#FirstPictureBook

Too busy to blog

August 27, 2018

It’s back-to-school chaos so I’ll return in a couple weeks with new #firstpicturebook Q&As. Enjoy the last weeks of summer!

#FirstPictureBook Flashback

August 20, 2018

“I still can't get over the fact that the book I drew in my cramped little spare room in our old flat is now being read by children all across the world. It's amazing really.”—author/illustrator David Litchfield

In July 2016, I interviewed David Litchfield about his #firstpicturebook THE BEAR AND THE PIANO. So what has David been up to since then? THE BEAR, THE PIANO, THE DOG & THE FIDDLE and GRANDAD’S SECRET GIANT along with illustrating several books for other writers! To revisit his #firstpicturebook Q&A, click here.

To learn more about David’s author/illustrator work, follow these links:

GRANDAD’S SECRET GIANT: “Funny, touching and visually stunning, this really is a book to treasure.”—Daily Mail

THE BEAR, THE PIANO, THE DOG & THE FIDDLE: Coming March 2019. Preorder now!

See more of David’s illustration work at his website.

SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN

August 13, 2018

Tags: SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN, #firstpicturebook, Mike Petrik, Two Lions, 2018

Animator and illustrator Mike Petrik loves Halloween! As a kid, he decorated his house in August. Now, as a grown-up, he’s celebrating this summer with the publication of his #firstpicturebook SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN—a “lavishly illustrated, laugh-out-loud picture book about a boy who loves Halloween so much that he tries to celebrate it year-round.” (Booklist)

Q. You worked as an illustrator before SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN.   How did you make the transition to writer/illustrator and how does it compare with being an illustrator of someone else's work?
A. Storytelling was always something I loved to do, but I was never really confident in my ability to write for children's publishing.  I put together a dummy of SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN to send along with query letters when I was looking for agent representation.  When I found Teresa at Bookmark Literary, she loved the idea so much that we did several rounds of revisions and sent it out, which ended up selling! When I'm illustrating for my own stories, I always kind of know what to expect from myself.  If I'm working on illustrating a story or poem for Highlights for Children, for example, I may have the opportunity to draw something I never would have otherwise, which is always a fun challenge!

Q. Was SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. Yes! This is the first one I put together when I really wanted to take this whole children's publishing thing seriously.  

Q. What inspired SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN?
A. Well, it's sort of autobiographical.  My Mom likes to tell the story of the day she came home from work and my brother and I had dragged out and hung all of the Halloween decorations in early August.  I just love the whole Halloween season, and now that I have a family of my own, it's exciting to see my own children get excited about it too.  This past October for my daughters birthday, we did a whole haunted basement walk through for the kids, and my middle son Sammy had a blast jumping out and scaring the older kids!  Guess its in the blood.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. The title was something we muddled with forever.  Nothing sounded right, and the list grew and grew.  I was even at a point of listing words and combining them together, just as a way to hopefully land on the winner.  In the end, I knew I wanted the words Sammy in there and Halloween in there.  I'm 99% sure it was the awesome folks over at Two Lions who suggested the final title.

Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. A little of both.  A lot of writing happened alongside drawing in the sketchbook.  Once I had some solid ideas there, I would type it out.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. What turned out to be my favorite spread was the one of the haunted house fully operational and showcasing all the cool spooky stuff they had built.  I drew this one last because it was the scariest to me and I was worried that I wouldn't get the image that I had in my head onto the paper.  This particular spread wasn't included in the first draft, but I'm glad it's in there now!  

Q. How did you select the names for your characters? 
A. Molly, Sammy, and Luke are the names of my three kids! 

Q. How did you decide between telling the story in first, second, or third person? 
A. Using a narrator to tell the story of Sammy was something I had from the very first dummy.  I wanted a tone of a traditional holiday story, with a narrator taking us through the events, then we get a closer look as we move into the dialogue.  

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN? 
A. The story structure from the very first dummy to the final is essentially the same.  I knew the story I wanted to tell, and through all of the revisions, the heart of the story remained the same.  

Q. Did you write the story first, then illustrate it? Or did the images appear before the words?
A. Writing and illustrating happened along side each other, which was great to keep it fresh for myself as I moved along.  Doodling in the sketchbook would reveal new things that I never would have discovered if I was just writing, and vice versa. 

Q. Did SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. Oh boy, yes.  If I had to put a number on it, probably around 30? 

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN.
A. I couldn't really believe it!  There were a couple of "hey, we are interested in this, but maybe in year or two we can fit it in..." types of responses.  Which, even though they were rejections, it felt nice to get a positive response to the book.  So, when the offer came in, I told myself not to get excited until I actually had my name on a legal contract. 

Q. How long did SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. It was about a year and a half from when I signed the contract to when I delivered final files.  

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. There was one scene from a very early draft of Sammy writing a love letter to monsters on Valentines Day.  It didn't really fit, so unfortunately had to go. 

Q. Did you create any book swag for SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN? If so, what kind?
A. Nothing yet since we are so early in promoting, but I have some plans!  A trick or treat bag with some Sammy art on it to give away, along with bookmarks that double as trading cards of the characters.  The big one though is I will have a Sammy plush figure to give away as a prize on release day!  

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Don't stop.  No matter what.  If you really want it, be the one who is up late working on a dummy while every else has thrown in the towel.  

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. I am biased since I am an illustrator, but I don't think I would be able to write without sketching ideas along side the writing.  Maybe this is something to try if you are having a creative block?

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I actually just turned in rough illustrations on a new story for the August 2018 issue of Highlights for Children.  All farm animal themed! 

Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
A.
www.mikepetrik.com
https://twitter.com/mikepetrik
https://www.instagram.com/mikepetrik/
https://www.facebook.com/mikepetrikillustration

If you have read SAMMY’S SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN, please consider writing a review:
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GoodReads

IVER & ELLSWORTH

August 6, 2018

Tags: IVER & ELLSWORTH, Casey W. Robinson, Melissa Leann Larson, Ripple Grove Press, 2018, #firstpicturebook

Driving past a seltzer factory, Casey W. Robinson saw something that inspired her #firstpicturebook. Today she tells us how she travelled from that moment of inspiration to the publication of IVER & ELLSWORTH —“an original and unfailingly entertaining picture book" (Midwest Book Review), “sure to be a bedtime favorite.” (BookPage).

Q. Was IVER & ELLSWORTH the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. Definitely not! I wrote many (terrible) picture book manuscripts before Iver & Ellsworth. They all sit very neatly in a file marked OLD on my computer.

Q. What inspired IVER & ELLSWORTH?
A. I was on a road trip with my family and we drove past the Polar Seltzer factory in nearby Worcester, MA. The factory has a rooftop bear, which we’ve driven past many times. But this time as we waved to the bear I thought, I wonder what this bear’s name is and what kind of life he leads… this would make a great story.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. It was the obvious choice!

Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. Mostly on the computer because it’s fast and I constantly fiddle with words as I write. But I take notes on paper whenever I think of a phrase, first line, bit of dialog etc so there are scraps of paper all over my house and tucked into pockets of clothing and jackets.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. The two-page spread that begins “Before he returns to work, Iver always makes sure that Ellsworth looks his best.” This was in the first draft. I just love the way Melissa pulled it all into one spread.

Q. How did you select the names for your characters? 
A. “Iver” was easy – it felt like it suited his character, an older name, uncommon but not too quirky. (I have a list of names I like that I keep for characters yet to be created.) Originally the bear’s name was Orson. But as that is the trademarked name of the Polar Seltzer bear, my editor and I brainstormed new names – he liked “Ellsworth” because of the character in Deadwood, and I liked it because it's a town in Maine near where I grew up.

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in third person? 
A. Third person provided the right distance from which to observe this story.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing IVER & ELLSWORTH? 
A. I knew the beginning – both the setting and how to establish their deep friendship. But I had no idea how it would end! I wrote and re-wrote many different endings before I settled on one that felt right. And then we changed it again during revisions.

Q. Did IVER & ELLSWORTH receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. Actually, no. Ripple Grove Press was my first submission. I took a long time to assess which publisher would be the right fit for the story. Also: I’ve received plenty of rejections since then!

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on IVER & ELLSWORTH.
A. Ecstatic. I remember jumping up and down in my kitchen with excitement and the stunned looks of delight on my three daughters’ faces as they watched me and wondered what on earth was happening.

Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book? 
A. Rob and I had a few in-depth conversations about general art direction. I sent him the names of a few illustrators whose style felt similar to what I had in mind for IVER & ELLSWORTH. We were definitely on the same page and I felt very comfortable when he said I’d hear from him once he had signed the illustrator.

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. When I saw the very first sketch of the characters, my first reaction was “Of course!” I didn’t know Iver wears a cap and has a mustache, but of course he does. I had the same reaction when I saw the jacket cover – Of course. It’s perfect.

Q. How long did IVER & ELLSWORTH take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. Two 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. We turned a good portion of what I’d written for the second half of the book into wordless spreads, so I edited out probably ~150 words. But for good reason – that part of the book is now much more powerful because you get to experience it visually alongside the main characters.

Q. When you read IVER & ELLSWORTH to kids, which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. When the wordless spreads begin, kids usually lean right in to see what’s happening. The scene where Ellsworth is next to the Dinosaur billboard seems to be a crowd pleaser.

Q. Did you create any book swag for IVER & ELLSWORTH? If so, what kind?
A. I did – bookmarks, post cards and stickers. For my book launch event I also got balloons printed with Ellsworth on one side, which I love!

Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?
A. Read as much as possible – all types of picture books, old and new. And don’t limit yourself to picture books: novels, graphic novels, poetry -- be insatiably curious about words and the art of storytelling.

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. Marketing tip: Spend time helping to promote other authors and the books you love – write online reviews or reviews on your blog, post book covers on social media, retweet news of deals or book launches. The kidlit community is fueled by this kind of reciprocity; it will come back around when it’s your turn to celebrate.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. Many more picture book manuscripts. I have about 6 that are in various stages of revision.

Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
www.CaseyWRobinson.com
https://twitter.com/CaseyWRobinson
https://www.instagram.com/cwrobinson/

If you have read this book, please consider writing a review:
Amazon
GoodReads