Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book Birthday Blog Tour + Giveaway with Jackie Azua Kramer

Dear Friends,

Please welcome back, Jackie Azua Kramer, who has a wonderful new picture book just released this May. Enchanting illustrations coupled with Jackie’s lyrical text will make this book a treasured bedtime read aloud with your little ones. 

AND, there’s a comment contest giveaway. This time the book will be sent direct from the publisher, Clavis Books. Jackie will send a personalized bookplate to the winner on request. Simply leave a comment below and your name will be entered for a chance to win.

Writing from the Inside Out. . .   with  Jackie Azua Kramer

In sharing parenthood with friends, inevitably we end up laughing and/or crying about the nights spent trying to get our kids to bed. 
Just when you want to snuggle in with a good book and a cup of tea your little darling has a hundred and one excuses for why they can’t sleep. 
1: I’m not sleepy
2: I’m thirsty or hungry or both.
3: I’m scared.
4: There’s a bug in my room.
5: There’s a bug in my water.

You get the picture...

If this is true for you and your pesky night owl, in If You Want to Fall Asleep you might discover you’re not alone.
The sweet bedtime battle between Little Mouse’s endless reasons for why he can’t sleep and his mother’s loving and imaginative suggestions was inspired from personal experience. I spent more nights then I care to remember, opening dresser drawers, toy chests and closets, shooing monsters from my daughter’s room. 

I treasure the bedtimes I once had snuggled together reading books with my children. I hope you and your little one will smile seeing yourselves in Mama Mouse and Little Mouse. A night filled with daring pirates, mountains of pancakes, floating among the stars…and wait for yawning. And stretching. And sleepy thoughts. And drowsy eyes. Fingers crossed. 

Meet the author:

Jackie Azúa Kramer was born in Manhattan, NY. She has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Jackie’s work with children presented her with an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets and hopes through storytelling. Her award-winning picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) won the Parents’ Choice Silver Medal and chosen 2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year. It’s been translated into German, Slovenian, Chinese and Russian.
Out soon--The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, 2020); That’s for Babies and Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis Books, TBD). Jackie lives with her family and writes under a canopy of trees in Long Island, NY.
Learn more about Jackie and her books:

"Especially notable." -- Booklist, Spring Preview
"Lulling language, key bedtime trigger words, and gentle repetition are sure to help tiny eyes close. Children will enjoy witnessing Little Mouse's mischief and that of his many toys….A common nighttime predicament with a few not-so-common solutions.” ― Kirkus Reviews

You may recall Jackie’s debut picture book, The Green Umbrella, featured here a year ago!

Illustrated in spreads that alternate the rainy-day narrative in vignettes with full-bleed spreads that allow the flight-of-fancy retellings to render a deeper mood, the animals' stories are delightfully descriptive...The lesson about sharing and generosity is elegantly wrapped around lovely language. (Kirkus Reviews)

THANK YOU, Dear Friends, for joining the BOOK BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION with Jackie Azua Kramer and for leaving a comment below. The winner of If You Want to Fall Asleep will be announced on May 23rd.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Dear Friends,

It feels like ages since I last posted, but finally, TODAY is the day to announce the lucky winners of the two book giveaway to celebrate NOVEL BEGINNINGS, K.L. Going’s and my upcoming workshop at Highlights Foundation. It’s nearly the Eleventh hour, but there’s still time to register for the workshop. Click anywhere on the large blue type directly below to learn more:

JUNE 21-24, 2018

Faculty: K.L. Going, Clara Gillow Clark  (If you don’t already know what we look like, you’ll find photos of us over at the Highlights Foundation webpage.)

The winner of KING OF THE SCREWUPS by K.L. Going: Theresa Milstein - Congratulations!!! (Theresa, please email me, claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com, with your mailing address and to whom you’d like you book personalized.)

Liam is a multifaceted and resilient character who ultimately learns how to be comfortable in his own skin with the help of his new, makeshift family. Going’s knack for defying stereotypes and creating memorable characters will not disappoint fans of Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003) and Saint Iggy (Harcourt, 2006).--School Library Journal, starred review

The winner of Hill Hawk Hattie + discussion guide and dolls is:  Judie Offerdahl - Congratulations!!! (Judie, please email me, claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com, with your mailing address and to whom you’d like you book personalized.)
Hill Hawk Hattie (Candlewick Press)

"The simple first-person narrative captures Hattie's rustic innocence, the thrilling rafting adventure, and the heartfelt struggle of a tough girl who feels useful to her father only in the role of a boy." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

Dear readers, We so appreciated each and every one of your comments for our giveaway! Thank you so much for your support. May is a busy month for us, but well do our best to have your books in the mail within a week.  ~Clara and Kelly

P.S. In store for you on MAY 17th, is a brand new picture book! See you soon. ~Clara

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Exciting Workshop News from K.L.Going & Clara + 2 Book Giveaway

Dear friends,

This is a THREE PART POST, so be sure to read through to the end!

