Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Review of BEAUTIFUL by Stacy McAnulty by Lynne Marie


Written by Stacy McAnulty
Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published by Running Kids Press, 2016
Editor: Lisa Cheng
Genre: Fiction PB 
Age Range: 3-6 

The beautifully-written book conveys important thoughts about the diversity of Beauty. Beauty can be found in messy hair, the face of a pirate, a messy art project and more. 

Beautiful girls have the perfect look...

Because the author is somewhat vague and non-specific as to the definition of beauty, the text, along the art, speaks volumes and reinforces that there is no one way to beautiful or do beautiful things. Also, the reader will have fun engaging in the imperfect, but perfect art which adds important details to the story. 

I personally love the message that there are COUNTLESS ways to look beautiful. And in every case, these begin with being YOU. It's an important concept to share with little ones, which I also feel is appropriate to older girls and Girl Scouts, as well. 

Tell a girl they are beautiful by getting a copy of this book for her at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0762457813

FOR MORE ON BEAUTIFUL, please check out the blog tour on the following blogs over the next two weeks: 
NOTE: As always my thoughts are my own. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016


One of the absolute best parts about creating a book is releasing it into the big, beautiful world. People can hold it! And read it! And BUY IT! It’s just a fabulous feeling – and one made even better by a well-planned launch party.

With that in mind, here are a few tips that I learned when launching my books, MIND YOUR MONSTERS and HYPNOSIS HARRY.

(1) Figure Out the Timing
 8-6 weeks before your scheduled release date start planning. This will give the venue plenty of time to get you on their calendar. And pay attention to when your book is going to be released. Will it be on a holiday? Over summer break? These things may impact where you hold the event.

6-5 weeks ahead of when you think you want to have the party, contact the venue and make your request to have a launch party. Begin working on print advertising as soon as details are confirmed with the store. Newspapers, newsletters and magazines have a long lead time.

4 weeks out, find and order giveaway items like bookmarks or stickers.

3-2 weeks ahead of time, finalize your schedule for the big day and start sending out flyers, emails, etc. Buy craft supplies, like crayons, and décor items you may need, like a colorful tablecloth.

1 week ahead of time, post reminders about the event on social media. Also call your venue and make sure the books have been delivered.

(2) Pick a Venue
The most common site for a book launch party is a – drumroll please – BOOKSTORE! This means either a local Indie bookstore or a larger, chain bookstore. A related option would be toy stores. These places already have the infra-structure for making sales (Hey look, cash registers! Display shelves! Salespeople!) and tools for promoting the event to a relevant audience. They will order the book directly from your publisher / a distributor. You can also hold your party at a place that ties in with your book’s theme, (Theme is cooking? Restaurant. Theme is cars? Auto dealership), just be prepared to handle a few more logistical issues.
(3) Find a Contact
 If you don’t already have a relationship with the venue you selected, I suggest going in person and dropping off a copy of your book with a press release and hand written “hello I’m so-and-so” kind of note. Try to meet with the decision-maker, and obtain their contact information for your follow-up call or e-mail.

If you work with an Indie, you may deal directly with the owner. However larger stores often have a dedicated staff assigned to handle events. For example, each Barnes and Noble has a Community Relations Manager (CRM) to handle author visits.

When asking the person to host your party, be sure to remind them of all the wonderful ways in which you will promote the event and make it a success for their store. Will you post flyers? Yes you will. Will you Facebook about it? Yuppers.  

As soon as you get your “yes” you should set the date and time. Be sure to ask about restrictions on parking, and what you can bring in (food, for instance). I set my launch party date for 1 week after the publisher’s “official release date” to avoid problems caused by possible shipping delays.

Check in with this contact person in the weeks leading up to your party, and SEND A THANK YOU NOTE or email when it’s all over :)!

 (4) Make a Game Plan
 What exactly does one do at a launch party? Normally you read your book and then sit down and sign books. I like to add two things to this: (a) crafts and (b) my photo booth. Crafts can be as simple as a stack of coloring sheets and a bin of crayons on a table, or more complicated like my fabulous monster puppets. If you do coloring sheets, ask your publisher for black and white images of pages from your book – try to get ones with the main character!

My photo booth is a plywood stand, with my book covers painted on each side, and a hole for kids to put their faces through. It’s an investment but I love it and use it for school visits too.

A good launch party should be 1-1.5 hours tops, with about 30 ish mins of prep on each end. My last went event like this: I went at 9:30 to set up, The official start time was 10, I was introduced around 10:15, then I read on the stage, then around 10:20 I was in my signing chair as attendees either did crafts, use the photo booth, or wait in line. I was done around 11:30, cleaned up, THANKED MY AMAZING HOSTS!, went home, and drank champagne :).

(5) Be a Promo Machine
 So you have a venue, and you’ve worked out a date and time with their staff. You even have a game plane for the big day. Your book will be released in about 5 weeks. Now what? Now you hustle your bustle. Find local papers, radio stations, online newsletters, etc. and see about advertising the party. One of my favorite outlets is Macaroni Kids – a free digital paper for parents. They have local branches everywhere – check it out! With this much lead time you should be able to get your event posted in several places.

Invest in printed flyers. My web designer made a PDF file for me to use but you can design your own. Post them at local gyms, coffee houses, libraries, and so on. If you have a connection with local schools, say you have teacher friends or your children attend elementary school, you might be able to send the flyers home in students’ backpacks. You can stretch your budget by printing two to four flyers on one sheet of paper and cutting them out :)!

About 3-2 weeks before the big day, post about your event on Facebook, Instagram, a blog, Twitter – anywhere you can. As with the flyers and ads, be sure to include all relevant details like date, time, ages, activities, etc. If you have contacts at schools or libraries, email them your flyer and a personal invite.
Post reminders on social media one week before the event.

(6) Prep the Day Before (also known as the AAAAAGGGGGHH! day) 
Make a checklist of what you are bringing to the event, enlist helpers, and pack your car.

My checklist includes signing pens, hand sanitizer, 10 extra copies of the book, a colorful tablecloth for the signing table so I can hide stuff beneath, craft supplies, balloons to tie to the signing table so people can find me in the back of the store, giveaways to keep on the signing table, and a small easel for propping up the book. Check to make sure the store will provide a table and chair, and extra tables if you need them for crafting.

(7) Enjoy the Moment!
Well you did it. It’s here. Launch Day! Remember most of the people there are your friends and family and EVERYONE wants you to succeed. Have fun with it, the time will fly by! And ask someone to snap pics during the event so you can post them online later.

And for Pete’s sake, have something fun to do afterwards to continue the celebration. Lunch, a post-party, drinks – you deserve it!

Oh and before I forget, track your mileage and keep all your receipts for taxes during this process!

I hope these suggestions help, and feel free to see more about my launch parties – including photos! - on my blog at

Catherine Bailey is a children’s author from sunny Florida. Her 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 is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. When Catherine is not writing, or editing, or swatting at mosquitos, she looks after her husband and two children. All three of them are quite sticky, and none like bedtime, but she loves them anyway. Learn more about Catherine work at

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TWO FOR TUESDAY REVIEW: Miranda Paul's Trainbots Review by Lynne Marie and Kayla Michelle

TRAINBOTS by Miranda Paul
Illustrated by Shane McG
Bonnier Publishing / Little Bee Books, 2016

     Trainbots drawing, sawing, building.
     Hammer, clamor, lots of gilding.

As you can easily see, Trainbots, by Miranda is off to a rolling start. If the title and cover and art weren't enough to grab you along for the ride, the rollicking rhyme will!

Shane McG's art builds on Miranda's imagination in a most creative and inspiring way.

As the Trainbots roll on, we discover an actual storyline with good vs. evil (Trainbots vs. Badbots) and enjoy the rhythm of the ride until "engine's stopping, hitches popping. Now the train is flip-flopping!" But not to worry, the Trainbots are scanning and planning and are sure to save the day.

We thought this book worked on so many levels and provides fun for everyone. Clever characters, action and adventure, engaging plotline and fun rhyme -- and were thrilled to go along for the ride.

Reading this book inspired us to make one of our own signature book- inspired Puppets. And here's our very own Trainbot, ready to join the fight for good. We've named this Trainbot Heartbot and will gladly send him to one lucky winner. All you have to do is comment on the page and send a picture of your child with Miranda Paul's Trainbot book to us at by August 31st to win.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

[Picture Books 10 for 10] Goldilocks and the 3 Bears -- Twisted Tales #PB10for10

I am glad to participate in this year's Picture Books 10 for 10. Since one of my works in progress is a monster-mashed up telling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I wanted to share, in no particular order, ten of my favorite Goldilocks retellings for my #pb10for10 post: 

Thanks for checking out my list! Please come back to My Word Playground anytime to dig in the sand with us. You'll find many treasures here!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Words + Pictures = Picture Book Magic by Linda Ravin Lodding
Words + pictures = picture book magic
6 ways to write collaboratively

by Linda Ravin Lodding

One of the things that surprises people about the process of writing and publishing picture books is that most children’s writers never work directly with their book’s illustrator.  It’s hard to imagine that such a collaborative process as writing a picture book can happen without the two creative parties actually working together! Learning this in my newbie writing days totally upended my idea that I’d be sitting side-by-side my co-creator. I thought I’d create with my illustrator like Oscar Hammerstein did with Richard Rodgers – the two of us shoulder-to-shoulder throwing crumpled paper to the ground until we both lit up and said “By George, I think we’ve got it!”

With four picture books published, and four more on the way, I now have a fairly good understanding of this writer-illustrator dance. And while all my editors have worked slightly differently in the amount of input I have been offered in choosing an illustrator or commenting on the draft illustrations, they have all guarded this tripartite relationship (writer-editor-illustrator) with care.
Yet, while writing a picture book is not as collaborative a process as sitting at the same drafting table with my illustrator, I still consider writing picture books to be a highly collaborative process. In fact, I’d say that writing with the illustrations in mind is central to the way I create – yet I can’t even draw a full moon!  It’s no wonder than that my latest picture book, Painting Pepette, illustrated by Claire Fletcher, celebrates the artist’s creative process – and the artist within us all.

Here are some ways that you can add some picture magic to your picture book writing – no too mention increase your chance of publication!
1. See your story book before you hear your story.  Sometimes a story unfolds in front me like a film already cast with characters and shot on location. In my mind’s eye I see the story frame-by-frame. If I can visualize it this way, then I know it’s a story worth pursuing as a picture book (rather than, for example, a magazine story or a chapter book).

I have been working with a small critique groups for years and often the best praise I can give a book when I’m critiquing is “I can see the book already” – meaning, it feels like a picture book in terms of its visual appeal.  I can see the velvety black spread of the night sky or I can see the cowboy on the bike hurtling down the bumpy dirt road with chickens squawking behind him. This moment of seeing is not only due to what the writer has written on the page, but also due to what the writer hasn’t written. And if I can imagine it, then imagine what an editor can imagine... and what an illustrator can then do!
2.  Use the element of the visual surprise as an integral part of your plot . Some picture books use, to great effect, the fact that each turn of a page is an opportunity to reveal a visual surprise.  This can be a fun surprise or the page turn can be used to slow down the pace of the book and reveal a quiet, more reflective moment in the text. Consider these page turns as scene changes and as opportunity to play with your plot and add visual interest.

3. Consider not only what to put in but also what to leave out.  In my book, Hold That Thought, Milton, illustrated by Ross Collins, I struggled with wordiness in one section of the book. The text felt over-worked and cumbersome.  Then we hit upon the idea of having a wordless spread that would show what I was trying to say.  Ross was able to pack more humor and character into that one spread than I could’ve with an additional 500 words. Since then, I’ve used wordless spreads in other texts.  Not only does it give a moment of reprieve from reading aloud, but it also invites your readers into the book like words alone couldn’t.

4. Let the illustrator illustrate. As authors, many of us are already visually inclined and we have a
desire to direct our illustrators. But we must aim to be less Fellini and more Woody Allen. Woody notoriously let his actors run with the script– he gave them room to act. In other words, leave space for your illustrator to improvise and enhance your story.  Not only will this show your openness to collaboration (a sign that editors appreciate), but the results can be beautifully surprising. 

In my book, A Gift for Mama, set in Vienna, illustrator Alison Jay inserted the story of a dog who follows Oscar through the streets of Vienna. It was a beautiful addition. Likewise, since I had lived many years in Vienna, I resisted the desire to direct the illustrations to be 100 percent accurate and let Alison create something even more magical than what I could’ve envisioned.

5. It’s all in the details.  If your story allows for it, consider how your various props or settings would work visually on a page. Do they create enough visual interest? For example, in my book The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, illustrated by Suzanne Beaky, the story ends with Ernestine playing with her Dad.  I could’ve had them sitting and playing a board game, but building a tree house together is a much more fun visual! In my upcoming Wakey, Wakey Elephant, illustrated by Michael Roberston, the chicken could’ve marched in playing the harmonica (which is funny enough), but a tuba-playing chicken is just so much more fun visually.

6. Pace the book to ensure movement so that the scenes change and so do perspectives.
Beware of the My Dinner with Andre scenario in your writing. In this 1981 film, the camera is primarily stationary for the duration of the movie and focuses on the conversation of two friends at Café des Artistes.  While the film was an experimental hit, this would make for a very static and boring picture book.  When writing, consider yourself a film director, behind the lens, choosing the shots. You have, on average, 32 frames to work with. Is there enough movement and visual interest to keep your audience engaged?

In my upcoming Little Red Riding Sheep, illustrated by Cale Atkinson, I purposefully played with visual perspective in one scene when I have Arnold, the sheep, scramble up the bean stalk. At this point in the story Arnold could’ve done a number of things but I knew that having the sheep climb up a bean stalk would add a fun visual perspective to the book – and sure enough Cale took this idea and made it even more fantastical.

Our job, as picture book writers, is to find a way to bring our words, together with pictures, to create a story that is  greater than the sum of those parts.  And when it works, it’s pure picture book magic.


Linda is originally from New York, but has spent the past twenty years in Austria, The Netherlands and now Sweden. Today she lives in the historical city of Uppsala with her wonderful husband and teenage daughter. 

Linda graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University (New York) and has an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. When Linda isn’t writing, she’s working full time as Head of Communications for the Global Child Forum, a children’s rights organization founded by the Swedish Royal Family. She also enjoys globe-trotting, snapping photos and heavily frosted cupcakes.

To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her at, Facebook (Linda Ravin Lodding – Children’s Author) and follow her on Twitter @LindaLodding

 Linda’s most recent book
Painting Pepette
illustrations by Claire Fletcher
little bee books/division of Bonniers Publishing

View the book trailer here:

Read what people are saying about Josette and her rabbit, Pepette!


Other books by Linda Ravin Lodding

A Gift for Mama
illustrations by Alison Jay
Random House

Hold That Thought, Milton!
illustrations by Ross Collins

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister
illustrations by Suzanne Beaky
Flashlight Press

**Coming Soon! **

Little Red Riding…Sheep
illustrations by Cale Atkins Atkinson
Simon & Schuster

Wakey, Wakey Elephant!
illustrations by Michael Robertson
Sterling  Publishing

The Queen is Coming to Tea
illustration by Constanze von Kitzing
Source Books

Monday, August 1, 2016


Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing my South Florida Mentor, Author Joyce Sweeney! Joyce is the author of over 14 books. In addition, she is a SCBWI Florida sweetheart who has mentored over 56 of us in some form or another, whether through her online classes, conference critiques, workshops, lectures or her former writing critique groups. And she has the unique distinction of being the Keeper of the Magic Beans!

I am proud to have the honor of being the recipient of her 56th bean. Since I came to Joyce from New York, already published, the goal she set for me was to get a second book published. After several revisions with feedback from Joyce and our Wednesday critique group, Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School, will be published by Scholastic in January, 2017. I will always be thankful for the part she played in the success of this book.

Although Joyce no longer holds the critique group option, there are many ways to find a place under Joyce’s warm and wonderful wings and have your goals take flight. See

LYNNE MARIE: Please share the history of the “Magic Bean” and its ceremony.

JOYCE: The history of the beans is that I had decided, in 1995, that the five-week workshops I'd been teaching weren't giving writers the ongoing support they needed.  So I decided to do a search for fifteen super talented writers and create an ongoing workshop that met every Thursday in downtown Fort Lauderdale.  

LYNNE MARIE: Please tell us about some of the original members.

JOYCE: Gloria Rothstein, Dorian Cirrone, Alex Flinn and Sherri Winston were some of those early members. So to say the least, we started off strong.  But at that time, all those luminaries were just aspiring, unpublished writers.  That’s what I find most exciting about what I do. 

LYNNE MARIE: How long before someone got published, and who was the lucky one?

JOYCE:  Well, the first year we were in operation, someone got published!  It was Noreen Wald who now writes mysteries under the name Nora Charles.  By the second year there were seven people in the group with publishing contracts (including Gloria Rothstein, Dorian Cirrone, Alex Flinn and Sherri Winston)!  

LYNNE MARIE: So how did the Magic Bean Ceremony come into play?

JOYCE: We decided we needed some kind of token, or ceremony, or something to mark this achievement.  One of the group members had recently been to Costa Rica and brought back some beautiful Guanacaste seeds, which she planned to use in an art project.  But we decided they would be the perfect tribute.  So we had a giant, mass ceremony to catch up to all seven people.  

LYNNE MARIE:  I know you are goal-oriented as you had me set a goal when I met you. What was your goal with regard to the Magic Beans?

JOYCE: My first goal was to get twenty people published in my lifetime, but we passed the twenty mark and just had to go back to Costa Rica and get more seeds!  Right now I'm thinking 100 would be a nice lifetime goal for me.  To earn a magic bean you must have worked with me and then obtain a traditional publishing contract.  

LYNNE:  Since I am the proud recipient of Bean #56, I know there is a very special twist during the ceremony. Explain how that came to be.

JOYCE: I like the idea that when you succeed, you should pay it forward in some way.  So we have the Magic Bean recipient choose someone to shake a special rattle at the ceremony.  They choose a deserving person they think should get some of their lucky mojo.  It’s kind of like throwing the bridal bouquet. 

LYNNE:  During my Magic Bean Ceremony, I passed the baton to Mindy Weiss. We had been in The Prose Shoppe together (and still are), and was my first friendly face and writing friend when I moved from New York. PLUS she actually introduced me to YOU! Did you and Mindy choose a goal for her to focus on?

JOYCE: Mindy’s goal is to traditionally publish a children’s book.  She is an amazing writer and I know she will get there. 

LYNNE: I just heard that there is a Magic Bean #57 waiting to be awarded. Please share the details!

JOYCE: This one was a surprise.  I had worked with Monica Ropal years ago and we lost touch.  Just this year, Alex Flinn tipped me off that she’d been published so I reached out to her on her birthday on Facebook.  Monica, being a long-distance student, didn’t know anything about magic beans so she was very happy to find out she was getting one!  Even though Monica’s bean has to be mailed, it’s still a thrill for me to see one more deserving writer cross that bridge and make their dream come true!

INTERVIEWER NOTE: If you are one of Joyce's 57, please feel free to post in the comments with a link to your website and the name of the book that earned your bean. We would love to hear about YOU! Also if you are interested in being featured here, either by writing a guest blog post or having your book reviewed, please drop me a line.