Fiction

Author Laura Purdie Salas on Writing Nonfiction and Fiction (plus giveaway!)

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. I’m particularly excited for this Q & A, because I get to introduce an author who is not only a mentor to me, but who’s also one of the nicest and most approachable people on the planet: Laura Purdie Salas. For years, I have read her nonfiction books, and now she’s releasing a brand new fiction picture book, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten! published by Two Lions. Check out Laura’s journey below.

BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Laura is generously giving away a SIGNED copy of her book to one lucky winner. Simply comment on this blog, contest ends July 24, 2020 (US only).

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
I listened to the All the Wonders podcast where Matthew Winner interviewed Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant about their book, I Am (Not) Scared, back in 2017. They talked about writing about a common fear. Afterward, I asked myself, “What would be the most Uncommon fear a kid could have?” The answer that popped into my head was “a pile of puppies!” Here’s what I wrote in my Ideas file.
3/23/17: Not Puppy Kindergarten! A puppy is terrified of starting kindergarten and has all sorts of fears. What if everyone laughs at my spots? What if the other kids bite me? What if the snack is liver? What if I do everything wrong? This could be really funny, I think, and a good analogy to kids starting school. And what if everything bad really happened? Hmmm…While listening to All the Wonders episode with Anna Kang and her husband.  
I started playing with that, and the puppies morphed into kitties, and in just 10 or so drafts and with help from my Wordsmiths critique group, I created a manuscript I felt good about submitting. Over a few months, I sent it to four editors. Meanwhile Marilyn Brigham at Two Lions rejected a different picture book manuscript I had sent her. In her kind rejection note, she described the kind of manuscript she was looking for. I felt like Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten fit the bill, so I sent it in. She asked for a couple of revisions before acquiring it, but then everything moved forward quickly, with Hiroe Nakata coming on board to do the fabulous illustrations. And I realized somewhere during the acquisition process that Two Lions was the publisher who did I Am (Not) Scared! What a lovely feeling of coming full circle.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Oh. This would be the point where I say to myself, “I should have read all the questions first!” Hehe.
I will share that the inspiration for the sets of three rhyming lines appearing occasionally throughout the prose story came from Tammi Sauer’s text for Mr. Duck Means Business (Paula Wiseman Books, 2011). I loved the effect and set out to use it from the start. It disappeared from some versions as I tried different approaches, but it kept popping back up. Mentor texts, often for structure or voice or some specific technique like this, often play a role in my writing.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It does vary, but a few things hold true 99% of the time.

  • An idea percolates in my heads for weeks or even months before I start writing.
  • I write a LOT of drafts circling around the topic or character, getting (hopefullyl) closer and closer as I try different things.
  • In many drafts, I focus on one or two things, e.g., Make all of Clover’s reactions more over the top in this draft or Use more cat-related wordplay in this draft.
  • The ending doesn’t usually fall into place until…the end. I struggle with endings, and it’s almost always the hardest part of the book for me to write.

What are the key differences in writing fiction vs nonfiction? Can authors write both?
Yes, authors can write both! Many of my favorite authors, like Joyce Sidman, Kate Messner, and Nikki Grimes, write in multiple genres! It might require different writing processes for each genre/form, but you learn as you go. For me, the way I figure out the structure is the biggest difference between writing nonfiction and writing fiction. In nonfiction, I spend more pre-writing time percolating. I play with ideas for different structures. I often even sketch or storyboard them out and discard most before ever writing an actual draft. But in fiction, I just have to dive in to actual full drafts, because I can’t figure out the pacing and narrative structure of the story until I actually start trying to write the scenes.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Clover could not wait for nap time.
But nap time was a disaster. Ms. Snappytail’s purrrrrfume stank like licorice.
“Sweet dreams, Clover,” said Oliver.
“Nap time!”
“Share my rug!”
“Rock-a-bye, kitty, in the treetop…”
A treetop! Clover’s belly swayed, and she couldn’t sleep on her scratchy mat. She tried. She sighed. Clover Kitty quietly cried.
School felt nine lives long.
Maybe ten.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
These are tough times for book creators, especially if you’re not a big name. I hope to continue working on picture books of all kinds—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. And I love easy readers, too! I also have a Patreon group where I share information with children’s writers. I’d like to grow that enough to make it sustainable, as I love to share information and inspiration with writers. We’ll see what happens
My books coming out in the next few years include:
If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (illus. by Angela Matteson, Boyds Mills Kane, 2021)
We Belong (illus. by M Kawashima, Carolrhoda, 2022)
Zap! Clap! Boom! (illus. by Elly McKay, Bloomsbury, 2022)

Please share your favorite 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?
Does Dav Pilkey’s God Bless the Gargoyles (Voyager Books, 1999) count as a classic? This haunting, rich, rhyming picture book was one of the first that made me think, I want to create books like this. I thought of this book while writing We Belong for Carolrhoda (coming in 2022). Mr. Duck Means Business, by Tammi Sauer and Jeff Mack (Paula Wiseman Books, 2011), inspired me with its wry humor and the way so much is left unsaid, but a lot happens. This was definitely a mentor text for me for Clover Kitty. So many poetry and nonfiction picture books have been mentor texts for me, but this might be the first time I’ve acknowledged these two publicly!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Writing a picture book draft is like taking one step up Mt. Everest. That step might not place you at the summit, but it gets you to the next step, which gets you to step after that. And you can’t summit without all those steps. Also, donuts. They make every kind of climbing more fun.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Caramel Caribou: toffee ice cream, caramel-filled chocolate cups, and swirls of caramel. Because I think life is short and you should make yours a celebration. This ice cream says celebration to me

BIO
Former teacher Laura Purdie Salas believes reading small picture books and poems can have a huge impact on your life. She has written more than 130 books for kids, including Lion of the Sky (Kirkus Best Books and Parents Magazine Best Books of the Year), the Can Be… series (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice), and BookSpeak! (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable). Visit Laura at laurasalas.com.

Social Media

• site: www.laurasalas.com
• Clover Kitty page with lots of downloadables: laurasalas.com/clover
• order personalized copies of the book through Red Balloon: laurasalas.com/clover
• blog: laurasalas.com/blog
• Twitter: @LauraPSalas
• Instagram: LauraPSalas
• E-letter for educators: tinyurl.com/p5q54g8
• Patreon: patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten is an Amazon First Reads pick, which means it’s at a huge discount for July only. Anybody can get the Kindle edition for $4.99 or the hardcover edition for $6.99. (And Prime members can get the Kindle edition free.) That link is https://amzn.to/31QKWMz
AND, through the end of July, there’s a Goodreads Giveaway! Hardcovers will be sent to 20 winners. That link is https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309060-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten
With both of these, the idea is to get Clover Kitty into more hands and hopefully get lots of honest reviews. I’m extra grateful to folks like you who help spotlight books in a big way, but I also really appreciate anyone who reviews the book on their platform of choice. Finding our way to readers is an extra challenge right now!

Happy Birthday, Bear and Rabbit! Plus, GIVEAWAY!

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Happy birthday, Dear Bear,

Happy birthday, Dear Rabbit,

Happy birthday, Happy birthday.

Happy 1st book birthday to you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YAHOO! My book, No Bears Allowed, illustrated by Tara J. Hannon and published by Blue Whale Press (Clear Fork) is one year old today! It’s hard to believe a full year has gone by, and yet it took many years for this book to come to life and be published. The journey has taught me many valuable lessons, like learning how to trust my words and leave space for the illustrator, and also, how to create character driven stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each book is wonderful step on this journey, and now it’s time to celebrate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In honor of this book birthday, I’m giving away a FREE signed copy of No Bears Allowed along with some bookmarks. How can you enter this giveaway contest, you may ask? Easy- leave a comment on this blog and name your favorite character driven picture book of all time. The lucky winner will be picked on July 10, 2020. Good luck to all!

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

Author Nancy Churnin’s Nonfiction Mentor texts

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the multi-talented author Nancy Churnin. She tells us about her latest book, Beautiful Shades of Brown, the Art of Laura Wheeler Warin, published by Creston Books.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I began working on this book in 2016. I took it to workshops, submitted it to editors that told me it was too quiet which is funny in a way because Waring was a quiet person and some people think she didn’t get her due because she preferred to speak through her paintbrush. I put it aside.  My agent, Karen Grencik, connected with an editor who was looking for “hidden voices” – people that had been overlooked and were deserving of having their stories told. The editor loved it and we worked on revisions before going to acquisitions. We didn’t make it through acquisitions, but the very next editor I sent the revised manuscript to Marissa Moss at Creston Books, who loved it and felt it was good to go. I was thrilled when she found Felicia Marshall to do the illustrations. Felicia channels Laura Wheeler Waring’s heart, style and brilliance with colors. I am happy that Beautiful Shades of Brown found the right home and the perfect illustrator.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I fell in love with a painting of Marian Anderson. I had been wondering why there weren’t more books about female painters. When I discovered this painting I loved was by Laura Wheeler Waring, I felt compelled to learn everything I could about her. The more I learned the more I wanted to know and the more I wanted to share what I knew about this amazing artist who used her paintbrush to change perceptions of African Americans in segregated America and whose artwork can now be seen and enjoyed in major museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington D.C. and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pa.

What is your writing process like, and does it change depending on the project?
The process changes depending on the project and where I am on my writing journey, but some things do remain the same.  I research until I find the heart of the story – the part that resonates with me and that I hope will resonate with the kids. I make notes. I write through. I edit and research more. I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, sometimes on my computer, sometimes in longhand. When I feel I’ve taken it as far as I can, I run it by my critique partners to get their feedback and revise again.

What draws you to the world of nonfiction? Do you ever write fiction?
I am drawn to the forgotten people, the people who were left out of the history books that deserve to be known. I feel a personal mission to shine a light on them. I have recently been increasingly drawn to the world of historical fiction, which would allow me to embroider stories that might have happened against a historical backdrop. That’s one of the genres I hope to work on more going forward. As for fiction, I love to read it – who knows – maybe one day I will write that, too.

 Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“Laura looked at Marian and saw again the teenager singing so soulfully years ago. She heard again the music in all its beautiful shades of brown. She felt the melody travel down her fingers as she dipped her brush into the paints of her palette and found the exact luminous shade of Marian’s beautiful brown skin, her gown, the room.”

 Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have a second book coming out in 2020, For Spacious Skies, Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful” (April 1 from Albert Whitman & Company), which tells the story of the poet, professor and suffragette who fought for equal rights, including a woman’s right to vote, and gave her poem, “America the Beautiful” to America as a gift. I have a new book, A Queen to the Rescue: the Story of Henrietta Szold, coming out in fall of 2021 from Creston Books/Lerner Books. I hope to keep writing, creating, visiting, sharing and empowering children. I offer free teacher guides and create projects for each book. I would love to see myself both sharing stories about heroes and encouraging kids to be heroes of kindness in their schools and communities.

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? For classics, The Hobbit is a wonderful example of a quest story You have an unlikely hero that inspires no confidence in anyone (including himself); only the wise wizard sees past appearances. He faces challenges on the way to achieving his goal. He achieves the goal in an unexpected way that changes his perception of the world and who he is. Finally he returns home, but in the spirit of T.S. Eliot: “…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” For contemporary books, one of my favorites is The Color Purple. That, too, is a quest story of sorts, with the heroine on a journey to discover her own strength and self-worth.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
If your heart beats with your characters, your heart will continue to beat in that story after you send it into the world — and children will pick up that beat and know it for their own.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Vanilla with dark chocolate covered almonds because it’s crunchy, mellow and CHOCOLATE.

BIO
Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies, with a ninth on its way, including a Junior Library Guild selection, a Sydney Taylor Notable, a South Asia Book Award winner, an Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award pick, a Notable Book for a Global Society selection and two National Council for the Social Studies Notables and two Silver Eureka Award winners. Her books have been on multiple state reading lists and she has presented at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., the Tulisoma Book Fair at the African American Museum in Dallas and the New York City School Librarians Conference. Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard University, has a masters from Columbia University and lives in Plano, Texas with her husband, their dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.

Links
Website: https://www.nancychurnin.com/
Blog: https://www.nancychurnin.com/thekidsareallwrite
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyChurninBooks/
Titter: https://twitter.com/nchurnin
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nchurnin/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Shades-Brown-Wheeler-Waring/dp/1939547652
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-shades-of-brown-nancy-churnin/1133250747?ean=9781939547651
Interabang Books: https://www.interabangbooks.com/book/9781939547651
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder
Lerner Books: https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/19649
Express Booksellers: https://expressbooksellers.com/kids-books/

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

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Yay! It’s the 7th edition of Multicultural Children’s Book Day! A quick word about this wonderful initiate:

“Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries. Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom have teamed up to create an ambitious — and much needed — national event. On January 27th five years ago, Jump into a Book and PragmaticMom created the first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.”

Click HERE to find out more information.

I’m participating in a few different ways this year. A few bloggers will review my book A Real Live Pet.

Book synopsis

JJ’s little sister, Nala, loves her pet stick. But JJ wants a real pet for his birthday. So when he catches a frog at the pond, he’ll do anything to keep it―but will his parents let him?
Kane Press’s Science Solves It! series merges fiction and science in storylines that intrigue youngsters and encourage them to observe, investigate, predict, and experiment! Young readers ages 5–8 will be inspired by the relatable characters in each story as they solve kid-sized mysteries and dilemmas.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Real-Live-Pet-Nonliving-Science/dp/1635920094

I also have the pleasure of reviewing two diverse books to honor Multicultural Children’s Book Day, so let’s get to that!

Book 1

The School Science Competition by Avril O’Reilly

Book synopsis

Uh oh. We have a problem. Mum and Dad want to go for a romantic dinner but who will look after Bekki the Fairy? Bekki’s naughty magic spells have frightened away most of the babysitters. Mikita the science student and physics genius agrees to help but she has a lot of homework to do. Is Bekki going to have a very boring night or can she use her magic to brighten up the evening? Those poor baby-sitters. All they want to do is get on with their science projects.

At the back of the book is a real-life scientist, Mumbi, who makes products for black hair. The baby-sitters all do STEM subjects and would love to be scientists like her when they grow up. What a cool job!

My Honest Review

(this book was gifted to me and the opinions expressed are my own)

Bekki the Fairy is helpful. Or at least, she tries to be. That’s what makes her character so endearing and charming. I had a good laugh reading about how she scared away almost all the babysitters, until Mikita came along. I appreciate having strong female characters who are smart, and well versed in subjects such as science and physics. Little girls, especially from a diverse background, should be reading books with positive role models. As Mikita tries to fix her science invention, Bekki tries to help. I like the way science facts are peppered through the story without it being too preachy or “educational” in tone. This is a great example of informational fiction, where kids can learn about various concepts such as what particles are. I also enjoyed the illustrations, which were photos of the characters in real time. Very original!

Author quote

“I wanted to make books for the kids in London who I felt did not have any books with girls on the cover who looked like them.”

-Avril O’Reilly

Avril’s Social Media

https://twitter.com/Avrilfrances

https://www.facebook.com/AvrilsStorybooks/

 

 

Book 2

This is the Earth, by Deedee Cummings, illustrated by Charlene Mosley

Book synopsis

A recent Purple Dragonfly Award First Place winner, Cummings uses bold and bright illustrations in This is the Earth  to share a message of peace, love, respect, compassion, and inclusion. Published in early 2019, the book’s core message is this: peace is meant for all of us and it is everyone’s responsibility to care for each other like the family that we are.

This vibrant diverse picture book encourages people of all backgrounds to unite together and create a force of peace and respect for all instead of viewing their part of the world as a secluded island. Kids and adults will love the lyrical message and thoughtful artwork that reinforces the fact that every human being is our neighbor and part of a larger family.{ages 2 and up}

My Honest Review

(this book was gifted to me and the opinions expressed are my own)

The book This is the Earth begins with a poignant quote:

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

What a beautiful planet we live on, yet discrimination and prejudice still run rampant. This is the Earth celebrates each individual, while respecting diversity. It’s okay to be different, is one of its central message. In fact, we should celebrate our differences. At the same time, we need to be cognisant of the earth we stand on each day, and give our respect to Mother Nature.

The book is filled with charming rhyming passages, simple enough for very young ones to understand. The message is positive and one that’s instilled in harmony. At the end, the author discusses the various notions of peace and encourages the reader to discover what peace can mean for them. A great read to share with the family!

Author quote

“My hope for This is the Earth is that it will spark conversations in schools and day cares, around dinner tables and during bedtimes,” Cummings noted. “These conversations can include discussions about why it has been so hard for humans to exist on the same planet together and how we can change that. I hope children read the story, look at the pictures, and are able to feel peace. My hope is that This is the Earth also helps readers of all ages understand that feeling ‘at peace’ and learning about each other with an open mind is a better way to go through life.”

-Deedee Cummings

Author Bio

Deedee Cummings is a veteran author of 11 diverse picture books and CEO of Make A Way Media. She is also a long-time MCBD Sponsor and a (for the second year!) is our exclusives SUPER PLATINUM SPONSOR for MCBD2020. The book she is focusing on this year is the multi-award-winning This is the Earth.

Deedee’s Social Media

https://deedeecummings.com/

https://twitter.com/AuthorDeedeeC

Author Tim Wynne-Jones on Creating Thrilling YA

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Tim Wynne-Jones as he discusses her new book, The Starlight Chain and its journey to publication. And oh, did I mention Tim is also a fellow Canadian? 🙂

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

The Starlight Claim is a weird kind of sequel to a novel called The Maestro, that came out way back in 1995. For ages, kids have asked me what happened to Burl, the protagonist of that book – and what happened to his horrible abusive father! I always meant to write a sequel but when I finally got around to it, Burl would have been old enough in real years to have a sixteen-year-old son of his own and I decided that would be more interesting. I could giver old fans the answer they wanted but set out on a whole new adventure.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

By now, I’m not at all sure what my writing process is. After 37 books, I’d have to say my process changes as the story requires it to. Kind of like the way we try to parent our kids the best way we know how but have to make allowances for their differences. At best, I like to write a first draft as quickly as I can. That way, I get to find out what’s going to happen! I’ve never been much good at outlining; I write to discover. I want to be as excited as the reader when I turn the page. It’s great idea, in theory, but it means you sometimes take a whole lot of wrong turns along the way.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Only when the door to my dreams of being an architect was slammed shut in my face. I failed out of third-year architecture and ended up as lead singer in a Toronto bar band. I started writing songs; the songs got longer; eventually they had chapters!

  1. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have a middle-grade novel almost finished, but the last part has proved obdurate. Grrr. Even after so many books and so many years, a story doesn’t always go smoothly. After that, who knows. I don’t feel I’m ready to hang up my hat but I look around and hear so many exciting new voices clamoring to be heard and I think, it’s somebody else’s turn. So I don’t have the same drive as I did twenty or even ten years ago, but I’m not ready to stop dead. I guess what it comes down to is that I’ll only want to throw myself into a project that feels so right I can’t resist putting my whole heart into it. Which is kind of what it’s always been like…

  1. 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?

This is a hard one. I read all the time and pick up valuable tips, along the way. You never stop learning to be a better writer. I love A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. I love the cleanness of the writing, the humour. You’d be hard-pressed to find even a hint of Milne’s influence on my work. Or John Le Carré’s either. Or Barbara Kingsolver’s, for that matter. I wish! Probably my favourite book of the last few decades is Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, as well as the other two books in the series His Dark Materials. The inspiration I get from those books and many others is the desire to write as well as I can. To write to open up. To write to surprise. To write to discover something that matters.  

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

Write the book you need to write. We all learn to write from emulation, but at some point, there is a story only you can tell. Write that.

BIO
Tim Wynne-Jones has written 37 books for people of all ages. He has won The Governor General’s Award twice and been short-listed six times. He has also won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award twice, the Arthur Ellis Award of the Crime Writers of Canada, twice, and, once upon a time, the Edgar Award presented by the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tim_wj
Website: http://www.timwynne-jones.com/
Blog: https://theresalwaysdinner.home.blog/

Author Aya Khalil on Writing from Personal Experience

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Aya Khalil. Her forthcoming picture book, The Arabic Quilt, will be published by Tilbury House. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY! Aya is generously giving away a FREE copy of one of her favorite picture books, The Proudest Blue by SK Ali & Ibtihaj Muhammad. To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Dec 12, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I started writing this book in the fall of 2018. I queried agents and sent it directly to publishers as well and received many rejections. So I took a step back and carefully looked over my manuscript again, joined critique groups, joined SCBWI, asked authors friends for advice and was offered representation by an incredible agent, Brent Taylor, in March 2019. We signed with Tilbury House in the summer and announced it a couple of months later.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My book is actually based on true events from my childhood. I immigrated to the US when I was one years old with my older brother and parents from Egypt. I had an incredible teacher in third grade who made me feel welcome and encouraged me to be proud of who I was. She did the exact same project I wrote about in the book. Over twenty years ago, my teacher did this one lesson in class that I still remember until this day and I made it into a book.

Please share some of your writing process.
I write and revise. I take lots of breaks because I have three children – and one of them is just an infant! It’s been hard to write consistently but I write when she naps and the older two are at school or late at night.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing ever since I was young. I wrote in diaries, wrote poetry and read a lot when I was in elementary school. In college I studies English literature and communication and became a journalist and then got a master’s degree in Education and taught for a while. One day a couple of years ago I said, enough is enough, I am going to write and publish a book.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am working on a couple of manuscripts. I love writing picture books but would love to explore MG.

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 so many. But definitely Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi (recent book) because it was one of the first picture books that was traditionally published by a Muslim author with Muslim characters. Classic one that I loved growing up was Corduroy because of the friendship and love theme and I have fond memories of my mom reading it to me.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write from your heart and the words will flow.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Pistachio ice cream because it’s a little different but once you try it you will enjoy it.

BIO
Aya holds a master’s degree in education with a focus in teaching English as a second language.  She’s a freelance journalist whose work has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent and many others. She’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Yahoo! and other publications. Her debut picture book, THE ARABIC QUILT, will be published February 4th, 2020 by Tilbury House. Besides writing and teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and exercising.

Social Media:
Twitter: @ayawrites
Instagram: @ayakhalilauthor
www.ayakhalil.com

Book links:
https://www.amazon.com/Arabic-Quilt-Immigrant-Story/dp/0884487547
https://gatheringvolumes.com/?q=h.tviewer&using_sb=status&qsb=keyword&qse=Lx5EcNkwUDf1eP1tcXuqrQ
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-arabic-quilt-aya-khalil/1131983222?ean=9780884487548&st=PLA&sid=BNB_ADL+Core+Good+Books+-+Desktop+Low&sourceId=PLAGoNA&dpid=tdtve346c&2sid=Google_c&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2_u1op6r5AIVBdbACh15mARrEAQYASABEgKVDvD_BwE

Author Kelly Lenihan on the Importance of Editing

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Kelly Lenihan. Her new picture book, Adventures of Pig and Mouse: An Unusual Friendship , was published by Artisan Bookworks. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Kelly is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, click HERE. (US residents only, ends Nov 27, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
Adventures of Pig and Mouse: An Unusual Friendship is my fourth published children’s picture book (that’s not including the foreign language editions or coloring books based on the picture books). Illustrated by Anya Macleod, the artwork is colorful and playful, exactly what I envisioned. The story and illustrations came together easily, both the illustrator and I enjoyed the creative process. Published November 1, 2019 by Artisan Bookworks, the book is available on Amazon or by request from libraries and bookstores.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for Pig and Mouse’s first adventure was my own childhood love of collecting treasures from nature: rocks, seed pods, leaf skeletons, feathers, abandoned bird nests, shells, etc. Often, these collections were started on the fly during a trip to the beach or a hike in the woods. My kids even contributed to my “science museum” throughout their own childhoods. Now that they’re grown, the collections have been condensed into a large curio cabinet in my living room. I still add the occasional rock, seed pod or feather — my eyes never stop seeking. To this day, I love to examine my collections and enjoy showing visitors my latest acquisitions — the thrill never truly goes away!

Please share some of your writing process.
I keep a running list of picture book ideas—currently it’s at 75—which can come from something I’ve seen or heard, a picture, just about anything can trigger an idea for a story. When I’m ready to start writing a new story, I scroll through my idea list to see what jumps out at me and start writing. For fiction, I can usually write a rough draft in one sitting, but the editing, polishing and fine-tuning takes a heck of a lot longer. Once I’ve been through a few rounds of self-edits, I share my manuscript with a critique partner and several beta readers for feedback. And of course, if it’s nonfiction, who knows how long it can take? I’ve been working off and on on a children’s birding field guide for almost nine months—there is a lot of research involved and then parsing it down into child-friendly bites.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Hmm, I guess I’ve always been a writer. From childhood through my college years, I was forever making up stories, often writing them down. I can remember sitting on the curb during school recess, writing stories and sketching while the other kids played. After completing an Associates Degree in Business and a B.A. in General Arts from the University of Washington, I entered the workforce. Throughout my life, this passion to write and to create has been the impetus for my career choices, including stints in editorial positions at magazines—both print and online—which eventually segued into the digital design world as I began overseeing corporate websites. Never losing my penchant for writing; I’ve been published in various magazines and enjoyed my own newspaper column for several years. When I became a parent. I delighted in sharing my love of the magical world of books by reading aloud to my two boys. Many nights, my younger son would place his tiny hand on mine while looking up with big, brown hope-filled eyes, (most likely as a stalling tactic) and plead for “one more story”—how could any parent refuse? So in the moment, I began making up stories. Fortunately, the ones my son had me tell over and over, I was smart enough to write down. Two of those stories were my first picture books to be published, The Skipping Stone, and Goober and Muffin, now available in five languages.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
The pull of creative writing has remained a common thread through everything I do—it is a wonderful outlet for all the information and ideas swirling around in my head. As a former teacher of multicultural arts and horticulture, I’ve been moving towards writing nonfiction picture books drawing from my own interests and passions. Currently, I am working two books that share my love of birds. The first one is a children’s field guide, Backyard Birds of Puget Sound, which I am really excited about. There are 70 birds included in the book and the illustrations are gorgeous. The second book evolved after two years of observing and photographing a family of bald eagles, from hatching to first flight. I loved watching the eaglets grow and the family dynamics were fascinating—compelling me to share what I learned and observed in my forthcoming children’s picture book, The Majestic Bald Eagle, which will be illustrated with my photography. I started out by selecting the photos to be used and then did my research to cull information to complement the series of photos. The book covers everything from habitat, behavior, diet and more. And after that will be a children’s gardening book, and then a children’s book featuring lore, crafts and recipes from around the world—I have a lot to draw from, from the curriculum I created back when I was teaching.

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 goal with my picture books is to always have extra special little details in the illustrations so the reader will spy something new with each reading. I really enjoy Animal Cafe by John Stadler. The story is a lot of fun and the illustrations are adorable. You can’t help but want to read the book over and over, laughing out loud at some of the predicaments. The illustrations complement the story really well. A recent picture book I love is What Would You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada. The illustrations start out as black and white drawings, and with each page turn, more color is added, until by the end of the story, the little boy figures out what to do in glorious full color. The exquisite illustrations are compelling, drawing you in to really study the details to see what changes with each page turn.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Don’t skip the editing process! Having your manuscript professionally edited is one of the most critical steps in the publishing process. As the author, you are so familiar with your book, your mind will convince you that what you expect to see is what you are seeing. And, unfortunately, Microsoft Word’s spell checker and grammar checker are unreliable — they don’t know your intentions and often correct things that are already correct or ignore things that are wrong. Choose your editor wisely—not your mom, not your best friend—not even your ninth-grade English teacher! Hire someone specifically trained in book-editing skills in your genre. It makes all the difference.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
That’s a tough one—probably mochi ice cream— ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of chewy mochi dough, for a refined yet playfully delicious dessert experience. You bite into a chewy, almost flavorless rice cake and are surprised with a cold burst of bright flavor. Imagination in every bite! My favorite right now is sweet, tangy mango, which reminds me of me—a somewhat shy person on the outside, with a surprise quirky playful inside.

BIO
Kelly Lenihan has always approached life from a unique vantage. Often inspired by nature; her discoveries in nature, food, and art fuel her creativity. Through her writing and art, she delights both in sharing her knowledge and helping others perceive the world with new eyes. Passionate about sharing her love of curiosity, creativity and exploration, Kelly started writing books for children in 2012 (two are in five languages). She writes fiction and nonfiction for ages 2-10. Kelly is an active food blogger, avid birder and hobbyist photographer. Following her lifelong penchant for writing and the power of stories, Kelly is working on more children’s picture books, as well, she has a couple cookbooks in the works. In addition to authoring her own books, Kelly enjoys assisting indie writers on their publishing journeys.

Social Media:
Author website: kellylenihanbooks.com
Author Services website: artisanbookworks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kellylenihanbooks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellylenihan
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kelly_lenihan/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kelly_lenihan/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7451754.Kelly_Lenihan
Amazon: amazon.com/author/kellylenihan

Book links:
Adventures of Pig and Mouse: An Unusual Friendship is available on Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Adventures-Pig-Mouse-Unusual-Friendship/dp/0999120093/
Her new book The Majestic Bald Eagle is available for pre-order. It will ship Spring, 2020. https://www.kellylenihanbooks.com/my-books/majestic-bald-eagle/

Author Kelly Garrett on Creating Suspense in YA

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Kelly Garrett. Her YA thriller, The Last To Die, was published by Sourcebooks Fire. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Kelly is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Nov 14, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The Last To Die has a bit of a windy journey. It originally came out as a Poisoned Pen Press title in 2017 and was a 2018 Oregon Book Awards finalist. Then, Sourcebooks Fire republished the novel in November 2019 with an absolutely gorgeous new cover.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I wanted to write a book with an anti-hero (or “unlikeable female narrator”) and decided the POV of a teen who’s playing a “game” with her friends that involves breaking into each other’s houses worked as a starting point.

Please share some of your writing process.
When I’m drafting a novel, I set a word count goal of 1k/day, although I frequently write more. But I like 1k, ’cause on slow writing days, it’s still manageable (and exceeding my goal is always energizing). On the spectrum of plotter and pantser, I fall in the middle. I know where the novel starts, and how it ends, but figure out the middle of the story, and character development, as I draft the project.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even before I could read. As a small child, I had elaborate stories behind my (prolific) drawings. I started writing stories in elementary school and studied creative writing and political science in college.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m writing new projects, both for teens and adults, although I don’t have any news I can share.

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?
For my contemporary book, please let me blather on about Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin (which, I should note, is a crime novel intended for an adult audience). It has ingredients I love: a strong female heroine with a complicated past. Well-developed secondary characters who could be the leads in their own novels. A mystery, in this case, a murder in a women’s shelter, but the women involved, while victims of domestic violence, are a fascinating bunch with all sorts of secrets hidden under their skin.
A classic example is pretty much anything by Agatha Christie, who (for good reason) is one of the best-selling mystery writers of all time. While called the queen of cozy, Christie’s work is subtly darker than today’s cozy mysteries (which I also read and love). Her unexpected twists in novels like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder On the Orient Express are masterful. Sleeping Murder has always been one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Figure out your process, and don’t worry about what works for other people. Everyone’s process—and path—is different, and just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Rocky Road! You have the depth of chocolate, the savory note from nuts, with a bit of marshmallow. Fun fact: rocky road got its name “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.”

BIO
Kelly Garrett’s debut novel, The Last To Die, was a 2018 Oregon Book Awards finalist. When not writing, Kelly spends her time hiking with her Great Pyrenees mix and seeking out new coffee shops. After growing up in a small, rainy town on the Oregon Coast, Kelly now calls Portland home, where she organizes several literary-related lecture series.

Social Media:
Twitter: @garrett_kelly (https://twitter.com/garrett_kelly)
Instagram: @writerkellygarrett  (https://www.instagram.com/writerkellygarrett/)
Facebook: @writerkellygarrett  (https://www.facebook.com/writerkellygarrett/)

Book links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Die-Kelly-Garrett/dp/149269844X
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-last-to-die-kelly-garrett/1124392341?ean=9781492698449#/
Powell’s: https://www.powells.com/book/-9781492698449
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Last-Die-Kelly-Garrett/9781492698449?ref=grid-view&qid=1571243235276&sr=1-1
Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-last-to-die-by-kelly-garrett-paperback/-/A-77437850

A BEARY fun Children’s Book Launch!

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Hello world!

We all know how slow the publishing industry can be, and how difficult it is to get published. So when that dream actually comes true, it’s time to celebrate!

My new picture book NO BEARS ALLOWED was published on July 1 this past summer, but it’s been a long, winding journey to get there. The initial idea came to me in 2012, and I wrote the book a year after that. A few agents and a slew of rejection letters later, Blue Whale Press acquired the book!

So now it’s time to celebrate. I’ll be hosting a fun family event, where I’ll be reading and signing my book and offering a free puppet making workshop. Plus I’ll be making delicious cupcakes!

Details are below. Hope to see some of you there!