Fiction

Q & A with author Michael Sussman plus GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Michael Sussman. He just published his kidlit book, Duckworth the Difficult Child with Atheneum Books for Young Readers. He explains his journey below. Michael is generously giving away a FREE copy of his book. All you have to do is comment on this blog and I will pick a random winner within a week!

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
Although it typically takes me much longer, I wrote this story in a month or two. I hired one freelance editor for developmental editing and another for line editing, and then submitted the manuscript to agents. I signed with Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, who loved the story, and she was able to sell it to Emma Ledbetter at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I worked with Emma for two months on polishing the story, and then she brought Júlia Sardà on board, a world-class illustrator centered in Barcelona. Júlia was already committed to about a year’s worth of projects, so it was a little over three years from offer to publication.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The story was inspired by a visual image, which is unusual for me since I have aphantasia, a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery.
One summer evening, while taking a stroll, an image flashed through my mind of a snake that had swallowed a child. As I imagined the bulge working its way down the length of the serpent, it struck me as a compelling (if somewhat macabre) basis for a picture book. I worried that my concept might be too scary for young children, unless I made it a funny story. So, I decided to model the tale after one of my favorite books, The Shrinking of Treehorn, by Florence Parry Heide and Edward Gorey, in which a boy named Treehorn finds himself shrinking, which his parents are too oblivious to notice.

Please share some of your writing process.
I am a devoted pantser, since I abhor outlines. I like to make up the story as I go along, and want to be as surprised as the reader at what happens next. One drawback to this approach—which I call “writing from your subconscious”—is that I often have absolutely no idea how the story ends!
I am not someone who writes every day, since I am utterly useless without my muse. Although I struggle to come up with good ideas, once I’ve got one, I can write day and night without distraction. For me, the creative process is what keeps me going in life—especially since my son went off to college—and nothing compares to those periods when my writing is flowing and my imagination takes flight.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved to read and I devoured stacks of novels as a teen, sometimes imagining becoming a novelist. I started keeping a journal when I was around fifteen, writing poems, song lyrics, diary-like entries, and also making doodles and drawings. I also took creative writing classes in high school, focusing on short stories. Later in life, I published a rewrite of my doctoral dissertation, A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy. I focused on professional writing until about twenty years ago, when I became obsessed with writing fiction.

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 picture books and novels, and perhaps screenplays. I’ve just completed an MG novel, which is currently being subbed, as well as a sequel to Duckworth.

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?
There are too many to just pick two! For children’s literature, my greatest inspiration has come from Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Florence Parry Heide (The Treehorn Trilogy), William Steig (Spinky Sulks), David Small (Imogene’s Antlers), and M.T. Anderson (Feed).

The novelists who have influenced my writing the most include Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume), Kurt Vonnegut (Welcome to the Monkey House), Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics), Paul Auster (New York Trilogy), Aimee Bender (Willful Creatures), Christopher Moore (Island of the Sequined Love Nun), and Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters). These authors tend toward quirky, unconventional fiction that is full of humor, suspense, and surprises.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Let your subconscious lead the way.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Ben & Jerry’s Imagine Whirled Peace, because as Lau Tzu—the ancient Chinese philosopher—said: “If you do not change your direction, you may end up where you are going.”

BIO

Michael Sussman, Psy.D., is a retired clinical psychologist, residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received his BA in Music Composition from Hampshire College, his doctorate from Hahnemann University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Menninger Foundation. Sussman has worked in hospitals, counseling centers, private practice, and as a clinical instructor at Harvard University.
Sussman’s first book—A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy—was a main selection for America’s largest psychotherapy-related book club, and was released as a paperback in 2007. He also edited and contributed to A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice, published by Wiley.
Sussman’s debut picture book—Otto Grows Down—was published by Sterling in 2009, with illustrations by Scott Magoon. His debut YA novel—Crashing Eden—was released by Solstice Publishing in 2012. And his psychological thriller—Incognolio—was published in 2017 by Janx Press.

