Turbo Monkey Tales is a group blog focusing on the craft, production, marketing and consumption of Children's Literature. We are illustrators, writers, animators and media mongrels. We are readers! We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path. Join our Tribe and grab a vine. The more the merrier!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Why go to ALA?

thoughts from Hazel Mitchell

If you're not a librarian or a publisher, why would you go to an ALA event? (And for those of you who don't know, ALA stands for American Library Association).

My question is, why would you not?

Twice yearly ALA holds a national conference in Mid Winter and in Summer. Venues rotate each year, so they could be in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, DC etc. At some point there'll be one near you! And if you're an author or an illustrator (pubbed or unpubbed) take some time and go see what it's all about. If it's within traveling distance, you could just go for the day, otherwise, obviously, there's the cost of travel and hotel, which may be tax deductible. The cost of registering for the exhibition floor is minimal, some of the panels or events will cost extra. Personally, I could spend all day on the exhibition floor and not see everything. Even better -  get your crit group/friends/booklovers together and have a road trip!

Aside from bagging goodies, seeing amazing authors and illustrators, witnessing librarians en masse, browsing the stands of publishers large and small, you'll see a whole other side to the publishing industry and what makes it tick.

Of course, one of the best ways to get there is if you are invited by your publisher, all expenses paid. In fact, a couple of years ago I thought that was the only way you COULD go!

But not so .. anyone can attend the exhibition or register for events that happen all through the week. And if you're published and your publisher has a booth, ask them if they'd like you to do a signing while you're there and if they are willing to get you a pass. Good publicity for you and your publisher. That's my opinion - the world has changed and so has publishing. TIP - you have to invest in yourself and your career.

Signing at Charlesbridge Booth
As I said, you can spend a long time just walking the exhibition floor. If you've a pass go an hour early before everyone arrives, grab a coffee and spend quiet time browsing the stands and looking at next season's books - in peace.

When the doors open, be prepared for a stampede! Librarians in large quantities are a little scary! It IS wonderful to witness the enthusiasm and sheer love of books pouring forth. Many of the publishers give away free copies (or at reduced cost) and arcs/f&g's and they're highly sought after. It's wonderful to have a copy of the book before it hits the shelves! Especially if you can get it signed by the author or illustrator. (Something to treasure on the dark days of winter).

Mo Willems!
Brian Selznick managed to get a photo with me ;-)
Yes, it's a chance to mingle with the great and the good! Maybe you'll only ever see so much children's writing and illustrating talent in one place. The publishers bring out the stars and the signing lines can be very, VERY long. Just the chance to say hello to a literary hero or have a photo with them is inspiring!

You never know who you will bump into round each corner...


Erin and Phillip Stead with Neal Porter watching over.

Editors and art directors are sometimes on the stands along with the hard-working marketing personnel. But this is NOT the place to pitch your idea or go for a hard hitting sell! People are here to talk to librarians and sell books. Not saying that occasionally there's time for a chat or to fall into conversation, and who knows where it could lead? In any situation be professional. If the meeting suggests it, leave your promo card and ask for theirs. TIP - be interested in what's new on their list and you'll always find something to talk about.

With Ellen Hopkins
During the day there are events happening on the floor. Different stages have authors and illustrators talking and demo-ing throughout the day - check out the schedule and mark who you want to listen to. This year I got to hear Ellen Hopkins reading from her new book. Then I got a hug too!

Artist's Alley always has an interesting display of art and artists to talk to.

Jon Klassen receives his Caldecott!
There may be panels you can attend free of charge, so again check the schedule. You may need to register for some of these before the conference.

Aside from publishers, all kinds of book related businesses exhibit at ALA and there are lots of things to browse.

Summer ALA is home to the Newbery/Caldecott awards (among other ceremonies). Treat yourself and buy a ticket for the banquet. TIP - go along to the venue and wait until after the eating has finished. Then interested listeners can sit on chairs placed at the back of the banquet hall to listen and see the awards presented. While the banquet is happening you can hang at the bar! The awards are magnificent, it's great to be in the atmosphere.
Coretta Scott King Breakfast

See your heroes. And talk to librarians!

Beautiful dessert at the Caldecott Banquet
The Coretta Scott King Breakfast is a wonderful event I'd highly recommend.Again, a fantastic atmosphere and will bring you to tears.

S&S Dessert Party

Outside of the exhibition itself you'll find peripheral events going on - a pre-Caldecott talk for example, or other events featuring YA authors. Often local Kidlit groups will organize get togethers. Best of all if you can swing an invite to one of the big publishing houses 'dessert' evenings GO!

Candace Fleming, Anastasia Suen and Eric Rohmann.
One of the nicest things is meeting up with friends you might not have seen for a while. Often people in the book industry are far flung, and events like this are the only time they get together.

With Kirsten Cappy of Curious City
All in all it feels like coming home.

See you at Las Vegas summer ALA 2014!

Find out more about ALA here:

And for a look at Summer 2013 Chicago ... http://ala13.ala.org/

Thanks for visiting Turbo Monkeys!

Find out more about me at www.hazelmitchell.com

See my latest book trailer for 'One Word Pearl' from Charlesbridge/Mackinac Island Press.

Come meet me at:
Princeton Book Festival, NJ Sept 21st 
NERA Reading Event, Portland Maine
Sept 19th

NESCBWI Illustrator's Symposium,
Nov 2 Manchester, NH.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stalking Emma Dryden

from Craig Lew

Rancho Santa Margarita, California:

It all began in a Borders Book Store thick with the smell of espresso and the sound of soccer moms gossiping.  
Yeah, that long ago...

I thought I’d do some research in the kid lit arena, possibly write a few kids books between film projects.  Should be easy.
Yeah, that naive...

I picked up a book off the Best Seller shelf with a one word title.

“WTF?  Who in their right mind would take a chance on an edgy YA novel written completely in verse?”

A rapid Google revealed the agent.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Storytelling by Ellen

Have you ever stopped to think about story . . . and not what it means in literary terms like character, setting, theme, plot, climax and so forth?

We humans are wired for story. Kids, adults, it doesn’t matter, we all enjoy stories. As writers and illustrators, we know that creating stories and pictures is hard work. Our words and pictures must capture the reader. In this way, they will continue turning the pages.

Our job is to take life’s emotions, fear, worry, bravery, love, gut wrenching experiences and lesson learned, (not to mention building an imaginary place for our characters to deal with whatever we throw their way) and create a . . . story.            

Monday, August 12, 2013

One Year Later...

Mentish Retreat November 2012

It's hard to believe it's been a year since we launched Turbo Monkey Tales. So much has happened since our first blog post! In honor of our anniversary we thought we'd all take stock and offer our own personal Year in Review.
So, without further ado, here's what the Turbo Monkeys have been up to for the last twelve months!

Hazel Mitchell

Amy Allgeyer Cook

It’s been a pretty exciting year for me. I (finally) finished the first draft of my young adult novel, Water for Starfish, during NaNoWriMo, then spent the next six months in revisions. 

On May 14th, I sent out my first wave of agent queries. Over the next two months, I received full requests, form rejections, more full requests, rejections on fulls, more full requests and … more rejections. Then, on July 15th, came an offer. YAY! Big squees! I let the other agents who had open queries or full manuscripts know that there was an offer on the table. And I gave them two weeks to finish reading and get back to me. Two weeks later, I had three offers of representation from three absolutely freaking amazing agents, every one of whom would have been stellar to work with. Unfortunately, I had to pick JUST ONE! 

After a very thoughtful weekend spent in Reno with some very dear writer friends, I decided to go with Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary. I’m so excited to be a part of the Upstart Crow team and to be working with Danielle, especially!

Sarah McGuire

Last year, our blog's first day was also the first day of preservice in my school district. That seems fitting, since it was also the first year that I taught Creative Writing, which was truly an adventure.
Since then, I...

  • Finished the Highlights workshop with Patti Gauch in October, which helped my jump into revisions on VALIANT
  • Started submitting VALIANT on February 14
  • Spent spring break angsting about VALIANT while vacationing at the oh-so-fabulous When Words Count retreat. (Yay for sweepstakes!)
  • Signed with Tracey Adams of Adams Literary in April (I'm still happy dancing!)
  • Finished school year and VALIANT revisions the way most teachers do– sleep deprived and somewhat incoherent
  • Drove cross-country to help a friend move to Washington state. I even stopped in Reno on the way back to meet with a few of Monkey tribe! VALIANT has traveled as well- venturing out into the world as it looks for a home.
This week, it begins again. During preservice, I'll be preparing for Algebra II, College Algebra Trig, and of course, Creative Writing. 

Craig Lew

In this year of the Turbo Monkey: 

1) My movie ROCK JOCKS released in Theaters in June - Available on iTunes and Amazon http://www.rockjocksthemovie.com
2) My Augmented Reality App BPZapp became available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play 
3) My Augmented Reality graphic novel, THE GOTHS: THE HUNTRESS (available on Amazon) was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards.
4) My latest acquisition, SMELVIN AND GOULASH BOY (written by Amy Allgeyer Cook, Edited by Lorin Oberweger, illustrated by Hazel Mitchell) will release in print, iBook and enhanced with Augmented Reality in Fall 2013.
5) Spoke at the Boise Cutters and Idaho Media Professionals Film Groups
6) I adopted Smittens, the kitten with the marshmallow mittens. 
7) Raced in the Idaho State Criterium Cycling Championships and lived
8) Met many new people and made some amazing friends.

I have two pending deals which could be huge...but I cannot talk about them yet.

Julie Dillard

Year highlights:
I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend TWO inspiring conferences this year--the Ventana Sierra Advanced Writers Workshop and SCBWI's Summer Conference in Los Angeles. I'm attacking my stories with fresher enthusiasm because of the focused time those experiences provided to hone in on craft and process. I am in a rewarding new teaching position, which means I have to draw on all the thoughtful advice I get from fellow writers to make progress in the limited time I have. One method I've adopted is getting up at 5am to sneak in an hour of writing before rushing off to work. The best side effect is having the story simmer in my head all day long! The very best part of this year has been, through conferences and great meet-ups with writer friends, abundant reminders of how very kind, funny, and compassionate--even heroic--people who write for children can be. Bring on the new year!

Kristen Crowley Held

Just a couple of days after our first blog post in 2012 I participated in the awesome online children’s writers conference WriteOnCon. This year’s conference starts tomorrow and, trust me, you won’t want to miss it! I also found inspiration at several in person SCBWI conferences and events where I reconnected with old friends and discovered new ones. By far my favorite part of this past year was attending the book launches of several writerly friends and crit buddies. I also had the pleasure of seeing my name in the acknowledgements of a real live book for the first time (if you haven’t read Katherine Longshore's TARNISH, go buy a copy right now, I’ll wait!). After much back and forthing, I broke up with my MG fantasy novel once and for all (or at least until I can figure out how to make it the wondrously magical thing I want it to be). With the help of a two week fast draft class run by Candace Havens, I wrote a “discovery draft” of the YA mystery (BLURT) I started at our mentish reunion at the fabulous St. Mary’s Art and Retreat Center in Virginia City, and next month I’m off to the Writer's Police Academy to make sure my manuscript “won’t bleed red ink later.”  I’m excited about getting BLURT to the beautiful/shiny stage and will be hopping on the query roller coaster later this year. Wish me luck!

Ellen Jellison

For the past year, I’ve been working on a middle grade historical/fantasy novel set along the Danube River in 170 AD. Ancient Roman and Germanic mythology is woven throughout the story, at times in real life, then fading back into mythology. Getting it right has been a challenge. The book is called JUSTUS, although I call it my Never Ending Revision. I’m finally on the last chapters, so yippee!  Two conferences that I recently attended and can highly recommend are the Speakeasy Literary Society’s retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake, and Terri Farley’s Ridin’ Writer’s Workshop. Both were intimate in nature, yet very powerful. I left both with new friendships, new ideas, and a rejuvenated determination in finishing JUSTUS, no matter how long the journey! My favorite word is perseverance, one familiar to all writers and illustrators . . . hang in there and keep on truckin’!

Marilyn Hilton

This has been a wonderful year with the monkeys! Although I didn't lose the 10 pounds I'd hoped to, I read lots of fabulous middle-grade and young-adult novels that have entertained, inspired, amused, educated, and enlightened me. I also attended several writers conferences and retreats, including three SCBWI regional conferences with Kristen, the Speakeasy Literary Society Retreat in April with Ellen, and the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA with Julie and Craig. It was a treat to have that time with them and so many other inspiring writers of children's literature. In October, a YA manuscript I'd been working on won the First Page contest at the SCBWI San Francisco North & East Bay conference, and I've continued working on that manuscript, along with a few others. But most of my writing time and energy this year have been spent working on revisions of my debut middle-grade novel, FOUND THINGS, which will be published by Atheneum in summer 2014. (The photo is me with my wonderful editor, Namrata Tripathi.)

I can't imagine having taken this journey so far without the monkeys, and I'm so excited to see what the next year brings for us all!

Monday, August 5, 2013

One Word Pearl and the Beautifully Full of Words Hazel Mitchell

by Amy Allgeyer Cook

Today, I'm super happy to be interviewing my dear friend and fellow Turbo Monkey Hazel Mitchell, whose latest illustrations hit the shelves last week in the darling new picture book One Word Pearl, written by Nicole Groeneweg.

So, Hazel, give us the pitch for One Word Pearl.

Pearl loves words. All kinds of words. Words make up songs, stories, poems . . . and what does a lover of words do? She collects them, of course!

But one day most of Pearl’s words are blown away, leaving her only a few which she keeps safely in her treasure chest. After that day she uses each word carefully—one at a time, until she has no words left. When her teacher asks her questions at school, she doesn’t answer. When her friend wants to know what she has for lunch, she can’t respond. What will Pearl do without her precious words? Will she ever find them?

One Word Pearl explores the power of words to transform, inspire, and cultivate imagination. This whimsical story is the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Children’s Book Competition in the Picture Book category.

(ISBN 978-1-934133-53-8 $17.95 HC  -- Ages 5–8)

It sounds fantastic. What’s your favorite part of the story?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Playing Favorites

by Sarah McGuire

VALIANT is currently out of my hands, so I'm concentrating on what comes next and starting my next story.

That, of course, has me thinking of siblings. 

Of course. 

I haven't been teaching too long, but I've already taught siblings. Every time, someone inevitably warns me not to expect one sibling to be like the one I've already taught. 

No kidding. 

I'm the oldest of four. I get that no two kids are alike. 

Why, then, have I been comparing this infant of a story to its older sister? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Thing That Can't Be Named

by Marilyn Hilton
During the last session of a writer’s conference a few years ago, one of the leaders asked the attendees what topics we’d like addressed the following year. One brave person piped up. “Jealously,” she said. There was an uncomfortable silence, and then a shifting of seats, a shuffling of feet, muffled coughs. And then nodding of heads.

She had spoken it—the thing we all feel but no one wants to name. Because naming it means admitting we feel it. And admitting we feel it makes us feel ugly and ashamed.

- She signed with my dream agent.

- He signed a three-book contract.

- She won the award I wanted to/deserved to win.

- They <fill in the blank>.

We may be smiling on the outside, but inside the green-eyed monster roars. “I should have gotten that agent/contract/award/five-star review/<fill in the blank>.” “S/he’s not that awesome a writer—I saw a typo on page 11.” So begins the spiral downward. And if we give in to our jealousy, it will destroy our relationships, our spirits, and our careers.

 (Deep breath.)