MG Author Malayna Evans Presents her Debut Novel:Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh + Win A Free Copy.

My inspiration for Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh: by Malayna Evans

COVER

When my oldest son was nine years old (he’s now sixteen and 6’2”!), he asked me over lunch at my favorite coffee shop what ancient Egyptians looked like. I’m a pretty legit person to ask about that: I spent too many years (and way too many dollars) earning my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he told me someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. I added the sassy little sister, also much like his, and, voila, I had an idea and two South Side Chicago protagonists. He and I wrote chapter one that very afternoon. (Okay, that chapter one is long gone … but the inspiration is still there.)

Three things to know about Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh (Month9Books):

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  1. The magic and oversized crocs and scorpions are fake, but the history is real. Well, much of it anyway. The setting, the main ancient Egyptian characters, even the artifacts and sections of magic spells are attested, as is the weird period of time—that Amarna Period—when the pharaoh tried to replace the old gods and goddesses with his favorite deity, the sun disk (Aten).

 

  1. Two real bits of history helped me shape the plot. One was a tomb from this period that features the second Amarna princess, Meketaten, who died young. (I needed a mummy, after all). And the second thing was a spell, which is usually written as three hieroglyphs right after a pharaoh’s name: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity, and health. I figured exploring the meaning of life in book one was a pretty good theme. (I couldn’t save that princess–she really did die around this time–but saving her afterlife seemed like an emic spin on the age-old boy-saves-princess classic.)

 

  1. Absentee parents are hard. That doesn’t stop many kids from having to live with the situation. I wanted to explore that common problem as well. Jagger’s (barely existent) relationship with his father isn’t central to the plot, but it is key to Jagger’s personal growth, and perhaps also informs his big brother over protectiveness.

Thanks for reading. I hope kids will enjoy the adventure and hardly notice all the history they’ll be soaking up on the way. You can grab Jagger’s story here: https://www.amazon.com/Jagger-Jones-Mummys-Malayna-Evans/dp/194867162X/

Here’s Darlene’s review of the book:

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”.

            Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?

            Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

 

Malayna is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to be part of the random drawing. Winners will be announced on this blog on May 16, 2019.

 

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Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is out in May of 2019. http://www.Month9Books.com

Malayna lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster.  She’s considering adding chickens to the family.

 

 

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PB Author Vivian Kirkfield Presents:Unsolved Mysteries: Three Questions About Sarah E. Goode.

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat again on your wonderful blog. I wanted to share some details of the process I went through as I researched my non-fiction picture book SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. (Creston 2019)

Sarah cover

When I decided to write a nonfiction picture book story about Sarah E. Goode, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find information about her. I mean, you’d think, a person who was one of the first African American women to receive a U.S. patent would have a lot written about her, right? Especially since she’d been a slave when she was a child. Just think about that…from owned to ownership. Those words actually spurred me on as I dug deeper, trying to unearth more information.

I turned to my local librarian and she reached out to some of the larger libraries in the country. We were sure that the Chicago Public Library would have loads of stuff – after all – Sarah lived and worked and died in Chicago. But, when the librarian at the Harsh Research Collection answered our plea, here is what she said:

Wow! Your author seems to have amassed much more information than we ever dreamed there would be. We have nothing in our files on Goode and her name only comes up every Black History Month when some unlucky child has her name assigned for a report. All we’ve ever been able to lead them to is a photo of the patent and a brief blurb in a “Black Inventors” book. Essentially nothing more than can be found on the internet.

When I read her reply, I knew that I had to pursue this story because Sarah had obviously not received the recognition in life or in death that she deserved. She was a trailblazing courageous young woman who could inspire the children of today to build their own dreams.

But even though I searched high and low, there were three things I was not able to track down and verify.

WHAT DID SARAH LOOK LIKE?

Searching around the internet, I found two or three sentences repeated on just about every website that had a bit of information (often untrue) about Sarah E. Goode. Several of the websites had her photo.

NOT!

There is no known photo of Sarah E. Goode. The photo that appears on several websites? I don’t know who it is, but it is definitely not Sarah.

WHERE WAS SARAH BORN?

Some websites say Toledo, Ohio. Some websites say Toledo, Spain. What?

I can totally understand the confusion. On the 1870 Chicago census, Sarah was 15 years old and her parents listed her place of birth as Toledo, Ohio. However, in the 1880 Chicago census, when Sarah is a married woman of 25, she listed her place of birth as Toledo, Spain.

NOT!

From all the research I’ve done, I surmise that Sarah might have been born in Northern Virginia…a slave state in 1855, the year of her birth. The border of Northern Virginia runs along the southern border of Ohio…a free state in 1855. It might have made sense for Sarah’s father, a freeman, to claim that his daughter was born in Ohio where she would be considered free. And, as for Sarah claiming she was born in Toledo, Spain, again, we can only guess. Perhaps she thought if she said Spain, that would grant a bit of the exotic to her existence. I doubt we will ever know the true story.

WHAT HAPPENED TO SARAH’S BUSINESS?

By 1883, a time when most women didn’t own anything, Sarah owned a furniture store in downtown Chicago. She built the innovative cabinet bed and applied for a patent. A year later, her application was returned – DENIED. Other similar inventions had already been patented. Sarah could have given up. But she didn’t.

Carefully she changed a word here and a sentence there, explaining more about her unique mechanism, the idea that had come to her so long ago. Slipping the paperwork and a bit of her heart into the envelope, Sarah sealed her fate and sent it off.

A year later, on July 14, 1885, Sarah’s patent was granted. In 1886, her business appears in Chicago’s city listing. But sadly, by May of 1887, an advertisement in the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean newspaper shows another vendor selling cabinet beds that look just like Sarah’s. “Manufacturer of these beds went bust and we are now the exclusive distributors.” We may never know why Sarah lost her business – illness, bad luck, or jealousy and possibly violence from business competitors—I did discover that her mother and one of her children had died the year before. She had lost two of the people she had loved the most. But there is one thing Sarah will never lose: her place in history. Sarah E. Goode will always be one of the first African American women in U.S. history to be recorded as earning a patent for her invention.

And now, the next time young students are given the name of Sarah E. Goode as a Black History Month or Women’s History Month project, there will be a book they can take out from the library, Sweet Dreams, Sarah. The author’s note, timeline of Sarah’s life and list of African American women patent holders in the back matter add rich STEM content to the book.

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BIO: Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

 

 

 

Katia Raina, Debut YA Author Presents CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Today it is my pleasure to feature my friend and debut YA author KATIA RAINA, with a sneak peek at her new book, CASTLE OF CONCRETE. Here’s Katya:

CASTLE OF CONCRETE is a young adult novel set in the last year of Communist Russia, about a shy Jewish girl Sonya who reunites with her once-dissident mother after a long absence and falls in love with a boy who may be an anti-Semite.

Castle_Advance

Where I got the idea for the story:

You’d think it’s such a straightforward question, right? But the path to this story idea, for me, was meandering.

The short answer is: the idea for this story came straight from my soul and the core of who I was. I grew up in Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia, I grew up quiet, an outsider and a Jew-in-hiding (I didn’t have what the Russians would consider a typically Jewish look). I was missing my mama and having a hard time connecting with the society in which I lived. I read lots of fairy tales and science fiction, and lots of romance. Then, when I got older and thought I was in love, I went out on a date with a boy, who used an anti-Semitic slur against a stranger. I didn’t know if he knew that I was Jewish or not. I never said anything. I never found out. But the “what if” questions never quite left me alone. Merging with memory and imagination, eventually these questions led me to write CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Three things you should know about the main character Sonya:

  1. Sonya thinks she is a shy and quiet mouse, a myshka. She has no idea how fierce and crazy she can be!
  2. Sonya used to be a good student. Back when she wasn’t as focused on boys. Ahem.
  3. Sonya’s talents are ice skating, piano playing and singing. She is not necessarily champion/super star material in any of these areas. But when she lets go, when she is feeling the magic and trusting herself, she definitely has her shining moments, in all three.

The book is coming out on June 11, but I have been already beyond thrilled at the excitement and early reception. Here is the link to pre-order the early copy! 🙂 

https://www.amazon.com/Castle-Concrete-NOVEL-Katia-Rainia/dp/0999541633/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=34D5AELYWG0DP&keywords=katia+raina&qid=1550768775&s=gateway&sprefix=katia+%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Katia Raina photo, cropped

Follow Katia’s blog, The Magic Mirror, for updates!

Twitter: KatiaRaina1

Instagram: katiawrites

Facebook: katia.raina

When she was a child, Katia Raina played at construction sites and believed in magic mirrors. She emigrated from Russia at the age of almost sixteen. A former journalist and currently a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C., she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family just outside of D.C., and still believes in magic.

Janet Smart Presents her Middle Grade Historical Novel DUCK AND COVER.

Today I am pleased to present the fourth installment in my historical research series with this entry by middle grade author Janet Smart who discusses the research she did for her debut novel DUCK AND COVER. Here’s Janet:

Historical fiction books take readers back in time. They take you back hundreds and thousands of years or as little as fifty. My MG book, Duck and Cover, transports readers back to the fall of 1962. Many baby boomers remember where they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember the early years of our space race to the moon with the Russians. But many young people today don’t not know much about that time period. I searched and not many books are written about that frightful time in 1962.

For many years I had this vague memory from when I was very young. We were visiting my aunt’s house and people were crying and saying the world was coming to an end. I finally realized what the memory was about – the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I decided to write a book about it.

Cover

Aside from the memories told to me by relatives, I did a lot of research. I mention in my book about the pamphlet the main character, Teddy, found in their cellar titled, in time of EMERGENCY a citizen’s handbook on NUCLEAR ATTACK and NATURAL DISASTERS. I have that booklet. I looked up the timeline of October in 1962 during which most of my book takes place. I looked up 1962 calendars to make sure I got all the days right and researched the speeches President Kennedy gave.

In addition to the historical facts, I also researched food, songs, clothing, and other cultural trends of that time period. The book isn’t all serious; the characters are like all kids and enjoyed Halloween after the threat was over and listened to the song Monster Mash on their transistor radios. They ate tuna casserole with crushed potato chips on top, which was popular in the 60s, and they eavesdropped in on people’s conversations on the telephone party line, something that kids today know nothing about.

The main character’s best friend, Melvin, had polio when he was a toddler. It left him with a limp. During the early 1950s, when he was born, polio was widespread in the country.

Historical fiction books need to get the facts right and at the same time make the story interesting, and not boring, for the reader. If you can do that, you have succeeded.

History books tell you when and where the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. My historical fiction reveals how kids felt when they ducked under their desks during a duck and cover drill, how they felt when they went to bed after listening to President Kennedy’s speech, and their fear when they saw a shooting star and wondered if it was what a Russian missile would look like soaring through the sky.

You can check out the trailer for Duck and Cover on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bJTus-T5Vk&t=36s

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-F-Smart/e/B00LX7ERE4/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

newspaper pic

Janet Smart lives just down the road from the small town of Ripley, WV. She is the mother of three grown boys and loves writing for children. She wrote a children’s column in the regional magazine, Two Lane Livin’ for 8 years and is the author of Fun Through the Seasons: Recipes, Crafts and Fun Facts for Kids, and the historical fiction Duck and Cover (Saguaro Books). She also has written a cookbook titled, Cooking with Family: Recipes and Remembrances. You can visit her website at Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch or connect with her on Facebook, @JanetFSmart on Twitter, or on Pinterest.

http://creativewritingintheblackberrypatch.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wvsmarties

https://www.pinterest.com/wvjan54/

Buy Fun Through the Seasons on Amazon
Click here to buy Duck and Cover on Amazon

 

 

Authors and Illustrators and Editors…Oh My:When Creating a Book is a Collaborative Effort + Free PB manuscript critique by PB Author Vivian Kirkfield.

I’ve always been a fan of collaboration. As a kid, I loved getting together with friends to plan a fun project. As a kindergarten teacher, I treasured the contributions from parents who brought a wealth of diversity and talent to school functions. It seemed natural to me that there would be a team effort when a book was created—with input from author, illustrator, and editor. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

In theory, the author brings her vision to the story with words. The illustrator adds another layer of vision. But some editors may fear if too much communication is allowed between author and illustrator, the author may try to influence the illustrator to do things her way. Although I understand that point of view, I also believe that there is so much good that can come out of working as a team.

At this point in my writing journey, I have multiple book deals. That is certainly something to cheer about. But it’s also given me the opportunity to experience different publishing processes. The first contract I signed was for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019). Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

I never saw early sketches, there was no collaboration between author and illustrator, and when the color layouts were finally shared with me, there were many changes that needed to be made for historical accuracy. I’m grateful that those changes have been made and the finished product will be stellar, but that is why a book that was signed in November 2015 isn’t launching until May 2019. Happily, for the other two books that also launch next year, there has been a level of collaboration which exceeded even my expectations. 

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019) began as a Picture Book Idea Month thought back in 2013. cover on amazon

When one of my in-person critique buddies, author/illustrator Jill Weber, saw it at the end of 2017, she fell in love with it and brought it to her long-time editor in NYC who also fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. Jill signed on to illustrate and what followed was pure pleasure for me, although lots of hard work for Jill. She showed me early sketches—I loved each one. She shared early color illustrations—they were fantastic. And when the book dummy was complete, we shared a cup of hot chocolate at our favorite local meeting place while I got to flip through the pages to see Pippa Mouse and all the other characters come to life. Hurray for collaboration! 

When my agent sent FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK to the editor at PomegranateKids, she also sent some sketches from one of her illustrator clients. Essie had a feeling that Mirka Hokkanen’s style would be the perfect match for my lyrical text. And she was spot on right! The editor loved the partnership and signed Mirka to do the illustrations. four otters cover amazon

Mirka and I live 5000 miles apart and can’t meet for hot chocolate, but we were able to connect via Facebook messaging and email. And thank goodness for that, because Mirka, being a conscientious illustrator, did her research before she began drawing (sadly, not every illustrator does that). She uncovered a big problem. All ten of the endangered animals were supposed to inhabit the ecosystem of the Colorado Rockies. “No!” Mirka said. “Not the Golden Cheeked Warbler.” “Yes, it is,” I replied. “It’s found in Colorado Bend State Park!”

Now, wouldn’t you think that Colorado Bend State Park is in Colorado? I certainly did. But no. It’s actually in Texas.

1st spread

Thank goodness for Mirka’s attention to detail and for our ability to collaborate. We researched other birds and found the perfect substitute—the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Of course, we immediately let the editor know why we were making the change and he was totally fine with that. But how much better it was that we made the change before the publisher fact-checked and discovered my incorrect information.

Later in the process, Mirka sent me a sketch of one of the spreads and she questioned why I had peregrine falcon babies in a burrow. “Don’t they live on a high cliff ledge?” she asked. They certainly do, but the ‘bobbing beaks retreating to the borrowed burrow’ referred to the five burrowing owls from the previous spread, not to the six peregrine falcons who were circling overhead. 5 burrowing owls

If Mirka and I were not collaborating, she would have spent a lot of time refining her sketch and perhaps even crafting the block from which she would make the woodcut illustration. Or worse, if I didn’t get to see the book until it was almost ready to ship, expensive changes would have to be made. Hurray for collaboration!

Just a few weeks ago, I got to see the dummy for FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Illustrator Gilbert Ford had a huge task…nine nonfiction picture book bios in one compilation book. The editor kindly asked me to comment on the PDF, but there was very little for me to say except how much I loved it! And although I haven’t seen any sketches yet for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), I’m thrilled with the portfolio of Allenanna Harris, the illustrator who will be bringing that story to life. I know she will do a fabulous job and I look forward to the collaborative effort that will create a wonderful picture book for children.

Although this writing journey can be frustrating at times and disappointing at others, I always feel blessed to be on it. And lucky to have all of you as my traveling companions. I truly believe that we can turn our dreams into reality if we keep moving forward, help one another, and never give up. Our destination is within reach.

Vivian is giving away ONE PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE to a random person who leaves a comment on this post. All commenters names will be placed in a hat and one winner will be drawn and announced on this blog on Thursday February 7, 2019. If you share this post on Twitter or FB, or reblog it, let me know and I will add your name twice to the hat.

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Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. She shelved them at the library during her college years. She read them to her students when she taught kindergarten. And she writes them. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, February 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner. You can visit her website at Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linkedin.

Book Giveaway:A Blast from the Past Inspires a Tween Novel For Author Mary Zisk.

Following up on the blog post about my middle grade novel, The Art of  Being Remmy, [link: https://darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/author-illustrator-mary-zisk-presents-the-art-behind-the-art-of-being-remmy/] Darlene and I would like to offer a hardcover signed copy to one lucky reader. See giveaway instructions at the end of this post.

me_entry_bookcover-combo

 It often happens that a memorable event in an author’s life can inspire an entire novel. For me, that event happened in 1964, when I was a Beatlemanical thirteen year old. I entered a Draw-the-Beatles contest sponsored by WABC Radio in New York City and became one of the winners of tickets to see The Fab Four in concert! Not only did my artwork transport me to an electrifying concert of nonstop screaming, that thrill confirmed my destiny that I would always be an artist.

Decades later, I channeled my tween self and wrote a middle grade novel triggered by that concert. Ultimately, the concert became the climax event that pulled together a fictionalized plot about a girl who fights to overcome rules imposed on females in mid-1960s society. 12-year-old Remmy Rinaldi pursues her dream to be an artist in spite of her father’s strong objections, the taunts of a boy rival, and the threat of losing her best friend to a rat fink.

As the novel evolved, I decided to change the historical period from 1964 to 1965, which meant that the concert moved from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to the more famous concert at Shea Stadium. But I still used my impressions and emotions from my 1964 concert:

beatles_shea-v2-crpt

Ed Sullivan steps onto the stage and we scream, knowing why he is here. He yells something about “The Queen” and “America” and then “Here are THE BEATLES!!!!”

I didn’t think it could be possible, but the screams get even louder as the Beatles—the ACTUAL BEATLES—run out to the second base stage and everyone jumps to their feet.

… The Beatles sing and rock and strum and dance so it looks like they’re making music. We bounce and clap to what we think is the music. But it’s impossible to hear anything over the nonstop screams…

But hey, it doesn’t matter. The Beatles are here and my friend and I are here. We are all sharing the same steamy August night, and breathing the same hot air, and seeing the same stars, and hearing the music and screaming collide. I’ll never forget this. Ever.

beatles-foresthills

The Beatles in concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in August 1964

And I never did forget that night.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Do you have a childhood event that defined your life or set you on a lifetime path? Do you have a childhood memory that you will always treasure in your heart?

Tell us about it.  Leave that memory in the comments section, and you’ll be eligible to win a hardcover, signed copy of The Art of Being Remmy. Good luck! One lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on December 27.

 

Links:

http://www.maryzisk.com/the-art-of-being-remmy.html

https://www.facebook.com/artofremmy/

 

 

 

Author/Illustrator Mary Zisk Presents: The Art Behind THE ART OF BEING REMMY.

I am thrilled to have children’s book author and illustrator Mary Zisk to talk about her debut middle grade novel THE ART OF BEING REMMY. I had the pleasure of reading this delightful time travel adventure back to 1965 and will share my review at the end of this post.

Mary will talk about the art she created for the book and her inspiration for writing it.  Here’s Mary:

The Art Behind The Art of Being Remmy

Mary-Oliver-Remmy-web

The most exciting event of my junior high life inspired my new middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. When I was 13, I won a Draw-the-Beatles contest and tickets to a Beatles concert. The BEATLES! My best friend and I could barely hear the Fab Four singing with all the screaming, but the event was electric and so memorable.

The Art of Being Remmy

When I decided to write my novel, I used the pride and thrill I had felt from winning the contest to mold my main character, Remmy Rinaldi—a twelve-year-old girl who dreams of being an artist in spite of the objections from her father, the rivalry with a knucklehead boy, and the possibility of losing her best friend to a rat fink. I also reconnected with the remembrance that there were unwritten rules keeping girls in their place in the mid-sixties—sports are for boys, limited career options with the preferred being homemaker, dress codes, etc.

During draft number six, I came to a realization: how can I write a novel called The Art of Being Remmy and not have any art in it? I first drew an illustration that helped me define the premise of the book and create a possible visual direction.

Remmy_overview

As I continued rewriting drafts, I drew more cartoons—Remmy’s Wow Wall, best friend Debbie’s bedroom with matching canopy twin beds, and Suzanne The Rat Fink.

The Art of Being Remmy

But as my text drafts got deeper into Remmy’s emotions, I put myself in her place and felt that any artwork in the novel would be most meaningful and impactful if Remmy did all the illustrations from her point of view in her Super Secret Sketchbook—like illustrating in first person, instead of third person.

Layout 1

But what if readers of illustrated or graphic novels expected to see Remmy and all the characters acting out the narrative in scenes? I could be taking a big risk. As an experiment, I illustrated Remmy’s dream of the Beatles in NYC, influenced by her favorite painting, The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. Creating that illustration felt so right and natural to Remmy’s inner feelings and to my artistic process, I knew that was the direction I had to take.

The Art of Being Remmy

I continued by doing a full-page illustration for each of the 35 chapters of the book (plus a small spot illustration for each chapter opening).

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

It has taken nine years to bring Remmy out into the world. I hope her story will now entertain middle grade girls as well as give them inspiration and feelings of empowerment as they create their own life journeys. Follow your Spark!

Mary Zisk is a graphic designer (mostly of magazines), an author/illustrator, and an artist with a passion for capturing foreign destinations in watercolor. She is the author and illustrator of the picture book, The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted, and the illustrated middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. Mary lives in New Jersey with her daughter and four white fluffy rescue mutts.

To learn more about Mary (and Remmy), please visit www.MaryZisk.com. She blogs about her many eclectic collections at www.TheClutterChronicles.com.

The Art of Being Remmy is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

As promised, here is my (Darlene’s) review for THE ART OF BEING REMMY:

The Art Of Being Remmy by Mary Zisk is a delightful time travel trip back to 1965 when the Beatles reigned supreme. Remmy Rinaldi and her best friend Debbie ADORE all things Beatles and make a plan to one day meet their idols. Remmy also loves art and has a second secret plan to develop her Spark as an artist, even though it means going against her father’s wishes. Girls in the 1960’s need to know their place and follow the path men have set for them. A path that includes being housewives, mothers, maybe teachers, nurses , secretaries or stewardesses. But artists? NEVER!

Remmy is determined to prove her father and everyone else – including her once friend Bill – that she can be a great artist. Good enough to win a contest. She keeps her drawings in Super Secret Sketchbooks and earns her own money to take painting lessons so she can enter the Art Awards Contest.

Lots of challenges get in the way of Remmy’s plan, including problems with her best friend and a devious French Rat Fink. Along the bumpy road of 7th grade, Remmy learns that some rules are worth challenging and fairness for girls in all aspects of life is one of them.

This illustrated middle grade book is a funny and charming peek into the days when the Beatles took the world by storm and the force of female protest was at their heels. An entertaining read that celebrates creativity and girl power.