Monday, March 30, 2015

Circus Train: New Release from Jennifer Cole Judd
I couldn't resist doing an interview with my friend and author, Jennifer Cole Judd. Her newest release, Circus Train, hit the shelves last week. Jen is a brilliant poet and an incredible person all around as you will see from the brief interview below: 

Your latest book, Circus Train, is a rhymer, which you do very well. How hard was it to sell and where did the idea come from? How long did it take from its creation to is ultimate publication? 

Thanks, Johnell!  The idea for Circus Train was born when (surprise, surprise) I took my young kids to the circus one day.  It was watching my then five-year-old daughter's eyes light up with wonder that brought a wave of nostalgia and excitement for me. It was like a sensory explosion, and watching her take it all in was pretty special. I really wanted to capture that magic and wonder, so I sat down that evening to write a poem about it. The poem expanded and became picture book length. This was back in 2006. I had been taking Anastasia Suen's Intensive Picture Book Workshop online at the time, so the manuscript went through some great critiquing. I was really new to children's writing back then, and was focused primarily on poetry writing, so when I subbed the story out and got a couple of rejections, I put it away for a while. Well, quite a while, actually! I pulled the manuscript out in 2012, after having spent some years working on rhythm, rhyme, and learning the craft (and after my first publication, Eyeball in My Garden had been out!). It was then that I added the train to the story. I revised it, shared it with my critique partners, and subbed it to Two Lions. I was surprised (and thrilled) when they acquired it a few months later. I know that doesn't happen a lot in the industry, so I feel extremely blessed (and lucky!) that this story was acquired that quickly...but, I think the span of six years helped! (I wish I could say all of my other stories and poems came together that magically!)

You've been doing author events already. What's been the best one you've done and what feedback are you getting? Which events seem to work best for you and what advice would you give an author preparing for a book tour?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Need for Local Literature

I'm at a point where I feel comfortable talking about that hinted-at good news. It's not an agent or a book deal, lovely as that would be, but the formation of a writing group I started shortly after moving to my new home in Central America. I wrote about it in an article for Rate Your Story (RYS), which you can click over to read if you like. (RYS is an excellent resource if you haven't heard of it.)

As stated in the RYS article, I lived in Africa for a while and saw the need for literature that spoke to the local situations with characters the children could see themselves in. Sadly, I wasn't writing then and not attuned to how I could change it. Now I am, and I'm hoping the group we are forming will change the literary landscape of the region, but the thing is, they already have great stuff to guide them. 

As so often happens in countries with economic struggles, most people don't see the incredible talent within their own borders. The grass is always greener because so often it really is. Or people in larger countries aren't often exposed to the literature from smaller countries because the gatekeepers don't know about it or don't realize that stellar literature can come from areas that make the news more for their struggles than their triumphs.

I've been impressed with the artists I've met here. I speak the language well enough to navigate a Taco Bell menu, but with kind friends to translate for me, I've been introduced to some brilliant authors, like Salarrué who wrote Cuentos de Cipotes (Stories of Children), among others.

The video above is a brilliantly crafted animation of one of his stories. It's in the dialect of a region in El Salvador, which makes it harder to understand, even for Spanish speakers. The basic idea is a group of children decide to play funeral, and they need a willing corpse so little Tanta is picked (Tanta is the feminine form of silly or dumb).

Unfortunately, Tanta doesn't stink, so the the children look all over for something to make her whiffy. Once that's done, they add the lid to the "casket." But Tanta doesn't appreciate this realistic effect and raises a ruckus. Tanta's maid hears her cries and saves her from a fate worse than a fake death and, in essence, becomes the angel who brings her back to life. 

I hope to have even more good news soon. We have a talented guest speaker scheduled to speak to us this week and I can't wait to share what I learn with you all shortly.

Have a great week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Carrie Charley Brown's inaugural ReFoReMo challenge is going on even as I write. I've been delinquent in sharing this with you, partly due to the good news I hinted at. Fortunately, it's not too late to catch Carrie's blog and all the great advice she's compiled. 

The basic idea of Carrie's ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month) is to use picture books as text books. Well, I don't need much of an excuse to read more picture books, so I've loved it. One of my favorite recent picture books is Sophie's Squash (see video above) by Pat Zietlow Miller--unique concept, tightly plotted and an endearing MC. 

As for the good news, suffice it to say we're on the cusp of developing something truly incredible in my new home. 

Have a great week.