Around Here

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We still have winter weather in our neck of the woods, so we are making the most of it - enjoying the fun that can be had skiing over frozen lakes and down snow-covered Minnesota "mountains."  Although warmer weather would be welcome, we're still having fun!

 


Interview with American Girl® author Kellen Hertz - (plus an American Girl ® Tenney Grant, book series giveaway!)

I am happy to share in the excitement of the new doll and book series from American Girl® -Tenney Grant™ with this interview with author Kellen Hertz and book series giveaway! 

Learn about author Kellen Hertz and her characters and stories by reading this series of questions and answers:

Kellen Hertz Author Photo

Kellen Hertz

Kellen Hertz, author of the book series for American Girl’s new contemporary character, Tenney Grant, was raised by New Yorkers in Fresno, California, a combination which resulted in an overactive imagination and a yearning for bagels. She decided to become     a writer at age 10 after reading L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” series, since the job of Princess of Oz was already taken. At 12, her unfinished first novel was tragically lost in a sea of library books on the floor of her room, forcing her to seek other employment.   She’s been a screenwriter, an Emmy nominated television producer, a bookseller, and a staffer for a U.S. Congressman, which is exactly as boring as it sounds. Although she doesn’t play guitar like Tenney, like her, she has a creatively addled brain and a passion   for all kinds of music. She loves vintage maps, rare names, strong coffee, and words and    all the flavors they come in. Most of all, she loves her family. She lives with her husband and son in Los Angeles.

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Kellen, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?     Where you live, a little about your family & your interests?

Sure! I’ve been writing since I was a kid, or nearly – I wrote my first play when I was thirteen or fourteen, and ever since then I’ve dreamed of being a professional writer so that I could tell all the stories that were bouncing around my head.

I grew up in Fresno, which is a town in the middle of California. My parents were both from New York City, though, so growing up there, I often felt like a fish out of water. I left for college when I was seventeen. Since then, I’ve lived in a bunch of places, but now I live on the East side of Los Angeles, with my husband, who’s a documentary editor and music composer, and my three year old son. 

My interests mainly center around writing and reading. I love reading middle grade and YA books the most, but I also read a lot of scripts, because I still write scripts and pilots for TV and film. Other interests include COFFEE! :) And traveling, running, music, and hanging out with my family. 

Please tell us about your career experiences (as a screenwriter and television producer) and how you found your way to writing the Tenney Grant series for American Girl.

I went to film school for screenwriting, and while I was there I wrote a script that got me an agent and some work as a writer, but after that I actually got writer’s block and really struggled for a while. I was pretty young and because I’d wanted to write since I was 12, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be GREAT immediately... which basically led to me never finishing anything.

So I took a writing break and went to work in TV, working on nonfiction and documentary shows, which allowed me to be creative without having to be in a vacuum. I always kept writing scripts and stories on the side, and I had some scripts optioned, but by and large I worked in TV production. When I had my son, I wanted to slow down a little and focus on him and also on my writing, because it was more flexible.

A fabulous woman I knew from UCLA Film School had just gotten a job being an Executive Producer for the online content at American Girl, and I just impulsively shot her an email about it, and told her congratulations and how much I’d always loved the AG books and content, and how I was trying to transition back into full-time writing. And incredibly, a month or so later she emailed me and said they were looking for a writer who could help out on a book very short notice, and could I send a writing sample. So I sent a script I had written with a teenage girl protagonist, and the editors at AG read it and really liked it, which was fantastic. So they offered me a job working on what turned out to be “Lea and Camilla.” I also worked with Lisa Yee on this book, as she was the primary author of the Lea series.

Everyone at AG loved what I turned in for “Lea and Camilla,” and Lisa loved it and was generous enough to give me notes and do some revisions (we share co-authorship on the book). A month or so later, AG asked if I wanted to develop Tenney with them! Which was a dream come true, pretty much! 

Tenney Grant

Tell us about Tenney and the other characters in the series.

Tenney is for me a very interesting mix of introvert and extrovert, which I think you have to be as a singer-songwriter. She’s the middle child in a musical family. Music is how she expresses her thoughts and figures out her emotions. So she has this special skill of songwriting that’s really unique... but in other ways she’s very much a typical 12 year old. She has issues with her parents, and issues balancing school and family and music. She’s becoming very self-aware, the way teens do, which can make her self-conscious and insecure, but what drives her is her passion to create and her need to express herself through songs.  

While I was writing her, I started to notice that everything about how she sees and views the world is filtered through her musicality. So when she’s excited, her heart’s pounding in a jitterbug tempo, or an idea crashes in her head like a cymbal. Those are bad examples, but you get the idea.

Tenney’s comfortable on-stage, but in life I’d say she’s less comfortable being the focus of attention. She’s not someone who fantasizes about being a star, she’s someone who fantasizes about playing her songs and feeling them connect to other people ... that’s an important distinction for me. 

Logan is similar to Tenney, but also different. Tenney is by nature an optimist, because her family’s very stable and happy and her life is very focused. Logan’s family life is more unsettled, so his world view is a bit darker and more skeptical. Like Tenney, he has a passion for music, and his musicality is like an extension of himself. Also like her, he has issues with being able to communication. He can come off as harsh sometimes.

The ways in which Tenney and Logan are different and are forced to get better at communication as they collaborate musically was a key theme in how we developed the stories. 

How did you develop the characters and stories?  Did you have any particular inspiration?

For Tenney’s character, I thought a lot about Sara Crewe in “A Little Princess” - a character’s who is remarkable in her resilience and positive attitude, and Mary in “A Secret Garden,” who has this wonderful sassy tartness to her. I wanted Tenney to have a spark of each of those things. She’s kind, but when it comes to her music, she has a stubborn artistic vision and a need to protect and nurture her own voice ... to figure out what SHE wants to say, and say it.

I also drew a lot on my own memories of myself as an introverted kid who needed to write stuff down to really process my emotions and figure out how I felt about things.

As I started writing Tenney with Logan, I watched a lot of Hepburn/Tracy and thought about the banter between great film couples like them. For me, it was less about romance, though, and more about setting up and then exploring that “oil and water” dichotomy that a lot of professional partnerships deal with, too. What happens when you have to work with someone who communicates differently than you, and whose personality is completely opposite? How do you overcome that and find a way to work together.

What’s next for you?

I’m still finishing up Tenney’s 4th book! And I’m also working on a biopic miniseries about an American female spy in WWII for some producers. After that, I’m hoping to write up a book proposal for my own YA book.

Anything else?

Working for American Girl was seriously a dream come true. I had a fantastic time, and I really hope to continue collaborating with them on Tenney and potentially other characters!

Thank you Kellen for this insightful interview!

And now for even more fun! American girl if offering 5 sets of the first two books Kellen's Tenney Grant series to my blog readers!

Tenney Cover-LR Tenney In the Key of Friendship-LRTo enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post.   If your comment is selected by the random number generator, you'll win!  Giveaway ends 3/10/17 7:00 p.m CST

*Want even more chances? 

Follow Kids and Eggs on Instagram, and/or Facebook.  You can also give yourself another shot by sharing a link to this giveaway on your social media as well. 

Just make sure, whatever you do, you come back here and leave a comment letting me know how you shared.

Good luck!!

Thanks for entering!  The winners are:

Jeremy, Lisa, Susan, Tricia &  Peggy!


School Days - March

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The March Issue of Minnesota Parent Magazine is available throughout Minnesota and online now.

My School Days Column in this month is "Making Time for Mama"  

School Days - March

You can find the article through THIS LINK.  

If you like what you see, social media 'shares' are appreciated!

Be sure to check out all of the other great content in the full issue as well!

As always - thanks for reading!

 


Northwoods Mama Getaway

DuNord

Sauna

Girls Weekend

A week ago today I traveled just a little farther up the road, joining three of my great friends at a Northwoods women's retreat at Camp DuNord.  Over the weekend we spent a lot of time outdoors, we were fed great food, we jumped in the frozen lake after a sauna, we were pampered at a local spa had time to reconnect.

Oh what a wonderful experience it was!

 


Harvest of Ice

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Iceharvest

We spent a gorgeous winter day at our friends' resort harvesting ice, as has been a mid-winter tradition in our neck of the woods.  We got a wonderful dose of sunshine, we all broke a sweat and shed layers.   Today I am happy with sunburned cheeks and a fun and productive day under my belt.   It is fun to get more involved as my role has changed from children-tender and life guard to ice block hauler.  It was fun to see our children get more involved as well - almost all of them made it the mile ski out to the resort on their own power and they all helped out throughout the day as well.  Fun times with good friends, keeping a fun Northwoods tradition alive.


Interview with author Teresa Harris - (plus an American Girl ® Gabriela, book giveaway!)

I am happy to share in the excitement of the new

American Girl® -Gabriela McBride™; Girl of the Year® 2017 with this author interview and giveaway!

American Girl Gabriella

American Girl is excited to celebrate the New Year with the debut of its 2017 Girl of the Year - Gabriela McBride! Gabriela is a true talent who uses her passion for the arts—specifically spoken word poetry—to overcome personal obstacles and create positive change for her community. Gabriela launches with a beautiful 18-inch doll, plus several performance-inspired outfits, accessories, and toys.
 
 
Learn more about Gabriela and the development of her character by reading this series of questions and answers with author Teresa E. Harris:
Theresa Harris
Teresa E. Harris

Teresa E. Harris earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University and an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College, where she won numerous awards, including the Flying Pig Grade-A, Number-One Ham Humor Award. She is the author of the picture book Summer Jackson: Grown Up and the middle grade novel The Perfect Place, which was selected as one of Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of the Year in 2015. Teresa is a high school English teacher in New Jersey, where she lives with three very bossy cats. She spends most of her time grading papers, writing novels, and wishing she could dance like Gabby.

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Teresa,  can you tell us a little bit about yourself?     Where do you live?  Tell us about your family.  What are your interests?  I grew up in Teaneck, a town in Northern New Jersey. Now I live just a few minutes away from where I grew up in a town called Hackensack.   Unlike Gabriela, who is an only child, I have two sisters and one brother, all older than me. As the youngest, I got away with a lot more than my older siblings.   My interests?  I read—A LOT—and I try to make sure I read across all genres. I read a lot of children’s books (of course), but I also read a lot of political articles and blogs, blogs about celebrities, adult fiction, and because I’m a teacher, I spend a lot of time reading my students’ work too. As much as I love to read, my absolute favorite thing to do in my spare time is to write.

Please tell us about your writing career - your other books - and how you found your way to writing the Gabriela series for American Girl.  I have been writing for so long; I cannot even remember when I began. I used to come home from school and instead of doing my homework, I would dive into the worlds and characters I had created myself. One such story was about Buster and Twinkles, a pair of time-traveling cats. It was the first story I’d ever written and when I decided definitively that I wanted to be a writer.

To achieve that dream, I minored in creative writing at Columbia University and went on to receive a Masters degree in writing for children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. There, I wrote my first ever full-length novel, The Perfect Place, which I sold to Clarion Books. About two years later, I sold my first picture book, Summer Jackson: Grown Up, to HarperCollins. And then, when I was least expecting it back in 2016, an awesome editor at Scholastic, whom I had worked with previously contacted me about writing the Gabriela books for American Girl. I said yes, and wasted no time diving into Gabby’s world.

Tell us about Gabriela.
Gabriela is a triple threat; she’s a dancer, a poet, and comes to find that she is an activist. She stands up for what she believes in, never thinks twice about helping people and works hard to overcome challenges, both external and internal. One of Gabby’s major struggles is her stutter, which sometimes makes her feel like she is at war with her own words. However, when the city of Philadelphia threatens to shut down the Liberty Performing Arts Center, her second home, Gabby is determined to help. She puts her fear of public speaking aside and uses her voice to save the arts center.

How did you develop her character and stories?
This project was a collaboration between myself, Scholastic and American Girl.  As I mentioned earlier, an editor who I formerly worked with and who knew my work thought I would be a good fit for this project. From the initial outline, I knew that Gabby was a gifted dancer and poet. Then I was given the amazing task of filling in all the rest – her voice, energy and heart. I spent a lot of time imagining how Gabby – a poet, activist, and dancer – would tell her own story. I knew she’d be confident even in the face of self-doubt, lyrical with her words and have the ability to see the world in a unique way. I spent some time writing and rewriting scenes, until I found Gabby’s true voice.

Did you have any particular inspiration?  Because Gabby is a young poet, I conducted my research by reading poetry written by children and young adults and watching videos of children’s poetry competitions. To say I was impressed by the poems I read and the performers I watched is an understatement – I was awed and amazed. Those talented and brave girls and boys inspired me to find the poet within Gabby and, in turn, within myself.

What’s next for you?  The second book in Gabriela’s series comes out at the end of April and I absolutely can’t wait! In the meantime, I’m hard at work on my own second novel about a girl who is a witch but really, really, really wishes she wasn’t.

Anything else?  Stay tuned!

Thank you Teresa for this insightful interview!


In celebration of the release of the 2017 Girl of the Year, I have the privilege to share a fun giveaway!

Gabriella

Scholastic has given me 10 copies of the Gabriela book by Teresa E. Harris to give away to Kids and Eggs readers! 

To enter to win a copy of the first book in the Gabriela book, simply leave a comment on this post.   If your comment is selected by the random number generator, you'll win!  Giveaway ends 2/14/17 7:00 a.m CST

*Want even more chances? 

Follow Kids and Eggs on Instagram, and/or Facebook.  You can also give yourself another shot by sharing a link to this giveaway on your social media as well. 

Just make sure, whatever you do, you come back here and leave a comment letting me know how you shared.

Good luck!!

Comments are closed!  Scroll through the comments to see if you are a winner!