books

Author Cecily Cline Walton on Diversity and Kidlit

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author-illustrator Cecily Cline Walton who wrote the picture book The Beauty of My Skin published by 13th and Joan Publishing. She explains her journey below.

But first, Cecily is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, click HERE.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I wrote this book over 15 years ago while working as an Assistant Director of a Child Development Center in New Jersey.  Initially I submitted the manuscript to several Big Publishing Companies that had a market for Picture Books.  I was turned down by all of them so I tucked the manuscript away for a few years.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Growing up with my older sister people would always ask if we were biological siblings because are skin tones were completely different.  It was extremely annoying and hurtful that people would assume that we did not have the same parents since my sister’s skin was darker than mine.  When I became pregnant with twins I was curiously thinking which one of us would they favor the most, what would their skin look like since I am much lighter than my husband’s complexion.

Please share some of your writing process.
The words came easy to put together because it is such a short picture book.  I wanted to make sure the illustrations matched perfectly to the descriptions.  Fortunately, my illustrator Alyssa Liles-Amponsah was able to capture the beautiful tones that I imagined.  We worked together matching each painting to the correct page.  She was purposeful about making sure we showed different variations of the parents on the pages.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I am not sure when I realized I wanted to become a writer but I’ve always been a voracious reader and enjoyed bringing books into my classroom when I was a Pre-Kindergarten teacher.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am planning to release another short picture book in the same format before challenging myself by going for a YA novel.  I choose to write this book because I want all child of color to see themselves represented in stories that they read at home, in school or while walking up and down the aisle of a bookstore.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
My two favorite children’s books are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archmabault,  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange.  I love the simplicity and easy rhyme of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  It flows like a smooth song.  Ezra Jack Keats was a brilliant author.  The illustrations are pure and simple.  They make you want to jump in the page and play in the snow along with Peter.   I am fascinated with the book Ellington Was Not a Street because it brings to light the names of wonderful men who are so important to the frame work of the African American Community, not to mention that illustrator Kardir Nelson brings to life that time period on every page.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
My advice to any writer is just “Keep Going”.  Whether you are self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher just “Keep Pushing”.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Butter Pecan – Smooth, Salty and Sweet all together

BIO
Cecily Cline Walton resides with her family between her hometown of Atlanta, Ga and Winston-Salem, NC. She loves reading books from all genres and surrounding herself with the beauty of purple tulips.  She and her three children enjoy visiting different beaches around the world, going to the movies and baking their favorite desserts.

Social Media:
**Instagram—  purpletulipscreations
**Twitter- @ClineCecily
**Facebook-  Cecily Cline Walton Children’s Book Author
Where to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Beauty-Skin-Cecily-Cline-Walton/dp/1732471266

Author Beth Stilborn Interviews Me!

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Hello world!

Today, author Beth Stilborn interviewed me about my new book NO BEARS ALLOWED with illustrations by Tara J. Hannon, published by Blue Whale Press. Check out her awesome questions below:

BETH: Lydia, I know you’ve done several interviews already, and there are links to those below that I will urge my readers to check out, so I’ll try to ask new and fresh things. I’ll try, anyway! What was it about this rabbit and bear that made you take the leap of faith to strike out into new waters after doing so many work-for-hire projects?

LYDIA:  Actually, it was the other way around. My first trade picture book came out in 2014, and the second, in 2016. For these projects, I wrote narratives about a character created by the publishing house. After those experiences, I was inspired to write my own stories and wrote a slew of books. I learned about the industry and set out to publish them. I spent a few years with the wrong agents (two in total) and accumulated dozens of rejection letters for each book. At the time, making a living off my books wasn’t viable, so I also gave writing workshops in elementary schools and I turned to work-for-hire as a way to supplement my income. I have come to love both these aspects of my job and still do them today, in addition to working on my own books.

BETH: Ah. Thank you for the clarification. Can you give us a quick recap of NO BEARS ALLOWED (without revealing too much!) and tell us what your favorite part is, and why?

LYDIA: NO BEARS ALLOWED, like a lot of my work, is character driven. It’s all about Rabbit, who’s afraid of everything, including his own shadow. His biggest fear is, lo and behold, bears. And wouldn’t you know it, one day on his way to fetch carrots for his daily stew, he comes face to face with a …bear! The themes of confronting ones fears and not judging others permeate the story.

BETH: This definitely sounds like my kind of book! What sort of adjustments, if any, have you had to make to your thought processes and your book-launch processes for this book?

LYDIA: Every book and subsequent launch is a different entity, so I treat them all individually. The audience for this book is 3-6 years old, ideally, so I’ll tailor my book launch to suit them, and offer some carrot cupcakes, a free puppet making workshop and other fun elements.

BETH: Yum. Carrot cupcakes! I know you’re Canadian, as am I (waves across the miles). Has that made a difference in your process and progress as a writer?

LYDIA: Not really, though you would think it would. I don’t think most agents or publishers mind where you’re from, so long as they love your work.

BETH: That’s good news! The subject of fears and overcoming them, which is paramount in your book, is a subject that is dear to my heart. What do you hope kids will take away from your book in terms of their fears?

LYDIA: The takeaway is to learn to step out of your comfort zone. If you never try, you’ll never know who you really are or what you’re capable of. I hope this book encourages, even in a small way, children to look at their fears critically and learn to somehow overcome them. At the end of my book, Rabbit realizes that bears aren’t so bad, after all. Children may also feel like way about their own fears that have been built up in their minds.

BETH: Great message. That’s one that adults could use these days, too! This segues into the other takeaways you hope for your book, and the needs you see in our society that we as writers can help to address. I know having empathy for others is important to you. Can you talk about that? How do you weave that into your stories without being didactic or message-driven?

LYDIA: I wanted the book to cultivate empathy, since this is such a critical skill to have, especially today. It’s really about learning to see things from another person’s point of view. As Rabbit lets down his walls and allows Bear into his world, they slowly develop an unlikely friendship. Rabbit learns to become empathetic towards what he previously saw as a scary enemy. The end result is him learning to not judge others and make assumptions about them. These are lessons we could all benefit from.

Regarding not being didactic, this was a work in progress! My earlier works have been ridiculously didactic and message-fueled, and I learned through those mistakes. I came to realize that children are intelligent, and don’t need messages banged over their heads, so to speak. They much prefer an enchanting narrative, and you can weave your themes throughout that narrative.

BETH: Great point, that kids don’t need messages banged over their heads. It’s important for those of us who are writers to remember that. Books are important tools, but not in that way. That leads me to wonder what are some of the key roles of books for kids in our society, in your view? How do you hope NO BEARS ALLOWED fulfils those roles? How would you encourage other writers to work with those roles in their own books?

LYDIA: I think books are critical for many reasons. Here are a just few of them:

-books ignite one’s imagination

-books broaden one’s horizons

-books help us understand ourselves, as well as each other

-books help us find our place in this world

I hope NO BEARS ALLOWED fulfills these roles, it was certainly my intention. I think the best advice is to focus on your audience, and really understand them. What would they like to hear? And what do they need to hear about? If you keep everything child-centric, it will flow organically.

BETH: That is a perfect mini-course in what is important in writing for kids, right there. Thank you. Is there anything you’d like to add?

LYDIA: Being a writer is a wonderful journey, but it’s filled with ups and downs. I’m grateful to have found a way to build a career on telling stories and reaching children. I’m especially grateful to Steve Kemp and Alayne Christian from Blue Whale Press for seeing the magic in NO BEARS ALLOWED, and to Tara J. Hannon for agreeing to illustrate it.

BETH: And we’re grateful to Steve, Alayne, Tara, and YOU for making this book come into being. Thank you again, Lydia, for being with us today, and for your thoughtful, insightful answers.

Thanks so much, Beth!

Publisher links:

Book trailer on Alayne Kay Christian’s blog

For more information on Blue Whale Press

Links to other recent interviews:

GROG blog

Jed Doherty’s “Reading With Your Kids”

Laura Sassi’s blog

Melissa Stoller’s blog

Tara Lazar’s blog

Author-Illustrator Yevgenia Nayberg on her Artistic Process

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author-illustrator Yevgenia Nayberg who wrote the picture book Anya’s Secret Society published by Charlesbridge. She explains her journey below.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
Anya’s Secret Society is my debut as an author. The idea came to me spontaneously and I wrote the story quickly. I spent a lot of time on the illustrations and the dummy — this is always the longest part of the process.  Once my agent submitted the project, it took about 8 months to find the publisher. This is were things really slowed down. The hardest part was to keep working on edits and not being able to get to illustrations. When the story was finally approved, it was a pure joy to illustrate! It took two years to publish Anya.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Anya’s Secret Society is based on my childhood memories. I grew up in Russia where, at the time, lefties were quite rare. It is a story about being different, but also about creativity and secret imaginary worlds.

Please share some of your writing process.
I am a visual artist, so many of my ideas come from images. I often begin with a storyboard and fill it with text and pictures as I go along. I love precision and humor both in my art and writing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I am writing my fourth book right now and perhaps now is when I must admit that I want to be a writer. I’ve been writing little bits of texts for years, but never took it seriously the way I did with art. I feel like I’m finally finding my own voice as a writer.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
My second book, Typewriter, is coming out in February 2020 from Creative Editions. It is a story of a Russian typewriter that immigrates to America and, once there, becomes completely useless.
I have also just begun working on a new picture book, Mona Lisa in New York, about Renaissance art, graffiti, and love in New York City. It’s coming out in September 2020 from Prestel Books.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I grew up on Russian books and at the time, we did not have a concept of a picture book the way it is understood in the US. All picture books of my childhood had A LOT of text! My mother, also a visual artist, bought many of my books because she liked illustrations, so my taste for good book art formed quite early.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Find a story that you love- you are going to be stuck with it for a long time!

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’m not a big ice cream lover, so perhaps and avocado flavor? Or bacon?

BIO

Yevgenia Nayberg is an illustrator, painter, and set and costume designer. Her illustrations have appeared in magazines and picture books, and on theatre posters, music albums, and book covers; her paintings, drawings, and illustrations are held in private collections worldwide. As a set and costume designer, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts/TCG Fellowship for Theatre Designers, the Independent Theatre Award and the Arlin Meyer Award. In 2018 she received a Sydney Taylor Silver Medal for her illustrations for Drop by Drop by Jaqueline Jules. Her debut author/illustrator picture book, Anya’s Secret Society, came out in March 2019. Her upcoming books, Typewriter and Mona Lisa in New York will be published in 2020.  She lives in New York City.

Social Media:
My website is www.nayberg.org
Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/znayberg
Facebook
https://facebook.com/nayberg
Anya’s Secret Society on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/anyassecretsociety/
Anya’s book trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz3MRi9o23A
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anyas-Secret-Society-Yevgenia-Nayberg/dp/1580898300

Q & A with Author Ashley Franklin & GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome my friend and talented author Ashley Franklin who wrote the picture book NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE published by HarperCollins. She explains her journey below.

But first, she’s doing a generous GIVEAWAY! Ashley will gifting one lucky winner with her PB, for US residents only please. To enter, please click HERE.

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
My journey to publication was a bit unorthodox. I landed my first agent thanks to #PBPitch. NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE wasn’t the manuscript that piqued her interest because I hadn’t written it yet. It was after many “like it but not in love with it” rejections that I switched gears and started writing new manuscripts, one of which was NQSW. Though I’m no longer with that agent, I appreciate what she did to help find the perfect editor for the story.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Thanks to blog posts from Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm (then PiBoIdMo), I got the idea to look within myself and my experiences for book ideas. I knew I wanted to write an African American princess, and the story took many different shapes until I got to the final product.

Please share some of your writing process.
I write quickly and revise slowly. My process is a puzzle of scribbles and notes from notebooks, my phone, and bits of paper that I assemble once I finally have a pretty good idea of the direction I want to go with a story.
I don’t have a set schedule that I adhere to every day or week. I’m a work from home mom. That doesn’t work for my life. When I get moments to write, I take them, and I make sure that’s where my focus stays.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. As a kid, I had a diary. When frustrated as a teen, I wrote poetry and kept a journal. It just took me a while to realize that I wanted to pursue writing professionally. That really didn’t hit me until I had my first child and was frequently at the library searching for books I wanted him to experience that weren’t problematic, out of touch, or not particularly meaningful to his already lived and likely upcoming experiences (in my opinion).

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I don’t like to be boxed in, so I see myself writing widely—making something for the middle grade audience, dabbling with poetry…so many exciting possibilities

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Clearly I turned to fairytales. (I know I’m cheating a little with that.) I also turned to Tammi Sauer’s MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM. I like the idea of taking an old or familiar concept and making it something new.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Well, self-care is important, and I think that’s something we writes tend to put on the back burner—whether that be out of choice or necessity. So, my advice would be this: Nourish yourself first for your ideas to flourish.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Butter pecan—salty, sweet, a bit nutty. That’s me, lol.

BIO
Ashley Franklin is a writer, mother, and adjunct college professor. Ashley received her M.A. from the University of Delaware in English Literature, where she reaffirmed her love of writing but realized she had NO IDEA what she wanted to do about it.
Ashley currently resides in Arkansas with her family. Her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, was released July 9, 2019 by Harper Collins. For more information on Ashley and her writing journey, you can visit her website: www.ashleyfranklinwrites.com

 

Social media savvy?  You can find Ashley on one of these platforms:
Twitter:@differentashley
Facebook: Ashley Franklin
Instagram: @ashleyfranklinwrites

Q & A with author Emma Wunsch & GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Emma Wunsch who wrote the Miranda and Maude chapter book series published by Abrams Books. I’m a huge chapter book fan, and hers are unique. She explains her journey below.

But first, she’s doing a generous GIVEAWAY! Emma will gifting one lucky winner with Book 3 along with M&M stickers and bookmarks! To enter, please comment below on this blog and follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis).

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The journey for the Miranda and Maude series came from telling my then-princess-loving three-year-old daughter a story I made up about a princess named Miranda Rose. She loved the stories, but I quickly got bored and made up an “anti-princess” character named Maude. After years of telling Miranda and Maude stories to my two daughters, I decided to write them down. That three-year-old was ten (and long over princesses) when the first book came out last August.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for the third book in the series RECESS REBELS came directly from hearing about the girl-boy dynamics in my daughters’ classroom. I thought that would a good starting place for the third book; the class gets along so well in BANANA PANTS (book 2), I wanted to shake things up.

Please share some of your writing process.
Whether it’s having a story due to my local writers group or going over a pass for my editor, I thrive with a deadline. When I’m on a deadline I’ll eek out whatever writing time I can find. When I’m not on a deadline, I can be less focused although I know I’m 65% happier when I’m writing. I tend to write fast and then take time to edit. For me, editing is where the real work begins. I love having something—even it’s a terrible first draft (and what first draft isn’t terrible?) and then working to make it better.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first story, in purple crayon, when I was six. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve written in a various forms/styles, for most of my life. But I’ve also had other jobs too. I currently work part-time in donor relations at a college. I’ve taught, worked in a bookstore, and badly waitressed.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Now that are (almost) three Miranda and Maude books, I’d like to do more in the schools. And yes, I have other books that I’m working on. I’d like to publish a MG one day and I have the germ of an idea for another chapter-book series, but it’s much too early to talk aboutJ!

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
As a kid, I couldn’t get enough Judy Blume. I read Superfudge so much I memorized the first three pages. The characters in Judy Blume’s books are relatable and extremely funny. I think (and so does my eleven-year-old) that Kate DiCamillo is a national treasure. We adore the books in the Raymie Nightingale trilogy. Her language is poetic, precise, and no one is better at naming characters.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
In my experience the world of publishing is so much out of my control that the only thing I feel I can completely control is the actual writing. If I don’t do that nothing else can happen.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’d be mint-chocolate chip because that was my favorite when I was a kid.

BIO
Emma Wunsch is the author of the YA The Movie Version and the chapter-book series Miranda and Maude. The third book in the series (Miranda and Maude: Recess Rebels) will be published in early September. Emma’s short fiction has been published in a variety of journals including: The Tishman Review, Passages North, The Best of the Bellevue Review, Lit, J Journal, and The Brooklyn Review. Her story “Looking for Cat Stevens” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017.  Emma is currently working on a collection of short stories.

www.mirandaandmaude.com
Twitter :  @emmawunsch
FB: @emmawunschauthor

Books can be purchased anywhere, including here: https://www.norwichbookstore.com/emma-wunsch-recess-rebels-miranda-maude-3-signed-copies) (they have signed copies!)

Q & A with author Chris Tebbetts

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Chris Tebbetts. You may know him from his multiple collaborations with James Patterson in the wildly successful Middle School series. He just published a new YA book, Me, Myself & Him with Delacorte Press. He explains his journey below.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
What a long, strange trip it’s been! My first dip into this story started as a short creative nonfiction essay, about the night I broke my nose after passing out huffing whippets behind the ice cream store where I worked in high school. I had no idea at the time that that little autobiographical piece would become the prologue for a novel, but it did…eventually.
I wrote ME, MYSELF, AND HIM slowly, over the course of about fifteen years, including long stretches where it sat in a figurative drawer while I kept busy earning a living on other projects. Eventually, my agent suggested trying to sell this book on partial manuscript, with the idea that a sale would force my hand and compel me to finish it once and for all—which is exactly what happened. We got four offers on the book, accepted Delacorte’s proposal, and I was off and running toward the finish line from there.
I’d love to say that this book just flowed right out of me, but the truth is, I’ve always needed a deadline to get anything done. For what it’s worth, I also believe it’s better to understand and adapt to my own creative process than to sit around wishing I were a different kind of writer. That was one of the real lessons from this project.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I have to give a nod to the movie Sliding Doors here. That was the first time I ever saw someone tackle this kind of parallel-narrative structure, following one character through two different outcomes from the same inciting incident. I’ve always been fascinated with that kind of “what if?’ question. What if I’d done X instead of Y at any given moment? How would (and wouldn’t) that choice have changed my life? The book is very much about those kinds of questions.
That said, when I first started writing ME, MYSELF, AND HIM, it was meant to be a traditional, single-narrative novel, where my main character, Chris Schweitzer, is shipped off to live with his father in California after a drug-fueled accident. But as I got to writing…and writing…and writing my early chapters, I couldn’t seem to get Chris out of his Ohio hometown. It was like the story itself was trying to tell me something, and so I decided to listen. That eventually led me to the idea of letting him stay home for the summer and get shipped off to live with his dad. Both.

Please share some of your writing process.
This is my 21st published novel, although virtually all of my previous work has been co-authored (including the MIDDLE SCHOOL series with James Patterson and the STRANDED series with Jeff Probst). With all the co-authoring, it’s been necessary to work from an outline. But on this book, for the first time, I really just jumped in with both feet and let the story take me where it wanted to take me. That’s part of what took me so long to write it, but it’s also been a more organic (if laborious) process than ever, in a way that I really enjoyed.
And even though I would call this a character-driven story, I’d also say that a lot of the characters themselves grew out of the themes I knew I wanted to write about. My fascination with theoretical physics and the multiverse, for example, grew into a physicist father for my main character. And my own memories of being a gay third wheel to my straight friends in high school led me to the strained three-way friendship between Chris and his two besties, Wexler and Anna.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The thing I always knew on some level was that I wanted to be a storyteller of one sort or another. My first love was books, and I was a voracious reader as a kid. But from there, I got heavily into theater, and then filmmaking, and then back into theater, where I spent my twenties as a starving artist-director in NYC. I loved all of those experiences, but something about just wasn’t clicking for me.
Eventually, I landed in Vermont where the writing took hold again—and specifically, writing for young readers. That was when I stopped treating my storytelling like a hobby and started taking the business end of it seriously—looking for an agent, researching the markets, traveling to workshops and conferences, etc. And for me, that was when I realized, almost retroactively, that I’d found something I wanted to do for the long haul.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’ve always admired the chameleons of the world more than the specialists—people like Lois Lowry and M.T. Anderson. Accordingly, I aspire to write as many different kinds of things as I can. I’m following up the YA contemporary realistic world of ME, MYSELF, AND HIM with a middle grade novel that is larger than life, silly, weird, and written for a much younger audience. (I can’t say any more, though, because I’m superstitious that way!)

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Roald Dahl was an absolute favorite when I was a kid, in part for the way he wasn’t afraid of being dark, and weird, and also in the way he never condescended to his audience. I don’t think my stuff is as dark as his, but he really set me in motion as a storyteller when I first discovered novels, way back in the day. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH remains an all-time favorite of mine.
In terms of a contemporary story, I’ve felt as though Louis Sachar’s HOLES was just about perfect. I love the way it works like a giant puzzle, laying out the pieces and then bringing them together in an unexpected way. I love how Sachar wasn’t afraid of that story’s complexity but also based it in a very simple and hook-worthy premise.
Lastly, I’m going to cheat and mention a few more books. One thing I’ve been noticing a lot lately is the way some of my favorite authors honestly capture the dark side of life and the great beauty of the world, all swirled up together in one story. Two of my recent favorites do exactly that: Padma Venkatraman’s THE BRIDGE HOME and Jo Knowles’ WHERE THE HEART IS.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Get used to feeling uncomfortable and accept it as part of the creative process. Writing is all about finding my way—which in turn is inevitably about feeling lost at some point. For me, that kind of discomfort—that wandering in the dark with no guarantee of success—is one of the biggest obstacles to finishing a story. It happens on every project, which is good to remember. My greatest optimism comes from the conviction that if I haven’t figured out a story yet, it doesn’t mean I never will. It just means I haven’t thought about it long and hard enough. The answer is always there, if I’m patient enough

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Anything with cinnamon! I’ve loved cinnamon, big-time, all my life. Ben and Jerry’s makes a cinnamon bun flavor in pints that I only allow myself once in a while, but…..YUM.

BIO
Chris Tebbetts is the author and co-author of many books for young readers. His 2019 titles include the YA novel, Me, Myself, and Him as well as Middle School: Born to Rock, which is part of the #1 New York Times bestselling Middle School series he writes with James Patterson. Other titles include the bestselling Stranded series with Jeff Probst; the young adult novel M or F? with Lisa Papademetriou; and The Viking series.  His work has received children’s choice awards in Oregon and Hawaii, as well a Sunshine State Young Readers Award nomination, and a nod on the New York Public Library’s annual list of Books For the Teen Age. He is a native of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and currently lives in Vermont.

www.christebbetts.com
Twitter and Instagram @christebbetts
Purchase ME, MYSELF, AND HIM: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781524715229

Q & A with author Michael Sussman plus GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I want to continue writing picture books and novels, and perhaps screenplays. I’ve just completed an MG novel, which is currently being subbed, as well as a sequel to Duckworth.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
There are too many to just pick two! For children’s literature, my greatest inspiration has come from Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Florence Parry Heide (The Treehorn Trilogy), William Steig (Spinky Sulks), David Small (Imogene’s Antlers), and M.T. Anderson (Feed).

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

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

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

BIO

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

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

Q & A with author Connie Dow plus GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

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

Enter the Rafflecopter contest HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q & A with author PJ McIlvaine & Critique Giveaway

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Hello all!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIO

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

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

Twitter: @pjmcilvaine

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

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

The book is currently available for pre-order.

Q & A with author Laura Roettiger plus GIVEAWAY!!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Laura Roettiger. Here she is discussing her fictional picture book entitled ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. And exciting news, Laura will be doing a GIVEAWAY for one lucky winner!

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter contest.

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
It’s a bit of a cautionary tale with a happy ending. I had no idea what I was doing when I began submitting in January 2017. I submitted before the book was ready to a few agents (all rejections) and a few publishers who accept un-agented work. I was fortunate to find Eifrig Publishing. Their mission aligns well with my personal goals and the messages of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. Eifrig Publishing only accepts illustrated work and I had a local artist who had illustrated a few picture books ask if she could be part of the project. Due to work conflicts, she backed out after a year. I then found Ariel Boroff through a mutual friend and she began creating character sketches and painting backgrounds. It was almost another year until we had the finished illustrations and the signed contracts. While this felt like a long time, I know many other authors have much longer journeys and I realize I’ve been quite lucky.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
ALIANA is inspired by my own daughters, my students at Carlos Fuentes Charter School in Chicago, and the brightness of the full moon now that I live in the Rocky Mountains, far away from the light pollution of the city. I couldn’t believe how bright the light of the full moon was when I moved here in 2016. It was bright enough that you could read by it, and I knew I had to share this exciting discovery with my former students and others who love the moon.

Please share some of your writing process.
My process varies depending upon what I’m writing and what stage of revision my work is in. I have a novel that is currently sitting on the shelf waiting to be revised … again. My first manuscript which ultimately became ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON was written by hand and then revised too many times to count in drafts on my laptop. I have learned to label drafts with the date they were revised because calling something FINAL is never accurate. I like to put drafts away and come back to them a week or more later and read it aloud to hear how it sounds. It’s even better if I can have a friend or critique partner read it aloud so I can hear where it’s smooth and where it sounds clunky. I usually have more than one project going at a time so that if one is at the ‘let it rest’ stage, I have something else to work on.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer. Reading and writing were my favorite activities as a child and I entered poetry and writing contests in elementary school. When I went to overnight camp, my mom saved my letters because she believed I would become a famous writer some day. Those letters disappeared along the way, but after she died, I did find a box full of letters from when I was in college that she saved.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have several other manuscripts I am currently querying because ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON was published without an agent. I have two more books written with Aliana and her family that also have STEAM connections. Most of my books are character-driven with some science or other element to encourage children’s curiosity after reading. Recently I’ve written a book inspired by my puppy Charlie about a dog who writes letters back and forth with a sibling who lives far away, and my latest picture book manuscript features a confident girl (think Olivia or Fancy Nancy) who talks about her sister at sharing time but her descriptions lead her classmates to believe something completely different. My hope is that I can find an agent who believes in my writing and my characters as much as Penny at Eifrig Publishing does so that I can reach a bigger audience – bigger publishing house.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I have to say Mark Teague’s LaRue books, particularly LETTERS FROM OBEDIENCE SCHOOL, has been a good mentor text for the two manuscripts mentioned above for different reasons. The connection of a dog writing letters is obvious, but additionally, the unreliable narrator aspect has also provided inspiration. My experience with children over the years allows me to see picture books through their eyes. The classic series that I love are the FROG AND TOAD books. I like the idea of two characters who are different from each other but are still good friends. I think that’s an important underlying message for everyone.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
I wish I had joined Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 right away when I decided to commit to being a writer. If I have to pick one, I guess I would say SCBWI.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Coffee ice cream with chocolate chunks and cherries. Is that a flavor? If it’s not, it should be because it combines three flavors I love.

BIO
Laura Roettiger is the author of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON, a picture book that draws inspiration from the moon and the curiosity of children. She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for literacy at a STEM school and a tutor in the BoulderReads program at the Boulder Public Library. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own whose curiosity and creativity led them into STEM related professions.

Website: https://lauraroettigerbooks.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ljrwritenow
Eifrig Publishing: https://www.eifrigpublishing.com/