Archive for the ‘Beyond the Dust Jacket – Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Interviews’ Category

Introducing Tammy Kersey, picture book author

Posted on September 24th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Tammy Kersey is the author of What the Dickens?!?!:  The Tale of a Rascally Pup

Tammy Kersey is a children’s picture book author and founder of Tale Wagger Stories, an online inspirational resource that she hopes to build for parents who seek to empower and instil confidence in their young children. Her focus on the empowerment of children at a young age grew out of personal experience with unemployment and the realization that she had not been taking charge of her own destiny. A very active five months of exploring career options, publishing LinkedIn articles, experimenting with children’s stories, and doing some good, honest soul searching led to a surprising truth: she was free to write her own story. The idea was invigorating and empowering. She wanted to share it with others and chose the path of helping parents use storytime to build their children’s confidence, teach them to question, share opinions and ultimately take control in shaping their own lives. Tammy’s first book, What the Dickens?!?!: The Tale of a Rascally Pup, launched in April 2020 and she currently has a second book almost ready for editing. Tammy has worked as a marketing professional for most of her career and has a degree in History from The College of William and Mary where she met her husband, Ian. They live in Williamsburg, VA and have two adult children, Emily and Andrew. Tammy’s real-life four-legged inspirations are Oscar, Felix and Tristan.

Website URL https://TaleWaggerStories.com

Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/TaleWaggerStories/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/TaleWaggerStories/

What is the title of your latest published children’s book?

What the Dickens?!?!:  The Tale of a Rascally Pup / A children's picture book

What the Dickens?!?!: The Tale of a Rascally Pup

Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of? 

I think children 3 to 8 are the perfect audience, but I do have fans covering a broader age range. Grandmas especially like this book. And puppy lovers. I think I am most proud of the rhythm and meter of the verse, which makes it fun to read and more appealing for young children.

What the Dickens?!?!: The Tale of a Rascally Pup at Amazon.com

What the Dickens?!?!: The Tale of a Rascally Pup at Amazon.ca

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?

Well, that would be embarrassing! I write in a nice, bright upstairs bedroom where I have set up a desk/work area. You would likely see me reading and re-reading phrases and sections as I’m writing. You might see a bit of choir directing, as I’m working through the meter of a story. And you would likely see me laughing out loud when I hit on something funny. I definitely remember having a good laugh when I wrote about Grandma’s lips disappearing. You’ll have to read the story.

What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

The most rewarding part of this experience has been the reactions from children. I have received several priceless pictures of young children reacting to the book. I have a 4th grader who told her mom that she was going to follow me for the rest of her life because I liked to write my own books. There are just no words that can fully describe seeing and hearing their joy.

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

My first book, What the Dickens?!?!: The Tale of a Rascally Pup, has been published in both Kindle and EPub versions. We did have to make a few file adjustments from the print versions, but I was fortunate to have someone to help navigate this part of the publishing journey. It was fairly straightforward and I viewed it as another step in my overall process. Feedback from readers has been great so far. You can see the reviews on Amazon!

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

I actually do have a day job! I am a Sales and Marketing Manager for a product design and manufacturing company. We create a wide range of product, from beautiful commemorative museum ornaments, sculpts and ceramics to wild and zany troll dolls. There’s never a dull moment!

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal! I am in awe of what she accomplished. Her books (a few favorites are I Wish You More, Dear Girl, and Duck! Rabbit!) are so simple and beautiful in their words and message. And the relationship that she developed with her readers was unique and personal. I can only imagine what more she would have accomplished with more time.

(Read elsewhere on our site about Exclamation Mark and This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal)

Do you do school or library presentations?

I am available for school and library presentations in a 150 mile radius of the Tidewater Virginia area, or classroom Zoom calls anywhere (these work especially well currently!). My first Zoom call was with a Kindergarten class in Kansas. I love to do a story reading along with a confidence/creativity building activity and/or a Q&A on writing and publishing a book. Kids have great questions on this topic!


We are thrilled to introduce author/illustrator Scot Ritchie

Posted on August 27th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Photo of author illustrator Scot Ritchie

Scot Ritchie is an award-winning illustrator and author with more than 65 books to his credit.

His books have been translated into French, Korean, Indonesian, Polish, Finnish, Arabic and Dutch. Scot has worked with the National Film Board of Canada and has had his illustrations exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Connect with Scot online –

Link to author/illustrator website

Author/illustrator Instagram: scot.ritchie

Check out Scot’s outstanding artwork here

Tell us about your latest published book

Lilliana and the Frogs by Scot Ritchie

Lilliana and the Frogs is published by Harbour Publishing. I wrote it for kids who love nature or kids who need more nature. So that pretty much includes everyone. I’m most proud that it conveys, in a playful way, a message of respecting and enjoying nature.

Lilliana and the Frogs at Amazon.com

Lilliana and the Frogs at Amazon.ca

Who is your favorite author now? Why do you connect with this particular author and his/her work?

Patricia Highsmith is my favourite author. She is a straightforward, clean writer – something that is a good fit for kids books. I have to include my favourite illustrator – Sempé. His work is very low key but always with a wry sense of humour.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

After illustrating a number of books I decided to try writing my own stories. There were two motivations, one artistic and one practical. Artistically it felt natural to create the other half of a children’s book. But behind that publishing was going through some lean years and I knew I could increase my income by writing. It’s worth mentioning that being able to do both really is a gift because you are seeing what you are writing and, hopefully then, not over writing. The person who was the biggest influence on me was Sheila Barry. She was smart, kind, funny and reassuring.

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

The kernel of an idea can come from something I see. Sometimes I start with rough sketches. Or, as in the case of my newest book, Lilliana and the Frogs, the story comes first. This story developed from something I did as a little boy mixed in with my passion for nature. Writing is a combination of typing, having a coffee, going for a walk on the seawall, returning for a coffee and a sit… then doing it all again. Sometimes walking can be the most helpful. I don’t necessarily think about the story. In fact, I often park it in the back of my head and let that part of my mind do some sorting. Another vital part of the process is putting it away for a week or two so that it’s fresh when I look again. I have also recently discovered the joys of working with a good editor. It’s so useful to have an outside view, especially somebody who knows the world of kids books. Drawing for me is the most fun part and it usually comes after I’ve got a good grasp of the story. By then I know the characters and locations. Sometimes I will do thumbnails for the whole book beforehand but often not. After 60 some books I can pretty well map it out in my head.

What are the joys of being an author/illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

Not to get too philosophical but I think being able to find things inside you and express them is a pretty nice gift. You’re left with a book that people can enjoy and you also discover aspects of yourself you may not have known were there. I love that ‘Lilliana and the Frogs’ just might excite some kids to get out to the pond and snoop around. And to top it all off, it seems to me that people in the children’s publishing business are pretty nice all round.

If you weren’t an author/illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

I’ve been freelancing as an artist or writer for my whole life. I often joke it helps if you only have one skill, that way you sink or swim. If I was to do something else I’m a nature lover and especially fascinated by the amazing world of insects. Plus I’m an avid traveller so let’s say my ideal (alternate) job would be studying beetles in Greece.

Introducing Malcolm Harris, author of The Golden Crown, a Shubby and the Mammacs Adventure

Posted on July 16th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Malcolm Harris has written two books, The Golden Crown, a Shubby and the Mammacs Adventure, a junior edition of his children’s picture book and a memoir titled, A Mere Mortal.

Author Malcolm Harris

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

My parents bought me very few books, so I have no recall of any author impacting upon me at that age. My inspiration has been my daughter, now 30, who provided the idea for my first children’s picture book when she was 3 years of age.

Who is your favorite author now? Why do you connect with this particular author and his/her work?

I thoroughly enjoy reading Michael Palin’s diaries. I also read a lot of memoirs recommended on We Love Memoirs group on Facebook. Palin is both intelligent and humorous.

Author website

Twitter: @malharrisauthor

Facebook page

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors?

Like everyone else, it took me an age to approach countless agencies. I decided on self-publication. I don’t feel that this has hindered my success such as it is, but it does mean you have a lot of self-promotion to do if you want to make your book a success.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website?

Most of my contact comes through Facebook and my website. I belong to several Facebook groups, in particular, We Love Memoirs. This is a group of like-minded readers and authors, and touted as the friendliest group on Facebook. I was about to conduct a library talk when covid intervened.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

Well, I am a retired local authority officer, so work is now hobby-based. I love photography, and publish the occasional picture through Shutterstock, having had a studio in the dim and distant past. I also worked on commercial radio and took part in several stage shows and plays. My book, A Mere Mortal, tells the story in full!

The Golden Crown, a Shubby and the Mammacs Adventure by Malcolm Harris

Who do you think should read The Golden Crown, a Shubby and the Mammacs Adventure? What are you most proud of? 

My children’s book is aimed at infants between the ages of 2 and 4, written simply is easy to follow language and super coloured illustrations.

The original version of Shubby and the Mammacs is aimed at 4 to 7-year-olds as a night-time reader and aid to first self-reading.

SHUBBY AND THE MAMMACS: The Golden Crown at Amazon.com

SHUBBY AND THE MAMMACS: The Golden Crown at Atmazon.ca

Introducing Judy Hilgemann, author/illustrator of The Great Grizzlies Go Home

Posted on July 9th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts profiles author Judy Hilgemann.

Judy Hilgemann has always lived in coastal British Columbia. She grew up on northern Vancouver Island, studied and lived in various Canadian cities, then settled on Haida Gwaii. She paints in watercolour, acrylic, and encaustic.

