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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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Interview with children’s author Marsha Diane Arnold

Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “whimsical,” “inspiring,” and “uplifting.” Her books have garnered such honors as Best First Book by a New Author, Smithsonian Notable, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and state Children’s Choice awards. Recent books include GALÁPAGOS GIRL, MAY I COME IN? and LOST. FOUND, a Junior Library Guild selection illustrated by Caldecott medalist Matthew Cordell, which received three starred reviews. Marsha was born and raised in Kansas, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, and now lives with her husband in Alva, Florida, near her family.

For what age audience do you write?

The best stories, those that hold enduring truths, are really for all ages, so  

I like to say I write for all ages. (My publishers usually note my books are for ages 4 to 8.) Before moving to picture books, I wrote an award-winning, syndicated column entitled homegrown treasures. My column was read by grandparents, parents, teens, and toddlers, all sitting together, enjoying “story.”

Mostly, I write picture books. I also write board books, like BABY ANIMALS TAKE A NAP and BABY ANIMALS TAKE A BATH, and am working (from time to time) on a chapter book and middle-grade novel.

Henry: I’m in the same boat. I’ve published only picture books, but am trying my hand at middle-grade.

Tell us about your latest book.

GALÁPAGOS GIRL began as a tiny seed in 2007, when I visited the Galápagos Islands. My naturalist guide was Valentina Cruz, whose family were some of the first inhabitants of the remote island of Floreana in the Galápagos.

Through email and video chats, Valentina shared her adventures growing up on Floreana with her parents and eleven brothers and sisters – stories of living with wild nature, of swimming with sea lions, of finches flying into their house to sample her mother’s homemade jam. Her idyllic life led her to become a biologist and naturalist guide so she could share with the world her knowledge and love of the islands and their unique flora and fauna. She’s the inspiration for my fictional character Valentina in the book.

I’m thankful to have Lee & Low as my publisher and Angela Dominguez as my talented illustrator. GALÁPAGOS GIRL is bilingual with an author note and back matter that includes information on each of the animals mentioned in the book.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

In general, my wish for my readers is that my books give them some whimsy and fun, a lot of enjoyment and entertainment, heaps of inspiration, and something to ponder.

I hope when my readers read GALÁPAGOS GIRL, they will feel the joy of being in nature. From a unique perspective, they will glimpse a way of life different from their own. I hope they’ll close the book with a desire to help keep all wildlife safe.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Those rejections! They always make me question my value as a writer, but eventually, “I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.”

Henry: Yes, the two most valuable author attributes (after writing ability) are being thick-skinned and indefatigable.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I can do it. Being an introvert and filled with self-doubt most of my life, that’s a powerful lesson. Each of us can do it!

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Author visits! What wonderful times I’ve had visiting schools from California to Puerto Rico, from Germany to Kenya. In Alabama, I had to run three miles at a school where they’ve been celebrating THE PUMPKIN RUNNER with a day of races and games for six years! At one Kansas school, they built a tornado on the school’s roof to celebrate THE BRAVEST OF US ALL. One librarian called my visit a “Big Vivid” for the school community, an inspiring memory that will stay with them forever. In truth, my visits to schools have always been “Big Vivids” for me.

Henry: Run three miles!? Now, that’s a commitment to a school visit!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Think of rewriting as polishing a stone until it’s smooth and bright and beautiful.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I have two that come back to me again and again over the years.

You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.” Taisu Deshimaru

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” Henry Beston

Henry: Lovely

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

No strange rituals here. Maybe a walk in nature, which, sadly, for many today, may seem like a strange ritual.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The power to let everyone see that all humans, all creatures, and all plants are part of a precious web of wonder. Then maybe we’d respect and care for one another as we should.

Henry: I’m reminded of the Tree of Souls in the Avatar movie.

That’s my serious answer. My not-so-serious answer is to be a Teleporter! Is that a word? What fun to be able to transport instantly to any place on this magnificent planet. As inhabitants of Earth, I think it’s our responsibility to experience as much of it as possible. My air miles aren’t stretching far enough, so to be able to instantly move from place to place would come in handy.

Henry: Plus, it would be easier to conduct school visits!

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I must choose naturalist and writer Henry Beston. Afterall, he’s responsible for one of my favorite quotes.

Charles Dickens – because he’s the master of creating fascinating characters and he still influences the way we celebrate Christmas, what with “A Christmas Carol” and all.

J.R.R. Tolkien – for his brilliance.

