GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: Win ONE of FIVE Copies of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

9781454922001_ccvr (1)To celebrate the upcoming release of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, Sterling Children’s Books is giving away FIVE copies in a pre-release Goodreads Giveaway!

Here’s the scoop: Written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE tells the story of a new diva and the little mouse who wants to help her, but thinks she deserves BIGGER help than a mouse! Celebrating artistic collaboration and the importance of even the smallest helping hands, it makes a lovely addition to any home, school, or library collection.

Giveaway ends Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 – release day! Click here to get to the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY page.  And if you’re not on Goodreads yet, sign up!  It’s loads of fun.   US residents only for giveaway, per Goodreads rules.

Tell all your friends. Good luck!

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WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT: 6 Extension Activities for Two to Four Year Olds

IMG_5747This week I’m delighted to share with you Susanna Leonard Hill’s ADORABLE new board book WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman and published by Little Simon.  It’s the third in her WHEN YOUR… series and just as cute as the first two.  Now, to celebrate reading in general – and this book in particular – here are six  book-themed extension activities perfect for 2 – 4 year olds. So, invite your darling little ones to find a good spot to read… and then extend the fun with one, two, or all of these activities (which rhyme, by the way, just because).

WATCH A LLAMA CLIP! CLIP!! After reading WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT, you and your little ones might be wonder what it looks like when a real llama gets a hair cut.  If so, grab your tablet and watch some llamas getting hair cuts with this short but fun youtube video from Galloping Winds Ranch in Florence, Texas:

 

2. TAKE A HAIRY FIELD TRIP! After reading WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT, you and your little one may decide it’s time to get your own buzz or trim.  Take along the book and read it while the stylist snip, snips.

3. CREATE A SNAZZY HAIRDO (without scissors)!  After enjoying all the snazzy llama hair-do possibilities, you and your little ones may decide you want to give each other hair-dos.  Make sure there are no scissors in sight, but do encourage gentle combing to remove the tangles.  A spray water bottle will add lots of styling options and help the hair-dos to stick.  Barrettes, ribbons, mousse and gel, optional.  Afterwards, pretend it’s picture day – just like in the story – and say “Cheese!” for the camera.

4. DO A PICTURE READ THROUGH… After reading WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT, your child may want to re-read it to you using the pictures as clues! Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to.

5. HAVE A LLAMA BOOK FEST!  After reading the story, you and your little ones may decide you want to read more llama-themed books! If so, head to the library and have a llama-themed book fest!  Your librarian can help you find some good books.

6. LLAMA CRAFT TIME IS THE BEST! After reading WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT, you and your little ones may want to do a llama-themed craft. There are oh, so many, possibilities on Pinterest and elsewhere.  Here are a couple of  links to get you started.  Enjoy!

Llama Drawing Project: http://www.smallhandsbigart.com/llama-drawing-project/

Make a Llama Vase: https://abeautifulmess.com/2018/01/make-your-own-llama-vase.html

 

SPECIAL OFFER: PRE-ORDER your SIGNED Copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!!!

IMG_5696 4Will you help my new book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE make a BIG SPLASH when it releases in early March by pre-ordering your copy today?  I didn’t realize with my first two books just how important pre-orders can be in capturing the attention of readers, booksellers, reviewers and more.  Here’s a link all about it.  Basically, though, pre-orders are important because those sales get included in the sales numbers for the first week of the book’s release. High numbers can influence how many runs a book has, whether it makes a best-selling list and more.  All good and fun stuff!

So, if you are thinking of purchasing a copy of my newest book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, I would be delighted if you would consider pre-ordering it from your favorite book store.  Or…. if you want a SIGNED copy,  my favorite indie has a special deal for you!

If you PRE-ORDER my new book from The Town Book Store, in Westfield, NJ, any time between NOW and MARCH 6, 2018 (the book’s release day), owner Anne Laird is offering a 10% discount off the retail price.  Simply mention that you want the “DIVA DELORES DISCOUNT”.

If this interests you, please call the store to order DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. Be sure to explain that you would like to have the book signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books.  Depending on where you live, you can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available, support a wonderful independent book store, and encourage pre-orders!

You can reach The Town Book Store at (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.  Either way, remember to ask for the “DIVA DELORES DISCOUNT”.

Thank you, The Town Book Store, for making this possible and thank you, readers, for supporting my books!

SNEAK PEEK: Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse!

IMG_5684Ready for a sneak peek at what arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon? It’s an advance copy of my newest picture book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, delightfully illustrated by British artist Rebecca Gerlings and published by Sterling Children’s Publishing.

I’m experimenting with doing little video clips to celebrate its upcoming release (March 6th!). Here’s the first. If anyone can let me know how I can improve the resolution for the next one, I’d love that! Thank you and enjoy!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Introducing Diva Delores and Fernando (the Opera House Mouse!)

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In just three months Diva Delores, the star of my next picture book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Children’s Books, March 6, 2018) will make her debut, as will her darling sidekick, Fernando.  And all of a sudden, last week, it hit me — what will they wear?  I mean a diva can’t  just wear any old thing to her debut. And neither can her companion.  They need to look special. They need to look dazzling.  They need to take your breath away.   I realized, I better get busy!!!

So, over the holidays, with the help of a couple of sweet elves (a special thanks to Dianne Herrick and Nancy Benz!), and inspired by Rebecca Gerlings wonderful illustrations, we got Diva Delores and Fernando all dressed up and ready to go. Since I plan on attending each and every book event and school visit as well, we pulled together a little something special for me too!

Ready for a sneak peek? Enjoy!

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Both Delores and Fernando were extremely cooperative with the whole “glam” up process.  Here they are right before we got started, chilling out with the notions on Dianne’s sewing table.

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Here I am sewing on Delores’ pearls.  She was a very patient seal and the pearls look “daahling”.

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Delores was dee-lighted with Dianne’s superb sense of style in creating a dazzling headpiece. Fernando, meanwhile, was extremely patient, though he did manage to get into the cheese while Dianne was sewing the headpiece in place. (See below.)

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With headpiece and pearls in place, it was time for me to drape and sew on Delores’ boa.  After all that work, she and I decided to take a little break and practice our cadenzas.

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After a few more cheese and crackers, we were ready to return and get Fernando dressed in a snappy blue jacket.  I’m still working on his spectacles.

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And since I plan to attend Diva Delores’ many events as well, we thought it only proper that I have something dazzling to wear too.  A big thank you to Dianne for finding the shoes and to Nancy for providing the snazzy pink fascinator, not to mention the long black gloves and gaudy baubles.  The pearls were my mother’s.  See you at the opera!  =)

THE SNOWY DAY: A Stamp-Themed Extension Activity

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Last week, I picked up the much anticipated Ezra Keats’ THE SNOWY DAY stamps from my local post office and spent the LOVELIEST little while searching for the spot in the book where each stamp appears.

Afterwards, I thought what a great activity this would be for kids – one that engages young readers with the story, builds visual matching skills, and is just plain fun.

So… if you want to give it a go with your kiddos, here’s the step-by-step:

  1. Gather your supplies. Purchase a set of THE SNOWY DAY stamps from your nearest post office and check out a copy of Ezra Keats’ THE SNOWY DAY from your local library (or purchase a copy).
  2. Explore the stamps. Spend a few minutes with your child, examining the images in the stamp collection (there are eight, that then repeat.)  Have your child describe what Peter, the boy in each stamp, is doing. This might also be a good time to explain what a stamp is. What is it used for? What does the “Forever USA” mean?  Have they ever used one? (Maybe later on they can help you affix one of the stamps to an envelope with a note or picture enclosed, and send it to someone they love.)
  3. Go on a SNOWY DAY picture hunt. Now get cozy with the book and stamps close by and READ!!! As you read, see if your children can find the spots where each stamp image appears.  (It’s fun! Enjoy!)
  4. Make your own SNOWY DAY stamps.  After reading, extend the experience even further, by letting your children pick their own favorite snowy day moment and make their own pretend stamps (on small paper).

Happy SNOWY DAY all!

‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS: A Joint Interview with Author Glenys Nellist & Illustrator Elena Selivanova (And a GIVEAWAY!!!!!)

 

Today, I’m thrilled to be a part of the ’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS blog tour. At this stop, I’m pinching myself because I get to host author Glenys Nellist and illustrator Elena Selivanova in their first ever joint interview!  It’s always a treat to interview an author or an illustrator, but it’s extra special to have both chiming in at once, especially since Elena lives in Russia and speaks Russian! 

ABOUT THE BOOK: ’Twas the Evening of Christmas, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova and published by Zonderkidz, echoes the familiar language and rhythm of Clement Moore’s beloved poem, but instead of focusing on Santa, it focuses on Baby Jesus, who is, after all, the true hero of Christmas.

Get a preview with the book trailer, then join us for the interview below, which has been edited for clarity. I thank both women for joining me and apologize if anything was lost in my understanding of the translation.

Thanks so much for joining us today, ladies. Well let’s get started with my questions bolded.

Question #1: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.

Elena: Ever since I can remember, I have always drawn. Perhaps, it was predestination? I was born in Siberia, but grew up south of Kazachstan.  Later I moved to Moscow, where I had an excellent education at the Moscow State University of Printing Arts which gave me incredible freedom and confidence. I studied world literature, the theory of composition, fine art, history of religion, material culture, history of costume and more. 

What a rich background you bring to the drawing table.  No wonder your illustrations sing. And let me also add from the book flap that Elena has worked for twenty years in children’s book illustration and has illustrated over 100 books!

Glenys: 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 and write. When I became a primary school teacher myself, I wrote 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, 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!

And I’m so glad you followed that dream, Glenys!

 Now, Glenys, can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the story?

Glenys: Well, I’m sure like many families, when my four sons were young we would gather round our candle-lit Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and read the much-loved words of Clement C Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Even though we only heard it once a year, it’s such a classic poem that we all knew it by heart. When I began writing for children, that poem popped up in my memory and I wondered if I could rewrite it, using Moore’s familiar rhythm and rhyme, but instead of basing the story around Santa, it would be based on Jesus—the real hero of Christmas.

Elena, your magnificent illustrations bring beautiful fullness to the book. What drew you to Glenys’s ’TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS story?

Elena: Probably this is the most exciting and magical story in world literature
and Glenys’s delightful accents gave a powerful impetus to the work.

And you did a glorious job!  I just love how your intricate illustrations bring Glenys’s text to life in a special way on each spread.

And now a question for both of you: What would you like readers to take away from this story?

Elena: Serenity and peace.

Glenys: I never intended this story to replace the Christmas classic, but I hope that it might be used alongside it, so that little ones won’t lose their focus on the One who would change the world. I hope they take away a real sense of the love God has for them, in sending baby Jesus to earth.

Your shared story is indeed a wonderful companion piece for the Christmas season.  I will be reading your delightful collaborative work with my Sunday School classes in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait to see their eyes light up as the story unfolds in this charming new way.

Finally, since this book celebrates Christmas, do you each have a favorite Christmas tradition that you’d like to share with our readers?

Glenys: I am from England, where my four sons grew up, and so our Christmas traditions are quite different to those in the USA! (For example, in a British home, you won’t find folks decorating cookies….you’ll find them making mince pies!) But I think my favorite tradition has to be pulling Christmas Crackers at the dinner table before we eat our turkey, sprouts and roast potatoes! I think you might know these as ‘poppers’. The idea is that two of you grasp both ends of a cracker and pull. It ‘pops’ open and you get to keep what’s inside. There’s always a corny joke or two, a little plastic toy, and the iconic paper hat, which everyone in England wears for Christmas dinner. Here’s the photo to prove it…163726_186641114681398_450526_n

Elena: Every year my family waits, as eager as children, for the arrival of a huge Christmas tree (see picture below).  It’s a sparkling tree and the most charming sight ever.  It’s a great tradition in my family! 

Christmas tree

Thank you, again, Elena and Glenys, for chatting with me!  Zonderkidz sure knew what they were doing when they teamed you up for this book!  Blessings to both of you as we celebrate the Christmas season.  

Find out more about Glenys and her books here: Author Website

 See more of Elena’s beautiful art work here:  Elena Selivanova at Beehive Illustration

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!!  

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova, let me know in 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 giveaway ends Thursday, 11/30/17 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday! The GIVEAWAY is now over. A winner has been selected. Thank you to all who entered.  

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed (and personally inscribed) copies of GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER

IMG_0069Can’t make it to a book signing?  No problem!

I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will again offer signed, personalized copies of my books for sale!

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: GOODNIGHT, MANGER signed by BOTH the AUTHOR and the ILLUSTRATOR!

IMG_0241Something readers don’t often realize is that it’s highly unusual to actually meet your illustrator – especially when you live on different continents!  That’s why I was thrilled last summer to have the delightful privilege of meeting Jane Chapman who illustrated both GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER.

While were together enjoying this rare gift of meeting in person, we had the idea that it might be fun to sign a couple of books.  So now, to kickoff the holiday season, I’m giving one away!

Before I share the details (below) I thought you might enjoy a few snaps of our lovely meeting last summer:

 

 

 

 

Finally, without further ado, here are the details for my GOODREADS GIVEAWAY!

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Enter to win a very special copy of GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015,hardcover edition), signed by BOTH author Laura Sassi and New York Times best-selling illustrator Jane Chapman.

Story Summary: It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.

Giveaway ends December 4th, so I can send you the book in time for Christmas.  Click here to get to the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY page.  And don’t forget to add GOODNIGHT, MANGER to your “Want to read” list.

Tell all your friends. Good luck!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Carol Gordon Ekster in Celebration of the release of her newest book YOU KNOW WHAT?

YouKnowWhatbookcoverPlease join me in welcoming four-time picture book author Carol Gordon Ekster as we chat about her newest book YOU KNOW WHAT?, illustrated by Nynke Talsma and published by Clavis, a Belgian publisher, about a little boy who’s doing his very best to postpone bedtime by asking lots of questions.  Her other books include RUTH THE SLEUTH AND THE MESSY ROOM (Character Publishing), BEFORE I SLEEP, I SAY THANK YOU (Pauline Press and Media) and WHERE AM I SLEEPING TONIGHT?  (Boulden Publishing) Take a look at the YOU KNOW WHAT? book trailer below, then enjoy the interview that follows, with my questions in warm blue to match the book cover..

 Question 1: First of all, welcome, and congratulations on this latest book.  What inspired you to write YOU KNOW WHAT?

I love writing on planes…the confinement, the focus…my mind flies off into its best creative space. So there I was, in August 2014, on an airplane to meet my grandson two days after he was born. My laptop was on the tray and I was working on a story. I heard the child in front of me say to his parents, “You know what?” And my fingers immediately started typing a new document. That day I began brainstorming, more of a cause and effect exercise with every sentence beginning with, “You know what?” But when I returned home and began the real work on that draft, it developed into a conversation between a mother and son where Oliver uses the repeated, “You know what?” to postpone his bedtime.  The story wasn’t planned, it came to me like a gift. I wonder if I hadn’t been in that exact seat or not heard this child’s “You know what?” would I have picked it up somewhere else? I think catching the right story idea is a miracle!

I think you were meant to be sitting in that exact spot.  What a wonderful example of being intentional and ever on the look-out for story sparks. 

Question 2: Did you always want to be a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writing journey.

No, I did not always want to be a writer! Writing is hard. I was passionate about teaching and lived and breathed it most of my life as a fourth grade teacher. There was little room for anything else. Then my last seven years before retirement, writing snuck in like a welcome surprise. The need to write came over me at the beach one day. I felt taken over and had to walk to my car to get post-its, the only thing I had to write on, and a pen. I came back to my seat on the sand to write my first picture book. It was never published and unless it undergoes major revision, will never be sold. But that was the first of many. I started writing late in life and am making up for lost time.  It was the 20th manuscript that I wrote that was the first to sell. Starting to write while teaching was a sweet beginning into this journey because I got to share it with students. I became a better teacher and a better writer and I believe my students became better writers because they saw the writing process in action. They were my first critique group! Now retirement gives me the time to live and breathe writing. It’s such a great second career in that I get to continue communicating with children, but I can do it anywhere and on my own schedule.

Your journey into writing is inspirational and a lovely reminder that writing is a craft/career that one can hone and develop at any age.  

Question 3: Most books by American authors are published first in English and then, if we are lucky, they get translated into other languages.  But YOU KNOW WHAT? was first published in Dutch!  Tell us a little bit about that process. 

This process was definitely a little scary! The Dutch version came out in December 2016. I couldn’t help in its promotion, see it bookstores, check Amazon’s Author Central to know how it was selling. I had to trust in Clavis Books. I was excited at the possibility of extending my readership. And Clavis brings their books to all the international book fairs, which is wonderful. Both Chinese and Korean publishers already bought the rights. My other books have never been translated into another language, so I’ve been ecstatic. The English version came out September 1, 2017 and now I can get involved in marketing and help spread the word…like right here with you.

And here’s the Dutch cover so our readers can see what that version looks like.  

BookCover-MamaWistJeDatQuestion 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?

Yes! I have activities, as I do for all my books, on my web page. I am a teacher first and foremost and as I’m writing a book I’m often thinking of extension activities and asking myself questions like will this work for a mentor text for strong verbs, alliteration, etc. With YOU KNOW WHAT? someone in my critique group suggested a different ending, which left things open ended. I loved that and immediately knew I’d make a sheet that children could fill out with what they thought that last “you know what?” might be. And I got the sweetest e-mail from a winner of the Shelf Awareness giveaway. She read the book with her five year old granddaughter with her granddaughter reading Oliver’s part while she read the mother’s part. Because YOU KNOW WHAT? is entirely a dialog between Oliver and his mom, the book lends itself to that kind of readers’ theatre. I hadn’t thought of that and was thrilled to learn of another way to read this book.

Here is the link where you can find language arts, math, creative arts, dramatic play, and gross motor activities that coordinate with the book.   Terrific!

 Question 5: Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

I recently sent out my 80th manuscript. And I have SO many more on my desk top in varying degrees of readiness to be sent out to publishers. I am not yet agented so I do research about where to send my stories and then send them out on my own. I am hopeful there will be more published books in my future.

As far as where readers can find my books, I love supporting local bookstores. But if that isn’t an option, you can find the book at all e-tailers. Also, I love public libraries and am an avid user myself. You can ask your library to get the book for you if they don’t already have it.

Wow!  80 manuscripts.  Now that’s something to aspire to.  Thank you so much for joining me here today, Carol.   And readers, here’s how you can learn more and connect with Carol:

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1867583.Carol_Gordon_Ekster

Twitter  https://twitter.com/cekster

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/cekster

Group blog: https://writersrumpus.com/author/cekster/

Carol's professional photo for booksAbout the author:

Carol Gordon Ekster taught elementary school teacher for 35 years.  Her first published book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, was an About.com Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was acquired by Library Sparks magazine, 2010.  A picture book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, was on Character Publishing’s debut list, 2011 and was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  Her picture book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, Pauline Books and Media, released January 1, 2015 and is now in its third printing. The book was the 3rd place winner in the Catholic Press Association’s 2016 Book Awards in the children’s category and was a finalist for the ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards 2016. Her first e-book came out spring 2015 as part of a digital library with Schoolwide, Inc. Her new book, You Know What? with Clavis Books came out first in Dutch, December 2016, and the English version released September 1, 2017. Korean and Chinese versions are in the works. Carol spends time in critique groups, doing exercise and yoga, and working on her books.