(Caveat: One teensy scatological word in the lyrics. No, not the "s" word. The "t" word which rhymes with... well... "word.")
I've added videos to my website, too. A couple of song videos and one recorded while I was visiting Coventry Elementary School last year.
This weekend I heard from an author, obviously a sincere and well-meaning person, who asked to be listed on this blog. The problem with her request is this: she does her presentations for free. She says she loves it so much that the children's enjoyment is compensation enough, even if the school is a long drive from her home. I'm always sorry to turn down a request, so I wanted to give her my reasons. Here is my reply:
Congratulations on your books. You sound like an upbeat, energetic person. For now, until you charge for your visits, I'm afraid I can't list you on the Author Visits by State website. This is a list for professionals who make a living not only writing their books, but also speaking to students about them. As long as you present for free, I'm afraid I'll have to place you in the volunteer rather than professional category.
If you decide to begin charging, do let me know, and I'll be pleased to add your link. I would encourage you to consider it. Your time and talents are worth something. And you may find that when you charge, you're actually treated with more respect at the schools you visit. Not to mention that you'll cover expenses such as gas and time spent on the road. (Five hours on the road to visit a school for free? Oh dear, you are a more generous person than I.)
I have discussed this with a group of author friends, and we all agreed this was the best response to your enquiry. We love what we do, too, but we cannot afford to do it for free. You see, the trouble with your request, for us, is that when you do visits for free, you potentially lower all fees. Except for the rare bestseller or "living legend," children's book writing is not known to be a lucrative profession. Many children's authors, even those with numerous books from famous publishers, have alternate sources of income: teacher, librarian, newspaper reporter. I'm a freelance graphic artist. Speaking fees help keep us solvent so we can do the thing we truly love: writing books for children.
I know, when you look at the fees per day of some authors, it seems a large sum for "a single day's work." Take my own fee, for instance, which is in the moderate range: I charge $600 for a full day of local presentations, (within 50 miles), which I cap at four hour-long presentations. I've tried to do more, but -- especially since I sing for the younger students -- my voice doesn't hold out for more than 4 hours. Doing simple math, 600 dollars seems like a lot of money for "four hour's work." But I'm not being paid for just those 4 hours. There's the travel, of course. There is the time I spend creating a lesson plan. (Every school seems to have different needs and different ways they congregate assemblies. At one school, I might present to one grade at a time; at another, I may do K thru 2 in one session and 3 thru 5 at another. This requires different preparation for the greater age spread.) There's the correspondence time with the contact person, sometimes running to dozens of emails, the generation of a contract and other materials such as posters for the event.
It's also true that, while I work from a lesson plan, a school presentation is more like a performance than a teaching session. Most authors, even those who spent years in the classroom as teachers, say the energy-expenditure during a school visit is very different than a day spent in the classroom when they were teachers. I don't know of any actors who do 4-hour one-man performances, at least not day after day. The physical toll, especially on the vocal chords, is too great.
Now add the hundreds of hours I work every year promoting myself as a speaker: I do unpaid presentations at educator conferences, I maintain this author visit website, (now at over 600 links; a lot of labor there), I built and now maintain my website & blog, I network, I write articles and supplemental materials for educators to use with my books. That's before you factor in the years of "apprenticeship" just to become a published author in the first place. And, of course, every hour spent speaking, driving or promoting my services is an hour spent NOT writing a new book. I would argue that you have put in similar amounts of labor, meaning your time is worth something, too.
You are the best person to make that call, of course, so I won't belabor the point. I do wish you well, and hope to hear from you in the future that you have decided you'd like to be compensated for your work.
“It’s summer. Don’t even bother to submit anything now. Editors are all away on vacation, and nobody is reading anything until the fall.”
This is the sort of talk I’ve heard over the years about the futility of submitting manuscripts over the holidays or in the summer... or a half-dozen other times of the year. It’s frustrating advice because there seem to be so many other times of the year when submissions are discouraged.
“All the publishers are in Bologna right now. No sense in submitting anything.”
One publisher even specifies a single month of the year when they will accept submissions. (And I'm not sure they even do that anymore.) For goodness sakes. When ISN’T it a bad time to submit?
Well, here’s good news – about December and summer, anyway. Some big sales have happened during those months, so don’t be daunted by nay sayers.
Sue Corbett, author of the recently released THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA, has told me that her first novel, TWELVE AGAIN, was first read and noticed during the holidays.
Jennifer Mattson, an associate agent with the highly-regarded Andrea Brown Literary Agency, believes there is really no bad time to submit. “June and July submissions can be quite nice because editors have a little more leisure to empty their in-boxes, (many officially have half-day Fridays for summer hours, but stick around into the quiet afternoons to get caught up) and some even bring manuscripts on their vacations.”
She does agree that late summer can be a little slower. “August isn't such a great time because many bigwigs go away on long trips, so it's hard to get deals formalized. But in general, I would say, don't write off summertime submissions!”
Besides, since manuscripts often sit in slush piles for months, there is almost no correlation between when a manuscript is mailed and when it is read.
Authors I talked with have similar summertime stories to tell. Jennifer Ward, (jenniferwardbooks.com), is happy to report: “Most of my published books were summer sales. Keeping with the trend, I just sold a picture book to Marshall Cavendish; signed the contract just a few weeks ago.”
There is also activity in subsidiary sales during the summer. Alex Flinn, (alexflinn.com), whose novel BEASTLY is now in production with a hot young cast from CBS Films, tells me she sold audio book rights in June to three books: BEASTLY, KISS IN TIME and her upcoming book.
When Jennifer Mattson consulted her colleagues at the Andrea Brown agency, she heard opinions similar to her own. “Several of us have made major sales in the summertime. The consensus is that there are no off seasons in publishing anymore – so let that be motivation to authors to overcome those doldrums!”
Kim Norman's first picture book, JACK OF ALL TAILS, was released by Dutton, a Penguin imprint, in 2007. CROCODADDY, (Sterling, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble), debuted as the May 2009 feature for the Children's Book of the Month Club. She is looking forward to the release of two Sterling titles in 2010: TEN ON THE SLED, (illustrated by Liza Woodruff), and ALL KINDS OF KITTENS, a "Storytime Sticker" title. I KNOW A WEE PIGGY WHO WALLOWED IN BROWN, illustrated by Henry Cole, will be published by Dutton in 2012. She is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Website: kimnorman.com
This article first appeared in Kim Norman's "Outside the Lines" column in the summer 2009 issue of the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI's newsletter, "The Highlighter."
Here's a video of the kindergartners from Coventry Elementary School in Yorktown, VA, singing along with my "Storytime Boogie." I love it when they know the song in advance. (I always send a CD in advance of my visit.) But even if they don't know it, they're still bouncing and bobbing to the music in no time.
It's cute the way all the heads are swaying to the lullaby at the beginning of the song, then start bopping when the music speeds up.
I often use this song as a closing for presentations to younger students, say 3rd grade and younger, depending on the school and area. If 3rd graders seem too sophisticated for the song, or are mixed in with older students, I close with something else.
I wrote this a few years ago with a different title and lyrics, originally titled "The Lullaby Boogie." But when I started doing school visits, I rewrote it as "The Storytime Boogie," a song which encourages reading at bedtime. I also created a music video of the song which you can view on YouTube, HERE. And, of course, you can visit my website by clicking my name below.
Storytime Boogie ©2006 by Kim Norman
I wish had transcribed all the wonderful things we talked about during that car trip and our marvelous meals together. Ah well, in lieu of sharing that conversation with you, I'll share this one, instead...
Hi Elizabeth! Congratulations on the "birth" of SOAP, SOAP, SOAP! Having enjoyed many hours with you in an authentic Mexican restaurant, *I* already know the answer to this question, but my readers might not, so can you tell us a little something about your decision to learn Spanish when you took on this project?
