Edmund Pickle Chin Blog Tour — A Donkey Interview

edmund-cover-600x900Edmund Pickle Chin: A Donkey Rescue Story

Clara Bowman-Jahn and Susan April Elwood, Authors

Lynne Bendoly, Illustrator

eTreasures Publishing, April 26, 2014

Suitable for ages: 4-10

Theme: Animal Rescue

Today you are in for a special treat. I am the fifth stop or the tail end of the donkey blog tour!  I have the pleasure of interviewing the star of the book, Edmund Pedro Pickle Chin Big Head Ed Elwood. He is 10 years old and lives at Everymay Farm, a non-profit rescue for farm animals in rural Georgia. It was founded by Susan and Tom Elwood in 2007. According to Susan,  Edmund stands watch over the smaller critters and has become their protectors. He even tolerates goat head blows to the chest and waits to eat until the other animals have finished. Susan says, he can also be quite comical when people are around. Although he is still very shy, he will  “curl his upper lip or blow donkey boogers on well-meaning visitors. What do  you expect, he’s an ass!”

I think it’s time to turn the  spotlight on Edmund and hear what he has to say.  So, here’s Edmund…

Edmund, you are such a charmer with that great big donkey smile. What do you think about having a book written about you?

[E] GREAT! I feel I should have hoof printed the contract, but feel really good about what Susan and Clara have created.  Susan tells me the book will raise children’s awareness of patience and compassion towards one another and animals. Plus, it will hopefully help my animal friends here on the farm, so it feels right.

Do you like your name?  Do you know words? Are you a celebrity in town?

[E] I LOVE my names. In fact I have many nicknames as you will find out in MY book! Which one I like best is a hard question. EDMUND, is probably my favorite. I know it and respond to it when Susan calls to me. That’s not the only word I know — cookie, apple, Lambert and “let’s get some grain.” This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but I bet the goats don’t know that many words. We donkeys love to talk! As for being a celebrity, the farm isn’t open to the public, so my fans are limited. I am secretly waiting for my first fan mail!

What was it like for you to come to Everymay Farm? Were you afraid?

[E] I wasn’t sad to leave the last farm, because as the book tells, it wasn’t a very nice place for me. I was scared because I didn’t know if my new home would be better. I had been moved around before, and I wasn’t wanted at any of my past homes. After just one night at Evermay, I knew I was going to love it there. I wasn’t tied to a tree! I could run around if I wanted, and I did!!!

How long did it take for you to trust people?

I trust Susan, but I’m still nervous around strangers, especially the person who comes every so often and pokes me with needles “for my own good.”  Don’t get me started on the one that comes over with a sack full of tools used on my feet. I try really hard to put up with them because Susan is there, and she promises she’ll never to let anyone ever mistreat me again. I also have a friend named Scott who brings me apples. I bellow when I see his truck coming down the road and always meet him at the fence. He calls Evermay the “Hilton” for unwanted animals, but I don’t know what a Hilton is. I do know what it feels like to be wanted.

What is the favorite song that Susan sings to you? Do you have a favorite song for Susan?

[E] Can I be honest…she can’t sing. My ears are big and sensitive like a dog’s. That’s why when the train rolls by or a siren goes off, I bellow like a dog barks to block the high-pitched sound from hurting my ears. Her singing is kinda like that, but I know the kid means well. She makes up a song for every critter on the farm.

I’d probably bellow my version of My Girl, by “The Temptations.”  I‘ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…When it’s cold outside, I’ve got “EVERMAY.”

I think I could do a pretty good job with singing Aretha Franklin’s Rescue Me. For the most part though, Susan is the one who sings around here.

How did you feel when other animals started arriving at Everymay? Were you jealous, excited or anxious?

[E] I had been with other animals where I was before and I chased them. That is why my previous owners tied me to a tree. When Everymay started to grow and new animals arrived, I got excited. Susan taught me patience by introducing me to one new friend at a time. I’m always very excited to have furry friends!

I hear that you are an ambassador for the farm. What do you do?

[E] I’ve been called the poster child for Evermay. It turns out that I’m quite photogenic. My picture is used a lot on our Facebook page. I meet and greet critters and humans alike here on the farm. The picture book tells a little more about my duties as an ambassador. I don’t want to give to too much away!

Who are your best animal friends?

[E} Lambert the goat is my BFF. He arrived shortly after me and we hit it off right away. Well I might have gotten a little excited over his arrival at first, but I was still learning. I tried to get him to move up the field when he was only three months old. He wasn’t moving fast enough, so I picked the little guy up by the tail. Susan was NOT happy. I wasn’t allowed to be alone with Lambert for a very long time. I don’t want Lambert to leave me again, so I won’t do that anymore. If Lambert is taken away from me, I scream as loud as I can. And, he screams right back! My bellow can be heard a long distance by neighbors.

There is also a miniature mare I am quite fond of. Her name is Bella. We secretly meet by the fence under the elm tree. I could stand there for hours as long as she’s there. She’s so pretty!

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you?

[E] Flies can be very bothersome during Georgia’s hot summers. To help me, Susan bought me a donkey fly mask. When I wore it for the first few times, I had difficultly walking! I kept taking really high steps and even missed my footing. I had to learn to look past the mesh in the mask instead of at the mesh that was so close to my face. Susan said I looked like I had “a few too many.” I’m not sure what she meant by that. You can never  have too many apples.

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What is you favorite foods? How many time do you eat a day?

[E] I graze most of the day with my goat pals. We are fed grain and hay twice a day.  My favorite foods are apples and pears! Susan loves me so much that she planted pear trees. I also get carrots and ginger snaps made from the old family recipe. For the anniversary of my arrival to the farm every year I get a special dessert. This year it was carrot cake, last year apple muffins. In the summer I have watermelon, and I love to blow it out my nostrils when no one is expecting it!

What do you want to say to Susan and Clara?

[E] Thank you for giving me the chance to give back through this joint effort. It’s a grand story! I would also like to thank my illustrator Lynne Bendoly for making me look so adorable! And Susan, you scratch my left side more than the right.

Thank you for the interview. I appreciate your wanting to hear my side of this tale.

Hee Haw…Hee Haw…Hee Haw,

Edmund Pedro Pickle Chin Big Head Ed Elwood

Resources:

Clara Bowman-Jahn author photo(1)Authors Clara-Bowman Jahn and Susan April Elwood encourage you to read everyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA post, follow the blog and comment for prizes. The reader who follows each blog and comments on each stop of the tour will get first prize. And if there are many winners, they will deliver!

First prize is a print book of both Edmund Pickle Chin and Clara’s Annie’s Special Day. Second prize is either a print copy of Edmund or of Annie, you get to pick and finally third prize is a copy of the ebook of Edmund Pickle Chin, a Donkey Rescue Story.

