Publishing industry

Author Teresa Robeson on Mastering Biographies- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m excited to introduce my next guest, an APALA Picture Book Award-winning author, who’s not only talented but also very friendly, Teresa Robeson. She’s here to discuss her latest middle grade graphic novel, Who is Tibet’s Exiled Leader? the 14th Dalai Lama, illustrated by Angela Poon and published by Penguin Workshop.

BUT first- YAY! Teresa is generously giving away a FREE 30-minute AMA. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends April 7, 2023.

Please describe the journey to publication for Who is Tibet’s Exiled Leader? the 14th Dalai Lama.

In 2020, my then-agent spotted a tweet from a Penguin Workshop editor looking for people to write graphic biographies. I wrote up a proposal which the editor and her team liked and they offered for me to pick from a list of people they needed books on. I chose the Dalai Lama because my paternal grandparents were Buddhist and I always wish I were raised Buddhist instead of Catholic. My wonderful editor, Rachel Sonis, who is now at Time Magazine, guided me through two outlines and 5 drafts to the final version. The team picked Angela Poon to illustrate which was a brilliant choice. She made the script come alive! The whole process from signing the contract to the book being released took 2.5 years which seems like an incredibly short time for the publishing industry, particularly when you consider how much art Angela had to create.

What made you chose the format of graphic novel?

I didn’t choose the graphic format. It’s the defining feature of this particular line of WHO HQ books. I had never written in a graphic format before but my then-agent probably presented me with the opportunity because I had just won the APALA Picture Book award for a biography so she thought I could tackle a graphic biography. And, indeed, I wanted to because I cut my reading teeth on graphic novels and comics in Hong Kong where they have been popular for a long, long time.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

PANEL 2
The Nechung oracle goes into a trance while the DL speaks to him, visibly concerned and torn.

DL

Please tell me what I should do to prevent my people from coming to harm?

NECHUNG ORACLE

You…/ should…/ leave immediately.

PANEL 3
DL looks surprised.

DL

The last few times I asked, you advised me to stay and keep the dialogue open with the Chinese. Are you certain this is what I am to do?

PANEL 4
The Nechung oracle picks up a bow and arrow.

NECHUNG ORACLE

Go! You must go!

DL

But—

How did you go about researching this book?

The research for this biography was the same as for the other biographies I’ve worked on. I began with finding all the children’s books on the subject. From there, I branch out to adult books. After that, I also did a search online for legitimate sites to gather more information. I made cursory notes on similarities and differences from the different sources. Generally, if I believe that more info can be gleaned by interviewing someone, I do so. For this book, I mostly relied on the Dalia Lama’s biography (straight from the horse’s mouth, as the saying goes…no offense to His Holiness) and cross-referenced with two recent biographies by people who knew him pretty well.

What was the most surprising/fascinating thing you learned about the Dalai Lama, that you perhaps weren’t aware of?

I’m embarrassed to say that I really didn’t know a whole lot about the Dalai Lama’s life! For me, before writing this book, he was like Athena fully sprung from Zeus’s head: he is, had been, and forever will be, a grand and glorious figure that the world admired. So, everything that I learned about him was fascinating to me. What stuck with me the most is that he has such a playful sense of humor and was quite a mischievous child…like a normal human being!

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

It’s really tough to choose, but some of my favorite books from 2022 include The Gardener of Alcatraz by Emma Bland Smith and Jenn Ely; Hello, Opportunity by Shaelyn McDaniel and Cornelia Li; and The Adventures of Robo-Kid by Diane de Groat. You can probably spot a trend in my tastes. LOL! The writing and, in the case of Diane’s book, the art, too, make me mull over how to improve my own way of elucidation. As you know, it’s hard to nail a beautiful and unique voice.

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

My advice for writers is the same advice I have for anyone of any age: never stop learning! I’m a proud autodidact. Approach the world with a curious mind. Not only will it bring you joy, but it’ll also provide you with many writing ideas. I want to share two of my favorite quotes here:

“No day in which you learn something is a complete loss.” – David Eddings

“Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”- Henry Ford

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could meet a fictional character from one of your favorite books, who would it be?

Oh, my goodness; I had to think really hard about that one. I would have picked a different character at each stage of my life. But here and now, I’d have to say it’s Ford Prefect from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams because I could do with an adventure around the galaxy by a seasoned extraterrestrial journalist-traveler. I would even listen to Vogon poetry!

Thanks so much for having me on Blissfully Bookish, Lydia! I had such fun with your questions, especially this last one.

