Monday, November 30, 2015

Confessions of a Bullet Journaler by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

What to Do, What to Do


I’ve always been a to-do list maniac. I use lists in every aspect of my life, but I especially use them in my writing. I have written about my incessant list making here.

My problem has always been lots of to-do lists running around on different pieces of paper, but somehow I needed a way to keep them all together. Then I heard about the bullet journal. 

Bullet Journaling 101



After almost a year of using my bullet journal, it really does work with how my mind thinks. I like being able to flip back to the beginning and see my goals for the year. 

Planning Ahead

The downside of the bullet journal is that is doesn’t let you plan far ahead, like a traditional pre-printed planner does. I typically keep my planning ahead on Google Calendar and then transfer the writing aspects into my journal every month. However, in 2016, I’m going to try to put these calendars in the front of the bullet journal for the whole year

Bullet Journal Contents

I do not keep my "day job" to-do’s in my bullet journal. I have a separate planner for that at school. Here are the features of my writing bullet journal. 
  • Table of Contents
  • 12x12 page. I list the titles of books that I wrote and the titles of books that I revised.
  • Writing goals for the whole year. I break these down by picture books, middle grade, business, professional reading 
  • Month by month goals
  • Lists of mentor texts by category. I have found this is the best way for me to keep up with my mentor texts lists without losing them. At the end of the year, when I fill up my book, I will transfer them to a Google Sheet. In bullet journaling speak these are called “collections”.



  • Monthly to do list. This usually just includes big projects I’m working on. 
  • A book of stars. This is a list of celebrations—no matter how small. Last year I posted about my “book of stars.” I just did a monthly page in my bullet journal. When I am discouraged, I can look at those pages and see that I’m making progress, little by little. 



  • Picture books read



  • Books and Audiobooks read
  • Writing project to-do lists. I break up a larger project into chunks and write down the list of to do’s. 
  • Weekly or daily to-do lists. 


I moved this year and changed jobs. While I didn’t come anywhere close to meeting all of my writing goals for 2015, I did keep my sanity. I was able to make lists of places I’d applied for jobs, dates they followed up, lists for what needed to be done for our move, and important phone numbers. It was all together. I was also able to keep writing.

Nitty Gritty Supply Details

I prefer the Leuchtturm 1917 with dots. The pages are already numbered, it has a built-in ribbon bookmark, and elastic closure where I clip my pen. The downside is that is expensive, but it’s lasted me a whole year. So, in my opinion, it was worth the money. 


I am a member of the Bullet Journal Junkie Facebook group. This group is great about posting pictures of their bullet journals. Almost all of them are more artistic than mine. My book is more function and less frill. But it works. And this group is a great resource for finding out where to get deals on supplies and how to think of to-do lists in different ways. 

How Do You Bullet Journal?

Are you a bullet journal junkie?

If so, please let me know how you use yours. What types of lists do you make? 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving? Writers Giving! You Giving? by Kathy Halsey

Often we writers are on the chase, like Mr. Gobble here. We chase ideas, stories, our next dream. But, sometimes we come together for a cause, like this writer, Lynn Kelley, who represents many giving writers who've created an anthology, KISSED BY AN ANGEL, the brainchild of writer/mother Robyn Campbell. 
Lynn Kelley
Christopher, Robyn's son, has Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a rare genetic condition affecting the brain which causes calcification of the brain, and blood vessels, but he has powered through with family and friends to live as normally as possible. He even has his black belt! Robyn says others with Sturge-Weber have seizures, blindness, strokes, blood clots and more. Robyn will tell you that her son, Christopher, is the hero, but they are both worthy of that title in MY book.


ALL the proceeds from KISSED BY AN ANGEL will be donated to the Sturge-Weber Foundation to benefit others. Check out that foundation link and their motto, "The stronger the wind, the tougher the trees." We writers all know about tough times in trenches, but what if people whispered about you, made fun of you to the point you had to ask Mom,"Why am I so different?" That's when Robyn told Christopher, who has a port wine stain over much of his body, that he was "touched by an angel." Thus begins the anthology's first story of Christopher as told by Robyn. I have read it with the accompanying photos and it is a hero's journey indeed! 

Most of these tales feature middle grade main characters who are gifted or have exceptional powers. In this 159 page-turner, you'll find code breakers, time machines, undercover agents, and even a fishy mystery. A kid lit writer who is a "kid" himself, Erik Weibel, is part of this awesome group of writers, many whom you know from Facebook:Yvette Carol, Catherine Johnson, Lynn Kelley, Teresa Robeson, Theresa Milstein, Suzy Levinson, Vivian Kirkfield, Ellen Warach Leventhal, Hope Lim, and Cheryl Secomb. 
Randomly generated by Worlde

So while you're munching on cold turkey sandwiches, watching football, or Black Friday shopping, put this anthology on your list as a holiday book that will benefit so many. The book's publication date is tentatively set for December 13, so stay tuned to the GROG for more info. I am grateful to be writing a post on all these heroes, writers, and of course, Christopher.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Organize Your Writing Space by Sherri Jones Rivers and Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Today, Marcie Flinchum Atkins is going to tell us how she has organized her office/writing space. You'll find a lot of helpful ideas here, so here's Marcie!
______________________________________________________________

Every person’s writing journey is unique, every situation is unique, and you have to design your writing space based on what you have and the way your mind works. 


Everyone needs a space to write. But everyone’s space looks different. I know that I’m super lucky to have my own office. I know many writers who just have a bag as their space.

Examine Your Space

What do you have access to? A bag? The dining room table? A desk in a closet? Or a whole room? The space you have determines what you will do. However, if you have no space to call your own, it’s okay. I do some of my best writing out of a bag on the go


A mindset that you can write no matter what you situation will help you. If we we wait for the right set of circumstances, the perfect space, we may never write. And the PLACE you write doesn’t determine your success. 

If you have to share a space with family members, it’s good to talk to your family about your priorities and really establish that you are serious about your writing life. Even my kids know that I’m serious about writing. If you have to be in a room with others, consider getting noise-canceling headphones. I’m also not above locking myself in the bathroom with my laptop. 

Up front, determine what supplies and space you will need. Here are the spaces I have:

Bookshelves

This is where I keep my writing books, mentor texts, and children’s literature textbooks. Because I have two young kids, this is not the only place we keep books. We have children’s books in every room—both of their bedrooms, our family room, and my office. I keep the ones in my office that I refer to often or use for teaching classes. I also get loads of books from the library, so I always have piles of books on the floor. This is one advantage of being able to close the door. I’m organized but not always neat. 

Desk

I actually have two desks. One desk holds my computer. One is for writing by hand and holding files. They are parallel and my chair is in the middle. These are cheap $30 tables that fold up. I’d love my desk to be set up like this, but I can never keep it this neat. 


Computer and printer

My computer and printer are staples that I can’t do without. Mine are sitting on a extra sturdy bookshelf that used to be a changing table when our kids were babies. 

Office Supplies

I do keep file folders, post-it notes, pens, etc. Most things are above my desk in boxes I purchased at The Container Store. 

If you don’t want to do stackable boxes, I’d recommend getting baskets from the Dollar Store. I tend to hoard office supplies. If you can make do with a less, then I’d recommend just putting a few supplies in a pencil bag, kind of like these ones that fellow picture book writers, Sarah Davis Maynard makes.

Files

I have three spaces for files: 1) stories/books on submission 2) research 3) in-progress. I tend to like to have things out for me to visually see them. This does take up a lot of space, but since my filing cabinet is in a closet and is a bit hard to access, this works for me. 



One of the best books I’ve read about organizing is Julie Morgenstern’s ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT. 


She talks about ways to organize files. I’d personally love to transition to digital files ONLY, but I find printing out and marking on paper to be a useful revision strategy. I wrote a post about my files here.  

I do have files in very organized files on my computer, backed up by Dropbox. I date revisions by the title and date. Example: PERFECT PICTURE BOOK 11.15.15. 

Inspiration

I often have things around my desk that inspire me. I actually made vision board based after I read this post.  I created it using fabric I bought in Thailand wrapped around a cork board. Most of the items on the board mean something to me or provide me of a reminder of why I'm doing this writing thing. 



I also have small, tangible items that are representative of books that I’m working on or have worked on. I have Carrara marble, a signed baseball and baseball rule book, fairy stones, and more. These are all things that are tangible reminders of my projects. 

Other Storage


When I’m working on a novel revision, as I am now, I tend to need binders available. For example, I keep one binder as my “bible.” This is all of the “off the page” work I do for the novel. It holds research, histories of characters and their backstories, maps I’ve drawn of the settings in the book, calendar for the timeline in the story, and more. I also have a binder with my latest version of that book and my notes for revision. 

Comfort Station

We writers are a quirky bunch. Sometimes we need weird routines that summon the muse. My writing day begins at 5:00am where I write before I go to my day job. Part of that involves coaxing myself out of bed. Because my office has always been on a floor away from my kitchen, and I have zero desire to wake up the pattering feet in my house that might keep me from writing, so I brought my comfort station to my office. I keep a covered glass pitcher of water there, pour it into my hot pot, and I boil water for tea every morning. My favorite is Yogi Green Tea Kombucha, which I buy in bulk. I also have a KIND or LUNA bar with it. I bring it to my desk and don't make noise or waste time in the morning. It's completely unnecessary, but it makes me very happy. 

Sherri first asked me to do this post because she wanted to redo her office. My biggest piece of advice is do what works for YOU. Organize the places in your office that make sense for your projects, your space, and your habits. 

But most importantly, make it a place that you want to go to often. 

Stay tuned, because coming up next will be a post about how to organize all those things you have to do! 






Monday, November 23, 2015

With a Grateful Writer's Heart

                                   
                                    There is no greater agony than 
                                 bearing an untold story inside you. 
                                               ~Maya Angelou

For this I am grateful. 
  
By Janie Reinart

1. Freedom of Speech

I am grateful to live in a country where we can write and share our words without fear. These are the top ten countries that censor words and imprison or harass writers.  





2. Time

I am grateful to honor what I do by carving out space to work on my craft. Here are tips to help find your time.




3. Writing Community 

I am grateful for the writers and authors that I've met on line and face to face that join me on this journey. Check out 12 x 12, NF 4 NF, RhyPiBoMo, ReFoReMo, and PiBoIdMo, to name a few.





4. Books


I am grateful for mentor texts and books that catch my fancy, books on craft and books of interest and inspiration (for this week).


                     Mentor text and books that catch my fancy




Books on craft




Books of interest and inspirtation







5. Tools

I am grateful for the amazing technology that enables us to snap a picture, record a sound, and share our work. 

(Learned how to take slides from power point, make an imovie, add music and upload to YouTube to put in a blog post--this week.) I also love pen and paper to start a project. 

Share what you are grateful for as a writer.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Interview with Julie Hedlund

by Leslie Colin Tribble


We have a treat for all our GROG friends today - an interview with the amazing Julie Hedlund. If you don't know who Julie is, then you either live where Internet access is nil, or you just joined the KidLit community yesterday. Julie is a powerhouse in the children's literature arena and she has a true desire to see writers succeed. 



Julie is the author of two print books, My Love for You is the Sun and A Troop is a Group of Monkeys. She also has two storybook apps for Ipad, Troop and its companion book, A Shiver of Sharks. I caught up with Julie over a lovely email exchange. Read on to get better acquainted with this giving lady.




Q: What did you do before you started writing? How long after you started writing did you quit your "day job?"

JH: I worked in electronic banking and payments - a far cry from children's writing! It was a rewarding job in a lot of ways, but not my passion. Once I found my love of writing picture books, it was three years before I quit the day job.


Q: Why did you want to start writing picture books? Have you considered writing other genre?

JH: That's a great question! All my life I imagined myself writing the "Great American Novel," mostly because that's what I love to read. Then my kids came along and I rediscovered the magic of picture books. I started getting tons of ideas and, truthfully, I haven't looked back. I DO hope to write novels someday, but I suspect that won't be until my kids have left the nest and I have time to learn the craft of novel-writing.


Q: You have an impressive number of income streams. Can you talk to us about those?

JH: I am a single mother of two children and no day job. As such, my choices are either to have multiple income streams or go get a real job. I love the flexibility that comes from working for myself AND the fact that everything I do outside of my own writing is dedicated to helping other writers. I derive so much reward from helping others in their journeys. 

The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, a year-long event, is my primary source of income, but I've recently added a product I co-created with Emma Walton Hamilton called The Complete Picture Book Submissions System. We also worked together with two other partners to produce the first-ever Picture Book Summit, and in 2016 I'll be releasing a new course called, appropriately, How to Make Money as a Writer.


Q: 12x12 is coming up, again. Tell us where the idea came from, about organizing such a huge undertaking, and any other great info about it.

JH: I got the idea for 12 x 12 because I wanted to increase my own writing output. In 2012, I challenged myself to write one picture book draft a month for each month of the year. I was quite surprised when 200+ people joined me that first year. The challenge has been growing both in participation and in features ever since. The best part about it is that it's a big giant family of picture book authors and illustrators at all stages in their careers working together and supporting each other. Yes, the bells and whistles are popular (submitting to agents, monthly webinars), but its core is the community and the collective desire to write more.


Q: Talk to us about your writing retreat in Italy. How did that come about?

JH: Ah, Writer's Renaissance. Italy inspires me like no other place on earth. After spending a summer in Italy in 2011, I decided I had to bring the experience to my fellow women writers. I chose Florence because it oozes beauty and inspiration down to the very last cobblestone. I designed the whole retreat to be exactly like one I would like to take. And secretly (although not so secret after this post publishes :-)), I needed to find a way to pay for my "Italy habit." :-)

Q: You offer several workshops/classes with Emma Walton Hamilton. How did the two of you start your collaboration?

JH: I am so lucky to work with Emma! She is not only a treasure trove of wisdom and compassion, she's now a dear friend. Our collaboration began in 2012, the first year I ran the 12 x 12 challenge. She reached out to me offering to help in some way since at the time she was running the Children's Book Hub and many of her members were interested in 12 x 12. She was one of my first feature authors for the challenge and the rest, as they say, is history.  


Q: What was your favorite picture book when you were a child? What was your favorite picture book you read to your own children?

JH: My favorite picture book was Eloise. Growing up in a small town in Northern Michigan, the idea of living in the Plaza Hotel in NYC with no parents was 'rawther' glamorous. I pored over those illustrations and read it hundreds of times.

I loved reading "quiet" books to my own kids. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. Time for Bed, by Mem Fox. I also loved Piggies, by Audrey & Don Wood because making the voices and hand motions was so fun!



Q: When you're not writing or teaching or reading, what do you like to do?

JH: Obviously spending time with my kids is my priority. I also love hiking, jogging, skiing, cooking, and going to the movies. Also travel, of course. If I'm not doing any of the above things you can bet I'm in pursuit of planning the next perfect vacation.

Q: You have a lot of irons in the fire. How do you make time for everything? What does a typical day in the life of Julie Hedlund look like? Any time management tips?

JH: There is no typical day for me, honestly. I'm always juggling and having to adapt. I share custody of the kids, for example, so the days I have my kids look completely different from the ones I don't. As far as time management, I'm not sure this is a tip so much as just some advice. There is no such thing as permanent balance. There is only prioritizing as best you can and then forgiving yourself when life gets in the way. I've always found that the things that must get done, get done. If you keep achieving that over time, you'll be just fine.

Q: What goals do you have for 2016?

JH: Write more! Then more! Also, 2016 is the five-year anniversary of 12 x 12, so I really want to blow the roof off the challenge and make it an epic year for the participants.

Q: Julie, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to answer my questions so we can get to know you a little better.

Readers interested in any of Julie's books, challenges, retreats or her blog should visit her website. Julie's passion for picture books and helping others is evident in the wealth of information for all writers. 



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

RPB Revolution ~By Suzy Leopold

A revolution you ask. Yes, it is the RPB Revolution -- the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution. This event will take place for three days in December. Join Angie Karcher and many other authors and writers of rhyme during a weekend long celebration. The conference will include a red carpet ceremony and a book signing. The four R's of top notch rhyming picture books will be discussed. Do you know what the four R's are? Sure you do. They are all part of the RPB Revolution: reject, revolt, rules and rewards.

I want to recognize the individuals who worked together to plan for this amazing first annual event.

RPB Revolution Conference Committee Members
Angie Karcher
Aimee Haburjak
Randi Sonenshine
Kristi Wright
Zainab Khan
Patty Toht 
Lori Degman 

The Best in Rhyme Committee members, under the direction of Angie Karcher, nominated several titles of books in rhyme earlier this year. Then each committee member completed a rubric for each of the books. The rubric determined the top ten titles. The following elements were used to complete the rubric, determining the ten best rhyming books:
  • Story/Plot/Structure
  • Character
  • Rhyme
  • Rhyming pattern
  • Meter
  • Appeal
  • Verbs
  • Concept/Theme; Message/Take Away
  • Language
  • Sentence fluency

Best in Rhyme Committee Members:
Angie Karcher
Gayle Krause                         
Annie Bailey                           
Mandy Yates                          
Lucky Williams                                  
Dawn Young              
Kenda Henthorn
Darlene Ivy                            
Deirdre Englehardt
Suzy Leopold
Patty Toht
Lori Degman
Angie Karcher

For more information about the Best in Rhyme Award Top 10 check out the book reviews here.
WHO?: Writers, Authors, Agents and Publishers
WHAT?: The Rhyming Picture Book Revolution [RPB] Weekend 
WHEN?: December 4th - December 6th, 2015* 
WHERE?: New York City, NY
WHY?: To announce the 2015 BEST IN RHYME 

Angie Karcher
HOW?: Angie Karcher, Rhyming Picture Book Month [RhyPiBoMo] founder, will announce the title and winner of the 2015 Best in Rhyme. Additionally, several honor titles will be shared for the 2015 best RPBs. KidLitTV and Julie Gribble will host this sensational event in a red carpet, live ceremony.
*Friday, December 4th
2015 Best in Rhyme Award Ceremony
*Saturday, December 5th
RPB Revolution Conference
*Sunday, December 6th
RPB Revolution Book Signing
Find information on how to register for this exciting event at RPB Revolution Registration.

If you are unable to attend the event in New York City, click here for information on how to register for a Conference Recording.

Designed by
Tanja Bauerle
Consider attending and supporting the RPB Revolution.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why You Might Want to Opt Out

Why You Might Want to Opt Out

by Leslie Colin Tribble


Last week I posted (Nov. 6) a list of some of the amazing classes and challenges available to writers of children's books. If you desire to improve technical aspects of your craft, seek inspiration or want to engage with others in this positive, encouraging and amazingly helpful community, then that list will help you find what you need.

But instead of signing up for every class, or joining every Facebook group, maybe you should opt out.


 Last year I felt compelled to be a part of the group. I signed up for lots of writing opportunities - most were free but some I paid for. I wanted to add my voice to the community and thought this was the best way for me to get lots and lots of writing done. After all, if you're engaged in a challenge or class you'll actually be working on a manuscript, right?

Not necessarily. I discovered I wasn't disciplined enough to do the work for whatever group I was currently involved with and work on my stories. Or I start out great - developing a story idea, make a few revisions, then I'd totally fizzle out so that now I have several very rough manuscripts hiding in folders on my computer.

I've talked to other writers and they sympathize. Many say something to the effect that all these great writing events are keeping them from doing their real writing - it's keeping them from sitting in the chair and actually writing.



Joanna Penn, bestselling author says, "The biggest writing challenge continues to be actually sitting down to write." 

It's nice to know I'm not alone, but now that I understand how hard it is I have to be even more diligent to keep myself in the chair.

Let's face it, we writers are wonderful procrastinators. How many times have you sat down at your computer and had the same experience as Megan McCartle who penned this:

"In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read."

I laughed at this because I don't know about you, but that's so me. So in an effort to cut down on those distractions that keep me from actually writing, you won't see me registering for online classes or challenges. I really want to publish a book and no longer are the sands of time on my side. I guess publishing posthumously is better than nothing, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather read it to a group of kids than have someone else read it. 



I'm also pulling back from social media. I read several articles on the subject and found myself really agreeing with Steve Pavlina:

"As I did this, I began considering that maybe I should drop Twitter and Google+ as well. I thought about it carefully and decided that I really didn’t want to spend any more years of my life sharing things on social media. I basically asked myself which scenario seemed best over the next 10 years — going social media-free vs. continuing to use it. It wasn’t really a difficult choice to see which alternative was best. The thought of investing another decade in those services made me cringe."

I know lots of people who are social media mavens. They're incredibly adept at using the platform and really, that's impressive. But that's not me. I agonize over what to post so that it will be engaging. I even ask my 20-something year old daughter how she would caption something because I know my words are stilted and *sigh*, old-sounding. Now I'm checking in about once or twice a week and it's very freeing. I'm not pressured to 'like' everything my friends post, and I only post if it's something that really is important to me (usually photographs).

Considering I'm already very easily distracted from writing I completely agreed with Steve Pavlina when he wrote this:

"I also dislike how social media conditions my brain to be very distraction prone. Too often I’d find myself engaged in some activity and impulsively checking accounts — much more often than I needed to. Have you ever experienced that?

How many times have you checked on some account or other in the past 24 hours? If every social media check was equivalent to a shot of alcohol, would you be considered an alcoholic?"

Ouch! 

When I'm honest with myself, I realized I used to check Facebook (I'm too long-winded for Twitter) simply as something to do. I'd even see what was for sale on my local FB Classifieds group, even though I certainly didn't need a broken lamp shade (I have my own, thank you!). Think of how much writing I could have gotten done with those 5, 10 or more mindless minutes given to social media. 



My business card and email signature says, "Writer," not "Social Media Checker."

Note: All images taken from Bryon Collins' article, "25 Valuable Lessons From Seriously Successful Writers"






Friday, November 13, 2015

HOLD THIS! -- Introducing debut picture book author Carolyn Scoppettone. By Christy Mihaly

Carolyn Scoppettone
A warm welcome to Carolyn Scoppettone, author of the new picture book, HOLD THIS! She is sponsoring a book give-away today, so be sure to leave a comment to enter.

Carolyn's debut picture book was published this fall by Maine publisher Islandport. It's illustrated by Priscilla Alpaugh. The story follows an enthusiastic little girl and her father on a walk in the woods, where they find many fascinating objects to examine and hold onto. 


The book has been well reviewed -- see the Kirkus review here. Carolyn has been busy promoting her book in and around her home town of Montpelier, Vermont, with story walks, and more. Don't know what a story walk is? Read on.

Q: Carolyn, what inspired you to write HOLD THIS?
CS: The book grew from the walks I took with my girls when they were little. Like my character, Mika, my girls were delighted with what they found. Bumpy twigs, smooth stones, crunchy leaves, all these items were scooped up and brought to me to hold.


GROG mascot Cheddar enjoys HOLD THIS!
Q: How long did you work on the story before it became a book?
CS: It took quite a while for HOLD THIS! to become a book, more than five years from start to finish. I think that this is partly because it takes a long time to sell a picture book, and partly because the book itself needed to evolve. It started out as a longish, funny book about a mother and seven children taking a walk to the seashore. It got some very nice rejections, but never seemed to be quite what editors were looking for. I put it aside for a while, but the heart of the book, a child’s irrepressible enthusiasm for nature’s treasures, kept popping up in my mind. Eventually, I realized I needed to pare away all the clever words and get back to the simple story – of a child’s delight in nature and a parent’s quiet encouragement.
courtesy of P. Alpaugh

Q: How did you pick Islandport as your publisher, and how did you  like working with the folks there?
CS: I had heard Melissa Kim (who ended up being my editor) speak at a New England SCBWI conference. I was impressed with her commitment to finding stories that captured the unique flavor of New England while being universally accessible.  In researching the publisher, I noticed that they seemed to be drawn to stories about nature, so it felt like HOLD THIS! might be a good fit.
courtesy of P. Alpaugh

I feel very lucky to have landed at Islandport. The illustrator, Priscilla Alpaugh, was a perfect fit for the manuscript. And Islandport's support for me as a writer has been excellent.

Q: We know that the writer does only half the work of a picture book, while the illustrator does the other half. What was it like for you to see your story come to life with illustrations? Do the characters look the way you imagined? In particular, were those little critters in the book (mice, squirrels and chipmunks) your idea or Priscilla's?
Scoppettone/Alpaugh book signing
CS: Although my editor asked me how I saw the characters and the setting, I could tell that she had a particular illustrator in mind. When I saw Priscilla’s art work, I was thrilled. Her watercolors have a playfulness that fits the story perfectly. The small animals sprinkled throughout the book are a perfect example of this. I’d love to take credit, but the animals were all Priscilla’s idea.

Q: HOLD THIS has some fun design aspects, such as large print of the words "swisshhhing leaves." Were those your idea?

CS: I certainly had images in mind for those evocative words like “swishhhh” and “splash gurgling,” but the book design was a collaborative effort between Melissa and Priscilla.



Q: Have you met Priscilla, your illustrator?
CS: A month or so after the book was purchased, Melissa told me they’d chosen an illustrator, and that all three of us were going to be attending the upcoming NESBWI conference. She set up a meeting in the hotel cafĂ©. Priscilla, Melissa, and I liked each other right away, so that early meeting paved the way for easy communication all along the way.
Sharing HOLD THIS with young fans

Q: Wow! Lucky you! Tell us about your book promotion.
CS: We launched HOLD THIS! with a  story time at the Montpelier public library, followed by a story walk in the local park. 
I have a book signing scheduled at indie bookstore Bear Pond Books in Montpelier this month. The folks at Islandport have been a big help with promotion. Priscilla and I recently did a story time and book signing event together at Boston area bookstore “An Unlikely Story.” That was a lot of fun. 

Q: And a story walk is . . .?
CS: A story walk is a great way to combine reading with exploration of nature. In our local woodland park, I posted all the pages of the book in order, encouraging people (especially kids) to walk the path while reading the story. Islandport created large laminated panels for me to put up on posts. I actually created a second story walk on the lawn of the Vermont statehouse, a few days after the park walk.
HOLD THIS story walk on the lawn of the Vermont Statehouse
Q: What else are you working on?
CS: I’m working on a new middle grade novel in the genre of magical realism and with a boy protagonist. I’m also polishing several picture books.  

courtesy of P. Alpaugh
Q: How long have you been writing?
CS: Before I started writing for children, I was a newspaper reporter and an advertising writer. So, I guess, I have been writing as a job for my whole adult life. I started writing picture books when my kids were very young, but only really got serious about it later on, when I had more time.

Q: Any final thoughts for GROG readers?
CS: If you love to write, keep writing and keep sending out your work. HOLD THIS! got many rejections before it found a home.
Cheddar recommends it!

Dear Readers, 
If you'd like to enter our drawing to win a copy of HOLD THIS!, leave a comment on this post. My trusty assistant Cheddar and I will draw the name of the lucky winner on Friday, November 20. Good luck to all!

Christy and Cheddar