nonfiction

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

A Nonfiction (and free) Festival!

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Attention all nonfiction writers! Whether you’re a newbie or experienced in the world of nonfiction, this new festival is a must-attend. You can participate from the comfort of your home. Plus, it’s absolutely free!

What is it? Here’s a snippet from the NF Fest website, https://www.nffest.com/

About NF Fest

NF Fest, organized by the Nonfiction Chicks in February, is a month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children. Participants will learn the craft from 29 authors and others in NF publishing through daily posts. Daily activities will get you writing and researching in small steps. It’s all free, and there will be prizes!

Join our NF Fest Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/NFFest/ for updates and discussion. You can also sign up for email notifications in the sidebar of this blog so you don’t miss a post. We hope you’ll join us in 2020 for this fun and educational event!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s organized a group of veteran nonfiction writers who are ready to share their knowledge with you.

Who are they?

Pat Miller
Linda Skeers
Lisa Amstutz
Nancy Churnin
Peggy Thomas
Stephanie Bearce
Susie Kralovansky

You can read up on them here:
https://www.nffest.com/p/meet-nf-chicks.html

This year’s bloggers will include:
Karen Blumenthal/Candace Fleming
Beth Anderson
Carla McClafferty
Melissa Stewart
Heidi Stemple
Barb Kramer
Sophia Gholz
Nancy Turminelly
Donna Bowman
Mary Kay Carson
Traci Sorrell
Cynthia Levinson
Jen Bryant
Jill Esbaum
Kerry McManus, Marketing Director
Don Tate
Meeg Pincus
Lisa Schnell
Susannah Deevers
Vivian Kirkfield
Kelly Halls
Stacey Graham, agent
Bethany Hegedus
Alice Duncan
Rob Sanders
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Chris Mihaly
Steve Swinburne

Registration begins TODAY and will go on until January 31, 2020.
Click HERE to register.

See you there!

Lydia

Q & A with author PJ McIlvaine & Critique Giveaway

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Hello all!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIO

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

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

Twitter: @pjmcilvaine

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

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

The book is currently available for pre-order.

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

Q & A with nonfiction author Laura Purdie Salas

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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