Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Interview with NINJA BUNNY picture book author/illustrator Jennifer Gray Olson

Jennifer Gray Olson is the Author/Illustrator of NINJA BUNNY.  She is a graduate of California State University Fullerton, where she earned her BA degree in art education.  Jennifer enjoys writing in the third person, sarcasm and embarrassing her friends and family by practicing her super awesome ninja moves in public. Her daughter has been trained with deadly effect in the use of carrot nunchaku.


Tell us about your latest book.

NINJA BUNNY is the story of a little bunny trying to find out if he has what it takes to become a SUPER AWESOME NINJA. Is he really ready for the ninja life, especially if it means having to leave his friends behind?

Henry: I think that is a question to which we can all relate.

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

The best way to be super awesome is by being yourself.  And that sometimes you need your friends.  And that bears are scary.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The Writing part.  It doesn’t come naturally to me at all.  I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, it’s almost a daily compulsion.  Writing for me is so much more of a forced activity.  But as with anything, the more I practice, the easier and more enjoyable it’s getting.

Henry: Those darn verbs! And who needs punctuation marks?

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Be flexible. Be positive.” – Mrs. Rand, 1st grade teacher, Susan B. Anthony Elementary.  Mrs. Rand, my son’s first grade teacher, would say this to the students all the time when they would get flustered, disappointed, stressed, etc…  I’ve had those two simple sentences tacked on my studio wall for years and I still say it out loud to myself most days.  It sounds cheesy, I know, but trying to keep a positive attitude can get you through most things in life.  As well as being flexible when dealing new situations or difficult circumstances.  “Trees that don’t bend with the wind won’t last the storm.”  Hey, two quotes for the price of one!!

Henry: On the subject of trees, your writing career has grown into a mighty oak, but you started as a little nut.

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

Not so much when I write, but definitely when I illustrate.  I have to do “warm up” drawings every day before working on an illustration.  I find that when I don’t, my work suffers for it.  I usually post about half of them online, if you care to check them out. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/jennifergrayolson.

Henry: If seen these lapse videography posts. It is fascinating watching an image created before your eyes in seconds.

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

The ability to pause time like Evie from Out of This World. Think what I could get done!! I think author/illustrator Dan Santat must possess this power.

Henry: A common, and understandable wish. I think Dan’s superpower is the ability to instantly metabolize caffeine.

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

Maurice Sendak for sure. Partly because, in my opinion, he was one of the greatest picture book author/ illustrators of all time; but mainly because he was so hilarious and unpredictable.

J.K. Rowling. I’m quite possibly the biggest Harry Potter dork I know (I have the tattoo to prove it).

Theodor Seuss Geisel would have to be there as well. His books are everything I love about children’s literature. He always had the perfect combination of humor and heart. I still tear up when I read the Lorax.

Can Shel Silverstein come for dessert?

Henry: No, Shel is in my literary doghouse for writing the depressingly co-dependent THE GIVING TREE.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

A Ninja Bunny, duh! Bunnies are cute. Ninjas are awesome. Nuff said.

Henry: I fell right into that one. Like a ninja bunny stepping on a rake.

Where can readers find your work?

Readers can find my work at www.jennifergrayolson.com

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Red Bridesmaid (original fantasy flash fiction)

Here’s a fun piece of flash fiction I entered in a contest at the Terrible Minds blog by Chuck Wendig.

Red Bridesmaid by Henry Herz


It felt as if Zanara the Red Sorceress and I were doomed to an eternal struggle. It was a campaign in which our respective strengths afforded neither of us a decisive advantage. She was far more agile and cunning than I, which made it very difficult to catch and subdue her. However, I was physically stronger. And more importantly, I’d studied the magical arts longer. Years ago, and at great risk, I forged an amulet of power that enabled me to cast spells with unusual speed. I attributed more than one arcane dueling victory to my ability to out-cast my opponent.

Today’s hunt through the ancient stony castle was not dissimilar to other encounters with the devious red sorceress. My greater magical firepower allowed me to take the offensive, while Zanara used her fleetness of foot to evade and tire me. I pursued her up a long spiral flight of steps, and felt fatigue seeping into my legs. I reached the landing, pushed open a stout wooden door, and burst into the Great Room. But, it was only in time to see her exit the doorway at the opposite end of the high-ceilinged room.

The Great Room was crowded with chairs, benches and other furniture. I leapt on to the enormous ornately carved dining table, and sprinted across its varnished surface. Tarnished platters and flatware clattered to the floor. I jumped down, reached the doorway, and took a furtive glance down the hallway. No magical missiles hurtled toward me. Instead, a welcome sight greeted me. Zanara was standing at the far end of a long hallway lined with doors and sputtering torches. The doors must have all been locked, or she would have been well gone by that time.

Winded from the chase, I tried intimidation first. “Halt and submit!” I ordered.

“Catch me if you can, old man,” she replied. Old man? That’s just mean-spirited. Then her lips moved in silence, and her hands wove a rapid, elaborate pattern. Recognizing the spell, I pivoted back into the Great Room out of the line of fire, as a hurricane-strength blast of air blew down the hallway. The blast upended some furniture, but dissipated upon reaching the large open space. Before she could flee or cast again, I lunged into the hallway, arms raised.

Grasping my magical amulet in my uplifted left hand, I leveled my right arm at the red sorceress. Flexing my right wrist upward to angle my palm at the target, I uttered the ancient tongue. A concussive blast travelled down the hallway, snuffing out the torches like matches in a strong breeze. But, Zanara was too quick. She’d managed to open the last door, and made good her escape before the shock wave struck.

Cursing in the modern tongue (because cursing in the ancient tongue can unintentionally summon a demon), I sprinted down the hallway to the last door. The cunning witch had locked it behind her. I stepped back with my right leg, then brought it forward hard, delivering a powerful kick just below the knob. The doorjamb splintered and gave way. I entered and then dodged to my right when a potted plant hurtled at my head. The pot smashed into the wall and shattered. Pieces of plant, dirt clods, and pottery shards showered the floor.

“Stand and fight,” I commanded.

“As I recall, you retreated from my last spell,” she retorted. Still, my insult must have touched a nerve, because instead of retreating through the doorway behind her, Zanara narrowed her eyes, raised her arms, and began a summoning spell.

They say the best defense is a good offense, and my magic amulet greatly reduced my spell casting time. I’d get a spell off first, which would probably prevent her from casting. Probably.

The red sorceress completed her summoning spell, and a slack-jawed zombie materialized in front of her. She pointed at me. “Get the wizard,” she ordered the mindless undead. It grunted a crude acknowledgement, and shambled forward, reaching for me. She put her hands on her hips and watched.

I smiled. My amulet-accelerated casting had saved me on more than one occasion, and today was no exception. Before the zombie reached me, I exhaled Freezing Breath at it. The zombie froze solid. Its momentum caused it to fall forward. The poor creature’s frozen body hit the floor and shattered into a hundred pieces.

“Now, where were we?” I said, fascinated by the sight of zombie bits scattered on the floor.

“You were matching wits with a mindless zombie,” she replied. Keeping her eyes on me, she backed toward the open doorway behind her.

“Surely, you’re not going to flee again,” I said.

“What’s the matter,” she replied. “Isn’t your stamina what it used to be?”

What was with the personal insults, I wondered. It was time to finish the pursuit. Again, I grasped my magic amulet, and began a spell.

I raised the amulet with my left hand, and placed my right palm on my right temple. I chanted the ancient words to cast Mind Control on the red sorceress. Once cast, the contest would be over, as she would comply with my thoughts for long enough for me to physically constrain her.

Zanara must have recognized my spell. Quick as lightning, she reached over and grabbed a pewter serving dish. She hurled the plate like a discus at me. I knew that a plate is not as dangerous as, say, an axe, but instinct took over and I dodged to my left. The loss of concentration disrupted the spell.

I cursed, again in the modern tongue.

“What’s the matter, Xergor? Do you find me distracting?” she asked with one hand on her hip. Without waiting for a response, she spun and ran out the door. I pursued her.

We found ourselves in the kitchen. It was dusty and cluttered. Dirty dishes were piled in the sink, and the ashes of old fires had not been swept out of the fireplace. A simple square wooden table sat in the center of the room, but its top was not visible under a pile of foodstuffs, empty sacks, and a coil of rope. There were four tall chairs, one placed at each side of the table. In the corner was a bucket of soapy water, and against the wall near it leaned a well-worn mop.

At that moment, the most appealing feature of the room was that it had only one doorway, and I stood in it. Zanara was on the other side of the room near the corner. I took a moment to savor her predicament. “Well, looks like your back is to the wall,” I teased.

“When I’m finished with you, your back will be on the ground,” she retorted, never at a loss for words.

Now for the finish, I thought. I spread my arms wide and began chanting. Victory would soon be mine.

Zanara was cornered. We both knew she was out of options. She couldn’t flee, she couldn’t cast faster than I, and she couldn’t win a physical confrontation. Nevertheless, her eyes blazed and she remained defiant. She grabbed the mop in her right hand to use as a crude club. A frying pan in her left hand served as a makeshift shield. I gave her a nod of grudging acknowledgement.

A final time, I raised the amulet in my left hand. I squatted to grab a pinch of dust from the floor. Zanara spewed invective, including biologically impossible theories about my lineage, but I was not distracted. I uttered the ancient words to cast Blinding Dust and charged at her.

Fast as a mongoose grabs a snake, the red sorceress raised the shield to her eyes, and kicked over the bucket of water. In hindsight, my choice of spells could have been better. The Blinding Dust obscured my vision, and I lost my footing on the wet floor as I charged her.

I fell with little grace, and banged my head on the floor. While I was prone, the red sorceress leapt on top of me, pinning my arms to the ground with her knees. Her hands were free to grab my collar.

Maintaining a firm grip, she leaned her face close to mine and said, “I win. It’s your turn to clean the kitchen, Xergor.”


Interview with NY Times bestselling picture book author Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author of over 18 books for children, including two Caldecott-Honor-winning collaborations with Jon Klassen: SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE and EXTRA YARN, which also won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award. He writes the Brixton Brothers series of mystery novels and, with Jory John, THE TERRIBLE TWO.


For what age audience do you write?

I write mostly picture books and some novels for kids too. People on airplanes often ask me what ages I write for, and I don’t think I can answer it the way they want me to. I think a good picture book can have a floor—an age below which it can’t be understood—but not a ceiling. I wish picture books were labeled the way board games are—4 and up, 8 and up. A good picture book should never make a reader feel infantilized, no matter how old she is.

Henry: Bravo!

Tell us about your latest book.

It’s called SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE, and it’s illustrated by Jon Klassen. We did a book together a couple of years ago called EXTRA YARN, and this is our new one. It’s about two kids who dig a hole and don’t find anything. How’s that for a terrible elevator pitch? I’m very proud of it—I like this book very much.

Henry: That’s the second worst elevator pitch ever. The worst is, “My mom liked it.”

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

I don’t subscribe to the utilitarian view of children’s books, the belief that kids’ books must be a delivery mechanism for lessons. Some kids’ stories have tidy morals. So do some adult stories. I didn’t like reading those stories then and I don’t like reading them now. Really I just hope that kids enjoy the book, that it makes them laugh and feel, and, if we’re lucky, that they think about it for a while after the book is closed. Any good piece of art tells us something about what it means to be a person, but usually the truths worth passing on can’t be easily distilled.

Henry: Certainly not in the case of this book. I don’t recall a picture book causing as much discussion.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

It’s hard to sit down and start a painful wrestling match with myself.

Henry: You win some, you lose some.

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

Writing for kids brings me into a lot of schools, where I get to have conversations with kids. I like talking to kids, which is why I write stories for them.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read a lot.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I liked this thing Stravinsky said enough to write it down: “I simply cannot write what they want from me—that is, repeat myself—repeat anyone else you like, only not yourself!—for that is how people write themselves out.”

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

Most of my rituals—tea making, laundry, pacing—are designed to postpone the eventuality of writing. None of them is necessary. If I’m actually working I don’t have the brain space to do anything else.

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

Adam Rex, Carson Ellis, and Jon Klassen. They’re good friends and excellent company. I’m not really into reanimating dinner guests. Even if I do love Gogol, I don’t speak Russian, and having a stranger at the table sounds exhausting.

Henry: Forgetting to invite a translator is a rookie mistake. Well played, sir.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I don’t think I want to be buried, but I’ll let you know if I change my mind

Henry: It’s a DIG A HOLE thing, isn’t it? 

Where can readers find your work?

Libraries, bookstores. I don’t know—where else are people looking for books? Cracker Barrel was selling EXTRA YARN, but that might have only been last Christmas. So yeah: libraries and bookstores and maybe Cracker Barrel.

Me with Mac and Jon Klassen at the 2015 LA Times Festival of Books.


This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Famous Paintings Recreated with Playmobil Protagonists

By Adrien Sollier at http://www.boredpanda.com/famous-paintings-playmobil-figures-pierre-adrien-sollier/

With this series I want to pay a contemporary “homage” to the painters I admire and who gave me the passion for painting.

At the very beginning, I used the playmobil toys to create my compositions before starting drawing to get an idea in a small scale of the lights and the proportions of my characters (like the old masters used to do with small clay figurines). I found this little character with Emoji face very universal and interesting. I used their peculiar ranges of motion and stiff expressions to create the ironic and sometimes cynical tone I try to use to confront our behavior, our excesses, our habits, and our very way of life. I’m using this Mister “no body” as an avatar of the human species to tell the story of our era in an offbeat and characterized manner.

I take photos of the plastic toys in the position I want and I inlay them with Photoshop on my computer. Later, I transfer this composition on my canvas by hand drawing. Then I draw all the shadows with a blue wash paint leaving the white spaces of the canvas for the lights. Finally, there comes painting and the light work using my acrylics.

The Persistence of Memory

Mona Lisa

The Last Supper

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Liberty Leading the People

La Laitière

Las Meninas

Le Déjeuner des Canotiers

The Raft of the Medusa


Mme Rivière

The Temptation of Saint Anthony


Interview with Picture Book author Denise Mortensen

Denise Dowling Mortensen is the award-winning author of Good Night Engines, Wake Up Engines, a combination flip book of Good Night Engines/Wake Up Engines, Ohio Thunder, and Bug Patrol, all published by Clarion Books/HMH. When she is not writing, she works as a special education assistant and teaches writing and knitting to elementary students after school. She also mentors aspiring children’s book authors as a council member for the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. She is the mother of five children and lives in New Jersey.


For what age audience do you write?

I write rhyming picture books for children ages 2-8. I recently submitted a longer picture book for older children that took me almost ten years (on and off) to write. It’s an historical fiction piece, which is way different than anything I’ve ever done before. It’s about my adopted sister’s journey from Vietnam to the United States as a boat person in the 1980s. It follows her harrowing journey, five-year separation and ultimate reunion with her mother.  It took me forever to write because, as a writer of short verse, I labor over every single word. I also struggled to find just the right framework for the story and wrote at least ten different versions before I came up with the right one. I’m hoping to hear some good news about it very soon.

Henry: Wow. You are really bending some PB traditions. Good for you!

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book came out in 2013. It’s called Bug Patrol (Clarion/HMH), and it’s illustrated by Cece Bell, who in my mind is one of the funniest illustrators out there. It follows Captain Bob, an adorable police officer, who keeps the peace and rescues bugs as he drives through town in his bug mobile. All of the incidents involve bugs acting in ways that are all-too-familiar to humans: beetles fighting over parking spaces at the mall, crickets keeping the neighbors up too late, ants without manners overindulging on food. Its catchy refrain, “Wee-o, Wee-o, Wee-o, Woo, Bug Mobile coming through,” makes a really fun book to read aloud, especially to groups.

I was inspired to write about bugs because I’m actually terrified of them. My brothers used to chase me around the house and torment me with spiders and other creepy crawlers when I was a little girl. As an adult, I find that bugs seem to gravitate towards me. I’m always the one at a party who will have a beetle crawl up my leg or a spider land in my hair. Once, when I was nine months pregnant, a teenage cashier in the supermarket informed me that I had a cicada sitting on my collar. I think he is probably scarred for life after witnessing my crazy, preggo lady chicken dance. So I wrote Bug Patrol because wanted to avenge this fear of bugs and write a children’s book that would present bugs in a whimsical, totally non-neurotic way.

Henry: I can totally see ants in a traffic jam! And I think you just gave us another picture book idea: Preggo Lady Chicken Dance! Bugs make great subjects for picture books. I recently drafted one about a snoring ladybug.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of writing is finding the discipline to write consistently every day. I’m a busy mom, having raised five children (one still in high school), and I work outside the home. There are always a million and a half physical and mental distractions when I sit down to write: the laundry pile, the dust bunnies, my latest knitting project, family drama, my kids’ texts, and of course all of my social media vices lurking right underneath my computer screen… I could spend an entire day lost in my many random distractions. I find that I write best when I force myself into hermit mode–holed up my room, with the shades drawn, my phone turned off and my butt glued to the chair!

Henry: I feel your pain. I am a self-employed management consultant, and I work out of my home. Or rather, I try to work out of my home when my boys are home from school. Distraction is one of the bête noires of writing.

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

I’ve learned that it’s okay to be neurotic and different. As a writer, especially as a writer of children’s books, you’re constantly going back to the places in your childhood that are both dark and delightful. All of my writing has been inspired by my worst fears and my best memories. I’ve learned to embrace those qualities and use them to create humorous, quirky, tender and meaningful books. I’ve learned to never be afraid to put my creativity out there.

Henry: This is a shorter journey for me than for most adults…

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

Experiencing the joy of hearing a three-year-old recite my picture book verbatim!

Henry: Exactly! I was tickled to hear a two-year old properly pronounce “Nimpentoad”, the protagonist of our eponymously named book.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I have an entire section on my website devoted to advice for aspiring authors http://www.denisemortensen.com/For_Writers.html. However, the best advice I can give is to read as much as you can in whatever genre you’re writing, paying particular attention to character development, plot, dialogue, conflict, resolution, voice, and setting (all of which are present to some degree—even in board books and picture books). You will begin to notice common threads throughout AND you will become an expert on the authors and books in your particular genre. By doing this, you will hopefully develop your craft—and your own unique voice, which is really what gets editors and agents excited.

Henry: The lion is the product of all the zebras it’s eaten. In my case, I’m the product of all the pie I’ve eaten.

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

The ability to predict the title and words of the next #1 New York Times best selling children’s picture book.

Henry: Ha, I see what you did there!

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

Roz Chast (wacky), Tina Fey (wackier), David Sedaris (wackiest). I don’t think much eating would take place at that meal.  

Henry: I’m pretty much seeing a food fight happening. “This is why we can’t have nice things!”

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

When I’m not writing, I like to knit, garden, workout, cook, and spend time with my husband and kids. I probably spend most of my free time knitting. It’s very centering and calming, and I love the challenge of learning new techniques.

Henry: I know what you mean. I used to paint Warhammer fantasy miniatures, and it is very relaxing. Plus, it engages a different part of your brain than speaking.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“She laughed herself to death.”

Or, more accurately, “Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Lover of words, life, and people.”

You can find out more about Denise at www.denisemortensen.com

This interview also appears in the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with Picture Book author Denise Mortensen at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-M2 via @Nimpentoad


Children Spell the Funniest Things

Credit for this post goes to the clever folks at Bored Panda.

Kids are a never-ending source of joy – if not for their boundless energy and joy, then for the hilarious and obliviously inappropriate things that they say and do. These 22 images are hilarious because of the fact that the kids probably have no idea just how raunchy they’re being.

The fact that kids say the darnedest thing has already been very well documented – there are hilarious and brutally honest notes or creepy and inexplicable statements.

My Whole Family

Image credits: imgur.com

Best Cook

Image credits: white-orchid


Image credits: odalaigh


Image credits: draftermath


Image credits: laughingninja.com

I Come In Peace

Image credits: twitter.com

My Goat Is In A Pen

Image credits: imgur.com


Image credits: rbrown34


Image credits: break.com


Image credits: Amanda Da Bast


Image credits: gudatspelling

You Can’t Catch Me

Image credits: deanparry85

Come With Me

Image credits: imgur.com

I Like Pencils

Image credits: buzzfeed.com

Happy Birthday Kurt

Image credits: RhphotoG

Chum Bucket

Image credits: buzzfeed.com


Image credits: buzzfeed.com

The Beach

Image credits: buzzfeed.com

Abraham Lincoln

Image credits: imgur.com


Image credits: imgur.com


Your House

Image credits: twitter.com



Interview with NY Times bestselling PETE THE CAT author Eric Litwin

Eric Litwin is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of PETE THE CAT: I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES and three follow-up adventures. He is also the author of the new musical series THE NUTS. Eric performs all over the world and is a popular keynote speaker on interactive literacy. He is also cofounder of the Learning Groove. His website EricLitwin.com.


For what age audience do you write?

I am interested in beginning readers. However I try to write for children and adults at the same time.

Henry: A good book works for readers of all ages. Witness the timeless appeal of  WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is called THE NUTS, BEDTIME AT THE NUT HOUSE. It is a nutty, fun, musical bedtime story. And, yes there are disco moves.

Henry: It seems only fitting that there would be disco moves in a nut house.

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

I hope they get the message that they are loved unconditionally.

Henry: And that it’s OK to be a little nuts?

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of writing is finding time to sit down and write. I carry and little note pad with me and write ideas and edits on the fly. I also edit and test my stories in front of a live audience.

Henry: I use a note pad too. But trying out stories on a live audience? You are brave!

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

I have learned that books are loved and cherished.

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

People tell me stories about how my books where the first words their child spoke. Or that their child is a reluctant- or non-reader, but they can read my books cover to cover.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write because you love to write.

Henry: Yes. Writing KidLit is not the path to fame and fortune.

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

I would be “Sarcastic Man” with the power to make people laugh and feel lighthearted.

Henry: Ha! I have in my wallet a “Withering Sarcasm” card from Dungeon’s & Dragons. You never know when a little sarcasm will come in handy.

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

Mark Twain so will all laugh. Neil Gaiman because he is so cool. And, Elmore Leonard so I can hear more about how he writes so well.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully elaborates: “Elmore John Leonard, Jr. was an American novelist and screenwriter. His earliest novels, published in the 1950s, were Westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures.

Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, and Rum Punch (adapted for the movie Jackie Brown). Leonard’s writings include short stories that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the FX television series Justified.”

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

I perform around 200 shows a year and so travel a great deal. I also like to eat eggplant parmesan and drink decaf café Americanos.

Henry: 200 shows a year!? It’s amazing you have time to write anything. Or eat eggplant parmesan.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

It takes a silly man to sing a silly song.

Henry: It does indeed, which is why the world needs silly men.

Where can readers find your work?

My website http://www.ericlitwin.com

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with NY Times bestselling author Eric Litwin at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-JB via @Nimpentoad

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Hilarious KidLit Mashups

Here is a wickedly clever mashup of picture book characters by Marc Tyler Nobleman, Derek Wolfford and Tim Connor.

Authors and illustrators of books for young people have come together. Well, not them…their creations.

In 2013, a phrase fusing two popular children’s book titles skidded into my head: “I Want My Cat in the Hat Back.” Perpetual tip of the hat to Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back) and Dr. Seuss (The Cat in the Hat).

It was immediately followed by an image, which a talented designer friend named Tim Connor kindly made real:

Next thing I knew, I was hunting for other recurring words in titles of other beloved children’s and YA books to brainstorm more “merged sequels.”

The results feature a madcap mix of time-tested classics and modern favorites (plus one I wrote, because it worked). Another savvy designer friend, Derek Wolfford, generously agreed to produce the sixteen concepts I came up with.

Twice upon a time…

See the rest of these clever mashups at http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/09/kidlit-mashups-aka-merged-childrens.html


Interview with picture book author Deb Lund

Deb Lund is the author of Harcourt’s best-selling picture dinobooks and MONSTERS ON MACHINES. She’s a writing teacher, creativity coach, and creator of FICTION MAGIC: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers, a boxed-set of 54 cards and a guidebook to be released in October. The card “tricks” help intensify the tension in your stories as the creativity-coaching “tips” help reduce the tension in your writing life. It’s like having two decks in one!

Lutheran - Deb Lund

For what age audience do you write?

My published books are all picture books, and I’ve just completed an upper middle-grade historical fantasy that takes place in Portugal in 1762. I’m also working on a YA series and an adult novel.

Henry: Wow, you are working across a wide spectrum of audiences.

Tell us about your latest book.

DINOSOARING joined DINOSAILORS and ALL ABOARD THE DINOTRAIN. This has been a popular series about gargantuan dino goofballs who take off on adventures. So far they’ve traveled by boat, train, and airplane.

Henry: Well, after getting seasick in DINOSAILORS, I can see why they’d explore alternative means of transportation.

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

Besides enjoying the rollicking rhythms and rhymes, I hope it helps them find their own sense of adventure. A public librarian once told me that my books were never the “behind the couch” books at her house. When I asked what that meant, she said they never minded reading my books over and over. When they got bored with a book, they would stretch their arm over the back of the couch and drop the book behind it. It would take weeks for their kids to figure out what happened to it.

Henry: Ah, I used a similar technique as a child, hiding unwanted parts of my dinner under the plate or napkin.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

For me, the most challenging aspect of being a writer is carving out time. While I’ve learned to create fairly well in the middle of chaos, I need to deal better with distractions. I love new thoughts and ideas, and I enjoy revision, but my mind is always whirring away and picking up cues from this and that. It’s amazing how much I get done at times with all the competition going on in my brain!

Henry: Yes, operating from within the eye of a swirling vortex of kid chaos – the bane of all work-from-home parents.

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

Just one? How about a few? Hard work pays off. Being stubborn is an asset. I am not alone. Anxiety and blocks are part of the creative process. I have gifts to share with others.

Henry: Thank you for sharing them!

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

Seeing that first giant-sized hardcover book arrive with a big dinosaur face on the front, and under that face, a name exactly like mine.

Henry: Yes, that thrill of seeing your name up in lights like a movie star!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Oh, the usual. Join a critique group, expect rejection, know this will take years, not months. Ask questions. Write, write, write.

Henry: Yes, yes, yes. It is a subjective business, so what someone rejects, someone else may love. Critique groups are very helpful, as is joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) 

Do you have any favorite quotes?

One of my own quotes (that I often use on myself) is “Energy Follow Action.” I even wrote about it for an online magazine. http://www.whidbeylifemagazine.org/creativity-cafe-energy-follows-action/

Henry: “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

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

It depends on what I’m writing, what mood I’m in, or what time of day I’m writing. I might light a candle, sit quietly for a minute before beginning, or even stretch before I get in the chair, but usually, I just sit down and turn on my computer. Nothing too strange here—well, that I’m willing to share!

Henry: No pentagrams or bagpipes here.

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

To be able to access instant energy at any time. I’d love to be up at night, writing away, playing by day, feeling vibrant and alive no matter what else is going on in my life. Oh, how funny. I just realized the connection between this and the quote I mentioned above. See now why I need to use “Energy Follows Action” on myself?

Henry: You’re welcome. 🙂

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

I like walking on our island beaches and trails, meeting with my friends, singing with my amazingly talented husband, goofing off with our three kids, teaching writers of all ages, talking with teachers, and supporting other creative people who are ready to pursue their dreams.

Where can readers find your work?

My books can be obtained from any normal book outlet. I love supporting indie stores, and hope your readers feel the same way. Teaching materials, advice for writers and artists, continuing education classes, and other resources can be found at www.deblund.com

Thank you so much, Henry. It was a pleasure to chat with you, and I wish you and everyone reading these words lots of success with your projects.

Henry: It was a pleasure interviewing you, Deb.

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with picture book author Deb Lund at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-IG  via @Nimpentoad


Interview with Caldecott Honor winning author/illustrator Molly Idle

Molly Idle is the author/illustrator of TEA REX, CAMP REX, and FLORA and the FLAMINGO, which was awarded a Caldecott honor. Her next book, FLORA AND THE PENGUIN will out this fall. This bio is short because Molly feels awkward writing about herself in the third person…


In what genres do you write?

You know, we’re only on the first question, and I’m already stumped Can you believe I’ve never stopped to consider exactly how I would categorize my picture books? I guess that says that I don’t write with a particular genre in mind. But… I do tend to gravitate toward stores that contain a mix of comedy, theatricality, movement, and heart.

Henry: Stumping Molly Idle earns me another SCBWI merit badge. Just like the time I made Ame Dyckman laugh milk out her nose.

Tell us about your latest book.

CAMP REX is the first follow-up book to TEA REX. Like the first REX book, the text reads as a straight forward “how-to” guide (this time, it’s about how-to camp in the great outdoors). The pictures, on the other hand, read more like a “how-NOT-to” guide.

Henry: Hilarity ensues. Seems like a Triceratops would be a handy camping companion for making s’mores.

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

I hope they will get a few good laughs (And maybe some camping tips too…)

Henry: Learning what NOT to do is often as important as learning what to do.

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

Without a doubt, writing is the most difficult for me. Sitting at the computer, word choice, revision… all of it. I’ve spent so much more time honing my skills as a visual artist, that I am much more at ease telling a story visually than verbally. I think that’s why I prefer creating wordless books, or books – like the REX books- that have a very simple, straightforward, deadpan style of narration.

Henry: I would LOVE to do a wordless picture book. The only thing stopping me is a complete lack of illustration skills…

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being an author/illustrator?

Stories take time. They take time to find, time to mull over, time to make, time to tell and retell…

Henry: Very true. And time to sell (at least for me).

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

A few weeks before FLORA AND FLAMINGO was awarded a Caldecott honor- someone sent me a picture of their little girl holding a copy of the book and positively beaming, with the caption “I read it all by myself”. It was her first ever all-by-myself-book. The look of pride and accomplishment and sheer delight on her sweet face… I’ll never forget it.

Henry: Nice.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If it scares you… do it. Now, I don’t mean this piece of advice to apply for every situation. For example: The thought of being out in the open ocean surrounded by giant sharks scares me. I don’t feel compelled to do that. But if I am thinking… “Oh my gawd- this story could be amazing. But … is going to be hard for me to tell- the depth of the work involved is terrifying.” Then, I feel compelled to dive in. It’s good to be a little scared…to go out so far that you can’t touch the bottom… then you have to learn how to swim (sharks optional).

Henry: Thank you for the clarifying shark metaphor to remind us all to stretch as writers. That’s how we grow. And get eaten alive.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It is not because it is difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that it is difficult”— Seneca

Henry: And there’s the similar, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

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

Hmm… You mean like wearing lucky socks? No I don’t really have any strange rituals (or lucky socks for that matter). But, I am surrounded by a strange assortment of wonderful things as I work. Like… a taxidermic rubber chicken, an antique diving helmet and harpoon, my original Muppet Movie lunchbox, elk antlers, and a plethora of pencils, paper and picture books.

Henry: Taxidermic rubber chicken!? Harpoon!? Nothing to see here people. Move along. Move along.

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

I would have the power to stop time- then I’d never miss a deadline, or story time with my kiddos, or the opportunity to take a nap

Henry: That is the most popular answer to the superpower question. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Mermaids. When I was little, I wanted to be one… I’ve always loved the ocean. Though it’s always scared me a bit too. Every time I dip a toe in, whether it’s to collect seashells or surf, I immediately hear the theme from JAWS playing in my head. I think that’s because 1. The film JAWS terrified me as a kid- but I LOVED watching it. 2. We’re so out of our element when we’re underwater. I think being a mermaid would mediate the latter point… not so sure about the former.

Henry: I’m sensing a trend here. Well, it was Shark Week recently on TV… Plus, Molly tells me she’s currently working on a SEA REX. 😉

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

I love to watch classic films Technicolor musicals, film noir, westerns, epics, screwball comedies…

Henry: We must feed our muse.

What would you like it to (accurately) say on your tombstone?

My name. It would be really awful to have my name written inaccurately on my tombstone…

Henry: Good, practical response.

Where can readers find your work?

In libraries, online, and at my favorite local indie Changing Hands Bookstore… and hopefully at your favorite local indie too!!

This interview can also be read on the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with Caldecott Honor winning author/illustrator Molly Idle at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Iw  via @Nimpentoad