Posts Tagged ‘children’s book’

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Beautiful first paragraph: Myra McEntire’s Hourglass

May 3, 2011

I had a blast volunteering for my local Austin SCBWI chapter a few weeks ago at the Texas Library Association. It was my first time at the conference, and the rumors of all the free advanced reading copies of upcoming books were not exaggerated. I saw people walking out with big bags full of books. Very exciting!

I was working our SCBWI booth, promoting our awesome children’s book authors in Texas, so I didn’t walk out with armfulls — plus, I gotta admit, as it was my first time, I was a little too much in awe to move! But, I did visit the Egmont booth and the kind ladies there happily shared the books in Egmont’s upcoming line.

HourglassThe first one I’m reading was called by one Egmont lady her “favorite” and after starting it, I can immediately see why.

Hourglass is the debut novel by Myra McEntire, a YA paranormal/science-fiction book about Emerson Cole, a young lady who, since the age of 14, has been able to see strange things, like Southern Belles, soldiers and eerie apparitions. When she meets Michael Weaver, she learns that there are others like her and she can get help at an organization called the Hourglass. The more she delives into that world, the more she learns about her past, her future and her life.

I’m on page 44 and totally hooked, but I was hooked from the opening paragraph. It immediately set the book’s tone, pulled me into its world and intrigued me enough to want to keep reading — exactly what a good opening should do.

Here it is:

My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful. The bones are exquisite, but the skin could use a lift. You could say my brother, the architect, is Ivy Spring’s plastic surgeon.

Gorgeous! I can totally see why Egmont picked up this book, and that beautiful imagery continues throughout — at least for what I’ve read so far.

I’m one of those people who reads first pages in the bookstore before I take a book home with me. Sure I read the jacket cover, but then I look at the opening of the novel. If it doesn’t immediately pull me in, I put the book down.

At conferences, I’ve heard from agents and editors that they’ll give a manuscript 150 words. That’s all they have time for. If they’re not interested in 150 words, they’ll stop reading and move on to the next. There are enough manuscripts out there.

You might think, that’s not enough. 150 words is nothing. But you’d be wrong. Myra McEntire set up her book in 38!

And of course, this isn’t the only example. Charlotte’s Web anyone? Best first line of a book — ever!

So, if you want to stand out in front agents, editors and ultimately readers, make sure your first paragraph is amazing, then follow it with hundreds more. That’s how you write a great novel. Take Hourglass as inspiration.

The back of the ARC says Hourglass will debut in May, but Amazon says it’s coming June 14. So, either it has been delayed or some other retailer has an exclusive for a while. Either way, get it when it comes out. I know you won’t be disapppointed.

Write On!

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Interview: Kate Messner on writing and researching

December 10, 2010

Kate Messner headshotToday on DayByDayWriter, I’ve got a great guest post on writing and researching from Kate Messner, author of Sugar & Ice, a Junior Library Guild Selection, Amazon.com Best Book for December and on the WInder 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List.

Here’s the synopsis of Kate’s book:

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

Sounds fun.

Now, here’s Kate’s advice on writing and researching:

It’s all in the details…

Sugar & Ice book coverWhen I was writing Sugar & Ice, I did a lot of the research you might expect – reading books about the different spins and jumps in figure skating, studying skater biographies and interviewing coaches and competitive skaters about what it’s like. But there are some things you just can’t get from a book or an interview.

How does a skater interact with a coach who’s really pushing him or her?  What kinds of things does a coach say to encourage a skater who’s struggling?  To push a skater who’s not working as hard as he or she needs to be?

To answer those questions, I spent several afternoons at the skating rink. Former Olympian and current skating coach Gilberto Viadana allowed me to attend several of his sessions with skaters, so I bundled up and listened in as they worked on everything from sit spins to salchows.

“The arms! The arms!” Gilberto would shout.  And I would scribble down his words in my notebook.  More than that, though, I watched him watching his skaters. I paid attention to the way he nodded, just a little, when they responded to his coaching, to the way a skater stood when he or she was listening to advice, to the body language of a coaching session.

When you read the scenes in Sugar & Ice that involve Claire’s coach, Andrei Groshev, Groshev’s personality is all his own. But some of his words, his gestures and his coaching strategies are borrowed from Coach Viadana.

Authors rely on experts not only to review manuscripts and answer questions, but also to open up their worlds for that inside experience, and I’m so very thankful for this. The tiniest details – the things that could never come just from my imagination – are what make a scene feel rich and real.

Want a personalized, signed copy of Sugar & Ice?

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a Sugar & Ice launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, Dec. 11, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at 518.523.2950 by Dec. 10. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.

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Author Interview: Rachel Dillon

April 10, 2009
Today on Day By Day Writer, we welcome debut author Rachel Dillon, a fellow member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Rachel is currently doing a blog tour talking about her book Through Endangered Eyes: A Poetic Journey Into the Wild, published by Windward Books.
Rachel Dillon

Rachel Dillon

Here’s her bio:

Rachel Dillon was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Art, emphasizing in Graphic Design. Outside of art, Dillon held a special interest in evolution and extinction and took several classes in paleontology, and geology. Her passion for animals grew as she learned more about endangered species.

Her book is beautiful, so check it out. Now onto the interview:

Rachel, I read that you were in marketing. Did you always want to be a children’s book writer/illustrator, or is it something you stumbled on?

Stumbling is a great analogy. I hadn’t ever thought about writing a children’s book and most certainly not doing illustrations. It all just seemed to fall in place. My book combines all the things I love: children, animals, painting and writing. I went to UW-Madison, for art and graphic design. I was in marketing for many years after college.  I think my goal now is to say, when someone asks what I do for a living, “I am an author and artist.”

Poetry is an amazing form of writing — one I’m terrible at, so I’m in awe of those who can write it. Did you study poetry before you wrote the poems for this book or is poetry something that comes easy to you?

I really haven’t had formal training in writing and poetry, other than college classes in English Literature. I know when I was growing up, I would express myself with poems and lyrics. As a mom, I love books with clever rhymes. I can’t stand rhymes that don’t quite sound right. There is a rhythm, a cadence, and a rhyming poem flows or it doesn’t. I wrote what sounded right to me.

book_cover_tee-squareYour book is about endangered animals. What is it about endangered animals that inspires you?

My sadness inspires me. My heart aches when I hear stories about animals and what has happened to make them endangered. There is something so innocent about animals. They are driven to survive. I also believe that everything has a purpose on Earth. Each species is unique and interesting, and when you eliminate one species, others will be affected. I know that extinction is part of nature, but I have read the rate of extinction is occuring at an unnatural rate.

Your painting style was inspired during a trip to Australia. Could you tell us more about that?

When I was 19, I took my third trip to Eastern Australia. My aunt and uncle live in a town called Ulladula, the sweetest place on the coast. We travelled south to Canberra, where I was inspired by all the Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Paintings. They were in galleries; on the sides of buses; in museums; and even on sidewalks. I loved the colors, patterns and textures. I learned more about the dot painting technique in books, although resources were slim in the U.S. I decided to try out the technique on some of my own art projects and loved it. Painting in dots is soothing and meditative and after 16 years, my technique is still evolving.

How did you go about designing the book? Were there specific things you wanted to achieve?

I wanted to create something unique, that children had never seen before. I wrote the text first and painted the animals second, so they were consistant with the poems. It is important to me that the children understand the issues that endangered animals face, as well as how each species is unique and has a job to do on the planet. The facts help to break down the poem for the child or reader, so it can make a real impact. I wanted to create something beautiful that people would want to take with them as they grew up.

I read that many of your poems were written on scraps of paper at a stoplight while you were taking your daughter to daycare. As a writer or illustrator with a day-job, it can sometimes be difficult to fit in your passion, and even more difficult to keep it going long enough to finish the work and see it through to publication. What kept you going? And in what ways did you make the time to finish Through Endangered Eyes?

I am a Taurus. 😉 I am stubborn, and when I get an idea in my head, I do my best to see it through. I also had a lot of people that believed I could do it, and a lot who didn’t think I could — which motivated me more. Most of all, I believed that what I was creating was important for kids to read. I want to make a difference for animals, and this was one way I thought I could help.

Creating the book was my creative escape. It was time for me. I fit writing and painting in any time and place that I can. It is so easy to for me to pay attention to the needs of others and forget myself. My book and the commitment to my publisher was the motivation I needed to complete the project.

Talking about publishers, please tell us about your journey to publication after your book was finished.

It took a LONG time to get published. I started writing the book “Through Endangered Eyes” in 2002.

I submitted to 3 publishers in 2003. With 2 illustrations and all of my text for nine species + human.

My first publisher, Stemmer House, sent me a contract in 2004. After I thought I completed the book, they asked me in 2005 to take the book from 9 species, to twenty. Many drafts later, I thought I completed the book again in 2006.

My first editor, Craig Thorn sadly passed away in 2006. 😦 I was released from my contract from Stemmer House in February 2007. After which, I submitted to 14 publishers. I lost count of rejections.

In February 2008, I got a call from Windward Publishing, and they wanted my book! I signed the contract with them that month. A new draft, with their suggested changes was sent to them in April 2008. After three more drafts, my book was completed in December of 2008 and published in January 2009.

What a rollar coaster ride, especially when I have a hard time being patient.

Wow! That must have been emotional. I understand you’re working on a second book, again about the wild kingdom. Please tell us about it.

My second book has a working title of “Through Desert Eyes.” I have chosen 21 desert species that are endangered from all over the world. I will include a couple of pages about desert ecosystems and how species are adapted to a dry environment. I want to talk to more specialists for this book and not rely as much on the internet research. I am very exciting about the paintings too. I have matured as an artist through this publishing process.

Could you tell us a bit about the types of things you’re doing to market Through Endangered Eyes?

At each reading I give away bookmarks, so if the kids are interested in the book, my Web address is on it, so their parents have a place to buy the book. For the teachers or event coordinators, I give out a notecard and a magnet with an image from the book on it. I have my blog, my Web site, business cards, a facebook page, and I always carry a box of my books in my car, ready to sell! I am building a mailing list from the checks I receive, so I can mail out postcards if I have a new painting out, or have an event coming up. I also have a large email list that I use to promote things. I send out a press release to the local papers and add to their online calendar, if I have an event coming up. For events that are unique, I will contact the local TV stations and see if I can do a morning show visit. I would love to be a part of a local NPR giveaway, during their fundraising event. So many options.

In the future, I want to add video of me reading my book, and audio of me reading the book; keep posting images from the classrooms I visit, and events I do. I want my blog and site to remain interesting so that people return for more information.

My favorite thing to do as a marketer is to do readings and visit schools. The comments and enthusiasm, makes the book all worth while!

What advice do you have for first-time writers and illustrators pursuing their dream?

1. Be patient.

2. Research. You’ll cut your rejections if you find out what the publisher wants.

3. Stay positive during editing. I have probably gone through hundreds of manuscript changes, not to mention changes to my illustrations before my final book was completed.

4. Lastly, believe in your work. If you believe what you have created is amazing, someone else will agree.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Rachel. Good luck with Through Endangered Eyes, and we look forward to seeing Through Desert Eyes on shelves soon. You can read more about Rachel on her website, RachelDillon.com, and her blog.

Write On!

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Children’s books at Borders

April 2, 2009

Here’s some nice news from the industry — mixed with some bad. Borders reported a $185 million loss for its 2008 fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31 — that’s not the good news — but the chain has plans and among them is giving more floorspace to children’s books. Now, that’s good news. Even better, is that the reason Borders is expanding its children’s book selection is that the category is performing above others. Sales have been growing. That is even better news.

 Now, I don’t know if this is related, but Borders is supporting that decision with another program: The chain will promote summer reading for kids through a book drive. Customers at Borders and Waldenbooks stores will be asked to buy books that will be donated to non-profit organizations across the nation, including Lighthouse Rescue Mission, Boys and Girls Clubs and libraries.

This program is good on a number of levels: Borders gets the revenue, most likely a little extra than customers had planned to spend, which will keep the chain in business selling our books. Kids all over the nation will get access to books they might not otherwise be able to see. And the publishing industry will get new readers, who will hopefully continue to enjoy books for the rest of their lives.

So, go to Borders, buy something for yourself and your friends and family, and while you’re there, don’t wait for them to ask if you’d like to donate a book, choose one and give it to them. If you get in there before the program has started, buy the book anyway and donate it to a local charity. You’ll be thanked in so many ways.

Write On!