Spring News From The Writing And Reading Front

Winter is officially over, even though it’s not always obvious everywhere in our own vast country and even in my native France.

Yet, change is in the air and it’s up to us to watch carefully for the subtle hints of a new season.

In my neck in the woods I witness the way nature switches gear and engages me to move forward.

I am so grateful for the people who’ve helped me transition from the dark days of winter to the glowing light of spring.

 

  • The revisions my agent asked me to tackle on my Picture Book manuscript are now completed. Her comments pushed me to reconsider some passages and even words. They also involved some cuts. Most authors will agree that it is the hardest part, particularly when we remember how we struggled to come up with a certain sentence. In the end, however, shorter is almost always better. My agent has just informed me that she is now ready for submission. I’m excited, of course, and a little anxious, too. But above all I still cannot believe that I will no longer have to write those pitches and query letters to editors. Thank you, Laurel for doing this for me!

 

  • My author friend Stacey, met at a book festival a few years ago, has launched her own Podcast The Bookshop at the End of the Internet, entirely dedicated to helping book lovers discover new authors. If you are one of them or both, check this podcast out. Thank you, Stacey for inviting me over. Here is the link to the chat we had together.

 

  • Blog Zone is one the most legit sources for writers of all levels. Nancy Sanders, widely published, offers tips, links to editors and agents’ websites as well as inspirational posts. I’ve often used Blog Zone when submitting my manuscripts. Nancy also runs authors ‘ interviews. Thank you for having me over, Nancy.

 

  • Rate Your Story is a unique platform created by children’s authors for children’s authors. They offer paid critiques by published and often award-winning authors in all genres, but also contests with cool prizes, and a bounty of reliable information. You can also become a member and reap lots of valuable benefits. Rate Your Story is also a great place to find support and camaderie. My essay from nonnative English speaker to agented author will be published in May. Thank you, Heather and Sophia for hosting me later this spring.

 

I was a reader before being a writer, so I will always remain inspired by the books I read. Due to my last project but also to my current one, I’ve read many biographies and narrative nonfiction Picture Books over the last two years. Below is a very short selection of my recent favorites. With no order of preference:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Stacy Innerst

Isn’t the title perfect? The book is too. Really.

Jonah Winter is the author of many nonfiction Picture Books. Until now my favorite was his Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!

But his bio of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg changed my mind.

The book is cleverly written as it blends narrative and the facts of Ginsburg’s case, introduced as they would in a trial with evidence and exhibits.

Most American people know the important elements about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but young readers will discover an extraordinary journey from her family origins to her seat on the Supreme Court.

From her birth in 1933 from two parents who had fled Europe for New York to escape anti-Jewish persecution to her achievement, Ruth has met and overcome many obstacles. Physically unassuming, soft-spoken, but doted with a brilliant mind and relentless determination she faced unfairness and combated it so girls would finally be as valued as boys, so women would finally have the right to achieve. Her triumph remains a timeless and timely example and inspiration for girls and for us all.

 

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Sophia Gholz; illustrated by Kayla Harren

From one of my author friends, the true story of a boy who embarked on the impossible task to plant trees in order to act against the devastating consequences of deforestation that affected his island home in India. From a few bamboos Jadav would grow a 1 300 acre-forest where fauna and flora would eventually return.

Kids will understand and respect Jadav’s genuine concern for the damage done to nature. They will discover that an idea, even from a young person, has the potential to turn things around, and will be inspired by Jadav’s decision to act against all odds. The author has done more than her homework and it shows through the text as well as in the last pages that include additional information, a glossary and tips on planting. The illustrator has also done a great job. My favorite illustrations are the gorgeous depictions of the islands and the forest.

Last but not least, a book about a very unique librarian. Whether in France, where I often found refuge within their walls, or in the USA, where I learned how to read and write in English, libraries are my homes away from home.

Library on Wheels Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile by Sharlee Glenn

This is the story of a girl who wanted to do things and was told she could not. She was too young. She was born a girl. She was too poor. Some would have given up. Not Mary Titcomb. And we’re lucky since she’s the founder of the bookmobiles in the United States.

Born in 1852 in New Hampshire Mary became librarian in a world where women could only be teachers or nurses.

This is in Concord, Massachusetts that Mary started her career. As a quick personal note, my family has lived there and I’ve spent hours at the library nestled in the heart of the historical town and still keep particular fond memories of the friendly staff there. From Concord Mary’s career took off. The book follows her relentess goal to bring books to everyone. Despite the many naysayers who opposed her creative ideas Mary remained focused. Her goal was to make sure than men, women and moreover children who lived in remote areas could receive their fair share of books. In 1905 she considered using a horse to carry books to them. Once more Mary faced opposition. But when she came up with a book wagon design that would hold two hundred books nobody could stop her.

By 1922 the book wagons, now motorized, had appeared in other parts of the country to the delight of people who would not have had access to books otherwise.

The bookmobile was born.

The book ends with an illustrated history of bookmobiles through the years and a compelling letter from the author who grew up in rural Utah and waited for the bookmobile that brought her books every two weeks.

I’ve often written about French idioms and expressions, mostly because I grew up with a mother who used tons of them. One of her favorites was: “Laziness is the mother of all vices.” I understood that she implied that inertia was a moral weakiness, too. Maybe those hours I spent reading didn’t appear very active 🙂

Now that I’m an adult, being active includes being ready for change too. When I fully embrace the idea and move on I am happier. This is what Mary Lemist Tibcomb said on the subject:

“The happy person is the person who does something.”

Mary Lemist Titcomb

 

So Wherever You Live, I Wish Each of You a Creative and Productive Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Did February Go?

Even though the month of February is the shortest, I always found it longer than any other when my kids were little and in school.

For the last four years, however, with no kids at home, February has gone by very quickly, only because of several book events that took me once more to different parts of Northern Florida.

And this year with the same events, but also a manuscript to revise and a new book project on my mind, the whole month vanished before my very eyes. But not without leaving vivid memories.

 

I never forget that I write for children and teenagers, so meeting with them is both my favorite and hardest part of being an author. I am told over and over again that I am a people person and it’s true that I love humankind. But I still need to push myself to face an audience, exactly as I had to when I was a kid at school. However, in the end, visiting a classroom, attending a book festival or being on a discussion panel at a public library is really the cherry on top for a writer.

Revising with an agent is a first for me. And let me tell you: I love it. Based on my agented critique partners/friends, I imagined that having my own agent would be a change in my life. My imagination didn’t disappoint. Working under the guidance of someone who knows the publishing industry on the back of her hand is a huge change. My agent’s comments on the manuscript she wants to help me publish have pushed me beyond regular revision. I worked on small sections of my manuscript that I knew could benefit from some trimming (I tend to write long). The same comments have also allowed me to read my work with a new set of eyes. It may seem dorky, but I enjoyed returning to the manuscript I wrote almost a year ago. I spotted a verb that I found a little weak and suggested a stronger one. I even came up with a different ending sentence, still based on the same comments. Definitely a first for me since I almost always know how I want to end a story and often write my last sentence before even starting a new manuscript.

Having an agent is also a relief in terms of the future. When I have an idea I get all fired up and I love the feeling. It’s exciting to start something new, even though it’s also a little scary. But having the goose bumps always wins over the fear factor. However, not all ideas have potential. When I was un-agented I did my homework and checked all books published on the same topic. But it’s impossible to predict if publishers are likely to respond positively to a manuscript, knowing that many months will pass from the idea until submission. Being able to share my latest Picture Book idea with my agent was also new to me. She loved it and encouraged me to move on with this project, which is fantastic of course, even though I have some serious work ahead of me. Knowing that someone who has your back is only an email or a phone call away is really a good feeling. I get it now when my author friends told me, “You’ll see what we mean when you also have your agent.”

 

Just a few highlights of my packed month of February, which I hope was as busily happy for any of you reading me today, as it was for me in my little corner of the world.

 

 

Month of March Here I Come!

 

 

 

 

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