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Q&A Blog

5 Favorites from . . . Heidi Stemple!

Author Heidi Stemple

Heidi Stemple didn't want to be a writer when she grew up. In fact, after she graduated from college, she became a probation officer in Florida. It wasn't until she was 28 years old that she gave in and joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published more than 25 books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children. Her books include Counting Birds, You Nest Here With Me, Not All Princesses Dress In Pink, Fly With Me, A Kite For Moon, and this fall, Eek You Reek

 

Heidi lives and writes in a new house on a big old farm in Massachusetts that she shares with two cats who lives inside, and a dozen deer, a family of bears, three coyotes, two bobcats, a gray fox, tons of birds, and some very fat groundhogs who live outside. Once a year, she calls owls for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count

 

So, what are Heidi's 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Highlights Foundation 

 

My favorite mentor text:

Wow—I have so many! I mean boxes and boxes of them! Today,  (teaching nonfiction this week) I think it is: Water Is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

 

My favorite writing tip:

Read everything you write aloud.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

It costs nothing to be awesome—don't be difficult or a diva. You are selling yourself as much as you are your books.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

This year? The party I threw for my mom's (author Jane Yolen) 365th book at the Carle Museum. 

 
To learn more about Heidi and her work, visit her website.

As always, if you have read the author’s books, please take a moment to write a quick review using the links above.

 

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5 Favorites from . . . Casey W. Robinson!

Author Casey W. Robinson

Casey W. Robinson's debut picture book IVER & ELLSWORTH, published in 2018 by Ripple Grove Press, was named a finalist for SCBWI's Crystal Kite Award. Casey is Co-Director of the New England Regional Spring Conference 2020. She is also an alum of the New England Young Writer's Conference at Bread Loaf and co-founder of its Kindred Spirit Scholars program, which aims to make the conference more inclusive and more representative of the diversity of New England. 

 

So, what are Casey’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Standing at my kitchen island, which might be the only place in my house I can reliably clear of clutter. I type, pace around my house, then type some more. Moving my body helps me think.  

 

My favorite mentor text: 

At the moment, I am in love with LUBNA AND PEBBLE, written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egneus. A story that centers on the refugee crisis, its childlike simplicity is layered with complex emotion and brought to life by gorgeous illustrations. Picture book perfection.

 

My favorite writing tip:

If you have only 15 minutes to write, use all of those 15 minutes to write. Set a timer. Turn off your phone. (Not silenced, off.) Block out the distractions. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don't wait for that perfect block of uninterrupted time.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

One of the best ways to market your books is to encourage the people who love your books to talk about them, whether that's through online reviews, library requests, or recommendations to friends. I lucked out when I befriended the owner of my local indie bookstore (@SilUnicornActon) who happens to love IVER & ELLSWORTH. He has championed my book in so many wonderful and surprising ways, including mentions in newspaper articles, prominent store display, and hosting my launch party. But even better than resulting sales is knowing that someone who knows A LOT about books believes in yours—that is fuel I carry around in my pocket.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

The New England Regional Spring Conference held in Springfield, MA in early May. (Full disclosure: I am Conference Co-Director for the 2020 conference!)The New England SCBWI region is so large and vibrant, yet the conference manages to feel close-knit and intimate. It's worth checking out if you've never been. Next year's theme will be "Finding Joy in the Journey" – mark your calendars for May 1-3, 2020 at the Sheraton in Springfield, MA. Hope to see you there!

 

To learn more about Casey and her work, visit her website. If you have read Casey’s book, take a minute to leave a review at the link above.

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5 Favorites from . . . Susan Montanari!

Author Susan Montanari with one of her biggest fans.

Susan McElroy Montanari was a finalist in two categories for the 2010 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature in Connecticut: one for her middle grade novel, The Day Sasquatch Ate My Journal and the other for her picture book My Dog's A Chicken, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf and published by Schwartz & Wade. Her other books include Goldilocks for Dinner (new this month!), Who's The Grossest of Them AllHip-Hop Lollipop, and The Halloween Tree (to be published August 6, 2019). Susan lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she resides with her husband, Dan, and a cat named Tybee.  

 

So what are Susan’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

The second floor of my local library, back between the stacks. It is so quiet there I can disappear into the world I'm trying to create. When I try to write at home there are too many distractions.

 

My favorite mentor text:

I know it is cliché, but it's Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This book really speaks to children and their need to have some control over their world.

 

My favorite writing tip:

Don't discuss an idea with anyone until you have, at least, the first draft completed. If you tell the story too soon you give up some of your energy to complete it. And if their reaction is negative it could completely deflate the notion before it gets a chance to take shape.

 

My biggest marketing tip: 

Become active on social media. I know I have bought books after seeing them on Twitter!

 

My favorite book event of the year:

BEA New York City (Book Expo America) - I only got to go to it once, but it was exciting to see all those new books, authors, publishers, and agents in one place.

 

To learn more about Susan and her work, visit her website. And, if you would like to review Susan’s books, click the book links above.

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5 Favorites from . . . Jenna Grodzicki!

Author Jenna Grodzicki

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of Finn Finds a Friend (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), Pixie's Adventure (eTreasures Publishing, 2017), and the I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, October 2019). She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two crazy awesome kids. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College and a Master's in Education from the University of New England. She recently traded in her librarian hat to become a full time writer. At all hours of the day (and night) she can be found at her desk, drinking iced coffee and working on her next story.

 

So, what are Jenna’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

My office. I have a beautiful writing space filled with a big desk, about a million books, pictures of my family, and fun little knickknacks. And iced coffee. There must always be iced coffee

 

My favorite mentor texts

Books by Melissa Stewart. Her books have been so helpful with my nonfiction writing. I especially love No Monkeys, No Chocolate and Feathers: Not Just for Flying.

 

My favorite writing tip:

A quote from the author Shannon Hale: "When writing a first draft, I have to remind myself constantly that I'm only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles." I personally have to remind myself of this so frequently that I posted the quote on the wall in my office.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Be authentic on social media. Engage with other writers and educators in a meaningful way. Share posts you think will be helpful to others. And always be kind.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

The annual NESCBWI conference. It's a great place to connect with other writers and hone your craft.

 

To learn more about Jenna and her work, visit her website.

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5 Favorites from . . . Cynthia Levinson!

Author Cynthia Levinson

A former teacher and educational policy consultant and researcher, Cynthia Levinson holds degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University and also attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She is the author of several books for young readers, including We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March; Watch Out for Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community; and Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can.

 

What are Cynthia’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

Anyplace where I can look out a window.

 

My favorite mentor text:

Anything by Patricia MacLachlan or Elizabeth Partridge.

 

My favorite writing tip:

Take a walk.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Promote good books by other people.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

Appearing on Broadway for a talkback after a play that drew on a book I wrote!

 

To learn more about Cynthia and her work, visit her website.

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5 Favorites from . . . Corinna Luyken!

Author/illustrator Corinna Luyken

Corinna Luyken is the author-illustrator of MY HEART and THE BOOK OF MISTAKES, which received four starred reviews, numerous awards, and has been praised by Entertainment Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and more.  She also illustrated ADRIAN SIMCOX DOES NOT HAVE A HORSE, written by Marcy Campbell.  She lives in Olympia, WA, with her husband, daughter, and two cats.

 

What are Corinna’s 5 Favorites?:


My favorite place to write:

Any place that is quiet, where I won't be interrupted!  Which can be hard to come by these days.  I love early mornings at home the best, when my husband is already at work and my daughter hasn't woken up yet.  But I've discovered that airplane rides and late nights can work too. I wrote THE BOOK OF MISTAKES at 3 am, post stomach flu.  The house was quiet and I was (literally and figuratively) empty. And in that environment, the entire first half of the story arrived quite suddenly and almost exactly as it appears in the book.  Though the second half of the book took another year to sort out/write.   

 

My favorite mentor text: 

Perhaps Extra Yarn or The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip.  Though there are SO many books that  I adore,  I don't have just one favorite. School's First Day of School is brilliant.  And everything by Julie Fogliano fills me with joy.

 

My favorite writing tip:

When I'm writing, I try my best to be an empty vessel.  Meaning, to not think of any book that I'm writing as "my" story but to approach it as though this is a story that has chosen to come into the world through me.  And so my job (and my responsibility to the story)  is to be the best listener that I can be.   If I'm not a little surprised, I'm usually doing something wrong, being too controlling. I've found that most of the best stories and poems have a life of their own, and my job is to stay out of the way.


My favorite marketing tip:

I try to focus on making work that comes from the heart, that speaks to the world we live in right now.  And hopefully, from there, marketing in it's various forms becomes easier.  It helps when I've been able to take myself out of the book in the writing process, because then it becomes less about this being "my" book and more about this being a book that is going to have it's own life in the world.  From there,  the rest of what happens is really about that book's relationship with the world.  What that particular book is meant to be.  This isn't practical, or necessarily helpful advice, because I don't really think that the world needs more stuff, and  I've never been interested in trying to convince people to buy something that they don't really want or need. 

 

My favorite book event of the year:

I haven't really been to that many book events.  But I love going to friend's book launches and I love librarians and library conferences!


 To learn more about Corinna and her work, visit her website.

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5 Favorites from . . . Daria Peoples-Riley!

Author/Illustrator Daria Peoples-Riley

Daria Peoples-Riley's debut picture book THIS IS IT was published with Greenwillow/HarperCollins (February 2018). I GOT NEXT, a companion book will follow on July 30, 2019. Daria is also the illustrator of GLORIA TAKES A STAND by Jessica M. Rinker, a picture book biography about the life and work of Gloria Steinem (Bloomsbury, March 2019) .

 

So what are Daria’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write (and paint):

Outside, near my hummingbird feeder.

 

My favorite mentor text:

Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan. My two favorite lines: "I'll mix [the rest of] my black roots in a larger medicine gourd. I'll give what I can until it all gives out." And "We'll see the difference a touch of black can make. Just remember, whatever I do, I'll be me and you'll be you."

 

My favorite writing tip:

Share your gift of writing and/or art with those you love by giving them handwritten words and/or art. No matter what the reviews or the sales will be, those who love you will deem your work priceless, and that will nourish your journey.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Be present and attentive when you meet your readers.

 

My favorite book event of the year:

SCBWI LA Conference

 

To learn more about Daria’s work, visit her website.

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5 Favorites from . . . Baptiste Paul!

Baptiste Paul is a Caribbean-born author of three books for children. His debut picture book, THE FIELD, received starred reviews from Kirkus, The Horn Book, and Booklist. According to Kirkus, his co-authored book ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL, will "will pique readers' curiosity." His picture book biography, I AM FARMER, chronicles the work of Cameroonian environmentalist Tantoh Nforba. Born and raised on the island of Saint Lucia, Baptiste is a native Creole/Patois speaker who enjoys reading his books and sharing about his experiences with anyone who will listen. 

 

Here are Baptiste’s 5 Favorites:


My favorite place to write:

My basement

 

My favorite mentor text: 

Too many to choose. I like to experiment and play when I write. Some of my favorites are,  A LEAF CAN BE by Laura Purdie Salas, illus. by Violeta Dabija and POOR DOREEN: A FISHY TALE by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. by Alexandra Boiger

 

My favorite writing tip:

If something is not working, shelve the idea for later and write something new.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

Attend book conferences, do school visits. Just put yourself out there.


My favorite book event of the year:

Being on tour with Miranda Paul for our co-authored book I AM FARMER.

 

Learn more about Baptiste at his website

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5 Favorites from . . . Andrea Wang!

Andrea Wang is the APALA award-winning author of The Nian Monster. Her second picture book, Magic Ramen, is a Junior Library Guild Selection and received a starred review from School Library Journal. She loves to travel and sample new and unusual foods. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of her writing is about food. She is also the author of seven non-fiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in the Denver area with her family.

 

So what are Andrea’s 5 Favorites?:

 

My favorite place to write:

My big, cluttered-with-notebooks desk in my overflowing-with-books home office, with a window overlooking the yard where bunnies chase each other. 

 

My favorite mentor text:

This changes depending on what I'm working on. Right now it's A Very Wide Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi. Everyone needs to read this book!

 

My favorite writing tip:

Allow yourself to be vulnerable in your writing.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

One of my agency-mates (I think it was Chris Barton) said something to the effect that the "book birthday" is a recent construct, and that it's okay if you can't do a ton of events right around the release date. My takeaway was that marketing and promoting a book is a long haul and taking a slow, steady, approach can be just as effective. 

 

My favorite book event of the year:

Whichever conference I'm able to attend is my favorite. I've been lucky enough to attend the ALA and NCTE conferences in the past few years, and I always come home energized from hearing great presentations, meeting friends old and new, and collecting armloads of advance reader copies!


To learn more about Andrea and her work, visit her website.

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5 Favorites from . . . Hannah Holt!

Hannah Holt is a children's author with an engineering degree. Her first picture book, The Diamond & The Boy, earned a starred review from Booklist, calling it: “a gem of a biography.” Her most recent picture book, A Father's Love, celebrates great dads in the animal kingdom. Both stories weave together Hannah's love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr.

 

So what are Hannah’s 5 Favorites?

 

My favorite place to write:

In theory, the beach...but realistically all the work happens in my home office.

 

My favorite mentor text:

This week, I'm savoring A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert and Lauren Castillo. It's a gorgeous biography of E.B. White, both the text and illustrations.

 

My favorite writing tip:

Celebrate every writing success--no matter how small! In publishing, there's always something to worry about or wait on. It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it. Focus on what you're doing right now and reflect on what you've already accomplished.

 

My favorite marketing tip:

There is probably no one thing you will do that will help sell more books. Really. Buying a bunch of swag--probably won't sell a lot more books. Accumulating 50+ reviews on Amazon--also not likely to help much. Whether or not your book hits it big has very little to do with the things you do. So, do the things that bring you joy!

 

My favorite book event of the year:

During a school visit, a teacher asked if I would give my presentation to a first grader who had missed the assembly because of a dentist appointment. The school had booked me for the full day, so I did. I shared about rocks, writing, and perservering to an audience of one. While I love the energy of a large crowd, sometimes the most meaningful events are for small audiences.

 

You can find out more about Hannah and her w.org by visiting her on Twitter or at her website.

 

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