Hello Readers, welcome to Kid Lit Love where I share new release children’s books on Mondays with author and/or illustrator features. This week I have the pleasure of featuring the picture book, LLOYD FINDS HIS WHALESONG by Skylaar Amann! And I’m super excited that we are offering two critique giveaways for picture book writers. Skylaar and I are each offering a critique of your fiction picture book under 650 words.
LLOYD FINDS HIS WHALESONG is the story of a little humpback whale whose voice is too quiet to sing the whalesong. He seems destined for silence until he finds a mysterious ukulele in the kelp forest and must use it and his newfound voice to help his family out of danger.
Skylaar, it is a pleasure to have you as a guest on the blog. Welcome!
Please tell us about the inspiration for your book.
I grew up on the Oregon Coast, so the ocean has always been a huge part of my life. I even got to see the humpbacks migrate offshore a few times. My art has always centered on the ocean, whales, tidepools, marine science, and conservation. For years, I drew whales, including a cartoony humpback, and one eventually became a lonely little whale named Lloyd.
About ten years ago, I learned to play ukulele, and it was really inspiring. Somehow, my brain combined these two ideas. Humpback whales really do sing, and I wondered what would happen if one couldn’t … until he found a ukulele. It’s been really rewarding to combine two things I love so much into one story.
Skylaar, I love this! I also live on the west coast of Canada, love the ocean, the whales, and music. Your story is a wonderful combination of the natural and musical worlds.
Tell us about your path to publication.
I was interested in publishing for a long time, but I have only been working seriously toward it for the last six or seven years. I knew I needed to improve my illustration skills to have any chance. So while I was tinkering with picture book ideas, I took specialized illustration classes focused on fundamentals.
I eventually got to the point where I felt like I could create the type of imagery I wanted, and I revised LLOYD again. I sent a promotional illustration postcard to Page Street Kids, and Kristen Nobles responded with a nice email about my work and asking if I had a dummy to share. Soon after, I submitted LLOYD to her. I went through many drafts with Kristen and editor Courtney Burke, and eventually landed in a place where the story was solid, and I finally got that “yes.”
I went through the whole process of LLOYD on my own! It wasn’t until this summer that I eventually signed with a literary agent (the incredible Jessica Watterson of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency). And now I’m excited to say my second book, SMILE, SOPHIA, will be coming in 2022 from Feiwel and Friends!
All the behind the scenes work is what we don’t see as readers, so thank you for sharing your journey. It shows the importance of the revision process and getting feedback and how it contributes to the success of a book.
Do you have any tips for querying editors and agents?
My advice is to be patient. Keep learning and improving your craft — and don’t give up. Things started to change for me when I went from drawing and writing the same old things without the results I wanted — to focusing on improving from a technical standpoint, with specific goals in mind. I practiced the fundamentals of color, light, composition. On the writing side, I was always working on improving craft too.
If you are getting more rejections than you expected, take a step back to reevaluate what you’re submitting and if it’s ready. Read lots of books in your genre. If you’re an illustrator, study other artists and see if you can improve. Developing your personal style in writing and drawing takes a long time. And if you put your best foot forward when submitting, you’ll be glad you waited. Even if you submit incredible work, it can take time to find the right connection for you and your stories. Be sure you’re following agent guidelines, be kind, and don’t give up.
Connect with Skylaar here:
Thanks so much, Skylaar! And now for the giveaway! If you’d like to win a picture book manuscript critique from myself or Skylaar, just leave a comment here or retweet/quote tweet the twitter post and you’ll be entered! Skylaar is offering a critique of a non-rhyming fiction picture book or an illustrated dummy. I am offering a critique of a fiction picture book in rhyme or prose. Giveaway closes on November 30th. Good luck to all!