3 Things I Learned This Week, Spotlight on Writing

Keeping Your Book On Their Minds

Nonnie and I coverUnless your book is becoming a movie, you will most likely see sales fall after the release hype has died off. It’s important to keep people talking about your book in order to make sure the sales don’t forever see the bottom of the cliff. I have picked up a few pointers along the way for my book, which was released back in December of 2014.

 

 

 

  1. If you are able, host a Amazon, Goodreads, or LibraryThing giveaway to get your book cover back in front of people.
  2. Does your book have a theme that you can use to spark attention again? For example, Nonnie and I, is about the fears of starting school, so the perfect time to chat my book up is during the yearly Back to School happenings.
  3. Do searches for your name and the book within social media to see if anyone has been talking about it that you may not have know about. For example, Amazon listed Nonnie and I as a free e-book for 1 day and that popped up several search alerts of people promoting my book (that I wasn’t even aware of). Use this as a way to understand what works and doesn’t work in social media, and to thank the person who is spreading the word.
  4. Schools are always short on funds and often ask the public for assistance from authors to send in their books. Doing so might lead to a upcoming school visit or Skype visit that would promote your book even more.
  5. Offer to do interviews for blogs or vlogs. This is a great way to make more connects and find new readers.

 

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Spotlight on Writing

White Writes Black

This day, January 27th is noted as Multicultural Children’s Book Day.​Xist Publishing, 2014 Nonnie and I was not written with the race of the main character in mind. It was story of a girl and her giraffe, that’s it. When it was published and I saw the cover, an African girl standing next to a giraffe, then it hit me. I wrote about a black girl!? Me, a white person. DSC_6806

Was that the reason why the manuscript received so many “loved it, but not enough” letters until I landed a contract? Was the reason because my character, unbeknownst to me, was African?
I’ve been reading recent articles mentioning people of color in children’s books, with regards to the limits of color and even, girl characters. Is that’s why Nonnie and I does not stand out among other published books? (Double whammy – black and a girl)Wildlife Zoo - Aug 2014 059
I live in a mostly Hispanic community and I do see that represented at my local library, yet I can’t seem to get them to bite on my book.
What factors play into that? If I am essentially blind to the main character of my book, does that make me the opposite of other readers out there? Lastly can a Caucasian author write about an African child or any race not their own?

 

3 Things I Learned This Week, Spotlight on Writing

Giraffe Fun Fact Q & A – NONNIE AND I

Xist Publishing, 2014
Xist Publishing, 2014

As many already know, in 2005 I set out to write a story about a girl and her best friend, a giraffe. I wanted to capture the plains of Botswana and a special friendship bond. I spent time researching giraffes to make sure that the words I presented were true. Ten years later it became the beautiful picture book that is NONNIE AND I.

GIRAFFE Q & A:

How long do you think a giraffe sleeps for?

Giraffes sleep about 5-30 minutes in a 24 hour period.

How often does a giraffe drink water?

Giraffes only drink water about every 2-3 days. They acquire a lot of their water in the 75 pounds of food they eat a day.

Do giraffes sleep standing up or laying down?

Giraffes most often sleep standing up, but sometimes they will sleep laying down, resting their heads on their bottoms, while another giraffe keeps watch for safety.

Do all giraffes have the same spots?DSC_6867

A Giraffe’s spots are like human fingerprints, they are all unique. The two main factors of different spots have to do with where they live and what they eat.

Do giraffes make noise?

A giraffe makes snorting, grunting, hissing and moo sounds.

Why is a giraffe’s tongue a blue-black color?

The dark color protects the giraffe’s tongue from becoming sunburned.

How tall and how much does a giraffe way at birth?

Wildlife Zoo - Aug 2014 038A giraffe weighs 100-150 pounds at birth, and is about 6 feet tall.

Spotlight on Writing

Illustrator Interview with Lisa M. Griffin

Please enjoy my interview with Lisa M. Griffin, illustrator of Nonnie and I and multiple other picture books, including the upcoming Spacing Out!

countrycitymice.lmgriffinIllustrating with new technology over the “old school” way of mediums on paper has caused you to _______?

Well, I still combine the two processes. All of my illustrations begin on paper with pencil. I work out thumbnail sketches and then move on to more finely rendered pencil sketches until I am happy with the composition. Then I scan in the artwork and begin to add color. New technology certainly makes the creative process easier in terms of revisions and proofing though.

Do you accept every illustration job/contract you receive? How do you decide what to accept? City.Country.Mice.LisaMGriffin

No, I don’t. There are a lot of factors that go into taking on creative assignments. My current production schedule, my interest in the project and even the ease of working with the client. It is a funny balance at times, but I prefer this approach to ensure that I can deliver the best artwork possible (and on time) to the client.

If you could go back to the past and illustrate any book what would it be?

That is an interesting question. I don’t know so much about going into the past, but I would someday love to illustrate a version of “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice”  by E.T.A. Hoffman.

How do you research landscapes for illustrations? Such as Botswana for Nonnie and I?

Nonnie.sketchThere is a lot of research that goes into most of my illustration projects and that certainly holds true for “Nonnie and I”. I visited the library for resources and sketched out parts of the landscape, particular trees and animals that are native to the area. I really dig the research process and find it helps greatly with the creative process overall. If I can take my own photographs, that is a benefit too, and for this project, I had a lot of reference for Nonnie thanks to a trip to Animal Kingdom Park a few years ago.

Who is your favorite artist that has passed and who is your favorite living artist?Nonnie.Page1

It is so hard to pick only one! Can I choose two? From childhood through adulthood, the two artists who have influenced me the most would have to be Trina Schart Hymann and Maurice Sendak.  I am part of an Illustrator Critique group and the individuals that are part of that group are so crazy talented and supportive that I feel they have made me a better artist. So as a collective group, I would have to say that they have influenced me the most. As far as a popular living artist goes, hands down Chris Van Allsburg.

To learn more about Lisa and her work please visit her website.

 

* Nonnie and I (Xist Publishing, 2014) authored by Savannah Hendricks, illustrations by Lisa M. Griffin.

Available through Amazon

Spotlight on Writing

Will The Real Nonnie Please Come Forward ~ The Story Behind The Name

20141221_202053
Nonnie’s first day home – Sept 1993

Nonnie is not a usual name, that’s why I liked it to begin with. I have mentioned that my book Nonnie and I was originally Nia and I. The name was not switched to something out of thin air so to speak.

Nonnie was a cat, my first and only cat. The first time I heard the name was in A Far Off Place (a great kids movie!!!). Reese Witherspoon’s character was named Nonnie and as soon as I heard it, I loved it.

When my father got me a cat I picked Nonnie for her name. I loved Nonnie more than she would have liked. She was a very independent cat that rarely came out of hiding or would snuggle. I would have to chase her out from under my bed just to capture her to get her to sit with me. Within about two minutes she was attempting to escape my thirteen year old grasp. (She knocked over the Christmas tree one year and scratched my father’s leather couch with her panic-escape attempts). RIP 12/9/2002.

Nonnie - 1998
Nonnie – 1998

Nonnie is a variant of Eleanor and is considered Old Provençal and African-Hausa, Old French, Old German, and Latin. As you can see it’s origin is all over the place!!!

I have always picked the character names for my stories with great thought. I spend a bit of time looking up names and their meanings when I write a story. I also enjoy using kid’s names that I know because who doesn’t like to see their name in a story!?

Spotlight on Writing

How I Wrote a Picture Book – The True Story of Nonnie and I

Xist Publishing, 2014
Xist Publishing, 2014

When I sat down to write Nonnie and I, it was called Nia and I. (I had used a baby name book to help me decide on an African orientated name, I changed the name later to Nonnie after a publisher was interested, but already had a book with that name).

I was intrigued seeing how animals interact with children and in turn how child react to animals. Essentially this is how my picture book started in 2005. Children’s play is always so free and imaginative and I had witnessed this over my years as a nanny. I also saw how new experiences were not always a welcoming part of childhood. I took the love children often have for animals and made it BIG. I had seen a documentary on giraffe adoption in Africa and how people could get close to them much like horses.

The idea sparked. How about a girl and her pet giraffe? The story had originally been more about an adoption, family, and caring for a pet, but that didn’t provide a deep story arc. I later realized school was a pretty traumatic change in a child’s life after seeing children grip onto their parents for dear life when being dropped at day-care or school. (I’ve worked in both settings). I’d also seen it happen to me with the three children I was a nanny for. (Screaming when I left, grabbing hold when I tried to put them on the floor in play group, fearful to nap because I hadn’t been there the last time they woke up).

I put the two together and created a story. The first of a dozen drafts moved from the adoption focus to a friendship focus, but was too much on both sides of the story. I trimmed and trimmed, removing beloved sentences, added new depth. (A big credit goes out to Dawn Young for telling me the giraffe seems like a piece of play ground equipment and not an animal. Also the biggest credit goes to (as mentioned before) Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books) After a failed 44 submissions (I had five OH SO CLOSE ALMOST CONTRACTS) I took a total of two months of reading (Writing Picture Books) and editing to get the manuscript into the format (more trimming and editing) I submitted to my now publisher (Xist Publishing).
Nonnie and I means a lot to me for a number of reasons, but what I hope most, and the reason I wrote it was to provide children with the comfort of a story that shows them they are not alone with their feelings.

Spotlight on Writing

From Manuscript to Paperback

author 2014In 2005 I sat down to write a story. When I started I didn’t have a path, no conflict or climax, no idea about the ending. But in a spiral notebook I wrote sentence after sentence as they came to me.

I’d been intrigued by the beauty of the Botswana landscape from what I saw on television, movies, and in library books. This was the setting I envisioned. It was powerful and colorful. As I wrote my pen felt like a skinny paint brush over the paper.

After a month of editing I sent it out to a big name publisher that at the time was still taking unsolicited manuscripts. Per rules I didn’t include a SASE. About three months later a letter with the publishers logo arrived in my mailbox. The editor wrote that she loved the story, BUT not enough because she was unable to connect with “the voice.”

I submitted again, and again….and again. Receiving several more personal letters from editors that loved it, BUT couldn’t connect with “the voice.”

When I moved to a new state I joined the SCBWI and later a critique group. I edited it and sent it out again. (I couldn’t change my voice, it was my way of writing after-all).

Now I was getting back form rejections…and more and more.

Then during a clearance sale at a book store I finally was able to picked up a copy of Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul (2009).

I did a HARDCORE edit. And made one final submission.

Two weeks later I got an email…THE EMAIL!!! You know….THE E M A I L!!!!!

My book….MY BOOK!!!! Nonnie and I is available on Kindle and paperback.

*Illustrated by Lisa M Griffin. Published by Xist Publishing.

***UPDATE: A copy of Nonnie and I was sent to Marley Dias for her #1000blackgirlbooks project