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My sixth and final interview of the year is with someone very special, illustrator Jonas Sickler. Jonas is the artist who created the awesome blog logo that wonderfully represents the purpose of Frog on a Blog, which is to provide a fun, colorful forum for picture book fans to discuss all things related to children’s picture books.
Jonas is also the illustrator of six Indestructibles baby books that are specially designed to withstand the destructive behavior of the youngest picture book fans. They are tear resistant and waterproof! They are also absolutely gorgeous and they make great gifts!
Enjoy the interview!
Q. How long have your been creating art and when did you first realize that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?
JS. I have been making art since I was about 2 years old. Somehow I always knew that I would be an artist. Although there was a brief time around 4 years old when I thought I might be a fireman or a chef instead. I had always planned to work for Disney. It wasn’t until college that I began thinking of other options. That’s when I discovered Lane Smith through “The Stinky Cheese Man” and instantly knew I wanted to illustrate children’s books. During a trip to the Society of Illustrators, while my classmates were pouring over the exhibit, I took a field trip on my own to see Lane’s private studio. There, I met his wife Molly, and saw some works in progress. That day was unforgettable.
Q. How would you describe your style?
JS. My style is a bit difficult to categorize, though, I’m sure most artists say that to make themselves sound more unique and marketable. I certainly have a quirky, gritty style. There is never a shortage of textures and patterns in my art. Sometimes I work a bit darker- more Tim Burton/ Lane Smith. And sometimes I lean to a brighter Mary Blaire/ Karen Katz style. It depends on the subject of the book.
Q. Do you have a favorite medium you like to work with when creating your illustrations?
JS. My medium of choice is painted cut paper, even though most of my cutting is done in Photoshop these days. I still insist on using actual paint, rather than computer generated colors. I like seeing my hand in the finished art. Using the computer to collage my painted scraps into finished art has great advantages over scissors and glue. Such as instant color editing, and quick changes requested by art directors at the last minute.
Q. What picture book artists do you most admire and how have they influenced your work?
JS. As I mentioned already, I’m a huge Lane Smith fan. As well as Mary Blaire, Oliver Jeffers, Ezra Jack Keats. I keep all of these illustrators on my studio bookshelf for inspiration. Lane influenced me by showing me that children’s book illustrations can be dark, and still sell very well. Oliver Jeffers extraordinarily simple art and endearing stories captivate and inspire me to never over-think a book. Mary Blaire has incredible texture and color combinations, and Keats works wonders with simple shapes and patterns.
Q. What projects are you working on right now?
JS. I have about 10 books written, and awaiting illustrations on my drawing table. I tend to go through creative phases. I write my brains out until I have purged all of my ideas. Then I choose the best manuscript, and begin the illustration process. When everything is ready, I start shopping the project to publishers. I’m in the art phase right now on a few projects. But they are all top secret!
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
JS. My website has a selection of my work, and my blog has great tips for beginning illustrators, as well as a more in-depth look at my Lane Smith obsession. You can find me at http://www.jonasillustration.com
Q. Any closing thoughts for fans?
JS. Creating children’s books is not an easy career. It requires endless patience and persistence. It is more of a lifelong process riddled with defeats than a career. But occasionally luck swings your way, and dreams come true. It is for this reason we all continue to pursue the buried treasure of a children’s book contract. All the rejection letters and dashed hopes will vanish in an instant with that one simple “yes”.
Eric Gansworth is a writer and a visual artist. is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation who was raised at the Tuscarora Nation, near Niagara Falls, New York. He is currently working as a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. His latest novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013), has been reviewed by the L. A. Times, Kirkus and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. I was recently able to in interview Eric for this blog. Enjoy!
I always start with the same few basic questions.
Where did you grow up?
Tuscarora reservation, Niagara County, New York.
Do you have any pets?
I have a cat who has lived with me for a couple years. She’s a shelter rescue cat, so I’m not really sure how old she is. I would guess, given her size and shape, that she’s easily six years old. My previous cat lived here for 17 years, and slept on my desk for the writing of my first nine or so books. Sometimes, when I’m writing, it still feels like if I look over to the desk, there he’ll be. I have nothing against dogs, though some breeds I avoid, those with the brute power to do physical damage if they’ve gotten that into their heads. You cross a cat, it pees in some unwanted places. Not pleasant but something I’ve dealt with. A Rottweiler, I’ve noted from personal experience, is a different matter. I was at a dinner party years ago and the hosts’ Rottweiler roamed the room, under the table, seeking affection, etc. Though the dog had a generally calm disposition, one guest absently came up on it from behind and patted its head. The dog must not have heard him, and in two seconds, it was in a position of defense/attack. Fortunately, the host was a couple feet away and was able to intervene. I don’t want to have that kind of psychic energy around me very often. I grew up with dogs and cats, but cats suit my adult temperament better.
What do you enjoy watching on television?
I don’t watch a lot of TV live, except for some morning news—my schedule is way too complicated to be in front of a television at a given hour every week–but I watch a fair number of series on DVD. It’s pretty broad, from the BBC social-critique zombie drama, “In the Flesh,” to the surreal comedy, “Community,” to edgier drama like “Orange is the New Black,” and “Dexter.” I particularly like a British show that has not made it to U.S. television, called “Trollied,” a nuanced comedy about employees at a grocery store. I avoid certain kinds of shows for personal reasons that have nothing to do with their quality. In fact, many are quite fine but I prefer not to examine their subject matter. I actively avoid shows that celebrate bully culture, but I also discovered that, as well produced as it was, “The Big C” was too emotionally challenging for me and I had to stop watching it. Oddly, though I am the least sporty person on earth, I truly loved “Friday Night Lights,”
and was deeply sad at its loss. It was awesome small town drama, pitched in perfect ways for its ensemble cast and the remarkably epic physical setting.
Mostly, I tend to watch the same few movies and some vintage shows I love, over and over, while doing mundane chores like folding laundry.
Meat or vegetables?
I am largely a carnivore, given my preferences. I could pretend here to be pro-vegetable by claiming that French fries are technically potatoes, but even I know that’s nutritionally a lie. I get a lot of grief for this, and some friends seem too preoccupied with finding that magic vegetable that’s going to convert me. I wish they’d accept that I tolerate broccoli, asparagus, and parsnips, but that I’m never going to love them, no matter how they’re cooked. You can dress up a pepper, but it’s still inherently a pepper. In those situations, I often want to insist to my vegetarian friends that if they’d just put the right seasoning on that steak, they wouldn’t notice the meat at all, hoping the inverse analogy would get them to grasp my fundamental aversion. I’ve always been puzzled by my vegetarian friends’ inability to see that their repulsion to meat is exactly the same experience I have with vegetables. Sorry, I’ve probably gone on too long about this issue, but at 48, I’ve pretty much stopped politely pretending that there’s a difference in those stances.
Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?
Probably some of the same ones for a lot of people. My home was not really a part of book culture, so my exposure came in the form of books my older cousins were assigned in school and didn’t want to read. As such, the stand out volumes that they passed on to me were To Kill a Mockingbird, The Pigman, and The Red Pony. The Outsiders I discovered when a tough girl from the reservation who hated reading loved this novel so much that she stole it from school. That immediately intrigued me. Our elementary school librarian introduced me to a collection of distinctly grotesque folk stories called The Grandfather Tales that I loved. She had a wonderful sense of what we were interested in. This book had a dark sense of humor similar to the prevailing edgy one on the reservation. I think of it now as Flannery O’Connor for kids. I started buying books on my own, (terrible novelizations of horror movies I loved) when I was 12 or so. Around that time, I bought Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, thinking it was another novelization, I discovered the world of beautifully written books about subjects I loved—discovered that there were well written books even about monsters. That was my life changer.
And then the interview begins!
What are some of your best memories of growing up at the Tuscarora Nation as enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation?
I think it’s hard to make a meaningful comparison, as I’ll never know, fully, what a standard, American upbringing at the time was like. I suspect one huge bonus was that the Nation is a pretty insular community. Among its thousand or so residents, everyone knew everyone, and so there is a large sense of belonging to something. I know American culture celebrates the individual, and our culture tends to be more about the group identity. I didn’t necessarily fit that, because I’m kind of a weird person in general, but it was nice to feel as if everyone around you knows you. I don’t imagine that tends to be true in, say, suburban neighborhoods. Do parents know kids from five streets away in suburbia? It seems like that’s only true if there are friends in those families, but on my reservation, not everybody is a friend, necessarily, but there are no strangers.
How has life changed for teens growing up there today?
Well, I suspect, as with everywhere, technology has had a huge impact. Our tribal leadership had an impasse with cable communications companies, so when I was growing up, we had the three local channels, a couple independents, PBS, and a few channels from Toronto. The couple times I saw the channels available in suburbia, it was mind-boggling. Now, with the availability of satellite dishes, and their popularity on the reservation, I suspect there are some technological levelers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, formal education on the reservation has also made major strides. A thorough and thoughtful curriculum including classes in our traditional culture, language and history, is in place and ambitious in scope, for young people now. It also includes units involving family so there’s an awesome opportunity for cross-generational teaching and learning. It seems like a good time for young people who want to strike that balance between the traditional and the contemporary.
I loved Uncle Albert. And Bug. Carson wasn’t so nice, but he got the best lines! It seems like character development is easy for you. From where do your characters come?
Thank you. I’m glad you liked them. I had fun with them, as well. For the record, though, character development is not easy, by any means, at least not for me. A writer’s job is to create believable characters who seem like real people, but those final renderings come after much hard work, feedback and revision. My particular upbringing offered a rich growth environment for a writer. An anthropologist who studied my community for many years has suggested that the Tuscaroras live by a code of “forbearance,” a sort of “tolerance of individual choices.” I don’t think that’s exactly the right word, but it’s in the ballpark. While there are many rules within the traditional culture, there is also a lot of leeway for people to become themselves within that context. As such, I grew up in a rich environment of folks–from the most bland to the most eccentric–where differences were not suppressed or pressured out of people. To be respectful to others’ privacy, I don’t write characters drawn from any one person. I invent the characters I need, adding qualities and details borrowed from people I’ve known, mixing and matching as the characters demand.
Why The Beatles?
Pop culture has always informed my work, because it was always a dominant force in my life. The first story I ever published had appearances by The Monkees and The Jefferson Airplane, and they were both meaningful to the story’s ideas. The Beatles are among the major cultural forces of the twentieth century and proving to last well into the twenty-first. They’ve shown up a lot in my poetry over the years, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before they wound up as a dominant force in my fiction.
I am not prone to eye-rolling, as a rule, but I grew up wholly on a reservation. When writers who did not grow up in indigenous communities over-saturate their fictional worlds in some hard core “Native spirituality” culture, totally at odds with any reservation I’ve ever been to, I feel an obligation to document the indigenous experience as I know it. A lot of Indian artists who grew up in communities joke about that exaggerated, performative choice–we’ve all seen it–calling it “The Leather and Feather Show.” The Beatles have always been, and continue to be, a major presence for me, so I’m following the traditional writers’ advice and “writing what I know.”
Was it difficult setting on the title, If I Ever Get Out of Here?
I had a totally different title when the novel was in its earliest formative stage, and then I had a name that was tied to a plot point from the end of the novel, and finally, when it became clear that Paul McCartney was going to be a significant artistic force, that phrase showed up and from the second it did, I knew it had to be the novel’s title. The longer I worked, the more perfect it seemed. The novel is about two guys in middle school, so to some degree, I thought that sentiment would be self-evident. It’s also about the ways we, at that age, are so vulnerable and trapped by circumstance. We’re not really children anymore, but we’re still years away from being able to make meaningful decisions about the directions our lives are going. So, the “Here” isn’t just the physical setting of the school, but also that awkward stage between the formative years of childhood and the freedoms of charting our own courses as adults.
If I Ever is the first YA piece you’ve written after a long line of adult works. What challenged you most about writing for teen readers?
I’ve consistently written about younger life, so that focus wasn’t an issue. My first published short story is about one afternoon in the life of a four year old, as remembered by his adult self. My writing for adults tends to be pretty interior, about the life inside, with a ton of detail, history, and memory. The first draft of this book looked like that as well. The most challenging thing was to strip away a lot of that tonal, interior detail and memory, in order to bring the plot into the forefront, while still keeping it in the ballpark of the kinds of ideas I want to write about.
Finally, what does diversity mean to you?
Perhaps because of my cultural upbringing, I see diversity as a treaty. A treaty is a negotiated common ground between different ideological groups. A number of groups, it seems to me, still try to negotiate a formal separatism, but I don’t really see that as attractive. I have my ruts as much as anyone else does, but I also like to consider new things. I’m an accumulator—I suppose that’s a nice way of saying I’m a hoarder. I don’t drop one aspect of my life when it’s no longer fashionable, or because something else is more exciting. I like the comfort of the familiar and the thrill of the new. If you were to look at my book collection, or film collection, or music collection, you would see a very wide diversity in each. I find they all give me something rich, without taking away from the others, and that, truly, is what diversity means to me—the opportunity to grow with the exposure to new cultural forces, but not at the expense of those with which you’re already familiar.
Filed under: Interview
Tagged: author interview
, Eric Gansworth
Blog: The Children's and Teens' Book Connection
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, Author Interview
, Young Adult
, Young Adult fiction
, animal lovers books
, author interviews
, children's fantasy
, Enchanted Home
, Hunted Home
, Pump Up Your Book
, Rock Bottom
, Saderia Series
, Sarah Renée
, Teen fiction
, The Children's and Teens Book Connection
, The Tiger Princess
, Tween fiction
, virtual book tour
, young adult fantasy novels
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By: C. C. Gevry,
Sarah Renée has loved writing from an early age. At the age of 10, she came up with the idea for The Tiger Princess and wrote the novel when she was 12. She is fascinated with wild animals and the wild world outside her home, and has a great love of tigers. She enjoys spending time with her cats, reading, drawing, and playing her violin when she is not writing. In her free time, she is constantly daydreaming about her many characters, creating new ones, and coming up with interesting adventure story ideas. She is now 17 years old.
Visit Sarah Renee’s website at www.thetigerprincess.com to learn more about Sarah Renee, her books, and more!
Thank you for joining us today, Sarah. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
Thank you for interviewing me! My name is Sarah Renée, I’m 17 years old, a huge cat-lover, and the author of a series of fantasy adventure books written for ages 8-12 called the Saderia Series.
When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
Probably before I was even born! I have loved telling stories for as long as I can remember. When I was really young, I used to just love scribbling out stories on a piece of paper. As I got older, I started writing more complex stories – but even then, they were just short stories about my cats! When I was 12, though, I started getting serious about writing and decided I wanted to be an author. That was when I wrote the final draft of my first book, The Tiger Princess, a 300+ page fantasy novel about a curious tiger Princess named Saderia, which I later went on to publish at the age of 13.
Why did you decide to write stories for children?
I didn’t actually make a conscious decision to write stories for children when I wrote my first book, The Tiger Princess, since I wrote it at the age of 12. When I wrote it, I only wanted to write a story that I would like to read and that other kids around my age would enjoy reading.
Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?
In my case, no. Since I started writing at a young age – the age The Tiger Princess and the other Saderia Series books are geared toward – writing from a 10-year-old tiger’s point of view for a younger audience came naturally to me. I’ve gotten so used to writing from my young characters’ point of view in the years since I wrote my first book that it still feels natural and easy to write for a younger audience even now that I’m 17. Plus, it probably helps that I haven’t grown up much since then!
What is your favorite part of writing for young people?
It definitely has to be the fact that you can write so freely. Children in the age range I write for have incredible imaginations – I know I did! What I love about writing for children is that I can capture their imaginations in such fantastic ways. Stories for children don’t have to be totally based in reality – you can write about magical adventures and extraordinary characters when you write for children, and hopefully you can inspire them to use their own imaginations to come up with their own stories too!
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
My latest book, Rock Bottom, is actually the fifth book in the Saderia Series. It would be difficult to talk about it without describing the other ones, though, so I’ll describe the first book first.
My first book is called The Tiger Princess, a fantasy adventure book written for ages 8-12. In the book, a sassy and brave tiger Princess named Saderia makes it her goal to solve the mystery of what happened to her parents, the King and Queen, after they vanished in a fire ten years ago. On her quest to uncover the truth, Saderia also stumbles upon ancient secrets and even incredible magic powers!
The second book, Dash, follows Saderia’s adventures in a new school as she tries to befriend a mysterious classmate with a dark secret. The third book is called Hunted Home, and it tells the story of a canine named Dingo who lives in a harsh desert and has to fight not only to save himself, but also Saderia when she finds herself lost. The fourth book, Enchanted Home, introduces a new character named Jeb, who was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and who seeks Saderia’s help and magic powers in finding the truth. And that brings us to the fifth book, which tells the story of how Saderia and her new friends must fight to save a lost member of her family – and in the process, uncover a few dark truths.
What inspired you to write it?
More than anything, a love of telling stories and a love of the characters I created inspired me to write each of the books in the series. I actually came up with the idea for the first book, The Tiger Princess, when I was 10 by combining my love of tigers and animals with a fascination with royalty like Princesses and Queens. Now my love of the story of Saderia’s adventures inspires me to keep writing the next books in the series!
Where can readers purchase a copy?
The Tiger Princess is actually free on the Amazon Kindle right now, and you can pick up your e-book copy here. It is also available for free on the Barnes & Noble Nook, which you can find here, and on most other e-readers. If you’re looking for a paperback copy, you can also pick one up on Amazon at the same link. For a list of all the places you can get The Tiger Princess, as well as the other books in the series (Dash, Hunted Home, Enchanted Home, and Rock Bottom), check out the official website for links to all the places you can get them!
What is up next for you?
I have just finished writing the 11th book in the Saderia Series (of which there will be about 16 books), so I’m planning on writing the 12th book and the rest of the books in the series soon and hopefully releasing Book 6 sometime in 2014. I’m also tossing around an idea for another series I’d like to write. So in short, a whole lot of writing!
Do you have anything else to add?
Nope, just a big thanks for interviewing me and letting me share my story!
Thank you for spending time with us today, Sarah. We wish you much success.
Thanks again for interviewing me and thanks to everyone for reading and for checking out The Tiger Princess and the Saderia Series!
The Saderia Series Virtual Book Tour Schedule
Book 1 review at This Little Book of Mine
Interview at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection
Guest post at Bookingly Yours
Book 1 review at YAdult Review
First chapter reveal for Book 1 at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at Between the Covers
Series spotlight at Literal Exposure
Book 1 spotlight at Classic Children’s Books
Book 1 review at Classic Children’s Books
Interview at Pump Up Your Book
Guest post at The Crypto-Capers Review
Interview at Blogcritics
Guest post and giveaway at The Busy Mom’s Daily
Book 2 spotlight at Paperback Writer
Book 2 review at This Little Book of Mine
Interview at Examiner
First chapter reveal for Book 2 at CelticLady’s Reviews
Book 1 review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Book 2 review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Guest post at Literarily Speaking
Series spotlight at Thoughts in Progress
Guest post at 4 the Love of Books
Series spotlight at 4 the Love of Books
Series spotlight at The Children’s and Teen’s Book Connection
Book tour highlights at The Book Rack
Bookshelf Confessions welcomes:
Jana Oliver is an American author. Her books cross many genres, including romance/fantasy and historical mystery. An Iowa native, she currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Her Time Rovers Series is published by Dragon Moon Press, a Canadian speculative fiction publisher, and in e-book form by Nevermore Press. The series has been nominated for fifteen awards and has won twelve, including ForeWord Magazine's Editor's Choice Book of the...
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By: Tara Lazar
Blog: Tara Lazar
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, Children's Books
, Picture Books
, HUNGRY HARRY
, MORE CHEESE PLEASE
, Ollie and Claire
, Tiffany Strelitz Haber
, Add a tag
You know the Piña Colada song, right? Getting caught in the rain?
Well, imagine that song in a picture book for kids (without the dunes of the cape, of course). Two besties have great times together, but they get stuck in a rut and go off to seek other adventures…only to rediscover each other.
That’s the premise of Tiffany Strelitz Haber‘s charming OLLIE AND CLAIRE. The light and cheery watercolors by Matthew Cordell feature sketchy lines that suggest fun and frolic. A delight to read aloud, your voice just skips along like the two friends do. Tiffany’s a master of rhyme and one of the two ladies behind The Meter Maids.
Besides having two successful picture books to her credit (the other is THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN), Tiffany has branched out into ebooks. She recently released HUNGRY HARRY with StoryPanda and MORE CHEESE, PLEASE with KiteReaders. I interviewed her to find out about the ebook process and this emerging opportunity for children’s book writers.
Tiffany, what attracted you to ebooks?
To me, ebooks are just another way for kids to experience reading. In some cases there are interactive aspects to the ebook that can really help them learn, and in other cases it might just be a nice opportunity for a more reluctant reader to enjoy stories and story time in general.
Did you write HARRY and CHEESE specifically for an ebook format, or were these traditional picture book manuscripts first?
I have this sort of arsenal of completed picture books. Some have been subbed out widely. Others to just a couple places, and others have never actually seen the light of day! I picked two stories that I liked a lot and just rolled with those. Not sure CHEESE was ever subbed out anywhere and HARRY went to one place, actually got to editorial, but didn’t make it through. Wait. Does that even answer your question? Kind of, right?!
How did you go about researching ebook publishers and in what format did you submit?
Oh, I googled the bejesus out of ebook publishers and chose to submit to ones that I felt the most comfortable with. There’s a lot of communication available with the actual publishers and marketing directors etc., so you can really get a feel for who you would be working with before you actually work with them.
I hired illustrators (after exhaustive searches on freelance websites) and submitted completed manuscripts (text and art) to the ebook publishers. The illustrators I chose were those willing to accept a flat fee for the work, and OK with the fact that I would retain the rights to the images as well. Hopefully it is some good publicity for them, and also additional work to add to their portfolio when searching for agents, etc. There are so many wonderful artists out there!
How was the ebook editorial process different from a traditional picture book process?
Um…it’s different in that it’s ALL YOU. Period.
Care to expand upon that?
It’s basically self-publishing your picture book online. You need to edit it, and make all the art decisions, and check the spelling and punctuation, etc. There isn’t an editor or an art director to do that with you—although with HARRY I did work with someone at StoryPanda to create the interactive elements of the story.
The sounds all the crazy stuff HARRY eats sure are fun!
What recommendations and cautions do you have for other picture book writers about delving into the world of ebooks?
I think it’s too soon for me to make any cautionary statements OR recommendations about ebooks yet. It’s something I am experimenting with, and really enjoying so far…but definitely too soon to say much more than that!
How have you gone about marketing your ebooks?
Well, again—this is all very new to me, but I’ve started sending them out for reviews and of course there’s social media. And on a larger scale, I am trying to work with schools to get the books on their computers, etc. Defintiely a very entrepeneurial endeavor; but I think if you’re up for the challenge, it’s also lots of fun with somewhat limitless possibilities!
So you’ve now published two traditional picture books and two ebooks. What’s next for you?
Hmmm…I’m working on a middle grade novel right now, which is taking up most of my writing time—but still juggling a bunch of picture book works in “progress”, although I use the term “progress” loosely, as they seem to be at a dead stop for the time being!
Well, jump back into it because you’re a perfect rhymer and the world needs more great rhyming books!
Thanks for stopping by to let us in on the ebook process!
Blog readers, don’t go yet. Tiffany has a copy of HUNGRY HARRY and MORE CHEESE, PLEASE to give away. Just leave a comment below to enter the giveaway. Two winners will be chosen one week from today. Good luck!
Ms. C.C. Hunter. Welcome to Bookshelf Confessions. It's a pleasure
to have you today. I still can’t believe that I have you for an
interview in my bloggoversary despite your busy schedule :) Thank you
so much for this.
been lucky to read Whispers at Moonrise. Truly, the Shadow Falls
series is one-of-a-kind, how would you describe it to someone who
hasn't read any of the books from the said series?
Hmm . . . Well, I’d probably tell them that my story is...
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Bookshelf Confessions welcomes Wendy Higgins, author of The Sweet Trilogy for an author interview, and a giveaway further below. Enjoy! :D
Hello Ms. Wendy Higgins. Welcome to Bookshelf Confessions. I’m so excited to have you today.
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.
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I’m so excited for Sweet Reckoning, as much as it’s sad to say bye to
the characters. Do you...
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I am extremely pleased to present this interview with children’s book author Jessica Young, whose debut picture book My Blue is Happy is literally teeming with color. As all of my blog fans know, I love color, so to have a chance to interview an author who shares my passion for our wonderful, colorful world is just so satisfying. In My Blue is Happy, Jessica is able to express her unique feelings for each color as the story moves along. Illustrator Catia Chien’s brilliant artwork enhances the text, and together, the words and pictures immerse the reader into that wonderful, colorful world I mentioned. I have to say, since blue is my favorite color, and has been since forever, I absolutely love how Jessica conveys blue as happy and not sad, the emotion that is usually associated with the color. Think about how many shades of blue there are, from the darkest navy to the lightest baby blue and every shade in between. My favorites are periwinkle, teal, turquoise, and sky blue. So I have to agree with Jessica when she says, “My Blue is Happy”! (P.S. Check out the gorgeous cover image below!)
Enjoy the interview!
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing for children?
JY. Kids are naturally creative, curious, and silly – and they tend to be open to new ideas and experiences. It’s exciting to think that my story might spark a change in perception, understanding, or emotion. Also, I love accessing the parts of me that are five or nine or seventeen. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am still every age that I have been.” And I like spending time at those younger ages within myself.
Q. How do you motivate yourself to sit down and write?
JY. I spend so much time wanting to write and thinking about story ideas as I’m doing other things that most often when I do sit down to write it feels relieving. I sometimes leave a difficult piece for a while and entertain a shiny, new idea, or toggle back and forth between two or more works-in-progress, but when necessary, I just try to plow through. Being accountable to my critique partners also helps. And fun snacks and drinks!
Q. What inspired you to write your beautiful picture book My Blue Is Happy?
JY. I can’t remember the exact moment the title and idea came to me. But I’ve always been interested in individual differences and perspective. Blue is one of my happy colors, and I wondered if having a sad association like “the blues” colors people’s perceptions of it. I’ve also observed adults telling kids that colors mean specific things, and that grass is green and sky is blue, and I’ve wondered how kids reconcile that with their own experiences. There are universal/collective ideas about color, but also variations across cultures and individuals. I wanted to explore the concept of subjectivity through the lens of color.
Q. What was it like to work with illustrator Catia Chien? Were you able to collaborate on what the illustrations would look like?
JY. I’ve actually never met Catia, and we didn’t correspond at all while making the book (as is often the case), although I’d seen her art and loved it. I discussed my vision for the story with my wonderful editor at Candlewick and worked with her to develop the text, and Catia did the same with the art director. It was amazing seeing it come together. The illustrations are so imaginative and ethereal – they really take the text to another level.
Q. What’s the first thing you did when you held the completed hard copy of your picture book in your hands for the first time?
JY. I showed it to my kids. It was really amazing for me to have them read it and see their names in the dedication. A good friend and her kids were over at the time, and we all looked at it and took pictures.
Q. Can you tell us what projects you are working on right now?
JY. Several picture books, a chapter book series, and a young adult novel – but that one may take me a while.
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog On A Blog readers?
JY. I wouldn’t have gotten this book published without joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and finding the support of my writing friends and crit partners. They push me, humor me, cheer for me, and teach me. If you’re writing and thinking about joining a critique group and/or SCBWI, I highly recommend it!
As part of our celebration, I would like to share the books that really started this blog.
I was a book reviewer even before the birth of Bookshelf Confessions, you can find my book reviews on Librarything for that, mostly, the books I reviewed were in e-book type. One day, I requested a book from Mr. Michael Griffo, but instead of giving me an e-book, he offered to give me print ones, even though I'm from the Philippines. I was sooo happy at that time, it's not only the first print...
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By: Tara Lazar
Blog: Tara Lazar
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Come meet some new kidlit authors with the Children’s Author Blog Hop!
I was invited to participate by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, an author I know from NJ-SCBWI whose historical middle grade novel WHEELS OF CHANGE releases next year. It’s set in 1909 Washington D.C. and follows a young girl who attempts to save the family carriage business during the proliferation of the automobile. (Really cool premise I cannot wait to read!)
To participate in this hop, you don a pair of your fluffiest Hello Kitty socks and…wait a minute! This isn’t the Children’s Author SOCK HOP? Oh darn. And I was itching to do the mashed potato, too.
Darlene and me at a NJ-SCBWI book signing’
To participate in the BLOG hop, you answer four questions, then pass the torch onto three other authors. One of the great privileges of writing this blog is to promote other talented kidlit professionals. I’m so pleased to introduce you to PiBoIdMo participants and authors you may not know yet—Elaine, Angie & Jacque—but you will!
And now the four questions…
Why is this night different from all other nights?
Whoops. Sorry. That’s the first of the Passover four questions. Maybe my Jewish friends had a chuckle. The rest of you are going HUH?!
1. What are you currently working on?
As you may know, I host Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) every November. It’s the picture book writer’s alternative to NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to create one new picture book idea daily.
I caution PiBoIdMo participants NOT to post their ideas anywhere online. Concept is primarily what sells a picture book, and you don’t want someone to snatch your hook-y concept.
So I’m going to follow my own advice and be a little cryptic about what I’m working on. It’s a magical story about someone who’s not happy with magic.
My usual M.O. is to begin with a title, and that’s what I’m doing yet again. It’s got a snazzy, catchy title, something that will make people wanna snag it right off the shelf. The bad news is that I’ve already written this story once before—and revised it at least a dozen times. But it just didn’t work. In fact, I set aside this story for an entire year before I re-read my final draft again just last week.
WHOA! WHAT A STINK! WHAT DIED IN THERE?
In my zealous quest to perfect the manuscript, I darted further and further away from my original intentions. The story didn’t resemble anything I’d like to call my work. And so, it got filed in the circular file.
This week I began again with nothing but the title. I’ve got the opening down and I can already see it’s going far better than it did last year, but I’ve still got a long way to go.
I’m also putting final edits on LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, a punny skating adventure coming from Penguin Random House Children’s in October 2015. All your favorite fairytale characters will be along for the glide—Humpty Dumpty, Old MacDonald, even Jack Sprat and his wife.
2. How does it differ from other works in the genre?
The magical story will feature an adult. In fact, it opens with an adult. I know this is typically a no-no, but the adult is not an ordinary grown-up. You’ll see. Know the rules, but know when to break them, too.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I have always had a love affair with the short story. I prefer the brilliance in their brevity. And with picture books, I adore the juxtaposition of words and images. It’s like playing for a living.
4. What is the hardest part about writing?
Not letting the words get away from you. Sometimes the words have a way of writing themselves, pulling you in a direction you didn’t want to go. You have to learn to tame your words, and that’s no easy feat.
And now, ladies and gentleman and children of all ages, I’m pleased to present the three authors I’ve chosen to hop to: Elaine Kiely Kearns, Angie Karcher and Jacque Duffy!
E. Kiely Kearns is an elementary school teacher and a member of the SCBWI. She earned her Masters in Education from Fordham University. She dreams up wild and wonderful stories in New York State where she lives with her husband, two children, and menagerie of animals. She lives on coffee, chocolate and humor. Mostly humor. Get your “Book Smarts” fix at EKielyKearns.com.
Angie Karcher’s first book, WHERE THE RIVER GRINS: THE HISTORY OF EVANSVILLE, ILLINOIS came out in November 2012. It was part of the city’s Bicentennial celebration and is a resource book for local history in all third grade classrooms in Evansville. Her current project, THE LEGENDARY COWBOY JONES, about a 70-year-old jockey who’s still racing, comes out after the first of the year. She is a former Kindergarten teacher and professional storyteller. Read more of her story at AngieKarcher.wordpress.com.
Born in Brisbane, Australia, Jacque Duffy has always been creative and entrepreneurial. She has written, illustrated and self-published seven children’s books in a series. These books were sought and purchased by the Queensland State Government and placed into schools and libraries. In 2014 her first picture book THE BEAR SAID PLEASE will be released by Wombat books. Follow her down under at JacquesArtandBooks.com.
Thanks to author Alexandra Coutts (née Bullen) and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (BFYR) for including us on the blog tour for Tumble & Fall
! Alexandra answers some questions and you can enter to win a copy of the book (make sure you use the Rafflecopter widget below). Then check out the rest of the blog tour posts
About the book:
A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings About the author:
The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.
Alexandra Coutts's TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world.
Alexandra Bullen Coutts has been a playwright, waitress, barista, gardener, script reader, yoga instructor and personal assistant. She grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in New York City, and lives
most of the year
full time on Martha’s Vineyard.
RNSL: If you knew it was the last day of the existence of the world, how would you spend your last day? What would make it perfect?
The perfect last day on earth for me would be spent with my family and friends on the beach. Ideally, it would be glorious, beachy weather, and we would swim in warm water and picnic on delicious, summer food and play in the sand, and there would be music, and at the end of the night we would huddle together to watch the sunset.
RNSL: What's in your emergency kit? Are you the kind of person who's ready for anything?
I am the kind of person who is ready for nothing. I never even have a Band-Aid when I need one, which is starting to be a problem, now that I have a kid. I am the opposite of an alarmist, whatever that is: it takes a lot to get me to freak out about something, and I am prone to suspecting that everything is a conspiracy, unless I witness it firsthand. I guess this would make me pretty much the last person you would want in your corner, in the event of the real apocalypse. (Unless steadfast denial is your cup of tea!)
RNSL: Tumble & Fall isn't so much a dystopian as it is a story of relationships and attitudes. What inspired you to write this kind of book?
I think that is a wonderful description of not only this book but of every book I’ve written and hope to write. “Relationships” and “attitudes” are the things that most interest me in the real world, and so I find myself drawn to writing primarily about the way characters grow and change, as their relationships and attitudes grow and change around them. “Story” and “plot” for me are fancy ways of talking about the stuff that happens to make these changes happen, over the course of a book. But it’s the changes themselves that I find most interesting.
RNSL: There are so many elements put together in this story: astronomy, sailing, art... Did you have to do research, and what form did that research take? Were you already interested in these topics before you incorporated them into your novel?
The only thing I researched was the asteroid science, and let me tell you, it was terrifying. There are a number of videos floating around the Internet that simulate what would happen to Earth in the event of a serious asteroid “shower,” and I spent hours watching them, and biting my nails.
The rest of the stuff is pretty much from my life. I live on Martha’s Vineyard, where the book is set, so I spend a lot of time talking to people about their boats, or surfboards, or artwork. It’s a pretty fascinating community of people that live here year-round, and I do a lot of eavesdropping to make my characters more interesting, whenever possible!
RNSL: The characters are very much an ensemble -- so many individuals! Was it difficult to keep track of how their stories intertwined? How did you manage it?
This was my first multi-POV (point-of-view) book, and I have to say I found that aspect of writing it very, very challenging. There were times when my brain would start throbbing, from the effort of trying to keep track of where everyone was, what day it was, where we had seen them last and where they needed to end up. I had color-coded outlines and Stickies on my computer desktop with character names and descriptions, so I could remember everything from favorite foods to eye color. It was tough, but in the end, I felt like I had created this other little world: another island, similar to the one I live on but populated by a totally different group of fictional people!
RNSL: Do you have a new project in the works? If you can share anything about it with us, please do.
I do have a new book that I’m working on, but it’s still in the super-secret early stages. I can say that it’s another island story, and it’s something I’m really, really excited about!
RNSL: Did you set out to write a YA novel, or did you write it first without a clear idea of who the audience would be?
I knew that TUMBLE & FALL would be a YA book from the beginning, because I was interested in exploring the way every-day teenagers might react to something as big and terrifying as the end of the world. But what surprised me while writing was the fact that I wanted to know so much more about all of the secondary characters, as well, regardless of their ages.
Each main POV character (Sienna, Caden and Zan) had parents and siblings and acquaintances of all ages, and I found myself really drawn to the various ways different people might handle the same, incredibly high-stakes situation in different ways. It’s definitely a YA book because of the way it focuses on the teens in the story, but it’s my hope that people of all ages might be able to find characters they can relate to, as well.
RNSL: When you were a young(er) adult, were you a reader? What books did you read?
I read constantly when I was younger (still do, although I had more time to do it back then!) I went through a very serious Judy Blume phase (my all-time favorite childhood book was JUST AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER. I still remember the first line: “Stephanie is into hunks.”) I took a brief detour into the teen horror genre, with guys like R.L. Stine (whom I met at BEA this year!) and Christopher Pike.
When I got to high school, I did most of my reading for classes, and I remember being introduced to amazing authors like Joyce Carol Oates, William Faulkner, and the poetry of E.E. Cummings. I wrote my senior thesis paper on The Sound and the Fury
by Faulkner and it’s still my favorite book, today.Find out more about the author on her website alexandracoutts.com, and follow her on Twitter @abcoutts. You can also check out more stops on the Tumble & Fall blog tour, the Fierce Reads tour info and read an excerpt from the book!
My review post is still to come, but you can enter to win your own copy (if you live in US/Canada) using the Rafflecopter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
- Open to US/Canada residents only.
- We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items.
- One set of entries per household please.
- If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address.
- Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends.
- Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner.
- If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here.
- PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!
Blog: Darlene Beck-Jacobson
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I had the pleasure of meeting author Kim Chabel at a workshop she hosted on how to do Book Trailers. www.Castelane.com and http://www.kimchatel.com Not only is Kim a wealth of information regarding marketing children’s books with book trailers, she is a fiber artist as well. Her storytelling AND one of her crafts will be featured in this and Friday’s post. Here is the enchanting and whimsical excerpt from Kim’s latest book: BURGHER AND THE WOEBEGONE: A-Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Story.
Burgher and the Woebegone
By Kim Chatel
Chapter 1: Wherein Burgher finds a toenail.
Spring came to Oxtail Orchard with ash-gray skies and dingy horizons. The stunted apple trees shook on the little hillock like a clutch of old hens left out in the cold.
What’s that? Spring isn’t supposed to be about cold chickens? It’s supposed to be about hopeful flashes of green and blossom scented breezes? You’re right, of course, but Oxtail Orchard had been gray and dismal for too many springs. No one remembered it any other way.
You can thank Burgher for that. He drove the Apple Tree Man away.
Burgher was a gnome, which is just another way of saying an ugly elf. He was fat, but still managed to have knobby knees and elbows. He wore the same clothes everyday, until they were tattered, greasy rags. His beard was as gray as his heart and tangled with bits of twigs and last night’s dinner.
He didn’t care that the scurrying squirrels pined for fresh fruit or the birds, so newly arrived from the south, were confused to find the orchard bare and gray. Burgher liked gray. He worked in his garden bed, plucking the few green shoots that dared to poke through the mud. Only fungus and slugs were allowed in his garden. Slugs were dependable and no one ever made a fuss over fungus.
Burgher had been growing gray things for so long; the grayness had crept inside him. But, dear reader, Burgher was about to learn that color, like hope cannot be kept from this world forever.
Just as he was enjoying his crop of slugs and moss, his trowel turned over a green toenail. Not green like his own moldy hobnobs, but green like eager spring leaves.
Burger pulled his beard. He stomped his foot.
Only one person had toenails like these.
The Apple Tree Man was back.
“. . . good for nothing . . . ruin everything . . .” Burgher mumbled. He slipped the toenail in his pocket and looked up at his apple tree home. A small rain cloud hung over the branches like a pork-pie hat.
It was true! Tiny green buds sparkled on the branches. He stared at the little nubs for a full minute, unbelieving. Buds meant blossoms, leaves, apples and all the infuriating creatures that came with them.
Burgher’s hearing wasn’t so good, and the constant thunder rumbling from the storm cloud didn’t help, but he thought he could just make out the chirping of birds.
“. . . wretched tree.” He kicked at a root. “Blasted buds. . .”
Burgher did not believe in finishing sentences. Finished sentences were whole thoughts, promises that couldn’t be taken back.
“. . . bees . . . too many bees. And butterflies. . .”
Burgher hated butterflies.
He sat heavily on a damp mushroom and wondered how he would rid the orchard of the Apple Tree Man once again. Jonny Gold (as the Apple Tree Man was known) was a legend, even to the legends. Flowers sprang up where he walked. Baby critters followed him with big, soppy smiles. The apple trees bowed in the wind when he passed.
Burgher cared less than a fig for the mysterious Apple Tree Man. When he saw the young field mice and bunny kits at Jonny’s knee, listening to tales of bumblebee heroes, Burger cringed. When he heard Jonny’s flute lilting notes into the moonlight, he gritted his teeth.
You see, reader, Burgher suffered from the most dreadfully incurable disease. He had a broken heart, and he blamed his misery on Jonny Gold.
Chapter 2c: Wherein Burgher meets a dear friend.
Before the grayness, Burgher loved to walk through the orchard in the evening. He liked to listen to the birds fluffing their nests for the night, and the crickets tune their bows to start the evening symphony.
He was still a young gnome then. His beard barely reached his knees. His heart was full of love for his home and his neighbors.
“Good evening, Burgher,” said Mrs. Raccoon.
“Evenin’” said Burgher tipping his hat. “How are the children?” Mrs. Raccoon turned and counted each of her babies by tapping them on the head.
“Six. They’re all here. It’s a good night.”
“It certainly is,” said Burgher. The raccoons slipped off like shadows to find their supper and Burgher walked deeper into the orchard.
He wasn’t paying attention to his feet. They knew every dip in the path, every knotty root poking out of the earth. They would lead him where he wanted to go–the Queen tree.
She was lovely in the moonlight. Her leaves glimmered like gold. Burgher laid a hand on her warm trunk. He could feel the sap coursing through her. She was so alive!
Just then, a little inchworm hung down in front of his nose from a silver string. Her skinny, green body swung on her filament like bait for a lonely gnome. Burgher walked right into her and she landed on his nose.
“Hey, little inchworm,” he said. The worm wiggled down to his cheek.
He took the inchworm home and put her in a basket of sweet grass. He named her Katy. Everyday he brought her fresh, green leaves to eat, and listened with fascination to the immeasurably small clicking noises she made as she devoured leaf after leaf. To Burgher it was magical music.
Over the Spring, Katy grew fat. She and Burgher explored the whole orchard together. They picnicked under the Queen tree, basking in its golden glow. They hopped the creek, and ran down grassy hills just for fun.
They were inseparable.
Then one bright Spring morning, when Burgher brought Katy her breakfast, she was gone! The basket was empty except for a long, hard egg-like thing, hanging from Katy’s favorite branch.
Burgher grabbed the basket and ran to see Jonny Gold. In those days, the Apple Tree Man was a friend to Burgher, not a foe.
Jonny Gold lazed under a tree, playing his flute. The music brought bees and other beneficial insects from miles around to fertilize the apple blossoms and eat the nasty insects that feasted on the trees.
“Help me!” cried Burger. Jonny Gold’s music faded as the frantic little gnome shoved the basket under his nose.
“Katy’s gone!” said Burgher.
Jonny Gold looked in the basket and laughed.
“Katy’s not gone, ol’ boy,” he said. Burgher hated to be called ol’ boy, but he was too upset to notice.
“Katy has made herself into a chrysalis. In a week or so, she’ll come out as a beautiful butterfly.”
“A butterfly?” said Burgher. He had lived all his life in the orchard. He had seen butterflies fly and worms inch, but had never imagined they were both the same creature.
A butterfly! How wonderful! When Katy comes out of her chrysalis, what adventures we’ll have!
“What do I do with her?” asked Burgher. “How do I take care of her until she’s ready to… you know, change?”
“She’s changing now, ol’ boy. You don’t have to do anything, but wait.”
Burgher took Katy and her basket home.
Waiting proved harder than he thought. Everyday he peered anxiously into the basket. Everyday, Katy slept on in her chrysalis.
A week later, the chrysalis moved. Burgher took her to the Queen Apple Tree. He wanted Butterfly-Katy’s first view of the orchard to be that beautiful, golden tree. The day was perfect, warm but not hot. No breeze would ruffle Katy’s newborn wings.
Burger waited and watched. His heart was as full as a harvest moon.
Soon a little black head popped out of the chrysalis. One leg then another. Burgher whispered encouraging words to his friend.
“You can do it, Katy. That a girl! Come on, Katy!”
When she finally emerged, with damp, crumpled wings, he scooped her up on his finger and said, “Welcome to the orchard, Butterfly-Katy.”
She was beautiful! Her wings were the delicate blue of a robin’s egg. She fanned herself, drying the new wings in the sun. Soon she lifted off, hovered in the air for a moment, and then floated into the branches of the Queen tree.
Just like an angel. Burgher nearly burst with pride.
Katy flew higher and Burgher lost her in the glare of the sun. He blinked and she was gone. Burgher smiled. Katy loved to play hide-and-seek. He called to her and slowly circled the tree.
Katy was nowhere. Burgher’s stomach lurched.
“Katy!” he called. “Katy!”
He climbed the Queen tree. His clumsy feet broke branches and knocked off new apples. Frantic now, he searched the leaves, until his head poked up over the top of the tree.
And that was when Burgher heard the music, faint at first, but growing louder. It was lilting and melodic, like a summer’s day.
Jonny Gold’s flute!
Burgher stumbled down the trunk. He scraped his face on a sharp branch. The tree bark chaffed his hands. He didn’t care. He had to find Katy.
“You!” he cried, pointing a finger at Jonny Gold. “You did this! You called Katy away and now she is lost.”
That last word sprang from his mouth in a sob.
“Don’t be ridiculous, ol’ boy.”
“Don’t call me ol’ boy!” shouted Burgher.
“Hey, hey, calm down. I meant no offense. And I didn’t call Katy. She’s a butterfly. That’s what they do. They flutter by and they just keep on fluttering. What did you expect? That you could keep her in a cage?”
“Yes!” said Burgher. “I mean, no.” He didn’t know what he meant. All he knew was that his best friend was gone and nothing would ever be the same. Burgher’s heart cracked in two that night and the joy leaked out like the yolk of an egg. It was the beginning of the end for Oxtail Orchard.
Be sure to check out Kim’s Caterpillar Craft on Friday.
By: David Chuka,
Its Author Interview Thursday! Woohoo! Ladies and Gentlemen I’d like to let you in on a secret.
I’ve been trying for the last 5 months to get today’s featured guest in the hot seat. I met him at the London Book Fair in April and have had the privilege to have him critique my work and he’s offered useful advice to help improve my writing and publishing efforts. He’s worked with the best of the best and founded a successful publishing company in the North of England. Do you remember my interviews with Stuart Reid
and Beth Dexter-Smith
? Well, they’re successful authors at his publishing firm. Books published by his company, My Little Big Town
can be found in the big bookstores in the UK and could soon be coming to a bookstore near you. He has a lot to share with us today, so without further ado, please join me in welcoming Calvin Innes.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the publishing world?
I’ve been an illustrator and designer for about twelve years, having worked for loads of companies all over the world including Cadbury’s, Nestle, Sony, RSPB, The Brownies, Girl Guides on all sorts of different projects. I’ve story-boarded TV commercials, I’ve worked on advertising for the Smurfs Movie and Slush Puppies, I’ve designed toys and games as well as illustrating books and comics. Basically if it’s drawing, I’ve probably done it at some point. It was working for other publishers that lead me to set up My Little Big Town. I became disheartened with some of he work I was getting (it was all a little sickly sweet for my taste) and wanted to set up a company that published fun, silly, quirky children’s books.
What can a reader expect when they get a book published by My Little Big Town?
We publish books that are written and illustrated with children in mind. Many publishers target the parents (they are the ones who actually buy the books after all) but My Little Big Town works hard to create books that children really WANT to read. They are often disgusting, scary, silly books. We like to take risks when it comes to our titles and pride ourselves on publishing fun books, with great authors behind them.
What is your first love: writing or Illustrating?
Illustrating. It’s hard to explain but for me illustration is just who I am. It’s what I’ve always done and would do it whether I was doing it for a living or not. Writing is kind of the same but if I absolutely HAD to choose one or the other it would be illustration.
Who has been an inspiration to you in your journey as a writer/illustrator and what do you love about their work?
The two biggest influences for me happen to be children’s literature’s greatest team. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. Roald Dahl is in my opinion the best there ever has been or ever will be. He just had a way of writing that worked perfectly for children’s books. He understood on a wonderful level how children think and see the world. Quentin Blake has the same talent with illustration. He draws how children think. His illustrations are free and loose and energetic and exciting. He doesn’t worry about making mistakes or getting everything precise, it’s more about how the illustration makes you feel. They’re always fun. As a duo they had something very special.
People talk a lot about writer’s block. Is there something similar in an illustrator’s world and what do you do to overcome it?
Yes, of course. I can sometimes stare at the drawing board for hours struggling to get something down on paper. When that does happen I tend to work on something else to just chill out and take my mind off it for a bit. I have quite an odd way of working where I usually have at least three or four illustrations on the go at any one time, side by side. These illustrations are usually vastly different. One might be a children’s book illustration while another might be quite a dark comic book illustration, another may be something quite technical. I have a very large desk/work space and have a drawing tablet and two drawing boards all side by side, allowing me to work in this way.
As a publisher, I imagine you must get a lot of manuscripts on your desk. What key elements make you stop and take notice in a manuscript?
It’s very hard to say. It has to be different and have something special, but exactly what that ‘special thing’ is… well, it’s not an exact science. I may like a general concept, or I may like a particular character, or even a style of writing. I’m always looking for that ‘something’ that gets my attention, but that something can often be very different things.
Can you take us behind the veil and explain the process from when you (or one of your authors) get an idea until it gets published and seats on a shelf in a local bookstore?
It’s a pretty long process… usually from us receiving the initial manuscript or story it’s about 12 to 18 months until it hits the shelves. In this time the book is edited, an illustrator is sought for the project and the illustration process begins. Marketing of the book begins a long time before it actually hits the shelves, often 6-8 months before. This is to allow time for the stores to stock the books, buyers to pre-order copies and for us to make sure as many retailers as possible have the book on their shelves (or websites). We make sure that the author and illustrator work closely together but the final decision on the style of illustrations is primarily based on the market and what we think will work for the book buyers. Once the book is edited, illustrated and ready we go ahead with an initial print-run, with numbers based heavily on pre-orders and potential sales. At the same time the book goes to print we are editing and producing the eBook versions across all formats as well as often producing interactive versions for tablet computers and phones.
How critical is marketing in the success of a book and what three marketing paths have proved the most successful for you?
Marketing is everything. You can produce the best book in the world but unless people know about it, they’re not going to buy it. The key to successfully marketing a book is to target ALL areas, from social media, to print advertising and real world promotion. In the past we have had great success with real world marketing including a launch campaign involving hundreds of pupils and dozens of schools across the UK through to photo-shoots with the New Zealand cricket team. The key is to spot these opportunities to gain exposure in interesting and original ways, then to pounce on them and make the most of those opportunities to gain newspaper/magazine space or radio and TV time. In the past we have successfully worked with thousands of pupils, hundreds of schools, gained national, regional and local newspaper, TV and radio coverage and we continue to promote our books in new and exciting ways. This year will see us launching books at haunted houses, we will be taking part in the World Porridge Championship and organizing a series of writing and illustration workshops across the UK and Scotland. It’s this variety and innovative way of marketing our books that has helped us establish ourselves in the industry.
What mistakes do authors make when they approach publishers that you have noticed?
There are a number of sure fire ways to get a submission rejected as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, not reading the terms and conditions. We have very clear guidelines on our website for authors wanting to submit manuscripts to us. There are a number of points, but they are very simple to follow. Not following them is the first mistake. (it’s always amazing how many people don’t follow the guidelines).
Sending in incomplete manuscripts or ‘ideas’ is never a good tactic. A good idea is pretty easy to come across. A good idea doesn’t however make a good author. We want to see that an author can actually write and develop their good ideas into great stories. Possibly the most frustrating submission we’ve ever received was an envelope stuffed with glitter. The person submitting the manuscript obviously thought that the idea would make them stand out, and it did… just not in a good way. After spending half an hour cleaning up glitter from the office floor we weren’t exactly in the best mood to read the new submission.
How do you handle bad reviews to any of your work?
If the bad reviews come in the ‘testing phase’, and it’s suitable to do so, we edit the books. All of our books are tested on children before publication to make sure they work, and appeal to as many people as possible. It’s how we built the business and it’s a key part of how we work. We genuinely value what children think of our books, so we listen and take action. Some bad reviews can always be expected after publication and to a certain extent it has to be taken on the chin. Not everyone is going to like all of our books all of the time, especially with the sorts of books that we publish. We like to take risks and publish books that other publishers may not always take on.
If a number of bad reviews come in for a particular book then as a group we would sit down and figure out why, and where these reviews came from and what changes would need to be made to future publications to ensure the books were seen in a better light. We are a tight knit company who are passionate about producing high quality children’s books, and as such we take reviews very seriously. They are the best way to see what the public think of our titles, and are directly related to sales so we always take feedback seriously.
What were your favorite books growing up?
Anything by Roald Dahl. He was a genius when it came to children’s books. I have always been a huge horror and science fiction fan. The Riverworld series by Phillip Jose Falmer is my all time favorite set of science fiction stories. I have always loved anything scary too, from classics like Frankenstein and Dracula, to The Shining and Pet Cemetery.
What has been the craziest request/question a child has asked you at a school event?
I always end my sessions with a question and answer session. Questions are always entertaining (and often nothing to do with books). Where did I get my trainers from? How tall am I? What’s my favorite food? are all questions I’ve had from kids. I often sketch whatever children want me to sketch too… just a quick scribble of whatever is shouted out. The strangest has to be a monster that had the head of a dragon, legs of a horse, ears of a lion, fifteen eyes, a snakes tongue and wings of a pigeon… that was a fun one to draw.
What is your favorite Disney/Pixar Movie and why?
I love loads of Disney/Pixar films and watch them again and again. For me though it has to be, Up! simply because it’s one of the best all round films ever made. From a storytelling point of view the first ten minutes of the film were amongst the best cinematic sequences, animated or otherwise, ever put together. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen that film.
Most of the visitors to this blog live outside the United Kingdom. Where should they go or do when they visit the North of England where you’re based?
They should visit us at our new offices and stop by for a coffee on the balcony. We have a fantastic space complete with a ‘chill out zone’ (bean bags, computer games, TV and snacks). We’re also in the process of setting up an ‘art cafe’ and an art gallery on the bottom floor our building!
What can we expect from Calvin Innes and My Little Big Town in the next 12 months?
Lots of fantastic new books, both printed and digital. We have ten new printed titles and over twenty digital titles being released over the next twelve months. We are also launching two new imprints, ‘Room 110′ which will be publishing comic books and graphic novels and ‘Last Door On the Left’ which will be publishing books for teens and adults, including our first non-fiction books. MLBT is also venturing into TV with My Little Big TV and Radio with the My Little Big Radio Show. It’s going to be a busy year.
What advice do you have for authors who have received multiple rejections from publishers and are at the brink of giving up?
Just keep going, it’s as simple as that. Even the best authors get rejected (often a lot). If you’re getting the same feedback or advice on how to improve again and again, don’t be too proud to take it. Even great writers improve over time and sometimes need to take a step back to assess themselves and their writing. Get feedback from people who aren’t related to you. Just because your kid’s like your book doesn’t mean other people will.
Wow! There’s just so much good stuff you’ve shared with us today Calvin, I’ll definitely be coming back to read this interview. I love what you said about Marketing being everything. While it’s a bit frustrating to see average or poorly written books sitting at the top of best-seller lists, the sad reality is that if a writer/publisher does not grasp the importance of marketing their books, then they could very well admit they’re pursuing a hobby and not a professional endeavor. You can discover the latest news and giveaways at Calvin’s firm by following them on Twitter at the link below
You can also discover all the books in his company’s catalog and all the wonderful authors at My Little Big Town by visiting the link below
By: Trudy Zufelt,
Author of The Circle, Cindy Cipriano, was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about being an author for my blog readers. I am happy to share my interview with her.
What inspired you to write your debut novel, The Circle?
Once when I was in "time out," I daydreamed about lifting a tile in the floor and wondered what I'd find below it. I imagined a wise man hunched over a desk working by candle light. This person became Uilleam and is really where the idea for the series began.
If you had to choose one character in your book you are most like, who would it be and why?
I'm really not like any of the characters in The Circle. They are much, much more interesting :) I will say my favorite character is Donnelly. He's just so fearless.
Who are some of your favorite children's books and how have they inspired you to be a writer?
C.S. Lewis is probably my all-time favorite children's author. I was inspired by his brilliant use of magical realism, in that it's not "in your face," but thoughtful and skillfully placed throughout his novels.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a writer?
Finding enough time to write!
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love the actual writing part, sitting at my computer, completely immersed in my story.
Have you ever experienced "writer's block" and how do you get past that?
I have experienced "writer's block," and the best way for me to get past it is just to sit down and start writing.
The Circle is a fantasy novel. Is that your favorite genre to read as well? What other genres do you love?
I love anything that is middle grade/young adult fantasy.
Can you tell us a little bit about your next book that we might not know from reading the first?
is the second book in the Sidhe series. In this book, Calum and his friends will be tested regarding their friendship for and devotion to each other. And, yes, there's more about Finley :) There are also some deleted scenes from The Circle
posted on my website: http://www.thesidheseries.com/deleted-scenes.php
What advice would you give to somebody thinking about becoming a writer?
Join a good critique group, now. I would have saved so much time had I joined one earlier.
Once your book was published, was there every anything you wished you could go back and change? Why or why not?
I really felt The Circle
was "done," when I submitted my manuscript to Odyssey Books. Thanks to my amazing editor, Michelle Lovi, I don't feel the desire to go back and change anything. I would love for readers to let me know what they think about The Circle
. I encourage them to please visit my reviews page and post a review. http://www.thesidheseries.com/review-links.php
Cindy Cipriano's middle grade fantasy, The Circle,
is available through Amazon or other local retailers.
Check out my review HERE
.**This is NOT a sponsored post. No money was exchanged in return for the post.**
I met TARA LAZAR at the annual NJSCBWI Conference in Princeton in 2011. She greeted me – and everyone else with a warm smile and bubbly personality. Her infectious enthusiasm for all things related to writing for children was evident from the first time she spoke. I got to know Tara better through her wonderful blog : www.taralazar.com where she posts about the craft of writing for children. One of my favorite of these posts is 500 Things That Kids Like which is valuable information for anyone who wants to create authentic and believable characters.
Tara has just released her first Picture Book (PB) titled THE MONSTORE. It’s about a boy named Zack who decides to buy a monster to scare his pesky little sister. Only the monster doesn’t actually do what it is supposed to. When Zack tries to return it, he is told “No returns, No exchanges.”
Thanks for joining us Tara.
- The premise of your debut book THE MONSTORE is very clever. Where did the idea come from? How long did it take from first draft to completion?
The idea came from the title, when I smooshed two words together—monster and store—to make a new one. I love clever word play, puns, and all that silly stuff. But the story was just a lonely title for months. Maybe I was afraid to write the story for fear I’d ruin a perfectly good title! But once I did write it, I knew when Zack trudged back to return his monster, he’d have to be given a hard time. So I made the Monstore manager say, “Sorry, no returns, no exchanges” and the tale just spilled out from there. Of course, there were many revisions, including two with my editor at Aladdin, but the story remained about 90% the same from the first draft.
2. What brought you to the field of writing for children?
It’s something I always wanted to do, from the time I could first read, but it took me a long time to find the time for it. Or rather, it took me a long time to realize I had to make the time for it. I finally did when I had children, and the timing was perfect. Every night I read my daughters tons of picture books and absorbed knowledge about story structure. I always suggest that new writers read at least 500 picture books before they begin writing them. That’s exactly what jump-started me.
With Tara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE
3. Your blog has an amazing post titled “500 Things Kids Like”. How did you go about compiling this list?
It began with a list of 99 things that kids like from children’s sports writer Andy Gutelle, whom I credit on the page. When I first posted the list, I added 100 of my own things, and over the years I’ve just kept adding to it. Many people have commented and made suggestions. (And yet others have said, “I don’t like anything on this list! And I’m a kid!”) Today I added “Minecraft” to the list. One thing’s for certain, the things that kids like keep evolving! I recently began a visual companion to this list, a “Things Kids Like” board on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/taralazar/things-kids-like/
4. What is the most amazing thing that’s happened since the book came out?
Every time I read a review, it’s the most amazing thing ever. Earlier this week a mother boasted about how her two boys loved the book so much, they made their own monsters, booby-traps, and trap doors. She couldn’t recall the last time a book prompted such prolonged, creative play. That made my heart get all warm and squishy, to know that I’ve inspired children. That’s everything a kidlit author asks for.
5. Tell us about your annual PiBoIdMo contest? What is it and how did it come about?
Honestly it was borne of jealousy! The NaNoWriMo’ers were having all the fun in November. There was no November challenge for picture book writers. So I created one. I thought maybe 10 people would sign up. I thought it was a dumb idea! Boy, was I wrong. Now over 750 writers participate and this November marks its 5th anniversary!
6. Complete this sentence: If I could be a kid for a day I’d_____. never grow up.
7. What is your typical writing day like?
There is never a typical day. I try to mix it up. I find the diverse schedule—that is, no real set schedule—helps me stay creative.
8. Who influences your writing? Any PB writers you particularly admire?
Roald Dahl has to be my #1 influence. I grew up on his books. I adore the hint of magic in all of them. I love Cressida Cowell’s “That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown” and Timothy Knappman’s “Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood.” What’s curious is that all these authors are from the UK. So maybe I have a British sense of humor? I do enjoy Fawlty Towers…
9. I have to ask this. If you had your own monster, what skills would it have? What would it look like?
My monster would have a microwave-like tummy that could whip up any food or beverage I desired at lightning speed. He’d have wheels for feet so he could zoom to me quickly, before my food got too cold (or too hot). And, of course, he’d be soft and fuzzy so I could get a nice comfy hug. Oh, and if he could trim my bangs, that would be a plus, too.
10. What’s next? What projects are you working on?
Ooh, I am so excited about two projects that are under consideration now. One is about an unusual animal—but I don’t even know what KIND of animal he is, that’s how quirky the story is. I’ve left it up to the illustrator. The other is a gumshoe spoof, the untold story behind a popular schoolyard joke. Wish I could say more, but I can’t. But I promise to spill details if they both get bought!
I have several projects I’m revising right now. One is a longish (yes, over 500 words), magical picture book about another secret place that only special kids know about, which is similar in theme to “The Monstore” but yet totally different.
And many more ideas are begging for my attention, but I’ve been so busy with “The Monstore” launch I haven’t written much lately. But I’ve got an itch that needs a good scratch! Time to get back to work!
If you want to learn more about Tara and her books visit:
I first reviewed The Secret Science Alliance on 12/16/09 when I was just delving into the world of graphic novels. In the years since, I have read and loved many graphic novels (mostly for kids) but Davis' book remains at the top of my list for story, art and complexity. A must read!
The Secret Science Alliance, by Geisel Award winner (for her excellent beginning reader comic book, Stinky)
I had the pleasure of meeting Laurianne (Laur) Uy at ALA a few weeks ago. She is such a charming young lady and so obviously talented that I invited her for an interview. Not only did she agree, but she also signed a copy of Polterguys Vol. 1 that I’ll be giving away in a drawing on 10 August. To enter, leave a comment below that states you’d like to win the book by midnight, 9 August. I will mail international.
Let’s start with a few short questions.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the city of Manila, Philippines. In 1992, I was in second grade when my family moved into a unit on the 11th floor of a condominium. This was because the condo would be closer to our school which means we didn’t have to spend hours and hours commuting in traffic. Even then, we still had to be up by 5:30 AM to make it to our 8 AM classes. I guess my siblings and I were slow movers in the morning! But I remember we had a really nice view of the city from our balcony windows.
So, When did you move to the US?
I moved to the U.S. in July of 2002, right after I graduated high school in the Philippines.
Do you have any pets?
I don’t! Unfortunately, I’m allergic to pet hair which is awful because I adore cats! It’s so bad I’m subscribed to a few cat channels on youtube to get my kitty fix. And although I jump at any chance I can get just to be near cats, I always make sure to load up on Benadryl before I meet them.
What do you enjoy watching on television?
I love well-written animated series, cable drama and a few sitcoms here and there. I like shows that have compelling characters that evolve and have stories that can move me. If it’s capable of making me cry in some way, I’m almost positive it will be a favorite.
Meat or vegetables?
Actually, Nathan and I went semi-vegan for a while just to see how much meat we could eliminate from our diet. I was really surprised how much I got into it considering I grew up with very meat-heavy dishes. For the most part, we just cook vegetables and have them with rice at home (I’m Filipino-Chinese and this is a staple!) but eat whatever we like when we eat out.
Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?
Nancy Drew was a big deal for me because it’s the first series I ever collected. I guess you can say I’m really fond of young female detectives solving mysteries! I love that Nancy’s dad was supportive of her escapades and that she dragged her friends into cases, too. I only bought and read up to the 20th book and I don’t think any of the bookstores carried the numbers beyond that.
What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?
Oh man, I always come out of the library with a huge haul so it’s a mix of things. I’m reading a bunch of long manga series like Bakuman, Yakitate Japan and Sailormoon. I also listen to audiobooks at work so I’ve been picking up young adult, fantasy/sci-fi and non-fiction books. I recently completed the Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy and Stephen King’s Under the Dome and really enjoyed both.
When did you first realize that you’re an artist?
Maybe it was the fact that I doodled little stick figures all over my piano books instead of practiced with them. I had no idea what sketchbooks were and just found the gutters between columns on newspapers as interesting settings for my stick figure characters. There were a lot of tall cliffs!
Who was the first character that you created?
I don’t really remember! I’m sure it was some stick-figure princess in a little cone hat with some cloth on top but the first set of characters I designed when I started making comics was definitely my high school friends. I wanted us to hang out with our favorite anime characters so I started making comics that chronicled our adventures together.
Tell us about Polterguys! What inspired the book?
Polterguys is the story of a nerdy college girl who ends up moving into a house that’s haunted by five cute ghost guys. Since she’s the only one who can see them, she has to help them resolve their unfinished business.
There are a ton of influences in this book and the first is of course, reverse harem manga like Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket. Girl-centric TV shows that had great female leads like Buffy and Veronica Mars showcase the kind of writing I aspire to. Finally, I also grew up on a lot of fun 90s ghost movies like Heart and Souls and The Frighteners. They’re both great character-driven supernatural stories and anytime they’re on TV, I’m just compelled to watch them because the stories just suck you in.
What happens to Bree in the first volume?
Bree moves out of her dorm room because she has issues with her roommate and finds a nice place to rent off-campus. It turns out to be populated by ghosts who really just want to be friends with her because she can see them. She ends up becoming responsible for them because they get in trouble with a Reaper, a being who essentially takes ghosts away to move on to great beyond.
What are some of the future adventures that you have planned for her?
I don’t want to get too spoilery but I’d really like her to struggle with relationships with living people this time!
You’re such a visual person, I wonder what kind of experience school was for you. Was it a real struggle to get through reading text and writing answers? Was school interesting to you?
School was good for me. I suspect I was having more fun actually learning than my peers because I didn’t complain as much! I also remember the curriculum as really encouraging creativity and that was definitely something I responded to. We would have art projects for science, english, history and I remember drawing all the time. So, while I never got around to proper art lessons, I got a lot of practice on academic hours.
The only issues I ever ran into were my Chinese classes because I barely understood the teacher and didn’t speak the language at home or with my friends. To this day, I still get nightmares about pop quizzes in Chinese – it’s definitely left some deep psychological scars in me.
What’s challenging you most in drawing these days?
I’d say perspective and backgrounds. I want to be the kind of comic artist that masters fundamentals so I can tell immersive stories and have my characters be in believable settings and environments.
If you could visit any museum in the world, which would it be and why?
I’m going to be boring and say the Louvre because I haven’t been to Europe yet despite having majored in Art History. I just know seeing work I’ve studied for semesters in person is going to blow my mind.
Thank you so much, Laur!
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, Laurianne Uy
By: Lauri Fortino
Blog: Frog On A Blog: a site for fans of children's picture books
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I’d like to extend a big Frog on a Blog welcome to up-and-coming picture book author and illustrator Emily Kate Moon. Her first picture book (and certainly not her last) Joone was published this year. Joone stars a precocious and sweet little girl and features bright colors and a whole lot of fun. I think fun may be the perfect word to describe Emily Kate who, as you can tell by her wonderfully detailed interview responses, has a lot of fun doing what she does. You will no doubt enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Q. You are both an author and an illustrator; which do you prefer and how did you get your start in the children’s picture book arena?
EKM. Oooh… I don’t know if I could say that I prefer one over the other. I really love them both. And they are so interconnected, I find it that one gets the other going! When I sit down to start a new idea, I do it with a pad and pencil. If the words don’t come, the drawings do. And with each pencil stroke, the story comes to life, whether my pencil is making a picture or a word. It’s a really fun process. And when I’m really in the flow, it feels like I am channeling from some other place. That’s the most glorious moment of all: when I have no struggle to create what comes out — I’m just the one holding the pencil!
I got started in the children’s picture book arena when I was 17. I illustrated someone else’s book, but it didn’t go anywhere. It was an important step, though. It definitely started my career. (It’s a long story, actually. If people want to know more, send them to my website blog!)
Q. What is your workspace like and do you have a favorite medium you like to work with when creating your illustrations?
EKM. My workspace consists of two desks: a drafting table that tilts, and a flat desk on which rests my computer and art supplies. I also have lots of cubbies and drawers and a big bookshelf full of children’s books! Looking around right now, my studio is kind of a mess. I guess I like it that way. It feels like something is always in progress!
My default medium is pencil on paper. It’s the easiest for me. I also love fat felt tip markers. But I really enjoyed learning how to use gouache when making the illustrations for Joone. Gouache is a magical medium! It’s somewhere between watercolor and acrylic. And I also love doing large paintings: abstracts of acrylic on canvas. I’ve just moved to Florida and right now I’m inspired by the ocean so I’m working on a series of wave paintings. I love standing outside at an easel, with the music on, lots of colors to choose from, a cup of brushes and a bucket of water — just going with the flow to see what happens!
Q. What inspired you to create your picture book Joone?
EKM. Joone wandered into my head one day, fully formed, and bugged me until I knew I had to write about her. I had always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books, so it didn’t really surprise me that this little girl popped in one day and wouldn’t go away! She came with all the details: orange dress, purple hat, brown shoes and turtle atop her head! She even came with a grandfather. (The yurt came soon thereafter.) I grew up in California, so the setting is inspired by the country hills and vineyards that surrounded me there.
Q. Who are your favorite authors and illustrators? Any favorite picture books?
EKM. I have all sorts of favorites! And I love so many of the new authors these days that my list just keeps growing! I think storytelling, in general, is getting better. Which makes sense, I guess, as we learn from each other and expand on our collective work. But some of my classic favorites are Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne and Ernest Shepard, and the many tales by Beatrix Potter. As a little kid, I memorized Eloise from beginning to end (which is quite a feat, considering the length of that story!) and I later filled drawing pads with watercolor reproductions of Ernest Shepard’s and Beatrix Potter’s beautiful illustrations. I also love Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and Joone’s proportions were greatly influenced by Calvin! And, of course, who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss… I’m pretty sure he has influenced us all! But my all-time favorite children’s book is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. That one just really hits me! It makes me emotional all the way through because it is so well done. By page 4, my children are like, “Mom why are you crying?” and I say, “Oh! Because it’s just so good!”
Q. Can you tell us about any picture book projects you are working on right now?
EKM. Joone 2! Joone’s sequel is in the works! And then I have several other characters, one in particular, Benny the Singing Dog, who definitely needs a book of his own. Maybe that’ll be next.
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
EKM. My website: emilykatemoon.com or Joone’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/joonebook
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with picture book fans?
EKM. When I tell people what I do, they often say, “I’ve got an idea for a children’s book!” or “My cousin wants to do that!” It seems everyone has an unmade picture book in their lives somewhere. But it’s something that remains faraway… mostly because they don’t know how to move it forward. My answer to them is, “Just start it.” (Or tell your cousin to start!) Start by writing it down. Make it as good as you can. Read it to people, including children, and see what responses you get. Be willing to change it. If it’s great, submit it to an agent! (Agents are everywhere, but it will require some work to find the right one.) And some of the best advice I ever got is this: do not team up with an illustrator. It reduces your chances of being published. Either do it all yourself or submit the manuscript alone. These agents and editors who will read your manuscript are pros; they can envision illustrations and will match your story with the right illustrator. Most of the people who say they have a children’s book idea but haven’t moved forward with it is because, as they put it, they can’t draw. Don’t let that stop you! There is a whole world of illustrators out there who can draw and would love to illustrate your book! And the world might just love your story….
Welcome author and illustrator Courtney Pippin-Mathur! Courtney’s first picture book Maya Was Grumpy has been available for several weeks now and it’s just gorgeous! I love her wonderful color palette and lively, playful style. I think all people can relate to Maya, the adorable star of the story, who was feeling grumpy for no apparent reason. My favorite part has to be her wild hair and especially how it gets less and less wild as she becomes less and less grumpy. Maya Was Grumpy is a delightful picture book that you and your kids will absolutely love. And I know you will enjoy Courtney’s delightful interview as well. Read on for more information about Courtney Pippin-Mathur and Maya.
Q. How did you get your start as a children’s picture book author and illustrator?
CPM. I majored in Studio Art in college but I knew the fine art path wasn’t right for me. When a teacher brought in Stephen Gammell’s “Monster Mama” a giant gong went off in my head. I have always loved books and the art of picture books so it made perfect sense.
Q. What’s your favorite part of creating picture books for children?
CPM. Two parts- the spark of the original idea or sketch and the joy of the finished, bound book in your hands.
Q. What authors and illustrators have been inspirations to you?
CPM. Roald Dahl, Polly Dunbar, Lauren Child, Stephen Gammell, Shel Silverstein to name a few
Q. Please tell us about your book Maya Was Grumpy. How did you come up with your idea and what was your creative process like from idea to finished book?
CPM. I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and sketchbook in front of me when my 3-year-old stomped into the room, stomped her foot, and declared “I’m Grumpy!” I wrote down the first line and sketched a grumpy little girl with crazy hair.
Q. What materials do you like to work with when creating your illustrations?
CPM. Mechanical pencil, paper, pen , watercolor paint & paper and Photoshop
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog fans?
CPM. I’m a long time fan of frogs. I created a frog character in high school that I used as my signature. His name was Moran and I drew him constantly. And for my daughter’s baby shower, I drew a flying frog for the shower announcements.
This week I am participating in the Children’s Author Blog Hop. I was invited by Holly Schindler – a wonderful writer of such YA titles as PLAYING HURT, and A BLUE SO DARK. Her MG is due out early next year and is titled THE JUNCTION BETWEEN SUNSHINE AND LUCKY. http://www.hollyschindler.com I do a monthly post on her middle grade blog SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE, along with many other amazing and talented writers. www.smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com.
To participate, each author answers four questions and then invites three other children’s authors to participate. Blog hops are a great way for authors and readers to connect.
See more about the authors I invited below.
Here are my answers to the questions:
- What are you currently working on? I am working on a contemporary Middle Grade titled THE ART OF IMPERFECTION. It’s about a fourteen year old boy determined to re-invent himself and win over the most popular girl in eighth grade before he enters his freshman year. He takes on a summer job painting his great-aunts house and meets a whole cast of characters – including a fourteen year old girl – who shake up those plans, his values and his definition of family.
- How does it differ from other works in the genre? It allows the main character to interact with each person he meets – from adults to teens and younger kids – and has him take away something of value from each of those encounters. Even when he was convinced they had nothing to offer. And, there are NO vampires or werewolves. Although there is a character who believes she was once a cat.
- Why do you write what you do? Middle Grade fiction seems to have chosen me. I’ve tried writing picture books and novels for Young Adults but never seem to be able to get the “voice” right. My characters, and the way they tell their story, turns me into a twelve year old, no matter how much I try to resist.
- What is the hardest part about writing? For me the hardest part of writing is the middle. I have no problem starting a story, and I usually know where and how I want it to end. I hit the wall about two thirds of the way through and am convinced I’ll never get over the wall to the finish line.
Now here are three fellow writers with some amazing talents and credentials.
TARA LAZAR’S blog WRITING FOR KIDS (WHILE RAISING THEM) is filled with information for children’s book writers. Her post “500 Things Kids Like” is a must if you’re trying to develop authentic characters that ring true. She also hosts the annual PiBoIdMo, an event that challenges picture book writers to come up with an idea, story or character everyday for a month, so that at the end, there may be some gems to turn into books. Tara Lazar recently published her first PB titled THE MONSTORE with Simon and Schuster. Another PB titled I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK is due out in 2014. Learn more about Tara at: http://taralazar.wordpress.com
ROBIN NEWMAN writes a blog, “LET’S TALK BOOKS,” www.robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com, covering kid lit, where she interviews authors and illustrators of books for all ages. She recently sold THE CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE, the first book in the WILCOX AND GRISWOLD MYSTERY SERIES to CRESTON BOOKS (release date TBD), www.crestonbooks.com. She writes picture books, chapter books and more! She would love to have coffee with the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs! You can follow Robin on Twitter @robinnewmanbooks and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049
KATHY TEMEAN ran the New Jersey Chapter of the SCBWI for ten years as Regional Advisor. She is the author/ illustrator of Horseplay and many magazine articles and artwork. She also runs her own web design company www.temeanconsulting.com Her blog WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING offers valuable tips on everything you need to know about writing for children. She also conducts interviews with agents, editors, authors and illustrators in the field and twice a year conducts writing workshops. When she finds the time, she is busy working on her own MG and YA novels and illustrating children’s books. She just finished a project illustrating a book about Yogi Berra that will be out later this year. Check out her blog at: www.kathytemean.wordpress.com
By: David Chuka,
Wow! I can’t believe we’re already in September. 2013 has been a very eventful year for me and I’ve learned so much as I’ve grown as a writer and self-publisher. I do have to admit that the best part of my journey has been the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.
If you enjoyed Author Interview Thursday in the month of August, then you’re in for a treat this month because we have a wonderful bunch of authors lined up. Just check out this all-star list.
Kathy Beynette joins us on September 5th. She’s an artist with a studio out in Virginia and she uses animals to convey messages in her work. Her poems remind some of Dr. Seuss. Her first children’s book, When Your Porcupine Feels Prickly is available in some bookstores and also on the Amazon store. In my interview with her she’ll be talking about how getting the wrong shoes was the trigger to her writing career, her thoughts on how authors can find and work with illustrators, a typical day in her life and much more.
Calvin Innes is our featured guest on September 12th. I met Calvin at the London Book Fair in April and he is the founder and CEO of My Little Big Town Publishing based in Hull, England. For anyone who has any plans to one day have their books published by a traditional publisher, you definitely don’t want to miss this one! As a publisher, Calvin will be sharing how writers should approach publishing companies, what stands out for him when he reads a manuscript, how he deals with an illustrator’s equivalent of writers block and much more.
Adam T. Newman joins us on September 19th. He shares a very personal story of how he got to write his first book and start his publishing company. He talks about the difference between the film and publishing industries. Adam will also be sharing tips on how children’s book writers can get reading engagements at schools and how to offer a memorable presentation. I’m especially looking forward to what Adam has to say about presenting in schools as this is one activity I plan to do more of in the coming months.
Ally Nathaniel joins us on September 26th and she’s the best-selling author of several books in the Early Learning category on Amazon. Ally shares a little bit about herself, how she’s marketing her books and advice for authors on the brink of giving up plus much more.
A stellar cast I hope you’ll agree. So make sure to tune in every Thursday in the month of September as you’ll be inspired, informed and entertained.
For past author interviews, you can go to the link below and you can read all the interviews I’ve done so far this year.
Author Interview Thursday
Blog: The Children's and Teens' Book Connection
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By: C. C. Gevry,
Renee Duke was born on November 19th, 1952, the youngest child and only daughter of a Scotsman and his English bride. She learned to read at an early age, and her best subjects in school were History, English, and Religious Studies. She later became a preschool teacher, but has also worked with older children in a variety of settings, including Belize, Central America. She travelled extensively before embarking on parenthood, and later returned to this pursuit with young in tow. Other than doing occasional interactive history units with 6-13-year-olds, she is now retired and able to concentrate on writing her Time Rose series. She has been writing for children and adults for many years and her work has appeared in magazines in Canada, the USA, and the UK.
She does not, as yet, blog, but can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/renee.duke.75https://www.facebook.com/renee.duke.75 and has a website: www.reneeduke.ca
Where did you grow up?
In Canada and England – specifically, Keewatin, Ontario, Kelowna, B.C., and Wantage, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire).
When did you begin writing?
I began writing when I was seven and a composition lesson at school helped me realize that books (which I loved) were actually stories thought up by someone.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I can sneak a few more moments now that I’ve pretty much retired. Before that it was mostly at night or during school holidays.
What is this book about?
It is about three children who use an ancient medallion to travel back to the fifteenth century England and find themselves caught up in the power struggles surrounding the boy king, Edward V and his brother Richard Duke of York, who disappeared from the Tower of London sometime between June 1483 and September 1485.
What inspired you to write it?
I’ve been interested in the mysterious disappearance of those two royal brothers ever since I read about them in a, what my Grantie Etta character would call, ‘Tudor propagandist’ text book in school.
Who is your favorite character from the book?
That’s like asking which of your children is your favourite. Don’t you know you’re supposed to love them all the same? But if I have to pick, then I’d probably have to say Jack, who, like me, hates sports and getting up early.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
Not yet, but since I always make him his favourite cake when he comes home to visit, my actor/filmmaker son just might do one for me and put it up on my website in the not too distant future.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
Learn your craft and be willing to go on learning it.
What is up next for you?
Finishing the edits for Book Two (due out in January), and getting past chapter two of the next one. I haven’t really settled into it yet, and know I must do so fairly soon.
& giveaway contest! Loving the Missing Link
is a fabulous tale about love, success, hope and music. During the 1970s, Young Cheryl Simpson feels trapped in her small Missouri town. As her mother tries to help her find a way up and out, Cheryl begins to feel that it is all an impossible dream. She sees herself living a boring and dismal life for the rest of her days. Just at the moment when she is about to give up on happiness, she gets the opportunity to join her high school band. The band promises a connection with the world outside her town, but Cheryl does not see any future for herself in music. It is just a tool to get where she wants to go. However, Cheryl’s mother arranges for Cheryl to take private lessons with an accomplished musician, who helps her realize the beauty and awesome power of music.
Still, Cheryl feels that small-town inferiority and finds it too hard to believe that she could ever be anyone special out in the “real” world. On the eve of a music contest that could help her earn a music scholarship, Cheryl begins to panic. Scared and feeling alone, Cheryl runs off with her high school sweetheart and gets married, leaving the band behind.
During the next years, Cheryl and her husband make a life for themselves. Cheryl meets friends along the way who help guide her to becoming the woman she wants to be. She becomes interested in the arts again. All the while, Cheryl and husband Jerry face the challenges of homelessness, miscarriage and an extra-marital affair before an unexpected disaster brings Cheryl’s life crashing to the ground. Cheryl survives, with the help of her extraordinary friends and her life-long love for music.
Paperback: 190 Pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing (August 6, 2013)
Twitter hashtag: #LMLThomasLoving the Missing Link is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound
. Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Loving the Missing Link
, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, September 13th at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!About the Author:
Julia Asel Thomas writes stories with vivid descriptions, authentic dialogue and revealing narration. Her debut book, Loving the Missing Link, presents the engrossing and moving story of a young, small town girl who grows up, lives and loves while trying to find a balance between despair and hope.
Like the protagonist in her debut novel, Loving the Missing Link
, Julia Asel Thomas knows small town life. However, Julia’s experiences were quite different than Cheryl’s. Julia is the middle child of seven children and the daughter of a church organist and a business manager. Growing up in the small town of Hamilton, Missouri, Julia’s family enjoyed a reputation as a bright and interesting family. Julia thrived on the quiet and carefree life she lived in that gentle place.
When Julia was in high school, she earned a scholarship for a trip to Cali, Colombia as a foreign exchange student. The experience, although it only lasted a few brief months, had a profound influence on the rest of her life. After her time abroad, Julia realized in a very real way that, although customs may differ from culture to culture, the substance of human emotions is constant. We all need love. We all need to feel secure. We all have happy moments and sad moments. Back from Colombia, Julia become ever more interested in capturing these human emotions through music and writing.
After high school, Julia took a break before going on to college. During this time, she married her husband, Will. Will joined the Air Force, and Julia accompanied him to bases around the country, taking college classes in each town where they resided. Their two children were born in Las Vegas, Nevada, while Will was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. Married in 1976, Julia and Will are thrilled to celebrate each new anniversary and look forward to staying together for life.
Julia began writing fiction at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher gave her the assignment to write about “My Worst Day.” Julia took the opportunity to concoct every possible disaster a young child could face during the course of a normal day. The teacher loved her work and asked her to read it to the class. From then on, Julia wanted nothing more than to be a writer.
In 2007, Julia began earning her living by writing articles, press releases and website content for a number of clients. As she settled into a routine of working every day on her writing, the old urge to write fiction resurfaced. In 2012, Julia started with a story she had written in 1985 and continued it to create the story in Loving the Missing Link.
After Julia’s husband, Will retired from the Air Force, they moved back to Missouri and now live in Kansas City, Missouri. Find out more about this author by visiting her online:
Author blog: http://lovingthemissinglink.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/juliasselthom-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto WOW: Julia, I loved the little book store Sid’s Shelves in Loving the Missing Link, is that mirrored after a particular shop and did you really work at a quaint little book store?Julia:
No, the store was just a conglomeration of images and experiences I’ve had in similar bookstores around the Kansas City area. A book store called “Rainy Day Books” comes to mind when I think of a relaxed place to buy high-quality books, but Sid’s Shelves is it own unique entity. As I was writing, I came to enjoy the parts that took place in that fictional store. It just felt like home. I have never worked in a bookstore, but I did work in a library for a short time years ago. I loved handling the books and choosing the ones I wanted to read as they came through the back room, which is an element I included in the story.WOW: I can picture you really enjoying a bookstore like that; glad you made it part of the story. At the beginning of Loving the Missing Link, your depiction of bassoon lessons and the instrument itself is very detailed. Are you a bassoon player and can you tell us more about the importance of music in your writing career and life?Julia:
I did play bassoon when I was in school. Unfortunately, I didn’t own the instrument. My parents had planned to buy me a bassoon if I had chosen to major in music, but I decided on English instead. I did take lessons from an accomplished bassoon player, but unlike in the story, he didn’t have to convince me to love the bassoon—I already did. Music has always been a passion of mine. Of course, nearly everyone on the planet enjoys some kind of music at one time or another. For me, music has been a constant companion. However, I am not able to play music as I once did. I have developed a strong tremor in my hands—enough so that I can’t play the piano anymore. I sold mine to my son Damon last summer. In fact, Damon was my inspiration for having Cheryl learn the guitar. He often comes over to my house, carrying his guitar, and when he does, I know I am in for a treat. I don’t plan on writing another story that is so heavily dependent on music, but who knows? It is an important part of my life.WOW: Music seems to as important in your life as in your story, I have a feeling there will be more musical stories in your future. That was one of the things I really enjoyed about Loving the Missing Link!I struggled with the insecurities of young Cheryl; she seemed to lack self-confidence and direction; is that how you felt as a young girl? What can you credit for pushing you forward as the independent woman you are today? Julia:
I started out being very independent. I only began to have trouble around 1985, when I was a 20-something student at Wichita State University. I had suffered a major crisis of confidence and was feeling very lost and insecure. The professors and other students were wonderful and tried to encourage me. I felt they expected too much of me, and I felt inadequate to live up to expectations. Not coincidentally, this was the time when I wrote the first two chapters of Loving the Missing Link
. When I went back to it to make it into a novel, I tried to recapture those feelings in order to maintain some semblance of consistency throughout the book.
After leaving WSU, I floundered for a long time, not feeling strong enough or good enough to do anything productive. Then, one day, my daughter offered to set me up with her copywriting client so I would have something to occupy my time. In less than a month, I had transitioned from doing nothing to writing 12 to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. The pay was abysmally low, but over the years it has increased tremendously. What is important is that the copywriting helped me develop a strong discipline for writing. It also made me realize that I could indeed do something worthwhile that could be valued by others. My life has never been the same. My independence, then, was a direct result of hard work and the increased self-confidence I gained while copywriting.WOW: I’m glad you found the encouragement you need—no one wants to feel lost and insecure. It’s nice to have friends in your corner when it comes to self-publishing. Was there one person in particular who was really the driving force behind your publishing Loving the Missing Link? Julia:
I felt a strong sense of urgency to get this book in print. After all, I wrote the first two chapters in 1985, and my greatest dream for all these years since was to complete the novel and publish it. Now that it is done, I feel more patient. I am considering other avenues for publishing my current novel, a work in progress.WOW: You certainly are patient. I'm glad you didn't wait any longer and that you kept pushing for your dream of publishing. More and more people are opting for self-publishing, so you are not alone in your decision. What is your favorite book? What is it about that book that you love so much?Julia:
My favorite book changes yearly. Right now, my favorite book is Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain
. It is actually a translation from the original German text, but the translation is so spot-on that it is a joy to read. Plus, Mann is such a master of description and characterization that it energizes me in my own writing. WOW: Being energized and feeling supportive can make all the difference when taking on any challenge. Speaking of which, has your community been supportive with your writing goals? Julia:
I was invited to join the Kansas City Writers Group a few years ago. The problem was that I am not much of a driver and didn’t have any way to get there. Now that my husband is retired, he has offered to drive me any time I want to go. He is so sweet that way. So, I intend to get involved with them as soon as possible.WOW: Sounds like your husband really is your number one fan; that’s so sweet!
When did you first consider yourself an author? Julia:
That is an interesting question, Crystal. In fact, one day in the last month, I looked at a friend of mine and said, “You know what? I’m a writer. I’m really a writer!” He smiled and said, “Of course you’re a writer. You’ve been making your living writing for years now.” I told him, “Yeah, I know I write. What I just realized is that it is what I am.” I suddenly shifted from the attitude that writing was something I did to the realization that a writer was who I was. It was a life-changing moment.WOW: I’ve heard that same sort of story from artist and musician friends as well. Giving ourselves those titles seems to really change our outlook. You’re definitely an author now Julia; congratulations!
Cheryl’s relationship with her mother was interesting, is that any indication of how you and your mother interact? What role has your mother played in publishing your first book? Julia:
Actually, my relationship with my mother is so far from the one Cheryl has with her mother that they cannot even be compared adequately. My mother has always been a gentle presence in my life. I call her every Monday, and we sometimes talk for hours. Even when I was a teenager, I counted on my mom to help me put things into perspective. Cheryl’s relationship with her mom was really based on the relationship of a close family friend and her son. The mother saw the son as an extremely talented person, perhaps even a genius. The son is definitely bright, but he rebelled against his mother’s demands. He is living a peaceful life now, working in a restaurant and hoping to buy a boat so he can live on the water. He is a good friend. It is a shame that he didn’t accomplish more in the eyes of his mother, but he is very happy. And isn’t that the greatest accomplishment of all?WOW: The happiness factor is definitely important and sometimes living up to our own expectations is more important than living up to the expectations of others. I glad your friend is happy and I hope is mother is happy as well in her own way.Any sneak peeks for us about what is in your future? Is there a sequel to Loving the Missing Link? Another project?Julia:
I am so excited about my next project! I just resolved a structural problem that had me stumped for over a month. Now, the writing is flowing smoothly. The story is about these 5 people who are admitted into a psychiatric hospital. It is about how they interact with each other and how they respond to the help that is offered. Perhaps a more positive spin on “Cuckoo’s Nest.” I think it is an ambitious project; I hope to have the new book ready for edits in a few months.WOW: I can’t imagine keeping it all straight and I can’t wait to read about the story—adding 5 different perspectives definitely is ambitious!
Anything you’d like to add that readers should know about you or Loving the Missing Link?Julia:
The main thing I hope readers will get from the story is a new perspective on what success is, and to understand the difference between hope and fantasy a little bit better. And I hope to inspire people to live the best lives they are capable of living.----------Blog Tour DatesMonday, September 9 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/Wednesday September 11 @ CMash Reads
Get in on the giveaway for Loving the Missing Link and hear from Julia Asel Thomas with her guest post "Life Long Learning and Self-Education"http://cmashlovestoread.com/Thursday, September 12 @ My Fiction Nook
Giveaway and guest post by Julia Asel Thomas today! She shares her debut work with Loving The Missing Link and speaks candidly offering insight in her guest post “Establishing a Writing Routine”.http://www.myfictionnook.com/Friday, September 13 @ Steph the Bookworm
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Loving the Missing Link
and hear what Stephanie has to say after reading this first published work by Julia Asel Thomas.http://www.stephthebookworm.com/Monday, September 16 @ All Things Audry
Get in on the giveaway of Loving the Missing Link and enjoy a guest post by author, Julia Asel Thomas with the fun topic of “Life Experiences in Fiction”http://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com/Wednesday, September 18 @ Selling Books
Don't miss today's author interview with Julia Asel Thomas and find out more about her debut book Loving the Missing Link
!http://www.sellingbooks.com/Tuesday, September 17 @ Create Write Now
Julia Asel Thomas writes about "Therapeutic Journaling" in her blog stop at Create Write Now - also happening at this stop is a giveaway of Julia's first published works Loving the Missing Link
. Don't miss this stop!http://www.createwritenow.com/Thursday, September 19 @ Thoughts in Progress
Today is your day to hear what Julia Asel Thomas has to say in her guest post about "Journal Writing to Enhance Your Fiction" and an added bonus - get in on the giveaway of Julia's new book Loving the Missing Link (#LMLThomas)!http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/Friday, September 20 @ The Book Bag
The Spotlight at the Book Bag is none other than Julia Asel Thomas and her New Adult Novel, Loving the Missing Link
(#LMLThomas); check out this great blog stop and get in on the givewaway!http://susan-thebookbag.blogspot.com/Monday, September 23@ Bring on Lemons
Giveaway and guest blog stop for Julia Asel Thomas, author of Loving the Missing Link
- Julia visits the lemons to lemonade blog and shares her wish for music education titled: "Channeling the Spirit of Professor Harold Hill". Don't miss this stop and giveaway opportunity!http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/Tuesday, September 24 @ Words from the Heart
Join author, Julia Asel Thomas as she discusses "The Pros and Cons of Teen Marriage" and offers a giveaway and some insight into Loving the Missing Link. Find out more about Julia and her first published book!http://contemplativeed.blogspot.comWednesday, September 25 @ Words by Webb
Hear from Jodi Webb as she reviews Loving the Missing Link by Julia Asel Thomas - don't miss this great giveaway and insight!http://jodiwebb.com/Thursday, September 26 @ I’d So Rather Be Reading
Join Julia Asel Thomas, Author of Loving the Missing Link as she blogs about "Choosing Your Words Carefully: a guide to finding the best verbs for your purpose" and don't miss this giveaway of her newly published work!http://www.idsoratherbereading.com/Tuesday, October 1 @ Mom-E-Centric
Julia Asel Thomas, Author of Loving the Missing Link offers a giveaway opportunity and shares her insight on “Finding Realistic Hope” this is something we can all benefit from; don’t miss this tour stop!http://momecentric.com/
To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar
. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at email@example.com.Book Giveaway Contest:
Enter to win a copy of Loving the Missing Link
Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, September 13th. a Rafflecopter giveaway
By: Jessica Piazza,
Welcome to my stop on the Scorched blog tour presented by Sourcebooks!
Today I have an interview with the amazing Mari Mancusi, along with my review of Scorched, and a giveaway!
Feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have for Mari, as she will be stopping by today (9/11/13) to answer them/comment back!
Author: Mari Mancusi
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: September 3rd 2013
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dragons
Don’t leave me here... It starts with a whisper. At first Trinity thinks she’s going crazy. It wouldn’t be a big surprise—her grandpa firmly believes there’s a genuine dragon egg in their dusty little West Texas town. But this voice is real, and it’s begging for her protection. Even if no one else can hear it...
He’s come from a future scorched by dragonfire. His mission: Find the girl. Destroy the egg. Save the world.
He’s everything his twin brother Connor hates: cocky, undisciplined, and obsessed with saving dragons.
Trinity has no idea which brother to believe. All she has to go by is the voice in her head—a dragon that won’t be tamed.
I first heard about Scorched at BEA '13. Since I have read Mari's Blood Coven Vampire series(which I loved), I was very curious to see that she had written something completely different, and I couldn't wait to dive in. Scorched was a mish-mash of fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and time travel. This could have been a recipe for disaster, but through Mari's spectacular writing and execution, an amazing story was born.
The story is told through three different characters' perspectives. Trinity's chapters are written in first-person narration, which really helps to let the reader get inside her head. I feel that this was very important in order to connect with her on a deeper level. It also gave me more insight into her emotions when she begins to hear Emmy's(a dragon) voice in her head. Conner and Caleb's chapters were written in third-person narration, which gives the feeling that they are different from Trinity in a major way. Since they are from the future, and therefore not of Trinity's "world" per-se, I felt the choice was spot-on.
The main characters were written beautifully, and I was emotionally invested in every single one. I felt as though I really got to know Trinity, Caleb, and Conner quite well even before they meet in the book.
There were some extremely tense and emotional moments in Scorched. The pacing is fast, as many action scenes drive the plot. You will keep turning the pages with that "need" to know what will happen next. I loved how the story was broken down into five parts, each with a title perfectly fitting each part. It was fun when, after you finished a "part", you could say "Wow, THAT'S why it was called ____". There were also a few shocking revelations that I never saw coming where my mouth(and heart) literally dropped to the floor!
I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this book just from reading the blurb and having read Mari's work in the past. What I didn't know was how emotionally invested I would get, until I found my heart in my throat many times while reading. Scorched is a beautifully written story of a girl caught in the middle of something she dosen't understand, but trying to stay true to herself and do the right thing. I won't say too much on this, but if you are someone who needs love/romance in your books, you will find what you need and more in this one.
Overall, I feel that Mari really hit a homerun with Scorched. Even though this book is meant to be more emotional and intense(a great thing), fans of her Blood Coven Vampire series will find pieces of her engaging humor here too(an equally great thing).
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves YA fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or just dragons in general! Of course if your already a fan of Mari's work, why are you not reading this right now?!?! Intense, engaging, emotional, and surprising...a must read!
***Interview with Mari Mancusi***
1.)Welcome to Jessabella Reads, Mari! I am soo excited to have you on the blog today. I am obsessed with the world of Scorched, where did you get the inspiration for it?
Thank you! I’ve always loved both sci-fi and fantasy so I thought it would be fun to mash up the two. I like to credit the movie Terminator for much of my inspiration, though instead of a robot/machine apocalypse, Scorched deals with a dragon apocalypse. I’ve always loved dragon books – from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series to Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown.
2.) I really connected with all of the characters in your story. Which character was your favorite to write and why?
I think Caleb is my favorite to write. He’s sarcastic and sardonic, but also hiding a lot of angst. He comes off as a jerk sometimes, but he really loves Trinity and would do anything for her.
3.) What are you reading right now?
Prodigy by Marie Lu and Doll Bones by Holly Black.
4.) What are your "must-haves" when sitting down to write?
Coffee and silence. I’m not one of those writers who does great writing in a café setting. I prefer a quiet office where I can read aloud what I’ve written. I also have surrounded myself with lots of dragon inspiration. From stuffed dragons to dragon portraits on the wall.
5.) If you could inhabit the body of any character in Scorched for 24 hours, which one would you choose and why?
I think it’d be fun to be Trinity at the point where she gets to go into the Nether and fly on Emmy’s back. There’s just something about the idea of flying on a dragon that I know would be awesome. I just hope she can get over her fear of heights and allow me to enjoy my ride!
6.) Dragons are one of my favorite paranormal creatures. Tell us why you decided to write about them.
Dragons are beautiful and majestic creatures that can bond telepathically with humans and fly through the sky. Who wouldn’t want to write about them? That said, most dragon books take place in some kind of fantasy kingdom or some distant past. I wanted to explore what it’d be like to bring them to present day Texas. Dragons trending on Twitter, anyone?
7.) What are some of your literary inspirations? Favorite books/authors?
My favorite book is Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It is basically a feminist retelling of Arthurian legend and is just so enthralling and beautifully written.
For a more modern author, I’m obsessed with Cassandra Clare. I love how she masterfully mixes humor with action/adventure.
8.) Personally, I will read anything you write! Any hints about what we can EAGERLY anticipate from you next?
Thank you! Next up is Shattered, book 2 of the Scorched series, which will continue the adventures of Trinity, Connor, Caleb and Emmy. It takes place three months after the first book ends and it’s getting more and more difficult to hide out from the world—with Emmy getting bigger everyday!
Also, if you liked Scorched, I suggest you check out Tomorrow Land and Alternity, two standalone novels I published a while back that were recently re-released. Tomorrow Land is a standalone zombie novel and Alternity is kind of Matrix-y. But they’ve both got kind of a similar feel to Scorched.
About the Author:
Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school. But she ended up in another blood sucking profession –journalism — instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens and adults.
When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching cheesy horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure–videogames. A graduate of Boston University and a two time Emmy Award winner, she lives in Austin , Texas with her husband Jacob, daughter Avalon and their dog Mesquite.
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The young author, Anamika Mishra, was born and raised in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh (known as the Manchester of North India). She is presently working as a writer for several communities and websites. Her debut novel, Too Hard to Handle, was released in July this year.
Hi Anamika, please tell everyone a little about yourself.
Anamika: My name is Anamika Mishra. Writing is my first love, second is travelling and photography. I have done Bachelors in Computer Applications and Masters in Journalism & Mass Communication. Too Hard to Handle is my debut novel. I am highly spiritual and believe in miracles. I am an animal-lover too, especially dogs. I am an active member of ‘People For Animals’ NGO, in India. I love interacting with people from all across the world and inspire them to live with a positive perception.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Anamika: Well, I remember when I was in class six while reading Heide by Johanna Spyri, I went near my mom and said that I want to write a novel just like this one. I think that was the time when I was being bitten by a writing bug. General fiction and fantasy are my kind of genres.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Anamika: I have a dream to write at least one novel of each genre. Readers, please keep on supporting my goal and I promise I won’t let anyone’s expectations down.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Anamika: Too Hard to Handle is a stand-alone novel. It is about a girl named Anushree, who is happy-go-lucky in nature. It is about what a common girl faces during her college and school life, series of misunderstandings, betrayal from friends, innocent crushes, stupid decisions etc. till she finds the love of her life. It is also about how fate turns up out of the blue and changes one’s life forever.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
Anamika: I first try to decide how the lead character would be and then I create the plot and other characters accordingly.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Anamika: Vivaan. He is a ‘Mr. Perfect’ kind of a guy. People, especially girls, would love him for his small, lovely and romantic surprises, his behavior and his personality.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Anamika: No. I don’t have any specific technique to maintain the course of the plot. I like keeping it simple and try to maintain the interest by adding some ‘wow’ and ‘aww’ moments in it.
Share the best review that you’ve ever had.
Anamika: Best review was given to me by my mother, she said “this story is really inspiring and she never thought that I would be able to write such a deep and intriguing story. I am really proud of you.” And she hugged me tightly.
What are your current projects?
Anamika: I am presently working on my second novel.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Anamika: All folks can directly connect with me on twitter ( www.twitter.com/anamikawrites ) which I think is the easiest way or on facebook ( www.facebook.com/anamika.mishraa ) or they can get in touch by sending an e-mail to me on firstname.lastname@example.org . I shall be highly obliged in hearing something from all the readers.
Thank you for joining us today, Anamika.
Anamika: Thanks for the questions.