picture books

Congrats to Chana Stiefel and the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation

A huge congratulations to picture book author Chana Stiefel on her collaboration with the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. All royalties from Why Can’t Grandma Remember My Name will go to promote Alzheimer’s research and awareness. Way to go Chana and this awesome book for a great cause!

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Congrats to Chana Stiefel on her new picture book deal!

From Publishers Weekly:

chanastiefel_color_picKate O’Sullivan at HMH has bought world rights to Wakawakaloch, written by Chana Stiefel (l.) and illustrated by Mary Sullivan. No one can pronounce cave girl Wakawakaloch’s name (why can’t she have something easy to pronounce like her friends Oog and Boog?), in this story with a positive message about family and tradition. The projected pub date is spring 2019; John M. Cusick of Folio Jr. / Folio Literary Management represented the author and Justin Rucker at Shannon Associates represented the illustrator.

Chana is the author of DADDY DEPOT (Feiwel & Friends), coming Father’s Day, 2017!

Congrats to Julie Bayless on her latest picture book deal!

From Publishers Weekly:

Julie Bayless_picMary Colgan at Boyds Mills Press has bought Crawly School for Bugs by David Harrison (l.), illustrated by Julie Bayless, a book of funny poetry written from the point of view of different insect students. Publication is set for spring 2018; John M. Cusick of Folio Jr. / Folio Literary Management brokered the deal for world rights.

Check out more of Julie’s artwork hereJulie‘s debut pb ROAR! just pub’d from Running Press Kids. Get yourself a copy!

(Like this post? Then check out my November 19th webinar HOW TO BE A WRITER WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND: Balancing Work, Life, and Craft. There will be a Q and A as well as query critiques for all attendees. You should check it out!)

Ink & Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani on Bustle’s 19 Best of May 2015

Debuting this month is Valynne E. Maetani’s Kirkus-starred-reviewed INK & ASHES! So excited to see it here (with some great company) on Bustle’s

19 Of May 2015’s Best YA Books, aka You’re Going To Want to Read All YA This Month!

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Check out Ink and Ashes on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Amazon.

Check out Valynne Maetani on her website and twitter.

A Starred Review for Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES

Congratulations to Valynne Maetani on her starred review in Kirkus!

“This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance.”

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Read the full review here.

Check out Ink and Ashes on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Amazon.

Check out Valynne Maetani on her website and twitter.

Interview with Author / Illustrator Julie Bayless

Julie Bayless_picI first saw Julie Bayless‘s phenomenal work at the SCBWI Oakland conference last year. She participated in the “Best Portfolio” contest, which I judged along with the other visiting editors and agents, and she was our unanimous choice. In fact, I now use some of Julie’s samples in my conference talks as examples of character, relationships, and story in illustrations. Julie’s debut picture book ROAR! (the beginnings of which were in her Oakland portfolio) is coming from Running Press Kids, Fall 2015.

When and how did you start writing?

I wrote and illustrated alphabet books starting at age eight.  “Irving Iguana Icked.” is a line from one of them, and the illustration shows Irving saying “Ick!” to several creatures offering him nasty-looking food. I like to think my writing and illustration has taken on a bit more nuance since then, though I like the sound of the line.

WildebeestwithPieCan you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

I loved If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss and  How the Rhinoceros Got his Skin  from old, politically incorrect Rudyard Kipling. I fondly remember Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, and Rosalie the Bird Market Turtle, by Winifred and Cecil Lubell. I later got my own box turtle and named her Rosalie.

Tomi Ungerer’s Crictor the Boa Constrictor and The Three Robbers were also favorites.  Tomi has some of the most beautiful compositions, which are simple and powerful, and his drawings make me laugh, no matter how many times I look at them.

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments

I remember thinking , “I’ll write a story with just a very few words; that’ll be MUCH easier!” Ha. 

When I showed my first storyboards to my husband, I was so pleased with them, and he (who has a fabulous sense of humor) didn’t think they were amusing at all.  He thought I was telling a story about a lion cub who has a deeply flawed relationship with her own family.  I trust Doug’s taste in a number of things, but I felt the idea of the book, un-formed at that point as it was, was worthy.  So I forged ahead. Doug has since come around!

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) in 2009. Without that organization, I doubt I’d have an agent today.  Attending talks, getting portfolio reviews, and finding critique groups for my stories and illustrations; that, and drawing like a madwoman was how I got better. 

I sent postcards of my 623542illustrations to publishers every few months for three years, but never got any response.  I decided I needed to win “Best Portfolio” at a conference in order to land an agent to promote my work, and was astonished when it worked!  I met John at the 2013 Oakland SCBWI conference, where I did win “Best Portfolio”.  He said he’d like to see a book from me, so I came up with an initial draft of Roar! in four months.  I got feedback from as many people as I could while I was creating it. When I sent it to John, he offered to represent me, which was only slightly less thrilling than when my husband asked me to marry him. 

Describe your day.   Where do you look for inspiration? 

I spend as much time as possible drawing.  I love the iterative process of refining an idea, working out the composition, the characters, the colors.  I know I’m going in the right direction when I do a drawing that makes me laugh. 

I belong to both a writing critique group and an illustration critique group, and I get a huge amount of support and inspiration from them.  Conferences also provide a great deal of information and inspiration, and remind me to keep my portfolio and website updated.

Every week, I go to the library and grab any picture book that has an appealing cover.  I steal as many ideas as I can from other authors and illustrators!

EmandRafonStump005Are there any tips you could give aspiring author/illustrators who are looking to get published?

Join SCBWI, attend the conferences, familiarize yourself with what other books are being published in your genre, and draw and write as often as you can.  Find a group of people you trust who will give you honest feedback.  When you tell yourself you suck, don’t listen.  Besides, sucking for awhile is the only way to get better!  Don’t edit yourself in your first draft, just push forward.  Send it out, hope for the best, don’t give up.

Find out which tools make you happy, and try out some new ones from time to time. Be open to accidents, in whatever form they arrive.  Art accidents are a great opportunity to surprise yourself. 

See more of Julie’s artwork on her website.

Welcome Julie Olson!

JulieOlsonHeadshotI’m delighted to welcome veteran artist and author/illustrator Julie Olson to Greenhouse! Julie and I met in 2012 at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah (which I highly recommend), where Julie was teaching a class on illustrating picture books. Though I’d worked with picture book authors before, this was my first experience addressing a room full of illustrators. Throughout my talk Julie stood off to the side, and whenever I was a bit uncertain she’d shoot me an encouraging thumbs up. For the rest of the conference Julie was my sometime driver, showing me the sights of beautiful Provo and also ensuring I visited Starbucks at least twice a day. Julie kept me sane, punctual, and caffeinated all week.

So it was a delight to see her this year when I returned to WIFYR. Julie was hosting an author shindig at Salt Lake’s legendary independent bookstore, King’s English. We caught up over stuffed peppers and pigs-in-blankets, and she told me about her latest book, Discover America. We discussed the picture book world, the commercial art world, and I mentioned I thought artists ought to have a dedicated illustration agent, as separate from their commercial artwork representation, as the markets are so different.

Julie considered this, and sipped her sparkling apple cider.

Now, lo, it’s a few months later, and Julie and I are going to be working together, which makes me deliriously happy. Whenever a new client joins the agency, we ask them a few questions about their work, their process, etc. Julie’s answers are fabulous. Check it out:

When and how did you start writing and/or illustrating?

Well apparently my artistic history goes all the way back to my toddler days. Apparently, my mom would often turn around from her task at hand to find me quietly drawing tiny circles in ballpoint pen all along the baseboards of her white walls. Being the patient woman she was, she simply shook her head in amazement at my finger dexterity and provided plenty of paper and art supplies from then on. As I grew older, I checked out “how-to-draw” books from the local library and even set the old VCR to record Bob Ross and other PBS painting shows. I asked Santa for my first set of real artist paints at the age of 11 and from then on I’d get home from school and try copying the PBS masters’ paintings. In the meantime, my love of the written word developed as well. My favorite times were when my busy dad would spend time reading Mark Twain stories in all the voices or when my sister and would stay up late telling each other stories of “Marshmallow Pie Bar Mysteries.”

IMG_7816Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

We loved books in my house so it’s hard to pin down only one book. My siblings and I even set up a neighborhood library for the kids on our street. Complete with card pockets on the inside of every book cover. Mostly we just liked to stamp the card and check out the books to ourselves, but we had a grand time with it. Some of my early favorite books included Lillian Holban’s Frances series, “The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes,” and Nora Smaridge’s “The Big Tidy Up.” I also always loved to read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Pippy Longstocking and Judy Blume books, along with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”  And of course, a soft spot for Mark Twain (in my dad’s voice).

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I had been illustrating books for about 9 years as well as attending conferences, meeting with writers, and studying the art of writing all along. Finally, I decided to really give it a go. I had just spent the weekend hosting author/illustrator Janet Stevens at a book conference and she and I had had some great discussions. After dropping her off at the airport, I was stuck in traffic and a little idea started. I grabbed the back of my name tag and a ballpoint pen from the dash and scribbled a few words down on the back (don’t worry…traffic was completely at a stand still). The words I wrote were, “Groundhog. Scratch my back. Tickle. Tingle. Twitch. Itch. Porcupine. Alligator. Thistle.” From those few words came my first book, “Tickle, Tickle! Itch, Twitch!” Of course I say that like it was simple, when it wasn’t. But it all began there.

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Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I actually went out on my own without an agent for the first 9 years of my career. Since I was an illustrator and a mom to young kids, I took the route of finding my own work and managing the flow of it without the worry of disappointing an agent when I needed to turn a job down to spend time with my little ones. However, I finally came to the realization that an agent could actually HELP me spend more time with my family by taking all of the busy work off my plate. Then I could focus on my art. I began with an art rep who illustrator friends of mine used instead of a literary agent because at the time I wasn’t as focused on the writing aspect of picture books. I submitted my work to them and they took me in as one of their own. I was able to work on books but a lot of other interesting projects for various industries as well. However, after 5 more years in the industry and one book authored under my belt, I finally realized that creating an entire book is what I NEEDED to keep doing. My art rep was having a bit of a hard time helping me in that goal since their focus was primarily on the art and not the writing. I was explaining this to a literary agent, who I’d met a year previously at a conference, while we chatted at another event. After our talk that night, I realized that it was time to make a change in my focus and in my career. It was very scary for me to give up my art rep who I got along well with and move to a literary rep, but I knew it was the right thing to do. That literary agent I chatted with and subsequently signed on with was John Cusick, of Greenhouse Literary Agency. I am so excited to work with him and the Greenhouse team and take the leap of faith into my dreams.

p12-1Describe your writing/illustrating day. Where do you work? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

As a mom, and an artist, it’s hard for me to keep set hours. I work when the kids sleep. I work when the kids are at school. I work when I’m at the dentist. I work while I’m at the park. I even work while I’m in the car. Whenever I find a free and quiet moment, I think books. I think art. I think stories. However, when I’m on a deadline, I work out some childcare help to get some good solid painting time in. I’m lucky that both of my kids’ grandmothers live close enough to help out when I’m in a pinch. But truthfully, a lot of my work happens with kids in my office painting at their little mini desk, banging on the piano or electric guitars upstairs and downstairs, or not so quietly reminding me they need to be fed. I am lucky to have an art studio in my home so I don’t have to go far. And I think growing up in a big family (9 kids and two parents) allowed me to be able to work amongst noise and craziness when I need to. Honestly, I think these kids are my greatest inspiration…life with them provides all sorts of ideas.

Can you tell us about your next book?

I currently have two books I’m working on. One is silly and the other is completely the opposite, serious and emotional. Both are picture books. I really hope they find a home and get to provide more laughter and love in the world.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers/illustrators who are looking to get published?

The best advice I have is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE your craft. Go to writing and illustrating workshops and conferences. Learn from professionals in the industry. Network there. READ  A LOT OF BOOKS in the genre you are interested in and then lots of books in general. Overall, take the advice, constructive criticism and tips you receive from editors and professionals and put them to use. Let them build your work into something better instead of allowing it to tear you down personally.

Which favorite authors/illustrators would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight (because I would love to witness and learn from their friendship), David Small and Sarah Stewart (because they are one of the sweetest couples I know…true opposites attracting), and Aaron Becker, Dan Santat, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (to keep the blood young, hip and hilarious) — The whole dinner I would soak up all I could from these amazing artist in word and sight

I wish I’d invented Eloise. Because she’s got such spunk and truly speaks to my own inner sassy know-it-all child. However, I don’t know that I was ever that spoiled (actually I know I wasn’t…there were 9 kids in my family, remember?)

Check out Julie’s picture books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound. You can also follow Julie, and add her work on Goodreads too!

BTW if you yourself are an author/illustrator or illustrator, I highly recommend you check out Julie’s blog for all kinds of great resources.

The Greenhouse Funny Prize


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Hey gang, check it out. The Greenhouse Funny Prize is back. And guess what: this year, it’s open to North American writers!

Last year’s competition saw over 700 entries, and Pip Jones was our winner. Julia Churchill quickly sold Pip’s book, SQUISHY McFLUFF, THE INVISIBLE CAT, to Faber Children’s Books in a 4 book pre-empt.

So we’re putting out a call for funny stuff, from quirky picture books to wry y.a. The winner will receive an offer of representation from Greenhouse.

Wait, what?

That’s right. The winner gets rep’d people. Not bad.

Entry guidelines:

The Greenhouse Funny prize is open to un-agented writers writing funny fiction for children of all ages.

To get a good sense of the voice and where the character is headed, we’d like to see the first 5,000 words PLUS a short description (a few lines) of the book AND a one page outline that shows the spine of the plot. Please send this as a Word doc attachment.

If you’re submitting a picture book (or shorter fiction that comes in under 5,000 words), then send the complete text.

Please send your entries to funny@greenhouseliterary.com

If you’re writing from the US or Canada (ie, North America), please put NA in subject line. If you’re writing from UK or the rest of the world, please put UK in subject line.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, 29 July.

The shortlist will be announced Monday, 12 August.

The winner will be announced Monday, 19 August.

The US/Canada and the UK will have separate judging and shortlists and we will choose a winner in each territory.

Entrants will receive an acknowledgement on receipt of script, but only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

North American entries will be judged by myself and guest judge Jill Santopolo, Executive Editor at Philomel, Penguin. UK entries will be judged by Julia and guest judge Leah Thaxton, Publisher of Faber Children’s Books.

Winners will receive an offer of representation from the Greenhouse and the UK winner will also get full weekend ticket to the wonderful Festival of Writing (worth £525). The runners up will each get five of Greenhouse’s favourite funny books.

So get writing!