Winner Announcements!

Congratulations to Annie Lynn/AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, winner of WHY IS MOMMY CRYING? signed by illustrator Heather Bell and written by I. Cori Baill, MD.

Congratulations to Jcamp2020 winner of IT WILL BE OKAY, A STORY OF EMPATHY, KINDNESS, AND FRIENDSHIP signed by author Lisa Katzenberger, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett.

Last call to Marcia Williams winner of a full picture book critique from Evelyn Bookless, author of CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE, illustrated by Danny Deeptown.

Winners, please email me ljrwritenow at so that I can connect you with the author/illustrator. Don’t forget to comment on other open giveaways for books by Lauren Kerstein, Claudia Mills, Stan Yan, Natasha Wing, and Joana Pastro.

Welcome Author Joana Pastro – Giveaway Alert

Today I welcome Joana Pastro whose wonderful, recently released picture book speaks to my heart, LILY BELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS. I love books with an empowering message, and when even the title made me smile … but wait until you see what’s inside. She has generously offered a copy to one lucky winner. Comment on the post to be entered in the raffle.

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

My nickname as a toddler was bionic baby, because I was always on the go. I was extremely active, and my mom says I talked non-stop! I spent most of my time with my imagination and playing make believe, but I remember also having quieter more introspective moments. I’ve always loved art and crafts, loved going to museums and watching musicals. My mom considered musicals the best sitter for me! When I was 8, I watched a week long Fred Astaire marathon on TV. 

What inspires you?

It’s such a cliché to say everything, but it’s true! But now that I’m thinking about this, I can say that most of my stories are inspired by either my childhood, like BISA’S CARNAVAL, or by art/history, like LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS. 

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

I want girls to see themselves in LillyBelle, and understand the power they have, and I really hope all children will be inspired to stand up for themselves and for others. The best feedback I got so far was a video from a three-year-old. When asked why she liked LillyBelle, she said, “Because she can do anything!” It was the cutest thing!

What can we look forward to next?

I have a couple of projects out on submission, which is always exciting. I’m working on several projects, including board books, a chapter book, and a novel. I’m keeping myself busy!

My second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, comes out in November 2nd, 2021 with Orchard Books. It’s set during Carnaval in Brazil, and it follows a little girl and her Bisa (great-grandmother) as they prepare for the parade. It’s all about family, love and celebrating what matters most.

Joana can be reached at: Twitter: @jopastro Instagram: @joanapastro Website:

Welcome Author Natasha Wing – Giveaway Alert for writers

Today, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend and all things love, I welcome best selling author, Natasha Wing. Her books include THE NIGHT BEFORE VALENTINE’S DAY and many other NIGHT BEFORE books plus the delightful, BAGEL IN LOVE, a sweet bakery love story. Natasha is generously offering a 15-minute Zoom “Ask the Author” chat where she will answer questions about writing, submitting, her books, etc. Perfect for writers! Comment on this post to be entered in the raffle.

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

I was a quiet, shy girl, well behaved, and I loved school. I still get excited over freshly sharpened yellow #2 pencils! My favorite books were Dr. Seuss (hence the rhyming stories I write now!) and I also liked Disney fairy tales. I grew up in Connecticut with pets: a gerbil named Ribbles, a white mouse with red eyes named Sherman, and a German Shepherd named Nicky. Now I have a cat named Purrsia.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by celebrations and the marking of time, so things like holidays and first days of school. (I admit I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to overlap holidays so when I walk into stores that have Valentine’s Day stuff out at Christmas, it gives me the willies.) I’m also inspired by women of strength who fought for something they felt was important to save. Like Jackie Kennedy Onassis when she helped save Grand Central Terminal from destruction. Or a story I’m working on now about a mob of matrons who protested the cutting down of the Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D.C. 

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

With my Night Before books I hope readers learn about different holidays and different ways to celebrate them. With my non-fictions I hope readers learn about little-known people and historic events. With Bagel In Love and my three joke books, that I like puns and being silly.

What can we look forward to next?

I’ve got four Night Befores coming out: The Night Before Summer Vacation Activity Book (May 2021), The Night Before the Dentist (June 2021), The Night Before Lunar New Year, and The Night Before Second Grade. I also have a fun book for toddlers in the pipeline called Squeak-a-boo! 

Natasha can be reached at:

Twitter: @NatashaWing Facebook:

Instagram: Website:

Charlie and Sienna – a Friendship Story for Valentiny Contest

Today I am sharing my entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny Contest.

Judging criteria will include:

  1. Kid-appeal/Kid-friendliness – remember, this is a story for kids!
  2. Creativity in using bravery and success in making us feel the bravery!
  3. Valentine’s Day appropriateness – this is a VALENTINE story!
  4. Quality of story – we will look for basic story elements and a true story arc
  5. Quality of writing – use and flow of language, correctness of mechanics, excellence of rhyme and meter if you use it, PROOFREADING!
  6. Originality – surprise us with something new and different!

Charlie and Sienna -A Friendship Story 211 words

Charlie loved his human, and when she left, he spent long, lonely hours waiting by the window.

As leaves landed on the porch, Charlie noticed Sienna.

She nibbled on the pumpkins. Charlie admired her tail, her delicate movements. He wished Sienna would notice him. But when the pumpkins disappeared, so did Sienna.

Charlie wondered if she would ever return. Had he missed his chance?

Snow swirled. Wind whirled. Charlie’s human couldn’t leave. 

Outside together, she shoveled while Charlie buried his face deep in the piles. The human made a snowdog near Charlie’s window. Carrot nose, pinecone eyes, and a bird seed mouth. She strung cranberries to create his leash. 

Once again inside, Charlie snoozed by the window. 

His ears perked. He blinked hard. Once. Twice. Sienna! 

Perched on her haunches, Sienna pressed her nose to the window. She turned to the snowdog. And back to Charlie. Sienna pulled the carrot up to the window and nibbled under Charlie’s adoring gaze. 

Had she noticed him all along? 

Time to make his move. 

Would she wait for him or run away? 

He mustered his courage and went out to the yard. He sat silently next to his snow counterpart, nudging the cranberry leash into a heart for Sienna.

Without a sound, friendship formed.

Welcome Author-Illustrator Stan Yan – Giveaway for Teachers

Today I am excited to share my interview with Stan Yan. He’s a wonderful member of my local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and we’ve crossed paths at many events supporting others as well as promoting our own work. As you can see from his profile, he’s a fun guy to work with. He visited the school where I was working as a mentor a few years ago so I saw him in action during a school visit and it was a real treat. He’s known for his caricatures and trust me when I say it’s fun to watch him create. He’s generously offering a FREE virtual school visit which includes a reading and interactive monster drawing demo. Comment on the post to be entered in the raffle.

What inspires you?

I’m definitely inspired by other artists and authors, but my primary inspiration is my family. There’s a Zombie in the Basement was originally inspired by my son when he wasn’t quite 4 years old when he wouldn’t come down to my basement studio. When his mom asked him what was wrong, he said he was scared. When she asked what he was scared of, he pointed at all the zombie caricature illustrations adorning my walls.

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

As an artist, Stan shared this photo of himself at 6 years old. It’s true that a picture paints a thousand words.

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

The message of my book and all of my school visits is the things we fear the most live in our imaginations, and sometimes learning about and getting to know your fears can help you reduce your fears, even if just a little bit. That’s why I included a page in the back of the book inviting readers to “draw a picture of what you’re afraid of.” I hoped that drawing that picture might help remove a layer of mystery from a reader’s fears. Since THERE’S A ZOMBIE IN THE BASEMENT has been out for a while, I was happy to find out that some child psychologists were using that page for play therapy for their patients, so I guess I was on the right track.

What can we look forward to next from you?

