Thursday, April 28, 2016

DEBUT AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Wendy BooydeGraaff by Lynne Marie

 I am excited to share my first *NEW* interview since my blog has re-started -- 2016 debut author Wendy BooydeGraaff!

1. Salad Pie is such an unusual pairing of words. What inspired you to come up with this title?

This is one of those times when the title came first, and then the story. My daughter and I were at the park and she was playing pretend and said, “Salad Pie,” which I thought was so clever and creative that I repeated it in my head over and over all the way home. Then, during her rest time, I scribbled out the first draft of the story.

2. Which came first, the concept or the title? 
(see above)

3. How did you come to hear about Ripple Grove Press?

SCBWI’s The Bulletin. They had a little blurb under the publisher notes section. I clipped it out and taped it by my desk so I could look at it for a little while. I researched them to make sure they were legitimate—there wasn’t a lot of information out there because they were so new at that point—so I submitted and hoped for the best.
4. What was the pitch that you sent to Amanda and Rob Broder that resulted in a contract being offered? 

An excerpt from the query letter: Please consider Salad Pie, my 600-word picture book about an imaginative young cook who doesn't want to include anyone else.

Maggie is determined to make Salad Pie alone because then everything will turn out just the way she likes it. When Herbert watches on the sidelines, he ends up being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, and Maggie learns that sometimes a friend is the right ingredient for magnificence.

Featuring a twist on timeless themes of childhood friendship and sharing space, Salad Pie is sure to engage the outdoorsy crowd and those who know the importance of play. In my job as educational research data collector, I regularly observe preschoolers engaged in elaborate imaginative scenarios; Salad Pie speaks to their daily experiences.

5. How many times did you submit Salad Pie before you landed the contract?

Lots—I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, even though I researched everything a ton—and there was a fake agent involved at one point years and years ago (yes, she’s actually in jail now. Always check Preditors and Editors first!), so it took me a really long time to trust sending it out again.

6. What did you do when you received your first box of your new book? 

I let it sit in the entryway until my kids got home from school and then we opened it and sat around the box, everyone reading their own copy. I think I also read it out loud and had a glass of champagne.

7. Tell us about the “Ripple Effect.” 

The Ripple Effect” is a book drive Ripple Grove Press did in March with the Children’s Book Bank in Portland, Oregon. They collected books and also donated a bunch of Ripple Grove Press books that were then distributed to children living in low-income areas. This is important because having books in the home and reading a lot is linked to academic achievement, and academic success is one way to change the cycle of poverty.

8. Do you eat Salad Pie? Salad? Pie? Why or why not?

I have never eaten Maggie’s Salad Pie, although in earlier versions, the story ended with Herbert taking a real bite. I don’t think crab apples, clover and shiny crinkly gum wrappers are palatable. They might be edible, but I don’t want to try it! I do love salad and I do love pie, and apparently there are a few recipes out there for salad pie, which I posted on the Salad Pie Pinterest page.

9. Name your favorite salad ingredient. Why? 

Baby lettuce because I can pick it from my own garden and eat the freshest salad in the world.

10. If you were a vegetable, which one would you be? Why? 

If I were a vegetable…I have never thought about this before. Maybe I’d be sugar snap peas because you can grow them in cool weather and they are one of the first veggies ready around here. They are nice and crisp and can be sautéed or steamed or raw. Also, they have little white blossoms and when they are really small, some of the flower is still on the end of the pod. I don’t know how that relates to me at all, except that it’s fun peeling off that little flower cap.

11. Name your favorite pie. Why?

I love, love sour cherry pie. I also love rhubarb pie and key lime pie—all the tart flavours.

12. If you were a pie, which one would you be? Why? 

This is a tough one. I want to say Lemon Meringue because it reminds me of my childhood, but Lemon Meringues are very showy and the two times I made one, the filling got all soupy overnight and I don’t want to be the kind of pie that can’t hold it together when things get a little chilly (I am from Canada, after all). So I’d have to say rhubarb, because it’s not the most popular and yet it’s worth seeking out. Also rhubarb pie takes a bit more work to make than other pies because of the pectin thing, which is why it’s usually found with strawberries or raspberries. 

13. Are you a pie baker?

Yes. I almost never order pies at restaurants or bakeries because they are too sweet for my taste, so if I get a craving for pie, it’s best to make it myself.
14. When did you decide to pursue picture book writing?

When I started writing, I wrote short stories and a really, really bad novel. When I was in college, I took a children’s literature course and that got me interested in current children’s literature. Mostly I’m pursuing the writing life, and much of what comes out is picture book texts. I think I wrote my first picture book text around 2005.

