Baking cookies is part of our holiday tradition. I know it is for many families this time of year. So, while you make these bite-sized treats, how about making a second batch for a good cause. COOKIE FOR KIDS’ CANCER is a non-profit organization that has raised nearly 15 million dollars for pediatric cancer research and funded 100 research grants as well. To learn more about this nation-wide organization, and how you can become part of it, visit: http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org
Today it is my pleasure to feature fellow Kid Lit Author’s Club: http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com member David Neilsen, who will tell us a bit about his new middle grade fantasy – with plenty of humor throughout – BEYOND THE DOORS (Crown Books for Young Readers 2017). I recently read the book and was delighted with the story, which follows the adventures of four siblings. My review can be seen on the link below. Here’s David:
We sat down with the four Rothbaum siblings to ask them about their new lives living with their Aunt Gladys as well as the strange circumstances surrounding Aunt Gladys’ doors. Below are their answers.
Janice Rothbaum, age 12
Our Aunt Gladys is… strange. And not ‘good’ strange. No, more like ‘freaky and maybe dangerous’ strange. I don’t know. It’s hard to trust her when she keeps so many secrets. And how do we even know she’s our aunt? We’ve never heard of her! Zack says there must be some explanation, but I think the explanation is simply that she isn’t our aunt. Which then begs the question, who is she? And why is she taking the four of us in?
She’s up to something, that’s easy to see. I mean look at her house! There are no doors! Anywhere! I find that very suspicious. Actually, that’s not exactly correct, though, is it? I mean we found the doors. And then Sydney went and opened one and…
Nothing good will come of this.
Zack Rothbaum, age 11
Our Aunt Gladys is harmless. She may not be all there, if you know what I mean, but there isn’t an evil bone in her body. She’s… kooky. Nothing wrong with kooky.
Her house, on the other hand, is a death trap. There aren’t any doors between rooms, not even the bathroom! And that means drafts flow through the entire house! And if there were a fire or something, it would just sweep through the place, burning us all to a crisp. Then there’s the stairs, which are way too steep. A kid could die falling down those stairs! Alexa almost did!
But, of course, it’s all the doors in the center of the house that are the real danger, the ones Aunt Gladys hooks up to her impossible machine. Every time she hooks one of them up to that brass frame and turns on the power the danger level skyrockets. You won’t believe what’s beyond the doors. I don’t even know if I believe it, and I’ve lived it. Sydney tries to convince us it’s all safe, but how would she know? She’s just excited to have ‘an adventure’ which is another way of saying ‘do something dangerous.’
Because those things are dangerous. I don’t care what Aunt Gladys says. Every time she hooks up one of her doors and walks through them, she’s putting everyone’s life in danger.
Because doors work both ways. She may like to go in, but what if something decided to come out?
Sydney Rothbaum, age 9
Thank goodness for the doors.
I mean this whole business has been awful. First Dad gets hurt, then the four of us have to go live with a crazy woman we’ve never even met! You’d think living in a ring-shaped house might be fun. But it’s so boring! There’s nothing to do. No video games, no basketballs or tennis balls or balls of any kind, nothing to blow up or set on fire. Boresville.
But then we found Aunt Gladys’ doors. Talk about cool! I mean Aunt Gladys may be missing a few screws, but that machine of hers is cool! Just hook up one of those doors, flip some switches, and pow! Flashes of blue lightning, bright white light, it is so mad scientist! And on the other side…
Zack’s afraid. What else is new? He’s all ‘We have to be sensible’ and ‘We have to take precautions’ and such. He needs to live a little. There’s nothing scary or dangerous about Aunt Gladys’ doors. At least, I don’t think so.
Alexa Rothbaum, age 7
Aunt Gladys is funny. And she’s Mommy’s sister so she knows Mommy! Maybe she knows where Mommy is, or why Mommy left six years ago, or when Mommy’s coming back. I bet she’d tell us. I can fix her a bowl of Honey-Nut-Oat-Blast-Ring-a-Dings. It’s her favorite. It’s also the only food in the house. That’s weird.
I wanna walk through the door. The one with the pretty blue lightning. One of the ones, anyway. She has a lot of them. Funny, she has lots of doors in the big room, but no doors anywhere else in the house. That’s weird.
Zack doesn’t want me to go through the door. He says it’s dangerous and I’ll get hurt and stuff. And Janice doesn’t want me to go through the door. Actually, she doesn’t want anyone to go through the door, not even herself. Sydney’s fine with her and me going through the door. But Zack and Janice are bigger and think they get to tell us what to do. Zack treats me like I’m a baby. I’m not a baby. I’m seven!
Mommy wouldn’t treat me like a baby. If she were here. Hey! Maybe Mommy’s on the other side of the door!
DAVID NEILSEN is the author of two Middle Grade horror/comic/fantasies published by Crown Books for Young Readers: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (2016) and Beyond the Doors (2017). A classically trained actor, David works as a professional storyteller based in Sleepy Hollow, NY and spends much of October spooking the bejeebers out of people or performing one of his one-man shows based on and inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and two very domineering cats.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2211282452 link to Darlene’s review on Goodreads
PLANNING A LAUNCH PARTY FOR GRANDMOTHER THORN
It’s such a treat to be a return guest here on the blog! The first time I contributed a post here, I was a fresh new blogger sharing ideas about raising kids who love to read – and just starting out on my path to publication. After connecting with Darlene on the internet, we got to know each other better at the 2014 NJ SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Fast forward 3 ½ years, and here I am again, this time privileged to be chatting about my first picture book. It’s been a joy sharing the journey from aspiring author to published author with such an energetic, encouraging and talented friend. Thanks for having me, Darlene!
My debut book is GRANDMOTHER THORN, illustrated by the incredibly talented Rebecca Hahn and published by independent publisher Ripple Grove Press. When it released in August, I knew I wanted to host a launch party that not only celebrated the book, but also thanked the many people who helped me achieve this milestone. Here, I share a bit about my party, and hope that it helps others plan their own wonderful events!
LOCATION. Many authors have their launch party in a local book store, in their home, or in a venue that reflects something about their book. I chose the Crosswicks Community Library, located in a beautiful renovated firehouse dating from the 1800’s. (This library has such a cool history – you can read more about it here.) This library had been my reading home since 2007 – and the place where my children grew to love books. We spent many hours there together, in all seasons, reading out loud to one another, doing puzzles, and discovering stacks of new favorites. I wanted to celebrate this magical place along with my book. The library was also a great choice because it was conveniently located to the neighborhood where my kids went to school and where my Girl Scout troop met. I knew my Brownies wouldn’t miss this party for the world – but their parents would thank me for making it convenient. The library did not charge me for the event, and they made it easy for me to sell copies of the book. They also helped promote the event through their Facebook page. All great things to consider in planning a launch party! (It’s also walking distance to a good playground and an excellent pizza place. How could you go wrong with that?)
I went digital in getting the word out about my launch party. I used Canva.com to create images with the event information sized right to share on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I created a Facebook event in less than 10 minutes and added the Library as a co-host so we could both easily invite our Facebook followers. All of this was absolutely free.
ACTIVITIES Of course, the main event at any launch party is the author reading his or her book – but what happens next? With a picture book launch, you definitely need something fun for kids to do while the grown ups hug and laugh and say “congratulations.”
My friend Ariel Bernstein recently hosted the launch party for her debut, I HAVE A BALLOON, at words Bookstore in Maplewood. She had a balloon artist there twisting cool creations for the kids. It fit right in to the theme and kept even big kids happy.
Since I’m a crafty person, I wanted a fun art activity for kids to make and take. My daughters (ages 12, 10 and 8) manned the craft table and helped kids make these Shiori Ningyo, or Japanese bookmark dolls. I discovered this craft when the KidArtLit subscription box company included it in their August book box, and I have been using it at events ever since!
You can check out their video tutorial here. Including this craft in the party was a great way for me to symbolically thank KidArtLit’s founders for sharing GRANDMOTHER THORN with their subscribers – and for all the love they’ve shown the book and me!
I originally planned to have berry tarts (to reflect the berries in the book) and dorayaki (which also plays a role in the story) at the launch party. I reconsidered after realizing refreshments would be served in the children’s room of the library. I did not want gooey, sticky, and stain-prone desserts on hand while kids were likely to pull library books off shelves. I decided to go with individually wrapped cookies, instead – and to avoid chocolate or sticky fillings. (Though if you’re curious about making dorayaki, check out this interview in Vivian Kirkfield’s Will Write for Cookies! Series.)
I was lucky to discover The Flour Pot bakery in Ambler, PA. They helped me select images from the book to be “screen printed” onto delicious frosted sugar cookies in edible colors. The cookies were striking, right down to the color-coordinated ribbons The Flour Pot staff tied around each cellophane bag.
They also made a great thank you gift for the supportive family and friends who couldn’t make it to the event. This delicious gift box went out to my incredible agent, Essie White.
Many authors and illustrators pass out fun items like pencils, stickers, and toys to help promote their books. For ideas, definitely check out promo pros Robin Newman and Lori Richmond. I did design and order bookmarks for Grandmother Thorn from VistaPrint.com – and the publishing house later made more with a different design. I didn’t order additional “swag” for this book, as I couldn’t really find anything that thematically felt right to me. Instead, I spent most of my “swag budget” on craft supplies and those gorgeous cookies!
The party itself was everything I had hoped – a time for joy and sharing and gratitude and friendship. And, of course, lots and lots of kids reading books.
Children’s Author, Literacy Advocate
Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, August 2017)
Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling, January 2018)
You can buy a copy of Grandmother Thorn on Amazon:
Shower Curtain Ring Wreaths:
- shower curtain rings
- chenille/pipe cleaner stems of assorted colors
- tacky glue
- buttons, beads, ribbons for embellishment
Step One: Using two pipe cleaner stems together, wrap around the ring to cover it as shown.
Continue until the entire ring is covered. Tuck ends of the pipe cleaner into the wreath to hold tight. Repeat as many times as you wish, making each ring different…or a matched set…your choice.
Step two: Decorate with buttons, beads, etc. Tie with ribbon or string to hang.
Here is an easy no-bake dough you can use to make holiday ornaments, beads for jewelry or magnets. The fragrance is heavenly and lasts for years…even after being stored away with other Christmas ornaments. All you need is the following: 2 C. applesauce, 2 C ground cinnamon and 2 T white glue. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until you have a soft dough. Roll it out onto waxed paper until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut it into shapes using various cookie cutters. Use a straw or nail to poke a hole at the top if you are making ornaments. This will give you a hole for the string. Set the cut ornaments aside to dry. They will take 24-48 hours and should be turned over half way through to ensure both sides are completely dry.
After they dry, you can decorate them with glitter, sequins, etc. by brushing a layer of glue onto the front and sprinkling the decoration of choice.
CAUTION: Even though this dough smells heavenly and is made of food products, don’t eat it. It is strictly for craft use only.
For all my “I want to be a picture book writer” friends out there…
In 2014, Tara Luebbe jumped into the world of kidlit and started writing picture books with her sister Becky. She educated herself on the industry, joined SCBWI, found critique partners, and attended conferences. She started getting positive feedback from critiques and contests, but she needed something more. She knew the answer was a mentor and looked at the few options out there, but could not find a mentor that was the right match for her weird, quirky humor. Then fate intervened and she saw that author Stacy McAnulty was running a contest to find a mentee. She wrote funny books … just like her. Tara won and they worked together for six months. Soon after, Tara signed with an agent and sold her first books. Stacy’s only requirement was that she pay it forward and take on her own mentee when she was able.
But Tara wanted to do something more than that. She knew personally the immense value of a mentorship and the difference…
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As we shop away this holiday season, we are often reminded of those less fortunate and wonder how we can make a difference – even in some small way. Wouldn’t it be great to buy something that not only provides pleasure to the recipient, but gives something to those in need as well? Here are a few gift items that do just that:
- When you buy an American-made cotton FOREVER BLANKET, the company provides financial support to children in the foster care system by funding extra-curricular activities and therapy – to help offset the cost of adoption. http://www.swellforever.com
- Join those who have helped provide safe drinking water for children world-wide by buying a LIFESTRAW PLAY WATER BOTTLE. The 10 oz. bottle has a two-stage filtration feature that works well for school or outdoor activities. For each bottle purchased, the company provides safe water for a child for an entire school year. More than 630,000 kids have been helped so far. http://www.lifestraw.com
- EVERLASTING LIQUID LIPSTICK donates 20% of its proceeds to rescue and protect farm animals from cruelty. The vegan lipsticks are named for animals saved by the group. http://www.sephora.com
- Uwezo’s eco-friendly shoes – crafted from cowhide – help generate funds for orphaned and vulnerable children in East Africa. http://www.uwezobrands.com
For more gifts that give back, stay tuned to this blog’s post on 12-14.