July 17, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, I LOVE MY DRAGON (and other dragon books), by Jodi Moore

Make way for Dragons! And make way for another installment of Birth Stories for Books.

I Love My Dragon by Jodi Moore and Howard McWilliam
Today’s guest is Jodi Moore, author of a heap of dragon books, including her latest, a board book entitled, I LOVE MY DRAGON (illustrated by Howard McWilliam, Flashlight Press, 2019).

Fun Fact: Jodi's publisher, Flashlight Press played a role in my path to first publication. As I've shared before, David Michael Slater was the author who helped me connect with my first publisher, Abdo Publishing Group. The reason I first came to know David's work was because of his book, The Ring Bear, which was published by Flashlight Press! Cool beans, huh?

Well, let's get back to dragons, and hear directly from Jodi:

On Inviting Dragons to “Move In”
by Jodi Moore

My lifelong passion for stories began on my mother’s lap.

Like many parents, my mom worked outside the home when I was a toddler. Each night, she’d bring home a different book for us to share. It was only natural that I would learn to associate books with love.

Jodi Moore with her Mom
As soon as I could hold a crayon, I began crafting my own. First, in pictures, then, as I learned to write, with words. As a child, I’d spend hours creating characters and adventures. And as a teen and young adult, I’d draft stories to help me make sense of the world.

I read everything I could get my hands on. “Library” was my favorite day of the week.



When our two sons were born, my husband Larry and I couldn’t wait to fill their shelves with books. (Truth? We enrolled them in book clubs before they were born.) Reading bedtime stories became the time to relax our bodies and ignite our imaginations.

It also reignited my passion for writing stories. I began to read books on craft, attend conferences and write manuscripts. I submitted some of them.

I got rejected.

When I look back on them, I realize they were “positive” rejections, what we call “champagne” rejections, highlighting I had talent, but that my particular story was “not right” for them. Some asked for more.

But I only saw the “no.” And because I felt rejected, I became dejected.

I stopped writing picture books.

However, I did keep writing for trade journals and magazines. And I immersed myself in raising our boys. How I loved encouraging our sweet sons to live their dreams! “Dad and I believe in you,” we’d tell them. “Don’t let yourselves get discouraged. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Then, as children do, they grew up. They left for college.

Empty nest hit hard.

“It’s time to do what you’re meant to do now,” my husband said. “Write those picture books.”

My mind flooded with memories of rejection. “I can’t…it’s too hard.”

“Really?” Our boys challenged me. “Have you been lying to us all these years?” (Don’t you love it when your kids parrot your own words back to you?)

So, my husband and I made a deal. I would commit the next four years to writing. Serious writing. Like “I’m going to work to get a story published” writing.

I became more active in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), attending conferences. I joined a critique group. I connected with other writerly people (who, in every sense of the word, became family.)

That first Labor Day was admittedly tough. Larry and I visited the beach for the first time (since the boys had been born) without them. But my hubby, being my third child, brought the sand toys anyway and began building a castle. Several toddlers in the vicinity decided he needed “help.” One little guy stuck a strand of seaweed in the mouth of the castle. Larry said, “That looks like a dragon’s tail. Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in.”

by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam
The heavens opened, and the angels sang…and the idea for When A Dragon Moves In was conceived.

When I submitted the manuscript to various editors, I was asked, “Is the dragon real or imaginary?”

“I’d like the readers to decide,” I answered.

Rejections followed.

Until I sent the story to Flashlight Press.

I won’t deny that my brilliant editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, asked that same question. However, when I expressed my desire for the reader to decide, she was intrigued rather than negative. “But…how do we draw a character that may or may not be there?”

Hmm. That did pose a challenge.

We researched for a year, looking at the way other books handled “imaginary” friends. I worried each subsequent email would bring the ultimate rejection.

But, I’m thrilled to say, it didn’t. Shari shared my vision. And when she presented the project to brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam, he took it to heights I’d never imagined! His artwork not only dazzles, amuses and pulls on the heartstrings, it offers a dual explanation for every action on each page, truly allowing the reader to decide for themselves.

In 2011, our two young men graduated from college and When A Dragon Moves In (my debut picture book) was released into the world. I’m thrilled to say that readers loved the idea that they could decide for themselves…and debated passionately for their position!

by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam
Many asked if there would be a follow up, and in 2015, we welcomed When A Dragon Moves In Again (a humorous, yet emotional take on sibling rivalry, where a baby “moves in” to the family and charms the dragon away from our boy.)
by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam

Later this summer, I’m excited to report I Love My Dragon, a board book for the youngest dragon enthusiasts, will wing its way into the book world…and hopefully into your hearts! It’s available for preorder now, through your favorite book seller.



Here’s the thing. They say it only takes one “yes,” one person who embraces your vision and is willing to take that chance. I’d like to extend that a bit.

You see, while writing is a solitary act, publishing a book is not. It takes the support of book professionals and sellers. Of critique partners and writer buddies. Of librarians and teachers. Of readers.

And even before that first word, it takes the support (emotionally and often financially) of beloved family. I couldn’t have done any of this without my husband and our boys. Without extended family members. Without my mom and dad.

Sadly, my mom battled both mental illness and alcoholism, and passed away before she ever held one of my books. This past December, I lost my beloved father, whose strength and love held our family together when everything seemed to fall apart.

The dedication on I Love My Dragon reads: 

For Mom, who placed that first book in my hand, and for Dad, who helped turn the page. 

Because I shall forever associate books with love. And with them. 

