BIRDIE’S BILLIONS by Edith Cohn: A New MG and a Chance to Win a Copy

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a huge fan of middle grade books. Not only because I write them, also because there are so many well-written ones out in the world. Having an opportunity to share my favorites with other book lovers brings me joy.

Today I am excited to share a new book by an author who is new to me. I “met” Edith Cohn when she became a fellow blogger on the group site I post on once a month: Smack Dab in the Middle. She graciously shared her book BIRDIE’S BILLIONS with me, and I am sharing it with you.

BirdiesBillions_cvr_13

Here’s my review:

Birdie and her mama are having a hard time making ends meet since Birdie’s dad is in jail and mama lost her cleaning job because of something Birdie did. Birdie thought things would be different when they moved to the “good” neighborhood in a new town with rich people. But she still feels like an outsider with her thrift shop clothes and worn-out sneakers. If mama doesn’t find another job soon, will they be evicted and out on the street?

            Everything changes one day when Birdie and her cousin skateboard to an abandoned estate set for demolition. Following a stray cat into the house, and into a hole in a wall, Birdie reaches into the hole and pulls out cash. Lots and lots of 100.00 bills. Now her and mama’s troubles will be over. Or, have they just begun? How will Birdie find her way out of the money mess and regain the trust of her family and friends?

            Young readers will enjoy this fast-paced “caper” as one lie after another gets Birdie into a heap of trouble. The positive messages of telling the truth no matter how difficult, and admitting your mistakes are good lessons. As is standing up for what’s important. Highly recommended.

Here’s Edith:

  1. What gave you the idea for the story of a found fortune and how Birdie’s life begins to change because of it?

Years ago a family member of mine actually found a sizable sum of money hidden in the wall of her apartment. She split it with her housekeeper who had helped with the discovery. As soon as I heard this real life story, I began to imagine a fictional one in which a kid finds the money and has to deal with the moral dilemma around keeping it.

  1. Tell readers three things we should know about Birdie.

First off, Birdie has an amazing heart. Despite all her mistakes, she always means well.

Second, Birdie is impulsive. She’s the kind of kid who leaps before she looks.

And last, Birdie is keenly aware of the unfairness in the world, and she is not happy about it.

3. What message do you want young readers to take away from the story?

This is a hard question, because I think every reader might come away with something different. And as authors, I think we always hope that each reader gets the thing they need from the story. So, if I say what the ‘message’ is I think it makes it seem like there is only one right message. When in reality, I think there might be many. Sorry this is a very philosophical answer.

No need to apologize Edith. I think you’re right!

  1. What’s next for your writing? Anything else you’d like to add?

I just turned in a draft of a new middle grade book to my publisher. It’s called The Science of Sisters, and it’s about two sisters who live in a town that was hit by a meteorite that changes everything.

I have a signed copy of Edith’s book along with some swag that I will happily send to one random winner who leaves a comment or answers the question: Have you ever found money or something valuable and if so, what did you do with it?

swag
Edith Cohn is the author of middle grade mysteries: BIRDIE’S BILLIONS (Bloomsbury) and SPIRIT’S KEY (FSG/Macmillan). A former 7th grade English teacher, she loves writing for kids. She was born and raised in North Carolina and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and young daughter.

Edith_Cohn-9621 copy

Edith Cohn, Middle Grade Author of

Birdie’s Billions (Bloomsbury) A Junior Library Guild Selection, PW starred review
The Science of Sisters (Bloomsbury) Coming Spring 2023

Spirit’s Key (FSG/ Macmillan)

Learn more about Edith: http://edithcohn.com

Cover Reveal: Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt by Kathleen Wilford

Today it is my pleasure to be among the first to see the fabulous cover reveal for a debut MG historical. Those who follow me know my love of historical fiction, so I was  excited when debut author KATHLEEN WILFORD contacted me about a blog post cover reveal.

So…without further ado, here is the gorgeous cover of CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT  and a short interview with Kathleen about her book.

