Author Jennifer Buchet on Perseverance- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author who’s very active in the kidlit community; Jennifer Buchet. I’m excited to announce her latest creation, Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, a picture book illustrated by Cassie Chancey and published by Clear Fork. See her journey below…

BUT first- YAY! Jennifer is generously giving away a free picture book critique up to 600 words (non-rhyming) or a query critique. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends Feb 18, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma.

Ever since I could hold a crayon, I’ve been writing. I love how the written word creates magic, wonder and adventure. About eight years ago I invested in several kidlit writing classes and began joining various organizations.

Once I had the idea for Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, the first draft came quickly yet the revisions took months! The story went through several iterations, from swapping Little Medusa’s biggest challenge to revealing how she solves the issue by herself. Not to mention that making one of the world’s best known super-villains into something kid-friendly takes hard work!

Two years and ~60 drafts later (thanks amazing critique partners!) I began subbing out my story and within a year found a home with Clear Fork Publishing.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

After watching a reptile show at my library, I was intrigued with snakes. Smitten, but not enough to purchase one, I began writing a funny snake story. A month later, my little girl skipped into the laundry room with very tangled hair and I found myself facing a real-life Little Medusa! 

Oh.

Oh!!

Little Medusa….snakes….hair…scaring things to stone with a stare… I put aside my original tale (and the socks!) and dove into the mythology of Medusa.

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

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by my audience as a Pre-Kindergarten teacher, plus I get to see how books are being presented to the littles via the curriculum. So nearly every day, ideas are bopping around. It can be difficult to choose one or two to focus on and actually write down! I make a point to write on the weekends though, even if it’s only for a few hours on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I’m currently searching for the “write” agent plus I’ve several picture book manuscripts out on sub, with a few more bumping down revision lane. I’m also polishing up my first chapter book and can’t wait to find the perfect home for it!

I know you also head up a Twitter pitch contest, could you please tell us more about that?

Absolutely! Three years ago, during the first summer of the pandemic, my friend Karen Greenwald and I wanted to inspire and unite kidlit writers. And we love writing contests! So we created a virtual vacation “writerland” called #SunWriteFun.  Entrants write to a theme (such as sportsmanship in ’21 due to the summer Olympics) and have a tiny word count to create their own tale. Our judges are always impressed with the number of imaginative entries! We also raised donations for both #WeNeedDiverseBooks and ReadertoReader.org. Watch out…we’re already hatching plans for this summer’s theme!

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

Wishing on stars and casting dandelion dreams is fine, as long as you have the work to back you up. Because it’s all about getting the “write” story in front of the right person at the right time.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

You might think I’d say a snake, but nope! (Snakes hibernate in the winter and I love snow!) My secret super power has always been to change into any animal; narrowing it down is hard so I’d have to choose….a timber wolf.

Or a panther.

Maybe a black cat.

Just not a snake!

BIO

Jennifer Buchet is an award-winning author, pre-kindergarten educator and self-proclaimed foodie. Her kidlit career officially started in 2011, writing for Cricket Media. Today, she is a feature contributor for Faces magazine while also creating new picture books and chapter books, many which feature mouth-watering meals and even a few cute, twisty serpents.

  • Book Info:

Title: Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma

Author: Jennifer Buchet, Illustrator: Cassie Chancy, Published By: Clear Fork Publishing, 2021, Fiction, Age Range: 4-8

Synopsis: Little Medusa is the first Gorgon who doesn’t enjoy having her best serpentine friend wriggle through her hair. She finds herself torn between following family customs and keeping herself and her best serpentine friend happy. In fact, Little Medusa begins doubting if she even wants to scare anyone to stone with a stare!

  • Social Media Links & Book Links

You can swap tales & tips with Jennifer here:

Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma is available for purchase at:

PLUS…an easy way to support an author is to leave Book Reviews and ask your Local Library to carry their books!

Author Dianna Wilson Sirkovsky on Publishing her First PB- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this last Q & A of 2021, please welcome a good friend of mine, Dianna Wilson Sirkovsky. We actually met an SCBWI conference (live!!) a few years back, and she did something not many writers do- she published the FIRST picture book she ever wrote! Now, James’ Reading Rescue published by Clavis has landed. See her journey below…

BUT first- YAY! Dianna is generously giving away a free copy (US Or Canada)! All you have to do is comment on this blog post- contest ends Feb 4, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for James’ Reading Rescue.

Thanks so much for this opportunity, Lydia.

This was my first PB so everything was a challenge. I was completely untutored in all the rules of writing.  I had no idea if my story was any good, a total disaster or somewhere in between! Gradually along the way, I reached out and received help from some generous writers and structured critiques.

Then came submissions. As a debut writer, I was groping in the dark. I researched publishers to see who was accepting unsolicited submissions and reviewed their books. I also read everything I could find on upcoming books. Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf was extremely helpful in providing publishers who were unknown to me.

Happily, I submitted to Clavis and I will never forget the day I received their email offering publication. I had to read it three times before it sank in!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

JRR is based on a true story I read on the internet several years ago about a cat rescue shelter that ran a reading program for their cats. It all began with the young son of a volunteer. He struggled with reading and his mom suggested he read to the cats. It offered a safe, non-judgmental environment for him to practice and had the added value of helping to socialize the cats for adoption. A win/win! It spoke to me on several levels – my own son needed help with reading and I’ve been involved with cat rescue for many years. My children grew up with nine rescue cats! I felt this was a story I just had to write.

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

The process does change somewhat depending upon the type of story – fiction, non-fiction or something inspired by a true story.  Is research required or is it just some fun idea that I need to grab and run with? I often find that I feel like a beginner each time I start a new story!  I don’t write for the sake of writing, even though I know that’s good practice – I need a specific idea/story to focus on. When the first sentences start formulating themselves in my mind, then I know it’s time to sit down and start applying myself!

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

‘James told his class about reading to Ghost and the shelter cats. Other children wanted to read to the cats too. They practiced their reading, patiently listened to by cats who didn’t judge. And the children loved the cats and helped them not to be afraid.’

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have a couple of stories currently on submission and several others on which I’m doing final revisions. I don’t have an agent so submissions take quite a lot of time.

I also have an opening sentence that keeps popping up, so I have to sit down and get to writing that story soon!

I’m thrilled to say that Sara Casilda and I have another book, Just One Pebble, coming out this fall with Clavis. I’m so happy to be working with her again.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.

Where to begin? So many wonderful books but here are some that have helped with some of my stories: Sweet Dreams, Sarah and Making Their Voices Heard by Vivien Kirkfield; This Book is Spineless by Lindsay Leslie; Bess The Barn Stands Strong by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia; Great Joy, Kate DiCamillo’s first PB; The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern; The Rough Patch by Brian Lies; The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr. The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach is my favorite story within a story.

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

Don’t give up. Write your story and prepare to be patient. Time doesn’t move at the usual pace in the publishing world!

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

How to choose? I’m an animal lover through and through. I am particularly concerned with the plight of wolves at the moment, though. These remarkably intelligent, family-oriented animals have been maligned throughout history and are still persecuted and hunted mercilessly, particularly in North America. More of us need to stand in defense of these spectacular animals and their rightful place in our ecosystem. Thanks for asking this, Lydia!

BIO
Dianna Wilson Sirkovsky’s life has always been filled with books and cats. She renewed her love for picture books reading to her children, inspiring her to write and share stories of her own later in life. 

Her family is deeply committed to animal rescue and the ethical treatment of all animals. They had nine beloved rescue cats that shared their lives for many years. Her children now have rescue cats of their own! She works as a senior administrator at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she lives with her husband. She takes great pleasure in writing children’s stories inspired by true events, imagination, and the joy of adventure and discovery.

Dianna’s debut picture book, James’ Reading Rescue, illustrated by Sara Casilda, released in Oct. 2021 with Clavis has received some great reviews. JRR can be found on Amazon.ca or at Babar Books at https://www.livresbabarbooks.com/.

Dianna and Sara have another book, Just One Pebble, scheduled for release in Fall 2022, also with Clavis.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

To find out more about Dianna Wilson Sirkovsky, or get in touch with her:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannawilson99?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianna.wilson.98

Website: still in construction

Author Annette Whipple on Expository Nonfiction- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this last Q & A of 2021, please welcome a nonfiction author who does very well with expository literature: Annette Whipple. Check out her new book, Scurry! The Truth about Spiders, published by Reycraft Books. See her journey below…

BUT first- YAY! Annette is generously giving away a free signed copy of either Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls or Scurry! The Truth About Spiders (US only). All you have to do is comment on this blog post- contest ends Nov 25, 2021.

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
As the third book in The Truth About series, this book’s journey was much easier than others since I knew the structure of the book and even knew some of the facts I wanted to research.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
For this series, I knew I wanted to include animals that are often misunderstood. Spiders definitely qualify! Plus, they’re beautiful!

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process is different, yet similar, for each book. I began by learning some general information about spiders. From there, I brainstormed what I might want to include. I shared my brainstorming method here. https://www.annettewhipple.com/2021/07/how-to-brainstorm-nonfiction-writing.html After brainstorming, I created a list of possible questions I might address in the book since it’s a question-and-answer picture book. Then, it was time to research! My research included lots of books, websites, and consulting with a couple of experts. I even held a tarantula during my research.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

“The spider controls what kinds of silk it makes. Thick or thin. Dry or sticky. The threads can stretch, but they’re strong—stronger than steel.”

What would you say are some of the ways in which to make nonfiction, especially expository, more commercial and engaging for children?

I love this question because it took years for me to figure out how to make my first book in this series, Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, just right for the trade market. I actually put that manuscript aside for a couple of years while I was working on another book (The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide). When I returned to it, I had read hundreds more kidlit nonfiction titles. I knew my manuscript was too old for the topic, too long, and unfun. It was just too teacher-y. (I was a classroom teacher. This is not surprising.) Owls are fascinating, and I wanted everyone to know every fact I did. But that didn’t work.
So, I used all the same research. I completely changed the format to a question-and-answer picture book (or chapter book—I wasn’t certain when I began drafting). I rewrote the text to be much shorter and less detailed. I added humorous sidebars. I chose to make those sidebars from the owls’ perspectives. That means Whooo Knew (and all the books in this series) is officially informational fiction, despite the main text being expository.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Next year Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs and Meow! The Truth About Cats will be out with Reycraft books to make it a five-book series. I’m actively seeking an agent with some other manuscripts, too.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Ooo! I love this question. I have so many. How about I mention a few informational authors who I learn a ton from? Heather Montgomery, Sarah Albee, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Melissa Stewart, Steve Sheinkin, Jennifer Swanson, and so many more!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
The publishing world is hard. Don’t do it for the credits or money. Write for the joy of it.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
I’m not going to choose a spider because too many people want to squash them. How about an owl? Or a firefly?

BIO
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press), The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press), and Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (Reycraft Books). The Truth About series also includes books about dogs, spiders, frogs, and cats. When Annette’s not reading or writing, you might find her baking for her family in Pennsylvania. Get to know her and explore her resources for teachers and writers at www.AnnetteWhipple.com.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

https://www.annettewhipple.com/

https://www.instagram.com/annettewhipplebooks/

https://www.facebook.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks

Twitter: @AnnetteWhipple

To buy: https://www.amazon.com/Scurry-Truth-Spiders-Annette-Whipple/dp/1478870230/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=scurry+the+truth+about+spiders&qid=1630337666&sr=8-1

Author Lynne Marie on STEM Fractured Fairy Tales

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome a talented author who does much more than just write and edit; the one and only Lynne Marie! Seriously, I’ve never met someone who hustles so much, and puts so much time and effort into everything she does, it’s truly remarkable. Check out her new picture book, The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project, published by Mac and Cheese Press/CAW Publishing. See her journey below…

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
My journey for this book is a bit different. I was inspired by one of my Mentees, who I worked on a wonderful story with — BLAKE’S BIG DAY. When the book was ready to go, she decided that she didn’t want to wait out the publishing timeline and she decided to publish it herself with the help of a friend, Wendy Fedan. I got in touch with Wendy and we are partnering on THE THREE LITTLE PIGS AND THE ROCKET PROJECT, with her CAW PUBLISHING and my MAC AND CHEESE PRESS. Normally, I am not someone who is a great fan of self-publishing, but it was the right time to give this avenue a try, and the book turned out fabulous!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My former Agent passed along an opportunity to write a stem fairy tale series, even after I had gotten a new Agent, saying she thought I was the best person for the job. I wrote a few stories and proposals.
For this one, I wanted to nod to the three little pigs and their differences in choice of building materials, so I brainstormed ways that they could use straw, twigs and bricks. Then I remembered my daughter’s science class rocket project and everything connected.
Of course, the Big Bad Wolf needed a role, so I reimagined him as Bibi Wolfe, the school bully. 
And of course, Bibi needed to blow down the other’s rockets so she could win the competition. 
Everything really just fell into place. I was able to keep the important details from the original story and at the same time, make a story feel fresh and new. 
Unfortunately, by the time we sent the story in, we found they had chosen someone else for the series. But I believed in this story and thought it had strong hooks:
Fractured Fairy Tale
Science (STEM)
Bullying
and facilitated themes of resourcefulness and girl power, so I knew it was a project worth sharing.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process definitely differs with each book. In this case, I was very driven to create a project by a certain deadline for submission by my agent. Without deadlines, I seem to flit and meander much more. 
I am pretty prolific and jump from project to project without really focusing on submission. By that I mean I will get it where I think it needs to be after several revision rounds and then will let it ferment.  That way has worked for me in some aspects. When I see a call or a wishlist, or my editor or agent is seeking something specific, then I dig through and dig out a related manuscript and focus on it wholeheartedly. I guess I am better with deadlines and incentives 🙂 

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“This week,” said Mr. Halliwell, “students will create and launch toss rockets! Grades will be based on materials and distance.”
The Three Little Pigs oinked delight — 
they loved building things! 
The class cheered, 
everyone but, Bibi Wolfe. 
She didn’t like projects. Or losing. She still steamed over her brick house fail. 

You recently took over the Rate your Story website, and are heading up your own imprint, Dancing Flamingo Press. Please tell us more about this!
Yes, I was happy to take the Rate Your Story torch from Sophia Gholz. It’s a concept that I have loved and supported for many years. First, as a Member, then as a Judge and now as Owner. Rate Your Story is a Membership based Rating and Feedback Service (with opportunities for Non-Members as well). However, Members get 18 submissions for Rating and Feedback (valued at $25 each), a free entry in our annual Summer Contest (valued at $15), weekly help desk sessions, free webinars, newsletters, lots of giveaways, Baker’s Dozen Monthly Challenge and a weekly “Mentor Text Talk” Book Chat. I’ve planned even more fun and fundamentals for 2022! More information can be found at www.rateyourstory.org/become-a-member for 2022 opens November 1, 2021. Usually we are open to new Members until January 31st, however, last year we filled up all of our membership spots by November 29th!  At press time, we are currently about half-way filled, which is ahead of that schedule. 
BTW thank you for being one of our talented and helpful Judges! 
As to Dancing Flamingo Press, that is an exciting new adventure, with our first book slated to come out in Spring, 2022. I’m thankful to have been able to recruit Dea Lenihan (a Rate Your Story Member) as the artist to collaborate with on American Pie. Here’s a little sneak peek of our little wombat, Watson. 

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am actually grateful to have two other pending projects, however as we all know, it’s not official until the contracts are signed, so I will have to wait on those. And I am crossing my fingers for a Moldilocks and the Three Scares [https://amzn.to/38d0zA4] Sequel which I believe is even more fun than the first book. It features fun and intriguing locations like The Muenster Cheese Fest in Alsace, France; the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt; Bran’s Castle in Transylvania, Romania — which incidentally I am visiting during my trip there over Halloween; and the Dead Sea, Israel.  

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Oh, I have so many favorites, so hard to choose! But I do invite writers to check out my Tinker and Talk Book Chat to watch and see the books I recommend. It’s currently open to all, but next year, it will be FREE to Rate Your Story Members and a small fee for Non-Members. 
Still, off the top of my head I will share these. 
Crankenstein by Samanatha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat [https://amzn.to/3jeWpxT]
Lilybelle, A Damsel in Distress by Joanna Pastro, illustrated by Jhon Ortize [https://amzn.to/38coVKm]
Mootilda by Kirsti Call and Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Claudia Ranucci [https://amzn.to/3yjiIHc]
Unicorn and Horse by David Miles, illustrated by Hollie Mengert [https://amzn.to/3gCc2h7]
Zombie in Love by Kelly DePucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell  [https://amzn.to/3jhSrEE]

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
The writing process is not a linear one. It has twists and turns, and sometimes even circles back around. You may take one step forward, and two steps back. It’s par for the course, the nature of the beast. Embrace the process and stay on the path. And lastly, maintain an good attitude, conducive to learning, and keep your objectivity in check. 

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
LOL I love so many animals that it’s hard to choose, but inspired by my little love, I would say a Schipperke. They are like mythological creatures, part leprechaun, part wolf, part bat, part wombat. They are so elegant and regal.

BIO
Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten — art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School — art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019) and Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019), The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project — art by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press / CAW Publishing, November 2021) and American Pie — art by Dea Lenihan (Dancing Flamingo Press, 2022).

She’s also the Owner and Administrator of both RateYourStory.org and ThePictureBookMechanic.com, as well as a long-time Travel Agent with PixieVacations.com (www.pixievacationsbylynnemarie.com)! She’s been a Cybil’s Judge in the Fiction Picture Books and Board Books category since 2016. Recently, she’s been handed the ReFoReMo torch from Kirsti Call and Carrie Charley Brown, which will return under its new name March On With Mentor Texts in March, 2022 (www.rateyourstory.org/march-on). You can join her at her weekly Tinker and Talk Book Chat here: Tinker and Talk Book Chat by The Picture Book Mechanic | Facebook

When she’s not searching for story ideas all over the globe, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. Visit her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com. Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland of www.theseymouragency.com

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com
www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com
www.rateyourstory.org
www.thepicturebookmechanic.com 
Twitter: 
Rate Your Story (@RateYourStory) / Twitter
Lynne Marie – The Star in the Christmas Play (@Literally_Lynne) / Twitter
Dancing Flamingo Press (@OurTweetCorner) / Twitter
Instagram:
Lynne Marie (@literally.lynne.marie) • Instagram photos and videos
On Amazon:
https://amzn.to/38fowGV
On my Website:
Books | LiterallyLynneMarie

Author Kirsten W. Larson on the Importance of Research

Posted on Updated on

Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome one of the hardest working authors I know; Kirsten W. Larson. She’s been researching the field of nonfiction for years, and it definitely shows in her work. Check out her new picture book, A TRUE WONDER, illustrated by Katy Wu, and published by Clarion (HMH). See her journey below…

