Meet Jada Jones! New chapter books by Kelly Starling Lyons

Happy Birthday to Jada Jones! She’s a “rock” star and a good citizen in two new chapter books released September 19th by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodreads: Rock Star                                                           Goodreads: Class Act

“Jada Jones thinks there’s nothing cooler than rocks. So, when her teacher gives the class a group project on rocks and minerals, Jada knows she’s going to rock the assignment. Her only problem is finding a group of friends to work with. For Jada, rocks are easier to find than friends. Or are they?” –back cover of JADA JONES ROCK STAR

These five sentences sum up my entire childhood. I was always the kid who liked things no one else liked—slime mold, rocks, microscopes, math homework. But Jada has skills I didn’t have. Not only does she “rock” science, but in JADA JONES ROCK STAR she figures out how to “rock” friendships too. What I would have done to have a friend like Jada while growing up!

This chapter book wins 5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 stars from me for being fast-paced and easy-to-read with relatable, interesting characters including BFF to all, Jada Jones❤️. Add to this Jada’s love of science and Vanessa Brantley Newton’s gorgeous illustrations––and BOOM! This becomes a book I’m excited to recommend to all my young friends. I can’t wait to feast my eyes on CLASS ACT because it’s about another topic near and dear to me:  being a good citizen!

But don’t take my word for it! Kirkus and School Library Journal think these are top-notch reads for young readers too!

Hurry to your local bookstore to ask for them.  Indiebound   Barnes & Noble  Amazon

I’m honored to have Kelly Starling Lyons here to talk with us about Jada Jones and writing. Kelly is the award-winning author of many books for young people including ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR, HOPE’S GIFT, ONE MILLION MEN AND ME, ELLEN’S BROOM, and one of my favorite’s TEA CAKES FOR TOSH. She is also a member of The Brown Bookshelf, which you can learn more about in Kelly’s interview at From the Mixed Up Files. What I love most about Kelly’s stories is they’re always about special moments, the perfect antidote for our fast-paced world. Not only do her stories linger with you, but I often find myself reflecting on my own memories after reading one of her books. What a beautiful gift to readers!

Welcome, Kelly! Thank you so much for taking time out to talk with us at The Winged Pen!

You’re the author of several picture books including ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR, ONE MILLION MEN AND ME, and many others including one of my favorites, TEACAKES for TOSH. How was the process for writing a chapter book different from writing a picture book?

Thanks so much for your support, Michelle. You have to write tight with a picture book. You want to create visual scenes that open up illustrative possibilities for the artist who is your storytelling partner. Lyricism and rhythm are important, because picture books are often read aloud.

Writing a chapter book meant I had more space to tell the story. I could include more description and dialogue. Kids would be reading these stories mostly on their own, so I needed to end each chapter with a little hook to keep them turning the page. My first book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal, was a chapter book. It was cool returning to that genre.

Jada Jones loves rocks in book one, runs for class representative in book two, and is overall a great role model for citizenship and navigating the friendship woes that most of us have experienced. Do these experiences come from your own childhood?

 Jada is mostly inspired by my daughter and girls I’ve met during school visits. But there’s a bit of me in her too.  I collected rocks as a kid. My favorite was a hunk of quartz I found when visiting an aunt in Eden, NC. Like Jada, I cared a lot about friendships. Her experiences in the books celebrate the bravery and resilience of smart, big-hearted kids I know.

It was important to me to center an African-American girl. We need more chapter books featuring kids of color. I’m proud that Jada will help kids see themselves and their friends.

The illustrations from Vanessa Brantley Newton gives me the same happy, warm feeling that the text does. Have you worked with her before? Did you have any input in the illustrations?

Vanessa is my sister-friend. I’ve always been a big admirer of her art, but I haven’t worked with her before. I feel so blessed that she’s the illustrator for the Jada Jones series. She captured Jada’s joy, brilliance and sensitivity in such a lovely way. The final decisions regarding artwork are up to the art director, illustrator and editor. But my editor did share Vanessa’s wonderful sketches with me and gave me the chance to share thoughts.

Will there be more Jada stories? I hope so. If kids really like the first two books, that could bring the chance for more. Crossing my fingers.

What can you tell us about what you’re working on now? I’m working on a picture book biography of an unsung African-American trailblazer and a forthcoming picture book that celebrates family coming together to honor their heritage and land.

Whoa! Those books sound awesome! Here goes the Lightning Round? Hands Kelly a chocolate bar for strength!

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Healing

Wooden pencil or mechanical? Wooden pencil.

Coffee or tea? Tea.

Sweet or salty?  Both. I love chasing something salty with something sweet like popcorn with chocolate.

Dog, cat, or other?  Dog.

Plotter or pantser? Both.

Any advice for all those aspiring authors out there? The best advice I received was years ago at the Highlights Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. Editor Patti Gauch told us to “write the story only you can tell.” Dig deep and find stories that celebrate children and are informed by who you are. Another piece of advice I give to emerging authors is don’t let rejections get you down. All it takes is one yes.

Thank you again, Kelly! Happy book birthday to you and wonderful Jada!

Kelly Starling Lyons is an award-winning author,  a writing mentor active in SCBWI, and a member of The Brown Bookshelf, a group dedicated to spreading “awareness about the myriad of Black voices writing for young readers.” Visit her website to learn more about her. And Jada has a website too! 

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a children/teens bookseller, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT , about a teen girl who uses technology to fight racism, is in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME. Proceeds from the anthology go towards scholarships for the Society of Women Engineers! Connect with Michelle on Twitter.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Fangirl Report: The HEARTLESS Ball – Marissa Meyer’s Launch of the Prequel to ALICE IN WONDERLAND

*Spoiler alert for Cress. Skip asterisked sentence if you have not finished and plan to read!*

meyers7I walked into The Heartless Ball with my daughter and her best friend, ready to celebrate the launch of Marissa Meyer’s latest book, Heartless. All around us were characters straight out of Marissa’s books and other fairy tales. Cress floated by in a dress with the yellow and orange wings of a monarch butterfly, her costume for The Lunar Ball (in the book bearing her name.) Alice, of Wonderland fame, and Little Red Riding Hood were in attendance. *spoiler alert* The girls I was with wore the formal, red gowns of Lavana’s  ill-fated wedding to Prince Kai in Winter. And, of course, there were several Queens of Hearts in attendance to celebrate the launch of her very own story.

meyers
Marissa Meyer (center) and two die-hard young fans.

Heartless is the prequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s story of Catherine Pinkerton, a girl who dreams of opening her own bakery but who is pushed towards a royal match by her ambitious parents and becomes the Queen of Hearts.

Marissa told the audience of her start in writing as an author of fan fiction. She transitioned to creating stories of her own when she entered a writing contest which required including any two of ten prompts in a story. She chose the prompts: set the story in the future and include a fairy tale character. From there came the idea of making Cinderella a cyborg, meyer5and Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles was born. It became a six-book, New York Times best-selling series.

Marissa entertained the audience by inviting fans to the stage to show off their talents, composing an impromptu love poem to the cute hat in one of the costumes in the front row, conducting the audience in singing Happy Birthday to one lucky audience member, and reciting a nursery rhyme while balancing a copy of Heartless on head to ensure perfect posture.

Heartless was released on November 8th and is available meyers6in a bookstore near you, along with the books in The Lunar Chronicles series. Thanks to Northshire Bookstore for hosting this fun event!

 

 

 

Photo by Pam Vaughan
Photo by Pam Vaughan

 

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure and young adult thrillers with heroines much braver than she is. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.

 

Save

Author Interview–Julie Leung

mice-of-the-round-table

We are thrilled to have on the blog today Julie Leung, a debut author whose middle grade novel releases on October 4th. MICE OF THE ROUNDTABLE: A TAIL OF CAMELOT is an epic new middle grade series in the tradition of Redwall and Poppy, based on Arthurian legend and told from the perspective of Camelot’s most humble creatures: mice. Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of becoming a Knight of the Round Table. For generations, his family has led the mice who live just out of sight of the humans, defending Camelot from enemies both big and small. But when Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a new threat is gathering—one that could catch even the Two-Leggers unaware—it is up to them to unmask the real enemy, unite their forces, and save the castle they all call home. The book has received positive reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal!

“A winning new adventure featuring a stalwart warrior mouse, heroic knights, and magical Camelot.” (Kirkus) “Leung employs classic language, with regal terms to re-create the timeless feel of Camelot.” (School Library Journal)

What drew you to this story for a retelling?

I grew up on a steady diet of the Redwall series. I checked out every book from the library and savored every feast scene and battle. And like most fans of fantasy fiction, my first taste of it came from tales of King Arthur and his knights. So when Paper Lantern Lit approached me with the project for Mice of the Round Table, I knew this was the perfect fit for me.  

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of retelling a story?

My favorite thing about writing an Arthurian retelling is that I can bake in references and literary Easter eggs that will hopefully pay off when the reader continues to explore the legends in their own right. On the flip side, I have to ensure that my story arc follows the trajectory that everyone expects—for the most part at least, I like to throw in some surprises. 😉

How much research did you do?

My research was twofold. I did a lot of digging into Arthurian legends themselves. But I quickly found that the versions we have come to know as canon have also been modified and tweaked through the ages. Different authors left in their own details and flourishes which I found fascinating.

I also refreshed myself on a lot of “rodent-as-hero” stories like Poppy, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and other classic tales. One of my biggest challenges was to correctly scale mice in a world built by humans.

What are some details you included to evoke the time period?

I tried to place the story in a timeless and familiar fairytale setting. That meant excising any words or terminology that sounded too modern and paying attention to the descriptions food and clothing to make sure they felt grounded within historical reason.

Why do you write middle grade?

The books that truly turned me into an insatiable reader for life were read when I was 8-12 years old. I wanted to write for this age because I could incorporate a sense of innocent wonder and adventure but at the same time introduce more complex themes.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid? 

Ozma of Oz by Frank L. Baum

How about a favorite middle grade that you’ve discovered as an adult?

I read the Tale of Despereaux for a college class and have been craving soup ever since.

What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

Write like you’re running out of time, adapted from the Hamilton musical. To keep myself focused on the goal of finishing a manuscript, I cultivate this sense of urgency in the back of mine: No one can tell your stories but yourself, and you owe it to your stories to see them to realization.   

julie-leung

JULIE LEUNG was raised in the sleepy suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, though it may be more accurate to say she grew up in Oz and came of age in Middle-earth.

By day, she is a senior marketing manager for Random House’s sci-fi/fantasy imprint, Del Rey Books. She is also the mother of FictionToFashion.com, where she interprets her favorite books into outfits.

In her free time, she enjoys furtively sniffing books at used bookstores and winning at obscure board games. Her favorite mode of transportation is the library.

You may accost her in the following formatsTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

Katharine Manning has a soft spot in her heart for mouse stories, dating back to third grade when she first read about Ralph and his motorcycle. She writes middle grade stories about brave girls, friendship, and occasionally, magic. She blogs here and at The Mixed-Up Files, and is thrilled to be a 2016 Cybils judge for poetry and novels in verse. You can see her middle grade book recommendations at Kid Book List, and can also find her at www.katharinemanning.com and on Twitter and Instagram

SaveSave

SaveSave

Author Chat with Carrie Firestone, author of The LOOSE ENDS LIST

I loved the ARC of Carrie Firestone’s debut YA novel, The Loose Ends List! The book will be released on June 7th by Little, Brown. Carrie is insanely busy – both with getting ready for the launch and with edits for her second novel, but she graciously let us steal a few minutes of her time to tell us about preparing for her debut novel’s pub date.

carrie firestone

FoWP: The ARC for The Loose Ends List came out in September, 9 months before your launch. What happens during the time between the ARC’s release and the pub date? What has your publisher been doing to get the word out about the book? What have you been doing?

Carrie: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your fantastic blog! It seems like books take forever to hit the shelves. And in some ways that’s true. My editor acquired the LEL in June of 2014 and it will be released in June of 2016. The ARC (Advance Reader Copy) has been circulating around to booksellers, bloggers and other reviewers. Little, Brown has an amazing team dedicated to marketing and publicity. They have been getting the book into the hands of people who will create buzz. They also have a pre-pub online plan through their website NOVL. I am just beginning to work on my website, and create Facebook and Twitter author pages to be more available online.

FoWP: As a debut author, this is your first time preparing for a book launch. Was there anything that surprised you about the process?

Carrie: I am part of a YA/MG debut community called the Sweet 16’s. I was surprised by how warm, encouraging, and supportive this group of authors has been. There’s no competitive nasty stuff. Everyone has been collegial and welcoming. It’s great to be able to talk to people who truly “get it.”

loose ends llist

FoWP: You sold The Loose Ends List as the first book in a two-book deal, so you’re writing another story while preparing for the book launch. That must be hectic! Tell us about balancing your time between the two projects.

Carrie: I’m still trying to figure out how to balance everything. You should see my laundry piles! When I’m working on a draft for book two, everything else is on hold. It’s a very intense process. Then I turn the draft into my editor and I have several weeks to work on the marketing/social media/social part of preparing for book one’s launch. Balancing those things is easier than balancing all the other family/life responsibilities.

FoWP: What advice do you have for writers still in the query and submission trenches?

Carrie: I queried agents with two other books and got LOTS of rejections before I landed my wonderful agent, Sara. I advise writers to study query-writing websites, and ask other writers for feedback on the letter and the manuscript. Then listen to the feedback. Be willing to make sweeping changes. When I look back at the first two books, I realize they just weren’t good ENOUGH. And the query letters were terrible. If you’re getting a lot of rejections, you may want to put your current WIP away and start writing a new book. It sounds harsh, but this business is very Darwinian. I used to say to my mom, “I’m not submitting it. It’s not good enough.” She thought I was being hard on myself. But I wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t MY best work. Don’t jump the gun and get excited and start submitting until it’s your VERY best work. That takes time, and practice, and probably a drawer full of rejections. We’ve all been there!

