PB Author Interview with Ame Dykeman

My first author interview is with Ame Dyckman.  I met Ame through our New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI).  Ame has been writing for four years and recently celebrated the release of her first picture book, BOY + BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. The book has had a remarkable debut, with starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist; great reviews from School Library Journal and The New York Times (online edition); fun nods from Parenting Magazine, The Huffington Post, DailyCandy, etc.; and love from Amazon (a Best Picture Book of April) and independent booksellers (a Kids’ Indie Next List pick) alike.  Ame’s childlike joy and enthusiasm are infectious and a perfect fit for her chosen field. Thanks for joining me, Ame.  How did you come to be a Children’s Book Writer?

Thank you, Darlene!  I knew I wanted to write for children, but I didn’t know how.  So I did what I always do when I don’t know how to do something: I Googled it! Google said, “Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators!” (And, it gave me a great recipe for potato salad.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

Where did the idea for BOY + BOT originate?

I’ve always loved friendship-despite-difference stories (FROG AND TOAD, GEORGE AND MARTHA, etc.), and I’ve always loved robots.  I wanted to write a friendship story featuring a robot, but I didn’t know what the story was.  Then one day, I “saw” the “Bot gets switched off” scene in my head and knew that was the idea I had to tinker with!  The story grew around that one scene.

How long did it take to write from idea to final draft?  Tell us a bit about the process.

It took almost 14 months–the gestation period of a Beluga whale!  (Okay, that last bit has nothing to do with my publication story.  I just thought it was cool to know.)  Along the way, I got lots of super-helpful feedback and advice from folks at NJ SCBWI events (Group Critiques, First Page Sessions, Mentoring Workshops, etc.).  Finally, I brought it to the 2009 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference, and that’s when things really started rolling!

Describe your typical writing routine.

I like to write in the morning.  Then I print out the latest version of my manuscript-in-progress, fold it up, put it in my pocket, and keep it with me so I can work on additions and revisions throughout the day.  (Yeah, a few manuscripts have gone through the wash.  But I’m getting better about this.)

What has been the most amazing thing to happen since the release of BOY + BOT?

Fan mail from kids is THE GREATEST!  I want to buy more refrigerators so I can display it all at once.  But the best single moment happened last week.  I was browsing in the bookstore when two little guys (who recognized me from visiting their school in the spring) robot-walked up to me and shouted, “AFFIRMATIVE!”

What a wonderful moment with young children when they see you and make those awesome connections.  For me that would be a definite perk in writing for children.  How did you find representation for your book?

I met my Super Agent, Scott Treimel, at the Agent Pitch Session of the 2009 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference.  I pitched BOY + BOT.  Scott loved it, I loved Scott (still do!), and we decided to work together.  Just a short time later, Scott called to say we had an offer from Knopf!

What is the next book we can look forward to?

TEA PARTY RULES (Viking, 2013), is an eventual friendship story between a bossy little girl and the bear cub who crashes her backyard tea party.  It’s illustrated by the new-and-genius K.G. Campbell (LESTER’S DREADFUL SWEATERS).

That sounds delightful.  I’ll be sure to keep my eye out for that one.  What words of inspiration do you have for PB writers looking to break in?

Memorize this phrase:  “CAN, TOO!”  And keep it handy if anybody says, “You can’t.”

Ame Dykeman with me and Illustrator Dan Yaccarino.

Do I think you’ll enjoy reading BOY + BOT?  AFFIRMATIVE!

Here is the link for the BOY + BOT trailer!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBi820NFhag
Ame’s website:
http://amedyckman.com/home.html
Twitter page:
https://twitter.com/AmeDyckman
Agent Scott Treimel’s website:
http://www.scotttreimelny.com/
Random House’s BOY + BOT page:
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/204493/boy-and-bot-by-ame-dyckman
Dan Yaccarino’s website:
http://www.danyaccarino.com/ys/

You can find BOY + BOT pretty much everywhere–Amazon, B&N, and tons of fabulous Indies!  And I’ve had SO much fun with the #SpotBot game on Twitter!  The other day, a friend Tweeted that she’d spotted BOY + BOT at the Art Museum of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia!

Thanks Ame.   It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Thanks so much, Darlene!  If there’s anything else you’d like, just let me know!

Hugs,
Ame

Tools of the Trade

We might sometimes wonder if our writing, or the books we choose to read to our children are age appropriate or at the level of the intended audience.  Here are two wonderful resources for anyone writing for children. If you want your books to be used in the classroom, you definitely want to check out these resources.

1. THE CHILDREN’S WRITER’S WORD BOOK by Alijandra Mogilner has grade lists and vocabulary words for Kindergarten through sixth grade.  It also describes which reading skills are acquired at each level.

2. You can become familiar with state and national curriculum standards at the Education World website: http://www.educationworld.com/standards/        These standards are what teachers must follow when they select materials for the classroom.

There is also a way to check the readability level of your test by using the FLESCH-KINCAID GRADE LEVEL score found on your computer. This resource is especially effective with longer passages.

Nature Crafts

There are dozens of crafts and activities using natural found objects on the Make Play Dough website: http://www.makeplaydough.com

Once you get to the site, click on NATURE CRAFTS and find crafts such as Sand Art, Ocean in a Bottle, Seashell Refrigerator Magnet,  and many more using sticks, stones, leaves and other items collected from nature.

Explore the site for crafts and activities to make during holidays as well.

Fun With Fossils

Summer is a great time for some informal science and archeology fun.  If you’ve ever had an opportunity to travel to an area of the country where there is sedimentary rock layers and turned over a few of the rocks, you may have found some ancient fossils imprinted on them.  If not, you can engage the kids in this “make your own fossils” activity.

Go to a sandy area near water.  The BEACH is perfect for this.  State Parks with a lake or beach area works well, too.  Gather up a few natural items such as shells, leaves, discarded crab carcasses, claws, dead bugs, sticks, bumpy stones  and the like.  Fill a bucket with water or move to an area of the sand that is already wet.  Press each object into the wet sand. Remove carefully and VOILA!  A fossil impression that’s picture worthy.  Take a few photos and try another item. You could also capture bird and animal footprints from creatures that have run along the shore line.  Try your own hand and footprints as well. 

Once you get home, and for those who want a bit more challenge, get some Playdoh Model Magic clay that will air dry. THIS time, when you press an object into the rolled out clay, you can save the fossil by letting it dry. If you poke a hole in one end with a drinking straw, it will allow you to hang each fossil for display. Paint them with water based paints and they become works of art.

Capture the Moon

LIGHTENING BUGS, FIREFLYS, whatever you call these bits of fluttering light on a warm summer evening, when was the last time you tried to catch one?  A week or so ago I looked out a window that overlooks my backyard and was amazed to see not just a few lightening bugs, but a yard filled with them.  Everywhere I looked there was blinking, flashing, sparkling bits of diamonds on the fly. Like fairy taxis, bustling from one spot to the next, headlamps signalling to fellow travelers.

Remember those carefree nights when the only aim was to catch one of these magical creatures in our hands and watch them light up from close range?  Relive that magic with your own children.  All you need is a bit of patience, a jar with a lid and a sense of wonder.  You can look up facts about what it is that makes them light up.  Once you catch the fireflies, and watch them blink, wink and glow, set them free.  As wonderful as they are up close, they are so much more magical fluttering about looking for the next fairy passenger  to escort on a nighttime journey. The neon of the night once again set free.

More Job Sites For Freelance Writers

Here are a few more paying markets for all different kinds of freelance writing work.

1. mediabistro.com: Job listings, newsbriefs, blogs and more.

2. marketlist.com: If you’re looking for markets for genre fiction, check out this site listing resources for writers of children’s books, sci-fi, mysteries, and more.

3. journalismjobs.com: Writing opportunities for all levels of exprience, with listings from around the globe.

HAPPY WRITING!

Whistling Grass

Here is a simple and fun activity everyone can enjoy when you’re outdoors and anywhere near grass.  Just take a wide blade of grass and place it tightly between your thumbs.  Blow onto the small opening and the grass will whistle!

It actually sounds like a turkey call.  Try different blade thicknesses and widths to see if you can change the sound.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!