Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Getting Started With Co-Authoring: A Conversation with Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell

Congratulations to Jana Leah for winning Lights Out on last week's blog. Thanks for all the entries!


Today I have a special treat for you. Cat Michaels, a fellow SCBWI-Carolina member, asked if I would help her and her co-author, Rosie Russell with the launch of their new middle-grade book, Just Between Sam and Me. I've share authors' publication journeys and participated in book launches, but Cat had something different in mind. She suggested that I interview them via Zoom to find out how the two of them met and decided to work together (Cat is in North Carolina and Rosie is in Missouri). The video below is the result of this great idea. It's only six minutes long, but trust me, it took us a few hours to brainstorm and for Cat to assemble it. 

Top row, left to right: Carol Baldwin, Cat Michaels
Bottom row: Rosie Russell

Today is the first part of a four-part series. I hope over the next few months leading up to the publication of their book on December 2, you will gain tips about collaborating with another author, self-publishing, and of course--there will be opportunities for great giveaways along the way! Here's what you can look forward to:

Part I: Getting Started With Co-Authoring 

Part II: Writing Roles, Bumps in the Road, and Self-Publishing (September 16)

Part III: Writing about Bullying (October 14)

Part IV: Just Between Sam and Me Review (December 2)

Tips From Cat and Rosie: Getting Started with Co-Authoring

What should you look for in your perfect author partner?
·      Similar writing styles
·      Experience in same genre/audience
·      Complementary work and communication styles
·      Dependable
·      Reliable
·      Flexible
·      Patient
·      Cheerful
·      Comfortable with technology
·      Someone who can check ego at the door

What are the benefits of co-authoring?
·      Great sounding board and brainstorming (especially when    you’re stuck!)
·      Double the marketing power and social media reach
·      Split the load: writing, editing, marketing, production costs, etc.

What are the downsides of co-authoring? 
·      Takes longer
·      More challenging to reach consensus and make decisions
·      Loss of some creative control (especially as a solo Indie author)
·      Disaster if co-writers aren’t a good fit or don’t take time to determine details before they start writing


I promised you a giveaway for each blog post, right? Well, the first goes to EACH ONE of you who leaves a comment with your email address. (If you are not comfortable leaving your email address on my site, you can email me instead.)  Cat will send you each a link to download a free advance reader copy of the first chapter! I read it with my 8-year-old granddaughter and both of us want to find out what happens next. Giveaway ends September 9. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Lights Out: A Review and Picture Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Kathy Wiechman who won the ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of EQUAL from last week's blog. For those of you who didn't win, I'll be posting a review at a later date and you'll have an additional chance to win the book.


Marsha Diane Arnold is another author who is no stranger to my blog. This week I'm delighted to be a part of the launch of her newest book, Lights Out with magnificent illustrations by Susan Reagan. As I think you'll see in the review below, Susan does a great job of amplifying Marsha's text. 

For centuries, people on Earth looked to the night sky for navigation, for inspiration, for wonder. But today, we can barely see that sky through all the artificial light. In fact, we see less than 1 percent of the night sky compared with people of the 1600’s. Author's Note

Today's children learn about air and water pollution, but what about light pollution? As a child, Marsha was surrounded by Kansas farmland. She remembers climbing out on the roof at night and being enthralled by the constellations. In 2008 on a Sequoia National Park Foundation's Authors in the Back Country adventure, she spent a week camped at 10,000 feet. She looked out of her tent at the darkness and dreamed of writing a picture book about the dangers of light pollution. Lights Out is the result of that dream.


Look at this beautiful opening:

Little fox peeks out from her den. Beetle flies above her. "Lights out!" she barks. But the lights stay on.

Fox and Beetle begin a journey to find a place where lights do not
disturb nighttime darkness. Unfortunately, that place is hard to find.
Instead, they discover all sorts of lights: Traffic lights, floodlights, blinking lights, and flashing lights. 

Where is Darkness? Where is Night, where coyotes sing, owls hunt, and birds fly across continents, where foxes move through the dark and beetles are more than beetles? 

The two begin their search around the world for Darkness.

They find a songbird who is confused by all the light because there are no stars to guide her. 

The songbird joins their search through the whole world--but everywhere is the same. Lights. No Darkness.

In the wetlands, Frog quietly waits for a nighttime chorus. Without Dark, only silence.

Frog joins the trio and so does a bear who can't hibernate because of the light. 

Through the forests and the meadows, across highlands, deserts, dunes, on tundras, prairies, and high mountains, they search.

When they come upon baby turtles on the seashore who can't make it back into the ocean, the friends take action and shepherd the hatchlings back to the sea.

The baby turtles follow Firefly and moon's glow, patterns of the Night emerge. Hatchlings paddle safely away.

The book closes with the right "lights" on and well,'ll just have to purchase the book to see the perfect ending!

Children will get the message: light pollution is harmful to animals. Teachers, parents, and grandparents can add that human biorhythms can also be affected by too much light. This will be a great classroom resource for pre-school through third-grade students. 

Here is a link to several downloadable STEAM activities to go along with Lights Out


One fortunate reader will win this book! Leave me your email address (if you are new to my blog) and I'll enter your name. Giveaway ends August 22; U.S. addresses only. For additional chances, share this on social media or start following my blog--just let me know what you do in the comments. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

All About Joyce Hostetter: Write2Ignite Instructor and Author of EQUAL (and pssst... A Cover Reveal Too!)

Congratulations to Jean Hall for winning Otis P. Oliver Protests and Doreen Robinson for winning Travel Guide for Monsters on last week's blog. For those of you who didn't win--stay tuned. I just received a large stack of picture books from Sleeping Bear Press.


Today I'm going to talk about my friend and writing mentor, Joyce Moyer Hostetter. A number of you are fans of her Bakers Mountain Series and later in this post, you'll find the cover of the fifth book in this series, EQUAL. But first, I want to share an opportunity to participate in an online writing class with Joyce. 


Write2Ignite is a Christian writer's organization that I am blessed to be a part of. We are dedicated to helping writers provide excellent books for children and young adults. Usually, we hold our annual conference at North Greenville University in Taylors, SC. Due to Covid, we're going virtual this year--which is the silver lining of this awful pandemic. Now, you can attend from the comfort of your own home (maybe with a few select writing buddies?).


The class is on September 19th and the schedule is packed from 9-5:30. It includes three talks by Joyce:

     We will also have guided writing activities when conference attendees will meet in Zoom "rooms" for writing and feedback. These groups will be facilitated by the Write2Ignite team. 

    The day will be recorded and will be available on the Write2Ignite website (password protected) for two months.

    All of this for only $79.00! Ready to register? Click HERE

I   If you are new to Zoom and are unsure about how to use it, we will hold a practice session on September 18.  After you register, email Write2Ignite to sign up. 


    All participants will qualify for the door prize: A set of Bakers Mountain books! (minus Equal which isn't due out until April 2021).


So, be honest. Did you scroll down to catch a glimpse of this lovely cover? I can't blame you if you did. Because you're my friend, I'll still enter your name in the giveaway if you leave me your email address.

"It's the summer of 1959 at the foot of Bakers Mountain in western North Carolina when 13-year-old Jackie Honeycutt first bumps into Thomas Freeman fishing on the riverbank. They hit it off, and Jackie hopes the two of them can be friends. But Jackie is white, and Thomas is Black -- and Jackie quickly learns their growing friendship won't be easy. North Carolina is the focus of the growing civil rights movement, and through his friendship with Thomas, Jackie experiences racism and prejudice first-hand through bullying at school, family turmoil, and pressure from his community. Can Jackie free both his conscience and his voice - and ultimately do what's right?"  From Amazon's description.

As with two of the other books in the Bakers Mountain Series, AIM and DRIVE, I have been privileged to be one of Joyce's readers. I can say without any hesitation that you will love this book and want to add it to your bookshelf.  


I've mentioned before, you can assist your favorite authors by pre-ordering their books on Amazon. You can also leave me a comment with your email address (if you are new to my blog) and I'll put your name in the hat for an ARC giveaway. I expect the ARCS will be mailed out later this year. Giveaway ends August 15. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Two Silly (But Signifcant) Picture Books from Sleeping Bear Press

Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef for winning a copy of Wood, Wire, Wings from last week's blog.

The two books I'm featuring this week definitely create smiles -- but they each teach something too.


With a title like that, you know this is going to be a book that will appeal to the silliest young reader, right? 

And doesn't the cover for Travel Guide for Monsters tell you that's what you will find inside?

In this fun picture book in verse, the author Lori Degman, talks directly to the readers as if they have their own personal monster (and what preschooler doesn't?). Each page shows the monster in a different location with a warning as to what could happen to the monster if he travels there. For example, in Arizona, the reader is warned,

In Chicago,

And in the Florida Everglades,

The unsuspecting reader (and monster) get to travel cross-country (in a vehicle that looks remarkably like an old VW bus), seeing some of the famous sights which make the United States diverse and fun.

Finally, when the vacation is over, the reader faces one last challenge:

Your travels give you memories
you'll treasure through the years.
But how will you explain your
monster's crazy souvenirs?

As you can tell by these samples, illustrator Dave Szalay had a great time illustrating this book! 

The curriculum take-away from Travel Guide for Monsters is the map in the back where young readers can identify where they live or have traveled.

Otis. P. Oliver Protests 

Raise your hand if you have/know a child who likes to get dirty.

Raise your hand if you have/know a child who doesn't want to take a bath.

Just as I thought. I bunch of you raised your hand. 

Then Otis P. Oliver Protests by Keri Claiborne Boyle is for you and that child:

From the opening pages we meet Otis, the youngest of four children (his older siblings are ALL girls--he doesn't stand a chance) his dog, and his worm farm. 

His family takes issue with his body odor and he decides it is time to protest baths.  #1 enemy? Soap.

He enlists the support of his friends, they lead marches along the street and picket his driveway. 

Thus begins protest correspondence with his mother. Notes are delivered--in style--by each of his older sisters and his dog. Negotiations ensue. Would Otis consider abandoning the protest for the price of lasagna and garlic bread? He considers the offer.

Finally, Otis gives in--vainly holding out for the promise of dessert. 

In the end, Otis scribbles one last note:

Once again, I think the illustrator, Daniel Duncan, had a grand time creating the illustrations to accompany the text. The protest signs are genius in and of themselves! 

What's the curriculum tie-in for Otis P. Oliver Protests? The importance of good hygiene--and of course, keeping the cook happy!


I am delighted to give away these books this week. I think you and your child or grandchild will have fun reading both of these. If you have a preference, please indicate in your comment. As always, include your email address if you are new to my blog, and sharing on social media gives you an additional opportunity. Giveaway ends on Friday, August 7 at 5 PM. 


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