Katey Howes Launches Her PB GRANDMOTHER THORN.

PLANNING A LAUNCH PARTY FOR GRANDMOTHER THORN

It’s such a treat to be a return guest here on the blog! The first time I contributed a post here, I was a fresh new blogger sharing ideas about raising kids who love to read  – and just starting out on my path to publication. After connecting with Darlene on the internet, we got to know each other better at the 2014 NJ SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Fast forward 3 ½ years, and here I am again, this time privileged to be chatting about my first picture book. It’s been a joy sharing the journey from aspiring author to published author with such an energetic, encouraging and talented friend. Thanks for having me, Darlene!

My debut book is GRANDMOTHER THORN, illustrated by the incredibly talented Rebecca Hahn and published by independent publisher Ripple Grove Press. When it released in August, I knew I wanted to host a launch party that not only celebrated the book, but also thanked the many people who helped me achieve this milestone.  Here, I share a bit about my party, and hope that it helps others plan their own wonderful events!

LOCATION. Many authors have their launch party in a local book store, in their home, or in a venue that reflects something about their book. I chose the Crosswicks Community Library, located in a beautiful renovated firehouse dating from the 1800’s. (This library has such a cool history – you can read more about it here.) This library had been my reading home since 2007 – and the place where my children grew to love books. We spent many hours there together, in all seasons, reading out loud to one another, doing puzzles, and discovering stacks of new favorites. I wanted to celebrate this magical place along with my book. The library was also a great choice because it was conveniently located to the neighborhood where my kids went to school and where my Girl Scout troop met. I knew my Brownies wouldn’t miss this party for the world – but their parents would thank me for making it convenient.  The library did not charge me for the event, and they made it easy for me to sell copies of the book. They also helped promote the event through their Facebook page. All great things to consider in planning a launch party! (It’s also walking distance to a good playground and an excellent pizza place. How could you go wrong with that?) 

INVITATIONS

I went digital in getting the word out about my launch party. I used Canva.com to create images with the event information sized right to share on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I created a Facebook event in less than 10 minutes and added the Library as a co-host so we could both easily invite our Facebook followers. All of this was absolutely free.

ACTIVITIES    Of course, the main event at any launch party is the author reading his or her book – but what happens next? With a picture book launch, you definitely need something fun for kids to do while the grown ups hug and laugh and say “congratulations.”

My friend Ariel Bernstein recently hosted the launch party for her debut, I HAVE A BALLOON, at words Bookstore in Maplewood. She had a balloon artist there twisting cool creations for the kids. It fit right in to the theme and kept even big kids happy.

Since I’m a crafty person, I wanted a fun art activity for kids to make and take. My daughters (ages 12, 10 and 8) manned the craft table and helped kids make these Shiori Ningyo, or Japanese bookmark dolls. I discovered this craft when the KidArtLit subscription box company included it in their August book box, and I have been using it at events ever since! 

You can check out their video tutorial here. Including this craft in the party was a great way for me to symbolically thank KidArtLit’s founders for sharing GRANDMOTHER THORN with their subscribers – and for all the love they’ve shown the book and me!

REFRESHMENTS

I originally planned to have berry tarts (to reflect the berries in the book) and dorayaki (which also plays a role in the story) at the launch party. I reconsidered after realizing refreshments would be served in the children’s room of the library. I did not want gooey, sticky, and stain-prone desserts on hand while kids were likely to pull library books off shelves. I decided to go with individually wrapped cookies, instead – and to avoid chocolate or sticky fillings. (Though if you’re curious about making dorayaki, check out this interview in Vivian Kirkfield’s Will Write for Cookies! Series.)

I was lucky to discover The Flour Pot bakery in Ambler, PA. They helped me select images from the book to be “screen printed” onto delicious frosted sugar cookies in edible colors. The cookies were striking, right down to the color-coordinated ribbons The Flour Pot staff tied around each cellophane bag.  

 

They also made a great thank you gift for the supportive family and friends who couldn’t make it to the event. This delicious gift box went out to my incredible agent, Essie White.

SWAG

Many authors and illustrators pass out fun items like pencils, stickers, and toys to help promote their books. For ideas, definitely check out promo pros Robin Newman and Lori Richmond.  I did design and order bookmarks for Grandmother Thorn from VistaPrint.com – and the publishing house later made more with a different design. I didn’t order additional “swag” for this book, as I couldn’t really find anything that thematically felt right to me.  Instead, I spent most of my “swag budget” on craft supplies and those gorgeous cookies!

The party itself was everything I had hoped – a time for joy and sharing and gratitude and friendship. And, of course, lots and lots of kids reading books.

 

Katey Howes

Children’s Author, Literacy Advocate

Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, August 2017)

 

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling, January 2018)

KateyHowes.com

All the Wonders

Picture the Books

You can buy a copy of Grandmother Thorn on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Grandmother-Thorn-Katey-Howes/dp/0991386698/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512848025&sr=1-1&keywords=grandmother+thorn

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Getting Squirrely With Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

It’s my delight and honor to have recently gotten a copy of Author/Illustrator DEBBIE RIDPATH OHI’s newest picture book: SAM & EVA (Simon and Schuster 2017).  It’s pitched as HAROLD THE PURPLE CRAYON meets TOM & JERRY.  “A sweet and funny picture book about a boy and girl who must balance their creativity and learn how to cooperate after their drawings come to life.”   

Instead of the usual interview with an author, Debbie has agreed to do something completely unique:  She will teach us how to DRAW A SQUIRREL.  So grab your pencil and paper and LET’S GET SQUIRRELY!

HOW TO DRAW A SQUIRREL
by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
I put squirrels in a lot of my picture books, so I thought some young readers might enjoy learning how to draw one. Here’s how to draw the squirrel from WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? and SAM & EVA.      
 
 
 
    
Please note that these are just rough guidelines! When young readers are drawing for fun, there is no such thing as making a mistake. Feel free to change the shape of the head or the body, use different colors, change the details. 
Another idea: make the squirrel an ALIEN SQUIRREL! Purposely experiment with crazy additions:
You find more free, print-ready activities as well as free posters and classroom activity guides athttp://debbieohi.com/printready).

Debbie Ridpath Ohi –  Twitter: @inkyelbows – DebbieOhi.com

Launching in 2017: SAM & EVA by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster,    Oct.17), SEA MONKEY & BOB by Aaron Reynolds & Debbie (Simon & Schuster, Apr.25), MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE in THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Lauren McLaughlin & Debbie (Random House, July 11), RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS by Rob Sanders & Debbie (HarperCollins, Aug.9).   

Darlene here:  This was such fun, I had to try my own squirrel: 

SAM & EVA  is a delight.  Here’s my 5 star review:

“A clever story of creative conflict and co-operation that will be sure to delight budding artists who can watch the drawings take on personalities Sam and Eva never imagined.  Like the creative “muse” in all of us…you never know where your pen  – or brush – will take you.”

Just Add a Whale by Beth Ferry + Win a Free Copy

Writers are always asked where their ideas come from. Sometimes I know exactly when and where an idea originated.

I heard a song.   I saw a squirrel.    I read a really cool word.

I try to remember now, because, as I said, writers are always asked.  I get many of my ideas from word play, because that’s my favorite kind of writing.  But I have never gotten an idea from a piece of art.

Until now.

In March of 2015, I was lucky enough to see these adorable pieces by Lisa Mundorff.

Lisa and I share the same agent, so I was given the opportunity to create a story based on these pictures.

Since it was something I had never done before, I was excited.

This sounded fun.  And easy!

I wrote one story about penguins and rainbows.

Then another about rainbows and penguins.

And another.

And another.

And you get the idea.

I wrote in rhyme.

I wrote in prose.

I wrote a short story, then a long one.

Ultimately, I couldn’t do it.  I just didn’t have a story in me about penguins and rainbows.

Weeks passed, then months.  5 months to be exact.  Then I thought about a whale.

Why?

No matter how hard I try, I cannot think why I thought of a whale, but once the whale popped into my head, I knew I had a story.

And I wrote it!

The whale was the key; the unexpected character that changed the direction of the dead end I was cruising down.

In August 2015, Lisa read it and liked it.  So did our agent!

Lisa sketched out the story and then in January 2016, we sold A Small Blue Whale to Knopf.

It is a story about a whale searching for a friend, who just happens to be those silly rainbow-chasing penguins.

So ultimately, I did write a story about penguins and rainbows, but it took the addition of the whale, something new and unexpected, to make the story come to life.

Writing this book taught me that whatever I assume is going to be easy will never be easy. And things that I assume will be hard will actually be hard!  It also taught me to think a little bigger, even if that bigger is a small blue whale.

Beth Ferry is a picture book writer who lives near the beach in New Jersey. She is the author of numerous picture books illustrated by amazing artists. Her titles include A Small Blue Whale, published October 2017 as well as Stick and Stone, Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect and Sealed with a Kiss which will be published for Valentine’s Day 2019.    

Would you like a signed copy of A SMALL BLUE WHALE?   Let us know in the comment section and I will enter your name.  If you share this post of Twitter or FB, I will enter your name again.  Reblog it, and get a third entry.   The winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.  US residents only, please.

 

Fall Into Reading…Picture Books for Fall and Thanksgiving.

Celebrate Picture Book Month by reading some great picture books about Fall and Thanksgiving.  There are so many titles – classic and new – that you will have no trouble finding something for every child. Here are a few sites with lots of options:

https://delightfulchildrensbooks.com/2011/09/18/autumn/

http://www.southernliving.com/culture/best-new-fall-books-for-kids#goodnight-lab-ferrie-new-kids-books

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Childrens-Thanksgiving/zgbs/books/3090

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/book-list/holidays-celebrations/thanksgiving-books-kids

Curl up with your favorite kid and open up a picture book…you never know where it might take you!  

 

 

 

 

15 Years and Counting: Another Great Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ.

On Saturday, October 7, 2017, I attended my 4th Collingswood Book Festival as an author and this one was finally held outdoors thanks to the beautiful, sun-filled day.  And, as one of the featured authors at this year’s event, I was privileged and thrilled to talk about WHEELS OF CHANGE with many 4th and 5th graders from the local schools, as well as to reconnect with fellow authors and friends.

Here are a few  photo highlights:

During the Wheels of Change “Book Talk”

Meeting with some enthusiastic students after the book talk.

With fellow children’s book author Patricia Lugo.

Finally meeting Liza Royce Agency sibling and my favorite YA sci-fi author: Joshua David Bellin

YA panel on writing fantasy.

Kid Lit Author’s Club author David Teague

 IF you missed this year’s event, mark your calendar for next year.  For a lover of books, it’s one of the best festivals around.

http://www.collingswoodbookfestival.com

 

Picture Book Author Colleen Kosinski and her husband keeping cool.

Hanging out with my daughter and “gal Friday” before the festival started.

 

Barbara DiLorenzo Presents: RENATO AND THE LION + Enter to Win a Free Copy

I met Author/Illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo at a NJSCBWI Fall Craft weekend in Princeton, NJ.  I was immediately captivated by the watercolor illustration she shared – in postcard form – from an upcoming PB.  (The postcard hangs on the wall above my desk, like beautiful art should).

 

Illustration by Barbara DiLorenzo

As we talked, we discovered a shared interest in research and making stories as authentic as possible.  Hearing about her journey toward that goal blew me away.  Here’s Barbara with that story:

After a decade of hard work, I sold my first picture book in September of 2014. Viking Children’s Books bought RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children’s Books) I was elated, but I knew there was still so much work ahead. My editor acquired a wordless dummy, but the story needed text to clarify the time period and the events connecting Renato to his lion. The editor asked me to wait while her team ushered the next round of books to publication. There was no timeline given, and it ended up being many months. I could have worked on other projects until she was ready for me. But I knew that although I had my plot and characters, there was so much of the actual history I was unsure of. Since the lion statue comes to life in the story, the rules of pure historical fiction didn’t seem to apply. Nevertheless, I felt a duty to paint a believable world that children could learn from and historians would accept as accurate.      

I began this unstructured time by sketching the characters, trying to get to know them better so I could maintain consistency throughout the illustrations. At the same time, I attended a local SCBWI event in Princeton, NJ, known as the Fall Craft Weekend. This annual event includes intensive workshops for writers and illustrators, as well as panels and workshops led by industry professionals and established book makers. One of the workshops I attended was by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, author of WHEELS OF CHANGE. The theme of the workshop was the research process for historical fiction projects. I dutifully took notes, but as I listened to Darlene, I couldn’t believe how thoroughly she researched her book’s world. She mentioned calling a museum to ask about which streets were dirt and which were cobble-stoned in the time period of her piece. That blew me away, as her book about a horse-carriage maker would need to know something like that. It occurred to me that the research process was fun for Darlene. I was only accustomed to research projects for school–something I had never enjoyed. But her eyes were bright as she talked about verifying facts and details for her book. That workshop changed the trajectory of RENATO AND THE LION. 

Like a sweater with a loose thread, tugging at the facts of the time period unraveled an entire world for me. I started with one request from my editor–to make sure that Renato and his family could have taken a boat from Italy to New York during the height of World War II. I started searching online, then pulling books from the local library. It only took a few days to learn that there was just ONE boat that carried passengers from Naples to New York in 1944. President Roosevelt had authorized a military ship, the U.S.A.T. Henry Gibbins to bring 1000 Jewish refugees to our coast. At first I wondered if this meant Renato had to be Jewish. I wasn’t opposed to this, but I wanted the story line to be true for either a Jewish family fleeing persecution, or a Catholic family that was perhaps anti-fascist. As it turns out, the boat carried 100 non-Jewish refugees. And there were two Renatas and two Renates on board! Research was indeed fun, and I was hooked! 

The next big topic I wanted to figure out was whether or not the lion was ever covered. This took a lot longer, with trips to the Princeton University libraries and the help of their researchers. All I had to do was ask, and I was granted permission to see the Pennoyer Collection–where I sketched from photos taken from the 1940’s. I requested books off site, through their art history library, the Marquand–which was incredible. I felt like a detective, racing to find out if the story I had imagined could actually have existed. My stomach was in knots more than once when I thought I had discovered contradictory information, or a lead fell through. I don’t know how it is if someone starts with research before building a story. But for me, researching after the story was assembled, was nerve-wracking. 

I got as far as I could get stateside, when I decided to use my book advance for a solo trip to Florence. For ten days in 2015, I wandered around Florence, frantically sketching, taking tours, and trying to learn from people who had lived through the war. I met a bookseller, Enrico Rossi, who was 7-years old in 1944. I hired a local guide to translate while I interviewed him. I learned enough to make a few more books out of his information! Where to stop!? It was dizzyingly exciting. I also found a rare book at the Florence Library that the Marquand had, which I desperately wanted to own. I asked the library where I could find the book to buy, and one person said I could check the book out and go around the corner to make copies. I appreciated the thought, but I didn’t want to do that. Unbelievably, they gave me a library card, and I checked the book out. In the front of the book, I saw that it was published through the Pitti Palace, only a short walk across the Arno River.

Excitedly, I ran over to the Pitti Palace. I waited in line with other tourists, who had passes for the gardens. But for some reason, the attendant kept telling them their pass was incorrect, and they would have to go to the office. Having no pass, and speaking terrible Italian, I just showed him the book and the words “Pitti Palace” and gestured towards the gift shop. To my surprise, he waved me in! I took a look in the shop, but realized there were no books like mine there.

I slowly walked back to the gate, passing offices along the way. My bravery got the better of me, and I knocked on a random office door. Again, with atrocious Italian, I showed the book and my sketches, and tried to explain I wanted to find a copy. They understood, and asked me to wait. A gentleman made a phone call, then disappeared for awhile. When he came back, he brought two books to me. The one I wanted, and a new one–its companion! I was so excited, and pulled out my wallet to pay. He looked at his co-workers, and waved me away saying not to worry. My eyes got misty at his generosity. 

When I left Italy, I only had one carry on bag–filled to the brim with 15 books and loads of sketches and paintings. On the last day, when I checked out of the nunnery where I was staying, I had one last surprise that only a research trip could have brought me. When I tried to pay with my credit card, the nuns explained it was cash only. The bill was about 570Euro. I only had 30 on me. I had put a deposit on my credit card at home, but the nuns explained this was done by a different company. For them, it was cash only. I panicked. They let me leave to see what I could withdraw from the ATM. Thankfully my bank card and my savings card allowed 250Euro to be withdrawn each. But I was still short–plus the added taxes. I was so upset. But then I remembered all my paintings. I gave them the cash, then asked if I could pay the remainder with a painting. The nuns agreed, and I parted with the first night painting I did during my trip. This experience brought home the feeling that I had when making the book–Italians revere art in a way that our culture may or may not. I was embarrassed to leave without paying in full, but in retrospect, I’m happy to tell this story. 

Once I was home, and the work with my editor began in earnest, I shared all my research. I collected everything on a webpage, so she could spend time looking at it and referencing outside links. I cleaned up some of the research, and put it up on www.renatoandthelion.com. There you can find Easter eggs of hidden portraits and street names, of war time heroes and real artwork that was covered and protected during the war. And the storyline works whether the reader envisions Renato as a Jewish boy, a Catholic boy, or a boy of mixed descent. For in meeting Enrico Rossi, I learned that his Jewish grandmother lived on the same street as his Catholic family members, and no one cared. 

The only mystery I never solved was whether or not the lion was ever covered, even for a day. The great flood in 1966 damaged nearby buildings and destroyed tons of paper documents about what happened to artwork during the war. In the spirit of the book, I choose to believe that although he probably wasn’t covered for long, a little boy could have done his part to keep his beloved lion safe. 

I am forever grateful to Darlene for turning me on to the power of research. She may not have intended to influence me as much as she did–since my travels had shades of an Indiana Jones adventure. But without her, I wouldn’t have had this much fun making my first picture book, RENATO AND THE LION. Grazie, Darlene!

“This love letter to Florence should spur diverse conversations, from art to history to the plight of refugees.”—Booklist, starred review

Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (Viking, June 20, 2017) and QUINCY (Little Bee Books, February 8, 2018). She received her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and studied painting at the Art Students League of New York under Mary Beth McKenzie. In 2014 she received the Dorothy Markinko Scholarship Award from the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. She is a signature member in the New England Watercolor Society as well as the Society of Illustrators. Currently she teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton, and is co-president of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group of New York. Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.

Outside of art and writing, Barbara has gone skydiving, hang gliding, and whitewater rafting. She loves to surf, and has driven across the U.S. with her son so he could earn Junior Ranger badges from various National Parks. She has traveled to Italy several times, and lived in Bolivia for six months during college in order to work in a school for the deaf. Currently, Barbara lives in Hopewell, New Jersey with her wonderful family–who constantly inspire new stories. Her amazing 14-year-old son is the inspiration for many of her book ideas, including RENATO AND THE LION. More inspiration is on the way, as Barbara welcomed her second child–a daughter–in March 2017. She already seems to have a sense of humor–like her big brother. 🙂     

www.barbaradilorenzo.com

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Co-President of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group (CBIG).
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton.

 Barbara is giving one random viewer of this post an opportunity to win a signed copy of her gorgeous book.  To enter, leave a comment for one entry.  Post it on FB for a second entry. Tweet it or reblog it for a third entry.  I will draw a name out of my writing “hat” and announce the winner here on Wednesday, 10-11-2017.