The Waiting is the Hardest Part, Part III

Source: The Waiting is the Hardest Part, Part III

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The Waiting is the Hardest Part, Part III

I’ll soon be coming up on my fifth anniversary of writing for kids. It was December of 2012, when I first decided this librarian had things to say in books. My first manuscript, which took me a few months to write was a nonfiction biography for kids about a little known inventor.  I wanted to get his story out there in the world for kids.

Without an agent, I sent it out to about 5 publishers and played the waiting game. In the meantime, I wrote a narrative nonfiction book that took me a few months and got better at my craft. About 8 months later I received a request for the first bio from a great publisher. They loved the idea, but had a lot of changes for me to make. Would I be interested they inquired? Of course, I was excited and so new to the process. Over the next year and a half I worked with an editor who championed my book and made multiple changes. Ultimately, it was rejected. I was upset, but it helped me to develop the thick skin writers need for the many rejections we receive with and without feedback.

In the next year, I wrote a fiction manuscript with a diverse character. This too was requested, by a Jewish publisher, and had two rewrites, before a pass. Subsequently a similar idea came to fruition by another author that was published by same publisher, but hey great minds think alike!  And I’ve learned there are not that many new ideas in the kidlit world of sharks, dinosaurs, monsters and princesses.

So my writing was going places and I was learning the craft and the game. I took a few online webinars and went to a big conference. I have had my writing critiqued by other writers and editors. I signed with an agent about two years ago who believed in my writing.

Through friends and contacts, I got my first stories published by Amazon Education last year. Four e-stories in a format I never thought I would be comfortable writing in: mostly dialogue and little narrative; mostly chats between characters for the reading app Amazon Rapids. An editor who believed in me and bought four stories in a few months.

I am playing the waiting game as writers all do. Ironically, my inventor bio is being read again by the same publisher from four years ago!!! Talk about coming full circle. In the years between it was read by multiple publishers who had good things to say about it, that helped me to revise it and make it stronger. My agent helped with crafting better dialog between characters, which is the weak point of my writing. I also have a fiction manuscript about a cat who can write, out to some great publishers as well.

Now I’m working on a humorous fractured fairy-tale, so removed from the research I usually begin doing for a nonfiction manuscript.  I am enjoying the process  so much more, as I am writing what I think may be what I should focus on; creative fiction. All the rejections have just make my writing stronger and tighter than it ever was. I have helped some of my kid lit friends with editing their work as well, as I have become a sharper writer.

Did I think I would publish a book quickly? Honestly, yes. I have always believed in my stories. Did I think I would still be revising manuscripts from four years ago today? Not in my wildest dreams. But, I have come further than I thought and have learned that rejection doesn’t always equal failure, but discovery.

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Author Interview: Jenna Grodzicki

I recently had the pleasure of meeting debut author and fellow elementary librarian, Jenna Grodzicki, at the spring NJSCBWI Conference. Jenna’s newest book is “Pixie’s Adventure,” published by  eTreasures.

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What inspired you to write your debut picture book, Pixie’s Adventure?

The idea for Pixie’s Adventure came to me over 10 years ago.  Our cat, who was always trying to sneak outside, escaped during a thunderstorm.  My husband and I spent two hours looking for her in the pouring rain.  We finally found her on our neighbor’s front porch.  Even though I had always dreamed of writing picture books, it took me a long time to actually start. Quite frankly, I was scared to take that risk.  In early 2015, a combination of events prompted me to pick up a pencil, and Pixie’s Adventure was the first story I wrote.  The rest is history!

What is the topic of your next picture book?

My second picture book, Finn Finds a Friend, is coming out in October with Clear Fork Publishing.  It is about a lemon shark named Finn who wants to make some new friends. Unfortunately, his sharky appearance causes potential buddies to swim away or hide.  Finn must demonstrate it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters in order to convince the sea creatures that he’s not looking for his next meal.

