Education

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grade 5 Students Write a Picture Book in THREE Days!

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I love writing!

And, I love giving writing workshops. I especially love when my students get really enthusiastic about their own writing.

I recently worked with Royal Vale Elementary and I had the privilege of teaching two classes of Grade 5. Our mission? To create a complete picture in just three days. (Even I can’t do that!)

And I’m happy to say that we accomplished our goal! Here’s how it went down:

Day 1

We had an intensive first session to get the creative juices flowing. The students learned everything from character and plot development to how to write authentic dialogue. After a lot of back and forth, they also decided what the theme of the book would be.

Day 2

This workshop was the most challenging. The students first created the characters in the story. Then we all developed the plot and the structure of the story. After that, I separated the students into four groups and each group wrote a chapter of the book. There was so much to do, so we had to work fast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

On the last day, I edited the chapters with the students. We also created the list of illustrations, which they drew out. The last task was to decide on details like dedication, and paper and font colour.

I brought everything home and after a lot of editing and layout magic, the finalized books were sent to the printer. When the students saw them, they were ecstatic! It was a wonderful reward for all their hard work.

Check out their final books Immigration to the States and The Condimental Worlds.

Love & Light,

Lydia

Q & A with nonfiction author Melissa Stewart

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Hello all!

Welcome to my book blog. For my first Q & A, please welcome the talented author Melissa Stewart, whose engaging nonfiction books serve as mentor texts for me (and countless others). Check out what she has to say about her new book Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs:

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book? Did you have an agent and how did that come about?
No, I didn’t have an agent when Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs was acquired in 2015. I’ve been working with Peachtree Publishing Company since 2001, and I’m grateful that my editor saw the potential in the Pipsqueaks manuscript. I’m now working with Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I was referred to EMLA by author and friend Cynthia Levinson.

Where did you first draw inspiration for the “animal underdog” theme?
I’ve been fascinated by animal superlatives for as long as I can remember. After all, who doesn’t admire the world’s biggest, fastest, strongest creatures? But in early 2013, I began thinking about anti-superlatives—the smallest, slowest, weakest animals. Maybe I could write a book about them.
One morning, I woke up with the beginning of the book in my head:
“Everyone loves elephants. They’re so big and strong.
Everyone respects cheetahs. They’re so fast and fierce.
But this book isn’t about animals we admire. It’s about the unsung underdogs of the animal world. Don’t you think it’s time someone paid attention to them?”
It was a gift—but it came with a price. I realized that this wasn’t going to be just an anti-superlative book. It was going to be an anti-bullying book, too. And to write it, I’d have to revisit the bullying that I endured as a child.
I wasn’t ready for that, so I shut the file, and I didn’t come back to it for months and months. But eventually, I felt prepared to face my past. I was a clumsy, uncoordinated, unathletic kid, so the western fence lizard in the book represents me.
In the end, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs is a book about animal adaptations and celebrating the traits that make us different and unique. I think pretty much every child has felt like an underdog at some point, so I hope the book will resonate with readers.

How do you go about researching your books?
No two books are the same, but I generally begin by drawing information from the nature journals I’ve been keeping since 1989. Additional information comes from books and articles and conversations with scientists and naturalists. I often use the internet to track down the experts I interview.

When did you first realize you were drawn to the world of nonfiction, and what is the appeal for you?
Many writers gravitate toward fiction because they love to invent characters and create made up worlds, but for me, the real world is so amazing, so fascinating that I just want to learn as much as I can about it and share it with other people. That’s why I write nonfiction.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
In 2014, uber-talented illustrator Sarah S. Brannen and I published a book called Feathers: Not Just for Flying. The minute I saw the sketches for the last page of that book, I envisioned another similar book about seashells and dove into the research. We are so pleased that Seashells: More than a Home will be published on April 2.

Please share your favorite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Oh my, there are too many to name. Some of my favorite authors include Steve Jenkins, April Pulley Sayre, Jess Keating, Cynthia Jensen-Elliott, Diana Hutts Aston, Lita Judge, Nicola Davies, Owen Dewey, Joyce Sidman, Jennifer Ward, Heather Montgomery, Candace Fleming, Deborah Heiligman, Elizabeth Partridge, Gail Jarrow, Patricia Newman, Sandra Markle, Loree Griffin Burns, Sarah Albee, and Barb Rosenstock.
This is really a golden age for nonfiction. Authors are experimenting in all kinds of ways and stretching in new directions. It’s so exciting! I can’t wait to see what my colleagues come up with next.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
It’s pretty simple: Keep on writing! Being a writer is full of challenges and frustrations and so many things we can’t control. But we can control how much time and energy we devote to honing our craft.

Bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Chunky Chocolate Pudding ice cream from Bedford Farms in Bedford, MA. It’s my favorite.

BIO
Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 nonfiction books for children, including Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, Can an Aardvark Bark?, and No Monkeys, No Chocolate. She is the co-author, with Nancy Chesley, of Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science. Melissa’s highly-regarded website features a rich array of educational resources for teaching nonfiction reading and writing.

Website: https://www.melissa-stewart.com/
Blog: http://celebratescience.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @mstewartscience
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.stewart.33865
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mstewartscience