I’ve currently been in the process of developing some creepy children’s graphic novel projects, including one that features the zombie girl from There’s a Zombie in the Basement as its protagonist. In fact, her little brother already has his own comic strip, “Peter Cadaver” which has been running intermittently in the Sunday Ha Ha online comics page for kids (

Stan can be reached at: Twitter: @stan_yan Facebook: @stanyanart

Instagram: @zombicatures website:

Winner Announcements!

Congratulations to Yangmommy (Jenny Buchet) winner of a signed copy of Carrie Finison’s book DON’T HUG DOUG, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

Congratulations to Marcia Williams winner of a full picture book critique from Evelyn Bookless, author of CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE, illustrated by Danny Deeptown

Winners, please email me ljrwritenow at so I can connect you with the authors. There are some other awesome giveaways still open – make sure to comment on posts featuring illustrator Heather Bell, author Lisa Katzenberger, author Lauren Kerstein, and author Claudia Mills. And look for new book posts every Tuesday and Saturday!

Welcome Author Claudia Mills – Giveaway Alert

Today’s guest is both a wonderful writer and a very dear friend. I met Claudia at a local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) when I was new to Colorado. To be honest, didn’t have many friends at the time, so when Claudia was introduced as the guest speaker and called ‘someone anyone would be lucky to call friend,’ my heart was hopeful. Well, I am lucky, because since that time we’ve become very good friends indeed. Claudia has generously offered to give the first three books in her series AFTER-SCHOOL SUPERSTARS to one lucky winner. Comment on the blog to be entered to win and Retweet and share on Facebook for more chances.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?
The After-School Superstars series is targeted to third-grade-ish readers. When I was that age, I loved school. I really, truly did. I loved school so much that I even crossed off the days of summer vacation until school would start again in September. It wasn’t so much that I loved learning, though I did and still do (I grew up to have a day job as a philosophy professor, after all). I loved all the side adventures of school: intense friendships, comic misbehavior, field trips (ooh!), and recess play. With the last name of Mills, I acquired the nickname, inspired by the cereal company, of General Mills, so I created my own playground army with only one other member, my friend Kimmie, who had to serve as private under my command for my planned skirmishes with the boys. I loved it all! As a result I have published dozens of school stories, so many that I decided it was time, with this new series, to branch out to after-school stories, set in an after-school program of my own invention that offers much of what I loved about school, (minus tests and grades!).

An adorable Claudia Mills in third grade

What inspires you?

In crafting stories, I am inspired so heavily by memories of my own intensely remembered childhood experiences: a best friend who betrayed me by liking someone else better (the seed of Nixie Ness, Cooking Star); fears of disappointing my mother’s expectations of me (the seed of Vera Vance, Comics Star); irritation when my one-year-younger-than-me sister “copied” me in any way (the seed of Lucy Lopez, Coding Star). I remember these feelings as if they happened yesterday and write to find my own way of working through them decades later.

What is something you hope your readers take away from reading your books?

Of course, first and foremost I hope young readers just have fun vicariously engaging in the after-school camp activities I’ve created: cooking and baking, making their own comic books, and exploring the challenges of computer coding. But I always hope they will learn some small-but-important truth about the world, and about themselves. I share only truths that I myself had to struggle to learn: that it’s all right to have more than one “best” friend (Nixie Ness); that it’s worth it to try to find a way to help others understand what you love and why you love it (Vera Vance); or that you are allowed to love what you love even if someone else (such as a bossy big sister!) thinks she has first claim on loving it (Lucy Lopez). 

What can we look forward to next?

I’m excited that the fourth and final After-School Superstars book comes out in August of this year: Boogie Bass, Sign Language Star. But I’m REALLY excited that after publishing several chapter book series over the past decade (including Franklin School Friends, the Nora Notebooks, and now After-School Superstars), I ventured into completely new territory for me by trying the literary form of the verse novel. My first verse novel – The Lost Language – will be published this October by Holiday House. I have fallen head over heels in love with learning how to write verse novels! So I guess, like my childhood self, I do still love learning new things. 

Claudia can be reached at: Twitter:  @claudia_cmills Facebook: Claudia Mills

Instagram: claudiamillsauthor Website:

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