chapter books

Author Julie Falatko on Creating Chapter Books

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented writer Julie Falatko. I consider her one of my favorite fiction authors, so this is exciting! I first fell in love with her work when she created the Snappsy the Alligator series, and now she’s out with a new chapter book series, Two Dogs and a Trench Coat, published by Scholastic. Let’s support her by buying her books and/or reviewing them!

Please describe the journey to publication for this book series.
I had written picture books but nothing longer yet. I knew I wanted to – I overwrite my picture books to get the story down, and have to cut away 75% of what I write. I liked the idea of trying to write a story that would let me keep a few more of those jokes in.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
At the time, I had two dogs (I’m down to one now, alas), and spent a lot of time narrating what I thought the dogs would be saying to each other. I think all pet owners probably do this. But it became a bit of a competition in my family, to try to do it in the best, funniest, most pun-filled way. A lot of it was the dogs trying to get the idiot humans to give them large piles of meat.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process is the same for every project. I do a mix of writing longhand and typing into the computer. I write some and then go for a walk and think about the problems I’ve run into with what I’m working on (and write possible solutions or good sentences on an index card I keep in my pocket). And I do my best work early in the morning. It has gotten really bad, my ability to work past a certain time of day. It keeps getting earlier and earlier. At this point, my best work is done before 9 am. I can’t do any creative idea generation at all after 2 pm.

We’re always hearing about how chapter books are a difficult market. How did you manage to break into this genre?
It was a combination of hard work, luck, and being in the right place at the right time. I’d written a chapter book collaboratively with two other authors, which was honestly the funniest thing. And no one wanted it. But I kept working on picture books, and various other longer things. I read all the time. I did what I think is probably technically called “making connections” or “networking” but was really just me wanting to talk kids books with other people who were happy to have a long discussion about books with me. I met my Scholastic editor because of all of those things. We’d known each other as industry acquaintances for a few years before we talked about working together on Two Dogs in a Trench Coat.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
My favorite scene in Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Enter Stage Left is when the acting teacher is trying to lead the students in a relaxing breathing exercise and the kids and dogs have absolutely no idea what’s happening:
“Everyone, take a deep breath,” said Mr. Rollins.
“Why?” said Bax.
“We are going to practice being in a play where we are breathers,” said Waldo.
“I took a breath in, and then I breathed out,” said Piper. “Is that okay? Or do you want me to hold my breath?”
“You should definitely breathe out,” said Becky. “I did, at least. Wait, can we breathe in again?”
“Listen to Mr. Rollins,” said Charlie. “He’s teaching us a special way to breathe. If you breathe in, and out, then in again, you’re just breathing like you always do.”
“Salty is breathing in and out very fast now,” said Bax. Waldo was, in fact, panting. “I’m going to do that. That seems more fun.”
Susan made a squeaking noise. Her face was very red. She exhaled noisily. “Why did you have us hold our breath?”
“I’m just trying to get you to relax,” said Mr. Rollins.
“Try harder,” said Bax, nearly out of breath.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I want to keep making books, especially books that I would have liked to read when I was a kid. I have a few projects in progress that I can’t talk about yet, but I can tell you that my next picture book will be Dear Sirs, out next year from Cameron Kids, which will be illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo.

Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
What I love in classic books is the way the format allowed them to take their time with the story. You look at a book like One Morning in Maine that takes a full 45 minutes to read aloud. And it’s perfect. It would never fly today, and that’s fine, but I do love reading a book that talks for pages about a spark plug, or books like Bread and Jam for Frances with that whole long exalted description of Albert unpacking his lunch box. It’s so delightful to encounter those picture books that slow down so much.
That said, I always name Amos & Boris by William Steig as my favorite classic picture book. The characters are perfectly set up, the language is beautiful and lyrical, and the plot is done in such a way that you have a real moment of despair wondering how it’s all going to be fixed and that allows you to feel joy at the absurd and somehow completely right way it’s all resolved.
Now, a contemporary book. The coronavirus pandemic has really taken a number on my knowledge of the most recent picture books. Or, I know about a lot of them, but haven’t read them yet, since I often got them from the New Releases shelf in my local library. I know there are many incredible picture books that were published in the past three months. The children’s book industry is an incredibly kind business to work in, and it’s one where you make a lot of genuine friends, so this question feels a bit like a bizarre award acceptance speech, where I want to name all my friends and the brilliant books they’ve written. Given that, I’ll throw that all out the window and name a book by an author I don’t know: Sweety by Andrea Zuill. It was the last book I read that really wowed me as far as the plot and the characters and also instilled a deep annoyed jealousy in me that she made a book so hilarious and perfect.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
The hardest part of being a writer, and the thing that will ensure your success, is doing the work. 100% of people with books out in the world did the work. They faced rejection and failed manuscripts and being stuck, and still they kept at it, and did the work.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I am probably a weird, potentially terrible, flavor, like gummy bear or salted grapefruit, where you try it because it’s so ridiculous and think, “I think I actually love this?”

BIO
Julie Falatko is the author of eight funny books for kids, including Snappsy the Alligator and The Great Indoors. She lives in Maine with her family.

Social Media
Website: http://juliefalatko.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieFalatko
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/julie_falatko/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieFalatkoAuthor/
Local indie where you can order signed books: https://www.printbookstore.com/falatko

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!)