Dedication # 4

When it came to my humorous but heartfelt middle grade novel Not Even Mrs. Mazursky, based on my real life worship of my fifth grade teacher, subsequent disillusion, and eventual realization that no one is perfect, hence the title, (wow! this is a long sentence!), I decided to dedicate it to my sister:

Because, as the dedication says, my big sister is an extraordinarily generous and warm person.

She gives herself wholly to people she meets professionally, to her friends, and her family.

Part of her generosity is expressed through the meals she makes for countless people — always yummy and bountiful.
“How did you make all that?” I might ask. “It’s delish!”

“Oh, it was easy,” she’ll say. Maybe for you, I’d think, accepting a second helping. As the dedication references, she has an amazing amount of energy. No one can keep up with Judy. I don’t think anyone has tried!

My energetic, generous big sister, Judy Storeygard

Dedication # 3

For my third book, I honored my grandfather, aka Poppy, with whom I had a close, joyful relationship. He came to the U.S. at age 18, having escaped from the czar’s army (yes, we’re talking pre-Russian Revolution), knowing no English and almost no one.

George Balloff (my Poppy) at age 18, soon after he arrived in NYC from Russia

He learned English, Italian, and Spanish, graduated from the Columbia University School of Pharmacy and eventually owned two pharmacies in New York City. When I studied Russian in high school and college, Poppy and I had a secret language deployed at family gatherings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At age 90, he wrote his autobiography. My dedication reflects Poppy’s belief in me.

Poppy with my husband and me on our wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Orange Octopus by Jane Sutton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aforementioned third book is my middle grade novel Confessions of an Orange Octopus, in which eight year old “Chooch” learns to juggle and wants to become a street juggler, but his parents are not on board. After he and his friends (members of the Gripe Club, whose mission is to complain about grown-ups) have variuos adventures, Chooch and his parents agree on a compromise. And who gave Chooch the how-to-juggle book and devised the compromise plan? His grandpa!

Icing on the Cake!

Last week I had the honor of being invited back to do an author visit at Minuteman High School, the regional technical-vocational school located in my hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts. Since the visit involved presenting to students in the design & visual communications and early childhood education classes and giving feedback on picture books they were creating, I was joined by the designer and illustrator of Me and the Weirdos, Doreen Buchinski. Her art tips and insight turned out to be a wonderful complement to the my writing guidance and suggestions.

It was a joy spend the day at this school, with talented, receptive students and welcoming, dedicated staff members.

Nice to be welcomed with a big sign!

Talking to students about my writing process

Now Doreen explains her design and illustration process.

After a delicious lunch prepared by culinary class students, we opened our surprise gifts: cutting boards carved with the school logo, made by Minuteman students!

The icing on this cake!!!! It depicts the cover of my picture book The Trouble With Cauliflower. We were amazed and delighted by its 3-D quality. And by the way, it was delicious.

Doreen and I met Kimmee, the talented culinary student who created the spectacular cake.

Great Event, Great Store

I had so much fun at a special story time featuring An Assortment of Animals: A Children’s Poetry Anthology at The Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA. Nine of we poet and illustrator contributors shared our creations and inspirations with an enthusiastic audience.

I’d never been to the store before, which is charming and friendly and has a coffee shop inside! For sure, I’ll be back.

When we arrived, we found this beautiful display of the books, next to books by store co-owner and prolific author, Peter Reynolds.

All the presenters: Alice Fulgione, Brian Lies, Robin Brett Wechsler, Pam Vaughan, Deb O’Brien, Bonnie Gold, moi, Bob Thibeault, and Doreen Buchinski

Doreen Buchinski and me, with the poem I wrote and she beautifully illustrated, “The Superb Blue-Crowned Mot-Mot.” Doreen designed the anthology and is also the illustrator and designer of the new edition of Me and the Weirdos.

Here Doreen shows stages in her illustration process. Note my elephant garb, which I wore for the animal-themed event. I also wore elephant earrings and brought an elephant purse and tote bag. Why not?

An exciting surprise was the participation of Anthology cover designer and contributor Brian Lies, renowned for his Bats at the Beach series and The Rough Patch, recently announced as a Caldecott Honor Book!

Reverse Dedication

Just as I was in the midst of this series of posts about the dedications of my various books, I received one of my own! Author Josh Funk enrolled in the Writing For Children class I teach eight times, becoming a better and better writer. Three and a half years ago, he published his first book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, and his career took off. Amazingly and thrillingly, he just came out with book number 10!!!!— It’s Not Hansel and Gretel …

,,, which he sweetly dedicated to me and two of his classmates, Ellen Cohen and Doreen Buchinski (illustrator of Me and the Weirdos!). Over time the class evolved into a critique group, with me more facilitator/alpha critique-er than teacher, so as Josh says, Ellen, Doreen and I were all with him “from the beginning.” A talented, versatile and popular author and presenter, Josh is also a lovely person.

Josh Funk, me, Ellen Cohen, and Doreen Buchinski, with our copies of It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and Josh’s dedication

Dedication # 2

My second published book was the middle grade novel Me and the Weirdos. Whereas the new edition is dedicated to Ashley and Eva, the young composers and playwrights of the musical based on the book (see previous posts), the original book was dedicated to my parents, who were quite delighted by the dedication’s warmth and humor.

Me and the Weirdos by Jane Sutton

Original Houghton Mifflin hardcover

Original Bantam paperback

 

 

The “in moderation” was not just acknowledgment of my parents’ just-enough amount of weirdness, but also a nod to my dad’s mantra, “Moderation in all things.” To which his wise-girl daughter, moi, would occasionally say, “Isn’t that a little extreme, Daddy?”

 

First Dedication Evah! (as we say in Massachusetts)

As the headline says, here’s my very first book dedication, to my sweetheart husband,
Alan Ticotsky.

 

 

 

 

 

I thought that was a very nice message, and he was pleased. I was excited to share it with my parents as they opened my first published book, What Should a Hippo Wear? — published by Houghton Mifflin, back in 1979.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother, though, didn’t see it the way I did. She said, with her New York intonation, “Why not a million?” Sometimes mothers need to cut you down to size, I guess. But she did have a point … And all these years later, I should thank Al for a billion reasons.

Wonderful Distraction

When I’m not posting regularly or I’m writing less often, I feel I should swat myself with a rolled-up newspaper, or even a board book. But my lapse in productivity of late has been forgivable, I’m sure you will agree, as we welcome our adorable newest family member—our granddaughter, Linny!

Our son, Charlie; our daughter-in-law, Amberly; our just hours-old new granddaughter, Linny; and our grandson, Caleb

Look, Mommy, she has hair!

Delighted big brother gets to hold little sister with Daddy Charlie and our daughter, Aunt Becky.

Al and his new granddaughter

This one makes me smile all over. Caleb and his baby sister on their first morning at home together.

Nice Ink

The Colonial Times, a newspaper in my town of Lexington, Massachusetts recently ran a lovely article about my experience bringing Me and the Weirdos back to life, inspired by its reincarnation as a musical. The reporter included details of my trip to the small town of Blanding, Utah, as well as the involvement of the illustrator and designer of the new edition, Doreen Buchinski.

The Weirdos Return

Jane Sutton

How a middle-school musical in Utah brought Lexington author Jane Sutton’s most popular book to a new generation.

 

By Jane Whitehead

“I write because I can’t be a rock star,” says Lexington-based children’s author Jane Sutton, laughing. But a musical adventure in a small town in Utah in January 2018 gave her a taste of star treatment and prompted her to publish a new version of her award-winning novel, Me and the Weirdos.

Sutton’s books include seven picture books, three middle-grade novels, and one YA novel. Back in 1981, she wrote Me and the Weirdos, the story of Cindy Krinkle, a little girl who is embarrassed by her family. (Her mother does cartwheels, her father rides to work on a bike with an umbrella while singing operatic arias, and her sister has a pet sea urchin.) The book, originally published by Houghton Mifflin, was an ALA-CBC Children’s Choice, won the Utah Children’s Book Award and sold over 90,000 copies.

“The book brought me loads of fan letters from children, and from adults who said it was their favorite book, and made them feel being different was OK,” says Sutton. But Me and the Weirdos has been out of print for decades, so in 2017 she was surprised to receive a “long, sweet email, very polite and respectful,” from two high school seniors in Blanding, Utah, Eva Perkins, and Ashley Berrett, asking her permission to turn the book into a musical, Me and the Krinkles.

As a child, Perkins had read Me and the Weirdos, a favorite of her mother’s, and thought the story would translate well into a musical. She and Berrett wrote to Sutton, not at all sure that she would reply, and “screamed with excitement” when they received her positive response.

“I, of course, said yes,” says Sutton, “and asked to look at the script.” The script and lyrics impressed her with their professionalism and smart changes to make the plot more workable on stage, with a middle-school cast. As they exchanged drafts and comments, Sutton learned that the pair held scholarships in music and drama, and had appeared in and directed other productions.

Braving the flight from Boston to Salt Lake City – in January – followed by a five and half hour drive to Blanding (population 4000), Sutton and her husband, science writer and educator Alan Ticotsky, attended the premiere performance of Me and the Krinkles on January 22, 2018, at San Juan High School.

“We were blown away by the professionalism and wonderfulness of the play, as well as the warm welcome from Eva’s and Ashley’s families and the whole town,” says Sutton. From the motel to the visitor center to the museum, Sutton was feted as “the author” from out of town, and she and Al enjoyed private tours of local natural wonders, including a visit to Bears Ears National Monument with a Navajo guide.

The excited middle school cast asked Sutton to sign everything from programs and posters to phone cases and a plaster cast. Searching online for the original book, they were disappointed only to find second-hand copies at high prices. So Sutton came home with a mission to bring Me and the Weirdos back into circulation.

For years, Sutton has taught a sold-out class on “Writing Children’s Books” for Lexington Community Education. Now she turned for advice to long-time students who have become successful authors and illustrators, Josh Funk and Doreen Buchinski. “You should just get it out there,” said software engineer and prize-winning author Funk.

In the interests of quick turnaround, controlling the editorial process, and the freedom to choose her own illustrator, Sutton decided to self-publish the book using the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. She invited graphic designer and illustrator Buchinski to design the new edition and provide new illustrations, and the two started work in April 2018.

Illustrator Doreen Buchinski with the new edition of Me and the Weirdos.

Buchinski enjoyed turning Sutton’s “rich descriptions” into graphite and wash drawings, and designed a new cover using her niece as the body-model for the heroine. But even as an experienced graphic designer, she found online self-publishing challenging. Unlike working with a printer with whom you have a personal relationship, with KDP “you don’t always get to talk to a person,” says Buchinski, so glitches that would be quickly solved in a traditional setting sometimes led to frustrating email chains.

“I’d always be finding things I wanted to change,” says Sutton, a self-described perfectionist. But by September, she had “revised, tweaked and pared” the text to her satisfaction, and by October the new edition was available in paperback and on Kindle. Sutton dedicated it to Eva Perkins and Ashley Berrett, in recognition of the creative partnership between two Mormon teenagers from Utah and a Jewish grandmother from Boston, an unlikely collaboration that’s real-life proof of the message of both book and musical, that “it’s perfectly fine to be different!”

The new paperback edition of Me and the Weirdos is available from independent booksellers and online. For more information, see www.jane-sutton.com

Hard Work and Dedication

One of the most fun things about being an author is getting to dedicate books to meaningful people in one’s life. Thinking about this, I’ve decided to share the dedications in my various books starting with the most recent.
I never would have thought of re-releasing my middle grade novel Me and the Weirdos if Ashley Berrett and Eva Perkins of Blanding, Utah hadn’t contacted me about turning it into a musical to be performed in their high school auditorium. Hence (I love that word—it’s so pretentious), I dedicated it to them:

Eva, me, and Ashley after the premiere