Friday, March 26, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of The Superlative A. Lincoln by E. R. Meyer

Thank you for inviting me to share this story on your blog, Lynne! Here’s my story about how this book came to be.

As an Illinois native, I’ve always admired Abraham Lincoln. In 2013, I read an adult biography about Lincoln and it struck me that there were still so many interesting stories about our sixteenth president that could be shared. I explored further and visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and other historic sites in Springfield, Illinois and also interviewed the presidential historian there at the time. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share these fresh and different stories about this famous leader. Most young readers know the basic framework of Lincoln’s life, so I found a way to build on that in a fresh and interesting way.

BUT, I needed to make my book different from the oodles of books that have written about our 16th president. My book is unique in that it celebrates superlatives, which most kids find fascinating. They enjoy learning about who is the tallest, the first at something, or the best at accomplishing a particular milestone. And each story about Lincoln is told through poetry—there are nineteen poems in this 48-page picture book. For example, you’ll learn why Lincoln was the “Most Distracted Farmer” when he was a young man, that he was known as the “Best Wrestler” in the county and had the “Most Surprising Friendship” with another famous icon. 

 Poetry provides the reader with an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect. Using lyrical language, sound, rhythm, and form, a poem can engage a reader in a very special way. Additionally, most poems are bite-sized morsels and include plenty of white space on the page. That space allows readers to think and dream about the topic, providing room to form their own connections.

I hope that young readers will relate to these stories about our sixteenth president and will also consider how Lincoln’s actions and wisdom apply to our world today.

The book has been chosen as an Illinois READS 2021 selection and it also won a Silver Medal in the Florida Book Awards, Older Children’s Literature category. I hope readers enjoy these stories about Lincoln, and think about ways in which they, too, are superlative!

Eileen Meyer writes picture books and poetry. Her works include The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President (Charlesbridge); Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals, and other titles. Eileen loves visiting schools and speaking to gatherings of fellow writers, educators and librarians. Eileen is a long-time member of SCBWI and has volunteered in many roles over the years. Eileen and her husband split their time between Illinois and North Florida and have three sons. For more information and to contact Eileen, please visit


On Twitter @Writer_Meyer

On Instagram Eileen@EileenMeyerBooks

FB: eileenmeyerbook

From Lynne Marie: The best and fastest way to pick up a copy of this book, click HERE. Available in Hardback AND Kindle! #Ad

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of The Star Festival by M. R. Hadley


Written by Moni Ritchie Hadley 

Illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa 

Albert Whitman & Company @bookthreader 


Have you ever thought about living with your parents again? 


This was a conversation topic I had with a friend some time ago before moving my mom in with me. She had been living in Montana, alone after my father’s passing, and after a few years, it became apparent that living alone was not an ideal situation anymore. Among other reasons, her meds were starting to look like opened bags of scattered skittles on her kitchen countertop, with no semblance of order. 


Right before I left for my Hawaiian Honeymoon, my siblings and I decided that Mom would move in with me into a converted downstairs living area in my house. Yes, I do have a nice husband! I took a leave of absence from my then teaching position. I learned the ropes of caring for an older adult, including monitoring and understanding meds, taking her to numerous doctor appointments, reminding her not to forget to bring certain items when we left the house, and cooking meals.  


Here’s the part that relates to my picture book.  


Are you saying to yourself, “This sounds like my toddler and me!” Well, I thought the same thing. So, I cranked out a young picture book called Baby Understands. I have to admit, I was pretty in love with that first draft. After months of trying to perfect that manuscript, I finally tackled the story’s main problem, making it less of a mom’s story and shifting the perspective to the kid’s point of view. 


At that time, I enrolled in the Children’s Book Academy’s The Craft & Business of Writing Picture Books. I had intended to work on another manuscript but was having trouble with the assignments—characters and characters driving the plot. I pulled out this manuscript toward the end of the course and brought it to a scheduled critique session with an editor. 


In the story, a young girl and her mother lose Oba, the girl’s grandmother, at a general-sort-of festival. The editor inquired about which festival, to which I had no answer. That began my dig into the thousands of festivals that take place in Japan every year. Memories as a child attending these festivals started to return to me as I researched. The Tanabata Matsuri, the Star Festival, stood out because of the colorful decorations, ornaments, and fireworks. 


As I read about the history and origins, my fascination with the festival grew. The story of two star-crossed lovers unable to meet but once a year grabbed me. The separation of the two stars served as a perfect metaphor for Oba separated from her family. Once I changed the setting, I knew I was on to a better manuscript. 


