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Author Meeg Pincus & How her Love for Monarchs Turned into a Book- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Meeg Pincus as she discusses her nonfiction book WINGED WONDERS: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, illustrated by Yas Imamura and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Check out her journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Meeg is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book!! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. US residents only, contest ends October 2, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
I met my editor through a workshop critique, where she liked the original version of this story, which was a picture book biography of one little-known person involved in tracking the monarch butterfly migration. She offered on that book, then I ran into a big roadblock with the subject, so made the tough choice to not sign the contract and to put the story on a shelf and rethink it for a few months. (In the meantime, thankfully, the same editor acquired a different story of mine, which became our first picture book together, Miep and the Most Famous Diary!) After months of not knowing how to retell the monarch story, one day it hit me: this was not a story about one little-known person but about how many people it took to track this great migration over three decades. Once that hit me, the story flowed out. I sent the new version to my editor and it was (again, thankfully!) acquired.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I’ve always loved butterflies, wrote about them with wonder often in my youth. As a mom of young kids, I took them one day to see an IMAX film (in San Diego’s amazing domed science museum theater) about the monarch migration and I fell in love with monarchs specifically. I took the kids back to see the film two more times (!) and started digging more into the story of how the monarch migration was tracked. I felt it was a story full of wonder that could inspire kids to be solutionaries, which I think and hope it turned out to be!

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process is, honestly, kind of sporadic. I’m not a writer who sits down at the same time every day or writes for a certain number of hours each week. As a homeschooling mom managing chronic health issues, I write when I can, in nooks and crannies of my days—in the car when the kids are at a lesson, during the hour they’re with their tutor, on the weekend when the rest of the family is at the pool, etc. When I get in the writing flow or I’m on a revision deadline, my family knows it—the dishes and laundry will pile up and the kids will step up and fend for themselves more, because Writer Mom is at work!

What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
For me, nonfiction feeds my passions for social justice, people’s history, emotional storytelling, constant learning, and creativity. To be able to read and write true stories about inspiring people, which may open people’s eyes to new understandings about the world, is the greatest gift and a great responsibility. I love reading nonfiction and writing it. I’m a curious researcher at heart (daughter of two professors!) and an emotional writer, so kidlit nonfiction allows me to use both to connect children to true stories that may open their minds and hearts.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
For centuries, up and down North America, every year brought a mystery. Monarch butterflies swooped in for a spell, like clockwork, from somewhere beyond—then disappeared as curiously as they came. Where do they go? People pondered from southern Canada…through the middle of the United States…and all the way to central Mexico.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
My hope is to be able to just keep writing and publishing trade nonfiction picture books as I am now. I have three more NF PBs coming out in 2021—Cougar Crossing, Ocean Soup, and Make Way for Animals! (with Simon&Schuster/Beach Lane Books, Sleeping Bear Press, and Lerner/Millbrook)—and others on sub (fingers crossed!). I also hope to keep writing educational publisher picture books and doing teaching and editing projects, which I also enjoy. And I’m working on a passion project called #DiverseKidlitNF, to launch in 2021, to continue my work promoting diverse nonfiction picture books and diverse nonfiction kidlit creators, which is very important to me and I hope helps bolster the movement for more diversity in kidlit.

Please share your favorite 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?
In the nonfiction picture book world, my first inspiration were the classic books by Jeannette Winter, like The Watcher and The Librarian of Basra. Her books showed me that I could tell the kind of “solutionary stories” I wanted to tell (with art!) in amazingly creative ways for kids. A contemporary mentor text for me is The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson—this book took my breath away in its powerful message and creative approach. I love the innovative structure of it (with sparse poetry and stunning images in the main text and rich, informative back matter) and the emotionality of it—both elements I hope to infuse into my own books.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
There’s no one right way to be a writer. Write when you can, how you can, where you can—and write the stories that you can best tell from your heart.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Oh, mint chocolate chip for sure! Refreshing, colorful, and not one thing (which definitely resonates with me).

BIO
Meeg Pincus is the author of six published and forthcoming nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet—including Kirkus starred reviewed Winged Wonders and Miep and the Most Famous Diary (which also received a School Library Journal starred review and was A Mighty Girl “Best Books of 2019” pick). A former newspaper reporter and college instructor, a humane educator and nonfiction book editor, Meeg has also authored 19 leveled readers for educational publishers and loves teaching nonfiction for SCBWI and The Writing Barn.

Social Media
Website: www.MeegPincus.com
Twitter: @MeegPincus
Book link: https://bookshop.org/books/winged-wonders-solving-the-monarch-migration-mystery/9781534110403

Author-Illustrator Jarrett Lerner on Mapping out your Career

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome a super talented author-illustrator: the one and only Jarrett Lerner! The EngiNerds series is a personal favorite of mine, and now he has a new book and activity book coming out shortly. Check out his journey below:

EngiNerds is a favorite in our house. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Thank you! That’s so great to hear. Regarding the book’s inspiration – I think it came from a number of sources, as inspiration often does. But the first spark, the thing that really lit a fire under me, was this idea to write exactly the sort of book that I would’ve been in love with as a 10 year old. So: farting robots and tests of friendship.

Your new book, Geeger the Robot: Goes to School!, comes out this September. What excites you most about this one?
I love how it looks. The text is stylized, with some words being bold, some being bigger than others, some being angled or otherwise contorted. Also, there are TONS of awesome illustrations. I got to work once again with Serge Seidlitz – the brilliant, bonkers artist who created the covers for all three of my EngiNerds books. His work in these books really shines, and I am so honored and excited to have it in there.

You also have an activity book coming out in December, what can children expect in this one?
If you’ve been to my website (www.jarrettlerner.com), you’ll find an ACTIVITIES page. There are, I think, nearly 200 activity pages on there that you can download and print for free. The activity book – Give This Book A Title – is a collection of 140 more such pages, though many of these pages contain multiple activities. There are “How to Draw” pages, “Finish This Comic” pages, and general writing and drawing prompts. I put a lot of time, energy, and thought into crafting and organizing this book, and I hope kids leave it feeling more confident artists and writers than they entered it, and that they never again sit down at a blank piece of paper and can’t figure out what to write or draw. I also hope they have TONS of fun.

