Once upon a time, two children’s book authors met in cyberspace and discovered they had much in common. As their friendship grew despite the 1,500 miles that separated them, so did a story idea for tweens.
In 2018, that story idea crystallized, and the two writers started working together to create a purr-fect tale of courage and kindness for tweens:
Shy Olivia just wants to do her best in 6th grade
and care for the animals on her family farm.
But the new girl at school
to turn that world
So Olivia pours out her heart
in a journal to the only one who truly understands …
Read on for my answers to four cool questions readers asked about my writing journey and new release, Just Between Sam and Me. Then scroll to the end and click over to co-writer Rosie Russell to find her answers to four different questions from our readers.
1. Were you inspired [to write] by your English teacher in High School?
– Peggy, Wisconsin
Mr. Nelson, my sixth-grade teacher at Tracy Elementary in Norwalk, Connecticut, was first to recognize my passion for music and writing.
My 7th-grade English instructor at West Rocks Middle School, Mrs. Martinson, was the one who truly encouraged my writing and taught me the elements of grammar and sentence construction. I remain grateful to both of them, and hope they know how much they’ve done for me.
2. Have you experienced tornadoes? They must be scary!
– Ariane, California
For sure! I dodged tornadoes travelling between rural schools as a resource teacher outside of Wichita, Kansas. I spent many spring evenings in my basement while tornado sirens wailed.
sHowever, it wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina that I experienced two tornadoes that claimed lives, touching down within miles of my house. I was alone both times, so I understand the terror that one of our characters feels when she faces a similar situation.
I also lived through Fran, a Category 3 hurricane that spawned tornadoes and toppled about two-dozen trees in our yard. Incredibly, those giant oaks missed hitting our home by inches. We were lucky they didn't crash through to the bedroom as we slept.
The trees also blocked our driveway, so we couldn’t drive our cars to get help until a neighbor with a bobcat arrived and pushed them aside.
Since we lived in the country then, we were also without well water and electricity for 10 days. It was absolute misery in late summer's heat, humidity and misquotes.
And yes (no spoilers), Rosie and I weave several of these stormy experiences into our tale.
3. What’s your favorite middle-grade book you read as a tween?
– Sue, Connecticut
I still smile remembering The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. A smart children's science fiction novel by English author Eleanor Cameron, this book enthralled me with its mix of adventure, fantasy and whimsy while featuring brave kids who take risks doing the right thing.
And my all-time fave middle grade read as an adult?
Hands down – JK’s tales!
4. You write realistically about Olivia’s horse, Star.
What experiences did you have with horses that helped you?
– Theresa, North Carolina
I knew enough to know I didn’t know enough!
I spent a weekend at a working horse farm in Southern Pines, North Carolina, to experience these animals up close and personal. I learned they are beautiful and BIG!
(Hey, take a photo walk through my equine weekend HERE.)
Rosie and I are grateful for the many equine insights shared by our very own Horse Whisperer, Judy Hart, who once raised horses in the Pacific Northwest. Judy's insights helped us write realistic equine scenes.
Sam and Friends
Just Between Sam and Me is making its way to young readers around the world. Best, Sam is sparking important convos between kids and parents about kindness and bullying.
Hey, see for yourself what the buzz is all about.
Click the video link below
to watch a preview of
Just Between Sam and Me.
to order your copy of
Just Between Sam and Me
from your favorite e-book retailer
in paperback from Amazon
Don't forget ...
before you go,
click over to meet Rosie Russell in Kansas City
for her reader questions
How have experiences from your childhood shaped your professional life? What other questions might you have for a children’s book author? What was your favorite book as a tween? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
This year has been a marathon of 365 days that tests our humanity. We’re sooooooo ready to kick 2020 to the curb! Our world has a way to go before we defeat covid-19, but we’re gonna make it.
In my last post of 2020, you'll find ideas to keep your spirits raised with an attitude of gratitude AND:
Some days, I want to scream.
Then I take a deep breath and remember how lucky I am. During a global disaster when many have lost everything, I have food on the table and a warm place to sleep.
I am learning to be grateful to wake each morning without a cough or pain and my sense of smell intact!
This year heightens my appreciation for each moment and every simple gift. I admire the way my writerly pal friend Julie Schooler always puts such a positive sparkle on her approach to life. She makes me smile as she shares three things she’s grateful for in what she terms "our banana-pants crazy 2020."
Read Julie's uplifting post HERE
In addition to Julie’s top three on her gratitude list, my guilty pleasure and happy place has been bingeing on Hallmark’s Christmas movies.
