Category Archives: Book Launch

MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN: interview with Terry Pierce & Carol Schwartz

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I had the privilege of meeting author Terry Pierce a couple of years ago at a retreat. Her new book is brilliantly beautiful–a dream come true for science teachers. This book has gorgeous illustrations, as well as a bit of mystery. Who is lurking? And what is the surprise? Find out in this playful rhyme.

Terry is giving away a FREE COPY!!!  Just leave a comment below to enter.

I chose to ask the same questions to both the author and illustrator, to gain two different perspectives. Terry is the author of more than a dozen books, and Carol has illustrated more than 3 dozen!

Welcome Terry and Carol. I’m honored to be able to interview the duo that created this delightful book.

🐞 What inspires you?

Terry: Nature. Most of my books have some aspect of nature in them. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, the desert or simply observing a beautiful garden, nature fascinates me. As a child, I could sit in a tree for hours! As an adult, I don’t climb trees anymore but still find myself in nature for long periods of time. It’s calming, peaceful and inspiring.

Carol: Nature, the endless wonder and beauty of it all, inspires me every day. I take great pleasure in the study and research of creatures and plants. They reveal patterns, designs, colors, texture and uniqueness. There is so much to learn and interpret through my art.

🐞 How long have you been doing your craft?

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)Terry: I started writing for children in 1999. For ten years, I attended SCBWI events and read books to develop my writing skills. Then in 2009, I began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, which deepened my craft knowledge tenfold. It’s an amazing program I highly recommend.

Carol: I like to say I’ve been practicing my craft all my life. My mother says that at the age of a year and a half I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and it looked like Mickey. I started illustrating children’s books in 1989 with a local publisher in Maryland where I lived at the time. Two years later I had an agent and a Hyperion Press trade book, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme. Now sixty books later, I am still energized with each new project. They are all so different and, fortunately, there are tools I’ve learned throughout my career that help me to navigate the challenges associated with illustrating a picture book.

🐞 What kind of medium do you use?

Terry: I always write my first draft of a picture book with pencil and notepad. I love the feel of writing by hand as the words flow from my brain through my arm to my hand, then finally onto the paper. Doing it this way also slows the process, allowing me to be more mindful of my writing. After the first (very messy) draft, I type the story onto my computer and revise on printed drafts.

carol-schwartzCarol: I work primarily in gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. The opaque or transparent quality, depending on how thick the paint is mixed, make this medium versatile. Gouache is quick drying, which means no waiting time. That comes in handy when working under a deadline, which is most of the time. I also work in Photoshop. It has become indispensable in creating final art for books. I make a high resolution scan of my traditional work and continue to paint in Photoshop. Many details I used to hand render are now finished in Photoshop. In past years I depended on an airbrush for adding large smooth backgrounds or creating smooth textures. Now I use Photoshop to do the same thing.

🐞 How did you get started in the industry?

Terry: I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to try writing children’s books. She told me about the SCBWI so I joined. They’re a fantastic organization for anyone who wants to learn to write for kids. They’re what got me started and pushed me in the right direction. If it weren’t for my local SCBWI chapter, I wouldn’t have had my early publication successes.

Carol: I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, spending my senior year at Rhode Island School of Design in a mobility program. This gave me a good foundation to be an illustrator. When I decided to concentrate on illustrating picture books, I began attending every conference and workshop I could find. At a seminar in Maryland I signed up to have my portfolio critiqued by an artist’s representative. In time she became my agent and I began illustrating a long line of trade books for publishers such as Hyperion, Scholastic, Grosset & Dunlap and Sterling.

🐞 What is a good piece of advice you would give?

Terry: This is the toughest question! There’s so much good advice to give but what rings true to them all is to be persistent. Keep at it even when the going gets extraordinarily tough (and it will!). No matter what phase of writing you’re in, whether you’re developing your craft, submitting your work, or marketing your work, don’t give up! Identify your mistakes, learn from them and keep going. If you learn and persist, you’ll find success.

Carol: Believe in what you are doing. Become a mini expert in whatever the subject matter is you are illustrating or writing about. Find a way to get really excited about the subject. For me, its research that gives me inspiration and lets me know how to illustrate my subject.

🐞 Do you like gardening? Why did you choose to illustrate this book?