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything (Clarion) is the third picture book my agent and I sold together, but the second to be published. My editor, the amazing Jennifer Greene, had few edits, and got illustrator Katy Wu on board very quickly. It was less than two and a half years from contract to holding the book in my hands. That’s a record for me!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
A big inspiration was the 2017 Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Godot and directed by Patty Jenkins. It was such an event for so many of us, and I loved the conversations it started about how much the character means to so many people. Because the movie was such a big deal, there was lots of press surrounding it, including a Smithsonian Magazine article by Harvard historian Dr. Jill Lepore, who wrote THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN (2014). Dr. Lepore’s book started me down the research rabbit hole that led to this book.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process is pretty messy, and sometimes I feel I have to relearn how to write a book each and every time. In terms of research, I normally start with secondary sources if I can, and read widely about the subject I’m tackling. Secondary sources provide context and point the way to primary sources through endnotes and bibliographies. I always write a “kitchen sink draft,” which has all the names, dates, and details that probably won’t appear in the final draft. Then I can let all specifics go and be more creative with my structure, storytelling, and voice. And I almost always thumbnail my books, thinking carefully about what text and images will appear on each spread, where the key plot points fall, and what will drive the page turns.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
America, 1941
The comic book industry is dominated by white men.
When Wonder Woman arrived in America, she wasn’t the superhero most people had in mind. After all, she was a woman.
But that was the point. She had an important mission: To change minds about what women could do. And to change the world.
Her tale begins in towns across America…”

What would you say are some of the ways in which to make nonfiction, especially expository, more commercial and engaging for children?
That’s a big question! I think one key is to focus on topics kids care about, like airplanes, superheroes, or animals, for example. And then you have to deliver some kind of compelling takeaway that goes beyond the educational learning of the book. Add to that compelling voice, captivating page turns, and interesting structures, and you have something magical.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
In August 2022, I have THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books), which is a parallel story of Cecilia Payne’s formation as a scientist told alongside the process of star formation. And then I have another lyrical STEM picture book on the way plus my first historical fiction graphic novel.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I think anything you read can inform your writing. For A TRUE WONDER, I studied picture books focused on important objects like PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, as well as his book STONEWALL, and HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggars about the Statue of Liberty.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write down your original inspiration, what excites you about the story, and why you feel it’s important to share it with young readers. That’s your touchstone. In revision, you can come back to that story spark to make sure you’re telling the story you wanted to tell.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
I’m a huge fan of sloths because most people get them so wrong. Rather than being lazy, they are perfectly adapted to their environment. By moving so little, they conserve energy and avoid predators. Not to mention, they basically are their own ecosystem.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kirstenwlarson.jpeg

BIO
Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020), A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything (Clarion, Fall 2021), illustrated by Katy Wu, and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, 2022), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Website: Kirsten-w-larson.com
Social media: @kirstenwlarson
A TRUE WONDER is available wherever books are sold, but autographed copies can be purchased from Once Upon a Time. https://www.shoponceuponatime.com/autographed-books-kirsten-w-larson

#FallWritingFrenzy 2021 Winners!

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Aloha #FallWritingFrenzy peeps-

So…who’s excited to hear about the winners from the third annual Fall Writing Frenzy contest?

There were 264 wonderful entries. You can read many of them here, if you haven’t already:

https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/2021/09/30/fall-writing-frenzy-entry-form-2021/

It wasn’t easy- but Kaitlyn (Fall Writing Frenzy creator), Ameerah (2021 Fall Writing Frenzy Guest Judge), and I, Lydia, (Fall Writing Frenzy Co-host) managed to narrow the entries down. And of course, we have more than the original 20 prizes to give…we just couldn’t help ourselves! Kaitlyn, Erin, and Lydia all loved multiple entries so much, that we just had to offer more than one prize!

kermit-frog

Thank you to everyone for your patience, but most of all, for the way you all came together as a community. In the past few weeks, Kaitlyn, Ameerah, and I have have been overjoyed as we watched you make connections with one another, become inspired in your writing, and cheer each other on. This is what makes the kidlit community so special!

And now….the time has come to make the special announcement everyone has been waiting for…BUT- before we do, we would like to say, from the bottom of our hearts, that you are ALL winners in our eyes. We had trouble narrowing down and choosing the winners because there were so many stellar entries. You are all tremendous writers, and what’s more, you’re devoted to your craft. And that’s the most important thing. So please don’t be disappointed if you don’t see your name below, we could only pick a certain amount. So here we go…

The winners for the 2021 #FallWritingFrenzy contest are:

Kari Gonzalez, Clowning Around, will receive a critique from Fleur Bradley
Karyn Curtis, The Concert, will receive a critique from David Linker
Kim-Hoa Ung, An Extra Mooncake, will receive a critique from Erin Siu (Erin selected this winner)
Yolimari Garcia, A Different Kind of Magic, will receive a critique from Erin Siu (Erin selected this winner)
Ebony Lynn Mudd, If Only, will receive a critique from Ernesto Cisneros
Joyce Schriebman, New Year’s Resolution, will receive a critique from Lynne Marie
Kristen O’Neill, Like an Autumn Day, will receive a critique from Jennifer Swanson
Melissa Miles, The Accusation, will receive a critique from Dorian Cironne
Anne Ruggirello, Fright Night, will receive a critique from Julie Gasman
Connie Colon, The Witch’s Kitchen, will receive a critique from Kiara Valdez
Ashlee MacCallum, Daddy’s Little Girl, will receive a critique from Saadia Faruqi
Debbie Exton, The New Head Parade, will receive a critique from Tricia Lawrence
Chayala Nachum, Rosh Hashanah Resolutions, will receive a critique from Sarah Aronson
Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson, Thank you, Harvest Moon, will receive a critique from Teresa Robeson
Tunisia Williams, And the Band Played On, will receive a critique from Lisa Amstutz
Sandhya Acharya, Playing With Bindu Mashi, will receive a critique from Nadia Salomon
Maribel Martinez, The Last Halloween, will receive a critique from Alexandra Alessandri
Jessica Hinrichs, MISS ANNABELLE: A Haiku, will receive a critique from Jolene Gutiérrez (Jolene selected this winner)
Christine Catallo, In the Light of the Sickle Moon, will receive a critique from Ameerah Holliday (Ameerah selected this winner)
Karen Keesling, HungerWeen, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn selected this winner)
Cindy Greene, Pumpkin and Jellyfish, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn selected this winner)
Christiana Doucette, Sky Shuts her Eyes, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn selected this winner)
Tony Tong, HA-LO-MEIN… Shrimp Noodles?, will receive a critique from Lydia Lukidis (Lydia selected this winner)
Bonnie Kelso, Persephone Rises, will receive a critique from Lydia Lukidis (Lydia selected this winner)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Liz Kehrli for Remembering Tata (Grandpa)
Hannah Roy LaGrone for What’s So Great About Fall?
Tonnye Fletcher for SCYTHE
Colleen Murphy for Shirley’s Showdown
Ranessa Doucet for Jumbled Together
Rita Orrell for The Scariest Student
Susie Sawyer for The Skeleton Bride
Ellen Seal for Carving Away

To the winners- expect an email in the next few days, matching you with your donor. You can download the winner’s badge HERE. Just right click on it to save, and then feel free to post on social media.

We send you all virtual hugs – please continue to write and connect with the kidlit community! Each voice is distinct and special.
Thank you for this wild ride, we are already looking forward to next year’s edition. In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter
(@KaitlynLeann17, @Ms_Holliday93 and @LydiaLukidis) to continue connecting. And feel free to follow our blogs, we both interview writers and industry professionals and regularly host giveaways. Here’s Kaitlyn’s blog: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/blog/ and to follow mine, please click “follow” on the top right corner.

Have a fabulous day and we look forward to continue connecting with you all!

Author Heather L. Montgomery on the Importance of Curiosity

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author who’s a nonfiction giant I’ve admired for many years; Heather L. Montgomery. Her books serve as mentor texts, and this new one will be no different. Here she is discussing the book journey for What’s in Your Pocket: Collecting Nature’s Treasures, a nonfiction picture book illustrated by Maribel Lechuga and published by Charlesbridge.

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
In August of 2013, I wrote my first research note about this idea. My first draft is dated April, 2014. I didn’t have anything submission-worthy March 2018. Even then I wasn’t convinced it was ready, but an editor (and her enthusiasm for the premise) egged me on. The offer came that June. Publication was scheduled for 2020, but was pushed to 2021. Thanks COVID.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
This project started as a little wiggle and wormed its way into to something larger. Editors were asking for picture book biographies. I thought: I don’t do history. There’s nothing in that for me. But eventually, I found myself reading biographies of scientists. When I spotted anecdotes that reminded me of kids I know, kids who drive their parents crazy with crud crammed in their pockets, kids like grown-up me who have mounds of bones and stones cluttering up the house, I thought: maybe there’s something here. . .

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It does vary, especially between picture books and middle grade projects. For Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill, it started with a question—who uses roadkill—and turned into a quest that took over my life. I became so immersed in the research that I didn’t write anything until I could not stop it from spilling out on paper (sometimes a 4 AM). For picture books, though, I tend to draft earlier in the process and end up going back to search for a structure that works.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from one of your books.
“Throughout history, kids have found all kinds of strange and wonderful things.
They’ve created collections.
They’ve made discoveries.
They’ve changed the world of science.
Every discovery started with just one thing.
One little thing that could fit in a pocket.
What’s in your pocket?”
What’s in Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures

You write a lot of stellar nonfiction, what do you think is the key in making science interesting and engaging for children?
For me, curiosity is the key. If the subject is not interesting to you, find a way to get curious! I’m serious. It is critical that we model for kids just how exciting science is. Ask lots of questions—like 100 questions—until you find the ones you care the most about. Then let those questions lose and just try to keep up!

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Nothing that I can talk freely about yet, but I will say it is chock full of pus and snot and awesome animals!

