“I’m an Author!”

So I’ve got this book coming out.

Not for a while yet, granted. But sometime next year a picture book with my actual name on it is going to see the light of day. And then another after that, and another after that one.

I guess this means I’m an author.

Does this mean I’m an author?

Some folks just know, right. They’re writing from the moment they learn their letters. They’re writing novels in high school, going to conferences in college. They have an agent at 22, and a book deal at 23, and you can kind of see the word “Author” hovering over their heads in an atmospheric haze of talent and ambition.

Not all of us have such an easy time attaching that title to ourselves. I guess I’m an author now that I have an agent, now that I’ve sold a couple of books. But maybe I actually became an author when I wrote my first work-for-hire title under a pen name six years ago? Or was I an author when I put together the text for a Disney Princess novelty book, my second week on the job as an editorial assistant at Disney Press, over ten years ago?

Or maybe I’m not an author yet. Maybe I’ll be one when my book actually comes out. Or when a book I write is a hit. Or when I’m making my living from writing books. Or when I die and they put “…Author?” on my tombstone.

Like a lot of titles that are self-selected, “Author” is a tricky one. Claim it too early and it’s a little embarrassing. Take too long, and you just seem confused, poor thing.

Also like a lot of self-selected titles, “Author” is one nobody really cares except the person laying claim to it.

So, okay. As of today:

I’m an author.

Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. She has a cat named Percy and a husband named Perry and she hardly ever gets them mixed up.

Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.


Filed under Uncategorized

Grounded Book Trailer!!!



You think you know Rapunzel, but you’ll see another side of her in Megan Morrison’s Grounded.


Here’s a sneak peek at the book trailer:


Join us here at Emu’s Debuts for Grounded’s book launch on April 27th!


We hope to see you there!!


Filed under Uncategorized

Heading Back, Trying Again



Last week, my husband and I took our young son down to visit his relatives in Texas. We flew into Dallas first, then boarded another plane to fly way down south to McAllen. Air travel is tedious in the first place. Add a small child to the mix and it becomes a high-energy challenge to make sure said child is kept busy enough not to annoy everybody else on the plane. When we began our final descent into McAllen, we were relieved, to say the least. Our uncomfortable slog was almost done. Soon we would collect our bags, check into the hotel, and start the vacation.

We were flying over the landing strip – we could barely see the runway beneath us, through a thick mist of low clouds – when the plane pulled sharply up and began to climb. The captain’s voice crackled over the PA. “They’re telling us not to land, due to weather conditions. We’re going to try to divert to Corpus Christi. Don’t worry, folks, we have plenty of gas.”


We got to Corpus. Same thing again. Bad weather. Couldn’t land. “We’re going to have to head back to Dallas and try again later.”


My son, four years ago, immediately after his very first long plane ride. “That was really stupid, Mommy,” his adorable face seems to say.


The plane turned around. My son, who had believed he was about to escape from confinement and get sneaked lots of pieces of early Easter candy by his loving relatives, now had to sit through not one but two more plane rides. He threw himself to the floor in front of his seat and cried “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO DALLAS!” (Since this was exactly how every adult on the plane wanted to react but could not, nobody minded the display.)

The reason I share this story is that, right now, I have to revise a long novel in short order. I’ve already revised this sucker a couple of times, but it still requires some pretty extensive rebooting, and frankly? I don’t want to go to Dallas. I didn’t anticipate that I would have to go all the way back to Dallas. Corpus Christi, sure, a quick diversion – but back from whence I came? NOOOOOOOOOOO. *throws fit on cabin floor* See, to me, the story seemed to be landing beautifully. I could see the runway fine. I didn’t know there was a problem. But as it turns out, there’s some bad weather, so if I really want to reach the destination, then there’s just nothing for it but to circle back and try again.

The worst part is, now that the bad weather has been pointed out to me, I can see it. There it is. Yep. I do have to go back to &*$#ing Dallas. And while I’m sure that, deep down, I do have enough gas to get me there, it doesn’t feel like it right now. My debut is coming out in two weeks (insert ONE MILLION HOORAYS!), which is a huge and exciting big deal that has me completely off kilter. I’ve found it impossible to keep up my usual levels of productivity.

