[Author Interview] Claressa Swensen [Kid’s Book Week 2017]

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I can’t believe how quick this week has gone! We’re already to the last day of Kid’s Book Week! And with us today, we have Claressa Swensen, author of Dino Dino Doing Homework and Teensy the Littlest Fairy.

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Megan: Welcome, Claressa! We are so happy to have you here, finishing out Kid’s Book Week! Since our interview with you in 2016, I’d like to know – how has being a new mom changed your views on writing/publishing, if at all?
Claressa: I have always been passionate about writing. But my little girl has me working even harder than I already was. I want her to see her mom be successful. I want her to know that she can achieve anything and everything if she works hard enough for it. Also, the look on her face when I read her my stories is priceless. There really aren’t words to describe how rewarding writing (and being a mommy) is.

Megan: That’s a great motivator if I ever heard one! Is there a part of writing kid’s books that you like best?
Claressa: Aside from watching the illustrations bring my story to life? Getting to spend time working closely with kids. Encouraging them to follow their dreams. Watching their faces light up when they read my stories. It really is a rewarding genre to write in.

Megan: Many authors are also avid readers. Are you? And if so, do you have a favorite or go-to author?
Claressa: Honestly, I really just love to read other children’s books. I mean, it is the genre I chose to get into for a reason. I love illustrations, and the way they bring the story to life. I’m a child at heart myself, and I love being able to work with kids. I am passionate about the genre I chose.

Megan: That is great! Is there anything else you would like to share with us before we go?
Claressa: Yes, actually! After much hard work, two of my books – Teensy the Littlest Fairy and Dino Dino Doing Homework are now available in select Barnes & Noble stores, including 7 locations across the state (Utah).

dino dino doing homeworkBarnes & Noble | Wal-Mart | Amazon

teensy the littlest fairyBarnes & Noble | Wal-Mart | Amazon

That’s all we have for today! And here at the Ginger Mom, we’ve been toying with the idea of doing a monthly Kid’s Spotlight. I’m interested to hear what you think of that? How many of you would be interested in an author/illustrator/children’s book spotlight once a month? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’d like to hear more from Claressa, check out her Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads 🙂

Thank you to all our amazing authors and illustrators who participated in the First Annual Kid’s Book Week! We had so much fun this week and can’t wait to see what happens next year!

Happy Friday, booknerds 🙂
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[Author Interview] Alysson Foti Bourque [Kid’s Book Week 2017]

Here we are again with yet another amazing children’s book author! Her name is Alysson Foti Bourque and she is the author of the Alycat series. I found out about this series through a book tour and when the book (Alycat and the Monday Blues) arrived on my doorstep, Lady Quinn and I had so much fun with it! And we read it more than once! But that’s all the gushing I’m going to do because my tour stop isn’t until the end of the  month!

Let’s give Alysson a big Ginger Mom welcome! We are so excited to have you here with us today 🙂

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Megan: So, Alysson, what drew you to writing kid’s books?
Alysson: I have a passion for children’s literature. It serves as the perfect parenting tool for teaching life lessons with the use of characters that children can relate to. Before the Alycat series was developed, our bookshelf was based on books that were “popular” but not instrumental for a child’s social and educational development. I wanted to write books that could strengthen a child’s imagination and, at the same time, demonstrate problem-solving skills that they could use in their daily lives. Alycat is a character that they can relate to. She’s not “cookie-cutter”, and has her ups and downs, but she tries her best to solve her own conflicts with confidence, creativity, and conviction.

Megan: As a mom, that is very important for me to see in books I read to my children. Congratulations, Alycat definitely hits the mark on that! What I also loved was that Alycat and the Monday Blues centers around music. So my question – do you play an instrument? Or, if not, is there one you would like to play?
Alysson: I played the flute in middle school and was pretty bad at it. I spent the majority of weeks in last chair until the band director, Mr. Benoit, recommended that I try to play the oboe. Luckily I was the only oboe player and spent every week as first chair from that day forward. Some may argue that I was “the only chair” – but I choose to look at it optimistically.

If I could play any instrument – and be good at it – it would be the harp. What a magical, heavenly instrument with such an elegant sound. I don’t think my arms would be long enough to play it, though.

Coincidentally, my husband has a “band room” above our garage that has many different instruments to choose from – drums, bass guitar, accordion, saxophone, harmonica. But I leave the music talent up to him.

Megan: I love all the extras (the song, coloring pages) that you put in with this book – how did you come up with the idea of doing that? (And I highly recommend buying Alycat and the Monday Blues, not only for the book but for the goodies that come with it!)
Alysson: When I finish books, I feel sad that it’s over and I want to know more about the characters and continue their journey with them. I miss immersing myself in their world, and I imagine that children feel the same way about a book that they have just finished. So when I wrote Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day, I added the recipe that Alycat develops in the story at the end of the book. Children can recreate Alycat’s Popcorn Popsicles with a parent after they finish the story and even add their own spin to it. In Alycat and the Monday Blues, Alycat comes up with a song that she wrote herself for the talent show in the book. At the end of the book, there are lyrics to the song and you can find the produced song, Monday Blues, on iTunes and on the Dropcards that I give away at my book signings. There is even a karaoke version of Monday Blues!

Also, each book has a coordinating Alycat plush to accompany the book. The dress has the day of the day of the week and theme of the book that it represents. The plush toys were my children’s ideas. They said it was a must. I won’t argue with that!

Megan: The extras were a great idea! I am going to have to get another copy of Alycat and the Monday Blues because Lady Quinn would adore the plush Alycat 🙂 Okay, how about the nitty-gritty of writing. I’m curious – do you outline first when writing (like many authors I know do) or do you just sit down and write?
Alysson: I don’t outline prior to writing stories. My brain functions so fast (sometimes a disadvantage) that the outline would be a scribbly mess. When I start to write a story, I begin from scratch with a general idea. I know the main plot and just begin writing . . . I start writing by immersing my imagination in Alycat’s world – which is a combination of my childhood memories, my children’s experiences, and my imagination. I picture the events as they develop and I describe my imagination on paper as it progresses. After a few hours, I do get stumped. At that point, I jot down notes of where I envision the story heading and I come back to it when I am more energized – could be a day or more. After the entire story is written in rough draft, I go back and change around the story structure, wording, and add descriptive details to help the reader discover the scene that I am visualizing.

Megan: Wow! What a process! Okay, one last question 🙂 Your new book contains a foreword written by New York Times best-selling author, Jennifer Niven. How does Niven’s book relate to yours?
Alysson: I am so honored to have Jennifer Niven’s foreword preceding my story. Jennifer is an extraordinary writer and lovely person who addresses significant, yet heavy, topics in her young adult novels. She writes these books that pull on your heartstrings and leave you looking at the world differently. I asked Jennifer during one of our conversations if she would write a foreword for Alycat and the Monday Blues since our books, although for different audiences, address similar themes. She graciously agreed and it is so beautifully written. Her novels and my children’s books encourage readers to look for that bright place when they are down and inspire them to find that special something about themselves. Her foreword addresses the significance of conquering tough situations or blue days with love – which helps people of all ages to deal with difficult issues.

Megan: That is great! Thank you so much, Alysson, for joining us today and I can’t wait to read more of Alycat’s adventures to Lady Quinn & Mister Chu. They already enjoyed Alycat and the Monday Blues so much!

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See what I mean? She had so much fun with the characters and the song!

Follow Alysson
Twitter | Facebook (Alycat) | Facebook (Alysson)Website | Instagram (Alycat) | Instagram (Alysson) | YouTube | Google+

How about one last goodie before we go? Stop by YouTube and check out the adorable trailer for Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day. We loved it and can’t wait to read the book!

Happy Thursday to Alycat (and all of you!) See you tomorrow with one more interview as we close our first annual Kid’s Book Week!
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[Illustrator Interview] Virginia Allyn [Kid’s Book Week 2017]

Today, we are doing something a little different. Here at the Ginger Mom, we have talked with quite a few authors but today, we have a real treat for you. Today we are welcoming Virginia Allyn, illustrator of the adorable kids’ book Night Night Farm, to the blog!

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Crystal: Welcome, Virginia! We are so excited to have you here with us for Kid’s Book Week! First of all, we have to ask – how do you do it? How do you take someone’s brief manuscript and bring life to it with your images? Is it hard or do you just see what it should be when you read?
Virginia: As an illustrator, it’s my job to take a writer’s words and bring them to life pictorially. Which is a fancy way of saying I get to draw and color all day. Remember in grade school when your teacher handed out manila paper and crayons and told you to draw a picture based on a story? It’s a lot like that and just as fun. I think everyone imagines pictures as they read and if you can draw those images, you’re an illustrator.

Megan: Do you do your illustrations by hand, digital, or a mixture of both?
Virginia: I work entirely digital, sketches to final art.

Megan: That is amazing! I can hardly sign my name digitally without it looking like my three-year-old drew it! I know many authors are avid readers. Does that apply to illustrators, too? Are you?
Virginia: Absolutely! I read a lot of biographies and I have a HUGE collection of children’s books. I also listen to audiobooks while I work.

Crystal: Is there a big difference between illustrating a kid’s book versus something like a graphic novel?
Virginia: A graphic novel would require a lot more time but I think the illustration process would be similar.

Crystal: Amazing! Is this something you would like to do in the future?
Virginia: I haven’t illustrated a graphic novel yet but I’d love to.

Megan: Okay, we’re curious – with a book like Night Night Farm, how long does the illustration process take? Do you have redos? Or do your ideas not always mesh with the author’s?
Virginia: We are usually working on two books at a time so sometimes I will be illustrating the cover for the next book before I’ve started coloring the interiors for the previous book. But I would say each book takes approximately two months to illustrate, sketches to final art.

For Night Night Farm, I received an art brief along with Amy Parker’s manuscript from the art director at Thomas Nelson, wonderful Jennifer Showalter Greenwalt. Jen described what she would like to see on each page and which animals to include. She wanted the baby animals to be cute and sweet and sleepy so we put them in cozy pajamas. I had the idea to include the little mice to add a fun side story that wasn’t in the text. Nothing too goofy, just warm, drowsy and comforting.

After reading through all the notes, I completed a round of rough sketches and sent them in for Jen’s approval. Jen sent back her thoughts on what worked and didn’t and also suggested elements that needed to be adjusted to make room for the text. We went back and forth with sketches until we were both satisfied. Then the sketches went to the publisher and to the author, Amy Parker, for approval.

After the sketches had been approved, the fun part began and I got to color! For Night Night Farm, Jen wanted bright, fun colors but nothing too loud since this was a bedtime story. We wanted the moon and stars to look soft and magical since they carry through from page to page. Each two page spread takes me approximately three days to color then we go through the same back and forth as with the sketches, making adjustments until we are all happy 🙂

Amy Parker has been fabulous to work with. We try to work out all the kinks in the sketching phase so there are rarely any large revisions that have to be made. But sometimes a spread just isn’t as effective as it could be so we’ll give it another go.

Megan: Wow! What an amazing process! I had no idea so much work went into it, though you can tell by how the art turned out that a great deal of care was taken. The illustrations in Night Night Farm are absolutely gorgeous! So, last question – is there anything else you want to share with us before we say goodbye? Maybe a current project or promo?
Virginia: We have lots more Night Night books on the way and I’m coloring as fast as I can!

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Oh, how exciting! Mister Chu and Lady Quinn absolutely adored Night Night Farm so I have a feeling we will be picking up each of the others as fast as you can put them out 🙂 This cover is so gorgeous – I can’t wait to see what is inside! Thank you so much for joining us, Virginia. It was so much fun to see the other side of the magic that goes into children’s books!

Buy Night Night Farm
Amazon | Thomas Nelson | Barnes & Noble
Connect with Virginia Allyn
Twitter | Instagram | Website

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Night Night Farm comes very highly recommended from the Ginger Mom. Both Lady Quinn (pictured above) and her brother, Mister Chu, adore the pictures. We have a house full of moos and oinks as they sit and read this book together. The story is simple but sweet and the colors are, like Virginia said, bright but not too loud. It’s a wonderful bedtime story!

Come back all week for more Kid’s Book Week fun!

[Author Interview] Nia Mya Reese [Kid’s Book Week 2017]

It’s here! And to kick off Kid’s Book Week 2017, we have child author, Nia Mya Reese joining us!
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Megan: Welcome, Nia Mya! We are so happy to have you joining us and starting out Kid’s Book Week 🙂 My first question is one I’m sure you have probably heard a thousand times already – how has life changed for you, becoming a bestselling author so young?
Nia Mya: My mouth gets tired from speaking to everyone at school and I keep having to answer questions like this.

Megan: What is your favorite part of writing books?
Nia Mya: Me helping loads and loads of people with my ideas.

Megan: I think that’s a great thing to focus on 🙂 What about reading – do you have a favorite book you love to read?
Nia Mya: Superfudge by Judy Blume and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Megan: I loved Judy Blume when I was your age, too 🙂 Now that you have written a book, is this what you want to be when you grow up? Or did you have another dream career?
Nia Mya: I want to be a preschool teacher that writes sometimes – I don’t want to be an author but it’s fun. I just so happen to write down my ideas and people like them.

Megan: Okay, one more question. Do you have a favorite subject in school (mine was always the classes where we got to sit and read all day)?
Nia Mya: Math because it speaks to me – lol.

Twitter | Facebook | Amazon

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When Nia Mya was in first grade, her teacher asked them to write about something that they were an expert at. Nia Mya said that she is an expert at dealing with and taking care of her annoying little brother – thus the inspiration for this book. 

She hopes that this book will help kids everywhere. 

Megan's review

This book was adorable! It has been back and forth between both the kids (3 yr old and 18 month old) since we got it. They even sit and read it together! (a shocker, I know!) I loved the way the story was told. And it was cute watching Mister Chu talk about Lady Quinn as the “annoying little sister”, though I’m not super certain he knows what annoying is yet lol. This was definitely a book they could interact with and the illustrations were gorgeous!

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And of course, the only one who would sit still for the photos was Lady Quinn. I think the bright colors were her thing (the rest of it probably still goes over her head).

Thank you, Nia Mya, for talking with us and for writing such an adorable book! And don’t forget to stop by all week long as we showcase some of our favorite children’s books and authors!

Happy Kid’s Book Week 2017!
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