On My Shelf BLOG

Pam Halter & Kim Sponaugle Part 1

Pam Halter headshot

Pam Halter has been a children’s book author since 1995. She has published two picture books, Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes (Concordia, 2001) . She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, received Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and won the Reader’s Choice Award in a short story contest hosted by Realm Makers and Brimstone Fiction in 2015. Pam also is a children’s book freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. http://www.pamhalter.com


Kim Sponaugle is a graduate of The Art InstituteKim Sponaugle head shot of Philadelphia and began working for David C. Cook Publishing designing children’s curriculum and products. But she soon found her heart’s vocation in children’s illustration. In 2001, Kim illustrated her first picture book series Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes with Concordia Publishing House. In 2007, Kim started Picture Kitchen Studio and has had the pleasure of interacting and working with both traditional publishers and self-published authors. She has illustrated more than 60 picture books is also a children’s book cover designer. http://www.picturekitchenstudio.com

I asked Pam to tell how she and her buddy Kim Sponaugle worked together to create their newest picture book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch. 

Take it away, Pam!

Kim and I met through a friend in May of 1995. I answered the phone one day to hear, “My name is Kim Sponaugle. You don’t know me, but I got your number from Sue Smith at church and she says you write children’s books. I’m an illustrator and have been looking for someone to work with.”
We met, exchanged our work, and decided we wanted to work together. The result of that was publishing two picture books through Concordia in 2001: Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes. We’re also the best of friends and have gone on many-an adventure, eaten a ton of brownies and drank gallons of coffee, and laughed (well, snorted) our way through some crazy fun story ideas together.
It’s a rare thing when a traditional publishing house takes an author/illustrator team, and while we’ve created many other books, no one has picked us up since then. We weren’t disillusioned because we knew God had put us together and it’s all about His timing. We continued to work on our projects as well as separate things. I’ve published a couple of magazine articles, some daily devotions, and have contributed to several anthologies. I’ve also taught many workshops and attended loads of conferences. And have won 2 awards for my writing.

We’ve learned so much about the craft of children’s books, we decided to go out on our own with Willoughby. Our goal with Willoughby and Friends is to teach children that it’s okay to be friends with people different from themselves. That sometimes it’s hard at first to really know someone. Kids can be rough and even mean, but there’s usually a reason for it. We need to be patient and try our best to see past the outside. Willoughby’s stories aren’t teaching stories, though. We show what we want our readers to learn by simply having it play out in the story. I like to describe Willoughby and Friends as The Smurfs meet Sesame Street, with Willoughby as our “Big Bird” who wants everyone to be friends. Our first book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch, has Scripture in the beginning: Ecc.4:9 “Two are better than one … if one falls the other can help him up.”  It’s never said in the story. It’s shown in the story.

The question we hear the most is, “Where did you get the idea for Willoughby?”

Willoughby cover - frontI have to credit Kim with that. We meet often and brainstorm lots of book ideas. Usually over chocolate and coffee. Ha! And sometimes we get laughing so hard, we cry. It’s so much fun to brainstorm with a friend!

Well, one day, Kim said, “We need a story about unlikely friends. Like dragons and fairies. You know, big and small.”

I thought about it, wrote down some ideas and wrote the first draft of Willoughby’s Itch. Kim approved. We always collaborate together on both the story and the artwork. And after several drafts and a few tries to sell him traditionally, as I said above, we decided to do it ourselves. We’re very happy we did. Kids love Willoughby! And we’re having a blast marketing him.

Next Friday we’ll share Our advice for anyone who is considering self publishing a children’s picture book. Please come back to Jean’s blog for some tips and tricks Kim and I have learned.


Kim and I are also planning to offer mentoring workshops and weekends for picture book authors and illustrators. We’re hoping to start this fall.  Subscribe to my blog or Kim’s blog for updates.



Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch is available through Amazon and at Fruitearer.com

Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way

51wewkwlxglRhyming Picture Books The Write Way by Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard is the second book in the Children’s Writer Insider Guides that I have read. It follows the same short and sweet format as Picture Books The Write Way. I like that. The ten short chapters are all focused on ten common problems writers have when writing rhyming picture books.

An Introduction, then ten chisled chapters helped me examine specifics about the rhyming picture book manuscripts that I am working on (either creating or selling.)

Also, every chapter is loaded with links to helpful websites and to author pages for the picture book examples Salas and Bullard use. I’m taking my Kindle with me to the local children’s library so I can read as many of these examples as I can find.

Aside: I have another list gleaned from Tara Lazar’s website Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). A list of NEW picture books. In Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way Salas and Bullard continually remind the reader (AKA ME) to read current picture books if I want to write in a way that appeals to current readers.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now. Here is the long-awaited list of chapters in Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way:

  • Are You Targeting the Right Audience?
  • Is Your Manuscript Too Wordy?
  • Is Your Meter Imperfect?
  • Can You Do Even More With Meter?
  • Do You Use Rich Poetic Elements?
  • Have You Thought About a Refrain?
  • Is There More There Than Just Rhyme?
  • Is Your Message Heavy Handed?
  • Does Your Verse Sound Natural?
  • Have You Considered Nonfiction?

lisa-lauraSalas and Bullard give clear and specific ways to challenge my manuscript and correct whatever problems I find. For example, the chapter on Poetic Elements clearly explains rhyme, fresh rhyme, near rhyme, sensible rhyme, internal rhyme. Then provide examples of picture books (with links) that do the job well.

Thanks for reading here at On My (Kindle) Shelf. I hope some of the writing books that are helping me will also help you. Are they?


That question begs an answer from YOU, dear reader/writer. So, can you leave a comment here telling me if any of my summaries have helped, and which ones?

Or send me a msg on FB please at Jean Matthew Hall Author. And follow me there, please?

I’m trying to do this marketing/PR/networking/social media thing the best way possible. However, I think I’m still on the first page of that chapter of my life.




Primary Sources for Your Nonfiction Picture Book

sandmanBy Sandman, the writing buddy of Nancy I. Sanders


Everyone wants primary sources in their nonfiction. Primary sources are especially important if you’re researching a historical or biographical picture book.

What’s a cat gonna’ do?

I tried hiding in a bag and never dealing with it, but then I got too hungry for tuna fish tacos so I had to come out.

So I decided to try a new tactic. I’d hunt those primary sources down and pounce on ’em!

First plan of attack was to sneak around the house, hide behind the couch, and jump out at any unsuspecting spider crawling by.

But that didn’t get me very many primary sources.

What are primary sources anyhow?

I looked up the definition of primary sources in my cat-dictionary and discovered they are:

Autobiographies: Whenever a cool cat writes a book or article about her own life, it counts as a primary source.

Diaries: My cat friend, Pitterpat, keeps a diary and in it she chronicles every detail about Devin and Derby, the two Rat terriers who live next door. Pitterpat knows those little yappers are up to evil designs and she’s determined to prove it! Diaries are a primary source.

More primary sources include

* letters people actually wrote

* artifacts, buildings and landmarks that were actually there during the era

* e-mails, interviews, photographs, official documents

* and speeches people actually spoke

But how do you FIND primary sources? I’ve tried digging in the dirt in every single potted plant in our house, pulling out all the tissues and reaching in the bottom of a tissue box, and shredding every paper that comes out of the printer, but that only got me in trouble!

So then I tried a new tactic. I already had a pile of picture books and books for kittens on my topic. This time, however, I went to my library and borrowed every book on my topic written for mature cats. These books have FOOTNOTES. (I think they should call them pawprints.) And these books list many many primary sources in the back where they cite those pawprints…I mean footnotes.

Plus these books have PHOTOGRAPHS and PAINTINGS from the actual era of my topic. I looked in the back for the places who own those primary sources and made a note to contact them and find out what kind of permissions they give to cats who want to use them in their nonfiction picture books. (Like me.)

Then I went online and googled my topic. I didn’t look at Wikipedia like I normally do. (Okay, okay, I know that’s a no-no for research but it’s handy!) Instead, I read articles that looked official on my topic that were posted by museums and universities and national archives. I looked at THEIR footnotes to see where they got their primary sources.

So there you have it! Are you writing a historical or biographical picture book? Check into primary sources.

They’re the cat’s meow!

sanders-nancy-i-author-photoOh, and if you want to see the newest nonfiction picture book by my writing buddy, Nancy I. Sanders, it’s just hitting the bookshelves this month! The Bible Explorer’s Guide: 1000 Amazing Facts and Photos is available at your local bookstore or online here.