The rugged west coast wilderness, the local character of coastal communities, and the details of the natural world, are her inspirations. Whenever possible, she creates plein-air watercolour paintings in nature, and then works up larger paintings from the studies, back in her studio.

Be sure to visit Judy Hilgemann’s website to view some of her illustrations, including murals for BC Children’s Hospital and for the Haida Gwaii Literacy Poster Project.

Follow Judy on Twitter @judyh615

Judy’s first illustrated children’s book, “B is for Basketball”, was published in the spring of 2011 and has since been used as a “Welcome To
Kindergarten” book across Canada
. Her latest book is “The Great Grizzlie Go Home”, a picture book about a true event, published by Harbour Publishing in April 2020.

The Great Grizzles Go Home is illustrated by Judy Hilgemann

Who do you think should read The Great Grizzlies Go Home? What are you most proud of? 

All ages! Am most proud of the illustrations.

The Great Grizzlies Go Home at Amazon.com

The Great Grizzlies Go Home at Amazon.ca

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

It was a bit difficult to get my first “trade” fiction publication. There are just so many great ideas and authors and illustrators out there – must be very hard for publishers to chose between them all. One of the encouraging things I was told, was not to give up too soon – that sometimes the book idea you are attempting is just not right for the publisher you approach. So keep trying many different publishers.

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

During my childhood I loved Maurice Sendak picture books the most. I loved the magical realism, the way humans interacted with animals, and the zany imaginative characters.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

When I was a very small child (6) I knew I wanted to be an artist. By the time I was 10 or 12 I was illustrating books for myself as I read them, making little sketches of the images that the stories put in my head. My parents encouraged me all along, as did my friends and teachers. When I was 15, I worked for a potter, as a studio-helper. One day I overheard her describing me as having “talent dripping from her fingertips”. I have never forgotten that phrase, and I have striven to honour this gift ever since.

If you weren’t an author/illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

I have worked in many other jobs along the way, but drawing, painting, and illustrating have always been my main goal. Graphic Design was an obvious choice for first-year college, although I learned it was hard to find enough work in small northern places in that field. So I got a teaching degree which would allow me to work almost anywhere. Then life and family happened, and it’s been a wonderful blur and mix of all those things ever since.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

I would choose to dine at the home of turn-of-the-century Swedish artist, Carl Larsson because I love his work, his mastery of composition, the way he incorporated his children into his paintings, and also because I would love to go to Sweden where I have ancestors to visit!

Introducing Sari Cooper, author of The Horse of the River

Posted on July 2nd, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Dr. Sari Cooper authored The Horse of the River
Photo credit – Marley Gillian Eisen

Sari Cooper is a doctor and writer. She has lived in Canada all her life except for an 18- month stint in Australia. She spends most of her time working as a Family Physician and looking after her own family. But she always loved writing and was able to bring her passion to life after being inspired to write The Horse of the River. The inspiration came after a horseback riding and rafting retreat while on vacation in New Zealand. There she learned about natural horsemanship and had some harrowing experiences while rafting. She currently lives in Victoria, BC.

Author website

Author Instagram account

Author Facebook page

Sari Cooper’s first published book is The Horse of the River. It is a children’s horseback riding adventure, published by Harbour Publishing.

The Horse of the River by Sari Cooper is published by Harbour Publishing

Who do you think should read The Horse of the River? What are you most proud of?

The natural audience for this book is children ages 8-12 who like adventure. But it would be enjoyable for anyone who likes middle-school-age fiction. I am most proud of the strong positive female lead, and the themes of friendship and resiliency. I also think it’s got some pretty humorous moments.

The Horse of the River: A Camp Canyon Falls Adventure (Camp Canyon Falls) at Amazon.com

The Horse of the River: A Camp Canyon Falls Adventure (Camp Canyon Falls) at Amazon.ca

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

Yes, it was close to 7 years from the time of completion to the time of publication. If you get rejections from all the large publishing houses, seek out the smaller ones that might have a space for a new unknown author with a story that aligns with their values. Ask people to read and provide feedback. Listen without defensiveness. Don’t be afraid to rewrite. It almost always gets better.

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?

I work where I am comfortable. Sometimes on the couch, on my bed, in my office chair. Where it’s quiet and usually when no one else is home. Writing is my side line. My work as a physician keeps me very busy, as does my family. So I grab pieces of time to write when I can. It isn’t a routine for me. It happens when I’m inspired and excited about it.

What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

I genuinely get a rush when I hear from a reader that they enjoyed the book. I love hearing that they couldn’t put it down at a specific part, or when they tell me a small detail they enjoyed, which often happens to be one of my own favourite parts. When I hear from someone in my target audience I try to connect with them when appropriate. I was reviewed by a 10-year-old reader who liked the book and I sent her a signed bookmark and some stickers and a personal message through the magazine where the review was published. It was my first review from a reader in my target audience who didn’t know me personally. I would have to say my greatest pleasure as an author is simply hearing that kids are reading and enjoying my book.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an author?

TIME!! And distraction. Because I have a career other than writing which is both challenging and fulfilling, I often will choose downtime at the end of the day or on days off. But I’ve been more energized lately and am working to carve out time to write more.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

I work as a Family Physician in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s busy and challenging work. It allows me to connect with people and it has taught me a lot about character and compassion. I suppose it informs my writing quite a bit.

Introducing Elizabeth Jurado, Author

Posted on June 25th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Elizabeth Jurado is the author of Saygar the Magnificent

Elizabeth Jurado was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, a U.S. – Mexico border city. Throughout Elizabeth’s life, the American and Mexican culture merged into one, leaving an impressionable impact in her memories of the food, the language, and the Spanish folktales not heard anywhere else. Many of Elizabeth’s childhood memories are weaved into the pages of her book. Elizabeth remains in El Paso with her family and three cats.

You can connect with Elizabeth Jurado on Facebook and Goodreads

Saygar the Magnificent is written by Elizabeth Jurado

Elizabeth’s latest book is Saygar the Magnificent, a middle-grade fantasy.

Her book is intended for readers ages 8 and beyond. Saygar the Magnificent is a humorous adventure sprinkled with the Mexican culture. It is about compassion, acceptance, and the power of believing in one’s self. It’s about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, overcoming difficult situations with creative non-violent solutions, and the gaining of fortitude and resilience in one’s character.

Saygar the Magnificent on Amazon.com

Saygar the Magnificent at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

I was such a shy girl growing up and found making friends overwhelming. I turned to the world of books to help me through those difficult days. I absolutely loved anything by Beverly Cleary and Eleanor Estes. I was drawn to their work because of their humor. Another of my favorite authors would be Roald Dahl. I was awestruck by the energy jumping off the pages of his books. I had never seen so many exclamation marks in just about every page in all his books. I was greatly influenced by these three magnificent writers!

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors?

It was difficult trying to get Saygar the Magnificent published. I did the query letters to both agents and publishers and the stamped signature rejection letters were disappointing. By the beginning of 2018, I had given up. By chance, I met Lisa Caprelli of Happy and Fun Lifestyle, LLC who decided to give me the opportunity I had been looking for. I published Saygar the Magnificent in 2019, and I’m currently working on Saygar the Superhero. To all aspiring authors, don’t give up. Concentrate on writing the best book you can and work with a professional editor. Then, you will be ready when that opportunity shows up!

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an author?

My biggest challenges have been getting used to being the center of attention. My awkward shyness is still alive and well in me. I wrestle with stage fright and all the other fears that come with public speaking. I have made improvements, but I still need a lot of work.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

Once upon a time, decades ago, I had been a substitute teacher and a first-grade teacher. I stepped away from it to plunge into the challenging role of a stay-at-home Mom. For the last twenty-three years, I have been raising my three sons. Its been the best time ever with my energetic sons, who kept me on my toes!

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

My book comes in print, e-book, and audiobook. The audiobook process was interesting. I had to listen to auditions by narrators and found the many variations of my book to be quite funny. As soon as I heard Rick Struve‘s audition, I knew he was the one. According to the reviews, Rick Struve did a wonderful job narrating my book.

Introducing Young Adult Fiction Author Emma Smith

Posted on June 18th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Emma Smith, Young Adult Fiction Author

It is our pleasure to introduce young adult fiction author, Emma Smith. She is the author of Fate of the Emerald Fae.

Emma hasn’t released her first book just yet but she is hoping it will be released by the end of August. It’s called Fate of the Emerald Fae. It’s a young adult fantasy novel.

Emma is a 19-year-old university student who currently lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She is planning on becoming a high school English teacher while continuing her writing. Her love of reading and writing stems from years and years of her mother reading aloud to her. Eventually, Emma read novels independently and aspired to write one herself. Featured is a photo of Emma, her boyfriend, and her dog!

You can connect with Emma on her Facebook page and on Instagram. At the present time, Emma is self-published.

Fate of the Emerald Fae by Emma Smith

Tell us about your book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

My book should be something teenagers and even adults will want to read. It’s not necessarily just a young adult book. I’m really proud of the world and magic system I’ve created in this novel and I’m hoping it becomes a world that someone can get sucked into just like the many other worlds that other authors have created.

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite?  Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you? OR Who is your favourite author now? Why do you connect with this particular author and his/her work?

Growing up, there were so many authors that I loved to read but one that stuck with me most, like many other people, was Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. I remember being completely sucked into the series and loving it so much. To this day, I collect Harry Potter merchandise and this past November I was able to finally visit Universal Studios where the Wizarding World is! Being able to connect with characters like Hermione and Luna in the stories made the books relatable for young people and aspiring authors like myself.

When did you realize that you would be a writer?  Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

Writing has always been a hobby of mine. I’ve always loved creating worlds and new characters, it just never completely developed until the last few years or so. Teaching creative writing as well as writing as an author has always been my dream. My parents, as well as my friends, family members, and boyfriend, have always supported me so much in my dreams of becoming an author and I am so grateful to have so many people excited about my book release!

What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

The biggest challenge for me as an author has been coming up with unique ideas. Having read so many books, it can be difficult to try to create completely unique ideas from the hundreds of other novels out there in the world. Motivation to actually write has also been a struggle, as writer’s block is a very real thing! 

Have any of your books been published electronically?  If so, what was that process like?  What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

Seeing as Fate of the Emerald Fae is being released electronically, I have an adequate amount of experience with releasing ebooks. It’s a fairly simple process through amazon and I’ve actually enjoyed the process so far. Feedback from beta readers has been good and releasing books through Amazon is a very good way to release a novel like this! Especially for new authors looking to start off small.

Fate of the Emerald Fae (Epacia Academy Book 1) at Amazon.com

Fate of the Emerald Fae at Amazon.ca

Meet Picture Book Author James Littlejohn (Interview)

Posted on January 12th, 2019 by Carolyn Hart

Photo of picture book author James Littlejohn

Today it is our pleasure to introduce picture book author, James Littlejohn. He is the author of B is for Baller

You can connect with James here…
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jameslittlejuan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littlejohnbooks
Publisher: Triumph Books

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of? James Littlejohn's B is for Baller

My book is “B is for Baller.” It’s a must for parents who love basketball and want to pass that love of the game along to their kids. I’m most proud hearing from parents who’ve told me it’s sparked conversations with their kids about players they grew up watching.

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Too many favorites to name, but Roald Dahl stands out. Loved the humor in his work.

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

We successfully launched “B is for Baller” on Kickstarter before finding a publisher, and I think the positive response we got from crowdfunding helped the publisher see its potential.
That said, “B is for Baller” wasn’t my first, second or third book — those ones still haven’t been published and likely never will be. So yes, it is difficult! If becoming an author or illustrator is an aspiration of yours, I think you have to accept that rejection is inevitable. There are too many talented people, and too few opportunities, for everyone to succeed at once.

What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

I enjoy the creative process — coming up with new ideas and seeing those ideas come to life on the page is really satisfying.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

Other than finding a publisher… probably trying to write your own bio.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

I work full-time as a writer at an advertising agency. Keeps me creatively engaged, but also requires me to think a lot about marketing — skills I need and use often making and selling books.

B is for Baller: The Ultimate Basketball Alphabet at Amazon.com

B is for Baller: The Ultimate Basketball Alphabet at Amazon.ca

James is available for school or library presentations. He is based in Los Angeles.

Discover B.C.R. Fegan and his latest picture book! (Interview)

Posted on November 15th, 2018 by Carolyn Hart

B.C.R. Fegan is the author of The Day that A Ran AwayB.C.R. Fegan is a multi-award-winning author who has written a number of fairy tales and fantasies for children and young adults.

Raised on a small hobby farm only minutes from some of Australia’s greatest beaches, Fegan grew up inspired by the power of nature’s ambience. From the intensity of the frequent summer storms to the overwhelming serenity of a lonely beach in the early hours of the morning. His ravenous appetite for both reading and writing soon saw him drawing on the transformational influence of the world around him to craft short stories, poems and picture books.

As time wore on, Fegan also found inspiration in the magic and depth of authors and compositors like Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. He was mesmerized by the potency of small but beautiful phrases that were carefully carved from the minds of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Frost. He grew to appreciate the worlds meticulously created by David Eddings, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.

Eventually, he began to forge his own complete works. Weaving his own magic, piecing together his own phrases and crafting his own worlds. Agonising over plots that would inspire, characters that would be loved and circumstances that would delight. In time, his efforts saw a number of children’s books and young adult fiction produced.

Twitter account – @bcrfegan

Website URL – https://www.bcrfegan.com/

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of? Storytime Standouts interviews the author of The Day that A Ran Away

My latest book is The Day That A Ran Away. It’s an alphabet book that follows the excuses of young Master Jet as he tries to wriggle out of not completing his homework.

My overriding focus for the story was to turn a traditional alphabet book into something that was a little more memorable and exciting for both the child and parent. I hope children who are beginning their journey into reading and writing will find the simple rhymes and colorful letters helpful in that journey. Older children and parents, on the other hand, may actually enjoy reading or listening to the story too, as there are a number of deeper layers that I hope will hold their interest.

I think what I’m most proud of about the book is that there is so much learning packed into it without it feeling overbearing. Of course, the primary learning concept is the alphabet, but it also introduces the concept of homework and every page contains a number of ‘Easter eggs’ for children to find. All of which has great learning value.

The Day That a Ran Away at Amazon.com

The Day That A Ran Away at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

It’s an interesting question because I read so many picture books as a child, but early on I didn’t really make the connection between the story and the writer behind it. To me, it was simply a great book! I probably had a number of favorite authors without realizing it.

When I eventually made the connection however, I was right into Graeme Base’s book ‘The Eleventh Hour’. Here was a book that wasn’t just a simple story, but was this spectacular maze of ideas and images to pour over and get lost in. It was actually a very clever book and as I soon found out, so were his others!

I think what I loved most about Base’s work (who is both an author and an illustrator), was that he built so much into the book. You could spend hours on each page – looking for clues, finding hidden objects and simply enjoying the artwork. I think his books really cemented for me two important things: Firstly, the connection between the text and the illustrations need to be more than complimentary, they have to elevate each other beyond anything they could do alone. Secondly, you want a narrative that pulls you along quickly, but with enough depth that you could just as happily dwell on a single page for hours.

When did you realize that you would be a writer? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

I think I realized early on in my life that I wanted to ‘write’. I may not have quite grasped the idea that I could turn it into a vocation, but for almost as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been writing too.

When I eventually made the decision to begin publishing my manuscripts, I had incredible encouragement from my wife. She has continued to be an amazing pillar of support ever since, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am as an author without her.

What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

There are so many! In fact, I enjoy almost every aspect of writing – from the possibilities of a blank page to the satisfaction of a completed manuscript.

However – without a doubt – the greatest pleasure comes from the feedback I receive from children and parents who have enjoyed the book. It’s a little bit surreal when you hear children dressing up as characters from your books for World Book Day; or hearing parents talk about your books as their child’s favorite. It’s also those moments you hold on to when the occasional bad review threatens to dampen your day.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

Only trying to swim in a surging ocean of marketing ideas and publicity essentials. I think I’m not the only author who wishes they could spend more time on writing and less time trying to gain exposure. Unfortunately, it’s simply a part of the business these days.

Does music play a part in your writing? If so, what sort of music do you connect with your work?

It does sometimes. Given the choice, I’d prefer to listen to the rain or the wind outside while I write. Failing that, I might listen to recordings of storms to provide the right atmosphere (I know, sounds strange right?). However, I also don’t mind classical music on the odd occasion to play alongside the thoughts in my head while I furiously try to keep up with my pen.

Introducing children’s book illustrator François Thisdale (Interview)

Posted on January 26th, 2017 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts interviews illustrator François Thisdale For nearly thirty years, François Thisdale’s has worked as an award-winning illustrator creating images for children’s books, news magazines, annual corporate reports, and book covers for several clients in Canada, United States, Korea, China, Colombia, Spain and France. His trademark multi-textured images are the product of a unique blend of traditional drawing, photography and richly textured painting techniques interwoven with digital imagery that creates particular atmospheres. He is the illustrator of Missing Nimama which recently won the TD Award and The Stamp Collector, which is on the International Board on Books for Young People’s Honor List. He has also won a Notable Books for a Global Society Award and the Crystal Kite Award; been a TD Children’s Book Award Finalist; an OLA Best Bet; an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award finalist; and a Willow Awards finalist. François lives near Montreal, Quebec.

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

French Toast written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by François ThisdaleMy latest release is a picture book for age 4-7 entitled French Toast, a text from Kari-Lynn Winters published by Pajama Press.
This is a great story about difference, about color of skin, about identity. Phoebe—half Jamaican, half French-Canadian—hates her school nickname of “French Toast.” Her grandmother uses descriptions of favorite foods from both of Phoebe’s cultures to celebrate the varied skin tones of her family. This is a great book for all ages and all colors.

For that book, the challenge was inspiring. I’ve worked around different atmospheres to match color of food described in the story. I wanted to create poetic moods and incorporate food elements, like banana bread, tea, maple syrup or peach yogurt to build special images. I think I’ve succeeded to create a surreal world that helps to dive into this dialog between Phoebe and her grandmom. Each spread becomes a special place to observe these characters. I’m very proud of the result. I particularly like the tenderness of this little girl and the natural tones of the illustrations.

French Toast at Amazon.com

French Toast at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

As far as I remember, I’ve always been attracted by drawing and art in general. At the age of 4 or 5, my favorite series of books was Tintin and Snowy, by Hergé. I’ve been moved deeply by one of these books, Tintin and the Blue Lotus. All Tintin and Snowy books were very special to me but this specific book haunted me by the beauty of images, the strange architecture, its colourful exoticism. It was great to be able to follow the story without knowing how to read. I had the impression of traveling far, far away.This is the moment where I have started to draw for the rest of my life.Later on, I saw a photography of Hergé’s studio in a magazine for kids. I’ve been very impressed by that shot. I wanted to do that, to draw all day long!

When I left for China in 2003 to adopt our daughter, I admit that I’ve thought about my childhood, about that precious book and remembered how it inspired me as a kid. I didn’t know that China would give me the chance to become a father. I did lots of sketches in China and The Blue Lotus was still resonating inside of me.

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like? THISDALE Studio

I’m working from home, an antique farmhouse, my studio is a luminous space with two large windows. Every single day starts almost the same, a good teapot of Oolong tea. I need lots of music and life is good!

When I work on a picture book or on a book cover, I’m very passionate.

A picture book project starts with the reading of the manuscript. That’s the moment where everything is possible. Each text brings different challenges to face. I need to understand characters, to learn from their stories and to find a link with my own life. I’m very grateful about authors, this is a real gift to share the world of other creators during months.

The work begins with pencil and watercolour sketches, far from a final illustration but enough to give a direction to the book. I love to work on a sketchbook. I feel the same as when I’m traveling.

From there, with comments from my editor, I start to work on images. First off, I build the skeleton of my illustrations with photographic references, part of painting textures, different details taken here and there, and I create a collage of photographies and paintings details, in Photoshop. I print that proof on my wide format printer and I paint over with acrylic and different mediums. Then, I scan this image to work it again in the computer. I add textures, collage, elements painted aside like skies, painted textures and adjust contrasts, levels, saturation. This is a long process, a kind of alchemy. And I love it!

Thisdale Bike Riding I usually take an hour or so during the day to keep the shape and get my head cleaned. From April to November, I’m cycling around 35 kilometers a day. I love the sensation of the wind and the contemplation of landscapes. I alway carry my cell phone to take pictures that could improve the quality of my illustrations.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

My work, as a freelance illustrator, asks me to be well organized and disciplined. I see illustration as a language where I need to “say” things differently, regarding the text. When I’m doing a picture book, I want to create a dance between words and images and to enhanced some parts of the story by creating specific moods. This is a link, a bridge between the text and the reader. An illustrator must dive into the story and search to understand characters, to feel the story from his guts. Obviously, this is a great way to express myself and I think that I became an illustrator for that reason: the easiness to communicate that way, to “tell” things differently without having to say a single word, to understand and share someone’s world.

Does music play a part in your writing/illustrating? If so, what sort of music do you connect with your work?

Yes! I’m listening to music all day long. This is a great part of my inspiration. Music is something essential for me, something natural. As long as I remember, music has always been present in my life. My father was a pianist, I’ve played guitar a lot and composed music for shortfilms in a period of my life, music is an extension of my sensitivity. I like a wide variety of styles, depending of the moment. Today’ I’ve listened to Andy Stott, a londonian DJ, Yussef Kamaal, Ray Lamontagne and Radiohead and ended my working day with John Dowland solo lute music. Music is a great chance to discover different cultures and to admire creativity.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

Hard to choose… Let me give you three names.

First, Eugene Delacroix simply for talking with him about his Moroccan sketchbooks. These sketches are still moving me. I visited Delacroix’ studio in Paris on place Furtenberg and had the chance to see some of these drawings.

I would have liked to meet Carl Beam, who died in 2005, an Ojibway painter who worked on large format paintings that incorporates photo-imagery. I love his work and his attachment to his roots. I would have liked, for sure, to discuss about his technique of blending photo and painting as well as knowing more about the true meaning of some pieces of art I love.

And finally Binette Schroeder, this wonderful German illustrator, to hear from this woman about her great career and to learn about this passionate person.


Meet Author Kelly Santana-Banks (Interview)

Posted on October 27th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts interviews Kelly Santana-BanksKelly Santana-Banks is a writer of nonfiction and children’s books, and a former early childhood teacher and caregiver. When she was young, she loved to play teacher with her sister, cousins, and neighbors. As a young adult, she never considered teaching as a career, but little did she know that her childhood make-believe would pave the way to what would become her passion. With more than ten years of experience working with children—five of those years were dedicated to research in the area of child development as well as implementing best practices inside and outside of the classroom and a strong background in child development, she is an advocate for education, especially in early childhood. She writes fun stories to entertain and teach children as well as help parents find simple solutions for their little ones’ lives.

You can find more about her or connect on her website

You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @ksantanabanks, Instagram and Pinterest.

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?Dinosaur Adventure a Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana Banks

My latest release is called Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember, the second book in the series Let’s Learn while Playing. Different from my first book, which was a short nursery rhyme geared towards two, threes, and fours, Dinosaur Adventure targets more the older group of children (3–7)—given its amount of text and the vocabulary explored. This book is a product of my working experiences with children inside and outside of the classroom, including fun field trips. And I’m happy to bring to life a subject that children love (dinosaurs) in an entertaining and educational way.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember at Amazon.com

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Growing up, I loved the stories of Mauricio de Souza, a famous Brazilian cartoonist and creator of the children’s comic series, Turma da Monica. But at that point, writing or even thinking of becoming an author was never on my radar. Throughout my teenage years, I became an avid reader, devouring my mom’s library of books, including Sidney Sheldon’s novel, of whom I became a big fan. And later on, I also added Danielle Steele and Jenifer Weiner to my list. Every one of those authors left an impression on me. Either it is in the way I create the characters in my mind and get them to paper or how I develop the plot. This is only my second children’s book, so I cannot measure precisely their impact on my writing, but I can tell for sure that their work let me see my characters with more of a critical eye.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

I have worked with children for more than ten years now. Here in the US, I started as a caregiver, but not too long, I realized my love and enjoyment working with the little ones. I went back to graduate school for early childhood education (I previously received a graduate degree in hospitality) and started working as a teacher. My desire for writing started to naturally blossom. The more engaged with children, their experiences, and teaching I became, the idea of writing children’s books emerged. But at that point, it seemed far fetched to me. Life went on with many surprises and changes of scenario, including professional ones. Three years ago, I saw an opportunity to help authors with their craft, at the same time learning about it myself, and I started writing reviews for Reader’s Favorite. From reviews, I moved to resume writing, content writing, and now, books. I need to add, though, that I’m thankful for the support from my parents, dear sister, and husband, as well as some close friends, who have been strong supporters of my work.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries, or bookstores?

I connect with my readers through social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, and my website. I have been planning some book tours, but I haven’t started that yet. As you know, it requires a lot of preparation with book release dates, websites logistics, and the readers’ needs as well. But I’m excited to start with this one. The same goes with libraries, schools, and bookstores. I haven’t explored those venues yet, but I would sure consider a children’s read aloud session.

What are the joys of being an author/illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

There is no better satisfaction than to really bring your character to life. The creating process is one of my favorites. Besides having the pleasure of getting the character onto the paper, I love the back and forth with the illustrator, the discussion of ideas and experimenting with colors, materials, and senses to make the character relatable and loved by children.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author/illustrator?

To me, as an indie author—and I imagine that some fellow indies might relate—the real challenge comes with the marketing. In order for us to reach a broader readership, we need to put a lot of effort into marketing.

I constantly see myself on a tightrope trying to balance out writing with the marketing aspect. And for the most part, this is not easy.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

This is a no-brainer: Sidney Sheldon. As I mentioned previously, I grew up reading his novels and became a super fan. I would love to learn about the thought process for his plots, his writing habits, and where he gets inspiration for his characters.

Meet Author Darla Woodley (Interview)

Posted on October 13th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts interviews children’s book author Kelly Santana-Banks
Storytime Standouts interviews D Woodley author of  Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything is Darla Woodley’s first book. Darla is a self-proclaimed shutterbug, with her camera never far from arm’s reach and a goal of capturing the many activities of her two boys, she is always on the lookout for how to capture magical moments. Many of these special moments are recorded in this book.

AuthorTwitter account @RedAnything

Instagram redsockswithanything

Facebook page www.facebook.com/RedSocksGoWithAbsolutelyAnything

Author Website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
My book is entitled Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything. It is a Children’s Picture Book but I actually think it is a good read for all ages. Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything is based around our family tradition of wearing red socks as an unspoken method of support and encouragement for friends, family or anyone that may just need a lift in spirit. The story sees the character going through a number of “firsts” and intimidating moments and shows the reader that sometimes words are just not needed to show that someone is thinking of you or cheering you on. The main character’s gender is ambiguous on purpose so as to allow the reader to develop a more personal connection to the story. Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything

I am most proud of the impact that the story has on its readers. I love hearing how someone is heading out to purchase a pair of red socks for themselves and/or their family members. I am especially thrilled when a reader tells me that they are looking forward to initiating their own unspoken method of support and tradition based around the idea of red socks.

Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything at Amazon.com

Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything at Amazon.ca

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
I am not sure if I would say it was difficult to publish my first book. Challenging? Yes, definitely challenging. I chose the self-published route and being new to the book industry I found myself constantly on the computer or my phone doing research. I cannot tell you how many links I emailed myself to read and check on and how many tabs were open on my desktop at once on a regular basis. I was extremely fortunate to have a few connections that I could contact, bounce questions off of and verify information that I had found through research. The entire process can be a rather lengthy one when opting the self-published route as there are many services, options and research that should be done to ensure that you end up with an end product suitable to your standards.

To aspiring authors/illustrators I would suggest that they do their research regarding the publishing process and what it takes to ensure that you end up with a polished and very professional book. I would also explain how it is a never-ending process of promotion and self-promotion. For a new author it is a constant challenge to get your name out there in the literary world.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
I have such great memories and experiences of sharing Red Socks with children. They are such a wonderful and inspiring group to share the story with!

I have shared the story with children in grades 1 through to grade 6 and was very pleasantly surprised at the comments and discussions with the grade 6 individuals. I wasn’t sure if they were going to be too “big” for the story but they were an awesome group of kids with insightful questions and comments. With that particular group I have great memories:
– I had a couple of girls approach me and tell me about a book they are writing together and how they were inspired to keep their project going and not give up.
– One child came up and told me how great he thought the story was and then secretly handed me a piece of his favorite gum by way of a handshake. He then gave me a wink to confirm the passing of the forbidden gum. (we were all sitting in the library)
– Another child was so inspired by the story that he suggested that they have a wall in the school dedicated to Red Socks displaying the book’s lines “I feel strong. I am ready. I can do anything.” I am so proud of him as he later inspired so many others at a local track competition with his determination to run and finish in a relay match.

I always have fond memories of visiting and reading with the younger grades. I experienced my first “heckler” when I was reading to a grade 2 class and she was in the front row asking me why the socks were not blue. I love the little discussions (that sometimes turn into battles) when I ask the class if they think the protagonist is a boy or a girl. I enjoy the fact that we get off course during the reading as our discussions take a different direction at times when they all want to share their version of the character’s experience.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?
I use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a website) in an effort to stay connected with readers and those who might be interested in learning more about Red Socks. I have done a few book signings and look forward to doing more. (The book signings are something that I need to push myself to do as I am usually very much a “behind-the-scenes” type of person.) I do thoroughly enjoy visiting classrooms and look forward to those in the coming school year.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?
I am a first time author so it is so very thrilling to see the book displayed in a bookstore or to hear from someone else that they spotted Red Socks in a bookstore. My greatest pleasure is having someone tell me that they enjoyed the story and are looking forward to initiating their own tradition based on the idea of Red Socks. I have it set up so that when books are purchased an additional copy is printed and then donated to a local school, charity and/or organization that can benefit from the message within the story. I am so happy to say that books have been sent to Australia, Maui, England, Northern Ireland, Toronto, various States, Saskatchewan, BC and throughout Alberta so far.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?
Being a first time author and one that is self-published, the biggest challenge is actually getting the word out about the story. The entire experience is new to me and full of challenges and unknowns and I find myself constantly having to do research regarding the industry and push myself out of my comfort level at times in an effort to bring Red Socks to new readers. I am thankful though as this challenge offers me an opportunity to be an example to my two boys of how one should never give up and always be willing to put themselves out there.

Meet Children’s Book Author Rebecca Lynn Morales

Posted on October 6th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts interviews Rebecca  Lynn MoralesRebecca Lynn Morales grew up in Northern California. She graduated college with a degree in theatre arts from California State University, Northridge. She now pens the theatrics in her mind to paper. Rebecca recently moved to Texas. She loves living there with her supportive husband, Gabriel, and spunky Jack Russell terrier, Carson. She gives glory to God for all that is good in her life.

Twitter account: @ArtisanRebeccaM
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RebeccaLynnMorales
Instagram:@rebeccalynnmorales

Website URL: Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination
Rebecca Lynn Morales

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination is a fun adventure through a dried-out, rule-bound land. The lead character, Walter Plume, is the wittiest, most imaginative, and just plain real kid you will ever meet. He is an eleven year old foodie, with taste buds that like both cranberry-glazed salmon and a plain ol’ corn dog. I know kids (and probably a lot of adults, too) will relate to Walter and his desire to use his imagination. (Middle grade novel, 7-12 years) Over the years, I have battled people and situations determined to dehydrate my imagination. But, I’m fully re-hydrated now!
I am most proud of the creative imagery and world building. It takes a big imagination to bring other people’s imaginations back to life.Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination
Walter Plume was newly released last February and is available in paperback and as an eBook.

Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination at Amazon.com

Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination at Amazon.ca

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
Miraculously, my first novel was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. It was meant to be. However, I took the time to read about numerous publishers and what they were looking for, in order to make the best match. Not everything comes so easily, of course. I encourage any aspiring author to persevere no matter what and continue to grow as a writer.

When did you realize that you would be a writer? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?
I knew I wanted to be a writer from childhood. My dad gave me a thick (in size and language) classic novels to read. I plowed my way through those books page by page, not fully understanding all the words. However, the characters in those novels and the drama of their lives led me to attempt my first novel in the seventh grade. I only wrote three pages. But that was the start of an idea for my life that has never left me.

I knew I would be a writer after I was married because I finally had the support and encouragement I needed. My husband has a good editorial eye. He is the first person to read my work and give me feedback. And I chat his ear off every time I have a new idea or element for a story. He also helps me with the technical side of things: my website, marketing materials. He is my greatest support!

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?
I need to write in a quiet place, which is usually my office. Sometimes I sit at my desk, but mostly I write sitting in my favorite blue chair. It’s comfortable without being too cozy. I used to write sitting up in bed, but no matter how wonderfully my tale was unfolding I would eventually slide down in the bed, my head resting on the soft pillow and doze off. My brilliant writing tip: Write sitting up. I’ve also found that a cup of coffee or tea is inspiring somehow. They sit on the desk next to me for quick sipping access. The writing process itself varies. I have tried and tried to make a complete chapter-by-chapter outline before I begin a book and follow it closely with only a few detours. This doesn’t work for me. The things I know before I begin writing are: 1) How the book will end 2) My characters 3) I’ve created about ¾ of my world. The rest unfolds from there. I outline a few chapters at a time and then write them out. I get super excited about the ideas I come up with while typing. I also set daily word count goals to keep me motivated. (Usually, one thousand words per today).

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?
I enjoy staying connected with readers. I did a Barnes and Noble book tour last spring, where I did author signings at six stores. I love being able to answer young readers’ questions and encouraging kids to read and write themselves. When kids have the courage to come up and talk to me, I’m so proud of them because I was so shy as a child and I know how difficult it can be. I am active on social media and have two websites. You are welcome to contact me there if you have any questions. I also make weekly encouraging vlogs that I post on Facebook.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?
If I wasn’t an author I think I would be a counselor of some kind. I’m a developer at heart and I see great potential in people. Whatever I can do to help someone realize and live out their potential is a joy to me.

Do you do school or library presentations?

I speak at schools and libraries. With encouragement and fun games, I teach kids about various techniques I use to develop characters and write stories. My overall message is that we are all truly unique people with dreams, and those dreams will become reality if we remain true to ourselves.

Areas: Central Texas

Storytime Standouts interviews author Michael Samulak

Posted on September 29th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts interviews Michael SamulakMichael Samulak has almost twenty years of experience teaching, mentoring, and engaging youth both in and outside of the classroom. Mr. Samulak visits schools, learning centers, and daycares to read and present his stories and world adventures. His goal is to inspire youth to dream big. Michael’s teaching and classroom experience help him to fill his award-winning picture books with fun opportunities for learning.

Michael resides in the City of Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four children.

He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University (’96) and finished his Master’s in Education at Cleveland State University (’12). He has been working as a full-time youth minister and educator for close to 20 years.

Author Facebook Page

Author website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

A Wonderful Day! is my latest picture book about going to the zoo. This is actually my first traditionally published title and I am so excited to be able to share it with everyone! It is an early reader, great for emerging readers, or those who are working toward fluency and need that extra support from a fun book that can reinforce those early sight words and phonics skills that they have been working on.A Wonderful Day! by Michael Samulak

I generally recommend a target audience to be 3-6 years old, but as many of the educators and parents will tell you, this totally depends on your reader. My nephew is 2 and he loves to make all the animal sounds as he flips excitedly through the pages. My brother sent me a picture of him sneaking a read after he had “thought” he put him to bed. He was “reading” under the covers, flashlight and all. I couldn’t have been more happy to see someone getting that kind of joy from one of my books.

I am probably most proud of the way the book has been put together with little learning moments laced throughout the manuscript. Besides being written with a gender-neutral text, you also have a good amount of questions and statements that can be thought-provoking and interactive. This kind of anticipatory exercise is very important for young readers as they are learning and beginning to understand that text has meaning. I love that the book helps young readers make text-to-self-reflections; putting their own experiences and prior knowledge front and center while reading in order to develop and expand the whole experience of reading. We all do this as accomplished readers, and generally forget that somewhere along the line we were helped to understand and realize that reading is so much more than decoding and applying the known rules of phonics.

A Wonderful Day! was recently Awarded the Gold Medal for Children’s Picture Books (Animals) by the Mom’s Choice Awards.

A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.com

A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.ca

When did you realize that you would be a writer? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

This would have to be when I would ask my mom if I could stay home from Jr. High school, maybe about 6th or 7th grade so I could keep working on my first chapter book.

I think that it is safe to say that I still consider myself to be a work-in-progress, and so it is crazy to think that my books can now be found in libraries, schools, and peoples’ homes.

For those still-aspiring writers I always have the same words, “Don’t ever give up!” That choice has a guaranteed outcome. Don’t stop. Keep going, keep writing, keep up the inquiring: There is story that you have that the world needs to read. Keep putting yourself and your work out there and it will happen, even if it seems that things are tough or impossible, as long as you are moving and working on your dream, something can happen.

A is for Africa by Michael Samulak

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?

Generally speaking, one of my five children climbing on my back or sitting in my lap. Don’t get me wrong; I love all of the kids. They are a big source of inspirations for many of my books, so I can’t complain, but finding that quality, uninterrupted time is tough.

