Interview with Karma Wilson

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a country girl, raised an only child by a single mom in the wilds of North Idaho. We only got 3 channels back in the day, and only 1 was watchable. Loneliness and boredom turned me to books at an early age, and I became a voracious reader. I started writing for children as a young married mother of three kids in 1996 and sold my first book in 1999, which was Bear Snores On (illustrated by Jane Chapman, published by Margaret K. McEldery/Simon & Schuster). I went on to publish over 40 books with various publishers and have been fortunate enough to receive numerous literary awards and make a few appearances on the New York Times bestseller list. I’m now an old grandma to my sweet granddaughter, Chloe. 




You've written a lot of books! Which one is your favorite, or which one are you most proud of?

My books are kind of like my kids—I can’t pick a favorite! Frog in the Bog (illustrated by Joan Rankin) is the most fun for me when it comes to storytelling, and I feel the Bear books are very positive, kind books that are a bright spot for kids today. A Dog Named Doug is a new one I’m very happy with! The art by Matt Myers is so fun!

What is your work day like? Do you adhere to a strict schedule, or is it always different?

My schedule is all over the place! I tend to write in waves. I’ll go months with nothing, then a storm rolls through my brain, and I tackle several projects at once.

How many rounds of revision do you go through for each book?

The revision process totally depends on the book. Bear Snores On required almost no changes, but my poetry book revisions were much more extensive, as they both have nearly 100 poems each (What’s the Weather Inside, illustrated by Barry Blitt, and Outside the Box, illustrated by Diane Goode). I can’t count how many times those got revised. I also self-revise every line and verse as I go, so I rarely have multiple drafts, but instead, one ever-evolving draft.

What is your all-time favorite picture book (not written by you)?

Again, it’s so hard to pick one! As a child, Where the Wild Things Are and The Monster at the End of this Book were huge favorites and anything by Shel Silverstein (except The Giving Tree, which I didn’t like and still don’t like—sorry, Shel!).


Thanks for visiting us, Karma!  

Parent/Child Book Club Planning Sheet

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As you may know, I love mother/daughter or mother/son book clubs, and I can’t say enough good about them. You can find many of my old posts about parent/child book clubs here. Parent/child book clubs get kids excited not only about reading, but about reading books they wouldn’t normally read. Plus, there’s the whole “book club” element! There’s something fun about reading the same book as your friends and talking about it. It also provides one more connection you can make with your child, which is always a win.

So I thought it might be helpful to create a planning sheet for those of you who would like to host your own parent/child book club.  

First, pick a date and time that works for everyone. If you don’t want to meet at your house, you could meet at a local park or even the library, where you can often reserve private rooms.

Then pick the book. I often choose Newbery winners, just because they have already been vetted and are usually deep enough to warrant a discussion.

While food is optional, it sure is fun to have themed food – something characters ate in the book or something that goes along with a theme in the book.

Then plan an activity! For me, this is always the fun part. I’ve done art projects, something active, or something the characters in the book do – anything to make the book come alive for your kids.

Lastly, come up with your own discussion questions or find some online. The best questions are the ones without specific answers, those that make the kids think and discuss.

So here’s a planning sheet, and I hope it helps! If you host a parent/child book club, tell me! I’d love to hear all about it!

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Interview with Bethany Barton

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Sure! I’m a kid’s book author and illustrator, with a “day-job” in film & TV. (Because one career isn’t enough, so I decided to have 2? haha) I’ve been fortunate enough to have written and illustrated 5 picture books so far, as well as occasionally illustrating for other authors and commercial clients like Starbucks. 

I’m passionate about creating books that help kids address and discuss fear using superpowers like facts and humor. My 2015 book I’m Trying To Love Spiders won the 2016 Children’s Choice Award 3rd/4th Grade Book of The Year. And my 2017 book Give Bees A Chance was a SCIBA Award finalist, was listed in Scripps National Spelling Bee “Great Words, Great Works,” and was featured in the New York Times. 

But don’t let that stuff fool you—  I still pretty much I have no idea what I’m doing… ha! 

Can you tell me about your new book coming out?

Heck yes I can! My newest non-fiction picture book addresses a subject that terrifies kids (and adults) the world over: MATH! It’s called I’m Trying To Love Math, and it hits stores in July. It’s chock full of space aliens, electric guitars and cookies… you know, math stuff. 

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Do you actually hate math in real life?

You know, writing this book really changed my relationship with math. It all started as a joke with my agent. My husband is getting his masters in physics (!) and keeps writing giant, rambling equations on our sliding glass door with dry-erase markers. I joked that I should write “I’m Trying To Love Math” to understand what the heck he was writing, and then my editor (the talented and wonderfully patient Tracy Gates at Viking) LOVED the idea. In the course of the book, I had a mathematician/friend answering all my stupid questions and explaining concepts to me (a genius named Erich Patrick Enke) — and he was/is so in love with and excited about math that I started to love it as well!  Seriously! Math is so much more creative then I’d ever realized! Great teachers absolutely make the difference, and Erich was/is a fantastic one for how my brain works. 

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Did you always want to be a children's book writer and illustrator?

You know how Pete the Cat was walking down the street… and he just kept stepping in stuff… and then BAM - he had super sweet shoes? That’s basically my publishing career. 

I knew I wanted to be a working artist. I wanted to “Wake Up and Make Stuff” and then be able to trade that stuff I made for goods and services. I had stories to tell, and images to make, and thankfully I also had great mentors in my life. But I wasn’t particularly choosy about which field I ended up in, as long as I was creating things, telling stories, promoting honesty & empathy, and in doing so, was able to pay my bills.

It was actually my agent (big hugs to Stephen Barr at Writers House!) who found my art and stories on a blog I used to have and told me they could be children’s books. He saw it first, and I was overjoyed with the idea. 

It’s like Jim Henson said about working in the arts, “You have to be very very prepared… and very very flexible.” 

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How did you come up with your style of splotchy watercolor backgrounds?

Honestly, I made my first few books with all-white backgrounds because that’s what I find myself drawn to visually. My editor & art director wanted more color for Spiders, but just filling the background with a solid color seemed lifeless and not-in-the-same-world as the messy, gestural, energized artwork of the book. So I made a happy watercolor mess — a bunch of them, really— laid them into the background of the files, and VOILA!  I liked the tone it set; it seemed really happy and full of life.

Can you tell us about the process of creating your books? Do you write the stories and then sketch them out or do the images come to you first?

For me, since I’m making non-fiction books, it starts with research. LOTS of research. There’s so much competing information out there, so getting to the truth is important to me. Then I start typing and doodling. I draw with ink on paper, but I also draw digitally in Photoshop.

I make DOZENS of extra pages — with full-on text and illustration—  that don’t end up in my books. If I try to edit as I go I’ll overthink myself into stasis. So I just create, create, create.  Then I’ll go back and edit. My agent knows about this process, so if he doesn’t like an idea he’ll ask, “Is there something else you made for this part that ended up on the cutting room floor?” and usually there is. There’s probably a more time-saving process out there, but this one seems to work for me. 

Who is your favorite picture book illustrator and why?

Oh man, this changes all the time, there is just so much to love out here. But as of this moment? Everything Oliver Jeffers creates is inspired and filled with the most delicious layers. Kathryn Otoshi is able to evoke so much emotion within such a clean, simple, visual world… I really love what she’s doing. 

Where can we find you online?

www.bethanybarton.com

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

NEW Daily Art Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bethanybartonart/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/awesomebARTon

Thanks so much for joining us, Bethany!!

How to Keep Kids Reading Over the Summer

School is almost out! And if you’re like me, you’re wondering how to encourage your kids to read more and stare at screens less this summer. Of course, we know some kids love reading and will read a book a day over the summer. Woot woot! Those kids are awesome! But what about our reluctant readers? One of my children said he’d rather do chores than read a book. WHAT?? How do we help kids like him? It’s not always easy, but here are some ideas:

Go to the Library

Taking your children to the library every week allows them to be physically surrounded by books. It also allows them to browse and choose their own books. Use your library’s resources, like summer reading clubs, or ask your librarian for suggestions of books that your child will be interested in. Librarians are awesome and know so much!

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Go to a Bookstore

There’s something special about owning your favorite books. There’s something about the way they smell, the shiny cover, and the unwrinkled pages. Excuse me while I go smell some of my books… ah. Now I’m back. :) I’ve found that when my children go to a bookstore and get to pick out their very own book, it becomes special to them.

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Let Your Child Pick

Let your children have the freedom of reading whatever they want to read over the summer. Graphic novels? Sure! Nonfiction? Sure! Diary of a Wimpy Kid ten thousand times? Sure! Research has shown that when kids are able to choose their own books, they are more likely to become life-long readers.

