There’s an ADORABLE new picture book out just in time for Valentine’s Day called GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE.  Written by Diana Murray and humorously illustrated by debut picture book illustrator, Bats Langley, GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE (Sky Pony Press, 2017) is the story of an appealing young monster who wants to make his sweetheart the perfect valentine. Unfortunately, he’s also hungry! The story is funny and cute and would make a wonderful addition to your Valentine’s Day book collection.  I also find it amusing that it’s currently listed as #1 at Amazon in the category “Children’s Spine-Chilling Horror” and “Children’s Valentine’s Day Books”. That’s quite a combination – and a winning won!    

To celebrate it’s release, the AFA Gallery in SoHo hosted a monstrously delightful book launch event.  The three hour event included…

 book-themed treats…

lots of opportunity to chat with author and illustrator…img_3830

and, of course, books to be signed !

Many of Bats Langley’s preliminary sketches were also on display and for sale.  img_3832

I hope these pictures give you a sense of the magic, not only of the event, but of the book itself.  I can’t wait to share my newly signed copy with all my teacher friends as well as our children’s librarian.  Happy reading, all!


Diana Murray is a poet and picture book author whose other books include City Shapes, Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch, and Ned the Knitting Pirate. Diana’s award-winning children’s poems have appeared in many magazines, such as Highlights and Spider. She lives in New York City with her husband, two very messy children, and a motley crew of lizards, snails, and fish.

Bats Langley grew up in Wolcott, Connecticut and attended the Rhode Island School of Design. His art has been shown in galleries in New York City, Los Angeles, Hangzhou, China, and has even been displayed in the United States Capitol building. Mr. Langley has also been a regular contributor to Ladybug and Spider magazines. This is his first picture book. He resides in New York, New York.


Marketing the SNOW BALL Way!

IMG_0607Your debut book is out! You have several copies in your hands to prove it. It’s available in stores and online. You’ve had a blog tour. Perhaps you even have a book trailer. And to your delight, the reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist etc. have started to come in and you are getting a growing number of reviews on GoodReads and Amazon.

What should you do now? I’ve found that doing book events at stores, libraries and schools has been a great (and fun) way introduce each of my books locally and beyond.

In celebration of the release of both the hardcover and board versions of each of my books, I set a goal of doing between 15 and 20 events. These included events at book stores, libraries, a local ceramics shop, and a Christmas festival. I’ve also done story times at book fairs, nursery schools, both in person and via Skype, and this year I’ve even branched out and spoken at a couple of church-based women’s events. Oh, and I was on tv! And even though Goodnight, Manger has been out for over a year now, and Goodnight, Ark has been out for two, I still try to brainstorm creative event possibilities and schedule a couple of events per month.

I arranged my first three book events by simply calling local bookstores and sending follow-up emails that included details about the book as well as a link to the book trailer. But in the big picture I’m learning that cold calls aren’t the most effective strategy.  More often than not, they don’t go anywhere.

Instead, I have found that having some connection, or someone to introduce you, works best. For example, at my first bookstore event, I met a woman who loved the book and recommended it to the director at her daughter’s preschool.  That led to my first preschool visit.  The director of that school enjoyed the visit and mentioned it at a regional preschool directors’ meeting.  That led to more events. Similarly, one bookseller thought I did a nice job presenting the story and recommended me for an in-store book fair with a local preschool. I subsequently did yet another in-store book fair at another store branch. And now, several times a year, I’m invited back to both book stores for in-store book fair events. Most of my library events have also been initiated by recommendations from people that knew of me and my book.

