GUEST POST: The Story Behind H IS FOR HAIKU with Amy Losak

H is for HaikuPlease join me in welcoming special guest Amy Losak, as she shares the story behind a delightful new poetry collection for young readers, H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, written by her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg and published this past April with Penny Candy Books. How this collection came to be is a wonderful story – that involves poetry, hard work, determination and the special bond between mother and daughter.  Thank you so much for sharing this book’s unusual journey, Amy. It is an honor to have you on the blog today.  Take it away!

H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books), came to be, is both simple and complicated:

 Syd is my mother. She died in 1996. Syd was a teacher in New York City and a published writer. Sometime in the 1960s, she developed an interest in haiku poetry. Somehow, it “found” her – and it was, I think, the expressive outlet which mom had  been searching for. (In her bio in the 1974 classic text, The Haiku Anthology, edited by Cor van den Heuvel and published by Anchor Doubleday, mom described haiku as “unfussy” but “demanding.”)

 Early on, she set out to learn as much as she could. In 1968, the Haiku Society of America (hsa-haiku.org) was formed, and mom became a charter member. (It exists today — and I’m now a member, too.)

 At some point in the 1970s or 1980s, mom developed a strong desire to create a poetry picture book. She created more than one manuscript from her individual poems, some of which had been previously published in journals. I remember that she wanted her book to be an alphabet reader, and my memory tells me that she even wanted children to be the illustrators.

 So the seeds for the book that became H Is For Haiku were planted early. That’s the simple part of the story.

 The complicated part is this: Mom, like most of us, had a busy life: she earned her Masters of Arts in 1972, taught both as a substitute and as an adult ESL teacher. She wrote constantly, and a good amount of her poetry (haiku and other forms) and other writings were published. She submitted at least one of her kids’ poetry manuscripts to some publishers, but they were rejected.

 In her later years, life became stressful and sad for mom. When my much-older father was diagnosed with dementia (and other ills), her creative and literary life didn’t come to a screeching halt, but her passions were put on the back burner. Mom became a caregiver to my dad. She had help, but it was still an extraordinarily difficult time. Those years took their toll in terrible ways on both her body and psyche. Her death at home one morning was sudden, shocking, and unexpected. Although now, when I look back on her suffering, I realize that perhaps her end was inevitable. She was defiant, in her way, but she had become worn out. She couldn’t keep going that way any longer.

 At mom’s funeral in 1996, her family resolved to try and publish the picture book she had long dreamed of. 

 Finally, decades later — after much procrastination and tentative fits and starts — I took loving steps to finish what mom had started. And I succeeded, thanks to the unerring and unending support of many people who have warmly embraced my efforts and the result.

In 2016, I connected with Penny Candy Books (pennycandybooks.com). The principals, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera, who are poets themselves, saw the possibilities in mom’s simple, striking “word-picture” poems. Our visions were similar. The illustrator, Sawsan Chalabi (Schalabi.com), has a style that is vigorous and full of joy. Her art and lettering help make the poems pop!

Haiku Library 2

Courtesy of Penny Candy Books

 H Is For Haiku was released this past April: National Poetry Month. It’s our dream come true. But more importantly, I hope mom’s book, which celebrates a collection of small moments in our daily lives we may overlook, will bring bits of magic to young readers, and the adults in their lives.

 And thanks to mom, I now write and even publish my own haiku. Who knows – maybe the second picture book will be a combination of both our work. We will see!

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story.  Interested readers can pick up a copy of H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books) at your favorite local or online bookstore.  Happy reading!

HAPPY WORLD KINDNESS DAY!

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Did you know that today is WORLD KINDNESS DAY?  But where does this gift of kindness and love begin? It begins in our hearts — and in the hearts of our children. And it’s never too early nor late to nurture it. One easy way to do that is to let children brainstorm concrete ways that they can show kindness each day.
So today, in celebration of World Kindness Day (and really every day should be kindness day), I’m over at Noelle Kirchner’s blog with a special LOVE IS KIND guest post sharing a list of ways to be kind from kids from across the country! My wish is that their heartwarming ideas will jumpstart a nice conversation with your own children!
So grab that cup of coffee and head on over. I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link.

Oh, and there’s a GIVEAWAY for one brand new copy of LOVE IS KIND!

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN

5A32405B-843A-4B7A-A32F-0CEE2DE567CEToday Susanna Leonard Hill is featuring LOVE IS KIND as part of her Perfect Picture Book Friday series!  Head on over there to find out her review.  And, inspired by Lison Chaperon’s delicious LOVE IS KIND muffin baking activity, I’m also sharing my thoughts on the benefits of pairing picture books with a tasty treat with FIVE TIPS for doing that! (Oh, and there’s also a giveaway!) So grab that cup of tea and one of those delicious virtual muffins picture above head on over.  HAPPY FRIDAY, all!

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour STOP SIX: After The DEBUT

There are many posts about marketing your debut book. But what do you do when it’s your second, or third… or tenth book?  Is your strategy the same?  If not, what’s different? I’m SO glad you asked!  Find my answer today over at the GROG.  Thank you for having me!

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: STOP FOUR !

IMG_7643Today I am delighted to be guest blogging over at picture book author and librarian Lauri Fortino’s blog on one of my favorite topics: USING PUPPETS TO ENGAGE YOUNG READERS. Plus, you’ll get to meet Little Owl, my newest puppet storytelling companion.  (And I hear there is a giveaway, too!) Thank you for having me, Lauri.   So fly on over, friends. I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link.

BOOK TRAILER: Love Is Kind (and Blog Tour Stop Three)

IMG_6892Today, I’m delighted to be guest blogger over at Christian Children’s Authors.  (Thank you, Glenys, for sharing my FIVE FUN FACTS about LOVE IS KIND both here and on your blog. Readers, if you haven’t read the post, here’s a fresh chance. And whether you have or haven’t, I thought you might also enjoy viewing the delightful book trailer Zonderkidz created to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND.  Thank you Zonderkidz! I’m honored to be one of your authors.  And, thank you, Glenys, for inviting me to share my FIVE FUN FACTS on not just one, but TWO fabulous blogs!

And if you’re interested in following me on the rest of the tour featuring brand new posts, make a note of the dates and places below.  Happy Thursday, all!

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

GUEST POST: Five Fun BUSY BUS Facts With Jody Jensen Shaffer

IT'S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS cover from Amazon

Today I’m delighted to have my long-time friend and critique buddy, Jody Jensen Shaffer, here to share five fun facts about her newest picture book release, IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS!, illustrated by Claire Messer and published by Beach Lane Books.  Take a peek at the lovely reviews Jody’s book has received from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, then climb aboard and enjoy as she shares five behind-the-scenes facts about the book’s creation.  My favorite?  Fact #1. It’s a good reminder that patience is the name of the game in this business.  Happy reading, all!

FACT #1 The journey from idea to publication took eight years.
I got the original idea for BUSY BUS in October of 2010. I was brainstorming back-to-school stories [apparently, I like a challenge] and wondered how I could make mine stand out. When I landed on the idea of making it a school bus’s first day, I knew I was onto something. The story went through many, many revisions until it finally landed on Allyn Johnston’s desk at Beach Lane Books. Boy, was that a great day for me! In the months that followed, I worked with both Allyn and Andrea Welch.

FACT #2 I rode the bus to elementary school.
In the small town in which I grew up, the elementary school and my house were on nearly opposite sides of town. Sometimes a friend and I walked to school. But most of the time, I caught the bus in front of my house. I wasn’t always sure I would be safe riding the bus, however. There were icy mornings when I wondered if the bus would skid off the road. There were hills that I wondered if the bus could summit. To make matters worse, I was prone to motion sickness, so the shadows from the trees whizzing by my window made my stomach queasy. Thankfully, neither the bus nor I ever had an accident.

FACT #3 My school bus driver was also my neighbor.
In a small town, that happens. Taffy was my bus driver’s name, and he was also my next door neighbor. He and his wife, Dorothy, were grandparent-age, and I loved them dearly. I visited them regularly, and they always had some yummy treat to share.

FACT # 4 BUSY BUS is the “youngest” book I’ve published.
My previous picture books, PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (illustrated by Steph Laberis) and A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (illustrated by Daniel Miyares), both have more complicated plots and complex language than BUSY BUS. So to make a first-day-of-school book fit its intended audience, I needed to simplify the language and plot. That was tough! I kept thinking there wasn’t enough conflict in the book. But I reminded myself that conflict is in the eye of the beholder, and to children just starting school, there’s plenty to fret about.

FACT #5 I asked a local school bus driver how fast a bus goes.
Before BUSY BUS went to the printer, Andrea asked me if I knew how fast a school bus went. The illustrator, Claire Messer, was working on a spread that included the dashboard of Busy Bus, and they wondered if I knew what the top speed on a speedometer should read. So on one of my morning walks not long after, I saw a school bus driver parked in a parking lot. I explained I was writing a book about a school bus, and I needed to know how fast they went. She looked and said, “This one goes to 85.” I reported that to my editor, and the rest was picture book history!

Jody Jensen Shaffer author photoJody Jensen Shaffer is an award-winning poet and the author of more than 30 books of fiction and nonfiction for children, including PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS! and more. Jody’s poetry has been published in great children’s magazines like Highlights, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr. Jody lives in Liberty, Missouri, and is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. When she’s not writing, Jody can be found watching baseball or walking her rescue dog, Sophie. Visit Jody at jodyjensenshaffer.com or on Twitter @jodywrites4kids.

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: STOP TWO!

9780310754893_imageToday children’s author Glenys Nellist is featuring LOVE IS KIND on her lovely blog.  Head on over there to read her review. Then keep reading as I share FIVE FUN FACTS about WRITING THE BOOK!  (Oh, and there’s also a giveaway!) So grab that cup of tea and head on over.  Happy reading, all!

And here’s the complete list of stops I’ll be making.  I hope you will join me each step of the way.  =)

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

GUEST POST: FIVE Fun FACTS about RICE FROM HEAVEN from Debut Picture Book Author Tina Cho

RicefromHeaven cover

Today I have the pleasure of celebrating the release of a very special new book by my long-time critique partner and friend, Tina Cho.  The book is beautifully titled RICE FROM HEAVEN:  The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans.  It’s illustrated by Keum Jin Song and published by Little Bee Books/Bonnier Publishing USA. I had the privilege of seeing this amazing story in early draft form and now to see it in final published form is, well, amazing!  RICE FROM HEAVEN is an engaging story of giving, told with grace and heart, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. It’s only been out for a day and already it has received lovely reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.  And now to celebrate it’s release, Tina has agreed to share with us FIVE FUN FACTS that will leave you wanting to read the book… NOW! Taking it away, Tina!

Five Fun Facts about Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

by Tina Cho

1. Rice from Heaven is based on true events even though the characters in the story are fictional. 

In May 2016, I helped North Korean refugees send rice in balloons over the border of South Korea into North Korea. These refugees attend a North Korean refugee church in Seoul, where my colleague tutored them in English. I asked if I could help with this event. The father in my book is based on the North Korean refugee pastor; however, he had a son rather than a daughter.

2. Rice from Heaven got me an agent!

I emailed Rice from Heaven and a picture book biography to Adria Goetz. She loved both and signed me on. Get this—about a year later, her father went to North Korea on humanitarian business!

3. Rice from Heaven sold eleven months after it was first written.

After I helped the refugees on May 2nd, 2016, I wrote the first draft of my story on May 9th and shared with my critique groups. The 17th draft sold eleven months later, much changed from the first draft.

4. I didn’t write the back matter.

Rice from Heaven has extensive back matter. Facts about North Korea, South Korea, and fun facts about each. My publisher, Little Bee Books, wrote it. I, however, got to proofread it and make sure it was all accurate. After all, I have lived here eight years and am married to a Korean national. 

5. Rice from Heaven didn’t originally have a subtitle.

My editor wanted a subtitle so that people would clearly know what this book was about. Writing a subtitle is hard! Together we came up with a list of about 6-10 titles. The publisher chose in the end. I suppose it’s all in the marketing.

Thanks for having me, Laura!

And thank you, Tina, for sharing this story with the world!

tinaflowerBio: Tina Cho is the author of three picture books– Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books/Bonnier Publishing August 2018), Korean Celebrations (forthcoming Tuttle 2019) and Breakfast with Jesus (forthcoming Harvest House 2020). Although she grew up and taught in the United States, she currently lives in South Korea with her husband and two children while teaching at an international school.  Learn more about Tina at tinamcho.com

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: Stop ONE!

Please help yourself to one these these delectable virtual chocolates (made by Miss A.) and take a look at that sweet Little Owl, who’s the protagonist of my new picture book LOVE IS KIND, then head on over to bestselling author and blogger Becky Koptizke’s inspirational blog, as we kick off the LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour with Six Book-Themed Extension Activities!  (Hint: One involves sharing a yummy treat!)  And… there’s a giveaway too! Thank you for having me, Becky!