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!

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amwriting, Author/Illustrators, authors, books, bookstores, chapter books, children's books, children's books, children's writing, creativity, illustration, illustrators, libraries, memoir, middle grade books, non-fiction, publishing, reviews, star ratings, support an author, writing journey, YA books

Calling All Readers!

Support authors, illustrators too, they need you.

Just think about it, they’ve poured all of themselves into creating that book you enjoyed. They’ve revised, reworked and fine tuned the words and images you escaped into. They’ve worked hard to get their book(s) published and made available to you.

They deserve a shout out, or a pat on the back, you know they do.

So, that book you’ve just started, or are mid-way through, or are close to finishing? Once you’re finished, use your power as a reader to share your thoughts.

Here are two super easy ways to do just that.

Give it a rating and a review.

It won’t take long. Ratings and reviews can be found on most bookselling sites as well as Goodreads.

You have the power. Books and their creators need your input. It’s a harsh publishing world out there. A little appreciation goes a long way.

Illustrator, Debi Ridpath Ohi says it all!

Your star rating and review can help new readers find and enjoy the book you loved. The more new readers that a book gets, the more likely it is that the writer and illustrator will have opportunities to publish again.

So please, take a few moments to flex your reading power. Help the authors and illustrators you enjoy have the opportunity to create more books. Your imagination will reap the benefits.

The Imaginators by Linda Scott is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

amwriting, author interview, books, children's books, PathBinder Publishing, picture book author, picture books, Ritu Anand, support an author, writing journey

Kara’s Dreams

I have some good news to share in this week’s post. A fellow writer, Ritu Anand, who I had the good fortune to meet online while we were both participating in Renee M LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab course, is welcoming a new book into the world.

Kara’s Dreams is about a little tree, Kara, who dreams of standing as tall and as strong as Utsa, an elder tree, who’d been standing for more than 200 years. Kara fears that she won’t be able to make her dreams come true.

Kara is frightened of wind, of water, of earth, and of night

Kara seeks out Utsa for guidance. The elder tree gives Kara the strength to overcome her fears, and to believe that she will reach her dreams.

Kara’s Dreams is available at Barnes & Nobles.

It will also be available from Amazon on March 15th, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/195508808X

Ritu graciously agreed to share a little bit about herself, and her book journey with us.

About the author:

Ritu Anand started writing when she could hold a pencil, but life kept getting in the way. For the past four years, she has chosen writing as her career. She draws her inspiration from nature and her scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahibjee.

Ritu lives in Sarasota Florida with her loving husband. Her interests include reading, writing, singing Indian classical music, dancing to Bollywood music, traveling and playing golf.

Interview Questions:

Do you write every day?

Yes, I write every day, before the world starts chatting with me. I jot story ideas while watching kids dig the white sand, on Siesta beach.

When did you start writing? What drew you to writing?

I started writing when I could hold a pencil. As a young girl, I used to write on newspapers, inside old books, new ones, on walls and even furniture. My muse made me do it.

At a very young age, I was drawn to words on a page. Words moved me. They seeped through me, made me happy, sad or thoughtful. Secretly, I thanked authors for giving me the privilege to belong to their world.

What was the first piece you published?

The first piece I published was a literary translation of an excerpt of a speech in Punjabi. My grandfather delivered a riveting message about the concept of Universal Brotherhood of Man. A Sikh Journal published my article and it was distributed to all the Sikh temples.

Do you have a special place where you prefer to write?

My preferred spot at home is the big chair in the corner of my living room.

Do you have a critique group?

Yes, I belong to more than one critique group. When I attended the Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Academy, I befriended Heidi Yates, Lakshmi Thamizhmani, Connie Dow and Adrienne Pankey. They were my first critique group. Their critiquing of Kara’s Dreams was beyond helpful and I gained tremendous strength from their words of encouragement.

Meera Sriram, award winner author of Dumpling Day, A Gift for Amma, The Yellow Suitcase and other books, guided me as a developmental editor. I feel privileged to be able to reach out to her and view her as my mentor.

As I am working on writing a middle grade novel, I joined another group formed by Mindy Weiss of the Florida SCBWI.

Without the help of critique partners, I wouldn’t be able to improve my writing.

How has your writing changed over the years?

I feel passionate about writing and bring my heart to it. I just have to feel my own writing. When I first started writing, I had a hard time recognizing myself in my writing. I didn’t know how to connect with the world through my writing. Once I decided to focus on the immediate, the tangible, I found a way to communicate with the world. I have a broad view of the world we live in. I always see the forest first, then the trees. But once I started seeing, smelling, hearing, touching and tasting the immediate, I started to recognize ‘me’ in my little world and that led me to expand my view to the bigger outer world.

Do you have any writing advice that has helped you?

Read, read and read. In my imagination, I love living in the fictitious world of my characters, talking to them, and riding the waves of enchanting discoveries. Unleash your imaginative power. Observe sounds in nature. Watch an iguana project his tongue forward and retract it inside his body. Compare him to the way humans project their tongues forward to lick dripping ice cream, and slurp it in their mouths.

Thank you, Ritu, for sharing your writing journey and your good news about Kara’s Dreams.

amwriting, author interview, books, children's books, children's writing, Clear Fork Publishing, Lee Y. Miao, middle grade books, support an author, WEI TO GO!, writing journey

WEI TO GO!

I have good news to announce! My good friend Lee Y. Miao has recently revealed the cover of her debut middle-grade story, WEI TO GO!

I was privileged to enjoy reading an advanced copy and can tell you that it has believable characters you want to root for, a layered and fast-paced plot that keeps pages turning, and a whole bunch of heart. Lee has very generously agreed to an interview and to sharing her book journey with us on this week’s blog post.

Book Description:

WEI TO GO! is about what happens when twelve-year-old Ellie W. Pettit decides to save her dad’s California company, under a mysterious takeover threat. Ellie takes her teacher’s advice to meet a secretive CEO in Hong Kong, while on a trip with her family, and finds she’s at a crossroads. Annoying brother, unexpected weather, new customs, a hovering mom—it’ll take everything she’s got to solve the mystery.

WEI TO GO! will be released on April 5, 2022, by Clear Fork Publishing.

It is available for pre-order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1950169677/

and at Barnes and Noble: https://bn.com/s/9781950169672

INTERVIEW with Lee Y. Miao:

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

I hope ten to twelve-year-olds who like mysteries and are curious about the world will discover this novel. If they’re on the cusp of being independent and like competitive sports and humor, maybe they’ll also see parts of themselves on the pages. Fingers crossed!

I think they definitely will, Lee, on both occasions.

Tell us, what inspired you to write this book?

The last time I traveled overseas, I realized how challenging or comical it can be to navigate mass transportation or even dine out. I wanted to capture this setting from a middle-schooler’s perspective as the main character chases down a mystery.

What makes your characters unique?

Ellie, the main character, and her pesky brother are third-generation, with partial Chinese heritage. They are pretty much all American and know little Chinese. Ellie isn’t always obedient, and English is her forte, not math and science. Her brother Kipp excels in competitive sports.

What techniques did you use to get to know your main characters?

I tried to capture how kids manage relationships with their parents and each other in changing situations. Sometimes they step up to the plate, and other times they strike out. Like real life, both are absolutely fine.

Did you face any challenges to writing this story?

I was used to being an absurd punctuation and grammar nerd while writing nonfiction for K-12 English language arts projects. When I delved into fiction, I was initially afraid to use slang or lose the occasional comma in kids’ dialogue. Once I did, boy did I feel liberated.

What’s been easy and/or difficult on your writing journey?

Writing middle-grade fiction was hard but made easier as I love to write, especially in my favorite genre. The difficulty was engaging on social media—worried about privacy and not even knowing how to do a DM. Plus, I rarely take pictures. So far, I’ve hobbled along primarily because a few core followers offer unwavering support.

Do you write every day?  When do you prefer to write?   Do you ever find it difficult to start writing? If so, what do you do to get yourself going?

My best time to write is in the mornings when I’m usually alert. I’ll try to write a different chapter in the afternoons or evenings. In between, I do email, social media, read, and all the other things that writers do. Most importantly, I don’t need any excuses to take multiple breaks.

How long has it taken WEI TO GO! to get from submission to publication?

I started writing intermittently about five years ago because I had a full-time day job back then.

Do you have any advice for other middle grade authors who are looking to get their manuscripts published?

I looked for opportunities to improve my writing craft when selecting workshops and conferences. This helps to submit a polished manuscript to agents or editors. Also, I liked meeting other writers to hopefully exchange critical feedback on our manuscripts.

How do you polish your writing?

I apply my notes from workshops or books on writing craft to chapters, scenes, and characters. After my critique partners review them, I inevitably make revisions, even if I initially resist the majority opinion. After all, they always look out for your best interests.

Who are your favorite authors?   What are your favorite books?

My favorites books include the Run with the Horsemen trilogy by Ferrol Sams. I love any books by Gary Schmidt, especially The Wednesday Wars. My all-time favorite, for kids or grown-ups, is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Are you  presently working on another project? If so, can you share a little bit about what it is?

I’m finishing a manuscript related to WEI TO GO! It’s actually a prequel about Ellie’s bestie, Cat, who’s a dead ringer for a Raphael portrait painted during Renaissance Italy.

What do you do for fun?

Concerts, travel and spectator sports are my favorites. I swim regularly and walk my dog. Some day I’d like to resume playing the piano, except I’ve been on beginner book II for more than a decade. My piano teacher is deliriously happy I’m on a lengthy hiatus.

Lee Y. Miao is the debut author of Wei To Go! To find out more about Lee check out her Instagram account @leeymiao.writer and her website www.LeeYMiao.com

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and your book journey with us, Lee! Best of luck with your writing and WEI TO GO!

Amal, author interview, Author/Illustrators, books, children's books, children's writing, Clavis Publishing, illustration, Key Colors Competition, picture book author, picture book illustrators, picture books, support an author

MY KEY

I’ve been away from my blog for awhile, but I’m very happy to be back at it, especially because today I’m posting to share the news of a good friend’s well earned success. Below is the cover of her newest picture book which won the Gold Medal in the Key Colors Competition hosted by Clavis Publishing, Inc.

Book description:
When two ordinary objects land on a city sidewalk a little girl’s dull day becomes an odyssey of new places and unusual faces. Led to the library on a dragon boat she spies erudite elephants who open her eyes to the beauty of books, faraway lands, and a group of bats with hidden musical ambitions—who need her assistance.

My Key is available through these two sites as well in most bookstores:


Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1605376892/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=publiweekl05-20

Link to Indie books stores:https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781605376899?aff=PublishersWeekly

Author/Illustrator Bio:

Amal’s work covers a spectrum of books, magazines, posters and cover art. Her work is influenced by a lifelong interest in multi-culturalism and any excuse to research a good story.
Her fascination with various materials stems from her studies in the conservation of art on paper and is often incorporated into her work. Amal’s art has been featured in museums that include pieces now held in private collections. She received her MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco and is the 2020 Gold Medal Winner of Clavis Publishing’s Key Colors Competition. Her work in children’s books has been recently shortlisted for a regional IBBY Award. To learn more about Amal check out her website and Instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/amalillustration/
Amalillustration.com

As I thought many readers would be interested in Amal’s creative process along with the book journey of MY KEY, Amal very generously agreed to an interview as well.

Interview:


 Do you remember what drew you to illustration initially? And later on, what made you choose a career as an author/illustrator?


I’d an older sister with a unique method of babysitting: She’d leave me either in the local Baltimore library or Walters Art Museum where, in both places, I was most attracted to large books. Those in the museum were under glass because of their delicate pictures while those in library seemed to cry out for any picture at all. I felt I had at least one task in life…

Do you write/illustrate every day?
I draw just about every day but it doesn’t necessarily translate into an illustration. And I write every morning.

Do you have a special place that you prefer to write, or to illustrate? How do you break up the two creative tasks or do you combine them? Would you be comfortable with providing a photo of that place?

I’ve taken over what we never called a living room and created a studio for writing and illustration in the same spot, more or less. I write on one side of the room then swivel around to my drafting table to swap jobs.
For the most part the day is split between writing in the morning and drawing/painting in the afternoon.

Do you flesh out the setting of your stories completely before sitting down to write or to illustrate? Do you have any techniques that you use to help you see your character’s world view?


The setting is often the place that helps prompt the story so it’s often there already, but a physical loose outline, where I can insert pages as needed and some sort of map—literally a map that moves the character from point to point—is incredibly useful.
Before getting into an illustration though I go over the text several times, then close my eyes to all distractions. Something always appears, eventually, but no real special technique for world view other than experience and observation. There are probably better ways to go about it but these are tools already at out fingertips.


Do you handwrite your first drafts or go straight to the computer? Similarly, what is your illustration process?


I do hand write the ideas because I use the computer as little as possible—my eyes hurt. Illustration is usually totally done with traditional materials: paper, pencil, charcoal, canvas, paints… When visual adjustments need to be made I try and do this by hand as well unless there are spots within the composition where I’d like to add layers and for these I do some stitching in either Photoshop or Procreate to do it.

How many drafts on average does it take for you to feel comfortable that you have a finished piece?


Two billion?

How has your writing/ your illustration changed over the years?


In both cases I started off doing a lot of work for educational publishes with tight parameters that at first you think, well,  there’s no way I can get anything interesting out of what feels like a myriad of rules, but then you do and quickly realize the benefits of limitations. The danger happens when the shackles are off—I now apply my own limits or rules which frees me up from a lot of potential confusion and, weirdly, gives space I didn’t before feel I had to both the writing and the art.

Where did you get the idea for My Key from?


It was the memory of a day when I was so bored I thought I’d split in two and I wondered how I’d go about making an illustration that depicted boredom. Redrawing from original sketches I got to a place that felt right and the story took off from there.

Are you presently working on another project?


I’m working on a rather hefty illustrated middle-grade novel.


 Is there any genre that you’d like to try that you haven’t, as yet?

Loads. I really haven’t worked in a wide variety of genres and if were up to me it would be mysteries all the way!

Is there anything you would suggest to those who are beginning their careers in writing or illustrating?


Don’t bother to procrastinate, don’t even clean the dishes, you’ll just get them dirty again. Start a routine where you begin your work soon after waking up rather than worrying about making time to work and not actually getting to it. Stop at the same time too.

Is there anything you would like to share with those who might be wondering if they should persevere?

If you feel queasy when you’re not doing it then your only option is to move forward.