Welcome Author Jessica Speer – Giveaway Alert

I’m thrilled to welcome Jessica Speer today. Jessica is a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI and another Colorado author who I can’t wait to meet in person when we are able to resume live events! If you know me, it should come as no surprise that I am impatiently waiting to have face-to-face gatherings. But when Jessica and I chatted, she reminded me how important patience is when it comes to publishing. Jessica expected and planned for her middle grade debut BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends), illustrated by Elowyn Dickerson, to be in bookstores on July 6th but just got word that it will be August 17th. Oh the anticipation! Don’t forget to preorder from your favorite indie bookstore!

Jessica is generously offering one lucky winner a copy of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends) along with two friendship bracelets, stickers, and bookmarks. Comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

I was just like the girls featured in BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends) during my preteen years. I was eager to find and spend time with friends, yet unsure how to navigate tricky social dynamics. Some days I felt like I belonged. Other days I didn’t. Sometimes I was a good friend. Other days, not so good. Little did I know at the time that all girls experience this. 

This photo was taken with my BFF in our softball uniforms. Like many friendships, this relationship ended as we grew and changed. Looking back, I realize how much I grew from this friendship and all of my friendships over the years.

What inspires you?

This may sound strange, but I’m inspired by life’s awkward moments.  As a social scientist, I love to explore human behavior and relationships. I’m intrigued by what helps us thrive and what brings out our not-so-great side. Through books and stories, we learn that we are not alone. We are all perfectly imperfect humans. 

What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope that readers of BFF or NRF come to understand that friendship is a journey that takes effort and intention. This journey is filled with ups and downs and change. All we can really control is ourselves by being the type of friend we want to have.

What’s next for you?

BFF or NRF releases on August 17th as girls are readjusting to their in-person social worlds. Next summer, August 2022, I have another middle-grade book coming out called DISSECTION MIDDLE SCHOOL. Like BFF or NRF, this book is filled with activities and stories that delve into all the weird stuff that happens in middle school. This book is also filled with humor because, well, it’s about middle school. 

Thanks so much for having me, Laura, and for your unwavering support for authors and books! If anyone is interested in learning more about my books, Here’s my website and social links:

Website: https://jessicaspeer.com/ Instagram: @jessica_speer_author. Facebook: @jessicaspeerauthor. Twitter: @speerauthor. Pinterest:@jessicaspeerauthor. Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19820546.Jessica_Speer

Winner Announcement 6/21/2021

Congratulations to winner Reem Al-qaysi winner of CLAIRE’S CLOSET, by author Debra Scala Giokas and illustrated by Mary Ryan Reeves.

Congratulations to Bonnie Hausman winner of NO ROOM FOR A PUP! by author Elizabeth Suneby and illustrated by Laurel Molk.

Winners, please email me at ljrwritenow @ Gmail so that I may connect you with the author for your prize.

Thanks to everyone reading and supporting thee wonderful books and their creators. Don’t forget you still have time to comment on giveaways from Rajani LaRocca, Lisa Blake, and Bryan Patrick Avery. Tomorrow’s guest will be Jessica Speer

Welcome Author Bryan Patrick Avery – Giveaway Alert

I’m happy to share my interview with author Bryan Patrick Avery on a weekend when we celebrate Juneteenth, now our latest National holiday, and Father’s Day. I had chills watching Vice President Kamala Harris speaking and President Joe Biden signing the law this week. When you read Bryan’s words in our interview, you’ll see why we planned our interview for this weekend. Bryan is the author of THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, illustrated by Jerome White.

Bryan is generously offering a signed copy of THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH to one lucky winner (US only.) Comment on the blogpost to be entered.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

I was pretty shy and quiet. I loved to read so I read a lot. I also had a very active imagination. I would create characters and make up stories and adventures for them. One of my favorites was a character called Action Man. He was a superhero but also just a regular, goofy guy. My active imagination sometimes got me into trouble but also helped me become the storyteller I am today.

What inspires you?

My wife and my daughter. They are both incredibly talented and courageous. I’m in awe of them. In a way, everything I do, I do to impress them.

What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

I sign most of the copies of THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH with these words: “Something small can make a big difference”. I really believe that. It can be tempting to see something wrong and shrug and say, “What can I do?” I think that it’s can be particularly hard for kids to feel like they can make a difference. The reality is that they can. I hope my book sparks the desire to make a difference in the world in some way.

What’s next for you?

This will be a busy summer. In addition to publicity for THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, I’ll be doing events for the paperback edition of SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, a short story anthology edited by Chris Grabenstein. The hard cover is available now. The paper will be out at that end of July. In early August, the first four books of my early chapter book series, MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, will be released by Picture Window Books. It features a diverse class of creative and caring students who work together to solve problems. I can’t wait to for the world to meet them!

To connect with Bryan and learn more about his books:

Website: bryanpatrickavery.com

Twitter: @bryanavery. Instagram: @bryanpatrickavery

Welcome Author Lisa Blake – Giveaway Alert

Today I’m excited to share my interview with another Colorado author (Yay!) and another book featuring dogs (Yay!) Lisa Blake and I are members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI and hopefully we’ll be back to in-person gathering soon and can meet face-to-face. Lisa is celebrating the debut of her first picture book, HOW TO LOVE YOUR PUG, illustrated by Nadine Rebrovic. It’s the first in her HOW TO LOVE YOUR PET children’s book series, designed to remind us to choose love, pause to connect, and to find joy with our furry family members. If you know me, you know I live by these words.
Lisa is generously offering a signed copy of HOW TO LOVE YOUR PUG to one lucky winner. Don’t forget to comment on the blogpost to be entered to win.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

I remember always asking “but why?” (And driving my parents nuts!) Why is the sky blue? Why do girls play with Barbie’s and boys play with Tonka trucks? Why do we live where we live? I was an inquisitive but shy kid, peering out from behind my mom’s legs and taking in every detail about someone. I loved to play make believe and I remember having an imaginary friend. We always had pets growing up — dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, a pig. We even housed a baby raccoon named Rocky at one point. We lived in Iowa and my dad would come home with the strangest things from the fireworks stand on the border of Iowa and Missouri. He cultivated that love of the outdoors and animals in me. I would often be found tagging along behind him with my Mickey Mouse fishing pole, heading to the pond behind the house or watching him feed the dogs bowls of milk and brushing them at the end of the day. These are fond memories.

What inspires you?

Reading to my five year old and watching his imagination blow up larger than life. No matter where we are — camping, rafting, visiting grandparents — we always try and carve out an hour to read and tell stories before bed. My son actually came up with the title HOW TO LOVE YOUR PUG, after we were talking about our dog Mojo and how special he is to our family. 

What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your books?

How important it is to say “I love you” every day to those in your life. And to always hug your pets.

This children’s book was written during the early days of Covid and quarantine. Some of the things that have brought us, as a society, the most joy in the past year have been our pets, our kids, simple back-to-basics things like sitting down with a good book or reading to our children. Through this series, I want to spread the message of choosing love in a time that might feel uncertain or heavy.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing the second book in the series, HOW TO LOVE YOUR RESCUE PUP and I’m taking every opportunity I get to spend time with all the various and special dog breeds, taking notes about the unique ways to care for them or the quirky things that bring them happiness. I’m really looking forward to writing HOW TO LOVE YOUR GOLDEN and HOW TO LOVE YOUR BASSET. They have such lively and hilarious personalities.

To connect with Lisa and find out more about her books:

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

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

Website: https://www.howtoloveyourpet.com/

Winner Announcement 6/14/2021

Congratulations to Michelle Losardo, winner of a signed by the author copy of THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP, by Charlotte Offsay and illustrated by Katie Rewse.

Congratulations to Carmela LaVigna Coyle, winner of a signed copy of THE COLLECTORS, written and illustrated by Alice Feagan.

Winners: please email me: ljrwritenow at Gmail.com so that I can connect you with the authors.

Thanks to everyone reading and supporting these wonderful books and their creators. Don’t forget you still have time to comment on giveaways from Debra Scala Giokas, Elizabeth Suneby, and Rajani LaRocca. Tomorrow’s guest will be Lisa Blake.

Welcome Author Rajani LaRocca – Giveaway Alert

I’m very happy to welcome Rajani LaRocca today and share our interview. She recently presented an informative and insightful webinar for Julie Hedlund’s 12x12PB which gave me some wonderful ideas for revising as well as a peek into her amazing books. Rajani is the author of 5 picture books that are out or will be by the end of 2021 and her third middle grade novel, MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL is being released on Tuesday, June 15. I’m going to celebrate this book birthday with a salty treat instead of cake. Read the book and you’ll understand why. I highly recommend MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL and it’s the perfect companion to MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM, which I thoroughly enjoyed two summers ago. These two will be perfect sitting side-by-side on the bookshelf. Do yourself a favor and order them both.

Rajani has generously offered one lucky winner a query + 10 page critique for a MG novel. Comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

When I was that age, I loved math and science and already knew I wanted to become a doctor when I grew up. But I also adored books and read anything and everything I could get my hands on—fiction, nonfiction, comic books, comic strips, receipts, cereal boxes…anything. 

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by my experiences as a child of immigrants growing up in the U.S., my experiences as a mother and a food lover, by science (especially biology) and math and the natural world, by my children and the stories I loved as a child.

What’s one thing you hope readers take away from your books?

I hope MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL is a fun, fast read. I hope readers enjoy the story of two kids who have so much in common but who can’t become friends without a little help from others. I hope they enjoy the baseball, the math puzzles, and the tie-ins to the events of Midsummer’s Mayhem

Most importantly, I want my readers to understand that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved, that friendship can overcome misunderstanding, and that forgiveness is important, especially when it comes to forgiving yourself.

What’s next for you?

I have three more books coming this year! They’re all picture books: 

  • WHERE THREE OCEANS MEET, a story about a girl who travels with her mother and grandmother to Kanyakumari at the very tip of India, where three oceans meet, and what she learns along the way about the love and strength that mothers and daughters share across distance and time. This story is gorgeously illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan and releases on August 24, 2021 from Abrams Books for Young Readers
  • MY LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK ABOUT KAMALA HARRIS – a picture book biography of our incredible Vice President, illustrated by Ashley Evans and releasing August 31, 2021!
  • THE SECRET CODE INSIDE YOU, a rhyming nonfiction picture book about DNA, beautifully illustrated by Steven Salerno. This book introduces kids to the concept of DNA and genetics, but also touches on the limits of our genes and how our choices also help determine who we are. It releases September 14, 2021.
  • My next middle grade with Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins is about musical twin sisters who switch places at their summer camp. It will be out in 2022!

To connect with Rajani and learn more about her books:

Website: https://www.RajaniLaRocca.com Twitter: @rajanilarocca Instagram: @rajanilarocca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rajanilaroccawriter Clubhouse: @rlarocca

Welcome Author Ame Dyckman – Giveaway Alert (Twitter only!)

Today I am thrilled to welcome Ame Dyckman who has written some of the funniest picture books I’ve read. My favorite because it’s both funny and sweet, not to mention it celebrates dandelions which I love, is DANDY, illustrated by Charles Santoso. A perfect book for everyone and especially great for Father’s Day. My other favorite – yes, I’m allowed to have more than one favorite – WOLFIE THE BUNNY, illustrated by Zachariah OHora is an adorable story of dealing with a new sibling. If you haven’t read these, do yourself a favor and order them along with her June release, THE NEW KID HAS FLEAS, illustrated by Eda Kaban and her July release, TINY BARBARIAN illustrated by Ashley Spires.

Ame is generously offering a FREE PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE via phone to one lucky winner!

PLEASE NOTE FOR THIS GIVEAWAY ONLY: Check Ame’s Twitter account for details and easy (just-RT-to-enter) entry. Giveaway runs though 10 PM EST 6/12/21. GOOD LUCK!

You can follow Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman) for, as she puts it, “more book news, goofy poetry, photos of my squirrels, and pretty much EVERYTHING that pops into my head!”

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

Picture books are wonderfully for every age, but I’ll share something from when I was the especially fun picture book age of five-ISH. (When I was five-ISH, I was the pretty much the same as I am now except that I was shorter, wore slightly more polyester, and ate WAY more processed cheese as it was still the ’70s.) At the age of five-ISH (and even younger), I ADORED books. I loved to read books. I loved to just ADMIRE books. But around the age of five-ISH, I started to carry books around while being brought along on errands because I knew that at any point if the grown-ups had Terribly Boring Grown-Up Stuff To Do, I’d immediately have something FUN to do: *PLOP* wherever I was and read books! (And I still do this NOW!)

(I don’t have a photo of myself when I was five-ISH, so I just wrote ISH on my hand—in um, Sharpie—and took this selfie. Then while the Sharpie was still wet, I forgot AND TOUCHED MY FACE! These pitfalls of being an author were not discussed on Career Day.)

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by… EVERYTHING! Everything you can see, hear, feel, taste, or even SMELL (EW! HA!) can be inspiration for a character, plot, dialogue, etc. (I’m currently inspired by this Sharpie which REFUSES to wash off of my hand and face. PERSISTENCE! PERSISTENCE is a good book message!) But my favorite PLACES to soak up inspiration are the library, the woods, the beach, museums*, wildlife sanctuaries and good zoos, and amusement parks. (That last one’s basically a zoo for people. HA!) Spend a little observation time in any of those places and you’re bound to leave with lots of great story ideas!

*One of my upcoming projects was directly inspired by a family trip to one of the most marvelous places, the American Museum of Natural History in NYC! But wherever you like to go, GO OUT AND EXPERIENCE STUFF! Soak it in, reimagine it, and create something FUN!

What’s something you hope readers take away from your books?

A theme I try to include in all my books is: EVEN IF SOMEONE’S DIFFERENT FROM YOU, YOU CAN BE FRIENDS! I super-include this in my newest picture book, THE NEW KID HAS FLEAS, adorably and hilariously illustrated by the fabulously talented Eda Kaban! (Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan, pubbing next week on 6/15/21!) In this classroom acceptance story, a kid struggles to understand the different “New Kid” in class, who was raised by wolves—LITERALLY! When an afterschool project requires they work together at the new kid’s cave, our narrator has THE MOST DIFFERENT “somebody else’s house” experience ever—but ends up trying new things (and new foods!), making a new friend, and having a great time! We hope FLEAS’ readers (little AND big) will similarly embrace the idea of welcoming New Kids in their own classrooms, communities, and beyond! And PSST! I just got a peek at the FABULOUS free downloadable activity pages packet for THE NEW KID HAS FLEAS, and the good folks at Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan knocked it outta the park! There’s a New Kid Pledge (to be kind and include New Kids at school), a friendship qualities acrostic, FRIENDSHIP BRACELETS to cut out and share—these are seriously THE CUTEST thing!—and MORE! Seriously FUN with a seriously GOOD message!

What’s next for you?

I’m playing with MANY new ideas, and grateful for many new books! After FLEAS, my next picture book, TINY BARBARIAN (the first in the TINY BARBARIAN series), comes out in just a few short weeks (7/13/21) from HarperCollins! It’s ALSO adorably and hilariously illustrated by the ALSO fabulously talented Ashley Spires, and features a brave tot who uses imagination, borrowed household items, and the persona of an ’80s movie poster barbarian to conquer fears: backyard “monsters,” broccoli, even THE DARK! (Tiny’s barbarian cape is actually the little rug from around the toilet, so I imagine I’ll be wearing one of those, too!) We’ll dive into working on the next TINY BARBARIAN adventure soon! 

And… We just announced another upcoming picture book, HOW DINOSAURS WENT EXTINCT: A SAFETY GUIDE, illustrated by the ALSO-ALSO fabulously talented Jenn Harney (Little, Brown; 2023)! In this tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale, a parent “reveals,” during a family trip to the natural history museum—TOLD YOU! HA!—that nearly 30 different species of dinosaurs actually went extinct by doing the very things—chair tipping, etc.—parents repeatedly warn about. (And, it’s my first RHYMING book! For some reason, I “heard” this one in rhyme—long dinosaur names and all!) I just got a peek at Jenn’s human family character sketches, and they’re GENIUS—100% laugh-out-loud FUNNY!

I have other projects in the works, but I can’t chat about those yet. (ARGH!)

As far as life events, I’d really just love to take a nap! HA! But even when it’s crazy-paced like now, I wouldn’t trade making books for kids for anything. There are (hopefully!) some five-ISH kiddos counting on ME to make something fun THEY can *PLOP* down with! I can’t let ‘em down. So… YAY, COFFEE! I think I’ll have another!

THANKS for having me, Laura! THANKS for reading, EVERYBODY!

Thanks, Ame! It’s been wonderful having you here. Readers, please comment on the blog because it will make me happy and Ame will see your comments too, but don’t forget to follow Ame on Twitter and RT her giveaway post to enter.

Website: http://www.amedyckman.com

Winner Announcement 6/7/21

Congratulations to Evelyn Hornbarger winner of COW SAYS MEOW, from author Kirsti Call illustrated by Brandon James Scott.

Congratulations to Riya Zachariah who chose the critique from Phaea Crede, author of JET THE CAT (is NOT a CAT), illustrated by Terry Runyan in a “winner’s choice giveaway.”

Winners, please email me at Ljrwritenow @ Gmail.com so that I can connect you with the authors.

Don’t forget the other wonderful giveaways that are still available from Charlotte Offsay, Alice Feagan, Debra Scala, and Elizabeth Suneby. Comment on individual posts to enter. And stay tuned for a special giveaway tomorrow from Ame Dyckman.

Welcome Author Elizabeth Suneby – Giveaway Alert

Today I welcome Elizabeth Suneby who is the author of several books, but her most recent picture book, NO ROOM FOR A PUP! illustrated by Laurel Molk combines a few of my favorite things: puppies, yiddish, and folk tales. The main character, Mia wants nothing more than a pup, just as I did when I was a little girl. And as you can imagine, her parents say, “No!” just like my parents did. Until they finally gave in. I don’t give away book endings, so you’ll just have to read this to find out for yourself what happens with Mia.

Elizabeth has generously offered one lucky winner (US only) a copy of NO ROOM FOR A PUP! Make sure to comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

It is hard to tell you what my elementary school years felt like through my youthful eyes versus through my adult eyes looking back at my childhood, but one thing I am certain of. 

I WAS AFRAID OF DOGS.  As you might suspect, my family didn’t have a dog — despite the pleas and antics of my older brothers. A few of my friends did, but I stayed as far away as possible, especially from Susie’s German Shepard named Duke. To be honest, I don’t remember petting Robin’s miniature poodle Brandy even once and Robin and I were best friends in high school.  

I didn’t fall in love with dogs until my daughter and son wore me down when they were in 2nd and 5th grade and we got our first. Enter our Havanese pup EJ, named by my daughter Emma after her and her brother Josh. It was a Saturday that EJ arrived, and he was terrified. My husband took both kids to soccer practice and I sat on the kitchen floor (with a couple of treats) and let him wander over to me when he was ready. That was the start of our 24/7 attachment.

Elizabeth’s children with EJ

What’s one thing you hope your readers take away from your book?

NO ROOM FOR A PUP! is a modern, multi-cultural twist on a Yiddish folk tale popularized in the classic book published in the late 1970s: IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE. Think of it as “I want a dog” meets classic folk tale about gratitude. 

My collaborator Laurel Molk and I used humor to communicate the importance of inclusion (there’s always room for one more!) as well as gratitude. We also made sure that our protagonist solved her own problem by soliciting the help of an adult. (In the original tale, a rabbi solves the problem for the protagonist.). Our young protagonist takes initiative, perseveres, and is kind. How’s that for a role model?

Adults, please be forewarned. Reading NO ROOM FOR A PUP! could convince you to get a dog for the children in your life.

What’s next for you?

Well, I am trying to convince my husband to let us get another pup as EJ passed after a long and wonderful life!  Wish me luck.

As for my writing, I am working on several picture books, including one about valuing your unique self instead of longing to be like others and a bedtime read to calm children’s nighttime blues and fears with the reassurance that a bright tomorrow will greet them on the other side of sleep. Also, I hope I have good news to share about my STEM narrative non-fiction manuscript under review with a couple of agents about bringing an extinct plant back to life.

To connect with Elizabeth and learn more about her books:

Web site:  elizabethsuneby.com/books Instagram: elizabethsuneby

Facebook: Elizabeth Kellner Suneby Twitter: @pressed4words

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