Coloring Outside of the Lines

This month on YA Outside the Lines, most of the blog entries focus on teen interviews. After all, it’s important to reach out to your audience. To be able to fill the void in their world. To know their wants. Their needs. Their hearts.

And after all, the name of the blog is YA Outside the Lines.

I thought about this assignment for weeks. You see, my audience is different. I write picture books. And although most book selling sites will categorize the target age as 4-8 years old, it’s important to realize you not only have to engage the children, but their adult readers as well.

So, rather than do one interview, I’ve decided to share some of the questions, comments and thoughts that have offered insight into my target audience over the years.

  1. Kids are empathetic.

1st Grader: “Can you write a book about the boy’s sister next? All the bad stuff in When A Dragon Moves In seems to happen to her.”

Others joined in: “Yeah, she needs a dragon too!”

Spray sand from Dragon
Illustration from When A Dragon Moves In (Flashlight Press), artist Howard McWilliam
  1. It’s not the kids who have the short attention span:

Kindergartener: “I wish the book could’ve been longer, but I guess you’re pretty busy.”

(Note: This comment squeezed my heart. We’re constantly told that kids don’t have the patience to sit through longer stories. Methinks it might be the adults…?)

  1. Kids listen to our words and look to us for inspiration.

Letter from 4th grader

I received this note from a fourth grader. Children are bursting with potential. Be the wind beneath their wings, not the one clipping the feathers. (This squeezed my heart too, but in a good way.)

  1. Kids are smart. They want to read, but we have to let them choose their own stories.

I’ve participated in too many festivals where children ages 8 on up pause in front of my booth to pore over my books. You can see their eyes light up as they absorb each page, each word, each illustration.

And then, the tug from the adult. “You’re too old for that book. Look at these over here.”

What these parents don’t often realize is that picture books are mini art museums, where each turn of the page offers a new delight and an avenue for the imagination to embark on a fresh journey. Plus, some readers are more comfortable connecting to stories in a visual sense.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to sway some parents to acknowledge and embrace the power of graphic novels. And look what happens when my own Dragon is interpreted by a brilliant, young artist:

Dragon graphic novel

  1. Kids need to see themselves in books, physically, psychologically and emotionally.

I’m a great supporter and advocate for the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Please read more about it here.

Girl Power

I’d also like to share a personal experience.

During a signing event for When A Dragon Moves In and When A Dragon Moves In Again, a woman approached me and asked what the books were about. I wasn’t even sure she was listening as she paged through a copy, lost in Howard McWilliam’s brilliant illustrations. But when I explained how “Dragon” acts a little naughty when no one believes he’s real, she looked up. “It’s about a child’s frustration?” she asked. And that’s when she shared a bit of her story with me. I felt my heart splinter. Without divulging personal details, suffice it to say that her granddaughter was dealing with challenges no child should ever have to.

With tears in her eyes, she said she thought her grandchild would identify with the boy and his dragon in my story. Would see herself. And that it would help her. We both cried then. And hugged. (Ya know, long ago when we were able to.)

  1. Finally, kids inspire US.

During one school visit, I mentioned that I’m working on a middle grade novel as well as a YA. “How long does it take for a book to be published?” one second grader asked.

“It can take years,” I told her, and described a bit of the process for them.

“Perfect,” she said with a grin. “That means I’ll be old enough to read it when it does.”

And with that beautiful smile in mind, I must go write. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure,  I don’t ever want to let any of these kids down.

Featured

And Baby Board Book Makes Three!

It’s been a long wait, but as my friend Kim says, babies often go past their due dates…and who among us really knows the gestation period of a dragon?

But alas, we are proud to announce the birth of our newest little Dragon, a board book for the tiniest Dragon enthusiasts. Arriving 12:00 AM August 31, and measuring 7 x 0.6 x 7 inches, I Love My Dragon is 10.6 ounces of color-splashed adventure for the chubbiest of teeny fingers. I Love My Dragon cover.jpg

Of course, Larry had to build a sandcastle to commemorate the birth and our other two Dragons were on hand to celebrate!

Dragon Board Book castle

Published by Flashlight Press and illustrated by the brilliant, Howard McWilliam, I Love My Dragon joins its siblings When A Dragon Moves In and When A Dragon Moves In Again, and is now available through your favorite bookseller.

Outs & Abouts

June and July have been a whirlwind of activity for me and the Dragons, hopping between blogs and book events, awaiting the arrival of our newest little member of the “family”, I Love My Dragon, a board book for the youngest dragon enthusiasts.

You see, sometimes for reasons beyond our control, book releases are delayed. While our little baby was expected May 1, his birthday was pushed to June 1, then to August 1. But he was certainly worth waiting for!

I know I may be a little biased, but seriously, how cute is THIS? Howard McWilliam outdid himself (again!) as did my editor Shari Dash Greenspan at Flashlight Press. And it’s available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller!

I Love My Dragon cover

But hey, when you think about it, what could be more appropriate than to be “expecting” when presenting at the Lancaster Baby Shower Expo in Manheim, PA?

And what a fun time it was! We shared Dragon stories:

Lancaster Baby Shower Expo me reading

And met the coolest people!

Lancaster Baby Shower Expo customer

baby shower expo child and mom reading

(These two totally stole my heart!)

The following Saturday, June 8, we “flew off” to The Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton, MD, where I not only had the chance to connect with some of my favorite author buddies at a lovely dinner the evening before…

Chesapeake Children's Book Fest dinner

(Left to Right: Moi, Suzanne Bloom, Debbie Dadey, Wendy Greenley, Robin Newman and Colleen Rowan Kosinski.)

I had the honor of hanging with all of these fantabulous authors and illustrators the next day!

Chesapeake Authors

The library staff and volunteers couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating, and the attendees couldn’t have been sweeter!

Chesapeake boy (back) reading DA

Not to mention, we had our own “Protectors of the Books”:

Chesapeake with star wars

(Left to right: Timothy Young, Robin Newman, Protectors of the Books x 2), Debbie Dadey, Moi, Cathy Breisacher, Jonathan Roth. Leaning in: Julie Gonzalez)

Thanks, love & hugs to fellow KidLit Author Club member Timothy Young and all of the organizers for their hard work – this event was extraordinary!

Speaking of extraordinary events, I was thrilled to return to BookFest PA (a part of the Central PA Festival of the Arts) on July 13! This is one of my favorite festivals, not only because of the people who orchestrate and attend it, but because it benefits my own beloved Schlow Library in State College, PA.

Bookfest 19 DJ & me

This year, although the board book was still unavailable for sale, attendees were able to preview it – and the response was overwhelmingly (and unsurprisingly) cuteness overload!

bookfest 19 denise cathy me gayle

(Left to right: Denise Kaminsky, Cathy Breisacher, Moi, Gayle C. Krause)

Of course, thankfully our other Dragons received a lot of love – you know how sibling rivalry can be! 😉

Bookfest 19 dad reading to child DA

Bookfest 19 couple reading hebrew edition

(Attendees always love trying to read the Hebrew edition!)

And of course, Larry loves showing everyone how the Dragon is made:

Bookfest 19 making dragon.png

Admittedly, while we’re sad that our summer festivals are winding down, it does give us a chance to head “down the shore” and get down to some serious “sandcastling” of our own.

Hope you’re having a splendiferous summer. May your every sandcastle is a perfect one!

Turn the Page

Last year, instead of sharing goals or “resolutions”, I selected a word to inspire me. The word was “connect”. There were so many amazing words to choose from, but as an author, this one spoke to me. It’s important for me to connect with my readers in order to help them connect with their world.

But at the moment, I feel more than a bit disconnected. Last week, I received a call that no one ever wants to receive. My dad suddenly and unexpectedly left this world.

Dad and me reading.png

I’m devastated. Our entire family is. He was a loving father and grandfather. He was my rock. I remember, as a child, standing at the top of our steps and jumping off with abandon, secure in knowing my dad would catch me at the bottom. He always provided that safe place to land. I guess you could say it was a living metaphor of what was to come in my teenage years, where my mom – and thus, the entire family – battled with the challenges of mental illness and the alcohol with which she tried to wash it away.

My dad never let me fall. Ever.

I started to write we never got a chance to say our last goodbye. Or “I love you”. But that’s not true. Because my dad and I were connected. I spoke to him every week (if not more) and though he lived one thousand miles away, we visited him as much as we could. I called him the day before he died to wish him Happy Hanukkah. We laughed. We talked about normal, everyday things. The price of getting a car fixed. Computer issues. Potato latkes. And the great pride we shared in our family.

And at the end, before we said goodbye, we said, “I love you.” We always did.

Of course, since life can be an unruly tangle of extreme joy and pain, the following day I was given permission by my Flashlight Press editor to share that there will be a new Dragon book next May, a board book for the littlest readers called I Love My Dragon.

I Love My Dragon cover.jpg

This is bittersweet for me. My dad knew it was coming, of course. But what he didn’t know was that it had been dedicated in part to him. It was supposed to be a surprise:

For Mom, who placed that first book in my hand, and for Dad, who helped turn the page.

I truly wish I could place this book in his hand.
 
Much love and thanks to my editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, our brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam, and the entire Flashlight family for making this book, this dedication, possible.

Please hug your precious ones a little harder today. Tell them you love them. Provide them that safe place to land. Connect. It’s the greatest gift you can both give and receive. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season, surrounded by family, friends and love.

If You Give A Writer Inspiration…

This past weekend, one of my dreams came true.

I met the phenomenal author Laura Numeroff at the Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown. And while this is a fantastic opportunity in itself, the experience filled my heart three times over: as a reader, as a writer, and as a published author.

You see, the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie series is one of our family favorites. I read those books to our boys until the pages began to separate from the bindings.

When I first wrote When A Dragon Moves In, I realized how much Laura’s words and “musicality” had inspired me. I even worried that people might think I’d tried to emulate her too closely. I asked critique group members, beta readers, and ultimately, my Flashlight Press editor, Shari Dash Greenspan. They all reassured me the stories were not the same.

Still, as most authors do, I held my breath before reading the review from Kirkus, one of the most renowned and respected professional review sources. IMAGINE my delight when they described my Dragon as “a sandy complement to If You Give A Mouse A Cookie“!

Of course, Laura’s line to have books signed wrapped around itself three times over. I watched from my own author table as she greeted every child and his/her family, so open and welcoming, and quickly realized she’s not only a brilliant author, but a sweet, warm and wonderful woman. After what seemed like hours of signing, she still had a smile for everyone (and somehow, working fingers for signing books!)

Finally, when the line became manageable, I stepped into it (thankfully, my fabulous hubby could stay at my table…and admittedly capture a picture or two while I fan-girly crushed.)

Because in one hand, I had a brand new copy of Mouse for her to sign. But in the other, I had a brand new copy of Dragon…for her. I told her how she inspired me, and how Kirkus’s “complement” comment was the biggest compliment of all! Even though she had to be exhausted, she insisted on reading through each page while we sat together, exclaiming over the story, the illustrations by the uber-talented Howard McWilliam, and the journey itself.

Johnstown me & Laura

And you know what I learned? If you tell a brilliant author how much she’s inspired you…you might just get a hug.

Johnstown me & laura hug

It doesn’t get much sweeter than this.

When A Dragon AGAIN Moves Into POLAND!

Sometimes our postal worker delivers bills (and admittedly, since I’m a writer, a few rejections.)

Other times, she delivers a new BABY!

Check out the new Polish edition of When A Dragon Moves In Again!

Polish Baby Dragon

*Tigger dances*

*squeals*

*tosses chocolate confetti*

Baby Dragon and I can’t stop hugging the sweetness!

Thanks, love & hugs to our friends in Poland for adopting both of our Dragons: When A Dragon Moves In and When A Dragon Moves In Again

Polish Both Dragons.JPG

…and (as ALWAYS) to Shari Dash Greenspan and everyone who works so hard in my Flashlight Press family to deliver such joy into my world…into the world.

And now, I must write.

 

When A Dragon Moves In – the Graphic Novel? !!!

Today I received a truly splendiferous email. It seems a fifth grade teacher challenged her students to take a favorite story and turn it into a graphic novel.

And guess what?

*drum roll*

One of her students chose When A Dragon Moves In…and her mom not only shared it with me, but gave me permission to share it with all of YOU!

*Tigger dances*

Words can’t describe what an honor and a thrill this is. And so without further ado, it’s my privilege to share the work of this brilliant young artist:

(SPOILER – check out the alternate ending!!!)

1 When A Dragon Graphic Novel

2 When A Dragon Graphic Novel

3 When A Dragon Graphic Novel

4 When A Dragon Graphic Novel

Isn’t this fantabulous? Isn’t this young artist fantabulous???

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sarah. Like Howard McWilliam (the illustrator for When A Dragon Moves In and When A Dragon Moves In Again), you’ve brought my characters, my vision – my dream – to life! You’re an inspiration to all of us, and we can’t wait to enjoy more of your talents!

Baby Dragon Hosts A Contest…& a Challenge

Hey there. Baby Dragon here.

My writer mom keeps meaning to update this blog, but between writing, author visits, the agent search and keeping up with other social media, she’s pretty busy. (Not to mention the mountains of laundry. Have you met Felicity Scott yet? She’s quite a messy little character that’s moved into Mom’s mind with us recently. But I digress…)

Blog Atlantic City boat

Because Mom recently treated me to a trip to Atlantic City (major thanks and love to my awesome Sand Dad, who made the whole thing possible), I thought I’d try to do something nice for her…and well, for the beach.

So I’m taking over her blog.

Blog baby dragon typing

You see, Mom’s originally a Jersey girl and fell in love with the ocean here as a child, spending sun-drenched days belly-surfing the waves, and cotton candy-scented nights on the rides at Steel Pier. While she says some things have changed (how I wish I could have met Mr. Peanut!), this town will forever hold a special place in her heart.

The beach was so damp, Sand Dad was able to build a castle without adding any water!

Blog Larry bd on beach

Even though Sand Dad’s welcome sign was for Dragons, the seagulls thought it was for the birds. I guess they can’t read.

blog birds landing on castle

blog birds in castle

We spent two glorious days on the beach. We saw so many beautiful shells. Mom said they were originally homes to sea creatures, like tiny castles. They were all such different colors and shapes and sizes.

Blog BD w shells

We were like pirates, searching for treasure. ARRRRRR!

blog shells sparkle

I tried to find one I could move into.

Blog bd on towel w shell

Just when I thought I’d never find one big enough…score!

Blog bd w horseshoe crab close

But alas, these shells already had tenants. After visiting with the horseshoe crabs for a bit and learning they were stuck, we helped them back into the ocean. They’re very wiggly under their shells.

Blog bd crabs

I guess I’d feel crabby if I were washed up on shore too. I think they were happy we helped them.

blog crabbies into ocean

Bye bye, friends!

In addition to Larry, there were lots of other people building sandcastles. I tried out several. To all my dragon friends reading this, head on down to the Jersey shore for royal real estate galore!

(I don’t want to brag, but I think Mom gets her rhyming skill from me.)

blog castle 1

There was something for every taste.

 

blog castle 3

And every size family.

blog castle 2

Sadly, shells and crabs and sandcastles weren’t the only things decorating the beach. As we walked along the shore, we found trash: bottles, cans, plastic bags, and wire ties, to name but a few – even though the trashcans were only a few feet away!

blog dragon bottle

“One of these things is not like the others…”

Do you know that trash not only makes the beach look ugly, it pollutes our water and can hurt – or even destroy – our friends?

Mom and I picked up a lot of trash as we walked – sometimes we had to run so we could grab it before the ocean or the seagulls did – but I couldn’t stop worrying. What would happen after we left? Who would clean up the garbage then?

And then I thought…Team Dragon! It doesn’t matter how small you are. Together, we can all make a big difference.

Here’s the challenge:

During the month of July, share a picture in which you’re doing something to clean up your favorite beach, lake or park (throwing away trash, planting flowers, sweeping the street, etc.) for a chance to win WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN and WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN.

blog dragon tossing trash

You can tweet your photos to @WriterJodiMoore, post them to Jodi Moore, Children’s Author on Facebook or email them to me through Mom’s website: writerjodimoore.com, go to “contact”. (Doing so will give her permission to upload and share them on her social media sites. Mom never posts any pictures of kids without permission.)

You may enter multiple times with multiple pictures – and trash!

A random drawing for the books will be held August 1. (So sorry, but the contest is only valid in the U.S. – although we hope everyone EVERYWHERE will join in this mission!) When we all clean, we all win!

Let’s keep our hearts – and trashcans – full!

Go Team Dragon! *wing pump*

Why I Write

Happy National Writing Day’s Eve!

Like many other writers, I plan on sharing some thoughts using the #WhyIWrite hashtag on Twitter tomorrow. But sometimes, 140 characters just isn’t enough.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of reading WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ. Afterward, we created fun fire-breathing dragons out of toilet paper rolls and crepe paper (for directions on making one of your own, click here.)

B&N Marlton Lisas

My heart filled when I heard my little listeners giggling over Dragon’s antics. It squished when they told me about their own siblings. It smiled when they stood in a row and “fired up” their creations.

B&N Marlton stage

Later, as I was signing books, a woman approached me and asked what my Dragon books were about.

She paged through, lost in Howard McWilliam’s brilliant illustrations, as I told her about the boy and his magnificent Dragon. But when I explained how “Dragon” acts a little naughty when no one believes he’s real, she looked up. “It’s about a child’s frustration?” she asked. And that’s when she shared a bit of her story with me. I felt my heart splinter. Without divulging personal information, suffice it to say that her granddaughter is dealing with issues a child should never have to.

But then she said she thought my books could help her sweet child battle through her own frustrations…just like the boy.

When a Dragon Moves In Again crib spot

As we hugged, I knew…

This is why I write. This is why I do what I do.

Hugging child pic

Baby Dragon Takes A Bite of The Big Apple

NY Dragon big apple

Music has always been a vital part of my life. I was the kid who blasted the stereo so loud the house vibrated; the one who hid her radio under her pillow at night to help her fall asleep; the one who danced to songs in her head even when silence was in order.

As a teen I would flip on the car stereo to see what song might come on as a form of musical horoscope, as a “whisper from the universe”.

Okay, maybe I still do.

It’s no wonder that I’ve spent the past thirty years sharing my love of music with thousands of others as a disc jockey.

But I digress.

This past weekend I attended the SCBWI conference in New York. It was, as always, an event brimming with information and inspiration. Our esteemed hosts, Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, were gracious, warm and funny. The speakers were superb, starting with the keynotes, which included: Anthony Horowitz, Hervé Tullet, Kami Garcia, James Dashner, Laura Vaccaro Seeger…

NY Laura

and the newly “Newberied” Kwame Alexander…

NY Kwame

…and finishing with the editor and agent panel and the breakout sessions, where I learned about the relationship between an agent and her client from Heather Alexander of Pippin Properties and The Rules of Picture Book-making and Why We Sometimes Break Them from Jessica Garrison.

Oh! And we mustn’t forget the surprise visit from the dashing Henry Winkler – “Aaaaay!”

Each one offered something special and unique…a snapshot of his/her own journey, a glimpse of his/her own view of the world. A piece of his/her own heart. Each one filled me with awe and pride in the kidlit community. We can, we will, change the world. One reader at a time.

As always, we were encouraged to be true to our own voices, despite rejections (yes, even Kwame had them!). To write from our hearts. To write brave.

Huge takeaways?

Don’t write down to children; let them rise up for you. – Anthony Horowitz

Kidlit is alive and thriving. – editor panel

Write something brilliant. – Barry Goldblatt (agent panel)

Ignore the trends. – James Dashner

You can’t let other people’s “no”s define your yes! – Kwame Alexander

As if this roster wasn’t exciting enough, I got to bring Dragon Baby! Not just the cute little stuffed one, but the full pdf of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN! (Yes! This is worth EXCLAMATING about!) And I had permission from my lovely editor (the incomparable Shari Dash Greenspan of Flashlight Press) to share it with my writer buddies. As you can see, they loved it (even brought tears to some eyes!)

NY Kim D S

NY M & Z

NY Fathers

Our new baby is set to release this coming September! I cannot wait! *squeee*!!!

And while all of this was tremendously exciting, I must admit that a huge part of attending this conference – any conference! – is getting to see and hang with my writer buddies (lovingly nick-named The Lobby Rats by my roomie and bestie, the fantabulous Kimberly Sabatini). Some of their gorgeous smiles are pictured below:

NY Lobby Rats

You see, these people “get” me. These are the people that inspire me on a daily basis…who celebrate my successes and hug me through the rejections. These are the people who ground me. Who insist it’s not only okay to write what’s in my heart, it’s imperative. They are more than writer buddies. They are family. Our “tribe”. My “yes”. I love them so much and can only hope I give back to them a fraction of what they give to me. (Wishing all of my special peeps could have come to the conference…someday? One can dream.)

So here I was, filled to overflowing with inspiration, information and warm fuzzies. How was I to hold onto it all?

Old Man Winter threatened to dampen my spirits as I left New York (much too soon!) so I flipped on the radio…and what came on? Sara Bareilles song “Brave”.

The universe continues to whisper. And I shall listen.

To everyone who made this weekend possible (including my ever-supportive hubby), thank you for this weekend…and for encouraging me to “say what I wanna say” and let those words fall out – ever BRAVE, ever honest, no matter what the “climate”.