Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Smallest Library and the Story Behind it

You've heard the saying,

Books are the passport to the world!
Allow me to introduce to you a miniature world! 

My friend, Barbara Madrid, is a miniature enthusiasts and is a member of NAME, the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts. When she learned that I was interested in children's books, she gave me one of hers!
See how tiny that is? I couldn't believe there were pages with words on it. I haven't read the story yet because that will require a microscope of some sort. As a children's book lover, I thought it was the most unique and best gift I've ever received. I took a picture of the book with a quarter to give you an idea of its size.

The question that begs to be asked?

 "Where do you keep a book this small?"

On a miniature bookshelf at a miniature library, of course!

Barbara is in the process of completing her miniature library. This miniature book is one of 50 books that she assembled herself. 

I thought it would be interesting to share with you Barbara's library, which is displayed in her home in San Francisco along with her other doll houses. 

Below Barbara gives you a tour of her library and shares her story behind her craft. Enjoy the tour!

Introducing, THE LINCOLN LIBRARY, by Barbara Madrid
The view from outside the library.

The namesake displayed prominently on the wall.

The rear bookshelf are stocked with handmade books. In the bookshelves to the right are hand-painted blocks of books.

Notice the decorative wallpaper and an actual wood floor.

A librarian assisting a young boy. On the wall are reduced copies of 1910 photographs of the Grand Central Station, City Hall, and the American Museum of Natural History, which are noted New York buildings.

The Lincoln Library is located next to The Allegiance Academy where all of their students have library cards!

Thank you so much for the tour! Now let's meet the talented woman behind the extraordinary hobby...

Barbara Madrid!

Barbara Madrid is a member of NAME, National Association of Miniature Enthusiast

What got you interested in this hobby?
My interest in miniatures began when I was a small child and my grandfather handcrafted some miniature furnitures for me. I didn't have a dollhouse then but in 1997, my husband decided I should have a hobby and bought my first dollhouse as a Christmas gift. When I saw all of the pieces needed to make the 9-room house, I thought the build would be an impossible task.

Over the next 12-years, we worked on the house together and in 2009, we had added electrical lights and the house was ready for its occupants (see photo below).


When did you start crafting doll houses and what have you completed so far?
I have been doing miniatures since about 1997. I've completed 2 houses- one a residence and the other, a 3-story multi-shop building with a floral shop, dress shop, and an accountant's office. I've also completed 7 display boxes, which include a music conservatory, a bakery, and antique store, a sewing shop, a grocery store, a middle school, and the library. 

How do you decide what to build next?
I usually find a single piece of furniture I like and then build the room around it. When I found the corner bookshelf for the library, I knew I wanted more than the usual block books to fill it. A web search brought me to where I purchased paper book kits with wonderfully detailed covers.

What is the most difficult part of your hobby?
I have found the most difficult part of building a dollhouse is understanding the blueprints. That is when my husband, a skilled machinist, comes in handy. He's great at the construction and electrical parts. I do the fun part, which is the interior decorating. Installing the wallpaper can be tricky, but careful measurements makes the job a lot easier. I usually do a combination of wallpaper and paint to add a variety of textures.

What do you enjoy most about your hobby?
Selecting the furnishings is the most fun of dollhouse miniatures and I shop the internet, local dollhouse stores, and attend miniature shows for items I need. I also add homemade touches by including crochet or knitted blankets, and clay plants.

Dollhouse miniatures is a wonderful activity for any age and I'm forever thankful my husband reintroduced me to this wonderful hobby.

 It is truly fascinating to learn this enchanting world of miniatures. I've been to quite a few libraries, but never have I seen a library like this. Thank you so much, Barbara, for sharing your story!

Books bring people together!

Interesting facts:
  • In miniatures the scale is 1/12 inch = 1 foot. For example, a 6-inch miniature doll is equivalent to a person who is 6-feet tall.
  • The difference between a doll house and a display box is the size- dollhouses are generally 34" H x 12-1/2" D x 33-3/4" W; a display box is about 11-1/4" H x 10-1/4" D x 12-3/4" W.  A dollhouse has multiple rooms and a display box depicts a single room.

What is the most interesting library you've ever visited? Please share.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Perfect Pitch & Other Great Resources

What is the perfect pitch?

That's the question both my son and I ask ourselves. His perfect pitch would probably be one that strikes out the batter. My perfect pitch would strike up a deal with an agent or publisher.
My son pitching for the Stanford Junior Cardinals

Writing the perfect pitch is much like baseball. Good pitching takes practice. The perfect pitch, whether it be baseball or writing, can be broken down to five component skills:

A pitcher must grip the ball properly before throwing to get good velocity and control. As a writer, our pitch must be gripping! You want to lead with a compelling first line to entice the agent or editor to want to read more.

The pitching motion begins with the windup. It's the preparation for a good pitch. Writing a pitch requires you to know your main character, his/her wants, the enticing incident, its hook, and the stakes. Kathleen Temean goes into detail on how to write a pitch for your book.

A baseball pitcher knows that a long stride makes the ball go high; too short a stride makes the ball go low. When writing a pitch you don't want to tell the whole story, just enough to peak the interest. Too long of a pitch and you lose the reader or listener; too short and you can just forget it. A pitch should be about 50 words or a about a 30-second read. If you are participating in a Twitter pitch, you are limited to 140 characters. Know your stride.

Whether its baseball or writing, a perfect pitch is in the delivery. You want to deliver an efficient and effective pitch that will hold the attention of the agent or editor. Show your enthusiasm and confidence without being boastful. Be yourself and let your voice shine verbally and on paper.

Following Through
It is important to keep the momentum. When an agent responds with "tell me more," you owe it to yourself to be competent in your own story. You should be able to identify comparable books and explain why yours is different. Show the agent or editor that you are qualified to write your story.

Below is a list of my favorite resources to help you write the perfect pitch:
My son  pitching for the Little League, Yankees

How to Write a Pitch by Kathleen Temean
Kathleen shows you how to write a pitch for you book and shares a few types of techniques you could use to spice up your pitch. 

Writing the Perfect Pitch Author Kristen Lamb invited Marcy Kennedy, writer and WANA instructor, to guest post on her blog on writing the perfect pitch. Here she breaks it down into four meaty parts and gives explanations and examples.

How to Write a One Sentence Pitch
Author Nathan Bransford shows you how to share the heart of your book in just one sentence using three basic elements. This is great practice and comes in handy for giving verbal pitches. 

Difference Between a Pitch and a Hook by Susanna Leonard Hill
Susanna Leonard Hill, childrens author, explains the difference between a pitch and a hook and gives examples. Her blog is worth exploring. Susanna has a weekly feature, Would You Read It, posted on Wednesdays. It is a chance for writers to try out pitches for their books. 


[Thank you to Rena Traxel Boudreau for sharing the wonderful world of Carissa Taylor on FB Sub-It-Club]

Twitter Pitch Loglines: Recipe Ideas by Carissa Taylor
Carissa gives us the recipe for a good logline. Here she lays out some samples or logline formats that you could customize to your story by filling in the blanks. 

March #PitMad Requested Pitches 
#PitMad on Twitter
Carissa Taylor gives us a list of Twitter pitches from the #PitMad held earlier this month that received requests from agents. These are successful pitches, categorized by genre, that you can study as you prepare for you own pitch. Because I write things related to picture books, I thought you'd like to know that of the 236 manuscripts that got requests, 5 of them were picture books.

Pitch Generator by Carissa Taylor
For fun, you can try this pitch generator. It asks basic information about your story and characters and with a click of the mouse, it will generate several pitches for you. I tried it out and I wasn't able to find one that was worthy to use. Nevertheless, it was interesting and fun. I could still tweak the pitches a bit to make it work for me. Try it out. 

And in case you are in a position to pitch your book verbally, read this:

Pitching at Conferences Dos and Don'ts
Literary agent, Jean V. Naggar, attended many writers conferences. In doing so, she had compiled a list of dos and don'ts for conference attendees looking to pitch their book. It is a guideline for writers so they don't mess up on an opportunity.


Hope this helps. If you have other resources regarding writing a pitch that you find fabulous, please share in the comment section.
My son's hang-out

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Should I Seek an Agent or Publisher?

The question that runs through every writer's mind: 

Should I submit to an agent or publisher?

I've listed a few sites at the bottom of this post that will help you decide. To make it easier on you, I've summed up the main points below:

The advantages of submitting to an agent:

  • Many publishers are closed to unagented submissions. Agents can be your key to opening those doors.
  • Agents know what publishers are looking for so they streamline the search for you.
  • Agents have a relationship with editors so they have better access and knowledge to the industry.
  • Your manuscript gets priority over the slush pile. Publishers trust agents to help them find good writing and weed out those writers who haven't studies the business or craft of writing. It saves publishers time from weeding through he slush pile. 
  • You get more negotiation leverage with an agent. The agent also can help you understand the contract and the publishing process.
  • Agents help build your career as an author.
  • Agents manage your submissions for you so you don't have to.
  • Agents can help you make your project more saleable before submitting to publishers.

