This is my journey in creating concepts, writing, illustrating, finding a literary agent, and becoming a published children's book author and illustrator for the picture book genre.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

writer's block

Sometimes it gets the best of us. It is like walking into a wall and not being able to find a way around it. Oh writer's block, I would rather call you creativity block. My artwork is falling flat. Time to make a plan. As the New Year approaches, goals for this hopeful writer shall also be set. I hope to create a web site or extend this blog. I would like to create etiquette vignette stories about the adventures of Bug and Andy for you to read and share. I would also like to complete my other story about Mean Mister Lou and the once township of Alamaroo. Finally, I would like to also write short stories about Abernathy, the Soch Witch. Yes, New Year.  Bring it, please! I am still aspiring and my dreams are big.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Be the example.

Memes are little stories in themselves. This is the season where "please" and "thank you" matter so much. As we give and receive, children have a great opportunity to understand the impact these words can have on a person. Even nice words are presents that can make a heart fill with joy. Let's share that joy and set a great example to our children by remembering and using these words as the holiday season continues.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

holidaze continues.

I want to write. I want to write and tell you about some adventure or break through in my journey that I have had. Unfortunately, I am at a lull; a stand still of sorts. There has not been a single break through in the creative setting for me. I am sorry that I have nothing for you to read. I have been working on another concept. Perhaps a middle school aged book concept. This story idea has been rolling around in the thought process for a while. My mom, a creative person who makes dolls, told me about her sock witch. I have transcended her sock witch to a Soch (sOk) witch. These are the protectors of the corelicle crystals that stabilize the dimensions/ planes of worlds. Dark forces of the sea planes wish to break these crystals to allow them interdimensional access. They ride on sea dragons and such. Soch witches live among the Sasquatch who are also dimensional travelers and protectors of the earth on and so forth. My main character is a small soch witch by the name of Abernathy. I have only prepared some of my outline, but it holds potential. There is a story with an underlying theme of earth and resource preservation. For now, most of it remains locked in my mind.
Andy and Bug have been shelved until after the holidays. I think this is a time to concentrate on family and friends. New Years are great for new beginnings  I shall put my work out there again come the New Year. Until such a time, my journey is slow, but always aspiring...

Friday, November 30, 2012

tis' the season...

I started off my week with another rejection letter. Not near one hundred yet so there is STILL hope! The holiday season is quickly making its way here.  My boys are so excited for all things Christmas and Santa. When we were writing out our letters to Santa, we discussed the importance of being grateful, humble, and asking for only one gift. The lesson was about consideration. We were being considerate to Santa, Santa's elves, the reindeer who fly the sleigh, and other children in the world. My seven year old was very accepting of this concept. He also wanted to make sure that we had something for Santa to eat when he works hard making so many happy on Christmas Eve.
Etiquette is developing a concept of consideration and sensitivity towards others. I want to develop a story for Andy and Bug based on this concept. It starts in the home. Developing this awareness of how others are affected by you creates the ability to be considerate naturally. My son understood that asking for more than one thing from Santa would cause the Santa and the elves to work harder, the reindeer to fly a heavier sleigh, and other children would receive less because Santa would have too much work to do. We read Mickey's version of "the story of Magi". This story is exemplary of what gift giving means. If you haven't read or aren't familiar with the story, I highly recommend it.
When shopping for the boys, I bought an extra present for my son to give to "toys for tots". This concept had to be explained as well. To a child, they don't see other children living without. This was a shock to him. He expressed a want to change that. I am very proud of my seven year old for grasping this concept. It isn't an easy one to understand. Some how, he did.
Santa represents hope, mystery, excitement, compassion, and love. I see all of this in the eyes of my children when they see Santa. It isn't just about the receiving  the giving in return doesn't have to be monetary. Actions speak far louder than words. Consideration and empathy for those giving is a gift in itself.
How do you teach this to your children?
Please give to "toys for tots". Let's help every child receive a gift for Christmas-

Monday, November 26, 2012

hey!!! Where did I go?

