May 18, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: TOGETHER WE RIDE, by Valerie Bolling

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post featuring the birth story for Valerie Bolling's super cute and very clever new book, TOGETHER WE RIDE (illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, Chronicle Books, April 2022.) I interviewed Valerie for her debut book, LET'S DANCE!, back in 2020, and it's great that she's offered to share more of her perspective and experience with us here today.

Let her roll, Valerie!

by Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita

BOOK JOURNEY

by Valerie Bolling

What’s interesting about how TOGETHER WE RIDE came to be is that during “The Call” with my agent, James McGowan, he asked what else I was working on. I casually shared my Zoom screen to show him what was then titled BIKE RIDE. He liked it so much that he asked me to send it to him. Even though he had chosen to represent me based on three other manuscripts, this is the one he went out on submission with first. When I later asked him why, he said, “Because there wasn’t anything that needed to be changed.”

James’ assessment was correct because the book went to auction, and I received a two-book deal. (The sequel, TOGETHER WE SWIM, which hadn’t been written at the time of acquisition, will be released next year.) The acquiring editor, Elizabeth Lazowski of Chronicle, agreed with James – she had no plans to change any of the text. When she saw the words paired with the illustrations, however, she suggested that one word be deleted. I agreed and even offered to remove additional text that I felt wasn’t needed. I’m a writer who’s willing to “kill darlings” for the greater good of the story.

TOGETHER WE RIDE was such a fun book to write because I set a challenge for myself – to write a book with fewer words than LET’S DANCE! and to use the same end rhyme throughout the text. I met both challenges. TOGETHER WE RIDE has only 30 words, half the amount of LET’S DANCE!, and all of the words (except one) rhyme with “ride.”

In my story, I knew I wanted a parent supporting and cheering on a child during this experience. I knew there would be a failed attempt and eventual success. Finally, I knew that I wanted not only to spotlight the love and connection between a child and an adult, but ultimately, an entire family. I didn’t specify the gender of the child and parent, but my editor, Elizabeth, envisioned it as a father-daughter story.

The inspiration for TOGETHER WE RIDE came from all the children I saw riding bikes when taking my daily “mental health walks” with my husband during the COVID shutdown of spring 2020. In particular, there was a five-year-old girl who had just learned how to ride a bike. When I commented about how much her bike riding skills had progressed over the weeks, her mother told me that all of the time they were spending at home provided the opportunity for her to learn. Learning to ride a bike – without training wheels – is such an exciting milestone for children that I decided to write a story about that experience.

LET’S DANCE!, which is my 2020 debut, and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!, which will be released on Oct. 4, 2022 are about community – the joys of dancing together and playing with friends outdoors. TOGETHER WE RIDE, however, hones in on the joy of the parent-child relationship – specifically, the joy the father experiences while cheering on his daughter as she learns to ride a bike and the joy the daughter feels when she accomplishes her goal and experiences a sense of newfound freedom. This story depicts the importance of an adult’s love and support in propelling a child towards success and the agency that a child must have to be able to persevere to achieve victory.

What an inspiring story, Valerie. Thank you for sharing how TOGETHER WE RIDE! came to be. 

Friends, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. Valerie's books, including TOGETHER WE RIDE, are available everywhere books are loaned and sold.  

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Image Source: Valerie Bolling
Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! (March 2020). In 2022 Valerie is happy to welcome TOGETHER WE RIDE (April) and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (October). Sequels to these books as well as a Scholastic early reader series, RAINBOW DAYS, are slated for 2023.

A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College, Valerie has been an educator for almost 30 years. She currently works as an Instructional Coach for Greenwich Public Schools and is on the faculty at Westport Writers’ Workshop. She is also a WNDB mentor and deeply immersed in the kidlit writing community, particularly involved with SCBWI, the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, and Black Creators HeadQuarters. 

Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.  

linktr.ee/ValerieBolling


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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, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, 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 11, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR, by Robin Currie

Hello readers! It's time to pull back the layers on another path to publication story in today's edition of Birth Stories for Books. Today's guest is Robin Currie, author of HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR (illustrated by Alycia Pace, Familius, March, 2022.)

by Robin Currie and Alycia Pace

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Robin. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the path to publication for your darling new board book, HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR.  

In an earlier interview, you described this as a book for mothers with a child who resists clothes (and I see in your online bio that your family includes four grown children and five grandchildren.) I’d love to hear how the idea for this story came to be. Lived experience, by any chance? 

Image Source: Robin Currie

Robin Currie: Both my son and grandson are crazy smart about dinosaurs – able to correct my pronunciation of “Archaeopteryx” before they can say “spaghetti” clearly. They both owned dinosaur shirts, socks, underwear, hats and about 5K tiny plastic dino toys. Don’t step on the Triceratops in the dark! 

DP: Ha! 

I’d also like to hear more about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for the book and the manuscript that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor. You’ve indicated that you participate in many different online challenges including ReFoReMo, Storystorm, and 12 X 12, so I’d be especially interested in if/how one or more of these challenges played a role in the process.

RC: I came up with the idea during a Storystorm event in 2016, refined it with my amazing local critique group, got two different reviews on Rate Your Story, tested my pitch in the 12x12 forum, and celebrated my Cover Reveal on Vivian Kirkfield’s blog. I belong to a fantastic international launch group, Picture Book PALS.  

DP: Wow! What an excellent example of the wonderful village that is kidlit.

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?

RC: The first draft was a brain burble of a badly rhyming text – what rhymes with Diplodocus? (Hopped aboard a bus? Was oozing green pus? Super-flu-i-us?).  Forget Pterodactyl. Leaving lots of room for illustrations (in only 12 chewable pages) makes every word count.

DP: Sometimes all it takes is some oozing brain burbles to get the creative juices flowing! 

When you compare the path to publication for this book to the paths to publication for some of the many other children’s books you have published, what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each? (I’d be especially interested in hearing about how the path to publication for HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR compares to the path to publication for your book, THE VERY BEST STORY EVER TOLD: THE GOSPEL WITH AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE, (published by Beaming Books), as I have a series of books (published by ABDO) that likewise reinforces key words with American Sign Language.) 

RC: Both publishers (Beaming Books and Familius) have excellent editors. For VERY BEST STORY I was able to be in the schools and bookstores, live at Christian conferences. Since DINO is still an essentially COVID-era launch, it has been much more important to build platform and be visible online. VERY BEST STORY won several awards in the Christian market. I will submit to very different groups for DINO.

DP: As you've noted, DINO launched during the middle of (a still ongoing!) pandemic. What have you found to be the most effective and meaningful way(s) to connect with young readers and book buyers during this challenging time?

Image Source: Robin Currie 

RC: I was pretty disappointed I could not be in a bookstore on March 1. I did share DINO in the preschool where I am chaplain, wear my new dino themed outfit. We were outside in 40-degree weather and all wearing coats and masks. However, I will hold a FUN LAUNCH for National Dinosaur Day, May 14, sharing the stage with a blow up dinosaur who will attempt to put on a shirt!

DP: Well that DOES sound fun! 

Speaking of which, one of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. I understand you work in children’s ministries, and you have worked as a professional librarian. Based on this wealth of experience working with young learners, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) book events?

RC: Librarians and teachers are looking for what is of value to the children. They are not really interested in selling book copies but are happy to sponsor a Guest Author Reading. Come up with simple craft activity or snack to go with it. I have a Pinterest board with some ideas to get you started. 

DP: That's a great board, Robin. Although I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by Pinterest as a user, I do enjoy the process of putting together boards for some of my books (Pirate / Cowgirl / Lucy's Blooms) as a resource for my readers. 

Taking a quick stroll through your website and social media feeds, it is clear you are engaged in many different activities and experiences to boost children’s literacy, including volunteering annually to teach reading to children in developing countries. How do you balance the time between your writing life and the different aspects of the publishing business alongside an active work and home life?

Image Source: Robin Currie

RC: I have been blessed to work with preschool children in libraries and churches for my entire career, so each day is loaded with possible storylines! Children ages 1-5 are very much the same in Tanzania or Thailand. So, it is happy circle of life and writing.

DP: That's a lovely observation! 

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?

RC: Platform, platform, platform! I published my first board book in 1993! Now the writing process is only the beginning. What is most fun is engaging beyond the pages of the books with readers and kids.

DP: I couldn't agree more! 

Is there something you would like to say about HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet? 

RC: Alycia Pace illustrated this book. I love the hair on the dinosaurs and the way Mom becomes progressively less patient. Finally, even MOM says, “because I said so” and gets the T-rex look! The last page shows the sweet love that transcends trying children and lost patience. I hope that is encouraging to parents everywhere!

DP: The illustrations are darling! And I do think the sweet love in your book will be encouraging to parents everywhere. 

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

RC: I always have 10-12 pieces in the works in various stages of writing, review, testing and pitching. Currently I am thinking about a grandparent in hospice story for kids, a good day/bad day book on Noah, and a rhymed St Patrick’s Day lark.

DP: I look forward to following the journey on these books, too.

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR with us, Robin!

Friends, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. HOW TO DRESS A DINOSAUR is available everywhere books are borrowed and sold.  


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Image Source: Robin Currie
Robin Currie volunteers annually to teach reading and literacy in developing countries. She is Pastor Associate at St. Luke Lutheran in Glen Ellyn, IL, Priest Associate at Trinity Episcopal in Wheaton, IL, and Children's Chaplain at St. Mark's Episcopal in Glen Ellyn, IL. She reads to Headstart children weekly and has worked as a world-wide volunteer, teaching English in far-flung places such as China, Tanzania, and India. Her family includes 4 grown children and 5 grandchildren. And she writes stories to read and read again! 





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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, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, 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 4, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: The Wish That Got Away, by Christine Evans

Hello readers! If you've been wishing that the BIRTH STORIES FOR BOOKS series would feature a creator of a chapter book series, your wish has been granted! Today's guest is Christine Evans, author of THE WISH LIBRARY series. 

by Christine Evans and Patrick Corrigan

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Christine. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the path to publication for THE WISH THAT GOT AWAY, your latest title in THE WISH LIBRARY series, (illustrated by Patrick Corrigan, Albert Whitman & Co., April 2022). 

In an earlier interview, you shared how you initially came up with the idea for this series, but I wonder if you could recap some of that again for us here?

Christine Evans: When I present to kids I always tell them that ideas are everywhere and this is an example of that being true. One day, I texted a friend this message: “Wish library opened earlier.” And she replied: “What’s a Wish Library?”

And that grammatical misunderstanding was the seed of the idea that eventually became the series. 

DP: What a fun back story--and yes, such a great example of ideas being everywhere! 

I’d like to hear more about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this series and the first manuscript that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor. 

CE: The idea percolated in the back of my brain for several months before I was ready to start writing anything. I knew it would be a chapter book as there was too much happening for it to be a picture book (which was the format I was writing at the time). So I had to spend some time reading chapter books and getting familiar with the structure of them before I could start writing my own.

It also took some time before I knew who the characters would be, where the Wish Library would be located, and what the rules of this world would be. A lot of this happened in my brain before I started writing.

I didn’t outline the first book (although I do outline them all now) so after a couple of drafts I sent the manuscript to my critique partners. After their always helpful feedback I revised again and sent it to my agent. She had a few rounds of notes too so I revised several times before we sent it off on submission to editors. 

DP: Thanks for sharing those details. I always appreciate hearing about other authors' process.  

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book/series, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for THE WISH LIBRARY series to find its way to publication? 

CE: The main moment would be when my agent (Elizabeth Bennett at Transatlantic) said she felt it was ready to go out on submission. It had been a long journey. I originally sent it to her in December 2018 and she sent it out to editors September 2019. Her revision notes in that period helped me make the book ready to go out into the world.

DP: Can you share with us a little bit about the process for pitching and obtaining publisher interest/commitment for your latest title in the series, and how this process has evolved over time from book 1 to book 4?


CE: For book 1, I submitted a submission packet containing a full manuscript, a series overview, and ideas for several other books.

The main difference for all the subsequent books is that I submitted outlines to my editor before I wrote a draft. 

I actually just finished drafting book 5 which I first outlined after a phone conversation with my editor, Jonathan Westmark. We talked through some ideas on what direction we could take next. Book 4, THE WISH THAT GOT AWAY, expanded the world of THE WISH LIBRARY so we were able to have some fun with that. It’s very much a collaborative process.

DP: It's interesting to hear how the process has evolved into more of a collaboration over time. 

When you compare the path to publication for your chapter book(s) to the paths to publication for your earlier picture books, what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each? 

CE: It’s pretty similar in that my agent submits to editors she thinks would be a good fit for both types of book. The key difference is that for chapter books I have to think about series potential and put together a submission packet for the project. 

DP: All four titles in this series launched during the middle of the pandemic. With this in mind, what have you found to be the most effective and meaningful way(s) to connect with young readers and book buyers during this challenging time? 

CE: I have lost count how many virtual school visits I’ve completed in the last two years from single classrooms to whole schools located all over the world from Dubai and Australia to Hawaii and New York. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I actually probably wouldn’t have been able to connect with so many kids virtually.

I’ve also kept in close contact with booksellers in my local area and I’ve taken part in both virtual and, more recently, in-person events with them. 

DP: It's so encouraging and inspiring to hear about the up-sides to this unique time! I just had an author visit for World Read Aloud Day with a school community in Japan, and I have to agree that might not have happened without the expansion of virtual outreach. 

Speaking of the expansion of virtual outreach, it sounds like your book series will be adapted into a Kids TV series. VERY exciting! What can you tell us about that experience so far? 

CE: Honestly, not much! It’s early days. I will definitely shout about it when I have news to share!

DP: I'll keep my ears open to more news on this! 

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?

CE: A while back, I listened to a podcast chat between Kate Messner and literary agent Jennifer Laughran. Kate was launching 12 books in 2020 and in their chat she talked about promotion and events. She said to only do the book promotion that you enjoy. As individual creators we can only do so much to move the needle on book sales and the best way we can spend our time is to write the next book. That’s something I’ve kept in mind over the last couple of years and has eased some of the promotion stress!

DP: That's such great advice, Christine (and Kate!)

Is there something you wish someone would ask you about your path to publication for THE WISH THAT GOT AWAY (or THE WISH LIBRARY SERIES) that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet? 

CE: I wish someone would ask if I had any help writing any of my books. As the answer is yes!

My daughter, Emily (aged almost-10) helped me solve a problem in the third book, TOGETHER FOREVER. I won’t share what it was in case readers haven’t read that one yet but it was a pivotal moment and her idea saved the day (in more ways than one).

DP: That's fantastic--I'll bet kids love hearing that during your author visits! 

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

CE: I have an as-yet-unannounced picture book coming out in 2023 that I can’t wait to tell everyone about! It’s a story very close to my heart.

And as I mentioned, I’m working on book 5 in THE WISH LIBRARY series which will also come out next year.

Plus I have a middle grade novel that I’m working on. Time will tell how that turns out.

DP: Wow! It sounds like your hands are full. I'll look forward to following those projects, too! 

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for THE WISH THAT GOT AWAY with us, Christine!

CE: Thank you for having me!

Friends, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. Christine's books, including books in THE WISH LIBRARY series are available everywhere books are loaned and sold.  

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Image Source: Christine Evans
Christine Evans is the author of two picture books, Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist illustrated by Yas Imamura (Innovation Press) and Emily’s Idea illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns (Sounds True). Her chapter book series, The Wish Library, is out now (Albert Whitman). 

Christine Evans has jumped out of a plane once, windsurfed once, and water skied once. She much prefers books and writing to adrenaline sports. She is a British expat and has lived in California for over ten years with her husband and two young daughters. 





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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, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, 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.