Author Archives: Jason Gallaher

My Baby is Real!

As you can tell from a lot of our posts on Emu’s Debuts, the path to publication is a long one. It’s been over two years now since my debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, sold. The release is almost upon us (July 18, 2017). For the past six months or so, however, I entered a state of disbelief. When people asked if I was excited for my book to come out, I felt like Miranda on Sex and the City when people asked if she was jazzed to have a baby boy, and she would have this awkward pause, then squeal, “Boy, am I ever,” because she thought that was the right response, even when she wasn’t sure if that’s how she felt.

I told people at the beginning of this year that it still didn’t feel real yet that a book with my name on it would be in bookstores. Since it’s been a while since that call from Trish about our first sale, I didn’t think it would really hit me until other people were reading WHOBERT that the book would actually be out in the world. Well…that moment finally happened, and now I can’t stinking wait for WHOBERT to be among us. I feel like this:

The moment when I finally realized other people were reading the book came in the form of a review from Kirkus. When I saw an email from my editor saying Kirkus had taken a look at my book, I was immediately nervous. My stomach catapulted into my throat. I think I shouted to my partner, “THE REVIEW FROM KIRKUS IS IN WHAT DO I DO?” After his ears stopped ringing from my banshee shriek, he replied, “Um, read it.” So I did…

I pored over that thing. I think I was holding my breath the entire time. Here was real life proof that WHOBERT is actually going out into the world and that other people are going to read it and have thoughts about it. I am so, so happy with what Kirkus had to say (they used phrases like “witty wordplay” and called it “a cracking whooooo-dunit”), but what really hit me is that my baby is about to enter the world. After years of gestating in the womb that is Simon & Schuster, being cared for by so many loving hands, little WHOBERT is going to say “who, who” to the world and people are going to respond. So now when I’m asked if I’m excited, I can legitimately say, “I’M FREAKING OUT!” without a hint of Miranda hesitation.


Jason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Despite his connection to Miranda in this post, experts agree he most closely resembles Charlotte, but he’d prefer to be likened to Anjelica Huston. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)



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Sometimes I think that all writers are gluttons for punishment. Whether it’s because of the waiting game wondering what’s going to become of your manuscripts to experiencing the ups and downs of your characters’ emotions, writing can be crazy-making.

For me, the crazy really started happening back in November. I participated in NaNoWriMo writing my first YA, and I was having all the feels. For the first time ever I was writing about first loves and losses, and the ups and downs of reliving some of my teen years while I was writing was making me very emotional. I cried for the first time while at my keyboard. I had to pace up and down the halls of my shared office space to get over it, and the other people in there looked at me like I was insane.

I couldn’t blame them. If you had looked through the glass walls into my office with me sitting at my keyboard with tears running down my face, then cut to me in a capital “M” Mood making grooves in the floor with my pacing, I probably seemed like I was a second away from a straightjacket.

So I had to find a way to fight the crazy! I was getting so much creative anxiety and energy build up that wasn’t being expended from writing alone. In fact, writing was causing a lot of this anxiety, putting my soul into a work and then wondering what will become of it. I needed a way to let out all that creative energy and get instant feedback. So, what did I do? Inspired by a Jennifer Lawrence SAG Award acceptance speech in which she said her first union gig was shooting a commercial for MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” I enrolled in acting classes.

Let me tell you, it has worked! I find myself living for every second of the class. It’s been such a great way to be creative in front of a group of people and have those people give you constructive criticism right then and there. It’s also helped me so much in my writing. I’m used to characters talking to me inside my head, but becoming a character someone else created has been an entirely different thing, and has helped me dive even deeper into the psyche of people I’ve created.

While it remains to be seen whether or not I will ever become the next Leo D. or Sean P. or Charlize T., I’m going to keep at it because I feel waaaaaay calmer. Which is kind of ironic seeing as how I’m pretending to be other people to feel less crazy.


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Roles Jason would love to one day play include any Animorph, a young Jareth in a Labyrinth prequel, and/or any part in anything that would allow him to meet Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise

Inspiration from Songs, Chants, and Slogans

The launch of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, a picture book about the youngest civil rights marcher in Birmingham, Alabama, continues today! As Cynthia described on Tuesday, the strength in nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks’ voice was often boosted by music and protest chants. In that spirit, Emus gathered together to discuss different songs, chants, and slogans we found memorable and inspirational in civil rights movements.

Darcey Rosenblatt says that “It Could Have Been Me” by Holly Near was a life-changing song for her when she first heard it, and that it still carries power with her today. Holly Near sang this at a memorial for the four students shot at Kent State University as they protested the bombing of Cambodia in May 1970.

Jason Gallaher says he will never forget the immediacy and the impact of the NOH8 campaign after Proposition 8 passed in California, banning same-sex marriage. Thousands of people came together to get their pictures taken in a silent protest against the proposition. Even though the protest was silent, the amount of photos of people with NOH8 painted across their faces created a sort of hum in the air, moving more and more to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage. While same-sex marriage is legal today, the campaign still serves as a stand against any kind of discrimination.

Hayley Barrett says she thinks it’s hard to top the emotional impact of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. The strikers carried signs with the words “I AM A MAN” on them, fighting against dangerous working conditions and discrimination. You can find more information about the strike at the National Civil Rights Museum website. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his last speech, “Mountaintop,” to Memphis sanitation workers the night before he died.

Anna Crowley Redding says that Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” has stuck with her over the years. In addition, she read his “Christ in Alabama” in the seventh grade in Spartanburg, SC, and remembers thinking, “This is the best thing I have ever read. EVER.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus says that “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” is one song she found memorable in the Civil Rights Movement.

This article by Cynthia provides more information about the history of songs in the Civil Rights Movement.

Cynthia’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER is out now and can be found at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookseller.

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The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Before now I would have said the scariest thing I’ve ever done is…um…well, I guess I haven’t ever really done anything I would label scary. Maybe swim with sharks once? But they weren’t even scary sharks, they were nurse sharks that just loved to rub up against your leg like a cat and eat rotisserie chicken.


And then I did NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal of the event is to write 50,000 words in one month. It takes place every November, that busy month of Thanksgiving and, this year, the release of Pokémon Sun & Moon and, oh yeah, the emotion-filled election. This is, by far, THE SCARIEST THING I’VE EVER DONE! For the whole month of November, that looming word count goal was staring me in the face like this:


To make matters even more frightening, I was writing a Young Adult manuscript for the first time. I’m a picture book and middle grade dude. I can write about unicorns and kids battling trolls all day long, but love, angst, emotional firsts as you head into genuine adulthood? The only time I’ve written about love was in regards to a squirrel who discovers he loves candy, soooooooo.

But I decided I would face my fears, because doing so has paid off before. *Insert flashback noise and sepia filter* Back in 2012, I started an internship with a children’s literary agency. The awesome agent I was working for asked me to look at picture book manuscripts, and I just didn’t get them. How could you write an emotionally resonating story in under 500 words? And how was I supposed to tell what a good manuscript was without accompanying illustrations? PBs scared me to death!


So I started taking picture book writing workshops in my spare time to figure them out. These workshops led to me writing picture book manuscripts of my own, and I fell head over heels for them. Cut to today, I’m now a bona fide children’s book writer, my first picture book coming out in July! *Insert flash forward music, there’s no more filter*

When November was rolling in this year, I said to myself, “Self! Time to face another fear,” and I dove into NaNoWriMo. First I had to figure out how I was going to tackle the word count on a day-by-day basis. To stay on track, you need to write 1,667 words a day, but I knew that I would be traveling for a week for Thanksgiving, so I tried to write more than that to add some wiggle room for the holidays. I made a nifty calendar in my office so my horrible failures (or successes!!) would stare me in the face.


Then came the matter of an actual plot, which I guess is important. I plotted that whole sucker out at the end of October so I could write bullet point by bullet point in November. This helped me immensely. I pantsed my first middle grade manuscript a few years back, and all the drafts I had to do to go back in and get a storyline that made sense totally has converted me into a plotter. My little plot road map became such a trusty friend for those 30 days because for the first time ever, I wrote non-linearly. When I got stuck in one scene I could look at that map and say, “On to the next one!” That was crucial in meeting my word count goals, especially when writing in a genre that I don’t feel exceptionally comfortable in yet.

