Laura Sassi Gets Her Diva On + Enter to Win a Copy of Her New PB DIVA DELORES

Today it is my pleasure to be the first stop on a blog tour for picture book Author Laura Sassi’s new book: DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE.  You’ll find other stops on the tour at the end of the post.  Now, here is Laura:

How to Write Picture Books – Diva Style!   by Laura Sassi

Thank you, Darlene, for hosting me on my DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour. I’m so excited that my protagonists, Delores and Fernando, are finally making their debuts, but as any well-trained diva knows, singing on stage is just the final thrill. What comes before that?  Hours and hours, even years of hard work! But is it all worth it? You bet!   

So now, in celebration of opera and divas and picture books, here are five fun tips for writing picture books – diva style! Enjoy!

1. Go to the opera… a lot!

If you are going to be an opera star, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the glorious world of opera by attending operas, listening to opera music, and all-around saturating yourself in all things opera.  Likewise, if you want to write picture books, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the world of picture books.  For me, this means making regular trips to the children’s section of my library, or my favorite local bookstore, and reading, reading, reading!  I read with two purposes:  first, just for the pleasure and joy of it, and second… to learn. That’s why I always bring along my writerly opera glasses and a notebook so that I can thoughtfully ponder and record what makes each opera (i.e. picture book) sing… or not.

2. Rehearsal is important. If you want to be a diva, you have to spend time rehearsing and developing your craft. For opera stars, I imagine this means a daily routine of warming up with scales, practicing a variety of pieces, working on voice projection etc. Similarly, if you want to write picture books, you have to be willing to invest the time and effort into writing daily.  My daily writing routine includes free writes (my version of scales), as well as working on a variety of poems, blog posts and the handful of picture book manuscripts I’m playing with any given moment.

3. Control those crescendos.

I’m not an opera expert, but it seems to me that in the field of opera, like in the field of picture book writing – less is more!  I mean divas don’t just cut loose and sing at the top of their lungs willy-nilly!  No, they artistically control their voices so that it plays a magical role in telling the opera’s story. Likewise, as a picture book writer – and especially as one who loves to rhyme – I work hard to control my crescendos so that every word, sound, phrase, action, magically and purposefully moves the story forward.

4. Be confident, yet humble. (i.e. be willing to learn from others)

Confidence is good, but if you want your singing, er writing, to shine, I’ve learned over the years that confidence must be tempered with an open heart, open mind, and gracious spirit when receiving constructive feedback.  As a young writer I thought my writing was fabulous! But now that I’m more seasoned, I look back on those early pieces and cringe. They would definitely have benefited from a little more humility and willingness to productively process and put into place suggestions from more experienced writers!

 

(Which leads me to my last bit of advice.)

5. Everything’s better with a buddy!

As Diva Delores discovers at the opera house, the journey to success is just all-around better with a buddy. Likewise, I’ve found that the picture book writing journey wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of like-minded children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my last bit of advice for writing picture books – diva style! – is to find a buddy or two to encourage you and help you grow along the way.


BIO:  Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Links:

blog:http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

Twitter: twitter.com/laurasassitales

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

Here’s the schedule for the blog tour.  Follow the links below to check out each website.

March 8   Darlene Beck Jacobson  TOPIC: Guest post: “How to Be a Picture Book Diva”  – writing tips:   http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

March 16:  Susanna Leonard Hill   TOPIC:  Perfect Picture Book Friday Review  – details TBA :   https://susannahill.com/blog/

March 19:  Melissa Stoller   TOPIC: “THREE QUESTION INTERVIEW” on story, creativity, connection- through the lens of DIVA DELORES:   https://www.melissastoller.com/blog

March 23 and 24   Vivian Kirkfield  TOPIC: Cookie Interview/ PPBF:    https://viviankirkfield.com

April 3  Kerry Aradyha  TOPIC:  TBD but something dance/music/opera related because that’s the focus of her lovely children’s blog:  http://kerryaradhya.blogspot.com

April 10   Carol Gordon Ekster   TOPIC: Interview:   https://writersrumpus.com

For a chance to win a copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, leave a comment on this post. Your name will be entered in the random drawing.  Share this post on social media and you will get a second chance to win.  Winners will be announced on this blog on 3-28-2018.

A great way to remember and honor your favorite author is to post a review of one of their books on Amazon or Goodreads.  Happy reading.

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David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch Present: 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING! + Win a Free Copy

As teachers, how do we get reluctant students to embrace writing projects?  Many of them struggle to produce good content for writing projects in all subject areas.  That’s why YOU NEED THIS BOOK by Authors David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch: 7 Keys to Research For Successful Writing.  Here’s David to tell you more about it:

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to tell you about 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING! published October, 2017.

    What motivated you to write the book (a break away from your usual poetry)?

Kids ask authors, “How long does it take to write a book?” A variation is, “How many books can you write in a day?” When I explain that I must first learn about my subject before I can write about it, many look surprised. When I tell them I often spend as much time getting ready to write as I do writing, they look amazed. Kids in school aren’t accustomed to spending much time investigating what they are going to write about.

My writing partner for 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING is Mary Jo Fresch, Professor Emerita and Academy Professor of The Ohio State University. Prior to becoming an educator of pre-service and in-service teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers, Mary Jo was a classroom teacher.

Together we have seen far too many writing-before-ready results. They are usually dismal at best and at worst convince students that writing is too hard and mysterious and not for them. The goal of our collaboration is to provide classroom teachers with a practical resource to help them demonstrate that writers don’t just pick up and a pen or sit down at the keyboard and start writing.

  • What was the collaboration like?

This is our sixth book together. Prior to 7 KEYS, we wrote a series of five titles called LEARNING THROUGH POETRY, each dealing with different aspect of sounds: consonants, vowels, blends, digraphs, and rimes. We come from different backgrounds but share much in common, including work ethic and goals, so we make a compatible team. Before and during a new project we discuss ideas by email and conference via SKYPE. Once we establish a direction and general outline we agree on our respective responsibilities and jump in.

In this case we decided to use my 50-year experience to demonstrate how writers prepare to write and Mary Jo’s deep knowledge of classroom and scholarly research to provide meaningful follow up activities. We adopted a word not used much — presearch – to show how writers get ready to get ready before they write that first word. That gave us shape and direction. The result falls into seven categories, or keys, which are important elements that lead to good writing.

  • Things you learned doing your own research for the book.

The first thing we learned was that nearly all books we could find that are meant to help young writers focus on the process of writing and how to improve it. We decided early on that teachers might not need yet another book about the act of writing. What they do need is a book about the act of getting ready to write, the kind of thoughtful, organized preparation that leads to good writing. Except for a page here, a chapter there, we didn’t see a lot of help out there.

The challenge was to find ways to make “doing your homework” seem necessary, fun, and un-daunting. My solution was to show by example what I do, and Mary Jo created imaginative and practical activities that children can relate to. This also gave me a chance to introduce two segments, one directed to teachers and one to kids. The ones to teachers are a cross between mini-PD sessions and personal asides meant to provide insight into the KEY in that chapter. Those meant for students are like a quick author’s visit that can be read as often as wished. They, too, set the stage for Mary Jo’s creative activities. 

  • Anything else you’d like to add?

Please let your readers know how one of them can win a free copy of 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING. We say the grade range is 3 and up but a university president recently told me he thinks more than a few freshmen could benefit from it. We hope readers will enjoy our book and feel free to leave their comments on Amazon.com. Mary Jo and I will present a 2-hour workshop on the subject in July at ILA in Austin. Maybe we’ll see some new friends there.

David is the prolific children’s poet and author of 100 titles. His books have received more than 50 honors, including Best Children’s Nonfiction Book of 2016 by Society of Midland Authors. He has been translated into twelve languages, anthologized in nearly 200 books, and appeared in dozens of magazines and interviews in print and online. Among other professional books are Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight with Bernice Cullinan and Rhymes for the Times, Literacy Strategies through Social Studies with Tim Rasinski.  Professional articles have appeared in Dragon Lode, Reading and Writing Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, New England Reading Association Journal, and others. David is trained in research, holds two degrees in science and two honorary doctorates in letters. He has performed 300 times across the country and abroad in conferences, schools, and workshops. He is Drury University’s Poet Laureate.  

Mary Jo is Professor Emerita and an Academy Professor of The Ohio State University. After years as a classroom teacher, She became an educator of pre-service and in-service teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers. She speaks nationally and internationally about literacy-related topics and researches the developmental aspect of literacy learning. Her articles have appeared in peer reviewed journals, such as the Language Arts; Journal of Literacy Research; Reading and Writing Quarterly; Reading Psychology; The Reading Teacher; Journal of Just and Caring Education; and Journal of Children’s Literature.  She has authored/co-authored 19 books for teachers, including The Power of Picture Books (NCTE), Strategies for Effective Balanced Literacy (Shell Education); Engaging Minds in the English Language Arts Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy (ASCD) and Learning Through Poetry (Shell Education).

To have your name entered in the random drawing for a signed copy of 7 Keys to Research For Successful Writing, leave a comment below stating you will happily write a review of the book on Amazon/Goodreads.  Darlene will add your name to the list and ONE winner will be chosen and announced her on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poet/Author Irene Latham Talks About Her New Book For Children..

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship Carolrhoda/LernerPublishing. was inspired by a conversation with editor Carol Hinz about a book of poems for adults CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine, which she and I had both recently read. Carol shared her idea of a poetry book that tackles the same subject — systemic racism — except for kids! She thought it might work best as a conversation, and she asked if there was a black children’s poet with whom I would like to have this conversation. I immediately thought of Charles Waters– whom I had never met, and in fact did not meet until we presented together about the book at AASL November 2017!

Lucky for me, when I invited him to collaborate, Charles said YES. And off we went, writing poems madly about some intensely personal and sometimes difficult stuff. Within about 3 weeks we had a draft ready to share with Carol. The book includes paired poems about every day things like shoes and family dinner, and also poems about more difficult topics like the “N” word and police brutality. Illustrations are by the amazingly talented interracial team of Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.



KIRKUS
 calls the book in their starred review, “A brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America.”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY states in their starred review, “The poems delicately demonstrate the complexity of identity and the power of communication to build friendships.”

BOOKLIST adds, “Young readers searching for means to have difficult, emotional, and engaged discussions about race will find an enlightening resource in Irene and Charles’ explorations.”

THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE proclaims, “This volume would make an excellent read-aloud or a launch pad for collaborative classroom writing.”

Here are other articles about the book from Shelf Awareness, bloggers Margaret SimonLinda Mitchell and two from Jessica Smith, here and here

We couldn’t be more pleased and grateful for the warm reception the book has received. We hope it gives readers a starting place to have their own conversations about race, mistakes and friendship. 

Irene Latham
Poet & Novelist
For more information about the book, the authors, and a downloadable Curriculum Guide, please visit charleswaterspoetry.com and irenelatham.com.

Abigail Bostwick: On Writing From A Cat’s Eye View.

I recently had the pleasure of winning a copy  of THE GREAT CAT NAP by Abigail Bostwick, thanks to a random drawing on the Writing and Illustrating For Children blog hosted by Kathy Temean.  This “hard boiled” detective novel follows the antics of a reporter/crime solver named Ace – who just happens to be a cat.  I was intrigued by this unique point of view and asked Abigail if she would tell us a bit of why and how the story came about.  (My review of this fun story for middle grade mystery lovers is below.) Here’s Abigail:

Thank you for having me on your blog, Darlene! I’m happy to be here to talk about my debut middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap.

Told from the point of view of Ace, feline resident at a small town newspaper, the book opens when famous show-cat Ruby the Russian goes missing. But Ace bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play detective and find the lost cat, believed to have been stolen by animal smugglers. Calling on his feline friends, a few dogs and even a couple rodent nemeses – Ace’s investigation will lead him everywhere from the most respected parts of town to the lowly haunts of the underground alley cat system. He’ll have to try to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and get into a single-pawed battle with a few criminals before getting his shot at solving the dangerous crime, culminating on a chilly October night in the gray and lonely streets of downtown.

I’m a longtime cat lover – some of my earliest memories include felines. I was inspired to write from Ace’s perspective because cats are fascinating creatures. Each one has their own unique personality and quirks. They’re funny and intelligent, curious and talented problem-solvers.

As a child, I favored books told from the viewpoint of an animal Charlotte’s Web, The Little Prince, Bunnicula and anything Beatrice Potter. So when I sat down for the first time with the goal to write a novel for children myself, I wrote not only to amuse potential readers, but also myself.

I had a lot of fun writing Ace! He’s very much inspired by my own black cat, Boots, who is stubborn and motivated, yet cuddly and devoted. Ace had to be clever to take on solving a small town crime. I tried to give him a sense of humor, lots of action and road blocks to keep the story moving. As a young reader, it was meaningful for me to see animals and humans taking on challenges while leaning on one another. I could see myself in the characters’ place prevailing, and then too, see myself succeeding. I hope I’ve accomplished that for my young readers in The Great Cat Nap!

A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. Her debut middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap, earned the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children’s Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. It also earned the Moonbeam Children’s Award Bronze Medal in the Pre-Teen Fiction category. The sequel, The Clawed Monet, hit the shelves in 2016. Her young adult novel, Break the Spell, released in autumn 2015. An early draft of that book was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. She has placed in Rochester Writers’ contests in 2014 and 2016 and has had short fiction appear in Black Fox Literary.

You can visit Abigail at www.ambostwick.com or @bostwickam.

 Here’s my 5 Star review:  What do you do when your prize-winning show cat is missing? Call Ace – reporter/detective feline – who knows the neighborhood like the back of his paw. This delightful adventure is told from Ace’s point of view and takes the reader on a fun-filled ride through the lives of local cats, dogs and their human caregivers. This time out, Ace is on the trail of a missing show cat named Ruby who appears to be kidnapped. At first it’s just a good story for the newspaper. But soon, things get heated up and Ace realizes Ruby’s life might be in danger. He and his feline, canine, and rat friends set out to solve the mystery and bring Ruby home.
Curl up under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and be prepared for a great escape.

Author David Neilsen Takes Us Beyond the Doors.

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:

What You Need to Know About Aunt Gladys and Her Doors

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

Katey Howes Launches Her PB GRANDMOTHER THORN.

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?) 

INVITATIONS

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!

REFRESHMENTS

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.

SWAG

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.

 

Katey Howes

Children’s Author, Literacy Advocate

Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, August 2017)

 

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling, January 2018)

KateyHowes.com

All the Wonders

Picture the Books

You can buy a copy of Grandmother Thorn on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Grandmother-Thorn-Katey-Howes/dp/0991386698/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512848025&sr=1-1&keywords=grandmother+thorn

Joshua David Bellin Presents…FREEFALL a New Sci/Fi YA Thriller.

Falling into FREEFALL: By Joshua David Bellin

FREEFALL started out as a love story, plain and simple. But it became something more.

Back in 2013, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. I’d read some YA space operas beforehand, and I had an idea for one of my own. As is typical for me, I plunged into the writing without much of a plan; all I knew was that I wanted to write a deep-space romance involving a teenage boy named Cam and a teenage girl named Sofie. I didn’t think much about who they were, how they met, or anything else. I just wrote.

But within days, it became apparent that my romantic leads were taking me in a direction I hadn’t foreseen. For a variety of reasons—the need to ramp up the tension between them, the desire on my part to delve into lives beyond the one I myself had lived as a teen—the two were diverging radically from each other, Cam becoming a pampered child of the elite, Sofie a revolutionary leader of the oppressed. Once that happened, the rest of the book took shape: Earth in the twenty-second century stratified into two societies, the Upperworld and the Lowerworld, with the planned colonization of outer space a battleground between the two. The romance between Cam and Sofie was still central, but the book was no longer purely a love story; it was also a science fiction satire about a world where corporations rule, space exploration has become privatized, and the struggle for justice extends from Earth into the deepest reaches of the galaxy.

Once this new conception was in place, the personalities of Cam and Sofie developed naturally and dramatically.  Cam is a guy who has no reason to care about anyone else—he comes from one of the richest families on Earth, he’s been sheltered from the world’s problems all his life, and he’s about to leave the planet anyway. But he chooses to care. At considerable risk to his own status (and life), he involves himself in the lives of others who lack the freedom to make the choices he can make. With Cam, I wanted to be sure he had no super-powers like so many YA heroes have, that he couldn’t do anything beyond what a normal person could do. It’s his choices, not his abilities, that define him.

With Sofie, the development of her character was even more striking. I love characters who change as I write them, who seem to be pushing against whatever limits I might unconsciously be imposing on them, because those characters seem the most real to me. Sofie was that kind of character; no sooner did I start writing than she took control and insisted on becoming a passionate spokeswoman for the voiceless. There’s a lot of talk in YA fiction about “kick-butt heroines,” and I think Sofie fits that description—except she fights not with her fists but with her mind, her words, and her faith. For her and Cam to trust one another, walls had to come down; for their love to survive, it had to face not only external opposition but their own fears and doubts. At last, I had a world worth fighting for, and a duo worth rooting for.

I sometimes ask myself whether I should plan out my novels more thoroughly before I start writing them. How, I wonder, would FREEFALL have developed if I’d done that? But I trust the creative process. I believe that when it comes to fiction, my intuition knows more than my intellect. And with FREEFALL, I’m convinced that readers will enjoy discovering this story as much as I did.

The fate of the human race hangs on the actions of two teens from very different backgrounds in this thrilling sci-fi adventure.

In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated planet Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.

Then Cam sees a banned video feed of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight through the feed at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.

When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.

Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he is the author of three science fiction novels for teens and adults: the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls) and the deep-space adventure Freefall. Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.    

Links:

Website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Blog: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheYAGuy

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joshuadavidbellin/

Freefall (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/Freefall-Joshua-David-Bellin/dp/1481491652

Freefall (Barnes & Noble): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/freefall-joshua-david-bellin/1125685808

Freefall (Simon & Schuster): http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Freefall/Joshua-David-Bellin/9781481491655

Freefall (IndieBound): https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781481491655

Survival Colony 9 (Simon & Schuster): http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Survival-Colony-9/Joshua-David-Bellin/9781481403559

Scavenger of Souls (Simon & Schuster): http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Scavenger-of-Souls/Joshua-David-Bellin/9781481462440