FRANK AND BEAN’s World Blog Tour! (plus a giveaway)


Well, hey-hey-hey, we’ve got a couple new early reader friends here today!

Meet FRANK AND BEAN!

I’m eager to eat…er, I mean…MEET them, so I sat down with the fellas to have a frank conversation.

So Frank, you’re quite the solitary, secret fellow. What did you first think when Bean came along?

In three words: short, round, and jarring. Frankly, he’s a loud bean. 

Frank’s got a point there, Bean. Why are you so LOUD?

WHAT’S THAT? *banging on drum* WHY AM I SO PROUD? 

BECAUSE I’M A ONE-BEAN BAND. LISTEN TO THIS! *crashes cymbals* *toots horn* *bangs gong* 

Crash! Toot! Gooooooong!

Bean! She said loud, not proud. Why are you so loud?

 Me? Loud? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I am exuberant. 

Well, we’ve got one quiet and one loud here. Does your friendship prove that opposites really do attract?

We’re different, but we’re the same in one way. We’re both like to use our imagination and be creative. I make up songs, but I have a hard time coming up with their words. Frank is a writer who keeps a Secret Notebook. What do you write in there, Frank? 

Bean, shhh! We can’t give away the end of our story. These people haven’t read it yet.

Oh. Right. HEY, FRANK! 

Bean, you don’t have to shout. I’m on the same page as you.

We forgot that we have something else in common too, Frank. We both like jelly donut holes. And Frank? I like you too. 

Aw. Thanks, Bean. 

Well, your story ends on an interesting note, guys. Do you want to give us a little hint about what may come next?

Sure! Our next adventure is about creativity too. But it’s about creativity in the kitchen. Or a food truck. Bean gets a big idea to compete in the forest’s food truck contest. 

Will we win, Frank?

I don’t know. The book isn’t done yet. But I bet we’ll have fun.

Me too. Because we totally rock! *crashes cymbals* *toots horn* 

Gooooooong!

Well, now I need a couple of Tylenol…extra strength…fast acting…

Let’s take a look at the WORLD PREMIERE BOOK TRAILER!

FRANK AND BEAN is an adorable new early reader series from author Jamie Michalak and illustrator Bob Kolar, published by Candlewick. There’s full-color delight on every page, perfect for kids who are moving beyond picture books but don’t want to leave the best part—THE PICTURES!!!—behind. These pals have a tiny bit of a rough (and loud) start to their friendship, but they realize their strengths compliment each other in perfect harmony.

If you’d like to win a copy of FRANK AND BEAN, leave a comment about what makes friendship so special.

One winner will be randomly selected very soon, because Tara has a lot of giveaways for which she needs to pick winners. So she’ll do it all in one fell swoop!

Good luck!

To follow this tour, you don’t even need a VW minibus! (But that would be more fun.)



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AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO: Author & Illustrator Behind the Scenes (plus a giveaway)


Recently a film by Pixar called “Bao” received the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film at the 91st Academy Awards. The short featured a Canadian-Chinese mother whose son grew up and moved away, so she was feeling lonely. Enter a perfect, plump bao to give her a second chance at motherhood.

Since then, I’ve been a tad obsessed with the yummy bao. I enjoy one every time I shop at the Asian grocery. So I was excited to learn of a new picture book coming out on October 1: AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO.

What a cover! Not only is there a perfect bao, but Amy and her kitty are pretty darn adorable, too.

I asked the author, Kat Zhang, and the illustrator, Charlene Chua, a few questions. I also had them interview one another. They discussed the story and the delicious ideas behind it.

Kat, what inspired you to write Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao?

Making bao and mantou (another kind of Chinese steamed bread bun) with my parents is such a treasured childhood memory for me. As I grew older, and the whole family got busier, we made them less. It wasn’t until I was in late high school or early college that the bao-making bug struck me again, and I became obsessed with making bao that were as good as the ones I had in restaurants. Many, many rounds of lumpy, leaky, over-and-underfilled bao later, I not only had a darn good bao recipe, but an idea for a new book!

What was your reaction to Charlene’s illustrations?

AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO is my debut picture book, and seeing Charlene’s illustrations has honestly been one of the most thrilling parts of the whole process! I had a general idea of how I pictured the characters and illustrations, but I was eager to see how an illustrator interpreted the text and the characters as well. Charlene did such an amazing job giving Amy’s family dimension and character through the illustrations, and I especially loved the addition of the little kitty, who wasn’t mentioned at all in the original text. Now I can’t imagine the book without it!

What do you hope young Asian-American/Canadian readers will get from this book?

The opportunity to see people like yourself in media is such a big deal, and honestly, something I don’t think I fully grasped until I was older. As a kid, I don’t remember specifically thinking that I wished there were more Asian-American characters in media. But not seeing myself reflected in the books and movies I consumed definitely contributed to my internalizing a lot of things as a kid about what sort of things I “fit” into. I was perpetually on the outside looking in. I hope that AMY WU is just one more opportunity for a kid to recognize themselves in Amy’s family. And of course, on the other side of things, I hope it lets non-Asian American kids explore a culture different from their own.

What is your favorite detail from the book that reminds you of your own homes/households?

I absolutely loved all the details Charlene snuck into Amy’s house! My mother has a total green thumb, so when I was growing up, we definitely had the bamboo plants, and the big leafy plants all over the house. Our steamer was metal, but I totally wish we had a cool woven one like Amy’s family!

What is your favorite bao?

I have a sweet tooth, and I love red bean paste bao and lotus paste bao!

Charlene asks Kat: Did the story change a lot from 1st draft till the version I got to illustrate? If so, what were the big changes?

Amazingly (at least for me, since my stories often undergo big changes from my first idea to the final draft!), AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO didn’t change much from the very first draft I wrote. The biggest tweak was probably having Amy herself come up with the solution of cutting the bao dough into smaller pieces so that they fit her hands better. In the first draft, it was Grandma who came up with the idea!

Kat, which is your favorite page/s in the book?

This is so hard to choose! I love, love the page with the phoenix and dragon surrounding Amy’s vision of a perfect bao, but I also laughed out loud when I first saw the page of her and Kitty with the three “messed up” bao. The “Perfect Bao Plan” page is also amazing. Really, I just love them all!

Did Amy and her family turn out looking like what you originally imagined them to be?

They did! I hadn’t originally imagined Grandma with pink hair, but I think it adds something great to her character. Amy is every bit the spunky, vivacious kid I wanted her to be!

Charlene, what was your inspiration for Amy Wu’s look—her hair, her clothes, her body language, etc.?

When I first read Kat’s manuscript, I thought that Amy was a very cheerful, enthusiastic girl, with a good amount of confidence in whatever she set her mind to doing. It was great to have a story with a young Chinese girl who isn’t afraid of expressing what she wants or how she feels. Amy is also character that sort of needs to be All-Amy, all the time, and I tried to match her design to those qualities. Amy’s actions are depicted with bigger gestures, because she’s not shy at showing how she feels. Her clothes allow her freedom of movement, and feature bold and eclectic colors.

What inspired you to create Amy Wu’s cat friend?

I had attended a kidlit conference shortly before starting work on the book. At one of the talks, the speaker mentioned that animals were a way to add more visual interest to a story, without altering the narrative. The thought stuck with me, and I’ve been trying to incorporate it ever since. With Amy’s story, I also really like Amy’s personality, it’s very strong – but to really show that, sometimes you need to contrast it with a softer character, such as a younger sibling that can look up to or copy the ‘stronger’ character’s actions. Since Amy doesn’t have any younger siblings, I thought that maybe her having an animal companion would be able to achieve the same effect. I also just like cats, and will take any opportunity to stick one into a story!

What do you hope young Asian-American/Canadian readers will get from this book?

I hope that readers who identify with Amy and her family will be excited to see a family like their own in this book. But I also hope that readers from all backgrounds will enjoy it too. You don’t have to be from an Asian family or know about Chinese food to enjoy the book—it’s very accessible so I hope that people will check it out just because it’s a neat story.

What is your favorite detail from the book that reminds you of your own homes/households?

The kitchen stove in the story is more or less based on my actual stove. It’s a gas stove, because I’ve cooked with gas all my life. My mum cooked with gas, and my grandmothers did too (one grandmother liked using charcoal as well, but that’s another story). The rice cooker also looks similar to the cooker I grew up with, although the one I use now looks different.

What is your favorite bao?

Char siu bao! (Chinese barbeque pork.)

Kat asks Charlene: I loved getting multiple versions of the illustration for each page during the initial stages of book coming together. How do you brainstorm various ideas for an illustration? What factors do you take into consideration?

I like trying out different layouts to see what works best – usually the first idea I come up with isn’t the one I end up going with. Most of the art for Amy Wu was done digitally, but the thumbnails were done with pencil on paper. I like to sit in a comfy chair and doodle out thumbnails—it works better for me that way as it’s just me and the paper, no fancy screens or Undo buttons to concern me. When working on thumbnails, I consider the text for a particular page or spread, and how best to bring that to life. I also think about what I could possibly add to make it more fun or impactful. When all the thumbnails are done, I try to look at them as a whole to see which ones connect the best. Sometimes there’s a thumbnail for a page that looks great on its own, but when it’s strung together with the rest, it doesn’t work as well.

Artists often have a very unique signature style. What would you say are the elements of yours? Do you feel like it’s still evolving a lot, or something that’s remained stable? 

It’s kind of hard for me to pin down my own style (I think many artists have that problem!). I guess my art tends to be quite energetic, usually with pretty strong colors. I think it’s evolved over the years, especially now that I’m working with more non-digital art for some other projects. But at the same time, I think if you looked at the older and newer work, it’s still possible to see the same artist behind it.

Thank you, Kat and Charlene, for sharing the stories behind the story!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO when it is released.

Just add one comment below and a random winner will be selected soon! (Tara has many winners of recent contests to select!)

Good luck!

You can visit Kat Zhang at KatZhangwriter.com and Charlene Chua at CharleneChua.com



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Laura Renauld’s Storystorm Success Story (plus a giveaway)


by Laura Renauld

Online writing challenges have been key to my career as a children’s author. I’m the kind of writer who needs external goals and deadlines to jumpstart my internal motivation. Challenges have helped me develop my craft, given me strategies for revision, and connected me with a vibrant writing community. Some of my favorites include NaPiBoWriWee, ReFoReMo, Susanna Leonard Hill’s writing contests, and, of course, Storystorm.

I’ve been participating in Storystorm since 2011. Back then, it was called Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). That same year I joined SCBWI and found a local critique group. I was finally taking myself seriously as a writer!

Fast forward three years. PiBoIdMo 2014 was in full swing and I was filling my notebook with ideas. After reading Tammi Sauer’s guest post about attempting ‘How-To’ books, I jotted an idea in my notebook that involved a pie and a porcupine. Little did I know that this alliterative idea was going to propel my writing career forward! Almost one year ago, in October 2018, my debut picture book, Porcupine’s Pie, was published.

Happy first birthday, Porcupine!

As I reflected on my journey to publication, the amazing connections I’ve made in-person and online in the Kidlit community, and the writing challenges that have motivated me along the way, I became aware of three things. First, I have benefited greatly from the generosity and support of other children’s authors and illustrators. Second, a debut author has an uphill climb when it comes to connecting with readers. Third, I wanted to find a way to give back. What better way to do that than to start my own challenge?

Introducing the DEBUT REVIEW CHALLENGE!

We’ve all heard about the importance of customer reviews. They act as a proxy for word-of-mouth recommendations. While there is some debate over how many reviews are “enough”, I think we can all agree: the more reviews, the better. Reviews lead to exposure and book buzz, which allows our books to get into the hands of more children. What could be better than that?

Anyone with a book can benefit from a review, but this challenge is designed to give a boost to first-time authors and illustrators. The Debut Review Challenge will encourage kidlit creators, teachers, librarians, and parents to write book reviews, specifically for debut books.

Here’s how the challenge will work:

  1. Read a debut book by a Kidlit creator.
  2. Write an honest review. Post it on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online sites
  3. Repeat! Once you complete 10 reviews, fill out this ENTRY FORM. You could win a signed book, a free Skype visit, or a manuscript critique, to name a few of the fabulous prizes donated by participating debut authors and illustrators. And you can enter every time you complete 10 reviews!

Be sure to follow #DebutReviewChallenge on Twitter and Instagram for debut creator interviews and chances for bonus entries. You can also find more info at my website, including a downloadable Review Record sheet. Go to LauraRenauld.com.

(And if you are a traditionally published debut kidlit creator who would like to shine in the challenge spotlight, click HERE!)

The first challenge begins in October. Won’t you join the fun?

Thanks, Laura! And congratulations!

To celebrate the first birthday of her debut picture book, Laura is giving away a signed copy of Porcupine’s Pie.

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected soon!

Good luck!


Laura Renauld is the author of Porcupine’s Pie and Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers, which will be available January 14, 2020. (Just one of the many fabulous new releases from the 2020 Comeback Crew: @2020comebkcrew.)

Find out more about the Debut Review Challenge at laurarenauld.com, where you can also subscribe to her newsletter and blog.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @laura_renauld, Instagram: @laurarenauld, and Facebook: @kidlitlaura.



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Debut Groups, a Website Launch & Words of Wisdom About Critiques…and a MEGA Critique Giveaway


by Colleen Paeff

The year or two leading up to the publication of an author or illustrator’s debut book is a rollercoaster ride of exciting milestones (“I signed my contract!”), new experiences (“Hello, Copy Editor.”), and sheer terror (“You expect me to read my book aloud in front of how many children?”). And, like a rollercoaster, it’s best experienced with friends. That’s where debut groups come in.*

The Soaring ‘20s Picture Book Debuts is a collective of picture book authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators with debut picture books being released in 2020** and beyond. We’ve pooled our resources, talents, and sympathetic ears so none of us has to experience this ride solo—and that’s fitting because we certainly didn’t get this far on our own. We’re all in the happy position of awaiting the release of our books thanks to the authors, illustrators, teachers, editors, or agents who looked at our work and offered targeted feedback to help improve it.

And now we’d like to do the same for you!

To celebrate the launch our new website Soaring20spb.com, we’re giving away 20+6 free manuscript, dummy, or portfolio critiques in the MEGA SOARING ’20s CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY!

If you’ve been in the picture book game for a while, you probably already know the value of a thorough, thoughtful critique. But if you’re new to writing or illustrating for kids or you’re on the fence about whether or not to hand your baby over to a set of critical eyes, allow some of our members us give you a nudge:

“Critiques have been an essential step (many steps! multiple flights of stairs!) on my path to publication.”

Angela Burke Kunkel, author
DIGGING FOR WORDS: JOSÉ ALBERTO GUTIÉRREZ AND THE LIBRARY HE BUILT (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, Fall 2020)

“If you’ve put your all into your work-in-progress and are ready to see it with fresh eyes, a critique is a fun way to open new pathways in your brain and to rekindle your enthusiasm for your work.”

Shelley Johannes, author/illustrator
MORE THAN SUNNY (Abrams, Spring 2021)

“The more we embrace the journey of improving and collaboration, the more we learn and the better we become as authors, illustrators and artists.”

Sam Wedelich, author/illustrator
CHICKEN LITTLE: THE REAL AND TOTALLY TRUE* TALE (Scholastic Press, Spring 2020)

“I’ll always remember how Jo Whittemore, author of FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF, critiqued me years ago. She called problems in my manuscript ‘opportunities.’”

NoNieqa Ramos, author
BEAUTY WOKE (Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, spring 2021)

“The more you have your work critiqued, the less personal it becomes. You learn to listen for the gems of advice, questions, concerns, and ideas that other readers/writers have for you. Then when you take those gems and apply them to your work, the proof is in how much your writing is improved and how much your skill grows as a storyteller. And while this process sometimes has you feeling vulnerable and exposed, ultimately when you send your writing out into the world, you will feel so proud of it!”

Anna Crowley Redding, author
RESCUING THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (HarperCollins, spring 2020)

Convinced? Go to our website to enter to win a free picture book manuscript, dummy, or portfolio critique in the MEGA SOARING ’20s CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY by midnight on September 15 and you could be one of 20+6 lucky winners!

*We’re not the only game in town! Check out KidLit411’s list of Debut Year Groups (scroll all the way down to the bottom).

**One of us got bumped up to 2019! Look for Author Saira Mir’s MUSLIM GIRLS RISE: INSPIRATIONAL CHAMPIONS OF OUR TIME (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster) on October 29.

Big thanks to Tara for letting us share the news about our giveaway on her blog!

(And Tara says thanks right back!)



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Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award


The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is offering a new award that honors the wonderful spirit and work of late children’s book author Kate Pohl Dopirak. The Kate Dopirak Craft and Community Award will offer one picture book writer:

  • Full tuition to the SCBWI International Conference in L.A. in 2020
  • A 20-minute phone consultation with Tracey Adams of Adams Literary (Kate’s agent)
  • A 20-minute phone consultation with Andrea Welch of Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster (one of Kate’s editors)

The #KDCCAward will alternate yearly between picture book and middle grade/YA. Submissions will be accepted for this inaugural award from September 1 to October 31. 

Please consider applying…and please help spread the word.

Thank you.  ️ ️ ️

#KDCCAward20
#katedopirakaward
katedopirakaward.com



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If You Build It, It Can Sell! A Novelty Book Primer by Salina Yoon (plus a giveaway)


by Salina Yoon

Ever wonder how those cute books with moving parts, lift-flaps, pop-ups, or touchable things get sold to publishers?

With a novelty book submission, the dummy is critical. Unlike other formats that may be story- or art-driven, a novelty book is format-driven. This means that the physical format can be even more important than the text, the story, the concept, or the art, though all of these elements have to work seamlessly together at the end. Creating a novelty book is like solving a puzzle on a multi-dimensional level. But the challenge is what makes it FUN!

The format has to be unique and versatile enough to work as a series.

But how do you build a book with moving parts?!

I’ll show you.

It begins with an idea. You sketch it out. This sketch is no bigger than 2”, but it’s got a lot of info here. The tail of an animal will wag by the pull of a pull-tab.

Since I already know that it would be important for the publisher to be able to make this into a series, I created a series title.

The things that I considered while creating the series title:

  • Must highlight its most unique feature on the book
  • Must be catchy
  • Must inform reader how the book work

I came up with a WAGGING TAIL BOOK. But I revised the series title to A WAG MY TAIL BOOK for the final submission, which the acquiring publisher kept.

Then comes the tricky part. Before I do anything else, I have to figure out how to make the tail wag with a pull tab. What if you’re not a paper engineer? While I consider myself a format engineer, I’m not a paper engineer myself, so I sought one out. I happen to have a good friend who can really make paper do anything! Having some experience with novelty, though, I knew the possibilities and limitations. I explained how I wanted the tail to move with a tab on the side. She sent me various options, and this mechanic worked the best for me.

You could hire a freelance paper engineer, like Renee Jablow or carefully open up other books with a similar mechanic to the one you want, and see if you could recreate it. No need to reinvent the wheel. All paper-engineers pull apart other paper mechanics to learn from them! Don’t worry about making it perfect. This is for the purpose of submitting it to a publisher so they see how it works. If the publisher is interested, they would send this dummy to their printer, and the printer would re-engineer it (and clean it up)—and supply quotes to the publisher. Pricing is KEY in getting through the acquisition process. If it’s too pricey, it’ll be passed. Be sure to only include interactive elements that are absolutely necessary and cost effective.

Once I had the mechanic figured out, I worked on creating an art sample. But since I want to show this format as a series, I created four covers. After building the four dummies, I had to source the fabric for the touch-and-feel tail. This could be done by visiting a fabric store, or even a party store that sells costumes. All I needed was a tiny piece of fabric for my dummy. A fully designed dummy shows the publisher exactly how I am envisioning this series.

But I wanted to offer less-expensive versions of the dummy, too, so I did not put fabric on the tails of all of the animals. It’s nice to offer options.

After building the dummy, I created a video to show how the dummy works. This would allow me to share the dummy without actually sending it, unless it was requested.

 

The acquisition process for a novelty book typically takes far longer than a traditional picture book, even when the publisher is excited about it. Expect 7-12 months…or longer to get an offer, if one is coming! Some books have been acquired as late as 18 months after submission!

The Wag My Tail series was sold to S&S as a 3-book deal (though more are coming). Instead of going with the original concepts, the publisher asked for holiday themes, which was easy to apply to this format. The first book HALLOWEEN KITTY is available now, and the others will follow.

Don’t be afraid to tackle a novelty book idea. Take it just one step at a time—beginning with the format. It’s challenging on multiple levels, but you’ll have lots of fun and maybe less hair than what you started with. Good luck!

Thanks, Salina! What a fascinating process. You are the novelty master. How could any publisher resist?

You can visit Salina and her books online at SalinaYoon.com.

To celebrate the release of HALLOWEEN KITTY, Salina is giving away 5 copies of the book!

Leave one comment below to enter. Five random winners will be selected in a couple weeks.

Good luck!



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Introducing KARATE KID, Plus 4 Lessons From a Social Media Campaign (plus a giveaway)


by Rosanne L. Kurstedt

I could not be more excited to celebrate my brand-new picture book KARATE KID on Tara’s blog. We all know she loves a good celebration.

KARATE KID introduces readers to karate in a fun and engaging way with an emphasis on how karate can increase confidence. The simple, measured, and meditative text is complemented by playful yet instructive illustrations by Mark Chambers.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months about launching a book in the age of social media…and about myself. So, I thought I’d share some thoughts from my experience.

My good friend Eva Natiello and I discuss writing and book promotion often. She is a self-published, New York Times best-selling author, so she knows a thing or two about reviews, pre-sales, and also finding angles to market a project.

Beginning in January, she started asking me what my thoughts were for promoting KARATE KID. I said I was going to reach out to some local bookstores, schools, and probably do a blog tour. She asked, “but what are you doing before the book comes out—on social media?” I said I hadn’t thought about it much yet. She then told me about an idea she had—find some karate students who are willing to dress up as Karate Kid and film them doing some of the techniques featured in the book. Then promote the book by using the videos on social media. I loved the idea. BUT. I dismissed it. I didn’t have the time. Where would I find kids who did Karate, would agree to dress up, and whose parents would be okay with me sharing all the videos?

I was talking to another friend of mine, the award-winning author, Laura Sassi, and she told me about her neighbor, James, who loves karate. Laura said she’d ask James’ mom if she’d let him be the star of the videos. Turns out James and his mom loved the idea. I was still skeptical. How would we dress him up? How would we film? I don’t have time. Laura and Eva persisted.

When Laura confirmed a date with James and his mom to film, I really had no more excuses. This was happening. I needed to get moving. One night, I went to Michaels and AC Moore with another friend. I had no idea how we would dress James to look like Karate Kid so I bought a lot of items. After much trial and error, for the horns we used a head band, model magic, and pipe cleaners. For the hooves, we used old socks cut and re-sewn, and for the arms and legs, we used fuax fur. Finally, we McGyvered a goatee by cutting and taping and reconfiguring a few stick-on mustaches.

While planning for the video Eva and Laura reminded me that I needed specific hashtags. I decided on #KarateConfidence and #KarateKidTheBook. The day of the shoot the weather was beautiful. With just an iPhone, the help of friends, and a patient and talented young Karate student, James, the filming went off without a hitch.

Next, I had to edit the footage with iMovie, which I hadn’t used in years. After a few mis-starts, slowly but surely the clips came together. I asked James to do some additional audio recordings since the audio from the filming wasn’t loud enough. I was able to layer that in seamlessly (well probably not seamlessly).

Two of the videos are below, so you can see (hear) for yourself.

With the videos at the core of the social media campaign, I also searched for goat jokes, karate quotes, and articles to post throughout the weeks leading up to the book birthday. I even made myself a calendar and designed some posts on Canva.

I’m not sure how effective the campaign has been in how many books were sold because of the social media, but I’m really glad I did it. I stepped way out of my comfort zone. (I’m really uncomfortable promoting myself and my work.) I realized I actually enjoy creating videos and images for posts. In addition, connecting with teachers and parents from across the country has been a real highlight. Below are the four main lessons I learned (or was reminded of) from this process:

  • Lesson 1: Ask for help.
  • Lesson 2: Try the uncomfortable.
  • Lesson 3: Make the time. It might be fun.
  • Lesson 4: I have awesome friends.

To celebrate KARATE KID’s birthday and all that I’ve learned, I’m extending the social media campaign with a new focus. Starting today, I’m beginning the #IAmAKarateKid campaign—kids and adults can send in pictures or words describing how they are a Karate Kid—someone with confidence and focus—someone who embodies the discipline and respect which is at the heart of karate.

So, if you are, or know of someone who is a Karate Kid, tweet, post to Instagram, or to my author Facebook page. Remember to use #KarateConfidence and #IAmAKarateKid. One person will receive a signed book and some awesome swag. If the winner is a teacher or a student, I will also do a free SKYPE visit. Kiya!!!


Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D. has been an educator for over 20 years. She’s been an elementary school teacher, staff developer, administrator, adjunct professor, literacy coach, curriculum writer, and most importantly an advocate for children and teachers. She is a co-author of Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000) and author of the 100+ Growth Mindset Comments series (Newmark Learning, 2019) for grades K-6. She is currently the Associate Director of READ East Harlem/Hunter College and is so excited about the launch of her new picture book KARATE KID (Running Press Kids)—on sale September 3, 2019.

Finally, she is the founder and president of The Author Experience, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to the transformative power of sharing stories. In collaboration with students, families and educators, The Author Experience provides sustainable experiences that build a culture of literacy—one that elevates connections and delivers lasting impact. Please check us out at http://www.theauthorexperience.org and become a part of the story!

Rosanne can be found on Twitter and Instagram @rlkurstedt and on Facebook @rlkurstedtauthor.



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Picture Book Trailer Collaborators on WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? Debut (plus giveaways)


Today we have debuts up the wazoo! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

When Dawn Babb Prochovnic contacted me about debuting her new book trailer, I was intrigued because she collaborated with Annie Lynn, a songstress I knew from Twitter. (Which means today not only is there a trailer debut, but a musical debut as well. Yes, we are dropping music this week just like Taylor Swift!)

Of course, come on my blog! I said. But first, tell me about this awesome collaboration!

Dawn:

There is so much to love about the song that Annie and her team created for the WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? book trailer.

When I first connected with Annie, my thought was that I would send her a copy of the book, and she would read it and magically be inspired to write a song. Instead, she nudged me to write the lyrics for the song before she ever saw the book.

Her feeling was that I knew the heart of the story better than she or others would or could. That nudge opened up a whole new creative channel for me—I’m so proud to have been involved in the making of this song, and I’m so grateful that Annie and her music came into my life. I sincerely feel like the song is an extension of the book, versus just a fun extra.

That said, the song is a work of art in its own right that could stand alone without the book’s scaffolding. It’s so kid-friendly and ridiculously catchy. I find myself humming it ALL THE TIME. Good thing I love it!

Well then, let’s hear it!

Annie, how did you get into writing songs for kidlit?

I was lead to kidlit the way I was lead to kindie music (kids + indie musician = kindie). By accident….OR WAS IT????

Sometimes life gives you signs, and if you pay attention, and put the pieces together there is often an exciting path open to you. I went from recording kids music with my son and the students I was working with at an elementary school, to kidlit, as a result of reading with kids.

My first kidlit song was 2 years ago. I gifted OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE by Elise Gravel to my kid neighbor. We read it together out loud and I felt strongly that the words needed music (yes, I do that constantly, lol). I took 97% of her words, added music, made a demo, and ended up asking Elise for permission to share with the world and she said yes. She said she loved it and I could use it as I like. But that’s when I found out that songs are most valuable before the book comes out, especially for book trailers and value-added content for the book. Lesson learned. Completely different model from radio!

My next kidlit song was for Author Patrick Adams. He has this fun kidlit travel series LISA GOES TO… with this stuffed toy bear, Lisa, who can do amazing tricks and is guardian to 3 kids.

That brings me to our latest collaboration, with author Dawn Babb Prochovnic.

We were connected by mutual friends…one knew an author who wanted to write a song with a musician for a book trailer for her upcoming book, the other knew a children’s songwriter. See? THAT is the synchronicity I was just talking about.

However, that songwriter was tied up recording her next album, but had a friend who had been working a few years in kidlit, writing songs. We were introduced in a lovely email, and then began chatting on the phone about concepts and instruments. It quickly became apparent that I had been SENT one of the most lovely and kind people I had ever met. And she likes to talk and joke as much as I do, so we had some memorable, very funny conversations.

I lucked out with Dawn in that I gained a professional Author mentor, as well as learning about word pacing in picture books.  I was used to being Free Range Annie, writing about whatever I wanted to, whenever the Muse visited. If you listen to the back and forth exchange between the Captain and his crew in the book trailer song for WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? there’s a rhythm pattern that would not have occurred to me until Dawn wrote it out on paper. I kept thinking “Wow…she’s good. I just learned something new and useful.”  I also gained a friend and mutual supporter for life.

I also appreciate Dawn’s enthusiasm and vision for music in kidlit, and she has wonderful educational ideas that send my creativity into overdrive. She revealed that she recognizes the power music has to pull all the different pieces together in putting out a kidlit book trailer. And I can’t wait to hear kids singing this song to her on School Author Visits. She can now send it ahead of time, to any school she is visiting. They can learn it and sing along with the video. Kids will love singing her song to her. I always love how excited kids get when they sing my songs for me. And they can see me beaming, which makes them feel good too. Get ready to beam, Dawn!

I also need to mention that this song taught me not to take myself so seriously….I was writing an environmental doomsday song for an enviro group when she called. I needed a little break from heavy subject matter, and a song about a Pirate needing to find a potty quickly sure did the trick. My son is the Captain in the song and my husband Walt and I are the crew. Chris Arms plays guitar & mixed. We laughed so much recording this song. We tried to vocally make seal and dolphin sounds, til we realized we needed to sample the real thing. Listening to samples of seals and dolphins for an hour will make you laugh your butts off! And from downstairs, it sounded like seals were in my studio. I wrote to Dawn in tears after that….the really happy kind.  She brought us a memory that we will always cherish. And it got Alex off the darn PS4! He hasn’t been able to record with me since his voice changed. He’s really happy and proud of his performance; we are too.

Thank you, Dawn and Annie Lynn, for sharing your experience collaborating on kindie/kidlit music! I have a feeling Annie Lynn is about to be inundated with musical requests!

But first, a couple of giveaways!

From Dawn, you can win either a copy of WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? or a picture book critique! Your choice!

From Annie Lynn, you can win a music CD: SONGS FOR SCHOOLS!

Just leave a comment below to enter. Random winners will be selected in September!

Good luck!

Follow these creative ladies on Twitter: @DawnProchovnik@AnnieLynn215 



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Picture Book Magic: Explained by Carle Honor Recipients (plus a giveaway)


In one month, The Carle Museum of Picture Book art will hold its annual Carle Honors, awarding four people/entities who have made significant contributions to the art form.

Also that evening, September 26th, final bids will be accepted on original artwork by picture book masters. Today, The Carle Honors are pleased to announce the artists whose work will be auctioned this year.

The auction will go live on Friday, August 30th and you can register to bid here.

For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask the Carle Honorees a question about picture books. My question this year is…

“Picture books exude a certain kind of magic. How would you describe that magic?”

 

Melissa Sweet
2019 Carle Honors Artist

In a picture book, the magic begins as a swift and surprising connection to the art and design of a book, and later the words.

Often I dissect a book from cover to flaps to endpapers and everything in between, in order to figure out the decisions that make it compelling.

But in thinking about magic, I also think of magicians. One thing that makes a magic trick awe-inspiring is the set-up, which takes practice, timing and repetition, and drawing in the audience.

Then a myriad of decisions so that every word, every movement, points to witnessing something extraordinary.

Creating a picture book also requires minute decisions by a cast of dozens. The words, images, and design come together to create something wholly new.

Often there’s a moment when a book seems to have a mind of its own.  And when the final book feels effortless and like something we’ve never seen before, it seems…like magic.

 

REFORMA
The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos & the Spanish Speaking
represented by Kenny Garcia, President
2019 Carle Honors Angel

‘Picture books allow readers to imagine a world or a future that the reader exists in and thrives. It opens up new possibilities, words, and worlds full of love, hope, expressions, and emotions that affirms the reader’s life. This magical spark empowers children to imagine and create a better world for themselves and their communities. Multicultural picture books can be such a transformative experience for all of us, but for children of color, the ability to see and read picture books by illustrators of color can nurture the idea that they can also have a future career in writing and illustrating books, and continue the magic for future generations.

 

Chihiro Art Museum 
represented by Takeshi Matsumoto
2019 Carle Honors Bridge

statement by Yuko Takesako          
Executive Director of the Chihiro Iwasaki Memorial Foundation
Chief Curator of the Chihiro Art Museum (Tokyo & Azumino)

When children open the cover of a children’s book, a special kind of magic bubbles up. It gives a glimpse of a world yet unseen, enables the reader to experience something never done before, or brings back a memory of an event long forgotten.

The magic of picture books especially has a great impact on children of different nationalities or languages, or on babies who still cannot read, or at times on children who are not so adept at communicating with others. The visual magic cast on a young child once he or she opens a picture book is so powerful that memories of the book may suddenly come alive when the book is placed firmly in their hands—once again after a forgotten period of 10, 30, or even 50 years.

In this fashion, the yearning, understanding, and sympathy found through experiencing a different world helps to create another sort of magic which is respect and love for people of different cultures and the world they live in.

Such is the magic that exudes from picture books—something all too precious and special.

 

David Saylor
VP, Creative Director, Trade Publishing

Publisher, Graphix
Scholastic Inc.
2019 Carle Honors Mentor

What I love most about picture books is how the words and artwork blend to create an enhanced and perfect entity: the book itself. Their heightened interaction is the alchemy that every picture book hopes to achieve, that moment where words spark a thought and the pictures expand the narrative spaces between and around the words and sentences. For that reason, my favorite picture books are fully alive with emotion and artistry.

I’ve often wondered why picture books that were read to me as a child have stayed so vivid in my memory. I don’t think it’s simply that my young mind was eager to discover the wider world. I think it may also be that hearing my mother and father read aloud to me was my first experience of artistic communication. Those moments—the warmth of a lap, the sounds of words, the lively pictures on the page—brought to life a moment where a writer and an artist spoke directly to me, to my innermost self. I felt suddenly more alive, more aware, more full of life than I had felt just a moment before.

There’s a beautiful scene in the play Wit, by Margaret Edson. The main character is Dr. Vivian Bearing, an English professor, dying from ovarian cancer.  Her mentor, an older professor, visits and tries to comfort her by reading aloud. Then her mentor does something extraordinary: she lays next to her in bed and reads a picture book that she had intended for her grandson. The books is Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny, and it’s one of the most beautiful and touching moments I’ve seen in any play. In her final moments of life, when Dr. Bearing’s ebbing life has been paired down to the elemental, only a picture book could express the right feeling with such simplicity and depth.

 

Thank you, Honorees, and congratulations!

Blog readers, I hope you’ll visit the Carle Honors Auction, attend the Honors gala, or donate to The Carle Museum for all they do to celebrate picture books. Just visit carlemuseum.org.

You can celebrate, too, if you’re the winner of Eric Carle’s THE ARTIST WHO PAINTED A BLUE HORSE. Simply share this blog post and comment that you’ve done so…and you’ll be entered into the random drawing to win a copy. A winner will be selected next week.

Good luck!

 



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Joanna Rowland’s Storystorm Success Story


by Joanna Rowland

A few years ago I started following Tara Lazar on Twitter. Not only does she have a great blog that is full of resources and is helpful to writers, but she’s also a great author herself. Then I discovered Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo). I used to try and fail at NaNoWriMo, but writing 31 different ideas for a month sounded like a goal I could reach and it would be fun.

I had just sold my second picture book THE MEMORY BOX: A BOOK ABOUT GRIEF in November of 2016 and I needed some time to figure out what to write about next.

Luckily, as a teacher I have the beginning of January off so I can really focus on Storystorm at kickoff. In January 2017, I was up at the family cabin when a snow storm came in. So there on my second day of  Storystorm I just wrote the word storm.  There is so much I love about storms. The only problem was I didn’t have an idea of how to tackle the story. What was my story?

What I’ve learned about my writing process is that sometimes I get a topic before the story. With my first book ALWAYS MOM; FOREVER DAD (Tilbury, 2014), I knew I wanted to write a positive picture book on divorce. I knew I wanted the topic of divorce before I knew what my story was. I was reading WHEN I WAS LITTLE: A Four–Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth by Jamie Lee Curtis to my Kindergarten class. Her book went back and forth with memories of when she was little to her now big age of FOUR. Something struck me in that moment of reading and I thought, What if I write a book about a child that goes back and forth between time with mom and time with dad? I wrote ALWAYS MOM; FOREVER DAD based on that structure and it allowed me to write about divorce and separation and the child’s relationship with each parent in a positive light.

A month before ALWAYS MOM; FOREVER DAD was to be released, a relative that was intended to receive my picture book on divorce and was one the inspirations behind it, tragically lost her father. So then I knew I needed to write a book on grief. I didn’t know what my story was, but I knew it needed to be written. About a month after trying to write about grief, our synchronized swimming team got devastating news that one of our beloved swimmers and coaches was diagnosed with cancer. Within six months, our sweet Marisa, who I used to coach and who swam with my niece and daughters, passed away.  It was so heartbreaking.

I had to get this story right. I think going through grief and taking my youngest to her first funeral at age six, helped me find a way to talk about death with my youngest and find the heart of the story. It still took me over two years to get the story right, but again the topic of grief came before the story.

THE MEMORY BOX: A BOOK ABOUT GRIEF won a gold from The Mom’s Choice Award, St. Jude Hospital read it on their Day of Remembrance to families that attended around the world, and it recently sold Dutch and Simplified Foreign Rights. It’s been such a blessing to see and hear how hospitals and counselors are using it. I think my editor Andrew DeYoung was also touched to see how this book has been helping people. He emailed me on his paternity leave to pitch an idea for a companion. Coming Spring of 2020, THE MEMORY BOOK: A GRIEF JOURNAL FOR FAMILIES will be out. Families will be able to write, add pictures, and draw in their own keepsake journal of their loved one. This can be something they add inside their own memory box.

After the years writing THE MEMORY BOX, I now know when a topic lingers, I’m meant to hold on to it.  I kept thinking about storms and what I could do, but nothing really inspired me. Then as I was listening to the radio, Imagine Dragons’ song “Thunder” came on and it really made me feel something. So I kept driving around and thinking. I find thinking/writing about difficult topics usually will bring out my best writing or story ideas. I was actually thinking about a childhood friend that died by suicide and how I wished he had stayed. And then the word STAY hit me and I knew I had found my storm story.

I wanted to show friendship through a storm. So my little word storm that I wrote on the second day of Storystorm back on January 2, 2017 took over 9 months to find its true story, but it finally sold to editor Andrew DeYoung of Beaming Books. He took such great care of my second book THE MEMORY BOX that I was beyond thrilled to work with him again.

STAY THROUGH THE STORM is about friendship during a storm. Many kids have fears of actual storms, so kids will be able to relate that fear and it shows ways of being a friend during a real storm. But it is also a metaphor that I think adults will be able to find their own meaning to. One thing I’m very passionate about is mental health and writing books that may help people through difficult times. This story is about being there for one another during the dark and scary times and knowing the storm will pass. You’re not alone.

So my advice is to listen. What topics won’t let go of you? It may take a month, a year, or more, but search for the story that comes from your heart.

Thank you Tara for all that you do to inspire writers and for creating challenges like this where you encourage writers to stop and take the time just to jot down ideas for a month and see where it takes you.

And thank you, Joanna, for sharing your Storystorm success story!

You can visit Joanna at writerrowland.com and follow her on Twitter @writerrowland.

And please join the next Storystorm—a free brainstorming event open to all writers—in January 2020!



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