“Connor Crowe loved his parents.
He loved his dog.
He even loved his sister.
But he loved one thing most of all . . .
Children latch on to things that sparkle, bing, and move, especially “techie toys” like smartphones, tablets and video games. Sometimes it’s hard to let go. Howard Pearlstein’s new book tells a timely story of a young boy’s obsession with his tablet. Young Connor loves playing on it so much that one night, he wishes he never had to let it go.
After waking up with the tablet stuck to his hand…permanently…he’s thrilled! Yet he soon realizes that having something joined to your hand has its obstacles. Frantically, he wishes it to “let go,” learning that real-life connections bring the most pleasure.
“Connor didn’t miss his tablet at all. He was having too much fun talking to his parents, petting his dog, playing with his sister, and…not letting them go.“
The talented Howard Pearlstein is the author of 10 picture books that have been translated into five languages. Once a California native, he now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, three daughters and their dog named Maeby.
Howard has graciously offered to share what he’s learned from his writing career.
Q: What did your Writing Journey look like for Conner Crowe Can’t Let Go?
I started writing Connor Crowe in August of 2020. I thought my manuscript was pretty good, but knew it could be better, so I paid for a critique from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I received excellent feedback and felt like the manuscript was submission-ready in December of 2020. I sent query letters to about 24 agents in January of 2021. After receiving nothing but form rejections or no responses at all, I started querying publishers that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. Clavis Publishing, that had published one of my first books, Sally Ann McFidgetbottom, liked the manuscript. I signed a contract with them in May of 2021. They recommended Stefani Buijsman for the illustrator and, once I saw her work, I knew she was perfect for my book. Her visuals have so much heart and life. She did an amazing job, and I couldn’t be happier with how the illustrations enhanced the story.
Q: What was your inspiration for Conner Crowe Can’t Let Go?
When my wife and I went out to breakfast, almost every parent was paying attention to a phone rather than to their children. When their kids became antsy, the parents gave them their phones. How incredibly sad to see families barely interacting with each other. In a favorite childhood story, a boy pushes vegetables onto his fork with his thumb even though his parents tell him not to. He keeps doing it and one day vegetables start growing from his thumb. At first it’s cool until the vegetables grow out of control. What if I wrote about a boy who’s addicted to his device and then realizes the consequences? I wanted to write a cautionary tale about the dangers of choosing devices over people.
Q: What have you learned about marketing your book?
“If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?” If I write a book and nobody reads it, does it exist? Honestly, I didn’t know enough about marketing, so I took steps to change that. I signed up for Julie Hedlund’s “12 x12 Challenge” at https://www.12x12challenge.com/. I now have connections with other authors and bloggers who could write reviews for my books. I’m attending the SCBWI conference in New York and a regional event in Atlanta, which will lead to more connections. I also went beyond my comfort zone and pitched my story to a local TV station. I’ll be on their morning show!
Q: How important is it for authors/illustrators to seek out current Kidlit trends in the market and write stories using those themes or concepts?
Originality sells. If your book feels too similar to current titles on the market, I think it weakens its chance of getting published. We need to be aware of what’s popular in the marketplace, but it’s more important to develop ideas that make us almost too nervous to present. That’s when we know we’re onto something new and different.
Q: Words of wisdom for us?
I think success comes down to a choice: either you’re committed or you’re interested. If you’re committed to becoming published, nothing will stop you from trying to come up with ideas, working through the revision process, and handling the endless stream of soul-crushing rejection letters. None of that will matter if you’re singularly focused on your goal. You don’t have to decide if you’re going to write one day or query agents or take a hiatus. If you’re committed to your goal, you just keep on working and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by challenges. On the other hand, if you’re interested in becoming published, you give yourself all kinds of wiggle room that stands in the way of you realizing your dreams.
Visit Howard Pearlstein: https://www.howardpearlstein.com/
Follow Howard on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HowPearlstein?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
Catch him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/howard.pearlstein/?hl=en
Illustrator Stefani Buijsman lives in The Netherlands with her husband and daughters. Before realizing her love of visual storytelling, she worked as a graphic designer and photographer. Her artwork is inspired by the “purity of young children’s drawings,” which is reflected in the expressive illustrations in Connor Crowe Can’t Let Go.
Read about Stefani: https://www.studiostefani.nl/
Treat yourself and others to this timely book: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/connor-crowe-cant-let-go-howard-pearlstein/1142120977
Addictions to pleasure can absorb us. Alter our outlook. Everything else can fade into the background. Equipoise is key. Seeking balance in our life will keep ourselves connected to self, loved ones and what matters most.