Picture Book Month – Author Spotlight #2: Katie Davis

Today, as Picture Book Month Continues, I’m happy to introduce an author who’s helped me as much as I now hope to help her now, and made the word “Business” less of a dirty word for me. (It used to ber a MAJOR “Hulk Trigger” to hear that word), but while I’m not cured, I’m at least in rehab. author-illustrator (And all-around “Writerpreneur”

[Writer + Entrepreneur] Katie Davis.



(Meet Katie, Author, Illustrator, Video Marketing Maven and unofficial “Soothsayer of Reciprocity”)


Katie is the author/illustrator of 8 (Soon to be 9!) Picture Books, from her debut classic “Who Hops?” (1998) to fan favorites, “I Hate to Go to Bed”*, “Kindergarten Rocks” and “Little Chicken’s Big Day” which also marked Katie’s first collaboration with her husband, movie producer/author, Jerry Davis, who has his a hand in many well known animated films, most notably the first “Toy Story”, “Ice Age”, and (Katie’s Fave) “The Iron Giant.”

Jerry’s most recent film “Epic” debuted in theaters back in Spring 2013, and is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, or digital download.

Fans of Little Chicken (L.C. as I like to call him) will be glad to know a holiday follow-up is soon to launch, making this Katie’s 9th picture book, and 2nd collaboration with her husband, Jerry-




(*Though “I Hate To Go To Bed” is sadly out of print, it will be re-issued in ebook format with remastered art by Katie, eventually…If you can’t wait, you might be able to hunt out a used copy or find a library near you that still has a copy in the stacks)

Katie has also written a middle grade novel, “The Curse of Addy McMahon” that also sadly is out of print, but again, some books are worth hunting for used, and again, utilize your local library if you can…

On the upside, Katie will soon grace the YA literary landscape for first time with her upcoming (Long Overdue) novel, “Dancing with The Devil” (Title subject to change) scheduled to be released by Diversion Books sometime in 2014.

In addition to her picture books and novels, Katie has also released various nonfiction, such as the ebook guide, “How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, tricks and secrets to create a bestseller” (Which will eventually release in a second edition packed with new content and revised changes to previous info), and in May 2013 (Your Literary Rat’s Birthday Month!) launched “Video Idiot Boot Camp”, an on-demand, 8 lesson course designed to teach authors and other professionals how create engaging videos without needing tons of money, fancy equipment, and the camera skills of Hollywood Cinematographers.

As part of the First Generation of VIBC graduates, who had ZERO experience creating video this time last year, I can personally tell you, with Katie (And her alter-ego sidekick, the Fairy “Vid-Mother”) as your guides, you will succeed in the emerging shift to video-centric content.

YouTube gets a billions of views a day!

Why shouldn’t authors like Katie and myself get a fraction of those views for the content we work hard to provide?

Those of my long-time readers who are also authors, you too can and should grab a slice of the video viewer’s pie, there’s MORE than enough to go around, unlike the pies we can eat…

But don’t just take my word for it, this is a recent video I made to help Katie promote her upcoming release of “Little Chicken’s Big Christmas”-

[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c_OXGnDo-s” cover=”https://i1.ytimg.com/vi/0c_OXGnDo-s/2.jpg?time=1384398380350″ userdata=”Taury” /]

(I know the cover in the video is white, but I think the final cover will be Green, but I chose the white cover Katie posted on her blog when she hadn’t decided yet and the white contrasted better for the video)

I recently joined Katie’s “Launch Team” to aid in getting the word on on this book. For those of you who listen regularly to Katie’s “Brain Burps About Books” podcast (The No. 1 podcast geared specifically to the craft and business of children’s publishing) know Katie’s (Self-proclaimed cynic as she is) BIG on reciprocity, which is key to not only her success, but that of other writers such as myself who she’s helped reach the next level in the writerly skillsets thanks to her ability to break things down into steps that foster the hope to do better, know better, BE BETTER.

