June 29, 2011

Three Times A Charm With Aidana WillowRaven

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

This week I’m honored to welcome the very talented Aidana WillowRaven. Aidana is an illustrator and book cover designer. She did the cover for my good friend, Beverly Stowe McClure’s middle grade novel, Just Breeze. LOVED it! Aidana, please tell us more about you:

Aidana WillowRaven, mother of three, was trained in Fine Art, Studio Design and Animation at Norfolk State and Old Dominion universities.

She has illustrated and/or designed over 100 books through her company, WillowRaven Illustration & Design Plus, in Tennessee. Her work has won numerous awards, has been published in several magazines, and has earned her guest appearances at various conventions.

Framed and signed prints of some of her most popular works can be purchased through her ImageKind gallery:

To view her portfolio, or contact her, visit her website: http://willowraven.weebly.com/

Wow, over 100 books! Holy cow. You must stay so very busy. What is your latest and greatest adventure?

            My latest artistic interest is in digital illustration. Although I was formally trained with traditional mediums, I find it a challenge trying to blend today’s software techniques with traditional mindset. I love challenge. But I don’t think I’ll ever give up traditional work altogether. There is nothing like the feel of charcoal gliding on good paper, watching the emergence of colored pencil on a blank ground, the stretching and prepping of a canvas, or the smell of a gum eraser. I guess you have to be an artist to get it … lol.

Oh my goodness, NO, I totally get it and the only thing I can draw is a bath! Thank you for the lovely examples of your newest medium.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 pieces of advice

The advice I tell any fresh artist: Learn Everything. Yes, you need to develop a style of your own. Yes, you need to find a niche, a way to set yourself apart. But … If you hope to do this for a living, live as a professional artist/illustrator/designer and not need ‘a real job’, I can’t emphasize the need for diversity enough.
Agents don’t like it. Some Art Directors don’t like it. But the more you can do, and do well, the more jobs are open to you. The more of a hirable asset you become.

Learn everything.

  • Top 3 most admired authors.

This is a tough one. Being a reader of fantasy, there are so many. I’d have to say my favorite is the late Robert Jordan.
            There are several in the rank of second place, but off the top of my head: Eddings, McCaffrey, Brook, Lacey, Bradley, oh … there are so many.
            Of course, If I don’t list Tolkien, they’ll take my membership card away … lol.

  • Top 3 sources of inspiration.

This one is easy…

1.      Books
2.      Other artists’ artwork.
3.      Everything else … lol. I mean everything. I see art everywhere. I’ll never live long enough to create every illustration that is filed in my head.

Can I just say…I, so, get you! I really, really understand. My life is a series of instances that could become a story. Sometimes it is actually exhausting.

Aidana, where can our readers learn more about you and your lovely work?

Thank you, Aidana for joining us today on Strands of Thought. I have so much respect for your talent and I’m so thrilled to host you here.


June 27, 2011

Wrapping It Up

This week I wrap up my career with Habitat for Humanity. It’s sad, I don’t want to leave, but those are the cards I’ve been dealt.  In 5 ½ years I’ve witnessed 35 families purchase their homes and take on the responsibility of homeownership. I’ve worked with countless selfless volunteers who, like me, believe everyone deserves the opportunity for safe, decent housing. I’ve processed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from people who put others above themselves. I’ve made some really great friends that I will value for a lifetime.

Back in January of 2006, when I started my job there, I was surprised to learn that there are office politics at a non-profit. That not everybody is involved out of the goodness of their own hearts. Not everybody is doing it with community in mind. In turn, I learned that working at a non-profit is much like working for a corporation, but whenever the stress level elevated, I’d focus on the families. The children who would no longer have to move from home to home, school to school because of shaky rental situations. The adults, whose self-worth flourished while working through the homeownership program.

When I was hired, I was kinda broken myself, but Habitat kept me focused on the needs of individuals from the community who were less fortunate. Hard working families deserving of the rewards hard work should offer, but in our inflated society, aren’t otherwise able to attain. The focus was never on me, yet my heart opened further each year and my spirit grew stronger with each home dedication.

Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization. I believe God gave me Habitat when I needed it most. It might take me awhile to figure out why it’s being taken away, but I’m going forth with an open mind and many beautiful memories. I’ll leave the not-so-nice memories in the bottom drawer of my desk.

