Friday, December 2, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Teach Me To Forget by Erica M. Chapman!

Erica M. Chapman's debut YA Teach Me To Forget published today to some great reviews and nice buzz! It's on the Best YA Books of December list from Bustle, Barnes & Noble's Most Anticipated December YA books and was named one of Goodreads' Best YA Books of December!

Teach Me to Forget is the story of Ellery, a girl who learns how to live while waiting for the date she chose to die.
Ellery’s bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place.
Now all she has to do is die.
When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over–return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows–the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.
Colter quickly uncovers what she’s hiding and is determined to change her mind. After confessing a closely held secret of his own, he promises not to tell hers. Ellery tries to fight her attraction to him as the shadows of her past cling tight around her, but when she’s faced with another tragedy, she must decide whether her love for one boy is more important than a lifetime of pain.
“In this stunningly brave and necessary debut, Erica M. Chapman takes us on a journey to the edge and back—exploring grief, depression, and suicide with candor, insight, and above all, hope.”
– Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be 

“A beautifully crafted, dark, and heartbreaking look at depression and suicide. Ellery’s story is needed and necessary; Chapman is a writer to watch.”
– Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces 

“Ellery’s voice is engaging and authentic, and her edgy black humor comes into play…. Sadness gives way to redemption and an unforced hope in this thoughtful read.”
Kirkus Reviews 

Chapman has crafted a hauntingly beautiful story with richly developed characters. A moving tale to recommend, especially to readers who loved Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places.”
—School Library Journal 

“Chapman has brilliantly written from a perspective of authenticity that produces a genuinely wrenching story. Ellery is heartbreakingly realistic, and readers will find themselves lost in her turmoil. Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Jennifer Brown will clamor for this debut novel from an author whose dark and emotional story will resonate with teen readers.”—VOYA Magazine

You can buy Teach Me To Forget from these retailers: Indie BoundBarnes & Noble, Amazon and Adams Media Bookstore.

Also available in audio from Audible!

You visit Erica's website and follow her on Twitter @ericamchapman! Watch our for Erica's author interview right here on my blog soon!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Ed Young's The Cat From Hunger Mountain!

Caldecott winner Ed Young's latest picture book came out today from Philomel, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The Cat From Hunger Mountain, which he wrote and illustrated, has published to amazing reviews (including three starred reviews!), was selected as one of New York Times Best Illustrated Books of 2016, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, is one of Bookish' Best Children's Books of Fall 2016 and is currently a #1 New Release in the Children's Asian Literature category on Amazon. 

In a place called Hunger Mountain there lives a lord who has everything imaginable yet never has enough. To satisfy his every desire, he hires builders to design the tallest pagoda; a world-famous tailor to make his clothing from silk and gold threads; and a renowned chef to cook him lavish meals with rice from the lord's own fields. What more could he possibly want?

Yet when drought plagues the land, Lord Cat is faced with his first taste of deep loss, he ventures down the mountain and what he discovers will change his life forever.

Rendered in exquisite mixed-media collage, Caldecott Medalist Ed Young's deceptively simple fable is a deeply affecting tale about appreciating the value of treasures that need not be chased.

“Young is at the height of his powers in this fable that offers a feast for the eyes, mind, and soul. A visual masterpiece.”--Kirkus Reviews starred review

 “compelling fable…is crucial for humanity and will spark meaningful classroom conversations.”--School Library Journal starred review

“Young crafts his images from a variety of patterned papers and photographs, a repurposing that gracefully echoes the story’s themes.”--Publishers Weekly starred review

You can buy The Cat From Hunger Mountain at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndie Bound,  Penguin Random House and your local bookstore!

Learn more about Ed and his boyd of work at his website!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Author Interview and Giveaway: Sarah Glenn Marsh

I virtually sat down with author Sarah Glenn Marsh to talk about writing, becoming a published author and her much-anticipated debut YA, Fear the Drowning Deep (Sky Pony, October 11th, 2016). 

