Kathleen Burkinshaw, MG Author Interview: The Last Cherry Blossom.

As we approach the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during the last days of WWII (August 6), I am honored to share a wonderful middle grade book that features a Japanese family living in Hiroshima during that time.  THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM by Kathleen Burkinshaw should be read in every middle school classroom to open the conversation on why we should always try to settle disputes peacefully and never, ever again resort to nuclear weapons.

This story has special significance for me as well.  My father – Raymond Beck – was a POW interred in Japan during the war.  He worked as a slave laborer in the coal mines of Hiroshima.  Had he not been underground when the bomb hit, I would most likely not be telling this story.

Here’s Kathleen with her story.

Darlene,

Thank you so much for interviewing me on your blog today! 😊

How did the book come about?

The writing journey of The Last Cherry Blossom began about 8 years ago with one question.  My daughter was in 7th grade at the time and was upset about something that happened in her history class. She said they would be covering the end of WWII and overheard some kids talking about how they couldn’t wait to see the “cool mushroom cloud picture”. She asked if I would speak to her class about the people under the mushroom cloud that day, people like her grandmother.     

I called and asked my mother if it was okay to talk about her experience in Hiroshima that horrific day.  My mom was a very private person, and never spoke about it in public. When I was a young child, she told me she came from Tokyo.  Once she confided in me that she was born in Hiroshima and lost her home, family and friends on August 6th, she asked that I never speak of it either. It was too painful and she didn’t want to draw attention to herself.

But this day she gave me her blessing to discuss what she experienced on August 6th.  She felt that since the students would be about the same age she was (12-years-old), maybe they would relate to her story. As future voters, she hoped they would remember that nuclear weapons should never be used again.

I spoke to my daughter’s class a week after the phone call. The following year I received requests from other local schools. I had been writing about my mom’s survival of the atomic bomb for my own and my daughter’s benefit.  But soon teachers inquired if I had a book that could complement their curriculum. Then the real work began!

Most amazing moment since writing the book?

It’s hard to choose but I have 3 firsts at different stages after writing the book.  The first most amazing moment was when I showed my mom the publishing contract and to see her face and tell me how proud she was that I would do this for her. Perhaps I do treasure this most of all because she passed away 2 months later.

The second moment was when I held the printed copy in my hands, seeing my name on it, smelling the new pages. I still get that same rush whenever I see it on a book shelf.

The third was when received my first fan mail. One was a letter from a student who didn’t like reading, but after reading my book wanted to read more books!

ENTER TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM by clicking on this link:   http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cd590dfc4/?

Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja. Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to schools and at conferences for the past 8 years. The Last Cherry Blossom, is a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist (southeast region) and 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection.

twitter  @klburkinshaw1

Blog     https://www.katheenburkinshaw.wordpress.com

Facebook  author page:   @authorkathleenburkinshaw

NJSCBWI 2017: Another Rocking Weekend of Writing Inspiration.

I spent this past weekend attending the Annual Conference for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) and came away inspired, enlightened and filled with a new desire to write stories for children.  So many wonderful workshops and a chance to see some amazing writers and illustrators.  Here are the workshops I attended:

  1. Biographies: Finding Subject and Focus: by Laurie Wallmark
  2. How to Market Non-Fiction Books: by Jennifer Swanson
  3. Using Subtext to Add Depth to Stories: by Laurie Calkhoven
  4. 7 Steps to Stronger MG and YA Novels: by Gabriela Pereira
  5. Breaking Down Barriers – How to Write and Critique Across Racial Lines: by Kelly Calabrese and Tami Charles

There was also first page and round table critiques,  and catching up with old friends while making new ones.

Natalie Zaman, Laurie Wallmark

 

Browsing the Book Fair and enjoying a fabulous Keynote address by author/illustrator Stephen Savage on Saturday morning:

 

 

Here are some photo highlights:

With PB author Annie Silvestro

 

 

 

Cocktails with Katie Howes, Jody Staton, Kathy Temean, Robin Newman and Colleen Kosinski

 

The LRA Tribe: Yvonne Ventresca, Robin Newman, Me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Laurie Wallmark, Leslie Santamara

 

With Carole Lindstrom

 

 

Leeza Hernandez, Linda, Char Bennardo

Laurie Wallmark Presents: A new PB about Grace Hopper, Queen of Computer Code.

WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE GRACE HOPPER?

Curious. Persistent. Unique                       

HOW WAS SHE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TERM “COMPUTER BUG”?
The term “bug” to represent a problem in machinery pre-dated Grace by quite a bit. Thomas Edison coined the term in the 1870s to refer to a problem in a telegraph system he was designing. Grace was the first one to use it in reference to computers, though. Her team found an actual bug, a moth, stuck in a computer relay. This “computer bug” caused a program to malfunction.

HOW DID GRACE SERVE HER COUNTRY?

Grace was proud to serve her country in the United States Navy. From the beginning, her service always involved work with computers. She retired at age 79 as a Rear Admiral. Her feelings about the Navy are summed up with the following quotation: “I’ve received many honors and I’m grateful for them; but I’ve already received the highest award I’ll ever receive, and that has been the privilege and honor of serving very proudly in the United States Navy.”

GRACE SEEMED TO HAVE A FEW SAYING’S OR BELIEFS ON HOW TO GET THROUGH LIFE.  WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I love the self-confidence she exhibited at age nine when she wrote, “The world will be a better place / When all agree with me.” Don’t we all feel that way now and then?

Click here to join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.

Laurie Wallmark
www.lauriewallmark.com    

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, May 2017)

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015)

 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Baseball season is here!  As fans know, there is a LOT more to the game than mere sport.  Each team has its own traditions and each ballpark its own atmosphere. Here are some of the wackiest:

Sausage Racers: At Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI, costumed cased meats take to the field during the sixth inning for a foot race.  check it out at: http://www.brewers.com

Disappearing Lighthouse: When the Seadogs hit a home run at Hadcock Field in Portland, ME, attention turns to center field.   A foghorn plays and a 16 foot retractable lighthouse emerges from behind the fence with a shower of roman candles.   http://www.seadogs.com

Giant Wheel: Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport, Iowa.  To get the best view for watching the Quad Cities River Bandits, ride the 120 ft. Ferris wheel that overlooks left field.  Plus, the ride’s LED lined spokes provide a laser-like show for those sitting in the grandstand.  http://www.riverbandits.com

Here are some other unique ballparks to check out:

http://www.ridersbaseball.com

http://www.padres.com

http://www.fightins.com

http://www.loons.com

http://www.biscuitsbaseball.com

To get the kids in the mood for a day at the ballpark, try reading some great baseball themed books chosen by kids:

http://www.readbrightly.com/10-baseball-books-kids-say-home-runs/?sid=302&mcg=29DBD02CB53302C9E0534FD66B0A0B59&ref=PRH0563577803&aid=randohouseinc13256-20&linkid=PRH0563577803&cdi=2AEB03AD52D94BE9E0534FD66B0A7FAD

What’s your favorite ballpark tradition?

Patricia Keeler Presents Her PB: Lizzie and Lou Seal + Win a Signed Copy.

Today’s post comes from Author/Illustrator Patricia Keeler who just released her debut picture book LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL.  I had the pleasure of reading this delightful book.  Here is my review:

“LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL by Author/Illustrator Patricia Keeler is a delightful PB about a busy girl named Lizzie who loves her flip flops and her inflatable companion Lou Seal. Lizzie also loves exploring the beach and sets out with Lou Seal for a day of sand, surf and fun. Until…Lizzie loses her flip flops and something strange happens to Lou Seal. Can Lizzie fix things so they can both go back to the beach?
A perfect beach book for ages 3-6. Makes you want to put on your flip flops and head to the surf with a “swimmy friend” of your own”.

How did LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL come about?

In the original story, Lizzie walked barefoot on the hot sand at the beach. “Ooch, ouch, ouch!” Lizzie spotted some older kids wearing flip-flops. She had that Aha moment. “I need flip-flops!”

Lizzie tried out her new flip-flops

on the living room rug                                 shroop shroop shroop

            on the kitchen tiles                                      slap smack slap smack

            on the wooden stairs                                   clap clap clap clap

            even in the bathtub                                     splish splash splosh splush

 I love onomatopoeia, just like Lizzie loved all her flip-flop sounds.  Kids, young kids especially, love to hear the sounds things make read aloud.

In an earlier version, an older Lizzie wanted to wear her flip-flops to school . . . to ride her bike . . . to the ballet performance. At every turn, she was told, “not in those you don’t.” “Urghh!” flip stomp flip stomp flip stomp  “So where can I wear them?” Fortunately for Lizzie it rained the next day, and she rushed to the enticing mud puddles outside.

At last,” she said, “my flip-flops are just right for here.”

FLIP SPLISH, FLOP SPLASH, FLIP SPLISH, SLOP SPLASH

Until . . .   SHHLUK!

          “Oh, no! I’m stuck.”

She pulled on her foot. SHLOOP!  It pulled free. But, uh oh, the flip-flop stayed in the mud. Lizzie reached down to get it. “Yuck!”

I worked on this version the second half of 2013. I made sketches and work-shopped the story with my writer and illustrator groups. I shared it with agents and editors at the Fall NJSCBWI conference. I received wonderful encouragement and constructive criticism.

Back to the drawing board, this time with a working title FLIP FLOP STOMP. Then came more rewrites, more sounds, more sketches, more work shopping with my groups. And again I received good comments for my FLIP FLOP STOMP dummy at the spring 2014 NJSCBWI conference.

Home again, I revised my manuscript. I started the story at the beach, in a small retro trailer. I scrapped Lizzie’s parents and gave her a pal, a blow-up seal, named Lou Seal. I began to illustrate the dummy. As I sketched, Lizzie got younger and Lou Seal got bigger. A lot bigger!

So what was Lou Seal doing while Lizzie was fussing with her flip-flops? Going along with Lizzie, of course, as she made her way out of the trailer and out to the beach. It occurred to me that Lou Seal could be having his own difficulties. Ones Lizzie doesn’t see, but the reader does! Even the youngest readers/viewers like catching onto the story before the main character does.

With this new dummy, I pursued Liza Fleissig from Liza Royce Agency for my agent, and Julie Matysik from Sky Pony Press for my editor—and won both! By Spring 2015, I had a two-book contract with Sky Pony Press—and a May 2016 deadline to complete LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL. “YAY!”               

What was your path to illustrating Lizzie and Lou Seal?

Here are some sketches from the early FLIP FLOP STOMP dummy.

 

 

My favorite part of my color work on LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL was my discovery and experimentation of the encaustic wax process. I used it to show Lou Seal as plastic, and for the ocean waves. Here’s a You Tube video of me creating the waves in LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evADOs7z068&feature=youtu.be

What comes first for you, illustrations or story? 

In the case of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, the character came first. I’ve always loved feisty, “I want to do it my way!” little girls.  This key aspect of the feminine personality has often gotten little play in picture books. Visually, I had in mind several solid, tough, little girls I knew.               

The illustrations, the sounds, and the story came up together. Sometimes, I’d write something, and then in drawing that scene, I’d see that I could cut or change my words significantly. Sometimes, after tossing and turning in my sleep, I’d awake with a totally new scene in mind. I’d sketch it up, and then all I’d need to complement the art would be one bold, dramatic sound. “Whoa!”

My general rule-of-thumb, once I’ve sketched up the story for the first time, is to reduce my text as much as possible. Young listeners delight in figuring out what’s happening in the story as much from the illustrations as from the words being read to them.

What does your favorite pair of flip-flops look like?

 Of course, I had to give Lizzie the bigger polka dots that she so loves!

What other projects are you working on?

 I’m currently finishing up a second book for Sky Pony Press. It’s entitled SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK. I can’t begin to express how much I love this book and the joy I’ve had in creating it. SCOOP should be out in Spring 2018. The inside scoop on this story is that besides the retro ice cream truck, the other main character is a spunky little girl. She may well be younger and more demonstrative than Lizzie!

Patricia is thrilled to set a book and necklace aside for one lucky winner.  To enter the give-away, comment below for one entry.  Tweet and/or share on FB for a second entry and reblog this post for a third entry.  The winner will be announced on this blog on WEDNESDAY, 5-17-17.

Facebook – PatriciaKeelerBooks
Instagram – @patriciakeeler
Twitter       – @patriciakeelerbooks

 

How to See More Rainbows by Marilyn Ostermiller

Would you like to see more rainbows? You must be in the right place at the right time.

It’s not just a matter of luck when we look into the sky on a rainy day and spot a glorious arc. The sun has to be shining behind you and rain or mist or spray must be in front of you. That’s when you are in the perfect spot to enjoy one.

Rainbows occur when sunlight and rain combine in a very specific way. When a beam of sunlight travels toward Earth, the light is white. But, if the light beam happens to hit raindrops at a certain angle on the way down, the different colors that make up the beam separate so that we can see them as a rainbow.

The angle for each color of a rainbow is different, because the colors slow down at different speeds when they enter the raindrop. The light exits the raindrop in one color, depending on the angle it came in, so we see only one color coming from each raindrop. Light at different angles coming through many raindrops form the rainbow that we see.

The spectrum of colors is always in the same order with red at the top, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (ROY G BIV is an easy way to remember the order)

April, with its famous showers, is a good time to be on the alert for rainbows. But if Mother Nature doesn’t provide one when you are in the mood, you can create a miniature one for yourself with a garden hose. Meteorologist Joe Rao suggests you simply stand with your back to the sun and adjust the hose to a fine spray. Rainbows can also be seen against the spray of a waterfall.

There are even ways to use water, mirrors and windows to form rainbows in the house. For instructions, visit www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Rainbow

Rainbows are the subject of several children’s picture books including nonfiction books that explain the science behind the beauty and fictional story books. 

Among them:

Ready-to-Read Level One Rainbow. Newbery Honor recipient and New York Times bestselling author Marion Dane Bauer teaches beginning readers about rainbows in this one. It is illustrated by John Wallace.

A Rainbow of My Own, by Don Freeman. A small boy imagines what it would be like to have his own rainbow to play with.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.