Thursday, August 29, 2013

Calling All Teachers: A Picture Book Month Special Request

For lovers and readers of Picture Books, it seems clear enough.  Picture Book are invaluable.  And PB-friendly educators know that they can be used to teach a wide variety of concepts and therefore should be included in any classroom curriculum.  However, with an increase interest in learning standards and the Common Core, sometimes Picture Books are looked at as “not making the grade.”

This November, join Picture Book Month as we celebrate the genre and shed light on the educational value of Picture Books.

I have been given the amazing honor of being named Picture Book Month’s Education Consultant and have been working hard to create a Teacher’s Guide addressing how to use Picture Books across the curriculum and to meet the Common Core, as well as other state mandated standards.  It has been a huge undertaking, but I am passionate about this and cannot wait to share the completed Teacher’s Guide with you in November.

In past years PBM has featured daily posts by authors and illustrators stating “Why Picture Books are Important.”

This year, teachers, I want to hear from YOU!

Why are Picture Books important to your classroom teaching?

Do you have an anecdote about:

·         Using Picture Books to teach Math, Science, Social Studies or ELA concepts?

·         Reaching an uninterested kid through Picture Books?

·         Using Picture Books, especially fiction, to teach to the Common Core?

·         A Picture Book that you return to year after year to teach certain concepts?

If so, you can be a very special CONTRIBUTOR in this year’s Picture Book Month celebration!

Write up your testimonial regarding the importance of Picture Books in the classroom (750 words, or less, please) and email it to me at  Include a picture of yourself.
Those who participate will be featured in the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide which will be available for download at starting in November.

And of course, teachers and non-teachers, grab an Ambassador Button to place prominently on your social media or website.  Then visit for ideas about celebrating! Let's get the word out this year that Picture Books have value!

Monday, August 26, 2013

16 Peanut Butter and Jelly Reads (Picture Books Made Better When Read Together)

In July Barnes & Noble's blog featured a post of Classic Literature Peanut Butter and Jelly Reads (Books Made Better When Read Together). You can read their post here. It is a delightful post, but kidlitters were left saying, "wouldn't it be great if they did this for picture books?"

Well, just wishing was not good enough for the Awesome Picture Book Group (APBGers, for short), my online critique group. Nope, we decided to make it happen.

So, it is with great pleasure that I bring you Peanut Butter and Jelly Reads (Picture Books Made Better When Read Together) by the Awesome Picture Book Group.

Kirsten Larson's picks...
Boy Were We Wrong About the Dinosaurs by Kathleen Kudlinski and Dinothesaurus by Douglas Florian
Do you still think dinosaurs were reptiles? Guess again. Did you love the Brontosaurus? It never existed. Kudlinski’s book is an entertaining look at how science is constantly evolving, using kid-favorite dinosaurs as her example. Dino lovers will enjoy Florian’s twist on traditional dino books. He couples his dino-rific poems with fanciful illustrations that show the dinosaurs’ personalities and unique traits. Troodon, the smarty pants of the bunch, is pictured with a graduation cap, for example. Dino fans will love these two different takes on dinosaur stories.

Moonshot by Brian Floca and If You Decide To Go To The Moon By Faith McNulty
Moonshot is by far the best-told tale of the Apollo 11 mission. Floca has done a ton of research, but has simplified his text relying upon a rhythmic, lyrical style and detailed illustrations. In If You Decide To Go To The Moon, McNulty writes in the second person, challenging children to imagine themselves on a Moon mission. Pack up your PB&J and orange juice and climb aboard.

Marcie Colleen's picks...
Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkhina and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
There is no doubt that having something stolen is frustrating, especially a hat. In the classic Caps For Sale, we meet a peddler who carries his wares on his head. However, being a peddler can be tiring and when he takes a rest under a tree, several monkeys steal his hats. Its monkey see, monkey do at its most comical. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen also features a stolen hat, a stare down and frustration, however the outcome is quite different. Perhaps both of these books can be read, not only for enjoyment, but for a look into options of conflict resolution?

