AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Mindy Baker in Celebration of her Debut Picture Book MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have debut Zonderkidz picture book author Mindy Baker here as my guest to chat about her Christmas story MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT.  Here’s the adorable flap copy:  “Can one tiny church mouse find a way to bring Christmas spirit to his little town when Parson gets sick and the usual Christmas Eve service is cancelled?”  You will have to read to find out, and when you do, I think you fall in love with this heartwarming picture book story just as much as I have.  I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids!  And now… the interview!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Mindy. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?

My husband and I have been married for almost 23 years, and we have three children. My oldest daughter is a sophomore in college, and I have a daughter who is a senior in high school and a son who is a freshman in high school. I love being a wife and mom! 

I am also a high school Spanish teacher at a public high school in our area. I enjoy my relationships with my students—they keep my life “muy interesante!”  You can check out my classroom via my “teacher Twitter.” The address is @srabakerhse. 

Another unique thing about me is that I have been able to travel to almost thirty different countries for various reasons. I LOVE experiencing different cultures and am thankful for all of the amazing experiences that I have had along the way in my travels. If you want to hear some crazy travel experiences, ask me…I can talk for hours about my trips!

 

I have always loved writing, but about ten years ago I decided to take a few classes in writing specifically for children and that is how I began to learn about writing picture books. It has been quite a journey, but I truly love writing. It is a creative outlet for me and very relaxing and rewarding.

Wow, what a rich bank of experiences you bring to the writing table!  I always so fascinating to see all the different paths that can lead to writing.

What inspired you to write Mouse’s Christmas Gift?

I had originally seen a publisher’s wish list that included “books that explained the meaning of Christian holidays.” Although this was not the publisher that ended up buying my manuscript, it was what inspired me to begin shaping my story. 

Also, I love Christmas, and I collect nativity sets and church ornaments. It is the running joke in my family that even though they have “banned” me from buying any more nativity sets, somehow the collection keeps growing! 

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Nativity from Mexico

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Nativity from Ecuador

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Nativity from Israel

Honestly, my stories seem to grow from idea seeds or mind pictures. With this story, there were several elements that kept swirling around in my brain. 

–The Christmas Eve service at our home church has always been something special to me, and spiritually significant in my life. 

–The element of family and community, like at a church pitch-in dinner, or get-together with family/friends when everyone brings a dish to share.  I wanted to capture that feeling of “togetherness” or “connectedness.”   

–The idea of light in a dark world, or being a light in a dark world, one person trying to make a difference. I wrestled with how to show this in the manuscript. 

–I have always found stories including mice to be endearing and charming.

So…all of that…somehow became this story!

And you did a wonderful job of bringing all those elements together!  I can’t wait to share you story with my Sunday School classes – which I will be doing next month. They’ll be reading the story and then building it out of Legos!

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

There are several messages that I hope shine through.  The most obvious message is that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Without his birth, there would be no Christmas. The second is that even someone small can make a big difference.  Mouse never loses hope, and his acts of setting up the nativity set in the church and lighting a candle in the window set off a chain reaction in the village. A third lesson is that a Christmas celebration is not about how much money you spend. There is beauty in simplicity. I hope that readers uncover even more lessons as they read and connect with the story of Mouse.

These are all wonderful messages – and so beautifully and seamlessly woven in to a rich story.  

Tell us about the illustrations. How long did they take Dow Phumiruk to complete?  Was the process of bringing your words to life through pictures at all collaborative?

As you said, the illustrator of the book is Dow Phumiruk. She told me that it took her about ten months to complete the illustrations for Mouse’s Christmas Gift. A Twitter acquaintance commented that I “struck gold” when Zonderkidz selected Dow to be my illustrator, and I whole-heartedly agree.  Everything Dow draws has a magical quality, and I love the warmth conveyed in the cover, and throughout the entire book. It invites you to curl up and enjoy the story of Mouse.  I am in awe of what she has done with the illustrations. If you are interested, you can connect with her through her website at www.artbydow.com.  

Honestly, Dow and I did not collaborate on the illustrations. Once I submitted the manuscript, Dow and the art team at Zonderkidz took it from there. However, I was delighted at how beautiful the book turned out. I am so thankful and honored to be paired with Dow for this project.

I’m delighted at how the book turned out too. It’s very appealing.

What’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

I wrote a teaching guide for Mouse’s Christmas Gift that will be offered as a free download on the Zondervan website in just a few weeks. I am very excited about that!  Click here for the teacher guide. 

I have been working on several other projects and Mouse’s next adventure, but only time will tell if those manuscripts will make their way into the world. I certainly hope they do! Mouse’s Christmas Gift can be found on Amazon.com, Christian Books Stores, Barnes & Noble, and the Zondervan website. 

Thank you so much, Mindy, for giving us the lovely glimpse into the story from the author’s point of view. And, I don’t think it’s too early to wish you a very Merry Christmas!  

And now for the GIVEAWAY!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, written by Mindy Baker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 11/1/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 11/2/18!

LOVE IS KIND: Illustrator Lison Chaperon Shares her Creative Process

I’m delighted and honored to have the illustrator for my newest picture book LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) here today to share the creative process behind her delightful illustrations.  It’s not often you get to see the process explained and shown with such detail. It’s fascinating!  Take it away, Lison Chaperon and… merci!  Enjoy!

Bonjour Laura! I’m so happy to have been chosen to illustrate your wonderful story. It was such a joy to illustrate! Your story and characters were a great source of inspiration. I’m pleased to share my creative process with you and the readers of your blog. 

When I received the manuscript, the first thing I did was to read it several times and determined the page breaks. The story is an adventure for Little Owl and for the readers so it was important to create surprise effects from one page to another.

1 page breaksThen, I worked on the character designs. I tried several techniques (ink, felt pens, pencils, watercolor…) before finding the right combination to render Little Owl’s feathers: watercolor and color pencils.

2 Little Owl Designs3 Granny Designs4 Characters DesignsOnce the look of the characters was determined, the amazing editorial team needed the cover. So I looked for cover ideas. The image had to be eye-catching, sweet and it had to capture the book message. Below are my proposals:

5 Cover sketchesHere is the sketch chosen by the team and the final art:

6 Cover final sketch7 Cover FinalThen I started the sketches. This is my favorite part! I love finding ideas, working on compositions, thinking about little details… I first storyboarded the whole story, trying different compositions through very rough tiny sketches. 

8 thumbnailsWhen I determined what worked best, I did more detailed sketches at full-scale with text.

9 Illu 1 sketch10 Illu 2 sketchI also did colored roughs to give me a first idea of the colors.

11 Illu 1 rough color12 Illu 2 rough colorOnce all the sketches were approved by the team, I went on to the final art. 

I reported the final drawings on watercolor paper (scale 110%). I wanted delicate and refined colors with a lot of nuances to express the atmosphere, the message of the story, and Little Owl’s feelings. So, before starting to paint the final art, I did several tests with the watercolor and the color pencils to find the right balance. And here is the outcome:13 Illu 1 final14 Illu 2 Final

Thank you, Lison, for sharing your process with us. I continually marvel at all that goes into illustrating a picture book and I feel so blessed that you were chosen to illustrate LOVE IS KIND!  The Zonderkidz team had great vision.  I’m thrilled that my words get to share page space with your wonderful illustrations.  

Happy reading, all!

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

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!

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour!

 

It’s official! In celebration of the release of my newest picture book, LOVE IS KIND, we’re going on tour, BLOG tour that is! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be making stops at the following blogs. There will be interviews, giveaways and more.  Please stop by!

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

Happy Book Birthday LOVE IS KIND!

photo promo with text love is kind instagramIn her memoir A CIRCLE OF QUIET, Madeleine L’Engle writes, “Those of us who write are responsible for the effect of our books… Like it or not, we either add to the darkness… or we light a candle to see by.”  As a writer for children, I take those words to heart and now, today, with the release of my newest picture book, LOVE IS KIND, I hope Little Owl’s story will do just that.  Certainly showing love towards others is something that our fractured society needs, especially, right now, so my book birthday wish is that LOVE IS KIND will resonate in little hearts everywhere and inspire children of all ages (and grown ups too!) to show love and kindness towards others in ways big and small.

Happy birthday, LOVE IS KIND!  And Happy Reading, all!

LOVE IS KIND Book Trailer Reveal on KidLit TV!

kidlittv love is kind graphicLOVE IS KIND releases in just over a week which means it’s time for a book trailer reveal!  Zonderkidz did such a terrific job creating this short, sweet trailer which captures beautifully the essence of this heartfelt story about a little owl who wants to get his grammy something for her birthday, but whose attempts are thwarted every step of the way.

Thank you, KidLit TV for hosting the reveal and now, top up that cup of coffee and head on over for the trailer premiere!  I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link. Enjoy!

SNEAK PEEK: Love Is Kind (my newest picture book with Zonderkidz!)

Ready for a sneak peek at what arrived on my porch this afternoon? It’s an advance copy of my upcoming picture book LOVE IS KIND, delightfully illustrated by French artist Lison Chaperon and published by Zonderkidz. I just love the world Lison has created to set the story.  Each spread is more adorable than the next!  Thank you, Lison, for your creative whimsy and thank you, Zonderkidz, for publishing! I can’t wait for this one to release on August 7, 2018.   Happy reading, all!

LOVE IS KIND: Meet Little Owl!

67b2733c-1893-444b-bd74-cc780cde2842-11991-000007ad5ce2077dI haven’t received my advanced copy of LOVE IS KIND, so I can’t yet give you a proper advanced “flip through” of the book, but I think you’ll enjoy this delightful video clip, created by illustrator Lison Chaperon, introducing Little Owl, the sweet protagonist of LOVE IS KIND.  All Little Owl really wants is to get his grammy a box of chocolates, but his attempts keep getting thwarted.  In the process, though, he learns the true meaning of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. Real love, as it turns out, isn’t found in a box – even one filled with chocolates. Now without further ado, meet Little Owl!  (Isn’t he adorable?)

 

GUEST POST: FIVE Fun FACTS about TWO FUN NEW BOOKS from Best-Selling Author GLENYS NELLIST! (AND A GIVEAWAY!)

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Today I’m delighted to feature the wonderful Glenys Nellist as my guest. Glenys is the author 12 fabulous books – including her best-selling LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD series with five books out and more on the way.  She’s also the author of the adorable SNUGGLE TIME series.  Last December, she was here for an interview to celebrate the release of her clever and gorgeous ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS, a heart-warming Christmas tale told to the cadence of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem. And today we’re here to celebrate the release of two darling rhyming board books that celebrate the special bonds between and mothers/children and fathers/children. With simple rhyming text and sweet illustrations, these are sure to be a perennial hit.  And now, as a fun way of introducing the books, here’s Glenys with FIVE FUN FACTS about the books. (And be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!) Take it away, Glenys!

FIVE Fun Facts About GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL & GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL

by Glenys Nellist

FUN FACT #1: They Weren’t my Idea!

That’s right—you did read that correctly… GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL and GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL were not my idea! Almost three years ago I pitched a new children’s book manuscript to my editor and anxiously awaited her response. When it came, it went something like this:  

Hi Glenys, thanks for submitting your new book proposal. Unfortunately, it’s not a good fit for us at the moment. However… I am looking for new titles featuring mommies & daddies. If you have any ideas for those sorts of books, I’ll be happy to take a look.

Any author would be crazy not to give their editor what they are looking for… and the books were born! Now, whenever my editor and I meet for lunch, I always ask her this five-word question: What are you looking for? Then I come home and try to write it.

FUN FACT #2: Why the Mommy Cover Has a Heart-Shaped ‘O’…

Take a peek at the cover of GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL…

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Can you guess why the ‘O’ is heart-shaped? It’s because in England, where I’m from, and where I’ll shortly be marketing the book, we don’t say Mom. Instead, we say Mum. So the marketing team at Zonderkidz decided to shape the ‘O’ so that it could also be seen as a ‘U’. Aren’t they clever?

FUN FACT #3: The Books Can Be Used in a Fun Guessing Game

One of my favorite things to do as an author is to visit schools and read to children. With these books, I’ve found a wonderful guessing game that children LOVE to participate in. Before showing them the pictures, I read each poem and they have to guess the animal. Listen carefully, I tell them. The clues are in the words. 

Try it with your little one. Read this poem and have them guess the daddy animal. (Answer below)

Come and meet my daddy

He stands up nice and tall.

And even though he’s on one leg,

I’ve never see him fall.

Every time I wobble,

He helps me stand up straight.

God made Daddy special—

He’s really, really great!

FUN FACT #4: The Illustrations are Better Than I Imagined

It’s a very scary thing for an author to hand their manuscript over and trust that the illustrator will be a good fit. I needn’t have worried at all with these books!  Estelle Corke did a FABULOUS job, especially with Daddy Skunk, which is my favorite part of the daddy book! 20170621_161622.jpg

FUN FACT #5: There Might Be a Grandma and Grandpa Version in the Wings…

Sshh… don’t tell anyone, but I already have GOD MADE GRANDMA SPECIAL and GOD MADE GRANDPA SPECIAL written in my head! Depending on sales of the mommy and daddy books, then I’m hoping that Grandma and Grandpa will be joining them on the shelves… fingers crossed for that!

Thank you, Glenys, for those five fun facts.  And best wishes for your continued success! 

AUTHOR PHOTOBIO: Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. Zondervan children’s book author of twelve titles, including two popular series: Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time. Glenys is a writer with a passion for God, her family, and children’s ministry. Find out more about Glenys and her books here:

 

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  two-book bundle that includes one copy each of GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL and GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL both written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Estelle Corke, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Monday, 5/21/18 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!

Finally… the answer to the poem in FUN FACT #3 is:  Daddy Flamingo!