Dream of becoming a children’s book author?

October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Community groups, Educators, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Learn the secrets from a professional. One of a two part series

Meet author Karen Kaufman Orloff.  With four children’s picture books under her belt she has enough experience to give those of us who dream about being published authors the inside scoop. After graduating college with a degree in English, journalism and publishing, Orloff became an editor for a Manhattan magazine group. She currently is a columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal.

“I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Orloff. “Since my children were babies.

“I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking I could write stories for kids. But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Igwana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

“It was a fluke,” says Orloff.  She went to a conference armed with her manuscript.  The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrator’s offered one-on-one sessions with editors. The rest is history. Then and there, the editor was interested in acquiring the story.  “That was the best money I ever spent,” says Orloff.  I Wanna Igwana has been nominated for 16 awards since it was first published in 2004. In fact, she was given an all expense trip to Nebraska to make a presentation about her book.

5  common misconceptions writers have?

  1. If I write a good story it will get published
  2. It is easy to get published
  3. Must use rhyming for easy reader children’s books
  4. Writing is a great way to earn a living.
  5. You must get an agent to get published.

 “I see many well written stories,” says Orloff. “But they are stories that have been around forever. It is critical that the story be unique. Some stories are way too long, or too adult in their theme or use of language.

 According to Orloff, you must have a thick skin to get published. And even now that she is a published author, Orloff still gets rejection letters. “Putnam rejected the manuscript for If My Mom Had Three Arms. The book finally found a home at Sterling Publishing and was published in 2004. Good luck follows Orloff. Sterling was bought by Barnes & Noble and now she has the benefit of their extensive distribution network.

In terms of rhyme, the author says that good rhyme is very hard to create. That is one of reason she suggests only using that technique is you a really good. She sees lines that don’t rhyme or meters that are off.  She emphasizes that rhyme must be good rhyme to work.

 According to Orloff, you shouldn’t count on quitting your current job if you need this money to pay your rent and put food on your table. Advances can run between $3,000 to $5,000 but getting two books published a year is considered good.  Even with royalties the money accumulates very slowly.

 Orloff does not have an agent and even as a published author she would have a hard time finding one.

There are so many writers now writing for the young market that it is very hard to capture the attention of an agent. So learn the industry and go it on your own.

 Her one word of advice? Persevere!

Want to learn more from this seasoned professional? Attend her upcoming class now forming.

Are books really dead?

March 21, 2011 at 10:35 am | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Educators, Librarians, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | 1 Comment

I am always looking for the next book to read. One night I took a business book off my shelf called Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. Just getting through his introduction was a shocker.

“Early in the next millennium your right and left cuff links or earrings may communicate with each other by low-orbiting satellites and have more computer power than your present PC…the digital planet will look and feel like the head of a pin.

As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different roll.”

This was published in 1995…sixteen years ago.

 I was so fascinated by rereading Negroponte’s book I went online to see what other pronunciations he may suggest. And there it was… “The physical book will be dead in five years.” He shared this bombshell at the August 6, 2010 Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA.  

Over the past three years, I have worked with author Gloria Smith Zawaski, publishing our first children’s book called The Trunk in the Attic. We are about to print our second book in the series called Mongolia Bound. Our purpose is to introduce kids to other kids around the world, first Holland and now Mongolia. The series helps kids learn from other kids’ adventures. But I now think I have to consider another way of delivering the information, one that will be meaningful to this new generation of youngsters who may no longer use books as I did.

 This revelation really hit me when Eliot and Amy took to me to this huge used book warehouse in Washington, DC.   I looked at the 1,000s of books surrounding me and realized that I was looking at the death of an industry as I know it.  

It’s time to embrace the new ways and see how to make this online system of sharing information and books a more encompassing way of learning.

 For someone like me who loves books and the written word, catching up is not going to be easy. Not only do I have to stop thinking linearly but have to learn new skills. Who will I turn to in order to learn how the new computer widgets work?

HOW A BOOK IS BORN: Creating the story

September 14, 2009 at 5:53 am | Posted in about life, Book reviews, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Librarians, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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Now I had an author to write our story but what form should the story take? Gloria Smith Zawaski is unbelievably creative and has more ideas than I can keep up with. We met and shared.

At our next meeting Gloria mentioned that there would be a cemetery with a ghost near Aunt Jean’s farm. The kids meet the ghost who wants to return to the homeland of his ancestors in Africa. Great idea because our region has a number of black cemeteries. And Sojourner Truth was born about 1797 in Ulster County, which is the region where we live. So it would all fit.

Great idea Gloria, but I need to go back to Holland because of this Quadricentennial celebration coming up.  I want to use the celebrations being planned as a vehicle to sell the book. I figure the events will bring out many people, especially families, and that is the market I want to target.

So back to Holland we go. The kids would come from New York City to their aunt’s farm for a vacation. They would travel, through some kind of magic, to Holland where they would share adventures with Dutch kids. That would be the basis of the story.

As a publisher, you may ask, “What is my role?” I ask that all the time. I come up with ideas and share them with Gloria. Gloria develops the story and I provide feedback.

Gloria researches our stories and brings them to life on the printed page. My role make to make the sale of the book a reality.

 As we finish the first book, ideas for the next two books are coming from unusual sources.

 In the second book, Gloria takes kids to Mongolia. Why Mongolia? Gloria and I agreed that each book should visit another part of the world and possibly another continent.

I read the Wolf Totem by Jian Rong which takes place in Outer Mongolia. A beautiful setting for a people who are being overtaken by the Chinese. Then on NPR I head a story about a young man who uses throat singing to preserve the stories of his Mongolian ancestors. Gloria and I agreed to take our kids to Mongolia for 2010.

 And then, once again, we will visit Gloria’s ideas for an African adventure for 2011.

Questions from the Classroom.

August 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in about life, Book reviews, Community groups, Education, Educators, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve recently had the pleasure to be in the classroom at Bishop Dunn School in Newburgh, New York with Terrie and her staff. It’s been fun to answer questions from students about the book. Some questions have really made me stop and think. “Why didn’t you just write about yourself?” one fourth-grader asked. Why do some people write fiction (make believe) instead of non-fiction (real life things)? I don’t know the answer to that. For me, when I sit down and write about Katie and Jake, I get lost in their world and it’s not about me any more. In real life, I wouldn’t have had a chance to travel across oceans and time. I guess my fantasies and dreams have always felt very real to me. Sometimes I write magazine articles. They’re non-fiction. I don’t get lost in them in the same way. For those, I try to be as correct as possible about the subject. To do that, I step back and look at what I’ve written. Sometimes when I was writing the Trunk in the Attic, I felt like it was writing itself. Have you ever had that feeling about something you’ve written? And speaking of something you’ve written…are you thinking about writing a story using Katie, Jake and Cooper as characters? I hope so! I’d like to see where you take them!

Kids give new book a rousing 9 review

July 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Kids and reading, Librarians, Mystery books, Parents | Leave a comment
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trunk in the attic cover.qxpWe want to thank Nicole and her sister Sami for taking a look at “The Undercover Kids.” Nicole who is 16 asked her younger sister Samantha, who is 12, to read and review the book.  Nicole writes a blog on books.
” Okay, time to review. Even though this book was a little younger then the books I normally read, it was still good non-the-less. It was fun to find out that pannenkoeken is really pancakes with ham, cheese, and tomato on top. I wish I could’ve seen a bit more, but of course, Cooper’s gone and what not. I suggest that ages 7-12 read this book, maybe younger if they are good readers.”

Sami gave the book a 9/10. Great going! Check it out.

Illustrators tell their own stories

July 19, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Kids and reading, Librarians, Parents | Leave a comment
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Three illustrators share their vision

Elizabeth Kennedy‘s reviews on kids’ books are right to the point and provide a wonderful insite into the genre. If you have not visited Elizabeth’s Children’s Books Blog click on the link above and see if you agree with her review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Brian Selznick is a genius storyteller and illustrator

hugo_cabret_17Brian Selznick, the author of Hugo Cabret, has a marvelous talent for creating a beautiful story and providing the key illustrations that make the story more meaningful.  I was fascinated with his illustrations because they now only supported the storyline but provided additional insite…something I rarely find in books today.

Illustrators tell stories

The Grave Yard BookIf you are fascinated with how illustrations add to a story look at the drawings in The Graveyard Book from Dave McKean. His illustrations set the tone for the story by Neil Gaiman.

The Arrival written entirely with images.

The Arrival written entirely with images.

And then check out a book written entirely with illustrations called The Arrival by Shaun Tan. The book, written in 2006, tells they story of an immigrant family that seeks to leave their mystical homeland for a better place…supposedly New York City. Only the dad gets to leave and he trys to create an environment where he can help his entire family escape from their oppressive environment.

Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. He graduated from the University of WA in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature, and currently works full time as a freelance artist and author in Melbourne. He is best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery

Visiting Kids in Summer School

July 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books | 1 Comment
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We are exited to visit Bishop Dun Memorial School’s summer program next week. We have created fun and games for kids where they will write their own Undercover Kids story.

Visit us next week and see what the kids have produced.

If your kids love to write have some fun this summer and visit www.TheUndercoverKids.com. And post your children’s piece.

Getting kids to read…and enjoy it too

July 7, 2009 at 8:56 am | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Grandparents, Kids and reading, Mystery books | Leave a comment

The Wimpy Kids Series great for 7-yr olds

Last weekend I visited my kids and grandkids. The weather was great and we sat on the patio having breakfast. I asked my 7-yr-old grandson Robert if we would like to read with me. We just bought a new book the day before.

the wimpy kidHe jumped up and ran to his room and was back in a flash. The book was from The Wimpy Kids series…not my choice but his. He read and we laughed together at the silly things the “hero” did. The illustrations helped Robert better remember the story and what was being said. (Sometimes he concentrates so hard on the words that he forgets doesn’t get what the story is all about.)

20 minutes may be reading limit for some kids

He read for about 20 mintues before it was time to move on to something more invigorating…like baseball. That time for me was wonderful. And many times when we talk on the phone we talk about books and things we would like to learn about.

Do you have tips for parents and grandparents alike that help instill the joy of reading for kids?

Meet the bird-butler Earnest

July 3, 2009 at 10:33 am | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books | Leave a comment
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Wonderful demonstrates his skills in book series

One morning my husband Clay asked if I wanted to meet a book illustrator. The Kent Art Association, in the wonderful village of Kent CT, was hosting a program by Carl Chaiet. I had never heard of him, but as a new book publisher, I am always looking to meet other artistis and writers.

carl chaietIt was well worth the trip. Carl is an unusual illustrator with wonderful ideas and a great understanding of words. His three books tell the stories of Telfor, a “famous” lexicographer” and his bird-butler Earnest. Their travels take them around the world  searching for prefect words. They also involve adventure, giant flies, camels who spit and unsavory characters. His first book, Being Earnest,  is out-of-print, but his next two are well worth purchasing.

Books for both reading and collecting.

carl chaiet2The 10X12 oversized books give you a chance to appreciate Carl’s illustrations. (The quailty of the illustrations leave you wondering if this is truly a children’s book or you should keep it for yourself.

And an unusual note: Carl mentions that his son Max’s picture is hidden in most of the paintings. See if  you can find him.

On his website Carl mentions that his books can be found in the Hudson Valley at Merritt Bookstore, Oblong Books and Music and The Hickory Stick Bookshop. They are also available on Amazon.

What are your kids reading now?

July 1, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents | 2 Comments
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I spoke to my son yesterday about the story I wrote about kids and reading. He remembers reading The Hardy Boys. To be honest, I don’t remember the series. Shows what a great mom I was.

So take a few minutes to share books your kids love. I am sure other parents would love the recommendation.

By the way, if any of your kids have read The Undercover Kids’ Holland Adventure would love to hear your comments and as well as theirs. Thanks.

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