Friday, March 9

The Best Thing I Did While Waiting for My Book to be Published (by Karlin Gray)

Welcome to another blog tour author guest post here on Literary Hoots! I'm so excited to have Karlin Gray sharing some very awesome tips about storytelling today (I raved about another of her pictures books, NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN'T SIT STILL, in not one but two different book lists I made). She's got a brand new picture book out this week and some fantastic advice to share... 

About the Book

Written by Karlin Gray and Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

Sleeping Bear Press (March 15, 2018)

A dusty, grayish moth is feeling kind of down. He's nothing like the Luna moth, Spider moth, or Atlas moth. And don't even get him started on beloved butterflies! He's just not special like those insects. But then . . . a boy sees him and enlightens our little moth on how extraordinary ordinary can be.

Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva, AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH is a rhyming read-aloud picture book with back matter that includes fascinating moth facts and an outdoor activity.


The Best Thing I Did While Waiting for My Book to be Published
By Karlin Gray

Patience is key in picture-book publishing. My first book took three years—from offer letter to printed books. My second picture book, the read-aloud AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH, took almost two years to be published. Everyone from the illustrator to the editor to the sales department needs their time to do their thing. So what did I do in the meantime?

I planned events, worked on marketing opportunities, researched new book ideas and, of course, wrote more manuscripts. Or, as Jane Yolen says, “Butt in chair.” All of these kept me busy and productive.

Now, what was the best thing I did while waiting for publication? I moved my butt to a smaller chair. Here, in a first-grade classroom the teacher hands me a book, the kids sit criss-cross-applesauce, and I have the privilege of being their volunteer reader every other week.

This is a win-win-win for the teacher, for the students, and for me—the children’s writer. The teacher gets a tiny break to do a task or run an errand. (Have you seen what teachers can do in a few minutes? More than I can do in a few hours!) The kids get to pause their lesson and chill out with some story time. And I ... well, I probably benefit the most.

As a volunteer reader, I get to:
   • Hear “Yay, it’s time for Ms. Gray!” (Ok, that’s just an ego boost but what a great way to start the day. All readers should be greeted like rock stars.)
   • Read some oldies-but-goodies, new bestsellers, and some books that I never even knew about.
   • Practice reading aloud  (I’m soft-spoken so I always have to remind myself to project my voice.)
   • Learn what type of books are selected for first-graders and, of those, which ones are the teacher’s favorites.
   • See which writing styles keep kids engaged and which ones make their eyes glaze over.
   • Listen to the hilarious questions and keen observations of first graders (And more than once, these comments have sparked new book ideas for me.)

In less than 15 minutes, I walk away with quite an education. And that makes volunteering as a school reader the best thing I did while waiting for my book to be published.
Now the wait is over—AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH is here and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to squeeze my tush into a first-grade chair and share it with my little readers. How extraordinary is that?

If you would like to be a volunteer reader in your community, contact an elementary school near you or search on

Here are a few simple things that I do while reading to my wiggly first graders:
   • SMILE—not an awkward, uncomfortable smile but a “wow, I’m so happy to see your sweet faces” smile.
   • Hold the book up and to one side while reading the entire spread then sweep it around so everyone can see the illustrations before turning the page.
   • Make eye contact—especially with the kids who are paying the most attention AND with the kids who are squirmy and chatty.
   • If the book is in rhyme, pause at the end of some stanzas to see if they will read, or guess, the last word.
   • Before leaving, thank the students and the teacher for sharing their story time.

And here are a few fun tips from some fellow picture-book authors:

“Ask questions about the illustrations! Often times when I read out loud to kids, I’ll ask them questions about the illustrations. I see a sense of awareness and observation that keeps them engaged, and the joy of discovery on their part when they find the answer (if it’s in the pictures), or come up with their own explanation.”— Shana Keller, author of TICK TOCK BANNEKER’S CLOCK  website:

“Change your voice for every character, even if you can't do voices! Make your voice higher and lower, or throw in an accent or two that you can do (even if the rational side of your brain is wondering why that frog would be British or Southern or from Boston). You get to make the creative choices for how each character sounds. Your listeners will be much more engaged when they notice differences in sound.”— Jason Gallaher, author of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE; 

“Whenever possible I try to incorporate some sort of physical movement that the kids and I can do throughout the story. In Jabari Jumps, it comes pretty easily. Besides the obvious jumping, we "look up," "climb the ladder," "look out as far as we can see," "sink down down down" and "then back up" yelling "whoosh!" With "quieter" books we might make the sound of the wind and sway, or maybe pound the ground like thunder. Besides it giving them a chance to move their little bodies, which we all know is important, it also helps some kids retain information better. Win, win!”—Gaia Cornwall, author of JABARI JUMPS;

“Books of mine that are for kids from grades preK-3 have text elements that I use to invite responses from my audience. The kids sitting around me on the floor get to take part in the story in a way that is fun but not disruptive. When I read “The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read,” the kids can contribute to the story by voicing the cats’ various meows, mrrrps, and hisses.”—Curtis Manley, author of THE SUMMER NICK TAUGHT HIS CATS TO READ;

“Don't be afraid to look silly, make up voices, or ask questions. Kids respond so well to all three of these things! I love to make scared or sad faces if the story warrants it. I love to play up funny voices, especially when there are two main characters in a story. And I think all kids love when we engage them by asking questions, "Do you think the troll will eat the goat?" "Can you fall asleep upside-down?". Just make sure you never forget the golden rule before asking questions, "By a show of hands..." Gina Perry, author of SMALL;


Karlin Gray is not a lepidopterist—someone who studies moths and butterflies. But when her son announced that the moth was his favorite insect, she decided to take a closer look and was inspired to write AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH. She is also the author of NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL and SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER (coming in 2019) and she runs the #firstpicturebook Q&A blog at

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