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Carrie S. Fannin, A #FallWritingFrenzy Success Story!!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the awesome author Carrie S. Fannin. I met her during the #FallWritingFrenzy competition I co-host with literary agent Kaitlyn Sanchez. And if you participated in the competition yourself, feel free to comment below and share with us.

Here’s Carrie’s success story, in her words:

One of the things I love about kidlit writing contests is how they push me to grow as a creator. Fall Writing Frenzy’s beautiful and intriguing array of photo prompts each year makes me reach a deeper place than usual to find the story. 

But the process of writing ‘Once a House’ for the 2021 contest pushed me even further. It helped me take a leap that led to an entirely new role in the writing world.

While ‘Once a House’ didn’t win any prizes in the Fall Frenzy, I found myself with this piece that felt like my writer’s voice was coming through in a new way, that the poem was saying a true thing. Maybe it was working from a photo, which was a new thing for me, that helped me find my next gear. 

A few months later, I saw a call from Little Thoughts Press magazine for kidlit poems and stories with a nature theme. I sent in my Fall Frenzy piece and was thrilled when I received an email from the editor Claire Taylor a few weeks later that the poem would be published—my first publication credit!

But the success story doesn’t end there. 

I’d gained confidence from the struggle to find and write this story from a picture prompt. Another bit came along with its acceptance for publication. Then a little bit more confidence in the magazine accepting more pieces. And so, with the wind at my back, I took a leap and did something a little out of character for me—I asked if I could come onto the magazine as a submissions reader. 

It was an experience I’d always wanted, and I’m delighted to report Claire said, “yes.” 

I’m just finished reading the submissions for the upcoming “Autumnatopoeia” themed issue, a delightful mashup of the fall season and onomatopoeia as an inspiration. (More about the magazine and current submission opportunities here.)

From writing a story to publishing it to becoming a submission reader–all are successes that sprang from the fabulous Fall Writing Frenzy contest. And that from a story that didn’t win a prize!) If anyone is on the fence about whether to give entering the contest a shot, I say, “go for it!” You don’t know where it might lead. 

***

(See more below about the entry, etc.)

Time of Contest – October, 2021 

The prompt I chose:

(Photo credit: Julia Solonina / Unsplash) 

A reverse search on this image reveals the building is the chapel at Berg Eltz, an 850+ year old castle in Germany. The age of the property and location were two of the sparks for my poem. 

Read more about the castle’s fascinating history here: https://burg-eltz.de/en/eltz-castle-the-attractions/castle-tour.html

My entry: 

Once a House 

by Carrie Karnes-Fannin (177 words)

She’d once been a house,

 but that was long ago. She remembered

 what it was like.

 seasons

 stacked memories,

 piled like cordwood ahead of winter snows

 For at her heart

 were the trees.

 timbers

 people called them,

 turning the black forest

 into boards and rafters

 And trees

 never forget

 those they’ve sheltered.

 Chicks under the eaves

 with broken shells clinging

 to their damp heads.

 Mice and their hidden highways

 between golden paneled walls.

 A girl’s laughter ringing in the hall,

 and through the years.

 she’d loved them all

 But,

 the wood reclaimed her

 as its own,

 while

 time dripped down

 slowly slowly

 leafy crowns bathed by crystal rains

 fed the tender roots

 that coursed through cracks

 twisting turning tasting

 and drank deep from her well

 of memories.

 A thousand dappled suns

 kissed her ruined walls,

 casting shadows

 among the saplings.

 she loved them still

 Now

 under a frosty blanket,

 her bones slept

 yellow orange red

 drifting falling dreaming

 as the

 once-and-future girl climbed,

 ascending

 echoes

 of

 the house

 who used to be a home,

 and would always

 remember.

My interview with Little Thoughts Press magazine with more about writing the piece:

https://clairemtaylor.com/ltpblog/fannininterview

Announcement from LTP about my joining them as a reader:

Questions:

What would you say to other authors struggling in the querying trenches?

If I could give one piece of advice to a creative who is querying, it would be to quit.

Quit querying? Not at all. But the words we choose to tell a story matter, and that includes the stories we tell ourselves. We often talk about struggling in the trenches—it’s as if we’re at war to get a book deal. It may feel like it! However, can you control how many “likes” you get in a pitch event? If agents respond to a query? The number of full requests you receive? No. Many of us (myself included) struggle because we’re trying to control the uncontrollable. And that’s exhausting.

So, my advice is to quit spending spoons on what you can’t control, send out those queries, and get back to creating the fantastic work only you can make.

How do you deal with rejection?

I’m going to be honest and admit that receiving passes can be super hard. Some hit harder than others. One of my coping methods is having many potential wins in the making. Don’t hang your hat on one project or one agent. In addition to querying, I enter a ton of contests (like the Fall Writing Frenzy!), apply for mentorships, submit directly to publishers, etc. That way, there’s always potential for good news just around the corner.

Who are some of your mentors when it comes to kidlit authors?