I took French in High School and college (and was an exchange student in Paris), but don't get much chance to practice in Georgia. Here, it's all about Spanish, which I've wanted to learn for years. My 40th birthday was looming and I LOVE Jack Tales, so when Raven Tree Press approached me to illustrate Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, a bilingual adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk," I jumped at the chance. Here was my excuse to finally learn Spanish! I signed up for classes at the Latin American Association in Atlanta thinking, no biggie, I'll take lessons. Little did I know what a life-changing impact the LAA and the people there would have on my life!!
Luckily, Paco did so well (it won a Moonbeam Children's Book Award Bronze Medal), my publisher wanted more. It seemed a natural fit to do another Jack Tale adaptation - this time with a slightly less well-known story, SOAP, SOAP, SOAP (now also bilingual: SOAP, SOAP, SOAP ~ JABON, JABON, JABON!)
SOAP isn't your first multi-cultural book. How did you happen to find yourself in the multi-cultural market?
It's funny, since Paco I've received many, many jobs creating multi-cultural illustrations - I must have done something right! In fact, the three books I did for the ParentSmart KidHappy™ series feature Hispanic, African American and Asian characters. I love creating multi-cultural characters - the different bone structures are challenging, so perhaps they slow me down a bit to make sure I'm getting everything right.
I know you work on a computer, (I've seen that marvelous 2-screen setup on your desk) but to me, your work is very painterly. It also has a sort of collage quality to it, as though you cut out the images and collaged them onto paper. Can you talk a little bit about how you give your work its distinctive look?
Thank you! I make a point of making sure people can't tell how I work, and try hard to include as much texture as possible (challenging in the 2-D digital world). That's where the collage elements come in. To me, texture (and color) with all their various nuances are downright fascinating!
You're a marvelous, energetic school presenter who really connects with students. What do you like students to take away from your school presentations?
You are too kind! I have a blast sharing my work with kids - probably because I still am one. But I'm a kid who had a dream and made it happen. I hope I get that across the most - that anybody can make their dream come true with hard work, dedication, and pure stubbornness! (Yes, there is a good side to that trait.)
I know you're also a savvy marketer with a large email list of subscribers to your newsletter. Can you offer any advice to new authors looking to promote themselves and their books?
I have to admit I stumbled into the secret - which is to GIVE. I was already writing articles for the SCBWI Bulletin, teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School and basically trying to pay it forward as much as possible. But when I started giving away coloring pages on my blog (for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to share with their kids), things really took off. The collection has grown quite large over the last two years and people can now sign up to receive Coloring Page Tuesday alerts in their in-box every week. I love seeing the new subscriptions come in - from libraries, schools, children's hospitals, even nursing homes - it's a thrill to know my work is being shared to spread a little joy like that.
Thank YOU, e! (You have probably noticed by now that Elizabeth likes to just go by "e" in her online posts.) You can read more about our visit to Clanton, and see photos of "e" in action THIS ARTICLE and photo collection published by the Clanton Advertiser.
And if you can't get enough of "e," (I can't!), click HERE to see her full SOAP, SOAP, SOAP blog tour schedule
When I started the blog, I seeded it with about 60 colleagues -- friends and critique group members. After that, word spread and -- since then -- everyone has contacted me, rather than the other way around.
So raise a glass of sugar-free lemonade to our first 600 links! Clink clink!
What happens when a U.S. diplomat from Paris and a Hollywood reporter -- who is living on the Navajo reservation -- team up to write a book? Crazy things…
Everyone said I was crazy to co-author a book. The set-up was outlandish. I was a journalist who reported on American pop culture and Hollywood for NPR’s All Things Considered and the New Yorker. Then one day, my wife (Kasia) tells me she had landed a job as a doctor with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Not long after this, I found myself living on the Navajo Reservation in northwestern New Mexico, which remains one of the most remote and sparsely settled regions in the continental United States. From my desk, in our tiny ranch house, I watched prairie dogs frolic and tumbleweed blow across the street. On most days, there wasn’t much to report.
Okay, so that's me. Now meet my co-author.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, my longtime buddy Peter Kujawinski was serving as an American diplomat in Paris. His environs could not have been more radically different. Kujawinski, known simply as “Kujo” by friends and family alike, inhabited a sprawling three bedroom penthouse which had stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. On the weekends, he and his wife Nancy – a popular local musician – hit the bars, cabarets, and bistros of the Left Bank. All that being said, by almost any measure, it was not an ideal time to be an American diplomat in France. America was knee-deep in a war that was as popular in France as Spam or Kraft Singles American Cheese Slices. As he lunched with diplomats from other countries, many of whom treated him with no small degree of contempt, Kujo often imagined that he was in another country all together – that country being the kingdom of Dormia.
Okay so what's Dormia.
Dormia is a place that both Kujo and I had discussed on numerous occasions. We actually first dreamed up the book while visiting the Sinai Peninsula – a rugged, beautiful, but deserted stretch of Egypt that stretches out into the luminescent waters of the Red Sea. We slept on a sand dune, beneath the stars, like the Bedouin. One night we got caught in a sand storm known as a khamseen. Luckily, the storm wasn't too severe. We were never in danger, but sleeping proved impossible, and as we huddled and chatted through the night, speaking about the magic of travel, wandering in the desert, and sleeping. This is truly where the idea for Dormia was born.
Okay, so at this point, you're probably wondering: How did these two guys actually write the book? Good question. The quick answer: E-mail. We overburdened our e-mail accounts by sending the 500-page manuscript as an attachment to each other at least once, sometimes twice or even three times a day. We just passed the thing back and forth like a cyber football. Peter would go out for drinks at a local bistro in Paris, come home late, burn the midnight oil in Paris, hammer out a new chapter, and then fire the thing across the globe to me
Sometimes, of course, we did talk by phone. I did much of my writing from a remote cottage in southwest Colorado. I would hike from the cottage to a massive rock on top of a desert butte in order to get cell phone reception. The rock offered panoramic views of Mesa Verde National Park. Here it was possible to gaze out for fifty miles without seeing any signs of civilization. I called this perch "Telephone Rock." So I'd hike up to Telephone Rock to call Peter and when I'd finally reach him at the United Nations in New York, he'd say: 'Sorry man, I can't talk during lunch today – we’re having an emergency session of the Security Council.' So we kind of gave up on the phone, at least during the week. We did e-mail, and it worked out for the best, because we just focused on the nuts and bolts of writing the book.
For us, the book became a way to deepen our friendship. Over the years that it took to write this book, we rendezvoused in a number of odd places including a café in Paris, a remote canyon in New Mexico, and a tree house in the Berkshires. The result was a much prolonged boyhood and, of course, our book.
Kim again: Visit Jake's website HERE. Besides his home state of Connecticut, he's also available for author visits in MA., VT., NY., PA., DC., DE., VA., and NJ.
Crocodaddy survived his first book signing on Saturday and is now on a blog book tour sponsored by KidzBookBuzz! Thank you to Sally Apokedak for arranging the tour, as well as a sincere thanks to all her marvelous, dedicated bloggers. I would also like to thank my publisher, Sterling Children's Books, which got behind the tour and shipped out a collection of review copies.
I love that one blogger even included crocodile crafts in her post. I'm definitely going to incorporate some of those in school and library presentations.
Visit these blogs for reviews, interviews, craft projects and giveaways. (Yes, giveaways! Jump in!)
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
A Mom Speaks
A Patchwork of Books
All About Children’s Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Cafe of Dreams
Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Looking Glass Reviews
Maw Books Blog
Never Jam Today
Our Big Earth
Reading is My Superpower
SMS Book Reviews
The 160 Acrewoods
Through a Child’s Eyes
How cute is this?! My son's girlfriend made this adorable cake over the weekend to celebrate my first CROCODADDY book signing, which was held at the Isle of Wight County Museum -- blissfully sheltered from the day's heat and humidity. I spent a couple of minutes putting up a sandwich board outside, so my hair had completely wilted before I managed to get set up the table at 9am.
We scheduled it for the same time as the "Mother's Day Farmer's Market," right next door to the museum. I love having a summer farmer's market within walking distance of my house. Wait, that was a confusing sentence. I don't live at the museum. I live a couple of blocks from there. I can look over the hill and see the museum from my backdoor.
Crocodaddy's really, truly, official birthday seems to have slid around, so I'm not sure what date, exactly, counts as his birthday. All the Barnes & Noble stores seem to have put it out early, as soon as they received their shipments, which I am happy about, of course! My friends have been sending me photos from around the country of B&N Croc sightings. So sweet of them!
Anyhow, Croc is now officially in the building AND he's on a blog book tour. Visit Kidzbookbuzz for interviews, reviews and giveaways over the next 3 days. (Monday, May 11, thru Wednesday, May 13.)
My newest book, CROCODADDY is now in Barnes & Noble stores nationwide. Yahoo! (Or maybe I should say it's making a splash nationwide.)
To prove it's nationwide, my good friend Shelli snapped a photo of it in her local Austin, TX store. How cute is that? I hope the store employees didn't think she was doing some sort of industrial espionage for Books-a-Million.
Next week will be crazy busy. I've got two out of state school visits, (one in N.C. and one in Maryland) and a book launch/signing at the Isle of Wight Museum on Saturday, May 9th. Looking forward to all of it, of course. It's a morning signing, (9am to noon), to coincide with the farmers' market, I've invited family for lunch after the signing. I'm hoping for nice weather because I'd like to serve lunch outside in my "garden room." (Translation: a lovely, rosy spot under my pecan tree.)
Then I've got a blog book tour sponsored by Kidsbookbuzz, which I'm looking forward, too, also. I'm grateful to the owner of the website, Sally Apokedak, for arranging the tour.
So raise a glass of green Croco-cola for the birth of Crocodaddy!
I have had the amazing opportunity to encourage and share my story with many students in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. I've met some incredible young writers and been completely amazed by the patience and kindness of many teachers. However, my fondest memory is still the very first visit-- my first appearance as an author.
I opened my mouth and started telling them my story. I explained that, though I have never been the best student, I have always loved stories. My goal since childhood was to share my own stories with other people through writing. I recalled how my short stories evolved into chapter books, and I entered my book, Journey to the Homeland, into a book competition. Most importantly, I told them I was really a very ordinary person—my parents aren't publishers and I've never had any special tutoring. If I could write a book, they could all follow their dreams, too. The words spilled out a bit quickly, but I was growing in confidence. I talked about the importance of setting high goals and sticking to them. Before I knew it, it was question and answer time.
The kids bombarded me with questions. They wanted to know my favorite character in my book. They wanted to know if there was going to be a sequel, or, better yet, a movie! I assured them there would be no movie, but a sequel was in the making. One girl told me about a story she was writing, which sounded like it would put mine to shame. They were all so interested in what I had to say, I couldn't believe it. My nervous doubts were long forgotten and I sat there chatting (or that's what it felt like, really) for another twenty minutes.
This certainly wasn't my best presentation ever, but I learned a lot that day in my uncle's classroom. I knew from that day forward that kids really looked up to me. A few weeks later, I received an email from one student who was inspired to write her own story after listening to me. I realized that my visits can make a difference in the students' lives and possibly encourage budding writers to pursue their dreams
Glad to hear you overcame your nerves and enjoyed the presentation, Hannah!
Visit Hannah's website HERE.
Kim Norman, Virginia
JACK OF ALL TAILS, Dutton, June 2007
CROCODADDY, Sterling, May 2009
I KNOW A WEE PIGGY WHO WALLOWED IN BROWN, Dutton, 2010
TEN ON THE SLED, Sterling, 2010