The other crucial element? Writing. I know that sounds really obvious, but what I mean by this is just write everywhere. Don’t limit yourself to one environment, write wherever and whenever something strikes you. I wrote in my office, I wrote little scenes on my phone notes app when something popped in my head and I was waiting for coffee, I wrote on the airplane when heading to see family. And it worked! This was the final word count on my little calendar:


I made it! But here’s the weird thing about achieving this goal: At first, I did not feel excited about writing a first draft so quickly at all. I was like, “Well I faced that fear of doing NaNoWriMo, but now I have this draft that needs a ton of work, just faster than I would normally have a first draft.” Writing non-linearly helped me get the word count, but my transitions are a bit fuzzy in places. Those bullet points were a lifesaving guide when it came to reaching 50K, but some of them morphed a bit as holes developed and now I have to go back and fix those holes. On the night of November 30, my head was swimming with what still had to be done on the manuscript and not on the achievement.

Then I thought back to facing my fears with picture books. I went to multiple workshops, wrote a few manuscripts, but that didn’t instantly make me a success. I still had to submit to agents, hope one signed me, hope an editor liked one of my stories, hope bookstores buy it, hope people buy it, the hopes—some of them now realized, others TBD—go on and on, and it’s a loooooooong process to see how those hopes turn out.

So here we are now, two weeks after NaNoWriMo ended, and I am feeling Jazzed with a capital J about it! I’m so glad I did it, I’m so glad I jumped into my first YA project and let that word count goal drive me to type, type, type, type, type and not think too hard about making something perfect from the start. No manuscript is ever perfect from the start, and in a publishing world where every step forward can take quite some time, why not try to write a first draft quickly? It can speed up the whole process. And who knows, maybe facing this fear will help me someday see a YA book on the shelves with my name on it, something I never thought would happen. Just like I never thought I’d see any book with my name on it, but, here we are 🙂


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Things Jason fears include rats, an empty fridge (he gets hangry), and dying without meeting Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


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Interview with THE NIAN MONSTER Illustrator, Alina Chau!

The launch for Andrea Wang’s THE NIAN MONSTER continues with an interview with the book’s illustrator, Alina Chau! Scroll below to read about New Year celebrations and mythical monsters, and to see some stellar illustrations!


Jason Gallaher: Your illustrations for THE NIAN MONSTER are absolutely stunning! Can you describe your style and the materials used to create the illustrations?

Alina Chau: Thank you.  The Nian Monster illustration is mostly watercolor on paper, except the two pages about Nian’s legend. I use Photoshop to create the Chinese paper puppet look and some of the decorative elements on the flap, that looks like traditional Chinese paper cut art.  As for the style, since this is a Chinese New Year story, I use a design style that is influenced by traditional Chinese folk art and painting.  A lot of the New Year decorations in the book are inspired by the traditional decoration.  The feel and atmosphere of the New Year is very much drawn from my childhood memories in Hong Kong.  Chinese New Year was one of my favorite holidays as a kid.  Before the New Year, the market will be extra festive.  At home, everyone is busy preparing for the big new year dinner.  Chinese New Year dinner is kind of simliar to Thanksgiving here.  It’s an important evening for family to get together and give thanks and good wishes to each other.  Kids often get new clothes in red as a symbol of a new beginning.  I painted my favorite childhood new year memories in the pages.


Alina’s workspace

How did you come up with the design for the Nian Monster? Did his look change much throughout the editorial process? Do you happen to have any images of his development that you could share?

As a kid, when we learn about Nian’s story, I always imagined it sort of looking like another Chinese mythological creature, Qilin (  While Qilin is considered a heavenly creature who protects the mortal world, Nian is a trickster.  Qilin looks a bit more like the relative of a dragon.  I imagine Nian would look like an earthy creature – the Chinese Lion.  I pretty much drew the Nian from my childhood imagination.  As for Nian’s color, my gut feeling is to have it be an orange and red creature, since they are the color of the New Year.  But I also did a color test of the green and blue color scheme.  The doubt I had was that I knew there would be many red elements in the background, as well as Xingling’s outfit.  I was worried the color would clash.  But after the color test, I don’t like the blue and green color.  It doesn’t feel right.  I decided to stay with red and orange and make the color work.




How about Xingling? Is the way she looks now how you envisioned her from the start?

When I first read Andrea’s manuscript, I could see Xingling very clear in my head.  While I knew Xingling’s look well, I did spend some time trying to come up with a cute outfit for her.  I want her to feel relatable to our readers, but still reflect her regional culture trend.  I therefore researched current girl fashion styles in Asia.  The style of her pink dress is fairly trendy in China and Korea.  But I also tried to balance and not to push it too far.  I want the illustration of the book to be time lasting and have universal appeal.  Towards the end of the book, Xingling changes to a little red dress. I wanted her to wear red to celebrate the New Year tradition.


Your depiction of Shanghai is so detailed and vibrant. Did it take a lot of research for you to create the Shanghai environment, or are you familiar with the area?

Jordan, my art director at Albert Whitman, sent me a lot of reference images of Shanghai.  I also went online and did research to get myself familiar with the cityscape of Shanghai.  I have never been to Shanghai, so all the Shanghai city designs are heavily relied on Google.  As for the atmosphere of the city, that is drawn from my own experience growing up in Hong Kong and occasional travel to China.


What else are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of new picture book and graphic novel ideas.  I want to try writing my own books.  My stories are focused in culture diversities, some are drawn from my personal experiences.  I was born in China, immigrated to Hong Kong during British colonial time and then moved to the US.  I have been a citizen of three countries.  I am blessed and never get into bad discriminatory situations.  Yet, it’s still challenging to grow up and be the kid that’s different for one reason or another. With the current political climate, there is more urgency to share diversity stories with children.  Ensure the children that it’s OK to be different.  It doesn’t matter if they have different cultures, skin color, beliefs etc., their voices and stories matters.


Thank you so much for your time, Alina! We can’t wait to see what you illustrate next!

Andrea is giving away a copy of THE NIAN MONSTER to one of our readers! Just comment on any of the posts celebrating her launch, and you will be entered to win! You can also buy a copy of the book at IndieBoundBarnes & Noble, and Amazon.


Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Diversity, Illustrators, Interviews

Friendships Can Be Just LIKE MAGIC

The launch of Elaine Vickers’s LIKE MAGIC continues! LIKE MAGIC is a story of friendship, so to go along with that theme, us Emus are sharing some of our friendships that have brought magic and joy to our own lives!


Katie Slivensky: A friend who changed my life…probably my childhood best friend, Carolyn. We were both kind of awkward nerdy kids, but through her I grew confident in myself and my interests. She always lifted me up, rather than pushing me down. She lived “just over the hill” behind my house, and we grew up together. I was older than her by two weeks, but she was always a foot taller than me as kids (she was tall for her age and I was short for mine), so we got weird looks a lot. Together, though, we didn’t care! It’s so valuable to a kid to have a friend who raises your confidence when you don’t quite “fit in” in the world. We’re still good friends. Fun fact: she is actually the photographer for my author photos!


Katie and Carolyn, Age 5


Terry Pierce: The one true friend who changed my life is my husband, Mark. I met him when I was in the eighth grade (he was in the ninth), so we were still kids. We were friends for a year and then dated for four more before getting married. Forty years later, he’s still my BFF. I say he changed my life because he’s been my rock through all the ups and downs that happen in one’s life. We forged a mutual path together with love and respect, so I know that if Mark wasn’t in my life, it would be very different, and I’m guessing not nearly as fabulous, exciting or fulfilled. I guess I’m lucky that I married my best friend!


Terry and Mark Then


Terry and Mark Now


Andrea Wang: I didn’t meet Lisa until my thirties, but it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be where I am as a writer without her. We were both enrolled in the same online writing class, but it was Lisa who figured out we lived in neighboring towns and reached out to me. From there, we bonded over books and writing. She welcomed me into her critique group, encouraged me to apply to an MFA program (which we went through together), and cheered me on (and up, too) every step of the way. Her friendship helped me give myself permission to pursue a writing life.


Lisa and Andrea, March 2016


Debbi Michiko Florence: A friend who has changed my life: Lynn Bauer – We met in line for the last Harry Potter book, in 2007. We call each other Anam Cara – Soul-Friend, because we are that tightly bonded. We started out talking about books and writing, but since then it’s as if we’ve known one another forever. We’ve seen each other through the worst of times and the best and, without her, I’m not sure I would be the person I am today. She props me up, cheers me on, and supports me no matter what, and I do mean NO MATTER WHAT. She’s always on my side and I can count on her anytime, every time. (And I do have to mention Anne Marie Pace as someone who has changed my life because without her telling me that morning to line up for wrist bands for the book, I wouldn’t have gone to the book store early that morning and wouldn’t have met Lynn!)


Debbi and Lynn


Jason Gallaher: I have to say one of the most magical bonds I share with anyone on this planet is with my cousin, friend and spirit animal, Andie. We are 8 days shy of a year apart, but I feel like we are twins. I bash my shin and Andie calls me with pains in her leg. Andie has been there for me through every monumental moment in my life: births of new family members, deaths of cherished loved ones, coming out, identity crises, and pretending to be mermaids in Thailand. She brings so much magic to my life, which typically manifests in tears pouring down my face from laughing so hard. An-DAY (read like Whitney Houston shouting, “Bob-BAY!”), I love you!


Jason and Andie, Age Adorable


Hayley Barrett: When my children left for college, I gave them lots of advice. One thing I told them was to not expect their friends to remain the same. To imprison people with old memories and stories is unwise and unkind, and efforts to hold people to who they “used to be” invariably fail. The best way to preserve friendships, I said, was to welcome change, even if it meant letting a friendship fade. Doing so leaves hope for it to someday flourish again. I only have a couple of dearest, oldest friends. I won’t single any one of them out, but they have something in common. They’ve all been willing to let me, and in fact have helped me, to become a more fully developed, nuanced person. They’ve been willing to let our friendship wax and wane and wax again, as circumstances changed over the years, without fuss or consequence. I hope I’ve done the same for them. A forbearing and flexible approach is the best recipe I know for truly loving and long-lasting friendships.


To read about more magical friendships, pick up Elaine Vickers’s LIKE MAGIC, available now! You can find Elaine’s book at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He would also describe a magical friendship as the one he and Anjelica Huston have yet to forge. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


Filed under Book Launch, joy, Launch

What Does Perfect Mean to You?

To continue the launch of Elly Swartz’s FINDING PERFECT, we’re examining just what “perfect” means. Molly Nathans, the protagonist of Elly’s book, struggles with reaching perfection as her OCD starts to affect her life in increasingly harmful ways. But as the audio trailer for Elly’s book shows, perfect is so subjective. Take a listen to what different children describe as perfect for them:

As Elly puts it, “[T]here is no such ‘thing’ as perfect…. The point of the story is to share the notion that no one is truly perfect and to understand that perfect is a moment, an experience, not a thing.” In that spirit, we in the Emus Nest are sharing what types of moments or experiences are perfect for us.



Finish this sentence: Perfect is…

Hayley Barrett: Perfect is a freshly mucked stall, a full hay rack, and a clean bucket of water.

Terry Pierce: For me, personal perfect is when I’m with my family, all of us together, preferably somewhere in the outdoors, laughing and loving life. Professional perfect is when I’m writing for very young children, using sparse text and rich language, a cup of licorice spice tea nearby, and warm cat snuggled beside me. Can’t get much better than that (well, if someone buys the manuscript but that’s another story!).

Darcey Rosenblatt: Perfect for me is a whole long day in front of me with an excellent book either far away from the City or next to a crackling fire. Le sigh.

Elaine Vickers: Perfect is waking up to the creak of my bedroom door and then feeling my kids’ warm little bodies snuggling up beside me.

Katie Slivensky: Perfect to me is a cabin on a lake, with good friends in adirondack chairs lined up on either side of me, as we read together, laugh together, and watch the way the sun gleams off the water. Oh, and there’s probably a dog jumping in that water, too.

Andrea Wang: Perfect is baking a tasty treat from scratch in a cozy kitchen with my kids and nieces, with music on in the background and laughter and chatter and flour all around.

Jason Gallaher: Perfect is a day on the beach, a book in my bag, my pup snuggled up next to me, with my partner by my side.


Perfect is also reading Elly’s FINDING PERFECT! You can grab a copy starting today at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore. A curriculum guide can also be found here.


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He would also describe perfect as meeting Anjelica Huston and becoming BFFs. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


Filed under Book Launch, Uncategorized

Interview with STEP RIGHT UP editor, Louise May

The launch of Donna Janell Bowman’s STEP RIGHT UP continues with an interview with Donna’s editor, Louise May of Lee & Low Books! Scroll down to read about literate horses, nonfiction editing and African safaris!

Step Right Up cover hi res

Jason Gallaher: What drew you to Donna’s portrayal of the story of Doc and Jim Key and made you want to acquire it?

Louise May: First of all, the topic of the story was just too amazing. A horse that could read, write, and spell, among many other things! Who wouldn’t find this intriguing. Donna’s portrayal stood out because of the completeness of the story, the evident research behind it, and Donna’s commitment to telling Doc and Jim’s story in the best way possible. We knew kids would love this story.

JG: How does editing nonfiction differ from editing fiction in picture books?

LM: Editing nonfiction generally differs from editing fiction in the amount of research and vetting required. As an editor, you rely on your author to do all the primary and secondary research necessary, but to edit nonfiction effectively, you also have to educate yourself about the subject. And after all that, it is still necessary to have experts vet the manuscript and for a sensitivity reader to review it. It’s an incredible amount of work, but well worth the effort. Our goal is to present both an accurate and engaging story for readers.

JG: Daniel Minter’s illustrations are so vibrant. What about his illustrations made you think they were perfect for this story?

LM: The period feel, the dramatic compositions, the vibrant colors, the strong graphic quality—all these aspects of Daniel’s art work together to create images that bring Doc and Jim to life. When looking for an illustrator for this book, as soon as we came across Daniel’s work, we knew he was the one we wanted to illustrate Donna’s book.

JG: Finish this sentence: This picture book is perfect for…

LM: everyone! There are so many appealing themes in this book; there is something for everyone who enjoys a good story.

JG: Doc and Jim’s story carries a wonderful message of compassion and kindness toward animals. What’s the most remarkable or special animal you’ve ever encountered in your life?

LM: I am not a pet person or especially keen on domestic animals in general, but I have a love of wild animals in their natural habitats. I have been to southern Africa three times on wildlife safaris. The first time I was on safari we set out on our first game drive, crossed through a low river, turned a corner—and there was the most amazing, gigantic giraffe alongside the road. I will never forget the thrill of that first encounter.

Thank you so much for your time, Louise!

You can grab your own copy of Donna Janell Bowman’s STEP RIGHT UP on October 15 at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Donna is also giving away a signed copy of her book! All you have to do is comment on any of the posts celebrating Donna’s launch this week, and a winner will be randomly selected!


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All I Want from You is…Your Voice!

Okay, as you can tell from the title, I may or may not be a little bit robsessed with The Little Mermaid. But that quote from Ursula in particular has a lot to do with my writing style when I write MG manuscripts.

Once I’m done with my first draft, I always have to go back and amp up the voices of my secondary characters. My protagonist is often screaming out and proud about who she or he is, but those sidekicks are sometimes waving in the background saying, “Hello? Can you hear me?!”

So I’ve had to create a way to hear those voices in my head and let them out. This entails finding things to listen to, watch or read that have strong voices and get into that mental rhythm of picking up on what makes a person’s voice unique and stand out. Here’s a list of some of the things I love featuring strong voices that help get me into that voice-amping mind space!


Candice Bergen’s memoir, A Fine Romance. I love me a good audiobiography, and this one is at the top of my list. Candice tells the tale of her romance with her first husband and the bond she created with their daughter, all while reliving her Murphy Brown days and how she had to be a strong and resilient woman to gain successes in her relationships and career. Plus, she reads it all in her signature Bergen cadence. I could listen to this again and again.

Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl’s Psychobabble Podcast. This weekly pop culture podcast is zany, timely and often times inappropriate. I can go from laughing out loud one minute to shaking my head in my mother’s signature “I can’t believe they just said that” head shake. But regardless of my reaction, Tyler and Korey have voices that feel so authentically them that I can’t help but be inspired to write characters with voices just as strong.


Any and every Real Housewives franchise. These shows are full of CHARACTERS, and they all have signature catchphrases or quotes. Just to list a few: “Bloop!” “Chic c’est la vie!” “I’m Gone with the Wind fabulous!” “We’re gonna whoop it up!” “Jesus fix it!” “Be cool. Don’t be all like…uncool;” “Watch out Maloof hoof, the Vanderpump is on its way…!” I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea that if you don’t have your own voice, you’re not going to be a Housewife. (PS – If they ever need a fella to be on any of the franchises, I already have my tagline picked out… So call me, Andy Cohen)


The Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate (also known as Katherine Applegate). I was so insanely, at-the-bookstore-the-moment-it-opens obsessed with this series when it was first published and I still love it! I read a few of the books every year, and I am just in awe how each of the main characters feels so distinct. If you haven’t read it, each book is narrated by a different character in this group of kids that has acquired an alien technology that allows them to morph into different animals. Marco, the funny guy, was my first book crush. Cassie, the animal lover, was the first character I ever read that I thought I could learn something from based on her kindness and ability to think of others. Not only was Applegate able to make one strong voice, she was able to create SIX and keep it up! *Bows down*

Just writing this post has made a few new voices swim around my head. I got to get to writing (and catching up on my DVR/podcasts).


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. If he had to pick his favorite Real Housewives franchise it would be Beverly Hills, and he once had a dream that he was an Animorph and morphed into a chicken. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


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Interview with 10 BUSY BROOMS Editor, Michael Joosten

I am super excited to announce that we are celebrating one particular Emu this week, and that’s Carole Gerber. Her new picture book, 10 BUSY BROOMS, comes out TOMORROW!! All of us in the nest are so excited, and we are dedicating a post to Carole’s book launch every day this week. To kick off the celebration, I had the opportunity to interview Michael Joosten, the editor of 10 BUSY BROOMS. Read below to see us discuss the trickiness of rhyme, wobbly brooms and Meryl Streep costumes!


Jason Gallaher: Picture book writers often hear that holiday books can be a hard sell. What drew you to Carole’s story?

Michael Joosten: I definitely gravitated toward the fact that the text felt classic, but also felt fresh and fun. That’s a very tricky line to navigate and Carole does it seamlessly. Also, to many people, rhyme is viewed as simple/easy. It’s actually the complete opposite and it’s especially difficult to do it well. Carole makes it look effortless which contributes to the magic of the book.

JG: What was the editorial process like? Were there many changes in the witches and their brooms from when you first saw the work to what we read now?

MJ: The final version of the book is very close to what was originally submitted. Carole and I both discussed some minor word changes in order to fine tune a few lines, but because her work was so strong to begin with, we didn’t have to revisit much. Working with Carole is like having a great tennis partner. It’s so much fun to go back and forth.

JG: Michael Fleming’s illustrations make me want to hang out with all the monsters in this Halloween world (especially the foul-breathed werewolf!). How did you find and select Michael to work on this project?

MJ: When I started at Random House in 2010, I stumbled across Michael’s work in an anthology of illustrators. I shared it with my colleagues and everyone fell in love with it and I was able to sign him up to illustrate one of our Step into Reading books, Twinky the Dinky Dog. I am always looking at his website ( because his work is absolutely incredible, and while perusing it one day, I saw several witch illustrations he created. I always kept him in mind in the event a Halloween manuscript came my way. As soon as I read Carole’s text, I immediately thought of Michael and and how he was the perfect person for the project. Like Carole’s work, Michael has an incredibly rare duality of feeling classic and modern all at once. I was over the moon – or should I say broom – when he came on board.

JG: There are so many fantastic spreads to choose from, but do you have a favorite?

MJ: I think it would have to be the spread where the the broom begins to wiggle and wobble and sends the witches on a rollercoaster ride in the sky. Michael really captured the movement and dynamics of it perfectly.

JG: And just for fun: What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever seen or dressed up as yourself?

MJ: It was the year Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady came out. My friend Anthony became particularly inspired. He was a spectacular Lady Thatcher (the wig was epic).

Huge thanks for hanging out with us in the Emu nest, Michael!

Don’t forget, you can pick up your very own copy of 10 BUSY BROOMS tomorrow! You can find it on IndieBound, Barnes & NobleAmazon and your local bookstore!


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He dressed up as a Knotty Librarian—a librarian covered in knots—last Halloween, but is now seriously considering going as Meryl Streep. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


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