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Offer Choices

Sometimes kids don’t even know what’s available out there to read. Often they say they don’t like reading because they haven’t found the right books. YET. There are SO many options! Research various books online or talk to friends or librarians and find a variety of books that might appeal to your child.

Reading Olympics

In our family, we often have some sort of reading challenge over the summer—a friendly competition, or a Reading Olympics. We track how much time is spent reading and whoever has read the most by the end of summer is the winner. You can find more charts and ideas here.

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Bookclub

Host a Book Club for your child and his or her friends. Or host a Parent/Child Book Club. These can get kids excited about reading. Talk about the book, eat food related to the book, and do a fun activity about the book. This often helps kids read books that they wouldn’t normally read. For some ideas, check out my Mother/Daughter Book Club posts here.

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Use Incentives

Sometimes my kids have to earn their screen time by reading. For every minute of reading they do, they get a minute of screen time. Or every hour of reading is thirty minutes of screentime.

Use Audiobooks

Audiobooks are awesome for car trips or just driving around to activities. Use an app like Libby or Overdrive, or use Libro to help out your independent bookstores. Some kids prefer to listen to books than to read them on their own.

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Read Out Loud

Reading out loud to your kids is awesome for so many reasons, but especially family bonding. If you can work it in to read novels to your kids over the summer, it can really help them develop a love for reading and create wonderful memories.

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Read Yourself

Let your kids see YOU reading! If they see you reading, they are more likely to become readers. Plus, any excuse to sit down and read a good book is a great one, right?

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Here’s to lots of reading this summer! We’d love to hear about any other ideas you have or what works for your family! Happy reading!

Interview with Joshua David Bellin

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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 has published numerous works of fantasy and science fiction, including the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls), the deep-space adventure Freefall, and the short story collection Ten Tales of Terror and Terra. The Ecosystem series—Ecosystem, The Devouring Land, and House of Earth, House of Stone—is his latest foray into speculative fiction. In his free time, Josh likes to read, watch movies, and take long nature hikes with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

Can you tell us about your new book?

House of Earth, House of Stone is the final book in the Ecosystem Trilogy, a series set on a future Earth in which the environment has mutated into a collective sentience called the Ecosystem. It doesn't like human beings very much (no big surprise), and it has forced the remnants of humankind to take shelter in small villages of stone that the Ecosystem can't penetrate. Only people with a psychic power known as the Sense, which enables them to read the Ecosystem's "mind," can survive in the wild, so Sensors are responsible for supplying everyone else with food, water, and fuel. My narrator, a seventeen-year-old Sensor named Sarah, holds a special grudge against the Ecosystem--because it killed her mother when Sarah was only two years old. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people but for revenge. But during the course of the series, she discovers truths about the Ecosystem, about her society, and about herself that she never imagined.

What inspired you to write this series?

I've always loved fantasy fiction—I grew up reading Tolkien, Le Guin, and other classic writers—and I've always loved the natural world. But as I've gotten older, I've become aware of how much damage human beings have done to Nature, so my thought turned to the idea of telling a story in which Nature is conscious, intelligent—and angry. This gave me a perfect opportunity to tell a dramatic adventure story, full of mutated creatures and hairbreadth escapes, while also reflecting on our relationship to the natural world

Which character do you relate to the most?

I'd have to say I relate to Sarah, my narrator. She starts out the series angry at what the Ecosystem has done to her family and her people, but she grows to understand the world in ways that make her come to some hard realizations about herself. I feel as if I've undergone a similar growth path myself--from being upset about the state of the world to recognizing my own responsibility and, more important, acting to try to make a change.

I know you love monsters. Which one is your favorite?

There are so many monsters in the Ecosystem series, it's hard for me to choose! In each case, I took a present-day creature and twisted it in some way to make it more threatening. So, for example, snapping turtles become snatching turtles, which pull people into their shells and devour them there. But I love frogs, so I think I would say that my favorite creatures in the series are poison arrow frogs--which are similar to poison dart frogs, except they can spit their venom over fifty feet with the velocity of an arrow. My son helped me come up with this monster when he was younger, so that's another reason I like them.

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If you could meet any character from a book, who would it be?

Definitely Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. The man is just too cool, too wise, and too awesome. If you go to my website, you'll see a picture of me in the homemade Gandalf costume I pull out of the closet every Halloween!


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Where can we find you online?

Website: https://joshuadavidbellin.blogspot.com/

Blog: https://theyaguy.blogspot.com/

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

Thanks for joining us, Josh!

And don’t forget to check out his newly completed Ecosystem trilogy!

Reading Log Freebie

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Hi everyone!

A few years ago, I started keeping a list on my phone of all the books I’d read for the year. I have loved doing this because my memory is really bad, and if someone asks me what books I’ve read lately, I can never remember. However, now I can easily reference my list and recommend the books I’ve loved.

Goodreads is obviously a great resource for doing this as well, but I just haven’t found the time to log in and record all the books I read.

But then I started thinking about my kids. They read a lot, but I can never remember which kid read which books. That and a couple of them said they didn’t like reading, claiming that they didn’t read very much. But I knew that if they recorded the books they read, by the time the year ended, they would be surprised. Plus, I think it’s fun to look back at what books I’ve read over the past year— I figured they’d enjoy that, too.

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So I made this handy dandy reading log, and it’s free! Download it, print it out, and hang it on the wall in your child’s room. Or put it in their school binder. Wherever. Each time they finish a book, they can write it down and rate it.

I think this is a great way for kids to realize just how much they actually are reading and to reflect on books they’ve loved (or hated).

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes with my kids, and I’d love to hear how it goes with yours! And don’t forget to download your free copy HERE.

Happy reading!!


Interview with Hannah Holt

Hannah Holt is just your everyday children’s author… with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer+Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

First, thanks so much for hosting me! From the time I was little, I enjoyed writing and telling stories. In fourth grade, I wrote forty pages of my first attempted novel. As a teen, I created elaborate bedtime stories for the children I tended. However, my family is full of scientists and engineers. I didn't know the first thing about writing as a career, so I majored in engineering. It wasn't until years later that I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher.


Can you tell me about your new book coming out?

My book, A Father's Love, celebrates animal dads around the world. There's also a secondary layer of exploring colors in different habitats. From the jacket flap:

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Throughout the animal kingdom, in every part of the world, fathers love and care for their babies. This book takes readers around the globe and across the animal kingdom, showcasing the many ways fathers have of demonstrating their love. Whether it's a penguin papa snuggling with his baby in the frosty white snow, a lion dad playing with his cub in a yellow field, or a seahorse father protecting his young inside his pouch in the deep blue ocean, we see that a father's love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Kirkus calls it, "A sweet bedtime book about fathers and how their “love is everywhere.”

I dedicated this book to my husband, but really it's for all dads.

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What were your books inspired by?

As I mentioned earlier, my family is very science-focused. In fact, my first book, The Diamond and the Boy, is a biography of my inventor grandfather, H. Tracy Hall. Maybe science is in my DNA. Maybe I'm just curious about the world, but the manuscripts I write tend to be nonfiction or informational fiction. There's so much to explore about the world, and I want to know it all.



How have the illustrations for your books matched up with what you originally imagined them to be?

I usually don't have a firm vision for what the illustration style should be. My illustration ideas are more like a dream--vague ideas of what could be. I feel very lucky to have been paired with amazing illustrators like Jay Fleck and Yee Von Chan.

Did you always want to be a children's book writer?

No. Despite my love for writing and storytelling, I didn't believe I was very good at it. I applied for honors English almost every year in high school and was rejected a lot. My senior year, I didn't even apply for the program. My handwriting and spelling lagged behind my peers, and my teachers let me know it.

I thought I would spend my life designing bridges. If you told me twenty years ago I would be where I am now, I probably would have laughed. I didn't know "professional children's book writer" was a possibility for me.

What is your favorite picture book?

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Instead, can I tell you about a book that hasn't been released yet? I first heard about A Small World by Ishta Mercurio back when it sold. The book description is lovely, and I can't wait for it be released this summer:

When Nanda is born, the whole of her world is the circle of her mother’s arms. But as she grows, the world grows too. It expands outward—from her family, to her friends, to the city, to the countryside. And as it expands, so does Nanda’s wonder in the underlying shapes and structures patterning it: cogs and wheels, fractals in snowflakes. Eventually, Nanda’s studies lead her to become an astronaut and see the small, round shape of Earth far away. A geometric meditation on wonder, Small World is a modern classic that expresses our big and small place in the vast universe.

Where can we find you online?

Twitter: @hannahwholt

Website: https://hannahholt.com/


Thanks for joining us, Hannah!

How to Grow Your Following on Instagram as a Picture Book Author or Illustrator

Okay. You’ve created an Instagram account (Why Instagram? Read this post.) You’ve got a list of what to post (Need more ideas? Read this post.).

Now how do you grow your following?

The first thing to remember is that (for most of us) growing a following is slow going. Don’t get discouraged… stay patient and keep the long view in mind. Unless you get super famous overnight or buy followers (not a good idea), you are just not going to get thousands of followers super fast. But in time, you will get them.

How to Grow Your Following:

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Use hashtags

To be honest, I find hashtags annoying. But they are necessary. If you’re like me, and they bug you, put them in the comments so they aren’t so blatantly in your face. Hashtags allow people with similar interests to find you. If you use hashtag #picturebookauthor, for example, people trying to find picture book authors can find you. Boom. Automatic followers.


Follow people that like posts from accounts similar to yours

It took me awhile to figure this out. One way to get more followers is to follow random people in the hope that they will follow you back. However, tons of followers that don’t engage with your posts won’t do you much good (or feel very fulfilling). So find people that are active on Instagram—people that like and/or comment on posts. These are the people that will actively like your posts if they start following you.

To find these gems, find someone with an account similar to yours. If you’re a picture book author, find an account that posts about picture books. Click on one of the posts, then click on the people who liked that post. Follow those people. There is a much higher chance that active Instagrammers will follow you back, rather than a whole bunch of random people. Not only that, but these are your people. They are interested in the kinds of things you are posting. Cultivate this audience.

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Giveaways

In my experience, giveaways are the fastest way to gain followers. They work even better when someone else hosts the giveaway. I haven’t found that hosting my own giveaways gets me many more followers because it doesn’t give me exposure to new people. But when someone else hosts the giveaway for me, all of their followers see the post, and this can pay off big when it comes to building your following.

That being said, keep in mind that some giveaways will be a flop. I gained 600 new followers in the best giveaway I ever had. Woot woot! But another giveaway only resulted in 12 new followers. There’s no guarantee that giveaways will succeed.. But they are definitely worth trying.

Post consistently

When you post consistently, you retain more of your followers. Despite that, there will always be people that unfollow you. Please don’t let that bother you. It’s just part of the deal. As for frequency, Instagram research has shown that it doesn’t actually matter how often you post, just that you are consistent. When you post consistently and are active on Instagram, Instagram also suggests that people are more likely to follow your account. So there you have it. Research shows that consistent posting can help you get more followers.

Unfollow people that don’t follow you

This doesn’t help you grow your following, but it’s still important. You want to keep your ratio of followers/unfollowers in check. In short, you don’t want to follow thousands more people than are following you. There are apps that will let you know all the people you are following who aren’t following you back. Figure out who they are and unfollow them. It’s a huge pain. Do it anyway. Or make your tech-savvy kid do it for you (I may or may not have used this tactic).

Now you’re set! Good luck, and I wish you thousands of followers overnight! (Or at least the patience to grow your followers into the thousands!)

Interview with Cathy Breisacher

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I grew up in Altoona, Pennsylvania, attended college at Penn State University and earned my Master’s Degree in School Counseling. I started my career as a high school guidance counselor at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School. After enjoying the counseling world for many years, I decided I wanted to devote more time to writing for children. So I obtained my Master in Library Science Degree, made a career switch and became an elementary school librarian. That move enabled me to immerse more of my time in the kid lit world, and now I have two picture books coming out this spring. I live with my husband in Hollidaysburg, and we enjoy traveling, especially to National Parks.

Can you tell me about your books coming out?

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Yes!
CAVEKID BIRTHDAY, illustrated by Roland Garrigue and published by Charlesbridge, will come out on March 5, 2019.  In the story, Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends and do all kinds of cavekid activities together. They also share the same birthday! So, with their birthday approaching, each one decides to get something special for the other. They both have something valuable that they can take to Caveman’s Collectibles to trade, but when it’s time to exchange gifts, they are in for a big surprise. However, these Cavekids are resourceful, so they use their imagination and creativity to come up with a way to have a satisfying and very happy birthday.

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CHIP AND CURLY, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz and published by Sleeping Bear Press, will release on May 15, 2019. It is a story about two potatoes, Chip and Curly, who compete against each other in Spud City’s Annual sack race. Chip has his heart set on winning the Golden Bushel Award, but when Curly shows up with a spring in his step, Chip is worried. He practices and gains admiration from the other taters in town, but he wonders if he will be able to get this win in the bag or if his dreams of winning will be mashed.

Where did you get the ideas specifically for these books?

CAVEKID BIRTHDAY was initially inspired by a clipart picture of a caveboy and a cavegirl. I started thinking of a story that I could write using cavekids as my characters. At one point, I decided to mash the cavekids with Christmas, and I started writing. It didn’t take long before the idea of doing a twist on the Gift of the Magi popped into my head. I have always loved O. Henry’s story about the husband and wife who each take their most treasured possession and sell it to buy a perfect gift for the other one.  So I decided to take that premise and have it take place during prehistoric time with cavekids. After many rounds of revision, the Christmas theme changed to a Birthday, and the rest of the story flowed from there. I kept the Gift of the Magi theme, so each of the cavekids ends up trading something they value in order to get the perfect birthday present for their friend. But there is a twist in the end!

CHIP AND CURLY – THE GREAT POTATO RACE was inspired by an annual potato festival near my town.  Every fall in Ebensburg, PA, there is a Potato Festival with large crowds of people, delicious potato food, crafts and games. While at the Potato Festival one year, I felt inspired to write a book with potatoes as the characters. I wanted to have fun with this story and fill it with potato puns to make both adults and kids chuckle. I had a great time thinking of ways to add potato-related words and puns to the story.

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What is your all-time favorite picture book?

CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds. It is told so well. It is fun, clever, imaginative…everything great storytelling should be. There are many books that tie for my second favorite picture book, but CREEPY CARROTS tops the chart. I also love SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett– the page turns are brilliant. MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan Higgins is hysterical. THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Swartz shows rhyme at its best. THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen is another favorite, and I also adore all of Kelly DiPucchio’s books.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

I love coming up with a fun idea that I think will make readers smile and laugh. I let my mind think of silly things: What if a hippopotamus went to the moon? What if a bear gets a new haircut? What if a moose tries to play hide-and-seek? I think of something and ask myself: what if, what if, what if? My mind does this every day until something takes up residence in my brain and I can’t stop thinking about it. My favorite part of writing is when I get a complete draft written and then I can delve into revising. Revising is my favorite part of writing.

If you could be any book character, who would you be?

I’d probably pick Clementine by Sara Pennypacker or Ramona by Beverly Cleary for their spunk and imagination.   They both make me laugh. I also wouldn’t mind being Hermione Granger for her intelligence, bravery, and loyalty to her friends.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me online at the following places:

Twitter:  @CathyBreisacher

Facebook:  Cathy Breisacher

website:  www.cathybreisacher.com


Thanks so much for joining us, Cathy!!

What to post on Instagram as a Picture Book Author or Illustrator

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For all you picture book authors or illustrators who read last month’s post (find it HERE), I hope I convinced you that Instagram is a must! But what to post? How often? These are great questions, and I wish I had the magic answer.

The truth is, the answer is different for everyone.

That being said, there are some basic guidelines that can help you get started.

First of all, don’t wait until you are published to build your brand. Start now. You can’t gain thousands of followers overnight. It takes a long time and patience. So the sooner you create your author platform, the better.

Once you are published, go ahead and post about your books, but make sure to vary it up with other topics as well. One of the fastest ways to lose followers is to “sell” your book with every post. Ugh. Instead, decide now how you want your brand to look. Are you the crafty writer who writes and loves teddy bears? The snarky writer who loves popsicles? The writer-teacher? Obviously, you are more than your brand, so do some trial and error. Post about things you love, see what people respond to, and adjust. Your “brand” will naturally change over time, and that’s okay.

This leads to the biggest question of all: what to post? There’s no right answer about what to post or what not to post. Some people are extremely personal on Instagram and post pictures of their kids and all of their inner thoughts. Other people are very private and only post information about their books or events they are participating in. And then there’s a whole mixture of in-between folks. This is what I mean about trial and error. Post what you love. You get to decide what you are comfortable with. There are no rules here. Just pay attention to the posts people are responding to. See what they like to see, and let your brand emerge from there.

For example, it’s been proven that pictures with people get more likes and comments than posts without people. There are lots of statistics about this kind of thing. Go ahead and research it, or just watch your feed. You’ll figure it out.

