Monday, December 2, 2019
If you haven't visited before, definitely check it out! She uses the Proust Questionnaire, and some of those questions are hard! It's so fascinating to see how authors respond. And to try to figure out how YOU would respond.
In fact, if you want to come back and tell me how you would respond to any particular question, I would love that.
Have a lovely week, and be sure to come visit next Monday, December 9th. I'll be interviewing Ira Baker, the computer animator who works with Sandra Boynton on her super fun videos. He also does book trailers. So excited to have him stop in!
(just a beautiful picture of the Tetons to send you on your way to making it a wonderful week)
Monday, November 25, 2019
I've read a lot about the troubling past of this holiday, and I'm super looking forward to Kate Messner's new series History Smashers, which starts with a tale about the Mayflower.
That said, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to consider all the things we are grateful for. Gratitude is something we don't seem to have enough of in this world, so here are my top five things I'm grateful for:
1. My family.
(These people are my rock. They are there for me in all the best and worst and mediocre-est moments of my life. I would be lost without them).
2. A book coming out next year.
(I don't take this for granted at all. Getting a book published is tough. No matter what road you take. And heck, even writing one is a BIG DEAL! So much gratitude that I'm in a position I can both write them, and have the opportunity to have one published.)
3. My faith in God, and my beliefs.
(I don't talk about this much here on my blog, but my beliefs are my compass. They give me direction, and I'm who I am because of them.)
4. My friends
(IRL ones, writing ones, social media ones, ALL OF YOU! Wish I had a big picture with you all in it, but I don't. Sorry if you aren't shown, I still love you and am grateful for you!)
(Whoever invented them, THANK YOU!)
Happy Thanksgiving! And please tell me what you are grateful for! I'd love to hear. :)
Monday, November 18, 2019
Monday, November 11, 2019
I didn't have the perfect picture to share, but I had this image from a year ago.
This was the Veteran's Day run we participated in. I love the symbolism here of people running toward the finish. Of working hard, giving it their all, and then finishing together with people they may not personally know, but who are now considered friends and compatriots for having struggled together.
It could be easy to think of those others as competitors. To hate or dislike them. But if you have ever been to a community run like this one, it is never like that. People are so loving and welcoming and encouraging. Strangers stand along the course and cheer you on. Volunteers rush to get you water and refreshment when you finish. And then we all celebrate together for having achieved a PR (personal record). Or we commiserate together when it just wasn't our day. It is a beautiful thing.
I feel like Veteran's Day is a little like this. While I know many who have served in the military (Both my grandfathers fought in WWII. My father-in-law served in the Air Force for many years. I have cousins and friends who have served in the military in various capacities.), Veteran's Day is a chance to celebrate everyone. People I don't know. People who have given their all. People who will face struggles for a long time to come.
To everyone who is running in this race, I thank you! I encourage you! I commiserate and celebrate with you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It cannot be said enough.
Monday, November 4, 2019
Lee is the author of two super fun middle grade books, THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH’S and CAMP SHADY CROOK ( Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2019).
I was fortunate to get to know Lee back in 2015 through the debut group The Sweet Sixteens. Not only does she write middle grade novels, but she is a freelance journalist who has covered some fascinating topics. I've always been impressed with her strong sense of self as an author, and her encouragement to other authors to be an advocate for their own books.
Today, we'll be talking about her latest book, CAMP SHADY CROOK. You can find my review of it HERE on Goodreads (but spoiler alert, I loved it!).
All right!! Let's get this party started! (I'll be in green bold)
Welcome, Lee! Please tell us about your book.
CAMP SHADY CROOK is available now at Lee's local indie, Porter Square Books, and can also be purchased through Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold.
Monday, October 28, 2019
On to the list! First up . . .
THE SPOOKY OLD TREE by Stan & Jan Berenstain
In this super fun (and super spare of words) story, three bears get their brave on to explore a spooky old tree. It has the perfect amount of scare factor for both young and old readers.
PLUS, not only is this book fun to listen to, it is fun to read! You can't help but get out your spooky voice and start making all the sound effects. I so highly recommend this book, you might just have to make a trek to the Himalayas to get it.
Next up is the super creepy CREEP CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown.
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. He eats them for lunch, he eats them for snacks, he eats them every chance he gets. And his favorite carrots come from Crackenhopper Field. But when Jasper starts seeing carrots everywhere . . . creepy carrots . . . Jasper is no longer a fan, and something must be done.
As an author, I totally wish I would have thought of this. So clever, so fun, and SO CREEPY! The pictures brilliantly capture the dark and creepy atmosphere that such a book requires. Go read this one! You won't regret it . . . unless you, too, start seeing creepy carrots everywhere!
EVEN MONSTERS NEED HAIRCUTS by Matthew McElligott is a favorite at our house. Technically, it is not a Halloween book, but it fits right in
Once a month, on the night of the full moon, a young barber sneaks off to his father's barber shop to follow in his dad's footsteps. All night long he snips and snaps, buzzes, and gels his client's hair to perfection.