First, K.L. Going and I are delighted to share the exciting news that Elayne Becker, from Tor Teen Books will be our special guest editor for Novel Beginnings 2018. Welcome aboard, Elayne! She looks delightful, doesn’t she?

Read about her here: Elayne Becker - The Official Manuscript Wish List Website

Elayne Becker. Forge BooksTor Teen, ... I want books that teach me something without being pedantic. . .
2nd: Kelly and I wanted to share more about our upcoming workshop in June. Click on the link "NOVEL BEGINNINGS" for a closer look at sample daily schedules. 

JUNE 21-24, 2018

Faculty: K.L. Going, Clara Gillow Clark  (If you don’t already know what we look like, you’ll find photos of us over at the Highlights Foundation webpage.)


  • For anyone who is ready to start their novel, has a novel in progress or wants feedback on their finished novel.
  • You will be able to submit up to 50 pages of your manuscript, and faculty will give you both line comments and an editorial letter.
  • You will have a personal one-on-one critique with a faculty member.
  • There will be a session with a guest editor 
  • Faculty and guest presentations on plot, character, conflict, the publishing process and how to avoid common mistakes. 
There’s still time to sign up for our workshop, but the clock is ticking! Hurry over to the Highlights Foundation website and reserve your spot. Payment options are available as well as scholarships. 
3rd: THE GIVEAWAY!!! Both Kelly and I are giving away an autographed copy of one of our titles. Most of you know the drill, but it’s a little different this time. No, you don’t have to be registered for our workshop for a chance to win. Simply leave a comment below about anything related to this post or simply stop by to say, “Hello!”  However, you’ll get more chances to win if you tweet the post, share it on FaceBook, Linked In, or Google+.  Please let us know in your comment if you’ve done any or all of the above to get those extra chances to win. 

Kelly is giving away a copy of her fantastic YA novel, King of the Screwups

Liam is a multifaceted and resilient character who ultimately learns how to be comfortable in his own skin with the help of his new, makeshift family. Going’s knack for defying stereotypes and creating memorable characters will not disappoint fans of Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003) and Saint Iggy (Harcourt, 2006).--School Library Journal, starred review

And I’m giving away a copy of my MG novel, Hill Hawk Hattie, along with a book discussion guide and dolls: 
"The simple first-person narrative captures Hattie's rustic innocence, the thrilling rafting adventure, and the heartfelt struggle of a tough girl who feels useful to her father only in the role of a boy." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to join the celebration of writing and authors, editors and books! Thanks so much for showing your support by leaving a comment. The winners will be announced on May 8th.  ~Clara and Kelly

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Two Writers Talk About their Process of Beginning a Novel

Dear Writers,

K.L. Going and I are co-faculty for the upcoming workshop Novel Beginnings: Building Strong Foundations for Your Novel and Your Career at HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION. In this post, Kelly and I take turns sharing our experiences and our process for beginning a novel. Where and how does it all begin? 

Our next post will share more about our workshop and offer a book giveaway for one of K.L.’s books and one of mine. It’s not necessary to leave a comment here, but we do appreciate hearing from readers. Thanks for dropping by. ~C

K.L. Going
K.L. Going

Research. How much research do you do before writing?
Kelly: I do a lot of research, even when writing fiction. In fact, I sometimes think I do too much. It’s very easy to put off starting the actual writing process by reading just one more book in the name of research.
The truth is, I find research to be a lot of fun. I read about various topics that relate to my story idea and sometimes I’ll read books that relate to how I might structure the narrative. For example, if I’m debating about using flashbacks, I might read a few examples of books that use them well. Or if I’m considering a narrative style that jumps around in time, I might see if I can find other examples of this style. That said, I never read anything that’s too close in plot, setting, or character because I don’t want to unconsciously affect my decision making on that level.

Clara Gillow Clark
Clara Gillow Clark

Clara: Before I begin to write I do months of research and then continue to research throughout the writing of a book. Here’s a little writing tip: If you can’t see it; you can’t write it. That’s why research is not just important, it’s necessary for any time period you’re writing in if you want to capture a past or present time and bring it to life.
Research gives the writer building blocks to saturate their narrative with vivid and specific details. I want the reader to taste, touch, taste, smell, hear, and see the fictional world. When we write about the past, research also helps us shed our 21st-century sensibilities to embrace the mannerisms, belief systems, a different way of seeing the world, and the emotional pulse of a past time that may be alien to us.