Author website: MichaelSussmanBooks.com
Twitter: @MichaelBSussman
Instagram: michael_sussman
Duckworth at Amazon: amazon.com/Duckworth-Difficult-Child
Duckworth at IndieBound: www.indiebound.org/book/

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Q & A with author Connie Dow plus GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Connie Dow. She published her book, From A to Z with Energy with Free Spirit Publishing. She explains her journey below. Connie is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book.

Enter the Rafflecopter contest HERE!

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I had written a poem about being active that was four stanzas long, for the letters A through D.  While I was editing it, I thought about expanding it. That led me to a lot more ideas, and before I knew it, I had a picture book manuscript.
I started researching publishers that might be interested in a story that would inspire children to be active. Dance has many benefits, and also addresses many social-emotional learning (SEL) concepts, such as problem-solving, impulse control, and creativity.  I came across Free Spirit Publishing and submitted to them. They were interested in the ways I tied dance/movement activities to SEL and also early literacy skills. There is a guide for parents and teachers at the end of the book about the benefits of dance, plus ten extra movement activities.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My background as a dancer, my long career in dance education, and the many children I have taught and know are often the inspiration for my stories, and that is the case with this book.

Please share some of your writing process.
I start with an idea, and think about whether I want to try the idea out in prose or rhyme. Once I have a rough draft of a story, I embark upon the long process of editing,  sharing it with my critique partners, and getting it ready to submit.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Wanting to be a writer and wanting to share ideas about teaching movement happened simultaneously.  I had been teaching creative dance for many years. I had saved many of my lesson plans, and wanted to compile them into a book to share with teachers. I submitted the manuscript to Redleaf Press, and they offered me a contract for a book, and then eventually a second book.  In addition to ideas for integrating movement into the classroom, the books also include information about the benefits of movement, ideas for classroom management, and modifying movement to include all children in the activities.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I love writing for children. I have many other manuscripts I am working on, and I am venturing into narrative nonfiction with a true story about a dog who works with children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Indiana!

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 love books that show the endless possibilities of the creative process. One classic that I love is Harold and the Purple Crayon, written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson. This simple, lovely book shows that a child can go anywhere with just his crayon and his imagination. I have used it many times in my dance classes with children as an inspiration for exploring movement.
The more recent book What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom is a beautiful treatise on how we should see our ideas as special, to be tended and cared for, and that they can ultimately go in many different directions. I love to think of young children hearing that message and treasuring and nurturing their own ideas.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
One incredibly valuable resource is fellow writers, who are very generous with their help and support. Connecting with other writers is a way to be a part of a community, even though you are spending much of your time alone at your desk!

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Definitely coffee.  It is my favorite ice cream flavor, and I associate coffee with positive energy and rich yumminess!

BIO
I began dancing when I was very young, and have been dancing ever since. After attending Denison University, and then earning an MFA degree from the University of Michigan, I danced professionally in the US, Venezuela, and Guatemala. During my long career as a dance educator, I have taught three-year-olds having their first dance experience, to senior adults in wheelchairs, and every age in between. In addition to my picture book From A to Z with Energy! (Free Spirit Publishing, 2019), I have written two books for teachers, Dance, Turn, Hop, Learn! Enriching Movement Activities for Preschoolers, and One, Two, What Can I Do? Dance and Music for the Whole Day (both published by Redleaf Press, 2006 and 2011). I also write articles for magazines and journals, and verses for Highlights magazines.

Website:  www.movingislearning.com
Blog:  http://www.movingislearning.com/blog
Facebook:  Moving Is Learning
Twitter: @cbergsteindow
Instagram: conniebdow
Link to purchase book:
https://www.freespirit.com/early-childhood/from-a-to-z-with-energy-connie-bergstein-dow-gareth-llewhellin

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/

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

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