To use a wintry analogy on this snowy day, I would say this marketing strategy has a delightful snowball effect with each visit leading to others.  All it takes is a little effort to get the ball rolling. With that in mind, the first thing I would recommend to first time authors is to make a list of friends/colleagues you know who have connections to area bookstores, schools and libraries and see if they will make introductions for you.

imageDon’t fret if you don’t make a stunning number of sales at each event. A few sales are nice, yes, but your deeper, more lasting goal should really be about raising awareness.  As two booksellers have reminded me, a book event is really about much more than the hour or two you are physically present at the event. It’s about generating interest in your book. And see the picture (left) which shows my book on display in the window of Books and Co. (And Toys Too!), a lovely independent bookstore in Lexington, VA where I had two signings? Only ONE family came to the morning signing.  But the owner was not concerned.  Indeed, she was delighted because each day leading up to the book event (and afterwards too) customers, having seen the book in the window, came in to purchase copies.  She sold 77 the week of that event and even now, two years later, she says that my books continue to be regular sellers.

So take my snowball advice and have a ball at local book events!  It’s worth every snowflake.

UPDATED: ‘Tis the Season for MORE Book Events!

img_3521In celebration of reading and living joyfully, I’ve added a few more events for the holiday season. Please join me, if you can.  I’d love to see you! 

Saturday November 26, 2016 10 – noon.  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 4th, 2016 1:30 – 4:00.  I’ll be reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER and signing books as part of Gingerbread Sunday at the Miller Cory House in Westfield, NJ.

Thursday December 8, 2016 12 – 2pm. I’ll be at the Barnes and Noble in Princeton, NJ reading and signing both books as part of a book fair. All are welcome.

Saturday December 10 2016 11- 1:30 pm.  Join me for festive readings of GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER with puppets, then shop at the Cranford United Methodist Church’s Christmas Shoppe and Soup Festival. Note: The festival is open from 10 – 3pm.

Sunday, December 11, 2016 1pm. I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Springfield, NJ reading and signing both books as part of a book fair. All are welcome.

Tuesday December 20, 2016 10am.  Join me for an interactive story time featuring GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the New Providence Library. Meet my storytelling companion–Rooster and enjoy some fun book-themed coloring pages.

Wednesday December 21, 2016 10:30am.  Join me for an interactive story time featuring GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the Garwood Public Library. Meet my storytelling companion–Rooster and enjoy a holiday craft.

‘Tis the Season for BOOK EVENTS!

IMG_1044Please join me at one of these upcoming book events. I’d love to see you!  

Saturday November 5, 2016 1 – 4 pm.  Stop in at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, PA where I’ll be chatting with customers and signing books.

Tuesday, November 15,  2016 4:30 pm.  Join me for an interactive story time featuring GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the Fanwood Library. Meet my storytelling companions – Rooster, Stinkie and Pinkie – and enjoy some fun book-themed coloring pages.

Saturday November 26, 2015 10 – noon.  I’ll be reading my books and chatting with customers as part of Small Business Saturday at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ.

Saturday December 10 2016 11- 1:30 pm.  Join me for festive readings of GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER with puppets, then shop at the Cranford United Methodist Church’s Christmas Shoppe and Soup Festival. Note: The festival is open from 10 – 3pm.

SUMMERTIME STORY TIMES (with Skunks and Rooster!)


Looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer? How about joining me for one of these summertime story times? Meet my puppet companions who help with the storytelling and enjoy a special craft.

Tuesday July 19, 2016 Join me for a GOODNIGHT, ARK story time and book signing with craft.  Berkeley Heights Public Library, NJ.  10:30 am.

Thursday July 28, 2016 Join me for a GOODNIGHT, ARK story time and book signing with craft.  New Providence Public Library Library, NJ.  10:00 am.

Monday August 1, 2016  Join me for “Christmas in August”!  Sing carols, participate in a reading of GOODNIGHT, MANGER and enjoy a craft or two.  More details TBA.  Lakeside, Ohio.




Join me today at Rosanne L. Kurstedt’s blog for her fun roundup of GOODNIGHT, MANGER’s birthday bash! There’s even a video clip.  =) Thanks, Rosanne!

TWELVE TIPS to Engage VERY Young Audiences at Picture Book Author Events

image_2Reading to the very young is fun, but challenging.  Here are twelve tips for capturing and keeping the attention and interest of very young audiences at picture book author events.


