KidLit Coffee Talk AND Giveaway with Artemis Roehrig

 

Welcome to KidLit Coffee Talk! I’m so excited to welcome Artemis Roehrig to the blog. Not only is she an incredible author, she’s also a scientist who researches invasive insects at the Elkinton Lab in Massachusetts. I first met Artemis at the NESCBWI Spring Conference. Her latest picture book, Do Doodle Bugs Doodle? (Persnickety Press), was just released on March 27, 2018. Do Doodlebugs Doodle? was cowritten by Artemis and her mother, Corrine Demas, and was illustrated by Ellen Shi.

 

First off, what kind of coffee (or tea) do you like to drink?

I secretly hate coffee, however, I sporadically may be found drinking chocolate mint green tea.

 

A writer who hates coffee? Ha ha! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

Despite always loving writing, I grew up with a mother who is a writer, so I defiantly became a biology major in college. This, of course, ended up with me falling in love with the sciences too, and despite my mother hinting I should apply to a MFA program I ended up going on to study science in graduate school as well. I always wrote some on the side, and, in fact, the first draft of my book Does A Fiddler Crab Fiddle? came about when I was working as an environmental educator during my summer break from college and was always looking for more books to read to kids that were factual but also fun to read out loud. Writing a scientific article is very similar to writing a picture book. In both cases you take a complicated concept and years of research and boil it down into as few words as possible that still gets the point across.

 

Writing picture books seems like the perfect way to combine your two passions. Tell me about your newest book, Do Doodlebugs Doodle?

Like, Does A Fiddler Crab Fiddle?, Do Doodlebugs Doodle? Amazing Insect Facts is all about getting kids excited about science. Insects are such an accessible science topic, since you can find them whether you live on a farm or in an apartment building. And there are so many cool insects that kids might not even know about. I also wanted to write a book that would be of interest to multiple age groups. A toddler can have fun yelling “NO!” along with the book, while a much older child or teacher can find out lots of interesting facts, and read the extensive authors’ note in the back to get a more detailed overview of the insects that appear in the book. My hope is that as well as appealing to insect fans, it will also get kids who don’t naturally gravitate towards nonfiction to become more interested in STEM topics!

 

What is it like writing books with your mother?

Working in the sciences means that collaborating with others is just second nature for me. Two heads are definitely better than one. And, although you may write a book draft alone, no book is published without input from editors and the production team. It’s especially great working with someone who has a different background from me, because we are able to bring different things to the manuscript and create something even better, and sometimes more quickly. For a rhyming book like Are Pirates Polite? it was helpful working as a team because we could read out loud and listen to what worked best rhythmically. I think the two of us work really well together since we know each other so well. However, we probably bicker a little more than other writing teams!

 

Ha ha! What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

The most exciting part was signing the contract. The hardest part was the wait between signing the contract and actually holding the finished book.

 

What else are you working on?

I have two books due out next year, both coauthored with Corinne Demas (my mom). Do Jellyfish Like Jelly? Amazing Sea Creature Facts will be published by Persnickety Press, and we have another rhyming pirate book called The Grumpy Pirate with Scholastic which is being illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee. I have several other picture book manuscripts out on submission. In my spare time I am working on my first YA novel, which I hope to have submission-ready by the end of this year—we’ll see how that goes!

 

Wow, you are on fire! What is your favorite part of being a published author?

It’s allowed me to meet a lot of new people! It’s been especially fun connecting with other writers like you, Jenna!

 

What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

My favorite picture book as a kid was The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont. I have two kids so I read a ton of picture books these days, so it is difficult for me to choose a favorite! The NEWEST book I love is A Bear Sat On My Porch Today by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Rilla Alexander, which I was lucky enough to bring my kids to a reading of with both the author and illustrator!

 

That must have been an amazing event. Right now, I’m reading a great YA, Assassin of Truths, by Brenda Drake. What are you currently reading?

I’m in a combination dance class/book club and we are reading the short story collection Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Besides that, I’m usually in the middle of several books at once, so I’m currently reading the YA novel What Girls Are Made Of (Elana Arnold), and just started The Gypsy Moth Summer (Julia Fierro). I left Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly) in my car at the beginning of the year to read when I am early to preschool pickup, but it turns out I’m always late, so although the book is wonderful, it is taking me forever to finish!

 

I’ve never heard of a combination dance class/book club, but it sounds like a lot of fun. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I have four pet tarantulas.

 

Thank you so much for joining me and taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions!

 

To learn more about Artemis, visit her website at https://artemisroehrig.com

Or, connect with her on Twitter @ArtemisRoehrig

 

Now it’s giveaway time!

You have the chance to win a copy of Artemis’s book, Do Doodlebugs Doodle? To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Monday, April 9th. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.  Good luck!

KidLit Coffee Talk AND Giveaway with Karlin Gray

Good morning, and welcome to KidLit Coffee Talk! Today, I’m so excited to be chatting with the amazing Karlin Gray. Karlin first caught my attention in 2016 when her debut picture book, Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still was published. As a former gymnast and huge fan of Nadia Comaneci, I just knew I had to get to know this author! Karlin’s second picture book, An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth is set to be released later this week, and she was gracious enough to answer some of my questions. An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth will be published on March 15th, 2018 with Sleeping Bear Press and was illustrated by Steliyana Doneva.

 

Thank you so much for joining me, Karlin! First off, what kind of coffee do you like to drink?

French Roast lattes. A few years ago, my husband gave me an espresso/latte maker. Maybe the best gift ever! Everyone benefits when I have two cups—the first while I’m making breakfast and packing my son’s lunch; the second after my son and husband are out the door.

 

I think I need one of those! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

I guess my writing journey started in college where I majored in English/Creative Writing and then continued through my career in book publishing and as a freelance copywriter. But it wasn’t until I became a mom that I started to write children’s stories. After working on manuscripts (again and again) at a local writing center, I submitted work to every publisher that reviewed unsolicited manuscripts. I wish I had kept all the rejection letters so I could show kids that big pile next to my first book—Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still (now in its fourth printing!).

 

Wow, its fourth printing! That’s wonderful! Tell me about your newest book, An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth.

When my son was three, he declared, “The moth’s my favorite bug.” My response: “Ew, really?” His sad expression made me take a closer look at his “favorite.” When I did, I learned several things about the little creature (like moths are insects not bugs) and was inspired to write An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth.

 

I love that story. My son is a constant source of inspiration for me, as well. What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

The most exciting part—seeing Steliyana Doneva’s first sketches of all the pages. It’s amazing to see the artist’s vision coming together and my story coming to life. The hardest part is waiting for publication!

 

What else are you working on?

I’m working with Page Street Kids on my next picture book biography about Serena Williams—Serena: The Littlest Sister—and writing more fiction and nonfiction manuscripts…but only after I’ve savored my two lattes.

 

Ha ha! What is your favorite part of being a published author?

When I hear, from a kid or parent, that my book is well-loved in their home. That’s the mic-drop.

 

For sure. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

Of course I remember Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon but the book that meant the most to me was Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Some of my favorite poems in that book are “Magic,” “The Googies are Coming,” and “Enter this Deserted House.” Today, I love Art by Patrick McDonnell. (I bet Shel Silverstein would like that book, too.) Every time I see Art, it reminds me of being snuggled up with my son for story time.

 

That’s awesome. I still know “Sick” by heart, and every time my children tell me they don’t want to go to school, that poem immediately pops into my head. What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge. It makes me want to throw a huge tantrum—“It’s not fair! How come she gets to be a writer AND an illustrator? Not fair! Not fair!”

This book is stunning and I love everything about it—the writing, the artwork, the subject matter. Everything except…not fair!

 

You’re the second person in the past week who has mentioned this book to me! I think I need to pick up a copy. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I was a “brat”—not a kid who threw tantrums but a kid who moved every year or two because of my dad’s job with the military. Going to three different high schools (one in Japan) wasn’t easy. But looking back, I can see that it gave me a childhood rich with stories and characters. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be in a book one day…

 

Thank you so much for chatting with me, Karlin! 

To learn more about Karlin, visit her website at http://www.karlingray.com

Or, connect with her on Twitter @KarlinGray

 

Now it’s giveaway time!

You have the chance to win a copy of Karlin’s book, An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth. I already have my copy of this book, and I can assure you it’s amazing! You want to add this one to your collection. To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, March 18th. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.  Good luck!