BLOG TOUR DATES

May 26 / animal abuse and mistreatment Joanna -www.joannamarple.com

May 29/ author collaboration Stacy – http://www.stacysjensen.com

May 30/ PPBF and review Vivian – http://viviankirkfield.com/

June 2/ author interview Erik – www.ThisKidReviewsBooks.com

June 4/ Edmund interview Patricia – http://childrensbooksheal.com

June 9 /teacher info and guide Susanna – http://susannahill.blogspot.com

 

Survival Guide Authors Talk About Autism

Survival Guide for Kids with Autism135570190It is my pleasure today to host Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.,  authors of the kid-friendly The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents), published by Free Spirit Publishing in 2012.  Click above to read my review of the book.

Since April has been designated Autism Awareness Month, I thought it may be interesting to hear from two mothers/authors who collaborated to create this practical and informative book for kids.  It is a book that elementary kids can read with parents and middle schoolers can reach for as a friendly guide.   It is a colorful and inviting book that alternates between helpful advice, tips and tools, discussions, role-playing and fun cartoons and graphics.  It is a timeless book that can be used by kids as a resource as they face new and different challenges as they mature.

Elizabteh VerdickElizabeth Verdick

People often ask me, “Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?”  The answer is: “The one I’m writing right now.”  This is true for many writers — we’re excited about our current work, the one we sit down to work on that very day.  As much as we love our published books, we often have our head in the clouds — and our nose to the computer screen — for a new one.

Yet, there’s a book I get as much joy from now as I did while writing it and watching it be designed, illustrated, and published:  The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Perhaps this is because the book is for my own son, who has autism.  Or, perhaps it is because the book gives other parents and their children some of the answers they’re looking for, and the hope they need.  Raising a child with ASD is a lifetime challenge.  More importantly, growing up with autism/Asperger’s and dealing with it day-to-day is a lifetime challenge.  I want to help young people meet these challenges with knowledge, confidence, and a sense of momentum.  Each small step taken leads a child and his or her family on a path to greater success.

It’s been a great pleasure for Dr. Reeve and I to see the interest many grandparents of ASD children have in our book.  These grandparents want to know: “How can I help my grandchild –how can we bond?  How will autism affect my grandchild’s future?  How can I best support my own child along the way?”  Grandparents and other relatives of a child on the spectrum play important, enduring roles in the child’s life — especially when they understand what they’re facing.  We all know the saying, “It takes a village…” and with a child on the spectrum, it really does.

Working with Dr. Reeve, I’ve come to see the critical need for a book for teens and young adults with ASD.  Her tireless dedication to all her patients and to the ASD community inspires me to keep writing.  Plus, my son is in entering the preteen years…I have a lot of work ahead, and much more to learn!

Reeve ElizabethElizabeth Reeve, M.D.

The most overwhelming feeling after publication of the Survival Guide has been gratitude towards my coauthor, who is in the business of writing and has been able to steer me through the entire process.  Now that our book is published and has  had very positive reviews I am motivated to do more.  In one sense, having the “first” book published has made me feel inadequate in that I realize how much there is to say on the topic of “Surviving Autism.”

My colleagues have been very positive about the book, but more importantly I have received fan mail.  I have had some very moving letters from people who have had contact with me in the past who upon seeing the book have taken the time to reconnect.  I also have had letters from complete strangers who have reached out to express how grateful they are for our effort to help families and put a new resource on the market.

My most memorable comment about the book has come from my 24-year-old son who has autism.  His response after reading the book was, “Thanks a lot, Mom — only 10 years too late for me!”  One of my longtime patients in the clinic exclaimed, “Dr. Reeve, I didn’t know you could write.  I thought you just talked.”  Parents appreciate the book because it is colorful and active.  It seems to lend itself very well to being picked up and put down as needed:  a resource to be used repeatedly, rather than as a book that needs to be read straight through.

My hope for future writing is to work with my coauthor to create a second volume to the first book.  Our goal is to write a Survival Gude for adolescents and young adults.  I also have a book I would like to write on my own that explores the complexities of negotiating the mental-health system with a child: I intend to use real patient stories and vignettes.   It is a bit overwhelming to think about writing on my own after all the support I received with this book!

Quote from the book:  “We don’t believe in can’t or never.  If you have ASD, there are some differences between you and other people.  But your life can be about can.  Never say never.”

Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom.  I know many will look forward to your future collaborations on books!  Many adolescents are reaching that age of transition into adulthood, and a volume directed towards their special needs would be valuable.  Best Wishes,  Patricia 

The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob

BlueOceanBob9780982961346_p0_v1_s260x420The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob:  A Journey Begins

Brooks Olbrys, Author

Kevin Keele, Illustrator

Children’s Success Unlimited LLC, Fiction, Mar. 12, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 6-10, Early Chapter Book

Themes:  Ocean Journey, Finding Purpose, Facing Fear and Doubt, Setting Goals, Making Friends, Inspirational

Opening“There once was a boy who lived close to the sea and daydreamed all day about what he might be.  His island was lush and his life wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t content with the things that he had.”

Synopsis:  Bob lives on a beautiful island, but something seems to be missing in his life.  He sets out on a journey with his chatty hummingbird, Xena, to seek guidance from the friendly creatures of the ocean.  He meets Al, a playful dolphin, Doc, a sage turtle, Earl, the clam, and Wallace the walrus.  They all offer Bob wise and sound advice.  Doc helps Bob realize his passion to protect the blue ocean and sea life.   His journey to fulfill his purpose is only beginning as he has to face his doubts and fears.  He meets Mary Marine, the Island of Roses’s leading marine biologist, who gives Bob a series of tests.   She asks Bob to tag a blue whale and document its progress for 30 days.  He encounters his first problem when his boat springs a leak.  He feels hopeless.  Xena, his guardian, is always nearby to warn Bob of danger.   But with the help of his new sea friends, Bob learns to overcome his fears, sets some goals and develop a positive attitude so he can become Mary’s trusted assistant and care for the sea creatures he cherishes.

What I like about this book:  Brooks Olbrys has created an entertaining and engaging early chapter book series for children. The book is beautifully illustrated by Kevin Kelle, whose breathtaking artwork of the ocean and sea life fills every page.  Blue Ocean Bob encourages children to pursue their dreams.  It will spark their imaginations and take them on a journey.  The plot is strong and full of adventure.  The characters are endearing and believable.  Olbrys has written a charming book in lyrical rhyme, which will engage young children who aren’t able to read alone.  Older readers will enjoy the important lessons about finding one’s passion and turning it into his/her purpose.  This is a unique series because Olbrys has used “timeless principles of achievement,” to encourage children to dream big – Think it.  See it.  Believe it.  Achieve it.   Visit Oblrys’s website to learn more about the The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob , preview the first chapter of the book for free, learn about upcoming books in the series and click on the app.

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Father-Son Partnership:   When Brooks Olbrys began writing Blue Ocean Bob, his son, Nicolas, was four years old.  He is now eight.  I want to share a brief interview about their inspiring relationship.

Nicolas has been a great partner on my project.   When I wrote the first five or six stories and was unsure about them, Nicolas was the first one to hear them.  He would give me honest and insightful comments about the characters, action or rhyme.  And we would brainstorm about new characters or storylines.  His most helpful advice was, “Dad, that is pretty good, but it needs to be funnier.”  The messages are important, but won’t get through if they aren’t fun and engaging for kids.  We try to incorporate that humor into the illustrations too.  Nicolas reviews every illustration and I always get his approval before giving the final sign off.  Another comment I love is when he told me “Dad, you are like a really, really good amateur writer.” 

Nicolas also helped with the music that we needed for the trailer and app.  We listened to dozens of samples from the internet and our app developer.  I couldn’t decide.  I told Nicolas if he would help me, I would make him an equity partner in the app project.  That got his attention.  He listened to the four “finalists” and chose one from an internet site.  He said that it was “just too much better” and we went with it.  Later, he asked me “Dad, if I had chosen the other ones, would you have gone with those?  I told him yes, it was his decision.  The music is perfect for the trailer, app and series.  And it is great to have an in-house junior creative director.

Reaching for Rainbows – A uTales e-Book

Reaching for Rainbows

Nessa Morris, Author

Caroline Lee, Illustrator

uTales eBook, May 2012, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 3 and up

Themes: Rainbows, Blind, Visual Impairment, Friendship

Opening “A rainbow,” said Betsy.  “It’s so beautiful.  “Where?  I want to hold it,” said Amelia, who is blind.   Betsy sees a rainbow and describes it to her friend, Amelia.  Amelia wants to touch the rainbow, but Betsy tells her that no one can touch a rainbow because it is just colors.  But, through a surprising twist, Amelia teaches Betsy that you can touch, smell, taste and feel colors in a way Betsy has always taken for granted.

Why I like this book:  Nessa Morris has written a charming book with an inspiring message about a visually impaired girl who teaches her friend how to “see” in her world.  I love this theme!  Nessa’s book will certainly encourage children to think and see in a new way.  Very clever ending.  Kudos to the author.  As you can tell from the cover, Caroline Lee’s illustrations are a feast for the eyes.  Each illustration is simply beautiful and draws the child into the story.

Nessa Morris is the director of a library that serves people with visual impairments. Before becoming a library director, one of Nessa’s favorite jobs was being a children’s librarian.  As the “Storytime Princess,” she enjoyed introducing puppetry to children. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two children.   You can reach her by clicking on her website.

What prompted  you to write about a visually-impaired child?

[N] I work with people who have visual impairments.  I also write stories for children.  Combining the two was natural.  After I realized that there weren’t too many book with visually-impaired children as main characters, I just knew I had to write this story.

Did the rainbow idea come first, or a child who was blind?

[N] The idea of a color-concept story with a visually-impaired main character appealed to me, because the two don’t necessarily seem to go together.  The rainbow came about because it’s the ultimate way to combine colors and yet it’s also difficult to describe on a physical basis since it has no substance.  I tried to think of how I would describe it in detail.  The story just flowed from there.

What was your experience like working with uTales?

[N] I found out about uTales through a member of my critique group.  Sandra Hershenson, who had published her story Annie & Me.  After seeing her story, I felt that Reaching for Rainbows would be a good fit with uTales.  I signed up for a free trial, and read several stories.  Once I was sure that uTales was the route I wanted to take, I pitched the idea to the uTales collaboration group on Facebook.  Caroline Lee was interested in illustrating the story.  She showed me a few of her illustrations, and we agreed to work together.  Caroline did some rough sketches of her ideas.  After we agreed that the story was on the right track, she colored the illustrations, and Reaching for Rainbows truly began to take shape.  Caroline’s illustrations made the rainbow come to life in a tangible way.  Also, the rainbow belonged to both Amelia and Betsy.   I loved the idea that no one can reach a rainbow, but everyone can find a way to hold a rainbow in their heart.  After a bit of minor tweaking, the story was submitted to the uTales editorial panel.  It was accepted and published within a few days after submission.

How has the experienced helped you as an author?  Would you recommend other authors publish on uTales?

As a new author, it’s great to see my work come to life.  The best part is being able to read the story with my three-year-old daughter.  She loves flipping through and “reading” the colors to me.   Publishing on uTales is a much quicker process than with a traditional publisher.  You have the benefit of working one-on-one with an illustrator and the two of you set the pace.  Creating a book with uTales also means that you have greater artistic control over your work than you would have with a traditional publisher.  Since uTales uses an editorial panel, the finished book will be a quality product.  I would definitely recommend that other authors take advantage of the uTales free trial period, review the books and decide whether they feel that uTales publishing is right for them.

About uTales eBooks:   Click here to learn more about uTales children’s ebooks and to sign up for a free trial.  uTales was initiated by Swedish businessman, Nils von Heijne.  Emma Dryden, of drydenbks, oversees the Editorial Quality uTales Panel.  Authors and Illustrators are from all over the world and  form a unique community.

Kristin Hannah Interview – ‘Home Front’

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah, who published her latest novel, Home Front, January 31, 2012, by St. Martens Press.   Her novel spent the first week as #1 on five NYT lists.  Her book is under contract for a movie.  I also will give away one copy of Home Front to a lucky person who leaves a comment by 11:59 p.m. May 9.  I will do a random drawing and announce the winner on  May 10.

Kristin has a surefire hit with her latest gripping novel, Home Front.  She has tackled a harrowing subject about  a wife and mother deployed to war,   For Jolene and Michael Zarkades, there is and emotional toll  on their relationship and family.  Michael,  a criminal defense attorney,  is suddenly thrust into parenting their two daughters,  and creating a stable environment on the home front.  He’s angry at his wife for deploying and never really accepts her military service.  Jolene is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and duty comes first as she heads to the war zone with her best friend Tami.  There they face the atrocities and trauma of war on the front lines.  Tragedy strikes and the reader is catapulted into a story of  love, loss, heroism in war and at home, honor and hope.

Kristin is a master at developing characters, getting inside their minds and touching their core.  Her writing is powerful and emotive.  Kristin is one of those rare authors who is able to get her story out of your head and into your soul.  You are not reading about characters, you are sharing the experience with them.   Home Front will be a story that will linger with you because of its emotional imprint and realism.

