Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jill Frieze Prado
In Conversation with The Pen And Ink Blogspot

by Lupe Fernandez

Jill Frieze Prado
I first met Jill at the Westside SCBWI Schmooze. At this summer’s SCBWI Conference, I saw Jill again and she showed me her book Astronaut the Library Dog – A Classic Tale of a Storybook-Lovin’ Pooch. Her boxer Astro was the inspiration for Jill’s book. “He’ll be 12 years old in September.” She raised him from a pup. 

Last January, Jill pitched her manuscript to eight agents. One agent – heretofore referred to as Agent Anne – wanted to see the manuscript. 

After the initial contact from Agent Anne - the first agent to reply - Jill bought champagne and celebrated with her husband. “I inscribed and hung the champagne cork in my studio, on a lamp for inspiration. It goes to show that when researching agents, if you do enough study, you’ll connect with someone and they’ll give you the time of day.” Agent Anne was from a large agency that represented YA, MG and picture books. She was listed in the SCBWI survey book. Jill’s research criteria included blog interviews, agent profiles and ultimately hinged on her gut feeling when looking at a photo of the agent for the first time. From her photo, Jill sensed that Agent Anne was approachable, open. 

After more communications via email - “It’s a remarkable correspondence in that she always replied within 24-48 hours and provided specific feedback and direction.” Jill said - Agent Anne finally decided that she was not the right agent for Jill’s manuscript. 

So Jill decided to self-publish Astronaut the Library Dog as a result of the Whittier Public Library’s offer to debut her book. “I thought long and hard about it. The pitfalls, the cost. Did I have enough knowledge and skill to enable me to engage fully in the process? I value the robust editorial process and wanted that for the book.” But Jill took the library offer. “It was an imminent opportunity I simply could not waste.” 

“I told Anne about the library’s offer to debut my book. I explained to her that I would self-publish the story and simultaneously continue down the traditional path to getting published She wished me good luck. After the debut in July, I told Anne about how successful it was. Then, she asks to look at the book. I sent her the book. Anne said, “The book’s adorable.” 

When I asked Jill’s about her book debut at the Whittier Library, she told me about the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. According to their website, “The mission of the R.E.A.D.® program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors.” 

Whittier Library
Jill began volunteering at the Whittier Library h in 2006. She read about the Library’s reading program in a Whittier newspaper and went to the library to observe. “I was drawn in, observing the dogs with the children.” 

“Once I volunteered, I studied children’s books. I watched to see how children react to stories.” Jill auditioned her dog Astro for the “Read to the Dogs”, weekly early literary program. Astro had to attend a school for special training and pass a test. 

“He had to walk by a hot dog, a juicy ballpark frank and not eat it. ‘Leave it’ was his command. ‘Leave it’.” About eight weeks of basic to intermediate dog training is required. Training includes intensive instruction using hand signals and verbal commands. Therapy dogs must have no problems with children, other dogs, strange noises, and crowds of people they do not know. “Aggression of any kind is not allowed. And they are not allowed to pull at the leash when walking with their handler.” Part of the training regimen was specifically for Jill. She was tested to see if she was a capable handler. “I passed the test. I’m officially a good alpha dog!” 

I visited Jill and Astro at the Whittier Library. In a reading room, a librarian set out books on a book cart. The books were all dog books. Sometimes a cat book appears like Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner. Children registered with Cindy Kruger, a librarian, who sat behind a table. After registering, the children picked a book from the cart and gathered around Astro or one of the other dogs. All children read simultaneously. 

“Sometimes whole families show up. Kids can bring their own books. I’ve seen reluctant readers who can’t wait to get to the library and read to Astro.” 

After reading to Astro, the children got a sticker with Astro’s face and the message, “Astro says Great Job.”

Jill is now the point person for the Whittier Reading to Dogs program, and advises potential volunteers. Every year, the library holds a Christmas party for the therapy dogs with presents, cookies and speeches.

When Jill became a mother of her adopted daughter, Michelle, “I knew I would write and create stories for her. The book is for her.” 

Hannah-Pup (Front) & Sadie (Rear)
Currently, Jill is working on a publicity package for Astronaut the Library Dog and is marketing the book to public libraries. Her current project is a diary of a library dog, featuring Astro’s weekly entries about his library adventures. 

I’d like to thank Jill and Astro for agreeing to this interview. For further information about Jill and Astronaut the Library Dog or the Reading Education Assistance Dogs, contact Jill at asmilingheart@earthlink.net


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Picture Book First Pages

by Susan Berger

I attended Allyn Johnston’s breakout session  “What the Heck is a Picture Book Anyway.”  These are the first pages from the books Allyn brought with her to use as examples.   Click on the images. They are linked to the books at Amazon.

The best lesson is sit and read these books. I believe you can find most of these titles at your public library.  For those of you who want a printable copy of these first pages and links, click here for the Scribd Document.

For now, note how few words are on the first page. Note the “page turns” Do you want to read on?

If you've read any of  these, please share your favorite in the comments. 

It was Kitten’s first full moon. When she saw it, she thought,
There’s a little bowl of milk in the sky.
And she wanted it.

 On the eve of your birth word of your coming passed from animal to animal.

The reindeer told the Arctic terns, who told the humpback whales, who told the Pacific salmon.

There was once a small boy called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what’s more he wasn’t very old either.
His house was next door to  an old people’s home and he knew all the people who lived there
I’m giving you two pages on this one so you can get the joke

Hello. We are Ed, Ned, Ted…and Bob.

We rhyme all the time.
We rhyme all the time.
Hey! What rhymes with car?
Far.  Jar.  Tar.  Look.

A told B,  and B told C                                    

“I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.”

A little boy planted a carrot seed.

Here is the blue sheep
  (This book is on the Horn Book Fanfare List)

Hello, little mouse.  What are you doing.

The mice made a teeter-totter.

Mrs. Spitzer is a teacher. She’s in Room 108 of Tremont. Elementary School

A star is how you know it’s almost night.
This is not yet released. I read it at the conference and loved it.  I should have bought my copy then and there.

An idea
In the winter a big snow always came to Mr. Putter’s house

I’m giving you three pages on this one
 1. In the tall tall grass.
2-3 (double page spread)
Crunch. Munch. Caterpillars lunch.
 (a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book. An ALA Noteable Best Book. A School Library Journal best Book.)

Allyn said dialog doesn’t work in picture books because it doesn’t advance the story and it’s hard to illustrate… There are exceptions to every rule.  I’m giving you pages 1-5  Read it aloud to yourself.

1 Hattie was a big black hen. One morning she looked up and said, “Goodness gracious me! I can see a nose in the bushes.”
2-3  “Good grief,” said the goose.  :Well, well,” said the pig.
4-5  “Who cares, ,” said the sheep.  “So what,” said the horse.  “What next?” said the cow.

Mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough.


The first little caterpillar crawled into a bower.
This title will be released August 30th 2011 It is worth noting that on Amazon, the hardback is 11.99.  The Kindle edition is 12.99

Is Everybody Ready For Fun?
(this has not yet been released. Again note Hardcover pre order price is 9.35.  Kindle price is 12.39. I believe the days of Kindle being cheaper are gone.)
NON Fiction picture Books.  I didn’t know I liked non fiction picture books till I read these.

Rah, Rah, Radishes!
Red and White.


It was a great day for a picnic.

 (Caldecott Honor Book)


It is almost Friday night. Outside, the dark is getting darker and the cold is getting colder. Inside, the lights are coming on in houses

We’re ready to work and our tools are ready too.
Hi There. I’m Sam. I’m assuming since you opened this book that you’re in the mood to hear a story.  Well, you’re in luck, because I have a story for you. It’s a little story about this fine country of ours.  I bet you thought you’d heard ‘em all, but not many people know this one.

My granddaughter, Nasreen, lives with me in Heart, an ancient city in Afghanistan.
 Art and Music once flourished here.

Making an apple pie is really very easy.  First, get all the ingredients at the market. Mix them well, bake and serve.

Deep in the jungles of Columbia, There is a man who loves books. His name is Luis.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Chair

by Lupe Fernandez

When the day comes that I sit behind a table for an autograph session, I’d like to be prepared. Perhaps, I will not be as popular as the author next to me. Rather than look forlorn and dejected, I’ve come up with the optimal design that I call:

Author Autograph Chair Deluxe #37020


1. Mariska Hargitay Look-a-Like 
I’ll need all the sex appeal I can get.

2. Supply of Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Who can say no to cookies?

3. Holograph Image of Waiting Fans 
Image encourages real reader to get in line and think, “If this author has a long line, he must be good.”