Blackout by John Rocco and The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Children are often afraid of the dark, however both of these stories explore darkness in a new and exciting way. In Blackout, a city experiences loss of power and therefore loss of normalcy. Yet, the city becomes alive with new excitement. Rocco’s illustrations evoke whimsy and magic. Lemony Snicket’s The Dark features the dark as a personified character which lives in Laszlo’s basement. One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo’s room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement. Children will be mesmerized by Klassen’s stark illustrations while reading how Laszlo confronts his fear and stops being afraid of the dark.

Jennifer Young's picks...
On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman​ and On The Day You Were Born By Debra Frasier
Tillman sets the mood with a text that whispers a sweet angelic tone.  The moon, stars, rain and wind are personified. They share the wonderful marvelous name of the new born baby with the world for all to celebrate. In the picture book, On the Day You Were Born, Frasier speaks directly to the reader as well as Tillman’s On The Night You Were Born. Just like Tillman’s book, the news is spread far and wide. Animals pass along the word from animal to animal of the marvelous news. The Earth, the sun, the moon and gravity as also personified, same as in Tillman’s book, and they make special promises to the new born baby.

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin and Muncha, Muncha, Muncha by Candace Fleming
From the start, Rubin paints an unlikable main character with Old Man Fookwire who hates certain animals but somehow wins over your heart in the end. He loves to paint birds and in order to keep them around during the winter he leaves them food in his feeders. Unfortunately, squirrels love bird food too and they manage to steal it. “Those darn squirrels!” The more Old Man Fookwire builds his “Veritable fortress around his birdfeeders” they always break in.  In the picture book, Muncha, Muncha, Muncha, Fleming introduces a gentle man named Mr. McGreely who loves to eat veggies and he grows a garden full of them. But three sneaky rabbits love them just as much as he does. “Muncha, muncha, muncha.” Mr. McGreely gets mad. Each day he builds a bigger fence around his little garden, but they still break in. Finally, he builds the most impenetrably fence and he waits.
So, which band of sneaky bandits from these two books were able to figure out a way to get in and eat? You’ll have to read both to the end to find out.

Wendy Greenley's picks...
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Amanda Hall and Emily’s Art written and illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
One book is nonfiction with an adult point of view and the other uses a fictional child’s point of view but the message in each reinforces the other. When artists pour their soul into their work, no matter whether they are children or adults, criticism stings but artists persevere because the worth of their art isn’t measured in any single viewer’s judgment, the value is in the joy of artistic expression and creation.

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson
Some picture books are kid pleasers. Some picture books resonate better with age. And I’m talking about the age of the reader. While little ones will certainly enjoy these books too, the real pleasure is for the adult reader. Bring tissues.

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle and Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
My heart does a special pitter patter for unlikely friendship stories. Not necessarily the interspecies nonfiction friendships (although I like those too!). What makes these two books work so well together is that the friendships come about without any character in either book working towards it as a goal. The friendships develop naturally, without fanfare, but still carry a mighty wallop at the end. I grin every time I reread these.

Rena Traxel Boudreau's picks...
Good News. Bad News by Jeff Mack and Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown
Besides having bunnies in both stories both do a beautiful job of leaving room for the illustrator while telling a compelling story. In fact both stories need the illustrations in order for the story to make sense. One ending made me laugh and the other made me cry. Perfect to read together.

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Both are lyrical and beautifully written. They are stories that can be read time and time again and not lose meaning. One has simple pictures and the other complex yet the illustrations fit the text. When I picture them together I could see a "wild" child running around hugging everyone.

Julie Rowan-Zoch's picks...
Big, Bad Bunny written by Fran Billingsley, illustrated by G.Brian Karas and The Black Rabbit created by Philippa Leathers
There is the obvious tie with rabbits in this book - or not! - which you'll see when you read them. Both books have a wonderful climactic arc, just like the roller-coaster ride my Aunt Peg had taken my brother and I on back in Baldwin: the heights not too horrifying, just enough for a satisfying taste of excitement! And there is the innocence, fear, imagination - and protection from something familiar. Both have been infused with visual energy, and executed in traditional mediums: watercolors, acrylics, pencil and ink.

Owl Babies written by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson and Little Lost Owl created by Chris Haughton
A gentle understanding of longing and fear between the 'missing' parents or offspring comes across in both of theses titles, nicely reversed for comparison. Both illustration styles are simple, yet vary enough visually, and in humor and cadence, to stand out when enjoyed together!

Stephen Cahill's picks...
Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie and Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Dogs Don't Do Ballet is about a little girls' dog who has a dream to become a ballet dancer. Her father keeps reminding her though that "dogs don't do ballet". However, much to everyone's surprise, he's very good. Giraffes Can't Dance is about a giraffe who everyone thinks is an appalling dancer. The difference here is that Gerald, the giraffe, does not believe in himself. But with the help of a musical cricket he finds his style and everyone sees how wrong they were.

Nobody Laughs at a Lion by Paul Bright, illustrated by Matt Buckingham and I Am The King by Leo Timmers
The first is about a lion who gets no respect from any of the other animals. Until he reminds them of his mighty roar. But in I Am The King the lion does not have to do anything to gain the animals' respect. They take turns wearing a crown they have found. But on realising it belongs to a lion they promptly hand it back. Nobody messes with a lion.

Beegu by Alexis Deacon and Q Pootle 5 by Nick Butterworth
When an alien crash lands on earth, falls out with the locals (apart from the children), but is rescued by his folks versus an alien crash landing on earth and the locals help him fix his ship. 

Thanks for stopping by. We hope you choose to enjoy some of these pairings with a cold glass of milk.

What about you? What PBs would you pair together for a yummy combination? We'd like to hear from you!

Monday, August 19, 2013

ONE WORD with Hazel Mitchell and Nicole Groeneweg: an interview

Writers are lovers of words. We admire them.  We collect them.  We savor them.  Words are powerful, and writers know that every word counts.  But what if our words were limited and had the possibility to run out?

 In One Word Pearl (by Nicole Groeneweg and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell) that is exactly what happens.

Pearl loves words. All kinds of words. Words make up songs, stories, poems . . . and what does a lover of words do? She collects them, of course!

But one day, most of Pearl’s words are blown away, leaving her only a few which she keeps safely in her treasure chest. After that day, she uses each word carefully—one at a time, until she has no words left. When her teacher asks her questions at school, she doesn’t answer. When her friend wants to know what she has for lunch, she can’t respond. What will Pearl do without her precious words? Will she ever find them?

One Word Pearl is a wonderful story about choosing your words carefully—there is no better lesson to writers.  And today I am happy to introduce a very special interview with both Nicole and Hazel.

Welcome to you both!

Nicole, what was the inspiration behind ONE WORD PEARL?

I love words and when I was brainstorming for the  NAESP fiction contest, I knew the story had to be about a little girl who loved words, too. The NAESP (National Association for Elementary School Principals) Foundation has an annual fiction contest with two winners: one picture book and one chapter book.  One Word Pearl  and Seers by Kristine Bowe were the winners for 2012, the second year for the contest.  Entries are due March 15 each year.  The winners of the contest win a contract with Charlesbridge Publishing. You can find contest guidelines at

Can you share a little about Pearl’s journey, from first draft to publication?

Writing Pearl was different than writing any of my other stories. I knew I wanted to submit a story for the NAESP and had thought of writing about a 'word girl'. It was early February when I checked to see the deadline for submitting.  The website had posted the wrong date (2/15), so I got to work. I wrote One Word Pearl in three days! Most of my stories take me months to write and even longer to revise.   I had already sent off the story when I saw the real due date (3/15). I decided there was nothing I could do and maybe it was even meant to be. I was thrilled when I received the phone call that I'd won!  At the time of submission, the story was set in Pearl’s home with her mom, dad, and little brother. My editor suggested setting the story in a school. So I revised and revised and revised...and voila One Word Pearl was reborn.

Hazel, what was it that inspired you to take on the illustrations for One Word Pearl?

I loved the manuscript and immediately related to Pearl. I used to cut words out of magazines and newspapers and make up my own comics when I was a kid. And I saw a lot of potential for interesting illustrations.

Pearl is absolutely adorable.  Hazel, can you describe a little bit about your process in creating such delightful characters?

Sure. I immediately saw Pearl as kind of Asian (because of her name I think) and as sassy, quirky and a little geeky. She is DEFINITELY not a Princess. My first port of call was to google Asian children and take a look at their features. Pearl has great hair and it has a bit of a life of its own! I also wanted to give her fun clothes and big ‘ol shoes. I did a lot of rough sketches, which I showed to the publisher and after a couple of tweaks Pearl was with us. I also wanted her to have a sidekick friend. A lot of the pictures show Pearl on her own, so I wanted her to have a companion. And maybe it was the Asian connection, but I thought of a colourful bird who would supplement her emotional reactions in the story. I really love that little bird!

After several rounds of rough drawings, that got more finished every time, the finals are in pencil. I then scan them into photoshop and use digital colour. I DID use a lot of collage and scanned in watercolour textures I made by hand. Some of the pages have over 150 layers in them. It can be confusing if you don’t know where you have put something! But a lot of fun to do. I also cut out a lot of words (just like Pearl) and used them in the book.

The genre of picture books is so unique.  Nicole, can you describe a bit of your experience with “leaving room for the illustrations”?

A picture book is a marriage between text and illustrations. A writer wants the illustrator to add her own spin to the story, so she doesn’t include every little detail. Some of the story is even told in the illustrations.  One art note in the One Word Pearl manuscript suggested that the treasure chest read 'Pearl's Word Chest.' Instead of making the story to wordy, details like that can be shown in the pictures.

Hazel, as the illustrator, added her own touches to the story. She included the story starters and phrases in the illustrations. Her favorite words pop up all over the book. Hazel's addition of the parrot, a bird that also likes words, is genius!  These are the details that make a picture book sing.

What was it like to see Hazel’s illustrations for the first time?

I was nervous while I waited.  You never know if the illustrator is going to make your little girl a rhinoceros or a panda or some other imaginative creature.  When I saw Pearl the first time, I fell in love with her all over again.  Hazel did an amazing job capturing the heart of the story!  I don’t think anyone else could have depicted the story better.

Was there any communication between the two of you during the production process?
Nicole:  No.  I knew Hazel was going to be the illustrator.  I congratulated her, but never made suggestions about the illustrations.  She’s the expert on that. 

Hazel  I communicated directly with the publisher on the illustrations and had no notes on anything, it was a pretty much free rein for me! But made easy by Nicole’s writing.

I am always fascinated by the daily routines of creative people.  So, imagine it’s a random work day.  What’s on the agenda?

Nicole: Since I’m a 1st and 2nd grade teacher, I have to squeeze my writing in to my day. I teach all day and then tutor.  After that I spend a little time brainstorming ideas.  When I have an idea that I like, I research and write. This can happen during the week, but it usually happens on weekends. I often bounce ideas off my students when we share our writing in class.  In the summer, I attend writing workshops and writers’ conferences. I guess I don’t have a real routine.

Hazel: I work in my home on the first floor, so it’s only a step to my studio. Depending on what my work schedule is like dictates when I get up. If I am deep into a project I get up in the early hours, because it is on my mind and then sometimes sit down and keep going and going. But usually that’s when deadlines are coming close. Usually I get up about 7am, feed the dog, pick up the house, send the hubby to work and make my tea. Then I check email, answer stuff, do social networking for a bit and check my list for the day. After a shower I’m ready to do whatever is on the schedule. I break for something eat about 1pm and usually am straight back into it afterwards until my hubby gets home. I do work in the evenings at times. Somewhere in the day I try to do some exercise and leave the studio. Ha! But routine tends to be different some weeks, you may have school or bookstore visits and occasionally you’re at a conference or speaking. I am very lucky to have a career I enjoy so much.

One Word Pearl is the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Children’s Book Competition in the Picture Book category.  What do you see as the take-away for children reading Pearl’s story? 

Nicole: I want the readers of One Word Pearl to love words, too.  I hope they will look and listen to the world around them and learn new words every day. Maybe they’ll even make their own word collection, too.  I also think teachers will be able to use this book in their writing workshops to inspire young writers.

Hazel: I think one of the great things about this story is that encourages children to think about words and stories and what fun they can be!

In the spirit of ONE WORD PEARL, let’s have a little fun with one word answers.   

Your favorite word?

Nicole: Love

Hazel: Tosh

Your least favorite word?

Nicole: Mucus

Hazel: Rejection

A word that makes you laugh?

Nicole: Pickle

Hazel: Persnickety

A word that makes you cry?

Nicole: War

Hazel: Goodbye

A juicy word?

Nicole: Electrify

Hazel: Superlicious

A word you would like struck from the English language?

Nicole: Very

Hazel: Actually

A word to describe who you are?

Nicole: Resourceful

Hazel: Wacky

A word to describe what you want to be in 10 years?

Nicole: Wise

Hazel: Productive

Advice for pre-published writers and illustrators?

Nicole: Read. Read every day. Read all kinds of stories. Then write. Write every day. Write all kinds of stories….and then revise, revise, revise…

Hazel: Practice

Thank you both for stopping by.  We wish One Word Pearl the greatest success.  In a word, CHEERS!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Being in the Driver Seat: Getting An Agent (an interview in 14 questions, Part Two)

On Monday, Rena Traxel (an online crit partner of mine) and I shared Part One of our interview on my agent search process. 
Thank you for all of your messages of congrats and your questions, as well.  Please feel free to write any questions you have in the comments and I will make sure to answer.  And please know, everyone's journey is different. 
Today we bring you my journey, Part Two.
My awesome critique partner Marcie Colleen recently signed with her dream agent Susan Hawk from the Bent Agency. I was pretty impressed by her level of cool headedness. I also peppered her with questions throughout the whole process (pitch, considering multiple offers, contracts etc). We thought we would share those questions and answers here with you so that you too can find your dream agent.

Did you talk to any of Susan’s clients? Is this important?

I did.  Susan had offered to put me in touch with one of her picture book clients and I took her up on it.  It’s good to get other clients’ opinions on the agent and to know how their career has been going. 

The contract!
The questions I asked were:

1) Have you gone out on submission with her yet?  If not, why?

2)  How is she to edit with?  Do you feel she understands the genre of PB?

3)  How would you rate her communication?  How often are you in touch?

4)  What made you choose rep from Susan?  And how long has she been your agent?

5)  How would you describe your own stories?  (I consider myself quirky/funny)

The last question was important to me because Susan said that I was unlike the other picture book clients on his list and I wanted to make sure.

Did you talk to about your career and about marketing with Susan?

Yes, Susan has a marketing background and so she was very clear that she looks to represent a career, not a book.  And she also stated that she works with her clients for the life of the book, not just until publication date.

For our in-person meeting, Susan walked in and after a brief chat she said, “so, do you want to talk about your stories?” She pulled out my 4 manuscripts and proceeded to walk through each one, line by line, telling me what she loved about them, what might need to be revised, where she could see them fitting into the marketplace and how to be strategic in our subbing.  She was so excited and so knowledgeable.  It was amazing.

Is Susan a writer outside of being agent? Does it matter?

Honestly, I don’t know.  She could be writing the Great American Novel in her spare time, and I wouldn’t know.  Although most agents don’t have spare time, especially agents with small children at home.  What I do know is that Susan is an avid reader and book lover and she finds great enjoyment in her work as an agent.  That is all I need to know.

Does Susan go to book fairs in the US and in Bologna? Why is this important?

She does.  Lots of agenting is about building relationships.  So I think it’s important that agents are visible and out there and making connections with editors in the business.  And although there is always the phone or email, what a difference face to face contact can make.

How many years has she been in the business? Does it matter?

Susan has been in the publishing industry for 15 years, mainly in Children's Book Marketing.  She was the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and previous to that as the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. While at Penguin, she also worked for a time in Dutton Editorial, acquiring projects for that list.  She has also worked as a children's librarian and a bookseller.

To me, this does matter.  Not only does she have experience in editing, marketing and selling books…but I know she has lots of “friends” in the business, too.

When you signed with Susan what sort of details did you have to go over before signing?

At our in-person meeting (which ran almost 3 hours) Susan offered representation.  And although I wanted to dance and shout and accept right away, I didn’t.  Instead, we parted ways and I took a few days to wrap things up with some of the other agents I had been in conversation with.  Two days later, I phoned Susan and accepted.  Immediately she sent the contract. 

Now, one of the reasons why I even want an agent is because I don’t like reading legalese.  And yes, this contract, although short, had a lot of legalese in it.  So, I had my lawyer read through it.  We questioned some wording.  We asked questions regarding certain details.  Susan was very open to any questions and making changes. Bottom line, we needed to both agree on the contract. 

My advice is to not be shy when it comes any contract.  If something doesn’t make sense, ask.  If something doesn’t sit right with you, offer an alternative wording.  It’s better to be clear and on the same page right from the beginning than to deal with confusion or frustration later.

The best mailbox delivery ever!
Finally are there any red flags that a writer should look out for when considering an agent?

Hmmm…that’s a tough one.  I’m no expert.  But I would say, any time someone pressures or hurries you. Or if someone is not interested in getting to know you or doesn’t want to talk specifics with your stories.  Also, if someone raves about one book, but ignores the other work you have done or is quick to reject another piece without giving ideas on how to make it work.  These would be red flags for me. 

Otherwise, just be in the community.  People talk.  Ask questions about agents from others.  And if anything seems weird or suspect to you, trust your gut.  

Thanks Marcie for sharing your experience with us. Congrats on getting one step closer to living your author dream.

And thank YOU, Rena, for allowing me an easier way to share my story. 

All comments are moderated by-hand.  Your comment will not appear immediately.  Sorry for any delay.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Being in the Driver Seat: Getting An Agent (an interview in 14 questions and 2 parts)

Well, I just returned from LA SCBWI and I had an amazing time!  I have to say, it was a huge confidence booster to attend a conference as an agented author.  It still seems so surreal.  However, around every corner it seemed that someone wanted to know how I got my agent.  And to be honest, I don't ever tire of telling the story.

The fabulous Rena Traxel
Rena Traxel is a member of the online critique group I belong to.  She is a very talented picture book writer in her own right and has started to navigate the world of querying.  I have no doubt Rena will be sharing her own agent story someday soon. 

In addition to her picture book writing, Rena's curiosity and inquring mind makes her a talented interviewer.  When I signed with Susan Hawk, Rena came up with some great questions about my process in landing an agent.  Immediately I thought it would be fun to invite Rena onto the blog to interview me.

Below is Part One.  Be sure to stop by Wednesday for Part Two.

Please give Rena a big Write Routine welcome!
Rena:  My awesome critique partner Marcie Colleen recently signed with her dream agent Susan Hawk from the Bent Agency. I was pretty impressed by her level of cool headedness. I also peppered her with questions throughout the whole process (pitch, considering multiple offers, contracts etc). We thought we would share those questions and answers here with you so that you too can find your dream agent.

What qualities were you looking for in an agent? Why?

I really love that we are starting with this question.  I think it is so very important that authors get really frank and decide what kind of agent they want upfront… even before querying a single agent.  Ideally an agent is going to be someone you work with for the entirety of your career, and therefore you want to make sure you find someone who is a good fit.  Therefore, do the research and ask yourself, “what do I want?”  Not all agents are equal.  They vary as much as we do as writers.  Be honest with yourself.  You are in the driver’s seat.

That being said, I created a short list of what I was looking for.

1)      An editing agent—someone who will help take my manuscripts to the next level.

2)      An agent who has worked in the industry…preferably as an editor or in marketing (as authors are expected to do a lot of their own marketing these days and it’s something I am not totally good at).

3)      An agent who has a varied list, with no one similar to me. 

4)      A fairly new agent with a small growing list.  I wasn’t looking for a rockstar agent.  I wanted my agent and I to become rockstars together.

5)      Someone in NYC, if possible…if only so I can occasionally say, “Sorry, I can’t make it.  I have lunch with my agent.”

6)      An agent who is as excited about my work as I am…maybe more.

7)      An agent I connect with as a person.

What did you do to prepare to pitch to agents?

Honestly, I worked on my craft more than I worked on my pitch.  I spent the better part of 2 years focusing on honing the craft of picture book writing, networking with other writers and people in the business, reading and writing blogs, attending conferences, participating in critique groups and roundtables, etc.  All of these experiences helped build my confidence as a writer so that I knew when the time came to start talking to agents I was ready.  I knew that I had every right to take some of their time and focus.  I belonged in the children’s book world.  That for me was more than half the battle.  I mean, sure I have my moments of bad self-esteem or self-doubt, however, arming myself with the knowledge and experience needed to make it in this business was invaluable to me.

How many stories did you submit? Do you think having multiple stories ready helped land your agent?
Susan Hawk, my lovely agent!

Upon first query in late February, I sent only one manuscript.  However, Susan contacted me in early April stating that she loved my manuscript and wanted to see more.  At that time I sent one more.  And then in June I sent 2 more and even pitched my newest idea to her over email.  I wanted to be sure she knew that I was not a one hit wonder and that I was still actively writing and creating story ideas.  And yes, I do think that agents want to see that you are building a career.

How long did it take to find the right agent? How did you know Susan was the right fit?

Up until this past January I decided to spend one of my time on craft and so I did not let myself start querying agents until 2013.  So I deemed 2013 The Year to Get My Work Out There (and land an agent)!

That being said, I knew Susan was “the one” right away and she was the first agent I queried.  However, it took a little longer than that to get her attention, so I did query other agents.  But Susan was the one who seemed to be everything I was looking for on my list of agent qualities and therefore my “dream agent”.

So, for timeline’s sake, I queried Susan on February 26th and signed with her on June 14th.

You received multiple offers how were you able to keep your cool?

Depending on who you are, you might not think I kept my cool.  I seem to remember some conversations with friends in which I was truly overwhelmed.  However, I had done my homework.  I put the time and effort into my craft.  I had been through countless rounds of revision and critique so I knew that what I wrote was something worthwhile.  I had an honest conversation with myself about what I wanted from an agent and where I wanted my career to go.  So, I totally felt like I was in the driver’s seat.  I knew that it was ultimately my decision.  I didn’t let anyone let me feel pressured.  It was all about me.  And if for some reason no one seemed to be a good fit, I knew that I would turn them all down and continue the search.  It was more important to me to find the right agent than just any agent.

How did you prepare for the call? What kind of questions did you ask? What kind of questions did Susan ask?

OK.  Here’s a good example how I felt like I was the one in control.  Susan and I did not have a phone call.  Because we are both in Brooklyn, NY I seriously pushed the in-person meeting right away.  Kinda bold, right?  But I am a “people person” and I knew that I wanted an agent who I could hang with and feel comfortable with.  So it was important to me to see if we had that chemistry.  Of course, not everyone has that luxury, but we only live a few miles from each other so we both decided it was a good idea.

How did you prepare for the in-person meeting? What kind of questions did you ask? What kind of questions did she ask?

Well, first off, there was the very girly scenario in my closet in which I tried on several outfits. But I don’t quite think that is what you are asking.

Seriously, though.  To prepare to meet in person I talked to some of my agented friends.  I asked them for advice in what to ask and look for.  I also used this post at Literary Rambles about what to ask during “The Call”. I did not ask all of these questions, it did help me get some thoughts together. 

But again, the most important thing to me was that we connected and that I felt that I could work with Susan.  I needed to like her.  So simply having coffee and chatting told me that.
End of Part One...stop by Wednesday for Part Two.
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