Monday, December 26, 2011

How to Navigate a Writer Social Party


The Wellesbourne
by Lupe Fernandez

As a solitary writer, I seldom get out for social occasions. However, the nature of the business requires certain face-to-face interactions with fellow writers, illustrators and other publication persons of note. Therefore I devised a strategy in how to behave in such an uncontrolled environment. I’d like to share some of my plans in hopes that you, dear reader and fellow shy person, may benefit and derive inspiration.

As a case history, I will use the Kid Lit Event from last December 2011, held at The Wellesbourne, a fine drinking establishment. 

6:01 pm – Enter doors
  • Variation A – Stand on table and scream, “I’m here! Let the party start!
  • Variation B – Cry in the corner until someone notices.
  • Variation C – Assume a wounded artist demeanor and ignore everyone
 6:15 pm – Unload books for donation

Map of  Social Navigation
6:30 pm – Sample snacks
6:40 pm – Approach someone I recognize from Westside Schmooze and converse
6:58 pm – Find Lovely Lady and start up conversation
  • Variation A – “Hey baby, do you want to see my conjunction functions?”
  • Variation B – “I’m doing this for the children.”
  • Variation C – Remain silent after Lovely Lady slaps my face. 
7:02 pm – Pretend not to be offended when Hot Chick escapes under pretext of getting a drink. 
7:23 pm – Approach Attractive Illustrators at the bar and show my sample calling-card.
  • Variation A – “Are you ladies all fashion models?”
  • Variation B – “I studied in the Stick-Figure school of thought.”
  • Variation C – “Married? My compliments to your absent husband.”
7:24 pm – Pretend to enjoy their laughter at my crude attempts at illustration.

7:30 pm – Check watch to make sure I have not surpassed 3 hour free parking limit.
7:44 pm – Retreat to snack table and eat cookies.
7:56 pm – Wander through rooms on pretending to look for someone.
8:01 pm – See tall blonde with phrase “Dangling Participle” on her red sweater and comment without sounding lewd and lascivious.
8:12 pm – Approach bar and ask about drink cost. 
  • Variation A – Buy drinks for all the cute illustrators at the bar. 
  • Variation B - Pass out my card and collect phone numbers.
  • Variation C – Retreat from bar, not wanted to shell out $10 bucks for tiny drink.
8:15 pm - Wander through rooms on pretending to look for someone.
8:24 pm – Discuss the creative financial struggle with experienced Schmooze regular.
8:43 pm - Check watch to make sure I have not surpassed 3 hour free parking limit.
8:46 pm – Leave establishment so as not to pay for parking.

After Party
Go here for a more accurate version of the Kid Lit Holiday Party! 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Answers To December First Lines

by Susan Berger

Just in time for Holiday shopping. The answers to December's first lines.  I used the Amazon links, but your own independent book store can order any of these titles

1.  I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.
Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

2.  The hat in question was owned by Mrs. Constance Lovestock.  Mrs. Lovestock was a woman of some years, even greater means and no children. She was not a woman who did things by half measures.  Take her positions on swans.  She thought them the most beautiful, graceful creatures in the world.
The Emerald Atlas(Books of Beginning)  by John Stephens 
 Debut book

3.  "PLAY BALL!" called the home plate umpire of Ebbets Field. It was Major League Baseball's  Opening Day - April 15' 1947. The Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the Boston Braves.
Play Ball, Jackie by Stephen Krensky. illustrated by Joe Morse

4.  It was one the most important moments in Nathaniel Fludd's young life and he was stuck sitting in the corner.
Nathaniel FluddBeastologist. Book One Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. 

Nominee for the 2012 Nene award.  The Nēnē Award is an annual award given by Hawai‘i’s children for the best children’s fiction book.  Students in grades 4, 5 and 6 vote

A cautionary Tale by the Witch Fay Holaderry
I love children. Eating them, that is.
The Witch's Guide To Cooking With Children
By Keith McGowan with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka

Debut fiction book and a Nominee for the 2012 Nene award.  The Nēnē Award is an annual award given by Hawai‘i’s children for the best children’s fiction book.  Students in grades 4, 5 and 6 vote

6.  Ah Kee hummed as he carried his basket of guavas. Today was his birthday and Ma was taking him to the market.
Plenty Saimin by Feng Feng Hutchins. Illustrated by Adriano F.  Abatayo III.
First book

7.  Maybe you know. The feeling of how junk it is when summer ends.
Calvin Coconut, TroubleMagnet by Graham Salisbury. Illustrated by jacqueline Rogers

8.  Around 5:00 a.m. on a warm summer morning in October, 1953, my Aunt Belle left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth.

Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White  This was a Newbery winner.  After reading this sentence, I checked it out of the Kailua Library to read.  Wow!

9.  Even as a little girl I had thought that the swamp was a magical place where new lives began and old lives ended, where enemies and heroes weren't always what one expected, and where anything could happen, even to a clumsy princess. 
The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

I loved this book and read through the series.

10.  There was once an old and somewhat wise woman whom everyone called Grandy.  She’d just suffered a big loss in her life. Pops, her husband, suffered the same loss, but in his own way.  This is the story of how Grandy faced her loss by setting out to make tear soup.
Tear Soup  A recipe for healing after loss  by Pat Schweibert and Chuck DeKlyen.  Illustrated by Taylor Bills

A concerned reader suggested I have a link to all my first line posts.
Here it is: Links to First Line Posts.

I have been staying in Kailua with friends that just lost their 30 year old daughter, Jasmine, to cancer.  Jasmine left behind a seven year old daughter, Ka’ula.  The family was given this book and we all profited from it.  One of the best simple grief books I’ve ever read.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jana Christy and John Seven
In Conversation with The Pen And Ink Blogspot

Jana and John
By Catherine Eun Lee, Contributing Blogger
Edited by L. Fernandez

Here's a wonderful couple doing amazing things. Illustrator Jana Christy and Writer John Seven sign their books just "jana and john." They are doing some neat things in the children's world, including their regular books! This husband and wife group that you can't seem to separate creates soft and wildly-fun stories with sometimes cute, crazy, yet amazingly beautiful paintings! She's terrific, and the stories will keep you coming back for more. Jana's blog is Enjoy.

First of all, what is it like to collaborate with your husband? Does it come easily for the both of you to work together? 
Jana: It's our favorite way of working and comes extremely easily. When we work on a project together everything is collaborative. John will work on an idea, then we sit down with it together. I may pipe in with writing suggestions, and he'll help out with pacing and layout. We often work side by side during the beginning stages of a book, go our separate ways then meet up at various stages of the process. 

John: We’re together almost all the time and spend a lot of it cracking each other up, so working together isn’t that big of a stretch. 

Your blog is amazing. It's like a historical view of your works and it's breathtaking. What art medium do you use? And do you use different art mediums together? Does your husband also help in your illustrations? What is your favorite way of working? 
Jana: Thanks! I work digitally, using an Axiotron Modbook and Corel Painter, Photoshop and digital collage. My favorite way of working is sitting on a comfy couch with my digital studio in my lap, a cup of tea next to me, music playing, and to know I have lots of uninterrupted hours ahead of me! 

Does writing come easily for you? What would one of your favorite first liners from one of your stories that have been published be? Were you always a writer, and always writing for children?
John: That depends on the day! I write something just about every day, since I am also a journalist, so I alternate between that work and personal projects. Sometimes stories just come out of me at rapid pace, other times it’s a more precise process that takes a lot more time. It comes easiest when the writing is in a voice that more reflects my own, but different stories have different needs.

I’ve been writing stories since I could first hand write. The earliest stories I remember doing were in one of those blue test books that you get at school. It was a series of stories called “Somewhere In Space” which was my version of the old television show, “Lost In Space.” That was typical of my goofy early efforts. When I was a kid, I also made tons of my own comic books.  I did that for years, but I was a horrible artist. I wrote all kinds of short stories through my teenage years, but never children’s stories.

As I got older, I thought I would go into film, but that really didn’t suit me and I settled back into writing. Jana was working on a children’s story of her own at the time and asked for my help. I ended up rewriting it and that was how our partnership began, as well as how I first wrote a children’s story. We worked on a few others together that were never published, but eventually moved onto doing comic books together for awhile, but creating children’s books together has always been our goal.

Do the stories come from personal experiences or just observation?
John: I’m sure there are little bits of personal experience in any of them as well as observation. They do reflect my world view and also my feelings about childhood. My general sense is that kids are usually more complex than they are given credit for and the entertainment they are given can reflect that complexity, either in portraying their emotional depth or their perception of the world. That’s at the very least what I try to do in any book I write for kids. 

Does observation mean a lot when thinking of illustrations, or does it just come to you through imagination? 
Jana: Observation does mean a lot, but not in a direct way. I mostly use my imagination when drawing, unless the subject is one that needs specifics, like some of the unusual creatures I painted in The Ocean Story. For those memory or imagination wouldn't do-- i needed reference material! 

What would your art most resemble? What style? Are there artists that you admire that you try to blend into your work? How long did it take you to develop your own distinct style? 
Jana: I think I have a variety of styles-- I really let the story dictate how the art will look. I just finished a book for Random House, which included fabric collage element- so texturally it was very interesting and had many layers, and my style needed to work with that. I don't think the illustrations look digitally rendered at all, but the process felt very non-traditional, very aided by technology. The book I'm currently working on for Abrams is for much younger kids, and I'm approaching this one totally different — in a more traditional way — digitally, but really just a large canvas with paints and pastels.

I don't consciously try to blend other illustrator’s styles into my own, but anything that I see and love probably registers way back in my art brain somewhere. I love the classic Golden Book illustrators- Alice & Martin Provensen, Tibor Gergeley, Mary Blair, Richard Scarry... I love Maurice Sendak, Paul O Zelinsky, Barbara Cooney and Giselle Potter. I don't think my art has actually changed all that much since I started working professionally — a bit more fine tuned through experience, but the essence of my characters, landscapes have always looked pretty much the same. What changes are the techniques that I learn and experiment with.

When you first got represented by Kid Shannon ... was that exciting? When was that? How did that happen for you? 
Jana: I’ve been repped by Kid Shannon for 3 years — it's been incredibly exciting! I simply sent them an email with a link to my blog and got a phone call about a half an hour later. I think I needed a few minutes to calm down before I could return the call. They take their job as seriously as I take mine, and that's exactly what I was looking for in an agent. They've been able to connect me with excellent publishers, greeting card companies and ad agencies. Illustrating the World's Largest Children's Book as part of a promotion for Carnival Cruise and having it showcased in Rockefeller Center and on The Today Show was especially exciting!

What is your favorite book together, and where can they get a hold of it? 
Jana and John: We’re very proud of The Ocean Story, which is a book we were asked to do by Capstone Publishing. It was after the BP oil spill, and they wanted a book that could explain that story to kids as well plus other dangers to the ocean as well as the wonders of it. Jana began the illustrations in a cottage overlooking the sea, in New Brunswick Canada where we were vacationing. Watching whales, porpoises, seals, as well as all of the plastic detritus that washed up on the beach every morning added an extra dimension of inspiration to the art. The book is available through Amazon. The Ocean Story received amazing reviews, including one from the School Library Journal, which meant a lot to us. We recently found that the book was honored with Creative Child's Magazine's 2011 Seal of Excellence award. We'd love to do another story along these lines.

What other journeys do the both of you see together, and separately?
Jana and John: We're very interested in exploring different methods of storytelling. In 2011 we did a web comic called Happy Punks, self published A Child's Guide To Anarchy, created a handmade mini-accordion book called Occupy 1.2.3 in coordination with Occupy Boston and signed a deal with Abrams to do a picture book tentatively titled A Year With Me that uses comic book sequential story telling. We're working on some other sequential storytelling books- that's an area we'd like to work in further. We'll also be creating more handmade books to sell at the MOCCA Festival in NYC this spring. We're looking in creating iPad apps as another way to tell stories. 

We also love creating music together! We've been so incredibly busy this past year with our various publishing ventures, we haven't had as much time to goof around with our collection of instruments as we'd like. We're planning on spending more time doing that in 2012, for sure.

Can you both give me a quote that you love? 
John: “I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream." - Moomin Papa
"Stop pretending art is hard." -Amanda Palmer

The Kidney Thing: will you ever come out with a book about this? It has a personal touch to me because my brother is going through kidney dialysis, and I was not a match for him. It's a touching story. 
Jana: Thank you! It's great that you tried to become a donor for your brother-- I hope he's doing well. I was really just journaling as therapy during the donation process- it can be very nerve wracking, emotional time and drawing pictures and writing down the experience helped. It allowed me to view every appointment as an art assignment instead of one step closer to having an organ removed! I would love for The Kidney Thing to become a book. I might want to tinker with it a bit- I have some extra material I'd like to add. I'd love more people to see it to help the cause of live organ donation! 

Animation: I saw two of your animations, and I love "I offer prosperity and eternal life" Where do you find all the time to do this? And is there a link where people could see this animation work? 
Jana: Here's a link to my animation page. I'm far from really knowing what I'm doing, animation-wise, I'm still just playing around, but it's fun! I love playing with different forms of storytelling, including animation. I'm not terribly great with words, so it’s fun for me to tell a story in an exclusively visual way. As far as time goes---I'm happiest when I'm creating, so as soon as I have a break between assignments I draw or paint. Our house is like one big art studio- john's writing all day, I'm drawing, and our kids, whom are home-schooled, spend most of their day drawing, writing, composing music, playing instruments or making films. It's just what makes us happy. 

A Rule to Break: was this work with your husband? It's so extraordinary. Its illustrations are lively, active, and emotional. I love this style about your work. Was this fun to do? And can you explain the book? And where can people find this? 
Jana: A Rule Is To Break is available through some local bookstores and museums and can be ordered through Amazon. John and I wanted to create a story where the child taught a lesson to adults as opposed to the traditional dynamic in children's books. The lesson being, that sometimes rules are stifling and need to be broken. That's pretty much how we've lived our lives and raised our kids so the book also functions a personal manifesto, which is why we self published it. The art was a complete hoot to do-- it needed to reflect the little Wild Child's complete freedom and was very liberating to paint! We're working with a fan in Argentina who is translating the book into Spanish for us- that will be exciting! We'd love to do other language translations as well.

I’d like to thank Jana Christy and John Seven for granting this interview.
Catherine Eun Lee
The Management would like to take this opportunity to introduce our contributing blogger, Catherine Eun Lee.

“I graduated California State University of Fullerton with a BA in Communications majoring in Print Journalism, and worked as an Assistant Editor for a trade publication until taking care of my ill mother at home for years. Now, I work in the fashion industry managing a lounge-wear manufacturing company, while working at nights and weekends on children's stories and illustrations. This past week, The LA Times just published my story called Mustard and Pea, and I am currently working on illustrations for a pre-school book called The Cookie Jar that will be released in 2012. Although this is not my REAL job yet and I’m still dipping my feet into this nice reservoir, I plan to swim and play in there more in the New Year.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our Critique Group Uses Social Media

by Lupe Fernandez

The critique group that comprises The Pen And Ink Blogspot staff and Management has been meeting uninterrupted for two years. At our past meeting, one of our colleagues, Ms. Berger, had obligations in Hawaii. 

Undaunted by time and distance, we used state of art technology to conduct our meeting.

(A) Critique Group Uses Skype
(B) Buddy, Group Mascot, Attends Meeting - He Doesn't Get Enough Attention
(C) Transmission via Satellite
(D) Ms. Berger in Hawaii
(E) Dog Barking and Phone Ringing on Speaker
(F) Trans-Pacific Submarine Cable - in case Skype Fails
(G) Pages to be Reviewed

Monday, November 28, 2011

December 2011 - First Lines

by Susan Berger

I am visiting Kailua on Oahu and I spent a few hours at the library there gathering first lines.

This is not the Library 
Two of these lines are from nominees for the 2012 Nene award. The Nēnē Award is an annual award given by Hawai‘i’s children for the best children’s fiction book. Students in grades 4, 5 and 6 vote. Here is the link to this year's nominees.

I was delighted to see Carolyn Hennesy's book Pandora Gets Jealous on the list. Pen and Ink interviewed Carolyn earlier this year.

Ka'ula, a prospective Nene voter. 
Enjoy these lines and I will post answers and links to the books in a couple of weeks.

1) I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. 

2) The hat in question was owned by Mrs. Constance Lovestock. Mrs. Lovestock was a woman of some years, even greater means and no children. She was not a woman who did things by half measures. Take her positions on swans. She thought them the most beautiful, graceful creatures in the world. 

3) "PLAY BALL!" called the home plate umpire of Ebbets Field. It was Major League Baseball's Opening Day - April 15, 1947. The Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the Boston Braves. 

4) It was one the most important moments in Nathaniel Fludd's young life and he was stuck sitting in the corner. 

A cautionary Tale by the Witch Fay Holaderry 
I love children. Eating them, that is. 

6) Ah Kee hummed as he carried his basket of guavas. Today was his birthday and Ma was taking him to the market. 

7) Maybe you know. The feeling of how junk it is when summer ends.

8) Around 5:00 a.m. on a warm summer morning in October, 1953, my Aunt Belle left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth.

9) Even as a little girl I had thought that the swamp was a magical place where new lives began and old lives ended, where enemies and heroes weren't always what one expected, and where anything could happen, even to a clumsy princess. 

10) There was once an old and somewhat wise woman whom everyone called Grandy. She’d just suffered a big loss in her life. Pops, her husband, suffered the same loss, but in his own way. This is the story of how Grandy faced her loss by setting out to make tear soup.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Scott Magoon
In Conversation with The Pen And Ink Blogspot

Scott Magoon
by Catherine Lee, Contributor to The Pen And Ink Blogspot
Edit by L. Fernandez

Scott Magoon, Art Director at Houghton Mifflin Books for Children is a Boston man in a publishing industry that finds the time to write and illustrate his own stories. His eclectic sense of style brings heart-warming stories alive.

1. Where do you find your inspirations for your writings and illustrations? Does some of it come from being a father?
Inspiration can come from anywhere for me; I always remind myself that it's a matter of staying open to the possibility. Inspiration is much like anything for which you watch out intently: if you're keeping your eyes peeled for it, you're more likely to recognize it when it comes your way. My boys are definitely a guide for me in making books that kids will love—they are at their most inspiring to me with their expressions and body language and the way they interact with a world that's just a bit too large for them.

2. What is your favorite part of putting a book together? Writing or Illustrating?
Putting me on the spot! For me, I love all aspects of writing (I was an English major, after all) and magic for me comes at the sketch stage where the characters start to come up from the paper and reveal themselves. It's the first manifestation of what the physical book may look like and I find that visual discovery not unlike following a hidden trail in the woods: where does it go?

3. What is it like to be working for a publishing company and also writing/illustrating your own books?
If I didn't love both, I wouldn't be able to do both. I have been blessed to have worked on both sides of the fence for as long as I have with the countless talented people I have—but it means a great deal of time and work as you may imagine. This all comes with a sacrifice for other parts of my life: socially, family, etc. Perhaps most notable, though, is how I still feel as though I'm a bit of an outsider, living in two worlds but never fully in one. That feeling can be liberating or it can be isolating. I like to think this dynamic keeps my inner artist hungry to connect.

4. Can you tell us what your favorite book is that you both written and illustrated? Please tell me a little about your upcoming books?
Man alive! Again—you are putting me on the spot (laughs)! I love all of my books, each for a different reason: one I may like the way I solved the character design; another its the line work I most treasure. Another's colors may work wonders to my eye. I try not to pick and choose my favorites but instead I glean what I learned from each book; its a way of improving for future books. And speaking of which, I have another book with Ugly Fish author Kara LaReau coming from Roaring Brook called Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story just in time for Valentine's day. It's a pointed story about a porcupine who finds his true love. Also, early next year is coming a sequel (well, more like a change in place setting) to Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal called Chopsticks. It's about working together but perhaps more importantly—working on one’s own.

5. What work of yours are you most proud of and why?
My family first and foremost, if I may choose something so unrelated to picture books and my family could be considered 'works.' They certainly are a lot of work, so...hopefully you'll allow me that conceit (laughs). Again, I can't possibly choose one piece of work as they each have tremendous worth to me: technically, creatively and sentimentally.

6. What do you find most exciting about being an author and illustrator? What art method do you work with? And can you tell us a little about how you start and end an illustration? This also goes for writing? Do you find revision fun?
Most exciting thing is seeing kids enjoy my books—which usually come by way of the school visits I do throughout the year. I am blown away and then re-invigorated by their enthusiasm and zeal for my work. I work almost entirely digitally in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and an iMac, sometimes my iPad to sketch but I almost always prefer sketching on paper. My illustrations are the result of many, many previous drawings; I am not one to draw it once and have it work; instead I need to build up my drawings over time, flip them over, look at them reversed, step back from them see what's working, etc. Writing picture books also doesn't come easily—but follows a very similar process to that of my drawing: many drafts, lots of revisions which I love—when they go well. Which is rarely (laughs).

7.  Do you have a regular work time for you to work only on your writing and illustrating? Or do you doodle whenever you have the time?
I work usually 9-5 at Houghton in Boston then work on my own illustration around 10-12 every weeknight; then for a number of hours on the weekends. Working digitally concentrates the actual production-of-art-time in that there's no time spent cleaning up, mixing paints, etc. I doodle, but I really wish I had more time to doodle. My resolution this year was to do more loose sketching and I have fallen WAY short of that goal, sadly. There's always next year!

8. What advice would you give to authors and illustrators just starting? And as art director, what do you look for?
There is a danger in equating success in this industry with "getting published." I think it can lead to a pub-lust so intoxicating the challenges that lie beyond being published are forgotten: The truth is that being published is merely part of the beginning. A zillion other hurdles await. Steel yourself and take a hard look at the other side of being published as you'll need to be 110% in this if you want it long-term. As an art director I always look for something different, I look for excellent character design and I look for heart, humor and thoughtful composition. It also helps to be easy and collaborative to work with.

9. If you had any one sentence quote what would it be? 
"To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time." Leonard Bernstein said that. I like it.

Watch out for his stories.
I’d like to thank Mr. Magoon for granting me this interview.
For more about Scott Magoon, visit

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What's Wrong With This Query Letter?

by Lupe Fernandez

Don't let this happen to you. 

My comfort food.
What's yours?
Missy, my pet Iguana,
having heart surgery.

That f**king whore that 
my f***king Ex-husband left me for.

Text Translation:
Dear Mr. or Mrs. Agent and or Editor,

I got this manuscript that I’ve worked on a lot time. My critique group says it’s really good and that I should submit it. I’m always wanted to be a writer but I came from a broken home with a terrible childhood, my dog died and my house burned down and the police arrested my sister under the RICO Act. So I’ve had a hard life, but writing is something I really want to do. I haven’t read many books on young adult, but I have a few kids so I write down what they say!!

I know you’re really busy, but if you could find the time to read my novel I’d really appreciate it. I’ll check with you next week to see if you’ve read it. It’s really good. My therapist says it represents the trauma of my childhood and is good to talk about these things!!!

Oh I guess I should probably tell you what it’s about. Well, my novel is a about a girl who really likes this boy but he’s on the lacrosse team and this girl named Mandy Todd – she’s based on my worst enemy from high school Mary Tee – and she like all over him and he doesn’t notice me even though I’m nice and don’t have big boobs and then this teacher, Mr. Hutton, who’s really a unicorn in disgust gives my character advice on how to deal with that lying slut whore Mary Tee. I mean, Mandy Tood!!!!

Enclosed please find some fresh baked organic oatmeal cookies made from free range non-gluten wheat.

Here’s my phone number XXX-XXX-XXXX
My email address

I have my therapy appointment everyday at 11am, so call before 11am because I’m a mess after my session. I’m making great progress on my abandonment issues!!!!

Submit your query letter to
Our well-adjusted writers will review your query letter and send you thoughtful suggestions to avoid embarrassing yourself.

Act now while the offer lasts. Deadline is Midnight November 30th.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How I Got My Kids to Write

by Susan Berger

My sons did not enjoy writing. They loved being read to. Once they could read on their own, Jim headed for comics. Chris preferred scary stories.

But they saw no point in writing. I wanted to change this. When they were little, they would tell me their stories and I would write them down. I wanted MORE stories. 

So I motivated them.I told them I would pay them a penny for every word they wrote in a story. If they went back and reread and edited the story, they would be pad two cents a word instead of a penny. I wanted them to get the idea that revising always paid off.

Before I made this offer, Chris used to write in his school journal "We played a game. We ran." After I made this offer, He started writing longer and longer stories. By the end of his fourth grade year, he was writing thirty five page stories. These were handwritten and we counted every word together. I owed him a lot of money. And I paid it gladly. It was so much fun reading what he wrote. 

When he was nine, he became my writing partner and we wrote Jamie's Dream which was finally published when he was twenty five.
 Chris has a new writing partner now and is working on screenplays, but he’s always ready to read my work and give me advice.

Jim's stories also became much longer and funnier. (And he still loves comics. This year he won the honor of being drawn into a DC comic.

Here he is in Superman Issue 713 He grew into a wonderful natural sounding writer. His movie revues are wonderful. I love to read his posts on FaceBook. I am so grateful to both of them for every word they have written.

It was worth every penny.
Superman Issue 713

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


By Kris Kahrs

The bloggers here at The Pen & Ink Blog are thrilled to announce that this November is the 2nd - yes, you read that right - the second blogiversary of The Pen & Ink Blog. Whoopee! Did I mention we are thrilled? I’ve had goldfish that have not lasted this long. In celebration of this momentous occasion, in a moment of wild abandon and breathy adoration (except for Lupe, who feels this sentence involves entirely too much bodice ripping) of you our devoted readers, we humbly offer:




(Ha! Try saying that five times fast.) 

2011 is almost over and what better way to start off 2012 than to revamp your query letter with a fresh critique from a new set of eyes? Send us a one page query for your manuscript’s pitch anytime between November 1st and November 30th and we will pinch, prod, harangue, opine and generally read and critique it for you. Your submissions will remain private and confidential and neither query nor critique will be shared on The Pen & Ink Blog. All genres are welcomed, whether the manuscript is a picture book text, early reader, middle-grade or young adult.

Did I mention it’s free? Yes, it is, because that’s just the way we roll here, however….if you could maybe, ‘like’ The Pen & Ink Blog or ‘like’ our FB page or become a follower or give us a link on your website or blog or… well, you get the idea.

Only one submission per author please. We cannot guarantee you instant success, but if you do get a contract, we will claim the credit for it. Act Now! Don’t Delay! The Pen & Ink Blog is standing by.

Send your queries to: and we will try to turn it around faster than you can say SCBWI.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Book at the Foot of My Bed

by Lupe Fernandez
Edited by S. Berger and K. Kahrs

Dracula and The Wolf-Man lurked in the ceiling rafters of the garage at my family home. 

At least, when I was a kid, I thought so. 

At night, my father would send me into the garage to flick off the light switch. I knew that I had mere seconds, after the lights when out, to run the length of the garage to the safety of house, before Dracula and the Wolf-Man pounced on me.

At night, when my father would send me into the backyard to throw out the trash, I had to cross the dark grass and cement patio to make it to the aluminum trash cans. Horrid fiends hid among the trash cans, waiting for kill me.

At night, between my street corner and my front porch, laid a dimly lid stretch of sidewalk, two houses in length. That flat strip of cement with its water-meter cover and linear grooves acted like flypaper for slow-moving kids - a trap set by hungry monsters. In those few yards, I sprinted for my life.

Active imagination, you say? 
I had lots of help.

My older brothers introduced me to The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, written by Maria Leach and illustrated by Kurth Werth, © 1959. I would check this book out from the Hayward Public Library and I would reread my favorite ghost stories and stare at the lurid illustrations to scare myself.

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed taught me important lessons: If I ever see glowing eyes at the foot of my bed, I’ll think twice before I shoot it with a shotgun. I never pick up hitchhikers; they might be dead. I never dig in a garden; I never know what or who is buried under the dirt.

Out of the six categories in the book, these are my favorite stories.

“The Thing at the Foot of the Bed”
A man shoots evil glowing eyes at the foot of his bed. The glowing eyes were his big toe nails reflecting moonlight.


"The Dare”
A boy sticks a knife in a grave and dies of fright.

“As Long as This?”
A drifter encounters a series of frightening men with giant smiles. 

“Milk Bottles”
A mother will do anything to feed her baby – even if she’s dead.

“The Lovelorn Pig”
After Duncan jilts his sweetheart – she dies of a broken heart - a pig follows him everywhere. Tired of the pig, he whips it and the pig cries out in the voice of his dead sweetheart. “Oh, Duncan, how could you?”

“The Gangster in the Back Seat”
A dead gangster appears in the rear view mirror of a used car. 

“The Devil in the Dishes”
I’ve never played and never will.

“Singing Bone”
A beheaded girl sings for revenge against her wicked mother who buried her in the potato patch.

For those of you on the lookout for ghosts, Leach provides some tips.

  • “If you are walking along a road at night and hear a stick break, that was a ghost.”
  • “A little tiny whirlwind of dust on the ground is the sign of a ghost’s passing.”
  • “If you have to pass by a haunted place at night, turn your pockets inside out and the ghost won’t hurt you.”
  • “…look steadily from between a dog’s ears, in the direction the dog is looking, you will see the same ghost he sees.”
  • “Don’t laugh at ghosts. They are no joke.”
  • “If ever you come upon an old hat or a piece of clothing on the ground with a stick across it, don’t pick it up. The stick is a sign that it belongs to a ghost. Don’t touch it.”
  • If you ever see "something white lying in the road," don't kick it. It may "swell up as big as a cow." Got it? Never, Never, Never, Never…


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The Pen And Ink Blogspot assumes no responsibility for nightmares, day-mares, hauntings or stale Halloween candy.

Ice Plant the way, everybody knows ice plants are really monster fingers ready to drag little kids underground.