Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Child (Literature) Support by Jason Kirschner

So.  You’ve got a book coming out.  Or maybe your friend does.  Or your critique partner? Or maybe it's your social media pal that you’ve never met in person but you feel like if you lived closer that you’d BFFs forever and hang out all the time. (Odds are that if it's the last one, you've got a problem — but that’s another blog.) What are some of the ways you can support that book to give it it’s best shot at sales success? 

I’ve been thinking about this recently.  I had a book out last year and, while it sold some copies, it didn’t break any records if you know what I mean.  Now I’ve got some friends (yes—I have friends. You're jerks for thinking I didn’t.) who have books that have been recently released and I want to support them.  These friends include fellow D2PB bloggers Barbara DiLorenzo and Patrica Keeler.  (See — they’re friends!) I’m trying to take what I learned from my first book release and apply those lessons to them.   This list is, by no means, exhaustive.  I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten or things I just haven’t figured out yet but here’s what I’ve got:

1)Buy the book. 
DO IT (if you can)!  I try to support all my friends in their endeavors.  Which also means I end up buying a bunch of books.  I will say, sometimes my wife looks at me funny (not ha-ha funny) when I’m making a huge book purchase —mainly because we’ve run out of room to put them.  If that’s something you're not able to do, go grab it from the library and read it over and be proud of your friend’s accomplishment.

2)Talk to the library.
Pretend those are books in her hands instead of shampoo.
If you are at the library and you don’t see your friend’s book, you march right over to the children’s librarian and you ask who’s in charge of ordering books.  You tell them kindly, but forcibly, to order your friend’s amazing book and put it on their shelves! You’d be surprised at how many librarians would love to hear a good recommendation for an addition to their collection.  And they talk to each other— so maybe your librarian will talk to another librarian about the book. They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends.  It’s like that shampoo commercial from the 70’s. You’ll be doing a public service by getting a good book out there for all to read.  You’re a hero now. Happy?

3)Show up. 
If you live locally and can attend a launch party or a book signing, do it.  Your author/illustrator friend will be so pleased that you did. I mean it.  There were people that showed up to some of my events that I hadn’t seen in years and it meant more to me than I know how to communicate.  You do not have to buy a second copy. I promise.  I’ll also add that we’ve all had the book event that no one shows up to and deep down inside, it can be heartbreaking. Don’t do that to your buddy.  Bring your kids. Sometimes, there are even cookies. COOKIES.  Who doesn’t love cookies?

4)Talk it up.
Tell your friends and loved ones and people on the street about this book.  Lend your copy out to friends with kids. Word of mouth really helps with these things and people love a book that they have some connection with — however tenuous it is. 

I can't help it.  That's my face. I was born that way.
5)Talk it up —Internet Style - Part One.
Do post about your pal’s book on social media. Hold up the book and take a picture with it or a shot of your kids reading it.  Or repost a great review from PW or Kirkus.  Don’t cram it down people’s throats.  Sometimes a pic and a blurb are enough.

6)Talk it up - Internet Style - Part Two.
If you've got a blog or access to a blog, do a post about your amigo’s book. It can help.  Most kidlit blogs are great sources of knowledge and can also be a cornerbIock for building great kidlit communities. I will say, however, that sometimes I feel like we’re just selling to ourselves.  I think the things we see again and again on kidlit blogs sometimes have little bearing on what the outside world is seeing. But I digress.

7)Review it.
I actually think this one might be the most important and it probably takes the least amount of time and effort. Go to and and any other review site, and review your friend’s book.  Go give them 5 stars and write a nice description of why you love it.  These reviews and rankings can be so important to sales and noticeability.  We can argue over the finer points of these things another time. There are always going to be jerks who write really crappy things and troll a book with 1 star so be the other end of the spectrum and bring the average back up.  It’s emotionally gratifying for your author/illustrator friend to read too.
3 Stars isn't awful. Those are some of my fave bad reviews for Mr. P.

There’s always more you can do but I think that’s a pretty good list to start with. Be proud of you friend.  You all know that making a book is hard.  Spread the word and I’m pretty certain that your friend will do the same for you when your book comes out.  And go support my friends and review Patricia’s Lizzie and Lou Seal and Barbara’s Renato and the Lion.  And if you’ve got another free second, go review Mr. Particular.  It’s never too late.

By day, Jason is an emmy nominated set designer for television, with credits that include Harry, The Meredith Vieira Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. By night, Jason is an author and illustrator of children's books. You can find his debut picture book, Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion on shelves in bookstores everywhere. See Jason's work, both illustrations and set designs,  at . Follow him on instagram @jkirsch118. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Easter Eggs in RENATO AND THE LION - By Barbara DiLorenzo

Recently when I visited the Trenton Circus Squad, I noted how the performers not only had skill, but behind the scenes, before emerging onstage, I could see them pop wheelies on their BMX bikes. It occurred to me that they not only knew what they were doing, but they were having so much fun doing it, they didn't care if their moves took place in front or behind the curtain. To me, making a book can be that way too. Research for RENATO AND THE LION was so fascinating to me, yet I couldn't fit everything into the storyline. So, to satisfy myself, I hid Easter Eggs throughout. That was my version of having fun with my work, whether folks saw it or not. For folks unfamiliar with the Easter Egg concept, according to Wikipedia:

"An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, a hidden message, or a secret feature of an interactive work (often, a computer programvideo game or DVD menu screen). The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.[2] The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that led Atari to encourage further hidden messages in later games, treating them as Easter eggs for players to find."

The above illustration includes a few Easter Eggs. Before explaining each of the dotted circles, I should explain that the illustration contains a thematic Easter Egg. My character, Renato, leaves Naples in 1944 with his family on the U.S.A.T Henry Gibbins, bound for New York, where they were then transported by train to a camp in Oswego, NY. This in itself is another whole story, which I had no room to tell in 44 pages. The Henry Gibbins was the one and only rescue mission of refugees to American soil by President Roosevelt during World War II. Originally intended to rescue 1,000 Jewish refugees, approximately 100 people were not Jewish:

"The final tally from the ship's log of 983 refugees included Jews from 18 countries and 108 Roman Catholics, Protestants and Russian and Greek Orthodox. Listed upon their arrival in New York as ''U.S. Army casual baggage,'' each had to sign papers promising to return to Europe when the war was over. Fewer than 100 actually did."

I point out that not all the people on board were Jewish because it was very important to me that this storyline work for a Jewish or Christian boy and his family. When I was in Italy, I met a bookseller that was age 7 in 1944, and he described his Jewish grandmother living on the same street as the rest of the Catholic family. This strengthened my gut feeling that Renato could have been of mixed decent, Jewish or Catholic. It's hard to articulate exactly why I wanted the storyline to work in both threads. To me, World War II in Europe is about 6 million innocent lives lost due only to heritage. After watching documentaries and researching history related to this storyline, I am overwhelmed by the loss of Jewish life. It is out of respect that I didn't feel entitled to tell a story solely from the Jewish perspective. Being married into an Italian family, and living in a predominantly Jewish community on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for three years, I feel that the two cultures are so similar in many ways–food and family! But I am neither Italian or Jewish, though I happily wedge myself into my friend's family-centered cultures when I can. So Renato may be whatever you want him to be–the history matches up either way.

In the ship's register, there were two Renatas and two Renates. I was happy to find names so close to Renato!

Ruth Gruber was the person tasked with guiding the refugees safely to America. She was the youngest person in the world (at the time) to receive a doctorate. This is from Wikipedia:

"In 1944, she was assigned a secret mission to Europe to bring one thousand Jewish refugees and wounded American soldiers from Italy to the US.[7] Ickes made her "a simulated general" so in case the military aircraft she flew in was shot down and she was caught by the Nazis, she would be kept alive according to the Geneva Convention.[8] Throughout the voyage, the Army troop transport Henry Gibbins was hunted by Nazi seaplanes and U-boats. Gruber's book Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America was based on case histories she recorded as she interviewed the refugees." –

Ruth was alive when I wrote this story, and I was very eager to meet her. A critique partner put me in touch with a close friend of hers, but at the time, she was too frail for visitors. In November of 2016, Ruth passed away at the age of 105. 

I was able to speak with a person she helped across the Atlantic. Doris Schechter was a young child evacuating Europe with her family in 1944. In her book, AT OMA'S TABLE, she recounts that when the ship arrived in America, on the same day, Anne Frank and her family were betrayed to the Nazis (August 3, 1944). Above you can see an old newspaper photo of Doris, arriving safe in the United States (eating a hot dog!). Doris went on to create MY MOST FAVORITE FOOD, a restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I ate there with the same critique partner, Mona Kanin, and Michael Patrick Hearn–her friend who was trying to put me in touch with Ruth Gruber. The food was outstanding!

While doing research on this incredible element of history, I discovered about a half dozen different spellings of the ship's name. In the end, U.S.A.T. Henry Gibbins was the name of the boat on the day of their journey–though it changed in the 1950's to U.S.N.S. Henry Gibbins. I've seen reputable sources spell it Gibbons as well. But when the hat was made for the veterans, I figured that name was the most dependable. Veterans know what the name of their boat was!

This is just one illustration in the book. Not every page is as packed with hidden information. But there are many other Easter Eggs to discover. I am revealing one a day in a ten-day countdown to the book's release. But I also plan to elaborate on all of this history in school/library/conference visits. If nothing else, it makes the journey of bookmaking that much more fun. 

by Barbara DiLorenzo
Come by and celebrate on June 25, 2017
From 1-3pm at Books of Wonder
18 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Twitter: @wavepaint
Facebook: @BarbaraWillcoxDiLorenzo

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

NJSCBWI17 Conference Wisdom by Diana Ting Delosh

This past weekend I attended the NJ SCBWI June Conference and I thought I'd share some conference wisdom. As usual this conference was both exhausting and inspiring and full of networking opportunities. Some of the following is from attending conferences over the years and some  from this specific conference.

What I brought to the conference: portfolio, 2 picture book dummies (attached to portfolio w/ ribbon per conference specs) and postcards.
• Sign up for all that's appropriate for you. And have the wisdom to bow out of something if you realize it's not, hopefully while you can still get some money back. 

• Clear your schedule for the week before the conference. I had planned to be ahead on my projects but as usual life happens. I was glad I had the last week to catch up on most of the things I wanted to do for the conference without pulling all nighters. On the other end, try not to have anything important the week after.  I still feel like road kill, albeit recovering road kill. Preferably no deadlines due the week you come home. 

• Go with an open mind. Sure I had plans to meet or touch base with agents, editors and art directors. After all, it is a conference known for it's networking opportunities. But I had no expectations beyond that. Which meant no pressure. Yay!

Here's my piece for the 2017 conference Juried Art Show. The theme was: MISCHIEF. Squirrel and Blue Jay are up to some mischief. It also happens to be a a spread from my picture book dummy, A Beast in the Woods, © Diana Ting Delosh. 
Keynote Speaker - author/illustrator Stephen Savage: 
MOVE-  Keep moving on your project, even if it's only 15 minutes a day. That way you don't lose the thread of your project. Move, in the literal sense. Physical movement; helps generates new ideas and solutions.

Portfolio Building - Maria Middleton, Art Director
Your portfolio (physical & online) should have a clear narrative. Ask yourself: What is the story I am trying to tell? Your portfolio should SHOW your answers. IE: I am an illustrator that does _______ style of art. I like to create _____ . This is what makes me special. Be aware of what you want to do and show it. YOU are in charge of your destiny not the art director.

Closing Speaker - author, David Lubar:
Keeps a note posted by his computer: How Badly do you want it? I think, I will do the same.

My Illustrator's Intensive piece for David DeWitt's session.
School Fears © Diana Ting Delosh -Ink, watercolor, digital. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Mom - By Barbara DiLorenzo

When I was in ninth grade, influenced by my mother's journey to publication, I made my first picture book dummy. She and I had taken summer courses together at our local art college–Montserrat, in Beverly MA. While she was already skilled in writing and illustration, I was just learning. Those courses lit a fire within her, and I watched her begin to pursue picture book publication. She told me that once a radio personality read her fortune and said she would one day write a children's book. I think that's what she said. Maybe it was someone else's prophetic words that helped her follow through, even when the journey seemed bleak. Bleak to her, anyways. To me, it was a magical journey. I watched her form a critique group with writers–some published, some not. The women who were published had an air of achievement that made them more beautiful to me. Stacks of postcards with her illustrations printed on the front would occasionally collect on the dining room table, addressed to editors and art directors. Magical! And in high school, she brought me to my first SCBWI conference, where I met Jane Yolen and had her sign my sketchbook–a magical moment I will never forget, though I met her again years later.

The only aspect of her journey I didn't enjoy was when she asked my brother, step-father and I to critique her work. I didn't think my opinion should hold much weight as she could clearly draw and write far better than me. She didn't let any of us off the hook when we praised her work–she had to know what needed adjustment. I delicately explored the work, trying to find the line where I was helpful, but not too critical. If she hadn't been persuasive about finding flaws, all of us would have been in awe of her work as it was. I saw firsthand the torturous life of a creative person–even if people around you think your work is awesome, you can never really rest or trust that it is.

Her first book was HURRICANE, written by Corinne Demas. She took photographs of my brother and I around our family's house for illustration reference, and dedicated it to my grandmother, who passed away right before it was published. I was so proud of her accomplishing a lifelong dream. But she went above and beyond–and had a second book contract in no time! She sold her manuscript MINGO, which was illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. She told this story to my brother and I numerous times when we were growing up. Sometimes when we drove by a particular ocean view, she would remind us about the story of Mingo, the slave who was promised his freedom when the tide held back enough for a person to walk out to Aunt Becky's Ledge. It was a haunting story to hear. But to see it in print, incredible. I think that's where my love of combining history with a fictional narrative was born.

I'm not sure why my mother stopped after MINGO. I know she had numerous other stories in various stages of development–some I thought were definitely ready to send out. She had a great story about Van Gogh. I thought she would keep going, but somehow, maybe seeing the other side of being published, she stopped submitting her work. She taught watercolor painting for years, so I don't think author visits would have daunted her. The feedback and reviews were positive, but maybe she was hoping for more. I can understand that–this is the first time I'm facing reviews, and it's a whole new aspect to publishing that I hadn't paid attention to before. And reviews, even glowing ones, can still include words that sting.

I have questions for her, but she and I have had a long history of a troubled relationship. We have not spoken since 2009. Prior to that, there were clumps of years that we didn't speak, interspersed with years that we did. At this point, I think both of us, and our family, feel that somehow the two of us are better off cooly existing in separate worlds. It's lonelier, but it's more peaceful. No one needs their blood pressure raised after so many years of heartache. But. At this point in time, reflecting on the eve of my own books being published, I honor all that my mother taught me. She sat with my brother and I at the kitchen table when we were tiny, and showed us how to sculpt in clay and paint and draw. She was and is talented in so many different mediums. As was her mother, my grandmother, who passed away before she ever got to see her daughter or granddaughter published. Both my mother and my grandmother wanted to go to art school, but were discouraged. Though I applied to six liberal arts schools and only one art school, the day my acceptance to RISD arrived, my mom was the person who cheered me on, and made sure I felt supported in the decision to pursue art. That support dropped away once I moved into my dorm, but that is the nature of our dark relationship.

While I can't change the turmoil of the past, I do honor the good parts. And in my newborn daughter, (a surprise in my life now that I'm 41-years old), I see my mom's blue eyes. And unlike my son, at only two months old, this child stares at the paintings on our walls, and the picture books that I show her. She is fascinated by books and art already–something my son didn't notice until many months later, and with a lot of encouragement. I wonder if she will carry the creative writing and painting spirit that has traveled through the generations of women in my family. My only prayer is that no matter what I teach her, that my mother taught me, that her mother taught her–we remain friends. When my daughter achieves her lifelong dream, I want to be there to celebrate alongside her.

by Barbara DiLorenzo
Come by and celebrate on June 25, 2017
From 1-3pm at Books of Wonder
18 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Twitter: @wavepaint
Facebook: @BarbaraWillcoxDiLorenzo

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What is Book Expo America? by Patricia Keeler

Yay! My picture book, LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, Sky Pony Press, has just been published. Yep! I'm going to show at Book Expo America to promote it.

Book Expo America, BEA, is the largest annual book trade fair held in the United States. This year, it takes place at the Jacob Javits Convention Center May 31st through June 3rd. Jacob Javits Center is so big it goes from 34th street to 40th street along 11th Avenue in Manhattan.  

Anyone can go to BEA. Last year, in Chicago, about 10,000 librarians, bookstore people, book bloggers, teachers, museum people and people who just love books paid $100.00 or more to attend for three days. People came from every state in the US, plus nearly 70 countries.  

There are large displays by the big publishing houses like HarperCollins and Wiley. The booths are run by the editors and salepeople. It's a monster big show!

HarperCollins Publishers has an entire aisle.
But I find it a most confusing show from the get-go. BEA's website is hard to navigate. It's slow to load, hard to read, and in black and white. The show is so big, I can never find the booth I'm looking for, and the concrete floors are hard to walk on all day. You can't buy any books, although on the afternoon of the last day publishing houses may give away their books so they don't have to pay to ship them back. It can be frowned upon to show editors artwork or a book dummy, as the houses are there to sell books, not buy them.

The worst section at BEA is near the back wall, where a row of lonely home-made authors pay over $1,000 to sit behind a card table with their slight pile of books. I've been to BEA a couple of times and avoided this row of the hoi polloi.  
A tiny section of Book Expo America floor
But this year I'm Hoi Polloi Booth AM34

Actually, I'm 'Spot' AM34, because it's 4 feet x 4 feet. Do you realize how small that is?

Why would I do this? Let's go back to the top of this blog where I say 10,000 book buyers! I couldn't go to ten thousand libraries and bookstores in my lifetime if I went every day! And they are all going to be right there, for three days, walking around looking for books for their libraries and bookstores.

I know, I know. They will be looking for major publishing house booths, not mine. So I'm going to set up my easel and sketch librarians and book sellers as children's book characters.

Here's a card I made.
I have earring and necklace giveaways. Also, BEA has something I think that is new, and it's really helpful. Guests sign up for your booth on your own BEA site before the show. So far I've had over 50 people signed up, including folks from New York Public Library and Barnes and Noble. One man emailed and said he was looking to buy 5,000 books -- I think he got me mixed up with the real Sky Pony Press booth -- but he's really looking forward to meeting me!

So I'm excited to get the opportunity to present at the same show as the major houses! I could make amazing contacts! I could do amazing sales! 

Or this could be the worst idea I've ever had.

Yikes! I can't step off the mat!

  Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Art Shows, by Mike Ciccotello

I've been showing my art for over 15 years, everything from basements to corporate galleries. Take whatever chance you get to show your work, you'll grow from it, trust me. To me, showing my work has always been a social event. I love being at the opening, talking to people, sharing an experience. It's an important part of the process for me. I'd like to share a quick look at some of the shows along my journey, but I don't want to talk about the art. I'd like to focus on the events.

Let's start with 2003, my first show after art school. A group of artists put together a show in my backyard. We called it Art in the Garden. It was really a bunch of young local artists showing their work to each other. I think we had wine too. We put up easels in the backyard and around the house. It was a blast, and I learned that my work all over the place, but I didn't care. I enjoyed the social aspect of the show and sharing my work with friends. I was hooked.

Original invite to Art in the Garden

Next is Streets2k5, with Albus Cavus, and artist collective I worked with for many years, starting this show. It took place in New Brunswick, NJ. The show was at eight different venues, with over 100 international artists (most mailed in their work) It included outdoor painting, musical performance, and a radio interview. This was a HUGE event that created incredible memories, lasting friendships, and fuel to continue pursuing my art. I'm still in touch with many of the artists I met from this show.

Streets 2k5, Showing the Harvest Moon, Feaster Park, TheCORE, New Brunswick NJ

Right around the same time I felt I could hold a solo show. I had three successful solo shows over three years, at The Harvest Moon, New Brunswick, NJ. I started to look at the solo show as more of an experience I was creating for the viewer. It wasn't just about the art on the walls. It was also the announcements, the promotions, and the environment.

Commuter, Harvest Moon Brewery, New Brunswick, NJ

In 2011, Hinterland, was a group show at Aristeia Metro, in the NY Design Center. Four artists of varying style, brought together by a super cool interior design company, to show work and have a party for their clients. This group can throw a fun party. They had an amazing DJ, passed hors d'oeuvres, bartenders, dessert trays. I learned that passed hors d'oeuvres REALLY makes a difference. An upscale event can change perception for your audience. It's not necessary, but it's something nice to offer your guests.

Hinterland, Aristeia Metro, NY Design Center, NY

Daydreams, Solo show at Salon Concrete, Red Bank, NJ, in the fall of 2014. Our twin boys were born in February, 2015, so I knew I wanted to take a break. I also knew that after that show I would be switching gears to get into the world of children's literature. This was a CRAZY show. The salon based a collection of style, cut, and color, on my work. Click here to see styles. We had a live photo shoot in the front space of the Salon. You could see the photo shoot from the street through a nice big window. Inside you were greeted by a wall my original skateboard designs, and a whole bunch of people. Once you walked into the space, we had two tables of hot and cold food, passed hors d'oeuvres, and an amazing DJ. My art filled the walls, both framed work and line art paintings directly on the walls. It was jam packed with people. What a night!

Daydreams, Salon Concrete, Red Bank, NJ

Why am I telling you all of this? I'm starting to understand that creating picture books, for the most part, is a quiet, solitary journey. It's easy to get caught up in that, but what happens when you have a book launch, or need to promote your book? There may be long breaks between those books. How can you maintain a following? Hold events with your art. Socialize. Join group shows, promote your work, gain a following. Put yourself out there. You work so hard on this process, you should share the work that you create. Do it for yourself. Trust me, if you've never shown your work, you don't need a corporate art gallery or fancy design center. You can show at a library or restaurant. Just try it. Invite some friends and have a good time. See what happens.

After a short hiatus, (our twin boys are now two yrs old) I am getting back to showing my work... and I have two coming up.

The Wondrous World of Children’s Book Illustrators

The Interchurch Center
475 Riverside Drive, Suite #240
New York, New York 10115

Opening reception, June 22, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

The Illustration of Mike Ciccotello
Main Gallery
Johnson & Johnson, Corporate Headquarters 
New Brunswick, NJ 
August 28 - October 6th. 
Viewing is by appointment only (it's easy to do)
Contact - Stacey Hecht, Exhibitions Coordinator 
Corporate Art Program, Johnson & Johnson


Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello