A Debut Author’s View Of The First Month by Laura Roettiger

Every author celebrates and promotes the launch of their debut book in different ways. Some take trips around the world, while others stay closer to home. No matter how you celebrate, the first month after your first book baby is born is almost always a blur of activity, usually including readings and book signings at bookstores and libraries.

It is my extreme pleasure to host debut author and kidlit friend Laura Roettiger today! (Laura has done book reviews for Frog on a Blog, so I’m sure you recognize her name.) She’s here to share her “whirlwind” first month experience with us. If you’re a picture book author with a debut coming up, you might just garner a few ideas from Laura. Read on!

A Debut Author’s View Of The First Month

As a debut author, I spent months planning and preparing for what it would be like when ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON actually made it out into the world. I read about other authors’ experiences and one piece of advice that rose to the top of the pile was to “enjoy the experience and savor the moment.” It’s the same advice I was given before my daughters’ weddings last year. I have taken this advice to heart and would like to add my own two cents: “Take pictures and ask other people to take pictures for you!”

Laura signing with woman

Laura signing at the Boulder Public Library

The first few weeks after the official release date, February 19, 2019, which coincided with the full moon, were a bit of a blur. My release date launch party at the Boulder Public Library was well attended by critique partners from both my local groups, my only local relative, and friends I’ve made since I moved here two and a half years ago, including some well-known published authors that I treasure for their support and wisdom. Unfortunately, the weather that day was snowy and several people who had planned to attend didn’t make it. In spite of the weather, it was a magical experience, and my first time sharing the slide show I had created for school visits with photos of me, the inspiration for the book, and ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON, so it could be shared on a big screen. It also allowed me to hear feedback on my slideshow from a trusted source who suggested an addition, which I made the following day.

Laura with friends

Laura with fellow SCBWI members at Second Star to the Right bookstore in Denver, CO

My second launch party, four days after the book release, was at a lovely bookstore in Denver, Second Star to the Right. If you love books, and especially if you love children’s books, it is a place worth visiting. You will probably want to move in. This time, there were children and their parents whom I didn’t know that came for story time. It was lovely seeing how engaged they were in the story. Also, at this launch, was a wonderful group of writers and illustrators from our local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) chapter, including some big names. One friend brought her children who were older than the usual story time crowd, but they were also a wonderful audience. Side note: if you want to write anything from picture books to YA, you should join SCBWI immediately.

Laura with others

Laura at the KRFC88.9FM radio station in Fort Collins with Kristen Olsen and Jonathan Bennett

The following week, eight days after the book release, I was featured on a wonderful radio show at KRFC88.9FM in Fort Collins, “Tunes and Tales”, which was an hour with Kristen Olsen, the show’s host, Jonathan Bennett, a musician friend, and me reading ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. The three of us talked about how nature serves as an inspiration for curiosity and creativity. It was a wonderful coalescence of creativity from the aspect of writing and music and how the theme of creativity in my book is so important. The show was aired, but won’t be available until the podcast is up and running, hopefully soon.

A week later, sixteen days after the release, if you’re counting, I left for a ten-day book tour in Chicago, which I set up on my own. I had been a lifelong Chicago resident, and a teacher in the city for ten years before I moved to Colorado, so I had a lot of connections and spent considerable time before the book came out contacting people to put everything in place. The ten days included two bookstore story times and nine school visits. It was a whirlwind, but gratifying in every way imaginable.

A few bookstore highlights:
• Childhood friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in several years, coming to see me and buying signed copies of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON.
• Children I didn’t know listening intently as I read the book. Some of whom coming to the rug with other books in their hands that they immediately abandoned when I started reading.
• Seeing my book on the shelf with the label SCIENCE underneath.
• Seeing my book next to a highly acclaimed 2018 release written by an editor I met at a conference.
• An author I met and have remained friends with from a conference surprising me and afterwards, over coffee she said glowing things about my work.

A few school visit highlights:
• Presenting at the Kindergarten-second grade school where my children attended and sharing my book with over 400 children in one room who were silent except for a few oohs and ahhs over my photography and some welcome comments and interaction during the story. When they were leaving the room, several of the children stopped by to tell me “thank you,” “you did a good job,” “I love your book,” and “I’m proud of you.”
• Returning to the kindergarten classroom where I did my student teaching to find that kindergarten is still a happy place full of love thanks to amazing teachers.
• Seeing former students even though I wasn’t able to go back to the school where I taught for ten years. People who came to see me included a college freshman, and a few other families with children I remember from when they were in kindergarten, but are now taller than I and are in middle school.
• One school had me scheduled for multiple presentations, all of which were well received and it was great to see how different grades interacted with me and with my presentation. There was even a former student of mine there whose family had changed schools when I left. At the end of the last presentation, when I went back to the first class to get my coat, the students had written lovely thank you letters sharing their favorite parts of the book. Some even drew pictures that looked like pages from the book.