I love the hilarious ending, and the whole thing is just monstrously clever. I giggle right along with my kids when we read this together. (And I giggle all by myself when I read it just for me!😉) You don't want to miss this one!
Yukio loves Halloween, and he loves his little sister, but he is tired of her always copying him! From jack-o-lanterns to trick-or-treating routes, his sister is always right there in the way. But when Yukio goes too far, can he make it up to her? Or has he brought on the curse of the Samurai Scarecrow?
I can totally relate to Yukio in this super fun story, but I feel so bad for his little sister. I don't want to spoil any endings, but this book takes some fun twists and turns, and let's just say that Yukio definitely learns his lesson. This book was delightfully surprising, and a perfect Halloween book.
And of course, no list about spooky books could ever be complete without THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK STARRING LOVABLE, FURRY OLD GROVER by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael J. Smollin.
When Grover learns that there is a monster at the end of the book, he does everything he can to stop the reader from getting to the end of the book. From asking nicely, to building walls, to begging on hands and knees, but a determined reader can be hard to stop. What's a Grover to do?
This is another one that is technically not a Halloween book. But with a monster at the end of it, how can it not be perfect for such a holiday? My mom read this to me when I was a kid, and I read this to my own kids when they were younger, and sometimes, I read it just because I can. This book is pretty much perfect in my estimation, and if you haven't read it yet . . . WHY NOT??!
Those are just some of my favorites, now how about you? What are your favorite Halloween books?
Monday, October 21, 2019
My guess would be that this is a very friendly French speaker, or more likely a French expatriate now living in Utah. But funny thing, I actually got caught taking this picture by the owner of the car! She WAS very friendly, and she was, indeed from France. I did have to explain myself, but she didn't mind my interest, and was happy to meet a French speaker. :)
Up next: YRUHERE
This license plate cracked me up. I caught this picture while stopped at a light. Why ARE you here??! I was there on my way to a school visit, so a question I would soon be answering for hundreds of kids. As for this car owner, I would guess they have a wry sense of humor and mean to tell people to back off a little, OR they have strong religious beliefs and are asking the GREAT EXISTENTIAL question. Or perhaps it's both!!
Next on the list: HRLYQUN
We have a Batman fan on our hands here, who apparently has a thing for Harley Quinn. Maybe they have a thing for the Joker. Maybe they identify with her hopeless love and tragic treatment by the man. But I like to think this is meant to be more light-hearted, and they just love the character and comic.
Yes, yes I did. My husband was really, really excited about the idea, and encouraged this. Of course, symbols are not allowed, so no ampersand (&), but I think this worked out pretty well. People who know me have no doubt why I did this, and people who don't knowchuckle and comment: "You must really like PB&Js!"
Yes. Yes I do. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it! 😂
I want to know! What would be your personalized license plate? (7 letters max!)
Monday, October 14, 2019
|My son in kindergarten|
Monday, October 7, 2019
My reviews will also be posted on Goodreads where I review other books as well. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads, if you like. Please note that I'll only be reviewing books I love, so if it's on my blog, I give it five stars (Goodreads' system).
I'm going to confess that while I do love a good non-fiction picture book, my heart is with fiction. Given that, I might have been a little hesitant to pick this up. But boy am I ever glad that I gave this one a chance!
What an amazing story! This book is about an amazing duo: Jim Wide, and his service baboon, Jack. Jim had lost both of his legs in a rail accident and struggled to do his job at the railway until he found Jack. I was fascinated by Jim's foresight to recognize the potential of what Jack could do to help him. I was amazed by all the skills that Jack was able to learn, and it gave me a greater appreciation for baboons and service animals in general.
The author's research on the topic was impressive, and I especially appreciated the photos at the end of the book. I'd never heard of a baboon being used as a service animal, and I found the author's note about the history of service animals to be interesting and very informative. I have no doubt kids would be fascinated, and the discussion questions at the end would lead to great discussions.
My favorite part was when the heads of the railway came down on Jim for allowing a baboon to do the work of a human. I don't want to give any spoilers, so I won't tell you what happens, but when you read it, you will know why this is my favorite. (I know, I'm totally the worst! But read it! You won't be disappointed.)
I can't end without mentioning the art. The illustrator did a beautiful job on the pictures. They really brought the story to life. I loved the style, and felt it was a great fit for the story. And after seeing the old photographs at the back, it was fun to look back through the book and note the great attention to detail that Mr. Samaniego paid to his work.
This is a wonderful story that I highly recommend!
Note: I received an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Monday, September 30, 2019
Because of that change, I am often asked if I still write older books, how easy it is to switch back and forth between writing picture books and middle grade books, and how different is it writing in those two genres. So today I'm going to talk about that.
First, yes! I definitely still write middle grade books. I love the long story form, and being able to tell more. I love reading those books, too, and I still have a lot of stories in me. In fact, I'm working on one now, that I'm not going to tell you anything about (aren't I mean??!), but I'm on the second draft, so that is a good sign. Hopefully, in the future, you will see more published middle grade books from me.
Here is the thing, when I sent the draft of Help Wanted, Must Love Books to my agent, we had a little chat. She loved it, but she wanted me to understand that if I decided to go that direction, I needed to spend some time working on picture books. Focusing on writing more picture books, and spending some time (years probably) building up my author cred as a picture book author.
So that is what I have been doing these past couple of years (only recently have I begun working on middle grade again). I feel incredibly fortunate that my book sold. It is not the first picture book I've ever written, but it IS the first one I've gone on submission with (for all you non-authors, going on submission means that my agent sent it to editors in hopes they would want to publish it). The trick is to repeat that, now!
As for the question about difficulty. Switching back and forth is do-able, but difficult. The two formats are extremely different. In middle grade, I have space to say all the things. And while I want my writing to be crisp, and only say things it needs, it feels incredibly freeing to have SO MANY WORDS with which to write my story.
Picture books are mind-numbing projects where every word on the page has been scrutinized many, many times. Every word must be essential if I want to keep it. Every word must being working hard and expressing as much as possible. And even then, I need to make sure that the word really needs to be said. Because if pictures already express that idea, then it is the chopping block for those words.
With my middle grade, once I signed with my agent, I had a couple of back and forths to fix things, before going on submission, and then a couple more back and forths to fix things with my editor (not to minimize the changes, some of those changes were BIG!), still, once I sent in the final copy, it was final.
With my picture book, we were making changes every step of the way.
- Changes before sending the text to the illustrator.
- Changes after seeing the sketches.
- Changes after receiving final art.
- Changes because the art director had a thought.
- Changes because marketing needs a different focus.
- Changes because I had a brilliant idea last second (yes, of course it was brilliant, why do you ask?).
We made changes right up until they sent it to print and we could no longer make changes.
It has been fascinating to watch and participate in the process. And despite the whole mind-numbing thing, I love, love, love writing picture books. It is an incredible thing to be able to say so much with so few words, and I feel like my writing is stronger for having learned and studied the craft of picture book writing (and please note, I am still learning, and probably will be forever). I will definitely be in this genre for a long time to come because I love it so much.
So for you authors, do you find it difficult to switch genres in your writing? And for you non-authors, what do you think when an author that you love in one genre switches to write in another? Do you read those books, too?
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
But happily, memories live on, so it is time to report on our 2019 Johnson Family Summer Bucket List. To be honest, things have gotten a little out of hand. We used to make a list with the intention of finishing every last thing. Now we make a super long list with the idea that we can find something to do when we're bored.
Personally, considering how long our list was, I'm impressed we got through so much! And because I like numbers, here you are.
Number of items on our bucket list: 70
Number of items checked off: 42
Percentage of the list complete: 60%
Even better than numbers are pictures, so here are a few highlights:
Monster Pizza!! This was our kick-off activity. So. Much. Pizza. We definitely want to do this again . . . when we can drag along a few more people!
Here's a two-fer: Go to Oregon. Play on the beach. And really, this beach was the site of many bucket list fulfillments. Go for a walk. Go on a picnic. Roast marshmallows/make s'mores. Visit cousins. Seriously, the beach is my favorite.
We went to Lagoon.
We went to Canada.
We ran a family 5K (even if I only have a picture of two of us). And actually we ran TWO family 5Ks, so kudos to us!
But alas, we had a few items on the list I lament not getting to:
- Learn to make macaroons.
- Learn to make a curry dish.
- Fix the trampoline.
- Silent day!!! Okay, maybe the kids were glad about this one, but we're even because they also missed . . .
- Hatchet throwing. (It could have been fun, I just have visions of a bad ending to that. o_o)
Anyway, the point is, we had an awesome summer, and I love that our kids love doing the bucket list. And who knows? Maybe we'll keep pecking away at this list over the fall. That WOULD break the rules, but us Johnsons are known rule-breakers,* so it wouldn't really be a shock, would it?
Tell me about your summer! What was your favorite thing you did this summer?
*hahaha! This is a lie, we are ridiculous rule-followers, and when I DO break a rule or two, my kids are horrified. HORRIFIED.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
I hope you love it as much as I do! I'm so pleased with how Shailey turned out, and I love, love, love that you can read the titles on a bunch of those books on the bookshelf. I love the fun colors, and that title font (!!!). So fun! *happy sigh*
Thanks for stopping by, and I'd love to hear about what grabs your attention when looking at covers.
Help Wanted: Must Love Books is up on Goodreads, so feel free to add it to your "Want to Read" list!
And holy cow! Just this second I discovered that it's also live on Amazon, which means you can now pre-order it!! (no cover there yet, but AAAAHHHH!) [And just so you know, this would be another one of those exciting moments I was talking about at the beginning that makes your heart flutter.]