Q & A

Author Tim Wynne-Jones on Creating Thrilling YA

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Hello world!

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

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

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

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?

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

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

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

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

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

Author Jeanne Moran on Writing Historical Fiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jeanne Moran as she discusses her new book, The Path Divided, and its journey to publication.

But first, YAY! Jeanne is generously giving away two FREE copies of her book, one in print, the other in eBook form. To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a blog comment below. (US residents only, ends Jan 1, 2020)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The Path Divided is the sequel I didn’t plan to write. Seriously, who wants to research and write a second novel set in Nazi Germany? After Risking Exposure was published, I was ready to move on to more pleasant subject matter. And I did, for a little while.
Then, (I tell you this in full trust that you won’t call the men in the white coats) I awoke in the middle of the night with a grouchy old man’s voice in my head. Without knowing who he was, I stumbled to the computer and documented his words. About five hundred words into his dictation, I realized he was an unrepentant Nazi. After another five hundred words, I recognized him as the antagonist from Risking Exposure, but six decades older. The seed for The Path Divided was sown.
I wouldn’t write about an old, unrepentant Nazi without a counterbalance of someone with decent morals and behavior. When I revisited the character of his more noble sister and found her still in 1938 (I’m not a time traveler, just a writer,) her story grew also. The Path Divided weaves together her historical narrative with his more contemporary one.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My novels were born of my curiosity and my ignorance. Books about Nazi Germany tend to focus on the war and the horrors inflicted on Nazi targets. They’re typically told by either the regime’s victims or the WWII victors.
Enter my curiosity. As a second-generation American of German descent, I wondered about the German experience. If my grandparents hadn’t emigrated, my parents would have grown up in Germany during the Nazi era. Their school curriculum would have been Nazi-designed and approved. They would have been members of Hitler Youth, as was the law. They would have been bombarded with the regime’s version of news through government-controlled media. Perhaps they would have been caught up in the fervor of a torchlight parade or an enormous rally.
I knew the Nazis were good at brainwashing their citizens; they spewed propaganda into German minds for six years before war broke out. But I wondered—what if a regular teenage German thought for herself? What if she was headstrong and independent and refused to go along with the crowd? Those ‘what if’ questions pushed me on.

Please share some of your writing process.
I typically start with a character and spend some time getting to know that character and her world before I write anything. I try to understand what she wants and why she wants it. I jot down ideas—settings, events, secondary characters, etc.
The writing itself tends to be in fits and starts as a scene takes shape in my mind. Don’t tell my English teachers this, but I don’t start by writing the opening scene. Gasp! I write scenes out of order, and I always write the ending before I write the beginning. Also, I avoid heavy edits until the entire first draft is finished.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was one of those kids who wrote stories and stuck them under the bed, but in my adult life, I worked as a pediatric physical therapist. We therapists ask children to do exercise that’s really hard, and the kids on my caseload struggled to participate. All that changed when I embedded the needed exercise into a story. The kids were no longer lifting a weight, they were raising their sword to defend against pirates! They weren’t walking to increase endurance, they were explorers on a jungle safari! Their cooperation (and their motor skills) soared.
Time and again, I was struck by story’s power to transform. I knew I had to do more of that, and I’m delighted to do so still.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
While I won’t discount the possibility of writing more historical fiction (I love research,) I’m delighted to say all the Nazis are out of my head! I’m currently writing a funny middle grade chapter book series tentatively called The Companion Finders. In it, a prank-loving Friendship Fairy must team up with the self-absorbed Fairy of Love to find human companions for the world’s loneliest creatures: Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, and Jack Frost.

Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I love character-driven kidlit, and a classic favorite of mine is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. When I read it as a kid, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m crying about a spider!” and when I read it again as an adult, I was again touched to the core. The characters of Charlotte, Wilbur, and Fern still ring with authenticity. A more contemporary favorite is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. The unique voice and delightful character of Suzy were so well drawn that I actually missed her after I closed the book.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
When the reader truly experiences a story, that story becomes part of their understanding of the world.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Banana ice cream with chocolate coated almonds swirled through. Why? Because the color yellow brightens everything, the almonds swirled in because I’m a bit scattered and nutty, and the chocolate because, hello, it’s chocolate!

BIO
In my career as a pediatric physical therapist, I helped hundreds of children gain strength and motor skills. That left me spare time (ha!) to teach Sunday School, direct an after-school program, organize an international student-athlete exchange, and plan a new community playground. Along the way, I learned a bit about tang soo do and sudoku, tap dancing and German, whole foods cooking and the joy of selling on eBay. Anything to avoid cleaning!
I write fiction and creative non-fiction for young and young-minded readers surrounded inspirational quotes, vinyl records, countless books, and innumerable dust bunnies.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JmoranAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeannemoranauthor
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jeannemoran.author/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu5e32rKDY2CPkkIv8ZH_Q

To purchase book:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KGHFQLH
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-path-divided-jeanne-moran/1130061077?ean=9781987019278
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781728729152

Author Aya Khalil on Writing from Personal Experience

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I have so many. But definitely Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi (recent book) because it was one of the first picture books that was traditionally published by a Muslim author with Muslim characters. Classic one that I loved growing up was Corduroy because of the friendship and love theme and I have fond memories of my mom reading it to me.

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

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

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

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

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

Author Kelly Lenihan on the Importance of Editing

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Kelly Garrett on Creating Suspense in YA

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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