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J. Aday Kennedy Writing for Crumb Crunchers
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Are you Ignorant?
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: blogging tip


The Key to Writing a Good Interview could be ignorance.

Several people have complimented my interviews of people on my blog. The key to my writing an interview people want to read comes from my ignorance on many subjects on writing for children. My ignorance is my best friend.



I write questions after I’ve found a need for an answer. First, I review author’s websites and their blogs. Do they have knowledge or experience I need? What can they teach me and my readers?


Let’s face facts. You may write well. Authors and artists may enjoy being asked questions about their books and life. Why do others want to read those interviews?

It may not be pretty, but people are motivated by self-interest. Make them laugh or cry and they might stay and read. Will that make them come back again and again?


Self interest. Isn’t that why you read a blog? Your self interest could be fueled by a number of things. It could be as simple as the desire to laugh, cry or be inspired. I read blogs for information. The need to know is what drives my self interest.


I satisfy my need to know by asking questions of people that know the answers to the how, what and why of writing for kids.


I signed my first book contract in September. My need to know centers around selling books. One of the ways to sell books, is to make presentations to children at schools.


In the month of November, I am learning about school visits. My questions come from my ignorance and need to know. Instead of worrying about what you don’t know, use it to your advantage.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 10:32 PM CST
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Jessica Anderson School Visits Interview
Topic: school visit





·  Reading level: Ages 9-12

·  Paperback: 192 pages

·  Publisher: Milkweed Editions (August 25, 2005)

·  Language: English

·  ISBN-10: 1571316590

·  ISBN-13: 978-1571316592


Winner of the Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature, this is the tale
of a girl's struggles with school and changing friendships, as well as her
heartfelt emotions that arise from helping her mother make tough
decisions after her father is diagnosed with Alzheimer's.


Jessica Anderson School Visit Interview

J. Aday: How do you design your presentations?
I'm a former elementary school teacher, so I draw on my teaching background as I design presentations.  I keep the grade level of the students in mind, as well as their experiences and interests.  I also talk to the teacher(s) or librarian to customize the presentation to make my visit as meaningful as possible. 

J. Aday: Describe your best school visit experience. Why was it your
My best experience showed me just how empowering school visits can be.  I'd spent the day with 8th grade students at a school that is known to be "difficult."  Many of the kids leaned back and tightly folded their arms across their chests as I discussed the writing process.  The writing exercise went well, but I wasn't sure how deeply I was reaching my audience.  When I checked my email that evening, I was astounded by the positive emails/MySpace messages I'd received from several of those 8th graders.  One girl said she felt inspired to write for the first time in her life. 

J. Aday: How do you utilize your book Trudy in your early childhood
When I do a workshop on getting ideas with young students, I talk about how they can use their memories as story starters.  As an example, I share how my family memories influenced TRUDY.

J. Aday: What age range do you conduct school visits for and how do
your presentations differ?
I primarily conduct school visits for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students though I have visited and enjoy other grade levels.  My presentations differ according to age level, content, and the desires of that particular school I'm visiting. 

J. Aday: What constitutes a successful visit?  What steps should
authors take to succeed?
  A successful visit gets students passionate about reading and writing.  To do this, authors need to be passionate themselves and also prepared.  If you're just getting started, spend some time volunteering with children and rehearsing your presentations.  Find out as much about the school visit as you can before the visit actually happens.  Plan your talk: what does the school expect?  What do you expect?  What equipment will you need?  What is your schedule like?  How many children will be present and what are their ages?  Will you be signing books, and if so, how will the book sales be handled (by you, the school, or an independent bookseller)?  There are some great resources on school visits available: blogs similar to this great one, message boards like Verla Kay's, and classes like Anastasia

J. Aday: Do you have giveaways for children at your presentations? Give
some examples.
  I usually like to bring postcards or bookmarks--these are especially handy since kids usually beg for an autograph.  I will also donate a book to the school library. 

J. Aday: Can you share some tips on soliciting school visits?
  A website is one of the best ways to solicit school visits. Postcards and fliers with information about your book(s) and school visits can also generate interest.  Conferences are a great way to connect with teachers and/or librarians (like the ones sponsored by TLA or SCBWI). 

J. Aday: Are there any other pointers you can share?
  Expect the unexpected.  Create a Plan B in case AV equipment isn't working, a student asks you to marry them during your Q + A session (yes, this happened to me), or there is a fire drill.  Have a positive attitude fun!


Top of Form

Bottom of Form


Posted by j.adaykennedy at 7:12 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 18 November 2008 7:15 PM CST
Friday, 14 November 2008
Shirley Smith Duke School Visit Interview
Topic: school visit
  Shirley Smith Duke





Shirley Smith Duke is the author of No Bows!, a picture book, and eight other privately commissioned novels for children. She’s written teacher guides for Peachtree Publishers and for Latingirl magazine. She taught science, reading, and ESL in public schools for twenty-five years at the elementary and secondary levels. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s degree in education from Austin College . Shirley also presents school programs for students about writing and reading. She’s spoken at schools, state reading conferences, book festivals, community groups, and universities. A Dallas native, she is a member of SCBWI and lives in the Dallas area.

: Shirley Smith Duke
Website Address:

J. Aday: When I visited your website, I noticed in your listing of Upcoming Events, that you conduct many library visits. How did you get started and secure a regular schedule of appearances at libraries in your area?
I began by sending a review copy of No Bows! to the Dallas Public Library Main Branch. I grew up in Dallas and the downtown library was a special place to me. My mother was a Dallas ISD librarian and has taken classes with Siddie Joe Johnson. So naturally that’s one place I wanted my book to go. I looked for places that might get my book noticed. I did every free event at the library, and they got to know me, knew what my presentations were like, and kept inviting me back. The Dallas library began participating in Born to Read, funded by a grant, and I was invited to do several presentations. I volunteered to fill in any last minute cancellations, and I kept getting called. There is no way of knowing how regular the visits will be; it’s a matter of getting yourself out there and being available with a good presentation.

 I also contacted the offices of the Texas library regions and got on their presenters’ lists. I went to several of those workshops and handed out flyers, and eventually some of the libraries asked me to visit. I also have a friend that keeps telling people about my book!

J. Aday: How do you design your presentations?
At first, I thought I’d have no problem dreaming up a presentation. I’d taught school twenty-five years. But when the reality of actually putting a presentation on paper hit me, I reached for a resource—my friend, Anastasia Suen . Her online course, “School Visits”, gave me the security and structure to plan a precise program and helped me learn about how to get the word out to the schools. An added bonus was that it triggered more program ideas and I wrote three others, too. It’s very much like planning a lesson as a teacher. Look at what you want them to learn, tell them,  have them participate, and review what you’ve learned.

