Tag Archives: RADIO GIRL

And We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to blog commenter L. Marie, the winner of last week’s Radio Girl launch party comment drawing!  L. Marie will be receiving a signed copy of the novel for her very own. Thanks oodles to all who participated.




csb_2013-copyCarol Brendler’s debut novel, Radio Girl, is about a New Jersey girl who lands a job at CBS Radio in New York, only to become entangled in Orson Welles’s 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, which sent thousands into a panic across the country, and is thought by many to have been the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public. The book was released in September, 2013, in time for the 75th anniversary of the original broadcast.

Carol is also the author of Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer (FSG, 2009), a picture book illustrated by Ard Hoyt, and another picture book, Not Very Scary, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli comes out in 2014 (FSG)


1 Comment

by | September 9, 2013 · 5:52 am

RADIO GIRL is on the air

Checklist for a Great Party.

Fabulous music.


Exciting venue.


Interesting people.


A gracious host.


And when it’s a book launch party, of course, you need a wonderful book which we have in RADIO GIRL.

RADIO GIRL by Carol Brendler

It’s been a great party this week as we welcomed RADIO GIRL into the world. Join the celebration. Check out Carol Brendler’s debut novel and find out what life is like for one girl in the middle of history as it’s being made. If you’ve ever wished you could do the Lindy Hop, if you love the look of those 1930s magazine covers, if you’ve wondered what it would be like to live through the panic caused by the War of the Worlds broadcast or if you just love a great story, pick up a copy of RADIO GIRL. Or comment on any of the posts from this week and you’ll be entered to win a shiny, new autographed copy.

Congratulations, Carol. Happy Book Launch Day.

RADIO GIRL is on air. Tune in.



Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations

Getting the girl just right: An interview with RADIO GIRL cover artist Michael Koelsch!

RADIO GIRL by Carol BrendlerWhen you’re reading a historical novel, what’s your first clue that the story is set in a different time period? The cover is usually a pretty good indicator—and in the case of Carol Brendler’s debut novel RADIO GIRL, boy is it ever!

Today I’m so pleased to welcome artist Michael Koelsch to Emu’s Debuts to talk about his work on RADIO GIRL’s beautiful, vintage-inspired cover.

Tara Dairman: Hello, Michael! Your cover for RADIO GIRL is so evocative of the time period when the story is set (1938, the heyday of radio). I see from your portfolio that a lot of your other art also embraces a fabulously “retro” style. What got you interested in creating this style of art?

Michael Koelsch: Thanks. I have been interested in classic illustration since I was little. My grandmother introduced me to a lot of illustration early on: artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, and even pulpier illustrators like Norman Saunders and Walter Baumhofer. I got into a lot of the old movie posters as well.

N.C. Wyeth brought Treasure Island to life, Rockwell idealized life in America, Saunders made book covers explosive, and illustrators like Coby Whitmore made women beyond gorgeous in advertisements in the 1960’s. These are the guys who I looked up to in school and who I try to bring back when I do illustrations today, whether it’s for advertising or for book covers.

TD: Cecilia (the main character in RADIO GIRL) is the focal point of your cover. Did you have any of the stars of that era—like Judy Garland, or Deanna Durbin—in mind when you drew her?


Cece: Ready for her close-up

MG: Most definitely. When doing vintage-looking illustrations, it’s really important to reference the things of the past, whether it’s people, or cars, or buildings. I like to discuss things with the art director and sometimes the author to see what their inspirations were in doing the book. I then put my two cents in visually.

On RADIO GIRL, Judy Garland was a big inspiration—but other actresses from that era also helped me get the feel and look of our girl character for the cover. Once we had the look of the character, then we went through some phases of capturing the emotion and expression our character was going to show. I got some references from the author, but I will tend to do a lot more in-depth studying of that era, from clothing to hair styles, from architecture to color moods of that time period.

A pattern that helped inspire the look of Cece's shirt.

A pattern that helped inspire the look of Cece’s shirt

I will pull things from old books and, of course, the Internet—everything from old sewing patterns to soda pop ads to actual photos of girls from that time period. When doing realistic paintings, everything and anything I can find goes into helping me draw and paint.

TD: A little more about Cecilia: Her face is so expressive of the different emotions she feels in the story (earnestness, bravery, fear). We authors often have to write many drafts of a story to get the emotions just right. Did you need to go through a similar process when drawing Cecilia?

An early sketch of Cece

An early sketch of Cece

MG: My process is quite similar—but usually I don’t have to explore the gamut because I have the benefit of working with an art director who has discussed things with the author or has come up with a rough concept before I start. While this is just the starting point, I already have narrowed things down quite a bit. BUT, while that’s the norm, there are always those times where I do a sketch or two, and then those spark another idea which could be completely different but might make a stronger cover or image. I’ve been blessed with working with confident art directors who are not fearful of trying something different and usually like to explore those options too.

A model for Cece's new expression

A model posing for Cece’s new expression

On this cover specifically, we did actually make an “expression” change with Cecilia.  Initially I went for a classic, almost heroic/confident look for Cecilia, which probably looked too much like a vintage ad.  After some discussion, we decided to pull some “real” emotion into the piece and give her that “first time in a recording studio” look.

TD: What is your process generally like when designing book covers? Did you receive much direction from Holiday House before you started to work on the cover for RADIO GIRL?

MG: I’d probably bore everyone to death if I discussed my whole process, but generally I get a synopsis or a copy of the book. For covers, sometimes I don’t get a chance to read the whole book due to time constraints, so a synopsis from the art director or editor usually works best.

From there, I do a couple of thumbnail sketches based on references I have, or I find references based on those thumbnails. Those are usually for my eyes only, but occasionally I have to send those to the AD too.

The final masterpiece!

The final masterpiece!

After that, I put together a pretty tight sketch from the reference I have or have shot. These tend to have some color thrown on top. This is a good stage to work out any changes to the composition or figures and saves me from redoing them in the final painting. I still paint traditionally, so that’s huge—I can’t always go into Photoshop and just hit “undo.”

Once my sketch is approved, I go to paint on the final. Then I scan the painting and do some minor tweaks and cleaning up in Photoshop and, if need be, add text.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my part of this whole process; I hope you guys find this interesting and possibly inspirational. When authors and illustrators team up together, they get the chance to create a little magic no matter what format, digital or traditional!  It’s a great experience to put ideas to paper.

It sure is, Michael! Thank you so much for sharing your process and your art with us!


Readers: What’s your favorite aspect of RADIO GIRL’s cover? Remember, one lucky commenter this week will win a signed copy of the book!

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Illustrators, Interviews

The worst job ever …

17351021Even people who have gone on to great heights in their careers started out with some less-than-inspiring jobs.

Actor Ashton Kutcher talked about this in his acceptance speech at this year’s Teen Choice Awards, saying: “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like work. I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a  stepping stone to my next job, and I never quit my job before I had my next job.”

Kutcher’s career path to TV and movie stardom included helping his dad carry shingles, washing dishes at a restaurant, working in a grocery store deli and sweeping in a factory.

Carol Brendler can relate. In her new novel RADIO GIRL, set in the 1930s, teenage Cece desperately wants to be a radio star. She even gets a secret job at a radio station. But, will it be the best job ever? Or the worst? And what will happen when Cece’s secret job collides with Orson Welles’ infamous, and very public, “War of the Worlds” broadcast?

Just for fun, we asked each of our EMU’s Debuts bloggers to share their worst job ever. None involved alien invasions, but they were all memorable for other reasons.

Take it away, folks!

Tara Dairman’s incompetent embassy
“When I was 21 and living abroad in Ireland, I stumbled into a summer clerical job at another country’s embassy. I won’t say which country; all I’ll say is that Ireland was clearly not where this country sent its diplomatic A-team. The ambassador was most frequently found asleep at his desk, and his underling, who interviewed me, barely spoke English. But worst of all was my direct boss, who had a penchant for screaming and half of whose office looked like a storage center for a brand of unfiltered cigarettes from his home country, which he smoked right through our meetings. Ireland had workplace smoking laws at the time, but technically, in the embassy, we were on his home country’s soil, so I guess he was able to do whatever he wanted (much to my lungs’ displeasure). I lasted three weeks, and my payment in the end was a blank envelope full of cash euros. I’m pretty sure there is no official record of my ever having worked for this country’s government!”

Adi Rule’s substitute woes
“Now, some people enjoy substitute teaching. (Some people also enjoy hooking a car battery up to their nostrils.) And I will say that I had some wonderful experiences and met some really awesome teachers and students. But there are a lot of reasons why substitute teaching is terrible, the worst of which, for me, was the fact that almost everyone automatically thinks you’re dumb as a post. They will trust you to hit “play” on the VCR, but can’t imagine you’re capable of making six photocopies without five of them being of your butt. This was made clear to me one day when I was in for an English teacher. (It was a class I’d been in previously, where I’d told the students that when they were done with their busywork — ahem, assignment — they could read, write, or draw. One girl said, “Write? Write what?” I said, “Whatever you want.” She was totally confused. How sad is that, America?) So this particular day, they were going to learn about adjectives. There was a clear lesson plan drawn up. I was at the board, 30 seconds in, when a disheveled teacher rushes in and apologize for the HUGE MIX-UP. You see, they didn’t realize the lesson would involve TEACHING, something that would clearly cause the barely sparking neurons of a substitute teacher to short circuit and explode! So she was there to save the day and teach about adjectives! YAY! And she must have done her job well, because that day, twiddling my thumbs at the teacher’s desk, I managed to come up with quite a few substitute teaching-related adjectives.”

