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!
Readers, please support our featured authors/illustrators by following them on Twitter, requesting their book through your local library, posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, purchasing their books.
I hope you enjoyed this post — comments and shares are appreciated. Thank you!
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!
And the winner of Ellen's giveaway is. . .
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
Connect with Ellen Leventhal:
4/7/2021 09:03:53 am
A great interview! I’m so happy to see Ellen’s career taking off. She’s a wonderful writer and has an amazing connection with kids in her live presentations.
4/8/2021 09:59:13 am
Ah, thanks. You know if it werent for you, I wouldn't be doing this! Thanks especially for the school visit plug! I miss them.
4/7/2021 10:50:51 am
I love to see writers thrive, not giving up and succeed. I will be passing this interview to all my writing friends and we look forward for more of your books. More power to you!!!
4/8/2021 09:59:49 am
Thanks you! Much appreciated!
4/7/2021 10:55:29 am
Hi Ellen I loved reading your interview. Your Ideas for revisions are spot on. You sound so much like me. Marketing is my biggest fear. Not to mention how hard it is for me - being an introvert. Thank you for presenting the world your first book. I look forward to reading it. All the best, Joan Sloane
4/8/2021 10:00:22 am
Thanks so much!
Kelly D Roberts
4/7/2021 11:11:24 am
Have her latest book on my wishlist on Amazon! Love hearing stories to publication!
4/8/2021 10:00:54 am
Thank you! I really appreciate that. I hope you like it.
4/7/2021 11:24:20 am
My name is Dedra, and I am a fellow serial-revisor! I believe it will never be fully revised until a publisher says it is! Thank you for all these tips, and your journey gives me hope!
4/8/2021 10:01:48 am
LOL, Dedra! It is SO hard, isn't it?
4/7/2021 12:15:19 pm
Thank you for the interview and sharing your writing process. I'm still reading as many picture books as I can and keeping my mind open for ideas everywhere. Reading about successful authors gives me hope.
4/8/2021 10:03:03 am
I am doing the same thing, Danielle. And there are so many different types of picture books, that I often end up in a bit of a tizzy, but I love reading them.
Deborah Holt Williams
4/7/2021 12:48:10 pm
Ellen, I love your hamburger analogy! I will definitely apply that to my own stories. I also love to make verbs shine. I remember seeing an early version of your Flood story in 2019 and we talked about you replaceing"came" with "poured" or some other watery word. Thanks for sharing your writing tips here!
4/8/2021 10:04:02 am
Hey, Deb! You certainly don't need MY tips with your gorgeous writing, but thank you so much for this comment and your help over the years.
4/7/2021 12:50:14 pm
4/8/2021 10:04:37 am
Thanks. Rosie asks great questions, doesn't she?
4/7/2021 12:58:19 pm
Congratulations on all your hard work.
4/8/2021 07:31:59 pm
4/7/2021 01:21:10 pm
Fabulous interview, Rosie and Ellen! I love hearing how different writers approach their revisions...always hoping to get tips I can implement with my own. And putting your story into a sieve...that's a unique way of looking at it...thank you!
4/8/2021 10:06:29 am
And how lucky am I that we are critique buddies?! Thank you for all you've done over the years to help not only me, but everyone in the kidlit community.
4/7/2021 01:39:28 pm
Great interview! I love hearing your process. I’m hoping that through reading picture books and looking for ideas that one day I will have a debut book my son will be proud of
4/8/2021 10:07:14 am
I have no doubt you will accomplish that goal! Good luck and keep going!
4/7/2021 01:40:22 pm
I appreciate the theme of A Flood of Kindness. When we're overwhelmed by a terrible experience, the kindness of others makes all the difference.
4/8/2021 10:08:20 am
I agree. Kindness makes a huge difference. Thank you so much for YOUR kindness.
4/7/2021 02:07:27 pm
Congratulations, Ellen! Looking forward to reading this book and hearing the announcement for your next one!
4/8/2021 10:09:15 am
Thanks, Sarah! I appreciate it!
4/7/2021 03:41:31 pm
Thank you, Rosie, for a great interview and, Ellen, for sharing your experiences. Congratulations on A FLOOD OF KINDNESS. It looks wonderful!
4/8/2021 10:09:49 am
Thanks! Rosie asks such great thought provoking questions.
4/7/2021 04:39:05 pm
Inspiring interview Rosie and Ellen! Thank you, Ellen, for sharing your journey into writing. I lived through that flood! It was horrific and I'm thrilled to see you bring it to life in FLOOD OF KINDNESS. Congratulations to you and Blythe!
4/8/2021 10:10:41 am
Thank you. Yes, I do remember you lived in the area then. Thinking of you!
4/7/2021 05:31:49 pm
It's really helpful to hear Ellen's take on both revising and publishing. I love all of her titles, & will be looking for "A Flood of Kindness" at my local bookstore.
4/8/2021 07:32:58 pm
How sweet! Thanks so much!
4/7/2021 05:56:04 pm
I can’t wait to share this insightful interview with my CPs and to read FLOOD OF KINDNESS.
4/8/2021 07:33:45 pm
Thanks, Carmela, my "Floodie Buddy." I appreciate all your support!
4/7/2021 06:14:05 pm
I sympathize with the serial revising! It often seems like all those little adjustments don't help much until the one big thing sneaks up on you and makes the ms sing.
4/8/2021 07:34:56 pm
Yes! You never know what's going "make it," right? Sometimes I revises the heart out of my work and then have to go and add it back in.
4/7/2021 06:54:39 pm
Wow! Thanks for this fabulous interview! I loved reading about Ellen's journey! :)
4/12/2021 07:51:34 pm
Thank you. We all have our own journey, right?
angela m calabrese
4/7/2021 07:52:54 pm
Glad you were able to "ride the waves", Ellen. Your latest book sounds heartwarming. Can't wait to read it.
4/12/2021 07:52:03 pm
Thank you so much. I hope you like it.
4/7/2021 09:49:58 pm
This was great! I too have a hard time stop revising. Thank you for all the great insight! I can’t wait to read the book!
4/12/2021 07:52:59 pm
Thank you. We serial revisers probably need an intervention! LOL
4/8/2021 03:20:53 am
So inspiring, great tip just letting the first draft flow- who knows where it will go!
4/12/2021 07:53:30 pm
Thanks, Jenny. That's still hard for me, but it is freeing.
4/12/2021 07:54:01 pm
Thanks! IAnd I love Rosie's site too!
4/8/2021 07:43:51 am
4/12/2021 07:55:04 pm
Hey, Linda! It is still hard for me. I'm also a serial word counter as well as reviser, but I am getting better at letting it flow.
4/8/2021 01:20:31 pm
What a wonderful interview! I love learning about how authors tackle the writing process. Congratulations to my friend, Ellen! I own all of Ellen's previous picture books and love sharing them with my grandchildren. I've preordered A Flood of Kindness and can't wait for it to arrive, so I won't need to be included in the giveaway.
4/12/2021 07:56:37 pm
Thanks so much, Pamela. I'm thrilled and lucky to know you. This book is VERY different than my others. A bit older audience, and definitely not laugh outloud, but I hope you like it. And thanks for having my others! :)
Katherine Mary Adlam
4/8/2021 05:41:48 pm
Ellen I enjoyed reading your interview. Getting rid of the passive tense has been something I had to focus on. Looking forward to reading your book.
4/12/2021 07:57:23 pm
Yes! That passive tense pops up when I'm not even aware of it. Thanks for the reminder. :)
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About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.