Picture Book Author Interview: Camille Andros

I’ve been obsessing about this picture book for almost a year now. Finally, finally, finally March is here! CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED releases March 14th and would make THE. BEST. EASTER/SPRING. GIFT. POSSIBLE!

Charlotte is a serious scientist. She solves important problems by following the scientific method. She has all the right equipment: protective glasses, a lab coat, a clipboard, and a magnifying glass. What she doesn’t have is space. She has so many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all) that she is too squished to work on her experiments! Can she use science to solve her problem? This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for inspiring an interest in STEM subjects.

Bunnies! Science! Two of my favorite things! And here to tell us more about Charlotte is author Camille Andros!

Welcome to THE WINGED PEN, Camille, and congrats on your debut picture book, CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED. Tell us about your inspiration for Charlotte and the STEM focus in this book.

I was in the shower (where all the best ideas are realized) when I decided I wanted Charlotte to be a scientist. I always loved science as a kid but felt like I wasn’t smart enough to be one. I want kids to know that being a scientist can look like a lot of different things and if they love it, they should do it!

Absolutely! Science is for everyone! Charlotte is a rabbit with many brothers and sisters, which causes her a bit of trouble. Tell us about your “qualifications” for writing a story about a character with a BIG family. 🙂

The original idea for a bunny story with a big family came from my husband. Together we have six children. My husband is the sixth of ten children. All those ten children have their own children so there are sixty-seven cousins. When everyone is all together it is eighty-nine people. On my side of the family I am the oldest of seven kids and there are twenty- four cousins and forty people when we are all together. My kids have a total of eighty-five first cousins.

I cannot even imagine all those nieces and nephews! What do you hope young readers take away from your story? 

I hope young readers never stop asking questions and know that being a scientist can look like many different things. Loving your family and learning how to best get along with them doesn’t hurt either. 😉 

What is your work/writing schedule?

I wish I had a regular schedule, but I take each day at a time. At the start of each day (or the night before) I figure out what the most important things to do in that day are. Sometimes it is working on a story, sometimes it’s revising, sometimes it’s doing stuff like this-doing interviews, recording podcasts, school visits. And sometimes–it’s laundry. It’s different every day.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I don’t think this is super strange but when I am creating something totally new, I snack. A Lot. Chocolate, ice cream, popcorn, chocolate…;) But when I am revising I am all business. No treats/food.

In that regard, we are identical twins. I just have to stretch out revising long enough to lose any weight I gain during drafting! Which writers inspire you? Is there a recently published book you’d heartily recommend?

I love Virginia Lee Burton, Barbara Cooney, Alan Say, Kevin Henkes, Phil and Erin Stead, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, and Jon Klassen. There are so many more.  I think one of the most beautiful picture books in the last few years is SWAN-THE LIFE AND DANCE OF ANNA PAVLOVA by Laurel Snyder Illsutrated by Julie Morstad. It’s exquisite.

Tell us a little about the other books you’ve sold.

Next year I have a book coming out with Julie Morstad as the illustrator called THE DRESS AND THE GIRL. It’s about a girl and her favorite dress and how they get separated from each other when the girl’s family immigrates to the United States. It’s about love and loss and their journey to find each other again.

Oh, that sounds lovely and I love the immigration theme. What can you tell us about what you’re working on now?

Right now I’m working on the second Charlotte the Scientist book that will also be coming out next year.

CAN. NOT. WAIT for both of those books! Okay, my friend. Buckle up for the lightning round. *Hands Camille a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Hmmm maybe to have the ability to apparate. To think about a place and be able to be there would be awesome.

Wooden pencil or mechanical? Wooden and sharp.

Coffee or tea? Hot Chocolate 😉

Sweet or salty? Both

Dog, cat, or other? Neither (sorry-I have six kids instead of pets)

Plotter or pantser? A little of both.

Any advice for all those aspiring authors out there? Never give up. The writers who are published are the ones who just kept trying.

Great advice! Thanks so much for joining us, Camille!

Here’s an adorable picture of Charlotte wearing her safety goggles for you to swoon over while you hop on over to Goodreads to add it to your TBR.

CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED would make the perfect gift for all the little scientists in your life and is available for pre-order through your local indie or through one of the following links.