What is it like being both the author and illustrator?
Well, I really don’t know any different. Ever since I was a kid, I expressed myself both visually and verbally, often together. My teachers didn’t always recognize that, or accept it, and I often had to refrain from communicating and expressing myself visually in the classroom – which is a shame. But stories, ideas – for me, the visual and verbal is always jumbled together. I always start projects on paper, in a notebook or sketchbook, because both words and images come at me at once, and I don’t want to have to jump back and forth between a pad and a computer in order to get them both down.
One thing that might surprise people about me, though, is that I LOVE working with other illustrators. There are certain projects of mine that I feel strongly about illustrating (such as my activity books, or my graphic novels – my Hunger Heroes series of graphic novels launches next summer). But there are other stories of mine that I am not attached to illustrating, and some that I actually think would benefit from having someone else illustrate them. The story comes first. The reader matters most. I work in service of those two things, primarily. If I know, deep down, that a book will be better with the inclusion of another artistic voice, I don’t hesitate to let my publisher know and hand over that part of the project.

What’s your artistic process, and does it vary depending on the project?
As I mentioned above, it always begins in a notebook or sketchbook. But from there, I really try to experiment, to PLAY, and let the story dictate as much as possible. I always encourage people to allow their process to change, evolve, shift, and I try to remember that as much as possible myself, especially when I start getting precious about any of my own routines or tendencies. In a way, I think each unique story needs a unique approach, and that it’ll ultimately only benefit from that. If I’m ever feeling stuck or uninspired, I switch things up. I’ll go from writing on lined paper to writing on construction paper. Or instead of a pen, I’ll use a crayon. I’ll write on sticky notes, or napkins – whatever. I think this sort of approach and spirit gives your creativity, imagination, and any particular idea you’re hunting down the most space to breathe and properly, fully emerge.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am always working on four, five, sometimes six projects at any given time. Usually, some of those are contracted books that I really have to be working on, and some are in other stages of completion. I thrive off of having lots of irons in the fire – or maybe even having multiple fires to tend to. Sometimes things get out of hand, but usually the jumping around keeps me excited and inspired. I usually don’t talk publicly about projects until they are under contract, as I don’t want any reactions of feedback to influence my process, so I’ll just say that I’ve got LOTS of more stuff in the works and on its way.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book.
I love the work of Ed Emberley. His approach to creativity and creation, his spirit, his openness, his embrace and mastering of the power of simplicity – I could go on and on. I regularly reach for his work when I want or need a surge of inspiration, and I think that several of his books get just about as close to perfect as a book can be. In terms of contemporary books – Jarod Roselló’s Red Panda & Moon Bear graphic novel and Remy Lai’s Pie in the Sky both really rocked my world when I read them. Both books I’ve read multiple times. Jarod’s always reminds me of what I love most about stories and storytelling. Remy’s reminds me to, as I spoke about above, let the story dictate both process and product. And aside from that, both books are incredible in about a thousand other ways.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Dive deep into your projects, and try to get each one to a place of near-perfection (because that’s as much as we can ever hope for), but don’t forget to take also regularly step back. Think about your next project. And the one after that. Think about your career as a whole. Think about where you are headed, and where you want to be. Also: READ.

And a bonus question- If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I think I’d be snot-flavored, to prevent anyone from eating me!

BIO
Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds and its sequel, Revenge of the EngiNerds, as well as the author-illustrator of the upcoming activity book, Give This Book a Title. Jarrett is also the author of the forthcoming Geeger the Robot early chapter book series, the forthcoming third book in the EngiNerds series (The EngiNerds Strike Back), and the author-illustrator of the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). He cofounded and helps run the MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. He can be found at jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter and Instragram at @Jarrett_Lerner. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts, with his wife, his daughter, and a cat.

Social Media
www.jarrettlerner.com
Twitter and Instagram: @Jarrett_Lerner
My books can be purchased anywhere books are sold, but if they are purchased from my local indie, Porter Square Books, I’ll go in and sign/personalize them:
https://www.portersquarebooks.com/search/author/%22Lerner%2C%20Jarrett%22

Author Antwan Eady on Starting Where You Are

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, I stumbled upon a very inspiring thread written by author Antwan Eady. I was so moved by it that I contacted him right away, and asked for permission to post his inspiring words on my blog. He said yes! Here’s the thread that I think many of you will relate to:

Sometimes you just have to start where you are.

As a writer, I stood in my own way for so many years. A decade really.

I wrote my first PB in ‘07. I started a novel in ‘11. I wrote poetry all of my life but stopped in ‘11 or ‘12.

I was waiting for the “perfect” environment. The “perfect” desk. A new laptop. Etc.

Last year woke me up in the best possible way. I couldn’t believe the excuses I’d used.

But instead of focusing on the excuses, I got started. Without a desk. On an ancient laptop that was given to me (one that couldn’t hold a charge and had to be plugged in to work). I…got started.

Day job hours start at 10.5 hours and can go up from there. Many days I wrote/write before work, during lunch, and after work, dedicating my weekends to writing, too. Saying “no” to other things. I sacrificed in an effort to cultivate my passion.

For me, I just had to get started. Wherever I was at…I had to start.

With the laptop that couldn’t hold a charge, the one that became too hot on my lap, I started writing.

It gave me manuscripts. Gave me agent offers. And more. No desk. No noise canceling headphones. No printer. No “perfect” place.

For reference, that laptop was so big that I was embarrassed to carry it in public after a guy approached me and asked if I was a gamer. I assume gaming laptops are massive. 😅.

And because that laptop couldn’t hold a charge, I had to sit wherever outlets were. It owned me. Now the other way around. My perfect “spot” was wherever a free outlet was.

But here’s the end. I have a new laptop now. I have a desk (not a writer’s desk…but something for 30 bucks that I found, and I’m glad I did because I immediately cancelled my order for a “writers” desk.)

And I’m creating a space in my place where I can write how I’ve wanted to write for so long. So this thread comes from a place of appreciating what I have now, but being grateful for getting started when I did…how I did.

Gratitude really does unlock the fullness of life.

I met my writing halfway. The stories were there, waiting for me. And there are stories waiting for you too.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I had to know more about the author of these wise words, so I invited him to talk about his forthcoming book, NIGEL AND THE MOON.

