ABOWS nominated for Georgia Author of the Year Award!

I'm thrilled to announce that A BIRD ON WATER STREET has been nominated for the 51st Annual Georgia Author of the Year Award - the oldest literary award in the Southeast! Cross your fingers for me!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy New Year!

     It's one day early, but I don't want to miss your parties with this brand new baby New Year! I wish you all a year filled with joy, good health, and your own personal definition of success!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Charleston for Christmas!

Stan and I headed to the beautiful old city of Charleston, South Carolina for Christmas this year - here's a selfie by the water.

We stayed at the grand old Francis Marion Hotel (built in 1924), right at the top of King Street - a shopping mecca. And it's a food town - who knew!? On the first night there, we stumbled into the most amazing Italian restaurant, Il Cortile del Re:

In fact, we had some of the most amazing meals of my life in Charleston. One of the best was at the James Beard award-winning chef restaurant, HUSK. Wow! Truly inventive, creative and delicious food by Sean Brock, author of the latest cookbook craze, HERITAGE:

Even the cornbread was amazing!

Then walked it all off by touring the city where we saw beautiful and amazing things:

What a great way to celebrate! I hope you had a marvelous holiday too!
Photos by Stan and Elizabeth Dulemba

From the brilliant Maya Angelou

If You Give a Mouse an...

iPhone! by Ann Droyd. Get it? IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE AN iPHONE is actually from the wacky brain of David Milgrim, creator of GOOD NIGHT, iPAD. The trailer is awesome - click the image to view it on YouTube:

Ali Maier's MOM MADE US WRITE THIS - Guest post and giveaway!

Today's guest post is like Christmas in July - just the other way around! Welcome to Ali Maier!

      As a mom of two kids close in age, I have always been fascinated by their relationship. There are days that they get along like the best of friends, making up games, laughing, whispering and having so much fun together. There are also days where every action or word of one sibling seems to infuriate the other. And there are those in-between days, where they simply co-exist, living in the same house, but doing their own thing, completely independent of one another. There is something so unique about the relationship between siblings.
      My children and their interactions were the inspiration for writing my book series, Mom Made Us Write This. As a family, we spent many, many hours in the bookstore or library, scouring for good books. We were always searching for books for my children to read independently as well as books to read together as a family. Eventually, I started writing short stories on my own for my kids to read.
      Maggie and Max, the 10-year-old twins in the Mom Made Us Write This series, are loosely based on my own children, Maddie and Matt. I started writing stories for my family about fictional siblings, Maggie and Max, doing the day-to-day activities that my kids did. In my stories, Maggie and Max were constantly experiencing the same events, like going to the zoo, from very different perspectives. One day Maggie and Max would get along so well, then struggle to understand each other the next. I wrote the stories to share with my family to make them laugh, but also to illustrate to my children how two people can have very different perspectives of the same event.
      Eventually, my collection of stories became a book, the first in the book in the series entitled Mom Made Us Write This In The Summer.
      I am so excited about the book, because it is a wonderful read for families. Sometimes it is a challenge for everyone in a family to get along, and that’s ok. It’s important for children to know that you can love someone and still disagree sometimes. As long as you love and respect each other, you can resolve any disagreement. Journaling is a wonderful way for siblings to share their feelings, to explain their point of view, and to resolve conflicts. I hope that reading Mom Made Us Write This In The Summer encourages families to start journaling at home. Sharing a journal with a family member or friend is an amazing way to learn more about each other, plus it is a fun way to encourage writing in an entertaining, unique format.
      I hope that your readers enjoy the he-said, she-said journal of Maggie and Max in Mom Made Us Write This In The Summer. Available on Amazon or ask at your local bookstore.
      If you have a funny, family story, share it with me at ali@MomMadeUsWriteThis.com. Your family adventure could make it into a book someday!!

      Also Available in the Mom Made Us Write This series: – Mom Made Us Write This: Family Quiz Book - A hilarious question and answer book for families! Mom Made Us Write This: Write Your Own Shared Journal - Max and Maggie’s 100-page challenge gives kids a goal – find a journal partner and work together to fill 100 pages with fabulous writing. Mom Made Us Write This During School – Coming November 2015

     Ali is offering a free copy to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

Jesse Klausmeier's OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK - interview and giveaway!

