Thursday, May 24, 2012

Interview with Nancy Conescu, Executive Editor at Dial Books for Young Readers

Working with my editor Nancy Conescu on the text of Duck Sock Hop was a wonderful experience. She made clear suggestions that made the text stronger, was easy to have a positive back and forth with, had a great overall vision for the book, and has been very supportive of the book post-publication as well. She agreed to answer some questions here: 

1. What qualities make you love a picture book manuscript when you receive it for consideration? What qualities do you look for in an illustrator's work that makes you want to work with him or her?

When I’m considering picture book manuscripts it’s the voice and read-aloud quality that I’m drawn to immediately.  I look for stories that I think will inspire repeated readings and characters I think have breakout potential.  (I’ll confess that I tend to favor well-intentioned but ill-behaved characters--the Pig Won’t’s of the world!)  I also look for humor and consider the illustration potential a manuscript has.  Oftentimes we’ll receive strong texts that seem more targeted to parents than to kids, and those are never for me.  I like books with genuine kid-appeal. As for seeking out illustrators, I look for artists with unique styles, memorable characters, kid- appeal, and the ability to convey movement and expression. 

2. Do you ever have to turn down manuscripts you want? If so, why?

I do sometimes have to turn down manuscripts that I wish I could pursue, and it’s always a little heartbreaking.  It takes a whole team to publish a book successfully though, and if there’s not enough collective enthusiasm for a project, I feel I’d be doing the author a disservice if I took on his or her work.  That doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to me and to the author though. 

3. What drew you to Duck Sock Hop when you first saw the text?

Duck Sock Hop is the kind of text you can’t possibly read without smiling.  It’s very Sandra Boynton-esque in its read-aloud quality, and I felt that kids and parents would truly enjoy reading it and sharing it.  I also imagined it with Jane Porter’s illustrations.  I felt that her bright colors and bold lines would be a perfect match for Jane Kohuth’s joyful text, and indeed it turned out to be a wonderful pairing. 

4. What kinds of books do you like to read for pleasure? What are some of your favorites?

I always wish I had more time to read for pleasure, but a great deal of my reading time is devoted to submissions.  I did just finish Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, which I absolutely loved, and I’m in the midst of an adult non-fiction book right now.  I sometimes find adult memoirs and non-fiction to be an interesting change of pace, but more often than not, my reading for pleasure is focused on middle-grade and YA.  I recently read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and I have Trent Stewart’s latest Mysterious Benedict book and Kelly Barnhill’s The Iron Hearted Giant on my to-read list along with lots and lots of other books I’ve stacked up at home and at work. 

5. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I feel very lucky to have a job that I love so much and that gives me the opportunity to work with so many inspiring people.  It’s incredibly gratifying to help authors and illustrators execute their vision, deliver their best work, and ultimately see the books that results from the process.  I realize how much trust it requires authors and artists to put in me and in us, and I’m beyond grateful for their willingness to share their work.        

6. What would your perfect day be like?

Hmmm….my perfect day?  I’m not sure there’s just one kind.  I love finding new manuscripts and new artists, but I also love the moment when an author delivers a revision or an artist delivers their sketches or final art.  Then, of course, there’s the moment when finished books arrive, which never loses its magic.  And, on a more basic level, it’s always really rewarding when an author or artist connects with the notes you’ve sent and is excited and inspired to revise.  So, I guess it’s nice to have so many different things that can make my day.  That’s not to say that every day is perfect—we work very hard—but I think that when you’re passionate about what you do, you’re able to appreciate a great deal of the process.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dance Party this Saturday!

Today's Booklist says about Duck Sock Hop, "The rhymes here are rollicking, alliterative, webbed-foot-tapping fun, and debut illustrator Porter’s heavily lined, brightly patterned art extends the ducks’ sheer joy. The funniest thing about the art? Giant socks housing skinny duck legs. This begs for a shoes-off storytime with toddlers doing some wiggling of their own."  

Well, they read my mind. I'll be holding a shoes off storytime and dance party launch for Dock Sock Hop this Saturday at 3 pm at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA. This event is free and open to everyone. We'll have a wacky socks storytime, rock & roll on a real record player, sock crafts, and, snacks (because ducks love snacks).

And the NEXT sock hop will be just a week after that:
Saturday, May 26th, 11-1, Eight Cousins Bookstore, Falmouth, MA

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Interview with Duck Sock Hop Illustrator, Jane Porter

Duck Sock Hop is officially out in the world! Today I talk to illustrator Jane Porter about her background, influences, artistic process, and what she'd do on her perfect day. To see more of her work, visit her blog.
A spread from Duck Sock Hop, illustrated by Jane Porter

When did you discover that you loved creating visual art? What kind of art did you do as a child?

I always loved drawing and painting and making things generally. I can remember painting dozens of tigers at playschool, and later I used to like making cartoons about our pet guinea pigs. I also made a series of concertina books for my sister - they were comedy guidebooks to our house, garden and neighbourhood generally.

What drew you to illustration and picture book illustration in particular?

I grew up loving picture books - particularly funny ones like Richard Scarry's. So the idea of helping to create one is a dream come true.

Can you describe your training as an illustrator? 

I had a previous career as a magazine journalist/editor specialising in landscape architecture, horticulture and garden design. But later I felt a strong urge to do something more directly creative. I went and did an art foundation part-time at Wimbledon School of Art while still doing freelance writing, then went on to do a part-time MA in illustration at Kingston University.

How did you get your start working as an illustrator? How did you enter the children's book world?

After I finished the MA it was quite a while before I sent any work to publishers - I felt I needed to develop a little bit more, and at the time I was also doing a lot of art projects in schools which took a lot of time and energy. You can see some of them in the archive of my blog at . But after exhibiting my work in two different shows at The Old Sweet Shop gallery and selling a lot of prints, I felt confident enough to send samples to publishers. I designed a concertina-fold flier, had some printed and did a big mail-out which resulted in getting an agent and a deal for two books with Hodder, as well as the chance to illustrate the wonderful Duck Sock Hop!

Alongside my picture book work I still do some work in schools which I enjoy very much, and I work with organisations such as the National Trust and Historic Royal Palaces producing family guides and trails - great fun and takes me back to those guidebooks I used to make for my sister all those years ago.

How did you develop your unique style?

There's an online interview in which I show some pages from a book which had a great influence on me as a child and still does - Modern Tales and Fables illustrated by the Czech illustrator Vaclav Sivko.

 A spread from Modern Tales and Fables

I also like to watch animals and how they move, and fill books with drawings to help get a sense of that movement.

Here's Jane Porter's Video Interview
The opening sequence has some wonderful examples of her artwork

Can you talk a bit about how you develop characters? 

I always have an ideas notebook on the go, and try to remember how the world seemed to me as a child. I also think back to when my own children were little, and what sort of  things they did and said.

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I love using pen and ink in quite a loose way, and then layering it with unusual textures that I've photographed - anything from nested pastry cutters to an aerial view of Berlin. In Duck Sock Hop the sun is the gills of a mushroom. I keep a small camera with me all the time just in case I see something special.

I also love printmaking methods like monoprint, silkscreen and etching when I have time.

What is your studio like? 

A bit messy! Here is a picture. I stick ongoing work on the wall and now there are lots of layers like an onion skin.

What would you do on your perfect day?

It would involve taking out a rowing boat for the day and having a picnic with my family, ideally on an island with a swim after lunch!

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Being able to spend all day drawing and making things, and calling it work. I also really like doing projects with children and find their ideas inspiring.

We were also interviewed together on the blog Literary Friendships, where you can hear about what we thought when we first encountered each other's work, why socks are the clothing equivalent of ducks, what our favorite books as children were, and see photos of our matching kitties.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hold Your Own (Duck) Sock Hop with the Duck Sock Hop DIY Kit

Want to hold your own (duck) sock hop? Illustrator Jane Porter and I have created a Do-It-Yourself Kit with instructions, socks to cut out, and ducks to color! It will be available to download and print soon from my website, but take a sneak peek here!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Webby Web Tour OR Children's Book Week Is Duck Sock Hop Week!

It seems auspicious that Duck Sock Hop launches during Children's Book Week. And this week the ducks are on the move.

On May 1st (a little before this week, okay) we visited the blog Pajama Mommy, where I talk about connecting with kids' books by talking with children's booksellers and even children's authors.

On May 6th we visited Seven Impossible Things along with Duck Sock Hop illustrator Jane Porter, who reveals how she created the ducks. She uses a stick for the ink lines! I happen to love dipping sticks in ink for drawing, so this makes me so happy. She also reveals what kind of ducks the Duck Sock Hop ducks are. I need to look them up now, so I can see photos.  There's lots of art work from the book, for a great sneak peek.

On May 7th (today!) we are visiting children's writer Amitha Knight on her blog Monkey Poop: A Literary Weblog of Unparalleled Eloquence, where I count down all my other favorite duck books. Amitha also has a signed copy of Duck Sock Hop to give away!

On May 10th (Duck Sock Hop launch day!) we will be hanging out with children's author Audrey Vernick at Literary Friendships, where Jane Porter and I talk about how Duck Sock Hop came to be. Audrey, too, will be giving away a signed copy of the book.

On May 12th we'll be heading over to 5 Minutes for Books, where I talk about how working as a children's bookseller helped me on my path to becoming a published picture book author.

And on dates TBA we will be dancing over to the blogs of writer Peter Adam Solomon and the fabulous Jane Porter!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Groovy Giveaways

Duck Sock Hop comes out next week and as part of the celebration, I'll be giving away signed copies of the book on Goodreads, Cynsations, Monkey Poop (May 7th), and Literary Friendships (May 10th). A link to the Goodreads giveaway is below! Stay-tuned for links to the other giveaways.


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth



          Duck Sock Hop


          by Jane Kohuth



            Giveaway ends May 31, 2012.


            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win