Children’s literature

Q & A with author PJ McIlvaine & Critique Giveaway

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Hello all!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome my friend and talented author PJ McIlvaine. Her new book LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE just came out. I was grateful she took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions.

And by the way, PJ has generously offered a query and first five pages critique as a giveaway. Click HERE to enter the contest.

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I wrote LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE when I was in a big writing tear. I’d signed with a new agent, and I wanted to show her how prolific I was and committed.  That partnership didn’t pan out, but I kept working on Lena. Months passed. I heard about a small publishing company that was open to submissions. I sent it off to Maria Ashworth, the publisher and editor, expecting not to hear anything for months, but she wrote me back right away. She’d fallen in love with Lena immediately, or at least fallen in love with the promise and premise of Lena. She made suggestions, some of which were the kind that made me slap myself upside the head and go uhh, why didn’t I think of that! In this instance, another pair of eyes was most welcome. We traded hot drafts back and forth for a couple of days but she had made it clear right off the bat that she was going to offer me a contract once we had Lena exactly where we wanted it to be. And she did and soon we were off to the races.  In record time Maria found a wonderful illustrator, Leila Nabih, who has done an amazing job bringing Lena and her zany family to life. And all this in a little over a year! We all know that the publishing journey can be long and painful, but Lena was surprisingly fast.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My brother Mikey and I sat at the little kid’s table in our house for holiday meals or when there were too many people at the “big table”.  Sometimes our cousins joined us at the table, and when they were around, Mikey reigned in his, uh, more wilder impulses. But when it was just us two, and not just at the little kid’s table, he tormented me. Eating with his mouth open, burping and farting at will, making rude comments, throwing food around, grabbing food off of my plate, you name it, he did it. Years later, I see the humour in it, but back then, I was mortified. Tragically, Mikey passed away several years ago, and I miss him dearly. What I wouldn’t give to have him at our dinner table now, burps, farts, and all.

Please share some of your writing process.
Mentally, I’m always writing even when I’m not physically writing. I try to maintain a schedule of writing every day, even if it’s only a sentence or a paragraph. If life gets in the way and I don’t write for a day or two, I get anxious and antsy. Writing is like every other discipline: the more you do it, the better you get at it. At the same time, I look for ideas and inspiration in every corner, and I jot those nuggets down for future reference. Writing is like panning for gold, sometimes you hit the jackpot, and other days it’s a true grind. But I keep at it through the highs and lows, and when I’m in the zone, it’s like I’m writing on autopilot. I revise as I go along and I always have. I see everything in my head, like a movie, and the characters talk to me. Sometimes I even talk back!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’d say very early on.  There would be flirtations with other careers: nurse, doctor, lawyer, the usual things kids say. My brother and I did a little neighborhood newspaper, he’d draw the pictures and I’d write the text. Then when I was in the sixth grade, I wrote a Gothic horror story that garnered attention in our school district, and that story ended up being put in the time capsule of our school dedication. I think that was the first time I realized I loved to write and could be good at it. On summer vacation, I read books non-stop, and I wanted to write books like the ones I read.  I honestly believe that writers are born; yes, technically, you can learn the skill set, but without that creativity, that spark, passion, whatever you want to call it, that voice that sets you apart, that story only you can tell in your own unique way—you can be good, but not great. It’s not easy. But then again, it’s not supposed to be.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I just want to write my passion, characters that take me over and lead me to unexpected places. Of course I’d like to be published, all writers do, but the only thing I can control is the writing.  I have a ton of projects in the picture book, middle-grade, and young adult worlds in various stages. Currently, my main focus is revising my Victorian England middle-grade mystery adventure for an agent who loves this character and story as much as I do. So far the revise is going remarkably well, maybe too well!  At the same time, I have a contemporary MG fantasy/coming of age swimming in the back of my head.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Just two? No fair. Well, under threat of torture and gratuitous pain, as a child and later as a tween, I was enormously influenced by book series like Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and The Bobbsey Twins. But later on, the science fiction classic Stranger In a Strange Land made a huge impression on me as a teenager, probably because of my brother because he read it first and then told me he wonderful it was. I was flattered, because we were at the age where he really didn’t want to have anything to do with me, but we still shared a love of books.  In the picture book world, there are too many to mention.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Writing is a life-long marathon, not a one-minute sprint.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Vanilla!

BIO

PJ McIlvaine is a prolific kid lit writer/author/screenwriter/writer/journalist. In other words, she was born with a pen in her hand.  Her debut picture book LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE (Big Belly Book Co.), with illustrations by Leila Nabih, is about a determined little girl who learns the hard way that being at the big table isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. PJ also has DRAGON ROAR, a picture book about a lonely, sick dragon, publication to be determined, to MacLaren-Cochrane.  PJ is also a co-host of #PBPitch, the premiere Twitter pitch party for picture book creators. She’s been published in numerous outlets and is a regular contributor to the Children’s Book Insider newsletter, writing about the path to publication and featuring interviews with established and debut kid lit authors. And her Showtime original family film MY HORRIBLE YEAR was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.

My personal author website: https://pjmacwriter.com

Twitter: @pjmcilvaine

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pj.mcilvaine

Big Belly Book Co. site (to purchase Little Lena) http://www.bigbellybookco.com/activities.html

The book is currently available for pre-order.

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Q & A with author Laura Roettiger plus GIVEAWAY!!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Laura Roettiger. Here she is discussing her fictional picture book entitled ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. And exciting news, Laura will be doing a GIVEAWAY for one lucky winner!

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter contest.

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
It’s a bit of a cautionary tale with a happy ending. I had no idea what I was doing when I began submitting in January 2017. I submitted before the book was ready to a few agents (all rejections) and a few publishers who accept un-agented work. I was fortunate to find Eifrig Publishing. Their mission aligns well with my personal goals and the messages of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. Eifrig Publishing only accepts illustrated work and I had a local artist who had illustrated a few picture books ask if she could be part of the project. Due to work conflicts, she backed out after a year. I then found Ariel Boroff through a mutual friend and she began creating character sketches and painting backgrounds. It was almost another year until we had the finished illustrations and the signed contracts. While this felt like a long time, I know many other authors have much longer journeys and I realize I’ve been quite lucky.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
ALIANA is inspired by my own daughters, my students at Carlos Fuentes Charter School in Chicago, and the brightness of the full moon now that I live in the Rocky Mountains, far away from the light pollution of the city. I couldn’t believe how bright the light of the full moon was when I moved here in 2016. It was bright enough that you could read by it, and I knew I had to share this exciting discovery with my former students and others who love the moon.

Please share some of your writing process.
My process varies depending upon what I’m writing and what stage of revision my work is in. I have a novel that is currently sitting on the shelf waiting to be revised … again. My first manuscript which ultimately became ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON was written by hand and then revised too many times to count in drafts on my laptop. I have learned to label drafts with the date they were revised because calling something FINAL is never accurate. I like to put drafts away and come back to them a week or more later and read it aloud to hear how it sounds. It’s even better if I can have a friend or critique partner read it aloud so I can hear where it’s smooth and where it sounds clunky. I usually have more than one project going at a time so that if one is at the ‘let it rest’ stage, I have something else to work on.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer. Reading and writing were my favorite activities as a child and I entered poetry and writing contests in elementary school. When I went to overnight camp, my mom saved my letters because she believed I would become a famous writer some day. Those letters disappeared along the way, but after she died, I did find a box full of letters from when I was in college that she saved.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have several other manuscripts I am currently querying because ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON was published without an agent. I have two more books written with Aliana and her family that also have STEAM connections. Most of my books are character-driven with some science or other element to encourage children’s curiosity after reading. Recently I’ve written a book inspired by my puppy Charlie about a dog who writes letters back and forth with a sibling who lives far away, and my latest picture book manuscript features a confident girl (think Olivia or Fancy Nancy) who talks about her sister at sharing time but her descriptions lead her classmates to believe something completely different. My hope is that I can find an agent who believes in my writing and my characters as much as Penny at Eifrig Publishing does so that I can reach a bigger audience – bigger publishing house.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I have to say Mark Teague’s LaRue books, particularly LETTERS FROM OBEDIENCE SCHOOL, has been a good mentor text for the two manuscripts mentioned above for different reasons. The connection of a dog writing letters is obvious, but additionally, the unreliable narrator aspect has also provided inspiration. My experience with children over the years allows me to see picture books through their eyes. The classic series that I love are the FROG AND TOAD books. I like the idea of two characters who are different from each other but are still good friends. I think that’s an important underlying message for everyone.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
I wish I had joined Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 right away when I decided to commit to being a writer. If I have to pick one, I guess I would say SCBWI.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Coffee ice cream with chocolate chunks and cherries. Is that a flavor? If it’s not, it should be because it combines three flavors I love.

BIO
Laura Roettiger is the author of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON, a picture book that draws inspiration from the moon and the curiosity of children. She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for literacy at a STEM school and a tutor in the BoulderReads program at the Boulder Public Library. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own whose curiosity and creativity led them into STEM related professions.

Website: https://lauraroettigerbooks.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ljrwritenow
Eifrig Publishing: https://www.eifrigpublishing.com/

Writing Workshops at my Old Elementary School!

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Last month, I had the privilege of giving writing workshops at Westpark Elementary School. I always enjoy giving workshops, but this was a particularly thrilling experience.
Why, you may ask?
Because….wait for it….
I used to attend Westpark!

That’s right, many years ago, a Goomie-bracelet-wearing (remember those??) fresh faced little Lydia spent 7 years of her life there. It was and is such a huge part of my life. So I was so excited to return and relive that part of my childhood. Here I am below in a class photo, with my “Cindy Lauper hair” and all.

The morning of my workshops, I was bursting with excitement. As I entered the school and made my way down the hall, memories came flooding in. I remembered almost everything. I remembered where the principal’s office was – Mr. Herman used to call me “princess” and give me stickers, too bad he was no longer there! I remember the gym, and chuckled when I saw they still had the same wooden ladders up on the walls from the 1980s! I even remembered where the milk fridge was. The school had of course evolved, but it was basically the same. That was somehow comforting to me. I had some seriously happy times at that school. I didn’t just learn about math and how to spell, but I also developed friendships and became who I am today.

When I made my way to the first classroom for my workshop, I shared my past with the students. They were intrigued. One student even asked me, “So how old are you anyway, like a hundred?” I had to laugh. I remember thinking, in grade 3, that age 40 was ancient.

I spent 5 days at the school and met many students. I have to say, they were all very charming and made my stay even more special. I taught my curriculum, we played games, we talked and we shared stories about our favourite books. My time at Westpark rocked! It was so special to have attended the school, and then return to teach the new generation of students years later. Look at all the smiling faces!

A special thank-you to Ms. Bakalis and the entire staff for hiring me. I hope to return again one day…

 

 

Q & A with author Ellie Sipila plus GIVEAWAY!!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Ellie Sipila. Here she is discussing her fictional book for children entitled Mark-Napped!. And exciting news, Ellie will be doing a GIVEAWAY for one lucky winner (in Canada or the continental US). Click HERE to enter the contest.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

Yes! This book has an unusual backstory. I went to university for book publishing with a specialization option for children’s books. One of the courses I took—editing for children—gave an assignment in which students had to find a hole in the market and propose a book idea to fill it. The idea was to illustrate that often in nonfiction publishing, an editor might look for and discover an underrepresented area in the children’s book market, then find a qualified author to write the proposed book—different than in fiction publishing. For the assignment, everyone was to come up with an idea and pitch it to a small group, then the winners of the “pitch contest” were to develop their ideas into full-fledged book proposals and pitch them to the rest of the class. Well, my idea won. Huzzah!

When the course was finished, my professor, a former acquisitions editor for Kids Can Press, pulled me aside and said that she thought my idea really had merit and encouraged me to complete it. I was busy at that time and didn’t do it, however. Student life. You know how it is.

Some time later, when I was taking book design, I used the idea again. This time the assignment was to take a nonfiction book—any nonfiction book, real or imagined—and come up with a cover and some of the interior layout and artwork for it. I used Mark-Napped!, and again when the class was through, the same thing happened—my prof said she loved the concept and told me she thought I should develop it further. Things began happening in my head.

When this thing with the profs encouraging me to finish the proposal happened one more time, this time in the “agenting” course, I knew I had something really special. One cannot ignore such a thing three times by three different industry professionals. I sat down and completed the manuscript.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

My kids, mostly. And my own primary school education. Learning about punctuation is boring. It just is. I saw my kids struggling through their English homework, and, as an editor, it pained me. Like, physical pain. They could not get the concept of when to use a semicolon and what, exactly, was an independent clause. Kids struggle to learn when they don’t really care about a thing, and they don’t really care about a thing if it’s boring. So I thought…there must be a way to fix that. There has to be a way. And there was!

Please share some of your writing process.

This book didn’t really have much of a process, actually. Because it was half written for an assignment, left for a while, then completed later for another assignment, it didn’t really fit into any of the usual writing processes. I wrote the first few chapters in about a week, maybe two, and the second half in a matter or days. Once I had the concept (and the helpful pointers of my peers and teachers), the writing part just happened.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a writer. I don’t know exactly. I have a number of fiction items (short stories, a novelette, even a full-length middle grade novel) published under a pen name. I don’t think I ever woke up one day and thought…you know, I think I’d like to write. It’s just one of those things that you do or you don’t to (like brushing your teeth, according to my son).

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

Well, I do have some thoughts for the next books in the Mark-Napped! series… The next will be about math symbols. Then we will have music notes and elements from the periodic table. My alter ego, the fiction writer, has two or three half-completed manuscripts in the making…but we’re not talking about her right now.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?

My favourites change all the time. Mark-Napped! is a mystery, and I wanted to give it a bit of a spooky feel, like The Monster At the End of This Book (Jon Stone), where readers simply cannot help but turn the pages. Shall we say Sherlock Holmes was an inspiration too? I think it is elementary my dear readers to say that it was! I read so much contemporary stuff. Right now I am in a sci-fi phase; at present, sci-fi is my favourite. Will it last? Who knows? Sometimes I like YA; sometimes I like murder books. I could not pick favourites. I’m fickle. I cannot get into kissing books though (barf).

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?

Who cares if your writing doesn’t fit a mould? There is power in being original.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?

Ew. I. Dislike. Ice cream. I love potato chips though! Sour cream and onion are my favourite—they’re classy, but also a little spicy. They are my soul chip.

BIO

Ellie Sipila produces children books through her own freelance business, Move to the Write, an editing and book production company. She earned a specialization in children’s book editing from Ryerson University Publishing Certificate Program.

Website: http://www.movetothewrite.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/movetothewrite/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MoveToTheWrite

Q & A with nonfiction author Laura Purdie Salas

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Laura Purdie Salas, whose engaging nonfiction books serve as mentor texts for me (and countless others). Check out what she has to say about her new book Snowman-Cold=Puddle:

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I had been submitting manuscripts to the awesome Alyssa Pusey at Charlesbridge for several years. A couple had come close, but nothing had been the perfect fit.  I first sent her just the equations–no sidebars, though I envisioned sidebars from the beginning. After she expressed interest, I did a revision (maybe two) and added the sidebars (an early version of them). Then Alyssa took the manuscript to an acquisitions meeting, and I got the good news that I would finally get to work with her. (“Good news! Equations + poems + science = high publisher interest!”) I got to have a lot of input into the choice of illustrator and the concept of how the book would look. It was such a great collaboration between illustrator Micha Archer, the Charlesbridge team, and me, even though of course Micha and I never talked directly with each other. (I also share more about the path to publication for this and my other two spring 2019 books in this video: https://youtu.be/iOUtTtQKDRY)

Where did you first draw inspiration the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for this book came strictly from the format. I was brainstorming different ways to share nonfiction content with kids, and in my picture book ideas list, I wrote: “___ + ___ = _________. Bees + flowers = honey. Short equation. Then longer prose explanation. All science-related. BECAME SNOWMAN – COLD = PUDDLE!”

Please share some of your writing process.
Because the format came first, my writing process started with spewing out dozens and dozens of equations on tons of different topics. Eventually, I realized I needed to narrow things down. First, I tried a year in a park–all four seasons. It still felt too jam-packed. So I decided to focus on spring. So much transformation happens in spring, and equations are all about how different elements change each other to create some new result. I did a lot of research to get the chronology of these spring events in a typical, logical order. And I spent a lot time on the language in the sidebars, too. I wanted the prose there to be just as playful and inventive as the equations themselves.

Why are you drawn to nonfiction?
I like to write all sorts of things, but I do think nonfiction calls to me because I’m 1) curious and 2) constantly amazed by our incredible world. I hope introducing kids to how cool the world is will lead to their loving it and valuing it.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope to keep having more and more picture books come out–and maybe some easy readers, too, though those are very hard to sell! In the next 12 months, I’ll have three books come out: Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle! How Animals Get Ready for Winter (rhyming non-fiction, Millbrook, 2019); If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (humorous nonfiction, Boyds Mills Press, 2020); and Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten (fiction, Two Lions, 2020).

Please share your favorite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I’m going to call Dav Pilkey’s 1999 God Bless the Gargoyles my “classic” book. Does that count? When I read that melancholy story full of yearning and fell into its saturated art, my mind spun with the possibilities of the kinds of moods and stories picture books could share. Lola Schaefer’s An Island Grows is a book that made me see nonfiction picture books in a whole new way and introduced me to the idea of rhyming non-fiction. So many other books have inspired me, of course, but those two I clearly remember making a little bell ding in my head. An Island Grows was definitely a mentor text when I wrote A Leaf Can Be….

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
You learn more from writing five different picture books than you do by polishing the same picture book manuscript for five years. Don’t be afraid to let go of a manuscript (even a good one) and move on to the next one!

Bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Amaretto with toffee bits–because it’s a good mix of the familiar and the unexpected. I’m a pretty ordinary, everyday person, but I’m of course weird in many ways.

Portrait of Laura Purdie Salas on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Plymouth, Minn. (HMH/Andy Clayton-King)

BIO
Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 125 books for kids, including Meet My Family!, If You Were the Moon, Water Can Be…, and BookSpeak! Her books have earned the Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notables, starred reviews, and more. She offers resources for children’s writers at https://laurasalas.com/writing-for-children/ and has a Patreon community with extra resources for Patrons: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas  She enjoys teaching and speaking at writing conferences around the country.

site: https://laurasalas.com/
Twitter: @LauraPSalas
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraPSalas/
Newsletter for kidlit writers: https://laurasalas.com/sign-up-for-a-writer-can-be/
Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas
Writing for Children Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritingForChildren1/

Grades 1 & 2 Put on a Puppet Show!

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Our mission? To teach fractured fairy tales to Grades 1 and 2, and have them each write out their very own fractured fairy tale, build puppets, and put on a puppet show.

And, we only had a few weeks to put it together.

Was this even possible? It was a lot of work, and not very much time.

But I’m happy to say we did it!

The Grade 1 class focused on the fairy tale The Three Little Pigs, except their main characters were green space pigs! And Grade 2 used the fairy tale The Little Red Riding Hood, expect their main character became the Little White Snow Boy. Very original!

Here are some of their creations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here I am reading one of my stories, and then the kiddies were lucky enough to get “fairy tale” inspired treats at the end!

A special thank-you to the amazing, one of a kind educator Kendra-Ann Fabes from St. Dorothy School, and to the talented Nancy Saltarelli from Une École Montréalise pour Tous for spearheading the project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q & A with Amy Losak

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Amy Losak. I remember her struggles in trying to publish her mother’s poetry book, H Is For Haiku, years ago. But I also remember how she persevered and kept knocking on doors until she eventually found the right home. She explains her journey below.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The journey to publish my mom Sydell Rosenberg’s poetry picture book, H Is For Haiku, was anything but straightforward, and it was filled with obstacles and bumps (many of them self-imposed). I hemmed and hawed and used every excuse in the book to keep from starting this project after she died suddenly in 1996. Of course, many reasons for my delay were valid and justifiable – the ups and downs of life got in the way. But what held me back for so long was my ongoing grief after her death, and my deep fear and anxiety that I would not be able to honor her work properly.

Finally, around 2011, thanks to the unstinting support of family and many others, I began slowly to mobilize. This meant organizing some of her voluminous and scattered, packed-up piles of papers and writings, mostly her poetry and specifically, her haiku. I researched the children’s book industry (the KidLit community is generous, and social media has been great for knowledge-building). In April of 2015, I was ready: I mailed out her manuscript – which I had slightly edited from one or two of hers I had located – to several publishers that don’t require agents.

In 2016, thanks to a haiku poet, editor, and teacher, Aubrie Cox Warner, I connected with Penny Candy Books, a terrific independent publisher started by two poets, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera (pennycandybooks.com), They shared my vision for mom’s work. H Is For Haiku was released in April of 2018: National Poetry Month. Sawsan Chalabi (Schalabi.com) is the wonderful illustrator.

H Is For Haiku has been selected by the National Council for Teachers of English as a 2019 “Notable Poetry Book.” It also was a Cybils finalist this year in the poetry category.

What draws you to poetry?
In hindsight, I grew up with haiku – it was a pervasive part of my childhood. Mom, a New York City teacher and published writer, was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 (hsa-haiku.org). She studied, practiced, and wrote this form for decades. This briefest but arguably most expansive form of poetry became a part of her personality, I think. It validated and at the same time helped to shape her keen way of looking at the world around her. I didn’t understand this when I was young. Perhaps I didn’t take her passion seriously enough. But I and other family members always knew how important her literary life was to her.

When I began in 2011 or so to organize and leverage her haiku in various ways – including a partnership with the New York City non-profit arts education organization, Arts For All (arts-for-all.org), I found myself drawn to this form. Surprisingly, I began to write my own haiku … badly, but I wrote! And I read the haiku of other fine poets. I joined HSA. I’ve slowly improved. But I’m a late and eternal beginner. I have a lot to learn..

Please share some of your writing process.
Haiku – and of course one can say this about most creative endeavors – requires me to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings. As a hyper New Yorker, I’m always in a rush. I’m constantly distracted or in a hurry to get somewhere. This restlessness can cause me to lose sight – literally – of what matters. Haiku requires a sensory focus on things that matter, however small. In a way, haiku is poetic mindfulness. But it’s much more than that, as well. So now, I try to take the time to linger over small moments, and appreciate them – make them “big.” This takes effort, sometimes. But even if nothing “poetic” comes of this approach to experiencing small slices of life, I’m enriched as a result.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve long enjoyed writing, but I never had any “serious” aspirations about becoming a creative writer. I’ve been a public relations professional for a long time, and I’ve done my share of business writing. As the steward of my mom’s literacy legacy, however, I’ve come to enjoy writing short poems, and I hope to continue.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Yes, I have another haiku picture book sketched out. Right now, it features more of my mother’s lovely work, but I may add some of my own to make it a mother-daughter haiku book for kids. We will see what happens on this new journey!

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
These are not mentor texts, and they are both classics, but two books – and the heroines in them — that had a profound influence on me growing up (and still do today) are A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Anne of Green Gables. I explain why in this blog post: https://www.pennycandybooks.com/blog-1/losak

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Over the years, my mom’s decades-old dream to publish a kids’ book became my dream – ours. So my advice to other writers is simple: “It’s never too late to pursue a dream. You have nothing to lose – and everything to gain – by trying. Go for it!”

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
That’s easy: Rocky Road! I’m a chocoholic, and this luscious, chock-full flavor expresses my journey to publish H Is For Haiku perfectly!

BIO

Amy Losak is a veteran New York public relations professional specializing in the healthcare industry. She was inspired to write haiku by her mother, Sydell Rosenberg. Amy’s short poems have been published in a variety of poetry anthologies, journals and sites, including: Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Akitsu Quarterly, Failed Haiku, Prune Juice, Asahi Haikuist Network, Daily Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, Blithe Spirit, Newtown Literary, and more.

The photo on the left depicts Amy Losak.