Picture Book Academy & Publishing

PBA-graduation-button-square-bear2 I have been working with the intentional goal of publishing for children since about 2008/2009. I have been (and am) a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators. I have been to major conferences, regional meetings, and workshops in Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, Fresno, Paris, Stuttgart, Kandern… and I’m sure many other places (especially if you count the various skype calls and e-courses I have participated in.) I participate in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In fact, my most popular stories among critique groups are PiBoIdMo picture-books and my NaNoWriMo novel.

Why is this important???

Because I just completed five weeks with the Picture Book Academy… and I have to say: It was SUPERB.

FANTASTIC.

Enough years in the children’s market and the messages become familiar.  I leave with more knowledge, yes, but still stuck in my story “problems.” I’ve worked with Mira before and should have known she would yet again astound me.

It was such great, hard work that I was proud of my graduate certificate. So proud, I decided to have it printed and hung in my writing area. But one of the “catches” to living abroad found me out again… I had no idea what the sizes were when ordering the photo. So this is what showed up: 1370296_10152284821797571_2101488670_n

Just another cross-cultural moment.

I mean, I am proud. But not life-size, poster-proud.

Or maybe I am (hee hee).

1371657_10152284820152571_1252424132_n So I tried again and it went much better.

But enough about my photo-processing cultural challenges and back to why I am so pleased to be a graduate of this stellar program.

The class has so inspired and equipped me, that I’ve been more intentional about submitting, working, pitching, querying… and writing. I have some new, great, practical “tools” in my writer’s toolbox that I didn’t have before.  I’ve left with a new fantastic critique group, an e-book with all the information, access to the website for awhile longer, and Mira.

Mira is amazing.

Since the class ended ( a couple of weeks ago), I’ve won second place in the Perfect Character Driven Pitch contest.

I queried an agent who responded with a manuscript request!

I submitted a book to a publisher I’ve worked with before (SNAP Learning) who loved my work and bought it!

And I’ve received feedback from some of my critique-group friends like this: “This is great! It just needs a publisher!”

All of these are such affirmation to me of the last years of hard work. But it also shows me how much the Picture Book Academy was the final cherry on the sundae.

I’m thrilled to be taking the Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books with Marsha Diane Arnold– one of my prizes for winning the pitch contest. But you can take it too! I’d love to see you over there and know you would find it more than worth your while.

My husband (brag alert) is a ridiculously talented artist… he can sculpt, paint, draw, dance, act… you name it, if it’s art, he can do it. Mira discovered his “magic” for herself when he attended a writing and illustrating workshop with me. That being said, I’m SO excited that he’s decided to take the Hero’s Art Journey e-course. It’s only just begun but I expect some beautiful things to come from this exchange.

I am a connector and networker. I love connecting people to great resources. I get almost giddy when I find two people who need what the other has to offer.

Thus, this post. I couldn’t keep this gem to myself. I know my writer friends would benefit like I have from the Picture Book Academy– whether illustrators or writers. Check out the site- there’s always something fun going on. Free workshops and/or webinars, new e-courses all the time, contests… it’s a great site for keeping you connected to good resources.

 

SCBWI Euro Con Scrawl Crawl through the French Revolution

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Sarah Towle (Founder of Time Traveler Tours and author of Beware Madame La Guillotine!) and I

I’m still reeling over all of the incredible information that was given to us at SCBWI’s first-ever European Conference in Paris. I’ve had the opportunity to share about some of the actual conference… but the pre-conference Scrawl Crawl deserves a post of its own.

So here we are!

I arrived in Paris with just enough time to find my hotel, drop my stuff, and Metro over to the Scrawl Crawl meeting place at the Palais Royal. (Yes, I just used “metro” as a verb). 🙂

But first, just what is a Scrawl Crawl? SCBWI provides a great description: 

An event where individuals create something speedily drawn or written [scrawl] that is inspired by their creativity and observational powers as they go from place to place [crawl].

This event is designed to get you and your fellow children’s book writers & illustrators out of the house/studio/office for a day and spend time being creative together.

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photo by Kirsten Carlson

In the garden of the Palais Royal I reunited with writer/illustrator friends I’d met last September. I looked forward to spending time with them again.

As if that perk wasn’t enough, I was privileged to meet other excited writers and illustrators, adding to my “collection” of new friends in the writing world of Europe.

Then an unexpected highlight… two students from my Creative Writing class showed up! They were home on Spring Break and joined the Scrawl Crawl, taking the opportunities to write and sketch seriously, to my delight. I loved spending the day with them.

Back to the Scrawl Crawl. We were fortunate and honored to have Sarah Towle guide us through the French Revolution through the eyes of Charlotte Corday. Sarah is the author of Beware Madame La Guillotine! – both in iBook and an app. The tour was so BMLG title screen on iphone - webmuch fun… it totally opened my eyes to a piece of Paris I had never seen or known before. Her app, as she describes it, is a “historical story-based mobile tourism app of Paris for teens, tweens, the young at heart: The World’s 1st StoryApp iTinerary.”

What a brilliant idea!

So we began at the Palais Royal, the birthplace of the French Revolution. We envisioned life in this bustling center of 1793 Paris… where passion was fueled by other like-minded world-changers. We followed Charlotte into the shadows… to the shop where she purchased the kitchen knife she would use to kill Jean Paul Marat… her hope unshakeable, that his death would end the violence tearing apart her nation and people. We paused in the shade of the trees and arcade (not from the sun but from the freezing cold and intermittent rain) to sketch inspired images or write whatever ideas came to mind. I did a combination of writing (until my ink began to run in the rain) and photo-journaling.

Sarah Towle guiding us through the French Revolution... with the Conciergerie in the background (former royal palace and prison)
Sarah Towle guiding us through the French Revolution… with the Conciergerie in the background (former royal palace and prison)

We followed Charlotte on her hunt for Jean Paul… passed the Starbucks for hot chocolate :)… then ultimately to the bridge that overlooks the Conciergerie… where Charlotte was held in prison for Jean Paul’s murder… and eventually beheaded. Again, at this beautiful site on the bridge… with the Eiffel Tower in the background and the setting sun coloring our world in hues of yellow and orange, we stopped and scrawled our ideas.

The Eiffel Tower in the background, with the sun setting on the Seine River.
The Eiffel Tower in the background, with the sun setting on the Seine River.

Amazing.

What a great idea for a Scrawl Crawl. Or any ‘ol day in Paris. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more… hanging out with Sarah, following Charlotte around 17th century Paris, spending the day with my students, rubbing shoulders with talented illustrators and writers, or the waves of disbelief that would find and smack me with “I can’t believe I live four hours from Paris!”

I’m going to end with a special “treat.” I rarely (okay, just about never) share things I’ve written (other than the blog-writing itself). BUT, below you’ll find something I quickly scrawled as we walked around the Palais Royal Gardens… just having learned of Charlotte and her life-giving search for freedom. Clearly, I never would have written this without the journey with Beware Madame La Guillotine! A Revolutionary Tour of Paris. Enjoy!

Dying for the cause that saves

One life for many

To return to nobility and dignity and righteousness

and end terror’s reign on humanity

And old tune, a new voice sings it

A cry for justice…

justice bridled to peace and mercy

But peace is violent

in attaining its reward

Sacrificial blood

Heart pumping for change

A change that will end another heartbeat

Willingly

Gladly

Here the river splits

One heart silent…

the other silences death, beats eternal.

© Marcy Pusey, 2013

The Scrawl Crawl group in front of the Louvre.
The Scrawl Crawl group in front of the Louvre.

Vive la Creativite – Day Two

imageSaturday began with a great sense of anticipation and optimism… for the picture-book had staked a claim in a number of workshops, sessions, and conversations.

It did not disappoint.

But first, what I had for breakfast:
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This is for all my readers who may be like my dear friend, Dorina… who have emotional experiences with food and may find some inspiration among my French sustenance. This is what the hotel offered. We have croissants in Germany… but these were way better! (I should clarify that my German croissant experience is limited to our local grocers and maybe one bakery.)

Anyway, the wedge is a French tortilla. Yummo. And of course, crepes… with some jam. Well, and you can’t have a European breakfast without some deli meat and cheese. Inspired yet?

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Back to the conference it was amazing. Saturday began with an Editor/Agent panel.

Sara Grant, author and editor, facilitated the panel. Then we had Kendra Marcus (Book Stop Literary), Jenny Savill (Andrew Nurnberg Associates), Minju Chang (Book Stop Literary), Heather Alexander (Dial Books for Young Readers), Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary), and Strawberrie Donnelly (Little Tiger Press). They spent over an hour answering our questions and sharing such practical and good information on publishing in the US and internationally.

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Then I attended a workshop with Heather Alexander on the behind-the-scenes of publishing. We walked through a T.I. (Title Information) sheet which also happens to be a great way for writers to  think through their pitch, query, cover letter, etc. Seeing that form was new to me and I appreciated her use of it with us. I should point out the photo… she’s reading a picture-book to grown adults… and we love it. How cool are we?

Heather also critiqued one of my picture-book manuscripts. She was so gracious! I sent her something quite quirky and unusual… mostly because I was sick of looking at my other two completed manuscripts. I hadn’t really decided if I would ever do anything with the one I sent… but after her feedback I see how (with some serious revision) I could turn it into something. Because my story format was so unusual, she had the opportunity to teach me things I didn’t know I didn’t know. For example, I hadn’t defined who my narrators were… I figured the illustrator could decide. But she taught me that if I don’t care who my narrators are, no one else will care either. And I want them to care, so I need to also. Brilliant! Yet so simple.

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After Heather’s workshop I attended one with Kendra and Minju of  Book Stop Literary on the differences between European and American picture-books. This was so interesting, oh my word. I had mistakenly thought that everything I knew about kidlit writing (or illustrating) was universal. Nope! The strong hook, the twist, and a nice, clean resolution… all American. Europeans like cute and sweet, with endings that could leave the character starting all over again. “Let the reader interpret their own ending,” the European might say. And they like to draw characters with big noses. This radically altered how I read some of the manuscripts I was peer reviewing… some of whom are European writers! I also realized that some of my stories may be more European than American! Ha!

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Then there was the workshop with Jennifer Laughran. She is so much fun. I enjoy her personality. She comes across very genuine with a humoristic twist on her view of life that lightens the serious challenges of publishing. I wish she worked more with picture-books… but I find her very valuable regardless. This was a great session on taking our stories to the next level.

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Last but not least, another workshop with Kendra and Minju. This was… beyond words. Each attendee of the workshop had submitted the first pages of their manuscript. Basically, they let us into their office and their heads by letting us know where they would stop reading and why. This was so eye-opening. My story had some really positive comments… and was even used as a good example once of a particular of the writing craft. BUT the point that Kendra got stuck on was a total shock to me. I never would have guessed hat it would stop being read or rejected at that point for such a reason. Never.

I’m still not totally clear on the issue but Minju gave me a little extra feedback at the end of the session that better directs me.

I think I walked away realizing (though I’m still processing it all) that as individuals who have to look for a reason to reject your work… if it’s not utterly amazing and flawless according to their personal preferences and the market… you’re a goner. Well, at least from their desk.

Yeah, that was a little discouraging. But the encouragement is that there are many agents and editors… and as I (as we) continually work on improving our craft and telling our stories… someone, somewhere, will love it. The hang up for one might be the strength for another. There are so many stories of agents and editors who turned down something that ended up being a hit. (*Not claiming that mine is a hit*)

I also walked away with the sense that I do have some skill… that I’m slowly making progress in this kidlit writing thing… and there is fruit. I even found some of the other workshop attendees defending my work or explaining how their view differed from the agents (not knowing I was the author). This was also insightful to me. Many of them laughed at one point in my intro… which of course made me smile. I wonder if that was at all insightful for the agents as well…

And then it was over.

Just like that.

We closed with some emotionally power-packed words from Anne Nesbet. Man, I haven’t read her debut book yet… but if she writes wih the same passion with which she speaks.. if she tugs at your heart and makes it feel big things in the written word as she does with the spoken… it will be nothing short of an amazing read. Check her out.

We left… and I was alone… and had a lot to process. So alone wasn’t bad. I ventured to the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore… Hello! Can I just move in? And it happens to be across the street from Notre Dame… so I visited that too. And he Eiffel Tower all sparkly. I met random people and had enough conversation to keep me from getting too caught up in my head. And certainly some comical stereotypical Paris-type experiences that got a chuckle or two out of me too! Like the gushing Monacan tourist who tried to kiss me because the setting (of Paris) was so romantic. Uh, yeah. (And the operative there is “tried” – he did not succeed because I reserve those for my hubby and told him so).

And then came Sunday.

I know I said the conference was over. It was.

Sunday was the post-conference. 😉