Thursday, August 17, 2017

Heidi Lang & Kati Bartowski--Sister duo and debut Co-Authors - Interview + Book Giveaway

Dear Friends,

Summer seems to be flying away with the songbirds, and that means it’s time to get ready for school. And back-to-school time is especially exciting here for learning about new books for your favorite young readers. You’ll also get introduced to new authors and hear from some long time friends who’ve visited before. First up on our Back to School Celebration of Books is a special treat of a sister writing duo--just how do siblings manage to write together? Heidi and Kati will have their say, and then at the very end of the blog you’ll find out how to enter the giveaway for their debut novel, but also learn what’s percolating for future posts. But now, please welcome the sweet sister duo, Heidi Lang and Kati Bartowski!

Here’s a look at their debut novel just released in mid-July: A Dash Of Dragon
Published by Aladdin Books

The plot rockets along, the third-person narration peppered by agreeably colloquial dialogue. Mix a dash of humor with some action and adventure, throw in a couple of cute boys plus a gutsy heroine—this novel is a recipe for success—perfect for Top Chef fans with a penchant for the fantastical. Kirkus Reviews

This middle grade fantasy introduces an exciting world where engaging human and magical characters live together. The title tackles themes of abandonment, loneliness, risk-taking, trust, and friendship. Readers are likely to become wrapped up in Lailu’s story and anxious to know what her fate will be. School Library Journal

A wildly inventive fantasy with wide appeal. — Maggie Reagan (Booklist June 2017)

Cooking fans prepared for a different slant on magical creatures will find this a particularly entertaining outing, as there are lots of foodie references, but even fantasy buffs who have never heard of loin cuts or hot pots will likely find this a zingy, buoyant adventure where the happy ending is certain but the path to it is enjoyably twisty. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski - our co-writing method.

Co-Authors Kati & Heidi

HEIDI: Heidi here, co-author of A DASH OF DRAGON. I’m a dog walker in Santa Cruz, so when I’m not writing I spend my days out on the trails with roving packs of dogs, and then all my spare time trying to get dog fur out of my clothes. 

KATI: I’m Heidi’s sister, also co-author of A DASH OF DRAGON, and instead of dog packs, I spend most of my time wrangling a high energy toddler. When she sleeps, I manage to get in some writing or drawing. 

HEIDI: When I tell people my sister and I wrote a book together, most people have one very big question: How did you co-write with your sister and not end up killing each other?

KATI: You know, I often wonder that same thing…

HEIDI: Oh, you’ve loved every minute of it, and you know it! ;)

KATI: Anyways…Heidi and I thought we’d share with you all our co-writing process. We didn’t initially set out to write a book together, so we cobbled together our method as we went along. 

HEIDI: Originally Kati was planning on writing two separate books: one about a girl who hunts and cooks mystical beasts, and the other about a fantasy world slowly being taken over by science, with the elven mafia fighting to keep control as a group of steampunk scientists gain more power and influence. I loved both of those ideas, but thought they would work best combined in the same book. Once I suggested that, Kati realized my brilliance and begged me to write it with her.

KATI: So, what actually happened is Heidi kept coming up with ideas and suggestions, and I could tell she was super excited about it, so finally I was like, “you know, maybe we should just write it together.”

HEIDI: And I jumped at that suggestion like a wild hyena.

KATI: That’s a strangely accurate description.

HEIDI: Thank you! ;) Kati and I had done quite a bit of writing on our own before this, and we always tossed story ideas at each other, so it was probably inevitable that we’d write something together eventually. And honestly, I really was super excited about this story. I still am, in fact. We are finishing up revisions on the sequel, and let me tell you, it gets even more epic. 

KATI: No spoilers! Moving on to the mechanics of how we actually co-write, Heidi and I have very different writing styles. I like to plot out everything—

HEIDI: She really does. Every little thing.

KATI: Whereas Heidi is a complete pantster, or someone who writes by the seat of her pants. Meaning I’ll spend all this time creating a detailed outline, just so Heidi can go in and ignore it.

HEIDI: I don’t ignore it. I simply…take it under advisement. ;) But the overall story arc is one that both Kati and I agreed on before we started, and even while we were working, we spent a lot of time talking about the characters and the story to make sure we were both moving in the same direction.

KATI: We would each take turns writing sections. I’d write something and then send it over to Heidi, who was free to revise my section before writing hers and passing it over to me, and repeat. We purposely didn’t set any strict page or chapter amounts on each section - we would each just write as much as we felt like writing before sending it on. 

HEIDI: It worked out nicely that way. There wasn’t pressure to force a certain amount, and it gave me the opportunity to do things like oh, say, invent a new character and end my section with his sudden arrival, and then sit back and see what Kati would do with it. 

KATI: True story. She invented a character who terrified all the other characters in the story, but didn’t tell me anything at all about who he was or why they were scared of him. Not cool. :(

HEIDI: Heh heh, probably my proudest moment. :) Earned me an angry phone call, and was the one time Kati forced me to add more to my section…but it was totally worth it. Also that character morphed into an integral part of our story, so yay for pantsing!

KATI: Anyhow. By the time we were done with a complete draft, we’d both revised each other’s sections enough that all our writing was mixed in together, which made it feel more like one voice. It also made it easier to cut and change things in the next round of revisions, because everything was a mix.

HEIDI: To get back to the first question, how we were able to write together without killing each other, I’d say the fact that we are sisters really helped. We could both be completely honest with each other about things we felt were working or weren’t, and even though there were some heated…discussions, ultimately we’ve been sisters a long time, and we both knew we didn’t have to worry about any disagreements ending our friendship. Sisters to the end!

KATI: Whose end is the question… ;)

HEIDI: Haha. Okay. Well. I’m going to slowly back away now…it’s been lovely chatting with all of you!

KATI: A DASH OF DRAGON is our debut MG fantasy, and we hope you have as much fun reading it as we had writing it! And if you want to follow us, you can find us on twitter at @hidlang and @ktbartkowski. We’ll be doing a special sisters-themed giveaway soon! Our website is

Thank you, Kati and Heidi for sharing about your experience of sisters co-authoring a book! And thanks so much for donating an autographed copy of A Dash of Dragon for the comment contest. 

Readers, all you have to do for a chance to win A Dash of Dragon is leave a fun comment for the dynamic sister duo. If you’re new to the blog, please include your email in your comment. The winner will be selected through and announced on Wednesday, August 23rd. Next up is a new post featuring a favorite dynamic duo--Joe and Sparky, Party Animals by our  good friend, Jamie Michalak. Coming soon is historical fiction with Kathy Cannon Wiechman.

Thank you, dear readers, for supporting authors and good books! We appreciate your comments. You’re the best ~Clara

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Winner of WAIT FOR ME by debut author Caroline Leech + Summer News

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for your outpouring of good wishes for Caroline Leech and her debut novel, WAIT FOR ME! Once again your support of authors and books shows how much the written word is valued. I'm so glad to have to choose the winner, because it would be impossible for me to decide So. . .WHO is the Lucky winner of, WAIT FOR ME?

Carol, Please email me: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and for whom you'd like the book personalized.

“Caroline Leech’s story shines a beautifully written light on the precarious nature of love and war and asks its readers to believe, even when the hero doesn’t, that love can prevail. This is a book that makes you want to curl up with a cuppa and read straight through till the morning.”
~Kathi Appelt, National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor Winner

“Wait for Me is a delicately written love story with a gorgeously evoked setting, an intrepid heroine, and a knee-weakening romance. This book is not to be missed.
~Anne Blankman, author of The Prisoner of Night and Fog series and Traitor Angel

   Photo credit:Priscilla Dickson Photography

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. Caroline’s career in public relations with performing arts companies in the United Kingdom culminated with her editing a glossy photographic book, WELSH NATIONAL OPERA – THE FIRST SIXTY YEARS. Her debut novel for young adults, WAIT FOR ME, was published in the USA and UK by Harper Teen in early 2017. Set in Scotland towards the end of World War Two, the book tells the story of a girl’s friendship with a German prisoner of war who is sent to work on her father’s farm. Harper Teen will also publish Caroline's second YA novel in early 2018. Caroline lives in Houston TX with her husband and three teenage children, and she can be found online at 

Learn more about Caroline or to follow her on Social media:

Thank you, Caroline, for giving the gift of your book and for sharing your writer's journey with us. 

The next featured guests are a writing duo for a midsummer Book Birthday and Book giveaway! Stay tuned for that and maybe one or two surprise posts throughout the summer. I have a slate of wonderful authors and giveaways lined up from late August right through Christmas!



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Welcome Debut Novelist, Caroline Leech + Giveaway (YA Historical Fiction)

Dear Readers,

Please welcome the enormously talented debut Author, Caroline Leech. Her novel, Wait for Me, will be of special interest to those of you who are writing historical fiction, or to anyone who likes a great read or a story set against the backdrop of WWII. Caroline is generously donating a copy of Wait For Me to one lucky reader who stops by to leave a comment. Winner will be chosen by in one week. Last week's contest winner is posted at the end of the blog.

Writing from the Inside Out . . .  Author Caroline Leech shares about her debut novel, WAIT FOR ME and also her journey to publication. 

What was your particular path to publication?
I didn’t start writing fiction until my husband’s job brought us over from the UK to Texas. I’d left one career back in the UK, and now I had the chance to think about finding another. I’d been an avid reader all my life, so I found myself drawn back to writing fiction for the first time since I left school, but I knew that there must be so much more to writing a novel, or even short stories, than just … well, writing. So I signed up with the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut for their Writing for Children correspondence course, and I loved it instantly. Suddenly I had a valid excuse to take time out of my life as a mother and homemaker to do something for me. And then, I signed up for the Advanced Course, where my mentor was a certain lady called Clara Gillow Clark! By the end of that course, Clara had guided me through the drafting of a whole novel for teenagers, and had also helped me look at the market to see where my book might fit, how to write a query letter and how to organize my approaches to agents and editors. It was exhilarating, knowing that I had grown so much as a writer, and that I had someone helping me to stay on track. 
Over the next few years, I developed some great friendships with other would-be authors through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I also wrote a second novel, which then won an SCBWI competition, the Joan Lowery Nixon Award. The same year, it won the YA categories in two Romance Writers of America competitions, once of which was judged by Alice Jerman from Harper Teen. Something about my characters and setting – a Scottish farm in World War Two – really resonated with Alice and having read the full manuscript, she offered me a two-book deal. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to get that email! Although Alice loved the book, she knew it still needed work to make it ready for publication, and over the next few months, she helped me work my way through the story to tighten up the text and expand on all the bits she loved the most. As I had found working with Clara, having a mentor like Alice allowed me to see aspects of my story – the good and the bad – which I’m sure would never have noticed on my own.

It might have taken me a while from beginning to end, but on January 31st this year, I became a published author when Harper Teen released my World War Two novel, WAIT FOR ME.

Why did you choose World War Two for WAIT FOR ME?
Both my parents were involved in WW2 – my mother was a child evacuee, and my father became old enough to join up as a soldier a few months before the war ended – so I grew up with their memories and stories of their experiences. My dad’s four older brothers were also soldiers, as were my mother’s uncles, and her aunts worked in a parachute factory, meaning there were so many stories to listen to, just from within my own family. 

When it came to writing a whole book set in that time, I found that I was drawn away from the front line fighting, back to the home front where wartime brought very different challenges, especially for women. Everyone knows that men were called up to serve during the war, but did you know that women were too? Who else was there to take over the jobs the men had left behind? Any woman in Britain between 19 and 40 could either join the armed forces, or work on farms or in factories. Many had to leave their young children with relatives of neighbors while they worked, or move away from home completely. Women in the home also had to deal with strict rationing of food, fuel and clothing, and they lived with the constant worry that their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers might not come home again. My own grandmother waved goodbye to her five sons as they each went off to war, one by one. Sadly, only four of her boys came home. I know that Scotland did not suffer the same devastation that the countries occupied by Nazi Germany did, but still, I feel that there are stories of bravery, commitment and compassion from my homeland which I would like to tell.

Why are historical novels important for teenagers to read?
It can be very easy for ‘history’ to be dismissed as that boring class, third period between algebra and Spanish, when you’re forced to learn by rote names and dates of battles and surrenders, plagues and eruptions, births and deaths, none of which you will ever need to know again. But history is so much more than that. Understanding the path by which humanity found its way from then to now is a crucial part of understanding not only the world in which you live, but also the decisions we have to make about its future. There’s a famous saying, attributed to Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, which says, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. 

Sadly, the way that many history textbooks and non-fiction books are written – densely packed with names, dates and numbers – can make learning history off-putting. That’s why I’ve always loved historical fiction, first as a reader, and now as a writer. I enjoy finding books which let me see historical eras and events through personal stories. For example, I might not get excited about a book detailing the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940, but reading Ruta Sepetys’s amazing YA novel, BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY took me there and made me feel the Lithuanian people’s pain. And no textbook could have shown me the individual bravery and sacrifices of those who lived through the First World War in the heartbreaking way that Michael Morpurgo did in WAR HORSE, or let me see of the impact of the Vietnam War on the families left behind like Gary D Schmidt’s OKAY FOR NOW

What we call ‘history’ was once everyday life for other people, and perhaps seeing historical events from their perspective might help all of us to see how fortunate we are to live in the age we are in right now.

What are you working on now?
I am almost at the end of the revisions for my second book which will be released next spring. It’s another Scottish World War Two story, though not a sequel, and tells the story of another teenage girl who is determined to do her bit for the war effort while trying to discover her own place in the world. We have a title, and our wonderful designer is working on a cover right now, and hopefully we’ll be revealing both later in the summer. I’m really excited about this book, and I hope that everyone who has enjoyed WAIT FOR ME will find in it another story which makes them smile (and perhaps cry just a little bit too!).

Do you have some advice for aspiring writers?
Read. And write. The best way to become a better writer is to do lots of both. There are so many amazing authors out there, in every genre, so try to read a wide cross-section, and learn from all the things you love about those books. And while you are at it, learn from everything you DON’T like about those books too.  

Another important thing is that when you are writing, and you become convinced (as we all do) that all the words you are setting down are awful/inane/nonsensical, you must still keep writing. No one ever publishes a first draft of anything, and since you know you will have probably several rounds of revisions to go, your job for now is just to get words down. Any words. Because you can’t revise, polish and make perfect words that you haven’t yet written. 

Praise for Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
A breathtaking WW2 romance for fans of Elizabeth Wein’s CODE NAME VERITY and Ruta Sepetys’s BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY. 

Can their love survive a war?

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

Reviews from other authors

“Caroline Leech’s story shines a beautifully written light on the precarious nature of love and war and asks its readers to believe, even when the hero doesn’t, that love can prevail. This is a book that makes you want to curl up with a cuppa and read straight through till the morning.”
~Kathi Appelt, National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor Winner

“Wait for Me is a delicately written love story with a gorgeously evoked setting, an intrepid heroine, and a knee-weakening romance. This book is not to be missed.”
~Anne Blankman, author of The Prisoner of Night and Fog series and Traitor Angel

   Photo credit:Priscilla Dickson Photography

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. Caroline’s career in public relations with performing arts companies in the United Kingdom culminated with her editing a glossy photographic book, WELSH NATIONAL OPERA – THE FIRST SIXTY YEARS. Her debut novel for young adults, WAIT FOR ME, was published in the USA and UK by Harper Teen in early 2017. Set in Scotland towards the end of World War Two, the book tells the story of a girl’s friendship with a German prisoner of war who is sent to work on her father’s farm. Harper Teen will also publish Caroline's second YA novel in early 2018. Caroline lives in Houston TX with her husband and three teenage children, and she can be found online at 
Learn more about Caroline or to follow her on Social media:

Thank you, Caroline, for sharing your journey to publication. Congratulations on the publication of your first novel! 

The winner of last week's contest who included a favorite first line from a children's book is: Janet Smart! Congratulations, Janet! You won the autographed copy of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge. Please email me (claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com) with your mailing address and to whom you'd like the book personalized.

Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to celebrate authors and children's books! 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Welcome Debut Novelist, Kristin L. Gray + giveaway

Dear Readers,

Please welcome Author Kristin L. Gray and congratulate her on her debut MG novel, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge. I promise you'll love this book if you enjoy a heartfelt read with a large dollop of humor. It's a perfect pick for your middle grade readers or to read together as a family. Kristin is generously donating an autographed book to one lucky winner who leaves a comment. 

See comment contest details from Kristin in her post below. Enjoy!

Writing from the Inside Out. . .   by Kristin L. Gray  

 I’ve heard it said we writers have approximately eight seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Eight seconds to hook a reader browsing dozens of books at their local bookshop into wanting to leave with our story. Talk about pressure. Our first page, first paragraph, first line must sing. And if that’s not difficult enough, we need to maintain this level of quality throughout our story or we risk losing our reader to other demands or an electronic device. I’m a total sucker for strong openings, so I thought long and hard about this while working on my debut middle grade novel, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge.

I learned (and am still learning) from authors who have mastered the art of a good opening. Thankfully, all that’s required to study up on this is a trip to your nearest bookcase.

In fact, I could spend a whole hour in my bookstore or local library doing this very thing. I love examining first pages to see which ones grab my attention and why. Why does this opening make my heart beat yes?

Many times it’s the voice. Often it’s a question planted into my mind that needs answered. I have to read on to find out more. Take Charlotte’s Web for instance. 

“Where’s Papa going with that axe?”

Yes, where is Papa going? And what is he doing with an axe?

Or my personal favorite:

“There’s no lake at Camp Green Lake.” (HOLES by Louis Sachar) Wow! What a brilliant line. Immediately I want to know why a camp would be named Green Lake if there’s no actual lake?

Or this one . . . 

“Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.” Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is brimming with voice. I love that her protagonist Mo LoBeau refers to the deputy as Trouble. You know from the very first word that this is a spunky heroine you will enjoy spending time with. Not to mention, Turnage’s descriptions come alive.

Then here’s mine. 

“The day I was born I was four times smaller than the trophy largemouth bass hanging in my daddy’s shop.”  These were the first words I ever wrote for Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge way back in 2013. We know right off the bat that Vilonia was preemie or at least a small baby. That line propelled me into exploring her character and her wants. Every story starts with a first line. What’s yours?

I’d love to hear first lines that hooked you as a reader. Tell me in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Vilonia Beebe. And thank you to Clara for hosting me. 

As a bonus here’s a tentative first line from my WIP: Imagine the worst smell you can think of, multiply it by rotten fish, and I promise you a turkey truck smells worse.

Being responsible is NOT easy.
Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

Praise for Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge:

*A humorous, poignant, realistic debut story about a very responsible little girl who's a "force of nature.  – Kirkus Reviews

*Gray brings Vilonia’s small Mississippi town to vibrant life, creating a cast of warm, eccentric inhabitants and traditions, including the annual Catfish Festival. Vilonia’s amusing scrapes serve to counterbalance the seriousness of her mother’s condition. – Publishers Weekly

*A heartfelt read filled with nuanced characters... a fast-paced adventure with a very human story. School Library Journal

Kristin L. Gray drinks coffee (cream, no sugar) and writes books (funny, not sad) from her home in northwest Arkansas. She loves to read, walk her dogs, and eat cake for breakfast. Kristin’s fourth-grade self would never believe she has five children, two dogs, one fish, a bearded dragon, and a shy gecko. Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge is her first novel. To learn more about Kristin, or to send her a cake, visit her online at 

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge
S&S Paula Wiseman Books
Ages 8-12 | 208 pages | $16.99
ISBN: 9781481458429

Kristin has a new book under contract, The Amelia Six, a middle grade mystery. Details in the boxed text below:

Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your special talent with us. Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to congratulate Kristin on her debut novel, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge. The winner of the autographed book will be announced in one week.

Oops, I almost forgot! I bet you're all wondering who won The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azua Kramer. The lucky winner, chosen by is: Rosemary Basham
Congratulations, Rosemary! Please email me: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and to whom you'd like the book personalized.

Stay tuned everyone! We have another debut author and giveaway next week. As always, thank you, dear readers, for continuing to support authors and children's books.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

THE GREEN UMBRELLA by Author Jackie Azua Kramer + Giveaway

Dear friends,

Please welcome the talented, Jackie Azua Kramer, who shares about the writing of her debut picture book, The Green Umbrella. Jackie is generously donating an autographed copy for one lucky winner who stops by to leave a comment for her about the post. (Winner will be announced on May 9th!) Jackie recently learned that The Green Umbrella was named a Bank Street College 2017 Best Children's Books of the Year. Congratulations on that great honor, Jackie! And now, The Green Umbrella!

REVIEWS for The Green Umbrella:
"Imagination can turn even simple objects into marvelous things...imagining is better together. Debut author Kramer’s imagination-fueled encounter makes good use of fellow newcomer Sassouni’s gift for conjuring up fairy-tale landscapes: old houses hunched up against each other, impossibly lumpy hills, and silly contraptions...And Kramer’s storytelling passages sustain their lofty tone with no off notes—no easy task." Publisher's Weekly
Inside Illustration from: THE GREEN UMBRELLA

"A sweet story of a blossoming friendship between five lovable and imaginative characters, united by one special green umbrella. I want to jump right in to the lush paintings and join in their fun!"- Lauren Castillo, Author/ Illustrator of Caldecott Honor Book "Nana in the City"

Illustration from Inside The Green Umbrella

"Here is a story for those who love an object, be it a blanket, a toy, or in this case a green umbrella, so much so that it's very being is imbued with memories that make it unmistakably yours. And a story for those who have lost one such object and wish more than anything to have it back. Azúa Kramer reminds us all that many memories can be shared over a single prized possession. And as Sassouni's art plays in the worlds of joy and longing over a green umbrella, we see a group of characters come together to discover what they can offer another in need. There's no mistaking how easy it is to share this book." - Matthew Winner, All the Wonders Podcast

Writing from the Inside Out. . . Jackie Azúa Kramer shares an inside look at the writing of The Green Umbrella

Author Jackie Azua Kramer in her Writing Space
Q. In The Green Umbrella, did you have a reason for choosing the animals in your story?
JAK: I get to play in the most fun, raucous and fantastical playground…a child’s imagination. The idea of characters who are unlikely to be seen together remind me of why I love my work as a storyteller. I’m not the first one to do this. Not to compare myself, but perhaps I was channeling AA Milne, in the classic, The House at Pooh Corner.  Alongside Pooh, there’s Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Roo. Both, the Elephant in my story, and Pooh, remain at the center of the story and the action. There’s a scene in The Green Umbrella, when they’re all sitting together having tea, and part of the text reads: “…shared their stories.” I love the idea of all of us sharing our journeys with each other. The world is becoming flatter, and the unlikeliness of this bunch becoming friends, to my thinking, makes it a universal story. 

Q. Who or what inspires you?

JAK: Anyone who is passionate. Passion is a beautiful and contagious thing. It makes me work harder and think about my place in this big world. And creators, like Matisse, who reflect in their work--truth, beauty and wonder. Wonder is the secret sauce. Wonder allows you to feel something without dictating what that should be. 

Q. What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you’d give to aspiring authors?

JAK: Yes, absolutely. Like a child, ALWAYS stay curious. Be brave, be fearless and believe in yourself. And when you trip up, dust yourself off and start again, until it’s not fun anymore. And I remind myself often--Inspiration + motivation + passion = Endless possibilities. 

Q. What are the 3 most important things you keep in mind when developing a marketing plan for your picture books?

JAK: A lot is expected from an author these days. For example, what I’m doing right now by visiting your blog. I feel it’s important to share with others one’s writing journey and creative process. In addition, to choose some form of social media. I enjoy Twitter and Instagram because it’s fast, fun and informative. Most importantly, to connect in whatever way, with kidlit’s greatest advocates--educators and librarians. Whether it’s via school or library visits and/or attending conferences, the shelf life of a book will live on forever in the dedicated and passionate hands of librarians and teachers.

Q. What projects are you working on now? 

JAK: I’ve just begun the publishing journey of my two upcoming picture books, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) a story about the loss of a boy’s mother and If You Want to Fall Asleep, a bedtime story (Clavis Books, 2018) illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg. I’ve also begun research on a nonfiction picture book. I can’t say whom, but I’m amazed no one has written a children’s book about this person. History and people fascinate me. The key in writing nonfiction is to find that magical moment to enter their life.

Q. What is one thing most people don’t know about you? 

JAK: I can talk to animals with my eyes. I’m a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society and each time I visit the Bronx Zoo, I lock eyes with one of the lovely residents and stuff happens. I’m not sure what we’re saying, but at my last visit, sparks flew between Sanjay, the rhinoceros and me. At least, I thought so!

A bit about the author: Jackie Azúa Kramer
Author Jackie Azúa Kramer
Jackie Azúa Kramer was born in Manhattan, NY. Jackie has had a few lives as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Her work with children presented her with an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets and hopes through storytelling. She is the author of How Lilly Ate the Rainbow and The Green Umbrella, which has been translated into German, Chinese and Slovenian. Publishers Weekly wrote-- “Kramer’s storytelling passages sustain their lofty tone with no off notes—no easy task.”
In 2014, Jackie was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. She studied acting and voice at NYU and has her MA, Queens College, Counseling in Education. She is thrilled to share her upcoming books, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books) Jackie has travelled to 10% of the world and hopes to close in on 100% one day. 

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Thanks so much, dear readers, for stopping by to celebrate authors and great books for children, here at Writing from the Inside Out. Oh, and don't forget to leave a comment for Jackie! You're the best! ~Clara