Andy, Bug, and Claire
Great question! Well, soul searching for one. I have been searching for my writing voice. Is there really an artist out there that is completely confident in their work?  My nerves have been a bit raw. I feel myself uncertain as to the next step to take. Do I continue to send the same work or shall I allow it to metamorphosis into another story? I have added another character. My lady bug's name is bug. I hope that the addition of a female type character will add to the appeal. I doodle and draw a lot now. In a recent contact with another author, I was reminded that there are stock illustrators that publishers use. Can I change that? Well, introducing my art in combination with my writing couldn't hurt.
I am trying to find a balance in my life between family, world, and dreams. These last few days, all of these have been a daunting realization that I am the one in control of my accomplishments. At times, I feel that I really don't know what I am doing. I have a concept, work, and art. What I do lack is experience.Wayward moments are more common than I would like to admit. Many times a day, I feel as if I am running circles and unable to find a starting or ending point.
Here I am. I started this blog as a reflection and a way to define my voice as an author. I love the refinement and unspoken ability to warm an environment that etiquette offers. Thank you for reading and following my journey. As always, I am an aspiring children's book author and illustrator who is still aspiring... Now, back to some writing...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Practice helps

I read that some authors found inspiration by creating an illustration and writing a story around it. I felt this might be an interesting technique to try. My illustrations are progressing in detail and more. I really enjoy water color, chalk pastels, and coal. I am considering trying oil pastels next. Water color is quite calming. I think I may be adding water color as my next step in this piece.  Practice can only help what I am aspiring to do. Part of the feedback I received was that there wasn't any illustration possibilities for my story.  I am going to change that. A journey is better with friends. Andy is going to bring everyone along. Still Aspiring!
The finished product....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

just creating....
Well, back to the drawing board...literally. I have been working on illustrations. I am just drawing. I am creating illustrations that have nothing to do with my story except for the character. I need to build more on my character. I have never had an art class outside of what was mandatory in eighth grade. Considering my lack of experience in this area, I think I may be on to something. Here is another illustration that I worked on today.
I have also contacted the local critique group here in Columbia. I am hoping to meet others with similar interest in writing. I still have a little story and want to share it.
Still aspiring. Still want to help educate our little ones in social etiquette through the use of children's books. Still trying. I need to find someone who shares my passion and eye. This last journey taught me a lot. I now have a bio and cover letter to accompany my query. Tonight, I am picking up first grade sight words to help my work become an early reader story instead of a read-aloud style. New challenge and I am ready!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Write from your heart. When lost, that is where you should start.

I heard back from the agent whom I sent my work to.  What a kind person and a teacher, too. Although my work isn't right, her feedback has inspired me to continue on. After receiving her response, I put my kids in the car and off to the library we went. It was as if I had a guardian angel in the form of a librarian helping me. Her intervention equipped me with books in rhyme.  I picked up a couple of books from the infamous Dr. Seuss. His stories inspire me. I learned a lot about this gentleman and how he came to be. He lived on Newberry Street in Mass. I love that street! Stephanie an I tried on wedding dresses there, had coffee, and shopped at Lush. The brown brick stone buildings added to the ambiance. he wrote, "it happened on Mulberry Street" from the inspiration of this Bostonian Neighborhood. He was a man that never backed down from a challenge. He found ways around the rule book. His first early reader book was "Cat in the Hat" and later came "Green Eggs and Ham". Wait, maybe I have that backwards. It really doesn't matter. I think he would tell me to "write from your heart. When lost, that is where you should start". Can't is a contraction that makes giving up so easy. So easy, we shorten the two words and lose two letters. Maybe we would try harder if it took longer to say it.
Today, I move forward. I am reworking my story. I have taken on a challenge to shorten it and create a bigger picture for the reader and the illustrator (me!) I think I have a strong concept and some good writing. I just need to redefine my target age group. Do I want a read a loud or emergent reader? Much to think about and more drawing to do. It helps me think.
In turtlenese, they always say "please"

Onward, upward, and most of all, THANKFUL!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

