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Celebrating Picture Book Month with Author, Jeanie Ransom!

Jeanie Ransom is one of many new friends that I made through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) when we moved from Indiana to Missouri five years ago. I’m so pleased to interview her here on my blog during Picture Book Month!

Jeanie is the author of several picture books for children. She is a licensed professional counselor, and former elementary school counselor. She is also a former advertising copywriter and freelance magazine writer.

Earlier this year we celebrated the release of her newest picture book, There’s a Cat in Our Class. Her book celebrates the diversity of children, and the value of accepting and enjoying the differences of others around us. Read more about her book below.

Welcome to my blog, Jeanie!

When you have an idea for a book, how do you start? How do you structure it?

Before I ever start writing, I let the idea roll around in my head for a while. “A while” for me can mean days, months, even years. There are probably still some rolling around up there from when I started writing for kids more than fifteen years ago -- along with a few rocks, I’m sure! I know an idea is ready to take to the page when bits and pieces of the story -- a conversation, a situation, a turn of phrase – start coming to me, often in the middle of the night, or in the shower, or while walking the dogs. That’s when I grab a blank notebook and start playing with words. As more of the story bubbles up from whatever part of my brain it’s been simmering, I capture what I can in a blank notebook, then begin to turn bits and pieces into sentences and paragraphs. I like to write my first draft the “old school” way, in longhand, then move to the computer when the words really start to fly. I like to edit my manuscripts the “old school” way, too, printing out the pages and marking them up by hand. That’s what works for me, but everyone’s different. Find what works for you, then stick with it!

Is there anything that you feel helped you to go from unpublished to published author?

The three Ps: Patience, persistence, and perseverance.

I think we could all post those three P’s as a reminder in the place where we write! How does your experience as an elementary school counselor inform, inspire, and affect your writing, Jeanie?

Before I was a school counselor, I was an advertising copywriter and freelance magazine writer for 20+ years. My first career gave me a solid writing foundation, as well as the ability to pitch and promote a variety of products and services. My second career, as a school counselor, gave me first-hand experience working with kids as well as educators. Both careers prepared me in so many ways for my third career as a children’s author.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given about writing?

Write the book you want to write, not the book you think you should write.

Do you have any advice for beginning children’s writers?

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)! SCBWI has a wealth of resources and opportunities for writers (and illustrators), including conferences, workshops, and retreats.
Attend a state, regional, or national SCBWI conference.
Find a critique group in your area – or online.
Read as many new books in your genre as you can.
Today’s picture books are vastly different from picture books published ten years ago. My first picture book came out in 2000, and the word count was 1,200. My 2016 and 2017 releases all have 750 words or less. The world of children’s publishing is extremely competitive. If you’re serious about getting published, you have to do your homework.

What books are you reading now?

I like to alternate between middle grade and adult fiction, though sometimes I’m reading both genres at the same time, or something totally different, like a memoir or a collection of essays. Right now, I’m reading Ann Patchett’s new novel, “Commonwealth,” which the author autographed when she came to Traverse City, Michigan, last month for the National Writers Series, as well as Peter Brown’s first middle-grade novel, “The Wild Robot.”

Congratulations on another new book that you have coming out soon! What can you tell us about that?

Cowboy Car comes out on April 11, 2017. The illustrator is Ovi Nedelcu, and the publisher is Two Lions. I just got the F&Gs, and I’m really excited to launch this book!

I’m happy to share that excitement with you. Thank you so much for being my guest here during Picture Book Month, Jeanie.

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November each year. Jeanie is one of the 2016 Picture Book Champions featured on the Picture Book website. Check her post there (November 12th) to find out why picture books are important to her. Then check out other picture book champions featured there daily throughout the month.

You can find out more about Jeanie and her books on her author website at http://www.jeanieransom.com/.

There’s a Cat in Our Class—A Tale About Getting Along
Magination Press 2016
ISBN: 9 781433 822629
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Celebrating Picture Books!


Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November. It encourages the recognition of picture books through blogs, tweets and other activities.

For those of us who write picture books this is a fun time. Just put ‘picture book month’ in the search bar on your computer and you’ll find all kinds of great websites and blog posts to browse through!

Here’s one from 2012 that I hadn’t seen before on the history of children’s picture books. It posted on Brain Pickings: A Brief History of Children’s Picture Books and the Art of Visual Storytelling. The post is really wonderful, and includes many famous quotes with regards to picture books through the years—my favorite part, as I love quotes.

My husband thinks that there is no one who takes more picture books home from the library than I do! I’m sure he’s wrong. But I do take my share of them home. Here are some recent picture books that I’ve enjoyed—

NED THE KNITTING PIRATE by Diana Murray, illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press 2016). “We’re grouchy and slouchy. We don’t ever quit! We slurp, and we burp, and we gulp, and we… KNIT!” How does a pirate who likes to knit fit in on a pirate ship?

FRIGHT CLUB by Ethan Long (Bloomsbury 2015). Operation Kiddie Scare looks like it’s going to be a flop. And having an “adorable little bunny” ask to join the Fright Club is no help. Find out what a bunny and its friends do to put the Fright Club back on track.

MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Jeff Mack (Simon & Schuster 2011). Mr. Duck is perfectly content, in his quiet pond, with his solitary routine. When a group of noisy farm animals crashes the pond, Duck finally sets them straight, and it's back to his peaceful routine--with one small change that pleases everyone.

THE PIRATE AND THE PENGUIN by Patricia Storms (Owlkids Books 2009). What happens when a penguin who doesn't like penguin things, and a pirate who doesn't like pirate things, cross paths? Another fun read. 

THE VERY NOISY HOUSE by Julie Rhodes, illustrated by Korky Paul (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2013). Fun accumulation of noise, floor by floor, in a very tall house! Things start to settle down, then...

The Picture Book Month celebration originated in November 2011 by founder Dianne de Las Casas (author & storyteller), and Co-Founders, Katie Davis (author/illustrator), Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author/illustrator), Tara Lazar (author), and Wendy Martin (author/illustrator).

On the Picture Book Month website, you’ll find daily posts by the 2016 Picture Book Champions blogging about why they feel picture books are important. They include many favorite picture book authors and illustrators.

You’ll also find activities and ways to celebrate picture books on the site. The website includes picture book resources and resources for literacy organizations.

You don’t need young kids to join in on the celebration! But if you want to make it even more fun and you don’t have any kids of your own, you might want to ‘borrow’ some from the neighbors! ps—ask first!  Read More 
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