Showing posts with label children's picture book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children's picture book. Show all posts

Indie Authors: The Joy of Working with Artists

Page with No Words, by Illustrator Nancy Batra

Today we indie authors—an author who has published a book at personal expense—a self-published author—have some advantages over traditionally-published authors. We are our own boss, we can produce and publish our work in record time, and we can find many professional individuals and companies who help us turn out quality products. There is a downside, of course, but we won’t go there for now.

One of my greatest joys as an indie author is having the privilege of working with four artists: three illustrators and a voice actor. In each project I’ve had a say, and have had the enjoyment of considering the beginning sketches, and as in the case of my first book, Secret in the Stars, have been rewarded with the completion of the final product. The same is true for the audiobook. Here is the process as each project has evolved so far.

Secret in the Stars: Tiffany Tutti began by sending me sketches of her vision, which she created from notes I sent her. We sent the files back and forth for edits until they were completed. Tiffany created extra illustrations for my website as well. Due to the nature of the project, I own the files. This is key, as I have the freedom to use Tiffany’s illustrations in all my materials.

Secret in the Stars audiobook: I chose Findaway Voices for the company to produce my audiobook after watching “Is Findaway Voices Worth It?” by Dale L. Roberts on YouTube. Also, Draft2Digital, a self-publishing company, highly recommends Findaway Voices. I am glad I took their advice because Findaway Voices is a terrific company to work with. The price for producing an audiobook is reasonable and no payment is made until the finished product is approved by the author.

  • Findaway Voices begins by matching your project with comparable voice actors. I had a choice of 5-6 actors, learned about their backgrounds, and listened to a short excerpt of my book by each one. I chose the one whose “child’s voice” I liked best: Kae Marie Denino.
  • Kae narrated a larger section of my book for me to comment on. Once I gave my approval, she finished narrating the book.
  • She and I messaged back and forth, which helped solidify how she interpreted the various voices. 
  • The audiobook will be available soon on Amazon.

Secret in the Mist: Danika Corrall, the web designer who created my website, has agreed to illustrate Book 2 in the Abi Wunder Mystery series. Danika has designed the cover and will create the illustrations as soon as the manuscript is ready.

A Packrat Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift
: Last but not least is my work with illustrator Nancy Batra, who has agreed to illustrate my picture books. This packrat story sat in my “drawer” for years. I reworked it (many times), especially by cutting down the words and taking into account how the illustrations tell much of the story. I wound up with two pages in the book with no words, which was the most fun I had with the project.

I created quite a few book dummies for the packrat story before coming up with the one that worked best for me: simply 8 ½ x 11” paper folded in two, stapled together and numbering 32 pages. Nancy and I collaborated on the ideas for the illustrations by sending the sketches back and forth. She has agreed to illustrate more of my picture book stories, which are seeing the light of day for the first time in a long time.

There are too many joys of being a children’s author to name here, but working with these artists has allowed me to visualize my stories on paper, not just with words, but with an artist’s eye for things I haven’t even thought of. The experience has been one of the most rewarding of my journey into children’s literature.


Dale L. Roberts on Findaway Voices can be found at:

Danika Corrall Design Studio:

Findaway Voices:  

Nancy Batra Design Studio: 

A note about last month's post, "Is an Indie Kirkus Review Worth It?" 

I talked to a salesperson at Kirkus Review about the possibility of placing an ad in one of Kirkus's publications, their website, magazine, or newsletter. She informed me that Secret in the Stars was earmarked as a Kirkus "recommended" book. Great news that I can include in my promo materials. I asked her why I hadn't been informed of this designation and she said Kirkus doesn't have an icon for this, such as the star for starred reviews, but that when there is room, Kirkus will recommend these books in their materials. The only way to learn about this designation is to call. I recommend any author who has received a Kirkus review to call to see if your book has received this designation.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda:


Teaching Through Books with Molly Nero

What captivates our young people these days?  Stories.  Yes, stories, but not the stories in books like we remember.  Kids today are enamored by the digital device that is held in their hands or sitting in front of them as they play games to a STORY!  Every video game made has some kind of plot, conflict, characters, and our kids are in charge of creating the outcome by the video “ability” they possess after hour upon hour of “gaming”.  Fight it if you want, but I think relating it to stories you read in books is much more productive.  You are creating a bridge between the “old school” reading and the “techno” gaming of today.  Teaching lessons through books helps validate their importance and value.

Books give us an amazing teaching tool, especially when dealing with social issues.  I’m a big advocate of creating purpose for skills being taught by relating them to real life experiences kids can connect to.  Books help you in this process.  When teaching the skill of cause and effect, the youngest learners can grasp this concept when reading a story about a boy who jumps on his bed.  You ask something as simple as what happened because he jumped on his bed?  The answer is he fell through the floor.  You have a story that kids are hooked into because what kid doesn’t jump on his bed?  But the follow through with the skill is taught through the story; therefore he fell through the floor.  Books offer such enrichment to a lesson with their pictures walking the children through a story depicting a needed skill.  Social issues, friend problems, acceptance, and rejection are all subjects easier for kids to learn and process with books, since you are reading about someone else and someone else’s problems, not theirs.  Teaching division?  Drawing cookies on the board is okay, but reading about a boy sharing the cookies on his tray as more and more friends come is relatable to your students.  Every kid has to share at some point and who doesn’t want to share with their friends?  Another great book helping you teach a difficult skill with a story.

Stories are a huge part of our kids’ lives though media and gaming.  Books need to be as predominate, so use them to teach with.  No matter what the skill; there is a book to help you teach it.

About the author: Molly Nero loves to sing, dance and read. She spent over 18 years teaching elementary school. Reading to her own children, she was inspired to write. The second book in the Smarty Pig book series Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror releases in Spring 2012.

Smarty Pig is the only one in the pig family who hasn’t given up on school and doing her homework. Although she is teased, her report card shows her hard work, while the others fail. The other pigs reach out to her and she becomes their tutor, by creating games in their home. They all realize learning can be fun and that it’s not just for school, it’s for life.

Get a sneak peek of the book at

You can find out more about Molly Nero’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Nero and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

Writing Challenges for Picture Book Writers

Are you a picture book writer who is having trouble staying motivated?  Sometime we just need a little outside push to keep us working.  Having something to share with my critique group helps keep my but in the chair and keeps me writing. BUT…a good critique group can be hard to find and  a poor fit can cause more harm than good.  If you don’t have a critique group that works for you but need some outside motivation to keep you working, consider joining one of the following picture book challenges.

  • 12 x 12 in2012 Challenge  - Write one new picture book each month in 2012.  You don’t have to come up with a final draft…but what good start.  To officially participate you need to join by January 29th.
  • Picture bookmarathon – Write 26 picture books in the month of February.   This is for someone who wants some serious butt kicking in February.   
  • The annual Kidlit Picture Book Dummy Challenge has already begun, but you can still jump in.  The point of this challenge is to prepare one picture dummy for submission by July 1st.   This is a great challenge for the writer-illustrator.  
Many of these challenges are structured with community support through either emails or Facebook.  You can join the community or just work on your own.  The idea is not to necessarily end up with perfect manuscripts but to get you started working on the process of developing your story.  For other suggestions for children’s authors check out Starting a Career as a Children’s Writer by Annie from WOM.

Happy Writing!

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist.  She helps clients push through their blocks, envision their path and take the necessary action to live their True North.

For more information check out
or folllow her at:

My Brother the Frog: A Fun and Creative Approach to Sibling Rivalry

Today we welcome Kevin McNamee, who is thrilled to be talking abut his latest children’s book, My Brother the Frog.  This is Kevin’s sixth children’s book published with Guardian Angel Publishing.

Kevin, what is this story about?

This book focuses on sibling rivalry between two brothers.  Sibling rivalry can be a problem in any family.  But in this story, a little brother deals with this dilemma in a most unusual way.  He changes his brother into a frog.  He does have a bit of trouble changing him back though.  He manages to change his brother into a variety of animals until he finally gets it right.  Meanwhile, he starts to realize how much he cares for his brother, and how much his brother cares for him.

How did you come up with this story?

I wanted to come up with a wacky story that would be a lot of fun to read, and be something that boys would relate to.  In my humble opinion, there are not enough books for boys out there.  So I was happy to contribute one.  The basic idea was: What if a boy could change his brother into a frog?  What would happen then?  I was thinking about using animals, but I’m not sure why I chose a frog as the first animal.  Maybe it’s because frogs are funny and My Brother the Frog is an interesting title.  But even though this book was a lot of fun to write, I wanted it to have a serious message.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

To me, the hardest part was the pacing.  In a picture book, every word counts.  So it was a particularly difficult challenge to keep the action moving along using a minimal amount of words, while still being able to tell a complete story.  Alexander Morris’s illustrations are top notch and really helped to tell the story.  So I think that together, we were able to put together a story that both kids and parents will love.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Relationships with siblings may not always be perfect, but this book points out some very good reasons to love your family … warts and all, especially if your brother just happens to be a frog.

This book is available as a print book, an E-book, or a book on CD from the Guardian Angel Publishing Children's Bookstore.

Books are also available from,, or ask your local bookstore.

Kevin McNamee is a writer and poet living in Yonkers, N.Y., and has never, ever changed anyone into a frog, although there were times that he really wanted to. 

Kevin’s poetry has been published in the collection, An Eyeball in My Garden: And Other Spine-Tingling Poems. 

To find out more about Kevin, please visit his website at or his blog at 

Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys & Gulls

Title: Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys & Gulls
Author: Lucy Nolan
Illustrator: Connie McLennan
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
Age Level: 3-7
ISBN: 978-1-934359-96-9 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-607180-41-8 (pbk.)

As the title of this book implies, with ingenuity and an obvious love of the sea, Ms. Nolan took some wonderful old standard nursery rhymes and wove them into sea and coastline themed poems. Within these rhymes, Ms. Nolan introduces bits of nautical history and information. Instead of Jack and Jill, it’s Jack and June who go up a dune. Sing a Song of Sixpense includes a trawler crew, first mate, captain, and deckhand.

Ms. Nolan takes these old standards and makes them her own. Some of the rhymes go over very well, such as Sleep Baby Sleep, and Buoys and Gulls; others may leave a young child a little puzzled, such as Tweedle-Dum & Tweedle-Dee, and Two Skippers from Texas.

I love the concept of Mother Osprey, introducing sea lingo, history and information in a wonderfully illustrated rhyming book - much of it works. I do think that a couple of the rhymes include words and themes that are geared for an older reader. One rhyme in particular is One Flamingo. It is an amazingly intricate and informative rhyme, but verses such as: “First a goose, and then some geese—a gaggle in the lane. But if the geese are flying, the gaggle is a skein,” I believe would lose many young readers of 3-7. Another is The Witch of November, 1913 with verses such as: “The lakes heaved and tossed—so many lives lost. Howling wind, high seas and snow. More than two hundred souls filled those sorrowful rolls—the crewmen of long ago.” Again, this may be a wonderful piece, but not for the intended age group.

With colorful and realistic illustrations, Mother Osprey is, overall, an entertaining, fun and educational book that celebrates the sea and coastline. Phrases and words such as okra pods, Puget Sound, shark, pirate, and shoal of bass will peak children’s interest. Although, I do feel the book would be better intended for ages seven through ten.

Mother Osprey also includes a “For Creative Minds” section that sheds insight and gives information on each rhyme. Also included is a two-page map of the United States and its surrounding waters highlighting the geographical areas the rhymes reference, along with a “Map Activity Questions” section.

About the author: Lucy Nolan is an award-winning author who spent many childhood days roaming two very special islands: Pawleys Island, SC, and Amelia Island, FL. Ms. Nolan is also the author of Down Girl and Sit chapter books. She lives in Columbia, SC with her daughter and two rambunctious dogs.

About the illustrator: Connie McLennan has been a freelance artist for over 25 years, since attending Academy of Art College in San Francisco. In addition to illustrating Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys and Gulls, she has also illustrated four other children’s books for Sylvan Dell Publishing. Ms. McLennan lives in northern California with her husband, teenage son, and a playful kitten.

This is a reprint of my review for

Direct Link to Amazon Page: Click Here.

Karen Cioffi
Reviewer for
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

What's New at the Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure

Title: What’s New t the Zoo?
Author: Suzanne Slade
Illustrator; Joan Waites
Reading Level: 4-8
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-934359-93-8 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-607180-38-8 (pbk.)
Rating: 5 Stars

What’s New at the Zoo? takes the reader on an animal adding adventure. This learning zoo adventure begins: “Two hungry pandas eat a bamboo lunch. One cub joins the meal. How many crunch and munch? 2 + 1 = ?” Through delightful rhyming text and numerals Ms. Slade creates a wonderfully engaging learning experience for children. Each page offers a new addition problem.

Within the rhyming text Ms. Slade cleverly weaves information about animals and the names of the baby animals pictured. Did you know that a baby mammoth boa is called a neonate? But that’s not all: the illustrations are striking - they are vivid, realistic and elaborate. Children will love reading this entertaining and educational picture book, in fact, they may not even realize they’re learning in the process.

An added feature to this book is the “For Creative Minds” and “Animal Matching Activity” educational section in the back. It offers additional math problems and solutions as well as information on the animals mentioned in the book. It also explains the differences in the animal classes: mammals, birds and reptiles, and asks the reader to put each of the animals shown within the book into their correct class.

I read this book to my three-year-old grand son. He said his favorite part was the picture with the peacocks. I then had my eight-year-old great nephew read it to me while answering the addition questions. They both enjoyed this book as will all children within the intended age group and even those a little younger. I highly recommend What’s New at the Zoo?

About the author: Suzanne Slade is the author of over 60 books for children. Her works include picture books, and biographies, as well as many non-fiction titles about animals, sports, insects, planets, and various science topics. During an earlier engineering career, she worked on Delta rockets and designed automotive braking systems. Ms. Slade lives near Chicago with her husband, two children, and their tiny dog, Corduroy.

About the illustrator: Joan Waites spent 15 years as a neo-natal intensive care nurse prior to studying illustration and launching her freelance career. In addition to What’s New at the Zoo? Joan has illustrated nearly 40 books for the educational and trade marketplace. She is also an adjunct member of The Corcoran Museum School of Arts and Design in Washington, DC, where she teaches various children’s classes for the college’s Aspiring Artists programs.

You can purchase What's New at the Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure at:

Karen Cioffi
Reviewer for

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