Got Books?

Kovr_065_2 Monday morning on KOVR Sacramento Daybreak (Channel 13/ CBS)was great fun. I got to hang out with news anchors Michelle Kane and Cody Stark and talk about some awesome books. What’s not to love? Besides the middle grades books I talked about in my last post, I highlighted the following picture books: Cover_augarde

We’re Going On An Airplane a pop-up book by Steve Augarde, with lots of fun flaps and even a cock-pit for little aviators.

Cover_knufflebunny Knuffle Bunny, a "cautionary tale" by 6 time Emmy award winning Sesame Street animator/writer, Mo Willems. Trixie, Knuffle Bunny, and Daddy go to the laundromat and when they head home, Trixie realizes Knuffle Bunny is gone! Inside_knufflebunny

My favorite page is when Daddy still doesn’t know what Trixie’s trying to tell him. She had no choice….

"She bawled. She went boneless…"

Isn’t this great?

Last but not least is Wow City!Cover_wow_city by Robert Neubecker, about his daughter Izzie’s first trip from their small town in Utah to the Big Apple, NYC. Great visuals! Kids will love hunting for red-haired Izzie on each page, and a stray yellow dog that pops up each time too.  Neubecker is a NYTimes contributor.  Wow!

That’s it for today.

Have to PBIC and Write NOW!Kovr_003

Fun Author Visits and Good Books

Author_visit_burchfield_012_4 A BIG thanks to Burchfield Primary in Colusa, CA, for these photos of my recent Author Visit. It was great fun as usual and never the same, especially since I call up 10 pre-selected kids to help act out the mini-play based on my latest book, Little Bo Peep Can’t Get To Sleep. (All my improv skills and experience as a theater teacher and performer come in handy!)

Did I mention I LOVE School visits? Thanks to ALL the schools I’ve visited since Bo Peep… came out this year:

Heritage Oak, Quail Glen Elementary (Roseville); Lake Forest Elementary, Jackson Elementary (El Dorado Hills, CA); Sierra Accelerated School, Schnell School (Placerville, CA); Georgetown School, Creekside Elementary (Black Oak Unified SD); Sierra Hills Elementary (Meadow Vista, CA); Pacific Elementary (Sacramento, CA); Cosumnes Elementary (Sloughhouse, CA); Burchfield Elementary (Colusa, CA); and CottAuthor_visit_burchfield_011_2age Hill Primary (Grass Valley).

You guys rock!  Happy (almost) summer!

And speaking of summer, I’ll be appearing on Sacramento’s KOVR DAYBREAK show (Channel 13/CBS) tomorrow morning at 6:48 am for my GOT BOOKS? segment highlighting Good Summer Reads. (Set your VCRs.)

We muggles know there are only 40 days until Harry… (July 16th–can’t wait!) and of course this is the Third Summer of the Traveling Pants , Ann Brashares’ latest YA (very fun!), but my list includes books you may not have heard about:

Mmmcover6_2 Mermaid Mary Margaret by Lynn E. Hazen (Bloomsbury 2004/ reading level 7-11years) takes young readers on a cruise to the Greek Isles with spunky 4th grader, Mary Margaret, and her recently widowed grandmother. Hazen knows all about spunky kids–(She teaches pre-school in San Francisco.)–and her own grandma was from Rhodes, so this is the wonderful trip she always imagined she’d take. I loved it! And teachers will love MM’s obsession with longitude and latitude. See MMM’s clever web site:

Sacramento author Elaine N.Russel wrote Martin McMillan and the Lost Inca City (Polar BMartin_cover_2ear & Co. 2005/ Reading level 9-12 years) when she couldn’t find any middle grades books for her skateboarding son to read, and parents have been singing her praises ever since! The folks at my local book store, Hidden Passage Books, told me one mom said her son hated reading until she bought him Martin McMillan… and now he’s hooked ! Now that’s the kind of review we like to hear!

Middle Grades Teachers take note: Martin McMillan…  fits in perfectly with the Ancient Civiilzations curriculum, as Martin is dragged off by his parents on an archaeological dig in Peru, and skateboards right into a mystery involving ancient Incan treasures and a lost city.  Russell’s web site is: .

Friendsforever_1 Last but not least, if your kids are bored the day after school lets out, Laura Torres’ non fiction craft how-to, Best Friends Forever (Workman 2004), is packed with projects (199 to be exact) for kids of all ages to make and share. Torres was an editor at American Girl Magazine, where she created many of the craft projects, so she knows what she’s talking about! Teachers who are looking for easy, fun projects for the whole class will love this too! See Laura’s web site at .

That’s it for TODAY. Tomorrow after the KOVR spot (If I’m not too sleep deprived…), I’ll list the details of my picture book Good Summer Reads. Until then, you know what to do: PBIC and write NOW! 

How To Find a Publisher

  1. Go to the bookstore. (Libraries don’t always have the most recent titles.) Look for books that are similar to yours (genre, tone, rhyme or prose) but not exactly alike (Whoever published those will not need yours–They already have similar titles on their list.).
  2. Check title page to see who the publisher is.
  3. Check acknowledgments and special thanks for any editor’s names.
  4. Look publishers/editors up in Writer’s Market or Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. (Recent copies should be in the library. No need to buy them. They are updated every year anyway.) OR if you are a member of, check their Marketing Guide.
  5. See which publishers accept unagented submissions, and unsolicited manuscripts.
  6. See which of those will accept simultaneous submissions.
  7. Submit your manuscript to those pubs, according to the guidelines they list. Some will ask for a Query Letter first, and then (if the stars are aligned) request that you send your manuscript.

Top Ten Questions People Ask Me at Author Visits

1. How many books have you written?
3P + 7M + 4 or 5T(trashed) + 2N= 17 or more. Three are published, seven manuscripts are making the rounds at editor’s desks right now (think good thoughts!), four or five are trashed in the I Once Thought These Were Good file, two novelty books will be out next year, and I’m revising one middle grade novel.

2. How did you get started?
See my ABOUT page.

3. Did you draw the pictures in your books?
No, but I like to draw!

4. What is Hanako Wakiyama like?
Very talented! And shy. This may surprise you but we’ve worked on two books together and we’ve never met. Funny, huh?

5. Did you always want to write children’s books?
No. Never. Nada.

6. Are you rich?
Same as answer #5.

7. Will you read my book?
Same answer as # 6. Sorry.

8. My friend is an artist and I’m a writer, and we have this great idea…
Hold it right there. Unless your friend is a professional artist with a portfolio to send to editors, do not send art work. *Editors will match you with an illustrator.

9. What’s your favorite book that you’ve written?
This is like asking your mother which of her kids she likes best. I’m sure she’d say, “I love you all for different reasons. Now run outside and play. Or go read.” My answer is the same.

10. What are you working on now?
I am currently revising a middle grade novel. Every time I work on a novel, however, picture books pop into my head. I’ve come a long way from the days of working on that assembly line in the pineapple factory. (Have you checked out my bio yet?)

I’ve written a book. Now what do I do?

erin and bo peep I’m just back from lots of fun school visits featuring my second picture book, Little Bo Peep Can’t Get To Sleep, (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster 2005), illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama. **Look for photos of the kids I’ve met in future posts.** Hanako also illustrated my first picture book, Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox (Atheneum 2002) which is now an Aladdin paperback, and guess what?

I have never met my illustrator. That’s right. Which brings me to…

The Publishing Process: Frequently Asked Questions

#1. I’ve written a book and my best friend (sister-in-law, uncle, neighbor–fill in the blank) is doing the illustrations. How do we get it published?

Answer: STOP RIGHT THERE! Be forewarned: as a rule, publishers do not like the “packaged deal”–a manuscript with illustrations–especially from two unknowns. Most writer/illustrators started as illustrators, and got their names and portfolios known that way first.

Unless you are a professional artist, do not send art work when you submit your manuscript. Once your manuscript has been accepted, editors will match you with an illustrator. My wonderful editor at Atheneum “matched” me with Hanako Wakiyama, whose awesome retro illustrations fit perfectly with the nursery rhyme characters of both books. Boy did I luck out–especially because writers have virtually no say as to how their story is illustrated. The editors work as a go-between. I guess they don’t want one of us telling the other how to do her job. : )

#2. How can I become a writer?

Answer: Writers write. Not all of us get up at 5 am to write before heading to the day job. (Although I’ve read that Wendelin Van Draanen does this and I love her Sammy Keyes mysteries.) You squeeze it in when you can. I wrote the first draft of Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox in the pick-up circle at my daughter’s elementary school. My mantra is Ten Minutes A Day. If I waited to start writing until I had two hours or more of uninterrupted time, I’d never write. O.K. some of my writing pals don’t have day jobs, but they go by the same rule: PBIC (Put Butt in Chair).

#3. Here is a copy of my book. I’ve sent it to two publishers and got rejected. Help!

Answer: You’ve made your manuscript into a “dummy,” a mock up of the actual book. As a rule, manuscripts are not submitted to an editor in this format. However, this is a good way to see if your manuscript works as a book: Is each page a “hook” to the next page? Have you made every word count, or are there extra words you don’t need? Do you have enough “scenes” for a 32 page picture book? For info on proper manuscript format, see the web site or Writer’s Market in the reference section of your public library.

#4. How can I become a writer?

Answer: Here are Robert Heinlein’s Rules of Writing:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.

And my favorite quote from the film, Finding Forrester:

The first draft you write with your heart. The next draft[s] you write with your head.

This brings up another mistake many writers make: Thinking your story has to be perfect the first time out. Not so. Check out author Ann Lamott’s “Sh*tty First Draft” theory (from Bird by Bird):

The first draft doesn’t have to be good. It’s for finding out what the book is about, what you think about it, and what you want to say.

Writers write. But getting published is a business in itself. 10,000+ children’s books are published each year. The competition is tough. See the links on my web site and read on for tips on getting published. It’s very important to do your homework! Do not send your manuscript to the wrong house.