Jodi Moore, part II

Jodi won an award! Dragon wants to take all the credit.

Jodi won an award! Dragon wants to take all the credit.

Here is the second part of: Interview with a Dragon Trainer!  I mean, Author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, Jodi Moore.  You can find the first part of the interview here.

Interview with Jodi Moore, Part 1

Here is Part 2 of her interview. The members of the study group submitted the questions before the interview.

 

FUN TIDBIT: Jodi has a dragon that she takes with her, I think everywhere! 🙂

Dragon really does go everywhere.

Dragon really does go everywhere.

One question everyone wants to know is:

Who made the dragon?

Jodi Moore  My son Steve made the dragon for me. He has a BFA in Musical Theatre and learned some techniques in puppetry and “masking” classes. Isn’t Dragon beautiful? I’m such a lucky mom! 🙂

 

We thank Jodi's son Steve for being so awesome and creative!

We thank Jodi’s son Steve for being so awesome and creative!

 

EDITORIAL PROCESS:

Did you have any struggles/issues with the “long” beginning of the story – with not starting the conflict until almost halfway through? I loved it, but we have all been told not to do this.

Jodi Moore  Joanne, your question was the toughest one for me! I have to admit I never thought about this with respect to DRAGON. I just told the story that needed to be told. While I agree that it’s important to address the conflict before too much time passes within any story, I also feel it’s essential to build the foundation of why it should matter, of why we should care. With DRAGON, I want the readers to see the joyous relationship between the boy and his new friend. That increases the stakes (the tension) so much more when no one believes him.

 

ILLUSTRATIONS:

How many illustration notes were included when you submitted to editors/agents? How many were included when the manuscript was given to the illustrator?

Jodi Moore  Because it’s always been grilled into me (at conferences, in books) to never give illustration notes, DRAGON was submitted without any.
So…you can imagine how shocked I was when Shari came back and asked me for specific ideas! Of course, now I realize it was because Shari wasn’t sure whether the concept of illustrating a character that “may or may not be there” was feasible.
What’s exceptional about DRAGON (and the uber-talented Howard McWilliam) is that if you look at each illustration, you’ll find a dual explanation of everything that’s happening, one highlighting the dragon as the “cause”, another offering something else as the reason.

Pretty awesome illustrations!

Pretty awesome illustrations!

Did you or the illustrator come up with the subtle background details? Did you help choose the illustrator? Did you have input in the illustrations?

Jodi Moore  Aren’t they wonderful? In the lottery of illustrators, I won big time.

As I said earlier, I can’t take any credit for the fantastic illustrations. While I may have provided art notes in the beginning (to see if the concept was possible), I didn’t have anything to do with any artwork past that.

So much of the humor in this book depends on the wonderful illustrations. Did you write very detailed illustration notes in your manuscript?

Jodi Moore  Thank you, but I can’t take any credit for the brilliance of the illustrations. That all goes to Howard and Shari and their amazing vision. Shari and I did discuss ideas in the beginning, but only to make sure the concept was possible. Then I released it to the sheer brilliance that is Howard McWilliam.

I actually wasn’t permitted to have any contact with Howard while he worked on the pictures. (Even though I would have just gushed about them the whole time…yes, I have a fan-girly crush on him.) 😉 It’s important to allow an illustrator to do what they do best. To give them their space and artistic license. After all, how would we feel if they told us to change our words? 😉

Howard took my vision, expounded upon it and raised it to a level that I couldn’t even have imagined! I’ve always been told a picture book is a 50/50 labor of love between writers and artists. I never quite understood that until DRAGON was born.

Speaking of other, school visits rock!

Speaking of other, school visits rock!

 

OTHER QUESTIONS:

How has Flashlight worked with you in securing school visits, PR, developing your online presence, marketing your book, etc.?

Jodi Moore   Flashlight is great. DRAGON is on many state lists and has won several awards due to the fact that the Flashlight team submits for everything. I often get calls for visits due to the fact it is on a list. They also designed a bookmark and bookplate for me to use for marketing.  I worked for over 6 months on my school visit, where I share that “Building a strong story is just like building a sandcastle”…it’s based on a wish list from different teachers and librarians. We even go on an imaginary roller coaster ride to simulate a story arc!

 

Do you have any other books coming out……

Jodi Moore   WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN is due Fall 2015.

Sneak peek....ssshhhh

Sneak peek….ssshhhh

Woohooo!!! We can’t wait!  Thank you so much for your time Jodi! We loved having you!

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Interview with Jodi Moore!

Debut Picture Book Study Group is a facebook group run by Darshana Khiani, Margaret Greanias, Rena Traxel and myself. The group of over 200 writers pick a new author each month who has found success, and study their book. After we study the book, we are fortunate enough to interview the author.

We target our inner child and study!

We target our inner child and study!

In May, we interviewed author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (Flashlight Press), Jodi Moore. We loved talking about her book, and agreed that this is one book that gets even better with every read. Jodi broke a lot of rules in a fun story about a boy who builds a sand castle, only to have a dragon move in and create havoc. My son loved reading this book with me, and I’m excited to share with you parts of her interview!

Jodi herself is a very fun person and dreamer who I’ve gotten to know on Facebook. She has an amazing imagination, and I can’t wait to see what she creates in the future. If you ever want to meet an author who can take children to different worlds, and introduce them to different characters and friends, Jodi’s your dragon trainer.

Jodi Moore, Dragon Trainer

Jodi Moore, Dragon Trainer

Here is Part 1 of her interview. The members of the study group submitted the questions before the interview.

 

Jodi began with a story:

My husband and I are the proud parents of two amazing young men, now aged 24 and 26. When they left for college, we went through horrible Empty Nest Syndrome. (Oh, who am I kidding? It’s a chronic situation for us!) The first time we went to the beach by ourselves was really tough, but my husband brought all of his sand toys anyway, determined to build a sandcastle like he used to do with them. As he worked, several kids on the beach offered to help. One little guy put a piece of seaweed in the mouth of the castle and my husband said, “That looks like a dragon tail. Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in.”
And I thought, hmmm…what a great idea for a story! The book is dedicated to Larry (beloved hubster), Alex & Steve (awesome kiddos). You can see why! They not only support me in every way, they truly are the inspiration for the story!

Jodi's husband and son, being inspirational.

Jodi’s husband and son, being inspirational.

 

WRITING CHOICES/PROCESS
The book is written in future tense, which is unique (kind of like IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE). Did the original manuscript start out that way? Why did you choose to use this tense?

Jodi Moore  Yes, I wanted the readers to immerse themselves in the story. I’ve always loved the “what if” scenario.

Did you ever have the manuscript set up in a different format before coming to this one?

Jodi Moore   I didn’t. Dragon is one of those lovely stories that just flowed out of me. I didn’t over-think it. The original version is pretty close to the final one, although Shari’s suggestions helped to make it a bit more picturesque and musical (as far as the rhythm of the read).

As Kate Messner said in one of her workshops, some stories fall from the sky (like DRAGON); others need to be worked and reworked. I haven’t had one come so easily since. 😉 In fact, I went through four rejected ideas for DRAGON’s sequel (WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN) before the final manuscript was accepted by Shari.

How long did it take from rough draft to printing?

Jodi Moore  DRAGON took about 3 years from concept/rough draft to publication. It took about 1.5 years from the time it was contracted by Flashlight.

You’re very careful never to fully take a side on whether the dragon is real. Was that always the plan, or was the dragon more definitely imaginary in earlier drafts?

Jodi Moore  This was always my intention. I love that the readers get to decide whether the dragon is real or not. That being said, I had two separate publishers tell me that I had to decide before the manuscript could be considered. I realize now that may have been due to the challenge of drawing a character that may or may not be there. Thankfully, Shari Dash Greenspan (my fabulous editor at Flashlight Press) and Howard McWilliam (my brilliant illustrator) had the vision to bring my dream to life.

Everyone loves Dragon!

ACQUISITION PROCESS:

Can you tell us your acquisition story? Did you submit directly to publishers or did you use an agent? Why did you choose that particular route?

Jodi Moore I am not agented, although I would love to have one! I did share DRAGON with an agent back in 2008, who rejected it, so I submitted the manuscript on my own.
As I mentioned earlier, at least two of the editors who rejected the manuscript told me that I had to choose whether the dragon was real or not. Shari thought allowing the readers to decide was a great idea, but wondered how it might be illustrated. We spent one year researching other published books that deal with such a situation before she finally felt we could make the book a reality. I am so grateful she took the time, had the vision…and believed in me!

Did you use any comparable titles when querying? If so, which ones?

Jodi Moore  When I queried, I complimented Flashlight’s history of highlighting and celebrating a child’s creativity and imagination (such as I NEED MY MONSTER). When Shari and I researched other books to see how others treated similar issues, we looked at books like THERE’S A NIGHTMARE IN MY CLOSET (Mercer Mayer), ALEXANDER (Harold Littledale), and THE BEAST IN THE BATHTUB (Kathleen Stevens). I’ve also always loved the story THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A DRAGON (Jack Kent), a favorite with our boys!

How long did it take from the start of submission to a contract? How many rejections did it receive before being acquired?

Jodi Moore  I initially submitted with Flashlight on November 2, 2008 and received my contract November 16, 2009.

DRAGON had 2 formal rejections with publishers, 2 verbal issues (with different editors at a conference) with the idea I wanted the reader to decide whether the dragon was real or not and 1 agent rejection before it was accepted by Flashlight.

The informal verbal comments were made as part of a roundtable intensive at one of the SCBWI conferences. Believe it or not, the editor in the morning said I had to make sure readers knew the dragon was imaginary; the one in the afternoon told me to make sure readers knew the dragon was real. My head was spinning when I left! Shari and I emailed back and forth for a year deciding whether it was possible to draw a character that may or may not “be there”.

Her book!

Her book!

 

WOW! See all the great information and insight we got from Jodi? Isn’t she AWESOME!  Since this blog is getting a bit long, I’m going to split it up to a part 2. Come back soon to learn about Illustrations and the editorial process!

Look for Part 2, coming to Debbie’s blog, very soon….

 

What I’m Working On

Thank you so much to Betsy Devany for tagging me in her blog post, “My Writing Process.” I met Betsy at Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp.  You can read her blog post here: http://betsydevany.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/my-writing-process/

1) What am I working on?

I have a lot of irons in the fire. I like to rotate what I’m doing. Each month I pick one to polish, one to rewrite, and try to create a new manuscript or two. I’m also in the process of searching for an agent, so I’ve spent a lot of time “stalking” different agents trying to learn who they represent, what they are looking for, what they love to read. I’m sending to just one or two agents a month as I search for one who I feel will appreciate me as a writer and help me take my career to the next level. It’s a very slow process. 🙂

My new manuscript is called Four Forts. It’s as close as I get to Fractured Fairy Tales, and is a fun kid twist on the Three Little Pigs… but with 3 fails, and one success, which is a sweet twist in the end. It includes a bit of sibling rivalry, the youngest child syndrome, and filling in the hours of a boring summer. It’s in the raw stage, and will head to it’s first critique round next week.

My rewrite is I Wanna Grow Up. It reminds me a bit of a bunch of comic strips. Each page has a punch line. It’s a very open manuscript where an illustrator can have a ton of fun with it.

I’m also working on a manuscript about welcoming a new baby. I know, been done, right? I have a fun royal twist on mine and it’s received great feedback so far. It’s pretty polished, but I’m sitting on it to see if I can find anything else to change before sending it out.

I’m also getting ready to rewrite the Great Art Project, which went through a round of critiques a few weeks back. I like to sit on the critiques before rewriting. This one does need a pretty big overhaul.

And of course, I’m still reworking Mad Kid Scientist into a chapter book. I ended up with a crazy hamster character that took over… so I’m sitting on it to see if I went a bit overboard, or if it works.
evilhamster

And I’m sending out No Need to Wake Mommy after it’s been greenlighted by a few groups. It’s a cute, whimsical book about a proud child who doesn’t want to wake mommy after she accidently falls asleep in a chair reading a book with no pictures (because we all know that’s why she feel asleep). Alex is thirsty, but that’s OK, “No need to wake Mommy,” he’s a big boy!


2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s mine. 🙂 I know, not the answer an agent or publisher wants. When I write, I try to accomplish a few things:

1.) I want to get down to a child’s eye level. I was once told I was writing from a parent’s bird eye view. It was the best advice I was given, as I can now catch myself writing as a parent, vs writing as a child.

2.) I want my stories to be a read it again book, with some child interaction.

3.) I look for ideas I haven’t seen on the shelves, read in a review, or pulled off the library. I do realize at this point there are no original ideas. But I try to find fun twists to make them mine.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because the idea pops into my head, and I start to “read” my story. If it’s fun, I write it down. My stories that make it into my stage 2 list are the books that flow out. They rattle in my head, and then the pressure becomes so strong that I have to get it out on paper.  Sometimes the pressure isn’t strong enough and I turn on the faucet…. unfortunately, sometimes the idea just trickles…. those stories very rarely get finished.

But for the most part, I write what feels right. I have a very diverse style. When I was at Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen, Jane asked us to submit 2 manuscripts before the camp. I sent her No Need to Wake Mommy, and Plip Plop. They are two very different stories. Jane made me smile when she said that I have an unusual range of writing abilities.

4) How does your writing process work?

A story idea will pop into my head. POP.

It begins to take shape. Sometimes it’s a character, or a refrain, or a plot.

Then it starts to grow, and grow, and grow… and I have to run to a computer to catch it before it’s gone.

The process can take 10 minutes, or it can take 24 hours. Unfortunately, if I have an idea and don’t get it out when it wants, it’s lost until it pops up in another context.  I do PiBoIdMo, but the only ones written are the ones I write asap, or the ones that keep coming back to me.

I’ve explained it to kids like feeling as if you want to vomit.

320px-smirc-puke-svgYou just don’t feel like you can do anything until you get it all out. But once you do, you feel so much better.

 

Yeah, I know, gross analogy! Sorry you asked?

—————————

And with that note, I’m happy to pass the baton to:

Image
Sophia Mallonée! 
She is a former artist’s agent, wife to a photographer, mom to a toddler and writer of children’s books. She is also the founder and a contributing writer at The Red Door Blog for writers. In the past, Sophia has also written and edited for television. For more information about her, and to follow her Writing Process, visit www.sophiamallonee.com.

My other tag teamer isn’t feeling well, and I haven’t had a chance to find someone to replace her (Well, she’s irreplaceable!) So I’m going to share her blog with you anyway.

Donna Martin is someone who I know from Facebook. She’s always one of the first to help out comment when someone has a question or is feeling down. She also has a great blog. Go on over and visit her! http://donasdays.blogspot.com/

 

PB First Pages Must Sing

I love writer’s conferences! Not only do we get to hang out with other authors, we get to listen to amazing people (agents, editors, art directors, authors and even lawyers) share insight into the industry.

Registration closed. Look for our conference in October!

 Look for our conference in October! Just wanted to share the amazing artwork.

 

Friday at SCBWI-IOWA was the Julie Ham show. Julie is the Associate Editor/contracts manager at Charlesbridge press. And I got to introduce her!

Of course, before I introduce someone, I want to get to know them.  I want their deepest and darkest secrets. However, since that’s a little stalkerish and I don’t want to be banned, I keep it to other interesting tidbits like favorite books, food, advice….  I learned that Julie’s favorite book growing up with TALE OF TWO BAD MICE by Beatrix Potter, which then transformed into LITTLE WOMEN as her taste in books matured.  Today her favorite book is called TAGGED, and it is one she is editing. It has an edgy voice and is about a 14 year old graffiti artist.

And of course, everyone should know if you go out to pizza with Julie, order a veggie pizza. She’s not a vegetarian though, she’s a pescetarian.

Registration closed.

She shared with us tips on making a picture book sing… and it all starts at the very beginning….Yes, the first page. Just like in chapter books where we hear all about the first page, the same goes for picture books.

Think of it this way. Your story is one of 300 a month. Someone has to read those. They had a long week and are tired, but believe that in the pile, the next OWL MOON or SOPHIA’s SQUASH, is hiding, just waiting to be discovered. They pick up your story and read. One of two things happen; the first sentence grabs them and they become engaged OR they blink their eyes, yawn and say “next.”  They don’t have time to read everything.  That doesn’t give you time for backstory, much set up unless it grabs a reader and pulls them in, or an opportunity to take the long rode into the story.  Every word matters.

Here are some books that Julie talked about with gripping first pages. Head to the library and study these. Look at the language. Look at the first page. Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you want to read more, why?

How are they setting up the story?

Did they have any backstory?

What is the book about?

What more do you want to know? (A good first page makes you want to know more. It makes you invested.)

Here are those titles:

i-want-my-hat-back-lineup

  • I Want My Hat Back
  • Zen Shorts
  • Little Pig Joins the Band
  • Grandpa Green
  • Ellington was not a Street
  • Ballet for Martha
  • The Curious Garden
  • Imogene’s Last Stand
  • Extra Yarn

And of course if she had read my book, she’d have added it to the list:

Remember, you need to be your biggest critique. Don’t settle! Push yourself to make your story the best story you can! You can do it!