DESERT GIRL, MONSOON BOY publishes today!

Cover of Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana SreenivasanToday is the day that Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, illustrated magnificently by Archana Sreenivasan and written by me, releases into the world. It is intended for readers aged 4-8 (but, of course, readers older and younger than that are very welcome).

It is the first picture book I’ve written, and the best-reviewed book yet of my career, with two starred reviews so far and a glowing in-depth write-up by top children’s librarian Elizabeth Bird.

To me this only proves the great value (and joy!) of collaborating artistically with others. I’ve been so lucky to work on this book with so many talented, caring, and detail-oriented people over the past three years: the vastly gifted Archana, the team at Putnam/Penguin Random House–including editor Susan Kochan, designers Eileen Savage and Nicole Rheingans, and Executive Art Director Cecilia Yung–and the team at LPPS (read more about them below) that provided expert feedback on the book. Thank you all! And thank you also to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and Archana’s agent, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, for your behind-the-scenes work in bringing us all together for this project.

Interior illustration 1 from Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana Sreenivasan

illustration by Archana Sreenivasan

To have a book come out during this strange and unprecedented era of global pandemic, is, of course, something none of us anticipated. There will be no bookstore launch parties, book signings, or in-person library story hours. But this is a book about people facing challenges—facing disaster, even—and coming out on the other side. If it finds its way into your home, I hope that it opens the door for discussion and reflection on the many trials we humans face, no matter where we live or what traditions or lifestyles we embrace.

Here is some more info about Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy:

Extreme weather affects two children’s lives in very different ways and shows how the power of nature can bring us together.

One girl. One boy. Their lives couldn’t be more different. While she turns her shoulder to sandstorms and blistering winds, he cuffs his pants when heavy rains begin to fall. As the weather becomes more severe, their families and animals must flee to safety–and their destination shows that they might be more alike than they seem. The journeys of these two children experiencing weather extremes in India highlight the power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.

Buy your copy from…

Your local independent bookstore: find one here

Bookshop.org (which supports independent bookstores)

Or your favorite national or online retailer:

Penguin Random House * Powell’s * BAM * B&N * Amazon *  Indigo (Canada) * Book Depository (International)

illustration 2 from Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana Sreenivasan

illustration by Archana Sreenivasan

To celebrate release day, I am making a donation to Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), an organization that supports pastoralists in India like those featured in Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy. And I plan to continue to donate an ongoing portion of my royalties to organizations that do similar work in terms of both environmental and cultural sustainability worldwide. You can learn more about organizations that do this kind of work at pastoralpeoples.org/partners.

Thank you, friends, as always, for your support. I hope you will keep staying home if your work allows, keep reading, and be well.

 

 

 

So you want to get your children’s book published?

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Cover

My first published children’s book. Only a nine-year process!

With some regularity, I get e-mails from people who have written a book for children and would like advice on how to get it published. The first thing I always tell them is “Congratulations! Writing a book is a huge accomplishment!” (Seriously. It took me seven years to write my own first children’s novel, All Four Stars, and then a few more years of revising, agent-seeking, publisher-seeking, and editing before it hit the shelves.)

In any case, since I recently wrote out a long response to one of these e-mails, I thought that I would share here what I would currently know and advise for those who seek traditional publication for a middle-grade, YA, or picture book. (And who, I assume, actually have a finished manuscript, not just an idea for one or a half-finished draft.)

Join SCBWI and attend a conference: One of the best things a newbie to the kidlit world can do is join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), if you’re not already a member. There are branches all over the world. This is a great way to start learning about the children’s book industry, and if you attend a conference (either a regional or national one–highly recommended) not only can you take workshops with published children’s authors, but you can also interface with agents and editors and sometimes have a chance to pay for a critique from an agent, editor, or published author. Some branches have mentorship programs available as well. And if your branch has monthly meetings, that’s a great way to meet some other childrens’ writers in your area, form a critique group, network, and learn. Membership costs around $80 a year, and attending conferences costs more, but remember, it’s all tax-deductible. 🙂

Get critiqued: Join/form a critique group with other writers (preferably other people writing for the same age group you are, whether middle grade, young adult, or picture books) if you haven’t already. Having your work critiqued by other serious writers, whether aspiring or published, is an important way to get feedback and improve your work.

