PPBF: Mummy Trouble and a Giveaway!

mummyintroublecoverAuthor/Illustrator: Judy Schachner
Publisher: Penguin, 2006
Age: 4-7
Themes: cats, imagination, mummies
Opening: Skippy John Jones did his very best thinking outside the box.
Summary: (from my library catalog) Skippyjon Jones, a Siamese kitten who thinks he’s a Chihuahua, dreams of traveling to ancient Egypt with his gang of Chihuahua amigos..mummyintrouble1


Why I like this book: I love El Skippito and I loved listening to Judy Schachner describe how he came into being at our recent regional SCBWI conference in Denver. If you love the drama of speaking in various accents, you’ll love to read it aloud – even to yourself! The illustrations are bold, imaginative and wonderfully winsome!

mummyintrouble5Resources/Activities: great book to read during a unit on ancient Egypt; download suggested lesson plans and activities HERE

mummyintrouble4For more Perfect Picture Book picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

Newbie Notes From My First Conference

It was nerve wracking but fantastic to have gotten feedback* on a manuscript from a real-time editor at the Picture Book Intensive.  But in listening to feedback on other writer’s work (we were 14 participants), I could compare my first impression with that of a professional, and I found that even more valuable. Don’t get me wrong, I am not out to grab another person’s ideas! I know what I like to read, and what I don’t, but, yeah, mine is also one person’s opinion. I benefitted by testing my ear for a good story, and possible areas of weakness. I also appreciated the encouragement to comment on the other manuscripts – with just a few minutes per ms it was a good challenge for me to pinpoint what I thought would help their story most (and I hope I didn’t hang out my New York-style frankness too boldly!). And yes, I have far to go!

It was a great opportunity, listening to whole manuscripts, but I really learned a lot from the breakout session First Pages, for picture book mss. A professional reader and picture book author, Kathleen Pelley, read aloud each participant’s first page of their PB ms, max. 200 words. An agent and an editor were given 2 minutes total to respond. If you should ever have the opportunity, take notes on EVERY ms! In less than an hour I believe almost 40 ‘pages’ were read. Having the PBIntensive experience behind me I was more focused and began to hear patterns. After a while I could predict what the reviewers might say! Yes, I was learning something! I highly recommend signing up for this session format!

Here are a few of those First Page comments:
• really hard to sell an MC that is not a child
• too much telling, not enough showing
• narrative too simple, needs more tension
• repetition is not effective
• need more emotional connection with MC
• that story is already out there – check the market
• sentences are too long; careful – joke will be taken away by the illustrations
• keep your narrative child-centered
• don’t know where the story is going till it’s half-way in
• illustrations should complete the text – less description.

*more in another post

Truth Floats

My first conference. I sent my illustrations ahead, and packed my bag: a healthy infant ms, a First Page, a lunchbox and toothbrush. The most valuable thing I brought was humility.

I read my baby aloud, popped out questions, and kept my ears tuned to all stations: criticism and comments from editors, agents, authors and comrades. Because all opinions are ‘just one person’s opinion’.

That’s also how I reeled in a remark from author Chris Crutcher‘s opening keynote: truth floats. I was lucky to experience some of my own truth surface with agent Karen Grencik. I signed up for her post-conference session (or voice excavation!) because I went for it all, almost. Who knows when I’ll get to another conference. And truth floats, all right! The surprise was in learning all I needed to find mine was to trust in Karen’s evocative questionnaire – and unzip! The tissue box was passed around as we revealed our answers and shared our connections. She finally prompted us to create a poem, in 10 minutes, with: “I come from…”

Here is the raw and unpolished version of what I spilled:

I come from underneath the leaves,

golden, red and brown.

Lying still and layered

upon the sacred ground.

I come from the linear space,

between two walls of brick.

Muffled inside the layers,

silent, dark and thick.

I come from blossom’s bowel,

intoxicated with scent.

Quiet, still and waiting,

tucked in tight and bent.

We shared, and applauded our courage. Then it was all over, and time to head home. I drove north in a daze, drunk with all I had consumed. Tears waxed and waned with passing exit signs. Relief found me a good hour later, parked in front of my  house, and not at Canada’s border.

Still digesting. More to follow…