I received a formal picture book mentorship in 2020 in Justin Colon’s PB Chat program with author Elisa Boxer. And even now, I closely observe how she approaches the business side of our industry. In that way she continues to mentor me.

Though she might be surprised to hear this, Sara Fajardo has also been a great mentor. I’ve learned so much seeing how she navigated signing with an agent, her first book deal, etc., and from reading her gorgeous writing. When confronted with a thorny story problem, I ask myself, “What would Sara do?”

And just for fun, if you had to be an animal, what would you be and why?

I’d love to be a sea turtle. They are beautiful, serene creatures who travel the world and lead such mysterious lives.

The 2022 #FallWritingFrenzy Prize Donors!!

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Hello kidlit people!!

In case you haven’t seen, Kaitlyn and I are so excited to announce the prize donors for the 2022 #FallWritingFrenzy competition!

Click here to see the rules and criteria:

www.lydialukidis.wordpress.com/fallwritingfrenzy-2022-rules/

And click here to see the 2022 prize donors:

www.lydialukidis.wordpress.com/fallwritingfrenzy-2022-donors

Please share with your kidlit friends!!

Sincerely,

Lydia & Kailtyn

Author Sarah Aronson on Weaving Personal Experience into Story- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author I always wanted to meet because she wrote one of my favorite books, Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines. Sarah Aronson was more than happy to hop onto my blog. Here she is, discussing her new book Brand-New Bubbe illustrated by Ariel Landy and published by Charlesbridge.

BUT first- YAY! Sarah is generously giving away a FREE signed copy of her book. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. US only, contest ends Sept 16, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for Brand-New Bubbe. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

When my stepson and his wife called us with the news that they were having a baby–our first grandchild–I was (of course) immediately delighted for our family! I was so ready to be a bubbe! But then, a friend asked me if it bothered me that technically the baby and I would not be related! That question bugged me. It made me think about family and what it takes to blend two families into one…and the main ingredient to do that: LOVE! It got me thinking about those first years when my husband and I started dating and bringing our kids together, and how we needed to be patient for them to get to know each other and develop the bonds that make us a family. These are big emotions to write about. But writing about step-parents felt too close to home. So I thought deeper. About the other members of a family. Like bubbes! And how a child might feel at the prospect of getting a new grandparent on top of everything else. In Brand New Bubbe, I strived to let Jillian tell her story. I wanted to show how this child was able to bring her whole family together, with the help of my very favorite thing to make…soup! I tried to tell the story with some humor, too! That always helps! Like soup, family is made with love. And there is no one set recipe!

As for my writing journey, this one was 100% fun.

I loved writing about Jillian and Bubbe. I loved thinking about Jillian’s emotions and salty behavior as she got to know Bubbe. The pivotal revision occurred at an SCBWI conference in Miami! After lecturing about cinematic techniques, I sat in on (editor) Jill Davis’s session on making a picture book dummy. Of course, I’d made dummies before. But this time, it really clicked. I saw where the text was too long. And where it needed more umph. I could see I’d have room for the recipes and resources. After chatting with Yolanda Scott, who was also at that conference, my agent sent the revision to her and she said yes!

Most of my publication stories aren’t this neat. Most take a long time and many many twists. I am still a writer experimenting with genre, voice, and form. And that means a lot of my ideas don’t pan out. (I’m okay with that. The process is the point.) But this one, I have to believe, was meant to be! From the first draft, I felt it! I could hear the voice. Check my website for information on my program, The Family Constellation. Instead of a family tree, how about we honor all the people who bring light into our life. There is more than one way to define family.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

I loved writing this line: “Family is more than blood,” she said. “Give Bubbe a chance.” (And she wasn’t asking.)

But this one is my favorite:

Like soup, family was made with love. And there was always room for more.

What is your writing process, and does it change based on whether you write fiction or nonfiction?

Oh, my process changes all the time. Each project teaches me so much about the craft. But

some things remain consistent:

I believe in NEVER saying no to a good idea. When I catch some inspiration, even if I don’t feel ready or capable of writing it—really ESPECIALLY if I don’t—I go for it. I do not mind failing! Curiosity is my greatest strength.

I do four pomodoros most mornings. The down time between the writing sessions helps me find new connections and ideas as well as focus. I always end my writing day with some notes to myself about where I want to start tomorrow. I journal a lot from all my characters’ voices.

I am also a person who often has a couple of projects going—preferably at different stages. I like to have what I call “a peach sorbet” project—something just for me. No expectations!

When I’m stuck, I go to the journal. Side writing opens up possibilities. It helps me understand my characters, the setting, the connections, the contradictions. It shows me where I need to be braver. I never feel completely ready to tackle a story. I am never sure if I have the skills. If free writing doesn’t help, I doodle. Or draw squares. Or a swirly. Being stuck usually means something gigantic is coming. It is actually quite exhilarating. When I reach, I have the potential to soar.

And of course, I am always reading, learning, listening, watching the world, and asking big questions. That is our job. As writers, we must engage with our world. We must face our fears. Deal with what is happening around us. When we share who we are and what is important to us, our readers will connect with our stories.

Tell us about one of my favorite books, Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines.

Thank you! I LOVE RUBE, too!

From the time I saw the breakfast machine in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I have been fascinated by Rube Goldberg contraptions. I began researching and writing this book after I heard a friend read her picture book biography about Keith Haring. Her message and words got my brain swirling. I asked myself if there was someone I needed to write about—who could help me say what is important to me. And of course, it was Rube! Like me, Rube believed in play. In creativity. He was willing to try lots of stuff. Most people don’t realize that he wasn’t an inventor—he was an artist! When I realized that there wasn’t a picture book biography about him, I started shaking!

I loved learning about him! And now, I love bringing Rube to young readers. You would not believe what some of these young inventors create. Check out the human Rube Goldberg contraption on my website. (It is so much fun making a human contraption that returns a book to the library!) Rube inspires all kinds of creativity—in the arts and the sciences.

It is an honor to write a book about someone you admire. It is even more exciting to tell a story that allows you to say what you believe in your heart. My message is at the end of the book:

Figure out what you want, work as hard as you can, and most of all, have a great time getting there, just like Rube (and me, too)!

Please share your favorite books from 2021/2 that have inspired you.

Some of my favorite books are works in progress written by writers I’ve worked with at The Highlights Foundation. Let me tell you: the magic is there. If you are looking for a great place to learn about craft, GO!!!!

As for published books, you’re going to make me choose? There are too many great ones.  I don’t just flipflop as a writer! I flipflop as a reader, too!

Healer and Witch, by Nancy Werlin

Debating Darcy, by Sayantani Dasgupta

Dear Student, by Elly Swartz

Big and Small and In Between, by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Born Behind Bars, by Padma Venkatraman

A Comb of Wishes, by Lisa Stringfellow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin

Knight Owl, written and illustrated by Christopher Denise

See You Someday Soon, by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Suzy Lee

Abuelita and I Make Flan, written and illustrated by Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom

The Shape of Thunder, by Jasmine Warga

Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties, by Kellye Carter Crocker (out this October)

Murder Between Friends, by Candace Fleming

Dancing at the Pity Party, by Tyler Feder

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

Try everything!

Eat Dessert First!

Don’t limit your curiosity! Advocate for your imagination. Don’t worry if a project seems too difficult. Instead, REACH! Groan! Stretch! Fall and get back up! You never know what a story will become until you dive in.

Do Not Give Up!

But when you need help, go to your community. Or reach out! We are so lucky to have this big blended family of supportive writers and illustrators.

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

Easiest Question of all. I am a tiger.

BIO

Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published books for kids and teens, such as Beyond Lucky, a young MG series, The Wish List, and Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books), illustrated by Robert Neubecker, which has been included on many state lists. Brand New Bubbe (Charlesbridge) has received excellent reviews, including a star from Shelf Awareness. In 2024, look for a picture book biography of Bella Abzug, called Abzuglutely! (Calkins Creek, Astra Publishing).

When Sarah is not writing or reading (or making great soup or riding her bike), she is talking to readers about creativity, writing, social action, and of course, sparkle power! She loves working with other writers in one of her classes at the amazing Highlights Foundation. Warning: When she gets really excited, she makes funny faces and talks with her hands. Don’t be shocked if she talks about the power of play. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

WEBSITE: http://www.saraharonson.com

Like tips? Sign up for my weekly newsletter on the writing process on my website!

The 2022 Fall Writing Frenzy Contest is on!!

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Hello kidlit people!!

Kaitlyn and I are so excited to announce that our Fall Writing Frenzy contest is up and running for 2022! We have a new guest judge, and a slew of talented donors who are all professionals in the industry.

Click here to see the rules and criteria:

https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/fallwritingfrenzy-2022-rules/

And please share with your kidlit friends!!

Sincerely,

Lydia & Kailtyn

Author Jennifer Swanson on how to Listen to your Muse

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author I greatly admire, Jennifer Swanson. She can take expository nonfiction and make it super engaging for children! Here she is discussing her new book Footprints Across the Planet published by Reycraft Books.

Please describe the journey to publication for Footprints Across the Planet

You know when books “speak” to you? Well, this one said, “make me a picture book!” 😊

That was unusual for me, because I normally write much longer books.

But, I tried. 

And I tried.

A picture book is not easy to write (despite what people think), so it took me awhile to get this one exactly right. In fact, the book you see now is nothing like the story I first wrote. It has changed many times.

I never gave up because I knew this title was really good. I just needed to find the right story to go with it.

This final version came about because I was inspired by a combination of events–the first March for Science and the Women’s March in 2017, watching young Greta Thunberg make a difference, and also being able to listen to the amazing Ruth Bader Ginsberg speak at the National Book Festival. I thought- WOW- look at all of these people making a huge impact on the world just by showing their support for something they are passionate about.

THIS is what this book is about.

I had the idea, but I still had to write it.

Thankfully, I had my bike. Yes, that is where this book “wrote itself.”

I was taking a break from work and started on my 5-mile bike ride. As I was enjoying being outside—and away from the computer for once—the words started forming in my brain. They just kept coming, line after line. They were so good, that I knew I had to stop and write them down. But I didn’t have paper or pen. So, I texted them to myself. We all know that if you don’t listen when your muse speaks and write it down, you’ll never remember them.

If anyone was watching me ride that day, they would have thought, what is wrong with that woman? Why does she keep stopping and texting? Is her conversation that important that it can’t wait? Yes. It was.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Footprints come in all shapes and sizes colors and species.

Some are large and deep, strong and purposeful.

Others are small and shallow, barely leaving any imprint at all.

Footprints represent people who stood up for change

And those who strive to follow them.

Can you share any tips on how to write expository nonfiction that engages children?

Have FUN with it! Find a really great hook, a way into the story that is unique or creates curiosity. Then pretend you’re a 10-year-old kid and think about your topic from that POV. What would you want to know? What wouldn’t you know about this (so it needs to be explained really well). How would you make the information flow in an easy-to-understand manner? And give them some fun facts. Kids (of all ages) love fun facts. Finally, have FUN (I said that, right?). Well you want your reader to have fun, too. So much so that they don’t even realize they are learning. That’s what makes great expository nonfiction.

Tell us a bit about Solve It! for Kids, the podcast you created.

My pandemic project has turned into an award-winning science podcast for kids. Within 2 years, we have over 35,000 downloads and we keep growing.

Solve It! For Kids is a science podcast for curious & creative kids and their families.

Peek into the world of real-life scientists, engineers, and experts as they solve problems in their every day jobs. Kids and families are then invited to take on a challenge and solve a problem themselves! Join Jennifer and Jeff as they ask questions, solve problems, and offer challenges that take curiosity and creativity to a whole new level.

We’ve interviewed engineers and scientists from NASA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, CERN, the National Museum of Art, Brookhaven Lab, the Georgia Aquarium and many more prestigious institutions. We’ve talked about how dung beetles roll their poo, how to train sharks, how to listen to a black hole, how to save sea turtles, and how do you doctors diagnose you. Check us out wherever you listen to podcasts.

What is the important message you’d like people to take away from your book?

You are already making an impact on the planet, each time you take a step.

Like you, every being on the planet leaves an imprint

with their feet

their words

their actions.

Whether human or animal, voices or activity, each mark has a purpose.

To remind us of our history, give us a glimpse of our future, and maybe even inspire us to change the world.

Footprints, when taken in the right direction, can make a world of difference.

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

Listen to your Muse. Whenever it “speaks”, listen and most importantly, write it down!

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could meet anyone famous, alive or not, who would it be and why?

There are so many scientists, engineers, and experts that I’d love to meet, so this is a tough choice, but I would be honored to meet Dr. Sylvia Earle, the first female aquanaut,  or Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the first US woman to walk in space and also she became an aquanaut and was head of NOAA. They are hugely inspiring pioneers in both of the fields of ocean and space, and heroes to me.

BIO

Jennifer Swanson is the author of 40+ nonfiction books for kids. She has recently been tapped to write the second children’s title in the NYT bestselling Atlas Obscura series. She is the creator and cohost of the Solve It! For Kids podcast which, in its two years of being on air, has 30k+ downloads, is ranked in the top 5% of all podcasts Worldwide, and is #1 in the Top 10 Best Podcasts for Learning by All Digital School. A few weeks ago, Solve It! was picked up for distribution by Kinzoo Messenger (the host for NASA/Hubble and Nickelodeon) during which time it has become the most downloaded path on the platform. Her passion for science and technology resonates in all of her books but especially, Brain Games, named one of the 50 Best Science Books Ever by ThePlanets.orgSuper Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team UpAstronaut-Aquanaut, and Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner, Save the Crash-test Dummies. Her books have received starred reviews, been on the Booklist ‘Best Tech’ books list, won a Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. Jennifer is an accomplished speaker at events and schools around the country, including the National NSTA conferences, the World Science Festival in NYC, and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival.

LINKS

Betsy Bird’s review:  https://afuse8production.slj.com/2022/03/31/nature-meets-environmental-activism-a-footprints-interview-with-jennifer-swanson/

https://bookshop.org/books/footprints-across-the-planet/9781478876038

Whether big or small, each of us is responsible for leaving a positive footprint on our planet. We can all do our part to create a more sustainable future through simple everyday habits and actions. “Footprints Across the Planet” thoughtfully tackles the very big job of teaching the next generation to love, nurture and explore our oceans and lands and the life teeming within them. Through the book, Jennifer Swanson is leaving her own mark on the world that will last for years to come, inspiring young children to adopt a strong sense of self-awareness when it comes to their personal impact on the world around them. — Fabien Cousteau, Aquanaut, Explorer and Founder, Executive and Board Member at Proteus Ocean Group Ltd.

FB https://www.facebook.com/jen.swanson.7737/

Twiter and IG  @jenswanbooks  or @kidssolve 

Author Carolyn B. Fraiser on Abandoning Yourself to Research- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Hope you had a fabulous summer. My book Blissfully Bookish blog is back!! For this Q & A, please welcome an author I met a while back, Carolyn Bennett Fraiser. She ended up winning a critique from me for Fall Writing Frenzy, and I remember telling her it would definitely get published! Here she is, discussing her new book MOON TREE: The Story of One Extraordinary Tree illustrated by Simona Mulazzani and published by Reycraft Books.

BUT first- YAY! Carolyn is generously giving away a FREE signed copy of her book MOON TREE. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends June 17, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for this MOON TREE: The Story of One Extraordinary Tree.

Back in March 2019, I decided to take a trip up to the Pisgah National Forest to scout out some ideas for a magazine article I wanted to write. I visited the museum at the Cradle of Forestry and just happened to walk by a tree called a “Moon Tree.” I literally stopped and back pedaled. I was intrigued by the story and dove into research.

That summer, I experimented several different versions of the story – including one that you critiqued for Fall Frenzy that same year. I landed on the final version when an agent suggested that consider using a lyrical voice, which flowed so naturally for me. I began submitting the project again during the summer of 2020 and people began responding – I was even selected for a valuable mentorship with Vivian Kirkfield through #PBChat! I knew I had hit the right combination for this story. The following spring, Reycraft Books picked up the project to release this fall, which is very fast.

AND….I just found out that MOON TREE was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Gold’s Standard Selection so I’m very excited about that!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

Well, the story itself was fascinating. Can you think of anything cooler than a moon tree? Even the name catches your attention! The history behind it just grabbed me, but what ended up being the “it” factor for me was the realization that the story didn’t just belong to one person, but it belonged to several individuals, each who played a key role in the story – Stuart’s dream as a little boy, the forest researcher who didn’t give up on the seeds, a third-grade girl who asked a question, and the teacher who encouraged her entire class to answer it. Without any one of them, the story might not have ever happened or may have been lost to history!

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

Oh, it varies from project to project. MOON TREE was unique. It was the first time I completely abandoned myself to the research. The history behind it just grabbed me and I went down SO many rabbit holes. I didn’t even know about the key role the third-grade class played until I was about half way through my research process. I can’t imagine the story without it! After all the pieces have been gathered, I have to let a story sit for a while. There are so many storylines a writer can follow, especially in nonfiction. I have to give each story time and space for those details to settle and for the heart of the story to emerge like it finally did with MOON TREE.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

In a forest of ordinary trees,

One sycamore

has a secret

few people know,

a story unearthed

in the stars.

It all begins with…

One ordinary boy

who dashes among the trees.

At home, he watches

war planes soar

in the Oklahoma sky

and dreams that one day,

he will fly.

He grows up to be…

We’re agency sisters at EMLA! How did you manage to sign with your agent Tara Gonzalez?

Yes! I am thrilled to be working with Tara, and I love being a part of the EMLA family. During the same time I was writing that final draft of MOON TREE, I was submitting other projects. I connected with Tara through our SCBWI Carolinas regional conference, which was held online due to the pandemic, and submitted another project to her. When the offer for MOON TREE came in, I followed up with her and a few other agents who had projects of mine. She fell in love with MOON TREE and a few other lyrical nonfiction picture books I had written and the rest was history!

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

This month, my first educational market book MOONS, part of the OUR SOLAR SYSTEM series by BrightPoint Press, was released. I couldn’t have timed these two projects any better if I tried! Sometimes it just happens that way. I also have a second trade picture book that is scheduled to come out through Familius in the Fall of 2024, but it’s very different. It’s about how young children can be involved in modern-day homesteading.

Please share your favorite books from 2021/2 that have inspired you.

I have been reading a lot of middle-grade novels in verse lately. I love the rhythm, imagery, and emotion that these authors are able to convey in such a few words (much like picture books!). Two recent releases I’ve read are ALONE by Megan E. Freeman and THE PLACES WE SLEEP by Caroline Brooks DuBois. As much as I love writing in free verse for picture books, working on a full novel of poems feels very daunting to me! I love reading authors who accomplish this well and each book I read helps me hone in my skills as a lyrical nonfiction picture book writer.

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

Simply write because you enjoy writing and learning new things. Don’t write for the joy of publication. Sure, publication is great, but the joy you find there is fleeting. It only lasts a moment. But if you enjoy the process – writing and learning how to write better – that alone will keep you motivated. When the rejections flood in and when the joy of publication fades (and it will), you will continue to write because you simply love it.

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

I had to really pause and think about this one! And the only answer I could really come up with is probably very cliché! I think I would be a cat in a library (or a bookstore). What could be better than long afternoon naps surrounded by books!

BIO

Carolyn Bennett Fraiser is a writer and graphic designer for non-profit organizations and the author of more than 1,600 articles published for adults. She has been featured in several children’s magazines including Fun for Kidz, Clubhouse, Devozine, and Unlocked for Teens. Her books include MOON TREE (Reycraft Books, 2022) and OUR SOLAR SYSTEM: MOONS (BrightPoint Press, 2022). Currently Carolyn volunteers on the administrative team of her local SCBWI regional chapter and teaches creative writing workshops for teens in her hometown of Brevard, North Carolina.

LINKS
WEBSITE:               www.carolynbfraiser.com

SOCIAL MEDIA:     @carolynbfraiser on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

Author Lisa Gerin on Writing About Unsung Heroes- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome my friend who was once my agency sister, the talented Lisa Gerin! I witnessed her landing a new agent, subbing her work, and then signing a contract. Here she is, discussing her new book Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science illustrated by Chiara Fedele and published by Beaming Books.

BUT first- YAY! Lisa is generously giving away a FREE PB critique (non-rhyming, <1000 words). To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends June 17, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science.

The book’s first draft was written back in 2018. I queried agents with it and my agent Rena Rossner of DHLA signed me with it in early 2019. She sent it out on sub quickly after that.  We sold it to Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books about a year later. Then COVID hit and my 2021 release date was put off by a year.  So, it will be four years from first writing it to its release this summer of 2022!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

I’m always looking for unsung heroes in history and science to write about. I was surprised to see that there were no American children’s picture book bios about Rosalind’s life story. She overcame so many obstacles and I felt it was time kids knew her inspiring STEM story.

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

I mostly write biography, so I get started by collecting my research facts. Usually I start off with an inspiring quote by the person I’m writing about. What about their life makes him/her kid-friendly and relatable? I’m playing around recently with the format of the bio, writing in verse; using sidebars on the page. These days you have to be very creative to sell certain picture book genres.

But I always want to have great backmatter for teachers, librarians and kids who want to read further and learn more about the subject I’ve written about.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Rosalind mixed and measured as she studied chemistry. She poured bright blue liquids into glass beakers. She computed difficult math problems, balanced equations, and never gave up until she had the solution. Rosalind always took a closer look.

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

I am currently out on sub with a creative nonfiction picture book about animals and plants of the Sonoran Desert, where I live!  I’m also working on revising another creative nonfiction book in hopes of sending it to an editor soon!

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

I love the picture book biographies written by Jen Bryant, Tanya Lee Stone. Kirsten Larson’s WOOD, WIRE, WINGS about a woman engineer/inventor is a current bio I love.

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

REVISE, REVISE, REVISE!! And then, REVISE SOME MORE!

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

I have two cats, so I’m going to say cat. Life is sweet when you are a feline; you are basically the boss of your humans. You can give and get unconditional love from a cat.

BIO

Lisa Gerin is a former elementary librarian and high school teacher with a Masters’ degree in Education. She had a satisfying career working with children, teaching reading and writing to grades PreK through 12 in New York and New Jersey. She writes creative nonfiction and especially loves writing biography. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, but was raised in New York City. Lisa loves animals and nature, especially her rescue kittens, Thor and Cleo.

LINKS
www.lisagerin.com
@LisaGerin1

Author Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan on Plotting- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the fabulous author and one of my dear CPs, Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan! We both share the same agent (Miranda Paul) so I was excited to chat with her about her new nonfiction book, Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research, published by Chicago Review Press.

BUT first- YAY! Elizabeth is generously giving away a FREE critique for a nonfiction or WFH project. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends May 27, 2022.

Where did you draw the inspiration for your book, Animal Allies?

First, I love animals. I’ve had all kinds of pets throughout my life. Second, and maybe most important, awhile back, a hashtag on Twitter caught my eye. The hashtag was #DistractinglySexy. It was being used by people who identify as female to respond to some terrible comment by a male scientist who said women don’t belong in science because they distract real scientists from their work. I knew I wanted to help share the stories of amazing scientists.

Do you have a personal connection to animals?

Yes, I love animals. And I’m lucky my parents do, too, because I brought home ALL KINDS OF PETS as a kid. Hamsters, fish, birds, turtles, ducks and chickens. In college I had a hamster and a lizard. We had hermit crabs, but we don’t support hermit crabs as pets anymore. Once I rescued a cat from a storm even though I’m highly allergic. We’ve had lots of dogs, and my mom even had a rabbit.

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

I’m a proud plotter. I love an outstanding outline. I like to know my general path (maybe because I’m a runner and map out my routes in advance?) but I welcome the serendipitous discoveries along the way. So, for this particular book, I had a narrative structure for each chapter that I had developed based around a consistent set of questions. But I always made room for the unique and surprising stories these scientists shared with me!

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

           During her research, Corina set up video cameras to watch the nests. She had videos of eggs hatching, parents feeding, the wind shaking the grasses that hold the sturdy structures.

She also set up camera traps in the nearby area. Camera traps are motion-triggered. They turn on when something moves by them, like a hungry raccoon or rice rat.

           Sometimes the videos were difficult to watch. Corina has observed the struggles of sparrows. She’s seen rice rats take chicks. And she’s watched new dangers arrive. Rising water lev- els flood more nests and bring new predators, like fish, to prey on chicks. One loss of a chick caught on video was especially hard for her.

           “I cried. My heart was broken,” says Corina. “These birds are declining in number. Every nesting success for these birds means so much. I imagined what that chick was feeling, but also thought about the larger population. Because of climate change, nest flooding will keep happening. Chicks are going to drown. Plus, now there are new predators.”

           Despite her heartbreak, Corina knew this video was important.

           “No one would have know it happened without the scientists doing this research. I felt honored to offer this perspective. I did the work to get this up-close look to provide important info about protecting them. It gave me purpose.”

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

I am working on a historical fiction about a woman who was not a scientist but contributed immensely to the environmental conservation movement in the U.S. I like the fact that she wasn’t a trained expert or professional, but she took action. I think her story can inspire others. 

Please share your favorite nonfiction middle grade books that have inspired you.

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

Habibi, Naomi Shihab Nye

Bomb and Undefeated, both by Steve Sheinkin

The River Between Us, Richard Peck

Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers? (I it)

Write the kind of story you love to read.

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

A red-tailed hawk! I did a flight simulator that made it feel like I was a soaring bird and I loved it! Also, raptors are awesome.

BIO

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is an author and teacher from Pittsburgh, PA. She loves exploring history and science and has written over a dozen fiction and nonfiction books and graphic novels. Her books include Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research and The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci. Elizabeth lives with her family and pet schnoodle and loves board games, birding, and baking. She’s a lifelong runner and community volunteer.

LINKS

Links to pre-order the book here: https://elizabethpagelhogan.com/nonfiction/animal-allies-15-amazing-women-in-wildlife-science/

https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethPagelHoganAuthor

https://www.instagram.com/elizpagelhoganauthor/

Kim-Hoa, A Fall Writing Frenzy Success Story!!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an awesome author-illustrator who will no doubt create amazing work- Kim-Hoa. Oh, and did I mention this is a Fall Writing Frenzy competition success story?! Plus, Kim-Hoa is the kindest person, AND she’s my agency sister at EMLA! For more information on the competition that Kaitlyn Sanchez, literary agent at Context Literary Agency, and I co-host, click HERE. And if you participated in the competition yourself, feel free to comment below and share with us.

Kim-Hoa, can you please share your journey during the Fall Writing Frenzy competition that lead to a published book?

I joined the kidlit community during Fall of 2020. I often saw writing competitions, but I felt shy to participate. After seeing writing samples from friends who competed, I was inspired to try. Scrolling through the photos posted on the competition page, I found one that clicked with me – The Moon Festival. I am thankful to my critique partners who helped me with revisions and encouragement.

I was so shocked when I saw the list of winners. I was even more surprised to find out that Erin Siu selected me. I sent her my dummy and we had an online meeting. I was busy taking notes, trying to remember everything, when Erin said that she would love to work with me even though I wasn’t agented yet. I was so happy and will always be grateful for Erin for believing in my story.

I am thankful for Fall Writing Frenzy because it gave me the opportunity to meet Erin and get a book deal. Around the same time, I also received a heart from Miranda Paul of EMLA during PBPitch hosted by Debra Shumaker and PJ McIlvaine. I am lucky to have Miranda as my agent and Erin as my first editor. Things just fell into place at the right time for me during that autumn season. So, thank you, Lydia and Kaitlyn for everything!     

How long have you been participating in kidlit competitions?

2021’s Fall Writing Frenzy was my first kidlit competition. I haven’t participated in any since. I get too nervous. Hopefully, I can be inspired to try again. Good luck, writing friends! Take advantage of all competitions out there. Those critique prizes are so helpful.

Where did you derive inspiration for A GIFT FOR NAI NAI?

The story is inspired by my grandma whom I am grateful to have been able to crochet hats for. I do not see picture books involving crochet, so this also inspired me to write one.

What is the book about?

A GIFT FOR NAI NAI celebrates the special bond between Lyn Lyn and her grandma. Lyn Lyn is determined to crochet her first hat—a special gift for a friend’s birthday—and frequently calls upon her Nai Nai for help while making it.

What would you say to other authors struggling in the querying trenches?

Querying was the most difficult part of the journey for me. It is important to have great critique partners who understand you and your vision. It is okay if you don’t agree with the notes they give you. Those ideas might generate other stories for you later on. Take advantage of all the writing competitions or the critique giveaways out there. You can win prizes that will help open doors for you. Keep writing the stories of your heart. Connect with those on Twitter who have similar interests as you. Support others and help uplift each other. Your comment or like may mean so much to someone. And when you feel down, those special people will help encourage you back. I hope your book dream comes true.  

Just for fun, if you had to pick an animal, which one would you be?

I would be a panda because it is my favorite animal. I wouldn’t mind being able to eat all day and sleep too haha…

Author Alliah L. Agostini on Listening to your Gut- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the fabulous author and one of my CPs, Alliah L. Agostini! We both share the same agent (Miranda Paul) so I was excited to chat with her about her new nonfiction picture book, The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States, published by becker&mayer! kids (Quarto) and illustrated by Sawyer Cloud.

BUT first- YAY! Alliah is generously giving away a FREE signed copy of her book(US only). To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends May 13, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States.

My agent, Miranda Paul, told me becker&mayer! kids was interested in developing a book about Juneteenth’s history. The opportunity struck a chord because my grandfather was one of the founders of my hometown’s Juneteenth celebration in 1976.

I started with a rough outline, but I immersed myself in research about the history of emancipation and Juneteenth’s evolution and dove into every book, article, audio and video recording I could find— I had so much material, but still had to be decisive since picture books are only so long.

My editors helped refine the narrative, and also made sure the book went through rounds of fact-checking and sensitivity reads to make sure the research and story were consistent.

Once the text was finalized, Sawyer Cloud (the illustrator), shared her incredible magic to give this story and all of these historical moments so much life with her vibrant, touching illustrations.

It was a pretty condensed timeline of less than a year, which is fast for publishing. But if I’ve learned one thing since I’ve joined the industry, it’s that there is no typical anything in publishing.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

My inspiration came from wanting to lend my own voice and my experience to the narrative about Juneteenth. So many people think Juneteenth was, until recently, a scarcely celebrated holiday. But in some unexpected places (like Buffalo, NY) its roots run pretty deep.  I wanted to make sure to bring this to life while also putting additional historical context around the holiday’s evolution, and even some of the personal perspectives. I also thought it was important to share the diversity of thought about Juneteenth within the Black community, and even the different ways Juneteenth was celebrated by people who were formerly enslaved vs. their descendants. Early readers have mentioned the book compelled them to do more research on their own about some of the moments in the book – that fills me with so much joy.

What ideas and inspiration would you most like to impart to children?

So much, but more than anything, I want them to know that they and their lived experiences are valuable and important.

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

Oh – it definitely varies by project. Sometimes it starts with a nagging seed of an idea that I plop down in Evernote or a Google Doc. I have so many ideas that I just jot down on one of those tools so I don’t forget them.

I may google around or ask my critique partners if there’s anything similar. If too similar, I may halt, but if the topic is similar but my thoughts on execution are different enough, then I’ll proceed with hashing out a draft – sometimes very quickly.

But I revise relentlessly, then share it with my critique partners, share or read it to my family and sometimes other friends. My poor kids have seen so many picture-less picture books, but they’re very honest, so I value their opinion. Sometimes they talk about manuscripts I wrote like they’re already real books, that always makes me feel so gooey inside.

Then I’ll revise more until I send up a prayer and cross my fingers and hit send to share with my agent to see if it’s something we want to shop around.

An elegant, scientific process, isn’t it? (Ha!)

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Newly freed Texans began to feel the long-delayed warmth of liberty’s glow. As the news spread, they prayed, ate, and sang in celebration, though some were still in shock. Others left right away to search for and reunite with long-lost family members from whom they had been separated by slavery.

June 19 became Jubilee Day- it was their independence day.

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

Oh, I have a lot of WIPs- I have a slightly overwhelming spreadsheet with a number of manuscripts in various stages. That’s just how my brain works. There are a lot of picture books, a middle grade I’m excited about (but really need to finish!) and some others.

I fortunately some fun things in the pipeline, but only one other I can technically mention right now. It’s called BIG TUNE.

This is the book that was originally going to be my very first, but I still consider it my first book baby! It’s a fiction book in verse full of Jamerican black boy joy, set in Brooklyn in the early 1990’s.

It’s a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to share the final with everyone! The illustrator, Shamar Knight Justice, is on fire, and his illustrations are so creative.

Please share your favorite books from 2021 that have inspired you.

Born on the Water – Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson are brilliant women and writers to begin with, but I’m so glad they used their lyricism to reframe our (Black America’s) origin story for children. I wish I had had this book growing up, but I’m glad my children do.

Misfits by Michaela Coel – Michael Coel is the creative force behind television shows I May Destroy You and Chewing Gum, and the book originated from a lecture she gave in 2018. As a fellow Black female creative I just found the story of her journey to be inspiring, relatable, and honest. Making your true voice heard while working through channels owned and controlled by people whose lived experiences are largely unlike your own has its own set of challenges.

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

Have the courage to listen to your gut.

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

I would be a lioness, but with a lion’s mane (But how come they get to have the better hair? No fair!) Perhaps I’m drawn to lions since I’m a Leo, but as I get older, I feel myself getting more courageous and I see them as courageous animals.

BIO

Alliah L. Agostini grew up celebrating Juneteenth in Buffalo, NY; Her grandfather was one of the co-founders of the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo. Founded in 1976, grew to become the third-largest Juneteenth celebration in the world.

A trained marketer with a passion for children’s literature, Alliah writes with a commitment  to spread joy, truth, and to help more children see themselves on the page. Alliah is a member of SCBWI, KidLit in Color, Black Creators HQ, and the PB Sunrays, and she has both an A.B. and an M.B.A from Harvard.

LINKS

Website: www.alliahagostini.com

Handles: @alliago – twitter and Instagram

Purchase: ​​https://bookshop.org/books/the-juneteenth-story-celebrating-the-end-of-slavery-in-the-united-states/9780760375143