Cracking the code - scene from The Imitation Game

Cracking the code – scene from The Imitation Game

A couple of weeks ago, my kids and I watched the movie, The Imitation Game. It took us four hours to watch it from start to finish. Why?

Because I had to pause the movie often in order to answer questions they were asking about events in the movie (based on a true story that takes place in the UK during WWII), such as:

  • Why were children wearing gas masks in the street?
  • Why didn’t the parents go with their children when they were evacuated to the country?
  • Why did Joan’s parents think it was inappropriate for her to go work with a group of men?
  • How could someone (the character of John Cairncross) think that spying for the Soviet Union would help the UK win the war?
  • Why did they have to keep their work on ENIGMA secret even after the war ended?
  • How could they send people to jail for being homosexual?

That’s when it hit me like a bolt of lightning–the way to get kids interested in history is to make them care about the people involved. The way to make them care is to tell them a story.

I don’t know why this revelation came as a surprise to me. As you may know, I’ve been a huge supporter of a friend and colleague’s Kickstarter campaign to bring history to life (and to relevance) for children. I suppose seeing a story create a thirst within my own children to learn more brought home the importance of teaching through story.

First TTT&T story will feature Michelangelo and Renaissance Italy. Stone Giant, Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley, Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc., 85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472, (617) 926-0329, www.charlesbridge.com. All rights reserved.

First TTT&T story will feature Michelangelo and Renaissance Italy. Stone Giant, Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley, Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc., 85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472, (617) 926-0329, www.charlesbridge.com. All rights reserved.

I used to be embarrassed to admit that I hated history in school because it was presented as a long string of facts, statistics, and explanations of political motivations. That information is important, but we won’t retain it without context. Knowing how many people died in WWII is just a number, but learning about the life of one family living in London during the Blitz–the scarcity of food, the constant smell of fire, the sight of crushed buildings, the rattle of bombs while sheltering–builds empathy toward all of the dead.

Much of what I have learned about history since school has come from reading historical fiction. When I read historical fiction, I become fascinated by the events of the time and place, and I am inspired then to read MORE on the subject, including nonfiction.

The Kickstarter campaign Time Traveler Tours & Tales is running aims to tell hiSTORY using both narrative nonfiction and historical fiction. What’s even more exciting (if not a little ironic), is that this storytelling will take advantage of the most modern of technologies – mobile devices and apps. In other words, the intent is to reach children where they are (on devices) and excite them into a love of history by helping them not only relate to the past, but to interact with it and make it their own.

BUT, and you knew there had to be a ‘but’, they’re running out of time. The TTT&T campaign has been endorsed by The Guardian, Neil Gaiman, and WorldReader. Authors such as Cornelia Funke (and yours truly) are backers. They’ve reached 90% of their funding goal. But all of that disappears if they don’t reach their goal within the next three days. Kickstarter is all or nothing.

I have no skin in this game, other than I would like to write a story for this imprint someday. I have written about and promoted the campaign because I’m passionate about the cause. So if you, too, want to help make history personal, relevant, real, and most importantly, FUN for kids, please consider a pledge. No amount is too small, and there are terrific rewards on offer at all levels.

Let’s Turn History On.

Screenshot 2015-06-23 12.03.14

Categories: Apps, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, Friendship, Publishing · Tags: , , , , , ,

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Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

If you have been following my blog for any period of time, you know I am passionate about all of the following:

  • Writing stories for children
  • Sharing stories with children
  • Using ALL avenues of publishing great books for children (including apps, ebooks, transmedia, etc.)
  • Italy (especially Florence!)
  • Historical fiction (especially books written by Mary Hoffman)
  • Entrepreneurial authors paving their own paths to success
  • Supporting fellow authors

For all of these reasons, it gives me great pleasure to share an outstanding project from my friend Sarah Towle that will not only bring fabulous historical tales to children in multiple formats, but will also create brand new opportunities for authors writing narrative historical nonfiction and historical fiction. Talk about a win-win!

Introducing … Time Traveler Tours & Tales (TTT&T) – a brand new way of imagining and delivering stories to children that will bring history to life for them.

I first met Sarah at the Bologna Book Fair in 2011, when she was launching the first-ever StoryApp Tour and Tale – the critically acclaimed Beware Madame la Guillotine. I was so impressed with what she was doing, I glommed onto her continued to follow her progress and learn from her as I went on to publish my own two storybook apps. Along the way, we became great friends.

TTT&T aims to be the first publishing imprint of its kind–publishing their story-based tours and tales of history in all available formats.

  • Mobile StoryApp Tours narrated by the very people who walked the streets in that place in that time of history.
  • Interactive ebooks that bring the historical period to life.
  • Print and audio versions of each tale.
  • Free curriculum guides for each tour and tale to bring history to life inside the classroom.
Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer's Renaissance 2014

Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer’s Renaissance 2014

For their official debut, TTT&T have chosen to bring to life one of the world’s greatest artistic and genius giants – Michelangelo and his David. In the Footsteps of Giants is a story woven by one of the best historical fiction writers for children of our time, Mary Hoffman. In it, we get to walk the streets of Renaissance Florence alongside the fictional model for the statue of David (P.S. We all know what that guy looks like – wouldn’t you like to meet him??).

I know first-hand that nobody knows more about Michelangelo than Mary Hoffman. She was on faculty for both of my Writer’s Renaissance retreats, and I’ve had the amazing good fortune of standing before the David in her company. Life will never be the same for me, and now you can have the same treat by reading her book.

Many of you also know I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of one of my picture books. So I do have a special place in my heart for the power of crowdfunding. It’s the layperson’s way to support the arts and opportunities they want to see in the world. Here is your chance to do the same.

  • If you are a reader, you will enjoy a gripping story of Renaissance Florence with In the Footsteps of Giants and a whole series of historical stories that bring the locations and the events of that time period to life right before your eyes (and feet).
  • If you are a writer, TTT&T will provide opportunities for you to publish your own historical adventures for children.
  • If you are a teacher, you will have brand new ways to bring history alive for your students, using the stories themselves and the comprehensive curriculum guides.

I urge you to consider supporting TTT&T’s campaign to become one of the most exciting publishing imprints of our time. The number of backers is just as important as the total amount raised, so TRULY, no amount donated is too small. Rewards begin at $1.

If you are unable to donate, you can still help by sharing the project in your social media circles. In fact, here’s an easy tweet you can use.

New publisher plans to #turnhistoryon for kids. #writers, #teachers, check it out here: http://kck.st/1PyGzKO #kidlit (Click to Tweet this)

Me being one to put my money where my mouth is, I not only backed this project, I’m also offering a reward for others to do. Look for one of the CREATIVE COLLABORATOR rewards and you’ll see a one-hour strategy session with me on any aspect of your career as a writer, plus the first three Modules of my course, How to Make Money as a Writer. There’s only one of those, though, so if you want it, snag it soon.

There are fabulous rewards at all levels, however. Check out their campaign page to see for yourself.

As writers in the 21st Century, we have to create opportunities for ourselves whenever and however we can. What I love about what Sarah is doing with TTT&T is that she’s not only creating opportunity for herself, but extending that to children’s authors across the globe. I don’t know about you, but that turns me on. 🙂

Footsteps of Giants

Stone Giant Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 85 Main Street Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 926-0329 www.charlesbridge.com All rights reserved.

Categories: Apps, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Children's Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Friendship, Italy, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Travel, Writer's Renaissance · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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I’ve been thinking a great deal about the financial viability of being an author this week. I just completed (or rather, started) the launch for my latest picture book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, AND a pre-launch (available only to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers) for a brand new course I created on How to Make Money as a Writer.

So for a Throwback Thursday, I’m re-sharing a Brain Burps podcast episode, featuring myself and Susanna Hill, on this very topic. Everything we discuss in the episode is still as relevant today as they were a year ago. If you are inspired to try the course after listening, I have a pre-launch special running through Friday, September 12th. In the meantime, enjoy the “oldie but goodie” podcast episode. 🙂

Brain Burps BadgeI’m delighted to be a featured guest on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast today, alongside fellow author, friend and 12 x 12 member Susanna Leonard Hill. As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post, we discuss the topic of Making Money in Children’s Publishing, but really, it’s applicable to writers of all genres.

For those of us who are not able to live off of book royalties but still need to put food on the table, finding a way to combine the passion and love of writing with the need to earn a living is imperative.

I’m not going to give away the guidance we gave in the podcast – you’ll have to listen for that. BUT, I did figure now would be a good time to share my top three takeaways from The O’Reilly Tools of Change Author (R)evolution conference in New York last week, as the lessons are 100% applicable to this podcast episode.

  1. Writers MUST be Entrepreneurs. The debate is no longer about traditional vs. self-publishing, as there are success stories in both and many authors are taking a hybrid
    Unfortunately, it doesn't grow on trees. We need to earn it and stop making it a taboo subject!

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow on trees. We need to earn it and stop making it a taboo subject!

    approach. What makes the difference between a book becoming a success or languishing unnoticed among the hundreds of thousands of new books published every year? It’s the authors who treat themselves, and their books, as a business who thrive.

  2. Social Media is NOT Marketing. It’s a Conversation. If you are using social media networks exclusively to blast information about your books, you are going to bomb. Social media is all about engagement and building an audience and community by sharing, conversing, being helpful. If you come to it from that angle, it can be a very effective engagement tool to motivate your audience and community to support your work.
  3. Writers Must Build Community. A community is more specific than an audience. A community is a group of people who are loyal to you and your work and will follow you everywhere. This does not happen overnight and can be a slow build, but it’s a must for success in 21st century publishing. So for pre-published authors who are wondering whether to take the plunge into social media, blogging, etc.? NOW is the time.

What are you doing to treat your writing and your books like a business?

 

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TroopPNGThanks to everyone who entered the sweepstakes to help me celebrate A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS winning the Independent Book Publisher’s Association Digital Gold Award a couple of weeks ago.

Winners were selected randomly via Rafflecopter, but I must say it tickled my fancy that the grand prize winner had sent us a picture of himself reading the print version of TROOP to his granddaughter. HERE are all of the winners:

 

Winner Damon reading print version of TROOP with his granddaughter

Winner Damon reading print version of TROOP with his granddaughter

Winner of the GRAND PRIZE of a $100 Gift Card to Amazon OR the iTunes store is…

Damon Dean!!

The Two Winners of 1 set (each) of download codes for the app versions of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and A SHIVER OF SHARKS are…

Sara Lynn Eastler and Gandamu Baka!!

Winner of an adorable stuffed monkey and a bag of TROOP and SHIVER customized M & M’s is…

Jackie Gove Bryla!!

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who joined in the fun.

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, Giveaway, Picture Books, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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TROOP IBPA BannerThis was the kind of week that makes me feel like I should go buy a lottery ticket. I started the week with the news that A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS won an Independent Book Publisher’s Association Digital Gold award, and I’ve been on a high ever since.

So yeah, it’s been a good one. 🙂

I heard One Love by Bob Marley a few days ago and thought the chorus is a fitting “Gratitude” quote for this week’s post, especially in light of the inspiring We Need Diverse Books campaign.

One Love! What about the one heart? 
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love!);
So shall it be in the end (One Heart!),

Give thanks and praise to the Lord, and I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.

Gratitude list for the week ending May 3rd

  1. TROOP won an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold award!! (Yes I know I’ve mentioned this a few times this week :-)). Don’t forget to join me in the celebration by entering my sweepstakes to WIN awesome prizes.
  2. SO MANY PEOPLE sent good wishes and congratulations over all forms of social media, email, and phone calls. It was overwhelming (in a great way). My mom even sent me flowers!
  3. Boulder Book Store called to say they are stocking TROOP after finding out about the award.
  4. My fantabulous friend Katie Davis made me this video.
  5. My favorite children’s author, Jane Yolen, is my 12 x 12 Featured Author this month.
  6. My agent told me she’s taking one of my picture book manuscripts out on submission.
  7. It was so gratifying to see more than a dozen 12 x 12 members gather at the NESCBWI conference this weekend. I love this community!
  8. Another 12 x 12 member signed with an agent this week as a result of her participation.
  9. I ramped up my physical activity thanks to my new Fitbit. Feel more energetic than I have in a long time.
  10. I received several amazing testimonials from this year’s Writer’s Renaissance participants.

Seriously? I get a book award, the news that a new manuscript is going out on submission AND Jane Yolen all in one week? Pinch me!

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, Friendship, Giveaway, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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troop ibpaBFDA_Awards_Seals_GOLD_highresWhen I found out late last week that A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS was an Independent Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Award Gold winner, needless to say I went a little bananas! I wrote all about it in this post, also published today.

Having to wait the whole weekend before sharing was excruciating, but now I am CELEBRATING with a sweepstakes for YOU. That’s right, these fabulous prizes are yours for the taking. Instructions for entering the Rafflecopter and the rules are below.

  1. GRAND PRIZE = $100 gift card to EITHER the Apple iTunes store OR Amazon.com
  2. 8 x 10 print of your choice of TROOP or SHIVER illustration, signed by illustrator Pamela Baron
  3. FREE download codes (one each) for both TROOP and SHIVER – there will be two winners drawn for this prize
  4. An adorable stuffed monkey + a bag of TROOP and SHIVER customized M & Ms

    Stuffed monkey prize similar to this one if not exactly the same.

    Stuffed monkey prize similar to this one if not exactly the same.

Although purchasing (or owning) a print version of TROOP is one of the ways to win, there are MANY others – something for everyone. These are all listed on the Rafflecopter below, but here is a bit more information on each.

UPDATE! The sweepstakes will now be open until Friday, May 9th to give people who purchase the print version of TROOP an opportunity to write reviews and increase their chances of winning.

  1. Purchase a copy of the print version of TROOP (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound – if you live in the Denver/Boulder corridor, TROOP is stocked at the Boulder Pearl Street, Thornton Creek, Westminster, and 16th Street Mall B&N locations). Then email your receipt per the instructions in the R/C. OR, if you already own a copy, snap a shot of yourself with your book and email using the same instructions.
  2. Write an honest review of TROOP on Amazon (It counts if you’ve already left one – just enter the link according to the instructions). Note that is IS acceptable to copy and paste reviews from one site to another. 🙂
  3. Write an honest review of TROOP on Barnes & Noble
  4. Write an honest review of TROOP on Goodreads
  5. Once per day, you may tweet about the giveaway. A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is Benjamin Franklin Digital Award Winner! Celebrate with #giveaway of $100 #giftcard. http://wp.me/p2 (Click to tweet this)
  6. Once per day, you may share the giveaway on Facebook. The kids’ storybook app A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is a Benjamin Franklin Digital Award Winner! Author @JulieFHedlund is celebrating with a great sweepstakes. http://wp.me/p2pGqV-3h8
  7. If you haven’t already, you can like my Author Page on Facebook.

Rules

Must be a resident of the United States (SO sorry to my international friends, but trying to comply with sweepstakes rules/laws in multiple countries proved too much for me!). No purchase necessary. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 12th 2014. Prizes will be shipped no later than May 23rd, 2014. Winners will be required to provide an email and/or mailing address in order to receive prizes. Prizes must be claimed within three business days of the winners being announced or alternate winners will be selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Giveaway, Picture Books, Rhyming · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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BFDA_Awards_Seals_GOLD_highresI am honored, humbled, and quite frankly gobsmacked to announce that A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS has been awarded a Gold Benjamin Franklin Digital Award by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

In the comments sent to my (awesome!) publisher Little Bahalia, one judge wrote:

“This is an excellent enhanced e-book for kids that introduces the fun plural nouns of various animal groupings—a pride of lions, a bloat of hippopotami, an ostentation of peacocks, etc. Super fun.” [Five stars!]

And even more heartwarming for a writer, and of rhyme in particular, the writing quality component of the award achieved FIVE STARS, and one judge had this to say:

“The book has a nice rhyme structure–not too overbearing, nicely constructed, not forced.” [Five stars!]

On their website, the IBPA acknowledges that the definition of “book” continues to evolve, and they established the Digital awards category to “honor and encourage the field’s innovators.” 

TROOP has received critical acclaim in reviews, most notably being named by the Guardian last year as a Top 50 App for Kids, but this is its first award, and it is major. So I am in the mood to celebrate with a SWEEPSTAKES featuring amazing prizes! I hope you’ll join in the fun. Click here to go there now.

Thank you for celebrating with us!

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Giveaway, Picture Books, Publishing, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Deborah UnderwoodI am so honored to introduce you to Deborah Underwood, our March featured author for 12 x 12. I, like many others, came to Deborah’s work first through THE QUIET BOOK. I loved it so much that one night when my mom came over for dinner, I read it to her and said, “THIS is why I love picture books and THIS is why I want to write them.” 

THE QUIET BOOK is one where, after you read it, you smack your forehead and say, “Of COURSE! What a great idea. I SO wish I’d written that book.” Yet, writing a book with the word quiet in the title at a time when agents and editors reject manuscripts all the time on the basis of their being “too quiet” takes courage. A trait Deborah carries in spades. So instead of asking her to write a post on one topic, I (selfishly) sent her a series of questions so we could dig deeper into the choices she’s made in her career and her writing. I was beyond inspired by her answers, and I’m sure you will be too. Please welcome Deborah!

1. As if picture books weren’t hard enough to sell, you’ve been published in two nichesThe Quiet Book that are especially difficult to break into — concept books (The Quiet Book) and and holiday books (The Easter Cat). Agents and editors often advise authors to shy away from writing these types of books, but many of us (myself included!) still do. What is your NUMBER ONE piece of advice to authors attempting to break into these niches?

It would be the same as the number one piece of advice I’d give to authors trying to break into any area of kids’ publishing: write to please yourself, not the market.

It’s funny you mention those two books, because they were the two manuscripts that might have seemed the most hopeless in terms of marketing. If I’d been focusing on marketability, I certainly wouldn’t have written a book called THE QUIET BOOK when so many manuscripts are rejected for being too quiet. And I wouldn’t have written an 80-page picture book, or drawn my own rough illustrations for HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT–talk about breaking rules!

I think both of those books turned out well because I was writing them for myself: because *I* was fascinated by the idea of different types of quiet, because *I* was snickering on my bed as I scribbled out the conversation between Cat and the narrator. And I hasten to add that it is not easy for me to ignore the lure of trying to write for the market; I have to continually check myself and steer back on course if I’ve veered in that direction.

2. Authors are also told not to pitch manuscripts to agents or editors as potential series. Did you pitch THE QUIET BOOK as a series or were THE LOUD BOOK and THE CHRISTMAS QUIET book only suggested after the success of the first?EasterCat_CVR_lo

Nope, I didn’t pitch it as a series. After we finished work on QUIET, my editor suggested LOUD, so we were working on that even before QUIET came out. Then after QUIET pubbed, I suggested CHRISTMAS QUIET, and she said yes.

3. Did you feel pressure for THE LOUD BOOK to be as beloved as THE QUIET BOOK? What advice would you give authors who are writing a second or even third book and beyond following a popular title?

Oh, absolutely. Honestly, the time before LOUD came out was one of the most stressful periods I’ve had as a writer. There’s *so* much self-inflicted pressure to live up to a previous success. (I want to be clear that this pressure wasn’t coming from my editor at all; it was all my own doing.)

And on top of that, it feels churlish to complain: “Boo hoo! Poor me! I’ve had a successful book and I’m worried about the next one!” Before I’d sold a book, if one of my friends had whined about the burden of doing a sequel to her bestseller, I would have wanted to whap her. So the difficulty is magnified because you don’t have your usual support system.

My advice would be what a well-known author told me when I asked her for advice: do your best to keep the publisher from rushing you. I think a lot of the sequel-fail incidents come about because the author just doesn’t have enough time, and when a publisher is pushing you, it’s hard to push back. And sometimes you can’t.  But you can, as always, try to focus on the work itself and not all the external pressures.

4. I feel a kinship with you because, like me, you wrote a storybook app. The app is called SPATTER AND SPARK, is fully-interactive, adorable (we own it), and was published by Polk Street Press. How did you get involved with that project? Did you find your writing process was different for the app versus your picture books?

I’m so glad you like it! I’m really proud of it. I was approached by the Polk Street founder, who happens to live in my city. We had tea and it felt like a good fit, so I pitched some ideas, she chose the one she liked best, and we took it from there.

The process was different in some ways. Since apps were so new to me, it was hard to wrap my head around the possibilities at first. It was really important to me that the interactivity be part of the story; I didn’t want just goofy things to poke and swipe that didn’t advance the plot. So it was fun to stretch that way. And the speed with which it came together–partly because of the incredibly quick yet fabulous work by the illustrator, Luciana Navarro Powell–was mind-boggling, since I’m used to glacial picture book timeframes.

But of course I also wanted to make sure there was a strong story, just as there would be in a traditional picture book. So in that way the writing process was the same.

5. Do you foresee more digital publishing projects in your future? Do you recommend authors and illustrators explore digital publishing as a means of publishing more of their work?

I’d love to do more app work, and I have a lot of ideas. But it seems like confusing territory right now. I think everyone’s wrestling with the how-do-we-make-money-on-apps question. I’m hoping things settle down so there’s a clearer path for those of us who want to get involved.

Digital book publishing is also a murky area for me. For now, focusing on traditional makes sense for me, and probably makes sense for people who don’t have the inclination to do all their own marketing. Plus I think there’s nothing like a physical picture book in the hands of a child, and I want to help get those books out there.

Bad Bye Good Bye6. Your book EASTER CAT was released earlier this year and BAD BYE releases April 1st. Can you tell us a bit about BAD BYE and what it’s like to have two books released so close together?

BAD BYE, GOOD BYE pairs a very spare rhyming text with wonderful illustrations by Jonathan Bean. It’s a child’s emotional journey as he moves from one town to another. It was my first rhyming manuscript to sell, and I was particularly excited because I got to work with my fabulous QUIET BOOK editor again. It started out as a few words that I scribbled on a page, then abandoned in my “ideas” file for ages. I’m fairly sure I pulled it out again because I had a critique meeting coming up and nothing to bring–critique meetings are great motivational tools!

There will be about two months between EASTER CAT and BAD BYE releases, but the pub dates still feel pretty close. It is tricky trying to juggle promotion for two books at once, especially since I’m also writing the third book in the Cat series now as well as working on some educational projects.

But my first three picture books were released within two months of each other, so it could be worse!

7. How involved are you in the marketing and promotion of your books? Do you advise authors to establish a platform before publishing?

Every author I know struggles with this. I do some things–bookstore appearances, guest blogs, etc.–but I don’t take months off to promote the way some folks do. I’ve been a bit more involved than usual in CAT marketing: I drafted a letter that went out to booksellers about it pre-publication, and I’m doing the same for HERE COMES SANTA CAT, and I’m doing more interviews/guest posts than usual.

I’m sure a platform is a great idea for some folks, but I don’t think I could manage that and write. I advise people to do what feels comfortable to them PLUS a few stretch things. For example, I love Facebook and am very comfortable there, but that feels less like promotion and more like just being part of a community. But Twitter is tricky for me, so I’m making more of an effort to have a presence there–that’s one of my marketing-stretch things for this year.

One lucky 12 x 12 participant will received signed copies of both HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT and BAD BYE, GOOD BYE from Deborah. Plus, I am throwing in a copy of THE QUIET BOOK from me (not signed). In addition to being fabulous books to simply read and enjoy, they make excellent mentor texts for writing spare rhyme, holiday themes and concept books. Are your fingers in position over those keyboards? Good – because I’m sure you’ll want to write and revise this month to improve your chance of winning this trove of books.

Deborah Underwood’s books include Here Comes the Easter Cat; Bad Bye, Good Bye; A Balloon for Isabel; Pirate Mom; and the New York Times bestsellers The Quiet Book and The Loud Book! She co-wrote the Sugar Plum Ballerina chapter book series, and she has written over 25 nonfiction books on topics ranging from smallpox to ballroom dancing. Her magazine credits include National Geographic Kids, Ladybug, Spider, and Highlights. Please visit her online at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Apps, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Picture Books, Publishing, Rhyming, Social Media, Storybook Apps, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Liza Fleissig from Liza Royce Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members March 1-15. Jill Corcoran from Jill Corcoran Literary Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members March 16-31. Liza’s profile appears first, followed by Jill’s. Please read BOTH profiles AND their individual guidelines in the Membership Forum. Submit to the one you feel would be the best fit for your work.

Neither agent this month had a specific list of things they are/are not looking for in picture book submissions. They both indicated that in order for a manuscript to sell it has to be 1) fantastic (Translation: Make sure your manuscript is the very best it can be before submitting), 2) concise (My advice: Although the upper limit in the guidelines is 1000 words, I would take a good hard look at any fiction PB that is more than 750 words to see if it could be cut more), and 3) IF it rhymes, the rhyme must be flawless (My advice: Unless you have already published poetry and/or rhyming picture books and therefore know for certain you are an expert rhymer, you should get a professional critique before submitting a rhyming manuscript).

I don’t envy you GOLD members having to make the tough choice between these two awesome agents!

Liza Fleissig

LIZA FLEISSIG

I love this picture of Liza because it captures her personality so perfectly. Doesn’t she look like she could host a talk show? She’s so smart, funny, and engaging. I first met her in 2012 at the NJ-SCBWI conference. I participated in her first pages session (where my own ms was on the table). I learned so much about picture books in that session. I felt like a sponge soaking up all of the juicy goodness. She not only gave me excellent feedback on that ms, but continued the conversation with me for a half hour afterward. So she’s also generous and very passionate about her work.

From NJ-SCBWI’s Bio on Liza:”Liza Fleissig, with her partner Ginger Harris-Dontzin, opened the Liza Royce Agency (LRA) in early 2011. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business with a BS in Finance, and the Benjamin N. Cadozo School of Law with a JD, Liza brings 20 years of litigation and negotiating experience to the field.On the children’s side of publishing, being a mother to a preschooler girl and a pre-teen boy, she is interested in everything from picture books to middle grade and young adult.

Additional links to information on Liza:

JILL CORCORAN

I met Jill last year at the faculty dinner during SCBWI-LA’s summer conference. We sat on the sofa and chatted for long enough that we both agreed we’d better go mingle so as not to appear rude. Suffice it to say it was a meeting of the minds on the publishing industry, entrepreneurship, and the desire to see more great books in the hands of children. I was impressed by Jill’s open-mindedness and enthusiasm about the future of publishing and her ideas about how agents can creatively serve their clients in the midst of all these changes. As a fellow writer, she also understands the author from the inside-out. I am also grateful for the amount of time Jill dedicates, via her blog, twitter, and now her Path to Publishing Facebook group, to sharing her extensive knowledge on the craft of writing and the business of publishing with fellow authors.

A little about Jill from the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency website:

I represent Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult plus a select list of adult non-fiction.

Prior to becoming an agent, I worked at Mattel, LA Gear, Leo Burnett Advertising and my own company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing. With an English degree from Stanford University and a Marketing and Finance MBA from the University of Chicago School of Business, I have marketed everything from Barbies to Disney toys, Kellogg’s cereal to LA Gear shoes. But when I started writing books for children, and then agenting them, I knew I found my true calling.

In August 2013, after 4 years agenting with the wonderful Ronnie Ann Herman of the Herman Agency, I decided to strike out on my own and create the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.

Through her new venture A Path to Publishing, Jill conducts writing workshops with Martha Alderson (aka The Plot Whisperer) INCLUDING ones dedicated solely to picture books. They offer both intensive and advanced level workshops, but authors who want to take the advanced course must first do the intensive. They just completed their first set of workshops and testimonials will be coming soon. The next picture book course starts at the end of March and is limited to eight writers, so be sure to check it out soon!

Jill CorcoranAdditional information on Jill:

* Jill’s Blog – Jill Corcoran Books
* Jill on Google+.
* Follow Jill on Twitter.
* Profile of Jill on Publisher’s Marketplace.
* Agent Profile on Agent Query.
* Jill’s book on Goodreads.
* Jill’s client, Beck McDowell, talks about landing Jill as her agent and getting published on her blog.

Full submission guidelines for Liza and Jill are posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Liza Fleissg from March 1st – March 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Jill Corcoran from March 16th – March 31th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Not a member of 12 x 12 yet? Say it isn’t so! You can find out more about registration here, but you better act quickly. Registration closes at 11:59 p.m. Eastern February 28, 2014 (that’s today!), and won’t reopen until 2015.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents · Tags: , , , ,

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anti-resolutionTwo years ago I wrote a blog post that grabbed the attention and touched the heart of none other than Katie Davis, who is now one of my very best friends. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. Katie was so inspired by that post, she created her own special tool to capture her accomplishments throughout the year and evaluate them at the end. She has graciously offered to share this workbook with you – click here for more info.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation.  So I figured, why not start with what I did accomplish this year and set goals from there.  Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year, rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done..

I didn’t write a similar post in 2013, but I should have. It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Here’s an example from my own year. All year long, in my head, I lamented how little writing I got done. So much so that by the end of the year I was sure I’d done almost nothing. Yesterday, when I tallied it all up, I was pleasantly to find I’d written far more than I thought I had. I had written full drafts that I’d completely forgotten about. Drafts that I can continue revising and working with this year.

I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself. So let’s get started.

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2013. 

In addition to this list, I ran the 12 x 12 challenge all year, wrote new drafts and revised existing ones, and continued to contribute to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast. Whew! I’ll be sure to come back to this whenever I feel discouraged about how much I “don’t get done.” 🙂

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list!

Categories: 12 x 12, A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Goals, Holidays, How I Got My Agent, Italy, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Social Media, Storybook Apps, Travel, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Works in Progress, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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