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I study mentor texts constantly and analytically, but I don’t stick to kidlit. Movies, ad copy, even video games teach me what works with kids these days. An adult book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach showed me how compelling a first-person, author-as-investigator approach could be. I adapted that for my middle grade books. For inspiration/solace about the writing process I turn to Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Listen for the little wiggle in the back of your brain. Be brave. Follow it.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Dragonfly! Because dragonfly “kids” are the coolest!

BIO

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. An award-winning author and educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. Her books include: Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill, Bugs Don’t Hug: Six-legged Parents and Their Kids, and What’s in Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Website: www.HeatherLMontgomery.com 
Twitter: @HeatherLMont
Purchase Link: https://www.parnassusbooks.net/search/site/Heather%20L.%20Montgomery

Author Laurie Wallmark on Writing in Rhyme

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author who writes amazing nonfiction, and as I just discovered, also writes amazing fiction and rhyme! Laurie Wallmark drops by to chat about her latest picture book, Dino Pajama Party, illustrated by Michael Robertson and published by Running Press Kids. See her journey below…

You have written many STEM nonfiction books that focus on female pioneers- does fiction excite you as much?
I actually started by writing fiction first. I wrote two novels before switching to picture books. One of the novels sold, but the publisher went out of business. I continued to write fiction, but then had an idea for a nonfiction project. This became ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, a picture book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Although I continued to write fiction, I was definitely hooked on nonfiction, also.

Is your process different when writing nonfiction and fiction?
My process for both starts in a similar manner—with an idea. It’s that niggling something in the back of your mind that you can’t get rid of. From there, though, the process splits for quite a while. For nonfiction (and occasionally fiction), you have to research, research, and research more. After that, the writing process is the same. You need to figure out a structure for your story. It often takes several drafts before I get to the correct structure. Then it’s revise, revise, and revise again.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from one of your books.
Dinos rock and dinos roll.
Dinos stomp and dinos stroll.
All the dinos on the street,
Boogie to that funky beat.

Writing in rhyme can be challenging, do you have any tips for aspiring poets?
My best tip is to read a lot of poetry, but more importantly, listen to poetry read aloud. Become comfortable with the rhythm of the words. Hear what rhythm works, and when the reader stumbles or has to put an odd emphasis on a syllable. Make poetry part of you.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Learn to be patient. The writer’s journey is long, but if you continue to work on improving your craft, you’ll get there.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
I’d definitely be a cat. I could sleep or lounge in the sunlight most of the day, and someone else would feed me.

BIO


Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark writes picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as well as fiction. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Best STEM Book, Cook Prize Honor Book, Crystal Kite Award, Mathical Honor Book, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Her titles include ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE, NUMBERS IN MOTIONCODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER, and her debut fiction picture book, DINO PAJAMA PARTY. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA and is a former software engineer and computer science professor.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Website:              https://www.lauriewallmark.com/ 
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/lauriewallmarkauthor/ 
Twitter:                @lauriewallmark
Instagram            https://www.instagram.com/lauriewallmark/ 
Linked In              https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurie-wallmark-4a815711/ 

BUY LINK
https://bookshop.org/books/dino-pajama-party-a-bedtime-book/9780762497751?aid=3613

Fall Writing Frenzy Entry Form 2021

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Hello #FallWritingFrenzy Friends-

Yahoo!! Our competition is finally here! Kaitlyn (creator of the Fall Writing Frenzy), Ameerah (amazing agent and guest judge of the 2021 Fall Writing Frenzy), and Lydia, (co-host of the Fall Writing Frenzy) are excited to read your entries.

excited american horror story GIF


To enter:

  • Please review the rules first to make sure you’re all set.
  • Then scroll down to the FORM below, and fill in all the required fields.
  • You can only fill out the form once, and when you do, we will have all your information.

Reminder: please fill out the form between October 1 and October 3, 2021 11:59 PM EST.

  • If you didn’t post to your blog and/or would like to share your entry here, you can scroll to the bottom and paste your story as a comment. But- be sure to fill out the FORM first- we must have that for your entry to be valid.
  • When you’ve submitted, we’d love for you to share on Twitter and tag us (Kaitlyn, Ameerah, Lydia) and your friends who you want to see a Fall Writing Frenzy entry from.
  • Please support one another by reading other entries and commenting on them. To see other people’s entries, scroll down down down to the table directly below. Entries with links to their blogs should appear, simply click on the link, and you will be directed to that writer’s blog.

Please note: the form and the comments are NOT connected. Filling out the form will not create a comment, you have to do that manually. 🙂

Check the FAQs if you have any trouble,

Good luck to all!

Author Laura Purdie Salas on the Value of Patience- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author who writes stellar nonfiction AND fiction, Laura Purdie Salas. Also, she’s one of the kindest, most generous authors out there! Check out her new book, If You Want to Knit Some Mittens, illustrated by Angela Matteson, and published by Boyds Mills Kane. See her journey below…

BUT first- YAY! Laura is generously giving away a free signed copy of her book (US only). All you have to do is comment on this blog post- contest ends Oct 1, 2021.

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.

It’s so funny that a manuscript can seem memorable and all-consuming when I’m working on it, but by the time it’s published, I have to look back in my files to see how it all actually happened! I actually wrote this manuscript back in 2014. My then-agent sent it out to five editors. Two showed some interest and had revision suggestions, but Rebecca Davis of Wordsong loved it and acquired it in early 2015. Of course, it still went through plenty of revisions, most thoroughly in 2018. That’s also when artist Angela Matteson (who also illustrated In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House) came on board (yay!). And here we are now. I seriously can’t believe it’s been 7 years!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
On April 9, 2014, on a car ride home from an author visit, I was brainstorming picture book ideas. Here’s what I wrote:
If You Need Mittens… Funny, nf approach. How to Make Mittens. 1) Buy a sheep.  Funny, but true. Back matter, basics of knitting. [xyz] could be a resource? Could I go visit her?  
I was thinking that day about nonfiction topics and how different fun structures could make that information more interesting. If You Want to Knit Some Mittens ended up with a fictional element that adds heart and a factual skeleton that shows how we get from a sheep to wool yarn. I love the combo of both.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I generally start out with broad research and then spend a lot of time gnashing my teeth while I try to figure out the piece of the puzzle that’s eluding me. Often, that’s structure, but I already knew I wanted the how-to structure here. And the voice was mostly there from the beginning. The beginning of the book is “1. Get a sheep. Seriously.” So that hardly changed from my idea file. But over time, Rebecca helped me see that there needed to be more of a relationship in this book. Sheep couldn’t just be a wool-provider. Girl and Sheep had to care about each other. The revisions were tough. I wrote tons of different versions, trying different things. A lot of it is trial and error for me—even after so many years of writing. I discover what needs to change AS I write it. It kind of emerges, like a sea creature that’s hard to make out in the murk but that becomes clearer as it rises up.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from one of your books.
[When Girl and Sheep have grown marigolds to dye the yarn with…]
13. Pick marigolds and dry them in the sun.
Jumping rope nearby is
not recommended.
[The art of Sheep and Pig jumping rope, which sends the marigolds flying, is just too cute!]

You write stellar fiction AND nonfiction. Do you find it tricky to navigate both worlds?
Aw, thank you! I don’t find it tricky on the writing side. I love both—and poetry! I’m usually working on several manuscripts at a time in different genres. The marketing is tricky, though. It’s difficult to keep up with what’s going on in the fiction picture book world, the nonfiction picture book world, and the poetry picture book world. Connecting with people and building any name recognition is pretty tough when you jump between different genres, I think.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Speaking of jumping between genres—haha! In the next couple of years, I have the following picture books coming out:
We Belong (a rhyming concept book that celebrates our differences and our common humanity—Carolrhoda)
Oskar’s Voyage (a rhyming fiction book about a chipmunk who stows away on a huge Great Lakes freighter—another fiction book that has lots of info in it—Minnesota Historical Society Press)
Superhero Tryouts (a poetry collection about all kinds of helpers that kids use, with a fictional framework and prose backmatter–Wordsong)
Finding Family (a lyrical nonfiction prose picture book about a case of interspecies adoption—Millbrook)
Zap! Clap! Boom! (a rhyming factual story of a thunderstorm with backmatter)

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Wow, that is so tough! I have so many books that have served as mentor texts—though I didn’t have any specific books in mind for this particular title. But for Finding Family, Candace Flemin’s Giant Squid was a valuable mentor text for me. Her sense of mystery and drama and pacing is something I love in that book and tried to infuse into Finding Family.
And a few of my favorite books so far from 2021 are Dear Treefrog, by Joyce Sidman; Lady Bird Johnson, That’s Who! by Tracy Nelson Maurer (I’m lucky Joyce and Tracy are both critique partners!); Be a Tree, by Maria Gianferrari; Lubna and Pebble, by Wendy Meddour; Fourteen Monkeys, by Melissa Stewart; and So You Want to Be an Owl, by Jane Porter. Those are just a few—there are so many amazing picture books out there!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
I think writer’s block happens when I don’t know what to try next. I keep several manuscripts in progress so that I can set aside one I’m frustrated with and pick up a different one. If I go through all my files, usually at least one manuscript pings, and I can get to work.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Today, I’m going to say a sea otter—playing and sliding and swimming sounds delightful right now (even though I hate seafood of any kind).

BIO
Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 130 books for kids, including Lion of the Sky, 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://www.laurasalas.com/writing-for-children/ and has a Facebook Group where she connects with her Patreon supporters. She enjoys teaching and speaking at writing conferences around the country. laurasalas.com

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
site: https://laurasalas.com/
blog: https://www.laurasalas.com/blog/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraPSalas
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraPSalas/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurapsalas/
Newsletter for educators: https://tinyurl.com/5a9ycnta
Patreon community for kidlit writers: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas