AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES with Linda Joy Singleton in Celebration of the release of A CAT IS BETTER

Linda Joy Singleton, author of over 45 books ranging from picture books to young adult, has a new picture book out with little bee books.  It’s called A CAT IS BETTER and today, in celebration of its recent release,  I am honored to have her as my guest. I know you will be inspired by her reflections on waiting for inspiration. Take it away, Linda!

WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES

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Linda Joy Singleton

Writers are often asked if they wait for inspiration to write a book. My answer used to be, “No way! I sit in my chair and write almost every day, until the book is finished.”

But writing my picture book, A CAT IS BETTER, has changed my answer.  I can’t just say, “I’m going to sit down today and write a picture book.” The picture book process doesn’t work that way. I still believe it’s important to write regularly for novels; getting that first draft can be a huge, time-consuming challenge. If you don’t add a few pages regularly, the book may never get finished.

Writing picture books has been a different experience for me. The short format is closer to creating poetry or music, and just can’t be forced.  It may sound cliche, but I have to wait to be inspired before I write a picture book.

Usually when an idea does strike, it’s in the middle of the night or when I’m driving. And if I don’t write it down immediately, the idea could vanish like a forgotten dream. Sometimes it feels like the words are a gift to me from the universe, and I’m always grateful (even for the many books I wrote that never sold).

My first picture book, SNOW DOG, SAND DOG, was inspired by a black and white photo. The next, CASH KAT, was triggered by a money game I played with my grandson.

But writing A CAT IS BETTER was a completely different experience. It was the first time that I was able to successfully ask the “universe” for an idea.

I was a speaker at a writing conference, and sitting in on another session. While others were making picture book dummies, a pre-arranged exercise, I had nothing to do. So I told myself that I would write a picture book. “What topic?” I asked myself. “Cats,” came the answer. Because I LOVE cats. And just like that—an opening line jumped into my head. “Congratulations, I’m your new cat. I’m the perfect pet for you. You may take me home now.”

My theory is that my creative brain whirls in the background of my life, but it’s not easy to access the information. But in this amazing moment, my conscious and creative mind connected. I wrote the first draft in one hour. I rewrote it for a few weeks, showed my agent, and after five rewrites for an editor, I had a contract. And A CAT IS BETTER was a June 2017 release from Little Bee Books.

Since that experience, I’ve had more of these conversations with myself. I saw a photo online that made me think, “Someone should write about this.” I kept thinking about the photo, and a title popped into my head. But I couldn’t think of a plot. I mulled this over, frustrated that no ideas happened. But at 4AM one morning, words popped into my head! I got up, typed quickly, writing a rough draft.

I don’t know if this new book will sell, but it was fun to write. Thank heavens for amazing, almost magical moments of inspiration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Joy Singleton is the author of over 45 MG, YA and picture books. She’s currently working on the 6th mystery in the MG series, CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB. In 2017, she has two new picture books, A CAT IS BETTER and LUCY LOVES GOOSEY. She lives in the country with a menagerie of animals, including dogs, cats, pigs, horses and peacocks. She offers tips to writers and resources for teachers at www.LindaJoySingleton.com.

 

 

GUEST POST: ZOOMA-ZOOMA-ZOOM! Onomatopoeia with Picture Book Author and Poet Elizabeth Upton

This week, coinciding with National Poetry Month, I am delighted to have picture book author and poet Elizabeth Upton as my guest.  I met Elizabeth at KidLitTV’s Live Stream Read Aloud event last month and had the pleasure of listening as she read aloud her delightful debut, MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI, illustrated by Henry Cole and published in 2016 by Scholastic.  It’s a fun and bouncy story with spot-on rhythm and rhyme.  It’s also full of wonderful poetic elements and I’m delighted that Elizabeth has agreed to pen this post on one of my favorites – onomatopoeia! Take it away, Elizabeth!

It’s an honor to be asked by Laura Sassi to be a guest blogger during Poetry Month. I love poetry. Happily, my poetry has been in three collections by the amazing Lee Bennett Hopkins. My picture book, MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI, features poetic elements including rhythm, rhyme, repetition and word play. I was thrilled when the School Library Journal review that said MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI “is filled with onomatopoeia and amusing details sure to delight young readers.” Onomatopoeia [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh], according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)”. Children love to imitate, so this aspect of poetry is very easy for them to access.

In my book, it’s Maxi’s first day of work and off he goes!

Max ZIPPED here.

He ZIPPED there.

