Showing posts from 2011

PB PROJECT X - The Balance of Text and Art

So PB PROJECT X keeps getting more and more interesting.
After receiving the pdf dummy, I followed in my agent's footsteps and printed up the book on my home printer. I cut out the pages, folded them and pasted them into a tiny booklet. "COOL!" my kids said.

And then something happened.

I opened the book as if I were reading it to a child, and began flipping through the pages. I discovered, to my horror, that my text was not working. In my effort to create this different-sort-of-book I had pared away too much text. Now, it's true that a picture book can have practically no text. I mean, hey, Paul Fleischman, the creator of SIDEWALK CIRCUS (Kevin Hawkes illustrated it) invented a story concept with almost no words. Interesting that you can be the author of a book without using words, and without being the illustrator. He had done it well.

But as I flipped through the pages I realized that my book had worked in manuscript form because my illustration notes were …


So, my illustrator partner-in-crime delivered the pdf book "dummy" for PB PROJECT X. I must say, it's awesome. I can't believe the visual puzzle that was constructed. Such amazing talent!

Studying the text with the illustrations has got me wondering, though, if I still need to make a few tweaks to improve the story.

My agent called and said she loved the art. However, she wants to print the dummy and cut it out, paste it together and turn the pages to really get the feel of the book and how it functions. She says after she does this she'll call me to discuss it.

Wow. I can't believe what an undertaking this has been. I've been working on this manuscript feverishly since January - nine months, and yet it still isn't "born." In fact, I wrote the original manuscript a year or so prior to that, smiled at the strangeness of the idea and put it away. Then I found it again while cleaning up some files and started to work on it anew. …

PB PROJECT X - The Concept Art Arrived (No peeking yet)

So, my secret and gifted illustrator forwarded me some concept art for PB PROJECT X. Amaaaaaazing! It's so refreshing to have the ability to work together with the artist in the early stages.

Tomorrow I'll get to see a pdf dummy of the book in sketches, a finished spread, and a page of thumbnails. Yippeee! Then I'll forward all the art to my agent for her input. From what I've seen so far, I think she'll be very pleased...and hopefully as excited as I am. Of course, she tends to be guarded. She's suspicious of this market and what editors will acquire. But she actually agreed that getting this laid out visually would help demonstrate how the book would work.

Will editors shun the project because I've taken away their choice of an illustrator (definitely a fun privilege, as I'm learning)? I have no idea.

I'm also not sure how we'll decide who to pitch this to. The illustrator's prior editors? Mine? Several at once and see who bi…

Shhhhh...... PB PROJECT X

In this crazy world where picture books are often unappreciated, floating around in a dismal market of suspicious, pessimistic buyers, an author must get a little creative in shopping new manuscripts to editors.

And so…I have been working on an underground scheme to construct a picture book that is hopefully different, innovative, and, well, fun.

I am breaking the rules with this book. At least you could say I’m breaking away from my own tendencies and testing new waters. For the purposes of this blog, I will call this undertaking….drumroll please… PB PROJECT X.

PB PROJECT X will not rhyme, as my other books do. Nothing wrong with rhyme, but I’m throwing away my comfortable and worn old slippers. The text is sparse. The illustration notes are complex. Sigh. It’s cold, standing on the tile barefoot. But it’s a little exhilarating, too.

PB PROJECT X has a strange layout. I’ve written the manuscript in table format like a flattened-out rubix cube. And this time I’ve approached an…

Picture Book Manuscript Critiques

Praise for my Picture Book Critiques:

"Kristyn Crow is the expert on picture books. Whenever a friend asks for help with a PB manuscript, I always refer to Kristyn. She knows the ins and outs of the form like no one else." Mette Ivie Harrison, Author of The Princess and the Hound (and more)

"Kristyn Crow has special x-ray glasses that make her see right to the bones of my stories. Her writing critiques hit the nail on the head. She's so good she wouldn't even let me use that sentence - because it's a cliché. (I should have asked her to critique this blurb.) She's been workshopping my writing for ten years, and I wouldn't do it without her. Thanks, Kristyn!" Carolyn Fisher, Author/Illustrator of Goodnight, World! (and more)

"Kristyn Crow has reviewed my manuscripts for years. I can always count on her for thorough and honest critiques." Danna Smith, Author of Pirate Nap (and more)

"Kristyn Crow has great insight and expe…

Let the School Visit Rumpus Start!

I'm excited that the new school year has begun, and that I'm back to visiting elementary schools. There is something so joyous about getting children excited about reading. I'm grateful I get to generate enthusiasm for literacy. It's one of my favorite things about being an author.

Here's a fun school visit story. I had finished my assembly at one particular school and as children were filing out of the gym, a child approached me. "Those kids don't believe that we're related," he said. A couple of other children stood back, watching us curiously.

"They don't believe we're related?" I asked, to be sure I heard him correctly.

"Yeah. I told them I was related to you, but they don't believe me."

This was a predicament. I had no idea who this child was, and he was asking me to verify that we were relatives in front of his friends. He appeared sincere, almost tearful. What would I do? I looked at the children…

Message on a Back Bumper

A month ago I had a doctor’s appointment that made me a bit nervous. A routine ultra sound had shown a small irregular spot in my uterus. It was only a tiny spot, and this appointment was a follow-up to see whether it had grown or changed. My husband, always supportive, came along. But he just happened to slip away for a moment when the nurse called me in. Not knowing how long he would be, I went into the office alone. Meanwhile, when my husband returned and realized I was already having the second ultrasound—too late for him to enter--he found a way to keep himself busy. He went to the parking lot and found a roll of orange duct tape in the back of my car. With a permanent marker he wrote “I love you Kris” backwards on a strip of the tape. Then he affixed it to the back bumper of my car. This way, he thought, when I put my car in reverse, my back-up camera would reveal the surprise message.

The ultrasound results were good. The spot was entirely gone. Perhaps it had only …


Last night I went to the back door and called for my dog. (He’s a white cocker spaniel with buff ears and freckles. We named him “Joe” for the legendary Joe Cocker. But my youngest daughter nicknamed him “JoJo” and it stuck.)

“JoJo!” I called. Nothing. I whistled and clicked my tongue. He didn’t come, and upon further inspection, he was nowhere to be found. Our family dog had vanished.

My eight-year old daughter, the baby of the family, was heartbroken. She ran into the yard crying, yelling his name. “What if someone stole him?” she wailed. “Or if he got hit by a car? Oh what can we do? What can we do?”

“Let’s make some signs,” I said. I went to the place I keep blank poster board and pulled out a sheet. And that’s when I saw it. The sign. “HOW TO VACUUM.”

Now jump to flashback. (Flashbacks should only be used sparingly and never in a picture book. But this is a blog, so here goes. Back to the dog story in a bit.)

My son Kyle, who has autism, was attending high school a …

For Meghan Ruby

For Meghan Ruby (Last Name Withheld)


I never knew you.

I first learned of you sixteen years ago when I was visiting my mother’s grave. I looked up from the bench where I was sitting in the cemetery and noticed a woman walking toward a gravesite in the distance. She knelt down, and her hands immediately went to work. Carefully and with great concentration she removed items from a bag and arranged them around your headstone. Exactly what items I couldn’t see from my vantage point. She was alone, and the wind blew through the trees in long steady breaths, tossing her hair. There was no one else in the cemetery. Just me and the woman. It was peaceful.

She continued for quite a while. It had to be done exactly right. Something must go here, something must go there. After some time she stood up, took several steps back, and admired what she had done. Although she was a young mother, perhaps in her late twenties, her face was that of a much older person--weathered from heartache. My loss…

Mortification Monday

As suggested by author Shannon Hale, I’m sharing a frustrating author experience as part of her “Mortification Monday” topic. So here goes.

One morning I drove through a raging blizzard to find a school that had booked me for an assembly. I couldn’t even see the street signs, and was SO grateful for my faithful GPS. I got out of my car and trudged through the snowy parking lot. I was dragging 70 instruments, my projector, and my laptop in a giant rolling suitcase, dressed in my presenter attire. It was comical. I was slipping, pulling snow, and my toes were numb.

Entering the school, I brushed myself off, found the front office and went inside. “May I help you?” asked the secretary.

“Hello. I’m here for the assembly,” I said.

“What assembly?”

“The author assembly. I’m Kristyn Crow.”

“Kristine…I’m sorry, what was your last name?”


“Are you a parent coming to watch, then?”

“No, I’m the presenter.”

“Ohhhhh. Okay. Well, the principal wants to talk to you about it,” she said.…

Tulips, Stories, and Hope

Last fall, I planted tulip bulbs. 100 of them. Purple, pink, and white, randomly along the borders of my front porch. And as the cold days of winter have moved across the calendar—slowly, like clouds in the wind, I’ve waited for spring.

And I’ve decided that planting the bulbs was an exercise in hope.

There is hope in planting tulip bulbs, just as there is hope in writing a story. You put in the effort knowing there will be no recompense for a long time.

The hope in a story is that someone will understand it, connect with it, embrace it. Maybe a soul will be enlightened by it, have an emotional response, an epiphany, or even just a few good laughs while reading it. The hope is that someone will admire it and find it beautiful—and share it with the world. The hope is that the hard work will eventually be rewarded.

But manuscripts must first survive a cold winter. A winter of silence, doubt, and discouragement. A period of rejection and waiting.

As long as the bulbs are in the ground, there …

So You Want to Get a Picture Book Manuscript Published?

What you’ll get if you sign up for my picture book class this June in Sandy, Utah:

1. A whole bunch of handouts with helpful writing and marketing information.

2. A list of more than 50 literary agents acquiring picture book manuscripts, and their contact information.

3. A cool souvenir binder to keep your materials together.

4. Hands-on analysis of picture books (I’ll provide them) – including the classics, best-sellers, books with gimmicks, etc., and why they work. (Or don’t.)

5. Critique sessions for your manuscripts, including a “critique sheet” filled out by class members, to help you find trends in the feedback.

6. The opportunity to analyze your manuscript from the perspective of an editor who must “pitch” your story in an acquisitions meeting.

7. A friendly classroom atmosphere in a beautiful setting with mountain views. Plus, a break from the routine of your life, and the opportunity to devote a solid week to your craft!

8. Breakout sessions with bestselling authors such as Ally C…

Serious Questions Kids Ask Kristyn Crow

That’s an excellent question. You see, Ace’s mama sews the necks of his shirts with ultra-stretch fabric around the collar. He refuses to wear button-up shirts because they’re so itchy. Picky kid, that Ace. But oh, what undiscovered talent!

They decided to go green. Three-wheeled cars use less energy than four-wheeled cars. What? Your family still drives a four -wheeled car?

Heavens, no. Hare has a mild stutter whenever he gets nervous. So the narrator is just imitating his speech patterns, for dramatic effect.

The monster was created using the DNA of a frog, an alligator, a t-rex, and a pinch of Barney the dinosaur. Somebody also threw in the DNA of a monkey, which enables him to scale trees.

How does he play them? Ultra smoothly with a cooooooool jazzy beat.

Stand up to a mirror and squish your nose against it. Look yourself in the eye while you’re doing it. That’s exactly how somebody who’s “a little snuffled” feels.

He already came out, when lightning struck his grave. It was a very st…

"Mother, Am I Normal?"

Yesterday my eighteen-year-old son with autism was wiping off the kitchen counter. He stopped, blinked a few times and said, “Mother, am I normal?”

I looked up from my laptop, surprised. He’d never asked me such a thing before. We made eye contact. I scanned my brain files for the correct response.

“I mean, what does normal mean?” he asked. “Does it mean medium? Or good? Regular? Or average? Or ordinary?”

One of his favorite things to do is to search for the meaning of words . He’ll frequently ask me for definitions, and is especially interested in classifying words with similar connotations.

But this was a profound question he was asking. What DOES normal mean, anyway?

“I suppose normal means regular or ordinary. Average," I said.

I thought about my son in his early childhood. He would scream in frustration at his inability to communicate his wants and feelings. In those days, I was an overwhelmed young mother with small children, trying to deal with what felt like his…

How (And WHY) to Book Kristyn Crow for a School Visit

1. Email me at

2. Introduce yourself and let me know what you have in mind…a large group assembly, individual classroom visits, a literacy night, etc.

3. Request my detail sheet if you’d like references, price ranges, etc. I am willing to work within your school’s budget.

4. I’ll get back to you ASAP. A conversation has begun! We’ll set a date and time and go from there.

5. Why? Your students will be entertained with an animated PowerPoint and a lively discussion about what writers do, how picture books are made, and how rhythm works in language. I know how to work a crowd of kids--I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to make them laugh. An author visit is a HUGE boost of energy to your literacy program. I’ll read three of my books, and your students will play instruments along with the book refrain in a huge rhythm symphony. It’s learning and having fun at the same time. The students don’t just listen, they participate interactively.

6. Contact my r…

The Really GROOVY Story of the Tortoise and the Hare

Available March 1, 2011~The Really GROOVY STORY of the Tortoise and the Hare ( Albert Whitman, Inc. , illustrated by Christina Forshay ) is the traditional tortoise and hare fable, snapped up with a groovy beat. It is new rhythm breathed into the old tale. As a writer, I can tell you it was grueling work—one of the pieces I worked longest on. It has sets of three rhymes per line, a hoppin’ beat with an anapest meter. I worked on it for over a year.

Don’t misunderstand the intent of the book. The word “groovy” in the title is not a nod to the 1970s. (Although if it makes you smile, groovy.) This book is about movin’ and groovin’, hippin’ and hoppin. It’s about shaking your tortoise shell or your fuzzy cottontail as you hear the words of the story. It’s about little hands clappin’ and little feet stompin’. It’s about movement and rhythm and language with a beat. It’s about involving the reluctant or early reader interactively in the story. Word-play and humor.

When I visit schools, I brin…

Plan for a FABULOUS AUTHOR VISIT at Your School

1. Consider possible authors your students might enjoy having for a visit. Think about the books the students at your school love, current best sellers or reading trends, your literacy theme, etc. Has a school in your district had a successful author visit recently, and would they recommend that author? Do a little research. Most authors have websites you can find by doing an internet search for the name of the author or the title of their book series or character. Find the section on their website about “author visits” or “school visits.” Locate the contact information. To book Kristyn Crow, click here.

2. Make an inquiry. Email the author and request information on fees and what the presentation will entail, length of time, etc. Ask for references – unless the author is such a big celebrity it would be silly. In some cases you’ll need to arrange a school visit through the author’s agent or editor. This information should also be available on the author’s website.

3. Chec…