Wednesday, August 28, 2019

No More Waiting for Wait, Rest, Pause

by Sue Heavenrich

Wait, Rest, Pause is a book worth waiting for. And today we get to find out more about it from the author -

Wait. What's that? Sorry, folks. We have to wait just 3 more lines because - Announcement!  Cathy Ballou Mealey has won the tote from Teresa Robeson. Cathy - please send a PM to Kathy Halsey. Now back to our regularly scheduled blogpost...

What do you do when you need a book – but there isn’t anything published yet? If you’re Marcie Flinchum Atkins, you write the one you need. While teaching fourth grade, she found herself searching for a book about dormancy. You know: that stage trees go through in winter, volcanoes go through when they aren’t blowing their tops, the stage some insects and amphibians overwinter in.

So four and a half years ago, Marcie began scribbling a draft for that book. At the same time she was (as she recalls) knee deep in moving across the state, selling her house – and buying a new one, not to mention interviewing for a new job. But she managed to share her story with critique partners and submitted it to a number of agents, reaping a basket full of rejections.

Then she put it away for a while. Tucked it into a safe spot where it could… go dormant. Wait. Rest. Nap. Then in March of 2018, Millbrook Press put out a call for manuscripts. Marcie nudged her manuscript awake, helped it shake the sleep out of its eyes, and sent it off to the editor.

How fitting that next week, her book Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature hits the shelves. It is a lyrical book – you can see immediately when you read the first page:

If you were dormant, you would pause—


The book is also filled with verbs. Not all that surprising, since Marcie focused on verbs in her fourth-grade classroom. As a teacher she told students to “Highlight your verbs!” Because verbs make our writing stronger, she says. A fan of word banks, Marcie often jots the verbs from a story-in-progress on a separate page, then eliminates the weak verbs.

“You want to look for specificity and readability,” she says. She’ll also list other categories of words, such as colors. “I use a lot of dictionaries and thesauruses to make sure I find the right words.” She’s posted some examples of this on her website, where she shares tips with other writers.

The process doesn’t end once the book is accepted by an editor, either. From book title to words on the page, Marcie said she found herself making plenty of tweaks to the language.

“Sometimes a slight change in order makes all the difference,” she says. Sometimes it’s finding a new way to say the same thing. For example, Marcie wanted to use the word “antifreeze” to describe how insects survive freezing temperatures. “But it’s not very lyrical, so I tried to figure out how else to say it, in a better way.”

Titles undergo scrutiny as well. Marcie’s original title was Pause: Dormancy in Nature. But when said aloud, some people heard “paws”…  and that was confusing. So the editor asked if Marcie could come up with a title that would reflect the lyrical nature of the text. To help her think up titles, Marcie wrote keywords on index cards.

There was one little thing Marcie wouldn’t budge on. “I wasn't willing to give up the word dormancy in the subtitle. As a teacher and now librarian, I knew having a subtitle that really shows what the book is about was important.” Fortunately, the editors agreed.

Luscious language is just one of the things I love about Wait, Rest, Pause. I like that Marcie has back matter for curious kids, older siblings, parents, teachers – anyone who wants to learn more about sleeping through the cold season. This makes it a great resource for older elementary school children who are looking for an understanding of what happens in the natural world when it’s too cold for sap to flow or ladybugs to fly.

“I hope my book makes kids curious enough to want to learn more,” Marcie said. “I see it as a springboard for inquiry.”

Thank you, Marcie, for talking shop with us today on GROG. Wait, Rest, Pause officially releases on Sept. 3 - just six short days from now.
Find out more about Marcie over at her website. Check out my review of Wait, Rest, Pause here, and  Jenna Grodzicki's interview with Marcie from July over at the Lerner blog.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Teresa Robeson, The Queen of Physics, and a Swag Giveaway! by Kathy Halsey

Teresa Robeson has long been drawn to science, writing, and creative pursuits. So kismet, her talent and hard work paid off in her debut picture book, The Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom, illustrated by Rebecca Huang. The book drops October 8, 2019, but you can pre-order here, Meanwhile you can find out more about Teresa and possibly win a cool "Women in STEM" bag if you leave comment on the blog. (My rescue boy Wiley Corgi will pick the winner.) 

Book Review
The Queen of Physics has already received a starred review from Booklist and praise from Teresa's We Need Diverse Books mentor, Jane Yolen. "A wonderfully written biography of an important woman scientist hardly known outside her field." Jane goes on to say, "Not just for little girls, but for children of all ages. About achievement, honesty, hard work that follows a passion. Do not miss this one."

As a layperson who doesn't know my neutron from my proton, this book lays out physics concepts in an enjoyable and even lyrical way. For example, she explains beta decay (a seminal part of Wu's life work) like this: ". . . where a neutron inside an atom broke into an opposite nucleon . . . It was like opening one present and getting three different gifts inside." With four pages of back matter, we learn more about Wu Chien Shiung's story as well as science terms used in the biography. Robeson includes tidbits of humor in these definitions, too. ("Positron - the antiparticle of an electron—sort of like the electron's opposite evil twin, except it's not evil.")
Madam Wu protesting
This 48-page picture book biography, designated for grades K-2, can easily be used as an introduction to physics to older students, too. Teachers and librarians will appreciate the historical context of Wu Chien Shiung's life over the decades from protests against warlords, then against Chiang Kai Shek, to Madam Wu's struggles in the 20th century gaining acceptance as an Asian woman in the male-dominated world of science. Readers will root for Chien Shiung, the courageous hero, who proved herself in every arena in China, the United States, and the world. 

Q & A with Teresa Robeson
Teresa Robeson
K: Queen of Physics and your 2020- release, Bicycles in Beijing, both feature diverse characters or settings. How do your own life experiences work to influence your books and what you write?

T: Being an Asian American who is an immigrant gives me an outsider’s view of this society--I feel like I can see both the forest AND the trees. But, primarily, my culture is the lens through which my experiences are filtered. It permeates pretty much everything I write. My very first published piece was a short story in Ladybug Magazine about my kindergarten graduation in Hong Kong. Since then, nearly everything I write has had a Chinese touch or influence…even the adult works (I have received very good reviews on Amazon for a short story I wrote called Unfillable Void with a Chinese woman as the central character. It was published in an anthology called “Out Of Time” by my sci-fi group, the Minnows Literary Group).

Since I mentioned the Minnows’ anthology, I want to add that every penny earned from the anthology goes to Doctors Without Borders!

K: Tell us a bit about your WNDB mentorship with Jane Yolen. What did you learn that best helped you on your writing journey?
Teresa and her amazing mentor, Jane Yolen!!!
T: The Penguin Posse, my wonderful picture book critique group, convinced me to apply to the We Need Diverse Books mentorship. I didn’t think I would get it so imagine my surprise (and joy) when Miranda Paul called and told me that Jane Yolen picked my manuscript to work with!

Jane, as you know, is the consummate professional. She taught me through example how to put BIC (butt in chair) and focus. She also taught me how to paginate pages to get a sense of the rhythm and pacing for the story, as well as how to take a piece of prose and make it more lyrical. Those are strategies that I am still using.  

K: I know you have many interests and talents – illustration, soap-making, and gardening to name a few. How do these pursuits inform your writing?

This is only part of Teresa and her husband's garden!
T: They don’t inform my writing so much as distract me from my writing…LOL! I do sometimes work gardening and my love of nature into stories. Illustrating has also inspired me; I’ve drafted several stories based on drawings I’ve done (though, sadly, none of those stories have sold yet). 

K: Your critique group, The Penguin Posse, was recently featured in a Mid-Atlantic  SCBWI publication. What tips do you have for writers on critique groups? How did you find your group?

T: I’m actually in more than one critique group. The Penguin Posse was founded when some of us in 2013’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge decided to form a group. My in-real-life SCBWI critique group, the Scribblers, was formed in 2011 and encompasses writing from PBs up to NAs. The third one is the Minnows Literary Group, also formed in 2011. That’s my critique group for science fiction and fantasy for older kids to adults. 

For anyone thinking about forming or joining a critique group, I highly recommend the book, The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions by Becky Levine. It has pretty much everything one needs to know to be a part of a successful group. 

I learned critiquing rules from taking classes through Gotham Writer’s Workshop. I want to give a shout-out to Michaela Rossner who taught the SF I and SF II classes I took, which were truly amazing.

The key to having a long-lived critique group is having committed members who are also flexible as the group grows and changes directions. It may sound heartless, but it helps to have firm rules about kicking out members who continually shirk their duties. The group cannot grow intellectually if the members don’t take it seriously.

I'd also like to give a shoutout to these debut groups who have helped me in my journey to publication: The Notable 19, Picture Book Buzz, and the 19 PB Bios (not a debut group but a group for biography PBs.)

K: You write across genres – fiction, nonfiction, from PB to YA.What skills transfer from one type of writing to another?

T: Jane Yolen’s evergreen advice of BIC (butt in chair) is a skill that everyone should learn and that can be used no matter what you write. Another skill I am still trying to master is making my words sing: writing lyrically yet with lightness. That is something that can elevate any piece of writing for any age and genre.

K: What’s up next for you? Book launch, author visits, what else?

T: Oh, my goodness, I have a lot of things going on! Yes, a book launch, some author visits, plus doing a small blog tour, and setting up a pre-order contest. (K: YOU can order now!)

Enter to win at the address above.
I have to make time for actual writing, too, since I am in the midst of revising a couple of picture book manuscripts. I’m writing a nonfiction MG proposal and a contemporary MG. On top of that, I just started my term as the Illustrator Coordinator for the Indiana chapter of SCBWI. My predecessor, Sharon Vargo, did an incredible job and I want to live up to her legacy. 

K: Hey, readers, here's a shot of the cute tote bag that Teresa and Wiley Corgi will give away to one lucky person who comments on this post. The winner can choose a bag with a white handle or a blue handle.
Comment below to win one of these two bags. 

Teresa Robeson's Biography and Newest Book Deal
Teresa Robeson, a transplanted West-Coast Canadian lives with  her professor/scientist husband, quirky kids, and even quirkier chickens on a moderate-sized hobby farm in the Midwest, U.S.
Born in Hong Kong in 1964, she was lucky enough to view the first lunar landing and be raised on a healthy dose of Star Trek. This series of fortunate events turned Teresa into a total nerd/geek-girl who loves to write and read science fiction, science, and modern fantasy. She also have a life-long love of children’s lit, having never really grown up. The Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom is her debut picture book.  

Teresa's newest picture book, Bicycles in Beijing, illustrated by June Wu, is set to release spring 2020. Connect with Teresa here on her web site, Twitter, and Facebook.
Wiley Corgi and I are ready to ready to read comments and pick a swag winner. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

All About Book SWAG + a Superlative SWAG Offer! by Eileen Meyer and Julie Phend

SWAG for The Superlative A. Lincoln Picture Book

Loot, promotional items, samples, trial products, cool items – SWAG is an acronym for “Stuff We All Get.” Authors and illustrators strive to offer attractive SWAG to boost the buzz for their latest book title.

In this blog post, we’ll:
  • Demystify SWAG,
  • Offer great examples of how fellow authors have used SWAG to creatively promote new books,
  • Share breaking news of Eileen’s superlative SWAG offer,
  • Illustrate why SWAG is an important tool to utilize for your book promotions
  • Provide the names of vendors our authors use for promotional needs.

What kinds of SWAG do most authors use to promote their books? 

Are there some more creative approaches that you might consider for your next book promotion?

Most authors like to learn about what others do to promote their books. Clever ideas can spark new thoughts for your own promotional campaigns. Besides the traditional bookmarks and postcards, what other SWAG can authors and illustrators use to spark interest in a book? 

Let’s take a closer look at what these children’s book authors have done:

Patricia Toht's Dress Like a Girl SWAG

Fashion and interesting careers are key themes in Patricia Toht’s Dress Like a Girl picture book, so why not sport a fashionable button/pin to accessorize and promote the new title? Patty reports her customized pins were a huge hit at bookstore and school events!  She spent less than $100 for more than 500 pins (20 cents per pin). Think about the advertising power of a single pin that is worn on a jacket over and over again for all to see . . . 

Leanne Pankuch's parchment map
A parchment paper map made from an illustration in her novel, Dragon’s Truth, provided author Leanne Pankuch with a unique bit of SWAG for a literary festival. The parchment maps garnered a lot of attention and provided the perfect ice breaker for conversations about her new book. How did she make these? Leanne used some leftover paper and also purchased a packet of 120 8.5x11" sheets of parchment paper on-line ($17) and printed the maps using her  inkjet printer (one ink cartridge $25). She put one map in a frame for display purposes and bought sleeves to cover rolled up maps ($18) to make it easier for festival attendees to transport and protect the map. She gave out 63 maps at the festival and used the rest at library and book signing events. They were a big hit! Supply costs for 130 maps ($60) was 46 cents each!

Sarah Aronson's magic wands

Author Sarah Aronson’s The Wish List series involves fairy godmothers, magic, sparkles and more … so attaching her bookmarks to magic wands was the perfect promo! What did Sarah learn while promoting her books? That “everyone wants a magic wand!”  Yes - we all want our wishes to come true!

Linda Budzinski's bookmarks
Linda Budzinski makes creative bookmarks for her YA novels, complete with charms and fancy stitching. She says online retailer Ali Baba has lots of options for charms to dress up your SWAG. 
Sometimes inspiration is found within the covers of your book! Authors Maritza Mejia and Danna York have had great success using coloring pages of main characters and book scenes. For a very young audience, the best approach can be to keep it simple.

Jan Godown Annino uses professionally printed and  homemade
Jan Godown Annino's bookmarks
bookmarks (created when she was running low on her regular stock.)  She found that her homemade creations attracted more attention. Stamped with the words, "Protected by a trained alligator" (author/book info on the flip side) her homemade bookmarks made for a great conversation starter with readers stopping by her table. 

Elaine Kiely Kearns temporary tattoos
Want to sport some ink? 
Author Elaine Kiely Kearns ordered
temporary tattoos for her Noah Noasaurus picture book launch. The response was incredible – everyone wanted one! Since they were a bit pricey, Elaine saves them for special events. Writer  Anne Marie Pace has also used tattoos and reports that they’re a big draw with kids. FUN - what a unique form of promotion! 

Jen Swanson & SWAG
Children's author Patricia Murphy notes that "the best SWAG specifically ties into your story for greater meaning." Science writer Jen Swanson did just that! She launched her Brain Games book with brain-shaped hand squeezies sporting her website information and the tagline “Activate your Brain!”  Jen gave them out by the hundreds and they were in demand. Her college-aged son even kept some in a bowl at his fraternity house—and his “brothers” loved them! 

Patricia Hruby Powell's book business cards

Writer Patricia Hruby Powell likes using business cards featuring her book cover as a quick and easy handout for potential buyers and readers. They’re easy to carry around, fit in her pocket for quick access, and are a colorful ad for her latest title and contact information. Author Lori Degman likes to use customized pencils (along with bookmarks and postcards) to help promote her new titles. 

Tracey Metlzer Kyle's alpaca pens

Tracey Meltzer Kyle loves SWAG and has used many promotional items over the years. She gave away alpaca pens (pictured), cards from Vistaprint, and key chains to promote Alpaca Pati’s Fancy Fleece. Most young readers LOVE to print using a fancy writing instrument, so her alpaca pens were an effective magnet to draw young readers over to her booth to hear more about Tracey's books!

Robin Newman being interviewed at a festival
Eileen noticed author Robin Newman’s creative approaches with SWAG at a recent book festival. Robin’s mystery, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, inspired her to go with a detective theme for her book promotions. Robin offered fake mustaches as giveaways to draw families to her book festival booth. Once there, kids could add a cool-looking detective hat and have their picture taken with the author. What a fun way to create some book buzz!

Eileen wants to mention a superlative SWAG offer for her new picture book, The Superlative A. Lincoln:

Preorder your copy of The Superlative A. Lincoln today and you'll be eligible to receive this Most Exciting SWAG package (see details below); package includes:

Eileen Meyer's SWAG offer
-A “Be Superlative—Be Like Abe!” youth silicone wristband
-A one-of-a-kind Lincoln cork coaster for a cup or coffee mug
-A “Be Superlative” Lincoln pencil
-An author-signed bookplate to place inside your book
-Two bookmarks featuring Dave Szalay’s awesome art
-Activity sheets only available with this offer
-A lucky Lincoln penny

HOW to get your free SWAG bag?
1) Preorder a copy of The Superlative A. Lincoln through your favorite online provider.
2) Forward your preorder confirmation showing proof of purchase and your shipping address to and you’ll receive a SWAG bag in the mail within a few weeks.
LIMITED to first 150 preorders w/ continental US addresses. Limit one per person while supplies last. (When supplies run out, it will be posted on

    So, what are the BENEFITS of using SWAG? 
WHY should I consider investing in marketing items?

Clever promotional items achieve varied objectives: 

Visual ads - Items such as business cards sporting your book cover, or a brightly colored pencil with your name on it remind the reader about YOU and your book. And when your SWAG continues to be seen on items such as pins, tattoos, bookmarks, and stickers, it helps to get the word out to a larger community. When one of Patty Toht's readers sports her Dress Like a Girl book pins, she shares the good news about Patty's book with everyone who sees her that day.

Conversation Starters - Your SWAG serves as a great ice-breaker and a way to tell someone about your book. Handing a person a colorful bookmark, a silly fake mustache, or a magic wand helps YOU start an interesting conversation with a reader of any age.

Continued advertising and gifts for key supporters - Bookmarks and postcards are relatively inexpensive to order in large quantities and are great items to leave with bookstore staff, librarians, and school media directors. Why? You're asking them to be part of your team and also thanking them for getting the word out about your book.

Creates a buzz - As we've seen, SWAG timing can vary. You can effectively use giveaways both before and after launching your book! Eileen is offering a unique and limited time "thank you" gift to buyers who place their book orders now, ahead of her launch date.

Contributes to your author brand and presence in the marketplace - When you use creative promotions, people are more likely to remember you, which helps establish your "brand." Science author Jen Swanson's "Activate your Brain!" squeezie giveaway is the perfect promo for a STEM writer!


Where should I order my SWAG?

The children’s book authors in this blog post had success using the vendors listed here, BUT be sure to thoroughly scrutinize all vendors you select to work with and inquire about customer service policies before ordering goods. (We cannot guarantee your satisfaction.) Authors in this post used:
Gotprint (bookmarks and postcards), Vista Print, Sticker Mule and Avery (stickers), Pure Buttons (pins/buttons), Alibaba (charms), Moo (stickers and postcards), StandOut Stickers, USFastprint (brain squeezies), Overnight Prints, Tattoofun, and UPrinting.

Other tips:
Wait for sales - Robin Newman used Oriental Trading, Amazon, Etsy, and Zazzle (for very small orders like tote bags and mugs). She suggests buying off-season and waiting for sales and promo days. Ordering in bulk will also cut back on shipping expenses. Websites such as Oriental Trading often have free shipping days and be sure to use their promo codes. If you don’t see a promo code, try giving the vendor a call. Customer service will often have a code available for your order.

Create an account with the vendor you want to use - You’ll receive email updates about special promotions and sales, so you get the best possible deal when you order your SWAG.

Start small - If you have the time and you are using a new vendor, it can help to order a small quantity first – then check your satisfaction with the product’s quality before making your second order for a larger quantity. (And you might get a nice discount coupon via email to use on the second order, too!)

Carry SWAG with you wherever you go - Bookmarks, buttons or stickers easily fit in your purse, backpack, or book bag and come in handy when you strike up a conversation with a reader at the grocery store, a sports event, or any place you frequent, and you want to gift them with an item to remember YOU and YOUR BOOK.  

Most of all -- enjoy your book publishing journey and have FUN creating memorable SWAG. Good luck!