Suzanne Bloom Loves Fab Goo Taffy

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne's Newest Book

Suzanne’s Newest Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please welcome back author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom for week three of what will be a four-part series designed to encourage new and aspiring picture book authors as they navigate the perilous path to publication. 

Today’s topic is Rejection, with a capital “R”. If you’ve already been sending out submissions and have received rejection letters (or e-mails) back, it’s a major letdown. I’ve been there. I’m still there. But as cold as the rejection feels, you must try try try not to take it personally. I know you poured your heart and soul into your story. But always keep in mind that publishing is a business and publishers are companies. And just like any company, publishers must make money in order to stay in business. Since publishing companies receive hundreds of submissions each month and thousands per year, and they cannot publish them all, they are very selective and choose what they believe has the potential to make money. That doesn’t mean your story wasn’t good. It just means that it wasn’t right for that publisher. Even veteran authors still get rejections.

Several years ago, when I was feeling particularly bummed over yet another rejection, I asked an anonymous editor if editors realized they hold authors’ dreams in their hands. I don’t remember what the response was, but I have since come to realize that it is not the responsibility of editors or agents to make my dreams come true. So don’t get mad, get motivated. And above all, don’t give up. If you’ve made your story the absolute best it can be, send it out again. I wonder what Suzanne does when she receives a rejection letter? Let’s ask. 

Suzanne, how do you handle a rejection letter? How about 5, 15, or 25?

It’s really hard to believe that 15 someones don’t love your story as much as you do, isn’t it? Is it time to put that story away for a while or forever? Let it rest and get to work on something else. After a month or so look at it again with fresh eyes. This also applies to harsh critiques. Several of my stories (which are brilliant, according to me) shall never see the light of day. I came across a mock “rejection” letter which said, “We’re sorry to say that due to the number of similar rejection letters we have received, we cannot accept your rejection letter at this time. Good luck placing your rejection letter elsewhere.” Alas, I have paraphrased and I don’t know the source.

Love the mock rejection letter and the advice! Listen to Suzanne, picture book writers, she knows what she’s talking about. 

Of course, sometimes the feeling of rejection comes in the form of a harsh critique from an agent, editor, or even a critique group member. Again, it’s hard not to take the criticism personally, especially when we’re proud of the work we’ve done. I can tell you that I am always surprised when I get a harsh critique. How could they possibly find fault in my story. But now I understand that there’s always room for improvement. Remember too, that you don’t have to make changes to your story based on critiques. You don’t have to agree with every thing that’s said. But keep in mind that agents and editors are professionals and usually know their stuff, and if you should happen to get a critique from one, I recommend you at least consider their suggestions to improve your work. 

And let me add, that I would be lost without the help of my critique group, Picture Me Published (PMP). It is invaluable. My stories have improved astronomically thanks to the thoughtful suggestions of my three groupmates, Sarah, Jess, and Brooks. I highly recommend joining a group. Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel right, you can always politely drop out and search for another. My first group didn’t work out (not for lack of trying), but it’s okay because PMP is a perfect fit for me. 

Suzanne, how should we handle a harsh critique?

In the privacy of your own space, dance like Rumpelstiltskin: stomp, gnash, holler and fume. Whew, take a breath and revisit the story and the critique…not necessarily at that moment – when you’re ready to hear and evaluate the suggestions. What rings true? What holds back the story? I thought “Fab Goo Taffy” was the best name ever for the candy that was traded for a time machine. My wise editor said it wasn’t insect-centric enough for my ant eating characters (A Mighty Fine Time Machine). Certain that there was no substitute, I stewed and fumed, until I came up with Buggy Bon-Bons. It’s so hard to defend an idea without sounding defensive. And even when we’re certain each of our words is precious and perfect, there is always room for rumination and possibly improvement. But here’s the biggest question: Are you willing to make changes for the good of the story?

Please come back next week for the fourth and final installment of my “Suzanne Bloom” series, in which I ask Suzanne how to combat writer’s block, what an editor means when he/she tells you your story is too quiet, and how to keep from getting discouraged. I can’t wait!

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com

Suzanne Bloom Has A Lot Of Towels

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello future (traditionally) published picture book authors. As promised, I have author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom back this week to help me help you along your path to publication. If you are an aspiring picture book author, you may feel as if you will never be published. I know, I’ve felt the same way. And as a new picture book author (yes, I still consider myself new because even though I have been writing for nine years, I just signed my first contract last year and my book is not yet out), I wonder if I will ever publish another. So I understand your frustration. You may be wondering if there’s something you could be doing to move you further along. I wonder what Suzanne thinks? Let’s find out.

Suzanne, what could an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) do to help them break in?

Are you attending conferences or workshops? This is a good way to meet authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents. There may be an opportunity to have a manuscript or portfolio reviewed. Do you have a critique group? Have you thought about trying a different genre, or submitting to children’s magazines? Have you visited the book store and studied the current crop of picture books, chapter books or novels to see what is being published now?  

Great advice! And I would add that there are a lot of fairly recent books on writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books that offer tons of useful information. Check your local library. Also, I recommend joining professional organizations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the CBI Clubhouse. And don’t forget the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book. It contains helpful articles, as well as listings of publishers, agents, contests, conferences, and more.    

Suzanne, how long should an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) keep trying before they throw in the towel?

How many towels do you have? It was 10 years between my second and third book. I would drive by a fast food restaurant with a NOW HIRING sign out front and wonder if that was meant for me. A sensible person would have sought gainful employment; with benefits and a retirement plan. I opted to become a visiting author instead. I found a balance between the solitude of the studio and the lively exchange of ideas with young students. Many suggestions from grade-schoolers have shown up in my illustrations, like the volcano and the snake in My Special Day at Third Street School by Eve Bunting. I decided that if I couldn’t make a living writing, I could make a living talking about writing.  

And in between talking about writing, Suzanne kept on writing and submitting and writing some more. And I’m so glad she never “came to her senses” because now there are nearly twenty fabulous picture books with her name on them, and I’m positive she hasn’t thrown in her last towel yet. So don’t give up, aspiring authors. You can be published too! It just takes time, patience, and following good advice from those who have been in your shoes.

Come back next week when I ask Suzanne how she handles rejection letters and harsh critiques.

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com

Picture Books At The Library

You may know, I work at the DeWitt Community Library. I’m a Library Assistant, or more specifically, I’m a Technical Processing Assistant. I do cataloging, acquisitions, and circulation. One of my favorite things to do at work is catalog all the new picture books. 

I enjoy seeing all the new picture books so much that I want to share the joy with you. So periodically, here on Frog, I will showcase some of the wonderful new picture books that patiently wait their turn on my desk to be cataloged and then sent off to the children’s room to be picked up and read by children and caregivers (who will love the books so much they must take them home and read them again). 

As always, stay tuned!

Suzanne Bloom Is “Dancing With A Phantom In The Dark”

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing I really love to do here at Frog on a Blog is help other picture book writers, especially those who are new or aspiring authors. That’s why I’ve enlisted one of my favorite authors and illustrators (and friend), Suzanne Bloom, to help me offer words of encouragement and wisdom to all of you who may be feeling discouraged. We’ll hear from Suzanne in a moment. First, allow me to tell you a bit of my own publishing story. 

After eight years of trying, I was finally offered a contract last year for one of my picture book stories, and I have a second story soon to be published in digital format. Depending upon how you look at it, you are either thinking Wow, that was a really long time or Hey, that’s great. Both thoughts are technically right. But believe me when I tell you that those eight years of waiting and hoping, and collecting rejection letters, were also discouraging. I considered giving up many times. I questioned my writing ability and even my worthiness to be published. But I didn’t quit because I love writing picture book stories and my dream was to be published. And now, I am so glad I didn’t give up.

And I don’t want you to give up either. That’s why, once a week for the next several weeks, I will pose a question to Suzanne about how to handle rejection, how to combat writer’s block, how to keep from getting discouraged, and more. My hope is that you will find encouragement to continue on your own personal path to picture book publication. 

I will post the first question next week. Now, let’s hear from Suzanne:

139 words, 300 words.  So few words.  How do you make them count?  How do you make us care about a character?  It may be that all the ideas have been used, but not all the stories have been told.  Borne of your observation and experience, what will you bring to the page? 

Whether we are wordless or wordy, scribbling or sketching, we face similar challenges and frustrations.  My own creative process feels like dancing with a phantom, in the dark.  I’m not sure where it will lead but I’ve decided to trust and follow.  My stories are small, but their emotional truth is big.

Thank you, Suzanne! I can’t wait to hear more from you!

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com

The Peddler’s Bed Is Coming Fall 2015!

 

 

(Illustrator Bong Redila…

...Hard At Work...

…Hard At Work…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...On The Cover Of The Peddler's Bed)

…On The Cover Of The Peddler’s Bed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m so excited to share the “unofficial” cover of The Peddler’s Bed with my blog fans, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends! It is unofficial because changes are still possible, but publisher Ripple Grove Press was super kind to permit me to post it now. And how could I pass up the opportunity to share something so beautiful! Illustrator Bong Redila is fantastic and has a style all his own! I’m extremely pleased to have my name on a book cover next to his.   

Title: The Peddler’s Bed

Author: Lauri Fortino

Illustrator: Bong Redila

Publisher: Ripple Grove Press

Genre: Fictional Picture Book

Release Date: Fall 2015

See what happens when a peddler tries to sell a fine, handcrafted bed to a poor man who has no bed at all.

I Wanna Happy Birthday!

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Happy Book Birthday to Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow’s newest “I Wanna” picture book I Wanna Go Home! Fans of I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room will be thrilled that a third book in the series has finally been “born”. Can you believe it’s been ten years since I Wanna Iguana, the first book!? It was one of my nephew Cody’s favorite picture books. He was six at the time; now he’s sixteen!

I Wanna Iguana was one of the very first book reviews I did on Frog on a Blog back in 2009. Read my review. I loved the book so much that I contacted Karen to do an interview for me and she agreed. Her interview was the very first interview I did on Frog on a Blog! Read the interview.    

Personally, I can’t wait to read I Wanna Go Home and see what clever Alex is up to this time around. I wanna bet it will be hilarious. Read the summary and Kirkus review below.

SUMMARY OF “I WANNA GO HOME”, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons: Alex is not happy about being sent to his grandparents’ retirement community while his parents go on a fabulous vacation. What could be worse than tagging along to Grandma’s boring bridge game or enduring the sight of Grandpa’s dentures?

But as the week goes on, Alex’s desperate emails to his parents turn into
stories about ice cream before dinner and stickball with Grandpa. Before
he knows it, Alex has made a surprising discovery: grandparents are way
cooler than he thought!

KIRKUS REVIEW
A child’s skepticism takes a header when a vacation with Grandma and
Grandpa proves more wild than mild.
After getting his iguana (I Wanna Iguana, 2004) and failing to
successfully petition for his own space (I Wanna New Room, 2010), Alex
returns for a third time, and now the situation’s truly dire. His parents
are taking off for Bora Bora, which means he and his siblings are slated
to stay with their grandparents for the duration. Broccoli lasagna and the
absence of both video games and computers are bound to lead to a terrible
time. In his initial desperate letters and emails written to his
vacationing parents, Alex pleads with them to return ASAP. Yet soon, Alex
is singing a different tune, as he discovers square dancing, bingo,
stickball and other wonderful aspects of old-folk living. Turns out that
two weeks just isn’t enough time. The epistolary picture book is hardly a
new genre, but it can prove a difficult one. Orloff handles the format as
well as the subject with grace and aplomb. Alex’s gradual acceptance of
his doting ancestors plays out believably, pairing beautifully with
Catrow’s controlled craziness. The pencils, watercolors and inks find the
funny in almost every single spread.
A clever conceit ably rendered; this is bound to prove popular with loving
grandparents and caustic kids alike. (Picture book. 4-7)

**AND NEW THIS YEAR, FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS — A WEBSITE GEARED JUST FOR THEM, OFFERING IDEAS AND TEACHING MATERIALS FOR USING THE “I WANNA” BOOKS IN THE CLASSROOM***
Visit www.iwannabooks.com. The site offers lesson plans, printable
activities and games for students, testimonials from teachers, teacher
resources, and more.

Looking for a Fantastic Critique Service?: Picture Book Critiques from Danielle Davis

Click The Logo For More Information.

Have you written a picture book story? Are you looking for a professional critique of your manuscript? Have you considered a critique service, but were reluctant to give it a try?

If you answered “yes” to the three questions above, then you’ve come to the right post. I have also hesitated to send my work to a critique service: What if I don’t agree with what they say? What if they think my story is awful? It costs money.

What you need is a person you can trust to offer suggestions based on her expertise in the picture book market, in a nonjudgmental, positive, and gentle way, and is worth every penny. You need Danielle Davis. 

I recently had a critique done by Danielle. I was more than pleased with her very comprehensive and detailed review of my latest picture book story, Cloud, The Monastery Dog. Not only did she go through my manuscript line by line, leaving comments and suggestions, she also wrote a personal letter with more feedback and advice.

I chose Danielle’s service because (and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her) she says, “It’s not about my style or preferences at all—it’s about making the work sing!” I really appreciate that and I would definitely use Danielle Davis’ Picture Book Critique service again.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie

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Title: Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Author: Phyllis Root

Illustrator: Betsy Bowen

Publisher/Year: University of Minnesota Press/2014

 

Hurrah for nonfiction picture books! If authors and illustrators of nonfiction picture books accomplish their goals to create top-notch books on subjects they are passionate about, then children will learn about captivating people, places, and things in a fun and engaging way. Nonfiction picture books must, just like fictional stories, grab and keep the attention of young readers. Often this is done through story-like text and eye-catching illustrations.

In Plant a Pocket of Prairie, author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen introduce us to an endangered ecosystem, the native prairie of the United States, and many of the plants and animals that can be found there. Through sparse, flowing text that connects each page to the next and large, beautiful pictures, Root and Bowen succeed in capturing prairie life and conveying to readers the importance of not only cherishing it but helping it continue on. Plant a Pocket of Prairie is a fascinating look at native species that may be in our own backyards and yet we take them for granted.

Did you know that native prairie once covered almost forty percent of the U.S.? But now less than one percent remains! Due to the encroachment of people (farming, grazing, building, etc.), prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. And unfortunately, as it says in the back of the book, “We can’t bring back the prairie as it once was.” But there is hope for at least some of the native prairie plants and animals. All you have to do is “plant a pocket of prairie”.

Planting prairie plants and attracting prairie animals, especially various species of birds and butterflies, as suggested by this book, would be a perfect outdoor project for parents or teachers to work on with their kids or students.

Author Challenge: Uncovering “The Dinosaur Tag Survival Guide” — by Lauri Fortino

Lauri Fortino:

Big cover reveal today at MeeGenius! I love it!

Originally posted on MeeGenius Blog:

There’s no better way to get an adrenaline rush than by playing tag with dinosaurs. But before you play Dinosaur Tag, there are a few VERY important rules you have to follow. Are you ready to play?

View original 48 more words

Gordon

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Title: Gordon (A tale of a baby American bison)

Author/Illustrator: Martha Mans

Publisher/Year: WinterBird Press/2014

 

Children’s picture books are works of art. Gordon, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented Martha Mans, is proof. Hold it in your hands. Look at the front cover. Turn is over and look at the back cover. Open it up and flip through the pages. Let your eyes take in all the majestic beauty of life on a Colorado ranch.

Then start at the beginning and read about Gordon, a young American bison, and his animal friends. Follow along as he is rescued from a creek, meets new friends, and finally discovers what he is and where he belongs. Gordon is an endearing story based on true events and it really brings to life, especially through Martha Mans’ amazing watercolor paintings, a part of America that many people may not be familiar with.

I really like how this story introduces readers, young and old, to the animals and wildlife that can be found in the gorgeous state of Colorado, particularly the bison. Did you know that back in the 1800’s, bison were on the brink of extinction? But thanks to the efforts of many, bison are no longer in danger of disappearing, at least for now. And thanks to Martha Mans and Gordon, the majestic bison will not soon be forgotten.   

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