Interview Alert: Katey Howes

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?

IKathrynHeadshots-40 (2) 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

blackberry bush

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. 

Grandmother Thorn Cover hi res

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,, 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.comI’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.

magnolia mudd cover art

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!

Interview Alert: Abraham Schroeder

It is my extreme pleasure to share an interview with author, artist, father, and all-around super guy, Abraham Schroeder. Abraham is the author of Ripple Grove Press’s first book, The Gentleman Bat, which was published in 2014. I had the honor of being one of the first reviewers of the book right here on Frog on a Blog. (Take a moment to read the review HERE.) Abraham is also a talented artist with an eclectic style and a unique body of work.

I have no idea why it took me so long to ask Abraham for an interview, but you’ll discover by reading his very thoughtful and detailed responses, that it was well worth the wait. Enjoy!

You are the author of Ripple Grove Press’s first book ever, The Gentleman Bat. How did that come about?

Around 2003 I wrote my first picture book and made rough sketches. The pieces all clicked together for me, and it was the first time as an adult that I saw how the picture book format would be a perfect, fun package to share some art and ideas, so I kept writing little stories. Around 2005 or 2006 I started The Gentleman Bat, working on it over months and years with the vague notion to someday find a publisher or self publish. By 2011 I had accumulated a small pile of stories, manuscripts, rough drafts, and sketches, which was starting to feel less like a side hobby and more like something I wanted to see to fruition. I’d tentatively shared drafts with friends and a few publishers, encouraged by positive murmurs, but had no solid leads.

Over the next couple of years I worked toward the goal of either finding a publisher or really learning how to make great books myself. I did more writing, more research about publishing, and spent a few months working at a small publishing company where I updated my skills in editing and layout. I gained some insight into the process of getting books from idea, to print, and to market, including a few big things to avoid. 

When I heard that a friend/former colleague was starting a publishing company and was looking for submissions, I was ready. Within a few days I sent a packet of manuscripts. The advantage of being early in that first wave of submissions was that I was guaranteed fresh, undistracted consideration, eyes on the page, but they got a lot of early submissions, so if my stories didn’t resonate with their vision for the company and the catalog, the books would not have been picked. I was thrilled some months later when they wanted to move forward with two books. I was also surprised by which books they declined, including one of my favorites, that first one I wrote (which, by the way, if any publishers or agents are reading this, is still super awesome, wholesome, inspiring, and just a great read overall). Even now, having two books with them, they don’t play favorites or give me any free passes if they don’t see a fit.

(Elmira (on the left) and friend posing with The Gentleman Bat Photos 2017, Lubee Bat Conservancy, Gainesville, FL | Note: These photos are not upside down, the bats are.

The Gentleman Bat is a rhyming picture book and is very poetic. Do you consider yourself a poet?

I don’t consider myself a poet, and I have mixed feelings about poetry in general, but as long as I can remember I’ve always loved rhythm and rhymes and music and word play. I often get little rhymes and phrases stuck in my head, and sometimes they grow. That’s what happened with The Gentleman Bat. The first few couplets were rattling around for weeks or months before I wrote them down. Once I had a basic premise and structure I tried to maintain a regular meter while keeping natural speaking language, and of course telling a story. The rules I put in place for myself were a little arbitrary, but with massive effort I stuck pretty well to them, and I hope the process made it easier to read and follow. I have several more rhyming stories in the works, a few songs I’ve been tinkering with too, and I do my best to not get lazy and try to sneak something sloppy in for lack of better solution. When I have the head space for it (rarely), I read up on poetic systems, but it’s mostly about sound and feel, counting out the syllables on my fingers, trying every possible arrangement of words I can think of. It’s often brutally slow, tedious work to make something feel effortless.

Having two young kids, I read a TON of books out loud, over and over and over and over, so when there’s a bad rhyme, an uncomfortable pattern of stresses, or something that just doesn’t fit with the rest, it only gets worse with repetition and can sour the whole book. In contrast, the good rhyming stories, even ones that have really weird structure or breaks, when they work, they really work. I hope mine don’t fall into the painful side for anyone, though I put in some tricky tongue twisters that make you slow down. No complaints so far, knock on wood.


What was the inspiration behind Too Many Tables, Ripple Grove Press’s second book?

It started as an idea that I nearly dismissed as too silly to write down, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I wrote the first draft maybe just a few weeks before I submitted it, and was thrown for a loop when Ripple Grove Press liked it more than stories I’d labored over for years. Something I was not conscious of – Micah, the illustrator, pointed it out way later in the process as one reason he signed on to the project – was that the story has an underlying sentiment of unquestioning generosity and the spirit of working together as a community to help build wonderful things. My subconscious writing mind set that up nicely, even if I was the last person on the team to notice.

Seeing the books that Ripple Grove Press has published since then helps put their choice in context. Your book, The Peddler’s Bed, for instance, has more of that unquestioning generosity and kindness in a story that is silly and sweet (Squeak, squeak, squeak!). Mae and the Moon, Salad Pie also, the unselfconscious play … hmmm, maybe all of them now that I look at the catalog … As they add new titles you start to get a sense of the vision for the world that Ripple Grove Press is trying to build and share. Mr. Tanner and Graduation Day add a certain beautiful sadness and hope to the mix. 

Did you collaborate with the illustrators on either of the books?

Piotr Parda and I were in art school together, and I’ve always admired his skill and diligence in drawing, painting, and sculpture. We’ve worked on lots of little projects together over the years, and I knew he’d have good ideas for The Gentleman Bat. I showed him the early drafts and he came back with amazing sketches right away. His enthusiasm helped me keep writing, and his patience through draft after draft helped us build the book up to what we have today. He was part of the package when I pitched it, and it would not have happened without our partnership throughout. Photoshop, email, and Skype allowed us to communicate visual ideas quickly from opposite sides of the country over the final year of production.

Micah Monkey is an accomplished artist, illustrator, filmmaker, and animator, who has done several picture books. We are also cousins. Rob Broder at Ripple Grove asked me if I had any illustrators in mind for Too Many Tables. I asked him if he’d take a look, he liked it, and he signed on. After an initial series of discussions where we all looked at character designs and style, I put in a handful of special requests (and sent lots of pictures of tables I liked), then he and the publishers took over completely. I didn’t see any images until the book was nearly off to the printer many months later. That was nerve wracking, especially after being so closely involved in every page and detail of The Gentleman Bat, but I put my trust in the team and did a lot of deep breathing. It was amazing to see the finished book, so many wonderful surprises on every page, and Micah does really expressive and beautiful work.

You are an artist as well and your style is very eclectic. Can you tell us a bit about your art?

Art and artsy things are a big part of my daily life and identity. If I’m not actively making something or looking at other people’s art, I’m usually running some project or notion through my head, taking mental notes for later.

Many people consider a lot of things I make to be more than a little creepy or dark, lots of anatomy and bone stuff, but I usually think of it as new ways of looking at the materials that make us, the substance of people, questions about bodies and body image, nature and technology, gesture and context, what’s gross, what’s exciting, what’s beautiful.

I like to take things apart and build new things from the parts, rearranging and repurposing. Photography, clay, metal, collage, electronics, digital manipulation, and other media are fun in and of themselves, and also the means to experiment and explore and share deeper ideas. Words and language are part of the same big tool kit.

In the past couple of months I started working with 3D modeling software, adding some new dimensions to older ideas. A slow learning curve, but I’m seeing some huge potential.

What are your thoughts on the picture book as a work of art?

Making a whole series of cohesive images that illustrate a story within a book format is a really different process than making single, stand-alone artworks, or even a series around a theme. The format has certain major challenges and constraints, the images have to work together, and together with the text (if there is text), and there are also usually more people and opinions involved. It’s way harder than it might look. Again, so much hard work to appear effortless.

The first art many people are exposed to is in picture books. Some of the worlds that books create for us and our imaginations are absolutely magical, and certainly can shape how we grow as people. Even before writing my own books or buying books for my kids I’ve collected picture books for myself. They’re all mixed in on the same bookshelves as my other books for reference and inspiration. My mom recently sent me boxes of some of my old favorites that I remember looking at for hours on end as a kid, and now I can share them with my family.

Are you working on more picture books? Would you like to illustrate picture books too?

I’ve got a growing pile of stories in varying states, from penciled notes to finished manuscripts, some that rhyme, some that don’t. I keep tuning up my older ones. I have several new stories that I think are really solid, and I’ve been working on a few sequels and spinoffs of the first two books.

A few of the projects I would really love to illustrate. I have lots of sketches but few finished images for any of them. It’s intimidating when I start comparing myself to artists who might spend more disciplined time focused on drawing and painting. As you said before, my style is eclectic, I rarely stick to a consistent body of work for long, but I have some thoughts about how to play to my strengths and style to get some of these books done.

Where can fans go to learn more about you?

For a whole bunch about bats and The Gentleman Bat, I’ve put together a family friendly site,, with lots of resources and links about bats, bat conservation, awesome videos and science, the inspiration and illustration process for the book, a guide to some hidden details inside – all that and more. I don’t update as often, but have some fun future plans, so please check that out too.

My Facebook author page is here: I post readings and events, sometimes cute bat links, Ripple Grove Press news. I plan to do a book giveaway or two soon, but still haven’t figured out how all of that works. Questions, comments, or if you want to schedule an in-person or virtual school visit, please feel free to contact me there, and, as they say, please like and share.

My art page has some creepy, spooky, grown-up stuff on it, plenty of not-so-creepy stuff mixed in too, but best to poke around without kids looking on until you get a sense of what’s there.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog, and for all of these great questions! It’s been such fun reading all the responses from other authors and illustrators.

Thank you, Abraham, for sharing so much of your life and work with us!

To learn even more fascinating facts about Abraham, click HERE

Stay tuned, friends, for a special upcoming interview. Abraham will be interviewing me, right here on the Frog!

Interview Alert: Piotr Parda










As much as I adore picture books, I’m don’t often become misty-eyed while reading them. But there are always exceptions, and author/illustrator Piotr Parda’s brand new book Graduation Day is one of them. Graduation Day is an incredibly moving wordless picture book about a young girl who takes something negative and turns it into something beautifully positive. It’s a must see!

Graduation Day is Piotr’s second book. Before that, he illustrated The Gentleman Bat, another lovely book, which was written by Abraham Schroeder. Both books were published by Ripple Grove Press, the publisher of my book The Peddler’s Bed.

I’m very pleased to share this interview with the talented Piotr Parda!

Did you know from a young age that you were going to be an artist? Did your parents encourage your talent?

Yes, my parents are the very first people in my life to remember how throwing a piece of paper and a pencil or a crayon into my crib while I was crying was better than any pacifier in the world. But then again most children, if not all of them, enjoy drawing and painting, sculpting, cutting and gluing, making up alternate realities, performances, happenings, scientific experiments, installations, mixed media art and other things done for no reason. Some lose this interest along with their baby teeth and some don’t (or do but find a secret passage back to these imaginative shenanigans). I must say I lost it many times and I still do occasionally. Luckily so far I’ve been able to find the “secret passage” but always with great difficulty.

My parents have been supporting me since the “crib incidents” and they still do with curious enthusiasm but without projected ambition. I’m very lucky that way. They were never pushing or demanding results or telling me things like “you will never be able to support yourself!” or “become a doctor like your cousin!” They just were there with me.

What or who inspires your art?

So many things! Things of reality and things of art and by “art” here I mean just things other people make or made in the past. I enjoy watching people working on something, solving problems, building. Whether it’s a cooking/travel documentary or home improvement TV show or something about scientific process. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something innovative. “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross? Yes please!

I’ve watched all episodes of ‘Mythbusters’ until they just started to focus solely on guns and explosions probably encouraged by the popular demand of the American viewers. I find human nature quite inspiring too, I guess…

To me the best fuel for the creative spark has always been the work of other artists and innovators. When it comes to motivation nothing ever worked better for me than being exposed to other people’s creations.

And finally and fairly recently this one book I can’t stop reading since I first found out about it: “The Invention of Nature” by Andrea Wulf. If a child asked me to tell her “everything about the world” this is the one and only book I would reach for except it might be a bit too irrelevant for a small child.


Piotr At Work On A Page From The Gentleman Bat

How did Ripple Grove Press approach you to illustrate their first ever picture book, The Gentleman Bat?

The “approaching” was quite an intricate matter in this case. In 2006(?) Abraham Schroeder, the author of the book and friend, told me about his eerie idea for a story. When I heard he wanted to create a world full of anthropomorphic bats, wearing clothes, using contraptions, inhabiting mansions, dancing and being generally graceful, the first thing I told him was “it’s great but totally impossible to illustrate.” So we gave it a shot… We worked on our little project on and off for about eight years ending up with a few versions of the same story (each one unfinished) and hundreds of sketches and concepts. It was only after Abraham learned that his good friends are launching their own publishing business and love his story, we finally got a solid deadline and the prospect of having an actual book printed out. It was their first ever book to publish, so we thought it had better be done well!

Your illustrations in The Gentleman Bat are very different from your illustrations in your new picture book, Graduation Day. How do you decide what style of art works best for a story?

I think it extends beyond books. I’ve been “accused” of having created the most disparate and confusingly diverse body of work ever but I feel like every single idea deserves special technical considerations. It’s always interesting to come up with techniques that harmonize with the idea. Even subtle things make a great difference: a book about saving trees printed on recycled paper, a story about coal miners with illustrations drawn with coal or illustrations for a book about bees drawn with wax crayons. But sometimes I’m not even sure how to reconcile the fact of having to stay within the 40 page story book format. Why not a novel? Why not a puppet show? Why not an animation? A feature blockbuster? On the other hand having some parameters and limitations to work with provides a good balance.

The technique for “The Gentleman Bat” was the result of many discussions and negotiations with the author. It had to be of a specific style resembling the one used in the old-timey Victorian illustrations additionally inspired by an old Japanese woodblock print. “Graduation Day” was an independent project so I guess you might say this is the kind of “classic Parda” style Parda would be most likely to employ (but only for this particular project perhaps?).


A Spread From Graduation Day

Why did you decide to make Graduation Day a wordless book?

It was a very simple decision. I wrote the story (with English words). The main character was the narrator. It was cute. Then I drew the pictures and read it again. It was HORRIBLE! The text had to go and a few additional images had to be squeezed in to complete the sequence and there it was! Can you imagine doing that while working with a writer? I always knew there was a reason the writers have to be good at what they are doing.


A Spread From Graduation Day

Graduation Day is incredibly moving. Do you have a personal connection to the message of the story?

