Tag Archives: Cybils

From Beyond the Grave.

Happy 2015, everyone!

I began my new year with a party — drinking good wine, eating delicious food, chatting with old friends and making some new ones. It’s said that whatever you do on the first day of the year reflects what you’ll be doing throughout the year.

But I can’t party every day. Well, yes. I could. But there are bills to pay.

So over the next few days, I got things ready for business in 2015. I created documents to keep track of my writing and reading and client work. I reviewed goals I had set in previous years and set some new ones. I analyzed where I’d submitted manuscripts, researched editors and publishers’ catalogs, and made notes about where and what to submit this year. I created a new Excel document that would help me work more efficiently and submit manuscripts more wisely (which took more than three hours of data entry).

And then my hard drive said, “Tink. Tink-tink. Tink.”

Gone. All that prep work for the year, and everything else I had on that hard drive, gone.

It made me wish I worked in a field where computers weren’t necessary. I wished I wasn’t so dependent on technology. I wished I wasn’t a writer.

So right then and there, I quit. I shut my laptop. I declared myself Not-A-Writer.


(c) 2014 Photo by Carol Munro


It was like a death. I felt hollowed. Empty and echo-y and silenced.

I stayed dead for about a day, then I put my party pants back on, drank some good wine, and got back to the business of writing. Because a writer’s gotta write, right?

One of the things that brought me back was Facebook. Or more accurately, the community of writing friends I have there. Yes, YOU. You saved me. Thank you.

Thank you, Julie Hedlund, Kelli Panique, my co-Elves, and 12×12 (which is open for 2015 membership now through February 28).

Thank you, Elaine Kiely Kearns, Sylvia Liu, and KidLit411 (celebrating a one-year anniversary now with a party full of prizes, but the best gift of all is the wealth of info for all kidlit writers all year long).

Thank you, Alayne Kay Christian and Sub Six. Thank you to my fellow Cybils judges, to Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo (just named one of the top 10 blogs for writers), to the other online groups I belong to, and to the writers who are not only my friends on Facebook or face-to-face, but also in my heart.

You all brought this writer back.

And hopefully, soon, a techno-wizard will bring back the contents of my hard drive.


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Cybils News and a Whole Lot of Favs

Round One of Cybils judging is done! Whew!

We (me and six more judges for the picture book category) have chosen seven books from a list of 229 that were nominated this year. Want to know which we chose? Can you keep a secret? Because I’m not supposed to tell, but if you can keep a secret…

Yeah, right. I’m not tellin’! Finalists for all categories will be announced January 1, 2015. On that day, you should be able to find the announcement here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been remiss in posting my favorite picture books, so check out this list from books I’ve read in June through November.

  • ALL DIFFERENT NOW: JUNETEENTH, THE FIRST DAY OF FREEDOM by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, 2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • BAD BYE, GOOD BYE by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean, 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pub. Co.
  • THE BAMBINO AND ME by Zachary Hyman, illustrated by Zachary Pullen, 2014, Tundra Books
  • BEAR HUG by Katharine McEwen, 2014, Templar Books (Candlewick Press)
  • BEN & ZIP, TWO SHORT FRIENDS by Joanne Linden, illustrated by Tom Goldsmith, 2014, Flashlight Press
  • THE BOY ON THE PAGE by Peter Carnavas, 2014, Kane Miller (EDC Publishing)
  • CAPTAIN CAT by Inga Moore, 2013, Candlewick Press
  • COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! by Lori Degman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke, 2014, Creston Books
  • THE CROCODILE WHO DIDN’T LIKE WATER by Gemma Merino, 2013, North South Books, Inc.
  • EXTRAORDINARY JANE by Hannah E. Harrison, 2014, Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
  • THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN by Marla Frazee, 2014, Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • THE FLAT RABBIT by Bardur Oskarsson, 2014, Owlkids Books
  • FRAIDYZOO by Thrya Heder, 2013, Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams)
  • FROODLE by Antoinette Portis, 2014, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing)
  • THE GIRL AND THE BICYCLE by Mark Pett, 20114, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • GOING PLACES by Peter H. Reynolds, illustrated by Paul A. Reynolds, 2014, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • THE GRUDGE KEEPER by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, 2014, Peachtree Publishers
  • HAVE YOU HEARD THE NESTING BIRD? by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak, 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • HENNY by Elizabeth Rose Stanton, 2014, A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • HERMAN AND ROSIE by Gus Gordon, 2013, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing)
  • HI, KOO A YEAR OF SEASONS by Jon J Muth, 2014, Scholastic Press (Scholastic Books)
  • THE HOLE by Oyvind Torseter, 2013, Enchanted Lion Books
  • HOPPER AND WILSON FETCH A STAR by Maria van Lieshout, 2014, Philomel Books (Penguin Group)
  • HOW TO BEHAVE AT A TEA PARTY by Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrated by Heather Ross, 2014, Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • I KNOW AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A DREIDEL by Caryn Yacowitz, illustrated by David Slonim, 2014, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc.)
  • I LOVE YOU JUST ENOUGH by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, 2014, Sleeping Bear Press
  • IMANI’S MOON by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, 2014, A Mackinac Island Book (Charlesbridge)
  • JOY IN MUDVILLE by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Glin Dibley, 2014, Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)
  • KID SHERIFF AND THE TERRIBLE TOADS by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith, 2014, Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing)
  • A LIBRARY BOOK FOR BEAR by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, 2014, Candlewick Press
  • THE LION AND THE BIRD by Marianne Dubuc, 2014, Enchanted Lion Books
  • MADAME MARTINE by Sarah S. Brannen, 2014, Albert Whitman and Company
  • MATILDA’S CAT by Emily Gravett, 2012, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • MOGIE, THE HEART OF THE HOUSE by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • MONSTER NEEDS HIS SLEEP by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Wendy Grieb, 2014, Scarletta Kids (Scarletta)
  • THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING by Ashley Spires, 2014, Kids Can Press (Corus Entertainment)
  • MUMBET’S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by Gretchen Woelfle, illustrated by Alex Delinois, 2014, Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)
  • MY TEACHER IS A MONSTER! (NO I AM NOT) by Peter Brown, 2014, Little, Brown & Company
  • THE NOISY PAINT BOX, THE COLORS AND SOUNDS OF KANDINSKY’S ABSTRACT ART by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre’, 2014, A Borzoi Book/Alfred A Knopf (Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc.)
  • OH, HARRY! by Maxine Kumin, illustrated by Barry Moser, 2011, A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press)
  • ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET, SHORT STORIES FOR ALL THE LETTERS by Oliver Jeffers, 2014, Philomel Books (Penguin Group/A Penguin Random House Company)
  • ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2014, Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • THE ONLY ALEX ADDLESTON IN ALL THESE MOUNTAINS by James Solheim, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, 2014, Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)
  • OUT OF THE BLUE by Alison Jay, 2014, Barefoot Books
  • PAUL MEETS BERNADETTE by Rosy Lamb, 2013, Candlewick Press
  • PEGGY, A BRAVE CHICKEN ON A BIG ADVENTURE by Anna Walker, 2012, Clarion Books
  • PLANET KINDERGARTEN by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore, 2014, Chronicle Books
  • QUEST by Aaron Becker, 2014, Candlewick Press
  • THE ROCKABILLY GOATS GRUFF by Jeff Crosby, 2014, Holiday House
  • RUPERT CAN DANCE by Jules Feiffer, 2014, Michael di Capua Books (Farrar Straus Giroux)
  • TAKE AWAY THE A by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo, 2014, Enchanted Lion Books
  • THOSE MAGNIFICENT SHEEP IN THEIR FLYING MACHINE by Peter Bently, illustrated by David Roberts, 2014, Andersen Press USA (Andersen Press Ltd)
  • THREE BEARS IN A BOAT by David Soman, 2014, Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
  • WHAT DO YOU DO WITH AN IDEA? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom, 2013, Compendium Kids

Let me know if any of these are your favs, too.


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Do it now or wait a whole year

Have you nominated your favorite books for the Cybils competition? October 15 is the last day for public nominations. You have ONE DAY LEFT. Just one day. Today.

C’mon, you’ve got favorite books, right? If they’ve been released between October 16, 2013 and October 15, 2014, they’re eligible for nomination.

Go here to check out the rules.

Then nominate. (One nom per category.)

Is this your favorite?

The Noisy Paint Box

Or this?

Going Places

Or this?

Extraordinary Jane

Or this?

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?

Or this?

Planet Kindergarten

Or this?

Hopper and Wilson Fetch a Star

Or this?

Out of the Blue

Or this?

Rupert Can Dance

Can you believe it? These picture books (some of my faves) haven’t been nominated yet. (Hint, hint.)

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Donning the judge’s robe again.

Thank you, Cybils, for choosing me as a first round judge for the Fiction Picture Book category for your 2014 awards competition.

I’m thrilled!

Okay, I’m a little bit nervous, too. This is my second year in this robe role, and I know how much work is involved, how organized I’ll have to be, how my reading chair will be surrounded with stacks and stacks of books. But honestly, I can hardly wait for it all to start. Really!

The reading of more than 200 books in about six weeks is a fabulous experience for a picture book writer. You breathe, eat, and dream picture books. In a good way. I learned so much from the great books nominated last year, like:

  • SOPHIE’S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (humor, tenderness, layers of story, the interplay of words and pictures)
  • JOURNEY by Aaron Becker (how luscious illustrations can cause each read to take longer than the previous)
  • IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (quiet simplicity, quiet complexity).

I also learned from the other judges — how we each approached the evaluation process, how stalwart we were for the books we loved, and the subjectiveness of it all. This lesson shines light on the submissions process and makes it more bearable. (I lie. It’s still frustrating.)

So I’m ready for more. Bring it on!

Wishing you could be part of it all? You can! Nominate your favorites (one per category) beginning October 1. Get the how-to here.


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CYBILS winners, WAITT words, & 12×12 warning

I’m popping in here at my blog to tell you about three things.

First: The CYBILS Awards were announced yesterday. YAY! The winner for Fiction Picture Books is MR. TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown. For a list of winners in all categories, go here.

Second: The February post for We’re All In This Together on Marcie Flinchum Atkins’s blog is there for you to read. This month, writers (Sue Heavenrich, Robyn Campbell, Amie Rose Rotruck, Alayne Kay Christian, Dona L. Sadd, EW Clark, Vivian Kirkfield, Marcie, and me) commented about why we write for kids.

Third: Don’t forget! If you’re interested in writing picture books, you have until February 28 to sign up for the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge (which is soooo much more than a challenge). As 12×12 founder Julie Hedlund says, it’s “the accountability of a year-long writing challenge coupled with the support of the most generous and talented community of writers on the planet (no exaggeration!)” And I totally agree. Three membership levels. Pick one and GO!

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!


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Goals: old ones, new ones

I have a lot to cover in this post, so let’s jump right in.

First of all, if you aren’t writing down your goals for 2014, stop reading right now and go do it. It will remind you where you want to go. It will make you more accountable. It will help you succeed. Be specific and break the goals down into achievable tasks. Here’s a great tool from Katie Davis that can help you set and track your goals.

In 2013, I wanted to read 500 picture books. I read 501. Each month, I wanted to draft one new PB manuscript, edit at least one, and submit at least one. At year end, I have 10 new manuscripts, 17 revisions, and 19 submissions.

I also had two other goals I knew by February wouldn’t happen, so those were eliminated early. I think it’s important to reevaluate your objectives once you’ve gained a little distance from the January resolution-setting frenzy.

The really big deals in 2013? One, I got my first kidlit contract for a story in Highlights magazine. Woo hoo! I’m so thrilled! Two, my proposal to produce a workshop for PB writers for NESCBWI was accepted and will be held in March 2014. More about that in an upcoming blog or go here. And three, I was a judge in the Cybils Fiction Picture Book category. It was a tough job, but so much fun to work with Pam Coughlin of the Cybils organization and the other judges: Laura Given, Dawn Mooney, Jodell Sadler, Caryn Schafer, Melissa Wiley, and Paula Willey. See the 2013 Finalists list here.

This year, I want to continue studying PBs and writing for that market, but I want to expand into writing for older kids. I also want to research agents and publishers in more depth, take more workshops, and study the craft. By year end, I want to have a dozen or so polished manuscripts and an agent representing me. Watch me do it.

What will I see you do in 2014?

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My reign ends soon.

It’s almost time to disrobe (hey, watch where your mind travels) and turn in my gavel. My duties as a Cybils judge are coming to a close. It’s been a revealing and satisfying experience. If you write for children (and blog about kidlit), I recommend you consider volunteering for this task next year.

Along with other books in various categories, 224 fiction picture books were in the competition. The next step will be to join the other six judges in deciding which books will go on to be finalists. As a group, we need to select fewer than ten. Ten! From more than 200. There are a few books I think we’ll all agree on, but others — well, I’m looking forward to the discussion as each of us champions our favorites.

Speaking of favorites, here are mine from the 86 picture books I read in November:

  • DIGBY DIFFERS by Miriam Koch, 2013, Peter Pauper Press
  • THE GIRL WITH THE BRAVE HEART, A TALE FROM TEHRAN by Rita Jahanforuz, illustrated by Vali Mintzi, 2013, Barefoot Books
  • GOBBLE YOU UP! by Gita Wolf, illustrated by Sunita, 2013, Tara Books Pvt. Ltd.
  • IT’S USEFUL TO HAVE A DUCK / IT’S USEFUL TO HAVE A BOY by Isol, 2009, Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)
  • THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS by Bil Lepp, ill Davit T. Wenzel, 2013, Peachtree Publishers
  • MY BLUE IS HAPPY by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien, 2013, Candlewick Press
  • ONE FROZEN LAKE by Deborah Jo Larson, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher, 2012, Minnesota Historical Society Press
  • SNOWFLAKES FALL by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated byl Steven Kellogg, 2013, Random House CB (Random House)
  • TAP THE MAGIC TREE by Christie Matheson, 2013, Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins Children’s Books (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • THE TORTOISE & THE HARE by Jerry Pinkney, 2013, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Books)
  • THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS FOLLOWS HER HEART by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier, 2013, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Books)

Check them out, picture book lovers.


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