Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pinky's Binky

Okay, this is only funny if you know me really well.  (For those of you who don't, let me just say that by the time my daughter was one and a half, she was already outsmarting me.)

Jordan was home sick from school last week and she insisted that we write and illustrate our own picture books.

Here is my story

Pinky had a little Binky
She loved that Binky so.
Everywhere that Pinky went,
the Binky had to go.

Mommy said, "You're getting old.
It's time to say good-bye."
Pinky said, "I can't do that."
And then began to cry.

I love my Binky far too much
I can't throw it away
Mommy said, You're turning three.
That Binky cannot stay."

Pinky said, "I'll give it up,
if you give up your Fraps!"
Mommy, said, "Okay, it stays.
Come on.  Let's take our naps."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle (and a Giveaway!)

Kristy is not my only friend to have a book launch this week!   Aaron Zenz, author and illustrator of The Hiccupotamus, also had a PB hit the shelves on Tuesday.

Here he is to talk about his new release:

I know authors whose chapter book ideas ultimately became picture books.  And I know of television pitches that instead became graphic novels.  But how's this for a transformation: my most recent book has its roots in... a coloring book!

Back in 2003 I was busy creating art for fun activity books.  One of my assignments was a coloring book simply titled "Baby Animals."  For my own entertainment, I decided to set a challenge for myself.  Could I design the book so that each page had an animal with a unique baby name?  For example, one coloring page would feature a "Calf," another page a "Chick," another page a "Cub."  Could I do 24 pages with no repeats?

Once I started researching, I was astounded at the baby animal names I discovered!  Now, we all know that baby dogs are "Puppies" and baby cats are "Kittens."  But do you know what baby platypuses have been called?  Are you ready for this?  Puggles!  I kid you not!  Baby mice are "Pinkies," baby oysters are "Spats," and baby eels are "Elvers."  I fell in love with this wonderful nonsense, rooted in reality.

After the coloring book was done, these wonderful words stayed with me.  The phrase "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" popped into my head, and I knew I had a children's book.  I didn't care what form it took.  I love nonsensical words, and I just wanted to author a book with the word "Puggle" in the title.

To organize these wonderful critters I'd collected, I took my list of 54 baby animals and worked them into a poem.  Here's a verse:

I'm a PUGGLE, you're a PUGGLE
What's a CRIA?
Who's a JOEY?

I wrote my story in 2005 and started shopping it around soon after.  Over the years I created a variety of potential art styles for it.  Whichever style was ultimately chosen didn't matter much to me.  I just wanted to author a book with "Puggle" in the title.

At last, the fine folks at Walker Books decided to publish "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle."  It is interesting (and highly unusual) to note that over all those years and after all those pitches, the story has remained nearly identical to Draft Number One set down on December 21, 2005.  A few animals have been shuffled around or swapped out.  But the book has remained virtually unchanged.  With two big exceptions:

Ha ha!  You can't win them all.  In the end it was decided that a cluster of baby ducks has much more appeal than a platypus and an echidna.  A platypus and a what???  My point exactly.  I wholeheartedly agree with the change to "Chuckling Ducklings."  And at least I get to use the line "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" inside the book right?  Oh wait... that was change number two:

It's the one and only line of text from the whole book that fell under the editor's knife.  But on the bright side... we've jumped from two appearances of the word Puggle on the spread to three appearances!  Yes!  More Puggle for the buck!

So look for inspiration everywhere -- you may find your muse in a coloring book or in the name of a baby animal.  And as you craft your works, I suggest you cling tightly to a passion (nonsense words!) but hold loosely to specific details (formats, titles, lines of text).

Wow!  Great story.  Thanks, Aaron.  To enter to win a copy of Chuckling Ducklings, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for "liking" the page. You get an extra entry if you leave a comment (there or here) Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 22nd at 10:00 AM EST.  (Entrants must be U.S. residents)

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Story Behind Mini Racer- and a GIVEAWAY!

Tomorrow is the release date for MINI RACER by Kristy Dempsey!   I have been eagerly awaiting this book for YEARS!   To celebrate, I asked Kristy to give us the inside scoop on how MINI RACER came to be.
MINI RACER stars a memorable cast of animals in customized vehicles — a mouse in a cheese cart, a team of alligators in a gas-guzzling racecar, a seal in a wheelchair tricked out with rainbow colored rims, alongside others. This romping race in rhyme zooms through town and country, with mishaps and mischievousness along the way, leading to an exciting finish with an unexpected winner.

The original manuscript was written in about 20 minutes flat. Seriously. I was trying my best to carve out some writing time while my three young children had play time. They proceeded to ride their little vehicles — one on a bike, one on a scooter and one on a tricycle — around the table where I was working, out the side porch doors, around the back of the house and back inside the door on the other side of the house complete with sound effects. Zoom! Vroom! Beep, beep! Around and around and around. I felt as if I were in a circus.

The thought crossed my mind that I should “write what I know” so I pictured a little boy racing through his day like a race car and proceeded to put the rhyming scenes on paper. A few drafts (and a couple of weeks later) I sent it to my agent and she had interest from an editor that same day. Since that day, I look at my children and all the noise they generate with a lot more patience and gratitude! They’re generating inspiration too.

In my very talented illustrator’s (Bridget Strevens-Marzo) hands, MINI RACER became a root-for-the-underdog story with a whole cast of characters with their own side stories. I think the town and country scenes have a slightly European feel and I’m hoping if I ever get to visit Bridget in France, she’ll take me to the little bakery in the “in-town” spread and treat me to one of those ├ęclairs.
To win a copy of this bouncy book, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for "liking" the page. You get an extra entry if you leave a comment (there or here) Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 16th at 10:00 AM EST.  (Entrants must be U.S. residents)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How Much Does the Medium Matter?

I had this conversation with a friend today.

ME:  You have got to watch Lost!  It's AMAZING.  I'm addicted.

HER:  I never get addicted to shows

ME:  But it's like crack cocaine..  The characters are so well-drawn.  The plot is so intricately woven.

HER:  I just am not that into TV

ME:  But.. but... but... this is not like other shows!  It's like the Hunger Games of television.  You just can't walk away.

HER:  Books are different to me

Of course, the written word is my first love.  I go to movies all the time and say "that didn't compare to the book"  But to me, the medium is less important than the following things:

Did the story-teller choose an interesting way in which to present the story? (i.e. by playing with time and perspective)
Are there unpredictable twists?
Do the characters have something at stake?

The biggest test of success for me is this ... is my head in the story even when I am not actively reading/watching?  Considering that Jack and Sawyer often come to the supermarket with me, I'd say Lost passes with flying colors.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Evolution of Mr. Duck Means Business (and a giveaway)

Okay, there is a definite theme here this month.  Has anybody noticed it?   Some people claim that ideas just come to them wholly formed.  But for most of us, ideas evolve.  For the next few weeks, I am going to focus on how ideas develop and change during the process of crafting a story.

We may start out writing a PB and it ends up a middle grade novel!  (Yes, come back next week to hear about the evolution of Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner)  We may start out writing in prose and it may end up in rhyme.  Or... we might do what Tammi Sauer did.   I'll let her tell you in her own words:

MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS stars an uppity duck that goes a little haywire when the other barnyard animals mistakenly think they’ve been invited for a swim in his otherwise peaceful pond.

The original manuscript, however, didn’t have a duck or a pond. It featured a huffy little old lady. Miss Matilda’s house was located near the park and all of the neighborhood kids used her yard for the shortcut. The chaos drove her bananas. After some doing, Miss Matilda found a way to isolate her house and yard from the commotion. But…it didn’t take her long to discover she missed those kids.

Pre-agented, I subbed MISS MATILDA MEANS BUSINESS and received lovely rejections and a revision request. But no takers. Then something occurred to me about a year later—kids don’t relate to an old lady who wants to keep a nice yard!

Shocking, I know!

I kept the same premise, tweaked the characters and the setting, and *presto-chango*, the manuscript sold in a multiple-bidding situation.
To enter to win a copy of this adorable book, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for being a follower.  You get an extra entry if you leave a comment. Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 7th at 10:00 AM EST.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Love Your Author Friends!

I'm declaring February "Love your author friends" month!   I'll be giving away a book a week- all newly released children's books (PBs and YA) authored by my very own amazingly talented friends. 

How can you win?  It's easy.  Just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook. 

You get an entry just for being a follower.  You get an extra entry if you leave a comment whenever  I leave a  "Book giveaway" status.

I will putting up a lot of "behind the scenes" posts here, but all giveaways will be done through Facebook.

The first giveaway?  Mr Duck Means Business by Tammi Sauer.   Come back tomorrow to find out how Tammi's initial idea evolved into this adorable story.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Groundhog says, "Early spring is coming."   Why do I find that so hard to believe?

Maybe because there's three feet of snow on my deck?

We had a power outage for a few hours today and I realized how helpless I am without electricity. 

ME:  It's getting cold in the house.  Maybe I'll call a friend and see if I can bring the kids over... D'oh!  All my phone numbers are in Outlook.

ME: (10 minutes later)  Brrr, I know.. I'll just get in the car and drive someplace warm like Starbucks.  Double d'oh!!!  I don't know how to manually open the garage door!

(Yes, for someone who did great on the SATs, I pretty much have no life skills)

Oh, Groundhog, please be right!