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<<August 2014>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: author, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 557
26. Welcome KC Blake–vampire fighter, werewolf hunter and creature of the night stalker (in a good way, not in that creepy way everyone else stalks creatures of the night)


This Fun Friday The Society of YA Storyteller authors are all interviewing fellow authors! I’m the lucky one who hosts KC Blake today. Interested in stories that will keep you up long into the night? Just read one of KC’s books and you’ll see why you’ll want to read them all. When you get to the end of the interview and want to read more, there’s links to all the author interviews. Stop by each of the blogs and read about one of your favorite or future favorite authors. Click here to check out the The YA Society of Storytellers website and check out the game zone, online book club, trailers and giveaways too.

Any works in process that you are passionate about?  I am working on Warrior right now.  It is the third in the Order of the Spirit Realm Series, and I’m having a blast because I know these characters so well.  It will be hard when I finish and have to say goodbye.

Werewolf or Vampire? Vampire or Zombie? Aliens or Mole People?  Werewolf (pasty white boys don’t do it for me).  Vampire (easier to kill).  Aliens (the other is too weird).

Which of your characters is most like you?  Bay-Lee Van Helsing from Bait.  I don’t give up no matter what (I’m just stubborn that way), and I keep going no matter what life throws at me.  I’m also driven (to write, not to kill werewolves).

Which of your characters is least like you?  Lily from Witch Hunt. The girl never knows when to shut her mouth. She is constantly talking about stupid things and doesn’t notice when her friends want to slap her.

Which of your characters would you like to be friends with?  Kristen from Crushed because she is a witch with crazy powers, but she isn’t irresponsible so I don’t have to worry about her turning me into anything weird.  She would use her magic to help me out.

Which of your characters do you like writing about most?  Nick Gallos from Bait because he was an undercover rock star slash vampire slayer.  He’s angry and bitter, until he falls for Bay-Lee.  Definitely my favorite.

Tell us about your favorite Christmas tradition.  On Christmas Eve we drink hot cocoa and open up one present.  We also watch a Christmas movie.  Then on Christmas morning we eat breakfast before opening presents.  The rest of the day is spent visiting family, maybe watching another Christmas movie, and playing in the snow if we are lucky enough to have some.

Paperback or eBook?  Depends.  I love my Kindle, but I want my books in print if they are keepers.

Future plans?  After I finish up the Order of the Spirit Realm series, I am going to finish my vampire series.  Then I would like to move on to a series about other worlds and dragons.

Check out the other YA Storyteller interviews:

K.C. Blake
Bryna Butler
Heather Hildenbrand
Patti Larsen
Quinn Loftis
Liz Long
Melissa Pearl
L.M. Preston
Stacey Rourke
Christy Sloat
Heather Sutherlin
Suzy Turner

0 Comments on Welcome KC Blake–vampire fighter, werewolf hunter and creature of the night stalker (in a good way, not in that creepy way everyone else stalks creatures of the night) as of 12/13/2013 3:26:00 AM
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27. The start of the festive season with Children’s laureate Alison Lester!

Sarah Davis award winning illustrator with keynote at CBCA Christmas dinnerAlison Lester Children's Laurete Australia with author Laurine Croasdale Alison Lester Children’s Laureate and Sarah Davies award winning illustrator and friend were the keynotes at the Children’s Book Council Christmas dinner. Heaps of authors and illustrators celebrated with the community of book lovers.

Society of Women Writers (SWW)  in the Mitchell Library – with its heritage sandstone columns and magnificent rooms – addressed by Professor Yerbury – introduced by historian and author Maria Hill, who’s the President of the Society of Women Writers.

Wonderful event.

Unleased Festival with festival convenor Jodie Wells Slowgrove – who organised a weekend festival of authors and publishers. it was a buzz!  Linda Jaivin gave insight into her travels and life in  China – she was so entertaining. Read her books!

Tim ferguson comedian author who manages his MS with style and humour.  Publishers including Paul Collins Ford Street Publishing, Zoe Walton RandomHouse, Heather Curdie Penguin.

But BEST fun was being won by Maureen Johnson (author of Boofheads and many other books)  to give her a mini mentorship. Love doing it and watch out for her new series!

authors Meredith Costain, Paul Collins, Tracey Hawkins, Libby Gleeson and brian Cook


The post The start of the festive season with Children’s laureate Alison Lester! appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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28. The Christmas Owl


We are thrilled to announce the release of our latest children’s book, The Christmas Owl.  This ebook is available at a special discounted price of $.99 through November 14th on Amazon.  We have also released this book on Barnes & Noble.  A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.

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29. That would be excellent


I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!

As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.

In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:

Cute, huh? She named him Roger.

And here are a few snippets from the letter:

"I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent."


"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."

I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:

I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.

See, I can predict the future!

4 Comments on That would be excellent, last added: 10/31/2013
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30. The Christmas Owl Trailer



Well, we’ve attempted our first book trailer for our latest creation, The Christmas Owl.  Click the cover to view our trailer.

This story follows a Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.

COMING NOVEMBER 2013 to Amazon. 

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31. Example of Great YA Discussion Guide & Promo Piece

I am posting this because I think all of us should be thinking past having a website, blog, and a facebook page and start thinking about selling our books. This is an excellent discussion guide for Lauren Oliver’s fabulous book, PANDEMONIUM. With this one piece she is showing that she is a true professional, generating interest in reading her book, and providing content for teachers to encourage them to invite her in to their school. Are you putting out something this high end? Next week I will share an excellent middle grade discussion guide and a picture book discussion guide. I hope these will get you thinking about doing more than just putting up a website and hoping someone calls.laurenoliverflyer

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, Book, How to, inspiration, Marketing a book, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Book Discussion Guide, Getting school visits, HarperCollins, Lauren Oliver, Panemonium

6 Comments on Example of Great YA Discussion Guide & Promo Piece, last added: 10/18/2013
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32. When It Comes in Threes: Chapter 3 “Meet My Daddy”

This is Chapter 3 of the new novel I’m working on.  This book is a piece of Young Adult Fiction.  Young readers should be particularly advised that this chapter is harsh, and if this were a movie, it would be given a PG-13 rating.  Chapters 1 and 2 are published here also at www.toniaalengould.com. I’m uncertain how many chapters I will publish here on this blog.  Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated, and please kindly note that this is only fairly edited to this point.

Meet My Daddy

Last night, when the house was quiet and nothing was keeping the room lit but for the dime store digital alarm clock Mama got me and Bartlett for Christmas last year; my sister broke the night’s calm by shifting her weight and turning over in her bed to face me in mine.  “Barley, you awake?” she whispered.  Not waiting for me to answer she continued, “It’s real late and daddy ain’t home yet. When he gets in, I don’t want you to make one single, solitary sound in here, no matter what happens.  You hear me?” Bartlett pleaded.  I shivered and pulled the covers tighter over my body and used the top of them to wipe the tears that already began to roll as big as dimes down my cheek and said, “Uh huh, I hear you,” I said, knowing she was right and that the shit was about to hit the fan.  I tried to muster a voice inside me big and loud, but what came out of my mouth squeaked like one of those kangaroo mice that we occasionally caught meekly poking their heads out of our paneled wood walls, disappearing as quickly as they came, here and gone again, just like my tears now.  My whole body began to tremble and shake and my feet were so cold, it felt like I had popsicles for toes.

Bartlett rose up out of her bed looking like a ghost or something, looming over me like that in her cotton white nightgown; her face was nothing but a shadow in the darkness, and for a second, I thought I was dreaming or having a nightmare or something.  I pinched myself sharply and only when I felt the pain was I certain she was real and not a figment of my imagination.  Finally, she sat down on the edge of my bed.  “Sit up for a second,” she said, as she pulled back the covers and tugged at my arms, effortlessly bringing me up next to her.  I couldn’t make out her face in the darkness, although her white cotton nightgown seemed to illuminate the whole bedroom.   She stroked my long, dark hair and whispered in my ear.  I know she could feel me trembling beside her, and even though sometimes I hated her, I was so grateful for my sister’s warmth tonight.  “Shhh,” she said.  “Maybe it won’t be so bad this time.  Give me a hug and try to go on back to sleep now and remember that no matter what happens, you stay in this here bed and don’t get outta it for anything, until Kingdom come if you have to, or at least until I say so” she said, as she pulled me tighter in next to her body.  I hugged her limply, like something had sucked the bones out of me and I was nothing but a gob of dangling, cold skin, but it weren’t for but a second, before she got up and paced across the room to check on Graham, who was sleeping soundly in his own bed.  I knew Bartlett would be by his side stifling him, muzzling his mouth if she had to, if things got really ugly.  So I just laid there—cold and limp, a lifeless, waiting, trembling, hoping and praying mass-of-a-child.  If you’ve never had the experience, waiting for something bad to happen feels like all the oxygen has been snatched-up outta the air, your throat and lips feel awfully dry, you can’t hardly swallow your own spit for the lump in your throat won’t let it go down, and it’s as if the Earth collapsed and shattered to giants chunks of rubble around you, pinning you in and leaving you breathless.  Yes.  Waiting feels like something big and looming and enormous like that.

Another hour or so must’ve passed as we laid there in silence before the headlights from daddy’s ’59 Impala finally ricocheted off the walls and reflected from the mirror that sat on top of our dresser.  The light was so bright, it was blinding, and it felt like Lord Jesus had come to take us home.  I could hear the tires spitting-up gravel from the driveway and the pistons rumble and fade away into the darkness once Daddy turned off the ignition.  Moments pass and he finally gets out of the car, slamming the door forcibly as he exits.  Then the thud, thud, thud of his feet comin’ up the porch steps, tromping the whole way.  Suddenly, I became consumed by each and every sound my father was making, each noise was a siren, a warning call that rang loud and true and into the stillness of the night.  It was almost more than I could bear, waitin’ for my Daddy to find his keys and enter the trailer.  I wasn’t breathing, but I wasn’t holding my breath neither, it’s like I had my foot stomped on and was punched in the belly all at the same time.   Rattle, Rattle, rattle; he fumbled with the doorknob, turned it, and then finally fell into the kitchen which was right outside our bedroom.  He was struggling to find the light switch; I could hear him grasping at the walls, groping the wood paneling, and scraping the dinette chairs across the floor as he clumsily made his way to the light switch across the small kitchen.

From where I was laying, I could see the dark outline of his body through the crack in our bedroom door.  I screeched a bit when he finally turned on the light, it surprised me so much, since I had become particularly fixated on all the sounds he was making and due to the suspense of it all. Bartlett shushed me again, but fortunately Daddy hadn’t heard me. Bartlett was right, it was best to pretend I was asleep, but I couldn’t help but watch through that small opening in our bedroom door.

I wanted to roll over in my bed and face Bartlett, but it was too darn late, I had to lay still, or I might’ve caught Daddy’s attention, so I watched as he tried to navigate around the kitchen. Daddy has knocked over a chair, and I watch as he stumbled and fell forward, trying to pick it up.  When he finally brought the chair upright, he heaved his body into and lit himself up a Marlboro, and thankfully the whole trailer fell quiet again.  We can hear Mama as she slowly eased herself up out of her bed through the paper thin walls leading to the bedroom next to ours.  The rickety old box springs from the cast iron bed Mama and Daddy got from a flea market, is the only thing to break the silence.  “No Mama,” I prayed.  “Please don’t get up.  Let him be.  Don’t go in there,” I prayed.  But I  knew God wasn’t listening to Barley Sullivan tonight, because I watched as Mama drowsily entered the kitchen, wiping the sleep out of her reddened eyes.  I could see that mom had been crying, and guessed probably she had cried the whole night long.  The stench of the alcohol on Daddy’s breath, and what smells like a somewhat familiar perfume now permeates the air throughout the entire trailer.  Mama is ten shades of mad because Daddy has been out so late.  She glances around the kitchen in disbelief. “Earl, it looks like a God-damned circus ran through here,” she says as she stoops to pick up an errant chair up off the floor.  Mama’s right.  It was a circus in there and unbeknownst to her; she just stepped into the lion’s lair.  Like I’ve said before, Mama didn’t have too much common sense.

“You think ya can just saunter on in here, any old time ya God-damned want, drunker than a skunk and smellin’ like June’s cheap-ass perfume all the time?  I’m getting pretty fuckin’ sick and tired of it, Earl!” she yells.  “If my brother John gets a hold of you, he’s gonna kill you for runnin’ around with her like that.  What?  You think I don’t know?  I’m not fuckin’ stupid,” my Mama laughs. The argument ensues, both of them screaming back and forth at one another, but some of what they are talking about makes absolutely no sense to me—like what does Aunt June have to do with any of this, anyway?  It’s all over my head, and Daddy is so belligerent, I can’t make sense of what he is saying at all.  Their voices rise another octave, and the neighbor’s dog, George, begins to bark and that beckons other dogs in the trailer park to wake and come alive with their unrelenting barking.  Daddy’s voice suddenly shifts to a dangerous tone, and I can feel it in my gut.  It’s too late, there’s no undoing what’s Mama’s done.  She has incensed my father.

Despite Bartlett’s admonishment, I sit up on the side of my bed, my legs dangling, holding on tightly to the stuffed monkey I got from that time I got put in the hospital when my appendix almost burst.  Doctor Cooper gave him to me.  I loved that stuffed monkey because he reminded me of a special time.   For two weeks, while I was in the hospital, I got to eat all the ice cream I ever wanted, there weren’t any televisions on blaring loudly twenty-four-hours a day, and Daddy and Mama weren’t there fighting about things I just didn’t understand, like they were doing tonight.  Hell, Mama and Daddy barely even came to see me when I was in the hospital back when I was only just nine-years-old, and oddly enough, I was okay with that. Those two weeks were the first time in my life I had ever experienced what silence was.  I could think there in the hospital.  I wasn’t all wound-up and scared all the time.  In fact, it felt like I had boarded a plane, and landed in some faraway perfect place.  For a kid like me, growing up in a trailer park, staying in a hospital feels something like staying at one of those fine resorts I read about in one of those magazines Jeannie Bell had down in her parlor shop in town.  Bartlett breaks me away from my reverie and whispered loudly again, “Lie back down and pretend that you’re asleep!  If Daddy sees you, he’ll up and come on in here and whoop us both.  Do it now!”

But I don’t listen to Bartlett.  My body feels possessed by someone bigger and braver than me.  Instead, I continue to rock myself gently back and forth, trying to will away the feuding coming from the other room.   Daddy is cursing something fierce, and then I hear him push a chair out of his way as he crosses over to Mama where I can’t see them anymore.   I knew better, and despite all of Bartlett’s warnings, I got up and tip-toed myself across the floor to the door and stepped quietly over to the other side of it to peer through the crack to see where my Mama and Daddy are standing on the other side of the kitchen.  Daddy’s already got her pressed right up against the wall, his arm pinned across her throat and he is yelling directly into her face.  He’s so mad, I can see little droplets of spittle flying into the air as he screams at her.  And then, before I can digest what I am seeing, I watch in outright horror as Daddy leans over and picks up one of those fallen chairs and busts it right across my Mama’s head.  She falters and falls hard to the ground, moaning in anguish, her body is now a lifeless heap strewn clear across the floor in a pink, cotton-candy-colored, terry-cloth robe.  With a grumble underneath his breath, my Daddy steps over her body, like she’s nothing more than the day’s trash, and stumbles into their bedroom.  I watch him hoist his fully-clothed body onto that old bed, the sheer weight of him causes those box springs to creak and whine again, and almost immediately, the sound of his snoring breaks the dead quiet silence of daybreak.  The morning light is already filtering in through the windows, casting morning sun on my poor mother, splayed out on the floor in her pink robe.

Mama was lying perfectly still on the floor, and I was almost certain she was dead.  A thin, red trickle of blood oozed from a wide, deep gash on her forehead.  I was crying, but my sobs were coming from some subterranean part of myself.  Even if I wanted to, I could not project any noise; I had learned so early on in life to stifle my emotions and to filter my own pain.  My stomach was heaving in and out while a steady train of new tears rolled down my face.  It took every ounce of my courage to walk over to Mama to see if she was breathing or dead.  Just as I crossed over the kitchen and came to her side, my mother looked up at me, surprised to see me and immediately placed her right index finger next to her lips and mouthed the word “Shhhhh!”  I leaned over her and gave her my hand, which she gratefully took, and I helped her up off the cold, hard linoleum tiles.  Without saying a word, she led me back to my room where Bartlett stood crying at the door, holding Graham in her arms; he was almost too big for her carry.  He was buried deep in her bosom and I knew Bartlett hadn’t let him see anything that went on in the kitchen.  “Go on back in there now, you three.  Ain’t nothin’ more to see out here tonight,” Mama said as she motioned us back into our bedroom. “I’m ok,” she said, “It’s just nothin’ but a little bump on the head.  Y’all go back to sleep, and stay good and quiet in here, you hear me?” she whispered.   Mama led me back into our room, where she tucked me into bed, checked on Graham who rolled over immediately and went back to sleep, and then looked thankfully towards Bartlett.  Then with some degree of dignity, she straightened her back and walked out of our room and back into the kitchen.

The door to our room was left cracked open again and I watched as she lit herself a cigarette, inhaling the smoke deeply into her lungs where she savored it a moment until she finally exhaled, and then she sat down at the dinette table, drew her feet up onto the chair and rested her head on her knees, her body trembling from head-to-toe as she silently watered her lap with her tears.  I wanted to go to her again, but I knew if I did, she would retaliate on me just to prove she was still strong and in charge, like she had done so many times before after a beating from Daddy, so I just laid there and saw her arms heave up and down as she cried, watching as the early morning light cleansed and clarified the kitchen, hoping for a new and brighter day.

0 Comments on When It Comes in Threes: Chapter 3 “Meet My Daddy” as of 9/29/2013 9:16:00 PM
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33. Book Give-A-Way & Dianne Ochiltree Interview

dianneflwrscroppedDianne Ochiltree has been writing stories and poems since she was a child growing up in a small Midwestern town. Today, she is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her picture book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE has been a selection for the Dollywood Fourndation’s national literacy program, and her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter received the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012. Her earlier books have been translated into foreign language and Braille editions as well as audio versions. For more information about Dianne and her books, go to http://www.ochiltreebooks.com. Dianne lives in sunny Sarasota, Florida with her husband, Jim, and the family pets.

betsyfireflyHer books have appeared on several recommended reading lists nationwide, including the Bank Street College Children’s Book Committee ‘year’s best’, and the Dollywood Foundation’s national childhood literacy program, ‘imagination library’.

IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT is illustrated by Betsy Snyder who was featured last December on Illustrator Saturday. If you would like to see that post, here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/illustrator-saturday-betsy-snyder/

Dianne has agreed to give everyone a chance to win one of three signed copies of IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT. All you have to do is leaves a comment to get their name in the hat one time. If you would like to collect more entries in the hat, you can increase your chances by do the following:

1 entry everything you tweet this link (One a day).

1 entry for putting this link on facebook

1 entry for putting up this post on your blog.

2 entries if you reblog this post.

5 entries if you talk about the book on your facebook page or blog.

Please come back and leave an update on what you did by Friday October 5th in the comment section, so I know how many times to put your name in the hat for the drawing. I will announce the winner on Sunday October 7th.

Here is the interview I had with Dianne.

I know you have been writing since you were a little kid, but how did you hone your writing skills as a serious writer?

Great question! First, I made the commitment to write something very day.  Depending on the particular day, some days it was 20 pages and other days it was only notes on a future project.  The important thing was to make the writing a daily priority.  Second, I made a list of what I didn’t know about writing for young readers and the children’s publishing  industry.  (Initially, a very long list!)  Then I set off on a crash course to gain the knowledge I needed to write effectively for this market.  I read books, magazine articles, and blogs on the topics.  I took a couple of in-person and online classes.  Most important, I joined SCBWI.  The first year in the business, I attended eight regional and national conferences, where the workshops and presenters shared valuable tips on the craft and business of writing for children.  I networked with fellow beginning writers.  I found experienced writers who generously offered me guidance from time to time.  I joined two critique groups where I could not only bring my own writing skills up to speed, but also learn from evaluating other writers’ work.  Oh yes, it ‘takes a village’ to raise a children’s writer!

Were the first things you wrote, poems?

Yes, little poems about pets and flowers and that sort of thing.  Also scripts for puppet shows.  I made hand puppets from paper lunch bags and construction paper.  My third grade teacher let me do puppet shows for my book reports because I was so shy!  Before learning to actually read or  write, I drew little ‘picture books’ using recycled paper sheets , bound with punch holes and yarn.

Did you start out knowing that you wanted to writer for children?

Not at all.  I just wrote things without thought about intended readership or publication at first.  It was just for fun.

Have you done any other type of writing?

My first job was as an advertising copywriter.  My first writing career, as staff writer and freelancer, was in marketing/advertising/public relations. I have written poems and personal essays for adult readers, too.

When did you get your first picture book published?

My first book for children, CATS ADD UP!, was published in 1998 as a title in the ‘Hello, Reader!’ series from Scholastic.  This was especially exciting to be published by Scholastic, because when I was a kid, most of my reading material came from those monthly book club offerings.

How did that happen?

I’d applied for the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference with a writing sample, an early draft of that first published book, and was accepted.  My mentor that day was Paula Danziger.  Not only did she give me priceless writing advice…she introduced me to an editor at Scholastic who agreed to look at my manuscript once I’d made revisions based on her input.

Are all your picture books in rhyme?

No.  All three of my ‘Hello Reader!” series titles are in prose, as is my 2012 Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter.

Do you have an agent? If not, would like to find one?

No, I do not currently have an agent.  And YES, of course, I’d love to have representation.  It’s not just the negotiation for the initial contract in which a literary agent makes a key difference—it’s the on-going interface with the publisher on issues such as subsidiary rights in which having an agent on your side can make a big impact.

Not counting your latest book, which book are you most proud of?

Now you’re asking me to name the equivalent of my favorite child—tough question! So, while I love all my books, I am proud of LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006) for being on the Dollywood Foundation’s ‘Imagination Library’ list for many years running.  Because of this, thousands of families with infants have received a free copy of the book in the mail for their own little ones.  These are parents who could not otherwise afford books for their kids.  Also proud that the ‘Molly’ book won the 2012 Florida Book Awards bronze medal in the children’s literature category.

Do you have a regular writing schedule?

The only regular thing about my writing schedule is that I write something each day:  a journal entry, a blog post, or chunks of a manuscript.  It’s all good.

I see you do yoga. Do you feel that helps you write better?

Yes, I’m a Yoga Alliance 200-hour RYT instructor and devoted lifelong learner.  And yes, it helps tremendously.  As an instructor or student, my observational skills need to be engaged at a high level.  This also helps make writing shine, taking notice of all the details.  There is a meditative state that practicing yoga and writing share.  By connecting with your true self, or your creative self, your work on the mat and at the keyboard will exceed your expectations.  There is also an element of non-judgment of effort and non-attachment to results that frees up a yoga practice and writing efforts alike. I believe so strongly in the corollary processes that I teach a ‘zen and the pen’ workshop from time to time.

Can you tell us the story and journey behind your new book, It’s a Firefly Night?

It’s been a long and happy journey with that manuscript.  I think my first draft of the story dates to 2003.  It was prompted by my memory of sharing ‘firefly nights’ with my own father.  From him, I learned an appreciation of—and a respect for—the natural world. That’s a lesson as valuable today as it was in the 60’s.  Catching fireflies on a summer night was one of the rare times I had one-on-one time with my father. My father passed away when I was 18 years old, so of course working creatively with any ‘daddy memory’ is a special pleasure for me.  It has also been a joy to connect with that childlike sense of wonder while crafting this manuscript.  My goal was to share the feeling of magical, barefoot, starry summer nights of long-ago with today’s kids.  I also hope that the book inspires today’s parents to get out there  and share some nature outings with their children.

What number of books does this book bring you up to now?

I think it’s 11.

Have any of your books been put out as an e-book?

Yes, some of my Scholastic books are now offered as an e-book.  Both original Scholastic publications and picture books that were subsequently sold to Scholastic for paperback and other rights.

Do you have any thoughts on why some writer’s get published and others do not?

Some writers do the homework and some do not.  Some writers can receive editorial input and utilize it effectively, some cannot.  Some writers can handle rejection, others cannot. Some writers give up, others do not.  The biggest difference?  Published writers are not quitters.

Do you have any suggestions on how to market yourself to editors and publishers?

Simply, be professional.  Know what they do or do not publish.  Ask informed questions.  Use appropriate communication channels for your queries and pitches.  Only present your most polished work.

What are you working on now?

A book proposal for a juvenile biography, plus a narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript.

Do you have any words of wisdom for unpublished writers?

I’m not really qualified to give anything as profound as words of wisdom…but I will mention that it’s important to find out what makes your writing stand out from other authors, which is another way of saying what makes you unique, then go for it!  Let your writing express your viewpoint on life, as well as your personality.  You were called to be a writer because there is something you really need to say to young readers.  Make that connection with every word on the page.

Thank you Dianne for sharing your time to answer todays, interview questions. I have your book and it is a great addition to my picture book collection and thank you for your generous offer to let three people win signed copies of your book.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, authors and illustrators, bio, Book, Interview, Picture Book Tagged: book give-a-way, Children's Book Author, dianne Ochiltree, It's a Firefly Night

7 Comments on Book Give-A-Way & Dianne Ochiltree Interview, last added: 9/27/2013
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34. Author Dorit Sasson Talks About Writing

The Writer's Life with Author, Dorit Sasson Today, I’m pleased to be hosting Day 2 of a 5-day virtual book tour, sponsored by the Working Writer's Club, for Dorit Sasson’s two new books: Speaking and Writing for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success with K-6 Reading and Listening for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success for K-

9 Comments on Author Dorit Sasson Talks About Writing, last added: 9/12/2013
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35. Interview: Patrick Flores-Scott

So many people have been commenting about how eager they are to read Jumped In that I thought an interview with author Patrick Flores-Scott might be a good thing. Jumped In is his first novel.
Macmillan, 2013

Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don’t be late to class. Don’t ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an option—Luis will destroy him. Told in Sam’s raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a very small town called North Bend, in the Snoqualmie Valley, just east of Seattle Washington. It’s where the show “Twin Peaks” was shot.
Do you have any pets?
Not yet. My wife and I have two little boys and they have a bunch of stuffed animals. I’m quite certain there will be a dog in our not too distant future.
What do you enjoy watching on television?

My wife and I are seriously amped for the next installment of Sherlock. It’s too long of a wait. We got sucked into the soap opera that is Homeland and we watch Modern Family regularly. It feels like it’s time for something new, so if your readers have suggestions (any genre), we’re all ears.

Meat or vegetables? 
I have to say meat. Both of my grandfathers were meat farmers (sheep and cattle). I was destined to be a meat eater. However, I love grilled and roasted veggies.
Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?
I struggled to finish books as a kid. I could read, but I had some massive concentration issues. However, I loved reading the Sports section and reading sports biographies. I read one about Jim Thorpe and one about Pele that come to mind. I was fascinated by those guys. I had another book that had one or two page biographies of a bunch of American sports legends. I saved up for that one and bought it myself at B. Dalton. I kept it by my bed for a long time.

What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?

I’m totally into How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz, and Blasphemy, Sherman Alexie’s short story collection. I just got through a John Green marathon. I hadn’t read any of his books. Too popular, or something. I finally had to give in and see what the fuss was all about. I read The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, and Looking for Alaska. I loved all three and they have me fully inspired heading into the re-write of my second novel. 

Would I be correct to assume you’re a big Nirvana fan? Their music played such a huge role in Jumped In.

I love Nirvana. But I didn’t really get into them until I was in my late thirties. I was actually in Seattle attending the University of Washington just as Nirvana was becoming big. I remember one of my best friends going to a show at the student union building dubbed “Four Bands for Four Bucks” and the next day telling me about this incredible band called Nirvana. I thought they sounded like amazing performers, but I just wasn’t into punk or loud music so I didn’t give them a chance. Years later a co-worker gave me Incesticide and that album got me going. I got Bleach after that and was hooked. 

Sam became a Nirvana fan pretty late in the process of writing Jumped In. A lot of editors were passing on the book, saying that they couldn’t connect to Sam. He was just too glum to like. So many kids these days love Nirvana the way kids were into The Ramones and Sex Pistols when I was in high school, so I kept the glum but gave Sam this passion that turned him into a character that folks seem to want to root for. After that re-write, the book sold pretty quickly.

Were you able to share any of parts of the book with your students? If so, what were their reactions?
In the beginning, I was teaching in the middle school that inspired the book. I almost exclusively shared Luis’ poems. I was a theatre major, so I’m a pretty enthusiastic reader of my own writing. I was never sure whether kids were engaged because of the writing or if they were just bemused by a whacky teacher getting all dramatic. 

After the book sold, I worked with elementary kids and did some lessons on accepting feedback. I showed kids my rejection letters and showed them how I took feedback from editors to improve my writing. Kids seemed pretty excited about the whole deal. 

I eventually got the opportunity to read portions of the book to older students again, as well. They had a lot of feedback on details I could add to make Sam more real. It’s neat to read to kids when they know things are still in play and that maybe their feedback might make it into the book. 

If you were to write another book about Sam how would his life change? Would his mom come back? Would he have deeper friendships or perhaps be composing music?

I spent some time feeling bad about what I did to Luis, and I thought that maybe I’d get the opportunity to write a version of the the story in which (SPOILER ALERT)     Luis makes it to the poetry slam and he and Sam are able to go on as friends.

I never really thought it through any more than that.

If I did write a sequel, yeah, I would love to see Sam go through the ups and downs of longer-term friendships with Julisa and maybe even Carlos. It’d be interesting to have him in a band with Rupe and Dave (maybe Julisa would be the lead singer?) and to have them go through the difficult process of rekindling these idealized boyhood friendships after having been apart for so long. There’s a lot to go on there. And I’d love to have song lyrics play a similar role (in this new awesome book you’ve encouraged me to write) as Luis’ poems in Jumped In. And you’re right, mom would have to come back. It’s too messy to not explore that relationship. 

So glad I could encourage you in that way! It is sounding so interesting!I

Is there a real life Ginny and Bill, or are they completely fictitious? As grandparents left to take care of their grandson, they seemed to be giving Sam just about everything he needed.
My sisters and I were raised by loving, present parents. We also had a grandmother who lived close by who was almost like a third parent. I think there’s a bit of her in Ginny and Bill. I wanted it to be difficult for Ginny and Bill to talk to Sam in a deep, emotionally honest way about his issues. At the same time, they are truly there for him. That felt true to my upbringing. I think Ginny and Bill were even more inspired by so many loving grandparents, I see as a teacher, who are raising their grandkids. The generation gap makes communication rough, but so many of them seem to make it work. Not what I envision for my retirement years. Ginny and Bill are thrust into a role that they didn’t choose, but they handle the role with a grace that I guess I would hope to have if I find myself in that position someday. Ginny and Bill, Cassidy, Carter, Luis’ mom, Graves… I admit, they’re all fairly idealized; they’re the kind of grownups I hope I could be someday. 

I couldn’ t help but look at the young man on the cover of Jumped In in that hoodie and think of Treyvon Martin in his hoodie. I think that hoodie is becoming a symbol for young men who we really don’t know, perhaps a generation we’re losing. Do you know how the hoodie got chosen for the cover?

jumpedinWhen writing  Jumped In, I wasn’t thinking of the hoodie as a symbol, but as a practical means for Sam to hide in school. After the fact, I can see it as the symbol the way you describe it, sure. I don’t know if the artist was thinking of Treyvon Martin, but I know that when I made sketches of the cover, years ago (it was looooong process from first draft to publication), it was always Sam and Luis standing there in their hoodies, their faces obscured. No one had heard of Treyvon at that point. I don’t want to hide from the fact that that connection is going to exist in people’s minds. I’m just pretty certain that the cover was based on the description of Sam in the book. 


Luis was there, but not there. Giving him a voice through the poetry really foreshadowed some of the ending. How difficult was it to create this character?
The book I set out to create was going to be a collection of poems written by a kid who has passed away, Luis. In the world of the book, everyone had thought/assumed Luis was a gangbanger and definitely not a poet.  Sam was just going to be the kid who found a box of Luis’ poems and his narration was just going to be, like, “I found this box of poems. They were written by Luis. I was moved by his poetry and the story it tells, and I wanted to share it with the world so you could get to know the real Luis, as opposed to the kid we’ve made all these assumptions about.” I had never written any sort of prose before, so I thought that that would be about all I could handle. Well, I started writing Sam and it turned out I liked writing prose as much as I liked writing the poems and pretty soon, it became clear that I was writing my first novel. At one  point after it had become a novel, there was a poem or two after every single chapter. Then the poems were judiciously trimmed and Luis became this stronger character, somehow. Luis is there but not there, but I still feel like this is his story, as much as it is Sam’s. He sees where his future is headed, and he makes this decision to bust out of the role he’s been playing and the role the community sees him in, and he makes Sam the sidekick that enables him to share his true identity to with the world. 

Luis, as a character, as a voice, came out of a bunch of kids who don’t want to be in gangs, but who don’t have/can’t see a better alternative. Being a teacher, I get the opportunity to see these kids as real, normal people with real, normal hopes and fears. And in the school where I was working, I got to see kids, including wannabe gangbangers and posers, read poetry in Ms. Cassidy and Ms. Christenson’s class poetry slams.

Thanks, Patrick, for such a nice interview! Good luck with Jumped In!

Filed under: Interview Tagged: author, interview, patrick flores-scott

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36. Theater Poster: Mark Twain's Mississippi

Might have taken this project simply to play with the "Mississippi" type. But had a great time working  Twain's handwritten manuscripts into the image

1 Comments on Theater Poster: Mark Twain's Mississippi, last added: 8/17/2013
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37. Theater Poster Sketches: Click Clack Moo

Easily one of the things I love most about working with theaters is the chance to offer my interpretation of my favorite stories. I've done many of the classic public domain stories, but I love being able to have a go at more contemporary books. I love, love(!) Betsy Lewin's illustrations for Click Clack Moo, but still had a blast giving Doreen Cronin's story my own take. Here are the rough sketches for the theater poster.

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38. In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm: Part 2

In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm (Part 2):

Planning and Promoting a Book Launch and Signing
Guest Post by Karen Spafford-Fitz

In part 1 of “In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm,” Karen Spafford-Fitz described the planning and promotion that contributed to the success of her launches for Vanish. In part 2, Karen reflects on which steps were most effective.

In my previous post, I mentioned that several steps seemed highly effective while others did not appear to have a particular impact. But I am glad I undertook all of them. Each represents part of my personal learning curve in preparing for a book launch and signing.

And when planning my launches, my objectives further extended to promoting my book beyond the book launch. I wanted to place Vanish solidly in people’s minds such that they would remember it in the months ahead when book shopping for themselves and for the young readers in their lives. As a result, the steps that seemed only slightly effective in generating a strong turnout at my launches might have long-term benefits.

In the meantime, I suggest that authors connect with others whenever possible—at the dog park, at zumba classes, at block parties, at their children’s taekwondo classes and hockey games. And whenever possible, share the fact that you write children’s fiction. There is a good chance that you are the first children’s author they have met. They will probably want to know more. Tell them. I realize this is easier if you are extroverted; but hopefully it is not impossible even if you are more introverted.

As for me, I have put this challenge to myself: to broaden my reach personally and professionally by participating in more school visits and arts activities in the months ahead. I also plan to expand my social media practices in a manner that feels as genuine as possible. This combination of building trust face-to-face, along with further embracing the broad reach of social media, feels like a solid course of action. And while it may not create the absolute perfect storm when I am planning and promoting my next book launch, I am optimistic that it will be another positive step in that direction.

To learn more about Vanish and Dog Walker, Karen’s first book published by Orca, visit www.orcabook.com.

Visit Karen’s profile on Goodreads for author info and reader reviews.


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39. In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm

In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm (Part 1):

Planning and Promoting a Book Launch and Signing
Guest Post by Karen Spafford-Fitz

karen-vanishI was thrilled when Orca released Vanish, my second middle-grade novel, in March 2013. As with my first book, I planned to hold a book launch and signing in Edmonton, where I have lived for 20 years. Upon realizing that many friends and family members living in eastern Ontario also wanted to help celebrate the release of my new book, we decided to launch Vanish in my hometown of Kingston as well.

In both instances, I was pleased with the strong turnout and the enjoyable launch days—especially when it can be challenge to pack a bookstore. I thought other authors might be interested in how I planned my book launches and signings

This “warts and all” account includes not just the steps that I found effective, but also those that possibly amounted to time-wasters. I offer them all in the hope that these strategies—or variations on them—might work beautifully for other authors.

To that end, here are some ideas for how to plan and execute a successful book launch:

 Seek Out the Best Venue (three to four months before launch)

  • karen-kingstonlaunchI prefer working with independent bookstores as they are so supportive of local authors and are experts in connecting the right books to their ideal readers. I was delighted that Audreys Books in Edmonton and Novel Idea Bookstore in Kingston agreed to host my launches.
  • As the launches approached, I updated the bookstores as best I could about the approximate number of guests. They then estimated the number of books we would require for the launch days.
  • Since Vanish would likely spark renewed interest in my previous title, both stores brought in copies of Dog Walker, which also sold well.
  • The bookstore owners were pleased with the number of people who visited their bookstores. They continue to take a personal interest in hand-selling my book.

Results: Highly effective

Choose a Strategic Launch Date (three to four months before launch)

  • Mid-April was my preferred date for the Edmonton launch and I began inquiring before Christmas. Audreys especially has ongoing commitments with book clubs, Stroll of Poets, etc and I was glad we pulled out our calendars early.
  • I chose Sunday afternoons for both launches as families sometimes have more downtime then. Timing the launch for the weekend was especially important for my Kingston launch as guests were travelling in from the Ottawa and Toronto areas—something they couldn’t have readily done on a weeknight.
  • I was careful to avoid long weekends but realized belatedly that my Edmonton launch fell on the final day of the Masters’ Golf Tournament. I know of one person who did not attend for that reason. (Thankfully it was not my husband.)

Resluts: Highly effective

Prepare a Guest List and Send Invitations (six weeks before launch)

  • karen-eviteI sought the advice of the marketing manager at Orca to determine which types of promotional materials would best support the launches. Orca created an e-vite that could be sent by email and a poster that could be printed and distributed.
  • This was not the time to grow shy about whether to invite this person or that person! I widely emailed the e-vite that Orca prepared. I included out-of-town people whom I thought might order a book even if they couldn’t attend.
  • I reached many people by email and replied personally as they responded with acceptances or declines. I did not use snail mail at all.

Results: Highly effective

Spread the Word via Social Media (four or five weeks before launch)

  • I relied extensively on Facebook, posting the e-vite plus creating a Facebook event for both launches. I responded personally as people replied with acceptances or declines.
  • Every week or 10 days, I reminded people about my launch. And because I wanted to avoid repetitions of “Please come to my book launch,” I looked for creative ways to do this. For example, I tied the reminders to food updates for my launch days or to wacky wardrobe choices I was presumably considering.
  • I also posted the invitation in the various writing associations to which I belong. In some instances, you can to post with other writing groups and associations that you have “liked.”

Results: Highly effective

Gear the Book Talk Toward Connecting Guests to the Characters and Story

  • karen-edmontonlaunchI provided guests with some back-story on Vanish so the characters and storyline would hopefully resonate on a personal level with them.
  • I chose readings that I hoped would encourage guests to want to hear more. My first reading was the opening chapter, which introduces my central characters and the basic situation (thereby avoiding the need for lengthy explanations to set the stage). My second reading was from a high-action scene where my protagonist realizes that a crisis is unfolding.
  • I wanted my book talk to last approximately 20 minutes (it was slightly longer)—long enough to make the event feel worthwhile for guests, but not so long they grew tired of listening. In that time, I acknowledged the bookstore, Orca, my immediate family, and the guests in general; shared some back-story; and did two readings, which were approximately eight minutes in total.

Results: Highly effective

Distribute Posters to Schools, Libraries and Small Businesses

  • Orca made posters to advertise the launches and I took them to schools, libraries, and various small businesses (eg. vet clinic, bakeries, small, local supermarkets).
  • I received particularly warm responses at the schools, whose responses included posting my invitation in visible places (parent drop-off spots, in libraries, by the front office), sharing it at staff meetings or morning announcements, and scanning it to the school’s website.
  • I drew in some people this way, especially at schools where teachers and students knew me personally from school visits.

Results: Moderately effective

Prepare Promotional Emails for Area Schools

  • Because Vanish is written for 10- to 14-year-old readers, I targeted both elementary and junior high schools within Edmonton Public School Board.
  • My email included a book synopsis and link to Vanish on Orca’s website, along with the e-vite to my launch. I also mentioned my past work within EPSB in the hopes that this might recall some previous teaching connections.
  • The only schools that replied back to me were those where someone in the front office or the principal knew me. Did the others simply hit the ‘delete’ key? Perhaps.

Results: Minimally effective

Submit Invitations to Online Community Postings

  • I relied on this step for my “away” launch in Kingston, posting the e-vite on an online guide in nearby Napanee. Because I am a Queen’s University graduate, I was also permitted to post on Queen’s Community Events page.

Results: Somewhat effective

Engage with your Audience:

This leads me to the final factor, which I feel was most significant in creating a successful book launch and signing. (Warning: This last factor is not splashy or sexy and can take years to accomplish. But the good news is that many people can put it into practice immediately.)

Talk to students. Engage with others. Tell people what you do.

  • In large part, the people who supported me at my launches are those whom I have come to know personally and professionally over the years.
  • My guests were primarily from the following groups: friends from my current and former communities; my daughters’ friends; my writing colleagues; my husband’s colleagues; friends from the dog park; students from my writing workshops plus friends they brought with them; family members; my grade 13 English teacher; my grade ten history teacher; and my high-school friends who gathered from the surrounding areas and treated my launch as a mini high-school reunion. I am grateful to all of them.



So did I create the ideal conditions for a successful book launch and signing? Did I find that “perfect storm” that I referenced in the title?

Yes and no….

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of Karen’s blog post, “In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm.” Tomorrow, Karen will reflect on the success of her launches and what she’ll focus on next time.

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40. Free Fall Friday – June Results

bookopenI’d like to thank Anna Olswanger from Liza Dawson Associates for sharing her time and expertise with us this month. Your first page is the first thing anyone sees of your story, so the more we can hone the beginning, the better off we will be in writing a successful book. I know we can all learn from these sessions. Even if it is not your first page, you can make note of the thoughts of an editor or agent after they have critiqued the page.

Here are the four first pages picked this month and Anna’s thoughts:

Hope Grietzer                    The Carousel Keeper                Middle Grade Novel

A parade of green swells rose and sank in the murky water beneath the boat. The deck of the ferry dipped again, and for a moment Sadie felt weightless.

“Just ten more minutes,” she thought, gripping the rail as the ferry climbed the crest of the next swell. A gusty wind tugged at her baseball cap like a passing pickpocket, and Sadie’s hand flew up to protect her cap. She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Bit choppy today,” a voice said.

The steward approached, the ends of his white jacket flapping in the breeze like seagull

wings. Red hair hugged his head, and his ears stuck out like pot handles.

“Anything I can do for you, Miss?”

“Can you send me back to Ohio?” Sadie forced a small grin.

“I would, except I promised your uncle I’d deliver you to the island safe and sound.” He

glanced around the crowded ferry. “Follow me.”

Sadie eased away from the rail. The mischievous deck sank before her sneaker could reach it, and then rose so that her foot smacked it hard.

“Feels like I’m walking on the moon,” she thought, hobbling after the steward.

The man paused and gestured toward a vacant seat. “The ride should be smoother here.”

A mother with a squirmy toddler shifted to make room as Sadie sank onto the bench. Across the aisle, a wiry man in a brown suit coat gave Sadie and the child a nervous glance and tugged his briefcase closer. Sadie gave him her best smile but he scowled back, his thick eyebrows drawing together like a blackbird’s wings.

Sadie wished her brother Jamie was here. He had a knack for making friends. But Sadie

traveled alone, sailing toward Summer Island while her parents flew to Brazil. They broke the

news to her last week.


The Carousel Keeper

I would keep reading beyond the first page to find out what life will be like for Sadie on Summer Island. (Will she find a friend? Will she see the steward again? What is her uncle like?)

I do think some minor details are distracting: the image of red hair hugging the steward’s head, for example. What is the point of that detail, or of the detail of his ears sticking out? It feels as though the author may be trying to fill up space. The deck being “mischievous” feels like overwriting, and what is it like to walk on the moon? The reader has been experiencing the choppiness of the ride, so would walking on the moon be “choppy?”

Is there a significance to the bird imagery? The stewards’s white jacket flaps like seagull wings. The man in the brown suit has eyebrows that draw together like a blackbird’s wings. Make it clear if an image is part of a theme. Otherwise, the details seem arbitrary.

The hint of Jamie at the end is nice.

Annina Luck Wildermuth

Ned Bunting, Ghost Spotter & the Ghost with the Hooded Cloak Middle Grade (ages 8 – 12)

Ned was two hours into his watch, crouched behind the old elm at Walnut Hollow graveyard, when he spotted his first ghost of the night.  Of course, he’d seen all kinds of ghosts the week before when he was still in training with his older brother Tom, but this was different. He was alone now.

As his luck would have it though, he could already see that this one was a poor excuse for a ghost. All its potentially distinguishing marks were obscured by a voluminous hooded cloak.

The horse it rode was equally undistinguished, poking its way among the graves, slow as molasses.

How am I supposed to identify this ghost? wondered Ned, starting to worry. As Walnut Hollow’s new ghost spotter, he was supposed to identify and log in all the ghosts who came through the town and make sure that they were obeying the local haunting laws.

He fumbled now to produce Ghosts of the Thirteen Colonies & Their Classification from inside his vest. Satisfied that the horse and rider were making slow progress at best, he thumbed the book’s worn pages, his lantern flickering beside him. Ghosts were portrayed in great detail with identifiable characteristics.  There was General Whitelsby, the angry, old red-coat in his unmistakable British uniform and Abigail, the Quaker in her fancy white neck ruff. The mad horseman from Sleepy Hollow always carried his head under his arm. Ned’s eyes darted to the graveyard, and he groaned inwardly. Nothing.

And then the wind whipped up, blowing through the tree’s branches and whistling its way between the gravestones. It twirled around the ghost and lifted its cloak into the air to reveal a small, cross girl in the frilliest dress Ned had ever seen. She looked straight at him and wailed: “How am I ever going to accomplish my mission, now that I’ve been so rudely unmasked?”


Ned Bunting, Ghost Spotter

This first page ends on a nice note of suspense, so I would want to read further, but the first sentence is too long and clunky. Try to clean it up, since that is an editor’s first impression of your manuscript.

It’s not clear why you have the detail that this ghost was a poor excuse. Tom is logging in ghosts and making sure they obey the local haunting laws, so his luck is not that this ghost is a poor excuse, but that it has no distinguishing marks.

The use of a book implies that this is a contemporary story. Is that what you intend, or is the story set in the past? If it’s set in the past, then shouldn’t the book be manuscript pages with handwritten notes?

When Ned’s eyes dart to the graveyard, he groans. If he’s groaning because he still  can’t identity this ghost, then make it clear that he is looking at the ghost, not at the graveyard (in general) to eliminate any confusion.

The last paragraph is perfect.

Liliana Erasmus - Song Of The Sentinel - paranormal middle-grade.

What is father doing here? I told him to stay out of it. This isn’t his battle to fight. His glorious days of vigilance are over. Gone. It’s my turn now. Why doesn’t he get it? He is dead. I am not. And he knows I’m here, I can feel his light shifting closer. His presence. My lantern blows out.

“Go. Away,” I urge him in silence.

I don’t even turn around to look into his empty eyes, or at that ridiculous horse that carries him around, for what? To attract all the hungry creatures in the neighborhood and make my life more miserable than it already is? I have to keep position and here he comes, shimmering behind me like a lighthouse signaling, Look here! You see ‘m? Now suck his life out!

They’re coming. I’m not sure how many this time. Three? Four?

“Father, for God’s sake, leave! Let it be.”

Once again, he backs off, his light dimming and I know he’s further away, but never for long, never too far from danger… from me.

The September wind has fallen, the trees stand breathless, moonlit tombs lie in repose and I still get that paralyzing chill down my spine. The buzzing in my ears is getting louder, it’s growing until it becomes a constant whistle in my head, ticking me off. If I jump now, they’ll know what to do with me. I’m on my own. They are with one, five… eleven, damn! I have to wait for them to stick their tongues into the earth before making any sound. One of them is not sniffing the graves. It’s holding back for some reason, tilting its snout in the air, tail high and stiff, while that foul smell of decay reaches my nose, making me gag. I swallow the sourness without blinking. The furry carcass is staring right at me.


Song of the Sentinel

I would probably keep reading this manuscript, but this page is confusing. Here are my concerns:

The narrator speaks in both vernacular and formal language: “stay out of it” and “doesn’t he get it” don’t work with “His glorious days of vigilance are over.”

It also doesn’t make sense for the narrator to say, “he knows I’m here” when it’s the narrator who can feel the father’s presence.

The phrase “my life more miserable than it already is” is vague. The reader needs a hint of what has been going on. Miserable in what way?

Who says “Look here! You see ‘m? Now suck his life out!’ The reader can’t tell.

Who says “They’re coming. I’m not sure how many this time. Three? Four?” Again, the reader can’t tell who is speaking.

What does it mean for tombs to “lie in repose?” It sounds as though the author is trying too hard here to be literary.

What does it mean that the narrator “still” gets that paralyzing chill down his or her spine? Has this happened in the past?

“Ticking me off” sounds too slangy, and too trite.

What does it means to swallow the sourness “without blinking?” What does sight have to do with taste in this instance?

I like the images in the last paragraph, and I especially like the suspenseful last sentence. I would continue reading, but the author should clear up all the confusion on this first page so that an editor will feel that the author is in control of her craft.

Meg Eastman Thompson, THE TRUTH ABOUT JUSTICE. MG/YA novel

Restless as a yellow-jacket at a barbecue, I bounded down the sidewalk to fetch the bread and milk for supper as Mother had ordered, heading for the Piggly Wiggly. I was lonely, missing Effie more than ever. Wondering where she and her family had hidden. Not wanting to believe they’d never come back.

When Missy and I had promised Effie we’d stand by each other no matter what, we’d taken our vows seriously. It hadn’t mattered back then that Effie was colored. We three were true friends. As I passed Liberty High and turned left toward the grocery store, there was not a friend in sight. Most everybody had been sent away, what with the coloreds asking to come to our school.

My next-door neighbor and sometime friend, Missy Pridemoor, and nearly everyone else, was having fun at church camp. I had begged to go, but Daddy insisted I was too old to be a camper. When I’d protested, he made it clear that, three years away from college, I was too young to make my own decisions. As usual Mother stuck by him.

When I was little, she’d always say, “Amelia Justice Queen, your Daddy knows what’s best for you.” But it was 1963 now and I was changing, along with everything else in our country. Even Mother was starting to speak up. When she told Daddy that camp was nothing but a non-stop revival meeting, it got me thinking. I didn’t need to be saved. Nor did I want to waste the end of my summer vacation listening to some preacher baying like an auctioneer. I stopped complaining. At fifteen, going on sixteen, I was smart enough to pick my battles.

Besides, I wanted to enjoy my last days of freedom. I skipped along. Released from their impossible overprotectiveness, which had only grown worse since stopping integration was once again on the school board agenda, I was determined to make the best of my trip to the store.
The Piggly Wiggly’s deep freeze was heavenly. I lingered by the ice cream treats.


The Truth About Justice

Although I think this manuscript has potential because of the voice and content, I found the first page so full of exposition (and some of it confusing), that I don’t think I’d continue reading. Look at the first sentence and how long it is—the first page feels a bit like this (stuffed with information).

I don’t understand who the narrator is and what she wants: In the first paragraph, she is lonely for Effie; in the second paragraph, she seems to be missing her friends in general; in the third paragraph, she wants to go to camp; in the fourth paragraph, she decides she doesn’t want to go camp; and in the fifth paragraph, she seems just to want to enjoy her freedom. All of these motivations feel like too much for one page. The narrator has to have one overriding motivation that will take her (and the reader) through that first page—and on through the book.

It’s also confusing that in the third paragraph, the mother sticks by the father, but in the next paragraph she tells the father that the camp is nothing but a non-stop revival meeting.

And, finally, a fifteen-year-old protagonist is a bit too old for a novel that has the feel, at least in this opening page, of a middle grade novel (the narrator skips). If the author could lower the age and focus the narrator’s motivation, she should have a first page that an agent or editor would want to keep reading.

Thank you everyone for participating. Happy revising.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, Author, revisions, Tips, writing Tagged: Anna Olswanger, First Page Critique, Free Fall Friday, Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

5 Comments on Free Fall Friday – June Results, last added: 7/1/2013
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41. Lou Allin wins Arthur Ellis Award for Contingency Plan

Huge congratulations to Lou Allin, whose Rapid Reads title Contingency Plan has won this year’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novella!

The Arthur Ellis Awards honor excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. Lou Allin was previous shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel in 2003 for Blackflies Are Murder.

About Contingency Plan:

When Sandra Sinclair, recently widowed and the mother of twelve-year-old Jane, meets wealthy lawyer Joe Gillette, he wins her over with his kind and conscientious attitude. Falling in love faster than she ever thought possible, Sandra agrees to marry. But soon after they move into their new home, things begin to change, and Joe’s controlling behavior causes her to question her decision. When her new husband becomes seriously abusive, Sandra decides that she and Jane must leave.

When Joe makes it clear that he will not just let her walk away, Sandra discovers that it’s quite likely that he arranged his first wife’s death, and that she is now part of his “contingency plan.” She soon realizes that even the law is no defense against this meticulous and egotistical man. Fleeing to an old family cabin on a remote lake, mother and daughter prepare to live off the grid. And when Joe tracks them down, Sandra must come up with a contingency plan of her own. Buy the Book!

About the Rapid Reads series from Orca:

Rapid Reads are short novels and non-fiction books for adult readers. In our increasingly fast-paced world Orca believes there is a need for well-written, well-told books that can be read in one sitting. Rapid Reads are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read. Each novel in the Rapid Reads series is written between a 2.0 and 4.5 reading level. The plots are contemporary and entertaining, with adult language and themes. More about Rapid Reads.


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42. Releasing on ITunes Soon

Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, an animated and narrated children’s picture book releases on 7/1/13!

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43. Best Books for Kids & Teens 2013

Looking for the best books for your kids and teens? Of course you are! Fortunately, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre  (a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1976) publishes just such a list. And we’re thrilled to share that sixteen Orca titles made the list for Spring 2013.

“All of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, and school and public librarians from across Canada. The reviewed materials include picture books, junior/intermediate fiction, graphic novels, and powerful teen fiction, in addition to a wide array of non-fiction, magazines and audio/video resources.” —Canadian Children’s Book Centre website

The following Orca titles were selected for the list this season. Congratulations to all the authors on their achievement!

Best Books for Kids and TeensClose to the Heel, Norah McClintock
Dead Run, Sean Rodman
Edge of Flight, Kate Jaimet
High Wire, Melanie Jackson
I, Witness, Norah McClintock and Mike Deas
Jump Cut, Ted Staunton
Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug, Susan Musgrave
Oracle, Alex Van Tol
Pieces of Me, Darlene Ryan
Prince for a Princess, Eric Walters
Pyro, Monique Polak
Redwing, Holly Bennett
Seeing Orange, Sara Cassidy
Shallow Grave, Alex Van Tol
Three Little Words, Sarah N. Harvey
Uncle Wally’s Old Brown Shoe, Wallace Edwards

CCBC members receive a copy of Best Books for Kids & Teens as part of their membership package, as do subscribers to Canadian Children’s Book News.

Best Books for Kids & Teens can be purchased at select bookstores or online at: www.bookcentre.ca.


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44. YOUR NAME in print!

justgoneSee your name in print—and on a dedication page, no less!

William Kowalski, author of three titles in Orca’s Rapid Reads series is running a fantastic new contest through his website. The winner will have Kowalski’s fourth Rapid Read title, Just Gone, dedicated to them.





Contest Details (from William Kowalski’s website):

Have you ever wanted to have a book dedicated to you? Not just signed by the author, but actually dedicated to you, with your name in print for all eternity?

Well, your time has come. Your ship has come in. Your Eagle has landed. I’m running a contest for my readers, and the winner will receive this fabulous prize: my fourth Rapid Reads novel, JUST GONE, which is coming out later this year, will be dedicated to them and them alone. By name. Exciting? You betcha.

What’s the contest, then?


Take a picture of yourself, reading any one of my novels, in the most unlikely place or situation you can think of. Then, post it on my Facebook author page by May 1.

That’s it. How to define ‘unlikely’ is up to you. (Just be safe, please.) The title of the book must be clearly visible. You may not use Photoshop or any other kind of enhancement or alteration tool. Other than that, the sky’s the limit.

Then, post your picture on my Facebook author page. Tell your friends to come like it and lol at it. The winner will be the submission with the most likes.

Whoever is featured in that picture or owns the rights to it will earn the right to have JUST GONE dedicated to them by name.

I reserve the right to remove any pictures that are cruel or insulting to anyone. I won’t put anything obscene or disrespectful in the dedication. I really want this to be dedicated to YOU, the winner. So, you agree, by entering the contest, that if you win, you have the right to have the book dedicated to you by first and last name, or first name only if you prefer, and perhaps a brief message, such as “To John Smith, the hoopiest frood in England.”


Go forth and photograph yourselves. Have fun. Don’t get hurt. And make us lol.

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45. 19 Questions with Richard Van Camp

Richard Van Camp is the author of twelve books, including two board books with Orca: Welcome Song for Baby (2007) and Little You (2013).

He recently sat down (online) with Curtis LeBlanc to answer nineteen questions about books, writing and his life as an author. Some highlights: who are Richard’s top three authors? Which bands does he listen to while writing? And what will he be working on next?

Read the full 19 Questions interview here.

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46. The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color

Our guest blogger today is author Tony Medina, whose book “DeShawn Days”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color“As a child in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx, I did not grow up with books. The only person I saw reading was my grandmother, who occasionally read mass-market paperback fiction and her Bible that was as big as a phone book. If the Bible fell from the top of the dresser where she kept it, it could take your kneecap off and crush your foot in the process! The only time I recall being exposed to children’s books was at school when the teacher took us to the school library and the librarian allowed us to take out Curious George books.

It was as an adult that I really began to appreciate children’s books. I remember being fascinated by the marriage of art and text. The stories and poems were depicted so beautifully and richly that it seemed as if they blended together seamlessly, creating a world by which even adults would be captivated. I knew right then that I wanted to be part of that magic. I thought, if I as a grownup can be taken with the majesty of these portable art galleries and museums, children must truly love them.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorSoon after, I began buying children’s books and taking some out from the library. I not only found myself interested in the wonderful stories and poems, I wanted to teach myself how to write them—by reading them. The more I browsed through shelves in bookstores and libraries, the more I noticed that many of the books I came across did not speak to or from the point of view of a kid like me from the projects. I yearned to read about what a child from the ’hood had to say about his life and his world. I remember reading an interview with the African American novelist and Noble Prize-winner Toni Morrison, She said she wrote the books she wanted to read. That nugget of wisdom stayed with me as I made my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a writer.

By the time I decided to write my own children’s books, a child’s voice began to present itself in my mind. It The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Colorbelonged to a kid named DeShawn Williams, and he was talking about his life growing up in the projects. Not surprisingly, his words seemed to mirror my experiences as a child. Poems in DeShawn’s voice began to take hold of me and I began to write them down. Before I knew it, DeShawn was telling me about the people he loved and lived with: his mother, who was in college; his grandmother, who helped raise him; his uncle, who stood-in for his absent father; his cousin Tiffany, who was like his sister, even though they fought like crazy; and his best friend from school, Johnny Tse, who taught him Karate, which he assumed was from China, but finds out was from Japan. Thus, DeShawn Days, my first book for children, was born.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorThere was no greater feeling than to see the publication of DeShawn Days, which was initially embraced in manuscript form by my editor and subsequently published by multicultural children’s book publisher, Lee & Low Books. At that time, no books like DeShawn Days were around. The only thing that topped seeing DeShawn Days out in the world was sharing it with children, particularly children who came from a world similar to DeShawn’s. I remember encountering a youngster who had the same name—DeShawn—who was also being raised by his grandmother. This boy exclaimed about me, the author, “How does he know about my life?”

This experience made me realize in a real way, outside of my own literary aspirations, the power of books: how they can matter and make a profound difference in a child’s life, especially when they speak to and from the child’s own experiences and validate his or her life.”

To learn more about our awesome Stories For All Project partner, Lee & Low Books, check out their blog.

The post The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color appeared first on First Book Blog.

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47. First Chapter Musts – Anita Nolan

April illustration heather dentCat1

This illustration was sent in by Heather Dent. Since a little girl, Heather’s dream has been to become a professional author and illustrator. Now the time has come to try to make that dream come true.  Right now she works for a small business in Berea KY called Attic Light Studios that transfers old videos and photos into digital files and makes movies for special events like weddings, funerals, and anniversaries.  Her blog is:  http://heatherdentstudio.blogspot.com/.

Anita Nolan is doing a four hour intensive workshop titled, Creating Better Beginnings on June 7th at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference. Here is the description:

It’s vital to make the first pages of your manuscript the best they can be. After all, an editor or agent might read no more than the first few paragraphs before deciding to reject. In this intensive we’ll look at different ways to begin a story and what should be included in the first few pages. We’ll consider what you are revealing about your main character, (and whether it is what you intended!) and whether the character is sympathetic. You’ll rewrite your first paragraphs of your story in this workshop. Bring a printed copy of your first chapter (at least 5 pages, double spaced), paper and pen, (and your laptop if you’d like—laptop is not necessary) highlighter, and be prepared to dig into your first chapter.

I asked Anita if she could share some tips with the writers following my blog. Anita does a great job. You will learn a lot and advance your story if you sign up for her Friday session. Below are a few things from Anita on what a first chapter should accomplish:

As a reader dives into the first chapter, he searches for clues as to what type of story he’s reading. Is it a fantasy? Historical? A fast-paced adventure or a slower-paced coming of age story? Is the voice humorous? Sarcastic? Flowery?

A story’s beginning makes a promise to the reader about what type of story he’s picked up, the pacing, and voice.

Recently I read first pages from one story that promised a fantasy but had no fantastical elements, and from another that had no fantastic elements in the beginning, but the story had an entire secondary fantasy world.

Here are a few things the first chapter should accomplish:

1. Intrigue Reader. Hook them & keep them reading.

2. Introduce either main character/s or theme.

3. Identify what Main character needs/lacks/wants.

4. Identify the obstacles standing in the Main Character’s way.

5. Establish a bond (sympathy) between the reader & Main Character.

6. Present the world in which the story is set.

7. Establish the general tone of the novel.

8. Show Pacing.

9. Show the Voice.

Remember registration ends April 30th at midnight.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, Conferences and Workshops, How to, opportunity, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Anita Nolan, Intensive Workshop, June New Jersey SCBWI Conference, Writing Better Beginnings

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48. The Stories for All Project: Latina Author Pat Mora on the Connection Children Make with Books that Include their Culture and Language

Our guest blogger today is author Pat Mora, whose book “Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.

“Once upon a time . . .” A magic phrase that can change our breathing. As far as we know, humans are the world’s story-telling creatures. Let’s think about the unique period in the lives of children when they begin to savor that phrase, when in fresh ways little ones are experiencing their surroundings and deciding where they fit. For many youngsters, media is their main source of information and entertainment. Children lucky enough to become readers discover that they can read those once-upon-a-time words to themselves—and others. They discover the pleasure and power of words. Since words and books are powerful, how can we doubt that the images of children, families, and cultures in their books have a subtle and significant impact on young readers and their families? Who merits having their stories shared and who doesn’t? How does it feel not to see people like you between the covers of beautiful books? Are all our books created and valued equally?

0 Comments on The Stories for All Project: Latina Author Pat Mora on the Connection Children Make with Books that Include their Culture and Language as of 5/1/2013 11:53:00 AM

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49. Another Avenue for Eileen Spinelli’s PB WANDA’S MONSTER

wandaIt seems more and more picture books and middle grade books are being picked up and brought to stages around the country. We all dream of seeing our books on the big screen, but more and more production companies are looking at children’s books to bring to the stage. I thought you might like to know that if you live in the New York area you can see Eileen’s Spinelli’s picture book “Wanda’s Monster” played out on stage.  It sounds like a lot of fun and runs through May 12 at Theater 3, 311 West 43rd Street, NYC (646) 250-1178, www.makingbookssing.org .

Here is a an article that appeared in Theater Review on April 25th.

Feared Fiend to Gentle Friend

Wanda’s Monster,’ With Laurie Berkner’s Tunes, at Theater 3


Anyone familiar with cable television knows that plenty of adults believe in monsters. But the parents of Wanda, the heroine of the new family musical “Wanda’s Monster,” must not be fans of series like “Finding Bigfoot.” Wanda can’t convince them or her brother that a creature lives in her closet.

Audiences at Theater 3, however, know he’s there. Looking more like a Honker from “Sesame Street” than like Nessie or Sasquatch, this fuzzy beast enters from the aisles. Like the children around him, he’s been enjoying the show’s opening, set at a rock club run by Wanda’s grandmother. Granny, you see, is Joan Jett.


Well, not really Joan Jett, though she does wear black leather and ride motorcycles. Mostly Granny evokes Laurie Berkner, a wholesome singer-songwriter who’s bigger than Justin Bieber, if you happen to be 4 or 5. Making Books Sing, which turns children’s books into musicals, commissioned Ms. Berkner to write the score and lyrics for “Wanda’s Monster,” based on Eileen Spinelli’s 2002 picture book. Ms. Berkner, who doesn’t perform in the show, has filled it with catchy, folk-flavored pop, arranged by the production’s music director, Kristen Lee Rosenfeld. The upbeat melodies include one of Ms. Berkner’s longstanding hits, “Monster Boogie,” which fans are invited to dance to.

Barbara Zinn Krieger, founder of Making Books Sing, wrote the script, one of whose most inspired touches is turning Granny, who wears sweat pants and sensible shoes in Nancy Hayashi’s book illustrations, into this kick-out-the-jams rocker. Vibrantly played by Jamie Kolnick, Granny alone takes Wanda’s side, acknowledging the Monster’s existence but persuading her granddaughter (Laura Hankin, a grown-up who makes a convincing 5-year-old) that monsters are really shy, gentle, misunderstood souls.

In this hourlong adaptation, briskly directed by Adrienne Kapstein, the Monster is not only sweet but also sublimely silly. Winningly portrayed by James Ortiz in a role greatly expanded from the book, he eats the flowers Wanda slips into the closet for him and attaches her artwork to the wall with his spit. While the hulking, horned Mr. Ortiz may frighten a few little theatergoers at first, most, like Wanda, will want to hug him at the conclusion. This charming musical brings home a point worth considering at any age: embrace what you fear, and you just may find a friend.

“Wanda’s Monster” runs through May 12 at Theater 3, 311 West 43rd Street, Clinton; (646) 250-1178, www.makingbookssing.org.

Congratulations, Eileen! It must be exciting to see your book come to life.

Everyone, please let me know if you get to see this show. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, children writing, Kudos, News, opportunity, Picture Book Tagged: Eileen Spinelli, NYC Stage Show, Picture book to NY stage, Wanda's Monster

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50. People’s Light Theatre – Stargirl & Jerry Spinelli

people light theatre

For all you Jerry Spinelli and STARGIRL fans, don’t miss out seeing STARGIRL on stage.


April 20—May 12, 2013

By Y York

Adapted from the novel by Jerry Spinelli

Directed by Samantha Bellomo

When an eccentric homeschooler arrives at Mica Area High School, hallways buzz with texts, whispers fill the air, and 11th grader Leo Borlock’s life is changed forever. Based on the critically-acclaimed young adult novel by Jerry Spinelli, the author of everyone’s favorite Maniac Magee, Stargirl celebrates first love, non-conformity, and the similarities that connect us all.  Best appreciated by ages 12 and up.

Join the actors after every performance to discuss the making of the production.

jerryMeet Author Jerry Spinelli!

Jerry is the author of more than 30 books including Stargirl, Crash, Loser, Milkweed, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, and has recently released a new novel, Hokey Pokey.  In 1991 he received the Newbery Medal for Maniac Magee and was awarded the Newbery Honor in 1998 for Wringer.

Join us for book signings with Jerry Spinelli before these performances of Stargirl:

May 11 at 1pm

There are 5 shows still available from Thursday May 9th – May 12th and Jerry Spinelli will be signing books at 1 pm, before the 2 pm Saturday matinee.

Mother’s Day: The theatre is having a buffet brunch or prix fixe dinner with a performance of Stargirl on Sunday, May 12th! Experience their award-winning gardens and the charming, historic setting of the 18th-century farmhouse. What a nice way to celebrate Mom’s Day. Reserve your table and tickets now!

stargirlCalling all Star-people! Only today to work on this:

Enter to win tickets to a performance of Stargirl at People’s Light and Theater, along with a chance to meet Stargirl and receive a copy of the book, signed by Jerry Spinelli!

Simply send us a 250-word essay or link to a 2-min video describing to us the person you are, just like Stargirl does in her “The Person I Am” speech.

Essays and videos can be sent via email to artsdiscovery@peopleslight.org and MUST be received by Monday, May 6th.  Winners will be contacted directly so please be sure to include your name, age, and contact information (email and home phone).

(Note: If any of the pictures in this post or other posts are squished, refresh your screen and it will correct.)

Hope you live close enough to take advantage of this.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, Contest, Events, opportunity, Young Adult Novel Tagged: book signing, Jerry Spinelli, Malvern PA, Stargirl play, The People's Light Theatre

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