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Q&A Blog

5 Favorites from Ed Shankman and Dave O’Neill!

Illustrator Dave O'Neill and Author Ed Shankman.

Author Ed Shankman and illustrator Dave O'Neill are the creative team behind 12 children's books, and counting. From the award-winning I Met a Moose in Maine One Day to the newest title, Where's the Bathroom?Shankman and O'Neill create fun, exciting stories and characters for children and parents to share. 

 

So what are Ed & Dave's 5 Favorites?:

 
My favorite place to write/illustrate:

Ed: A lot of my writing takes place in my head — often in the car, in bed, or on a quiet walk — long before I write it down. (It's not unusual for me to jump out of bed at 2:30 AM to capture a stanza that finally falls into place in my mind or some inspirational idea that materializes by my bedside and nudges my shoulder until I give in, get up, and write it down.)

Dave: Anywhere when doodling, but at my home office desk when digitally painting and doing the graphic design work. I used to love drawing on the subway, but now I'd much rather color on the floor with my daughter.

 
My favorite mentor text:

EdDr. Seuss was a major presence in my childhood. He showed me the music of words. He showed me the enormous value of nonsense (a principle that has permeated my life ever since). Perhaps most important, he demonstrated, beyond any doubt, that the imagination has no limits. He pointed the way through that open door and I've been running through it, gleefully, ever since. I tip my hat to the master.

Dave: So much of what Chuck Jones did in his career drove me to create characters with lots of emotion and comedy. He used to describe looking in the mirror to accomplish this and I loved that idea. 

"You've got a million bad drawings in you; you better get started."― Chuck Jones

 

My favorite writing/illustrating tip:

Ed: I have two tips. First of all, as others have said: there's no great writing only great editing. So, capture the inspiration, then chisel it mercilessly until it glows. Folks often flatter me by saying that my rhymes sound effortless. They have no idea how much effort that takes. Secondly, to all those who say, "I once thought about writing a story," or, "I'd love to write," or, "I wish I could write", I have a mind-blowing suggestion: write.

Dave: Don't stop drawing ever. Do it every day, even if you hate what you are drawing. You absolutely have to draw each and every day.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Ed: As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck." You never know who you may be talking to on line at the supermarket, who your colleague's father is, or who's going to show up at your next book signing. Talk to everyone as though he or she may hold the key to your success.

Dave: No one knows what you want to accomplish more than you do. You are 1000% in charge of your brand, your work and your titles. Engage with fans, be active online with them and above all, BE KIND. No one wants to deal with a grump. Be kind, give people your time and energy, and they will repay you the best way possible—by being a fan.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

Ed: My favorite book event has been our annual signing tour in Maine. We sign at stores in the beautiful towns of Freeport, Portland, York, Ogunquit, and Kennebunkport. We've become good friends with the store owners who always welcome us with open arms. Families come to tell us what our books have meant in their lives. What could be more gratifying than that? And in the evenings, between signings, we enjoy the beautiful aura of the great state of Maine.

Dave: My favorite book launch party was at LL Bean in Freeport to launch "I Met a Moose in Maine One Day". The team there made us "Moose" cake, had balloons and placed us right in the main lobby on their big 4th of July party weekend.

To learn more about Ed & Dave's work, visit their website

As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.

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5 Favorites from . . . Rebecca Donnelly!

Author Rebecca Donnelly

Rebecca Donnelly is a middle grade and picture book author. Her most recent books are The Friendship Lie (Capstone) and Cats Are a Liquid (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). She's also a children's librarian. Rebecca lives in northern New York.

 

So what are Rebecca’s 5 Favorites?:

 

Favorite place to write:

Most of my writing gets done at the dining room table or the couch, but maybe one day I'll get a real desk!

 

Favorite mentor text:

For rhyming picture book nonfiction, I love WATER IS WATER, by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin. The gentle rhythm, the perfect page turns--it's genius.

 

Favorite writing tip:

Not sure if this is a tip, but as you go along in your career, your ability to glean the useful elements of an idea and visualize it as a written piece tends to improve. It gets easier to yes to the right ideas and no to the wrong ideas. If it seems like all you see are the wrong ideas, wait--the right one will come along.

 

Favorite marketing tip:

If you buy one thing to advertise your book, buy postcards. They're versatile and comparatively cheap, and they make a great showcase for your cover. You can use them like a bookmark, but you can also mail them!

 

Favorite book event of the year:

I don't make it to a lot of big book events, but every year, I go to the Empire State Award luncheon at the New York Library Association conference. It's always a joy to listen to the current winner's speech and get a book signed. The award is given annually to a children's author or illustrator living in New York State, and we have a lot of authors here! This year, it's going to Bryan Collier.

 

To learn more about Rebecca’s work, visit her website.

As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.

 

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5 Favorites from . . . Debbie Ridpath Ohi!

Author/Illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Rob Sanders, Lauren McLaughlin, Aaron Reynolds and Colby Sharp. Debbie writes about reading, writing and illustrating books for young people at Inkygirl.com

 

So what are Debbie’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

My favorite place to write is in my basement office, with the door closed.

However, I make a point of regularly writing in other places as well, so I can still be productive when I'm on the road. For that reason, I try to do a lot of writing on my iPad Pro. Whenever possible, I take my sound-cancelling headphones so I can work anywhere and not get distracted.

 

My favorite mentor text:

I have sooooo many, both picture books and middle grade! One of my current favorites in middle grade: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. I love the storytelling format combining memories, facts about jellyfish and current action. Another is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead because of the way the different story lines interconnect, the inclusion of small details that enhance reader experience, and the way pieces in the mystery gradually fall into place.

 

My favorite writing tip:

Instead of worrying about getting everything perfect the first time, get the first draft FINISHED. If there are detail-y bits you still need to work out, stick in placeholder text like "<something amazing here>" or "<xxx>" that you can search for later, if you need to. You will be revising later, but you can't revise

a blank page.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Instead of doing hard-sell marketing ("My book is available for pre-order! Please buy!") when your book is about to come out, work on building relationships NOW. Support and get to know like-minded people in the kidlit community. Engage. Give good karma and it will come back to you.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

My favorite has always been nErDcamp Michigan. I always learn so much from the educators at the event, and I love that nErDcamp has always been focused on educators and their young readers rather than the authors, and am grateful to the behind-the-scenes volunteers to run the event.


To learn more about Debbie and her work, visit her website. (Picture-book writers—check out Debbie’s guides, free templates, and resources for Creating Picture Books!)

As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.

 

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Blog Break for Book Festivals

Autumn is book festival time! So I’ll be taking a few weeks off from blogging.
In September & October, I will be at the following book festivals. If you are in the area, pop in, say hi, and get signed copies of books from a wide range of authors and illustrators. Remember—authors are more than happy to sign books with "Happy Birthday" "Happy Holidays", or “Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!”. Non-plastic, no-batteries-needed gifts!

Salem Literary Festival: Salem, MA, September 21, 12-2pm

Saugatuck Story Fest: Westport, CT, September 28, 10-1pm

Boston BookFest: Boston, MA, October 19, 11-1pm

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5 Favorites from . . . Jerry Craft!

Author/Illustrator Jerry Craft

Jerry Craft is an author and illustrator. New Kid is his middle-grade graphic novel that has earned five starred reviews, including one from Booklist magazine, which called it "possibly one of the most important graphic novels of the year." Kirkus Reviews called it "an engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America."

He is the creator of Mama's Boyz, a comic strip that was distributed by King Features Syndicate from 1995-2013, and won five African American Literary Awards. Jerry is a co-founder of the Schomburg's Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He was born in Harlem and grew up in nearby Washington Heights. He is a graduate of The Fieldston School and received his B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts.

 

So what are Jerry’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Most of my drawing and writing is done in the studio in my home. But when it's nice out, I like to grab my laptop and sit in the gazebo that I put up in my backyard. Occasionally, I'll also go to the beach which is ten minutes from where I live.

 

My favorite mentor text:

As a kid, I wasn't a book reader, I mainly read Marvel Comics, so I really can't pull a book from my youth. But I think the graphic novels that inspired me most when developing New Kid were Smile by Raina Telgemeier, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Stitches by David Small.


My favorite writing tip:

The tip that changed the way I write is to "show it, don't tell it." For example, in New Kid, instead of saying that Jordan was nervous about meeting Drew for the first time, I had a scene where he was staring at Drew in class, and whenever he looked up, Jordan turned his head to avoid eye contact. Let the reader figure it out.


My favorite marketing tip:

I almost always have a hat or shirt that has my most recent book on it. For New Kid I actually have caps, shirts and backpacks.


My favorite book event of the year:

Wow, that's tough. Since New Kid came out in February, and even a few months before, my publisher (HarperCollins) has sent me to some really cool events all over the country. But I have to say that the one that is nearest and dearest to me is the one that I have done the longest which is the Hudson Children's Book Festival held on the first Saturday of May in Hudson, New York. I've also never missed the Chappaqua Children's Book Festival held every October. And I'm one of the co-founders of the Schomburg's Annual Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem in January.

 

To learn more about Jerry, visit his website.

As always, if you have read the author's work, consider writing a quick review using the links above.

 

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5 Favorites from . . . Jodi McKay!

Author Jodi McKay and friends

Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and, PENCIL'S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019).

 

So what are Jodi’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Outside, although I become easily distracted out there.
 

My favorite mentor text: 

Ooh, I hope it's okay to name a few! For humor- Elwood Bigfoot by Jill Esbaum, for heart- The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, and for narrative non-fiction- The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman.
 

My favorite writing tip:

Write down what your intention is for your manuscript (to entertain, evoke feelings, offer an opportunity to reflect) as well as what the main question of the story is (Ex. How do you make a friend, what happens when you lose your lovey, etc.) and keep it by your computer. It's helpful to be reminded of both and it will keep your writing focused.
 

My favorite marketing tip:

For marketing I would suggest being careful with how you spend your money. Book swag is really fun to hand out, but take note of what people want and what they pass by. From a promotional stand-point I would say, connect with people. This may be bookstore owners, social media buddies, teachers, your local librarian, parents. Don't try to sell your book, try to connect over books in general. Build relationships based on your love of reading and you will find these people becoming champions of both you and your books!
 

My favorite book event of the year:

I really enjoy the yearly SCBWI conferences. They are a great way to hit the refresh button and stir up the creative flow.
 

To learn more about Jodi, visit her website.

As always, if you have read the author's work, consider writing a quick review using the links above.

 

 

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5 Favorites from . . . Mia Wenjen!

Mia Wenjen blogs at Pragmatic Mom on diverse children's books. She is the author of the picture book, Sumo Joe, illustrated by Nat Iwata. She also wrote Best #OwnVoices Children's Books: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Aged 1-12, a resource to find diverse books. Her book, How To Coach Girls, co-authored with Alison Foley, focuses on helping coaches keep girls in sports. She is a co-creator of Multicultural Children's Book Day, a non-profit celebrating diversity in children's books, and also a co-founder of Aquent, the world's largest company staffing creative, digital and marketing talent with 37 offices around the world. She lives in Boston with her husband, three kids, and Golden Retriever.

 

So what are Mia’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

In my office at home which is drenched in light. The house my husband restored for our family was a mess but I fell in love with the house because of this space and it became my home office. I made the bookshelves 9 inches so it only fits chapter/middle grade books. I have an old wall unit for picture books in my basement.

 

My favorite mentor text:

My favorite book in the world is Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Every chapter is a short story that introduces a living, breathing character that stays with you forever, and the book is more than a sum of its parts. 

 

My favorite writing tip:

Believe in yourself and know that writing is a process of continuous improvement, like the Japanese term "kaizen." Editing is "kaizen." Writing every day is also "kaizen." I watched a webinar with a famous editor who said not to attempt to write in rhyme unless you majored in English and knew all about esoteric forms of poetry. I majored in History and Science, but the first picture book that came to life in my head, came out in rhyme and became Sumo Joe. I don't know much about poetry but used rhythm and beat, like percussion, to lead the way for my story.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Collaboration combined with a greater cause or commonality is a really effective way to meet people through social media. It can be with other authors, illustrators, or bloggers. Or it can be around that cause or social justice issue. 

 

My favorite book event of the year:

Multicultural Children's Book Day coming up January 31, 2020. This is our 7th year of celebrating diversity in children's books!

 

To learn more about Mia and her work, visit her website.

As always, if you have read the author’s work, consider writing a quick review using the links above.

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5 Favorites from . . . Heidi Stemple!

Author Heidi Stemple

Heidi Stemple didn't want to be a writer when she grew up. In fact, after she graduated from college, she became a probation officer in Florida. It wasn't until she was 28 years old that she gave in and joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published more than 25 books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children. Her books include Counting Birds, You Nest Here With Me, Not All Princesses Dress In Pink, Fly With Me, A Kite For Moon, and this fall, Eek You Reek

 

Heidi lives and writes in a new house on a big old farm in Massachusetts that she shares with two cats who lives inside, and a dozen deer, a family of bears, three coyotes, two bobcats, a gray fox, tons of birds, and some very fat groundhogs who live outside. Once a year, she calls owls for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count

 

So, what are Heidi's 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Highlights Foundation 

 

My favorite mentor text:

Wow—I have so many! I mean boxes and boxes of them! Today,  (teaching nonfiction this week) I think it is: Water Is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

 

My favorite writing tip:

Read everything you write aloud.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

It costs nothing to be awesome—don't be difficult or a diva. You are selling yourself as much as you are your books.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

This year? The party I threw for my mom's (author Jane Yolen) 365th book at the Carle Museum. 

 
To learn more about Heidi and her work, visit her website.

As always, if you have read the author’s books, please take a moment to write a quick review using the links above.

 

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5 Favorites from . . . Casey W. Robinson!

Author Casey W. Robinson

Casey W. Robinson's debut picture book IVER & ELLSWORTH, published in 2018 by Ripple Grove Press, was named a finalist for SCBWI's Crystal Kite Award. Casey is Co-Director of the New England Regional Spring Conference 2020. She is also an alum of the New England Young Writer's Conference at Bread Loaf and co-founder of its Kindred Spirit Scholars program, which aims to make the conference more inclusive and more representative of the diversity of New England. 

 

So, what are Casey’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Standing at my kitchen island, which might be the only place in my house I can reliably clear of clutter. I type, pace around my house, then type some more. Moving my body helps me think.  

 

My favorite mentor text: 

At the moment, I am in love with LUBNA AND PEBBLE, written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egneus. A story that centers on the refugee crisis, its childlike simplicity is layered with complex emotion and brought to life by gorgeous illustrations. Picture book perfection.

 

My favorite writing tip:

If you have only 15 minutes to write, use all of those 15 minutes to write. Set a timer. Turn off your phone. (Not silenced, off.) Block out the distractions. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don't wait for that perfect block of uninterrupted time.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

One of the best ways to market your books is to encourage the people who love your books to talk about them, whether that's through online reviews, library requests, or recommendations to friends. I lucked out when I befriended the owner of my local indie bookstore (@SilUnicornActon) who happens to love IVER & ELLSWORTH. He has championed my book in so many wonderful and surprising ways, including mentions in newspaper articles, prominent store display, and hosting my launch party. But even better than resulting sales is knowing that someone who knows A LOT about books believes in yours—that is fuel I carry around in my pocket.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

The New England Regional Spring Conference held in Springfield, MA in early May. (Full disclosure: I am Conference Co-Director for the 2020 conference!)The New England SCBWI region is so large and vibrant, yet the conference manages to feel close-knit and intimate. It's worth checking out if you've never been. Next year's theme will be "Finding Joy in the Journey" – mark your calendars for May 1-3, 2020 at the Sheraton in Springfield, MA. Hope to see you there!

 

To learn more about Casey and her work, visit her website. If you have read Casey’s book, take a minute to leave a review at the link above.

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5 Favorites from . . . Susan Montanari!

Author Susan Montanari with one of her biggest fans.

Susan McElroy Montanari was a finalist in two categories for the 2010 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature in Connecticut: one for her middle grade novel, The Day Sasquatch Ate My Journal and the other for her picture book My Dog's A Chicken, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf and published by Schwartz & Wade. Her other books include Goldilocks for Dinner (new this month!), Who's The Grossest of Them AllHip-Hop Lollipop, and The Halloween Tree (to be published August 6, 2019). Susan lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she resides with her husband, Dan, and a cat named Tybee.  

 

So what are Susan’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

The second floor of my local library, back between the stacks. It is so quiet there I can disappear into the world I'm trying to create. When I try to write at home there are too many distractions.

 

My favorite mentor text:

I know it is cliché, but it's Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This book really speaks to children and their need to have some control over their world.

 

My favorite writing tip:

Don't discuss an idea with anyone until you have, at least, the first draft completed. If you tell the story too soon you give up some of your energy to complete it. And if their reaction is negative it could completely deflate the notion before it gets a chance to take shape.

 

My biggest marketing tip: 

Become active on social media. I know I have bought books after seeing them on Twitter!

 

My favorite book event of the year:

BEA New York City (Book Expo America) - I only got to go to it once, but it was exciting to see all those new books, authors, publishers, and agents in one place.

 

To learn more about Susan and her work, visit her website. And, if you would like to review Susan’s books, click the book links above.

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