Tuesday, February 7, 2017

TAKE A L@@K: Guest Post/Thinking in Sequels Over at the Rate Your Story Blog


A Review of SHOES ARE LIKE MEN by Kim Interdonato

TITLE: Shoes are like Men
PUBLISHER: MindStir Media
MARKET: Adult Fiction
DATE: November 16, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0997978896
FORMAT: Print and eBook

I think one of the most important things in life is to find humor in it. If we can't laugh and learn from our past mistakes, what purpose did they serve? Truthfully, not very much. And, like Carrie Fisher said, "If my life wasn't funny, it would just be true, and that would be unacceptable."

Author Kim Interdonato puts this laugh and learn theory to work perfectly in her debut book, Shoes Are Like Men. I have only good things to say about this book -- it's honest, clever, believable, intimate, accessible and ultimately always funny. I really enjoy the way Kim looks at her past relationships and uses them to press forward toward a more positive future. Her use of different types of shoes as an analogy works perfectly and provides lots of food for thought for the reader. I found myself easily categorizing my own past relationships and the result was enlightening. I wish I had read this worthwhile book a long, long time ago! Honestly, the shoe fits!

If you are a woman (or even a man), who hasn't found a way to laugh and learn from your past mistakes, then pick up this book and laugh and learn through Kim's. Or just pick up a copy to just to laugh. After all, laughter is the best medicine!

L@@k for this book on Amazon

Monday, February 6, 2017

LUCY LOVES SHERMAN by Catherine Bailey -- Cover Reveal!

Catherine Bailey is a children’s author from sunny Florida. Her current books include MIND YOUR MONSTERS (Sterling Publishing, 2015), HYPNOSIS HARRY (Sky Pony Press, 2016), and LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony Press, 2017) – with more on the way! She has also written for popular children’s magazines such as Highlight’s Hello and Babybug. She is a frequent children’s speaker and has visited with hundreds (and hundreds, and hundreds!) of kids at schools, libraries, stores, and special events.

When Catherine is not writing, or editing, or swatting at mosquitoes, she looks after her husband and two children. All three of them are quite sticky, and none like bedtime, but she loves them anyway. Her prior job titles include Lawyer (interesting), Sailboat Deckhand (fun but occasionally sea-sicky), and Cartoon Network Intern (best job ever, besides writing). Her hobbies include reading, travel, and TJ MAXX. But mostly reading.

Learn more about Catherine and her work at www.catherinebaileybooks.com.
Meg's bio can be found on her website here: http://www.crazydogdesign.com/about.html

And the infamous Tara Lazar is hosting a Giveaway!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

*NEW* OPPORTUNITY: Mechanic Mondays with Lynne Marie

Welcome to....

Wanted -- Sections (of up to 50 words) from your picture book work-in- progress. It can be any snippet from your manuscript that you need help on, whether beginning, middle or end. 

On Monday of each week, I will post the snippets with my comments. 

Here's how to get your snippet chosen:

1. Share this post on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +). 

2. In the comment section of this post, please note where you shared and the name of your account. 

3. Next, email LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com, and include author name, e-mail address, title, total word count and section in the body of the e-mail. 

4. Finally, be sure to join our Facebook group for My Word Playground post notifications at: 
My Word Playground @ LiterallyLynneMarie.com

Further Details: One snippet per week will be chosen randomly. Snippets will be saved, so if yours is not chosen one week, please check back in the future. All opinions stated in critique comments are subjective. Deadline for snippets is 12:00 AM Sunday night to be considered for the following day. 

Thanks for participating! I look forward to helping you drive you manuscripts to success, one paragraph at a time. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

PPBF: A Review of Eddie the Bully by Henry Cole


TITLE: Eddie the Bully
PUBLISHER: Little Bee Books
WEBSITE: LittleBeeBooks.com
DATE: 2016

SNIPPET: Eddie was a bully. A great big bully. He was mean any way he could be, any time he could be. "You're such a loser!" he clucked at Rose when she came in last.
"That was an easy one!" he said with a laugh when Tony had trouble with a math problem...

I have long been a fan of Henry Cole's bright, quirky and animated art, including but not limited to his pairings with Margie Palatini, Pamela Duncan Edwards and Jim Aylesworth to name a few. I'm also a fan of his solo projects, and am adding this book to my list of favorites.

From inside the cover with endpapers and continuing throughout, Henry's illustrations tell a loud and clear story with just a touch of humor! However, what stands about this well-written story is the incredibly timely message about the power of kindness. The story problem is universal. It's told in a way that is realistic, but not overdone. The resolution is appealing, satisfying, and most importantly, inspiring. It's nice to see a book with important take-away value. May it inspire kindness with each reading.

5 out of 5

Note: The views express within this interview are my own.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cover Reveal and Under the Cover with Rebecca Colby, Author of Motor Goose Rhymes that Go!

I am excited to offer a *sneak peek* cover reveal of Rebecca Colby’s Motor Goose! Read on to find out more about this fun author and her new book!

Thank you for having me on My Word Playground today! I’m thrilled to be here and to reveal the cover of my forthcoming book with illustrator, Jef Kaminsky.

LYNNE MARIE: What was your occupation prior to becoming a picture book writer?

REBECCA COLBY: Ha! Which one? I’ve had a varied career life. I always wanted to be a published writer but I took a circuitous route to get here. Some of my past occupations included: panty hose inspector, international tour director, English teacher in Taiwan, and librarian. I even worked briefly for the Russian comedian, Yakov Smirnoff.

LM: When did you decide to pursue picture book writing, and why?

RC:  I’d never considered writing a picture book until my first child was born. I had plans to write the great American novel instead. But once I started reading picture books every night to my daughter, I thought, “These are a piece of cake. I’ll write a few of these and get published in no time.” I was badly mistaken but I was so hooked on picture books that I kept writing them until I eventually did sell my first book a full 7 years later. 

LM: How long was your journey from start to first book?

RC: Oops! I just answered that in the previous question. I started writing pictures books in 2006 but didn’t acquire an agent or sell any books until 2013.

LM: Who/what has been most influential on your journey?

RC:  My two daughters! If it wasn’t for them, it’s unlikely I’d ever have started writing picture books. But if it’s other writers you’re referring to, I’d have to say Dr. Seuss’, and a Dr. Seuss treasury is one of the first books I bought for my eldest. 

LM: Do you have a critique group? How long has it been together?

RC: Doesn’t everyone? My stories wouldn’t be any good without mine. Myself and two other picture book writers formed our on-line critique group, Picturebookies, in early 2011. Six years on and we’re still going strong. We now have seven members split across the US and UK.

LM: What inspired the title and story of your previous book, It’s Raining Bats and Frogs – such a fun concept!
RC:  Thanks, Lynne Marie!  The book was inspired by my favorite weather—rain. I knew I wanted to write a book about a witch and I went for a walk in the rain to mediate on my character and come up with an idea. The more I walked, the harder it rained. Soon it was pouring that heavy kind of rain when people say, “it’s raining cats and dog.”  In an instant, I had my title—a play on this phrase. As my idea began to form, I thought of another saying, “it’s raining on my parade.” That’s when I decided to write about a witch parade that was being rained on and making the witches miserable.

LM: Which came first, the concept or the title?

RC:  Title, then concept. I often come up with what I feel is a catchy title first and then develop an idea around it.

LM: How many times did you revise this manuscript before selling to Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends?

RC: This book had one revision before it sold. After showing it to my critique group, I changed the ending to make it stronger.

LM: Did you sell this book on your own or did you have an Agent at the time?

RC: My agent sold this book within a week of my signing with her. Nothing for years and then an agent and a book sale all in one week. It felt like I’d won the lottery!

LM: How did you come about getting your Agent, Kathleen Rushall, of Andrea Brown Literary Agency?

RC: One of my awesome critique partners saw a tweet Kathleen had posted soliciting picture books with witches. She knew I had two in my portfolio, so she encouraged me to submit them to Kathleen. Twenty-four hours and a couple of emails later, she offered me representation. Again, it felt really strange. I’d received more than 140 rejections over the years and then overnight I had an agent.  

LM: You were born in New Hampshire, USA and ended up in the UK. How did you get there from here?

RC:  Oh, gosh! How much time have we got? Traveling has always been one of my big loves so when I graduated from college, I applied for a BUNAC student work permit and moved to London where I fell into a job with a tour operator. After returning to the States, I continued working for tour operators in New England, eventually going out on the road as a tour director. While I traveled all over the world for my job, my main tour destination was the British Isles. Following a brief stint in Taiwan teaching English, I moved back to England and I’ve been here ever since.      

LM: Please share the story behind There Was a Wee Lassie Who Swallowed a Midgie, with Floris Books, a UK Publisher.

RC: I’ve always loved the traditional rhyme There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly and I’ve collected several retellings over the years. It was when I came across an Australian retelling, There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Mozzie by P. Crumble, that I decided to try my hand at writing a Scottish version and the Wee Lassie book was born.

LM: Please share a link to the You Tube Trailer for those who can’t get it here:

RC: Floris has created a fabulous trailer for the book, which is illustrated by Kate McLelland. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaBMkLrG8Co

LM: I would love to hear how you came up with the title and concept for Motor Goose. Such a fun, brilliant idea, with such boy appeal!

RC: Much like The Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly, I’d always wanted to write my own version of it. I came up with dozens of ideas, but ultimately chose Motor Goose as I knew the topic of transportation was taught in early years’ education and I liked the idea of a tie-in with the curriculum.  

LM: When will this book be available in 2017?

RC: Motor Goose comes out in mid-July of this year.

LM: How many times did your Agent submit Motor Goose before you were offered a contract?

RC:  Just once. We submitted it to my editor at Feiwel & Friends and she loved it, thank goodness!

LM: Did you read/enjoy Nursery Rhymes while growing up, or was this a new avenue of literary exploration?

RC: In first grade I won a “Most Improved” award and the prize was a book of poetry. It was one of the few books I owned so I read it over and over. It soon instilled in me a love of rhythm and rhyme.

LM: What is your favorite Nursery Rhyme, and why?

RC: Star Light, Star Bright is my all-time favorite. Instead of counting sheep at night, I would look out the window from the top of my bunk bed and count the stars. But before I started counting, I would wish on the first star I saw and recite this rhyme.

LM: What is your favorite form of transportation, and why?

RC:  It would have to be a snowmobile. There’s nothing like the thrill of racing through the woods on snowy trails, and it’s a vehicle that requires a fair amount of physical exertion to ride so I can get a good workout in the process. Having said that, we don’t get much snow in England so I haven’t had the opportunity to drive a snowmobile in years. Alas!

LM: What is your current picture book FAVORITE in USA? In Britain?

RC: I’ve been a huge fan of Tammi Sauer’s and Scott Magoon’s Mostly Monsterly since it came out in 2010. It’s my go-to book when teaching others how to write picture books.

Here in Britain, my favorite is Debi Gliori’s No Matter What. I don’t read it very often anymore as it inevitably tugs at my heartstrings and makes me teary-eyed, but it’s long been a British favorite.

LM: What are you working on now?

RC: Oh, no you don’t! It’s a secret. I can’t tell you except to say that I’m working on both picture books and screenplays at the moment.

LM: Any books slated to come out in the next three years?

RC:  There you go again asking questions I’m not at liberty to answer. I can’t say boo about them until they’re officially announced in the Publishers’ Marketplace. Sorry!

LM: If you were a literary character, which one would you be?

RC:  Probably the Good Little, Bad Little Girl. Because when I’m good, I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m horrid. But mostly, I try to be good.

LM: Do you have any plans to offer a picture book mentorship next year?

RC:  Yes, all being well, I’ll offer another free picture book mentorship later this year. Towards the end of 2016, I decided to give away a free six-month picture book mentorship as a way of giving back to the kidlit community who has given me so much. As we’re only two months into the mentorship, and I have another paid mentorship running alongside of it, it will probably be autumn before I offer the next free one. In the meantime, however, I’m offering lots of other freebies on my blog, like critiques, books and even a smart watch.

Thank you so very much for sharing your journey, Rebecca!

Thank you, Lynne Marie! I’ve enjoyed being on your blog today. I hope my experiences inspire others to persevere through the rejections and not give up.

Readers, Rebecca is kindly giving a picture book critique away to one lucky winner who comments. Please share this post on Facebook or Twitter, include your e-mail address AND tell us where you shared. A winner will be chosen within thirty (30) days of this post, so please share and get your comments in.

On the birthday week of this book, I will also share a book review, and Rebecca will offer a copy of the book to one lucky commenter, so be certain to check back in July!

FB: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccacolbybooks/
Website: www.rebeccacolbybooks.com

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Interview with "Still A Family" Author Brenda Reeves Sturgis

I am excited to feature an Interview with my dear friend, Brenda Reeves Sturgis. Brenda and I met in 2005 through SCBWI when we sat next to each other at New England SCBWI Conference. Although we live on opposite ends of the US (Maine and Florida) now, we have remained friends and have co-written several picture books together, including a dinosaur friendship story, an under-the-sea fractured fairy tale, a dancing dinosaur story, a fractured fairy tale bedtime story and a book that promotes children banding together as a nation. 

LYNNE MARIE: Please share the "story-behind-the-story" of your newest and most stand-out book yet, "Still A Family," illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee. 

BRENDA REEVES STURGIS: I was on social media and noticed a discussion about why there weren't any books about homelessness. I decided then and there that I would write that book. I wrote it in about 30 minutes and sent a message to my Agent, Karen Grencik, of Red Fox Literary. I also found out there were editors requesting a manuscript like this. By day's end, Karen sent it out to three editors and we had a contract six weeks later. 

LM: Please share some of the amazing reviews that are in on Still A Family.

BRS: Thank you for having me here Lynne Marie. I appreciate your time and as always, your friendship! There are three glowing reviews that have come in already.


A preschool-age girl copes with living in a homeless shelter with her mother and without her father, who is housed in a different shelter.
Sturgis’ first-person text is paired with Lee’s na├»ve illustration style to deliver an effective and affecting account from the protagonist’s perspective. The father in the family appears to be a white man, while the mother’s darker brown skin indicates that she is a woman of color, and the girl’s skin tone is most like her father’s. The text repeatedly underscore’s the title’s message that they are “still a family” even though they must live separately in different shelters. The story depicts ways they stay connected with visits to the park, meals at a soup kitchen, and shared co-parenting while the adults alternate caring for their young daughter and looking for work. Throughout, the girl's doll provides a sense of comfort and consistency. While there is no happily-ever-after resolution, the ending has a hopeful note as the family marks their daughter’s birthday and the text re-emphasizes the title’s message. An author’s note and resource list in the backmatter round out the book with context for readers.
A sensitive and necessary picture book to provide comfort and raise awareness and empathy. (Picture book. 4-8)

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: "A girl with brown braids keeps her chin up while living in a shelter with her mother. “My dad lives in a different shelter, down another street,” she explains, adding (in what becomes the book’s refrain), “But we are still a family.” Sturgis (The Lake Where Loon Lives) doesn’t ignore the girl’s desires for stability and a permanent home (“I miss my quiet room, my comfy bed, and my cozy quilt”) but shows how the family members support each other, exchanging modest gifts, waiting together in long soup kitchen lines, and celebrating the girl’s birthday with a cupcake and a wish. Lee, in her U.S. debut, uses a mix of media to create rough, childlike scenes that give the sense that the girl is both telling and illustrating her story. With an estimated 2.5 million children homeless in the U.S., this is an empathic and valuable book, both for families without a home and for those in a position to help; an author’s note and list of resources offers suggestions for how readers can do just that."Publishers Weekly

AND one more coming soon, that I can't share just yet but am beyond elated about!


 LM: How did the title for Still A Family come to be? 

BRS: The title unfolded organically from the refrain, and seems to be that this story named itself really.

LM: Why do you think you connected so strongly with this social awareness concept? What incidents or events informed your writing of this story?

BRS: I would have to say it was a gift. I was in the right place at the right time when the idea presented itself, and I jumped on it like a child on a trampoline. I said to myself, "Why not me? Why can't I write it?" And so, just like that, it was there. I have always been concerned about the plight of the homeless and started a book drive for homeless shelters and children's hospitals across the country back in 2005. This opportunity is a blessing and as I said, I believe it is a gift and it's where the direction of my life is headed...to make a difference not only for the children in the shelters but also for the general public for empathy and understanding.

LM: How long did this book take from concept to contract?

BRS: This happened so quickly. Lightning fast really. It was about six weeks from concept to contract.

LM: At what point did you decide to be a children’s writer. What influenced this decision?

BRS: This is a fabulous question Lynne Marie. I met Lynne Plourde at an author visit in 2004 at Baldwin Consolidated School. I sat in the back row, listening. I have always loved writing, and filled up pages and pages of poetry in high school, and remember telling somebody as a Freshman in high school that I wanted to be a writer. When Lynne told the audience that writers don't always illustrate their own books I knew I had to find out how I could write. I approached Lynne after the author visit and said, "How do I do this?" She directed me to SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.) I plunged in, and never looked back. I was all in from day one!

LM: Growing up, you were a reader. Which books do you think shaped who are now?

BRS: I was always a reader of midgrades, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and a lover of picture books, Little Golden Books were some of my favorites and it is a dream to have a Little Golden Book of my own someday. I was an avid reader, I would hunker in my room on a Friday night and my mother wouldn't see hide nor hair of me until Monday morning. When all of my friends were out to parties, I was home writing and reading, or babysitting. And my loves still are writing, reading and nannying.

LM: When you decided to write for children, what type of books did you intend to write? How different is this vision from the books you actually published?

BRS: I always wanted to write picture books. This is where my heart leads. And I am a rhymer to the core, so I worked for years and years and years to get published in rhyme until finally 10 Turkeys in the Road was sold to Marshall Cavendish. But my writing is changing, and I am finding ways to make my prose sing. Prose is and always will be the most difficult for me to write because rhyme just comes naturally to me. Prose I have to work harder at.

LM: What advice do you have for someone choosing a path in children’s book publishing?

BRS:  You MUST study the market, you must be patient, you must pay your dues, you must be kind and friendly, and help others, you must learn your craft.  I would say the one thing that I have always ALWAYS done is help others. Whether it's reading their work through critiques,  whether it's advising them on which agent to query, whether it's always believing in somebody, I would say this is probably what I do more so than not. I believe we are all in this together and I am always happy to help others succeed in publishing and with their own dreams.

LM: “Ten Turkeys in the Road” is one of my favorite counting books. Please share how you got the idea for this fun book, which has a circus theme.

BRS: I was driving my daughter Stacie to school, she was about 7 at the time, she's 18 now. We live on a quiet little lake down a windy long dirt road. There were turkeys in the road. LOTS of them, and they were strutting around, and then flying up into the trees. I wanted to beep at them, I was in a hurry. But instead...I sat and breathed in that moment, and I laughed. A few nights later, I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and 10 Turkeys wrote itself. I really feel as though I am merely a vessel because the thoughts and words flow so quickly. One day they weren't there and then the next day they are. 10 Turkeys in the Road wasn't originally about a circus, it was about turkeys doing silly things. I got accepted into RUCCL (Rutgers Council of Children's Literature.) I was paired with publisher Margery Cuyler, of Marshall Cavendish, now Two Lions. She loved the story. She said, "I'd like this about something else." I replied. "What do you want it about?" She replied. "A circus. I would like it about a circus." I went home, rewrote it, and my agent sent it to her. We had a contract shortly thereafter.

LM: Who/what has been most influential on your journey?

BRS: There is not one person, but several. First and foremost, Lynne Plourde for pointing me down the yellow brick road. Then, Kelly DiPucchio, because it was her belief in me that made me think I could write something special. Then Josh Adams of Adams Literary for believing in me enough to represent me. Next it would be Emma Dryden, for consulting with me and helping me pick myself up and move forward, and then it would be my most favorite person in this business, my agent and good friend Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. I would also say that I just keep writing, and believing and hoping I can make a difference somehow.

LM: What has been your most memorable moment on your writing journey?

BRS: By far the most memorable moment is the review that I have forthcoming that I can't share yet, but will. So when I can share it with you, I will and then maybe you can post a status update. Your readers will understand exactly what I mean when I am given the greenlight to share.

LM: How did you come about getting your Agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary?

BRS: I had hired Emma Dryden as a consultant, can't recommend Emma enough she is FABULOUS at what she does. I asked about Karen Grencik, she was and is good friends with Karen. Emma thought we would be a good love match and she was correct. We are a perfect fit for each other, she is more than my agent, she is my friend and has been for almost seven years now.

LM: Please tell us about your latest project. What inspired this book?

BRS: I am not working on anything currently. What I am doing though is trying to run through the doors that are opening regarding Still a Family, I am so happy and feel so blessed, and I am ready to help however I can.

LM: If you were a literary character, which one would you be?

BRS: This is a great question and one I've never been asked. I think I would be the little girl in my book Still a Family. Because I believe that home is where the heart is, I believe that everything will get better, and I believe in the power of hope and love. 

LM: Thank you so very much for sharing your journey, Brenda!

BRS: Thank you so much, Lynne Marie for this wonderful interview. Please let your readers know that a % of every copy of Still a Family will be donated to a homeless shelter across the country. I am going to pick one every month to send a copy of Still a Family to, along with proceeds from sales. 

Brenda Reeves Sturgis