4. Orchestra 
Adds class and smoothes the nerves.

5. Satellite Dish 
Don’t want to miss anything good on TV. 

6. Books 
100 year old tomes for a scholarly appearance.

7. Computer Screen 
Words randomly generated to create appearance that I’m working on my next literary masterpiece.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Catherine Lee
In Conversation with The Pen And Ink Blogspot

by Lupe Fernandez

“Once I slept through the night and I saw a cow jump over the moon with a crayon and a blank heavenly lighted book. I started writing and drawing.”

Catherine Lee is illustrator and a member of SCBWI. “I was introduced to drawing...with my first pack of big crayons of primary colors.”

Was this the Crayola 12 box or the 64 crayon box including a sharpener? 
“I've always been drawing since elementary school. It's what I liked doing. I lived in a part of Los Angeles a few years. My Japanese neighbor bought me crayons and coloring books for me to color. And that was the first experience. And in school, they would always compliment me of my drawings, and that's how it started. And it was Crayola 8 box and not 12. Really huge crayons, and then when I got the 20 something box it was heaven because I could trace and line it and then shade and color the images!”

What medium do you use for your artwork? 
“It is all digital now. I used to use pigment pens and markers with different types of paper to give a different look. Digital because you have infinite choices. 

When you say “It is all digital now”, do you mean you scan your artwork or do you create art using software? 
“I actually do both now. Initially, I used to work straight from the computer, but now I am also doing penciled work, scanning them onto the computer and making changes and coloring them. It's wonderful!”

The Teddy Bear Test
The Teddy Bear Test
What are you artist influences? Did you study art?
“I didn't study art as a major in college but took a few courses. One of my art teachers asked me to see him, and told me that I have such a unique talent and that I should major in art. However, my father had a different view. He didn't want me to major in art, because he felt that I would not make money.

“Art influences: I didn't particularly have any growing up, but just did loose drawings of my own style. I do have some women artist that I adore now though. One of them is Patrice Barton and there's so many other artists that I adore and would like to implement their style in my work, but it's not easy at all.” 

Catherine is part of the art team of the Los Angeles Times for The Kid's Reading Room

What is the LA TIMES Kid’s Reading Room?
“It's a feature of the Los Angeles Times, both in newspaper version and online. It's like a family feature of stories. It's very nice. There's one section devoted to poetry and prose by children, and it's just absolutely neat -- some of the things that these children write, so just wonderful. Their minds are so advanced these days.”
I thought it would be cute to see these to animate and converse.
I will be working on more of this in several scenes.
How did you get involved with the Kid’s Reading Room?
“I actually attend a bi-monthly meeting in Orange County of writers and illustrators, and they are all SCBWI members. I met a writer, who periodically submits stories, and she gave me contact information because I was interested in sending my illustrations. I spoke to the editor of the section there, and she reviewed and gave me a story to work on. And welcomed me to be a part of the art team for that section. My heart leaped and I felt like a child.”

Catherine’s first project was for the Children's Better Health Institute, publisher to Children’s Playmate. She did illustrations for a poem called Pumpkin Patch. 

How did you get involved in this project? “I actually worked on a book dummy of a story between a girl and boy. I called the art director there, and submitted via email. A few days later, I called to see if she reviewed the samples of artwork and the book dummy. She loved the book dummy I did, and thought of a story that needed an illustrator. She chose me to do that. I actually had to do a little research on pumpkins on this - funny.”

What are you working on now? “Well I have a family business that keeps me busy, and still working to do some better things to set on my website, and also to find more art projects. I just recently finished the LA Times piece and that will be featured on August 14, 2011.”

Do you have a dream project (this is what do you want to be went you grow up question)? “I'm quite grown up already, but still a child at heart. I would love to get a book project. I've been waiting for this whole life. That's four decades! My gosh.

“I found an immense fun, care-free, delightful world called the children's literature world and I'm dabbling into it, feeling wonderful with a child-like sprite and once I'm totally immersed you just don’t ever want to wake up from it. I'm also going to mention that when you’re older, it's more cherished when you love the thing that you do, and I love to illustrate and write.”

I’d like to thank Catherine participating in this interview. Her story "Mustard and Pea" will appear in the Los Angeles Times The Kid's Reading Room in November 2011.

