Kid Lit Dish

Kim's Magical Journey Into the World of Children's Picture Books

Grey is finally here!!!

greyOkay. To say that I’m beyond excited right now wouldn’t give what I’m feeling enough, I don’t know, oomph. And, no, this has nothing to do with my agent or my picture books. It’s actually about my brilliant and talented critique group peer and friend, Christi Whitney, and her a-MAY-zing debut YA novel Grey, which launches… wait for it… TODAY!!! (Check it out at your favorite indie bookstore, or at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.)

If you want thrills, chills, and romance… woven into an incredibly well-told story… THIS is your book, kids. And this is just the FIRST of a three-book series, published by Harper Voyager. I’m not just saying all of this because Christi is my friend (honest engine)– this novel really delivers on the suspense and page turns (as in you won’t want to stop turning them)!

You know how when you find a good thing, you want to share it with the world? You just want to tell everyone? Well that’s how I feel about Grey. Now that it’s finally released, I can’t wait for everyone to read it!

Oh and if you want to see the trailer for it, check it out here.

Happy reading!!

P.S. And for those of you who are curious about my critique group, Trail Mix, of which Christi and I are members, here’s a fairly recent photo. Yes, I’ll admit it, there was some (non-cosmetic) Photoshop work done since not all of us were in attendance at that meeting. Ignore! This group inspires me darned so much… I can’t even begin to tell you. And what talent! I’m so proud to be a part of it. I am 100% sure that I’ll be posting about each one of them in due time. (By the way, that’s Christi– now internationally-published author–third from the right!!!)…






It Started With an Offer… (a.k.a. How I Got My Agent!)

velveteenBy now, some of you know that I just signed with an agent. Yes, I’ve been sitting on this news for a while (just waiting until everything was in “ink” before announcing it worldwide because I’m rather superstitious!), but I have since pulled myself off of my roof and am in a near-meditative state once again.

However, I wanted to share how this all happened because I’ve always been so motivated and inspired when reading all of the different “How I Got My Agent” posts in the blogosphere; so my hope is to also motivate and inspire. Anyway, here goes…

As many of you know, I’ve been at this kid lit writing/illustrating thing for a while. (You can see I’ve had this blog for almost three years, but I’ve actually been a “wanna-be” for decades. I remember buying my first Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market back in the ’90’s.) I’ve written several things over the years, but it wasn’t until my son was about seven that the ideas really began to take shape. That, coupled with a desperate need for a career change led me to finally take the plunge. That was in 2012, and it’s when I joined SCBWI and started mingling with all of the fantastic kid lit writers and illustrators out there… and interacting with resources galore (such as KidLit411, Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, author Tara Lazar and her PiBoIdMo challenge, author Susanna Leonard Hill’s awesome web site, Will Terry’s and Jake Parker’s School of Visual Storytelling… just to name a few!)

Anyway, fast forward to 2014, when I finally had a version of a manuscript that everyone seemed to like. It was “vetted” by professionals in the industry– former children’s book editor Deborah Halverson (of, published children’s authors (and colleagues/friends) Jo Kittinger and Linda Lodding… as well as countless other writers, illustrators, and my wonderful and supportive critique group (shout out to Shanda, Colleen, Tosha, Christi, Vaughan, Shannon, and Bonnie!)

So this book was ready. Supposedly. I sent it out to about fifteen agents back then, and actually had a few interested. A couple of big name agents told me that they really liked it, but they either didn’t have the time to take on another client or it was too competitive to another one of their authors. I had one who was very interested, but really wanted me to have a finished illustration portfolio before she’d take me on. Others wanted to see other polished works. So what did I do? I sat on it. I worked on other manuscripts. I drew more in an effort to develop a stronger portfolio. I took illustration courses from SVS and started an illustration mentorship with Caldecott winner E.B. Lewis (and as hard as this last continues to be each and every week, I have to say it has been SO worth it).

Fast forward again another year. Last month, I saw author/illustrator Debbi Ridpath Ohi’s tweet about her updated list of agents on Twitter. I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but for “fun” I thought I’d send out a few more queries since it had been almost a year and I had since developed two or three more manuscripts that I felt were almost as polished. (For those of you who don’t know, most agents typically like to see a body of work; they don’t want to represent a one-hit-wonder.)

Well, after sending out several queries, I got a “hit” right away. Meaning I received an email reply about five minutes after I queried. After a lengthy conversation through email, this agent wanted to set up a phone call. Say what??!! Was this “the call” I had heard so much about? By the way, this person did not end up becoming my agent. Yes, she did make me an offer, and, yes, I REALLY liked her a lot. And I WAS ready to sign with her. But I was cautioned by industry folks to follow protocol and send out “offer of representation” letters to others I had queried… to “give them a chance” to also make an offer.

Long story longer, that’s how it happened. I actually received several replies–three of those agents that responded to my “offer of rep” email wanted to see more of my work. And ONE of those agents was Mary Cummings, and after a lengthy conversation in which she pretty much told me her marketing plan (which got me so excited because in that plan were some of my dream publishers!), and after hearing her very experienced voice of both reason AND enthusiasm, I just couldn’t NOT work with her.

So, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce that it’s official: I’ve signed with Mary Cummings of Betsy Amster Literary! Woot woot!

Bottom line (and we hear and read this all the time): Hone your craft. Get critiqued. Don’t give up. Keep plugging away. These things really DO make things happen!

NOW comes the really hard part… sell the book!!



Climb Every Mountain

climbOkay, if you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s only because I have that particular song from Sound of Music (one of my favorite movies EVER) running through my head today.  It’s not without good reason. I’m very close to sharing some good news (I can’t today– sorry) and my husband reminded me last night that I’ve been at this Kid Lit writing/drawing adventure for a few years now. He was posing this as a “lesson” for our 11-year-old… on how “Mama never gave up” and “You can learn a lot from this…” That kind of thing.

And this coincides with a recent Facebook post from a fellow writer-ly friend–it may have been a quote from some long-ago dreamer/writer. It goes something like this:

If you’re on the right path, you’ll never stray from it.

Friends, I HAVE been on many paths in my life. I’ve strayed–oh how I’ve strayed! But I’ve always been successful–mildly to wildly–on just about every path I’ve chosen (or has chosen me).Yet still I would stray at some point on each of them and and off I would go tackling a new one.

I say this now because I am struck by how I have not… for even one millisecond… ever thought about doing anything else, once I commited to doing THIS. Not one millionth of a millisecond. I felt that when I first started on it. And I feel it even moreso today. I was born to do what I’m doing right now. And when I’m old and gray(er), I’ll STILL be doing it. I have no doubt.

So I would encourage all of you–if you do not love, and I mean really LOVE, what you do… find what it is that YOU were meant for in this life. We only have one life (or so I’m told… I’m not entirely convinced). Enjoy it. Savor it. Don’t waste one precious millisecond of it veering off other paths in the name of fortune or glory, or even–dare I say it– survival. You may have to work your passion while working other jobs. That’s okay. It will work out.

And once you find it, don’t ever leave.

(Don’t worry. You won’t want to.)

From Desiderata:

… And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


Thursday Three


Okay, by the title it may seem like I’m about to launch some kind of “regular” Thursday column… and maybe I WILL. I actually just like the alliteration of that title, and since I do have (at least!) THree things to be THankful for this week, I figured I’d THrow it all into on THursday post.

I’m not sure what the biggest news is, but here goes:

1) I just won a 20-minute phone critique with picture book author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen!  Her name may be complicated, but her picture books are NOT.  She’s had countless PBs published over the last few years– titles like Hampire, Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, Duck Duck Moose… to name a few. I am honored to have won this via the good folks at KidLit411, my go-to spot for everything kid lit! Thanks to Elaine and Sylvia and the rest of the team there. GREAT first birthday prizes… made my week!

2) I just landed a new editing client, and it’s a big one. It’s none other than renowned picture book illustrators Will Terry and Jake Parker, who launched the School for Visual Storytelling not too WILLlong ago (within the last two years, I think). Anyway, I get to edit the manual that goes along with their Illustrating Children’s Books course. I have taken some of their other courses and they are fantastic. I’m so excited to be working with these guys!

3) This is not kid lit-related, but my 11-year-old just got accepted into a wonderful school for accelerated math and science students. He starts there next year, when he enters middle school.

There’s a ton more going on, but just wanted to share the top three for the week. I’m also grateful for all of my friends and family for “keeping it real” for me and for making me feel grateful every day that I have my health and a lot of love.

Hope you’re having a great week, too!





“EXTRA! EXTRA Get Your FREE Coloring Book Here!”


Happy New Year!

Recently I was lucky enough to participate in what we called a “coloring book collaboration”– essentially a downloadable coloring book for kids where several illustrators contributed one hand-drawn ink illustration for kids to color. The project was started by Jennyann Carthern of PaintIsThickerThanWater, who I tagged recently in a blog tour. You can download the coloring book (which features UN-scary monsters making a mess of their chores) here. Many thanks to Jennyann and my fellow creatives in making this a really cool, fun project.

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Happy Birthday, KidLit411!

KIDLIT411In case you haven’t heard, the good folks at KidLit411 are celebrating their ONE-YEAR anniversary this week! And to help celebrate, they’re actually giving US, their followers, the opportunity to win great prizes.

Check out today’s prizes here:

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Loves Me Some Palette Knife

I just painted this in acrylic with mostly a palette knife. I’ve painted with that tool before, and I always enjoy the textures it brings out (can’t see them very well here). This is for a friend of mine and her husband, who have had a really rough time of it the last couple of years (though their marriage still stands strong)! They love lighthouses and live just outside the Outer Banks, so I thought I’d surprise them with this somewhat abstract little piece…



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Feeling Grateful

Just a quick note to say, “Yay! I’m featured on Julie Hedlund’s blog today!”

JHFor those of you in the kid lit world that DON’T know who Julie Hedlund is, I suggest you climb out from under that rock… pronto! Seriously, though, as most of you know, she is an accomplished children’s author and the founder of 12 x 12, which helps kid lit authors like me “get things (i.e. picture books) DONE.” She also has a weekly gratitude post that I love to read (ergo my title today).

Here’s the link to the post:

(And thank you, Julie, for featuring me!)





Not-So-Accidental Blog Tourist Hop!

Happy Monday! I’m excited to report that I’m participating in this fun blog hop. For those of you who don’t know what a blog hop is (Dad), it’s a kind of a virtual, writerly, bloggerly “Tag! You’re IT!” Once tagged by someone in the blogosphere, you answer a few questions on your blog, and then tag one or two peeps to do the same thing on THEIR blogs by some predetermined time. Clear as mud? I thought so.

I’ve been tagged by children’s author-illustrator Dani Duck…

Dani Duck

Dani Duck

Dani Duck

Married, toddlered and reluctant cat owner.

Writes, Illustrates and Moms. Basically awesome. Seldom boring.

Avid coffee drinker and chocolate fan …

Visit Dani’s blog, here.

Now for Dani’s questions of ME, Kim MacPherson (for those who know me, I have a very hard time talking about myself!)…


Ballerina Witch

1.What am I currently working on? 

Well, that’s a loaded question. On the writing and illustrating front, I’m fine-tuning one of the picture books I started earlier this year, Ballerina Witch (working title). I’m almost there as far as the text, and have just started drafting some rough illos and a storyboard. So far, so good.

I’ve also started a couple of new projects–one about an overprotected only child; the other about a prehistoric boy and his beloved sweet treats. (Yes, I know that Orq has just been released, but I actually started this before I even knew about Orq and it’s an altogether different book, David Elliott and Lori Nichols… promise!)

Gabriella is my polished PB… she is just sitting there waiting for me to get three or four other books to this same level of polish so that I can submit to agents, who want to see four or five or six polished picture book manuscripts if they like just one.

I have also resurrected one of the first picture book manuscripts I wrote–a rhyming book. And it’s a rhyming concept book at that! I’ve resurrected it because I’ve always gotten great feedback on it at conferences, and… well, just because. This one has a side cast of characters (read: they’re animated numbers) who carry a bit of a side plot (or illustrated narrative, as I’ve recently learned it’s called).  I can’t wait to draw this one!

Last, but not least (as far as my books go, anyway) is one of my favorites. It’s the one I wrote right after a SCBWI conference almost two years ago… in just a couple of hours. I put it on the back burner, where it sat for a few months. I pulled it out and let a couple of my critique group friends look at it. Made some changes. Then put it on the back burner again. It’s been simmering there for a while, but I still love this zany book (if I do say so myself). The book is called… wait for it… Stinkfoot. It’s about an uppity cat (and, no, he does NOT have stinky feet, thank you very much.) Anyway, this is one where I have played and played and sketched and sketched what the heck he must look like, but I just haven’t gotten it yet. It’s like I have him in my mind… but it’s just not coming out in my pencil! Ah well, one of these days. He’s one of my faves, though. Whoever he is and whatever he looks like.



Speaking of cats, I’m also working on fine-tuning my skills in… pet portaits! This was brought on by the love of a dog that we had to give up recently because our 10-year old was profoundly allergic to him. It was heartbreaking… mainly for me because I spent more time with him than the rest of my family and this dog and I REALLY bonded. (I’m getting vaklempt just writing about him.) Anyway, I took a pet portraits class with the intent of drawing/painting him. I thought it might be somewhat cathartic and it has been. (There IS a happy ending, though–he has been adopted into a great home where he is also well-loved. I’ll never forget this very special dog, though.)

Aside from writing and illustrating, though, I also edit. I edit technical and marketing text on a freelance basis for a living, but started editing picture books earlier this year (not necessarily for a living, but for a song). What I love about it is that I get to read other authors’ works-in-progress (in addition to my critique groups’ WIPs). They have been a joy to work on. And authors that have hired me keep coming back, so I must be doing something right! I don’t advertise or anything–I just have a simple post to my site in one of the 12 x 12 forums and that’s how people have found me.

Last, after a long summer break, I’ve also just begun an internship with a big New York literary agency! I figure it’s a great way to learn more about this crazy world of publishing, plus with all of the great feedback I’ve gotten from authors on how I’ve helped shape their books, plus my successful sales past, agent-ing just might be a twilight career for me. Who knows? This just started this past week, and what I’m mainly doing is reading full manuscripts for agents and then writing a “manuscript analysis” on them. I’ll also write cover letters that will target publishers on books that agents have signed on. I live in the Atlanta area, so I work remotely with one agent… I can’t physically file or answer phones, so that’s a bonus!

Oh – almost forgot! I’m also participating in a “coloring book collaborative” where several illustrators are contributing a coloring page that will go in a book that will be available for free. Very excited about that one. My second “tag-ee” below (Jennyann Carthern) is the creator of this exciting project.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

As far as writing goes, I’ve been told that I have a certain lyrical, rhythmic style to my writing…and that probably stems from the fact that I wrote rhymers to begin with, even though I write in pure prose now. I don’t know if it’s very different from others, but it’s mine for now.

As far as illustrating goes, I’m still trying to find my style–I vacillate between truly colorful/whimsical/weird and what I call “soft shaded cartoons.” There are a few other styles I’ve used. I’m trying to work it out by copying (not plagiarizing-copying… just copying for style purposes) others that I admire.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Plain and simple, it is just FUN. I could write and draw kid lit on the weekends, at 4 o’clock in the morning, while on vacation… I don’t care. I’d do it at any time. Even if I had a major deadline with a publisher and I had to get fifteen spreads done while on a gorgeous, long-awaited trip to Turks and Caicos (yes, that is a goal), I wouldn’t begrudge it. I’d say, “Bring it on! I can work on the beach!” That kind of feeling is when you know you’ve found what you were meant to do, I think.

Ultimately, though, I just love the idea of one of MY books inspiring a child to love reading. Today I saw Carmen Agra Deedy at the Decatur (Atlanta) Book Festival. She’s a celebrated children’s author who has been writing kids’ books and telling kids’ stories for at least a couple of decades. She’s an amazing storyteller. She was on a small stage with a bunch of kids in front of her, telling this wonderful Cuban classic children’s story, complete with audience participation on sound effects, dramatic pauses… the whole nine yards. The kids were mesmerized and some were laughing hysterically. THAT, my friends, is what good kid lit is all about. While I know I’ll never be a good storyteller verbally, I hope to one day entertain a child like that with one of my books. And I cannot wait to participate in school visits… that’s my life goal!

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Ha! There’s no real process here in Crazy-Town! I just “work” (and I use that term loosely… to me, it’s more play than work) when I can. If I’m not “REAL working” (on my editing contract or, now, my internship) or taking care of volunteer events at my son’s school, I’ll find dribs and drabs of time during school hours, or sometimes a bit after school (before Chauffeur Kim has to start shuffling to tennis courts and karate and friends). There’s also weekends, though I always feel guilty unless the boys (hubby and son) have other plans.

My workspace (not one, but THREE desks!)

In my dreams, however,  I would rise before the roosters (no, I don’t have roosters; I’d just get up before they get up… wherever they are). I’d then tip-toe down to my office/studio (mere steps away). Oh! And I’d make sure to have a Keurig in my office so as not to wake everyone by going downstairs. (Gotta have that caffeine fix!) And I’d get a good two hours of work in before I had to get my son up for school. I’d start by reading ten or twenty picture books that I have on hand, to get in that “zone.” Then I’d start sketching. Then I’d open up one of my works-in-progress and start polishing or rewriting… or maybe I’d start something new.

In between, I’d check out one of my kid lit groups on Facebook. Or read a “how I created this really cool illustration” blog post by some author-illustrator that I admire. Or I’d pick up Andrew Loomis’ Creative Illustration or my  Big Book of Illustration Ideas to help inspire me.

Just about every day, I get some seed of an idea for an actual story. I usually write them down on my phone, or on my desktop if I’m at home. They’re everywhere. I know I’ve got dozens of working titles, but for every twenty that I come up with, maybe one or two really sticks.

So some days, I might spend a couple of hours taking a “Drawing in Photoshop” course by Will Terry. Then another day or another available two hours might be spent writing up an outline of how the heck I’m going to end this “thing” I’ve started. (Endings are always a problem for me. Always.)

A big goal of mine is to learn Corel Painter. I love, love, LOVE the true painterly look of Painter and I know it’s a complicated program, but I aim to learn it!

As you can see, I jump around. A LOT. I would say I have a touch of ADHD, but I’m not very “H.” I’m pretty mellow, actually, though I am pretty active. (I spent way too much of my free time this summer playing tennis.) I’m back to yoga AND tennis now (and, sniff!, running/walking when we had our foster dog). I find I get a LOT of great ideas in yoga class.

Anyway, I digress. I think I just made my point. 🙂

In Summary

Well, well, well! While it seems I’m not very good at talking about myself, I can be pretty darned verbose when it comes to writing about myself! Alas, now it’s time to pass on the virtual torch to two of my fellow creatives. Let me introduce you to…


Colleen Bennett


Colleen Bennett is a former teacher, aspiring writer, and full time snack eater.

She likes to dabble in a little fictional this and a little fictional
that, lingering for the most part over middle-grade.

For more on Colleen visit her blog



Jennyann Carthern

Jennyann Carthern

Jennyann Carthern is a Visual Artist, Illustrator, and has been an active Teaching Artist in the Bay Area & Solano County for over 11 years for non profits and after school programs. She has a been practicing and studying art since grade school.

The first memory she has of a paintbrush was in kindergarten. She was painting black and white stripes on a paper mache zebra! T

Today, Jennyann still paints with brushes, along with pen & ink, pencil, and a mixed box of materials. In was later in life that Jennyann decided to attend weekend classes at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. But it was at the California College of the Arts where Jennyann hones her skills, not only in illustration, but in community arts education, and earned a BFA in Illustration. Today Jennyann is currently building her two businesses as the owner and operator of Paint Is Thicker Than Water Studio of The Arts and Jennyann Carthern Childrens Design & Illustration. On another note Jennyann has been a Vegan or Veg 8 years in counting!



Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Gardener

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! And, yes, I know… it HAS been a long time since I’ve reviewed a picture book. I’ll tell you what, though–this book (The Gardener) truly inspired me to do so. Published waaaaay back in 1997, it is one of the most wonderful, understated, and memorable picture books that I’ve read in a long time. (And I can’t believe it has never been reviewed on PPBF! My lucky day!) Take a look…

The Gardener

gardenerWritten by:  Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by: David Small

Farrar, Straus, Giroux 1997


New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year (1997)
Caldecott Honor (1998)

(Both are incredibly well-deserved.)

Themes/Topics:  Hard work, perseverance, mental toughness, staying positive in the face of adversity, always looking on the bright side (yes, redundant, but it bears repeating here)

Suitable for:  Pre-school through Grade 2

Opening Lines:

(In letter format):

August 27, 1935

Dear Uncle Jim,

Grandma told us after supper that you want me to come to the city and live with you until things get better. Did she tell you that Papa has been out of work for a long time?

Brief Synopsis:

(From Amazon): Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers’ faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place that Lydia Grace works on her masterpiece — an ambitious rooftop garden — which she hopes will make even Uncle Jim smile. Sarah Stewart introduces readers to an engaging and determined young heroine, whose story is told through letters written home, while David Small’s illustrations beautifully evoke the Depression-era setting.


From Publishers Weekly
“Speaks volumes about the vast impact one small individual can make.”

From Booklist
Ages 5-8. Stewart’s quiet story, relayed in the form of letters written by a little girl, focuses on a child who literally makes joy blossom. Small’s illustrations are a bit more softly focused than usual, but they’re still recognizably his, with wonderfully expressive characters, ink-line details, and patches of pastel. Their muted backgrounds convey perfectly the urban 1930s setting where most of the story takes place. When hard times hit her family, Lydia Grace is shipped off to stay with her somber, undemonstrative uncle who owns a city bakery. She makes the best of her stay by helping out and by pursuing her favorite pastime, gardening, a talent she uses to make her uncle smile–in a very unusual way. In the end, she receives not simply one reward for her kindness but two. Stephanie Zvirin –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Links to Resources: 

Here are some nifty sites to teach kids about the Great Depression:

For kids:

Lesson Plans:

Why I Like This Book

First of all, who doesn’t love a well done historical fiction PICTURE BOOK? And it’s presented in personal letter format from a little girl’s perspective. What I loved most about it was the underlying theme of transformation— the transformation of the city that the little girl has to move to (it begins to transform after she starts creating flower boxes all over), the transformation of the attitude of the customers and people, and the transformation of the grumpy uncle who never smiled. And all because of an extremely happy, positive little girl who has been uprooted from her home life on a farm to live in the big city… yet she is full of joy about flowers and her life. She can only see the good. What a phenomenal message for little ones!

The last spread brought a tear to my eye. (Yes, just one, but it was a good one.)

Read this one. Don’t miss it. I would bet it’ll bring a tear (or two) to your eyes as well.

And don’t miss Perfect Picture Book Fridaysee the latest and greatest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website every Friday.


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