Meet Pixie’s Illustrator – Kerri Lockwood-Doody

Pixie’s Adventure is now out in the world, and I couldn’t be prouder of my debut picture book.  This is truly a dream come true.   When I signed with my publisher over a year ago, I had to trust that they would find the perfect illustrator to bring my story to life.  Enter Kerri Lockwood-Doody.  Kerri has exceeded all of my expectations.  Her watercolor pencil illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.  When you open Pixie’s Adventure for the first time, I think you’ll fall in love with them as much as I have.

Kerri was kind enough to let me interview her.  Enjoy!

JG:  Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What did you study in school?

KLD: I grew up in Boulder, Colorado and was the youngest of four children. My father was a civil engineer by trade but his heart’s longing was to express himself through art. He was pressed by us often to sketch different cartoon characters and I enjoyed his watercolor of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that hung in my room as a child. Only after his death did we find colored pencil sketches that he did of India while he was stationed there in WWII. My mother was a retouch and color artist for a large photography studio when I was born and loved poetry. I remember a night when she got up from the dinner table to answer the phone, we heard her recite a poem and then inform the man who had called that he had a wrong number. Fortunately he had accidentally reached the one person who had that obscure poem memorized! We grew up appreciating all forms of art. My sister is a talented artist in her own right, One brother still performs with an accapella jazz group and another brother is quite well known in the fantasy art world for his book covers, illustrations and now his first authored book (The Summer Dragon, by Todd Lockwood. Proud of that guy). I was very active in all facets of art in elementary, middle and high school. I enjoyed participating in theater productions, choirs, and talent shows. Quite often I was chosen to produce the posters, bulletins, and t-shirt designs for these events. But mostly I loved music and studied voice in the one year of college I attended. My priorities changed in high school when I found a deep love for Jesus. I decided that I would pursue him first in my life and let him guide my talents. The accapella group that I was in at the time became a mission group and that took me to Florida where I met my husband to be. ( So much for pursuing a music career in Nashville, good plans are not always God’s plans.)

JG: Have you always wanted to be an illustrator?

KLD: I have always loved gifting people with original pieces of art but illustrating books was not necessarily my first career choice. Over the years I have done projects here and there for friends and I have planned out certain projects of my own that I would like to do based mostly on songs that I have written for my children. It is very rewarding.

JG: What other picture books have you illustrated?

KLD: A friend of mine asked me to illustrate a book about how she adopted her daughter from Guatemala. She wanted her to know the story as she grew up. It was a black and white sketch book. I worked as a teacher’s assistant and each child received a birthday book (one page from each classmate) with an original paper cutting illustration of something that interested that child on the cover. When my husband published his first book (The Wonk Decelerator by John Joseph Doody) with eTreasures I volunteered little sketches for the chapter headers. The editor asked me if I was interested in doing children’s books. The first two projects that I did for them, however, were more like parent/teacher handbooks. The first was 31 Fun Ways to Increase Your Child’s Attention Span and the second, The Handy Dandy Quick Reference Teacher Guide for Working With Children With Academic & Behavior Problems (there’s a mouthful for ya!) both by Dr. Jackie Paxton.

JG: What medium did you use for Pixie’s Adventure? Tell me about your illustration process for this book.

KLD: Years ago I told my brother about a book I wanted to do from a song I wrote for my son’s kindergarten class called the Butterfly Garden. He suggested that I use watercolor pencils. I have had them around for years and never got to that project. When Pixie came into the picture I figured it would be a good time to give them a go. I learned a lot about them. The different brands are very different in how they work. I learned years ago how to plan out a project and I prefer tracing paper to computer programs at this point. I’m old school that way. I do the preliminary sketches on tracing paper and once they are okayed I transfer them to the watercolor paper on a light table. I hope to take a class that can help me on the computer drawing programs. Until then my blood pressure prefers the old way.
Fortunately I had the perfect model for the part of Pixie and with my Sony camera and iPad I was able to get good reference pictures of her and the family members. The Internet was also extremely helpful with reference pictures for the different aspect of each picture.

JG: What is your usual/preferred medium?

KLD: I am most comfortable with pencil sketches which is why the watercolor pencils were a logical step for me. I enjoy layered paper cutting pictures and have done many as gifts. Someday I would like to try that for illustrating a children’s book.

