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Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Linky List - April 18, 2014

Sorry for the paltry list of links last week. I was out of town more than not and wasn't able to keep up. But I make up for it this week!

From Kate Messner - "Owning Our Words: Gatekeepers and Gender in Children's Books"

From The Washington Post - Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

At Nerdy Book Club: The Top 10 Reasons Why I Can't Stop Reading Children's & Young Adult Literature by Emily Meixner

From Mashable via PW: 9 Children's Book Morals for Adulthood

From PW - Josie Leavitt on "To Host or Not to Host?" (... book signings when a book is published through Amazon's CreateSpace.) Be sure to read the comments too.

From The Atlantic via PW: Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important

VERY cool book trailer for THE RING & THE CROWN at YouTube

VERY cool app from the Picture Book Artists Association at iTunes (free)

From School Library Journal: SLJ's Average Book Prices in 2014 - interesting

At Flavorwire - Beautiful Vintage Photos of Bygone Bookstores

I think the Stoics were really on to something. At 99U - The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos

At Nathan Bransford's blog, an amazing article everybody should read: Steven Salmon on writing with cerebral palsy

Thursday, April 17, 2014

EXTRAORDINARY WARREN by Sarah Dillard - GIVEAWAY!


Not only have Sarah Dillard and I been roomies at the Kindling Words Conference in Vermont several times, I'm also a huge fan of her work. She read a portion of her latest creation at the last conference, EXTRAORDINARY WARREN and there wasn't a dry eye in the room from laughing so hard!
     A chicken who wants to be special is convinced by a hungry rat that he is no ordinary chicken, but Chicken Supreme!!!! The humor is off the charts hilarious for all readers, even though the intended audience is the youngest chapter book reader. This one hits ALL the buttons. I'm thrilled to have Sarah here today to talk about EXTRAORDINARY WARREN.

Q. Sarah, this is one 'out there' idea! How did it come to you?
A.
Thanks so much. This was such a fun book to do. It started when I did a doodle of a chicken looking at an egg and wondered what that chicken was thinking about. It seemed that he had some pretty big life questions about who he was and where he came from and where he was going. Warren evolved from that. He really is kind of a philosopher I think. I knew I needed a villain and a rat seemed like the obvious choice. I've always loved Templeton from Charlotte's Web. I loved the idea that Warren befriends an egg but I also knew that at some point that egg was going to have to hatch. Somehow it all came together.

Q. Was it tricky to pull off the subtlety all the way through the story?
A.
I think sometimes I am too subtle! But I will say that I wrote and rewrote this story many many times. I was lucky to have had wonderful input along the way from my fabulous agent Lori Nowicki at Painted Words and also my incredible critique group. And I was lucky to have an extraordinary editor in Karen Nagel.

Q. I know you as a more quiet soul - where did this comic genius streak come from!?
A.
I am a quiet person but quiet doesn't necessarily mean serious. I have always had a pretty strong funny side as well.

Q. I love the simple shapes and limited color palette in EXTRAORDINARY WARREN - different from some of your other works. What was your approach?
A.
Before I started writing, I think that my art was more lovely and rich. I thought I would probably write like that too, but everything seems to come out funny. I had to make adjustments to my work. At first that was kind of scary, but then it felt very liberating. Instead of approaching the book thinking I will give this book my look, I turned it around and thought what look does this book need me to give it.
      Warren definitely dictated the art for this book. I tried a lot of approaches but a nice simple line with flat color was what worked best. The limited palette was at the suggestion of my art director. At first it seemed horrifying and impossible. But I started looking at a lot of illustrations are from the 1920's and '30s, which I have always loved, especially the work of L. Leslie Brooke, Maud and Miska Petersham, Maginel Wright Enright and her wonderful illustrations in the My Bookhouse series, and Winsor Mcay's Little Nemo's Adventures in Slumberland. One thing that really strikes me about all of those illustrations is the beautiful line and flat colors. Due to printing processes then, many of those illustrations were just one or two colors and black. I realized that black could be used not just as line but also as a color, which led to a nice bold graphic look that really works for Warren.
      I started the book thinking that I would work in my usual water color and gouache, but it became clear that the best way to achieve the look that I wanted would be to work digitally, which was a big change for me. It does seem sort of ironic that looking at old illustrations led me to work this way!

Click the image above to see it larger in a new window.

Q. I'd love to hear about your path into the publishing biz, and especially about the path for EXTRAORDINARY WARREN to publication. Have you publishers been over the top about it since day one? (I should think so!)
A.
Amazingly, not everyone fell in love with Warren immediately. He was rejected many times, but with each rejection there were useful comments that helped me to make Warren stronger. If I were to give any advice to people trying to get published, it would be don't give up and learn to accept criticism and use it to your advantage. And again, don't give up. Really, persistence is the most important piece of the puzzle.

Q. What will you do to celebrate the release of EXTRAORDINARY WARREN?
A.
I've been visiting blogs and have some book signings coming up but mostly I've been hard at work on Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day, which will be out in October. I don't want to give too much away about that one, but I will tell you that Warren and Egg are going to cross the road.

Q. Thanks so much for stopping by Sarah! I can't wait to see what you come up with next!
A.
Thank You!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival Wrap-up

Last week I finally got to experience the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi - slightly outside of my typical roaming area. I was especially excited to meet Ellen Ruffin of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, where some of my work is archived. She headed up the event and boy can she throw a party!
      My mission was two-fold. I was there to represent the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as we (Southern Breeze region members) transition representation to the newly formed Louisiana/Mississippi region and host a get-together one night. (Mississippi used to be part of our region.)
     For those interested in volunteering - it's not just about SCBWI, events like these are also a great opportunity to showcase your own work. I was able to proudly feature A BIRD ON WATER STREET as well as the MFA in Writing and Illustrating program at Hollins University where I teach each summer.

     Heather, Jo, and Laurel Snyder gave a talk on "The Book in You." I also gave a talk on "Saving the Earth, One Book at a Time." I'm still new to talking about ABOWS so I was a wee bit nervous. But I got great comments from everybody. (That was followed by a book signing which was prepared so nicely!)

      I also got to meet the fantastic Regional Advisors in charge of Louisiana/Mississippi. Here's our gang: Heather Montgomery (our ARA), Pat Hefler, Cheryl Mathis, Jo Kittinger (our RAE), and me. (And Virginia Howard - not shown.)

     The keynotes were folks I've rarely if ever had the chance to hear: Christopher Paul Curtis (such a nice guy), Kathy Appelt (so gracious), and M.T. (Tobin) Anderson. I had to get a book signed by him! (And of course, I forgot to bring all the books I already own by all these wonderful people - gads.) I had to leave Friday morning so sadly missed Leda Schubert (love her!) and David Small and Sarah Stewart. (We're trying to get David and his wife to come speak to our region - cross your fingers it works out!)
     Sarah Frances Hardy (below, left) and Katie Anderson (below, right) are dear friends who I've gotten to see rise up in the biz with fantastic book deals of their own. I couldn't be a bigger cheerleader for them both and was thrilled to attend their talk, "From Brain to Book: The Publishing Process in Ten Easy Steps." They did such a great job and we hope to have them speak at our WIK conference soon!

     Of course, that meant I had to miss Sarah C. Campbell's talk on "Finding Fractals/Making Fractals" - she was just on my blog too. But Heather and I tried to divide and conquer since they were speaking at the same time. Pah!
      It was also amazing to be able to help celebrate the winners and honor winners of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and Illustrator Awards. (I've been invited for years but finally got to attend the official party!) I got to congratulate fellow EMLA author (we're represented by the same agency - the Erin Murphy Literary Agency) Pat Zietlow Miller in person for SOPHIE'S SQUASH (Honor Winner) - I featured her on my blog recently. What a well-deserving book!
I also got to meet the awesome Linda Davich (I LOVE YOU, NOSE, I LOVE YOU, TOES!), Amy Dyckman (TEA PARTY RULES), and Christian Robinson (RAIN!) - who was way younger than I expected for his amazing and mature artwork. (I featured his book, JOSEPHINE, recently and I think he's going to be around for a while!) Here I am with Pat, Linda, one of the committee heads (sorry!), and Christian at their awards banquet in the lovely train depot downtown.

     I hate that I didn't get a photo with Ellen. But all said, it was an excellent affair, and I was surrounded by friends (which is really why I love to go to conferences and festivals above all else). Ellen and all the organizers did a bang-up job - truly. THANK YOU's to all! If you ever get the chance to go, I can highly recommend the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coloring Page Tuesday - Rockin' Bunny!

     Here comes Peter Cottontail! Rocking down the bunny trail? Why not! I hope you have a lovely Easter full of pretty blooms and ruffles.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
     **A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**

Monday, April 14, 2014

A BIRD ON WATER STREET is a GOLD Medal Award Winner!!!