How much of the story is developed through imagination–daydreaming about the characters, setting, and plot? 

Kelly: All of it! Daydreaming is how I come up with my ideas for every stage of story development. I think about all the different paths that the plot could take and imagine the twists and turns as far as my mind allows. I imagine the same story using one element and then change that element to its polar opposite and imagine the story again. What changes? What do I like better? Were there any surprises?
As an example, I might think I want to write about a family that consists of a mother, father, and my main character. But there are so many permutations of family and every different combination changes who my main character would be and how they would act. I might change certain elements in my mind, imagining how the plot would unfold if the parents are divorced, happily married, together but constantly fighting, etc. Each path leads to a main character with different traits: angry, naïve, confused, betrayed, seeking escape…These character traits in turn define the plot.
It’s easy to make choices that become set in our mind right from the start, but sometimes, changing one single character or action can end up defining your entire book.
Fat Kid Rules the WorldIf you look back at my original hand-written pages of Fat Kid Rules the World, you’ll see a character who didn’t make it into the story: Troy’s mom. At some point, I reimagined the story without her and found that there was a deep well of emotion and conflict with a single dad struggling to raise two boys on his own.

Clara: Research is the vehicle by which a writer builds their fictional world and that’s also where imagination comes in. As I research, I start building sets in my mind, sort of like movie sets–rooms with furniture, neighborhoods, kinds of transportation and types of stores, as well as the larger setting of the natural world, fashion, food, manners, superstitions, important historical events, and so much more. This process is delightful child’s play where I pick up bits of research and try them on, model them so to speak, to see if they work. Some things get discarded, other things are kept and often embellished to enhance the setting or a character’s personality. But the daydream can’t blossom into story until I have a reason to write the book. Then I need a major character I care about who is conflicted and to that I add in other primary relationship characters to generate conflict and friction, offer support or create confusion for the main character and to ultimately touch an emotional chord in the reader.
Pieces of WhyHow much of the story’s content springs from your emotional connection to the story? 
Kelly: All of it! Again, this is at the very heart of story development. There’s something mysterious about the way the passion you feel in your mind and heart gets transferred onto the page. It doesn’t seem like a reader should be able to tell how I feel as I write, but over and over again, I’ve seen the results. When I am deeply emotional about a scene, it works, but when I’m writing something that I feel less connected to, most of the time it ends up getting cut in the end.
Clara: Everything. It’s commonly believed that you can’t write something that’s other than yourself. But haven’t we all been a target or experienced life being acted out on us? And if we closely observe and put ourselves in another’s shoes to discover their wounds and fears, and if we can then see with clarity and compassion and forgiveness, why can’t we then write from another’s point-of-view whose actions are things we would never do or say not even in our thoughts? But, I would say, that YES, everything springs from our life experience, but not necessarily our own thoughts and actions.

How do you know if a story idea is strong enough to support an entire novel?
Kelly: To me, this goes back to that all important step: imagination. When I take time to imagine, I can see whether a trail quickly runs out, or whether I’m bursting with possibilities. I’ve had numerous ideas that seem funny or interesting at first, but when I start to play them out in story form, there’s not enough to turn that idea into an entire book.

How do we pull it all together?
Clara: I’ve pretty much stated that above, but to recap, getting ready to write is having your three prongs of story working together in your mind–i.e. research, imagination, and emotion. When the characters start saying things and doing things and feeling emotions then I know it’s time to write.

How do you know when it’s time to write? 
Kelly: For me, there’s a feeling of urgency that begins to build. Also, because I spend so much time imagining different possibilities, there’s also a point where I feel like my imagination is tapped out. I think of this part of the process like playing chess. When you’re playing, you try to consider each move and its consequences. Some players are capable of thinking many moves ahead. Others can think one or two moves ahead. Either way, there’s a point where you’ve done all of the thinking you can, and it’s time to choose the best path and make your move.

How many drafts do you do before you submit your work? 
Kelly: This varies from project to project, but I guarantee it’s more than most people expect! It’s also less quantifiable because I often read through partial drafts and edit as I’m creating.
In an ideal world, I’d start each new chapter by rereading the previous one, so I’d clean up the text as I write. Then after a complete draft is finished, I’d put it away for at least two weeks so I could come back to it with fresh eyes. I’d revise a minimum of three times before passing the novel on to a team of carefully selected readers who would give me feedback. Then I’d take their feedback, incorporate it, and revise again as many times as needed.
Of course, this is a perfect scenario and we all know that writing is messy! Our best laid plans seldom work out the way we want them to! My best advice? Revise as many times as you need to, and don’t feel self-conscious about how many drafts you take to get it right. What matters is the end result, not how long it takes you to get there.

Hill Hawk HattieClara: Each project is different. For Hill Hawk Hattie the beginning came fully formed into my head when I was out walking–walking is when I do a lot of daydreaming and when characters talk to me–and the opening of that book never changed much from that moment Hattie entered into my conscious and started telling me her story. But I had spent years gathering research about the heyday of the rafting era on the Delaware River so the stage was set. But it’s also not unusual for me to do countless drafts of a scene or chapter and then toss them out or to tinker endlessly with words and phrases, always asking myself, “How can I say this better?” After I’ve completed a draft, I count on a feedback from trusted friends, and more often than not that will require several more drafts before the manuscript is even close to submission.

Novel Beginnings: Building Strong Foundations for Your Novel and Your Career 
June 21-24, 2018
Get feedback on your novel AND guidance about your writing career from two experienced authors with great teaching and editing experience.
register now

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Announcing the Skype WINNER for MY SPECIAL WORD

Dear Friends,

We’re all in a flurry of getting ready for the holidays so this will be an extra short post! First, thank you for the wonderful comments you left for Alison Green Myers.

Thank you, Alison, for the wonderful and generous gift you’ve given of a free Skype visit to a school or organization in this season of giving. It’s such a perfect way for us to end a year by committing ourselves to GOODWILL and to finding OUR right word to live by in the coming year. What will be your special word? What special word will be mine? You may want to revisit the previous post for inspiration from the children.

If you weren’t the lucky winner, you’ll still want to visit the website for the non-profit program: My Special Word. You can apply for a grant, donate to the program, or get in touch to find out how you can bring this kid empowering program to your school or organization.

And, the Lucky Winner, chosen by for the "MY SPECIAL WORD" Skype visit is:
Nisha Gupta
(Please email me with contact information for Alison! claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com)

Alison Green Myers spent the first half of her career teaching reading and writing, and now finds herself working in children’s book publishing as program coordinator for the Highlights Foundation and reader for a small press. She is a regional advisor for SCBWI and a fellow of the National Writing Project. Alison joins Dwight Smith to co-present My Special Word in schools across the country. 




Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Author/Educator/SCBWI R.A. Alison Green Myers shares the Importance of Words + Free Skype Visit and Gifts

Peace, Goodwill, and Children’s Books by Alison Green Myers

Goodwill seems to pop up in December— literally on a Holiday Cards (like ours above) or in the actions of those moved by the spirit this time of year. I carry goodwill with me all year long. Maybe it’s the “goodwill” tattoo on my left wrist that reminds me, or more so, that I’m moved by the notion and its possibilities for our world.

1a : a kindly feeling of support : compassionate interest or concern 
2a : cheerful consent 
b : willing effort

I love the notion. Don’t you? 
Willing effort. 
It does take effort, doesn’t it? Each night I ask myself if I lived “goodwill” that day. Some days are better than others, but hopefully my daily actions showed kindness and support, hopefully my words showed compassion and concern. And if not, I vow to try again the next day.
While the word has always meant much to me (so much in fact that I named my son Will) the nightly question wasn’t something I came to on my own. Dwight Smith the founder of the non-profit program My Special Word influenced me. He asks himself a similar question nightly.
My Special Word began as a personal crusade fifteen years ago; Dwight Smith then developed the idea into an empowering program for children and teens. Through the My Special Word program, children learn about Mr. Smith’s journey, and his reliance on a power word (“special word”) to help guide his decisions at home and in his flourishing business. 
On starting the program, Dwight said, “I had to ask myself, ‘what can I do to make a difference in the life of a child’? I can share my story. I can give them a tool that worked for me. The power of my word SOLD, what it teaches me. What it reminds me. I can share that with kids and get them thinking about a word that would make a difference in their life. Once they have that word, they own it. They are accountable to it. They can use it to make positive choices and changes.”
Last year Dwight approached me to write books that would accompany his program. Along with Dwight’s team at My Special Word including Courtnee Carrigan and Renee Smith, we created a book team with illustrator Beth Bogert and graphic designer Greta Schmidt. The result: a series of books that spread the positive power of words. The books launched a conversation in schools and organizations across the country. 

Kids are encouraged to select a special word that makes them feel empowered. In addition, they offer reasoning behind the self-selected word. Whenever we visit a school I find myself engaged with kids talking about who they are, what they wish to become, and the journey that they are on getting to that place. They ask about my word too (and sometimes even notice the tattoo.)
As I was meeting with a fifth grader during a school visit this fall, he told me he wanted to change his word. He explained that when he heard about the program, he just picked a word to satisfy the assignment. His actions weren’t malicious. His word was love. 
He explained, “It was a good enough word but now that I am really thinking about it [the program], the word doesn’t fit me.” 
Words change. 
People change. 
Understanding changes, especially in education. After he finished the writing project he shared with me the new word that he wanted to “live by.” His explanation read, “My word is transform. I love science. I like to watch something change into something else. I like how in art some paint can transform into a picture. I feel that way about me too. Like how one day you are small and then you turn older, or how you are not good at a sport and then one day you are the best on the team. I think that is a word to live by because I want to keep changing and getting better.” The writing went on to describe other passions in his life and how the word “transform” meshed with them all. 
His writing, like so many others, showed a deep understanding of the program. Even young children that I work with share a profound connection to the word that belongs to them. I had one child share his word as “MY”. He said, “The ‘m’ stands for me and the ‘y’ for you.” He went on to talk about how important each person is that you meet. 

Kids are really freaking awesome.  
2017 was full of goodwill thanks in large part to the children that I have had the chance to meet because of My Special Word. It has been a privilege to carry out Dwight Smith’s mission in our 2017 book releases and I look forward to what 2018 has in store. 
I hope that 2018 has goodwill in store for all of you. And a special thank you to Clara for having me on today to talk about the My Special Word program.

P.S. Dwight and I would love to give away a free Skype visit to a classroom or organization. We will throw in a copy of the picture book and a class set of bookmarks and bracelets too. Please comment below and our fabulous host will use to select a winner. (Winner will be announced in one week. If you are new to the blog, please include your email address.)

Alison Green Myers wanted to join the circus.
She wanted to train tigers.
She wanted to jump through fire.
She wanted to stand on a wire, suspended high above a cheering crowd.
She probably spent too much time at her local library, especially inside the pages of If I Ran The Circus. Alison never made it to the circus (though she did travel on a carnival for many years) but her early trips to the library fed her in other ways. She spent the first half of her career teaching reading and writing, and now finds herself working in the majestic circus of children’s book publishing as program coordinator for the Highlights Foundation and reader for a small press. Alison writes about the wilds of life, mostly humans, but other scary beasts too. She is a regional advisor for SCBWI and a fellow of the National Writing Project. Carrie Howland of Empire Literary represents her novels and picture books. 

Thank you, dear friends, for stopping by to celebrate “goodwill” with us. Please leave a comment for Alison and the dynamic way she is sharing goodwill in classrooms across the country. What are you waiting for? A free Skype visit with your classroom, or a child or grandchild’s classroom, a friend's? Comment now! 

Peace. Love. Joy. GOODWILL to all.  ~Clara

Thursday, December 7, 2017

FREE CRITIQUES for Children’s Book Writers

Dear Writers,

Hurry over to KID LIT INK blog: 
Leave a comment there for a chance to win a FREE critique
from one of the authors below! 


If you asked Santa for a little help with your writing this year, then this is the gift
he has on his sleigh for you… a bagful of Christmas Critiques from the children’s 
authors of KIDLITINK

Alison Meyers – (1) query letter critique – MY SPECIAL WORD.

Jan Cheripko –  (1) YA – first 10 pages critique – RAT (Contemporary-realism)

Kim Briggs – (1) YA – first 10 pages critique – STARFALL (Romance-Thriller)

Clara Gillow Clark – (1) MG first 10-pages critique – HATTIE ON HER WAY

Lindsay Barrett George – (1) author/illustrator PB critique – MAGGIE’S BALL

Gayle C. Krause – (1) rhyming PB critique – DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON?

Pat Thomas – (1) rhyming PB critique – STAND BACK SAID THE ELEPHANT

That’s seven (7) critiques in all. 

To be eligible, please follow the KIDLIT, INK blog and leave the title of your 
manuscript in the comments on, as well as which
author you’d like to review your work. will select the winners on Christmas Eve. Names will be posted 
on the KIDLIT, INK blog and you will have three months to respond. You can 
Private Message your email address to the authors from the KIDLIT Facebook 
page and each author will contact you.