December 2018 Archives

You dont make art out

You don't make art out of good intentions.
Gustave Flaubert

Creativity is born from two

Creativity is born from two seemingly unrelated things suddenly making a new kind of sense together.
Jess Keating

You Must Bring a Hat!

Perfect Picture Book Friday

You Must Bring a Hat.pngYou Must Bring a Hat! (Sterling Children's Books, 2016) by Simon Philip and Illustrated by Kate Hindley is a humorous picture book about a young boy trying to get into Nigel's party. The doorman keeps coming up with more and more difficult requirements, like monocles for monkeys and pink tutus for elephants. The twist ending is fun.

This is Simon Philip's first book. Read more about the author here and see his other picture books here.

You can see a number of Kate Hindley's illustrations here and read about her and all of her books here.

A Unicorn Named Sparkle

Perfect Picture Book Friday

amy-young-art-a-unicorn-named-sparkle-cvr-500x621.jpgA Unicorn Named Sparkle (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016) by Amy Young is darling. Lucy sees an ad for a unicorn for 25 cents and sends away for one. She names his Sparkle and imagines how he'll be and what she'll do with him. But Sparkle does not live up to her expectations. In fact, she's going to send him back. But . . .

I won't spoil the end for you. Suffice it to say, it's a cute story with a feel-good ending. The illustrations are fun, too. And now there's a series of stories about Sparkle. The newest one is A Unicorn Named Sparkle's First Christmas.amy-young-art-sparkles-first-christmas-cvr-500x621.jpg

Learn about the author/illustrator here. Discover more about Sparkle here and watch the hilarious trailer.

The mere habit of writing

The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write.
Gabriel Fielding

Article Writing for Kids' Magazines

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Writing nonfiction for magazines is a good way to break into print. Editors get less article submissions than they do fiction.

Often editors tell you what they are looking for. For example, Highlights for Children posts their current needs on submittable. Their info was updated in November. Jack and Jill submission guidelines state: "We are especially interested in features or Q&As with regular kids (or groups of kids) in the Jack and Jill age group who are engaged in unusual, challenging, or interesting activities." Root and Star is looking for nonfiction about water for their July/August 2019 issue (deadline end of March).

You may be familiar with big name magazines, but how do you find the smaller or lesser known ones? Via online sources such as Evelyn B. Christensen's site. Or this resource, Magazine Markets for Children's Writers that comes out annually. Check out libraries and bookstores to see physical copies of print magazines as well. Then you can search online for these magazines' submission guidelines.

You've chosen a market, and even a topic, now what? Research. Here are some things to keep in mind:


  • Don't solely use internet sources. Editors will appreciate that you've used books, magazines, interviews, etc.

  • Wikipedia is only useful in giving you an overview that may or may not be accurate, and when you use it to follow up with the sources listed at the bottom of an article.

  • As you take notes, record where you got the information. You'll send the bibliography of your sources with your article. There are now apps and software that can keep track of this information for you. This site lists some options.

  • Using quotes in an article can really bring it to life. Copy these verbatim as you research.

  • Be prepared that your research might take you in a different direction from your plan.

  • Go deep with research and you may find some fascinating facts that will make your article pop.

Here's a great resource on finding credible sources.

Before you write your article, ask yourself, "What is the main point I want to get across to my reader?" With that in mind you will create a more focused piece.

Next, get organized. Create a simple outline. It can be as basic as:
• Introduction
• Section one (be specific to your topic!)
• Section two
• Section three
• Conclusion

Now write your first draft.

When finished, make sure each paragraph (or two) fits the topic of the outlined section. (It's okay to adjust your outline, but paragraphs should have a mini-theme. Some magazines even use headers for sections and your simple outline can become those headers.)

Check the beginning. Is your title intriguing in some way? Does the opening draw a reader in? It could ask a question, be a short anecdote, make a provocative statement, etc.

Is the middle meaty? Full of good details? Interesting? More than what is general public knowledge.

Check the end. Does your article have a satisfying conclusion or just dribble to a stop? Sometimes, articles conclude with a statement that makes the piece feel it has come full circle--or in other words, the end ties back to the beginning.

Prepare your bibliography. There are many online resources on how to write one, but this website has links to how to include almost anything.

After setting your article aside for a week or two, come back and revise. If you have a critique group or beta readers, share and revise again.

Prepare to send...

Double check that:
• your article fits the required word count of the magazine.
• the accuracy of your quotes.
• the magazine's deadline hasn't passed.
• how to submit (electronically, through a form, via postal mail).
• write a query or cover letter, if necessary, and proofread carefully.
• read your article through one more time, checking for grammar and spelling errors.
• proof your bibliography.

Send. And make up a list of possible other places to send the article to if you get a rejection. (This may require further revisions or slanting.)

If you get an acceptance, celebrate! You're a soon-to-be published (or republished) author.

It is with words as

It is with words as with sunbeams-the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.
Robert Southey

Button and Bundle Cover Release

Button and Bundle.jpgIt's especially fun to talk about an upucoming release when the book is written by someone you know. Even better when it's a critique partner! Introducing Button and Bundle (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019) by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan and illustrated by Gillian Flint.

The Story Behind the Story in Gretchen's Words

Button and Bundle is a story very close to my heart. I was raised in a highly-mobile military family and moved more times than any young heart should bear. Some good-byes were tougher than others, but none as tough as saying good-bye to my first friend. We both loved dolls and made clothes and furniture and homes for them. After moving away, I can't remember ever playing with dolls again. I don't know what happened to my doll either. Button and Bundle is the story of what happened in my heart.

We can often mark the changes in children's lives by what they are playing with, as well as what they are ready to leave behind. Favorite toys are vehicles for rich imaginative play between young friends. When children are abruptly separated, they lose this unique world too. In Button and Bundle, Button honors and finds a way to keep alive the world she created with Bundle. Button is resilient, like I was, and moves forward to make a new friend and create new worlds. And she learns, like I did, that true friendship lives forever in the heart.

When I committed myself to writing for children, I was led by the beauty of the form of the picture book and a desire to give voice to the unheard child. I didn't meet myself in print until I was an adult and read a sociological text about growing up military. That experience was both a homecoming and an awakening, and I pledged to give this experience to others to the best of my ability. I pledged to represent the experience of the nomadic child, the Third Culture Kid, particularly the military child, in literature so they wouldn't have to wait as long as I did.

Yet my stories are for all children. In an interview in Children's Book Insider (March 2017), my editor was asked to describe a book that she knew right away that she had to buy. She responded, "I recently acquired a picture book text that I fell in love with immediately. It's the story of two little girls who are best friends, and one of them has to move away. The author managed to evoke so much emotion in such a spare, simple text that it blew me away."
Later, in an email to my agent she wrote, "From the moment I opened this submission, I knew it was a special one. As I began to read ... I knew this manuscript had everything I was searching for. It's incredibly sweet and gorgeously written, with just the right amount of sensitivity. I love the way the author honors very young friendship, and accomplishes so much in the spare text."

Button and Bundle is ultimately a story for those who understand the true meaning of friendship. I am humbled and glad that this story will be in libraries and bookstores as of February 19, 2019 and deeply grateful for my terrific agent, Karen Grencik, my amazing editor, Karen Greenberg, and her team at Knopf and my extremely talented illustrator, Gillian Flint, who brought my Button and Bundle to life.

Button and Bundle is dedicated to my first friend, and to first friends everywhere.

What was the timeline for your book from writing it to publication?

Button and Bundle's life on paper began in March 2015 when I wrote the first draft longhand. I work back and forth between longhand and the computer, printing each draft to read aloud, workshop and revise. I submitted what I was calling The Cheer-up Yellow Balloon to my agent a month later. Our search for the perfect editor and house ended with an offer from Knopf in August of 2016. I wanted to shout my news to the world, but had to practice patience until my contract and the illustrator's were signed. Knopf announced the sale in May of 2017 in Publishers Weekly. I got a sneak preview of Gillian Flint's sketches that July and her beautiful final art in October, 2017. It's always a huge thrill to receive the "folded and gathered" unbound pages of a new book. The F&Gs for Button and Button were in my hand in May 2018, and I got to hug the hardback book for first time in November 2018. Now I'm waiting to celebrate Button and Bundle's book birthday/release date on February 19, 2019 with small cakes and lemonade. I hope you'll celebrate with me too.

Author's Bio

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools as an author. She is an active member of SCBWI and writes chapter books and middle-grade fiction as well.

Gretchen grew up as a global nomad, daughter of a career Army officer, and lived on three continents. Gretchen had to leave many friends behind, but they lived on in her heart. She has settled in Camas, WA where she lives with her husband, cat and dog, stunt squirrels, marauding neighborhood chickens, and celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. Children will find a home in her heartfelt books about community, courage and compassion.
When she isn't writing or teaching, Gretchen can be found reading, playing word games, baking, sewing, hiking in the woods, cross-country skiing and attending plays. Please visit Gretchen at gretchenmclellan.com for more information about her books, events and author visits.

She is the author of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 (Peachtree, 2017), I'm Done! (Holiday House, 2018), When your Daddy's a Soldier (Beach Lane, 2020), and No Party Poopers (Little Bee, 2020).