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kidlit

Author Debra Kempf Shumaker on the Art of Perseverance

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Hello world!

Welcome to my Blissfully Bookish book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Debra Kempf Shumaker. I’ve known her for some time, and was always amazing at her patience and level of perseverance. In November 2019, she posted about her upcoming book deal (FREAKY FUNKY FISH, published by Running Kids Press in 2021) in the KidLit411 Facebook group. Here’s what she said, which may inspire many of you.

But first, exciting news- Debra is generously giving away a FREE PB critique! It could be fiction or nonfiction, and/or rhyming. Simply comment below. Contest ends May 4, 2020. Good luck!

When I signed with my agent in July of 2017, I shared in this group that I had been subbing for about 7 or 8 years, had subbed 11 different PBs, and had about 160 rejections before I got that first YES. Well, I finally had my second YES:
My debut PB was announced last night. BUT, this was the 13th or 14th (maybe 15th) PB that I had written and revised enough to feel it sub-worthy. (I won’t count the rough drafts that I wrote that I never went back to.) AND, it’s the 5th PB that my agent went on sub with. Two others had gone to acquisitions a few times but didn’t sell.
Bottom line: Don’t give up. Be willing to revise, revise, revise. And work on craft. BUT—also be willing to move on and write new things. When I first started, I spent 2 or 3 years revising the same 2 stories over and over again, thinking I just needed to tweak them and they would sell. Sometimes, some stories are just practice and that’s OK.
For those of you who are pre-published, hang in there! I hope that my story and my long journey to two “YESes” encourages you to keep pushing forward!
PS: The first thing I should have said is that I owe a million thanks to my critique groups and various CPs! None of my stories would have been ready without all of them!

During your many years of writing, editing, and receiving slews of rejections, what kept you going? (And how did you stay sane with all the waiting?)
Math. I knew I had a 100% chance of failure if I stopped writing. The only way to get a book deal was to keep writing. I knew that my writing would get better if I kept reading and analyzing picture books, being open to feedback, and being willing to revise. My critique partners were crucial as cheerleaders and for helpful input into my stories.

Was there a turning point or an “aha” moment, or was the process of learning your craft slow and steady?
Actually, it was a combination of the two. My “aha” moment came during a local SCBWI conference early in my writing career. In a Q&A session, someone asked an editor, “After you submit your story, how long do you wait to hear back?” He replied, “You don’t. You forget about it and write something new.” That’s when it hit me. I had been rewriting and revising the same two PBs for over a year. Those two were my “big ideas.” Where was I going to get more ideas? I was depressed and thought about quitting.
Thankfully, the next day, somewhere online, I read about Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month, now known as StoryStorm) which was starting within a few days. From there I found Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 (a challenge where you attempt to write 12 rough drafts in 12 months) and those two groups changed the way I approached my writing. From there, it was a slow and steady journey, dotted with many peaks and valleys. It was at least 6 or 7 years after that “aha” moment before I signed with my agent.

What are your top 3 pieces of advice for querying authors?
One: Develop thick skin and do not take rejection personally. Agents and editors are not rejecting YOU, they are rejecting the story you have written.
Two: The odds are high your first story won’t sell. Or your second. The 11th story I subbed caught my agent’s eye in 2017. And we never sold that story. It was the fifth story we went on sub with that finally sold. (That doesn’t include the dozens of rough drafts I’ve ever written.)
Three: Write something new. When you send one story off, write another one immediately. Fresh new projects help me to forget about the waiting.

How long did it take you to get your agent? What was that process like?
It took seven or eight years after my first query. In that time, I took several “query sabbaticals” when I realized my stories weren’t up to par and I needed to revise or write new stories. Though I had several close calls with both agents and editors in 2014 and 2015, I didn’t sign with my agent until July 2017. And it was January 2019 before we sold a book. This submitting process is not for the faint of heart!

Please share a few details about your forthcoming book.
FREAKY FUNKY FISH is a rhyming NF PB with Running Kids Press. From zapping, stinging, even singing, to playing dead or a see-through head, discover the funky, even freaky, ways fish look or act to survive in the rivers, lakes, and oceans they live in. It is scheduled for publication in Spring 2021.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Hopefully lots more published picture books! I love picture books so much and can’t imagine writing anything else! I write both fiction and nonfiction and we are out on submission with a few manuscripts. Hopefully I’ll have news to share again soon!

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?
I’m going to cheat a bit and instead give you authors that inspire me. I love science related NF PBs and three authors’ books that I study over and over again are Laura Purdie Salas, Melissa Stewart, and April Pulley Sayre. Their words flow off the page and seem effortless, though I know that every word was chosen carefully and probably with blood, sweat, and tears!
For a classic, when my teens were little, we read seasonal alphabet acrostic books written by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Leslie Evans. The pairing of the poems and art just spoke to me and I decided I wanted to write words that would inspire art like that!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?
Type up the text of picture books you love, especially if they’ve been published in the last 3 years. You’ll learn so much about pacing and word choice. Seeing the words separated from the art give you a better idea on what editors read and love when they buy books.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Mint chocolate chip. Mint, because it’s refreshing, and chocolate because you cannot get through rejections without chocolate.

BIO
I write both picture books and magazine articles. My magazine articles have been published in Spider, Fun For Kidz, and Boys’ Quest. I also cohost #PBPitch, a Twitter pitch party for picture books held three times each year. I am repped by Natascha Morris with BookEnds Literary.

Social Media
https://debrashumaker.com/
https://twitter.com/ShumakerDebra
https://www.instagram.com/debrakshumaker/

Author Tara Lazar: How to Work on your Craft

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author who’s one of my mentors (and who’s hilariously funny): Tara Lazar. We recently had an interesting conversation via Twitter and I wanted to share some of it here because it was it was fascinating. And oh, did you know she just released yet another picture book? It’s Three Ways to Trap a Leprechaun published by HarperCollins, you should definitely check it out.

.What is your writing process, and does it change depending on the project?
 My process begins with collecting ideas and then sorting through them, often with the help of my agent, and deciding which is the most exciting concept to work on. Then there’s a lot of THINKING. I like to call it “marinating”. The idea is working itself through my brain while I grind through my daily…umm, grind. Somehow the idea announces that it’s ready—I get this full-body creative squirm that forces me to sit down and write it out.

What do you do when you get stuck in a manuscript?
I work on something else. Or I do laundry. Or take a shower. Something rote and mundane lets the creative gears spin in the background. There is always the question of “why” popping up—why does this character act this way? The story has to use logic as it moves along. There is action and reaction, and it has to make sense, even in that pretend world.
I like to write flash fiction short stories for adults, too, and I find that genre helps me whittle things down to only the most important details, and that’s a skill essential to picture books as well.

Tara and I had an interesting discussion a few months ago about how writers need to keep writing and practicing. Some manuscripts never get published, but each project is another stepping stone on the road to publication. All that practice pays off and you may one day write a story that comes out smoothly because of it. Tara, how many times has this happened to you?
It’s just how I have approached the business. Not everything you write will get published, so you must accept that some projects get shelved. Maybe you can turn back after some time and examine it with fresh eyes, more experienced eyes, and make changes that propel it onward. Or sometimes, you see why a story was not destined to get out there. Writing is never wasted time. Baseball players have batting practice—they never stop trying to improve. Not every hit will be a home run. But taking many swings is what matters.

Once you get to that magical place where things flow more organically, does the experience repeat itself or is it always different?
Every story is different. Things gel for me a little more quickly than they did in the past, but still, not every story is a winner. There are many variables that you cannot control in this business. What you can control is writing as many stories as you can.
It reminds me of that Picasso fable. Someone asked Picasso to draw something on a cocktail napkin for them. Picasso drew it, handed it to them and said, “That will be $1 million.” And the person scoffed, “A million? But that took you a few seconds to draw.” Picasso replied…”Yes, because it took 30 years of work for me to draw that in a few seconds.”
You should look that up because I just paraphrased it—but that is essentially the story! You put in years of work to work more efficiently, to work more successfully.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write, read, network. Never stop learning and growing.

 And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Pistachio. It’s my favorite. I could lick my fingers when I’m hungry!

Who’s Tara?

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been.

Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible.

Her picture books available now are:

Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on TeachingBooks.net. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

For more information: https://taralazar.com/

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/

Author Laurie Wallmark on Female STEM Pioneers

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Hello world!

Welcome to my Blissfully Bookish book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Laurie Wallmark. I really enjoy her nonfcition books that tend to focus on women and STEM, topics that are dear to my heart. Here she is discussing her new book, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Mathematician illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg and published by Creston Books.

Book quote:

“As the only woman in her classes, Sophie rarely spoke up. One day, while the professor was lecturing, she spotted a mistake on the blackboard. With a pounding heart, she walked to the front of the room.”

  1. Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

I love math and wanted to share this love with children. Although two of the women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in my picture book biographies have been mathematicians, they were known more for their contributions to computer science. I thought it was time to give a mathematician her due.

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

Once I knew I wanted to write about a mathematician, I had to choose which one. I thought about the women mathematicians I knew about and looked through lists to find about ones I didn’t. I chose Sophie for two reasons. Her major mathematical accomplishment, the rotation of solid bodies, has real world applications that children can understand. Second, she solved the problem known as the mathematical mermaid. Who would ever think that those two words would appear in the same sentence?

  1. What is your writing process like, and does it change depending on the project?

For my picture book biographies, my writing process starts with lots and lots of research. Along the way, I make a list of the possible scenes I might include. This helps me figure out the perspective and focus of the book. Then it’s the usual–write, revise, repeat–occasionally doing more research. For fiction, I still might have only to do a little bit of research, but the rest of the process is the same.

  1. What differentiates your book from others with similar content currently on the market?

Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics is the first biography of this important mathematician. She’s so important, that every year the Association of Women in Mathematics celebrates a Sonia Kowalevky Day. (To find out why this is a slightly different name, look in my book’s back matter that explains transliteration from the Russian alphabet.

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

I have another woman in STEM book coming out next year. In addition, I have three fiction picture books on the way. I can’t be more specific than that except for the one book that’s already been announced–Dino Pajama Party. I’m currently working on several more picture books and a novel in verse.

  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?

I don’t have a good answer to this question (a common one asked during school visits). It’s too hard to narrow the field. There are so many excellent books out there. I will say that in general what moves me about books is the use of language and the way the story unfolds.

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

Keep on keeping on.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??

I’d be vanilla, because it’s my favorite ice cream flavor. But I’d hang out with all the other flavors, because what’s life without the great diversity of ice cream flavors (or people for that matter) in the world?

BIO
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in fields ranging from computer science to mathematics to astronomy. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, AAAS/Subaru Prize Longlist, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor.

Social Media
Website: https://www.lauriewallmark.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauriewallmarkauthor
Twitter: @lauriewallmark

To Buy
Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781939547637
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Numbers-Motion-Sophie-Kowalevski-Mathematics/dp/1939547636/

Author Kirsten Larson: From NASA to STEM Kidlit

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author (and my friend) Kirsten W. Larson. Trust me, this woman is going to make her mark in the world of kidlit. Jois us as she discusses her new book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE published by Calkins Creek. 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I first researched and wrote WOOD, WIRE, WINGS in March 2014 as part of Susanna Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic” class, so it took almost six years from first draft to published book. For two years, I revised with my critique group and in response to agent and editor feedback at conferences and from queries. In February 2016, I queried agents with the book and signed with my agent, Lara Perkins of ABLA, soon thereafter. This was the first manuscript we sent out. My editor, Carolyn Yoder, asked for an R&R (revise and resubmit) before offering in February 2017. After that, there were still two more rounds of revision. So my takeaway: The publishing process, especially for picture books, is slow.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts inspired this book. The name of Lilian Todd and a note that she was the first female airplane designer appeared in one of David’s illustrations. Though I’d lived and worked around airplanes my whole life, I’d never heard of Lilian. Neither had my husband, who’s a test pilot and aviation history buff. I knew Lilian’s story was one I needed to tell.

Please share some of your writing process.
My writing process has evolved quite a bit since WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, but for each book my research process is similar. I start with secondary sources and read widely about the person and/or time period I’m tackling. Secondary sources provide needed context for primary sources and also point the way to primary sources through endnotes and bibliographies. I typically have both a file box for books, copies of print sources, and drafts. But I also create a file in Evernote for electronic sources. I use the Evernote web clipper to clip journal and newspaper articles, online letters and diary entries, etc.

When I feel like I’m starting to see the same information over and over again, it’s time to write. Normally I start with a timeline or what I call my “kitchen sink draft,” which has all the names, dates, and details that probably won’t appear in the final draft. Then I can let all specifics go and be more creative with my structure, storytelling, and voice. I also carefully consider what must be said with words and what can appear in the illustrations.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, and my interest and experience has mostly been nonfiction, specifically journalism. I wrote a newsletter filled with articles about  my family when I was in high school. It included breaking news about birthday parties and trips to the dentist. In college I was a reporter and editor at the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and wrote for two different newspapers in my hometown. I also interned at NASA as a college student, working in the public relations department. (We call it Public Affairs at government agencies). That’s the career field I eventually went into. I didn’t turn to writing picture books until I had two children who devoured nonfiction children’s books about space, weather, and everything else imaginable. Reading those books, I realized I could write them and would probably have a blast doing it.

How did working at NASA influence your writing?
Working at NASA Public Affairs, I considered myself a translator for technical information. My job was to work with the news media providing the information they needed to inform the general public about NASA’s work. That often involved “translating” technical talk and engineer-speak into everyday language when writing press releases and newsletter articles, for example. This was great practice for writing STEM-based picture books where I often read journals and talk with experts. Working at NASA also influenced the subject matter of my first two picture books, which focus on women in aviation and astronomy.

Why do you write nonfiction?
I write primarily to satisfy my own curiosity. Whenever I tackle a new subject, it’s an excuse to become an expert in that field. If I can write a children’s book about the topic, then I know I truly understand the material myself.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have two more forthcoming nonfiction picture books, only one of which is announced. THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars are Made Of, is being illustrated by Katherine Roy and will be published by Chronicle Books. I continue to research and write nonfiction picture books but have also tackled graphic novels, another favorite genre. I’m revising a Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales-type graphic novel that marries history with fictional elements.

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’m a huge fan of mentor texts, and the books I use are tailored to each project. For WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I had Debbie Levy’s I DISSENT (illus. Elizabeth Baddeley, Simon & Schuster, 2016) by my side. That book really showed me how to provide just enough historical context in an interesting way. One of my favorites from childhood was THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, a Little Golden Book featuring Grover, by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin (1971). It’s such a perfect example of strong page turns propelling the story forward and a surprising ending. I still have a copy.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Because of the nature of publishing, I think the best thing we can do for our work is to enjoy the journey. We must make sure each book is the story we want to tell, even if it never sells. Finally, there are always people who can help us tell the story better, whether it’s a critique partner, an agent, an editor or an illustrator. Being able to really revise and reimagine a story in response feedback is perhaps the greatest skill a creator can have.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’m a big fan of pistachio gelato, which I learned to make in Italy.

BIO
Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020) and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Kirsten lives near Los Angeles with her husband, lhasa-poo, and two curious kids. Her house is filled with LEGOs, laughter, and lots of books!

Social Media
Website: www.kirsten –w-larson.com
Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest: @KirstenWLarson
Facebook: @KirstenLarsonWrites

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 Annette Whipple on Creating Compelling Nonfiction

Posted on

Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Annette Whipple as she discusses her new book, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. It’s nonfiction, which I love!

  1. Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

Oh, it’s been a long journey! The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide began with the idea in 2014. In 2016 I had an offer from Chicago Review Press, but we put the contract on hold until I received all the permissions needed from the Little House people. We moved to contract in 2018. I turned in the manuscript in May 2019. It’ll be published in July!

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

Of course Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were my biggest inspiration. There’d be no book without them. However, I got the idea for the companion guide when I was reading Roar!: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia. My kids loved it and so did I.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

I read each the Little House books a few times and took notes in a chart I created. I noted the plot and events, people, food, and activity ideas that I might want to include in my book. I also noted words that might be included in my book as pioneer terms.
In The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, I help the reader understand the Little House story and especially the complicated history at that time. All of that took a lot of research! One of my favorite features are the “Fact or Fiction?” sidebars. My kids and I got hands-on experimenting for the 75 recipes, crafts, and activities included!
For those interested, I wrote an entire blog post last year about the writing for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. https://www.wildercompanion.com/2019/03/manuscript-process.html

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

I was well into my thirties before I realized I love to write. In 2009, I began blogging to share with family about my daughter’s progress overcoming a speech disorder. Soon I realized I wanted to share with a larger audience and began a new blog. After a few years I took a few writing classes and wrote a few magazine articles. And then I attended my first writing conference in 2015.

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

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide is my sixth nonfiction book. I plan to keep writing for children, especially nonfiction because facts are fun. (That’s something I emphasize during my author visits as well as professional development workshops for teachers.) In the fall Reycraft Books plans to publish my book (tentatively titled) Whooo Knew?: Discover Owls. I’m thrilled Reycraft plans to illustrate the picture book with photographs. I also have another book under contract, but I can’t talk about that one yet! I can tell you it’s about some important people in American and world history.

6. 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?

Obviously, I think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are full of inspiration for good storytelling. But Little Women by Louisa May Alcott strikes me differently every time I read it (which is just about every year). Terrific Tongues by Maria Gianferrari is a picture book that I’d love to use as a mentor text—though I haven’t yet. It’s fun and full of great facts.

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

Every writer needs a good critique partner (or two or a group) they can depend upon. It’s best if they have experience writing in your genre.

Here’s a quote I find inspiring: “I write alone, but I depend on others to help me write well.”

Here are two posts I’ve written about the value of feedback.
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/01/writing-success-is-art-part-1.html
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/09/the-value-of-feedback-for-writers.html

And a bonus question just for kicks!
If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Ha! Maybe pecan. The pecans add just a bit of nuttiness to the vanilla…a perfect combination!

BIO
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. She’s the author of five published books. In 2020, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and Whooo Knew? Discover Owls (Reycraft Books) will be published. When she’s not reading or writing, you might find Annette snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies with her family in Pennsylvania. She explores the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder at WilderCompanion.com. Learn more about Annette’s books and presentations at AnnetteWhipple.com.

Social Media:
Book Link: https://amzn.to/2R3QPiD
Also, about the book:  https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/11/the-laura-ingalls-wilder-companion.html and
https://www.annettewhipple.com/
https://www.wildercompanion.com/
https://www.facebook.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks
https://www.facebook.com/LittleHouseCompanion/
https://twitter.com/AnnetteWhipple
https://www.instagram.com/annettewhipplebooks/
https://www.pinterest.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks/

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