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.

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!