Carmen Gloria: Will Write, Illustrate and Self-Publish for Cookies Plus GIVEAWAY

I meet the nicest people in the kid-lit world. The other day, I discovered a lovely new series of books about space – and with the mega-celebration this weekend, I knew I wanted to share it with all of you. Especially because the author is also the illustrator and also the publisher. Carmen Gloria is wearing many hats…and she looks good in all of them!

Carmen Gloria Author Illustrator

Carmen Gloria was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, now a veteran, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. She was born in The Bronx, New York and moved to Puerto Rico at the age of ten. She is a member of SCBWI and is a writer, artist, award-winning actress, experimental short film writer/director, and even co-wrote two songs in the Billboard Dance and UK Pop charts. After moving to Norway in 2017 with her family, she decided to focus on her writing. She launched her first children’s picture book series as an author and illustrator, in which the first book “Thank You Mercury” made the Best New Space Books 2019 list by Book Authority.

thank you mercury cover

Well, dear friends…do you see why I just had to invite this amazing woman to stop by to chat with us.

ME: Carmen…welcome! And before we begin with the questions, I want to thank you for your service to the country. I’m sure you have buckets full of stories about your experiences, but today we are going to concentrate on your writing journey.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

CARMEN: Thank YOU for having me, Vivian! You have one of my favorite blogs, and I am so honored to be interviewed by you. I feel pretty lucky in this business to meet people like you, who care so much and are doing so many things for the children’s books community. You’re inspiring. And to answer your first question, Dr. Seuss has always been my absolute favorite, including his illustrations. Also A.A. Milne with his Winnie The Pooh series. I also love Hans Christian Andersen’s books and illustrations by Arthur Rackman.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

CARMEN: I wish I knew how challenging it would be to get the story “just right.” I still find it difficult to finish stories sometimes and not doubt myself. I’ve only just launched my second book, and already learned that making the characters relatable is important.

dear pluto cover

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

CARMEN: I have a home studio where I write, draw and paint. It’s a cute little studio we built when we first moved in to the house. I have a Mac Laptop where I write most of the time, but sometimes I like to just hand write ideas and notes. I feel a bit more free with pen and paper. Writing while traveling is also very inspiring.

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

CARMEN: I write best early in the morning with my coffee or tea. Sometimes the muse strikes the middle of the day or at night too, and I just go with it!

ME: Why do you write for children?

CARMEN: I write for children because I love drawing and painting fun and sweet characters that children will love. I also love being able to show and teach children things in an entertaining manner so it doesn’t feel like “school.” I chose to begin with the Kid Astronomy series because as a space lover, I wish there were more books about astronomy when I was growing up. Children are our next generation and they are the ones that will be exploring space.

Other reasons I like about writing for children is the freedom of topic and being able to tap into the imagination – anything is possible.

 ME: If you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear.

CARMEN: What I’ve learned as a new writer is that we have to stick to our goals. It is easy to fall into doubts as new writers and then stop writing. But we have to keep going and not give up.

As far as educators, parents and librarians, I believe in exploring and being open to sharing new books, stories and new authors to children. Information is limitless and it’s beautiful when we as authors can be a part of what kids absorb in this day and age.

in studio

ME: This is fabulous, Carmen! Thank you so much for your insights. I’d also like to pick your brain on behalf of all the authors and illustrators out there – you’ve taken a big step…just like the astronauts did 50 years ago when they stepped out on the moon. You’ve taken the leap into self-publishing – and that takes courage! Would you share with us some thoughts about that?

CARMEN: I debated for about a year whether I was going to publish my book the traditional route or self-publish. I researched and read a lot about how to self-publish, and the pros and cons of both. There is so much information online! I decided on self-publishing because I wanted to learn all of the ins and outs of the publishing business. I am a creative being, but I also love being an entrepreneur. One of the downsides to self-publishing books though is that they are not as easy to promote, as not everyone is open to reading and reviewing books that are not traditionally published. Also not easy if there is not a big budget.