Jodi Moore with her Dad

Oh, Jodi, you have me in a heap of dragon tears. What a beautiful dedication, and what a beautiful birth story. I, too, was lucky enough to have heaps of books put into my hands as a child, and I too, equate books with love. (And my nest is only half empty, and even THAT is hitting hard!) 

Thank you for vividly sharing with us the importance of surrounding ourselves with "writerly people" and being persistent in the face of disappointment...and for reminding us that that sometimes the best advice is to listen to the advice we've been handing out to others for years.

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Jodi Moore is author of the award winning WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN, I LOVE MY DRAGON and GOOD NEWS NELSON. She writes both picture books and novels, hoping to challenge and inspire her readers by opening new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking. Jodi is the proud, (admittedly) neurotic mother of two talented young men and never ceases to be amazed at how far the umbilical cord will stretch. She lives in Boalsburg with her husband, Larry, their dove “Bake,” and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. Visit Jodi at www.writerjodimoore.com.





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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

June 26, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?, by Estela Bernal

Can You See Me Now? by Estela Bernal
One of the things I most love about the Birth Stories for Books series on my blog is getting to know members of my writing community a little more deeply. I met Estela Bernal several years ago. We’ve signed books together, shared meals at book-related events, and exchanged friendly conversation at these opportunities, but we’ve not really gotten to know each other beyond these settings.

I really enjoyed getting to know Estela a little bit better as we prepared for this blog post, and I look forward to the next in-person opportunity to connect with her.

Friends, meet Estela Bernal: Air Force veteran, former teacher and social worker, SCBWI and Willamette Writers member, CASA volunteer, foster parent, and author of CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? (Piñata Books, 2014).

My Writing Secret
by Estela Bernal

Born and raised in a small Texas town, my love of books and reading began in first grade. Like most Hispanic kids at that time, I didn’t have books at home and there were no libraries anywhere near the town, much less in the neighborhood. When I started learning English and suddenly had access to books and other written material, I was hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on, as if trying to make up for lost time.

To this day, I can’t remember how or where I found a copy of The Good Earth. I read and re-read it, losing myself in that world—strange and exotic, yet familiar in so many ways. Since my father was a farmer, perhaps it was my own family’s connection to the land that drew me in and held my interest.

Although I did my share of writing in college, my writing was limited to reports, essays, and such. Unlike most writers, though, it never occurred to me to write my own stories until many years later. It came about in a unique and unexpected way. I was at a Tish Hinojosa concert in a small and intimate venue in Davis, California. Tish sang folk songs, traditional Mexican songs, and some of her own compositions (many of them about social injustice). That very evening, I decided I wanted to write. Rather than songs, though, I immediately decided I’d like to write for children.

My writing journey started with reading books on craft and many more children’s books. Along the way, I took writing classes here and there. I found the whole process fascinating and, although I was working full time and had a part-time job, I spent most of my spare time reading and trying to write.

After I’d been writing for a while, I attempted a YA novel and entered it in a UC Irvine writing contest. I was surprised and elated when, a few months later, I got a $500 check and a letter informing me my entry had won 2nd place. At the ceremony held to celebrate the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners, one of the staff said, “Your friends and family must be very proud of you.” She was shocked when I confessed that no one even knew I wrote.  “Well, now you’ll have to come out of the closet, won’t you?”

But even with that validation of my work, I remained in my little writing closet for a while longer. It wasn’t until I retired from my jobs that I finally shared my “secret” with family and co-workers who were just as surprised as the UC Irvine staff member.

My retirement wasn’t really official until three months after I moved to Portland where I had much more time to indulge my reading and writing passions. I somehow found out about an organization called The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It so happened that the regional group was having a picnic. I couldn’t believe my luck at finding such a resource and the local group of amazing fellow writers. It was there that I met the lovely Dawn and learned about an upcoming Silver Falls retreat. At the retreat I met Kim Kasch. We were both looking for a critique group and, after several short-lived attempts we ended up forming the Rose City Writers group which meets every other week.

I’ve lost count of how many conferences, workshops, and retreats I’ve attended since. I always come away totally energized and motivated to keep going.

Oregon Reads Aloud
My MG novel Can You See Me Now? was published in 2014. A couple of years later, thanks to another lovely lady, Amber Keyser, I was asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for the collection (Oregon Reads Aloud) which celebrates Start Making a Reader Today (SMART’s) 25th anniversary. I was not only honored to join a very talented group of local writers and illustrators, but it was especially meaningful to be part of a project that does so much for schools and children who may otherwise not have the beautiful experience of having a reading mentor. As a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for children in foster care, I knew many CASAs are also SMART readers, so that made it even more special.

Although my free time has again shrunk quite drastically (since I became a foster parent myself to a very active nine-year-old), I continue to attend as many writing events as I can fit in and write a little whenever I can. Some recent SCBWI events (a Novel Idea in April and a Picture Book Intensive in May) were a special treat because, not only did I have the opportunity to absorb great information, I also got to connect with fellow writers and meet new writers and illustrators.

I continue to draw inspiration from others’ creative journeys. I’m currently reading (mostly during the few quiet moments before my own bedtime) A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader, a collection of letters by authors, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and philosophers about the impact reading has had on their lives. Each letter is accompanied by an illustration. As I read these letters, the young reader still curled up inside my heart, keeps nodding, smiling and being reminded that, despite the different creative paths we each may follow, there is one common thread that binds us all—our love of books and reading.

It’s been a wonderful journey so far and SCBWI continues to play a very important role in my life.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your path to publication, Estela, and about some of the other aspects of your life. I'm so glad your secret is out!

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Estela Bernal is an Air Force veteran, former teacher and social worker, as well as a member of SCBWI and Willamette Writers. Her MG novel (CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?) was a finalist in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards. Her PB story Mount Tabor: Home of Ardi the Squirrel was published by Graphic Arts Books as part of an anthology of stories by Oregon authors (OREGON READS ALOUD). Learn more at her website, www.estelabernal.com.

“I believe reading plays a key role in a child’s education and am a big supporter of diversity in children’s books. Because I support diversity in children's lit, I help sponsor a writing contest for children through Skipping Stones, a multicultural literary magazine for children based in Eugene, OR, which promotes diversity in children's books. Through my readings, workshops, and classroom presentations, I hope to instill a love of reading, writing, and learning among children, particularly underprivileged children. I’m currently revising two YA novels (one historic and one contemporary), one MG novel, and several PB stories—all in various stages of completion.”

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

June 12, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, YOU KNOW WHAT? by Carol Gordon Ekster

You Know What? by Carol Gordon Ekster and Nynke Talsma
You Know What? It’s time for another Birth Stories for Books post. Today’s guest is Carol Gordon Ekster, author of the picture book, YOU KNOW WHAT? (illustrated by Nynke Talsma, Clavis Books, 2017).

I've long enjoyed Writers' Rumpus, a blog community Carol belongs to. I mentioned the blog in my introduction to Laura Sassi's recent Birth Stories post, and Laura was kind enough to introduce me to Carol. Next thing you know, I'm lucky enough to get the opportunity to feature Carol's work here!

So let's turn it over to Carol to learn about:

The Book That Was Born On the Way To Meet My Grandson
by Carol Gordon Ekster

My life before writing for children was filled with daily bells ringing and piles of papers to grade. I taught 4th grade for 35 years. Teaching was my passion. And though my Masters’ degree was in reading and language and I had writers’ workshops with my students a few times a week, I honestly never chose to write for myself. Writing was hard! But I was doing the prep work for writing picture books. I read a few picture books a day to support my curriculum. The school librarian delivered requested stacks of books weekly. My local librarians got to know my name and after my first book was published, requested me to speak at a library conference on a panel of authors who were avid library users themselves.

I can’t say I always believed other artists who talked about the way they received stories from the universe, but that is what happened to me. I didn’t come to writing, writing came to me…and not until I was 50 years old! Story ideas, sentences, and titles continue to come to me in dreams, during spin class, and at other unexpected times. I welcome each like a gift and am grateful this is a new way for me to continue communicating with children.

The first story that took me by surprise and was written on a beach with post-its and a pencil never sold. But stories kept coming. I got a few positive responses in the first few years and sold a magazine article. Then I got my first book deal for the twentieth manuscript I wrote. That took four years. And when I retired, writing for children took over as my new full-time passion. I recently submitted my 95th manuscript.

In order to tell you about my most recently published picture book, I have to tell you that I do some of my best writing on planes. Perhaps it’s the tight space or the lack of distraction….but I find focus in the cramped quarters. Usually, I use flight time to revise….work on each sentence to tighten, refine, improve. But in August of 2014, my grandson was born. We were flying out from Boston to New Mexico to meet him for the first time. I was hyped, psyched, emotional. I was surprised I could get any writing done at all! And then in the seat in front of me, I heard a little boy say to his parents, “You know what?” I immediately opened a new Word document and my fingers began typing as if they had a mind of their own. I brainstormed a list of actions and their consequences. My husband saw what I was doing and we had some fun with this. (Though I couldn’t use most of those ideas.)

I did not have time to plan or think about that story much while I diapered and cuddled this incredible new love in my life. But my process has always been that my work takes place at the keyboard and my fingers do the talking, which is odd compared to my teaching when I would plan weeks ahead. So on the plane trip home I was surprised by the story that developed. It became a little boy procrastinating his bedtime by asking his mom repeatedly, “You know what?”

This was the 60th story that I had written in these past 17 years that I have been writing. And I have collected 1600 plus rejections. Each of my previous manuscripts that were contracted by publishers have received no less than 13 rejections. But this one? It all happened pretty quickly…that is for the world of publishing. I shared it with only two critique groups (I’m in five). I revised a bit, sent it out and got a fast turn around with a lovely rejection. I used what that editor said about the story to send it out to the next submission, the international publisher, Clavis Books. I heard about them when they were holding a picture book contest. I entered with a different manuscript, and though I didn’t win, I became familiar with their beautiful books and sweet mission. So I submitted this new manuscript, You Know What? and in only about six weeks, I got that wonderful jump-for-joy acceptance e-mail. (I’ve waited two years to hear back about other manuscripts from other publishers.)

I won’t give the details of the time it took to actually get the contract in the mail or to learn who would be illustrating…because as much as I’m aware of the slow publishing process…I am tainted by my life as a teacher where everything felt immediate. Let’s just say that my grandson was almost two and a half before I held the Dutch version (Mama, Wist Je Dat?) in my hands.


He was three when the English version, You Know What?, hit the shelves, September 2017.


He was four when I held the Korean language edition in my hands, 2019.


(Arabic and Chinese language editions are in process.) I was so honored and beyond thrilled that it became a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award in the New England region, 2018 and that it was a CLEL Bell Picture Book Awards Nominee for Talk, 2018.

This was a new type of picture book for me. Transitioning from a long-time teacher to an author has been a melding of skills for me. Most of the books I have written have messages…to have hope after divorce, to be organized, to be grateful. Most of my books could serve as mentor texts for a myriad of literary terms and writing tips. But this one? This mostly brings the joy of a shared reading with it…and maybe a few other things. And when the art director wanted me to think about changing the final page to the previous spread, I couldn’t do it. I knew that last page invited readers to imagine what the open ended “You know what?” might mean, what Oliver, the main character, might say next. I had already designed the sheet to go with it so that children could write and draw their own final page as a follow-up activity. I will forever be a teacher at heart.

And my next book, the 84th manuscript I submitted, will be out in 2021 with Beaming Books. I continue to want to touch lives with my books. This one, Some Daddies, celebrates the diversity of what it can look like to be a dad…a joyful book with a serious message. I look forward to going through the process of finding out the illustrator, seeing those first sketches, and holding the book in my hands…and perhaps sharing that book’s birth story here when it’s time. Writing for children continues to be an amazing journey!

Carol, this is such a wonderful birth story. I absolutely love how you have kept count of your manuscripts and submissions and rejections. I have a general sense of this sort of thing, but I couldn't say with certainty how many times each of my published manuscripts has been rejected, or how many manuscripts I've written over the years. It really puts some perspective on the commitment required to participate in the publishing world when you track stats as you do. 

I also love how you've tracked the progress and different translations of your book by the age of your grandson. I track my manuscripts by the ages and stages of my children (...this is the story I used to sing to my daughter when she was a baby ... this is the story that came to me when I was on my way to the informational meeting for the local arts school ... this is the manuscript I wrote when my son was in bed with the flu ... One of my upcoming books was inspired by something my son said when he was in diapers... he'll be a senior in high school when the book is released next fall!)

I'm so grateful you've shared your birth story for YOU KNOW WHAT?  You've inspired us all to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep being grateful that we get to do this rewarding work! (P.S. How lucky that 35 years of children had you as their teacher. Did you start teaching when you were five?!)

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Carol Gordon Ekster is the author of Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?(A Story of Divorce) Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room, which received the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval, and Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You which won 3rd place in the children’s category of the Catholic Press Association Book Awards and was also a finalist for the ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards 2016. Her first e-book, Hip Hopping Books, came out spring 2015 as part of a digital library with Schoolwide, Inc. Her newest picture book, You Know What?, came out first in Dutch (Mama, Wist Je Dat?), December 2016 with Clavis Books. The English language edition released September 2017 and was a CLEL Bell Picture Book Awards Nominee for Talk, 2018, and a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2018.  The Korean language edition released 2019 and Arabic and Chinese editions are in process.

Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for thirty-five years. Now retired, Carol is grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children. When not working on her writing, Carol does yoga and biking. She lives in Andover, MA with her husband Mark. Find out more about her and her other books at www.carolgordonekster.com.

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

June 4, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL, by Tara Lazar

by Tara Lazar and Melissa Crowton
I'm so excited to be able to share today's Birth Stories for Books interview. My guest is Tara Lazar, founder of Storystorm and author of many beloved books for children, including a new book that lands on bookshelves today: YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL (illustrated by Melissa Crowton, Tundra Books,  June 2019).

Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by to talk with us, Tara. You have been such a good friend to the KidLit community. Through your blog and through Storystorm, you’ve amplified the work of so many other authors and illustrators, and you’ve been instrumental in helping other authors and illustrators "find their stories.” It's wonderful to see your career flourish, and it's a privilege to have an opportunity to shine a light on YOUR work. 

Tara Lazar: Thank you! You are so kind!

DP: Your latest book, YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL, comes out today. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication for this particular story? For example, I’d love to hear about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this story and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

TL: Honestly, it was so long ago, I barely remember! What I do recall is wanting to write a story that relied on visual puns and gags—to showcase the picture book format. Writing it helped me better understand the relationship between words and illustrations in a picture book.

I wrote it rather quickly, but there was a sticky problem. The copious art notes made it impossible to read coherently! After a few rejections, my agent Ammi-Joan Paquette suggested we format the manuscript in a grid. Her own agent, Erin Murphy, had recently done the same for one of Joan’s note-dependent manuscripts. It was such a brilliant solution, I blogged about it to help other authors: https://taralazar.com/2012/10/03/art-notes-in-picture-book-manuscripts/.

DP: What a great, helpful idea, Tara! Thanks for sharing it!

TL: You’ll note that post was written in fall 2012, almost seven years ago!

As you know, the manuscript centers on a circus, and many editors we submitted to confessed to being afraid of clowns. I had no idea!

Librarians have always remarked to me that kids love circuses, yet there are hardly any circus-themed books! Now we know why!

Well, it took a few years to sell that manuscript. Frankly, I had let it go. (Cue the music.) But my agent loved it so much, she would not give up. Every few months she would send me an email saying she sent it out to more readers. And I would reply, “Oh, silly Joan!”

But she was persistent and it paid off. Tundra loved it immediately and once it was in their hands, it speeded through acquisitions.

DP: I'm so glad Joan persisted! (Side note: this book would be a great companion to the work that Clowns Without Borders does. They do a fundraising show in my hometown each year, and the families that attend are giddy with laughter and joy).  

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

TL: The big brother was a lot meaner to his little brother in my drafts, but Melissa Crowton came in to illustrate and softened him, making him kind and kidding at the same time. It’s a smart and lovely interpretation.





Illustrations by Melissa Crowton 


DP: Oh! The artwork is spectacular! 

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication? 

TL: I give all the credit to Joan. She put it into the grid and made the whole dynamic of the story understandable. And she never gave up on it, even when I did! (I dedicated the book to her!)

DP: Yay, Joan! 

When you look back to your first published book as compared to this book, what were some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

TL: The relatable sibling relationship (say that 10 times fast) is similar in THE MONSTORE and YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL. They are different because editors weren’t afraid of monsters! (By the way, there are no scary clowns in the book, just a couple adorable ones!)


Illustrations by Melissa Crowton


DP: The characters are SO ADORABLE!!

I’ve noticed that several of your books are published by different publishers. Are you able to share how you came to connect with these different publishing houses, and also, if there were notable differences in the publication processes for one or more of the different books/publishers?

TL: Again, all the credit goes to Joan. She understands which editors like which kind of stories. She knows how to match manuscripts. This is why I recommend agents for picture book authors.

The process for each book has been relatively similar. I receive an editorial letter and I typically make two revision rounds. I’m consulted on illustrator decisions (I never make the decision, but I make style suggestions). I see various illustration passes of the manuscript, to comment on them. It’s so exciting to see the characters and action come to life!

DP: Seeing the characters and action come to life through the illustrations is one of my favorite parts, too! 

Another one of my favorite aspects of being an author is connecting with young readers at schools, libraries, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. You seem to maintain an active schedule of book-related events. What advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful events?

TL: Be yourself! I love school visits and meeting kids because they allow me to be my goofy self, launching into fake accents and cracking corny jokes. I love to make them laugh! When I do that around adults, they just think I’m a weirdo. They’re right. (Le sigh.)

DP: I'll bet kids LOVE your school visits

Likewise, it seems that you are experiencing success (to use a word you recently featured on your blog!) as a sought after faculty member for various writing conferences and other professional development opportunities. What advice to you have for fellow authors/illustrators who are interested in arranging opportunities to present at these types of professional events?

TL: I share what I know because I wanted to know it all when I began in this business! So now I can give back and inform, to help others make more great literature for kids. I want every child to find their “most favoritest” book, so if I can help more stories find their way into the world, I’m thrilled.

If you want to present, submit proposals to your local SCBWI conference or event. Do an educator’s evening at your local bookstore. Make friends with local booksellers and librarians. I have gotten more presentation gigs by word-of-mouth than anything else. I have a passion for picture books and I suppose it shines through.

DP: Your passion for picture books DEFINITELY shines through, Tara! 

You coordinate Storystorm, which is how I initially learned about you and your books. What have been the most positive (and not-so-positive) aspects of facilitating such a major online event? Based on your experiences hosting Storystorm, what advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/illustrators who have an interest in setting up some type of a web-based, community “event” or resource? 

TL: I am NOT a natural planner, and I am NOT an organized person, so putting the event together is a struggle for me. But I love how everyone loves it, so that carries me along.

I would suggest that you NOT host something like this unless your writing is already strong, you have an agent, you have a book deal. Because it’s a lot of work and it takes you away from the most important thing: developing your craft. Running an event won’t get you a book deal, it will just make you an event planner. Think about what you want to be. If it’s an author, write books!

DP. That's really sound advice, Tara. Thanks. 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

TL: I don’t necessarily wish that I had known this, but it is something I have learned: it never gets easier. And I don’t think it should. You are writing books for the most important audience—children! You’d better sweat and struggle to create the best story possible!

DP: That is SO TRUE (and I agree, it's probably something folks starting out in this business don't really want to know). 

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?

TL: I just finished a new crop of picture books—sometimes they come in spurts—so I am currently in waiting mode. I hope that one of the stories will soon become a new Hanukkah classic!

DP: Sounds fun! I can't wait to hear more!

One more question: What’s the backstory on the flower you are holding in your mouth on the landing page to your website (and next to your bio, below)?

TL: It’s a fake flower I found and always kept in my car (thinking my huge minivan was a cute little VW Beetle).  At book festivals, many authors decorate their space invitingly and I had nuthin’ besides that flower! At that book festival, I put it in a small vase on my table. When a friend asked to take a photo of me, I grabbed it and chomped down for a funny picture.

DP: Fun! And Silly! And a perfect ending to an interview with an author that has helped so many authors grow tiny seeds of story ideas into full-blossoming books!  

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL, Tara! It's been a pleasure to get to know you a little better through our shared love of picture books. 

Friends: The best way you can say, "Thanks" to authors who have helped you along the way is to support their work. Tara's books are available everywhere books are sold. (And, if YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL is not yet available in your local library, most libraries have a simple procedure where you can request a book be added to their collection). 

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Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books.

Tara's book 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY was honored with the 2018 Irma S. & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature from Bank Street College of Education, as chosen by thousands of children across the US. Her other titles include THE MONSTORE (2013), I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (2015), LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (2015), NORMAL NORMAN (2016), WAY PAST BEDTIME (2017) and YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL (2019). Many more will be released in the coming years, including THE UPPER CASE: TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY, the sequel to 7 ATE 9.

Discover original stories, book reviews and giveaways at her award-winning blog "Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)" at TaraLazar.com.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010. She speaks professionally about overcoming disability to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara teaches writing workshops for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Highlights Foundation, and schools across America. She's Co-Chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature conference and a former picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books (WNDB).

Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and a skateboarding hamster named Ozzie.

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

May 31, 2019

Guest Post: Cowgirls Don't Wear Diapers

As I prepare for this here Cowgirl to make her way into the book world this upcoming fall (October 8, 2019, to be precise), I'm grateful for the opportunity to travel to other blogs for guest posts and interviews.

Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?

I hope you'll ride along with me to the Rain City Librarian's blog for a detailed sign language story time lesson plan called "Cowgirls Don't Wear Diapers" (which of course can be co-branded as "Cowboys Don't Wear Diapers."

The lesson plan is modular, so you can grab the ideas that work for you and leave the rest behind (pardon the pun).

Jane Whittingham, host of the Rain City Librarian's blog, is a Canadian picture book author, children's librarian, and fellow cat lover and travel enthusiast. Her blog is LOADED with great resources for librarians and other educators (and anyone else who is interested in books for kids). I had the pleasure of featuring the Birth Story for her latest book here.

If you are interested in more lesson plans or event plans that incorporate sign language, click here, and if you're looking for more cowgirl, pirate, and potty-themed lesson plans / event plans, click here

Last, but not least, if you'd like me to visit YOUR blog next, get in touch by commenting below or sending a message through the contact form. Yee-ha!

May 15, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, LAST OF THE NAME and A WOLF CALLED WANDER, by Rosanne Parry

Last of the Name, by Rosanne Parry
It’s time for another Birth Stories for Books post, and today I’m so happy to share an interview with author Rosanne Parry about the path to publication for her two most recent books: LAST OF THE NAME (Carolrhoda Books, 2019) and A WOLF CALLED WANDER (illustrated by Mónica ArmiñoGreenwillow Books, 2019).

Let’s get right to it:

Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by to talk with us, Rosanne. If I remember correctly, you and I first met at a week-long writing conference hosted by Linda Zuckerman when we were both in the pre-published stage of our careers. How fun it is to circle back with you now that you have six middle grade novels under your belt. 

Today we’re going to begin by talking about LAST OF THE NAME (Carolrhoda Books, 2019) which just came out in April. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication for this particular story? For example, it’s my understanding that it’s been a long time in the making. I'd love to learn about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for your story and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

Rosanne Parry: I got the idea for Last of the Name when I was in Dublin with my son for World Championships of Irish Dance. We visited a reconstruction of a famine ship in the Liffey River. I learned that from the 1840s to the 1870s (the peak famine years) the largest category of emigrating Irish persons was a single girl between the ages of 12 and 25 traveling alone. The rise of abolition and then the civil war had made it unpopular to have black house servants in the north so those wealthy families in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago dismissed their black house servants and hired Irish girls instead.  I also learned that many Irish served in the Union army, even boys as young as 8 or 9, and that the first draft in American history took place during the Civil War. I knew then that a story about a girl and boy traveling to New York would provide all the conflict and excitement I needed to carry the story.

DP: That definitely sounds like exciting fodder for a story! You have me hooked already. 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

RP: I researched this story over many years, learning about Irish history, language, and dance. I studied the civil war, the situation of free black workers in the north, and historical newspapers. I learned to play the harp. I visited the Tenement Museum in NY and the Emigration Museum in Dublin. I spent some time with the Irish American Historical Society in New York which had an old manor house just off Central Park which I used as a model for the Treadwell home. I was struck by the grandness of the public rooms contrasting with the cramped and uninsulated servant’s quarter at the top of the house. And the stairs for servants—steep as a ladder and no lights at all! So those details from my research stayed consistent throughout.

Once I had a sense of where the story was going I made a detailed outline (my usual process is looser) in order to make the story events slot in with the progress of the Civil War and the looming draft riots. Once the outline was in place I wrote the whole thing in about six weeks, but only because I’d had a foot surgery and couldn’t walk so I could devote 10-12 hours a day to the writing. I was so bored! I would have gone nuts without the book to write. There weren’t major changes in the revision process. Clarifications. Fleshing out some scenes to give my reader more context. And I added a few extra scenes earlier in the book with the Jewish tailor and the Black carpenter who become more important toward the end of the story.

Oh and I was thrilled that Learner agreed to have newspaper headlines in the chapter headers so that we could round out the context of the novel without leaving the point of view of my 12 year old narrator. That way my reader can track the progress of the civil war battles even though they are happening far away. Also it allowed me to drop in interesting nuggets of information. For example the Black troops that served in the Union Army were served by Black surgeons. And many thousands of poor immigrants in the Five Points neighborhood lived in underground rooms with no light and no air circulation and with standing water on the dirt floor.

DP: Wow, Rosanne. It sounds like you could write dozens of different books on this topic with all of the historical expertise you've developed during your research. How exciting that your readers will continue to benefit from of all of this excellent preparation on your part. 

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication?

RP: Historical fiction can be hard to sell, so my agent and I looked at publishers with a strong tie to the school and library market who had the vision to make this book the best version of itself that it could be. We found the perfect home in Carolrhoda which is an imprint of Learner.

A Wolf Called Wander, by Rosanne Parry
DP: You also have another new book, A WOLF CALLED WANDER (Greenwillow, 2019). I’ve heard you mention that both books touch on migration, human and animal. What were some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for these two books? 

RP: When we first sent out A Wolf Called Wander most publishers found the writing terrific but felt it was too slim for a MG and too meaty for a chapter book. But Andersen Press in the UK, the originating publisher, looked at it and said, this needs to be a fully illustrated story book that is in print with the same illustrations 50 years from now. I was blown away by the care lavished on this story. The book is gorgeous. It has already sold in 6 translations, including the American version at Greenwillow. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. And the reviews have been comparing it to Jack London and The Incredible Journey so that’s pretty amazing. Really it came down to an amazing editor, Chloe Sakur, and an equally gifted Art Director, Kate Grove, who had a vision for the book and their publisher Klaus Flugg who believed in them and gave them everything they needed to make something extraordinary.
A Wolf Called Wander, UK Edition

I’ve been very lucky. But I also wrote something that inspired this leap of faith.

So if you are in the slog of writing and looking for a publisher, please know, there is no special connection I had to this publishing house prior to this deal. The book came through the same channel every other book comes. The writing sparked something in them and that is the entire game.  Put your whole heart in every page, there’s no other way to gain readers.

DP: Thanks for telling it like it is, Rosanne! 

I recall that your earlier books, (HEART OF A SHEPHERDSECOND FIDDLE, WRITTEN IN STONE, and TURN OF THE TIDE) were all published by Random House, but I noticed that your two latest books are published by Carolrhoda and Greenwillow, respectively. Are you able to share how this came about and/or how you connected with these two new (to you) publishing houses?

RP: Often an imprint within a publishing house shifts its focus or a new editor takes over and brings a new vision to a publisher. I had been with Jim Thomas at Random House—who I met through the Oregon SCBWI Fall Retreat. He left publishing entirely after Written in Stone came out. The editor who took his place moved the imprint from a literary MG and YA focus to a much younger and more commercial chapter book focus. (The A-Z mysteries, the Babymouse books etc.) They finished out the two book contract I had with them by publishing The Turn of the Tide and then I moved on to publishing houses who were focused on the kind of work I really like to write. I have nothing but gratitude for the gang over at Random House and I’m thrilled to have my tenacious and savvy agent, Fiona Kenshole, at my side to negotiate the transitions.

DP: That's great info. Were there notable differences in the path to publication for your earlier books as compared to your latest books?

RP: The big difference was that I had a body of finished work for my agent to look at which gave us the room to think strategically about what to try to sell first. Because one of my long-term goals was to have work in translation, Fiona suggested that we start with the wolf story because animal stories translate more readily than American-based school stories. And then the immigration story Last of the Name felt very timely so we decided to go out with that one next. Interesting that the immigration story ended up with a launch date a month before A Wolf Called Wander because we sent it out almost a year after the wolf book. To be fair, the wolf book is fully illustrated by the incredibly talented Spanish artist Mónica Armiño which took quite a bit of time.

DP: I can't wait to see the illustrations. The book sounds fabulous! 

I know you are a part-time bookseller at the legendary independent bookstore, Annie Bloom's Books. What advice would you give to fellow authors (and aspiring authors) from your perspective as a bookseller?

RP: Two things: Care about what you are writing about. Your work will automatically be better if you have a passion for your subject/characters/story world. And your book has to live somewhere on our shelves. A sci-fi mystery with fantasy elements, historical footnotes, and a collection of recipes which appeals to teens and adults and toddlers equally? No. Please don’t write that. Think about where you want to your book to be. Imagine your shelf neighbors. Hold your ideal reader in your heart always. 

DP: Such sage advice! (Have I told you about my herbal recipe book for teens to toddlers? Kidding!) 

One of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at schools, libraries, and bookstore visits. I’m always looking for new pro tips. Wearing the hats of both bookseller and author, I know you’ve presented and/or read to many young readers over the years, too. What advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters?

RP: School visits and bookstore events are not a required part of the job. If you dread the thought of them or find it overwhelming to both create new work and do events, set the public stuff aside and just focus on the writing. Nobody else can do that part for you. On the other hand if you find public events energizing, go for it! Think about what you have to offer a classroom or a bookstore and then look at it as an exercise in serving the literary community rather than a book selling event. Serve your community well and the sales will take care of themselves.

And if you are an aspiring author, the best way to get free mentoring is to attend as many bookstore events as possible by authors writing in your genre. I host book events almost every week and I learn a lot even from folks writing far outside my genre.

DP: I couldn't agree more, Rosanne! I love attending book events for other authors. It's professional development, socializing, and "buying local" all wrapped up into one occasion! 

I also know that you coordinate the League of Exceptional Writers, which is described in your bio as "a free mentoring workshop for young avid readers and writers, sponsored by the Oregon SCBWI and Powell's Bookstore.” Similar to my earlier question above, based on your experience and observations at these events, what advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters?

RP: If you are an author with a book published in a format that Powell's can sell, or if you are a professional working in the book industry, think about a 10-15 minute nugget of content you can convey to avid writers ages 10-14. (We accept kids 8-18 but most fall into the middle range).  For example Hannah Holt talked about how to use your family tree for story ideas. Barry Deutsch showed kids how to tell a joke in 4 comic book panels. Nevin Mays showed the kids audio book recording equipment and gave them some passages to try recording. My League members love to practice what you are teaching, so have an idea of something concrete they can do in 10-20 minutes—write a joke, write a passage of dialog using a new skill, draw a face with 3 different expressions

I will be looking for next year's mentors in June. Please email me if you are interested.

DP: Great tips. Thanks! 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

RP: I wish I had known that it would be possible for my children to go to college without the support of my regular teaching salary. I worried so much that I wouldn’t be able to help them with college, when in fact it has worked out just fine.

DP: Oh, that's a wonderful answer, Rosanne. You've worked so hard for so many years. I'm so glad to see that effort pay off. 

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?

RP: I am positively brimming over with exciting news that I can’t tell you. Sorry! Stay tuned. I’ll post things on my website as I go.

DP: Nothing like a cliff hanger to keep us waiting on the edge of our seats (and refreshing our screens)! 

One more question: How is that you started writing in a treehouse, and how is it possible that your  treehouse is a comfortable place to write?!

Rosanne's Weather-Dependent Writing Spot
RP: I started writing in a treehouse because my children were 4, 7, 10 and 13 and I didn’t want to open every jar of peanut butter. When I was up there, they were more self sufficient, but if they were in trouble or just needed my company I wasn’t far away. My youngest used to come up and propose a popsicle date on the regular which I miss very much now that she’s in college.  My treehouse as you can see is not exactly weather proof. It works for me spring summer and fall because there are no books, no chores, no phone, no food, and no internet if I turn off my connection. Plenty of fresh air, birds, trees, squirrels and a zip line for quick escapes—I’m very lucky!

DP: Love it! (And I can especially relate to missing those sweet popsicle dates, given that my oldest is now in college, too).

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for your two latest books, Rosanne! My readers have learned so much from you, and we look forward to following your career to new heights!

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Rosanne Parry is the author of the many award winning novels including Heart of a Shepherd, and The Turn of the Tide. Her newest novels are Last of the Name and A Wolf Called Wander both on sale in the spring of 2019. She and her family live in an old farmhouse in Portland, Oregon. She writes in a tree house in her back yard.

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

May 8, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, TO LIVE ON AN ISLAND, by Emma Bland Smith

by Emma Bland Smith and Elizabeth Person
There are times when I read a Birth Stories for Books submission, and I think to myself, I want a book birth story just like this one! Today's birth story, from Emma Bland Smith, about her new book, To Live on an Island, (illustrated by Elizabeth Person, Little Bigfoot, May 2019), is one of those times.

Not only that, here is a fun fact about Emma that I didn't know until we connected for this post: We are double publishing house siblings. Like me, Emma has books published by ABDO and something forthcoming from West Margin Press. Maybe I'll have to inquire with Little Bigfoot to see if we can keep this theme going!

But for now, let's hear from Emma about her latest book:

To Live on an Island
by Emma Bland Smith

There’s an industry standard for getting a picture book acquired by a publisher. You write the manuscript. You revise it a gazillion times based on feedback from your critique partners. You send it to your agent. More revising ensues. At last, the manuscript goes out on submission to multiple editors. You hope and pray that one of them will fall in love with it and acquire it. (After which happy event even more revising will take place.)

I veered from the script for my second picture book, which comes out on May 14. After Little Bigfoot (the children’s imprint of Sasquatch Books) published my first picture book, Journey, in 2016, I hoped I could work with them again. I’d really clicked with my wonderful editor and was impressed with the quality and professionalism of everything about the publishing house, from editing to marketing.

Happily, my editor also wanted to work with me again. But because Little Bigfoot is a regional publisher, their titles generally focus on the Pacific Northwest. Most of my other manuscripts just wouldn’t work.

My editor suggested I send her some ideas first, rather than spending months researching and writing something that was all wrong to begin with. My agent gave me the green light, too.

What an opportunity! I perused guide books, scoured maps, and read tourist websites. I immersed myself in everything PNW (shorthand for Pacific Northwest, as I learned). Although I was open to many topics, I still had to feel passionate about my subject. If it worked out, I’d be living with this for the next several years, or longer.

It was while staring at a map of the Seattle area that I had my inspiration. Look at all those islands! I remember thinking. The area reminded me of the New England coast—rocky and varied, with islands big and small dotting the waters just off the coast. How was it that I’d barely even heard of the San Juan Islands before?

I’d always thought living on an island would be incredibly romantic. Their isolation—the fact that they are accessible only by boat or plane. The symbolism of leaving your troubles behind as you step off the ferry dock. The way they often seem to be frozen in a previous era, like something from, well, a book.

But what exactly would it be like to grow up on one? Right there, the seed of the book was planted in my mind. I started to think out the structure and voice. I decided my story would be in second person (I’d always thought second person was so lyrical!) and that it would follow a child across one full day living on one of these lovely San Juan Islands. I wanted the main text to be sweet and spare, but I’d give each spread some layered text or a sidebar with additional nonfiction information about the islands. It would be a book that residents could enjoy, and that tourists would buy to bring home.

I pitched the idea to my editor. She liked it—tentatively. There was actually no other picture book out there about the San Juans, so book sellers would be enthusiastic, in theory. But she and her team were a little worried about how locals would respond to a non-local writing about their lifestyle.

She had a point. I’d never even set foot there! But ultimately, she gave me the benefit of the doubt. I pledged that I would visit the islands to get the authentic feel of the lifestyle, I would connect with and interview residents, and I would do my utmost to capture the magic of island life without overly romanticizing it.

Author Emma Bland Smith Visiting the San Juan Islands

Writing To Live on an Island was a pleasure from start to finish—from my blissful week exploring them with my family, to seeing the beautiful illustrations by Elizabeth Person.

Illustrations by Elizabeth Person

Since then, I have signed several more picture book contracts with other publishers, which all came about in the regular way: write, revise, submit-- although each of these birth stories has its own particular quirks and twists. I guess no picture book beginning is the same!

I threw my whole heart into To Live on an Island, and will always be grateful for the opportunity to get to know this truly special corner of the world. I can’t wait to share the book!

What a fabulous birth story, Emma. Thank you for sharing it with us. Having grown up and raised a family in the Pacific NW, I have many fond memories of the San Juan Islands. My husband and I have traveled to many places together (last summer we celebrated our 30th anniversary, and I wrote him a song about our lifetime of shared travels). Traveling to the San Juan Islands was one of the first trips we took together, back when I was 19. It was the first time I saw whales breaching, and it is something I will never forget. Sweet memories indeed. I can't wait to read your book. 

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Emma Bland Smith is a children’s librarian and professional writer. Her first picture book, Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West, won Bank Street College’s Cook Prize and Northland College’s SONWA award. She is also the author of To Live on an Island and the Maddy McGuire, CEO, chapter book series, as well as several more forthcoming nonfiction picture books. Many of her books feature real-life animals—wolves, dogs, pigs, even alligators. She lives with her husband, their two kids, one cat, and one dog in San Francisco, California. Visit her at emmabsmith.com.

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Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.