Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Debut Cover Reveal! for Claire Annette Noland

By Janie Reinart & Claire Annette Noland

Hi, I’m Evie, and I’m excited to tell you about a new book

I love to jump, run, and win and I have the trophies and ribbons to prove it.  

I was super excited and ready to compete in our school Field Day.

My friends kept winning and everyone cheered. 
Except me
I hate losing. 
Finally, during the last race of the day, I was winning
But something happened and I had to make a big decision
You can read all about it in a new book starring me called: 
EVIE’S FIELD DAY – More Than One Way to Win 
Today is the day that I get to share the cover -

                   go -

I'm super excited for you to preorder here.

Now – here’s a few words from author Claire Annette Noland and illustrator Alicia Teba.

Claire, what inspired you to write Evie’s Field Day?
C.N. As a mom and teacher, I’ve seen first hand how hard it is for children to lose when playing games and sports. On the other hand, some winners aren’t very gracious. I wanted to write a story exploring the issue of sportsmanship and the old saying “it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” Children are under so much pressure these days. I just want them to be able to have fun and encourage each other.
Alicia, what about the text drew you to illustrate Evie’s Field Day?
A.T. I just fell in love with Evie's character. She is a strong and brave little girl who wants to be the best and number one in all she does. I related to this, as she wants to be perfect, but she finds that being perfect or the number one is not what really matters. It is good to win if you enjoy the process, but if you are sad and have anxiety you are doing it wrong. Playing is already winning and most importantly, little things in life bring you more happiness than winning a competition. 
Claire, can you tell us about the road to publication for Evie’s Field Day?
I read a call for submissions from Maria Dismondy of Cardinal Rule Press. She was looking for manuscripts featuring children facing a problem. I knew I had a manuscript that fit her specifications so I sent it along. Amazingly, when I got “the call,” Maria shared that a friend had recently asked her if she had suggestions for a child who really struggled with losing. Then, my story came into her mailbox. Perfect timing, right?
I am really enjoying the process of publication with Cardinal Rule Press. The communication has been clear and frequent. I was able to participate in a marketing class taught by Maria and understand how much needs to happen for a successful book launch. I have redone my website and been trying to increase my social media presence. One of the most positive aspects of this adventure has been becoming a member of the 2020 Debut Crew which is a group of debut picture book authors working together to promote each other’s books.

Alicia, can you tell us a bit about how you illustrated Evie’s Field Day?

When Maria Dismondy from Cardinale Rule Press told me about the idea of using black and white and basic colors for the book, I loved the idea, as one of my favorite techniques is using pencil in a sketchy style. 
Since I was little, I have always loved to draw. It is such a pleasure when I can work with characters and stories that move me and that can make me enjoy the process. This was definitely the case.

Congratulations Claire and Alicia! You are blue ribbon winners. Have a great run with Evie.

Thank so much, Janie, and the rest of the fabulous GROG bloggers for hosting the cover reveal. EVIE’S FIELD DAY – More Than One Way to Win  (Cardinal Rule Press) will be racing to a bookshelf near you in May 2020.

Evie wants one lucky reader to have the opportunity to win a copy of Evie’s Field Day! Just leave a comment and a name will be chosen to receive the book when it is released in May of 2020.
Evie’s Field Day is available for preorder on Amazon: 
Claire Annette Noland writes from her home in Central California. You can learn more at 
Twitter: @claire_noland
Also, visit her blog at
Alicia Teba illustrates books, stationary, calendars, book covers and more from her home in Spain. You can learn more at
Twitter: @AliciaTeba 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Engineering a Book with Jennifer Swanson

by Kathy Halsey & Sue Heavenrich

illus. by TeMika Grooms; Peachtree Publishing 
When you hop into a car, chances are a chime will remind you to put on your seat belt. But cars didn’t always have seat belts. Or headlights, back-up cameras, or disc brakes. In fact, the first cars didn’t even have bumpers!

“…it took many years, and thousands of crash tests, to create the safe vehicle you ride around in,” writes Jen Swanson. Thousands of safety designers and other engineers – aided by anthropomorphic test devices (aka: the crash-test dummies) – had to define safety problems, imagine solutions, carry out the tests, and collect data so they could design safer cars.

In Save the Crash-Test Dummies, Swanson highlights the engineering that goes into car design, and introduces readers to the family of crash-test dummies, which has grown to now include the dad, mom, three kids sized to represent children aged ten, six, and three. And yes, they have a crash-test dog!

There are plenty of diagrams, a chapter on engineering self-driving cars, and an overview of the diversity of problems different types of engineers solve.

But enough about the book – let’s meet the author!

GROG: So Jen, is it easier now to entice editors with engineering topics? What is your approach in pitching such topics to editors? Has it changed now that you are better known for this genre?

Jen: Editors are more open to STEM topics than ever before. This is so exciting—especially for topics that focus on technology, engineering, and math. The pitch for an engineering-heavy book is really the same as any other: you need a really good HOOK. When I first started working on this book, I wanted to write about the self-driving car. But I needed something to make this topic stand out. It came to me one night while on a walk with my husband. Crash-test dummies! The perfect way to make the history of car safety engineering exciting and intriguing. See, it’s not just about the topic you want to write, it’s more about how it is presented. Go for the high-interest and out-of-the-box thinking every time. It works!

GROG: I've noticed that you use kid-friendly comparisons in your books. How do you come up with size comparisons? Do you just "guesstimate" a size of comparable objects by doing the math or is there a resource you've found for this?

Jen: I use kid-friendly comparisons in all of my books. Why not? The books are for kids. Since a lot of the concepts I talk about in my books are complex, I find that the easiest way to get my point across is to build an image of it for the reader. Sometimes that is an actual illustration. Other times, it’s a picture that I build in their head with my descriptions. I imagine my reader of about 9 or 10 years and I try to come up with ways to get them to understand something immediately. Instead of saying something is about 100 yards long, I say it’s as long as a football field. To get some comparisons, I search the internet. If I’m trying to estimate weight, I might query, “what weighs two tons?” The answer?  You can either say it’s a little bit more than a regular sized car or just under the weight of a fully-grown black rhino. I’ll bet those put those images in your head. Now you know exactly what size I'm talking about.

GROG:  How can we, as writers, encourage more girls to embrace engineering and math? What stories can we tell?

Jen Swanson speaking at the 2019 National Book Festival
Jen: I’d like all students to find STEM more interesting! I realize that there are fewer girls entering the STEM fields, and that needs to be addressed. The best way is to model what you want from your kids or students. I grew up in a family of three brothers. No sisters. I was never told that I couldn’t do the things my brothers did. In fact, I started a science club in my garage when I was seven. I picked up bugs, flowers, leaves, waded through streams, and climbed trees. My mom supported my curiosity and got me a microscope. I realize that I was lucky to have the parents I did and that many girls don't have those same experiences.

I hope that we, as authors, and just as women, can encourage girls and young women to follow their passion for STEM. Join clubs that allow you to be creative, whether that is a robotics club, an art and illustration club, or a club of hikers that go into the woods. Start a science club, or a club at the library where you read STEM/STEAM books and discuss them. Perhaps get together for a cause to help clean up a beach or a landfill or even to plant trees. And I hope that the adults in their lives will encourage and support them in doing this.

Thank You for joining us today, Jen! 
Jennifer Swanson is a prolific author and this year was invited to speak at the World Science Festival and the National Book Festival. She is also the creator and head wrangler of the STEM Tuesday blog. Learn more about Jen and her books at her website.

Explore more of Jen's books with these posts from the GROG. All writers can learn more about the craft of writing and engaging readers with STEM by reading these books! Click on the blog links below.