KidLit Coffee Talk AND Giveaway with Leslie Bulion

I’m so excited for today’s edition of KidLit Coffee Talk! With me today is the prolific Leslie Bulion, author of children’s fiction and science poetry. I first met Leslie back in 2015, when she was doing an author visit at my children’s school. She helped propel me on my writing journey, as she was the first person to tell me about SCBWI. Now, three years later, I’m lucky enough to be chatting with her about her newest poetry book, Leaf Litter Critters. Leaf Litter Critters was released on March 1st, 2018 with Peachtree Publishers and was illustrated by Robert Meganck.

 

Thank you for joining me, Leslie! What kind of coffee do you like to drink?

Thanks for this lovely opportunity to chat over coffee, Jenna! I have my cuppa right here *sip*. As a critter-lover, I opt for organic, fair-trade and shade-grown coffee with notes of smooth chocolate and flowing manuscript. I drink herbal tea all afternoon—ginger, especially.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

This could be a very long answer! The short(er) of it is that I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer, but I have loved studying science and nature as long as I can remember and I’ve been writing poetry since the fourth grade. Beyond that, my educational and professional experiences have taken some random twists and turns that, in light of what I do now, seem almost purposeful.

 

Your love of nature certainly shines through in your poetry. Tell me about your newest poetry book, Leaf Litter Critters.

Leaf Litter Critters is a whole ecosystem hidden inside funny science poetry collection. I take readers in for a closer look at the “brown food web” – the decomposers and recyclers (most are very tiny!) that return nutrients locked in dead plants and animals back to the soil, making the nutrients available to green plants—the primary producers in the green food web. The fun is magnified a thousand-fold with Robert Meganck’s brilliantly humorous illustrations.

 

What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

For this particular collection, the most exciting and the hardest part of this book was creating the relative size chart in the back matter. I met retired school library media specialist Terry Young at NCTE a while back, where Peachtree Publishers was sharing a taped-together printout of Leaf Litter Critters. Terry advised adding visuals to my textual size descriptions, to give readers a better idea of the relative sizes of these mostly unfamiliar critters. Making this happen months later involved 11th hour, back-and-forth flying pdfs with Robert Meganck during an all-day bus ride because I’d been unavailable, out of the country on a research trip. The bus’s wifi cut out and I hit “send” minutes before my phone’s battery died. I was thrilled to see that element highlighted by the Kirkus reviewer.

 

Wow, that sounds stressful! And congratulations on the starred review in Kirkus! What else are you working on?

I’m working with my editor on final tweaks while Robert M. finishes up the illustrations (can’t wait to see the cover!) for my next funny science poetry collection, Superlative Birds (Peachtree: March 1, 2019). I’m also putting the final touches on a new manuscript about amphibians, planning a bunch of school visits, and getting ready for my Leaf Litter Critters book launch party at the Durham Library on March 14th—games, critter cookies, a sing-along—come on down! I have two more science poetry manuscripts in the pipeline as well.

 

Critter cookies? Sounds yummy! What is your favorite part of being a published author?

I always let students know that “favorites” are the hardest questions for me! Let’s see…visiting with students and seeing how deeply they care for our incredible planet Earth is a huge favorite…reaching out to scientists who love to share their work is super-fun…the hands-on field work I do…playing with words and ideas—I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to do all of this.

 

What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

I’m sure A.A. Milne’s poetry collections: When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six have had a tremendous influence on my work. I love so many books now that I can’t pick just one—you know—favorites are so difficult!

 

Yes, they are! What are you currently reading?

I just finished a brilliant YA graphic novel in verse about the life of Frankenstein’s creator, Mary Shelley entitled Mary’s Monster, written and illustrated by Lita Judge. I’m now reading Three Floors Up by Eshkol Nevo, written for adults.

 

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Even though I studied oceanography for years, love to be in and on the ocean, and SCUBA dive every chance I get, I am VERY prone to seasickness!

 

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me!

Great chatting with you here, Jenna!

To learn more about Leslie, visit her website at https://www.lesliebulion.com

Or, connect with her on Twitter @LeslieBulion

 

Now it’s giveaway time!

You have the chance to win a copy of Leslie’s book, Leaf Litter Critters. To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, March 11th. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.  Good luck!

World Read Aloud Day 2018

 

Yesterday I participated in World Read Aloud Day for the first time as an author. My experience was nothing short of amazing! I spent time with students from Connecticut, New York, Texas, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, California, and Canada.

Reading and chatting with them reminded me why I write. There is no other feeling in the world like the one you feel when kids actually laugh at the words you wrote!

