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True Story Blog

True Story: Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo

It's been almost three years since my last blog post so I'm excited to kick off my True Story series with Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo by Eve Nadel Catarevas and illustrated by Martina Peluso (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2022). 


Rena Glickman, known professionally as Rusty Kanokogi, was a Jewish girl from Coney Island who grew up to become a judo master at a time when the sport was strictly for males. Disguised as a man, she entered and won the 1959 YMCA Judo Championship but was forced to give back her medal when it was discovered that she was a woman. Never wanting that to happen to another female, she set out to make women's judo a popular sport around the world. Her fight for equality resulted in the first Women's Judo World Championship and turning women's judo into an Olympic sport.


Since Eve is one of my critique partners, I was lucky enough to be an early reader of this project and so thrilled to see her hard work pay off with her debut book. One fearless, determined woman writing about another fearless, determined woman! Today Eve answers my questions about Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo: 


Was there one thing—a specific scene, quote, or image from Rena's Glickman's life—that guided you throughout the writing process?  

It was a quote. Rusty (I've always used Rena's nickname) always said, "In life you're either the hammer or the nail. Be the hammer." It doesn't get more straightforward than that!


While researching this book, which fact surprised you? 

Rusty was so committed to holding the first Women's Judo World Championships (at Madison Square Garden) that she mortgaged her own home.


Why do you think kids can relate to Rusty? 

Girls today are taught to go after what they want. That wasn't a general precept in the 1950s, but that's exactly what Rusty did. Obstacles didn't deter her. Rusty forged ahead.


Which sources were important in creating this biography? 

There were no books on Rusty. I used every magazine, newspaper and online article I could find. Thankfully, I found Rusty's daughter. She was invaluable.


How did you select the timeframe for your book? 

Rusty's childhood was so rife with drama (a lot of it didn't make it into the book – too dark), I knew I had to start there. The culmination of the story was women's judo becoming, at long last, an Olympic sport.


How did you determine if information should be included in the story or the back matter? 

Ooh, that's a good question, Karlin. I can't tell you how often I put in and take out information during the writing process. In one draft it's part of back matter, next draft it's part of the text, and finally it's out altogether. But not really because I'll have a change of heart and back it goes, just written differently. Back matter is where I put elements that are relevant to the subject's life story, but don't serve the story. It's where I house statistics or inroads made beyond my subject's lifetime.


If you could pick the ideal place for a storywalk for this book, where would it be? 

The streets of Coney Island where Rusty grew up, the place that helped her become an independent, strong-willed woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her dream – and to encourage others to do the same.


What's your #1 tip for writing true stories? 

Ferret out as much source material as you can. Dig, dig, then dig some more. You never know when you're going to come across that stop-you-in-your-tracks quote or anecdote—the one that pulls the whole story together.


What other books would you recommend to readers who love Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo? 

Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Run by Kim Chaffee & Ellen Rooney and Billie Jean!: How Tennis Star Billie Jean King Changed Women's Sports by Mara Rockliff & Elizabeth Baddeley.


Thank you, Eve, for being the hammer (wink!) and for taking the time to chat about this kick-butt biography!



Spirited and empowering, this book (with its "Kapow!" cover) is on four shelves in my TrueStory Bookshop:

  • Women's History
  • Athletes
  • Activists
  • Jewish Heritage Stories 


To take a peek inside the book, checkout my BookTok


Every day is a good day for a true story! But here are some special tie-in dates for Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo.

  • February (first Wednesday in February): National Girls and Women in Sports Day raises awareness about the positive aspects of sports and the continued need to promote gender equality in every way.
  • June 23 (1972): The day Title IX was signed into law. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
  • July 30 (1935): Rena Glickman's birthday.
  • August 21 (2009): YMCA gives Rusty back the medal she was stripped of 50 years earlier.
  • September 25 (1988): First Olympic Women's Judo competition (This was a demonstration tournament with no medals. After that, Women's Judo became a full medal Olympic sport.) 
  • October 28: World Judo Day celebrates the martial art and the birthday of its founder, Kanō Jigorō. 