 As opportunities came along and I looked for places I might be able to make a presentation, I expanded on what I knew and began talking to teacher groups. I offered something they could use and didn’t just talk about my book—it’s so short it’s hard to do!—and I drew upon my experience in science and ESL to give them something I hoped they might use

J. Aday: Describe an interesting/humorous reaction from the audience to a presentation, experienced during a school visit?
The first time I spoke to very young children, I opened the book to the title page. The illustration is a little girl in polka-dotted underwear and she is running. The kids all laughed. That took me by surprise completely. Now I have them practice laughing before hand. I ask them to follow my hands as I lift them up, like a conductor before a symphony orchestra, and we all laugh together. Then my hands come down and cut off the sound. They seem to like it.  Sometimes they still laugh at the underwear picture and sometimes the practice laugh takes care of it, but now they are in on the joke.

 I went to the Plano Books and Barks festival one year. My book competed with DOGS! I only sold one book, but I did get some great pictures with really cute dogs.

J. Aday: How do you utilize your book No Bows in your early childhood presentation?
: Before reading the book, I pass out laminated bows with Velcro attached to the back and ask them to place their bow under their choice on a flannel board. The talented author/illustrator Janee Trasler designed the bows for me in exchange for an apple pie. They look a bit like bowties. I hold up a pair of the items from the story and ask the children which one they prefer. I usually begin with bunny and bear. Then I ask them to vote on their favorite by placing their bow under their choice. Their movement keeps them interested and they cheer on their choice as each child takes a turn voting. At the end, we’ve made a pictograph. We figure out the winner, and then I read the book to see which one the little girl chose. I’ve found this helps get them interested in the book.

J. Aday: What are the challenges you face with the children when you conduct an early childhood presentation on No Bows?
: The worst problem is excitement over getting to vote. I have to remind them to keep hands in the air so fingers aren’t crushed and to line up if there is a crowd, because they get excited about rushing to the flannel board to place their vote on it. The preschool crowd is a tough sell, but they seem to love the book. Now I’m careful to explain the process carefully and maintain order in a fun-filled way. I’ve had the most fun doing this particular program.

J. Aday: What is your uppermost goal for a presentation? How do you attempt to achieve it?
My purpose it to teach something about books, writing, and reading when I make a visit. I can talk about how the book came into being, but as a long time teacher, it is important to make a connection to them. I like to show them something they didn’t know. It becomes more meaningful to the kids that way.

J. Aday: Do you have giveaways for children at your presentations? Give some examples.
: I started off giving away bookmarks with my signature, so everybody could have my autograph. I put this page on my website later on, so the librarians can get the copy and I don’t have to cut and carry huge amounts of paper. My presentation “pets” are mine, but I let the children play with them until the program begins. It helps keep them interested. I also have the colored bows on my site, so librarians can copy those and use them. I have two coloring pages of bows, too.

J. Aday: Can you share some tips on soliciting school visits?
: At first, I did quite a bit of postcard mailing. However, attending book festivals and face to face contact has generated many more visits than mailings for me. I went to every event I could—for free most of the time—and eventually got noticed. I also reminded Peachtree, my publisher, that I’d love to do events, and they had me sign at TLA and got me a spot at the Texas Book Festival. I’ll never forget that event. I signed next to Barry Lyga and John Green, and then visited at the cocktail party with Brian Lies and Laura Seeger. I couldn’t believe it! But at every event, I talked to the librarians and handed out my flyer with my program information. I do think being a former teacher has been an advantage. Patience is helpful. Some of the library visits I’ve done recently had the seeds sown two years ago.

J. Aday: What are the most important elements to pulling off a successful visit?
: Planning is most important, but you must have something of interest for the audience. You have to give them something they don’t know or don’t completely understand. You need to make them see your book in a way they haven’t seen it before. You must keep their attention and make it fun, somehow. You know when you’re losing the kids. Adults are harder, because their faces stay the same. Kids let you know when their attention is wandering.

J. Aday: Are there any other pointers you can share?
You have to be willing to appear, often for free, especially at first. I offered to go to schools two or three times in order to try out my programs. I learned what worked and didn’t work. I went to every book festival in the area and handed out flyers. You have to get over your fears and worry at embarrassing yourself and be willing to promote. It’s easy to feel shameless, but promoting a good book in rewarding. I kept after my publisher to let me appear at events. Apply to present at large conferences. You should take courses, network, and maintain a website. It costs a bit at first, but the promotion is what gets you paying appearances. Royalties are nice, but that’s not a great deal of money. Presentations and school visits allow you to keep writing!


Posted by j.adaykennedy at 5:31 PM CST
Updated: Friday, 14 November 2008 7:26 PM CST
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Chicken Soup For the Soul Essay Writing Pointers
Topic: writing tip

I've decided to try my hat at more writing credits from Chicken Soup for the Soul. They sent me an invitation and notified me the site has some new upcoming book titles. In the past year, four essays written by me were published in their anthologies.










Here are the not so secret secrets to my success.

      I read 13 Chicken Soup books from the library.

      I took a free class at

      I took note of every possible future title with a topic I could write to.    

       I wrote let it sit, edited and tightened my prose.

        Prior to every writing session I read the guidelines at  

      I wrote on any topic I thought seemed "Chicken Soup like".

      I tried to write a story that incited laughter, tears or a strong emotion.

The site says you can submit stories under no specific book title. I submitted several. None I submitted under no specific title was ever chosen for consideration.

In my experience, they notify you in approximately 1.5 months after the deadline if your manuscript is being considered. If it's not considered, they will not contact you. At that point, you wait until they notify you your piece has passed another round in their slection process. Another nail biting few weeks and if they don't have to cut any stories, because of space issues you're piece has made it. 

They used to pay $200 a story. It doesn't state on the website the amount paid.

So prepare to tickle your readers funny bone, make them cry and/or pull their heart strings.


Posted by j.adaykennedy at 3:32 PM CST
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Pt II Lila Guzman's School Visits & Writing Credits
Mood:  not sure
Topic: school visit



J. Aday: Describe what a successful school visit would be?

Lila:  For me, a successful school visit entertains the students and holds their attention while teaching them.  It shows them how a book becomes a book, from original concept to finished product.


J. Aday: How do you promote your school visits?

Lila:  Part of my website is devoted to author visits.  Sometimes a librarian emails me and asks if I’m available.  Sometimes I call librarians and arrange author visits.

Before a new book comes out, I prepare postcards with the book cover on one side and information about school visits on the other side.


J. Aday: When you design a school visit how do you design your activities to make sure they will each fit the grade level? Do you research the goals of each grade, rely on the teacher’s desires, a combination or other? Explain.

Lila:  From raising three children, I have a basic understanding of the curriculum for each grade level.  Still, I ask librarians and teachers to tell me if they would like special areas highlighted during an author visit.

Teachers in the 4th and 5th grades often want me to emphasize how many times I edit each book and how my editor edits the book.

Middle school teachers often want me to talk about the historical aspects of my books because children begin to get a strong dose of the American Revolution in the 5th and 8th grades.

I often visit a school’s website before a visit to see if students have done something special or unique that will help me with the author visit.  (Example:  Going on a field trip to a battlefield.)


J. Aday: What have you prepared as handouts, giveaways and/or programs for your school visits?

Lila:  Most children want my autograph, so I prepare post cards that I can sign or I give away pens with promotional information.

I don’t give out handouts because I can never be sure how many children will show up.  Librarians can give me a ball park figure, but I’d rather not run out.

I do a mock inoculation for small pox, but that requires no extra equipment or preparation.

At the end of the presentation, I leave a signed book that I have personalized for the school.  I usually ask the audience to select the book.   (Sometimes the librarian tells me ahead of time which book to leave.)


J. Aday: How do you engage the students during a school visit?

Lila:  That depends on the age group and what the librarian wants.

For elementary students (3rd through 5th), I ask the students to bring three writing-related questions on file cards.  Then, during a question-and-answer session, I select children to ask questions.  I show students how a book becomes a book, from original concept to final product.  I show manuscript pages that my editor has marked up.  We talk about cover art and drawings inside the book.  They see galleys and compare them to the published book.

I like to ask them questions, instead of lecturing to them.  For example:  “What do you need to be a writer?”  (Answers can vary from “a pencil and a piece of paper” to “a good imagination.”)

If the librarian wants a writing exercise, I bring large file cards and ask the teachers to supply crayons and pencils.  We do an “art inspires writing” exercise.  Each student draws something on the back of a card.  Then we exchange cards and each student writes a story based on the drawing.  At the end of the exercise, we read the cards aloud and compare the story to what the artist was thinking about when drawing the picture.

For middle school students, I emphasize history, especially the American Revolution.  About halfway through the presentation, we talk about bioterrorism in the Revolutionary War.  I do a mock inoculation where I play the doctor and two students are the patients.

Sometimes the school buys a classroom set and the children read the book ahead of time.  They base their questions on it.


J. Aday: What’s the most difficult age group to capture their attention? In what way?

Lila:  Kindergarten through second graders are the most difficult for me.  I don’t write for that age group, but once in a while I am asked to include them in an author visit.  Because of the “wiggle factor,” I ask the librarians or the teachers for 25 minutes instead of the usual 45.  For the younger group, I change the way I present the material and usually don’t do a question-and-answer session because this age group is without guile and will reveal embarrassing personal information.  I usually have 3 different activities to keep their attention.  One of those usually involves drawing or coloring to enhance a writing activity.



“I Killed Santa’s Reindeer,” San Diego Writers Monthly.

“Star Apples,” Arizona Literary Magazine.

“She’s Got Spurs and She Ain’t Afraid to Use Them,” Millennium Science Fiction and Fantasy.

“In Perpetuity,” PIF Magazine.

“Maneuvering Board,” Lines in the Sand Magazine

“Johnny Reb's Drum,” Sallivan Publications

“The Chocolate Bar,” Roswell Literary Review

“Lost Cause,” NETWO Newsletter

And others.



LILA GUZMAN'S Books Published

Title:  George Lopez:  Latino King of Comedy

ISBN-10: 0766029689

ISBN-13: 978-0766029682

Price: $31.93

Format: Hardback (library edition)

Locations to purchase:, Enslow Publishers (1-800-398-2504)

Genre/age group/type of publication:  Biography/Young Adult

Brief synopsis: Growing up in East Los Angeles with his grandparents, George Lopez had a difficult childhood.  He overcame hardship to become one of America's most popular comedians.  Lopez has had a blossoming career in television (The George Lopez Show), movies, and stand-up comedy.  George Lopez: Latino King of Comedy looks at the life of this charitable comedian.


George Lopez:  Latino King of Comedy.  (2008, Enslow), Biography

Ultimate Dog Lover (2008, HCI), Short Story Anthology

Lorenzo and the Pirate.  (2009, Blooming Tree Press).  Young Adult Novel

Lorenzo’s Secret Mission.  (2001, Arte Público Press).  Young Adult Novel

Lorenzo’s Revolutionary Quest.  (2003, Arte Público Press).  Young Adult Novel

Lorenzo and the Turncoat.  (2006, Arte Público Press).  Young Adult Novel

Kichi in Jungle Jeopardy.  (2006, Blooming Tree Press).  Middle Grade Novel

Green Slime and Jam.  (2001, Eakin Press).  Middle Grade Novel.

Famous Latinos:  (2006, Enslow).

Cesar Chavez:  Fighting for Fairness

Frida Kahlo:  Painting Her Life

Diego Rivera:  Artist of Mexico

Ellen Ochoa:  First Latina Astronaut

Roberto Clemente:  Baseball Hero

    George Lopez:  Comedian and TV Star


Thank you for your time and the thought you’ve given to answer my questions. I hope that you have much success.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 8:06 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 November 2008 8:55 PM CDT
Pt I Lila Guzman "Lorenzo and the Pirate" & her Publication Experience
Topic: YA author interview

Lila Guzman, PhD

Lorenzo and the Pirate


TITLE: Lorenzo and the Pirate

AUTHOR: Lila Guzman and Rich Guzman

ISBN-10: 1933831154

ISBN-13: 978-1933831152

PRICE: $13.95






Lorenzo and the Pirate grows in intensity as you turn the pages and read. I’m a historian (a.k.a. a sucker for a good historical novel). I’m pretty critical of this genre. The author’s rich descriptions interlaced with action engulfs the reader’s senses and imagination. The historical factoids flow into the plot (it seems) effortlessly.

All in all an enjoyable read. I can’t wait to read the sequel.



Website Address:




Lila Guzman was born in Kentucky longer ago than she cares to admit.  She went to Western Kentucky University and majored in Spanish and French.  For three years, she taught foreign language exploratories in the 7th-8th grade and then decided to work on a Ph.D.  That took her back to Lexington (where she was born) and the University of Kentucky.  She finished a Ph.D. in Spanish in 1980 and joined the Navy.  After Officer Candidate School, the Navy sent her to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.  There, she taught native-language instructors how to teach their own language.

At D.L.I., she met an army lieutenant named Rick Guzman who was studying French.  As it turned out, he became her husband, co-author, and the person she blames for getting her into the writing business.  He found the subject for Lorenzo’s Secret Mission.

Rick is now an attorney in private practice.  They have been married for twenty-seven years and have three grown children.

Lila writes children’s fiction and non-fiction in addition to young adult novels.  From time to time, she publishes an adult-level short story, but her first love is writing for children.

First chapters from selected works are at:  Her email address is

 She often gives workshops on various aspects of writing, including the Hero’s Journey.  In addition, she frequently makes author visits.




J. Aday: Many of your books are nonfiction, how did you establish your qualifications to be considered an authority on these subjects.

Lila:  I hold a Ph.D. in Spanish.  My co-author is a native Spanish speaker.  The publisher was looking for someone who could write the books in English and translate them into Spanish after the editor had been through the English version.

Previous publishing credentials (including historical novels) showed editors that we knew how to do research and how to present it on a level that children and young adults appreciate and understand.

Enslow was looking for biographies that told a story, not a dry recitation of events in a person’s life.

Enslow wanted three things before issuing a contract:  The first chapter of a five-chapter book, a bibliography including adult sources only, and a timeline.


J. Aday: How did you decide the subject matter for your educational books?

Lila:  Enslow assigned the six-book series, Famous Latinos, and had already selected the subjects.  When Person #6 bailed, Enslow asked us for replacement suggestions.  We came up with George Lopez and Enslow liked the idea.

I am currently working on a biography of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, a subject suggested by a friend.  Dr. Garcia was a civil rights leader who met six U.S. Presidents.

I also have permission from Governor Bill Richardson to write his biography for children.  All I did was write a letter giving my credentials and asking his permission.  (This was before the Enslow deal came through.)



J. Aday: Have you had your short stories published in magazines? If so, where?

Lila:  My adult-level shorts stories have appeared in a number of places.  Most recently, “Taking a Chance on Chance” appeared in an anthology called The Ultimate Dog Lover (HCI, 2008). 


My short stories have been published in:  PIF Magazine, Millennium Science Fiction and Fantasy, San Diego Writers Monthly, Xoddity, Austin Writer, Roswell Literary Magazine, Canadian Writers Journal, Touched by Adoption (adoption anthology), the Round Rock Leader, a speed reading course, and other venues.


J. Aday: Describe the publication process from acceptance to publication.

Lila:  Each acceptance comes with a different set of circumstances, but the general pattern is:

1.        acceptance (notification by email, snail mail, telephone, or in person.)

2.        waiting for the contract to arrive (usually snail mail).  This is often the hardest part of the process because seeing is believing.

3.        reviewing the contract.  Mark questionable or unclear items.  Ask an attorney or reputable sources about confusing parts of the contract.  (One publisher of non-fiction had a clause that stated they would have first right of refusal on our next book.  Our next book was part of a series already with another publisher, so we asked that they delete that part of the contract.  It was.)

4.        signing the contract and returning it

5.        waiting for the contract to return with signatures of publishing company officers

6.        receiving the manuscript with edits.  The editor will probably want changes to your manuscript.  Usually, it takes a week to make them all.  (This depends on the manuscript.  My fiction manuscripts are usually cleaner than the non-fiction.)

7.        making a hard copy of the corrected manuscript.  If the editor calls with a question, a print out will be easier to access.

8.        mailing the manuscript back and waiting for a confirmation that it arrived.  This will usually come as an email from the editor.  I use “delivery confirmation” from the United States Post Office so I can track its progress on the Internet.

9.        receiving the galley/page proofs.  The editor usually asks that these be read, corrected and returned within the week.  At this point, I drop everything and work on getting this back to the editor.

10.    mailing the galley/page proofs back.  Here, I repeat the steps of the earlier mailing.

11.    receiving cover art by email and approving it.  The author does not always have final approval on the cover.  The title often changes without the author’s knowledge or approval as well.

12.    waiting to receive author copies.  This is often the hardest part.  It may take up to three years from the signing of the contract to release.


Please note:  Many editors are now accepting revised manuscripts and proofs by email, so going to the post office is often an unnecessary step.


J. Aday: What’s your favorite genre to write for? Why?

Lila:  Historicals.  Non-fiction has its charms because I learn as I write, but historical novels challenge my creativity and give me more freedom to write.  I can pursue any number of plotlines and can do all sorts of horrible things to the characters.  With non-fiction, I have to stick to the facts.

Kichi in Jungle Jeopardy is told from a chihuahua’s point of view.  The publisher bills it a “historical fantasy.”  It is set among the Mayans, but sticks to the facts (except for the talking dog part).

Lorenzo and the Turncoat tells the story of the 1779 New Orleans hurricane and the Battle of Baton Rouge.  Lorenzo, however, never existed.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 7:47 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 November 2008 8:04 PM CDT
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Cynthia Reeg
Mood:  not sure
Topic: school visit


Verb and Adverb Adventures

AUTHOR: Cynthia Reeg


ISBN-10: 1935137220

ISBN-13: 978-1935137221


PRICE: paperback $10.95, ebook ($5.00), CD ($5.95)


COPYRIGHT: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc (June 25, 2008)

LOCATIONS TO PURCHASE: online at; Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Fictionwise

When timid Bubba, joins in the adventures at doggie day camp, he soon discovers new friends, new talents, and verb and adverb fun as well. Activities and study guide included. (The Pet Grammar Parade series)

Name: Cynthia Reeg

Blog Address:

Website Address:

Contact:. People can reach her through the CONTACT at her website:

Cynthia Reeg pursued her love of reading and writing with an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Northwestern Oklahoma University followed by a Masters of Library Science from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in school and public libraries in various Midwest locales. Currently she is a volunteer OASIS reading tutor for elementary students at Wild Horse Elementary School in Chesterfield, Missouri.

Her website blog, “What’s New,” has been cited by two of the top children’s authors’ online magazines, ICL’s Children’s Writers’ Enews and Children’s Writing Update from CBI, as “an excellent example of an author’s blog.”

Her educational children's picture book, KITTY KERPLUNKING, was published in 2006 by Guardian Angel Publishing. ( It is now used by the OASIS reading program in the St. Louis area. Her second picture book with Guardian Angel Publishing, GIFTS FROM GOD—celebrating children and nature as signs of God’s love—was published in the summer of 2007 and has earned glowing reviews. DOGGIE DAY CAMP, the second book in The Pet Grammar Parade series, was published in June 2008. Her short story, “The Emily Explosion,” in the Blooming Tree Press anthology, THE GIRLS, was released in mid-August, 2008. She is also working on two middle grade novels, Monster Misfits and Promises Kept.


Jessica: What was the first book accepted for publication? How many markets did you submit to and what did you include in your submission package?

Cynthia: The first book I had accepted was KITTY KERPLUNKING: PREPOSITION FUN. I submitted it to Guardian Angel Publishing with a cover letter, the manuscript, and a study guide. I submitted it to four other publishers before GAP.

Jessica: How long does it take on average from writing your first draft to final manuscript ready for submission? Describe the process.

Cynthia: For writing a picture book, I generally come up with a basic idea and write the first draft. Then I spend time polishing it, sending it out for critique, reworking it again. All of that usually takes about a year or so.

Jessica: Does the publisher request you make changes? Have you ever submitted a book and had it published without any changes by you or the editor/publisher

Cynthia: I’ve never submitted a book or a story to a magazine that was published as is. Different publishers handle things differently, but generally a publisher will send a marked copy of the story back—indicating deletions or areas to revise or where additional material is needed.

Jessica: How long between acceptance and publication have your picture books taken to be released?

Cynthia: The picture books have taken a year or less with Guardian Angel Publishing. And it was about a year for my story in Blooming Tree Press’ anthology to be published as well. But I’m still waiting on a story to be published in LADYBUG magazine. It’s been over 4 years.

Jessica: What was your highest selling book? What did you do to market it?

Cynthia: At this point, both of my first two picture books from Guardian Angel Publishing have sold equally well. I market them through book signings, my website, press releases, and school visits.

Jessica: Your website has a wealth of information on conducting school visits. I learned a lot and will be back often. In what stage of your writing career did you begin conducting school visits?

Cynthia: I am a school librarian by trade, so in a way I’ve been doing school visits for years now—only “selling” other authors’ books. Now I get to share my books with the students, as well as writing tips for them. I officially started doing author visits at schools with my books about a year and a half ago. Two 6th grade girls found my website and asked their teacher to invite me to their class. Another 6th grade reading class joined in with them for my visit in which I shared insights into being a writer and secrets for the students could use for achieving writing success.

Jessica: Do you design your school visits based on each grade level and subject? How do you target the content to the different curriculum of each grade?

Cynthia: Yes, I always tailor the presentations to the age level or the interests of the students. Again, this is something I did on a regular basis as a K-8 school librarian. But for authors who don’t have this experience to draw from, I’d suggest visiting a school. Ask to observe classes or even be a volunteer. Attend some story times at your local library. Learn how to interact with students at the various age groups; learn what interests them; learn how to motivate them. But most important, show them how excited you are about words, stories, books, reading and writing. They’ll become excited too.

Jessica: What’s a successful school visit to you?

Cynthia: Every school visit is a successful one if I’ve given all I can of myself and my knowledge to the students. Any time I’ve been able to connect with even one student—to help excite him about reading and writing—then I’ve had a successful school visit.

Jessica: Have you conducted library visits, too? If yes, how does you presentation change? What differences should an author take into account?

Cynthia: I’ve conducted school visits to multiple classes (same grade) in a single classroom, and I’ve had school visits with multiple classes (same grade) in the school library. I’ve not gone to a public library and done a presentation yet as an author or to an entire school assembly.

But I have had a story time at a Barnes & Noble bookstore with the audience ages ranged from18-month-old toddlers to adult parents. That’s the toughest crowd to do a presentation for. Target a middle level for this type of assorted crowd. Add in some activities to keep the younger ones tuned in. Break up the session into smaller segments—for example: read, activity, read, activity, discussion. Then at the end while the kids are coloring the handouts you’ve provided, you can address the adults with extra information or allow time for them to ask questions.

Jessica: What advice can you give an author about an author visit?

Cynthia: Discuss well ahead of time with the teacher or librarian sponsoring your visit what they are expecting from your visit.

i‚? Do they want a quick lesson on story elements for older students to help motivate them? Or do they want a fun story time for younger students?

i‚? Find out specifically which grades/classes you will be with. How large are the groups?

i‚? Will there be the necessary equipment you need for your presentation (perhaps a screen, a white board, computer, microphone, overhead projector, etc.)

i‚? Directions to the school, your contact person at the school, the room you’ll be conducting the presentation in

i‚? The time schedule for your day (if you are doing more than one presentation.) Make sure you get some free time for bathroom breaks and lunch.

i‚? If possible, send home book order forms prior to your visit. Then you can collect (or have the orders mailed to you) ahead of time and sign the books and bring them with you. (if you are selling your books directly)

i‚? Provide coloring sheets or bookmarks to leave with all the students, so everyone will have a memento from your visit.

Thanks for your advice on school visits and information about your road to publication. I’m looking forward to reading your answers.

Magazine Publications

FACES, My Friend, Clubhouse, Dragonfly Spirit, Stories for Children and My Light magazines

Magazines Pending Publications

Highlights (Nov. 2008—poem “Reaching for the Stars”); Ladybug (no date yet—story “Picnic Guests”)

Book Publications


COPYRIGHT: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc (June 1, 2007)

ISBN-13: 978-1933090337

Gifts from God celebrates God’s loving gifts to each child. Glorious color photographs highlighting children and nature accompany each gift. Each double-page spread has an easy reader sentence on the right and a scripture quotation on the left, making this an enjoyable and uplifting book for both children and adults.

TITLE: THE GIRLS (a middle grade anthology)

by Sundee T. Frazier, Natalie Rompella, Caroline Downs, Cynthia Reeg, Tracy Holczer

COPYRIGHT: Blooming Tree Press (August 12, 2008)

ISBN-10: 1933831162

ISBN-13: 978-1933831169

A collection of five short stories highlighting the unique lives of some special girls and one lucky boy.


COPYRIGHT: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. (March 30, 2007)

ISBN-10: 1933090294

ISBN-13: 978-1933090290

Prepositions kerplunk all around Preppy the kitty in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Preppy's amusing antics provide young readers a fun introduction to everyday prepositions. Activities and study guide included. (The Pet Grammar Parade series)

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 9:38 PM CDT
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Margo Dill Writer for Children's Magazine
Topic: Magazine Author

Margo L. Dill

Children's Book & Magazine Author

Blog & Website
Contact Inform:ation:

Margo Dill is a multi-published author of articles and books for children. Some of her most recent
achievements slotted for publication is a middle grade novel, Finding My Place and sold a party plan, titled "Fall Festival," to Highlights for Children and a science article to Fun for Kidz.
She also enjoys writing for adults. Recently she has been flexing her adult article writing muscles.

JESSICA: What critique groups, organizations, or affiliations have you joined to further your career? Which do you think have benefited you and how?

MARGO: When I first started writing, I joined a weekly critique group that met in an arts center in O’Fallon, Missouri. Joining a critique group was the best thing for my writing. I learned from people who had more writing experience than me. They taught me to be a writer and an editor. After that, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which I highly recommend for any children’s writer. You are instantly connected to other children’s writers across the country, and they supply you with the names of editors, their wish lists, and publishing houses. I also am a member of the Missouri Writers’ Guild and Saturday Writers (a chapter of the Missouri Writers’ Guild.)

JESSICA: Did you take classes, read books or use other tools to learn how to write for children’s magazines?

MARGO: I took a correspondence course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I found out about them through an ad in a Family Circle magazine that said, “You can write for children.” The great thing about this correspondence program is you work one-on-one with a published children’s writer, who has already gone through all the experiences you are as a beginning writer.

JESSICA: How long had you written before you succeeded in publishing a children’s article/story?

MARGO: I actually entered a short story contest for Calliope: A Writers’ Workshop magazine. I won honorable mention in the contest, and one of the prizes was getting my story published in their magazine. This was in 2001. I started the correspondence course in 1999 and finished in 2000, so it took me about a year to get my first children’s story published.

JESSICA: What did you write for Highlights? How did you target the magazine?

MARGO: For Highlights, I wrote a party plan, which they are not publishing much of any more. I read that they accepted party plans in their guidelines, and I was a teacher and had a Fall Festival in my classroom one year. I decided to write down different activities, games, and crafts we did at the Fall Festival for Highlights, and they accepted it. They still haven’t published it, but I am hopeful. They pay on acceptance, so that part is good at least.

JESSICA: What did you write for Characters? How did you target the magazine?

MARGO: I wrote a short story about a boy, who was saving money for a new dog. Characters was a new magazine that I read about on-line. I read their guidelines, and I knew they accepted realistic, contemporary short stories. So, I sent mine in, and they accepted it.

JESSICA: What did you write for Fun for Kidz? How did you target the magazine?

MARGO: Fun for Kidz is a magazine that has a theme list posted on their website. I had an idea to write a short science article for young children, and it was about materials expanding and contracting when the temperature becomes hotter or colder. I saw that one of their themes fit my science article, and I sent it to them with a cover letter stating which theme I thought my article fit.

JESSICA: What did you write for Pockets? How did you target the magazine?

MARGO: Pockets also has a theme list on their website. I know they accepted games, puzzles, and recipes, and they were often in need of these items. I had read about Pockets in a children’s newsletter, and I was familiar with the magazine through church. I looked at their theme list, and I wrote a recipe to fit one of the themes. Then I wrote a puzzle to fit another theme.

JESSICA: What did you write for On the Line? How did you target the magazine?

MARGO: On the Line is a Christian children’s magazine. I wrote a poem after 9-11 called, “Start Small.” It was about how children wondered what they could do to help in a world where things seemed to be going crazy. The message of the poem was for children to start small by starting with themselves—being nice to their friends and saying they are sorry when they make a mistake.

JESSICA: Have you written for publications that offered no payment?

MARGO: Yes, when I first started writing, I wrote for magazines that paid in copies a couple times. I was just thrilled to get my articles or short stories published; and I needed the clips, so I could get paying jobs. I usually tried higher paying markets first; and then if I was rejected, I tried markets that paid in copies.

JESSICA: What is the most money youE?ve receive for work?

MARGO: The most money I have received has been for writing educational testing items, such as nonfiction pieces or short stories for standardized tests. Children’s magazines do not pay that well, but magazines such as Highlights and Cricket pay the best.

JESSICA: Do you have an agent? If yes, at what point did you begin seeking one? If no, have you begun to search for one?

MARGO: No, I do not have an agent. I am going to have a middle-grade, historical fiction novel (set in the U.S. Civil War) published next year by a small publisher, White Mane Kids. I tried an agent when I was first sending this book out, but then I found White Mane Kids without an agent. However, I am writing a young adult novel right now; and when I finish it, I plan to send it to agents first. I have met some agents at writing conferences, and I will send it to them first, following their guidelines, of course.

JESSICA: What pointers can you give a children’s writer seeking publication in magazines?

MARGO: Read the magazines and the guidelines carefully. One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is sending submissions to a magazine without ever reading the magazine first. The second biggest mistake is that some writers don’t read the guidelines carefully. I usually read the guidelines in the Children’s Writers’ Market first and then also on the magazine’s website. Guidelines are often updated on the website, along with tips from the editors, theme lists, or special requests.

JESSICA: To what do you attribute your success?

MARGO: Luck. No, just kidding. I guess it would be persistence and practice. When I get rejected, I try not to let it bother me. I send it away again to a different magazine. I also have learned a lot from going to writing conferences and belonging to a critique group.

JESSICA: Is there a magazine you aspire to write for?

MARGO: I would love to be published in one of the bug magazines—Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, or Babybug. I’ve sent them stories and articles before, but they have rejected me each time. I will keep trying!

JESSICA: Do you find it easier or more difficult to write fiction or nonfiction and get it accepted?

MARGO: I think fiction is harder to write and harder to get accepted, but I still love it. The thing I like about nonfiction is you can often query an editor first and see if they would be interested in the article before you write it. With fiction, you have to write your story and hope some editor will love it as much as you do.

JESSICA: Do you write your pieces with a specific market in mind?

MARGO: Not with fiction. With fiction, I just write what inspires me at the time. With nonfiction, I usually write a query with a certain market in mind, and I target my query for that magazine.

JESSICA: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about how to write for children's magazines?

MARGO: Writing for children’s magazines is just as difficult, if not more so, than writing for adult magazines. There are fewer children’s magazines, and many of them have themes your articles have to fit in or staff writers, who write a good percentage of the material. You need reliable sources and interesting quotes for nonfiction articles. You need exciting plots and an authentic voice for fiction.

Thanks Margo for helping to give us a better picture of how to get Published in the children's market.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 9:25 PM CDT
Monday, 8 September 2008
Kevin S. Collier Artist and Author Interview
Topic: authors & illustrator
Kevin S Collier

Bio : Kevin Scott Collier is a children's book author and illustrator with 80 titles to his credit. he is also the Staff illustrator for KICK Club TV, and will be hosting his own TV show, "Drawing for Kicks," about illustration to be broadcast nationally and internationally on Christian networks in early 2009.

Jessica: What did you publish first an illustration, magazine article, short story or book?
Kevin: It was a tween chapter book, "barthpenn," about a boy who meets an angel online. It was published by Baker Trittin Press in November 2004.

: Where was your first illustration published? First written work? Kevin: My first children's illustration works were published in a book titled "Topsy Turvy Land," written by Donna Shepherd. It was published in July 2005. I've actually been writing and drawing all of my life for fun before becoming a professional.

Jessica: How does the submission process differ?
Kevin: I really work in an unconventional way. Many publishers have actually come to me, or I bypass their process just by emailing them samples of my work.

Jessica: Do you write primarily fiction or nonfiction for magazines or books?
It's all fiction, and most of it is faith-based.

Jessica: As a writer can you understand the fear a writer feels and trust they put in you to create the pictures they’ve drawn with words?
Kevin: They shouldn't fear anything. I've illustrated a ton of books, one just won First Place in the New York Book Festival. I don't want to sound arrogant here, but I have a enormous resume and more experience in the children's market than virtually all authors who contract me to illustrate their books. I know what I am doing, so they should just let the artist do his/her job, and relax.

Jessica: What steps do you take to create what the writer’s words describe?
Kevin: I read over the story, then create images of the main characters in sketch form. I pass them by the author for approval. And, if it looks like we can work well together, we do.

Jessica: Do you draw book covers?
Kevin: I have drawn over 80 covers. Sometimes I have just done cover work.

Jessica: How long does it take on average for you to illustrate a 32 page picture book?
Kevin: Total time? About 20 hours, give or take. I have completed books with 24 illustrations in 5 five evenings. I work incredibly fast, perhaps due to over 45 years of drawing.

Jessica: Do you have a favorite genre to illustrate and excel at?
Kevin: Whimsical characters. I like doing colorful art with sweet faces. I draw a lot of animals.

Jessica: Have you ever had an artistic difference of opinion with a writer? If yes, describe.
Kevin: A few times, but I don't any more, because I don't work for or with anyone who will spin me or waste my time. I certainly want to design their characters to their approval, but after that, they have to trust someone who has done this enough to create a nice piece of work. I routinely turn down nice paying jobs just because red flags go up in dealings with some writers. I recall getting mixed up with one author who had me revise a pair a tennis shoes a girl was wearing 7 times. I don't have time to entertain another's emotional issues. It basically comes down to this: if a writer wants to play artist, let them draw their own book.

Jessica: When you provide artwork for a book, does the writer have the right to promote it showcasing your art work?
Kevin: Yes, it's their book.

Jessica: If a writer disagrees with your illustrative interpretation, how would you suggest they handle it?
Kevin: We would never get that far. I wouldn't work for them. Now, if their characters have been approved, and we are zipping through the story illustrations, and something pops up that is in error, or misses an opportunity, sure, there's a revision. Basically, it has to be someone I enjoy working with, too, creatively.

Jessica: According to your website you appear to have a strong faith? In what ways has that affected your work?
Kevin: It has opened up wonderful opportunities. God has a plan for those who listen, and if you follow that path, don't let the devil distract you, you'll reach His full potential.

Jessica: Have you ever refused a job, because it went against your beliefs?
Yes, many times. There's an unknown list writers have to pass before I'll ever draw for them. Nothing objectionable in content is one. Another, being a published author myself of kids and chapter books, they have to be an adequate writer, and the story has to show potential. Of course, there is the red flags, too. If a writer really likes my work, then let me do my job. If they want to play artist, bye-bye.

Jessica: I see from your site you’re beginning a TV show called “Drawing for KICKS”. Where (cities/states) will the program be broadcast?
"Drawing for Kicks" will be broadcast on cable networks Daystar, Golden Eagle, TCT, KTV, God's Learning Channel, WTVE TV, Lamb Broadcasting, CTN48 - Knoxville, and SuperChannel. It's national, and global. It will go all over the world.

Jessica: How did the opportunity come about?
: I contacted them about illustrating a book for them about their main TV show, they liked my work so well, they hired me as their Staff Illustrator and gave me my own show.

Jessica: Do you have writers for the script and program content? Do they give you a guiding hand and how?

Kevin: We're tossing around ideas. About half the show will be me teaching kids how to draw, the other segments will be fun with my son, activities, etc. Most of it will be spontaneous and unscripted.

Jessica: Describe your son’s role in the program.
Kevin: Jarod, age 10, will be doing all sorts of fun activities outdoors and helping me in the studio, too. We're already sending video feeds in, shot here, locally at home. They gave us a high-def TV camera to work with. I have already turned in spots of Jarod skim boarding, rip sticking and such. My wife, Kristen, will also pop up on the show, reading books I have illustrated.

Thanks in advance Kevin. I’ll look forward to getting your responses. Congratulations on your success it’s well deserved. I wish you luck in your new TV show.
Kevin: Thank you. God has been very good to me and my family. He's my agent!

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 9:12 PM CDT
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Margot Finke Multi-Published Picture Book Author
Topic: writing picture books

Title: Rattlesnake Jam
Author: Margot Finke
Illustrator: Kevin Scott Collier
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc (May 15, 2008)
PRINT ISBN: 13: 978-1-935137-00-9e $10.95
E BOOK ISBN: 13: 978-1-935137-24-5 $5.00
DVD ISBN: 13: 978-1-935137-27-6 $9.95
Sold at Target, Amazon, Fictionwise and Barnes & Noble
On Margot's Website only - Autographed copies + coloring sheet and book mark
Websites & Blog
"Margot Finke's World of BOOKS for Children"
"Margot Finke's BOOKS for KIDS- Writing Help + Rants du Juor"
"The Purple Crayon"
-SYNOPSIS: Rhyming fun with Gran and Pa, as he hunts rattlesnakes, and Gran cooks them up into her infamous rattlesnake jam. Pa longs for just one meal of rattler on rice, or even rattlesnake pie. Will Gran make him pie - or not?
Jessica: In the future, I’d like to interview you again and discuss your website The Purple Crayon and your critique and editing services. Can you describe both briefly?
Margot: My website started out as three simple pages - mostly designed around " Kangaroo Clues," my first book, and my fledgling Manuscript Critique Service. In quick succession, other books in my rhyming series were published, and my Critique Service developed, morphing into a service that actually paid me to do something I loved. Pages sprouted on my website in quick succession. At this point, I have lost count! All my WebPages are geared toward two things. Helping newcomers get a better understanding of what it takes to HOOK a child with cool plots, believable characters, and tight, terrific writing, plus the promotion of my own books.
My Website is titled "Margot Finke's World of Writing for Children." The Purple Crayon is Harold Underdown's wonderful website. He hosts my series of "Musings" columns. He is a wonderful mentor, and an experienced and insightful editor.

Jessica: How did you hone your writing skills? Did you attend writing classes, read books, find a mentor, use a critique group, etc...?
Margot: I have always written, scribbled, whatever you like to call it. For me, there is solace in writing down what the world throws at me - and when I was younger, I got dinged a LOT! I am proud to say that I always received top marks in school for my essays. In my late teens I joined a theatre group , wrote plays, acted in them, as well as writing stories in my spare time. Several aunts on my Dad's side were authors, or worked for newspapers, so I like to think writing is in my genes.

I read every spare moment - have always loved reading. I was the kid who got into trouble for sneaking into her room to read, instead of doing her chores. I once went two train stations past my stop, because I became lost inside the book I was reading.

I was one of the original members of the CW list: I think there were 12 members when I joined . Several of them, all talented writers, took me under their wing, and invited me into their critique group. These ladies all shared their writing wisdom with me, and were amazingly generous with their time. Writers like the late, great, Linda Smith, Linda Joy Singleton, Verla Kay, Dori Chaconas etc. All of them now well published and admired They, along with others on the then growing CW list, mentored me.

I joined SCBWI and went to conferences, and absorbed words of wisdom from editors and established writers. I networked with other writers and made connections and friendships. The generosity and support children's writers offered each other was a joy to experience.

After a while, I realized I needed feedback on my stories, and founded two critique groups: one for rhyming stories, and the other for mid grade novels. The members came from my trusty CW list, and we did it all via e-mails and attachments. We still do it that way.

I learned by writing, rewriting, letting it sit a few weeks or months, and then doing those steps over-and-over, until I had it right. And many trips through my critique group goes without saying. I owe the members of both groups a huge vote of thanks. Their various talents, be they grammar, punctuation, plot twists, character flaws, or a clear overview, helped me see my stories in a new way: shining a bright light on my writing blind spots.

Jessica: How long did you write before you had a book published?
I fit the stereotype perfectly - 10 years, almost to the day I began serious writing.

Jessica: You say you don’t write for magazines. Why? Have you ever?
Margot: It just never interested me. I like the long road. In the beginning, I tended to waffle on and overwrite - neither is good if you want to write for magazines. My natural inclination is to write complete books.

Jessica: Compare and contrast your picture book writing process and your mid grade novel writing process?
Margot: Picture books are a much shorter process from inspiration to publication - but only if you learn how to craft a tight and terrific story in WELL under 1,000 words. I begin writing when a sweet idea hits me. It all flows from that idea. The fast setup, the problem to be solved, the angst about choices, the big decision, and then the wrap up. I put it away for several weeks and then reread. Yikes - how could I wave written such guff? Rework it and rest again. Repeat, with a trip or two to my crit group, until one day I reread it, and nothing jumps out at me needing to be fixed. DONE!
Midgrades and YA are different animals for me. Sure, I begin with a great idea, but think sculpting. If you are sculpting a golden retriever, and trying to make it perfect, it takes a lot of time, thought and specific skills. If you are sculpting a dinosaur, you need the same thought, and specific skills, but it takes far longer to perfect.

I don't use an outline, but I do have an overall concept in mind - beginning, middle and ending. Of course, it is not good to set this in stone. I like to be open to a big switcheroo, if that's what it take s to make the plot hum along. The first page and first chapter always suffer umpteen rewrites. They never seem exactly right to me until the last moment - just before I send it off to earn its keep. Sigh. . .
The plots are far more detailed, and intricate, there are multiple characters, places and scenes to keep track of. MG and YA need multiple facets, and a depth to the plot and characters that is not possible in a picture book. And crafting 30 - 50,000 words that will hook a reader from page #1 until "The End," takes perseverance, writing skills and talent.

Jessica: Some people assume writing a picture book is much easier than writing a novel. What would you tell them and why?
Margot: No, writing a picture book is not easier, just different. Not all athletes excel in the same sport. Well, not all writers excel in the same genre.

Jessica: Your picture books rhyme. What advice would you give a writer that writes rhyming picture books?
Margot: I have a confession. Writing rhyme comes naturally for me. It's like singing in key - you either can or you can't. And if you can't, you have to work darned hard to try and get it right. Any way you look at it, rhyming picture books are one of the hardest tasks writers can tackle.
My advice is "know your strengths." If getting the meter right is an agonizing long struggle, and the rhyming words never feel quite right, than stick to non-rhyming picture books, where you have a chance to shine. However, if you do need help, there is no better person for the job, than Dori Chaconas. A link to two of her articles, on writing smooth flowing rhyme and meter, is below. I recommend these articles to my clients all the time . They are clear, simple, and right on the rhyme and meter money!

Dori Chaconas: To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme
First, I confer with the teacher, parent, or librarian who contacts you. When I send Press Release to a school, I add a link to my School Visits page, as well as to my BOOKS. That way they can see if my book and my presentation is what they are looking for. When they contact me, I ask if there is anything special they would like from me. I am prepared to compromise when necessary. If you have a page on your website for School Visits, and send enquirers there first, it gives them an idea of your presentation. I keep in mind that not all districts are flush with money, and let them know I will adjust my fees for schools that are struggling financially.

Jessica: You said you do not have an agent. Why haven’t you pursued an agent?
Margot: Over the years I have tried to find an agent, but I guess not as energetically as I could have. And these days, it is harder to bag a good agent than it is to find a publisher. The accent here is on GOOD. There are a lot of scam artist out there. Just check this page on my website:
BEWARE Agent & Publisher Scams:

Picture book writers really don't need an agent. And for the agent, it means sharing commission percentages with the illustrator ( the agent only represents the writer), so it hardly pays for their time and effort - unless you are famous and making bundles of money.

Now that I have completed books for older kids, it will definitely pay to have an agent. At this moment, I am upping my agent goal, and plan to find the right one. I have great hopes for my latest novel, "Down-Under Calling," and an agent will help me break through the closed doors of so many larger publishers. However, it won't be easy. Agents tend to want authors who are successfully published. Publishers like writers who have good agents. I have to find an agent who loves my manuscript as much as I do, and is prepared to fight for it to be accepted and published. Piece of cake - right!

Jessica: swer the following questions with "Rattlesnake Jam" and Guardian Angel Publishing in mind.

Jessica: What type of changes if any did the publisher request?
Margot: I had a choice of my book coming out as soft cover, CD FlipBook, or e-book
There was a $100 fee for the print set up only. No other money was asked for.

Jessica: Had you worked with them before? How many times?
Margot: No. They were recommended to me by award winning illustrator, Kevin Scott Collier.

Jessica: Why not or why would you recommend this publisher? What were some of the pros and cons?
Margot: If you want a publisher who really cares about books for children, and puts their heart and soul into the business, G.A.P. is the one for you. Sure they are small, and they don't have the finances backing them that the big boys others do . But they make up for this by working really hard on behalf of their authors. They provide great distribution through Ingrams and others, and a BOOK RETURN policy that allows us into some of the big chain stores. Small publishers offer personal attention and contact. They want to grow and get bigger, and the way to do that is by making sure every book they publish hits the market running, and their authors are on the promotional ball with ideas and help from the publisher. No matter who publishes your book, you will have to get out there and work your tail off to sell it. Even big houses don't budget big bucks for promoting unknown writers.

Would I love to be picked up by Knopf & Crown Books for Young Readers, or Harper Collins? You bet! That's why I am upping my search for an agent. If my MG book is good enough, it WILL find the right agent and publisher. I have to believe that, and keep on writing.

Jessica: With regard to your picture books. Do you have any input into what artist is selected?
: Kevin Scott Collier, who recommended my story to the C.E.O at G.A.P, is one of their illustrators. When he approached Lynda Burch at G.A P, he said he would like to do the illustrations for my book, and she agreed it was a good idea. I agree too - his goofy art work makes my verses jump off the page! From chat among other G.A.P. authors, I gather it is acceptable for them to suggest an illustrator. If Lynda approves, it is a done deal. I guess there is far more back-and-forth interaction between the editor, the artist and writer, than larger publishers allow or want.

Jessica: Do you get to work directly with the artist?
Margot: Yes. But everything has Lynda's input, and needs her final approval. I found and worked with all 6 illustrators for my rhyming animal series on CD - and the resulting illustrations received glowing reviews.

Jessica: The artwork is so important to a picture book or to the cover of a book. What would you do, if the publisher sent you a completed book and you didn’t like the artwork?
Margot: This wouldn't happen with a publisher like G.A.P. There is close input and consultation between all three of us during the illustrative process. If a first sketch is lacking, or not quite right to one of our eyes, it is hashed out right then. I can't draw to save my like, but I have an eye for what looks right. I have heard of authors crying when they get that first glimpse of their picture book from a large publisher. For new writers, and the non famous, the input between artist and writer is nil. Yet strangely, this does not happen often. The editors and artists working for these houses know their stuff. I have heard far more often from authors who said the illustrations were different from what they had imagined, but that they loved them, and thought them way better.

Jessica: Thank you in advance for sharing your experience and insights. I’ll let you know when the interview is posted.

Margot: Thanks for taking the time to work out all these in-depth questions, Jessica. You really had me scratching my head with some of them.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 8:26 PM CDT

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