BIO

Teresa Robeson is the APALA Picture Book Award-winning author of QUEEN OF PHYSICS and TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING. Her upcoming works include WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER? THE 14TH DALAI LAMA (Penguin Workshop), CLOUDS IN SPACE: THE NEBULA STORY (MIT Kids/Candlewick), WHO IS BRUCE LEE (title to change, Penguin Workshop) and some yet-to-be-announced books. She lives with her family on 27-acres in rural Indiana where she relaxes by birding, keeping up with science, making soap, knitting, baking, and trying to impress the chickens with her bilingualism.

LINKS

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Author Roxanne Troup on Leaping from WFH to Trade- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m excited to introduce my next guest because she’s one of my CPs!!! I also relate to her because, like me, she has worked for educational publishers for many years. Please welcome Roxanne Troup, here to discuss her latest informational fiction picture book My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me, illustrated by Kendra Binney, and published by Yeehoo Press.

BUT first- YAY! Roxanne is generously giving away a FREE a signed copy of the book OR a manuscript critique. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends March 31, 2023, US only.

Please describe the journey to publication for My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me.

I’d been writing for the education market for several years when I first drafted what would become MY GRANDPA, MY TREE, AND ME. But it took me awhile to figure out the craft differences between the trade and education market. After several submissions without a response, an editor at a small press saw enough potential in the work to request an R&R (revise and resubmit). I didn’t agree with the direction they wanted me to take but tried to figure out what underlying issue they were pointing out (it was the ed-market voice). I dove into revisions and later had the opportunity to submit to Katie Heit at Scholastic. The story was too quiet for Scholastic, but Katie was so complimentary I knew I’d hit the right note with my revisions. I finally found my publisher, Yeehoo Press, in May of ’21, two years after that initial draft.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration? Was it inspired by your own relationship to your grandfather?

Like most books, this idea came from several different places.

1) Pecan farming: I ran across a YouTube video of a farmer harvesting pecans and was thunderstruck by the method they used. Growing up in a farming community, I had some experience with agriculture and pecans. But we gathered pecans in buckets like the wild products they were. No one I knew—including my farming grandfather—harvested pecans by tractor.

2) Inciting incident: My parents planted trees for each of their children in Israel during one of their visits.

3) Relational aspect: Was probably inspired more by my brother’s relationship with his grandkids than my own relationship with my grandfather.

What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?

When I’m working on my own stories, I do a lot of initial drafting in my head. Sometimes a stunning first line, title, or refrain will present itself and I scribble it on paper so I don’t forget. But typically, I only sit down to write once I have a sold beginning, middle, and end to work with. Of course, then I have to figure out how to connect those dots—which sometimes takes awhile. When I’m ghostwriting or working on a contracted piece, I do a lot more prep work. I research, outline, draft the first couple pages to make sure I’m hitting the right tone and reading level, and send all that for approval. Once the client signs off, I put everything else aside and write.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Every winter, while the trees stand silent under a sleepy sun, Grandpa prunes his orchard until each branch feels the sunlight.

But not my tree.

My tree has lots of space to spread its branches. Grandpa only trims limbs that split in the wind.

When it comes to nonfiction, what are some strategies writers can use to make their texts engaging?

Experiment with structure. (The right structure solves so many manuscript problems!) And focus on language—whether it be fun or lyrical. Nonfiction writers can try adding a refrain to their manuscripts; or formatting their text as if it were a poem (which will highlight unnecessary phrases and weak verbs).

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

ICEBERG: A Life In Seasons by Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft

A beautiful, Australian title brought to North America by Groundwood books that highlights Antarctica’s ecosystem through poetic, nonfiction text and gorgeously luminous illustrations. ICEBERG explains the effects of climate change without being moralistic.

WISHES by Muon Thi Van and Victo Ngai

It actually came out in 2021, but I didn’t discover it until last year. A powerful story about immigration; the text is poetic and moving, the art, expressive. This one literally gave me chills.

GOOD EATING: The Life of Krill by Matt Lilley and Dan Tavis

This one’s just fun. Who would have thought to make a nonfiction book about krill?

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

Find authors who are doing the thing you want to do and follow their careers. Watch how they conduct themselves in the industry. Check out/buy their books, connect on social media, attend their classes and read interviews by them. “Stalk” them in the nicest and least obtrusive way possible. Don’t expect them to mentor you, but learn all you can from them and apply what you learn to your own writing journey.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could meet a fictional character from one of your favorite books, who would it be?

Arrietty from THE BORROWERS

BIO

With a background in education, Roxanne Troup is the author of over a dozen books for kids. She is also a professional ghostwriter who has worked with both publishers and individuals to write numerous picture books, chapter books, and adult nonfiction over the last ten years. Her debut trade picture book, My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me (Yeehoo Press, 2023) is a lyrical look at the life-and-harvest cycle of pecan trees. Her second trade deal, a rhyming picture book about space, has yet to be announced. Roxanne regularly reviews picture books at Goodreads with Ronna, is a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story and author mentor for the Michele Begley Mentorship program, as well as the co-facilitator of her local SCBWI Connect. She loves visiting schools to water seeds of literacy and teach about writing—and sometimes remembers to water the plants in her own garden. Learn more about her at https://www.roxannetroup.com/.

LINKS

Author Melissa Stewart on Expository Nonfiction- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m super excited because I got to interview one of my main nonfiction mentors who’s not only talented, but also very generous with her knowledge. Please welcome nonfiction pioneer, Melissa Stewart! I have the pleasure to introduce you all to her latest picture book, Whale Fall: Exploring an Ocean-floor Ecosystem, published by Random House Studio and illustrated by Rob Dunlavey. Check out the jaw-dropping cover!

BUT first- YAY! Melissa is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends March 24, 2023, US only.

Please describe the journey to publication for Whale Fall: Exploring an Ocean-floor Ecosystem.

The story behind this book traces back to 2019. While writing Ick! Delightfully, Disgusting Animals Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, I stumbled upon an article about zombie worms, aka bone-eating snot flower worms.

Of course, I included them in that book. First of all, what a fabulous name! But also—believe it or not—dozens of teeny tiny male zombie worms live inside each female. Wow!

Each section in Ick! was limited to about 400 words. But there was SO much more to say about these curious critters. I tacked the article to my Idea Board as a reminder that I hoped to learn more about them.

Sometimes notes and articles stay on my Idea Board for a long time, collecting dust. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, all my school visits were canceled and I had plenty of time for research.

As I began reading more about zombie worms and their environment, my mind was blown. I was completely captivated by the incredible collection of critters that live in, on, and around a whale fall. I knew I had to write a book about them.

The premise of this book is fascinating; that even though it may be the end of a whale’s life, it heralds a new beginning for many other sea creatures. What made you think of this concept?

Hmm, that’s an interesting question because I never considered any other approach. I guess the circle of life must be deeply embedded in my view of the world. Who we are as people—our experiences, our beliefs, our passions and vulnerabilities—fuel our writing, sometimes without us even realizing it. That personal connection is what makes the books we write uniquely our own.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Here’s the book’s opening:

“When a whale dies,
       its massive body
       silently sinks

down,
    down,
through the inky darkness,
      finally coming to rest
      on the soft, silty seafloor.

For the whale, it’s the end of a 70-year-long life.

But for a little-known community of deep-sea denizens, it’s a new beginning. The whale fall is a bountiful gift that can sustain life for another 50 years.”

Then the book goes on to describe the astonishing ocean-floor ecosystem with a whole host of creatures that are found nowhere else on Earth. Here’s one of my favorite spreads:

Some people believe that children prefer fiction over nonfiction, but that isn’t always true. Can you share what researchers have proven about children’s genre reading preferences?

To start off, it’s important to acknowledge that some children (and adults) really do prefer fiction. But most people (children and adults) enjoy both genres, and many prefer nonfiction. There is a robust body of research showing that many kids love reading to learn and find nonfiction fascinating, but unfortunately, many adults aren’t aware of that research. They mistakenly assume kids would rather read made-up stories.

As a result, nonfiction accounts for two-thirds of adult book sales, but only one-quarter of children’s book sales. Elementary classroom libraries contain four times more fiction than nonfiction. School libraries are typically divided into three major sections—two are fiction, and only one is nonfiction. Educators favor fiction without even realizing it. So do parents, grandparents, and other caregivers.

The good news is that the NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) is now trying to address the implicit bias against children’s nonfiction. On January 19, they released a Nonfiction Position Statement, calling for educators to add more nonfiction to their classroom libraries and use more nonfiction in instruction. As a science writer, I’m excited that the NSTA (National Science Teaching Association) endorsed it the very next day.

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

Oh, that’s an easy question. I published a list of my 15-favorite STEM books on my blog in December. These are books I hope educators will come back to again and again.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other nonfiction writers about how to craft their hooks?

Be patient.

Once in a while, I get super lucky, and a book idea comes to me with the hook, text structure, and voice built right in. But more often, it takes time. Sometimes a very, very, very long time. And that’s just the way it is.

As nonfiction writers, we have to wait until our brains work out how the various craft elements will work together to create a book that’s interesting and unique. You do a very good job of explaining this in a blog post for Storystorm back in January. I highly recommend it.

And a bonus question just for kicks! What’s your favorite animal you’ve ever written about, so far?

I’m going to go with the okapi, which is one of the animals included in Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. They’re so fascinating that I wanted to write more about them, and I now have a book focusing on them in the works. Stay tuned for more info coming soon.

BIO

Melissa Stewart has written more than 200 science-themed nonfiction books for children, including the Sibert Medal Honoree Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. She co-wrote 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, edited the anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing, and maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Nonfiction. Melissa’s highly-regarded website features a rich array of nonfiction reading and writing resources. 

