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

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Some Rock Stars of Kid Lit

Last weekend I was fortunate to attend the NJSCBWI Conference in Princeton, NJ. Not only was it full of interesting and inspiring workshops and presentations, I also got to meet many of the best writers in the field of Children’s Literature. Illustrator Dan Yaccarino spoke to us on Saturday with a message titled YES, and how when opportunity presents itself, don’t think of how you won’t be able to do something, but rather embrace the learning and say “Yes…I can do it”. Kate DiCamillo gave the keynote address on Sunday and awed all of us with her eloquence and generosity.

There were also many excellent agents, editors, and writers who presented workshops, gave critiques and just made us writers feel good to be in their midst.

Thanks to all the organizers of the annual event. Kathy Temean and her crew outdid themselves yet again. New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Rocks!  For those who missed this wonderful event, check out the website and see what else is going on: newjerseyscbwi.com

With Agent John Cusick

Meeting my agents for the first time: Liza Fleissig & Ginger Harris

With Newbery Winner Kate DiCamillo

Ame Dykeman and Dan Yaccarino signing their book BOY + BOT