I was asked some really insightful questions (“Do you ever get frustrated when you can’t think of an idea or get stuck writing a story?”) and also some totally random ones (“What is your favorite fidget spinner?”). I loved answering each and every one.

I book talked some of my favorite picture books and middle grade novels. And the kids were excited to meet the “real” Pixie!

In short, my heart is full. It really was the Best. Day. Ever. However you chose to celebrate, I hope you had a spectacular World Read Aloud Day, as well!

KidLit Coffee Talk with Katey Howes

 

Thanks so much for joining me for another edition of KidLit Coffee Talk! Today, I’m excited to share my interview with the fabulous Katey Howes. I first met Katey at the 2016 NESCBWI conference, and we’ve remained friends ever since. Katey is a force in the kidlit community and is incredibly supportive of other authors. She was kind enough to share a virtual cup of coffee with me and chat about her latest picture book, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe. Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe was released on January 2, 2018 with Sterling Children’s Books and was illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti.

 

First off, what kind of coffee do you like to drink?

I’m generally happiest with a French Roast coffee, brewed at home, no cream or sugar. If I start getting too wired from the caffeine, I’ll switch to water, or a decaf Irish Breakfast Tea.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

I co-wrote my first book – Poems by Young People – at the age of nine with my friend Rejane. We did our own illustrations and hand wrote copies with 4 poems in each. I had completely forgotten about it until my mom brought me a box of papers and drawings from my childhood! The same year, I also wrote a memoir entitled “Katey Marcinkowski, The Story of My Life (So Far.)” It was largely ignored by mainstream literary review journals. Here’s the “about the author” page I included:

After that, I seem to have entered the “elusive reclusive author” stage, because I didn’t publish anything else for many years! The fame had clearly become too much for me.

I returned to writing with the goal of traditional publication in 2014, the same year I started my blog about raising kids who love to read. Since then, I’ve been immersing myself in the children’s literature community through SCBWI conferences and online groups like 12×12 Challenge.

 

Ha ha, I love it! That may be the best “About the Author” I’ve ever seen! Tell me about Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, which I absolutely love, by the way.

Magnolia Mudd knows what she likes and is true to herself. Her pink hair, knee socks, and lab coat tell you all you need to know about her personal style.  Inventing and engineering are Magnolia’s passions – and her rocket scientist Uncle Jamie is her favorite inventing partner. When he announces his engagement to the oh-so-fancy Miss Emily, Magnolia is taken aback. She’s jealous of the time Uncle Jamie will spend with his new wife – instead of cooking up new inventions – and she jumps to conclusions about Miss Emily based on her “girly-girl” style. She also can’t stand the idea of wearing a frilly dress and tossing flowers in the wedding.

Magnolia undertakes a mission to invent a new, MUDD-Powered way to be part of the special day. And along the way she discovers that there’s more to her soon-to-be Aunt Emily than meets the eye.

 

What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

Hearing that an editor wants to take your manuscript to acquisitions is both the most exciting and the most nauseating part of the process. There’s so much hope and so much fear in that same moment. Publishing is not for the faint of heart.

 

That is certainly true. What else are you working on?

I have a few picture book things in the pipeline I can’t discuss quite yet, and I’m making time this year to rework a picture book concept I love into a chapter book. I’m keeping busy scheduling STEM story times at libraries, bookshops, and science festivals. It’s a lot of fun to pair a read aloud with a stomp rocket!

 

I can imagine story times with you must be a blast! How has life changed for you since becoming a published author?

Well, sometimes I get to sign books for people I love, and that’s pretty amazing. And now some of the time I used to spend quiet and alone, writing away, is instead spent in classrooms and auditoriums, TALKING about writing. It’s very rewarding to share my journey and my books with kids – but it can also be stressful and tiring for an introvert like me. I’m getting used to balancing the different aspects of being a published writer, and making time for the things that are important to me, and to my career.

 One of the best things about this past year is the community of debut authors that came together as Picture the Books. The support and friendship and guidance this group provided has been amazing.

 

What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

I always loved HOME FOR A BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown – it’s hypnotically gentle and rhythmic and illustrated so beautifully. I still feel a sense of calm every time I read it. I have A LOT of recent favorites, but I’d say THE STORYTELLER by Evan Turk is one that made a permanent home in my heart.

 

I just finished reading another January 2, 2018 release, Everless by Sara Holland. What are you currently reading?

I’m never reading just one book! Right now I’m reading THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY by Hannah Tinti just for me, plus ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan and A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madleine L’Engle aloud with my girls.

 

Reading aloud with my kiddos is one of my favorite things, too. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I used to run hurdles – which is why I now groan and complain about my hip every time I have to get up off the floor.

 

Ha ha, I know the feeling! I ran hurdles in high school, too. Thank you so much for joining me, Katey. It is always a pleasure.

To learn more about Katey Howes, visit her website at https://kateyhowes.com

Connect with Katey on social media:

Twitter – @Kateywrites

Instagram – @kidlitlove

Facebook – Katey Howes

KidLit Coffee Talk with Shelley Kinder

 

Happy 2018! Thank you for joining me for KidLit Coffee Talk. Today, I’m so excited to have my friend Shelley Kinder here with me. Shelley and I met through our publisher, Clear Fork Publishing. She was kind enough to share a virtual cup of coffee with me and chat about her debut picture book, Not So Scary Jerry. Not So Scary Jerry was released in September 2017 with Clear Fork Publishing and was illustrated by Caryn Schafer.

 

Despite the freezing temperature, I’ve got my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. What kind of coffee (or tea) do you like to drink?

I don’t drink coffee or tea on a daily basis, but I’m learning more about the benefits of coffee, so I’ve been drinking it more. I wish I could be the person that drinks it with no sweetener, but I’m definitely not that person. I add milk and organic maple syrup, which tastes amazing. When I drink tea, it’s usually green tea with honey and sometimes lemon. Our house runs on the cold side, so these warm drinks are nice this time of year.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

I’ve had a writer inside of me since childhood, but it took me a really (I mean really) long time to do something about it. When my oldest two were maybe three and four, my interest in picture books really came alive and I began to dabble in writing. That was around 2012. Then, in 2014, I took a local writing class, which ignited my fire more. Then, in 2015, I wrote a rhyming story for Susanna Hill’s Halloweensie contest and won. That really ignited something in me, and I was determined to make writing a huge part of my life.

 

2017 was an exciting year for you, with your first picture book published! Tell me about Not So Scary Jerry.

Jerry is a quirky monster who just can’t get it together in the scary department. He’d rather be painting rocks, giving pedicures, or thumb wrestling, although cooking and hugging are probably his favorite activities. Friendship and self-acceptance are the major themes in the book. My illustrator, Caryn Schafer, brought an adorable pug into the story. I love his expressions. We call him Burrito.

 

Ha ha, I love Burrito! Jerry has quickly become one of my favorite picture book characters. His quirks are so endearing. What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?  

It was exciting holding the book for the first time, but I think I was even more excited when my Kirkus review came in, and it was positive. The hardest thing for me was probably waiting – for the book to be finished and for the Kirkus review to come back.

 

Yes, the waiting can be so hard. What else are you working on?

My mom is illustrating my second book, called The Masterpiece, about God painting the sunrise into the sky. She’s putting in a lot of hours right now. God bless her. We have periodic meetings to touch base and make sure everything is on track.

I’m sort of bouncing all over the place right now with my writing. I’m entering a story into the KidLit College contest, so I’ve been working a lot on revisions for that. I’m also working on a faith based story that I’m highly passionate about, but can’t seem to get it quite right. Yet. I think I need to pray more about that one.

 

I can’t wait to read The Masterpiece. How has life changed for you since becoming a published author?

Life has changed in some ways, but my life is mostly the same, with the added tasks of marketing and promoting my book. Now, I have to manage my time more wisely, leaving time for both writing and marketing (and fun interviews like this one).

 

I agree, good time management is so important for a writer to have. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

Are You My Mother? was a childhood favorite. I also loved Dr. Seuss’s ABC book. I mean who doesn’t love a Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz? It’s hard to pick just one recent favorite, so I’m going to cheat and list a few: Creepy Carrots (the ending is genius), No, David! (I fall more in love with David each time), and Froodle (I love made-up words and sounds, so this book just fits my personality). There are so many more. What a hard question!

 

There are just so many amazing picture books on the market today, it’s hard to choose just one! Right now, I’m reading Perfect Ruin, a YA SFF by Lauren DeStefano. What are you currently reading?

Wonder just came in the mail, and I plan to start reading it soon. I would have gotten it from the library, but the holds list was way too long.

 

 You will LOVE Wonder. Last question, what is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m not the typical writer in the sense that I was the kid who always had a book in her hand. I did read, but I definitely wasn’t a bookworm like some of my friends. Even today, I read mostly picture books and rarely pick up a novel. When I do read a novel, I like it to have a little romance in it. I loved I’ve Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella. If I ever venture into novel writing, I think I’d enjoy writing something with that sort of feel. Or possibly something deep and spiritual (with a little romance). I have no idea where this writing journey will take me, but it sure is fun!

Thank you, Jenna, for having me. I hope you have an amazing 2018!

 

Thank YOU so much for joining, Shelley!

To learn more about Shelley Kinder, visit her author page at https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/shelley-kinder.html

Connect with Shelley on social media:

Twitter – @KinderWrites

Instagram – @shelleykinderauthor

Facebook – fb.me/shelleyannkinder

 

365 Days, 365 Reviews

Happy 2018 to all of my KidLit friends! I’ve been thinking a lot over the past month about how I can give back to this wonderful community. I wish I could buy every picture book that’s published, but unfortunately that’s just not possible. One thing I can do that doesn’t cost a penny is review the great books I read. So, as a personal challenge for 2018, I’m going to try to post one review on Amazon, etc. every day. That’s a huge goal. I don’t promise that my reviews will be the best ever written. They may only be one or two sentences. But I know how important reviews are to authors, so I promise mine will be honest and heartfelt.

In other news, next Monday will see the return of KidLit Coffee Talk. Thanks for stopping by. I hope 2018 is your most creative year yet!

7th Annual Halloweensie Contest – THE CANDY CORN CAPER

The amazing Susanna Leonard Hill has, once again, organized the Halloweensie Contest for Children’s Writers. The challenge: write a Halloween story for children no longer than 100 words! The words candy corn, monster, and shadow must be included in the story (candy corn will count as 1 word). This was not an easy feat. Here is my entry. Click here to read all of the other amazing stories!

 

The Candy Corn Caper

By Jenna Grodzicki

 

CRASH! Evan popped out of bed. His eyes went to the nightstand. The candy jar was gone! On the floor, leading out of his room, was a trail of candy corn.

He grabbed his pirate sword and followed the trail.

MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH! It was coming from the kitchen. He crept closer and noticed a monster-shaped shadow on the wall.

Evan’s knees wobbled, but his love of candy corn gave him courage. He rounded the corner and…

“KATIE!”

It was just his little sister, shoving fistfuls of candy corn into her mouth.

Relieved, Evan giggled and enjoyed a midnight treat with his sister.

 

 

 

 

KidLit Coffee Talk with Ariel Bernstein

 

Thank you for joining me today for KidLit Coffee Talk. I’m so excited to have the wonderful Ariel Bernstein with me today. Ariel and I first met last April at #nErDCampNJ in Chatham, New Jersey. We were both on the Debut Author Panel and have been friends ever since. Recently, Ariel and I sat down over a virtual cup of coffee and chatted about her debut picture book, I Have a Balloon. I Have a Balloon was released in September from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books and was illustrated by Scott Magoon.

 

First off, what kind of coffee do you like to drink?

I like a bit of coffee in my milk and sugar.

 

Ha ha, I can appreciate that. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

I’ve enjoyed creative writing ever since middle school and initially wrote a lot of short stories. Once I got interested in writing children’s books, I joined SCBWI. I got a lot out of conferences and meeting other children’s book writers.

 

I agree, SCBWI has been such an important part of my writing journey, too. Tell me about I Have a Balloon.

It’s about Owl, who has a shiny, big, red balloon, and Monkey, who wants the balloon very much. It’s not a book about sharing, but about realizing the value in what you already have and being okay with not getting everything you want.

 

It’s one of my favorite picture books from 2017. What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

The most exciting part was seeing the illustrations by Scott Magoon! As an author, you never know how someone else will interpret your words or what their vision will be, so it was a wonderful surprise to see all the details Scott put into the story. The hardest part of publication is, not surprisingly, the wait. It took two years from when my editor acquired the story to publication, which is actually a very standard amount of time for a picture book!

 

What else are you working on?

I’m working on more picture book stories, plus my chapter book series, WARREN & DRAGON, illustrated by Mike Malbrough (Viking Children’s). The first two books in the series will be out this August!

 

I can’t wait for WARREN & DRAGON! How has life changed for you since Owl and Monkey’s release into the world?