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A Christmas gift from one of my students, since I am always after them to revise. Lately, every day, this thing mocks me from the cupboard.

Luckily, there are other people with me on this flight. Just seeing them there and knowing that they understand exactly how I feel is enough to keep me sane. The lovely and talented Tara Dairman, whose debut novel launched last year, was in Seattle a few weeks ago, so a few of us EMLA folks in the area met up for dinner. Being out with Tara, Laurie Thompson, Jeanne Ryan, and Trish Toney Lawrence was delightful and bracing. At one point in the conversation, I admitted that I’m just not writing the way I usually do, and it’s really scaring me. Tara (who is now working on the third book in her series) replied, “That’s normal. On the Fourteeners board, there was a whole thread about how none of us could write anymore, now that our first books were launching. It’ll pass, you’ll be fine.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I know that she’s right. Just yesterday, I found myself mentally problem solving some of the manuscript’s biggest issues, and I was excited about the possible solutions. So while it might be uncomfortable and tedious, I’ll get there. Sure, I might have to go back and sit in the airport. Eat a soggy, twelve-dollar sandwich. Stay a night at the Ramada and then climb back into the same clothes again tomorrow.

But I’ll get there.

HiRes_Morrison_6814_crop Megan Morrison is a mom, a middle-school teacher, and the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, due out April 28 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. Visit her at meganmorrison.net.



Filed under Editing and Revising, Writing

When Your Idea Gets Published By Someone Else First

Writers, does this scenario strike fear in your heart? You’re working on a project, you’re invested in it, excited, feeling confident that finally, finally, FINALLY you’ve hit on an idea that’s really clicking for you. And then *screeeeeching brakes*: A book is published with a too-similar premise.

If you relate to this, or worry about it happening, then I have a story you might like to hear:

51ysrNDhV3L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I started writing Book Scavenger in 2003. The beginning seed of my idea was this image of kids finding a mysterious book in a BART station, but I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I thought maybe the book they found would be special because the characters could come out into the real world. Yes! I got really excited about this idea. It seemed cool and original–and then I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. If you’re not familiar with Inkheart, read it, it’s fantastic, but it has a similar premise to my initial idea and I lost all confidence in myself being able to do something similar.

But I was stch_book1till stuck on this image of kids finding a book in a BART station and having an adventure in San Francisco. I switched gears and latched onto a new puzzle mystery direction, and came up with the idea for this website/real world bookhunting game . . . In 2004, there was still a big divide between the internet and publishing. Terms like “multiplatform storytelling” and “transmedia” weren’t being thrown around for books back then. I was sure I had latched onto something original and fresh–and then I heard about a new series Scholastic would be launching the following year called 39 Clues with Rick Riordan heading the first book. There would be ELEVEN books, each written by a big name author, with the characters on a worldwide scavenger hunt for clues, and there was also a website/game tie in.

I was crushed. While it wasn’t my exact idea, it shared enough similarities that I no longer felt confident mine would stand out.

9780316003957_p0_v1_s260x420My grand vision deflated like a balloon, and the only thing that kept me moving forward with this now floppy idea of a book was a one-on-one session I had with an editor at a SCBWI conference. She had read the first ten pages of my draft and her written feedback was a short paragraph that began “This is really cool,” and ended with, “Would you send me the whole manuscript? I’d love to read it!”

Wonderful, right? It was, absolutely, but the problem was that I had less than 40 pages written. Not only that, but the idea I had in mind for this book felt too ambitious for my writing skills at the time. I wasn’t sure I could execute it, and definitely didn’t think I could execute it quickly. What if I invested all this time writing this book only to find out I couldn’t pull it off? Or what if I invested all this time and did pull it off, only to have editors and agents point to 39 Clues and say, “Too late. Been done.”

