Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Author K.L. Going shares about Music as Inspiration

Dear Friends,

Please welcome my very dear friend and Award Winning (and brilliant) author, K.L. Going, to the Holiday Bookfest and giveaway! Despite her many accolades and achievements, KL is an all around fabulous and grounded person!
K.L. Going
BIO--K.L. Going is the award winning author of numerous books for children and teens. Her first novel, Fat Kid Rules the World was named a Michael Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association, and was included on YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults list and their list of Best Books for the Past Decade. Her books have been Booksense picks, Scholastic Book Club choices, Junior Library Guild selections,  NY Public Library Best Books for the Teenage, and winners of state book awards. They’ve been featured by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Children's Book Council as Best Books of the year. Her work has also been published in Korea, Italy, Japan, Germany, and the UK, and her novel Fat Kid Rules the World is now an independent film. It premiered at the SXSW film festival and won an Audience Award.

K.L. began her career working at one of the oldest literary agencies in New York City. She used this inner knowledge of publishing to write Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel -- a how-to book for aspiring writers, published by Writer's Digest. She has also written short stories for several anthologies and currently has multiple picture books under contract. She lives in Glen Spey, NY where she both writes and runs a business critiquing manuscripts. She’s also a mom to the world’s cutest little boy.
(That's the truth!)

To visit KL on-line go to www.klgoing.com, www.facebook.com/klgoing, and http://twitter.com/#!/KLGoing.

                                        Music as Inspiration by K.L. Going

Many people ask about the sources of inspiration for my novels. Honestly, there are many of them: personal experiences, artwork, events in the news, an overheard conversation … but the most consistently powerful is music.

Fat Kid Rules the World was inspired by the music of Nirvana and the in-your-face bravado of vintage punk rock.

King of the Screwups celebrated the wild antics of glam rock.

Even Saint Iggy got its title thanks to one of my favorite musicians, Iggy Pop, with his larger-than-life personality and awkward mix of good guy and bad boy.

My latest novel, Pieces of Why, is also infused with music. Pieces of Why is the story of Tia, a young girl growing up in New Orleans who must come to terms with her father being in prison for murder. The plot is shaped by the deep soul of gospel music and the setting is infused with the distinctive strains of New Orleans zydeco and jazz.

Why is music such a powerful well-spring of inspiration? I think it’s because music captures the essential element of writing: emotion. Writers often talk about plot, character, and setting, and those are all important, but emotion is every bit as crucial, both for the author as we craft our text and for the reader as they experience the story.

My best tip for aspiring authors? Don’t leave out the emotion! And if you find yourself blocked, try letting music move your mind and soul. You might be surprised by the results.

 Review Quotes: Going’s new novel, with its nicely realized New Orleans setting, is a tender, accomplished story about the coming-of-age of a girl whose good intentions are challenged by uncertainties and her efforts to do what is right, even when that’s frightening and painful. Readers will empathize with Tia and wish her well as she struggles to deal with the truth and hold on to her dream.”—Michael Cart, Booklist

 Surrounded by a strong supporting cast, Tia is a sympathetic protagonist searching for that joy, and the answers she needs to rediscover her voice come from some unexpected sources. Going (Fat Kid Rules the World) skillfully tackles topics of race, class, and violence in a moving testament to family and friendship, love and loss, and the power of forgiveness.”—Publishers Weekly
Read more: www.klgoing.com

 Pieces of Why – Playlist

This is the list of songs I imagine would be on the Pieces of Why Soundtrack! Enjoy!

1. When the Saints Go Marching In
performed by Louis Armstrong – Classic New Orleans!
2. Come on Children, Let's Sing performed
by Mahalia Jackson – Mahalia Jackson is one of Ms.    Marion and Tia's favorite singers and this song showcases the spirit of gospel music.
3. His Eye Is On the Sparrow performed
by Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston is another one of Tia's favorites; this is an example of a slower gospel song.
4. Banks of the Pontchartrain performed
by Nanci Griffith – Tia's mom listens to Nanci Griffith; Lake Ponchartrain is located nearby.
5. Amazing Grace
– performed by The Mississippi Mass Choir – Here's an adult gospel choir showing us how it's done!
6. Deep River performed
by Mahalia Jackson – This is the song that Ms. Marion sings when she gives Tia her lesson.
7. There is Hope performed
by Mississippi Children's Choir – This is exactly the kind of song I imagine Tia's choir singing.
8. My Zydeco Shoes
– performed by Zydeco All-Stars – Not only is zydeco a classic New Orleans sound, but it's also the type of music Keisha's folks would dance to at Le Bon Temps Roule.
9. Burn
-- performed by One Voice Children's Choir – Another example of what I imagine the Rainbow Choir singing; one of the leads reminds me so much of Tia! (Available on YouTube)
10. Heal the World --
performed by CBS Children's Choir (of Seoul Korea) – Children's voices are so powerful! I love the fact that we can watch and listen to singers from all around the world. (Available on YouTube)
11. Note to God
-- performed by Charice – This is the song Tia imagines singing for the Raven woman.
12. Pyramid
-- performed Charice (featuring Iyaz) – This is Keisha and Tia's favorite song that they sing with Kenny at the end.

Thanks for sharing with us, KL. Your post got me thinking about what is the most powerful source of inspiration for my writing. Music is a source, but for me the power comes from nature--long walks in the woods and on the dirt roads where I live and reading poetry. So, dear reader, what about you? What are your sources for inspiration in your writing or in your other creative pursuits?

Please leave a comment below for a chance to win an autographed copy of Pieces of Why
You can just say, "Hi," share your favorite song, or tell us what inspires you--we'd love that! THANK YOU! Don't forget to visit KL's website to learn more about her books and school visits: www.klgoing.com

We'll be back on Saturday with more from KL and I'll announce the WINNER of Pieces of Why!!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Dear Friends,

It's been a great week thanks to so many of you who spread the word or stopped by to leave a comment. THANK YOU! The winner will be announced at the end, but first I wanted to share more book goodies from Lindsay. Below are two favorites!

Don't forget to visit Lindsay's website for information about school visits and books and much more: lindsaybarrettgeorge.com

School Library Journal. PreSchool-Grade 3-A narrator introduces readers to two mice: "Inside my house there is a mouse,/Outside my house there is a mouse." The inside mouse sleeps in an old-fashioned clock, while the outside mouse snuggles in a tree stump. Line by line, with side-by-side, full-page illustrations, the story unfolds, tracing each mouse's journey from its home to the window of the house, where the two meet face to face, one looking out and one looking in, and say, "Hello." Gouache paintings in breathtaking colors create zoom-lens views of each of the not-so-different worlds of these two creatures. The pictures are packed with interesting details just waiting to be explored. The simple text, presented in a large typeface at the bottom of the pages, compares and contrasts the animals' environments and lifestyles. The overall effect is mesmerizing, and the intriguing parallels will capture readers' imaginations.This creative book makes a great choice for sharing aloud and for independent reading. It's also an excellent tool for teaching the concept of compare/contrast. -Wanda Meyers-Hines, Ridgecrest Elementary School, Huntsville, AL

School Library Journal. Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ

PreSchool-Grade 2-- A day in the life of a box turtle is rendered carefully in words and lifelike illustrations with a text that respects its subject, avoids any anthropomorphism, and is simple enough for very young listeners. It records the turtle's actions as, slowly but with perseverance, he drinks, searches for food, evades danger, and sleeps. The outstanding gouache paintings in borderless, horizontal two-page spreads are so realistic that one almost reaches out to feel the turtle's textured shell. Although at times the turtle seems to be camouflaged, blending into his surroundings, he stands out clearly once located. The animals he encounters are equally well illustrated--readers will almost hold their breath so as not to frighten the raccoon and chipmunk. The book's design is excellent; even the well-chosen type, superimposed on the illustrations so that there is no visual break from the scenes, is clear and easily read. This is superior nature study for young readers and listeners. 

The lucky winner of MAGGIE'S BALL is. . .  Carol Baldwin!!!!! 
Carol, please e-mail me with your mailing address: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com. If you'd like the book personalized to a special child include that info. THANK YOU!!!

Wait. . .don't stop reading yet! Award winning & bestselling author, K.L. Going, shares with us next week about her new book, Pieces of Why. The giveaway for autographed books continues through the Holiday season! See you soon. . .

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Lindsay in her Studio
Dear Friends,

Please welcome my friend, the multi-talented Lindsay Barrett George, who offers a glimpse of the inner workings of a creative mind. Her thoughts will delight and inspire you! Now, here's LINDSAY and her writing pearls of wisdom. . . (Details for the book giveaway of Maggie's Ball at the bottom of the post!)

The idea for Maggie’s Ball came from a few sources:

 -- a Popeye sing-along from the 1950’s (follow the bouncing ball)

-- the Sony Bravia TV commercial – where you see thousands of bouncing colored balls
descending down a SF city street
--my friend Mary Maxon’s dog – Tobey, now gone – who would drop his favorite ball down the stairs and then catch it… the ball
                               and bounced
                                                  and bounced…
              Tobey loved playing ‘Fetch’, even if by himself

-- and, the fact that my puppy Maggie and I played ‘Fetch’ every day with her yellow ball (lots of bouncing!)

"A consistent, directional progression of the story, large, easy-to-read type, the challenge of finding the characters and naming the objects and places, and the gentle, sweet ending make Maggie’s adventure a perfect title for young readers, who will want their own pup to play with by tale’s end.” --Kirkus *starred* review

School Library Journal PreS—An eager little dog is looking for someone to play with when her ball bounces down a hill into town. A colorful spread shows the park and four buildings set around it, with many children and adults playing and going about their business. Maggie searches for her ball everywhere, circling the town and looking in all the shop windows. The illustrations are bright and big, as is the minimal text, making the oversize book a winner for preschool storytimes as well as for individual perusings where the ample small details will fascinate children. Eventually, Maggie ends up disconsolately resting near a bench occupied by a girl reading—but wait—is there a yellow ball next to the bench? The little girl asks Maggie to play ball with her, and the pup delightedly complies. The pictures of the dog bursting with joy and happiness when she finds her ball and a friend are priceless.—Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA

Thoughts on Process. . .
There is no intelligent way to talk about the creative process. Great ideas – when they arrive - hang in the air. And ideas don’t come from me, but to me. I collect, store, safe-keep them… I let them simmer and out they pop!

You CANNOT lose faith in the fact that this process--this simmering--will happen - again.
It does …but in it’s own good time.
Some thoughtful words for readers/lovers of books for children
. . .Maybe that a picture book is its own ‘thing’… and that every stroke, every word is there because someone  - the author or illustrator – either painted it or wrote it. You start with a bank page and – you want to create an experience for a child, one stroke at a time. One word -- and it has to be the exact right word – one word at a time.

I LOVE making books for children – they are the best audience - and they believe in the magic that lies between the covers of a book. That expectation of something extraordinary that might happen –
when you turn a page… is part of why I love the bookmaking process. And of course, the children…to delight them and to connect with them – that’s the best part.

More about Lindsay and her wonderful picture books:
 Lindsay Barrett George’s books have been picked as Outstanding Science Books for Children,  American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, and have received Children’s Literature Choice Awards. Box Turtle at Long Pond was chosen as a Children’s Book of the Year by the Library of Congress.

Lindsay received the Carolyn Field Award (1989), and the Drexel Award (2007).  Inside Mouse/Outside Mouse was chosen as the first selection in Pennsylvania’s ‘One Book Every Young Child’ initiative.

Lindsay began her career in the children’s book field as a book designer in a New York City publishing house.  She has combined a fine arts background with her graphic design experience to produce books that, hopefully, make the animals she cares about come alive for children.

Lindsay lives with her husband, as well as a sweet mini-Dachshund, a big brown dog, 5 cats, and a very handsome duck in Northeast Pa. For more about Lindsay, her books, and her school visits, check out her website: lindsaybarrettgeorge.com 

The #Giveaway: Lindsay is generously donating a signed copy of Maggie's Ball to one lucky reader, and it can be personalized just for YOU! All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment on the post. Winner will be announced on Saturday, November 21st. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for all the comments and good wishes! Before I announce the winner, I knew you'd want to know more about Jan and his books. Here's a sampling of his YA books, but you'll want to stop by his website: http://jancher.wix.com/jancheripko and check out his books for younger readers as well.

SLJ Grade 8 Up: Chris Serbo, a senior, is an outside linebacker for the Valley View High School Dragons. He is also an alcoholic. His first-person story is revealed in two ways. Before each chapter, a brief italicized account tells what's going on in the present as Chris grapples with the Twelve Steps and, after football season is over, tries to finish high school at a rehabilitation facility that he's been forced to enter. In the main body of the novel, the troubled teen recounts his championship season with the Dragons, along with the downward spiral his personal life took due to his drinking. Cheripko portrays a young man whose mother died when he was five and whose absentee, career-military father is a drunk. Chris's two main pleasures, football and partying, are intimately detailed in the story. While the signs of dependency are all around him falling grades, lies, losing friends, Chris remains firmly in a state of denial. Only toward the very end of the book does he show that he might be ready to face up to his problems. While the locker-room lingo and dialogue are presented in a mild manner, the author doesn't hold back in describing Chris's stupefying behavior during his weekend binges. A frank account of an at-risk teen fighting for his life. Tom S. Hurlburt, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Booklist: sun moon stars rain. Gr. 10-12. Danny, 17, seems to have everything going for him, including a full scholarship to music school, but he drops out--and not because his girlfriend dumped him. He and his mom never talk about his dad, who died eight years before while rescuing a dog from the rushing river in their vital, rural community. Danny meets Stephanie, a beautiful single-parent mom, and he loves her. She reveals guilt about an addiction and more, and she helps him find peace in church. The religious message is understated; the issue that really drives the action is the locals' confrontation with the state officials attempting to confiscate land, but it's the honest characters, with all their scrappy, irreverent individuality and compassion, that grab attention. Fast, clipped, immediate, raucous (there are a few instances of the f-word), the dialogue is poetic; so is what's left unsaid. The simple words, and the spaces between them, reveal secrets, breakdown, betrayal, and love. Hazel Rochman 

Don't forget to take a look at Jan's books for younger readers. Books may be purchased directly from him and personalized for you for holiday giving! Check them out here: http://jancher.wix.com/jancheripko

And now. . .the lucky winner of Jan's book is: auntiejenni Congratulations!
To receive your autographed copy of RAT please send your home mailing address here: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com, and your book will soon be on its way!

Next up on the Holiday Giveaway is the multi-talented, author/illustrator, Lindsay Barrett George. See you soon!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Where Do Ideas Come From. . . Author Jan Cheripko shares

Dear Friends,

Please welcome my long time friend, Author Jan Cheripko! In this post, he shares about the spectrum of ideas and experiences that ultimately became his book RAT. To celebrate the Holiday season, Jan is generously donating a copy of his book. You'll find details for a chance to win an autographed copy at the end of the post!

Jan Cheripko in his backyard
Jan Cheripko has authored seven books, including three award-winning young adult novels. His works focus on choices that people make and how those decisions affect their lives and the people and events surrounding them. In Imitate the Tiger, a football player struggles with the beginning stages of alcoholism. In Rat, main character, Jeremy Chandler testifies in court against a popular coach whom he has seen molesting a cheerleader. Jeremy then has to face the wrath of the basketball team. sun moon stars rain is a multi-layered tale of love, addiction, power, and redemption.

Jan also taught English and philosophy at a residential school for at-risk teens in upstate New York. He is the past assistant to the publisher of Boyds Mills Press and currently serves as a consultant to the Highlights Foundation where he occasionally leads workshops for writers. He and his wife, Valray, reside in Bethany, Pennsylvania, with their adopted dog, Max, and their cat, Smokey, who adopted them. Jan is a member of the Bethany Borough Council and the Bethany Public Library Board of Directors.

You can learn more about Jan and his work at:   http://jancher.wix.com/jancheripko

Grade 7 Up-This compelling novel begins with Jeremy Chandler, the narrator of the story, testifying against his school's basketball coach, whom he saw trying to rape a cheerleader. At his tiny high school in upstate New York, the teen is not hailed as a hero for his actions: many of his classmates treat him with anger and cruelty. He feels particularly vulnerable because he was born with a withered arm, and even though he loves basketball, he can only be the team manager. The new, no-nonsense coach soon sets the team on a winning course, but the focus of this novel is not solely on sports. Instead, much of it is about Jeremy's efforts to navigate his way through life's moral choices, to better understand other people, and to even come to grips with death. This is a novel that doesn't shy away from exploring the characters' spiritual sides. . . .  the story is filled with emotional power, told through a skillful first-person narration. SLJ--*Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL*



As far as I know there’s no formula for identifying experiences, immediately categorizing them, and shoving them into a file that says: ‘To be used in a novel about basketball.’ On the other hand, I do think that if I pay attention to the world around me, interesting events, people, and ideas present themselves, and they sit there waiting to be used. Such was the case with Rat.

The first occurred a long time ago when I was an English teacher in Waterloo, New York. I attended a basketball game between Waterloo and Geneva, and I was so impressed by the half-time show put on by the Geneva cheerleaders that I actually thought that somehow I should try to capture what I had seen in a story. Now, I had not even started to even think about writing my first novel at that time, but there it sat. Eventually the cheerleaders that I watched that evening morphed into a secondary, yet crucial, part of Rat, revolving around Cassandra Diaz, a beautiful Latino girl.

Another experience that resonated was watching a particular coach of an area basketball team when I was working as a sports writer for the Sullivan County Democrat, in rural New York. I had coached junior high basketball myself at Waterloo, and my short coaching career plus my sports writing job exposed me to some very good and some very bad coaches. One particular coach got my attention because he was so very bad. And, almost as a way to get even with watching a bad coach, I created the creep that attacked Cassandra at the beginning of the novel.

Jeremy Chandler is very loosely based on an incredibly wonderful woman named, Andrea Bown. Andrea was born with severe physical handicaps that confined her to a wheelchair, yet she went on to earn a master’s degree in English, and has done a great deal for children’s literature. While I could never be able to tell her story, I found that I could honor her just a little by giving Jeremy a birth-defect, a withered right arm.

Simpson, the antagonist of the story, turned out to be a surprise. I gave him the name Simpson, as a nod to Bart Simpson – What would he be like as a teen? Not a particularly nice guy. But as I developed the motivation for his anger, I saw that he was deeply hurt because he had lost his mother to cancer when he was just a boy. I had originally thought that he would die, but as his story evolved, I saw that he was aching for the chance to change. He just need the right opportunity.

So the issues of ‘mother’ and ‘cancer’ began to develop, as did questions about addiction when the back story of the new basketball coach took shape. So, too, did questions about abortion, a very controversial subject, rise regarding both Jeremy’s mother and the new coach’s wife, who was pregnant, yet had cancer.

One of my most favorite characters was really just a needed bridge in the plot, but who developed into an intriguing person of his own, and that’s ‘Snore’. A misfit in the social world of basketball and cheerleaders, Snore is a DJ and lighting guy, necessary for the cheerleaders’ routines. He is liked by all, because he’s just a nice guy even though he’s on the margins of school life.

How to pull all these characters and stories together is what an author has to do. One of the cementing glues I often use is music, and in Rat, I use one of my favorite songs, “ Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher”, originally performed by Jackie Wilson. On my website I uploaded a great version of the song by Bruce Springsteen and Friends.

Hope you like the song, and I hope you like my novel.

I'm hooked. What about you? For a chance to win an autographed copy of Rat mailed directly to you from the author, simply leave a comment below. Joining my blog, sharing on Twitter or FB is appreciated, but not necessary to win. The winner will be announced on Saturday, November 14th. 

Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment for Jan!