Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tips for an Awesome Book Debut by Tina Cho and Epic Eighteen Friends

My picture book debut year of 2018 is over, but some of the Epic Eighteen authors and I would like to share our tips with you to help with your debut. It's never too late to start thinking about all the bookish things that need to be done like as soon as you sign the contract or even before, get your author photos taken. Your publisher/agent will ask for one.

"Stay organized! Keep a month-by-month master list of tasks to complete before release day. Every time you hear a tip about book promotion, include the tip in your list so you keep track of all the great ideas swirling around. And don't worry if you can't get to all the ideas by release date--your book promotion efforts will continue after that magical date as well!"
~Melissa Stoller of Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush

"Relax. Take time to enjoy this experience that very few people get to have. Not doing every single thing to promote your book won't make or break your book."
~Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow of Mommy's Khimar

"My top tip is to join a group like Epic Eighteen. For all the obvious reasons. And if you can't find one, create one yourself."
~Christy Mihaly of Hey, Hey, Hay!

Book Promotion
"Don't rely on your publicity department to contact book bloggers--You need to do it yourself 6 months before publication."
~Jeanette Bradley of Love, Mama

"Keep a list of all your guest blog post urls that you've been featured in. Write blog posts ahead of time and keep them in a folder so you don't keep repeating the same things in your posts."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Ask your network to suggest your book for purchase at their public libraries. Library purchases often result in multiple book sales."
~Margaret Chiu Greanias of Maximillian Villainous

"Change all your bios in SCBWI, your website, Twitter, etc... to reflect that you have a NEW BOOK!"
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Build a relationship with the local indie bookseller before the book comes out. It really makes a difference. The bookseller has been so helpful, and I think it is because they already knew me as a client way before my book came out.

Set up a GoodReads profile and an Amazon profile.You'll want to copy/paste your US Amazon profile into the other country Amazons (, etc...) because it does not automatically transfer your profiles over, even if your login info remains the same.

Book bloggers and book review chains help build up your book's visibility."
~Viviane Elbee of Teach Your Giraffe to Ski

"Wait till your reviews come out before you order postcards so that you can include the reviews on your postcards. On the back of your bookmark, thank people for buying your book and list other ways they can be helpful such as telling their library about the book, telling friends and family and writing a positive online review."
~Kate Narita of 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

"Collect book swag (even swag pictures) that YOU like and might make for your own."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Don't overdo it with swag. The return on investment probably isn't there."
~Hannah Holt of The Diamond and the Boy

Book Signing
"Take Post-It Notes for people to write the spelling of their names and what they'd like written in the autograph.

Decide on refreshments, a craft, and decorations that emphasize the theme or colors of your book."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"If you have a relationship with a local elementary school, send home fliers in school folders the week of your launch party. You might be surprised by who shows up to see you read.

Unless you are a celebrity, bookstore readings tend to be sparsely attended (unless they have a regular storytime). It's probably not worth your time to drive an hour to read to one person. Only do these if you are more interested in building a relationship with the bookseller than selling books on that day. A chain store will likely forget you by the next day, but for a smaller shop, you could build meaningful relationships. Hopefully you'll have more books and more events down the road. Build for the future!"
~Hannah Holt of The Diamond and the Man

Tina signing with her special Sharpie pen

School Visits
"Try a school might actually love it!!"
~Shanda McCloskey of Doll-E 1.0

"During my debut year, I learned that every school handles visits a little bit differently. Be flexible whenever possible."
~Brenda Maier of The Little Red Fort

"During readings at schools or bookstores etc., figure out a way to make your story interactive. This could be having the kids repeat a refrain or listen for a particular word. It could be singing. It could be asking questions as you go along, or showing illustrations and asking kids about it. AND--practice with a friendly crowd before you do your debut reading. I took my ARC to a first grade classroom (where the teacher is a friend) and read it to them and responded to their constructive critique (there was a portion that needed a little explanation for young readers)."
~Christy Mihaly of Hey, Hey, Hay!

"Make your presentation in Google slides, that way you can log into any computer, and it's there. You don't have to worry about carrying your computer or projector or cords."
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

"Make a teacher's guide for your book and have it downloadable on your website. Bonus if you have a craft!"
~Tina Cho of Rice from Heaven

Rice from Heaven craft

After the Debut
"Keep a folder on your computer to collect photos of your book in various places and with other people.