15. How long was your journey from start to first book? Who/what has been most influential on your journey? 

My journey started when I was very young and in love with books. Books were always my favourite presents, and they still are. I decided to start writing in earnest in 1996, but had several stops and starts. So until that first book, it’s taken years and years. Most influential have been all of the beautiful books I’ve read along the way.

16. What is your current picture book FAVORITE? 

Grrr. I don’t like picking favourites. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about my top ten favourites over at Nerdy Book Club. But since you are twisting my arm, I’m going to pick two: The Dark by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen AND A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

17. What was your favorite children’s television show growing up? Do you still watch it?

I remember watching a soap opera after school for years and years. I was very young when I started watching it. I used to trick my older sisters by saying I wanted to sit with them and watch the commercials. Then when the program came on, they’d forget to send me out of the room. The allure that what I was watching was forbidden made the show even better. I watched it all the way through college, where my roommate would tape it for me on her VCR.

I also watched Mr. Dressup on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Channel). Oh how I loved that show. Every episode he’d go over to his tickle trunk and pull out a costume and—you guessed it—dress up! Another Canadian classic I loved was Friendly Giant.

18. Any books slated to come out in the next three years?

No news, sorry.

19. What are you working on now?

More picture books and revisions on a middle grade novel.

20. What was your favorite child activity while growing up?

I loved going outside and making mud pies. I have a framed photo of me playing in the dirt with a shovel, circa 1976.

21. What was your favorite toy? Do you still have it today?

Quack Quack was a duck on wheels that I could ride around the house. Apparently I was given it one Christmas and loved it so much that I hopped on and wouldn’t open any other presents. I have no idea where that went.

22. What pop culture era did you grow up in and how did it influence you?

The 80s featured neon clothes, power suits, Michael Jackson and hair bands (as in rock bands with long hair), and I loved it all. It was a classy era with all of the leg warmers, mullets, synthesizers and especially Miami Vice, which got me hooked on fast cars and fighting crime.

23. What is your favorite music to listen to?

I like an eclectic mix: alternative rock, jazz, world music.

24. If you can make another type of pie, what would it be?

Peace Pie.

Wendy BooydeGraaff grew up making mud pies on a fruit farm in Ontario, Canada and now lives in Michigan with her family where she whips up all kinds of salads and all kinds of pie. Salad Pie is her first book. Visit her online at where you can ask a question that she’ll answer on the site. You can also find her on Pinterest andGoodreads.

Please continue to support these authors by purchasing their wonderful books through the link beneath the book thumbnail. In addition, please feel free to leave your comments on this blog. 

 Also please feel free to mine the My Word Playground archives for other gems and treasures.  

If you are an author with a traditionally published book who would like to write a Guest Post or be interviewed at My Word Playground, please visit and click on contact, or e-mail me at Thanks stopping by My Word Playground. Always glad to have you here! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Susanna Leonard Hill has a wonderful opportunity for writers over at her blog. It's called "Would You Read it? Wednesday."

I took advantage of this offering in February, and after received feedback from other readers and authors, got to revise my pitch and submit it for the Pick Round.

Please take a moment and vote, and after you do, check out the details so that you can get a chance to have your pitch read by Erin Molta.

Here's the link:

Good Luck --

Monday, April 11, 2016

Getting Creative with Promotion by Tracy Bryan

 Getting Creative…

So you have a new book coming out and you want to spread the word? It’s never too early to start your pre-release marketing.

Promoting your book before it’s published is not only smart, it’s essential in this growing industry of children’s books.
According to, “The best time to design and implement your marketing plan of action is before you even start writing your book. It takes time to build relationships, learn your readers wants and needs and develop a base of rabid fans that clamor for more.

Grow your readership as you write your book, and when it’s time to launch your baby, you’ll already have an invested and an eager audience waiting.”

The pre-release process should happen after you have established your author platform (your target audience and readers). There are millions of resources to help you with these steps, so research as much as you possibly can about tried and true strategies that other children’s authors have used. Some may not be suitable for your needs, but hang in there and you might just be surprised and find an approach that works for you.
 Next, once you have built an author platform (through your community, social media, book fairs, bloggers, conferences and other networks) lay out your marketing business plan. Again, there are literally millions of resources available to authors here, so read as much as you can, talk to other authors and then map out the components of your plan. What is your vision for your project? Who are you focusing this project on? What is your budget? How can you be different than your colleagues and your competition?

When you’re ready for the pre-release marketing stage, there are several ways that you can spread the news about your new book- word of mouth, social media, author visits, e-mail, community involvement, etc.

Why not make a book trailer? Book trailers add value to your marketing plan because they are living proof of what you are about to release. Talk is one thing, but people love and need to visually explore what you are offering. Book trailers offer a quick peek at your new work in a fun and creative way. Particularly with illustrated children’s books, it’s important to be able to display the illustrations that will actually be in the book. This gives a little glimpse at the storyline, style, and feel of what your book will be all about.

Where to begin?

There are several routes you can take here. Even if your book is being published by a traditional publisher, chances are you may have to create the book trailer yourself. You might just want to create it yourself anyways. Why? The more shareable material out there about your new book, the better!

I think novelist Catherine Ryan Howard says it best:
the purpose of a book trailer is to let as many people as possible know that your book exists, then your book trailer has to have a high share value. Basically, it has to be something you’d tweet a link to, or post on your Facebook wall, or include in a blog post. And what would make you do that? The holy trinity of social media: entertainment, information or connection. In other words, the video would have to be funny, useful or something a large number of people could relate to.”

You can hire someone to make your book trailer if you want, but this can get pretty pricey. Before you invest your money in this kind of service, do more research and watch as many children’s book trailers that are out there today.

This kind of research was really fun for me because I watched so many trailers. Some were good and some were not so good, but surprisingly, the best ones were from the author’s that created them themselves! These just felt more genuine to me somehow.

How do you make a book trailer?

I personally used iMovie. They have step-by-step tutorials on YouTube, so this was great because I could stop and start again in the tutorial when I needed to. Plus, they have many tutorials that link to one another, depending on how technical you want to get. You can find a link to my book trailer here and in my bio at the bottom of this post. 

Some other options that are downloadable, free and easy-to-use are; Photo Story, Movie Maker, AnimotoPrezi, and PhotoShow. To learn more details about installation and use of these applications, click here.
Add pictures of your book, include live footage of you, the author and the illustrator and make sure to bring in an exciting soundtrack to enhance your footage!
Keep in mind the copyright issues for your images and your audio track. To learn more details about this visit here.

There are plenty of sites where you can buy (for a reasonably small fee) royalty-free and public domain music. 

for a complete listing of legitimate places where you can buy the copyright to your soundtrack. 

Whatever you decide to go with and whatever you choose to add in to enhance your video, just have fun with making your book trailer. Get creative!

 *All Image Rights for this post purchased from

Tracy Bryan is a self-published author for kids aged 4-12. She writes whimsical picture books about emotions, mental health, mindfulness and social issues.
Tracy’s debut fiction picture book called Put Away Your Phone! will be released May 2016. This quirky and important tale about modern technology stars a little girl and her dislike for grown-ups who are always on their phone.

View the book trailer for Put Away Your Phone! here. To learn more about Tracy, please visit

Friday, April 8, 2016

PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY [PPBF] - I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell Illustrated by Charles Santoso
OK so Atheneum published this book a year ago (April, 2015), but in our home, it has had staying power and is a family favorite.

Jacket flap copy reads: Adam does not like Koala. Koala is the most terrible terrible. Or is he? 

We all know what it's like to get that gift that's so awful that we just want to get rid of it, so we can identify with Adam and his universal problem. After all, Koala has terrible eyes that follow Adam wherever he goes. Who would keep a gift like that? Yikes!

Instead of coloring an uncomfortable situation as is done in many picture books, Sean Ferrell lets us know by the title and repetition on the first page that Adam does not like Koala, and showcases Adam's subsequent attempts to get rid of Koala.

While this may be considered dark, or subversive, we truly love the honesty of this book. This honesty makes the solution and character change so warmly rewarding, AND offers an unexpected twist at the end.

Charles Santoso's digitally-colored pencil illustrations perfectly convey why Adam doesn't like Koala and yet helps gives an emotional arc to the story.

Pick up a copy of I Don't Like Koala. Try it, you might even like him!

Review by Lynne Marie

NOTE from REVIEWER: If you are an author or illustrator who is interested in having your book reviewed on this blog, please e-mail for hard copy address. We would be glad to review your book, and if possible, include an activity for readers. We are also interested in Guest Blog Posts and select Interviews. Thank you for supporting My Word Playground in it's goal to spread the Word about reading and children's writing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Fun of a Pun by Penny Parker Klostermann
I love humorous picture books. I love reading them and I love writing them. There are many ways to appeal to the reader’s sense of humor. One tool that I love is a good pun. Puns are like any other tool—they’re seasoning. They’re meant to bring out the flavor of your story and not to overpower it. Many puns will be more familiar to your adult reader, but when carefully placed, the context will give enough clues that your child reader/listener will find humor, too—even if the pun isn’t familiar to them.

So how do you go about using puns to add humor? The first few words in the definition of pun give us a hint.

The pun is a form of word play.

So take “word play” literally and play around with words.

This was my process for adding puns to my upcoming picture book, A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE.

1.      Google food puns, cooking puns, etc.
2.      Paste the results below my story-in-progress
3.      Google cooking terms
4.      Paste the results below my story-in-progress
5.      Create a list fairy tales that include food and paste below my story
6.      Revisit my manuscript and look for “pun possibilities.” Are there places where a pun would make sense? Will it add to the humor or fall flat? Will it confuse my plot or strengthen it? Does it seem out of place or poorly timed? Because remember puns are meant to flavor my manuscript, not overpower it.

You may notice that I paste my research right below my story. This is a constant reminder to look for ways to add puns to my story. And keeping my research in the same document saves time because I don’t have to open another document.

When adding a pun or word play, look at ways to change up the original to fit the theme of your story. I used this: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” But, I just used the “idea” of that phrase. I changed words in it to fit my story. The phrase will be recognizable, but new and original to my story.

I use this process with all of my stories. I find that it not only helps me find places for puns, but also encourages other forms of word play that add humor to my stories.
A mentor text for puns and wordplay is Tara Lazar’s recently released, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD. When Tara mentioned the number of times she referenced fairy tales and nursery rhymes, I worried that she’d gone way beyond seasoning and may have possibly overpowered her story. Not so! I was delighted when I read her book. Her timing was impeccable! I laughed all the way through the story and learned that it’s not the number of puns or amount of word play you use, but your skill in placing them in your story. As long as the puns don’t take the reader out of the story and they move your story forward, you’re using them successfully.

So if you’re writing a humorous manuscript go for the fun of the pun! Good luck.

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015) and the upcoming, A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale, (Random House, 2017). 

Penny was named Runner-Up for the 2012 Barbara Karlin Work-in-Progress Grant for a picture book manuscript. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Penny loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. She has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too.

Penny grew up in Colorado and now lives in Abilene, Texas—the Storybook Capital of Texas!

Places you can find Penny.

Monday, April 4, 2016

For Every Action There is a Re-Action / Being True to Your Character by Jan Milusich
First of all, who is your character?  In order to get to know this burgeoning idea which is your character, his personality, quirkiness, cadence and attitude you need to interrogate, or to put it nicely, interview him. You need to write backstory. What made your character who they are?  Why do they do the things they do? If I asked 10 individuals to describe the color red, I’d get 10 different descriptions.  That’s the exciting part of creating characters and getting to know them.  It’s all about what makes them different. 

Think about your character’s emotional reaction to fear, sadness, joy, anger, peace, awkward moments.  How do they display those reactions physically, and or verbally?  Do they react like a lightening bolt, a tsunami or a black hole?

In honor of ReFoReMo, which just ended, here’s a Mentor Text Writing Prompt:

Take two of your favorite main characters from similar genres, and place them in a situation, i.e., lost in a blizzard, at the top of the Eiffel tower, on a desert island inhabited by cannibals and surrounded by sharks, in the middle of a fancy black tie event wearing flip flops, tutus, and deelyboppers.   How would they react?  What would they say? How would they feel?  How would they solve their problems?  Do the same thing with the secondary character, if there is one.  Notice how differently each character reacted, in what he said, his body language, in what he chose to do, and how he solved his problems.

Writing Exercise: Take two of your own main characters from similar genres, and two secondary characters. Place them in situations like the ones mentioned above. Have fun noticing the differences within their reactions. Maybe you’ll find you’ll want to kick your main character’s reaction up, or down, a notch.  Maybe you’ll play with making your secondary character more contrasting.  It’s all about character and being true to it.

In my latest book Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another, published by Eifrig Publishing,
Cleopatra W. Darby, the main character, is full of grand ideas.  Like the letters in her name, she has a slew of them, and besides for ideas Cleo is also full of character. From the way she dresses to how she puts her words together, to even how she delivers her words, and to how she sees the world. Inventive is the word that best suits her, so, when I think of what her reaction might be to an event, I always think out of the box, inventive.  Compare that to Cleo’s best friend, Albert Einsbine, and you’d read about a much more interstellar perception and a likely extraterrestrial reaction.  

Getting to know your character inside out is a lot of fun, and when you know them so well that you think about their reactions before your own, then they’re ready to tell their story.  

Janice Milusich is the author of a picture book entitled, Off Go Their Engines, Off Go Their Lights, by Dutton, a middle grade ebook entitled, Bryn’s Quest: The Search for Clun’s Treasure, by MuseItUpPublishing, and a recently released chapter book entitled, Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another, by Eifrig Publishing.  Janice is currently a participant of Stonybrook University’s Children’s Literature Fellowship as well as a teacher for the blind and visually impaired.

You can find Janice at or jan.milusich/facebook