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Friday, September 23, 2011

Fiction Friday: The kid becomes the adult, the adult becomes the child.

I heard a concept that was foreign to me last week while watching a training video. It said that opposed to what many people believe, our own traits as children stay with us forever. That each trait is something that we’ll never grow out of and is so engrained to our personality that it only gets stronger with age. The video explained that deep inside we feel the same way we did when we were kids and if anything, it makes you more passionate about what you do, about your “super powers” as I call them, or “strengths” as everybody else does.

That thought brought me back to my childhood. I was an introvert, but yet I loved to tell stories and draw them out. I wanted to be able to tell the story more accurately to help other people get it. When I grew bigger, I started talking to my friends about what I’d dreamed the night before. I would paint scenes and color with pencils for hours, softly so there wouldn’t be any lines on the paper. I didn’t wanted people to get distracted by the lines, but to take the scene fully in. Then at age 17 I started to write. I had a stack of white paper under my bed and I would turn my light on right after my parents went to bed. My pages were fully handwritten, and my friends would borrow them to read the next day so that we could decide where the story was going from there on.

That was me as a kid and now that I think of it, that’s exactly me now. This year I got an amazing opportunity. I’m an art director, so my responsibility is the look and feel of the books, but yet, one of the people I look up to when it comes to writing, asked me if I would co-write something with her. 

Beth and I came up with a super cool concept while having tea in our afternoon break. A hi-low series for girls. A story about two best friends, girls who are opposites. They fight over a boy, and one wishes the other away. We hammered out all of the details over cups of tea and coffee. And that is how Fairieground was born 9 months ago. 

Beth and I have been writing, editing, art directing and designing these books together. They have some of the best parts of both of us mixed and entwined together for kids to enjoy for years to come.

Here is the cover of one of the four books, all illustrated by Odessa Sawyer. Sincerely, I would say childhood and adulthood have gone full circle. What is your story?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's in a name?

Starting new books every season is always a thrill, but new books inevitably mean new titles. While some people love coming up with titles, others dread the looming deadline. But no matter how you feel about titles, you can't have a book without one. Often, our helpful authors provide title suggestions with their manuscripts, but ultimately it's up to the editor to come up with the perfect title. For me, the perfect title can often come at the most unexpected time: while I'm driving, while I'm cooking dinner, while I'm trying to fall asleep. (Clearly I'm a really effective multi-tasker...or incapable of concentrating, although I prefer to think it's the first option.)

No matter when it comes to you, creating a new title is always a challenge. After all, a title has to shoulder a lot of responsibility. It's more than just a name. A title has to effectively convey what a book is about and still be interesting and attention-grabbing. Without a strong title, would a book ever get read? It's no small feat, especially when you consider the number of books published each year. That's why every season, I'm continuously impressed by the creativity of the other editors I work with. They make coming up with new, unique, creative titles look easy (or at the very least manageable).

So, help us out. What do you think makes a good title? What grabs your attention?

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Almost Fall!

A photo from one my last trips of the summer. A perfect sunset, don't you think?

While it's still technically summer, the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler. Kids are back in school and the lazy days of summer seem to already be long behind us. It's getting to be the perfect weather for a cozy cardigan, a mug full of hot chocolate, and a good book. Here are a few appropriate titles as we transition into the next season and say our last goodbyes to summer.

A beautifully illustrated book about the joys of fall, and the perfect introduction to the concept of seasons.

Whenever I think of fall, apples are one of the first things that comes to mind. This graphic novel tells the story of Johnny Appleseed in a new and interesting way.

In Katie Woo's world, jumping into a pile of leaves is part of a perfect day. Learn about the other things that make Katie really happy in this sweet little book.

An easy- to-read graphic novel that has a nice lesson about how to deal with a difficult classmate.

Max and Zoe are at it again! In this story Max's desk is so messy he can't find a thing, and he may have to miss recess. What will he do?!

Happy Fall and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sneak Peek

Some characters for a new middle grade mystery series I'm working on. Cool, huh?

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Work Surprise

As I was shopping on one of my favorite mom sites the other day (zulily), I came across a fun surprise. A series of books that I worked on was on the site! The Hello Genius board book set (by the one and only Michael Dahl) was for sale with a bunch of other Capstone titles. It's always so fun to see books that you helped create on a popular site for anyone to buy. Needless to say, it made my day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pfeffernut in the Pfair Pforest

Library Bound welcomes guest blogger, author Jill Kalz

It was about pfans and pfriends—the pfolks who already knew and loved my strange old farmer, Cap, and those who were meeting him for the very first time.

On August 29, my picture book Farmer Cap (Pfeffernut County series; Capstone) made its Minnesota State Fair debut in the Alphabet Forest, a place where letters danced and dangled between tall trees; books bloomed, ready to be picked and read aloud by families escaping the Midway mayhem and all kinds of greasy goodness on a stick; and little and big kids sported paper crowns and celebrated literacy with a hip, hip, HUZZAH!

I may have been the featured author in the Forest that day, but, really, it was Cap’s show. I was the roadie, carting a tub of 400 Farmer Cap heads-on-sticks I’d assembled (400 heads + 400 wooden sticks + 800 squares of adhesive goo), 400 colorable “Pfollow me to Pfeffernut!” stickers, and seven-dozen washable markers. And I was more than happy to stand by and watch Cap shine. He may be an odd duck, with his flip flops, shorts, and feathered alpine hat, but fairgoers welcomed him without hesitation. It wasn’t just “Minnesota nice” at work, either. The nearly 125,000 people who walked through the gates that day represented all parts of the country—and the world. One Farmer Cap head was adopted by a woman from Alaska; two more now have new homes in Japan.

Great coloring job!

Hundreds of Caps!

Dorks, wimpy kids, and nerds crowd today’s children’s literature bestseller lists, and I think that’s one reason why readers have a soft spot for Cap. He’s a grown-up version of a dork/wimpy kid/nerd! Kids who feel different, like they don’t quite fit in, can identify with Cap on some level and accept their own quirks, or, alternatively, say, “Hey, at least I’m not as goofy as THAT guy!” For other readers, I think it’s about the magic and mystery of his story. Whatever the reasons, it was fun to watch people connect.

Four Minnesota authors before me and eight more after me found old fans and new friends during the state fair run this year, thanks to Alphabet Forest creator Debra Frasier. And it’s safe to say, we all had a pfantastic time!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to School!

My two school-age children headed back to class last week. Right off the bat, my second-grader was told that she is expected to read for at least twenty minutes a night. It would be her first homework assignment. But it came with a tangible reward. For every 200 minutes read, the teacher will give student a book of his or her own to keep.

Now my daughter can't wait to do her "homework" every night. Sometimes, she even tackles in on the bus. All thanks to the generosity of her teacher.

Here's a few of the books she's filled her minutes with so far—perfect for the second-grade girl in your life:
Katie's New Shoes by Fran Manushkin
Hoop Queen from the Kylie Jean series by Marci Peschke

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cheesy but True

For the past three years, Julie and I have worked in a different town than the rest of our coworkers. The two of us have our own little office filled with books and posters. (We're very lucky that we get along or this could a HUGE nightmare.) It could have been a really bad idea to have us so isolated from the rest of the group. But thanks to a great boss and incredible coworkers, the adjustment was easy and gets better all the time.

Our coworkers go out of their way to include us. In fact, one of our designers just sent us T-shirts with a nice note. It was the best mail we've ever gotten! So in these tough times, just remember that it's important to be thankful for your job, but it's also important to be thankful for your coworkers.

Thanks B-ton folks!