Friday, May 22, 2015

Delightful new picture book demonstrates the importance of being true to yourself

Buttar Cover

Prolific children’s book author Debbie Buttar knows that animals are the perfect medium through which to gently teach important lessons. Her newly published fourth book, "Funky Little Monkey," is no exception.

In this inspiring tale filled with bright and colorful illustrations by Christopher Davis, a funky little monkey who loves to disco dance is laughed at because he is different from the other monkeys. The little scamp perseveres and continues to enjoy what makes him happy, in spite of some rather rude comments from his animal companions.
An excerpt from the story demonstrates how the other monkeys feel about disco dancing:
They say, "You’re actingCrazy, and don’t be a flunky,Stop wasting your time, andAct like a monkey!"

But the Funky Little Monkey stays true to himself. After all, when you love something, you’ve just got to stick with it, no matter what anyone else says. To his great joy, as often happens in life, the Funky Little Monkey soon discovers others who think his dancing is just great!
Buttar comments, "We all express ourselves in unique ways, and we all need to feel good about it. This story helps readers be themselves by teaching them to embrace their individuality."
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of "Funky Little Monkey" is being donated to AMESPA Research & Treatment Foundation for the medical treatment of children suffering from cancer and autism.

"Another great book by Debbie Buttar! What a fun story encouraging kids to march to the beat of their own drum! The fun rhymes and cute animal characters that are beautifully illustrated will keep your child coming back again and again, and soon, they too will be dancing like a Funky Little Monkey. Love it!" ~ Reader Review by Karri Freeney

Author/illustrator: Debbie Buttar was born in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, PA. She currently resides with her husband, young son, and stepson on their farm in Huntersville, North Carolina. Debbie is inspired by animals and ways to nurture and help them. Her first book, "Tonga the African Elephant," was published in 2008 followed shortly by her 2009 Children's Moonbeam Silver Medal winner "Giraffe Sounds?" and its sister book "Llama Sounds?" "Funky Little Monkey" is the fourth collaboration between Debbie Buttar and illustrator Christopher Davis.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interview with Author and Illustrator Beth Anne Maresca

Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary. (You can follow this up with any points you hope readers will take away with them)
Megan Owlet doesn’t want to play basketball, learn karate, or practice the violin. Every day she goes and cheers her brothers on as they participate in their own activities, but one morning she wakes up and realizes she’s bored! It’s time for Megan to find something of her own to do. After an unsuccessful brainstorming session with her animal friends, Megan stumbles upon a dance studio, and with an excited screech she begins to dream big dreams of whirls and twirls. Dancing is trickier than Megan expected, but with a little help from her brothers, Megan can do anything!
Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?
I started writing this story about three years before it was taken in by editor Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press.  In the beginning I was working with an agent who guided me through the process of taking my story and making it into a book.  She was really helpful in many ways and helped when it came time to sending it to publishers.  It was not accepted by several publishers which was discouraging.  However, many editors that rejected "Megan Owlet" gave good advice either on my story or the art.  I took these critiques and revised and rewrote or reworked the pictures.  I believe it is from these rejections that Megan blossomed.

How did you get the idea for this book?
I was inspired by my four children to write this book.  My daughter, the youngest in our family with three older brothers, had been shuffled from games and activities constantly on the weekends going to and from her brothers' activities.  When she was three she was finally old enough to have something for herself...and she tried dance class.  It was just such a joy for me to watch my little girl in an adorable pink tutu, something that was all hers!

What do you enjoy most about writing? 
I love writing.  I love most creating characters and giving them really fun things to do or go through.  I love writing because it takes me away to imaginative worlds.  When I am writing, it is funny how that particular story stays with me.  It is always on my mind, what the character should say or do or how the character would look or behave in certain situations. 

What is the most difficult part of writing? 
The most difficult part of writing for me is finding the time.  Working full time as a teacher and having four school-aged children who all have after school activities make it difficult to find quality writing time.  Because of this, I try to keep a pen and paper handy wherever I go.  I also use the "notes" on my iphone, too, to capture my thoughts about stories and parts of a story I am working on...because sometimes I just never know where I'll be when just the right wording pops into my head!  I do try, once the craziness of a day is done, to work on projects at night, when things are a bit more peaceful in my house!

How has publishing a book changed your life? 
Thus far, not much has changed, although it does make life exciting when friends and acquaintances start finding out about "my secret life" as an author and illustrator! Since my book is coming out on April 7th, I am looking forward to doing book signings and readings!

If your book is based on true events, how has that affected those around you or why made you choose to use historical events? 
 This book is not based on any historical events, but it is based on my family!  And I must kids love the fact that they are in a book and are very proud of the characters based on them (even though they are owls!)

What are your plans now? 
My plans now are to continue writing and illustrating!  I have two stories I am currently working on and getting ready to submit to we will see!

What is your best tip for aspiring authors? 
Take criticism and turn it into a positive.  Whether it be from your kids, your husband or wife, your critique group or an editor, take their critiques and use them to your advantage.  Separate yourself from your writing for a moment and really try to see what they are saying.  It is so easy for us as writers to get attached to "our" writing that it is hard to let go or change.  But, from change great things can emerge!

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership? (Here you can share about characters, historical facts, setting or whatever else you would like our readers to know about your book.) 
When people read "Megan Owlet" my hope is that they will come away with a happy feeling.  I hope children and parents see the importance of family and how important supporting each other within a family is. When my children were younger, around three or four, they did not like books that had grumpy faces or arguing. So, I wanted to make this a happy story and show how siblings can come together for each other.

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Interview with Author Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Here’s one important lesson I’ve learned: If you quit when you feel discouraged, you’ll never find out what you could have done if you’d stuck with it instead.

Or, even better: The ONLY way to fail is to quit!

Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary.

Ten-year-old Pansy Smith wants to become an extraordinary friend to make up for all the mistakes she's made in the past....and she has only 14.5 weeks to reach her goal.

When Pansy chickens out of going to sleepaway camp with Anna, she realizes she's let her best friend down one time too many. Anna is right; Pansy has broken a lot of promises. But Anna suffers a brain injury at camp, and Pansy worries that she'll never be able to make things right between them, or even worse, that Anna will never be the same again. When she hears that Anna is going to have brain surgery in 14 weeks that might cure her, Pansy knows she's been given the chance she's been waiting for- a chance to get Anna back, by finally facing her fears and becoming extraordinary, the kind of best friend Anna deserves.

Although my book deals with the serious subject matter of a girl who suffers  a severe brain injury, Extraordinary shows that young people can remain hopeful even in difficult situations. Even though Anna has changed greatly from the best friend Pansy once knew, she still inspires Pansy to try new things and to persevere when giving up would be much easier. This book shows that extraordinary things can happen when you least expect it, and overall I hope the reader will come away with a sense of hope and triumph.

Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?  

Skypony Press is an independent publisher; Skypony is the children's division of Skyhorse Press. I discovered that they were interested in books  with special needs themes, and I asked my agent to submit to the editor, Julie Matysik. After taking the book to an acquisitions meeting, Julie sent over an offer which I was thrilled to accept!

How did you get the idea for this book?  

As a teacher, I've worked with children who persevere despite challenges, treat others with kindness, and are full of spirit and heart. Although they may not be the top students or the most talented in the typical ways that get noticed, they have extraordinary gifts that others may not recognize. My original plan for the book was to write about a girl who considered herself "hopelessly average" but wanted to become an extraordinary person by chasing after numerous goals.

Pansy's character is still based on the original character, but I transformed the story when I made Anna a major part of it.

I wanted to write about Anna because of a niece who suffered a brain injury when she was two. A sudden high fever led to a stroke and a brain injury, which changed her life and her family's life forever. I've always been amazed and inspired by the way her family accepted the challenges and focused on the joy that Anna brought to everyone. Even though their hopes and dreams for her had changed, they adjusted and learned that living with a child with severe special needs can be a gift that makes you view the world in a different way.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

On a typical writing day, I spend two hours in the morning, 4-5 days a week, working on a draft or revising. If ideas are flowing, then I'll spend more than that, working again in the evening after children have gone to bed. 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The best part of writing is when I lose myself in my characters and I get to follow them to see where they'll take me. I also love the revision stage--going back through each scene and figuring out ways to make the writing stronger.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

For me, the most difficult part is the plot--making sure each scene moves the story forward and it doesn't meander around. Because I don't outline, my books can end up with all sorts of subplots I don't need, so staying focused and structured can be a challenge!

How has publishing a book changed your life?

I've been writing and studying the craft of writing for years, but for me, being published gives me a sense of validation. Since I've been writing and revising for a long time, it means that I've grown and improved as a writer, and my work is now strong enough for an audience. It also means that a child somewhere will hold my book in her hands, and will hopefully be touched by my words. That's an incredible honor, and if my book causes one child to think about situations or to think about his/her life differently, then it will all be worth it!

If your book is based on true events, how has that affected those around you or why made you choose to use historical events?

I based the character of Anna on my niece (my sister-in-law's daughter). I hope that members of the family will accept and understand the full circle of Pansy's emotions in coming to terms with the brain injury, and that they will also remember how Anna inspired others to find the beauty and joy in the simple things in life.

What are your plans now?

I'm currently working on a few different middle grade manuscripts. I hope to have one of them ready to submit to my editor soon. I'm also looking forward to presenting writing workshops and making author visits at schools. As a former public school teacher now working with homeschooled students, there is nothing better than working with children and nurturing creativity!

What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

My best tip? Read and write.  Read and study fine examples of children's literature. Be prepared to listen to expert feedback and to cut some scenes and characters you love! And, if you don't make the time to sit down and write, the book inside your head will never get written!

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

My website:
Follow me on Twitter: @123miris
Readers should be able to purchase the book wherever books are sold, both in stores and online.


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