Janet Sumner Johnson
About Author Visits Blog Books Events Contact PB&J Society

Blog Tour Kick-off: Olive and the Great Flood

Feb 16, 2015 Uncategorized 19 comments


Today I’m thrilled to kick-off Connie Arnold’s blog tour for the release of her latest book: OLIVE AND THE GREAT FLOOD.

This is a Noah and the Ark story told from the point of view of the dove:

Olive is a gentle friendly dove who wants to help her friends Noah, his family and the other animals with her on the ark. She tries to soothe them during the rain and has an important assignment, to discover when it’s safe to venture from the ark after the flood.

With fun rhyming verses and bold artwork, kids are sure to love Olive. I appreciated her up-beat outlook (despite the hardships of the ark), and her spirit of serving others. It’s not just about enduring the hard stuff, but enduring it well. (Definitely something I strive to do).

Connie agreed to answer a few questions here today. Those who comment will be entered into drawings for two prizes, a signed copy of Connie’s first children’s book, ANIMAL SOUND MIX-UP, and a gold dove windchime. Just saying, but the windchime is beautiful! Visit her blog for the details.

And here we go!

Me: Congratulations on the publication of Olive and
the Great Flood! So what inspired you to tell this story from the perspective
of the dove?

Connie: I have read this story many times before,
heard it as a small child and was always fascinated about all those animals
going onto the ark and surviving the flood. Children always seem to enjoy
animals and stories about animals. I see things a little differently now that I
have grandchildren and have started writing for young children. It just struck
me how important the dove flying out to bring back the olive leaf was to the
story, and she suddenly had a personality and a mission!

Me: The dove is essential, for sure! And I love the character you created in
Olive. Your readers can see Olive’s efforts to help others and that she takes pride
in the important job she is given. Have you ever had an Olive in your
life—someone who influenced you by their service and good attitude? Can you
tell us about him/her? How did he/she influence you?

Connie: A teacher I had who was always
cheerful and seemed to really care about each student influenced me in a
positive way. As a shy, quiet child it was hard to express myself to others,
and she encouraged me in gentle ways much as Olive gently soothes the animals
on the ark.

Me: And now look . . . you are sharing your voice with countless others! My High School English teacher was like that for me. She probably has no idea the impact she made. Hmmm . . . must amend that. Anyway, so now that you have the opportunity to influence others, what do you hope your readers will take
away from Olive and the Great Flood?

Connie: I hope a sense that even the small
things you do during your life can make a big impact on others. Doing your best
and helping others can give your life greater meaning and joy. Also, remember
the promise of the rainbow and God’s love!

Me: I completely agree! The small things really add up. We shouldn’t be afraid to do what we can because we think it’s too small, or wouldn’t have a big enough impact. 

So as I writer, I also wanted to talk a
little about you and your writing process. It’s such a personal thing for each
of us. What inspires you in your writing? Or put another way, how do you
develop your ideas?

Connie: My grandchildren and other children
inspire my writing for the young ones. Once an idea is born, it grows and
blooms into a story or dies a natural death. I think you and other writers can
relate to that. When it grows and develops it is worth all the efforts of
changing, redoing, editing, cutting and writing again that make it be worth
reading and enjoying.

Me: I can definitely relate. Many, many ideas never make it past the idea stage. But the ones that do are without a doubt a labor of love. Even so, I still struggle sometimes getting the story into readable shape. How about you? What has been your biggest struggle as an
author?

Connie: My health and energy level have caused a
struggle at times. I have lupus and some other issues that leave me very
painful and drained at times. It is hard to focus and be productive at those
times. I find the promotion of my books much harder than the writing
actually. 

Me: My aunt has lupus, so I’ve seen how draining that can be. It just makes me all the more amazed at your accomplishments and determination. And I can definitely see that about promotion. I feel I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me where promotion is concerned. So with all you are doing, what legacy do you hope to leave as an author?

Connie: Since I feel that my writing ability and
being a published author are because of God’s help and blessings, I hope to
leave inspiration, joy and a blessing to those who read what I have written.

Me: What a great legacy. If we could all just leave the world with a little more inspiration and joy, this world would be a better place. Okay, and now a fun question or two: If you could get any book signed by the author
(alive or dead), what would it be?

Connie: Can I say the Bible? It is one book,
but think of all those authors. Wouldn’t that be fantastic!

Me: It would be! A worthy choice, for sure! Actually, given the topic of your book, I had a feeling you’d say that. 😉 And of course, because this is me, you
knew I had to ask this . . . what would Olive’s personalized license plate be?
😀 

Connie: COO2U 

Haha! I love it! Thanks so much for letting me be part of your tour. 🙂 And to the rest of ya’ll, don’t forget to comment for a chance to win the aforementioned prizes!

Have a great week!

Links for OLIVE AND THE GREAT FLOOD:

Amazon

Guardian Angel Publishing

Connie’s blog for tour schedule and prizes

Happy News and Lost Voices

Feb 09, 2015 Uncategorized 10 comments
So last month I came down with this nasty cold that not only left me miserable, but completely stole my voice. I could barely even whisper. It was crazy! Alas, a mom’s job is never done, so I couldn’t just stay home. After dropping my boys off at Tae Kwon Do, I took Girlie to gymnastics and found a spot on the bleachers where I could sit on my own and not have to talk.
 
I pulled out my phone and there it was. An email from my agent.
 
My stomach flip-flopped. I stared at it, debating if I should open it right then or just wait.
 
But I’m a firm believer in ripping bandaids off fast. Just get it over with.
 
Deep breath. I tapped the phone.
 
I read the short note. Read it again.
 

“You have an offer!”
 
I wanted to scream, but of course I couldn’t. I texted my husband, and instantly my phone rang. I totally had to decline the call. Stupid monster, voice-stealing cold!
 
But guys!!! That gif up there has been me ever since. Every time I remember the news again.
 
MY BOOK SOLD!!!

 


The Super Bowl and Stinky Endings

Feb 02, 2015 Uncategorized 4 comments

So last night was the Super Bowl.

I haven’t watched one in years, but I saw last night’s game. Confession, I actually really love watching football. I only do it on rare occasions, but when I do, I’m all in. I even yell at the tv and everything.

Yep. I’m one of THOSE people.

And last night’s was a great game. Patriots in the lead, then the Seahawks. And middle of the 4th quarter, the Patriot’s pull it out and take the lead. All they have to do is hold the Seahawks. Keep them from getting a touchdown. That’s all. Because a field goal wouldn’t be enough.

But the Seahawks were playing well, and Russell Wilson (their quarterback) was on fire. Mr. Dead Aim himself. THEN, in addition to playing well, the Seahawks caught a long bomb that is the LUCKIEST catch I have ever seen! Ever. Like, I had to watch the re-play more than once to believe it really happened. The Patriot got a hand on the ball and both guys tumble to the ground, except the ball doesn’t hit the ground!!! It hits the Seahawk and bounces up! And the guy—I  don’t even know how since he just took a huge fall—has enough sense to reach out and catch the thing and jump up and start running again!

Seriously! That catch will be re-played for YEARS to come. Years!

Anyway, so there is 1:30 on the clock. All the Seahawks have to do is move the ball 3 yards to get a touchdown. First down they get a two-and-a-half yards. So second down and all that’s standing between them and another Super Bowl win is a measly half yard. A HALF YARD!!

And Tom Brady (the Patriot’s quarterback in case you don’t know) is watching with his stoic face, and you can practically hear what he’s thinking. Like, I did everything I could and it comes to this because of a lucky catch. Unbelievable.

So the ball is snapped, and Wilson launches the short pass for an easy touchdown, except WAIT! A rookie Patriot reads the play and INTERCEPTS!!! With twenty seconds left!

I mean, you can’t write this stuff, people. It was amazing! Of course in the last 20 seconds, there was the penalty for illegal motion, and then another for the fight that broke out, but that’s all pishtosh. The game was over with the interception. The Patriot’s won!!!

So you’re probably thinking, why did you tell us all that? This is a writing blog, not a sports blog. Well, of course I have a point.

The thing is, the Seahawks have this amazing running back named Marshawn Lynch. They had been moving the ball really well all night. And I’m only guessing here, but I bet they thought, Let’s change things up and throw the ball because they won’t be expecting that!

Well, clearly that didn’t work out for them. And now I’m just guessing again, but I bet they wish they could just go back and re-write that ending. Go back to what they should have done, and run the ball the mere half-yard that they needed to win.

Stinks for them, because that’s not possible . . . BUT it’s totally possible for us as writers! We can go back, erase what didn’t work, and rewrite a more satisfactory ending, or beginning, or middle, or whatever it is we need.

Rewriting can be hard, but it’s SO AWESOME! All the possibilities are open to us. We’re never trapped in anything. If a story isn’t working, we can fix it.

We can fix it.

And that is my point.

So did you watch the Super Bowl? What did you think?


Keeping Perspective

Jan 27, 2015 Uncategorized 5 comments

I took a little trip this weekend with my husband and five-year-old daughter. We stayed in a hotel on the 9th floor, and we got to take the elevator up. The kind with a glass back, so you can see out into the open central area of the hotel. Wasted space, for sure, but pretty awesome view.

Having 5-year-old with us changed everything. She was jumping-out-of-her-skin excited to be staying in a hotel. And Oh! The elevator! And it was so high! And then to glass wall in our room looking out over the city, and we could practically see everything from up there! We pulled out the couch bed and squee!! It’s a couch! And it turns into a bed, and she got to sleep in it all on her own!! Plus she had her own tv! Then we ate breakfast there, and SO EXCITING! And look at all the blueberry muffins, and Wow! A waffle maker that turns over???

Everything was new and an adventure.

And her excitement was catching.

But let’s imagine we stayed in this SUPER EXCITING hotel for a year. . . Yeah. Even for Girlie, the place would lose it’s charm, its newness. It would not be the same.

Now imagine that we stayed the one night then when back home. And in a year, we spent the night at that hotel again. . . . WE’RE BACK! And remember the glass wall? The view from our room? And ohhh, the waffle maker!

This is the same with writing. First drafts are so cool. Everything is so exciting! And getting to the end of the story is an adventure. It’s new, and fresh, and I just want to spend all my time with it.

But when it comes time to revise, I will lose the fresh perspective if I don’t take some time away from it. It will become mundane. Same old. Hard to tell one chapter from the next. And didn’t I like this once upon a time?

It’s hard to put something aside. Especially something you love. But a little distance can go a long way in giving perspective. In remembering and rekindling the love we had for something.
Do you take time between drafts?


Wise Words

Jan 19, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope you all have a great day, as we remember the wisdom of a man who understood the power of love.


When We Know Too Much

Jan 12, 2015 Uncategorized 9 comments

Some of you may know that for my day job, I do translation. French to English. An interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed is that sometimes my brain doesn’t register when there is both French and English on a page I’m supposed to translate. I’ll keep typing away, and a couple paragraphs later realize what I’ve done.

In fact, several year ago I was doing some interpretation for a small group. It’s a pretty tricky fete learning to talk and listen at the same time. Anyway, there I was spouting off the English as the speaker continued in French when suddenly they stopped and looked at me. The people I was interpreting for stopped and looked at me.

“You don’t have to translate the English for me. I already understand.”

My brain hadn’t registered when the speaker switched from French to English! Presumably because I understand both languages, and to my brain it’s all the same. I understand it.

Writing can be like this too. When we write a story, we know everything there is to know. We know who the secret bad guy is. We know what terrible things are going to happen. We know how it will all resolve itself. We know.

Which is why it’s sometimes hard to know what is coming across to our reader. The experience is completely different for someone who doesn’t know. Things that may seem obvious to you, aren’t necessarily obvious to your reader. Or perhaps something you wanted to be sure your reader understood is coming across all too loudly for them.

This is why we need beta readers and critique partners. This is why we can’t do this writing thing alone. Sometimes we just need someone to stop us and tell us, “I already understand.”

Do you use beta readers and critique partners?


Happy New Year!

Jan 05, 2015 Uncategorized 4 comments

So I popped off for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and then the
boat left the dock without me, and I missed all of December. Family and Writing
(Well, revising, but same whatever).

My writing space

Anyway, it’s the new year, and we’ve had the discussion of Resolutions vs. Goals, so today I’m listing a few GOALS (nothing so wishy-washy as a
resolution for me, thank you very much!).

1.     
Write
5 days a week
. I don’t write on Sundays, and I need some leeway for the
other 6 (I’m all about not feeling cramped). However, to keep myself from the
path of insanity, I’m adding this: I get a smiley face for as little as ONE
page (written or revised). For the record, I usually do more, but this keeps my
mind free from feeling weighed down by the burden of it. It lets me enjoy. Oh yeah! And I’m giving myself 1
month of vacation, too. It’s only fair. Yeah I’m weird. But I’m totally owning
this.

2.     
Finish
revising my 2 WIPS (Works in Progress)
. After spending all of November
and December revising, I am confident this is doable. (Assuming I really stick
to goal #1). 😉

3.     
Finish
a first draft of a new book
. I have the book in mind, and it’s actually
started. I can do this. I can!

4.     
Write
at least two picture books
. I wanted to just say one. But I want to
push myself a bit. Plus, after my September class, I’m really excited to do
this. It might be a summer thing, but I have at least one idea ready to be developed.
And just maybe I’ll take that class again to help me along. J

5.     
Attend
at least one writing conference
. Okay, I’m taking the easy way out
here, because I’m all signed up for LDStorymakers in May. But we all need at
least one gimmee, right?

And I think I’ll stop there because all of that will keep me
plenty busy. So how about you? What are your goals (writing or not)?

NaNoWriMo!

Nov 03, 2014 Uncategorized 9 comments

So it’s here. The dreaded (or anticipated . . . however you look at it) month. I’m not sure how I’ll fit it all in, but after the great experience I had last year, I’m jumping in with two feet again this year.

As a result, I will not be around on the blog much, but I will be back in December, and I promise to report.

In the meantime, enjoy the view with me:

So are any of you joining in? If yes, shoot me your NaNo username and I’ll add you as a buddy. Mine is MsVerbose.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! See you on the other side. 🙂


Revealing My Secret and an Interview

Oct 27, 2014 Uncategorized 3 comments
So I have this secret.
 
Okay, maybe it’s not as secret as I like to think. I love picture books. Like LOVE. I check them out at the library by the dozens, and tell myself they’re “for the kids.” Ha! Nope. Definitely for me.
 
But the real secret is that I want to write picture books. I have played at it for years. Studied the greats endlessly. Taken classes at conferences. Paid for critiques by professionals. Even written several ugly drafts of would be stories. But I could tell I had a long way to go.
 
So when my lovely CP (Dee Romito) told me she had signed up for an online picture book writing class called “Making Picture Book Magic,” I was all ears. And then, THEN, she told me it was by one of my favorite author/bloggers (who I also consider a friend), Susanna Leonard Hill. I didn’t even know she had a class! So of course I signed up right away.
 
Her class is so popular, I had to wait a few months to get in, but let me tell you, it blew me away! It’s not even that she told me anything I didn’t already know. But the way she broke everything down into the perfect sized daily lessons was awesome. It felt like I had a friend walking me through the process from start to finish. I felt productive. Capable. Excited to write!
 
And even better, as part of the lessons, there was a facebook group where we could share and discuss with the other participants and get feedback from Susanna (and each other). And let me tell you, the feedback was pure gold. GOLD. And not just the feedback on my work. I learned tons reading the feedback on the others’ work.
 
Honestly, the money I paid for Susanna’s class is the best spent money I have ever put into my writing career.
 
I was so excited by the class, that I asked Susanna if she would be my guest on the blog and answer a few questions. And she said yes! So I welcome Susanna to my blog.
 
Me: When did you begin your Making Picture Book Magic class, and what inspired you to do so?
 
Susanna: I started Making Picture Book Magic in February 2012, after I’d spent the better part of 9 months writing the course, beta testing it, and commissioning art to decorate the lessons and inspire writers.  I got the idea for the class because I do critiques for people on a pretty regular basis, and I found that many of the manuscripts I received from beginning writers were showing similar types of problems.  It got me to thinking that maybe I could offer a class that covered some of the basics.  I wanted the class to be interactive so that people would have the opportunity to ask questions, not just generally about writing, but specifically about the stories they were working on.  I wanted writers to be able to learn from each other as well as from me.  I wanted the class to be affordable, because lots of writers don’t have a lot of money to spend on such things.  I also wanted it to be something the average person could manage in the small amounts of time they could find in their busy life.  So that was my aim.  You’ve taken the class, so you can say if you think I succeeded or not 🙂
 
Me: Yes! You definitely succeeded. I particularly loved being able to ask specific questions about my work. So helpful!
 
So let’s talk about your writing. One of my favorite books of yours is Can’t Sleep Without Sheep. My kids and I (and my husband) were cracking up! I think the cows were my favorite. Where did you get your inspiration for that book? How long did it take you to write it?
 
Susanna: I’m so glad you like Can’t Sleep 🙂  I owe that story to my son and a mattress commercial.  (And yes, I know the main character in the story is a girl, and there are no mattresses to be seen :))  When my son was little, he wasn’t big on sleep.  Every night he’d get in bed and have what he called his “thinking time.”  Many nights, long after I thought he was asleep and had gone to bed myself, he’d come into our room wide awake and full of questions.  “What’s the temperature of the sun?”  “How many teeth does a t-rex have?”  “Where does the wind come from?” To which I would answer knowledgeably, “Uh….”  I’d take him back to bed, tuck him in, and tell him to count sheep, sitting beside him in the dark while he did so until he finally drifted off.  When I got to writing the story, for some reason (maybe so he wouldn’t know I was talking about him :)) I changed the main character to a girl.  But by itself a story about a child with a busy mind who couldn’t fall asleep was not enough.  I had that part rolling around in the back of my mind for a while, unwritten, unfinished, because I knew it needed more.  Then one day, when I was driving the kids to school, a commercial came on the radio.  It said something like, “Tired of counting sheep?  Buy our mattress!”  And I thought to myself, what if instead of getting tired of counting sheep, the sheep got tired of being counted?  And that’s when I finally had a story 🙂  The actual writing only took a few hours, but I’d been thinking about it for ages.
 
Me: It amazes me how much of ‘writing’ is really ‘thinking.’ And I love hearing how a story is born. So fascinating!
 
Seven of your picture books have been published. Have you ever considered dabbling in longer stories? Why or why not?
 
Susanna: I have considered it!  In fact, I have attempted it!  I have 4 completed novels (and by completed I mean I got to “The End” but boy do they need work!) and about 10 others in various stages.  I am the queen of jumping in, writing 30-45 pages, and then realizing I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going.  But I would love to figure it out, so I’m still working on it 🙂

Me: Haha! Sounds familiar. I always feel bad about the unfinished books of mine. Maybe someday I’ll go back. 🙂
 
Through your blog, you began the Perfect Picture Book database a couple of years ago. It is so useful, and I’ve learned of so many great books through it. Can you tell us a little about this, and what inspired you to start it (I seem to be all about inspiration today!)?
 
Susanna: My younger sister-in-law is actually responsible for inspiring Perfect Picture Books.  She asked me a couple different times if I knew of good picture books about one topic or another, and it got me to thinking that there were probably a lot of parents out there who didn’t have the kind of background we writers have in what’s out there for kids to read.  I thought it might be helpful if they had a place to go where they could find excellent, highly recommended picture books on various topics and themes.  Then I thought I could take it a step further (as long as I was doing it anyway :)) and add resources to the reviews so that parents, teachers and homeschoolers could easily find ways to expand on the use of picture books at home and in the classroom.  I knew it would take me a REALLY long time to build up a data base by myself, so I threw it out into the blogosphere to see who might want to do it with me, thereby finding a terrific group of people who show up every week with great picture books to share.  (I have to publicly confess, though, that keeping the list properly updated is a HUGE job and I have fallen woefully behind.  I am working on catching up, but the data base always lags well behind the books that have been done!  If anyone happens to be looking for an unpaid job, call me :))
 
Me: Hmmm . . . I might just be contacting you myself. What a great thing to be a part of!
 
Okay, okay, I’ve taken enough of your time, but I have to throw out a couple of fun ones. First, I have shared many a dessert with you on your blog. What, amongst all your offerings is your very favorite?
 
Susanna: Asking me to choose a favorite dessert is like asking me to choose a favorite child, Janet!  How can you?!  Let’s see…  How about three favorites?  1. Gingerbread with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream.  2. Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.  3. Chocolate mousse cake.  Oh, and brownies with coffee ice cream.  Okay.  That’s it.  Oh, except there’s nothing like a freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookie!  Okay. That’s really it.  Oh, except fresh cider donuts, especially this time of year, which aren’t technically dessert, but really you can eat them any time!   Okay.  I’ll stop.  But now I’m hungry.  What have you got?  It might be a new favorite 🙂

Me: Haha! I do ask the hard-hitting questions, don’t I? And yum. Now you have me drooling. Fresh cider donuts sound amazing right now! Alas, all I have to offer is a bucket or two of Halloween candy.
 
So, on to the most important question of all (I mean, this is ME, you had to know this was coming) what would your personalized license plate be? Or if you’d rather, you can tell us the personalized license plate for one of your characters. Punxatawny Phillis might have quite an interesting one. 🙂
 
Susanna: Oh gosh!  This is a hard one!  I’m not good at these. Maybe WRITRGRL?  Or GHOGSRUL?  Or LUVCHOCL8? 🙂  Maybe you’d better think one up for me!
 
Me: Oh dear. I’m afraid you’ve used too many letters in those plates. You are only allowed 7. 😉 Let me offer some suggestions: PBWRITR; GHOGPWR (Groundhog power); I ROCK; I WRITE or perhaps LVDSSRT (Love Dessert). What do you think?
 
Susanna, thanks again for stopping in! And I hope you all have a great day. 😀
 
Susanna Leonard Hill grew up in New York City with her mom and dad, one sister
and two brothers, and an assortment of cats. Her first published book was The House That Mack Built,
released by Little Simon in 2002. Since then, she has published six more books: Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House, 2005), Taxi! (Little Simon, 2005), No Sword
Fighting In The House (Holiday House, 2007), Not Yet,
Rose (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009), and Airplane Flight! and Freight Train
Trip! (Little Simon, 2009.) Can’t Sleep Without
Sheep, released Fall of 2010 (Walker Books), is illustrated by Mike
Wohnoutka, and Jeff Ebbeler is illustrating April Fools,
Phyllis!, released in 2011 (
Holiday House).

You can find her on her blog a http://www.susannahill.com

 


Where’s Lenny Lee . . . Birthday Bash

Oct 20, 2014 Uncategorized 7 comments

Today, a special friend of mine is turning 15, and I wanted to give a shout out:

Happy Birthday
Lenny!

I have known Lenny (via blogging) for almost 5 years now, and it has been a privilege to be even the teensiest part of his life. He spreads sunshine wherever he goes. I only have to see his name to start grinning because that’s how powerful his influence is. He inspires me to be better. To be happier. To see the good in others. Thank you, Lenny! Thank you for being my friend!

If you don’t know Lenny, you should go meet him (he blogs HERE). Like, now. Okay, maybe like in a few minutes, because you don’t want to miss what comes next.

Lenny, just for you, because I love you that much, I have prepared a vlog. A VLOG! I’m afraid it’s hard to hear, for which I apologize, but anyway . . . ENJOY! (Seriously YouTube? You made THAT the thumbnail? *sigh*)

We all love and miss you Lenny! Please (super pretty please with sugar and a cherry on top!) come back to blogging!!

Or, as my personalized-license-plate-infatuated-self would say:  CUMBACK