The primary inspiration came to me one late August while I was walking through my quite industrial looking neighborhood. There were all sorts of weeds sprouting from the cracks in the pavement. Some of them very tall and interesting. Yes, I know plants growing through concrete inspired many people already and made quite a few motivational posters in corporate offices everywhere but this time it felt as if I was looking at it with a fresh perspective. I thought the plants were beautiful in the way of their variety, diversity and versatility. It wasn’t really about brute force but flexibility and perseverance. It made me think about the crushing majority of humans living on this planet having no choice but to make things work with what’s around them. And if they manage to do it, they improve their worlds in a lasting way and against overwhelming odds. It’s much more powerful and long lasting than the top down brute force of an angry sledgehammer.

For an unknown reason the time of executing “Graduation Day” was quite an anxious period in my life. Sometimes anxiety just comes unannounced and yells “surprise!” The project took me about a year and by the time I was finished, and not without some amazing help and support, I learned how to manage anxiety. Strangely, managing anxiety turned out not very different from (spoiler alert!) putting a sunflower seed in your pocket.


The Star Of Graduation Day From Many Angles

Would you like to illustrate more children’s picture books?


Where can fans go to learn more about you and your art?

My potential fans but also those who dislike my art or are on the fence about it can follow the publisher’s website:

or just go to my site if only to witness the organized randomness:

I also participate in the Brickbottom Open Studios in Somerville, MA, along with countless other artists in the building every November one week before Thanksgiving.

Thank you, Piotr, for sharing a little bit of yourself with Frog on a Blog readers!


Piotr’s “Mug Shot”

More about Piotr and his art process from his website: “Making things has always been something of a magical thing to me. Growing up in the former People’s Republic of Poland, I had to accept the fact that there are places I can never go to, and things I can never have. It meant that I had to imagine, draw and paint places I would want to go to, and build things I would want to have. So I drew and painted, built toys out of wood scraps and paper, “electronic” watches out of tin foil or a life size car out of four chairs and a blanket. To me making art still means making a world for myself to inhabit and enjoy. The world I build is not imitating or mimicking the reality. It is rather an addition if not an alternative to it. I don’t commit to one particular style or medium. Current creations reflect an instinctive urge to explore a particular field of interest that appears at one particular time. The process is open, dynamic and free of schedule.”

And The Winner Is… (plus February’s Prize)

In January, I posted about a year-long giveaway 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, especially in recent months, I decided I wanted to do something positive, something to show my gratitude to my followers, fans, and friends for their support. 

The first prize offered, for the month of January, was a signed copy of my picture book The Peddler’s Bed.

Final Final Cover

And the winner is…

Heather Stinnett

Congratulations Heather! Please contact me by clicking HERE. I need your address and how you’d like your book signed.

This month’s prize is a Curious George plushie, all decked out for Valentine’s Day. 

Comment on this post or any post during the month of February for your 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.

New Year=New Beginnings (plus a giveaway and free bookplates)

Happy 2017! 

Peddler Jump_Peddlers Bed

Image from The Peddler’s Bed

The Peddler is jumping for joy because it’s a brand new year, full of possibilities. It’s also a year full of giveaways! I’ll be giving away a prize each month to folks who comment on a post–any post–during the course of the month. Winners will be chosen at random and announced on the blog. Subscribing to Frog on a Blog is recommended (though not required) to keep track of posts and to see if you’ve won.

Those who share a post, will get an extra chance to win that month’s prize. Prizes will consist of picture books, picture book critiques from me, a set of pilot’s pens (Night Writer–for writing in the dark), and other fun picture book or writing related stuff.

To kick things off, for January, I’m giving away a signed copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed. All you have to do is comment on any post this month (including this one). If you share the post, you’ll get an extra chance to win. If you comment on or share more than one post during the month, you’ll get one extra chance to win as well. To make it as fair as possible, if you win for one month, you will not be eligible to win again. But feel free to leave comments anyway.This is my first time offering a year-long giveaway. If all goes well, I may do it again next year.

Important: If you share a post, please remember to tag me or let me know in the comments that you shared.

*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!

For everyone out there who already has a copy of The Peddler’s Bed, I have free autographed bookplates to give away. Just use my Contact form and leave your name, address, and how you’d like the bookplate signed (to whom), and I’ll pop it in the mail to you asap.

Interview Alert: Kathryn Carr


It is my pleasure to welcome Kathryn Carr to Frog on a Blog. Kathryn is the illustrator of Lizbeth Lou Got a Rock in Her Shoe, a beautiful picture book written by Troy Howell and published by Ripple Grove Press. I was so intrigued by her incredible cut-paper art, I had to learn more about her and how she does it!

Kathryn, did you know from an early age that you wanted to be an artist?

I knew I had a special connection with art from a very early age. I remember when I was about 4 my mother would lay out big sheets of paper on the kitchen floor so I could get messy and paint. I loved my art classes in school and knew that I wanted to be involved in the arts in some way.

How did you develop your unique and whimsical cut-paper style?

I began paper cutting in 2008. I had a desire to work with simplistic materials and to create a visual that was similar to block printing. I achieved the look I was striving for by sketching my ideas on the back of black paper and cutting away the positive or negative shapes using a knife blade.

It was like a whole new world opened up for me when I started with the art of paper cutting. I never really enjoyed drawing because I felt like I had to worry about perspective, shading, and lots of detail work. Now, when I draw imagery for my silhouettes I can make my buildings curve and sway and create fantastic scenes without spending time on the details or stressing about making everything just so. Over time my paper cutting skills improved and I just kept doing what I loved and an iconic style evolved.

How did Ripple Grove Press approach you about illustrating Troy Howell’s Lizbeth Lou Got a Rock in Her Shoe?

A friend of mine encouraged me to become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators group in my area. So I signed up and posted my art and information on their website. It was about two weeks later when I received an email from Rob at Ripple Grove Press expressing that he liked my silhouette style and wondered if I would be interested in illustrating a book.

How did you create the lovely glow we see behind the cut paper silhouettes in the book?

When I read the story I felt I needed to create a more dynamic illustration style then what my black and white silhouettes offered. I wanted a warm and inviting atmosphere and something that would engage the readers. With a lot of experimentation and trial and error I found a way to achieve that sense of depth and interest I was looking for. I began with cutting images from white paper and set them up in a diorama. Some lamps were positioned behind and below the art and then I took a photo of the whole scene. The sepia color is just what the camera registered from the lights I used.

What projects are you working on now?

I am getting a body of work together for a solo gallery show this spring at West Liberty College in WV.

Why do you believe picture books are important?

Picture books encourage imagination and create a special bond with the reader/viewer. The books from my childhood have had a profound impact on my art today.

Where can fans go to learn more about you and your art?

I have a website:

Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book illustrators?

My best advice is to hone in on your own style of art and always continue to learn about your craft.

Thank you, Kathryn!

Interview Alert: MaryAnn Sundby



Please help me welcome author MaryAnn Sundby to Frog on a Blog! She’s the newest member of the Ripple Grove Press family. Her debut picture book Monday Is Wash Day, which was illustrated by Tessa Blackham, is available now. Let’s get to know MaryAnn a little bit. Read on!

maryann-sundbyMaryAnn, what inspired you to write your debut picture book Monday Is Wash Day? Do you have a personal connection to the message of the story?

People often say “write about what you know”. Monday is Wash Day is based on my experience growing up on a farm where I helped do the wash. I wanted children of today to understand that in years gone by, children helped do family chores. It was a wonderful part of family life.

How did you hear about Ripple Grove Press and why did you decide to submit to them?

The 2013 summer bulletin of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (a writer’s group I have joined) mentioned that Ripple Grove Press was accepting submissions for children’s picture books. I immediately mailed in Monday Is Wash Day for consideration. I was excited, knowing my manuscript would be read, as publishers often don’t have open submissions.

What’s your favorite illustration in Monday is Wash Day?

Tessa Blackham’s illustrations are fun and detailed. I especially like the pages of the children carrying the buckets of water to the porch; the family dog is helping!

Have you always wanted to be an author?

During the last several years, I pursued writing as an alternative to watching TV, which is too passive for me. Writing has been a positive avenue to learn about people and our world and to share ideas and memories.

What do you believe makes picture books special?

Picture books are special when carefully chosen words are braided into a captivating story enhanced with illustrations. With the wonderful mix of good words, a good story and good illustrations, a child’s understanding of the world grows. Consider the stories of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan. Children are drawn to these classics, especially with compelling illustrations to highlight the drama.

Besides writing, what are some of your favorite things to do? Do you have favorite places you like to visit?

I enjoy being with family and friends. I enjoy traveling and learning about history all around me. I enjoy good food. I live near the mountains in Colorado where I see beautiful sunrises and sunsets nearly every day.


Are you working on more books?

Yes! I am writing about Maria, who leaves the family’s failing homestead to work in a boarding house kitchen. She doesn’t know what the future holds but she is content knowing she’s helping those she loves.

Where can fans connect with you online?

I welcome email messages from readers. They can reach me at:

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes. Reading good books is part of a good life!

So true, MaryAnn! Thank you so much for joining us on Frog on a Blog. May you experience much success with Monday Is Wash Day!

My First Picture Book: A Q&A With Karlin Gray


Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of answering some questions about my debut book experience for Karlin Gray, author of Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still, which was published June 7, 2016 by HMH. Karlin says, “Since I am new to the picture-book world, I wanted to learn from other writers. What inspired their stories? How did they go about crafting their first book? What did they do when they finally received that offer?” Those are just a few of the fun questions Karlin asks on her blog.

Click Here to read my responses to Karlin’s questions.

Look for my review of Karlin’s debut book, Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still, this fall.

Darlene, Cally, and Jen, You’ve Won!

Peddler Jump_Peddlers BedThe peddler’s jumping for joy because three winners have been chosen to receive copies of my picture book The Peddler’s Bed, illustrated by Bong Redila and published by Ripple Grove Press.

If you subscribed to follow my blog between January 1 and March 31 of this year, you were automatically entered into the drawing.*

January’s winner: Darlene F. (Living In His Presence Daily)

February’s winner: Cally F. (Some Special People)

March’s winner: Jen (Jen’s Lexical Creations/The Wordsmith Mom)

And guess what, you each get two copies of The Peddler’s Bed, one to keep and one to share!

Winners, get in touch with me through my Contact page. I need your address (U.S. addresses only), and I need to know how you’d like each book signed.

Please contact me within the next three weeks or I may choose an alternate winner.

I look forward to sharing my book with you! 🙂

*This contest was held on my SCBWI Launch Party Page. Winners were chosen at random.



Paying It Forward, Starting In My Own Community

Little Man Asleep_Peddlers Bed

Scene from The Peddler’s Bed illustrated by Bong Redila (Ripple Grove Press, 2015)

RM Logo




Even before my first children’s picture book, The Peddler’s Bed, was published, I knew I wanted to help people. But how? After the book was released, I began to research non-profit organizations that might be a good match. And although there are many extremely worthy causes out there, it didn’t take long to realize that the best match was right here in my own community: The Syracuse Rescue Mission.

Since 1887, the Syracuse Rescue Mission has been helping people in need by providing food, clothing, and shelter. Though they have evolved over the years, adding more services, programs, and locations, the values of faith, hope and love continue to form the foundation of their mission.

This is what the SRM is all about: Putting an end to hunger and homelessness for men, women, and children in our community.

  • Their Food Service Center provides three free hot meals a day to anyone in need. (Nearly 700 free meals a day and nearly a quarter million meals a year are served!)
  • Their emergency shelter offers 183 beds for men and women in eight separate dormitories.
  • They offer employment and education resources, life skills training, spiritual care, and connection to other services.
  • Rescue Mission staff help place hundreds of individuals into permanent homes in the community every year.
  • Their Homeless Outreach Service is a mobile unit that reaches out to individuals experiencing homelessness, offering to bring them to shelter, and providing food, water, clothing, blankets and other support.

I am donating 25% of my royalty earnings from sales of The Peddler’s Bed between September 1, 2015 and September 1, 2016 to the Syracuse Rescue Mission. It’s easy to see why supporting the SRM is the right choice for me. If you’ve read The Peddler’s Bed, you know it’s all about kindness, caring, giving, and, of course, a warm bed. 

Thank You!

If you’ve already purchased a copy of The Peddler’s Bed, thank you so much; you’ve joined with others to help provide food, clothing, shelter, hot showers, and warm beds to men, woman, and children in need.

It’s not too late to help. If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Peddler’s Bed, choose one of these links:


Barnes & Noble


If you’d prefer to donate directly to the Syracuse Rescue Mission, click hereor search for a similar cause in your local area. Let’s put an end to hunger and homelessness for all people.

Final Final Cover







Interview Alert: Wendy BooydeGraaff


I’m excited to welcome fellow Ripple Grove Press author Wendy BooydeGraaff to Frog on a Blog! Wendy’s debut picture book Salad Pie, which is illustrated by Bryan Langdo, officially releases March 1, but is available for pre-order now! I’ve ordered mine and cannot wait to read it! 

I have a special affinity for Ripple Grove Press authors and illustrators and plan to make interviews with these talented people a regular feature here on The Frog. Please enjoy learning more about Wendy BooydeGraaff!

Interview Alert: Wendy BooydeGraaff

1. What inspired you to write your debut picture book Salad Pie?
Salad Pie was inspired by my oldest daughter, playing at the park. That’s where she said those words, “salad” and “pie” together, and I thought they sounded so unique and creative that I repeated them over and over on our walk home so I wouldn’t forget. Then she went for a nap and I started scribbling out a story. She gave me the title and the setting (thank you M!); I supplied the storyline.

2. How did you hear about Ripple Grove Press and why did you decide to submit to them?
Way in the back of SCBWI’s The Bulletin, there was a note in the publisher’s corner about Ripple Grove Press. They were about to launch their first list, so there wasn’t a lot of information about them. I like to do a lot of research before I submit, but I took a deep breath and risked it. After all, they were SCBWI members. I liked their mission statement at the time, which was something about creating the new classic picture books. Now their statement is to create books that are “fun, imaginative, and timeless”—perfect.

3. How long had you been writing with the intent to get published before you received your first contract?
I’ve been writing since I finished college, always with the hope to be published someday.

Box of Salad Pie

Box of Salad Pie

4. What’s the first thing you did after you received your box of author copies?
When the box of Salad Pie copies arrived on my doorstep, I waited for about an hour until my kids got home from school and we opened it together. Then we sat on the floor and everyone read a copy. I might’ve had some champagne. I left the books in a high traffic area where I could give them a little pat every time I passed by, and finally, I stacked them on a bookshelf where I can see the pile shrink as I host giveaways and send out review copies.

stack o' Salad Pie

Stack o’ Salad Pie

5. What do you like best about the picture book genre?
Picture books are often read aloud, so there’s this wonderful interaction between reader and audience. The format itself is a sort of conversation: the words inform the illustrations and then the illustrations inform the words in this nice, complicated circle of meaning so that once it’s done, a picture book can’t be separated into words vs. pictures anymore. A picture book IS its words and pictures, together. I love that.


Wendy’s signed Newbery

6. What’s your favorite picture book from childhood? What’s your favorite recent picture book?As a kid, I loved Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now by Dr. Seuss and The Nose Book by Al Perkins and illustrated by Roy McKie. I loved Marvin’s stubbornness, but I couldn’t understand why he chose to walk when all of those great modes of transportation were available. And I spent a long time supposing I had no nose, like The Nose Book suggests.

My favorite picture books now are The Dark by Lemony Snickett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, A Nation’s Hope by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and of course Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, which won the Newbery and a Caldecott Honor this year. Can I list more? Because I also love Pool by JiHyeon Lee, The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi, Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies, and Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Ooh, I almost forgot Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt. All of them have stellar illustrations and the perfect words (except Pool, which is wordless, but it’s perfectly wordless).


The Nose Book

7. Where can fans connect with you online?
Visit me at where I have a contact form or you can ask a question that I’ll answer on the site. You can also find me on Pinterest and Goodreads (There’s a giveaway running until February 16).

Maggie and Herbert on Monroe Center (GR, Mich)

Maggie and Herbert on Monroe Center

8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog readers?
• There are lots of great new authors and illustrators debuting in 2016. Find out about all of us at On the Scene in 2016, a picture book debut blog.
• Ripple Grove Press makes beautiful books. Check out their catalog here.
Thank you, Lauri. You’re a great host!

Thank you, Wendy, for joining us on Frog on a Blog! It was so great getting to know you better! We wish you much success with Salad Pie! 🙂

If A Book Is About A Bed, Does That Make It A Bedtime Book? Hmm…

Final Final Cover

My picture book The Peddler’s Bed is centered around a bed, but I never considered it a bedtime story. It could certainly be read at bedtime, but it wasn’t written with that in mind. When I think of bedtime stories, I think of books like Goodnight Moon or other soft, lyrical, lulling stories. I think I’m both right and wrong about that.

Wikipedia defines a bedtime story as a “traditional form of storytelling, where a story is told to a child at bedtime to prepare the child for sleep.” Most any picture book could be deemed a bedtime story under that definition. If you read your child a book before bedtime, any book, then you are reading a bedtime story. And that’s great! I believe reading to or with your child at bedtime strengthens the bond between you.

There are many picture books about nightime and/or going to sleep, but very few are focused on an actual bed. So for this post, I thought I’d share two recent titles I came across that, like The Peddler’s Bed, are all about the bed (and a few other characters).


In Simon’s New Bed, Simon the dog is overjoyed to get a new bed, but when he returns from going for a walk with his best friend, the boy, ready to take a nap, he discovers Miss Adora Belle the cat asleep in his brand new bed. He tries everything to get her to move. He howls. He barks. He drags the bed all over the house. He even begs. Nothing works. Finally, he has the answer. He asks if they can share. That’s just what they do. And the two nap happily together.   


The bed in The Pirate’s Bed is a true character, a living, breathing character with emotions and longings. When a terrible storm destroys the pirates’ ship, the bed is lost at sea. It drifts along contentedly at first, glad to be away from the smelly, snoring pirate. But after awhile, despite the birds that would come to perch on it and the playful dolphins that swam around it, the bed felt lonely. Then one day, it washed ashore. It was discovered, fixed, and sold, and finally found happiness in the home of a boy who dreamed of pirates.

If you know any other picture books that feature beds, or if you’d like to weigh in on what you consider a bedtime story, please leave a comment.

For more information about my book The Peddler’s Bed, click here. How does my book compare to the two titles above? I think you will find all three to be very different.

Following My Book Through Processing: A Library Assistant’s Perspective

Final Final Cover

Being a Library Assistant at the DeWitt Community Library presented me with a unique opportunity that most authors do not get : I cataloged my own book, The Peddler’s Bed. This experience was extra special because The Peddler’s Bed is my very first book. I want to share the experience with you, through pictures.



A shipment of new books has arrived from Ingram via either FedEx or UPS.


The label on the outside of this box tells me it contains mostly children’s books and The Peddler’s Bed is one of them.


The box is unpacked along with other boxes and the contents are placed on one of the processing carts. My book hasn’t gotten to me yet; that comes a little later. (I pulled my book out a bit to make it easier for you to see.)


My processing counterpart, Linda, gets it next. She’ll do all the labeling and stamping. It already has the protective mylar covering the jacket. Look how shiny it is.


Linda added the spine label (I printed it!).


She stamped the name and address of the library, as well as the processing date, inside on the first page. You can see the order card in this picture too, paperclipped at the top.


Linda also placed the library barcode and a NEW sticker on the back cover, top left.


Now it’s my turn. My book is on my processing cart, ready to be added to the catalog. Can you see it?


Here’s a closer look. Can you see it now?


Here it is! It’s in good company. Do you recognize some of the other books nearby?


Okay, back to work. (So shiny!) Time to create an item record for my book.


Creating an item record is fairly simple. I log into Polaris, the integrated library system used by the library. I pull up the bibliographic record for The Peddler’s Bed. Then I attach an item record to the bib record. I do this by opening up an item record form and filling in the necessary information. (This picture shows the item record form.) I save the record and presto, just like that, we’re done. My book can now be searched for and found in the library’s catalog. (This has all been simplified so that I don’t bore you to death, but it really isn’t complicated.)


My book is now shelved and part of the library’s collection. Since it’s new, it’ll be shelved with the new picture books for a couple of months before it’s moved to its permanent position on the picture book shelves.


Just for fun, let’s take a look at where The Peddler’s Bed will be on the regular picture book shelves. Do you see it?


There it is! It fits in quite nicely between Alison Formento and Mem Fox.

And with that, a long held dream of mine has come true: I have a published book in the library. And it’s already been checked out several times since the beginning of October.

If you have any questions about processing or cataloging new library books or media, just ask. I’m happy to answer.


Another dream has come true as well: The Peddler’s Bed is on the shelf of my local Barnes & Noble! 🙂


The Peddler’s Bed Book Launch Party = Big Success!


This past Saturday, I celebrated the release of my debut picture book The Peddler’s Bed with a launch party, or what I like to call a “book birthday party”, at my local library. I am extremely pleased to announce that the party was a huge success!

Many more people than I expected came out to celebrate with me (it’s a good thing I had tons of food)! Lots of family, friends, library patrons, and kids attended the party. And the biggest surprise was that my mom, who lives over an hour away in a nursing home, was able to come too, thanks to my brother-in-law who picked her up that day! 

To top it off, we sold every copy of the book! I was able to hand over a good-sized check to Barnes & Noble, and the library got a nice donation, as 21% of each sale went straight to them (thank you, B & N!).

I think everyone had a good time, and I got lots of praise for throwing such a great party. But I could not have done it without help. I owe tremendous thanks to several people: My husband Chris, my sister Linda, my brother-in-law Tim, library volunteer Pat Kolceski and her husband Joe, my library coworkers Emily Wormuth and Pat Macie and Carol Youngs, an old high school friend Suzanne Knox, my father-in-law Al for bringing the flowers, and the library staff who were working that day.

Much thanks also to everyone who came to celebrate with me, everyone who purchased a copy of the book, and everyone who either promoted, spread the word or sent best wishes my way. I am humbled by and grateful for your support. 🙂 Enjoy this sampling of photos from the party. (Please do not copy or distribute any of the photos depicting people in this blog post, except pictures of me.)

Bed replica made by Joe Kolceski

Bed replica made by Joe Kolceski

Rice krispie beds with fruit roll up blankets, marshmallow pillows, graham cracker head and foot boards, pretzel stick bed posts, and gummy bear teddy bears-made by my siser and me!

Rice krispie beds with fruit roll up blankets, marshmallow pillows, graham cracker head and foot boards, pretzel stick bed posts, and gummy bear teddy bears-made by my sister and me!







Decorating pillow cases

Decorating pillow cases

Making a polka dot tree

Making a polka dot tree

Having fun!

Having fun!





Time to read the book!

Time to read the book!




Time to sign!

Time to sign!

My twin sis and me

My twin sis and me

Sassy Suckers!

Please do not copy or distribute any of the photos depicting people in this blog post, except pictures of me. Thank you!

It’s Official: The Peddler’s Bed Book Birthday + You’re Invited To The Party + The Giveaway Winner!

Final Final Cover

Today is the official release day of my debut children’s picture book The Peddler’s Bed, illustrated by Bong Redila and published by Ripple Grove Press!

I’m super excited to share this news with all of you! I have a lot to tell you about today, including the “when” and “where” of my book launch party and the announcement of the Giveaway winner, but before I get to that I want to thank everyone who has encouraged my writing endeavors, everyone who has followed Frog on a Blog, and everyone who has preordered a copy of my book. All of your support means so much to me. Thank you! 🙂


You’re Invited To A Book Birthday Party!

What’s the best way to celebrate the launch of a book? You have a birthday party, of course, and everyone’s invited!

Book Birthday Party (2)


I’ve Been Profiled!

My publisher, Ripple Grove Press, posted a short profile of me, in the form of an interview, on their website. Find out more about me as an author-who my idols are, where I get my inspiration, what my favorite picture books are, and more by clicking on the Key. 

Ripple Grove Press


Author PictureMy Pledge

For every 100 copies of The Peddler’s Bed sold for a period of one year (between Sept. 1 2015 and Sept. 1 2016), I pledge to donate one copy to a U.S. school or public library or to another organization that works to put books into the hands of children.

If you are a U.S. school or public librarian or are affiliated with a children’s literacy organization, and would like to receive a copy of The Peddler’s Bed, please use the form on my Contact page to submit your organization for consideration.


Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Suzanne Knox!

She is the winner of one signed copy of The Peddler’s Bed plus two blank books to share with an emerging author! Suzanne, use the form on my Contact page to send me your address and the name of who you’d like me to sign the book to–and I’ll get your winnings out to you asap. Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the Emerging Authors post and shared it!

{a rainbow of blank books}

{a rainbow of blank books waiting to be filled with the colors of imagination}


A Request

Authors feel uncomfortable asking this, but it really does make a difference–those of you who have read or plan to read The Peddler’s Bed, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon, B&, or Goodreads. I’d really appreciate it. 

A big thank you, once again, to all of my supporters, blog and social media followers, book readers, and fans! You’re the best! 🙂

Giveaway: Just 3 Weeks Left To Enter!

Final Final Cover

{a rainbow of blank books}

{a rainbow of blank books waiting to be filled with the colors of imagination}

There are just 3 weeks left to enter to win a signed copy of my debut picture book The Peddler’s Bed along with 2 blank books to give to the emerging authors in your life. All you have to do is leave a comment on the original post! I’ll choose a winner at random on September 1, the release date for The Peddler’s Bed, and announce it here on Frog on a Blog. Just leave a comment on the original post, it’s that easy! CLICK HERE! 

Summary of The Peddler’s Bed:

In this endearing tale of kindness and giving, author Lauri Fortino and illustrator Bong Redila introduce readers to a peddler on a mission to sell a fine, handcrafted bed, guaranteed to never squeak. But when the peddler comes across a man at work in his garden, he soon realizes that the man is penniless and cannot buy the bed. So he makes a wager with the man, if he can think of a way to make the bed squeak by sunset, the bed will be his. Though the man is excited by the prospect of winning the bed, he is more concerned with the well-being of the peddler and invites him to sit in the shade of his porch, have a glass of water, and come in for a bite to eat. By the end of the day, the peddler’s heart has been moved by the poor man’s generosity and he leaves behind the perfect gift of gratitude before driving off into the sunset.

Emerging Author: Bits About Me (Plus a Giveaway!)

Today is exactly one month until the official release of my debut picture book The Peddler’s Bed on September 1! I’ve been counting down the months with special posts.

On June 1, I shared an interview with the super-talented illustrator of The Peddler’s Bed, Bong Redila. Kirkus Review said his “palette has the color and clarity of stained glass…”. I agree! His art is fantastic! And did you know that Bong is color blind! To read his interview, click here. (To read Kirkus Review’s positive review of The Peddler’s Bed, click here!)

On July 1, I posted an interview with Jami Gigot, the author and illustrator of Mae and the Moon, which releases on September 8. I was very pleased to interview Jami as both of our books are being published by Ripple Grove PressMae and the Moon has received several great reviews and I can’t wait to read it. To read Jami’s interview, click here.

This month, I thought it would be fun to share a few bits about my childhood with you, in pictures. (Maybe it’s more fun for me than for you, but I hope you enjoy it.) 

I was born in 1971. Here’s me (on the right) with my dad, mom, and twin sister.

Here's me at age 2 1/2.

Here’s me at age 2 1/2. Am I too young to be thinking about writing yet? Probably. But the seed is in there somewhere, waiting to be cultivated. My grandmother was a writer and a self-taught poet, so I’m convinced I inherited the “writer’s” gene from her.

Here's me at 4 years old.

Here’s me at 4 years old. Am I thinking about writing now? I’m not sure, but I do know that we always had books in the house, so I’m definitely developing my book love.

I'm nearly 9 in this photo. I still look cute; what the heck happened to me?! Well, I'll spare you my awkward teen years. Trust me, you do not want to see those photos! :) (I really should burn them one of these days.)

Now I’m thinking about writing for sure. I’m nearly 9 in this photo and I love to write stories! (I’ll spare you my awkward teen years. Trust me, you do NOT want to see those photos!)

As I was going through a folder filled with old school papers and drawings I did as a kid (Thanks, Mom, for saving all of them!), I came across several books I had made. I loved making books! Sadly, my artistic skills are lacking, but A for effort, right?

The Purple Cow

The Purple Cow (Yes, that’s a cow and a jug of milk.)

The Pumpkin Patch Caper (Those look like squashed pumpkins, right?)

The Life of My Sam (It’s a cat on a chair, really it is.)

It makes sense that emerging authors would fall in love with writing at this age. We’ve already developed the ability to physically write. We’ve been exposed to books, hopefully at home as well as at school. And we’re participating in creative writing in class on a regular basis. At age 11, I was given an autobiography assignment in school. How much could an eleven-year-old have to write about her life? Surprisingly, quite a bit (all in cursive, I might add). And because I loved to write, I loved the assignment.

I still have that autobiography (thanks, Mom) and as I was rereading it, I discovered, in a section entitled “What I’ll Be Doing in 1998”, that I planned to be an author and that I wanted to write children’s books about animals. I hadn’t remembered writing that. When high school and adult life took over, I forgot my childhood aspirations and my life went in a different direction. But eventually, I circled back around to writing. I certainly wasn’t an author by 1998-it took more than a decade longer than that-but now I’m finally back where I belong, making books.

Do you know an emerging author?

If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking with it and taking a quick walk down memory lane with me. 

Now for the giveaway:

In celebration of the release of my debut picture book The Peddler’s Bed on September 1, I am giving away a signed copy! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post!  On September 1, I will choose a winner at random and announce it here on Frog on a Blog. Along with the book, I’ll be sending the winner 2 blank books to share with an emerging author or two, to help them get started writing and illustrating stories of their own. If you share this post on social media, and let me know in your comment that you did, I’ll give you an extra chance to win!

You may want to subscribe to my blog so that I can contact you via e-mail if you win. Subscribing brings every new blog post directly to you. You’ll receive book reviews, author and illustrator interviews, and lots more picture book fun right in your inbox. It’s easy to subscribe, just put your e-mail in the Subscribe box located in the sidebar to the right.

(Giveaway open to U.S. residents only)

{a rainbow of blank books}

{a rainbow of blank books waiting to be filled with the colors of imagination}

Final Final Cover

I am also running a Giveaway on Goodreads from August 1 until September 1. Check it out for another chance to win a copy of The Peddler’s Bed!

For more information about my book, click the My Books tab at the top of the page.

Interview Alert: Jami Gigot

Today is exactly 2 months until the release of my debut picture book The Peddler’s Bed on September 1! And I couldn’t be more thrilled! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 2 years since I submitted the manuscript to Ripple Grove Press; time sure flies! Last month, I interviewed Bong Redila, the illustrator of The Peddler’s Bed. This month, it’s my pleasure to share an interview I did with author/illustrator Jami Gigot. Jami’s picture book Mae and the Moon comes out September 8, also from Ripple Grove Press. It looks spectacular and I can’t wait to read it!

Please enjoy Jami’s fabulous interview! 


Q. What inspired you to write your debut picture book Mae and the Moon?

After my kids were born, I wanted to capture these amazing fleeting moments of our lives and also started thinking a lot about my own memories as a child. I started to write and draw bits of memories, words, silly poems and stories, trying to see things from a child’s point of view. When my daughter Mae was a toddler she once told me that the moon was following us, and we would often (and still do!) spend time looking at the sky searching for it, so I wrote a poem one night that inspired this particular story. I have always wanted to pursue creating my own ideas and stories and have an incredible passion for picture books, so decided to give it a go! 

hugMoonCircle (2)

Q. Have you always been a creative and artistic person? Besides writing and illustrating children’s books, in what ways have you used your creativity?

I would say so, yes. I’ve always kept journals full of random thoughts and drawings, but they have just been my personal little books, and focusing on illustration and writing to this level and sharing it in this way is quite new to me. I went to school for film and animation and have spent the last several years working on feature films as a visual effects artist, so I mostly work on the computer in a 3D environment, and in collaboration with many other talented folks. For a few years, I also ran a business called “The Grateful Thread” with my husband where we designed and sold rock n’ roll inspired soft toy guitars and monsters, which was good fun. I love the process of making things and I also love learning, so it’s not uncommon for me to have several projects on the go, from painting, to upholstery, to trying to learn the ukulele. There are just not enough hours in the day! 

Q. What part of the process did you like best when you created Mae and the Moon?

Really, I enjoyed the whole process very much. I love the moment when after staring into space and thinking so hard my brain hurts, I’ll get the little sparks of an exciting new idea that helps move the story along. My favorite part of illustrating is getting to the place where the image is really starting to work and I can envision more clearly where I would like it to go.  I spend a lot of time drawing, erasing, and redrawing trying to get the character expression and posing right, changing the composition, and exploring the color palette, so my drawings often look pretty messy, but I need to try things out to get it right. Once I feel like the composition and initial sketches are working then it’s all about building it up bit by bit. 

rocketBuildSketch (2)

rocketBuild (2)

Q. How did you hear about Ripple Grove Press and why did you decide to submit Mae and the Moon to them?

When I felt I had a dummy book in a state that was ready to send to publishers I did a lot of research into potential publishing houses. I don’t have an agent and most of the big name houses won’t accept unsolicited materials, so I targeted a few of the mid and smaller ones. I found Ripple Grove Press online. It is run by a married couple Rob and Amanda Broder, and having run a business with my husband before, I admire them for taking a risk and following their passion. I read an interview that Amanda had done and she mentioned a few of her favorite picture books, which really matched my personal taste, so it seemed like a good fit. 

Q. Do you have a favorite picture book, favorite picture book author, or favorite illustrator?

So many! I love everything by Arnold Lobel, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, and Roald Dahl. There are so many amazing illustrators there and I’m constantly discovering new artists.  Some of my long time favorites are Moebius, Mike Mignola, Hayao Miyazaki, Dave McKean, Tove Janson and Shaun Tan, and some more recent favorites include Daniel Salmieri, Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Julie Morstad, David Weisner, the list could go on and on. 

Q. Why do you feel picture books are important?

The time spent between adult and child connecting through a world of wonder, learning and imagination is incredibly precious. Picture books cross all sorts of different styles, mediums, and cultures; they inspire children and bring out the child in adults. 

Q. Where can fans connect with you online?

Twitter @jlgigot

and I occasionally blog on Tumblr

Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book authors or illustrators who are trying to get published? 

Keep writing and/or drawing! The act of working itself will spawn more ideas and take you to new places. Experiment with your craft and push yourself to improve. Seek out advice and constructive criticism from individuals with more experience than you and don’t be afraid to change things.

Jami Gigot

Interview Alert: Illustrator Bong Redila

Today is exactly three months until the release of my picture book, The Peddler’s Bed, on September 1, 2015But it’s not just my book. Creating a picture book is a collaborative effort between author, illustrator, and publisher (not to mention copy editor, art director, printer, and etc., depending on what processes the publisher does in-house and what may be outsourced). I am the author of The Peddler’s Bed, but without the support and resources of Rob and Amanda at Ripple Grove Press and the artistry of illustrator Bong Redila, the book never would have come together as beautifully as it did. And I can’t wait to share it with the world on September 1! 

Final Final Cover

In the meantime, I thought now might be the perfect time to share the interview I did with Bong. Besides being an extremely talented and versatile artist (check out the galleries on his website), he’s a genuinely nice guy. We’ve never met in person, but have communicated via social media. I was delighted to learn more about him through his candid interview responses. Take a look!

Bong Redila in his studio.

Bong Redila in his studio.

Q. Did you know from a young age that you were going to be an artist? Did your parents encourage your talent?

As far as I can remember I was just a normal kid (at least I think so) doing normal kid’s stuff like draw and play outdoors. Lucky for us, back then our parents would let us play outside with the other kids without them watching us with no worries. I guess kids were a bit safer to roam and have an adventure by themselves back then. We’d go catch frogs, lizard hunting, go to the swamp, climb trees, play on a rainy day, made toy trucks using sardine cans. I’d say I’m fortunate enough to have experienced those things that made a big impact on who I am today.

One thing’s for sure though, my brother and I loved to draw.

My parents knew right from the get-go that we had a knack when using pencils and crayons, but I couldn’t remember them encouraging us NOR telling us not to become an artist. Maybe they did, I just forgot. But as far as I know, they did let us do what we wanted and I guess that was enough encouragement for me as a young lad with a bit of potential to exercise what I had that needed development.

Q. I’ve read that you are color blind; how did you find out and does being color blind affect the way you create art?

4 years ago, I remember driving one morning and was really fascinated with the bluish pink color of the sky. I thought it was breathtaking to behold. Then months had passed by, I was so busy I didn’t notice that every morning the sky looked like it was always ready to rain. It was so weird. Right then I began to notice some colors just gradually changed as days gone by. The leaves on the trees eventually became pink, the sky a greenish pink, the watercolor palette that I’ve been using became monotone. My ophthalmologist then told me that I have tritanopia, a rare color deficiency characterized by the vision’s lack of blues and yellows.

It does affect the way I do my art. Right now, I rely mostly on the color guide of my palette, that I wrote when I still had a normal vision, to know what color I am dipping my brush in. As for mixing, it’s just a matter of guessing and trying to recall what I learned when putting one particular color to another color and its outcome. It’s hard but I’m used to it.


Q. When did you hear from Rob Broder at Ripple Grove Press about working on the illustrations for The Peddler’s Bed? What was your first meeting like?

Rob Broder, president and founder of Ripple Grove Press, saw my name at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, emailed me and asked if I am interested in illustrating a book called The Peddler’s Bed. He showed me the manuscript, read it, and the message of the story just clicked on me, so I said ‘yes’.

Luckily for us both, Mr. Broder had been planning on visiting his brother who lives in Miami. So I set up a meeting at my favorite Brockway Library near our place. Cool gentleman. He arrived on a bicycle. The library was also a perfect place for us to meet. It was quiet and of course had a lot of sample books for the discussion. I just wish Amanda, his wife, and their daughter was there. I would have loved to meet them both as well.

Q. You’ve created such vivid and lively illustrations for The Peddler’s Bed. What paints and materials did you use? And can you describe your process of creating an illustration from beginning to end?

I used watercolor on a 300gsm watercolor paper for The Pedder’s Bed. For the most part, my process on making a piece, like other artists, starts with a lot of sketches, drawing the characters, repeatedly, with different expressions, gestures, angles, and situations. The repetition is essential on my part because it is somehow the time when the cast of characters and I are getting to know each other, the same manner as constantly hanging out with a new friend and knowing them enough that you’ve already memorized the shape of that person’s ears, how the person giggles, the person’s temperament and so on.


Once I am comfortable with the characters, I then start with the sketches of scenes beginning with thumbnails for tonal value and composition.

Those thumbnails then had to be resketched on a larger piece of paper for details. After countless pencil sharpening and erasing, everything had to be redrawn, again, on a large watercolor paper or canvas before painting the final piece. It is the best part of the whole process, in my opinion, because at this time, while painting (I usually paint late hours at night), my mind would finally take a rest, at least from the book anyway. It’s very therapeutic for me when painting, while the whole world is sleeping. It’s also the time when my mind would create other stories for me to tell.


I used to play around with color studies when doing details before I do the finalization of a piece on a watercolor paper or canvas. But those times are long gone for me.




Q. What do you like most about creating books for children?

What do I love most about creating picture books for kids? I love picture books so much that when making one it’s like creating something for the child in me to read and own.

Q. What projects are you working on right now?

Right now I am working on developing a short comics that I made into a silent picture book. There is also this story I am working on planning to turn into a ‘picture book for grown-ups’.

Q. Where can fans connect with you online?

They can just go visit my blog and my tumblr site where I constantly update what’s keeping me busy.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers about yourself, your art, or working on The Peddler’s Bed?

Buy the book. 🙂

And watch out for any reading and signing events from either Lauri and I.

Thank you, Bong!

More about Bong Redila (from his website 

Born in 1971, one of Bong Redila’s earliest memories as an artist is the day, around mid 70’s, in the Philippines, when he and his older brother were being punished for using their aunt’s lipstick as a medium to draw cartoon characters on their parent’s bedroom wall.

By the early 90’s, they moved to the beautiful island of Guam and he spent the rest of his teen years mentoring with some of the finest artists in the Marianas – Christian Mahilum, Arman Germar, Boi Sibug, Jon Medina. He then went on to become the first, youngest member of the artists organization The Saturday Group of Guam. He joined numerous group exhibits and later on, opened his very own art exhibit called Stages.

Now living in Miami, Florida, with his beautiful and supportive wife, Arceli and their ever so charming daughter, Oneng, Bong is still a regular contributing artist for Guam’s newspaper Mabuhay News. Aside from his monthly editorial cartoons, he is the author and creator of the long-running comic strip “Bayani Cafe”.



My Books Are Here!

I’m super thrilled to share that my author copies of The Peddler’s Bed have arrived from Ripple Grove Press today, right on my doorstep!

When I arrived home today, there was a package on my doorstep.

When I arrived home today, there was a package on my doorstep. What could it be?

O. M. Gosh, it's my author copies of The Peddler's Bed!

O. M. Gosh, it’s my author copies of The Peddler’s Bed, direct from Ripple Grove Press!

It's beautiful!

It’s beautiful!

Today was the very first time I got to hold my book in my hands. It’s so surreal, but awesome too! Bong Redila’s illustrations are gorgeous! And Rob and Amanda at Ripple Grove Press did a tremendous job bringing all the elements of the book together. I can’t wait to share The Peddler’s Bed with the world on September 1, 2015!

The Peddler’s Bed Is Coming Fall 2015!



(Illustrator Bong Redila…

...Hard At Work...

…Hard At Work…








...On The Cover Of The Peddler's Bed)

…On The Cover Of The Peddler’s Bed)















I’m so excited to share the “unofficial” cover of The Peddler’s Bed with my blog fans, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends! It is unofficial because changes are still possible, but publisher Ripple Grove Press was super kind to permit me to post it now. And how could I pass up the opportunity to share something so beautiful! Illustrator Bong Redila is fantastic and has a style all his own! I’m extremely pleased to have my name on a book cover next to his.   

Title: The Peddler’s Bed

Author: Lauri Fortino

Illustrator: Bong Redila

Publisher: Ripple Grove Press

Genre: Fictional Picture Book

Release Date: Fall 2015

See what happens when a peddler tries to sell a fine, handcrafted bed to a poor man who has no bed at all.

The Gentleman Bat


Title: The Gentleman Bat

Author: Abraham Schroeder

Illustrator: Piotr Parda

Publisher/Year: Ripple Grove Press/2014


The Gentleman Bat is a spectacular debut for picture book publisher Ripple Grove Press. From the amazing front cover all the way to the satisfying conclusion, I was completely mesmerized and drawn into a bygone era filled not with people, but with gentleman and lady bats. The text is fluid, fun, and fantastic to read, and is complemented by beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations. 

Join the gentleman bat as he takes a stroll along cobblestone streets dressed in his finest attire and ready for a night on the town.

The gentleman bat, with his gentleman’s cane,

went out for a walk one night in the rain.

He meets his lady friend and the two head to the town square where a band is playing. She accepts his offer to dance.

He spun her around and dipped her down low;

she giggled and laughed and kicked up her toe.

Could there be a romance brewing?

Their hearts fluttered wistfully as he departed,

and made his way back to his house where he started.

The Gentleman Bat is a lovely story that will entrance both children and adults. And if you are not a fan of bats, this picture book just may change the way you feel about the oft-misunderstood creature of the night. The Gentleman Bat is available for pre-order now and is due out October 1. Congratulations Ripple Grove Press!