It is A LOT more work to write, illustrate, design, format, and promote the book myself,  but in some weird way, it is more rewarding to me. As a self-published author, I appreciate the artistic freedom, making my own deadlines, ownership to my art, and being the final decision maker. I’m sure there are many advantages to going the traditional route, but I’m enjoying self-publishing so far.

ME: Kudos to you, Carmen. And thank you so much…this has been such a pleasure for me. I know that everyone is applauding and will be RUSHING over to Amazon today to view your newest book DEAR PLUTO, using the link for the FREE download of the Kindle version: https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Pluto-Kid-Astronomy-Book-ebook/dp/B07T68GC74/

But before you leave, please share with us that special Apple Pie recipe you were telling me about.

CARMEN: My favorite type of apple pie? Here goes:

 Ingredients

PIE DOUGH

  • 2 ½ cups flour (320 g)
  • ¾ cup butter, 1 1/2 sticks, cold, cubed (170 g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons ice water, or as needed

FILLING

  • ¾ cup sugar (150 g)
  • 2 ½ lb apples, cored, sliced, peeled (1 kg)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten

 Preparation

  • In a bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix with fork.
  • Add in cubed butter and break up into flour with a fork. Mixture will still have lumps about the size of small peas.
  • Gradually add the ice water and continue to mix until the dough starts to come together. You may not need all of the water and the dough should not be very sticky. It shouldn’t be too dry either. If it is too dry, you can add more water.
  • Work the dough together with your hands into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate.
  • Peel the apples and slice.
  • In a bowl, add the sliced apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, flour, salt, and juice from the lemon.
  • Mix until combined and all apples are coated. Refrigerate.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (200°C).
  • On a floured surface, cut the pie dough in half and roll out both halves until round and about 3 mm thick.
  • Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a pie dish making sure the dough reaches all edges.
  • Pour in apple filling mixtur
  • Roll the other half of the dough and cut it into even strips, 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch wide, depending on how thick you want your lattice strips. You can use a blunt knife or a pizza wheel to cut them evenly.
  • Lay out 4 to 7 parallel strips of the pie dough on top, and then lay them over in the opposite direction.
  • Trim the extra dough from the edges and pinch the edges to make sure they are sealed together.
  • Brush the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.
  • Bake pie for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

How did you know apple pie was one of my favorite desserts? Anyone have some vanilla ice cream for some pie ala mode?

Please don’t forget to leave a comment because Carmen is offering a print copy of DEAR PLUTO as a giveaway. And take advantage of this last day of FREE Kindle download so you can read the book right now: https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Pluto-Kid-Astronomy-Book-ebook/dp/B07T68GC74/

And dear friends, remember, the greatest gift we can give our favorite authors is to buy, review, and shout out about their books! I hope you all have a beautiful weekend. There are a couple of major kidlit happenings coming up this week:

FREE Picture Book Palooza

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FREE 12×12 Mini Picture Book Summit

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: THERE WAS AN OLD GATOR WHO SWALLOWED A MOTH Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. I know it looks like I am here, but I really am not! I am in Switzerland with my dear Storm teammate, Julie Abery.  Yesterday we met with a local SCBWI group and today we are going to the village of Gruyere…the home of cheese and chocolate. You can be sure I will be tasting! Tomorrow we fly to London for the weekend…I’ll be sharing photos on social media, so please stay tuned.

BUT…MEANWHILE…I am totally excited to share a brand new picture book…from fellow debut author B.J. Lee!

I guess you could say that today’s story is a retelling of a wildly popular progressive tale. But it so different, it is really new. It is truly the best of both worlds. A time-honored favorite, like an old friend. But with such a charming twist, it has become new again. And perhaps that is the key to a great book. They say there are only seven stories in the entire world…and every book is a variation. What makes each different is the voice, perspective, and flavor that the author brings to it. And B.J. Lee certainly brought all of that!  Plus, she is offering a copy of the book as a giveaway. Make sure you leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win!

there was an old gator cover

THERE WAS AN OLD GATOR WHO SWALLOWED A MOTH

Written by B.J. Lee

Illustrated by David Opie

Published by Pelican Publishing (2019)

Ages: 5 and up

Themes: Progressive story, Florida animals

Synopsis: From Amazon:

“Gators and panthers and crabs, oh my! The classic cumulative tale There Was an Old Lady gets a Floridian flourish in this charming adaptation. Down in the southern swamps a hungry gator accidentally swallows a moth. Of course, he swallows a crab to get the moth! What will he swallow next? The gator predictably continues swallowing bigger and bigger creatures until the unexpected happens―all over the page! Along the way to its hilarious ending, the story―strengthened by the delightful illustrations―introduces readers of all ages to the many critters, both big and small, of the Florida swamp. With a familiar use of repetition and an abundance of rhythm, this silly story is perfect for read-aloud experiences.”

Why I love this book:

  • Fabulous read-aloud!
  • Love the regional flavor of the story!
  • The illustrations are perfect!
  • Meter and rhyme are delightful!

 

The book launch was pretty special – at a Nature Center and there was a reading, a sing-a-long, crafts, and….a gator walk with a park ranger!

Gator Day Flyer 3 10 19 final

And here’s a bit about B.J.

I am a former college music librarian turned full-time writer and poet. My debut picture book, There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth, launched on February 1, 2019 from Pelican Publishing. Additionally, I am an award-winning children’s poet with over 100 poems and stories published/forthcoming in major anthologies and magazines. Anthology credits include Construction People (Wordsong, 2019), I Am a Jigsaw (Bloomsbury, 2019), National Geographic’s Poetry of US (2018), National Geographic’s Book of Nature Poetry (2015), One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown, 2016), Moonstruck (Otter-Barry, 2019), Spaced Out (Bloomsbury, 2019), Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble (Bloomsbury, 2019) and many others. Magazine credits include Spider, Highlights, and The School Magazine. I blog at Today’s Little Ditty, where I am an authority on poetic forms.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

alligator-craftsPhoto courtesy: https://momfoodie.com/alligator-crafts-for-kids/

For detailed instructions and other ideas: https://momfoodie.com/alligator-crafts-for-kids/

Remember friends, leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of THERE WAS AN OLD GATOR WHO SWALLOWED A MOTH by B.J. Lee. And as always, help spread the word about the books you love. Buy them, review them, ask your library to purchase them for their collection, and tell your friends about the them.

For more wonderful book reviews, please stop by Susanna Hill’s PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

Thank you so much for spending your precious time with me.

Happy Book Birthday: LITTLE TIGER and LITTLE PANDA Plus Giveaway

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?? I see two birthday cakes!! Could it be??

YES!!!!

We are celebrating the birth of TWINS! Two book babies for the lovely Julie Abery!!!

And although I’d be thrilled for any of my kidlit friends who had TWO BOOK BABIES…there is a reason why I am particularly tickled pink and blue about this. And here is the lovely Julie to give you a bit of the back story of how these beautiful books came to be. Take it away, Julie!

JULIE:

What inspired Little Tiger…

The inspiration came from a list of tigerish words I had scribbled in my notebook and your wonderful ‘50 Precious Words’ story writing challenge, Vivian! To my delight and amazement my lovable Little Tiger’s rhyming romp around the jungle won your heart and first place! I was so astonished to see it at the top of the winners’ list that I called my daughter, Sarah, to check I wasn’t dreaming. Then things got even better! As my prize I chose an agent critique with Essie White at Storm Literary Agency, and to my delight this resulted in her offering to represent me and you became my agency sister!

I am thrilled that Little Tiger, and Little Panda are now going to be the first two in the Little Animal Friends series of board books with Amicus Ink in Spring 2019 with the second two publishing in Spring 2020.

Thank you so much, Julie. What fun that we are debut author sisters AND I’m so very happy that I’ll get to hug you in person in exactly ONE WEEK!

There you go, my friends. Participating in writing challenges and contests is a wonderful way to get your work out there. And now, without further ado, here’s a big slice of cake for each of you as we enjoy looking at the precious covers of these brand-new books that were both illustrated by the talented Suzie Mason.

little tiger cover

 

little panda cover

And we can do more than just enjoy looking at the covers, right? Because the best gift we can give an author of a book we love is to buy the book, review the book, ask our local library to purchase it for their collection and tell friends about it.

I also want to add a little icing on the cake, so to speak. I’m giving away a copy of each of these book babies. And you  might be one of the winners! Please leave a comment  If you participate in writing contests or challenges, will you share which is your favorite?

As most of you know, I am on the other side of the world right now, enjoying the beauty of New Zealand and getting ready to fly to Geneva next week where I will visit with Julie and then train with her to the Bologna Book Fair. I’m so grateful for these friendships and for all of you in kidlitland who come by to visit my blog and comment and share on social media when good news is announced.

 

HEATHER MACHT: Will Write for Cookies Plus A FABULOUS TRAILER REVEAL for THE ANT FARM ESCAPE and a Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

heather macht

HEATHER MACHT

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ALEXANDRIA LAFAYE: Will Write for Cookies Plus GIVEAWAY

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

ALEXANDRIA LAFAYE

When I joined Storm Literary Agency in 2015, not only did I get an awesome agent, but I also got a wonderful support system – all of the other clients – authors and illustrators. And one of the most active is today’s guest, Alexandria LaFaye. I grabbed a bit about her from her wonderful website.

ALEXANDRIA: Family is at the core of who I am which why families are at the center of most of my books whether it is families torn apart by injury (Worth) or absence (The Year of the Sawdust Man) or drawn together by tragedy (Water Steps and The Keening) or seeking each other (Walking Home to Rosie Lee). 

When I’m not joining my family for a board game, a jaunt to the park, or a trip to the zoo, I’m usually writing or reading, but I’m also an associate professor of English at Greenville College in the academic year and a visiting associate professor in the Hollins University Summer Graduate Program in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Follow Me Cover

 

ME: Welcome, Alexandria! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us and share your writing journey. and a little bit about yourself. Can you name a book that changed the way you saw the world?

ALEXANDRIA: I seek out books that show me things about the world I did not previous know like Michelson’s The Alphabet of Angels revealing that Hebrew had nearly died out as a spoken language until one man, Ben Yehuda, popularized it in Isreal in the 19th century. Hesse’s Aluetian Sparrow opened my eyes to the horrific treatment of the Aleut people of the Aluetian Islands during World War II.  I love books that expand my world one page at a time and that’s the type of book I was trying to write  with FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN.  By sharing a story of the Exodusters who built Nicodemus, KS and homesteaded in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and other parts of Kansas, I hoped to celebrate their achievements and spread the world about these historical heroes who are often overlooked in historical accounts of homesteading the US.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

ALEXANDRIA: How to write in way that is true to my own voice and experience, but that reaches out to readers of all walks of life and speaks to them in a way that makes them feel understood, inspired them, or lead to see things in a new way.  I’ve also always wanted this literary connection to lead readers to spread the news about my books to other potential readers.   I’m still trying to figure out this formula for great writing.

book vobrt

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

ALEXANDRIA: The answer depends on the genre.  I prefer to write poetry and short stories with a pen and paper and usually in one of my writing journals and I can do that pretty much anywhere, but I often do it at my writing desk at home or in my office at work (I’m an associate professor at Greenville University).  I have to admit that when I write “outside” of these spaces, I’m usually too drawn into observing things around me to focus on writing.

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

ALEXANDRIA: I’ve always been quite bad at doing things routinely, so I write as the muse strikes most of the time.  I often get a burning idea I need to write down and that often leads to more ideas which means I put other things on hold until I’ve followed this vein of creativity to its conclusion, then I go back to my daily activities. Other times, I leave things at home in my husband’s capable hands and spend a weekend in a cabin on a nearby lake and write, write, write.  That often involves a lot of revising, revising, revising.  But it’s a great time to fully emerse myself in my work.

with kids at bookstore or library

ME: Why do you write for children?

ALEXANDRIA: I write the stories that come to me.  Since I so enjoy children—understanding them, raising them, helping them, I believe I’m drawn to the stories that interest them. I also have an alterior motive.  If the books children read are inclusive, inspiring, historically and culturally accurate, and open the world up to young readers, then they will grow up with a kinder, more accurate, and layered view of the world.  The things we read as children shape our views of the world and prepare us for all the learning and experience that follows, so I guess, I’m hoping to help kids build expansive and supportive views of the world through the stories that I write.

ME: What is your writing advice?

ALEXANDRIA: Write to become the best writer you’re meant to become—don’t try to measure up to some external ideal of writing and writers—find your own voice and speak in it through your writing.  You’re a uniquely made person who has a singular life experience and point of view to share with the world, so embrace that and become the best writer you can as you learn to speak in your own voice.

ME: Is there anything you’d change about your writing life right now?

ALEXANDRIA: Yes, I’d love to do more school visits!  As a greater admirer of kids, I love to create school presentations that are entertaining, educational, and uplifting.  As a geek who was bullied in school, I can inspire the kids who struggle with self-confidence and engage with the kids who are following the crowd and need to be encouraged to become the “kind kid” who says “no” to bullying.  I’m also a professor who teaches preservice teachers how to integrate literature into the classroom, so I’m uniquely skilled to help kids become life-long learners and process writers. My professional credentials also make it possible for me to do professional development programs for teachers, administrators, and librarians.  And I love the school visits where I learn as much as I mentor.  If anyone would be interested in hosting me for a school visit, they can contact me at Alexandria.lafaye@greenville.edu

with class reading

ME: WOW…thank you so much, Alexandria. I love your authenticity…it shines right through all of your answers. I know we all appreciate you stopping by…and I know you are not done yet. You’ve got a recipe to share with us that is kind of special to your new picture book, right?

ALEXANDRIA:  Yes, this is a recipe Dede’s mama would have known by heart – hoecakes:

 Hoecake

The legend is that African Americans who had been enslaved “baked hoecakes on a hoe in the fields for their midday meal.  Elizabeth Lea, a cookbook author from Montgomery County in the mid-19th century has several corn cake recipes, one of which she called a “Virginia hoe cake.”  Indeed, hoecake was the hardtack, the matzah, of enslaved Blacks for several centuries.  Some Maryland hoecakes were made over a griddle in the hearth (also known as a hoe), others were baked on a “bannock” board placed facing the fire.”  Although an African-American staple it was also a food served in many kitchens across the frontier in the 1800s.

1 cup of white stone-ground cornmeal

3/4 cup of boiling hot water

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup of lard, vegetable oil or shortening

Mix the cornmeal and salt in a bowl.  Add the boiling water, stir constantly and mix it well and allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes.  Melt the frying fat in the skillet and get it hot, but do not allow it to reach smoking. Two tablespoons of batter can be scooped up to make a hoecake.  Form it into a small thin pancake and add to the pan.  Fry on each side 2-3 minutes until firm and lightly brown.  Set on paper towels to drain and serve immediately once all the hoecakes have been cooked.

Recipe and background by  Michael W. Twitty in “A Few Antebellum African American Recipes” published in Afroculinaria (2011)

https://afroculinaria.com/2011/11/10/a-few-antebellum-african-american-recipes/

My dear friends, please join me in thanking Alexandria for her wonderful insights and the fantastic hoecake recipe…plus, she is generously donating a signed copy of her wonderful picture book, Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town, so make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you back here next week for another review (and a giveaway!) of a fabulous new picture book, HONEYSMOKE, by Monique Fields. I’ll be cloistered away, working on the redlines for the big compilation book – 9 stories means 9 times as many edits to go through, right? So if I am a bit MIA on social media this weekend, you’ll know why.

KATY FARBER: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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I mentioned in yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post that Katy was one of the first bloggers I connected with. Her Non-Toxic Kids blog really appealed to me and I immediately signed up to follow it – and I’m still subscribed!

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BRIAN LIES: Will Write for Cookies Plus Double Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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