  1. Have the children gather around you – close up.
  2. Begin with a focusing activity, such as a song or clapping response game.
  3. Briefly tell a little bit about who you are, your inspiration for story etc. in a playful, kid-friendly way.  (Optional:  Bring a long a couple of props to help with this.  I bring puppets, for example.)


4. Be animated and excited.  Read with expression.

5.  Make eye contact. Remember, you aren’t just reading, you are interacting with your readers.

6.  Before turning each page, be sure to hold the book up and pan it around the room slowly so everyone has a chance to enjoy the illustration.

7. Involve the children in the storytelling. (By using body motions and sounds, for example.)

8. Pause occasionally to point out something from the illustrations that they might not notice, but which adds to the story.

9. As you read, occasionally ask questions like “What do you think will happen next?  Would you want to be…?”  (But don’t do #8 and #9 so much that you break the flow of the story.)


10. Share a fun post-reading activity such as a simple craft or song.

11. Depending on age and attentiveness of group, have a brief Q&A session.

12. Thank the children for being such a great audience and thank their parents or guardians for bringing them to the event.  Remember also to thank the event host.

SPECIAL VISIT: Goodnight, Ark Sails to Lakeside Chautauqua

IMG_0583This week Noah and the gang traveled to Lakeside Chautauqua in Lakeside, Ohio for a special GOODNIGHT, ARK event. Founded in the 1870’s and nestled along scenic Lake Erie, Lakeside Chautauqua is an historic community dedicated to nurturing the mind, body, and spirit.

Hosted by Bev and Joan, the lovely booksellers at the Fine Print Book Store, our special story time took place at the historic Green Gables. I hope the pictures below capture the fun we had. Thanks to all for a great time!


Standing outside the Fine Print Book Store.


Bev and Joan did a terrific job creating an adorable window at the Fine Print Book Store featuring “Goodnight, Ark” along with some wonderful Folkmanis puppets.


The story time took place at Green Gables, the charming Victorian home of the Lakeside Women’s Club.


After Bev and Joan’s delightful singalong introduction, I read “Goodnight, Ark” to an adorable and attentive crowd.

IMG_0605 (1)

Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a simple sticker craft.


It was my first time signing the board book edition of “Goodnight, Ark”. Look carefully and you can also get a sneak peek of “Goodnight, Manger” on display at the signing table.

Summertime Book Events (with Skunks and Crafts!)


Looking for something fun to do with the kiddos this summer? How about joining me for a summertime reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK. Meet my storytelling companions – Stinkie and Pinkie – and enjoy a special craft.  (The craft at the Princeton event will be extra special – created and designed by the amazing Dana Sheridan. To see just how amazing her crafts are, check out her blog, Pop Goes the Page. I can’t wait to see what she puts together for GOODNIGHT, ARK!)

July 13, 2015       PJ Storytime, 6:30 pm, Kenilworth Public Library, NJ

                             (Wear your pjs and bring your favorite stuffed animal!)

July 24, 2015       Tiger Tales Storytime 11am, Cotsen Library, ages 3 – 5

                              Princeton University, Princeton NJ

 August 3, 2015    Storytime and Craft  11am

                              Fine Print Book Store, Lakeside, OH  (Green Gables)

August 11, 2015   Toddler Storytime 10:30am, Garwood Public Library, NJ

August 19, 2015   Storytime and Craft 2pm

                              Point Pleasant Beach Public Library, NJ

TIPS for SUCCESSFUL Author/Illustrator Bookstore Events: An Interview With Watchung Booksellers’ Liane Freed

Liane Freed Watchung BooksellersIf you happen to be in Montclair, New Jersey on a Saturday morning, stop in at Watchung Booksellers and you will find the children’s area abuzz with the happy sound of children enjoying the Saturday Morning Author/Illustrator Storytime Series.  These popular weekly gatherings are organized by Liane Freed. Easygoing and friendly, Liane clearly loves her job and has a knack for getting kids excited about reading. In addition to Saturday storytimes, she also organizes weekly Mommy and Me storytimes.  She’s here today to share some tips for successful author/illustrator readings and signings at bookstores.  Welcome, Liane.  Let’s get started.

LAURA:  Your Saturday Morning Author/Illustrator Series has a consistently good turn out.  What do you think is the secret to its success?

LIANE:  A huge part of our success is that we have a community that supports us and values the joy and importance of reading to their kids. Another reason is that we are able to get wonderful authors and illustrators to participate in our series. This support from our community and the authors in the NJ/NY area is a major benefit. We actually started our Author/Illustrator Saturday Morning Storytime Series as a way to thank our customers, big and little.

Storytime with Peter Brown

Storytime with Peter Brown

LAURA:  The author and illustrators you host each have their own styles of presenting. What are the characteristics of the most memorable storytimes you have ever hosted?

LIANE: I love how each presenter’s style reflects their unique personalities. There are so many different ‘best story times’ but they all include more than just the author reading their own book. We’ve had authors add music, props, crafts, and even performances  to the presentation.  One author’s book was about ballet dancing so we had dance students from a local dance studio demonstrate ballet moves. Then the kids even had the opportunity to try out some of the moves.  They had so much fun.

Storytime with Marilyn Singer

Storytime with Marilyn Singer

Something as simple as  having the kids repeat words and sounds from the book adds greatly to any storytime presentation.

It is also wonderful when authors will read their favorite picture book along with their own book. The kids love this, especially if it is a book that they are familiar with.

Authors who are also illustrators  have a huge advantage during storytime because they can do drawings with the kids.  It is magical to watch the characters from the book being created with just a few lines of a sharpie.

Storytime with Mike Curato

Storytime with Mike Curato

One of the best presentations by an author/illustrator was when he drew a story from the kids’ suggestions. The kids loved it and I loved hearing their constant giggling. Another illustrator added a short ‘drawing workshop’ to his presentation. He had the kids draw a face with just simple shapes. The kids could not believe what they were able to create.We once had an  illustrator draw portraits of all the kids for them to take home. From the looks on their faces you knew they all felt very special.

It also adds to the success of the storytime when an author can team up with the illustrator.

As you can see, there are so many ways to enhance a simple story time so that it is a memorable event for the kids.

LAURA: Do you have any tips or recommendations for a successful storytime to offer first-time presenters?

LIANE: I like to tell first time presenters that doing storytime is like putting on a show. Not just any kind of show but a show for kids. So, what does this mean? This means that one should be animated and silly and just have as much fun as one can have. That is one of the key things, have fun!! If the presenter is having fun then chances are  the kids will have fun too.

LAURA: How do you feel about including crafts as part of the storytime experience? Any advice for which types of crafts work best?

LIANE: Crafts are a wonderful addition to any storytime. Our space is small so the best type of crafts are easy and tidy ones with few pieces involved. Stickers are a wonderful thing to use, you do not need glue or tape that can get messy and do damage to merchandise in the store. Before bringing in a craft the presenter should check with the bookstore to see if they have space for that kind of activity.

LAURA:  Is there a final question you wish I had asked? If so, please share.  =)

Storytime with Laura Sassi

Storytime with Laura Sassi

LIANE:  I would just like to add that an author should never be too disappointed if there is a small turn out or few sales at the event. Obviously the author and bookstore would rather have a large turn out and many sales but we have noticed that there is an increase in sales of the book after the event. Doing an event is not just a fun morning with the kids but a huge marketing tool. Customers who were unable to attend often come into the store  after the event and ask about the book that they knew was being featured that weekend at storytime. It is not just a storytime but a way to market an  author and their book. In advance of a storytime we post the event in our newsletter, on our website, on Facebook and Twitter. The event can also get picked up by local media. It is a win win for the author and the bookstore.

Saturday story time is one of my favorite times of the week. And I just want to thank  you and other authors who have come to Watchung Booksellers. Our NJ/NY authors  along with our customers, are all a part of our bookstore community.

LAURA:  And thank YOU, Liane, for stopping by.  This has been a very special, informative time together.

Press HERE to learn more about the Author/Illustrator Storytimes and other programs at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ.