by Melissa Stoller
December brings the winter holiday season for many faith traditions. I celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah, and at this time of year, I find myself immersing in holiday foods, family parties, and lots of decorating. I am thankful to be able to enjoy the holiday lights with family and friends and I hope to spark some story ideas when we are all together.
Here are a few ways you can gather inspiration this holiday season:
I hope these brainstorming exercises spark some story ideas or revisions – let me know in the comments.
Cheers to creativity and to a joyous and peaceful holiday season!
Melissa Stoller writes to bring connection, joy, and a bit of magic to her readers. She 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; Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom; and Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Lovvorn and Shirin Rahman). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Rate Your Story Judge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, a Book Meshuggenahs member, a Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Advisory Council member, and a past school and synagogue Trustee. She also interviews authors and offers resources on her blog. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer/editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and Central Park walks. Melissa is represented by Jonathan Rosen at The Seymour Agency. www.MelissaStoller.com
By Sharon Giltrow
Refrain, Rhyme and Relatability the three Rs.
Refrain – In picture books every word counts, so try and make those words even more powerful through the use of a refrain. “What I really want the most, is some yummy cheese on toast.” For an added bonus the catchy refrain in our featured book rhymes.
Rhyme – As writers we are often told to steer away from rhyme. But if that is your writing style and you can make it work and sound great then write away.
Relatability - Choose a relatable theme. Children love to read stories that reflect their lives. What is more relatable for children than not wanting to eat their dinner. Or wanting to eat the same thing over and over again.
All of the three R's are used in the fabulous book CHEESE ON TOAST by Kelly Louise Jarris and Baginda Adr.
Cheese On Toast
Written by: Kelly Louise Jarris
Illustrated by: Baginda Adr
Published by: Kelly Louise Jarris , 1st November 2022
"I don't want this yucky roast.
I just want some cheese on toast."
Mum has prepared a delicious roast for dinner full of healthy vegetables like green beans, peas, and carrots, but her son is not pleased.
Will mum be able to convince him to give it a try?
Here are Kelly's favourite spreads and what she loves about them.
K - This one is a classic face all my boys have made at one time or another during dinner time. Baginda captured it perfectly with his illustration. It’s why I used it for the front cover. It tells the story with just his expression. I love it.'
Sh- Yes Kelly I agree, the reader doesn’t even need to read the text to know what is happening. But of course, there wouldn’t be an illustration without the text. Which makes me ask, what comes first the text or the illustration 😊?
K - Here the boy is in bed pretending, he is unwell gets kids into giggles. Children love ‘Crunchy’ the carrot. It’s been named recently by my friend's daughter. It's a perfect name for a carrot. (Additional info: Crunchy is hiding on each page in silly places. I tried to make it a fun book, repetitive and a bit interactive for this age group to read aloud together.')
Sh-. The magic of this spread and the book CHEESE ON TOAST is how relatable the story and the illustrations are to children. Also, the added bonus of looking for “Crunchy the Carrot” is a perfect addition to the book.
So, when you’re writing your next picture book try and remember the three Rs. Or if you can’t rhyme (like me) at least try and remember the two Rs – refrain and relatability.
See you in December for a re-cap (another great R) of all the great Aussie books I’ve featured in 2022.
Remember (another R) 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 2023 and 2024 - 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 don’t know about you but, for me, 2022 has flown by. I had seven books come out this year including two middle grade mysteries, a middle grade collective biography, and four new chapter books in my Mr. Grizley’s Class series. For this year, I am extremely grateful.
Still, 2023 looms in the not-so-distant future (40 days away, to be precise). Next year promises to be just as busy for me as this year. I have two picture books on the way, followed by another four chapters, and an anthology. So, as I take time out this wake to count my blessing and be thankful, I’m also looking ahead to next year. I try to finish the year with a simple ritual to get ready for the year ahead. This month, I’d like to share my process with you.
First, I plan. That’s Step 1. Like I said, I have seven books on the way in 2023, including EARL LEARNS A LESSON and MAX'S MAGIC CHANGE. That means promotion, school visits, signing, giveaways, and the like. My plan is simple. I already have a template for book promotion that includes things like updating my website, doing a cover reveal, and starting to pester readers for early reviews. My end of the year plan, then, consists of putting the Book Birthdays on my calendar, and pulling items off my book release template and putting them on the calendar as well. This helps me see what I have ready and what I need to do additional prep work for. For example, one of the items on my book release template is creating my school visit presentation. This already exists for my Mr. Grizley’s Class series. I don’t have one yet for my two new picture books. I’ll add an action item to my to do list to create the presentation so that I market school visits for the books.
Once I finish with my plan for next year, the ritual starts to be a little more fun. Step 2 is where I create some goals for the year. These aren’t the usual, write 500 words a day goals. These goals are my stretch goals. I start by thinking about a quote I first heard when I just out of college: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” The sky is the limit here. I try to come up with two or three stretch goals. I’ll revisit these goals throughout the year, breaking them down into smaller chunks. I might not achieve these goals but, as the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.
Step 3 of my ritual is the most fun: Celebrate! Writing is hard (I know, I’m preaching to the choir). Give yourself a pat on the back for all the things you’ve accomplished. Those who know me well, know I celebrate everything from finishing a draft to a book birthday. Writing might be hard, but it should be fun, too. Otherwise, why do it?
So that’s it. My end of year ritual to get ready for what’s coming next. Give it a try. In the meantime, congratulations on your accomplishments this year and best of luck in the year ahead.
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.
This month, I will celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Here are a few ways to include gratitude in your writing in November and throughout the year.
1) At every Thanksgiving holiday dinner, I pass around stones and markers to each guest. Each person writes a word or phrase detailing what they are grateful for. This year, I will think about my words, and perhaps try to incorporate some of my feelings of thanks into my manuscripts.
2) I am definitely thankful for my writing partners. They help guide me, critique my work, share in the ups and downs of the writing life, and generally provide support throughout this journey. This month, I will think about all my writing friends and hopefully become inspired to write a new story highlighting themes of friendship.
3) I am always thankful for my family. This year, I will write notes of thanks to my family, reminiscing about special times we have shared over the past twelve months. I hope that these memories of vacations, adventures in nature and in cities, and just everyday moments will help spark some stories centering on family.
What are you grateful for this year? How can you incorporate some of the ideas above into your writing practice this month? 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!; Sadie’s Shabbat Stories; and Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-author). Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-authored with Callie Lovvorn and Shirin Rahman, Illustrated by Kate Talbot), released from Clear Fork Publishing on November 1, 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 Dr. Mira Reisberg
Some fears can be really helpful in surviving and navigating life. But then there are other kinds of fears that can be adrenaline charging, excitement generating, and just plain fun. And that’s what I’d like to focus on right now. But before I do, I just want to preface this with the fact that part of entertaining kids with children’s books, often although not always, also involves helping them learn about life as these following books to do while tickling their fear and funny bones. This is called adding another layer and is one of my favorite things to teach. But I digress.
All of the following books are written by former students who dared to study with us, and wait for it, one of them will be co-teaching in our upcoming Craft and Business of Writing and Illustrating Picture Books course. So, let’s start:
First up is Stans Frightful Halloween written by brilliant editor and publisher Sandra Sutter. It's a super charming tale about clumsy Stan’s awful accident that stops him from celebrating with his friends as his FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in big time. Stan tries and tries different things until... most delightfully, Stan learns to overcome his greatest fear of missing Halloween and friendships with a wonderful unexpected twist at the end.
Sandra is a super smart former lawyer and counselor who now runs Gnome Road Publishing’s Little Gnome imprint, a traditional publisher with tons of integrity building their picture book list. Sandra has already published some of our former students and is publishing more. She is especially delighted with the timing of the course as it’s right when she’ll be acquiring for their next season.
Snap up this opportunity and sign up for the course with a full hour in-person critique with Sandra that will knock your socks off. There are only a limited number of these available and do use the case-sensitive PBLove discount code to save $100.00!
Next up is Ana Siqueira’s If Your Babysitter is a Bruja, which does many things including contesting the image of witches as evil ugly women, playing with humor and imagination, and exploring culture and the concept of ambiguity. Full of delightful twists, this book was recently named one of Forbes magazine’s 31 Spooky New Books To Scare You this Fall, among other accolades. We’re thrilled to say that Ana actually worked on this book during our craft and biz of picture books course, which was then acquired by one of our Golden Ticket judges at Simon & Schuster. Hooray!
Then there’s Lynn Marie’s Moldilocks and the Three Scares, which is another hilarious Halloween book that deals with fear in super-fun and pun-filled ways while exploring the underlying themes of being a foster child and adoption. It’s another delightful approach to having fun with fear at Halloween while gently navigating challenging underlying themes.
And of course, we can't forget Jorge and Megan Lacera’s Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies whose main character is ashamed of his love of veggies and fearful of his parent’s disapproval. Absolutely gorgeous with TONS of awards and accolades, Jorge and Megan also worked on this book during our PB course.
Actually, most plot-driven books involve fear of some kind or another as the main character is often “tested” on their plot-driven journey throughout the story. Kuda’s fear of change in Rock and Roll Woods, Scarlet’s fear of not being able to paint without her magic paintbrush in Scarlet’s Magic Paint Brush, Roger’s fear of falling and loss in How I Learned to Fall Out of Trees by Vincent X. Kirsch.
Finally, check out major, major award winner, Donna Barba Higuera’s award-winning El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! This book was created during our course as a direct response to one of our picture book course prompts about remembering a childhood fear and how you overcame it. Donna took a wonderful soulful approach by writing about a little boy and his monster both facing their fears together and the rest is history.
We want to launch your career or elevate it if you’re struggling in anyway. We actually want to hear about your individual struggles so that we can address them and help make your work much more wonderful and publishable. There are only 8 more days until the $100 discounts expire and I’m opening up my own critiques for only $150 extra but there’s only a limited number available. Also, the scholarships are ending in just 6 days! WOW! Please help spread the word!
Here are some more options if you want to join the magic and start some of those fantastic bonuses today!
The course with all of it's individual feedback, over 30 lessons, editor, agent and art director access and submission opportunities, optional critique groups, step-by-step worksheets, beginning and higher-level learning, and so much more - only $597 with our time and case-sensitive PBLove promo code. And don't worry, we also have payment plans. Here's the magic link!
Click here for everything above plus an extraordinary critique with Barefoot Books Senior Editor and Art Director Lisa Rosinsky who loves publishing our students. This live one-hour, in-person critique is like gold! Only $150 extra with nifty payment plans. Don't forget to save $100 with the time- and case-sensitive PBLove code.
Helen H. Wu is amazingly sharp and will help propel your work forward in innovative ways. Let this award-winning Yeehoo Press publisher and author/illustrator help you with your story or art for future publishing success. This is only $150 extra and also comes with nifty payment plans. Just click here and don't forget the code: PBLove
Brilliant Kaitlyn Sanchez has just moved to Bradford Literary Agency where she's building her PB list. And she LOVES our students because we train you so well! Grab a one-hour critique with her and see make some magic together. Only $150 extra with nifty payment plans. Don't forget to save $100 with the time- and case-sensitive PBLove code.
And then there's little old me. My awesome students have published a lot of award-winning and best selling books and I can't wait to hit 1000 (coming soon, hopefully with your books)! I LOVE doing critiques so do grab one while you can. Only $150 extra with nifty payment plans. Don't forget that time- and case-sensitive PBLove code. Just click here for that.
Let’s face it - whether you’re just getting started with your first book or desire; you’re well on your way to publication; or you’ve won awards but want to refresh your skills or tap into new markets, it can be scary!
Luckily, The Children’s Book Academy is here for you. With almost a THOUSAND (yes, 1,000) success stories from our students who have achieved the dream we share of publishing great books to help and/or entertain kids – we really can inspire that first draft, or revise an existing story, AND connect you with agents, editors, and art directors who may be looking for what only you can create. If you’re having fears around this, we encourage you to grab your little monster imagination, join us, have a ton of fun, and hopefully win some awards!
Sending much love, Mira and the CBA gang xoxox
P.S. With over 30 years of working in the kidlit industry, a PhD in the subject, and a fabulous track record of student successes (plus a few of my own), I want to help as many people I can before switching gears to something easier. I'd love you to join me while I'm still doing this.
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 traditionally 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 will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.