Good morning! Today I am thrilled to have debut author Cindy Williams Schrauben here on my blog. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of her book THIS COULD BE YOU (April 1, Cardinal Rule Press), illustrated by Julia Seal. I loved it so much, I reached out to the publisher to hook us up.
Cindy graciously agreed to an interview, and here we are! It was such a joy to get to know her better, and I’m excited for all of you to meet her as well. Also, you can read my review HERE. So enough of my jabbering, let’s meet Cindy! (As always, I’m in green.)
Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
As a mom, grandmother, and former teacher, books have always played a big part in my life. My favorite memories involve kids in my lap reading. Though I have always enjoyed writing, and dreamed of writing a picture book, It wasn’t until my daughters moved out that I took it seriously – I knew I needed my own passion. I attended the NYC-SCBWI Conference early on and the energy and kindness of the kidlit community had me hooked right away.
Conferences are the best. The energy is amazing! Please tell us about your upcoming book, THIS COULD BE YOU.
Unlike many of my books, This Could Be You started out with an intentional message and goal – to inspire kids to believe and achieve by empowering them with growth mindset principles. I set out to create a book in which all kids could see themselves persevering. Each spread stars a different group of children living out their dreams – and, sometimes, struggling along the way. Being able to learn from our failures is a crucial part of a growth mindset.
I completely agree. We all go through failure, but it doesn’t define us. Kids need to see that! Your book creates such a hopeful feeling for your readers. What inspired you to write it?
My grandsons and the realization that I didn’t always encourage a growth mindset in my girls when they were young. Well-meaning comments like, “you are so smart” and “math is just easy for you” can have unintentional negative connotations. Instead, statements like, “Wow, you really worked hard for that” help them to realize that it is ok if something is hard because effort will help us get there. Our talents and skills are malleable. I hope that this book, which features extensive backmatter for adults, will help us all use more intentional language with our kids.
Such great advice! I’ve been working on that as well with my kids. And so much great back matter!
Speaking of work, your rhymes and rhythms are just plain fun to read. Writing in rhyme feels so daunting to me (I clearly need your book to build up my growth mindset!). Your stanzas all sound so perfect, they feel like it must have come out that way, but I’m sure you worked hard at it! Could you share a little bit about your revision process?
Every story in my head comes out in rhyme first – I often realize that rhyme isn’t right for a story, but for this one, I think it works. That isn’t to say that it was perfect (or even good) at the beginning. Rhyming requires a great deal of assessing and maneuvering. I often read out loud while tapping out beats like a conductor (I have to be careful who’s watching my loony antics). That is part of what I love about it, though – it’s like a puzzle.
Love that! I’m sure all us writers look a little loony when in the zone. And so fascinating that you start in rhyme. So, my favorite stanza was, of course, the one about writing. Do you have a favorite stanza? What do you love about it?
Fun fact #1 – the illustrator used a childhood photo of me to draw the young author on that page.
Really??! That is so cool! *runs off to find that page*
Picking my favorite is tough, but I think it is this:
Who has keen-design flair,
an artist’s time-to-shine flair,
a sketch-and-then-refine flair?
Create. It could be you!
Why? It shows a character who tries and fails, but doesn’t give up.
The refinement part is key to success. Such a great stanza.
Moving on to the art . . . it’s so expressive! Julia Seal, the illustrator, did an amazing job! I love the simplicity of the kids, and how well it captures their emotions. Did you have any input on the art or illustrator? What was your reaction at seeing the art? (so many questions!)
I cried! It’s as if Julie Seal was in my head when she created the illustrations. The diversity, the color, everything. I didn’t have any input into the process at all, which was terrifying, but I couldn’t be more pleased.
It IS a terrifying process, but illustrators can do magic. And seeing your characters brought-to-life is a magical moment.
Fun fact #2 – I LOVE the endpapers. My illustrator deserves all the credit for this – she proposed that we ask children we know (along with some winners of a contest) to draw pictures of their dream jobs. Those Jr. Illustrators include my grandsons, nieces, nephews, etc. They loved being a part of it.
I LOVED the endpapers! Brilliant idea from Julia. And so exciting for those kids!
Can we talk writing for a minute? How many picture books would you say you wrote before finally getting a deal on this one?
Oh boy. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many unfinished stories I have, but as far as completed, ready to submit stories, close to 20.
Wow. But it really shows you are living the message of THIS COULD BE YOU. What helped you the most on the path to publication?
The number one most important part of my journey has been the kidlit community – from critique partners to contest organizers and bloggers. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have kept going without them.
So much truth. The kidlit community is so uplifting. 💜
Now on to the speed round of favorites!
Ice cream: Vanilla with lots of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. But, I don’t think there is a flavor I would pass up. Ice cream is my weakness.
Time of day: Late at night
Musical instrument: Piano
Picture Book (that you didn’t write): Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat
I love how much we can learn from one-word answers. Love it all! (And Three Ninja Pigs is a favorite of mine, too!)
One last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think your characters might choose for their personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
So perfect! Thanks so much again!
Thank you! This has been lots of fun.
Cindy Williams Schrauben lives in Michigan where she writes books for kids that range from the truly serious to the seriously silly. Before embarking on this path, she held positions as a preschool administrator, teacher, and assistant director of a children’s museum — always striving to empower kids. When not writing or honing her craft, Cindy might be found dissecting her grandsons’ shenanigans for story ideas, reading on the floor in the bookstore, or eating ice cream… ideally all at once.
You can connect with Cindy at her website or her Direct Me page, and she’s also on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
You can purchase THIS COULD BE YOU through Monkey See, Monkey Do books, or wherever books are sold.
Sometimes, hosting an author interview is a great way to meet some fantastic authors. And sometimes, hosting an author interview is a way to spend time with a great friend! But it is always a way to share some amazing books with you, my readers. Today, I’m super excited to have children’s author, Dee Romito, here on my blog!
We met almost ten years ago through Pitch Madness (which was a contest that allowed you to get your work in front of agents). Since then, we have debuted our middle grade books together, taken picture book classes together, attended writing conferences and book festivals together, chatted for countless hours via text, phone, and zoom, and most recently, I even convinced her to do a Reel on Instagram with me! (Seriously, you should follow that link . . . just not until you’ve finished reading here. 😁)
From when I first read her work, before either of us were published, I loved it! Dee writes super-relatable, hard-to-put-down, intriguing-plot stories. So it was no surprise when she sold her chapter book series, Fort Builders, Inc. in a 4-book deal! The fourth book just came out, and I’m thrilled to have her here to talk about it. So let’s get started! (As always, I’m in green.)
Dee, will you tell us about your new chapter book series, FORT BUILDERS, INC.?
Fort Builders Inc. is about a group of friends who decide to start their own fort building business. They use teamwork, creativity, and their individual skills to navigate each challenge.
I love this premise so much! It’s brilliant! What inspired you with idea? Because honestly, what kid hasn’t wished they could build forts as a job?
And kids are so good at it! I was trying to think of an idea for a chapter book series and asked myself, “What do kids like to do these days?” Right in front of me was a box fort my kids had made. I had my answer!
Kids bring so much inspiration to our writing lives. Love it! So I happen to know that you built a fort or two as research for your books. Can you tell us about that? Did you build any specific forts from your books? What was the hardest part?
I did! For the first book, I had to make a drawbridge, and then I had to give my family the instructions I’d written to see if the steps made sense. Watching them helped me fine tune what went in the book.
We also built a pet fort for a litter of kittens we were fostering. The kittens loved it, and they posed for some book promo photos too!
And those kittens were adorable! If you were part of Fort Builder’s, Inc., what would your job be in the fort-building team?
I’d probably end up being the organizer like Caleb. I like to figure out what everyone is good at and then delegate tasks. I also like to encourage everyone and be a sounding board if there’s a problem to solve.
Oh yeah. I can totally see that. I think I’d be like Kiara, doing the planning. 😂
Okay, I’d love for our readers to learn more about you, so what is one thing about you that might surprise us?
I live in Buffalo, NY, which is very close to Niagara Falls and Canada. Around here it’s not a big deal to say you’re going to Canada, but when I talk to kids in other parts of the country and say I can go there for the day, they often look surprised, like I have a secret passage to far away land.
Oh, but you do. Canada is definitely a secret faraway land to those of us not by the border.
What did you do before you were an author, and why did you decided to become one?
Before I was an author, I was a teacher. And I love that I still get to go into schools and classrooms and talk to students; it’s just in a different role now.
I had always wanted to write a book someday and see it on the shelf at a bookstore with my name on the cover. But it wasn’t until I was home with my kids and my son asked me a question that sparked an idea for a story. From there, I decided to learn how to write a book and get it published. After a lot of hard work, I did get to see my book on the shelf at a bookstore. 😊
Way more than one, now! Because with the release of FORT BUILDERS, INC. you have published in 3 genres: Middle Grade, Picture Books, and Chapter Books. Clearly, you are amazing, as each is so different.
Did you have to make any adjustments to your writing process while working on FORT BUILDERS, INC.?
Ha ha. I would first argue that YOU are amazing, but back to the question … Yes, I had to learn a whole new way to write a story. It seems like it would be much easier to write a shorter book, but I had to learn how to fit a story into 4,000 words instead of 40,000! My editor kept telling me to make things happen sooner. You don’t have as much lead in when the story is chapter book length and the plot points are closer together.
Aww, thank you! 😊 But for real. Telling a whole story with chapters in 4000 words??! Seriously impressed over here. Do you have a favorite category to write in?
I really like variety and have a lot of different interests, which is why I write in different categories. Each one is so different, and it’s fun to explore them.
SO different. And being in two categories myself, I have to agree.
Okay, time to pick up the pace for the speed round!
Favorite candy? Anything chocolate!
Favorite color? Yellow
Cake vs. Cookies? Cookies for sure
Winnie-the-pooh character? Winnie the Pooh
Patriot’s game w/front row seats vs. Trip to London? Ha! Easily London.
Considering I’m a huge Buffalo Bills fan and London in my favorite city in the world, I feel like that last one is a trick question.
Haha! You know me too well. Just curious if I could pull one over on you in the quickness of it all. 😉 How about Buffalo Bills front row seats vs. Trip to London?
Still London. But you know I love my Bills!!!
Without question! Buffalo Bills, all the way!
Okay, final question. License Plates. I always have to ask. What would the Fort Builders, Inc. crew choose for personalized license plate if they were old enough to drive? You have 8 letters, and GO!
What a great question! I’d have to go with:
It’s perfect! Love it! Dee, thanks so much for hanging out with us today. So fun!
Dee Romito is an author of books for young readers and a former elementary school teacher. Her middle grade books include The BFF Bucket List, No Place Like Home, Postcards from Venice, and co-authored Best.Night.Ever (Aladdin/S&S). Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) received a starred review from Booklist and a Crystal Kite Award. Her latest release is a chapter book series titled Fort Builders, Inc. (Aladdin/S&S). Dee blogs about writing at WriteforApples.com and is Co-Founder of Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators. While she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. You can visit her website at deeromito.com.
You can learn more about Dee and her books on her website, and she’s also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.
You can order all of Dee’s books through Monkey See, Monkey Do Bookshop, and everywhere books are sold!
Today, I’m excited to welcome Author Zeena Pliska to my blog! Her debut, Hello, Little One! (Page Street Kids, 2020), illustrated by Fiona Halliday, came out in 2020. It is beautiful and touching, and if you haven’t read it . . . well, then I’m extra excited to introduce you to Zeena and this lovely book.
I am in green!
Hi Zeena, welcome to my blog!
Thanks so much for having me, Janet. It’s truly an honor!
The honor is all mine. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
I spend my days immersed in the joy of 5-year-olds. I’m a kindergarten teacher by day and a children’s book author by night in Los Angeles, California. As a progressive public-school educator, I believe that the most important aspect of teaching is listening to children. Often, children’s stories come through me rather than from me. A lifetime storyteller, I have facilitated stories as a theater director, visual artist, photographer and journalist. I think “in stories,” in narratives, and am enchanted by all the stories that surround me.
I wrote my first picture book in 1995 but was too involved in theater directing to really pursue another direction at the time. Years passed. I developed as an exhibiting visual artist and lived with other artists in a loft.
When I had my daughter, painting and photography were replaced by parenting. It was no longer feasible to create stories in mediums that literally took up space and required a studio/loft. Those delightful and play-filled years of early parenting consumed my time and became my “artistic” pursuit. When my child entered her teenage years, my storytelling reemerged in the form of picture book manuscripts (they didn’t take up physical space and could be stored on a computer.)
I’ve now entered that world as a children’s book author and feel like I’ve found my sweet spot. Although, theater directing, filmmaking, painting, and photographing still call out, seeking my attention…
I love that you’ve been involved in so many different creative pursuits. And I agree, it can be hard to settle on just one, but I completely agree that writing picture books is a sweet place to be! Can you please tell us about your book?
Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story is a fictional picture book about a young monarch caterpillar who longs for friendship. Having hatched among leaves of a Milkweed plant, it crawls from green leaf to green leaf looking for a friend. And then, it sees Orange, an adult monarch butterfly as it flits, flutters, and flies. When Orange lands on a flower near Little One, the two strike up a friendship. Together they move through the lifecycle as their friendship grows, each sharing their unique point of view with the other.
It’s a story of longing. Youth wanting to catch up with age, and age savoring its memories of youth. The two at different stages of their lives, meeting in that wondrous two-week window when both are able to connect, love, appreciate, and admire each other.
The story came to life in my kindergarten world of youthful energy. Originally titled Orange, it is a story of friendship, love, loss, grief, and renewal.
So fun to learn it had a different title! And I have to say, your book really tackles all those topics in such a sweet and tender way. What inspired you to write it?
When I close my eyes, I am right back in that moment when the story of Hello, Little One jumped into my heart.
The school where I teach is located in the Mar Vista/Venice Beach area. We are a waystation for monarchs so it’s not unusual to see these beautiful creatures grace our playground. In fact, they are our official mascot. They flit, flutter, and swoop as children’s laughter and sounds of play can be heard in the background.
One day at recess time, I was walking on my way to the main office. In between the classrooms, a majestic monarch butterfly fluttered about, landing on the flowers in the garden boxes. I was mesmerized by the moment. I wondered, “What must that butterfly see and experience?”
As I wondered, I was struck by the sad, bittersweet thought that the life cycle of this monarch was almost done. It had only about two weeks to live. I was struck by both the strength of this creature and the fragility of life. In that moment, the character of Orange was born.
I am a great lover of irony. The story developed around the friendship between a young caterpillar at the beginning of its life cycle and an elder butterfly at the end of its life cycle. The story was anchored in the two points of view from the different stages of the life cycle and the perspectives each can offer the other. A caterpillar who sees everything in life for the first time and can’t wait to grow up and fly with its friend and a butterfly who fondly remembers its youth while sharing the beauty and wonder that comes with experience and age. It was important that the story not just focus on the perspective of the adult, but respect the voice of the child, giving equal value to both viewpoints.
You can definitely feel that as you read. The wonder of Little One, and the wisdom of Orange. But I’m sure that beautiful balance you captured didn’t happen without work. Would you mind sharing a little about your revision process?
I wrote the story 7 years prior to its publication. I have been a teacher in Los Angeles for many years. The scientific principles embedded in the story were already a part of my working knowledge as I have taught them to kindergarteners for a long time. I developed as an educator during the years of whole language, core literature, and thematic teaching when picture books were at the center of learning science and social studies concepts. It was a different time, before scripted curriculum.
It is still how I teach, using picture books to draw out student inquiry and student-led projects. Teaching informs my writing. The scientific concepts emerged in the story authentically and organically. While I researched specific facts and details for the back matter, I did not do any research for the initial story. Because the science concepts were just there, it was the emotional story that really drove my process.
One of the first times I shared my story with a large, public critique group of children’s book writers, I read the manuscript not knowing what to expect. I didn’t understand rhythm, word choice, lyrical language etc. It was both exhilarating and terrifying to reach the end and experience the response. A woman sobbed. She had connected with the grief in the story. It had triggered her own loss and touched her. The room was moved. The story had taken listeners to a place where they had felt big emotions. I thought I had done my job as a writer. But the manuscript had miles to go and so did I, in my development of craft.
The word count was way too long and suddenly, the manuscript was a play. I was delighted to work with my young students to build the story and present it at a dedication ceremony to unveil a section of our campus, known as The Wildlands. The characters became more fully developed as I co-created with 5-year-olds. The play was performed by students who culminated from our school in 2020, the year the book was released. Bittersweet. I can still hear their youthful and poignant delivery of the lines as they flit, fluttered, and flew around the outdoor native garden. It was a beginning.
My story of a little caterpillar and Orange had come to life but it was still not ready for submission. The manuscript stretched beyond what was reasonable for a picture book, well over 1200 words! Like many novice picture book writers, I did not yet understand the concept of word count and the process of precise word choice. It went through many revisions. Then, it went through many rejections. Rejections inform revisions. Revisions made me a stronger writer. They helped me develop my craft and the story that it finally became.
Word count and precise word choice can sound so simple, but it is definitely an art! And speaking of art . . . the art is gorgeous! The detail and intricacies are breathtaking. Fiona Halliday really brought everything to life. I’d love to hear about your process with the illustration. Did you get to help in choosing the illustrator? Did you include art notes? And what was your first reaction to seeing these gorgeous illustrations? Do you have a favorite image?
I was very lucky as a debut author. Page Street Kids asked for my input regarding the illustrator. They sent some suggestions to me. Fiona’s work was stunning and unique. The editor and I were in agreement that Fiona was a great choice. The editor also knew she could depict the emotional connection between the two characters which was an essential piece of the storytelling.
I had put very few illustration notes because I don’t see stories when I am writing them, I hear them. This is so strange because I am also a visual artist. I think I hear them because of the countless picture books I read aloud to my students as a teacher every day.
Fiona Halliday is a Page Street Kids author/illustrator. Her picture book, Numenia and the Hurricane: A True Migration Story came out in January 2020. And, The Legend of the Storm Goose comes out in February of 2022. Fiona lives in Austria. We did not meet or communicate directly during the process. There was a strict firewall for good reason. We did finally meet 4 months after the release of the book at a virtual event. The event was hosted by Second Star to the Right Books in Denver, Colorado and designed to reveal our first meeting with each other and to answer questions as the author and illustrator of Hello, Little One.
It’s so strange to co-create a story and never meet during the process of creation but I think this is pretty standard in the industry. There were some moments during the process when the sketches looked completely different than the final art. The style and depiction didn’t seem to tell the same story I was trying to tell. I thought they were the direction that the illustrations were going in. It wasn’t until I met Fiona at the virtual event that she communicated her process and I understood that they had been very rough, first sketches when she was exploring the possibilities.
I love promoting this book so much because the illustrations are absolutely stunning. When I saw the illustrations for the first time, I think my heart skipped a beat. They tell the story in a way that could never have been told with words alone. That’s the magic of a picture book told through the words of the author and the pictures of the illustrator. My favorite image is the image of the two nestled up against each other as their separation becomes inevitable.
Such a gorgeous image. The illustration process is so fascinating. It really is amazing to watch a story come to life from a second point of view. So now that Hello, Little One is out in the world, what is your favorite part of being an author? And what is next for you?
I am a storyteller by nature, and I believe in the power of story. Irony is also an element that weaves its way through my work. Playfully recognizing irony is very much part of how I experience the world. Although I am never trying to “teach” a lesson in my writing, it is always my hope that my work will create discourse.
I have several picture book manuscripts on submission through my agent Abigail Samoun of Red FoxLiterary. Themes that emerge for me presently in my picture books are stories of resistance and resilience. I like to challenge the status quo, giving children the opportunity to rethink possibilities not yet imagined as they navigate their world.
I have just written a graphic novel and am working on a contemporary YA novel. I love to tell stories in different formats. Each story that finds me and demands to be told has its own form that best suits it. So many stories, so little time.
My next picture book, Egyptian Lullaby, published by Roaring Brook Press comes out in 2023.
Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it. And I love that you are writing in so many forms. I agree that every story demands its own form, and it can be fun to explore that!
Okay, are you ready? Speed round!
Butterfly vs. Caterpillar?
Butterfly! I don’t mind crawling along and looking at life in detail through newborn eyes … but oh how I love to fly and see the world in all its vastness!
Ocean vs. Mountains?
Ocean. I live 7 minutes from the ocean and the final version of Hello, Little One that made it submission-ready was written while looking out at the ocean in Playa Del Rey, CA.
Halloween vs. New Year’s Day?
Halloween! Who doesn’t love transforming into any character they want for a whole night? The possibilities are endless…
Tigger. I love his youthful energy.
Ice cream vs. Cake?
Ice cream, though it’s hard to imagine eating them separately. I guess that’s the basis for my answer. I can eat ice cream without cake but I can’t eat cake without ice cream.
Love it! So fun to learn more about you.
Okay, I have one last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. Obviously, your characters couldn’t have them, but if we imagine a cute little caterpillar car, what do you think Little One might choose for their personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
Love it! And for those of you who don’t get it, you’ll have to read the book!
Zeena Pliska is an author and kindergarten teacher in the Los Angeles public school system. When she is not figuring out how to elevate the voices of children, she is working on social justice and climate change issues and traveling near and far with her own “little one.” She lives in Los Angeles.
You can learn more about Zeena and her books on her website, and she’s also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Today we have another author interview! I’m so excited to have Sharon Giltrow on my blog just in time for Father’s Day! She is the author of Bedtime, Daddy! which released on May 12th. Let’s jump right in, and as always, I’m in bold green.
Hi Sharon, welcome to my blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
Sure, I would love to 😊. I am the youngest of eight children and grew up on a farm in South Australia. My childhood was spent reading, making mud pies, exploring the salt lake and swimming at the beach. Now I am a part-time teacher of children who have a developmental language disorder and best of all a full-time writer. I started writing children’s books when my first child was born in 2006 but it wasn’t until 2015 that I started taking the idea that I could become an author seriously. I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 picture book challenge, enrolled in children’s book courses and started my journey towards becoming a published author.
Wow! SEVEN older brothers and sisters. As it happens, I grew up near a salt lake as well! Floating on the water is a pretty interesting experience. And I’m so glad you decided to write. Please tell us about your book!
Bedtime, Daddy! Is a humorous role reversal story, where the little bear in the story puts their daddy bear to bed. To do this the little bear must wrestle daddy bear into his pajamas, read just one more story, battle endless excuses, and use go-away monster spray to finally get daddy to bed. The story has a great balance between heart and humor. It would make a perfect bedtime and Father’s Day book, and there’s even a Teacher’s Guide.
I loved the role-reversal in Bedtime Daddy! What inspired you to write it?
My husband and my children. Over the last fourteen years my husband and I have taken turns reading to our children and putting them to bed. During the nightly bedtime routine, I had a lightbulb thought… ‘wouldn’t it be funny if our children put us the parents to bed.’ The idea for Bedtime, Daddy! was born.
I love those lightbulb moments! And the steps of getting Daddy to bed are hilarious. One of my favorite parts is the monster spray. Do you have a favorite part of the story?
My favourite part of the story is when Daddy Bear and Little Bear are snuggled up in bed reading a story and Daddy Bear interrupts the story with these questions…
‘Why don’t ducks have arms?’ Or ‘Do sharks sneeze?’
They were awesome questions! I love the randomness of it all. So true to life! And let’s talk art. The art is so whimsical, and fits the book perfectly. It really helps the reader feel that the advice is coming from a kid. Did you have any input on the art or illustrator? What was your reaction at seeing the art?
EK Books asked Katrin Dreiling to illustrate Bedtime, Daddy! Before I signed the contract, they sent me Katrin’s early sketches of the characters. There was a daddy bear, a human dad, a little bear and a little child. Anouska the editor made a suggestion that perhaps using bear characters would have a more universal appeal. I trusted Anouska’s advice and am very happy with the bear characters. I love Katrin’s illustrative style and colour palette and she has illustrated my words and vision perfectly. When I first saw the storyboard for Bedtime, Daddy! I was ecstatically happy.
How interesting! Very cool that you had a choice on that. Can we talk writing for a minute? How many picture books would you say you wrote before finally getting a deal on this one?
My first picture book I wrote was in 2006, I then went on to write nine more before I signed the deal for Bedtime, Daddy! Since signing the deal I have written four more picture book manuscripts and one chapter book manuscript.
That is a lot of books. This business takes a lot of perseverance! What helped you the most on the path to publication?
Not giving up and believing in myself! As well as the support of my critique partners and the Kidlit community. Surround yourself with like-minded writers.
That is great advice. Having that support makes all the difference!
One last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think Little Bear might choose for his personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
Hahaha! I love it! So perfect. Okay, I know I already said last question, but where can we purchase Bedtime, Daddy!?
Bedtime, Daddy! is now available to order around the world:
Thanks so much! And for my readers, see below for where to find and follow Sharon on social media platforms.
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, WA with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. When not writing, Sharon works with children with Developmental Language Disorder. Sharon was awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship in 2019. Her debut PB Bedtime, Daddy, released May 2020 through EK books.
You can find Sharon on her Website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Please Welcome Gabi Snyder to my blog! I love Gabi. We met through a picture book group called 12×12, and are now both part of the Debut Crew. I confess, I may be fangirling to have her on my site. I actually read her book announcement before we met and thought it sounded brilliant! I’m excited for you all to learn more about her.
Now on to the interview! As always, I’m in green.
Hi Gabi, welcome to my blog!
Hi Janet! I’m excited to be here!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
Back in the day (early aughts), I studied English-Creative Writing at The University of Texas, with a focus on writing fiction for adults. After earning my MA, I took a succession of jobs that used writing (like grant writing and instructional design), but I wasn’t finding much time to do my own writing.
Fast forward to 2013: when my kids were little (3 and 5), we moved from Austin to Corvallis, Oregon. With a break from work following the move, I found time to get back to my own writing. Only, by then, reading daily with my two littles, I’d become immersed in the world of picture books and fallen in love with this form of storytelling.
Isn’t it an amazing form? I’m totally in love, too. Your book is so fun! Please tell us what it’s about.
TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE starts with a gate left open and a dog escaping her yard to join a poodle on a trike. Soon it’s three dogs on a scooter and then four dogs on a bike. With each new mode of transportation, a new dog is added to the fun. But what the pups don’t notice is that the original dog’s family cat is in hot pursuit.
It’s such a fun premise! I can just imagine kids giggling over that cat. What inspired you to write Two Dogs on a Trike?
If I had to guess which picture book I reread the most as a child, I’d name GO, DOG. GO! by P.D. Eastman. The silly dogs and sense of movement and fun in TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE are, in part, an homage to the P.D. Eastman classic. In TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, we count up to 10 and back down again while moving through different and escalating modes of transportation.
And the dog versus cat dynamic that plays out in the story was inspired, in part, by my childhood pets. I grew up with a cat we called Kinko (named for his kinked tail) and an assortment of dogs. Kinko was the undisputed boss. Now my family includes one daredevil dog and one cat who keeps us all in line.
Haha! I had cats growing up, too, and they definitely keep us all in line.
I love that your book leaves so much room for the reader to create a story. Sparse text books can be really tricky, and yours makes it look easy! I would love to hear about your revision process. Was the initial draft pretty similar to this, or what kind of edits did you have to make?
Great question! Unlike most of my stories, drafting TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE was fairly quick and painless. It came out mostly whole. Of course, my brilliant critique partners still had suggestions for taking it to the next level. For instance, looking back at my first draft I see that the first line of the story initially read “One dog on the sidewalk.” With help from my critique partners, that line changed to “One dog, all alone…”. And then, when working with my editor, Meredith Mundy at Abrams, she pointed out that Sandra Boynton’s book HIPPOS GO BERSERK opens with this line: “One hippo, all alone . . ..” I wanted my opening line to vary more from the first line of that Boynton classic, so we changed that line to “One dog stands alone.”
So fun to see the evolution! Thank you for sharing. I feel like I just got a peek into your secret lab. 😊
Okay, so hearing about the story, and knowing you have a dog and cat, any chance we can see a picture? Everyone loves pet pictures.
Camille (the dog) and Henry (the cat) love to help me write! Camille likes to drape herself across my lap as I type, and Henry keeps my manuscripts warm and furry.
Adorable! What a cozy way to write. 😸🐶
Finally, the art. I love the bold colors and the simple, yet intricate images (which is quite the feat!). The illustrator, Robin Rosenthal, conveys so much emotion and humor and makes it look effortless! What is your favorite image from the book, and why?
I am absolutely smitten with Robin’s illustrations. And I love the 80’s retro vibe of the fashion choices.
Aren’t those the best??! The 80’s rocked.
For the first half of the story, the dogs are oblivious to the fact that they’re being followed. When we reach “10 dogs,” there’s a realization. That last animal? Not a dog! The revelation spread and the one that follows are my favorite images in the story. And while my illustration notes made clear who that not a dog is, I didn’t specify where we are. Robin Rosenthal’s illustration for that spread is hilarious and unexpected! I gasped in surprise when I saw it, and yet it feels like the inevitable “of course!” choice. Truly perfection.
It totally felt inevitable! It’s a neat thing to watch an illustrator’s work not only bring a story to life, but add that extra to make it that much MORE.
Okay, one last question. Here on my blog, I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think the dogs (and the cat!) in your story might choose for a personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
Those are purrfect! (I couldn’t resist! Haha!) Thanks so much for stopping in!
Thanks so much for hosting me, Janet! 😊
TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE will be released on May 19th. To learn more about Gabi, her book, and where to find her on social media, see below!
Reader. Writer. Lover of chocolate. Watch for Gabi Snyder’s debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, coming from Abrams/Appleseed in spring 2020, and her second picture book, LISTEN (working title) from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books in spring 2021. Gabi lives in Oregon with her family, including one daredevil dog and the cat who keeps everyone in line.
You can find her website HERE, and follow her on Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.
If possible, consider buying TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE from your local bookstore. You can use Indiebound to find a local store.
If you don’t have a local indie or if they’re not able to take online orders, consider supporting local bookstores by ordering from Bookshop.
Wow, it’s been a while since I posted an author interview, but I have some great ones coming up this month to make up for it!
First up is Claire Annette Noland. We met through our debut author group, The Debut Crew. She is one of our fearless leaders, and I’ve been so happy to get to know her even better through this interview.
Her debut picture book, Evie’s Field Day, illustrated by Alicia Teba, comes out on May 1st. It’s a fun one, and you can find my review HERE.
But let’s get to it! As always, my comments are in green:
Hi Claire, welcome to my blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
I’ve always been a reader. I became a writer in high school when I took a creative writing class and realized kid lit was my happy place. I decided I wanted a career focused on children and books and I’ve been able to do that as a bookseller, children’s librarian, reading specialist, kindergarten teacher, mom to four children, and now author!
Wow, your list of jobs is like my dream list! Kid lit is my happy place, too. Can you please tell us about your upcoming book?
Evie’s Field Day is about a girl who loves to win and looks forward to getting more ribbons at the annual field day. Unfortunately, things don’t work out as planned and Evie is not a very good loser. When she is finally ahead, she is faced with a decision. Should she race ahead and win or make a choice to stop and be a friend.
Field days are the best! But I totally get how Evie feels. It’s easy to get caught up in winning. What inspired you to write this story?
No one likes to lose but it is a fact of life. We can’t always win. As a child, I never seemed to win anything but games of chance, like BINGO. As a mom and teacher, I saw how frustrated and upset children can get when they lose. I want to encourage children to enjoy the game, focus on doing their best, and on being a good friend and teammate. I hope Evie’s Field Day will be help children to be good sports.
It’s a good lesson to learn young. Still, I love how spunky Evie is as a character. She reminded me of myself when I was a kid. I loved winning! Did you base her off of anyone you know?
Actually, she is a combination of my four children who each struggled with competitors and learned many valuable lessons in the process.
I love that! Kids are the best inspiration. And I also loved all the fun field day games in your book. How did you choose them? Did it require research?
Field Day is always one of the most anticipated days in the school year and the games included in the book are student favorites. I had many to choose from!
I guess it helps when you’ve been a teacher for a few years! The suggestions on teaching good sportsmanship in the back matter are great! Was that part of the initial drafts or your submission package or did it come later? How did you develop that?
Cardinal Rule Press has a very clear vision for the books they publish. They want realistic stories about children and the issues they face. They want to empower children as well as encourage parents and teachers. Each of their books have suggestions and activities that support the topic.
The back matter was developed after the contract was signed. I read many articles on sportsmanship and talked to coaches. I also included techniques that I personally developed as a teacher and parent.
Fascinating to see how the process works for different publishers.
So let’s talk about the art. I love how the illustrator, Alicia Teba, uses color to really spotlight the kids in the story and bring focus to the action. Was this something you had discussed with your editor/art-director beforehand, or was it a fun surprise? What was your reaction on seeing it?
I love the illustrations done by Alicia. The color palate was the brilliant idea of Maria Dismondy, publisher of Cardinal Rule Press. I was able to see the draft illustrations throughout the process and I am thrilled with each page. I especially love how Evie’s emotions are so clearly evident.
So clear! Now, I have to ask. The timeline is so long for picture books. You’ve been looking forward to release day for years now. How has COVID-19 affected your release day plans?
Evie’s Field Day was planned to launch in time for end of the school year activities. Unfortunately, things are turning out differently than planned because children are not at school. The book is being launched virtually and we are planning a big #AtHomeFieldDay on May 21st.
The field day will be celebrated on Instagram. Families can post pictures on Instagram with the hashtags #EviesFieldDay and #AtHomeFieldDay to be eligible for prizes. Here’s a blog post with some fun activity ideas: At Home Field Day- 10 ways to play, and here’s information from Cardinal Rule Press about the #AtHomeFieldDay contest. I hope many families will join the fun!
Sounds super fun! What a great way to celebrate. 😊
Okay, one last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think Evie might choose for a personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
Love it! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Claire, I loved learning more about you and your book. Wishing it a very successful launch!
And for the rest of you, thanks so much for stopping in and reading! You can find all the links for following Claire on social media below, as well as links for where you can get your own copy of EVIE’S FIELD DAY!
Claire Noland is the author of easy readers, board books, and picture books for young children. She knows that everyone who reads is a winner and as a children’s librarian, reading specialist, and author, her life’s goal is to excite kids about books and reading. She writes from her home in Central California.
You can follow her on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram.
EVIE’S FIELD DAY is available now from Claire’s local indie book store, Petunia’s Place Books, through bookshop, Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold.
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
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
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?
Have a great week!
Links for OLIVE AND THE GREAT FLOOD:
You can find her on her blog a http://www.susannahill.com
Back in August, one of my super sweet CP’s (Critique Partner’s), Angela Cervantes, published her debut middle-grade novel, Gaby, Lost and Found with Scholastic Press. If you haven’t read it yet, you should! It is a touching story about a girl trying to find her place when her life is flipped up-side down. Here’s the blurb:
Girlie: I’m trying to make people happy by playing with them and sharing my stuff. How do you make people happy?
Me: I love it! She definitely lives up to that. 🙂
Angela Cervantes is a poet, storyteller, and animal lover. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in various publications, including Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul. When Angela is not writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband in Kansas and eating fish tacos every chance she gets. Gaby, Lost and Found is her first middle-grade novel. She is currently at work on her second book.
Now for the Giveaway! I have two signed (paperback) copies of Gaby, Lost and Found to give away to two lucky visitors. Just enter in the Rafflecopter below! The giveaway is open through March 31st. Good luck!