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Happy Book Birthday, Hippy-Hoppy Toad!


It's Spring! Happy Book Birthday to A Hippy-Hoppy Toad!

In the spring of 2013, five years ago, I had the first ‘toad sighting’ that would lead to the debut of my newest picture book, A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD. Who knew then what a journey that little toad would take me on!

Journey #1 was the walk that my husband and I took through the park that day. After an early morning rain we decided it was a perfect day for a walk, and headed out to Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville, Missouri. The sun was out and the air felt good. The path winds past fields and trees, around playgrounds and picnic areas. At a shady area on the path was a big wet spot, what was left of a puddle that had not yet dried in the sun. And in the middle sat a teeny, tiny toad. For the rest of the walk my mind was on that ‘teeny, tiny toad’ sitting in the ‘middle of a puddle in the middle of the road!’

Journey #2 came the following year on another warm spring morning, when we walked the same path with our grandson—listening to the sounds of new toads, stopping at the playgrounds, and reading the storybook posted around the lake. This time we ventured off onto a dirt path by the lake and discovered hundreds of tiny, hippy, hoppy toads that had been camouflaged by the dirt and leaves! Later, after convincing our grandson that it was not a good idea to take a wild toad home for a pet, Toad’s own journey began.

Journey #3 was the story of a “Toad in the Road,” which later became A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD. From the ‘middle of a puddle in the middle of a road’ the little toad flew to a ‘raggy-shaggy tree’ to a flower and other places in the park, meeting new characters along the way. As the story grew, my own journey as an author grew as well.

Journey #4 is the journey that I took as an author with ‘Toad.’. A journey that still continues! Here are a few of the highlights.

It took about a year and a half for me to finish the first draft of “Toad in the Road.” After multiple revisions and getting feedback from my critique groups, it was finally ready to send out into the publishing world.

I submitted it for a critique at the Missouri SCBWI fall conference in 2014 and it got the attention of an agent there. Eventually it was rejected because they ‘weren’t taking on many poetry or picture book texts.’

I continued to revise and play with the language and the rhythm in the story, and to get feedback from my friends who write for children.

In 2015 I submitted “Toad in the Road” for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress (WIP) grant. I’d submitted other manuscripts for the WIP grant before, and knew it was a long shot. But I thought it couldn’t hurt to try again, with a new manuscript. At the same time, I signed up for the KS/MO SCBWI fall conference, and a critique with agent Kirsten Hall. I decided to send TOAD for my critique. And that’s when things started to ‘hop’ forward.

In September I received an email from Steve Mooser, one of the founders of SCBWI, that “Toad in the Road” had won the WIP grant for picture book text! I was stunned. And thrilled! Now what!? I would have to wait a bit and they would create a secure website where they would post the winning manuscripts and invite editors to read them.

The next month at the SCBWI conference I met Kirsten Hall of Catbird Productions. She critiqued “Toad in the Road” and asked about my other manuscripts. We seemed to hit it off, and I enjoyed getting to know her over those couple of days.

Later that month SCBWI posted the winning WIP manuscripts on their new website, and on our way to vacation in Tennessee I received an email from Anne Schwartz (yes, Anne Schwartz!) at Schwartz & Wade saying that they wanted to publish my manuscript!

Kirsten and I had been in touch after the conference, and over the next three days I had an agent and an acceptance for my book from Schwartz & Wade! A few months later I found out that the illustrator would be the amazing Anne Wilsdorf.

I was looking forward to working with my new publisher, and was assigned to an absolutely wonderful editor at Schwartz & Wade—another Ann. I knew that she would have ideas and suggestions for edits in the manuscript that would make it even better, and I was right. Many of her suggestions were small things that would make a big difference. I have absolutely loved working with her!

In the spring of 2017 I finally had a publication date—March 20, 2018!

Since then many exciting things have come Toad’s way which I’ve shared on the book page for A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD here on my website. I hope you’ll follow along!

If you live near St. Louis or near Crown Point or Valparaiso in Indiana, check out my author appearances on the left of this page. I’d love to meet you if you have time to stop by to say hello!

Happy Book Birthday, A HIPPY-HOPPY TOAD!
And Happy Book Birthday to all the SCBWI members with books coming out this month!

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Meet Sue Gallion, Picture Book Author!


I met Sue Gallion last year when the Missouri and Kansas chapters of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) were talking about merging into one chapter. At that time, Sue was the Regional Advisor for Kansas SCBWI, and her first picture book, PUG MEETS PIG was just coming out. Her delightful characters in the Pug & Pig books have taken her on an exciting journey. In 2013, PUG MEETS PIG received the Most Promising Picture Book Manuscript award from SCBWI. And both books have received starred reviews. PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT was just released this summer.

Congratulations, Sue! Tell us a little bit about your Pug & Pig books. What was your inspiration? Why a pig and a dog!?

Hi, Peggy! Thanks for the invitation! Both Pug and Pig books were sparked by events in real life. A friend of mine’s daughter owned a pug, named Charlotte. The family then adopted a rescue pig, and named him, of course, Wilbur. I heard lots of stories about Charlotte and Wilbur from my friend during our water aerobics class, and I liked the way the words “pug” and “pig” sounded together. When the family had to find a new home for Wilbur because Charlotte never warmed up to him, the story came together!

Pug’s personality is very similar to my black lab mix, Tucker. The Halloween story idea came from Tucker’s reaction to the dog next door dressed in a glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume.

How did you find your editor? What can you tell us about your ‘road to publication’?

I am one of the many SCBWI success stories! When I signed up for a manuscript critique of Pug Meets Pig at the LA SCBWI conference in 2013, Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster critiqued it and was interested in a revision, which sold about a month later. But my “road” to writing for kids began in 2006 when I took a children’s literature class at a local community college.

How did you acquire your agent?

Liza Voges of Eden Street Literary is my agent. That agent search is one of the most challenging parts of this business to me. In my experience, there are no shortcuts. You need to all the research you can to query agents who you think would be a good fit for your work. I do think it’s important for picture book authors to have several manuscripts that haven’t been submitted to editors to share with potential agents.

What made you want to become a children’s author?

I clearly remember my older sister reading Little House in the Big Woods to herself, which made me determined to learn to read that book, too. My dreams as a child included being Jo March in my garret. Then I majored in journalism and worked for corporations and non-profits as a writer and in public relations. When my kids were born, I loved reading to them and was always happy to read “just one more.” And now I get to read (and buy!) books for two little grandsons!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I am a great procrastinator and will do anything else except write. But then there’s that feeling -- when you’re working on something and it seems to click, it is such a thrill.

What encouragement helped you along the way?

The encouragement of other writers and illustrators has been invaluable. This is such a crazy business, and most of us need advice, affirmation, and honesty (even when it hurts) from other creative people. The joy has to come from seeing your own work improve and turning an idea into a manuscript. It’s also a thrill to see other people’s work become books!

Where do you turn for instruction and inspiration?

I am in a three-person critique group with Ann Ingalls and Jody Jensen Shaffer. I continue to learn so much from Ann and Jody as well as many other authors and illustrators in our region and elsewhere, and I’ve been lucky to go to a number of SCBWI conferences and workshops. Some of the online resources I find most helpful are Picture Book Builders, ReFoReMo, and Tara Lazar’s blog. I check out stacks of current picture books, too.

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

Read, read, read current books (published within the last three to five years) in the genre you are working in. When you find an author whose work you particularly like, read all their books. Read books featured in the journals such as Horn Book and Publishers Weekly, and read the American Library Association and SCBWI award winners.

Can you share some tips on marketing a picture book?

Sometimes the wildest ideas actually work! I researched social media celebrity pugs and pigs and sent packages with a copy of Pug Meets Pig and a personal letter. Several of them then featured the book in an Instagram or Twitter post. The Pug Diary, a blogger in Australia, did a giveaway and a great feature. Here’s an Instagram post from Priscilla and Poppleton from Ponte Vedra, FL. The post got 10,500 likes and surely sold some books. I’m sending the Halloween book out to a variety of places now.

Building my teacher and librarian contacts on Twitter and doing Twitter giveaways of books or swag is another specific goal of mine. Those groups are terrific book supporters. Twitter is a great networking tool within the children’s literature community and a way to support each other, along with rating other people’s books and doing brief reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. You don’t have to buy someone’s book to do a review, just check it out from the library or read it in a bookstore. Those reviews really help the author and illustrator.

Marketing your own work is challenging if you were raised, like me, not to “toot your own horn.” But it’s an important part of the author’s role, and I’ve actually had a lot of fun with it.

Sue, thank you so much for sharing your Pug and Pig adventure here on my blog!

Sue lives with her family and her black lab mix, Tucker, in the Kansas City area. Sue’s stories, poems, and activity rhymes have also been published in children’s magazines including Highlights and High Five.

You can find out more about Sue and her books on her website.
Sue tweets @SueLGallion. And she frequently adds to her lists of favorites on Goodreads.

PUG MEETS PIG, illustrated by Joyce Wan, Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster 2016. ISBN: 9781481420662

PUG & PIG TRICK OR TREAT, illustrated by Joyce Wan, Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster 2017.
ISBN: 9781481449779

Starred reviews for Pug & Pig books!

Read the PW starred review here.

Read the Kirkus starred review here.

Read the PW starred review for PUG MEETS PIG here.  Read More 
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Think Poetry in Picture Books—Poetic Tools to Try


Think ‘Poetry’ and add that extra dimension to your picture book.
All picture books are poetic in some way. That doesn’t mean that they need to be written in rhyme. Think—
language
rhythm
emotion
detail

In my earlier blog I listed some tools that you can use to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ when writing a picture book. These included—

Dialogue
“Wow!” said Mr. Slinger. (from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Kevin Henkes)

Action
"...he roared very loud. RAAAHHRRRR!" (from Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen)

Body language
"Mr. McBee frowned as he walked away." (from Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen)

Your 5 senses
"The wind it shrieks like bobcats do..." (from THAT BOOK WOMAN by Heather Henson)

Detail (language)
“If they see me, they’ll pluck out all my feathers, stuff me with bread crumbs, and cook me for Thanksgiving dinner.” (from Turkey Surprise, by Peggy Archer)

When you think about the poetic side of a picture book, you find even more tools that can help you ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’—

Onomatopoeia –Thump, thump! Squawk!

Hard and soft letter sounds
Soft sounding consonants are: R, J, M, N, S, V, W (C and G)
—use for a quiet or sentimental mood.
Hard sounding consonants are K, D, Q, T, B, P (C and G)
—use if you want a more active or upbeat mood.

Similes –"...as pleasing as ticks in a taco." (from Ginny Louise and the School Showdown, by Helen Lester)

Metaphors –It’s a piece of cake.

Alliteration and Repetition –"Click, Clack, Moo!" (from Click, Clack, Moo! by Doreen Cronin)

Short and long sentences (or words)
Using short words or sentences is more active, more tense; it speeds things up
Using longer words or sentences creates a pause; it slows things down

Look at the books listed above and others at your local library.

Thinking in terms of poetry when writing a picture book adds another dimension to your story. So think like a poet, and give your writing that extra oomph using some of the ‘poetic tools’ listed above! / Read More 
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Margo Dill, Picture Book Author Extraordinaire!


I’d like to welcome my friend and children’s author, Margo Dill, to my blog today. She is the author of picture books (pb) as well as books for middle grade readers (MG) and young adults (YA). Her picture book—MAGGIE MAE, DETECTIVE EXTRAORDINAIRE—The Case of the Missing Cookies, was released earlier this year by Guardian Angel Publishing. Inc

Besides writing for children, Margo is a mother, and a columnist, contributing editor, and instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. She writes weekly book reviews and articles for a local newspaper, teaches an on-line class about writing for children, has her own freelance editing business at Editor 911, is an editor of MG and YA books at High Hill Press, maintains an author blog, and is the webmaster for Missouri SCBWI—Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators.

I’m so glad to have you here on my blog today, Margo!

MAGGIE MAE, DETECTIVE EXTRAORDINAIRE, is your first picture book. Can you tell us a little bit about your book, and how you came to write it?

Margo: It’s based on a true story about my grandma baking cookies one day, and some disappeared. She blamed my grandpa, but he claimed he didn’t do it. So there was a real life mystery there. It turns out that her beagle, Toby, was to blame. I wanted to write a book about this story because I thought it was really cute. I also loved mysteries (Trixie Belden books) when I was younger and wanted to be a detective—loved to play Charlie’s Angels with my friends. So, I combined my love of my grandma’s story with my love for mysteries and wrote Maggie Mae.

What can you tell us about your path to being published in children’s books? What encouragement helped you along your way?

I listened to the industry experts about my manuscripts when I got feedback from them. For example, with my first book, Finding My Place, I went to a conference, and I volunteered to be a speaker shepherd. I was able to pick up a literary agent from the airport and take her to dinner. When the weekend was over, she invited me to send in my manuscript, which I did, and she offered me written feedback—a whole letter’s worth. She said my history was in the way of my characterization, and she was right. So I went back and revised. Now it’s a published book. I think going to conferences and meeting professionals really helps your career along and gives you opportunities you would not have from your living room.

You write picture books as well as books for MG and YA readers. Is there one genre that you enjoy writing best?

Margo: NO! That’s why I’m all over the place. I currently have a middle-grade and picture book that are almost done, and I’ve been working on a young adult for NaNoWriMo, which is not done, but I have a big chunk of it down on paper finally.

When you have an idea for a book, how do you go about writing it? Do you use an outline? Is there any research involved? Is your process different with different genres?

Margo: I always have an idea and some notes—they are not an outline or a full character sketch, but some ideas that I want to put in the novel or picture book and some details about the character. Then I start writing. I try to get a draft down without editing myself too much. Then I go back and revise, revise, revise. This seems to be the part I get stuck on—when is it done and ready to send out? My critique group is currently using the Snowflake Method (Google it and you’ll find it) quite a bit for planning a novel. We are hoping by planning more than we ever have before that when it comes to the revision process, it won’t be quite so time-consuming.

What draws you to write for children?

Margo: I think it was my love for teaching kids—I used to teach elementary school and preschool. I also loved to read when I was a kid and would follow certain authors, like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, until I read all of their books. Now I have a daughter and stepson, so I am around a lot of children’s books and reading picture books every day. I just think that’s what I’m into right now, and it’s what comes out when I sit down and write.

What other books or authors do you feel have influenced your writing?

Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned here, I tend to like funny picture books and ones that have a twist at the end. So, I love Mo Willems’s pigeon books, Officer Buckle and Gloria or Amelia Bedelia books. As for novels in the historical fiction area, I love Little House on the Prairie, and for young adult, I recently read The Fault in our Stars, and think John Green is an amazing author.

What kind of networking do you do as an author, and how much time to you devote to that?

Too much! No, just kidding. I love networking, especially on social media, but you can really get sucked in. The same is true if you wind up going to too many conferences or serving on too many writing group boards. When I’m asked to volunteer or go to an event, I look at my goals as a writer to see if this request fits in the goals. If it does and I can manage it along with being a parent, then I do it. If not, then I turn it down. As for social media, I try to do it mostly on my phone, like while in waiting rooms, in bed at night when putting my daughter to sleep, etc. Multitasking is the key!

How does your work as an editor help you in your own writing?

I think instead of my work as an editor helping me, it’s more being a member of my critique group. When I am writing something, I can hear their voices saying, “No, you need to do this. . .” I do think that being an editor helps because you get an eye for mistakes and also you read a lot of different writing and genres. So you develop a sense for voice that you might not have if you didn’t read so much.

Can you tell us a little bit about your editing service, Editor 911?

I mostly edit people’s novels or memoirs for content consistency, such as characterization, tension, plot points, setting details, etc. I also do some proofreading work for people who want to self-publish and need a proofreader before they send it to the publisher.

You must be a very organized person, Margo! How do you balance writing, editing, teaching, volunteering for SCBWI and family life?

I don’t sleep much! I prioritize what needs to be done, and I schedule my writing time, like I would schedule anything else. I ask for help. If I have a deadline or project, I ask my parents to babysit. I tell my husband, and we work out when I can go and work at Starbucks to get more done.

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

Don’t give up. Continue to improve your craft and to learn about publishing, and you will be successful!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

The same as above. It’s not an easy profession, but it is rewarding. So, don’t give up!

Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your writing life today, Margo. You can find out more about Margo and her books on her website

Margo is currently having a holiday sale on all three books! She includes some goodies, gift wraps her books, and will personalize them for the kiddos in your life. Check that out here! Any purchase of one of her books enters you into a drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Drawing on December 18, 2014.

MAGGIE MAE, DETECTIVE EXTRAORDINAIRE, ISBN: 9 781616 335267 51095
Amazon link
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Active Vs Passive Writing—‘Show,’ Don’t ‘Tell’


At every conference for children’s writers you will hear the same advice—‘show, don’t tell.’ No one likes to be told what to do. They’d rather have someone suggest what they might do. Then if they do it, it becomes their own idea or decision.

The same is true of children’s books. If the author tells the reader what’s going on, the story becomes dull. If the writer shows what’s happening, it draws the reader into the action.

So how do we ‘show’ what’s going on without ‘telling’ the reader? By using active verbs. Passive verbs lack a ‘doer.’ In an active voice, the subject is doing the action. In a passive voice, something is being done to the subject.

Passive verbs:
was, is, are, am, be, been, was, would

More ‘telling’ words:
like, as if, seemed, told, felt

Look for passive verbs in your writing. But keep in mind that there’s more to it than using or not using certain words. For example, using the word ‘was’ does not always indicate passive voice. It may just be using the past tense.

He was five years old in October. (past tense)

Read the following example of ‘was’ used in active or passive voice:

The pumpkin pie was eaten by Grandpa. (passive)
Grandpa ate the pumpkin pie. (active)

If you find that you’re using words to ‘qualify’ or ‘emphasize’ what you’re saying, you might try to find a more active way to show it instead.

Qualifiers:
really, all, some, quickly, very, so, big/little, a lot, slowly, many, cold/hot, loudly/softly

Look at the following lines:

The turkey ran out of the house really fast. (passive—he didn’t only run, he ran ‘really fast’)
The turkey zipped out of the house. (active)

We often hear that using words that end in ‘—ing’ is a form of passive writing. If you use a word that ends in ‘—ing’ with one of the ‘to be’ words (see the list of passive verbs above), there is no action. For example:

He was studying the picture. (passive)
He studied the picture. (active)

Using adverbs when writing picture books is also discouraged—‘Don’t use them!’ we are told. An adverb can be replaced with active writing.

He looked hungrily at the burgers on the plate.
He looked at the burgers on the plate. His stomach growled. (more active)

Writing for children in an active voice is always encouraged, but sometimes passive voice has a place.

Is something happening while the action is taking place? The clock was chiming might be more clear than The clock chimed if Cinderella was trying to get back to the carriage before the clock finished chiming.

For emphasis, or for poetic or dramatic effect—
‘…was coming closer down the hall’ or ‘huffing and puffing’

Stories that ‘show’ your characters and ‘show’ what’s going on, draw the reader into the story and keep them hooked. Use active verbs along with action or dialogue to accomplish this.

For a look at how well you handle ‘show don’t tell,’ take out that manuscript that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and highlight the words in your story that you find on the list of passive verbs. Then use a different color and highlight the active verbs. You could even go a step further and highlight dialogue and action with different colors.

There are so many sources on the web that explain active and passive writing better that I do here. You can find more on passive writing at these sites:

RX for Writers
Writing for Children
Writing with Style
Write Now!
Valerie Comer
Bella on line. Scroll to the bottom of her post and do a search on her site for How to Use Passive Voice Effectively.
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Picture Book Idea Month Coming Your Way!


It’s Tuesday, October 29th! Only two more days until November! So what’s the big deal? November is PiBiIdMo— Picture Book Idea Month!

For picture book writers it’s kind of like group therapy. During November we’re challenged to write 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. Not a complete manuscript—just an idea. If you can do it, you’ll put writers’ block to shame! Just think about it. You’ll end up with 30 ideas that could spark the beginnings of 30 new picture books! If twelve of those pan out, that’s enough for a rough draft of a picture book for each month of the year. If only one works out, that’s more than you had to begin with.

To make it even better, you’ll have the support of professionals and struggling authors alike. For every day in November, you’ll get inspiration from picture book authors, like Jane Yolen! And more from illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals who will offer advice and inspiration.

If that’s not enough, when you sign up you’re eligible for prizes. Registered participants will be entered to win some great stuff, like a manuscript consultation with a picture book agent. And when you check out the daily featured bloggers and leave a comment, you could win prizes that some of them offer.

Ideas come at any time—while at work, doing the laundry, driving kids to after-school activities, feeding the baby or just when your eyelids are about to close at night. Sometimes the only challenge is to get to a pencil and paper and write them down. There’s no obligation, and no one will call you on it if you don’t get your 30 ideas. So why not give it a try? You might even find it hard to stop at 30!

Now that you’re fired up, go to Tara Lazar’s blogsite to sign up! Then get a head start with the pre-PiBo blog posts already there. By the time the last trick-or-treater leaves your door, you’ll already be on a roll! Registration is open until November 7th.  Read More 
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Onomatopoeia—Showing Sounds in Picture Books

Nature's Heart

When I walk, my favorite places to go are those where you are surrounded by nature—plants and flowers, lakes and ponds, and squirrels, deer and other creatures that live there.

I love the peaceful atmosphere, and the sounds of the things around us. Earlier in the spring at a near-by park, before they filled in the swampy area with wood chips, you could listen to the bullfrogs harmonize. This month the cicadas are in full chorus. And in any season, birds are always tweeting back and forth.

If I were to put these sounds into words, called onomatopoeia, I’d spend a lot of time thinking about it before I found the right words. For example, cicadas kind of buzz, but not like bees do. It’s more of a beeeeze-it, or something. And I’d want to think of a word more original and real than croak for the bullfrog sound.

Kids love to hear the sounds that things make in books. Not only animal sounds, but things like the sound of the wind (whoosh!), an old truck (rucka-rucka), or a flower pushing up through the ground (pffft!), too.

Here are some examples of sound words used in some of the books on my shelves.

Robert Munsch is great at using onomatopoeia to add humor to his books. MMM, COOKIES! is full of ‘sound’ words—“…sprinkled it with sugar—Chik, Chik, Chik, Chik, Chik.” He “…washed out his mouth. Burble Burble Splat Splicht Bwahhh.” Kids crack up when hearing those words.

In SITTING DUCK Jackie Urbanovic uses words like WHOOMP! and Boing, Boing! to bring sounds to life.

In THE PERFECT NEST by Catherine Friend you’ll find CRACK! and Crackety-Snap! and Crackety-Crackety Boom! to show baby animals coming out of their eggs.

In DRUMMER BOY by Loren Long you can hear the little drummer boy playing his drum with a Boom pump pum boom pum and Boom pat pat boom tat.

And in GRANDDAD’S FISHING BUDDY by Mary Quigley, the simple plop of the fishing line landing in the water places you in the scene.

I’ve discovered that there is help on the web for those of us who need it when it comes to finding words that imitate sounds! Here are a few websites that I came across.

At Written Sound How to Write the Sound of Things: onomatopoeia and words of imitative origin, you’ll find an explanation of the term, a list of topics to click on for different kinds of sounds, examples of children’s poetry using onomatopoeia, and more about words that are used to imitate sounds.

At Song Written, a website meant for song writers, the post Sounds Good: The Art of Describing Ambient Sounds in Lyrics can help you zero in on the sounds that you hear, which can be helpful to writers, as well.

On Word Object, you can find a list of the Six Families of Noises. Another post on the site lists Words Commonly Used to Describe Sounds.

Reading out loud is one of the things that make picture books so great! When you’re revising your manuscript, you might want to try using some onomatopoeia to help bring your story to life.  Read More 
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Picture Book Mothers


When writing for children we are cautioned to keep the parents out, or on the perimeters. But what about picture books?

The spectrum of picture books covers a wide age group. Mothers are usually the most important figure in a young child’s life, and so it’s not surprising that they play a big part in stories for very young children. But as the child becomes older and begins to take on some independence, the mother in picture books becomes less prominent. Still, they need to be present at times to provide reassurance, guidance, protection or for other various reasons.

With Mother’s Day coming close, I thought I would share some picture books about mothers or that have mothers in them.

MY MOTHER IS MINE by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Peter Elwell, Simon & Schuster 2001.
Told in first person from the viewpoint of a child, this book is told in rhyme. It begins: “My mother is soft./ My mother is strong./ My mother watches me/ long and long.” Soft illustrations match the gentle text. Written for ages 1 to 5, this book is all about mothers and things that make them special to their children.

LLAMA LLAMA HOME WITH MAMA, written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney, Viking 2011.
This is another picture book told in rhyme, which makes it appealing to young children and helps develop language. It begins “Llama Llama, morning light./ Feeling yucky, just not right.” Mama is very present in the illustrations, giving comfort to little llama who is sick and stays home from school. In the scenes where Mama is not there, you know that she is near-by, which is reassuring to readers. A twist at the end puts little llama in charge, doing things that she learns from her own mother’s actions.

BEDTIME FOR MOMMY by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Bloomsbury 2010.
This is a twist on bedtime, with the child getting mommy off to bed instead of the other way around. “Time for bed, Mommy! (the little girl says). Five more minutes? (says Mommy). Okay—five minutes, but that’s it.” And so on, until Mommy is finally tucked into bed. Mother is still a big part of the story, but the child is now in charge, and imitates what she’s learned from her mother.

MUD PUDDLE by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sami Suomalainen, Annick Press 1982/1985.
In this book the main character, Julie Ann, is most prominent. She solves the problem without any help from her mother. Her mother is in the story only as necessary. “Mummy, Mummy! A Mud Puddle jumped on me.” (says Julie Ann). “Her mother picked her up…She washed out her ears. She washed out her eyes. She even washed out her mouth.” In this story, Julie Ann, and the readers, know that her mother will be there if she needs her. Her mother does not scold Julie Ann for getting muddy. In fact, there is no dialogue at all for her mother. She only enters the story at Julie Ann’s calling.

TESSA’S TIP-TAPPING TOES by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington, Orchard Books 2002.
Tessa, a mouse, prefers to dance in Mrs. Timboni’s kitchen at night instead of joining in while her family raids it for crumbs. Mrs. Timboni has a new cat, Oscar, who loves to sing. “As soon as Tessa’s mother heard Oscar’s crooning, she worried that the new cat would catch her dancing daughter.” And on the next page, “Mrs. Timboni worried that (the neighbors) would ask her to get rid of her chorusing kitty.” What happens when Tessa and Oscar meet in the kitchen one night changes everything. The reader, of course, knows that mice and cats are not good company, and will worry along with the mothers, about Tessa and Oscar. In this funny book the mothers provide the tension by pointing out danger and trouble that could result from their children’s actions. But the story is driven by Tessa and Oscar. And the twist at the end will have readers dancing and singing along.

A MOTHER FOR CHOCO, written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1992.
This is one of my favorite books about mothers. To me, this was a book about adoption, but it is for stepmothers or foster parents as well. It begins “Choco was a little bird, who lived all alone. He wished he had a mother, but who could his mother be? One day he set off to find her.” A lovely story about all kinds of mothers, and about acceptance of those with differences.

Here are a few books that include grandmothers as well.

OFF WE GO! by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Laurel Molk, Little, Brown & Company 2000.
“Tip-toe, tippity toe,/ Over the leaves and down below,/ Off to Grandma’s house we go,/ Sings Little Mouse.” In this book, told in verse, young animals leave their homes to go to Grandma’s house. Mothers are absent in the story, but the reader is caught in the excitement of going to Grandma’s house, which makes them feel safe and loved.

DOWN IN THE WOODS AT SLEEPYTIME by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban, Candlewick Press 2000.
Deep in the woods a mama bear, a mama hedgehog, a mama rabbit and a mama toad call out, “It’s sleepytime” to their little ones, who are not quite ready to settle down. Then “Deep down in the woods/ on her branch above them all/ wise Grandma Owl hoots,/ “Whoo-hoo!/ It’s storytime.” As a board book this has all the elements of a good story.

CHERRY PIES AND LULLABIES, written and illustrated by Lynn Reiser, Greenwillow Books 1998.
This is a collection of four stories, each showing something that is done in the childhood times of great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and child. And “Every time/ it was the same/ but different.” A lovely story, bringing generations together. Much is shown in the illustrations.

This is only a taste of the many wonderful picture books showcasing mothers.

Wishing all the mothers out there a fantastic Mother’s Day! May you be blessed with attention from your children during the day, and have time to relax at the end of the day.  Read More 
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MOLE MUSIC by David McPhail

Mole Music
David McPahil has written and illustrated some great children’s books, but the one that I love the most is MOLE MUSIC (Henry Holt & Co. 1999).

“Mole has always led a simple life, but he feels something is missing. When he first hears someone playing a violin, Mole realizes that he longs to make beautiful music, too.” During the day Mole digs tunnels. At night in his home under the ground, he plays his violin. As he gets better, he wonders if his music could reach into people’s hearts, or even change the world.

In the watercolor and ink illustrations, McPhail tells another story, from a different perspective, that shows how Mole’s “music has an effect on others that is more magical than Mole will ever know.”

MOLE MUSIC is a wonderful story of hope and peace. It shows the difference one person can make in the world, and the wonderful influence of music on the heart.
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Interview with Picture Book Author, Judith L. Roth


Judith L. Roth writes poetry, picture books and middle grade fiction for children. She lives in Elkhart, Indiana. Her latest picture book, GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS has just been released from Disney Hyperion (February 2012).

Hello Judy, and welcome to Peggy’s Pages!

Can you tell us a little bit about GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS, and what inspired you to write it?

JLR: Oddly enough, it was frustration. I had two novel-in-verse books that were being seriously considered by two different publishers (they had me do revisions), and within two weeks, they were both finally rejected. When I got the second rejection, I sat down at my computer and told myself, “I’m going to write something they have to publish,” and I just started writing. I sent it to my agent within a couple of days, and he got two bites days within sending it out. I wish this was a process I could repeat!

GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS is not your first children’s book. Please tell us something about your other published books. And can you tell us about your road to publication—what inspired you to write for children, and how did you get started?

JLR: I’ve always wanted to write books since the time I realized that authors were people and not magical beings. I continued to love children’s literature well past the time when I should have been reading adult literature. I took an ICL course (Institute of Children's Literature) while I was attending college and began submitting. I went to a lot of conferences. I had a lot of encouragement from editors and other writers, and I had poetry and nonfiction and curriculum and songs published, but I couldn’t seem to crack the fiction arena. Finally, about 25 years after first submitting children’s fiction, I had a story accepted. Then a book. Then another book. Then an agent. Then a book to a bigger publishing house. Then two. It was a really long road, but I was determined I was going to keep trying.

My first picture book, Cups Held Out, is about a child who goes with her father to Mexico to gain some small understanding of poverty. It talks about their reaction to their experience that one day.

My second book, Julia’s Words, is about two girls, one hearing, one deaf, who become friends while at a camping ground. They learn how to navigate the complexities of communication and friendship.

Goodnight, Dragons, is about a boy who is called to tame dragons rather than slay them. He senses they won’t be so grouchy if they are shown kindness. It’s a goodnight book, although it didn’t start out as one.

When you have an idea for a book, where do you go from there? Do you outline, or just jump in and start writing?

JLR: In the last few years, I’ve started a new way of beginnings. I don’t wait for an idea. I just start writing, and soon words appear on the computer screen that interest me, and I go further, dig deeper. Sometimes the words don’t interest me, so I leave them in my file as simply freewriting. I don’t know how efficient this is, but it’s fun!

Since you have an agent, Judy, can you tell us something about how your book is marketed? Is this entirely up to your agent, or do you play a part in the marketing?

JLR: My agent is in charge of marketing my books. (I do it for anything else.) He is open to suggestions about where I’d like him to send them. He also tells me if he thinks something isn’t ready, or how it can be made more marketable.

Having written your story, how difficult is it to turn it over to the illustrator? Do you have any input on choosing an illustrator for your books, or on the illustrations themselves?

JLR: It’s exciting to see what an illustrator will do with it. No, I don’t really have anything to do with choosing an illustrator. The editors tell me who they think will be good and then we hope together that the illustrator will agree to work on the book. No input on the illustrations at all.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you always want to be an author? What other interests do you have besides writing?

JLR: Yes, always. Other interests include traveling, reading, music, gardening, learning foreign languages, a bit of kayaking, watching my boys become young men, enjoying the beautiful world God made.

What books did you enjoy reading as a child?

JLR: I read whatever I could get my hands on and enjoyed most of it. I remember Edgar Eager’s Magic Series. When I read mysteries, it was about Trixie Beldon. For career series, it was about Sue Barton. I discovered Madeleine L’Engle when I was in fifth grade, and quickly became a fan. I liked the way she made characters from one series show up in another series. A book that really moved me when I was in junior high was Mrs. Mike.

Do you have any new books coming out? What are you working on now?

JLR: My novel-in-verse for Viking is due at copyediting in three weeks. The title is up in the air, but the working title is Serendipikitty. It’s the story of a girl and her father, who are trying to figure out how to be a family again since her mother died three years ago. A kitten dropped off at their door begins to show them the way. The book is scheduled to be out in 2013.

What tips or advice do you have for aspiring children’s writers?

JLR: Be ready to persevere. If you don’t love it, it probably won’t be worth it. Read as much as you can. Join SCBWI and go to conferences. Join or start a critique group. Write.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about you and your books?

JLR: Yes. It’s www.judithlroth.com. Thanks for asking! Right now I have a contest going on the site that will end with two people getting a free book of one of my first two picture books. The contest will wind up February 29th.

Thank you so much, Judy!

I received my copy of GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS the other day, and I asked my 5 year old grandson if he wanted me to read it to him. He was busy playing at the time and promptly said "No." So I started reading it out loud, to myself. After the first page he dropped what he was doing and sat next to me, absolutely into the book until the end. A kid-friendly testimony to GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS!


GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS
by Judith L. Roth
illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
Disney*Hyperion 2012
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