Winner of Linda Ashman’s Book-ELLA WHO?

Linda Ashman and her young friends, Mischa and Phoebe were guest collaborators on my blog series, A GREAT NEPHEW AND A GREAT AUNT. On April 21st, readers were delighted with poetry from Linda and illustrations from Mischa and Phoebe. If you missed the post, you can find it HERE. And if being my guest wasn’t enough, Linda generously offered a signed copy of her new book, ELLA WHO?


About the Story: When a baby elephant shows up on moving day, a young girl tries to tell her family. But they’re all so distracted (and, well, clueless), that the elephant slips by unnoticed. A friendship blooms as the two play throughout the day but, alas, the elephant must return home to the animal sanctuary. Fortunately it’s not too far away, and—as the girl discovers—is filled with many more potential playmates.

I counted the comments from readers and used an online random number generator to come up with the lucky winner!

And the winner is …..

Brenda Davis Harsham

Congratulations, Brenda! And a huge thank you to Linda!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Linda’s books…what are you waiting for? I’ve included her bio below so that you can visit her website and become familiar with her work. If you are a writer of picture books, or an aspiring writer of picture books, then you MUST read The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books that is listed in her bio. It is an invaluable resource. I’ve read it through and continue to go back to it for review and inspiration.

Linda’s next book, WILLIAM’S WINTER NAP, is coming October 10, 2017 and is available for pre-order. Click on the adorable cover to read more about this book.

Meet Linda: Linda Ashman is the author of more than thirty-five picture books and the creator of The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. New titles include Ella WHO?, illustrated by Sara Sanchez (Sterling, April 2017) and William’s Winter Nap, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Disney-Hyperion, October 2017). She lives with her family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Twitter: @lindaashman2

Winners of The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer

And we have WINNERS!!!!TheGreenUmbrella-cover-layout.indd

I interviewed Jackie Azúa Kramer in a blog post a couple of weeks ago. She shared about sources of inspiration and we had a drawing for two free books — one copy for the winner chosen by and one copy for a Little Free Library near the winner. The drawing is over but if you missed the post head over and read it by clicking HERE

And the WINNERs are . . . 

Margaret Simon

and the 

Little Free Library in her City Park in New Iberia, LA.


Interview With Jackie Azúa Kramer, Author of The Green Umbrella and a Double Giveaway!

TheGreenUmbrella-cover-layout.inddToday we’re here to celebrate Jackie Azúa Kramer’s upcoming book, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, which will be on shelves January 31, 2017. That’s tomorrow 🙂
**Don’t miss the double giveaway. Details below.

Here’s the synopsis of THE GREEN UMBRELLAWhen Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by a hedgehog, cat, bear, and rabbit―each claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it? Things aren’t always what they seem in this charming tale of imagination, sharing and friendship.

Prepare to be more than delighted with this book. It’s so full of imagination that I believe readers will be inspired to take imaginary adventures of their own.

Speaking of being inspired, it’s a fact that inspiration is a wonderful and necessary part of writing. Jackie wrote a great article for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (SCBWI) and Illustrators Summer 2015 Bulletin. Her article talks about inspiration. For today’s post, Jackie agreed to answer these questions about how she feeds her imagination with sources of inspiration.

PPK: In your article, Light My Fire, in the SCBWI bulletin, you discussed pictures as prompts or inspiration for your writing. Can you share about this source of inspiration?

JAK: I have very strong memories in my childhood, of what I’d call, visual inspiration. As a family we travelled all over the world. Exotic destinations like India, Israel, Venezuela, and Russia, to name a few. Between the people, architecture, clothes, art, food it was a feast for the eyes, not to mention all my other senses.

And the visual muses continued with my fascination in movies and theatre. I grew up close to New York City, and my parents would often take us to Broadway plays. The curtain rises and there are the incredible actors and sets, lighting, costumes and props. And movies…from the Golden Age of Hollywood to foreign and indie films, I can’t get enough.

So when I write, like scenes and acts in a play, I envision the page turns; the sets, costumes and props. As a matter of fact, every story I’ve ever written, I see as a moving image. Here’s one of my favorites—To Kill a

PPK: Pictures are inspiring to me, too, Jackie. I’ve come up with many ideas based on an expression or action conveyed by an image. You mentioned to me that music is another source of inspiration for your writing. I’m curious about this. Could you tell us more?

JAK: Music! I think of the oft-used quote, “If music save the savage beast…” My music, as we have this virtual conversation is a plane flying overhead, birds chirping, dogs barking, kids playing, wind over trees, and more. In my upcoming picture book, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press), a story about loss, and the sensitive questions and emotions between a boy and his father. I listened to sweeping movie soundtracks, A River Runs Through It and Out Of Africa. Here’s a sample:

I call that my writing environment in which I create a mood or a virtual reality.

PPK: So music helps create a mood for writing, as well as your writing environment. Tell us about your writing environment. And do you only write in one environment or do you move around your home or even outside your home? Do different environments inspire different parts of your writing?

JAK: Yes! I often venture out of my home workspace to a bookstore or my lucky local library where I wrote The Green Umbrella. Each place has a unique ambiance. In a secluded corner of the library I look out onto a tree lined street and this beautiful, old church.


And six months out of the year, I love to write outdoors in my beautiful yard, surrounded by trees and flowers, I lovingly refer to it as ‘The Canopy’. My soundtrack becomes birds chirping, dogs barking, kids playing and the wind over trees. How can one help, but be inspired.


PPK: Many writers advise getting out and living life to spark inspiration. How important is this advice in your writing life? How do you employ this advice?

JAK: As Matthew McConaughey said, in Dazed and Confused, “Just keep livin’! L-I-V-I-N!” It’s super important to live the life that one’s given. I call it the three ‘R’s’—refuel, recharge, renew. As creators we tend to work in isolation. In order to give our best, we need to give back to ourselves. Museums are an endless source of inspiration. Both in their 80’s, Matisse’s ‘Cut-Outs’ and Picasso’s ‘Sculptures’, remind me that it’s never too late to learn, and for new possibilities in creative expression.


The three R’s are available to all of us in the smallest of ways. Light a candle, listen to music, take a walk, talk to people. I don’t need to go far. I’m lucky to have a beautiful park in my town.


But every now and then, I have a bout of wanderlust and I’m gone, gone, gone. My partner in crime, and I, get on a plane, rent a car, stay in one town for a couple of days and move on…it’s so freeing. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit my ancestral roots in Spain.


Jackie, thanks so much for sharing about inspiration. I know it will be helpful to writers, both young and young at heart.

Double the Giving, Double the Fun! Giveaway for You and a Little Free Library!

Readers, today is your lucky day because Jackie is giving away two signed copies of THE GREEN UMBRELLA to one lucky winner! One copy is for the winner to keep. And the other copy is to donate to a Little Free Library near you. Little Free Library is near and dear to Jackie and I love that she’s donating a copy to be placed in one of them. If you’re not sure if you have a Little Free Library close by, you can follow this link and perform a quick search to find out—Little Free Library Map. If you want to know more about Little Free Library, head over to their website: Little Free Library. If you win, we need ‘proof of’ with an official charter sign and charter number. All registered LFL’s have them. For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post no later than midnight (CST), Monday, February 6, 2017. I will use to choose a winner. The winner will be announced on Friday, February 10 in my A GREAT NEPHEW AND AND A GREAT AUNT post.

Watch the adorable trailer!

Be sure and check out Jackie’s other blog tour stops. You will learn about this wonderful book and learn more about Jackie. Click HERE to see the schedule and find links to other stops.


Meet Jackie: Jackie earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island.  Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017. The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018). Visit Jackie at:

Other Places to Find Jackie
Twitter @jackiekramer422
Facebook Jackie Azúa Kramer


I thought I had a winner! Wait! I do have a winner!

Winner! Winner! Winner!

bear bookYes! The winner has been determined!

I thought about sending the winner on an around-the-galaxy tour with Prince Zilch! But Prince Zilch has a history of crashing!

I thought about providing the winner with an life-long supply of porridge! But the bears told me that porridge is NOT THAT SPECIAL!

I thought about gifting the winner free enrollment in one of many classes taught by Goldilocks. Classes include:

  • The Art of Breaking and Entering and Bearly Getting Away
  • Porridge-Getting it Just Right
  • The Musical Chairs of Life-How to Avoid a Breakdown
  • Who Needs a Sleep-Number Bed? Three and Counting-So Many Beds, So Little Time!

But none of those prizes would be near as special as . . . . . . .

a signed copy of I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK! And who will be receiving this wonderful prize??? Who was randomly chosen by

Who is the winner??? I thought I told you! I didn’t? Well, it’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

bear book

Buffy Silverman!! Yes, Buffy! You’re the winner!


And thanks to all of you who commented and celebrated with Tara!


Double Your Fun With a Double Dactyl and a Giveaway

On this Poetry Friday, I have a double dactyl and some information about an online course that you won’t want to miss.

poetry friday button

For those of you who know and love Renée LaTulippe and No Water River (her amazingly amazing website), you’ll be thrilled to hear that she will be offering an online writing course starting April 1, 2014! For those of you who don’t know Renée, you must get to know her. And you must visit No Water River which is truly an amazingly amazing website and a gift to children’s literature. No Water River has much to offer. I have a few links on my Poetry Resource page to get you started. You will quickly recognize Renée’s talent and love for writing.

Renée’s course, THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: Punching Up Prose with Poetry is designed for

  • Rhyming PB writers who would like a stronger foundation in the mechanics of poetry
  • Prose PB writers who would like to punch up the lyricism of their writing through poetic techniques
  • Writers who would like to learn more about writing poetry for children

For more information, click HERE.

To celebrate the launch of her course, Renée is giving away one admission to THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: Punching Up Prose with Poetry to be redeemed in the month of the winner’s choosing. Just leave a comment on her blog post HERE letting her know you’d like to be entered. You can enter for yourself or give the course to someone else if you win. Names will be entered into and the winner announced on February 21.

Renée asked me to be a part of the beta class for THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: Punching Up Prose with Poetry. I was thrilled when she asked and even more thrilled as I worked through the lessons. I’ve written poetry since I was a child but I have never studied poetry. I would find myself feeling unsure and shying away from trying new things. By working through Renée’s lessons I gained new knowledge and new confidence. The double dactyl is one form I had been avoiding for a while. I mean a six letter word with all those back-to-back consonants is scary enough. But learning about dactyls and then doubling it…Whoa, Nelly! I have to admit the lesson on dactyls was the most challenging for me. I think because I didn’t understand a lot of the terms in the rules for constructing double dactyl:

There are two stanzas of four lines each.

  • All lines except Lines 4 and 8 are two dactylic metrical feet in length.
  • Line 1 is a rhyming dactylic nonsense phrase such as Higgledy piggledy.
  • Line 2 usually introduces the topic of the poem, either a person or place. Note that the topic needs to be a dactyl, like the name Hans Christian Anderson.
  • Line 6 should be a six-syllable, double-dactyl word.
  • Lines 4 and 8 consist of one dactyl plus a stressed syllable.
  • Lines 4 and 8 rhyme. None of the other lines need to rhyme.

But after Renée’s lesson, I finally knuckled down and wrote my first double dactyl. 

Purramew Kittynips

Purramew Kittynips,
Lickity Milkylips,
Kneaded her paws as she
Prowled through the house

Hot on a rodent’s trail,
Ended the happy tail—
Snoozed on a rug with a
Belly of mouse.

Looky there, Renée’s bite-size lessons were just what I needed to lessen my stress about stresses and to dip my metrical foot 😉 into the world of double dactyls.

You can see that I’m excited about writing a double dactyl. But since I write write picture books for the most part, in rhyme and in prose, I’m even more excited about what this course will bring to the language in my manuscripts. So make sure you head over to No Water River to read all about THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: Punching Up Prose and enter the GIVEAWAY. While you’re there, visit the other Poetry Friday links. It’s a wonderful way to spend your Friday.

Blog Tour and Picture Book Critique Giveaway-RATGIRL: Song of the Viper by Gayle C. Krause

Today I am happy to have Gayle  C. Krause as a guest on my blog.

photo (1)Her debut YA novel, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper, will be released this month! How exciting! Want to know something else exciting…you can win a free picture book critique. Details to follow.

Although RATGIRL is YA, Gayle is more than qualified to critique picture books as she has a successful, published picture book. I own Gayle’s picture book, ROCK STAR SANTA, and it is one you will want to read again and again.

I have seen more than a taste of Gayle’s creativity and talent as we are both in The Poets’ Garage, a children’s poetry critique group.

Read on to learn more about RATGIRL, and two lies and a truth about Gayle herself. Take it away Gayle.

Penny has mentioned that most of you are picture book enthusiasts and she has asked me to tailor my post to your interest. I think I can do that, as my first published book was a picture book. It’s titled ROCK STAR SANTA. A rhyming seasonal story, it was contracted as an original Scholastic Book Club selection in 2008 and has gone on to be a perennial favorite, selling over 139,000 copies to date.

I hope my second book, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper, will do as well. Here is a brief synopsis:

This urban fantasy is filled with betrayal, revenge and hope. Part thriller, part mystery, part love story, it has something for every reader.

Streetwise orphan, Jax Stone, is an expert at surviving in a dangerous city, where the rich have fled to the New Continent, and the deadly daytime sun forces the middle class to live in abandoned sewer tunnels and subway stations. But she and the other homeless must be wary of rats —the furry ones underground that steal their food and invade their shelter, and the human ones above ground, that steal their children and threaten their lives. When the tyrannical mayor kidnaps her little brother, it’s no coincidence. Jax must use every bit of her stamina and intelligence to get him back.

Since family plays a key role in this story, I thought I might concentrate on the original lullaby that Jax sings to Andy every night. It’s crucial in his rescue ,and it could also be found in a children’s picture book.

Close your sleepy eyes. Come rest your weary head.
You will be safe in your comfy, cozy bed.
I will protect you. Sleep without a care,
and know by my love that I always will be there.

These words are crucial to the story, because when Andy is kidnapped Jax was not there. She didn’t lie to him. She was doing what she always does, scavenging for trinkets or valuables to barter, or foraging for food to feed him. But she fears he might think she did.

Which leads me to Two Truths and a Lie. I’m going to list three situations, as related to RATGIRL, and you must guess which one is the lie. Those of you that get it correct will be placed in a drawing for a free picture book critique from First Peek Critique my critique service.

Okay, here goes:

#1 “The rats must know they don’t stand a chance around me. I chase any rat that crosses my path, and if they’re bold enough, or stupid enough to come back, I smash them in the street beneath cinderblocks left scattered from collapsed buildings. But this rat isn’t in the street. He’s in our home. Well, technically, we’re in his.”
— Like Jax, I have smashed rats with cinderblocks.

#2 “I look forward to the joy on Andy’s face when he sees what we have in store for him. The sweet acorn bread baked all day in Cheinstein’s oven contraption, and Astoria said the rabbit Rafe trapped is solar roasting in the rusted kettle grill I’d picked up on an abandoned apartment balcony.”
–I have eaten acorn bread and rabbit cooked in a homemade solar oven.

#3 “Even though the sun blasts the mountain outside, inside the dampness of the ancient cavern is unmistakable.The sun’s warmth must never touch this cave.
The pathway narrows, as the rock face falls off to the left. I run my fingers along the moist earthen wall to guide me.
The path runs up, and then down, sloping gently to a rock floor, where a small opening appears to be a tunnel. I remember following my mother into this tunnel. As a child, I thought nothing about crawling through a dark, narrow tunnel burrowed deep within a mountain, but as an adult, the thought of the weight of the earth above me only adds to my worry about the children and Alder.”
— I have crawled through a dark tunnel, far beneath the earth, feeling my way along a rock wall, precariously dangling on a steep cliff within a mountainside, with only my sense of touch to guide me.

RatGirlFinalMedRatgirl: Song of the Viper

Written by Gayle C. Krause

Noble Young Adult 2013

Synopsis: A dark, gritty retelling of The Pied Piper set in a dystopic future, where a girl uses her hypnotic singing voice to lure rats to their deaths and children to safety. An urban fantasy filled with betrayal, revenge and hope, it’s part thriller, part mystery, and part love story.

Leave your answer in a comment below by midnight (CST), this Monday, February 25. Correct answers will be included in the drawing for a free picture book critique from Gayle.

You can find Gayle HERE at her website, and HERE, The Storyteller’s Scroll, where she blogs. Be sure to continue on Gayle’s blog tour or even play a little catch up if you have missed the previous posts. Here is her schedule.

Gayle C. Krause – The Storyteller’s Scroll
Introduction to RATGIRL: Song of the Viper
Laura Weller – Hey Writers, It pays off! 
Author interview
Sandy Green – The Sandy Side of Life
Guest post about sustainable foods found in RATGIRL: Song of the Viper
Recipe included
Mary Ann Scott – Haunting the Broken Tree
Character Interviews
Elliah Terry – The Itsy Bitsy Writer
Author Interview
Gayle C. Krause – The Storykeeper’s Scroll
Valentine’s Day with the characters from RATGIRL: Song of the Viper
Kim Sabatini – YA author blog
Guest post by author with writing tips
Kip Rechea – Write Travel Eat Repeat
Author interview
Penny Klosterman – ~a penny and her jots~
Two Truths and a Lie – Author Guest Post
Carrie Finison – Storypatch
Author Interview – The Jump from Picture Books to YA
Author Guest post with Writing Tips
Roxanne Werner – Words from Werner’s Woods
The Retelling of Fairy Tales
Suzi Ryan –  A Tale of Two Suzies
Book Review
TBA (somewhere between 2/5 and 3/5) 
Alison Ashley Formento –  Splashing About New Books
Author Interview