Geoengineering and Earth's Climate
Brain Games

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Interview with Author Nadine Poper and Her TWO Picture Books from Blue Whale Press by Tina Cho

Welcome to the Grog Blog, Nadine Poper! She is busy marketing her TWO picture books from Blue Whale Press! Randall & Randall debuted October 1st, and Porcupette & Moppet debuts in November. I've had the privilege of reading both stories, and they are delightful, full of scientific facts in a fun fictional way!

1. Tell us how you got started writing for children.
I have always loved reading and writing. One day while my own children were small, a title popped into my head and I said to myself “I am going to make that a book someday.” About 10 years later, in 2013, my first self-published book called Dachshunds in Moccasins came out. I am a dachshund lover and have two of my own. Since Dachshunds in Moccasins, I have written two other dachshund books and I now have my first two traditionally published picture books coming out this fall. I just decided that it was time to pay attention to this quiet passion I had that was sort of sleeping. While my children were small, I really couldn’t devote the time to writing. But as soon as it felt like the right time, the passion reignited.

2. How did you connect with Blue Whale Press?
I had seen their call for submissions. I had queried several agents at the time and was waiting on replies from a few of them. When I saw Blue Whale’s opportunity I decided to query a publisher directly. I took my chance because I saw Blue Whale was a very young press and was looking to grow their list. 

3. I see you have two books with Blue Whale Press coming out. Can you tell us a blurb about each one?
Yes, I would love to!  RANDALL AND RANDALL is about Randall, the pistol shrimp, who is a master at excavation. Randall, the goby fish, is his skittish, yet happy-go-lucky watchman. The problem is that both have quirks that drive each other bananas until one day their relationship is driven to the breaking point. This very funny informational-fiction story about one of the sea’s naturally-existent odd couples illustrates how certain species depend upon their symbiotic relationship for survival. It also shows children how two very different beings can embrace each other’s peculiarities and become best of friends.

PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET is about a young but clever Porcupette who loves to spend days alone in the quiet forest reading. But when Moppet, a bumbling predator, comes along with his silly antics and non-stop rambling, Porcupette’s sanctuary is turned topsy-turvy. When Moppet finally makes his move, they both get a big surprise that suggests Moppet should read more, and Porcupette should listen more carefully.

4. And wow, your first two books with BWP are publishing just a month from each other. How did that happen?
Not really sure LOL!!!  They are releasing just one month apart and it is making my head spin. Sometimes I forget which book I am talking about and I send the wrong book information to the wrong person. The publishing dates have to do with many factors that just lined up this way. You want book reviews from reputable sources so that takes time. You want to time the releases with when the reviews are slated to come out. Blue Whale has been great at that timing factor. 

5. Where did you get your story ideas for Randall & Randall and Porcupette and Moppet?
I knew that I wanted to write stories featuring animals that were not well-known. I am not sure why exactly, but when I began to write more seriously, my research kept taking me towards these types of animals. I wasn’t confident in myself that I could pull off writing a story about a rabbit or a bear or a dog. Those characters are plentiful in children’s books and so many are done so well. I felt at the time I couldn’t be original enough if I chose these more common animals. The goby fish and pistol shrimp in RANDALL AND RANDALL were two species that I knew nothing about and I just sort of stumbled upon them one day during some research.  I instantly felt this connection that their natural relationship was interesting enough for a story.

PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET actually came to me first, almost a year and a half earlier than R&R. I learned only as an adult that a baby porcupine was called a porcupette. Can you get any cuter than that name?  So again, I felt there was a story inside me about a young porcupine. And I wanted the story to be somewhat factual without being true nonfiction so upon further research about porcupines, I learned that the fisher is one of the only known predators of the porcupine. DING! I have read many, many picture books in my career in education and I cannot ever recall a fisher being in any of them. I now had the beginning of a story.