if you don't ask, you will never know

During the course of my agent research, I began an email exchange with an agent I have come to really admire. Their website is pretty, bright colored, and full of childhood imagination. I could see my work fitting in to their portfolio. I called my husband to share with him my excitement. This was where I wanted my work to be. I clicked on the submission guidelines with hopes that this would be easy. For those who are unaware, a submission takes an hour. Why? Well, every agent has a preferred format. You need to read the website thoroughly to make sure it is a good fit.  There are the references to check.  Finally, the submission guidelines. Always read them carefully. Each book genre has a different requirement. 
Their submission guidelines stated that they weren't accepting submissions at this time. Well, drat. A little bit of hope inside me began to shrivel at this point. As I am an avid rule follower, I sat back in my chair and sulked as I internalized my disappointment. I re read the posting in my publication book. Under the agencies information, the submission guidelines stated that they would only take submissions during the first week of the month. I thought to myself, "It couldn't hurt to ask". And that is exactly what I did. 
Several email exchanges later, she agreed to read my bio, cover letter, and manuscript. When this email came through, I screamed, cried, and cried some more. Years have gone by without a response other than "no". Then it hit me, I don't have a cover letter and bio. I have worked so hard on perfecting a query that I wasn't sure what to do next. I needed clarification. My super hero came through with the breakdown...Thanks, super hero. I spent two days perfecting, re reading, and perfecting. I compiled on the documents into an email and sat there. I had never been so scared to send off an email before. This was my one chance to pitch my work to the agent that I really want to represent me. 
How I felt this weekend.
I finally hit that "send" button. Off it went. To my amazement, she responded to my email within the hour. Time will tell what the next step will bring. In any case, I have made it this far. In good interview form, I have prepared a "thank you" letter for her time and consideration. As of this moment, I am aspiring still...

Friday, November 9, 2012

ambition will get you far.

The life of this author is still an adventure. I am so fortunate at the love of my 3 boys and unending support and wisdom from my husband. Today was the first day that I received a response back that wasn't a generated response from an agency. This agency is pretty spectacular. When I submitted, I knew it was going to be a long shot. In my Agent and Publisher Book from SWCBI book, this agency took query submissions during the first week of the month only. The submission guidelines on the website stated that they were closed and not accepting. Submissions were accepted by invitation only.
Well, what does this girl have to lose? I submitted. As I have told my boys, "If you don't ask, how will you know?" To my surprise, a kind response came back with in hours. It wasn't a "no" and it wasn't a computer generated response.  A real person responded to my email.
Today, I have learned a valuable lesson. Don't give up on your dreams.  They are worth fighting for. I am still aspiring...for now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

a work in progress

Blogging is a lot of thought typed out on a free or paid website. It holds a personal adventure, information learned from another, pictures, memories, and stories from all across the world. I just hit that arrow at the top and away I go.

Today has been spent revamping my query letter based on the do's and don'ts of the SCBWI site. Tons of flaws in my first one. Here is the second as it stands. Thank you to my awesome cousin and BCF, Leslie, and hubby for their eyes. Always need to have someone double check your work for errors and such.

Dear (person to whom I am querying),
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Emily Post, 1872-1960
Andy the Ant is lost, but not alone. As the wayward insect searches for his home, he meets a little green frog, a friendly red fish, and a trio of buzzing bees who like the word “please”.  They help him on his way while demonstrating the importance of using good manners. Andy must employ polite greetings, navigate introductions, and remember to use the phrases “please” and “thank you” if he wants to successfully complete his journey home. He is also learning the importance of being kind and helpful through his adventures within the book.
Andy the Ant, narrated in rhyme, is a 749 word early/emergent reader book to guide children in the do’s and don’ts of greetings and using please and thank you. It is an adventure story with an underlying theme of making new friends and using courteous words. Although it can stand alone, I intend Andy the Ant to be the first book in a series in which each volume will demonstrate a different aspect of manners and etiquette through an adventure style story. I have started a second book with a central theme of tantrums and how to apologize with words and actions.
I am the mother of three young boys and an active member of the SCWBI. In my youth, I attended two years of charm school and a year of finishing/refinement classes. These classes helped my introverted nature and gave me confidence in social settings. My grandfather believed that manners began in the home.  Children learn good manners through storytelling, instruction, and demonstration. The understanding of manners is an appreciation and sensitivity of others’ feelings. By learning basic skill sets, they are able to excel socially and achieve confidence within themselves.
My inspiration for this story comes from an author that influenced me as a child and still does now, Dr. Seuss. His books have an adventure and a real world theme. They are melodious and fun to read. The Bad Kitty series, by Nick Bruel, and Do unto Otters, by Laurie Keller, offer wise counseling in etiquette for the early reader. By combining instructional etiquette with corrective behavior, rhyme, and an adventure, I hope to inspire this impressionable age group to read and use courteous words with each other. I am very passionate about the need to establish the fundamentals of good manners at an early age. A little ant by the name of Andy is helping me with this endeavor.

Included with this query is a copy of the complete manuscript. I have also created a complete set of illustrations and will provide them upon request.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Cassaundra Dunbridge
So, dear Agents, prepare to be queried...AGAIN! 
I am better equipped and ready to get your attention! 

