Good News!

goodnewsMore congratulations are in order for author, member, 2016 nonfiction Golden Kite winner, and Young People’s Poet Laureate for the Poetry Foundation Margarita Engle for her latest books: Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanicsillustrated by Rafael López and published with a simultaneous Spanish edition by Godwin Books, an imprint of Holt/Macmillan (3/17/17), and Morning Star Horse, published with simultaneous bilingual and Spanish editions by HBE Publishing (1/30/17).

Way to go, Margarita!

 

margarita-engle
Margarita Engle, photo by Sandra Rios Balderrama
Bravo is a collection of biographical poems about Latinos—both famous and forgotten—who accomplished amazing things in many fields.
Morning Star Horse is historical magic realism about the Raja Yoga Cuban Kids, Spanish-American war orphans who were sent to an unusual school in San Diego.

 

Bravo Margarita Engle
Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot—the Latinos featured in this collection come from many different countries and many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today
Morning Star Horse Margarita Engle
A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish American War, the challenges of a new century, and innovative teachers. Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer.

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her most recent picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.
Margarita’s newest historical verse novel is Lion Island, Cuba’s Warrior of Words. Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog. Visit her at margaritaengle.com.

 

 

Advertisements

Good News!

goodnewsCongratulations to member Gayle Pitman! Gayle’s new book, When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community (illustrated by Christopher Lyles)was published this month by Magination Press. WOOT!

I asked Gayle to share her inspiration for the new book and a bit about her journey to publication for this manuscript. Take it away, Gayle!


In 2012, I started working on a research project that explored the lives of LGBT/queer people who existed on the edges of their communities in some way—because of their race, their age, their gender status, their disability, or other factors. I interviewed about a dozen people, one of whom was Phyllis Lyon. I don’t think most people know Phyllis’ story, but she and Del Martin were like the goddesses of the San Francisco lesbian community. I got her number out of the phone book (who uses the phone book anymore?), but I put off calling her for weeks. What would I say? It sounds so ridiculous now, but I felt like a groupie who feared rejection from her favorite rock star. Finally I called her. She answered the phone on the first ring, and within two and a half minutes we had an interview scheduled for later that week. Just like that!

Phyllis’ house is located near the top of Castro Street in San Francisco, which

GaylePitman
 Gayle Pitman

I think is so richly symbolic. But the inside of her home held even more power for me. Her house is tiny—maybe about 700 square feet—but the panoramic view of San Francisco from her living room window is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. During our interview, I learned that Phyllis rarely left her home because getting around was hard for her, and it seemed so Hitchcockian and depressing to think that she spent her days cooped up in her house, looking out her window. But later, my perception of Phyllis’ experience shifted, and it occurred to me that every day, she gets to look out her window and see how she and her partner Del transformed that city. And then, I thought, “Why not write a children’s book about Phyllis and Del?” So I did. There are so few children’s picture books out there that focus on LGBT history, and it seemed like a great opportunity to help fill that need.

Journey to publication:

This is a great SCBWI story! I attended the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles for the first time in 2015, and I submitted When You Look Out the Window for a manuscript critique. I met with a Big-Time Editor (who shall remain unnamed) from one of the Big Four publishing houses (which shall also remain unnamed). She LOVED the story, and wanted my agent to make a formal submission to her! Beyond that, it was clear from the beginning that this editor and I had a lot in common. What should have been a critique session ended up being a great conversation about writing, politics, and building a career in publishing. It was an amazing experience, and a huge confidence booster for a neophyte author like myself.

WhenYouLookOuttheWindow

Postscript: That publishing house didn’t end up buying the manuscript. The editor wanted some significant changes made, and Phyllis wasn’t comfortable with the direction the story would take as a result. Even though publishing with that house would have been a great opportunity, it felt important to me to honor what Phyllis wanted. Meanwhile, my editor at Magination Press (who published my first book, This Day in June) REALLY liked the story, and she offered me a contract! It worked out perfectly, and I learned during this process that it’s not always about getting the big contract right away. It’s about building relationships, exercising patience, and trusting the process. When You Look Out the Window is a gorgeous book, and I’m so grateful that I get to share the story of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin with children.


By day, Gayle E. Pitman teaches Psychology and Women/Gender Studies program at Sacramento City College. By night, Gayle writes children’s books and engages in other forms of subversive creativity. Her debut picture book, This Day in June, won the 2015 ALA Stonewall Award, was a Rainbow List Top Ten pick, and won the IRA’s 2014 Notable Books for a Global Society Award. A frequent speaker at colleges, universities, K-12 schools, and professional conferences on topics related to gender and sexual orientation, she has been featured in publications ranging from School Library Journal to The Advocate. Find more about Gayle at her website, on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Good News!

goodnewsCongratulations to member Jed Alexander! Jed’s new book, Red, was acquired by Amy Novesky at Cameron + Company and will be published in the spring of 2018. Red is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood and is the first in a series of wordless retellings of classic fairy tales for young children. The deal was made by Jed’s agent, Abigail Samoun at Red Fox Literary. I first learned of Jed’s new success when I read the announcement in the 11/17/16 Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf. Way to go, Jed!

I asked Jed to share his inspiration for the new book and a bit about his journey to publication for this manuscript/series:

I’ve always been interested in the universality of wordless narrative—the idea that anybody can pick up the book and connect with it. This was the inspiration for my first book, funded through Kickstarter, (Mostly) Wordless.

Red, though, started as a mailer. A short, condensed, wordless version of Little Red Riding

a745883e-f5a4-4f18-aade-f3022ad203eb
Jed Alexander

Hood in a two-color trifold mailer. In the story, Little Red Riding Hood is confronted by a very menacing looking wolf. Later we find that the wolf is stalling Little Red, while grandma and the other animals in the forest are preparing a birthday party for her. My agent, Abigail Samoun, liked the mailer so much she suggested I turn it into a book.

So, unconventionally, I decided to draw the whole book instead of a dummy. I’d submitted book dummy after book dummy, and it was time. It was the same with (Mostly) Wordless, which was eventually picked up by the publisher, Alternative Comics. I’m in this to make books, not book proposals, and so that’s what I did. And I very much recommend it.

We’re told over and over, “That’s not how it works, don’t send the publisher a completed project, they won’t be interested.” But my background in small press comics informed me otherwise. When I was doing small press comics, people made books. You submitted a completed project, or you published it yourself, and in small press comics, self-publishing had no stigma attached to it. Whether is was photocopied or conventionally printed, if it looked good, people bought it. You might not have had many readers, but you had readers. And this is often still how it’s done. This is how Raina Telgemeier started. Before Smile she was doing photocopied ‘zines. That’s how she got the attention of Scholastic and was commissioned to do the Babysitter’s Club series.

I’m not saying I’ve given up on the conventional submission process. I’m just saying there’s only so long I’m willing to wait. And if you want to make a book, nothing’s stopping you.

So I finished the book, which I called “Red,” along with covers for two other prospective books in the series, “Yellow” and “Blue,” all based on fairy tales and designed for a two-color format. Abi took it to New York. Nobody was interested. Wordless books weren’t selling. Or that was one of the reasons they sited. I try not to think too hard about why a book is rejected. All I can do is do the best work I can. The fact is nobody knows what sells or why it sells. Not editors or publishers. If they had that magic formula, every book they published would be a bestseller and there would be no midlist books or failures.

My agent and I had already established a relationship with Cameron + Company, and Amy Novesky had shown interest in expanding one of the short pieces in (Mostly) Wordless into a full-length picture book. I’d put together a dummy, but ultimately they passed. Still, Amy really liked my work, and asked, “Do you have anything else, particularly with animals?”  And I said, “Of course I do.” I sent her Red. She got back the same day. She said she loved it, and asked if I had any ideas for a “Green.”

excerpt-from-red-jed-alexander
An excerpt illustration from Red

Eventually, Amy and the rest of the fine folks at Cameron + Company asked me to expand my little 24-page square book to a more conventional 32-page 7×10 format. This required me to redraw most of the book, but I’m glad for the opportunity to improve it. It’s going to look great!

What I particularly like about the concept of Red is that even the title is universal. The whole series is designed for very young children. I’d love to have them say, “I want the red one,” or “I want the yellow one,” and that could be “red” or “yellow” in any language. The story is all told in pantomime. This too comes from my background in comics, in which so much of the story has to be communicated with attitude and body language. Other influences are turn of the century books by Wilhelm Busch, and Rodolfe Topffer, which also rely very much on pantomime.

I think more than ever, right now we have to ask ourselves as artists—what is the value of what we’re doing? What am I adding here? And that’s why I think wordless books are so important, because any kid can connect with any other kid through a book like this, or see themselves in it. And in a culture where we have so many other barriers beyond just language, we need as much common ground as we can get.


After working for over ten years in the editorial field for such publications as LA Weekly, The Sacramento News and Review and The Santa Cruz Metro, Jed returned to his first love, children’s literature. With this new focus, Jed debuted his portfolio at The 2009 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators North/Central California conference where he won Best in Show. He has since contributed to Nickelodeon Magazine, Spongebob Comics, and Cricket Magazine as both an author and illustrator. Find out more about Jed at jedalexander.com.

Good News!

goodnews
Congratulations to author, member, and 2016 nonfiction Golden Kite winner Margarita Engle for her new book, Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Wordspublished in August, 2016 by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. Way to go, Margarita!

I asked Margarita about her inspiration for the new book:

I wrote Lion Island to honor the little-known history of indentured laborers in Cuba, who petitioned the emperor of China for their freedom. Many of their petitions were written as poems, so my multiple voice verse novel format seemed ideal. While there are fictional characters too, Antonio Chuffat is a historical figure. His story is interwoven withlion-island that of five thousand Chinese-Americans who fled to Cuba to escape anti-Asian violence in California. As a messenger boy, Chuffat documented both the arrival of los californios, and the freedom struggle by petitioners. His memoir was the primary resource for my novel.

Lion Island was edited by Reka Simonsen at Atheneum, and was proofread for cultural and linguistic accuracy by many writer-friends of Chinese ancestry. The beautiful cover illustration is by Sean Qualls. Lion Island is the

margarita-engle
Margarita Engle, photo by Sandra Rios Balderrama

final volume of my cycle of biographical verse novels about freedom seekers in 19th century Cuba. The cycle began with The Poet Slave of Cuba, and continued with The Surrender Tree, The Firefly Letters, and The Lightning Dreamer. I hope Lion Island will help show young readers that the world really can be changed with words, instead of weapons.

Thanks, Margarita. We hope so, too. 🙂

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Her other books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, as well as a Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and International Reading Association Award. Her most recent picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Margarita’s newest historical verse novel is Lion Island, Cuba’s Warrior of Words. Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog. Visit her at margaritaengle.com.

Good News!

goodnews

Bitsy Kemper, our own fearless leader, has a nonfiction book for teens coming out this Spring. The title will be published by ReferencePoint Press and will be part of their teen mental health series.

In addition, she’s also secured a contract for two more books with ReferencePoint, both dealing with career exploration. Those titles will be published Fall of 2017.

0
RA and author Bitsy Kemper

Bitsy credits landing the contracts on lots of digging and extensive research into the current titles of work-for-hire publishers. Figuring out how her writing style and experience might fit their needs, followed by customized query letters, resume, and writing samples for every publisher came next.

Way to go, Bitsy!

 


Bitsy is the proud author of 14 children’s books. She spent too much of her early career in the computer industry being interviewed in places like CNN and co-writing a nationally-syndicated newspaper column, not realizing the creative passion she’d have once she started writing children’s books. After authoring her first four picture books, she figured out a way to merge her PR and marketing expertise with her writing. When not nose down and knee deep creating & editing, she enjoys presenting at schools, events, and writers conferences, starring in videos for newbie picture book writers, and helping other writers get attention. Bitsy is an accomplished speaker, mother of three (four if you count her husband), and according to her business card, a really nice gal.


If you have good news to share, we’d love to hear from you! Send a quick note to AcornNewsletter@gmail.com.

Good News!

goodnews
Congratulations to member Jennifer Laam, whose second novel was published in April of this year. Way to go, Jennifer!

The Tsarina’s Legacy, released on April 5, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press/Griffin, is a companion novel to Laam’s debut The Secret Daughter of the Tsar.

IMG_0040 copyIn 1791, Prince Potemkin returns to St. Petersburg to restore his legacy and win back the love of his life, Russia’s powerful Catherine the Great. In the present, Romanov heiress Veronica Herrera is invited to the same city as a ceremonial monarch. As Veronica encounters unanticipated dangers, Prince Potemkin provides the inspiration she needs to tackle difficult choices.

IMG_0266
Jennifer Laam

Jennifer Laam is an alumna of the University of the Pacific (History and Russian Studies). She resides in Northern California, where she spends her time writing, reading, and line dancing. You can find more about her at jenniferlaam.com.

 


If you have good news to share, we’d love to hear from you! Send a quick note to AcornNewsletter@gmail.com.