Monday, October 24, 2022

Fall Updates

This fall has been a busy, full fall, and I wanted to share some of the things I've been up to!


First, I've been working on Book 2 of my middle grade series. It has been fun to revisit my characters, and learn all the things they are struggling with, and celebrating. Creating a mystery based off a bit of  history has been a challenge, but delightful at the same time. I'm about 3/4ths of the way done with the first draft, and hope to finish it in the next couple of weeks. (Then comes the hard work of revising it into the story it can become!)

Next, I've done some fun signing events with the brilliant author/illustrator Shawna Tenney. We've been at the Orem B&N, the Layton B&N, and we currently have two more events coming up. 



We'll be at the Provo Library, Read Local! Event on November 5th, 10 AM - 4 PM.  


And then the next week, we'll be at the Layton, UT B&N for Storytime on Saturday November 12th, 12-2 PM. Hope to see some of you there!

Shawna and I have also been doing some school visits together. It is so much fun talking about how Authors work versus how Illustrators work. Meeting kids, and getting them excited about books and reading is one of my very favorite things to do as an author. And it's even more fun to do it with a friend!

Then, if you can believe it's been so long . . . I revealed the cover for The Recess Genius: Open for Business. Stacy Ebert is a brilliant illustrator, and I'm so excited for the rest of you to read our book. It comes out on February, 7th, 2023! Here is the cover:


And, of course, as any good fall should include, I've been busy with my kids activities as well as helping them put together their dream Halloween costumes. What do you think?



What are your fall plans looking like?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Cover Reveal - A Bad Case of the Almosts

Things are starting to happen fast over here! Braver than Brave has been out in the world for three weeks now, and it got an "Editor's Pick" flag on Amazon, which is really exciting!


It's a little fuzzy, but feel free to head on over and see it live for yourself! And if you've read it and want to leave a review on Goodreads, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, I'd greatly appreciate it. 😁 

However, today I'm not on here to talk about Braver Than Brave (as much as I love doing that). Today, I'm on here to share the cover of my next book, A Bad Case of the Almosts!  It is set to release on January 1st of 2023, which is not all that far away.

Before I do, I wanted to share a little about how this book came to be. In January of 2020 (yep, just before everything hit), I was participating in a thing called Storystorm, a yearly event hosted by Tara Lazar. Storystorm is all about building your list of story ideas. During the month of January, Tara Lazar hosts a new author every day who shares an idea for a way to find story ideas. It's a super fun event with prizes, and such, so if you are a writer, you should join in next year. It's phenomenal!

So there I was, on the hunt for new ideas, and one of the blog posts had said that titles of other books can be good inspiration for a new story. If you look at just the title, imagine how you would write it, and then you can see if it's similar or not to the actual book that accompanies that title. You'd be surprised how often the two are not similar at all.

I saw the title "Almost Every Time." . . . or at least, that's how I read it. Long story short, that wasn't the title at all! My eyes had skipped down to the next line, and that combination of words really intrigued me. I thought, what if instead of "Almost Every Time," it was "Almost. Every Time!"

This character leapt to life. This character who got so close to achieving her wants and her goals, but then didn't get it. EVERY TIME!! That would be so frustrating! And honestly, I could kind of relate. Except not kind of. I could SUPER relate.

That's how I felt about my attempts to sell another picture book. I'd had multiple books go to multiple acquisitions meetings, and some amazingly wonderful rejections (yes, they really can be wonderful), but it felt like I couldn't quite get past that last step. It was "Almost" EVERY TIME.

This book took a bit more brainstorming, but when I dared show it to my critique groups, I was surprised at their enthusiasm. I guess they understood that feeling, too. And I was surprised at my agent's enthusiasm (you know, after some revision rounds). And I was surprised at how quickly my editor at Capstone was able to get it through acquisitions. Because she understood the feeling, too.

So without further ado, I share the cover of A Bad Case of the Almosts, featuring the beautiful artwork of Alexandra Colombo who really brought Abby, my main character who is a huge science enthusiast, to life. And if you like the cover, I can't wait for you to see what she did with the art inside!


A Bad Case of the Almosts is now available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as most places books are sold. You can also add it to your "Want To Read" list on Goodreads to be notified when it comes out.

And for all you book reviewers out there, an ARC (Advance Reader Copy - for those wondering) is also now available on NetGalley

Monday, August 1, 2022

Release Day for BRAVER THAN BRAVE!

It's Release day for BRAVER THAN BRAVE!! 

Book cover of Braver than Brave. Wanda, a tan-skinned girl with curly brown hair stands in front of a roller coaster

So funny thing. Picture books don't have acknowledgment pages, so I'm going to just go ahead and do it here. For a book to come out in the world, it takes so many people! I could not do it alone. No doubt I will miss someone, and I'm apologize in advance, but here goes . . .

I'm so proud to share this book with Eunji Jung who brought the story to life. Her illustrations are so perfectly perfect. I'm grateful to my editor, Christianne Jones who loved this story from the beginning, and who helped me make this story shine. Huge thanks to Nathan Gassman who designed the book, and to Jennifer Glidden who has done so much to market this book and get the word out. An all-around thank you to Capstone Editions for publishing it! My agent, Lauren Galit has always encouraged me in all my writing, and I owe so much to her.  

I'd be remiss not to thank the many people who read early versions and gave such helpful feedback. Patricia Bailey, Dee Romito, Annie Bailey, Melissa Richardson, Annette Pimentel, Angie Lucas, Laurel Neme, Robyn Buttars, and Shawna Tenney. I'd be lost without them! And I have to thank the 12x12 members who read a very early version. Thank you for the encouragement!

I'm enormously grateful to my extended family--both the Sumners and the Johnsons who have always supported me in my writing and cheered me on. I feel so lucky to have such amazing family on both sides. And of course, my children who not only cheer me on, but also inspire me with all the best ideas. They are my pride and joy!

I give my biggest thanks to Rick, husband extraordinaire who has always been my biggest cheerleader. He carries the weight for both of us when I sneak away to write, and he constantly looks for ways to give me more writing time. He inspires me and makes me Braver than Brave in all my writing endeavors. If not for him, I may never have sent off that first manuscript in my journey to publication.

Finally, I want to thank all my readers. Without you, there would be no point in what I do. THANK YOU!! I'm so grateful I get to be an author and share the stories that are tumbling around in my head with the world. I couldn't do that without you!

Thank you to everyone who has requested a copy of BRAVER THAN BRAVE or any of my books from their library, and to everyone who has ever left any of my books a review. It means so much to me!

If you want to get your own copy of BRAVER THAN BRAVE you can order it at any of the following links (or wherever books are sold):


The King's English     Bookshop.org         Amazon        Barnes & Noble 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit: DAYS 25 - 26

Today is the final day of facing down the chicken exit! BRAVER THAN BRAVE comes out tomorrow. I have been waiting for this for so long and I can' believe it's almost here!  But in the meantime, I present Days 25-26 of 26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit! I hope you enjoy!

DAY 25: ??? 

I left today open for all of you to share your own stories of facing down the chicken exit. I hope you've been inspired after reading so many great stories. I hope you've been thinking about the moments in your life when you've faced down your chicken exit . . . whether that means taking the exit, or doing THE THING. I hope you know that there are SO MANY WAYS TO BE BRAVE. You are Brave! And I hope you'll comment and share your own story. I would truly love to hear!

An open doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a yellow sign that reads, "Chicken Exit."


DAY 26: Back to Wanda


After reading so many stories of facing down the chicken exit, I bet you CAN'T WAIT to hear how Wanda faced hers. Of course I can't tell you how the book ends! That would violate all of my reading principles. But know that Wanda is BRAVE. In fact, she's BRAVER THAN BRAVE. If you want to know more, you can buy your own copy or request one at your local library (if they don't already have it). Thanks so much for coming along this journey of facing down your chicken exit! I hope you have recognized all the ways you are Brave in your own life!


Wanda, a cartoon girl with dark skin and brown hair in a yellow and pink sweater, stands in a real life doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a sign that says "Chicken Exit."


I hope you enjoyed Days 25-26, and I hope you've enjoyed the whole series. I really wanted to highlight the idea that being brave looks different for everyone. Sometimes we are Brave by doing THE HARD THING, and sometimes walking away from it takes all the Brave. A huge thank you to everyone who shared their story. That took courage, too! I love you all!

And dearest readers, I would really love to hear your story of facing down your own chicken exit in the comments! 

If you want to learn more about Wanda's Chicken exit, you can pre-order (or is it plain old order now??!) a copy of BRAVER THAN BRAVE at any of the following links (or wherever books are sold):


The King's English     Bookshop.org         Amazon        Barnes & Noble 

If you've missed the previous Facing Down the Chicken Exit Posts, you can find them here:

DAY 1: The Legend of the Chicken Exit

DAYS 2-4

DAYS 5-7

DAYS 8-10

DAYS 11-14

DAYS 15-17

DAYS 18-20

DAYS 21-24



Friday, July 29, 2022

26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit: DAYS 21 - 24

Today we're continuing with the countdown to the release of my upcoming picture book, BRAVER THAN BRAVE, illustrated by Eunji Jungand published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone Imprint. I present Days 21-24 of 26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit!

DAY 21: PB Character, Little One

A monarch caterpillar named Little One from HELLO, LITTLE ONE, exists in a lonely green world. It longs for a friend. One day an orange butterfly lands nearby and makes a connection. Although embarassed, Little One is brave and responds, making a new friend to end its loneliness. 

~by Zeena M. Pliska, art by Fiona Halliday

A cartoon monarch butterfly and caterpillar float before an open door with a real-life roller coaster behind it. Above the door is a yellow sign that says "Chicken Exit."


DAY 22: Mr. Janet Sumner Johnson 

"I don’t like water sports. I know a lot of people love swimming or boating or whatnot. I don’t really. I think it goes back to almost drowning as a child or something. Now, I have worked on it because others have said I was silly for being afraid of water; but you know except for cruises and calm lake kayaking I still don’t like water or water sports. What inspires me to be braver in many aspects of my life is when I rock climb regularly. I have never been very good at it but I have certainly felt braver in many areas of my life when I struggled against that infuriating over hang or when I actually could complete the climb as planned. It was all about besting myself. Strange rock climbing over water skiing!"

A light-skinned man with gray-blond hair wearing a light blue t-shirt and dark shorts is standing in front of a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a yellow sign that says "Chicken Exit."


DAY 23: Janet Sumner Johnson (Me!), author of BRAVER THAN BRAVE

"One morning, when I was 6, my brothers and their friends built a bike ramp to jump off while waiting for the bus. I was new at riding my bike, and the jump was too big and scary for me. I sadly made my way home while they stayed and jumped. Not long after that, one of my brothers came home with bloody hands and cuts on his face. The ramp had collapsed when he tried to jump it. Suddenly I was glad I’d taken the chicken exit! Sometimes the chicken exit is the best choice, even if you don’t realize it at the time."

A light-skinned, blond girl in a blue dress with white lace, stands in front of a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the door is a sign that says "Chicken Exit."


DAY 24: Jessie Oliveros, author of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS 

"When I learned how to drive as a teenager, I refused to drive through the heart of the city. I couldn’t handle the lane changes and traffic! So for years I took the “chicken exit” by taking the highways around the city and that worked out great! Then years later I went home to help a family member in the hospital and had to see and hear and do hard things. The first night I left the hospital, I could have gone around the city like usual. But what I had done that day was so hard that suddenly driving through the city didn’t seem so scary anymore. So I did! And I was okay and I’ve done it many times since. Sometimes we can take the chicken exit until we are ready not to!"

a light-skinned woman with blond hair in a yellow shirt and blue shorts is standing in front of an open doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Over the doorway is a yellow sign that says "Chicken Exit."

I hope you enjoyed Days 21-24! If you want to learn more about Wanda's Chicken exit, you can pre-order a copy of BRAVER THAN BRAVE at any of the following links (or wherever books are sold):


The King's English     Bookshop.org         Amazon        Barnes & Noble 

If you've missed the previous Facing Down the Chicken Exit Posts, you can find them here:

DAY 1: The Legend of the Chicken Exit

DAYS 2-4

DAYS 5-7

DAYS 8-10

DAYS 11-14

DAYS 15-17

DAYS 18-20


Monday, July 25, 2022

26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit: DAYS 18 - 20

Today we're continuing with the countdown to the release of my upcoming picture book, BRAVER THAN BRAVE, illustrated by Eunji Jungand published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone Imprint. I present Days 18-20 of 26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit!

DAY 18: Angie Lucas, author of MY BIG, DUMB, INVISIBLE DRAGON 

"I rode the roller coaster of infertility for 12 long years. After three consecutive losses, I gathered every remaining ounce of courage to try ONE more time. And that's how I got my wonderful son, Wyatt, who just turned 5."

A white boy with brown hair in a black shirt and camo pants stands in a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a sign that says "Chicken Exit."

DAY 19: PB Character, Morah

In MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR FLOATIES, Morah faces a chicken exit when she elects to learn to swim instead of keeping her floaties on.

~by Rachelle Jones Smith (@writerachelle), art by Jairalin Repalbor

A cartoon girl with red hair and light brown skin, wearing a blue shirt and red striped pants and holding a wrapped present, stands in front of a real life door with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the door is a yellow sign that reads "Chicken Exit"

DAY 20: Gabi Snyder, author of COUNT ON US! 

"As a young adult I went skiing for the first time with friends who were seasoned skiers. They said they could teach me to ski and we got in line for an intermediate slope. I could barely stand in the skis. The idea of starting with an intermediate slope terrified me. Even the chairlift terrified me! So another friend and I happily took the chicken exit and spent the afternoon taking lessons on the bunny hill. The chicken exit was definitely the right choice!"

A light-skinned woman with blond hair in a dark grey shirt stands in a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a sign that says "Chicken Exit."


I hope you enjoyed Days 18-20! Now, I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who entered the giveaways on Twitter and Instagram. Today I'm announcing the winners!!

First up, we have the winner of the Twitter giveaway:


Mrs_Alexa_Terry (That.Tall.Teacher)

Congratulations!

And next we have the winner of the Instagram giveaway: 

Ryann Jones (ryann_jones117)

Congratulations to you, too!! I hope you both enjoy the book and swag! And if you didn't win, you can pre-order your own copy at any of the following links (or wherever books are sold):

The King's English     Bookshop.org         Amazon        Barnes & Noble 

If you've missed the previous Facing Down the Chicken Exit Posts, you can find them here:

DAY 1: The Legend of the Chicken Exit

DAYS 2-4

DAYS 5-7

DAYS 8-10

DAYS 11-14

DAYS 15-17

Friday, July 22, 2022

26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit: DAYS 15 - 17

On with the countdown to the release of my upcoming picture book, BRAVER THAN BRAVE, illustrated by Eunji Jungand published by Capstone Editions, a Capstone Imprint. I present Days 15-17 of 26 Days of Facing the Chicken Exit!

DAY 15: Girlie 

"My friends wanted to do a play and I decided to do it with them, but I don't like being looked at by a lot of people, so more or less stage fright. So my friends hyped me up and I just didn't look at anyone in the audience, and everything went well."

A white teenaged girl with blond hair, wearing jeans and a t-shirt stands in a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a sign that says "Chicken Exit."


DAY 16: My Mom, author of me!

"I have a couple of stories about facing a chicken exit. The first was one day when we all went to Lagoon, our local amusement park. I spent the first half going on rides with you (that’s me! Janet Sumner Johnson). Somehow, we ended up in the Colossus line—the ride with 2 upside-down loops—and we happened to be first to enter. I wasn’t excited to sit in the front seat, but you were, so I did it for your sake. I was scared to death, but I felt like it was what I had to do. I made the mistake of closing my eyes in the scariest parts and got the worst case of motion sickness I have ever had. You had to go around with someone else the rest of the day. I wish I had been brave enough to keep my eyes open. But I’m still glad I did it!

"The second story I thought about was when, as a youth leader, I took a large group to a waterslide park. You should know that I hate waterslides. I don’t really like slides of any kind. Everyone there encouraged me to go down the dark slide. I still remember that you all had a great laugh at the look on my face when I came out! There again, it was what I thought I had to do, BUT I’m really glad I did it. So I think that bravery is doing what you have to do even if you don’t really want to and it scares you.face when I came out. It was what I thought I had to do. So I think that bravery is doing what you have to do even if you don’t really want to and it scares you."

Janet, a light-skinned woman with light brown hair in a red shirt stands in a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the door-frame is a yellow sign that reads "Chicken Exit."



DAY 17: A.L. Sonnichsen, Author of RED BUTTERFLY

"My husband had to get a cyst removed from his earlobe. I said I wanted to be in the room with him when the procedure happened, but I got so woozy watching the doctor dig into his flesh that I took my chicken exit and hightailed out of there, just in time before I passed out. I sat on the floor in the hallway with my head between my knees deep breathing. No more surgery observations for me!"

A white woman with dark hair in a blue patterened dress stands in a doorway with a rollercoaster in the background. Above the doorway is a sign that says "Chicken Exit."



In celebration of the upcoming release of BRAVER THAN BRAVE, I've got two giveaways going on right now. One on Twitter, which you can enter HERE. And one on Instagram, which you can enter HERE. They both open through July 23rd, and they are both open to wherever Book Depository delivers. Good luck! 

Check out other days of Facing the Chicken Exit:

DAY 1: The Legend of the Chicken Exit

DAYS 2-4

DAYS 5-7

DAYS 8-10

DAYS 11-14