A BIRD ON WATER STREET will be officially released May 7th and has already won TWO awards - wahoooo!! The first was the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) SPRING OKRA PICK:
And now - ABOWS is a Mom's Choice GOLD award winner!!! WOWSA!!!! Color me giddy!


Doin' the snoopy dance around here! After ten years of work to get this novel to the light of day, this is SO validating!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nice shout-out on BOOKTUBE NEWS

So Elizzie does weekly shout-outs about all the books she's reviewing for the coming week, and today she gave a lovely shout-out to A BIRD ON WATER STREET right at the beginning! Almost 20,000 folks subscribe to Liz, so that's some darned nice exposure! AND she's from West Virginia - a sister region to the mining community of Copperhill, Tennessee where my story takes place. Very cool.

Click the image below to go see if the embedded video gives you any trouble.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka has a new picture book out!

It's called PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLYFISH and OMG I can't wait to read it! Check out this adorable video about his process:

If the video above gives you any trouble, click the image below to go check it out on YouTube.

Thanks to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for the heads up!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Peter Salomon on ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS - Guest Post and Giveaway!


I adored Peter Salomon's first novel HENRY FRANKS so am thrilled to have him on today to talk about his latest novel, which has just about the best cover EVAH! Here's Peter...

      In the period of time between the sale of my debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, and the actual release date I had one primary goal: sell my second novel before that release date. So, with that in mind, I got right to work.
      I started writing a YA dystopian novel, because it’s the law: every author is required to write at least one, no? Halfway though, I realized two things: the ending no longer worked and I didn’t really want to write a YA dystopian novel.
      So, I started writing a different book. This one was more YA Action/Adventure, I guess. It was great fun to write but it, too, didn’t sell. By the time I was finished, though, I’d figured out how to end that pesky YA dystopian. That one didn’t sell, either.
      Then, HENRY FRANKS came out in Sept. 2012. One thing quickly became apparent: my genre was definitely YA Horror. With that in mind, I decided my next book had to stay in that genre.
      That, of course, still left me trying to figure out what to write. In the meantime, I continued to interview other authors for my blog to help promote their work. One of the questions I asked horror author C.W. LaSart (www.cwlasart.com) was for her favorite word. Her response was ‘ghastly.’
      Why is that important? Because in talking with her after receiving her answers I responded with this comment:
      I've always loved 'ghastly' by the way, though I ALWAYS wanted 'ghostly' to be far more popular than it actually is, it just feels like 'ghostly' became too watered down (probably by cartoons: Casper for instance) so that it lost the menace and creepiness that it should have had. Oh well…
      Yes, I actually dug up the actual message thread to share this story. So, we discussed the word ‘ghostly’ for a very short while and then she most likely completely forgot about our conversation. On the other hand, I kept thinking that ‘Ghostly’ would make a fun title for a story. If I had ever written a ghost story, which I really hadn’t. So I decided I should.
Peter's writing nook:
      I started brainstorming a ghost story and sent my agent three chapters, totaling about 10 pages (they’re very short chapters). My agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, then asked me one very troubling question: ‘So, what happens next?’ (I might be paraphrasing there). The only problem was, I didn’t actually have an answer.
      All I had was 3 chapters and a title: GHOSTLY. So, after more brainstorming (which basically consisted of driving my kids around town listening to pop music) I came up with a very brief synopsis and sent that along to my agent. She then sent the proposal to my Editor for HENRY FRANKS.
      And Flux bought GHOSTLY.
      Of course, I hadn’t actually written the book yet. All I had was 3 chapters. Written in a very strong, very unique ‘voice.’ One I was terrified that I’d be unable to sustain for an entire book.
      Why?

