by Bryan Patrick Avery
The last 18 months have been the busiest of my writing career. This year I was fortunate to celebrate six book birthdays, including my debut picture, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, and the first few books of the MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, chapter book series. Next year, I have seven books scheduled to come out including two mysteries and a middle grade non-fiction book.
All of this has been wonderful, but it’s also meant I’ve had a lot of writing to do. I’d like to share with you a few tips and tricks I used to keep writing, even when I wasn’t necessarily motivated to do so.
1. Go analog. When I first started writing in high school, I wrote everything in a notebook before typing it on computer. Then, somewhere along the line, I skipped that step and started writing everything on computer. About two years ago, when I was stuck on story I was working on, I grabbed a pen and a notebook and started re-writing. It made all the difference. Now, I write everything that way. I’ve replaced the pens with Blackwing pencils, and I use Moleskin notebooks. I find that writing analog engages my brain in a way that typing on a computer doesn’t and I’m way more productive. Plus, there’s something oddly satisfying about watching a pencil grow smaller and smaller as you write. I keep the nubs as trophies.
2. Put yourself on the clock. I’ve stopped thinking in terms of words per day and started focusing on “Butt in Chair” (BiC) time. During my BiC time I write, continuously, until the timer goes off. On days when I’m struggling to get words down on paper, I set a timer for 30 minutes and just write. The goal is to write continuously, so I don’t allow myself to edit and go back and change anything. I just push forward until the timer goes off. Often, I find that I’ve come up with something that does help the story. It may require some editing later (doesn’t it always?) but I’ve made progress.
3. Use a placeholder. We’ve all be there. We’re ready to jump in and write a critical scene. We sit down, start writing, and….nothing. We just can’t put words together in a way that works. That’s okay, it happens. Here’s what I do when it happens. This is an actual line from a notebook from a middle grade mystery I have coming out next year:
“Gabriella sees something, that reminds her of something, and she figures everything out.”
Yeah, that needed editing later. That one sentence, in fact, became a whole chapter before the manuscript was done. Still, writing that sentence allowed me to move forward with the book. When I went back later to expand on what thing Gabriella saw, and what it reminded her of, it was much easier to write.
4. Lastly, and this is critically important, sometimes you do need a break. If you’ve tried pushing forward and it hurts, stop. Take a break. We all need them and there’s no shame in taking care of yourself. When you do, you’ll be able to come back refreshed and with a cleared vision of what you want to write and why. Believe me, your books, and your readers, will thank you.
Well, that’s all for this month. I hope this tips will help you in your writing. Happy writing and have a magical month!
At the age of 7, Bryan Patrick Avery discovered a love of reading and mysteries after receiving his first Bobbsey Twins Mystery Book. Today, he is an award-winning poet and author of books for children. 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 available now from Picture Window Press. Bryan serves on the board of directors of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is a 2021 Amplify Black Stories Fellow, a joint program presented by the Brown Bookshelf and the Highlights Foundation. Bryan lives in Northern California with his family.
by Melissa Stoller
September. For many, this shift in the calendar signals back to school, end of summer, and a flip in mindset from vacation time toward back to work.
Here are some tips to make the most of this month in terms of your writing life.
1) Today, pick one new project to focus on at the start of this month. Write a new draft, sift through your idea notebook for a hidden gem that might become a new story, or take a walk to cultivate new ideas.
2) Challenge yourself to step outside your normal path this month. If you usually write fiction, perhaps immerse yourself in a nonfiction topic. Or if you usually write picture books, think about a chapter book topic that might be of interest. Maybe you have secretly wanted to write a middle grade or young adult novel – now is the perfect time to give it a whirl.
3) Craft a list of mentor texts to read this month that are different from the usual books you read. Perhaps in a genre you are working in already, or something entirely different that you want to try this month. For example, if you never read graphic novels, take a look. Or if you don’t usually write in rhyme, make a list of rhyming texts that might spark ideas for future stories.
Use this month to try something new. You might surprise yourself! Let me know how it goes in the comments!
And speaking about September . . . I will be speaking on a panel on September 19 at the amazing Children’s Book Academy PICTURE BOOK PALOOZA! I hope you will join me, Mira, and so many talented creatives, as well as members of the publishing industry, for what will be an amazing two days of inspiring and helpful presentations – September 18 and 19, 2021. Plus, there will be prizes, giveaways and submission opportunities! #21Palooza
You can still register here - https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/pbpalooza2021.html
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.
By Helen H. Wu
I started in children’s book publishing as an illustrator and then an author and illustrator. My writing and illustration skills prove to be very helpful in my work as the associate publisher at Yeehoo Press, publishing various children’s books. Being an author and illustrator helps me understand the book’s purpose to devise an illustration plan related to the words; it also enables me to get fully involved in the picture book publishing cycle. Here I would like to share some benefits of writing and illustrating skills, along with some tips for successful publishing.
Illustrations Suitable for Children’s BooksMy experience as an illustrator helps me choose which illustrator to work with. Here I’d like to share some aspects that a publisher likes to see in an illustrator’s portfolio before they make a decision.
Illustrations help children understand the story and the book’s purpose more effectively because a child's mind believes what it sees. Words can sometimes be difficult for young children to comprehend, so brilliantly illustrating the ideas can fill the gap. It is vital to make the illustrations enjoyable and suitable for children. I’ve seen many talented illustrators whose illustrations are not quite suitable for children, making publishers hesitant to work with them on a children’s book.
(Seven New Books From Yeehoo Press in 2021)
Here are some tips on developing a portfolio attractive to a children’s book publisher:
Complementing Stories With Art
Art complements the stories of picture books. There are various art styles to be considered, but it is essential to choose the one that best suits the particular book’s theme. Here are a few art styles a publisher will consider while choosing the artist for a picture book:
• Watercolor Art Style Watercolor art style expresses emotions in a better way. If the story is emotional and quiet, give it a touch of loose watercolor illustrations.
(Watercolor art from THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP, by Hunter Liguore, illustrated by Vikki Zhang)
Anime Art Style
Stories full of action and suspense are best complemented with anime illustrations. The anime art style can be both two- and three-dimensional. An anime artist creates characters with exaggerated effects to make the scene more dynamic.
(Anime style art from WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING by Farren Phillips)
Fantasy Art Style
Children are much more imaginative than adults, which is why they love reading and exploring fictional characters. Fantasy illustrations are excellent for children's books that are based on imagination only. It can also create a mythical atmosphere.
(Fantasy style art from WHO IS IT, WHOODINI? by Roman Yasiejko, illustrated by Gustavo Ramos, spring 2022, Yeehoo Press)
Whimsical Art Style
Picture books that convey a humorous story are popular among kids. Adding a touch of whimsical art to the story can multiply the fun of reading. Whimsical art is a carefree illustrating style based on vibrant colors. Artists draw cute and groovy characters that make the reader happier.
(Art from THE SCHOOL OF FAILURE, by Rosie J. Pova, illustrated by Monika Filipina, spring 2022, Yeehoo Press)
There are many other styles to adopt when illustrating a children's book, but make sure that the art style explains the story. As an illustrator, I’ll also consider adopting different styles to better suit different stories. For instance, combine emotional stories and anime characters with a gradient watercolor background and characters with strong black strokes. By considering the art style and story type, an artist may better understand and illustrate the book and even grow and develop new styles.
Establishing the Perfect Rhythm Between Words and Visuals
There should be a perfect rhythm between the writing and illustrations. Once the writer is done with the picture book’s words, it is time to acquire the right art style. After adopting a specific art style for the children's book, it’s time to get creative.
The editor breaks down the book’s words and divides them into all the pages. The page plan enables the designer to know which sentence lies on which page. In addition, it helps the illustrator comprehend every page’s need to create an ideal visual design.