June 22, 2011

Three Times A Charm With Kimberly Sabatini

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

This week we are joined by Kimberly Sabatini. Kim is a never ending bottle of bubble solution. Whether you are blowing the bubbles or chasing them, you are having TONS OF FUN! Kim, tell us about yourself.

I’m a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. After my dad passed away in 2005, I used writing as a way to make sense of the experience and discovered that I’m full of questions that need to be answered. I live in New York’s Hudson Valley with my husband and three boys and write Young Adult fiction.  I’m represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency and I’m thrilled to be part of the "Wolf Pack." TOUCHING THE SURFACE is my debut novel.  (Simon Pulse - Simon & Schuster, Fall 2012)

What a great title! Tell us more about TOUCHING THE SURFACE.

Life-altering mistakes are meant to alter lives.

At seventeen, Elliot Turner feels like she’s a failure in life and in the afterlife. She’s died for the third time and until she can remember her past and figure out the growth plan for her soul, she’s stuck at the Obmil Center for Progression. Elliot’s not surprised that her third stay in limbo guarantees her a rocky road to enlightenment, but she never expected her best friend, Julia to be mad at her. Things get even worse when Elliot meets Oliver and Trevor.  One guy is as radiant as the sun and the other is dark and snarky and seems to hate her for no reason at all. It doesn’t take long for Elliot to realize that the deeper she delves into her past, the more complicated it gets--she’s only touched the surface.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for people just starting in your business.

#1-Write what is important to you.  This does not mean that you shouldn’t be smart and learn how to be a really good writer.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of what is current in the write-o-sphere.  But you have to take those tools with you on your own journey. 

#2 – Find the joy in each stage of what you are doing.  It’s very easy to get discouraged by the constant rejection, instead focus on things like the wonderful friends you meet, lessons learned from failure, your own growth as a writer and a person and most importantly how you feel when you are writing. 

#3 – Be a friend.  In a world of social media, it’s very easy to get on your own little soap box feeling like a Who down in Whoville trying to get noticed.  The very best way to be noticed is to be a friend to someone else.  If you do that, you will rarely have to ask for a favor in return.  Your friends will be there for you.

(Don’t you LOVE this woman?!)

  • Top 3 leisure activities. 

The top three things I do that are not writing related, but never stop making my writing better:

#1 – I’m a runner.  I’ve been doing it for just over a year and I LOVE it.  I like the solitude, the exercise and the chance to just let my mind wander. 

#2 – I’m also a dancer.  I’ve danced since I was 3 years old and I continue to take classes that challenge me, but I’m also a dance instructor to 3,4 and 5 year olds.  I water the seeds that grow a love for dance.  It’s a pretty awesome “job.” 

#3 – I know it’s not “exciting” but I’m a reader.  It is one of my favorite things to do and I do it as often as I possibly can.  I even listen to audio books in the shower.  LOL!  My favorite time of day is reading out loud with 3 boys snuggled up against me.  It doesn’t get much better than that. 

  • Top 3 authors. 

Here are the three author’s that have had an amazing influence on my journey as a writer. 

Laurie Halse Anderson:  She was the keynote speaker at the very first SCBWI conference I attended.  Everything about her inspired me and I was blown away by her ability to make a personal connection with every single person she came into contact with.  She looked me in the eye and asked me what I write--I felt like a real writer for the first time.   

K.L. Going:  Kelly was also at my very first conference and I was so impressed with her that I signed up for a local workshop she was presenting.  In addition to the class, she was doing critiques and I started to write TOUCHING THE SURFACE to have something for her to look at.  Her advice and support over the years has helped me to stretch and grow as a writer. 
Lois Lowry:  I can clearly remember reading THE GIVER for the very first time.  I hadn’t known that someone else in the world thought about the same kind of strange things that I did.  I hadn’t known that it was possible to take those thoughts and craft them into a story.  Reading that book changed me.  It created the first crack that allowed me to eventually find my own voice.  I was in awe meeting her in person at this year’s NY SCBWI Conference.

Kim and Lois Lowry January 2011
Kim makes me want to be a better person, have more fun, be an inspiration!

Where can our readers learn more about you or find more of your bubbles solution inspiration?

My blog: Jess Free Falcon - http://kimberlysabatini.blogspot.com/
Livejournal: Jess Free Falcon - http://kimmiepoppins.livejournal.com/
The Apocalypsies: 2012 Debut Authors - http://apocalypsies.blogspot.com/

Kim, thank you so much for stopping in to Strands of Thought! I have a feeling this is the beginning of a long and beautiful career for you and I’m happy to say “I knew her when.”

Thanks so much for letting me stop by.


I’m always looking to people involved in children’s publishing to feature in Three Times A Charm. If you have project, service, book, blog or agency to promote, contact me directly through my email: kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

June 19, 2011

The Event

A fun time was had by all at yesterday's multi author and illustrator signing at the Redmond Library. Thanks to all who came out and to those who stumbled upon us unexpectedly.  Some pics:
Me reading while illustrator KC Snider looks on

KC at our signing table. She's a fun gal to hang with all day!

A sample of KC's original illustrations hanging throughout the library

You can see more pictures from the event on my facebook page: Kai Strand, Author

Thank you to everyone who worked to make this a fun and successful event! And a special thank you to the Redmond Library.

June 18, 2011

Library Event Today!

In honor of today's event at the Redmond Library, I wanted to share the interview KC and I did on Good Morning Central Oregon.

Information about the event:

See you there!

June 15, 2011

Three Times A Charm with Nathan Bransford

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

This week we are joined by Nathan Bransford. I confess to a bit of a fangirl crush on Nathan. I’m such a huge fan! Nathan is an ex-agent, fantastic blogger and newly published author. Here’s more on Nathan:

Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, which was published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.

My dad lives in San Fransicso, how come we’ve never run into each other?

Nathan, please tell us more about your new book.

Jacob Wonderbar has been the bane of every substitute teacher at Magellan Middle School ever since his dad moved away from home. He never would have survived without his best friend Dexter, even if he is a little timid, and his cute-but-tough friend Sarah Daisy, who is chronically overscheduled.

But when the trio meets a mysterious man in silver they trade a corn dog for his sassy spaceship and blast off into the great unknown. That is, until they break the universe in a giant space kapow and a nefarious space buccaneer named Mick Cracken maroons Jacob and Dexter on a tiny planet that smells like burp breath. The friends have to work together to make it back to their little street where the houses look the same, even as Earth seems farther and farther away.

Jacob Wonderbar and his escapades sounds hysterical! I can’t wait to read it.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for people just starting in your business.
-         Do your research!
-         Make friends with other writers, their advice and support will be invaluable
-         Make sure you’re stopping to enjoy every step along the way

  • Top 3 leisure activities.
-         Travel
-         Skiing
-         Drinking coffee

  • Top 3 songs on your play list.
-         “Tree By the River,” Iron & Wine
-         “In California,” Neko Case
-         “Take This Song,” Stringer Belle

I’ve always, always admired two things in Nathan. His ability to get A LOT done in one day and his willingness to share his wealth of knowledge on his fabulous blog. Nathan, for the five people out there who don’t already know about this, tell us where we can find info on your book and learn more of you and from you.

Thank you so much, Nathan, for visiting with us today. It has been a thrill hosting you on my blog.


June 10, 2011

Hospital Corners

I was making hospital corners on the “Be My Guest” Beauty and the Beast sheets in the room with many names. I use it as my writing room. It is also a guest room. But really, it’s my daughter’s room. She went off to college in fall. She immediately mastered the college experience, full course load for a double major, marching band, symphonic winds, fraternity. But she also got a full time job and started collecting new friends. Add that to the six hour drive…she hasn’t made it home much since September.

But this time the hospital corners were for her.  I was a bit maudlin over the fact that the “Be My Guest” sheets now suited her just as well as they suit Uncle Tom or cousin Rose. But I thought about my daughter and the life she’s made for herself and the person that she is and I realized that now is really the time for me to accept that the shift in the family dynamics is permanent.  She’s so capable. She’s so vibrant. She’s so beautiful.

My daughter has always been an inspiration to me. She’s been focused on her goal since the eighth grade. I wish I could siphon her innate sense of self to share with other pre-teens and teens. Most of all, I admire her bravery. I have no doubt she’d be sorted into Gryffindor. Again and again she has stepped far outside the safe zone to address the difficult issues. She’s even reached out to a complete stranger and offered big, huge help. Is it any surprise she loves Ellen Hopkin’s books?

My beloved daughter isn’t perfect. I know it and on most days she knows it too. When she was in elementary school I used to warn her teachers that they shouldn’t expect to see her do something until she could master it. She used to hold back and watch and study and only then, when she got it, would she do it in front of others. Well, let me tell you, she gets it. Not only does she get it, but she’s blazing trails with it. 

I know people say that the kids turn out well because of the parents. Maybe my making her do her own laundry since she was 10 has something to do with the person she is today, but I kind of just think, my husband and I got really, really lucky. We joke that we raised her and she raises the rest, so expect to see similar posts in the future.

But this post is about hospital corners. Crisp, tight and disciplined corners made on a top sheet. And how they indicate that my husband and I have done our job well, and our daughter has done hers even better.

My little girl. Growing up to be a better person than me. If that isn’t your goal as a parent, then you’d better rethink your plan.

June 8, 2011

Three Times A Charm With Lori Calabrese

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry.

This week I’m thrilled to welcome Lori Calabrese. Lori is one busy lady. I see her everywhere around the internet. So naturally, I had to invite her to join us here on Strands of Thought. Here’s more on Lori:

Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was awarded DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award. She writes for various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s Books Examiner at Examiner.com and enjoys sharing her passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website to learn more, www.loricalabrese.com.

Lori, please tell us more about your award winning book.

The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade (picture book: ages 4-8)

Ignoring his runny nose and worsening cold, Matt's single minded-pursuit of a rare bug wreaks havoc on his school, his teacher and his classmates.
This amusing picture book celebrates the ambitious spirit of a third-grader as he tries to study, and uncover a distinct insect on the brink of extinction. Young readers will be buzzing as they follow Matt’s quest to win his school’s Bug-A-Fair. Or will he create a third-grade epidemic?
Sounds adorable!

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 books you’ve read in the past year.

-Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson: I couldn't get enough of this book and found it to be an enthralling read. Not only are the characters irresistible, you'll want to reach into the book to hug Jessa, choke Sean, pat Carissa on the back, and laugh with Tyler.
-Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky: Certainly, temptation is everywhere we go in life, but not falling into that temptation is the real challenge and Kozlowsky reminds us of that in this dark, mysterious tale that I loved.
-The Beautiful Dead: Summer by Eden Maguire: What if you died by a strange and sudden circumstance and had the opportunity to come back to right the wrong and bring about justice? I just think it’s one of the coolest concepts for a book and I can’t get enough of this series!

  • Top 3 illustrators.

-Mark Teague
-Elizabeth Dulemba (happy day after your birthday, Elizabeth!)
-Peter Brown

  • Top 3 songs on your play list.

-Never Say Never by Justin Beiber
-Chances by Five for Fighting
-September by Daughtry

Fabulous choices! Talent abounds in your choices for entertainment and my tbr list just grew!

Lori, where can curious readers learn more about you and all that you do?

Thank you for participating in this week’s Three Times A Charm, Lori. It was a pleasure to have you visit us. Best of luck to you and your Bug!


June 5, 2011

Let's Connect On A Deeper Level

Connected –

united, joined, or linked.

Are we connected?

Here is where you can find me:

Author page on Facebook, all I ask is that you like me.
My blog posts to two different host sites, because life is all about the choices you make:
Strands of Thought on Blogger (follow me)
Strands of Thought on Livejournal (friend me)
Twitter (if link doesn’t work, search for KaiStrand)
Email a bit old fashioned these days, but I can’t help it, I love email!

I would love, love, love to be connected. Please connect with me in all formats available and leave info in comments where we can find you! It’s all in who you know, right?

June 1, 2011

Three Times ACharm with Author Margot Finke

Three Times A Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, reviewers, agents, editors, anyone involved in children’s publishing. 

This week we are honored to host the generous and talented author, Margot Finke. A little about Margot:

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, and their three children are now grown and doing very well.
Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes! "
 "Wild and Wonderful," her first series of picture books, offers fun facts about animals from the US and Australia.  Educational and fun, these eBooks can be read on a computer, laptop, or various color e-Readers.  They are great for classroom or home schooling moms. Remember, kids today are computer savvy, and ALL Margot’s books (both hard copy and eBooks) can be viewed on Margot’ Magic Carpet.

Margot isn’t only an author, she actively coaches writers and is a staunch advocate of promoting literacy, especially for reluctant readers.

Margot’s Manuscript Critique Service attracts clients from all over the globe, and her website also offers a great deal of help for new writers: http://tinyurl.com/Critique-Service

Margot’s Magic Carpet -
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

All 11 of her books, plus links to Trailers, Reviews, Teacher’s Guide, Samples, Illustrations, and where to BUY.  Her 3 latest books are:
* Taconoi and Claude – Double Trouble - mid-grade adventure

*Horatio Humble Beats the Big D – dyslexia  PB

*Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind – big change PB

Readers can also WIN a FREE (pdf) Bonus adventure story, specially written by Margot, and featuring characters from her 3 latest books.  Just leave an e-mail address with your comment, and YOU WIN this free illustrated story for your child.

Now for the Threes. Margot, share with us some of your top 3’s so our readers can know a little more about the woman at the keyboard.

  • Top 3 books you’ve read in the past year.

Aha, I AM known as a children’s author, but hey, a good book is a good book – right?  So many books are hyped in the press and then prove a disappointment. The following two are for adults, but surpassed all my expectations. Children’s writers could learn a lot from these authors’ use of powerful analogies, simple sentences, and evocative words that stir up hidden meanings and reminiscences.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The delightfully insightful main character was a surprise package that became better-and-better as her tale opened and unfolded.  Author Alice Sebold knows how to grip a reader with descriptions, thoughts, and flashbacks that are never intrusive or overdone. Her deceptively simple sentences led to enormously complex outcomes. Susie Salmon, and all the other characters, lived on in my head long after I finished reading about them. When you long for a book to go on forever you know the writer is touched by genius.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  I am reading this book right now. Author of the acclaimed Kite Runner, the story is set in Afghanistan, and there are emotional and physical descriptive paragraphs galore. I usually find this much embroidery smothers the plot and the characters.  However, in the hands of this master I feel no twitch of impatience.

Like a rare and beautiful necklace, he strings his achingly powerful and evocative words into exactly the right combination of shapes, colors and brilliance. They take me to Afghanistan, and into the hearts and minds of his characters. His potent phrases, fragrant with memories, sadness, and hopes for a better future, keep me turning the pages.

In less talented hands it might be too much. From Khaled Hosseini, it becomes a memorable tale that leaves an indelible imprint and a longing for more. The secret is in his choice of words, how he strings them together, and the way he weaves them into the plot. His words turn into mental pictures that are seared into my brain. I am in awe!

And finally, a picture book on a grand scale.  The Sign of the Seahorse, by Graeme Base, is a rhyming undersea adventure, where many of the characters are decidedly “fishy,” in more ways than one.  This is not your usual 32 page PB.  This is a grand tale of heroes, villains, and heroines, all trying to out-fish and out maneuver each other.  Anyone who writes rhyming picture books (myself included) knows how hard it is to keep the three necessary elements in such books running strong and smooth – a great story, fun rhyming words, and meter that is smooth and true in every verse.

 Graeme Base does this in spades – or should I say “sharks!” And this is no 32 page quickie.  There is an abundance of rousing verses that draw you into this fish chowder of a story. Each verse moves the fun forward and the villainous sharks closer to their comeuppance.  And the cherry on top is of course his fantastic array of illustrations.  I think his illustrations could tell this story all by themselves.  I have read and re-read this fishy tale, and each time I discover more that intrigues me, both in his masterful rhyming verses, and illustrations that are to swoon over.  Such rhyming talent.  Such illustrative brilliance.  It just isn’t fair!

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for people just starting in your business.

1 - Have patience.  That, and a little talent and luck will work over time. Standing watch over your mailbox will only give you fallen arches. Rejection is a part of your growth as a writer. Rewrite, rework and read, read, read.  THIS is what will get you that first acceptance.
2 - Join a really good critique group that has advanced or published members. Their comments and feedback, support and encouragement, will tide you over a ton of rejections, failed plots, and uninterested relatives.
3 – When you hit a wall with your plot or your characters, don’t fight it too long.  Close the file and put it away.  Forget about it.  Write something new.  In a month or two, when you reread it, you will be amazed at how fast solutions jump out at you.  Then, scale that “wall,” and thumb your nose at it as you write on and over it.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

Reading – writers must read. Gardening – a little dirt under the fingernails still leaves your mind free to solve plot problems. Manuscript Critiques – this is a pleasure I will never forgo.  I have been doing this for years, and my clients come from many different countries.  Helping writers write “tight and terrific,” or polish their manuscripts, is enormously satisfying. It is always a terrific WOW moment when I learn that a writer I worked with has had their book accepted for publication. 

Margot is so wonderfully supportive of fellow authors. She gives great advice, too. Plus she, like me, lives in Oregon! Smart, great taste…my kind of woman. Be sure to check out the links she provided and include your address in a comment in order to receive a free electronic Bonus Adventure Story pdf from Margot.

Thank you, Margot, for visiting Three Times A Charm. It has been such a pleasure hosting you here!