Q & A

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

Author Melissa Stoller on What it Takes to be Published

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Hello world!

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

But first, YAY- Melissa is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Oct 18, 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I always love anything written by Judy Blume! And one of my favorite picture books now is Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro. I love the heart and unique voice. Plus, it’s about a book club. My own adult book club just celebrated 20 years together, and we’re still going strong!

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

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

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

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

Author Cecily Cline Walton on Diversity and Kidlit

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Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author-Illustrator Yevgenia Nayberg on her Artistic Process

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author-illustrator Yevgenia Nayberg who wrote the picture book Anya’s Secret Society published by Charlesbridge. She explains her journey below.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
Anya’s Secret Society is my debut as an author. The idea came to me spontaneously and I wrote the story quickly. I spent a lot of time on the illustrations and the dummy — this is always the longest part of the process.  Once my agent submitted the project, it took about 8 months to find the publisher. This is were things really slowed down. The hardest part was to keep working on edits and not being able to get to illustrations. When the story was finally approved, it was a pure joy to illustrate! It took two years to publish Anya.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Anya’s Secret Society is based on my childhood memories. I grew up in Russia where, at the time, lefties were quite rare. It is a story about being different, but also about creativity and secret imaginary worlds.

Please share some of your writing process.
I am a visual artist, so many of my ideas come from images. I often begin with a storyboard and fill it with text and pictures as I go along. I love precision and humor both in my art and writing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I am writing my fourth book right now and perhaps now is when I must admit that I want to be a writer. I’ve been writing little bits of texts for years, but never took it seriously the way I did with art. I feel like I’m finally finding my own voice as a writer.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
My second book, Typewriter, is coming out in February 2020 from Creative Editions. It is a story of a Russian typewriter that immigrates to America and, once there, becomes completely useless.
I have also just begun working on a new picture book, Mona Lisa in New York, about Renaissance art, graffiti, and love in New York City. It’s coming out in September 2020 from Prestel Books.

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 grew up on Russian books and at the time, we did not have a concept of a picture book the way it is understood in the US. All picture books of my childhood had A LOT of text! My mother, also a visual artist, bought many of my books because she liked illustrations, so my taste for good book art formed quite early.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Find a story that you love- you are going to be stuck with it for a long time!

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’m not a big ice cream lover, so perhaps and avocado flavor? Or bacon?

BIO

Yevgenia Nayberg is an illustrator, painter, and set and costume designer. Her illustrations have appeared in magazines and picture books, and on theatre posters, music albums, and book covers; her paintings, drawings, and illustrations are held in private collections worldwide. As a set and costume designer, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts/TCG Fellowship for Theatre Designers, the Independent Theatre Award and the Arlin Meyer Award. In 2018 she received a Sydney Taylor Silver Medal for her illustrations for Drop by Drop by Jaqueline Jules. Her debut author/illustrator picture book, Anya’s Secret Society, came out in March 2019. Her upcoming books, Typewriter and Mona Lisa in New York will be published in 2020.  She lives in New York City.

Social Media:
My website is www.nayberg.org
Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/znayberg
Facebook
https://facebook.com/nayberg
Anya’s Secret Society on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/anyassecretsociety/
Anya’s book trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz3MRi9o23A
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anyas-Secret-Society-Yevgenia-Nayberg/dp/1580898300

Q & A with Author Ashley Franklin & GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome my friend and talented author Ashley Franklin who wrote the picture book NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE published by HarperCollins. She explains her journey below.

But first, she’s doing a generous GIVEAWAY! Ashley will gifting one lucky winner with her PB, for US residents only please. To enter, please click HERE.

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
My journey to publication was a bit unorthodox. I landed my first agent thanks to #PBPitch. NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE wasn’t the manuscript that piqued her interest because I hadn’t written it yet. It was after many “like it but not in love with it” rejections that I switched gears and started writing new manuscripts, one of which was NQSW. Though I’m no longer with that agent, I appreciate what she did to help find the perfect editor for the story.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Thanks to blog posts from Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm (then PiBoIdMo), I got the idea to look within myself and my experiences for book ideas. I knew I wanted to write an African American princess, and the story took many different shapes until I got to the final product.

Please share some of your writing process.
I write quickly and revise slowly. My process is a puzzle of scribbles and notes from notebooks, my phone, and bits of paper that I assemble once I finally have a pretty good idea of the direction I want to go with a story.
I don’t have a set schedule that I adhere to every day or week. I’m a work from home mom. That doesn’t work for my life. When I get moments to write, I take them, and I make sure that’s where my focus stays.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. As a kid, I had a diary. When frustrated as a teen, I wrote poetry and kept a journal. It just took me a while to realize that I wanted to pursue writing professionally. That really didn’t hit me until I had my first child and was frequently at the library searching for books I wanted him to experience that weren’t problematic, out of touch, or not particularly meaningful to his already lived and likely upcoming experiences (in my opinion).

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I don’t like to be boxed in, so I see myself writing widely—making something for the middle grade audience, dabbling with poetry…so many exciting possibilities

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?
Clearly I turned to fairytales. (I know I’m cheating a little with that.) I also turned to Tammi Sauer’s MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM. I like the idea of taking an old or familiar concept and making it something new.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Well, self-care is important, and I think that’s something we writes tend to put on the back burner—whether that be out of choice or necessity. So, my advice would be this: Nourish yourself first for your ideas to flourish.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Butter pecan—salty, sweet, a bit nutty. That’s me, lol.

BIO
Ashley Franklin is a writer, mother, and adjunct college professor. Ashley received her M.A. from the University of Delaware in English Literature, where she reaffirmed her love of writing but realized she had NO IDEA what she wanted to do about it.
Ashley currently resides in Arkansas with her family. Her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, was released July 9, 2019 by Harper Collins. For more information on Ashley and her writing journey, you can visit her website: www.ashleyfranklinwrites.com

 

Social media savvy?  You can find Ashley on one of these platforms:
Twitter:@differentashley
Facebook: Ashley Franklin
Instagram: @ashleyfranklinwrites

Q & A with author Emma Wunsch & GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Emma Wunsch who wrote the Miranda and Maude chapter book series published by Abrams Books. I’m a huge chapter book fan, and hers are unique. She explains her journey below.

But first, she’s doing a generous GIVEAWAY! Emma will gifting one lucky winner with Book 3 along with M&M stickers and bookmarks! To enter, please comment below on this blog and follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis).

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The journey for the Miranda and Maude series came from telling my then-princess-loving three-year-old daughter a story I made up about a princess named Miranda Rose. She loved the stories, but I quickly got bored and made up an “anti-princess” character named Maude. After years of telling Miranda and Maude stories to my two daughters, I decided to write them down. That three-year-old was ten (and long over princesses) when the first book came out last August.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for the third book in the series RECESS REBELS came directly from hearing about the girl-boy dynamics in my daughters’ classroom. I thought that would a good starting place for the third book; the class gets along so well in BANANA PANTS (book 2), I wanted to shake things up.

Please share some of your writing process.
Whether it’s having a story due to my local writers group or going over a pass for my editor, I thrive with a deadline. When I’m on a deadline I’ll eek out whatever writing time I can find. When I’m not on a deadline, I can be less focused although I know I’m 65% happier when I’m writing. I tend to write fast and then take time to edit. For me, editing is where the real work begins. I love having something—even it’s a terrible first draft (and what first draft isn’t terrible?) and then working to make it better.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first story, in purple crayon, when I was six. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve written in a various forms/styles, for most of my life. But I’ve also had other jobs too. I currently work part-time in donor relations at a college. I’ve taught, worked in a bookstore, and badly waitressed.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Now that are (almost) three Miranda and Maude books, I’d like to do more in the schools. And yes, I have other books that I’m working on. I’d like to publish a MG one day and I have the germ of an idea for another chapter-book series, but it’s much too early to talk aboutJ!

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?
As a kid, I couldn’t get enough Judy Blume. I read Superfudge so much I memorized the first three pages. The characters in Judy Blume’s books are relatable and extremely funny. I think (and so does my eleven-year-old) that Kate DiCamillo is a national treasure. We adore the books in the Raymie Nightingale trilogy. Her language is poetic, precise, and no one is better at naming characters.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
In my experience the world of publishing is so much out of my control that the only thing I feel I can completely control is the actual writing. If I don’t do that nothing else can happen.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’d be mint-chocolate chip because that was my favorite when I was a kid.

BIO
Emma Wunsch is the author of the YA The Movie Version and the chapter-book series Miranda and Maude. The third book in the series (Miranda and Maude: Recess Rebels) will be published in early September. Emma’s short fiction has been published in a variety of journals including: The Tishman Review, Passages North, The Best of the Bellevue Review, Lit, J Journal, and The Brooklyn Review. Her story “Looking for Cat Stevens” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017.  Emma is currently working on a collection of short stories.

www.mirandaandmaude.com
Twitter :  @emmawunsch
FB: @emmawunschauthor

Books can be purchased anywhere, including here: https://www.norwichbookstore.com/emma-wunsch-recess-rebels-miranda-maude-3-signed-copies) (they have signed copies!)

Q & A with author Chris Tebbetts

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Chris Tebbetts. You may know him from his multiple collaborations with James Patterson in the wildly successful Middle School series. He just published a new YA book, Me, Myself & Him with Delacorte Press. He explains his journey below.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
What a long, strange trip it’s been! My first dip into this story started as a short creative nonfiction essay, about the night I broke my nose after passing out huffing whippets behind the ice cream store where I worked in high school. I had no idea at the time that that little autobiographical piece would become the prologue for a novel, but it did…eventually.
I wrote ME, MYSELF, AND HIM slowly, over the course of about fifteen years, including long stretches where it sat in a figurative drawer while I kept busy earning a living on other projects. Eventually, my agent suggested trying to sell this book on partial manuscript, with the idea that a sale would force my hand and compel me to finish it once and for all—which is exactly what happened. We got four offers on the book, accepted Delacorte’s proposal, and I was off and running toward the finish line from there.
I’d love to say that this book just flowed right out of me, but the truth is, I’ve always needed a deadline to get anything done. For what it’s worth, I also believe it’s better to understand and adapt to my own creative process than to sit around wishing I were a different kind of writer. That was one of the real lessons from this project.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I have to give a nod to the movie Sliding Doors here. That was the first time I ever saw someone tackle this kind of parallel-narrative structure, following one character through two different outcomes from the same inciting incident. I’ve always been fascinated with that kind of “what if?’ question. What if I’d done X instead of Y at any given moment? How would (and wouldn’t) that choice have changed my life? The book is very much about those kinds of questions.
That said, when I first started writing ME, MYSELF, AND HIM, it was meant to be a traditional, single-narrative novel, where my main character, Chris Schweitzer, is shipped off to live with his father in California after a drug-fueled accident. But as I got to writing…and writing…and writing my early chapters, I couldn’t seem to get Chris out of his Ohio hometown. It was like the story itself was trying to tell me something, and so I decided to listen. That eventually led me to the idea of letting him stay home for the summer and get shipped off to live with his dad. Both.

Please share some of your writing process.
This is my 21st published novel, although virtually all of my previous work has been co-authored (including the MIDDLE SCHOOL series with James Patterson and the STRANDED series with Jeff Probst). With all the co-authoring, it’s been necessary to work from an outline. But on this book, for the first time, I really just jumped in with both feet and let the story take me where it wanted to take me. That’s part of what took me so long to write it, but it’s also been a more organic (if laborious) process than ever, in a way that I really enjoyed.
And even though I would call this a character-driven story, I’d also say that a lot of the characters themselves grew out of the themes I knew I wanted to write about. My fascination with theoretical physics and the multiverse, for example, grew into a physicist father for my main character. And my own memories of being a gay third wheel to my straight friends in high school led me to the strained three-way friendship between Chris and his two besties, Wexler and Anna.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The thing I always knew on some level was that I wanted to be a storyteller of one sort or another. My first love was books, and I was a voracious reader as a kid. But from there, I got heavily into theater, and then filmmaking, and then back into theater, where I spent my twenties as a starving artist-director in NYC. I loved all of those experiences, but something about just wasn’t clicking for me.
Eventually, I landed in Vermont where the writing took hold again—and specifically, writing for young readers. That was when I stopped treating my storytelling like a hobby and started taking the business end of it seriously—looking for an agent, researching the markets, traveling to workshops and conferences, etc. And for me, that was when I realized, almost retroactively, that I’d found something I wanted to do for the long haul.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’ve always admired the chameleons of the world more than the specialists—people like Lois Lowry and M.T. Anderson. Accordingly, I aspire to write as many different kinds of things as I can. I’m following up the YA contemporary realistic world of ME, MYSELF, AND HIM with a middle grade novel that is larger than life, silly, weird, and written for a much younger audience. (I can’t say any more, though, because I’m superstitious that way!)

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?
Roald Dahl was an absolute favorite when I was a kid, in part for the way he wasn’t afraid of being dark, and weird, and also in the way he never condescended to his audience. I don’t think my stuff is as dark as his, but he really set me in motion as a storyteller when I first discovered novels, way back in the day. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH remains an all-time favorite of mine.
In terms of a contemporary story, I’ve felt as though Louis Sachar’s HOLES was just about perfect. I love the way it works like a giant puzzle, laying out the pieces and then bringing them together in an unexpected way. I love how Sachar wasn’t afraid of that story’s complexity but also based it in a very simple and hook-worthy premise.
Lastly, I’m going to cheat and mention a few more books. One thing I’ve been noticing a lot lately is the way some of my favorite authors honestly capture the dark side of life and the great beauty of the world, all swirled up together in one story. Two of my recent favorites do exactly that: Padma Venkatraman’s THE BRIDGE HOME and Jo Knowles’ WHERE THE HEART IS.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Get used to feeling uncomfortable and accept it as part of the creative process. Writing is all about finding my way—which in turn is inevitably about feeling lost at some point. For me, that kind of discomfort—that wandering in the dark with no guarantee of success—is one of the biggest obstacles to finishing a story. It happens on every project, which is good to remember. My greatest optimism comes from the conviction that if I haven’t figured out a story yet, it doesn’t mean I never will. It just means I haven’t thought about it long and hard enough. The answer is always there, if I’m patient enough

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Anything with cinnamon! I’ve loved cinnamon, big-time, all my life. Ben and Jerry’s makes a cinnamon bun flavor in pints that I only allow myself once in a while, but…..YUM.

BIO
Chris Tebbetts is the author and co-author of many books for young readers. His 2019 titles include the YA novel, Me, Myself, and Him as well as Middle School: Born to Rock, which is part of the #1 New York Times bestselling Middle School series he writes with James Patterson. Other titles include the bestselling Stranded series with Jeff Probst; the young adult novel M or F? with Lisa Papademetriou; and The Viking series.  His work has received children’s choice awards in Oregon and Hawaii, as well a Sunshine State Young Readers Award nomination, and a nod on the New York Public Library’s annual list of Books For the Teen Age. He is a native of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and currently lives in Vermont.

www.christebbetts.com
Twitter and Instagram @christebbetts
Purchase ME, MYSELF, AND HIM: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781524715229

Q & A with author Michael Sussman plus GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Michael Sussman. He just published his kidlit book, Duckworth the Difficult Child with Atheneum Books for Young Readers. He explains his journey below. Michael is generously giving away a FREE copy of his book. All you have to do is comment on this blog and I will pick a random winner within a week!

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
Although it typically takes me much longer, I wrote this story in a month or two. I hired one freelance editor for developmental editing and another for line editing, and then submitted the manuscript to agents. I signed with Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, who loved the story, and she was able to sell it to Emma Ledbetter at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I worked with Emma for two months on polishing the story, and then she brought Júlia Sardà on board, a world-class illustrator centered in Barcelona. Júlia was already committed to about a year’s worth of projects, so it was a little over three years from offer to publication.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The story was inspired by a visual image, which is unusual for me since I have aphantasia, a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery.
One summer evening, while taking a stroll, an image flashed through my mind of a snake that had swallowed a child. As I imagined the bulge working its way down the length of the serpent, it struck me as a compelling (if somewhat macabre) basis for a picture book. I worried that my concept might be too scary for young children, unless I made it a funny story. So, I decided to model the tale after one of my favorite books, The Shrinking of Treehorn, by Florence Parry Heide and Edward Gorey, in which a boy named Treehorn finds himself shrinking, which his parents are too oblivious to notice.

Please share some of your writing process.
I am a devoted pantser, since I abhor outlines. I like to make up the story as I go along, and want to be as surprised as the reader at what happens next. One drawback to this approach—which I call “writing from your subconscious”—is that I often have absolutely no idea how the story ends!
I am not someone who writes every day, since I am utterly useless without my muse. Although I struggle to come up with good ideas, once I’ve got one, I can write day and night without distraction. For me, the creative process is what keeps me going in life—especially since my son went off to college—and nothing compares to those periods when my writing is flowing and my imagination takes flight.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved to read and I devoured stacks of novels as a teen, sometimes imagining becoming a novelist. I started keeping a journal when I was around fifteen, writing poems, song lyrics, diary-like entries, and also making doodles and drawings. I also took creative writing classes in high school, focusing on short stories. Later in life, I published a rewrite of my doctoral dissertation, A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy. I focused on professional writing until about twenty years ago, when I became obsessed with writing fiction.

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 picture books and novels, and perhaps screenplays. I’ve just completed an MG novel, which is currently being subbed, as well as a sequel to Duckworth.

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?
There are too many to just pick two! For children’s literature, my greatest inspiration has come from Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Florence Parry Heide (The Treehorn Trilogy), William Steig (Spinky Sulks), David Small (Imogene’s Antlers), and M.T. Anderson (Feed).

The novelists who have influenced my writing the most include Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume), Kurt Vonnegut (Welcome to the Monkey House), Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics), Paul Auster (New York Trilogy), Aimee Bender (Willful Creatures), Christopher Moore (Island of the Sequined Love Nun), and Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters). These authors tend toward quirky, unconventional fiction that is full of humor, suspense, and surprises.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Let your subconscious lead the way.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Ben & Jerry’s Imagine Whirled Peace, because as Lau Tzu—the ancient Chinese philosopher—said: “If you do not change your direction, you may end up where you are going.”

BIO

Michael Sussman, Psy.D., is a retired clinical psychologist, residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received his BA in Music Composition from Hampshire College, his doctorate from Hahnemann University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Menninger Foundation. Sussman has worked in hospitals, counseling centers, private practice, and as a clinical instructor at Harvard University.
Sussman’s first book—A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy—was a main selection for America’s largest psychotherapy-related book club, and was released as a paperback in 2007. He also edited and contributed to A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice, published by Wiley.
Sussman’s debut picture book—Otto Grows Down—was published by Sterling in 2009, with illustrations by Scott Magoon. His debut YA novel—Crashing Eden—was released by Solstice Publishing in 2012. And his psychological thriller—Incognolio—was published in 2017 by Janx Press.

Author website: MichaelSussmanBooks.com
Twitter: @MichaelBSussman
Instagram: michael_sussman
Duckworth at Amazon: amazon.com/Duckworth-Difficult-Child
Duckworth at IndieBound: www.indiebound.org/book/