He ZIPPED everywhere—

From the park, to the river,

And back to the square.

He ZOOMED up.

He ZOOMED down.

He ZOOMED all around town—

Splashing in every big puddle he found!

All over town Maxi gets filthy and he finally arrives at a carwash full of playful sounds. Onomatopoeia is one of the driving forces that keeps the story moving in a fun and engaging way.  For example, the spray at the car wash goes “pish-pish”, the scrubbers to “flip-flop”, and the suds go “blip-blop”.

I hope that adults enjoy the lyricism and onomatopoetic playfulness of this story as much as children do. When you’re done reading, you may want to engage in word play with the child in your life.

IMG_3152Car and Truck Onomatopoeia: Anyone who has seen children play with cars and trucks, has witnessed their innate ability to use onomatopoeia (honk, honk, beep, beep). When children naturally use onomatopoeia, adults can say, ”Oh my! That’s a fun sound! That’s sounds like a little poem.” Make sounds with the child.

Bath Time Onomatopoeia: Maxi the Little Taxi is a bath poem. When children play in the tub ask them to think of what sounds they hear. Ask: “What sound does the water make when you fill the tub? What sound do your feet make when you get in the water? What sound does is make when you use the soap? What sound does the drain make when the water goes down?” (Examples: Whoosh, plip plop, drip drop drip, rub a dub dub, gurgle gurgle.) Then say: “Let’s make a lot of bath noises all in a row to make a little poem!”

img_3853Rainy Day Onomatopoeia: A rainy day is the perfect time to play with onomatopoeia!  Ask: “What does the rain say when hits the roof? What does it sound like on the window, etc.  Let’s say those fun little sounds all in row and make a little poem.” ( Example: Drip drop..plippity plip,plicka plicka plick!)

Read more picture Books with Onomatopoeia. Type “Picture Books with Onomatopoeia” in your search bar and you will find many resources.

Thank you for reading my guest blog! I hope you enjoy reading Maxi the Little Taxi with the children in your lives and that you have fun nurturing their natural poetic sensibilities!

IMG_4008 (1)Elizabeth Upton is the author of Maxi the Little Taxi which was published by Scholastic Press in spring of 2016. Her poetry appears in the following collections by Lee Bennett Hopkins. 

Seasons, Margaret K. MacElderry Books (“Spring Sun” and “Summer Sun”)
Incredible Inventions, Greenwillow Books (“Ferris Wheel”)

Hamsters, Shells and Spelling Bees, Harper Collins [I Can Read! ] (“Show and Tell”)

For more information, please visit Elizabeth at Elizabethuptonauthor.com.

 

Stop by at HEART OF DEBORAH for a Special Christmas Post…

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There’s more to a picture book than the thirty-two colorful pages it contains. There’s also the story behind the creation of that picture book. What inspired the author to write it? And what does the author hope readers will take away from the story? Today, as guest blogger at Heart of Deborah,  I’m sharing a special Christmas memory and how it inspired me to write GOODNIGHT, MANGER.  So, please grab a cup of coffee, or tea as I prefer, and head on over! I’ll make it easy. Press here.

GUEST POST: We Don’t Grow Up, We Just GROW (Thoughts on READ ALOUD TIME) with Juliana Tyson Kissick

I am so excited to have Juliana Tyson Kissick as my guest today. We recently reconnected on Facebook, but I first met her when she was in fourth grade! She was my student. Just take a peek at that adorable class, gathered joyfully around our Thanksgiving project that year. She’s seated in the center with a very young Mrs. Sassi standing behind her.  And there she is working hard. She’s also represented by one of the little birds depicted in the delightful card my mom made for me that school year. The card is dated 1995 and the note I found with it reads:

“Mom made a terrific birthday card depicting an early January day in the new classroom. It was pouring and the power went out. I kept the kids entertained until their parents came by reading. It was a treacherous day with lots of flooding and rain.”

READ ALOUD TIME.  It was my favorite part of the day and it happened every day, right after lunch.  Actually, I think it was everyone’s favorite part of the day – a chance to be transported by storytelling to magical worlds, faraway places and different times.  And I AM THRILLED that Juliana has agreed to share a little bit about what reading books aloud has meant to her over the years.  Take it away, Juliana!

unnamedWhen Laura invited me to write on the topic of reading aloud to children in the classroom, I felt an immediate surge of energy run through my gut. It was as if my soul were demanding I leap through the computer screen, exclaiming, “There is nothing more important than reading to children in schools!!” — a good indicator that I probably had something to say on the matter. And what I came to realize over the course of writing out my reflections was how valuable and multi-faceted the benefits of “story time” really are… and most certainly not just for children.  It’s like my Jewish, anecdotally-driven father always tells me (quoting the magnificent poet, Muriel Rukeyser), “The universe, Juliana, is made of stories, not of atoms.”

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Story time. Is there a more cherished, enchanted hour in the world of a young person? The Phantom Tollbooth, Charlotte’s Web, The Boxcar Children, Little House On the Prairie, A Wrinkle in Time, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Giver…  I can remember every. single. book that was read to me (or that my classmates and I read aloud to each other) over the course of my elementary schooling. I LIVED for story time. And it wasn’t just because “story time” equated not doing math (something I still avoid, sorry Laura). No, story time wasn’t just an easy out…that’s what recess was for. And it wasn’t just because I was somewhat of a doctoral candidate in the esteemed academic discipline of Class Clownery and more or less couldn’t wait until I was allowed to give a personality (a British accent) to letters on a page… ok fine, maybe it was a LITTLE bit about that (I’m not British, for the record). But really, truly, at the heart of my love for story time was my love for adventure and meaning, adventure beyond the physical entrapments of my birthed circumstances and the moral lessons to help me make sense of it all. Story time was everything I dreamed this life could be and opened my eyes to what it already was… in other words, story time was church. It was spiritual. It transcended me. It was a gathering, a listening, an intuiting, a shared emotional rite of passage that didn’t have a right or a wrong answer. You couldn’t get a check minus in story time. You only had to be a person. And that, dear ones, is why the gift of telling story is just that–a gift. It validates the complexity of our humanity and the diverse range of our experiences, and all we have to do is breathe and listen. 

Unlike reading alone, the experience of being read to (or reading to someone) transforms written narrative into a conversation between heartstrings. When characters are given voice, when a scene depiction is read with purpose and conviction and tone, suddenly this is now a world and these are now living beings that are taking up physical and emotional space in our lives. It becomes real. And when something becomes real, like all the greatest of fiction has taught us, we conjure empathy and compassion. The characters don’t need to look like us, or talk like us, live in our hometown…heck they don’t even have to live on this planet. Story makes everything, and everyone, a worthy subject of our love and understanding. And oh how this world could use a whole lot more of that.

Just yesterday one of my best friends mentioned to me that she and her husband were reading the Harry Potter series to one other before they went to sleep… and I couldn’t help but get wholly and utterly inspired to treat my own grown-up self with the same kind of joy and validation I gave my story-loving, story-needing child self. We don’t really grow up, you see. We just grow. 

Blessings and giggles,

Juliana 

20150408_goodjuju_portraits-057Bio: It probably won’t surprise you to know that Juliana grew up to become a storyteller. She’s a multiple Ovation-nominated choreographer, actor, dancer, and founding member of Los Angeles’ very own Boom Kat Dance Theatre. After over a decade of performing professionally in Southern California, Juliana moved to San Francisco with her husband (and former boy across the literal street), Ryan. It was upon the move to Northern California that Juliana tapped into her love of visual art to further her storytelling career. In 2014, Juliana founded Good Juju Ink, an illustration design company dedicated to spreading “good juju” one funny-but-tender illustration at a time. Good Juju Ink’s greeting cards are sold online at www.goodjujuink.com and at Paper Source locations nationwide. 

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GUEST POST: On Revising and Never Giving Up with Tami Charles

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Today I am delighted to have children’s author Tami Charles as my guest.  Tami and I first met at a NJSCBWI gathering at a local tea shop.  She was in the midst of revising her first novel,  LIKE VANESSA (Charlesbridge 2018).  This summer, again, we organized our own little writers’ retreat and  spent a lovely day on my porch (and inside, too ,because it was dreadfully hot) revising our current works-in-progess.  Disciplined, smart and funny- she knows her stuff.  Take it away, Tami!

So, you wrote a picture book. You received feedback from your critique partners. Your agent has given it her stamp of approval. She submits it to editors and you sit back and wait for the offers pour in. New York Times Bestseller list here you come!

But then, the unthinkable happens…

(Cue horror film music.) 

Radio.

Silence.

Several months pass, your hair turns grayer, and the rejections start rolling in—nice ones, albeit. The feedback from the editors is pretty much the same, and you just know what you have to do…revise.

Revisions can sometimes be painful, especially when you’ve already revised your manuscript many times over. But there’s no time for wallowing. It’s time to put a new spin on your story and here’s how to get ‘er done:

Step 1: Take your old manuscript, ball it up, and throw it in the trash. Follow this cathartic moment with a beverage of your choice.  (Iced, skinny caramel latte, anyone?)

Step 2: Go back to the trash and take out your manuscript, silly goose! (Then wash your hands, please!)

Step 3: Strap on your big kid boots and get ready to freshen up your manuscript. Clearly, it was good enough to be subbed out in the first place. It just needs more work. So here are a few tricks to get the ball rolling:

  • Gobble up those mentor texts. Read as many books as possible that fit the theme of your story. Sure, you probably read comp titles when you first wrote your story, but that was a long time ago.  There are new books on the shelves waiting to be explored. Read them. Study them.
  • Rewrite your story in a different verb tense. Is your original manuscript written in past tense? Try writing it in the present. Or take a risk and write it in future tense. Don’t be afraid to experiment with verb tense until your story feels shiny and new.
  • Change the point of view. Did you write your story in third person POV? Consider switching to first person. This will give your reader insight into how all the characters are feeling—not just one.  You could also try second person POV, which if done right, can be an enjoyable reading experience. There are several books that do this well. Some of my favorites are: “Warning: Do Not Open This Book” by Adam Lehrhaupt and “How to Raise a Dinosaur” by Natasha Wing.
  • Rethink your setting. I speak from experience on this one. A few years ago, I shopped around a picture book that had only one setting. Agent feedback was basically the same. Can the characters go somewhere else besides the kitchen, so that the story doesn’t feel stagnant? Challenge accepted. After many revisions (and several lattes), I created additional settings to help move the story along. And guess what? I got an offer! Hooray! Try this tip and thank me later.

Step 4: Submit and MOVE ON! Once you’ve done the necessary revisions, go out on another round of submissions. It may take a while, but trust me, your “yes” is waiting. Use the down time to work on your next manuscript.

Here’s the hard truth: The kidlit universe is a tough industry to crack. Whatever you do, do not give up. You are full of stories and the world needs to hear them. I wish you productivity, creativity, and lots of luck as you revise.

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BIO: Recovering teacher. Amateur gardener. Debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, nonfiction, and enjoys the occasional work-for-hire project. Her middle grade novel, LIKE VANESSA, debuts with Charlesbridge in spring, 2018. She also recently sold two picture books, but can’t spill the beans just yet! For 14 years, Tami served as a public school educator but now writes full time. She is represented by Lara Perkins, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and lives in Central New Jersey with her husband, son, and a family of deer who take pleasure in annihilating her garden.

Connect with Tami on Facebook,  Twitter and at her website: http://www.tamiwrites.com

 

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: “A Handful of Books” – Miranda Paul and her picture book 10 LITTLE NINJAS

 

Miranda Paul has a new picture book out with Knopf Books for Young Readers.  It’s called  10 LITTLE NINJAS and, today, in celebration of its recent release,  I am honored to have her as my guest. I know you will enjoy her reflections regarding the book’s dedication. Take it away, Miranda!

It’s unusual to have five books release within 18 months, especially when they’re your first five, and picture books. 19 months ago, no one could walk in a store and pick up one of my titles. With the recent release of 10 Little Ninjas, there are now five—a whole handful—on the shelf. Phrased that way, I can understand why some people might try and lump me into the “overnight success” category. People mean well, and I know their intentions are good. But when I reflect on the journey to publishing children’s books—decades since working on my first literary journal—it’d be hard to phrase it such a way. Even my latest book, 10 Little Ninjas, had a meandering path.

10 Little Ninjas began as an idea when my youngest child was in his high chair (he’s now going into second grade). I finished the first solid draft of it in 2012 or 2013, and my agent promptly advised me to “hold off” on it. Big bummer. But instead of getting upset or mad (for more than a day, anyway), I went to work. I revised it over the next 18 months—with critique help from veterans such as Linda Skeers and Kelly DiPucchio—and decided to send it back to my agent. This time, it was a go.

After several rejections, we had a bite. An editor loved it. But the marketing/sales team wanted some revisions. I ended up rewriting it three times—I always, always take a stab at a revision request—and then watched it get dropped after acquisitions. In a Hail Mary pass, it went to an editor at Knopf who was so new there, she hadn’t yet acquired a single manuscript.

The manuscript (which now had three distinctly different versions) was revised a few more times, including going back to the original manuscript’s ending, which turned out to be best of all. It took a couple of months to find a great illustrator—Disney Pixar animator Nate Wragg—and then the process of developing the book began.

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It’s very easy for me to tell stories like these to kids, showing them my file folder with more than 30 drafts of a single work, or the pile of rejection slips. They understand what it’s like every single day to not get what they want, to struggle and work at something, or to have ideas turned down. They want to feel included, to be praised, and most importantly, to feel loved.

10 Little Ninjas is a fun bedtime book at its core. It’s a romp, a rhyme, and a celebration of kids’ imagination and the chaos of parenting. Nate Wragg’s illustrations capture a multi-racial family, which I am excited to see in part because it parallels my own immediate family (kids don’t always look like their parents or their siblings, and it’s nice to see more books reflect that). As writers, our career and work is so public, and yet…so personal.

Each time you publish a book, an editor will ask you for the book’s dedication. Dedications are special, so for 10 Little Ninjas I chose to include my Grandma D. She passed away eight years ago, after battling cancer on and off for a decade. If there was ever a soul who knew how to wrangle toddlers into bed (and how to love them without question), it was she—who gave birth to seven of her own kids plus took in fourteen foster babies over the years. The book is also dedicated to my parents-in-law, who raised ten of their own children—without running water or TV—and now have more than thirty five grand and great-grandchildren.

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Some people will gloss over or miss entirely a book’s dedication page. But I love reading them, along with the acknowledgements and author’s notes. These small parts of a book are a window into how much time, how many people, and how much perseverance goes into making a great book—even one that’s only a couple hundred words. Books with layers, the ones that you can read again and again and get something new each time, are my favorite. I hope others will find that layered love within books, and cherish them. Happy reading!

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Miranda Paul is an award-winning children’s book author who visits schools and libraries frequently. Her June release, Trainbots (little bee books), received national buys from multiple chains, including the organic grocery giant Whole Foods. Her newest release, 10 Little Ninjas, is an Amazon Best Book of the Month for August. View the book trailer, made by her own daughter, on YouTube and be sure to visit her online at www.mirandapaul.com.

 

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!!  If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of 10 LITTLE NINJAS (Knopf Books for Young Readers, August 2016) leave a comment below.  (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Sunday, 8/21/16 at 11:59 pm EST. THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER.  Press here to see the winner.

Guest Post: FEELING STUCK? JUST ADD FOOD with Ariel Bernstein

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Today I am delighted to have fellow New Jersey author Ariel Bernstein as my guest. I met Ariel at the NJSCBWI Conference this past June. She is talented and articulate and joins us today with some tasty writing advice!  Take it away,  Ariel!

There are a lot of ingredients you can add to make an irresistible children’s book. A bold beginning, a charming voice, words that are fun to read aloud, and of course, a snappy twist ending. But sometimes when you are mixing all of these different parts together, you can end up feeling a bit stuck. You may have an original opening and a sensational end, but the middle is feeling lackluster. One thing I do to work out the kinks in a story is add food to it.

There are some books where food is an intricate part of the story, such as DRAGONS LOVE TACOS and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. But in others, food is used more sparingly in ways that help move the story forward.

Food can be a great way to show a character’s personality. If a character serves mushy oatmeal to children, you can be pretty sure they are not to be trusted, such as Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf. Choosing to eat some food versus others, like snozzcumbers instead of ‘human beans’ in THE BFG and eating carrots instead of bunny rabbits in WOLFIE THE BUNNY, help to explain characters’ trustworthiness and kindness.

Food can be used to convey mood and tone. Comfort food such as chocolate chip cookies are often used to create peaceful scenes of contentment and happiness. After much rousing competition between Billy and Javier in MUSTACHE BABY MEETS HIS MATCH, it’s no surprise that their eventual friendship at the end is shown in a scene of them eating stolen chocolate chip cookies together. And you could always be sure that Voldemort and his Death Eaters would never turn up in a scene to cause chaos when Harry Potter and his friends were drinking their favorite Butterbeer.

Food can even be used as red herrings. In LITTLE ELLIOT, the initial goal of Elliot’s seems to be getting a cupcake. But when Elliot meets Mouse, it turns out what he wants most of all is a friend. When Elliot and Mouse get the cupcake by working together, it ends up being the icing on the cake.

In my chapter book, WARREN AND DRAGON’S 100 FRIENDS, I thought about how to show the characters’ personalities. Dragon is a vain and sometimes selfish character, but I also wanted to add charm, so I decided to make him obsessed with marshmallows. It became a recurring joke throughout the story and whenever I wasn’t sure how to keep a scene moving, writing in a small bit about Dragon and his marshmallows provided humor and consistency.

Of course, not all books need food in them. But if you’re not sure where to go with a story, adding food can be a fun way to experiment and possibly come up with something delicious. And no matter what, doing the research will be often be its own reward.

13689753_10209437144387419_1500425181_nAriel Bernstein is a children’s book author. Her debut picture book, I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon, will be published by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books in Fall 2017. Ariel’s chapter book series, WARREN & DRAGON’S 100 FRIENDS, will be published by Viking Children’s. Ariel can be found at http://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com and on Twitter at @ArielBBooks.

Examining LYRICAL PICTURE BOOKS with Diana Murray

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Today I’m thrilled to have the delightful and talented picture book author and poet, Diana Murray, as my guest. Diana is the author of several forthcoming picture books including, CITY SHAPES illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH illustrated by Heather Ross (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). She’s here today to ponder what makes a picture book lyrical. Take it away, Diana!

What does it mean when a picture book is described as being “lyrical”? There’s a lot of grey area, but here is what it means to me:

  • The book is probably more serious than humorous or wacky.

  • Possibly more literary than commercial.

  • Has a fluid, velvety, rhythmic pace.

  • Resembles a song.

  • Has an emotional quality.

  • Can be prose or poetry. But if it’s metrical poetry, then it tends to be anapestic as opposed to iambic or trochaic.

  • Features vivid descriptions, often of natural beauty.

  • Uses very deliberate line breaks.

  • Tends to have a warm, fuzzy feeling about it.

Most of my picture books are on the humorous/wacky side. But some, like CITY SHAPES, are a bit more on the lyrical side. For example, take this excerpt from NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: “The crew was all in stitches but the captain’s nerves were frayed./’Yarrrh!’ said Ned, ‘I likes to knit. This hat be custom-made.’” As opposed to these lines from CITY SHAPES: “But her heart starts to long for the shape she loves best./The shape that is home. Her warm, circle nest…”CityShapesCover2

Here are a few other picture books I would describe as lyrical:

OWL MOON by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

“There was no wind./The trees stood still/as giant statues./And the moon was so bright/the sky seemed to shine.” (Note: I would classify this one as free verse.)

AND THEN IT’S SPRING by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Steid

“First you have brown,/all around you have brown.”

DARIO AND THE WHALE by Cheryl Lawton Malone, illustrated by Bistra Masseva

“Every spring,/when the sun/warms up the sea,/a whale and her new calf/swim north to a cool bay.”

So, how does one attempt to write a story with a lyrical quality? There’s no formula, of course, but personally, I find it helps to set the mood. When I wrote CITY SHAPES, I listened to jazz music by Wynton Marsalis (one of my favorites!). And then I have another forthcoming picture book, SUMMER COLORS, that I wrote while listening to the rain on my patio (another one of my favorite sounds).

I’d love to hear which lyrical picture books you’ve enjoyed. And what do you think makes them “lyrical”?
MurrayBioSmDiana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. Diana’s forthcoming picture books include, CITY SHAPES illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH illustrated by Heather Ross (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). Diana’s award-winning children’s poems have appeared in many magazines, such as Highlights, High Five, Spider, and Ladybug. For more information, please visit: http://www.dianamurray.com

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 Itinerary!

IMG_0989It’s official! In celebration of the release of GOODNIGHT, MANGER, I’m going on tour, blog tour that is! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making stops at the following blogs. There will be interviews, giveaways and more. Please join me on the journey!

10/5 GROG: An Interview

10/8  Time out with Becky Kopitzke:  Books to Build a Child’s Faith

10/12 Rosanne L. Kurstedt’s  KALEIDOSCOPE:  Book Birthday Bash!

10/14 Penny Klostermann’s  A Penny and her Jots:  Joint interview with illustrator Jane Chapman

10/19 Glenys Nellist Blog:  An Interview

10/21 Mia Wenjen’s Pragmatic Mom:  Best Bedtime Books

11/5 Katey Howe’s Katey Writes:  Chatting about Extension Activities

11/9  Nancy I. Sanders’ Blogzone:  An Interview

11/11 Amy Hill Hearth’s Facebook Author Page:  An Interview and Review

11/16 Noelle Kirchner’s The Ministering Mom:  Using the Nativity to Teach Little Ones about the Real Meaning of Christmas

11/24 Christine Henderson’s The Write Chris – On Writing:  A Christmas Interview