Mylisa Larson’s early morning cadavers
“Well, I’ve had some winners in my checkered early employment history (swatting flies for my mom at a penny a fly was my first paying job followed by hoeing endless rows of corn for ten cents a row), but the worst job would have to be that I put myself through part of college by getting up at 4 AM and cleaning the cadaver lab in the biology building.”

Joshua McCune’s telephone hell
“The worst job for me was a telemarketing gig I took my first summer of college. Non-profit stuff (American Heart Association, etc.), so I didn’t feel like a complete scuzzball. Didn’t matter. I’m the antithesis of a salesperson … if somebody says no thanks, I say thanks for your time and goodbye. WTF is a rebuttal? Yeah, I sucked. Days were only six hours long and I only did it for six weeks, but it was pure, monotonous misery. Positive note: My experience there provided some background for a critical scene in TALKER 25. Side note: The meanest people in the country (at least in terms of hanging up on you and snappishness) seemed to conglomerate in the Pacific Northwest.”

Laurie Ann Thompson’s injury-riddled deli stint

“It could be the time I worked for an insurance salesman, cold-calling clients — during dinnertime, of course — trying to convince them to buy an annuity, but I’m going to have to go with the grocery store deli I worked at in college. They specifically instructed us to disregard all safety precautions so we could get things done “more efficiently.” Every night we were supposed to wipe down the deep fryers with hot oil still in them (yup, 3rd-degree burns and a trip to the ER) and clean and disinfect the meat slicer while it was running and all the safeties were removed (yep, sliced off the very tip of one of my fingers). Fortunately, neither job lasted very long before I found something better!”

Amy Finnegan’s cheesy fundraiser
During my sophomore year of high school, my dance team was invited to a competition in Hawaii. Everyone wanted to go, but the trip was going to be crazy expensive. We worked for months doing the typical fundraisers — car washes, rummage sales, coupon books — but still came short. Then came the opportunity for the team to work a designated amount of hours at a cold storage facility … unwrapping single slices of frozen American cheese. Not so bad, right? WRONG. The cheese turned out to be moldy and disgusting! All of it! We were unwrapping it so it could be sold to a dog food factory, and I felt bad for those poor little dogs. After weeks of this nauseating fundraising effort, more than 20 years later, I still can’t look at a slice of American cheese without gagging. And now you won’t be able to either. (But it was a great trip to Hawaii!)”

And MY worst job? That would have to be a secretarial post I took right out of college. It’s true I might have thought I was a tad overqualified for the spot, and that feeling didn’t change when the company CEO gave me a hand-scrawled sheet of paper to transcribe. His writing was terrible, and I did the best I could, but I obviously missed some finer points. He was yelling at me for getting it wrong, when I said, “But, I thought …” and he responded in full Dolby surround-sound: “I don’t pay you to think! I pay you to type!” Yeah. That was my clue that we would not have a long and happy partnership.

But all those jobs are long gone. See, we’re all just like Ashton (although maybe not as famous or well-groomed or quite as handy with a camera). Our worst jobs led us to successful, fulfilling careers as new or soon-to-be authors. Could we have done it without those early struggles? Who knows? Perhaps they built character if nothing else.

Anyway, what was your worst job ever? Leave a comment and tell us. You’ll be entered into a drawing for a free copy of RADIO GIRL.


Filed under Promotion

And now… introducing… RADIO GIRL!


Photo from ADoseOfShipBoy on Flickr

Guess what, folks — that’s right — we have another book launch to celebrate here on Emu’s Debuts. So, put on your party hats, throw some confetti into the air, and join the fun all week long as we welcome Carol Brendler’s RADIO GIRL into the world!

Carol isn’t technically a debut author. She already has a delightful picture book (WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER), but RADIO GIRL is her first novel. Since that’s an entirely different experience, we’re thrilled she agreed to join us for her second debut journey!


To get you in the mood for the upcoming RADIO GIRL extravaganza we’ve got planned for you this week, though, you should take the time to go back and read Carol’s post about the story behind the RADIO GIRL story, here.

Then, read this great interview to find out more about Carol, including her advice for aspiring authors.

Plus, Carol and fellow EMLA author Trent Reedy did a fun video interview here.

And, watch for Carol on DEAR TEEN ME on Wednesday!

You can also find Carol at her website, which has lots of fun facts about old-time radio and the 1930s, and on Twitter. And, you can buy your own copy of RADIO GIRL here:

  • Indiebound
  • Powell’s
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble

    Finally, one lucky reader will win a signed copy of RADIO GIRL! Just comment on any of this week’s launch party posts (including this one). The winner will be announced next Monday. Good luck!


    Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Updates on our Books!