Writer Mentorship Lessons #4-5

Have I mentioned how honored I am to be mentored by Trisha Speed Shaskan? Seriously, I have to pinch myself. She’s witty and entertaining, with funny snort-laughs that make your heart happy. She’s accessible and sincere. In her you’ll meet an advocate and friend. And she’s humble, not intimidating,  generously giving of her time to nurture the success of others. She’s all of this, despite her rock star accomplishments as a children’s author of over 40 books. What I’ve learned from her through observation in the past two months is how a true professional views and handles success.

Lesson #4: The formulas of success

Creativity given = success

Through Trisha I’m reminded how much our creativity is a gift to ourselves and others.Trisha is just as excited about the ideas in her head as the stories already published. She knows that each word is the beginning of something bigger and that success doesn’t begin or end at publication.  As long as you are able to create, whether you’ve written one paragraph or 40 books, no magic number should make you want to retire to a beach (unless you’re bringing your laptop or notepad).

 Creativity given = creativity >

A couple of weeks ago teacher Regina Santiago and the students in 1/2 B at Saint Paul Academy surprised Trisha with the ultimate compliment. They created a play, From the Mixed Up Files of Trisha Speed Shaskan, based on six of her picture books.

SERIOUSLY, CINDERELLA IS SO ANNOYING!HONESTLY, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD WAS ROTTENTRULY WE BOTH LOVED BEAUTY DEARLY 

IF YOU WERE A COMPOUND WORDIF YOU WERE A CONTRACTION61fFXCBYgnL__UX160_THEMIXEDUPFILES 

MiniTrisha

 

 

Trisha and her husband Stephen received VIP treatment during the performance, complete with programs. The actors proved they’d done their research. The mimi-Trisha narrator donned Trisha-style glasses, clothing, and hairstyle. She also incorporated Trisha’s mannerisms and words like “ridic” and “peeps.” Shaskan’s cat, Eartha, and  dog, Bea, even received “mini-me” representation.

TRULYWEBOTHLOVEDBEAUTYDEARLY

The good and bad fairies.

The young thespians created and performed stories . . .

The wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters.

sang songs . . . (masterminded by Stephanie Huss).

THEMIXEDUPFILES

Singing about Sleeping Beauty.

OnomatopeoiaMachineand shared the sounds of their onomatopoeia machine invention.

THEMIXEDUPFILESOFTRISHASPEEDSHASKANCast

The playwright, directors, and cast

Creativity given = giving >

I don’t think I’ll get over it. I’m floating! It’s just pure joy!  ~ Trisha Speed Shaskan, after viewing THE MIXED UP FILES OF TRISHA SPEED SHASKAN

Through Trisha I’m learning that creativity shared can reach far beyond the confines of a book or story. The ripple effect of imagination can reach beyond our wildest dreams.

Lesson #5 How to handle success:

  • With humor.
  • With sincerity.
  • With humility.
  • With delight and gratitude in the unexpected.
  • With open arms.
  • With more creativity.
  • Remembering every celebration is just the beginning.

Swinging a Cat

DiCamillo600

Kate DiCamillo wanted a picture with me, so of course I said . . . Okay, you know that’s not true. I’ll admit, I stalked her.

Author acquaintance Cheryl Blackford said, “You can’t swing a cat in the Twin Cities without hitting a National Book Award winner, a McKnight fellowship winner, a Newbery winner, or a Minnesota Book Award finalist. We are so very fortunate to have such talent here.”

That certainly was the case while sitting among 900 other writers, illustrators, agents, editors, librarians, publishers, and book enthusiasts at the 27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala. Holy cow, it was literary celebrity Heaven. My only regret: that I didn’t take more pictures.

Finalists for the Award for Young People’s Literature:

  • Ambassador by William Alexander
  • Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Ban Dusen
  • The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill

Winner:

  • West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Michael Hall's lovely wife, Debra Kelley, agreed to take our picture with Michael after the 2015 Minnesota Book Award's Gala, where IT'S AN ORANGE AARDVARK, was a finalist. Their gesture of hospitality was especially thoughtful, as they were off to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to Michael and Debra!

Congratulations to Michael Hall, finalist for the MN Book Award for Children’s Literature.    (Fellow reviewer and book award judge, Louise Aamodt, is pictured on the right)

Finalists for the Award for Children’s Literature:

  • It’s an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall
  • Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster by Mike Wohnoutka
  • Water Can Be by Laura Purdie, Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Winner:

  • Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

Congratulations to all Minnesota Book Award finalists and winners!

CALPURNIA TATE

Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Planting Seeds

NameplateKristisGemITHE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE
Text © 2009, Jacqueline Kelly

CALPURNIACover460Middle
Grade

Historical Fiction

Age Range:
9-12 years

Grade Level:
4-7

Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Macmillan Publishers

AWARDS

2010 Newbery Honor Award

2010 Bank Street – Josette Frank Award

The IRA Children’s Book Award
North Carolina Young Adult Book Award
Virginia M. Law Award
Judy Lopez Book Award

We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. ~ The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

In The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate the beloved Callie Vee’s independent and curious nature takes the reader on an adventure into the lives of a spirited, small town Texas family. Kelly’s rich settings and attention to detail aptly fits the scientific investigations that 11-year old Callie and her cantankerous Granddaddy explore.  And like Darwinism, the strong survive! The question is, will Callie endure, or will she be like the green grasshoppers that get eaten before they fully mature? I found myself rooting for Callie to evolve beyond the southern ladylike conventions of “housewifery” so she could follow her intellectual inquisitiveness..
~ Kristi
____________________________________________________________________

Great. I could see the newspaper: Girl Scientist Thwarted for all Time by Stupid Sewing Projects. Loss to Society Immeasurable. Entire Scientific Community in Mourning.  ~The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The book cover reveals that its author, Jacqueline Kelly, is not only a Newbery-winning novelist; she’s also a practicing physician and lawyer. For Dr. Kelly, Esquire, I apologize, but this cosmically lopsided distribution of brilliance made me swear in my Yosemite Sam voice, “Oooooo. I hate that woman.”

Luckily, southern charm and dry humor won me over. Calpurnia made me laugh out loud when she compared unpleasant thoughts to “a bothersome, bad smelling dog demanding attention” and wondered why dogs have eyebrows. I’m convinced that Calpurnia earned her doctorate in the sciences–and maybe a law degree and a Newbery, too. By page 340, I vicariously celebrated the victories of Calpurnia and Jacqueline. You might say I evolved.
~ Anna
_____________________________________________________________________

CALPURNIABackCover

Watch for The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Expected publication date: July 7, 2015.

KEM Sapphire

Watch for Lou’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s books plant seeds of wisdom or wonder in you?

MAY’S THEME – KIDLIT GEMS FOR MOM

MAPLE

Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Planting Seeds

NameplateAnnasGemIMAPLE
Text and Illustrations © 2014, Lori Nichols

MAPLE440Picture
Book

Fiction

Age Range:
3-5 years

Grade Level:
Preschool-Kindergarten

NANCY PAULSEN BOOKS

An imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group

and there was just enough room under the tree for Maple and her little sister . . . Willow. ~ Maple

Maple will charm anyone who loves Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum. Lori Nichol’s début picture book also has the sweet promise of new life; the struggles and rewards of friendship, growth, and self-identity; and a curious female protagonist who loves her name. Nichols skillfully communicates innocence and calm through white and blue space, then embraces her characters and readers with translucent leaves. The pages, with their recurring themes will make you go back to revisit. Was a bird’s nest there before?

Growing up in a family of die-hard tree-lovers, I appreciate how Nichols created special bonds between her human characters and their deciduous namesakes. I’ll admit, I’m relieved my parents didn’t do the same, because my name would be Spruce. And evergreens are harder to hug.

If you enjoyed Maple, you’ll also love Sophie’s Squash written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.
~ Anna
___________________________________________________________________

When she was still a whisper, her parents planted a tiny tree in her honor! ~ Maple

Full disclosure here: Maple and Willow were both on my baby name list in case I had girls. But even without my inherent bias, this endearing story following a little tree-hugger through the seasons definitely holds its own. Sparse text and uncluttered illustrations work in harmony to parallel the growth of trees and families. Maple’s sometimes clumsy attempts to befriend her tree, and later her baby sister, are sweet but not sappy. Pun intended, fir sure!
~ Lou
____________________________________________________________________

Maple Book Trailer by Lori Nichols

GEM Ruby

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s books plant seeds in you?

MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS

Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Planting Seeds

NameplateLousGemIMISS MAPLE’S SEEDS
Text and Illustrations © 2013, Eliza Wheeler

MISSMAPLESSEEDSIIPicture Book,
Fiction
Age Range:
3-5 years
Grade Level:
Preschool-Kindergarten

NANCY PAULSEN BOOKS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group

2013 New York Times Bestseller

“Take care, my little ones,” Miss Maple says, “for the world is big and you are small.” ~ Miss Maple’s Seeds

In Miss Maple’s Seeds,  a sweet caretaker gathers lost and forgotten seeds, tenderly cares for them through the winter, and prepares them to set off on their own in the spring. Parents will certainly catch the poignancy here. Young readers will love the illustration details showing how Miss Maple treasures each and every seed, and will turn the last page dreaming of their own marvelous futures. I ‘sneak’ this book into my science class under the guise of introducing seed variety and dispersal, and my first graders adore Miss Maple’s Seeds as much as I do. Bravo, Eliza Wheeler!
~ Lou
___________________________________________________________________

“. . . even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.” ~ Miss Maple’s Seeds

Throughout Miss Maple’s Seeds, Eliza Wheeler gently guides readers into picturesque settings and seasons to experience life as a tiny seed. Like a true parent, Miss Maple brings hope to her adoptive plant embryos as they dream of rich soil and warm sunshine. She warns them to “stay clear of weedy characters,” encourages them to dance in the rain, and when the time is right, she sets her infants free to take root.

Wheeler’s quiet illustrations captivate. Soar on the back of a bluebird. Explore Miss Maple’s tree home. Let Eliza Wheeler nurture your curious mind.
~ Anna
____________________________________________________________________

BLUEBIRDCOMINGBLUEBIRDGOINGKEM Diamond

Watch for my pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book make you think of planting seeds or spring?

ART & MAX

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join Louise Aamodt, Kristi Janikula Herro, and me for a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Illustrative Gem

NameplateAnnasGemIART & MAX
Text and Illustrations © 2014, David Wiesner

ArtNMaxPicture Book

Fiction

Age Range:
4-8 years

Level:
Preschool-3rd Grade

Clarion Books,
An Imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Well  . . .  you could paint me. ~ Art & Max

ART & MAX: Three-time Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner blew me away with this “Art”ful treat. His entertaining, sparsely worded storyline takes readers on a creative adventure through a lizard skin canvas. Art’s opaque scales flake off to a pastel then watercolor undercoating to a line drawn outline, then back again.  Look also for Max the Chameleon’s blend-action. It’ll make you snicker.

Illustrator acquaintance, Emmeline Hall, attended a recent Wiesner keynote.  Tidbits she shared: 1.) Salvador Dali’s work inspires Wiesner’s landscape and sky, 2.) and Roadrunner cartoons, his Acme props. 3.) Wiesner is pronounced Wheeze-ner, not Wise-ner. Emmeline encourages everyone to delve into his magnificent blog, especially his interactive and creative process pages. (See this older David Wiesner Blog, too. Fascinating!)
~ Anna
______________________________________________________________________

Ta-da! What do you think? ~ Art & Max

David Wiesner took the classic archetype of opposites to explore the artist’s creative process. I love the idea of starting the story with a blank slate, because for any artist, any medium, it is that very freedom, that can often times be so overwhelmingly stifling. So stifling, in fact, that you may feel the need for some reptilian armor to overcome it. Unless, of course, you allow yourself room to explore and laugh, which is what Wiesner seems to hint at, when he allows the armor to crumble into a new and exciting form of expression.
~ Kristi
__________________________________________________________________

More detail, I think. ~ Art & Max

What a great example of focusing first on the story, and letting the message (explore the world in your own joyful way) come subtly through. If you like those old Sesame Street videos showing how crayons or noodles are made, you’ll love seeing Max recreate his friend.

A few years ago I visited the Dali museum in Florida. I can imagine how much inspiration a children’s book illustrator would find in there. Kids don’t see the world the same way as most adults, and there’s no doubt that Salvador Dali viewed things differently, too!
~ Lou

___________________________________________________________________

Book Review: Art & Max by David Wiesner

GEMrub

Watch for Lou’s Gem next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book is your Illustrative Gem?

APRIL’S THEME – PLANTING SEEDS

THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join Louise Aamodt, Kristi Janikula Herro, and me, for a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Illustrative Gem

NameplateKristisGemITHE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND
Text and Illustrations © 2014, Dan Santat

BEEKLEPicture Book, Fiction

Grade Level:
Preschool-2nd Grade
Age Range: 3-7 years

Little, Brown Books for
Young Readers

Caldecott Medal Winner
Huffington Post Best Overall Picture Book of 2014
PBS Parents Best Picture Book of the Year
NPR “Great Read”
ALSC Notable Book for Children
A Chicago Public Library Best Picture Book of the Year

But thinking about his friend gave him the courage to journey on . . . ~ The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend

Dan Santat’s award-winning story is both a narrative and illustrative gem. Santat’s mastery is evident in his use of hues to create mood and tone. I delighted in the bursting colors of the imaginary world and felt the weight of the dark and dim “real world”. Told from the point of view of the imaginary friend, Santat wisely used varying vantage points to convey Beekle’s emotions. The breathtaking artwork has both humor and heart. The clever narrative has both wisdom and simplicity.  And, … I just bet, that you can’t read this book about friendship without asking: What would my imaginary friend look like?

~ Kristi
______________________________________________________________________

Every night he stood under the stars, hoping for his turn to be picked by a child and given a special name. ~ The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend

Who hasn’t felt a bit overlooked, nondescript, or dare I say . . . lumpy? All the more reason to root for Beekle. Santat’s dreamy, rainbow-zen artwork keeps the mood sweet and upbeat. Is it too late in life to shop around for my own special friend?

~ Lou
_____________________________________________________________________

Her face was friendly and familiar, and there was something about her that felt just right. ~ The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend

For our writers  group’s holiday celebration, we each brought a favorite 2014 picture book. Mine was Beekle. The poignant story of longing and friendship proves that Dan Santat is an exemplary author as well as a Caldecott-deserving illustrator. He deserves every honor, and more. Contemplate Santat’s out-of-this-world end papers. Pure genius.

Fun story-behind-the-story facts: Beekle is a sweet tribute to Santat ‘s son. Santat is best of friends with Lisa Yee, author of the fabulous Millicent Min and Bobby series. Santat illustrated Yee’s Bobby series, which was inspired by Yee’s son. Their creative friendship inspires and motivates ours.

~ Anna
_______________________________________________________________________

Book Trailer: The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

KEM Sapphire

Watch for my Gem next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book is your Illustrative Gem?

IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join Louise Aamodt and me for a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Illustrative Gem

NameplateLousGemIIT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK!
Text and Illustrations © 2014, Michael Hall

ITSANORANGEAARDVARKPicture Book, Fiction

Age Range: 3-7 years

Grade Level:
Preschool-2nd Grade

Greenwillow Books,
HarperCollins Publishers

Aardvarks turn orange when they’re hungry for ants, you know! ~ It’s an Orange Aardvark!

IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK! by Michael Hall actually got me laughing aloud. The uncluttered illustrations and the fun hole punches piqued my interest. But what really tickled me was the good, old-fashioned page turns leading to unexpected surprises, each sillier than the previous.

It’s tricky to write a cumulative pattern that doesn’t read like a tedious list of chores, but Hall’s repetition rolls right off the tongue. Gentle tension builds smoothly right up to the final page turn, keeping readers guessing. As a reread, it’s refreshingly funny even when the reader knows what’s coming. In one word: surprising.
~ Lou
____________________________________________________________________

Oh no! It’s wearing blue pajamas! ~ It’s an Orange Aardvark!

Since Michael Hall is a Minnesota talent, we might be biased, but orange aardvarks in blue pajamas are funny, I don’t care where you’re from. Hall’s New York Times bestselling creations are reminiscent of Lois Ehlert’s–flamboyant, mischievous, and colorful. This book will give you an edge when playing Eye Spy in rainbow order. Through Hall’s creative use of shapes, storyline, and mystery, readers will learn without trying. After all, who can resist discovery when it lurks behind a peephole?
~ Anna
____________________________________________________________________

Michael Hall, New York Times Best-selling Picture Book Author and Illustrator by Amy Meythaler

Book Trailer: It’s An Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall

Michael Hall's lovely wife, Debra Kelley, agreed to take our picture with Michael after the 2015 Minnesota Book Award's Gala, where IT'S AN ORANGE AARDVARK, was a finalist. Their gesture of hospitality was especially thoughtful, as they were off to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to Michael and Debra!

Michael Hall’s lovely wife, Debra Kelley, agreed to take our picture with Michael after the 2015 Minnesota Book Award’s Gala, where IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK, was a finalist for the Award for Children’s Literature. Their gesture of patient hospitality was especially thoughtful, as they were off to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to Michael and Debra!

KEM Diamond

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book is your Illustrative Gem?

Announcing KidLit Gems!

KEM GEMS WILL BECOME KIDLIT GEMS!

Elise, our E in KEMs, will retire from KEM Gems to make time for a good cause: creating children’s picture books. Her début title, If You Ever Want to Bring Your Alligator to School, Don’t!, comes out July 14, 2015. Plus she’s writing new stories, all  while illustrating The Magic Word, written by Mac Barnett. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), she no longer has time to review books.

Kristi Janikula Herro

Kristi  Herro

Me, Anna Marras

Me, Anna Marras

Louise Aamodt

Louise Aamodt

 
Kristi Janikula Herro, co-owner and editor of SpotOn Editing, Minnesota SCBWI Meet-up Coordinator, and Literacy Volunteer of America  will continue reading, reviewing, and recommending Gems with me.

We’re pleased to announce that critique buddy, Louise Aamodt, 2015 MN Book Awards judge for Children’s Literature, runner-up of the 2011 Cheerios Spoonful of Stories Contest, and bilingual ESL teacher, joins us to form KidLit Gems. We think you’ll agree, Lou has the perfect qualifications to serve as a children’s literature ambassador.

We chose our new name because KLM Gems sounds too much like an airline and MLK Gems . . . well, you get the gist.

To properly close our KEM Gem Chapter we awarded a “thank you” gift to our most faithful KEM Gem supporter, Randy Holland.

The Grand Poobah of all KEM Gem supporters, Randy Holland. Kidlit Gems supporters, there will be more awards to come. Just sayin . . .

To properly close our KEM Gem Chapter we awarded our most faithful KEM Gem supporter, Randy Holland, a “thank you” gift of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Lucky for us, Elise will still be a constant in our lives as a critique partner, but we will miss her keen illustrator’s-eye  appreciation for the visual artistry of each Gem. We hope she’ll continue to educate us with regular cameo appearances in the Comment Section.

ELISE’S FAREWELL

Elise Parsley

Elise Parsley

“I want to thank Marlys for hosting our Gem reviews for the past year! Personally, I tend to stick to short, funny books with lots and lots of illustrations. Marlys and Kristi, however, have pushed me to read a wider range of titles than I otherwise would, and I’ve learned much from their unique perspectives and book choices. I’ll do my best to keep up with the monthly KidLit titles reviewed on this blog, and I hope you’ll do the same.

 

KIDLIT GEM’S MISSION

To have a coffee-style chat about children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

 

It’s just like KEM Gems with a twist. Each month Kristi, Lou, and I will recommend three books that match a theme. We’d like to hear your selections, too!


Gems can come from any children’s genre–picture book, chapter book/easy reader, middle grade, graphic novel, or YA.


MARCH’S THEME (A tribute to all illustrators out there!)

Illustrative Gem

What illustrative gem would you recommend?

Critique friends Elise Parsley. Kristi Herro, Alicia Schwab, Louise Aamodt, and me. Elise will pass the Gem reviewing torch to Lou, starting March 15th.

Critique friends, including Alicia Schwab, center. Elise says, “Here’s the torch, Lou! Thanks for picking up my slack!”

 

Writer Mentorship Lesson #3

COWABUNGA

Trisha’s jewelry was udderly divine.

Cowabunga! My last meeting  with MN SCBWI Writers Mentor Trisha Speed Shaskan moo-ved me. Charming bovines  surrounded us, rendering me defenseless  against cheesy puns.

Oh, no!
I can’t stop!

All bull aside, I’m so thankful for Trisha’s encouragement,  gently prodding me to a new level of children’s book writing. I hope my notes will encourage you, too.

Cow! Cows! Cows! And a little bull.

Café Latte art. Didn’t I notice it before? Cows! Cows! Cows! And a little bull.

 ANNIHILATE THOSE DARLINGS!

Killing darlings is essential for picture books, where low word count is optimum. Darlings can be extra characters, clever twists, funny dialog, or witty phrases–any words we think we can’t live without (but can). Writers’ minds understand killing darlings, but our hearts are reluctant to sacrifice our beloved(s).

Regarding my manuscript, my critique group had already encouraged the execution of a funny old knight and some annoying songbirds, so I thought I’d whittled to its bare bones. But Trisha still Cow!found phrases and adjectives that needed to march to the guillotine.

Since my picture book is bordering long, at 560 words, I needed to cut the fat. (Sorry about my grizzly metaphors.)

Could the illustrator show that “wigs, walking sticks, and wooden teeth flew” without those seven extra words?

Could the illustrator show that the environment is cramped, dark, and musty, even if I just call it a cellar?

CowCould the illustrator deliver more punch?

YES! YES! YES!

Killing your darlings is all about trusting the illustrator!

WORLD BUILDING

Trisha reminded me to ponder the world I’d created. Is it authentic?

Cows, Cows, Cows! And a little bull.

For instance, my tale is set in medieval times and I needed a place for my characters to escape an impending threat. Only one of these truly fit my story:

  • a cramped tunnel
  • a cellar
  • a dark dungeon
  • the musty basement

If you picked “cellar,” I know you read the “Annihilate Those Darlings” segment.  Cramped, dark, and musty can be illustrated with colors, space, and character expressions and mannerisms.

I originally chose tunnel, but after Trisha encouraged me to reconsider, it occurred to me that I wanted the next scene to flow up, not to another destination. I passed on a dungeon, because a dungeon infers imprisonment and I already had a prison in a different place. I rejected the basement, because the word “basement” originated in 1730, after the middle ages.  Cellars were underground chambers–usually cramped, dark, and musty–where medievals kept perishables. Cellar was perfect.

Certainly, some time travel stories are built to interject medieval with modern themes, but mine wasn’t one of them.

Scrutinize your word choices. Are they consistent with the rules you have set?

BE PATIENT AND PERSISTENT!

I love writing stories, but I hadn’t done any querying since my early days of children’s book writing when I naïvely thought the process was easy. Now I’m embarrassed and would like a do-over. Since then, there is one bit of advice I’d like to extend to all picture book writers: BE PATIENT! Do NOT query agents and editors until two experienced  critique partners and one mentor says your manuscript is perfect. And, wait–still don’t send that query until you write another manuscript and have that approved.

After three and a half years of hard work, I’ve finally received the thumbs up I need for two stories, plus I’ve accumulated almost a dozen other manuscripts in various stages of polish. But I’m far from done.

Here’s where the next stage of PERSISTENCE comes in. Finding the perfect agent or editor may be as hard as writing the perfect manuscript. Be selective and ask the right questions.

  1. Does she represent picture books? Editors who prefer YA? Probably not for me.
  2. Does my work fit his taste? Vampire seeking agents? Nada.
  3. Is she accepting new clients? This question should be #1.
  4. Does he accept authors who don’t illustrate? My list just got smaller.
  5. Do she have a sense of humor? You vill write and you vill like it! Nyet.
  6. Which publishing houses represent my favorite writers and illustrators? There are so many!
  7. Which publishing houses distribute my favorite books? Publishers, like people, have unique tastes.

When I showed Trisha my list of ten well-researched possibilities, she encouraged me to increase it to 30-40, and start sending three or four at a time, (each a personalized query, of course). She also advised me to consider newer agents, as well as the experienced. She reminded me that new agents are building their base and would work hard for their clients.

Back to the search engines.

In gratitude, these blog posts are my small effort to pay my mentorship experience forward, hoping you will benefit from Trisha’s wisdom as well.

On behalf of both of us, may you learn a latte’! (Lucky for you, I couldn’t think of another cow pun.)