March 28, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Barbara Bockman

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 my fellow GAP author, Barbara Bockman.

Hi Kai. Thanks a lot for letting me be part of your “Three Times a Charm” series.

I’m so glad you could visit with us. Barbara, you had a big year last year. Tell us all of your exciting news.

My works: I’m pleased that my first two books came out in 2011. The first, a middle grade novel, Wounds, is published by MuseItUp Publishing and the second, a picture book, illustrated by Jack Foster, Fantastic Flight, is published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Both are available directly from the publishers’ bookstores.

I love historical fiction, folk tales, fairy tales, and stories of different cultures. I’m working on a young adult novel set in Ancient Rome and a middle grade set in Sri Lanka. Things that are close to my heart find their way into my stories. Wounds has an environmental aspect and Fantastic Flight was inspired by my husband’s antics with our granddaughter. If I could, I would save every tree on earth and every animal that is endangered.

I enjoy visiting your blog, it is both educational and entertaining. Can you tell our readers more about it?

My blog, Stories a la Mode, has a variety of postings. Some are about my family (the trip I took with my grandson and his cousin to Great Britain and Ireland), reviews of books I have recently read, especially those published by my two publishers, and interviews of the authors of those books. I also have a series going on metaphors and other figures of speech that help to give depth to stories and make them more interesting. 

Now for the three’s. Share with us your top 3’s so we can get to know you better. 

To tell the truth, my choices for these three categories are not necessarily my tops. I have so many top preferences that I just chose some that easily came to mind. As an avid reader, I could have listed dozens of different authors and illustrators. And you can see, my music choices go way back and the list accumulates. I particularly love Broadway musicals and certain movie themes, such as “Picnic,” “Circus of Horrors,” and “Carousel.”

My Top 3 authors:
Sid Fleischman. One of my favorite Sid Fleischman books is The Whipping Boy. This story shows how unfair life can be, as for instance, when a perfectly nice boy has to bear the punishment of a bratty royal child. Excellent historical fiction.

Katherine Paterson. Katherine Patterson’s Of Nightingales That Weep is another historical fiction book, but this time we are taken to ancient Japan. Here is a love story taking place during a feudal war.

Patricia Lee Gauch. Books like Dance, Tanya and Christina Katerina and The Box show Patricia Lee Gauch’s affinity for little kids. She seems to instinctively know how little kids feel and what they want (such as the desire to emulate a big sister and a preference for a box to play in).

My Top 3 illustrators:
Tomie dePaola. His style is simple to understand and straightforward, and I would say, minimalist in a stylized, not totally realistic way. His colors are soft and the animals and people all seem to have the same expression. The Friendly Beasts is the retelling of an old English Christmas carol and is very sweet, while The Knight and the Dragon, an original story, is funny.

Nicola Bayley illustrated Richard Adams’ The Tyger Voyage. This book’s pictures are full of minute detail and cover every inch of the page. The jungle, with its smoking volcano in the background, is replete with plants and snakes; you can practically count the blades of grass and the veins on the leaves. The manuscript provided Ms. Bayley with ample room to use her imagination and to give imagery to the unnamed narrator and his family.

Colleen Rand. Colleen is a friend of mine here in my SCBWI critique group. The first book she illustrated is Big Bunny, published by Tricycle Press, a story she collaborated on with her daughter. Colleen has a variety of styles, but Big Bunny is simple and stylized and meticulous. The story is sweet, and though considered an Easter story, is really appropriate for any time of the year.

The Top 3 songs on my play list:
Perfidia. I think I must have been about fourteen years old when I first heard this along with my schoolmate, Betty. We were visiting my cousin Tom’s young wife, Christine, and she played the Glenn Miller recording on her record player. It must have been a 45. The Spanish rhythm is more evident in the Nat King Cole version, while the Glenn Miller version is very smooth. The composer is Alberto Domínguez (1911–1975), a Mexican composer. The story is very sad, with the singer lamenting the perfidy (unfaithfulness) of his love.

Rhapsody in Blue. George Gershwin wrote this piece for piano and jazz band in 1924. The opening just slides you into the cacophony of the city and the changing rhythms and tempos keep you interested. It’s very exciting and even amusing at times. (ooops—it’s not a song).

Blue Skies. I love the imagery of this song. It’s very happy with its “blue skies smiling at me,” its blue birds, love and liveliness.

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

Contact information:
My twitter: @babs22582

Thank you for joining us this week on Three Times A Charm! It has been a pleasure visiting with you and learning more about Wounds and Fantastic Flight. Best of luck to your books.

Thanks, Kai, for this opportunity to share some of my favorite things with your friends and mine; it’s been charming.

I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

March 21, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Jo Marshall

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

This week author, Jo Marshall, joins us.

First, I want to thank you, Kai, for your hospitality, and the invitation to your blog.  I’m a new author, and this is my second blog interview, so I think you are very brave to ask me to be your guest.  If there is a way to mess it up, I’m sure to stumble over it.  I am impressed with your enthusiasm, and the fact that you are an accomplished blogger.  Besides all that, your blog is fun and upbeat, and I feel privileged to be part of it. So, thank you!

Aw, thanks, Jo. Can you tell us about you?

About me?  Well, I grew up in the desert on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico. I also lived in Maricopa County, Arizona, and in the foothills of the Sierras - Reno, Nevada.  During my and my husband’s military tours, I lived in Japan and West Berlin.  After assignments in Kansas and the DC area, we moved to Snohomish, Washington in the Pacific Northwest about six years ago.  Traveling has always been part of my life.  I come from a large family, the middle child of seven kids, and my parents were both teachers with very little income. I think poor describes it pretty well, although I wasn’t aware of it.  Back then, teachers had three months vacation during the summer. So as soon as school let out, we’d pack up our truck and go camping in every national park within driving distance. One summer we drove from New Mexico all the way to Canada. Over fifty years later, I still remember being overwhelmed by the splendor of Jasper and Banff. When we camped in Yoho Kicking Horse Canyon, I thought I was in heaven!  Much later, that memory inspired the setting for my series, Twig Stories.  I think like most writers, I was a bookworm, and wrote stories from the moment I could read and write. Although we couldn’t afford many books, achieving high grades and being well-read was expected by my parents, so I practically lived in libraries. My mom suggested I read all the Newberry and Caldecott books, which I did, but I actually wasn’t all that discriminating. I’d read a book about the construction of St. Petersburg, Russia with as much curiosity as a book about studying iguanas on the Galapagos. I read whatever fell off the shelves into my hands, finally concluding that I loved science, history, and the natural world more than fiction, which may be surprising for a fantasy writer.

The Twig Stories sound adorable. Tell us more about your series!

I write eco-literary adventure novels for young fantasy readers (about 8 -12 years old). The books are part of a series called Twig Stories. I should mention right away that the royalties are shared with environmental nonprofits.  My first two books came out last year, Leaf & the Rushing Waters and Leaf & the Sky of Fire.  Presently, I’m finishing up Leaf & the Long Ice.  I expect Leaf & Echo Peak to be out next year.  Perhaps this is an odd genre to some.  Eco-literary? Sounds boring! Eco-literature is just an easier way of saying “children’s literature with an environmental theme.”  If you search that phrase you see that the genre stretches from Beatrix Potter’s English Lake District and Dr. Suess (The Lorax) to more serious works by Rachel Carson and John Muir.  Scientists described my own stories to me as ‘eco-literary’ after I sent my manuscripts to them for their opinions.  I thought I was simply writing young reader stories about what I loved, with themes I thought were important – the experience of nature as seen from the eyes of a child, and what climate change is doing to that world.  It surprised me that these highly respected researchers considered my stories to be more important than I did.  Still, the greatest kick I get is when my daughter and her friends’ read my books for the first time, light up, and tell me with surprise, “You’re a good writer!” and that they love the stories. I never get tired of hearing that!

One of the joys of writing Twig Stories for me is collaborating with D.W. Murray, the illustrator for the series. David is a professional Disney and Universal Pictures artist, yet finds time in-between projects to create the lively characters, creatures, and scenes for the stories. Not surprisingly, the stories are greatly enhanced by David’s talent and contributions. Sometimes I have to rewrite my stories after David’s imagination takes hold, but that’s ok with me. I love his beautiful illustrations and fantastic book covers.

They sound charming and the covers are beautiful. Middle graders love series, too.
Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

As far as the ‘threes’ for me – I chose leisure activities, professions, and authors.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

My three very favorite activities involve doing anything with my family – taking my daughter to her horseback riding lessons, watching Dr. Who with my son, or enjoying movie classics with my husband. If we all manage to get together for a board game night, then that’s a plus.

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

1)     I wanted to be a forest ranger, and still want to - the kind that lives in a tower and watches for fires. I believe they may have enough time on their hands to read.

2)     I wanted to be a teacher until I actually student-taught German at Colorado College. The kids liked me, but I didn’t think I was very good at it even though I received high grades and an excellent evaluation. I just bored myself to death!

3)     Jane  Goodall – is that a profession?  A Jane Goodallian? I wanted to live in Africa. Any profession that offered the opportunity to live in Kenya was ok with me. I think I just wanted to wear the safari shorts and hat…and drive a jeep. Driving a jeep became my favorite pastime in the Army.  And I got to wear a hat.

§        Top 3 authors.

1)     Without  question, A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh is at the top of the list. I enjoy the simplicity of his stories, the kindness of his characters, and the natural setting.

2)     David Quammen. Brilliant journalist and natural history author. Too many awards to mention. He is most well known for The Song of the Dodo and The Flight of the Iguana (one of my all time favorites!).

3)     William DeBuys, who is a passionate conservationist and award-winning writer. I just read his startling new book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change in the North American Southwest, and was deeply moved by his compassion and factual inquiry.

“A Jane Goodallian” ß That’s funny!

 Jo, where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

My website for Twig Stories is

My facebook Jo Marshall author page 

Thank you for joining us on Three Times A Charm, this week. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hosting you on SoT. Hope you visit again. Best of luck with your writing, Jo.

I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

March 14, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Mary Esparza-Vela

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

This week fellow angel author, Mary Esparza-Vela, joins us. Mary, tell us about you.

My name is Mary Esparza-Vela and I am a recent member of the Guardian Angel Publishing family. I reside in Texas with my husband and three sons who have supported me in all my writing endeavors.

Before tackling the career as a children’s writer, I worked at a medical facility as an Editorial Assistant. The duties involved reviewing and editing publications that went before a Board of Directors for approval.

My writing credits include articles published in Catholic newspapers, seven contest winners published by a non-profit organization, and a winning entry in a Writer’s Digest Competition.

Tell us more about your new book.

Guardian Angel Publishing recently published my first book, “The Odd Chick” and more books are in line for publishing.

I am a patented inventor and my plush dolls were awarded Preferred Choice and Seal of Excellence by a panel of parents and educators. They may be seen on my website along with my children’s books.

Since Mary completed this interview, GAP has released her second book, The Turtle Who Imagined. Congrats on both book releases, Mary!

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

  • Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.

My advice to new writers is to read as much as you can, take classes to perfect you writing skills, validate your stories with research, and NEVER GIVE UP.

  • Top 3 personal and/or professional goals.

I currently volunteer at local elementary schools and plan to add book readings and puppet shows to my schedule. I also hope to become a lecturer and to write an adult novel.

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

As a child, I learned to read and write in English and Spanish. My original career choice was to become a bilingual teacher. Then it changed to illustrator and finally research analyst. My work as an Editorial Assistant ultimately inspired me to become a children’s writer.

Mary, how can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

Website:  (blog coming soon)

Thank you for joining us on Three Times A Charm, this week. I’ve enjoyed hosting you on SoT and hope you’ll come visit again. Best of luck with your writing and other projects, Mary.


I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

March 7, 2012

Celebrate World Read Aloud Day

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

I’ve decided to celebrate by sharing a video taken at my very first book signing of me reading from The Weaver. I believe this is from a year ago, March 2011. I find it fun to hear an author read her own work. It almost always changes the tone of the book from how I read in my head.

What you will be reading aloud today? And whom will you read aloud to?

Three Times A Charm with Susanna Leonard Hill

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

To usher us back into a charming normality is author, Susanna Hill. Welcome, Susanna. Can you tell us about yourself?  

I was born into a family of readers.  From my earliest memory, our home was filled with books.  Seriously.  Filled J  They were actually stacked in the hallway until we finally got some new bookshelves… which filled up quickly… and then there were more stacks J  My parents read to us at bedtime.  They read to us in the car.  If it was too dark to read in the car, my dad would tell us the stories of Shakespeare  - Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear – in his own words so we could grasp the stories, but with many of the soliloquies thrown in for good measure.  I didn’t know, when I was a child, that this was not the norm.  I thought everyone lived like this J

I started writing my own stories when I was 4.  The first ones were pretty simple… “This is my cat.  The End.”  The first real book I wrote that I still have is from second grade.  It’s called The Girl And The Witch (I dare you to guess what it’s about J) and I read it frequently on school visits, much to the kids’ amusement.  I don’t know why they laugh.  It is a VERY scary story!

I always knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know that anyone could be an author.  I thought authors were mystical beings who lived in huts in uncharted forests and had long unkempt beards.  So I wrote horse stories, and Nancy Drew sequels, and epic poetry for school assignments or just for myself.

But one day when my first child was about 18 months old, and I was reading picture books to her by the minivan load, I thought, you know what?  This is what I want to do!  And that’s when I started writing for children.

I am thrilled beyond measure to be able to say now that I’m the author of 10 published books for children (9 in the US and 1 in the Netherlands) including Punxsutawney Phyllis (a Book Sense Children's Pick and an Amelia Bloomer Feminist Books for Youth pick), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild Selection), and Not Yet, Rose (winner of a Gold Mom’s Choice Award.)  I love visiting schools and libraries and sharing reading and writing with kids.  I love horses and dogs and have a weakness for oatmeal raisin cookies and good chick flicks :)  I'm an avid reader and, in addition to books for adults, I'm a big fan of picture books and YA. My most recent title is April Fool, Phyllis! released  March 2011 from Holiday House.  I have 5 digital books forthcoming from A Story Before Bed.

What a fantastic story. Your childhood sounds positively charming! Congratulations on so many published books. Are you busy with any other projects, as well?

In addition to my books, I write a blog at Susanna Leonard Hill (  It’s a blog for parents, teachers, librarians, home schoolers, writers – anyone who enjoys the world of children’s books.  Would You Read It Wednesdays are especially for children’s writers to try out their book pitches.  Perfect Picture Book Fridays are for parents and teachers looking for great books along with activities of all kinds to expand their use at home and in the classroom.  There are guest interviews with authors and illustrators (and author/illustrators!)  And there is a new question/advice feature called Oh Susanna where readers can write in with questions about writing, reading, books, teaching writing, etc.  We also have writing contests!  And prize giveaways!  Basically it’s all about fun over there J

I also love doing school visits and am very interested in trying out Skype visits with schools that are too far away to be practical or whose budgets don’t allow for an actual visit.

Now for the three’s. Share with us your top 3’s so we can get to know you better.

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

Top 3!  It’s practically impossible to choose 3!  30 maybe J  Let’s see… 3…

Red Sings From Treetops by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski – a picture book for ages 5 and up whose language and art are so incredibly beautiful that everyone should read it!

Matched by Ally Condie – a YA dystopian novel with a very interesting premise, well-written sympathetic characters, and an ending that will leave you desperate for Crossed J

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I realize everyone else on earth read years ago, but it’s truly one of the best stories I’ve ever read.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

I’m going for this one because it looks like it gets skipped a lot J  And I’m not counting writing here because technically that is my work.

#1 I love to be outdoors – walking my dogs, running, horseback riding when I get the chance which is practically never but still… J etc.

#2 I love to read!  And I never seem to have enough time to read as much as I want.  Reading by a cozy fire in winter or on the back porch in summer are idyllic.

#3 I love puzzles/games.  Text twist, Sudoku, sporcle… I could do them all the time.  Also, although I’m not much of a TV watcher, I do really love Grey’s Anatomy J

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

#1 Steam-roller driver

#2 Fire-fighter

#3 Professional horse trainer or veterinarian J

(As I mentioned above, I didn’t know writer was a choice!)

Apparently I was not cut out for these professions as I find myself a mom and a writer, and very happy to be so J

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

Thank you for visiting with us for this week’s Three Times A Charm. It has been a pleasure getting to know about you and your work. Come back and visit us again!


I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

March 6, 2012

Tick Tock The Game Is Locked

So much news released today in the publishing world, it has my head spinning a bit. But there is an underlining theme that keeps rising to the top for me. Limits. Too many limits.

Random House is entertaining the thought of raising the price of ebooks to libraries up to three times the price of print books. I read the article and I can’t pretend to understand the logic. Silly me, I consider an ebook…well…a BOOK, so I’m actually okay with a library policy (or publisher imposed policy) that each ebook can only be checked out by one patron at a time. Therefore I can’t begin to understand why a library copy should be worth three times its print cousin. If the book is popular, buy another copy just like you would the print version. A price structure like that limits the library from doing so, and that limits the reader from having access.

I also just skimmed an article about Scholastic beta testing a proprietary ebook distribution method. When I think proprietary, I think limits. I must say, at this stage of the development of ebook distribution, it surprises me that Scholastic would launch anything proprietary.

Which steps me into my next thought of the day, spurred by an older post of Nathan Bransford, who always gets me thinking. Nathan asked the question, are publishers plagued by a public perception problem? To me there are so many facets to the answer, but what I keep coming back to is the impact on the reader. This is something that has been bothering me – a lot – during the ever-changing publishing industry. The impact the shift has had and will have on the reader.

The industry is fracturing. The big six are pushing back against the changes instead of adapting and staying competitive. They are beginning to lose authors to small presses and self-publishing simply because they are slow, low paying, and offer a piss-poor benefits package for any but the top selling authors. Bookstores, large and small are setting ridiculous rules about the books they carry. Mostly, they refuse to stock books from small publishers or self-published authors using print on demand. I can’t begin to understand the logic when the book publisher offers a return policy. In a culture that is promoting “green and sustainable” practices, why would you insist on buying your inventory from a warehouse with stacks of books instead of simply having a few copies made for your shelf? Quality is no longer an issue. Why impose antiquated limits?

Putting those two practices together, the big six losing authors to small presses and self-publishing and the bookstores refusing to carry such authors, who suffers? READERS. Because now only a limited amount of titles are available to them through their local bookstores. When they hear buzz over a particular title and stop into B&N or their local indie and don’t find it on the shelf, they will turn to AMAZON. They will, people! And when that happens more than once, they’ll stop checking the local shelves and go straight to the online option.

I don’t think the average reader has thought much about what’s going on in publishing. But I feel pretty confident that when the READER finds limits or has to jump over too many fissures to get to what they want, they’ll find an easier way. If you want to keep your customers, you have to adapt and you can’t impose limits. Do you remember in elementary school when you and your closest friends would run out to the playground, gather in a circle and sing, “Tick tock the game is locked and nobody else can play. For if they do we’ll take their shoe and turn them black and blue. Hooray!” I feel like traditional publishing, B&N, Amazon, and indie bookstores – like they are all in their own circle on the playground and not letting anyone else play. But you know what, their readers are outside their circles. Their readers are going to wander off to find someone else to play with.

March 1, 2012

Everybody Has A Story

Happy March!

March came in like a lion here. Snow, high winds, 2 hour school delay. I like knowing that it will go out like a lamb, because that makes me think of spring. When the breeze is a perfect twining of cool and warm drafts. Where the air carries the scent of wet dirt and the sweet notes of chirping birds. Tulips, my favorite flower, will nod and bob on tall, strong stems to the sunny, smiling daffodils. Oh how I love spring and it is so close!

I want to thank all the lovely writers who trusted me to share their stories in February. I had so much fun putting that all together. Oprah Winfrey once said, “Everybody has a story. Everybody.” I’ve always believed that, but it felt so much more real to me last month as I received the guest posts and read them and staged them for posting. As I enjoyed the interaction in the comments and the additional stories shared. I understand better why Oprah does what she does. The posts resonated with readers in so many ways; sparked memories of their own, stoked emotions, stirred thoughts and inspired hope. Thank you to all the keen readers for your time and attention. I hope you enjoyed the month long theme as much as I did.

A Page Away is having a fantastic giveaway. It runs from March 1 – 15, so hurry on over and get yourself signed up. I’ve included a signed copy of The Weaver, but – WOW – she’s offering so many prizes.

Keep your eyes and ears open for more news on the release of SAVE THE LEMMINGS! I’ve got other irons in the fire too, so the next few months should be newsy. At least I hope so.

Toodles J