I’ve just had the great pleasure of experiencing OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK, the new book written by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee. I also feel the need to give a shout-out to the designer - Sara Gillingham Studio, because a lot of design considerations went into this book. It’s an engineering feat of smaller and smaller books being opened one within the other all the way through.

     So how does an author create a book like this? Let’s find out!

Q. Jesse - Congratulations on such a brilliant book. I adore OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth! And yes, the designer, Sara Gillingham played a tremendous role in the design of our book. As a debut author, I cannot express how incredible it has been to be teamed up with such award-winning talent like Sara, Suzy Lee, our editor Victoria Rock and the team at Chronicle. (This is Jesse with a piece by Suzy.)

Q. So truly, how did you come up with the idea for this book and how did you present this manuscript to Chronicle?
I had the initial idea of a book-within-a-book-within-a-book when I was five years old. Like most kids, I wanted to postpone bedtime as long as I could, and I thought a book that never ended would accomplish that goal nicely. One day, I decided to write that book, and with some help from my Grandma Iyla, the first version of OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK was created.

      Fast-forward twenty-odd years. I had joined SCBWI and was actively involved in my Los Angeles chapter. I had written a handful of manuscripts, but was mostly reading and studying the craft. I found myself particularly drawn to conceptual picture books. As I read more and more of them, it struck me that I had yet to find one with the concept of a book-within-a-book, and the active nature of reading. So, I started searching for that book. When I was confident the idea hadn’t been done, I wrote the manuscript. But because of the unique format, I had no idea how to submit this type of proposal.
      As luck would have it, the Los Angeles chapter of SCBWI had a writing retreat coming up, and Victoria Rock from Chronicle was on the faculty. I signed up right away because through all of my research, I had identified Chronicle as the ideal publisher for this manuscript. At the retreat I read my story aloud to Victoria in a small group and explained my vision for the book. We talked about it a bit, and at the end of the session Victoria asked if she could take my manuscript back to Chronicle. A few months later, she acquired it.

Q. Jesse, you were an assistant editor at Penguin Group’s Dial imprint. (A different house from where the book was published.) Did that give you an advantage when presenting such a tricky idea?
I actually sold the manuscript before I was hired at Dial. Honestly, I just really, really love books and I think my passion showed when I pitched my concept to Victoria. I had done my homework and could talk about what other books were out that celebrated reading, but also how my book was unique and filled a need in the market.

Q. Did you work closely with the illustrator and designer to get the concept working right?
It was a great team effort between Suzy, Victoria, Sara and me. We communicated throughout the entire project, which is quite unique. I saw illustrations and Suzy saw drafts of my manuscript; we were all committed to making this book the best it could be. We played around with design, format, and text until each piece felt right. As the book continued to develop it became like a game of, “What if/Yes, and…” to see how many layers we could weave into the book without making it feel heavy.
      Ex. What if each of our characters brings an object with them into their book to show that we interpret stories through our own personal lens?
      Yes! And, what if our characters switch their objects when they close their books to show that when we read a story, we gain a new perspective?

Q. I love the chain text and characters!
A. Thank you! I personally find stories with chain text/repetition so satisfying, so that means so much to me.

Q. What is the official term for a book like this that builds upon each previous page/character and then circles back around?
Hmmm… you know what? I’m not sure! I’m such a fan of chain text that I use it twice in the book: once with the overall story, and again within Giant’s teeny-tiny Little Rainbow Book.

Q. You obviously have a passion for books. What was your influence behind OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK?
Two books in particular had a huge influence on OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK:
     THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin was the first book I experienced where the narrator spoke directly to the reader. In my story, the reader is the character that kicks off the book. The directive to open this little book instantly engages the reader and demonstrates that she or he plays an active role in the story. The reader is a character in the story, and their name is capitalized in the text at the end with, “You close this little red book...”
     THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle stands out for its innovative design. As a child, I found the collages and the die-cuts pages captivating. I had never seen anything like it, and it blew my mind. I want to blow little minds by playing with format and delivering something unexpected.

Q. OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK received great reviews. How did that feel for your debut book?
I mean, it felt awesome, and also a little bit insane. To get starred reviews and be on best of the year lists is every author’s dream. Winning the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor last year was amazing. I wish Suzy and Sara lived in the states so they could have been there. I hope I get to meet them in person one day.

Q. You’re no longer in New York, but I can’t imagine you’ve given up your passion. What is your book life like now? (I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’ll be looking for whatever you come up with next!)
Oh, certainly not! I’m still as passionate about books as ever. Unfortunately, I’ve had some pretty serious health issues so most of my focus is dedicated to treatment, but I’ve been able to do 3-4 book events a year. I’m writing as much as I physically can, and luckily, there are always more fantastic books for me to read!

Wishing you improved health and much continued success!
A. Thank you, Elizabeth. I wish the very same for you!

Check out this sweet book trailer on YouTube, which gives you the full idea of how the book works:

Chronicle Books has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below.

Merry Christmas Everybody!!!

And if you need something for the kids to do, remember I have tons of Christmas coloring pages - CLICK HERE!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Santa Lists

The Special Edition e's news with a holiday wish for YOU went out today. CLICK HERE to have a look!
     It's been an amazing year and I've been so grateful to be able to share it with you, my loyal followers. Thank you for your continued interest and support. I wish you and your loved ones a very merry holiday season and happy new year!
     I know you've been good, but Santa is checking to make sure.
     CLICK HERE for more Christmas coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift! Click the cover to learn more!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Color-Coded Library

by Tom Gauld. I know many readers who can relate to this! And you can get a giclee print of it to give to your favorite reader - info below the image...

Archive quality giclee prints on 300gsm Hahnemuhle photo rag paper in editions of 100 signed and numbered copies. The image size is 16 by 9.5 cm and the paper is 25 by 20cm. £75 each Tom Gauld

Merry Christmas from Bloomsbury!

I love this Christmas wish from Bloomsbury, "Give the gift of a book this Christmas." Click the image to go watch it on YouTube:

Here are some of the great quotes from the video:

“Writing a book is an adventure.” - Winston Churchill

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” - J.K. Rowling

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” - Jhumpa Lahiri

“Reading is not walking on the words, its grasping the soul of them.” - Paulo Freire

“To read is to fly. It is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history.” - A.C. Grayling

“The book creates meaning, the meaning creates life.” - Roland Barthes

“Believe in the reader and they can connect the dots.” - Esther Freud

“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.” - Khaled Hasseinei

“To pore upon a book, to seek the light of truth.” - William Shakespeare

“Part of the beauty of fiction is that we come alive in a body that we don’t own.” - Colum McCann

“A word after a word after a word is power.” - Margaret Atwood

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.” - Neil Gaiman


Michelle Houts WINTERFROST - Guest Post and Giveaway

Michelle Houts is our guest poster today - take it away Michelle!
WINTER is here…
      It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were sweating out the doggiest dog days of summer. But summer does turn to fall. And, eventually, fall always gives way to winter. It’s the order of things. It’s just the way it happens. My third middle grade novel was released recently. WINTERFROST (Candlewick Press) is a tale that ruminated for more than 20 years in this author’s brain. It has its origins in Danish folklore and modern tradition. It comes from stories told to me as a young American visitor to an enchanted Scandinavian county and from pictures and legends sent across oceans for many years to follow.
      Here’s the folklore: On Christmas Eve, it is customary, required even, to set a steaming bowl of rice pudding in the barn for the nisse, a small gnome-like being who resides on the Danish farm, looking after the animals and the family. Humble servants, nisse require very little to be happy. The rice pudding is enough.
      Here’s the modern tradition: The Danish value fresh air. Don’t we all? you’re asking. Well, yes. But my Danish friends open windows in winter. Young and old, everyone needs fresh air in their lungs. And, Danish babes nap outdoors. Yes, even on cold, snowy days. The snuggle up in the warmth of their carriages and they sleep the afternoon away outdoors.
      My friend sent me this picture a few years ago.
      And here’s where the two collide: As authors, especially authors of books for children, it’s our right responsibility to ask “What if…?” What if a Danish family forgot to leave their nisse rice pudding on Christmas Eve? What could happen? What if a baby left out to nap disappeared while peacefully slumbering? What if that baby were in the care of her sister? How would she find the baby? Where would she look? Because even in the white of winter, the forest can be so dark. What if…
      And the book is the result.

      In WINTERFROST, Bettina’s parents are suddenly called away on Christmas Eve. It’s a bit chaotic and important traditions are forgotten – including the rice pudding for the nisse. When the frosty air settles, Bettina is feeling quite proud of herself and the way she has taken care of her younger sister and the farm chores in her parents’ absence. It appears all is well on the sleepy island of Lolland. But, when baby Pia disappears during an afternoon nap, everything changes.
      I hope many young readers will follow Bettina into the forest as she searches for her baby sister in a blur of frost and leaves and roots and cider in a world she barely believes exists.
      And, I hope aspiring writers will follow me to a place where we sit ourselves down, roll up our sleeves, and answer those unanswered “what ifs.”
      Because the worst question I can think of is “What if we didn’t tell the tales that knock on our hearts and beg to be told? What if…?”

     Candlewick has kindly agreed to send a free copy of WINTERFROST to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win. Enter below:

Friday Linky List - December 19, 2014

From the Telegraph via PW: Secrets Behind Britain's Best Loved Children's Books Revealed

From School Library Journal: Edmonton Public Library Adds Homeless Outreach to Five New Branches. This makes so much sense to me, especially considering how libraries have become refuge to so many homeless already.

From Bustle via PW: 13 Female Young Adult Fiction Authors That Owned 2014

From my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence - 99U: 7 Pieces of Wisdom That Will Change the Way You Work

From Vox via PW: The Elf on the Shelf is the greatest fraud ever pulled on children

At PW: Children's Book Publishing in the 21st Century: A Literary Salon

At PW ShelfTalker: Elfing the Store - cute!

Powell's Bookstore has named their Best YA Fiction of 2014 and Best Kids' Books of 2014

At Salon (via PW): The creation of William Shakespeare: How the Bard really became a legend

From the Scottish Book Trust: Brace Yourself - "It's that time of year when... you may find yourself compelled to remove the gentle warmth of your overheating laptop from beneath your fingers in exchange for eating tepid mince pies in the company of other actual people."

From BookBar: Top 15 Reasons Why Books Make the Best Gifts - duh!

From the Scottish Book Trust: 25 Christmas Presents for Booklovers - including this gem - a thumb drive with 3,000 classic books on it:


It’s the week before Christmas and I have a truly special book to share with you. Spot on to get you in the Christmas spirit is a new book written by Tom Brenner and illustrated by Jana Christy (Candlewick Press). Tom stopped by to tell us more about it...

Q. Hi, Tom! I love how you focus on the moments of preparation, with as much magic as ’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS has itself. For truly, I think the rituals of preparing for Christmas are sometimes the best parts. What do they mean to you?
I agree that the preparations for Christmas are the best part. My early childhood Christmases were absolute magic. Until I was about six or seven, “Santa” brought the tree in, decorated it, and laid out the presents—all of them, including those from my aunts and uncles (I never made that connection until much later!) This was before TV so I didn’t see shows about Christmas and stores didn’t decorate until December. We listened to carols, Mom baked like crazy, and I counted the days on my fingers. On Christmas Eve, I went to bed with the living room just like it had been all year long. For that night my sisters and I slept in the same room and in the middle of the night one of us would go ask our parents if Santa had come. Dad would “go look,” and he’d light a fire, plug in the tree lights—the signal for us to run down the steps. The soft light of the fire, the decorated tree with small sparkling colored lights, and the presents! For me, the room’s transformation couldn’t have been more astonishing.That wondrous moment of Christmas morning lost a lot on the Christmas Eve when, after I had gone to bed, I heard noises and went downstairs to see them all trimming the tree. I joined them, and that was fun, too, but those early years have stayed with me.

Q. The artwork by Jana Christy is just right for this sweet story - were you thrilled when you saw it?
Yes, I was thrilled when I saw it. A friend said the artwork reminded her of those beautiful old Christmas cards. And I like that image. I also like the two different feelings of the two books—the watercolor and collage of the Halloween book and then the softer, excited high energy feel of the Christmas book. I was very impressed to learn that Jana’s work was totally digital. I have trouble texting!

Q. This isn’t the first “And Then Comes” book you’ve done - tell us about AND THEN COMES HALLOWEEN (illustrated by the late Holly Meade). Is this now a series?
Yes, it is. AND THEN COMES SUMMER will come out in the spring of 2017.

Q. What was your path into publication?
I took a Writing for Children class in the Fall of 2005 at the University of Washington in Seattle. A mid-October assignment was to write a picture book. Because my dream was to write Middle Grade/YA novels, I hadn’t paid any attention to picture books. I hadn’t held or read one for years. I wrote something that I guessed fulfilled the assignment. I woke in the middle of the night the day before the assignment was due, thinking, you know, what I wrote wasn’t very good. My thoughts drifted to Halloween and a conversation I had about setting the clocks back, a sign that Fall was definitely here. A line popped into my head—“When nighttime creeps closer to suppertime” –then kids have to get busy with their costumes. Other “When” lines came. A few “Then” lines. The next morning I typed what I remembered and established the pattern of three WHEN lines and one THEN line. I had Spike Jones music in my head with soft lyrical orchestral sounds for the changing of the season lines broken by a frenetic banging and clashing cymbals for the THEN you got to get busy finding or making a costume lines. I ended the story with dumping the candy on the floor. My teachers made helpful comments and suggestions. And I had the good fortune to be placed in a SCBWI critiquing session headed by Kirby Larson, who was extremely helpful and said I couldn’t end with the kids just eating candy, but something about next year. It was only after that session that I started to think about submitting—with the hope of publication. I sent it to 11 editors. Nine were form rejections or no reply. Two responded. One who would take another look if I beefed up Halloween night. The other who said she had comments. The idea of comments rather than guessing what beefing up meant was the tie breaker, so I contacted her.

Q. Tom, the text in AND THEN COMES CHRISTMAS reads so lyrically and simply, and yet I know most writers struggle to make it appear that easy. How long did it take you to get the words just right?
I like to talk about this when I’m presenting to a class of third graders. I contacted that editor around the first of August, 2006. She bought it on December 17, 2006. The manuscript I submitted was 374 words. The final manuscript was 409 words. Of course, I thought my story was perfect when I sent it out--three published picture book writers had vetted it. A third of my original words made it through. My guess is that the editor and I exchanged about 20,000 words in getting to the final draft. What I realized, much later, was that she had an image of how the story should be paced and I didn’t have any image other than getting a costume and going Trick or Treating. Most of her words were trying to make me see that pacing. The end result is far better than what I submitted. Most of the words in the book are mine, but when I didn’t come up with what she thought had the right tone, she made suggestions and some of them were bang on. So, I would say, that’s great. The editing process was fun and I think that my ten years as an advertising copywriter where I batted ideas and words around with art directors and copy chiefs helped me to work with the editor in that way.

Q. How did this story come to you?
This question relates to the Christmas Book, but first--
      The Halloween book came out in 2009. I spent most of September and October doing school visits. During the time between 01/2007 and 07/2009 I had sent my editor several picture books, a chapter book, and a novel—all rejected, except the novel was still hanging in there. In early November, 2009, I sent her an email saying I’d like to do those school visits with another book. Me, thinking, the novel. She responded that a Christmas book might be nice. It took me two days to grasp the meaning of what she said. Since I had the WHEN/THEN format established, I dashed off a bunch of lines, all WHEN lines, not being able to think of THEN lines. About four days later, the THEN lines came—string lights around the house, look for a tree, bring it in, decorate it, make presents for the family, set out the cookies and milk for Santa, all those small things that lead up to the day. She bought the book sometime around the end of January, 2010. And four months later, the revision started.
      Because the pattern was already established, it was a matter of finding the WHENs and THENs that pleased both the editor and me—line by line. An example: I wanted to get in the hanging the stockings, but it wasn’t working. My wife suggested a line. It was wonderful. A week later it was cut. A colleague of the editor suggested the sitting on Santa’s knee. I’d forgotten about Santa. I added the hop from one foot to the other while waiting, remembering my kids standing in line. The books, including the Summer one, have been collaborative!

Q. What’s your favorite spot to write?
I’ve built a small studio at the back end of our property, in the trees. So far, it’s more storage space than writing space. All the books to date have been done at a desk in the bedroom. Someday … the studio!

Q. Do you have any advice for those following in your footsteps?
Luck played a major role in my getting published. So I’d say be ready for luck to happen—show up, have something to send after a chance meeting, follow up after any help given; be involved in the children’s writing community; and don’t give up.

Q. How are you celebrating the release of AND THEN COMES CHRISTMAS?
I’ve done local library and bookstore readings. I’ll be interviewed on our local radio station on Tuesday morning.

Q. I love your writing and look forward to more books from you Tom!
Thanks again and happy holidays, Tom.

Candlewick has kindly offered to send a free copy of AND THEN COMES CHRISTMAS to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

AND THEN COMES CHRISTMAS. Text copyright © 2014 by Tom Brenner. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jana Christy. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.