I am always writing, or at least thinking about writing. My note app on my phone is filled with bits and pieces, lines, thoughts: unpublished titles, I’m always trying to think of what may be a good title for a book. I think that has replaced a lot of my early days of notebooks, scrap paper, napkins from a dinner table, whatever was there really: Crayon, pencil, that piece of fruit my daughter had finished with…whatever worked to get that word down before it was gone. I’m sure some out there can relate.

I suppose once it is time put all of those bits and pieces into something “final” that I then print out or send to an actual human being, my laptop and a local coffee shop are where I land. But, the process, yeah, that’s a lot messy for me.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

What hasn’t happened? Tears, fears, in appropriate laughing; farting, burping, teasing, and a lot of smiles and wide-eye stares that keep me coming back for more.

I love reading my work and interacting with the children at schools and learning centers the most. I think it is the father and educator parts of me. I have come to expect the unexpected and it is this color and variety of the trip that make it so worthwhile.

If I had to pick one particular event I am particularly found of, it would be that one I often remember this one time when I visited one schools and one of the students in the sea of faces piped up matter-of-factly after I held up my book, “Hey! I have that book at home! I love that book! Oh Boy!, this is gonna be awesome.” I had to take a moment to hold back the tears on that one. It was one of the first times that I really felt accomplished as an author: Like my dreams of being able to write for children were coming true.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

Everything goes when it comes to connecting, networking, and staying engaged with readers. So, yes to all!

I love to network and feel that it is so important to staying relevant to my audience. I often will bring “finished” works to the schools and classrooms that I visit to get fresh feed back from the audience that I feel matters most – the one that I am writing for. I try to stay active on social media platforms, but since I write for a younger audience, like, they aren’t quite there yet when it comes to literacy fluency, let alone responding to a FaceBook post; I generally am reaching out and interacting with parents, other writers, educators, etc. on those platforms. With that in mind, I am generally looking for opportunities related to a visit or to network, or generally showing off my beautiful family and our recent life adventures together.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

Juggling work, family, wife, kids — oh yeah, and then there is writing. I would have to say time – quality time to get to the end part of that process of writing in order to cross that finished line where an actual tangible piece is produced that then can be reworked, critiqued, rejected, reworked again…really, do I need to go on.

I know others may have other struggles, and I’m not at all saying that those aren’t real or deep, but for myself it would have to be finding the time to “gett’er done”.

“Just keep swimming” often does become my own encouraging theme song on those days when I feel like throwing in the towel. And so I try to just keep moving, even if it is just one sentence or phrase that I can work on; not even finish per say, but to mark progress. Yes, seeing progress helps to keep me going and eventually cross that finish line.

When I go to schools or libraries I love to read my picture books and share my inspirations and experiences that they are based on. Generally speaking, this makes for great laughs as I share my adventures with my children. I also have brought back some native items from Africa and do a sort of “Show and Tell”. The kids love to see and feel these native artifacts. The African Drum is usually the biggest “hit”.

Meet Children’s Book Author Illustrator Loraine Kemp

Posted on November 20th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Meet Illustrator Loraine KempLoraine Kemp, born in Kelowna, B.C., grew up loving the outdoors on acreage with her horses. Her other favorite pastime was reading fantasy novels. After she graduated from high school, she took two years of Fine Arts. Later, she married an amazing man and had two sons. When her two sons were growing up, she discovered her passion for reading and telling children’s stories. Her sons have grown, but her passion remains.





Many writing courses later, her writing accomplishments include being selected by jury twice to attend the Literary Arts Program (Children’s Writing) of the British Columbia Festival of the Arts. Her short stories also won first place in the following contests: The Willamette Writers Society conference contest in Portland; Byline Magazine contest; Bard’s Ink Writing Contest; and The World Guild’s 2013 Fresh Ink writing contest.

Loraine has written two juvenile novels, and her children’s fantasy Orion’s Sword, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2013 Genesis Contest.

Other accomplishments include illustrating three books. One of them called Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon, was written by Lyn Hancock and published by Sono Nis Press. She toured to schools and libraries with the Lyn doing illustrating workshops and presentations. The other two books will be published by Webb Publishing. Loraine has just been commissioned to illustrate a picture book called Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon, written by good friend, Karen Autio, and published by Sono Nis Press. She now continues to write and illustrate, and enjoys giving illustrating presentations to schools.

Loraine is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Canscaip, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

Illustrator website

Illustrator Facebook page

Twitter Account @loraine_kemp

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon written by Lyn Hancock and illustrated by Loraine KempTabasco the Saucy Raccoon is my latest published children’s book, aimed at kids, 9 – 12 years of age. It is a true story about a raccoon that was taken around by author Lyn Hancock on her writing tours. The crazy escapades Tabasco gets into will entertain kids of all ages. I am most proud of the fact the I engaged a whole school in the process of illustrating the book. I used Ann McClymont Elementary in Kelowna, B.C. as my home base for all my illustrations. I used the kids, teachers, secretary, principal and the vice principal as my models for the book. I had a blast and so did my models!

Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon at Amazon.com

Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon at Amazon.ca

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I visit schools and do illustrating workshops for now. When I’m published as a writer, I will do both writing and illustrating workshops. I have gone on book tours to B.C., and Ontario and had wonderful times with the author as we toured together to libraries and schools. Now I do them by myself, although in 2016 when my book Growing up in Wild Horse Canyon is published I will again tour with an author, Karen Autio, doing presentations and workshops. In my workshops, I entertain kids by demonstrating my drawing techniques when I draw popular animated characters. I also invite them to display their work on my website. I take copies of their drawings or ask them to send me more. They love to see their work and others on my website. There are many very talented kids out there!! Have a look on my website. You will be astounded!! I also engage on twitter, and would love to see more kids!

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

I derive the greatest pleasure when I engage the kids in the classrooms with my drawings and show them that they too can draw as I walk them through simple and fun drawings. Their presents of pictures they drew are my treasures!! My greatest pleasures of being an author is escaping into my fantasy worlds and playing with my characters on paper!

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

My biggest challenge is that I love both illustrating and writing and it is hard to be away from either for any period of time. Although both take a lot of time. I feel like I’m being split down the middle when I have to decide which to do in a day!

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

I would dine with Kenneth Oppel. He writes such amazing stories and has such a great imagination, that I would love to know him better!

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

Yes I do library and school presentations. I do presentations right now on illustrating to elementary and middle schools, but when my book is published, I will do both presentations and workshops for both as well. My topic for illustrating is discovering details around you, and incorporating them into your drawings. I show them how to use special techniques to be better drawers. I would be happy to go anywhere, although I live in B.C. Canada.

Meet Children’s Book Author Neil McFarlane

Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Interviews Author Neil McFarlaneNeil Roy McFarlane is from the UK. He lived in Asia for over ten years and speaks passable Chinese. He writes in his spare time.








Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

When You Were a Worm by Neil McFarlaneWhen You Were a Worm is a collection of short stories written in the second person (as is my previous book A Month of Bedtime Stories). Both books are aimed at parents who enjoy reading to/with their children. In each story of When You Were a Worm, ‘you’ (i.e. the listening child) change into an animal and embark on a rather silly and fantastical adventure. For example, in one story you change into a flea and become the star performer in Professor Heckler’s World Famous Flea Circus; in another you change into a caterpillar and go back in time to teach prehistoric caterpillars how to change into butterflies. As to what I’m most proud of, the question tempts me to be serious and claim it’s educational – the kids are going to learn some zoology and get an insight into the lives of these creatures. It’s true that was something I kept in mind when I wrote the stories, but I have to admit that was secondary. What I really wanted to do was entertain and delight.

When You Were a Worm (and Other Stories and Creepy Crawlies!): Funny, Creepy Crawly Short Stories for Parents to Read to/with Children Aged 6 to 11 at Amazon.com

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

I graduated through three authors as my childhood progressed: Enid Blyton (The Faraway Tree series), Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), and Ray Bradbury (The Illustrated Man). The Faraway Tree series and The Illustrated Man (and the Narnia series which I also loved) all involve traveling through a magic portal into other worlds. Lord of the Rings just was another world, no portal required. The common thread – of fantasy and escapism – is obvious, but I’m not sure why I was so desperate to escape. Maybe my childhood was worse than I remember it, but I think I just enjoyed such wild flights of imagination.

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?A Month of Bedtime Stories Thirty-One Bite-Sized Tales of Wackiness and Wonder for the Retiring Child

Hmmm. Well, I don’t consider myself as having been published. I have signed a deal with a ‘proper’ publisher, but the book (a language learning textbook) isn’t finished yet. So far, with these storybooks, I’m ‘only’ self-published and have sold very few copies to boot. At which point some people might wonder: “Why are they interviewing this nobody?” Well, maybe I’ll end up becoming the new Dickens, but if on the other (more likely) hand I remain rather obscure and unknown, it still wouldn’t be a great tragedy for me personally, because writing is something I love to do. Fame or obscurity, I just really enjoy the experience of writing and being creative. So in terms of offering encouragement to other aspiring writers, I’d just say: do it if you love it.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was about 8 years old. I just fell in love with reading and thereby living in other worlds. It was a way to have a(n admittedly one-sided) conversation with the greatest minds both living and dead. I admired writers more than anyone. I quickly realized that when I was watching a movie, the actor was just mouthing the words, and the director was just directing the story, that the writer had written. The writer was the great puppeteer who pulled the strings. It’s kind of like being God. An engineer can make a vacuum cleaner; a builder can make a house; but as a writer, you can make a whole world. Wow wow wow!

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

With A Month of Bedtime Stories, I would usually wake at 5am on weekdays to write for a couple of hours before going to work. Then I would write some more on the train to and from work, usually on scraps of paper, sometimes even on train tickets and till receipts if I’d run out of paper. Then at weekends I’d go out walking on the coast path and have more ideas and stop to jot them down on more scraps of paper. Everything would then be typed out at night. Writing this way, it took me two months to complete at the rate of about one story every two days or so. If you were to look at all those bits of paper, it would be pretty indecipherable owing to my terrible handwriting, edits, deletions, insertions, and a multitude of geometric symbols which would be meaningless to anyone but me.

I thought the title A Month of Bedtime Stories was catchy, but really thirty-one stories was a bit ambitious. The hardest part was clawing my way across the finish line without losing focus or feeling my standards were slipping.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

The first person to read A Month of Bedtime Stories was a lady at work. The next day after reading the first couple of stories to her 7-year-old daughter, she came up to me at work and proceeded to tell me about how much they both enjoyed it. It was such a big effort writing that book and therefore such a relief to know it wasn’t all some vain exercise in self-delusion, that tears welled up in my eyes. So I was trying to turn away and pretend to scratch my cheek to wipe away a tear without her noticing. It was kind of embarrassing. I am British, after all. (Stiff upper lip and all that jazz.)

Does music play a part in your writing/illustrating? If so, what sort of music do you connect with your work?

Several characters sing songs in A Month of Bedtime Stories. At one point a red Indian hedgehog sings this song while communing with the spirit world to discover a way to steal caster sugar from a herd of evil deer witches:

Ho yay hicky yicky
Ho yay hakka chakka
Yanna wanna holy no
Hi yay ho yay

Hicky chicky cha cha
Yanna wanna ha ha
A-tishoo a-tishoo
We all fall down!

And in another story, a platoon of marching crabs, who act like a kind of Greek chorus presaging the events to come, sing this song:

Yo ho ho and a bucket of suds
Ethel wait no baby go slow mo
Ring-a-ding nocerouse, sparrow, bee, eek-a-mouse
Chop like a chop chop, crow like a crow!

And in another story an old lady called Mrs Teasel has a finger which sings a magic song, but I can’t reveal the lyrics because it would be a total plot spoiler.

Meet Children’s Book Author Lisa Manzione

Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts interviews author Lisa Manzione





Author Website

Author Twitter account @BellaAndHarryGo

Author Facebook page

Book Series Website

The Adventures of Bella and Harry Lets Visit Maui by Lisa ManzioneTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

The latest book published is Let’s Visit Maui!. The book series is perfectly suited for ages 5-10. I am most proud of the fact the series has been very well received by parents, librarians, teachers, but most of all, children!

Let’s Visit Maui!: Adventures of Bella & Harry (The Adventures of Bella & Harry) at Amazon.com

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

It was extremely difficult to get the first book in the series published. As a matter of fact, I had one publisher tell me the books were “too educational” for US children. Once I heard that comment, I was even more determined! I found a small publisher in South Florida and the first book was published. After attending Book Expo America, I realized I could publish the books on my own. I created my own company, hired a staff, and 14 books later, we are very pleased with our success.

As far as words of encouragement…Don’t give up! If you truly believe in our product, the right opportunity will come along. It just takes time and persistence.Bella and Harry Lets Visit Athens by Lisa Manzione

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

I think the greatest joy is seeing how much children enjoy reading and learning about the world. I am just thrilled every time I speak to a youngster and they can tell me what Bella & Harry have taught them. I really love it when the child tells me they know even MORE about the cities/countries than Bella and Harry because they have done research on their own or with their classroom.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

I believe the biggest challenge is keeping a child’s interest in a story. In the Bella and Harry series, the stories are educational. I think it is necessary to keep the story fun (which holds their attention), but to also have a significant amount of educational content which can be a huge challenge because I don’t want the book to feel like a history book.

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

Yes, the books have been published electronically through Reading Rainbow Kidz. There is an option with RRKidz…the book can be read aloud to you or you can turn that option off and read the book yourself.

The process with RR Kidz was a lot of fun! We have received tremendous feedback from readers, especially early readers who enjoy the narration option initially.

We plan to have additional e-books available in the fall, 2014.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

If I could dine with anyone it would be James Patterson. I love his “women’s murder club”series!

Additionally, James Patterson lives in South FL and is very active in children’s literacy programs, which I just LOVE!

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I love to do library and school presentations! Generally, I read one book during the presentation, followed by a question and answer session. Those that answer the questions correctly are given a prize…sometimes another book, a Bella plush stuffed animal, back pack, etc. At the end of the presentation I give each child a book from the series that we did not read. Depending on the age of the children, sometimes I autograph the books individually as well.

As far as limitations, if I have advanced notice, there really are no limitations. If advance notice is limited, I can always Skype. In this instance, I would send the book ahead, so we can still do most of the above.

Meet Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Ruth Ohi

Posted on September 4th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Meet Author illustrator Ruth Ohi (photo by AnnieT)Ruth Ohi is the illustrator of over 50 children’s picture books (17 of which she is also the author). She lives in Toronto, Canada and is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Her books have been selected for the Pennsylvania Centre for the Book’s “Bakers’ Dozen”, the Canadian Toy Testing Council’s “Great Books”, the Ontario Library Association’s “Best Bets” and the Toronto Public Library’s “First & Best”. They have been shortlisted for awards such as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book, Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbons, Shining Willow, Blue Spruce and Rainforest of Reading awards.





Ruth Ohi’s Facebook page
Ruth Ohi’s website URL
Instagram: @RuthOhi
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ruthohi/

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend created by Ruth OhiMs. Ohi’s latest published children’s book is Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend (Scholastic Canada/Sept 2014)
Genres:
Social Issues/Friendship
Social Issues/Emotions and Feelings

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it?

My hope would be that “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”(Fall 2014/Scholastic Canada) could be enjoyed by anyone who is a friend, would like a friend or wishes to be a friend. Fox and Squirrel’s first story, Fox and Squirrel (Scholastic Canada, Fall 2013) showed that despite their differences, the two could find enough in common to be friends. Their second story came from looking out my studio window and admiring how squirrels could hang out in the highest, teeniest tree branches and thinking, “Hm, Fox couldn’t go there.” And I wondered what if Squirrel met someone else way up high and forgot all about Fox for awhile and how that would make Fox feel.

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

For chapter books it was Lois Darling of the Beverley Cleary original releases. She drew Ramona and Beezus in a way that was so satisfying for me. I very much empathized with Ramona about apples and marshmallows. For picture books, there are too many to list. I think the combination of artists like Leo Lionni, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Dr. Suess and Robert McCloskey resonated with me because their words and pictures made me want to linger on the pages. They made me care about their characters.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?Storytime Standouts looks at Shh! My Brother's Napping by Ruth Ohi

Making stories with pictures has always been incredibly satisfying and I’ve always loved picture books, but it wasn’t until university that I seriously considered art as a career. It just took a little while for me to realize it could be an actual full time job! My family was amazingly supportive and that was huge for me. It still is. My sister, Deb (who writes and illustrates under the name of Debbie Ridpath-Ohi) is my guru for all things internet. Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend is dedicated to my first Great Nephew, Ian who is truly a bundle of joy.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I do have a website where I post preliminary work sketches, my portfolio, and news that made me happy. It’s also where you can find a listing of my upcoming public events, info about booking visits, activity sheets and everything you will ever need to know about my books. Hm, except where to buy them, what their ISBNs are…okay, my website needs work! I’ve also just joined Instagram where I’ll be posting personal illustration and story projects.

Oh, and I’ve made two booktrailers for “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”! The first is only 21 seconds and is the result of my experimenting with stop motion photography. The Second is 56 seconds and includes a snippet of a live drawing demo. I’m the one filming the live demo—it’s truly tricky drawing and taping at the same time! Both trailers can be found on my website and YouTube.


What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

Just doing the work—writing, revising, scribbling, painting. Finding the perfect balance between the words and the drawings. But I honestly don’t think a picture book really comes into being until a reader finds it. Seeing or hearing about someone who enjoys the book—that’s an incredible source of pleasure for me.

Seeing students use my books or brainstorming tips for their own stories and pictures is super awesome. One of the greatest letters I’ve ever received was after a presentation from a young child, which read:
“Now I love to right.”

Clara and the Bossy by Ruth OhiIf you weren’t an author / illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

In the summers, as a teen, I’ve worked as a florist, a daycamp counselor, a city special events co-ordinator. As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to illustrate and write full time. If I wasn’t an author/illustrator, I’d very much love to work with young people in the creative arts.

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I have enjoyed presenting to many schools, libraries, conferences and family festivals across Canada. It’s definitely one of my favourite aspects of this job—sharing words and pictures with adults and kids. And my presentations are easily adapted to suit any age group.I'd Know You Anywhere

Presentations typically include a digital slideshow demonstrating where I get my ideas from. I show character sketches, storyboards and how I draw to brainstorm new ideas. Also included are Q&A, some original artwork and an interactive drawing demonstration. The last 10-15 minutes may be a hands on workshop where participants are very keen to try a brainstorming activity that I tailor especially for that audience. I enjoy speaking one on one to as many as possible about their work during this time. Typically a school or library visit is 45-60 minutes. A maximum audience size of 120 works well for JK/SK through Grade 8. Numbers may increase for older audiences.

Meet Christian teen fiction author Laura Thomas

Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts introduces Laura Thomas AuthorLaura is married to her high school sweetheart, has three wonderful children, and an adorable English bulldog. Born and raised in England and Wales, she immigrated to Canada in her mid-twenties, and now lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, where her authoring dreams have become a reality.

After completing thirteen years of homeschooling her children, she is now able to focus on writing, and treasures the privilege of sharing her heart in the form of her published Christian teen fiction novels Tears to Dancing (2012) and Tears of a Princess (2013), numerous short stories and articles published in children’s magazines and online, her recently published marriage book Pearls for the Bride, and on her blog. Laura’s strongest desire is to provide wholesome reading for children, challenging books for teens, and encouragement as well as entertainment for her adult readers.





Twitter account: @Laura_Thomas_
Facebook page
Author Website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Tears of a Princess by Laura ThomasMy latest published children’s book is a Christian teen fiction novel, Tears of a Princess. It was published last year as the sequel to Tears to Dancing, and I’m currently finishing the third book in the series, Tears, Fears and Fame. As you might guess from the titles, these books are rather emotionally charged! They are written for female readers aged eleven-plus, and press into some topical issues for teen girls, always offering hope amidst challenges and tragedies. I have thoroughly enjoyed creating believable, vulnerable characters, and have been incredibly encouraged by readers requesting sequels— that’s the best complement!

Tears Of A Princess at Amazon.com

Tears of A Princess at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

As a child, I was a total bookworm, and my favorite book was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She brought the characters of all four sisters to life, and I particularly resonated with this, as I am one of four girls! Even though I had no grand illusions of being an author back then, and I was more of a reader than a writer, there was something incredibly inspirational about the sister Jo. In the story when Jo’s book was finally published, Alcott showed all her readers (especially girls!) that we should never underestimate ourselves, and that we can accomplish even our widest dreams. I am proof of that, as being an author was my pie-in-the-sky, all-out crazy dream!

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

I have never met an author who found it easy getting their first book published. I started out writing short stories for children’s magazines, and the rejection was unbearable at first. In time, I learnt to develop a slightly thicker skin, and practiced the art of sending a story off and forgetting about it, rather than constantly fretting over it. My first novel took several attempts until it found my current publisher, Dancing With Bear Publishing. I can’t begin to explain how excited I was to receive an acceptance email— I had to re-read it several times, as I was so used to reading the rejections, and I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing for way too long! I still have numerous manuscripts out with potential publishers— picture books, middle grade, even Christian romantic suspense. Originally, I desperately wanted to be a Beatrix Potter clone and write purely adorable picture books, but here I am with teen fiction novels published. I would encourage aspiring writers to avoid boxing themselves into a specific genre— spread the net wide, don’t give up hope, and just keep writing.Tears to Dancing by Laura Thomas

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

To be honest, I was not that child who wrote essays for fun and penned wannabe books at the age of seven. I adored reading, and somewhere deep inside I dreamed of writing a children’s picture book one day, but I buried that secret desire for many years. It wasn’t until 2006 when I was having a coffee date with my husband, that I exposed my secret dream. He urged me to start the ball rolling right away (even though I was homeschooling my kids and volunteering and had zero spare time), so I enrolled with the Institute of Children’s Literature to take a correspondence course. I knew right away I had found my sweet spot, and haven’t looked back since. My husband has been my encourager, supporter, and number one fan every step of the way, and thanks to him I have been able to pursue my passion. What a guy!

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

If you watched me working on a book, you would probably be amazed at how bad my typing is! I am painfully slow for a “real writer”, but I always say it’s the speed my brain churns out the words, so it works perfectly for me! I like to work at my desk in my study, which is the only room where I can enjoy some hot pink accents (I live with all boys!) I start a novel with a chapter outline before diving into the actual writing, and I enjoy having some visual inspiration on Pinterest. Once I have written the whole story, I go back and revise and edit and add chunks and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t make sense— a somewhat painful yet rewarding process. Lastly, I send it off and wait to see if anyone else thinks it’s wonderful and worth publishing.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

Being an author is rather surreal. Weird hours, poor income, wild imagination. But that moment you see your name on a shiny book cover containing words you wrote— it’s absolutely priceless. All writing is a joy to me. I love writing for little children, curious middle graders, searching teens, and for adults like myself journeying through life. I love that I can share my faith in written form, to weave it into novels or mold it into good morals in a young child’s short story, or encourage readers in my blog. A writer’s life is an unpredictable, exciting, sometimes tumultuous privilege, and I intend to live it to the fullest for as long as I am able.

Do you do school or library presentations?

I gave a school presentation with Raise A Reader, where I presented my first book Tears to Dancing, described my writing journey, and held a Q & A session with grade 5’s. I have also held book-signing events in various locations in the Okanagan Valley, B.C. but would be willing to go further afield.

Meet Young Adult Fantasy Author Catherine Egan

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Author Catherine EganCatherine Egan grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She thinks it is a glorious city and there is no good reason ever to leave but, she left anyway. Since then she has lived on a wee volcanic Japanese island (which erupted during her time there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, an oil rig in the middle of the Bohai Bay (she still misses her little bedroom there), New Jersey, and now Connecticut, where she writes books and hangs out with her kids.

Shade and Sorceress won a 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (Gold) in the Pre-Teen Fiction – Fantasy. It was also named an Ontario Library Association Best Bet for 2012 in the Young Adult Fiction category.




Author website

Author Facebook page

Author Twitter @byCatherineEgan

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star by Catherine EganBone, Fog, Ash & Star is the third and final book in The Last Days of Tian Di series. It will be published by Coteau Books on September 1, 2014. The trilogy follows my hero Eliza from the age of twelve in the first book, when she is kidnapped by magical beings who want to train her to be a Sorceress, to the age of sixteen, when she sets out on an impossible quest to gather four ancient objects in the hope of saving her loved ones and changing the world.

As for who should read it: certainly anyone who has read the first two books – you want to know how it all ends, don’t you? It is a fast-paced adventure that should appeal to fantasy-readers from the age of around ten and up. I am most proud of my villain, the mostly-evil-but-sometimes-not Sorceress Nia – and perhaps more generally the ambiguity surrounding the ideas of villain and hero in the story.

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di Book 3 at Amazon.com

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di Book 3 at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

There are too many favourites and resonances to name here, but I think the first time I was really aware of an author’s writing and how the style, the descriptions, the insights and turns-of-phrase could draw me in as much as the plot was when I read Louise Fitzhugh’s The Long Secret. I was eleven, and it changed my idea of how I wanted to write, or what it might mean to write a book. I wouldn’t have used the word genius then, but I think I was experiencing a brush with it, and it gave me shivers. It was also a very unsettling, uncomfortable read for me, because I recognized so much of my own childhood anger and self-absorption in Beth Ellen and Harriet.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

Once I knew that books were written by human beings, that was the sort of human I wanted to be. I wrote my first novel when I was six years old. It was about a bunch of kids who lived on a farm (I had never been to a farm) and ran races. The heroine was called Cathy, and every chapter ended thusly: “Cathy won the race again!” I showed my book to my grandmother, who had been married to a writer. She read it very seriously, and told me it was a good first draft.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?The Unmaking by Catherine Egan

The writing itself is a tremendous joy. I have occasionally felt a bit insecure about how much I enjoy it, having come across so many quotations by famous, brilliant writers describing writing as torturous. I wondered if my enjoyment of it might be an indication of my mediocrity, but now that I am a little older, I don’t care. It is frustrating when a story isn’t clicking, or when I feel that I am writing badly or stupidly, but all the same, there is nothing I like better than thinking of stories and writing them down.

If you weren’t an author / illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

Shade and Soceress by Catherine EganI have no talent at all for anything else, and no real desire to do anything else, but I have of course had a number of jobs. I taught ESL for many years. I don’t think I was a very good teacher, but I really enjoyed meeting so many interesting people from all walks of life, and it was a great way to support myself while living abroad. The job I think of the most fondly, however, was my stint as a waitress in a sushi restaurant. Waitressing goes very well with writing. You sit at a desk alone and write during the day, and then in the evening you are up on your feet, rushing around and talking with people. It gives you the human interaction that I think writers really need so that they don’t go crazy. I miss the people, and I miss the sushi.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

Nancy Mitford. Or maybe Oscar Wilde. Imagine dinner with Oscar Wilde! That’s probably a very unoriginal answer, but both of them had a reputation for social brilliance as well as literary genius, and if I’m going to have dinner with someone, I want to laugh a lot.

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I am open to doing school or library presentations but I live in New Haven, CT with small children and so my availability is limited.

More News

F Scott Fitzgerald inspirational quote
Quote - I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book.
Quote Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his needs, is good for him.
Quote Oh magic hour when a child first knows she can read printed words

Learn to Read Printables, Games and Activities for Parents and Teachers

Unlimited Squirrels in I Lost My Tooth!

Unlimited Squirrels in I Lost My Tooth!

Unlimited Squirrels in I Lost My Tooth! written and illustrated ...

Phonemic Awareness

Bolstering Phonemic Awareness, Getting Ready to Read While in the Car

Bolstering Phonemic Awareness, Getting Ready to Read While in the Car

Some of the keys to learning to read are noticing ...

Terrific Chapter Books for Middle Grades and Teens

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, a SLJ Top 100 Novel

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, a SLJ Top 100 Novel

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume Series for ...

Translate »