For see more of Catherine’s work, visit her website at http://www.catleepictureseeds.com/

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sonya Sones
In Conversation with The Pen And Ink Blogspot

Dear Writer-Readers:

Sonya Sones
Boy, do we have a treat for you! After strategic alignment of The Pen & Ink Blog’s lucky stars, Bestselling Author Sonya Sones (pronounced like Jones with an ‘S’) has agreed to be interviewed by this lowly blogger on The Pen & Ink staff. Oh, happy day! 

To catch you up on all things Bestselling-Author-Sonya-Sones, I’ve listed her bibliography below.

YA Work:

Adult novels:

Short stories:
  • Love and Sex (2001) - a story called Secret Shelf
  •  Necessary Noise (2003) - a story called Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde
  •  Sixteen: Stories About that Sweet and Bitter Birthday (2004) - a story called Cat Got Your Tongue
Children's Books:

1) Your bio sounds like it was Myra Cohn Livingston’s poetry class that was the inciting event in your writing career. Was this the case or had you always written throughout your life?
I really loved reading to my children. It was my favorite time of day. So, since I knew how to draw, I decided to try to write a picture book. My first attempt was a rhymed book called Smitty the Hollywood Kitty. I thought it was great until I began showing the manuscript to people at the SCBWI summer conference and found out that there was a lot I needed to learn. That’s when I decided to take a course on writing poetry for children at UCLA taught by Myra Cohn Livingston. For one of the homework assignments, Myra asked us to write a poem using dactyl and trochee rhythms, which are these really somber rhythms. I'd been concentrating on writing funny poems. When I sat down to do the assignment, out popped this really sad poem about having to visit my sister in the mental hospital and how sad and scary that had been for me. I was embarrassed to share the poem with Myra because it was so intensely personal, but when she read it, she took me aside and said, "You should write more of these." She said she knew it would be hard, but that if I could put myself through it, I'd be doing a service. At first it was just a themed collection of poems about my sister. But when it was sold to HarperCollins and my editor sent me an editorial letter that asked me all sorts of wonderfully thought-provoking questions. I ended up writing fifty more poems to answer those questions—and that’s when it turned into Stop Pretending.

2) You are a Renaissance Woman in your professional life; being a teacher, animator, film editor, photographer, clothing designer, poet and writer. Why do you think the writing came out in verse, as opposed to screenwriting or prose? Did your other professional experience impact your writing? I did a lot of things before I started writing.
I was an animator, a filmmaker, an editor. I started a hand-painted baby clothes company and sold them to Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom’s, and Macy's. It was perfect, because I could paint the clothes while my daughter napped. But after awhile, I got tired of trying to come up with one more cute little dinosaur design, and one more sweet little bunny ... I needed to find something new to satisfy my creative urges. Oddly enough, editing film is a lot like writing poetry. Both film and poetry use images to tell stories. An editor chooses when to cut to the close-up and when to cut to a long-shot. Writing is essentially the same thing --- choosing to see close-up and study a detail, when to pull back and show the big picture. Also, editing is very much about rhythm and pace --- when to speed things up, when to slow them down, how long to stay with each image. Poetry deals with these same exact issues. So in retrospect, the years I spent editing were probably great preparation for writing. 

3) Are you the type of writer who can sit down and put in her 8 hours of work on the manuscript per day? Some of your interview comments seem to suggest that you felt ‘compelled’ at a certain point in time to, for instance, write about your sister’s illness or the turn your life has taken at age 50 etc. Do you feel you have control over what you write? 
When I’m under deadline I can write 8 hours a day and weekends too. I didn’t mean to write The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus. In fact, I tried very hard not to write it. But every time I sat down to work on the young adult novel in verse that I owed Simon and Schuster, I found all these other issues coming out, my daughter was going away to school, my imminent empty nest, and about being offered my first senior discount—not exactly subjects that teens would find enthralling. I resisted the urge for awhile, but eventually I gave in and let myself write my first novel in verse for adults. The book began as a sort of memoire in poems about the issues that were pressing in on me at the time—my hormones were taking me on a wild ride, my daughter was getting ready to leave for college, and I was way behind on the deadline for that young adult novel I owed Simon and Schuster. That was when The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus came out and I just gave in and decided to write it. 

4) You are on the ALA list of The Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books of 2000-2009. I know this is a great honor for you being among colleagues such as Mark Twain, Judy Blume, Maurice Sendak and J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Dave Pilkey among many others. Why is it important that kids see kids like themselves in stories? What does it do for them?
My novels have also won some awards too. The American Library Association named all three verse novels Best Books for Young Adults, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Stop Pretending won a Christopher Award, the Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry, the Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award, and a nomination for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The ALA included What My Mother Doesn't Know on their list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books twice in 2004 and 2005 because of issues of sexism and sexually explicit material in the book. While it’s great that kids who are picking up my books are reading them and seeing characters like themselves and saying, “hey, that’s like me” or “they feel like I feel” but it’s preaching to the choir. The real success is going into a school and giving a talk to kids, teachers and librarians and reading a section to them and those kids questioning, saying to themselves, “huh, now what’s so bad about that”? 

5) Generally, if you want to clear a room of teenagers quickly, breathing the word ‘poetry’ has been known to do the trick. However, verse narrative represents some of the oldest story-telling in human language and is enjoying a resurgence; as demonstrated by the popularity of such authors as Ellen Hopkins, Steven Herrick and yourself. What is so integral about reading and writing a narrative in verse over prose?
I think the biggest difference between writing a prose novel and writing a novel in verse, is that in a prose novel there’s a lot more padding, a lot more description, a lot more detail. In a novel in verse everything needs to be stripped down to its barest essentials. And with poetry, you’ve got to think about how the words look on the page, too, which you don’t have to consider when you’re writing a novel. So that adds another layer of difficulty to the process. I’ve never tried to write a novel in prose. The idea sort of scares me. But that’s exactly why I will try it someday—I like to push myself to my limits.

So many people have been turned off to poetry by uninspired English teachers. So it’s an enormous thrill to have the chance to reunite people with it. It's an especially good choice for telling stories to teens because poetry brings you straight to the feelings -- and that's where teens live. After Stop Pretending, I discovered that I loved writing in this form, I just continued on from there. Plus, I get emails from kids who say they’ve never read a book but they’ve read mine because the verse doesn’t look so intimidating on the page, then they get into it and in two hours they’ve read the entire book! And who knows, maybe they go on to read books in prose after that.

Thank you Bestselling Author Sonya Sones, for taking the time to stop by The Pen and Ink Blog to answer questions for our readers. Thank you too for your thought-provoking, lyrically-written books that let us know that someone else out there feels like us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Anniversary SCBWI Conference 2011

Our Headquarters
by Hilde Garcia

The Pen and Ink Blogspot celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the SCBWI Conference. And how do we do this? I’m glad you asked. We, being crazy and creative people, will be visible this Saturday night. 

Our collective hive mind- yes, kind of like the Borg- came up with an idea for Saturday night’s party, but we aren’t going to tell you what that idea is. You’ll have to find us at the party and see for yourselves.

But when you do find us Inkies, it will be worth the journey across the patio, because we will have SWAG for you. It won’t be fancy, but it will be unique.

We had fun creating the SWAG.

SWAG Workshop
Back at Hilde’s Hacienda, The Pen and Ink Blogspot’s fearless foursome decided to make a splash as a group. HMMM… but what to do? Our Mexican-In-Residence grumbled and said, “That’s too hard. It’ll never work.” However, we quickly came up with a concept and I put it into motion.

First, we called in an outside consultant and photographer to help with our project. I can’t tell you what they did exactly, but it involved four robes, lots of paper and a master bed.

Then we consulted our silent Pen and Ink member, who shall remain nameless until Saturday, and he or she helped us with the next part of the concept.

Finally, I came in and did all things research. Despite Mr. MIR’s doubts, I secured all the important items just in time for our fun evening to come.

So, how do you get our SWAG?
Step 1: Find one of us, you will know who we are, trust me.
Step 2: Say hello and that you dig our concept.
Step 3: Receive your very own G. W. C. - Gift With Compliment, courtesy of The Pen and Ink Blog.
Can’t make the conference? 

No worries, not only will we post “The Making of….. Part 2”, but you will be able to secure goodies online. 

A word of caution- our concept is not for the weak of pen so be prepared to be….
(Well, I’m not going to tell you because then you would know.)

See you Saturday at the pool and bring your pajamas!