If you want solid instruction and step-by-step guidance on writing nonfiction books for kids, check out Nancy’s audio workshop, How to Write a Children’s Nonfiction Book in a Month. It’s available at http://www.writeachildrensnonfictionbook.com.

Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning children’s author of more than 100 books. Visit her website at www.nancyisanders.com.







Ironing Things Out



Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s character.
Proverbs 27:17
I’ve been on a workout kick with my dear friend, Sandra, for the last few weeks. We’ve been drinking our water (lots and lots and lots), eating more protein, eating less sweets, and encouraging one another every day to “keep on going”.
If I didn’t receive her text me every morning, I’m not so sure I’d be nearly as motivated to get my physical therapy homework and additional exercise done.
For me, there is something motivational about being held to a standard. 
I’ve been going to physical therapy for several months now. Last week, Rusty (my physical therapist) told me to jump up on a 4 inch block. *GRRRRR!*
I could NOT make myself jump. I was scared to death. He switched it out for the 2 inch tall box. I stood there, looking at it. It felt like…

View original post 417 more words

ALA Notable Children’s Books

Notable Children’s Books – 2017

pgraphic1-1448“Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.”

“According to ALSC policy, the current year’s Newbery, Caldecott,  Belpré, Sibert, Geisel, and Batchelder Award and Honor books automatically are added to the Notable Children’s Books list.”


Younger Readers  (Preschool-grade 2 (age 7)

 Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer. By Diane Stanley. Illus. by Jessie Hartland. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman.

Ada Twist, Scientist. By Andrea Beaty. Illus. by David Roberts. Abrams.

Before Morning. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Beth Krommes. HMH.

Best Frints in the Whole Universe. By Antoinette Portis. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.

Counting. By Fleur Star. illus. DK.

Coyote Moon. By Maria Gianferrari. Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. Roaring Brook.

Fabulous Frogs. By Martin Jenkins. Illus. by Tim Hopgood. Candlewick.

Go, Otto, Go! By David Milgrim. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Simon Spotlight.

 (Geisel Honor Book)

Good Night Owl. By Greg Pizzoli. Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion.

(Geisel Honor Book)

The Great Pet Escape. By Victoria Jamieson. Illus. by the author. Holt.

Horrible Bear! By Ame Dyckman. Illus. by Zachariah OHora. Little, Brown.

A Hungry Lion; or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals. By Lucy Ruth Cummins. Illus. by the author. Atheneum.

The Infamous Ratsos. By Kara LaReau. Illus. by Matt Myers. Candlewick.

 (Geisel Honor Book)

Leave Me Alone! By Vera Brosgol. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook.

(Caldecott Honor Book)

The Night Gardener. By Terry Fan. Illus. by Eric Fan. Simon & Schuster.

Old Dog Baby Baby. By Julie Fogliano. Illus. by Chris Raschka. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.

Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! An Alphabet Caper. By Mike Twohy. Illus. by the author. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray.  (Geisel Honor Book)

Over the Ocean. By Taro Gomi. Illus. by the author. Chronicle.

 (Batchelder Honor Book)


A Piece of Home. By Jeri Watts. Illus. by Hyewon Yum. Candlewick.

Puddle. By Hyewon Yum. Illus. by the author. Farrar.

Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas. By Yuyi Morales. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.

School’s First Day of School. By Adam Rex. Illus. by Christian Robinson. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.

Thunder Boy Jr. By Sherman Alexie. Illus. by Yuyi Morales. Little, Brown.

We Are Growing! A Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! Book. By Laurie Keller. Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion.    (Geisel Medal Book)

We Found a Hat. By Jon Klassen. Illus. by the author. Candlewick.

Weekends with Max and His Dad. By Linda Urban. Illus. by Katie Kath. HMH.

When Andy Met Sandy. By Tomie dePaola and Jim Lewis. Illus. by Tomie dePaola. Simon & Schuster.

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? By Kate DiCamillo. Illus. by Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick.

I’m off to the library again!

Six Steps to Successful Sharing

Many avenues are now available for writers to publish and publicize their books. Some of us choose traditional publishing. Some  choose self-publishinng, co-publishing or a dozen other options. The same might be said for marketing or sharing the books we write. My guest today, Alicia Broaddus, offers us a different take on marketing the works of her imagination. Her approach may be just the thing you (or a writing friend) are searching for. If so, please share Alicia’s post with other writers.


Prioritizing your Social Media Platform with Writing and Illustrating a Book –

Six Steps to Successful Sharing  by Alicia Broaddus

Six Steps to Successful Sharing

Penny_Pink_Takes_a_BathWhen Jean asked me to share my approach to marketing my new picture book, Penny Pink Takes a Bath, my first thought was that my purpose is to “share” rather than “market” the book. That subtle difference in wording is basic to my ministry, my approach to writing, and my approach to using social media. My purpose is to create a children’s picture book to share the plan of salvation. Writing, illustrating, publishing, and using social media were simply tools I would use to assist in my ministry.

I attended a number of writing conferences and found editors, agents, and publishers recommended developing a social media platform for marketing a book. And I found authors and illustrators were frustrated with the amount of time that effort took away from completing a book. I realized early on that I could not divide my time between a book and social media. I decided to prioritize and focus on completing a book. After all, I had to have a book in order to share it.

Here are my Six Steps to Successful Sharing:

  1. Pray for God’s specific direction for your book! Every writer has a unique calling. There is no one-size-fits all formula for the process. Gather information for a specific amount of time, and determine what publishing model works for you.
  2. Create a very basic mission statement and static web page about your book and a simple business card. Pray that you won’t be distracted with an elaborate web page or social network before your book is completed.
  3. Focus on completing your book! Pray that God will give you the inspiration, direction, and perseverance you need and get busy on your book!
  4. Build REAL rather than VIRTUAL relationships. Pray God will bring the right people into your life and that you will be a blessing to them. Form friendships with other Christians, not for the purpose of promoting books, but for the purpose of sharing life and ministry.
  5. When your book is complete, focus on your social media platform, website, and distribution. Now that you have something to share, pray God gives you opportunities.
  6. Find REAL ways to share in-person! Pray God will open doors as you seek opportunities to read to church groups, ministries, and relevant community groups.


AB_Headshot_400x400Most of Alicia’s career she has been a technical illustrator, technical writer, and graphic designer. But her true passion is writing and illustrating children’s stories. She is originally from a small town, Irvine, Kentucky. She now lives near Charlotte, NC. She spends as much time as possible illustrating and sharing her stories.  

Picture Books the Write Way

41mlw2twmol-_sx331_bo1204203200_ A Children’s Writer Insider Guide from Mentors For Rent – Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas.

Picture Books the Write Way by Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas is one of my newest books On My Kindle Shelf. It contains about 40 pages that answer 10 questions that will strengthen my (or your) picture book manuscript.

40 pages is just the right size for me to read, chew on, and apply to a manuscript in an evening.

I’ve been writing picture book manuscripts for several years and seeing steady improvement in my skills. This little volume (Picture Books the Write Way) helped me to shore up some areas where my current manuscript was weak. One of the 10 chapters gave me a key to fixing a major problem with the same manuscript.

Picture Books the Write Way enabled me to focus on some basic areas where I was getting a little sloppy. It helped me to remember the things I’ve been learning about writing picture books.

The 10 questions answered succinctly are:

  • “Is It a Short Story Insead?”
  • “Does It Lack a Fresh Take?”
  • “Is It Too Long?”
  • “Is It Unfocused?”
  • “Will Young Kids Fail to Relate?”
  • “Is It Too Nostalgic?”
  • “Is It Too Quiet?”
  • “Are There Illustration Issues?”
  • “Is Your Meter Imperfect?”

Picture Books the Write Way also contains a useful Revision Checklist.

I highly recommend this little volume and the Mentors For Rent website. It’s more than worth the really small price tag. Mentors For Rent have several little volumes available on Kindle.

I’m getting ready to read Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way. I’ll let you know what I think.

Thanks, Lisa and Laura!mfrheader_3tm

Writing Sublime Rhyme

By Jill Roman Lord


The sun was hidden

It was too damp to play.

So we both just sat inside

Staring out at the haze.


If Dr. Seuss had written like that, I’m pretty sure he never would have been published.  The above is why editors and agents cringe when they receive children’s stories written in rhyme. Some publishing houses refuse to even look at manuscripts submitted in rhyme because so many people get it wrong and rhyme written wrong is just plain painful.

So, what is the magic in Dr. Seuss’s writing? What is the charm in his rhyme that keeps his stories alive and thriving all through the years? What can we learn from his writing to mimic in ours?

The sun did not shine

It was too wet to play.

So we sat in the house

All that cold, cold, wet day.

Ahh, much better. Dr. Seuss wrote in perfect rhyme, perfect meter and perfect rhythm.

First he used perfect rhyme. Every time.

Play and day rhyme. Play and haze do not. He worked to make the rhymes perfect. Children learn what rhymes are by listening to rhymes being read. Imperfect rhymes send mixed messages to children about what rhymes are. Some words look like they should rhyme: pain and again. Word and Lord. They don’t. Strive for perfection in your rhymes.

Secondly, he used perfect meter. In the opening stanza, there is no meter. Accents on words fall all over the place. It is difficult to read. However, Dr. Seuss places 5-6 syllables in each line and rhymes the last words in the second and fourth lines. His accents fall consistently on every third syllable making it a joy to read. Everybody reads it the same, every time. We don’t have to figure out how to read it correctly. It just happens.

We don’t have to use his meter in our writing. There are tons of different meters. Pick another, make up your own, but be consistent and watch where your accents naturally fall.

Finally, he wrote in perfect rhythm. This is a combination of perfect rhyme and perfect meter that evokes natural speech. Don’t force words to make a rhyme. Don’t write ‘Sally did run’, to make a rhyme with sun. Nobody talks like that. Sally ran. Don’t rhyme it with sun. Find another word to rhyme with ran. Be creative. Play with words. It all works together to form verse in beautiful rhythm.

If it’s too painful to play with the words to make it beautiful then write in prose. Children need all kinds of books, but if rhyme comes naturally to you then strive to make it perfect!

Write so that your rhyme is sublime.

Jill is the author of more than a dozen picture books and board books that bring both giggles and God to the eager hearts of young children.


Called To Write-Part 2

Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors

By Rev. C.M. Logan and K.M. Logan

Has it been a while since you signed a writing contract?called-to-write-logan

You know, for that incredible novel on your hard drive? Or for your adorable picture book? Maybe a magazine article? Devotional?

Me, too.

It’s not difficult to become discouraged and feel you are just wasting your time. Or maybe thinking that you must have misunderstood God’s call to write. I mean, being called to write DOES mean being published, doesn’t it?

Ready to quit?

Then you need this little FREE Kindle book.  Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors is a concentrated dose of the reality of God’s call to write and the purpose for which He calls us. A quick read that was a welcomed reminder of what-in-the-world-am-I-doing thinking I can write! And did I tell you that it is FREE?

Don’t give up. Rush over to Amazon and get the Kindle book Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors. It will remind you, inspire you and get you out of the mulligrubs, and back into rhythm with God’s call for you as a writer.


Ten things to do by Linda Ashman

la-cropped-as500kb-300x294Many thanks to author Linda Ashman for permission to “borrow” this page from her website.  Linda is the author of more than thirty-five delightful picture books and the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Her books have been included on the “best of the year” lists of The New York Times, Parenting and Child magazines, the New York Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, and the International Reading Association. She leads writing workshops and gives presentations about writing and children’s books at conferences and schools.

Thanks for the great advice, Linda!

Ten things to do if you want to write picture books:

  1. Join SCBWI. And find out what’s happening with your local chapter.
  2. Read craft books. You might start with (ahem) The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books and Ann Paul’s Writing Picture Books.
  3. Read picture books—lots of them. You’ll find recommendations at our group blog, PictureBookBuilders, and many more in The Nuts and Bolts Guide.
  4. Read children’s poetry. Notice the sound, the rhythm, and the way a story can be told or a world created with very few well-chosen words.
  5. Write. Obvious, I know, but somehow it’s easy to let other things take precedence.
  6. Revise, revise, revise. Think you’re done? Revise some more.
  7. Make a dummy or storyboard. Nothing better demonstrates the unique structure of a picture book or shows more clearly if your text is working in this format.
  8. Think visually. Imagine your story as a movie, and leave out anything that doesn’t move the action forward.
  9. Cultivate patience—with your writing (don’t rush!) and with the publishing industry (nothing happens quickly).
  10. Hang in there. Rejection is part of the business. It’s good to have a supportive critique group and/or at least one sympathetic friend.