Hi! I know I haven’t blogged in a long time but I wanted to let you know about a new service I’m offering for picture book writers. I call it Penny’s Two Cents and here’s an overview.
Do you have questions about writing for children and getting published? I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I’m happy to share my Two Cents based on what I’ve learned and continue to learn on my journey as an author. My focus is fiction and nonfiction picture books.
I offer video chat sessions, small-group webinars, and packages. Packages include general/big picture feedback on a picture book manuscript. In my feedback I’ll note the strengths of your manuscript and the places I feel need work. This does not include in-line comments, but I’m very thorough with my general feedback.
We’ll chat via Zoom. (I’m open to other options such as Skype, Google Hangouts, phone.)
If you’d like to know more just click on over to my webpage that has all the details. You can find it right HERE.
To celebrate my new venture, I’m giving away two 30-minute video chats. To win one of the two, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post. And if you share on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #pennystwocents, you’ll get another entry for that. Please note that you shared in your comment. Tweet what you like or share by copying one of the prepared tweets below. Just copy and post to Twitter! Winners announced June 5th.
Penny sharing her Two Cents! https://pennyklostermann.com/pennys-two-cents/ For picture book writers: Win a 30-Minute Q & A Video Chat with author @pklostermann. #askanauthor #pennystwocents #giveaway
Hey picture book writers . . . win one of two 30-Minute Q & A Video Chats with author @pklostermann. Check out Penny’s Two Cents. https://pennyklostermann.com/pennys-two-cents/ #askanauthor #pennystwocents #giveaway
I never start a new venture without some experimentation. I experimented with Penny’s Two Cents by offering Manuscript Feedback + Video Chats as a prize for a writing contest hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. I’ve loved chatting with the talented writer who chose the prize. I did a group chat with her critique group and it was delightful. Several were kind enough to give me some feedback. Have a look.
“I really appreciated that thoughtful and insightful manuscript feedback that Penny gave. Line edits can be great for troubleshooting a specific problem but her general feedback was helpful for honing my craft as a writer. Being able to talk with her afterward and get more details about her feedback gave me a new lens through which to view all my manuscripts – not just the one I had sent. Being able to follow up with questions made the feedback infinitely more valuable.” – Package: General Feedback on a Manuscript + Chats
“I really appreciated Penny being so open about her own experiences during our sessions. From the kidlit resources she used ten years ago to the ones she continues to find invaluable, I have so many new tools in my writing kit. Learning more about how she organizes her notes, drafts, and research was enlightening. Even if a specific strategy wasn’t the best fit for the way my brain works, it sparked new ideas and got me thinking outside of the box in ways I hadn’t before.” – Package: General Feedback on a Manuscript + Chats
“Penny is wonderful! I walked away from our talk feeling more aware and prepared for the author road ahead of me. Thank you again!” -Small-Group Q & A
“The group chat was a really exciting opportunity for my online critique group. I try to keep up on webinars and author and editor blog posts but it was so exciting and helpful to be able to ask questions that were specific to our writing journeys. And to be able to ask questions that people don’t always answer in blog posts! Our conversation sparked new questions which sparked new conversations. We’ve had follow up conversations within our critique group and shared revisions based on what we learned in our conversation with Penny. Her two cents is priceless.” – Small-Group Q & A
“Penny’s video chat was like meeting up for coffee with an author. I loved being able to sit and listen to her, and I loved having the chance to ask her questions “face-to-face.” She was a delight!” – Small-Group Q & A
Thanks for stopping by!
Happy reading and writing!
Yes! It’s a dream come true! Read the book and then snuggle under the covers in Old Dragon pajamas!
Purchase links below. Pajamas are sold separately or as a pajama/book set. For pajamas only, check out Rockin’ AB or Hately. BabyGap has the green pajamas and the other sites have the blue. Just so you know, I’ve heard that they run small since they’re a long john type pajama.
Also, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT has been released in a new format, making the story accessible on mobile phones. Moonlite Library now includes my book in a three story bundle of Dinos, Dragons & Pirates!
I tried it out! It’s very easy. First, you have to download the Moonlite app. This small projector attaches to your cell phone and uses the flashlight to project the image. Not all story reels come with a projector so make sure you check that out on their website.
Are you signed up for my newsletter? I share this information and more in my latest issue. And there’s a GIVEAWAY! I’m giving away two copies of A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE. I’ll randomly pick two names from my newsletter subscriber list and send each a copy. I’ll draw names at the end of November and then contact the winners for a mailing address. If you’re not a subscriber, you can click HERE to sign up. Pass this along to your friends and if they subscribe to my newsletter, their names will be in the drawing, also.
To read the current issue, click HERE.
Thanks for reading! Have a great day!
Today I’m excited to have Jill Esbaum on my blog. Jill has written a slew of amazing picture books and Frankenbunny is her latest release. It is a delightful book that I have read many, many times since it arrived in the mail.
Jill has agreed to have a conversation about Frankenbunny. But first, the synopsis:
“You know monsters aren’t real, right?”
Brave is easy in the sunshine. Brave is easy near Papa. But can Spencer the Bunny learn to be brave ALL the time—even when his big brothers try their best to scare him?
Spencer the Bunny’s big brothers ALWAYS frighten him with scary monster stories. And the most terrifying beast of all is Frankenbunny, with his crusty fangs, flashing red eyes, and ginormous paws. But when Spencer discovers that his brothers made the whole thing up, he hatches a plan to turn the tables on them and conquer his own fears . . . forever.
Any child who has ever worried about a monster in the closet or felt scared in the dark will love this humorous story about learning to be brave.
And this nice snippet from Kirkus Reviews:
“A good choice for younger sibs terrorized by older ones or for kids who need a reminder that monsters aren’t real.”
Now for the inside scoop from Jill 😀
Penny: I’m impressed at how expertly you captured the universal childhood fear of monsters. Even though as children, we’re told they aren’t real, and logically we don’t “think” they are real…all it takes is a sibling (or a kid in the neighborhood or a kid at school) to raise doubts. I have three sisters and I can tell you that there were plenty monster stories creeping around our house. So I can relate.
Jill: Oh, man. Me, too! My older brother was soooo good at making me rethink truths … like the fact that I KNEW there was nothing in our basement at night that wasn’t also there during the daylight hours. But ask me to go down there alone after dark? No way! Not after the time he sent me down there for something, then flipped off the light, slammed the stairtop door, and called a spooky, “Wooooooo…” to freak me out. Forever after, I was afraid something would grab me down there, even in the daytime. When I HAD to go to the basement, I’d get whatever I needed (quickly) and be halfway back up the steps, congratulating myself for surviving, when it would occur to me that somebody/something could still reach BETWEEN THE STEPS to grab one of my ankles. My feet could not carry me up fast enough! I went around with skinned shins more often than not.
Penny: Frankenbunny is a genius title. When I think of bunnies, I think “cute and cuddly,” which is the exact opposite of monsters. Because of that, the thought of a monster bunny seems unconventional and funny. It’s a title that drew me in and made me want to read the book and find out more. So how/why did you decide that the big, bad, crusty-fanged, ginormous-pawed, red-eyed monster would be a bunny?
Jill: Thanks, Penny. I’ve wanted to write a “scary” story for a long time. But every time I tried to write one with human kiddos, it got TOO scary. Finally, I decided to try one with the most harmless creatures I could imagine – sweet little bunnies. That’s when the title came to me. A bunny-monster, I hoped, would be terrifying to bunnies, but not so scary to kids.
Penny: One of the hardest things about writing for children is making the story relatable. These lines are some of my favorite lines in the book!
“Brave is easy in the sunshine.”
“Brave is easy around Papa.”
“Brave is hard in the dark!”
They’re perfectly placed in the story and are seriously relatable. Also they bring so much “heart” to the story. I’m curious. Did these lines come to you in early drafts, or did you find your way to them as you revised?
Jill: Thanks, Penny. Those lines didn’t come to me until many, many revisions into the story, when I realized it needed a framework, and yes, more heart. Honestly, I worked on this one for a couple of years before I got to a manuscript that felt right. Older versions were submitted and rejected. Rejection: the great revision motivator.
Penny: Along the same lines … “heart” is the thing that brings readers back to a picture book for multiple readings. It’s the elusive element that every writer strives for. Do you have a way of assessing your manuscripts for the “heart” factor? Or any tips for those writers who struggle with bringing “heart” to their stories?
Jill: Yikes, good question! Heart is a tough story element. It isn’t something you can just stick it in somewhere. It needs to be infused throughout the story. The best way to find a story’s heart is to really put yourself into your main character’s head. You have to feel the emotions s/he’s experiencing. Get your protagonist’s false belief/fear/yearning in line, and heart will arise organically.
Penny: The illustrations in this book by Alice Brereton couldn’t be more perfect. They’re incredible and fit the tone of the text to a tee. Most of the time the editor at the publishing house picks the illustrator. Was that the case with Frankenbunny? Did you see early sketches or did you see the art later in the process? What was your reaction when you saw the art?
Jill: Yes, my editor picked Alice to illustrate this story. When I saw her early sketches I was overjoyed – and, of course, trying to picture them in color. I could do that, sort of, by looking at Alice’s work on her website. She has an uncanny ability to capture whimsy and darkness simultaneously. Exactly what FRANKENBUNNY needed.
Penny: Now that you’ve all heard about Frankenbunny I’ll be you are thinking what I’m thinking . . . Frankenbunny would make a great Christmas gift for a child!! And speaking of books for children, one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been immersed in the world of children’s books is that many people aren’t familiar with newer titles. I have friends that are constantly asking me for picture book suggestions for their children or grandchildren. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be fun for you to spread some cheer by recommending current books by other authors that could be wrapped up and put under the tree … along with Frankenbunny, of course 😀
I know there are a bunch of great ones, so how about giving us five recommendations?
Penny: Wow! If you read through Jill’s blog posts over at Picture Book Builders you will find plenty of book recommendations.
Thanks for coming by and telling us more about Frankenbunny, Jill.
Jill: Thanks, Penny. I always love visiting with you!
GIVEAWAY! Lucky readers! You can win a copy of Frankenbunny. All you have to do to be in the drawing is leave a comment below by midnight December 21st. (CST)
Those who enter must have a US address.
You can learn more about Jill Esbaum and her wonderful books on her website. http://www.jillesbaum.com/
I beg of ye to tell me . . . what be more fun than dinosaur pirates?
Nothing I tell ye! Nothing!
So if ye care to have fun then lend an ear. Henry Herz be having a new tale! CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW just be released on August 1st!
Ye must sail on down to yer local bookstore or yer library and nab a copy! It be a treasure!
From Kirkus Reviews: The dinosaurs may be extinct but let’s hope dinosaur pirates keep on sailing for arr-ternity.
I be thinkin’ ye have questions about how such a tale came to be. Well jump aboard cuz I be askin’ Henry just that! And he be answerin’.
Me: Ahoy there, Henry. I see ye’ve written a clever tale o’ dinosaurs and pirates. How in the seven seas did ye come up with such an idea?
Henry Herz: I thought it would be fun to do a mashup – a combination of unlikely elements. In fact, my original title was DINOSAUR SPACE PIRATES! But it became clear as I worked on the manuscript that mashing up three ideas was one idea too many. Kids love dinosaurs, and they love pirates. So, they must REALLY love a book featuring dinosaur pirates, right?
I also wanted to do a book with the theme of thinking outside the box. Captain Rex and his dinosaur pirates sail the seven seas in search of buried treasure. But whenever they hit an obstacle—like a giant shark or pea-soup fog—the crew members are quick to say they can’t overcome. To this, Captain Rex always glares with teeth bared and says, “CAN’T YE?” And, somehow, the crew always comes up with a clever solution. Being clever is always preferable to being eaten, I always say.
Me: Well sink me! Ye be a clever buccaneer! Once ye had yer clever idea, how did ye steer yer tale in the right direction? Did ye experience rough seas or were it smooth sailin’ the whole way? (As a fellow buccaneer I be used to rough seas when spinnin’ tales. Sometimes I feels as if my tales may end up in Davy Jones’s Locker!)
Henry Herz: Great question. And it reminds me of the terrific saying: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” That’s certainly true for writing. I checked my computer to see how many versions of the manuscript I wrote. 27. That said, a score of revisions is not that uncommon (for me, at least) for perfecting a picture book. Certainly, my editor at Sterling was a pleasure to work with – no rough seas there.
Me: Blimy! Ye had to be bloody bullheaded to tell yer tale. Seems there be no hornswagglin’ nor dabloon-bribin’ bookmakers into publishin’ yer tale. And since there be no hornswagglin’ do ye have a bit of advice for other mateys who be wantin’ to their tales to be books like yers?
Henry Herz: I’m going to parse from my blog post on this topic at https://henryherz.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/be-an-animal-to-write-a-picture-book/
- Be a honey badger. Have no fear. Don’t be scared to put words to paper. Don’t flee from constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid of rejection. They all line the path to traditional publication. Honey badger don’t care, and neither should you! Get outside your comfort zone.
- Be a dung beetle. Be tenacious, even on crappy days. Becoming published isn’t easy. But it won’t happen if you stop trying. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a one step. Revise, revise, revise. But remember that perfect can be the enemy of good enough. At some point, you need to submit!
- Be an armadillo. You need to be thick-skinned and learn to roll with the punches. Understand that a publisher’s or agent’s rejection isn’t personal, but it is highly subjective. Many great works of literature were rejected repeatedly before being published, so you’re in good company.
- Be an ant. No man is an island, and no ant is a bridge. Teamwork is your best friend. Take advantage of critique groups to hone your craft. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to develop a support network. Leverage social media to connect with fellow writers. You’re not alone.
- Be a hagfish. Be flexible enough to incorporate helpful feedback. But feel free to ignore feedback that doesn’t resonate with your gut. Follow the rules, but recognize that they can be broken when the result is a success. Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit is a picture book with over 1,000 words and inanimate characters. But it’s also a New York Times bestseller.
Me: Ye not only be clever . . . ye also be wise. Speaking of clever and wise I be thinking ye must have other tales that be sailin’ into bookstores in the future? Will ye share a bit if ye have such tales?
Henry Herz: Well, there are three picture books my agent is shopping around right now:
TOP OF THE HEAP – Barnyard animals debate who is the best animal on the farm. Each makes their claim, even Dung Beetle. In response to the others’ laughter, Dung Beetle takes a vacation. Eventually, they all recognize even tiny Dung Beetle’s important contribution. That’s how he rolls.
NEVER FEED A YETI SPAGHETTI – Two young goblin siblings throw their mom a monstrous birthday party. Despite their best efforts, things go further and further awry, thanks to the yetis. One should never feed them spaghetti.
ALLEN & ALIEN – Like many boys, Allen doesn’t like to eat his veggies, pick up his toys, or take baths. But he loves playing with his alien toys. When an indefatigably inquisitive alien drops in to study humans, the alien’s enthusiasm (even for the mundane) is infectious. Allen learns an important lesson about appreciating one’s blessings, while his parents are pleasantly surprised at their son’s new alien behavior.
And these three books are scheduled to be published next year:
HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican Publishing) – Ever wonder why two of a squid’s ten arms are longer than the others? A selfish squid is cold, so he swipes other animals’ clothing. Will he learn it’s wrong to steal in the end? This modern fable demonstrates you reap what you sow. It’s Kipling’s HOW THE RHINOCEROS GOT HIS SKIN meets Klassen’s THIS IS NOT MY HAT.
GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer Publishing) – Not all the foods in the refrigerator get along like peas in a pod. Bad Apple and Second Banana are at the root of the problem. The vegetables are steamed. Good Egg suggests his friends try different responses to the bullies, but his tactics don’t bear fruit, at first. Only by using his noodle does Good Egg save their bacon.
ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius) – Alice lives in the dreariest boarding school in England. She pours her love and attention into caring for her little garden and its denizens. Unknown to her, these include a large caterpillar, gryphon, and a talking white rabbit. When Alice is in trouble, the magical creatures come to her aid. Love, it turns out, is magical. GARDEN FAE is A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE meets ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
For more about Henry‘s books and blog interviews, see www.henryherz.com.
Ahoy! There be treasure! Ye won’t need a treasure map. But ye must walk the plank and outsmart the sharks to win! Har! That be a pirate joke. All ye really have to do is leave yer comment below. Leave yer comment no later than midnight (CDT) Tuesday, October 3, 2017. A winner be randomly chosen. ***You must be in the United States to win.
Details: Enter for a free chance to win an original signed painting by Benjamin Schipper, illustrator of the picture book, CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW, by Sterling Publishing. The painting of Kyle the Ankylosaurus pirate is roughly 8.5″ square, and was created with Holbien Acryla gouache and Prismacolor pencils on Arches Cold-pressed illustration board. It’s suitable for framing and mounting in any dinosaur pirate-loving kid’s room.
Thanks to Henry for sharing with us today and huge congratulations on CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW!
Meet Henry: Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children. He and his sons wrote MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES (Pelican, 2015), WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY (Pelican, 2016), MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer, 2016), LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican, 2016), CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW (Sterling, 2017), GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer, 2018), HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican, 2018), and ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius, 2018).
Happy Book Birthday, Matt!
Congratulations on your debut picture book, Flashlight Night!
I read hundreds of picture books every year and Flashlight Night is one of my favorite reads. Not just one of my favorite reads of the year, but one of my favorite reads of all time. It’s a magical book and as soon as I finished the last page, I flipped back to the front to read it again. There is so much to take in between the words and the art. I think the blurb on the book jacket may sum up what I’m trying to say.
“What happens when you combine a flashlight, a storyteller, and the dark of night? You find MAGIC, WONDER, and a life-changing ADVENTURE.”
It’s obvious from the reviews that I’m not the only one who felt the magic.
“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal
“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Starred Review Kirkus Reviews
“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist
“An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book
I imagine those of you reading this post can’t wait to open the pages of this book and experience the magic for yourselves. Once you’ve experienced it, you may be curious like I was. Where did this magical book start? What sparked the idea? Guess what? I have someone “in the know” here today! Lucky us!
So Matt, I would love it if you’d share the inspiration for Flashlight Night and “shine a light” on your writing process, from idea to completed manuscript. Tell us how you captured MAGIC, WONDER, and ADVENTURE in just 32 pages.
I have been asked by numerous folks about the inspiration for Flashlight Night , and I have yet to come up with what I feel is a decent answer. I know how the book came about – I’m just not sure why. It started off, simply, with me attending a local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) event in Massachusetts.
Back in August 2014, a number of local SCBWI members had gotten together at Kimball Farm in Westford, Mass. to hang out and chat over appetizers and drinks and as I was driving home, the idea of a flashlight “opening up the night” popped into my head. It was at least 10pm or so, and all I could see was what my headlights revealed…so I started thinking about what to do with the words in my head, and by the time I was home (and hour and a half later) I had the opening and closing stanzas pretty well nailed down.
The following week, I continued working on it – still not sure if it was a stand-alone poem or a picture book manuscript – and had completed the first draft within just 6 or 7 days. By the time it was done, I knew it was a picture book, albeit a very poetically-written one. (Of course, I continued tweaking it over the course of the following 2 or 3 weeks, because I wanted it to be as polished as possible before sending it out to my editor, Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills Press.
As I write primarily poetry, I deliberately made use of alliteration and internal rhyme, unusual end rhymes, and fun words that would not only lend themselves to fleshing out the story and imagery, but would perhaps stretch a young person’s vocabulary.
There were actually several things I deliberately did, which I wasn’t sure were going to help or hinder me:
- The word ‘flashlight’ is used only once, as the very first word.
- There is no mention of any other characters – boys, girls, animals, names.
- The main subject of the book (the flashlight) is inanimate.
- Imagery was abundant, but often ambiguous.
- The story arc does not follow any sort of formula, other than there is a loose narrative.
Knowing there was a lot of imagery in this manuscript, I tried to keep specific details out of the story, so an illustrator could have ample room to share in telling the tale. For example, in one scene I make reference to a “peculiar door” – and that’s all I say about it. I figured, I’d let the illustrator determine why it’s peculiar!
In another instance, I describe a “vessel, tightly moored.” Again, that’s the only description I give – and although I had a pirate ship in mind, I was happy to let an illustrator make that call. (which Fred Koehler did!)
Speaking of Fred, I can’t thank him enough for taking on this manuscript. He told me loved the classic feel of the text so much that he wanted to create a classic look to the illustrations – so this is his very first manuscript using traditional media. He drew all the illustrations by hand, inked them in, then scanned them into his computer to colorize them.
So every detail you see – from the dark, foreboding sky to the spooky, textured shadows – is painstakingly hand-drawn! (And as someone who has a minor in studio art, it just boggles my mind to know Fred did all that freehand – and just wait til you see the fur on the giant bear.)
I hope everyone enjoys the book, and thank you so much, Penny, for shining your spotlight on “Flashlight” today! And congrats to you, on your “Cooked-Up Fairy Tale!”
Thank you for taking the time to share your process, Matt. It was very interesting and the attention you gave to Flashlight Night makes me love it even more!
A couple of things!
***Goodreads giveaway! You could win one of TWENTY COPIES of Flashlight Night. Starting at midnight 12:00 am PT, TODAY, Tuesday, September 19 (publication day) you can enter! The contest will wrap up at 11:59 pm PT on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
To learn more about Flashlight Night be sure to check out the stops on Matt’s blog tour.
Friday 9/15 Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Monday 9/18 KitLit Exchange/ Loud Library Lady
Tuesday 9/19 Penny Klostermann Book Blog
Wednesday 9/20 Unleashing Readers
Thursday 9/21 KidLit Frenzy
Friday 9/22 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Monday 9/25 Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tuesday 9/26 Nerdy Book Club
Meet Matt: Over the years, Matt Forrest Esenwine has had several adult poems published in literary journals and magazines around the country, and in 2012 his poem, “Apple-Stealing,” was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize. Meanwhile, his children’s poetry can be found in numerous anthologies including J. Patrick Lewis’ The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), Kenn Nesbitt’s One Minute till Bedtime (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016), and Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Boyds Mills Press, 2018), as well as “Highlights for Kids” magazine. His picture books include Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018, co-authored with Deb Bruss).