Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Writing Contests for September 2020

Erica Verillo compiled this list of writing contests at Published To Death. None of the following 29 writing contests charge an entry fee. The prizes vary from being published to $10,000. The contests include various genres and forms.

Helen Schaible Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet ContestGenre: Poetry. Prize: $50, 2nd Prize $35, 3rd Prize $15, three Honorable Mentions, three Special Recognitions. Deadline: September 1, 2020.

AILACT Essay PrizeGenre: Papers related to the teaching or theory of informal logic or critical thinking, and papers on argumentation theory. Prize: $700 top prize. Deadline: September 1, 2020.

The Sator New Works AwardGenre: Debut book-length work of fiction or non-fiction by an author who identifies as trans or nonbinary. Prize: $2,500 advance and publication. Deadline: September 1, 2020.

American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation PrizesGenre: English translations of poetry, fiction, drama, or literary prose originally written in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, or Swedish by a Scandinavian author born after 1800. Prize: $2,500. Deadline: September 1, 2020.

PEN Prison Writing ContestRestrictions: Anyone incarcerated in a federal, state, or county prison in the year before the September 1 deadline is eligible to enter. Genres: Poetry, fiction, drama, creative nonfiction. Prize: $200 top prize per category. Deadline: September 1, 2020.

Stories Out of SchoolGenre: Flash fiction. The story’s protagonist, or its narrator, must be a K-12 teacher. Stories must be between 6 and 749 words and previously unpublished. Prize: First-prize winners receive $1000; second-prize winners, $500. Deadline: September 1, 2020.

IWSGGenre: Science Fiction. Theme: Dark Matter. Word count: 4500-6000. Prize: The winning stories will be edited and published by Dancing Lemur Press’ imprint Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title. Deadline: September 2, 2020.

#PitMad Pitch Party. #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch. All genres/categories are welcomed. Deadline: September 3, 2020.

On The Premises Short Story Contest. “For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which either a specific scent, or the sense of smell in general, is important to the story.” Prize: Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication. Deadline: September 4, 2020.

Hubert Butler Essay PrizeRestrictions: Open to European Union citizens aged 18+. Genre: Essay on theme “Communal solidarity and individual freedom: antagonists or allies?” 3,000 words max. Prize: Up to 1,000 pounds. Deadline: September 4, 2020.

The Gotham “Manuscript-to-Market” FellowshipRestrictions: Open to people of color who have completed a book manuscript (or nonfiction book proposal) and are ready to go to market with their book. Three fellowships will be offered every year. Prize: Admittance to the Gotham Writers Conference—the panels and presentations as well as a seat at a pitching roundtable with two agents in your genre. The Gotham course How to Get Published or Nonfiction Book Proposal. A one-on-one Agent Evaluation session and a  Query Letter Coaching session, both with a literary agent. Deadline: September 8, 2020.

Young Lions Fiction AwardRestrictions: Open to US citizens 35 years of age or younger. Genre: Novel or a collection of short stories. Each year, five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. Submissions by publisher only. Authors may not submit their own work. Prize: $10,000.00. Deadline: September 11, 2020.

Green Stories Writing CompetitionGenre: Children’s books about building a sustainable society.  Prize: £200 for best pre-school/illustrated book (aimed at age 2-6) and £200 for best novel in young reader’s category. Deadline: September 14, 2020.

Artist Trust: La Salle Storyteller Award. Restrictions: Open to residents of Washington State. Students enrolled in a degree-granting program are ineligible. Genre: Fiction. Grant: $10,000.   Deadline: September 14, 2020.

Toni Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art WritingGenre: Scholarly essay. All work submitted must have been written or published within the last year. Prize: $3,000. Deadline: September 15, 2020.

What’s Your Story? Restrictions: Open to Victorian residents. (Australia) Genre: Poetry, short stories, CNF. Prize: $500. Deadline: September 15, 2020.

Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook PrizeRestrictions: Open to Black poets. Genre: Chapbook-length poetry manuscript. Prize: $500 and publication. Deadline: September 15, 2020.

The QueryLetter:com Writing ContestGenre: Back cover blurb of 100 words or fewer that sets the stage for a novel, establishes the characters, and raises the stakes in a way that makes readers want to find out more. Prize: $500 top prize. Deadline: September 15, 2020.

Harvill Secker Young Translators’ PrizeRestrictions: Open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 34. Genre: Short story translation from Japanese to English. Entrants will translate ‘Yakyoku’ by Yusho Takiguchi. Prize: £1,000.00. Deadline: September 16, 2020.

Three Cheers and a Tiger. Genre: Science fiction/fantasy short story. Prize: Winning stories are published in the December issue of Toasted Cheese. If 50 or fewer eligible entries are received, first place receives a $35 Amazon gift card & second a $10 Amazon gift card. If 51 or more eligible entries are received, first place receives a $50 Amazon gift card, second a $15 Amazon gift card & third a $10 Amazon gift card. Deadline: September 20, 2020. Opens September 18.

Bodley Head/Financial Times Essay PrizeRestrictions: open to anyone between 18 and 35 years old. Genre: “A dynamic, authoritative and lively essay of no more than 3,500 words in English, on any subject.” Prize: £1,500 cash and an e-publication with The Bodley Head, publication in the FT of their winning essay and a mentoring session with The Bodley Head. Two runners-up will win £500 cash each and an e-publication with The Bodley Head. Deadline: September 24, 2020.

Cullman Center FellowshipsFellowship. The Cullman Center’s Selection Committee awards up to 15 fellowships a year to outstanding scholars and writers—academics, independent scholars, journalists, and creative writers. Foreign nationals conversant in English are welcome to apply. Award: A stipend of up to $70,000, an office, a computer, and full access to the Library’s physical and electronic resources. Deadline: September 25, 2020.

Iowa Short Fiction and John Simmons Short Fiction AwardsGenre: Short story collection. The manuscript must be a collection of short stories in English of at least 150 word-processed, double-spaced pages. Prize: Publication by the University of Iowa Press, royalties. Deadline: September 30, 2020.

Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction ContestGenre: Short fiction. Prize: $100. Deadline: September 30, 2020.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is held four times a year. Restrictions: The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits. Genre: Short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Prizes: $1,000, $750, $500, Annual Grand Prize: $5,000.  Deadline: September 30, 2020.

Victoria Literary Festival Writing CompetitionGenre: Short story: 1500 words, taking into consideration the theme of the 2019 VLF festival: Hats Off. Prize: First prize will receive 350 CDN$ with four runners up receiving 50 CDN$ each. Deadline: September 30, 2020.

Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers PrizeRestrictions: Open to writers of Caribbean birth or citizenship, living and working in the Anglophone Caribbean and writing in English, over the age of 18 by 30 September, 2018 and have no previously published a book-length work in the genre in which they are making a submission.Genre: Literary non-fiction work in progress.    Prize: $20,000TT (or the equivalent in US dollars). Deadline: September 30, 2020.

Owl Canyon Press Short Story HackathonGenre: Short story. ” Writers are invited to create and submit a short story consisting of 50 paragraphs. The contest provides the first and last paragraph and the short story writer crafts the rest.” Prize: First prize is $1000, 2nd prize is $500, and 3rd prize is $250 with the winning short story published in an ebook short story anthology for Amazon, as well as an invitation to give a public reading at Inkberry Books in Niwot, CO. Twenty-four (24) Finalists will also have their short stories included in this ebook anthology. Deadline: September 30, 2020.

Michael Marks Awards for Poetry PamphletsRestrictions: Poetry pamphlet. Only pamphlets published in the United Kingdom between September 2018 and this year’s closing date are eligible. Genre: Poetry. Prize: £5,000. Deadline: September 30, 2020.


Interview with children’s book author Ellen Jackson

Ellen is a former child and current member of the fellowship of flawed persons. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and curriculum specialist in L.A. public schools. She’s a freelance writer and author of more than 60 award-winning books for children.


For what age audience do you write?

I write picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, and sometimes books for older children. I’ve written about astronomy, the solstices, animals, tools, earthquakes, law-related education, the U.S. presidents, and described how children lived 1000 years ago. Six of my books are retold folk tales and five are rhyming picture books.

Henry: Impressive! I love rhyming picture books, but they are HARD to write well. I first learned of Ellen via her book BEASTLY BABIES.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, BEASTLY BABIES, was tremendously fun to write. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the zany chaos created by babies–animal babies, that is.

Henry: It’s hard to think of a more cute and kid-friendly topic than baby animals.

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

I mostly hope they laugh and have a good time–and that they enjoy the illustrations. If there’s a message, it’s probably this: When parents are dealing with a nest or pond or den full of babies, hilarity ensues.

Henry: This is particularly true if the parent is a bear and the babies are goslings (MOTHER BRUCE). Or if the parents are birds and the baby is an alligator (FLAP YOUR WINGS).

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

It’s different for every book. In nonfiction, it’s taking a difficult concept or complex event and explaining it in simple words. For fiction, it’s devising the right ending. I’m pretty good at beginnings and middles, but endings are hard. You have to tie up all the loose ends in a satisfying, but original, way.

Henry: I find the beginning, middle, and end difficult to write. Other than that, it’s smooth sailing for me.

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

I’ve learned to pay attention to my intuition and try to be as authentic a person as I can be. There’s an inner resonance I’m looking for in my writing. I try to write the book that only I can write.

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

1. I had an opportunity to visit the top of the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico and see the sun come up—a truly awe-inspiring sight.  I was there to research my book LOOKING FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE (about SETI).

2. I got to see a professional musical production of CINDER EDNA, one of my picture books, and watched the cast receive a standing ovation.

3. Most importantly, I’ve received many, many letters and emails from children telling me how much they enjoyed one of my books. That touches my heart more than anything.

Henry: Fun! Of course, we can find extraterrestrials in many picture books.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

This is a very discouraging business. You have to persist through good times and bad (and there will be plenty of those).

Here’s some advice for people who want to write specifically for children:

Try to remember what it was like to be a child. Some of my best ideas come from my memories of how children think.  For example, I recently sold a manuscript based on my childhood take of geographical names.  As a child, I thought that Death Valley was full of skeletons and that Orange County was inhabited by lots of orange people.  I took the core of this idea and expanded it into a picture book.

Henry: Fun. Here’s a sequel idea: Skeletons vs. Orange People. You’re welcome.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Yes, quite a few. Most are posted on my website:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” –Philo of Alexandria

“First you jump off the cliff, then you sprout wings.” –Libba Bray

“You don’t have to acquiesce to the commodification of art.” –Lucy Grealy

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

You mean like balancing a banana on my nose and reciting the Gettysburg Address backward? No.

Maybe one. I sometimes use my dog as a footrest while I’m writing. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Henry: I am definitely on Team Dog.

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

I’d like to be a time traveler because I’m really curious about what’s going to happen to this torn, deluded, and confused world.

Henry: Fascinating choice. So, you’re a tear open the edge of the gift wrapping on the night before Christmas kind of person? I’m not sure I’d look ahead, but I’d definitely look behind. Just don’t change anything if you travel back in time!

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

Julia Child to do the cooking. Then I’d sit and talk to Will Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf. I’d want to know how they got through the bad times. And how they were able to write such beautiful and insightful works. And I’d want to ask Shakespeare: “Who are you? Really?!”

Henry: No one has ever thought to invite a good cook before. Bravo! They often forget to invite a translator for non-English speaking authors. It would be quite scandalous if Shakespeare said, “You have the wrong man. You should have invited Francis Bacon.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Omigosh, too many to choose from.  But the image that stuck in my head tonight was that of a genie. What does a genie do in that bottle, year after year? Borrring!  And what kind of wishes work out for people, and which ones don’t.

Henry: If you’re a genie, then even a bottle can be the ultimate man-cave, since it can contain anything you want. It’s a fun game to ask yourself, if you could have three wishes, what would you choose (knowing that a genie will try to thwart you if your wording isn’t perfect)?

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

I read, play music, and listen to the silence that frames the notes. Tidepool, look for sharks’ egg cases and little octopusses. Sit quietly on the banks of a stream, reading about plants and animals, stars and galaxies. Hike in the redwoods and canoodle with my schnoodle. Oh, and I still climb trees—when nobody’s looking.

Henry: OK, that’s a picture book idea right there: Canoodle With Your Schnoodle. Hug Your Pug? Jolly Collie on a Somali Trolley? See! Rhyming IS fun.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Don’t look for me here. I’ve been cremated!

Henry: Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. I’m not here. So, don’t be nonplussed.

Where can readers find your work?

In bookstores and libraries, I would hope. My web page is at http://www.ellenjackson.net

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


Interview with children’s non-fiction author Kathleen Krull

Kathleen Krull’s 60+ books have garnered starred reviews and awards.  The Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC, honored her with its Nonfiction Award for her body of work that “has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.” She lives in San Diego with her husband and sometime writing partner, Paul Brewer, and can be visited at http://www.kathleenkrull and friended at http://facebook.com/kathleen.krull


For what age audience do you write?

I write nonfiction, primarily biographies, for all ages.

Tell us about your latest book.

Published most recently from Harcourt is Lives of the Explorers: Discoveries, Disasters (and What the Neighbors Thought). This is the 9th and probably final book in the “Lives of” series, which has kept me going the last 20 years. I hope readers will savor the stories of 20 intrepid souls–from Ibn Battuta to Sally Ride, Marco Polo to Isabella Bird– who took life-or-death journeys with every possible danger, few conveniences, and no GPS.

Henry: Wait. No GPS!? No AAA!?

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

The subliminal message here is to inspire more passion for geography than I had as a kid.  For teachers, a fabulous discussion and activity guide for all nine books is here (http://www.scribd.com/doc/135384966/Lives-of-Series-Discussion-and-Activity-Guide?action_object_map=%7B&fb_action_ids=10201890921534161&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline)

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Keeping myself alert without being over-caffeinated.

Henry: It can’t be done. Unless you use mud masks.

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

Mud masks. I don’t do it every day, but I learned by accident that facial masks really perk a person up. I’ve used ones from the Body Shop, etc., but lately I’ve been using snail mucus masks I brought back from Korea. True story. I also brought back “Roll-on Happy Smile,” a blend of perky essential oils you apply to the temples.

Henry: Off all the secrets of the Orient, you opt to bring back snail mucus to put on your face!?

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

What’s meant the most to me is when young adults tell me they’ve gone into history or science or literature, etc., after being sparked by my books.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Revision is a writer’s BFF.

Henry: So true. I have a friend who says (and I completely agree with her), “I think the manuscript is done twenty times before it’s really done.”

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

Being invisible. I could spy and eavesdrop all day long.

Henry: Ah, the fly-on-the-wall superpower. I would have expected that request more from a writer of fiction, unless you also combine it with time travel so you could observe famous historical figures.

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

I’d invite dozens, picking their brains, with someone else cooking & pouring the wine. But the first three who come to mind are Virginia Woolf, Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and Tom Wolfe (not Thomas)–perhaps the first time these three geniuses have been linked.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully offers:

Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882 –1941) was an English writer and one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century. During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Thomas Kennerly “Tom” Wolfe, Jr. (born 1931) is an American author and journalist, best known for his association and influence over the New Journalism literary movement in which literary techniques are used in objective, even-handed journalism. Beginning his career as a reporter, he soon became one of the most culturally significant figures of the sixties after the publication of books such as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (a highly experimental account of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters) and two collections of articles and essays, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. His first novel entitled The Bonfire of the Vanities, released in 1987, was met with critical acclaim and was a great commercial success.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“She made nonfiction fun.”

Henry: She lived a fun nonfiction life.

Where can readers find your work?

The very best place is the fantastic Yellow Book Road (http://www.yellowbookroad.com) in San Diego.

Click to Tweet: Interview with children’s non-fiction author Kathleen Krull at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-NV via @Nimpentoad

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

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The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales

This fascinating piece is by Valerie Ogden at The Huffington Post.

Fairy tales, gripping, magical and inspiring, are master narratives. Children subconsciously recall their messages as they grow older, and are forced to cope with real injustices and contradictions in their lives. Some fairy tales are based on legends that incorporated a spiritual belief of the culture in which they originated, and were meant to emulate truth.

Numerous fairy tales, and the legends behind them, are actually watered-down versions of uncomfortable historical events. These darker stories might be too terrifying for today’s little lambkins, as well as some adults! Their horrific origins, which often involve rape, incest, torture, cannibalism and other hideous occurrences, are brimming with sophisticated and brutal morality. Their images cannot be dispelled easily and their lessons are more powerful than the present-day, innocuous fables they resemble.

In the early 1800’s Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected stories that depicted the unpredictable and often unforgiving life experienced by central Europeans. These brothers, determined to preserve the Germanic oral story telling that was vanishing, poured over the folklore of the region. Their first collection of stories was based on actual, gruesome events. However, they had to provide lighter interpretations of these factual incidents in order to sell books. Consequently they paid attention to previously printed fairytales, particularly those of Charles Perrault. As early as the 17th century, this Frenchman who is thought to be the father of fairy tales, created some of the most imaginative and delightful stories ever told. His confabulations of a pumpkin carriage and Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, for example, are magnificently enchanting. His original Cinderella, based on a true story, contains violent elements as well, since the wicked stepsisters butcher their own feet while trying to get into the slipper that the Prince had found.

Perrault’s tales, albeit charming, were unsentimental; for they were intended for adults, because no children’s literature existed at the time. His suspense story, BLUEBEARD, reads like a crime thriller, with the bloody knives and curious dead wives, his moral, that women should be less nosy, apparent. Perrault based his fairy tale on two accounts of dark depravity in Brittany, France. The earlier of the two accounts dealt with a savage, 6th century ruler. The second detailed the acts of a nobleman, named Gilles de Rais, who tortured, mutilated, raped and murdered hundreds of innocent children. My book explores the life and crimes of this tragic, historic figure.

The almost barbaric episodes that follow are just a smattering of fairy tales, as we know them today, derived from spoken legends which were based on facts. The morals these stories convey are far more important than the events themselves, the circumstances of which are often forgotten. These cautionary tales, where good conquers evil, the wicked get punished, the righteous live happily ever after, offer hope that one can do something positive about changing oneself and the world.

snow white

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The fairy tale is based on the tragic life of Margarete von Waldeck, a 16th century Bavarian noblewoman. Margarete grew up in Bad Wildungen, where her brother used small children to work his copper mine. Severely deformed because of the physical labor mining required, they were despairingly referred to as dwarfs. The poison apple is also rooted in fact; an old man would offer tainted fruits to the workers, and other children he believed stole from him.

Margarete’s stepmother, despising her, sent the beauty, to the Brussels court to get rid of her. There Prince Philip II of Spain became her steamy lover. His father, the king of Spain, opposing the romance, dispatched Spanish agents to murder Margarete. They surreptitiously poisoned her.


Rapunzel draws upon an early Christian story. In the third century A.D. a prosperous pagan merchant, living in Asia Minor, so adored his beautiful daughter he forbade her to have suitors. Accordingly he locked her in a tower when he traveled. There is no mention how hair became important, but she converted to Christianity, praying so loudly when the merchant left, her devotions reverberated throughout town. The merchant, informed of her actions, dragged her before the Roman pro-consul who insisted the father behead her or forfeit his fortune if she should refuse to give up her newfound religion. The father decapitated her but was killed by a lightning strike soon after. She became the martyr, Saint Barbara, revered by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Perrault wove his story around Conomor the Cursed, the Breton chief who had been forewarned he would be slain by his own son. As soon as one of his wives became pregnant, he murdered her. But Perrault was more fascinated by Gilles de Rais, a wealthy 15th century nobleman, a hero of the Hundred Years’ War, Joan of Arc’s protector on the battlefield. After he left the military he became a notorious serial killer of children. He was given the nickname, Bluebeard, because his horse’s sleek fur looked blue in the daylight. At his shocking trial, he described in detail how he had preyed upon and tortured innocent children. Perrault drew upon these facts to conjure up his own nightmarish character.


Hansel and Gretel
The tale of Hansel and Gretel could have been told to keep children from wandering off. But during the great famine of 1315-1317 A. D. that crushed most of continental Europe and England, disease, mass death, infanticide and cannibalism increased exponentially. Seeking relief, some desperate parents deserted their children and slaughtered their draft animals.

Or Hansel and Gretel might have stumbled upon the home of the successful baker, Katharina Schraderin. In the 1600s, she concocted such a scrumptious ginger bread cookie that a jealous male baker accused her of being a witch. After being driven from town, a posse of angry neighbors hunted her down, brought her back to her home, and burned her to death in her own oven.

Little Jack Horner
This story matches events in the life of Bishop Richard Whiting of Glastonbury and his steward, who was perhaps named Jack Horner. When King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and dissolved its Monasteries in England, Glastonbury remained the sole religious home in Somerset. Whiting, trying to keep the abbey, bribed the King by offering him twelve Catholic manorial estates. To thwart potential thieves, he hid the deeds to the estates in a pie crust. But the seventy-nine-year-old Bishop, convicted of treason for serving Rome, was drawn, quartered and hung at Glastonbury Tor overlooking the town. His “good” steward absconded with the plum deed to the Manor of Mells, and Horner’s descendants lived there until the 20th century.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
In 1264, a pied piper had offered to get rid of the numerous rats in the Germanic village of Hamelin, as long as the town elders gave him a considerable amount of money upon the completion of this task. After he disposed of the rats, the elders reneged on their promise. Furious, the piper enticed the children of the village to follow him. They never returned.

Some believe the Piper led the innocents to the Mediterranean to join the Children’s Crusade leaving for the Holy Land. Presumably children would peacefully convert Moslems to Christianity after the Mediterranean rolled back, allowing their safe passage to Jerusalem. The Sea did not oblige, and many children starved to death waiting for the miracle to occur.


That blond, fair-complexioned, but mistreated beauty in Perrault’s tale loosely relates to the history of Rhodopis, a Greek woman, whose name means “rosy-cheeked.” When she was a young girl, she was captured in Thrace, sold into slavery around 500 BC, and taken to Egypt.

Her unusual looks made her a treasured commodity, and her master showered her with gifts, including a pair of golden shoes. These shoes and Rhodopis were noticed by the Pharaoh, Ahmose II. He insisted she become one of his wives. While not his principal, revered partner, born of royal blood, she would still perform ceremonial functions and…mainly be readily available to gratify Ahmose sexually. Did her new found status offer her perpetual happiness? Probably not.

Valerie Ogden is the author of Bluebeard: Brave Warrior. Brutal Psychopath.

Click to Tweet: The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Lb via @Nimpentoad

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Interview with prolific children’s book author, Larry Dane Brimner

Larry was one of those weird children who liked to write and who had a grandfather who not only indulged Larry’s written expression, but encouraged it by corresponding with him whether he was across town or in another part of the world. Today, Larry has written more than one hundred fifty-eight books for young readers, and he’s still writing.


For what age audience do you write?

I write fiction and nonfiction for kids between the ages of pre-school to young adult. Although I’m known mostly for my nonfiction for middle-grades on up, my favorite genre is the picture book, which I think requires enormous skill, because the writer has to be so succinct while at the same time he must also pay attention to rhythm, language, page-turns, and format. Long ago, I wrote chapter books, and this is a genre I hope to return to in the next couple of years.

Henry: So true. Picture books are a distinct form of literature.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, just out, is STRIKE! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights (Calkins Creek). It’s about the Filipino grape strike in Delano, California, 1965, which paved the way for Cesar Chavez and his struggling union to come to power. Larry Itliong and the other Filipino Americans who began that strike are often ignored. Yet, without them, the story of Chavez—who actually didn’t want to involve the UFW in the Filipino action at first—may have been painted differently.

Henry: I’ve only written fiction so far, but I think it’s great you are telling tales that need to be told.

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

I hope readers will understand the significant role that Filipino Americans played in this, the most important agricultural strike in U.S. history. I would hope, too, that they come away from the book understanding that we need to be measured in our inclination to place important historical figures on pedestals. Chavez has become almost a martyr by many, yet upon closer examination we learn that he was human, flawed, and motivated in part by ego and a selfishness that eventually led to the UFW’s downfall.

Henry: Good point. A complex and imperfect figure like Dr. Martin Luther King.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

First drafts are hell, pure hell. Most of the time, I am not somebody who shows up at the computer each morning eager to get started. I’ll respond to email first. I’ll answer interview questions like this first. I’ll tidy my desk or do a load of laundry (often washing clean clothes). In other words, I procrastinate and avoid. This wasn’t always the case, but I find (for me) since most of my nonfiction books are contracted before I write them and there’s always a deadline looming that it takes some of the joy of process out of it. On the other hand, those projects—poems, picture books, and even nonfiction books—that I write on speculation are often the most enjoyable because I can tackle them at my own speed without the pressure of having to have them finished by a particular date. Once I have a first draft, though, I love revision and tweaking and refining. I love playing with words. I LOVE HAVING WRITTEN. And I still get a great sense of accomplishment when I can hold an actual book in my hands or see it on a shelf in a bookstore or library.

Henry: Nice. “I love having written” is a great expression.

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

There is, probably, almost always a better way to write something.

Henry: True, and yet at some point we must submit. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

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

There are so many. Meeting a reader who tells you your book had impact on his or her life. Being told by a father that his child takes your picture book to bed each night and sleeps with it. Being invited to schools and conferences hither and yon to speak about writing and the books you’ve written. Many of my books are about the African American struggle for freedom and equality. Perhaps my most memorable experience was when I was invited to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to speak about writing Birmingham Sunday and being introduced to an audience of 7th and 8th graders by their teacher as a black American writer. (We had not yet met.) The teacher later apologized to me, saying that she didn’t think anyone but an African American could tell the story with such heart. I explained to her there was no need for apology; it was the greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid.

Henry: You’re white!?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Trust in yourself and your ability to tell the story your way. (I lost this for a while when writing STRIKE! because I’d chosen the wrong fact-checker to vet the manuscript. It taught me an important lesson: choose an objective person to check your work for accuracy rather than a friend or devoted aide.)

Do you have any favorite quotes? 

A favorite quote above my computer is by M. A. Radmacher: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

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

You mean like PROCRASTINATION? I do love white noise—the sound of the washer, dryer, and dishwasher humming while I write. But since I live in a desert and am concerned about our water supply, I listen to classical Spanish guitar instead. I also don’t like to talk about my work until it’s complete because I worry about using up all the words speaking about a topic instead of writing about a topic. It’s also a good way to lose one’s enthusiasm about a topic. I pop in and out of Facebook or email when I’m thinking about what to type next.

Henry: Procrastination is not a strange ritual. It is a lifestyle.

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

I would love to have the power to bring peace and equality and adequate food to all people throughout the world (for obvious reasons).

Henry: A lovely, selfless wish.

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

Probably Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Hemingway. Picasso, because he was quite randy and lived life to the fullest. He’d keep us entertained. Stein, because she had a unique theory of writing rhythm and I’d like to know more about it. Hemingway, because I’ve always admired the way he could turn the most simple of events into an enthralling story with a minimum of words.

Henry: That would be one lively dinner.

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

I think in another life, I must have been a chef because I love to cook. I’m told I have one of the largest cookbook collections in the U.S. When I’m not at my desk or in my kitchen, I’m either on my mountain bike riding various trails, in the garden, or at the scrap metal yard.

Henry: C’mon, you can’t say “scrap metal yard” without elaboration. Are you constructing a rocket ship?

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Either “The End” or “Larry Dane Brimner is turning the page.”

Henry: Well, that’s a page turn I don’t want to see. 

Where can readers find your work?

At the public library, an independent bookseller like the Yellow Book Road, or your favorite online book retailer.

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

Click to TweetInterview with prolific children’s book author, Larry Dane Brimner at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-KL via @Nimpentoad

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Interview with Bridget Heos, author of ‘Mustache Baby’

Bridget Heos is the author of Mustache Baby, illustrated by Joy Ang, (Houghton Mifflin, 2013) and more than 60 nonfiction books for children. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children.


For what age audience do you write?  

I write for babies up through high school, mainly picture books and nonfiction.   Tell us about your latest book.  It’s a picture book about Baby Billy, who is born with a mustache, and his family, who must wait to see whether it is a good guy or bad guy mustache.

Henry: That is a hilarious image. But, of course, all babies start off pure and good!

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

I think it’s a story the whole family will enjoy. Babies will like the pictures, toddlers will be able to retell the story based on the pictures, and big kids and parents will think it’s funny, too. If it’s one of those books that gets the whole family together to read, that would be a dream come true.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?  

It’s that point where you’re in the thick of things. You can’t see the layout of the story, and everything looks like a big mess. You’re trying to keep track of too many things at once in hopes of organizing things. I used to waitress and this was called being “in the weeds.” You just have to work your way out of it. The truth is, I kind of like this situation. It’s only hard because I tend to get obsessed with working my way out of it. As a mom, I can’t do that. I have an hour here, a half day there, a full day sometimes. But that’s good. It puts things in perspective.

Henry: Sounds like someone enjoys the drama of being “in the weeds”. Are you an adrenaline junkie?

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

I’ve learned to see real life in terms of stories. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, this is a disaster!” I can now think, “this must be the middle of the story. We have to work our way through to the happy ending.” That’s been a wonderful shift in perspective.

Henry: How handy to be able to switch to third-person omniscient in real life! That is a useful way of looking at a situation. And if someone is a jerk, you can think about them being a literary antagonist. Who gets their just desserts in the end.

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

I’ve gotten to hold a baby spider goat, see the beautiful mountains of Utah, and hike through a prairie in Kansas. But the best thing has been finding a job that is more like a way of life. My kids and I read a lot together and talk about what we read, and my youngest son helps me come up with story ideas. Children’s books are as big a part of my home as my work. I can’t think of a more fulfilling career.

Henry: Spider goats! I had no idea that Spiderman had a vacation farm. You never want to let spider goats in your house, because it’s hard to get them off the ceiling. In all seriousness, spider goats are fascinating. Spider silk is much stronger than steel per unit weight. But a spider can’t produce that much silk. So, scientists naturally inserted spider DNA into goats. The transgenic goat milk can be processed to yield a much higher volume of spider silk. “Spidergoat, spidergoat, makes a really strong overcoat…”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Spread your arms, hold your breath, and always trust your cape.” – Guy Clark

Henry: And then there’s “That wasn’t flying, it was falling with style” – Toy Story

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

Sometimes I read my work in progress aloud with a cowboy accent. I’m trying to hear it as if it’s being read by someone else. A cowboy, I guess.

Henry: I’m reminded of the scene in When Harry Met Sally… “Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash.” Cowboy voices. Spider goats. You are fun!

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

I just like hanging out with my husband and kids. We have a new baby and the big kids get such a kick out of her. For instance, while my big boys are watching a zombie movie, she turns around and watches them watching the movie. They think that’s so funny.

Henry: The baby is teaching everyone an important lesson – that people are far more interesting than a movie. Hey, I just realized you’re letting a baby watch a zombie movie…

Where can readers find your work?

Mustache Baby is available wherever books are sold, and, of course, at the library! For the full list of books I’ve written, you can visit my Web site, http://www.authorbridgetheos.com. I also share news about my books and recommend lots of other kids’ books on my Facebook page, Author Bridget Heos.

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

Click to Tweet: Interview with @BridgetHeos, author of MUSTACHE BABY http://wp.me/p31Xf4-BR via @Nimpentoad