My #FirstPictureBook Q&A

THE TOOTH MOUSE

August 21, 2017

Tags: THE TOOTH MOUSE by Susan Hood and illustrated by Janice Nadeau (Kids Can Press, 2012)

To celebrate ‪#NationalToothFairyDay, I'm reposting Susan Hood's #firstpicturebook Q&A on THE TOOTH MOUSE—"a fresh, modern take on an itty-bitty heroine's achievement of her seemingly impossible goal" (Kirkus Reviews) with "such a unique ending that listeners and their parents will smile with the cleverness of it all" (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Click here to read full interview.

ZEBRA ON THE GO

August 14, 2017

Tags: ZEBRA ON THE GO, Jill Nogales, Lorraine Rocha, Peachtree Publishers, 2017

Magazine writer Jill Nogales always rode the carousel's zebra when she was a child. But it wasn’t until she read about a circus animal escape that her zebra took off! Today she shares the story of her #firstpicturebook ZEBRA ON THE GO —“a beautiful tapestry of art, humor, and friendship” (School Library Journal) and “a solid read-aloud that is equally entertaining for both adults and children” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

Q. Was ZEBRA ON THE GO the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. I have been writing magazine stories, as well as educational and religious materials, for children for several years, but ZEBRA ON THE GO is my first serious attempt at writing a picture book.

Q. What inspired ZEBRA ON THE GO?
A. I read a brief article in the “Odds and Ends” section of the local newspaper about how a circus had come to town somewhere back east and one of the show animals had escaped during a performance causing a big ruckus in that town. That was it. No details. Which wasn’t at all fair because I wanted to know more! So I started imagining possible scenarios and that sparked the idea for ZEBRA ON THE GO.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. Honestly, I never gave the title much thought. It’s a phrase that is repeated throughout the story and it seemed like the right title from the very beginning.

Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. The computer is my preferred method of writing, but if I’m away from my desk and I get a really fabulous idea, I’ll write it by hand. Part of ZEBRA ON THE GO came to me in the middle of the night on a family camping trip. I didn’t want to wake up my kids, so I wrote it on a napkin with a crayon in the dark.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft? (Please send image of this page if you can.)
A. My favorite part of the book is where Zebra is hiding on the carousel pretending to be one of the horse figurines. It’s a fond childhood memory, I suppose. When I was young, my parents took me for rides on a carousel that had a zebra. My brother always chose one of the big fancy horses. But I rode on the zebra.

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in third person? 
A. First person didn’t seem right for this story because Zebra and Lion are focused on the chase and pretty much unaware of the chaotic ruckus they are causing as the story progresses. I wanted a broader perspective on the story events and third person let me do that.

Q. Why did you decide to write the story in rhyme? Did you write a version in prose?
A. ZEBRA ON THE GO is an action story. I felt that rhyme would make the story snap and keep the flow of energy going.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing ZEBRA ON THE GO ? 
A. When I began writing ZEBRA ON THE GO, I just had the first half in mind. Originally, the scene where Zebra is hiding on the carousel was the grand finale. But then a critique partner pointed out that Lion would not give up the chase so easily. Obviously, right? I kept writing and brought the story full-circle. 

Q. Did ZEBRA ON THE GO receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. There’s never a shortage of rejection letters in my inbox, but ZEBRA ON THE GO actually received very few. I started out by submitting it to 3 or 4 agents and they were all interested but wanted to see 2 more manuscripts which I unfortunately didn’t have. So I submitted ZEBRA ON THE GO to a few publishing houses on my own and it was snatched up pretty quickly.

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on ZEBRA ON THE GO.
A. Very excited! Dream come true!!

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. When I first saw the sketches and jacket cover, I was amazed at how perfectly the illustrator, Lorraine Rocha, understood the big ruckus I had in mind when I wrote the text. She did an incredible job with ZEBRA ON THE GO. Her illustrations are so fun and delightfully detailed. 

Q. How long did ZEBRA ON THE GO take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. Almost 5 years

Q. Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add?
A. Not one word was changed from the original manuscript -- for which I’m grateful because it could have messed up the rhyme and that would have been complicated to rewrite!

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Embrace and enjoy the process. By “process,” I mean going to bookstores and libraries to analyze the newest picture books, joining a critique group and SCBWI, and of course actually writing. Luck sometimes plays a part, but writing a picture book is mostly a lot hard work. It’s tough to conjure one up overnight. It’s a process. So embrace and enjoy it!

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. Get to know the owners of nearby independent bookstores. These people know how to market books, they have connections, and most often they are happy to offer advice and guidance to debut authors.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m still writing magazine stories as well as educational and religious materials. But I also have a few more picture book manuscripts in the works.

Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
www.jillnogales.com

Thank you for this opportunity to share about my first picture book, Karlin, and best wishes to all of your readers!

Why did you decide to write your picture book in first or third person?

August 7, 2017

Tags: First-person, third-person, first picture book

"That's just the way the story came out" was the most popular answer to this question. But these writers had specific reasons for their point-of-view choices. Clink on the answer to read more from each author's #firstpicturebook Q&A:

Hannah Barnaby, author of BAD GUY and GARCIA & COLETTE: “For me, the point-of-view for any story comes organically from the mood and tone of the story itself. BAD GUY is a character piece with a surprise at the end, so first-person/present-tense supports that effect. GARCIA & COLETTE is a more traditional friendship story with a very clear structure, so third-person/past-tense felt just right for it.”

Miriam Glassman, author of HALLOWEENA: “Because it is based on a fairy tale, I felt it should have a fairy tale feel to it. So from the very first draft, it was in third person. Also, by not telling it all from Hepzibah’s point of view, it was much easier to show the mother-daughter struggle.”

Tara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE: “Aha! I had originally written the story in first person, in Zack’s voice, but my editor asked me to change it. That was so we could get some fun repetition with Zack speaking, as in “Zack wanted a refund. ‘I want a refund!’”

Shennen Bersani, author of ACHOO!: WHY POLLEN COUNTS: “I felt the third person drives home the science facts and importance of the subject, while allowing children to put themselves in the story more easily.”

Hrefna Bragadottir, author of BAXTER’S BOOK: “I played around with telling it in third person, but it just didn’t feel as strong. I wanted Baxter to talk directly to the reader in the present moment to get a better sense of the journey he goes on. It keeps it short and sweet.”

Cheryl Lawton Malone, author of DARIO AND THE WHALE: “I use third person to tell the story from two points of view—Dario’s and the whale’s. First person might confuse readers because of the two points of view/perspective.”

Susan Farrington, author of WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU: “It seemed natural to tell the story in the first person. I wanted the child to feel the parent/caregiver was speaking directly to them.”

Gaia Cornwall, author of JABARI JUMPS: “I did versions of it in first person and in the end I liked the rhythm of how it sounded out loud in third person. But also it let the dad be a character in his own right as opposed to seeing him through Jabari's eyes-- as you would in first person. I think this way, adults will find him relatable, just like the kids will see themselves in Jabari.”

David Litchfield, author of THE BEAR AND THE PIANO: “I didn't really think about it at the time. But now that I am thinking, maybe it's because if I had written it from the Bear’s perspective and have the bear narrate it would have broken the Magic a bit. After all, if the bear can talk and tell us the story, it's not to far to stretch our belief that the bear can play the piano. So maybe, sub consciously, that's why I wrote it in the third person.”

Hazel Mitchell, author of TOBY: “Originally I wanted it to be almost wordless. But as I worked on the story with my editor and art director, we felt more words were needed. So it's mostly conversational in graphic panels, with some short lines in first person to lead the reader from one scene to another. It's good for the parent to have something to read aloud and not just to look at the pictures and also gives the child something to linger over.”

Robin Newman, author of HILDIE BITTERPICKLES NEEDS HER SLEEP: “I like that you can confide facts to the reader with a third person narrator.”

Brittany R. Jacobs, author of THE KRAKEN’S RULES FOR MAKING FRIENDS: “In the beginning I toyed around with telling the story from the Kraken's point of view, but I wanted to show why the fish don't like him. He's big and scary and has a terrible temper. Bringing the narration out to third person allowed for the reader to experience more of the characters.”

Jodi McKay, author of WHERE ARE THE WORDS?: “Well, for a couple of reasons. One, I figured that if I wrote it in first person, then these unconventional characters may feel more relatable and two, I wanted this to be a simple story with a twist. I imagined children reading it and discovering that the characters speak as their roles dictate. That, to me, would be an incredible learning opportunity.”

Curtis Manley, author of THE SUMMER NICK TAUGHT HIS CATS TO READ: “The first four years of my working on it, the story was in first person. I felt that made it more immediate. But first person isn’t always the best choice for a read-aloud. My editor asked me to try it in third person; that allowed the humor to come out more, so we kept it that way.”

Jason Gallaher, author of WHOBERT WHOVER: OWL DETECTIVE: “I thought third person served Whobert's story better because a narrator sort of gives Whobert a little credibility in his detective work. Whobert is a dunce detective, but he doesn't know it, and he really does want to do good in his community. I thought by having an omniscient narrator detailing his exploits, it would give this sort of subconscious recognition that at least somebody thinks Whobert's life is noteworthy even if he's not fully aware of his surroundings.”

Megan Wagner Lloyd, author of FINDING WILD: “It’s actually in second person, which wasn't a conscious decision for me--once I got the voice of the piece rolling, I just went with it.”