Winner Announcement – 3/29/21

Congratulations to Rina Singh winner of the giveaway from Julie Abery.

Congratulations to Kendra Dillon, winner of Norene Paulson’s book WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?

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

Welcome Author Nina Chapman – Giveaway Alert!

Today we have an interview with author Nina Chapman who will make you laugh and cheer as she shares the challenges of releasing a book and teaching during the pandemic. Her middle grade book, MICAH MCKINNEY AND THE BOYS OF SUMMER, which released a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic, is only part of an exciting giveaway that includes a signed copy of MICAH MCKINNEY AND THE BOYS OF SUMMER and a swag bag chockfull of goodies from the author. Comment on the blogpost to enter the giveaway.

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

I was a lot like Micah, the main character of my novel. I was a tomboy and I loved playing outside. You could always find me out riding my bike barefoot around the neighborhood, looking for other kids to play with or shenanigans to get into. 

I grew up on a street full of boys and together we made up lots of games that we would play in our front yards and in the street. When I started writing MICAH MCKINNEY AND THE BOYS OF SUMMER, I wanted to really tap into that nostalgic feeling I get when I think about my childhood. Everytime I smell fresh cut grass or sunblock, I’m brought back to those long summer days and all of the fun that we had. I wanted that to be the backdrop of this book and for readers to feel the way that I felt as I wandered the neighborhood having adventures. 

Once I started writing from Micah’s perspective all of the insecurities that I had during that time came to the surface for Micah. Eventually, I had to dig into why she was so awkward and insecure at the beginning of the book and in doing so I had to ask myself, why I was so awkward. Why did I feel the way that I did?  A lot of that boiled down to the loss of my mom. There were a lot of secrets that surrounded her death which over time lended itself to shame.

I never really talked about my mom to my friends. Like Micah, I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. So I was surprised when her death began to pop up in my writing. I tried to hold it at bay, only briefly mentioning it and instead focusing more on the fun stuff, the crushes and the shenanigans. As the story progressed it kept coming up, and seemingly without my permission it ended up playing a bigger and bigger role in the plot of the book. 

As the story took a life of its own, it became clear that this part of me was begging to be worked out. It was like the girl that I was, had come back to life and was begging for me to write a book just for her. A book that would help her feel a little less alone in the world during this time in her life.

When reading the book you will notice Micah’s transformation as she opens up and allows herself to be vulnerable to her friends. What you don’t see is the transformation that happened behind the scenes as I transformed right alongside her. 

What inspires you?

Inspiration pops up everywhere! I can be going on a walk and notice the way the sun hits the fence or a scent that lingers in the air and I’ll want to include it in my writing. 

Music plays a major role in my writing as well. I have a playlist for everything I write. My oldest daughter, Bridget, and I always talk about the songs we’ve found and the stories they’ve inspired within us. 

Micah McKinney and the Boys of Summer- Spotify Playlist

It’s now even a part of my writing routine. Before a writing session I will listen to the music that reminds me of my story and I’ll daydream while I workout, just imagining what is going to happen with my characters in that day’s writing. (I probably make the weirdest faces when this is happening.) I can rarely write without it. Especially in the beginning when a story is first starting to manifest itself.

My students also inspire me. I’m a middle school Drama teacher and I just love seeing kids as they navigate their way through these formative years. I have students who have no idea how awesome they are, and I just love watching them grow into themselves before they head into high school. It’s the struggles they go through that inspire me most and the growth they have as they navigate their way through it all.

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

The biggest compliment I get is just how relatable the book is. One reader told me, “It was almost scary, like you were sharing all of my secrets!”

That’s what I wanted. I wanted my readers to feel like they aren’t alone in it all… the struggles, the insecurities, the flaws and the mistakes that come with being a human. That’s life, without those things you aren’t really living.

The biggest take away I would like for my readers to get from reading this book is to just embrace who you are, flaws, struggles, mistakes and all!  It may not always be pretty, but when you are true to yourself everything falls into alignment. You meet the people you were meant to meet. You learn the lessons that were meant to help you grow the most. It’s within the struggle that you find your strength and you can’t find that if you are too busy hiding from who you are.

What’s next for you?

The one year anniversary of my book is April 1st. Yes, my debut book came out on April Fools Day during a global pandemic. (Happy Debut Day… nope, nope. Nevermind. April Fools!) I was devastated by all of the cancelled plans at first, but have now embraced it as part of my author’s journey. I’m going to celebrate the one year anniversary by first doing a public reading as part of the Neal Cross Lecture Series at the University of Northern Colorado on March 25th at 7:00. Note from Laura, this event already happened and I’m hoping it was recorded so that we can access it.

Then I’m going on an epic road trip with my daughters to celebrate all of the things we couldn’t celebrate this past year (book releases, birthdays, graduations). It’ll just be us, our masks and our adventurous spirits, navigating the wild west and entertaining the stories that live in our heads along the way. 

This summer I am looking forward to connecting to readers with some fun summer resources and activities that I have planned. As a teacher I’m also looking forward to getting a respite from teaching through the toughest year a teacher could possibly teach through. I’ll have the breathing room to get back into my writing routine. Meaning, I’ll be able to hang out with the voices in my head, and not once will I have to tell them that their dad is changing his pants in the background of our zoom call or that they need to unmute themselves! 

If you’d like to connect with Nina and find out more about her books:

Instagram- @nina.nevada.chapman

Website- ninachapman.com 

Welcome Author Fleur Bradley – Giveaway Alert

I am so happy to share my interview with Fleur Bradley, author of MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL, illustrated by Xavier Bonet, a mystery set at a location similar to The Stanley Hotel, a favorite spot to visit with friends from out of town. Even though I’ve never seen The Shining, I’ve been to The Stanley Hotel several times and loved reading this book. I met Fleur in a workshop she led at a local SCBWI conference and have since read her DOUBLE VISION series – a fabulous MG series for reluctant readers, and as a reading specialist, I can say it engaged my struggling students from the first page. That series is published under F.T. Bradley and I highly recommend it.

Fleur has generously offered one lucky winner a signed copy of MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL, so be sure to comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

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

I grew up in the Netherlands and had a pretty awesome childhood. I was full of dreams and adventure at the age of my target reader. I liked to go off on my bike and catch tadpoles with my friends, I loved to act (see this photo of me in the sixth-grade play) and do silly voices to make my older sister laugh, and of course I loved to read… I dreamed of the BFG from Roald Dahl’s book coming to take me away for some fun.  

What inspires you?

Sometimes it’s music (lately, Hamilton has been our favorite sing-along in the car), sometimes it’s a trip to the museum. Oftentimes, I’m inspired by setting: for MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL a family ghost hunting trip to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO certainly inspired a lot of plot elements in the book. I try to jot down ideas I have, squirreling them away for use in a (book) project later. I have an actual Book of Ideas—I look at that whenever I’m looking for inspiration.

The kids I meet during author visits are also a great inspiration. I listen to what they like, what books they’re into, what makes them laugh… As a middle-grade author, it’s important to connect to your reader, I think.

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

I really, really hope that MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL gets kids hooked on reading mysteries. I wrote the book as an introduction to the traditional mystery and detection (finding motive, means, and opportunity), basically an Agatha Christie-type mystery for kids. So far, the feedback from parents, teachers, and kids has been really positive. I always love to hear if readers of MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL saw the twist(s) coming…

What’s next for you?

I’m working on another spooky middle-grade mystery, but it’s still top-secret…! All I can say is that there are lots of ghosts in it, and another murder mystery. Stay tuned! 