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Camille always carries a small black notebook on her travels to far-flung places to record the stories she imagines (even on the days when “far-flung” is her backyard vegetable garden.) She has her BA in Health Science, is an EMT, and won 1st place in the school science fair as a kindergartner. She’s addicted to the smell of a newborn baby, which may explain why she has six children! Dancing ballet for 14 years left her with an appreciation of beautiful things – warm fresh bread, a quiet sunset after a hectic day, and a new picture book. Find out more about Camille by checking out her website or following her on Facebook or Twitter!

 

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a chocolate biscotti baker, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT will be published in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME releasing August 2017. Connect with her on Twitter.

10 Epic Muslim Picture Books

The Islamic New Year was October 1st. It came and went and few of us noticed. Well, this list of epic Muslim books for children is there to change that.

Islamic literature has been underrepresented for a long time. It used to be filled with stereotypes and false information, but more and more own voice writers are emerging, and Jee, do their books rock!

 

basraThe Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (2005), written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter is the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a chief librarian in Basra, Iraq. When bombs hit her library, in 2003, she and a Muslim friend save 70% of the books by hiding them in their homes. This story shows how the civilians are the ones who suffer the most during armed conflicts because the country’s art, artifacts and knowledge are burned away and destroyed. We also learn that the library of Basra contained books in other languages picturing other people in the world like we have in our own libraries.

 

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Deep in the Sahara (2013) by Kelly Cunnane (illustrated by Hoda Hadadi) is the story of Lalla, a girl who lives in Mauritania. Her dream is to wear the malafa, a beautiful local garment, but she is still too young. The story, beautifully illustrated, gives an inner look at the complex reasons why Muslim women freely wear their veil.

 

kingKing For a Day (2013) by Rukhsana Khan (illustrated by Christiane Krömer) tells the story of Malik, a Pakistani boy, who, despite his handicap, masters the art of kite making and kite wrestling. The story really shows that it’s not enough to become the “king”. A king is not truly one unless he shows compassion and shares from his wealth.

 

 

skyThe Sky of Afghanistan (2012) by Ana A de Eulate (Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer) is a gorgeously illustrated and powerfully written story of an Afghan girl, Malala, and her dreams for peace.

 

 

 

Four Feet, Two Sandals (2016) by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed  (illustrated by Doug Chayka) tells the story of two young Afghani refugees living in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. Relief workers bring clothes sandalsand Lina finds a beautiful sandal. Feroza, another refugee, finds the other sandal. They haven’t had shoes in years. They decide to take turns wearing the sandals and from then on a friendship grows between them. This is a moving story that shows the difficulty of living in camps.

 

mosqueThe Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust (2010) by Karen Gray Ruelle (illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix) is a historical picture book talking about compassion and empathy. It shows a story few people know about. During the Nazi occupation of France, a group of Muslims took on themselves to give certificates of Muslim identity to Jews so that they could avoid persecution. The Jewish families hid in the mosque that had gardens, apartments, and a library.

 

moonUnder the Ramadan Moon (2011) by Sylvia Whitman. Soft and warm pastel colors along with a lyrical prose introduce us to the month of Ramadan and its rituals. Unlike regular Ramadan stories that emphasize on the fast, this book reminds Muslims that Ramadan is mostly about giving in charity, being kind, praying, and abandoning bad habits.

 

 

Snow in Jerusalem (200snow1) by Deborah da Costa (illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu) is the poignant story of Hamudi, a Muslim boy and Avi, a Jewish boy, fighting over a street cat they both feed between their houses. They eventually learn to share the cat and its litter.

 

 

eidThe Best Eid Ever (2007) by Mobin-Uddin Asma (illustrated by Laura Jacobsen) is the story of Aneesa who helps refugees. When she receives beautiful clothes for Eid, one of the biggest celebrations of the year for Muslims, she realizes that being Muslim is about sharing what we love the most.

 

 

husseinMy Name Was Hussein (2004) by Hristo Kyuchukov (illustrated by Allan Eitzen) is the story of a Bulgarian Roma boy forced to change his Muslim name to a Christian name when an army invades his village. Based on a true story. This tale shows the tradition of Ramadan and also talks about a boy forced to reconsider and question his identity. 

 

 

Resources:

Leilinh. “Book List: Picture Books about Muslim or Middle Eastern Characters”
http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/05/15/book-list-picture-books-about-muslim-or-middle-eastern-characters/

 “Muslim Booklist – Contemporary Novels & Short Story Collections.”
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooklist/novels-shortstory.html

“Novels from Muslim Countries.”
http://www.unc.edu/~cernst/novels.htm

Peckinpaugh, Timothy. “Islamic Facts for Kids.” http://peopleof.oureverydaylife.com/islamic-kids-5693.html

 

SussuIf you liked this article, visit Sussu Leclerc in her gothic castle, over the dream waterfall, in Fantasy Land, at Book Riders and A Novel Without Further Ado or follow her on Twitter: @bookriders1.

