‘Tis the Season: Holiday Book Events with Laura Sassi

Holiday Book Events 2018 2

Saturday November 24, 2018 1 – 3 pm.  I’ll be reading my books and chatting with customers as part of Small Business Saturday at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ.

Sunday December 2nd, 2018 2:00– 4:00.  I’ll be reading LOVE IS KIND & signing all my books as part of Gingerbread Sunday at the Miller Cory House in Westfield, NJ.

Saturday December 8 2018 11- 1:00 pm.  Join me for festive readings of all my books with puppets, then shop at the Cranford United Methodist Church’s Christmas Shoppe and Soup Festival. Note: The festival is open from 10 – 3pm.

Books available for purchase & signing at all events.  

(Cash or check only December 2 & 8)

TAILS ON THE ARK: An Edible Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, ARK

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It’s always fun when you discover that someone you’ve never even met has seen your book and thought enough of it to create a special activity based on the book. That’s exactly what happened last spring when I discovered that on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, Addie Gundry, trained chef and cookbook author, used the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat. Click here for her wonderful edible activity.  And thank you, Addie, for letting me share the adorable picture above.

Now to springboard off of her creativity, I’d like to add some suggestions for thoughtful questions you might ask as you are making these delightful tails inspired by GOODNIGHT, ARK!  

GOODNIGHT, ARK Tail-Themed Questions

Do all of the creatures in  GOODNIGHT, ARK have tails? Which do not?

Which is your favorite tail? Why?

How many tails can you count? (On any given page.)

Why do you think animals have tails?

If you had a tail, what would it look like?  (Draw it , or make one using Addie’s ingredients!)

Happy reading, conversing about, creating, and then eating these adorable tails! And thank you, Addie, for creating this delightful (and tasty) extension activity!

P.S. Addie Gundry has also created adorable (and I mean ADORABLE) treats to go with GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.  Press here for her adorable Bunny Tails.

THE BIG DRAW: Illustrator Rebecca Gerlings Shares DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

 


When Rebecca Gerlings, the illustrator of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, told me she was going to be one of the featured artists at this year’s The Big Draw Epsom, I was excited and wanted to learn more about the event and her role.

What I learned is that The Big Draw is a big deal! The Big Draw is a “a visual literacy charity that promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention” and, according to their website, since their launch in 2000, over four million people have participated.  That makes them the world’s largest drawing festival! This year the festival ran from 1–31 October, and involved over 400,000 people from over 25 countries!

The  2018 theme was “play” and in Epsom activities included live cellists, chalk drawing on pavements, abstract art in the square, and readings and workshops in the library.  Visitors also had the chance to meet local artists, art educators and designers – including picture book author-illustrator Rebecca Gerlings, illustrator of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse!

Here’s a round up of Rebecca’s part of the day:

 

Rebecca read Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, then lead a puppet-making workshop where children could take home their very own Delores and Fernando.

4439cb7b-874d-4228-8cbe-fa7765c752deShe cut 40 templates for both characters, snipped 40 woolly mouse tails, punched 80 mouse ears, and dotted 120 sticky eyes ahead of the event. 

 

The Fernando puppets were made by rolling each brown sugar-paper template into a little cone and securing it with sticky tape. A pair of ears and eyes and a woolly tail later and – voila-la-la! – Fernando!

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Once the kids had completed their puppets they popped them on stage for their debut performances!

All 40 cute Fernando puppets found new homes with their little makers. And in a flurry of feathers and glittery makery so did all 40 Deloreses!

IMG_2617It was such a smash that when the templates ran out a half hour before the end of the workshop the resourceful kiddos stayed to make cute characters out of the cotton wool balls meant for Delores’ wigs! 

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful day!  And perhaps it will inspire you to grab a copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE to read with your kiddos. And, afterwards, maybe you, too, can create puppets and put on a show!  Happy reading and creating, all!

SAVING THE SHAVINGS: Four Writerly Reasons to Hold on to the Tossed Bits

Framed Shavings

My artistic daughter thought these pencil shavings were so beautiful she wanted me to save them.  We took this picture instead. For months I forgot about them, until I rediscovered them while browsing through old photos.

I find these lovely shavings inspiring.  As writers, our job is to whittle away at our stories, sharpening them until they shine.  But sometimes, in our haste to perfect the story or poem at hand, we foolishly toss the shavings. Those shavings, however, often contain precious marrow which, if tossed too quickly, we will later regret. So, before you hit delete or permanently toss old story bits, here are four thoughts to consider.

Oops! It Wasn’t a Shaving After All!  I can’t tell you how many times in the processing of revising, I have deleted a phrase or thought that I later regretted. Thank goodness, I learned early not to permanently delete anything when whittling a piece. Instead I “cut” the phrase or sentence that I think isn’t working and “paste” it in a repository at the end of the document. That way ALL my thoughts are captured and preserved, so if I realize later that something wasn’t a shaving after all, it’s still safe and sound in my shavings collection.

One Story’s Shaving Is Another Story’s Spark.  When working on a new piece, I like to brainstorm and write in my journal. Sometimes this takes up pages and pages. Over the years, I’ve been tempted to toss these old chicken scratchings, but I’m so glad I haven’t. Do you know how many new ideas those old notes have sparked? Shavings and shavings worth! (Bigger than the lovely heap pictured above.) My advice, then, is to find a nice box or shelf to store your old journals and unused writing bits so that one day when you feel uninspired, you can search those old shavings for the marrow of a new story or poem!

Is That a Shaving or is that a Sequel?  If a book does well, your publisher might be interested in a sequel. I keep this hopeful thought in mind when revising.  I tend to be an overwriter – infusing way more plot twists and content than a 32-page picture book can handle.  Over time, I’ve learned to put asterisks or boxes around plot twists or snippets of text that don’t fit the current story but which might be the spark for a sequel.

Save those shavings for posterity (or at least for school visits)! When speaking with students about writing picture books, they LOVE it when I can show them concrete evidence that published pieces go through many, many rounds of whittling before they are ready for print.  Here’s where those awkward early rhymes or plot twists that I wisely shaved off my story come in handy. Students love them! They also enjoy glimpses into early brainstorming notes or lists. Indeed, a thoughtful assortment of  select shavings that illustrate various truths about the writing and revising process will bring school presentations to life!

Happy sharpening all and remember to save the shavings!

(Note: I re-discovered this post from March 2016 while browsing through my blog archives. I found it inspiring so decided to post again.  I hope it inspires you, too, as you set about writing this week.)

WEDNESDAY’S BOOK: LOVE IS KIND Radio Interview (And a Winner!)

Dq2pILBX0AE4cJH.jpg-largeThis week it was my pleasure to be interviewed by radio host Care Baldwin for her program, Wednesday’s Bookmark, a weekly show that celebrates books. The interview aired October 31st at 4:30 EST on Family Radio CHRI 99.1 fm, Canada’s largest Christian family radio station.  Thank you, Care, for being such a great host!  I had a wonderful time.  Here’s the link for the interview. Please stop by.  =)

I’m also delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Mindy Baker’s debut Christmas picture book, MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, published by Zonderkidz, and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk is…

Emmie!!!!!

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

Thanks again, Mindy, for an illuminating interview. I’d also like to thank Zonderkidz for providing the winning copy. Happy Friday, all!

Book Trailer PREMIERE: Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

TRA-L-LA!!!!  Look what we created, just in time for National Opera Week, though Delores and Fernando (and I)  think every week is a good week to celebrate opera! It’s a BOOK TRAILER… our first. We hope you like it. =)

Happy Trailer-ing!  And Happy Reading!  And Happy National Opera Week!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from Little Owl!

Little Owl Halloween with text

LOOK! Little Owl, the sweet protagonist from LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018), is all dressed up for Halloween with spider buttons and a pointy hat.  And he’s got his little jack-o-lantern, ready to fill with Halloween treats. In this sweet illustration, created by illustrator Lison Chaperon (thank you, Lison!), it looks to me like he’s also whispering to Dragon that he’s ready to share his candy along the way and say please and thank you at every house he visits.  (That’s showing showing thoughtfulness and love in true LOVE IS KIND style, don’t you think?) Happy Halloween, all!

TRA-LA-LA!:  EIGHT OPERA-THEMED PICTURE BOOKS for ALL AGES

opera-themed picture booksDid you know this is National Opera Week? I love opera’s glorious ability to tell a story through song, dance, with rich orchestra and majestic sets! That’s partly why I decided it would be fun to write a picture book set in an opera house.  And did you know that reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE with your littles ones can be a fun and engaging way to introduce them to this great art form?  But why limit the fun to just one picture book!  In celebration of sharing a little opera love with our little ones, here are EIGHT picture books with delightful, kid-friendly opera themes.  Enjoy! (And if you can think of any I missed, please add them in the comments section.)

img_1407DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

written by Laura Sassi and iIlustrated by Rebecca Gerlings 

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2018) 

The humorous tale of a new diva who needs all the help she can get, and the mouse who has offered to help (but she thinks she deserves bigger help than a mouse!). 

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OPERA CAT 

written by Tess Weaver and illustrated by Andréa Wesson 

(Clarion Books, 2002) 

The charming story of a cat (who can sing) and a diva who has laryngitis!

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ENCORE, OPERA CAT

written by Tess Weaver and illustrated by Andréa Wesson 

(Clarion Books, 2009)

In the charming sequel to OPERA CAT, Alma and Madame SoSo travel to Switzerland!

51iCRAUWlJL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_THE GREAT POOCHINI

written and illustrated by Gary Clement

(Groundbooks, 1999) 

Full of opera wordplay and doggy-transformed operatic names – such as the protagonist, Poochini- this is the fun story of a dog who seems ordinary by day, but at night he becomes an opera star!

 

3427269PET OF THE MET

written and illustrated by Don Freeman

(Viking, 1953)

A charming classic by the author of CORDUROY about a family of mice who live at the Metropolitan Opera House… oh, and there’s a cat! 

61OjQ7tRJ3L._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_BRAVO! BRAVA! A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH COMPOSERS, CAST, AND CREW

written by Anne Siberell

(Oxford University Press, 2002) 

An engaging, kid-friendly introduction to opera, full of fun facts and whimsical illustrations. 

 

51f3Bmbj5YL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_A SOUP OPERA

written by Jim Gill and illustrated by David Moose

(Jim Gill, Inc.; Har/Com edition, 2009)

A fun introduction the feel of opera using a silly soup story.  CD included. Hear Jim read it here – with music and voices!

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THE DOG WHO SANG AT THE OPERA 

written by Marshall Izen  and Jim West and illustrated by Erika Oller

(Harry N. Abrams, 2004)

Humorous tale based on a true story about a dog who sings with the Diva on opening night at the Metropolitan Opera House! 

LOVE IS KIND: Student Art and Kindness Reflections!

It’s always fun for an author to receive mail – especially the kind that includes student artwork and thoughtful writing inspired by one of their books. That’s exactly what happened this week!  Now, with permission, I’m delighted to share teacher and author Tina Cho’s students’ work along with her explanatory note about how she used LOVE IS KIND with her students in South Korea. Thank you, Tina!

“I read LOVE IS KIND last week for Fall, and we had also read nonfiction books about owls. So it was perfect! I had them draw Little Owl and write how they can be kind. Attached are papers. Below is what they said in case you can’t make it out.”
What a delightful way to integrate learning about owls with thinking about how to extend love and kindness to one another. Little Owl gives this project a thumbs up… and so do I!
Now, without further fuss, here are the art projects with captions beneath for clarity.  Enjoy!
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I can help my mom.

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I eat eggs, be kind at breakfast with Grandma.

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I can share my stuffed animal.

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I love my mom and dad. I play games (with them).

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I help my mom clean the room.

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I can be kind to my dad (helping him work on their jeep

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I hug my mom.

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I share with mom flower.

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I share an apple.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Mindy Baker in Celebration of her Debut Picture Book MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have debut Zonderkidz picture book author Mindy Baker here as my guest to chat about her Christmas story MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT.  Here’s the adorable flap copy:  “Can one tiny church mouse find a way to bring Christmas spirit to his little town when Parson gets sick and the usual Christmas Eve service is cancelled?”  You will have to read to find out, and when you do, I think you fall in love with this heartwarming picture book story just as much as I have.  I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids!  And now… the interview!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Mindy. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?

My husband and I have been married for almost 23 years, and we have three children. My oldest daughter is a sophomore in college, and I have a daughter who is a senior in high school and a son who is a freshman in high school. I love being a wife and mom! 

I am also a high school Spanish teacher at a public high school in our area. I enjoy my relationships with my students—they keep my life “muy interesante!”  You can check out my classroom via my “teacher Twitter.” The address is @srabakerhse. 

Another unique thing about me is that I have been able to travel to almost thirty different countries for various reasons. I LOVE experiencing different cultures and am thankful for all of the amazing experiences that I have had along the way in my travels. If you want to hear some crazy travel experiences, ask me…I can talk for hours about my trips!

 

I have always loved writing, but about ten years ago I decided to take a few classes in writing specifically for children and that is how I began to learn about writing picture books. It has been quite a journey, but I truly love writing. It is a creative outlet for me and very relaxing and rewarding.

Wow, what a rich bank of experiences you bring to the writing table!  I always so fascinating to see all the different paths that can lead to writing.

What inspired you to write Mouse’s Christmas Gift?

I had originally seen a publisher’s wish list that included “books that explained the meaning of Christian holidays.” Although this was not the publisher that ended up buying my manuscript, it was what inspired me to begin shaping my story. 

Also, I love Christmas, and I collect nativity sets and church ornaments. It is the running joke in my family that even though they have “banned” me from buying any more nativity sets, somehow the collection keeps growing! 

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Nativity from Mexico

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Nativity from Ecuador

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Nativity from Israel

Honestly, my stories seem to grow from idea seeds or mind pictures. With this story, there were several elements that kept swirling around in my brain. 

–The Christmas Eve service at our home church has always been something special to me, and spiritually significant in my life. 

–The element of family and community, like at a church pitch-in dinner, or get-together with family/friends when everyone brings a dish to share.  I wanted to capture that feeling of “togetherness” or “connectedness.”   

–The idea of light in a dark world, or being a light in a dark world, one person trying to make a difference. I wrestled with how to show this in the manuscript. 

–I have always found stories including mice to be endearing and charming.

So…all of that…somehow became this story!

And you did a wonderful job of bringing all those elements together!  I can’t wait to share you story with my Sunday School classes – which I will be doing next month. They’ll be reading the story and then building it out of Legos!

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

There are several messages that I hope shine through.  The most obvious message is that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Without his birth, there would be no Christmas. The second is that even someone small can make a big difference.  Mouse never loses hope, and his acts of setting up the nativity set in the church and lighting a candle in the window set off a chain reaction in the village. A third lesson is that a Christmas celebration is not about how much money you spend. There is beauty in simplicity. I hope that readers uncover even more lessons as they read and connect with the story of Mouse.

These are all wonderful messages – and so beautifully and seamlessly woven in to a rich story.  

Tell us about the illustrations. How long did they take Dow Phumiruk to complete?  Was the process of bringing your words to life through pictures at all collaborative?

As you said, the illustrator of the book is Dow Phumiruk. She told me that it took her about ten months to complete the illustrations for Mouse’s Christmas Gift. A Twitter acquaintance commented that I “struck gold” when Zonderkidz selected Dow to be my illustrator, and I whole-heartedly agree.  Everything Dow draws has a magical quality, and I love the warmth conveyed in the cover, and throughout the entire book. It invites you to curl up and enjoy the story of Mouse.  I am in awe of what she has done with the illustrations. If you are interested, you can connect with her through her website at www.artbydow.com.  

Honestly, Dow and I did not collaborate on the illustrations. Once I submitted the manuscript, Dow and the art team at Zonderkidz took it from there. However, I was delighted at how beautiful the book turned out. I am so thankful and honored to be paired with Dow for this project.

I’m delighted at how the book turned out too. It’s very appealing.

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

I wrote a teaching guide for Mouse’s Christmas Gift that will be offered as a free download on the Zondervan website in just a few weeks. I am very excited about that!  Click here for the teacher guide. 

I have been working on several other projects and Mouse’s next adventure, but only time will tell if those manuscripts will make their way into the world. I certainly hope they do! Mouse’s Christmas Gift can be found on Amazon.com, Christian Books Stores, Barnes & Noble, and the Zondervan website. 

Thank you so much, Mindy, for giving us the lovely glimpse into the story from the author’s point of view. And, I don’t think it’s too early to wish you a very Merry Christmas!  

And now for the GIVEAWAY!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, written by Mindy Baker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk, 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 Thursday, 11/1/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 11/2/18!