A PiBoIdMo 2014 O.M.G. Moment

piboidmo2015participantIn October I was cleaning and organizing files, preparing to add 30 more inspirational picture book tidbits from Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo 2015 Challenge. I discovered a manila folder, stuffed with notes, stuck in a three ring binder. Although I’m not prone to text-speak, I had an O.M.G. moment. But let’s begin at the beginning…

Day 7 of PiBoIdMo 2014 featured this brilliant post from Jen Arena about her George Stanley Idea Generator.  Jen said George was known around Golden Books as “Captain Hook because, more than any other author we’d worked with, George had a knack for coming up with books with hooks, books that kids really and truly wanted to read based on the idea alone.” She offered this clever chart and suggested we pick two words from the chart, mash ’em together with a kid-friendly hook and PRESTO! Story inspiration.






In December Tara emailed me with the welcome news that my name had been drawn as the winner of the Day 7 prize, a thirty-minute brainstorming session/Q&A/editorial consult with Jen. Wow – out of 523 comments, somehow I’d gotten very lucky!

I knew I didn’t want to waste this great opportunity. Jen has twenty years of experience as an editor with Putnam, Golden Books, and Random House and has been writing for kids just as long.  Her books include Besos for Baby and 100 Snowmen, plus dozens of readers for DK, Penguin Young Readers, and Kane Press. 100 snowmen

I sent emails thanking Tara and Jen, promising to be in touch after the holidays to set up the consult. Next I asked my library to reserve every book Jen had written so I could study them. The books trickled in, I made a list of questions, debated which of my PiBoIdMo ideas I could ask her about, and then…forgot to follow up.

Until October! When that manila file fell into my lap, I sent a speedy apologetic email and Jen kindly agreed to chat with me despite the lengthy delay.  And it was terrific! Jen shared up-to-the minute information on picture book trends and how editors, authors and illustrators work together to polish manuscripts into books. We had a chance to indulge in some myth-busting about the book industry (i.e. do clown and/or snake books sell?) and she gave me some terrific suggestions for a particularly pesky story idea that I’m trying to nail down.

Write from the perspective of a different character, she suggested, or change the time and place where the story occurs. Write multiple versions and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. The best advice she gave me? “You’re only limited by the amount of time and effort that you are willing to dedicate in order to write the best book you can write.”

Jen also offers freelance editing services if you wish to contact her via her website. I’m sure you would find that she is a skillful, reflective and talented resource able to help you strengthen and refine your writing skills.  I hope sharing a few tidbits of  Jen’s wisdom will serve you well as you begin turning PiBoIdMo 2015 ideas into stories, or mashing them up a la the George Stanley Idea Generator. And if you are lucky enough to have your name drawn as a PiBoIdMo prizewinner – I hope you prepare well and follow-up promptly!

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Goodnight Halloween

Halloween 2013 024Goodnight Halloween

In the dark gray room
Lay a tattered costume
A dim glow-stick
And a bent witch broom
And the smell of
Fresh chocolate’s sugar perfume

And there were three little ghosts
Haunting a house
And a pair of black cats
With a little toy mouse
And a sad saggy pumpkin, flame guttered out

Goodnight room
Goodnight broom
Goodnight sweets I can’t consume
Goodnight mouse
Goodnight cat
Goodnight house and witch’s hat

Goodnight glowstick
Goodnight ghosts
Goodnight pumpkin-love you most
Goodnight socks and tired feet
Goodnight Halloween
Goodnight trick or treat

Come join the fun at Susanna Leonard Hill’s Fifth Annual Halloweensie event!
Write a spook-tacular story for little ones no more than 100 words long, using the words costume, dark and haunt.  Share your post on Susanna’s blog, then follow the links to read and enjoy dozens of fabulously creative Halloweensie tales.

Thanks for reading my 91 word ode to Margaret Wise Brown’s beloved Goodnight Moon (link will take you to a very sweet animation narrated by Susan Sarandon). For a sillier, spookier tribute, try Michael Rex’s Goodnight Goon parody.

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Make Way for Animal Tales: Sculpture by Nancy Schön

2015 September E 037Nancy Schön has devoted much of her time and considerable talent to creating sculptures for non-profit, charitable organizations including hospitals, libraries, colleges and public gardens. Her works honor nurses, victims of domestic violence, missing children and cancer survivors, and raise funds for the blind, prevention of cruelty to animals, music schools, the elderly, and local community alliances.

2015 September E 058One of her most beloved public art pieces in the Boston area is Make Way for Ducklings, installed in 1987 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Boston Public Gardens. The bronze pays tribute to Robert McClosky’s popular children’s book, written in 1941, about a family of eight ducklings led safely by their mother through busy Beantown intersections with the assistance of a kind-hearted police officer.

2015 September E 030Classic books? Adorable ducklings? Illustrations? Sculpture? I could hardly wait to attend the opening of Animal Tales: Sculpture by Nancy Schön at the Wenham Museum on September 19th. It was spectacular! Filled with full size sculptures and tiny maquettes, everything could be touched, caressed, hugged and even ridden! Many maquettes were mounted to lazy-susan style display platforms that could be rotated to show every angle of the featured creature. The walls were hung with McCloskey original sketches, two Eric Carle giclee prints, and informative placards about Nancy’s lost wax cast bronze process. Here’s a glimpse of the exhibit:

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From McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal”

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Maquette for “Blueberries for Sal” Original in Boothbay, Maine.

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To celebrate the exhibit opening, the Wenham Museum prepared a special room with tables, clay, and sculpting tools so guests could create their own mini-masterpieces. Lots of little artists were inspired to make mythical beasts, cartoon characters or their family pets. Eavesdropping on their stream-of-consciousness storytelling while they rolled, pinched, squeezed and shaped their creations was half the fun! We came home with a swirled snail, a magic fish, and the requisite artist/ fangirl photo souvenir:

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We met Nancy Schön in person!

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I love that Nancy intends her work to be interactive, placing her art in accessible locations and creating them in child-friendly sizes. Her animals invite viewers to touch them, and they in turn touch our hearts. I’ve never stopped to admire the Boston ducklings without finding kids – little, big and all grown-up – swarming around to ride, pet, and hug Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, Quack and Mrs. Mallard.

The Wenham Museum exhibit runs through January 3, 2016, but if you can’t make it to Boston I highly recommend this terrific clip from Boston’s Chronicle about Nancy’s career, sculpture, and power tools! Set in her studio, it really captures the artist’s warmth, charm and thoughtful design: http://www.schon.com/about/wcvb.php

It has been some time since I’ve indulged in an Artist Date, a little “assigned play” per the wisdom of Julia Cameron. Meeting Nancy and spending a full day enjoying and exploring her art helped replenish my well of inspiration. To look back at some of my previous Artist Date posts, you may enjoy reading:

Follow Me to Folly Cove: Virginia Lee Burton

Spilled Paint – deCordova Series

An Artist Date with Milo and Thackery


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Adorable Guinea Pig Chooses Book Winner

Inspired by Cynthia Lord, whose sweet guinea pig Cookie selects her book giveaway winners, we proudly present the results for Maria Gianferrari’s debut picture book giveaway Penny & Jelly: The School Show as chosen by Storm!

Names were written on slips of paper and mixed in a bowl.
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Storm faced his options…
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And after bring fortified with a basil leaf…
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nibbled selected the lucky winner!
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Congratulations Lisa Robinson!

2015 July D 054Please forward your mailing address to cmealey@post.harvard.edu and a brand, spanking, sparkling new copy of Penny & Jelly: The School Show will be mailed to you!

Thank you everyone for your comments sharing your terrific school show talent ideas.

Congratulations again Maria!

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Meet PENNY & JELLY, and Maria Gianferrari too!

penny-jellycover_lresI am thrilled to welcome Maria Gianferrari to Bildebok as her charming debut picture book Penny & Jelly: The School Show  illustrated by Thyra Heder  launches into the world!

Amazon* raves about Maria’s adorable debut: This young and funny picture book introduces the soon-to-be star of her school talent show: Penny. Despite her desire to knock everyone’s socks off, Penny’s having a tough time deciding on what talent she might have.  Readers of Pinkalicious and Ladybug Girl will swoon over the talent of Penny & Jelly.  *Don’t miss the sneak peek at this Amazon link showing Thyra’s fascinating creative process for illustrating Penny & Jelly!

Kirkus says, Penny and Jelly are sure to warm the hearts of both future talent-show contestants and readers who have similarly close canine friends.

Through email, Maria and I discovered that we grew up less than thirty miles apart from one another! We had fun imagining all the spots where we might have met once upon a time in rural New England.  Since Maria describes herself as a list-maker just like her character Penny,  I dreamed up a few list-related questions for this talented, creative and prolific author.

Think back to when you were six years old. Imagine you are planning your birthday party. What three games are we going to play?

1. Hide & Seek
2. Clue
3. Sorry

Maria got a nifty pair of binoculars as a birthday gift! What three things will she go outside and look for?

1. Birds
2. Birds
3. Birds (I’m a complete bird nerd). But if I have to pick a different one, it would be the moon.

Your website features two clever animated scrolls detailing your likes and dislikes. That’s how I discovered that we both love nocciola gelato! Can you share three of your favorite snacks to munch while writing?

1. Not really a snack, but a huge mug of hot tea. My favorite is a tea that I buy in Germany, Nizze Sahne Tee (Cream tea from Nice—it’s an aromatic black tea).
2. Lime chips with guacamole (but I need a few napkins for this one!)
3. Almonds & craisins

Let’s pretend you’ve finished the book launches and promotions for your first three books. Now it’s time to unwind and rejuvenate your writing soul. Name three places that you would like to go on vacation.

1. To Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland to stay in a glass igloo and watch auroras
2. Australia to explore its cool flora, fauna and the Great Barrier Reef (but not swim with sharks)
3. To the Galapagos Islands to see Darwin’s finches, among other unusual creatures

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Author photo courtesy of Monogram Arts

Repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.

Look for many more books from Maria titles being released in 2016 and 2017, including:

Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars, illustrated by Thyra Heder (HMH Books for Young Readers/June 2016)
• Coyote Moon, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Roaring Brook Press/July 2016)
• Officer Katz & Houndini: A Tale of Two Tails, illustrated by Danny Chatzikonstantinou (Aladdin Books for Young Readers/October 2016)
• Hello Goodbye Dog, illustrated by Patrice Barton (Roaring Brook Press/winter 2017)
• Highway Hawks, illustrated by Brian Floca (Roaring Brook Press/summer 2017)
• Terrific Tongues (Boyds Mills Press—illustrator & release date to be determined)

My daughter and I were so excited to attend Maria’s book launch party at the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene NH on Saturday morning.  Surrounded by family, friends and lots of eager young readers the Toadstool SOLD OUT of Maria’s books! Here is a photo from the long line for inscribed copies of Penny & Jelly, and a fun photo booth shot that Maria and I took together. Flamingo sunglasses, a palette, boa and tutu!

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To enter a drawing for your very own copy of Penny & Jelly: The School Show, leave a comment with your name and the talent that you would perform in your school show. The lucky winner’s name will be pulled from a hat and announced here in two weeks.

If you have missed any stops on the Penny & Jelly blog tour, please visit these amazing kid lit sites:

June 26th: Kidlit411/Sylvia Liu & Elaine Kiely Kearns

 June 29th: Miss Marple’s Musings/Joanna Marple

June 30th: Pragmatic Mom/Mia Wenjen

 July 1st: Watch Connect Read/Mr. Schu

July 2nd: Kidlitfrenzy/Alyson Beecher

July 3rd: Writing for Kids While Raising Them/Tara Lazar

 July 6th – Friday, July 10th: Emu’s Debuts virtual book week launch

July 14th: HMH Picture Book Parade


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“Timely” Post at Laura Sassi Tales

2015 June 009 (7)I am thrilled to be a guest blogger today at one of my favorite blogs, Laura Sassi Tales. Follow the link below for some thoughts on the power of patience from Jennifer Roberts and John Singleton Copley!

Link: Laura Sassi Tales


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Pondering Picture Book Re-Readability

refoBook challenges – as a rule I cannot resist them!

March featured a spectacular event called ReFoRevMo, the brain-child of Carrie Charley Brown.

Carrie was inspired to start ReFoReMo, the Reading for Research Month Challenge, to help picture book writers enrich and reform their writing by reading and researching mentor texts, both fiction and nonfiction.

Every  jam-packed expert post had me jotting notes and adding more titles to my maxed out library reserve list. A terrific post on re-readability from Susanna Leonard Hill really stuck in my brain. It was filled with “truthiness” about the magical qualities that cause certain books to stand out and become cherished favorites. As Susanna noted, that intangible factor that is different for every writer, every story, and every reader. 

Well worn personal copy of The Bundle Book

Well worn personal copy of The Bundle Book

But why do we choose to re-read certain books? When I was little, my mother insisted that my favorite title was The Bundle Book by Ruth Krauss. I asked her to read it over and over, but did that mean it was my favorite? No! I just didn’t “get” the story. I was worried about the mystified mother who did not recognize that the “bundle” in the bed was obviously her own child. I continued to ask for re-readings, hoping eventually I’d figure out what it was all about.

Thankfully, it is much easier to identify the reasons I choose to re-read books today. Susanna’s excellent post names them all! Today when I close the cover of a picture book, I stop and think:

 What was my favorite line?
What was my favorite image?

With some books the answers leap forward. They persist long after my last re-reading. For example:

Favorite Line  From Sophie’s Squash: “We did hope she would love vegetables.”
Favorite Image The cover of Wolfie the Bunny


Image courtesy of Schwartz & Wade



Image courtesy of Hachette







And sometimes my favorite line and illustration are paired together.

From Sparky: “I reached over and tagged him on his claw. You’re it, Sparky,” I said. And for a long, long time he was.”

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Image from personal copy of “Sparky!”

I’d love to hear what some of your favorite picture book  lines and images are.

And just for fun, here’s a link to a recent Kirkus  article called Picture Books Parents Will Actually Want to Read Over and Over.

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