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One of the lovely porticoes

Another crazy fantastic week in Italy – this time Bologna. Learned so much about the children’s book biz, including much ado about apps (more to come soon).  Bologna won me over with its lovely porticoes and outstanding food.  It’s a completely different world in Bologna from Florence, even though it’s only a 35 minute train ride.  If you ever go, make sure you pack your black.  It seems the only two colors people wear there are black and dark wash jeans.  I felt like an Easter egg in my wardrobe.  As a friend said, “Bologna – where black is the new black.”

Quotes on Gratitude

“Joy is not in things, it is in us.” — Joan Borysenko

“There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.” — Seneca

“Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed: our love to others, and others’ love to us.” — Thomas Traherne

Gratitude list for the week ending March 24

  1. First, I am grateful for my in-laws, my stepmother and my mom for helping my husband hold down the fort while I took this epic trip to Italy.  Thank you!!
  2. Learning enough about apps and ebooks at the ToC Bologna conference to make my head spin.  Cheers to Kat Meyer and the entire O’Reilly team making it all happen.
  3. Meeting Katherine Paterson, author of one of my all-time favorite books – Bridge to Terabithia
  4. SCBWI Bologna dance party!
  5. The folks who put together the SCBWI booth program for the Bologna Book Fair – Kathleen Ahrens, Angela Cerrita, Kirsten Carlson, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Tioka Tokedira, Chris Cheng, and anyone else I am forgetting.  These guys worked tirelessly to provide great programming, regional showcases, and opportunities for writers and illustrators attending the fair.  Grazie mille!

    The hard-working SCBWI team at the booth celebration

  6. Making wonderful new friends – including all of the above, plus Sarah Towle, Emily Smith Pearce, Danika Dinsmore, Susan Eaddy, Lucy CoatsBarbara McClintock, and Andi Ipaktchi.
  7. Hall after hall after hall of nothing but children’s books – enough said!
  8. Tagliatelle ragu and red wine with Danika and Susan – lovely dinner
  9. The city of Bologna itself, with its seductive porticoes, antiquarian bookshops, black-clad residents spilling into the streets from Enoteche at night, savory food shops and best of all, Gelateria Gianni!
  10. Receiving the best welcome home in history from my kids. The sign was fantastic, but the hugs and kisses even more precious.  How I missed them!

What are you grateful for this week?

The best part of the trip was coming home and knowing I was missed.

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One of the things I love most about blogging is the social aspect – receiving comments on my posts and leaving comments on others’.  For the next three weeks, however, I will not be able to read and comment on blogs.  I am leaving on Friday for a two-week business trip to Italy.  This week, all the time I have that is not spent on preparing for the trip will be spent with my family.  Then I’ll be on the ground in Italy, and when I return, the kids will be on Spring Break, so I’ll be catching up with them, recovering from jet-lag, closing out the March 12 x 12 giveaway and launching April’s.  So please don’t be offended if I normally comment on your blogs and you don’t see me for a while.  All will return to normal in April.  I will be checking my blog, however, and will do my best to respond to comments left on my posts.

What am I doing in Italy, besides eating pasta and gelato?  First I’ll be in Florence, working on a yet-to-be-revealed project.  Then I’m off to Bologna for the O’Reilly Tools of Change in Publishing Conference and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.  Some regular features on the blog, such as Tuesday 12 x 12, will continue to run while I am gone, and I have a couple of guest posts in store too.  I might be able to blog here and there, but I can’t promise.  I will, however, post short updates, photos and snippets on my Facebook Author Page if you want to follow along there or follow me on Twitter.

I will be thinking of you while I am here...

And here...

And eating this...

And this!

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The short film version of this app (which is also a storybook app) won an Oscar this year. I think that's proof of how big and important this market is going to be.

As some of you may know, I am committed to taking the story I entered in last year’s MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge and developing it into an app.  I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, yet I feel I’ve only just begun my descent into the rabbit hole.  In reality this post should be titled, How to start THINKING about Creating a Storybook App.  There is a huge morass of information out there, much of it inconsistent.  It seems nobody has written Storybook Apps for Dummies yet.  I thought I’d take a crack at the very basics.

First, authors who are also illustrators have a distinct advantage in app development.  One reason it’s been so challenging to find information is because there are precious few resources geared toward “authors only” who have ideas for apps, beyond telling them to partner with an illustrator.  The best information I’ve found so far has been at e is for book, a blog written by a group of traditionally published, professional children’s book authors and illustrators who are working on various digital book projects, and Digital Kid’s Author, author Karen Robertson’s website.

Karen wrote and illustrated the app “Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island,” a treasure hunt adventure book.  Recently, Karen spoke on Publishing Insiders Blog Talk Radio series on Secrets to Creating Children’s Book Apps (the show is still available; you can listen for free).  On the show, Karen discussed 5 steps to app creation.  All of these steps assume the text is written, edited and ready to be developed into an app.

  1. Decide what kind of app you want to create: Think about how much interaction you want in the story. Think about what animation might enhance (vs. detract from) the story.  Do you want a “read to me” option, which requires narration?  Do you want touch-based animation?  Special sounds?
  2. Create a brief for your app: This is a document that details the text, illustration, sounds/narration and animation that goes on each page. Unlike a manuscript for a traditional picture book submission, here the author and/or illustrator does suggest page turns because they are critical to developing the interactive components of the app.
  3. Create art for your app: Again, this is where illustrators have an advantage because they can both write and illustrate the app.  If you are an author looking to partner with an illustrator, look for one that can work digitally.  Ideally, the art is created using digital layers to produce the best animation effects.
  4. Decide what narration, sounds and animation you want: Do you want music in your app?  Do you need to hire a narrator?  Do you have sound sprites planned (touch-based animation that triggers a sound, for example an animal noise or a drum beating)?
  5. Build the app: This is where the app developer comes in.  The developer creates the code that turns the static story and illustrations into an interactive app.  You can hire an independent developer or work with a company that specializes in app development.  An advantage of an independent developer is that they can usually create custom code for features specific to your app.  You might also be able to retain ownership of that code.  A disadvantage is being reliant on that person to maintain and update your app for its lifetime.  Development companies typically have expertise in app development, and will code your app based upon their platforms.  This might provide less flexibility for custom animation, but companies continue to become more sophisticated in their offerings.  Companies will almost always provide the maintenance and updates for your app on an ongoing basis.  Some companies even offer do-it-yourself drag and drop interfaces.

Our VERY favorite storybook app!

After listening to the radio show and skimming through Karen’s e-book, I am still left with the question of what authors are supposed to submit to app development companies in terms of proposals.  Is it just a manuscript?  A full brief?  Should it include a marketing plan?  I have Googled storybook app “template,” “proposal,” “submission,” “brief,” “specification,” six hundred ways to Sunday and still haven’t come up with a good answer.

In two weeks, I’ll be in Bologna, Italy attending the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, focused exclusively on the children’s market.  I’m writing articles for SCBWI and The Children’s Book Insider.  Many industry thought-leaders will be in attendance, so I am hoping to dig much deeper into these issues on behalf of authors and illustrators.  Stay tuned!  I probably won’t be able to blog in real-time while I am there, but I will be tweeting and posting snippets and updates on my Facebook Author page if you are interested.

I know some of you reading already have experience creating storybook apps.  Any advice to share?  Does anyone have questions they’d like me to get to the bottom of in Bologna?  Leave feedback in the comments!

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Today is March 2nd and the good Dr.’s birthday, so of course I had to make a Dr. Seuss selection.  Today is also Read Across America Day, and Teaching Authors has a fantastic post about Dr. Seuss and how to celebrate.  Fox in Socks doesn’t seem to get the same kind of love as Seuss’ other books, but it is definitely one of my favorites just because it is SO FUN to read aloud.

Fox in Socks
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1965
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Tongue twisters, Rhyme, Humor, Silliness
Opening and brief synopsis: “This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.” Dr. Seuss gives fair warning to anyone brave enough to read along with the Fox in Socks, who likes to play tongue-twisting games with his friend Mr. Knox.
Activities: Just trying to read it out loud without making any mistakes is a great activity! It would pair well with other tongue twister books.  Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Eric Van Raepenbusch’s fantastic post on his blog, Happy Birthday Author, with amazing ideas for celebrating Seuss in general.
Why I Like This Book: Talk about a book that’s fun to read over and over!  That’s because you can seldom read it perfectly, so it becomes a challenge.  And the rhyme is mesmerizing for kids.
Finally, check out this video of a woman speed reading Fox in Socks.  It is unbelievable!

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

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Smile, You’re on Katie Davis!*

That’s the way I feel today as I have the extreme honor of being Katie Davis’ first Brain Burps About Books podcast guest of 2012.  I am so excited I’ll be throwing the link around all over the place – in this post, on Facebook, on Twitter, email.  Want to make sure everyone in the world who wants to hear it gets a chance. 🙂

Before I write another word, here’s the link to the podcast.  http://traffic.libsyn.com/brainburps/78_JulieHedlund.mp3.  You can listen to it on your computer just by clicking the link, or you can do the same by clicking the link from your smart phone or tablet and listen to it from there. Or you can listen from the link on Katie’s blog here: http://katiedavis.com/78/

On this podcast, in a fitting tribute to the new year (because Mayans or no Mayans, we’re going to do our best work!), Katie and I talk about anti-resolutions (based on this post) and the need to set goals from a positive place rather than beating ourselves up over (perceived) failures from the previous year. What struck me during our discussion was how we all face doubt and disappointment, regardless of how far along we are in our careers.  It’s easy to look at a successful, multi-published author and think, “Oh s/he’s made it.”  However, that author may very well be plagued by the same doubts and frustrations.  So Katie and I discuss how to overcome that, and how being an active part of the writing community helps.

We also discuss the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge and other opportunities for writers to get a head start in the new year.  I had so much fun recording this podcast with Katie, and I hope you enjoy listening to it just as much!  It’s a great “feel-good” way to hit the ground running in 2012, if I do say so myself.

If you have never listened to a Brain Burps About Books podcast, you can start with the one with ME in it!  Then, get thyself over to Katie’s website and download and listen to the rest.  I’ve been a subscriber for a year now, and I’ve learned so much.  Every show is great. It’s like having portable conference sessions that you can listen to at your convenience.  And they’re FREE!  Or you can do as I did and buy the app from the iTunes store for $1.99 and have all the episodes in one place.  People, it’s a bargain.  Katie is an exceptionally talented, multi-published author/illustrator, a whizz-bang marketing guru and a pioneer in using all forms of media in the children’s book arena.  She recently published an e-book entitled, How to Promote Your Children’s Book. Best of all, she has her bio written in both haiku and limerick form (among others).  Sounds like a lady you can learn a lot from, no?

What can you learn from these podcasts, you ask? Well, Brain Burps About Books is all about children’s literature and has held the #1 in the iTunes store in Children’s Publishing since it began almost two years ago.  It has been downloaded in 40% of the world’s countries. If it has to do with the children’s book business – whether it’s craft, creating a platform, developing eBooks and apps, or supporting a small business as a writer, it’s fair game. Interview subjects include authors, illustrators, librarians, editors, app creators… anyone in the field covering anything under the umbrella of children’s books. Regular features include a “Take 5 Marketing Tips” by Dianne de Las Casas and picture book and middle grade reviews by contributors Betsy Bird of SLJ’s Fuse #8 Production, “Mommy” blogger Julie Falatko, Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes, and YA reviews by Bookalicious Pam.

I happen to know that in this episode, you get a double-dose of Julie, as 12 x 12 challenger Julie Falatko provides a review at the end of the show.  That’s 2 Julies for the price of one! An offer you simply can’t refuse.

Thanks again to Katie for making the start of 2012 especially awesome by inviting me to come on the show.  In conclusion, I’ll leave you with this trailer of Katie’s book, Little Chicken’s Big Day.  Warning: it is off the cuteness meter!

*My weekly Wednesday Artist’s Way Check-in will be posted tomorrow.

Questions or comments about the podcast? Leave them here!

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Hi everyone,

I’ve spent some time cross-referencing the comments on my MeeGenius contest entry post with the results post to determine who wanted which prizes.  Here is the list of the prizes and recipients.  Some of you left your email addresses in the comments and some did not. Whether you think you have already given me your email address or not, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS INCLUDED so I can contact you offline for prize distribution.  At this busy time of year, it would be helpful to have that information all in one place so I don’t have to check multiple posts.  Thanks!

A few people who commented on the first post did not elect a prize.  If this is you, please do so by December 31st, as I would like to wrap this up before the new year.  The agent list and writing critiques are available on an unlimited basis.  I have one IndieBound gift card left and two picture books.  If I do not hear from you by December 31st, I will assume you do not want a prize.  Thanks!

A couple of you left comments on the second post but not the first.  In order to keep it fair, I could not enter you for the monetary prizes.  However, please let me know if you would like the agent list or a writing critique.

iPOD SHUFFLE: Ellen (tannawings)!

INDIEBOUND GIFTCARD: Sabrina Martinez

PICTURE BOOK OF CHOICE: Deborah Cavitt

AGENT LIST: Joanna Marple, Jennifer DuBose, Donna Martin, Tanya Konerman, Jennifer Kirkeby, Cathy Mealey, Jodelle Brohard, Jennifer Rumberger, Lori Mozdzierz, Stacy Jensen, Louise Behiel, Coleen Patrick, Jarm del Boccio, Jenny Sulpizio, Penny Klostermann, Darshana, Robyn Campbell, Ellen Ramsey, Sharon Mayhew, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

CRITIQUE: Erik, Nancy Hatch (whenever you have something ready); Also, Susanna Hill and Renee Tullipe – I’ll be happy to trade manuscripts sometime this year.  Let’s plan on choosing one of our 12 x 12 drafts at some point during the year!

FOLKS WHO ARE ELIGIBLE AND HAVE YET TO SELECT A PRIZE: Kaitlin, Diane Estrella, Debbie Allen, Patientdreamer (Diane)

FOLKS WHO ONLY LEFT A COMMENT ON THE SECOND POST (Can choose critique or agent list): Loni Edwards, Kate Kresse,

If I am in error on any of these, please let me know and I’ll check again.  As a reminder, the agent list will be distributed by December 31st.  Critiques will be completed by January 15 (unless we’ve specified otherwise).  The tangible goods/prizes will be sent as soon as I get contact information.

PLEASE remember to leave your email addresses on this post so I can get prizes out efficiently.  Thanks!

THANK YOU again to everyone who participated.  I know there were many people who voted and promoted who did not enter the contest too, and I am just as appreciative for your help!!  You all know I am here when you need assistance in return.

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With everyone’s help, I developed the strength of TEN Grinches! Plus two.

Last Sunday, I launched a contest to help promote my entry in the MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge.  Everyone who entered promoted their hearts out all week.  What’s more, MANY people who did not enter the contest did the same.  What meant the most to me, even more than the votes and promotion assistance, were the comments of support and encouragement I got from people about both the story and my promotion efforts.  At the end of the day, I wanted people to help because they loved the story as much as I did, and I was so heartened by all the feedback I got from you.  I can honestly say that whether I make the final round or not, this has been a tremendous experience.

As I said in my Gratitude Sunday post yesterday, at one point during the week I felt I would explode with gratitude.  In that moment, I decided there would be no “winners” of my contest because everyone would be a winner.  That’s right! Prizes for ALL who participated. After so many people did so much for me, I would have felt stingy and Grinch-like drawing only a few winners from those who entered.

I can still only provide one iPod Shuffle, 2 IndieBound gift cards and 3 picture books, BUT the other prizes will be unlimited, so the pool of entrants vying for the others will be much smaller – hence, a greater chance of winning.

So here’s how this will work.  First, you must have left a comment on my contest post, as that was how I was tracking official entrants (Erik at This Kid Reviews Books, you are the exception because you left a comment about the contest on one of my blog tour posts, so I put you down).  Provided you were officially entered, you simply need to leave a comment letting me know which prize you want.  If you want one of the tangible items, please list your first, second and third choices.  Here is what is available:

  • List of 100+ children’s book agents (the Big Kahuna) = Unlimited (You want it, it’s yours)
  • Critique of a full PB manuscript or first 10 pages of any other genre = Unlimited (You want it, it’s yours)
  • iPod shuffle = 1 available (If more than one  person elects this as a first choice, I will draw a winner from among them)
  • $25 IndieBound gift certificates = 2 available (Same as above)
  • One picture book of your choice = 3 available (Same as above)

In your comment, please state the prize you want and your email address so I can contact you offline about details.  Please note: the agent list will be delivered by December 31st.  I just want to go through it one more time to clean it up and make sure it’s updated.  It is all publicly available information, but things change quickly in the industry, so I’ll double-check the data.  Writing critiques will be turned around by January 15th.  All other prizes will be ordered and shipped this week.

THANK YOU again to everyone, those entered in the contest and those not. I truly appreciate you all!

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