Thank you for joining me for another edition of KidLit Coffee Talk. Today, I’m excited to welcome debut author Christine Sromek Laforet. I first met Chris through our mutual publishing house, Clear Fork Publishing. We’ve since bonded over the fact that we are both former educators. Chris and I recently sat down and chatted over a virtual cup of coffee about her new chapter book, Being Bree: Bree and the Nametag Worries. Being Bree: Bree and the Nametag Worries was published earlier this month from Clear Fork Publishing and was illustrated by Lisa Rush.
I’ve got my usual Dunkin Donuts Cold Brew Iced Coffee. What kind of coffee do you like to drink?
Good morning, Jenna. Thanks for inviting me for coffee. Don’t you just love the smell of a freshly brewed pot first thing in the morning? I certainly do. Today I’m enjoying a cup of hazelnut with a splash of milk.
That is absolutely one of my favorite smells! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.
I taught elementary and middle school students in the Cleveland area for ten years before staying home to raise a family. But I’d say my interest in writing began years before college and kids. Back in the fifth grade, I was introduced to creative writing. I remember my teacher’s comment, “You’ll be a writer one day,” and sure enough, it happened (many, many years later, of course). I also remember typing out manuscripts and slaving over phone books in the library searching for publishing houses to mail stories to. Fast forward a few years (okay, maybe more than just a few years), when I heard about a children’s writing group at my local Barnes and Noble. I attended meetings, learned about SCBWI, and studied the craft of writing. My kids were young at the time, and it was difficult to find quiet periods throughout the days to write, but over the years, I completed a middle grade manuscript, received requests from agents for full submissions, and then collected a number of rejection letters. I didn’t give up, though. I kept writing and submitting stories until Essie White at Storm Literary Agency offered representation. She found the perfect home for my debut chapter book series, Being Bree, at Clear Fork Publishing. Becoming a published author was a life-long dream, and I’m glad to have persevered throughout the long journey.
Congratulations on accomplishing this life-long dream. Tell me about Being Bree: Bree and the Nametag Worries.
This is the first book in the Being Bree Series, and readers meet Bree, a gifted six-year-old whose imagination spins her worries out of control. It’s the start of a new school year, and Bree worries about the first day of school. Her nametag is supposed to help her make friends, but she worries about all of the bad things that could possibly happen to it. Bree takes belly breaths to calm her worries …until her nametag disappears. Now she must make friends without one.
One of the reasons I wrote this story was to raise awareness about an under-represented group in children’s literature – the gifted community. From the very first line, “If I were a noodle, what kind would I be?” I tried to capture the reader’s attention and draw him into a gifted child’s creative mind. But gifted kids aren’t just creative and smart. They can also face many challenges due to their intense emotions and difficulty connecting with peers. By creating a character who, throughout the story, recognizes when her feelings start to spin out of control, I hoped readers (who also experience anxieties) would realize when their own feelings begin to change and then use some of the calm down techniques Bree models.
What else are you working on?
I’m currently writing the third book in the Being Bree Series, and other story ideas are bouncing around in my head. But let me tell you a bit about Book 2. Bree and the Loose Tooth Worries releases early 2018. From the title, you can guess that Bree worries about losing her first tooth. But she quickly resolves those issues when she learns that the tooth fairy brought her classmate, Lauren, a bright and shiny ring. Bree wants the tooth fairy to bring her one, too, especially since she’ll need it to be in Lauren’s new club, The Girls with Bling. Bree accidentally swallows her tooth, however, and faces a new set of worries and problems. With only a few days before the club’s first official meeting, Bree decides to contact the tooth fairy and convince her to bring a shiny new ring, even though Bree doesn’t have a tooth to leave under her pillow in return. You’ll have the read the book to find out whether or not Bree’s plan works and she becomes a member of the Girls with Bling Club.
This sounds fabulous. Now let’s talk picture books. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?
I completely adored George and Martha by James Marshall. My mother said she read it to me a million times when I was young. As an adult, I’m still drawn to the friendship themes and enjoy the humor. There are so many wonderful picture books in circulation today —it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I really enjoy reading Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. The writing is clever and the pictures are so amusing … I even read it to my three teenagers! I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
I’m currently reading an amazing YA fantasy – Graceling by Kristin Cashore. What are you currently reading?
Right now, I’m critiquing a middle grade novel for one of my wonderfully talented writer friends. I’ve also started reading A Long Walk to Water since it’s on my daughter’s summer reading list and Linda Sue Park is presenting at the SCBWI Northern Ohio Regional Conference in September. I love chapter books, though, and Clear Fork Publishing has some pretty talented authors. I’ve started Alayne Kay Christian’s Sienna, The Cowgirl Fairy Series: Trying to Make It Rain and am totally in love with the story’s voice. The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection Series: Return to Coney Island by Melissa Stoller is next on my list. I’m also excited for the release of Emma Bland Smith’s new series, Zadie Jacobs CEO.
Thank you so much for joining me, Chris!
If you want to learn more about Chris, you can find her at http://www.christinesromeklaforet.com. You can connect with Chris on Facebook and on Twitter at @chrislaforet1.
Now, it’s GIVEAWAY time!
You have the chance to win a copy of Chris’s book, Bree and the Nametag Worries! To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this post and share it on Twitter or Facebook. Then, click on the Rafflecopter below. A winner will be chosen at random on Monday, August 28th. Good luck!