Where did you draw inspiration for NIGEL AND THE MOON?
NIGEL AND THE MOON was inspired by the young, Black boy that I was afraid to be. Fear drove me to write this story because, even as an adult, there’s so much unlearning we have to do, right? In my home, I was allowed to dream. My parents supported every idea, every interest. But it was sharing those dreams with the world that shook me to my core. I drew inspiration from that experience. I’m inspired by having a book out there that will tell kids early on, “Dream. And dream without limits.” I also drew inspiration from the kids around us, Black and LGBTQIA+ kids especially – those that are with us and those that no longer have the chance to live out their dreams as a result of homophobia, racism, and other injustices. NIGEL represents the kid I was once and the kid I wanted to be.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
Whew. This question makes me feel like I should sit up straight. I guess this is happening. I’m a soon to be published author now. My writing process (pre-COVID) was writing when I could – before work (5am sometimes), during lunch, and after work. I frequented my local B&N Cafe here in Savannah. I struggled with flexing my writing muscles. Again, I was stuck on the “perfect” setting, but I’m learning to just write whenever, wherever.
When writing picture books I tend to start with an opening line. This comes to me before anything else. I have a ton of picture book ideas, but there are a few that are harder to ignore than others. So I go with my heart on those. I tend to handwrite, use my Notes app, and I write on my laptop. Occasionally, there are post its around as well. I get the story out then I’ll revise. Once I’m “done” revising, I let my stories sit. I don’t have a set time on this. I just let them sit until I can approach them again with fresh eyes and without anything that feels forced. I also find value in critique partners.
Overall, my writing process does vary depending on the project. For my YA, I’ve outlined. I’m in the process of outlining an MG now as well. Outlining doesn’t come natural to me, so I’m trying it out because I’d rather finish these in a decent amount of time without losing my creativity in the process.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“At night he tells the moon his dreams.
And here his dreams are safe.”

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention? Great question. I want to receive all the good that publishing has for me. I see my career heading in a direction that will allow me to open doors for others, but in a way that affords me the opportunity to keep those doors open. Having founded #BlackCreatorsInKidLit with an amazing team of Black creators and illustrators is just the beginning. I’m from the dirt roads of South Carolina, so to have made it this far, I’ve got plenty to tell and plenty to gain. I need more southern Black, gay representation. I have Gullah Geechee stories I want to tell. Sooo much.

Please share your favorite 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?
Classic – WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak. Funny enough, this one scared me as a kid. I don’t know when I overcame that fear, but when I did, I started to appreciate the illustrations and the story. This one moved me because it taught me the possibilities of our imagination. One second Max is in his bedroom, having a temper tantrum, and the next second, he’s sailing to an island filled with creatures only to be brought back home by the smell of dinner.
Contemporary – THE DAY YOU BEGIN, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez. I was moved from the first sentence, “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” It brought tears to my eyes as an adult. It was such a nurturing moment, and it was one that validates me as a reader. It’s telling me that whoever I am is okay and that I will enter rooms and that may not reflect my background but that’s okay. It’s one of my favorites of all time.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
Don’t deny your reader. Start where you are.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why? Vanilla ice cream! Easy question. It’s my favorite. If it isn’t available, I’ll go with Butter Pecan. But vanilla’s my favorite because it seems so simple, but there’s so much more to it. It’s sort of like the “still water runs deep” saying. Vanilla ice cream has depth. Haha.

BIO
Antwan Eady grew up in Garnett, SC, where he spent most of his days riding four-wheelers, fishing, and imagining a world without limitations. Eady is the founder of #BlackCreatorsInKidLit which aims to bridge the gap between publishing professionals and Black creators (authors and illustrators). When he isn’t writing, he’s searching for the best LowCountry boil in Savannah, GA where he currently resides. You can find him on Twitter @antwan_eady and on instagram @antwan.eady.
Website: www.antwaneady.com – be sure to subscribe!

Author Teresa Robeson on the Importance of One’s Culture – PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author I respect and admire: the wonderful Teresa Robeson! Here she is, discussing her books Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom, illustrated by Rebecca Huang and published by Sterling Children’s Books, as well as Two Bicycles In Beijing, illustrated by Junyi Wu, published by Albert Whitman & Company. Teresa also won a prestigious APALA Award, but I’ve been a fan of her work long before that happened. Check out her journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Teresa is generously giving away a FREE copy of either of her books!! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. US residents only, contest ends August 28, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Queen of Physics.
Thanks so much for inviting me into your blog-world, Lydia! I wrote the first draft of Queen of Physics back in the early 2010s. It got me my first agent who, sadly, not only couldn’t sell it but also quit the business after a year. Two interminable years rolled by—my darkest days—but to my delight, Jane Yolen picked the story to work with when I submitted it to the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship program. When we were done revising, I sent it out to editors (via SCBWI conference opportunities) and agents. Christina Pulles, then at Sterling, expressed an interest which I took to agents with. And with that interest I got my second agent. Just short of two years after signing the contract, my book debuted.

You used to be a research associate, how does that help you as a writer?
Well, certain things don’t seem to carry over—like running statistical analyses and working with Adobe Morph to create experimental images. But other skills, like writing carefully worded scripts, did help me to learn how to phrase things properly and with precision.

You won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Queen of Physics, can you please comment on how important it is for you to represent your culture?
My parents never wanted me and my sister to forget where we came from after immigrating, so they taught us Chinese reading/writing and history when we were growing up. But as a kid, I never fully appreciated my culture. It’s not until I aged that my cultural background began to become more meaningful. In a country where being a person of color is considered something less-than, educating others about my culture is an obligation I want to fulfill. So, being recognized by the APALA for my work in which I honor someone of my heritage is truly the best award I could possibly win.

Where did you draw the inspiration for Two Bicycles In Beijing?
Several things came together to birth this book: my growing interest in my cultural background in the past couple of decades and also a trip to China that my family took with my dad back in 2013. I was thinking about all the bicycles in Beijing one day, a few years after the trip, and the idea was born.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from either of your books.
And, oh, physics!
Physics, the study of the very matter
and energy around her,
the study of things that could be seen or felt
–heat, sounds, light, electricity, and motion–
and of things too minuscule to be seen or felt
–atoms and even tinier parts of atoms.
Physics captured her heart.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I would like to continue to write picture books about science and my culture, but I also really want to finish a few novels, both MG and YA. They’re both own-voices though one is contemporary and the other is alternate history. The YA idea won the Pitchapalooza contest at the 2017 NESCBWI conference, and I’m still working on it.

Please share your favorite 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?
Classic would have to be SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats. The language is spare and yet you sense Peter’s joy and wonder and the unconditional love from the mom when he gets home. A contemporary book that I’ve used as my mentor text for QUEEN OF PHYSICS is SWAN by Laurel Snyder. Laurel has a magical way with words—so lyrical and lovely. She is one of my favorite authors!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
Read voraciously, write fiercely, and trust that your voice will emerge.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I would go for a fruity gelato or a Kohr Bros frozen custard any day! As for ice cream, I really adore cherry/black cherry, but I’m also partial to vanilla. People think of vanilla as “plain and boring” but they don’t realize that vanilla (at least the real stuff) comes from orchids and was once exotic and hard to get. But if I could have only one frozen treat for the rest of my life, I’d choose orange creamsicle. I’m addicted to the stuff, and am drooling now just thinking of it

BIO
Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. Teresa’s picture book biography, Queen Of Physics (Sterling Publishing) won the 2020 APALA Picture Book Award, in addition to being named a 2019 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book. Her second book, Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman), released in April 2020. A 28-year member of SCBWI with many magazine bylines, Teresa served as the Illustrator Coordinator and now as the Co-Regional Advisor for the Indiana SCBWI chapter.

Social Media
Website: tereasrobeson.com
Twitter: @teresarobeson
Instagram: @tmrobeson

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow on the Power of Names

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. Here she is , discussing her new picture book Your Name is a Song, illustrated by Luisa Uribe and published by The Innovation Press. Kane. Interestingly, she found a publisher and a book contract first, and got an agent after! Check out Jamilah’s journey below.

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Your Name is a Song was a manuscript I wrote in early 2017 for the 12×12 picture book challenge. It was very long. Because the book explores the ways people demean names and because there are numerous ways that people can do that demeaning, I had a text that was almost 2000 words at one point. Then, there was the issue of researching the names and then writing out their pronunciations. This book took dozens of revisions and many hours of research before I felt it was ready for submission. I got an offer for it from The Innovation Press in late 2018 after several months of trying agents and then editors. I started hearing back from interested agents around this time and my editor, Asia Citro, at The Innovation Press also referred me to agents. Her referral is how I connected with Essie White, and I am forever grateful. It has been such an amazing partnership!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
A name inspired it. I was a teacher at the time and a student shared that his middle name was Olumide. I remember thinking his name was musical like a song. And then I thought “Your Name is a Song” would be a great title for a book. I worked backward to figure out what a book with that title should be about. “Olumide is a melody” became a line in the book.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
Once I have a spark of an idea, I like to gather things. I create a file on the computer or a section of a notebook to write scattered ideas. I’ll write down random sentences or lines of dialogue, titles, names, concepts, and themes. I’ll add free-writes of all sorts of things: scenes I’m picturing, character descriptions, logistics of the plot, etc. Once I have a lot of this material and I feel like I have a solid sense of the story, I start writing.

What differentiates your book from others with similar content currently on the market?
Well, I think mine is the only book about names that tries to include so many of them! I also think that it is probably the first book to explicitly celebrate Black American names. When we talk about appreciating names of diverse cultures, most people think about names from other countries but not necessarily American names like Latoya, Shauntaya, and Daquan. I make space for these kinds of names in my book.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“What about the kids at recess who said my name sounds made up?”
Momma pointed up. “Tell them that made-up names come from there.”
“From the sky?” the girl asked.
“Made-up names come from dreamers. Their real names were stolen long ago so they dream up new ones. They make a way out of no way, make names out of no names—pull them from the sky!”

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
 I want to continue writing more picture books and other kinds of kidlit. While this time during quarantine hasn’t been ideal for many reasons, it has given me additional time to focus on producing more writing. I have a couple new picture books coming soon. One that has been announced is Abdul’s Story, which will be out in 2021.

Please share your favorite 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?
One classic I love to study is The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton and Leo and Diane Dillon. I love that one because I feel like it translates the feel of oral storytelling into an actual picture book. It infuses that African artform into a picture book and I want to learn how to do that more. I don’t have a favorite contemporary children’s book because there are so many that I love and study. However, one picture book I have been looking at a lot lately as a mentor text is Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena Pliska and Fiona Halliday. I think this book is good for learning a lot of things, including lyrical writing, creating a sense of wonder in a picture book, and how to write about difficult topics for children delicately and yet honestly.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write the thing you’re scared to write—you know exactly what that is.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I would be vanilla with hot fudge slung on top because it’s messy, but the messiness is good.

BIO
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, M.S.Ed  is a Philadelphia-based children’s book author and educator. Her books, which feature young Black Muslim protagonists, have been recognized and critically-praised by many trusted voices in literature, including the American Library Association, School Library Journal, and NPR. A curriculum writer, community educator, and former English teacher, she’s educated youth in traditional and alternative learning settings for 15 years.

Social Media
Webpage: https://jamilahthewriter.com/
Follow on twitter: https://twitter.com/jtbigelow
Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjamilah/

To buy:
https://bookshop.org/books/your-name-is-a-song/9781943147724
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/your-name-is-a-song-jamilah-thompkins-bigelow/1132933989?ean=9781943147724

Author Laura Purdie Salas on Writing Nonfiction and Fiction (plus giveaway!)

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. I’m particularly excited for this Q & A, because I get to introduce an author who is not only a mentor to me, but who’s also one of the nicest and most approachable people on the planet: Laura Purdie Salas. For years, I have read her nonfiction books, and now she’s releasing a brand new fiction picture book, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten! published by Two Lions. Check out Laura’s journey below.

BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Laura is generously giving away a SIGNED copy of her book to one lucky winner. Simply comment on this blog, contest ends July 24, 2020 (US only).

