Happy Earth Day everyone! Actually, every day is Earth Day! While Spring is bursting out all over, many of you are mostly keeping indoors to stay safe. I am too! So here’s a reading of my picture book GREEN GREEN: A COMMUNITY GARDENING STORY that you can see at home, along with ways that kids big and small can help our planet right now. Cozy up and just click on the link here.
And here’s a fun craft that you can do at home – make a butterfly finger puppet!
All you need is scissors, paper or card stock, a pipe cleaner or a twisty tie for the antennae, and stuff to decorate your butterfly with. You can use colored pencils, markers, crayons, stickers, glitter glue – use your imagination! For step by step directions and a butterfly template you can print out and trace, click here.
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 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.
You guys! I am so delighted to share the cover of my newest picture book A DAY SO GRAY!!! Illustrated by Alea Marley, it comes out through Clarion on October 29, 2019, but it’s available for pre-order now here.
If you belong to Goodreads, would you kindly add it as “to read” there by clicking on this link? That way others will see it too. Thank you so much!
What an amazing job Alea has done with this book. The images are absolutely stunning throughout…Honestly, I’m just humbled that she has brought such beauty to my words. To learn more about this fabulous illustrator and see more of her work, definitely visit her site here.
A DAY SO GRAY follows two friends as a day transforms from bleak and gray to full of beauty and joy, just by taking the time to notice colorful details everywhere. It’ll be coming out just before the holidays, ahead of those gray days to follow. And I hope this will offer mindful and cozy inspiration for families everywhere.
The idea for this book came from my father, Santo Busterna, who, as an artist himself, always pointed to colors within the landscape, encouraging me as a young child to notice and appreciate the lovely details. To this day, I can’t drive past a winter field without picking out licorice red twigs, or golden poofs of wild grasses.
Thanks SO MUCH to my wonderful editor Anne Hoppe, the great team at Clarion, and to my fabulous agent Jennifer De Chiara for bringing this vision to life! And to each of you folks reading this for always being such wonderful advocates of books for children. 🙂
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 GREENinto the hands of children across the world.
And 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 GREENon 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.
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.
BEE 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:
And just a few hours later:
And the next day… a great AFTER:
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!
*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.
Happy Agent Monday, everyone! With last week’s blizzard a distant icy memory, it’s time to dig into my submission inbox – hoping for some hot fiction I can represent. Often, though, submissions look so promising on one front, but don’t deliver on another. So I thought I’d share what I’m looking for in that “total package,” in case it’ll help you amp up your own fiction into that coveted must read for agents and readers alike. So here are the 3 things I’m searching for in submissions…
1. An Intriguing Idea
I know, duh, right? But this is essential. When I read what the book is about, I want to think: Oooo, that’s interesting! Not: Oh, THAT again? Or: And? I care because? If your idea is ho-hum, this presents a huge challenge for you the writer. Also, your idea should be handled in a fresh way that only you will show me.
Double duh. BUT, so very often I find that intriguing idea and think, “Yes! This is something I’d love to read. So excited!” Then I start to read the manuscript and find the writer’s craft is lacking. They have a great idea, but can’t carry it off.
3. Follow Through
Writer’s that have an intriguing idea, and demonstrate skillful craft, must still be able to take that idea, and, with skill, develop it into a satisfying read to the very end. Too often, manuscripts start off well, and then plateau and disappoint. A great manuscript must promise something great to the reader, show skill, and then, and here’s the real key, deliver even more than what the reader had anticipated.
So a great manuscript grows that intriguing idea. The writer’s style and personality works perfectly with that idea to truly create a world and show us something even more insightful, moving, and or unique than we’d ever anticipated. That writer has truly taken us on a journey. We end the read more than satisfied. We are amazed.
What I’m often seeing are manuscripts that give me #1, but not #2. Or #2 but not #1. And when #1 and #2 are in place, #3 is missing. As an agent and a reader, I need all three elements in place. And when I find them, it’s reading magic.
Need some examples of projects that snagged my attention on all three fronts? Here are just a few from our client list:
Picture book: TO THE STARS! by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan (Charlesbridge)
As a writer myself, I strive for those 3 elements in my own fiction, and work hard to hold myself to those standards whenever I dive into my own fictional worlds. If you want to check out my YA novels, here are the links:
GREEN GREEN (Farrar Straus Giroux) by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
*Marie is an Associate 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 by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.
Today, client Carmella Van Vleet’s debut picture book, TO THE STARS!, officially comes out! Congrats to Carmella and to her co-author Dr. Kathy Sullivan, who is the first American woman to ever walk in space.
As you might have guessed, this picture book is about Dr. Sullivan, and her journey from being a little girl interested in the world and science, to becoming that space-walking astronaut. Illustrator Nicole Wong did an amazing job with the images, and the end result is, according to BOOKLIST, “An attractive introduction to an American astronaut.” And Kirkus says, “This welcome addition to the field of female fliers will be informative as well as inspirational for girls.”
So, if you know of a little girl who loves adventure and science, definitely check this one out. For more info on this book, including a peek inside, and a downloadable educational guide, click here.
*Marie is an Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.
Hi all! Just a quick heads up that I and my fellow agents of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency are offering an online webinar through Writer’s Digest. It’s called Sell Your Children’s Book: How to Write Amazing Novels & Picture Books for Kids Boot Camp. This online boot camp starts on next Monday, April 20th, so if you are a picture book, middle grade or YA author and are interested, definitely look into it now and register by clicking here.
This might be just the thing you need before the next writer’s conference or before you submit to agents. Here’s a bit of info from Writer’s Digest on how it’ll work:
On April 20, you will gain access to two special 60-minute online tutorials presented by literary agents from Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Jennifer De Chiara will present a tutorial on writing picture books, and Roseanne Wells will present a tutorial on writing and selling Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.
After listening to your choice of presentations, attendees will spend the next two days revising materials as necessary. Also following the tutorial, writers will have two days in which to log onto the Writer’s Digest University boot camp message boards and ask your assigned agent critiquers questions related to revising your materials. The agents will be available on the message boards from 1-3 p.m. (ET) on both Tuesday, April 21 and Wednesday, April 22. No later than Thursday, April 23, attendees will submit either their completed picture book text (1,000 words or fewer) or the first 10 double-spaced pages of their middle grade / young adult manuscript. The submissions will receive feedback directly from the boot camp literary agents.
The agents will spend up to 15 days reviewing all assigned critiques and provide feedback to help attendees. No later than May 9, agents will send their feedback to writer attendees.
Only registered students can access the Writer’s Digest University boot camp message boards. You’ll also be able to ask questions of your fellow students. Feel free to share your work and gain support from your peers
Please note that any one of the agents may ask for additional pages if the initial submission shows serious promise.
In addition to feedback from agents, attendees will also receive:
Download of “An Agent’s Tips on Story Structures that Sell,” an on-demand webinar by literary agent Andrea Hurst
1-year subscription to the WritersMarket.com Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market database
PLEASE NOTE: Agents Stephen Fraser and Marie Lamba will be critiquing picture book and working together on the discussion boards for picture books. Agents Vicki Selvaggio and Linda Epstein will be critiquing YA and MG, and manning the message boards for those categories.
So that’s the news! Maybe I’ll see some of you online there.
My husband, Landscape Architect Baldev Lamba and I have penned a picture book text titled GREEN, GREEN, which focuses in community gardening in a city.
Here’s the deal announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace:
January 15, 2015
Literary agent and Young Adult author Marie Lamba and landscape architect Baldev Lamba’s debut GREEN, GREEN, a celebration of community gardening that reveals how green land grows into a vibrant city, and how an unused lot is made green again, to be illustrated by Eisner Award nominee and HERE I AM illustrator Sonia Sanchez, to Susan Dobinick at Farrar, Straus Children’s, by Jennifer DeChiara at The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency (NA).
Baldev and I have collaborated on many an article in the past, all centered on garden design elements, and our pieces have appeared in national magazines including Gardens & Landscapes, Garden Design Magazine, and Your Home. It’s been a while since we’ve worked together on a piece, and this is our very first picture book together. Baldev is associate professor of Landscape Architecture at Temple University, and owner of Lamba Associates, Inc, an award-winning Landscape Architecture firm. Among his wide range of past projects are a number of urban gardens, including, most recently, the PHS Pops-Up urban garden in Center City, Philadelphia that grabbed a lot of attention. He’s also designed a number of Temple’s award-winning exhibits at The Philadelphia Flower Show, including one titled “Metromorphosis,” so urban renewal and community gardening has been floating around in both of our brains for a while now.
And speaking of “for a while,” it’s wonderful to be turning my mind back toward picture book writing after so many years. It’s where I started out, going to college to study writing and fine art and trying a few picture books, then I found myself penning novels instead. Picture book writing feels like coming home creatively for me, somehow — and I’ve got a few more in the works right now. Fingers crossed!
Special thanks go to our wonderful editor Susan Dobinick, our amazing agent Jennifer De Chiara, and to Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers for believing in this manuscript.
I think they are shooting for publication in Spring 2016. I’m SO EXCITED, and can’t wait to see the gorgeous illustrations Sonia Sanchez will produce to pull this all together.
Attention writers of picture books, middle grade and YA fiction! Writer’s Digest has just opened up an online Boot Camp taught by agents of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency… The Boot Camp includes an online tutorial, a dedicated message board where agents will answer your questions, plus a critique by an agent.
Literary agents participating include Jennifer De Chiara, Roseanne Wells, Linda P. Epstein, Stephen Fraser, and me – Marie Lamba.