In that spirit of gratitude and reciprocity I learned from Katie (And Julie Hedlund who I spotlighted for my T.A.A. CARES initiative) I joined the team to aid Katie in the Thanksgiving launch of “Little Chicken’s Big Christmas”  and here’s why-

While “Little Chicken’s Big Day” was traditionally published by Simon And Schuster imprint “Margaret K. McElderry Books”, L.C.’s Big Christmas is going the indie route, and this being a holiday release, hence the reason for the concentrated launch, and it was a cool way to get some marketing experience and insights to help make the launch of my debut middle grade novel GABRIEL (pub. date still unknown to me, but I’ll have a BIG UPDATE to share in the near future) that much stronger, and for those of you who gave me so much support and imparting whatever advice you gave me, I’ll do all in my power to be worth the wait.

Plus, this book fits my “Animal Story” theme, and now that I’m addicted to doing video, this just gives me more ways to practice what I’ve learned from VIBC.

The teaser video I did for “Little Chicken’s Big Christmas” was just the FIRST step, I will also be reviewing the book (After getting a review PDF copy from Katie over the weekend, should all go well on her end) and do a review on Amazon at a later date at or just before launch, and later re-post on T.A.A., alongside reviews of other holiday books (Already in my private library) I’ve been LONGING to re-read and review for T.A.A.

You can check out the teaser videos I made for my upcoming middle grade novel, Gabriel from yesterday’s blog post: http://talkinganimaladdicts.com/video-remixing-2

Julie Hedlund (Who I highlight yesterday to support her “Epic Adventure” on Kickstarter) has also taken VIBC (She was the “Original Vidiot” back when VIBC was still in beta) and she herself admits to owe Katie an insurmountable debt and gratitude (As do I) to gain knowledge to something that is now key for writers and other content creators to learn, because while book trends come and go, the demand and need for video is a FINITE game-changer, and no writer wants to be “Left Behind”-

[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF-PVpFH3Lg” /]

But UNLIKE another “No [Rhymes with [“Mild”] Left Behind” program/mandate that has been bane the bane of many parent, teacher and non-traditional student’s existence, as writers, we can take video wherever we want, and like the best parents, teachers and mentors for kids and teens, video can “Meet us where we are.” Here’s a quick example-

When a teacher or parent has a child (or teen) who is struggling to read at grade level, or just doesn’t like to read, or they struggle with math, or have social problems. The best teachers find ways to meet students where they are right now, even if that’s WAY far off where the student needs or even WANTS to be (Even struggling students can be Type A overachievers, you know, if a bit disguised)

Creating video (Like writing) is the same way. While I’d LOVE to do the kind of tight, engaging videos like many of my fellow VIBC colleagues, I need to remember that like me, they learned this over time and much trial and error (Just like me), and  throughout the course and in the VIBC Facebook Group (Which ONLY students can join and access) Katie always instills this constant: “It doesn’t have to be ‘Perfect’ but needs to be as professional and tight as you can make it technically, so any imperfections are minor and don’t detract from the overall experience.”

I struggle a bit here as while I’m not a perfectionist regarding video (The I am with say, QUERY LETTERS, which can be onerous and drive me screaming into H***!) I do want it to be professional enough so it represents that I as author take my work (While creative and fantastical) seriously, and not to jerk off the viewers I want to have, some of who will someday buy my books as they’re released.

That said, in my re-do of my welcome video for T.A.A., I had to use a photo of myself, not because I’m paranoid of being on-camera pseudo-real time, but because recording myself via phone or laptop webcam is too low for my standards, plus the fact I talk like a stereotypical chipmunk auctioneer, and people can have a hard time understanding what I’m saying, something those who of you that watched my original welcome video know all too well (Sorry about that, but I will be better next time.)

Now that I’m committed to video, I’m going to eventually invest in some better equipment, because I do want to be on camera for some of my videos and want to be clearly seen, no matter if you’re viewing it on a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

 (Katie’s a pure Apple devotee, but while I love my iPhone and the iPod Touch [3rd Generation] I used to own before it, and iTunes and QuickTime, PCs have their advantages, too. That said, if I can EVER afford or win a Macbook, I’d get one for Screenflow, I think I’ll navigate it FAR easier than Camtasia [The only known equivalent to Screenflow for PC users], which is only on Macs, why Apple?! You let us PC folks use iTunes and QuickTime but not Screenflow?!)

Katie, if you ever read this, know you aren’t alone in the “Babbling” habit.

This is part of why my videos never hit that 30 second to 1 minute “Sweet Spot” because I’m such a chatty, detail freak, and I’m really more afraid of potential viewers going “Huh?” than “This is a tad too long” as much as I don’t want to go on for longer than necessary, but I’m getting there.

That said, I thank cheddar I find this fun, since the videos I’ve done so far have taken hours to time everything just right, finding legal to use content and music is the easy part (Thanks to the resources and links provided and recommended in VIBC) and what I’ve found on own, it’s bringing the content together that’s the time-consuming part. Some of it’s learning curve, but also just what they take on average.

But it’s worth it when you finally get what you envisioned/scripted to work. Something you know as well as I now, right?

Anyway, that’s all for today.

Check tomorrow for a special spotlight on great authors and/or illustrators who’re sadly no longer with us. Until than, may the fantastical fauna be with you.



T.A.A. CARES – Author Spotlight #2 – Julie Hedlund’s Epic Hybrid Author Adventure

As I mentioned last week, T.A.A. CARES is kicking into overdrive for the winter holidays, and in honor of Picture Book Month, our next author spotlight is children’s author Julie Hedlund-

Photo-2-crop (Julie Hedlund Mini)

(Meet Julie, the ORIGINAL “Guru of Gratitude”)


I first discovered Julie when she first guest starred on an episode of “Brain Burps About Books” (Episode  #78, to be exact, which you can listen to here: http://katiedavis.com/78), the #1 podcast about the business and craft of Children’s Publishing, founded and hosted by author-illustrator Katie Davis, who discovered Julie by following her progress back in her “Pre-Published” days as a blogger who back in January 2012 fueled the spark of the picture book writing challenge known as 12×12 (Now in its second year) that has already become a living phenomenon for picture book authors and illustrators the world over.


For those still unaware, 12×12 is a writing challenge specifically for picture book writers and author-illustrators. It’s a YEAR long program designed to provide support, tips and tricks, and inspiration to the writers who participate. Anyone who’s tried to write a picture book will tell you that it’s NO CAKEWALK (What is a “Cakewalk” anyway?) To put it bluntly, and forgive the cliché, it’s harder than it looks. Really.

In some ways, 12×12 is like the picture books writer’s equivalent to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month that begin in November 1999 and been held yearly every November since), in terms of an active community support from fellow writers, the event’s founders, and over the years various bestselling authors providing pep talks, and sometimes taking on the challenge themselves.

Some authors even BEGAN their emerging careers via NaNoWriMo, though not necessarily debuting or otherwise publishing the books they originally drafted during NaNoWriMo.

But there’s  one KEY difference to keep in mind. Unlike NaNoWriMo, or similar MONTHLY events like PiBoIdMo (National Picture Book Idea Month)  where you just have to jot down 30 IDEAS for picture books, not full drafts, or NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month, Originally Founded in April 2003, and has since occurs yearly in March), 12×12 is a YEAR LONG program where the goal is to draft as CLOSE to 12 picture books that you can get, and at those who register in early January are eligible fabulous prizes, and introduced in 2013 was the chance to get critiques from agents, editors, and published authors that can help take your manuscripts to the next level. But you NEED to register in early January to be eligible, and on that note, and there’s something else that’s to key to remember.

Starting in 2013, 12×12 (Which was free its inaugural year) has evolved to a tiered-payment model, partly because year-long events take a LOT of planning, administration, moderating, rounding up authors, agents and editors to lend their expertise and support that takes them away from their own work, and yes, a fair amount of money, for the running of the site and its community, and being able to offer such rad prizes for the writers who take part.

Also because while this event can help writers, writers are also in business, and like in any other career, we balance our charity GENEROSITY (Things we gladly give away to our blog readers, newsletter subscribers  close writer friends, etc.) and things we charge for to maintain our livelihood.

Keep in mind that many writers are also parents, have spouses, and often have to work two or MORE jobs for the bulk of their income. Not all authors are able to earn a living solely through their writing.

I’m not a parent or married, but I STILL HAVE issues with finances, or lack thereof, and like Julie, I too am trying to find ways that will earn me income without putting my writing dreams on indefinite hold.

Something a few of my writer friends (Who are parents and in some cases caring for their own now elderly parents) are being forced to do. Authors provide services that  allow them to stay in the business of publishing, even if the path to selling your first book (Or your second, third, or 20th) is LONG.

PiBoIdMo (National Picture Book Idea Month) is also run in a similar manner regarding eligibility for the prizes author and the end. Though PiBoIdMo, and most other writer challenges are free to participate, some like NaNoWriMo appreciate donations to both keep the site (and it’s conjoined community) running as smooth as possible, and to give back to worthy causes.


It’s on that note I get to what I ask my T.A.A. readers to do to help support Julie. In addition to founding and hosting her 12×12 picture book wiring challenge; she’s a regular contributor to the “Brain Burps About Books” podcast, got repped by a literary agent, published her first picture book APP called “A Troop is a Group of Monkeys” illustrated by Pamela Baron, is now also available in print, both from Little Bahalia Publishing, and contributes to CBI’s “Fighting Bookworms” clubhouse community (For paid subscribers of the monthly Children’s Book Insider newsletter) as their “Guide to the Future of Publishing.”



She’s also a SCBWI member (As am I, though my membership expired this month and I have to wait until December to renew…[Sigh])


Her (Potentially) next picture book is a bedtime verse tale called “My Love for You is the Sun” will also be published by Little Bahalia Publishing, but here’s the twist, being a small press, Little Bahalia can really worth directly with authors in a personal,  more intimate way that larger publishers often can’t, partly due to their larger overhead costs, unless you’re one of their bestsellers (And even then there are countless variables involved on a per author basis), but what larger publishers can lack in being more personable with their authors, can (At least PARTLY) make up for in wider distribution, better line up reviews on sites like The Horn Book, Kirkus, and School Library journal, connecting with library systems nationwide, and some significant marketing efforts in addition to whatever authors do on their own.


Plus, larger publishers (I don’t mean JUST “The Big 5” Folks!) are also high-end indie publishers like Candlewick Press, Chicken House, Nosy Crow, and FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX (aka The ORIGINAL “F.S.G.”) having more pull in brick and mortar retailers, which for print books (ESPECIALLY in the children’s book market) is a BIG DEAL.


Ebooks have their place, and are a strong preference for some teens and adults, especially if space for print books is limited, etc. But children by and large (And adults, myself included) still prefer print books, and in picture books especially, are still the preference of teachers and parents, especially the “rare few” who are able to make time to read to their kids, day or night!


In order for Little Behalia to publish, “My Love for You is the Sun” they need additional funding for the illustrations, and final production costs they can’t cover alone, and Julie (With assistance from her agent) worked out a deal with Little Bahelia Publishing to start a Kickstarter campaign to earn the needed funds, which would allow Little Behalia to add this book to their future release list.


Here’s what I ask of you, my loyal readers (Especially if any of you are authors or have blogs tied to children’s books, parenting, or literacy) to spare some time (And Money if possible) to Julie’s crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter-

 (FYI, that GORGEOUS ILLUSTRATION is only ONE of the 20+ pages of art to accompany the final printed book)


As with my previous spotlight for “FETCH” this is a project I believe in, and I know from following Julie since 2012, she is a writer you can trust. I would NEVER spotlight projects on T.A.A. CARES if they didn’t come from real people who put their trademark grit and heart into it.

Even though publishing is a business (Which is hard for me to type because I feel it can have negative connotations due to the jerky scammers that sadly do exist from time to time. It’s NOT always “Lack of will to work hard” but “Lack of MONEY!” which isn’t the same as saying “I don’t want to pay for good help” but I just can’t fund it all alone. Period.), writers still need to put PASSION into what they do.

Potential readers, especially kids and teens, know when you’re not genuine. While authors need to have tightly written stories to warrant the costs of publication (ESPECIALLY authors who self-publish with no help from a publisher) they still NEED the love and passion ONLY THE AUTHOR can provide. But even the most business-savvy authors can’t do it ALL ALONE!

Kickstarter (Among a few other sites) is another way for authors who can’t head up the costs to publishing themselves, and because Kickstarter’s platform is “All or Nothing” if the total needed funds aren’t meant, the project “fails” and all donations are returned to their respective donors. (Called “Backers” on Kickstarter)

To crack down on jerky scammers, and to aid in avoiding various integrity issues, Kickstarter also has to screen and approve proposed projects, so you need to be sure your proposal covers EVERYTHING, and like with traditional publishers and literary agents, projects can be rejected, but once the project’s approved, you’re in the system, and from there it’s up to you to ensure you do all you can to promote the project (In a sane NON-spammy way!), and let fate do the rest…


As an soon-to-be published author myself (Also via the small press route) it allows me to give back to authors on the same path as me. To deliver the most genuine and passion-soaked stories I can to share with the world, and (While I do want to make some money) I long for the day to receive a letter (Paper or iPad) from a kid or teen who fell in love with a book I’d written, just as the authors I love and admire touched my heart and inspired me to be part of this wonderful tradition of storytellers.

In closing, my loyal readers, I ask you to spread the word, and if you can, spare whatever money you can to ensure that like FETCH, “My Love for You is the Sun” finds its way not just to publication, but to the readers (Young and old) who need it most. You know I will.

Until next time, may the fantastic fauna be with you.



Video Remixing



As the T.A.A. faithful already know, I took Video Idiot Boot Camp, an online-based course in making video (Created and taught by Author-Illustrator, Katie Davis, who’s also the creator and host of the “Brain Burps About Books” podcast) back in May 2013, you can click the link below to learn more about my experience-




(You might be convinced to take the course yourself, and I highly recommend you do so)

While I’m proud of how the initial cuts of the videos came out, they still were a bit long, and while I didn’t get them down to the sweet spot of 1 minute or less, they are all now under 2 minutes. The extended versions of the videos can still be found on YouTube and Facebook, but On Pinterest and mobile-centric avenues, these mini versions will be used-

[mvob group=1]

Well, that’s it from me today. I’m working on reviews and author profiles to celebrate “Picture Book Month” on T.A.A.


On that note, I’ve already got 20 picture book ideas listed for PiBoIdMo 2013 (National Picture Book Idea Month) and while I’m not making much headway on my NaNoWriMo 2013 book, I will get it drafted.

(If you haven’t yet subscribed to T.A.A. on YouTube, I hope you’ll consider doing so, we’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+)

Until next time, may the fantastical fauna be with you.




I’m Back From Camp!

[sz-youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebYgE97-kwg” /]

Hi All, 

Sorry for the downtime, AGAIN.


I was having one of those “Tech Happens” periods.

As such, I needed to move the site to a new sever (Landlord Maintenance for websites 

for you non-techies) among other things…


I also had to take a break from blogging last week because I was at camp-


7736437820_f55cd78a55_o CAMPING 1


No, not Summer Camp.  


4583505380_0871677cde_o CAMPING 2


Definitely NOT a family camp-out!


(It’s hard enough to engage with my more emotionally reserved

relatives with the comforts of home,never mind in untamed



Besides, Pepper (My canine alter-ego) is in no shape to protect

me from a bear in his golden years.

(12 human years = Older than 70 in dog years, I think…)




 -My  Sweet Pepper, Photo by Me-

(Doesn’t look “Geriatric” does he?)

That said, he snores now, but I’ve adjusted easier

than the relatives I live with to that development this




Anyway, the embedded video at top of this blog post is my new welcome video for



If any long time T.A.A. readers ever doubted what my site was about after

three years, now you know for sure. (LOL!)


Seriously though, this video is what I learned to do at “camp.”


But I didn’t have to head to some shoddy cabin hideaway in the mountains,

where the breeze has to be just right to get a strong internet connection or

cell phone signal, and lots of luck to avoid unwanted guests-


316240_364169667028049_1160620348_n - WILD BEAR

Hey, Hey, Hey! Yogi, that’s not…



This camp I could do at home and where I learned to create my welcome

video for T.A.A. I’m talking about “Video Idiot Boot Camp.” An online, on-

demand training course that teaches even the most tech phobic souls how

to create videos.


Whether you’re a writer like myself, or another type of entrepreneur, you

NEED video as much VITAL as having a  professional (But NOT sterile)



That said, for those of you  who find just moving your site from Blogger or

some other more kitschy blog or site platform to WordPress (Whether that’s the curated, less customizable WordPress.com, or self-hosting your WordPress site like I am) is/was a battle all by itself, the idea of making video sounds like yet another task that asks WAY to much of you.

I get that, and while I’m more tech savvy than some of my relatives, I

couldn’t, for example tell you how to “Master HTML 5.”


Or ANY form of HTML period.


I don’t know HTML or CSS as intimately as I do a book I

love reading (and RE-reading…) or preaching my gospel on the variety

and depth animal fantasy offers beyond picture book land.

(Much as I love and respect picture books as a reader, even if the writer in

me can’t yet give the skill and brevity those books demand…)


But let me tell you, folks, with Katie as you guide, all you have to do is show up

and do your best.


You WILL get a decent video at the end of this 8 lesson

course. But don’t just take my word for it, let Katie give you the lowdown,

in her own words below-


[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9gsAE-IkS4″ userdata=”Taury” /]

You’ll also find out how to take the first lesson of V.I.B.C. FREE before you decide to buy! (Take advantage of that sample, it hooked me enough to slap my money down) and I’m glad I did.


While there’s always more to learn in life, you CAN reach a level of competency that works for you, I FINALLY believe that for real, after a decade of trying to get my writing career off the ground, and while I’ve sold my first book, that’s not where I can, and most importantly, WANT to stop. Keeping in mind I‘m also trying to get my new novel drafted, on top of running T.A.A.

 Making sure my blog reasonably up to date, launching my e-mail newsletter (Which I hope you’ll subscribe to for fun and exclusive content you won’t get elsewhere), and learn how to make videos, which put a lot of other things I need/wanted to do this month on hold, often looking overly flaky to my family, but that’s what I had to do. But keeping busy was important, so I could patiently wait to hear back on edits for my upcoming middle grade novel, GABRIEL (Title subject to change), and I did that and still doing it.


Well, that’s all for me today, and I’m taking yet another hiatus, this time it’s onMY terms (As opposed to outside interference, like my site giving me headaches every other week this month!)


As long as “Tech DOESN’T happen again” I will be back Monday.


Until then, please subscribe to “Bites From the Cheese Shop” the official newsletter from T.A.A. (Talking Animal Addicts) Also, by subscribing, you’ll also be the first the learn when my novel is set to release, and have a chance to win a personalized, signed copy, by your lovingly frazzled literary rat, trying to hold me dreams, responsibilities, and sanity together, one day, one blog post at a time, among the other writer-centric things I do.


Your frazzled literary rat (and 1st gen VIBC graduate)

Taurean (Taury) 



P.S. Please comment on my welcome video when you can. I’ll be revising it s

on and I may use your suggestions. Be honest, but kind. That said, for my

first serious attempt at video, it’s okay.


Revisions aside, I EARNED this badge-









P.P.S. (I’ll share my diploma picture later…)