publishing

Author Michelle Lord: On Never Giving Up- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Michelle Lord, who wrote the nonfiction book Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight published by Sterling Publishing. What a phenomenal book, check out what she has to say!

BUT first- YAY! Michelle is generously giving away an arc of the book! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends October 30, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.

The idea for a book about Dr. Bath first came to me in the fall of 2016. My mother had just been diagnosed with cataracts and scheduled for laser surgery. Around this time, I read an article about Dr. Bath’s invention of the Laserphaco Probe and technique for laser cataract treatment. I reached out to her via email and we spoke over several phone calls in early 2017. I wrote several drafts before sending my work to my critique group. I dug into revisions, and finally sent my story to my agent. I received a contract in November 2017, completed more revisions with a series of editors, and Sterling published Patricia’s Vision in January 2020.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

In my conversations with Dr. Bath, she told me, “I was always a curious child.” I considered my own childhood. I too was an inquisitive youngster and questioned everything. I also related to Dr. Bath’s interest in science at a young age. I enjoyed assembling the spine and vital organs of my favorite toy, The Visible Woman, a model of the human body. My elementary science fair entry, The Eye, included a dissected cow eyeball.

Dr. Patricia Bath’s perseverance inspired me to share her story. A little girl in Harlem who had never heard of a female physician, grew up to become the first female African American doctor to receive a medical patent. Wow!  

She told Good Morning America, “Hater-ation, segregation, racism, that’s the noise. You have to ignore that and keep your eyes focused on the prize. It’s just like Dr. Martin Luther King said, so that’s what I did.” I found her words inspirational and hope young people will be encouraged      by her story.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?

I begin most of my projects with the research. Even with fiction, I feel that research gives a framework to my story. For me, the most difficult part of any project is writing that first draft. Once I have something to work with, I can tackle the challenge of revision. After revision. After revision.

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

One thing I think differentiates my book is the series of telephone interviews I conducted with Dr. Bath. I believe this gives a personal touch to Patricia’s Vision that similar books may lack. Sadly, Dr. Bath never saw the completed project. She passed away in 2019 before the book was published.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

“Walking into work that first morning, she had no idea she was the first woman on the faculty! Her eyes widened upon finding her new office…

…away from the others, in the basement, next to the lab animals…”

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

I’ve written a picture book with eight-year-old NY State Chess Champion, Tanitoluwa Adewumi, that is scheduled for release from Thomas Nelson next month.

I’m writing a middle grade novel, though I find creativity hard to come by in this current climate. I recently read an article that describes these feelings as acedia. “We get distracted by social media, yet have a pile of books unread. We keep meaning to go outside but somehow never find the time. We’re bored, listless, afraid and uncertain.” I hope new daily writing goals will get me back on track.

http://theconversation.com/acedia-the-lost-name-for-the-emotion-were-all-feeling-right-now-144058?fbclid=IwAR3IhYsWLUkMckK4Ejy65uHLPhq7O4Uis3FH8Ho1K5_lB8NJRMwFJsxrOOk

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?

Bread and Jam for Frances and other Frances books by Russell Hoban began my obsession with books. I learned to read at five-years-old, and these humorous stories grew my love of reading.

One of my favorite picture books is Frida by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Ana Juan. This book contains the perfect combination of words and images for emotional impact. While it wasn’t a mentor text per se, I also used the childhood to adulthood model for my book. Similar to Frida Kahlo, events in Dr. Bath’s childhood greatly influenced her later life.

The Queen of Physics, written by Teresa Robeson and illustrated by Recca Huang, simplifies the complicated subject of beta decay for young readers. This is not an easy task. I love Teresa’s poetic writing style!

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

When I first shared my goal of writing a children’s book twenty years ago, a family member said, “That’s a pipe dream.” While the comment felt like a punch to the gut, it also made me think, “watch me.” My advice to other writers? Never believe in the word, “impossible!”

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

I would choose to be my favorite flavor, Rocky Road. Chocolate boosts endorphins, improves mood, and tastes great. Almonds add interest. I’m not sure about the marshmallows, but I put up with them because the rest of it works.

BIO

Michelle Lord grew up in Carson City, Nevada, the oldest of three sisters. Ever since she could talk, she never stopped asking questions. These questions led to a passion for reading, research, and writing. To this day–to her family’s dismay–she still interrupts movies, musicals, and conversations with Who? How? What? Where? When? Why?
She is the author of Sterling’s A Girl Called Genghis Khan, as well as A Song for Cambodia, Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin, and numerous science books. Michelle lives in Texas, with her family.

 

Author Patrician Newman: On Winning a Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Patrician Newman, one of my nonfiction mentors. She discusses her writing journey with her books EAVESDROPPING ON ELEPHANTS and SEA OTTER HEROES, published by Millbrook Press/Lerner, She’s got some super interesting things to say, enjoy!

BUT first- YAY! Patricia is generously giving away a 20-minute video chat critique with an author OR a 20-minute video chat with a classroom! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends October 20, 2020.

 

Where did you draw inspiration for the books EAVESDROPPING ON ELEPHANTS and SEA OTTER HEROES?