Focus on the children, not the gatekeepers, not how many stars or no stars your book received. If you made a difference in the life of a child (or adult), you achieved your purpose."
~Tina Cho 

Letters from students and a teacher in New York regarding my book


I hope these tips are helpful to you. Remember, even though your book's birthday or year is up, you still need to promote your book. In the coming weeks I'm doing some author Skypes for World Read-aloud Day and doing an author visit at my school.

What can you start doing for your book's release? Have fun! Be creative!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

DRESS LIKE A GIRL - A Fashionable Interview with PATRICIA TOHT about her latest PB, including a BOOK GIVEAWAY

Patricia Toht talks girl power, two new books releasing in 2019, and some wise writing advice she received  . . .

By  Eileen R. Meyer

Welcome to another TAKE FIVE interview. I hope that you’ll take five minutes to get to know more about our fellow GROG BLOGGER, Patty Toht and her latest picture book, DRESS LIKE A GIRL.

Patty's new picture book released just yesterday, January 22nd! Her book birthday also happened to coincide with Patty's actual birthday, too--what a great birthday gift! Cake and ice cream for everyone. :) Now on to our Five Questions for Patty:

   1. What was the inspiration behind your new picture book, DRESS LIKE A GIRL? Did your 3-year old granddaughter have anything to do with it?

The book is dedicated to my smart and feisty granddaughter, but the inspiration actually came from Twitter! Early in 2017, a story circulated about a new White House dress code, reportedly stating that female employees should “dress like a woman.” As a result, women began to post photos on Twitter, wearing professional garb that was anything but traditionally “lady-like.” There were astronauts, firefighters, soldiers, construction workers, scientists, etc. After I re-tweeted several images, my agent dropped me an email with a little nudge: “What about Dress Like a Girl”? BRILLIANT! The text came together and was submitted and sold very quickly. (So unlike me - I can be The Pokey Little Writer sometimes!)

2.  This is your third picture book. You’ve previously released: All Aboard the London Bus, 2017 and Pick a Pine Tree, 2017. Tell us more about your writing process. As an author who also works a full-time job and manages a busy family life, how do you work to squeeze in writing and revision time?

I’m anything BUT consistent with my writing, especially with new projects! Although I’m obsessed with recording new ideas in tiny notebooks or on a phone app, I often carry these ideas around in my head for months until I finally get started on them. It’s like a pitcher being filled, and until it reaches overflow level, I’m willing to let it keep filling. But the positive twist is that my first drafts tend to be very well-developed.

As for revisions, I can be grumpy about revising, (my critique partners are angels for dealing with my grousing!), but I love working to an established deadline. I dig in and get the work done. The text for Dress Like a Girl was almost completely rewritten twice, so there was a lot to do!

3. What is the best writing advice that you ever received?  Did it encourage you during a time that you felt stuck?

The best advice I received came from fellow Illinois author Carol Grannick. We both had begun writing for children during the days of snail mail subscriptions, when editors actually sent correspondence in return – either acceptance or rejection letters. But this practice sadly disappeared, to be replaced by a bit of a black hole, with no word unless editors or agents wanted to acquire your work.

Carol had grown discouraged by this and had written a post about putting aside thoughts of publication to focus on craft and writing that brought joy. I decided to do the same. After a few years of doing just that, I discovered that I was enjoying the journey again and my writing had taken a leap forward. I was then ready to start submitting again.

4.  Share something surprising that people don’t know about you.

Most people outside of the Chicago area don’t know that I’ve been writing for over 20 years! It wasn’t until recently that I’ve been published, so many folks see me as a “new” author.

5. Tell me a little bit more about the artist for your book, Lorian Tu, and about how her style was the perfect fit?

My co-creator for Dress Like a Girl is illustrator Lorian Tu. Lorian has illustrated two books for a small press; this is her debut picture book with a large publisher. I’m excited that HarperCollins teamed up my words with Lorian’s illustrations! Her girl characters are adorable, and I love how the overall theme of a sleepover holds everything together. Some pages were a wonderful surprise, like the penguin outfits in the Arctic scene. My original thoughts about the outfits were to keep them quite literal, so I was happy to see the girls in the book being more creative and whimsical. You can check out Lorian’s work on her website,

In closing – Patty, you have another book releasing later this year – Pick a Pumpkin! 2019 will be a very exciting year for you. Where can readers and fans find you on social media?

I do have another book coming out in 2019! Pick a Pumpkin (July 2019) is a companion book to Pick a Pine Tree, which came out in the autumn of 2017. Jarvis has illustrated them both in a rich, nostalgic style. I am completely crazy over his illustrations! Lucky me, he will also be illustrating a future book of mine, Together With You (date TBD).

Readers can find me in several places:

My website =
Facebook = Patricia Toht
Twitter handle = @patriciatoht
Instagram = patricia.toht

Thank you Patty! For readers - leave a comment below and you'll have a chance to win a copy of Patty's new book, DRESS LIKE A GIRL! We’ll announce one lucky winner from those who comment by Saturday, February 2nd.

Thank you for having me, Eileen! I’m so happy to be part of the kidlit world!

Patty is involved with the #KidsNeedMentors program. 
Here is Patty visiting with students and sharing a sneak preview 
of  PICK A PUMPKIN, due out later in 2019.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Multicultural Children's Book Day 2019~by Christy Mihaly

GROG is jumping in a bit early this year to start the celebration of the sixth annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day -- January 25, 2019.  

Children’s reading and play advocates and bloggers Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom teamed up in 2014 to create this national event and non-profit initiative. MCBD's mission is to raise awareness of the need for kids’ books celebrating diversity in homes and schools and libraries. It also works to get more of these books into the hands of young readers, parents, and educators. 

In 2018, MCBD's total social media share impressions totaled more 3.2 billion (with a "B"). That is spreading the word! MCBD involves a giant blog tour with book reviews by lots of bloggers (including GROG) and tweeters; classroom giveaways and educational materials; and a huge Twitter Party. 

MCBD’s Twitter Party is set for 1/25/19 at 9:00 p.m. EST. They'll be giving away lots of prizes and book bundles. More details here. And check out the official MCBD hashtag, #ReadYourWorld.

For this year's GROG multicultural book review I'm pleased to share an illustrated picture book, Celebrate Holi with Me! 

Part of the Toddler Diaries series, this book is written by Shoumi Sen (a MCBD co-host) and illustrated by Abira Das. This creative team published the "From the Toddler Diaries" series on CreateSpace. These books bring holidays celebrated in India to life for young readers. 

Shoumi, who grew up in Paris, Mumbai, and Dubai, wanted to help Asian Indians living around the world preserve a connection to their culture. As she explains, "Living outside India, it is sometimes challenging for parents to ensure that their children remain connected to their Indian roots, while at the same time, appreciating the culture of the place they are growing up in. Books can certainly help with that challenge and my hope is that the series 'From The Toddler Diaries'  can play a part in helping our children grow into global citizens."

Riya, the book's lively narrator, introduces readers to the Hindu spring festival of Holi. This book retells the ancient story of Prahlad, whose evil father could not sway him from his devotion to Lord Vishnu. Prahlad of course prevailed, and Holi is a celebration of how good triumphs over evil. The colorful illustrations depict celebrants of all ages throwing and spraying colored powders and water, playing music and singing, dancing, and enjoying delicious foods. It's a neighborhood-wide color-and-water fight!

Educators will appreciate the glossary, which defines words from Bollywood to gulal and abeer (colored powders and shiny crystals thrown as part of celebrating Holi) to malpoa (a yummy dessert). Check out the book on Amazon here

And here's more from the good folks at MCBD: 
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators.
Free Diversity Books for Teachers.

A word about the MCBD sponsors: 

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, RedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht AminiAuthor Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan BernardoMilind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. 
Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Bustin' Out with 2019 - Make It Your Year - by Kathy Halsey

Nothing but blue skies at the rodeo today. The year is still fresh, your intentions are good; you have saddled up your pony for a successful ride up the writing road. Hold your horses, writer gals and guys. I rounded up some help for you while you mosey down the trail.  

Anti- Resolutions Revolution
Back at the ranch house, Julie Foster Hedlund gave us some provisions for the trail. You might call it "food for thought." Back in 2014, I began participating in Julie's 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. (web site here and FB group here) From December 26 -January 6, we come together to review/reflect on our writing year to refresh/renew ourselves for a new year. The Facebook group closes January 10, 2019, but circle Dec. 26, 2019  on your calendar so you can join us at the year's end. Julie believes that most resolutions come from a place of negativity so we began with surprises, successes, move to challenges and disappointments, what we learned from both and then build goals from last year's achievements. This year 503 children's writers joined the fun. 
I'll share my illuminations from the process and the ripples of change that are already coming to fruition for me and others writers.   
“A surprise is an extra gift over and above what you set out to achieve.” -Julie Hedlund 
One of the best surprises that continues this year is that Beth Stilborn and I became accountability buddies. Every Monday we email our weekly accomplishments and our intentions for the coming week. We're not critique partners; we don't even write for the same age group! Beth lives in Canada and I'm in the Midwest, but we were surprised by this great motivator and wonderful friendship. You might try this, too.
Guiding Word/Motto for 2019
Some writers created vision boards; many of us came up with  a word/phrases to guide our writing and goals. Words like "Power," "Treasure" "Fearless" were claimed. One writer said, "I want to treasure what has been given to me, like friends in the writing community, opportunities, ideas, and time to write. I want to treasure the process and let ideas grow organically into the stories they were meant to be." Beth came up with this formula: FOCUS plus FOLLOW-THROUGH leads to FRUITION.
The cover page to my 12 Days features my guiding phrase.

Ripple Effect
Most of my critique group participated in this challenge and we've revised and renewed some of our procedures. During our first online 2019 meeting we came up with these ideas.
  • Post a calendar on Google docs and sign up for a critique. Commit to the date.
  • Commit to writing sprints every first Thursday of the month.
  • Create our own missions statements for the year and share online for greater accountability.
  • Change up our critique style by using Manuscript Magic. Look at big picture items first. Give themes, motifs, goals for the manuscript. 
Another writer friend and member of 12 Days, Beth Gallagher   and I decided we wanted to submit more in 2019. With accountability as a key, we created the Facebook group 100 Rejections Are a Good Thing. Join us and go big in this year's writing rodeo. 

Finally, some folks were inspired to write poetry and share with the group. Derick Wilder reminded us that small steps lead to success with this poem.

The Mighty Teeny Tiny

Teeny Tiny isn’t much— 
shy, timid, brittle.
But Teeny Tiny 
can become,
a Little.
Now Little’s also 
no big deal,
but better
than before.
And if you add 
those Littles up,
you get 
a little More.
More is less
than you would like,
but treasure 
what you’ve got.
Just lay some Mores
and then you’ve got
a Lot.
So dream delightful, 
vibrant dreams— 
make them 
sheeny shiny.
But don’t forget
each begins
with but a
Teeny Tiny
Julie had us end our 12 days with a list of gratitude. The gratitude attitude is one we can all cultivate as we grow into 2019. I am grateful to Julie and all the writers who shared so much over these 12 days. 
"Remember to illuminate your writing life, shine a light on the dark places, but even more, the light places, those where we excel." Julie Hedlund 
As Jane Yolen reminds us in her book Sister Fox's Field Guide to the Writing Life, "The joy is in the process."


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Kick off the New Year with Story Ideas

by Sue Heavenrich

It's January, which means it's time to... StoryStorm!
What's StoryStorm, you ask? It's a month of brainstorming ideas. Any genre.
Ideas of all sizes welcome.
Big ideas that scribble across pages.
Tiny ideas that take up less than a line on an index card. Ideas sketched in pencil or a rainbow of crayon color.

In the past I've spent the month generating picture book ideas. Partly because that's how it all started - as PiBoIdMo (picture book idea month).

This year I'm trying something new: generating ideas for a novel that's been bumping around in my brain for the past year. Instead of 30 picture book ideas - why not 30 chapter ideas? Maybe take the characters out for a pizza party or pit them against each other in a snowball fight (followed by hot cocoa and graham crackers).

Tara Lazar is the fearless leader and person who came up with this brainchild of StoryStorm. Every year she creates a wonderful space on her blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) for StoryStorm posts - an entire month of inspiration and insight from novelists, picture book writers, nonfiction writers, artists, and experts in creativity. And did I mention there are prizes?

It's great fun! But here's the catch: you've got to register now. Registration is open through Monday, January 7  here, where you'll also find a link to the Facebook discussion group. Then check in on Tara's blog every day for Storystorm posts (or be lazy like me and sign up for email links).

Grab a notebook! Sharpen your pencils! Sign up and ... StoryStorm away!