LINKS

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

Happy Two Month Book Anniversary & MEGA GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world-

Happy second month anniversary to my book, DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench!! January 1 was a wild time to be released and things have been moving at warp speed. Now that my baby is two, I thought I would host a MEGA GIVEAWAY with a grand prize. The grand prize includes a signed book, stickers, magnets, bookmarks, bracelets and a TOTE BAG!!

To enter, simply engage with the tweet below:

I’m excited to continue my book tour as well, sharing it with students from Canada to the UK and the US.

Here’s a summary of the book:

Deep, deep down, at the very bottom of the ocean, lies a secret world. Through lyrical narration, this spare-text STEM picture book takes readers on a journey to a place very few humans have ever been–the Mariana Trench. The imagined voyage debunks scary myths about this mysterious place with surprising and beautiful truths about life at Earth’s deepest point. DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench shows a vibrant world far below, and teaches readers how interconnected our lives are to every place on the planet.

And check out the new trailer below:

Feel free to leave a comment below and share what your favorite books about the deep sea are!

Love & Light,

Lydia

Author Ellen Leventhal on Enjoying the Process- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming a friend of mine, and a member of my book promotion team PB Spree. Her name is Ellen Leventhal and she’s here to discuss her latest nonfiction picture book, Debbie’s Song: The story of Debbie Friedman, published by Kar-Ben and illustrated by Natalia Grebstova.

BUT first- YAY! Ellen is generously giving away a FREE a critique OR an Ask Me Anything session via Zoom. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends Feb 17, 2023, US only.

Please describe the journey to publication for Debbie’s Song: The Debbie Friedman Story. 

First of all, thank you so much for having me on your blog, Lydia. I appreciate it!

The journey to publication for this book is a funny story. I was told that one publishing house was looking for a story on Debbie, so I quickly worked on what I had already and sent it there. They were super nice and asked for a few R and Rs but ultimately passed. The day I got the pass, I sent it to Joni Sussman at Kar-Ben (with whom I always wanted to work), and it wasn’t long before I found myself jumping up and down because I got an offer. It shows how subjective this business is. Working with Joni and the staff at Kar-Ben has been great, and I know I found a wonderful home for Debbie’s story. I am thankful to both Kar-Ben and the other house which did get their story from someone else, by the way.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

During my teaching days in a Jewish Day School, the kids and staff sang Debbie Friedman songs all the time. I loved how she made her songs inclusive and fun to sing. Debbie drew inspiration from the folk singers of her time (which was my time too!), so I was drawn to her immediately. One day after I retired from full time teaching, I was teaching part time, and I heard a class singing one of her songs. Memories came rushing back, and I realized that I hadn’t heard her or about her in a long time. I knew enough about Debbie to know how amazing her story is, and that was that day that I knew I had to tell it.  

PB bios area tough sell in today’s market, how did you ensure your book would stand out?

Ha! I couldn’t ensure that it would stand out and someone would want it. Are we ever sure? I feel passionate about the story, and I hoped that would come through. I knew I had to write it, and I just took a leap of faith and subbed it. I wanted to tell the highlights of Debbie’s life and make it kid friendly, so I wrote it in somewhat of a lyrical format (as you can see below). I worked hard on those aspects, and hopefully, I hit the mark. Natalia Grebstova’s illustrations are very different and quite beautiful, so I believe they will help the book stand out on the bookstore shelves.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

For Debbie, it was like riding a twisty roller coaster.
Up, up, up, she’d climb, knowing she was making many people happy—
but the grumbling continued,
and . . . WHOOSH!
Down,
down,
down she’d slide,
landing with an unhappy THUMP!

What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?

In general, I work on a few things at a time. If I have a deadline or I am especially focused on one of them, I’ll let the others go for a bit, but usually, I tweak a little of this, write a little more of that, etc. And yes, the process does depend on the project. Of course, with non-fiction, such as this book, it starts with a lot of research. Some of my work starts with poetry, and I then try to craft a story around that. That’s how A Flood of Kindness got started. But one part of the process that is the same with everything is looking at and digesting feedback from critique buddies and doing loads of revision. My problem is that I have a hard time determining when it’s time to stop revising! Every time.

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

SO many wonderful picture books came out in 2022. And then of course, there were some amazing middle grade novels that sparked my interest in writing MG. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll just mention three picture books that have inspired me, each for different reasons. Each of these stories is very different, and I’m currently using all of them for mentor texts for different projects.

The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Susan Gal

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise.

Poo-Dunit? A Forest Floor Mystery by Katelyn Aronson 

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

I’d say to enjoy the process. If you are only focused on the outcome, you may lose the joy of creating. This is a tough business, but focusing on the joy of storytelling will keep you on an even keel.

