KidLit Coffee Talk with Rachel Kolar


Welcome to KidLit Coffee Talk! Grab a cup of coffee and read on. Between purchasing and furnishing a second home on Cape Cod, KidLit Coffee Talk took a backseat. I’m so excited to be back and to have author Rachel Kolar with me today. Rachel and I are agency sisters at Storm Literary Agency and her debut picture book, Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters (Sleeping Bear Press) was released last month. Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters was illustrated by Roland Garrigue.


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

Pumpkin spice latte. It’s a cliché choice, but it tastes like fall to me. And if other people don’t want to drink it, that leaves more for the rest of us!


Ha ha! I think I’ll stick to my iced coffee. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

It’s funny—I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight, but I never thought I’d write picture books. I love science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I always assumed that I’d write adult fiction in those genres. I’ve published a few short stories for adults, and I still enjoy writing them, but I kept flaming out whenever I tried my hand at novels. Then, my husband pointed out that I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and CW superhero shows; had I considered writing YA? It was a revelation. I love stories with big, epic feelings, and YA tends to be much less embarrassed about wearing its heart on its sleeve. I managed to complete a manuscript for a YA paranormal novel, which I’d never done with any of my adult novels. That was my first foray into kidlit. By that time, I had children of my own, and I’d started coming up with picture book ideas for them now that I no longer thought of myself as an adult writer.


Wow, it sounds like it’s been quite a journey! Tell me about Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters.

Mother Ghost started about four or five years ago, when my son was a toddler. He was in love with his Mother Goose book and would run around reciting random bits and pieces of the rhymes. He also loved Halloween—I’m one of those people who gets way too excited about the season, as evidenced by my taste in coffee, and I passed it on to my kids. Just to be silly, I started inventing Halloween-themed nursery rhymes to make him laugh (I think “Mary, Mary, Tall and Scary” was the first). They were a lot of fun, so I kept going with them.

Even though it’s only thirteen rhymes, it took me about two years to write, because rhyming well is hard. I have several rough drafts for poems that never made it into the book because I couldn’t get the rhymes to work, or because I couldn’t come up with something that was similar enough to the original rhyme to be recognizable, but different enough to be clever. I made it halfway through a variation on “The Queen of Hearts” before realizing that I hadn’t done much beyond replacing “hearts” and “tarts” with “ghosts” and “toast.” That one didn’t get off the cutting room floor.

Also, for anyone else writing a spooky rhyming picture book, let me save you some trouble: nothing rhymes with monster.


I love that this book started out as silly poems to make your son laugh. I find so many of my ideas are inspired by my children. What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

Other than getting the acceptance letter from Sleeping Bear Press, the most exciting part was seeing Roland Garrigue’s illustrations for the first time. They’re perfect—spooky without being scary, and filled with funny little details and Easter eggs. I laughed out loud the first time I saw the “Zombie Miss Muffet” picture.

The hardest part, surprisingly, is the publicity scheduling. Mother Ghost is a Halloween-themed picture book, so the best times for readings and other events are Saturdays in October. The trouble is that, as I mentioned, Halloween is a huge deal for my kids and me, and hayrides, haunted trains, and fall festivals also tend to be on Saturdays in October. We’ll make it work, but I still feel like I’m a character in a Hallmark movie, juggling work and family at a magical time of year and getting ready to learn a Very Special Lesson.


What else are you working on?

I’m putting the final revisions on that YA paranormal novel, which is essentially Friday Night Lights with werewolves. I’m also finishing up a draft of a YA horror novel about changelings, bullying, and pig farming. The research has been interesting on that one.

For picture books, I recently finished a book about sensory processing disorder. I’m a special needs mom, and I have yet to find a book about neurodivergence that my kids truly love. I’m sure that it’s out there somewhere, but in the meantime, I wanted to write something that would teach them about themselves and make them giggle at the same time.


I’m intrigued by your YA horror novel and can’t wait to see how you tie changelings, bullying, and pigs together. How has life changed for you (if at all) since becoming a published author?

My work ethic has gotten so much better! Before, I felt like a stay-at-home mom who occasionally wrote for fun. Now I’m a writer, and I have a book to prove it. That means I actually have to put my rear end in the chair and write.


Yes, the famous BIC (Butt in Chair). It can certainly be hard sometimes. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

I adored the Amelia Bedelia books, and my favorite was Amelia Bedelia Helps Out. It doesn’t stand out too much from the others in the beginning—but at the end, she makes both a regular cake and a “tea cake” out of actual loose-leaf tea. In any other Amelia Bedelia book, the tea cake would be inedible, but the normal cake would be yummy enough to make up for her various mix-ups. In this one, the normal cake was fine, but the tea cake was delicious! I was delighted to have my expectations flipped like that.

My favorite recent picture book is a bit unorthodox. Little Cow, one of Chronicle’s little finger puppet board books, does more in fewer words than any other book I’ve read. The conflict, resolution, character arc, and rhymes are as basic as you get—but they only take eighty words. I’ve seen other books squeeze in a narrative at that length, but I’ve never seen one that managed it in rhyme.


Eighty words?? That’s crazy! I’ll have to check that one out. Right now, I’m reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. What are you currently reading?

 The Mabinogion, a book of medieval Welsh mythology and fairy tales, as research for the changeling novel. I was worried that it would be dry—Celtic mythology can be episodic and meandering, and in the hands of a bad translator, it comes across as a random jumble of unconnected events. But Sioned Davies is the translator for this edition, and she does a lovely job of making it readable.


Just for fun, what is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I love Halloween, but I’m terrified of spiders.


Rachel, thank you so much for joining me today, and congratulations on the publication of your debut picture book!

To learn more about Rachel Kolar, visit her website at

Connect with Rachel on social media.

Twitter – @KolarRachel

Facebook – RachelKolarspecfic


KidLit Coffee Talk AND Giveaway with Rosie J. Pova

Good morning, kidlit friends! Welcome to another edition of KidLit Coffee Talk. I’m thrilled to feature PB and MG author Rosie Pova on my blog today. Rosie and I met through our publisher, Clear Fork/Spork. Not only is she an active member of the kidlit community, she also runs writing contests for children, including KWEST and Haiku Hype. Her latest book, Sarah’s Song (Spork 2017), was illustrated by Emma Allen.


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

 Coffee, black.


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

 I immigrated to Canada from Bulgaria in 1998 as an adult, and a few years after that my family and I came to the United States. I am a mom to three wonderful children and currently a full time writer.

My journey as a writer was long and filled with failures…uh, I mean opportunities to learn. And so I did learn a lot over many years and kept trying and trying to break through. I persisted because I was really passionate about writing for children and committed to realizing my dream.

At times, when the rejections piled up and things looked very discouraging, I thought about quitting, but that didn’t work out. So I learned how to enjoy the process, nourish my creativity and continue the pursuit, no matter what.


Those are truly some words of wisdom. Persistence is key if you want to succeed in children’s publishing. Speaking of which, 2017 was a busy year for you, with 3 books published! Tell me about your newest picture book, Sarah’s Song.

 Sarah’s Song is a very special book to me. I dedicated it to my grandparents, who are no longer here, but they were a big part of my childhood and I loved them dearly.

I’m happy to see that the book is doing well. Just last month it was featured in Kirkus Reviews as the Indie Editors’ pick so that was a great surprise. The book and the book trailer were also included on a list of the 100 Must-have Books for the Elementary Classroom, created by Kate Narita who is a teacher, writer and a blogger.

I hope more young readers will discover Sarah’s Song and share it with their grandparents. I know kids have a very special bond with their grandparents and the story will help them celebrate that bond, even when things change with the aging of Grandma and Grandpa.


I’m a big fan of Sarah’s Song. It is certainly a special book. What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?

 The most exciting part was that my book was becoming real. I loved seeing my characters in the illustrations and how that transformation took place, bringing them to life.

The hardest part was letting  go of revisions and tweaking over and over before I called it a final version. This was new to me and a bit scary―it seemed like there could always be room for improvement when I woke up the next day.


That’s so true – as writers, it can be hard to let go of the manuscript and trust that it’s the best it can be. What else are you working on?

 As usual, I am juggling multiple projects at once. It’s my new normal now and I enjoy it. It’s never boring in my world!

I am super excited about a few stories in particular. Two of them are currently on submission and I can’t wait for the other two to go out next. They are my newest polished manuscripts that I wrote in 12 x12 and when I sent them to my agent, she said “they are both kind of brilliant :)” which was wonderful to hear. I hope these stories find a publishing home soon and I look forward to sharing them with readers, but I can’t tell you more at this time.


I can’t wait to see what comes next for you. How has life changed since becoming a published author?

 Life as a published author has changed a lot. I am busier now because besides writing and revising at home, I need to actively promote my new book babies in any way I can and make sure they adjust well in the world. This includes leaving the house once in a while ;).

I try to go places where I meet my readers like school visits and book fairs which requires planning, preparation and time. I love inspiring kids and having my books in their home and school libraries is such an honor.


Interacting with young readers is certainly one of the best parts of being an author. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?

 We didn’t have many choices when I was growing up in Bulgaria―mainly fairy tales and my favorite was Cinderella.

A recent book that I love . . . There are many, do I have to pick just one? I love 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Ross MacDonald.  It’s so clever and funny!


I love that one, too. Tara Lazar is hilarious. What are you currently reading?

 I’m reading a lot of picture books for research. There are a few new releases that I want to check out, too. I also read some middle grade and young adult books, occasionally, and I always have a self-development book on my nightstand.


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

 I get that question a lot for interviews and I’m running out of shareable things people don’t know about me haha. But I’d like to share something new that I have in the works and I’d like more people to know about. It’s my poetry contest for kids called Haiku Hype. It’s a nationwide competition in April intended to inspire kids to write and get in touch with their creativity. I am giving away a Kindle for kids e-reader plus other amazing prizes and it will be great to get many students to participate.

The contest will run from April 9th-27th for poetry month and more information can be found on my blog at

Thank you, Jenna, for having me. It was a pleasure to talk with you.


Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. I’m looking forward to checking out the wonderful poetry the students are sure to create!


To learn more about Rosie, visit her website at

Connect with her on social media!

Twitter – @RosiePOV

Facebook – @RosieWrites


Now it’s giveaway time!

Rosie has generously offered a fiction, non-rhyming picture book manuscript critique (up to 700 words) for one lucky KidLit Coffee Talk reader! To be eligible, all you have to do is a leave a comment on this post. I will choose a winner at random next Friday, May 4th. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!


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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Shelley on social media:

Twitter – @KinderWrites

Instagram – @shelleykinderauthor

Facebook –


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…


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.