Date Archives May 2020

Piglette is born!

At last, my book is out in the wild. Welcome, Piglette! Bienvenue au monde!

 This story was written and illustrated with such love.

If you’d be willing to request it at your library, purchase it from your indie bookshop, or order it online,

I’d be so grateful. May it bring you and your little ones many happy moments.

Merci beaucoup!

***Receive a FREE Piglette printable paper doll when you sign up for my mailing list here!***



Interview with Lisa Katzenberger

Throughout 2020, I’m interviewing the new authors & illustrators of Perfect 2020 PBs. Today, the spotlight is shining on author Lisa Katzenberger. Her first picture book, National Regular Average Ordinary Dayillustrated by Barbara Bakos, debuts from Penguin Workshop on June 23rd, 2020. 

Welcome, Lisa!

Lisa Katzenberger Head Shot

Congratulations on your upcoming debut! Give us a little teaser of what your book is about.

In National Regular Average Ordinary Day, Peter gets a severe case of boredom with all his usual games. To keep himself entertained, he decides to celebrate all the holidays under the sun—important ones, like National Ice Cream Sandwich Day! But when he’s faced with a day with nothing to celebrate, things take an interesting turn.

Love it! How did the idea of National Regular Average Ordinary Day come to you? Do you remember your lightbulb moment?

One of my writing gigs was working as a social media manager. I had to generate content for a few company’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds. One of the tactics was to find « national holidays » that tied into the company’s brand. I wrote a quick scribble about these holidays as one of my StoryStorm ideas and let the idea sit for a while. Then I tackled it as my December 2017 draft. The story just fell out of me. It went out on submission in February 2018 !

Wonderful. Can you tell us a bit more about your journey to publication? How long have you been pursuing this dream?

Oh gosh, since I was a kid. I learned about creative writing in third grade and fell in love with storytelling. I kept taking writing classes whenever I could in school, all the way through college and eventually in the evenings when I had a career as a technical writer. I wrote two and half really bad novels that will never see the light of day, but I did manage to have some short stories published.

Then when I had my kids and started taking them to story time at the library, I fell in love with a new format – picture books. I joined SCBWI and the 12×12 picture book writing challenge in 2015, and have been writing kidlit ever since.

Today, what do you like to write about, in general?

I’ve realized that my writing falls into a couple categories – either a heartfelt look at self-discovery or plain silliness. But I like to keep challenging myself and hope to grow in my types of storytelling.

What does a Typical Day in The Life of Lisa look like?

I have eight-year-old twins and they are my number one priority. But I make sure to carve out writing time, getting up at 5 or 6am to write before I have to get everyone up for school a few days a week. I also work freelance writing gigs from time to tome, so my schedule varies if I have work to focus on as well. Now that my kids are older, I can write while they play in the basement or read or are taking gymnastics lessons. No day is the same, and I just try to write in the cracks of time I have, a bit here and a bit there.

What feeds your creativity as an artist? Or helps you out of a creative “funk”? 

Honestly for me it is just pure work and sometimes brute force. I make myself open the computer every day and face the screen. Sometimes I’m in deep revision mode or have notes from critique partners and I know just what I need to do. Those times are rare. A lot of times I let myself write really crappy, junky, yucky awful stuff. Then I let it sit and decide if there is a nugget of something worth revising or I just call it writing practice and let it go.

Any tips you can offer other creatives?

When it comes to writing kidlit, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is the best resource for learning about the writing craft, meeting other writers, and understanding the kidlit publishing industry. BUT I hear so many people say they can’t afford to join. You don’t have to be a member to attend many of their smaller local events, which are often free and open to the public !

Another must-go-to FREE resource is Scour the site for information and then join its Facebook page for questions and conversation.

Lisa, your dream of publishing your very first picture book is about to come true! What’s next? What do you still hope to accomplish in the future?

My next picture book, It Will Be OK, will be published by Sourcebooks in February 2021 and illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett. I have many other picture books in the works and a chapter book series that I hope to see published as well! And then just writing, writing, writing!

Any promotional events where we can look forward to meeting you?

I do have a few online events scheduled! I will be doing an online book launch party hosted by The Writing Barn on June 26 at 11am Central. And my local library is hosting a storytime for kids on June 25th at 2pm Central. More events will be coming soon! You can find additional details in my author newsletter if you’d like to subscribe!

Where can we go to find out more about you and your books?

Follow me on social media ! I love to engage with readers and writers ! You can find me on Twitter @FictionCity and Instagram @lisakatz17. For other details about me, check out Find a way to say hi !

Thanks for being with us today, Lisa. Here’s wishing you continued inspiration and success!


Preorders are vital to a debut author’s career. To support Lisa Katzenberger and her new release, preorder National Regular Average Ordinary Day through any of the following retailers:


Interview with Josh Crute

Today, it’s my great pleasure to be chatting with author Josh Crute about his second book, Jonas Hanway’s Scurrilous, Scandalous, Shockingly Sensational Umbrella, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen and releasing from Page Street Kids TODAY. 

Welcome, Josh!

Josh Crute

Happy book birthday! This second book of yours bears quite an impressive title! Give us a taste of what Jonas Hanway’s Scurrilous, Scandalous, Shockingly Sensational Umbrella is all about.

Thank you! Jonas Hanway’s Scurrilous, Scandalous, Shockingly Sensational Umbrella (*pauses for breath* it is a long title!) tells the surprisingly true story of Jonas Hanway, an English gentleman, traveler, writer, and philanthropist who lived in the middle of the 18th century. He was known in his day for writing dry and didactic books, founding the charitable Marine Society, and campaigning to put an end to child labor, but it’s possible he would be unknown to us today, save for one eccentric blip on his resume:

He is credited as being the first man to carry an umbrella in London.

Now, whether or not he was actually the first is unknown, but it’s clear that he was certainly the first man of reputation to do so, and his reputation suffered for it. People were shocked that an English gentleman would carry around one of those ridiculous (read: French) accessories. They laughed and jeered at him and the cab drivers hated him so much (for threatening their business) that one of them tried to run him over! But Jonas was a stubborn man, and even though it took thirty years of persistent “brollying” to end the bullying and see it catch on as a British necessity, he never wavered.

This slice-of-history picture book has already been named a “Junior Library Guild Selection.” Just how did the idea of Jonas Hanway’s …Umbrella come to you, Josh? Do you remember your lightbulb moment? 

I was at the SCBWI summer conference when a friend (whom the book is dedicated to) sent me an article from Atlas Obscura about Hanway and his offensive umbrella. I couldn’t resist! There was just something about the stodgily stubborn character of Hanway that appealed to me, and the idea of an umbrella being shocking (especially in a rainy country like England) amused me to no end. I contacted the writer of the article, Michael Waters, who generously pointed me to some sources. I read everything I could, then sat down to write the manuscript. More than anything, I wanted it to read like a humorous and entertaining story. Words popped into my head like headlines on a newspaper. SCURRILOUS! SCANDALOUS! SHOCKINGLY SENSATIONAL!

Once the manuscript reached a place I felt good about, I researched agents and sent out queries. Painted Words liked it enough to sign me, and from there, we sent it to Page Street Kids, who had published my first book. There, Kristen, Allison, and Courtney helped me edit and improve the prose. They also sent me suggestions for a potential illustrator, and after studying the portfolios, I begged, “OH MY GOSH, can we please please please please please please get Eileen Ryan Ewen????”

Eileen was the perfect illustrator for the book. She had experience with period pieces, and a background in portraits, which meant she could fill an entire city with people and make each of them look fresh, alive, and distinct. In one spread, she fills a London street with golden windows and each is bursting with humanity: siblings waging a pillow war, a host of taverners belting out a song, a girl putting her hand prints on the windowpane. Later in the book, she creates a breathtaking ocean spread, reminiscent of rococo art, that includes a mermaid with an umbrella. A MERMAID WITH AN UMBRELLA, Y’ALL.

How wonderful! Does this book follow closely on the heels of your first book? And how does it differ from your debut?

My first picture book, Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth, was published a year and a half ago, also from Page Street Kids. It’s a fictional story about a jealous sequoia tree, so retelling Hanway from history was a different type of project. But even though Oliver is fiction, Sequoia National Forest is a real place and there are facts about sequoia trees in the backmatter. Likewise, even though Hanway is nonfiction, I took great pains to make it read like an entertaining story.

Have you always considered yourself a writer? What spurred you to pursue this path professionally? What other fields do you work in (professionally or otherwise)?

I never defined myself as a writer when I was a kid, but I was always working on creative projects, whether writing a story, drawing comics, creating stuffed animal television shows with my brother, or putting on a magic show as the Great Crutini for my parents. In college, I studied film production, and I moved to Los Angeles to be a writer and director. After several years of being more “starving” than “artist,” I reached a breaking point. At the time, I was working in the children’s department of a bookstore and tutoring kids in writing, so I decided to try my hand at being a children’s author.

(The Great Crutini sounds like a potential picture book title…!) So when did you finally break through as a children’s author? What were some pivotal moments for you?

My “break” came about with Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth.

I met Oliver while on vacation with my family in Sequoia National Park. We were admiring the General Sherman Tree, famous for being the largest living thing on earth, when I noticed another sequoia, just off to the side, who wasn’t that much smaller, yet nobody seemed to care about him. Was he jealous being next to such an illustrious neighbor? The first eight lines of the book popped into my head and I typed them into my phone before I could lose them.

When I finished the first draft, I thought it was terrible! So, I set it aside and moved on to other projects. A few months later, I asked a published friend if I could get coffee with him. I almost didn’t take Oliver because I thought it was so bad, but at the last second, I stuffed it into my backpack. After looking at the first couple manuscripts, he was pleasant, but not very enthusiastic. Then I said, “Wait, I’ve got one more.” He read Oliver, and the air changed. “Keep working on this one,” he said.

The second breakthrough was when I worked up the nerve to show Oliver to an editor friend, who liked it and offered to pass it on to her peers. And finally, there was the moment when I talked with Page Street and they told me they’d like to turn Oliver into a book.

What kinds of books do you like to write, in general? Are there other genres you would like to explore in the future?

I find inspiration everywhere, but I particularly like books full of fantasy, adventure, history, mystery, friendship, and humor. And if I find something that combines these things? WELL…! I’ve only published picture books so far, but I’d love to write a chapter book series, and I’m currently working on my first middle grade novel.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I’ve got a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, so to write, I have to get up early. I usually wake up, brew coffee, and read something. Then I write in the time left before work, or in the evenings, or on Saturday. I’ve also got a writer’s group that I meet with once a week.

What feeds your creativity as an artist? Or helps you when you’re feeling stuck?

I go on lots of walks! Two of my writing heroes, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, were also walkers. Lewis was a charger, preferring to hike full-speed across the countryside, while Tolkien was a meanderer, stopping often to look at the bugs and plants. I have a bit of both inside me and the two are often at war with each other. I also read lots of books, with topics varying all over the place. I read every morning, which helps keep the babbling brook of words, stories, and ideas flowing through me. If I’m not reading, I feel like a stagnant swamp with no inlets or outlets.

What advice would you give other creatives?

Sometimes, it can be a mistake to care too much about a project. I’ve gotten in real trouble, playing mind games with myself, putting so much pressure on each page, each sentence, each word, that I can paralyze and confuse myself and begin missing the forest for the trees. In these instances, I’ve had to force myself to lessen the stakes on the project, and just allow myself to be silly, to make mistakes, and to have fun with it. When I make myself do the work for the work’s sake, I do better work. This advice probably isn’t for everyone, but there may be one person out there like me who needs to hear it.

Your second publication is about to enter the world! What’s next? What do you still hope to accomplish?

I’ve got a couple more picture books on the way from Page Street Kids, which is very exciting! Aside from that, I’m always working on new ideas and I’ve been chugging away at my first middle grade novel. I would also love to write a chapter book series but have yet to land on the right character. And of course, if Edward Packard wants to collaborate on a new Choose Your Own Adventure series…hit ya boi up.

Got it, haha! Any promotional events where we can look forward to meeting you?

Unfortunately, the coronavirus has cancelled the book launch event that was planned. I’m hoping to do a few virtual events, but no details as of yet.

Well, I hope that this interview helps a bit in spreading the word about your new book. Thank you so much for spending time with us, Josh! Here’s wishing you ongoing success! 


So many author events and book launches have been cancelled due to the current pandemic. Help author Josh Crute today by ordering his new book at any of the links below. (IndieBound helps you order directly from your local independent bookstore, which could surely use the support as well!) 

Jonas Hanway Cover


P.B. Tweak! Critiques in A Week

Affordable Critiques, Query Letters, & Custom Pitches for Picture Book Writers

TO ORDER: Contact me at katearonson ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com

***Prices quoted below will be honored through the end of 2024.***


$75 for a picture book manuscript under 600 words.

(Or count $85 for <800 words; $95 for <1000 words.)

I critique picture book manuscripts with an eye to concept, voice, heart, diction/lyricism, world-building, and overall story arc. I’ll leave comments throughout your manuscript, plus write a paragraph (often more) of overall feedback. Ideally, picture book manuscripts should keep word count under 600. Character-driven narrative fiction is my specialty. I have also published various poems in children’s magazines and Poo-Dunit? A Forest Floor Mystery is a rhyming picture book I published with Candlewick. So yes, you may send rhyme. 🙂 To read more about what my critiques entail, see my post here.

Turnaround time: I deliver a manuscript critique within one week of receiving payment.

Please “Contact Me” at the link below if you need a quote for a particular request not covered here.

2. SECOND LOOK: $45.

In case you need a second look at your revision of a manuscript I’ve already seen.


Is your manuscript ready to submit to an agent or editor, but you’re stuck on the dreaded query letter? I’m here to edit your current query letter, proofreading spelling, grammar, and content.


$20 for a custom pitch or $50 for a 3-pitch package (a savings of $10).

Are you ready to participate in online pitching opportunities, like #PBPitch, but aren’t sure how to write an effective X/Twitter pitch for your picture book?

I participated in several X/Twitter pitch events before getting an agent, and averaged a “Like” from an agent each time. Of course, I can’t guarantee that the pitch I write for your manuscript will get a Like. But it will be a well-written pitch that shows off the essence of your manuscript while respecting X’s character limit + suggestions of possible variations.


Due to problems with my former Paypal “button,” I have reverted to sending my clients Paypal invoices.

Contact me

directly and I’ll be happy to help.