sample title pageWelcome to my writing world update!

I”ll save the good news for last. I’m working for a freelance project through March that keeps me writing 6-8 hours after homeschooling my children. I feel like I forget to breathe. Let’s just say my brain hasn’t had this much workout for a long time!

I had a ton of fun proofing my upcoming craft/devotion book called My Mini Pet Shop with Legacy Press Kids. The editor emailed me the final copy in book format with illustrations. I had a checklist of items to look for.

The good news…a new book contract! I have until June to write another book for Legacy Press Kids about going green. This was an in-house idea which they asked me to write a proposal for. After revisions, they sent me a contract.

This past weekend I’ve had more time to breathe and catch up on revising and starting a new picture book manuscript. I don’t know about you, but I need to get in picture book gear and mindset by immersing myself in picture books. Being overseas, I don’t have my library to run to, but I found a great web site that features free children’s books to read. Have you heard of We Give Books? For every book you read, they donate money for world literacy. I hope you check them out. I think I’ve mentioned them before. They add new books from time to time. And if you know of others, please let me know.

And last I want to leave you with something to think about. My 7-year-old son is into Lego Ninjago toys and the cartoon, and Back Camerasometimes I just don’t like them. They seem so evil. Why do boys like these kinds of toys? And then I read a quote from Roald Dahl about the antagonist:

All good books have to have a mixture of extremely nasty people—which are always fun—and some nice people. In every book or story there has to be somebody you can loathe. The fouler and more filthy a person is, the more fun it is to watch him getting scrunched. –Roald Dahl, taken from the back matter of Matilda

So as I plan a new story, I’ll keep this matter in mind. Maybe the evil antagonist makes the good guy more heroic and lovable. And maybe my 7-year-old son knows more about stories than I do. Yesterday he bought a new notebook and said he wants to write stories like Mom. 🙂

I’m honored to feature an interview with Mr. Il Sung Na. I first became familiar with his work when I read his debut picture book, The Book of Sleep, and used it for research for a children’s article I was writing about animals’ sleep behavior. Then last month a writer friend’s tweet led me to a book review about another book of his, Hide & Seek, June 2012. I discovered he lives in Seoul also, and so I contacted him for an interview. Il Sung is the author/illustrator of TEN picture books. (Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Tina: How did you get into writing?

Il Sung: I did not intend to be a writer and I am not a writer. When I was in the university, I was not very good at writing. I Hideandseekwas rather keen to learn ‘illustrating’. I personally enjoy books that have a simple text but images tell a story more than a text. So that applies on my works, too. I always try to keep a message to tell, even though my stories are so simple.  

Tina: How long have you been a writer/illustrator? 

Il SungI started my career as an author/illustrator right after my graduation at Kingston University in UK in 2006. I was lucky to have my first book published right away. So I have been an author/illustrator for seven years now.

ilsung02Tina: Where do you get your ideas?

Il SungI get most of my ideas from real life or my experiences. For instance, I got an idea of ZZzzz:A Book of Sleep when I lay down on a bed to sleep one day. I suddenly wondered how do animals sleep? Then I got up and wrote down two words, ‘sleep and animals’, on a piece of paper. Then I researched how animals sleep in many ways. When I woke up the next day, I was getting into the fact there were so many different ways to sleep! I wanted to make this into a story.

Another one of my books, Brrr:A Book of Winter, also started the same way. At that time, I was struggling to get ideas for a new book right after I moved to Seoul from London. It was a freezing cold day. I put on several layers of warm sweaters and jumpers. And the thing popped in my head as I look up at the sky through the window in my studio, ‘how do animals live or survive during this cold winter?’

Brrrr_spread_05I knew a few animals that migrate and hibernate, but I was sure there were a lot more and felt it could be a book! That’s how I started Brrr:A Book of Winter.

 If you observe things around you and throw questions to yourself ‘how or why’, then you can start to find there are so many things that you want to tell a story to other people.

Keep your eyes and ears wide open! And you have to know well what you are doing and telling, because you are the person who knows your story very well but no one else.

Tina: Do you have an agent? If so, how did you acquire your agent?

Il SungI had a couple of agents when I was in London, but they did not get me a job. So I left them when the contract expired after a year. I had been doing all my own since 2008, but recently I have an agent again. [but not for books] They approached me via email, and we had a proper good conversation for a future vision. So they are now acting as an agent for all other commissioning except a book commissioning.

Tina: How did you make your first sale? 

Il Sung: Yes! Always the debut book is important! I was lucky to meet people at the graduation exhibition, and one of them wanted to have another meeting with me after the show. And the meeting went well as they wanted to make a book with me. That was the moment that I will remember for a long time. Luckily, my first book got many people’s attention, and I made another book contract with the publisher.

Tina: What’s your studio like?

Il SungMy studio has very ordinary look as it is a place that I share with a couple of designer and illustrator. But I’m always thinking about having my own studio. 

Tina: Are you involved with any professional writing groups?

Il SungNone! I wish I could join some professionals as a group. This is very isolated job as I need to do everything by myself.

Tina: Can you share a piece with us and how you created it?

Il Sung: I write down several words first, and think and think again if it could be a good idea and not too cliché. After carefultext development considerations I transform those words to a few sentences. It could be a beginning, ending or a rough storyline. Best thing is I make notes as many as I could on my sketchbook and come back later to see if I am still interested in those ideas.

For me, there are a lot of writing and researching before I make it as an image. Sometimes I make a doodling at the same time, but it only comes when I have rough ideas about an image. It could be a character, one of the images in a story, just one little drawing about a story or even it has nothing to do with a story but doodlings.

thurmnailsTina: What are you working on now, if you can share?

Il SungI am working on a new title with a Korean publisher. It is about a little boy who doesn’t want to go to bed. He has many reasons why he doesn’t want to sleep! And I will work with a US publisher this year! The story is not done yet; it is still progressing.

His list of books:

1. ZZzzz:A Book of Sleep (2007)

2. The Thingamabob (2008)

3. Teacup in a Storm (2009)

4. Brrr:A Book of Winer (2010)

5. Hide and Seek (2011)

6. Shhh:A Book of Babies (2013)

They were published in UK with Meadowside Children’s Book Publisher and ‘A Book of Babies’ is about to published in this month in UK. They are the titles in UK and some of the US editions have different titles. And I have some more books which were published in Korea.

I only have Korean titles, so I will try to translate it to English.

7. 황금강의 왕 (The King of the Golden River, 2009)

8. 누구일까? (Who is it?, 2011)

9. 하늘을 나는 물고기 (The flying fish, 2012)

10. 거인의 정원 (The Selfish Giant, 2012)

Thank you so much, Il Sung, for sharing your path to publication.

His web site:  HS_cover process

GodisgoodThanks to all of you who stopped by my blog last week to read about my new coloring book, “God Is So Good.” I’m really grateful that my post even inspired some to try this route in getting published!

My son helped by choosing a name out of the bag. And the winner is…. (imagine a drum roll)


Congratulations, Sarah! And I’ll be getting in touch with you.

image001Last week my writer friend Barbara Bockman awarded my blog the Sunshine Award. Thanks so much, Barbara!

“I am now extending this honor of the Sunshine Award to 3 more Bloggers.” 

This prize is given to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”  As an award winner, here are some suggestions to follow for this Award.

1.  Thank the person who gave this award in the beginning part of a post about it.
2.  Answer the questions below about your favorite things.
3.  Pass the award on to fabulous bloggers who bring sunshine into your life, link their blogs, and let them know you have awarded them in your post

These are some of my favorite things:
Favorite Color –pink
Favorite Animal –hamster
Favorite Number –9
Favorite Drink – Dr. Pepper
Facebook or Twitter – Facebook
Your Passions –Writing/Reading/Learning about God
Giving or getting presents – Both
Favorite Day –Saturday (My son calls it a Nothing Day)
Favorite Flowers –pink roses

The  blogs I have awarded are listed below. A huge hug and thank you to each of  these bloggers for inspiring me with their knowledge, humor, and creativity:

Story Patch Blog by Carrie Finison, my writing friend

Kathy Ellen Writes by Kathy Ellen Davis, another writing peep

Design of the Picture Book by Carter Higgins, who teaches fabulous design principles

I was blog tagged by Tracy Campbell to participate in “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.” These answers pertain to my book, which was just released by Warner Press in January 2013. After the questions, I tag other authors, where you can read about their “Next Big Thing!” Please join us!

GodisgoodHere are the questions.

What is the working title of your book?  God Is So Good Coloring Book,
written by Tina Cho, illustrated by Debbie Meyer

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I read an ad that Warner Press accepted manuscripts for coloring books. I researched the publisher’s other coloring books and thought of an idea that fit with their line of existing coloring books. My son was 3 years old at the time, and I wanted a way to show him and other young children how God could be good.

 What genre does your book fall under?  children’s activity books

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Well, this isn’t your typical book. But if it were a cartoon, my children and their friends could represent the kids in the illustrations.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In this coloring book, children learn how God is good in every day situations.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book was published by Warner Press as work-for-hire.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote it in one day in December 2008, submitted it November 2009, and it wasn’t accepted until April 2012, and published January 2013!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?   other coloring books

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
As I said above, I wanted a way to explain God’s goodness to little kids, especially my own.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s cheap, and a fun way for kids to learn about God. It’s based on the popular song, “God Is so Good.” One line in the book says “God helped me be brave when Mommy pulled my tooth.” At that time, my daughter had many loose teeth, and it was a very emotional time for her.

Please continue reading “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop” at my writing mentor’s site:

Nancy I. Sander’s Blogspot

and at one of my critique partner’s sites Stories a la Mode

Barbara Bockman’s Stories a la Mode

You have the chance to win this coloring book. If you want to enter, please leave a message stating how God is good to you.
I’ll put names in a hat and have one of my kids pick. The coloring book is available through Warner Press and Christian Book Distributors. Thanks for stopping by!

I’m ecstatic about this new year 2013 and all it beholds! Why? I have some books coming out this year, which I’ve already alluded to in previous posts. More about that in upcoming posts.

12-x-12-new-badgeI’m also involved in the 12×12 again, headed by Julie Hedlund. If’ you’re interested, you can register here. We are picture book writers who will attempt to write one new story each month. I participated last year and now have 12 manuscripts to revise.

One of my goals or words for 2013 is PROACTIVE. I learned this from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Being proactive is a character quality of effective people and leaders. If you want to be published, you have to be proactive.  I wrote about this on Debbie Ohi’s blog in November here. So this year, I want to submit my stories more and think of new queries and/or proposals. I’m also learning about new venues in which to write. Currently, I’m writing for middle school distance learning, go figure!

I’m also reading two books on the craft of writing: Second Sight by Cheryl Klein and Yes You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books by Nancy I. Sanders.

All my writing wouldn’t be possible without inspiration. God has led me on this journey. I have a devotional blog here.

May this be a successful writing year for each one of you. I leave you with a quote from another author…

“The writing you don’t do today is lost forever. Tomorrow’s may be better–but it may depend on the less exciting groundwork you can lay today.” by Kristi Holl

Go forth and write!

Happy 12×12 in 2012 on 12/12/12!

Back CameraPicture book writers in the 12×12 group started by Julie Hedlund are celebrating today. Why? We’ve finished our challenge, writing 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months! (I finished my last one today.) What an accomplishment! I’m so thankful to Julie and the writing community of our group. There’s no way I would have this many stories if it weren’t for the 12×12.


I’ve met dozens of writers

read dozens of blogs

Wrote a dozen stories

Drank a dozen egg nogs. (Ok, that’s not true. Maybe a dozen Dr. Peppers, but I needed something to rhyme!)

I hope you join us in 2013, next month to be exact, to continue our crazy fun writing challenge as we look forward to writing another dozen picture book manuscripts. Click here for more info about it.

Dear Blog,

piboidmo12winnerlargeI’m sorry I have neglected you. But writing called. Hooray! PiBoIdMo is finished (Picture Book Idea Month hosted by Tara Lazar), and I wrote down 31 ideas. Hats off to Tara for all her time and energy to this challenge! Not all of my ideas are wonderful, but maybe I can flesh out some of the ideas into picture book manuscripts. I also finished another 2 guided reading books in one week plus a requested book proposal.

Now to some noteworthy news!!

My writing mentor and friend, Nancy I. Sanders, has a new book out: Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books. It’s sort of like a sequel to her Yes, You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. 

nancy's bookMy copy will be coming in the mail this month, and I’m looking forward to learning new things about the writing craft. I had the privilege of being in a face-to-face writing group with Nancy and an online picture book group.

It snowed a tiny bit today, and tomorrow is only supposed to be 29! My kids and I are having fun putting up Christmas decor and hanging advent ornaments.

I hope all my friends have a happy December, full of making memories and wonderful writing!

This week sure is busy! Virtually, you’ll find me at Laura Sassi’s writing blog “Laura Sassi Tales.” I share how I land a book contract before I write the book.

Physically, you’ll find me packing and unpacking as our family moves to a different apartment in our city in Korea. We’re moving from the 18th floor to the 21st floor of another apartment complex. And Koreans have invented handy moving machines for these high-rise apartments!

Emotionally, you’ll find me racking my brain for a new picture book idea. This month I’m participating in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, which is Picture Book Idea Month. I wrote about it in the previous post. Ideas don’t come easily to me. So far I have one for each day of this month. I just pay more attention to my children’s conversations.

So head on over and check Laura’s blog. She has lots of other wonderful writing advice!

I did it! I finished the 31 in 31 picture book challenge by Kathy Ellen. Our challenge was to read one picture book each day for October and document it on her blog. This was a wonderful challenge that pushed me to read a picture book every day, no matter what! One helpful web site is “We Give Books” which has online picture books for free. Since I’m out of country, this web site was extremely helpful. On the left is my bookshelf that lists each book. For convenience, here are the titles:

Crafty Chloe
Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble
Big Red Lollipop
Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad
Extra Yarn
Boy + Bot
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake
Little Dog Lost
If You Give a Dog a Donut
Alexander and the Terrible No Good Very Bad Day
The Gruffalo
Up and Down
Inside a House That Is Haunted
Llama Llama Misses Mama
Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed
My Name Is Not Alexander
The Night Before First Grade
The Three Snow Bears
Red Truck
Children Make Terrible Pets
T if for Turkey
Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship
Roly Poly Pangolin
The Mine-o-saur
Chico the Brave
The Bumpy Little Pumpkin
Dr. De Soto
The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
Doug-Dennis and the Fly Away Fib
Miss Rumphius
Bunny Party

Whew! Now I’m off to my next challenge…Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo is in full swing, writing down one picture book idea each day in November. If you want details about joining us, click the widget on the left bar for PiBoIdMo. Another goodie for this month, which I already blogged about, is that November is Picture Book Month. Every day, read an inspiring post, from picture book creators here. As families get together, I hope you spend time reading quality books with your children!   

One of the easiest ways to get published is to write about what you know. Seems like a no brainer, right? Since I was an elementary teacher before my writing career began, I naturally turned to educational writing for a quick way to be published as well as to start earning writing credits. One of the fruits of my labor arrived last Friday. I contributed 3 lesson plans to Gryphon House’s Another Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Young Children. This is an early childhood publisher that occasionally requests specific submissions for upcoming projects. It’s a wonderful feeling to see your name in published print!

If you’re like me and still waiting on a picture book to be accepted and published, start other writing projects on the side that allow you to be published quickly and build your writing resume. Think about your hobbies or career. I’ve discovered there are magazines on just about every topic. If you’re craft savvy or like traveling, there’s a host of writing venues available.

Below are some publishers to check:

Writer’s Weekly You can subscribe to this newsletter, and they list hobby markets.

Family Fun Magazine Guidelines– Articles for crafts, recipes, decorating, celebrations, travel

Ev Christensen’s Educational Writing Market Guide– My friend has a wonderful list of educational publishers. This is how I found Gryphon House.

Writing for Children’s Magazines– My friend Ev also has a wonderful list of children’s magazines if you want to check these publishers. She also has a bi-monthly ezine on writing for children’s magazines.

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