Wednesday, June 20, 2018

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? A UNIQUE POETRY COLLABORATION




     I was blessed to have met Irene Latham and Charles Waters






at a recent SCBWI event in Birmingham. When they read from their new book, Can I Touch Your Hair?




I was hooked. Such a powerful book that will be talked about for some time. It is getting good reviews and was recently featured in a 12 x 12 webinar as one of  librarian Betsy Bird's Top Twelve Books of 2018. They were gracious to answer some questions about their collaboration for readers of The GROG. (You can view an earlier post here interviewing Charles:
https://groggorg.blogspot.com/2018/03/debut-author-charles-waters.html )

     Post a comment and you will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of their book. 

     Sherri: I think I head you say you "met" through your poetry publications, but can you tell us how you two came together for this project?

     Irene:  We knew each other and each other's poetry through Poetry Friday, which is a weekly online meetup of poetry folks sharing poetry posts and resources. We'd also been featured together in a couple of anthologies. Charles has always been kind and enthusiastic in our interactions, so when Carol Hinz suggested the book would work best as a conversation between a white poet and a black poet, and who would I like to work with,  I instantly thought of Charles.

     Sherri:  Did you pitch the idea, or did someone pitch it to you? 

     Irene:  It was actually our editor Carol Hinz's idea, and she recruited me and then I brought Charles on board.

     Sherri:  Did you meet before you started work on the book?

     Irene: We didn't meet until after the book was finished. We relied on Google Docs, Microsoft Word, emails, texts, and the occasional phone call.

     Sherri:  How did you decide on the premise of the teacher giving an assignment?

     Irene and Charles:  We thought that made the most sense of getting a shy kid and an overactive kid together to get to know each other in the hopes of them becoming friends. Also, there should be poetry projects in all of humanity once a month!

     Sherri: Tell us about the poem titles.

     Irene: We each decided those on our own, as much as I can remember. (It's possible our editor helped us tweak a few...the thing I do remember is that at one point it was suggested that maybe the poems didn't need titles at all, and Charles and I were both attached to our titles! In fact, it's hard for me to imagine calling it a poem if it doesn't have a title. (Fortunately, the publisher supported our choice.)

     Sherri:  How long did it take from start to publication?

     Charles: If I remember correctly, it was two years. However, we did get Carol a working manuscript to send to the acquisitions meeting in about three weeks.

     Sherri:  Charles, I heard you used the real name of a teacher. Can you tell us about her?

     Charles:  Becky Vandenberg was my high school teacher in English and math in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. My first day of school at Penn Wood High in September of 1988 was her second day of school. I felt a bond with her from the beginning because we were both newbies to Penn Wood. She's taught and mentored scores of students coming up on 30 years. I used her name in our manuscript and after a series of drafts, Irene asked me where did I get the name Mrs. Vandenberg. Once I told her about Becky, she said, "Well, we're definitely keeping the name now!"

     Sherri:  What would you like to see happen with this book? I could almost see a teacher using it in the classroom with different readers.

     Irene and Charles:  We hope it sparks conversations. We don't have all the answers, except to be kind to one another. As far as teachers using the book in their classrooms, we would be honored. Teaching artist/Musician/Playwright Lacresha Berry created a Teacher's Guide that is full of ways to implement the book into one's classroom.

Teacher's Guide:
https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/b9444ae3a57c6491174b13bc2c4bfdbdd005cd.pdf

     Sherri:  Can each of you share something you learned while working on this project?

     Irene:  We were both acolytes in the Episcopal church when we were kids.
    Charles:  We both grew up one of five kids within our respective families.

     Sherri:  Are the illustrations of each of you based on fifth grade photos?

     Irene:  We did send our 5th grade pics to Sean and Selina so they'd have a starting point. We love what they did!

     Sherri: Do either of you have a favorite poem? Is there one you labored over?

     Charles: My favorite poem in the book is Irene's poem "News."


which is written with such detail and sensitivity. When I do solo author visits, I try my best to read this poem to the audience. #lathampower.


     Irene:  And I love Charles' "Officer Brassard" poem.


 It really shows how confusing and complicated humans can be. As for a poem I labored over, I don't think any went through more drafts than "Summer Reading," It was tough to hit the right note for the narrative thread, and there are still things I'd like to change about it.

     Sherri: I especially liked the art. Every page turn had something new in color, format, or design. How did you react to the illustrations?

     Charles: There may have been dancing involved for me. Thank goodness no one saw it. One of the skills I do not possess is the dancing skills of the late Fayard and Harold Nicholas or the musicianship of the late Cab Calloway.

     Sherri:  Is there another collaboration in the works?

     Irene and Charles: You never know. :-)

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

     Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming books including two novels for children--Leaving Gee's Bend and Don't Feed the Boy. Winner of the 2016 Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, her poetry books for children include Dear Wandering Wildebeest, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica, and Fresh Delicious and Can I Touch Your Hair? (with Charles Waters). She lives in Alabama with her family where she does her best to "live her poem" every single day. Visit her online atwww.irenelatham.com.

     Charles Waters is a children's poet, actor, and author. His poems have appeared in various anthologies including Amazing Places, One Minute till Bedtime and The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Charles performs his one person show, as well as conducts poetry performance and writing workshops for elementary and middle school audiences. Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendships is his first book. He lives in New York.

     


     




















Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Monica Kulling, Author Extraordinaire

By Janie Reinart

We are honored to have the charming, resourceful, award-winning children’s author, Monica Kulling visit with us on the GROG today. Monica is the author of over 50 books for children including  picture books, poetry, and biographies. 

Her straightforward storytelling incorporates colorful anecdotes, exquisite details, and authentic voices. I love this story and own my own copy.  Monica has graciously gifted us with a copy of Mary Anning's Curiosity for a giveaway. (Rafflecopter will pick the winner.)

1.   Who is your agent? 
I don’t have an agent representing my work in Canada. The publishing community in Toronto is small and one can approach them on one’s own; however, in the United States, I’m represented by Red Fox Literary Agency.
2.   How did you get the idea for your story?
I was reading Tracey Chevalier’s engrossing historical novel Remarkable Creatures. Chevalier imagines Mary Anning’s adult life—her friendships with the famous geologists of the time and with Elizabeth Philpot and including Mary’s further significant fossil finds. That set me off on the road to reading everything I could about Mary Anning.

I was drawn to Mary Anning’s native intelligence and tenacity—to be this way at such a young age amazed me. When you consider the poverty in which Mary lived and her lack of formal education, what she accomplished is astounding. Mary’s story seemed perfect for kids, given that she made her first major discovery, the Ichthyosaur, at age twelve, and that her curiosity remained with her all her life.

3.   What is your favorite part of the story?
As strange as it may sound, I’m fond of the back matter. Maybe because it took me so long to write!


I also enjoy the scene where Mary comes home with a goodly coin for an ammonite she’s sold to a tourist and Joe bursts in with news of his great find, the eye of the mythological Lyme Regis dragon.
4.   How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher?
I had a working relationship with the publisher at Groundwood Books, Sheila Barry. I pitched the idea and she liked it, but wanted to see it as a novel rather than another picture-book biography. Because I’d never before completed a novel for kids, it took me some time to research, draft an outline, and revise several times. It took about a year, and because I knew that Groundwood Books wanted it, I didn’t have to peddle it anywhere else.

Monica's workspace.

5.   What is your writing routine?
I’ve been writing regularly for decades now, so it’s become habit. I find mornings the best time for fresh writing, and afternoons for editing what I’ve written the day before. Writing flies when you’re inspired, but I’ve found that showing up encourages inspiration.

6.   What is your favorite writing craft book?
Collecting books about writing was once a hobby of mine, so I have many such books on my shelves. I still purchase the odd one here and there, but a book about writing has to offer me more than “story starters” and cheap advice.

I am encouraged by the struggle other writers have faced in getting words on the page, and there are many great classics on that theme. I’ve reread the following four books a few times:
Louise DeSalvo, The Art of Slow Writing
Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark
Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write
Brenda Ueland, If You Want To Write
7.   What inspires you to write?
These days, character—that is, the quirkiness of human nature—is a catalyst for me. How people interact with one another is grist for my mill.
8.   What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a sequel to Happy Birthday, Alice Babette. The new story depicts another chapter in the life of the lovable American expats Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

I’ve also been trolling through my archives of material I wrote decades ago and found the first three chapters of a novel that actually has a spark, which I may complete this summer. I’m fond of middle-grade fiction.

9.   Words of advice for writers.
Show up on a regular basis. Don’t wait to be inspired. If you’ve got a passion for writing, you’ll write despite the rejections. Or you might not wish to push publication. No harm in that. Publication isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Writing for oneself has a certain joy that publication often tramples on.


Monica Kulling
Thank you, Monica for your words of wisdom and inspiration. I look forward to reading the craft books you recommended. You can find Monica on Facebook. 

From Kids Can Press: Monica Kulling was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and grew up in the Fraser Valley, surrounded by mountains. She studied creative writing at the University of Victoria, where her focus was poetry. When Monica enrolled in a course about children's literature, she was immediately hooked. 
You can purchase Mary Anning's Curiosity here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Cover to Cover, Part II ~By Suzy Leopold

During the month of April, I shared a post, Cover to Cover, Part I. I began identifying the parts of a book beginning with the cover. The book jacket, followed by interesting endpapers were identified along with front matter elements. 

Let's proceed with Part II and continue identifying the parts of a published book. The featured book is: 
THE GIRL WHO DREW BUTTERFLIES: 
HOW MARIA MERIAN'S ART CHANGED 
SCIENCE 
by Joyce Sidman.

THE GIRL WHO DREW BUTTERFLIES

Book Jacket and End Papers

First, I'll begin with these thoughts . . . 

  • Writers understand the importance of reading and studying picture books in the genre one writes. It is a sound idea. 
  • Writers request stacks of books from the library to read and study. 
  • Picture book writers visit local indie bookstore and inspect picture books from cover to cover. Writers examine recently published picture books. 
  • Writers read to hone their craft . . . The craft of writing for children.
From cover to cover, there are various parts of a picture book. Picture book terminology various from book to book. As previously stated, not all picture books include all elements described in the previous post and today's post. Every book does not include the same parts. These variants are based on the topic or theme, the genre, and the audience the book is intended for. Writers choose elements that support the story being told, offering the reader additional information.

As an educator, a writer of children’s picture books, and a Story Teller Extraordinaire, I feel text features are essential parts of a nonfiction book. These story elements can even be included in the genre of fiction. Including various text features and back matter that’s done well are useful components that can support the main text of a well written story. 

















I enjoy sharing books during story time at Afterwords Book Store on Tuesdays. Not only do I read books with the littles, I take time to include various book elements. The names of the author and illustrator are read. The front and back covers or book jacket are shown. Interesting end papers are featured. After the story is read, I may point out several components of the Back Matter based on the age group of the audience.

In Part I of Cover to Cover, many elements of Front matter. I left off with the gutter of a book.

Let's continue with another part of a picture book found on the verso [left hand page] and recto [right hand page] pages of a book.

Sidebars or Inset Boxes
Sidebars step away from the story to share additional facts throughout the main story. These could include quotes, definitions, and additional information to enhance the story. These informative inset boxes [sometimes called breakout boxes or fact boxes] are written on the same pages as the book's main text. This element provides a way to grab the reader's attention by presenting interesting ideas and concepts related to the main text. Sidebars are set off in a different font to stand apart. 

Nancy Sanders, author, explains the format of sidebars further on her blog Blogzone: Practical Tips to Help Your Writing Come True . . . 

Fellow GROGger, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, author wrote an excellent post about inset boxes with a catchy title, Sidebars: Not for Skipping.

Moving beyond the story . . . What can a reader discover in Back matter?

As an educator and a writer of children’s picture books, I feel back matter can be an essential part of a nonfiction book. It can be an excellent tool for the genre of fiction, too. Back matter that’s done well is a useful component that supports the story. 

Outstanding back matter not only supports the story, it improves the quality of the book. When back matter is included in a picture book, its like two stories in one.

Back matter supports literacy skills defined in Common Core Standards and the STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics] movement. It encourages critical thinking.
Back matter may include several or some of the following elements:

Index 
An index is a useful tool. An alphabetical list to help the reader find a page number with specific information. 
Index
Glossary
A glossary or key words is a list of important words to know. Students can read the definitions to understand an unknown word. The glossary or mini-dictionary may include specific history, science, or math related words to tie in Common Core Standards.
Glossary
Author's Note
Author's Note
Author & illustrator notes

These notes are often seen in nonfiction picture books. The purpose is to add a few facts that do not fit into the main text of the main text. These notes are compared to "footnotes" and are often personalized about the subject of the book.

Diagrams, Graphs, Maps, and Timeline
A great way to visually display facts and information about the story and topic. Using a timeline helps students connect the events of history and see the "big picture".
Timeline

Bibliography
A page with references and sources used.
Bibliography
Activities
This section may include crafts, experiments, recipes, and building ideas for the reader. Teachers and parents always appreciate these extended activities to build critical thinkers.

Epilogue
When considering an epilogue, ask this question: 
1. Is there anything else left to be said?
For additional information read this blog post by Hannah Gordon for more questions and information.

Afterword or Note from the Author
Additional facts and information.

Many picture books include Resources for further learning. Listed are my additional suggestions for more information.

Melissa Stewart Celebrate Science, Behind the Books: Three Melissas and Nonfiction Text Features.

Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace Reading Rockets, Guiding Students Through Expository Text with Text Feature Walks.

Valerie Peterson asks "What are the parts of a printed book?" Read her thoughts on this blog: The Parts of a Book.

From front matter to back matter, a writer chooses the parts of a book to best convey the message of the story and the facts of the main text. These elements are some of the basic parts of a published book. While you won't include every single element described, you may want to consider including those that enhance your story.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR

Open a new picture book:
DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR,  created by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Deborah Bruss & Louie Chin

post from J.G. Annino


What if...
You opened a book
About dinosaurs
And one stumbled out
And another and another....
C.  Isabel Joshlin Glaser
from "What if" by Isabel Joshlin Glaser in GOOD BOOKS, GOOD TIMES!
selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins,
with pictures from Harvey Stevenson


Dinosaurs, one after another, are
thumpingly what I experienced when I opened the gift package 
from a children's book imprint new to me, POW! in Brooklyn. 
Inside I met the characters of DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR 
by authors Deborah Bruss & Matt Forrest Esenwine (pal through Poetry Friday,)
with color-pow comics-style illustrations by Louie Chin.

Two children tackle a list:

"If you're going to plan
                           a birthday party,
stop and think it through.
                           Be careful
                           what you dare
         to ask a dinosaur to do."

This jolly story
romps around in rhyme, with the ways
significant dinosaurs that once partied on Earth,
might add mayhem to a child's
living room hee-haw.

I love how this book is clever in bringing to
the youngest read-aloud set, the famous but also
lesser-known
dinos, along with a specific
characteristic for each. It's fun, it's a party,
but at the same time, now I know about the one who would be a
balloon-buster, Therezinosaurus. Due to its pointy, sometimes,
three-FOOT claws, I know that (ther-uh-ZEEN-oh-sawr-us) is a non-starter,
party planning wise,
thanks to DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR.
(Not that they all wouldn't be miserable helpers, but
 specifically don't task Therezinosaurus to help with stretchy air containers.)



In our own family zoo, we have a super wonderful, dino-crazy Kindergarten guy
so this book stomps, crashes, tears, off to Will in Rhode Island.

I don't know about you, but when I open a p.b. new to me,
after enjoying it, I delve deeper to see what it will teach me
about creating children's books.
With this one, I think what would result if
an editor asked me to put together a birthday theme
p.b. on dinosaurs?
I do have an imagination, but my guess, since Florida never
had dinosaurs (under water then, later the peninsula was a groundsloth sauna,
etc.) I would have gone old school dull. A party decorated with a cute
dino piƱata & perhaps I would have had up on a wall, a pin- (Velcro) the-tail
on the dino station. And maybe I would have had that dino jump
off the wall, dance with the kids to music. So where is the
value added in that? Where is the inventiveness? 
Another plan - I might have had a birthday party of dinosaurs, by dinosaurs, for dinosaurs, 
with no kids in it.  Where is the fun in that.

Go show some love for DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR.
Your family, classroom, school library will enjoy a roaring
good time with it. And learn something new, too.

POW! is here, publishing books in boisterous Brooklyn.


***

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Coding With Josh Funk

by Sue Heavenrich

How to Code a Sandcastle (a Girls Who Code book)
by Josh Funk; illus. by Sara Palacios
44 pages; ages 4-8
Viking, 2018

If you know how to code, you can do anything: solve big problems, design a car, print a prosthetic hand - even build a sandcastle! Which is good news for Pearl, when she heads to the beach with her robot buddy, Pascal.

All Pearl needs to do is learn how to tell Pascal what to do, and how to do it. As she learns, when telling a robot (or computer) to do something, you need to give it specific instructions. In a sequence. And if you want it to continue doing something over and over and over again, you might want to know how to create a loop of instructions.

So how did the Josh Funk, author of Dear Dragon and Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, end up writing about coding?

GROG: Hey, Josh! How did you come up with this fun and sandy idea? 

JOSH: Thanks so much for having me on the GROG! I’ve been following since the very beginning!

A  few years back, I started trying to write a fictional story that also relayed some elements of coding that was appropriate for the picture book-aged audience. And let me tell you … it was NOT easy. I went through three and a half completely different stories before landing on How to Code a Sandcastle.

Photo by Carter Hasegawa
When we submitted the story to my editor at Viking/Penguin (she previously edited Dear Dragon), she told us that Penguin and Girls Who Code had recently entered into a partnership to create a bunch of children’s books about coding. My editor had showed the story to Reshma and Girls Who Code and it all came together at that point.

GROG:  How did you determine what coding terms / instructions to focus on?

JOSH: At first, I thought back to my first computer science course in college. Second, I have kids who have been taught certain aspects of coding since kindergarten, so I’ve seen what they do. And third, I did research. (Shocking! I know!)

And you know what, coding is just like any other subject. You need to know the alphabet before you can read. You need to know how to count and some basic arithmetic symbols before you can do math. And to code, you need to know about sequences, loops, and conditionals (I call them ‘If-Then-Else’s in the book). You might call a ‘loop’ a ‘repeat’, but every coding language has something like that.

It turns out that sequences, loops, and conditionals are the first things the Girls Who Code movement introduces in their coding program as well.

GROG: Can you talk about the process of developing a story around showing young readers what these instructions mean and how they are used?   

JOSH: This was the trickiest part. But I think things started to click when I realized two things:

First, the setting had to be something familiar to children. Starting out in a made-up fantasy world is complex enough without introducing complicated coding concepts (trust me, I tried). So when I simplified it to the task of building a sandcastle at the beach, this was key. (thank you to my critique partners who continually pushed me in this direction)

Second, I needed to not try teaching everything in a single story. There’s a LOT more coding than just sequences, loops, and conditionals. But when I also tried talking about variables, for loops vs. while loops, and pointers - that was just WAY too much (but YAY for sequels - HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER is where we learn about variables - in the fall of 2019).

GROG: Pearl tells Pascal "that's enough" - is there a way to code when to stop?  

JOSH: Depending on the computer language, there are certainly ways to break out of loops. In fact, in C/C++, you would use the word break - which is why Pearl tells Pascal, ‘time for a break’ to get out of that first loop halfway through the book.

Normally, the best way to get out of a loop is to set the start and end conditions appropriately (for example, you’ll repeat something a certain number of times or while a certain condition is still true) - but that might have gotten a little too complicated for a book like this.

GROG: Aren't you worried Pascal will get sand in his bearings? 

JOSH: And this is why I don’t write strict nonfiction. HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE is ‘informational’ fiction. Some might even say ‘speculative’ - as we don’t yet live in a world where we can instruct robots to build our sandcastles for us … at least that I know of ….

To find out more about Josh Funk and his wonderful books visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks. Turns out, Josh knows how to code - he studied computer science. He's pretty good at writing instructions for computers, but not so good at writing bios, so please help him out:
Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

FLYING DEEP & Making the Most out of Her Debut: A Chat with Michelle Cusolito by Kathy Halsey

I have been a writer long enough now to enjoy seeing friends' books  and dreams become real. Today I talk with writer friend Michelle Cusolito about her first book, FLYING DEEP: CLIMB INSIDE DEEP-SEA SUBMERSIBLE ALVIN, an engaging science picture book. We also chatted about lessons learned as an author prepares for her first book launch! Michelle has some great ideas to share on this topic, too.
Book Review 
As a former K-12 librarian, I delight in finding nonfiction picture books than bring science alive to a myriad of age groups. Even though the book is aimed at ages 5-9, older elementary students will also be fascinated by the exploration of the deep, dark sea, its environment, and amazing creatures. School Library Journal's review (April, 2018) states, "A captivating story that introduces and encourages scientific study, specifically the field of oceanography. A great addition to STEM collections." Kirkus Reviews concurs, and gives FLYING DEEP a starred review. (See all editorial reviews here). 

Children's writers can use Michelle's book to inform their own craft. In analyzing this book as a mentor text, I found many techniques that make FLYING DEEP unique.

  •  Titles and point of view matter. Michelle uses second person POV to invite the reader into the submersible. She even uses a command to the reader in her title - (You) "climb inside deep-sea submersible Alvin." Who could say no to that?
  • Michelle makes setting and the Alvin crucial to the plot. It's barely big enough for three, you can only stay down in the water so long, and you have a mission. The deep is spooky and strange sea creatures lurk.
  • The author uses questions to entice the reader: "What will you discover?" What type of music will you choose - classical, hip-hop? The reader has choices to make as he/she reads.
  • The use of time adds tension to the story. At 8:00 AM we're sinking, at 9:00 AM we descend and the temperature drops, and finally by 5:00 PM we stretch our stiff legs as our eyes adjust to sunlight. 
  • Lyrical language and carefully chosen onomatopoeia help the  reader explore the unusual world below with his/her senses heightened. 
  • Respect your readers and use appropriate vocabulary. Michelle doesn't shy away from terms such as "bioluminescence." Instead she employs a succinct glossary in back matter. 
  • Make back matter really matter. Michelle's author note really highlights her research, curiosity, and excitement. Illustrator Nicole Wong also emphasizes the research necessary for her to capture how light functions underwater. Savvy educators will dive into the back matter to share with students how meticulous, yet intriguing research can be. 
Q & A - Book Launches & More

K: When did you begin to plan for your debut book's launch? What elements did you feel were most important?
M:I struggled with this. On the one hand, of course, I wanted an event with kids, since this is a book for kids. But I also wanted a party to celebrate my personal accomplishment of getting a book published (I got my first “good rejections” a decade ago. It’s been a long road). I was talking to Sara Hines from Eight Cousins Bookshop about this back in February and she said, “You want a book lunch party AND an author launch party.” She was totally right. 

So, I’m having my book launch party at Eight Cousins and a private author launch party at a local bar and eatery. Having the book launch at Eight Cousins makes sense for several reasons: Its located in Falmouth, MA, just a few miles from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which is Alvin’s home base. I also frequent the shop and I’ve developed a personal relationship with them over my years of being a customer. The bar and eatery I chose makes sense because it’s near my home and it’s also the place where my critique group meets every month. One waitress there watched Flying Deep progress from manuscript to sale. 
K: Do you belong to a debut group that promotes everyone's books, similar to Emu's Debuts? 
M: I’m part of a group called Epic Eighteens which is made up of debut picture book creators. We have a private Facebook group where we share ideas, cheer each other on and celebrate our successes. We also share our frustrations and challenges and offer each other advice. We celebrate each other’s book birthdays and other good news by sharing them on various social media platforms. We also share F and G’s so we can review each other books. (Hard copies are mailed from person to person and we have a secure place where digital ones can be viewed). One important point: we do not automatically give each other good reviews. Before we started, we agreed we would only post honest positive reviews. So, if we say we love a book, we really do love it. I am so thankful for this group.
K: How did you develop buzz for the book? Do agents or publisher help with this?  
M: I’m not sure how much buzz there even really is. It’s hard to know what’s happening outside of my social networks. I’ve taken some specific steps to help get the word out about my book, but I believe the genuine relationships I’ve built with people over time, both on-line and in-person, are responsible for much of the feedback I’ve gotten. 
I want to have genuine interactions with people both in “real life” and on-line. I post about things that I care about or that interest me and I think might also interest others.  When I was living in Ireland, I posted regularly using the hashtags #DublinLife, #DublinDoors and #DublinStreetArt.  I connected with lots of new people during that time.  Once I returned to the U.S., I started posting #RochesterLife so my friends overseas and in other parts of the country could learn about life here. I also facilitate a book discussion group for Picture Book 12x12 and moderate a Facebook Group called Create Engaging School Visits.

More recently, I worked with Jeanette Bradley to conduct a survey about school visits compensation. We’ve been sharing our results on my blog over the last couple of weeks. These are ways I try to give back to the community and learn new things myself.
Now that launch day is so close, I’m posting about the book more often, but I’m also careful to share only when I’m particularly excited about a development or have news to share such as the starred review from Kirkus
When it comes to specifics about my book launch, collaboration is key. I have been working closely with Eight Cousins BooksWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Charlesbridgeto plan my launch and other related events. I literally could not do this without all of them. 
Michelle and  Bruce Strickrott, Alvin Pilot and Manager of the Alvin Group. Cups are part of a great pre-order campaign. (See how to win these later in the post!) Photo credit Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

I have personal relationships with everyone involved. I didn’t develop a relationship with Eight Cousins Books in order to sell my book. I was their customer long before I sold Flying Deep to Charlesbridge. I love books and book stores, so I make sure to give local stores my business. By doing that, I develop relationships.  
My relationship with WHOI started in a more formal way-  I was seeking information and they helped me with my research. But I am genuinely excited about the work they do and want to tell people about their work. I’d like to think they sense that about me, which makes them excited to work with me. 

My agent, Jill Corcoran has been great about signal boosting all of my posts that relate to the book, such as positive reviews, launch party news, and book store appearances. 

Finally, Charlesbridge has been terrific. I email with Mel Schuit regularly to plan book store events, newspaper interviews, podcast appearances, etc. Some days we’ve had 5 different email threads flying back and forth. I think we work well as a team. I try to clearly communicate with Charlesbridge about my plans- both book related plans and personal ones that might help with book plans. For example, my family will be in the Washington DC area in July, so I told Mel and we were able to plan a book store event for July 7thin DC.
Cups and book that went down with Alvin last Saturday Photo credit Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Prize Alert!
Talk about building buzz for a book launch - these finished cups painted by illustrator Nicole Wong and signed by both author and illustrator dove deep on the Alvin. Five lucky folks who pre-order FLYING DEEP from Eight Cousins Books will be randomly selected to get a shrunken cup with their book. 




.