I get more notifications on social media of people reading and enjoying the book, which makes my day every time! And I have more events scheduled now to read the book, and that’s been a lot of fun.

 

There’s nothing quite like seeing your book in the hands of a reader. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

I’ve always loved Maurice Sendak’s OUTSIDE OVER THERE. It feels like you’re in a dream when reading it. A more current picture book that I love is LEAVE ME ALONE! By Vera Brosgol. It goes in an unexpected direction, and gets funnier with each page turn.

 

I just finished The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre. What are you currently reading?

I’m just finishing up CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo. I haven’t read much young adult, and am glad I got a recommendation for this series from a friend. I wish there was a third book!

 

I love Leigh Bardugo! Last question, what is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I guess my critique partners know this, but I have trouble creating an outline for a book before writing it. I have a vague idea of what I want to write about, and then figure it out as I go. It’d probably easier if I was able to work with an outline though, as I often get stuck!

 

Thank you so much for joining me, Ariel! 

To learn more about Ariel Bernstein, visit her website at http://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com

Connect with Ariel on social media:

Twitter – @ArielBBooks

Facebook – fb.me/ArielBBooks

KidLit Coffee Talk AND Giveaway with Sue Lowell Gallion

 

Happy Monday, and welcome to KidLit Coffee Talk! I’m so excited to have the amazing Sue Lowell Gallion with me on my blog. She is the author of Pug Meets Pig (S&S/Beach Lane Books, 2016 ) and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat (S&S/Beach Lane Books, 2017), which came out right in time for Halloween. This is a perfect read aloud for young children who are gearing up to celebrate at the end of the month. Sue was gracious enough to sit down for a virtual cup of coffee with me and chat about writing.

 

What kind of coffee do you like to drink?

That’s easy on this cool October day! The Roasterie, a local coffee company here in Kansas City, created a seasonal blend called Autumn Harvest that I wait for each year. I’m not a big pumpkin spice devotee, but this absolutely tastes like fall. Perfect with a muffin or a ginger cookie. https://www.theroasterie.com/coffee/flavored/autumn-harvest-blend

 

That sounds delicious! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

I’m proud to be an example of “it’s never too late to start a new career.” My background is journalism/PR, not creative writing. When my kids were in high school, I started looking at going back to school to become a reading specialist. I took a class in children’s literature at the community college, and our assignment to write an ABC picture book got me hooked. Ten years later, Pug Meets Pig was released.

 

That’s really inspiring. So many writers I know did not start writing until later in life, myself included. Tell me about Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat.

This story came together right after the first Pug and Pig manuscript sold to Beach Lane Books/S&S. Pug shares many personality traits with my black lab mix, Tucker. Tucker’s reaction to the dog next door dressed in a skintight skeleton costume inspired the plot. Beach Lane bought this manuscript a year later, in 2014. It’s fun to share a non-scary Halloween book with kids. The heart of the book is about the freedom to be different from a friend, but think and act in a caring way.

 

My children and I loved Pug’s reaction to his skeleton costume. How cool that it was inspired by your own dog! What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

Seeing Joyce Wan bring the characters and stories to life visually and working with the editor/art director team of Andrea Welch and Lauren Rille has been the most exciting part of the process. I’ll never forget opening the file of the first sketch dummy of the book and finding out what Pug and Pig and their world looked like! The creative team makes the finished book so much more than I ever could have imagined. The hardest part is the waiting! The gestation period of a walrus is 16 months. That’s just getting started for picture book publication.

 

What else are you working on right now?

I’m working on other picture book manuscripts in the ongoing process of write/revise/submit/repeat and I have an early reader series project in the works that I’ve co-written with Ann Ingalls. I’m on the hunt for a nonfiction picture book project, also.

 

Sounds like you are very busy. How has life changed for you since your first book was released?

The interaction with kids has been so much fun. My respect for all teachers, preschool on up, continues to increase! And I’ve loved my broader author role as a picture book and read-aloud advocate and ambassador.

 

It was so nice to chat with you, Sue!

Sue at a book signing with her grandson, Jackson

To learn more about Sue, visit her website at http://suegallion.com.

Or, connect with her on Twitter @SueLGallion

Now, it’s giveaway time!

You have the chance to win a copy of Sue’s book, Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat AND a poster designed by the talented Joyce Wan. 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 Tuesday, October 17th. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway