My two year journey as an aspiring Muslim picture book author has been full of rewards and challenges.
The challenges of trying to publish America's first Libyan picture book has been exhausting at times. There have been countless people that have stood in the way and the constant door closing on this dream would cause anyone with thinner skin to give up by now.
I have applied for numerous scholarships, fellowships, and grants to be told repeatedly no, before finally early 2021 when the Children's Book Academy and Kweli Journal awarded me diversity scholarships to attend their courses and conference. I have sent my manuscripts to over a hundred agents, publishers and editors who have sent back enough rejections letters to wallpaper my kitchen.
This is normal in the publishing industry, and I knew this when I signed up. I have been keeping track of Arab and Muslim published books through a database since 2008 and knew how few books were created by Muslim in #OwnVoice. The desire to have Libyan American children finally find themselves in a library, something I was never able to do as a child immigrant, is far bigger than me, so I keep writing.
One of the major rewards of this publishing journey has been meeting wonderful Muslim authors who want to help other aspiring authors succeed. These Muslim authors have stood in my corner, encouraging me and sending me words of kindness to keep going. To keep writing every day and that someday Libyan children will be invited into a library because I am the one keeping that dream alive.
I wanted to take a few moments to point out these Muslim storytellers so that you can support them by buying their books to show them that kindness does pay off.
Hena Khan - I went to a book reading with Ms. Khan and she was one of the first to encourage me to write. She told the room that there were a lot of Asian Muslim children stories being published and not enough from other Muslims. Her book, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, is one of my favorite books to use in my art lessons with kids. Ms. Khan has written many books across various genres and is very giving of advice.
Khadija Abdul Hajj - This wonderful soul is full of encouragement and bright light, Ms. Adbul Hajj must be the sweetest person online. She is always there to like a tweet or offer words of support. Her groundbreaking book children's book, Nanni's Hijab, was one of the first about a Muslim child wearing a hijab.
Reem Faruqi - I met Ms. Faruqi online and she encouraged me to go after my dream agent. Even though the agent turned me down (six months after I first queried), I would have never put myself out there and gone on to other agents without her encouragement. Her book, Lailah's Lunchbox, is one of our favorite Ramadan reads.
Susannah Aziz - While new to the book publishing industry, Ms. Aziz has been looking out for other authors and pulling up another chair to the table, since before her picture book had even hit the shelves. Her fun book, Halal Hot Dogs, is the perfect summer read. The main protagonist shares parts of my name, and it was such a thrill to see that in print.
Rabiah York Lumbard - I have been a huge fan of Ms. Lumbard for years and her picture book Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World has to be one of my all time favorite picture books. I used it as a mentor text for a picture book I am working on about how to welcome friends in 22 Arab countries. Once I became an aspiring author, she and I met online and she has been very helpful in learning the publishing ropes. Similar to Ms. Khan, Ms. Lumbard has also written across several genres and her YA read, No True Believers, was a hit with my teen daughter.
I hope you enjoyed meeting these 5 Muslim storytellers, who have been helpful in my author journey to join them on a book shelf someday, inshaAllah.
I am going to share more Muslim storytellers from my database of over 1000 Arab and Muslim children's books at the upcoming September 18 & 19 Children's Book Academy Palooza. I will be speaking on the Jewish, Muslim, & Christian KidLit panel on Sunday, September 19th at 10am Pacific Time.
Visit https://bit.ly/PBPalooza2021 to check out the other in-depth panels and submission opportunities available.
By Sharon Giltrow
Fathers are funny! They even have jokes named after them. Here is just one funny ‘Dad Joke’ that I found.
Hey dad, did you just get a haircut?
No, I got them all cut.
(Insert groan and eye-roll)
In Australia we celebrate our fathers on the first Sunday in September. So, I dedicate today’s blog post to all those funny fathers out there.
When my children were young(er) I would search for picture books about fathers, for them to give their dad on Father’s Day. Then together they would find a comfy spot and share the joy of reading together. In 2017, I took this gift giving one step further, and wrote a book about my children and their dad. Now, they can share BEDTIME, DADDY! with their dad every Father’s Day. But it did take me fourteen years to do that.
Lucky for you, with Father’s Day less than two weeks away, there is a quicker way to give the gift of a great book. You can buy them!
Here is a list of funny Aussie books about fathers (some of whom are also written by fathers).
Written by: Me – Sharon Giltrow
Illustrated by: Katrin Dreiling
Published by: EK Books, May 2020
Putting Daddy to bed can be hard work. Especially when he starts crying! This story will show you how to wrestle your daddy into his pyjamas and read just one more bedtime story. 'I'm thirrrrrrrrssssssty,' says Daddy. 'I need to poop ... I'm hungry ... But I'll miss you,' he says, while he looks at you with cutie eyes. You'll have to battle the bedtime excuses and use go-away monster spray until Daddy finally goes to sleep.
Stop The Dad Jokes!
Written by: Adrian Beck
Illustrated by: Simon Greiner
Published by: Penguin Random House Australia, July 2021
Warning- Do not show this book to dads!
This book is full of DAD JOKES that are embarrassing, goofy and NOT FUNNY! A trip to the zoo with Dad means seeing lots of animals . . . and hearing plenty of dad jokes too! A hilarious story by Adrian Beck (a dad) illustrated by Simon Greiner (another dad).
Written by: Jimmy Rees
Illustrated by: Briony Stewart
Published by: Affirm Press , July 2021
Who said bedtime was hard? Dad's got bedtime sorted! Lenny and the twins have a bath without water spilling over, brush their teeth without toothpaste spraying onto the mirror, and go to sleep straight after their story. Perfect! Dad can finally settle down to his dinner. But then - My pyjamas don't match! I'm too cold! I'm too hot! The window is making funny noises! I'm not tired!
My Dad Thinks He’s Funny
Written by: Katrina Germein
Illustrated by: Tom Jellett
Published by: Walker Books Australia, August 2021
When is a joke a Dad joke? When it's fully groan.
When someone rolls their eyes at Dad, he just rolls them back.
My dad thinks he's super funny.
When is a joke a Dad joke? When it's fully groan.
When someone rolls their eyes at Dad, he just rolls them back.
My dad thinks he's super funny.
In this follow up to the bestselling My Dad Thinks He’s Funny and My Dad Still Thinks He’s Funny, Dad is up to it again. His audience has grown by one, and family life continues to provide an endless supply of fresh and brilliant comedic material for Dad. At least he seems to think so.
Well, that’s it from me this month, see you in September, with another great Aussie book.
Share a laugh, and connect with someone today.
This month the winner of the giveaway will have a chance to choose which book they would like.
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 through EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB GET READY, MAMA! Is due to be released through EK books April 2022. She was awarded The Paper Bird Fellowship for Writers in 2019, during this time she wrote her early middle grade book SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, which will be released in 2021 through Clear Fork Publishing’s new imprint &MG. She was recently awarded a U-15 K Arts Grant to further develop her early middle grade series – THE UTILITY BELT.
by Bryan Patrick Avery
This past weekend, I had the honor of appearing on the Mystery Writers of America, Northern California Chapter’s Facebook live series. Each entry in the series is a short (30-45) presentation and discussion on an aspect of mystery writing. My topic was “Writing Mysteries for Children and Middle Schoolers”.
You can view the full segment here.
For now, though, I’d like to share some of the tips I shared during my presentation. Here there are:
To see some wonderful examples of middle grade mystery and suspense writing, check out these two anthologies from the Mystery Writers of America. While you're at it, pick up a copy of HOW TO WRITE A MYSTERY, an anthology on craft. There’s even a whole section on writing mysteries for kids.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month.
Bryan Patrick Avery is an award-winning poet and author of books for children from toddlers through middle grade. His middle-grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, appears in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, an anthology from HarperCollins and the Mystery Writers of America. His debut picture book, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, illustrated by Jerome White, was published by Clearfork Publishing/Spork. His early reader series, MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, illustrated by Arief Putra, is now available from Picture Window Press. Bryan lives in Northern California with his family.
By Melissa Stoller
I always look forward to summer, with its allure of time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Aside from working on manuscripts during August, here are some other writing-related activities you can engage in to help propel your writing life all year long:
Spend time in quiet reflection - Take stock of your writing over the past year. What will you focus on starting in September? If you are like me, and have school-aged children, this academic calendar timing will resonate! Think about how you will prioritize your writing career, such as finding story ideas, writing and revising, searching for an agent/editor, focusing on a book release, working on marketing and promotion, and all the tasks in between.
Fill your creative well - Enjoy your time off! And also jot down a few ideas based on vacation experiences. Perhaps a special dinner will spark a story about food. Or a day at the beach will turn into a non-fiction book about oceans. Keep a vacation writing journal where you can sketch and jot down any snippets of conversations or ideas that you can pull from later.
Create a writing vision board - Use vacation photos and mementos to create your board. Add vacation memories such as flower petals, restaurant menus, recipes, shells, sunset photos, maps, and anything else that might help you feel inspired when you are back home.
I hope these ideas help you feel inspired long after your vacation ends. Let me know 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!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot), releases from Clear Fork Publishing in October 2021. Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. 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 long beach walks.
Friendship, perseverance, stereotyping, inclusion, individuality, prejudice…What is your book is about? In one word.
“No way!” you say. “My book is about many things.”
Yes, it is. But have you ever heard from a critique partner or editor that your story lacks focus?
Ever feel like this when you are chasing down what your story is about?
Choosing one or two words to describe your subject may help. While most of us avoid didacticism and writing to set up a moral as Aesop did, most books have take-away messages. Knowing your subject and theme will help you focus your text, write loglines and pitches, find comparison titles, market and promote your book. Your subject and theme will ultimately help people find your book online, in libraries and in bookstores. Along the way, it’s useful to understand how subject tags are assigned to books in the first place.
The Children’s and Young Adult’s Cataloging Program (CYAC) division of the Library of Congress assigns subject headings to each juvenile book applying for an ISBN. These subjects are often listed on the copyright page before the ISBN. Acquiring librarians may tag your books with additional subjects for internal library searches. These subject headings come from a limited and controlled vocabulary used to describe the contents of books. Subject headings are different from key words in this way. Key words are from natural speech. Key words are for broad searches of subject, title, author and abstract (summary). Subject headings are for narrowing your search.
In addition to assigning subject tags, The CYAC writes a succinct summary for each book, also usually found on the copyright page. While not as supercharged as an elevator pitch, thinking about how your story will be summarized and writing a summary yourself will help you stay focused during revisions and in writing promotion copy as well.
Let’s look at a real-world example of these summaries and subject tags.
My picture book NO PARTY POOPERS! illustrated by Lucy Semple (Little Bee 2020) was summarized and tagged in the following way on the copyright page.
Summary: “Two bears decide to throw a party but the stereotypes one has about all of their neighbors leave them with no one to invite.
(As an author, you may find the summary of your book very limiting. This summary doesn’t include that one bear fears that animals besides bears will be party poopers or his realization that he is really the party pooper or that he ultimately invites his entire neighborhood to his party. The subject tags don’t include neighbors or inclusion or friendship.)
Stereotypes (Social Psychology)—Fiction
These subject heading tags are part of the metadata that are attached to your book.
If you are not familiar with WorldCat.org: The World's Largest Library Catalog I encourage you to explore this wonderful resource. WorldCat uses CYAC subject headings and expands them too. Here are the subject tags for NO PARTY POOPERS!
In WorldCat I clicked on subject tags to search for recently published comp titles. Then seeing how these books were tagged led me to additional books about prejudice, individuality and racism. For writers looking for comp titles and mentor texts and educators wanting to curate a list of titles about a subject this resource is invaluable.
So is NoveList K-8 Plus. NoveList is a resource available online through most public libraries for researching like titles, reviews, annotations, book discussion guides, BookTalks, and feature articles.
I found NoveList the most powerful and quickest way to find very specific comp titles for my book using the subject word “stereotype.” Note: there are many books about gender stereotyping, but I was searching for books with animal characters that were about stereotyping in general. Because most agents and editors like writers to have current comp titles, the ability to limit searches to a certain publication date range in NoveList is a real time saver.
My searches led me to comp titles that I curated and created a social media graphic to help readers find books about this subject.
As a side note, I found Amazon Books not only to be the least helpful in locating comp titles, but also the most difficult in finding my title using keyword and subject searches. I needed to use all the CYAC subjects in my Amazon search to bring up my book. Only one of the wonderful titles above appeared in my search using “stereotype” alone.
In my research for this blog, a librarian passed on a “librarian trick” to assist searches. Using an asterisk at the end of a word stem e.g., stereotyp* will bring up the word with different endings. (Searching for stereotyping won’t bring up the titles that searching for stereotype did or stereotyp*.) One can also use Boolean Operators AND, OR, NOT to limit your search further.
As you know, reviewers and critics may add additional and sometimes surprising subject “tags” to your book as well. “My book is about that?” you will say. A book is born anew with every reader. Whatever the subject, I hope that using the power of the subject tag will help you in your journey to place your story in readers’ hands.
BIO: Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to tutoring and writing for children and visiting schools. She is the author of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, Grace Zong ill. (Peachtree), I’m Done! Catherine Lazar Odell ill. (Holiday House) and Button and Bundle, Gillian Flint ill. (Knopf), No Party Poopers!, Lucy Semple ill. (Little Bee), and When Your Daddy’s a Soldier, E.G. Keller (Philomel 2022). She writes chapter books and middle-grade fiction as well.
Gretchen grew up as a global nomad, daughter of a career Army officer, and lived on three continents. She has settled in Washington state where she lives with her husband, stunt squirrels, nomadic neighborhood chickens, and celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. Children will find a home in her heartfelt books about community, courage and compassion.
When she isn’t writing or teaching, Gretchen can be found reading, playing word games, attending plays, hiking in the woods, x-country skiing and sewing.
OMG! Mira here, I thought that was fabulous!!!! I'm so thrilled to announce that wonderfully generous Gretchen McLellan will be on one of our awesome scholarship fundraising panels for this year's Picture Book Palooza! She'll be speaking about and sharing techniques and insights into writing informational fiction. Hmmm. Wondering what that is? Come find out. It's currently only $59 and will be spectacular with 26 speakers, free worksheets, handouts, giveaways and prizes and lots of fabulous submission opportunities to agents, editors, art directors and publishers. Wow! Grab your seat here before the price goes up Aug 20.
PS Please leave Gretchen a lovely message. This was awesome that she gave so much really helpful info xoxox
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome Aussie debut author and former student Amanda Lieber who will be focusing on Aussie kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
4th Mondays will be a mystery for right now.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break