Conventional and formulaic, Hub and I giggle over dialogue cliches and laughingly predict the disastrous turning point that happens 30 minutes before the Big Kiss Final Scene. We know there will be a happy ending. where kindness always wins along with cocoa drinking, tree trimming, and cookie baking.
btw: also happy to see more diverse actors and story arcs in this year’s offerings!
50+ Fab Free Children’s Books
Many budgets are tight this holiday season, so I’m sharing a way to light up your Littles with literacy. I teamed with more than 50 children’s book authors for an awesome December Children’s Book Giveaway.
Check out the our collection and download your FREE faves by clicking over to Book Funnel for your HERE
Offer ends 5 January
(btw….you'll spy a familiar feline face in this #DecemberChildrensBookGiveaway collection ... free chapter download of Just Between Sam and Me -:D.
Free Streaming Event:
Messiah from Duke Chapel
This year, our holiday traditions are morphing into virtual streams we can safely enjoy.
Now in its eighty-eighth year, the annual presentation of G.F. Handel’s Messiah at Duke Chapel is one of the oldest and most beloved musical traditions at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. This year, that tradition continued with a livestreamed Messiah concert on Sunday, December 6.
You can listen to this blissful recording of that concert until 6 January by clicking over to Duke Chapel HERE
Catch you in 2021
I'm taking a break from authoring and social media until 4 January. I want to enjoy our downsized holiday celebration for two instead of despairing we won’t be with family for the first time EVER.
Maybe we'll bake cookies
(like they do on the Hallmark channel - Tee Hee)
Or set up Gear-Head Hub’s funky transportation ornament tree,
We'll sprinkle more jolly holiday villages
throughout our home
to warm the season.
What's up for you these last weeks of December?
Whatever it is, my wish for you is to ...
SHOW LOVE, GRATITUDE
Sitting here, happy, tired and stuffed-brain, but taking a moment to share insights into my crazy-busy-hectic-happy book launch week with co-author Rosie Russell.
It's been an endurance test of stress management with an attitude of gratitude.
Stress Management Roller-Coaster
Co-writer Rosie Russell and I are over the moon that our new book for tweens, Just Between Sam and Me, debuted on 2 December at #113 in Amazon’s ranking of children’s books about bullying.
But what a journey to get there!
Our tale has been 22 months in the making - delayed by my Covid-stalled muse during lockdown. Plus Rosie and I always fought tech gremlins; however, nearing our 2 December finish line, those tech gremlins attacked with a vengeance. Of course!
– Our paperback was stalled in review process, so it was not available on the first day of launch.
– Rosie’s Facebook account may have been hacked, and she couldn’t access important launch day posts.
– The day before launch, I started working at 4.30 a.m. because my mind wouldn’t stop spinning about everything that needed to get done.
– 10 minutes before a podcast interview with Jedli on Reading with Your Kids, a ginormous pressure washer truck pulled up to my neighbor’s house and started pounding out its super-water-shooting motor. I tore out of my office and raced to the closet in the back of our home. Hunkered down by Hub’s shirts in that tight space, the WIFI dropped. Sigh. I scurried back to pressure washer mania. ARGH!
I stress over these things,
But I know.
Yep. Minor first-world problems.
I remind myself to be grateful for the ability to hassle with them.
Keenly aware that millions are
with serious issues of
and social inequities.
Haunted by the image of a young girl,
crying and clinging to her blankie-wrapped baby doll
being forcibly evicted from their home.
as I learn of Covid deaths
among family and friends just these past weeks alone.
by staggering numbers
of Covid deaths rising.
by political divisions battering our nation.
Remembering these things
snaps my launch anxiety
Attitude of Gratitude
Dad once made a habit of writing down all his blessings, and I Iearned that trick from him.
I will never take for granted having a roof over my head, warm place to sleep, food on the table, or ability to pay my bills on time. Nor my fab family and friends, whom I long to see in person but doing so only over ZOOM these days.
My work on Sam has been rich with a co-writer, launch team, writing pals, and blogging buddies who support my authoring journey. I'd be lost without them. They raise our purr-fect tale of courage and hope for tweens and help it score fab book buzz that makes authors do the happy dance.
Speaking of book buzz ....
Will you kindly bear with me for a moment of shameless self-promotion as I share review snippets that have my buttons bursting?
Smiling wide here -:D!
One last bit self-promotion, please?
(Promise that's it for the year <wink>.)
Sam, Rosie and I would be honored
if you'll click below
to learn more about
Just Between Sam and Me
where to find a copy
at your fave bookseller.
btw,,,,We're running a launch sale through 10 December:
ebook slashed to $.99 US
paperback discounted at $7.99 US
December Bookish Giveaways for Young Readers
I’m teaming up with an amazing slate
of 58 authors
to bring you
free books and chapter samples
for holiday giving.
