2016
Nov 17

The Village Behind My Book Deal

by Hannah Holt »

21 comments


Balzer+Bray has acquired my debut picture book Diamond|Man! Hooray! I’m so thrilled it’s hard to know where to begin talking about it.

This project is my heart in 700 words. It compares the life of my grandfather, H. Tracy Hall, to the natural process of changing graphite into diamond. It’s two stories with one beautiful ending.

My grandfather’s life was like a diamond furnace—born into poverty, bullied by peers, working at an early age; however, he took his unique skills and became one of the brightest inventors of the 20th century, eventually building a machine that made diamonds.

arthur ashe

I’ve been working on this project for many years. It’s been a long journey, and I haven’t done it alone. Here’s a brief {reverse} person-by-person path leading to my book deal:

  • Kristin Daly Rens at Balzer+Bray extended an offer for my grandfather’s biography, Diamond|Man, in 2016.
  • Kristin extended an offer because Laura Biagi (my agent) sent her my manuscript.
  • I met Laura through Michelle Hauck‘s online Picture Book Party contest.
  • I found Michelle’s contest through Julie Hedlund‘s 12×12 Writers’ Facebook Group.
  • I met Julie Hedlund at an SCBWI conference when I lived in Colorado.
  • I joined SCBWI because Elizabeth Glann encouraged me to.
  • I met Elizabeth Glann (my very first critique partner) by sending her a message on JacketFlap.com.
  • I was on JacketFlap because I was trying to find other writers in my area.
  • I was trying to find other writers because I read in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books that critique partners are helpful. (Note: I knew no other writers at this point.)
  • I read The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Children’s Books because it was one of the resources listed on Harold Underdown‘s website.
  • I found Harold Underdown’s website because I googled the phrase “How do you publish a picture book?”
  • I googled the phrase “How do you publish a picture book?” because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. (2008)

This is just one branch on my publishing journey–a limb on the tree of my writing experience. I couldn’t possibly name all the people I’ve met along the way, but here are few other key experiences for perspective:

  • My cousin Erin Bylund encouraged me to write the earliest drafts and inspired me to keep going.
  • Many critique partners offered feedback on the more than eighty drafts I wrote of this story. You are my heroes!
  • I know I already mentioned my agent, Laura, above but she deserves double mentioning. She worked on a revision with me for three months before we went on submission. I’m pretty sure she’s thought about every word in this story (as has my editor-extraordinaire, Kristin).
  • The Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature provided a generous scholarship that allowed me to attend their One-on-one Plus Conference.
  • Kate Jacobs, my mentor at the One-on-one Plus Conference, gave me excellent career advice that jump started my queries for agents.
  • My many writing friends who have given me advice and inspiration along the way.
  • My kids for their endless faith and energy.
  • Finally, my husband Josh has always being my biggest cheerleader.

When I signed the deal, I took a moment to reflect on all the people who helped me get here. A HUGE thank you to everyone whose been with me on this long but wonderful journey. It was worth the wait!


2015
Jul 16

Paycheck-2-Paycheck: A Budgeting Game for Kids

by Hannah Holt »

2 comments


A few weeks ago, I offered to substitute for my son’s Sunday school class. Of course, I forgot all about it until I pulled into the church parking lot.

Summer brain strikes again!

In the short while before class, I skimmed the lesson on tithes and offerings. The material was thin. I needed something to fill more time, so I sketched up a quick money management game. It evolved into this.

game

{Note this version doesn’t have a charitable contribution option, but that could easily be added.}

Basically, the game follows a two-week pay cycle.

game board

You roll a single die to advance through the days. Every two weeks you collect a $1000 paycheck. That’s simple enough, but here are the variables:

  • The players choose all expenses and have to pay up with each paycheck. At the beginning, no one will be able to afford the best everything, so…
    • Are you willing to live in a smaller house?
    • Give up eating meat?
    • Only have one pair of clothes?
  • Along the way there are also a few random risks and rewards.
    • Need to visit the doctor? That will be $100.
    • Have a car? You’ll need to pay insurance on that.
    • Oh, look it’s your birthday. Grandma gives you $100! Yay.
  • You win by saving $1000 (after all expenses are paid). In the game, this is the amount of each paycheck. So winning means you’ve graduated from living paycheck-to-paycheck.

To play you’ll need:

  1. An instruction card
  2. A game board
  3. A decision sheet
  4. Play money
  5. Risk/Reward cards
  6. An expense tracker
  7. A die to roll
  8. A game token

Feel free to make copies for personal and/or school use. I just ask that you don’t distribute commercially. I recommend printing the risk/reward cards on card stock and gluing the game board to a piece of cardboard for better durability. When you’re all done playing, everything can be trimmed and folded to fit into a gallon bag.

finished game

If you want to make the game even more complex you could add features, like:

  • taxes
  • more bills (cell phone plans?)
  • charitable contributions
  • add risk/reward cards that include salary increases and decreases

So far it’s been a big hit with my kids. I hope yours enjoy it, too!


2013
Sep 11

Dry-erase Chore Chart

by Hannah Holt »

5 comments


As you might have noticed, I’m on a dry-erase kick. But this is my easiest dry-erase project yet.

Did you know packaging tape works as a dry-erase surface? I didn’t until I tried it out the other day.

I simply printed out a chore chart for my kids and placed a piece of packaging tape over the areas they needed to check off:

chore chart

I made one for each of my boys. If they get all their chores checked off for the week, we have a special treat on Monday night.

We’ve been doing this for three weeks, and they are now in the “chore routine.” During the first couple of weeks, they forgot a chore once or twice. I let them do double chores the next day to make up for it. Hey, they wanted the treat and I want chores done. Win-win. So far this is working for us.

How do chores work at your house?


2012
Nov 06

New to the Library: Ducks Everywhere!

by Hannah Holt »

17 comments


The Lightbulb Library has a new addition.

Title: Ducks Everywhere!

Ages: 2-4

Themes: Counting; ducks; sharing; feelings

Opening: One duck in a crib…

Synopsis: Ducks keep appearing in the strangest places today– in my room, at the table. Some ducks even wear my clothes. They make me feel crowded. I wish they would go away.

A Look Inside the Making of Ducks: I used a four-year-old boy {isn’t he handsome?} and a common rubber duck to create all the characters in this story.

I used photo editing to transform one small duck into a set of giant ducks.

To do this, I took pictures of the rubber duck in a variety of lighting settings.

{Okay, I had more than one duck. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.}

I took pictures of the boy and superimposed the ducks into the picture afterwards. Like this…

{I often used balloons as place holders for the ducks. They helped me visualize the picture’s final layout.}

Of course, I had to add shadows and reflected light from objects that weren’t there. This shot was particularly tricky because I added the ducks’ reflection into the hardwood floors.

You can watch out for ducks, too. Head on over to the free picture book library and check them out.


2012
Aug 17

Two Books for Beginning Readers

by Hannah Holt »

10 comments


School is just around the corner. With that in mind, I have two new books for the free reading library.

The simple and playful texts of these books will help new readers gain confidence. Younger children might read with a parent, while older children can read by themselves.

I hope your school year gets off to a great start, and I hope these books give young readers a boost.

Book #1: I Can!

Summary: Come join Sam as he plays, jumps and learns to read.

Teaching Concept: Verbs. This book centers around seven common verbs: sit, stand, run, look, jump, play, and read. Each verb is used twice and is illustrated.

Possible Discussion Topics: What is a verb? What activities can you do by yourself? What do you need help with?

Sight words: Click here for a flashcard sheet with all the words from I Can!  (pdf)

Classroom Copies: Click here for a condensed printable version of the book (pdf).

Art Project: Have children make an I Can! collage with magazine pictures of activities they like to do.

Suggested Games/Activities: Follow the leader, Have children act out each verb as you read the book.

Book #2: What is it?

Summary: Jacob has hidden a toy. Can you guess what it is?

Teaching Concepts: Nouns and making guesses.

Possible Discussion Topics: What is a noun? How can you come up with a good guess? Is each hidden object a person, place, or thing?

Sight words: Click here for printable flashcards with all the words from What is it!  (pdf)

Classroom Copies: Click here for a printable booklet of What is it! (pdf)

Art Project: Children can make their own What is it? book. Draw a classroom object on each page of the book. Then cover the drawing by gluing a tissue paper flap over the top. Consider having children write clues about each object (its color or shape).

Suggested Games/Activities: 1) I Spy. 2) 20 Questions 3) Bring a blanket to class. Have one child close her eyes while another child picks a small object in the classroom to hide. Cover the object in the blanket. Have the first child try to guess the object by feeling it through the blanket.

If a child is comfortable reading both these books, they might also enjoy reading The Sun Came Out (also in the bookshelf).