AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Mary Morgan in Celebration of PIP SITS

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Author-Illustrator Mary Morgan’s newest book, PIP SITS  (I Like to Read®), released last month. Published by Holiday House as part of their I Like to Read Series, it’s the sweet story of Pip, a porcupine, and the little ducklings who think he’s their mama. PIP SITS has received some lovely reviews.  Kirkus Reviews calls it “A good read for hatching new readers” and SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL compliments Mary’s illustrations as “endearing”.  I’m thrilled today to have Mary as my guest. Thank you for joining us, Mary!  I believe this is the first time I’ve had an author-illustrator here to chat about a book!  Well, let’s get started.

What is the inspiration behind PIP SITS?

 I was inspired by an antique photograph of a young girl sitting in the grass with many ducklings on her lap. The look on her face was pure joy. I tried to find an original idea that would also capture the bliss children have when relating to animals. I thought about birds imprinting on whoever they first see when they hatch. I have raised baby birds and it is very interesting to have a tiny bird imprint on you. So this was how the idea of the story was hatched.

How wonderful for your readers, Mary, that you had the creative instinct to write a story based on these bits of inspiration. 

PIP SITS is not your first book. Tell us a little bit about your journey as an author/illustrator.

I was born in Chicago and grew up in Kansas City. My summers were spent in Tulsa with my grandmother where I first took art classes at the Philbrook Art Gallery and later was an assistant art teacher. I could do what I loved there, draw! My grandmother always encouraged my art with trips to the ballet and art museums. She let me keep all kinds of animals to draw from: mice, guinea pigs, chicks and even a small bat. My father’s nightly readings of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and the Wind in the Willows also inspired me. I was enthralled by these books and knew I wanted to create books too.

What a wonderful way to grow up!  And I’m so glad you listened to that inner voice that said “I want to create books too!”

Since you are my first author-illustrator, I know my readers will be extra interested in hearing what your process was like as both author and illustrator in creating this story.

I wrote the story in a rough form first. Then I made many character sketches of Pip, the porcupine. After this, I imagined the scenes in the book. I drew very rough ideas of what the images would look like on each page.

Then I rewrote the story many times working out all the details. When at last I was content with the story I did the finished drawings.

I find it interesting that you wrote the story first.  I, for some reason, imagined that you would begin with sketches. But, I can see that both are integral in your creative process.  Fascinating!

Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?

 My web site is www.marymorganbooks.com. On my web page there is a section called, fun page. There I show you how to make dragon pizzas, draw a dragon and help Little Mouse find another place to sleep. Here is an example…

In the book, Sleep Tight Little Mouse, Little Mouse found many places to sleep. He slept upside down with bats in a cave, inside kangaroo pouches and even in a bird’s nest. Can you think of other ways animals sleep that Little Mouse might like to try?
Make a drawing of him sleeping like these different animals.

That “Fun Page” is a treasure, Mary. I also did a little poking around, Mary, and discovered a terrific  educator’s guide for PIP SITS available at Holiday House.

Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books and other work for sale?

I have many projects I am working on. One is a fantasy about a young girl that migrates with the Monarchs. I hope this story will bring interest to the difficulties the Monarch Butterfly is having with its environment. I am also working on a book about a bilingual bird and another about magical tutus. My books can be bought on Amazon.com.

Thank you so much for joining us, Mary! 

About the Author

Mary walkingAfter studying art at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Instituto de San Miguel de Allende in Mexico; Mary worked as an illustrator at Hallmark cards for ten years.

Mary illustrated her first book in 1987. In the past twenty years she has illustrated over forty books, many of which she also wrote: from Jake Baked a Cake, Sleep Tight Little Mouse to her most recent book, Pip Sits.

Mary and her husband divide their time between France, their home is in a small medieval village, Semur en Auxois, their sailboat, which is now in The Canary Islands and their families, especially their grandchildren!

 Web site: www.marymorganbooks.com

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Annie Silvestro in Celebration of the Release of her Debut Picture Book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB!

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Today I’m delighted to have children’s author, Annie Silvestro, as my guest. Annie and I met several years ago at the NJSCBWI annual conference and I’ve enjoyed following her (and cheering her on) in her writing journey.  Her debut picture book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss and published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers, releases this month. The story of a book-loving bunny who sneaks into the town library and borrows books for all his forest friends, KIRKUS REVIEWS hails BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB as a “sweet salute to reading” . And in its review, PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY states that Annie “makes the pleasures of reading abundantly clear.”  What’s abundantly clear to me is that Annie has a gift for charming storytelling. Welcome, Annie and let’s get started.