Wait! That’s not right. I need some women at our salon.

Henry: You had me at Tolkien

Let’s include Emily Dickinson. She won’t take up much space. “I’m Nobody!” she wrote, “how dreary to be Somebody.” I have always loved her poetry.

To round things out, let’s invite two more. Eudora Welty, Pulitzer Prize winner and lovely Southern lady. Her ON WRITING is so readable, so excellent.

Sheila Turnage, another writer who is a master at creating characters, like her Miss Moses LoBeau, would be my living author. I want to learn from Sheila how to write great middle-grade novels.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Dragons, for certain. The Galápagos marine iguanas on the Galápagos reminded me a bit of dragons.

Henry: “My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, THE HOBBIT

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Travel! When I’m traveling, I love to hike, scuba dive, snorkel, and see new sites and sights. I also love being home, surrounded by my family, exploring the rural roads in our golf cart, swimming, and investigating the natural world.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

A Kansas farm girl, protector of nature, lover of family, whose writing was enjoyed by all ages.

Where can readers find your work?

Readers can find my books in libraries, bookstores, and online.

They can find me at www.marshadianearnold.com and www.earthsvoices.wordpress.com and at my course at Children’s Book Academy (http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html )

Thank you, Henry, for inviting me to your website! I had fun answering your questions.

Henry: You’re welcome. Thanks for spending time with us.

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Good Times at San Diego Comic-Con 2018

  1. Arriving at the Convention Center
  2. Horrific tooth creature from Channel Zero: Candle Cove
  3. Amazing Lord of the Rings models from Weta
  4. A stylized Gandalf
  5. The Moose from Chappie resin kit by Weta
  6. Alita Battle Angel
  7. One man’s interpretation of Edna Mode
  8. Cuphead figures
  9. Star Wars trooper
  10. Scary creatures from Sideshow Collectibles
  11. Warhammer Space Marine Blood Raven
  12. Terrifying evil Batman and Robins
  13. Alien vs. Predator
  14. With NY Times bestselling fantasy author Todd McCaffrey
  15. Bioware power armor suits
  16. With children’s authors M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
  17. With children’s editor/author Ed Masessa
  18. Author collaboration panel with Jenni Holm, Matt Holm, M.T. Anderson, Eugene Yelchin
  19. Mars panel with astronaut Leland Melvin and The Martian author Andy Weir
  20. Stargate cosplay
  21. Cosplay knights
  22. Comics panel with Stan Sakai, Cecil Castelucci, and Sergio Aragones
  23. YA/MG Fantasy panel with authors Tomi Adeyemi, Daniel Jose Older, Victoria Schwab, Kiersten White, and Maggie Steifvater
  24. Apocalypse panel with authors Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld, and Andrew Smith
  25. Flame Princess cosplay
  26. With NY Times bestselling authors Peter Clines and Jonathan Maberry
  27. Fearless women author panel with NY Times bestselling fantasy authors Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, Susan Dennard, Victoria Schwab, and Laini Taylor
  28. With NY Times bestselling author Nancy Holder
  29. Star Wars cosplay
  30. Giant Boba Fett display
  31. Animatronic Deadpool’s Super Duper Dance Party
  32. South Park characters. Kenny lives!
  33. Pacific Rim
  34. Dragonball Z
  35. Dragon cosplay
  36. Self-deprecating Deadpool advertising on toilet seat covers
  37. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein panel with Jonathan Maberry, Kiersten White, and Merrie DeStefano
  38. Frankenstein takes the cake
  39. Academy Award winner Sir Richard Taylor (The Lord of the Rings) sculpting in clay.
  40. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Laini Taylor
  41. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Livia Blackburne
  42. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Maggie Stiefvater
  43. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Kevin Hearne
  44. Our fantasy literature panel packed the room
  45. Huge Hot Wheels cars
  46. Life-sized LEGO Aquaman
  47. Life-sized LEGO Thanos
  48. Mantis photobombing the Power Rangers
  49. Personalized Magic the Gathering cards
  50. Dungeons & Dragons panel with Naomi Novik, Delilah Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Ray Feist and R.A. Salvatore
  51. Trump’s Titanz standee
  52. Game of Thrones cosplay Iron Throne wheelchair

53. Children’s Literary Agent panel with Taylor Martindale Kean, Tim Travaglini, Jen Baxter, Kari Sutherland, Thao Le

54. Fantasy Literature panel with Victoria Schwab, Livia Blackburne, Maggie Stiefvater, and Kevin Hearne (Laini Taylor not shown)


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Modern Disney Princesses

There seems to be endless fascination with the Disney princesses. Thanks to Fernanda Suarez ad the mad geniuses at Bored Panda, you can see a modern take on them.

“In recent years, we’ve seen quite a few reimagined ‘modern’ versions of the Disney princesses we grew up loving and admiring. This latest interpretation by Chilean digital artist Fernanda Suarez, however, might be the fairest of them all.

Starting with Snow White back in July, Suarez has gone on to illustrate 7 classic princesses in hip, present-day fashion. These sketched-up smoke shows look like they follow Luxy Hair tutorials on YouTube and shop for clothes at Forever 21. They probably post selfies with their ‘princes’ on Instagram and all agree that NAKED2 is the best eyeshadow palette. Oh yeah, they probably also campaign non-stop on social media for the equal rights of dwarfs, marine wildlife, and big cat conservation.”

#1 Mulan

Mulan

#2 Belle

Belle

#3 Jasmine

Jasmine

#4 Ariel

Ariel

#5 Pocahontas

Pocahontas

#6 Snow White

Snow White

#7 Cinderella

Cinderella


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Interview with author/illustrator/graphic novelist Matt Phelan

Matt Phelan is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including XANDER’S PANDA PARTY by Linda Sue Park, MARILYN’S MONSTER by Michelle Knudsen, and FLORA’S VERY WINDY DAY by Jeanne Birdsall. He is the author/illustrator of the picture books DRUTHERS and PIGNIC, as well as the graphic novels THE STORM IN THE BARN (winner of the Scott O’Dell Award), AROUND THE WORLD, BLUFFTON, the New York Times Bestseller SNOW WHITE, and most recently, IF WENDELL HAD A WALRUS by Lori Mortensen. Matt lives in Pennsylvania.

For what age audience do you write​/illustrate?

I both write and illustrate picture books and middle grade novels (both graphic novels and prose).

Tell us about your latest book.

IF WENDELL HAD A WALRUS by Lori Mortensen is about wishing for a special friend and getting one (but not the one you wished for).

Henry: Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope they laugh a lot and also care about the boys in the story. Finding good friends is an important part of life.

What aspect of writing​ or illustrating​ do you find most challenging?

Illustrating a book written by another author is a wonderful challenge. I feel a responsibility to “get” what the author was intending as well as to add something of my own to the mix.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer​/illustrator​?

No matter how many books you have made, it always feels like the first time.

Henry: That makes sense. You’re creating art, not baking apple pie from a recipe.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer​/illustrator​?

I really enjoy visiting schools and talking to kids directly about the process of making books. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege. And maybe I’ve inspired a future author or illustrator.

Henry: With great power comes great responsibility.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors​ or illustrators​?

Draw and write as much as possible. There are many factors to breaking into publishing that you cannot control. However, the one thing you have 100% control over is your work. And that is the key to breaking into publishing.

Henry: Hone. Your. Craft.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: A plan, and not quite enough time.” — Leonard Bernstein. I have that above the door in my studio.

Henry: That should be the illustrator’s credo. “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” — Woodrow Wilson

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write​/illustrate​?

Is drinking coffee strange? How about a lot of coffee? I tend to stay away from rituals. But I take frequent breaks to play some kind of musical instrument in the studio.

Henry: Coffee is not a strange ritual unless you imbibe it intravenously. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Flying, because it has to be the most fun of the superpowers.

Henry: True, but also fraught will perils. See my interview with Edna Mode on this subject.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Jeanne Birdsall (because she’s brilliant and funny), P.G. Wodehouse (same), and Isak Dinesen (because she could tell us all a fantastic story after dinner).

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully offers: Jeanne Birdsall is an American writer of children’s books. She is known mainly for the “Penderwick sisters”, whose third chronicle was published in 2011. The first, which was her debut novel, won the 2005 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE (1881 – 1975) was an English author and one of the most widely read humourists of the 20th century.

Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (1885 – 1962) was a Danish author. She is best known under her pen names Isak Dinesen, used in English-speaking countries, and Tania Blixen, used in German-speaking countries. 

Blixen is best known for Out of Africa, an account of her life while living in Kenya, and for one of her stories, Babette’s Feast, both of which have been adapted into Academy Award-winning motion pictures.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Medusa is a good one. I’ve always like the Minotaur, too. The Greeks were great at mixing a bit of tragedy with their horrors.

Henry: I’ve always been struck by how flawed their gods were.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing​/illustrating​?

Hanging out with my kids.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

He’s Not Here.

Where can readers find your work?

http://www.mattphelan.com

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Matt.


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WonderCon 2018

I had a great time at WonderCon 2018. Here are some highlights:

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of Midnight Thief, Livia Blackburne

With NY Times bestselling urban fantasy author of Iron Druid, Kevin Hearne.

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor.

With NY Times Newbery honoree author of Babymouse, Jenni Holm.

With “before” and “after” It (Stephen King) clowns.

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of Forgotten Realms, R.A. Salvatore.

With talented picture book author of Interstellar Cinderella, Deborah Underwood

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of A Darker Shade of Magic, Victoria Schwab.

A cosplay jellyfish!

With NY Times bestselling Caldecott medalist kidlit author/illustrator Dan Santat.

With Kim Possible animator Stephen Silver.

Magical Creations panel with (l to r) moderator Maryelizabeth Yturralde and NY Times bestselling fantasy authors Nidhi Chanani, Laini Taylor, Kiersten White, Jessica Cluess, Livia Blackburne.

With Newbery honoree kidlit author/illustrator of Won Ton, Eugene Yelchin.

The Night King from Game of Thrones.

My KidLit author panel with (l to r) Dan Santat, Jenni Holm, Eugene Yelchin, Deborah Underwood and (not shown) Antoinette Portis.

Lest we forget, while we enjoyed WonderCon, millions of others marched in support of gun safety.

 


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Interview with Children’s Author Lee Bennett Hopkins

Lee Bennett Hopkins is recognized as “the world’s most prolific anthologist of poetry for children” by Guinness World Records. He has received the Christopher Award for his BEEN TO YESTERDAYS: POEMS OF A LIFE (Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong). Among many other honors include the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, the Regina Medal, and induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

For what age audience do you write?

I write for all ages. I have written professional books, picture books, novels, poetry, and have compiled over 120 anthologies, including the first I CAN READ POETRY BOOK, SURPRISES (HarperCollins).

Henry: Wow!

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, WORLD MAKE WAY is a collection of especially-commissioned poetry, all inspired by art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, and the world’s most encyclopedic art museum. I was thrilled when I was approached by Abrams Books for Young Readers to engage in this project.

Henry: Who wouldn’t be thrilled?

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Looking at artwork by such masters as Mary Cassatt, Fernando Botero, Winslow Homer, and the contemporary work of Kerry James Marshall, and reading poems written from hearts of America’s greatest poets writing today including Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Carole Boston Weatherford, brings together an aesthetic experience for readers of all ages to appreciate. It is of utmost importance we bring the arts into children’s lives.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Writing of any kind is challenging. Poetry, in particular, is among the most difficult genre, being able to create brief stories with limited words that must fall in place like chords in a symphony. Not only does each word count, each syllable must be thought out.

Henry: Yes. I jokingly send novice rhyming picture book writers to http://www.dontdorhyme.com.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Reaching children to bring books into their lives is not only a powerful lesson, but a powerful responsibility. Reading is powerful. It can change minds, hearts, and generations of being.

Henry: True. “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

My life has been blessed with so many memorable experiences. To reach the age of 80 and have a book such as WORLD MAKE WAY appear is like an out-of-body experience. To be in the Met! To bring poets’ words into the Met! To pair their work with artistic masterpieces. It is as Julie Fogliano writes in “Cat Watching Spider” based on a work by Oide Toko, ‘…all prowl and prance/and teeth and claws”. Centuries after art was produced poets are writing about the artist’s work. What a tribute to our culture.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read, read, read. It will help you find your own voice.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

A favorite quote of mine comes from Langston Hughes’s poem “Dreams: Hold fast to dreams…”. I truly believe if we do hold fast, dreams will come true. Thanks, Lang, for your insight.

Henry: On a first-name basis, are we? Impressive.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

Not really. I am very intense at whatever I’m writing.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To bring peace to the world, to have each and every person treated with respect and dignity, to be a world of one.

Henry: You have my vote.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg. We could possibly change the world before dessert.

Henry: I would happily cook that dinner for you.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Shop! And shop I do.

Henry: Like a boss.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

R.I.P. – He Rests In Poetry.

Henry: Well played, sir.

Where can readers find your work?

See my site at http://www.leebennetthopkins.com

Henry: Thank you for spending time with us!