What it bpuzzlingworldoiled down to was this: If I turned down the dial on all the noise–the industry gossip, what else is being published, what do editors want/not want–if I just thought about my characters and my story, I was still incredibly passionate about my idea. I still wanted to understand the mystery behind the book these kids had found in the BART station. I still wanted to see if I could create a Goonies-esque story set in San Francisco. The personal challenge was worth it to me, even if one of my worst-case scenarios came true.

So I kept going with my book. I’d be lying if I said from that moment on I was a fiery ball of confidence that could not be extinguished. But I kept going. I think I was on my third re-write 9780061214509when The Mysterious Benedict Society was published and became a bestseller. There was also The Gollywhopper Games series and the Winston Breen puzzle mysteries, and too many more similar-sounding middle grade mysteries to keep track of.

The summer I sold Book Scavenger in a three-book deal, ALL eleven of the 39 Clues books had been published as well as the first few books of a second 39 Clues series. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was published and has gone on to be a long-running NY Times bestseller.

Fast forward to today16054808, my publisher is including Book Scavenger on a read-alike poster for libraries which says “If you liked The Mysterious Benedict Society, try Book Scavenger.” (They were going to use Mr. Lemoncello, but that title was included on their poster the year before.) And Jody Feldman, who writes the Gollywhopper Games series, was kind enough to blurb my book. I’m friendly with Eric Berlin, who writes the Winston Breen series, and we share the same agent.

In short, I think a lot of the early success Book Scavenger is now finding could be partly attributed to the path paved by these similar books that came before. I didn’t have to fear the familiar. Every title I mentioned here would likely appeal to the same reader, but they are each unique stories. There is room on the bookshelf for us all.

It can be hard to find that balance between looking to what others are doing for inspiration, but then not letting what others are doing deter you from something. It’s important to remember that it is your spin that will set something apart. Don’t let news of a comparable book knock the wind out of your sails. Just look at it as a challenge to make sure you’re digging deep and tapping into the YOU essence of the story. And keep going.


jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”


Filed under Uncategorized

Secrets to Getting School Author Visits

Okay, so it’s kind of a cheesy title. And what I say won’t be secret once this is posted, but I got your attention, didn’t I? The first, and most obvious, thing you must do is to set a fee.  An easy way to do this is to visit other authors’ websites to find out what those in your area charge and make your fee comparable.  You can charge by the “day” or per presentation.  For most authors, a full day is four presentations of 45 minutes each, with 10 to 15 minutes between each presentation to regroup (and visit the restroom.) Be sure to get a signed contract that states exactly what you will do, what your fee is, and that you expect to be paid at the conclusion of your visit. Here are some useful links:     “10 Must-Haves in Your School Visit Contract” and AUTHOR VISIT CONTRACT – Prokidwriter.

If you are booked for the day, make sure to factor in an hour or more for lunch. If you are expected to sign books, add another hour (preferably in a quiet room) to complete this task.  Some schools will invite you to eat with teachers at a pot luck they graciously  set out in their lounge. Others will buy your lunch and bring it in. Some will ask you to eat lunch with a table of  students who are aspiring authors. I’ve experienced all these scenarios, and all are fine with me. I ask only that I be told in advance which (and when) to expect.

Next, you need to decide how far you are willing to travel. I limit myself to schools within an hour’s drive from my home, and have turned down several invitations this year from schools that are too far away.  Unless multiple schools line you up for a visit of two or three days (and will pay your hotel and travel expenses), you must figure what your time is worth.  For example, a school on Lake Michigan (four hours away) invited me in January for a full day visit.  When I asked about arriving the day before, the teacher said the school could not pay for a hotel.  I wasn’t going get up at 4 a.m. to arrive at 8 a.m. and then drive four hours home.  When I politely declined her invitation, the teacher appreciated the link I sent her from SCBWI that listed contact info for authors in northern Ohio.

Of course – and most importantly – you need to let schools know you are available for visits. However, not all schools host authors. To find leads, check the websites of other children’s authors in your area.  The more popular ones post a calendar showing where and when they are visiting. Bingo! Schools that have hosted authors/illustrators generally have a budget to host others.  You’ll then go to each school’s web site and find the email address of the librarian/media specialist. If none is listed, email the principal or assistant principal.  Send a short email describing yourself, your book (along with excerpts from good reviews), your availability and an attachment depicting the cover.  Some authors list their fees on the sites; others ask that schools contact them via email or phone.

You can follow up your initial email a month or so later with a postcard showing your book(s) on the front and your email, website address, phone, and other info on the back.  You can design a pretty postcard on Vistaprint and get multiple copies made for 10 cents or less per card. Many schools book a year or more in advance, and schools rarely book more than one author/illustrator in the same year. Be persistent but not pesky. Follow up one way or another every few months. You are one among many authors looking for a gig.

School visits are a good – and more importantly – fulfilling way to supplement your income.  I always get lots of hugs, high-fives, and pictures from the elementary school students I visit. Writers spend far more time alone than those in other professions. It’s nice when the children who read our books can show and tell us what our books mean to them.

Carole Gerber is the author of 18 picture books and three chapter books. Her latest, STINGRAYS! UNDERWATER FLIERS, is coming from Random House Children’s Step into Reading Series on May 26, 2015. TEN BUSY BROOMS, a Halloween picture book, will be published by Doubleday in fall 2016, and A BAND OF BABIES will be released by HarperCollins in 2017. TEN BUSY BROOMS is her debut book with EMLA agent Ammi-Joan Paquette.







Filed under Advice

Zen & Pen: Are You Ready to Be a Student—Again?

This week I came across a video by one of my favorite authors, naturalist Sy Montgomery, who’s often described as a cross between Emily Dickinson and Indiana Jones—what’s not to love about that! As a resident bird-nerd, her Birdology is one of my favorite books.


She mentioned a quote frequently attributed to the Buddha, though some think it has theosophist origins. Either way, it’s instructive: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

I’ve been thinking about this lately—the different ways that we are students, and the various forms in which our teachers appear. For me, last month, they were fiction and nonfiction picture books. I participated in writer-educator Carrie Charley Brown’s March challenge, Read for Research Month, otherwise fondly known as ReFoReMo, where we studied mentor texts of our own choosing, and where Emu’s own Penny Parker Klostermann was a contributor.

At first, I thought I’d only participate sporadically—I want to do this, but do I really have the time? I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by things like promotion (for another post!), trying to write new manuscripts and just the every day stuff that needs to get done. But once I started, I was hooked. Since I primarily write picture books, I already read a lot of them. But this was taking the time to look more closely,


to get under the skin of the story, seeing the bones, the story’s structure, the way its muscles, rhythm, refrains, and repetition are bound together. Finding a story’s heart, and something somewhat more elusive: its soul.










It has been enlightening, and liberating. Not because I’ve never done this before, but because I was ready to be a student, to see these stories as teachers, and uncover what my works in progress were really about. I usually read a picture book and I love it, or like it. I may find it kind of meh (or maybe, I even hate it—I’ll keep those to myself). So I tend to have an almost visceral, emotional reaction—I laugh, chortle, cry, gasp—and now I would take this one step further, dissecting the HOW of this reaction.

I have several works in progress that were all rather meh. One near to my heart was a fiction picture book about two rat sisters, pets of two human sisters, modeled on our own pet rats, Nera (who died on Christmas day :( ), and Lucia.


But I was stuck in reality for the first draft—it was a rescue story, of a rat trapped behind the refrigerator (which really happened to Nera); I ventured away from that in the second and third drafts, but still, the story wasn’t really feeling like it was going anywhere. Then, I decided that it was time to step away from my words entirely, and let some other books teach me about possibility. And what a world of difference it has made! I’ve changed everything about the story—it has moved from fiction, to nonfiction. The voice, which had been somewhat lyrical in tone, is now humorous and ironic—at least I hope it is! I found the heart of the story I wanted to tell.



And most of all—I had fun doing it! It’s not there yet, but it feels like I’m heading in the right direction.

While writing this post I was also reminded of grad school, when I studied under the late poet-activist, June Jordan, whose teaching strategy was to have us write what she called “imitations.” We would slip on the skins of other poets, and try out their voices. Imagine writing an “imitation” of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl or Emily Dickinson’s I Heard a Fly Buzz? Challenging indeed!

We can slip into the skins of picture books by writing or typing out the text. The act of doing this helps us to feel its rhythms, the pulse of the story in our fingers. To absorb it even more fully (and better yet, read it aloud while doing so). I’m not an illustrator, but one could do the same with images, “imitate” or mimic an artist’s style, feel the line, smell the color, hear the scratchboard. Sometimes though, our stories need to steep a bit longer, like a good cup of tea.


Reading mentor texts, gaining perspective,  enabled me to let go of the words themselves, black and white on the page. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do, even though we know, deep down, that it’s essential. There is so much to learn, even if we’ve been writing a long time, by opening ourselves and our hearts to being a student.


The ReFoRe challenge let me play, and experiment, and be, and that is the way of finding our true stories.

So, who are your teachers: literal, literary, or perhaps figuratively speaking?

Where, when, and in what form will they appear?


Here’s to being ready!


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Maria writes fiction and nonfiction picture books while dog Becca snores at her feet. This is what they do when they’re not writing (or snoring).  Her debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2015, with a second Penny & Jelly book to follow in Spring 2016. Maria has both fiction and  nonfiction picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press,  Aladdin Books and Boyds Mills Press. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary. To learn more, please visit her website: mariagianferrari.com, or visit Maria at Facebook.

Photos of Maria & Becca by Monogram Arts Photo.


Filed under Uncategorized

Prepare to be schooled–we have a WINNER for Mom School!!!

BD-dog2        Becca would like to thank you for helping us celebrate the book birthday of Mom School, by Rebecca van Slyke! We hope you enjoyed our posts on Emu’s mothers, and the various ways we’d love to be schooled!





The winner of a signed copy of Mom School goes to …


Maryanne (mfantaliswrites).  Congratulations, Maryanne!!! Please contact us with your mailing address. :)


And for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Mom School, here’s where you can buy your very own copy.  It’s also a perfect Mother’s Day gift!


 Village Books

Barnes & Noble

Liberty Bay Books

Auntie’s Bookstore

Thanks again for joining us here at Emu’s Debuts!!!



Maria writes fiction and nonfiction picture books while dog Becca snores at her feet. Her debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2015, with a second Penny & Jelly book to follow in Spring 2016. Maria has both fiction and  nonfiction picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press,  Aladdin Books and Boyds Mills Press. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary. To learn more, please visit her website: mariagianferrari.com, or visit Maria at Facebook.

Photos of Maria & Becca by Monogram Arts Photo.


Filed under Uncategorized

“I’ve Always Wanted to Write a Picture Book”-Getting Started

I have a lot of people ask me how I got a book published. Because . . .

They’ve always wanted to write. Or they have an idea for a picture book. Or their daughter has an idea. Or their mother always wanted them to write about the goose that lived in the shed across the street. Or they wrote a story years ago and they have a second cousin who could illustrate it.

I know other writers get asked the same thing. Many times I’ve found that the person asking is just making conversation. Because the minute I say “writing journey” they don’t seem quite so interested. I think they thought the “journey” was really just a “jaunt”. And then when I mention SCBWI (of course I say the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), their eyes glaze over. TMI! I know it’s time to stop.

There have been a few, though, that want more information. I email them links and information I think they would find helpful. Usually I don’t hear back. But, recently, I shared information with someone who has written professionally for years. Now she wants to write picture books. And she’s a member of SCBWI! She’s attended conferences. She’s serious, folks! And I had a ton of fun sharing resources and talking picture books. It reminded me that of all those who say they want to write, a few REALLY do!

It seems that most of the people who read our blog are already on their writing journey. But I imagine we have a few that visited this site who are just getting started. I know I visited this site regularly when I was new on my journey. So I thought I might address the “How did you get a book published?” question for those who are truly interested and would just like a starting point and places to gather information.

Note: There is no way to list every resource and website. These are only a few of the ones that were particularly helpful on my journey as they include challenges, etc. that inspired me to write. On top of these, I read many blogs. When you check out KidLit411 below, I will provide their link to a list of wonderful blogs.

SCBWI: Click HERE to browse their website. It is chock full of all things KidLit. I strongly advise becoming a member. My membership is invaluable. There is a forum available. To read all of the boards in forum, you have to be a member of SCBWI. You can get a taste of the valuable information on the forum without being a member.

Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo: PiBoIdMo stands for Picture Book Idea Month.This takes place in November. Each day you will be inspired by amazing posts by authors, illustrators, and other KidLit lovers. This challenge is free and if you participate you’re likely to end the month with a list of new ideas for picture books. You’ll also get a glimpse into the wonderful, sharing KidLit community. You don’t have to wait until November if you want to be inspired. Follow her blog and check out the archives for wonderful posts. You can find out more information HERE.

Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog: Susanna always has something going on over at her blog. I met her early in my writing journey and her blog has been a huge plus for me. Her Perfect Picture Book Friday series will clue you in to excellent picture books. The series features reviews by a variety of picture book lovers. Her Would You Read It Wednesday series focuses on picture book pitches which are extremely important for writers when they have manuscripts ready to pitch to agents and editors. Susanna also hosts amazing contests with amazing prizes. Click HERE to browse Susanna’s blog.

Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12: This is a challenge to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. If you’re wanting accountability, community, and resources it is well worth the fee. Registration for next year will be in January. In the meantime, follow Julie’s blog and you will benefit. Find more information HERE.

Then there is the site of all sites-KidLit411: Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia Liu have gathered KidLit resources from all around the Internet on their website. It is AMAZING. It includes all the sites I’ve mentioned and many, many more. Many more! HERE is the link to their list of Blogs to Follow. Click HERE for their home page and prepare to spend hours immersed in all things KidLit!

And, of course, follow us here at Emus Debuts where we were all once beginners. Join us as we talk about how, with hard work, our dreams became reality.

I’m far from the first person to blog about these resources. But I hope they’ll help someone on their writing journey.

penny edited

Penny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHTis coming from Random House Books For Young Readers August 4, 2015. Also, coming from Random House Books For Young Readers is A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, Spring, 2017. You can follow Penny on on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence.



Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Picture books

Specialty Schools We Wish Existed


Can you tell that Rebecca Van Slyke’s newly released MOM SCHOOL gets an A+ for Absolute Adorableness? Trust me, it does. As the story goes, the little cutie-pie kiddo imagines that her mother learned all of her wonderful mom-like skills in Mom School. There might be a few things she wished her mom didn’t learn, too. Well, it got us EMUs imagining different kinds of wacky specialty school ideas.

So, here ya go. Specialty schools we wish existed:


Rebecca Van Slyke, our spotlight debut author, would choose a specialty school sure to save marriages and general sanity:             “I would so sign up for a remote control school. On our coffee table we have—no lie—SEVEN remote controls. Here’s my husband “teaching” me how to start a movie:         

                  “Okay, it’s really easy. All you do is take this one and hit ‘Power.’ Then take this one and hit ‘Power’ and ‘Display.’Then you scroll down with this button until you come to ‘ADXL’ and hit that one twice. Put the movie in her, but DON’T CLOSE THE DRAWER! Use the remote to close it with this button marked with the orange arrow. Then take this remote and hit ‘Power,’ ‘Open,’ ‘Display’ and ‘VHC6.’ Then THIS remote controls the volume, and THIS one controls the stereo. If you want surround sound, take THIS one and hit ‘Power,’ ‘Power,’ and the symbol that Prince used to use instead of his name…

Now WHY can’t you remember this?” DSC00059 If Janet Fox ever starts her own specialty school, I will arm wrestle anyone for first dibs:                           “Clone School! With course offerings like ‘How To Create Your Clone World'; ‘Control Your Clone Before It Controls You'; ‘Clones For Cleaning'; ‘Are You Your Clone?'”


Hey, if they can clone a sheep…why not?







Dr. Dolittle would be a perfect teacher at Maria Gianferrari’s wished-for specialty school: “My top choice for a specialty school: creature communication school hands down! There, you’d learn to speak dog as well as elephant, ladybug, ostrich, rattlesnake or robin. Maybe even rock.”


If we spoke dog, we might hear: “Dude, does this hat go with this handbag?”

Mylisa Larsen’s preferred specialty school would give Google, Siri, Jack Hanna, and that smart kid (you know the one) some serious competition:  “It’s less of a school and more of a service that I wish existed: Dial-a-Docent. They would have specialists of all kinds on staff to answer those pesky questions that are too specific to ever find just by searching on the internet. For example, when you accidentally touch a slug in the garden, the slug retracts its little antenna things. Like literally sucks them back into his/her/its (I’m a little unclear on how the slug world handles gender) head. So first of all, what is that about? Is it a mutual ewwwwww when slugs and humans touch? (“Dude, I was just out minding my own business eating some lettuce and I touched a human. It was like completely disgusting.”) And secondly, how do they do that? What are the actually mechanics of sucking your antennae into your head? I’m sure you’ve been wondering about this too. Um, right?”


Tam Smith adds a more Zen-style specialty school to the list:             “I wish there was a school specifically for Yoga For Relaxation While Making Dinner WHILE the Kids are Running Around the House Yelling at the Top of Their Lungs.  (I did the on-line certificate program which consisted of learning how to open a bottle of red wine, pouring a glass and drinking, but I’d like something a little more advanced now… :-))”

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Leave it to Penny Parker Klostermann to come up with Duck Translation School-The Ins and Outs of Quacking:         “This will be the fourth spring in a row that Mr. and Mrs. Quackers have made our yard their home. Mrs. Quackers lays eggs and sets. Mr. Quackers visits every now and then. Baby ducklings arrive and then the family waddles away to live on the nearby lake. It is fascinating to watch them. I would love to know what they’re quacking. And I would love to know if the duckling’s peeps are like human baby gibberish or if they come out talking adult quack.” 


I’m pretty sure Mr. and Ms. Quackers are saying, “Quack, quack, quack.” Or, maybe…”See, I told you a time share would pay off!”

Adam  Shaughnessy confesses to a great big problem. I’m sure glad the rest of us Never Ever struggle with this:     “I’d like a specialty school for procrastination. I’m already pretty good at it, I guess, but I still always end up having to do the stuff I’m trying to put off. Maybe if I had an official degree I could put things off indefinitely. Yes, if there was a Procrastination School, I would definitely enroll! Probably tomorrow. Or after I get a couple of other things done…”

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Click for an enlarged image

Maria Gianferrari’s specialty school should be mandatory, don’t you think?   “There should be a school for stress. Oh, wait! One already exists. It’s called LIFE and we are all enrolled. Luckily that same school also offers lessons in love, contentment, and happiness. If we’re lucky, the second set of lessons are offered in equal – or better still – greater measure.”

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Donna Janell Bowman would love a school that teaches time-manipulation magic, to learn how to juggle a bazillion responsibilities, deadlines, and to-do lists without compromising anything. On second thought… if we combined all of the Emu’s Debuts specialty school ideas, our clones would be operated by uber-simple universal remote controls that also work the dial-a-docent answers doodad, which would help us communicate with creatures, including ducks, and handbag-carrying pooches. And, when we get super busy, we could procrastinate any stressful feelings and opt for yoga instead.

Rush to your nearest independent book store, or order your copy of Rebecca’s Mom School from online retailers, like those listed below. And, don’t forget to comment on this post to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of the book.


Barnes and Noble


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Mom School Must Be AWESOME

Moms are excellent.

Seriously. They’re just amazing. And, according to Rebecca Van Slyke’s excellent debut, Mom School, there may just be a super-secret, super-effective educational system dedicated to teaching the Mom craft to dedicated students.

I’m pretty sure my mom, Sandra McFarland, went to Mom School. She must have taken the Cool Halloween Birthday Cakes class, for sure.

I am 1. The mess I am about to make of this cake is sooooo completely EPIC.

Pretty positive she had a class in Stylish Dress for One-Year-Olds (with extra credit in Teaching Babies to Love Dogs.

OMG! It’s a human snowball!

Last but not least, she definitely took Funky Christmas Bonnets for Ages 3 and Up.


Okay, so, nobody tell my kids about this picture, please.

mom's pie platePenny Parker Klostermann, author of There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight (coming in August, 2015), tells us, “My mom must have learned all about pies at Mom School. Her pies are the absolute best ever! She taught pie making classes. The store where she taught them featured this pie plate with her yummy recipe for chocolate cream pie!”
shutterstock_261164825Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, author of Book Scavenger (coming in June, 2015), thinks her mom probably went to Mom School. “My mom must have learned Compassionate Humor in Mom School, because I can always count on her to bring a smile to my face, even in the most difficult of situations.”

Crescent Cookies“My mother definitely learned Benevolence at Mom School,” Maria Gianferrari, author of Penny and Jelly: The School Show (coming in July, 2015), says. “She’s kind, thoughtful, compassionate, supportive, giving and forgiving, as well as best baker of crescent cookies—my favorite!”

BatmanOhYeah!Adam Shaugnessy, author of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib (coming September, 2015), thinks his Mom might have attended this wonderful educational institution. He says, “My mom must have learned Patience at Mom School, because when I convinced all my childhood friends that we would pretty much BECOME SUPERHEROES if we patrolled the neighborhood in our Underoos, she very patiently explained that it wasn’t appropriate to run around outside in just your underwear.”


FullSizeRender2Christine Hayes, author of Mothman’s Curse (coming June, 2015), says, “My mom must have learned Christmas Spirit at Mom School. She LOVED Christmas. She baked a ton of goodies for the neighbors, with plenty left over for us. She wrote out dozens of cards every year, by hand no less! Decorating the tree was always a cherished ritual. We had a musical program on Christmas Eve and watched every Christmas special that aired in the month of December, especially the Nutcracker (but only the one with Mikhail Baryshnikov). And there was always a Nat King Cole or Ray Conniff holiday album on the stereo. It’s no wonder that Christmas is now my favorite holiday!”

FullSizeRender3“My mom must have learned Animal-Whispering from Mom School,” Donna Bowman Bratton, author of Step Right Up: The Story of Beautiful Jim Key (Coming Spring, 2016) tells us. “Because, seriously, most big-city-turned-rural moms don’t know to put heat lamps on abandoned ducklings and chicks; how to bottle feed a calf; how to medicate a grouchy horse; how to remove cockleburs from a collie’s hair; and how to survive teenage me”.

shutterstock_191582156Tamara Ellis Smith, author of Another Kind of Hurricane (Coming August, 2015), says, “My mom must have learned Stand-Up Comedy at Mom School. She always knows how to make us laugh, even when she doesn’t mean to!  Ever seen my mom dance to Dire Straits in the kitchen while making breakfast?  Ever seen her put underwear on the dog as she folds the laundry?  Laughing (with? at?) my mom kept our very full house happy when I was a kid…and it makes her house a favorite destination, now, for my kids.”
These are some very, very learned Moms, indeed.
Obviously, Mom School is absolutely awesome. Read about it as soon as you can!

Don’t forget, to enter the drawing for a free copy of Mom School, comment on any post this week! 

Here are some great places to buy Mom School:

 Village Books

Barnes & Noble

Liberty Bay Books

Auntie’s Bookstore


Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught is the author of many books for young adults, such as TRIGGER, BIG FAT MANIFESTO, and FREAKS LIKE US. Her debut novel for middle-grade readers, FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, published by Simon & Schuster, hit the shelves in March, 2015. Please visit Susan at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


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