Eve Nadel Catarevas is also the author of Wonderful Hair: The Beauty of Annie Malone, illustrated by Felicia Marshall and published by Creston Books. To learn more about Eve and her work, visit her website.
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Illustrator, web designer, and rabbit lover, Abi Cushman writes about sassy animals on her two websites: My House Rabbit (yes, rabbits are verrry sassy) and Animal Fact Guide, which was named a "Great Website for Kids" by the American Library Association. This month she celebrates her author/illustrator debut with #firstpicturebook Soaked!—"a great story about finding joy in the moment, whatever it might be, and learning to let go of your expectations.... A sure hit for any kind of weather, and every kind of story hour." (School Library Journal)


Q. Was SOAKED! the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. No, the first picture book manuscript I ever wrote was a meta alphabet book in 2015, which landed me an agent. We went on sub with it to a handful of editors, but unfortunately, the market was completely saturated with meta alphabet books (and probably still is). So that one got shelved. SOAKED! was the fourth story I wrote, and the third one that went on submission.


Q. What inspired SOAKED!?
A. In August of 2017, I was on a walk with my family about a mile from home when a torrential rainstorm struck. Normally, we would have started running. But unfortunately, I was 8 months pregnant at the time and I was down to one option: waddling. I told my husband to go ahead and run home with our daughter without me. What I realized on my slow, soggy walk home was that once I was completely soaked, the rain was actually kind of nice. I thought it would be fun to show a character having that same realization in a picture book.


Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. "Soaked" was a word that was pretty prominent throughout the story. It seemed simple and to the point, so it stuck. I realized later that my book shares its title with some other books on Amazon that are slightly more... salacious.

Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. I mostly write by hand. I start with sketches and snippets of text in my sketchbook. Then I move to thumbnails, and then to a rough mini-dummy. After revising it with my critique group and agent, I will create a more polished dummy using Adobe Indesign. I type in the text then and also scan in tighter drawings.


Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite part of the book is the spread where Bear's looking for his blue bumblebee umbrella and Badger says she could only find her blue bumblebee umbrella. It was a part I added in during my revision process. And I liked it because it helps develop Badger's storyline and character. Plus, it gives the reader something to consider- did Badger steal Bear's umbrella or does Badger happen to have the exact same taste in umbrellas as Bear?

Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. Bear, Badger, Bunny, and Moose don't exactly have the most unique names. :) But I did choose a badger and a bunny as characters because I liked the alliteration of B sounds in my opening scene, which is then interrupted by the appearance of a Hula-Hooping moose.


Q. What made you decide to tell the story in first person?
A. Writing the story in first person meant I could reveal who the narrator was in a page turn. When I was first brainstorming the story, I thought about revealing the narrator at the end, similar to THE BEAR ATE YOUR SANDWICH or SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR, but I abandoned that idea and revealed the narrator (Bear) in the second spread. I also really liked the idea of an unreliable narrator where you could see in the pictures that Bear's recounting of events did not always match reality. It allowed for a lot of humorous moments.


Q. Did you write the story first, then illustrate it? Or did the images appear before the words?
A. The images came first. I played around a lot with the image of a drenched, miserable bear who then finds joy in splashing around in puddles in my sketchbook.


Q. Did SOAKED! receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. My agent submitted it to two publishers, and it received one rejection and one revise-and-resubmit. After submitting the revision, we got an offer from Viking!


Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on SOAKED!.
A. I was about to head into a meeting with a library director about their website (I've been a web designer/developer for 15 years), when I got an email from my agent. She said that the editor and art director at Viking loved my revision and more details would be forthcoming in a couple weeks! I was so excited that I told everyone at the meeting that I got a book deal. I called my husband and my mom from the car after the meeting and emailed my siblings when I got home that it was finally happening! Everyone was ecstatic. The next day, it occurred to me that I didn't actually see the word "offer" anywhere in the email.
So for the next two weeks when people congratulated me after hearing the news from my family, I'd say, "YEAH!! I GOT A BOOK DEAL! I mean, PROBABLY I THINK... IT LOOKS LIKE I COULD... MAYBE!!!"


Q. How long was the publication process for SOAKED!—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. I got a verbal offer mid-May 2018 and signed the contract that August. I started edits and final art in December and finished everything up in September 2019. It pubs on July 14, 2020. So a little over two years from offer to print.


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. No, Tracy and Jim, my editor and art director, really got what I was trying to do with the story. So their input only made it better. When I first got their edit notes, Jim had told me, "Don't worry, it's not that bad." and I opened the document and their comments said, "Combine these spreads so you have room for a new ending. We don't know what it is, but we're sure you'll think of something good." And I thought, "Yes. Sure. Just need a completely different ending. Great. Great." But it turned out to be fine, and I actually appreciated their trust in me, and the fact that I was both the author and illustrator of the book because I needed to add words to make it work.


Q. Is there an author secret in the book?
A. I don't think there's necessarily a secret in the book, but I really enjoyed giving Bunny and Badger their own little side stories in the pictures, with Bunny putting on Bear's shrunken sweater and Badger appearing with a suspiciously-similar umbrella to Bear's. I hope readers will have fun picking up on details like these in the illustrations.

Q. Did you create any book swag for SOAKED!? If so, what kind?
A. I made some stickers to include with signed books for a preorder campaign with my local indie, Bank Square Books, and I also created an activity guide and craft which you can find at my website.


Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?
A. Make a dummy. Even if you're not an illustrator and just use stick figures or art notes on each spread, it will help you with the pacing, the word count, and page turns.


Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. I never start writing by typing up a manuscript on the computer. Instead, I keep what I call an Ugly Sketchbook. It's where I put all my ideas down, either written or doodled. I don't worry if it's a good or bad idea or if the drawing looks nice or not. I just allow myself to record all my story ideas in the sketchbook and capture them in the quickest way possible, in words or doodled facial expressions or roughly-drawn scenes. In doing so, I'm able to think visually and in a non-linear way. Later, I can go back through my sketchbook and put the pieces of the puzzle together to create a story.


Q. What are you working on now?
A. I am working on the final art for my second book with Viking, ANIMALS GO VROOM! It challenges readers to guess what goes roar, hiss, and honk and has little peekaboo windows. I'm excited to share it with everyone in the summer of 2021!

Q. Is there a public launch for the book (reading/party at bookstore, library, etc.)?
A. I was planning on having a big launch party at my town's community center. But unfortunately, plans for that have been put on hold due to the pandemic. But I hope everyone will help me celebrate virtually by following along on the Soaked! Blog Tour!




Q. Where can people find you on social media?

My newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dCUjeH (For totally top secret sneak peeks, wombats, and giveaways)
My website: abicushman.com [https://abicushman.com/]
Twitter: @AbiCushman [http://twitter.com/AbiCushman]
Instagram: @Abi.Cushman [https://www.instagram.com/abi.cushman/]



Congrats Abi on your author/illustrator debut! If you have read SOAKED!, please consider writing your review on Goodreads.

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5 Favorites from . . . Hayley Barrett!

Author Hayley Barrett

Hayley Barrett is the author of Babymoon (Candlewick) and What Miss Mitchell Saw (Simon &Schuster/Beach Lane Books). Two more books, Girl Versus Squirrel (Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House, Aug. '20), and The Tiny Baker (Barefoot Books, Sept. '20), are on the way soon. 

Hayley lives outside of Boston with her husband John. Their two terrific kids have flown the coop.


So what are Hayley's 5 Favorites?:


My favorite place to write:

I love to write while standing at my kitchen island. 


My favorite mentor text:

I don't use mentor texts often, but I'm a dedicated re-reader of books I love. I recommend returning to childhood favorites. Read them again and ask yourself a few questions. Why did you like this book when you were a child? Do you still see now what you saw in it then? What do you admire about it?


My favorite writing tip:

Don't throw a good idea or turn of phrase away. If it won't work in the project at hand, tuck it someplace safe for future reference. It may belong in a different book. 

My favorite marketing tip:

It's important to network outside the children's literature community and share our books with those who might find them particularly appealing. Have you written a tennis book? Find the tennis people!


My favorite book event of the year:

Attending local book launches for my friends and colleagues is always a blast. 


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

As always, if you have read the author's work, please take a minute to review them using the above links.

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PBbio Picks for Kids Who Love Tennis, Bunnies, and Television.

Giving children biographies to match their interests 

This year I'm highlighting 2020 picture-book biographies that are inspiring, informative, and match a child's specific interest. Do you know kids who love tennis, bunnies, or television? Then these new releases are the perfect #pbbiopicks for them:


For kids who play tennis

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl

Megan Reid and Laura Freeman

She couldn't just sit around. Althea was off to travel the world! 

Forehands in France, ground strokes in Germany, backhands in Burma, serving in Sweden!

In the 1940s, Althea Gibson was known as the quickest, tallest, and most fearless athlete on Harlem's Play Streets—an area closed to traffic for kids to play outside during the summer.  One fall, after the streets were reopened to traffic, Althea discovered a rare tennis club allowing African Americans to join. Working in exchange for lessons, Althea started her journey to making history. She travelled the world as a competitive tennis player but Althea had her heart set on Wimbledon. Kids will love seeing how Althea's big personality, confidence, and athletic skills served her well whether she was ruling the Play Streets of Harlem or battling racial discrimination. And kids who play tennis will give an extra cheer when Althea aces the "biggest and best tournament of them all."


For kids who love bunnies

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Linda Elovitz Marshall and Ilaria Urbinati

On the third floor of a London Town house, a young girl sketched pictures of her pet rabbit,

Benjamin Bouncer.

Certainly this biography on author/illustrator Beatrix Potter would be a gorgeous gift for the young artists in your life. But also, if you know kids who are crazy for all things bunnies, see if they can resist this story about the creator of Peter Rabbit. With bunnies on almost every spread, this book shows young readers how Beatrix's childhood pet bounced his way into her art, stories, and children's hearts. The Tale of Peter Rabbit made Beatrix so successful (at a time when women weren't supposed to have careers!) that she was able to purchase four farms and 4,000 acres of countryside, saving it from developers, caring for its people and animals, and preserving it for future generations. Now that's some serious bunny power!


For kids who love TV

Fred's Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers

Laura Renauld & Brigette Barrager

To Fred, television had potential.... 

What if a TV show could leave someone feeling welcomed? Loved? 



As a child of the '70s, I spent a good chunk of time in front of a TV that only had a few channels. Thankfully Mr. Rogers was on one of them.  Calm yet playful, Fred Rogers welcomed children into a safe world where they could learn about all their feelings. Today there are countless shows and networks for children. But do your kids know how one of the most popular and longest-running children's television show started? The candy-colored illustrations will pop them into the story of how Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was created—from its inspiration to behind the scenes to legendary scenes (Koko the Gorilla!)—and how Mr. Rogers saved the show from being cancelled. So the next time your child asks for more screen time, snuggle up and read about Fred Rogers and the TV show that made millions of children feel special.


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PBbio Picks for Singers, Gardeners, and Curious Kids

Give children biographies to match their interests 

This year my blog will focus on matching picture-book biographies to children's specific interests. Each month, I will highlight a few inspiring and informative biographies that connect readers with a beloved activity—one that they share with the main character. Do you know kids who are passionate about singing, gardening, or asking questions? Then these January releases are the perfect #pbbiopicks for them:


For Kids Who Are Singers

A Voice Named Aretha

Katheryn Russell-Brown and Laura Freeman

"Aretha's voice had magic tucked inside. And that magic could work a spell."

If you know a girl or boy—especially a shy one—who loves to sing, this biography of the Queen of Soul is for them. Illustrated in gorgeous royal purples, reds, and golds, the book shows young readers how Aretha Franklin evolved from being a shy girl afraid to step on stage into a superstar who used her powerful voice to advocate for civil rights as well as entertain the world (including President Obama!) Bonus: if kids read the backmatter, they'll be delighted to know that the illustrator hid images of crowns throughout the book.


For Kids Who Are Gardeners

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

Gene Barretta and Frank Morrison

 "George decided to create his own classroom in the woods

and studied the subject he loved most—nature."

Born into slavery, George Washington Carver grew up to be a celebrated botanist, scientist and inventor. But did you know that, as a child, he had a secret garden? It was there that he taught himself about plants, especially flowers. Soon he became known as the "Plant Doctor" in his community, taking his neighbors' sick plants and healing them in his garden. The book covers the many challenges and successes of Carver's life but comes full circle with a celebration of his greatest childhood love—caring for his secret garden. If you have young gardeners in your home, let them dig in to this beautiful book.


For Kids Who Are Curious

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.

Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael Lopez 

 "Instead of fearing our differences or ignoring them,

we can shed light on them and explore them together."

It would be easy to say that this book is a lovely gift for kids with special needs. Beginning with little Sonia Sotomayor's story of how she manages her diabetes, the book then weaves through the experiences of other kids who each describe the challenges—and powers—that come with living with asthma, blindness, deafness, dyslexia, autism, speech impediments, Tourette's syndrome, ADHD, food allergies, Down syndrome, and using a wheelchair. But really, this book is for every kid who meets someone who seems "different" and wants to know more. And because children are curious by nature, that makes this book a must-have for every kid.



What are your favorite PBbios for singers, gardeners, and curious kids?


As always, if you have read any of these books, please take a minute to review them using the links above. 


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Dorothia Rohner combined her love of science and art and earned a degree in Biological and Pre-Medical Illustration from Iowa State University. After working in scientific illustration, animation, and graphic design, she illustrated two children's books, Numbers in a Row, An Iowa Number Book, (Sleeping Bear Press) and Effie's Image (Prairieland Press). But next month marks her author debut with her #firstpicturebook I AM GOOSE!—"[A] honking good tale"—Kirkus Reviews.


Q. Was I AM GOOSE the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?

A. Hi Karlin, First of all, thank you for inviting me to talk about my upcoming book! I Am Goose!. (Feb, 18, 2020, Clarion Books—HMH Kids, Illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva) To answer your question, no, this was not the first book, or second or third. I have a drawer full of dummy books. Some will stay in that drawer forever and some are under revision. The first dummy book I ever made was called "Monsters for Ari". It will stay in the drawer.


Q. What inspired I AM GOOSE?

A. I volunteer at Head Start here in my town. My official job is to play and talk with the
children. Whenever we head out to the playground, they almost always ask, "Do you want to play Duck, Duck, Goose?" The story idea came from watching, playing and interacting with the kids. They are hilarious and the animals in the book are based on the different children's personalities. 


Q. How did you pick the title of your book?

A. The title had many iterations— Cluck, Cluck Goose, Never Play Duck, Duck Goose with the Moon. I love to draw the moon, but I had to change this because it just didn't work. Because Goose is so self involved, I Am Goose! fit the best. My editor didn't change it, so the title stuck. 


Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?

A. I start with notes in my idea book. I started doing this when I participated in Picture Book Idea Month, now called Storystorm. I have pages of various ideas and sketches. When I decide which one I want to work on, I develop the sketches and start writing notes. When the story begins to take on clearer focus, I translate all my scribbles onto the computer and begin to revise.The last step is making the dummy book. 


Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft? 

A. The squirrels commenting on the game, as if Duck, Duck Goose was a spectator sport, cracks me up. At one point I took the squirrels out because it was slowing down the pacing. But in the end I put them back in by shortening their comments. I also like Rabbit. She tries so hard to be nice but slowly looses her cool because Goose won't follow the rules. And of course, the ending, where Goose learns what goes around, comes around.


Q. What made you decide to tell the story in first, second, or third person?  

A. This whole book is told with dialogue. It seemed the most immediate way to present the characters and the situation. 


Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing I AM GOOSE? 

A. When I started, I only knew that I wanted to have a Goose playing Duck, Duck, Goose and cause a ruckus. Initially the rabbit was a boy with overalls and an accent.  With each revising, the animal personalities emerged. It went through many iterations before the final manuscript was submitted. 


Q. Did I AM GOOSE  receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?

A. My agent at the time, Laura Biagi, sent the manuscript out to about ten or twelve publishers. We got a few rejections before we got two offers. 


Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on I AM GOOSE .

A. I was super excited, but when the offers came in, they both wanted to choose a different illustrator. That was a little hard, because I had spent quite a bit of time coming up with illustrations for the manuscript.  But in the end, I was really happy to have my first manuscript accepted. I wrote a post about my experience here at the kidlitartistsblog: http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com/2018/04/im-illustrator-but.html.


Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book? 

A. They chose a few illustrators, and I was able to chime in on my preferences. 


Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?

A. I never saw any sketches during the process. The first time I saw the book was when the uncorrected proof was sent to me. It was wonderful seeing it in my hands. The illustrations worked perfectly for the age group. 