Cabby Potts cover (no wrap)

Describe your book in 10 words or less.

Thanks so much, Darlene! How about this:

A sod house, a grand manor. A mystery, a match-making scheme. (That’s 11 . . .)

Tell us about your debut historical MG novel, Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt. When is it coming out?

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt will be released September 1, 2022 with Little Press/Blue Bronco Books.

The book is set in Kansas in 1875, the year after the grasshoppers devastated the state. My main character, Cabby Potts, is inspired by some of my own favorite literary heroines, Laura Ingalls and the pioneer women in the novels of Willa Cather. Like them, Cabby is “outdoor kind of girl,” more interested in farming than fashion. Cabby’s struggling homestead is her first real home, and she’s desperate not to lose it, even if that means accepting a housemaiding job at stuffy, high-class Ashford manor. She’s also a bit naïve and has what her mother calls an intemperate tongue, qualities that get her in trouble after she hatches an improbable matchmaking scheme between her romantic older sister and the young lord of Ashford Manor. When her rash plot backfires, Cabby must use her voice to stand up for herself, a Native American friend, and her entire community.

How did you get the idea for this story?

I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London. I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and the hardscrabble American homesteaders who might have worked for them.

At the same time, I didn’t want to portray Americans as somehow free from the race and class prejudices of the wealthy English. One of the things Cabby wakes up to as she befriends a Kiowa boy is the pigheadedness, as she puts it, of her own community, beloved as it is.

The cover for this book is beautiful. Tell us about it.

 Thanks, I love it! The cover was created by Katie Kear of the Bright Agency. I think she captured Cabby’s character: curious, determined, a bit headstrong, and not very girly! That’s Ashford Manor at the bottom, a grand English manor plunked down on the windswept plains of Kansas. You’ll also notice a brooch and a mysterious document on the cover—there’s a mystery in this book that readers will enjoy helping Cabby puzzle out.

Here is the artist’s website to see more of her amazing work. Her name is Katie Kear, and the website is:

 Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

 I would describe my speed along the road to publication as . . . glacial. My first novel manuscript, which I still hope to revise one day, suffered from rookie mistakes like not considering marketability! I gained from experience, and I think that Cabby is a stronger book. Still, after a few close calls with editors and agents, I stopped submitting for over a year. I was still in that stage where a rejection seemed like a verdict. You know, “lousy book.”  

I will be forever grateful to Michele McAvoy of The Little Press for seeing the potential of the book based on a #PitMad tweet in the summer of 2021. After acquiring Cabby, Michele and her team have guided me through an editing process that has made the story as polished and strong as possible.

What are some of your favorite classic MGs? How about recent ones?

 I grew up with immersive fantasies like the Narnia books and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Anything English seemed magical to me, but I also loved Beverly Cleary and The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. 

There are so many recent MG’s I admire, so I’ll just name some historical ones I think are amazing: Moon Over Manifest, The War that Saved my Life, Esperanza Rising, Front Desk, and anything by Linda Sue Park.

war

 What projects are you working on now?

I’m having a great time reading some super-recent MG’s like Cuba in my Pocket, A Place to Hang the Moon (more English magic) and Frankie and Bug. manifestAnd my fellow #22Debuts authors have some great things coming out!   

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same as you’d give to aspiring authors?

 My biggest advice to my younger self would be to start writing earlier, ha ha!

For aspiring authors, my first piece of advice would be to join a critique group. For a thousand reasons.

Also, read, read, read! Study the market and read in your genre. When you come across a book you love, study its structure, themes, characters, etc.

And be willing to learn. Don’t fall in love with your first draft. When agents or editors are “critical” of your work, try to understand why. Writing for publication is a skill not learned overnight!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

 No surprise, I was a READER as a kid. In fact, my memories of childhood are often pegged to books. Snuggling with my mother as she read out loud: Heidi (I cried.) Summer camp rest time: Rascal. Favorite Christmas present: my now worn-out boxed set of the Narnia books. There was never any question what I’d study in college and grad school: English literature. I taught middle-school and high school English, and I now teach writing at Rutgers University.

Several years ago, I started pursuing what had always been a background dream: writing my own books. I’m grateful to a friend who encouraged me to get started, to SCBWI for opportunities to learn from industry insiders, and most of all to my dedicated, professional critique group who help me conquer my self-doubt. It’s been quite a journey, and we’ve been on it together.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?  Kathleen Wilford head and shoulders

I was born in a place that no longer exists: The Panama Canal Zone, Panama. (The Canal Zone was once a U.S. territory but was formally returned to Panama in 1999.) I also lived in Costa Rica and Colombia. I can speak some Spanish, but I’m rusty.

Where can people find you online?

People can find me on Twitter by following @kathwilford. I also have a website at kathleenwilford.com.  

Congratulations on your first book Kathleen. Can’t wait to see it out in the world!

Author Tara Lazar Has a Word For You…More Than 750 Words to Be Precise.

I recently had the pleasure to read an ARC copy of Children’s Book Author Tara Lazar’s newest book ABSURD WORDS:A Kids Fun and Hilarious Vocabulary Builder for Word Nerds (Sourcebooks explore) and I am hooked! Not only is it a  classroom resource for writing programs, it is also a fantastical humdinger of a volume for anyone who loves words.Since I fit that category, I got a copy for myself. And I asked Tara to tell us how she came to wrote this unique tome. Here she is in her vivacious and effervescent style:

absurd cover

  1. I know you’ve been a word nerd for a long time. How did your collection of unusual words come about?
You know those people who sing along to a song but mess up all the words? Yeah? That’s not me. I’ve always been tuned into words not only for their meanings, but for their sounds. 
I was reading several years ago and came across the word “archipelago”. I thought to myself–I LOVE that word! And I hadn’t heard it in so long! So I wrote it down. I wanted to remember that I loved it, and I didn’t want it to disappear again for years. 
Then, each time I came across another fabulous word, I wrote it down. Soon I had a large word menagerie and I placed it online…where I added to it even more! It became one of the most popular pages on my website. (https://taralazar.com/2014/06/09/list-of-200-fun-cool-and-interesting-words/)
  1. The user-friendly format of this book is great. What led you to arrange the words in such a unique way?
That was my editor Bunmi Ishola’s idea. And it was brilliant! I had put the words in simple alphabetical order, but we knew that wasn’t right. It wouldn’t invite people to read through it in such a common, predictable order. These were AMAZING words and they needed an equally AMAZING format! She came up with the category format and I was immediately sold!
(But then it took weeks and months to figure out the categories!)     internal image
  1. What was the research process like?
Weeks and weeks at the library, among the reference materials–dictionaries and etymology books. I enjoyed digging in, except for the uncomfortable chairs. I had to bring along my own cushion!
  1. Use your five favorite absurd words in one sentence?
“I found zaftig Aunt Barbara’s pulchritudinous baubles–eureka!–in a labyrinth of tchotchkes at her bungalow in the willowwacks.”
That’s eight!
  1. What do you want writers young and old to know about this book?
This is the book I always wished I had. I made it fun and engaging so you could pick it up and spend hours learning odd words and odder facts–and not even notice the hours ticking by. In fact, it was such a long process between writing and the final product that I picked it up and spent hours with it myself!
  1. Anything else you’d like to add?
I hit a brick wall at the word “nudnik,” which is a Yiddish word for a numbskull. I had an etymology dictionary say it came into English usage after the movie “Nudnik of the North.” Well, that sounded like a comedy spoof of “Nanook of the North,” which is a fun fact, so I searched those references. Nothing. I contacted the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis and they had no records of “Nudnik of the North”. I even contacted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences–the Oscar people!–and they couldn’t verify the movie, either. Eventually I just left “nudnik” out of the book, which still bothers me!!!
 
Lucky for all you word nerds out there, Tara has agreed to give away a signed copy of the book to one randomly chosen winner. Leave a comment sharing one of your favorite underused words to enter. Share this post and get a second chance to win.

taraflowerscircleStreet magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible!

Tara’s newest book is BLOOP, about an alien who comes to conquer earth but believe the dogs are in charge. (Well, aren’t they?)

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY was honored with the 2018 Irma S. & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature from Bank Street College of Education, chosen by thousands of children across the US. Her other titles include THE MONSTORE, I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, NORMAL NORMAN, WAY PAST BEDTIME, YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL, THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN, and THE UPPER CASE: TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY, the sequel to 7 ATE 9.

Tara’s signature writing style is full of puns, wordplay, and goofy fun that makes both kids and adults giggle non-stop.

Discover original stories, book reviews and giveaways at her award-winning blog “Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)” at TaraLazar.com.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010. She speaks professionally about overcoming disability to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara teaches writing workshops for SCBWI, Highlights Foundation, and schools across America. She’s Co-Chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature 1-on-1 conference and a former picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and #PBChat, a social media writing community.

Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and a skateboarding hamster named Ozzie.

The Reviews Are In: How Many Book Reviews Did I Post in 2021?

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and looks forward to a new year with new hopes, fresh possibilities, and maybe a book contract? If the contract seems a bit too far away, there is still hope that whatever books we have out in the world will find new audiences.

With that in mind, I am sharing my third New Year Book Review Post letting you know the books I wrote reviews for on Amazon and Goodreads in 2021. The best way to spread the word about great books and unknown authors is to WRITE A REVIEWIt only takes a few minutes to write a couple sentences telling the reading world what you like about a book. As a children’s book author, I can tell you how much it means to see some kind words about a book and sharing it on your solcial media.

Here are the books I enjoyed and posted reviews for in 2021:

  1. A HORN IS BORN (PB) by Bill Borders
  2. CODE BREAKER, SPY CATCHER (PB) by Laurie Wallmark
  3. WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY (YA) by Erica George
  4. FROM HERE TO THERE (PB) by Vivian Kirkfield
  5. RISSY NO KISSIES (PB) by Katey Howes
  6. LITTLE EWE (PB) by Laura Sassi
  7. DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT (PB) by Robin Newman
  8. STEPSISTER (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly
  9. STARFISH (MG) by Lisa Fipps
  10. BOARDWALK BABIES (PB) by Marissa Moss
  11. WE BELIEVE IN YOU (PB) by Beth Ferry
  12. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (MG) Holly Goldberg Sloan
  13. SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (PB) by Cathy Ballou Mealy
  14. STOMP, WIGGLE, CLAP, and TAP (PB) by Rachelle Burk
  15. ORANGE FOR THE SUNSETS (MG) by Tina Athaide
  16. WISHES (PB)  by Moun Thai Van
  17. ISABEL AND HER COLORS GO TO SCHOOL (PB) by Alexandra Alessandro
  18. WALKING WITH MISS MILLIE (MG) Tamara Bundy
  19. PIXIE PUSHES ON (MG) by Tamara Bundy
  20. WOOF: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  21. BEACH TOYS vs SCHOOL SUPPLIES (PB) by Mike Ciccotello
  22. DINO PAJAMA PARTY (PB) by Laurie Wallmark
  23. SCURRY: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  24. A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS (PB) by Christine Van Zandt
  25. LILLIAN LOVECRAFT AND THE HARMLESS HORRORS (MG) by David Neilsen
  26. A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE (PB) by Nancy Churnin
  27. DEAR MR. DICKENS (PB) by Nancy Churnin
  28. SWEET BLISS/GOOD CATCH (an adult series about Harper Landing) by Jennifer Bardsley
  29. 101 PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES (MG) by Theresa Julian
  30. A HOME AGAIN (PB) by Colleen Kosinski

Were there some books you enjoyed in 2021? I’ll bet there will be some more amazing stories in 2022. Why not make a resolution to post reviews for some of your favorites. I guarantee you will make an author’s day!

Happy Reading!

Author Colleen Kosinski Talks About Her New PB: A HOME AGAIN.

Picture book author/illustrator Colleen Kosinski has a new book out, just in time for the holidays. I asked Colleen where the idea came from and also left my review and the end of the post. Here’s Colleen:.

AHA_cover_4188x4872

Q: Why did you decide to write A Home Again?

A: It’s a funny story. All of my children had moved out and my husband and I were talking about downsizing. When my children got wind of our plan, they were not happy. They couldn’t imagine riding by our house and not being able to stop in and visit. My own parents are still in my childhood home, so I never really thought about how I’d feel if I couldn’t visit the house I grew up in. Anyway, we decided to stay in our house.

Q: How did the unique POV come about?

A: As I was thinking about my childrens’ reaction I started thinking how the house would feel if we left. Then something just clicked, and the story was born. As I wrote, I tried to think of the house as a child. How would a child feel if they were suddenly abandoned? Confused? Sad? Angry? I tried to think about how a house could express its emotions.

home again

Q: What simple message do you want readers to remember about A HOME AGAIN?

A: In my story there are two families. The one who moves away, and the new one who makes the house a home again. The second family in my story is a gay family who adopts a baby. It’s not the focus of the story, just another family who loves the house and who the house loves. So, I’d say the message of my book is “Love is love and love makes a home.”

“Love is love and love makes a home.” is a beautiful message for a lovely story. Thank you Colleen, for sharing it with us.

Here is my review for: A HOME AGAIN by Colleen Kosinski, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

Exquisite illustrations compliment a text that conveys all the special things that make a house a home. Told from the house’s POV, all the feelings that come from being lived in, cared for, and celebrated shine through the house, until its occupants move away. Then feelings turn sad, grey, lonely, as the house sits neglected. Can it ever be a home again?

A gently told story of what it means to treasure and appreciate the place we call home.

“Love is love and love makes a home.”

cn758m30b6f4hr3dvaq22bglf0._SY600_

@Colleen Kosinski http://www.ColleenRowanKosinski.com

Colleen writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her picture books include Lilla’s Sunflowers, A Home Again, and Love Made Me More (2022). Her middle grade novel is titled, A Promise Stitched In Time. For the last year she has been working as an editor at Reedsy.com and teaching classes on picture book writing. She is also involved in her local chapter of the SCBWI, and the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. Colleen is a graduate of Rutgers University, as are her husband and sons. Her daughter followed the bright lights to work in the film industry in LA. Colleen works from her Cherry Hill, NJ studio with her canine assistant, Sage.

Check out Colleen's new picture book!
A Home Again
https://colleenrowankosinski.com/my-books/a-home-again/

and her other titles
https://colleenrowankosinski.com/my-books/

Author Erica George Presents: WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY + A Chance To Win A Copy

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I am featuring author Erica George with her debut YA nove, WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY. I had the honor of reading an arc of this amazing story and I am sharing my review here:

A sweet and thoughtful YA story where past and present converge, and poetry bridges the gap.

Narrated by two teenage girls – Leta from 1862, and Michaela from present day – who use their passion for poetry to discover greater truths around them.

Set on the shore of Cape Cod, this is a story that celebrates love. Love of family, love of the sea, love of poetry and the emotional connection it creates, the love one person has for another. A teen romance that is so much more, this book is highly recommended to anyone who has a passion for a time, feels connection to a place or era of history. The author takes us on a journey we will not soon forget.

Erica was kind enough to answer some questions about how this story came to be.

How did the story come about? What was your inspiration?

Believe it or not, this story technically began back when I was in eighth grade. Every year, my family and I would go and see a production of A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the ride home that night, I was thinking about change—who was capable of change, and who wasn’t, and why. That’s when the character of Benjamin Churchill appeared. When I got home, I climbed into bed and took out my journal, and began outlining who I thought he would be. He’s stayed with me for over twenty years. The rest of the story came about only a few years ago, and I couldn’t get the idea of two timelines converging out of my head. I love thinking about how the past can hold us back and push us forward all at the same time.

What was it like writing from two POV’s in two different time periods? How did you handle each story line while you wrote?

I’ve always loved writing both historical and contemporary characters. With Mack living in the present day and Leta living in the 1860s, the time periods helped influenced their voice, certainly, especially when I was writing their poetry. I allowed Mack to write more modern sounding poetry, while Leta’s was heavily influenced by Emily Dickinson’s work. But truthfully, the two girls had so much in common despite the almost 200 years between them, and that’s what drove the story.

The poetry adds a layer of richness and depth to this unique love story. Did you decide on using poetry from the beginning?

Honestly, I knew I wanted to write about poetry, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to write my own! I don’t at all consider myself a poet, and writing the poems was daunting to say the least. I had help from my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the talented and generous Liz Garton Scanlon. The poetry was eye-opening in exploring the characters. It helped me dive into their inner lives, and their wounds, their insecurities, and their triumphs.

The setting almost feels like a character in the book. What factors determined your setting for this story?

I’m so glad to hear this! Cape Cod is my heart. It’s the place where I feel most at home. I’ve spent all of my summers there since childhood, and my family has a house there, as well. And it’s the perfect place for 19th century poetry and whaling to meet! It’s a place that really lends itself to art—the ocean and the cliffs are so dramatic and timeless. Not to mention it has such a rich history of whaling, and now, for conservation and stewardship.

Erika will give away a signed copy of this amazing book to one lucky reader drawn at random from those who leave a comment below. It’s a wonderful opportunity to own a very special book by a gifted writer.

Here’s the pre-order link as well: www.ericageorgewrites.com/preorder 

Erica George is a writer of young adult fiction. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey with degrees in both English and education, and is currently an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She resides in scenic northern New Jersey, but spends her summers soaking up the salty sea air on Cape Cod.

Many themes in Erica’s writing rotate around environmental activism and helping young people find their voice. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring river towns, whale watching, or engrossed in quality British drama with her dog at her side. Erica is also a member of the Class of 2K21 Debut Group.

Website: www.ericageorgewrites.com

 

Twitter: @theericageorge

Rachelle Burk Presents Oodles of Writing Resources for Teachers, Parents, and Kids.

New Jersey children’s author, Rachelle Burk, provides these RESOURCES FOR WRITERS for anyone who wants to write for children and see their work in print. You will find a wealth of resources to improve your writing, network with other children’s writers, and get your work published. And, it’s all gathered in one place.
There are categories for everything from Articles, Agents. Publishers, Magazines, Online Critique Groups, Forums, and much more.
Rachelle also has a comprehensive listing of resources for kids who write. So, rather than scroll through numerous websites, make Rachelle’s site your first stop for ALL THINGS to do with writing for kids.
rachelle
 
Rachelle Burk writes fiction and nonfiction for children ages 3-13. Her works include picture books Don’t Turn the Page!, Tree House in a Storm, The Best Four Questions (a PJ Library selection), and the award-winning biography Painting in the Dark: Esref Armagan, Blind Artist. Her chapter book The Tooth Fairy Trap has been a One School/One Book choice, and her middle grade science adventure novel, The Walking Fish, is a National Science Teachers Association award winner. Rachelle a has written for numerous children’s magazines, including Scholastic Science World, Scholastic SuperScience, Scholastic Scope and Highlights. She is the founder of the writer’s resource site ResourcesForChildrensWriters.com. A retired social worker, Rachelle is also children’s entertainer (Tickles the Clown and Mother Goof Storyteller). When she’s not writing, Rachelle enjoys adventure travel, scuba diving, hiking, and caving. You can find out more about her books and school visits at RachelleBurk.com

Teresa Robeson Presents: Two Bicycles In Beijing + a Give-away.

Today I am so excited to feature my author friend TERESA ROBESON who will tell us something about her new PB Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman & Company 2020). Here’s Teresa:

bicycles in beijing cover

 

There are times when a happy confluence of somewhat random thoughts and ideas in my brain end up creating something wonderful. Two Bicycles In Beijing was the end result of one of those circumstances.

My father took my family on a trip to China back in 2013. It was something my parents had wanted to do for a while since the last time we went was in 1987 before I was married with kids of my own. They were eager to visit our ancestral homeland again with our expanded family to share our heritage with my kids who are half-Chinese, and my white American husband who had never been.

Sadly, my mom passed away before we could take this trip, but we still had a memorable time. We toured four cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Each of those places had their own unique character and attractions. Perhaps it was because we spent the most time in Beijing, and because it’s the capital of modern China, but my mind kept going back to our time there after our vacation. So that is the first random reoccurring thought.

Great Wall

Another involves one of my favorite photos that I took in Beijing. It features a row of bicycles parked outside of a building, and flanked by colorful flowers and lanterns. I love it so much, I used it online as a header on social media for a while. 

Bicycles

At some point, I had also come across an article about all the bicycles that are in China, in particular Beijing. It really stuck with me as I think about environmental issues a lot with my husband being a climatologist who studies pollution and climate change.

With all these things flitting through my mind, it was only natural that a story involving bikes, and set in Beijing, would suggest itself. I wanted it to be a friendship story because that is a common theme in books, especially kids’ books, and I still, at the age of 55, wrestle with the concept of friendship. I think I had imagined the main characters to be human with bikes being involved, but somewhere along the way, I decided that it would be fun to have bikes take the center stage since they are so important in China.

With China being such a huge country, going from one city to another requires transportation with mechanical power. But within cities and towns, bicycles are the perfect way to travel: they don’t cost much, and you don’t need to rely on someone else’s schedule, like you would with buses or trains. Yet, despite their simple design and inexpensiveness, bikes can help you traverse distances faster and with less effort than on foot. With the addition of a basket or an attached seat, you can also carry cargo that you might not otherwise be able to on foot. It’s no wonder that bicycles are so popular and important in Beijing: what else can give you such speed and independence so inexpensively?  Passenger bike

And when you’re that reliant on your bike, you might start to see it as more than a useful tool…perhaps you might even see it as a friend? *smile*

 

Here is Darlene’s review of this unique story:

A lovely tale of friendship between two bicycles made together in a factory, side-by-side in a store until one day when they are separated. Each is bought by someone different. Will the red bicycle find her yellow friend? The story take us on a ride to the sites and sounds of the bustling city of Beijing past all the yellow that brightens the countryside. The soft and joyful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this story. Told from the point of view of Lunzi…the yellow bicycle who goes out in search of her red friend Huangche…this tale will delight anyone who’s ever loved a bicycle.

Darlene will be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite bicycle experience. If you share this post on social media, she will give you a second chance to win. The winner will be announced on this blog sometime in May.

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TERESA ROBESON was born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada, and now writes and creates from her mini-homestead in southern Indiana, where she lives with her scientist husband. Visit her online at:

http://www.teresarobeson.com

And The Winner is…

Thanks to the generosity of my guest blogger Vivian Kirkfield, I am thrilled to announce the winner of her give-away.  Drum roll please…for Charlotte Sheer. Charlotte will choose between a signed copy of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD or a PB critique compliments of Vivian. Please let Vivian know which prize you choose.

Congratulations, Charlotte and thanks to all who participated.

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Brooke Van Sickle Presents: Her 6 Simple Steps to Write a Successful Kid’s Book.

Today it is my pleasure to share the blog with fellow children’s book author BROOKE VAN SICKLE who recently published a PB titled PIRATES STUCK AT “C”.  She is here to share her own process for writing picture books. She has tons of free material and some great links to get you started in writing for children.

Here’s Brooke:

Millions of people say they want to write a kid’s book, but not everyone does. There’s a lot of work and patience that goes into writing, and tons of rejection, after you’ve created your story, which causes many people to give up. But if you can make it through all that, it’s so worth it!

To help prepare you, here are 6 easy steps you can start today, in order to have a completed kid’s book to share with others this year.

How to Write a Kid’s Book that Attracts Readers:

 I firmly believe that every book deserves a place on a child’s bookshelf if you can write it well enough. And the writing part may not be as hard as you think! You don’t have to be a master writer or someone with a big degree in creative writing. (Let out that breath you’ve been holding!) You simply have to be willing to put in the work. This is what you need to do to write a book that sells:

 

Six Steps to Write a Kid’s Book Well:

1 – Decide what kind of book you’re going to write.

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All picture books are children’s books, but not all kid’s books are picture books. In fact, there are 6 main categories of children’s books! (If you’re unsure of what those are, here’s a helpful article with the full list to help you.)

 

The best way to decide on the type of book you intend to write is to think about the age of your reader. Who is going to read your book? About how old are they?

2 – Once you have an idea, make sure it’s saleable.

 An important step for writing a kid’s book is to make sure it’s going to sell. (No one wants to spend over a year on something only to get stuck trying to publish it!) There are a few things I do on this step:

  • Search your topic idea to see what already exists
  • Read books that are similar to your idea
  • Research and read top-selling books in your genre that have been published in the last 3-5 years.

Doing this research will help you find comp books to use later in a query letter, let you know if your idea already exists to know if you should change it or find a new idea, and help you understand what’s been selling or is popular already with readers and publishers. All of which are important when you decide to sell your manuscript!

3 – Join SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and find a writing group.

I would never have been able to publish a kid’s book without the help of all my writing friends and SCBWI. You need other writers not just to read your work and offer critiques, but to also encourage you as you begin your journey. It can be a long and hard process, but with others who are going through it, it will also be some of the most fun you’ll ever have. Plus, you’ll have a group of supporters to celebrate with you when you finally get to hold your published book!

4 – Outline your story.

There are a lot of pantsers out there that would disagree with me on this step, but I think outlining is VITAL to writing any book. (You can’t find your destination without the direction for where you want to go!) Even if you change your mind later, or decide that you want to go in a different direction, it’s better to have a plan going in. At least outline who your characters are, what’s going to happen, and how you expect it to end before you begin writing.

5 – Write your first draft.

This is the exciting part! You know what kind of story you want to write and you’ve done your research. You’re ready. So start writing!!

6 – Edit your draft and write again and again until you get it right.

 Sorry, the first draft you write won’t be the only draft. In fact, it may take you 30 or 50 versions to get it right! And then your agent or editor may have even more edits!!

I’ve mentored some writers that get discouraged with editing or don’t think they need to edit their stories at all, but I would caution against that. No one gets it right on their first time. So don’t be afraid to listen to good critiques and to try again.

Your goal should always be to write the best story you can!

If you want to get started writing a kid’s book, get my “How to Write a Kid’s Book” guide here. It’s free and has everything you need to start writing your book idea today! And if you want to dive deeper, visit journeytokidlit.com for more articles to writing and publishing tips for children’s book writers.

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Brooke Van Sickle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and  Regional Webmaster for the Iowa-SCBWI region. She’s also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MiPa).

PIRATES STUCK AT “C”, published by BiblioKid Publishing, is Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book. She also has 2 more books expected in 2020. When not writing her own books, Brooke teaches other aspiring writers how to write and publish kids’ books at www.journeytokidlit.com.

Learn more about her on her website www.brookevansickle.com and connect with her on social @journeytokidlit.

Brooke will return next month with a post about PIRATES STUCK AT “C”  and a give-away.