On the Making of Children’s Books with Kenneth Kraegel | A Breathe Conference Retrospective

Let’s continue the Breathe Conference experience together.

9780763653118On Friday, I spent my first two sessions with Candlewick Press author, Kenneth Kraegel. Kenneth wrote King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson, as well as the soon-to-be-published The Song of Delphine. Both sessions were (very) great and gave me plenty of ideas for publishing my long-awaited, barely anticipated Thom and Tom series.

The first session was titled “Children’s Books 1: Nuts and Bolts of Picture Books.” This was the description:

Discuss the many elements involved in making a picture book—writing the text, finding a publisher, working with an editor, understanding how an illustrator fits into the process, promoting your book.

That was a lot to tackle in an hour, but Kraegel rose to the task. Here are a few of the things I learned:

  • There are two main types of picture book authors.
    • Authors who are not illustrators
      • These folks start with the story
      • The publisher chooses the illustrator (It is frowned upon for the author to suggest an illustrator unless there is a compelling reason (like marriage) to do so)
      • Advances and royalties are split between the author and the illustrator
      • Manuscripts are submitted with the words only, images suggestions are sparing and indicated by brackets within the text
      • Examples – The Relatives Came & Button Up
    • Authors who are also the illustrator
      • These folks can start with either story or images
      • Advances and royalties go to just one person
      • Manuscripts are submitted as a “book dummy” – a black & white sketch book with typed text, either physical or in pdf format
      • Examples – Dr. Seuss & Mo Willems
  • Children’s books are typically 32 or 40 pages (or rarely larger by 8 pages at a time), though with endpapers and paste down pages, the copyright info, title page, and story only take up 26 or 34 pages
  • Most children’s books are 1000 words or less
  • Current trends lean toward very sparse sentences
  • There is no standard page size for children’s books (each publisher sets their own rules)

748879The rest of Kenneth’s presentation was practical across the publishing world. Things like: do your research on a publisher before submitting your manuscript to them, develop a routine for your writing/illustration, treat writing like a job to get into the habit once it actually is one, and make friends with your local indie bookstore in order to have an idea of what is published and what is needed in the marketplace.

After such great information from the first session, I couldn’t help but stick around for the second, “Children’s Books 2: Using a Storyboard to Write Picture Books”

After a demonstration of how storyboards are used, we will create our own and discuss the experience. Artistic ability is not required. Bring a work-in-progress or create a new story in the session.

My work-in-progress was a Thom and Tom story (“The Breadbox of Doom”) that I had in my notebook. Surprisingly, the story came out to the exact length of a 32 page picture book. But now I’m wondering how lucky I’ll be with the rest of the stories in that universe.

With one storyboard under my belt, I’m getting excited about the new publishing possibilities before me. I’ve got plenty of work yet to do in order to get my writing off the ground, but Kenneth Kraegel’s class gave me a kick in the right direction.

Thanks Kenneth!

Now, everyone do yourself a favor and go buy some of his books from an indie bookstore near you!

A Call to Artists | Can You Draw a Squirrel?

I have written like 50 flash fictions stories that revolve around a squirrel and his invisible roommate. I’ve passed them out to friends and critics and have received positive feedback. But one thing nags at me.

I feel like the stories need some sparse illustrations. Just simple black and white pen drawings.

More like this.

Less like this.

I’ve heard that the stories don’t need illustrations, that they are strong enough to stand on their own merit. But I like the idea of random pictures.

If you have any skill with drawing, please contact me here. If you know someone who can draw, have them send me a drawing of a squirrel. That’s all I need.

Why would you do this? Because I have a product that is ready for pitching but for this one last detail. And unfortunately I can’t draw worth a toot.

Meet the Cast Tuesday | Mr. Potsibald and Hezekiah

Today, we’ll meet a couple more characters from the Thom & Tom series. In case this is your first time here, my Thom & Tom stories fall into the category of flash fiction, meaning that they are quite short (see an example here). If we wanted to get more technical, they are anthropomorphic in nature, as all of the characters are animals (and one goblin) who take on characteristics of humanity, like speech.

Anyway, enough about literary devices and on to the characters.

This is a chipmunk. It does not sing and dance. It does drink massive amounts of coffee.Mr. Potsibald – Mr. Potsibald is the owner of the Jittery Chipmunk, the local coffee house in town where Thom and Tom enjoy a hot cup of chai. True to the stereotype, if chipmunks can be stereotyped that is, and if a chipmunk stereotype portrays chipmunks as energetic and slightly insane, Mr. Potsibald is energetic and slightly insane. This could be because of his raging caffeine addiction, a condition almost certainly aggravated by the fact that he owns a coffee house.

Hezekiah – Hezekiah is Tom’s imaginary friend. Life certainly can be difficult when you are the imaginary friend of a squirrel’s invisible roommate. In spite of this, Hezekiah seems reasonably well adjusted, or at least as well-adjusted as Tom imagines him to be. Anyway, it would probably be better if you didn’t get attached to Hezekiah, so I won’t give many reasons to love him.

Just out of curiosity…

Flash Fiction | Thom & Tom: Weight for Me

I am taking a week off from book reviews. I hope that’s okay. I haven’t had much time to read lately. Instead, I’m doing something new.

Yesterday, I introduced a couple more characters from my Thom & Tom flash fiction series and I mentioned that I’d share a story. Well, here I am making good on that promise.

Thom is a squirrel. Thom is invisible. That's kind of their thing.

Here’s some proof that I’m not an artist.

Before I post it though, I feel the need to explain the format a bit. My original vision for the series was to be along the lines of an Edward Gorey book, with a picture above each line of text, though each line of my text would have footnotes (like Terry Pratchett does, though he does not do them for every line) and the footnotes themselves would have footnotes.

I’m a terrible artist, so you’ll just have to imagine that there are pictures here. If you are an artist with a knack for anthropomorphic forest animals and you have nothing better to do with your time, give me a jingle and we could make some sweet money together.

Okay then, here we go.

The Misadventures of Thom and Tom: Weight for Me

By Josh Mosey

There once lived a squirrel named Thom.*
*The h is silent, but not invisible.

Thom lived in a tree house with his roommate, Tom.*
*Tom is not silent, but is invisible.

One morning, during his morning ritual*, Thom saw something frightening on his bathroom scale.**
*Thom’s morning ritual consists of: hitting the snooze button twice before turning off his alarm clock, using the lavatory, going back to bed, realizing that he shouldn’t have gone back to bed, taking a shower, weighing himself, eating some breakfast, throwing something at Tom, having a cup of chai, and getting on with his day.***
**It isn’t very nice to be frightened by anything that soon after you’ve woken up.  It’s just not a good way to start the day.
***Getting dressed is not part of the ritual because squirrels don’t wear clothes.  That would be silly.

It was his weight.*
*About 2 lbs. more than normal.**
**Which is drastically overweight for a 1 lb. squirrel.

The first question Thom asked was, “Who do I blame?”*
*An important first question.

Thom immediately dismissed the possibility that he was somehow at fault.*
*Who starts by blaming themselves?**
**Not Thom.

Thom’s next target was the media.*
*Not so much because the media portrays “big” as “beautiful,” but because Thom watches a lot of television.**
**And when Thom watches television, he eats.

But was it just the media’s fault?*
*Thom (and everyone else too) likes to spread the blame around.

Now that he thought of it, the grocery store was having a lot of sales recently.*
*Sneaky grocery store.

But that doesn’t even take into consideration Thom’s friends.*
*Tom is especially bad, with his “let’s see how much food Thom can fit in his mouth” game.**
**Tom likes to play this while Thom is sleeping.***
***Thom doesn’t like to play while Thom is sleeping.

And then a thought occurred to Thom.*
*Two thoughts actually, but only one was relevant to this story.**
**The other thought was, “I wonder how much I would have to pay a stranger to walk around yelling, ‘Free the Colors!’ all day long.  That would be funny.”

Thom thought, “Why not blame the food itself?”*
*Go to the source.

Just then, Tom stumbled* out of his room…**
*Stumbling is just one of Tom’s many talents.
**Tom usually stumbles out about five minutes after being hit with whatever Thom threw at him.***
***See sentence break 3 for more details about Thom’s morning ritual.

And solved the issue with only a few words.*
*A roommate’s abilities are sometimes uncanny.

Tom said, “It’s winter.  I hate winter.”* **
*During the winter, squirrels store up fat reserves so they can survive the season when they cannot find as much food.
**I hate winter too.

The End*
*Of this story.**
**Not the world.***
***I hope.

So, there you go. A real Thom & Tom story. Merry Christmas.

Meet the Cast Tuesday | Pumpernickel and Fork

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I write flash fiction. These stories revolve around a pair of roommates named Thom (a squirrel) and Tom (invisible), but each episode introduces a new character. This week, I’ve decided to introduce a couple of my favorite characters in the Thom & Tom series.

Pumpernickel – True to the roots of his name, Pumpernickel is a flatulent Goblin. Seriously, look up pumpernickel in the dictionary and see if I’m lying. I’ll save you the trouble. I’m not. Anyway, Pumpernickel was adopted by wealthy hedgehogs, and now he’s sitting high on the… hedgehog. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But I’ll spare you the pain of making anymore bad puns, because that’s all I’ll say about Pumpernickel.

Fork – Fork is a kleptomaniac mouse who only takes items too large to actually get away with stealing. This form of self-defeat would normally take its toll on lesser beings, but maybe that’s what makes Fork so special. Or maybe it’s a weird birthmark or something.

Stay tuned because I’ve been debating on actually posting one of the stories. My hesitation is driven by the fact that publishers don’t like publishing something that everyone has already read for free. Although, publishers do like publishing things that have a built-in fan base, so maybe I’ll just post a story or two and you can all become ravenous fans, writing to the publishers of your choice and making them want to publish me. Just an idea.

Anyway, I think that I’ve talked myself into posting something, so check back tomorrow.

Meet the Cast Tuesday | Thom and Tom

Thom and Tom are the titular characters of my flash fiction series.

I first came up with the idea for their characters on a slow night at the bookstore, six or so years ago. At the time, Thom was an anthropomorphic monkey. The first story started like this:

There once lived a monkey whose name was Thom.*

*The h is silent, but not invisible.

I had been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett books at the time, and I really liked his use of footnoting back story and explanations. I continued on from there.

Thom lived in a tree house with his roommate, Tom.*

*Tom is not silent, but is invisible.

In order to be a successful pairing, roommates should be quite different. I know this has proven true in my own experiences. So, I flipped the footnote, which gave me the idea for a whole story. Thom is my straight man, and Tom is my crazy, invisible character.

Somewhere along the line, Thom became a squirrel. I think it was around the time that the Curious George movie came out and everything had been monkey-related. I didn’t want Thom to be typecast before he got his chance to shine, but I still liked the tree house. What other animal could anthropomorphically enjoy living in a tree house? That’s right, a squirrel.

What is Tom then? He’s invisible. So is he a ghost? No. Is he imaginary? No.

And now you know the main characters of my flash fiction stories. Each one starts with the same two lines.*

*and footnotes.

Next week, we’ll meet the main character of the novel that I’m currently working on.

The world doesn’t need another blog.

my blog modelBut here it is anyway.

My name is Josh Mosey. I’m a happily married man who works full-time in a bookstore. My wife is an accountant who works for a company that sells color. I’m bad at math and colorblind. Together, we make sense. We also make babies. Our oldest is a year and half old as of this post. Our newest has a couple more months of blissful ignorance before being thrust into this messy thing we call the world.

Why do a blog? In addition to being a husband, a father, a bookstore employee, bad at math, and colorblind, I am also a writer. I write speculative fiction and humorous flash fiction.

Speculative fiction is the umbrella term that hold things like sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian literature. Think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games.

Flash fiction is really short stories. I mean really short. Usually 500 words or less. Most of my flash fiction revolves around a pair of roommates, Thom and Tom. These stories are perfect for readers (and writers) with short attention spans.

As of yet, I’m not published and I don’t have an agent. But I do have stories. I have ideas. And now I have a blog.

Watch out world!