 

 

 

Spotlight Interview with Karin Lefranc

Alright, Karin, the grocery stores are filled with Halloween treats and decorations and it’s also your book’s birthday!

Happy Birthday, I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS!

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Look at that cover! He’s the only zombie I’ve seen that I want to hug.

If you too are drooling over this book, check it out here and here or here. But, these spotlight interviews are to get to know you better, Karin. Our readers can take a look at your bio to find out about you, sure, but I’d like to know more.

Um…let me see. In addition to being a writer, I’m a certified children’s yoga teacher so I used to tell kids stories through yoga poses! Now when I’m not writing or running around with my four kids, I help high school seniors, as a college essay consultant, to write brilliant college application essays! I absolutely love it, as their topics are close to their hearts, and I get to channel them and see the world through their eyes for 650 words!

What’s the best thing about where you live and how does it inspire your writing?

I live smack bam between NYC and Boston outside Hartford in Simsbury, Connecticut. It’s hilly and woodsy so good for hikes, which is always good for inspiring stories or working out plot problems! Our town is proud to claim the largest tree in Connecticut, The Pinchot Sycamore Tree. It’s located on the same road that our first presidents took to Boston, including Washington, Jefferson and Adams, and it amazes me that the tree was alive when they were. Hey, that’s inspiring me right now to write a picture book!

Aww! I love tree books. Seriously, The Giving Tree…Please write this! Last book you read: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone, who I also have the pleasure of knowing as she lives in the next town over from me! It’s a high concept YA about a girl whose grandmother tells them that she’s dying but wants the whole family to go on a death-with-dignity cruise. But trust me, it’s fun and cheeky and heartfelt.

Last song you listened to on repeat: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley—I enjoy riling up my kids while their crazy mom sings this to them!

Dinner is on the stove, but the best first line for your WIP pops in your head and if you don’t write it down NOW, you’ll lose it forever…. What do you do?

Burn dinner, of course!

That’s what cereal is for, right?! Your current WIP in five words: (bonus points if you can do it in less!)

Are you kidding? Hedda struggles to be brave like her ancestor Beowulf.

Try again… Hedda must save the troll girl (still six words!)

Girl, rainbow bridge, Beowulf, Norse goddesses (obviously very challenging for me!)

You’re packing a bag of books for a desert island, which 5 books make it in the bag? 

Anna Karenina (my favorite book!) War & Peace (also by Tolstoy and I’ve never read it– and it’s really long so it will keep me busy for a long time!) Lord of the Rings (ultimate escapism when I want to be transported from my island). The Little Prince (when I’m feeling alone and doomed). Immortality (Milan Kundera will keep my thinking about my existence long after I’ve finished the last page).

That’s an ambitious list! As if you’re not busy enough, what’s next for you?

My fabulous CPs, fellow pennies Gita and Rebecca, are urging me to finish my PB about a hoity-toity coyote who loves England so much, he decides to fly to London to visit the queen and her corgis!

Yes, please!!! I want to beta read this! It was so fun getting to know you better. Readers, if you like what you read here, follow Karin on Twitter @karinlefranc and you can check out the book trailer for I Want to Eat Your books here!

Photo on 3-19-15 at 1.23 PM #2Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out Summer 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR.

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Sophie’s Squash Go to School! (An Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller)

SSGTS-1Fans of Pat Zietlow Miller’s picture book, Sophie’s Squash, will be thrilled to hear that the sequel, Sophie’s Squash Go to School, releases on June 28th. Today, Pat, my friend and former neighbor, joins us to talk about her work.

Pat, welcome to The Winged Pen! Sophie’s Squash is a humorous but poignant story of friendship and devotion. Tell us about Sophie’s Squash Go to School.

A: In Sophie’s Squash Go to School, Sophie heads to kindergarten with her two squash friends – Bonnie and Baxter. Sophie’s not sure kindergarten is for her, and she’s not sure she needs any friends besides her squash. Meanwhile, her classmates don’t immediately succumb Bonnie and Baxter’s many charms. It takes everyone time to learn that some friendships are worth the wait.

Sophie’s Squash was discovered in the slush pile. Since you already had an editor, I imagine the process for writing Sophie’s Squash Go to School must have been much different. Can you tell us about who came up with the idea and how the story came to life?

A: After Sophie’s Squash came out and did fairly well, my editor Anne Schwartz suggested a sequel. I sent her several ideas and we agreed on one that became this book. But, writing the sequel was more difficult than writing the original because I had to do it on a deadline and I felt a certain amount of pressure to make it a worthy follow up to the first book. So I tried to go back to the voice and humor and heart that the first book had, and I hope I was able to reconnect with everything that made Sophie memorable.

Is there any talk of a third book?

A: Not yet. It might be possible, but right now I don’t have any other adventures for Sophie in my head.

I have five other books coming out in the next few years, so I’ve been busy editing and revising those, plus trying to write new things.

You and I used to bemoan our collective rejections together. Now that you’ve published five picture books (with more on the horizon), do the rejections hurt any less?

A: Yes and no. I don’t freak out about rejections or get too bummed out, probably because I have a certain base level of confidence that I didn’t have before. And because freaking out or bumming out just wastes time that I could be spending writing or revising.

But when you’re submitting something you really love and other people don’t see it, that’s never fun. And it’s a little harder when editors you know and have worked with on other successful projects turn you down. It seems more personal, even though it isn’t. I think some future authors think that once they sell that first book, everything will be smooth sailing. And while the seas are certainly calmer, that’s simply not true. You still have worries, they’re just about different things. (What if no one buys my book? What if it gets poor reviews? What if I never sell another?)

What has surprised you the most about being a published author?

A: Seeing enthusiastic reactions to my work from people I don’t know who aren’t related to me. That’s been really fun and unexpected and moving. I’ve received some great emails from parents sharing things their kids have done or said about my book. And I’ve heard from several grown adults who have connected with my books, further cementing my belief that picture books are for everyone.

What advice do have for aspiring picture book writers?

A: Check out every book ever written by your five favorite picture writers and then sit down and read or re-read each one. As you read, focus on how the story is structured. When is the character’s problem introduced? Where are the page turns? What is shown in the illustrations versus being told in the text? How does the ending of the book tie back to its beginning? How many words is the entire story? How are those words used on each page? When I was starting out, I studied hundreds of books at this level of detail. And I still do it today.

Before we go, I’d love to do a lightening round so readers can get to know you on a more personal level. Are you game?

A: Bring it!

Coffee or Tea? Neither. Water. And not the fizzy kind either. Bleh.

Sweet or salty? Sweet. (Can I say that more than once? Sweet.)

Dog or cat? Cats all the way. I have two – Sunny and Ollie.

E-book or physical book? Physical book. I have not cozied up to the e-reader.

Since I happen to know you are a shoe aficionado, I can’t resist throwing one last question at you:

Birkenstocks or heels? My daughters have Birkenstocks, but I do not. And, I am too uncoordinated to walk in heels, although I just bought my daughter a red, patent-leather pair that are marvelous. I like funky, clunky, colorful shoes with a special appreciation for John Fluevog. I don’t own these, but I would like to.

 Pat, thanks for joining us today!

 Thank you for hosting me!

Me

Pat Zietlow Miller knew she wanted to be a writer ever since her seventh-grade English teacher read her paper about square-dancing skirts out loud in class and said: “This is the first time anything a student has written has given me chills.” (Thanks, Mrs. Mueller! You rock!)

Pat started out as a newspaper reporter and wrote about everything from dartball and deer-hunting to diets and decoupage. Then, she joined an insurance company and edited its newsletter and magazine.

Now, she writes insurance information by day and children’s books by night.Pat has one wonderful husband, two delightful daughters and two pampered cats. She doesn’t watch much TV, but she does love “Glee” and “Chopped.” Pat lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

 Posted by: Jessica Vitalis

img_5993-e1262576912668Jessica Vitalis is represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch. An active member of the literary community, she volunteers as a Pitch Wars mentor, with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and contributes to two blogs: Writing With The Mentors and The Winged Pen. When she’s not pursuing her literary interests, Jessica can be found chasing her two precocious daughters around Atlanta, Georgia (or eating copious amounts of chocolate). She’d love to connect on Twitter at @jessicavitalis

Interview with Author Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber web

Today I am thrilled to interview my friend and critique partner, Dori Kleber, who recently celebrated the release of her debut picture book with Candlewick Press. More-igami depicts a young boy’s quest to become an origami master.

Dori, welcome to The Winged Pen! There are a million paths to publication, but yours was particularly unusual. Would you share how you connected with Candlewick?

Thanks, Jessica! It’s nice to be here! When I wrote the manuscript for More-igami, I wanted an objective opinion on it. But I wasn’t part of a critique group at that time. So the next time I was at my favorite bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, I asked the store manager if she would take a look at it. I figured since she worked in a children’s bookstore, she would know if my manuscript was marketable.

She adored it, and in our very first meeting, she said that my story would be perfect for Candlewick Press. She advised me through several rounds of edits, and when we agreed the manuscript was as good as we could make it, she urged me again to send it to Candlewick. But Candlewick is a closed house, and I didn’t have an agent. She simply wouldn’t give up, though. She approached her Candlewick sales rep about getting my manuscript into the hands of an editor, and it was sent through the sales department into editorial. A few months later, I had an offer!

And yes, it was very unusual. The sales rep said she had passed along a few manuscripts this way over the years, but none had ever been bought.

As writers, we’re always told to write what we know. Is it safe to assume that you are an origami expert?

Not at all. I’m not sure if my problem is dexterity or patience. Maybe both. But my son is really good at it, and both of my kids liked to fold things up origami-style. Not just paper, but things like tortillas and napkins. So that’s what initially inspired me to write the story.

People are often surprised to hear that picture book authors don’t do their own illustrations and often don’t have any input into the art once their book is acquired by the publisher. Was that true in your case?

I’ve heard some authors say that once they handed over their manuscript to the publisher, they had no idea what was happening with the illustration until their copies of the finished book arrived in the mail. So I was prepared for that. But Candlewick consistently included me in the process. They asked for my opinion before they made an offer to an illustrator, and they let me see every round of sketches and give feedback. I kept my comments limited, though. I respect G. Brian Karas’s artistry and the Candlewick art department’s judgment, and I trusted them.

What was it like seeing the story that had previously existed only in your head brought to life on the page by G. Brian Karas?

Mind blowing. He is such a genius. I can’t figure out how he conveys so much human expression with simple lines and shapes! Some of the illustrations were pretty close to what I had imagined, but others were really different. When I wrote the text, I imagined Mr. Lopez being an older gentleman, a grandfatherly figure. Brian Karas made him young and hip. At first, that was a shock, but I think Brian improved the story by illustrating it that way, instead of as I had imagined it.

Dori, thanks for taking the time to talk us through your publishing journey. I’d love to wrap up with a few fun questions so that our readers can get you know you a little better. 

Favorite writing snack?

This is a trick question for me. I do most of my writing in short blocks, an hour to an hour and a half. So I don’t snack while I’m writing. I focus one hundred percent on the writing for that short time. Then maybe a snack after.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

I believe what Anne Lamott says about some people being destined to write because writing is how they process the world. I think I’m one of those people, so I feel any “ideal career” would have to involve writing. I liked being a newspaper reporter when I first got out of college. I think I could do that again.

If you had a super-power, what would it be?

I think some version of super speed, at least as it relates to household chores. I’d like to be able to get laundry, cooking, and dishes done faster so I’d have more time for what I care about.

What is your patronus animal?

First, let me say that I had to Google patronus to answer this. I really love dogs. And I feel like I connect with dogs. So if I was going to have an animal guardian, I guess it would be a dog. Is that too pedestrian?

One last question: If readers would like to learn more about you and/or follow your publishing journey, what is the best way for them to stay in touch?

The best way is through my website, www.dorikleber.com. I’m also on Twitter @DoriKleber, but as an introvert, I don’t tweet too frequently.

Thanks for your time, Dori!

Moreigami

A creative young boy with a passion for practicing origami finds a surprising source of encouragement on his diverse city block.
Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough No more folding But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?

MORE-IGAMI. Text copyright © 2016 by Dori Kleber. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by G. Brian Karas. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Posted by: Jessica Vitalis

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A jack of all trades, JESSICA VITALIS worked for a private investigator, owned a modeling and talent agency, dabbled in television production and obtained her MBA at Columbia Business School before embracing her passion for middle grade literature. She now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she divides her time between chasing children and wrangling words. She also volunteers as a Pitch Wars mentor, with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and eats copious amounts of chocolate. Her debut novel, NOTHING LIKE LENNON, is currently out on submission. She’s represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch and would love to connect on Twitter or at www.jessicavitalis.com.