And a bonus question just for kicks! Would you rather forget the ending of every book shortly after reading it OR not be able to re-read a book ever again?

Hmm… I like to re-read books, so I guess I’d like to forget the ending.

BIO

Ellen Leventhal is an author and educator in Houston, TX. DEBBIE’S SONG: THE DEBBIE FRIEDMAN STORY is her fourth published picture book. Ellen’s work has also appeared in various poetry and short story anthologies. Ellen’s best days are when she can interact directly with students and spread her love of literacy, compassion, and  kindness. To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, and school visits, please go to Ellen’s Website

LINKS

Webpage  (blog is on the webpage)

Twitter

Instagram

Signed books: Brazos Bookstore

Author Angela H. Dale on the Power of Editing- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish and my second Q & A for 2023! My first guest is Angela H. Dale, please welcome her as she discusses her book journey for Bus Stop, a fictional picture book illustrated by Lala Watkins and published by Abrams.

BUT first- YAY! Angela is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends Feb 17, 2023, US only.

Please describe the journey to publication for Bus Stop.

From its first draft in 2016, Bus Stop went through years of revisions and refinement – shout out to my critique group friends and partners – until it was submission ready. Post-contract, my editor had more thoughts on finetuning the manuscript, and the text ended up getting further distilled from about 200 words to less than 100, with tweaks right up to through the final art process, including character name and action changes to better complement Lala Watkin’s amazing art.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

Bus Stop started when I drove past a new bus stop down the street that was thronging with lively, laughing children. That took me right back to my own memories of waiting for the bus as a child, and the bottom of the best sledding hill in the neighborhood. I wanted to capture that sense of anticipation and joy that a bustling school morning and the season’s first snow can bring.

What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?

My writing process varies by the project, by the day, by the mood. A lot of my drafting and editing happens in my head, but when I start to transcribe, I’ll write in notebooks and legal pads, on bits of paper and backs of envelopes. Sometimes I text myself or dictate into my phone. Even after a draft or revisions are committed to a computer document, I will use a printout for further  brainstorming and line-editing. At all times, a purple pen is a must.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Hannah stomps.
Isaiah romps.
Joelle waltzes.
Kartik wonders:

           Where’s the bus?

I see you also have a passion for poetry. Do you have any plans to write lyrical picture books?

My next book, not yet announced, is a rhyming picture book. In addition to rhyme, free verse is very suited to the picture book format, and I have more in both styles that I hope will land on bookshelves soon.

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

Besides all of the wonderful books from my fellow debut creators in Kidlit Caravan, two favorites from this past year are:

When Molly Ate the Stars, written and illustrated by Joyce Hesselberth – this gorgeous, whimsical story will make you feel “warm and bright, inside and out.”

Donut, the Unicorn Who Wants to Fly, story by Laura Gehl and art by Andrea Zuill – 28 words of drama and hilarity in rhyme and glorious unicorn color.

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

The kidlit community is so kind, supportive and smart. Find your people – together you will share ups and downs, resources and insights, but above all the joy to the journey.

And a bonus question just for kicks! Would you rather forget the ending of every book shortly after reading it OR not be able to re-read a book ever again?

These days it’s 50/50 that I’ll forget the end of a book anyway, and that seems to be working out okay, so I’d rather be able to re-read any book I want. I don’t do it often with novels, but there are some favorites I’d be sad to never go back to. And of course, one of the things I love most about picture books is that they’re meant to be read over and over and the experience just seems to expand each time.

Thank you so much for these fun questions, Lydia. It was great sharing with you and your Blissfully Bookish friends.

BIO

Angela H. Dale writes picture books for children, former children and children at heart. BUS STOP, illustrated by Lala Watkins, is her debut picture book. Her next picture book is scheduled for Summer 2024. Angela lives in Maryland with her family and Harry the cat.

LINKS

twitter and Instagram: @angelahdale

website: www.angelahdale.com

You can purchase Bus Stop from your favorite local independent book store – check out https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781951836474 for locations – or wherever books are sold.

Author Elaine Kachala on Sharpening One’s Focus- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish and my first Q & A for 2023! My first guest is Canadian like me, and also loves writing nonfiction. Please welcome Elaine Kachala as she discussed her book journey for Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution, a middle grade book illustrated by Belle Wuthrich and published by Orca Book Publishers.

BUT first- YAY! Elaine is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends Jan 27, 2022, Canada/US only.

Please describe the journey to publication for Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution.

Thrilling! Nerve-racking! Fun! It was filled with many emotions and challenges since this was my first book. It was also a heartwarming experience because of all the people who supported me. 

