Hello, wonderful readers!
New week, new interview, and new. . . logo design! Yay! I hope you like it and that it instantly gets you in a lovely literary mood.
So, let's give a warm welcome to our guest author and dear friend, Ellen Leventhal--I can't wait to chat with her about her writing career, her latest and upcoming projects, and also to hear her best revision tips. Check out the giveaway at the end, too!
Welcome, Ellen! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: My road to publication has been a bit different than some, but like many people, I’ve had lots of twists, bumps, and bruises. My first book, DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS, written with Ellen Rothberg, was originally published with a very small local press due to winning a contest! Unfortunately, after a few printings (Yay!), that press decided not to do picture books anymore (Boo!) Eventually, another publisher picked it up, we revised it, and marketed it as a “Ten Year Anniversary” edition. My next book, LOLA CAN’T LEAP released a year later. There was a LOT of revision with that piece after I signed the contract, and although it was frustrating at times, I do love how it turned out. Revision at all stages is part of the process. All the while, I submitted and collected rejections. In 2019 I signed with a wonderful project by project agent who sold my upcoming book, A FLOOD OF KINDNESS in six months. I signed with WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group in 2019, and it will hit store shelves on April 13, 2021. Keeping it real, I still do the dance of write- revise- submit- read rejections-eat chocolate- do it all over. I get pages and pages of rejections, but I have learned to have a bit thicker skin. It’s not fun to get rejections, but again, it’s part of the process. I think the key to staying in the game is to think of it like riding a wave, and you never know what’s coming next. I have lots of stories that were never published. Perhaps I’ll try again. Who knows? My next release (a few years down the road) is a result of one editor liking my writing, but not the way I told the story and another editor loving the way I told the story. She signed me. This is a very subjective business! You never know! So, my road to publication? I’m still on it, and it’s still bumpy, but it’s where I want to be.
Q: What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
A: Creatively, when writing picture books, it’s a challenge for me to stay on one subject! I have so much to say! But I know now that I will work that out in revisions.
The publishing side of things is more difficult for me, and yet it’s not difficult at all since I have no control there. I like control! And The waiting…AKK! Waiting to hear if your manuscript is accepted. Waiting to sign a contract. Waiting for publication. People are always so surprised when they hear about publishing timelines. Marketing is also hard for me! No matter the size of your publisher, much of the marketing falls on the author. I am currently in a very collaborative relationship with the marketing gurus at WorthyKids, which is great, and I am thankful for that. Still, promoting my own work is uncomfortable for me. But again, it’s part of the whole deal, and I love the whole deal! I do enjoy speaking in front of kids and even adults, which is sort of marketing, but I don’t feel like I am pushing my book when I do that.
What helps me stay motivated? That’s an easy one. The love of writing and the love of connecting with people in the KidLit community. Without my critique groups and writer friends, I would have given up a long time ago.
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: There are a lot of tools in my toolbox, and most of them are things I’ve picked up from other people. One thing I’ve learned to do is let my mind flow for the first draft. As a serial reviser this was hard for me for a long time, but I’ve found it helps. I start with an idea, but sometimes during the first draft, my idea changes and becomes something better. (Or sometimes it morphs into something worse, and that’s where my friend “revision” comes in.) Another little thing I do is something I learned from a critique partner. I try to get rid of as many “to be” verbs. Wherever I see one (“She was amazed!”), I circle the weak verb and change the sentence to something active. As far my revision process, as I said, I am a serial reviser. The problem is that I never know when to end! (That’s NOT a good thing). The first few revisions begin to tell me what I need to do story wise. I take a lot of what my critique groups say and decide what I want to incorporate into my story.(Thank you, Rosie Pova for giving me some great ideas over the years!) I think of revision as putting my story into a sieve. I shake out what doesn’t belong. Then, once I am pretty sure what I want to say after the first few drafts, I sometimes use the “Hamburger” method that I teach my writing students. As part of revision I need to make sure I still have a good story structure and that I didn’t chop too much. I check to make sure I have a really yummy top of a bun (Hook or intro). I add delicious condiments, etc. to the burger (middle) to make it “tasty.” This is where I’ll double check to make sure I have things like tension and emotion. And as with all great sandwiches, I can’t forget the bottom bun (strong conclusion). Without that, everything falls apart. I spend a lot of time trying to make my ending as exciting as the beginning. And then I do all of that over and over. And over. Please stop me! (I really have a problem.)
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: I’m excited that although the actual Book Birthday for A FLOOD OF KINDNESS is April 13, my virtual launch is on April 24. My illustrator, Blythe Russo will be presenting with me. Here is a link to the launch. https://www.brazosbookstore.com/event/virtual-ellen-leventhal-flood-kindness
I also have a new book in the pipeline, but it won’t be out until 2023, so all I can say now is it was out of my comfort zone, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years!
Thanks so much for having me here, Rosie and for the great questions.
Thank you, Ellen, for this wonderful insight into your writing world, your work, and your process! I hear you -- sometimes it's hard to stop revising, and other times, we want to be done, but we know there's more work needed to be put into a piece... Writer's life! ;) Eventually, we figure it out, and our critique groups are invaluable indeed!
Please come come again to KidLit Oasis -- I can't wait to celebrate with you that 2023 project in the pipeline and many more to come!
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G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
One lucky winner will get a choice to pick their prize:
a copy of A FLOOD OF KINDNESS or
a picture book critique from Ellen!
>>>Comment on this post to be entered<<<
Shares on social media are encouraged and appreciated!
Click on the cover to order a copy of Ellen's book
Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. She writes books that she hopes inspires and delights children. She is the co-author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS(Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, 2017) and the author of LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Clear Fork Publishing, 2018) as well as A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (Worthy Kids/Hachette Book Group, April 13, 2021). Her best days are when she can interact directly with children as they garner a love of literacy, laughter, and kindness together. www.Ellenleventhal.com
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, will be released in March 2021. It's a story that celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jessica Schmeilder of Golden Wheat Literary.