Laura with girls

Laura with former students sisters Valentina and Valerie

And one last, but not least, highlight to share, seeing a family I had lost touch with, including the now fourth grade girl who was part of the inspiration for Aliana. Her family had changed schools and I had a phone number for them that no longer worked. Luckily for me, her mother found me on social media and we connected a week before I left for Chicago. Maria and I arranged to meet in the afternoon before pickup time at school to surprise the girls. It was a huge surprise, emotionally overwhelming at first, but when Valentina recovered from her shock, she pulled my book out of her backpack – yes, she had been carrying it back and forth to school since she got it the day it came out!

If you have any questions for Laura about launching a debut book, please post in the comments, and I’m sure she would be happy to respond.

Laura signing girl in purple

Laura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour + Giveaway -AND Introducing Little Owl

I adore picture books that highlight the themes of love and kindness. That’s why it’s my great pleasure to be a stop on Laura Sassi’s LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour. Readers, this book is incredibly sweet (and I don’t mean because it includes a little something about a box of chocolates), and the ending (which I won’t give away) is darling. Speaking of darling, check out the cover of LOVE IS KIND, featuring Little Owl, the star of the book.

Love is kind cover

And, guess what? You get to meet Little Owl, the brand new story time puppet, right here on Frog on a Blog! Hello Little Owl!

Little Owl

Laura’s stopped by today to talk about how she uses puppets to enhance the story time experience and engage her young audience, and how you can too. Little Owl will soon be joining her on her author visits.

MEET LITTLE OWL: Using Puppets to Engage Young Readers

I started using puppets with the release of my very first book. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in that book, and thinking that my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. The former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

Skunk1

Those skunks became such an integral part of author visits, that I decided to incorporate puppets into the author visits for every one of my books – skunks for GOODNIGHT ARK, a rooster for GOODNIGHT MANGER, a seal and mouse for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, and now, for LOVE IS KIND, my newest release, a darling little owl.

Now, in celebration of sharing books with little ones, here are TEN tried-and-true tips for using puppets to enhance a story time experience.

Before the story time.

1. Pick a puppet that fits the book. The puppet you choose can either be a protagonist, like my seal, mouse and owl, or minor characters such as my skunks and rooster. The most important thing is that you have a good reason for picking that puppet – a reason that enhances your story time.  For example, the skunks are useful in introducing an important and fun subplot in GOODNIGHT, ARK.  (They are hiding under the bed in every spread until – at last – they make a big stink that’s important to the resolution of the story.) And that rooster, while very minor to GOODNIGHT, MANGER, becomes a fun and engaging way to introduce the concept of loud vs. quiet voices when putting a baby to bed.

Rooster

2. Play… and plan ahead of time! This is probably obvious, but it’s worth spending time in advance putting together a little stand-up routine for you and your puppet.  This is your chance to tap into your inner comedian.  The more you ham it up, the more the kids will love it! 

3. Practice your ventriloquist skills. There are two ways to use your puppet. Either you can just talk with it and it can shyly nod, react etc., OR you can have that puppet actually converse with you, or “cock-a-doodle-doo” as my rooster does and SING as that darling Diva Delores loves to do! If you decide to have them speak, then I’d recommend practicing your ventriloquist skills in front of a mirror ahead of time.

During the story time.

4. Use your puppets to break the ice. If you are a little shy, like me, then you’ll probably agree that mingling is easier with a buddy.  In that awkward “before the story time officially begins” period, I’ve discovered that EVERYBODY enjoys a little mingling with the author and her storytelling companion – especially when it’s a cute stuffed animal puppet.

5. Have your puppets help introduce the story.  This takes a little planning ahead of time (see step 2), but a short puppet routine is a great way to introduce the themes of your story, any special concepts, or just to get the kids excited.  For DIVA DELORES, for example, my seal puppet likes to sing for the audience so they can hear what opera sounds like. Then she invites them to join along in singing the refrain that appears on certain spreads in the book.  I haven’t finalized exactly what Little Owl is going to do before I read LOVE IS KIND, but it will surely have something to do with kindness and love.

Diva Delores

6. Have the children model for the puppets what “good listening” looks like before you read.  It’s amazing how eager young readers are to engage with the puppets, and I’ve discovered over time that little ones especially like the opportunity to model for my puppets what good listeners look like.  So, I have THEM show the puppets what it looks like to sit quietly with eyes on reader, ready to be read to. (I also use those skunks to my advantage (see intro)). 

7. Use your puppets to engage young readers in some post-reading ponderings. After my readings, I like for the kids to reflect with me on what the characters in the story learned and I’ve found that involving the puppets in the process is effective and popular. For example, after reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER we ponder what made the difference in getting Baby Jesus to sleep.  (The answer has to do with creating a quiet, peaceful atmosphere). Then, together, we see if we can teach our very NOISY rooster to do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a final lullaby to Baby Jesus. For LOVE IS KIND, I think I will have Little Owl help me select volunteers to share their post-reading thoughts by looking with me for participants who are showing kindness by being good listeners with each other during our post book chat.

8. Include your puppets in the story time farewell.  This can be very motivational if your audience is getting antsy because you can promise your young participants that if they hold on just a little longer, then they can pet and hug the visiting puppet!  They love this!  And I am just charmed by how many “I love yous” each puppet has so gently received over the last four years since I first started using puppets.

After the story time.

9. Have a puppet de-briefing session with yourself. After each story time, I find it helpful to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what I could do next time to make that puppet even more integral to my story time. For example, it wasn’t until I had done a few story times in that I decided to have my GOODNIGHT, ARK skunk puppets engage my audience in a little quiet “thumbs up” challenge.  But it worked so well, that now, at every GOODNIGHT, ARK story time, my skunk puppets challenge the audience to quietly put “thumbs up” as soon as they spot the skunks on each spread – which makes for a nice set up to the stinky climax! 

Skunk2

10. Most important:  HAVE FUN!  Yes, let’s not forget this last important tip. If you are having fun, it will be contagious!

Thank you for having me, Lauri, and I hope my love for puppets inspires others to experiment with incorporating something new into their story times as well.


Hurrah for puppets! And what a fun post! I wonder if that monkey puppet is still around that I had when I was a kid. Hmm…


Folks, don’t forget to check out the other stops on the LOVE IS KIND tour. 

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

Giveaway

ZonderKidz, the publisher of LOVE IS KIND, has generously agreed to give away a copy of the book to one U.S. blog reader. Just leave a comment here to be entered to win. A winner will be chosen at random on September 30. Be sure to follow Frog on a Blog so that I can contact you if you win.

Thank you Laura and ZonderKidz!

5 Ways to Make Storytime the Best Time Ever by Susan Day

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Please welcome author, literacy advocate, blogger, and dog lover, Susan Day, to Frog on a Blog. On her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, Susan has made it her mission to help grandparents create lasting memories by showing them how to share the wonders of reading with their grandchildren.

Today, Susan stopped by to share tips on making storytime an extra special time for both reader and listener.

5 Ways to Make Storytime the Best Time Ever

by Susan Day

Have you ever been riveted to your chair by a powerful storyteller? One who weaves such a magical and inspiring tale you simply can’t move until it’s over?

A good storyteller can hold the breath of each listener in their hands, and mesmerize them with every word.

Storytelling is certainly an art form that takes many hours of practice, but just about anybody can quickly gain the right skills to have children or grandchildren hurrying to bed each night in eager anticipation of their next bedtime story.

Here are some pointers to help you –

Voice

Your voice is your most important tool when it comes to storytelling. We each have a unique voice which adds to the charm of any story we tell.

But, why not give each character its own voice. The more exaggerated you are the more fun it will be. This is further enhanced when you give a large, heavy animal like a hippopotamus or an elephant a high, squeaky voice.

As well, who said all mice have to sound meek and small? What about a mouse with a deep voice that is gruff and coarse?

You might be great at accents too. Delight your children with a long southern drawl or a sharp Cockney accent each time you read.

Voice volume

Changing the volume of your voice to reflect the plot is another wonderful way to keep children engaged in the story. When the heroes enter the dark, mysterious cavern, drop your voice to a whisper. When they are at the fairground, shout the words out loud! (You know how noisy fairgrounds can be!)

boy reading

Speed

Try to match the speed at which you read to the action in the plot. Try doing this with the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill to get some practice.

Read in a measured, deep voice which imitates someone slowly walking up a steep hill: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.”

Now in a quick voice imitating someone falling down a hill: “Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.”

This will make the whole story so much more engaging and fun. Your children will love to hear how the actions of the characters are reflected in the way you read the story.

Hand gestures and facial expressions

Hand gestures may be difficult if you are holding the book, but don’t let that stop you from employing them. As with facial gestures, you can add so much more to story time by mimicking the reactions of the characters.

Remember the Big Bad Wolf in the Three Little Pigs story? He put a lot of effort into blowing those houses down. Imagine how much fun the story would sound if you ran out of breath and became tired as you ‘huffed and puffed’?

What kind of face would Little Miss Muffet have pulled when she ate her curds and whey? Yikes! Who eats curds and whey today?

One of the keys to success for all storytellers is in the element of surprise. Using your voice, hand and facial gestures will keep your young audience enthralled with every turn of the page. Let’s face it, the key to good storytelling is not in the story, but in the telling!

Image3About the author – Susan Day

Susan Day is a children’s author and writer. Her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, is full of ideas and tips for grandparents, parents and teachers to support them in helping children become better readers. As well, Susan has created a guide to help grandparents build a more meaningful relationship with their grandchildren through their love and passion for books.

Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three boss cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo. And, apart from blogging, writing and reading; she loves coffee, painting and learning to box.

My thanks to Susan for featuring Frog on a Blog on her site, Astro’s Adventures Book Club!