In Eavesdropping on Elephants, I featured a group of scientists from Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project. I always knew I would write about ELP because my daughter worked for them as an undergrad. She sat in the lab with headphones on her ears listening to forest sounds, picking out the elephants amidst gorillas, crocodiles, frogs, and birds. On her weekly calls home, she told me more and more about ELP’s work. All it took was an email introduction on my daughter’s part, and I was off and running. Because Eavesdropping on Elephants is a book about sounds, ELP provided several video and audio files which we turned into QR codes to give readers an insider’s look at the forest.

These books have two very different back stories. After Plastic, Ahoy! was released, one of the scientists I interviewed invited me to present an all-day session about science books for children to a group of newly-minted PhDs at an environmental fellowship retreat. At dinner that night, one of the young scientists approached me to discuss his research. That scientist was Brent Hughes, the marine biologist in Sea Otter Heroes who unlocked the key to a new food web relationship featuring sea otters in the Elkhorn Slough off Monterey Bay in California. I knew in that moment his exciting research would become my next book.

 

 

Congratulations on receiving a Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor for SEA OTTER HEROES. How did you conduct your research for this book, and how long did the process take?

Thank you! The Sibert Honor was an important milestone for my writing career because it’s the ALA’s only award for nonfiction. By validating the importance of Sea Otter Heroes, the ALA also recognized the power of STEM to help us uncover the mystery in our world and to affect change.

Whenever I research a book, I always try to travel to the source. For Eavesdropping on Elephants, I visited the scientists’ lab in Ithaca, NY. For Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, I visited three zoos across the country. Because I had already met Brent at the fellowship retreat, he and I began communicating. He sent me research papers for my proposal, and I interviewed him and his mentor, Lilian Carswell, a sea otter expert with US Fish and Wildlife.

After the proposal was accepted, I scheduled a two-day on-site visit. My daughter came along as my photographer/assistant. On the first day, we were in a boat on the Elkhorn Slough. We observed otters, diving pelicans, jellies, egrets, and harbor seals. We tromped across muddy salt flats and leaned out of the boat for handfuls of seagrass. I kept up a steady stream of questions over the hum of the boat’s motor, my digital recorder capturing every word.

On the second day, we went to Brent’s lab. He explained each part of his experiment and showed us how marine biologists make mesocosms – ecosystems in buckets – that are easily testable.

I had two months from proposal acceptance to manuscript delivery to finish my research, write Sea Otter Heroes, and pull together and sort through photos from Brent, his team, and my daughter.

What attracts you to the world of nonfiction?

I write about people whose contributions are currently shaping our world, and I find that exciting and rewarding. I especially love the interconnectedness of my books with so many facets of our lives. In Sea Otter Heroes, Eavesdropping on Elephants and Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, we meet endangered species and understand how we are affecting them, sometimes from thousands of miles away.

Beckett, a third grader, read several books, including Sea Otter Heroes, and was inspired to create a petition and a presentation to save sea otters along his Palos Verdes, CA coastline.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from SEA OTTER HEROES.

The Elkhorn Slough is one of the most nutrient-polluted estuaries on the planet, so Brent Hughes was trying to understand why seagrass thrived when it should be dead. But none of his knowledge could explain the mystery. In the following excerpt, one of Brent’s volunteers suggested he talk to Yohn Gideon, a tour company operator who’d gathered several years of sea otter data from the Elkhorn Slough. Brent was skeptical otters affected seagrass, but he had nothing to lose by talking to Captain Gideon.

When Brent took a look at the sea otter data, Elkhorn Slough Safaris had compiled more than twenty binders stuffed with data sheets from as far back as 1996. The huge amount of data allowed Brent to graph a trend line. He compared it to his seagrass data.

 “I overlaid Yohn’s data with the seagrass data, and it fit together like a glove,” Brent says. Otter sightings had risen and fallen in sync with seagrass abundance. “I’m like, what the heck. . . ?”

 Clearly, sea otters were somehow linked to seagrass health. But could the otters, apex predators in the protected slough, actually be responsible for the thriving seagrass? The question thrust Brent into a vigorous scientific debate that had been raging for years. Did forces at the bottom of the food chain, such as nutrient levels, control seagrass health? Or was it controlled by the presence of a predator at the top? Brent had always approached ecology from the bottom up, focusing on how nutrient levels and physical conditions such as storms, waves, and temperatures affected the health of the ocean. Accepting the idea that sea otters helped seagrass would change his entire perspective. He would have to admit that both the bottom and the top of the food chain had power over a marine ecosystem.

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

Like most authors, I’m always thinking about the next book. I’ve found a niche in environmental nonfiction that excites and challenges me, and I think I’ll stay here for a while.

In March 2021, Millbrook Press/Lerner will release my new middle-grade title, Planet Ocean. Photographer Annie Crawley and I team up again after working on Plastic, Ahoy! and Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. But this time, we explore three ocean ecosystems and how pollution and climate change are affecting the sustainability of our seas. We feature indigenous people and several inspiring kids and teens who are working to save our ocean.

Patricia Newman (l) and Annie Crawley team up again in a spring 2021 release titled Planet Ocean.

In the fall of 2022, Millbrook Press/Lerner will release a new nonfiction picture book currently titled The River’s Rebirth, illustrated by Natasha Donovan. The book is an uplifting conservation story about the restoration of the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington after the removal of two dams that nearly destroyed the ecosystem.

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’ve always loved The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen because it makes science fun. Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen inspires me with its beauty and simplicity, something I strive for in my middle-grade nonfiction even though I often deal with complicated subjects.

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

Nonfiction is more than facts; it comes from the heart. Your book should meet an emotional need within you. And if your writing also resonates with readers, you know they’ve found the heart you’ve woven through the pages.

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

Hands down, New York Super Fudge Chunk because it has a little bit of everything in it. I grew up in Vermont and went to Ben and Jerry’s first ice cream store in downtown Burlington when it was nothing more than a storefront with several ice cream makers churning away on the polished cement floor.

BIO

Patricia Newman inspires readers to seek connections to the real world and encourages them to use their imaginations to solve real-world problems and act on behalf of their communities. Her books have received the Robert F. Sibert Honor from the American Library Association, starred reviews, Green Earth Book Awards, and numerous other awards. Find out more at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Social Media
Website: https://www.patriciamnewman.com/

Twitter: @PatriciaNewman (https://twitter.com/PatriciaNewman)

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/newmanbooks/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaNewmanBooks

LitLinks blog series highlighting the natural connection between STEM and language arts – lesson plans for grades K – high school: https://www.patriciamnewman.com/blog-4/

Author Meeg Pincus & How her Love for Monarchs Turned into a Book- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Meeg Pincus as she discusses her nonfiction book WINGED WONDERS: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, illustrated by Yas Imamura and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Check out her journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Meeg is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book!! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. US residents only, contest ends October 2, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
I met my editor through a workshop critique, where she liked the original version of this story, which was a picture book biography of one little-known person involved in tracking the monarch butterfly migration. She offered on that book, then I ran into a big roadblock with the subject, so made the tough choice to not sign the contract and to put the story on a shelf and rethink it for a few months. (In the meantime, thankfully, the same editor acquired a different story of mine, which became our first picture book together, Miep and the Most Famous Diary!) After months of not knowing how to retell the monarch story, one day it hit me: this was not a story about one little-known person but about how many people it took to track this great migration over three decades. Once that hit me, the story flowed out. I sent the new version to my editor and it was (again, thankfully!) acquired.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I’ve always loved butterflies, wrote about them with wonder often in my youth. As a mom of young kids, I took them one day to see an IMAX film (in San Diego’s amazing domed science museum theater) about the monarch migration and I fell in love with monarchs specifically. I took the kids back to see the film two more times (!) and started digging more into the story of how the monarch migration was tracked. I felt it was a story full of wonder that could inspire kids to be solutionaries, which I think and hope it turned out to be!

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process is, honestly, kind of sporadic. I’m not a writer who sits down at the same time every day or writes for a certain number of hours each week. As a homeschooling mom managing chronic health issues, I write when I can, in nooks and crannies of my days—in the car when the kids are at a lesson, during the hour they’re with their tutor, on the weekend when the rest of the family is at the pool, etc. When I get in the writing flow or I’m on a revision deadline, my family knows it—the dishes and laundry will pile up and the kids will step up and fend for themselves more, because Writer Mom is at work!

What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
For me, nonfiction feeds my passions for social justice, people’s history, emotional storytelling, constant learning, and creativity. To be able to read and write true stories about inspiring people, which may open people’s eyes to new understandings about the world, is the greatest gift and a great responsibility. I love reading nonfiction and writing it. I’m a curious researcher at heart (daughter of two professors!) and an emotional writer, so kidlit nonfiction allows me to use both to connect children to true stories that may open their minds and hearts.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
For centuries, up and down North America, every year brought a mystery. Monarch butterflies swooped in for a spell, like clockwork, from somewhere beyond—then disappeared as curiously as they came. Where do they go? People pondered from southern Canada…through the middle of the United States…and all the way to central Mexico.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
My hope is to be able to just keep writing and publishing trade nonfiction picture books as I am now. I have three more NF PBs coming out in 2021—Cougar Crossing, Ocean Soup, and Make Way for Animals! (with Simon&Schuster/Beach Lane Books, Sleeping Bear Press, and Lerner/Millbrook)—and others on sub (fingers crossed!). I also hope to keep writing educational publisher picture books and doing teaching and editing projects, which I also enjoy. And I’m working on a passion project called #DiverseKidlitNF, to launch in 2021, to continue my work promoting diverse nonfiction picture books and diverse nonfiction kidlit creators, which is very important to me and I hope helps bolster the movement for more diversity in kidlit.

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?
In the nonfiction picture book world, my first inspiration were the classic books by Jeannette Winter, like The Watcher and The Librarian of Basra. Her books showed me that I could tell the kind of “solutionary stories” I wanted to tell (with art!) in amazingly creative ways for kids. A contemporary mentor text for me is The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson—this book took my breath away in its powerful message and creative approach. I love the innovative structure of it (with sparse poetry and stunning images in the main text and rich, informative back matter) and the emotionality of it—both elements I hope to infuse into my own books.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
There’s no one right way to be a writer. Write when you can, how you can, where you can—and write the stories that you can best tell from your heart.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Oh, mint chocolate chip for sure! Refreshing, colorful, and not one thing (which definitely resonates with me).

BIO
Meeg Pincus is the author of six published and forthcoming nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet—including Kirkus starred reviewed Winged Wonders and Miep and the Most Famous Diary (which also received a School Library Journal starred review and was A Mighty Girl “Best Books of 2019” pick). A former newspaper reporter and college instructor, a humane educator and nonfiction book editor, Meeg has also authored 19 leveled readers for educational publishers and loves teaching nonfiction for SCBWI and The Writing Barn.

Social Media
Website: www.MeegPincus.com
Twitter: @MeegPincus
Book link: https://bookshop.org/books/winged-wonders-solving-the-monarch-migration-mystery/9781534110403

Author-Illustrator Jarrett Lerner on Mapping out your Career

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome a super talented author-illustrator: the one and only Jarrett Lerner! The EngiNerds series is a personal favorite of mine, and now he has a new book and activity book coming out shortly. Check out his journey below:

EngiNerds is a favorite in our house. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Thank you! That’s so great to hear. Regarding the book’s inspiration – I think it came from a number of sources, as inspiration often does. But the first spark, the thing that really lit a fire under me, was this idea to write exactly the sort of book that I would’ve been in love with as a 10 year old. So: farting robots and tests of friendship.

Your new book, Geeger the Robot: Goes to School!, comes out this September. What excites you most about this one?
I love how it looks. The text is stylized, with some words being bold, some being bigger than others, some being angled or otherwise contorted. Also, there are TONS of awesome illustrations. I got to work once again with Serge Seidlitz – the brilliant, bonkers artist who created the covers for all three of my EngiNerds books. His work in these books really shines, and I am so honored and excited to have it in there.

You also have an activity book coming out in December, what can children expect in this one?
If you’ve been to my website (www.jarrettlerner.com), you’ll find an ACTIVITIES page. There are, I think, nearly 200 activity pages on there that you can download and print for free. The activity book – Give This Book A Title – is a collection of 140 more such pages, though many of these pages contain multiple activities. There are “How to Draw” pages, “Finish This Comic” pages, and general writing and drawing prompts. I put a lot of time, energy, and thought into crafting and organizing this book, and I hope kids leave it feeling more confident artists and writers than they entered it, and that they never again sit down at a blank piece of paper and can’t figure out what to write or draw. I also hope they have TONS of fun.

What is it like being both the author and illustrator?
Well, I really don’t know any different. Ever since I was a kid, I expressed myself both visually and verbally, often together. My teachers didn’t always recognize that, or accept it, and I often had to refrain from communicating and expressing myself visually in the classroom – which is a shame. But stories, ideas – for me, the visual and verbal is always jumbled together. I always start projects on paper, in a notebook or sketchbook, because both words and images come at me at once, and I don’t want to have to jump back and forth between a pad and a computer in order to get them both down.
One thing that might surprise people about me, though, is that I LOVE working with other illustrators. There are certain projects of mine that I feel strongly about illustrating (such as my activity books, or my graphic novels – my Hunger Heroes series of graphic novels launches next summer). But there are other stories of mine that I am not attached to illustrating, and some that I actually think would benefit from having someone else illustrate them. The story comes first. The reader matters most. I work in service of those two things, primarily. If I know, deep down, that a book will be better with the inclusion of another artistic voice, I don’t hesitate to let my publisher know and hand over that part of the project.

What’s your artistic process, and does it vary depending on the project?
As I mentioned above, it always begins in a notebook or sketchbook. But from there, I really try to experiment, to PLAY, and let the story dictate as much as possible. I always encourage people to allow their process to change, evolve, shift, and I try to remember that as much as possible myself, especially when I start getting precious about any of my own routines or tendencies. In a way, I think each unique story needs a unique approach, and that it’ll ultimately only benefit from that. If I’m ever feeling stuck or uninspired, I switch things up. I’ll go from writing on lined paper to writing on construction paper. Or instead of a pen, I’ll use a crayon. I’ll write on sticky notes, or napkins – whatever. I think this sort of approach and spirit gives your creativity, imagination, and any particular idea you’re hunting down the most space to breathe and properly, fully emerge.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am always working on four, five, sometimes six projects at any given time. Usually, some of those are contracted books that I really have to be working on, and some are in other stages of completion. I thrive off of having lots of irons in the fire – or maybe even having multiple fires to tend to. Sometimes things get out of hand, but usually the jumping around keeps me excited and inspired. I usually don’t talk publicly about projects until they are under contract, as I don’t want any reactions of feedback to influence my process, so I’ll just say that I’ve got LOTS of more stuff in the works and on its way.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book.
I love the work of Ed Emberley. His approach to creativity and creation, his spirit, his openness, his embrace and mastering of the power of simplicity – I could go on and on. I regularly reach for his work when I want or need a surge of inspiration, and I think that several of his books get just about as close to perfect as a book can be. In terms of contemporary books – Jarod Roselló’s Red Panda & Moon Bear graphic novel and Remy Lai’s Pie in the Sky both really rocked my world when I read them. Both books I’ve read multiple times. Jarod’s always reminds me of what I love most about stories and storytelling. Remy’s reminds me to, as I spoke about above, let the story dictate both process and product. And aside from that, both books are incredible in about a thousand other ways.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Dive deep into your projects, and try to get each one to a place of near-perfection (because that’s as much as we can ever hope for), but don’t forget to take also regularly step back. Think about your next project. And the one after that. Think about your career as a whole. Think about where you are headed, and where you want to be. Also: READ.

And a bonus question- If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I think I’d be snot-flavored, to prevent anyone from eating me!

BIO
Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds and its sequel, Revenge of the EngiNerds, as well as the author-illustrator of the upcoming activity book, Give This Book a Title. Jarrett is also the author of the forthcoming Geeger the Robot early chapter book series, the forthcoming third book in the EngiNerds series (The EngiNerds Strike Back), and the author-illustrator of the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). He cofounded and helps run the MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. He can be found at jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter and Instragram at @Jarrett_Lerner. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts, with his wife, his daughter, and a cat.

Social Media
www.jarrettlerner.com
Twitter and Instagram: @Jarrett_Lerner
My books can be purchased anywhere books are sold, but if they are purchased from my local indie, Porter Square Books, I’ll go in and sign/personalize them:
https://www.portersquarebooks.com/search/author/%22Lerner%2C%20Jarrett%22

Author Antwan Eady on Starting Where You Are

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, I stumbled upon a very inspiring thread written by author Antwan Eady. I was so moved by it that I contacted him right away, and asked for permission to post his inspiring words on my blog. He said yes! Here’s the thread that I think many of you will relate to:

Sometimes you just have to start where you are.

As a writer, I stood in my own way for so many years. A decade really.

I wrote my first PB in ‘07. I started a novel in ‘11. I wrote poetry all of my life but stopped in ‘11 or ‘12.

I was waiting for the “perfect” environment. The “perfect” desk. A new laptop. Etc.

Last year woke me up in the best possible way. I couldn’t believe the excuses I’d used.

But instead of focusing on the excuses, I got started. Without a desk. On an ancient laptop that was given to me (one that couldn’t hold a charge and had to be plugged in to work). I…got started.

Day job hours start at 10.5 hours and can go up from there. Many days I wrote/write before work, during lunch, and after work, dedicating my weekends to writing, too. Saying “no” to other things. I sacrificed in an effort to cultivate my passion.

For me, I just had to get started. Wherever I was at…I had to start.

With the laptop that couldn’t hold a charge, the one that became too hot on my lap, I started writing.

It gave me manuscripts. Gave me agent offers. And more. No desk. No noise canceling headphones. No printer. No “perfect” place.

For reference, that laptop was so big that I was embarrassed to carry it in public after a guy approached me and asked if I was a gamer. I assume gaming laptops are massive. 😅.

And because that laptop couldn’t hold a charge, I had to sit wherever outlets were. It owned me. Now the other way around. My perfect “spot” was wherever a free outlet was.

But here’s the end. I have a new laptop now. I have a desk (not a writer’s desk…but something for 30 bucks that I found, and I’m glad I did because I immediately cancelled my order for a “writers” desk.)

And I’m creating a space in my place where I can write how I’ve wanted to write for so long. So this thread comes from a place of appreciating what I have now, but being grateful for getting started when I did…how I did.

Gratitude really does unlock the fullness of life.

I met my writing halfway. The stories were there, waiting for me. And there are stories waiting for you too.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I had to know more about the author of these wise words, so I invited him to talk about his forthcoming book, NIGEL AND THE MOON.

Where did you draw inspiration for NIGEL AND THE MOON?
NIGEL AND THE MOON was inspired by the young, Black boy that I was afraid to be. Fear drove me to write this story because, even as an adult, there’s so much unlearning we have to do, right? In my home, I was allowed to dream. My parents supported every idea, every interest. But it was sharing those dreams with the world that shook me to my core. I drew inspiration from that experience. I’m inspired by having a book out there that will tell kids early on, “Dream. And dream without limits.” I also drew inspiration from the kids around us, Black and LGBTQIA+ kids especially – those that are with us and those that no longer have the chance to live out their dreams as a result of homophobia, racism, and other injustices. NIGEL represents the kid I was once and the kid I wanted to be.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
Whew. This question makes me feel like I should sit up straight. I guess this is happening. I’m a soon to be published author now. My writing process (pre-COVID) was writing when I could – before work (5am sometimes), during lunch, and after work. I frequented my local B&N Cafe here in Savannah. I struggled with flexing my writing muscles. Again, I was stuck on the “perfect” setting, but I’m learning to just write whenever, wherever.
When writing picture books I tend to start with an opening line. This comes to me before anything else. I have a ton of picture book ideas, but there are a few that are harder to ignore than others. So I go with my heart on those. I tend to handwrite, use my Notes app, and I write on my laptop. Occasionally, there are post its around as well. I get the story out then I’ll revise. Once I’m “done” revising, I let my stories sit. I don’t have a set time on this. I just let them sit until I can approach them again with fresh eyes and without anything that feels forced. I also find value in critique partners.
Overall, my writing process does vary depending on the project. For my YA, I’ve outlined. I’m in the process of outlining an MG now as well. Outlining doesn’t come natural to me, so I’m trying it out because I’d rather finish these in a decent amount of time without losing my creativity in the process.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“At night he tells the moon his dreams.
And here his dreams are safe.”

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention? Great question. I want to receive all the good that publishing has for me. I see my career heading in a direction that will allow me to open doors for others, but in a way that affords me the opportunity to keep those doors open. Having founded #BlackCreatorsInKidLit with an amazing team of Black creators and illustrators is just the beginning. I’m from the dirt roads of South Carolina, so to have made it this far, I’ve got plenty to tell and plenty to gain. I need more southern Black, gay representation. I have Gullah Geechee stories I want to tell. Sooo much.

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?
Classic – WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak. Funny enough, this one scared me as a kid. I don’t know when I overcame that fear, but when I did, I started to appreciate the illustrations and the story. This one moved me because it taught me the possibilities of our imagination. One second Max is in his bedroom, having a temper tantrum, and the next second, he’s sailing to an island filled with creatures only to be brought back home by the smell of dinner.
Contemporary – THE DAY YOU BEGIN, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez. I was moved from the first sentence, “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” It brought tears to my eyes as an adult. It was such a nurturing moment, and it was one that validates me as a reader. It’s telling me that whoever I am is okay and that I will enter rooms and that may not reflect my background but that’s okay. It’s one of my favorites of all time.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
Don’t deny your reader. Start where you are.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why? Vanilla ice cream! Easy question. It’s my favorite. If it isn’t available, I’ll go with Butter Pecan. But vanilla’s my favorite because it seems so simple, but there’s so much more to it. It’s sort of like the “still water runs deep” saying. Vanilla ice cream has depth. Haha.

BIO
Antwan Eady grew up in Garnett, SC, where he spent most of his days riding four-wheelers, fishing, and imagining a world without limitations. Eady is the founder of #BlackCreatorsInKidLit which aims to bridge the gap between publishing professionals and Black creators (authors and illustrators). When he isn’t writing, he’s searching for the best LowCountry boil in Savannah, GA where he currently resides. You can find him on Twitter @antwan_eady and on instagram @antwan.eady.
Website: www.antwaneady.com – be sure to subscribe!

Author Teresa Robeson on the Importance of One’s Culture – PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author I respect and admire: the wonderful Teresa Robeson! Here she is, discussing her books Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom, illustrated by Rebecca Huang and published by Sterling Children’s Books, as well as Two Bicycles In Beijing, illustrated by Junyi Wu, published by Albert Whitman & Company. Teresa also won a prestigious APALA Award, but I’ve been a fan of her work long before that happened. Check out her journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Teresa is generously giving away a FREE copy of either of her books!! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. US residents only, contest ends August 28, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Queen of Physics.
Thanks so much for inviting me into your blog-world, Lydia! I wrote the first draft of Queen of Physics back in the early 2010s. It got me my first agent who, sadly, not only couldn’t sell it but also quit the business after a year. Two interminable years rolled by—my darkest days—but to my delight, Jane Yolen picked the story to work with when I submitted it to the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship program. When we were done revising, I sent it out to editors (via SCBWI conference opportunities) and agents. Christina Pulles, then at Sterling, expressed an interest which I took to agents with. And with that interest I got my second agent. Just short of two years after signing the contract, my book debuted.

You used to be a research associate, how does that help you as a writer?
Well, certain things don’t seem to carry over—like running statistical analyses and working with Adobe Morph to create experimental images. But other skills, like writing carefully worded scripts, did help me to learn how to phrase things properly and with precision.

You won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Queen of Physics, can you please comment on how important it is for you to represent your culture?
My parents never wanted me and my sister to forget where we came from after immigrating, so they taught us Chinese reading/writing and history when we were growing up. But as a kid, I never fully appreciated my culture. It’s not until I aged that my cultural background began to become more meaningful. In a country where being a person of color is considered something less-than, educating others about my culture is an obligation I want to fulfill. So, being recognized by the APALA for my work in which I honor someone of my heritage is truly the best award I could possibly win.

Where did you draw the inspiration for Two Bicycles In Beijing?
Several things came together to birth this book: my growing interest in my cultural background in the past couple of decades and also a trip to China that my family took with my dad back in 2013. I was thinking about all the bicycles in Beijing one day, a few years after the trip, and the idea was born.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from either of your books.
And, oh, physics!
Physics, the study of the very matter
and energy around her,
the study of things that could be seen or felt
–heat, sounds, light, electricity, and motion–
and of things too minuscule to be seen or felt
–atoms and even tinier parts of atoms.
Physics captured her heart.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I would like to continue to write picture books about science and my culture, but I also really want to finish a few novels, both MG and YA. They’re both own-voices though one is contemporary and the other is alternate history. The YA idea won the Pitchapalooza contest at the 2017 NESCBWI conference, and I’m still working on it.

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?
Classic would have to be SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats. The language is spare and yet you sense Peter’s joy and wonder and the unconditional love from the mom when he gets home. A contemporary book that I’ve used as my mentor text for QUEEN OF PHYSICS is SWAN by Laurel Snyder. Laurel has a magical way with words—so lyrical and lovely. She is one of my favorite authors!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
Read voraciously, write fiercely, and trust that your voice will emerge.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I would go for a fruity gelato or a Kohr Bros frozen custard any day! As for ice cream, I really adore cherry/black cherry, but I’m also partial to vanilla. People think of vanilla as “plain and boring” but they don’t realize that vanilla (at least the real stuff) comes from orchids and was once exotic and hard to get. But if I could have only one frozen treat for the rest of my life, I’d choose orange creamsicle. I’m addicted to the stuff, and am drooling now just thinking of it

BIO
Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. Teresa’s picture book biography, Queen Of Physics (Sterling Publishing) won the 2020 APALA Picture Book Award, in addition to being named a 2019 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book. Her second book, Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman), released in April 2020. A 28-year member of SCBWI with many magazine bylines, Teresa served as the Illustrator Coordinator and now as the Co-Regional Advisor for the Indiana SCBWI chapter.

Social Media
Website: tereasrobeson.com
Twitter: @teresarobeson
Instagram: @tmrobeson

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow on the Power of Names

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. Here she is , discussing her new picture book Your Name is a Song, illustrated by Luisa Uribe and published by The Innovation Press. Kane. Interestingly, she found a publisher and a book contract first, and got an agent after! Check out Jamilah’s journey below.

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Your Name is a Song was a manuscript I wrote in early 2017 for the 12×12 picture book challenge. It was very long. Because the book explores the ways people demean names and because there are numerous ways that people can do that demeaning, I had a text that was almost 2000 words at one point. Then, there was the issue of researching the names and then writing out their pronunciations. This book took dozens of revisions and many hours of research before I felt it was ready for submission. I got an offer for it from The Innovation Press in late 2018 after several months of trying agents and then editors. I started hearing back from interested agents around this time and my editor, Asia Citro, at The Innovation Press also referred me to agents. Her referral is how I connected with Essie White, and I am forever grateful. It has been such an amazing partnership!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
A name inspired it. I was a teacher at the time and a student shared that his middle name was Olumide. I remember thinking his name was musical like a song. And then I thought “Your Name is a Song” would be a great title for a book. I worked backward to figure out what a book with that title should be about. “Olumide is a melody” became a line in the book.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
Once I have a spark of an idea, I like to gather things. I create a file on the computer or a section of a notebook to write scattered ideas. I’ll write down random sentences or lines of dialogue, titles, names, concepts, and themes. I’ll add free-writes of all sorts of things: scenes I’m picturing, character descriptions, logistics of the plot, etc. Once I have a lot of this material and I feel like I have a solid sense of the story, I start writing.

What differentiates your book from others with similar content currently on the market?
Well, I think mine is the only book about names that tries to include so many of them! I also think that it is probably the first book to explicitly celebrate Black American names. When we talk about appreciating names of diverse cultures, most people think about names from other countries but not necessarily American names like Latoya, Shauntaya, and Daquan. I make space for these kinds of names in my book.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“What about the kids at recess who said my name sounds made up?”
Momma pointed up. “Tell them that made-up names come from there.”
“From the sky?” the girl asked.
“Made-up names come from dreamers. Their real names were stolen long ago so they dream up new ones. They make a way out of no way, make names out of no names—pull them from the sky!”

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
 I want to continue writing more picture books and other kinds of kidlit. While this time during quarantine hasn’t been ideal for many reasons, it has given me additional time to focus on producing more writing. I have a couple new picture books coming soon. One that has been announced is Abdul’s Story, which will be out in 2021.

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?
One classic I love to study is The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton and Leo and Diane Dillon. I love that one because I feel like it translates the feel of oral storytelling into an actual picture book. It infuses that African artform into a picture book and I want to learn how to do that more. I don’t have a favorite contemporary children’s book because there are so many that I love and study. However, one picture book I have been looking at a lot lately as a mentor text is Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena Pliska and Fiona Halliday. I think this book is good for learning a lot of things, including lyrical writing, creating a sense of wonder in a picture book, and how to write about difficult topics for children delicately and yet honestly.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write the thing you’re scared to write—you know exactly what that is.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I would be vanilla with hot fudge slung on top because it’s messy, but the messiness is good.

BIO
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, M.S.Ed  is a Philadelphia-based children’s book author and educator. Her books, which feature young Black Muslim protagonists, have been recognized and critically-praised by many trusted voices in literature, including the American Library Association, School Library Journal, and NPR. A curriculum writer, community educator, and former English teacher, she’s educated youth in traditional and alternative learning settings for 15 years.

Social Media
Webpage: https://jamilahthewriter.com/
Follow on twitter: https://twitter.com/jtbigelow
Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjamilah/

To buy:
https://bookshop.org/books/your-name-is-a-song/9781943147724
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/your-name-is-a-song-jamilah-thompkins-bigelow/1132933989?ean=9781943147724

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!

Author Valerie Bolling Dances her Way to her Debut (plus giveaway!)