In class, my pitch for the revision caught the attention of an editor, Christina Pulles, at Albert Whitman & Company. She acquired the manuscript after a few months offering me my first picture book contract. 


When I think back to the moment when I moved my mom downstairs, I realize that this particular story would never have existed had she not come to live with me. Thanks, Mom! 



Moni Ritchie Hadley, a half-Japanese military brat, bounced back and forth from the USA to Japan. Daydreaming was a favorite pastime. She received a BA in Psychology at UCLA and later became a home/hospital teacher for the LAUSD, where she taught students with medical needs. Today she lives in Los Angeles, where she turns her sky-gazing daydreams into stories for children. Also published in Highlights Magazine, THE STAR FESTIVAL is her picture book debut. Get your copy of this book HERE.


Moni is giving away a signed copy of her debut picture book, 


Twitter and Instagram: @bookthreader

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush by Melissa Stoller

Thank you, Lynne Marie, for featuring me and the “story behind the story” of my picture book, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke, Clear Fork Publishing, 2018). And I’m delighted to offer a sneak peek about the soon-to-be released sequel, RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrate by Sandie Sonke, CFP, 2021).

 SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH is all about exploring the magical creativity that we possess, and also about letting go of perfection. The inspiration came from my love of art and art history, and particularly my fondness for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, about siblings who pursued a grand adventure at the Met. I visit the museum often, and always think about how the author used the museum as the backdrop for that story. One day, I stood in front of one of the incredible Impressionist paintings at the Met and wondered: What if I had a magic paintbrush and could paint perfect pictures like Claude Monet? I imagined all sorts of amazing artwork gracing my walls! And then I wondered: What if I lost that magic paintbrush? How could I continue painting? And then finally . . . what would happen if the magic paintbrush reappeared? I envisioned an art-filled adventure, just like in my favorite childhood book!

Well, the story idea blossomed from there. I wrote about a little girl named Scarlet (her name is an oil paint color I love). And I imagined Scarlet’s magical, mystical paintbrush. Publisher Callie Metler also loves art history and happily bought the manuscript. Art Director and Editor Mira Reisberg added the amazing illustrator Sandie Sonke into the project, and Sandie brought the story to life with her whimsical artwork. Whenever I read the story at school visits, children love looking at all the details, and searching for the adorable dog that Sandie included on each page.

But the story didn’t stop there. I kept thinking about these characters and the theme of finding your own magical creativity. And in fact, I wrote a sequel that will be releasing from Clear Fork in 2021. RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH features the same amazing team. I can’t wait to share this friendship story, which features Paintbrush returning to say she is sorry for being too bossy, and to help Scarlet with a big artistic problem. The vibrant illustrations are gorgeous, and feature stunning nature scenes. I am so excited that this collaboration has continued and I look forward to sharing the book cover and the whole book soon!

In the meantime, I hope that this “story behind the story” might inspire you to ask “what if” questions, to wonder, to observe everything in your world, to reflect on your favorite childhood books, and perhaps to find a spark of inspiration at a place you love, like I did at the Metropolitan Museum.

Cheers to magical creativity!


Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The EnchantedSnow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. (Clear Fork, 2018 and 2020). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys museums, theatre, and long beach walks. Follow her blog, “This Writing Life,” where she interviews other creators about stories, creativity, and connection, at

Purchase Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush HERE.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of Laila by Shirin Shamsi

 When my children were young, I made up stories for them. I illustrated and laminated them, and we would read them together. It meant a lot to me, as I felt they saw themselves represented in my stories. One day my eldest daughter asked if I would write a chapter book for her.

That is when the idea for LAILA AND THE SANDS OF TIME first came to me. It was of course a completely different story from the published book. In the original story, Laila was a happy and contented child, and both her parents were alive. 

The problem was, there was no problem for Laila and no story arc. But I loved the character of Laila. It was like she became my fourth child and every so often I would return to the story and write a little. Years passed. Each time I worked on Laila; the story took a different direction. I was not fully focused on the story, but always knew I would return to it. For being a writer was a dream I had and never lost sight of.

Years passed. My children grew up. When my youngest went off to college, I decided it was time to get serious about writing. I joined SCBWI and began attending events and learning more about the craft of writing – discovering how clueless I had been!

When I immersed myself in Laila’s world, a strange thing happened. I began having these ideas for where the story was heading. It was almost as if Laila was leading the story and I was listening. There were even some conversations that just came to me in the middle of the night. At times I woke up with a whole scene in my head and would run to grab a pen and paper. 

I can’t say that inspiration happened all the time, but when it happened it was the most exhilarating experience. I felt in awe. It was also humbling. almost like I were the vessel delivering the story. I listened and wrote. 

When LAILA AND THE SANDS OF TIME was completed, I wept. It really felt like a piece of me was in that story. 

When Callie Metler of Clear Fork Publishing requested the full manuscript, it was a dream come true for me – it had taken years of persistence, patience and perseverance, but it was time to share LAILA AND THE SANDS OF TIME with the world.

I am continually blown away when people tell me how moved they are upon reading my book. It is something I could never grow accustomed too.

I’m thrilled that I have two picture books in the works with Clear Fork Publishing. I am also working on another Middle Grade novel and a series of Chapter Books. I feel so blessed and honored to be writing for the most important people in the world – children! I hope that my books may resonate with readers. I hope they inspire empathy and expand the vision of their world. 

Get your hardcover or paperback edition copy of Laila and the Sands of Time HERE.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of The Big Beach Cleanup by C. Offsay

 My stories tend to come from the things that take up the most room in my heart. When I sat down to write what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup, I was consumed with the desire to show my children that they don’t have to be superheroes to make the changes they want to see in the world. I wanted them to know that extraordinary change starts with small steps and ordinary hands joining together with those around them. 

While the core idea of small hands joining together was clear in my mind, the way into the story was not. I tried numerous structures, characters and voices, but nothing felt quite right. I needed a character that kids would be able to connect with and a story that while clearly had a message was still fun to read aloud and that kids would enjoy. ‘Little hands joining together to make big change’ continued to top my Storystorm lists for a couple of years in a row. 

It wasn’t until a series of environmental conversations with my two young children about the trash left out in the streets of our neighborhood that the story finally clicked. They wanted to know where the trash had come from, why was it important to pick it up and what did it mean to take care of our planet. Out of those conversations, the main character Cora was born. 

Cora is an ordinary child who dreams of becoming a sandcastle champion but when she reaches the beach, she finds the competition canceled due to litter at the beach. Cora and Mama pull on gloves and get to work, but soon Cora realizes it will take more than two pairs of hands to solve a big problem. 

While the story revolves around the sandcastle competition my hope is that Cora is a character that children can root for and connect with. I hope seeing ordinary hands joining together to make big change empowers children and inspires them to take a look at the world around them, do their part and join together to make a difference. 

Flap copy: 

Cora is excited to enter the local sandcastle-building contest--until the contest is canceled due to litter at the beach. Determined to help save their favorite place, Cora and Mama get to work picking up the single-use plastics that have washed onto the shore. It will take more than four hands to clean up the beach, but Cora is just getting started.

Author Bio:

CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again. 

Charlotte’s debut picture book, The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse published by Albert Whitman on March 1, 2021. How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai releases September 7, 2021 with Beaming Books. A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022. 

Buy The Big Beach Cleanup by clicking HERE.

Learn more about Charlotte’s work at and follow her on Twitter at @COffsay and on Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Story Behind the Story: Crane and Crane by L.J. Singleton

By Linda Joy Singleton

My husband operated a construction crane and we live a half hour from a Sandhill Crane sanctuary. The perfect combination to write a book comparing/contrasting construction cranes and Sandhill Cranes! 

Yet that’s not why I wrote my picture book, CRANE AND CRANE. It started with an online challenge to write a picture book idea every day for a month.

I’d admired my friends who had accepted this challenge and filled sketchbooks with ideas and drawings for picture books. I can’t draw, but ideas come easily to me. Still coming up with a daily new idea for a month wasn’t easy. But in 2014 I decided to go for it and by the end of the month I had thirty ideas. Now the challenge was to sort the good ideas from the duds.

A year went by while I worked on my series, CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB. But when I was ready to dive back into picture books, I turned to my agent and she looked over my month of ideas. I was shocked when she picked the very first idea, CRANE AND CRANE because I wasn’t sure how to write a book told mostly in sound words. “Are you sure I can write this?” I asked my agent. And she said with certainly that I could do it. “Just write it,” she told me. 

I studied the notes from my Idea list:

Nov 1, 2014

CRANE AND CRANE – A bird lifts and carries and tried to be like a metal crane, making noises and scaring other cranes. Or maybe they think he’s crazy. But he can fly away when there’s trouble. It would teach leverage and have fun with heavy equipment.

Boom. Lift! (shows crane lifting equipment)

BOOM. LIFT! (Bird crane carries a big fish and lifts off)

Now if you’ve read CRANE AND CRANE, you know this initial idea is similar but not the picture book I published with Amicus Books. As I developed the idea, it transformed into a contrast of nature versus industry with a bird crane and construction crane building homes for a family. I wrote and rewrote; added and cut. And I amazed myself by writing an entire book with less than 30 words!

When my agent felt it was ready, she sent it out into the publishing world. Months passed. Almost exactly two years after I wrote down ideas for a month, I was at a retreat that my agent also attended. She arrived a little late and slipped into a seat next to me and whispered, “I have news.” And she told me my picture book had sold!

In June 2019, CRANE AND CRANE, illustrated by Richard Smythe, was published by Amicus Books! Click on the Title or Here: to get your copy!

And a companion book also illustrated by Richard Smythe, SUN AND SON, will come out in March 2022!

Fun Teaser: After writing CRANE AND CRANE, I looked for other homonym words that worked for a contrast-comparison plot. SUN and SON was a fun choice for a second book. But I could only find one other word that will work if I’m asked to write a third book. The first person who guesses the word will win an autographed copy of CRANE AND CRANE or a book of mine of choice.

Linda Joy Singleton's Bio

  • I’m the author of over 50 middle-grade, YA and picture books about magic, animals, psychics, mermaids, aliens, cheerleaders, clones, and ghosts. My middle-grade series, CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB, was inspired by a club I had with my childhood best friend. My picture books include SNOW DOG, SAND DOG, CASH KAT, A CAT IS BETTER, LUCY LOVES GOOSEY & CRANE AND CRANE. I also published YA series, REGENERATION, THE SEER & DEAD GIRL, some honored as YALSA Popular Paperback/Quick Picks. 

  • Kids series books are my passion. I write, read and collect them. My collection includes  thousands of girl series from the mid-1800’s to present, including Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton and Trixie Belden. A fan letter I wrote at age 14 led to a life-long friend with the Judy Bolton series author, Margaret Sutton—I even co-authored a new Judy Bolton mystery, THE TALKING SNOWMAN, with her, and self-published it for fans.

  • I’m a long-time member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writer's & Illustrators) and Sisters In Crime. I’m also a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and writing conferences. I’m lucky to live in the country with my husband David, in Northern California where we’re surrounded by horses, peacocks, dogs, pigs, wild turkeys, and very demanding cats.
  • Learn more about Linda Joy Singleton by clicking HERE

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Picture Book Mechanic - So You Need a Critique? Questions and Answers

When purchasing a critique or mentoring services, there are several things to consider: 

    1. How many books has the critiquer published? Who was the publisher? When were they published. 

                   Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, 

                           Scholastic 2011

                           Currently unavailable. 

                   Hedgehog's 100th Day of School, 

                            Scholastic 2017

                           Available from Scholastic Book Clubs or direct from Author

                   The Star in the Christmas PlayBeaming Books 2018 

                            Available in Hardcover and Digital Formats

                   Moldilocks and the Three Scares, Sterling 2019

                            Available in Hardcover and Digital Formats

                   Let's Eat! Mealtime Around the World, Beaming Books 2019

                            Available in Hardcover and Digital Formats 

                   American Pie, Dancing Flamingo Press 2022

                   and two others, pending.

                   You can learn more about me and my books at

    2. Other experience and accreditations of the critiquer. 

                 I am the owner and administrator of - a rating and feedback service for children's writers where you can get feedback on manuscripts, pitches, queries and more from traditionally published authors and illustrators. We have Member and Non-Member options (Membership opens 11/1), including Spring and Summer contests and always available Speedpasses.  

                I also work for Clear Fork Media and am the Editorial Director of the Dancing Flamingo Press, as well as a former intern at a literary agency. Feel free to join me for a First Pages with Callie and Lynne session. 

                 In addition, I am a former paid book reviewer and have served on the Cybils Award panel as a first-round Picture Book category Judge since 2017. 

                On Sundays, I hold a FREE Tinker and Talk Book Chats here:

3. What will the critique cover? 

                My critiques include intensive line editing, where I consider each and every word and phrase. I comment on any and all points as I read, but also preface the critique with big picture comments including strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript, and objectives for revision. 

4.  What is the cost of the critique?


                 Be certain to bookmark my rates page for 2021 (check for updates):


5.  What is the critique style?

        I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of your journey. Please know that from the bottom of my heart, your success is my goal. I want to help you enable your manuscript to perform to its fullest potential. I also hope to cultivate a continued relationship and to continue to assist you down the road, even as your needs change.  

     From hereon in, I will be cheering for you from the sidelines. But also realize that my actual critique method is a no-fooling-around, here’s-what’s-broken-and-what-needs-to-be-fixed style. For example, if your manuscript was a car, I would spend more time under the hood exerting effort in trying to help you get it to run properly, than I would standing outside it, admiring the exterior and telling you how pretty and shiny it is. 


You’ll see that I spend *a lot* of time on every detail. Until it’s time to celebrate, my focus will be making sure every little cog runs smoothly.  Because the truth is, no matter how beautiful the idea, if the mechanics don’t work, the vehicle won’t get you over the finish line. 


As with any critique --If you don’t agree with the feedback, give it a few days, and then when you feel you can approach it with an objective mind, go back to it and see if it makes more sense. Keep in mind that sometimes we have to re-vision our stories and let them go where they lead us for them to work. And you can always take what you need and proceed from there. I do recommend having a consultation if this happens -- it will help to understand and process the comments and we can brainstorm a direction for you to go in. These are $15.00 for a half hour as a critique add-on, $30.00 an hour for my critique clients. These sessions are reduced from $35.00, and invaluable, which you won’t know until you’ve tried one! 


Remember that publishing is a business. My feedback is meant to bring the manuscript to the next level and to get you further on your road to success. Please take the feedback in the spirit it is given -- which is complete honesty of what I believe is needed to move closer to your goal. I truly want to further you on your path to success! 

6. Can I ask for Referrals?

While my Referrals Page is currently under construction with my fabulous Website Guru, you may ask me to provide references, as well as see some older accolades on my services menu.


       Thank you for your time and trust. I look forward to working with you! 


WEBSITE: Learn more about me and my books here:

TWITTER: Follow me on twitter for more helpful tips:

FACEBOOK: Lynne Marie

GOODREADS: Literally Lynne

BLOG:  My Word Playground at


BOOKSHOP (Independent Book Store) PAGE:


And just to start you off on the right foot, here is some helpful information that I hope you will read: 


Picture Book Skeleton Cheat Sheet 

The Importance of Reading

Tips for Revising

Most importantly of all, DON’T GIVE UP:



Moldilocks and the Three Scares

Let’s Eat - Mealtime Around the World

The Star in the Christmas Play


If you would like a signed bookplate, please e-mail me for more info.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Honing Heart with Lauren Kerstein


by Lauren Heller Kerstein


When I critique, I often find myself helping authors hone in on the heart and create an emotional arc that is both resonant and relatable. We want to make our readers FEEL. 

Here are a few tips to help your readers FEEL all the feels:

PITCH IT: Write a pitch. What is the heart of your story? What is your character’s goal? What is your goal in writing this particular story? What do you want your readers to walk away with? I love this quote from Jodi Picoult’s latest novel: The Book of Two Ways: “Art isn’t what you see. It’s what you remember.” What do you want your readers to remember long after they’ve read your book?

ZOOM IN: Zoom in on emotional moments so that you can create scenes that your readers feel part of. We want them to live, breathe, and feel the moment. For example, in my latest book: Home for a While (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press), I wanted readers to FEEL Calvin’s uncertainty. Instead of saying Calvin felt uncertain, I highlighted his uncertainty by zooming in.

“Maggie?” Calvin asked, his voice gruff.

“Why do you want to hug me, anyway?”

ACTIVE LANGUAGE: Use active language to draw your readers into the emotional arc. In Home for a While, I used active language to draw my readers into Calvin’s experience. For example: “His hands shook as he waited for Maggie’s reaction.” 

The use of active language adds more resonance to the moment, and pulls the reader into the emotional arc.

CREATE SPACE FOR MIXED EMOTIONS: Feelings aren’t straightforward. They are often a mixed up and muddled mess. Create space for mixed emotions in your manuscript by showing your character’s physical reactions, highlighting your character’s internal experience, and leaving lots of white space for the illustrator.

PACING: Pacing plays a huge role in the emotional arc and in the heart of your manuscript. Pacing moves the plot forward, and highlights conflict, motivation, stakes, resonance, and intensity of emotion. Use pacing to your advantage.

These are just a few of the tools you can use to hone in on your heart and amplify your emotional arc. You can find additional tips in this blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

As I always say, we must feel, write, and risk as creators. 

The more you feel…

The more risks you take with your writing... 

The more heart and emotion will shine through.

Buy Home for a While HERE.