Q. How long did I AM GOOSE  take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed? 

A. I Am Goose! was acquired in 2016. It will be released on Feb. 18, 2020—4 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. It was a little tricky having so many animals and the squirrels talking. As I mentioned earler, I took the squirrels out to make sure the story wasn't being slowed down. But it wasn't as funny,  so I added them back in. 


Q. When you read I AM GOOSE to kids, which part of the book gets the best reaction?

A. They giggle when Goose has a tantrum and tries to convince everyone that he should be 'it". They liked the ending too. 


Q. Did you create any book swag for I AM GOOSE? If so, what kind?

A. I've ordered bookmarks and will be giving away t-shirts as door prizes for my first book signing at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines. I have a few paper coasters that I've been leaving with bookstores, libraries and teachers.

Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?

A. Write and illustrate what makes you happy. Stay connected with other picture book makers online or in person. Keep learning and honing your craft. Join SCBWI. Be patient.

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?

A. One thing I do when I'm pacing out a picture book is to use index cards for a quick dummy book. It helps to have the words written on the card to flip through to see the page turns. We illustrators do this, but I think it is also really beneficial for writers. 

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I have two manuscripts that are out on submission. I'm finishing up another dummy book and it is almost ready to send to my agent. I've been working on a new technique for this next story that I'm really excited about. 

Q. Is there a public launch for the book?

A. My first event will be at Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb 18th, 6:30 PM.

I'm planning on contacting book stores in the Midwest, Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas where I have friends and family. I'm researching some book festivals too. All of the event details will be posted at my website: www.dorothiarohner.com


Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)


Website: www.dorothiarohner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dorothiar

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dorothiar/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dorothiarohner.illustration

Book trailer: https://www.dorothiarohner.com/i-am-goose


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Writing Tips for 2020!


Happy Holidays Kidlit writers! Need a few writing tips for 2020? Here are some favorites from #5Favorites contributors:

(Click on the author's name to see the full Q&A.)

Type up a favorite picture book to see the words without the art.

Susan Hood

My favourite writing tip is from Nicholas Fisk who said "The plot can be allowed one thumping lie (say, the invasion of earth) but only one. Everything arising from the thumping lie must make sense."  I try to follow that.

Susannah Lloyd


If something is not working, shelve the idea for later and write something new.

Baptiste Paul


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.

Debbie Ohi Ridpath

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. 

Jodi McKay 


Read everything you write aloud.

Heidi Stemple 


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.

Casey W. Robinson 


When I'm writing, I try my best to be an empty vessel.  Meaning, to not think of any book that I'm writing as "my" story but to approach it as though this is a story that has chosen to come into the world through me.  And so my job (and my responsibility to the story)  is to be the best listener that I can be.   If I'm not a little surprised, I'm usually doing something wrong, being too controlling. I've found that most of the best stories and poems have a life of their own, and my job is to stay out of the way.

Corinna Luyken


Be true to your story, not true to 'trends.'

Shana Keller



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Book Events To Check Out in 2020

Are you a Kidlit writer or illustrator who wants to add some book events to your 2020 schedule? Then check out these favorites from #5Favorites contributors. (Click on the author's name to see the full Q&A and event links.)


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! 

Rebecca Donnelly 

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.

Debbie Ohi Ridpath 


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.

Jerry Craft

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

Mia Wenjen


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.

Casey W. Robinson

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.

Susan Montanari 

I've been lucky enough to attend the ALA and NCTE conferences in the past few years, and I always come home energized from hearing great presentations, meeting friends old and new, and collecting armloads of advance reader copies!

Andrea Wang 

I absolutely loved KidLitCon this year. It was a cozy and wonderful blend of authors, librarians, and bloggers. I learned a lot and got to spend quality time with old and new friends.

Gina Perry 


nErDcamp, without a doubt. My first was a few years ago on Long Island, and after that one, I started going to every single one I could -- New Jersey, Kansas, Michigan, Vermont, Northern New England... There is nothing like the energy and spirit of nErDcamp. The events celebrate and put into highly productive practice the belief that kids' educators and kids' book creators are colleagues, that our missions are, at the end of the day, the same -- to improve and enrich the lives of kids through reading and books. The more we work together, the better work we can all do.

Jarrett Lerner


My favorite book event of the year, as both an attendee and a speaker, is the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland. Amazing authors from around the country in a homey civic park atmosphere. With the occasional tooting of a passing train! (Books, parks and trains are an evocative combination to me.)

Jonathan Roth


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5 Favorites from . . . Jonathan Roth!

Author/Illustrator Jonathan Roth

Jonathan Roth is the author-illustrator of the chapter book series Beep and Bob (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), which is aimed at elementary kids who like funny, exciting stories and cute, bluish aliens. Jonathan travels daily through both space and time, from his Rockville, Md. home where he lives with his wife and two kitties, to the school where he teaches art to the creative minds of today and tomorrow.


So what are Jonathan's 5 Favorites?:

My favorite place to write:

I keep meaning to find my muse in scenic riverside cafes. The mundane reality is that most of my writing and drawing is done at an old wooden drafting table in my small home office.Though when kids ask where I get ideas, I tell them much of my best thinking is done as I'm walking or cycling. Butt in chair, but also move that butt too!

My favorite mentor text:

For wit and wisdom, humor and heart, I probably owe Charles Schulz and Peanuts more than anyone. As for my sense of fantastical space absurdity, where would it be if not for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? And I can't neglect a plug for Lynda Barry, whose Picture This, What It Is and now Making Comics are mind-blowing texts on creativity.

My favorite writing tip:

"No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader." I would also substitute "fun" for "surprise". This doesn't mean writing isn't sometimes (usually) a terrible struggle, but if you're not also hitting those zones of pure creative enjoyment, then what's the point?

My favorite marketing tip:

Be part of a diverse, genuine a community of writers, artists, librarians, booksellers and educators, even well before you have a book out, and pay it forward. I prefer to do this locally and in person, though I have the benefit of a large metro area (DC).

My favorite book event of the year:

My favorite book event of the year, as both an attendee and a speaker, is the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland. Amazing authors from around the country in a homey civic park atmosphere. With the occasional tooting of a passing train! (Books, parks and trains are an evocative combination to me.)


To learn more about Jonathan and his work, visit his 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 . . . Susannah Lloyd!

Author Susannah Lloyd

Susannah Lloyd is the author of The Terribly Friendly Fox, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon, and This Book Can Read Your Mind, illustrated by Jacob Grant. She loves reading stories to her two sons above all things, and picture-book sections in libraries and book shops are her happy place.   Her writing is inspired by dusty stuffed animals in museums, by long walks through woodlands, and by all things small in the world.

So what are Susannah's 5 Favorites?:


My favorite place to write: 

Rebecca Solnit wrote that the mind works at its best at three miles an hour and I do find my best writing ideas tend to come when I'm walking.  I'll be walking along, with a totally blank mind, and all of a sudden some characters will start talking to each other in my head, and I have to stop, grab my notebook, and scribble it all down before all that chatter evaporates.


My favorite mentor text:  

The children's books I love the best are the ones where you get the feeling that the writer or illustrator was thoroughly enjoying themselves, having an absolutely marvellous time, creating it. Fattipuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois and Fritz Wegner, and the books that Russell Hoban or John Yeoman wrote with Quentin Blake all give me that feeling. However I think this is especially true of Hoban and Blake's two Captain Najork books, which I adore.  Mac Barnett's and Jon Klassen's books also have that feeling about them too. I love the line 'I may have been swallowed but I have no intention of being eaten' from their book The Wolf, The Duck and the Mouse.


My favorite writing tip:

My favourite writing tip is from Nicholas Fisk who said "The plot can be allowed one thumping lie (say, the invasion of earth) but only one. Everything arising from the thumping lie must make sense."  I try to follow that.


My favorite marketing tip:

My debut picture book only just came out so I don't feel I've got to grips with the idea of marketing at all yet, except, perhaps to say, try to be yourself, because I would imagine any other way lies madness.


My favorite book event of the year:

My youngest son and I went to see by a book event by Emily Howarth Booth around her book The King Who Banned The Dark at the Bradford Literature Festival. I've seen a lot of events where the authors or illustrators are in an all singing, all dancing performing mode, but Emily was very softly spoken and had a wonderful gentle and quiet way of drawing out the most creative ideas from the shyest of young audience members.  We both loved it.


To learn more about Susannah'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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