kidlit

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

Author-Illustrator Rachel Dougherty on Building Engaging Nonfiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author-illustrator Rachel Dougherty. Her picture book Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge was published by Roaring Brook Press. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Rachel is generously giving away a FREE PB critique! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (ends Nov 9, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
First I worked on the manuscript with my agent, and after several rounds of edits, we settled on something that seemed strong enough for pitching. When she sent it out to 14 publishing houses for consideration, we had some strong interest early on from Roaring Brook Press, as long I was open to some revision. I was thrilled at the prospect, and even happier once I got to talk about the project with my soon-to-be editor. She was so excited about Emily’s story, and I could tell from our first call that her edits would make the story smarter and sharper. We went back and forth on several rounds of revisions before Roaring Brook Press officially offered me a contract. I feel very lucky to have been paired with an editor whose guidance made my book stronger at every turn.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I first learned about Emily’s story while reading David McCullough’s wonderful book The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a fantastic work— he’s so dedicated with his research and so nimble with his storytelling. I’d certainly heard about John Roebling before, and about his son Washington, but it struck me as so strange that no one had ever mentioned Emily to me. After reading The Great Bridge, I wanted to know more. The more I read about Emily, the more I felt like her story should be told to as many little girls as possible.

Also, and maybe lots of writers say this, but I think we all can’t help but create books for the readers that we were most like as kids. As a kid, I always wanted to know how things worked and why they worked that way. So I knew in writing Emily’s story, I wanted the bridge mechanics to be part of it. I was really excited by the chance to let readers learn how the bridge works just as Emily’s figuring it out on her own in the story.

Please share some of your writing process.
Since I came to writing later than I came to illustrating, I think the manuscript starts to come alive for me once I can envision the art. So I sort of write and draw in tandem in the early stages, with tiny scribbled thumbnails and captions scattered all around the text. It usually takes me four or five rounds of this thumbnail/book-map mess before a proper dummy comes to life.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It’s funny, because I don’t think I ever really had a dream to become a writer, or the realization that I wanted to become one. Someone once asked me, “where did you find the courage to start writing?” and I sort of just laughed. It didn’t seem courageous to me at all at the time. I started writing because I was so impatient. I had illustrated a few picture books with historical topics and I was so excited about them that I didn’t want to wait for another project like that to come around. I was so impatient that I figured I’d have to make the project myself, and that’s how I got the idea for the first book I wrote.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Honestly, I hope I can make something as great as Secret Engineer over and over again. I am in the early stages of a project right now that I have high hopes for. It’s really out of my comfort zone. I think it’s still too primordial to talk about, but I hope I’ll have more news soon!

Please share your favorite 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?
From an illustration perspective, I always return to Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius. It’s one of the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve ever seen. I just want to live inside those pages—particularly the illustrations of Miss Rumphius’s house. From a writing perspective, I’m floored by Amy Novesky’s Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois. The illustrations are also stunning, but Novesky tells Louise Bourgeois’ story so tenderly and poetically. Right from the opening, the words just wrap around you: “Louise was raised by a river. Her family lived in a big house on the water that wove like a wool thread through everything.”

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Find your team. Writing can be isolating, and self-doubt gets louder and louder in a quiet room. You need other writers to critique your work, to vent to when you’re stressed, and to high-five when you succeed.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Coconut ice cream – it tastes like summer at the beach, and that makes me happy.

BIO
Rachel Dougherty is a Philadelphia-based author/illustrator driven by a love of nonfiction for young readers. She is the illustrator of several educational picture books, the author of one nonfiction early reader, and the author/illustrator of Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Social Media:
Web: www.racheldougherty.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/r_dougherty
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/racheldoughertybooks/
Secret Engineer:
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250155320
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/secret-engineer-rachel-dougherty/1128119432?ean=9781250155320
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250155320?tag=macmillan-20
To purchase: https://www.amazon.com/See-Sea-Food-Creatures-That/dp/1541554639

Author Jenna Grodzicki on How to Create Unique Hooks

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome Jenna Grodzicki. Her debut nonfiction picture book I See Sea Food published by Millbrook Press (a division of Lerner) has a unique hook. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Jenna 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 Oct 25, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I See Sea Food went through MANY rounds of revisions before it was submission ready. I can look back and see that clearly now. However, I submitted it to a lot of agents before it was at that point. Needless to say, I racked up lots of rejections. The one comment I heard over and again was that they loved the topic but not the execution. It wasn’t until early 2018 that I found the right format and voice. Then, Lerner editor Carol Hinz posted an open call for nonfiction manuscripts that would best be illustrated with photographs. I had always envisioned this story with photographs, so I submitted it right away. Less than a month later, I received an offer. It was a dream come true.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for this book came from a website I just happened to click on while researching lemon sharks (for what would later become Finn Finds a Friend (Clear Fork Publishing)). It was an article about marine animals that looked like foods we eat. It was a total OMG moment for me. I knew that kids would be as fascinated by these creatures as I was. I never planned to write nonfiction, though, so I didn’t do anything with this idea for a few months. But I couldn’t stop thinking about these sea creatures that really did look like food. So, I decided to go for it and began the research process. And I’m so happy I did.

Please share some of your writing process.
I write both fiction and nonfiction. I See Sea Food was my first attempt at nonfiction, and now I’m hooked. I love finding a new and interesting topic. I tend to be drawn to weird animals, so that’s what I’ve been researching and writing about. But I also really enjoy writing fiction.
My writing process is similar for both. I have the hardest time with the first draft. I have an unfortunate habit of agonizing over EVERY SINGLE WORD. I constantly have to remind myself that I just need to get a bunch of words down on paper, and they don’t have to be perfect. That’s what revising is for.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first started dreaming about writing picture books when I was teaching first grade. My favorite part of the day was when I read to my students. I loved talking about and sharing amazing books with them. Slowly, I came to the realization that I wanted to try writing picture books. It remained only a dream for several years, something I would do “some day.” Finally, I took the leap and haven’t looked back since.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope to continue to create picture books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a full-time writer now with no plans to stop. I have two books coming out in 2020. HARMONY HUMBOLT – PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing) is about a girl named Harmony who learns that her special Perfect Pets collection is even more special when shared with friends. The second book is nonfiction. It hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t say much more about it. I also have several WIPs, and my agent is getting ready to send a couple more manuscripts out on submission. Lots of exciting things happening, and I’m thankful every day that I get to do what I love.

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?
Wow, this is a difficult question. So many books have served as mentor texts for me. I’d have to say one of my absolute favorite picture books is Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. This was one I read to my first graders every year. It certainly influenced my dream to become a writer.
When I was working on I See Sea Food, I used many of Melissa Stewart’s books as mentor texts. Two of the most helpful ones were Feathers: Not Just for Flying and No Monkeys, No Chocolate. I’m a huge fan of all of her work.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Immerse yourself in the Kidlit community. No one understands this crazy journey like other writers. And join a critique group. These will be your people. They’ll be there for you every step of the way, and their support is invaluable.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’d be the rainbow sprinkles on top of the ice cream. Rainbow sprinkles make a dish of ice cream more cheerful looking. I’m naturally a very happy person, and I try to spread that positivity to everyone around me.

BIO
Jenna Grodzicki has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College, and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of New England. After spending 15 years as an educator, Jenna is now a full-time writer. She is the author of Pixie’s Adventure (eTreasures Publishing, 2017), Finn Finds A Friend (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, 2019), and HARMONY HUMBOLT – PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing, 2020). Jenna lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.

Social Media:
www.jennagrodzicki.com
Facebook: @jennawritesPB
Twitter: @jennawritesPB
Instagram: @jennawritespb

To purchase: https://www.amazon.com/See-Sea-Food-Creatures-That/dp/1541554639

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!

Author Melissa Stoller on What it Takes to be Published

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome my friend and multi-book author Melissa Stoller. Her debut picture books SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH and READY, SET, GORILLA! were published by Clear Fork Publishing/Spork. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Melissa 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 Oct 18, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
My debut picture books were published in 2018! First, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, illustrated by Sandie Sonke, and then READY, SET, GORILLA!, illustrated by Sandy Steen Bartholomew.
Callie Metler-Smith, publisher at Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, loved SCARLET and GORILLA when I first pitched them. I was so lucky that Mira Reisberg came on board as the art director/editor for both books. And when the illustrators signed on, we knew we had two #DreamTeams.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Inspiration can be found around every corner! I was inspired to write READY, SET, GORILLA! after seeing a billboard in New York City that stated, “Ready, Set, Go.” I thought that it would be cute if a mischievous gorilla said, “Ready, Set, GOrilla!” instead. And I was inspired to write SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH when standing in front of a Monet painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where I live. Staring at the Monet, I wondered what it would be like to paint with a magic paintbrush. I try to find inspiration wherever I am, and I always keep my eyes and mind open for ideas.

Please share some of your writing process.
My writing process is very iterative. I like to brainstorm, work on a first draft, and then craft lots of revisions. Also, I enjoy working on several projects at the same time. When I hit a roadblock on one project, I put it aside and move to the next. And usually, when I return to the first project, I can work out the kinks and move the story along.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In my previous careers, including lawyer and career counselor, I always enjoyed research and writing. When my older daughter was born, I decided to try writing for children. I also worked as a freelance writer/editor at this time and published many parenting articles as well as a parent resource book about organizing a family book club. It took a long time until my first children’s book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (a time travel adventure chapter book) was finally published in 2017. I celebrated that amazing moment!

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m so excited that I have two new books releasing in 2020: RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke), and SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (illustrated by Lisa Goldberg). Both are releasing from Clear Fork Publishing. These stories are so close to my heart. I can’t wait to see the final versions of the artwork – both illustrators are bringing extra magic to the process.

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 always love anything written by Judy Blume! And one of my favorite picture books now is Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro. I love the heart and unique voice. Plus, it’s about a book club. My own adult book club just celebrated 20 years together, and we’re still going strong!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
One piece of advice I can offer to other writers is: “Write from your heart. There are children out there just waiting to read your stories. Keep creating!”

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Oh that’s a fun question! I’m actually a huge frozen yogurt fan and my favorite flavor from Pinkberry is pomegranate/original swirl with blueberries on top! It’s such a sweet treat!

BIO
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2020); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). Upcoming picture books include Return of the Magic Paintbrush and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at Temple Shaaray Tefila, and a past Trustee at The Hewitt School. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.

Social Media:
www.MelissaStoller.com
www.MelissaStoller.com/blog
http://www.facebook.com/MelissaStoller
http://www.twitter.com/melissastoller
http://www.instagram.com/Melissa_Stoller
http://www.pinterest.com/melissa_stoller

Author Cecily Cline Walton on Diversity and Kidlit

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Beth Stilborn Interviews Me!

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-books ignite one’s imagination

-books broaden one’s horizons

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

-books help us find our place in this world

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much, Beth!

Publisher links:

Book trailer on Alayne Kay Christian’s blog

For more information on Blue Whale Press

Links to other recent interviews:

GROG blog

Jed Doherty’s “Reading With Your Kids”

Laura Sassi’s blog

Melissa Stoller’s blog

Tara Lazar’s blog