For instance, in The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup, written by Hunter Liguore and illustrated by Vikki Zhang, instead of drawing the girl standing in front of the kitchen table when the text says, “I stood on my tiptoes to see,” Vikki used several panels to show the process of the plant growing and put the girl beside the plant she planted and showed her trying to touch the fruit. It’s a creative way to interpret the story beyond the words.
THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP, by Hunter Liguore, illustrated by Vikki Zhang)
Another example is in Milo’s Moonlight Mission, the text reads, “Take offs. Blast offs. For Milo and his crew, the sky is the limit.” It could be interpreted as the child was playing with a toy rocket in an everyday setting. But the illustrator Petronela Dostalova painted an outer space setting, and the brilliant artwork brought the audience right into Milo’s imagination.
Better Team Coordination
Picture book publishing is a process that requires collaboration and teamwork. Being an author and illustrator helps me communicate and understand our team.
A compelling plot, good writing and editing, attractive design, matched illustrations, and high-quality printing are all critical factors to a successful picture book. This equilibrium is maintained by teamwork. Everyone, including the art director, artist, editor, illustrator, writer, and designer, need to be fully involved in the publishing process.
My Monsterpiece, by Amalia Hoffman, was a great example of teamwork. After the book was sold to Yeehoo Press, Amalia had many conversations with our editor, Brian Saliba. They brainstormed over the phone and via email. Then, Amalia went through a couple of rounds of revisions. When the story was tight and solid, Amalia created a dummy based on the new text, which was quite different from the original text.
(The comparision of the original cover and the final cover of MY MONSTERPIECE, by Amalia Hoffman)
Once the team was happy with the black-and-white sketches and pagination, Amalia worked with our art director, Molly Shen, and the graphic designer, Xuyang Liu, on the final interior pages. Once these were completed, Amalia came up with design concepts for the endpapers, final cover, and jacket design. The whole team also spent many hours deciding what fonts to use and the colors of the lettering.
The editor and the writer work on the text. Then, the illustrator and the art director work on the illustration part. The designer and the art director will make each page of the children's book more attractive and engaging. There will be multiple revisions in each step, so communication is the key to making successful picture books.
The comparision of the original design and the final design of one page of MY MONSTERPIECE, by Amalia Hoffman)
In A Word
Being an author and illustrator helps me understand the business better and gives me the chance to think creatively—not only the book itself but also the whole collaboration process and all areas of publishing. To be the best advocate for your book, you have to know about contracts, subsidiary rights, the target audience, writing, art style, graphic design, marketing, publicity, sales, and so on. The goal is to support the author and the rest of the book team, including the illustrator, designer, and marketing team, in telling a compelling story. I love to see each step of how a book takes shape from plain text to a finished book. I always marvel at the journey of making picture books. You plant a seed and work hard to nurture it, and it surprises you months later with flowers and fruits!
More about Helen H. Wu
Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author and illustrator of over 20 picture books, as well as a translator, graphic designer, and publisher. Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, a Los Angeles based children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Born and raised in Hefei, China, Helen moved to the US in her 20s. Currently, she resides in sunny Southern California, with her family and two kids.
Her new picture book, TOFU TAKES TIME, illustrated by Julie Jarema, will be published by Beaming Books in spring 2022.
In this charming tale, readers will marvel at how patience brings a whole universe together in a simple dish made by a modern Chinese American family. Helen is doing a preorder campaign and there is a monthly prize draw for preorder or request from a library. Find out more on helenhwu.com/books
Yeehoo's website: https://yeehoopress.com/
Yeehoo's Twitter: @yeehoopress
Yeehoo's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yeehoopress/
Helen Wu on Twitter: @HelenHWu
Helen Wu on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenhwu/
Helen Wu's website: https://helenhwu.com/
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.
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, & CBA Director Mira Reisberg PhD who is handing her Mondays over to awesome former now trad. 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.