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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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And the Winner of PB LOVE IS KIND is…

Many thanks to all who visited and commented on Laura Sassi’s post about her inspiration for writing the picture book LOVE IS KIND.

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The winner of a signed copy is: Helen Hill.  Congratulations, Helen.  Please send your contact information so we can get the book to you.

Celebrate National Author’s Day.

As an author, a reader, and a lover of books, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to send a “shout out” to my favorite authors, especially today.  Today, November 1, 2018, is NATIONAL AUTHOR’S DAY. How can you show some “LOVE” to your favorite authors?

Buy a book and give one to a friend.

Leave a positive review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Tweet your praise on Twitter. Let your favorite author know how much a book meant to you. Use the hashtag #NationalAuthorsDay.

If an author has inspired your own writing, take some time to honor your “inner author” and put your own words onto paper.

Reach out to your favorite author/s because writing is a lonely business. With so much negativity in the world, a good book brings a lot of pleasure. Thank your favorite authors today.  They deserve it.

Thank you Katherine Applegate, Kate DiCamillo, Marina Cohen, Beth Ferry, Laura Sassi, Annie Silvestro, Ransom Riggs, Laurie Wallmark, Janet Fox, Jennifer Donnelly, Sharon Creech, Joanne Rocklin, Robin Newman, Alan Bradley, Marissa Moss…..we may be here all day.

 

Author Colleen Kosinski Presents Her New MG: A Promise Stitched In Time.

When brainstorming for a new book idea I like to scour the Internet for interesting stories. Many days dawn turns to dusk as I plunge down the rabbit hole of article after article. One day, I came across a snippet from a book called Nazi Chic that mentioned two girls who were imprisoned in the attic of Hedwig Hoess (the wife of the Commandant of Auschwitz) and forced to make clothing for her and her family using fabric from the very clothing that had been stolen from the prisoners of the camp! Nobody knows the girls’ names or what became of them.

With that story in the back of my mind, I was perusing a thrift shop looking for cool vintage clothes. As I examined the garments I started thinking about the clothing’s backstory. Were these once prized possessions of the former owners? Had somebody scrimped and saved to buy this silk dress? Was this retro coat a beloved anniversary gift?

It was then that the two ideas began to merge and that is how the story of A Promise Stitched In Time (Schiffer Publishing 2018) began.

912EbeHM7QL_thumbnailHere is the blurb from the book:

Promises can be hard to keep, but Maggie McConnell is determined to keep the promise she made to her father before he died. She must win a scholarship to a prestigious art program, but her grief gets in the way as she struggles to find her artistic vision. When Maggie purchases an old tweed coat as inspiration, she never guesses this fur-collared coat will forever change the way she views life and her place in it. The coat awakens her muse, but also awakens something else: Maggie believes its previous owner haunts the coat. Dreams and visions give way to clues from the past, and then a Holocaust victim’s tattoo appears on her arm. With the help of a steampunk-dressing school outcast named Taj, Maggie must decipher what the ghost wants her to discover, and in the process find herself.

Darlene asked me to think of five things a reader should know about my main character.

My main character is Maggie McConnell, an Irish Catholic girl from New Jersey.

She has a sister Patty who is ten months older. Some people call this an “Irish twin.” While her sister is outgoing and popular (and a bit bossy), Maggie is quiet and more of an introvert.

Maggie and Patty’s father has been dead for three years, and the story shows how each of the sisters deals with their grief in different ways.

Maggie is a visual artist and throughout the story the reader sees how Maggie relates to the world through “artist’s” eyes.

Maggie grows more confident as the story progresses. She befriends the school outcast, must solve the mystery of the identity of the ghost who haunts her vintage coat, and she even gets her first kiss.

While the themes in this story may be heavy, I try to keep a balance of lightness and some humor for my middle grade audience. What I would like the reader to take away after reading this book is to consider how we treat others and be active in helping those who are being treated unkindly. This is something we all need to remember in these days and times.    

Attention Teachers: a free 42 page downloadable teacher’s guide is available for A Promise Stitched In Time on Colleen’s website!

AuthorPortrait   A Promise Stitched in Time
https://colleenrowankosinski.com/my-books/a-promise-stitched-in-time

Monsters and Villains in Literature.

Thinking about the season of Halloween  took me on a trip to my childhood and the scary books I read. The books that have stayed with me because of the hero of the quest, but also because of the villain the hero had to encounter. In the days before Harry Potter and Voldemort, there were still plenty of scary characters in the pages of books.

My favorite monster was, and still is, Frankenstein.  Not only because he was scary to look at, but also because he was so much less a monster than the man who created him and the people who misunderstood him.  A classic tale that makes us consider the monster hidden in all of us.

As far a villains go, there are a few that sent delicious shivers down my spine as a kid. The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland with her gleeful willingness to chop the heads off little girls.

 

 

Another memorable rogue was Fagin from Oliver Twist.  An opportunist who found a way to exploit children under the guise of caring for them. He housed and fed them while society ignored them. If they had to pick pockets and become thieves, oh well, it was all part of life in Victorian London.

o t While frightening to my childhood soul, these villains paled in comparison to the quintessential villain of all time: The Wicked Witch of the West in L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Scary enough to shake the slippers off of any young girl, this character came to life in all her green-faced glory in the form of Margaret Hamilton in the classic movie.  Scary to look at, to listen to, and to be in the same room with.  

There’s a villain to remember!     

Who are your favorite monsters and villains from children’s literature?

 

LOVE IS KIND:Celebrating Acts of Kindness with Laura Sassi (and a give-away!)

photo promo with text love is kind instagramSince a central theme of LOVE IS KIND is spreading love and kindness, Darlene asked me to reflect on three acts of kindness that have touched me as a picture book author. It’s a delightful topic and one that makes my heart sing with gratitude and joy for the many, many examples of kindness that I have both witnessed and been the recipient of.  However, as I ponder which to choose, one stands out – and it’s one that I’ve for a long time been seeking a way to honor – so I hope that it’s okay, Darlene, that I have chosen just one. It involves the editor of LOVE IS KIND – so it’s really a perfect fit. Zonderkidz editor, Barbara Herndon, edited not just this book, but my first two as well, and she is a remarkable person with a very kind heart. I hope her example will inspire us all to spread love and kindness as the opportunities unfold before us.  
Here’s how this act unfolded:
It was October 2013 and my mother was dying of ALS. Except for labored one or two word bursts, had lost the muscular ability to speak and was growing weaker day by day. One morning as I was praying for my mom – who lived 6 hours away in Virginia – it suddenly struck me that she might not live long enough to see my first book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, published. My mom had been a great encourager to me on this journey into children’s book writing and I’d always appreciated her artistic perspective (she was an artist) as she read and critiqued my manuscripts. She and I had been so excited to learn that Jane Chapman would illustrate, and now, I realized, she might not get the chance to see those illustrations. 
 A wave of sadness poured over me and I emailed my editor, Barbara Herndon, at Zonderkidz, to ask she if she had a sketch or illustration sample or anything that I could share with my mother while she was still able to communicate – even if only in a limited way.  Within the hour, she responded that yes, of course, they could send something  – and not just anything – she had already special ordered two folded galleys of the entire book – and when would I need them by.  
Already feeling blessed beyond measure at this act of kindness, I now added that my sister and I had a special trip planned for mid-October to see our mother – we’d both be swooping in from our faraway homes for a special mother-daughter weekend. It was short notice, but Barbara did not hesitate. She said she would do her very best to make sure they arrived in time for that visit and immediately made arrangements for them to be mailed by overnight express to my parents in Virginia.  
The pictures here show me with my mom and dad opening the package from Barbara and then enjoying the folded galley together. 

Because Barbara responded so quickly and so kindly, my mom was able to enjoy Jane’s illustrations and she even got to communicate her love for the illustrations with Jane via a short email. Then, Jane – in her own act of kindness – sweetly responded to my mother’s thoughtful artistic reflections about Janes’ illustrations.  

It was a very special shared moment made possible by a compassionate editor who responded above and beyond the call of duty to make something special happen for a dying woman (my mom) and her daughter (me). I will forever be grateful for that act of kindness and it came just in the nick of time. My mom passed away a month later – and that trip with those folded-galleys turned out to be our last -and very treasured – time together. 
 
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Zonderkidz has offered to give one copy of LOVE IS KIND to one reader of this post. To qualify, you must be a U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box) and at least 18 years old to enter. Leave a comment describing an act of kindness you were the recipient of.  One name will be drawn at random from all who entered.
Darlene here:  LOVE IS KIND is a beautiful story that is destined to become a classic.  Here is my review of this special book:

Owl takes the coins he’s saved to buy his beloved grammy a box of chocolates for her birthday. When he drops the coins, and they are picked up by beaver, Owl sees how happy beaver is and doesn’t ask for the coins back.  Owl has other opportunities to buy the chocolates, but things happen along the way and Owl returns to grammy feeling sad because he has nothing to give her for her birthday. After he tells grammy  what happened, she reminds Owl of all the love he spread everywhere he went and how that was the best gift a grammy ever got.

Based on LOVE as described in 1 Corinthians 13, this heart-warming story of kindness celebrates the love between kids and their grandparents. The sweet and delightful illustrations remind readers of all the ways we express Love. A rare treat and the perfect gift for parents and grandparents to share with their little “Owls”.

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, she had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She is the author of four picture books including the best-selling GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a Christian Book Award Finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).  She lives in
New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

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Laura Sassi
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)
DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, Spring ’18)
LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

twitter.com/laurasassitales

Five Book Fairs in Collingswood and Counting!

This past Saturday I attended my fifth Collingswood Book Fair as an author.

1                  Another opportunity to share my book with old and young alike, to meet young people and their parents, teachers, and friendly people who are out to celebrate their love of books. It was also another opportunity to reconnect with  fellow authors in the kid lit community.

Here are the highlights in photos.

3Speaking on a YA Panel about Challenges and Changes in Children’s Literature.

 

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Picture book authors Patricia Lugo, Ryan Sias, Betsy Devaney

4YA authors Maria Andreau and Yvonne Ventresca

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With fellow MG author and KidLIt Club Member Charlotte Bennardo.

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YA and KidLit Club Authors Jeffry Johnston and Dianne Salerni.

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PB Author/illustrator and fellow KidLIt Club member Timothy Young.