This process is a tiring one. I have highlighters, post its, pens, and binder clips all on the ready.  Each step requires a thorough read of the agent and what they provide. Then I stalk them on their website. Then I visit another website and check their credentials. After that, I look at the authors they represent. And if I really feel that jittery feeling of excitement in my tummy, I click on the submission guidelines. This process takes a very long time, but I am looking for that right agency to represent my work. It has been several years in the making to get to this point. It needs to be a right fit. So, two agencies have received my work today. It took me an hour and a half just to submit my work and query to these agencies. On my way!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

learn from others....

Manners books differ in many ways. Some are direct. Others find their usefulness through a surplus of illustrations.  Most use characters based off of animals.  They are very busy and full of material. Is Andy to simple? I have incorporated introductions and "please and thank you" in this book. As i read them, I continually contrast and compare their stories to mine of Andy.

What I have learned so far:

  •  The title needs some tweaking. I need it to have the word "manners" in the title.
  • Andy has an adventure and learns his manners from his friends.
  • Maybe state actual subjects for future titles. i.e. tantrums and learning the fine art of apologizing? 
  • To rhyme or not to rhyme?
  • The majority of authors for manners in the child genre are parents.
  • My query needs some changes. I need to use titles for a comparison in my query. There are books of this subject that are similar. 
  • It is an easy reader not a picture book.
  • Make a list of the publishing companies from the books I like. Perhaps I can find agents that have sold to these publishers. 

There are some tv shows on PBS that also use manners as a theme. Berenstain Bears comes to mind. On Nickelodeon, Max and Ruby is another great example. Both cartoons have siblings so children can relate to a gender. They have real type situations that problem solve and demonstrate the correct behavior. Does my book do that? 
Well, I am off to the library for another adventure in searching for books with an underlying theme of manners. Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A big door...time to walk through it.

Research is essential. Now that I have a library with an immense children's section, I am able to compare and contrast. Currently, I am looking for more etiquette books for children. This little gem was great. It used a play on words to get the point across. My boys laughed as my father in law read it aloud.  I checked out a couple other books on manners. I will let you know how that goes in the coming day or so. One thing I have learned so far, when writing a book with the underlying message of manners, it helps to put  the word "manners" in the title. It increases the popularity and you know what to expect as a parent. Parents will know what the content and message of the book will contain. I thought my style was a picture book genre but am realizing that I was wrong. My book is an easy reader style fro the preschool and kindergarten audience. I need to rework my query to state that. There are as many, if not more, illustrating styles as there are writing styles in the children genre. While visiting the children's library, I found a book that was illustrated with a colored dot. Simple, yet accurate. It seemed that those less artistically elaborate books held their attention longer than books containing complex illustrations.  Mo Willems' books are a great example of this. If you have kids or enjoy kids' books, please read one of his. They are brilliant stories!
I have also received my membership packet to SCBWI. My membership card was included. HOORAY! How did I try to pursue this dream without a tool like this? With my membership came with this amazing guide to publication. It has everything. I feel as if all my questions have been answered in this turquoise book.
Now to start reading! What a great essential on the path towards the dream. So much enthusiasm, so little time! Hey lady. Get Busy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A contest to write or be written from writing?

The idea of contests does trigger a memory that I would like to share. One in particular that stands out in my mind is of a poetry contest that I entered in second grade. It was  a poem writing contest that took place at my elementary school. I wrote a poem about Polar bears. We went to the zoo on a field trip and I fell in love with these furry, white Artic bears. I remember working on this poem for several days. I submitted my poem into the contest by handing it to my teacher at the elementary school I attended. I had high hopes of winning. Well, I knew I was a shoe in. I was the only second grader to submit a poem. It was still a contest and I had a poem I was proud of.
At the school wide assembly, the winners were called by class and whether they won first place or honorable mention. When they announced the second grade winner, my name was called. I walked up to that stage as proud as I could be. I won. My poem was a first place winning poem. I was the only entry, but it was a first place winning entry. I was handed the award and remember lovingly embracing that first place certificate. The principle handed it to me. I held my tangible papered pride in my hands with the decorative side facing the audience. I stood tall and proud with the winners from other grades. 
My first writing award was for this poem about the polar bears.  The content wasn't complex. It was simple and sweet.  It rhymed where it needed to rhyme. It was cleanly written and submitted on time. I gleefully examined this award. It was printed on light blue paper with squiggles and circles in its bordering design. It had my school name clearly printed at the top.  "First Place Award" was in bold print under my school name. Then after that came my name. It was printed in handwritten text. "This award goes to Casandra Garcia" ...My name was spelled wrong, very wrong. Yes. Not just the first name.  My last name bore the same error. I didn't really care. It was my award. I earned it and smiled in recognition of my accomplishment.
I bring this up because I am considering submitting some of my writing for awards and grants. I know the submission process is far more complex than my second grade experience. Awards are necessary for a writer. It adds to your resume. I guess it provides evidence that your writing is worth attention.
Authors hide behind text. Our words are our color. We tweak and comprise adjectives, nouns, verbs, and more into streams of writing illusion providing you with a picture that illustrates the scene and action of which a story takes place. As we lose ourselves in our writing, we hope the reader receives the same experience. Can you see, taste, or feel the words? Has the story constructed itself to the expectations of the author and reader? I hope to convey all of the above simplistically and with a good degree of magical intent to capture my young audience. It takes skill as well as instinct. Both of which a Polar Bear has mastered to survive his habitat.  I am still learning about what I need to survive mine.
Polar Bears are brave. They venture alone and independently endure harsh weather, unfathomable obstacles, hunger, and  frigid waters in complete solidarity. Polar bears are strong swimmers in a sea of unknown. They are an inspiration to this Aspiring Children's Book Author.  Can I venture through the black, fathomless waters of writing and somehow learn how to survive my way towards a publishing contract? Well, time is the only medium that will foretell the outcome. Until then, hard work and fortitude will help orchestrate my growth as an author of children's books. 

"Manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life."- Emily Post

rejection is hard but necessary....

Spooky pumpkins!
Today I received a rejection to my query. At first, I was a bit sad. Rejection is never easy. Submitting your art for others to criticize takes courage. Receiving a letter without any constructive criticism is hard. Like many artists, I believe in my work.  It saddens me to know that someone else doesn't.  An agent needs to represent my needs and have an interest for my style of writing. Truthfully, after researching this agency I found myself agreeing with their decision. We were  not a good fit. It just didn't feel right. They asked for exclusivity upon submission. This would have been a red flag to someone who was familiar with the process.  It was my first query out there and their response was timely.  I did appreciate that.  I began to consider what was important to me as a writer. I have 3 stories that I wish to write. Two are children's picture books and the other is a children's/ YA story. I need an agent that will support my creativity and find the right publisher for me.
I find it funny and ironic that a big part of writing is actually reading.
Fall is here and my boys are busy.
It has been a long, hard week on a personal front.  Writing hasn't been the priority but is beginning to become center stage again.  During Nanowrimo, I am going to write the story of Abernathy.  It is National Novel Writing Month in November. I can't participate with site write ins, but I can write.
Andy the Ant is a completed manuscript. My other children's story is about Mean Lou be do and the once tall township of Alamaroo.  This book focuses on tantrums. It is another story written in rhyme. I haven't finished it, but it is on its way there!
Thank you to Mrs. Emily Post and her wise words.  They are my motivation in my pursuit of my writing dreams.
"A genuine, sincere, kindly American man—or woman—can go anywhere and be welcomed by everyone, provided of course, that he is a man of ability and intellect." 

Friday, October 19, 2012

When discouragement waves its vile hand, don't wave the white flag.

Dear World of everything literature, 

Could we please simplify the process? As a person who enjoys a non-partisan and objective rule set, this subjective, grey area scares me a bit. How am I to clearly anticipate what is expected of my writing and application process when opinion dictates itself as sovereign ruler of all book publishing conquests. Am I to be denied my path based on someone's personal likes and dislikes? This feels more like internet dating than a book publishing process. 
Ethan at the Columbia Library. Their children's section is very large and inspiring.

There's the dream! Can you see it? I can. Look at that. There are shelves upon shelves of glorious books. Books with characters, adventures, journeys, and happy tales that make the kidlets smile. I am working on a checklist to make this dream a reality. The cool factor is that I am taking you along with me.  Six years ago, I came up with the concept of Andy. I placed my little story in a drawer and left him there for several years. Life just became too busy to include my little ant.
He comes out to entertain my little ones on occasion. My three little men are my biggest fans. They pull out the book I made for them and look at the pictures that were drawn in simple shapes and a bright color palate of primary and secondary colors . Using crayons and pens from around the house, I created a visual narrative to enhance Andy's journey. This color and shape concept seems to be a cohesive fit for Andy's tale of losing his way. By incorporating colors into the character's names, our little ones are learning an additional skill set. Manners are a common thread throughout my little story. While using their words and witnessing nice interactions between characters, our future adults  are indirectly acquiring comprehension of both primary and secondary colors. This is just a bonus and a small coincidence realized after the fact. 
Writing is fun. I need to keep that perspective. Even if the world is not ready for Andy, he has served a great purpose in my home. Don't get me wrong. I am not giving up on the dream. I am just accepting that the original purpose of this story has been fulfilled. My children have benefited from the content and enjoyed the journey of my little Ant friend. There are still other friends for him to meet on his way. Andy needs help to make this happen. I need help to make my aspiring children's book author dreams a reality. Dreams take a lot of hard work and support. I will not wave the white flag. In the words of my youngest when I tell him that it is dinner time, "CHARGE!!!!!".
I leave you with yet another quote by the wonderful lady, Emily Post,"A little praise is not only merest justice but is beyond the purse of no one".
Thank you from my heart.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christmas presents in October????

I received this note in my email this morning:

Hi Cassaundra Dunbridge:
Thank you for joining SCBWI. Your new member packet, including our bound SCBWI Publication Guide and the latest Bulletin along with your membership card, will be sent from our office in our next mailing, and should reach you in approximately 14 to 21 working days. In the meantime, you already have access to all the publications online, and you're immediately on the list of your local SCBWI chapter.
Login to your member home page using your email address and your selected password, then proceed to the Resource Library.

I received an early Christmas present from my Mom. I am one step closer! Thank you, Mom! This website offers a plethora of information, resources, articles, and conferences in the area, America, and in other parts of the world. One step at a time. More research to start working on.  
Who is excited and one more step closer to the dream chase? ME!  Now I need to update my query to state that I am member of SCBWI.  That is a very exciting piece of information that I am happy to add on to my query. Now where in the query shall I place this tidbit of crucial info??? Hmmmmmm.... GERALD!!!! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A little time to reflect before making the move.

"I do appreciate the offer for a party dress, but any chance of getting a published book contract instead?"
I don't have a fairy godmother who will provide me with a dress or a book contract. I do have a father in law. He provided me with a book. In my recent conquest to achieve my publishing dreams, I have decided to re read this yellow gem of priceless and resourceful information.
In lieu of sending out queries and manuscripts to agents today, I have decided to review the material within this book.  I want to be a stand out. My next task will be to make a list of agents that would be a good match for me and meet their submission requirements.  First, reflection and preparation. Then....the fun stuff.  Here I go!

Meme was provided by a friend. I thought it was brilliant and well suited!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Prepare to be queried...

Everyone needs a superhero...copywriter :)
Okay. Let's do this.
My query letter is ready.
I sent it to Gerald for editing. Our Super hero copy writer had fixed the glitches and checked it twice. I received my query within 24 hours of email submission. That was a quick turnaround. He attached a compliment or two with it. Thank you, Gerald!
The dream is still within my grasp. I can do this. I am an aspiring children's book author with a well written query letter to match my manuscript.
There are a slew of great internet sites with visual aides and query etiquette tips of the trade. I snatched up ideas from many of those who offered the free advice and comprised a format to best suit what I needed to say. Like a resume', I wanted it to be short and to the point. I assume that these agents and their assistants receive tons of queries. What makes mine so different? Well, brief and engaging is far easier to read than a lengthy query novel. In addition, there is a manuscript to read.    
 Below is my query letter. This is the body of it. I can change certain aspects of it to fit the submission requirements listed by the agent..
Cassaundra Dunbridge
*my address*
*my phone number*
*my email*
Aspiring Children's Author Blog

Dear (person to whom I am querying),

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Emily Post, 1872-1960

Andy the Ant is lost but not alone. As the wayward insect searches for his home, he meets a little green frog, Claire the fish, and a trio of bees who help him on his way while demonstrating the importance of using good manners. Andy must employ polite greetings, navigate introductions, and remember to use the phrases “please” and “thank you” if he wants to successfully complete his journey.  He is also learning a thing or two about being kind and helpful.

Andy the Ant, narrated in rhyme, is a 757 word picture book for preschool age children. Although it can stand alone, I intend Andy the Ant to be the first book in a series in which each volume will demonstrate a different aspect of manners and etiquette.

I am the mother of three young boys and have contended with the need to teach my sons good manners. After searching local libraries for picture books to help make the subject comprehensible as well as fun and engaging, I was left disappointed. I could not find any such books at an age appropriate level.  I am very passionate about the need to establish the fundamentals of good manners at an early age. A little ant by the name of Andy is helping me with this endeavor. 

I produced a working copy of Andy the Ant for use in storytelling sessions at a fair in southern California and at my eldest son’s preschool. The story held the attention of toddlers and preschool aged children in both venues and inspired interaction and role playing.

Included with this query is the complete manuscript as requested.  I also have created a complete set of illustrations and can provide them if you are interested.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Cassaundra Dunbridge

 Next step, let's send out some queries. HOORAY!!!!

 Wait? What? They want exclusivity? They may notify me in 6 weeks? Then again, they may not. What??? At the rate of sending one query every 6 weeks, my options are hindered greatly. Time will become my new enemy. My face will be glued to my email. My heart will leap every time the inbox number climbs by one.I am sorry. I can't get that worked up over every new email.
Okay, a new game plan is needed. Time to interview these agencies. I will examine one website at a time. I plan to identify the types and titles of books that have been picked up under their name. I shall investigate their statistics and the publisher they have sold to. I will research and read reviews on how they treat their author clients. By utilizing this time intensive process, I can asses if they are the right match for my needs as an author. This will take patience and fortitude. Somewhere, out there, there is a literary agent looking for my style and I am looking for their talents to promote my book. The dream is worth the persistence. So much depends on a query letter. 
A query format is a one sided approach to beginning a dialogue between the author and agent. Emily Post stated, "Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory." I hoped to convey this in my query.   I wonder if Emily Post ever thought her wise words could be considered sage advice when creating and formatting a query letter? 
Literary agents, prepare to be queried!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The path less traveled...but widely recommended.

Hey, guess what?! I wrote a story.
Yeah, you and thirty thousand other folks.

So, the journey continues. A story has been written. Characters were created and developed. I have an ant named Andy, a green frog who points the way, a very helpful red fish named Claire, and three bumbling bees who use their nice words and expect nothing less from our little ant.  The message sang as songs do. It was a melodious tune of greetings, nice words, and an adventure. The ending was happy. I beamed at my first masterpiece. It was around this time that I thought about wanting to see if I could get this published.

My plan:
  • step 1: write a story.
  • step 2: send to publisher.
  • step 3: story published.

Please commence with the laughter. I was as naive as my little ant character. The world was a far crueler place.  The work would be hard and the road would be rough. I was now faced with the truth and shocked by the amount of work there was still to do. I stood on an unsteady bridge over dark waters. Crossing it could be dangerous or an exciting adventure. What lay on the other side unknown to me. All of this work could be in vain. Is this worth the risk of rejection? Was my story good enough? I still ventured. Each foot flatly placed on one unsteady step after the other. I ventured forward with my manuscript in hand. I needed to decide a route of which to pursue. Do I skip the agent process and try to submit to a publisher, research and submit to agents, or self publish? I haven't even begun to research the digital world of e books.  After a lot of research, months and years of  research, I can proudly say that I have an idea of how this complex process works and the steps I must take.
  • Step 1: Write something. DONE. I can check that part off of my list.
  • Step 2: Edit to PERFECTION. Not kidding on this, people. The editing process should take several readings and revisions.
  • Step 3: Query writing. What is a query letter? It is a document you create to sell yourself to the agent or publisher. There is a format to follow. Word choice is also important. There are several books on this subject. I have read 4 and some online reviews written by agents about the dos and don'ts of query writing. It resembles a resume of sorts. Another quirk to this quest.
  • Step 4: Edit your work. Have someone edit for you. I would like to recommend this man to you. His name is Gerald Zepeda. His website Although his company is Edit Genesis, I like to think of him as Edit Genius. A copy editor can be an aspiring children's book author's best friend in achieving the dream of a published book. His work has solidified my writing voice and confidence in my writing skills. Gerald Zepeda is a  super hero complete with boots and cape flying in to save my manuscript from the agent's recycle bin. 
  • a query letter example.
    they vary in format and
    content depending on genre.
  • Step 5: repeat steps 2-4 over and over and over and over....remember, PERFECTION!
Let's stop there for now. Take a moment soak it in. Bathe in it and check out Gerald's website. When I feel that I have lost my way, I step back and review the work I have done.
I have a mission and a purpose to my story which helps motivate me through these thick and mysterious waters of becoming a children's book author. 
Establishing manners in our youth will allow them to be successful in a multitude of interactions throughout their lifetime. Emily stated it best, "Manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

continuing onward and upward...or westward...

My husband and I spent the beginnings of our marriage moving. Once we were married and our first child had been born, we moved to the East Coast and settled into Cambridge, Mass.  My husband finished his masters and accepted a job in California. Oh joy, more moving. It was around this time of transition that this little ant began to pick up his journey. In my mind, he was an ant. He was a lost ant and needed to find his way home. Andy and I had something in common. We would share in a journey together. I purchased a journal to begin writing this story. I know that most of us use a computer, but I am more of a pencil and paper type gal. This journal was plain, dull, uninspiring, and lacked color. I wrote the first sentence. It felt like I had something there.  The verse became not one, but two. What started off as sentences began to transform into rhyme. His adventure began. Our adventure began.   My little ant had a journey with a place to go. His adventure had just begun. Here, he would learn proper introductions. He would be welcoming and friendly. My little ant had better manners than most adults.  What a courteous little guy.
My plain little journal
Back to my struggles in rhyme and meter. The words of my story did not only need to rhyme, but the meter needed to work. The counting....ugh. This would be an ongoing editing process for years to follow.
I thought back to my college composition classes. As much as I hated those classes and the hours of work involved, I loved them. There was a creativity hidden within me. I found myself able to relate to authors of whom I had not made a connection with previously. The writing style that offered the most impact was titled, "stream of consciousness".  Just write. I wrote. I read it aloud, edited, and wrote some more. I composed rhyming sections and wrote them down. So much writing. So much editing. More writing and more erasing. The black and grey streaks from erasing went left to right, up and down.  There were some sections where the paper had worn to transparency due to the amount of erasing that took place.  I filed this action under "creative process".  My story became bits of wonderful lines and several lines worthy of a train wreck.
My journal book remained in my diaper bag as I began the weary travel westward. As a mom, the diaper bag doubles as a purse.  This ordinary writing journal went where my family went. As we transitioned to a remote, small town in the mountains, this journal held a creative concept with a plan. This little ant's journey was my concept. The theme that needed to be incorporated was introductory etiquette and "using your nice words". That was the plan.  I would create a story that would hold the interest of my child. It would be an instrument in cultivating etiquette for the preschool genre.  Emily Post would be proud.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The start of it all...

I can't lie. I am a huge fan of Emily Post's teachings. Social Etiquette is a requirement in my home. In today's society, it is not as much of a priority in child rearing as it once was a hundred years ago. I find this to be disturbing. Social grace is a necessity in every class of society.  How can we expect our children to be able to make the most out of their  lives without the fundamentals of manners? Rearing these lessons to the young needs to start in the home. It needs to be consistent and praised when correctly used.  My family has become my own experiment.
At what age can manners be implemented? Good question. (Yes, this conversation with myself just happened.)It can begin as early as infancy. We began using the hand sign for "thank you" from infancy. At about 6 months of age, our oldest could sign it back. This is a learned action. It was adapted and repeated. After successfully using baby sign language to communicate with our child, I decided to search out books to read to my son at the library. I found books expressing a multitude of messages continually pontificating behavior, kindness, and other friendly attributes. I could not locate books relaying and the demonstration of manners in a picture book format. Sure, there were books educating parents on instructing our youth on what was proper, but I was left wanting the exact material I was looking for.
As a mom with a background in nursing, I tried to find an approach that wasn't a lecture type format of teaching. It needed to be catchy, fun, and happy. During my pediatric clinical rotations in Nursing School, I remember the effort of trying to connect with a child and the act of  gaining their trust.  For those who do not understand, this is a very hard feat. You represent all that is scary. I am the needle, the scary, noisy machine, the restraint that will take away their freedom of movement, the giver of all things that taste gross, and the soothsayer who continues to repeat the phrase, "it is almost over". To begin with, you can't only be  "the adult". You need to relate like a peer. Erickson teachings provided this structure. Interpretation was left to the care provider. 
I began to write a story using this platform. I needed to relate to my child. I didn't want to be the preacher, I needed to be the peer and educator. Writing a story that would relay a platform of simple manner interactions could be an inviting way to entice my child into a simplistic understanding of etiquette. The best place to start? Friendly introductions and always using "please" and "thank you" was perfect..
So began the story of "Andy the Ant".