JG: What are some of your favorite picture books?

KLD: My favorite picture books are those that I read as a child, of course. Go, Dog. Go! and all the Dr. Seuss books still rank high and the original Winnie The Pooh books by A. A. Milne with Decorations by Ernest H. Shepard are favorites. I love all of the Frances books by Russell Hoban, and anything illustrated by Maurice Sendak but my most treasured story book is The Velveteen Rabbit illustrated by Michael Greene. I’d like to have Charles Santore’s version of that as well. My favorite illustrator of children’s literature would have to be Garth Williams who illustrated the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I almost forgot Kay Thompson’s Eloise illustrated by Hillary Knight! (Now, who could forget Eloise!) I’m afraid I’m a bit of a hoarder so I could go on and on. There are so many out that are just treasures. I just gave away about 100 of my kids old books and I have at least that many left!

JG: Thank you so much, Kerri!

If you would like to learn more about Kerri, follow her on Twitter @KerriDoody

#50PreciousWords – 2017 Edition

The lovely and talented Vivian Kirkfield has challenged us kidlit writers to write a complete story using just 50 words.  #50PreciousWords was inspired by Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, which only contains 50 unique words!  To find out more about this fun contest, check out Vivian’s website and follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #50PreciousWords.  My entry was inspired by my love of sweets.  I hope you like it!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year 

They’re here! They’re finally here!

I think I’ll have a few.

CRUNCH! CRUNCH!

Chocolaty, minty goodness.

Maybe just one more.

MUNCH!

Caramel and coconut perfection.

Oh, that’s not enough.

CRUNCH! MUNCH! CRUNCH!

Peanut buttery swirls.

I can’t stop!

MUNCH! CRUNCH!

Sigh.

Later…

Mom, where are all the Girl Scout cookies?

2016 Successes – Anti-Resolution Revolution

Children’s author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity – what DIDN’T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is a list of my SUCCESSES from 2016.

  1. I signed a contract with eTreasures Publishing for my picture book PIXIE’S ADVENTURE. Publication is set for early 2017.
  2. I completed 4 new manuscripts and am in the middle of writing 2 additional manuscripts. I made countless revisions to several manuscripts.
  3. I attended the 2016 NESCBWI Conference in April and the WOW Retreat in July. Through these conferences, I met some amazing authors, editors, and agents, and have made some wonderful friends.
  4. I joined 12×12. I’m proud to be part of such a supportive group of writers!
  5. I took Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archaeology Class in October and met another group of talented writers.
  6. I joined Rate Your Story for 2017. I submitted my first manuscript this month, and I got a 3!!!
  7. While I did not sign with an agent, I had several phone calls with one who really liked my writing. I also received a rejection from another who liked my writing and encouraged me to send her other work. I call that a win!
  8. I started writing book reviews for Story Monsters Ink magazine.
  9. I was selected to be a blogger for the American Association of School Librarians blog, Knowledge Quest. To date, I’ve published six posts for KQ!
  10. I was asked by the principal of my children’s school if I would do an Author Visit once PIXIE’S ADVENTURE comes out!

As I mentioned above, I’ve connected with so many wonderful writers this year and made so many new friends. That is one of my biggest successes of the year!

Thanks for sharing my successes with me. I hope 2017 will be an even more successful writing year!

Super Fantastic Cover Reveal

I am beyond thrilled to reveal the cover to my debut picture book, Pixie’s Adventure, from eTreasures Publishing. I’m in love with this cover, beautifully illustrated by the talented Kerri Lockwood-Doody. The release date is still being finalized. I will be sure to share the date once I have that information. I just can’t wait to hold this book in my hands. Thank you for sharing this special moment with me.

A Morning with Sara Pennypacker

This morning, my daughter and I had the pleasure of meeting New York Times bestselling author Sara Pennypacker and hearing her speak. She shared what it is like to be a writer, “the best job in the world,” and a little about her books. While she talked about many of her books, she primarily focused on Pax. If you have not read Pax yet, I suggest you drop what you’re doing and run to your nearest library or bookstore. Pax is the incredible story of a 12 year old boy named Peter and his pet fox, Pax. Peter is forced to release Pax into the wild, as his father has enlisted in the army and he is being sent to live with his grandfather. Not even a day goes by before Peter realizes he can’t live with the mistake of letting his beloved fox go, so he sets off on a journey to find him. Told from the alternating perspectives of both Peter and Pax, this story will affect anyone who has felt a strong bond with their pet.

Sara also had a strong message to share about the importance of children’s books that deal with difficult topics. She eloquently stated that books are practice for real life, and what better way for children to practice dealing with difficult situations than through books? I couldn’t agree with her more! If you would like more info about Sara, you can visit her website www.sarapennypacker.com.

This Young Readers’ Literary Breakfast was put on by my favorite independent bookstore, Where the Sidewalk Ends, located in Chatham, MA. Visit www.booksonthecape.com for more information about this charming store.

 

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

My debut picture book, Pixie’s Adventure, has been given a tentative release date – October 10, 2016.

I keep pinching myself to see if this is real, and so far, I’ve yet to wake up! I’d like to celebrate by hosting my first giveaway. Pixie, my main character, is a super cute cat. So, one lucky reader will be given the chance to get their hands on the three adorable Beanie Boo cats pictured below. And if that isn’t incentive enough for you, I will also include $20 in Starbucks gift cards.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow me on Twitter @jennawritesPB
  2. Retweet the following message: It’s celebration time! For details, visit www.jennagrodzicki.com/apps/blog/

I will choose a winner on the evening of Sunday, April 24th. The winner will be announced on Twitter.

Good luck, and thanks for participating in my first giveaway!

Love,
Jenna xoxo

#FicFest

I’m thrilled to share some information with you all regarding a brand new writing contest that is coming soon! #FicFest, created by the talented Tiffany Hofman, is a writing contest unlike any you have ever seen. How is it different, you ask? Not only is #FicFest geared towards writers of ALL genres, but an equal number of manuscripts from each genre will be chosen for the agent round. Amazing, right? Keep reading to find out more details!

What is #FicFest?

#FicFest is an online writer’s contest which helps put manuscripts in front of literary agents. This contest, unlike most, is open to manuscripts in ALL genres (including those usually excluded such as Paranormal Romance or Erotica) in the categories of Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult.

#FicFest mentors are structured into fifteen (15) teams. Each category listed above has three teams. Each team is comprised of a team leader, and two (2) team members. Once the submissions open, each team will choose three (3) finalist manuscripts and one (1) alternate manuscript to advance to the agent round. This means that an equal number of manuscripts for each category will move to the agent round, guaranteeing that one category does NOT overpower another when it comes time for the agents.

45 manuscripts total move to the agent round, with 15 manuscripts being held as alternates in case one of the main finalists drops out of the contest for any reason. This is one of the things we stress in promoting #FicFest because most contests are overrun with Young Adult. In many contests, they may advance 40 manuscripts to the agent round, but the problem lies in the fact that 30 of that 40 are all Young Adult. That won’t happen with #FicFest.

Nine manuscripts from each category will make their appearance in the agent round. No more, no less. NINE each. Let me stress this one more time. In the agent round, you will have 9 Picture Books, 9 Middle Grade, 9 Young Adult, 9 New Adult, and 9 Adult. Everyone gets a fair chance.

Agents are being added every day and while I can’t give you a solid number, I can tell you that we have close to two dozen confirmed to participate in our agent round and we can’t wait!

2016 Time Line

  • March 20, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST Guidelines & Theme Reveal (Host Blog)
  • March 27, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST Meet the Team Leads & Their Members! (Team Lead Blogs & Host Blog)
  • April 3, 2016 @ 6:00 PM EST Agent List Announced (Host Blog)
  • April 17, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST – 10:00 PM EST Q & A with Team Leads & Host (Twitter – Using #FicFest)
  • April 24, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – April 25, 2016 @ 11:59 PM EST SUBMISSION
  • April 26, 2016 – May 3, 2016 Teams will chose their finalists/alternate
  • May 4, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EST Finalists/Alternate Reveal (Team Leads Blogs)
  • May 5, 2016 – June 30, 2016 Revisions
  • July 8, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – July 14, 2014 @ 11:59 PM EST Agent Round

#FicFest Theme – THE WORLD TOUR!

The yearly theme for this contest is just for fun. It gives the mentors something to use to decorate their blogs, and gives the participants cool team bragging rights. HOWEVER, the yearly theme DOES NOT affect what genres can be submitted or the agent round. Again, themes are just for fun!

#FicFest is a contest for polished, query ready manuscripts ONLY. If your manuscript is a first draft, and is not ready to query, please hold off on submitting this year. If you are chosen as a finalist, your manuscript needs to be ready to send to agents when they request during the AGENT ROUND.

I hope you’re all as excited as I am for this one of a kind contest! If you still have any questions, check out Tiffany Hofmann’s website or blog.

I’d LOVE to hear from you! Comment below and let me know if you’re planning on participating! I wish everyone the best of luck!

-Jenna xoxo

Exciting News!

I’m super excited to announce that my debut picture book, PIXIE’S ADVENTURE, has been contracted for publication with eTreasures Publishing. PIXIE’S ADVENTURE is the first story I wrote, when I began this crazy writing journey over a year ago, so to know that it is actually going to be published is a dream come true. As I find out more information, like the publication date, I will be sure to share it on this blog.

For now, let me tell you a little about this special book…

Pixie is a curious cat who longs to explore the world outside. One afternoon, her family is distracted and she sneaks out to begin the adventure of her life At first, the outside is better than she ever imagined. She becomes enchanted by the feel of grass tickling her fur, the sun warming her body, and the smell of real flowers. But when rumbling thunder and cold rain arrive and send her darting under the nearest bush, her perfect day turns into a nightmare. Will Pixie ever find her way home?

For more information on eTreasures Publishing, please visit their website http://etreasurespublishing.com. Check out their blog at http://etreasurespublishing.blogspot.com and sign up to receive their newsletter, The Monthly Treasure.

Thanks for sharing my wonderful news with me!

Love, Jenna xoxo

50 Precious Words

The talented Vivian Kirkfield has extended a challenge to her fellow writers. Write a story for children in 50 words or less! This was a tricky but fun task. Here is my entry!

POOL PARTY (49 words)
Splash! Pool party!
But Emma can’t swim.
Dipping toes is not enough.
What to do? Look! What’s that?
Sammie swims over with a float.
“You can join us in the pool on this!”
Slowly, carefully, Emma climbs aboard.
Her grin is as bright as the sun.
Giggle! Giggle! Splash!

For more information on this contest, visit Vivian’s blog at http://viviankirkfield.com

Thanks for reading my mini story!
-Jenna xoxo

World Read Aloud Day with the Amazing Josh Funk

In celebration of World Read Aloud Day, one of my second grade media skills classes had the opportunity to Skype with Josh Funk, author of the hilarious LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST. He was a gracious guest who answered all of my students’ questions and also read aloud to them. This was truly a memorable experiene for all involved. Below, I have transcribed their questions and Josh’s answers. Enjoy!

Student: Do all of your books rhyme?

Josh: That’s a great question. Most of my books do rhyme, yes. LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST rhymes. This is the only book I have now, but I have some other books that are coming out soon. There’s one book I’ve written that doesn’t rhyme. It’s about Jack and the beanstalk. Jack doesn’t want to climb the beanstalk, and he doesn’t want to do everything he’s supposed to do in the story. So that one doesn’t rhyme, but everything else does rhyme.

Student: What is your favorite breakfast food?

Josh: Oh, that’s a good question. I’d probably have to go with omelettes. I like omelettes lately. But no mushrooms. Of pancakes, French toast, and waffles, I would go with waffles. I would definitely be on Team Baron von Waffle.

Student: When did you become an author?

Josh: That’s a good question. I started writing books four and a half years ago. It’s because I had kids who were around 3 and 6 years old at the time. Right now they’re in 5th and 2nd grade. What grade are you guys in?

Students: 2nd grade!

Josh: Excellent! My son is in 2nd grade. I started writing books when he was probably 3 or 4 years old. But this is not the first book that I wrote. It’s the first book that’s published. I wrote a lot of books, kind of as practice books first. It took a while to figure out how to write a good story, lots of revising. Do you guys do revisions in your class at all when you write stuff?

Students: No.

Me: What? They most certainly do do revisions!

Josh: Well sometimes you have to write something, and then you do it one more time. Your teacher might give you some feedback and tell you, “This part’s good, this part could be better.” You need to work on it and keep writing and writing. I actually wrote LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST 14 times before it actually got published.

Student: Why did you write about pancakes and French toast?

Josh: That’s a good question. When my kids were little, about 4 years ago, they were arguing about what they wanted for breakfast. One of them wanted pancakes, and the other one wanted French toast. And I said, “Guys, can you please agree?” I’m really not a very good cook. I once burned their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But they said, “No pancakes!” “No French toast!” So on our way to the diner, I thought that maybe that would be a good idea for a story, have a pancake and French toast argue. Now, the funny thing is, on the way to the diner I asked my kids, “What would pancakes and French toast argue about?” One of them said, “Syrup!” and I said, “That’s brilliant!” The only problem is I can’t remember which one of them said syrup, so now today, they argue about who came up with the idea for syrup. So it started with my kids arguing about what they were going to eat for breakfast, and now my kids argue about who came up with the idea. So that’s where I got this idea.

Student: How many books have you written?

Josh: That’s a great question. I’ve probably written 20 or 30 books, but I only have a few that are actually going to turn into books. I have one of them today that is coming out in September, if you want to hear it. It’s called PIRASAURS! You’ve already read LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST, so I thought that you might, on World Read Aloud Day, like to hear my other story. This is the cover of PIRASAURS! It’s about pirate dinosaurs. I also have a book called DEAR DRAGON which also comes out this fall. So in the beginning of third grade, I’ll have two more books out. But I have PIRASAURS! with me now. When you’re done with your questions, I can read it. So I have four books, one that is already out, and three more that are coming out. Hopefully, soon I’ll have more than that.

Student: Why did you decide to be an author?

Josh: Mostly because I was reading a lot of awesome picture books that I loved with my kids. One of my favorite picture books is called IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT. I don’t know if you guys have read that one. Another one is called ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER. Not sure if you guys have seen those, but those are some of my favorite picture books, and I would read them with my kids, and I said, “Ya know, I want to try to write.” Anybody can write. My day job actually is not a writer. Do you guys ever do coding or write code? The Hour of Code?

Me: Yup, we did the Hour of Code in December.

Josh: Awesome. So, that’s what I do for my job. I write code. On weekends and in the evening time, I write picture books. That’s how I do it.

Student: How long did it take you to write all the words?

Josh: That’s a really good question. It took me about a year and a half before I got everything the way I liked it. I wrote about 14 different versions of this before I sent it to some publishers. And one of the publishers, after another six months, got back to me and said, “We really like this.” That was two years after I started writing the book. Then it took another two years for them to make the book. So it took about four years altogether from the time I had the idea until I had this book in my hand. That is not a very long time for picture books. Most of the books in your library or media center probably took about that long.

Student: How old are you?

Josh: I am seven years old.

Students: Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

Josh: No, I’m 36, I think. Yeah, 36. But don’t ask most of the authors how old they are.

Student: Where do you get your ideas?

Josh: I get ideas from everywhere. For this book, my ideas came from my kids, like I said. For my book DEAR DRAGON, I was with my wife in the car. We were on our way home from seeing a play. It was Charlotte’s Web. But this has nothing to do with Charlotte’s Web. My wife, who’s a teacher, was doing a pen pal project, and my son said, “I’d love having a dragon for a pen pal.” So that’s when I came up with the idea for DEAR DRAGON. For PIRASAURS! I woke up in the middle of the night and had the word pirasaurs in my head. So I wrote it down on a pad next to my bed and went back to sleep. The next morning I saw pirasaurs and I said, “That’s interesting. I don’t remember thinking that. Maybe I’ll write a book about it.” So that’s where that one came from. They kind of come from anywhere. Sometimes people say silly things, sometimes people have arguments, sometimes a funny word pops into your head. Ideas for stories can come from anything. Look around, they’re everywhere.

Student: What is your favorite book?

Josh: My favorite book of all time? Wow, that’s a tough question. Probably Harry Potter. I’m a pretty big Harry Potter fan. I like Percy Jackson, too. When I was a kid, I really loved FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. I also loved a book called THE WESTING GAME. I read that when I was a couple of years older than you, maybe 4th or 5th grade. Those are some of my favorite books. I’m really into graphic novels right now, like LUNCH LADY and THE FLYING BEAVER BROTHERS and BABYMOUSE. Sorry, that’s a long answer. I have a lot of favorite books.

Isn’t he just wonderful! I hope you enjoyed reading my students’ interview with Josh Funk.
Love, Jenna xoxo