I’ve followed Kristin’s career since she began writing, some 20 novels ago.  We finally met and had dinner last spring.  She graciously agreed to let me interview her about her new book.  Welcome Kristin.  It’s nice to speak again.

What inspired you to write Home Front?

[K]  Quite simply, this story was inspired by the nightly news.  As the war in Iraq went on, I watched the stories — night after night — of soldiers lost in battle, wounded, and the stories of their families left behind, waiting for them to return.  As a mother, I was heartbroken for the men and women and their families.  So many of the young soldiers on the news were the same age as my son, and that hit me really hard.  As an American, I was grateful, and as a woman, I began to wonder what it must be like to go off to war and leave your children behind.  I can’t imagine anything that would be more terrifying and difficult.  I realized that I had never read that story, and I wanted to.  I wanted to explore the idea of a woman torn between love and honor.  So I decided to write it.

I never thought about the potentially controversial nature of the themes in Home Front.  I simply set out to write a story about a female mother and soldier who went to war.  Although Michael is fairly anti-military and anti-war, the book is ultimately less political and more personal.  I didn’t set out to take a stance on the war itself.  This was really about supporting and  understanding the troops and realizing the extent of the sacrifices they make.

How do you feel about your book and how would your rate it?

[K] That’s a great question!  Honestly, I am usually the harshest critic of my own work.  Although I work as hard as I can on every book, there are simply some that I end up liking better than others and a few –a very few–that I fall in love with.  Home Front is one of those rare and special books that really ended up better than I imagined it would be.  I’m quite proud of it.  I think that’s because the characters are so real and three-dimensional and the issues raised are so important.  It is a book that comes at a great time.  As Americans, we need to remember to be grateful to and supportive of our troops and their families.

What do you want people to take away from Home Front?

[K]  At is core, Home Front is a novel about two ordinary people who have lost their way over twelve years of marriage and then find themselves separated.  I think this is a story we can all relate to.  You don’t have to be a soldier or even know a soldier to relate to the powerful emotional themes in the book.  We can all imagine how it felt for Jolene to hear her husband say, “I don’t love you anymore,” and we can understand how lost Michael felt after the death of his father.  A marriage is a tricky thing that hangs on hooks both big and small.  Every little thing can matter.  Words spoken and unspoken carry a tremendous weight, and in a way it requires as much commitment and honor to hold a marriage together as to go off to war.  In that way, we all understand sacrifice.  It’s no surprise that I’m a romantic, and to me, there’s nothing more romantic than a husband and wife falling back in love with each other.

That’s what I want people to see in the end–the story of an ordinary marriage tested in an extraordinary way.  And, of course, I hope readers end up with a slightly better understanding of and appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military families.

How much research was involved in writing Home Front?  Did you have contact with the military?

[K]  The research for Home Front almost killed me. :)  I didn’t anticipate that would be the case, either.  I was actually fairly cavalier about this particular aspect.  I mean, I’m a lawyer, so research is something I’m comfortable with, and additionally, I have tackled breast cancer, brain tumors, the Siege of Leningrad, and World War II Russia, and DNA testing to exonerate convicted prisoners.  I didn’t think that the themes and issues in Home Front would require any more research than I was used to.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Researching and writing Home Front, with its military theme, was a mammoth undertaking.  I was a bit like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole, into a world where nothing was the way I imagined it.  I was incredibly lucky to work with CW5 Teresa Burgess, a Black Hawk pilot/wife/mother who was a real lifesaver in the research and understanding department.

Prior to Home Front, I would have said that I understood something about military families–their lives and their service.  But, I was wrong in almost everything.  I only understood the thinnest layer.  I learned so much in the writing of this novel and in researching it.  I went to a deployment ceremony and honestly, I think every American should attend one.  Watching our soldiers preparing to go off to war, and their families standing alongside to say goodbye, really brings their sacrifice into sharp focus.  It is a powerful reminder that whatever one feels about any particular war, we need to always respect and honor our soldiers and their families.   Honestly, I felt a little ashamed that I hadn’t attended one before.  Although, boy, was it difficult.  I was humbled by their pride and strength  in the face of such an undertaking.  It makes you truly consider what heroism is and reminds you to be grateful.

Did you find that the experience of a woman deployed different from a man being deployed?

[K]  Yes, I think  it’s very different, and those differences were important to me.  As you know, I write about women’s issues and women’s lives, so I guess it’s not surprising that I came to this topic.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a mother/soldier to leave her children and go off to war.

The parallel story of Michael defending a soldier with PTSD in a criminal case, while Jolene was dealing with PTSD, was brilliant!  Did you have that in mind from the start?

[K]  Thanks!  That was a really lucky stroke, coming up with that.   And yes, it existed almost from the beginning (at least from the time Michael existed).  I came up with it because I wanted to educate the reader–and by extension, Michael–about PTSD without having to worry about being author intrusive or boring.  The depiction of PTSD is one of the most important and relevant portions of the book.  I tried to really bring it home in a way that allowed readers to understand how it feels to suffer the symptoms.  I also tried to inform–this was the point of the Keller trial.  The reader learns the truth of PTSD along with Michael.  ultimately, one of the points of the novel is a reminder to all of us.  As a nation we have to care for our soldiers upon their return.  It’s just that simple.

What is your writing process?

[K]  My writing process is extremely burdensome and time-consuming.  I have spent years trying to pare it down, to be “smarter” from the beginning, and none of it seems to work for me.  No matter how much research I do, I never seem to quite nail the right story from the start.  Nonetheless, I begin with either a theme or an issue.  In the case of Home Front, it was an issue.  I wanted to write a story about the price of deployment on a wife/soldier/mother.  We have all read about ment going off to war and women staying on the home front; I wanted to turn the story on its head and make it about a woman.  That idea obviously leads to dozens of potential story lines.  It began as a story about sisters, then about an estranged father/daughter, and ultimately became about Jolene and Michael’s crumbling marriage and their frightened children.  As you know, I write longhand–often sitting on the beach.  Then my fabulous assistant, Kim,  types up my pages and hands them to me.  It is normal for me to do as many as twenty drafts.  Half of those drafts are game changers–characters, settings, storylines will be changed–and half are more line edit.  It takes me about four months to research, outline and conceive the idea; six months to write the “first” draft; and another five months of editing after that.

How has social media effected you as a writer?

[K]  Early in my writing career, I was isolated and didn’t know what people thought about my books.  I was dragged into the new world of social media kicking and screaming, but the surprising truth is that I like talking to my readers via Facebook and my blog.  (Kristin has a FB following of over 64,000.)  It’s amazing, isn’t it?  And they’re so fun!

After 20 novels, you’ve been approached by the film industry about two of your books?

Yes, Chris Columbus, who is one my favorite director/producers has begun work on Home Front.  I can’t wait to see what he does with it.   He’s such a genius at mixing drama and emotion.  Also, Abigail Breslin, the Oscar-nominated star of Little Miss Sunshine, has optioned The things We Do for Love.   That’s a real reader favorite, so I have high hopes for it.

Any tiny hints about your 2013 novel — inquiring minds will want to know?

[K] LOL!  Nice try.  It’s changing every second, so we’ll see.

Great talking with you again, Patricia!  Thanks so much.

Kristin, thank you for taking time out of your crazy-busy schedule to talk with me about Home Front and all the exciting news you had to share.  Home Front is a powerful novel, and has all the right ingredients to make a compelling movie.  What a great new experience for you.   We will all be standing in line at the theaters when the movies are released!  Best of luck! 

Readers:  Don’t forget to leave a comment, if you want a chance to win a copy of Home Front!  During May, I will be reviewing  books for military families, children,  and veterans.   I also will share information about support programs for families who have lost loved ones.

 

Bella Goes Bump In The Night – Interview with Derek Roché

Derek and Gina Roché,  Authors

Jonathan Ashley, Illustrator

Suitable for: Preschool to 8 yrs

Themes:  Imagination, Night Frights, Courage, Conquering Fear

Opening: “Things that go bump in the night, Giving my poor soul a fright.  Like Zombies and Warlocks, or cold witches brew, Ghoulies and Goblins who’d have me for stew.  Leprechaun, Minotaur, Cyclops — oh my!  Werewoves and Gremlins and Dragons who fly. Things that go bump in the night, giving a poor soul a fright…” 

Bella lays in bed, covers pulled tightly to her chin and tries to fall asleep.  But, her overactive imagination carries her into a world of goblins and dragons. It is there where Bella faces her demons and ends up befriending each one.  Bella is the spunky hero in this charming and witty book.  It is written in verse by the Derek and Gina Roché, and is the first book published in the “Bella the Great” series.  Jonathan Ashley’s illustrations are gorgeous, whimsical, detailed and beautifully capture Bella’s adventures.

Author Interview

Derek and Gina Roché  are the authors of Bella Goes Bump in the Night, under the  logo of “Bella the Great.”   They began writing children’s books to chronicle the daily lives of their two daughters, Isabella (Bella) and Angelia (Gia).  They are classically trained actors, who have studied at Circle in the Square’s Theatre School.  Derek and Gina have been writing for their own enjoyment for some time.  They have used the start in children’s literature to get them motivated to take their writing  in other mediums and genres more seriously.  My interview today is with Derek, as Gina is working on a film in the middle of a jungle in Sri Lanka for three months.

Before I start the interview, I’ve asked Derek to share his efforts to help a boy who has mitochondrial disease.  Zach needs to travel from Pasadena, CA, to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, to see a doctor who specializes in this specific genetic disorder.

Gina and I are trying to help raise the necessary travel funds to get Zach to Columbus for a potentially life-saving consultation with Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo.   We are donating 100 percent of the net profits of our book sales for Bella Goes Bump in the Night, to help raise funds for Zach.  If you go to our website Bella the Great, we have given people multiple options.  You can make a direct donation that will go directly to Zach without making a purchase.  You also can use the button that allows you to donate $15 or more and receive the book as a gift.  Visit 17-year-old Zach on his Facebook page, Big Zach’s Village, to learn more about this remarkable teenager.

What is the inspiration behind “Bella Goes Bump in the Night?”

Our oldest daughter Bella (5 1/2 yrs.) is and continues to be our inspiration for the series.  We’ve now added Gia (2 1/2 yrs.) to our inspiration as well.  Bella Goes Bump in the Night came to us quickly after a talk about monsters with her.  She’s always had an incredibly active imagination (in the best way) and it’s something that we’ve marveled at and continually try to nurture in both our girls.  And, Bella has  contributed to some of the later stories.  She wants to be a knight for Christmas.  She doesn’t want to dress up as a knight.  No, Bella wants to actually receive knighthood.  We’re working on it!  Her current wish to be a knight definitely puts the idea of “Bella the Great” being knighted in the forefront of our minds for an upcoming story.

How has Bella responded to being featured in books?  What is Gia like?

Bella has had positive experiences from the book.  She definitely “gets it.”  The other day I overheard her asking the parent of another small child at the park, if she had “her” book?  I believe it has helped her self-confidence.  There have been times when she’s used it as a tool to ease me into the idea that she’s more capable of doing something than I might have given her credit for.   She has uttered on more than one occasion, “Don’t worry Papa, I’m Bella the Great!”  I am in awe of both girls every day.  Gia is the perfect complement to Bella and our family.  Gia is the one who is going to challenge me and give me gray hair.   Gina and I are truly blessed and excited to see the women they will grow up to be.  They show us true greatness every day.

Why did you decide to self-publish?  Did you find it challenging?

We self-published the first book.  That was the plan from the start.  We didn’t think we had enough time to go the traditional route.  We had some very specific goals and needs.  We felt that doing it ourselves would streamline the process.  As with everything, it had both its pros and cons.  Promotion was a foot to pavement scenario (finger to keyboard more so).  Then through friends we became connected to a variety of outlets.  It was very challenging and disheartening at times.   After the fact, we found a great agent, Mollie Glick with Foundry Literary Media.

How did you get your big break with Apple and publishing  on iTunes, iPhones and iPad? 

It was something we looked into in the early stages, but assumed it would take a good deal of time and capital   As it turned out, Gina had reconnected with a high school classmate who was developing apps with a new focus on children’s content.   He loved our book and approached us about developing it as an app, which he then submitted to Apple.  It’s definitely been our best market.  Apple and iTunes have been amazing and have loved Bella the Great.  We were picked as “New and Noteworthy right out of the gate.  We were featured in the banner on the front page of iTunes when we were simultaneously selected as “What’s Hot.”  We were the number two book, second only to Green Eggs and Ham.   They also honored us with a “Staff Favorite” pick.  It’s been a great run and we’re hoping to get another book out on the platform soon.  We love Apple.  We have sold more digital copies than books.  People have given us such positive feedback, but they don’t follow-up and buy the book.

Your sales and reviews took off like wildfire.  How did you feel about receiving the coveted Kirkus Review?

We owe a great thanks to Apple for recognizing a great children’s book.  We’ve never been in touch with anyone at Apple.  Our developer doesn’t talk to anybody.  He made it clear that they are very protective against the possibility of anyone accusing them of favoritism.   The app is doing well when you consider that we were “nobodies.”  We have a German translation included now with Italian, Hebrew and Chinese ready to be integrated.

We didn’t realize what a great honor it was to be noticed and reviewed by Kirkus.  That was exciting!   It definitely helped us to stay on track with this idea that we were on to something.