Your love of language is evident in BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB. How was that love developed?

Thank you for saying that! I have always been a reader and my love of language goes hand and hand with that. One of the many joys of reading is recognizing that perfect word, sentence, paragraph, or passage that stands out and elevates the story.

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Author Annie Silvestro as a child.

Did you always want to be a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writing journey. 

I have always loved children’s literature, but it took me a while to see myself as a writer. I first attempted to write down a beloved story that my father told me growing up. I failed at that, but the experience gave me the courage to keep trying and to come up with my own ideas. Once I found the SCBWI, it was a done deal.
Do you have writing advice for children? Adults? 

For children who are writing, my best advice would be to recognize that your first draft isn’t your only draft. Writing also means lots and lots of revision.

Good advice in general is to read as much as you can. Listen and observe the world around you. Ideas are everywhere. When you are lucky enough to get one, write it down! Just as quickly as ideas can appear, they tend to disappear as well.

 BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB is your debut picture book.  How does it feel to be “post-publication”!  What do you like best about this exciting new stage?

It is the most amazing feeling! So far the absolute best part has been photos that friends and family have sent of their kids holding or reading my book. It is surreal and wonderful and I haven’t fully wrapped my head around it. I am feeling all kinds of grateful, too, for the support I’ve received. It’s unbelievable.

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A young fan enjoying Annie’s book!

Finally, what’s the one question that you wished I’d asked but didn’t.  


I wish you had asked me about Picture the Books! Picture the Books is an incredible crew of debut authors and illustrators with books coming out in 2017. It is so fun to share this journey with such a talented group! You can find us all in one place and learn about our books and more here.
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Annie Silvestro is a lover of books who reads and writes as much as possible and can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. Her picture books include BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday Books for Young Readers), MICE SKATING, illustrated by Teagan White (Sterling, Fall 2017), and THE CHRISTMAS TREE WHO LOVED TRAINS, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (HarperCollins, Fall 2018). Annie lives by the beach in NJ with her husband and two boys who like to read, and a cat who does not. Visit Annie online at: www.anniesilvestro.com and on Twitter and Instagram: @anniesilvestro.

CHAOS TO CALM: My First TV Interview!

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Last night I had my first tv interview on a Christian parenting show called Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner. We chatted about books, life, and faith.

Here’s Noelle’s official description of the  episode: “Children’s book author Laura Sassi is this month’s guest on my parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner! The episode topic is “The Calm of Building Faith Foundations,” and Laura will weigh in on that as an author, mother, and educator. The magic that makes her stories come alive will open new avenues for sharing faith in your own home!”

If you’d like to watch the episode, here is the link.  Be sure also to enter the wonderful 10-book giveaway that Zonderkidz has authorized in conjunction with Noelle’s episode.  For details and to enter, please visit Noelle’s blog.

JOINT-INTERVIEW: A Chat with Picture Book Author Jodi McKay and Illustrator Denise Holmes in Celebration of the Release of WHERE ARE THE WORDS?

words_coverToday I am delighted to be doing a joint interview with picture book author Jodi McKay and illustrator Denise Holmes.  WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (Albert Whitman, 2016) is Jodi’s debut work.  Denise has illustrated numerous books, but this their first collaboration.  Thanks so much for joining us today.

Synopsis: Period wants to write a story but can’t find the words, so his friends offer their help. Question Mark asks around and Exclamation Point finds some enthusiastic words from some unexpected places. Now all Period needs is an idea, but from whom?

Now for the interview with my questions bolded.

Jodi, congratulations on your debut!  Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the story.

Jodi: Thanks so much, Laura! The idea behind this book came from a horrible case of writer’s block. No amount of chocolate or deep breathing exercises helped me untangle a good idea for a story and I literally sat in front of my computer and asked, “Where the heck are the words?” or at least that’s the PG version. Oddly enough, that question was the spark that I needed and the concept quickly came together afterwards. Knowing that there were books already available about writing or telling stories, I knew that I needed to put a different spin on it and I wanted it to be in the form of a quirky kind of character. Cue the punctuation marks!

Denise, you have illustrated quite a few picture books. What drew you to Jodi’s WHERE ARE THE WORDS story?

Denise: I have to admit this book was new territory for me. My other books have had children as the main characters, so I have been so used to drawing kids. When my agent sent me the manuscript and I got really nervous! But after reading it a few times, the characters started coming to me and I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and illustrate this book. The words are so funny and the characters are so wonderful. I really fell in love with it!

One of the themes of this book is collaboration – coming together and combining your strengths to create a great story. This is humorously depicted in the delightful interactions between Period and his punctuation pals and in the interplay between picture and text.  How collaborative was the process for you as author and illustrator? What kind of communication was involved, if any?

Jodi: First, I would like to say that I got lucky when they chose Denise to illustrate our book. I didn’t want to say too much regarding the art because, 1. I wanted it to be a surprise, and 2. I knew she would add so much more to the story that I wouldn’t have even thought of and I didn’t want to hinder her process. There were a few times that I was given the opportunity to provide suggestions or ask questions all of which Denise graciously addressed. That was done through my editor and I’m assuming their art director, never directly to each other. Now we communicate fairly often to chat about our teacher’s guide and promotional work. She’s great!

Denise: I think this might be standard in the industry, but the editor is the middle person when it comes to working on picture books. In this case, Jordan gave me the art directions and I just went for it. I did finally get talk with Jodi after I finished the book. We have collaborated on promo materials and I look forward to collaborating on events and maybe even a follow up book! What do you say Jodi? I think Period needs to go on another adventure!

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

Jodi: Gosh, a few things really. I hope readers will see how the punctuation marks are speaking and connect that to that actual role of each mark. That is the educational component of this book and one I think is helpful for little learners. I also want kids to see what is possible when they open their eyes to what is all around them rather than just focusing on what’s in front of them. You never know what you can discover! Last, I hope children capture the importance of helping each other and working together for any cause. That piece of the story was created as a result of my own experience with the kidlit community and how helpful everyone has been over the years.

Denise: That it’s good to have friends to help you out, even if they are a little silly!

Laura: What one piece of advice would you offer to young writers/artists who find themselves staring at a blank page?

Jodi: Engage your senses to find that spark! Look in all directions, listen closely to what’s going on around you, pick up different objects to feel what they are made out of, make something that’s smell reminds you of a loved one’s cooking, eat what you made to see if you can go deeper into the memory. Take all of that and see what comes up for you. Creativity comes in various forms so be open to everything.

Denise: I often have days where I have artist’s block. I will step away from trying to force a drawing; go for a walk, read a book, or grab a snack and come back to it. When you get back, just start filling up the page with doodles, something will eventually come out of it.

Finally, what’s next for each of you?  Any more collaborative works in the pipeline?

Jodi: I’m still writing and working with my agent on different picture books. There is one particular that is a companion to WHERE ARE THE WORDS? and I hope it works so that I can team up with Denise again!

Denise: I have a book called Phoebe Sounds It Out (written by Julie Zwillich | Owlkids Books) coming out in April 2017 and I am working on the 2nd book in the series called Phoebe’s Day, Today. As far as collaborating, I would absolutely love to work with Jodi again. I was very inspired by her writing and would jump at the chance to work together again!

Thank you both for inspiring us with your thoughtful responses.  We wish you the best of success with this clever new picture book!

img_8920Bio: Jodi lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan with her husband, son, a couple of mischievous pets, and at least one ghost. She discovered that she loved to write when she was 8 years old, but decided to finish school before pursuing it full time. Now she is an active member of the incredible kid lit community and is proud to be represented by Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary Agency. Jodi’s debut picture book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS? is set to release on December 20th and she can’t wait to share it! If you would like to chat with Jodi, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also connect with her at www.JodiMcKayBooks.com (Look for the teacher’s guide!) or by email at Jodi@JodiMcKayBooks.com

drawingportrait_smallBio: A native of the Detroit area, Denise graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003. She has sine been a freelance illustrator working on many different projects from logos and greeting cards to magazine publications. Her other picture books include IF I WROTE ABOUT YOU, THE YOGA GAME BY THE SEA, and THE YOGA GAME IN THE GARDEN. She lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter.  Visit her online at www.niseemade.com.

Jodi’s Blog tour:

November 14thhttps://albertwhitman.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/qa-with-jodi-mckay/

November 18thwww.KidLit411.com

December 5thhttps://laurasassitales.wordpress.com

December 12th–  http://www.karlingray.com/blog.htm

December 19thhttp://jumpingthecandlestick.blogspot.com

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Jody Jensen Shaffer

Today I am delighted to have my talented friend and critique partner Jody Jensen Shaffer as my guest.  Jody and I have known each other for quite a few years now, and it’s been exciting for me to follow her writerly journey. Jody has written 27 children’s books. She’s here today in celebration of her newest release THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED with illustrations by Kelly Kennedy (Simon Spotlight, July 2016). Forthcoming titles include PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW which will be published by Laura Godwin at Holt Children’s in 2017 and A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK which will be available in 2018 from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Well, let’s get started. 
Thanks so much for joining us today, Jody. Now that re-introductions have been made, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer? 
Thanks for having me, Laura! Like many authors, I liked to write and read when I was young. When I finished high school, I went to college and got a degree in English. (I also got my first paying magazine job. But it was for adults, not kids.) Lots of folks thought I might be a lawyer. But I had other plans. I knew I wanted to teach college students how to write, so I got a master’s in English and taught for a few years, while I was working in the corporate world. When I had kids, I wanted to stay home with them, and that’s when I got hooked on children’s literature. Oh my goodness! I loved those books! I began writing seriously for children then.
THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED has been out now for just over a week.  What do you hope readers will take away from it?
I had such a good time researching the history of cookies! I hope readers will enjoy learning about it as much as I did. The history of cookies is a fascinating story of cultures and ingredients and technology and pluck. (You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean about that last part!)
This seems like a delicious topic to research.  Was a lot of cookie nibbling involved?  But, seriously, I know readers of all ages will be interested in your process for first researching and then writing the book. Can you share a few tasty tidbits with us? 
Cookie nibbling is always a part of my research, Laura, whether my topic is cookies or not! I began my research by scouring the internet and my local libraries. I dug up all the information I could about baking and cookies and spices. I actually thought I’d discover when, where, and what the Very First Cookie was. But guess what? It wasn’t even a cookie! (Again, you’ll understand once you read the book.) After I was comfortable that I had a handle on the history of cookies, I had to decide what information to put in the book and what to leave out. Since this is a book for 6-8 year olds, I wanted to be sure I was adding the right amount of sugar and not overloading them with too much salt, if you know what I mean. I’m happy with the way it turned out, and I think readers will be, too.
Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
Great question! There are all kinds of possible curriculum-extenders for this book, including studying the geography of the history of cookies, the math that recipes use, the technology of ovens, refrigeration, and factories, maybe even a little chemistry for what heat does to specific ingredients. If that’s not enough, how about how cookies are used in various cultures, including ours? The tie-ins are endlessly delicious!
Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?
Yes, there are more picture books in the pipeline! PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW (Holt) releases in 2017, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin) releases in 2018, with more to follow! Readers can find my books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, WalMart and Target. They can find me at my blog at Just Kidding and on Twitter @jodywrites4kids.
Thanks so much for having me, Laura!
Thank YOU for coming!
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!!  If you’d like a chance to win a FREE, SIGNED copy of THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED (Simon Spotlight, July 2016) simply name your favorite cookie in the comment space below.  (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 7/14/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday!  The giveaway is now over. Press here to see the winner.

INTERVIEW: A Chat with Picture Book Author Rebecca J. Gomez (and a Giveaway!)

Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Rebecca J. Gomez, whose brand new picture book, HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS (Putnam May 2017), co-authored with Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, just released! HENSEL AND GRETEL has received lovely reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews for its top-notch rhyme and expressive illustrations. To give you a sense of the book, please take a look at the delightful book trailer.  Then, enjoy my chat with Becky below!