(And going back for a moment…Step 0? Hopefully you are already doing this, but read widely in the genre/age group you are attempting to be published in. Have you read at least 50-100 books for that age group that have been published in the last 5 years? If not, do this before anything else, so you can see if and where your work may fit in the market and come up with some current “comp” titles that you can later use in your query letter.)

Seek an agent: When your manuscript is revised, polished, and absolutely as good as you and your critique partners can make it, then it’s time to look for an agent.

You will need an agent if you seek to be traditionally published by one of the large or medium-sized US children’s publishers (the “Big 5” are Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Macmillan, and HarperCollins, and other well-established companies like Scholastic, Candlewick, Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Sourcebooks are also in this category), as they don’t accept unsolicited submissions. (The one exception to that is that sometimes editors who are presenting at an SCBWI or other writing conference open their submissions to attendees for a certain period after the conference.)

Good places to start to research agents are querytracker.netliteraryrambles.com, and the Absolute Write forums. What are you looking for? An agent who is with a reputable agency; who ideally has at least some sales record in the genre/age group you are writing in (or, if they’re new, are at an agency with a strong record); and who, in interviews/on social media etc. expresses something that makes you think they might be a good fit for your work.

You should also check out pitchwars.org, and there are sometimes other opportunities/hashtags on Twitter for pitching your work to agents, such as #DVPit, which focuses on amplifying diverse and underrepresented voices. (Twitter is a good place to be in general if you’re seeking an agent, as many are active on there and might tweet about what they’re looking for.)

Finally, to really dig into an agent’s history of sales, you can buy a membership to Publisher’s Marketplace and study the deal histories there. In addition, you should probably subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf, a biweekly (and free!) e-mail that not only covers news in the kidlit industry, but also announces most of the higher-profile book deals being made and can give you a sense of what’s selling for publication in the industry. As it includes the deal-making agent’s name and the publisher, this is another place for you to do a little agent research.

You generally pitch agents by sending them a one-page query e-mail that includes a brief pitch of your story and a brief bio. If you don’t know about proper query format, definitely research the “success stories” on querytracker to familiarize yourself with good queries. Mine is in there at https://querytracker.net/success/tara_dairman.php. Stick closely to the one-page limit and hone your pitch to really grab an agent’s attention. Use your critique group to help with this! (Also, this is an area where, if you know a published author, you may be able to ask for a favor in the form of feedback. While I wouldn’t have time to read and critique someone’s manuscript for them–at least, not for free–I’m often willing to look over a one-page query letter and share a few pointers for someone who is serious about trying to pitch themselves to the industry.)

Please note that many people query 50 or more agents before finding representation. I advise sending your query out in small batches (5-7 or so) so that if it’s not getting the results you want you can go back and revise it before sending out to more agents.

If you snag an agent’s attention, they will request some (a “partial”) or all (a “full”) of your manuscript. It may take them months to get back to you after that, though–unfortunately, that’s normal, as agents are extremely busy with their current clients. The best thing to do during that time is to work on your next book!

And/or seek a publisher directly: There are a few smaller but reputable children’s publishers that accept unsolicited, unagented manuscripts, and you could query them directly as well. Off the top of my head, here are a few I believe are still open to submissions, but definitely check their websites to confirm, and carefully follow all submissions guidelines.

-Holiday House
-Chronicle
-Charlesbridge
-Peachtree
-Albert Whitman
-Boyds Mills
-Carolrhoda/Lerner (periodic open calls)
-Pelican
-Page Street
-Shadow Mountain

I’m sure you can find more in the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (published yearly and available at the library if you don’t want to purchase).

That’s all I’ve got for now. Surely I’ve missed things–if there’s information that you know and think I should include here, please leave a comment and I’ll update when I can. If you have questions, please leave a comment and I’ll answer when I can! And good luck on your publishing journey.

This Thursday at Books of Wonder (Uptown) in NYC!

This Thursday evening, I’ll be in conversation with the brilliant Rebecca Behrens in NYC as we discuss our middle-grade novels in which the kids take charge. It’s the official launch party for The Disaster Days, Rebecca’s new book set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and it is absolutely unputdownable!

We’ll be signing books, answering questions, and sharing treats as well. We hope to see you there.

Books of Wonder (uptown location): 217 W. 84th St., New York, NY.

Florida in March – event and school visits!

*UPDATE 3/1/19: Unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my trip to Florida for the BAMfest due to illness. I’m so sorry to anyone who was looking forward to attending one of my panels or having a book signed by me. I know it’s not the same, but if you would like a signed and personalized bookmark, please drop me a line via my contact form and I will put one in the mail to you next week.*

 

Happy New Year to all!

I’m excited to be heading to West Palm Beach, Florida, to participate in the BAM! (Books and Music) festival downtown on Saturday, March 2. You can see the entire author lineup here. If you live in the area, I’d love to meet you and sign your books!

Also, I am currently available for school visits in the West Palm Beach or Miami areas in the days before or after the festival. If you’re an educator or media specialist and are interested in details, please contact me right away through my contact form on this site. I’m available for full- and half-day visits with presentations, workshops, or a mix, and I love to share my journey as an author with elementary and middle-school students.

Hope your 2019 is off to a great start.

Signed books for the holidays now available!

holiday books by Tara DairmanGreetings, friends! Signed books make lovely gifts, and I’m pleased to share that, this year, I’m working with BookPeople (my local independent bookstore) to make it easy for you to order signed, personalized copies of any of my titles in time for the holidays.

ORDER HERE

Just follow the instructions on that page to request personalizing in the comments of your order. Please order by 11/20 for shipping in time for Hanukkah, 12/12 for shipping in time for Christmas.

As always, I’ll throw in bookmarks and stickers with any order. 🙂

And as a reminder, here are brief summaries of my titles:

The Great Hibernation: When all of the adults in a tiny, remote town mysteriously fall asleep for the winter, it’s up to the kids to figure out what happened and what they should do about it. (adventure, humor, mystery, wintry fun)
Great Hibernation cover
The All Four Stars series (All Four Stars, The Stars of Summer, and Stars So Sweet): 11-year-old Gladys Gatsby secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper, but nobody there knows she’s only a kid! (humor, foodie fiction, NYC adventure)
all-three-covers
Here’s wishing you a cozy fall and winter, filled with new books to fall in love with. Read deliciously!

Wait Wait…It’s Me!

wait waitIf you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I’ve been taking a break for June. Mostly, it’s been good–I’ve been writing more, and I’ve also had the time and energy to knock some long-standing items off my to-do list.

One of those items was “try to get on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” my favorite NPR news quiz show. I’ve been listening for years, and they always say “If you want to play on air, call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT!”

So, finally, I called. I left a rambling message about being a writer and having two little kids and listening every week while I hang their cloth diapers up to dry… and lo and behold, they called me back.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverSo if you listen to the broadcast this weekend, YES, that’s me (!!) doing the listener limerick challenge. It was exactly the mix of fun and terrifying that I had always imagined. I even got to talk a little about my books ALL FOUR STARS (about the 12-year-old restaurant critic) and THE GREAT HIBERNATION (where the adults fall asleep and the kids take over the town government).

The Great HibernationCalling the number was on my to-do list, but actually being on the show? Total bucket list item–now crossed off. Also, my voicemail is about to get upgraded. 🙂 What a week.

(The only irony is that I now have to break my own social media blackout to share the news, ha!)

PS,  If you missed the show but still want to listen, never fear, it’s online, too. It’s the 6/23/18 episode featuring David Wise.

Summer Reading Splash this weekend!

Hello, friends! Just a quick note to say that I’m excited to be participating in the 5 Book Dive/2018 Summer Reading Splash this weekend at the AISD Performing Arts center here in Austin, Texas! This is a middle-grade book festival, geared toward grades 3-6, featuring keynote speaker Kate DiCamillo and several other incredible authors of books for kids. I’ll be on a panel about mysteries at noon and will be signing books at 2 PM. Hope to see you there!

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