Monday, December 23, 2013

Good Times

So how did 2013 rank as far as writing goes?

It was good!  

This year, I began working with a terrific agent, Liza Voges, and we’ve got great hopes for a variety of fiction and nonfiction manuscripts in the New Year. I was thrilled when we finalized some details with Bloomsbury for my picture book, Mousequerade Ball that will be illustrated by wonderful Betsy Lewin of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type fame.  Release date? 2016!

I was thrilled with the sale of Chicken Lily to Henry Holt—my first title with them! No word yet on the illustrator, but I’m eager to find out. Discovering who the illustrator will be is like opening a glorious package. Although my words are in place, it’s not complete until the illustrator brings their half of the story to the page. I’m looking forward to its 2015 release date.

In addition to my trade projects, I’ve also been blogging for Mira Reisberg’s Picture Book Academy the second Wednesday of each month. Check for my blogs there about tips and reflections on the craft of writing picture books.

Sometimes, it’s fun to let loose in other writing arenas—such as putting together a Christmas card.  Loads of fun with my cat, Max, and my son who donated his Photoshop skills for the cause. (Much obliged, son!)

This year also saw the release of Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg with Clarion--a four-year journey--so it was particularly exciting, not only to hold it in my hand, but to watch sales climb right out of the gate. Click here to see the book trailer created by the awesome illustrator, Michael Allen Austin. Our book was not only reviewed by the New York Times in September, it often hits #1 Best Seller on Amazon for children’s American historical, western fiction.


Here's to rip snortin' 2014! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hop, Skip and a Blog!

Ideas are a lot like opportunities. You never know when one is going to pop up right under your nose. So when my writing friend and awesome author of Deck the Halls, Erin Dealey, tagged me for the Children’s Blog Hop, I was delighted to run with it—with a hop, skip, and a blog!   

So here goes!

What are you working on right now?

In addition to book signing events for my latest release Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg (Clarion 2013), I’ve been wrangling with a new picture book manuscript about a princess. I know! There are lots of picture books about princesses out there already, but I like princesses (who doesn’t?) and I always have fun figuring out where I’m going and seeing where an idea will take me.   

How does this differ from other works in the genre?

Good question—especially since there are a lot of princess books out there. Right now, I’m including an unexpected character that will take the book in a new, and hopefully unexpected direction.

Why do you write what you write?

When I choose to work on a project, it’s because I’m excited about telling the story whether it’s a nonfiction subject, or a fun, rambunctious picture book story. When I’m writing nonfiction, such as my books about the French scientist who proved the earth turned, or exploring the lives of honey bees, I’m excited to find those fascinating bits of information and share them with young readers. When I’m writing fiction, it’s fun to jump into the thick of a story and see what will happen. I particularly enjoyed writing my latest picture book release Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg about a cowpoke, who completed his chores, but found one thing he’d plum forgot—his dirty dawg. When I started writing it, I had no idea how it would end.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing is also the best thing about writing—grabbing onto a wisp of an idea, facing a blank screen, and breathing life into an idea word by word. As my fingers tap, tap, tap across the keyboard I’m alternately thrilled by my discoveries and stricken with the thought that maybe this time, I won’t get over the assorted roadblocks and finally find my way. But I keep at it, day after day. Then, to my delight, after latching onto a goal like a dog on a rope, I get through to the other side.  Amazing!

And now without further hops, skips, or jumps, it’s my pleasure to introduce the next three Children’s Blog Hoppers:

Gayle Kraus My wonderful writing friend, Gayle C. Krause is a member of SCBWI, The Poets’ Garage and The Cliffhouse Wonderwriters. She writes across the genres including poetry, picture books and MG/YA novels. She has been published in various children’s magazines (Highlights, Boy’s Quest, Hopscotch for Girls etc…) and poetry anthologies – And the Crowd Goes Wild (Friesen Press 2012) and Meanderings: A Collection of Poetic Verse (Diversion Press (2009). Her first picture book, a seasonal rhymer, Rock Star Santa was a Scholastic Book Club original in 2008, and is featured in the Firefly and See Saw flyers every November and December. Look for it in an elementary classroom flyer near you this year. Her YA novel, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was published in February 2013 (Noble Young Adult) and the book trailer can be viewed at: During the course of her writing career Ms. Krause has served as assistant editor for Underneath the Juniper Tree, a dark fantasy online magazine developed for young teens and a children’s book reviewer for Children’s You can learn more about Gayle at (

Linda Joy Singleton – This terrific writing friend is the author of over 35 books for kids, including YALSA honored THE SEER series (my favorite!) and DEAD GIRL WALKING trilogy. She submitted short stories to magazines when she was fourteen and finished her first book during a two-week holiday. She kept stories she wrote as a kid, and loves to share them at school presentations. I love her books and can’t wait for more in THE SEER series and to see her upcoming picture book release. To learn more about Linda and her wonderful titles, visit her website at:

Brenda Reeves Sturgis is the author of the popular 10 Turkeys in the Road, Amazon/and Scholastic, 2011. Booklist praised it saying, “Colorful cartoonlike acrylic illustrations—contrasting happy-faced, googly-eyed turkeys with the increasingly exasperated farmer—capture the chaos with liveliness and humor. Kids will enjoy counting turkeys and finding corresponding numerals incorporated within the pictures. Not just for Thanksgiving. She has two forthcoming books, No Fun in the Sun for Santa, First Ideas Corp (2013), and upcoming The Lake Where Loon Lives, (2014) with Islandport Press. To learn more about Brenda and her  books, visit her website at:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Agency Quest

By the end of 2012, I had a respectable amount of trade and educational titles under my belt, and it was time to find an agent who represented what I wrote—picture books. Anyone who has ever tried finding an agent, much less a picture book agent, knows it can be a daunting task. Out of the hundreds of agencies out there, only a fraction represents children’s literature and out of those, a smaller fraction represents picture books. Although I’d sold some trade picture books myself, some doors were perpetually closed unless I attended a conference where the editor spoke.  That worked to a point, but it wasn’t a good strategy in the long run.

So, I began my search. I started by studying SCBWI’s agent list and supplemented it with Casey McCormick’s and Natalie Aguirre’s blog that I’d read about on a listserv. Finding their blog was like finding a treasure trove of information that I didn’t even know existed. Links in the upper left hand corner separated agents based on genre, and even if a particular agent wasn’t a good fit, there was usually a link to the agency’s website where I could do further research on other agents.  Query Tracker at was another great source of agent information. As I delved into the research, I saw that no one list had all the information. So, after a couple of days of searching online, I cobbled my own list that I’ve included below with links to their websites. About half them represent only children’s literature. The other half has at least one agent that represents picture books and other children’s literature. A few of them were closed to picture book submissions currently, but I included them as agencies to watch in the future.   

The good news? After a thorough evaluation, submission, and discussion process, . . . I'm delighted to be represented by Eden Street, LLC.  I hope my search helps your own picture book agency quest. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Next Big Thing!

The Next Big Thing is here! 

What is it? It’s a terrific blog event that shines a spotlight on authors’ upcoming book releases. The event was originally launched in Australia and is now spreading around the world. I received my tag from children’s author and app wizard, Chris Pederson, and at the end of my interview, I’ll tag several other writers who’ll share what their Next Big Thing when they blog next week.

Here's my interview about my Next Big Thing:

Written by Lori Mortensen, Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

What is the title of your next book?

Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg.

What genre is this book?

It’s a rhyming picture book.

Who is publishing this book?

It’s being released by Clarion on May 14, 2013, a few short months away.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
One day I was looking for an idea for a picture book and thought it would be fun to write a story about a boy chasing his dog for a bath. However, as I worked on it, there was no magic. No matter what I wrote, the story felt flat and boring. After setting it aside for a while, I happened to notice a few picture books with cowboys and suddenly knew that if I switched the setting to a cowboy setting, all sorts of exciting things could happen. Once I made the switch, the story took off like a buckin’ bronco and it was exciting to figure out what would happen next.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Washin’ a dog can lead to a powerful lot of trouble. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Once I switched the story to the cowboy setting, only a couple of weeks. When the editor at Clarion bought it, it took a few more months to tweak the text so it was pitch-perfect.   

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Since the story is a rambunctious read-aloud, the actor would have to have a lot of pluck too. I could easily see Jim Carey, Tom Hanks, or Tommy Lee Jones as the dogged cowboy. And the dog? Beethoven, of course!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are some terrific cowboy picture books out there. Two that come to mind are The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake and When Wishes Were Horses by Sharon Hart Addy.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My neighbors used to have dogs that regularly broke out of their backyard and raced down the street which always created an exciting scene of shouting and barking, so that was probably the initial inspiration of what I thought could become an exciting story.  

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

I think this excerpt from the book description says it perfectly!

“The rhyming stanzas are pitch-perfect, Texas-style, and plumb near cry out to be read aloud. Austin’s expressive acrylic and colored-pencil caricatures of Cowpoke Clyde and his menagerie are priceless. A storytime shoo-in!”

Michael Allen Austin and I have also put together a wonderful multi-page guide for teachers and librarians to use with the book that will be available through our websites when the book is released.

I’m now delighted to pass The Next Best Thing blog to the following terrific authors:

·        Judy Cox
·        Danna Smith
·        Jeri Ferris

Yee Hah!