“It’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever make a difference. That’s what I like all my books to say. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!” ~Lisa Olson
I love this quote by Lisa Gammon Olson, author of the American Herstory series! Lisa contacted me recently about her picture book series and I could tell (even through e-mail correspondence) that she’s very passionate about what she wants young readers to take away from her books. I asked Lisa to tell us more about the books and the messages they impart.
My American Herstory Series started where every story starts…with a Once Upon a Time…a small snippet of time from our past, as seen through the eyes of one young girl.
Working as a secretary in a small rural elementary school has given me a glimpse into the inner workings of a child’s heart and mind. I see their need for acceptance, for praise and to feel valued as an integral part of the daily school routine.
My father taught 9th grade World Geography and American History. My three sisters and I grew up immersed in daily discussions of current and historical events, interconnected and tightly woven together, todays, tomorrows and yesterdays… sewn together in the colorful patchwork quilt of life. I’ve always been amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and the will to survive and even thrive in harsh conditions throughout history.
So, in wanting to validate every child’s sense of belonging, coupled with a passion for history, Dust Flowers, came to life. The first book in this historical fiction series takes place during one of the most difficult periods in American history, the Dust Bowl Era. Imagine being a child, watching your parents struggle to farm during a decade long drought, besieged with daily black blizzards of swirling dust and not having ever felt a drop of rain in your entire lifetime. What could one small girl do in the enormity of a drought? Every act, no matter how small, can change someone’s life for the better. Growing a flower and bringing a smile to her mother’s sad face promises something even more precious…hope!
Children need to know that everything they do in life will affect someone or something, either positively or negatively, depending on their actions. In the second book, Sewing the Magic In, a young girl living in 1912 learns her own impact and importance. She’ll find out how her seemingly tedious work in the costume department plays a part in bringing the magic of the circus to life.
Even the orphan train riders in the third book, The Cheese Song, can find hope and promise in a situation far out of their control. Each of us has a part to play on this earth and we soon find out we are all dependent upon the actions and kindness of others. Lessons learned from the past, hopefully, help us to grow and evolve in the future.
While the American Herstory series starts with “Once upon a time”…every book ends with a message of hope, love and the pursuit of the American dream, and they live, as we all should… “Hope”fully ever after.
Lisa Gammon Olson is an author for Eifrig Publishing. She lives in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores! She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.” Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life. Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities. Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.
Learn more about Lisa and her books at http://lisagammonolson.com
Hope. Kindness. Tenacity of the human spirit. What wonderful messages for all of us to take into the New Year!
I am so excited to share this interview with fellow Ripple Grove Press children’s author Katey Howes! Katey’s debut picture book Grandmother Thorn released this past summer and has received many wonderful reviews. I don’t remember where in the kidlitosphere Katey and I first met, but I do remember sending her a message and spellcheck changing her name to matey. I’d like to think we’ve been kidlit “mates” ever since. 🙂 Let’s learn more about Katey Howes!
How long have you been writing with the goal of being published?
I decided in early 2014 to take my writing seriously, and to take the steps necessary to learn about the publishing industry, to improve my craft, and to actively pursue publication. I also started a blog that January, to give myself a way to connect with other writers and to hold myself accountable for producing and “publishing” written words every week. Looking back, I am overwhelmed by how far I’ve come. Here’s an excerpt from one of my first blog posts on January 14, 2014, entitled “Can I call it an author page?”
I’ve imagined myself a writer so long, it’s surprising to me that I have no real idea how to go about becoming one. Can I just put “author” down as my occupation and start counting endless hours of staring into space as work time? Are all those cups of coffee and bookstore bargains now business expenses? And exactly how guilty should I feel when I get caught up in a chapter and don’t fold the laundry?
Three years later, I’d answer those questions: yes, yes, and not one bit!
What was the inspiration behind Grandmother Thorn?
I had several berry bushes in my backyard, in a garden bed where nothing else seemed to want to grow. The berries must have loved it, though, because they grew out of control!! I spent hours chopping them back, wrapping vines around trellises, and eventually hammering 10-foot lengths of rebar into the ground to support the trellises! One day, as the unruly raspberry bush gave me one too many thorny scrapes, I yelled at it, “sooner or later, everything meets its match!” And then I stood silently, wondering whether that advice was for the bush, or for me. I knew then and there that I needed to write Grandmother Thorn.
How did you hear about Ripple Grove Press and why did you decide to submit Grandmother Thorn to them?
Through SCBWI and the KidLit411 website, I found listings of publishers that accepted unagented submissions. I went to my local library and requested recent books from those publishers, trying to get a sense of what they made and how their books resonated with me. I was blown away by the beauty and timelessness of the Ripple Grove Press titles. I wanted those qualities for my book.
How did you feel upon seeing the finished book for the first time?
What a wonderful day that was! My daughters were home with me when the box of books arrived, and we all opened it together. My heart was pounding, I was so excited! As soon as the box was opened, my girls each took a copy and curled up to read it. I held my copy reverently, examining all the beautiful details – from the surprise on the case cover to the thick, heavy feel of the paper. It was truly a dream come true!
What is your favorite thing about picture books?
That’s a tough question! I suppose if I have to choose one thing, it’s their versatility. Picture books can do and be so many things for so many people. They bring art to story and story to life. They invite the engaged reader to slow down and search for hidden details, or allow the reluctant reader to skim through quickly and confidently. They open the door to big conversations, or wordlessly introduce new worlds. It’s a kind of magic, the things that picture books can do.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring picture book authors?
It’s been said before – but I’ll say it again: READ! A great composer listens to and plays and studies thousands of compositions before writing her own – authors need to do the same. There are times when I take a brief break from reading picture books because I can feel other authors influencing my writing too heavily, but in general, I read at least two a day, sometimes as many as ten.
Where can fans connect with you online?
I love to connect on Twitter as @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove. You can also follow my author page on Facebook. Check out my website, www.kateyhowes.com, for more about me and my books. I’m no longer very active on my blog, but there are several years of posts about raising kids who love to read and about my journey to published author. You can find a link on my website, search #RaisingReaders, or go directly to www.kateywrites.wordpress.com. I’m also a team member at the fabulous children’s book website, All the Wonders, where we find new and wondrous ways to connect readers to books they will love.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your book, or picture books in general? What’s next for Katey Howes?
There are more picture books on my horizon – MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE comes out January 2nd from Sterling Children’s Books and is available for pre-order now. I’m very excited to be launching (pardon the pun) a book about such an innovative girl, as I’m passionate about helping girls see themselves as inventors, scientists and leaders. In fact, I’ll be presenting a session on using picture books to support STEM/STEAM curriculum at nErDcamp NJ in April. I hope to see many of your readers there!
Thank you so much, Katey, for sharing more about yourself with my blog readers! I love the berry bush story! It proves that inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere! 🙂
And congratulations on your forthcoming Magnolia Mudd And The Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe! I can’t wait to read it!
I very rarely ask folks (because I feel funny about it) to review my book on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads. But it’s come to my attention recently that having 50 or more reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility in Amazon’s search engines (who knew!).
It makes sense that reviews help promote the sales of a book, and certainly, the more reviews the better. So this holiday season, I’m asking you, my friends, fans, and blog followers, if you have a free moment or two, to please leave an honest review for my book The Peddler’s Bed on Amazon. I would greatly appreciate the support.
Please only leave a review if you have actually read the book. And you do not have to have purchased the book from Amazon to review it there. Thanks so much in advance! And thank you to everyone who has already left a review! You have my eternal gratitude.
🙂 Happy Holidays! 🙂
Wishing you peace, health, and joy in the New Year!
Back in January, I posted about a year-long giveaway called New Year=New Beginnings that I’m offering here on Frog on a Blog–a new prize each month for folks who comment on blog posts. With so much negative energy floating around in the world, I wanted to do something positive to show my gratitude to my followers, fans, and friends for their support.
It’s December! Where has this year gone?! It must have been the fastest year on record, at least in my record book. My year-long giveaway is almost over–just one more month to go. I’ve had so much fun doing this giveaway. I really like giving. Giving feels good! 🙂 I may offer the giveaway again in the future, or at least something similar.
Now let’s recap the year from January to November, announce November’s winner, and highlight December’s prize:
January’s prize was a copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed.
February’s prize was an adorable plushie Curious George.
March’s prize was a set of Pilot’s pens, a Night Writer 2-pack with LED lights, perfect for writing in the dark, and a must have for writers or travelers.
April’s prize was winner’s choice of either a picture book manuscript critique (for writers) or a Personal Library Kit (for book lovers).
May’s prize was a set of two darling bookmarks: A Hippo and a Crocodile.
June’s prize was a Maurice Sendak Nutshell Library box set that includes four tiny classics: Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup With Rice, One Was Johnny, and Pierre.
July’s prize was a set of two music CDs by the amazing Emily Arrow: Storytime Singalong volumes 1 and 2!
August’s prize was a super cute, super fun novelty Writer’s Block Journal filled with 300 blank pages, ready and waiting for inspiration to hit!
September’s prize was a Dr. Seuss finger puppet set featuring three lovable characters from The Lorax (my favorite Dr. Seuss book)!
October’s prize was a stylish scarf designed to look like a library due date card.
November’s prize was a new copy of an old classic: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a picture book that pairs Robert Frost’s poetic text with Susan Jeffer’s dreamy illustrations. Love this book!
And the winner of November’s Prize is…
Congratulations, Vivian! I will e-mail you for your mailing address. I hope you like this book as much as I do!
There is still one more chance to win this year (though the winner will be announced in early January)!
For December’s giveaway prize, I am starting where I began, and offering a signed copy of my picture book The Peddler’s Bed. If you already have a copy, or would just prefer, I’m offering an alternative prize: a picture book manuscript critique from me.
Comment on this post or any post during the month of December for a chance to win. For more information on how to qualify for prizes, click HERE.
*Due to contest/sweepstakes regulations in other countries, this giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. I’m very sorry fans and followers from other nations. I still appreciate you! All winners are chosen at random.