Behind the scenes of Leonard’s Beard with Nancy Cote

We’re so excited to welcome author and illustrator Nancy Cote to talk about her new book, Leonard’s Beard, and the real-life inspiration for the character of Leonard.


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As a creator of children’s books, I find inspiration everywhere, especially through the people and places that I am most familiar with.

My newest book, Leonard’s Beard, is a perfect example of how a writer taps into their familiar surroundings, and with an open mind, lots of imagination and a heightened sense of exaggeration, a story with universal appeal emerges.

The idea for my newest book, Leonard’s Beard, began on a windy day in the fall. Leaves were falling from the trees in my yard, and I jokingly remarked that there was no need to rake them, since they would all end up in my neighbor’s yard at the bottom of the hill. Suddenly, I envisioned my neighbor Leonard, who wore a large unruly beard, standing in his yard with leaves and debris trapped in his beard. My imagination took hold as I visualized not only leaves, but objects of all kinds, landing in that big red beard.

The story written in rhyme, blew into my thoughts as organically as the wind blew into my studio on that fall afternoon, and I was hooked.

My neighbor Leonard was a professional writer. He worked in a little studio behind his house, which was located at the bottom of a steep hill along the Taunton River in Somerset, MA. He was a free thinker and gentle soul who lived by his own standards.

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Because he looked a bit eccentric, he was somewhat misunderstood, and other than his family, Leonard never appeared to have many friends. We both enjoyed talking and sharing our appreciation for nature and animals and he was fascinated by my work in children’s books.

I had the opportunity to tell Leonard about the story I had in mind featuring him, and he was humbly honored. He invited me to visit his studio, which overhung the river, and gave me permission to take photos. It was during that visit that the story came together for me, but before I had finished the manuscript, Leonard unfortunately passed away during open heart surgery. From that moment on, I was determined that this story would be the best I could write and be published as a tribute not only to Leonard, but to freelancers and those of us, who sometimes find ourselves isolated due to life’s distractions.

In the story, Leonard is a happy and successful writer who is passionate about everything in life. He begins to isolate himself so that he can write more, but instead, he discovers that he no longer has anything to write about.

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As he becomes distressed over his situation, he doesn’t notice a storm that is brewing. When the wind blows down his door, it carries with it an array of outrageous objects from a can of peas to a wonderful cello which all land in Leonard’s beard.

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As he untangles the mess, the preposterous objects he removes all serve to help him to rediscover what’s really important.

Although the story was inspired by my neighbor, it is a story about the dangers that accomplishment and complacency can have on the creative process.
Simply put, we all need to find something to be passionate about, and never allow ourselves to lose perspective.

Writing and illustrating children’s books is a perfect outlet to deliver profound concepts in a simple way through joyful language and pictures.now-he-makes-time

It doesn’t have to take a wind storm to remind you to be yourself, but sometimes it helps!

 


Leonard’s Beard by Nancy Cote

Leonard is a writer with many stories to tell. In his house on a hill, with his dogs and his frog, he writes stories of adventures and excitement. He is so consumed with his stories, though, that he loses touch with all of his friends and feels very lonely.

Each day Leonard’s beard grows longer and longer, and more wild and untamed, as he fills up pages and pages of stories. His life becomes dull and much less exciting as he focuses too much on his writing. Leonard is so busy that he doesn’t notice a storm is brewing until the wind shakes the windows, the roof, and the floor and a strong gust knocks off his door. Once the storm passes, Leonard discovers just how out of control his beard has gotten. He finds strange things that have gotten stuck in there, including a mouse, a bird, and some apples. As Leonard removes the items from his beard, he comes to realize that being consumed with writing adventures has prevented him from having his own.

Leonard’s Beard is a story about discovering what is important in life. The rhyming text is perfect for reading aloud, and the illustrations of all of the silly things that wind up in Leonard’s beard will have little ones giggling on each reread!


About Nancy Cotenancy-cote-headshot

Nancy Cote is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who finds joy in the smallest things. She is the author and illustrator for numerous picture books, including Watch the Cookie!, Watch the Birdie!, and Puddle Jumpers (all published with Sky Pony Press). Nancy lives along a river in the historic village of Somerset, Massachusetts.

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A Day in the Life of an Editor

It’s a wide-spread belief that editors sit at their desks all day reading and editing, complete with the iconic red pen.

 

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I’m not going to lie. When I first contemplated a job as a children’s book editor, I did the same thing. I can read children’s books for a living! That would be great!

 

But the truth is, while editors do read and edit a lot, most of that happens on our own time on evenings and weekends:

 

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It’s a rare day when I actually get to edit in the office.

So, what does an editor do all day, then? Well, here’s a day in my life. Let’s see. I don’t even know what will happen!

9:00 AM – Get to work. I grab a cup of coffee and quickly skim my emails to see if there’s anything I need to deal with right away. There isn’t. I write a fast update email to an author and agent, and mark a couple of emails to come back to later in the day or later this week.

That done, I settle in for my daily ritual of checking sales orders and look for tasty book-related news and great pieces about my authors’ books to share on social media. Do all editors engage in one or both of these activities? I have no idea. But this is my pattern to ease into the day.

9:30 AM – Author calls to check in on something. We have a lovely, quick chat.

9:35 AM – Bethany stops by my desk to check in.

9:45 AM – Time for another cup of coffee. Off to the kitchen I go!

coffee black and white vintage advertisement coffee lovers

9:50 AM – Start writing the draft for a deal announcement for a book I’ve recently acquired. Sometimes the editor takes the lead on this, sometimes the agent. And sometimes the announcement copy comes very quickly, and other times, not so much . . .

This one was a little tricky. It takes a while.

10:15 AM – Email agent draft copy of deal announcement for her thoughts and comments. Cross that off the list. Phew!

10:22 AM – Start typing up this blog post and realize it takes a long time to sound elegant AND research appropriate photos and GIFs. (I do it for you, dear reader.)

10:55 AM – Respond to agent asking about when client will receive editorial letter.

10:56 AM – Back to the post.

11:05 AM – Rachel stops by to catch up on some points since she’s just back from what sounds like a gloriously relaxing vacation. We talk ARC set up, some administrative concerns, and reviews among other things. We also discuss the impending Lesbian Hillbilly Militia attack, which I promised her I would include in this post. Link here: http://www.dailydot.com/irl/lesbian-and-transgender-hillbillies-are-taking-over-your-town/?llid=xKlJ&ls=dd&type=cpc&campaign=xKlJ

11:25 AM – Last catch up on the post. I’m almost up to current! I need to figure out the next task to tackle!

11:29 AM – Realize I missed social media-ing a teaser from one of my forthcoming books that went live this past Tuesday! (Check it out here.) So I tweet the link.

11:32 AM – Update an offer form with agreed terms. I like to have one sheet with everything clearly laid out. It makes it easier when it comes time to draft the contract.

11: 40 AM – Derailed by important email. Do a little research and respond.

11: 56 AM – Send updated offer form to agent to make sure it’s all as agreed.

11:58 AM –  Create folder for new author. Love adding the new!

12:02 PM – Agent likes the deal blurb! Hooray! She’s sending it on to other involved parties to make sure we’re ready to submit.

12:05 PM – General administrative reorganizing.

12:14 PM – Sit down to review a proofread. For me, this means printing out the PDF, inserting proofreader’s comments, and giving it another read. Once the book is typeset, I just catch more on the physical page. When I have everything together, I’ll mark it all back into a PDF and send it to the author for her to confirm she approves all the changes.

I suspect that this new development will be most of the rest of my day. . . . Life as editor = you don’t actually get to plan out your days and keep to that plan.

And, contrary to the above, I’m actually editing in the office, today! Caveat, though. This kind of editing in the office isn’t all that unusual for me. It’s the structural and deep line edits that usually happen outside of work hours. Going through a proofread is much more akin to proofreading—just working out he last kinks, making sure every t is crossed and i is dotted.

12:51 PM – Adobe starts a cycle of freezing. Contemplate throwing something at my computer. Decide that would be unwise.

tumblr angry work computer frustrated

1:43 PM – Ask that we order in more red pencils. Hey, I need them!

1:47 PM – Go heat up my lunch. I’m hungry!

1:50 PM – Eat lunch while working. Periodically look up to see emails, etc. and deal with them, but mostly just making sure everything in this book is shipshape. Very apropos since it’s a pirate story!

3:00 PM – Wonder why this office is so cold! The blistering conditions I’m reading about in this book are not helping.

4:00 PM – Jacket meeting. See all kinds of pretty in progress.

4:30 PM – Back to the desk to keep editing.

5:15 PM – Scroll through PW’s Children’s Bookshelf where a deal I’ve had to keep under wraps for a long time is being announced! Send the newsletter to the agent, and gleefully go share the news on social media!

5:48 PM – Off to home. It’s been a really long day and its time to get cozy, maybe do some more editing, or curl up with a manuscript to read. Until tomorrow!


Alison S. Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press, where she works on picture books through YA. Some of her favorite book as a kid were Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Eloise, Anne of Green Gables, and Paddington. As a grownup, favorites (that she has not edited) include Barkbelly, The Goose Girl, Circus Mirandus, The Penderwicks, and Savvy. She loves assassins and spies and sleuths, friendships that feel like they’ll last forever, and love stories that will twist you into knots before they’re through. She’s especially eager to find a middle grade with a cozy feel, and a voice-driven, sweeping, romantic YA.

Recent and soon-to-be released projects include Jessica Taylor’s Wandering Wild, Kristina McBride’s A Million Times Goodnight, the Project Droid series by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Krulik, Amanda Burwasser, and illustrated by Mike Moran, dotwav by Mike A. Lancaster, Timekeeper by Tara Sim, Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production by Sarah S. Reida, Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh, and It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! by Wendy MacLeod McKnight. She’s worked with New York Times best-selling author Jessica Verday (Of Monsters and Madness), Agatha Award winner Penny Warner (The Code Busters Club series), YALSA-Award winning Sarah Cross (Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart), ITW Award Finalist Kristen Lippert-Martin (Tabula Rasa), Amalie Howard, and Sarah McGuire, among others. She also assisted on Christopher Myers’s H.O.R.S.E., which won a 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and the 2014 Odyssey Award.

Follow her on Twitter @alioop7.

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