By Melissa Stoller
Where I live, it’s still beach weather, although we can tell the end of summer is approaching. Back to school routines (whatever those look like in 2020!), cooler evenings, and a bountiful harvest of tomatoes and corn on the table, all mark the transition from summer to autumn. Wherever you are in your creative process, this time of year can signal a fresh start to your writing routine.
Here are some prompts that can set you up for a bountiful harvest of creativity:
1) Think about your back-to-school routine from childhood. What was your favorite part – maybe it was shopping for school supplies or picking a new outfit? Or going to the library to choose new books? Perhaps it was packing your backpack. Can those memories, or new routines of today, help spark a story idea?
2) What end of summer events do you take part in (even if you are not participating this year). Do you enjoy certain recipes using end of summer foods – how do they smell and taste? Do you take one last swim in the sea or a lake? Maybe it’s one final family road trip before work and school resume? Write about some of these memories.
3) Do you have any mementos from this summer or past summers? Do you create photo albums or scrapbooks? Do you enjoy a seashell collection, some pressed flowers, or a box of other summer treasures? Take some time to closely observe one summer item and use it to spark an idea.
I hope these prompts help ignite your writing life this fall. Let me know in the comments, and enjoy the last days of summer!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, Fall 2018). Upcoming books include Sadie’s Shabbat Stories and Return of the Magic Paintbrush (CFP). Melissa is a Blogger and Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group, 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.
Hi there, Dr. Mira Reisberg here and I am so thrilled to introduce the following recent and upcoming books from former students of the Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books and the Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books. These amazing illustrators and writers were impressive CBA students whom I had the honor to edit and art direct at Spork to help launcher revitalize their careers. I’d like to tell you why either my publisher Callie Metler-Smith or I acquired them. And what it was like working on them. We’ve included some purchase links when available, in case you want to take a look at some of them for yourselves.
Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader by Jolene Gutiérrez & Heather Bell
Mac and Cheese are the class guinea pigs, and Oliver is their biggest fan. So he watches them to learn how he can be a good friend. But while snuggling might be fine for guinea pigs, Oliver's classmates don't like him getting in their personal space bubbles. With the help of his teacher and classmates, Oliver learns that being a friend means respecting personal space.
The art has a subdued and soft palate with a lovely balance of warm and cool tones. The overall effect is calming, a nice juxtaposition to Oliver’s anxiety about finding the right physical distance from his teacher and classmates. The characters have a slightly retro feel to them, and the use of negative and positive space on the facing pages creates a lovely sense of balance.
Buy it here
Sadie’s Shabbat Stories by Melissa Stoller & Lisa Goldberg
Sadie loves listening to Nana’s tales about their ancestors, especially her stories about the traveling candlesticks, Kiddush cup, and challah cover they use every Friday night for Shabbat. Sadie wonders, will she ever find her own voice and tell special stories, just like Nana?
Because parts of the story are really sad or scary, Lisa had to tone anything overtly violent looking and added an adorable little kitten throughout the story. At the same time there is also a lot of joy in the story. Just like life and both Lisa and Melissa added wonderful elements from their own lives.
Buy it here
The Freeman Field Photograph by Bryan Patrick Avery & Jerome White
In the Freeman Field Photograph, a fictionalized account of a true story, Sidney fears she may never see her Daddy again. Her father, a Tuskegee Airman, has been arrested for protesting segregation at Freeman Army Airfield. Proud, but sad, Sidney seeks to take one last photograph of her father, which sets of events that end up changing history. This story encourages readers to stand up for themselves and for what they believe and shows how something small (like a photograph) can make a big difference.
Buy it here
Walkout by Tina Shepardson & Terry Sirell
Based-on a true story, Walkout tells about democracy in action as Maddie organizes an anti-school-violence walkout to join other kids throughout the US. The big problem is that Maddie’s best friend Stella is too scared to join in because the principal has announced that their school would not be participating. Maddie needs to help Stella to find her courage and join in.
We matched this story with bright and playful art, where the character's deliberately overlarge heads and cartoonish proportions help to underplay the scariness of the subject matter.
Buy it here.
Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lema by Jen Buchet & Cassie Chancy
Little Medusa comes from a long line of snake-loving, serpentine-wearing Gorgons. When she receives her very first snake, Little Medusa discovers that having a snake slither and slide through her hair isn’t so great after all. And to make matters more difficult, she begins questioning if she really wants to scare her friends to stone with her new forever friend. Using her imagination and heart, Little Medusa tries her best to please her family, her best-pet snake, and herself. Based on Greek Mythology, Little Medusa features Common Core Connections and explores the universal themes of following family tradition and staying true to oneself.
The whimsically illustrated characters are truly adorable and I love how Cassie weaves in bits of Greek culture to underlie the mythological elements.
Buy it here
Stan’s Frightful Halloween by Sandra Sutter & Chantelle & Burgen Thorne
Poor Stan, a clumsy werewolf, breaks his leg the day before Halloween, and is heartbroken when his friends leave without him for what’s sure to be a scary good time. Still Stan is determined to find a way to enjoy Halloween even if he is all alone. Or is he?
The artwork is spectacular for this!!!
Not yet available for purchase or pre-order.
Joy the Pandacorn by Maggie Lauren Brown & Fia Kilbourn
Carefree as a unicorn and loveable as a panda, Joy the Pandacorn’s world was bamboo-and-rainbow-filled bliss. Until the first day of school. Multiple rejections, and all sorts of identity issues become obvious as Joy struggles to figure out where she fits in.
WIth a distinctive black and white palette, highlighted by rainbow swishes and swirls, Joy is a visual delight.
Obi’s Mud Bath by Annette Schottenfeld & Folasade Adeshida
Obi’s Mud Bath was inspired by an actual event that occurred in Zimbabwe during a drought when a white rhino bull was unable to eat or drink after a tire became trapped around his horn and snout. Park rangers and vets calmed the rhino and pried off the tire, and he made a full recovery. This lovely book calls attention to the fact that litter, including nets and tires, is frequently found on the banks of the lake where animals graze, and drought conditions throughout southern Africa have been a major ongoing issue for the residents and wildlife.
Not yet available for purchase or pre-order but here’s a sneak peek here. Aren’t these characters absolutely adorable and note all those wonderful organic forms.
All of these illustrators came from our Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books course, as did some of the authors. The first live training starts next Monday August 31st and promises to be quite spectacular right here: https://bit.ly/2020CBICB
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Using pictures to tell a story is a form of storytelling that goes back thousands of years. From cave paintings to hieroglyphics and mosaics to the Sunday funnies, using illustration to communicate thoughts, feelings, and ideas is a method that resonates with readers long after the work is created.
The graphic novel is another medium that mixes art and language to tell a story. While there are those who think reading a graphic novel isn’t really reading, I believe it is a critical form of storytelling. This month, let’s look at some resources that can help you understand, plan, and create graphic novels.
Will Eisner, pioneer of the graphic novel form, is revered as a master of storytelling using sequential art. The Eisners, awarded annually to the top works in the comics industry, are named for him. It’s no surprise, then, that the most sought-after book on creating comics and graphic novels comes from him.
COMICS and SEQUENTIAL ART is an inside look at how Eisner views the art of craft of creating comics. This insightful book covers everything from using images to convey meaning to the proper (and improper) use of the frame to how to write a comic or graphic novel. The book contains numerous examples from Eisner’s own work. It is an indispensable resource for anyone looking to understand how to write and/or illustrate a graphic novel or comic book.
Another book that I think anyone looking to create a graphic novel should read is Scott McCloud’s UNDERSTANDING COMICS. Written as a graphic novel with McCloud as its main character, this book covers everything from the vocabulary of comic books to timing and language.
Part instruction manual, part dissertation on how/why people connect to comics, this book is a must read if you want to develop comics or graphic novels that really connect with readers. You’ll never read a graphic novel the same way again.
Speaking of reading a graphic novel, here are a few of my favorites to read and study. They are truly masterful works that resonate with readers.
Well, that’s all for this month. Until next time, happy reading and writing, and have a magical month.
Bryan Patrick Avery discovered a love of magic and mystery at the age of four, after receiving a magic set and his first Bobbsey Twins Mystery book. Today, he is an award-winning poet and author, and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Mystery Writers of America. He's also a life member of the Society of American Magicians (which was once led by Harry Houdini) and charter member of the International Association of Black Magical Artists. Bryan's greatest joy is making stories appear out of thin air.
By Melissa Stoller
It feels like a long time has passed since the beginning of the pandemic. What are you doing to stay creative? Now might be the perfect time to try something new or revisit a favorite activity to jump-start your motivation.
Here are a few actions you can implement today that might be helpful during these challenging times:
1) Meditation - try a few calming breaths as you think about ideas you want to pursue or revisions that are waiting. Sometimes, closing your eyes can offer a moment of peace, and in that moment, a brilliant new idea or a solution to a story block can appear. Remember to have a notepad nearby to capture your reflections.
2) Affirmation - pick a phrase that is meaningful to you and your writing journey and say it aloud or tape it to your computer or writing notebook. It could be something like, “I am an author,” “My words are meaningful,” or “I’m writing because . . . .“ Hopefully, these affirmations will strengthen your resolve to be creative and to allow yourself to write, revise, polish, and repeat.
3) Movement - take a walk around the block, do some easy stretches, practice yoga, take a bike ride, go for a swim, or do them all. The possibilities are endless. Often, movement clears your mind and allows for space, and that space gives you room for creative pursuits.
I hope these actions help spur your writing inspiration and motivation throughout August and beyond. Let me know what works for you in the comments!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island and The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2021); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, Fall 2018). Upcoming books include Sadie’s Shabbat Stories and Return of the Magic Paintbrush (CFP). Melissa is a Blogger and Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group, 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.
Every now and then, you have the good fortune to meet someone magical and extraordinary. That’s how I feel about Vincent X Kirsch. I first met Vincent through one of his books, Noah Webster and His Words written by a friend, Jerri Chase Ferris, and illustrated by Vincent. It was love at first sight. Then I had more good fortune when Vince became a student and joined our Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books AND our upcoming Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books course. He ended up contributing fantastic materials to the illustration course including an unbelievable filmed critique where he critiqued some of my art live. Wow!!! Ever since, we have been beautiful friends and I treasure both his work and his friendship. This book review will give you a glimpse into just how exquisite Vince is to show how he connects heart, humor, whimsy, beauty and important life lessons for kids.
How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees is a heartfelt, tender story about two close friends who must say goodbye. The two friends spend a lot of time outdoors together, discovering and collecting an assortment of things they love, like leaves, feathers, and bird’s nests. But then Adelia has to move. Roger is crushed. As she prepares to leave, she tells Roger the best way to climb a tree, step by step; first as they are playing outside, then while he helps her pack.
As the moving truck is ready to take Adelia and her family away, Roger asks her a final, concerning question about climbing a tree. He asks, “What if I fall?” Adelia answers, “Falling will be easy. Letting go will be the hardest part.”
And she’s not just talking about the tree. What Roger doesn’t realize is that Adelia has left him a special gift… an assortment of the soft things they had collected. A gift intended to make the transition easier - not just the transition of letting go from the tree to land softly and safely, but also in letting her go.
This is a clever and beautifully written story that parallels two situations that could result in a hard landing. But with just the right sensitivity, care and support from a friend, Vince shows kids how letting go doesn’t have to be quite so painful.
Next up is a wee video showing how Vince's art and words connect. If you'd like to buy this books and support Vincent, an independent bookstore, and our scholarships, please visit: https://bookshop.org/books/how-i-learned-to-fall-out-of-trees/9781419734137
Find out more about Vincent X Kirsch and his work at www.vincentxkirsch.com
Dr. Mira Reisberg is incredibly excited to be co-teaching the highly interactive and super successful Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books with the first live training starting August 31st! Fabulous bonuses are starting right now. Click here to find out more and score the time-sensitive $100 discount!
She is also co-leading a magical FREE webinar with her crew below on Writing, Illustrating, and Selling Your Kidlit Creativity on August 15th at 4PM Pacific/7PM Eastern!!! Just click here to join!
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 Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
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 will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature the wonderful Ave Maria Cross