Welcome Author Anna Harber Freeman – Giveaway Alert!

Today’s guest is one of my dear critique partners, Anna Harber Freeman. I remember when she first shared an early draft of SHAPED BY HER HANDS: POTTER MARIA MARTINEZ. There is nothing like having a front row seat to the process of write, revise, and repeat until a manuscript becomes a beautiful book. Anna and I have been there for each other as we get feedback from others, write for contests, pitch parties, and of course meet in person and now virtually with our local picture book partners.

Anna is offering a copy of SHAPED BY HER HANDS: POTTER MARIA MARTINEZ written with Barbara Gonzalez and illustrated by Aphelandra or her first book, LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING illustrated by Jed Henry, or a picture book critique, winner’s choice giveaway. Comment on this post to enter.

Anna Harber Freeman with Barbara Gonzalez

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

This is a photo of me at age 4 or 5, reading with my grandmother. She was a librarian at the Denver Public Library, and a member of the Osage Nation, and inspired me in so many ways, especially with books! I’ve loved to read, write, and draw as long as I can remember. At that age I was also very curious and sensitive.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by kids, nature, strong and creative women from history, and wondering, “What if?”

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

I hope my books feel timeless. I hope LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING makes readers feel warm and fuzzy, while I hope SHAPED BY HER HANDS: POTTER MARIA MARTINEZ will inspire readers to create, and expand their knowledge and definition of art and artists.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on more picture book biographies, more board books, and a middle grade mystery. I will also continue teaching Art and Art History for grades K-12.

To connect with Anna and learn more about her books:

Twitter: @AnnaHarberFree          

Website: annaharberfreeman.com

Welcome Author Carmela LaVigna Coyle – Giveaway Alert!

My guest today is the very dear Carmela LaVigna Coyle who I am lucky to have shared the stage at a collaborative space themed story time event as we read CAN PRINCESSES BECOME ASTRONAUTS? and ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. She has inspired me as a picture book writer, we’ve bonded over our love of nature and photography, and I can’t wait until we can see each other again in person! Carmela is the author of the successful series, DO PRINCESSES … illustrated by Mike Gordon.

Carmela is generously offering a signed 1st edition of DO PRINCESSES WEAR HIKING BOOTS? or CAN PRINCESSES BECOME ASTRONAUTS? Comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

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

I was a twirler around the age of my target audience. Not a baton or flag twirler (that came later), but rather, I twirled and spun in place to music, usually to my mom’s classical choice of the day. But, I mostly recall being a quiet observer, ever watchful for the simple and the complex. My recollections from those early days always include nature—a bobbing branch, the scent of fresh peat, clouds easing across the sky. To this day, I call on some of those early nature memories when searching for just the right word or ambience. I was raised by artists so there was a lot of encouragement for creative expression.

Carmela, age 4 with her brother

What inspires you?

Inspiration has a better chance of snagging my attention IF I’ve had a good night’s sleep. And if I’ve been following a decent routine, which includes daily yoga and meditation. Sometimes after a hearty walk in nature, I can’t get home fast enough to jot down what I just saw. Of course my children inspire me, and even as young adults, they still say enormous things! But it’s also the little things—tiny treasures, a blade of sunlight, a spring sprout pushing skyward. Inspiration might come from something someone says that tickles me. Reading picture books inspires me. Music inspires me (remember twirling?), particularly Vaughn Williams, Respighi, Carwithen, Irish Folk, Georgian Chant. Hah, I guess inspiration wears many disguises. 

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

Almost like magic, the DO PRINCESSES series, illustrated by Mike Gordon, has spanned eighteen years so far. Yep, that lil’ princess on the pages of a book can now legally vote! Since the very beginning though, my hopes and wishes for my young readers have been the same—to love yourself, love others, be kind, be brave, dream, ask questions, explore…

What’s next for you?

This question gives me tingles. Because there’s always hope in the pipeline. Currently, it’s a bit unknown if there will be any future DO PRINCESSES titles, but my latest PBs are spinning me in a fun new direction. Muddy Boots Books has acquired my informational-fiction picture book, SOMETHING SPECTACULAR, the story follows a behemoth hunk of sandstone on its 250-million-year journey through time and erosion to become something spectacular. Nope, it’s not a diamond. Or a ruby. It’s something even more spectacular. [Winky face] 

I’m also looking forward to a few upcoming life events like hugging my kids again; sitting eye to eye on the couch with my mom; going for coffee with my sis. Simple pleasures have become the “new” life events. 

To connect with Carmela and learn more about her books:

Twitter: @carmelacoyle FB: carmela.coyle IG: carmelalavignacoyle Website: www.carmelacoyle.com

Welcome Author-Illustrator Julie Rowan Zoch

Today I am please to share my interview with Julie Rowan Zoch who has two recent releases. LOUIS, which she illustrated, written by Tom Lichtenheld and I’M A HARE, SO THERE! her author-illustrator debut. I read LOUIS over FaceTime to my daughter and granddaughter and it was a huge hit. We all laughed from beginning to end, and if that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. I’ve only read excerpts of I’M A HARE, SO THERE! but I look forward to getting my hands on it soon. Julie is offering a copy of I’M A HARE, SO THERE! to one lucky winner (US only) so don’t forget to comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

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

I was curious, confident, and luckily a very happy child at that age. I loved school, hated homework, and was probably a bit of a terror for my teachers as I liked to talk. A lot! Not very different from the main character, Jack!

Julie (at about 7yrs old) and her dear Uncle George who recently passed

What inspires you?

I’m pretty easily inspired: from the sound of  burrowing owl babies when they are afraid (do look it up!), the genius of Dvořák, the smell of freshly ground cardamom, or how spring leaves look against a slate gray sky. 

What do you hope readers take away from your books?

I would hope that readers feel inspired to read more about animals – or anything in the natural world!

What’s next for you?

 No new contract at the moment, so I will readwriteeatsleepdraw, repeat! (Except when I’m at work in the bookstore!)

You can find out more about Julie and her books:

Julie is on Twitter @JulieRowanZoch, Instagram @jzroch and her Blog.

Sneak peek of the interior of I’M A HARE, SO THERE!

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 

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