Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Funniest Thing About...School Visits

The funniest thing about school visits is the teachers. It’s amazing how teachers can still make you feel like a little child. After a pleasant greeting and possibly a few minutes of “getting to know you” small talk, the teacher will turn to her class and demand attention. I’m well past my school age years, yet whenever I hear teachers go into that stern “listen up…or else” mode, I quake in my shoes. Even the 50% of the time when I’m not doing anything wrong! To make matters worse, I like to write humorous works for children so I like to get the students riled up and ready to laugh. I like to have them interact with me; I like to know they’re coming along for the ride. And nothing can turn my raucous hayride into a somber ride of shame faster than a teacher’s raised eyebrow, “I see what you’re doing and you’re going to pay for it later” look. Sometimes I have to engage in a stealth battle of wills with the teacher. We play a sort of unspoken tug of war with the attention of the children. I try to get them loud and boisterous, the teacher will remind them of the rules. I’ll ask them silly questions that have no correct answer, the teacher will make an educational allusion to something they’re studying in class. I’ll zig, she’ll zag. I’ll bob, she’ll weave. All the while, the children will feel the unspoken tension between fun and education. And then we’ve got them! Because in the end, that’s the goal – to remind kids that learning can be, should be, and often is FUN!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

bbgb, a Richmond landmark

bbgb books – Repeat the letters rapidly five times, and you’ve got a tongue twister to beat them all. Try to crack the code, and you have a pleasant brainteaser.

Buy books, Give books!

Bring back great books!

Beguiling, beautiful, glittering books!

Badgers, beavers, gerbils, bats – Well, why not? Animal books are great fun!

The possibilities go on and on. Jill Stefanovich and Jenesse Evertson, owners of the only children’s book store in Richmond, wanted a name that kids could play around with and enjoy. They bought the store, then called Narnia, about a year ago when previous owner Kelly Kyle decided to retire. The dynamic duo had less than a week to make their life-changing decision. In the end, however, it all came down to their love of children’s books. “We couldn’t stand for Narnia not to be here,” says Jill.

Each with their own area of expertise, Jill and Jenesse complement each other professionally. Jill has a head for figures and the background necessary to keep a company afloat. Jenesse, who has a master’s degree in children’s literature and PhD in literacy, provides the educational background.

“What completely sets us apart [from other book stores],” explains Jill, “is that we match the reader with the book.” It’s a process I watched with admiration when I recently had a chance to chat with both owners. It was a fairly busy afternoon. Jill and Jenesse greeted parents and kids alike with easy familiarity. They enjoy sharing new titles and recommending old favorites as much as the customers, young and old, enjoy browsing the packed shelves. A trip to bbgb is an adventure. As a long-time customer myself, I can vouch for the carefully chosen selection. There are books at bbgb that you won’t find anywhere else in Richmond.

The “shop kids” get in on the act too – Jill’s seven year-old twin daughters and Jenesse’s seven-year-daughter and six-year-old son. They have their favorites which are spotlighted for customers to see.

And then there are what Jill calls their “secret weapons,” Diane and Julianna. There’s very little that these long-time veterans of children’s bookselling don’t know. And they enjoy sharing their enthusiasm with everyone. Through the years, I’ve come to know them and appreciate them well. Frankly, it’s lots of fun to talk books with them.

Time flies quickly when you’re visiting bbgb. So do words when you’re writing about it. I’ll have to save Jill and Jenesse’s future plans and book recommendations for the next blog. But don’t wait for that to visit bbgb (on Kensington down the street from the Historical Society). It is THE hot spot for children’s books in Richmond.
And don't miss Michael Buckley at bbgb on Tuesday, September 27th from 3:30-5:30!

Bits and Bytes: Straightforward Path to Publishing

Writer's Digest online has a nice article entitled, "Your Straightforward Guide to Publication." In the article Brian Klems identifies time wasters that can slow down your path to publication. He also gives some signs when publication may be just around the corner. Ultimately, Brian encourages authors that publication is often a case of mind over matter. He says that if you feel, "I couldn’t stop writing even if someone told me to give up, then you’re much closer to publication than someone who is easily discouraged. The battle is far more psychological than you might think. Those who can’t be dissuaded are more likely to reach their goals, regardless of the path they ultimately choose."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Illuminations From The Illustrator

How Do I Get My Picture Book Illustrated?
Part II

In August I wrote about the advisability of not getting your picture book illustrated (unless you are a writer/illustrator) if you are trying to get your book published traditionally.

What if tradition is not your thing? What if you are interested in self-publishing? The options for print or e-publishing your books are plentiful and expanding exponentially. There also many possibilities for getting your book illustrated. In this case you, the author, will need to research and contact the illustrator directly and go from there.

How do you find an illustrator? The web makes this easy. Google “children’s book illustrator” and see what comes up. Look through focused web sites such as the Children’s Book Insider and SCBWI for examples and ideas. Many times illustrators have posted examples of their work. If you have a college of art near you, call and talk to one of the professors. Perhaps there is an interested student looking for a project or a professor willing to consider extra credit for a student who wants to illustrate a picture book.

For the self-publishing author, finding an illustrator takes just as much research as finding a publisher. But the upside is that you retain ownership of the process that fired you up when you wrote your book in the first place. That’s a win-win all around.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bits and Bytes: Agents

Since I wrote about the perils and pitfalls of finding an agent on my last post, I thought it would be fair to give the other side of the story. Writer's Digest has an interesting article called How These Writers Got an Agent. It's filled with success stories from individual authors, like David Kazzie who used the animation site xtranormal to attract the attention of an agent. If you're not familiar with xtranormal, you can check it out here. Hopefully after reading their stories, you'll have better luck landing an agent than I have (so far!)