Because for the most part I’d thrown out a lot of the traditional ‘rules’ of fiction writing for those 3 chapters. Whether it was the rule against run on sentences or sentence fragments or repeating words, didn’t matter. For GHOSTLY I relied more on the rules of poetry than fiction. And it was a constant struggle to write the book without losing that voice.
      It’s not written in verse or anything like that. It’s prose, through and through. But it has an internal rhythm of language that owes a tremendous debt to poetry.
      For example, this is the final paragraph of those first chapters that were sent to Flux:
      In the corner of the room the shadow screamed, burning the air around me until I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and everything went black and everything changed and everything disappeared and all I knew was pain. Unending, unceasing pain. (to read the first chapter, CLICK HERE.)
      So, in one paragraph, there’s a run-on sentence, a sentence fragment, and two different words repeated 3 times each. There’s also a definite rhythm to the voice, and it was an exhausting battle to sustain that for the novel. But I did.
      Unfortunately, I lost the battle to name the book GHOSTLY. Which, truth to tell, I didn’t fight too strenuously. The word has really lost it’s creep, sad to say. So, now, it’s ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, which captures the poetry of the book far better than GHOSTLY ever could.
      And all because CW LaSart loves the word ‘ghastly.’

GIVEAWAY As soon as he receives his author copies from Flux (which may not be until later this summer) Peter will generously giving away a free, signed copy of ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS to one of my lucky commenters in the US or Canada. Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 10, 2014

IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK by Brianne Farley


I love to feature unusual or high-design-looking picture books like Brianne Farley's debut picture book IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK, especially since I teach Design in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books at Hollins University each summer. I also love Ike's story - he's the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to writing. Not that any of us can relate to that. *ahem* Brianne dropped by to talk about her cutting edge style...

Q. Brianne, CONGRATULATIONS on your first picture book IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK! You've been an illustrator for some time now, how did you fall into picture books?
A.
Thank you! I’m so happy that INK is a real book. Sometimes I see it at a random bookstore in the middle of nowhere and it’s always weird and surprising that this thing I made is out in the world, loitering in random bookstores.
      I’ve always loved books and always loved drawing. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake were my childhood heroes. As a kid I spent a lot of time reading while sitting in a tree, for some reason. It’s actually very uncomfortable. I don’t recommend it. I went to college as a Creative Writing major and Studio Art minor. At the time I wanted to be an editor, but after a few internships realized it wasn’t for me. College is where I was first introduced to and fell in love with printmaking and became interested in combining words and pictures. A few years later I went back to school for my MFA in Illustration and focused on picture books from the get-go.

Q. Your style is so cutting edge - almost editorial or with that elusive "European look." Do you have a philosophy behind your style?
A.
Ooh, thanks! Well, my work is usually finished digitally but I’m very much inspired by printmaking. There’s a wonderful printmaking technique called chine-collĂ© that I was thinking about when I made these illustrations. Also, I made the first draft of INK while in grad school, and getting it published was the farthest thing from my mind. So, I was able to focus on making illustrations I would like to see in a book, rather than something I thought would be marketable. I was also just hoping to write and illustrate a good story, not necessarily a children’s book. The picture books I like best are the ones that have something to offer to any age reader. That being said, kids are smart people with giant imaginations, so they’re a great audience.

Q. How do you work? I see hints of cut paper, computer, pen and ink...
A.
Yes, good eye! The illustrations for IKE’S INCREDIBLE INK were first drawn with ink (um, I mean incredible ink) and a dip pen. I then scanned these drawings along with a “library” of ink splotches for Ike’s body and an embarrassing amount of found paper (beautiful handmade paper, old graph paper, dry cleaning tags, etc.). I “cut” the paper digitally and layered it behind the ink drawings. You can see some of the process HERE.
      INK is a story about writing and story telling, but it’s also about craft! It’s about ink on paper. It’s about getting your hands messy and having an experience worth writing about. So, that’s part of the reason I chose to use ink and cut paper. My next book (yay!) is about an imaginary tree fort (of course!), so the illustrations are a little looser.

Q. Can you share a photo of your studio?
A.
Haha look at my studio. I like my desk to be perfectly clean and my walls to be a perfect mess. My studio is in a little nook in my apartment that my roommate was kind enough to let me take over. My desk is a glass-top kitchen table I turned into a giant light table with some cleverly placed Christmas lights. It’s probably a fire hazard.

Q. Being your first picture book, I'd love to hear your path to publication.
A.
I made the first draft of INK for a class in grad school. We were asked to complete a cover and three finished spreads, but as a total crazy person I decided to finish the whole book. Author/illustrator/friendly-human Peter Brown was on campus to give a lecture on picture books and stopped by the illustration grad studio (where I was working like a crazy person). He liked my book and suggested I send it to his agent, Paul Rodeen at Rodeen Literary Management, who is now my agent. It took a while, but the wonderful Elizabeth Bicknell at Candlewick Press gave INK a home. She and Ann Stott and Heather McGee and the rest of the Candlewick team helped me refine and improve the work I started in school. They’re a dream team.

Q. Ike does everything in his power to stall having to actually write. Might your own situation have inspired the story?
A.
Haha MAYBE. The line in which he needs to “find his favorite pen” before getting to work is definitely inspired by real-life events. Sigh. BUT I would also make the argument that INK isn’t all about procrastination. It’s also about getting out and finding your story. My favorite thing about Ike is that he isn’t afraid. He wants to go to the moon so he just starts building a rocket. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing but no matter, tally ho. I want to be like that.

Q. Are you working on another book?
A.
I am! I’m working on another book with Candlewick. It is about an imaginary tree fort, but it’s also about siblings. It’s inspired by one ANONYMOUS bookish older sister and one enthusiastic younger sister who, many years ago, spent a lot of time together in the woods in their backyard, drawing plans for tree forts.

Sounds great, I look forward to it!

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK. Copyright © 2013 by Brianne Farley. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

You're invited to the ABOWS release party!


You, your friends and family are invited to attend the
A BIRD ON WATER STREET
release party on
Thursday, May 8th at 7:00pm
at Little Shop of Stories
Decatur, Georgia
with live bluegrass music performed by
Playing on the Planet!
Click the invite for more details!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Coloring Page Tuesdays - Bunny Scratch

     Easter is coming! Have you ever heard the phrase that if your ears are itching, somebody must be talking about you? Can you imagine how that must be for a bunny rabbit? Gads!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**

Monday, April 07, 2014

Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival!

I'm off to the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi this week! On Wednesday I'll talk about "Saving the Environment One Book at a Time" (of course tied in with the story of A BIRD ON WATER STREET). I've never done this festival before, but I've heard wonderful things about it. And I can visit my artwork, which is archived at the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection. Thursday evening, I ve been invited to attend the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards Celebration. That should be fun! So if you are attending - I hope you'll come see me on Wednesday at 11:30 and then party with me on Thursday! Tally-ho!

The Blue Ridge Writers Conference


This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Blue Ridge, Georgia about "What to Do When the Story Finds You." What a lovely conference with top notch speakers!
     It's held in the restored courthouse, now home to the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association. Of the several speakers I had two faves...

     Claire Cook, author of MUST LOVE DOGS (made into the movie with Diane Lane and John Cusak) was the keynote speaker and awesomely nice lady to boot! We ended up munching lunch together in the kitchen and she couldn't have been any more down to earth and easy to talk to.

     Jennifer Jabaley, author of LIPSTICK APOLOGY and CRUSH CONTROL gave two talks - one about finding ideas and the second about building tension. I learned SO MUCH from her I can't even tell you! And my agent will be happy to hear Jenn helped me flesh out my next novel. Shhhhh!
     Michelle Moran gave a one-day workshop called "Overcome Your Blocks to Find Your Unique Voice." Along with being a great writer, Michelle owns Harvest on Main, the BEST restaurant in Blue Ridge, Georgia. I recommend the scallops.
     I gave my first formal talk on A BIRD ON WATER STREET, and while its always a bit nerve wracking that first time, as I figure out how long the slideshow will take and how long my stories will take to tell, the response was fantastic and there were several locals in the crowd who knew the history of Copperhill all too well. Happily, I answered all their questions accurately and passionately and they all bought the book. In fact, the store sold out again! That's the second time - wow!!!
     Thanks to Carol Crawford, Kay Kendall, and all the BRMAA staff and volunteers who made it such a great event. If you ever need a creative mountain getaway, I must recommend the Blue Ridge Writers Conference!!!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday Smile - Baby Rhinos!

I've met baby rhinos in person. (Here I am with Stan on our honeymoon in Africa petting Omni, a baby rhino they'd saved from poachers. They asked him to lay down for the picture after Stan got goosed by that horn - almost not funny.) Anyhow, I had no idea baby rhinos made such adorable noises! This will get you grinning! (Be sure to listen all the way to the end.)

CLICK HERE or the image below if the embedded video gives you problems.

Thanks to The Kid Should See This for the heads up!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sarah C. Campbell's MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS - Guest Post


I have been a fan of Sarah C. Campbell's scientific picture books for years now. From WOLF SNAILS to GROWING PATTERNS: FIBONACCI NUMBERS IN NATURE (which I use in my classrooms to teach design). I'm thrilled to help Sarah celebrate her latest - MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS: FINDING FRACTALS IN NATURE. She stopped by to tell us more about it...

      My greatest stroke of luck in creating MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS: FINDING FRACTALS IN NATURE was securing the help of a mathematician who was a colleague of the discoverer of fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot.
      Michael Frame, who teaches math at Yale University, checked my writing and photographs for accuracy and wrote an afterword that included stories and photographs of Mandelbrot as a child and discussed ways we use fractals today.
      How without Michael would I have learned that when Mandelbrot died of cancer in 2010, he believed one piece of his unfinished business was a book for children?
      I found Frame through an online course on fractals he taught in person at Yale.
      During our recent correspondence, Frame mentioned his desire to share MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS with Mandelbrot’s widow, Aliette.
      “She knew a project for this audience was on Benoit’s mind, but he died before we could get to it. That the project was done, and done so well, would have delighted Benoit, and will delight Aliette,” Frame wrote.
      Having an expert review a manuscript for accuracy is a critical step in the process of publishing nonfiction. Based on my experience with three nonfiction titles, all published with Boyds Mills Press, here are a few tips for finding an expert and working effectively with him or her.
Experts.
      Expert review is a step that happens very late in the publishing process – after the text, images and design are complete. This is because all the elements contribute to understanding – or misunderstanding. As a writer of nonfiction, however, I begin interacting with experts long before the final draft. In the case of my first book, WOLFSNAIL: A BACKYARD PREDATOR, I first interviewed Dr. Melissa Harrington, a neuroscientist who studies wolfsnails in her lab, and consulted numerous print sources. When it was time to have the final manuscript reviewed, however, my editor and I agreed I should find a snail scientist. At Harrington’s suggestion, we asked Dr. Timothy Pearce, a malacologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Know the financial terms.
      With my first two books, Boyds Mills Press asked expert reviewers to review manuscripts without compensation. In my experience, many people are very generous with their time – especially for a children’s book. The hardest part of asking for people’s time without paying them is dealing with the vagaries of publishing deadlines. By now, I more or less know what I’ve signed up for – shifting deadlines, seemingly impossible turnaround times, etc. But it’s hard to pass that kind of uncertainty along to someone who is doing you a favor. With MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS, we had a small stipend to offer. Also, even though I suggested Michael Frame as our expert reviewer, it was up to my editor, Sarah Zhang, to do the formal asking and handle the correspondence. Sarah also edited Michael’s Afterword.
Sarah's workspace:

Don’t be afraid to ask.
      It’s easy to be intimidated by the term “expert review.” It sounds a little like a test that you’ll either pass or fail. In reality, I’ve had good back-and-forth discussions with experts. Knowing an expert will come into the process down the line does not excuse you from doing your homework. For example, I was having a hard time explaining how clouds are fractals. I had a small debate with myself about whether I should admit to Frame that I didn’t fully understand how clouds were fractals. When I wrote to him, I explained why I was confused, using two examples from difference sources. In his reply, he acknowledged that clouds could be difficult, and that Mandelbrot’s mathematical proof (with Shaun Lovejoy) was too complicated for most college freshmen in Frame’s classes. He suggested a possible approach. In the end, I had to cut clouds as an example because I couldn’t get the explanation and an accompanying photographic example just right. If anything, my willingness to share my unease with the cloud aspect of fractals probably helped Michael see me as serious about getting it right. When the final draft was finally ready, he found one thing I had gotten wrong. And, I was grateful he did.

Be open to new ideas.
      I’ve already said that Michael wrote an Afterword. What I didn’t say was that it was his idea. By the time Michael came into the process in April 2013, Sarah Zhang and I were already worrying about how we were going to fit everything into the 32-page book. When Michael offered to write a section – either a foreword or an afterword – I was worried we didn’t have the space. I understood, however, that as a colleague of Mandelbrot, he could write about him in a way I could not, and he was offering to get childhood photographs from Aliette Mandelbrot. I agreed that his contribution could make it a better book. And it certainly did. Each of the book’s reviews thus far, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, has mentioned the Afterword.
     Last autumn, after the book had gone to the print house, Richard and I were in Boston visiting family and friends so we took the train to New Haven to meet Michael in person. In this photograph that Richard took, you can see that Michael has a patch covering his left eye. Through all this time we’ve been working together, Michael has been living with an inoperable tumor. I remain in awe of his generosity in sharing his energies with me, and with all the readers of MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS.

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