1. Thanks so much for joining us today, Becky.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?
      I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember being able to write. Every now and then the thought of “I should publish a book of poems someday” would enter my mind as a teen and young adult, but actually becoming an author wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. That changed in my mid-twenties after I started writing my own Bible study curriculum for the youth group my husband and I were leading. Writing curriculum led to writing stories for the youth group newsletter, which took me in directions I never thought my writing would go. With three young children at home at the time, I had plenty of inspiration, and there was no stopping me!
 2. HENSEL and GRETEL NINJA CHICKS is a fractured fairy tale. What inspired you and Corey to create this new version? What do you hope readers will take away from it?
      After the success of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD, Corey’s publisher asked her to write a third ninja book, but she wasn’t sure which fairy tale to ninja-fy. So, since we had been writing together for years and years, she asked me to write one with her. I had always wanted to write a new version of Hansel and Gretel, and I thought the idea of Hansel and Gretel as ninjas was ideal! I was right. And Corey was right about them being chickens. 
      Most of all, I want readers to enjoy HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS as a fun, kick-butt story. But there is also that element of working hard to reach your goal, and not giving up when things get hard or scary. 
3. I’m intrigued that you and Corey collaborated on this story.  What was it like to co-author this and your first book WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?  Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
      Corey and I first met when she joined an online critique group I was part of back in…2005, I think. She had co-written her first book, HOP! PLOP!, and she thought that she and I would make a great team. I was hesitant to collaborate at first, but I figured it was worth a shot, especially since she already had one book deal. 
      Writing with Corey has been an incredible experience that has helped sharpen my skills as an author, especially as it comes to writing rhyming stories. She and I always begin a manuscript with a brainstorming session, and then we open up a document in Google drive and begin writing, usually from the beginning. I’ve heard that, with some collaborations, one author will write a draft, then the other author will revise it and send it back, and that continues until they have a finished manuscript. Not so with me and Corey. We generally collaborate on each line from beginning to end, draft to draft. Occasionally we will work separately if we get stuck, or if one of us feels particularly inspired, but in general we move through a manuscript together. And, in case you’re wondering, we do argue now and then. 
4. Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
      The publisher created a story time kit with some fun ninja-themed stuff that kids will enjoy. I’ve also created my own activity pack, including a maze, a word search, and a finger puppet craft that can be used to act out the story.  
5. What’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?
      No official news yet, but there are some things brewing, both for my collaborative work with Corey and my own work. Stay tuned!
      I always like to send people to the local independent book store, but HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS is available wherever books are sold. You should also be able to find it at your local library. If they don’t have it, you can request it!

IMG_1314Bio: Rebecca J. Gomez is a picture book author whose only ninja training involved a few Karate lessons when she was in third grade and a few self-defense moves she learned from her son, a real live ninja. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and three kids. Connect with Becky on Twitter and Facebook.  You can also visit her website

Don’t forget to enter  the GIVEAWAY!!!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS (Putnam May 2017), co-authored with Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 6/2/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday!  THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER.  Thank you to all who entered.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Zonderkidz picture book author Glenys Nellist (PLUS a CRAFT and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today, in celebration of the release of the board book LITTLE LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD (Zonderkidz, 2015) I am delighted to be interviewing author Glenys Nellist.  She’s here as part of her blog tour. And since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, Glenys has also brought along a printable Valentine’s Day craft which she will share after the interview. One lucky reader will also receive a free copy of this terrific new rhyming Bible storybook for littlest readers.  Well, let’s get started.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Glenys.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What was your journey to becoming a writer?
I have loved reading, writing and anything to do with words ever since I can remember. It all began at primary school in England, where one day a week, I was one of the lucky few withdrawn from the classroom to sit in big, comfy armchairs in the teachers’ lounge. There, with pencil and paper at the ready, I would write. When I became a primary school teacher myself, I used to write poems and stories to use in my classroom, but it wasn’t until my husband and I came to pastor a small church in the United States, fifteen years ago, that the publishing world opened up for me. It was at that little church that I began to write my own curriculum, to be used in children’s ministry, and pretty soon had this crazy dream of writing a children’s storybook Bible. It was a dream that would take me ten years to fulfill, but it was worth pursuing!
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What inspired you to write LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD and then LITTLE LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD? 
When my four sons were young, a wonderful little book called The Jolly Postman was published in England. It was their favorite book, written in rhythm and rhyme, that told the story of a postman who delivers letters to nursery rhyme characters. The innovative feature of the book (which is still in print today) is that the pages are actual envelopes containing real letters. I can still remember the joy on my youngest son’s face as he reached inside the envelopes with his chubby little fingers to take the letters out. It was this book that became the inspiration for Love Letters from God. 
 
It was my editor’s idea to produce a toddler, board book version of the original, and Zonderkidz had already started work on condensing some of the stories. However, since I know the literacy value and the sheer fun of rhyming words for little ones, I thought it would be great to write Little Love Letters from God in rhyme. I took just eight of the original eighteen stories, and rewrote them as simple poems, while trying to retain some of the same language used in the original book. It was a challenging, but fun, exercise that I think turned out really well!
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The Bible is full of stories.  How did you select which stories would be included in the original and now the board book version of LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD?
 I knew from the outset that the original book wasn’t going to be just a retelling of Bible stories. Each story had to include its own love letter from God, and a simple Bible verse…a first person promise that God might speak directly to the child’s heart, called God’s Wonderful Words to You. Since it was quite a complex project, I drew up a chart outlining each story, what the love letter might include, and what might be an appropriate Bible verse. It was working on this chart and needing to find balance without overlap that helped me see what stories, apart from the iconic, obvious choices, should be included.
When it came to choosing stories for the toddler version, I simply chose the iconic ones, that every children’s storybook Bible should include.
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Tell us about the illustrations. How long did they take Sophie Allsopp to complete?  Was the process of bringing your words to life through pictures at all collaborative?
 I think it took Sophie about eighteen months to complete the illustrations. My editor asked me what sort of illustrations I had envisioned, and since Sophie had done some work for Zondervan in the past, they approached her. Really, I must credit my wonderful editor, Barbara Herndon for the whimsical illustrations, and for the ‘scrapbook’ feel of the finished product…that was totally her idea! From time to time, Barbara would let me have a peek at what Sophie was doing, and of course, I was delighted. I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
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Let’s take a quick peek at the book trailer for the original LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD.  It really shows how beautifully the scrapbook style illustrations enhance the text. 

What’s next?  Are there more LOVE LETTERS in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?
 I’m delighted to say….YES! You can be on the lookout for CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS which will appear on the shelves later this year, and in 2017, one written especially for girls. I also have a new SNUGGLE TIME series coming out soon! Readers can find out more at the links below. Thanks so much for having me Laura!
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It’s been my pleasure!  And now for the craft! 

Enjoy this free, downloadable Valentine Craft which features the Good Shepherd from Little Love Letters. With special thanks to Glenys’s creative friend, Debi Weaver for her cute design.

Find out more about Glenys and her books here:

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Don’t forget to enter  the GIVEAWAY!!!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of LITTLE LOVE LETTER FROM GOD, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sophie Allsopp, simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box at least 18 years old to enter.) The contest ends Thursday, 2/18/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday! This giveaway is now over.  Winner has been announced.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Becky Kopitzke, Author of “The SuperMom Myth” (and a GIVEAWAY!)

2015-Headshot-1Today I have author Becky Kopitzke as my guest. For several years now I’ve been blessed by Becky’s weekly musings on Christian faith and motherhood which can be found on her popular blog Timeout with Becky Koptizke. Written to encourage “imperfect moms to follow a grace-filled God”, Becky’s blog posts offer weary mothers a dose of faith-based hope and humor that will brighten any day.  And now, Becky has published a book!  Grounded in scripture and filled with the same delightful humor as her blog, Becky’s debut The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood (Shiloh Run Press, 2015) is a fun read that will help moms let go of the pressure to be perfect and instead let God work in and through them as they journey through the challenges and joys of motherhood.

Now for the interview. Let’s get started.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write The SuperMom Myth.

You know the old adage, “write what you know”? That’s me for sure. I’m a mom just like my readers. I pack lunches, read stories, mediate sibling squabbles, and chauffeur my kiddos to school and chess club and karate. My daughters are ages 8 and 5, so I’m still in the trenches, figuring out how to be the best mom I can be day by day. And I mess up all the time.

As a devotional blogger, I discovered many women could relate to the struggles I write about—and time and again, they thanked me for being transparent. So many of us moms assume other women have it all together, and that something must be wrong with us for feeling drained or frustrated with motherhood. Yet if we’re honest with one another, we’ll realize we’re all experiencing similar challenges. Yes, parenting is beautiful and fulfilling. But it’s also downright maddening sometimes. So I wrote The SuperMom Myth to (1) help women realize they are not alone or crazy, and (2) to help them reclaim the joy of motherhood, which often gets muddied by our daily frustrations.

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2. In The SuperMom Myth you humorously and engagingly depict eight of the struggles moms face to be “supermoms” by personifying them as eight “villains” of motherhood. What inspired you to use this strategy?  Which “villain” most resonates with you? 

Well, Laura, I have to admit, the villains are based on a true story. ☺ I have been every single one of those nasty hags! Early on in motherhood, I struggled particularly with impatience. On occasion, I’m not proud to admit, I’d throw a good old mommy tantrum—and I remember feeling like I had transformed into a really bad version of myself, almost as though I could step outside of my normal self to see the “bad mom” misbehaving in my place. So the concept of “villains” or alter-egos made sense to me, and it turned out to be something many other moms could relate to. We know we shouldn’t yell, worry, compare, and so on, and yet we do it time and again. The “villain” concept allows readers to look at themselves outside of themselves, which allows them to laugh at themselves—which helps soften the blow of the conviction.

If I had to choose just one villain that resonates with me most, it’s probably Martyr Mom. Grouch on the Couch is a really close second. I’ve learned the hard way that sacrificing my own well-being, supposedly for the sake of my family, only makes me a grouchy wife and mom. I’m so much better at loving my husband and children when I remember to love myself, too. 

3. What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?

Finding babysitters! Ha! Truthfully, I loved every minute of writing this book. That is not an exaggeration. I’ve heard other writers talk about what a painful birthing process their book writing experience was, but for me it was life-giving. I do, however, have a family who needs me, and they are my top priority. I wrote the majority of The SuperMom Myth in a four-month span, from January through April, with a preschooler still at home most of the week. So my challenge was balancing writing time with family needs. We were blessed to have a wonderful babysitter join us a couple Fridays a month, then my husband took over with the girls a couple Saturdays per month, and somehow by the grace of God I cranked out the book by its deadline. 

4. What is your greatest desire for moms who read this book?  What other resources are available for extending the reading? 

There is no such thing as SuperMom, so it’s time we stop wearing ourselves out trying to achieve a false standard. My greatest desire is for women to embrace their imperfections, drop the mom guilt, rediscover the joy of ordinary family life, and take God up on his offer to give us power and strength to be the moms He designed us to be. 

The book contains a resource section including discussion questions for small groups or personal reflection (ten questions per chapter) as well as an application task so readers can bring the lessons to life in their own home. I also provide a list of key memory verses and simple one-liner prayers to start your day off right. 

If a group is reading this book together for a book club, moms’ group or Bible study, I welcome invitations to chat via Skype. I love connecting in real life with readers and fellow moms!

5. Now that the book is out, you must be busier than ever! What has surprised you most about the post-publication stage?

I suspected the book launch / marketing and PR stage would be intensive, but I don’t think I really understood how writing the book is only half the job. Lucky for me I enjoy marketing, but I can’t imagine the pressure of promoting a book if you’re not interested in social media, radio interviews, speaking engagements, and the list goes on. 

My publisher blessed me with a wonderful publicist, Jeane Wynn from Wynn-Wynn Media, and she has made this “second phase” of book publication a true delight. At heart I’m an introvert; my desk is my happy place. But I’m growing increasingly comfortable with the promotional challenges, thanks in large part to Jeane’s wisdom and support. If I get the chance to write another book, I will definitely enter the process with my eyes wide open. 

6. What’s next? Do you have any more “villains” that are waiting to be tackled? A sequel, perhaps? 

Hmmm . . . stay tuned! ☺

7. Finally, how can readers connect with you or learn more about your blog and book?

I love to hear from readers! Join me on my blog site, www.beckykopitzke.com, where you can read my weekly devotions, subscribe to my monthly newsletter, and connect with me on all my social media channels including Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. 

In addition, I’ve created a special webpage dedicated to everything The SuperMom Myth. Visit www.TheSuperMomMyth.com to find a trailer video, a “meet the author” video (in which I prove once and for all what a total dork I am), endorsements, and information on where to buy the book, including direct links to various retailers. 

I truly hope The SuperMom Myth blesses every single woman who reads it. Thanks so much for having me on your site today, Laura!

And now for the GIVEAWAY!!!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of THE SUPERMOM MYTH: CONQUERING THE DIRTY VILLAINS OF MOTHERHOOD, written by Becky Kopitzke and published by Shiloh Run Press (2015), simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident at least 18 years old to enter.) The contest ends Thursday, 1/29/2016 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday!

GOODNIGHT, MANGER Blog Tour: Final STOP!

IMG_2698Please join me over at Christine Henderson’s The Write Chris – On Writing for a Christmas-themed interview.  Learn a little bit more about what inspired me to write GOODNIGHT, MANGER and find out what some of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions are. Thanks for having me, Chris!  (And this is your last chance for a giveaway, so be sure to head on over.)

GOODNIGHT, MANGER Blog Tour: STOP NINE

IMG_2699Please join me today at Amy Hill Hearth’s Author Page.  She is such a gifted writer and interviewer. I think you will LOVE her insightful questions about GOODNIGHT, MANGER. She certainly got me thinking, and I hope my answers reflect that.  Thank you, Amy!