In addition to Finn, I have 6 other manuscripts (and counting!) I’m working on, including one nonfiction piece.

Who are your favorite authors for kids?

Wow, this is a tough question.  I have so many favorites, it’s hard to choose!  When I was little, I loved Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene) and the Babysitters Club (Ann M. Martin). Among my favorite picture books were Miss Nelson is Missing, The Paper Bag Princess, and Click, Clack, Moo.   Today, I absolutely love Mo Willems.  His Elephant and Piggie books are a hit with every one of my students, as well as my son.  I’m also a big fan of Ame Dyckman, Kate Messner, Drew Daywalt, and Jon Klassen.

What are your interests/hobbies besides writing?

In addition to writing, I absolutely love to read.  I’m really into YA right now, especially anything by Sarah J. Maas.  I love the Boston Red Sox – we try to go to Fenway Park at least once a year.  In the winter, I enjoy skiing.  And of course, my favorite thing to do is spend time with my husband and our two crazy awesome children!

 

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Thanks Jenna, for your awesome answers!

 

 

 

A beautiful book for the last day of African American History Month.

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youngest-marcher

I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely Cynthia Levinson, author of  the 2012 award winning “We’ve Got a Job,” that highlights four youngsters who took active roles in the Civil Rights Movement. One of those children was Audrey Faye Hendricks, the subject of Cynthia’s newest book, “The Youngest Marcher,” illustrated by the fantastic Vanessa Brantley Newton.

LI:1. How did you decide to focus on Audrey Faye Hendricks after writing We’ve Got a Job?

Cynthia Levinson: The idea actually came from Atheneum. When my agent, Erin Murphy, called in 2009 or 2010 to tell me there was interest in the book proposal I’d written about the Birmingham Children’s March, she said there were two offers—one for a picture book and the other for a middle grade. What did I want to do? My instincts told me the story needed multiple perspectives, and I opted for a book for ten-…

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youngest-marcher

I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely Cynthia Levinson, author of  the 2012 award winning “We’ve Got a Job,” that highlights four youngsters who took active roles in the Civil Rights Movement. One of those children was Audrey Faye Hendricks, the subject of Cynthia’s newest book, “The Youngest Marcher,” illustrated by the fantastic Vanessa Brantley Newton.

LI:1. How did you decide to focus on Audrey Faye Hendricks after writing We’ve Got a Job?

Cynthia Levinson: The idea actually came from Atheneum. When my agent, Erin Murphy, called in 2009 or 2010 to tell me there was interest in the book proposal I’d written about the Birmingham Children’s March, she said there were two offers—one for a picture book and the other for a middle grade. What did I want to do? My instincts told me the story needed multiple perspectives, and I opted for a book for ten- to fourteen-year-olds. After We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree Publishers) came out in 2012, I asked Erin to find out if Atheneum would still be interested in a picture book. And they were!

We’ve Got a Job focuses on four young marchers.  One of those four children was only nine years old. With a protagonist the same age as my readership, Audrey Faye Hendricks instantly became the main character.  

LI:2. Was it more difficult to write the picture book or the YA book about the Civil Rights Movement and kids’ involvement  in it?

Cynthia Levinson :Both! We’ve Got a Job was my first book. So, I had to learn to conduct interviews, find photographs, keep track of all of the research, write a book, get edited… It was a real learning experience in so many ways.

But, so was writing a picture book. Honing in on younger readers, cutting and shaping text, and considering page turns are very challenging. And, for the first time, I experienced working with an illustrator—the fabulous Vanessa Brantley Newton.

  LI:3. Did you meet any of Audrey’s family in real life?

Cynthia Levinson: Indeed. I interviewed Audrey at her home and saw where her mother made Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter, where Dr. King sat at her dinner table, and where her church choir director practiced protest songs on her upright piano. Then, Audrey’s sister, Jan, filled me in on details about how feisty Audrey was! And, she gave me the recipe. That was like gold.

LI:4. Do you have a favorite illustration or scene from the book?

Cynthia Levinson: I have two favorites. One is the spread at the dinner table where Audrey and her mother both have one eye open and the other closed during Dr. King’s prayer. Audrey looks saucy and her mother disapproving—it’s perfect! The other is the spread where Audrey is lying on her side on her cot in jail, with her back to the reader, staring at the wall. It’s both brilliant and heartbreaking.

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  • Age Range: 5 – 10 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 5
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 17, 2017)

Author Interview: Celebrating Reading with Lisa Papp

 

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I had the pleasure of chatting with author/illustrator Lisa Papp, whose newest book is titled, “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog,” published by Peachtree Publishers. Lisa has illustrated numerous picture books, but I was captivated by this one that celebrates the idea of using therapy dogs in libraries to help struggling readers. Lisa and I are both pet owners of rescue cats and my lovely rescue cat, Lucy, is by my side as I am writing this blog post!

 LI: What inspired your idea for Madeline Finn and the Library Dog?

Lisa Papp: This story comes straight from the heart. When you meet these beautiful therapy dogs and their owners, you can’t help but fall in love. They are such a tremendous gift to our communities. I discovered the Reading-to-Dogs program at my local library. My husband, Rob, and I were returning books when we saw a long line of dogs waltzing in the side door. We couldn’t help but follow them in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I remember these gorgeous dogs sitting in a large, bright room with lots of windows. There were about twelve dogs that day along with their owners. A couple of minutes later, the kids came in. That’s when the smiles started. For an hour and a half, we watched kids read to the dogs. The children chose a book, then chose a dog. Some of the parents told us they couldn’t get their child to pick up a book at home, but they would come to the library for this.

It was so inspiring to watch. Many of the children were self-conscious at first, but that all changed when they got next to a dog. Dogs have that wonderful gift of unconditional love. That wonderful gift of accepting you just as you are. The children responded to that immediately. They read them story after story, petting the dogs and stroking their ears while they worked out the tough words. And they stayed at it – the entire hour and a half! The bond between the children and the dogs was pure magic. These wonderful therapy dogs and their owners let me tag along for the better part of a year. I count them as dear friends now. They, and the children they help, are the inspiration for the book.

LI: Do you have any pets/rescue pets?

Lisa Papp:As a matter of fact, we have three rescued cats. All siblings. My husband and I had gone to a flea market in search of a sprinkler. We came home with three kitties instead. Who could resist? We told ourselves things like…oh, so and so loves cats, maybe she’ll want one.….and this one looks like our real estate agent’s cat, she’ll probably want another one just like him, etc. That was eight years ago and we couldn’t be happier to have kept all three. They are wonderful little beings, even if a bit naughty at times. Can’t imagine life without them. I guess you could call them therapy cats because they definitely keep me and my husband sane. There’s nothing better than a kitty snuggle after a hard day. And when we take life too seriously, they are the first to remind us to lighten up – a “who can catch the ball in the air” game does wonders for the soul.

LI: What future projects are you working on?

Lisa Papp: I have the unfortunate habit of working on multiple projects at once. With that in mind, I can tell you I do have a few Madeline Finn adventures up my sleeve, as well as a couple of novels midstream. All illustrated. It seems, no matter if I’m dreaming up picture books or novels, they always center around animals.

LI: What advice would you give to today’s kids who love to draw?

Lisa Papp:I would say, “Keep doing it!” All the time. Anywhere you can. All those characters, all those stories you’re dreaming up will stay with you somewhere. It’s like an invisible basket you’re filling up. All that imagination, the practice of making something from nothing, the pure joy of creating – all of that will serve you well. Because that’s what will sustain you – even if you don’t become an artist. You will know how to reach inside yourself, into that basket of freedom where your imagination has no limits. When you learn to tap into that creativity, it’s something you’ll enjoy the rest of your life.

  • Age Range: 4 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
  • Lexile Measure: 370
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (October 1, 2016)