On Magical Father-Daughter Walks

Me (then Marie Busterna) age 5 in front of my Wyckoff, NJ home

When I was a little girl growing up in Wyckoff, NJ, my father and I would often explore through wintry landscapes, my mitten in his gloved hand. “Look,” he’d say. “Do you see?”

He’d point out colors and shapes. Suddenly, together, we’d notice that snowdrifts had purple shadows. Red weedy canes rose up from the field. And golden poofs topped long grasses that nodded in the wind. That dreary winter day transformed from a dull slushy gray, into one that was filled with colors and shapes and stunning beauty. 

This “noticing” is something I still manage to do every day. Driving by a large open field, I can’t help but pick out russet-colored branches, dusty blue puddles, and swaths of golden and red weeds. And I’m always struck by the subtle beauty that is all too easy to overlook.

These experiences inspired my picture book A DAY SO GRAY (illustrated by Alea Marley, Clarion Books). The story is about two friends out for a walk in winter. “This day is so gray,” one grumbles. “No it isn’t,” the other says, and together they discover colors and beauty all around them. I’ve dedicated this book (not surprisingly) to my dad Santo Busterna. Kirkus noted that the book has an, “almost magical way of seeing and appreciating the world”.

If there is a magic to seeing, it’s a simple one we can all conjure up. It’s one that we can pass like a treasured spell book from parent to child.

Call this magic “mindfulness” if you like. Akin to meditation, mindfulness is said to ground us in the moment, reduce stress, and get us out of our anxious brains and into feeling more alive. Therapists share mindful exercises with their patients. Schools have even enacted mindfulness units to soothe today’s over-programmed kids.

My father, Santo Busterna, and I (note his carved cane!)

My dad was born in the 1930s, long before mindfulness was a thing. He grew up in the then-undeveloped wilds of Long Island. His father, my Nano, was a gruff Sicilian who spent long days building houses, lugging heavy cement blocks by hand. And my Nana was up to her elbows in hot soapy water as she cooked and cleaned for her husband and four children. His parents surely didn’t give him mindfulness exercises to help him notice and relax.

So I asked my dad recently, how did this happen? How did you become someone who noticed so much all the time?

“Well,” he said, “I just did. Back then, we had nature all around us. You stepped out your door and right there were the woods and fields for you to play in and explore.”

Of course nature can certainly be full of beauty, and it’s soothing to boot. But I’ve met plenty of people who grew up in natural surroundings, yet who are still stuck in their own heads. And I’ve known others who have had no real access to nature who still have a mindful eye for details.

In my dad’s case, I think the noticing came easily to him because he was a born artist. Artists are the epitome of mindful because they have to look closely and always observe things in order to then create.  

He sketched from an early age, and he loves to tell me of the time he sculpted a dog out of clay. “I was about six years old, and this dog was so perfectly done and so detailed that my teacher insisted I was a liar. That one of my parents must have made it.” For college, he wanted to go to art school, but his father made sure he studied something more practical: Chemistry. Degree in hand, Dad turned to the most creative career he could find, becoming a Perfumer. In his spare time, though, he carved countless original works in wood and in stone.

As for me? I’m not exactly a born artist. And I didn’t grow up surrounded by wild landscape. Instead, my childhood was suburban, full of tidy lawns and clipped azalea bushes, with a few patches of woods between properties. For me, I notice so much simply because my dad showed me how. And because of this I have become a writer, a close observer of the world.

When an adult presses the proverbial pause button to spend time with a child, to share the joy of noticing, well, that’s powerful stuff. This is something we can all do, and it can happen anywhere, at any time. Out on a winter walk. In a muddy park looking for early signs of spring. Strolling along a city sidewalk past busy shops.  Even while cozied up on a couch with a picture book on our laps.  

Noticing is a special magic, and sharing that experience with someone you love is pure enchantment.

I’m grateful that, no matter how busy my dad might have been, he always took the time to hold my mittened hand in his gloved one so that we could actively see some of the world together.

“Look! Do you see?”

Yes, Dad. I do.

*Marie is an author of YA novels and of picture books, and she’s a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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A DAY SO GRAY – my book birthday!

Today is the book birthday for my new picture book A DAY SO GRAY!!! Woo hoo!!! As of today, this book is available for purchase everywhere in bookstores and online. It’s illustrated beautifully by the talented Alea Marley, and published by Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In this book, warm friendship and a fresh way of seeing things transform a snow-covered landscape from bleak to beautiful!  Kirkus says, “The thought-provoking and poetic text effectively celebrates balanced, helpful relationships and a positive, almost magical way of seeing and appreciating the world….Cozy up with this book to start a conversation about finding what’s bright when things seem dull.”

Please join the “party” and help me celebrate this birthday! How? Well, there are a bunch of ways to help this author (and any author you know). Here are a few (and any one of them will be much appreciated):

  1. Obvs, buy the book, if you can. Here’s the link to sites everywhere
  2. Share this post and other posts about the book on social media
  3. Know someone with a grandchild, a baby, or who needs a gift for one on the way? Suggest they check out A DAY SO GRAY.
  4. Attend a signing/reading that I’ll be at – and come and say hi! Don’t feel you have to buy the book there. Your presence will make a huge difference! Here’s where I’ll be, when.
  5. Read and review the book on your own sites, on book sales sites, and on Goodreads.com
  6. Mark my book as “to read” on Goodreads – that means others who are friends with you there will see it too
  7. Belong to a library? Then you can go onto the library’s site and key in this book as a requested purchase for your library system
  8. Are you a teacher/librarian, or do you know one? Perhaps you or they would want to use A DAY SO GRAY for a wintry story time, or for one about colors or mindfulness
  9. Tell anyone about the book who might be interested. Word of mouth is the best way to share!
  10. Be seen in the wild reading this book. Perhaps take a selfie and share it.
  11. If you see A DAY SO GRAY on the shelf somewhere, take a pic or a selfie with it and share online
  12. If you’d like to have me on your blog, or podcast, or chat with you for an article, send me an email at marielamba@hotmail.com
  13. Thinking of booking an author for a school visit? Check out my school visit pages here.
  14. A high five of any sort, whether online or in person, means a lot. Seriously, your support in any way, shape or form, makes a huge difference to this writer. Writing can sometimes be a long and lonely path, so just knowing there are so many good people in my life who are cheering me on? Well, that means the world!

Thanks, everyone! Thanks to my family for their support, always. Thanks to my fabulous agent Jennifer De Chiara. Thanks to my gifted editor, Anne Hoppe, and the wonderful and caring team of editors, designers, publicists and marketing team members at Clarion Books. And thanks to you!

No day is gray with all of you by my side!
🙂 Marie

News! Now Seeking Non-Fiction to Rep!

Businesswoman standing on a ladder looking through binocularsHi everyone! I’m so excited to announce that, in addition to representing fiction and memoir, I’m now also representing non-fiction projects. I’m actively hunting for non-fiction works, so hit me up with your query if you think our interests align.

As you may know, I’m a Literary Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in NYC. I’ve done deals with major publishers, including Simon & Schuster, Random House, Scholastic, Harper Collins, etc., and I’ve secured film and TV deals for clients as well. So far that’s all been within the realm of children’s and adult fiction. I’m really looking forward to jumping into the world of non-fiction too!

For children’s non-fiction, I’m open to looking at most subjects. In the adult realm, I want memoirs with strong voices and unique, inspiring stories (especially foodie memoirs, or ones with a celebrity or pop culture connection). And in adult non-fiction, I’m seeking narrative non-fiction, pop culture, history (little known or unique view of well-known), science and technology for the rest of us, art, biography (especially unknown/little known sides of well-known people), parenting, cooking and food, health and wellness, lifestyle, advice and relationships, and personal finance.

MP900178861Overall, I’m especially looking for non-fiction that is inspiring and hopeful. I have a special interest in social justice, in titles that elevate and celebrate women and diverse people, and in books that aim to improve our society and help our environment.

​Do you have a non-fiction project that seems to fit? Then send it my way. Please follow my submission guidelines, though, which you can find by clicking here. Along with my guidelines, you’ll also find some more specifics about the type of books I gravitate towards.

I look forward to seeing what you have!

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Webinar for YA Writers – with Critique and Q&A!

MP910220840Hot summer tip time… Attention writers of YA novels! Literary agent Cari Lamba and I (we’re both from the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in NYC) are teaching the live Writer’s Digest Webinar “Write And Sell Your Young Adult Novel – Must-Know Info For Getting Published” on Thursday July 12th at 1 p.m.

This 90 minute webinar will help you craft and sell a novel that literary agents, publishers and readers will love. It covers the YA market (including the 10 things the top NYC editors are asking for right now), tools that will help you craft a strong and focused YA novel, and details on how to create a professional and artful query letter that will impress literary agents.

The webinar includes a Q&A plus a personal critique of your query letter and your YA novel’s opening pages.

A bit about us… Cari and I are both agents at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York.  We represent authors of fiction for children through adults, pitching their novels to all the major publishers. In addition, I’m an author of picture books and young adult novels (including the Random House novel WHAT I MEANT…, and the novels DRAWN and OVER MY HEAD), so along with our literary agent point of view, I’ll bring my YA author perspective to this webinar as well.

*Can’t attend the live webinar? Registration still entitles you to a copy of the on demand webinar, plus the critique. So you can still go for it!*

Interested? Act quickly, the webinar is SOON! Eep! For info and registration click here.

 
*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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GREEN GREEN’s Book Birthday!

green-green-front-cover“They say it’s your BIRTHDAY!” Yup, it’s true. Today is the official publication day of GREEN GREEN: A Community Gardening Story!!!  It’s my debut picture book, co-authored with my husband, Landscape Architect Baldev Lamba, and illustrated by the phenomenal artist Sonia Sanchez. School Library Journal calls it, “An attractive read-aloud for beginning lessons on gardening.” This book is available everywhere books are sold. To purchase it, please contact your wonderful local bookstore — they will be happy to help you! Or, to order online, click here for a number of choices.

In the book, green grass is wide and fresh and clean for a family to play in, and brown dirt is perfect for digging a garden. But when gray buildings start to rise up and a whole city builds, can there be any room for green space? The neighborhood children think so, and they inspire the community to join together and build a garden for everyone to share in the middle of the city.

This is a fun and busy book, full of action, digging, construction stuff, nature, silliness and engrossing pictures. Every time I look through the pages, I discover something new and delightful! Can I just say I’m in awe of Sonia’s illustrations?

And at the end of the story, the book includes easy ways children and families can be more GREEN GREEN, including ways to help threatened honeybees and Monarch butterflies. There’s even a fun craft for kids!

Community gardening is such an important movement throughout the country, bringing together people and transforming the ground into lush gardens that feed and delight. GREEN GREEN is all about sustainability, something so close to my heart. And this book shows how children can make a real difference in our world. I especially love the diverse cast of children throughout the pages.

Just as a community garden needs many busy hands in order to grow, GREEN GREEN required the care and talent of so many wonderful folk. Thank you to my amazing agent, Jennifer De Chiara, to my editor Susan Dobinick, who planted the seeds, to my editor Grace Kendall, who helped this book grow, and to the wonderful team at Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan for, oh, just EVERYTHING they have done to bring GREEN GREEN into the hands of children across the world.

DSCN5510And thank you to the many folks in my life who continue to support this wacky writer! My family, my wonderful friends, my network of amazing writer buddies…my community! You’ve all helped me grow. 🙂  And thank you to the fabulous network of bookstore friends, librarians, and schools who are sharing GREEN GREEN!  And to readers out there? Adults who take the time to sit with a child in their lap and make a book come to life for a child? Wow. You are the real heroes of any book.

Yup – I’m a bit gushy here. But, hey, it is a birthday party, after all. 😉  Okay… just wanted to close with a huge THANK YOU to the fabulous indie bookstores Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA, and Clinton Books in Clinton, NJ for hosting us on our book launch weekend! (Both stores have author-signed copies of GREEN GREEN on their shelves right now for sale. To snag one, call or stop in at these stores.) And for an updated listing of where I’ll be doing future book signings and story times, you can check out my appearances page here.

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.

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Be GREEN GREEN!: Bee Friendly Weed Spray

green-green-front-cover

GREEN GREEN – a new picture book by Marie and Baldev Lamba, for more info click here

Honeybees are dying off. One of the reasons? The use of herbicides, chemicals and pesticides. Honeybees play a vital role in pollinating fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Did you know that about a third of all food Americans eat is directly or indirectly derived from honeybees? Now imagine our world without them. Yikes! We need them, and now they need us! What can you do to help? Ditch those harsh chemicals!

Here’s an easy formula for a BEE FRIENDLY WEED SPRAY. You’ll help save the bees, you won’t have to worry about spraying gunk that will be dangerous for kids and pets, AND you’ll save a ton of money, too.  Win win all around.

IMG_1602BEE FRIENDLY WEED SPRAY RECIPE:

Fill a spray bottle with…
1 gallon of vinegar
1 ounce of liquid dish soap

Some tips: This spray works best in full sun. Spray on a day without rain to let it take effect. You’ll see results almost immediately. When weeds die down, it’s a good opportunity to remove any extra soil or plant debris from sidewalk and walkway cracks that would encourage future weeds. Keep a spray bottle on hand to zap any weeds that come back.

How well does this work?  Here’s my sidewalk’s BEFORE:

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And just a few hours later:

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And the next day… a great AFTER:

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I just removed the dead vegetation. Best of all – no bees were harmed! No animals either. Please spread the word and share this post with others. You can Bee the solution!

Want your kids to think green? Then check out my new picture book GREEN GREEN: A COMMUNITY GARDENING STORY (Farrar Straus Giroux), which is available in stores and online wherever books are sold. For more info and for links to retailers, please click here. This book celebrates the joys of gardening, and includes ways kids can help the world be more GREEN GREEN. School Library Journal calls it, “An attractive read-aloud for beginning lessons on gardening.”

*Marie is co-author of the new picture book GREEN GREEN: A COMMUNITY GARDENING STORY and a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: 6 “To Do’s” if You Write

Mixed Race girl on floor with a computerHappy Agent Monday, everyone! I know, I know — it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. But I have been SO busy in a really good way with doing agenty stuff. Okay, so I’m STILL really busy, but I do think it’s time to get our Agent Monday show back on the road, don’t you? So here is my “6 To Do’s if You Write” post. Are you doing these 6 things? And if not, shouldn’t you?

Last week, I was honored to be the featured speaker at Franklin & Marshall College’s Philadelphia Alumni Writers House. As I prepped for my talk, I began to think about what would have helped me when I was in college. Back then, becoming a published author still felt like a distant dream. As an aspiring author, what I really needed were guideposts that would help me truly get where I wanted to be.

Now looking back, I realize there were 6 things I did that definitely helped me achieve my dream of being a published author, plus these ensured that writing would be my life-long career. I hope this list will help you, whether you are just starting out, or are in the thick of things, yet feeling stuck.:

  • IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS A WRITER – Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, believe that you ARE a writer. Tell yourself that, and tell that to everyone you know.
  • DON’T BE DETERRED – Plenty of things will get in your way…lack of support…writing that isn’t quite ready for prime time…tons of rejections. Just remember that the only thing that can really stop you from writing is you.
  • BE STUBBORN — BUT NOT TOO STUBBORN – Yes, believe in your voice and vision, and persist in getting your work out there. BUT also be open to revision and constructive criticism. And move on to write the next book, and the next.
  • EXPECT MAJOR SETBACKS – AND TAKE A LONG VIEW OF THINGS – Bad things will happen in your writing life and in your personal life. REALLY bad things. But see what you can take from them and look ahead. You can get beyond it (see Don’t Be Deterred above).
  • MAKE IT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD – Realize that there is nothing romantic about a starving writer. Fit writing in, live within reasonable means, AND find a way to make money. Most published authors do this.
  • KNOW THAT WRITING IS AN ART, BUT PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS – While your writing is very personal to you, for publishers it’s a way to make money. If they pass on acquiring your work, it’s not personal, it’s business. Learn how to act professionally (lots of posts on this blog will help you with that), and it’ll help you share your art with the world. And don’t forget to be appreciative to those on your team. Publishing is made up of humans – a lovely thank you goes a long way!

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.

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