Monday, June 24, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Lola Shapes the Sky by Wendy Greenley (by the Author)

 The Story Behind LOLA SHAPES THE SKY 
by Wendy Greenley 
illustrated by Paolo Domeniconi

I started writing Lola Shapes the Sky in 2012. The idea had been noodling around in my head for a while, and I felt like I was finally ready to put it down on paper. It was going to be a book about clouds looking down at people. I wrote a humorous story, set in cloud school. I had it critiqued by my local critique partners, and eventually by peers at an SCBWI conference and then by an editor at the conference. The editor who gave me my critique seemed to like the story, and I had high hopes for it. Sky high hopes.

At the time, I was unagented, and I sent the manuscript to a few other editors who responded asking me to send more work, but saying that this manuscript wasn’t a good fit for them. I put the manuscript away and worked on other stories.

I decided to get more editorial input on my work and saved up for Picture Book Boot Camp at The Highlights Foundation. If you ever get the chance to attend any one of their workshops, I highly recommend it! My workshop featured Author/Illustrators Pat Cummings, Denise Fleming, Paul O. Zelinsky, agent Rachel Orr, Art Director Laurent Linn and author Bruce Degen. As part of the application process, I submitted a manuscript about a chicken, and my round-table group gave me feedback on it, but when it came time to discuss one of the manuscripts we loved with the agent and art director, I couldn’t get LOLA out of my mind, and I shared that story.

The Highlights workshop changed my literal and figurative perspective. I FINALLY realized that the problem with the manuscript wasn’t my words per se, it was that the physical viewpoint limited an illustrator. When I returned from the workshop, LOLA went back in the drawer to steep. Finally, about a year later, I couldn’t get LOLA out of my head and went back with fresh eyes, and rewrote the entire manuscript. It’s a totally different plot now. No school. More Awww, less Haaa! And that’s fine with me! My story about a cloud who doesn’t fit in and remains true to herself, realizing that she has to be who she is remains. The heart of the story beats stronger than ever. The new version of the story connected me with my agent and publisher. And now it’s out in the world for everyone to read.

Jacket Flap: “Lola is not like the other clouds. While they are busy making shade and rain and snow, as clouds do, Lola makes shapes. “Clouds make weather, not shapes!” thunders Thor. But while Thor’s thunder makes people run for cover, Lola’s fantastic shapes inspire awe and wonder.  Clouds make weather and shapes, after all.”
Author Bio: Wendy Greenley doesn’t mind if you say she has her head in the clouds. With her recent picture book debut, she’s on cloud nine with her main character, Lola. Besides writing for children, Wendy has been a telephone interviewer (sorry), ice cream scooper, night security guard, microbiologist and attorney. Wendy graduated with her M.S. in microbiology from The University of Delaware and a J.D. from Villanova University. You can find seven of her nonfiction stories for adults in Chicken Soup for the Soup anthologies (and on a Chicken Soup dog food bag!).

Meet Wendy—

Sunday, June 23, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves by Lauren Kerstein (by Lauren Kerstein)

feature on
My Word Playground!

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Lynne! Congratulations on your upcoming books: MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES and LET’S EAT: MEALTIMES AROUND THE WORLD.
Writing challenges, swim team, and flexibility (i.e., saying “YES!) helped me create ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES.
Let me explain:
In April 2016, I read a ReFoReMo post by Tammi Sauer about structure. I was fascinated by the myriad of structures we might use to write picture books. In May 2016, when I participated in NaPiBoWriWee, I was curious to see if I could write in different structures, so I challenged myself to do just that.

I wrote a “how to” book about putting your mommy to bed. It was fun and cute, but critiquers asked: “Can you make this more unique?”
I said, “YES! How about a dragon who wants to learn how to swim?!”

And then I revised. And revised. And revised.
At that time, I was one of the Parent Reps who ran our swim team (NOT a job for the weak). I hid in a corner revising Rosie and Charlie’s story. Ideas flooded me as I listened to the swift strokes of swimmers and wiped pool water from my face. If you’ve ever been a swim team parent, you know the trials and tribulations of keeping track of goggles, intense summer friendships, overcoming fears, and eating more sugar at swim meets than you thought humanly (or dragonly) possible.
 I subbed to critique group after critique group. (Including Lynne—thank you!)
And then I revised. And revised. And revised. Again.
I queried agent after agent after agent after agent until finally, Deborah Warren (East West Literary Agency) said “YES!”
Deborah asked, “Can you incorporate actual swim skills?”
I said, “Yes! What a terrific idea!”
So, I revised again.
When an editor asked, “Can you rewrite this as a character-focused manuscript with a more typical structure?”
I said, “YES!”
And revised again, until:
I am thrilled to share Rosie and Charlie with the world!
May you live courageously and make waves, just like Rosie and Charlie!

Lauren is giving away a critique and a copy of the book.

Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who loves reading, drinking tea, and devouring chocolate. Lauren currently lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, their two, daughters, Sarah and Danielle, and Hudson, the dog. Her picture book, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES, recently swam to shelves near you. She runs a critique business, is a member of SCBWI, is a judge for Rate Your Story, and is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek. Lauren also writes books in the mental health field. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts.

Website Link:
Social Media Links:
FB: @laurenkersteinauthor

Jacket Flap Copy from Book (Optional):
It’s summertime, and you’re invited for a rollicking day at the pool with Charlie and his pet dragon (and best friend!), Rosie. But be careful—swimming with a dragon can be, um, challenging. As Rosie and Charlie blow bubbles (don’t forget your umbrella!), practice flutter kicks (watch out for tidal waves!), and offer shoulder rides (hang on tight!), Rosie proves that dragons make the most fun pets ever. Now if only Charlie can keep Rosie’s attention focused on the rules at the pool and NOT on her gummy snacks (you know, the ones that cause stinky dragon breath!)…Grab your towels and sunscreen and join Rosie and Charlie for a fun-filled summer adventure!

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: No Bears Allowed by Lydia Lukidis (by Lydia Lukidis)


No Bears Allowed
By Lydia Lukidis

[Note: Apologies for spacing -- there are not only bears and rabbits, but GREMLINS!]

The story: Rabbit is afraid of many things, but most of all he’s afraid of gigantic, monstery,
BEARS! The very nervous Rabbit is soon confronted by his worst fear who appears
to be far more interested in making new friends than causing Rabbit any real harm.
Despite his apprehension, Rabbit agrees to join his jovial new acquaintance for dinner,
but wait a minute . . . is Bear planning to “have” Rabbit for dinner? In this tender story
about a very nervous rabbit and a lovable bear, Rabbit discovers that things aren’t
always as scary as they seem, and sometimes you may just have more in common with
others than you think.

The story behind the story:
The story being this story is particularly exciting! As writers, we feel immense joy
when our ideas come to life, and when our characters jump off the page. I feel privileged
and honored to have many published books under my belt. Each one holds a special place
in my heart. I started out my career writing eBooks, then moved onto to work-for-hire
projects. These were books for which I received directions from the publisher on what
to write about, and how. I went on to publish two trade pictures books, but again, I
worked with characters already created by the publisher. I do love this kind of work,
but my head was also bursting with so many other ideas of my own, waiting impatiently
to be unleashed.

And with NO BEARS ALLOWED, it all magically came together. For the first time,
my own ideas and characters were going to star in their very own book. I think I did
the “happy dance” for a week straight! The concept of the book trickled out slowly
but naturally. I’ve always been fascinated by bears. Then I imagined a bear who,
although looked menacing, was friendly, kooky, and lovable on the inside. My character
Bear quickly took flight. Then I thought it would be comical and also endearing if
another animal was petrified of bears. And with that, Rabbit was born in an instant.
Not only is he afraid of bears, but he’s also pretty much afraid of everything in between,
including his own shadow.

NO BEARS ALLOWED was always character-driven right from the start. Characters

came first, and story came second. It was not deliberate on my part, I just followed the

flow. I had two solid characters, Bear and Rabbit, who seemed like opposites. But…were

they? What would happen if one day, while Rabbit was going about his day, he came face

to face with his worst nightmare: a bear? Would his fears come true? Or would Bear

surprise him? It might just be that a most unlikely friendship might develop.

You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

A big thank-you to Alayne Christian and Steve Kemp from Blue Whale Press for seeing the magic in this story and to Tara J.
Hannon ( for making the most whimsical illustrations
in the world.

About the author:
Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with over 40 books and eBooks published, along with
numerous short stories, poems and plays. She writes fiction and nonfiction for ages 3-12,
and also composes educational texts. Her background is multi-disciplinary and spans the
fields of literature, science, and theater. Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love
of literacy and has been giving writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec
since 1999.

Social Media links:


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Monday, June 17, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Spring in the Woods and Summer at the Seashore by Claire Lordon (by Claire Lordon)


"Spring in the Woods" was the first book in this series that I illustrated and I knew that it would set the tone for the rest of the books. I grew up going hiking and camping but it had been a while since I’d gone. I decided to take a trip to the Capilano Bridge Suspension Park north of Vancouver to do some research and take some photos. 

I wanted to make sure I added something a little extra, that wasn’t included in the text. Visiting the park I came up with a few ideas including ferns and pinecones but I ultimately decided on mushrooms. Being submerged in a wooded area helped me understand the feeling I wanted to convey in the final book. 

For "Summer at the Seashore", I remembered going to the beach in Rhode Island. The beaches were wonderful because the sand was great for making sandcastles and the water was surprisingly warm in the summer. While I didn’t see many regular crabs there were numerous horseshoe crabs!

I wanted this book to have very graphic shapes and colors, similar to some art pieces I made in the past. The nature of the book being a 'search and find' book is suitable for flat, graphic, images. This way the reader might be somewhat tricked where something is, but at the same time, young minds can look for similar shapes and colors to find the desired object. You may notice that there is a path on the bottom of the Spring book. It matches up with the seafoam on the Summer book. These paths will also align with the Fall and Winter books too.

The colors were very important choices as well. I wanted them to immediately convey the idea and warmth of each season. 
I had such a fun time creating the art for these books and I hope you enjoy them too!

Jacket flap from Spring: 
So much to see and do on a walk in the woods in the spring! We can find and count all the animals, flowers, and insects as more and more appear and change positions from page to page; we can look at all the different colours; we can join in the fun.
This new series of picture books has the repetition children enjoy, along with colourful, cheerful illustrations packed with things to look for, and an engaging story line. 
Join us on our lively walk!

Jacket flap from Summer:
So much to see and do on a walk at the seashore in the summer! We can find and count all the animals, flowers, and insects as more and more appear and change positions from page to page; we can look at all the different colours; we can join in the fun.

This new series of picture books has the repetition children enjoy, along with colourful, cheerful illustrations packed with things to look for, and an engaging story line. Join us on our lively walk!

Author Bio:
Claire Lordon is an illustrator and designer living in Vancouver, Canada. She creates children's books, surface designs, murals, maps, and greeting cards for a number of companies.
Claire earned her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design, with a focus in digital illustration, educational media, and surface design. 
Her work is inspired by her lifelong spirit for adventure, a love of the outdoors, and an enthusiasm for travel. She enjoys long distance running, hiking, and snowboarding.

Twitter: @ClaireLordon
Instagram: clairelordondesign

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Pencil's Perfect Picture by Jodi McKay (As Told by Jodi McKay)

“A playful tale for anyone who has ever wanted to create something ‘just right.’”

This quote from the jacket of PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE completely captures the essence of the book. It’s a fun story with creative characters, bright colors, and a touch of humor, but it also addresses a deeper topic of striving for perfection and the expectations we place on ourselves to be, act, create “perfectly”. The book didn’t start out that way though.

When I first sat down to write PENCIL, it was going to be a continuation of sorts from my first book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS? which ends with the characters asking for Pencil to draw them the perfect pictures for the story they just wrote. My editor at Albert Whitman & Co. liked the story and picked it up, but with a few changes that I think took it to the next level. She suggested that I have Pencil draw a picture for someone special, his dad. This added heart to the story and it became relatable to kids who often draw pictures for the special people in their lives.

Blending that emotion in to the story made me think about my son’s art and how his approach to drawing has evolved over the years. He used to be so carefree, drawing and presenting me with his latest creation that may have taken some explanation, but I loved nevertheless. Now, he erases more, scribbles out ideas, or hits the restart button repeatedly and I can’t imagine where he came up with his standard of perfection. Doesn’t he know that all of his artwork is perfect to me?

While I hope this book is entertaining and the character’s distinct personalities produce a few laughs, what I really want is for kids (and adults!) to know that what they do is enough, that art isn’t perfect, that there really isn’t anything that is perfect. I want them to create for the sake of creating and have fun using their imaginations without pressure or expectations.

Drawing, coloring, painting, sculpting, making is so beneficial for childhood development. For more information on why go to: The Importance of Art in Childhood Development
For fun craft or drawing ideas to do with your kids go to: Crafts For Kids

Photo credit: Riley W.

Bio: Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and the forthcoming picture book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019). Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.
Want to chat with Jodi? You can find her here:
Instagram- jodimckay1


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