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
I listened to the All the Wonders podcast where Matthew Winner interviewed Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant about their book, I Am (Not) Scared, back in 2017. They talked about writing about a common fear. Afterward, I asked myself, “What would be the most Uncommon fear a kid could have?” The answer that popped into my head was “a pile of puppies!” Here’s what I wrote in my Ideas file.
3/23/17: Not Puppy Kindergarten! A puppy is terrified of starting kindergarten and has all sorts of fears. What if everyone laughs at my spots? What if the other kids bite me? What if the snack is liver? What if I do everything wrong? This could be really funny, I think, and a good analogy to kids starting school. And what if everything bad really happened? Hmmm…While listening to All the Wonders episode with Anna Kang and her husband.  
I started playing with that, and the puppies morphed into kitties, and in just 10 or so drafts and with help from my Wordsmiths critique group, I created a manuscript I felt good about submitting. Over a few months, I sent it to four editors. Meanwhile Marilyn Brigham at Two Lions rejected a different picture book manuscript I had sent her. In her kind rejection note, she described the kind of manuscript she was looking for. I felt like Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten fit the bill, so I sent it in. She asked for a couple of revisions before acquiring it, but then everything moved forward quickly, with Hiroe Nakata coming on board to do the fabulous illustrations. And I realized somewhere during the acquisition process that Two Lions was the publisher who did I Am (Not) Scared! What a lovely feeling of coming full circle.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Oh. This would be the point where I say to myself, “I should have read all the questions first!” Hehe.
I will share that the inspiration for the sets of three rhyming lines appearing occasionally throughout the prose story came from Tammi Sauer’s text for Mr. Duck Means Business (Paula Wiseman Books, 2011). I loved the effect and set out to use it from the start. It disappeared from some versions as I tried different approaches, but it kept popping back up. Mentor texts, often for structure or voice or some specific technique like this, often play a role in my writing.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It does vary, but a few things hold true 99% of the time.

  • An idea percolates in my heads for weeks or even months before I start writing.
  • I write a LOT of drafts circling around the topic or character, getting (hopefullyl) closer and closer as I try different things.
  • In many drafts, I focus on one or two things, e.g., Make all of Clover’s reactions more over the top in this draft or Use more cat-related wordplay in this draft.
  • The ending doesn’t usually fall into place until…the end. I struggle with endings, and it’s almost always the hardest part of the book for me to write.

What are the key differences in writing fiction vs nonfiction? Can authors write both?
Yes, authors can write both! Many of my favorite authors, like Joyce Sidman, Kate Messner, and Nikki Grimes, write in multiple genres! It might require different writing processes for each genre/form, but you learn as you go. For me, the way I figure out the structure is the biggest difference between writing nonfiction and writing fiction. In nonfiction, I spend more pre-writing time percolating. I play with ideas for different structures. I often even sketch or storyboard them out and discard most before ever writing an actual draft. But in fiction, I just have to dive in to actual full drafts, because I can’t figure out the pacing and narrative structure of the story until I actually start trying to write the scenes.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Clover could not wait for nap time.
But nap time was a disaster. Ms. Snappytail’s purrrrrfume stank like licorice.
“Sweet dreams, Clover,” said Oliver.
“Nap time!”
“Share my rug!”
“Rock-a-bye, kitty, in the treetop…”
A treetop! Clover’s belly swayed, and she couldn’t sleep on her scratchy mat. She tried. She sighed. Clover Kitty quietly cried.
School felt nine lives long.
Maybe ten.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
These are tough times for book creators, especially if you’re not a big name. I hope to continue working on picture books of all kinds—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. And I love easy readers, too! I also have a Patreon group where I share information with children’s writers. I’d like to grow that enough to make it sustainable, as I love to share information and inspiration with writers. We’ll see what happens
My books coming out in the next few years include:
If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (illus. by Angela Matteson, Boyds Mills Kane, 2021)
We Belong (illus. by M Kawashima, Carolrhoda, 2022)
Zap! Clap! Boom! (illus. by Elly McKay, Bloomsbury, 2022)

Please share your favorite 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?
Does Dav Pilkey’s God Bless the Gargoyles (Voyager Books, 1999) count as a classic? This haunting, rich, rhyming picture book was one of the first that made me think, I want to create books like this. I thought of this book while writing We Belong for Carolrhoda (coming in 2022). Mr. Duck Means Business, by Tammi Sauer and Jeff Mack (Paula Wiseman Books, 2011), inspired me with its wry humor and the way so much is left unsaid, but a lot happens. This was definitely a mentor text for me for Clover Kitty. So many poetry and nonfiction picture books have been mentor texts for me, but this might be the first time I’ve acknowledged these two publicly!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Writing a picture book draft is like taking one step up Mt. Everest. That step might not place you at the summit, but it gets you to the next step, which gets you to step after that. And you can’t summit without all those steps. Also, donuts. They make every kind of climbing more fun.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Caramel Caribou: toffee ice cream, caramel-filled chocolate cups, and swirls of caramel. Because I think life is short and you should make yours a celebration. This ice cream says celebration to me

BIO
Former teacher Laura Purdie Salas believes reading small picture books and poems can have a huge impact on your life. She has written more than 130 books for kids, including Lion of the Sky (Kirkus Best Books and Parents Magazine Best Books of the Year), the Can Be… series (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice), and BookSpeak! (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable). Visit Laura at laurasalas.com.

Social Media

• site: www.laurasalas.com
• Clover Kitty page with lots of downloadables: laurasalas.com/clover
• order personalized copies of the book through Red Balloon: laurasalas.com/clover
• blog: laurasalas.com/blog
• Twitter: @LauraPSalas
• Instagram: LauraPSalas
• E-letter for educators: tinyurl.com/p5q54g8
• Patreon: patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten is an Amazon First Reads pick, which means it’s at a huge discount for July only. Anybody can get the Kindle edition for $4.99 or the hardcover edition for $6.99. (And Prime members can get the Kindle edition free.) That link is https://amzn.to/31QKWMz
AND, through the end of July, there’s a Goodreads Giveaway! Hardcovers will be sent to 20 winners. That link is https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309060-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten
With both of these, the idea is to get Clover Kitty into more hands and hopefully get lots of honest reviews. I’m extra grateful to folks like you who help spotlight books in a big way, but I also really appreciate anyone who reviews the book on their platform of choice. Finding our way to readers is an extra challenge right now!

Author Valerie Bolling Dances her Way to her Debut (plus giveaway!)

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Valerie Bolling. Here she is , discussing her new picture book Let’s Dance!, illustrated by Maine Diaz and published by Boyds Mills & Kane. Iread the book myself and loved it, and I admit, it made me want to get up and DANCE! Check out Valerie’s journey below.

BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Valerie is generously giving away a query critique OR a  PB critique (500 words or less). Simply comment on this blog, contest ends July 13, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Let’s Dance! was “liked” in #PBPitch in June 2018 by Jes Negrón, an editor at Boyds Mills & Kane. A couple of weeks after sending the manuscript to her, she expressed interest in publishing the book. When we had “The Call,” I shared with her my desire for the book’s illustrations to display an inclusive representation of children: gender, race, ability. Jes expanded upon my vision for diversity by recognizing that some of my words described cultural dances like Flamenco (Spain), Kathak (India), and Long Sleeve Dance (China). I am thrilled to have this added layer of cultural representation in my book!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I didn’t draw the book’s inspiration, Lydia. Maine Diaz, the amazing illustrator, did. Sorry; I couldn’t resist providing that response. 🙂
Since most children enjoy dancing (adults, too, including me!), I decided to write a fun, rhyming story celebrating the universality of dance. My goal was to showcase dance as a language we all speak, even though we have different “accents.”
I want everyone who reads Let’s Dance! to know that not only are people connected through dance, but we’re also connected simply because we’re human. Regardless of how we dance, how we look, or who we are, we are worthy, valuable members of society.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I don’t think of myself as having a particular writing process. I write when a new idea enters my mind, and I CONSTANTLY revise. I’m typically working on at least three stories at a time, sometimes more.
A critical part of my writing process is critique. That’s what helps me make significant and (usually) effective revisions. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing critique circle: critique partner, critique group, debut group that offers critique, WNDB mentor, and, most recently, an agent!

Have any books inspired you and served as mentor texts?
In addition to critique being vital to the revision process, Lydia, mentor texts are invaluable. For Let’s Dance!, Watersong by Tim McCanna served as a mentor text. Visiting Day and Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson served as mentor texts for another manuscript. Those books helped me create an emotional arc in my story with a similar plot. Saturday by Oge Mora helped me work through changes to the ending of another manuscript. I read Woodson’s books, specifically because I believed they’d provide insight into my own story … and they did. On the other hand, I was reading Mora’s book just because I’d heard it was worth reading. It came as a pleasant surprise when it inspired a new idea for an ending to a story I’d been revising.
As an educator, I emphasize the importance of revision to students, touting the inseparable connection between reading and writing. When we read as writers, we notice certain qualities of books – intentionally and unintentionally. And those observations help us improve our writing. Conversely, writers engage in a heightened reading experience because we are able to appreciate a beautiful book in multi-faceted ways.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Wiggle hips/Spin, dip, dip (Kuku, a West African dance)

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope my career is headed to the sky because, though it’s a cliché, the sky’s the limit. I have two manuscripts out on sub right now, and a number of others waiting in the queue, so we’ll see. I’m constantly revising and also writing new stories. I’ve written three stories during the pandemic but have spent even more time revising other stories … not to mention promoting Let’s Dance! with blogger and podcast interviews and author visits to schools, bookstores, libraries, and dance studios. My author journey has been fun and exciting. Like a roller coaster, it may twist my head and twirl my tummy, but I’m not ready to get off the ride!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
If I can only say one thing, Lydia, it would be: Keep writing.
If I can say more, here are my five tips:

  1. Write.
  2. Revise.
  3. Read.
  4. Immerse yourself in writing opportunities and in the writing community by taking a course, joining SCBWI, going to conferences, joining a critique group, and participating in contests.
  5. Continue writing … even when you face rejection

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I’d probably pick anything with peanuts or peanut butter. I like ice cream but am allergic to peanuts (all other nuts are fine). Being an ice cream flavor that contains peanuts would ensure that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat myself!

BIO
Let’s Dance! (Boyds Mills & Kane) is Valerie Bolling’s debut picture book. In addition to being an author, Valerie has been an educator for over 25 years. When she taught elementary students, it was difficult to find diverse literature for them. Thus, she is passionate about creating stories in which all children can see themselves and feel valued and heard.
A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College, Valerie currently works as an Instructional Coach with middle and high school teachers.
Besides writing picture books, Valerie writes a Monthly Memo for teachers that she publishes on Twitter, and she has been published in The National Writing Project’s Quarterly (“The Family Writing Project Builds a Learning Community in Connecticut”) and NESCBWI News (“Microaggressions Don’t Feel ‘Micro’”). Recently, she had a poem accepted for publication by Cricket Media.
Valerie is represented by James McGowan of BookEnds Literary Agency, and she is a member of NCTE, SCBWI, the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee, the Authors Guild, the WNDB Mentorship Program, #12X12PB, 2020 Diverse Debuts, 20/20 Vision Picture Books, and a picture book critique group.
Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.

Social Media
Website: http://valeriebolling.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/valerie_bolling
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/valeriebollingauthor
Books can be purchased at any of these stores.
Click on this page to see options for where to purchase Let’s Dance!

Author Vivian Kirkfield: How to Write about TWO Famous People in ONE Book

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented nonfiction author Vivian Kirkfield. You likely know her name because she’s one of the most hardworking and friendliest names in the kidlit world. She had a slew of books recently come out, with more on the way. Join us as we discuss her latest nonfiction PB, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe published by Little Bee Books.

BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Vivian is generously giving away a signed copy of her book Four Otters Toboggan with the 8-page activity book that the illustrator created and a couple of Otters bookmarks. Simply comment on this blog. US only, ends June 26, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it is that each manuscript has its own journey…even if it is with the same publisher as a previous book. I haven’t had that experience yet, because each of my books is with a different house.
Making Their Voices Heard had a very interesting path to publication. I wrote the story early in 2015…and brought it to a conference where I was able to show it to an editor. Even though it was a rough draft, she loved it and asked for me to finish it and send it to her. I signed with my agent later that year and by early 2016, we sent it to the editor. She asked for revisions. I did them and she loved it…but couldn’t get her team to acquire it. They worried that it was a white savior story. That summer, had the opportunity to chat with another editor at a conference and she asked to see it. We sent it, she loved it, asked for revisions, but even though she loved the revision, she also couldn’t get her team to acquire it. Same problem. I continued to revise the story to try to bring more balance to the relationship between Ella and Marilyn. And when we sent it to Courtney Fahy at Little Bee Books, the magic happened. She loved it, asked for revisions (are you getting the picture of how this process works? Even when we think the story is singing, the editor may have a different harmony in mind 😊)…loved the revisions and acquired the manuscript.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The internet is my friend! I came across a photo of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe sitting shoulder to shoulder in a nightclub and the caption spoke of their friendship and how Marilyn had helped Ella break down some barriers. My curiosity was piqued…I grew up in the 50’s and admired the talent of these women, but had no idea there was a friendship between them. I had to find out. When I dug deeper and discovered what had happened, I knew it was a story that kids needed to hear…about friendship, inclusion, respect for others, no matter what their race, creed, or color.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I’m dedicated to this writing journey. Fortunately for me, I am retired and can write all day, all night, whenever I choose. I tend to work on various projects at the same time…and juggle these with giving feedback to my critique partners and critique clients. The best thing is that I love it so much, it is not work…it is my passion…so I always want to be writing.

What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
As a kid, I read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover…I absolutely love to find out about people, places, events…especially hidden gems about ordinary people who did extraordinary things…but who didn’t get the recognition they deserve…and whose lives and accomplishments kids need to know about – I’m hoping that if they engage in the story, it might spark their curiosity and lead them down a path of new knowledge and interest.

 Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside they were alike—full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m not sure where my career is headed…but I do know that I am definitely enjoying this wild adventure! I feel blessed to be living my dream. Upcoming books in the pipeline are FROM HERE TO THERE: Invention That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 19, 2021, illustrated by Gilbert Ford) and PEDAL, BALANCE, STEER: Annie Londonderry, First Woman to Cycle Around the World (Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills & Kane, Spring 2023, illustrated by Jana Christy). We also have four stories (all nonfiction pb bios) out on submission right now, so fingers crossed that one or more of them finds the right home. Because that’s the thing about this business…you can write the best story, but if it doesn’t get to the right editor, it’s a no go. And by the way…last year when I did the guest post here, I mentioned that an editor had asked for a particular story and I told you all that I had written it and we were hoping she would like it. Well, it wasn’t what she was looking for…and so my agent submitted it elsewhere…and that is the Pedal, Balance, Steer story that will be coming out in Spring 2023. Word to the wise…Never Give Up!

Please share your favorite 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?
This is definitely the hardest question of all…asking a lover of books which are her favorite ones. I’ve always loved The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton…I loved the story of a house that felt out of place…where change was happening all around her…and then finally, she is rescued and brought to a new surroundings where she can start a new life all over again. Newer picture books are mostly nonfiction: Laurie Wallmark’s Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine; Nancy Churnin’s Irving Berlin: The Boy Who Made America Sing; Hannah Holt’s The Diamond and the Boy. The writing in all is so lyrical…and the characters make a hero’s journey. I love them because they are inspiring stories for children and adults.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
The only failure is the failure to keep trying.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Moosetracks…chocolate with nuts and caramel!!!! And you ask why? Because I LOVE chocolate and the nuts and caramel only make it better!

BIO
Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author many picture books including Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and the upcoming From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 19, 2021) and Pedal, Balance, Steer: Annie Londonderry, First Woman to Cycle Around the World (Calkins Creek, Spring 2023).

Social Media
You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

Author Julie Falatko on Creating Chapter Books

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented writer Julie Falatko. I consider her one of my favorite fiction authors, so this is exciting! I first fell in love with her work when she created the Snappsy the Alligator series, and now she’s out with a new chapter book series, Two Dogs and a Trench Coat, published by Scholastic. Let’s support her by buying her books and/or reviewing them!

Please describe the journey to publication for this book series.
I had written picture books but nothing longer yet. I knew I wanted to – I overwrite my picture books to get the story down, and have to cut away 75% of what I write. I liked the idea of trying to write a story that would let me keep a few more of those jokes in.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
At the time, I had two dogs (I’m down to one now, alas), and spent a lot of time narrating what I thought the dogs would be saying to each other. I think all pet owners probably do this. But it became a bit of a competition in my family, to try to do it in the best, funniest, most pun-filled way. A lot of it was the dogs trying to get the idiot humans to give them large piles of meat.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process is the same for every project. I do a mix of writing longhand and typing into the computer. I write some and then go for a walk and think about the problems I’ve run into with what I’m working on (and write possible solutions or good sentences on an index card I keep in my pocket). And I do my best work early in the morning. It has gotten really bad, my ability to work past a certain time of day. It keeps getting earlier and earlier. At this point, my best work is done before 9 am. I can’t do any creative idea generation at all after 2 pm.

We’re always hearing about how chapter books are a difficult market. How did you manage to break into this genre?
It was a combination of hard work, luck, and being in the right place at the right time. I’d written a chapter book collaboratively with two other authors, which was honestly the funniest thing. And no one wanted it. But I kept working on picture books, and various other longer things. I read all the time. I did what I think is probably technically called “making connections” or “networking” but was really just me wanting to talk kids books with other people who were happy to have a long discussion about books with me. I met my Scholastic editor because of all of those things. We’d known each other as industry acquaintances for a few years before we talked about working together on Two Dogs in a Trench Coat.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
My favorite scene in Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Enter Stage Left is when the acting teacher is trying to lead the students in a relaxing breathing exercise and the kids and dogs have absolutely no idea what’s happening:
“Everyone, take a deep breath,” said Mr. Rollins.
“Why?” said Bax.
“We are going to practice being in a play where we are breathers,” said Waldo.
“I took a breath in, and then I breathed out,” said Piper. “Is that okay? Or do you want me to hold my breath?”
“You should definitely breathe out,” said Becky. “I did, at least. Wait, can we breathe in again?”
“Listen to Mr. Rollins,” said Charlie. “He’s teaching us a special way to breathe. If you breathe in, and out, then in again, you’re just breathing like you always do.”
“Salty is breathing in and out very fast now,” said Bax. Waldo was, in fact, panting. “I’m going to do that. That seems more fun.”
Susan made a squeaking noise. Her face was very red. She exhaled noisily. “Why did you have us hold our breath?”
“I’m just trying to get you to relax,” said Mr. Rollins.
“Try harder,” said Bax, nearly out of breath.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I want to keep making books, especially books that I would have liked to read when I was a kid. I have a few projects in progress that I can’t talk about yet, but I can tell you that my next picture book will be Dear Sirs, out next year from Cameron Kids, which will be illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo.

Please share your favourite 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?
What I love in classic books is the way the format allowed them to take their time with the story. You look at a book like One Morning in Maine that takes a full 45 minutes to read aloud. And it’s perfect. It would never fly today, and that’s fine, but I do love reading a book that talks for pages about a spark plug, or books like Bread and Jam for Frances with that whole long exalted description of Albert unpacking his lunch box. It’s so delightful to encounter those picture books that slow down so much.
That said, I always name Amos & Boris by William Steig as my favorite classic picture book. The characters are perfectly set up, the language is beautiful and lyrical, and the plot is done in such a way that you have a real moment of despair wondering how it’s all going to be fixed and that allows you to feel joy at the absurd and somehow completely right way it’s all resolved.
Now, a contemporary book. The coronavirus pandemic has really taken a number on my knowledge of the most recent picture books. Or, I know about a lot of them, but haven’t read them yet, since I often got them from the New Releases shelf in my local library. I know there are many incredible picture books that were published in the past three months. The children’s book industry is an incredibly kind business to work in, and it’s one where you make a lot of genuine friends, so this question feels a bit like a bizarre award acceptance speech, where I want to name all my friends and the brilliant books they’ve written. Given that, I’ll throw that all out the window and name a book by an author I don’t know: Sweety by Andrea Zuill. It was the last book I read that really wowed me as far as the plot and the characters and also instilled a deep annoyed jealousy in me that she made a book so hilarious and perfect.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
The hardest part of being a writer, and the thing that will ensure your success, is doing the work. 100% of people with books out in the world did the work. They faced rejection and failed manuscripts and being stuck, and still they kept at it, and did the work.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I am probably a weird, potentially terrible, flavor, like gummy bear or salted grapefruit, where you try it because it’s so ridiculous and think, “I think I actually love this?”

BIO
Julie Falatko is the author of eight funny books for kids, including Snappsy the Alligator and The Great Indoors. She lives in Maine with her family.

Social Media
Website: http://juliefalatko.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieFalatko
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/julie_falatko/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieFalatkoAuthor/
Local indie where you can order signed books: https://www.printbookstore.com/falatko

Author Jennifer Swanson and her love of STEM

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented nonfiction author Jennifer Swanson. I absolutely love her book Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact. And, she just recently released a few gem, Beastly Bionics published National Geographic Kids. Check out her book journey below:

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
I have always been fascinated by engineering and technology. For me, the excitement of this topic is what work is being done NOW. I felt very strongly that this book should not just include technology that has been proven, but also technology that is still in the creative process. I want to show young readers what is possible and how they can imagine something and work to make it a reality. The idea is a bit revolutionary in terms of children’s books, because most books cover information that has already been proven. But I had worked closely with my National Geographic Kids editor on several books and she was really intrigued by my idea and excited to have it at her imprint.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
This book is about animals, which are cool, and robots, which are also cool. So, why not? I loved the idea of writing about bionics and biomimicry. Nature is a wonderful way to be inspired to create objects that can help humans. I started reading about all of these amazing inventions, and knew kids would find them fascinating.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
Since I write about a lot of very technical topics, I tend to do my research as I write. I will have multiple tabs open on the computer, stacks of books next to me, as I read, digest, and write my manuscript. If  possible, I try to visit the places that I’m writing about. For me research trips are the BEST! I’ve been lucky enough and honored to be invited to many amazing science venues.

What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
My whole life I’ve been curious. Mostly I wanted to know how things work. How is that made? Why does it work that way? What are those coils and cords that provide the electricity? Most of all, I love learning. For me, learning is best when it is FUN! Which means that in my books I always look for a unique way to convey information. A different take on something. I want my readers to constantly say, “WOW. I didn’t know that.” Because that is how I feel when I do my research.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Sticky feet that climb anything. Trunk-like robotic arms.  Super-senstive hearing. What is this? Some kind of new superhero? Nope. These are examples of robots that are engineered with bionics, or nature-inspired technology. It is innovation in action! Animal-style.
Packed with cutting-edge robotics, this book gives readers a peek inside creations that may have only been previously seen in a rainforest, ocean, or even just flying right outside your window.  Perfect for makerspaces, or kids who love robotics but not necessarily just coding.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I will continue to write books for kids about science and STEM. It is my passion and if they are able to inspire even one child to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math, I would be extremely happy. As a way to further my reach, I have also just started a new STEM podcast called Solve It! for Kids. https://solveitforkids.com/

Solve It! for Kids
The science podcast for curious & creative kids and their families.
Peek into the world of real-life scientists, engineers, and experts as they solve problems in their every day jobs. Kids and families are then invited to take on a challenge and solve a problem themselves! Join Jennifer and Jed as they ask questions, solve problems, and offer challenges that take curiosity and creativity to a whole new level.
Don’t forget to participate in our weekly challenges! If you do, you can be entered to win a free book. (Different book every month!)

Please share your favorite 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?
Classic books that inspired me: The Nancy Drew Mystery series. While it’s a fiction book, this series got me hooked on investigation and inquiry, something every good nonfiction author needs in their search for knowledge.
Contemporary book: A Black Hole is NOT a Hole by Carolyn DeCristofano (Charlesbridge Publishing). This is an awesome book is  a fun and exciting look an extremely challenging topic. Well done and a great mentor text for me.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? (I will make an ecard with your quote and circulate it)
Write what you are passionate about! That is the key to everything. If you love your topic, that passion will show through to all of your readers.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I love chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s a bunch of different things all mixed together and  yet it all works as a great flavor.

BIO
Now, Jennifer Swanson is the award winning author of over 40+ nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Jennifer’s love of STEM began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science and technology resonates in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge), Astronaut-Aquanaut, and Save the Crash-test Dummies. Her books have received many accolades including the starred reviews, Booklist Best Tech books list, Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, and multiple California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. her BRAIN GAMES book was even #13 on the The Planets.org 50 Best Science books Ever Written.
An accomplished and exciting speaker, Jennifer has presented at National NSTA conferences, the Highlights Foundation, the Atlanta Science Festival, the World Science Festival in NYC and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival. Jennifer encourages kids (of all ages) to engage their curiosity and DISCOVER the Science all around them!

Social Media
www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
Starred review from School Library Journal: https://www.slj.com/?reviewDetail=beastly-bionics-rad-robots-brilliant-biomimicry-and-incredible-inventions-inspired-by-nature&fbclid=IwAR2igmNpfaI4gqRfT69q6e5IdqIOUAY3pK5cHksLwifCUMxuBZpyliE1Fwg
Twitter: @JenSwanBooks