Celebrate OPERA DAY with DIVA DELORES & THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

Did you know that February 8th is Opera Day! Delores knows and she’s dee-lighted that she and Fernando are featured today over at Celebrate Picture Books, a wonderful blog that pairs picture books with holidays. DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE (Sterling, 2018) is a perfect pick and we are so happy to be featured today.

To get you in the mood for opera, enjoy the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE book trailer…

… then pop on over to Kathryn Carroll’s blog for a treat that includes a craft inspired by my great grandmother’s opera glasses which I used to gently hold (and sometimes even play with) as a child. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/2020/02/08/february-8-opera-day/

Cover Reveal – LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP

Guess what? I have a new picture coming out in 2020 with Beaming Books!  LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP is scheduled to release November 17, 2020, just in time for the holidays.

Here’s the scoop from Beaming Books:

Little Ewe would rather jump on logs and investigate spider webs than follow the shepherd when he calls. But what happens when she gets lost? How will she find her way home? Told in whimsical rhyme, this humorous counting book for our littlest ones is a delightful reminder that, like a loving parent, our Shepherd will find us and care for us, even when we wander from the path.

In Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, award-winning author Laura Sassi and illustrator Tommy Doyle tell an endearing tale of a distracted sheep and her persistent shepherd, inspired by the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15.”

Thank you, Beaming Books, for publishing this next picture book. And now for the moment you (or at least I) have been waiting for… the COVER REVEAL! Thank you, Chirping Moms for hosting. The cover reveal plus an interview (and maybe even a sneak peek at an interior spread!) can be found by pressing here.

Happy Peeking!

GUEST PODCAST: When We Were Very Young- A Book-Loving Interview!

Do you have a favorite childhood book? I have several, but my earliest favorite book memory is of sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me from A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. I loved the rhythmic rhyming sound of Milne’s poems and memorized several, quite by accident, because I asked my mother to read them to me so often. I’ve carried the rhyming beat of those poems with me ever since. And I think they are partially to blame for my growing up to be a writer!

That’s why, when I was asked by podcaster Jody Lee Mott to take part in his Dream Garden interview series in which he interviews authors sharing their favorite books, I couldn’t resist choosing When We Were Very Young. Jody was not familiar with the poetry collection, but enjoyed reading it and coming up with thought-provoking questions. The result is fresh and fun interview. Not only will you get a taste for A. A. Milne’s poetry and why it was so foundational to my love for the written word, you’ll also get an inside peek at what makes me tick as a writer.

I hope you can find a quiet time to listen, perhaps while making supper, as I did last night. I think you’ll enjoy the podcast. And afterwards, you may just decide you want to listen to his other podcasts as well!

Curious? I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

SURPRISE MAIL: A Thank You Note from Australia (and a FREE SKYPE Invitation for YOU!)

There’s nothing quite as special as getting a surprise package in the mail – especially one that’s postmarked Australia! I knew immediately who the special parcel was from – lovely group of third grade girls and their teacher who were interested in learning the ins-and-outs of writing! Their teacher, Ms. Barry, had reached out to me in June to see if we could Skype. As it turned out, we were too far from each other to get a reliable internet connection, so instead I sent them a short video introduction with an invitation to ask me questions via email. They took me up on my invitation to ask questions and I answered each and every one. You can see my post about that here.

What fun it was, then, to receive this lovely thank you note from the girls, along with two darling koala bear stuffies. Their kind words brought me such joy that I thought you might enjoy seeing the note, too, along with my video thank you to them.

My video “thank you” note to them:

Now, in celebration of spreading my love of reading and writing with the next generation, HERE’S MY INVITATION: This wonderful visit happened because a teacher reached out to me via the contact tab in the banner above. I LOVE connecting in special ways like this. And I’d like to extend the invitation now to teachers near and far. So, in celebration of books and words, I’m offering FIVE free 2O minute Skype sessions with classes and/or homeschool co-ops. We can tailor the visit to your needs, but typically it includes me reading one of my books, talking a wee bit about how I wrote it, followed by a Q & A , which, in my humble opinion is the best part because it allows the children to interact with a real-live author! If this interests you, please reach out by using the contact tab (in the “about” section) and we’ll get something on the calendar!

Happy reading and writing, all! Laura

PUBLISHING MILESTONES: Celebrating the Journey in Special Ways

What do you do to celebrate special milestones in your publishing journey?  Do you clink a glass of sparkly for each book or magazine piece that comes out? Do you bake thematic cookies?  Do you go out for a special dinner with your family or friends? 

I, for one, like any excuse for celebration, and while I’m not big on champagne, I have, over the years, developed several fun ways of celebrating the publication of my work – which I view as part of my legacy that I am passing on to my children. 

First, since the publication of my very first magazine piece in 1999, I have kept a binder of my magazine clips.  The binder is so thick now that I’ve now started a second.  The binders are loosely organized by alphabet and genre and date of publication and each clip is preserved in an acid-free sleeve.  Over the years, I’ve enjoyed browsing through the binders with my children and at school visits. It’s fun to see how far my writing has come since I first embarked on the journey over 20 years ago.

If you follow me on social media, you will also know that my daughter loves to celebrate my book releases by creating her own beautiful art in the form of painted ceramics, cookies and even appliqué!  And her creations make my heart sing and the non-edible ones have become part of our home decor!  Thank you, Miss A.!

Finally, for each book that has released, as well as for a couple of favorite published poems, I’ve created a little framed gallery.  So far, the gallery contains three framed poems and framed hangings of spreads from my first two picture books. 

In the busy-ness of the past year, I got a a bit behind in my framing, but am delighted to share that over the December break my dad and I finally got to my favorite frame shop, The Artist Framer in Cranford, NJ to update the gallery with framed spreads from my two most recent books, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE and LOVE IS KIND. Here are some snapshots of the delightful morning we spent picking out matte and frames.  Thank you, Dad, for the gift of the framed art. Thank you, Stephanie, for your artistic expertise in picking out just the right combination to compliment each spread. Thank you to my publishers, Zonderkidz and Sterling Children’s Books for taking on the projects. And finally, thank you to my illustrators – Rebecca Gerlings and Lison Chaperon for working their artistic magic across the pages of these two most recent books! 

I can’t wait to bring these new framed pieces home so I can add them to my gallery.  

What you do to celebrate your publishing milestones? I’d love to hear.  Happy creating, all!

The Christmas Memory That Inspired GOODNIGHT, MANGER

Have you ever wondered what inspired the author to write your favorite Christmas picture books? Well, we can’t answer to every story, but this week I’ve teamed up with fellow Christmas picture book authors Glenys Nellist, Mindy Baker, Crystal Bowman and Elizabeth Jaeger to present five days of “What Inspired the Story?” where we’re each sharing a short video clip describing a Christmas memory or tradition that inspired us to write our books.

Today it’s my turn today to share the inspiration behind GOODNIGHT, MANGER. And if you want to be sure to hear all the others, I invite you to like/follow me and the others on Facebook and Twitter. That way you’ll be sure to see all five of us share our stories because I’ll be sharing everyone’s inspirational clips all week. Enjoy!

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO!

¡Feliz cumpleaños! That’s right today is the birthday of a very special book — the Spanish edition of LOVE IS KIND! The Spanish title is EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO and it’s published by the Spanish division of Zondervan, Editorial Vida.

I’m so excited for the release of this book for several reasons.

First, I’m delighted that the book’s special message of kindness and love will now reach an even wider audience.

Second, I just love the story in Spanish. I mean what could be cuter than an earnest Pequeño Buho on a quest for chocolates for his abuelita! (And just wait until you see this new version – even the 1 Corinthians text that is found in the illustrations has been seamlessly transformed into Spanish in the new version. It’s beautiful!

Third, I have for a long time wanted to re-learn Spanish, which I spoke fluently as a five year old living in Mexico. I have always regretted that I lost my ability to speak upon return to the US- due to lack of practice. Later, after we returned from France, where I, too, became fluent, and remembering my earlier regret, I worked hard to keep up that language. Now is my chance to return to the Spanish language, in the hopes that very soon I will be able to read EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO in Spanish to a group of children. That is on my list of treasured-things-to-do! Stay tuned!

A Christmas READ. DISCUSS. DO!: Celebrate the Nativity with a Picture Book and A Puppet Show!!

This post is inspired by children’s author, Rebecca Gomez’s wonderful Read. Discuss. Do! initiative where she pairs a picture book with an engaging follow-up discussion starter and activity. Check out the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo for a wealth of creative book-themed ideas!

Now for my special Christmas edition:

Pairing a faith-based Christian picture book with an activity is a great way to spark meaningful conversations with our kids about what Christmas is really all about – Jesus!  With that in mind, here’s an activity that I created for my Sunday school kiddos last year. The activity was given as a gift, wrapped in paper and included the finger puppets along with the instructions. I instructed them not to open until Christmas Eve, but you could modify that to meet your needs.  However, keep in mind that they liked the mystery of not being able to open the gift right away. It added to the excitement.  Afterwards, I heard back from families that it was a big hit!  I think what the kids liked best about this nativity-themed activity was that it was phrased as a “special Christmas assignment” and what parents liked best about it was that it brought the significance of Christmas into the conversation in an engaging, kid-friendly way.  

If you choose to recreate this “SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ASSIGNMENT” for your family, Sunday school class, or homeschool co-op, here’s what you will need.

  1. First, ahead of time, make or order some simple nativity themed puppets – one set per child or one set per family. I ordered mine from Oriental Trading.  
  2. On sturdy paper, type up the instructions – as seen in the picture above.
  3. When it’s time to open the gift, be sure to have several of your family’s favorite nativity-themed picture books on hand.  Of course, I would LOVE if you included my nativity-themed picture book GOODNIGHT, MANGER in the mix and here are a few other suggestions (both new and old) to get you started:

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz) written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD (Beaming Books) written by Elizabeth Jaeger and illustrated by Irene Montano

WHO IS COMING TO OUR HOUSE? (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff

‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS (Zonderkidz) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova

CHRISTMAS IN THE MANGER (HarperFestival) written by Nola Buck and illustrated by Felicia Bond

GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! ( Our Daily Bread) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley

4. After reading and talking about the book, give your children the gift of time and creative materials like Legos, blocks, cardboard, markers etc. to plan their puppet show.  

5. Watch their nativity-themed productions, then marvel together at the wonder of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas!

CLOSING THOUGHT: What nativity-themed picture books would you add to my list? Thank you!

SETTING THE GEARS IN MOTION: Writerly Thoughts inspired by my Antique Clock

In addition to the little toy train (circa 1906) that was my grandfather’s and the glass box that contains a chunk of the old-fashioned soap I helped make at the local 1740s living history museum where I volunteer, one of my favorite possessions above my fireplace is the pre-civil war mantel clock that I acquired from a dear family friend 15 or so years ago.  

Pre-electric, the clock needs to be “set in motion” each week by a steady winding of the gears using a lovely antique key, followed by a a gentle sideways nudge to the pendulum.  It’s a joy and a responsibility to do this each week, for my deliberate efforts set in motion not only a delightfully soothing tick-tock as the pendulum swings and the hands on the clock move forward second by second, but also a deeply resonant hourly chime,  set in motion by means of a coiled wire that releases a hammer that strikes the chime. 

All this winding, ticking, swinging and chiming is also a weekly reminder to me that “setting the gears in motion” is an important part in the life of a writer.  Nothing happens, writing-wise or clock-wise, if gears aren’t set in motion. In fact, with an antique clock, neglecting to set the gears in motion each week, if prolonged can freeze up the mechanics, thus destroying the lovely old-fashioned tick and gong that I so enjoy. 

Neglecting to set my writerly gears in motion on a weekly, or even daily basis, can have a similar effect. Not that my writing mechanics are destroyed, but I definitely start to feel rusty, and if I don’t do at least something to keep those gears in motion on a regular basis, it takes much longer to get back into a nice writing groove -or productive “tick-tock”, as I like to think of it. 

Now, with the holiday season upon us, it might be hard to find long stretches of time to pursue writerly passions, but not impossible!  With that in mind, and inspired by my antique mantel clock, here are FIVE ways, we can keep our writing gears in motion, even when life gets busy. 

1. If writing daily through the holidays is the goal, “setting the gears in motion” might simply mean getting up 30 minutes earlier to do just that.

2. If  trying a new genre is the goal, “setting the gears in motion”  could mean something as simple as going to the library and checking out several books in that genre and using them as mentor texts so that, either now or in the new year, you will be ready to write that first draft.

3. If getting a manuscript ready for publication is the goal, “setting the gears in motion” might mean taking thirty minutes every few days to revise again… and again… and again.

4. If publication us the goal, “setting the gears in motion” can be something as preliminary and vital as researching possible publishers or agents who might be good fits for your work… and then (when ready) sending that your best pieces off!

5. If  promoting an upcoming release is the goal, “setting the gears in motion” might mean taking daily small, but proactive, steps to set up a blog tour, arrange for book store visits, reach out to your publicist to see what they are doing etc.  

“Setting the gears in motion” doesn’t have to be big and splashy. It just needs to be intentional and weekly, or even better, daily. Take it from my clock – regular devotion to the craft we love best, pays off!  

Keep ticking and have a wonderful week!

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed (and personally inscribed) PICTURE BOOKS!

Signed picture books make wonderful keepsake gifts for the little ones in your life.  They can also be given as gifts to teachers, pastors, caregivers and more. And now you can give signed copies of  DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, LOVE IS KIND, GOODNIGHT ARK or GOODNIGHT MANGER even if you can’t make it to a signing. Here’s how – and there are TWO options.

OPTION 1: I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will be offering signed, personalized copies of my books for sale.

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.

OPTION 2: If you would prefer to order the books through your own local bookstore (which is wonderful too!), you can contact me via the contact tab (which is nestled under the About heading) and I can send you signed and personalized bookplates.  You will need to send me a business sized SASE (stamped and self-addressed envelope) and the names you want inscribed, but we can figure that all out via email. It’s that easy!

Happy reading and gift giving!