Monday, February 28, 2011

Picture Books: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Own—Plus a New Book Giveaway!

It's Baby Says, “Moo!” week at Teaching! To celebrate the publication of my new rhyming picture book, we’re giving away an autographed copy. Entry details below!

As my contribution to the picture book topic the other Teaching Authors have already addressed, I’m sharing some lessons I learned by looking back at the writing and publishing process for each of my five picture books. I’ll post one each day this week.

I wrote the first draft of my first book, Cats on Judy, when I was in college and lived with my twin sister Judy. I had a dog, and Judy had two cats. The dog slept on my bed, and the cats slept on Judy’s bed. That observation was the inspiration for a poem I wrote in a creative writing class. I put the poem in a folder, stashed it in a file cabinet, and forgot all about it.

Twenty years later, I was reading to our sons, and I thought it would be fun to write a children’s book. I remembered the poem, dug it out of the file cabinet, took some classes in writing for children, expanded the poem to picture book length, polished the manuscript (a lot!), and submitted it to multiple publishers. Lo and behold, on one of the most joyful days of my life, it was accepted!

Lesson #1: Never throw anything away.

On to our giveaway!

Baby Says “Moo!” was inspired by a learning game my sisters and I played with our little sisters. Much later, my husband and I played the same game with our own kids: What does the doggie say? What does the kitty say? What does the birdie say? I can still hear a little voice answering, “Peep! Peep!”

The Baby in the book, however, answers every question, “Moo!” Publishers Weekly asks, “So is Baby (a) just being a goofball; (b) practicing for an actual cow sighting (which occurs at book's end); (c) giving multiple shout-outs to its purple-spotted bovine lovey; or (d) slyly subverting the parents' attempt to turn every encounter into a teachable moment?”

The answer is yes! To enter the drawing for an autographed copy of Baby Says “Moo!”, follow these steps:

1. Post a comment on any post this week and tell us about a learning game you’ve played with children. Enter only once, please!

2. Include your contact information in your comment. If you are not a blogger or your e-mail address is not accessible from your online profile, provide a valid e-mail address in your comment. Feel free to disguise your address by spelling out portions, such as [at] and [dot].

3. Post your comment by 11 p.m. (CST) Monday, March 7, 2011.

The winner:
• must have a mailing address in the United States.
• will be determined using the random number generator at
• will be announced on Tuesday, March 8.
• automatically grants us permission to post his or her name on our Teaching Authors web site.
• will also be notified by e-mail.
• must respond to the notification e-mail and provide a mailing address within 72 hours, or the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!
JoAnn Early Macken


Louann Brown said...

We played the "pizza eating game". After everyone chose their piece of pizza from the pan (the pizza was cut into squares) We'd try to guess what the shape of the leftovers looked like. Crazy creative fun for visually oriented folks.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks, Louann! With hungry family members clearing the pizza pan, your game sounds like a tasty version of spotting shapes in shifting clouds!

LadyD Piano said...

I've played "Steal a Heart" note reading game with piano students. It's similar to Bingo but there are only 12 heart spaces, so the game goes fast. A student can draw a "Steal a Heart" card, a "Be Mine" card to protect his space or "Give my Heart" card. Definitely a fun way to practice naming the notes.

RambleSAHM said...

Well our son is two so we have been playing following direction games. Like bring a yellow car. It is funny because some times he is correct then other times he brings us a green car telling us it is yellow!lol Cute book!

ramblesahm at Yahoo dot com

April Halprin Wayland said...

I love the lesson of never throwing anything may become a story. It's a fun balance between that and my decluttering!