I'm also running a giveaway. One lucky winner will receive an ARC (advanced readers copy) of Fear the Drowning Deep! Enter at the bottom of the post below through Rafflecopter. You can enter between 9/22 at 12am through 9/29 at 12am. Get those entries in!  

Sixteen-year-old Bridey Corkill longs to leave her small island and see the world; the farther from the sea, the better. 

When Bridey was young, she witnessed something lure her granddad off a cliff and into a watery grave with a smile on his face. Now, in 1913, those haunting memories are dredged to the surface when a young woman is found drowned on the beach. Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her Granddad to leap has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, people in Bridey’s idyllic village begin vanishing, and she finds an injured boy on the shore—an outsider who can’t remember who he is or where he’s from. Bridey’s family takes him in so he can rest and heal. In exchange for saving his life, he teaches Bridey how to master her fear of the water—stealing her heart in the process.
But something sinister is lurking in the deep, and Bridey must gather her courage to figure out who—or what—is plaguing her village, and find a way to stop it before she loses everyone she loves.
"Haunting—gripping—beautiful. So powerful!" —Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beka Cooper trilogy

"[A]tmospheric historical fantasy . . . evocative setting, memorable characters, and use of obscure folkloric elements all contribute to the novel’s strong sense of place." —Publishers Weekly

"[T]his watery take on “Beauty and the Beast” will be catnip to paranormal-romance readers." —Kirkus Reviews
So, this is your debut YA. What was the process like for you from query to book? What was your favorite part of the process?  It must be exciting that your release date is quickly approaching!
Fear the Drowning Deep had an interesting start, because it wasn’t a book I queried with; I was actually writing it when I was offered rep for another YA project, but it was clear even back then that this book was meant to be my debut!

My favorite part of the process was probably getting the call about the offer of publication; it felt so absolutely life-changing, and I can still remember my energy, excitement, and ultimate exhaustion after sharing the news with my husband, family, and closest friends!

How do you come up with ideas for the books you write?
I come up with ideas in a couple ways; sometimes, like with Fear, I’ll read a book about something and then want to put my own spin on it (prior to writing Fear, I’d been reading a lot of stories with ocean settings, and I wanted to experiment with that atmosphere and lore for myself!). Other times, I’ll take some bit of mythology (for instance, the myth of Orpheus) and brainstorm on how I can use it in a way that’s different from how other authors have interpreted it for their work.

Manx folklore is new to a lot of people. How did you come across it and what about it inspired you to write this book? 
When choosing the setting for Fear, I had only a vague idea for a story in mind ("Girl is afraid of the ocean. She has to save her town from something terrible in the water. Wouldn't it be agony to fear the ocean and be stuck on an island your whole life?"). As I looked up various islands, I came across a map of the Isle of Man, which I'd never heard of before. The first time I saw it in pictures, I thought, "This is a place where magic could happen." What stood out to me is that it's beautiful and rugged enough to be something out of a fantasy land, and the culture there is steeped in centuries of lore. It’s the sort of wild, untamed place where anything seems possible, and the more I read about it, the more I envisioned my story unfolding there on the rocky cliffs, among sea birds and starfish. The Manx culture, landscape, and mythology really helped shape the story in a magical way!

Did you have a playlist or any songs that you liked to listen to while you wrote? What would Bridey’s theme song be?
I do! I have a playlist for Fear the Drowning Deep that I loved to listen to before writing, to set the mood. Here’s a sampling from it:

*You Brought Me Up by Méav
*When It Comes to Us by Frances (ft. Ritual)
*Salt Skin by Ellie Goulding
*Full Fathom Five by Méav
*Runaway by Aurora
*Bow Down by Chvrches

Bridey’s personal theme song would be Wild Child, by Cardiknox!

You can listen to the above mentioned songs and other music that inspired Fear the Drowning Deep with this handy playlist on YouTube:

How do you come up with your characters? I’ve heard some writers will dream about their characters or hear them in their head begging them to write their story! 
 I’ve never dreamt about my characters, but they’re definitely the first element I need to establish when I’m starting a new book! They usually come to me when I’m jotting down the bare bones of a story idea, and I’ll hear them in my head, then develop them before moving on to any other parts of the plot or world building!

What was your favorite scene to write and why? 
I loved writing the scene where Bridey finds Fynn on the beach, half-dead! I loved writing it because it was so full of tension—she’s wondering at first if he’s dead, and she’s hesitant to even approach—and because there’s this innocence about the way she approaches a naked boy that’s almost comical and also endearing. And writing their interaction when he wakes up had me giggling the whole way through!

Was there ever a point where you were stuck wondering where to take the story next? What did you do to break the writer’s block?
My trick for writer’s block is one I’d heard a few times before, but was skeptical of until I tried it for myself: take a shower! Whenever I was (or am) stuck in a draft, taking a break for a hot shower always helps me brainstorm; there’s something about relaxing your mind that lets the best ideas float to the surface. In fact, I keep a waterproof notepad in the shower because it’s where the majority of my ideas hit me!

Are there any upcoming book events you’re excited for?
I’m especially excited for an event I’m doing with fellow authors Martina Boone, Jodi Meadows, Lisa Maxwell, and Victoria Scott at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA on October 25th. So many authors in one adorable bookstore should make for an awesome party! We’ll be celebrating the book birthday for Illusion, the conclusion to Martina’s Southern Gothic YA trilogy!

And of course, I’m really excited to have the launch party for Fear the Drowning Deep at Books of Wonder in NYC on October 14th!

From an agent’s side of things, I can say that people who work in children’s publishing are really nice and just plain awesome. How has it been connecting with other authors? 
Connecting with other authors has been nothing short of amazing. I’m constantly impressed by everyone’s generosity—from donating critiques for various auctions to just going out of their way to help fellow authors. I’ve made so many wonderful friends, both online and in person, as a result of joining the YA community, and I’m grateful for them all!

What’s your favorite (s) recent YA that has come out or is coming out? Did you have a favorite book growing up?
Asking about books is dangerous—I could go on for hours! But, I’ll try to keep this brief.

As for favorite YAs coming out soon, there’s one I blurbed that I’m really excited about! It’s fellow Sky Pony author Jill MacKenzie’s Spin the Sky, a heart-wrenching contemporary YA about family and hardships and a dance competition. Another YA I loved earlier this year was Shannon Parker’s The Girl Who Fell. I sat down on my couch with it, thinking I’d try a few chapters, and wound up reading the whole dark and twisty story in one sitting!

My favorite book series growing up was Harry Potter, since I grew up alongside Harry! In my later teens, my favorite series became The Lord of the Rings.

My newest favorite book doesn’t fall into the YA category, but it’s worth a mention all the same: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It’s a sci-fi that I keep recommending it to everyone because the characters are so well-done, and it’s beautifully diverse!

So you write picture books too. How is the process different between the two?
The interesting thing about picture books is how you have to convey so much with very few words; in YA, you of course have far more space to get your ideas across. In picture books, too, you have to be mindful that illustrations should tell part of the story, while in YA, you’re trying to paint a picture for your readers without any visuals at all!

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SG_Marsh and visit her website:

You can pre-order Fear the Drowning Deep now!

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Monday, June 6, 2016

THE HOLE STORY OF THE DOUGHNUT receiving great reviews!

Illustrator Vincent X. Kirsch's latest from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published last month to some great reviews! Junior Library Guild has selected The Hole Story of the Doughnut as one of their 12 elementary nonfiction selections for 2016! 

Written by Pat Miller, The Hole Story of the Doughnut tells the true story of the invention of the beloved pastry by Hanson Gregory. In 1843, fourteen-year-old Hanson Gregory left his family home in Rockport, Maine, and set sail as a cabin boy on the schooner Achorn, looking for high-stakes adventure on the high seas. Little did he know that a boatload of hungry sailors, coupled with his knack for creative problem-solving, would yield one of the world’s most prized and beloved pastries.  

School Library Journal praises the book saying, "Kirsch has admirably complemented the story with bright, cartoonlike illustrations that evoke the history and the humor of the tale. Clever "porthole," or "doughnut hole," borders frame each page. Whimsically, the artist has placed doughnuts throughout, from the endpapers, which include several varieties, to the back cover, which features an octopus holding a doughnut on each arm. VERDICT A lively offering for reading and sharing that will encourage the youngest of researchers to wonder and learn about other everyday items in their world."

Kirkus Reviews said, "Kirsch’s charming watercolor collages liberally employ round motifs: on many spreads, the circular illustration on the right page is “cut” from the left, freeing up a circle of white space for text... Delicious!"

Booklist called Doughnut an, "Entertaining...tasty bit of history." 

Publishers Weekly exclaims, "In colorful scenes that evoke 1970s Schoolhouse Rock vignettes, Kirsch (Gingerbread for Liberty!) depict rows of wide-mouthed seafarers with entire doughnuts between their open jaws; later, sailors enter Gregory’s mother’s harbor-side doughnut shop stooped over and exit dancing jigs on the other side, “holey cakes” in hand. Mimicking Gregory’s ring-cutting innovation, the book’s memorable design takes large circular cuts out of Kirsch’s vibrant watercolors, transplanting the circles to the facing pages while leaving behind an empty frame for Miller’s (Substitute Groundhog) text."

The Hole Story of the Doughnut is available now!

Vincent X. Kirsch is an author, illustrator and designer living in Los Angeles. He has lived in Florence (Italy), New York City and Boston. His illustrations are created in a two-dimensional adaptation of this paper cut toy theaters that he has been building for most of his life. His work is very influenced by theater, puppetry, poster art, classical painting techniques and Hollywood films. His whimsical character designs and storylines range from the fantastically out-of-this-world to inspiringly down-to-earth. 

Links to the full reviews can be found here:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Author Interview: Linda Marshall

So, I wanted to start doing some author features and interviews on my blog with the talented, amazing authors and illustrators I am lucky enough to work with :) The first in my blog author series is Linda Marshall.  

Photograph credit: Deborah Feingold
Linda (Elovitz) Marshall comes to writing for children after several other careers including teaching early childhood education, parenting education, working on her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology, owning and operating her own bookstore, freelance writing, producing “as-told-to” autobiographies, and raising four children and a small flock of sheep. Regarding writing for children, Linda’s a late-bloomer, having her first picture book accepted for publication when she was already a grandmother. Since then, ten more of her picture books have been published or accepted for publication. Linda also writes chapter books and Middle Grade novels as well as occasional essays for newspapers and magazines. She enjoys writing about just about everything – except for things with hormones!

            Twitter: @L_E_Marshall

Hi Christa,

First, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to participate in your blog interview. It’s been so great working with you…and I love the feedback you give me that helps me make my stories better and better. Thank you!

1.         What is must-know about your upcoming project, MOMMY, BABY AND ME (Peter Pauper Press, 2017)? 

            Prior to writing for children, I taught early childhood education and parenting education. I raised my four children and a small flock of sheep, studied cultural anthropology, and owned a bookstore. In various ways, almost all of my projects relate to experiences I’ve had or things I’ve learned along the way. Many of them relate to things I’ve learned as a parent, student of early childhood development, or as a cultural anthropologist.

            MOMMY, BABY, AND ME addresses an important transition - becoming a parent. That transition - from non-parent to parent – is forever. In my opinion, American culture needs to give that transition more attention. As humorist Erma Bombeck said long ago, “the thing about having a baby is that, once you have it, you have it.” 

             By seeing the new baby from the point of view of a much-beloved (and now somewhat displaced) family dog, MOMMY, BABY, AND ME highlights how an older sibling might feel. Or to how a family dog might feel! Or, perhaps, how a close friend might feel. With every birth (or death), a family undergoes a re-arrangement. It takes time to adjust.

            Personally, I remember coming home with my first-born. My much-beloved dog skulked around, unhappy. After awhile, he got used to the new baby….Who knows? If I'd had a book to read to my dog, maybe the transition might have been easier? 

2.         What draws you to write picture books?

           Spending years in early childhood education, I developed a great love for picture books. I love the language, the pictures, the concise - often poetic - way a story is told. I love that a good picture book contains some “universal” element, gently touching something we all feel. 
3.         Where do you primarily look for inspiration for your picture books? 

            I find inspiration all around. 

            Recently, I was trying to help a close friend who is from Guatemala and who established a not-for-profit weavers’ co-operative that enables Guatemalan Mayan women to sell their artisanal products in the U.S. through Fair Trade markets. I wanted to write something to help that co-operative. But, what? My friend and I brainstormed some ideas. I wrote a rough draft. Then I went to Guatemala, researched, and read the draft to Mayan women in the co-operatives. They helped me hone the story. The result: RAINBOW WEAVER, forthcoming with Lee & Low (2016). 

            RAINBOW WEAVER tells the story of a young Mayan girl (Ixchel) who wants to learn to weave to help her family pay for her books and school fees. Unfortunately, there’s not enough thread - and thread is too costly for her to learn on. Instead, Ixchel constructs her own loom and tries weaving with grasses, then with bits of wool. Ultimately, she uses strips from the ubiquitous - and destructive - plastic bags. Ixchel finally learns to weave - like the generations of women before her - and, in the process, helps clean her village. 

             Indeed, Mayan weavers in Guatemala are cleaning their environment by weaving with plastic bags. They’re also supporting their families.

             Part of the proceeds from RAINBOW WEAVER will directly help weavers in the Mayan Hands and MayaWorks co-operatives. 

                        I feel very proud to make this contribution.

 4.   Is there are a project of yours that you are most proud of or excited about?

 I’m so proud of all my projects, it’s hard to single one out. 

A forthcoming book, KINDERGARTEN IS COOL! (Scholastic, 2016) is about going to school - and all the joys and angst it entails. It’s a joyous, warm book. I hope it helps new kindergartners be prepared for - and love - this transition in their lives. If my book makes going to school easier for just one child…Wow! I’d feel great!          

5.         How do you approach writing for different age groups?

              I always try to write with great respect for my readers - especially when writing for the very young. I try to keep everything I write - whether for adults or young children - clear and accessible. I dislike obfuscation or jargon. Shorter is better. Good writing is good writing. 

6.         To what extent do your own life and interests reflect themselves in your work?

             I have many different life experiences and many different interests. Part of me is in everything I write. It has to be. If part of me isn't there, the story doesn't ring true.

7.         Who are some of your favorite picture book authors? 
              Leo Lionni - especially Swimmy and Frederick
              Candace Fleming
              Ezra Jack Keats
              Beatrice Schenk de Regniers - especially May I Bring A Friend?        

8.         What’s the revision process like for you? 

             I find revision both never-ending and a great joy. I adore revision. I love to work on the words until I get them - and the story - just right. With picture books and essays, I am compulsive about revision. I’m also trying to learn more about revision in longer works. It’s all a learning process.                      

9.         What do you know now about publishing that you wish you could tell yourself before you started? 
             Speaking of a learning process, I wish I’d been encouraged earlier to write. As a young person, I knew I was good at writing - but I assumed that everyone, with enough education, could write clearly. I also thought that - with my relatively normal, happy childhood - I didn’t have enough angst in my life to be a good writer. And as a child who was not good at dancing, drawing, playing an instrument, singing on-key, or even telling right from left, I assumed I had absolutely no talent, whatsoever. It wasn’t until about ten years ago, that I first attempted to write for children. I’m so happy now that I’m writing for kids. I only wish that early on - in high school or in college - someone would have guided me toward doing more writing. But, then, I wouldn’t have had as many life experiences earlier. So, I guess it all works out perfectly!

10.       What do you think the most important element of a good story is? 

                 For me, it all depends on the story. Sometimes it’s character development, sometimes humor, sometimes plot. What’s a good story for me might not be a good one for someone else…Also, some stories work best in some seasons, at some places, and some times in a person’s life. It all depends...                   

Note: I previously interviewed Vincent X. Kirsch on the M&O blog.