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Clear Fork Publishing, Ellie and Co book series, It's a RHAP, Cat, Jeffrey Sanzel, Lee Y. Miao, middle grade books, Penny Weber, Times Beacon Record, WEI TO GO!

Take A Peek!

Today I’m excited to share some news and a cover reveal for the second book in the Ellie and Co book series written by Lee Y. Miao, cover art by Penny Weber and published by Clear Fork Publishing. It’s a RHAP, Cat is set to be released this coming February 21, 2023.

Book Cover image for It's a RHAP, Cat. A tween blond girl is in the foreground holding a unicorn and a tween boy is in the background with an easel before him. He is holding a paint palette as he is painting a portrait of the girl.  A lacrosse stick and a softball bat are on the floor.

In this, the second book of the Ellie and Co middle grade adventure series; Ellie Wei’s bestie from Wei To Go! takes center stage. In fact, Cat’s story and exploration of Italy take place about a month before Ellie’s adventure in Hong Kong.

It’s a RHAP, Cat, is all about twelve-year-old Cat, a history nerd, who sees her mysterious double in a sixteenth-century portrait by Raphael. Cat enters the school’s Renaissance history and art project (RHAP) with an art partner—aka her crush—that just might help her uncover puzzling family ties.

image of the author Lee Y. Miao, a middle aged asian american with medium length black hair wearing sunglasses while on a bridge in Italy.
Lee Y. Miao

So far, each of Lee’s books in the Ellie and Co book series involve travel abroad. Here’s a photo of Lee in Italy, one of the settings for It’s a RHAP, Cat.

Please take some time to sign up for Lee’s email newsletter on her website www.leeyemiao.com in order to follow her continuing book journey.

To learn more about Lee Y. Miao and the first book in the series check out Jeffrey Sanzel’s book review in the August 25, 2022, Times Beacon Record,www.https://tbrnewsmedia.com/book-review-author-lee-miao-takes-us-on-a-journey-to-hong-kong-with-her-first-book-wei-to-go/.

Mr. Sanzel summed up the book’s appeal in this way, “While Wei To Go! is immersed in Chinese and Chinese American culture, the story’s universality complements an enlightening narrative and makes for an entertaining, engaging and memorable reading experience.”

Wei To Go! is available for purchase on Amazon, through Barnes&Noble, or Clear Fork Publishing.

https://www.amazon.com/Wei-Go-Ellie-Co-Book/dp/195016967

Barnes&Noble-

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wei-to-go-lee-y-miao/11405330

Clear Fork Publishing-

https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/product-page/wei-to-go-an-ellie-co-book

Best of luck Lee! I enjoyed Ellie’s adventure in Wei To Go! and I’m looking forward to more adventure in It’s a RHAP, Cat !

book birthday, children's books, children's writing, Clear Fork Publishing, Dear Rainbow Baby, hope, National Rainbow Baby Day, picture book authors, picture book illustrators, picture books, remembering, Samantha Gassman, Spork, support an author, Timothy Lange, writing journey

DEAR RAINBOW BABY

Today on National Rainbow Baby Day, recognized annually on August 22nd, it is my pleasure to celebrate the book birthday of Dear Rainbow Baby, written by Samantha Gassman, illustrated by Timothy Lange and published by Spork, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing.

Dear Rainbow Baby is available for purchase @ https://linktr.ee/sgassmanbooks

Samantha Gassman, the author, is an Air Force veteran, military spouse, and mom to two kids and two cats. Her debut picture book DEAR RAINBOW BABY arrives on August 22, which is also happens to be the birthday of her own rainbow baby. Her next book PEANUT AND BUTTER CUP is slated for publication in 2024.

Samantha very graciously agreed to an interview to discuss her writing and the very personal and emotional journey that led to the creation of Dear Rainbow Baby.

In regard to your book’s journey, I read that Dear Rainbow Baby came about as you processed your grief over your miscarriage. How were you able to step away from the rawness of your emotions to realize that your written expression of them could become a book which might have the potential to inspire hope among others going through a similar loss?  

I wanted to let other parents know they are not alone in going through it. Pregnancy is an emotional experience at the best of times. But following a loss, those emotions can be overwhelming and no one should deal with it by themselves. I hope that the book will humanize the experience and that people will see themselves within the story.

I wrote through all the stages of grief following the miscarriage. Writing down my emotions was a great way for me to work through them. As I wrote, the words “Dear Rainbow Baby” appeared, and I started writing a letter to a baby we didn’t even know we could have. This letter helped me look forward with hope and start the healing process.

When I switched gears and looked at the letter as picture book manuscript, I realized the benefit the text could have on others who had been through a similar experience. That’s when I knew I had to try and get it out there.

Even though my own rainbow baby is now a grown self-sufficient woman, I still remember the loss and the overwhelming sense of being alone after I miscarried during the second trimester of my first pregnancy. Do you have any suggestions for mothers who are grieving a loss of a child, or pregnancy? 

I would encourage them to reach out to their family and friends or a support group. It’s so important to have people to lean on. I held my husband Ryan and our son Jake very closely during that time, and both of them helped me get through it.

I would also encourage mothers to allow themselves to feel all the emotions that come with a loss like this, rather than bottling it up. It’s okay to feel however they feel. Find a way to memorialize the loss in some way. My husband and I have the first and only ultrasound picture framed with the baby’s name and dates.

Because the creation of Dear Rainbow Baby was so extremely emotional for you, did that make hearing and addressing critiques of its manuscript that much more difficult? 

I was very fortunate to have my rainbow baby just before the book was acquired, which made going through the revisions easier.

What has been harder more recently (even though my baby is now an independent, sassy 2-year-old), is the notes I get from people sharing their experiences with me.

Their stories bring me back to the emotional turmoil I went through and several of them have had me in tears. One lady said that she is comforted by the thought of our angel babies playing together in heaven, which was such a beautiful sentiment.

In another blog I read that reading to your son fostered your desire to write for children. What steps did you take to make that desire a reality?  How long did it take you?  

First, I wrote some really terrible picture book manuscripts and shot them off to agents without learning the industry! Then, I got smarter and joined SCBWI and a critique group, and wrote and read a lot more picture books.

After dozens of rejections, I landed my first agent, who only signed me for one project. That project was rejected by 30 publishers and my contract with her ended.

I pitched DEAR RAINBOW BABY and PEANUT AND BUTTER CUP during #PitMad on Twitter and was lucky enough to land another agent, Erica Christensen. We’ve been together for two years and we’ve sold both of those original manuscripts. Now, we’re out on submission with newer projects and I have my fingers crossed those are acquired too.

I understand that your writing time comes pretty much at the end of a full day of work and child care. Is there a special nook that you like to go to gather your thoughts, or to get your creative juices flowing? 

Haha, I wish! Since we move so often with the military, I’m lucky if the house we live in has an office for my full-time job! In our current house, I usually write at our kitchen table, which is normally covered with crumbs or other morsels left over from the kids throwing their dinner around.

I noticed that besides for your full-time jobs you’re also a freelance writer. First of all . . . wow, second of all . . . wow and third of all, what drew you to take up writing? At what age?  Did you ever think you’d be an author growing up?  What was your first published piece? What was the first piece you earned any money off of?

Thank you, thank you! My son drew me to writing when I had him at 31. I loved how his face lit up when we read picture books together. I have so many treasured memories that involve books, and I want to help create special moments for other parents and their kids.

Growing up, I never thought I would be an author. I was always a decent writer, but I was mostly focused on academic papers, not creative writing.

My first published piece was a story I wrote about an open house at our local fire station in Dixon, CA. I sent it to the local paper, the Dixon Independent. My first paid writing gig was my work for hire contract with Benchmark Education. They bought my debut book on the educational market HONOR FLIGHT, available for classes and libraries now!

Samantha, you’ve had several successes with two stories that went nationwide. Would you share with us what you’ve learned as you sought to publicize and market your work?

Even if you sign a contract with a “big 5” publisher, a lot of the responsibility for marketing and publicity will be on you the author. Here are my top tips to help you market your book:

  • Know your audience and figure out where they are: for Dear Rainbow Baby, I knew that parents and expecting parents of rainbow babies were my audience. Fortunately, there are several organizations that address pregnancy after loss and miscarriage support, so I reached out to individuals there to help spread the word about the book.
  • Pitch your local paper (and anywhere you have a tie-in): Think about: your school magazine or newsletter, church newsletter, local radio and TV stations, etc. and send them your pitch!
  • Post authentically and post often on social media. No, you’re not talking about your book too much. Share the story behind the idea, the revision process, the inspiration, writing tips, etc… with your social media audience. This helps your book stay top of mind and can help you build a fan base.

Are there any suggestions you could pass on to readers who might also want to become a picture book writer?

The only difference between an unpublished author and a published author is the latter never gave up. So, don’t give up!

Thank you, for sharing your and Dear Rainbow Baby’s journey, Samantha. I wish you all the best and to your daughter, a very happy birthday!

fireflies, Tsuneaki Hiramatsu, wonder

Good-bye Fireflies

Each night as June nears its end I look for fireflies and then every night after. I’m grateful that this year they seem to have hung around a little longer than usual, or longer than I remember.

It’s mid August and still their lights are winking. Summer nights make for more comfortable dog walking and on my family’s nightly outings, even though the numbers are diminishing, the fireflies continue to keep us company.

Fireflies live about two years, most of it underground, and when we see their winks of light they have only one or two weeks left to live. It’s amazing to think that something so full of light will be gone so quickly.

Tsuneaki Hiramatusu created beautiful photographs of their luminescence.

I hope you have enjoyed their wonder.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com
back to school, giggles, learning, summer session, teaching

Summer School . . .

With only one lovely week off between the end of the regular term and the beginning of the six week special education summer session many students and teachers were not jumping for joy to return to school this week.

I have to say I was among them. I definitely would have liked to have a few more beach days. Besides for one rainy day, I spent the majority of my week off swimming, and reading. It was a very chill week.

That being said, it was good to see my students this week and hear about the exciting things they did with their families during their time off. Children have a different time continuum. They pack everything they remember doing during a week into a description of what happened on one day. It never fails to make me smile.

To overcome my students’ summer school blahs I made sure to put on my silliest Miss Jan show, doing my best to incite smiles and giggles, while my students practiced the skills they needed to. Don’t tell my administration but those smiles and giggles are what keeps me coming back each year, each summer, not the pay.

I hope you enjoy a sunny, silly summer.

creativity, imagination, learning, poetry, summer solstice, wip, work in progress

Summer Solstice

It’s official. The solstice is here. There’s only a few days left in the regular school term. It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On this summer solstice day, I hope to use the extra sunlight to explore and make varied attempts at poetic word play.

To say that poetry is difficult is an understatement. It’s a wordy challenge to write it right. All those stresses and unstresses, not to mention those lines of metered feet.

I dabble at writing poetry, which is a vague way of saying I’m not very good at it. I don’t do it often enough, the reason being is that its not easy. I know I said that before, but it begs repeating.

Will anything come of my attempts today at poetic word play? Maybe. Maybe not.

But I’ll give it a shot and will hopefully learn from my attempts (thank goodness for erasers).

What are you doing with the extra sunlight of today, the longest astronomical day?