The advantages of submitting to a publisher:

  • Having an agent doesn't guarantee a book sale. It is a subjective business but you may be able to increase your chances of publication by looking into smaller publishing houses that agents may not consider.
  • If you have a niche book, you may fare better by looking at smaller publishers on your own. Be familiar with the publishers and know what they are looking for.
  • You keep your royalties. You don't have to give a percentage to an agent.
  • You have control as to who you want to submit to.

What happens if I can't get an agent?

If you have exhausted your agent search (although I don't recommend this- see why you shouldn't submit to no more than 6-8 agents at a time), take a moment to re-evaluate your writing. Get several more critiques. I suggest getting a professional critique by someone who is an expertise in your genre. Revise. Revise. Revise. Resubmit. If that fails, you can try your chances with submitting to publishers.

So you don't get discouraged, here are a few first-time authors who have submitted directly to a publisher and have been successful. Read about their stories to getting published:
Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

Sherry Duskey Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
Donna Earnhardt, author of Being Frank
Laura Murray, author of Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
Rob Sanders, author of Cowboy Christmas

Below are some wonderful sites to help you decide whether or not to submit to an agent or publisher:

Creating a Submission Strategy (Pros/Cons)
When should you seek and agent and when is it best to submit straight to the publisher?Heather Aryis Burnell, founder of Sub It Club, sums it up for you and shares the advantages of each.
Agent Rachelle Gardner goes into detail about the pros and cons of having an agent.

Why You Should Never Submit Unagented- (Why You Should Have an Agent)
This is a great post on the advantages of having an agent from an editor's point of view. There is also a FAQ section that covers different scenarios such as conference deals, earnings, agent search and what approach to take.

Submitting to Publishers Without an Agent- (When It's Okay to Submit Unagented)
Author Nathan Bransford gives instances when submitting directly to publishers makes sense.

This is a great post about first-time author Michelle Houts' experience with publishing directly with a publisher then with an agent. Here she shares her publishing journey and gives us insights about the process. 

It's important to know that you should avoid submitting simultaneously to agents and publishers. If you are hoping to find an agent, this could kill your chances. If your manuscript has already been "shopped" around, that gives agents little to work with and if they find out that several publishers have seen your work and passed, they may not want to represent you.

If there are other sites you've found helpful in the decision of whether to submit to an agent or publisher, please share them with me in the comments. 

Hope you find this post helpful! If you like what you've read, please share. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So You Want to Get an Agent

A growing number of publishers are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts and are seeking agent submissions only. To dip into the larger pool of publishing houses, I decided to seek an agent who will represent me. 

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/
Here are the steps I've used in my agent search:

  1. Have at least 3 polished manuscripts ready for submission before querying an agent.
  2. Make a list of agents who are accepting clients and represent the genre I am writing. In my case, picture books.
  3. Research these agents and take note on what they are specifically looking for in a picture book.
  4. Make a short list of agents who are a good match for the type of picture books I write.
  5. Do more research on the agents on the short list and take more notes. Take note on why I want the agent to represent me and why I think we are a good match. Also study the authors that they represent. I like to Google [agent name] interviews. You can gather a lot of good information from the Q & A.
  6. Take notes on the agent's submission guidelines and make a checklist.
  7. Write your query or cover letter, making sure you personalize your letter to the agent. I wrote a post that lists helpful links that will help you write the perfect query letter
  8. Submit to no more than 6-8 agents at a time. Read the article by Chuck Sambuchino to find out why.
  9. Practice patience.

Want to know more about the process of searching for an agent/editor? Read Alayne Kay Christian's All About Submissions Q & A- Researching agents and editors: How Do You Determine Who To Submit To? Part I and Part II. In this post writers share their personal experience so you get to learn about each ones process and select which is best for you.

Below is a list of a few websites I've compiled that will help you with your agent search:

What an Agent will Do for You- In this post, Lara Dotlich Anderson, former Senior Assistant to the V.P. of Curtis Brown, Ltd. answers the familiar question to help you decide if querying an agent is the next step for you.

Homework List When Researching an Agent- Kathy Temean goes into detail about how to search for the right agent. I listed my steps above, but Kathy explains why it is important.


The following is an awesome list of agents generated by Casey McCormick/Natalie Aguirre, Heather Ayris Burnell, and Krista Van Dolzer. They've taken the time to gather valuable information, links and interviews of agents all on their site! 

Literary Rambles by Casey McCormick & Natalie Aguirre- On the left of the page you can do an agent search by genre or agent name. On the right sidebar you will find a list of agent blogs. This is an excellent source for initiating your agent search. Here you will find agents' web presence, what they are looking for, their philosophy, their client list, submission information, interviews and guest posts. 

Monster List of Picture Book Agents by Heather Ayris Burnell- Agents are listed alphabetically by agency.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) by Krista Van Dolzer- Here you will find a list of agents that Krista had interviewed over the years. 

Of course, check out Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and the agency website for current information.

Here is my favorite post on why you shouldn't be afraid to query new agents:
New Agents Don't Have Cooties- by Maria Vicente, literary agent intern.

I hope you find these links helpful to you in your agent search. If you have a link that you feel I should include in this post, please share with me in the comment below.

~Happy Agent Search!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Writing is...

Created by Romelle via

Valentine's Day is a time when I reflect on the things that make me happy and give me comfort:

Chocolate covered strawberries  
Hot Chai tea latte
Gourmet macaroni and cheese
My family & friends
Being outdoors in the sunshine
Fluffy slippers
    A warm hug from my boys
A playful puppy
Fresh flowers and


Writing delves deep into my right brain, releasing the ideas that is waiting to pour out onto paper.

Writing is like exhaling.  It releases clutter in my mind and quiets my inside world.

Writing is an escape that transports me to a place of wonder and delight.

Writing is meditation.  It brings me to my happy place, childlike in nature.

Writing is creative energy that is connected to my soul.  So as the ideas flow, my heart dances.  Like dance, my writing is an expression of my self.

My inner most thoughts are waiting to be exposed and only through writing can it be expressed.      

                                    Writing is my life. 

What does writing mean to you?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Query Quandary- A Resource Guide

Are you in a quandary about writing queries?

Well look no further. 

I've spent a lot of time learning the craft of writing picture books. Equally important is learning how to write a query. 

Brian Klems of Writer's Digest writes, "You should put just as much care and attention into crafting and polishing your query as you did into your manuscript."

The purpose of a query is to tempt an agent into wanting to read your manuscript. 

Finding an agent is like fishing. You want to use the right bait to get the agent to nibble and request to see more of your work. If they bite and like what they've read, you'll hook an agent into signing you up as their client.

My wonderful friends in my various Facebook writing groups have been generous in sharing online resources that have been valuable to them. I've collected the links and compiled a list to share with all of you. 

Query Resources:

How to Write a Query Letter- This is an introduction to writing a query letter found on It covers query letter basics and gives you a list of basic query letter tips. This is a good place to start if you haven't written a query before.

The 10 Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Query Letter- This article by Brian Klems basically sums it up. It makes a nice checklist for you so you can be sure you didn't leave any important points out or that you didn't write any unnecessary verbiage. 

The perfect query letter- Brian Klems analyzes a sample query and breaks it down by parts. He comments on what's important to include in the letter and what's not necessary.

Common Query Questions Answered- In this article, Chuck Sambuchino answers the ten most commonly asked questions about writing a query and covers topics such as writing series, self-published books, genre, rejections, manuscript length, follow-ups, writer's platforms and more. 

What to Write in the "Bio" Section of Your Query Letter- In general, a query should include 3 parts: 1- Introduction, 2- pitch, 3- biography. The biography part of a query generates the most questions by writers. Chuck Sambuchino answers the most commonly asked questions about writing a biography and discusses what should or shouldn't be included in the section.

Why you Should Only Query 6-8 Agents at a Time- Here Chuck Sambuchino explains why querying all agents on your list at one time is a bad idea. He discusses the benefits of submitting to a short list of agents to protect yourself. 

The Most Common Submission Errors- Seven agents come together to discuss the common errors they've seen writers make when querying them. They discuss their pet peeves and share with us what they want to see in a query. 

Query Letters That Worked- In Harold Underdown's website, The Purple Crayon, Margot Finke shares with us 3 query examples. 

Here's a great video by Emma Watson on How to Write a Query:

Feel free to share with me which of these links you found most helpful to you. Until then, happy querying! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Year of Picture Books 2013

I love reading picture books. This year, I made it a point to read not just any picture book, but the latest (within the last 2 years). Today's total came to 186 picture books read in 2013.

Within this list, I compiled my top favorite picture books published in 2013. Here they are in no particular order:

Author/Illustrator: Benjamin Chaud
Chronicles, 2013

The Bear's song, written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaun, is a beautifully written story with lovely language and mesmerizing artwork. The illustrations reminds me of the I Spy and Finding Waldo books with its details. The Bear's Song is a story about a bear searching for his cub, but winds up in an opera house. What's a bear to do? What bears do best- sing! An endearing story about father-son love with a surprise that will make your own heart sing. 

This book was first published in France in 2011 under the title Une Chanson d'ours. A clear classic that will stand the test of time.

Author/Illustrator: Mike Boldt
Harper Collins 2013
123 versus ABC is a humorous book about number one and letter A competing as the star attraction. This is a modernized version of the traditional alphabet and number book that's called metafiction- a story referring to itself as a book, which pulls the reader into a world that crosses the line between reality and fantasy. It's a wonderful story of compromise that's fresh and brilliant. Who doesn't love a robot wearing a sombrero? The fun read-aloud and bright, animated illustrations add to the silliness that makes this a great book for the evolving young reader. 

Author: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Chronicle Books, 2013

I adore this book! Aaron Reynolds did a fantastic job of instilling in our hearts the importance of self appreciation and also the fact that sometimes others can be misunderstood in a hilarious way. I love that he used the "top of the food chain" as examples. Dan Santat did an excellent job of conveying the emotions of the characters through his brilliant, artistic talent. The author-illustrator combo is a dynamic duo! 

A small note of warning: Not ideal for the sensitive reader. A few characters do get hurt in the story-telling of this book. On a side note, it makes for good discussion and lesson about ecology and the nature of things.

Author/Illustrator: Peter Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013

I love this book! Mr. Tiger is a proper gentleman in an upscale town living a classy life until Mr. Tiger decides he no longer wants to walk on two feet. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is a clever story that tells us that it's okay to be yourself no matter what others think of you. I love that when Mr. Tiger returns to the city he finds a pleasant surprise. The illustrations are also brilliant starting out of monotones and gradually transforming to a life of color as the story develops. This is a wonderful read with excellent pacing and the right amount of humor.

Illustrator: Mark Pett
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013

I'm not really a fan of wordless picture books, but The Boy and the Airplane, which had a nostalgic feel to it, spoke to me.  It was like watching an old black and white film but in sepia tone. This story follows the growth of a boy who has lost his airplane up on a rooftop and tries to retrieve it. The ending is sweet and endearing. This falls under the category of timeless picture books that begs to be passed on to generations. 

Author: Drew Daywalt
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Philomel, 2013

Author: Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrator: John Rocco
Candlewick Press, 2013

Everything you wanted to know about trains:
Where to find one
How to catch a train
Finding the perfect train for you
Getting to know your train
Training your train

This is a hilarious read for the young and old. A great gift for the train lovers. 

Author: Julie Fogliano
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead

I just adore Julie Fogliano's poetic language that is soothing to the reader. When you read If You Want to See a Whale, you'll notice no punctuation marks are used other than the three ellipses near the end. I find that so artistic in that it creates a flow of language that is fluid and dreamy. If you want to see a whale, you'd think the story is telling you that you need to ignore everything around you and concentrate, but au contraire! In fact, this story cleverly suggests the opposite. You'll find yourself amused by the little things in life that are made more beautiful in this wonderful book. Erin E. Stead does an amazing job complimenting the text with soft colors and gentle art. A great story about embracing the moment.

Author: Tara Lazar
Illustrator: James Burks
Aladdin, 2013

My boys and I enjoyed this book immensely. What's not to love about a Monstore. I have 2 monsters on layaway now! Tara Lazar's language and word choice are superb. The Monstore makes a fun read aloud. Illustrator, James Burks, did an outstanding job of bringing the characters to life. Kids will have a field day thinking of the monsters they'd like to have. It may even encourage them to create monsters of their own and let their imagination soar. I can see this as a cartoon movie coming to a theater near you! 

So there you have it. My all time favorite books read and published in 2013. What's yours? Feel free to share in the comments below. 

I can't wait to see what's in store for 2014!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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