In the meantime, I’m honored to be hosting my session Reaching the Reluctant Reader at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival on April 16th; find out more here (and educators can sign up to join for free): Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival | The University of Southern Mississippi (usm.edu)

To connect with Fleur and learn more about her books:

Twitter: Fleur Bradley-MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL (MG) (@FTBradleyAuthor) / Twitter

Instagram: Fleur Bradley (@fleurbradley) • Instagram photos and videos

Facebook: (2) Fleur Bradley | Facebook

Winner Announcement 3/22/21

Congratulations to Jennifer Crump, winner of ME + TREE signed by the author Alex Giardino, illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso.

Congratulations to Heather Bell, winner of WISH LIBRARY SNOW DAY IN MAY signed by author Christine Evans, illustrated by Patrick Corrigan.

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

Don’t forget there are still amazing giveaways from Norene Paulson, Julie Abery, Ellen Leventhal, and Valerie Bolling. Coming this week: Fleur Bradley and Nina Chapman!

Welcome Author Valerie Bolling – Giveaway Alert

Today I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with author Valerie Bolling, author of LET’S DANCE! illustrated by Maine Diaz. If you know me, you know dancing is one of my favorite activities so when I first heard about Valerie’s book, I did a happy dance! Valerie has generously offered a 15 minute phone conversation about queries and the publishing industry with one lucky winner. Comment on this post to enter and please share this blog on your social media.

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

I was a child who loved to learn, play, and create. I enjoyed reading, writing, and playing games with my cousins and friends. In many ways, my interests have remained the same. I still love to read, write, and spend time with my husband and friends. 

Based on my book, Let’s Dance!, you may be wondering if I danced a young child. I didn’t; that came later. I danced for the first time at my best friend’s Sweet Sixteen party, and I took my first dance classes at college. 

What inspires you?

By keeping an open mind, inspiration for me can come from anywhere. I love when it arrives in ways and places where I’m not expecting it and ends up in my writing!

The inspiration for Let’s Dance! came from my observations. I’ve noticed that when music enters the scene, people – regardless of age or background – start to move. Babies who can barely walk will sway and/or raise their hands. When my nieces, Anyah and Zorah, were two and four, they danced while brushing their teeth. Now at ages six and eight, they still love to dance! 

My next book, Together We Ride, was inspired by all the children I saw riding bikes during my daily “mental health walks” in the spring of 2020. I often saw Maeve, a five-year-old girl, whose mother shared with me that she had just learned how to ride a bike.

Most recently, I was inspired by the Biden/Harris inauguration and wrote two articles. One explores the question: How does Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb, model for us why teachers should teach poetry and, perhaps more importantly, why students should write their own poems? The other, Why Children Need To See Themselves in Books, is about the diversity that was on display at the inauguration and why children need to see themselves as an integral part of the human experience.

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

As I say on my website, “I want all children to feel at home in a book.” I hope readers take away from my books a feeling of joy and connection and a sense that they belong, are worthy, and are part of a larger community.

What can we look forward to next?

Together We Ride is coming in Spring 2022 and Together We Swim in Spring 2023; both will be published by Chronicle. Two more, currently unannounced, books are scheduled for 

release in Fall 2022 and Fall 2023, and I hope to be able to share those titles soon. I also have several other projects in the works, so, hopefully, there will be more good news to share in the near future.

You can find out more about Valerie and her books:

Website: valeriebolling.com
Twitter: twitter.com/valerie_bolling Instagram: instagram.com/valeriebollingauthor 

Welcome Author Ellen Leventhal – Giveaway Alert!

Today I get to share my interview with Ellen Leventhal who is a wonderful author and member of the kidlit writing community. I’m not sure when or how we first connected, but I’m glad we did. I enjoyed her first two books and her new book, A FLOOD OF KINDNESS, illustrated by Blythe Russo is a gorgeous book that will touch your heart and inspire kindness. Ellen is offering a signed copy to one lucky winner. Please leave a comment to enter the giveaway and share this post widely to encourage others to find this wonderful book.

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

When I was a child, I was quiet and spent a lot of time imagining. I recently spoke to a childhood friend who reminded me how I used to make up stories with our dolls. Coincidently, a few days later, I found this picture of me with some dolls. I remember this day, even though it was over 60 years ago! (I rarely let anyone take a picture of me.) I had just given all the dolls part in a play I made up. If I recall, I gave the smallest doll the biggest part. I was the young one in my family, and I never wanted any attention on me, so I gave it to my dolls. 

What inspires you?

I think life experiences inspire me the most as far as what I write. The experience can be life- altering like a loss of some kind or something as small as finding a leaf on the ground. I also mine ideas from my childhood. It helps me make sure I connect with the feelings of children. Sometimes just observing children will spark a memory or an idea, and I go from there. 

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

For A FLOOD OF KINDNESS, I want to validate children’s feelings of anger and sadness as well as empower them with the knowledge that they are not powerless. I hope the takeaway is that a small act of kindness (both given and accepted) can help everyone on their road to healing. 

What can we look forward to next?

Well, I do have something in that “private publishing pipeline.” I recently signed a contract for a new picture book that I’m excited about, but I can’t announce it yet. I’m also working on a chapter book that kind of wants to be a middle grade, so I’ll see where that goes. As far as life events, I’m just looking forward to the time I can do in person school visits and travel again.  

To connect with Ellen and learn more about her books:

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/EllenLWrites INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/ellenl411/

 FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/ellen.w.leventhal

FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/Ellen-Leventhal-Writer-976247352488082

Winner Announcements 3/15/21

Congratulations to Donna Rossman winner of Vivian Kirkfield‘s 30 minute zoom chat!

Congratulations to Paula Obering winner of Martha Freeman‘s book NOAH MCNICHOL AND THE BACKSTAGE GHOST!

Winners, please email me Ljrwritenow at Gmail so that I can connect you with the winner. If you haven’t entered other open giveaways, check out interviews with Alex Giardino, Christine Evans, Norene Paulson, and Julie Abery! And look for upcoming interviews with Ellen Leventhal, Fleur Bradley, Nina Chapman, and Julie Rowan Zoch later this month.

Welcome author Julie Abery – Giveaway Alert

Julie and I met in 2019 as part of a picture book debut group. Even though we are geographically 5000 miles apart, we have grown close through the wonders of technology. Hopefully one day, I’l be able to travel to Switzerland again and meet her in person. She’s been a fabulous critique partner, and we’ve shared the joys and challenges in our lives over the past two years. Julie is a marvel at writing sparse text and recently published the fifth and sixth board books in her LITTLE ANIMALS series, LITTLE PENGUIN and LITTLE ZEBRA. Julie is generously offering one winner a copy of LITTLE PENGUIN or a picture book critique. Winner’s choice! Please include which prize you would prefer in the comments!

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

with my first little animal friend

This was taken in my Grandma’s garden, where I remember spending many happy days. I don’t remember if Dog had a name, but I do remember he was the only doggie I wasn’t afraid of back then – the stuffed kind! 

What inspires you?

My inspiration often comes from story time with my students and their captivated little faces, but it can also be sparked by a series of photos in the news, which inspire me to write a story for them. I try to keep myself open to ideas popping up in the strangest of places!

What do you hope your readers take away from your books?

I hope that they love the rhyme and rhythm of the Little Animal Friends series and the adorable art as much as I do! As a former ESL teacher, picture books offering rhyme, rhythm, and repetition were definitely my go-to books.

What can we look forward to next?

I have another NF poem picture book bio releasing on 4th May with Kids Can Press. Sakamoto’s Swim Club, illustrated by the super talented Chris Sasaki, is the story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics! 
To connect with Julie and learn more about her books:

Website: https://littleredstoryshed.wordpress.com/

Twitter and Instagram: @juliedawnabery Facebook: julieabery

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