What are your thoughts about the future of traditional children’s books and apps?

I am very old-fashioned and don’t believe digital media will do away with real books.  I see the impact first hand.  When the girls and I go to the library or book store, it’s like hunting for buried treasures when we search for books.  We take them home, find our favorites, and read them again and again.  It’s personal and intimate.  I don’t get that with book/apps.  Not even our own.  They’d rather read the real book.  I do see apps as an opportunity for writers who are self-publishing or are with smaller imprints.  It can give them that extra little push to get them on board.

What’s next for Derek and Gina?

We have 10 Bella books written with several more story lines in the works, and a stable of non-Bella books too, both written and in their infancy.  We definitely plan on putting more Bella books on iTunes.   We’re working on the second of two new Bella books that our agent will submit to publishers based on earlier feedback.

Thank you Derek for sharing your unique journey with us,  from self-publishing to being the second popular app on iTunes.   I hope you sell a lot of books so that you can raise the funds needed to send Zach to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.  You have a big heart!  Blessings to all,  Patricia  

Oh, What a Christmas! by Michael Garland

Michael Garland, author and illustrator

Scholastic Press, September 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Preschool and up

Synopsis:  Everything started off the same magical way Christmas always does.  Santa and his reindeer took off from the North Pole, loaded with presents for all the boys and girls around the world.  Now, Dasher!  Now Dancer!  Now Prancer and Vixen!  On, Comet!  On, Cupid!  On, Donner and Blitzen!  Santa called out as the sleigh raced across the starry sky.  Then POP! RIP! S-T-R-E-T-C-H!  The harness that attached the reindeer to Santa’s sleigh was tearing.  With one final BOING! it snapped in two!  Ho! Ho! –oh, no!” 

The reindeer fly off into the night.  Santa and his sleigh full of toys plummet to the earth and crash into the side of a barn.  A sleepy sheep peers from the barn…along with  a pig, a goat, two cows,  a horse and a hound dog.  Santa’s eyes twinkle as he surveys the barnyard animals.  Maybe he has found a solution so the children of the world won’t be disappointed.  This is a wild and adventurous Christmas Eve sleigh ride, packed with a lot of humor, sound and action!

Author Interview With Michael Garland…

Michael Garland writes and illustrates Christmas books that are bold, colorful, expressive and beautiful eye-poppers. They will delight children of all ages.  Oh, What A Christmas! is no exception.  I am happy to have Michael join us to talk about his craft.

What was the inspiration behind “Oh, What A Christmas!” and what do you want young readers to take away from this story? 

The inspiration came from the seed of an idea.  What if Christmas didn’t go as planned  What if Santa’s journey was derailed somehow?  I want young readers to use their imaginations and think what they would do in Santa’s place.  The inspiration for my other Christmas books is the same, to invent some new piece of Christmas mythology that will be exciting and interesting to children and add to the enjoyment of the holiday.

Explain how you illustrated “Oh, What A Christmas!”   What methods do you use in your illustrations?

I start all my books with quick thumbnail sketches that form the layout dummy.  Then I make a refined dummy with more finished sketches before I present it to the publisher as a proposal.  The publisher, editor and art director add their input.  When that’s all done, I start rendering the final art.  I scan my sketches into my Mac computer.  I scale them to size and begin painting them in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.  I also use scanned textures, patterns and old engravings as part of the overall work.

Was Christmas a special time for you as a child?  Do you have a special memory, story or tradition you’d like to share?

The anticipation of Christmas was always the best part.  My Christmas memories are all about family.  Buying presents for my brothers, sister and parents.  Making a wish list for myself.  We would always decorate the tree together.  My 86-year-old mother still creates beautiful handmade ornaments that benefit her church.

When did you realize you could draw?  Did someone special encourage you?

From as early as I can remember, I could draw.  My parents were the first to encourage me with lavish praise, but it wasn’t until I arrived at kindergarten, that I realized I could draw better than anyone else.  The teachers would always hold my drawings up to show the class (never my math test).  It was the thing that set me apart from others.  It made me special.

Where have some of the ideas come from for many of your books?

The ideas for my books come out of thin air or from a word or a phrase I may have heard, or an event I may have witnessed.   I have a constant flow of ideas for stories.  For every one idea that gets published, I have five or six worthy, developed concepts that never see the light of day.

What is your most popular book/s or series among children?  How many books have you published this year?

My most  popular book to date has been the Mouse Before Christmas.   Miss Smith and the Incredible Storybook has been my most popular series.  It continues to resonate with teachers, librarians and kids because it is about the adventure of reading.   Miss Smith and the Haunted Library was the first time I made the NY Times best seller list as an author.  I’ve published four books this year:  Super Snow Day, Grandpa’s Tractor, Miss Smith Under the Ocean, and Oh, What A Christmas!

You do a lot of school visits.  What do kids ask you?

I enjoy school visits.  Children want to know where I get my ideas.   I get my ideas from everywhere.  I explain to kids that ideas are like seeds.  You plant them and let them  grow, as if you are a farmer.  They want to know how I make a book, so I show them with my book dummies.  They ask me what is my favorite book.  It is always the one I’m working on at the moment.  I want that book to be the best book I’ve ever done.

You have received fan feedback about the use of your books with children who have special needs.  Would you share those stories?

I received a letter  from the mother of an autistic child.  The boy was never interested in books until he was given Miss Smith and the Incredible Storybook.  For some reason, he made a connection and was able to start the process of learning to read.   He liked to create different voices for the characters.  Another letter came from a teacher of developmentally disabled children.  The teacher would use my book, How Many Mice? as an aid to teach counting, addition and subtraction.  One boy asked about me so often that the teacher contacted me.  We arranged for the boy, his mother and the wonderful teacher to visit my studio.

Are there any new books you are working on that you would like to share?

I have a new book coming out in the spring 2012 called Fish Had A Wish.  It’s about a fish who becomes bored being a fish.  The fish wishes he could be something else, but by the end of the story the fish comes around to thinking that it’s pretty nice to be a fish.  It’s and easy reader meant for early readers.  I’m writing a young adult fantasy novel.   I also have some picture books in the works.

Note:  Michael’s  other Christmas books include Mouse Before Christmas, Christmas Magic, Christmas City, and An Elf for ChristmasHe also illustrated James Patterson’s Santa KidMax Lucado’s Alabaster’s Song, and Gloria Estefan’s The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the BulldogMichael has written and illustrated over 30 books and has illustrated more than 40 books.  He also is an artist who paints beautiful landscapes.  Click on  Michael Garland ‘s web site http://www.garlandpicturebooks.com, for a complete list of books,  information about school visits, and a link to his art gallery.  He is married, has three grown children, and lives in Putnam County, New York.

