Chocolate Book Blog

12 07 2014

When I agreed to do this blog, I wondered how I could possibly combine books and chocolate. First of all, I LOVE way too many children’s books to choose favorites and second, I’m not a fan of chocolate. Now before you run in the opposite direction screaming at such sacrilege, perhaps I should explain.

choc house I used to be a total chocaholic in my early years. Then I got the ultimate job ever at age 16 – working in the Chocolate House at HersheyPark. After eating chocolate cake for breakfast, chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup topped with chocolate whipped cream for lunch, and following that with a chocolate milkshake and candy bars for my afternoon snack every day for months, I cured myself of my chocolate addiction.

But I never managed to cure myself of my book addiction. After I learned to read, I always had a book with me — a practice that grew into a 30-book-a-week habit from 4th grade on. I hid books in my desk at school and read while the teacher talked. I read with a flashlight under the covers at night. I read while my friends watched TV or played outside.

Of course, I grew up to become a librarian and later an author. So now in addition to reading, I’m also always writing. Or illustrating. Or spending time with other writers and illustrators, who share my passion for the written word. So choosing favorite books is even more difficult at this point in my life. So for every book I list here, there are hundreds or thousands of others I wish I could include. I went back to my childhood bookshelf to choose the books that had the most worn and dog-eared pages.

littleprincesspicturebook1I’m going to start with the book I reread most often: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved Sara Crewe’s journey from pampered rich girl to abused servant girl (a reverse rags-to-riches story).

I dreamed of being just like her — staying happy and cheerful even in the worst circumstances. In the end, Sara receives her reward when she’s rescued by her father’s partner and once again becomes a wealthy heiress. But no matter what occurred in her life, she remained a princess with a big heart. From her, I also learned the power of imagination.

 

Because one of Sara’s triumphs over the nasty headmistress was when she spoke fluent French to the language teacher, I chose a chocolate eclair to pair with the book.

eclair

wrinkle in timeMy second most-read book was Madeleine L’Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time. It transported me to another time and place. I reread the whole series multiple times and dreamed of someday becoming a writer as skilled as L’Engle.

The whole trilogy intrigued me, but I have to say my favorite of the three was A Wind in the Door, when Meg had to fight for her brother’s life.

It was in this series that I was first introduced the Francis Thompson quote, “Thou canst not stir a flower / Without troubling a star.” That made me appreciate the vastness of the universe and the interconnectedness of all life. I realized the impact even tiny acts of kindness can have on the world around me, and to this day, I can’t pull weeds without feeling a vast sadness. I’d rather have an overgrown garden than remove a plant, any plant — even a weed.

Because this trilogy deserves something out-of-this-world, I chose a Milky Way.

1280px-Milky-Way-Bars-USUK-Split

Moving back to very early childhood, two Little Golden Books that were worn ragged were The Poky Little Puppy and The Color Kittens.

Poky puppyJanette Sebring Lowrey‘s Poky Little Puppy was a slowpoke, but rather than learning the lesson to be on time, I realized it was better to procrastinate because the poky puppy ended up with more desserts and freedom than his siblings who arrived home on time. That turned into a lifetime habit of procrastination, and although at times, it causes problems, most often I find procrastination has many benefits. So I can thank the Poky Puppy for that life lesson. And the illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren, who also illustrated The Shy Little Kitten, The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, many other Golden Books, instilled a deep desire to illustrate children’s books when I grew up.

 

Color_KittensThe Color Kittens, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Alice Provensen and  Martin Provensen, introduced me to the world of mixing colors. I spent hours trying to accomplish the color mixing with my box of crayons. Someday I intended to master the intricacies of colors, a goal I’m still trying to achieve in my art classes.

Margaret Wise Brown also proved to be an inspiration in my picture book writing. Someday I hope to be as prolific as she was.

For childhood dreams and coziness, I think a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows puddling on top sipped in a rocker evokes the warmth and joy of these picture books.

cocoa

My list wouldn’t be complete without my favorite heroine, Pippi Longstocking. I thrilled to her adventures and travel and independence. In a time when so many girls were portrayed as gentle and mild-mannered, Astrid Lindgren‘s Pippi jumped off the page, did what she pleased without adult supervision, and lived life on her own terms.Pippi She said what she thought without fear of consequences.

Pippi taught me to challenge authority and to never fear being myself, even if it meant standing out from the crowd. From her striped stockings to her wild red braids, Pippi demonstrated what it meant to be true to yourself.

In keeping with her tropical environment, I paired Pippi with my favorite coconut treat, an Almond Joy. And the fact that it contains nuts makes it a perfect match for Pippi’s zany nuttiness.

1280px-Almond-joy-broken

 

 

 

So who do you have to thank for all this chocolaty goodness? Eileen Moynihan of Childhood Books asked me to participate in this Chocolate Book Blog started by Karen Hall. You can read Eileen‘s and Karen‘s Chocolate Book Blogs by clicking on their names. The next person who’s handed the baton has to write a blog post naming 6 of their favourite books and linking one kind of chocolate to each book. Luckily for me, I found a chocolate lover in Monette Pangan, who’ll be bringing you more mouthwatering books and chocolate next Saturday.





Courting the Muse

20 06 2014

girl in chiffonMany people long to be writers; few follow through. In every writers’ group, you’ll find that often it’s not the most talented writers who get published, but the most persistent. This persistence doesn’t only apply to submitting work, it also applies to showing up at the page. Recently I was pondering this as I signed books at BEA and met CPs and fellow SCBWI members who were also signing. How did we, out of the many writers we know, end up with published books while other more talented friends have yet to achieve publication? It obviously had little to do with talent. The writers I have in mind have plenty of talent. The only secret ingredients I could find were persistence, dedication, and determination.

The published authors I know have one thing in common — they show up at the page. They don’t wait for the muse to strike, they go to her (or him). They write often, usually daily. They’re disciplined. That “D” words sounds so anti-creative, so structured, so boxed in. It seems antithetical to the word all writers dream of: FLOW. heart

Then I ran across this quote by Mary Oliver in A Poetry Handbook and realized she’d put that truth into words. She compared writing to a love affair between the heart and the practical, learned skills of the conscious mind. So many writers wait for the heart, the creativity, the muse to direct their pens, but in truth, the conscious mind must initiate the courtship. As Oliver says:

[The muse] learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be, Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself–soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

She values this act of being present at the page more highly than technique. And I agree. Only those who prove they are dependable lovers will find their shy, reluctant muse waiting to greet them. How do you court your muse?





Recapping BEA

14 06 2014

Switch Press Display with Grace and the GuiltlessAs a librarian, I spent many years going to BEA, but 2014 was the first year that I went to sign books. A few years ago, I had the thrill of seeing one of my books in a publisher’s display. But this time my book was prominently displayed (Yes, that’s Grace and the Guiltless on the top shelf of the Switch Press display.) It was fun seeing the ARCS of Grace between all the other books coming out from Switch Press, Capstone‘s newest venture into fiction., and getting autographed copies from fellow authors.

Capstone boothAnd my book was not only part of the publisher’s display, it was also blown up large (almost the same height as me) on the publisher’s display wall. What fun! And I was amazed by the fabulous covers surrounding it.

To keep with the Western theme, I dressed in cowgirl regalia. It was fun strolling through the streets of NY and clomping down subway stairs in boots, fringed suede jacket, billowy skirts, and a Stetson. I have my wonderful CPs to thank for my costume. When they heard I’d be signing, they dug through their closets and outfitted me in their gorgeous Western duds. So it was as if they were right there with me.

Between my signings and meeting friends and CPs (who were also signing books or checking out their publishers’ booths), I still had plenty of time to be a total fangirl and stand in long lines for autographed copies of books from many of my favorite authors. Knowing I had little room in my suitcase and a 50-pound limit on the trip home, I tried to limit myself to my absolute favorites. The booklover in me sighed as I passed up many books I ordinarily would have snatched up. As disciplined as I thought I was, I still ended up with way more than I could carry home. I rued my addiction as I struggled to the subway each night with 20+ pounds of books in each hand. (Thank heavens for the wonderful free totes!), and I also regretted it later as I mailed home my clothes (to make more room in my suitcase for books) along with boxes of books. But how can you pass up free books? By mega-talented authors?

Globe Pequot signAnd I squeezed in time to meet the awesome editor of our nonfiction book coming out in October with Lyon’s Press. So nice to finally put a face with the name. And I was there when they posted the announcement that the parent press, Globe Pequot, had been bought by Rowman & Littlefield. I snapped a (rather out-of-focus) photo of the sign.

In addition to signing, meeting and greeting, and book collecting, I also attended the Switch launch party (snapshot of them setting up for the event below) and went out to dinner with the Capstone staff, which turned out to be an evening filled with awesome book discussions, lots of laughter, and delicious Italian food, marred only by the trek home afterwards with my 40+ pounds or so of books.

Globe Pequot Launch PartyIt was lovely to be a part of so many awesome book-related events and amazing to once again be in the midst of the pulsing book-energy that is BEA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





20 YA Novels for Thinking Adults: A Diverse List

14 06 2014

lje1:

In my opinion, only the best (and most confident) adults read (and write) YA…

Originally posted on the open book:

There has been a lot of controversy this week surrounding that now-infamous Slate article saying that adults should be embarrassed to read YA. Here at LEE & LOW, we couldn’t disagree more. We don’t think your enjoyment of a book should be limited by your age (or anything at all, really). YA novels are great. They can be entertaining, literary, thought-provoking, funny, sad, or all of the above at the same time.

There have been several excellent lists of YA recommendations floating around this week, so we thought we’d add our own. Here is a list (a diverse list, of course!) of YA novels that made us think, featuring some great books from LEE & LOW and some of our favorites from other publishers:

1. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)

When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on…

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Prepare for an Epidemic…

22 05 2014
Yvonne Ventresca Author

Yvonne Ventresca

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Yvonne Ventresca and discovering that we both wrote nonfiction books on singers for Lucent Books. Mine was about Rihanna; hers was on Avril Lavigne. But that wasn’t the only similarity. We both had YA fiction titles debuting in May.  So what better way to celebrate our joint book birthdays than hosting her on my blog.

Yvonne’s latest release, Pandemic, has been called “riveting and terrifyingly real” on Goodreads.

Welcome, Yvonne! It’s great to have you here today. I’m so glad you were willing to answer some questions for our readers.

When did you start writing?

I have old poems from around sixth and seventh grade. I was always an avid reader, and wanting to work with words seemed like a natural extension of that. I took my first formal creative writing classes in college.

Are there any fond memories you’d like to share that relate to your writing?

Yvonne at her Hofstra graduation

Yvonne at her Hofstra graduation

My dad worked during the day and received his MBA by attending Hofstra University (Long Island, NY) at night. One Saturday when he needed to research an assignment, he took me to the university library. I couldn’t believe how many books there were compared to our small local library! I managed to amuse myself for hours while he finished his work. I later attended Hofstra as an undergraduate and received a Bachelor of Arts in both English and computer science.

In school, what was one of your worst moments?

Not exactly a moment, but my lowest grade of all my college courses was in a basic freshman English. Luckily, the professor wasn’t successful in discouraging me from studying literature and writing.

What hobbies and interests do you have?

I love genealogy and tracing my family’s history. The research is fascinating and I’ve learned some great family stories.

Yvonne's officeI see from this picture of your office that you have old family photos on the wall. How awesome. I love family history and genealogy too.

What made you write Pandemic?

I’ve always been fascinated with disaster and survival stories. For example, I loved Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I wanted to create a story where the main character is in a difficult place at the onset, even before the disease strikes, so that she must find a way to heal and become stronger during the crisis.

Can you share a brief blurb about Pandemic?

In Pandemic, only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.Pandemic cover

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? If you’d like to buy a copy of Pandemic, it’s available here:

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Powells
Book Depository
Chapters

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a psychological thrill about a teen girl who fears she is either being haunted or losing her mind.

And just for fun…

What super power do you wish you had?

I wish I needed less sleep and less caffeine – a super-energy super power!

That sounds useful. :-)

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Throughout my life, I’ve had five dogs, one cat, three parakeets, two hamsters, numerous guppies, and a dwarf rabbit who lived in my college dorm room for a year.

Yvonne at age eight with her pet parakeet

Yvonne at age eight with her pet parakeet

Where can readers find out more about you?

Visit Yvonne at her:
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Pinterest

Even better, you can meet Yvonne in person at the following venues:

June 1, 2014, Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Somerville Street Festival
Book signing and sale
Somerville, NJ

June 3, 2014, Tuesday
NJ Library Association Annual Conference
Atlantic City, NJ

June 3, 2014, Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Otto Bruyns Public Library
Author talk and book signing
Northfield, NJ

June 26, 2014, Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Scotch Plains Public Library
Author talk and book signing
Scotch Plains, NJ

June 28 and June 29, 2014, Saturday and Sunday
New Jersey SCBWI 2014 Conference, Faculty
Workshop: What To Expect When You’re Expecting a Novel
Princeton, NJ

September 20, 2014, Saturday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Chapter by Chapter BookRave
Book Signing and YA Bowling Party
Larchmont, NY

October 11, 2014, Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Collingswood Book Festival
Collingswood, NJ

And here’s a brief bio about Yvonne:

Before becoming a children’s writer, Yvonne Ventresca wrote computer programs and taught others how to use technology. Now she happily spends her days writing stories instead of code. Yvonne is the author of the young adult novel Pandemic, available in May from Sky Pony Press. Yvonne’s other writing credits include two nonfiction books for kids: Avril Lavigne (a biography of the singer) and Publishing (about careers in the field).





Today’s Release Day for Grace Alone

8 05 2014
WANTED: Book 2 (UK edition)

I WANTED: Book 2 (UK edition)

I’m celebrating a book birthday today!

Grace Alone, Book 2 in the WANTED series, that I wrote as Erin Johnson released today in the UK. It’s available in the US on Amazon or from the publisher’s website, Curious Fox.

BLURB

To help track down the Guiltless Gang, Grace decides to become a bounty hunter, despite it being ‘no life for a woman’. Her first test is a criminal known as the Black Coat, who’s been preying on vulnerable women. She’s about to put a dangerous plan into action when Joe comes into her life again, showing her what life could be like if she let go of revenge. Then, as she struggles with her feelings, the Guiltless Gang appear tantalizingly close…

 

THE SERIES

YA series set in the Wild West…

After her family is slaughtered by outlaws, sixteen-year-old Grace Milton goes on a vendetta to capture the gang who did it. But once she meets a rugged range rider, she’s torn between revenge and love.

WANTED: Book 1 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 1 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 3 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 3 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 4 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 4 (UK edition)

 

 

 

 

 
 

I’ll be signing copies of Book 1, Grace and the Guiltless (US edition with the cover below), at BEA on Friday, May 30 at 2 pm at the Capstone booth. Hope to see you there!

Grace and the Guiltless (US)

Book 1 WANTED (US edition)

 

 

 





New Release: Grace Alone

30 04 2014
WANTED: Book 2 (UK edition)

I WANTED: Book 2 (UK edition)

I’m celebrating a book birthday today!

Grace Alone, Book 2 in the WANTED series, that I wrote as Erin Johnson released today in the UK. It’s available in the US on Amazon or from the publisher’s website, Curious Fox.

BLURB

To help track down the Guiltless Gang, Grace decides to become a bounty hunter, despite it being ‘no life for a woman’. Her first test is a criminal known as the Black Coat, who’s been preying on vulnerable women. She’s about to put a dangerous plan into action when Joe comes into her life again, showing her what life could be like if she let go of revenge. Then, as she struggles with her feelings, the Guiltless Gang appear tantalizingly close…

 

THE SERIES

YA series set in the Wild West…

After her family is slaughtered by outlaws, sixteen-year-old Grace Milton goes on a vendetta to capture the gang who did it. But once she meets a rugged range rider, she’s torn between revenge and love.

WANTED: Book 1 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 1 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 3 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 3 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 4 (UK edition)

WANTED: Book 4 (UK edition)

 

 

 

 

I’ll be signing copies of Book 1, Grace and the Guiltless (US edition with the cover below), at BEA on Friday, May 30 at 2 pm at the Capstone booth. Hope to see you there!

Grace and the Guiltless (US)

Book 1 WANTED (US edition)

 

 

 








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