Welcome Author Lauren Kerstein – Giveaway Alert

Today my very special guest is Lauren Kerstein. She is a wonderful critique partner, friend, and an amazing human being. Her latest book, HOME FOR A WHILE, is the perfect marriage of her talents as a psychotherapist and picture book author. HOME FOR A WHILE is out in the world today, yes TODAY! I am thrilled to share my interview with Lauren on her book birthday. Cheers to Lauren, her main character Calvin, and the talented illustrator Natalia Moore. I’ll be baking chocolate cake to celebrate.

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

As a child, I was curious, LOVED Pippi-Longstocking, and wanted to please everyone. I lived in my imagination a lot and even pretended catkins or aments (those worm-like thingies that fall off trees) were seahorses. I filled up my baby pool for them so that they had a place to swim. I just loved my “seahorses.” 

I think in many ways, I was just a miniature version of adult me. In retrospect, I was fairly introverted and a little unsure, like Calvin. I think I loved Pippi because I wanted to be bold and courageous like her. My character, Rosie the dragon, definitely comes from the Pippi side of my brain, not the Charlie or Calvin side! As a rule-following child/adult, it was cathartic to write about Calvin and Charlie, and freeing to write about Rosie!

Adorable picture of Lauren as a child

What inspires you?

I am inspired by so many things: books I read, spending time with my daughters, taking walks, reading interesting articles, hiking with my husband, daughters, and rescue pup, the poetry of good music, the healing qualities of nature, a crystal-clear blue sky, the smell of firewood burning on a cold winter night, a ladybug who lands on my leg. I try to look at the world with more awe than fear (although that is hard at times.) I love to see silver linings, and the good in people. If I approach my day with an open heart, the day is always brighter. 

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

My biggest goal, both as a therapist and as an author, is to add more joy to children (and people’s) lives. I would love my readers to walk away from my books with more warmth in their hearts, more hope, and the knowledge that there is so much to feel good about in the world. If my readers laugh along the way, all the better! I also want my readers to walk away feeling enriched by spending time with my characters. I want them to feel like they made new friends.

Lauren’s picture books

What can we look forward to next?

I have a number of books in various stages of development, from out on submission to simply a good idea, and everything in between. I am working on fiction picture books, informational fiction picture books, and nonfiction picture book biographies. Some of my books tend toward a more humorous approach, while others are more heartfelt. (Although I hope the humorous books are heartfelt as well.) I am turning a YA into an adult novel slowly but surely, have another YA waiting for attention, have a middle grade begging to be crafted, and another one requesting a revision.

I can’t wait to celebrate HOME FOR A WHILE with Natalia (and you) at our virtual launch party on February 7th. 

In the meantime, I love running my critique business, hosting #ReVISIONweek, and “judging” stories with Rate Your Story. I grow so much as a writer when I work with other writers!

Lauren can be reached at: Twitter and Instagram @LaurenKerstein

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenkersteinauthor Website: www.LaurenKerstein.net

Lauren has generously offered a copy of HOME FOR A WHILE and some book swag. Comment on the post and share on social media to be entered to win.

Winners for more giveaways Congratulations!

Congratulations to Anna Harber Freeman, winner of ALONE, by Megan E. Freeman!

Congratulations to Tiffany Painter, winner of PICTURE BOOK SCIENCE SERIES: ADAPTATIONS, by Laura Perdew!

Congratulations to Melissa Darrow, winner of THE POLIO PIONEER, by Linda Elovitz Marshall.

Winners, please email me at ljrwritenow at gmail.com and I’ll connect you with the authors.

Melissa, this is the second announcement. Please email me soon.

Reminder to comment on current and upcoming giveaways including:

DON’T HUG DOUG signed by author Carrie Finison

A picture book critique by Evelyn Bookless, author of CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE

WHY IS MOMMY CRYING? signed by illustrator Heather Bell

IT WILL BE OKAY, A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship, signed by author Lisa Katzenberger

Welcome Author Lisa Katzenberger – Giveaway Alert

Lisa Katzenberger

Today Lisa Katzenberger joins me to share her second picture book IT WILL BE OKAY, A STORY OF EMPATHY, KINDNESS, AND FRIENDSHIP, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett. If you ask me, we could all use a bit more of that. I haven’t read this book yet, but I can’t wait to see it. Lisa is generously offering a signed copy (US only) of her book to one lucky winner. Commenting on the post will enter you in the raffle.

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

I was reading, reading, reading. I went to the library at least once a week with my mom, more in the summer. I was kind of nerdy, loved school, and was a bit of a tomboy. I’d rather play baseball with my brother and his friends than play Barbies.

What inspires you?

Right now, it’s my kids. The funny way they see the world, how they work hard at school, the questions they ask. I also want to demonstrate to them that if you work hard and keep at it, you really can make your dreams come true.

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

I want kids to know that to be a good friend, you don’t have to fix the person’s problems. Just listening and staying with them can be enough.

What is next for you?

I have a few picture books out on submission, as well as a chapter book. I hope those get picked up soon! But in the meantime I just keep writing. As far as life events, I am hopeful for a return to full-time school in the Fall and more writing time!

Lisa’s first book released in 2020

Lisa can be reached at:

Twitter @FictionCity Facebook and Instagram lisakatz17 Pinterest LisaKatzenbergerKidLit

website www.lisakatzenberger.com

Welcome Illustrator Heather Bell – Giveaway Alert

Today I welcome illustrator Heather Bell, to the blog. We met in 2019 as part of a picture book debut group of authors and illustrators and I’m a big fan of her debut MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER.

From her bio: Heather Bell whole-heartedly believes that hidden within our everyday lives is a secret realm glimpsed through books, music, and children’s laughter. Holding a BFA in Painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, she is a member of SCBWI, a participant in the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, a Children’s Book Academy graduate, and a mommy. When not illustrating and writing, she searches out story ideas as an undercover school bus driver.  Heather Bell is an author/illustrator represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez at Olswanger Literary Agency. 

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

I’m a pretty quiet person now, but back in early elementary days, I was an adventure junky who was always making big plans (and had no issues with saying anything on my mind). With my little brother by my side, we explored as far as we were allowed to go (and sometimes farther). Riding bikes around the block, we had to watch out for giant tomato plants ready to snatch any slow-riders while zigzagging around the inhabitants of lizard crossing. I loved to make up stories even before I could write. And when I was stuck at my mom’s work, I would hijack the spiral binding machine and make my own scribble story books. 

Heather at six years old

What inspires you?

My son inspires me most. My mom (usually when super frustrated) used to say, “I hope you get one just like you!” Yup. That happened. But it’s definitely more blessing than curse. We enjoy a lot of the same things together, like climbing trees, campfires, and exploring the neighborhood. I love having him pick out new MGs with me to read at night (they are full of inspiration for me and have an extra perk for him as I tend to get caught up and continue reading WAY past his bedtime). Just hanging out with him when he tells me about his day or the new game he’s playing gives my mind lots of room to wander and think about situations from different perspectives. 

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

I have illustrated two picture books. My debut, MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER, written by the amazing Jolene Gutiérrez came out August 2020. And out this January is WHY IS MOMMY CRYING—explaining early pregnancy loss to young children written by the brilliant I. Cori Baill, MD. I hope both books leave the reader feeling that they are understood and that it’s okay to ask questions. In Mac and Cheese, the main character Oliver just wants his classmates to know he cares. It takes effort, but in the end, he finds a way. In WIMC, the main character Max is scared because he notices his mother is upset and wants to know why. I hope these books offer ways to see the world through other perspectives and can be used as springboards for discussion. 

Heather is generously offering a signed copy of her second book, WHY IS MOMMY CRYING? for the giveaway. Please comment on the blogpost to be entered to win.

What’s next for you?

I am currently reworking a dummy that I hope to have on submission soon. I had planned to do a few tweaks, but inspiration hit over winter break and I thought…why not do a total overhaul? I am open to commissions and love working on freelance projects to keep a variety of ideas flowing. Also, I’m following along with Tara Lazar’s Storystorm and hope to turn a few of the story seeds into full grown drafts. 

Heather can be reached at:

Twitter: @heatherbell37 Instagram: @heather.bell37

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heather.bell.3344913

Website: https://heatherbellbooks.com/

Winners for the first two giveaways!

Congratulations to Jilanne Hoffmann, winner of Samantha Cleaver’s book RAISING AN ACTIVE READER.

Congratulations to Melissa Darrow, winner of Linda Elovitz Marshall’s book THE POLIO PIONEER.

Winners, please email me at ljrwritenow at gmail.com and I’ll connect you with the authors!

Reminder to comment on the current book giveaways: ALONE by Megan E. Freeman, ANIMAL ADAPTATIONS by Laura Perdew, and DON’T HUG DOUG by Carrie Finison. Also, a critique giveaway from Evelyn Bookless, author of CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE.

Welcome Author Evelyn Bookless – Critique Giveaway

On today’s blog, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Evelyn Bookless as we celebrate the release of her second picture book, CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE. If you missed her first book, CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE, go ahead and order both of them now from your favorite indie book store, while I eat some Book Birthday Cake.

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

Hi Laura, Thanks so much for having me on your blog. What a super question! I was a pretty placid child all around, well, at least I think so. Growing up with three siblings close in age, meant that we all just got on with it. We played and entertained ourselves and had a whale of a time doing so. We got up to all sorts of adventures in the trees at the back of our house. (I grew up in the country in the west of Ireland.) I also loved learning and used to pour over a non-fiction book I had about the environment. That book gave me my first awareness of pollution and endangered species and I was outraged, in my own innocent way. Here’s a photo of me with my mother and siblings. I am sitting in between my two older brothers.

What inspires you?

I get inspired by spending time with my son, who is seven. Little things that he says and does give me story ideas. Our two pet rabbits also inspire / entertain me with fun ideas. I have a chapter book series featuring them planned out – It’s Bagel and Cream Cheese: Bunny Detectives. No Case Too Small! Their antics do make us giggle but I’m not sure if I will ever flesh out those ideas, as I prefer to write picture books. I am also inspired by days out and travel which sadly were curtailed over the past year. I work part-time as a Special Education Teacher in a mainstream international school and I get lots of ideas from the children that I help.  I work with children aged from 5 to 11 so I have a good feel for the differing interests of children at various stages. I love that ideas come from anywhere and everywhere and I try to jot them down on my phone as soon as I can or they vanish.

And here is a photo of my son and I. He transforms into a super Captain Green when I need him to, and relishes in his role as my little book buddy.

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

CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE GREEN MACHINE launched in the US on January 18th. I have had some lovely support from a number of tree conservation organizations. The Rainforest Trust, for example, have called the book, “A beautiful, informative way to educate the next generation about the importance of ending deforestation.” I hope that readers come away having enjoyed Captain Green’s superhero antics, and knowing some simple ways that they can help prevent deforestation. The back matter features some facts and top tips to keep trees standing.

What can we look forward to next?

I am working on a whole host of other stories, some of which I hope will be published one day. I like to write funny stories with heart. Any messages are usually found along the way in the writing process. I have some in person book signings and school visits lined up for the spring, when I hope it’s safe to do so again. 

Evelyn can be reached at: Twitter and Instagram @evelynbookless and Facebook @evelynbooklessauthor. Her website is www.evelynbookless.com

Evelyn is offering a picture book critique, with big picture and line level thoughts. Just leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

Welcome Author Carrie Finison

Author Carrie Finison

I’m happy to welcome Carrie Finison to the blog today. Her second picture book DON’T HUG DOUG is releasing next Tuesday, January 26th so now is The Perfect Time to order it from your favorite local indie bookstore! Her first book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS which made everyone smile, and probably run out to a doughnut shop, was released in 2020. It’s sweeter than doughnuts and I recently read it via FaceTime to my favorite little one. Yes, you should order that one, too.

Carrie looking huggable as a child!

What were you like at the age of your target audience?
I write picture books so my target audience is anywhere from babies to age 6-7 or so. Some of my favorite memories from the upper end of that range are about the street we lived on at the time, which was full of kids. I was a little bit quiet and reserved (and still am) and didn’t like big crowds or really boisterous play, but I liked to play outside with my friends. We played a lot of pretend games. We had two hideouts in giant yew bushes in a park at the end of the street that we named after the way they smelled – one was the Peanut Butter hideout and one was the Dirty Diaper hideout. I remember having a lot of fun with mud in our yard, hauling it around in my green Tonka dump truck. I also vividly remember some of the books I liked to read at that age: One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey, What Do People Do All Day, by Richard Scarry, The Three Robbers, by Tomi Ungerer, Noisy Nancy Norris, by Lou Ann Gaeddert, and Tell Me a Mitzi, by Lore Segal.

What inspires you?

I get a lot of inspiration from language – words and phrases put together in unusual ways, or repetition that delights me. And rhyme too. The title of my debut book – DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS – came to me just because of the fun of saying that phrase. And my second book – DON’T HUG DOUG – obviously rhymes. The character couldn’t have any name other than Doug! I’m always listening to the things people around me say (especially kids) and thinking about how I can work them into a story concept, or use them as snippets of text or dialogue.

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

DON’T HUG DOUG is probably the most message-driven story I’ve written. It’s very clear from the start, even the title, what is the message. I hope that what readers will take from the book is that it’s OK to not feel comfortable with hugs, to express that to others, and have those wishes respected – or to respect them, if you are the one offering a hug. Since I wrote the book in the second person, it offers plenty of opportunity for the reader to take on the role of Doug and say out loud that they don’t want a hug, and also to practice asking others whether they do or don’t want a hug. Mostly, I hope it will spark some conversation between the adult and child reader about the topic.

Carrie has generously offered to give a copy of DON’T HUG DOUG to one lucky winner. Comment on this post to be entered to win!

What’s next for you?

DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS came out in July, 2020, and DON’T HUG DOUG comes out January 26,2021 so the last six months have been a very busy time of book promotion, and learning how to do all that in a pandemic. I’ll continue to support those books and I hope to ramp up my school visits in 2021, while also (I hope) getting back to a more regular writing schedule. Then in 2022 I have two more books scheduled for release – HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE, which is about a little tortoise who continually gets passed by her classmates on the way to school, and LULU & ZOEY, a story about two very different sisters.

Check out other posts and launch events with Carrie and follow her on Twitter @CarrieFinison

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