Thank you Michael for sharing your thoughts and your luminous artwork.  I wish you every success with Oh, What A Christmas!  — Patricia Tilton

“E-mergency” by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer

E-mergency is illustrated and written  by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer.  It was inspired by Ezra, a 15-year-old student and an expert animator, who created a short animation video titled  Alphabet House.  Kids of all ages and adults will enjoy the wit and humor, and laugh out loud when they read E-mergency.  Lichtenheld used ink, pencils and pastels to create his very detailed, bold and colorful illustrations.  Brilliant and funny!

All the letters of the alphabet live together in a big house.   The letters  rush downstairs for breakfast one morning, when E tumbles down the stairs.  It’s an E-mergengy!  A takes action and asks J to call 911.  The EMT’s arrive and take E to the hospital.  But, who will take E‘s place?  The obvious choice is O, who is well-rounded.  All the letters jump into action.  An announcement is made on television shows and in newspapers to alert the public that E is out of service and O will stand in.  “Pormanont injury could occur if pooplo uso E.”  D and C “travol to Washington to alort the govornmont.”  For some reason, E, is not recovering and the other letters must find the culprit who has been “disoboying tho lottor law!”  E-mergency is a cleverly crafted and illustrated book.

Author Interview With Tom Lichtenheld

Tom has joined us today to discuss the intriguing story behind E-mergency and his collaboration with Ezra Fields-Meyer.   Released Oct. 19 by Chronicle Books,  E-mergency has been named one of the Best Picture Books for 2011.  It also received a starred review the Booklist.  He is the author of 15 books, three of which have been NYT bestsellers:  Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, Shark Vs. Train and Duck! Rabbit!  

How did you first learn about Ezra and his “Alphabet House” video?

Tom Fields-Meyer, a freelance journalist, decided to write a memoir about raising his son Ezra, who has high-functioning autism. As part f his research, Tom read other memoirs, among them Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.   Tom contacted Amy for advice and mentioned in passing that Ezra had an idea for a children’s book about animals.  Amy mentioned it to me and told me Ezra had done a video on YouTube called Alphabet House.

I viewed the video and was immediately intrigued by the idea of a letter being injured, wondering what would happen as a result.  Of course, everyone knows a person can’t work when they’re in the hospital, so I figured the same would be true of a letter; it would have to be taken out of commission while recovering and temporarily replaced by a substitute letter.  Chaos and hilarity would certainly ensue, especially if the injured letter was ‘E’, the most frequently used letter in the English language.

I contacted Tom and asked if Ezra would be interested in seeing what I could do to extend the story into a book, and he was very excited by the prospect.  From there, I wrote a first draft, sketched out the first half of the book, and put together a proposal for Victoria Rock, my editor at Chronicle Books.  Victoria loved the idea, so we were off and running.

Did you work closely with Ezra, and did he have specific ideas about what he wanted incorporated into the book?

Ezra’s big contribution was his video, which established the all-important, fundamental idea about of the story; one of the letters getting injured and being taken to the hospital.  From there, I had a pretty clear idea of what would happen as  a result of the mishap, so I wrote the manuscript then sent it to Ezra so he could see it taking shape.  One of the comments  I got from Ezra says a lot about him;  he asked that I give every letter a role in the story.  I took it to heart and, I think, delivered on it.  We’ve never met in person, but we had a wonderful Skype visit after the book was done, and I feel like I know him just from hearing stories from his dad and reading his dad’s book.

Were there any surprises for you?

After the book was done, Ezra went over it with his uniquely  analytical eye and, of course, found a couple of minor inconsistencies.  For instance, the front endpaper introduces the cast of the book, that being an alphabet, including  a question mark and an exclamation mark.  Ezra asked me why the period wasn’t included, since he appears once in the corner of a page.  I had to admit the oversight, but I wasn’t surprised so much as humbled by his exacting analysis.

I’m sure Ezra learned a lot from you, but what did you gain from the collaboration?

As much as I’m thrilled with the book we created together, meeting and learning about Ezra made the process of creating it a uniquely joyful and inspiring experience.  As I read Tom’s book, Following Ezra, I sent occasional notes to him about what I was learning.

  • I learned that The Social Contract, that unwritten agreement that allows societies to live in relative harmony, is a dauntingly complicated and contradictory arrangement when seen through the eyes of a literalist.
  • It occurred to me that people with autism are just doing in the extreme what the rest of us are doing every day; trying to find order in a disorderly world and seeking experiences that make us feel alive.
  • I remember thinking this after I read “The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime,” and learning about Ezra confirmed it;  we all exhibit traits of autism to varying degrees.  Who among us hasn’t been limited by some kind of social awkwardness, lack of self-awareness or irrational, ritualistic behavior?  Speaking for myself, there are times when I’ve felt like Ezra might be not only more well-adjusted than I am, but also more insightful!
  • I gained a new respect for Judaism, for its emphasis on memory, rituals, and healing a broken world.
  • Most of all, Following Ezra made me realize the healing power of patience, creativity, family, and community.

The Wall Street Journal  recently published an article written by Tom Fields-Meyer called “Embracing Ezra.”

Is Ezra still creating animations?  Is that his dream?

According to his father, Ezra created Alphabet House at age 12.   “Now he’s a tenth grader, and still very interested in animation.  He takes classes at a remarkable program in L.A. called Media Enrichment Academy, which trains special-needs children to use technology to express themselves in all sorts of creative ways.  He spent nearly two years on a detailed parody of the opening title sequence of “The Simpsons.”  He has a great sense of humor and a wonderful talent for drawing funny faces.   More recently he created a short movie based on a Shel Silverstein poem about two cardboard boxes who become friends.   He does dream about a career as an animator.  He also loves animals, and thinks about a career as a zookeeper.  Maybe he’ll end up animating animals.  Or zookeepers.”

What do you like best about your book?

I’d like to think it hits the sweet spot where silliness meets educational value.  I worked with a reading specialist to make sure it includes lots of language lessons within the jokes, so there’s some method to the madness.  If it’s embraced by children and teachers alike, I’ll know I’ve reached my goal.  As far as content goes, my favorite bit is where the letters are gathered around the Liberty Bell and they spell  out “THUD” while one of them says, “It just doosn’t havo tho samo ring to it, doos it?”  I giggled to myself as I drew that one.

Do you have any new books in the works that I can mention?

Yes, I have a book called Zero the Hero, written by Joan Holub, that will be released Feb. 28, 2012.  On my drawing board right now is a super-clever book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Thank you Tom for the interview!  Best wishes to you and Ezra for a successful book launch of E-mergency!  

Patricia

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

Author Interview with Rukhsana Khan

It is my pleasure to interview Rukhsana Khan, an award-winning author and storyteller.  Born in Lahore, Pakistan, she immigrated with her parents and family to Canada at age three.  She is married, has four children, five grandchildren and lives in Toronto. She is the author of 11 books, with others under contract.  Rukhsana says there are few good children’s books about Muslims.  Her goal is to try to humanize Muslims and create more understanding among cultures. She understands what it is like to be bullied as a child. She feels it is important to write multicultural books so kids of all cultures have stories to validate their existence. Wanting Mor, has received a lot international recognition. Rukhsana will travel November 22 to London, as her novel has novel has been nominated for Britain’s Muslim Writer’s Award.

Wanting Mor is based on a true life story.  Where did you find the story and did you know immediately that it was a story you wanted to write?

Wanting Mor was a direct result of another book I wrote called The Roses in My Carpets.  That book was based on a visit with my Afghan refugee foster child in a refugee camp in Peshawar in 1991/2.  With the proceeds of The Roses in my Carpets I sponsored a library in an orphanage in Afghanistan.  Click here to see the new library.   A few years ago they sent me a report on children in crisis and in the report was the story of a girl named ‘Sameela’, whose mother had died during the war, her father got remarried, stepmother didn’t want her so the father took her to the marketplace and left her there.  She ended up living at the orphanage where I sponsored the library.  Actually, it was a story I didn’t want to write at first.  I thought it was too depressing. Then I wrote it as a picture book.  I thought it would be a companion to my Roses in My Carpets book, only from a girl’s perspective.  But it didn’t work as a picture book.  Then one day I was driving down to visit my mom and I heard a girl’s voice say, “I thought she was sleeping.”  That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it means I need to drop all my other projects and write this book right now.  That became the first line in Wanting Mor.

Were you surprised with the success of Wanting Mor?

Yes, I am surprised by the success of Wanting Mor.  When I was writing it I tossed all caution to the wind and I had no idea if it would ever get published.  I only wanted to find out what would happen to this poor girl.

I shuddered at the thought of Jameela going into an orphanage and wondered if that was a good thing.  What are the orphanages like in Afghanistan?

I have never even been inside Afghanistan.  The orphanage in the story is purely from my imagination, and the pictures I’ve seen of the actual orphanage I sponsored.  But knowing the Afghan culture as I do, I felt pretty strongly that I could represent it in an authentic way.

How does the Afghani culture differ from the nearby Pakistani or the Muslim populations of northwest India?

Yes, indeed.  There are actually quite a few differences between the Pakistani, the NW Indian Muslim, and the Afghani cultures.  The Afghans are a bit more secluded from worldly opinions, I think.  Pakistanis are very influenced by the Indian culture and Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry.

I was happy to see that Jameela, has a cleft lip, as it added so much to the story.  I know that India has the highest number of children born with a cleft lip/palate.  Is this a common deformity among children in Afghanistan?

I’m not sure if it’s a huge problem, but it is definitely a problem.  In writing the story I wanted Jameela to be a deep thinker.  And to be so introspective, you have to be set apart in some ways from the norm.  Unfortunately, being poor and abandoned wouldn’t be enough in Afghanistan, so I wanted to give her a slight deformity.  Nothing too big.

What do you want your readers to take away from Wanting Mor and your other books?

Well, when I was writing Wanting Mor I was really struck by how little Jameela required to be happy.  She has hardly any sense of entitlement.  She literally has only the clothes on her back, and sometimes  a comb.  And, she cherishes them and makes the best of her situation.  And yet, she’s very generous.  When she does acquire some money, she used a lot of it on her friend.  I really want readers to take away a good story from Wanting Mor (and all my books).  They all have things you can take away from them, but I try mostly to focus on just telling a good story.

You’ve been writing children’s books for nearly 20 years.  How hard was it for you to establish yourself? 

It’s been extremely hard to establish myself.  In fact, I still don’t feel established.  I’ve always got a lot of pressure on me to write the next book even better.

Why did it take you a while to write about your culture?

When I first began writing, I thought I had to write about “normal” kids.  I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.  I thought if I do well in establishing myself as a good “normal” writer, then eventually I could write stories nearer to my own experience.  I actually didn’t think such cultural stories would be welcome.  Ironically it was editors who often urged me to send them stories about my culture.  They’d jot down little hand-written notes on their rejection letters.

What was your favorite character to write, and what is your favorite book?

Not sure if I have a favorite character.  I put everything I have into all my books, while I’m writing them, and I love ALL my characters and stories.  But, I do have a favorite book.  It’s Wanting Mor.

You are a talented storyteller.  Did you grow up in a family of storytellers?  Was storytelling something encouraged in your family?  Did you encourage your children to tell stories?

Thank you!   Yes.  I can say that I grew up in a family of storytellers, though none of them were paid for their performances.  None of them are professional storytellers.  People who meet my father and mother are often charmed by their storytelling abilities.  They’re almost a comedy tag team.  Very,very funny!  I grew up hearing my father read the Quran (our holy book) to us, and telling us stories of when he was a kid growing up in Pakistan.  My book Silly Chicken is almost entirely from my mom.  She told me a story of this really dumb chicken that her mother (my Nani) had.  Everything in the story happened, except it wasn’t a dog who ate the chicken, it was one of the neighbors.  He was a really mean guy.  He stole the chicken and ate her.  When my grandmother found the chicken’s long legs on his garbage pile, she chased him around and hit him with her shoe.  But when I began writing the story, I changed it to a dog who ate the chicken because it’s less political.  *g*   I have encouraged my children to be storytellers, but they’ve chosen a much more private life.

I know after hearing you speak at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference last August, that you have a wonderful sense of humor.  Do you have a preference in writing humor over something more serious?

I do love humorous books!  And yet my son says I’m better at the tear-jerkers.  Not sure why.  I love both.  It just depends on the story that needs to be told.

Are there any new books in the works that you would like to share?

I’ve been asked by Scholastic Canada, to write a novel based on a character in a short story I wrote for them.  They’ve also asked me to write a historical novel.  I’m working on a sequel  for Wanting Mor, and a story about a girl who goes to Hajj (the big pilgrimage to Mecca).  I’m also working on another picture book idea, something that will be as good as my book Big Red Lollipop, which was chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best picture books of the year, and won the Charlotte Zolotow and Golden Kite awards for best picture book text.

Patricia:  Thank you so much Rukhsana for this interview!  We hope you win the award for Wanting Mor in London next month, and will look forward to your upcoming books.  Congratulations on your new grandson! 

Khan also is the author of the award-winning the Big Red Lollipop, The Roses in My Carpets, Silly Chicken, King of the Skies, and Ruler of the Courtyard.  Check out Rukhsana Khan’s website for information about all of her books, her blog, articles and school presentations.

 

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved