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.

All Who Are Terrible at Picking Favorites Say “I”

This month on YA Outside the Lines, we were asked to share our favorite (yes, singular) character that we’ve created.

Admittedly, I’m terrible with picking favorites. I cringe when I’m asked to name my favorite book. My favorite song. Even my favorite color changes on an almost daily basis!

What made this even more difficult was that the characters that live in our books are our babies. We nourish them with our hopes. Our dreams. Our blood, sweat and tears. The gestation period can often be much longer than nine months, sometimes years, before we can dress them up and allow them to take their first steps into the world.

children w books.jpg

And now they wanted me to pick a favorite?

How could I choose between a lovable, mischievous little boy and his larger-than-life Dragon pal (When A Dragon Moves In?) How could I ignore his big sister or his little brother (When A Dragon Moves In Again, I Love My Dragon?)

What about Nelson (of Good News Nelson), who realizes that sometimes it’s not enough to just deliver the news; sometimes you need to do something to change it, and make the world a better, kinder place? And Mrs. Welsh, who runs the animal shelter? And his cranky old neighbor, Mrs. Snodberry, who ignites the passion in Nelson to find homes for all of those abandoned kitties?

What about all of the other characters in my stories that have yet to be published? Like my sweet elephants and my ballet dancers and Admiral Palmetto, the oversized cockroach who serves to protect young hearts that have been broken?

Simply put, I couldn’t.

What I did say is that characters, like children, all need different types of love at different times. I have one story that’s endured over 100 revisions. My main character, Carmen, is a tiny spider with huge dreams of performing in an opera. None of her peers or family members understand why she can’t be satisfied to weave webs. But she doesn’t allow anything to deter her…not their scoffs, not their warnings, not even her lack of vocal cords.

Maybe it’s because publishing itself is wrought with rejection. Maybe it’s because my husband and I taught our own kids to ignore the “no”-it-alls and pursue their passions. Or maybe it’s because I most relate to my sweet Carmen right now as I continue on my own path to securing agent representation.

But this unstoppable arachnid continues to occupy a corner deep within my heart, and I will continue to revise, re-envision and resubmit her story until she finds her place out in the world.

YAOTL spider big eyes

Because that’s what we do for our kids. And our characters.

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!

When an Idea Adopts YOU

The world is filled with ideas. Sometimes they’re in our face. Other times they’re playing hide and seek. But they’re there. Everywhere.

But when is an idea “right” for us?

I often describe my stories as being my “kids”. I nurture them, try my best to prepare them for their “launch”, and then hope the world accepts – and loves – them as much as I do.

How do I know when to adopt an idea? I don’t. Not always, that is.

But sometimes, if I’m lucky, an idea will hold on tight…and adopt me.

That sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Often, it is. I’ll be sitting there, minding my own business and wham! An idea will come along and smile that smile and (as Dolly Pardon would say) there go all my defenses. I can’t help but take it in!

That’s what happened with WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. My husband was building sandcastles and several children on the beach decided to help. One little boy stuck a piece of seaweed in the doorway and my husband said, “Wow! That looks like a dragon’s tail. Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in!”

(How I wish all stories could be this easy…spoiler alert: they’re not.)

YAOT Dragon tail castle

Other times, a tiny little character will whisper its dreams in my ear and crawl into my heart. I have a spider story that I’ve been spinning for years now (we’re talking over 100 revisions – note: see above spoiler alert.) Though it hasn’t found a home yet, (and I’m the first one to cringe when I see a spider in real life), I can’t seem to give up on this sweet, determined arachnid.

YAOTL spider big eyes

And then there are those characters that won’t give you the time of day…

YAOTL Bird walking away

But just try and give your attention to another story. It’s sibling rivalry at its finest, like when you’re busy helping one child with homework and the other one suddenly remembers she needs you to bake last minute cookies for the team.

Or when you finally get one moment to go to the bathroom, only to have your kids sit outside the door and strike up a conversation with you. “H-e-e-e-y!” they demand. “We’re ready to share now. Are you listening?”

YAOTL bird in face

Yes, dear hearts. I hear you. I’ll be right out, er, um, there.

Finally, there are the ideas that stare at you with those big eyes and those heart-wrenching expressions. You don’t know what they want, not yet, but you know they have something special to tell you.

YAOTL Knox

That’s exactly what’s happened with this barn near my house. It’s old. It’s falling apart. It’s right behind a new development going up and I’m fearful each time I seek it out that it will have suffered the brute force of a bulldozer.

yaotl barn

This barn has adopted me. It speaks to me. It calls me back to it again and again. I don’t know whether it will end up as an inspirational springboard, a spooky setting or a fully fleshed out character, but I know it will serve as something in an upcoming story.

Something important. Something special. Something right…for me.

What ideas will adopt you?

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 Moves In To BookFest PA: Celebrating the Arts

For me, the real “fireworks” start after July 4th.

I’m not talking about the hand-held sparklers, or the loud firecrackers, or even the color-splashed glittering sky.

I’m talking about the brilliance, the luminosity, the light, the love and the sheer joy inspired by art. This past weekend, I was privileged to attend three amazing festivals: The Central PA Festival of the Arts,

blog arts fest

People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts,

blog people's choice.jpg

and BookFestPA. blog bookfest logo.png

Larry and I spent Saturday sharing book – and Dragon! – love at BookFest:

bookfest larry set.JPG

We connected with author friends… (here I am with the amazingly talented Gayle C. Krause and Denise Kaminsky)

Bookfest gayle denise me

…book-loving friends… (fantastic volunteer Amy and brilliant organizer Maria Burchill of Schlow Centre Region Library, who took such great care of us!)

Bookfest maria amy

…and made a TON of new friends! (Yes! I finally got to meet BookFest organizer David Pencek & his adorable son!)

Bookfest jodi david son

Our Dragons received a lot of love.

shari woman's expression reading

BookFest customers reading

And found precious new homes.

Bookfest child reading dragon

Oh! How I wish I could share more pictures of the sweet little faces of Team Dragon, but I would never post a child’s face without their parent’s permission.

I guess it was no surprise that we found Dragons are “drawn” to edible art:

If you give a Dragon a cookie…?

Bookfest baby dragon.w cookie

Some Dragons are into “pop” culture:

arts fest dragon kettle corn

Although the arts festivals run mid-week through Sunday, our schedules only allowed us to have Sunday free. So we walked four miles of artist booths between the two. (It was heaven!)

Of course, since I ran Larry ragged, I treated him to ice cream:

Arts fest ice cream.JPG

Okay…um…that might have been mine. YUM! 🙂

And now, head and heart full to overflowing with inspiration…I must write.

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.

 

H4L Day 24: Extending Hands, Building Bridges

Many know this already, but it was my husband who built the sandcastle that inspired WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN.

Of course, it wasn’t his first. He’d been creating these lovely castles since he was a child, like so many of us. As a dad, he was a part (literally!) of our sons’ artistic sand sculptures.

larry-boys-buried-in-sand

But it wasn’t until the boys went to college that Larry began studying the craft. He learned how important the clay content of the sand is with respect to holding its shape. He learned how to use tools to create shadows and depth. He learned how to build arches and bridges. And he loves to teach others too.

I use pictures of him and his castles when I visit schools, showing students how building a story is just like building a sandcastle – from the strong foundation (idea) to the sculpting of doorways and arches (revision.)

Yesterday, as I watched him create, I realized that he uses one hand – one outstretched hand – to build his bridges.

larry-building-bridges

A perfect analogy for life, yes?

Imagine the bridges we can build if we all just extend our hands.

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*