By Sharon Giltrow
“Art is all in the details” – Christian Marclay
It’s all about the details! One of the things I love the most about writing and reading picture books is taking the time to examine the finer details of the illustrations. To be a ‘Detail Detective.” In fact, before I read picture books to my students, I often share and talk about the illustrations. Illustrations are not only a reflection of the text; they are an addition to the text. In some picture books they even tell a different story to the text. Illustrations provide readers with clues about the plot, characters, setting and the mood. While encouraging the reader to become an active participant in the storytelling experience. In the book HECTOR AND HIS HIGHLAND DANCER, illustrator Amy Calautti shows that she is a master of details and illustrations
Hector and his Highland Dancers
Illustrated by: Amy Calautti
Written by: Anthony Sevil
Published by: Little Pink Dog, 5th November 2020
An Australian chicken breeder, a prized, yet failed show chicken. But the discovery of the chicken’s ability to dance leads to success in a very different arena to show judging.
I asked Amy what she loved about the illustrations from HECTOR AND HIS HIGHLAND DANCERS.
A- “I love all the little details to look at and the many funny interactions between the characters.”
Now let’s be ‘Detail Detectives’ and take a closer look at Amy’s illustrations.
A- I love how some of the crowd is looking at the chickens like they're huge fans.
Sh – I love the details that Amy has added to the crowd of people, scarves, handbags, back packs, glasses. As well as the emotions shown on their faces, take a look at the person at the front of the truck, she is in awe of the performance.
A- I love the bit where the chickens are using their big slide and fighting over Sausages.
Sh- I love the attention to detail that Amy’s uses for the individual chickens are what they are doing. No two chickens are the same. And just look at the two chickens on stilts and the very fluffy chicken on the swing.
What do you love about Amy’s illustrations and her attention to details?
Next time you’re sharing a picture book, be sure to take time to be a ‘Detail Detective.” I promise you will be glad you did.
See you in October with another great Aussie book.
Remember share a laugh, and connect with someone today
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB, BEDTIME DADDY! released May 2020 - EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB, GET READY, MAMA! released in April, 2022 - EK Books. Her third and fourth PB, LET’S GO SHOPPING, GRANDMA! And LET’S GO TO THE BEACH, GRANDPA! are due to be released in 2022 and 2023 - Dixi Books. SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, book one in Sharon’s early MG series – THE UTILITY BELT, will be released in 2023 - Clear Fork Publishing. With book two TOBY KING AND THE UTILITY BELT to follow.
by Bryan Patrick Avery
I’ve been (fortunately) under contract for one boom or another almost continually for the past few years. The result is 13 published books with seven more on the way.
It hasn’t been easy. There have been late nights and early mornings and days when I wasn’t sure the right words would come. In times like those. I’ve found it helpful to retreat.
Not quit, mind you, just retreat a little bit. It gives me time to reflect and regroup and I always come back to the work at hand fresher and with more enthusiasm. This month, I’d like to share a few ways I retreat when I need a break.
1. Take a walk.
One of my favorite things to do when I need a break is take a walk. A long walk through the neighborhood gives me the chance to clear my head, work through a story problem, or brainstorm for new ideas. My walking isn’t limited to the outdoors. I’m often found pacing the halls of my home between writing sprints to clear my head and recharge.
2. Do something different.
Of course, not everything can be fixed with a walk. Sometimes, we need a more substantial break. When I do, I make an effort to work on something different. When I was struggling with a mystery project, I took a break and worked on a poetry collection. That break helped me move my poetry collection forward and, when I returned to the mystery, I was reinvigorated and ready to work.
3. Do something very different.
Sometimes, you might need a break from writing altogether. When I do, I turn to other pursuits that make me happy. I practice guitar, binge watch British mysteries, or peruse my collection of art books for inspiration. I know my break is over when I get the urge to jump back into my writing project.
4. Take a class.
I mentioned to a group recently that one of the things I do to keep my enthusiasm and energy up take writing classes and attend conferences. Being around (even virtually) fellow creatives helps me stay on track with my own writing and I never fail to pick up an idea or two. These are often the most helpful breaks for me.
5. Do nothing.
My mother used to give me this advice: “When you’re not sure what to do, do nothing.”
That can be dangerous if you’re on the freeway and unsure of what exit to take, but for creatives it is often the perfect solution. Not forcing your way through a story and, instead, taking a step back allows your mind and spirit to guide you. It’s a great path to inspiration. Meditating, simply lying in bed before going to sleep or after waking up often yields some of my best ideas. I sometimes go to get a message and, while I relax, think through a story problem. I usually find a good answer. Give it a try.
I hope something on this list will be helpful the next time you need a short creative break.
That’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month.
Bryan Patrick Avery is an award-winning poet and author of more than a dozen books for children. His middle grade collective biography, BLACK MEN IN SCIENCE, illustrated by Nikita Leanne, was released in 2022. Bryan is also the author of the middle-grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, which appears in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, illustrated by Jerome White, and the early chapter book series, MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, illustrated by Arief Putra. Bryan lives in northern California with his family.
by Melissa Stoller
Where I live, September represents the end of summer and back to school mode. To me, the calendar change signifies an opportunity to create new writing practices. Whether you have children in school or not, try these ideas to help you find time during your day to create new writing routines:
Take 15 minutes to free write. Start a new draft and just write without editing your thoughts or the actual words. See what sparks your imagination.
Take 10 minutes to review a draft. Pick an old subject or something new that needs attention. Look at big picture components like story arc, pacing, and voice.
Take 5 minutes to read a new book or portion of a book. Jot down a few notes about what you like about the story and any language that particularly resonates.
Take 2 minutes to scan a manuscript for line level edits like grammar, lyrical language, and word choice.
Even if you only have one minute, set a timer and brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Think about your childhood and any memories about going back to school. Maybe a new idea, title, or character name will pop up!
I hope this time-based challenge for September helps keep you motivated as we head into fall. Happy writing and creating and let me know about your progress in the comments.
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla!; Sadie’s Shabbat Stories; and Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom. Her latest picture book, Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-authored with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot), releases from Clear Fork Publishing in October, 2022. Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Rate Your Story judge, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. She also interviews authors on her blog, This Writing Life, and offers book tips and resources. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and Wordle!
by Danielle Dufayet
Much to a writer’s dismay, we sometimes have to put a manuscript aside. It may be because it’s not selling, it may be because it’s just not the best it can be yet and needs more revision; or it may be that there are other, more established authors, who have similar books already in the publishing queue whose themes are a bit too similar to yours.
Such was the case with my third picture book, Waiting Together.
By Danielle Dufayet
Illustrated by Srimalie Bassani
Published by Albert Whitman, 2020
Waiting is not easy and there are so many kinds of waits, but waiting doesn’t have to be so hard…especially if you’re waiting with a friend
Waiting Together was the manuscript that landed my agent, the wonderful Karen Grencik. It had taken me about 2 years to write it. The original version had a ton of potential for illustrations. It was a humorous -the dead pan kind, but it had no arc. Karen shopped it around to various publishers, but no sale. I revised it and revised it, still no contract. Then the terrible news came. In 2015, Karen told me that two well established authors had sold manuscripts already to two different publishers with books that were similar in theme to mine. Kevin Henkes’s, Waiting and Antonette Portis’s, Wait. She advised I put the manuscript away for a few years.
About 4 years later I woke up one morning and knew it was time to bring it back to life. I started a new revision. My goal was to make it even more succinct, add onomatopoeia and rhyme wherever I could to make it more lyrical. I made sure I had a strong arc – sunrise to sunset – and I worked on a little surprise twist at the end. My goal was to show waiting through action – and it worked!
I made the rounds a few times to my critique groups until I felt it was the absolute best it could be then I resubmitted it to Karen. Fortunately, she loved it and submitted it right away and within about 2 weeks I got an offer from Albert Whitman!
When Waiting Together was finally published, it was completely different from the original manuscript. I believed in my book, and I was determined to not give up on it. I felt like I had an original idea worth fighting for and it paid off. Bringing an old manuscript back to life and seeing it published is an absolute dream come true and absolutely worth the time and effort and patience.
Ms. Dufayet’s first two picture books, You are Your Strong and Fantastic You!, have been sold to Magination Press. You Are Your Strong won the 2020 Teacher's Choice Award. Her third picture book, Waiting Together, was published by Albert Whitman. Her fourth book, Blank, will be released in 2022 byo Capstone Publishers. She holds a B.A. in English Literature/Creative Writing and a M.S. in Psychology. Her work has been published in Good Housekeeping, Modern Maturity and Well Being Journal. She is an active member of the SCBWI and teaches English and Self-Empowerment classes to kids, K-12.
Next book: Benford Draws a Blank, Capstone Publishing, January 2023.
By Sharon Giltrow
Writers are often referred to as ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’. A ‘plotter’ is someone who plans and outlines their story before they write it. Whereas, a ‘pantser’ is someone who doesn’t plan out anything or very little before they start to write. As a writer I question whether we have to be one or the other. We could be ‘planster’. Someone who has a plan before they start to write but is prepared to follow the story on its journey. Whatever type of writers we are, we all need to embrace our creativity to craft stories. We need to think outside the box, embrace our inner child, see the world in an extraordinary way. Dance to the beat of our own drum. This is exactly what the main character in Dani Vee and Alexandra Colombo’s book MY EXTRAordinary Mum does.
My EXTRAordinary Mum
Written by: Dani Vee
Illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo
Published by: Larrikin House , 1st August 2022
My mum's a little quirky, free-spirited and bold. She dances to the beat of her own drum.
A fun-filled adventure and celebration of an extraordinary mum and her daughter who find magic in unexpected places.
We are all extraordinary, sometimes we just need reminding.
Let’s take a look at two of Dani’s favourite spreads to see how the main character dances to the beat of her own drum and how Dani followed her story on its journey.
D- This spread encapsulates exactly who this mum really is! Quirky, spiritual and willing to try anything if it brings her and her community joy. I came across a drum circle at a market when I was doing re-writes for 'My EXTRAordinary Mum' and I just knew that this is exactly what my mum in this book would love! I joined the drum circle with my kids and it was a powerful experience, not just the music, but working together and being in the moment to create something cool! I love how she forgets social convention, like bedtimes, because togetherness and fun trumps all!
Sh – Here we can see how Dani took an experience from her real life and used it to enrich her story and her character’s story. I’m sure Dani didn’t plan to have a drum circle in her original outline.
D- The idea of family and community being family is really important in this book. Families can be found everywhere! I was aiming for an inclusive outdoor BBQ scene where it shows how much my mum in the book loves the people around her. I think it captures her vibe and makes her a great role model for her daughter! She is one of kind this mum!
Sh- Here the strength of Dani’s story can be seen in her characters especially the mum and daughter. The reader falls in love with the character, her uniqueness and her openness. The mum is a great role model to the reader too.
In these two spreads you can also see the richness and diversity that Alexandra has brought to the story.
Love your work Dani and Alexandra!
Next time you sit down to write your story, evoke the ‘planster’ and dance to the beat of your own drum.
See you in September with another great Aussie book.
Remember to share a laugh, and connect with someone today.
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB, BEDTIME DADDY! released in May 2020 - EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB, GET READY, MAMA! released in April, 2022 - EK Books. Her third and fourth PB, LET’S GO SHOPPING, GRANDMA! And LET’S GO TO THE BEACH, GRANDPA! are due to be released in 2022 and 2023 - Dixi Books. SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, book one in Sharon’s early MG series – THE UTILITY BELT, will be released in 2023 - Clear Fork Publishing. With book two TOBY KING AND THE UTILITY BELT to follow.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with editor/art director, & CBA Director Mira Reisberg PhD who is handing her Mondays over to awesome former now tradtionally pubbed students to widen their audience.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays feature funny Aussie author Sharon Giltrow sharing awesome Aussie books.
And 5th Mondays will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.