Interview Alert: Me

I have interviewed many authors and illustrators over the past eight years for my Interview Alert feature here on Frog on a Blog. Most recently, I posed questions to author and artist Abraham Schroeder, who didn’t disappoint with his candid and detailed responses.

Today, Abraham has turned the tables on me, becoming the interviewer, and I, the interviewee. But instead of appearing on his site, the interview is right here. I have to admit, I’m a bit more comfortable asking the questions than answering them, but I had fun. Have a look! Perhaps you’ll learn a little something new about me. Take it away, Abraham!

AS) You have interviewed almost 30 authors and illustrators for your blog over the years, and it is inspiring to read so much about their different backgrounds and journeys. You also recently interviewed me, thank you, and I thought it would be fun if you were interviewed for your blog too. Then I realized this is my first time interviewing anyone, so for ideas I did some careful combing through your interviews, ones you conducted, and other people interviewing you.

 

AS) What have you learned from interviewing so many people? Have you been surprised by anything in particular?

LF) I’ve learned that children’s book authors and illustrators, besides being incredibly talented, are also some of the nicest people you could meet, so generous with their time and always willing to share their knowledge with those aspiring to be where they are, that is, published. I’ve also learned that those who write or illustrate for children are, each one of us, on our own path. So we should do ourselves a favor and not compare our journeys to other’s.

AS) You have talked about how, as a librarian, you see a lot of new books. Do you have input on what kinds of books are acquired by your library?

LF) I should clarify that I am not a librarian, rather a library assistant. More specifically, I’m a processing assistant, which means I catalog all of the new materials my library acquires. So just about every new book, DVD, music CD, and etc. that the library receives, goes past me before going out to the public. The best part of my job is being one of the first people to read the brand-new picture books. I don’t have a lot of input on what books the library acquires, but I do make occasional requests. (The images below show part of my cataloging process at the library, including a cart of new books waiting to be cataloged, my computer screen, and my own book’s back cover and spine when I cataloged it in 2015.)

AS) Going to the library with small kids in tow, I often find myself with limited time to flip through the stacks, and sometimes I’m literally grabbing randomly. “Here’s a handful, let’s go!” Sometimes we find amazing books that way, some of our favorites, and sometimes we get a bag full of duds. How do you help people who visit the library find great books?

LF) I’m happy to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed, but usually I refer patrons to the children’s librarian. Librarians really know their stuff and are more than willing to help.

AS) Do you see any trends in what kinds of books are popular these days? What are your thoughts about what you see being published, or at least what crosses your desk?

LF) In picture books, though I wouldn’t call it a trend exactly, based on my observations, the most popular amongst my library’s young patrons are the superhero, Star Wars, television series, and Disney tie-ins. It’s the sad truth, but at least they’re reading!

As far as trends in what’s being published, I’m pleased to report that picture books are all over the place in terms of word count, illustration style, and type of story (humorous, lyrical, thought-provoking, whimsical, concept, rhyme, prose, interactive, nonfiction, etc.). Any writers out there reading this, don’t write to perceived trends. Just write your best stories.

AS) Why do you think picture books are important? Why do you spend so much time working with, reading, writing, and sharing them?

LF) I love that picture books are both mirrors, for kids to see themselves in, and windows, for kids to learn about the world and to develop empathy for others. But even before I gave much thought to that spot-on analogy, I was a fan. Where else can you find a story and page after page of incredible art packaged up so perfectly and ready to transport readers or listeners of all ages to amazing places?

I also believe that literacy is an important milestone to success in life. If children are introduced to books and reading early on and throughout their growing-up years, they will become strong readers. The best way to start is by reading picture books. I encourage all of you to read picture books with the kids in your lives often.

AS) You’ve said in other interviews that you have dozens of stories written and many more ideas. What is your process for turning those ideas into finished stories?

LF) I wish I could say I had a process. Usually, my ideas sit for weeks before my mind generates enough substance to start formulating an actual story. The ideas that “speak” the loudest are the ones most likely to become finished stories. I have tons of ideas; many will never be stories because after that first spark, they never speak again. On the flipside, I sometimes get ideas that come to me as fully formed stories, ready to be written down. Sadly, that doesn’t happen too often.

AS) Do you work on one story at a time or several at once?

LF) I definitely work on several at once. If I’m stuck on one, I work on another. I have many in various stages of development.

AS) Do you think about vocabulary and age range when you write?

LF) I’ve read so many picture books that I think those things are ingrained in me at this point. I just concentrate on writing the best story I can.

AS) In one interview, kids asked if you were rich and famous now that you have a book out. I’m sure many adults also assume you’ve hit the big time now. When you’re not too busy counting your money and going on shopping sprees, how do you spread the word about your books? What sort of personal outreach and publicity do you do?

LF) I can’t answer this question right now because I’m off to do some shopping in Paris. Okay, I’m back. Seriously though, I don’t talk about this much, but I’m struggling with a chronic illness that makes it difficult for me to do as much promotion as I would like, outside of social media and local book signings. I experience severe fatigue on a daily basis and have trouble with walking and balance. With some possible new treatments coming up, I hope to feel better in the near future.

Some ways that I have promoted my book include, sending copies to reviewers, interviews, local book signings, donating copies to literacy organizations, features in local newspapers, blogging, tweeting, etc.

Java and MeAS) When you’re not living, breathing, and thinking picture books, what do you like to do?

LF) Spending time with my dog is at the top of the list. I like teaching him new tricks. Also, my husband and I watch a lot of movies together, all kinds. I enjoy Japanese anime too.

AS) Is there anything else you’d like to share?

LF) I just want to say thank you to fans of my picture book The Peddler’s Bed, followers of Frog on a Blog, and all of my supportive family and friends. I appreciate you all!

And thank you, Abraham, for the interview! You’re a pro at this now! (Those were some tough questions.) 😊

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!

 

Splashing In The Reading Tub

reading-tubI’m extremely pleased to share that I’ve been interviewed by Terry Doherty at The Reading Tub. The Reading Tub is a volunteer-run, non-profit literacy organization. 

“The Reading Tub collects and distributes books to at-risk readers, whether it is a child with no books at home or a teacher building a classroom library for her struggling students.”

Please click HERE to read my Author Showcase interview. And to read a special bonus interview that’s been posted to The Reading Tub’s Family Bookshelf blog, click HERE. I had such fun doing both interviews! I hope you enjoy them! 🙂 

The Ripple Effect

 

Childrens Book Bank

 

Rob and Amanda Broder, the founders of Ripple Grove Press, the publisher of my book The Peddler’s Bed and other lovely picture books, have teamed with The Children’s Book Bank in Portland, Oregon to start a book drive during the month of March, which they’ve aptly named The Ripple Effect. Their aim is to “put a book in every young child’s hands.”

Here’s what Rob Broder says about RGPs incredible mission:

“My wife and I started Ripple Grove Press to bring beautiful and timeless books to life. But we also want to make a difference in the lives of children. So we are teaming up with the Children’s Book Bank (CBB) in Portland, OR to start a book donation drive called “The Ripple Effect.” We want to put a book in every young child’s hands. The Children’s Book Bank makes that possible.

They reach low-income neighborhoods, where the ratio of books to children is one book for every 300 children, far below the ratio of 13 books per child in middle-income neighborhoods. The Children’s Book Bank closes this book gap by gathering tens of thousands of new and gently-used books from the community each year and engaging hundreds of volunteers to help clean, sort, and distribute the books to low-income children, free of charge. Since 2008, The Children’s Book Bank has delivered over 510,000 books to over 41,000 local children in need, giving these kids tools to develop the language skills they need to become future readers, learners, and citizens. We want this reach to go as far as possible.

For every Ripple Grove Press book bought and sent to us for CBB in the month of March, we’ll match it, and for every dozen new or used books donated (not an RGP book) we’ll add a new RGP book. Hardcover or softcover. One book or 100. We’ll find a new home for your books.

Please help us by sending children’s picture books to:
Ripple Grove Press
PO Box 86740
Portland, OR 97286

Thank you for your support and helping us in this drive. Hopefully we’ll create a story to tell.”

For more information about The Ripple Effect and how you can help, click HERE.

One Teacher’s Mission To Inspire Her Students Using “The Peddler’s Bed”

DonorsChoose

With so many books to choose from, I’m so excited and so moved that she chose mine! 

Ms. Macadangdang is an English teacher at LA Academy Arts & Enterprise Charter School in Los Angeles, CA. Her school is located in the inner city of Los Angeles, an area crippled by poverty. Her students are reading below grade level and struggling with the new demands of the Common Core standards. She is working hard to provide as much opportunity for learning and academic achievement as she can for her students. But her school lacks the funding she needs to do all that she’d like to do for them.

So Ms. Macadangdang turned to DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose.org is a fantastic organization/site where public school teachers post classroom project requests, and donors choose the ones they want to support.

Ms. Macadangdang is seeking funding to purchase 30 copies of The Peddler’s Bed to inspire imagination and integrate arts into her curriculum. Here’s her project in her own words: “My 6th graders need to be inspired! The common core curriculum is so advanced, and they are so far behind, I need some tools to bridge the gap. With this donation, we will step away from the prescribed textbook and use this rich and imaginative text to perform grade level literary analysis and learn how to analyze images as a form of text.”

I am thrilled to know that my book, The Peddler’s Bed, will be used to inspire these incredible young students and help bring them just a little bit closer to a bright and happy future.

To learn more about Ms. Macadangdang’s classroom project and what you can do to help, please click HERE.

Join Me: Take the #MARCHingBookstoKids Pledge

PBPiO badgeYay! I’ve been waiting a whole year to make this pledge. And now that my book is out and March is right around the corner, I can finally do it!

I pledge to donate a copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed to the VNS of Iowa, Storybook project via children’s book author Michelle Eastman’s literacy initiative MARCHing Books to Kids, which is part of her incredible Picture Book Pass It On (#PBPiO) project, where she shares literacy resources and encourages people to donate books to kids in need.

Here’s what MARCHING Books to Kids and the Storybook project is all about (from Michelle’s blog):

“Throughout the month of March I invite you to participate in a special initiative called “MARCHing Books to Kids”. Book lovers can donate a favorite children’s book, and we invite children’s authors to donate signed copies of their books to the Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Storybook Project.”

“The Storybook Project recruits, screens and trains volunteers to work with incarcerated parents and/or grandparents at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women (ICIW) in Mitchellville, Iowa and the Newton Correctional Release Center (CNRC) in Newton, Iowa. Once per month, volunteers work with the mother, grandmother or father. The parent/grandparent and volunteer choose a book from the Storybook library that is appropriate for the child. The parent or grandparent reads the book while the volunteer records the reading onto a digital voice recorder. The book and CD are mailed to the child.”

For more information or to find out how you can participate, click here.

The donation of just one book can make a big impact in the life of a child. 

The tagline on Michelle Eastman’s blog says it all: “Never Underestimate the Power of a Picture Book”.

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! 🙂

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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)

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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

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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.

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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}

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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&N.com, 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! 🙂

Sharing Is Caring With Bookroo

bookroo_board_books (2)Earlier this month, I introduced you to Bookroo, a new children’s book-of-the month club service with a bright future and a mission to promote literacy by providing an easy and affordable way for parents to build their children’s book collections. Read that post here

Now Bookroo is back with a Buy One, Give One! deal that’s too good not to share with you. In honor of John Newbery’s birthday, Bookroo is offering the next 250 new customers a coupon for a free one-month gift subscription. So if you sign up as a new Bookroo customer, you’ll be able to send a coupon to a friend who can get their own Bookroo box for free. The deal starts tomorrow, but I got special permission to share it with Frog on a Blog followers first! For more information, click here. Happy reading!Bookroo deal

Budding Reader eBooks and a Pop Quiz

Budding Reader

“For every eBook you buy, we donate one to a child in need.”

That’s the Budding Reader eBooks pledge.

Melinda Thompson, the visionary behind Budding Reader, a company that creates award-winning learn-to-read eBooks, has a question for you.

Get out your pencils. It’s time for a pop quiz:

If you read to your child 20 minutes a day for the first five years of life how much time will you have spent reading to your child?

A. More than 600 hours
B. More than 25 days
C. Approximately 1% of your child’s life
D. All of the above

The answer is D: All of the above! That’s a lot of time spent reading, isn’t it? And all that reading is likely to entail thousands (yes, thousands not hundreds) of picture books. (Thank goodness for libraries!) Is all that reading really worth the time? Research answers with a resounding YES! Time and again, research studies have demonstrated the importance of reading for wiring brains, building vocabulary, promoting empathy, and increasing knowledge of the world. So clearly, spending time reading to a child is time well spent and a commitment well worth making.

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Melinda Thompson of Budding Reader eBooks is on a mission to make learning to read easier and more fun for children, especially struggling readers. For tips on working with emergent readers, check out this free eBook from Budding Reader.

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To learn more about Budding Reader and it’s amazing line of eBooks, click here.

Bookroo Delivers Books (and smiles) To Your Child Each Month

I love the idea of a book-of-the-month club for young children. Books make awesome gifts! I’ve used a book-of-the-month club for my two little nephews for the past year and a half. Both the boys and their parents love to receive a brand new book every month, right on their doorstep. And it’s always wrapped, so it feels like each new book is truly a gift. And as an added benefit, I feel good having helped build my nephews’ book collection which I hope will help them both to become strong readers as they get older. 

When I researched book-of-the-month clubs for children a year and a half ago, there weren’t many to choose from, though I did, eventually, find one that suits my needs. But now there’s a new company I’ll be keeping in mind for the future with a mission I can really get behind. Bookroo‘s mission “is to enable and empower parents to build their children’s book collections in an affordable and exciting way through curated monthly book deliveries. We believe in the power and impact of the written word in the life of a child, and believe it’s never too early to start reading to children!”

I asked Jane Tanner, who co-founded Bookroo with her husband Kesler, Kesler’s two brothers, and their wives, to tell me a bit more about the passion and vision behind Bookroo.

There’s something magical about getting a package in the mail, addressed to you, and containing several wrapped presents. Especially when you’re a child. And especially when the wrapped presents contain books–new and exciting stories for you to read in your favorite nook or sprawled across the couch upside down.

bookroo_board_books (2)

At Bookroo, our mission is to empower parents to build their children’s book collections easily and affordably in a way that enhances the excitement of reading for children. We believe, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did, that, “It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own,” and we want to help make that ideal a reality for children across the country and then the world.

Why? Because reading to children is powerful. It’s like magic or fairy dust, except actually accessible to us grown-ups. For example, did you know that for every year you read with your child from infancy to preschool, his average lifetime earnings increase by $50,000? [1] Or that reading to your baby increases not only her vocabulary, but also her math skills? [2] Reading to your children is a powerful force for good.  As Albert Einstein said: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Rather than having the experience of individually wrapped books and a handwritten note to the parents and child come at a premium, in order to ensure that the maximum number of households can benefit from Bookroo, the retail value of the books in each box always exceeds the subscription price you pay. So it’s a win-win-win.

So what is Bookroo? It’s a monthly delivery of curated children’s books–either 3 board books or 2 picture books–individually wrapped and delivered to the child in your life. We invite you to help us on our mission to promote literacy from a young age, as a way to improve the future by increasing the abilities and potential of the children of the world!

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[1] http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Freadingfoundation.org%2Fthe-solution%2Fprograms%2Fread-with-a-child%2F%3Fgclid%3DCj0KEQjwv6WrBRD4gbngqe7mosYBEiQAIB5oTMViEjRuT6DqxxJwYPASEsmf83yyg0yGdnuAOXWBLFwaAmHl8P8HAQ&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNEDEsY-TtR0jeNxvYcoXajUE6YVkw

[2] http://www.parents.com/baby/development/intellectual/benefits-of-reading-to-your-newborn/#page=3

Besides their dedication to literacy and children, the folks at Bookroo are doing even more to help make the world a better place by using recycled and recyclable packaging in their Bookroo boxes and they also donate books to children in need through Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization that partners with medical providers “to promote early literacy and school readiness to young children and their families in all 50 states”. Bookroo is a company with a bright future. If you’ve ever considered using a book-of-the-month service, I encourage you to check out their site.