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For those of you still scratching your head and/or watching your heart beat through your chest, I’ve compiled a list of ideas to get you started. Keep in mind—people love getting new ideas, being inspired, and laughing. Creating content that feeds into those desires will automatically add value to what you post. So with that said, here you go.

My “What to Post” list:

·      Memes

·      Inspirational quotes

·      Projects you are working on

·      If you are an illustrator – your art!

·      Things that inspire you

·      Photos of your daily life

·      Books you love

·      Anything book-related (did you eat a muffin that looked like Harry Potter’s head? Take a picture and post about it!)

·      Things that have to do with what you like to write about (You write about cute, fluffy animals? Then you’d better take pics of your neighbors’ new kittens and post it, stat!)

·      Your books

·      Events


Building your Instagram brand takes time and effort, but it’s worth it! Even if you just post once a week to start, it’s still a start! Every little bit helps. There are also a lot of tools like Later, Buffer, or Hootsuite where you can schedule posts to make keeping up with Instagram easier. Feel free to message me with questions.

And good luck!



Interview with Stacy Innerst

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Stacy Innerst is an acclaimed artist, illustrator and arts educator. He was born in Los Angeles and studied Art and History at the University of New Mexico.

His picture books for children have earned a host of starred reviews as well as numerous awards, including a 2017 NY Times/NY Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award (for Ruth Bader Ginsberg), the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration (for The Music in George’s Head), the BCCB Blue Ribbon, two Parents’ Choice Gold Medals and recognition by the NY Society of Illustrators, the Smithsonian and the American Library Association, among many others. M is for Music was named a 2003 Best Book of the Year by the School Library Journal and Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011. His paintings and prints have been exhibited widely in New York, California and throughout the United States and abroad. He lives in Pittsburgh.

The artwork for your pictures books is very unique. How did you develop that style of art?

I’ve always had a painterly, loose style and I studied painting and printmaking in college so that carried over into my work as an illustrator. I never really set out to develop an illustration style, per se, but I suppose I have over the years.

It’s more a function of doing what comes naturally and making pictures that I find pleasing rather than settling on a style. I love the way paint looks when it’s brushed onto a surface so that dictates pretty much everything I do.

How much planning and research do you do before you actually start painting?

The research component of my nonfiction picture books is actually quite time-consuming, but it’s also quite fun. The historical research leads me in directions that I might not otherwise go in picture-making. Part of my process is watching films that are set in the period I’m illustrating or researching the art and music of the era.

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Which picture book was your favorite to work on?

I’ve liked them all for different reasons, but The Music in George’s Head was especially gratifying. I really liked being able to visually represent Gershwin’s music. It was a kind of visual poetry for me.


Who is your favorite illustrator?

If I have to pick just one children’s book illustrator, I’d say Edward Ardizzone or Leonard Weisgard, I think, but it’s tough! Tough question! It changes from day to day. A few of my favorite artists and illustrators, in no particular order: Vladimir Radunsky, Quentin Blake, Robert Lawson, Carson Ellis, Wanda Ga’g, Sydney Smith, Edward Gorey, Eva Bednářová, Roger Duvoisin, William Joyce, Oliver Jeffers, Lopez Rubio, Leonard Weisgard, Antonin Clave, Pablo Picasso, Edward Ardizzone, Ludwig Bemelmans, Sean Qualls, Willem de Kooning.

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Do you have any upcoming books?

I’ve recently completed two picture books and the cover and interior illustrations for a middle grade chapter book. They should all be out next year. They are:

Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer’s Fight for the Statue of Liberty, by Claudia Friddell, Calkins Creek

The Book Rescuer, by Sue Macy, Simon and Schuster

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat, by Caroline Adderson, Groundwood Books.

I’m super excited about all three! They’re wonderfully written books by excellent authors.

Where can your fans find you?

I’m on social media-- mostly on Instagram but also Twitter and Facebook --@stacyinnerst. My website is stacyinnerst.com.

Thanks so much for joining us, Stacy!!

Creative Christmas Present: How to Make Your Own I Spy Book

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I made my two oldest kids picture books about them and wanted to do this for each of my children. However, the more kids I had, the busier I got, and this seemed less feasible. When it came time for me to give my third child his book for Christmas, I already had a 4th baby and didn’t have time to paint or illustrate a new book. My older kids were obsessed with I Spy books at the time, so I decided to make our own personalized I Spy Book, called I Spy the Chous.

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I found a little toy to represent each one of my four children. These included Strawberry Shortcake, Batman, a Geotrax guy, and a little Playmobil guy. Then I found a little animal to be each child’s pet. Since I planned on having another child in the future, I included a little plastic baby. (And thank goodness I did!)

Using their toys, I set up scenes and hid the characters and animals among the toys. Then I took a picture. I set up about eight different scenes and wrote a short narrative about the four kids taking a trip through Toyland and all the places they went.

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At the back of the book, I included a picture of the pets, so they could go back and look for those.

This has become one of our favorite books. Now that my oldest kids are 14, 12, and 10, a lot of the toys in those pictures are long gone. Some of them we still have for their little brothers to play with. But looking through the I Spy book is like a walk down memory lane of all the favorite toys they used to play with. Plus, they still love finding “themselves” and their pets.

This is a really fun personal Christmas gift that’s not very time consuming and will be sure to become one of your family favorites!

Interview with Susan Hans O'Connor, owner of the Penguin Bookshop

Susan Hans O’Connor is the owner of the Penguin Bookshop, an independent bookstore located in Sewickley, PA since 1929. She has owned the store for five years and works tirelessly to bring her community a place to converse, buy books, and meet authors. We are so happy to interview her and learn more about her and the Penguin Bookshop!

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I began my publishing career back in the 90s (yes...I’m ancient :-)). I was doing temp work in NYC, and the agency sent me to Penguin Books. I couldn’t believe it when I walked in and saw the big Penguin logo behind the receptionist’s desk. I had always been a big reader and a writer and devoured books published by Penguin, but growing up in the Midwest, I never really thought about HOW or WHERE a book was created. The people there were all so nice and smart, and their talent was inspiring. Long story short, I ended up taking a permanent job there as an Editorial Assistant to two big-shot editors.

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Why did you decide to buy the Penguin Bookshop?

When we first relocated to Pittsburgh in 2003, I looked for a way to continue my editorial work, but it wasn’t easy. So I did freelance editing, and then I got a Masters Degree in Education and my Teaching Certificate so that I could teach English and writing, which I always thought would be fun. While I was long-term subbing in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, I also began working as a bookseller at the Penguin Bookshop. I loved it. In the store, I felt reconnected to my publishing roots. Then it just so happened that Janet McDanel wanted to sell the business in 2013, just a few months after I started working there. And the rest is history. :-)

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Why is it important to shop locally, and what do independent bookstores do for the community?

Shopping locally is all about creating the kind of communities we want to live in.  Do you want to be able to literally walk down the street and go into a coffee shop, pick up a cute scarf for Aunt Harriet, have your kids ride their bikes into town for some special candy, then stop in for storytime and a book recommendation? Or do you want to stay at home and order everything from your computer, while your town looks like a wasteland? In the end, it’s a choice.

Independent bookstores provide conversation and connection. We bring in authors, both locally and nationally, who spark those conversations, conversations we might not otherwise have.  We give back to our local library, Y, and other organizations. We provide part-time jobs for students and contribute to the local tax base. We have a national presence in the book community, as members of the American Booksellers Association, which is good for our town and good for Pittsburgh. Thanks to the Penguin Bookshop, the White Whale, and Riverstone Books, Pittsburgh will be the host city in the summer of 2019 to the ABA’s Children’s Institute, a national conference that brings in hundreds of booksellers and publishers from around the country. This wouldn’t have happened without the bookstores we have here.

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What do you see for the future of independent bookstores, and how can we help ensure their success?

The future of independent bookstores depends on you, the community.  Successful bookstores meet the needs of their communities, which we try to do everyday, but the community has to want a local bookstore in their town and demonstrate that interest by shopping there.


What’s the most important thing you have learned as a small business owner?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one, because I have learned SO MUCH in the last five years. I think one thing that stands out is that for a business our size in a community of our size, it is important to focus on the things that really matter. I can’t change the demographics of our town or force people to walk through our doors. But what I can do is work to create a bookstore, built on an 89 year history, that is relevant to the community, and that the community still finds valuable. This is what I have tried to do since buying the store in 2014.

Thanks so much for joining us, Susan!

You heard her folks - the best way to keep independent bookstores alive is to shop there. If you haven’t visited the Penguin Bookshop yet, I encourage you to do so! Its local charm and great books will keep you coming back!