Friday, January 23, 2015

Friend Friday

It is with complete delight that I once again host Laurie Thompson as a Friend Friday guest. Though Laurie has had two books published in quick succession, she has worked very hard and long to hone her craft and to get to this point. I know you will want to own a copy of Emmanuel's Dream yourself so I am sponsoring a giveaway! All you have to do is write a brief comment below sharing how you told one other person about Laurie's book -- a tweet, a FB share, over coffee -- and you're in! (This contest operates on the honor system. I know my blog readers are honorable people.) I'll announce the winner next Saturday.

Laurie Thompson -- photo credit: Mary Balmaceda

Hello again! I was here last September after the release of my first book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and it's an incredible honor to be back again for another Friend Friday post!

In my last post, I talked about the importance of friendship in changemaking and in writing, and I’d like to expand on those themes a bit more today. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to be a part of the warm, wonderful community that surrounds children’s literature. I’m blessed to be a part of several different subgroups within that community: the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, clients of Erin Murphy Literary, the Emu’s Debuts group blog, my critique group, the NFforKids Yahoo group, and others. We share information and advice about publishing, certainly, but we also share our hopes and fears, our successes and near-misses. It’s hard to fathom what a nurturing, supportive environment it is, and it’s delightfully different from anything I’ve ever encountered in any other industry.

Readers of children’s literature are every bit as amazing. I’ve received notes from parents about their children’s intense reactions to both Be a Changemaker and my newest book, Emmanuel’s Dream

One parent mentioned how great it was watching her son’s face while she read it to him and seeing the range of emotions that flashed across his face as he heard Emmanuel’s story: sadness, joy, surprise, hope, satisfaction. Other parents have told me their children have fought over it, taken it to school for sharing time, and even slept with it! 

Teachers have told me they are using these books in their classrooms and/or slipping them to students they think might benefit from them. One teacher was told by a student’s parents that Be a Changemaker changed their son’s life. Another teacher friend of mine dares other teachers at her school to read Emmanuel’s Dream aloud and not cry… so far, no one has succeeded. Now, I don’t normally like the thought of making teachers cry, but in this case, I’ll take it! And, I’ve heard from librarians who say they want more books like these in their libraries and know just the young patrons to hand them to. I’ve heard from several who’ve said Emmanuel’s Dream should be in every elementary school library in the country. I’m amazed that readers, parents, teachers, and librarians take the time to send me these anecdotes and feedback. It is humbling stuff, and oh so encouraging.

Recently, another author friend of Kirby’s and mine sent us an email that began with the words, “In case you're ever wondering if what we do day in and day out makes a difference, I thought I'd share this email I received yesterday…” She went on to share a note she’s received from a reader, now an adult, about the profound impact one of her books had made on her as a child and continues to make now that she’s grown. Humbling and oh so encouraging, indeed. And our friend didn’t share this powerful story with us as a brag. Quite the contrary, in fact. She sent it as a gentle nudge to keep us all going through the good times and the not-quite-so-good times, a gentle reminder that our work matters, and don’t we all need to hear that every now and then?

Yes, we all have days when we wonder if what we do day in and day out makes a difference. Fortunately, we are a part of a fantastic community of writers and readers and book lovers that reminds us every single day. Since you’re reading this post, I’m fairly certain you are part of that community, too. Thank you, for everything you do, every day. Your work matters. And we really couldn’t do ours without you.

Laurie Ann Thompson grew up in rural northern Wisconsin. A former software engineer, she now writes for children and young adults to help her readers--and herself--make better sense of the world we live in, so they can contribute to making it a better place for all of us. She strives to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. Her books include BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS (Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, September 2014), a teen how-to guide filled with practical advice and plenty of inspiration for beginning social entrepreneurs; EMMANUEL'S DREAM (Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House, January 2015), a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who changed Ghana's perception of people with disabilities; and MY DOG IS THE BEST (FSG/Macmillan, June 2015), an adorable picture book about the unconditional love that exists between a child and a family pet. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday

On this day, in 1930, excavation for the Empire State Building began. It was completed a miraculous 410 days later!
Lewis Hines photo, courtesy

For a fascinating look into this building, try this book by my dear friend Deborah Hopkinson:

For a fictionalized visit to the New York of a few years before ground was broken for this Big Apple icon, try The Friendship Doll, a novel in stories whose first story features a little girl who butts head with Belle Roosevelt, Teddy's granddaughter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Teacher Tuesday

Today marks this year's first international guest! Elisa Waingort is teaching in Quito, Equador! Welcome, Elisa and please fill in the blank: 

You should never read and (blank) at the same time.

You should never read and drive at the same time...unless you're stuck in traffic! That's why it's always important to have a book handy. I try to never leave home without a print book or my Kindle.

If you were invited to be on Oprah, what book would you bring for her to read?

I would bring Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. It's one of those books that grabs you from the very first page and doesn't let you go. I've been reading it in bits and pieces to my 7th graders and they are as  drawn into the story as I am.

What is the funniest book you’ve read?

The funniest books I've read are all the ones by Mo Willems.

What is the saddest?

The saddest book I ever read I was never able to finish - Paula by Isabel Allende. It's the story of her daughter who passed away. Although I was really into reading heart wrenching books at the time, this was one I just had to put down. It was too painful to read; I never tried to read it a second time.

Favorite reading snack/beverage?

I like to read with my morning coffee but tea is my preference at other times of the day.

What’s next on your TBR list?

Brown Girl Dreaming  by Jacqueline Woodson and Drive by Daniel Pink.

Teachers, librarians, reading coaches, principals, custodians, lunch ladies, anyone with school connections: Please play along! Email me here and I'll get you the questions so you, too, can be featured on Teacher Tuesday. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Surprises

Winston wonders: Who doesn't like free books? Nobody! At least nobody worth giving a woof about. Here's some howling good news: you can enter a drawing for a Doggone Good giveaway just by liking my Author Facebook page this month. Do it by January 31, and you'll be entered to win (if you've already liked my author page, you're automatically entered!).

Tell your friends!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friend Friday

What can I say about Kevan Atteberry? I love this guy and am so pleased he's agreed to be a guest today. He's not only a talented book creator, he's a terrific human being. I feel proud to count him as a friend.

The very serious Kevan Atteberry

I've wanted to make picture books since I was the target audience of said books. When I thought I was going to college as a math major I wanted to make picture books. When I switched my major to fine art (because, duh, what was I thinking?) I wanted to make picture books. Even when I quit college (because a degree in fine art was not going to make me a fine artist) to be a teamster and drive a forklift I wanted to make picture books. I eventually started my own graphic design company, got married and had kids and I still wanted to make picture books. 

About 10 years ago (and after many years trying) it began to happen. I got my very first illustration job for a trade picture book. Then in the next few years I had a flurry of other picture books offered to me for illustrate. Some of them went on to be award winners. Each book I worked on was a joy. Interpreting someone else's manuscript visually was both challenging and rewarding. As each book came out, and even though I saw dozens of things wanted to change or fix in it, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. Oddly enough, the one thing I did not feel was a sense of ownership. It didn't feel like "my" book. It felt like the author's book that I was lucky enough to illustrate. Even as I did signing events, the whole ownership thing evaded me. I know it is silly (neurotic?) and that the books were collaborations, but there was still this sense of "it's not mine." Maybe it is because the initial idea or story is the author's; I don't know.

But now, my first authored picture book, BUNNIES!!!, is coming out on January 27th. (Of course I illustrated it too.) And I'm thrilled and terrified and proud and insecure. Writing is hard. Much harder than illustrating. And I've been working towards this for so long. The curious part is I wrote and thumb nailed the whole book one dreary day in December 2012. One day. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but I know that is not how books are usually conceived. It was nearly perfect from the start and only a handful of words changed since the first draft.

I can tell you the feeling of having a book come out as an author/illustrator is completely different than having one come out as solely the illustrator. I am completely behind this book because it is completely mine. Ownership is not up for debate. I'm having a book launch for it in a couple weeks and I am scrambling to try and decide what exactly that will entail.  Surely it will involve a reading of the book—it is a marvelous read-aloud book—and signing of purchased copies, but what else? Themed snacks? Wine? Juice? Water? Activity and color sheets for the kids? Giveaways? So much to figure out, so much to do, so little time. I'm going to have to call in some favors.

It is an important milestone and I want it to be just as special for everybody else as it is for me. I realize how unrealistic that is, but still…

Kevan is an illustrator/writer living in the Seattle area. He has designed and illustrated many things including award-winning children's books. Among them are FRANKIE STEIN, by Lola Schaefer, and TICKLE MONSTER, by Josie Bisset. His first authored picture book, BUNNIES!!!, will be out on January 27th from Katherine Tegen Books, the first in a two-book deal. And yes, he illustrated it too. But up to now, Kevan’s biggest claim to fame is creating Clippy the paperclip helper in Microsoft Office, which still annoys millions of people every day.

Kevan is having book launch party for BUNNIES!!! at 6:00pm, January 28th at the University Bookstore in Bellevue.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Like many of you, I look forward to seeing what this new year will bring. This wasn't the case for the Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast as they greeted 1942. Things were changing dramatically and even items as innocent as cameras and maps were being confiscated from them, as evidenced by this article from the January 6, 1942 issue of the Seattle Daily Times.

My books Dash and The Fences Between Us both explore what happened to the people of Japanese descent living in the Puget Sound region during WWII if you'd like to read more about this slice of history.