my heart, plus whittling away at an adult f/f romantic comedy!

Who would you cast in the movie of your book?

Ask my friends and they will all tell you—I know absolutely NOTHING about actors and such unless they’re in one of my major fandoms, and I’m totally infuriating to talk to about movies or celebrities because of my complete ignorance. I imagine grown-up Nax to look a lot like Riz Ahmed, though! (He was in Star Wars once—see? Fandom connections.)

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?

My younger self really needed a lot of advice on life in general, but if we’re talking writing advice: Just finish something. Young me desperately needed to know that finishing a book was possible, even if it was awful at first, even if their garbage brain tried desperately the whole time to tell them how awful they were. Finishing that first book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it’s still one of my proudest moments. I wish that same moment for every aspiring writer.

What is something most people don't know about you?

Even though I can come across as distant or prickly sometimes, I’m really a total softie. I’m a friend-cuddler, I cry at emotional commercials, I get choked up at some point in almost every book I read, all that. Friends who are into astrology tell me this is a typical cancer crab thing? I guess I’m a crab. *makes crabby hands*

Where can people find you online?


I’m most active on Instagram (@m.k.england) and Twitter (@geektasticlib). The best way to get the most crucial updates is via my monthly newsletter. My website is www.mkengland.com, and I can occasionally be found lurking on goodreads and tumblr. Come say hi! 





M.K. England is an author and YA librarian living in the mountainy parts of Virginia. When she’s not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, going to conventions, rolling dice at the gaming table, climbing on things in the woods, or feeding her video game addiction. She loves Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in her presence. You’ll regret it. THE DISASTERS is her debut novel. Follow her at www.mkengland.com.  





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KidLit411 by Sylvia Liu - 5d ago

Dec. 7, 2018

Today we feature former literary agent and freelance editor Mary Kole, who provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir.


Be sure to enter her giveaway for a free query letter critique.



Tell us about your career and how you came to be a freelance editor.

I started out in publishing as a reader for a literary agency in 2008, as I was getting my MFA in creative writing. I’d always been interested in reading and writing, and had an English degree. But the business of publishing was always calling, as much as I loved (and still love!) writing creatively. I wanted to see how books were made and marketed, and to be a part of that process. 

After the agency internship, I started interning in the children’s department at Chronicle Books, and the rest, as they say, is history. I found my calling in children’s literature. From there, I became a reader for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and then an agent. I moved to NYC in 2010 to be an agent full-time. During this time, I developed the Kidlit.com blog and wrote my book, WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT. 

After an agency switch to Movable Type Management, I met my husband, and we decided to move to Minneapolis to be close to his family and start our own. Leaving NYC meant that I would leave agenting—I just didn’t think I’d be an asset to clients without having boots on the ground in Manhattan. I’m very much an in-person person when it comes to getting to know editors. So I went back to doing what I’d really developed a huge taste and talent for while agenting: working one on one with writers to strengthen their manuscripts before submission. Now that’s all I’ve been doing full time for the last five years as a freelance editor. I love it! I get to use my ideas about the craft of writing and weave in my publishing industry insider experience.

Congrats on your influential website, Kidlit.com and your book, WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT. Tell us about them and how they came about.


When I got to my first slush pile in 2008, I immediately thought, “Oh my goodness, there is so much weird and wonderful stuff here. I want to blog about it!” But, of course, it would’ve been highly unethical to share what people were submitting as their private creative work. 

So that idea, happily, morphed into, “Oh my goodness, writers are making so many mistakes. I should write about how to nail some of these fundamentals and help guide aspiring writers in the ins and outs of the publishing process.” A much better idea! Kidlit.com was born in 2009, once I’d decided to focus on children’s books. For a few years, I developed my writing craft philosophy and teaching style. 

In 2012, I got a book deal from Writer’s Digest Books. Instead of repackaging blog content, I challenged myself to write all new material about writing and publishing middle grade and young adult novels. I am so proud of the book. It was so fun to write. And I still hear from writers every week, five years later, that it’s influential and helpful to them. That’s the most gratifying part of all.

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in children's publishing since you began?

Children’s publishing has really come into its own as an economic force. Lists are bigger, the market is more competitive, houses are making big money in children’s books and want that trend to continue. More and more writers are trying their hands at kidlit. The field is more crowded than ever. Writers are challenged unlike they’ve never been before to put fresh spins on familiar ideas (a kid with powers, a kid going to a school or camp for others like them, “issue books” that deal with suicide, etc.). The bar has been raised significantly for quality of writing, plotting, and character development. Basically, this is now a mature market and new entries need to perform and impress, especially if you have dreams of publishing with one of the major houses. 

All of these changes put a lot of pressure on the writer, and anyone in the writer’s corner, like an agent or freelance editor. I have to up my teaching and critiquing game, and really work hard to give creative, actionable input. I also have to become versed in other publishing models (like independent publishing) for my clients who either don’t want to participate in the traditional model or have burned out there. The market for editors is crowded, too, since writers have realized that they need to often hire people to help get a manuscript into shape before submission. So I have to keep my skills sharp, and market myself. I am very lucky to have a big platform and loyal client base, but I’m always working on outreach, too.

As a professional editor, what are some common mistakes you see aspiring authors make?

Two things come to mind immediately. The first is telling about emotions or relying on physical clichés, for example: “She was sad” or “Her heart hammered in her chest.” Neither of these are very interesting because they’re not specific. Very little writing prowess is required here and, as I mentioned above, that’s not ideal because the bar is quite high. That’s why I teach my concept of interiority (a character’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, and inner struggle). It means going deeper into the character’s experience, often by rendering thoughts on the page or writing with an eye toward emotion. For example, compare, “She was sad,” to, “This was it. No matter what, she could never go home again.” The latter is much more specific and even approaches that nebulous quality of “voice” that all agents and editors are looking for.

The second mistake a lot of writers make is not researching the market or what else is being published today. Some writers will not read because they worry about polluting their own process. This attitude (ironically) tends to breed cliché ideas and cliché writing because the writer is not exposing themselves to what’s out there and what their published peers are doing. A related mistake is reading some children’s books from their own childhood in the 70s and writing more of that. The market has changed in BIG WAYS, so this is not going to be helpful. Bone up on what’s contemporary and successful. Some writers also categorically refuse to look at publishing categories because they see any discussion of commercial topics as selling out their art. They usually end up writing 10,000-word “picture books” or 5,000-word “middle grade novels”. Neither of these projects fit the category the writer is trying to pitch. Sure, you can absolutely write a manuscript that doesn’t fall into any established genre or category. You can do whatever you want. But if you don’t know the market, and you don’t write with at least a nod to market in mind, your odds of publishing such a project are precipitously low.  

What is ONE thing people can do to improve their middle grade or YA novels? Their picture books?

Voice is crucial in middle grade and young adult. If you really want to put rocket boosters on your progress in this area, print your novel out and read it aloud. THE WHOLE THING. Yes, I realize that’s a lot and you’ll lose your voice and there are probably other people in your house who you’re self-conscious about. They will hear you. They might think you’re weird. Who cares? Read it aloud. Hold a pen in your hand and mark all the passages that are too wordy or clunky or don’t sound right. Go back and fix those, also by composing aloud. Voice isn’t just something that echoes around in your head. It must be spoken and felt in your body. 

For picture books, go and read 50 picture books from today’s shelves. Again, I’m serious. 50 of them. Go to a library, claim a corner, pull up a ridiculous little chair, and do it. (You don’t have to read them aloud, though if you do, you will probably find yourself running story time before long!) I can read a picture book in three minutes flat when I’m trying to expedite bedtime for my son, so this isn’t going to take you all that long. Pick only examples that are relevant to your own work (if you’re not writing a nonfiction science picture book, you probably don’t need to read any at this point). Pick only those published in the last three years. Sit and read. Stretch your legs when the ridiculous chair gets to be too much. Then read some more. You are looking to get a sense of character and plot and voice. Notice how they all have conflict. That’s one thing missing in a lot of picture book manuscripts. Notice how character is established. If you’re like most people, you’ll be shocked to notice that picture books have gotten really incredible since the last time you looked. This is often new information that I wish a lot of aspiring picture book writers had before deciding to hammer out a draft.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I tend to be an open book (har har, bad publishing joke) for the most part. But because I share so freely and seem effusive when doing webinars and conferences and public speaking (in my agenting days, that sometimes meant one or two conference weekends a month, giving keynotes to hundreds of people), many people assume I’m an extrovert. I used to assume this, too, because there are elements of teaching and interacting with people that I really love. However, I’ve come to realize that I really do value my alone time. I love what I do, I love the focus it demands, I love to be in my head. (In a sci-fi scenario, I’d want to be a brain in a jar.) I need long periods to recharge and recalibrate after being “on” in a social setting. Working from home, which I’ve done for my entire career, is actually perfect for me. The more creative types I meet, the more I recognize kindred spirits who perform well in public, but need ample time alone to refill their gas tanks.

What editorial services do you provide and where can people find you online?

I offer a full menu of editorial services for writers in all categories. My specialty is children’s books, because that’s where I’ve built my expertise and brand, but about 30% of my clients write general fiction (literary and genre), memoir, and nonfiction. I’ve been doing a ton of memoirs recently, actually, and I love them. Fiction principles still apply to narrative nonfiction storytelling. 

I’m happy to work on WIP novels in outline form, or on completed manuscripts, everything from picture books to sprawling genre sagas. Most of my services include in-depth written feedback on the page (I specialize as a developmental and line editor, instead of simply a proofreader or copy editor, though proofreading services are included on every project). But I also love working with published authors in an advisory capacity, so I offer phone overview and consulting services, too. 

Basically, whether you’re a rank beginner or a mid-career author, whether you’ve finished a draft for the first time or finally trying to break through your obstacles and land an agent, I have a service for you. Even if you can’t find an appropriate option listed, we’ll create one together. Find out more at www.marykole.com


Former literary agent Mary Kole provides consulting and developmental editing servicesto writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at Kidlit.com since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books. 

A San Francisco Bay Area native, Mary lives in Minneapolis with her husband, son, two noisy pugs, and a very cuddly cat.




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© Mary Preble

Dec. 1, 2018

On the first of each month in 2018, we feature an illustrator who won or placed in our Kidlit411 banner contest, and we switch our website banner and Facebook page cover image. Today we present Mary Preble and her work. (Check out the winners of our 2019 Banner Contest).

Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.
I came to this field in a very strange, winding road. I have always written little things – cards/ditties/poems/mnemonics to help my daughters remember school lessons.  My first-grade teacher was Helen Robinson, one of the original authors of the Dick and Jane series. The Director of Reading in our town was one of the editors in that series. Our school system was very big on stories. But, I went the art route. I am in my 28th year of teaching art to children grades k-12. I own a private art studio where the students sign up for a full year of art lessons – like signing up for dance. 

© Mary Preble



Over the years I have searched for new and exciting mediums for my students to use and experiment with.  A few years ago, I discovered mono printing with the Gelli Plate – where using colors and textures, an artist can create one paper of art. My students and I have used the papers in collage art work and as backgrounds for paintings. At the same time, I have been saving students art work over the years because some day I was going to write THE GREAT ART LESSON PLAN BOOK about my successful school. 

© Mary Preble


Tell us about your published children's books and other illustration projects.

Two years ago, July 4th weekend, my daughter announced she was having our first grandchild. The day she did that we happened to be at a lake and after the excitement I went for a swim.  For some reason…. I’ll never understand why, but a poem started in my head – an ABC poem. When I finished my swim, I went into the house and grabbed a paper and wrote down as much as I could remember.  I still have that first paper. Over the next few days and weeks I edited and changed and changed and edited the poem. I told no one until about October when my husband asked what I was always writing. I shared with him I was doing this for our new grandchild. During another swim my A-HA moment came when I decided I would take the fabulous papers I had been creating over the years and collage the story. I worked so no one knew until the baby shower where I presented the book to her.  It took off. Friends wanted copies, teacher friends wanted me to come to schools to show their students what I have done; and word has spread to different school systems, and I have visited and shared my stories so many times in the last few months. 



My second story, LET'S GO ON A HIKE, is about nature and all the wonderful things we can see outdoors came to me on a walk one day.  This second book was illustrated the same way.  At that time, I met another author and she asked me to illustrate her story about two dogs and their friendship.  Another huge learning curve – where my books are one-page characters, I now had to create characters, in collage, and carry them through a 32-page book with expressions.  



I am currently working on the third book in my LET'S GO series called LET'S GO FOR A SWIM - A COLORFUL ADVENTURE and on the work table after is LET'S GO TO THE FARM - AN ABC ADVENTURE.

Congrats on your banner for Kidlit411. How did you approach this project?



I happened to read my weekly Kidlit411 newsletter and saw the contest in it.  I thought, “That sounds like fun, but I am not good enough for anything like that,” so I put it out of my mind. I went into my studio and on the table was a small pile of scraps and I looked at the pile and thought, “There’s a bird.” So I went for it -  in a few minutes I had papers together and created some birds.  I loved how they came together and I saw personalities.  I scanned it in – sent it off and gave myself a pat on the back for at least trying.  Imagine the shock when I received the notice I had placed.  I showed the letter and all the amazing entries to my students and we all agreed – what amazing work everyone did.

© Mary Preble


Walk us through your illustration process.

How I work. I start with swimming – my mind clears, and I can see images that I want to do. Sometimes I head to the pool just to get an idea of a good page or a line. When I am back in the studio I quickly sketch an idea and then start searching my piles of hand painted papers for the right piece – sometimes I will set up a time to just make a certain color paper or texture of paper. I will refine my sketch – figuring out how to layer the pieces to make the artwork look 3-D.  I transfer to the hand painted papers and cut and glue.

© Mary Preble

© Mary Preble

© Mary Preble
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Work at your craft – even for ten minutes a day.  Read everything you can about the field. One little tidbit in the middle of a sentence can be your ‘AHA’ moment. I joined SCBWI and I love all the info.  I have been to conferences – the first one I was tempted to sit in the hotel room for the weekend I was so nervous – but I listened and learned.  I have been to a few other conferences and again – it’s a learning experience.  I have often had to pinch myself where I am today and how far I have come in just two years. To have complete strangers read and love my books is so gratifying.  I have often said, “If it all ends tomorrow – it’s been a blast.”

© Mary Preble


What is something most people don't know about you?

Where can people find you online?

My website is www.marympreble.com

www.facebook.com/maryprebleartistauthor/

www.instagram.com/maryprebleauthorartist/

 

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KidLit411 by Sylvia Liu - 1w ago
© Terry Runyan


Nov. 30, 2018 vol. 48

The Weekly 411 gathers all the links added to Kidlit411 each week. To receive this post by email, sign up for our email updates. Are you on Facebook? Join our Kidlit411 group for conversations & camaraderie. This week's illustration is by Terry Runyan.



KIDLIT NEWS


New agent alert: Alexandra Levick of Writers House is building her list from PB to YA

Kokila, Penguin Books' new imprint centering stories from the margins is accepting un-agented manuscripts (PB, MG, YA) until Dec. 1.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT


We are excited to feature picture book author Tim McCanna! Tim has four picture books out this year: BITTY BOT'S BIG BEACH GETAWAY, illustrated by Tad Carpenter (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books); JACK B. NINJA, illustrated by Stephen Savage (Orchard Books); BOING! A VERY NOISY ABC, illustrated by Jorge Martin (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books); and SO MANY SOUNDS, illustrated by Andy J. Miller (Harry N. Abrams).  Enter to win one of his books. Four winners will be chosen!



ILLUSTRATOR GIVEAWAY


This week we have a special giveaway of two books from illustrator Mary Reaves Uhles. Enter to win a copy of A TUBA CHRISTMAS, by Helen L. Wilbur (Sleeping Bear Press) and a board book version of THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN TENNESSEE, by Alice Faye Duncan (Sterling Children's Books). The Rafflecopter Widget is below.



A TUBA CHRISTMAS: With a family that loves music as much as hers does, it was only a matter of time before it was Ava's turn to pick out an instrument. Ava gets her wish to play the tuba, but it isn't as easy as it seems.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN TENNESSEE (board book edition):  When Carly visits her cousin Teddy in Tennessee for Christmas, she discovers how amazing it is. She hikes the Great Smoky Mountains, dances to bluegrass music, tastes Nashville’s famous hot chicken, and meets more than one Elvis Presley. Every day, Teddy gives her a special Tennessee gift.

For Writers





Jan. 7, 10, 11 Inked Voices First Pages Events Join an intimate, online workshop that includes written feedback from a literary agent, peer exchange and critique, and the opportunity to discuss your manuscript live with the agent in the post-critiques call. Groups are capped at 8 for novels, and 10 for picture books. 

Picture Books with Natascha Morris, Bookends Literary. Starts January 7th. Apply for a free spot for a writer from a diverse background.



Pep Talk from Min Jin Lee
If you enjoy this weekly update or our Facebook group of fellow authors and illustrators, please consider supporting Kidlit411. Any amount is appreciated. $12 is the equivalent of $1/month and $24 is $2/month.

  


Get this weekly update by email each Friday. We collect your email to send you the update and new posts when they go up.

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KidLit411 by Sylvia Liu - 1w ago

Nov. 30, 2018

We are excited to feature picture book author Tim McCanna! Tim has four picture books out this year: BITTY BOT'S BIG BEACH GETAWAY, illustrated by Tad Carpenter (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books); JACK B. NINJA, illustrated by Stephen Savage (Orchard Books); BOING! A VERY NOISY ABC, illustrated by Jorge Martin (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books); and SO MANY SOUNDS, illustrated by Andy J. Miller (Harry N. Abrams). 

Enter to win one of his books! Four winners will be chosen.




Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

Well, I didn’t originally set out to become a children’s author, but my creative work over the years sort of paved the way for me. From the 1990s to the early 2000s I sang and played accordion in various rock bands, performed in theatre, wrote a lot of songs and musicals, and worked as a graphic designer. Once my wife and I had a couple kids, we started reading picture books to them, and I grew a love for the art form. So, around 2009 I decided to give it a try! I figured all that creative background I had would help, and it did—to a point. Having an MFA in Dramatic Writing for Musical Theatre from NYU had toughened my skin and taught me to cut and revise and trust my instincts. But successful picture books are tougher to write than most people realize, and the publishing industry definitely has its quirks. It took joining SCBWI and about four years of trial and error before I sold my first manuscript.

Congrats on your banner year of publication - four books out! 
Please tell us about each of them and what inspired you.

Thanks! It’s been a really fun year seeing these books released into the world and being able to share them with kids and adults. 

BITTY BOT's BIG BEACH GETAWAY was a sequel to Bitty Bot, which came out in 2016. In fact, Bitty Bot was the first manuscript my agent sold for me in a 2-book deal. But I hadn’t written a second Bitty Bot book and didn’t know if I could! Since Bitty went to space and met aliens in the first story, I thought it’d be fun to take Bitty and some friends under the sea and meet mermaids.


© Tad Carpenter

JACK B. NINJA started as just a title idea that rattled in the back of my mind for a year or so. Once I sat down and wrote the opening line, Jack B. Ninja! Jack be quick! Jack, jump over the bamboo stick!, I was off and running. But I learned that creating satisfying endings is tough, and it took several rewrites to figure out what was in the stolen treasure chest that Jack recovers from a bandit cave.


© Stephen Savage

BOING! A VERY NOISY ABC was originally just an alphabetical list of noise words, or onomatopoeia. But then I thought, what if I could actually incorporate a story just using these sounds? It was a challenging but very fun process of reverse engineering in which a sneeze “A-A-A-choo!” starts with the letter A and sets off a crazy chain of events in alphabetical order. 


© Jorge Martin

SO MANY SOUNDS actually came out of a pass (I don’t like to call them rejections). The editor passed on a different story, but asked if I’d be interested in doing something for very young kids on music or sound. I jumped at the opportunity which resulted in Barnyard Boogie! about animals playing musical instruments, and So Many Sounds about all the sounds we hear throughout the day.


© Andy J. Miller

Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?

My first published picture book was called TEENY TINY TRUCKS. I sold that one on my own in 2012 to a very small publisher. We had a great time bringing that book to life. But, the publishing industry is tough, and they went out of business, which means that book is now out of print. It happens. After I got my agent in 2014, we started selling manuscripts to the big houses like Simon & Schuster, Abrams, and Scholastic. 2018 has been a rewarding year of seeing a lot of time and effort pay off. Doesn’t mean that everything I write now gets published. Quite the contrary. So, the road continues to twist and turn in fun and unexpected ways.

What projects are you working on now?

I’ve always got a few picture book ideas I’m working on in various stages. I have a great critique group that helps me see my writing through fresh eyes. They’ve been instrumental in suggesting revisions and lending moral support. I’ve also jumped into writing middle grade novels and am hoping to start submitting those to publishers in the near future.

What advice would you give your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?

Patience, patience, patience. Stick to your craft and stay productive. Publishing will happen when it’s supposed to happen, so just work on being the best writer you can be. I would tell my younger self that, and I still tell myself that now!

What is something most people don't know about you?

In 2010 we had this big 52” flat screen TV. Around that time I was reading Stephen King’s On Writing, and he said if you’re just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go. I took that to heart, so I cancelled our cable service and sold our TV. We haven’t had one since.

Where can people find you online?

My website is www.timmccanna.com and I’m on Twitter at @timmccanna.


Tim McCanna is the author of JACK B. NINJA (Scholastic/Orchard Books), BARNYARD BOOGIE and SO MANY SOUNDS (Abrams Appleseed), BITTY BOT, BITTY BOT’S BIG BEACH GETAWAY, BOING! A Very Noisy ABC, and WATERSONG (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), which was a 2017 New York Public Library Best Book for Kids and National Council of Teachers of English Notable Poetry Book. Tim served five years as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s San Francisco/South chapter, and he holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing for Musical Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He lives in San Jose with his wife and two kids. Find Tim online at www.timmccanna.com.


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KidLit411 by Sylvia Liu - 2w ago

Nov. 30, 2018 vol. 48

The Weekly 411 gathers all the links added to Kidlit411 each week. To receive this post by email, sign up for our email updates. Are you on Facebook? Join our Kidlit411 group for conversations & camaraderie. 



AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT


Submissions: Agents & Editors

Re-Querying Redux


Conferences, Workshops, and Retreats

Jan. 7, 10, 11 Inked Voices First Pages Events Join an intimate, online workshop that includes written feedback from a literary agent, peer exchange and critique, and the opportunity to discuss your manuscript live with the agent in the post-critiques call. Groups are capped at 8 for novels, and 10 for picture books. 

Picture Books with Natascha Morris, Bookends Literary. Starts January 7th. Apply for a free spot for a writer from a diverse background.


Inspirational Things

Pep Talk from Min Jin Lee
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KidLit411 by Sylvia Liu - 2w ago
© Maral Sassouni

Nov. 23, 2018 vol. 47

The Weekly 411 gathers all the links added to Kidlit411 each week. To receive this post by email, sign up for our email updates. Are you on Facebook? Join our Kidlit411 group for conversations & camaraderie. 

KIDLIT NEWS


Notes from The Bookseller Children's Conference - info about sales figures of children's books in the UK and globally 

"Proud Fierce Papa Bear" - The Speech - author Bill Konigsberg speaks out against homophobia expressed at a NCTE panel

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT


This week we are thrilled to present debut picture book author, Rachel Noble and her picture book, FINN'S FEATHER, illustrated by Zoey Abbott (Enchanted Lion, June 12, 2018). Enter to win a copy!





Contests & Awards

Most Popular Twitter Pitch Parties



How to Choose Your Story's Plot Points

The Four Main Types of Epic Antagonists

Negative Trait Thesaurus



New in Nineteen: debut trade PB authors & illustrators in 2019 #newin19



Nov. 30 12 p.m. EST Finding an Agent: Making a Match with Carrie Pearson A live webinar focusing on finding the right agent: is your MS ready? how many agents should you submit to? what are querying best practices? and more. ($15 for SCBWI members)



How to Level Up Our Writing


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