6. What kinds of marketing strategies are you doing/going to do?
Oh, yes. The marketing!  This is probably the most exhausting and time consuming part of it all.  Before sitting down to answer these interview questions, I had composed and answered emails to and from zoos, aquariums, local book stores, state parks, and libraries. RANDALL AND RANDALL features two ocean animals so I am in contact with The Baltimore Aquarium in Maryland and the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Hopefully a book reading and signing event can be arranged in both of these places. I have plans to do a book event for PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET at two local libraries in conjunction with Nolde Forest, a local state park, who will have staff on hand that will bring along a fisher pelt and porcupine quills and provide more information to the children and families. I am hoping to arrange an event with the Cape May Zoo as well. 

Blue Whale Press has sent me an extensive list of bloggers and other outlets to contact for interviews BWP promotes their authors on social media and sends the books out for reviews.  They will also contact literature festivals on the authors’ behalf.

7. How has being a librarian helped your writing?
Being a children’s librarian has been the most amazing and inspirational part of my whole journey in becoming an author. I know what is current in children’s literature at all times. I know what publishers are publishing. But most importantly, I know what children want to read. One of the reasons I wrote my two latest books is because I see that my students are drawn to factual information when it is done in a creative nonfiction sort of way. For example, when I read Bethany Barton’s I AM TRYING TO LOVE SPIDERS, my students were so engaged. They were getting spider information delivered to them with humor, and illustrations that allowed them to linger on the page. I loved how they interacted with me, their peers, and the text when I read that book and others like it. I want my books to get that type of reaction from readers. But I can’t do it with just my words alone. Illustrators Polina Gortman for R&R and Alicia Young for P&M have given the books that extra layer the readers need. They have made my factual information come alive. These ladies are so incredibly talented. 

8. Do you have an agent?
Not at this time, but I am actively seeking one.

9. What writing advice would you give to our Grog Blog audience?
I am going to pass along advice that was given to me from author David Elliot who I was fortunate enough to have as my mentor for an entire weekend at Andrea Brown’s Big Sur retreat in Cape Cod.  I have a post-it note in my writing space with his words on it…”Keep it organic”. He critiqued two other manuscripts that I am working on when he said this to me. Upon talking with him more I finally figured out what he was truly saying. Write from your heart. Don’t force something onto a page because you want it to fit or to work. He picked up on a few things in these pieces of mine that I didn’t realize I was forcing upon the story. When I recognized it, I felt this sort of freeing sensation. But I didn’t realize it fully until days later when I was alone at home looking at these stories. Yeah!  Wow!  So, write with wholesomeness, be organic. 

Nadine Poper is an elementary librarian for an urban Pennsylvania school district who loves how fortunate she is to be surrounded all day by books and children to share them with. She is a  mom to three handsome young men and two dachshunds. Nadine is a huge wiener dog fan and self-published three children’s books about dachshunds. She is also a foster home for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue and donates portions of her book sales to the rescue. She is a committee member for the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award through the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.

Connect with Nadine:
Twitter: @NadinePoper
Facebook: @NadineBooks

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Rhyming Nonfiction: An Interview with SNACK, SNOOZE, SKEDADDLE author Laura Purdie Salas ~ by Christy Mihaly

Writing good rhyming text is difficult, and writing nonfiction poses its own challenges, but if you know Laura Purdie Salas's books, you know she has mastered the art of rhyming nonfiction. Her "Can Be" series ( A Leaf Can Be; Water Can Be; A Rock Can Be) uses spare verse to introduce big ideas in nature

Laura writes poems--and has published several collections--and also pens lovely unrhymed prose. But she has developed a specialty of rhyming nonfiction. Her latest picture book creation is Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready for Winter. Laura's lively rhyming text and Claudine Gevry's adorable illustrations show young readers three ways in which animals prepare for, and survive, winter: migrate (that's SKEDADDLE); hibernate (SNOOZE), or tolerate (that's SNACK, plus adaptations such as growing heavier coats). It's a layered text, with short factual notes offering additional information for adults and curious kids. And, as a nonfiction nerd, I loved the informative back matter.
from "A Rock Can Be"
Laura graciously dropped by GROG to answer a few questions for our readers. She shares many valuable resources here--just click on the links below.

GROG: Thanks for stopping by, Laura.Your newest book is a real pleasure to read. Can you tell us what inspired you to write about animals weathering the winter?

LPS: Thanks so much for having me here, Christy. 
I grew up in Florida, where winter is practically nonexistent, and I was SO excited to move up to Minnesota and get a taste of winter! After our very first snowfall as Minnesotans, though, I looked around at the snowy white cushion all around and started worrying: Where were the squirrels? What did the rabbits do? Did the snow freeze and kill all of them? I was incredibly relieved to learn that snow actually insulates animals in winter and helps many small mammals survive the cold. Whew! My interests in animals and in the four seasons kind of inevitably led to this book.

GROG: I love that your first thought was concern for the critters. It's really interesting to learn how well adapted they are, right? Better than humans! But inquiring minds want to know ... How long did it take you, from the initial idea to the finished book?

LPS: I'll tell you the story. Here’s the original idea in my Picture Book Ideas document:
A few weeks later, I emailed my awesome editor at Lerner, Carol Hinz:
She thought the idea was delightful, and I was off and running (or flying or swimming). 
The manuscript did NOT just pour out easily. For several intense months, I tried one different approach after another.
·      Could the animals open fortune cookies that would reveal their winter tactics? “You will go on a long journey,” etc. But I couldn’t get enough variety.
·      Could I highlight numbers? Work in lots of winter survival facts by highlighting one size or speed or something about each animal. Mind-boggling numbers, and also use maps, graphs, and charts, etc. Nope. That was a big fat zero.
·      Could it be a school play or school newscast with students sharing what they did for winter break? It could, but it wasn’t.
I tried a lot of different approaches!
Here's an inside spread from SNACK, showing moose. The extra note says:
"This moose wears fur all year, but he grows special hollow hairs in winter that trap warm air against his body."
Eventually, I decided to use a before-and-during structure. The left side of the spread shows how an animal prepares for winter (by gaining weight, swimming south, growing a new coat, and so on), and the right side shows what it actually does during winter. So, the hummingbird gains weight so that it can fly south for the winter. The whale swims south so that it can mate and eat lots of krill where it’s warmer. The moose grows a warmer coat so that it can withstand brutal winter temperatures. I liked the idea that some of the winter survival strategies start happening months before winter arrives.
I submitted two different versions of the rhyming manuscript to Carol. (I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have a very good, long-standing relationship with an editor!) I sent those in August of 2017. 
In September 2017, Carol took the manuscript to an acquisitions meeting, and it was approved. If only EVERY book moved along this smoothly. But even on a manuscript that moved this quickly, I did a ton of brainstorming and trial-and-error. I considered probably 25-30 different approaches, and I tried out 4 or 5 of them with a first draft—or at least the start of a first draft.
GROG: One thing I most appreciate about you is your generosity in sharing the truth about how this business really works. You've given us a good reminder that even when it looks like someone had a smooth and easy path to publication, writing that little picture book required much more work (and waiting) than most people realize. 
Here's a question I've been anxious to ask: How do you decide when a book should rhyme, and when not to rhyme? 
LPS: Oooh, that’s a good question. Sometimes I know ahead of time. With A Leaf Can Be…, for instance, I specifically went hunting for a nonfiction topic I could write about in very spare verse. 
from "A Leaf Can Be"
Other times, though, as with Snack, Snooze,Skedaddle, I didn’t plan to write in rhyme. Most of the approaches I tried were in prose. But once I settled on the before-and-during (or sometimes cause-and-effect) structure of each spread, it seemed to fall into couplets naturally. One line for the before, and then a partner/rhyming line for the during.
Here's the frog spread from SNACK. Note: "This frozen Northern wood frog
stops breathing for months, then thaws and hops away!"

I have a picture book coming out next spring called Secrets of the Loon, and this was a project where the editor approached me, which is unusual. I tried four different approaches and wrote the first few spreads sharing the same information in each of all four different styles: haiku, diary, rhyming, and straight prose. Everyone’s favorite (including mine) was the rhyming, so that’s what I went with.
My other picture book coming out next year, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, is in prose, with just very brief rhyming passages at the huge points of conflict. But it’s mostly prose, and it always needed to be in prose. I wanted to go into more detail and move the plot along quickly, and it would have been very difficult to accomplish that and also still get some emotional resonance in a short rhyming story.
from "Water Can Be"
Here’s the thing: I am at least as interested in words as I am in any topic I write about—leaves, water, animals, loons, seasons, etc. So more than half the fun of writing a book is in choosing the structure and words I’ll use. It’s only partially about conveying information or telling a story (for me—other writers might be different). It’s kind of like music. Sometimes I want to listen to haunting folk music, other times power rock, and still other times singer-songwriter stuff. And sometimes I just want a good rhythm I can dance to. The magic of writing each different project is in getting to listen to the words as they start to shape up and then deciding what kind of song they best fit into. Maybe it will rhyme and maybe it won’t. Honestly, it’s trial and error much of the time for me.

GROG: I like the music analogy. And I'm glad to know we have these other books to look forward to! 
But meanwhile, would you care to share a tip or two about how to write in rhyme so that editors like it?
LPS: I suppose “Don’t suck” sounds awfully harsh, but it’s what I tell myself when I start revising a rhyming draft. Some things I focus on are:
o   Using fresh and vivid language
o   Not letting the rhyme obviously drive the arc of the story (If a reader knows you wrote a line just because it could rhyme with the previous one, you’re busted.)
o   Perfecting the meter, except when…
o   Breaking the meter purposefully to emphasize a certain point
o   Not getting carried away with too much metaphor and wordplay (This is my biggest hurdle.)
The fox spread from SNACK -- don't you love the fox?
GROG: These are excellent reminders, Laura. Do you have any advice for writers who want to try rhyming nonfiction? 
LPS: I shared a great exercise years ago on the Teaching Authors blog, here. It breaks down my general approach to rhyming nonfiction, and I invite you to give it a try.
On my website, I have an area with resources (including ones on poetry and also on nonfiction) for kidlit writers, here
For folks interested in becoming Patrons (through Patreon), I’ve been sharing step-by-step videos of the process of writing Secrets of the Loon. There’s quite a bit of my joys and struggles with rhyming nonfiction in there!
The book Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way, by Lisa Bullard and me, is full of great, simple to understand (but hard to master, I’m afraid) concepts that will make your rhyming picture book stronger.
And if you are looking for a course to take, I highly recommend Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab. I’ve co-taught it with her twice now, but with me or without me, it’s fabulous! Her materials are terrific, and she is SO knowledgeable about all things metrical! 
GROG: Wow! These are some great resources and recommendations. Thanks again, Laura. 
One last question, out of writerly curiosity. What does your writing space look like?
Laura multi-tasking at her treadmill desk

LPS: My husband and I moved last year, and for the first time in my life, I have a space that is JUST my office. Not a guest bedroom, not the dining room, not a closet. (Well, it is about the size of a closet.) I use a treadmill desk, and I have a window to see sky and trees…It’s all mine, and I adore it.

GROG: Now we all really have something to aspire to! Good luck in getting this beautiful book out into the wider world, and thanks again for all your words of wisdom.

For more thoughts related to rhyming nonfiction, click below for GROG blogs from the archives:
Making Science Sing
Rhyming Nonfiction PBs
Whose Hands Are These?
Writing Rhyming PBs

All about Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle
Book Trailer, reviews, downloadable activity sheets at
Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Claudine GĂ©vry
Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner (9/3/19)
ISBN: 978-1541529007