Winding Down 2020
During the Reading with Your Kids podcast taping today, host Jedli asked what'd I'd be writing next. I’ve had a feel-good women’s fiction rattling around in my head for over a decade. It’s time to get it out of my brain and onto paper.
But not until Just Between Sam and Me winds down.
Then I’m taking off the end of December to watch the sun set over the river, write my Christmas cards, and gratefully enjoy a Covid-Safe Holiday for Two with Hub, And we'll say 'good riddance!" to 2020!
I’ll crank it up again in 2021 with the next step on my writing road, whatever that is.
I hope you'll stay well
and enjoy special times
to make your heart happy
with your loved ones.
2021’s gonna be a better year for all of us!!
Book Trailer & Photo Walk - New Book for Tweens Offers "Satisfying Twist on Bullying, Victims, Peer Group Divisions"
Sliding toward December means launching the new tale for tweens I’m cowriting with Rosie Russell is just a few weeks away. We started collaborating on Just Between Sam and Me in February 2018, and we're over the moon to share our book with you at last. Read on to...
Stay tuned for our Dec. 2 launch, with links to your fave print and digital booksellers posting here on Cat’s Corner and across social media.
Ride alongside our characters in a wintry scene in the American Midwest on a snow-packed horse trail, and see how an upstander gets a mean girl to back off in this sample chapter Rosie Russell reads for you on her website HERE
Could such a place exist? YES!
Join me on a photo walk of my safe-distancing expedition to an old-timey fishing cabin near the small coastal town of Shallotte, NC.
I search online for places outside populated areas
but close enough to fun spots to explore.
(tbh...browsing vacation rentals
has been one of my greatest, safest Covid escapes.)
I book only with super hosts,
who receive stellar reviews for their communication and housekeeping.
Oh yeah, and provide strong wifi, too,
so I can continue writing my stories.
Traveling with travel kids?
Many homes have kid-friendly amenities,
like bikes, board games and corn holes. A few even allow pets for a small fee.
Our gracious host assures us of a stringent cleaning regimen, but Hub and I carry our own wipes, linen, towels and pillows.
The cabin is sparkling clean when we arrive, but we open windows, make the bed with our linen and wipe down surfaces just the same.
We're desperate for a change from looking at the same four walls
during months of lock-down.
We seek places off the beaten path
with amazing views.
belonged to the owner’s great-grandfather.
It was his fishing cabin back in the day
before Brunswick County was “discovered”
and developed as a coastal paradise.
Located off a dead-end country lane and down a dirt road,
we’re surrounded by trees and the salt water creek.
We don't see a soul during our stay.
First light is perfect for
wandering with my camera
to catch Sauce Pan Creek’s
wondrous tidal flow and changing moods.
I stumble barefoot and half asleep
to the dock at dawn.
Thumb-sized black crabs
under the crossbraces and startle me.
But we’re soon good friends.
Note to self:
Wear shoes to dock.
Don't step on cute little crabbiesI
A fully-stocked kitchen is another must for our Covid escape.
Our cabin is fab for cooking meals and dining in.
Only a few miles from groceries and restaurants,
we still pack the cooler from home with breakfast, lunch, and dinner staples.
But we can't pass up a few take-home meals from amazing local seafood places.
We feast in picnic splendor on the deck.
Plus, we want to support small businesses and restaurant workers.
We stay out of the action during Covid, though not too far.
A pleasant 10-minute drive down country roads deposits us by the nearest beach,
Ocean Isle Beach (or OBI, as locals call it).
The it's just a breath-taking jaunt over the bridge
and across the Intercoastal Waterway to this barrier island,
Signs posted all around before we hit the sand
remind us to be cautious.
Arrive by 10 am or early evening
to avoid crowds and blazing heat.
We have the place to ourselves.
Sea breezes cooling
Shore birds scampering
Shrimp boats catching
Hub and I splash in warm waves
and walk for miles on sugary, hard-packed sand.
Growing up along the Connecticut coast,
I have salt water in my blood.
The ocean is my happy place.
The best part of a Covid escape is wandering into
that come from being in the moment
and discovering the wonder of every day things.
I collect shells for my fairy garden.
Hub shows me a starfish before waves claim it.
sea turtle nests!!!!!
One of these days,
I'll get lucky
and time my beach excursion with seeing a sea turtle's nest boil.
I long to watch the babies flipper over the sand
along a sea turtle highway to the ocean.
We miss this hatch by just one night.
Maybe next time.
until this ocean escape
brings me back to
I finally relax.
for our world.
With so many people
out of work
or battling Covid and its fall out,
for this getaway.
this photo walk
a slice of calm
in this turbulent world.
Illustration: Irene A. Jahns from "Sweet T and the Turtle Team"
Today's post highlights five ways you can stop bullying and includes...
- A personal story about how bullying affected my family and set me on a new writing direction
- Tips for opening the conversation about bullying with your child
- Excerpts from Just Between Sam and Me – the upcoming book for tweens I’m co-writing with Rosie Russell
- Convo with Bookworm for Kids about social bullying themes in Just Between Sam and Me
My Family's Experience with Bullying
My sweet 8-year-old niecelette, B, had been bullied at school by two girls in her third-grade class. She cried continually and was anxious just thinking about school. My heart sank. I wanted to support her, but I didn't know what to do, feeling powerless living 500 miles away.
Fortunately, her teacher and parents stepped in immediately to stop the bullying. I still wanted to learn more about how I might help as a writer. I turned to research and asked friends to share their experiences and wisdom. And soon a book idea was born.
I share my five biggest take-aways from that research.
five ways you can stop bullying now
1. Be Persistent
High school teacher T advises being relentless:
Keep asking questions to the school, to the parents. Don’t let this slip through the cracks.
2. Intervene Immediately
R observes from her years as a substitute teacher in elementary school:
It takes the students, school, counselors, teachers, and parents to nip it in the bud as fast as they can. The longer it goes on, the worse it will be for all of them. I'm sure you are reassuring B. That's what she needs the most right now.
As an auntie, I didn't want my niecelette or any child to be the target of bullying.
As an author, I dreamed of writing a story for tweens that a delivered strong message – bullying in any form is never ok.
Just Between Sam and Me centers on shy 11-year-old Olivia, who only wants to read her books and tend to her farm animals. But Olivia feels like a social outcast when mean girl Candace turns on her.
Olivia starts believing the cruel taunts about her are true, so she is ashamed to tell anyone about the harassment. Small, constant jabs, like those in the excerpt below, erode Olivia's confidence and self-esteem.
4. Look for the Upstanders
Rosie and I sprinkle elements of mischief to lighten our content for kids and bring hope. Olivia’s bestie, Isabella, often takes on this role as she demonstrates how to be an upstander and stop bullying in its tracks, as in the following excerpt:
5. Talk with Your Child
Pacer.org – founder of the National Bullying Prevention Month movement – offers guidance for parents in opening a conversation if they suspect their child is being bullied.
Acknowledge your own feelings first:
Parents may feel a range of emotions, from anger to fear and sadness. These reactions are natural for parents who want their child to feel valued, protected, and loved. To be an effective advocate for your child, it's important to work through your emotions before developing an intervention plan.
When you’re ready and have your emotions in check:
Listen without judgment and remember that children may not be ready to open up right away. They, too, are dealing with the emotional effects of bullying and may feel insecure, frightened, vulnerable, angry, or sad.
When children begin to tell their story:
Listen and avoid judgmental comments. Learn as much as possible about the situation, such as how long the behavior has been happening, who has been involved, and what steps have been taken.
Encourage your child to talk:
Let them know they are not alone and emphasize....
- It is NOT their fault. They are not to blame.
- They are NOT alone. You are here to help.
- It is the adults’ responsibility make the bullying stop.
- Bullying is never okay, and they have the right to be safe.
- No one deserves to be bullied.
- They deserve to be treated with respect.
- They have the right to feel safe at school.
more About social bullying on Bookworm for kids
Learn more and join us HERE.
Free First Chapter
Meet Olivia and Candace.
Find out who Sam is
(he's not who you might think!)
FREE Chapter 1 of
Just Between Sam and Me
Book arrives at your favorite bookseller
2 December 2020.
What’s your experience with bullying? What tips can you offer to stop it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
It’s hard work,
a collaborative business
than can be a fiasco
if not managed well from the start.
I know. Sigh.
My first cowriting adventure
imploded and haunts me still.
since partnering with Rosie Russell on our tale for tweens,
Just Between Sam and Me, shameless plug for our new book [wink]
I picked up tons of cowriting tips that helped
Rosie and I succeed.
I share our learnings
in a conversation about
with fellow Tar Heel blogger Carol Baldwin.
Rosie and I used a Statement of Work (SOW), a road map to hash out our writing roles, royalty distributions, taxes, and other potential bumps
on the cowriting road
before we wrote a jot.
Plus, when you click over to Carol's blog,
you can enter a giveaway.
One lucky winner
will receive a FREE advance copy of
Just Between Sam and Me.
Book giveaway ends 21 September
btw.... Miss part 1 of our co-authoring convo with Carol Baldwin?
Visit my YouTube channel to catch us in a video convo
about how Rosie and I began our writing partnership.
| || |
Start your journey in Carolina with me to fetch the perfect cover art for my newest tale for tweens, Just Between Sam and Me, launching 2 December 2020.
Then click over to Midwestern countryside for cowriter Rosie Russell's blog at the end of this post. She's got a sweet cover reveal video just for YOU.
btw...more book cover art fun for you with links at the end
... animated book cover vid from Auden Johnson in the Big Apple
... slow build reveals using images from Sandra Bennet from Down Under.
Cowriter Rosie Russell and I
virtual-brainstorm cover concepts for weeks
for our new book for 8 to 12-year olds.
We want the perfect image
to engage young readers.
We nail our back cover quickly ...
the front image remains elusive.
We finally find that consummate image!
Artist Irene A. Jahns is on it.
until it's time for me to fetch Irene's cover rendering
at her family’s farm
30 miles from my North Carolina home.
Blazing heat and stifling humidity
on this summer morning.
AC cranked high in the car,
I speed along the highway
until it siphons off onto two-lane roads
snaking between towering stands of kudzu that blot the sky.
Despite my trusty GPS,
I miss the turn.
I circle back
and bounce down the dirt lane
to Irene in the farmhouse ahead.
We agree on a Covid safe-distancing spot
to talk and exchange the cover.
We sit opposite each other on pool chairs.
A third chair between us keeps us 6 feet apart.
Irene spreads her drawing pencils and canvas
on the empty place between us.
Two black farm cats nose around to see what’s up.
After all, our titular SAM is an orange tabby.
Maybe those real cats sense a kindred spirit
with our fictional feline [wink].
As Irene and I discuss finishing touches,
art-challenged me watches
as she adds her last strokes.
I’m fascinated by the textured canvas.
It lovingly laps up Irene's watercolors.
Dabs of color here.
A few drops of water there
from a kitchen water glass
swished onto her brush.
The cover comes to life before my life!
How does she do that?!?!?!?
Half hour later,
the completed canvas drying and protected in my car,
I’m speeding home.
Can’t wait to send Rosie a snapshot,
deliver the canvas to our graphic designer,
who will work her magic
turning Irene's watercolors into our cover.
to show that finished cover to
Meet Rosie Russell next in Missouri
and catch her cover reveal video for
Just Between Sam and Me
It will be a cool autumn afternoon when you arrive.
Rosie’s waiting for you on the front porch.
Rumor has it
she may serve up
her famous country-fried steak
if you want to stay supper.
(It's our main character's fave meal)
Hope you enjoy our cover
with Rosie Russell.
to continue your blog cruise.
My #Gr8Blogs writerly pals from around the globe have fab book cover stories, too. Check 'em out below!
... animated book cover creation vid from Auden Johnson in the Big Apple HERE
... book image series builds cover excitement from Sandra Bennet from Down Under HERE
Are you art-challenged like me? To be honest, I was terrified I’d smear Irene’s watercolors before our graphic designer, Kayte, could work her magic to convert the original canvas into a high-resolution jpg cover.
Or does drawing come naturally to you? Is painting or coloring-in a relaxing outlet for you, especially during Covid-19? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
I learned a ton since we began collaborating on our tale for tweens. Co-authoring can be an exciting adventure. It can also be a nightmare if you don’t find the perfect writing partner as I was lucky to do with Rosie.
Join Rosie and me as we kick off a four-part series about cowriting in conversation with my fellow Tar Heel author, Carol Baldwin. This week, Carol talks with us in a video segment about how we entered into our partnership ... a task more challenging because Rosie and I live 1,500 miles apart and met in person only once.
We also share tips o Carol's blog after the video to ensure your writing collaboration succeeds before you write a sentence.
Hey, if you post a comment and drop your email on Carol’s blog, Rosie and I will send you a link to a free download of the first chapter of our new tale for tweens, Just Between Sam and Me. How cool is that! (offer ends 9 September 2020)
Click below to Carol’s blog
for our convo about starting a co-authoring project.
P. S. Come back 17 September to explore more in part 2 of this conversation.
Rosie and I discuss how we manage nitty-gritty details of our collaboration
– from collecting royalty taxes from authors living in different states
to file-sharing and writing roles
– and navigating bumps on the co-authoring road.
Another giveaway for one lucky winner, too.
See you in September!
Writing about family, books, authoring, life, movies, travel and more.
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