FAITH PONDERINGS: Why Author DIANE STORTZ Writes Devotionals (and TWO giveaways!)

When I was homeschooling my sweet Miss A, we were blessed to stumble upon Diane’s I AM: 40 REASONS TO TRUST GOD (Thomas Nelson, 2016) at our local Hobby Lobby. Drawn by the cover, we added it to our cart and for the next forty school days, we began each morning by making ourselves mama/daughter tea, then reading one thought-provoking entry, delving into our bibles to check out each scripture verse she mentioned. And now I’m delighted to learn that the author, Diane Stortz, has two new devotionals out. Better yet, she’s agreed to be my guest blogger today sharing her thoughts on what inspires her to write faith-based devotionals for kids and families. Thank you so much for stopping by, Diane. Now, without further ado, here’s Diane!

THE INSPIRATION BEHIND MY DEVOTIONALS

by Diane Stortz

My five young grandchildren—all boys—live in two different states, Ohio and Georgia. Whenever they’re together, only a time or two each year, we make sure to get at least one group photo with all five. It’s fun to track their growth this way, and I love sharing the pics with other family and friends, especially those who live far away in the Pacific Northwest.

We all love sharing what’s important to us with the important people in our lives, right? We all love sharing good news. We introduce a new friend to our long-time friends because we know they’ll hit it off.

For all these reasons and more, I write devotional books.

How It Began

Nearly 20 years ago, an acquaintance invited me to a women’s group meeting in her home. The idea was to read through the Bible together in a year. The focus was simple: “Let’s get to know God.” Every Monday night we gathered to talk about what we had read the previous week. 

We enjoyed doing this so much, we did it again the next year, and the next. Others joined us.

As we read, as we discussed our questions and our insights, we began to discover what God is like—who He is and what He does. Our lives changed as we began to understand how much He loves us and that we can depend on Him.

Getting to Know God

When I write, my focus is on helping readers get to know God better, just like the focus of those women’s groups. I love walking readers through the Bible’s big story from beginning to end in age-appropriate ways. 

I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God introduces readers to 40 different Bible stories and names of God found in the Bible, names like God All-Powerful, The Lord My Light, and Bread of Life. Each of the Bible’s names and descriptive titles for God tells us something important and meaningful about His character. 

Stop-and-Go Devotional: 52 Devotions for Busy Families takes readers through some of the Bible’s familiar events, with simple explanations, conversation starters, prayers, and activities for families on the go. (Tip: Use the material in each devotion over the course of one week. This book is truly designed to be used as you go through your busy week.)

Someone has said, “The Bible is the only book whose Author is always present as you read.” My prayer is always that my books will help readers discover the Bible and get to know the Author better on every page.

Diane Stortz is a multipublished author who writes to make God’s wonders known to the next generation. Her newest releases are Stop-and-Go Devotions: 52 Devotions for Busy Parents and God’s Words to Dream On, both from Tommy Nelson. Diane and her husband have two married daughters and five young grandchildren—all boys! Learn more at http://www.DianeStortz.com.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAYS!!!

Diane has kindly offered two book bundles containing one copy of her STOP AND GO DEVOTIONAL and one copy of I AM: 40 REASONS TO TRUST GOD for me to giveaway to two lucky winners. If you’d like a chance to win one of these book bundles, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday, 6/25/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced the next day!

SPECIAL TREAT: Inspiring Young Writers… in Australia!

SO SPECIAL! A lovely 3rd grade teacher from Australia reached out to me because her students are writing their own stories and she thought it would be special if they could meet an author and ask questions about writing. We tried to make it “live” but couldn’t get a good connection, so instead I sent them a short video introducing myself and welcoming them to ask me questions via email. On Friday, Ireceived their questions and they are WONDERFUL and I thought you might enjoy reading a few of them. I’m also including a short excerpt from my video chat with them. What a marvelous use of technology and the former teacher in me LOVED sharing my joy of writing with the next adorable generation “down under”!

First, the video clip:

Now a picture from their end along with the sweet thank you notes they penned on the class white board:

Finally, three of their amazing questions, along with my responses. (There were 26 in all.)

How does it feel being an author? (Lauren)

It takes a lot of discipline and you have to have thick skin because it takes a lot of rejections before a story is accepted by a publisher. All that hard work feels good, though. Plus, it’s a chance to see the world through writer’s eyes and that brings me joy.  I love being an author.

 Are any of the characters in your books describe you or a family member? (Ava)

I would say that the characters or, more typically, the events in my stories often describe things that have happened in our family. For example, the scene in LOVE IS KIND where the tooth fairy has forgotten to come was inspired by a very traumatic situation in our house when the tooth fairy forgot to come as well. Don’t worry, though, because in both the story and in real life, it all worked out in the end.

Were you shy about the idea of other people reading your stories and books? (Taleeya)

I was a bit at first – especially when the first reviews of the books came out! Now, though, I treasure the idea of children and their parents enjoying my books at story time. They were a joy to write I hope they bring joy to others who read them.

(And the other 23 questions were just as thoughtful. Well done, girls!)

HAPPY READING AND WRITING, ALL!

And the Winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Amy Hout’s picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME, published by Beaming Books, and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester is…

Annette!!!!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Amy, for stopping by to chat about the book and for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!

THE AGENT SEARCH: SIX Questions for Picture Book Authors

A few weeks ago, I was asked by the organizers of the Write2Ignite Conference to write a post offering tips for seeking an agent. That post is up today. For those of you who are seeking an agent, I hope my thoughts are helpful. You can find them here. And while you are there, you might want to look into their upcoming September conference as well. It looks like a great opportunity, especially for writers with faith-themed stories, to learn more about the world of Christian children’s publishing.

As timing would have it, since penning this post, I find myself between agents, so I will be taking my own advice… at some point.

However, my first goal for the summer is to take stock of where I stand as a writer, set goals as to where I would like to be in five years, and then dedicate the summer to writing, writing, writing, with the primary joy-filling goal of building up my picture portfolio with brand new stories.

Happy Summer, all! May it be filled with the joy of seeing the world through writer’s eyes.

P.S. Remember, this journey as a writer is not to be rushed. That’s one of my core bits of advice and a good reminder for me (and maybe you, too) on this sunny spring day. And if you want to read more of my thoughts on that, read here and here.

Happy Book Birthday! GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME: An Interview with Author Amy Houts and a GIVEAWAY!

Join me in welcoming talented picture book author, Amy Houts, whose brand new picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books), debuts TODAY! This charming faith-based story is a soothing read, and a great conversation starter with little ones about God’s protective care. With sparse text and clever rhymes, it’s a delight. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids! And now for the interview with my questions in bold

1.Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based picture book. Is it true that this is your 70th published book! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your prolific journey into the world of children’s book writing.

Thank you, Laura, for having me. Yes, it’s true that I have over authored over 70 children’s books. Most of them were written on assignment for educational publishers. They often ask for a series of books on a specific topic or featuring a specific character. For example, I wrote four books about pets (dog, cat, rabbit, and goldfish) for a South Korean publisher, Compass Publishing. I was asked to write five books featuring the cartoon character, Dora the Explorer. So, it adds up! Plus, I’ve been writing for many years beginning when I was at home with my baby girl, Emily. Now Emily is a busy mother of three young children.While I love writing on assignment, a book based on my own, original idea, such as God’s Protection Covers Me, means so much.  

2. GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME charmingly depicts God’s constant care over, not just children, but all creation. What inspired you to write GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME using animal homes as your concrete visual?

I was inspired to write this book because of the concern I feel as a mother and grandmother. I’m a worrier! But I longed to feel calmer. Looking to God for strength, knowing that He protects us, heart and soul and spirit, gave me comfort. Often, writing helps me work through my feelings. The comparison of an umbrella keeping the rain off and a roof overhead seemed to me to be the perfect symbol to explain to a child (and to myself) how God’s protection works. The text is soothing and reassuring. 

This excerpt is from God’s Protection Covers Me by Amy Houts, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, published by Beaming Books, used by permission.

3. David Creighton-Pester’s illustrations are delightfully concrete and colorful to match your simple, yet comforting, text. Can you tell us a little bit about him? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations?  Do you have a favorite spread?

David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and graphic designer from Hamilton, New Zealand, where he lives with his wife and two young children. His website https://wanderingbert.com/ states that his interest in art started early: “Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, David spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories.”

I’m overjoyed that my editor at Beaming Books paired my text with David’s artwork. The first time I saw the cover and interior spread, I couldn’t help smiling. David gave life to my words. His child-like style and vibrant colors welcome the reader in.  

My favorite spread shows mother and son under the umbrella—nearly home as rain pours down—while the dog and a mouse watch from their protective covering. The rhythm and rhyme of the text is how I began writing the book: “Like a roof protects a house or a crawl space for a mouse…”

4. Besides reading wonderful picture books such as this, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids? 

Start with something kids know or are familiar with (like an umbrella) and move to something unfamiliar or harder to explain (like God’s protection). Similies and comparisons help to illustrate a concept. Focus on a feeling, like peace, comfort, or safety, and how that relates to something physical like drinking hot cocoa, being wrapped in a blanket, or watching the rain out the window. 

5. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

I’m always working on picture book manuscripts in all stages of development from a few lines, to a first draft, to polishing, to submission. Upcoming in 2020, four books written on assignment for educational publisher, Rubicon/Pearson, will be released. You can also read and act out my Bible fingerplays in each 2019 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine. My books are sold through amazon.comchristianbook.combarnesandnoble.com, and more. Visit my website http://amyhouts.com to find out more about my work. 

Thank you so much for stopping by and for writing this delightful book! (And readers, don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.)

Photo by Bob Delsol

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Houts is an award-winning author of over 70 children’s books, cookbooks, and board games that feature family themes of love and friendship, holiday celebrations, and early learning concepts. Her books include The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers(Group Publishing), which features 101 fingerplays, Bible stories, and Scripture verses. It’s a joy for Amy to share Bible truths and God’s love with young children through her writing. Amy and her husband, Steve, live in rural Northwest Missouri,an hour from Steve’s family farm. They are the parents of two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

Twitter: @AmyHouts Instagram: @AmyHouts

And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Amy!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 5/28/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. TO SEE WHO WON PRESS HERE.

Facebook: Author Amy Houts

And the Winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Sarah Floyd’s picture book, TEN CLEVER NINJAS, published by Clear Fork Publishing, and illustrated by Marcin Bruchnalski is…

Ashley Congdon!!!!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Sarah, for sharing your five fun facts about the book and for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!

GUEST POST: Birth of a DIVA!

Delores is DEE-LIGHTED to be featured on Dawn Prochovnic’s blog today – just one month after DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE’s first book birthday – as part of Dawn’s Birth of a Book Series. Eager to find out how this spotlight-loving little seal became a DIVA? Then, pop on over.  I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link: Birth of a DIVA!

Thank you, Dawn, for having us! TRA-LA-LA-LA!


AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with about TEN CLEVER NINJAS with Sarah Floyd (Plus a Giveaway!)

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Sarah Floyd as we celebrate the release of her newest picture book TEN CLEVER NINJAS, published by Clear Fork Publishing. Here’s the publisher’s description: “A very clever ninja and his nine ninja buddies spar across the countryside, build a secret hideout, and solve a sweet cupcake clue. Ki-ya! The upbeat rhythm and lively illustrations will appeal to children ages 2-6.” Sounds, adorable, right? Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself.  Take it away, Sarah! 

Five Fun Facts about Ten Clever Ninjas 

by 

Sarah Floyd

1. The ninjas theme developed from my son’s passion for all things ninja.

When my son was little, he loved to dress up as a ninja—he was a ninja for three Halloweens in a row! When friends came over to play, we’d pull out the dress-up box, and other than a short Star Wars phase, ninjas always won! So, when the idea of a rhyming counting book began percolating, “ninjas” was a natural theme.    

2. The illustrator for Ten Clever Ninjas is a doctor! 

Marcin Bruchnalski practiced medicine for two years before deciding to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts, where he devoted himself to becoming an artist instead. It’s easy to understand why his characters move in such a lifelike manner, and with such natural expressions—Marcin is both a doctor and an artist! 

3. One of the ninjas uses a wheelchair. 

Ninja #8, who rolls to the rescue in his wheelchair, was inspired by a childhood friend. He liked to be in the middle of the action and never let his wheelchair stop him from doing the things he loved. 

4. “Ki-ya” and similar sounds are part of martial arts. 

Martial artists make a loud sound called a “kihap,” defined as a spirited shout, which helps focus their energy when sparring or practicing powerful moves. That sound comes out as “ki-ya!” which is seen as a bubble of text in art in several illustrations in the book.   

5. Ten Clever Ninjas has a foundation in my own childhood.

My friends and I rambled around the woods of California, much like the ten ninjas in the story, climbing trees, building forts, and gathering new friends along the way. Our parents trusted us to be careful, smart (clever!), and come home in time for dinner (or cupcakes!).   

Thank you, Laura, for inviting me and my ten ninjas to your blog! Ki-ya!! : ) 

It has been my pleasure, Sarah! =)

Author Bio: Sarah Floyd was born in Carmel Highlands, California, where she and her friends explored, climbed trees, and built forts in the woods that surrounded their homes—much like the characters in Ten Clever Ninjas. When she was in first grade her family moved to San Francisco, and then to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She always brought her favorite books, wherever she moved, and she always found new friends who loved to read. Now she writes books for children and teens—for her, it’s the best job in the world!

Sarah is also the author of Butterfly Girl and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Florida with her husband and teenage son, a green belt in Taekwondo. To learn more, please visit sarahfloydbooks.com

And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Sarah!)

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of TEN CLEVER NINJAS written by Sarah Floyd and illustrated by Marcin Bruchnalski, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 5/3/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!

Spring 2019 Book Events

Spring 2019 Book Events

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: The Inspiration Behind DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON? by Gayle Krause

Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Gayle Krause, whose brand new picture book, DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON (Clear Fork Publishing), debuts this month! Gayle is the author of several books and a talented poet. She and I met as critique partners years ago in the critique group, The Poets’ Garage. Today, I am honored to have her as my guest sharing the inspiration behind her newest book. Thank you, Gayle!

The Inspiration behind DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON by Gayle Krause

Some people say children inspire them, some say it’s a feeling, or a dream. For this special picture book, I can’t explain how it came to be. My stories are usually filled with fantastic creatures, magic, or some silly, humorous happening. But not this one! This picture book is serious, and for me that’s a complete 180.

As former Early Childhood Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers as part of their training program for over thirty years. I also directed a Laboratory Pre-K, affiliated with my teaching course. It was there, as I sat on the floor of the nursery school, reading countless picture books to the preschoolers, or acting out fairytales as creative dramatic presentations that I became uniquely attuned to the young child’s mind.

DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON? was a combination of the memory of one little boy that was having a difficult time accepting the time frame of his dad’s separation from the family (preschoolers do not understand the concept of time) and the military family reunions shown on the news each night when soldiers come home to surprise their children at school, baseball games, or parades.

I will say this. The idea for Daddy, Can You See The Moon? came all at once— the story, the rhyme, and the emotion. Good stories always come fast. Straight from the heart, with no pre-judging or revising before you choose the words. And this story is timeless…

Soldiers will always be deployed and children will always be waiting patiently, counting the days when their Mom or Dad returns from war. But sometimes they don’t come home the same way they left. In Daddy, Can You See the Moon? a young boy and his soldier dad share special moments by looking at the moon each night. But when Dad comes home wounded, his son discovers it’s the power of love that kept them connected all along, and he plays a major part in his father’s recovery. 

We chose April 9, 2019 as the release date to celebrate The Month of The Military Child. So if you know a soldier, who was deployed and came back wounded, this book may help the family heal. And for those of you who aren’t in the military, it’s a universal story about the love of family. 

Thank you, Gayle! I wish you the very best as you launch this very special book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gayle C. Krause is a member of SCBWI, and a past member of the Historical Novel Society and the Poet’s Garage. She’s served on the Rhyming Revolution Selection Committee, choosing the “best” rhyming picture book for 2015-2018. A Master educator, she’s taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Ms. Krause writes fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction for Young Adult, Middle Grade, and young children. She’s been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Scholastic Book Clubs, and in various Young Adult Anthologies. Her previous work, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was a 2013 nominee for the Boston Globe/Horn Book and International Reading Awards. Follow Gayle’s writing journey at http://www.gayleckrause.comhttp://www.gayleckrause.com on Facebook and Twitter @GeeCeeK. New books coming in 2019. Daddy, Can You See the Moon? – April, 9, 2019 – #PB #woundedwarriors #military. Once Upon a Twisted Tale, a MG Fractured Fairytale Poetry Collection, Quest of the Ungnome. Clearfork/Spork Publishing.