Saturday, November 21, 2009

Middle Children ROCK!

Lee's a middle-kid who finally expresses his frustration (for him, it's with a guitar and blues riff) in a big way. Now it's your turn. Middle kids near and far, come stand on your soap box. What's the worst thing about being a middle child, and how did you survive? Or...what do you notice about your middle child/ren that is interesting?


Watch The Middle-Child Blues trailer! Click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meeting my Secret...errrr....Literary Agent


It happened on Friday night. (Mission Impossible music starts now.) My Ford Flex slowly hummed as it approached the airport pick-up curb, and there she was... my agent, standing in her black trenchcoat and dark sunglasses. (Okay, she wasn't really wearing dark sunglasses, but I thought they might add to the general effect.) "Have you got them?" she asked after I rolled down my window.

"Got them," I said. Then she scanned the area with her mini-binoculars and climbed into her seat. She slammed the door. We were off -- off to the Patrick Moore Gallery in Salt Lake City. But first, we took a detour to discuss the plans. We stopped at a Rumbi Island Grill, and over two chicken and shrimps over rice, we plotted out a strategy. A strategy for me to disassemble and reassemble my novel. It was going to be a very tricky, complicated process.

After going over the plans, we put on disguises and crept into the art gallery, where dozens of chic authors dined on cupcakes and martinellis. Finally I was recognized. "Is your agent here?" several of the authors asked me, but I didn't want to blow her cover. The only problem was, she was standing right beside me.

Alright, so the true story is that this weekend I met my agent, Kendra Marcus, for the first time. This is after working with her for eight years, and after she had already sold four picture book manuscripts for me. Whoa. For me, it was a bit like being one of Charlie's Angels and finally meeting Charlie. The voice I knew so well from phone calls finally had a face, mannerisms, and a personality. What a thrill. What an honor. What a weekend! Kendra was going to be presenting at the SCBWI Winter Conference in Salt Lake City, and I was asked to be her personal escort to and from the airport.

I'm often asked if I like having an agent, and if I think agents are important if you want to be published. My answers are emphatically yes and yes! I LOVE having an agent because, other than marketing my books, I really don't want to be bothered with some of the business-aspects of being an author. I just want to write. And I like having an advocate who will be brutally honest about my work and tell me what I need to do to improve it. It's great that she'll go to bat for me and find the right publisher, and negotiate the contract details. She can say the hard things to my editors that I'd rather not say. As the middle-person, she keeps relationships between me and editors friendly and uncomplicated.

Bottom line: I don't believe I'd be published today without an agent. I salute those authors who have done it alone, because it's hard for me to imagine. I certainly would recommend that writers who are serious about getting published try to find one to represent them. A good one. A reputable one. One who "gets" their work and will help guide them in career decisions.

Yeah, but the 15% the agent receives? What about that?

Best investment I've ever made.

It was so wonderful meeting Kendra after all these years. We had a great weekend and she left me with a whole lot of revision suggestions and wisdom that I'm chewing and swallowing very slowly. Not "slowly" because I don't like the suggestions, but because I need to savor and appreciate them.

In my school presentations to kids I have always called Kendra my "secret agent." Time to fix that.

As I dropped Kendra back off at the airport Saturday Night I marveled at how much of an impact she'd had on my life and career, and how odd it was that we had only just met. Just another strange aspect of this oddball writing world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The 2009 Utah Book Awards, Children's Division

Near the end of October, I attended the Utah Book Award Ceremony, where my picture book COOL DADDY RAT was a nominee in the children's division. The other two nominees in this category were Alison Randall, author of THE WHEAT DOLL, and Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale, Authors and Illustrator of RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE. Shannon and her husband were running a tad late (no doubt due to her UBER busy schedule) , and Nathan had a last minute work deadline. but I was able to stand beside Alison as our books were recognized.







The winner turned out to be the Hale trio for RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE. Alison and I were bummed we didn't get to stand beside them on the stage and bask in their glory. But we still received cash awards and a nice plaque for being nominated. Afterwards there was a catered reception with live music, and overall, it was a very nice evening.



All Hail, Hail, Hail (Hale, Hale, Hale) RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Middle-Child Blues - School Library Journal Review

My editor just forwarded me the School Library Journal review for Middle Child, and I thought I'd share:

CROW, Kristyn. The Middle-Child Blues. illus. by David Catrow. unpaged. CIP. Putnam. 2009. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24735-4. LC 2008030591.
K-Gr 2–What middle children haven’t sung the blues about their place in the family hierarchy? Lee is stuck between his older brother and cute little sister. There’s just not much to do in between, even when the family goes to the fair. He’s too young to hang out with his brother, too old for the things his sister wants to do. He’s definitely in a sulk. But then he picks up his guitar and begins to sing: “I’ve got the low-down,/big-frown/sulkin’-all-around-town/bummed-out/mid-kid blues.” Soon a crowd gathers, and Lee is the center of attention. His parents and passersby join in, saying that they are middle children themselves, and admit that they have forgotten how rough that can be. Catrow’s trademark pencil and watercolor illustrations are perfect for this story. Heads are oversized, and facial expressions exaggerated. The colorful illustrations dance all over the pages. This book is a winner.–Ieva Bates, Ann Arbor District Library, MI


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Having a blast with School Author Visits

Last Friday I had a wonderful time visiting Rowland Hall - St. Mark's School in Salt Lake City. The children were so well behaved and attentive! The prior Friday I visited West Haven Elementary in Roy, Utah. It is SO fun meeting with kids and sharing my stories and talking about reading and writing! These pictures were taken by a fabulous photographer from Rowland Hall. As soon as I get her name to credit her, I'll post it here.
The kids have a lot of fun playing rhythm instruments along with BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP. This is my drum section, the "BOOMs."





As you can see, I get a bit animated during my presentations. Right now the younger kids are echoing back my refrain, "SPLISH SPLASH RUMBA-RUMBA BIM BAM BOOM!" And we're all scared of the swamp monster.


I bring a whole lot of instruments and also do a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of my books in various stages of production. I tell the kids some funny things about myself and my family, and how I have the most boring fish tank in the world. Of course, every time I turn my back something silly happens in the tank. They also get to see the "Skeleton Cat" race across the screen.

I LOVE visiting schools! For more information about my school visits, go to my website at http://www.kristyncrow.com . Click on the blue arrows on the left side of the main box on my home page, and keep your cursor there until you see the "schedule visits" button rotate around.








Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ten Fun Activities to Go Along with COOL DADDY RAT by Kristyn Crow

Teachers or Parents: Choose any of these fun activities to experience the snappy book COOL DADDY RAT with your children in a big way!


Purpose: To help children learn to appreciate jazz music as an American art form, to help them recognize and use improvisation in language and music, and to encourage individual creativity and a love for reading.

1. Visit my blog online with your class, http://www.kristyncrow.blogspot.com/, go to my September 11th 2009 post, and watch a few clips of Ella Fitzgerald, Jason Mraz, and other musicians scatting.

2. Read Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop, by Chris Raschka. Students can invent their own musical interpretation of the book. Other fun jazz books to read: Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, by Carole Boston Weatherford; Jazz by Walter Dean Meyers, Jazz Fly, by Matthew Gollub. Talk about the history of jazz and its American roots.

3. Play jazz music in the background while you read COOL DADDY RAT aloud. Have the children “echo” back the scat lines. (You say it, then they repeat it back.) In jazz, this is called “call and response.” Talk about the word “improvisation,” a key element in jazz.

4. If Ace got his own bass for his birthday, what might it look like? Have students make a homemade “bass” using a shoebox, three to five large rubber bands, and a cardboard paper towel roll. Cover the shoebox with construction paper, and decorate it. String the rubber bands the long way around the opening and back of the box. Attach the paper towel roll with tape or glue. Experiment. What happens when the rubber bands are pulled tighter? Does the tone get higher or lower? Can you play a jazz tune?

5. Have students cover empty cereal boxes with construction paper to represent a closed “book.” Have them create their own book cover in the style of COOL DADDY RAT. Decorate the spine, too. What kind of jazz character could be the star of each book? What about a Groovy Mama Toad? Or a Snappy Cat? What jazzy sounds could they make?

6. Students can write a rhyming story, making every other line a “scat” line. What nonsense words can they come up with? Have them read and perform their work.

7. Imagine a strange new place for Cool Daddy Rat and Ace to perform. Use Mike Lester’s sketchy, jazzy drawing style to make it come to life!

8. Have a scat competition, with students being the “American Jazz Idol” judges. These judges must be positive!

9. Make a class mobile with cut-out drawings the students have created of Cool Daddy, Ace, the Fat Cat, the bass, Mama Rat, crowds, with syncopation words like ZOW! POW! And WOW!

10. Create a “READING IS COOL” bulletin board, with WOW! ZOW! YOW! And POW! Arrange pictures of each child wearing cool sunglasses (or striking a "cool" pose) with his or her favorite book and/or instrument. You could also do a "Get JAZZED about READING!" bulletin board.



CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THIS TERRIFIC ACTIVITY...FABULOUS PAPER BAG COOL DADDY RAT PUPPETS!

Friday, September 11, 2009

COOL DADDY RAT - Fun with SCAT

So...you're reading COOL DADDY RAT, and your kids seem puzzled. What are those funny lines of nonsense text, anyway? SCAT? What is that? Well, children know scat--they've heard it even as babies. They just need to be reminded. Here is the famous Louis Prima scat from the Jungle Book. Have your kids raise their hands when they hear the scat. (NOTE: You must actually be at my blogsite to hear/view these clips. www.kristyncrow.blogspot.com. ) Or join in:








Now, Ella Fitzgerald was a great jazz singer from the 1960s. She was the queen of scat, and here's why. (You won't need to watch the whole clip to get the idea):






So now that we're getting familiar with scat, have your kids watch this fun clip:




Yep, scat is cool. Scat is fun. Scat is for everyone!






Now just in case you thought scat was ancient, old, and dried-up, oh no, no, no. Scat is alive and well. It lives and breathes in some of our best current musicians:






So now you know why Ace just had to make his scattin' debut. He couldn't contain himself:


Now, how 'bout you? Can you feel it, too?

Zabba Zabba Zot Zot a Dibbity Dooby DOWWWWWWWWWW.

CLICK HERE TO FIND TEN FUN ACTIVITIES TO GO ALONG WITH COOL DADDY RAT.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My editor at Putnam just sent me my first official review of "The Middle-Child Blues." It's from Kirkus:

___________________________________

Being stuck in between a big brother and a younger sister has put Lee in touch with the spirit of the blues. A family trip to the amusement park provides a vivid reminder of why being the middle child can be so bad. Their day begins with Lee, guitar in backpack and sporting a perfectly coiffed pompadour, being left in the driveway. Even getting lunch is no fun: “Ray can order a ‘Big Bun,’ / and Kate’s meal has a toy. / I get a plain cheeseburger / since I’m just the middle boy.” Catrow’s vibrant palette and frenetic style aptly depict this active family and their environs. His keen sense of proportion and angle keeps a scowling Lee at the center of the double-page spreads of bustling crowds and park rides. A series of humiliations ensues until the blues cannot be restrained. Lee breaks into his song of woe that attracts a crowd of birth-order misfits, finally singing his way to a realization that “I’m a kid like no other.” This ode to all the “mid-kids” demands to be read aloud accompanied by plenty of foot tapping and grooving. (Picture book. 5-8)

___________________________________

Here are my favorite phrases from the review:

"the spirit of the blues"
"perfectly coiffed pompadour"
"Catrow's vibrant palette"
"series of humiliations"
"the blues cannot be restrained"
"birth-order misfits"
"demands to be read aloud"
"foot tapping and grooving"

Oh, YEAHHHHH. (That's the spirit of the blues.)


Also, I learned that Cool Daddy Rat has been nominated for the UTAH BOOK AWARD. There are two other fabulous books which have been nominated as well, and I'm just thrilled to be considered at all. The winner will be announced in mid-October.

Also, Bedtime at the Swamp is still in the running for the Ladybug Award, as well as the Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award. I'm having so much fun writing for children, and to get positive feedback is truly a wonderful, unexpected gift.

I'm currently working on a couple other manuscripts, mostly fine-tuning. I had lunch with Rick Walton, Sharlee Glenn and Lezlie Evans today. It's always great to meet with other writers and get their support and advice.

The WRITING FOR CHARITY event at the Treehouse Museum last Saturday was fabulous. I really enjoyed meeting with hopeful writers, and especially a handful who write in verse, like I do. We critiqued manuscripts and learned a lot! It was a blast hanging out with the likes of Anne Bowen, Shannon Hale, Brandon Mull, James Dashner, Sara Zarr, Sydney Salter, Sharlee, Rick, and so many other Utah Writers for children. We were able to raise thousands of dollars to help the museum, and to put books in the hands of kids!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Aspiring Writer in Utah? Come to the TREEHOUSE MUSEUM!

WRITING FOR CHARITY: Sponsored by Utah Children's Book Authors and Deseret Book

Get writing tips from published authors, buy autographed copies of books, and shmooze with the Utah writing community!


Saturday, August 29, 2009 • 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Treehouse Children’s Museum
347 22nd Street • Ogden, UT • 801-394-9663

$50 per person ($45 before August 21)
Includes morning snack and lunch
Please make checks payable to: Treehouse Museum

Announcing the 2nd Annual Writing for Charity Event, sponsored by Utah Children’s Book Authors and Deseret Book. This special workshop event features more than 20 published children’s book authors of both picture books and young adult fiction.


The Writing for Charity Event, a workshop for aspiring children’s book writers (age 13 and up only, please), will provide participants with professional advice and the opportunity to have their work evaluated by one of the event’s participating authors. The event includes the opportunity to purchase books and have books signed. Participants can also purchase drawing tickets for reat prizes, including signed books and a book bag signed by all of the participating authors. All proceeds from the event will benefit the non-profit Treehouse Children’s Museum in Ogden and its award-winning Family Literacy Programs. For more information about Treehouse visit www.treehousemuseum.org or call 801-394-9663.


Writers of children’s picture books should bring a full manuscript (fewer than 1,000 words), and chapter book authors should bring the book’s first page for the critique. Participants are not required to bring work sample for the critique session. Please note that because of the length of the workshop and the set-up required, Treehouse will be closed to the public that day (Saturday, August 29.)
TO REGISTER: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Came Out of the Swamp?

I had a terrific visit yesterday with Crescent Elementary School. I gave four presentations to the students, and we had some fun playing rhythm instruments to BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP. The kids asked some great questions and were a wonderful audience. Here are two bulletin boards displaying art the students created for BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP. Without hearing the end of the story, the students were asked to predict what came out of the swamp.



Each child was asked to draw a picture of his or her prediction. Only one student guessed it was "the mom," (see the picture just beneath the "P"). They all had some fun guesses, and one student even said it was his teacher coming out of the swamp. (See upper right picture.)



Bravo! What a great idea. I really enjoyed myself yesterday and have probably officially wrapped-up my school visits until next fall. I love going to elementary schools and hope to visit many more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Congratulations, MIKE!


I just learned that MIKE LESTER won the National Cartoonists Society Award for Book Illustration for COOL DADDY RAT! BRAVO! BRAVO!


Read about it here:


http://romenews-tribune.com/pages/full_story?article-Lester%20wins%20National%20Cartoonists%20Society%20award%20=&page_label=home&id=2616228-Lester+wins+National+Cartoonists+Society+award&widget=push&instance=home_news&open

Congratulations, Mike! I am honored to have had access to your amazing talent. Thank you so much for all of your hard work and dedication on this book!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

NAME THE MYSTERIOUS MAN IN THE PICTURE


Today I had a terrific time gathering with fellow authors at the Provo Children's Book Festival. Pictured above are: (From left) Anne Bowen, myself, Carol Lynch Williams, Emily Wing Smith, and Ann Dee Ellis. If you can name the mysterious man hiding in this picture, I will send you an autographed copy of one of my books (your choice). That is, if you're the first one to respond correctly. (Rock canyon writers excluded.)


The read-aloud was fun--especially reading to my neices and nephews. I feel very blessed to have family members who are so supportive. I thought, man, these kids have heard my stories so many times, do they really want to hear them again? But they listened and played along with me. It was great! The festival had face painting, puppet shows, classes, readings, free books, food, and more. There was a bit of frustration for everyone when the fire alarm was pulled by a child and the whole building flashed and screamed like it was WW IV. The alarm kept going for quite some time and I thought I might have to try to read in sync with the loud bursts of angry noise.


I feel very privileged to have met Laura Vaccaro Seeger in person. I had seen her before when she received the Caldecott Honor award at the Caldecott banquet in Anaheim, California. It was nice to talk to her today, even just for a few minutes.


At the festival there were banners with the author names hanging high on the walls. Each one had our book covers and a fun fact. My fun fact said: Her husband was on President Obama's Inauguration Security Team. So when Steve came to pick me up and saw that tidbit written about him on my banner, I noticed there was an extra bounce in his step.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Broken Glass and Potential


This picture was taken at the Provo Marriott Hotel on Saturday, April 25th. It's hard to tell, but that's me speaking to a group of writers about picture books. Sharlee Glenn and I prepared a presentation to help picture book writers self-critique their manuscripts. Speaking and making appearances is something I never really thought about when I dreamed of getting published. I am so grateful for the advice I received from some seasoned writers who told me that, while I was waiting for my first book to be released, I should begin working on some presentations. PowerPoint is a wonderful thing. I really enjoyed the conference and got to see a few old friends that I haven't been in contact with for many years. I also sold enough copies of Bedtime at the Swamp and Cool Daddy Rat that I depleted my personal supply. Sometimes an author doesn't sell too many books from these events, so I was pleased.


I have my first return school visit this Wednesday, which should be fun. And I am now officially part of the SKYPE AN AUTHOR network. That means schools can project me into their classrooms via the internet. An author visit without the travel! To learn more about this, click here.


I will be at the Provo Children's Book Festival on Saturday, May 16th. It takes place in the grand Provo Library, with authors, illustrators, activities, read-alouds, food, puppet shows, and more. It's an absolute MUST if you live anywhere in the area and have kids who like to read. They have free books to give away, too.

It's fun to think that I once lived across the street from that massive library, when it was an old decrepit "academy" building, with busted windows and satanic symbols spray painted on the walls. My front door faced the old eyesore. I was across the street in a tiny apartment with old green carpet and a homely kitchen. I used to marvel at how frightening the monstrosity looked; it was a haunted mansion. A spooky place to be at night. Yet if you looked carefully enough, there was potential for it to be something more.



All it took was a little bit of vision and lot of hard work, and that building is now a fantastic, shining library with gorgeous rooms and staircases, where people can delight in good books. And there I will be, walking around inside it, with an identity makeover of my own. Different last name and family dynamic, new strengths and weaknesses, and so much to believe in.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gettin' JAZZED about READING!

Every once in a while I open up my email and get a wonderful surprise. Last Monday I heard from Ritt Henn, a professional jazz bassist from New York City. He often performs at elementary schools to help promote music and literacy in the community. This year, his group, the JAZZMEN, chose COOL DADDY RAT as their featured storybook. They read the book, played their instruments, and even turned the scat lines into call-and-response bits for the children. Oh, how I wish I could have been there! What a way to get kids "jazzed" about reading!


Pictured left to right: Frank Wagner, Jerry Sokolov, and Ritt Henn. (Photo by Isabella Caputo.)
The Jazzmen received letters from the children, and they shared a few with me:



A big thanks to the Jazzmen for sharing my book with children in such a cool way.
If you'd like to read more about Ritt Henn, here is his website: http://www.ritthenn.com/
And here's a website for Frank Wagner: http://www.modalmoods.com/







Thursday, April 9, 2009

Words and Bricks

Writing can be a tedious, frustrating task. I think it's a little like laying bricks. You start to build up a few words, which build upon more words and more words. Days, weeks, or months later, you've got structure. You've got something to look at, something to design and plan. You keep going, not knowing exactly how the thing will turn out, but you have hope. So you dig in. You try staying focused. You take breaks because you start to go a little bonkers. And finally, voila! After a lot of hard labor, you've got a creation to be admired, and also scrutinized.

But oh, you are not finished. This is where feedback comes in. You get some people to inspect your work--people who know all about brick laying, design, and layout. And they examine what you've done very carefully. Now imagine if EVERY time they do this, they tell you that something needs reworking. This is what happens in writing. You've done well, and bravo for your efforts, but you've got to fix some things. Maybe many things. And sometimes the bricks that need fixing are at the bottom, near the foundation. You've got to rip apart that whole section and rebuild it, brick by brick.

Which is why many people want to write a novel, or a picture book, or a chapter book, but don't ever accomplish it. It's just well, darn it, FRUSTRATING to tear down and rebuild. Again. And again.

It's why authors are a little eccentric, a little bizarre, but somehow, driven. We don't have the good sense to stop. We can't; we won't. Thank heaven for that.

And curse it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Smiling Ladybugs

I’m very happy to learn that Bedtime at the Swamp is a 2009 Ladybug nominee. It’s in the company of some very delightful books, and I’m thrilled to have it be considered. To read about it, click here.


My kids are all packing up to leave tomorrow for spring break. All, that is, except my youngest. (She’s the only one who escaped the awful “musical houses” fate.) Things are going to be very quiet around here, so you’d think I could get some writing done. But sometimes it’s even harder to work when my youngest is all alone without her siblings. She needs LOTS of attention.

I’m working on a novel, but I have such a bad habit of second-guessing myself! I get going , and then I’m really on fire, when suddenly I decide that the whole premise is stupid. I start thinking of new novel ideas, and talk myself out of the current one. Bad news. Having a great idea is half the battle sometimes. I wish I were Stephenie Meyer, and that I could dream something fabulous to write about.

I submitted a new picture book manuscript to my agent(s) – this one is quite a departure for me. I am really curious to get the response. I’m predicting they won’t like it, since it’s a little wacky, but I’ve been wrong before. It’ll be interesting to find out.

My SKELETON CAT editor is requesting more revisions. Yipes. It’s back to kitty bone-picking, my friends.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TIDBITS

A few things…

Last week, I got short mentions in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Standard Examiner. I had a very busy week. I did seven presentations at Majestic Elementary, then a signing at Ogden’s Treehouse Museum. On Saturday I spoke to 450 people at Springville’s Young Writer’s Conference, and taught three workshop sessions. On Monday I presented at Weber State. Phew! I’m ready for a break!

I also learned that Mike Lester was nominated for an award from the National Cartoonists Society for his work on COOL DADDY RAT. Here is the blog that mentions his nomination, under BOOK ILLUSTRATION.

GO, MIKE! You deserve it! WOOOO-HOOOO! ZOW! I’m crossing all my fingers that you win!! (And it’s getting difficult to type…)

Kristyn

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Letter from a Little Girl at The Nebo Young Writer's Conference


Dear Abby,

A tap dancing puppy? What a fun idea! You could create all kinds of great rhythms with a character who tap dances. I love puppies too! This is definitely something for me to consider, however, by the time the book came out I think you'd be reading Harry Potter or James Dashner's 13th Reality series. I promise you this, if I ever write a book about a tap dancing puppy, I will dedicate it to you.

Sincerely,

Kristyn Crow

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Gift in a Moment

Last Thursday I had one of the greatest moments of my life. Not that it compares with the births of my children, my marriage, or speaking at my mother’s funeral. But it was one of those rare moments where I felt utterly fulfilled and joyous as a human being. And this is what happened:

I was standing inside an elementary school where I had just given a full day of presentations, and had a wonderful meal with eight students who had been selected for the privilege of having “lunch with an author.” It’s almost surreal being honored in this way; I actually felt like somebody besides a frantic, scatterbrained wife and mom--like I might even be somebody special to some kids besides my own. I had packed up my rhythm instruments and was saying goodbye to the school administrators who had been so very kind to me. Suddenly I looked across to the end of the hallway from where I was standing, and saw a father who had bought one of my books, sitting in a chair against the wall. He had BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP resting open on his lap, and he was reading aloud to his young son, who was probably five or six. As the father got to the book’s refrain, he said, “Splish splash rumba rumba bim bam…” and then the little boy hopped up in the air on all fours, like he was playing leapfrog, and shouted, “BOOM!” with a loud giggle. Then the father repeated the game, to get another “BOOM!” from his son, and another giggle. The father kept reading.

I stood there, frozen, and felt rapture. I got to watch a father and son enjoying my book together, from the position of a fly on the wall. They didn’t know I could see them. Whatever I had dreamed of as a little girl who wanted to make picture books couldn’t have topped this. After all my struggles in life, this moment was a gift. It was a blessing for which I will forever be grateful.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back to the Revision Board Blues

At the end of last week, I received revision requests from my new Skeleton Cat editor. I also heard back from my agent, who is requesting revisions on another manuscript that a different editor likes. Now, pretend you can actually hear me across the internet waves and listen closely to this sound…. SIIIGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Did you hear me exhaling for five minutes? Huff. I’ve got a lot of work to do. I think Skeleton Cat has been rewritten so many times it’s like an old friend who keeps reappearing over and over again on my doorstep, and although I love the guy I'm getting a little annoyed.



Putnam sent me the completed cover jacket (with flaps) for The MIDDLE CHILD BLUES, and it’s really terrific. (I can say that since I'm referring to the illustrations.) The picture above is Lee, the middle kid, crankin' up the volume. Check out David Catrow’s VERY slick website (click here). This will be a fun book to read aloud!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Zhivagoland

Here are some scenes from outside my window right now. This is bundle-up-in-a-blanket-and-drink-hot-chocolate weather.



I know exactly what it's like to live inside a snow globe. And the pictures don't do it justice.





It's Zhivagoland. I remember my mother loved the movie "Dr. Zhivago," especially the score and the winter scenes. There's something about that abandoned house with the big porch, frozen-over inside and out, that is very romantic.


And Dr. Zhivago is a writer. Here's a scene from the movie, when spring has finally come (I can relate to his obvious joy):

Friday, February 6, 2009

Presenting...The MIDDLE CHILD BLUES!


Ta-DAH! Here is the cover for my next book, coming this fall. I am very excited, and hope middle kids everywhere will be, too. A big thanks to Dave Catrow and his serious SKILLS.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being in the middle is RUFF RUFF RUFF.

Yesterday I received the “proofs” for Middle Child Blues, which means the illustrations are set, glossy on the page, with text in place. No folds or binding. Just flat sheets in a stack. It’s always a bit like Christmas when I get to see the illustrations for the first time. They arrived in a big white Fed-Ex envelope, and I wasn’t expecting them. A nice Wednesday surprise. Here is the illustration for the back cover. It will have the caption, “Being in the middle is rough.” From what I understand, Dave Catrow loves to draw dogs. And he does it so well. The dog in the middle here is a bit of a “star” in the book. He dances the watoosi on more than one occasion.

Tomorrow I get to see the cover image, and I'll be posting it for you to see.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Congratulations to the 2009 ALA Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, King, Geisel, etc. Award Recipients

ALA Awards 2009


John Newbery Medal:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

John Newbery Honor Books:

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Savvy by Ingrid Law
After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson


Randolph Caldecott Medal:


The House in the Night illustrated by Beth Krommes

Randolph Caldecott Honor Books:

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet


Coretta Scott King Author Award:

Kadir Nelson, “We Are the Ship”


King Author Honor Books:

Hope Anita Smith, “Keeping the Night Watch
Joyce Carol Thomas, “The Blacker the Berry”
Carole Boston Weatherford, “Becoming Billie Holiday”

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award:

Floyd Cooper, “The Blacker the Berry”

King Illustrator Honor Books:

Kadir Nelson, “We Are the Ship”
Sean Qualls, “Before John Was a Jazz Giant”
Jerry Pinkney, “The Moon Over Star”

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award:

Shadra Strickland, illustrator of “Bird”


Michael L. Printz Award:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Printz Honor Books:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume II by M.T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan


Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award:

We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson

Sibert Honor:

Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past by James M. Deem
What to do about Alice? By Barbara Kerley

Schneider Family Book Awards:

Young Children: Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker
Middle School: Waiting For Normal by Leslie Conner
Teens: Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen

Mildred L. Batchelder Award:

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi

Batchelder Honor Books:

Garmann’s Summer by Stian Hole
Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis

Pura Belpré Author Award:

Margarita Engle for “The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom”

Pura Belpré Author Honors:

Francisco Jimenez for “Reaching Out”
Yuvi Morales for “Just in Case”
Lucia Gonzalez for “The Storyteller’s Candle”

Pura Belpré Illustrator Award:

Yuvi Morales for “Just in Case”

Pura Belpré Illustrator Honors:

Rudy Gutierrez for “Papá and Me”
Lulu Delacre for “The Storyteller’s Candle”
Amy Córdova for “What can you do with a Rebozo?”

Alex Awards:

1. City of Thieves by David Henioff
2. The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
3. Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
4. The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
5. Just After Sunset by Stephen King
6. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
7. Over and Under by Todd Tucker
8. The Oxford Project by Stephen G. Bloom
9. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
10. Three Girls and Their Brother by Theresa Rebeck

Odyssey Award (audio books):

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Odyssey Honor (audio books):

Curse of the Blue Tattoo

Elijah of Buxton

I’m Dirty!

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale

Nation

Margaret A. Edwards Award:

Laurie Halse Anderson: “Catalyst,” “Fever 1793,” “Speak”


William C. Morris Award Finalists:

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
Me, The Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine


Morris Award:

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce


May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award:

Kathleen T. Horning


Laura Ingalls Wilder Award:

Ashley Bryan, “Beautiful Blackbird,” “Dancing Granny,” “Sing to the Sun,” and “Words to My Life’s Song”


Andrew Carnegie Medal:

MARCH ON! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World


Theodor Seuss Geisel Award:

“Are You Ready to Play Outside?” by Mo Willems


Geisel Honor:

“Chicken Said, ‘Cluck!’” by Judyann Ackerman Grant

“One Boy” by Laura Vacarro Seeger

“Stinky” by Eleanor Davis

“Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator” by Sarah C. Campbell

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Fabulous Visit to Syracuse Arts Academy!

Last Tuesday I got to visit Syracuse Arts Academy! Illustrator Will Terry and I were scheduled to do a joint assembly in the morning, then break into workshops throughout the rest of the day. As soon as we arrived there were huge banners with our names, welcoming us to the school. Then in the entry the children had made “books” out of cereal boxes and had created them based on the themes of our books. I was just sick that with all my equipment I had forgotten to bring my camera. Before students filed into the gym, we quickly hooked up my laptop to the school’s projector and got the screen image centered, etc. Then Will and I were introduced, to thunderous applause. Wow, what a treat.

Weeks earlier, Will and I had emailed photos back and forth and created a PowerPoint “How-well-do-you-know-Will-and-Kristyn quiz show.” In the assembly we had the students raise their hands and guess which one of us played piano as a child and which played cello, which one had seven kids, which one was addicted to chocolate (answer: both) and other trivial facts that we hoped would make us a little more personable. Then we talked about how a picture book is made, from both the writer and the illustrator’s perspective.

The rest of the day Will and I were in separate rooms, giving workshop presentations to students and teachers. I focused on the rhythm of my books and had the students use rhythm sticks to find the beat in various types of picture book verse. Then I had them create a “Swamp Symphony” of rhythms to my book, BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP. Some kids were splish-splashers, some were rumba-rumbas, bim-bammers, and BOOMERS, all with instruments that mimicked the chorus sounds. The kids loved the instruments and we had so much fun!


At lunch, we were able to sit at two “special” tables, and kids with all their homework finished entered a drawing to sit with us. I got to sit with about twelve students, and some of my favorite questions or comments were:

“You know how your books are kinda jazzy? Well my cousin’s name is Jasmine.”

“ Will you autograph my backpack?”

“What is your favorite animal?”

“How many years did it take you to write your books?”

“I’m writing my own book, about a walrus.”


I can’t tell you have terrific it was to have a school visit go so wonderfully. It’s due, in most part, to the staff who prepped their students for the event and got them excited. An author (and/or illustrator) visit to a school gets kids enthused about reading. And I’m so lucky to get to be a part of that kind of enthusiasm.

Play the video below to see Will at work. He is SO talented. (Go, Will, GO!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stuff Crows Do


I drove home one afternoon and there were some crows in the street in front of our house. We don't see crows around here all that often and it was a little peculiar. They just seemed to be taking a stroll.

This Crow (meaning me) is preparing for an assembly at an arts academy in Syracuse. There's a lot that goes into planning an assembly, like organizing pictures and animations in a PowerPoint presentation, arranging and packing up my rhythm instruments (I have nearly 100), getting my technical gadets ready, etc. Today I was able to puchase a remote control which will advance my PowerPoint slides in the presentation. This has been a problem in the past, when the schools had PowerPoint projectors and I had the laptop, but there was not a remote which would function with it. So I had to position myself next to my laptop and click, which isn't a terrible thing but not the ideal situation. Hopefully everything will run smoothly. I'm very excited to be presenting with illustrator Will Terry, who is extremely talented.

I was also asked to participate in a Young Writers Conference for Elementary School Aged kids in the Nebo school district in March. I've got some little nephews in that district so hopefully I'll get to see them. I've got two all-day assemblies in Ogden in March as well.

I had a lot of communication with my editor from Putnam last week. I was able to see the mechanicals for "Middle Child Blues." Mechanicals is a term for the illustrations layed out with the text in place, which once upon a blue moon was done in a mechanical, taped-up fashion. Now everything is computerized and digital, but the term "mechanical" stuck around. Or so I'm told.

Anyway, it was an absolute joy seeing the text with the pictures. I am thrilled to the core. But there were some little wording changes I needed to make. This has happened so far in all of my books. Even when the text is supposedly finished, there has always been an illustration that didn't exactly jibe with the text. Obviously it's much more involved for the illustrator to repaint an entire picture than it is for me to adjust the text. Still, it takes some time with word tinkering. Once I'm able to figure out a way to adjust the text while still keeping the flow of the rhythm, the book starts to really click.

I also worked with my editor on the "flap" wording, and we discussed a picture and text for the back of the book.

I'm waiting for word on another manuscript I've written, and am doing the "fingers crossed" thing that maybe there's a chance for another sale. We'll see...

My husband is packing his bags. He leaves early this morning to fly to Washington D.C., where he'll be doing security for the Presidential Inaguration. He was given the special assignment to fly out and be on the POTUS protection team. POTUS... The President of the United States.