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Valerie Bolling. Here she is , discussing her new picture book Let’s Dance!, illustrated by Maine Diaz and published by Boyds Mills & Kane. Iread the book myself and loved it, and I admit, it made me want to get up and DANCE! Check out Valerie’s journey below.

BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Valerie is generously giving away a query critique OR a  PB critique (500 words or less). Simply comment on this blog, contest ends July 13, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Let’s Dance! was “liked” in #PBPitch in June 2018 by Jes Negrón, an editor at Boyds Mills & Kane. A couple of weeks after sending the manuscript to her, she expressed interest in publishing the book. When we had “The Call,” I shared with her my desire for the book’s illustrations to display an inclusive representation of children: gender, race, ability. Jes expanded upon my vision for diversity by recognizing that some of my words described cultural dances like Flamenco (Spain), Kathak (India), and Long Sleeve Dance (China). I am thrilled to have this added layer of cultural representation in my book!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I didn’t draw the book’s inspiration, Lydia. Maine Diaz, the amazing illustrator, did. Sorry; I couldn’t resist providing that response. 🙂
Since most children enjoy dancing (adults, too, including me!), I decided to write a fun, rhyming story celebrating the universality of dance. My goal was to showcase dance as a language we all speak, even though we have different “accents.”
I want everyone who reads Let’s Dance! to know that not only are people connected through dance, but we’re also connected simply because we’re human. Regardless of how we dance, how we look, or who we are, we are worthy, valuable members of society.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I don’t think of myself as having a particular writing process. I write when a new idea enters my mind, and I CONSTANTLY revise. I’m typically working on at least three stories at a time, sometimes more.
A critical part of my writing process is critique. That’s what helps me make significant and (usually) effective revisions. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing critique circle: critique partner, critique group, debut group that offers critique, WNDB mentor, and, most recently, an agent!

Have any books inspired you and served as mentor texts?
In addition to critique being vital to the revision process, Lydia, mentor texts are invaluable. For Let’s Dance!, Watersong by Tim McCanna served as a mentor text. Visiting Day and Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson served as mentor texts for another manuscript. Those books helped me create an emotional arc in my story with a similar plot. Saturday by Oge Mora helped me work through changes to the ending of another manuscript. I read Woodson’s books, specifically because I believed they’d provide insight into my own story … and they did. On the other hand, I was reading Mora’s book just because I’d heard it was worth reading. It came as a pleasant surprise when it inspired a new idea for an ending to a story I’d been revising.
As an educator, I emphasize the importance of revision to students, touting the inseparable connection between reading and writing. When we read as writers, we notice certain qualities of books – intentionally and unintentionally. And those observations help us improve our writing. Conversely, writers engage in a heightened reading experience because we are able to appreciate a beautiful book in multi-faceted ways.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Wiggle hips/Spin, dip, dip (Kuku, a West African dance)

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope my career is headed to the sky because, though it’s a cliché, the sky’s the limit. I have two manuscripts out on sub right now, and a number of others waiting in the queue, so we’ll see. I’m constantly revising and also writing new stories. I’ve written three stories during the pandemic but have spent even more time revising other stories … not to mention promoting Let’s Dance! with blogger and podcast interviews and author visits to schools, bookstores, libraries, and dance studios. My author journey has been fun and exciting. Like a roller coaster, it may twist my head and twirl my tummy, but I’m not ready to get off the ride!

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
If I can only say one thing, Lydia, it would be: Keep writing.
If I can say more, here are my five tips:

  1. Write.
  2. Revise.
  3. Read.
  4. Immerse yourself in writing opportunities and in the writing community by taking a course, joining SCBWI, going to conferences, joining a critique group, and participating in contests.
  5. Continue writing … even when you face rejection

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 probably pick anything with peanuts or peanut butter. I like ice cream but am allergic to peanuts (all other nuts are fine). Being an ice cream flavor that contains peanuts would ensure that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat myself!

BIO
Let’s Dance! (Boyds Mills & Kane) is Valerie Bolling’s debut picture book. In addition to being an author, Valerie has been an educator for over 25 years. When she taught elementary students, it was difficult to find diverse literature for them. Thus, she is passionate about creating stories in which all children can see themselves and feel valued and heard.
A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College, Valerie currently works as an Instructional Coach with middle and high school teachers.
Besides writing picture books, Valerie writes a Monthly Memo for teachers that she publishes on Twitter, and she has been published in The National Writing Project’s Quarterly (“The Family Writing Project Builds a Learning Community in Connecticut”) and NESCBWI News (“Microaggressions Don’t Feel ‘Micro’”). Recently, she had a poem accepted for publication by Cricket Media.
Valerie is represented by James McGowan of BookEnds Literary Agency, and she is a member of NCTE, SCBWI, the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee, the Authors Guild, the WNDB Mentorship Program, #12X12PB, 2020 Diverse Debuts, 20/20 Vision Picture Books, and a picture book critique group.
Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.

Social Media
Website: http://valeriebolling.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/valerie_bolling
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/valeriebollingauthor
Books can be purchased at any of these stores.
Click on this page to see options for where to purchase Let’s Dance!

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!