Peg366's Blog

Archive for March 2010

Just one more sleep!

2 days ago ago by katswhiskers. Spam? Tags: twitter, writing, Karen Collum, chat, Picture Books, Children’s Authors, #pblitchat, #KIDLITCHAT

Sometimes it amazes me how quickly things happen.

Last Wednesday, during #kidlitchat on Twitter, the lovely Karen Collum asked if any picture book authors would be interested in a Twitter chat for picture books only. I was… (she knew that) others were… (we hoped so) and now it’s happening (amazing!) – tomorrow! (If you want a job done, get Karen on board. She is ‘D’ynamite.)

I was delighted when Karen asked if I would co-host the #pblitchat with her. It’s something we’re both passionate about. And it’s also a natural extension of our growing communication about kidlit, picture books and life in general. (It’s really NOT just another excuse to tweet and email. Honest!)

If you’re a picture book author or illustrator, you are invited to join us. It gets a bit tricky advertising the times (because the chat is world wide) but check out the Picture Books Only web page for more specific times around the globe – and coming discussion topics.

One hour of chatter about picture books – the craft, the market, the passion… Count me in!

Just one more sleep…

Tuesdays at midday Queensland-time. On Monday for those in USA.

#pblitchat

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I subscribe to many newsletters and this is one of them. Mitch Albom is one of my most favorite authors. I loved  his The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Tuesday’s With Morrie.
About Books & Literature: It’s Spring. You can tell by the Holidays.‏
From: About.com Books & Literature (newsletters@about.com)
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About.com
 
From Megan Romer, your About Books & Literature Editor
Where I live on the Gulf Coast, it’s pretty warm and nice right about now. Not too hot, not too humid, just right. Reports from my family in Upstate New York, though, indicate that spring may not have sprung everywhere quite yet. However, spring holidays abound, especially for those of the Jewish and Christian faiths.
Mitch Albom – ‘Have a Little Faith’

Need a little something inspirational for this holy week? Try Have a Little Faith, the latest book from Tuesdays with Morrie’s Mitch Albom. It’s a book that explores the common threads of faith itself, not religion specifically, through the true stories of two very different men — a Jewish rabbi and a Christian inner-city preacher. It’s a quick read and one that might just put you in the right mood for a religious holiday celebration.

Friday night, I watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid with two boys, ages 8 and 11. I hadn’t expected to really enjoy it but did. I think part of my enjoyment was because I saw my brothers, as well as my nephews in this flick. From his pampered baby brother to his older terror of a brother Roderick, Greg,  Jeff Kinney’s main character, captured the complex relationship between siblings.

Personally, I loved the way the movie connected with some parts of the written text in the book. I recognized that there were some departures from the exact text but it stayed true to the book’s premises.

Then Saturday, I took the boys to visit friends in the town we lived in before this one. We made a day of it. The older one got to spend time with his friend while the younger one visited several friends at the local park. It was warm but not too warm, the kind of day perfect to running and chasing.

I sat reading a book by Mary Higgins Clark and thought they are going to be so worn out. I was sure it would be a quiet night but not so. The youngest had breathing difficulties from all the pollen. Writing would  have to wait as I watched over him.

Thank goodness the kids are feeling better now.

The wonderfully talented Becky Levine has given me the opportunity to be a guest blogger on her blog in April. I’ll post when it goes up so you all can read it. I’m shaking in my boots and I don’t even have socks on. lol.

I’m scared I won’t be a good guest blogger. In order to get past that, I made myself stretch myself as a writer. I’ll let you know what happens.

I just got two acceptances today on nonfiction submissions. Both were from Guardian Angel for Kids E’zine which is a new online children’s magazine @

 http://www.guardian-angel-kids.com

The first nonfiction submission about Ragbrai will appear in their April 2010 Transportation issue. 

The second one will appear in the magazine’s May 2010 issue about friendship and is about Project Linus and Friendship Blankets  made by third graders at Echo Hill Elementary in Marion, IA.  

I have had a super weekend and the weekend isn’t over yet!

I love this post. My friend Bonnie is not only smart and helpful, she’s funny,too.  She  co-host two chats on twitter. She co-host with Greg Pincus for #kidlitchat on Tuesdays and is also the co-host of #kidlitart on Thursdays with Wendy Martin.

 

Over the River and Through the Woods

By Bonnie Adamson

When Peg asked me to guest blog about the unique perspective of a writer/illustrator, I immediately thought of hats. I often talk about wearing my writer hat or my illustrator hat–or my designer hat, since I spent a huge chunk of my professional career as a graphic designer.

I tried to picture myself in these hats, working on a story I wanted to write and illustrate. Were the hats perched one on top of the other? Which one did I put on first?

I realized I had stumbled upon a truth about how I work: I don’t wear more than one hat at a time. With me, it’s first one, then the other.

At this point, I was going to move on to a dance metaphor, but that implies a creative process that is much too elegant and refined.

The truth is, two (or three) areas of my brain are constantly bickering like whiny kids on a long car trip with no onboard DVD player. Squabbling siblings! At last, an analogy I could get behind.

Most of my story ideas come first in the form of words: titles, phrases, rhymes or alliterations, some sort of word play. I should stop here and clarify, because I’ve been known to say that my story ideas start with a drawing, usually a tiny pencil sketch. What happens is that the word-association falls flat and plays dead if I can’t develop some sort of image from it.

So the initial conversation goes something like this:

Writer-brain: Crocodile’s Song!

Illustrator-brain: Cool! Green, bumpy thing holding a microphone.

Writer-brain [let’s call her Gwendolyn]: The other animals—

Illustrator-brain [she likes to be called Pookie]: Wait—OTHER animals? Hard-to-draw animals, like, um, zebras?

Gwendolyn: Zebras! What fun. Let’s go research African wildlife.

Pookie: Hold on: is this a jungle or American Idol? I thought the crocodile was SINGING–ooh, I know! He’s in a tuxedo on the deck of a ship—

Gwendolyn: Don’t be ridiculous. This is a bedtime story about sleepy animals.

Pookie: Hmmph. Sounds boring. Unless . . . we could put all the animals in polka-dot jammies—

Gwendolyn: That would be highly inaccurate.

Pookie: Says you.

At which point the different areas of my brain begin insulting one another, and I go make myself a cup of tea while I consider a different career.

The above conversation is a fairly accurate account of the internal arguments over one idea (titled, oddly enough, “Crocodile’s Song”), which after ten years (!) is still trailing around after me, generating file-folders full of revisions and refusing to earn its keep. Gwendolyn and Pookie have never been able to agree on images to match the words, or words to match the images—which also explains why there are lots of crocodiles and sleepy jungle animals who live in my portfolio and will never find another home.

Occasionally, an idea comes along that both Gwendolyn and Pookie can get excited about. This doesn’t mean that I will end up submitting text and art as a package, but it does mean that I have workable images in my head that help me structure the story: sometimes the images are static, reflecting maybe a particular expression on a character’s face; sometimes they’re more like movies. But once the images are there, I can begin filling in text to support them.

Gwendolyn and Pookie are now feeling pretty smug.

Gwendolyn: Oh, this is the loveliest STORY!

Pookie: Yeah, with DRAGONS, and . . . and STUFF!!

But we haven’t gotten to Grandma’s house yet. (You’ll note how the car-trip metaphor has been cleverly re-introduced.) Cecilia, the bored teenaged older sister (aka designer-brain), has unplugged herself from her iPod.

Cecilia: You two have only 14 spreads max, you know—have you even THOUGHT of thumbnails?

Gwendolyn [pointing at Pookie]: SHE said we didn’t need thumbnails!

Pookie [pointing at Gwendolyn]: Did not! SHE said she had an outline!

Cecilia: Pipe down. I can see I’m going to have to make a dummy.

Gwendolyn & Pookie: Hey! Who are you calling a DUMMY?!?

Full disclosure: Bonnie writes mid-grade novels, chapter books and the occasional picture book. She illustrates other people’s picture books. She has YET to submit a manuscript that she both wrote and illustrated. You can see at least one singing crocodile on her web site: http://www.bonnieadamson.net.

 

A picture of me, not Dori.

My interview today is with Dori Hillestad Butler, author of picture books, novels and magazine stories for magazines like Cricket, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Children’s Life to mention just a few. With Dori that is just the tip of the iceberg as my readers will discover as we talk. I have to say there is so much I want to talk to you about.  Thank you so much for agreeing to come spend some time with me and my readers.    

Dori: Thanks for having me. I’m always happy to talk about writing.   

Peg:  Can you tell my readers why you write?   

Dori: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My mother kept one of those School Days books when I was a kid, and even back in kindergarten I answered the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question with “A writer.”    This is a picture of Dori.

 

Peg:   It’s cool that it came true. If for some reason, writing was not an option for you as your career, what career would you have chosen?   

Dori: Hmm . . . I guess I could see myself as a children’s librarian, a midwife, a child psychologist, or an attorney who represents children. Are you seeing a pattern here?   

Peg: Yep, it was always about kids.  Have the places you’ve lived or jobs you’ve held played role in what you write about?   

Dori: The only “real” job I’ve ever had was “library page” when I was in high school. Unless you count summer jobs in college and seasonal jobs during the first few years of my marriage? I don’t know that any of these jobs influenced my writing. But the places I’ve lived certainly play a role. I’m a Midwestern girl. I was born and raised in a small town in southern Minnesota. I’ve also lived in Bemidji, Minnesota; the Twin Cities; Rochester, Minnesota; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and I currently live in Coralville, Iowa. I set all my stories in the Midwest because that’s what I know.    

Peg:   I read on your website that you didn’t have any sibling until you were 9 years old, so you wrote stories to entertain yourself. What can you share with my readers about those stories?   

Dori: Well, at that age, what I wanted more than anything was a big family. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins. So that’s what I wrote about…kids with big families. And I mean BIG families. One of my recurring “series” at that time was a series about a family with 26 kids, one for each letter of the alphabet.   

 Peg: Lol. That is a great idea for a picture book. Coming from a family of thirteen children, I would have traded places with you at times. I had to hide to get time to read.     

 Peg:  Many writers have a single genre that they concentrate on. Not you. You’ve written short stories, picture books, novels, magazine stories. Just curious, do you have a favorite genre or a favorite age group to write for?   

Dori: I always used to say middle grade fiction, but that was before the Buddy Files. I enjoy writing chapter books, too…and I REALLY enjoy writing from a dog’s perspective.   

Peg:   You started your writing career with writing for Magazines like Cricket, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Children’s Life. Do you still submit to magazines? Would you recommend that for a new writer? Did having a writer’s resume help your career?   

Dori: It’s been a while since I’ve written for magazines, but yes, I’d say it’s still a nice way to build credits. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many magazines out there now as there were when I started writing. And many of them purchase all rights.   

Peg:  Unfortunately, that is so true.   

Dori: Writing for magazines probably did help build my career. It certainly built my confidence. Once I had magazine credits, I used those to get work as a ghostwriter for the Sweet Valley Twins series.   

Peg:  I know that writers each have their own timetable for when they write? What about you? Are you someone who writes every day, or are you more of a “jam session” type of writer?   

Dori: I do try to write every day. I start my day with an hour long walk with my dog…then I write until school is out. It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s the goal.   

Peg:  What one or two things have you learned over the years, that you wish someone had told you when you first began writing?   

Dori: Well, when I first started writing, I was scared of the revision process. I didn’t know where to begin. The whole process was overwhelming to me. So I wish someone had told me back then that one day I would actually come to ENJOY revision.   

I would also have benefitted from someone telling me not to focus so much on my writing at the expense of everything else. In those early days, I hung out with my husband, took care of my kids and wrote. I didn’t do much else. (I REALLY wanted to be a published writer!) But there was room for more in my life…I wish I had pursued a few other interests back then. It would have given me more to write about!   

Peg:   One thing I discovered while doing my research for this interview is that you have articles on book packaging on the Institute of Children’s Literature site.    

Note to readers, here are some links for you to take a look at:  “Working with Book Packagers” with Dori Butler http://c/rx/tr01/revised_dori_butler.shtml
Working with Book Packagers, Part 2” with Dori Butler http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/tr01/dori_part_2.shtml   

I found this talk about Book Packagers very enlightening.   

Dori: Thank you. I enjoyed working for Daniel Weiss Associates (Now 17th Street Productions). The books I did for them were my first published novels. And I always wanted to publish novels. So this was like “on the job training.” I learned how to structure a novel…work with an editor…meet a deadline…and I even got paid!   

Peg:   Getting paid works for me. lol. You also work with teen writers. If someone wanted to contact you about those things in your local area, how do they go about it? Do you also do workshops for adult writers who wish to learn how to write for children?   

Dori: Yes, I’ve taught writing classes to gifted students at the Belin Blank Center in Iowa City. I’ve also led a teen writers workshop at the Coralville Public Library every summer for the past five years or so. I will likely do it again this year. Interested teens can get information on this at the Coralville Public Library. I really enjoy doing this…I think I learn as much from the teens as they learn from me. I’m always amazed by the talent these students have. If you don’t believe me, you can check out examples of their work at: http://www.coralvillepubliclibrary.org/leakypen/   

I’ve thought about doing a workshop for adults, but haven’t pursued it. Maybe one day…   

Peg:  I’d take your workshop. See you have your first adult student.   

Peg:  You are the type of writer that seems to want to help other writers develop their skills. You have some great resources for writers on your website. I especially liked the one on errors in English which is not my strong point.    

On the Mechanics of Writing:    

    Common Errors in English: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/   

Note to readers: Check out: http://kidswriter.com for a sample of the resources Dori shares.   

Peg:  You are very involved in your local SCBWI. In fact that is where we first met. How long have you been a member?   

Dori: I’ve been a member of SCBWI for so long that it was just SCBW when I joined! I’ve been a member for about 20 years.   

Peg:  I love SCBWI and I’m excited as a writer to hear that you are one of the presenters at the Spring Iowa SCBWI’s  conference. Can you share the details with my writer friends and other readers on that event?  http://scbwi.org   

Sarah Prineas, Fantasy Author

My friend Sarah Prineas and I will do a joint session on author visits via Skype at the spring conference. It’ll be at the Lodge in Bettendorf, IA from April 23 through the 25th. But don’t just come to hear Sarah and me…Connie (our R.A.) always puts on a fabulous conference!    

Peg:  I can attest to that.   

Dori: She’s invited editors Laura Arnold (HarperCollins), Lisa Graff (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Allyn Johnston (Simon & Schuster); agent Ammi-Joan Paquette (with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency), and authors, Marla Frazee, Mike Shoulders, and Carol Gorman. For more information (and a registration form) go to: http://www.scbwi-iowa.org/events.htm   

Peg:  Another aspect of being an author that we don’t think about is being able to market ourselves, especially with the financial difficulties that publishers face. I stood up at a SCBWI conference to give a first line and I almost choked on my words. How do you do it if you are shy?   

Dori: I feel your pain! I’m very shy, too. In fact, I couldn’t muster up the courage to speak to anyone at the first SCBW conference I attended 20 years ago. And no one spoke to me. But the thing about an SCBWI conference is you automatically have something in common with everyone in the room…and SCBWI people are all so nice. It doesn’t take much to start a conversation…and if you take the risk, before you know it you’ll probably have a new friend.   

What’s helped me most with shyness and public speaking is Toastmasters! (see www.Toastmasters.org) I joined a local group about three years ago…it changed my life!   

But in terms of marketing, there are a lot of things a shy writer can do to market him or herself without being in-your-face about it. Have an online presence…send postcards…write a newsletter…    

Peg:  I read about your trip to Albert Whitman and I want to encourage my writers frends/readers to check out the pictures and text on your blog on Feb 23, 2010 @ http://dorihbutler.livejournal.com/. Some of us, meaning me, can’t wait until we get the opportunity to tour our publisher’s office. It was really nice to get a chance to see inside the building and have an opportunity to see an editor as a working person at their desk.   

Dori: Thanks! I think they thought I was a little nuts walking around taking pictures of everything. To them, it’s just “the office.” It’s not that big of a deal. But it is a big deal for us, isn’t it? Now when I call the main switchboard, I know who I’m talking to. When I talk to my editor or the marketing director or the designer, I can picture each one in his or her office. I know where they have their meetings and I know where they spread out page proofs; I even know where they eat their lunches. I think the best part of the trip was simply having an opportunity to hang out with these people some more and get to know them as people. It’s fun to discover we have more in common than just my book. (And hey, editors etc. really ARE people just like the rest of us!)   

Peg:  I’m glad to hear that they really are people just like the rest of us. I read in one of your earlier interviews that you don’t expect to hear from a publisher for six months when you submit something to them. Has that changed now that you have a lot of books published? I mean a new author might expect it to be a little more challenging to get a first book published, right?   

Dori: It depends. I hear from editors I have a relationship with much faster than that. And it’s been a long time since I’ve submitted to editors I don’t have a relationship with…I really don’t even know what a typical response time is now. I’ve heard stories of authors waiting more than a year to hear back.   

Peg: You do a fair number of school visits.  I know that this is a topic that could be discussed in an interview all by itself, so please feel free to give a general type of answer.  Has that been something that you were comfortable doing from the first? Picture below is of Dori at a school presentation.   

Dori: No, I wasn’t comfortable to start with. At first I saw it as “giving a speech” and I’ve always hated giving speeches. But I genuinely enjoy the company of kids and teens (I wouldn’t write for them if I didn’t). And I realized that kids don’t want to sit and listen to a speech. They want to participate. So I threw away my speech and decided to just talk with the kids. That’s when I got comfortable with school visits.   

Peg: Now, have you started doing Skype visits? How is that working out for you?   

Dori: I LOVE Skype visits. They’re so easy…I don’t have to dress up. I don’t even leave my house. And it’s almost always Q&A. Very easy. I also get to show off my dog!   

More information on Skype:  @skype.com     

Peg:  I think many new writers have the idea that once you have a great “writer’s resume”  like the one you have that the days of rejections are done. Do you still get rejections? And how do you deal with them?   

Dori: Sure…I deal with them by sending the manuscript out to somebody else.   

Peg:  By the way, I love your website. On your website, www.kidswriter.com, you mention a old fat cat named Ashley that lives with you and your family. Do you have or plan to have in the future a series of books featuring a cat as a main character. Like your Buddy Files series only with a cat?   

Dori: Well, I think Cat With No Name (from the Buddy Files) will have at least one book (if my publisher agrees)…maybe even a mini spin-off series?   

Peg: As a music lover who has absolutely no skills whatever, I was interested in your ability to play the mandolin. It is something from my own family background, and wondered if you might write a story or article about the instrument? I know. It is not like you don’t have enough ideas all on your own. Here, I am suggesting more work. Sorry. Lol. Maybe your cat mc could be a mandolin playing mystery solver?             

Dori: I have considered incorporating my mandolin into my school visit presentation, but I haven’t actually done it yet. I’m not sure I ever really will…I play with a guitar player and two ukulele players; I’m not sure I’d want to play by myself in public. I can see writing about a character who plays the mandolin, but I don’t think I’d write a full article on the subject. There are others who know far more about the subject than I do…they’re the ones who should write about it. I really just play for fun.   

Peg:  I know you and your dog are a registered pet partner team through the Delta Society. Are your recent books influenced by your pet partner, Mouse?     

Dori: The animal therapy work and the series sort of developed at the same time. I got a new dog and started training him to be a therapy dog about the same time I was talking to people at Albert Whitman & Co. about writing a series. So I thought, “how about a series about a school therapy dog who solves mysteries…and I’ll write them from the dog’s point of view.” They liked the idea and we went from there.   

Peg:   Speaking about your Buddy Files, you had three books in the series launched the first of this month. Did you plan this as a series right from the start? 

 These three books were released March 2010 by Albert Whitman. They are available now to be purchased.   

Dori: Yes, I planned it as a series.   

Peg:  Did you send in a full manuscript or a proposal?  

Dori: I submitted a proposal. We’d been talking about doing a series for a few months. Once I actually wrote it up as a proposal and submitted it, it didn’t take very long to hear back from them. Just a couple of weeks, I think.   

Peg:  I want to mention your fabulous illustrator for the Buddy File series, Jeremy Tugeau.My readers can see his work @ http://jeremytugeau.com/index.html   I always want to know about what happens with an illustrator. Did you have any choice in who illustrator you Buddy File books? Have you ever met Jeremy?   

Dori: I didn’t have any say in that decision. And I wouldn’t have expected to. I was pleasantly surprised to hear it was going to be Jeremy, though. I HAVE met him…he and his wife spoke at an Iowa SCBWI conference a few years ago!   

Peg:  You have another book coming out in the Fall 2010. Tell my readers about the book The Case of the Fire Alarm? Is it another of the Buddy File series?   

Dori: Yes, it is. That’s #4. #5 is scheduled for spring 2011 and is tentatively entitled The Case of the Library Monster.   

Peg:    Tell us where your books can be found, so my readers can rush out and get one.   

Dori: Try your local bookstore…if they don’t have the books, ask them to order them.   

Peg:   I want to share with my readers some of the places where people in Iowa can see you and get a signed book.   

Dori: The next place will be the Iowa SCBWI conference in Bettendorf April 23-25.   

Peg:   Thanks so much Dori. I have really enjoyed this interview. Would you consider coming back in the future to discuss some of the other projects that you are involved with?   

Dori: Sure! Thanks for interviewing me!


peg366


I am an aspiring picturebook writer with some magazine credits just no picture book contract yet. I know it is coming and I am more than willing to work for it.

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Twitter.com/peg366

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My Favorites:

I love the children's movies Wizard of Oz and the Neverending Story. Both movies make me feel the lesson that hope is alive and well. After seeing UP this past week, it just might have a chance at being added to this list.

I love the cool colors of blues and purples.Those colors are peaceful for me.

I love The Velveteen Rabbit. Even as an adult, I still feel the urge to cry when he becomes real. I know, silly, but a good book can make me laugh and cry as it takes me on a magical journey.

Authors and Illustrators:

Authors, Author/Illustrator, Illustrators that I know and/or Like.

Catergories:

C= Children

MG= Mid Grade

T= Teen

YA= Young Adult

A= Adult

Names:

Bonnie Adamson *

Kathi Appelt *

Tedd Arnold

Avi

Natalie Babbit

Molly Bang

Bonnie Becker

Jan and Stan Berenstain

Judy Blume

Tracey M. Cox

Linda Crotta Brennan *

Jan Brett

Janie Bynum *

Eric Carle

Pam Calvert

Nancy Carlson

Beverly Cleary

Kevin Scott Collier

Sharon Creech

Doreen Cronnin

Tomie dePaulo

Kate DiCamillo

Kathleen Duey *

Dotti Enderle

Jan Fields *

Denise Fleming

Mem Fox

Kelley Milner Hall

Amy Heist

Kevin Henkes

Ellen Jackson *

Jeff Kinney

Jackie French Koller

Ursula K. LeGuin

Leo Lionni

Lois Lowry

Mercer Mayer

Robert Munsch

Laura Numeroff

Linda Sue Parks

Dav Pilkey

Patricia Polacco

Peggy Rathmann

Bethany Roberts

David Shannon

Aaron Shepard

Donna J. Shepherd *

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Jerry Spinelli

Diane Stanley

Chris Van Allsburg

Rick Walton *

Lisa Wheeler

Mo Willems

Karma Wilson *

Audrey Woods

Jane Yolen *

Favorite Websites:

http://www.institutechildrenslit.net/

http://www.cbiclubhouse.com/

http://www.scbwi.org/

http://www.underdown.org/

http://www.verlakay.com/

http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com

Favorite Blogs:

• ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog
• Alice’s CWIM Blog
• A Fuse #8 Production
• Cynsations
• Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent
• Editorial Anonymous
• Miss Snark’s First Victim
• Writing for children and teens

Favorite Quotes.

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