My journey began six years ago at a writer’s workshop, where we discussed STEM/STEAM topics for middle readers. We talked about the impact of technology on people and the world and what would be the hook for this age group. I’m intrigued by STEM/STEAM topics because I have two daughters who work in these fields. I also work in health care policy, and in my job at the time, I was learning about incredible technologies that were improving people’s lives, especially those with disabilities. 

My earliest drafts included many different technologies. The style was descriptive, and there was too much information; I had to sharpen the focus and needed a narrative arc. I reflected on what I saw in healthcare and dug deeper into the research. Many drafts later, I landed on the topic of wearables—technology that’s on, in, or attached to your body. I wondered why I was suddenly so invested. I realized two things: first, this multifaceted topic has to do with health, well-being, and equity—issues that are important to me. And, beyond the blow-your-socks-off cool factor, our society faces many challenges with wearables as these sophisticated devices go mainstream. I wanted to write a book exploring how wearables are changing our lives and delving into technology’s pros and cons. Suddenly, many threads came together, and the idea for this book was born!

When Kirstie Hudson at Orca Book Publishers said she wanted to publish Superpower? as part of Orca Think, a nonfiction series for middle-readers, I was thrilled beyond belief! I’m ever grateful to Kirstie and the Orca team for their unending enthusiasm and support. We signed in April 2020, and this book became my passion project. Working with Orca Book Publishers has been an incredible experience. They are a fantastic publisher.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

I drew inspiration from a few sources, including my work in health care, the books I was reading about the impacts of fourth industrial revolution technologies, and the incredible inventors I interviewed, including the young inventors! Their steadfast passion for inventing technology to improve the world and their keen insights into the ethics and challenges had me at the edge of my seat and wanting to know more.  

What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?

When I’m writing middle-grade nonfiction, I always begin with research. I glance at what’s in the headlines of credible magazines (e.g., Forbes, Harvard Business Review), news reports, reputable websites (e.g., professional associations), etc. But I quickly delve into the literature, focusing on primary sources (e.g., books, scholarly journals, government documents) to further validate what’s in the headlines. I also watch video presentations (e.g., TEDx) and listen to podcasts by experts. I find these especially helpful for clarifying information with highly technical topics. I also read middle-grade books of the same genre to learn about the market, what topics were covered, where there are gaps, and how authors I admire present the information. I note names of experts I’d like to talk to, and after I know the book’s focus, have a clear structure and understand the topic, I write outstanding questions for interviews.

I’ve tried writing informational fiction picture books in the past, and my process was different. I’d focus on getting down my ideas and then go back and forth with research. But so far, the process I have for writing middle grades feels most comfortable. Maybe if I go back to writing PBs, my process will change.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Wow, this is a tough choice! I hope you don’t mind me sending four short excerpts that I love:

 “…those of us designing social virtual reality (VR) better get it right, and fast! This technology will transform our lives and how we communicate…we can’t ignore the darker side, and we each have a role in defining how this technology is shaped and developed.” (VR expert Dr. Jeremy Bailenson)

“We have to realize technologies can be used maliciously. They need to be managed, controlled and regulated. And it’s the responsibility of people inventing to focus on ethical innovation.” (Young inventor Soumiya Sivasathiyanathan)

“Technologies are tools made and used by people. We do have a say in how they advance. Caution! Move slow and think human.” (Author Elaine Kachala)

“Imagine being totally alert but unable to walk, speak or move our hands to turn on a light switch. It’s like you’re locked in your body. Now imagine a technology that helps you do these things using only your thoughts. That technology is called a brain-computer interface.” (Author Elaine Kachala)

Did you consult an expert for this book?

Yes! Many experts and they’re named in the Acknowledgments. Since there are many different technologies in the book, I had to check with various specialty experts. I interviewed several, including young inventors, and I also had experts with diverse backgrounds fact-check the manuscript.

I loved your fourth chapter entitled ‘Are We Crossing the Line?’ Can you please briefly comment on the ethics of technology?

Thank you! That was one of my favorite chapters to write. To quote Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen in the chapter, “there’s no denying it, the ethics are huge.” 

In this chapter, I focused on brain-computer interface (BCI) and virtual reality (VR) technologies because, in my view, they best illustrate the dichotomy between the tremendous benefits coupled with the extraordinary challenges that we’ll face. Like Dr. Jepsen says, “I’m going to make a life-saving medical device, but…it will also make telepathy possible.” As she also says, we have to ask questions and make choices, and it’s essential to have discussions now about how we’ll allow these technologies into society because once they’re out there, we will use them!

We’re fortunate to have scientists like Dr. Jepsen and others speaking out to make us aware of the challenges and advocating for the responsible design of technology. I also think our best chances for reaping the benefits and mitigating the risks are when two things are in place. First, when technology is designed collaboratively by diverse teams and when society works fast and furious to ensure kids everywhere have access to STEM/STEAM education where they can be part of the ethical conversations and prepared for job opportunities.

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

The books that most inspired me while I was writing Superpower? came before 2022, they included: Klaus Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2017) and Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018). Schwab has a new book, The Great Narrative (2022), and it’s on my reading list! Two other books also inspired me: Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age (2019) by Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne and Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do by Jeremy Bailenson (2018). I read the Age of AI: And Our Human Future (Henry A Kissinger and Eric Schmidt, 2022) after writing Superpower? It is a fascinating book. When I’m not reading books related to the subject I’m writing about, I love reading books by Mitch Albom!

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

Be prepared for the considerable time commitment that goes along with marketing and promotion, so start early and make a plan! I was new to the publishing industry and needed more M & P experience. So about ten months in advance, I started researching and attending workshops. You’ll be better prepared to work with your publisher, you won’t miss opportunities, and you’ll be able to plan and budget; there will be costs, but it’s an investment.

And a bonus question just for kicks! Would you rather forget the ending of every book shortly after reading it OR not be able to re-read a book ever again?

Oh, I’d rather forget the ending and re-read it! I love re-reading; I learn new things each time.

BIO

Elaine Kachala is a health-policy researcher, writer and adviser. She has over 20 years of writing experience with health agencies. SUPERPOWER? The Wearable-Tech Revolution is her first book. She’s curious and hopeful but can’t help being a little worried about how wearables will impact our health, well-being and equity. With degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of Toronto and a master of environmental studies from York University, she brings a unique perspective to the topic. Elaine lives with her family in Toronto.

Elaine’s excited to announce that SUPERPOWER? is on best book lists including the National Science Teaching Association & The Children’s Book Council’s – Best STEM Books for K-12The Children’s Book Council Hot Off The Press, November 2022  and tinlids best books for schools & libraries, Fall 2022.

LINKS

Website: https://www.elainekachala.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elainekachala
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elainekachala
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elainekachala/
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/elainekachala/
YouTube Book Trailer https://youtu.be/hvbNOG7V48Y
The book is available at bookstores and online, including Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Happy Book Birthday to DEEP, DEEP DOWN & GIVEAWAYS!

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Hello world!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I wish you health, joy, compassion, and of course, love.

January is a big month for me. My new STEM book DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench illustrated by Juan Calle and published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone imprint, sailed into our universe on January 1! This book was a labor of love, and combines my two biggest passions: science and poetry.

Here’s a summary: Deep, deep down, at the very bottom of the ocean, lies a secret world. Through lyrical narration, this spare-text STEM picture book takes readers on a journey to a place very few humans have ever been–the Mariana Trench. The imagined voyage debunks scary myths about this mysterious place with surprising and beautiful truths about life at Earth’s deepest point. DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench shows a vibrant world far below, and teaches readers how interconnected our lives are to every place on the planet.

And….I’m kicking it off with 2 awesome giveaways!

GIVEAWAY 1:

The first giveaway (signed copy of my book DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench illustrated by Juan Calle and published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone imprint OR a free critique) on the lovely Vivian Kirkfield’s blog. Click below to enter:

https://viviankirkfield.com/2023/01/01/happy-book-birthday-deep-deep-down-the-secret-underwater-poetry-of-the-mariana-trench-plus-giveaway/

GIVEAWAY 2:

The second giveaway is only for my loyal blog followers, which is YOU, dear reader! It’s simple: just leave a comment on this blog post sharing what your writing goals are for 2023 and then RT the tweet below. My writing goal is simple: WRITE EVERY DAY! I often get lost in marketing, responding to emails, doing author visits, and other admin duties and days may go by without me exercising my writing muscles. So I’m trying to work on that!

What’s the big prize? A signed copy of my book, magnets, bookmarks, and stickers OR a critique with digital copy of the book if you prefer. (US & Canada, contest ends Jan 9, 2023).

More news! After a few months toiling away, I updated my website! I added books, a whole section for educators, resources for writers, and free worksheets for kids. Click below and don’t forget to press F5 to refresh:

http://www.lydialukidis.com/

And newsflash: I’m now officially offering critique services for writers! For more information and rates, click below:

http://www.lydialukidis.com/writers.html

Thank you for following my blog, it is SO appreciated!! I’ll be back on January 18 to start my Blissfully Bookish Q & A posts with other authors along with more giveaways for all you kidlit folks!

Love & Light,

Lydia

Happy Holidays from Blissfully Bookish!

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Hello world!!

Thank you for being a loyal reader of my blog, Blissfully Bookish. I’ll be hosting a special giveaway soon just for my blog followers, more details to come right after the holidays.

In the meantime, YAY!!! My new STEM book DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench illustrated by Juan Calle and published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone imprint, sails into our universe on January 1! This book was a labour of love, and combines my two biggest passions: science and poetry.

Here’s a summary:

Deep, deep down, at the very bottom of the ocean, lies a secret world. Through lyrical narration, this spare-text STEM picture book takes readers on a journey to a place very few humans have ever been–the Mariana Trench. The imagined voyage debunks scary myths about this mysterious place with surprising and beautiful truths about life at Earth’s deepest point. DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench shows a vibrant world far below, and teaches readers how interconnected our lives are to every place on the planet.

Click here for the preorder links: http://www.lydialukidis.com/ and check out the new trailer below:

I also wanted to thank all the talented authors and illustrators who graced my blog this year, here they are:

And like every year, I did a top 5 countdown of the best inspirational quotes from these talented authors. I hope these gems inspire you in your writing! Click HERE to see the thread.

Happy holidays!!!

I’ll be back in early January with my special giveaway.

Love & Light,

Lydia

Author Melissa Stewart on the Importance of Structure

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, I got to chat with one of my all-time favorite authors who’s not only accomplished, but is also generous with her knowledge. Please welcome the queen of nonfiction herself, Melissa Stewart! Here she is, discussing her new nonfiction picture book, Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks illustrated by Amy Hevron, and published by Penguin Random House.

Special note: Heads up, writers! Check out Melissa’s blog for amazing resources and writing tips. (see link below).

Please describe the journey to publication for Tree Hole Homes.

The idea for this book traces all the way back to the summer between third and fourth grade, when I read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Oh, how I longed to live off the land and make a hollow tree my home, just like the main character, Sam.

Time passed, and I forgot about the book until a trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, in 2011. The instant I spotted a tree with a hole big enough for me to squeeze inside, Sam’s story came rushing back. And as I stood inside and looked up into the hollow tree, I knew I’d write a book about tree hole homes.

I created a file on my computer and added information from my nature journals. Whenever I read or heard anything about tree holes or animals that live in them, I added more notes to the file. Eventually, I knew I had enough information, but I didn’t know how to structure the book or how it should begin or end. I was stuck.

But then in 2018, while hiking in Topsfield, Massachusetts, I stumbled upon another large tree hole. As I awoke the next morning, the beginning of the book popped into my mind.

I ran to my office, and as I wrote it down, the ‘opposites’ text structure came to me. Using index cards and sticky notes, I mapped out the book in just a few days. Then it was time to start writing.

Please share a short and compelling excerpt from the book.

Here’s the first spread of Tree Hole Homes. It invites readers into the world of the book.

Can you help inspire nonfiction writers by giving them some tips on how to make expository literature fun and engaging?

For me, text structure is the biggest challenge when writing expository literature. It’s something I usually have to work out over a long period of time, and there’s really no short cut. At least not for me.

After I figure out that important piece of the puzzle, I focus on voice and rich language, which are closely linked. For Tree Hole Homes, I thought a wondrous, lyrical voice would work best, so I worked hard to choose words and phrases that would enchant young, curious minds. Selecting verbs carefully and incorporating figurative language help to give a piece of writing its voice.

Please share a few of your favorite nonfiction books from 2022.

Oh my goodness, there are so many! Off the top of my head, a few picture books I’ve really enjoyed are:

Because Claudette by Tracey Baptiste and Tonya Engel

Diving Deep: Using Machines to Explore the Ocean by Michelle Cusolito and Nicole Wong

Footprints Across the Planet by Jennifer Swanson

One Million Trees: A True Story by Kristen Balouch

Pizza! A Slice of History by Greg Pizzoli.

For middle grade, I’m a big fan of Secrets of the Lost City: A Scientific Adventure in the Honduran Rain Forest by Sandra Markle.

My favorite book of the year (so far) rides the MG/YA line—Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adam’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration by Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki. I hope this amazing book wins the Printz and the YALSA Nonfiction Award.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers regarding the editing process?

Be open to new ideas, but also remember your vision for the book. Other authors may write about the same topic, but what you bring to your book—your hopes and dreams, your experiences in the world, your passions and vulnerabilities—Is what makes it special. There’s a little piece of the author’s heart at the center of every great nonfiction book.

And a bonus question just for kicks! Would you rather live in a treehouse OR in a mountain cave?

A cave can be dark, damp, and chilly. I’d definitely rather spend my time in a treehouse looking out at the wide world.

BIO

Melissa Stewart has written more than 200 science-themed nonfiction books for children, including the Sibert Medal Honoree Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. She co-wrote 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, edited the anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing, and maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Nonfiction. Melissa’s highly-regarded website features a rich array of nonfiction writing resources.

LINKS

Blog: http://melissa-stewart.com
Twitter: @mstewartscience
Facebook: Melissa Stewart | Facebook