You quit your full-time job to draw full time. Describe your thought process and committing to that decision.
Yes, I quit my full-time job in December 2016. It was not easy. It took me a year to discover that it was best for me and to be brave enough to do it! My worries were about money and the future. I also wondered if I'd be good enough. I have a supportive partner and we talked. He just wanted me to be happy. I haven't looked back. I'm looking forward to following the path that I know is right for me. Some people thought I was not thinking, that I was having an early midlife crisis, but I had enough of working in telesales roles. I want to use my actual talents. I enjoy being creative every moment of the day and enjoy having people looking at my work.
You've had an interesting journey!
Yes, I was always drawing and being creative when I was younger. I was very imaginative and made fun stories to tell my friends at school. I studied art and graphics at school with A-levels in my teenage years. At this point in time, I fell ill, suffering from anemia and panic attacks. I'm not too sure how they started, but at the time my parents split up and it was tough. It got to the point, I was scared to leave the house in the event of having a panic attack. So instead of going out, I stayed in, picked up a pencil and started drawing. It helped me to release my frustrations. I had help from friends and family. Then, at 19 years old, I met my partner. He has been my rock. He pushed me beyond what I thought I could never achieve in life. I owe a lot to him. I began to go out more and do things that scared me, such as going into town, walking down a street and other activities people would see as everyday/normal. When I met people who did not know about my condition, (I was worried they would think I was weird) I tried to act as normal as possible, all the while panicking on the inside. I learned to control myself even though my heart was racing. I began to have fun again. I became stronger and panicked less often. At 27 years old, I promised myself I would never go to that dark place again. A year later, I started writing a children's book about seahorses. I began illustrating it, but didn't think they were good enough. So, I enrolled in a creative arts program as a part-time student. I will complete my degree in two years’ time.
What inspires you?
I get ideas from my imagination and animals. I like capturing their personalities. I also really like messing about with paper, discovering different ways to use it (3D owl), sometimes scrunching it up (fish illustration) to give my my illustrations a cool textured effect.
I also like to create book covers. Here is my latest one I designed for Alice in Wonderland.
What are some of your favorite children’s book illustrators?
My favorites are Axel Scheffler who illustrated The Highway Rat and The Gruffalo. I love how he talks to the viewer and gets the message of the story across in his illustrations. Plus, they are bright and really pleasing to the eye. Bruce Whatley illustrated Diary of a Wombat. It’s a lovely story and the illustrations are beautiful.
Illustrator, Jayme McGowan is one of my latest finds. Jayme creates children’s book illustrations with paper. Please check out her work she is amazing and has a great individual style.
Do you have book recommendations for aspiring young illustrators?
I would recommend these two books.
Children's Book of Art by Rosie Dickins
Step-by-step Drawing Book by Fiona Watt (Author), Candice Whatmore (Illustrator)
They are great for learning how to draw and provide some great tips for children to begin their early career as an artist :)
How often do the middle schoolers get to visit the library during the school day/week?
The students get to come in during their lunch break and also after school on Mondays and Wednesdays until 3:00 pm. We are the only library in the district open after school. Many of the students do not have computer or internet access at home, so it's nice that we can provide this service for them.
How would you describe the state of your library and books?
Our books are very outdated and there has been very little funding for new books since I've been here. My dad actually donated many books my first year. In my second year, we were very fortunate, the PTA allocated $1000 for me to buy new books. This year, we are back to zero funding and donations from my dad.
At my daughter's school, this is the first year since first grade that there has been funding for a librarian at all. My daughter is in 6th grade now.
What resources get underutilized?
This library had not been used or open to the students for a few years. When I started three years ago, many kids didn't even know that the school had a library at all. The books themselves are very underutilized because the students hadn't been introduced to the Dewey Decimal System. Many do not know how to look up fiction books alphabetically. And these are 7th and 8th graders!!
What resources do the kids use most?
They come in to use the computers for homework and to work on class projects.
What are the most requested genre/book titles right now middle schoolers?
Right now, it's all about fantasy, young adult romance, and alternative societies.
How do you help the reluctant reader?
I usually find out where their interests lie and then I will suggest something that I have personally read. That way, I can check where they are in the book and we can discuss what they think might happen next.
When you do get funding, how do you decide which books to buy?
Last year, I had the kids that came to the library everyday, make a list of all the books they wanted. I bought from their list. We have a pretty great Manga section developing.
What do you want kids to know about the library that they probably don’t?
I think the middle school kids think the library is boring. Some don't even try to read. I would love to tap into their interests and find that one book that would open the world of reading to them. I want them to discover that the library isn't boring or scary. It could be a get away, a vacation to another world!!
What does the library have to offer that the internet does not?
I think that kids nowadays have a hard time with imagination. They are just so into watching something and having it portrayed for them. They are not really using their own thoughts and ideas. I think the library could help with that.
Do you see libraries in schools being phased out?
Yes.. I do. It's happened in my kids' school district. Libraries are usually the first to go when there are funding cuts. However, it is slowly coming back. I hope there will always be some funding for the libraries.
What will it take to keep this one running?
Hmmm.. That's hard to say. I think I'm here on a grant. It's not really ever talked about, but the rumor is that there was only funding for three years. I'm on my 3rd year here. I'm hoping that I'll get to come back next year. I would love it if our school could allocate at least $500-$1,000 for new books every year, but I don't know if that will happen. So I must wait to see who else is willing to donate.
What extracurricular programs does your library offer to entice kids to visit?
My first February here, I created "blind date with a book"... I wrapped up some books and put a brief summary on them. The kids didn't know which book they were getting until after they checked it out. That was fun.
I would love to do a book club, but finding enough copies of a single book is challenging.
How many kids might you find in the library on a lunch period?
There are two lunch periods. During each lunch, I usually get a maximum of 20 students, so about 40 a day, which is nice. Most come to use the computers, but I usually have 2 per period that really just come to read. I try to find special books for them. I'll even bring some of my own from home if we don't have it in the library. I don't want the students that are excited about reading to lose interest.
How many books can a student check out at a time?
They can check out three books and can keep them for two weeks.
How is your library making a difference in these kids lives?
I hope they know that they can come here and that it is a safe place to learn. A few graduates have come back to tell me about their high school libraries. So, it makes me hope that our little library influenced their desire to read and seek out other libraries!
To donate books to Garvey Intermediate contact Tricia Manell.
A couple of years ago, a dog turned up in my life. He was found down the street from my house, on Memorial Day, with rope tied to his neck. He was a gentle, rust colored, Lab mix and I fell in love with him that very day and adopted him. Being a new dog person, this sounded like a good premise for a picture book, so I wrote it. After some rounds and revisions with my critique group, I polished it to the best of my ability, at the time, and submitted it for review to an agent while attending the SCBWI Working Writer's Retreat 2016.
Submitting a newer story to an agent is almost never a good idea. But, I really wanted the feedback on this particular story. And yes, there was that secret hope that the agent would love my story as much as I loved it and sign me on the spot. Nope. That didn't happen. But, I did receive the feedback.
There are 324,806 books that show up, when searching the word Dog at Amazon Books. This means, I have some work to do in order to make my book stand out. But, my dog deserves the story, so, I will not give up. In fact, new ideas are already coming to mind. This experience will make my book better, and in the process, I've discovered two picture book gems! It's a win-win!
Happy reading and writing,
What are the names of some of the pancakes? And where did the recipes come from?
Ladybug Pancake, Kooky Pancake, Flying Saucer pancake, Star pancake, Money Pancake. There are 12 in all, each with a fun rhyming description. There is a main batter, my own, and each recipe comes with different instructions--some require food coloring and putting the batter into squeeze bottles.
What makes this book different from other educational math learning books.
This is an open ended learning tool. Because the kids get to play with it and choose what they want to order, the children tend to be more invested in finding out what their order total is and working with the money.
What aspect of the book do kids seem to enjoy the most?
It really varies from kid to kid. I've had some just love to play with it, but I've had other children beg their parents to get it for them so they can actually make the pancakes.
What grade levels can use this book? And which common core standards does it address?
It is mainly for later 2nd grade through early 5th grade according to the common core standards, but there are a few ways Kinder and 1st grades can use it too. I have a description of all the Common Core Alignment, here, on my website:
Why did you decide to self-publish?
For years of waiting and being passed on, I decided if no other publishing house publishes a book like mine, I'll have to have my own company do it.
Can you describe the process of using kick starter as a means for funding your children’s book?
The process was pretty simple... Make a video, tell everyone you know, and reach out to those you think it would apply to. It does take time, planning, and all of that, but in the end, I'm happy I did it. Fulfillment was a bit challenging--trying to get all the orders out quickly, once the book came in.
How did you make decisions on art and the design of the book.
Well, I ended up doing it myself using free design software called GIMP. I had been using it a bit as I began blogging, but I learned a lot more as I worked on completing the book.
What did you learn the first time around that will make it easier for your next book?
Feels like everything! I think I did a pretty good job the first go, so now I just need to make sure I do all the steps correctly again.
Which job is more challenging, educator or author?
They both have their pros and cons. I'd say that an educator is an extremely demanding job, but it's extremely rewarding too. As an author there is much more rejection involved in the publishing process, but I've learned a lot too. It's a toss up on which one is more challenging!
In your video, you mention it is first in a series. What’s next?
I'm working on the Pizza Menu and the Sundae Menu to be the 2nd and 3rd books. I can't wait to share them with the world.
To learn more about Lucy Ravitch and her books go to her website or Amazon.
Although it is becoming more common, self-publishing a picture book seems daunting! How did you come to this decision?
The decision to self publish was determined after my husband and I did much homework on the pros and cons. As a freelance artist for over 25 years, who had published my own prints and a line of greeting cards, I was already familiar with the task of self-publishing. Through the years, I had built up a clientele for my art and knew I had an outlet to sell my books. I didn't like the odds of waiting for a mainstream publisher to give me the heads up on my books, I preferred to do it my own way. That meant I was free to choose my books size, paper,binding, embossing, etc, etc.
Naturally, publishing a book is much more involved than publishing a greeting card, but we learned a lot with that first book, ten years ago. Printing becomes easier with each new book and although I have finished only 3 books thus far, we have printed 15 times, with 55,000 books out there in the world.
You started self publishing ten years ago. How has the process changed?
A lot more people are self-publishing these days, and I think there are more options for new authors who want to test the waters.
You are an writer/illustrator. Do you have any advice for picture book writers who are not illustrators, but would like to self publish?
I am often approached by authors who want me to illustrate for them, but I don't do that. It takes me 2 years to complete the art for one of my books and since mine is a series, I cannot take the time to illustrate for anyone else. My suggestion to them is to find the best artist you can afford,( a good artist will be expensive, but you must have good art in your book!) Look online at artist portfolios, or go to your local community college for an enthusiastic young artist who may be thrilled about illustrating for you.Be fair in your payment to the artist, and realize that it is the art, that sells your book. No one knows how good your story is at first glance, they only have your book cover to go by.
Hopalong Jack and the Blue Bunnies is your first book. Of the three that are written, which is your favorite?
I am often asked which is my favorite book and my answer is, ALL OF THEM!, but for different reasons; one has my favorite illustrations, another, The Journey of Bushky Bushybottom, is the most fun to read out loud, and the latest, Mamsey Bear and Mopkin,
features my best writing,
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on two books at a time, one is an illustrated garden book and another is a pocket size picture book. The small book is a novelty for me, since all my storybooks thus far have been very large books, 36 pages and 12" square.
To learn more about Jeri Landers and her books, go to
Jen Hitchcock invites you to experience BOOKSHOW.
Photo Judy Ornelas Sisneros
We live in an age now, where online shopping has taken over. It is possible that some kids have never stepped foot in book store. What are they missing?
Well…beside the most obvious, social interaction… I feel like they are missing out on a great sensory experience in life!!! The touch, feel and smell that also goes along with books. Book Stores tweak ALL of the senses. And YES even taste….(I have a gumball machine in my shop and who doesn’t love sipping beverages while hunting down a good book). They are missing exploring, meandering, wandering and discovering. The whole incredible experience that so many of us link to a bookstore experience. It isn’t just about going in and getting the book you have in mind, which is a big part of the online experience. There are so many things to discover and learn in a brick and mortar shop. And they are missing building great memories that go beyond just buying a book. I mean… doesn’t every RomCom feature a scene where someone meets the person of their dreams in a BOOKSTORE? Joking aside, there are books I have read and only keep around because it evokes a memory of the bookstore I got it in, who I was with, why I was there. I can recall where I picked up many of the books in my personal library, or who gifted them to me. There is so much more to books than information on a page. They are pieces of art. They are cultural artifacts. The story goes beyond what is in the pages.
Your store, BOOKSHOW, hosts many classes and workshops. Are any suitable for kids and families? If not, do you anticipate adding such events?
I would say Book Show is primarily a grown person book store. My kids section is definitely geared more towards kids aged 8 and up. I do have a lot of classics and nostalgic finds that parents get excited about turning their kids on to. It is pretty common to hear “I read this when I was your age…” But in general I think it depends on your family whether my store is for you… there might be some books a kid would see on the way to the kids section that would elicit a conversation. There is lots of curse words and sexuality of all shade in my shop. It truly is a book sideshow… and like a carnival atmosphere…there are things that are appropriate for kids, and things that are not. You just kind of have to know that coming in.
However, I do have an ongoing performance magic workshop that is definitely geared towards kids 10 and up, and have hosted a few kids fanzine making workshops and am always looking to schedule great workshops that are good for pre-teen and teens.
I also have the best dollar book carts in town that are always stocked with lots of books for younger children… board books, picture books, early chapter books. All for a buck a piece!
What are some of the diverse children’s books sitting on the shelves in your store today?
In my kids section:
“Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Fat Police Man” (1960)
“The Call of the Wild” by Jack London
“Heather has Two Mommies” by Leslea Newman
“What Was Bugging Ol Pharoah?” By Charles Shultz (Snoopy’s creator!)
-- It is a book of cartoons featuring teenage characters. It is from the 1960’s.
The hysterical part about it is the characters basically look like the
Peanuts characters only stretched out taller and skinnier.
In other parts of the store:
“The Gay Romance Coloring Book”
“The Prince Zine” by Joshua James Amberson/illustrated by Rachel Lee-Carman
“A Thousand Ways to Please A Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes” (1932)
“Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts of Los Angeles”
To learn more about Jen Hitchcock, go to bookshowla.com
or contact her by instagram and twitter.
Many children's writers seek representation. What were your initial steps to acquiring an agent?
I took a picture book writing class as part of my coursework at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and one of our assignments was to research an editor or agent for whom our manuscripts were well suited. While I was researching editors at small publishers (because I had only written one story at the time), I had no idea who or what Andrea Brown Literary Agency (ABLA) was when one of my classmates mentioned them. Out of curiosity, I researched ABLA and the agents who caught my interest; read about the book titles they sold; read as many of those titles as I could find at my local library; read any interviews given by the agents that were posted on kidlit blogs; and revised my writing over and over and over and over….
Describe the process and how long it took?
It took about two and a half years, on and off, to sign with my agent.
It started with the ABLA Big Sur Writing Workshop, where I met Lara Perkins in a critique group. I showed her a book dummy for the first story I had ever written and illustrated. Showing a book dummy that wasn’t ready for prime time was a bad idea that turned out to be accidentally fabulous. Lara liked the idea and requested a submission.
I submitted revisions to Lara seven months later, then received the loveliest rejection letter.
After only one rejection, I didn’t feel like collecting drawers full of rejection letters. Even though Lara’s was the best kind of rejection letter a writer could hope for (with an invitation to resubmit again), I couldn’t imagine writing endless query letters to other agents.
And then I received my first illustration contract for a wonderful book called HYPNOSIS HARRY. Once Harry was officially finished in fall of 2015, I started working on my own stories again and gathering courage to start researching agents. Then Lara emailed and reopened the conversation about submissions. I revised my best ideas, sent Lara five manuscripts, and this time, she offered representation.
Do you feel that being an illustrator helped?
In my case, yes. After I met Lara, I took my book dummy to my local SCBWI conference and had a manuscript critique with an agent who also requested a submission. The book dummy was much more persuasive with the sketches. The manuscript alone would not have made the same impression because I relied so much on the pictures to tell half the story. Being an illustrator helped in other ways too. After I finished HYPNOSIS HARRY, Sky Pony offered a second contract to illustrate for another author, and shortly after that another agent who had seen my website requested manuscript submissions based on what she saw in my portfolio.
Do you have any tips for other writer's seeking representation?
Probably nothing you haven’t heard before! Unlike other writers, I didn’t search in well-trafficked territory like the Verla Kay Blue Boards or Twitter pitch contests, neither did I query many agents. I went to a writer’s retreat and luckily, the agent who offered representation a few years later happened to be there. I signed with a little bit of luck and lots of persistence. Everyone knows that persistence is the key to finding an agent, plus being brave enough to get your work out there, again and again.
Learn more about Sarita Rich and her Children's books at http://www.saritarich.com.