Terry: When I was a Montessori teacher, we had a school garden and I greatly enjoyed gardening with the children. There’s something about putting your hands in the soil, being close the earth, caring for the seedlings and watching them grow to maturity that’s amazing for kids. But that’s not what this book is really about…it’s about what happens in a garden! So why did I write it?

I had decided I wanted to write a cumulative story (where the text builds on itself). I recalled that my Montessori students LOVED Arnold Lobel’s cumulative book, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I looked at that story as a mentor text. Of course, my story had to be different (his showcased flowers), so I pondered how I might keep the same setting, but change the focus, plot and characters. I knew most kids love bugs so I decided to focus on bugs and other animals that inhabit a garden. Then when I got the idea to include the surprise element of the developing chrysalis I was ready to write (which meant a lot of playing with words—my favorite part of writing!).

Carol: I am a long time gardener and much of what I know I learned by illustrating gardening articles for the Home section of The Washington Post newspaper. Much of my gardening has been in the Mid-Atlantic region but I’ve also tended gardens in the South and Midwest. Working to make plants grow and being rewarded with flowers makes me smile. What could be better that illustrating that happy feeling of growing all those beautiful flowers with my paints.

🐞 What are some of your favorite insects?

Terry: When I was a kid, I loved “wooly bears.”  fuzzy
I mean, what kid could resist picking one up one of these cute little fuzzy guys? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out they turn into tiger moths!

As an adult, I think one of the coolest insects is the praying mantis (which also happens to be one of my favorite illustrations in the book!). Praying mantises are the rule-breakers of insects. They’re the only one that can turn their head 180 degrees (imagine the advantage that gives them), and after mating the female bites off the male’s head! And the way they hold their front legs ready to strike their prey, yeah, mantises are pretty cool.

Carol: I love how dragonflies and praying mantises look like big, alien creatures. Beetles are interesting because they come in an amazing variety of shapes sizes, colors and patterns. Who doesn’t like butterflies and moths for their many colors and patterns? I respect ants for their eusocial society but I hate coming in contact with them, especially fire ants.

🐞 As a child, what were your favorite books?

fave-books2Terry: I loved any of Dr. Seuss’s books. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was another favorite, along with GENTLE BEN by Walt Morey and RASCAL by Sterling North. Even as a child, books with nature and/or animals appealed to me. Oh, and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a girl after my own heart. Being a tomboy, I saw myself in Pippi. I probably read that book perched in a tree!

fave-booksCarol: I remember favorite childhood books as old friends, there was Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes. I had a bookcase full of Little Golden Books and two large volumes of nature books, Children’s Guide to Knowledge. That’s where I learned of extraordinary creatures such as giant clams, flying squirrels and a strange bird with an extra long tail called a quetzal. Those books fascinated me and, I believe, were the start of my love of nonfiction.

🐞Terry is giving away a FREE signed copy of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. Just add a comment below to enter.

If you’d like to know more about Terri and Carol, please visit their websites:

https://terrypiercebooks.com

http://www.csillustration.com

🐞LINKS TO CRAFTS:

Bug jar:

https://momeefriendsli.com/2013/09/04/diy-bug-jar-for-kids/

Make a footprint grasshopper:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/212935888610838461/

Make a colourful paper chain caterpillar with  wobbly eyes and antennae:

http://www.peekyme.com.au/take-a-peek


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About the interviewer: Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, cover art, Illustrating, Illustrators, Interviews, Picture books, Uncategorized, Writing

A Conversation with Vanessa Brantley-Newton, illustrator of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER

I’d like to start this post by noting that the subject of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, the late Audrey Faye Hendricks, was nine years old when she was imprisoned for her civil rights activism. She remained in prison—real prison—for a week. She was locked in a cell. Interrogated by adult strangers. She was in danger, both inside the prison and after her release. She is an American hero. As of this post, she does not have a Wikipedia page.

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“I’d never heard of Audrey Faye Hendricks,” says Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of over 75 books. vanessa-brantley-newton“When I read Cynthia Levinson’s manuscript, it broke me. It made me cry. I became fascinated by Audrey. I read the manuscript to myself and then had someone read it to me. Right away, I could see the pictures—that’s very important.”

Vanessa goes on to detail aspects of her research, “I read Cynthia’s previous book on the Children’s March, WE’VE GOT A JOB TO DO, and weve-got-a-jobwatched the PBS program on the event. I wanted my work to be emotional—to make it clear that Audrey was a child. As I worked, I listened to music from that time, songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” With one exception early in the process, Vanessa and the author did not actively collaborate on the project. “Cynthia wanted to see how I portrayed Martin Luther King Jr.—a friend of Audrey’s family—and once I showed her the sketch, we didn’t need to consult again.”

Like all of Vanessa’s work, THE YOUNGEST MARCHER glows with color and shimmers with texture. the-youngest-marcher“I’m a retro girl, heart and soul,” Vanessa says. “I love the colors of the sixties and seventies, the reds and oranges together.” She scanned vintage fabrics and included photographs in her collage work. Her use of marbleized paper adds swirling atmosphere to the image of a small, beloved child curled up on a prison cot.

Despite her age, Audrey’s bright-eyed conviction is made plain in Vanessa’s illustrations. As she heeds Dr. King’s call to fill the prisons, as she boards the police van in her starched skirt, bobby socks, and pink hair ribbons, she is full of hope and might as easily be headed to school or church. Although younger than the other marchers, she remains stalwart until the prisons are full to bursting and all are released. Hope intact, Audrey Faye Hendricks emerges to her parents’ arms and a changed world, one she helped to create.

“I hope that people can be inspired by my work,” Vanessa says. “As a child, I never saw children of color in books. We have this wonderful ability as authors and illustrators to tell stories that encompass what children go through so that kids feel included, like someone has captured their real world.”

I’d like to thank Vanessa for her time and for all of her efforts to bring Audrey Faye Hendricks and her story to vibrant, visual life. I’d like to thank author Cynthia Levinson for writing the story of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. I’m glad and grateful to know about this remarkable story of courage.


Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Activism, Book Launch, Celebrations, Character Development, Characters, cover art, Creativity, Illustrators, Inspiration, Interviews, Launch, Picture books, process, Research, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Activism, Book Launch, civil rights, Uncategorized

Family Recipes

This week we’re celebrating the launch of Cynthia Levinson’s debut picture book, The Youngest Marcher, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

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In 1963 in the city of Birmingham Alabama, when Audrey Faye Hendricks was in elementary school, she was inspired by dinner guests Dr. Martin Luther King, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and Reverend James Bevel. She didn’t think it was right that she couldn’t sit at the counter to eat ice cream, sit at the front of the bus, or ride the nice elevator at the department store with the white folks. So when the idea came to have a Children’s March and fill the jail with children to protest the inequity, Audrey volunteered. She was the youngest marcher and was in jail for a long seven days, which led to Birmingham rescinding its segregation ordinances. This is a powerful story about how one young girl made a difference by standing up for what she believed in.

One of the first things Audrey ate when she was released from jail was her mother’s Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter, a favorite. When Audrey and her sister grew up, they didn’t have a recipe but they experimented until they came up with something that tasted just like their mother’s rolls. The recipe is included in the book.

Today, authors share some of their favorite recipes that are associated with good memories and family.

Jason Gallaher: Here’s a recipe I absolutely love that has been passed through all the members of my family forever and ever. It’s beef stroganoff, so it’s nothing monumental or insanely unique, but all the family meals I’ve had with this make it so my heart soars whenever I know we are having it for dinner!

Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 – 10 1/2 ounce can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
Sliced mushrooms
2 tbsps ketchup
3-4 squirts of soy sauce
Dash of garlic
Brown the meat, onion, and mushrooms. Add remaining ingredients and heat through. Don’t boil. Serve over your favorite noodle or rice.
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Heather Bouwman: We have a super-easy recipe for “Green Eggs and (vegetarian) Ham” that was a go-to dish when my kids were little (and still something they ask for today). I created it by tweaking a quiche recipe into something much simpler…and then gave it a name that I thought would make the kids want to eat it.
Green Eggs and Ham
5 – 6 eggs
roll of refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury or other)
about 3 cups of fresh or frozen broccoli florets (thawed)
maybe a tablespoon of dijon mustard
feta cheese–about 1/2 cup
Baco’s or other vegetarian bacon
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Set oven to 350º
Steam the broccoli until it is very soft.
Butter the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Spread the crescent rolls out in the pan to make a crust. Brush generously with dijon mustard and sprinkle with feta. Set aside.
In a blender or with a hand blender, blend the soft broccoli with a little bit of egg until pureed. Small chunks are fine. Add the rest of the eggs and blend until frothy. Add a little pepper if desired and mix in.
Pour egg mixture slowly over feta. Sprinkle bacos on top. Cook about 20 minutes, until egg is set. (Dish will not rise–it’ll be more like tart height than quiche height.)
Read Green Eggs and Ham while eating.
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 Elly Swartz: My favorite family recipe is my mom’s chicken soup.  Made with a whole chicken, carrots, celery, onion, cooked slow for 5 hours and served with so much love.  My mom made this soup for Passover, and every time anyone in my family had a fever, a cough, a runny nose. She passed away over 20 years ago, but each time my kitchen fills with the smell of chicken soup, I think of her and am so grateful for all the love she ladled.
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Debbi Michiko Florence: The one thing that always reminds me of home and family is inari sushi, or as we affectionally used to call it, footballs. Mom always served these at family potlucks and holiday celebrations. I tried to make them a few years ago for New Year’s, and they were good, but not as good as the ones my mom made. A lot probably had to do with the fact that Mom made them for us.
Very Easy Inari
2 cups of cooked sushi rice
1 can of inari age or fried bean curd (found in Asian markets)
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Open can and carefully remove the fried bean curd. Open inari and scoop a small ball of  slightly cooled cooked rice into the pocket. Repeat until you use up all the fried bean curds. Serve and enjoy!
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What are your favorite recipes that remind you of home/family? We’d love to hear about them!

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Filed under Book Launch, Launch, Picture books

The Surreal, the Sublime, and the Journey Itself

The time has come for me to leave the Emu nest, and I’d like to end my time here with three quick vignettes:

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First, the surreal. Many Emus use their introductory post to talk about getting The Call (wherein their agent tells them they have a book deal). I decided to save my story of The Call for my farewell post, not knowing that the post would appear exactly two years after that life-changing day. So here’s my story:

On December 5, 2014, I had been on submission for almost two years with three different manuscripts, and I had convinced myself that I loved writing for writing’s sake and it was okay if I was the person who always came close but never quite got a book deal. Some days I even believed this. I had taken a full time teaching job partly because I needed to feel like I was contributing again, rather than just writing stories that would likely never find readers. On that fateful Friday, I taught my last lectures of fall semester, came home, and made myself a plate of nachos as a reward. (This is literally the first time since high school that I had eaten nachos as an after-school snack.) I had just sat down when my seven-year-old daughter came running in with my phone.

“Mom,” she said. “It says it’s..Ammi-Joan Paquette?” (She would have known who was calling if it had just said “Joan.” 🙂

I had hoped for that call for so long that the hope had faded, almost entirely away. I’d dreamed that dream so long that it seemed impossible for The Call to be anything other than a dream, an oasis on the horizon that recedes with every step. It was truly surreal. And yet, there I was, crying into my nachos. It happened, folks.

The second story is of the sublime. I had many teachers who inspired and nurtured me and helped me grow, but none more than my first grade teacher, Kathryn Ipson. She helped me write and illustrate my first story, The Big Bad Pig. She sensed that I needed a challenge and got a computer in our classroom (at a time when nobody had a computer in the classroom), taught me to type, and set me free. We stayed in touch through the years, and when I visited her as a college student and told her my plans to get a PhD and become a professor, she said, “That’s wonderful. The most important thing is to find a job where you’re helping people.” That one statement lingers with me still, and although it didn’t change my professional plans, it changed my priorities.

On October 18, my first book, Like Magic, was published. I had a launch party at our local independent bookstore, and at times the line snaked to the back of the store. The most accurate (if cliched) way to describe that night is a dream come true. But perhaps the most sublime and wonderful moment of that night was when the crowd parted and there was Mrs. Ipson, standing in line with a copy of the book. I showed her her name in the acknowledgments. We hugged and cried a little. A few days later, Mrs. Ipson found me on Facebook and said that she had finished reading and she expected my book would win the Newbery. Okay, I suspect it won’t, but to have someone who has believed since I was very small that I was capable of anything–someone who continues to believe it–well, that is incredibly meaningful.

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Mrs. Ipson finds her name in the acknowledgments of Like Magic (photo by Brooke MacNaughtan)

There have been other moments that have been almost this magical–many, in fact. Signing books in the gorgeous Salt Lake City Library, where my characters spend much of the story. Receiving my first starred review. Finding out that the book had sold in Scandinavia, and that this story was about to find its way into other lands and languages. Meeting and hearing from bright and diverse readers who have connected with the story. Beautiful, unforgettable moments.

If you’re a writer, and you don’t give up, you will have these moments too–even if it feels like you will always be stuck in the spot where you are right now. But the more I think about this whole debut experience, the more moments of joy I see in the journey itself. Evenings gathered with my critique partners. Time spent in workshops when I’m taught something that sparks an idea inside me. Moments at the computer, alone with my characters, when I struggle and struggle and finally get that scene or sentence just right.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

-Jenkin Lloyd Jones

The last few years have been unforgettable and exhausting, yet I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. Thank you, thank you, to the Emus and to all who have shared this journey with me. And for all of us, no matter what stage of the expedition, may we find joy and be truly thankful for the ride.


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Advice, Book Launch, Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, Patience, The Call, Uncategorized, waiting

Book Resources for The Nian Monster

Xingling, the main character in THE NIAN MONSTER, is a resourceful girl. When confronted by a ravenous monster, she keeps her wits about her in order to fend Nian off. She’s not afraid to ask for help, either. Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get THE NIAN MONSTER into the hands of readers. I heard over and over how everybody loves freebies. So in addition to swag like bookmarks and magnets, I decided to offer additional book-related resources. And, like Xingling, I reached out and asked for help from my community — the wonderful kidlit community.

Here are a few of the resources that were created for my book:

A Teacher’s Guide: Arguably, not every picture book needs a teacher’s guide, especially if it’s fiction. But I felt that there were enough cultural and geographical aspects to my book that a teacher, librarian, or parent might appreciate a guide with more information about Chinese New Year, curriculum-related activities, and discussion questions. I discovered that teacher’s guides can vary in length and cost. Being a debut author, I opted to hire Anna Chan Rekate, a debut teacher’s guide writer, but also a very experienced elementary school teacher. Anna did an amazing job — she even included a personal recipe for sesame noodles! You can download a copy of the teacher’s guide here.

A Book-Related Craft: I confess, I LOVE crafts. My basement is filled with boxes of craft materials and random objects that I save just in case I might need them for a craft. I did a lot of crafts with my sons when they were younger and I knew it would be great to have an activity for after my story time events. Kids love things that they can make themselves and bring home, plus it connects them to the story in a different, more tactile way. The incredibly creative Kirsten Cappy of Curious City (try saying that 3x fast!) developed an origami bookmark craft and illustrator Alina Chau drew the Nian Monster so that it looks like Nian is “eating” the corner of your page! Download the template here and make a Nian bookmark with your kids (or for yourself)! Kirsten and her intern Sophia even made an instructional video, which you can watch below or on YouTube.

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The Nian Monster bookmark will chomp on your page!

 

An Event Kit: I knew I needed to reach teachers and librarians, but I was at a loss about how to do so. Again, Kirsten Cappy came to my rescue. She has access to an extensive network of educators. Kirsten recommended creating an event kit so that educators could make story time with THE NIAN MONSTER an interactive experience. The event kit includes instructions and a template for creating a giant Nian mask. An adult can pretend to be Nian or the kids can “feed” Nian fish, noodles, and sticky rice cake just like in the book (fake fish are used — no live fish will be harmed during story time). The event kit is available at Curious City.

Here's me channeling my inner Nian Monster!

Here’s me channeling my inner Nian Monster!

Whether your book has yet to be sold or is headed for publication, it’s not too early to think about what kinds of resources you want to offer your readers. I added an Author’s Note to THE NIAN MONSTER when it was still in manuscript form, explaining the symbolism of the Chinese New Year foods in the story. If there’s an aspect of your story that you think readers would like to know more about, you might consider adding a short Author’s Note as well. And if you decide against it, there are plenty of opportunities to develop and offer educational resources after publication.

Good luck and thank you for celebrating my book launch week with me! Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post (or any EMUs Debuts post this week) to be entered into a giveaway of THE NIAN MONSTER.


andrea-wang-author-photo-2016

Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster (Albert Whitman & Co., December 2016), is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market and is working on a middle grade novel. Andrea is a former environmental consultant and now writes full-time. She recently moved from the Boston area to Denver, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog that will do anything for food. That pretty much describes her family, too.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com, on Twitter under @AndreaYWang, and on Instagram as @andreawhywang.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Education, Picture books, resources, Uncategorized

What would You Do If You Encountered THE NIAN MONSTER???

Today we continue our celebration of the release of Andrea Wang’s picture book, The Nian Monster.

nianmonstercover

I found so many things I loved about this book that it’s hard to focus on just one. Alina Chau’s illustrations are delightful (such a scary yet adorable Nian monster!). The notion of societal complacency requiring a sharp mind to resolve a problem it created gives a message of hope. But the writing is what struck me the most.

Andrea did a fabulous job of seamlessly weaving Chinese New Year traditions into a fiction story. It’s a lovely read, as we follow Xingling’s story of how she outsmarts the Nian monster, but along the way we’re enriched with culture. We hear the words and sounds, taste the foods, see the colors and of course, get to know that rascally Nian monster himself!

For a bit of fun, watch The Nian Monster book trailer.

 

When Andrea shared the book trailer with our flock of EMUs, a question came to mind:

What would you do if you encountered the Nian Monster?

So, I asked the wonderful folks here at EMU’s Debuts for their responses…

Elly Swartz: If I came face-to-face with the Nian monster, likely I would scream first. But then, in the hollow echo of my voice, I’d swallow my scared and reach out to the Nian monster. After all, something must connect us? Is it chocolate? Crossword puzzles? Going for a walk? Maybe it’s just a day hanging out with your favorite friend or a monster.

Debbi Michiko Florence: What would I do if I encountered the Nian Monster? Honestly? I’d probably scream and run for my life! But in a different world, I would like to believe I’d behave as cleverly and bravely as Xingling does. Maybe I’d trick the Nian Monster into taking a stroll to the river. I’d tell him about the delicious oysters and lobster we have in coastal Connecticut. Then he would jump into the river, and perhaps a big current would sweep him out to sea.

Christina Uss: My kids and I just watched Andrea’s trailer and our responses were:

Jack (age 9): “Hide.”

Me (age 43): “Run!”

Jack again: I’m changing my answer to “Run and then hide.”

Susannah (age 9) but sounding like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings: “Fight.”

Me and Jack: “We’re changing our answers. If you tell us how, we will stay and fight with you.”

*There’s nothing like a family who sticks together!

Terry Pierce:  For me personally, whenever I’ve felt threatened, I typically “freeze” while simultaneously trying to keep a level head. With the Nian Monster, I think my “level headed” response would offer to bake him a batch of my amazing chocolate chip cookies. Homemade cookies always have a way of taming even the wildest beast! And through a mutual love of baked goods, we could strike up a conversation and find other things to chat about.

You’ve seen how Xingling and a few EMUs have responded. Now, ask yourself (if you haven’t already), what would YOU do if the Nian Monster came after you?

*Andrea will be giving away a copy of The Nian Monster — just comment on one of the posts this week to enter!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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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.

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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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s a Celebration!

Congratulations to Emu’s Debuter Andrea Wang on her fabulous debut picture book The Nian Monster, illustrated by Alina Chau.

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When the Nian Monster threatens to ruin the New Year’s celebration in Shanghai, clever and brave Xingling thwarts the monster and saves the city! I love so many things about this book, from the witty and upbeat Xingling to the bright and fun illustrations, but best of all, I love the descriptions of the food! MMmmm! So, I thought it would be appropriate  to start off Andrea’s launch week celebration by asking the Emu’s what their favorite holiday foods are.

Elly Swartz: My favorite holiday food is my husband’s homemade, strawberry, banana, cream pie. He makes it once a year for my birthday. This time of year coincides with Thanksgiving, so every turkey day, it’s our much anticipated dessert.  And, since I’ve become gluten and dairy free over the years, this pie takes a whole lot of love to make. What I love about it? To me, this pie is so much more than post-Thanksgiving breakfast, it’s family in a pie plate. It’s the time of year we are all together, sharing, laughing, loving. This pie is all the wonderment of family. All that I am grateful for.

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Terry Pierce: First, just ONE??? I have so many amazing memories of my family eating together during the holidays, but the one food item that just makes me smile is PIE. Everyone in my family LLLLOVES pie! For holiday dinners, we’d always have three pies (always a pecan because that’s my mom’s specialty, an apple because it’s my son’s favorite, and either pumpkin or chocolate). Pie is simply perfection on a fork!

But, probably the most memorable “holiday food memory” that I have with pie came at Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s home. My “sweeter-than-pie” mother-in-law was trying to spray whipped cream onto my father-in-law’s slice of pumpkin pie and for some reason, the whipped cream sprayed upward and into his face! He said, “What the heck, Dolly! What’d you do that for?” as he wiped the cream from his cheeks. We were all trying to suppress our laughter as she explained that she didn’t know, that the can malfunctioned. She said, “Let me try again” and then did the exact same thing! There sat my father-in-law, his face white with cream. At that point, everyone at the table completely lost it. Even my in-laws were laughing by then. Since then, I’ve never been able to look at a can of whipped cream without smiling at that memory.

Hayley Barrett: Every year I make a lamb-shaped cake for Easter. It’s a lemony pound cake dusted with powdered sugar. I add purple jelly bean eyes and a pink jelly bean nose. When my kids were little, we’d eat it after coloring eggs with the cousins. Now we usually have it for breakfast on Easter morning.

Like any traditional food, it takes a good bit of work to make. Results are not guaranteed, and occasionally I have to reattach a broken nose or missing ear with frosting. Sometimes I think I’ll skip it, but as the holiday gets closer, I always pull out the heavy aluminum mold and reach for the lemon zester. Easter isn’t Easter without Lambie Cake!

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Sweets are definitely awesome, but some Emu Debuters, lean toward the savory.

Christina Uss: My favorite holiday celebration food item is kielbasa, also known as polish sausage.

I think the two reasons it makes me so happy are:

1. My love of meat in tube form (hot dogs are also a favorite of mine) and

2. The fact I’m 100% Polish and my extended family always has kielbasa on the table at almost any and every holiday event.

This year I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house and made the choice to skip the turkey and replace it with two lovely locally-made garlicky pink kielbasas!

Darcy Rosenblatt: Oh so many to choose from but I have to go with matzo ball soup. Made by my grandmother when I was very little and then by my mother as I was growing up. The day before Passover it fills the house with yummy smells. Rich chicken soup with lighter than air matzo balls! It’s always a delicious way to start the meal after the long Passover service. (Everyone gets hungry). Some in my family only eat it on Passover, but we have adopted a new recipe – hot and sour matzo ball soup and we have it for smaller special occasions all year round. Yum. I think I’ll make some today with the turkey left overs!

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Debbi Michiko Florence: Fried won tons remind me of New Year’s Day celebration with my extended family. Growing up, New Year’s Day (not eve) was the big celebratory event in our family. Mom and aunts and grandma would cook a big feast and the rest of us would nosh all day. When I was old enough, I got to help make the won tons, scooping the meat mixture with a spoon and placing it carefully in the center of a square won ton skin.  It made eating the crispy fried treat all the more delicious! Now that our family is scattered around the country, we don’t get together regularly for the holidays. I miss those big family gatherings and all day feasting at the start of the year.

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And from the author herself, Andrea Wang: One of my favorite holiday celebration foods is the Chinese sticky rice stuffing my mom and grandma used to make for every Thanksgiving. It was full of shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp. Not only did it taste amazing (especially when my grandma used real lard instead of vegetable oil), but when combined with the traditional American turkey, it was the perfect fusion of East and West. I loved being able to celebrate my Chinese heritage at Thanksgiving.

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What is your favorite holiday food? Whatever it is, be sure to check out what clever Xingling does to thwart the Nian Monster in Andrea’s debut picture book. I promise it’s a delicious story!

Andrea will be giving away one copy of The Nian Monster this week. Just leave a comment on any of this week’s posts to enter!


web_edit6xx8t3624Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her rabbit, Aki, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux on July 11, 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books.

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Terry and Mark Then

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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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!

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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)

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