Category Archives: Celebrations

So much to celebrate when a book is being born!

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

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

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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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Picture books, Uncategorized

In It Together

 

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Goodbye often feels like concrete. Hard and unforgiving.  But today, it feels like something else. Something warm and kind and filled with possibility.

On October 18th, my middle grade debut novel, Finding Perfect, found its way into the world. So today it’s my turn to say goodbye to my fellow Emu Debuts. My Emus are so much more than a group of debut authors; they’re a family. A wonderful, loving, supportive writing family. Together, we have traveled the path of publication to our first novels, shared our insecurities, our worries, our excitement and our joy. Together we have learned the power and the gift of the written word. Together we have learned the true mean of dreams come true.  I am beyond grateful for all of their book love and author cheers along the way. I am truly honored to have shared this journey with each and every one of them.

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I will miss my Emus, but know in my heart of hearts that they will remain a part of my life. We will continue to share the next steps together. Not in the enclave of the nest, but in our retreats, our pages, and our friendships. So, as my time as an Emu Debut is ending, something else is beginning.  I have faith that this something else will be filled with wonderful reads, amazing friendships, gracious educators, and incredible students. I am excited to see what adventures come next.

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Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendships, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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LIKE MAGIC Launch Week: Our Biggest Summers

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Elaine Vickers LIKE MAGIC is a lovely story about Grace, Jada, and Malia, three girls looking to belong. It’s a story about the biggest summer of their lives, the summer so much changes. Talking about this special summer got Emus thinking about the biggest summer of their childhood. Twelve to thirteen seemed to be the sweet spot for these Emus.

Haley Barrett remembers the exact moment when she realized she wasn’t a little kid anymore. “It was a summer evening. I was at a 4H fair and on a carnival ride. We were flying and spinning and Heart’s BARRACUDA was blasting. I felt daring and pretty and like an almost-teenager.”

For Jason Gallaher his twelve-year-old summer was made special by his Grandma Joan. “She took me and my brother on a trip to the Mediterranean. We saw the south of France, the west coast of Italy, and Malta. It was the first time I had been out of the country. She may not have realized it, but Grandma made me realize how big the world was and how much of it I wanted to see. From that summer on, I knew I wouldn’t stay in my hometown as an adult – I’d go discover where on the planet I felt most myself.”

The summer Kate Slivensky was turning 13, was her second summer volunteering at the local zoo. She got to work with more exotic animals than the summer before. “My first day on the job that year, I helped a zookeeper separate fighting rhinos. I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t something they’d let a kid do. I must be growing up!’ I was really proud of myself. As an adult looking back, I have a different opinion of that moment (mild horror, to say the least). But as I write middle grade, I use it to remember what kids are capable of accomplishing. (Far more than adults give them credit for!)”

The summer Andrea Wang turned 13, her family moved from rural Ohio to a suburb of Boston. “I was a painfully self-conscious kid, and suddenly finding myself in a large, racially-diverse city was heaven. I loved the freedom of anonymity, of blending in, of being one of a crowd. I made friends with other Chinese American kids and felt seen and heard in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. That move made me feel like I could finally belong somewhere.”

Go get yourself a copy of Elaine’s LIKE MAGIC. The sweetness of the friendship summer will get you thinking about your own special summers. Here are some links where you can buy the book: Amazon, IndieBound, and B&N.


darceyhighresDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in August 2017. LOST BOYS, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, a cat and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

 

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Catching Inspiration: An Interview with LIKE MAGIC Illustrator Sara Not

All this week, the EMUs are celebrating the launch of LIKE MAGIC, a middle grade novel by Elaine Vickers. In their starred review, Kirkus calls the book “an endlessly endearing story of three girls’ pursuit of friendship and the beauty and challenge of what it means to be 10.” But you don’t have to read the review to know that — one look at the cover by Italian artist Sara Not says it all. Isn’t it exquisite?

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Since the cover is one of the first things you see when you pick up a book, I thought we’d start off our festivities with an interview with Sara. Sara worked in Milan and Paris before settling in Trieste. She has created book and magazine illustrations for many international clients, including Vanity Fair, Gioia, Myself, RCS, Pearson Italy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Random House. Please welcome Sara to the Nest!

 I am so impressed that you read the entire manuscript even though English is not your native language! Do you typically read the entire texts of books or magazine articles before beginning illustrations for them?

Yes, I do prefer reading the entire book manuscript, especially when the main subject is inspiring me on the spot, but often I do not have the time to do so due to very tight deadlines. In these specific cases, I can only read some chapters, characters descriptions, key elements of the story provided by the publisher. For magazine illustrations, of course it is different. Magazine articles are shorter so I always read them.

Coming back to LIKE MAGIC I would like to add that it was a real pleasure to read it all (and a very good exercise for my English) because the story was great and reading it all during my seaside holiday was a plus. I simply loved it.

 I love the dreamy quality of the cover and the hopeful expressions of the girls. When you first sat down to create the cover for LIKE MAGIC, what did you envision? How did you evoke a sense of the book through your art?

LIKE MAGIC made me remember when I was a little girl, with all my fragilities, doubts and insecurities but also with this great strength and immaculate purity that adults unfortunately often lose along the way.

I tried to give this sense of alliance, complicity and harmony among the girls: they are together; best friends and they look far to the stars. The stars are paper stars, a key element of the book, but here they become their aspirations, their dreams.

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That’s wonderful how you incorporated symbols from the book into the cover. What is your artistic process? Please tell us a little about the creation of this illustration.

I usually read the manuscript and let the words be on my mind for a while. The images begin to appear and I let them get out through my pencil. During the artistic process, I can draw many sketches or produce only one. It all depend on the project and inspiration of the moment. I think that an art creation is always LIKE MAGIC (smile).

For LIKE MAGIC, I initially created many concepts, selected four sketches and sent them to the Art Director.

When the final decision was made, I then applied the ultimate line (in this case a simple pencil, elsewhere nib and ink or brush) and, for last, the coloring in Photoshop.

Can you share any of the other sketches that you were considering for the book cover? How did you choose the final cover design?

Sure. Below are the four proposals for the final cover. As you will notice, the one that I had not colored yet was the publisher’s choice. The idea of the three girls on the swoosh was used for the back cover illustration.

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Those covers are all so beautiful. I would have a hard time trying to decide which one to use! You also create illustrations for many different magazines. How is working on a children’s book cover different from a magazine illustration?

Magazines and Children’s Books are obviously targeting two different readers markets. When I work on an illustration for a women’s magazine, I have to be versatile and able to speak a different language but always keeping in mind that my style should be recognizable. Often for magazines, you have only few days to give your art, especially if you are working for a weekly magazine, while for children’s book covers usually you can take your time. I find myself very fortunate to work with different environments because it can only be beneficial to my creativity and artistic evolution.

Speaking about your creativity, LIKE MAGIC is about three girls who find inspiration in each other’s precious objects. What do you draw inspiration from?

From the text first of course. I love words and the power they transmit. Everything I see, everything I read, everything I listen to also inspires me. Other times inspiration comes from an instant of my life, from my sons, from Mother Nature or from the colors that I see around me. Inspiration is all around you and you just need to catch it. My own personal “know-how” is an important factor but a big part of magic in every creative process is essential.

Thank you so much for joining us on EMUs Debuts today, Sara! It’s really fascinating to hear about your artistic process and what went into the cover for LIKE MAGIC. I especially love how you said, “Inspiration is all around you and you just need to catch it.” 

Catch some inspiration by seeing more of Sara’s artwork on her website and by reading LIKE MAGIC, available now at your favorite indie bookstore, Amazon, IndieBound, or B&NRelive the magic of new friendship all over again! 


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Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, THE NIAN MONSTER (Albert Whitman, 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.
Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. Now she sits at her desk, but she’s still happiest surrounded by piles of books. Andrea is a former environmental consultant who helped clean up hazardous waste sites. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog. She loves trying new foods and named her dog Mochi, after one of her favorite desserts.
You can find Andrea online at her website, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

 

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My Traveling Companions

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

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Today, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. On Tuesday, my debut novel, Finding Perfect, found its way into the world, into the hands of kids, teachers, moms, dads, and grandparents. Today, Molly’s story is a shared one. But, it didn’t start that way. Molly’s story started with an idea, then morphed into words on my computer, then into a book. It started with me, but I never traveled this path alone.

And, so today is about all those who traveled with me. All those I want to thank.

My husband. Wow. Not even sure where to begin. You have been with me on every step of this 15 year journey. And at no time did you waver in your steadfast belief in me. You are the love of my life and I am so grateful to have you by my side. Always.

My sons. Two boys, endless inspiration. Through the years, you have inspired me to write, to go for my dream, to work hard, to be better. Your belief in me, allowed me to believe in this dream and believe in me. I am so lucky to be your mom. You make my heart happy every day.

My family near and far. I love you all with all of my heart. Thank you thank you thank you.

My friends. You may never know how impactful your support has been. You gave me hugs and wine and walks and talks and candy, all at exactly the right moments.

FSG. Joy and the entire FSG team thank you for taking a chance on me. For believing in me and my story.

My agent. Trish the amazing. Honestly, so thankful to have you at the helm, helping me navigate these waters and always having my back. You are so much more than my agent. You are my friend. And, for that, I am grateful.

EMLA. You guys rock. I never knew getting an agent, meant I was also getting a writing family.  Love you guys.

Sweet 16ers. It’s been one heck of a year. Thank you for sharing this ride with me. You are kind and supportive and, obviously, sweet.

Educators. You seamlessly welcomed me and Finding Perfect into the kidlit world before the book had even entered the world. You made me feel like Molly and I belonged. You are kind and gracious and dedicated. I wish every kid has a lifetime of teachers like you.

To all of my traveling companions, thank you for being a part of my journey. It’s been one amazing ride!

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IMG_9552  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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10 BUSY BROOMS: Gremlins and Wheelers and Oz, Oh My!

It’s the final day of our launch week for Carole Gerber’s1732-40272-_2d00_-animated-cheering-fluttershy-pinkie_5f00_pie-twilight_5f00_sparkle 10 BUSY BROOMS. We’ve had so much fun celebrating!

To cap off the week, we’re going to talk about monsters. There is no shortage of monsters in 10 BUSY BROOMS. There is a goblin, a werewolf, a mummy, and much more. But Michael Fleming’s amazing illustrations render these baddies delightful instead of dreadful, appealing instead of appalling. Just look at the witches on the cover — how cute are they?!

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But what does scare an EMU? Safely huddled together in the nest, we recounted what movie or cartoon character we found most scary as kids, and why:

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Carole Gerber: Charles Lee Ray – nicknamed “Chucky,” was a serial killer in a horror film series called “Child’s Play.” I never watched a single one of the movies -seeing his face and just hearing about the movies was as much fright as I could handle.

Jason Gallaher: As I kid, I COULD NOT handle the gremlins from “Gremlins.” They terrified me! They are so sadistic and twisted and I just couldn’t understand how a cute little hamster-like muffin could become a bloodthirsty monster.

The weird thing is when I was little I would BEG my mom to let us rent the video, promising I would watch it all the way through, but I never once made it to the end. Only recently was I able to watch the movie without running away in terror, only to find out that one of the gremlins actually eats the science teacher, which made me even more terrified of these green slimy creatures. Then I read the description on the back of the box, and “Gremlins” was originally pegged as a holiday movie! Outrageous! As a fella robsessed with the holidays, I was offended. No science teachers get eaten when Santa is on his way!

Katie Slivensky: Oh, man. ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. 13775762_10106817460995333_2334941852642014925_nThat movie scared the pants off of me for so many reasons. The dream sequence in Hell was terrifying, for sure, but what really got me was the lady poodle angel dog. Her repeated, sing-song-y “You can never come back!” line as the main dog escapes Heaven to return to Earth haunts me to this day. Some serious psychological business goes down in that movie. Lady dog was mega creepy. (Okay, apparently she was a whippet, not a poodle. BUT THE POINT STANDS. She scared the bejeezus out of me.)

scooby-and-shaggy-ghostDonna Bowman recalls being scared of several characters: Since we’re not talking about grown up movies like Friday the 13th, I can’t mention Jason, right? Human monsters have always been more frightening to me than any animated or fantastical creatures.That said, I remember being creeped out by the ghosts in Scooby Doo cartoons. Also, the witch from the original Wizard of Oz movie, with her flying monkeys, scared the gumballs out of me.

Donna wasn’t the only EMU traumatized by the Oz movies.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Okay, this is going to sound silly since I wrote four Dorothy & Toto books (mind you, for early readers), but when I was a kid, the Wizard of Oz movie terrified me. Those flying monkeys! The wicked witch! Yet I watched the movie every year (and had a hard time sleeping after).

Elly Swartz: I was totally frightened by the flying, winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. I closed my eyes every time they came on the screen!

Elaine Vickers: The wheelers from Return to Oz. I just did a Google image search and I think I’m going to have a hard time falling asleep tonight. Beware the wheelers!

And that’s a wrap! Whew! Am I the only one who feels like they need to go hide under the covers with a good book now? Click on over to buy your own copy of 10 BUSY BROOMS and reassure yourself that not all villains are vile — some just want apple brew.

IndieBound       Amazon          Barnes & Noble


Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

If you’re wondering what character Andrea was afraid of as a kid, the answer is: all of the above!!

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Characters, Launch, Picture books, Uncategorized

Celebrate….EVERYTHING!

In honor of today, Independence Day, I would like to recommend that you take this opportunity and every opportunity to celebrate your writing/illustrating progress.

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I recently had two things to celebrate. First, I found out my release date for the first two books of my chapter book series! JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN (book 1) and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (book 2) will be available from FSG on July 11, 2017. Yes, it’s a long way off, but I’m so excited to have an actual date! Second, I finished a novel and sent it off to my awesome agent. I celebrated both with a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of Prosecco.

It’s easy to focus on the “big prize” — the agent offering representation or an editor offering a contract. But, at least for me, the road to both of those was long and bumpy. If I had waited to celebrate until those two wonderful things happened, I would have spent many many years NOT celebrating. So, instead, I made sure to celebrate any and all accomplishments.

Some things I’ve celebrated:

  1. Sending off queries.
  2. Receiving an encouraging response (request for full, a kind/personal rejection).
  3. Finishing a SFD (shitty first draft).
  4. Applying for/getting accepted into a workshop or retreat.
  5. Coming up with a new story idea.

Ways I’ve celebrated:

  1. Buying a new book/journal/pen.
  2. Taking myself out on an “artist’s date” to a museum, garden, hike.
  3. Going to coffee/tea/lunch with a friend.
  4. Champagne/dessert.
  5. Taking a break – to smell the flowers, walk the dog, watch the birds, sing a song, dance in the kitchen.

Take time to focus on your accomplishments, bask in the joy that you’ve completed something, that you’re moving forward on the road, that you’re following your passion. Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself! I’d love to hear what and how you celebrate.

So, go ahead – celebrate. The road can be long, so you might was well sprinkle some joy along the pathway. You know you have things to celebrate – the new idea, joining a writing group, sending out a query, finishing a chapter. You deserve a treat! Happy Celebrating! And happy 4th of July!

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations

Writing, Twizzlers, and the Music

I write. I revise. I eat Twizzlers. I write some more. Recently, I realized there’s another thing I do when I’m in the writing zone, I listen and sing poorly to songs that inspire me. Now, as I recently confessed to a classroom of fifth graders, I sound a bit like a dying frog when I sing. But, I love it! So, I can’t seem to stop myself from belting out the the music when I’m cooking, driving, or on a run. So, if you happen to be nearby, I truly am sorry.

A while back, while in the kitchen making meatballs and singing poorly and dancing with my sauce-splashed apron on, I realized the song I was singing over a killer tomato-basil sauce, had less to do with dinner, and more to do with my current work-in-progress. I was right in the thick of a first draft. To me, this is the part of the process where I fear everything.  I’ll never come up with a gripping plot. Even if I have a good plot, I’ll never be able to construct a whole story. Even if I can construct a story, it’s going to stink. So naturally, I found myself singing Brave by Sara Bareilles, loudly and out-of-tune, while slicing and dicing. There I was in all my first draft glory singing along with Sara like we were old friends. “Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

So after a delicious Italian dinner, I jumped back into my work-in-progress with purpose, and to my happy surprise, I eventually completed a draft of my new story. Woot! Let the celebration begin! I was super excited until I read the whole thing over and realized it stunk. I mean no-one’s-going-to-read-this kind of stunk. I knew I needed to summon the courage to reconstruct the characters, the plot, the pacing.  So, I popped in my earbuds and listened to The Fight Song by Rachel Platten before I dug back into all those words on the page.

Once I finished, I mean really finished, a process that included several bags of Twizzlers and many many drafts, I sent my newly revised story to Trish, my agent. And, I waited for her thoughts while I jumped back into all the things I had put on hold while revising. The music of choice – The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And then, Trish called. She loved it! So, I popped in my earbuds and went for a run to Happy by Pharrell Williams!

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IMG_9552 Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Writing and Life