About the author:

Carrie Firestone is a former New York City high school teacher who now lives and writes in Connecticut.

About The Loose Ends List:

A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Pre-order The Loose Ends List:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

2014-5 NESCBWI cropped

About R.J. Allen

I write middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen.

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BOOK, a series on book marketing, interviews Karin Lefranc

Karin’s debut picture book, I Want To Eat Your Books, launched September, 2015. She talks with us today about all she learned from that book launch.269b50326181df1eaf451ff948bc0b66

FoWP: Karin, readers have fallen in love with your zombie and the boy who tries to keep him from devouring every book in the school. A big part of getting this book into readers’ hands was you. You were everywhere when the book launched in September – signing books in bookstores and libraries, even the YMCA! What was your game plan for the book launch?

Karin: I wanted to generate as much excitement as I could for I Want To Eat Your Books anywhere and everywhere! My publicist at Sky Pony sent press releases to the media and bloggers. I visited many bookstores for book signings and I got the word out about all my readings on Twitter and Facebook.

FoWP: Where did you get help from your publisher and where did you need to make things happen for yourself?

Karin: My publicist at Sky Pony, Cheryl Lew, was a huge help! She wrote a press release to the media, including bloggers, a month or so before publication. She also worked with the Sky Pony sales teams to generate excitement for selling the book.

FoWP: What was the most non-traditional place you went to talk about I Want To Eat Your Books?

Karin: Probably the YMCA. It’s not a place I would have thought of, but I’m a member there and so they asked me to be a part of their Halloween celebration—as the author of a zombie book I fit right in! We had a huge cardboard cutout of the zombie, and sponges made to look like books for the kids to toss into the zombie’s mouth. This awesome creation was actually made for the launch party at Simsbury Library. The Simsbury librarians went above and beyond, creating cool crafts, games and treats for the children.

FoWP: I loved your book trailer. Did it cost a fortune to make?

Karin:  Not at all. At first I thought it would, too, but I went to fiverr.com. I got lucky and got found Anne-Rae, and she did a wonderful job. When I wanted to add audio, she was more than willing to add it if I sent her the voice over. And it all cost less than $75. Here is her link: https://www.fiverr.com/amongus.  I got the trailer on Twitter, Facebook, andYouTube. If you have a book trailer, it’s also a good idea to add to teachertube.com and teacherspayteachers.com so teachers can find your book.

FoWP: You had events scheduled during the week and every weekend. It must have been exhausting! How did you balance appearances with everything else in your life and what advice do you have for other debut authors?

Karin: My husband would laugh at this question because my life was a rather unbalanced at the time! As authors, we are usually on our own writing and so marketing our book is a whole other way of life. It’s about constantly putting yourself and your book out there. I tried to schedule two book signings nearby if they were far away. There is only so much publishers can do unless you’re a big name author, so it’s really up to the author to get creative. I made cute badges with the cover of the book and found a company that did square ones, which looked more like a book than a round one. Here is the link: http://24hourwristbands.com/shop/custom-buttons/custom-square-buttons. I also made bookmarks, another inexpensive marketing tool you can giveaway at book signings as well as leave with libraries and bookstores. I called all the bookstores in my area and told them I’m a local author and available to come and do a reading and/or book signing. Every Barnes & Noble has a customer relations manager that you can ask to speak to, or you can also email them with your press release, reviews etc.

FoWP: What did you learn from marketing I Want To Eat Your Books that would change your marketing plan for your next book?

Karin: I would start earlier—at least six months out. I would do a cover reveal on several Children’s blogs. I would do more online blog contests. I think it’s important to use whatever makes your book different and interesting to generate fun ideas and promotions. There are lots of grown up zombie lovers out there, so my goal was also to be where they were online and even at the popular zombie running races around the country. My book is also about the love of reading and the power of reading so I am now targeting literacy groups to find ways to work with them.

Thanks for all your marketing advice, Karin! Find out more about the launch of Karin’s debut novel, here.

I Want To Eat Your Books
By Karin Lefranc (writer) and Tyler Parker (illustrator)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Sky Pony Press

Find I Want To Eat Your Books:
Goodreads
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

How have you gotten MORE BANG FOR YOUR BOOK? Share your book marketing and promotion ideas in the comments below!

2014-5 NESCBWI croppedAbout R.J. Allen

I write middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen.