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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!


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!


Interview with Deanna F. Cook (plus a giveaway for Farmers Market Create and Play Activity Book)

I am happy to share in the excitement of the debut of a delightful new book for children: 

Farmers Market Create and Play Activity Book 

It is my pleasure and privilege to share a recent conversation that I had with the award winning author Deanna F. Cook.

Meet Deanna:

Deanna

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself - where you live, your family, and your interests?

I’m the mother of two teenage girls (Ella and Maisie) who have inspired many of my books. I live in Northampton, Massachusetts where I love to cook, garden, and write. I’m from a big family—I’m one of six kids and I have lots of nieces and nephews. 

Please tell us how your writing career developed and has grown.

When I was a teenager, I loved to write and cook, and I wrote my first cookbook when I graduated from college. I travelled around the world and collected recipes for the Kid’s Multicultural Cookbook. After that, I worked for many years as a magazine editor, first at Scholastic then at FamilyFun magazine. I was the editor of all the FamilyFun books and often went on TV to share recipes and crafts including the Today Show and GMA and Food Network. I left FamilyFun in 2012 to spend more time with my girls and to write my own books. So far, I’ve written 4 new kids books, including Cooking Class, Teddy Bear Doctor, Horse Play, and now Farmer’s Market Create and Play Activity Book. I like to write books that encourage kids to be creative and imaginative. 

Tell us about your new book Farmer's Market Activity Book. Did you have any particular inspiration?

When my girls were little, they used to love to play store with pretend money. This book is all about how to play green grocer with the book’s pop out fruits and veggies, signs, price tags, play money, shopping lists, and more. My girls also loved gardening and going to the farmers market, and the book teaches kids all about the whole farm to table process through fun games and activities. 

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a kids baking book and I also started a part time job as an editor at Storey publishing, acquiring kids books and cookbooks. It’s fun to work on both sides of the desk as a writer and an editor. 

Anything else?

My website DeannaFCook.com shows some of the many fun projects I’ve been involved with over my career, from my kids’ books to my writing for Highlights, Kidstir.com, FamilyFun, and more. Take a peek!

Farmers Market Cover

I had an opportunity to review Deanna's new book and found it to be filled with engaging illustrations and fun hands-on activities for children and adults to create together to encourage open-ended play with a farmer's market theme.  IMG_5064

"Nana" working on the tractor with our 5 year old.

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IMG_5077Deanna has generously offered Kids and Eggs readers a chance to win a copy of her new book:

 Farmers Market Create-and-Play Activity Book features more than 100 stickers and nearly 150 punch-out paper pieces. Kids will have everything they need to set up a pretend farm — including gardening tools, plant markers, and a toy tractor — and then peddle their wares with signs, price tags, and a cute shoebox cash register. Fruit and veggie punch-outs do double duty as props and templates to make adorable felt versions to fill up their baskets. Games and activities sprinkled throughout help kids learn while they play, meaning that parents, too, will love this bounty of fun!

 

To 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 Dec. 1, 2016 7:00 a.m. CST

*Want even more chances? Earn bonus entries by:

  • Subscribing to Kids and Eggs via email (enter your email on sidebar)
  • Liking Kids and Eggs on Facebook
  • Sharing a link to this giveaway on your social media
  • Following Deanna on Twitter
  • Following  Deanna on Instagram.

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

 

comments closed - the winner is # 9 - Tiffany!

Congratulations and thanks for reading!


Mothering.com interview with Nikki McClure - (plus a giveaway!)

I recently had an opportunity to interview Nikki McClure for a post on mothering.com.

I am a big fan of Nikki's work, her art is inspirational, validating and grounding for me.  

Read the interview post by clicking though the image below:

Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 7.18.41 AM
 I am happy to share I have the opportunity to offer Kids and Eggs reader a chance to win a copy of:

 THRIVE Nikki's 2017 Wall Calendar:

Thrive 2017

There's a good reason Nikki's calendars have become a staple in kitchens, offices and schools — they're amazing.

Each month is a different image from her original papercuts; cut from a single piece of black paper with an x-acto knife. 

Nikki features strong images of everyday life, each with a powerful verb that inspires to action.

This year's verbs and nouns: Become, Expand, Balance, Retreat, Thrive, Replenish, Reside, Go, Linger, Away, Adventure, and Converse.

Printed on wonderful Mohawk 100% post-consumer recycled papers using soy ink in Olympia, Washington by union-labor.

Purchase THRIVE and other work by Nikki McClure at www.buyolympia.com

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To 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 11/5/16 7:00 a.m. CST

*Want even more chances? Earn bonus entries by:

  • Following me on Instagram
  • Liking Kids and Eggs on Facebook
  • Sharing a link to this giveaway on your social media
  • Following Nikki on Twitter
  • Following  Buy Olympia on Twitter 

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

....and the winner is: Jaclyn!

I just read To Market to my newborn daughter Penelope Rose and can't wait to read more of Nikki's books aloud with her. They are so nourishing and lovely and they remind me of the truest and most important things in life. I'm grateful that she shares her craft and wisdom with the world.

Image Credit:  buyolympia.com


Interview with Denise Lewis Patrick - (plus an Melody Ellison American Girl ® Doll doll giveaway!)

MelodyEllisonI am happy to share in the excitement of American Girl's ® debut of 1960's Melody Ellison to its BeForever line up with this author interview & doll giveaway!

Melody is a civil rights character and Motown fan that inspires girls and their families to be a force for positive growth and change. With hope, enthusiasm, and a solid sense of fairness, 9-year-old Melody provides a glimpse of life during the 1960s—a significant decade for the civil rights movement in America and a time of great energy, optimism, challenges, and change. With the struggle for equality and justice still prevalent today, Melody bridges the past and present for girls and shows them how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together to make a meaningful difference.

Melody4

“American Girl’s historical characters have long been celebrated for their educational value and for helping girls discover strength of character through things that truly matter—like helping others, being a true friend, and standing up for what’s right,” says Katy Dickson, president of American Girl. “We’re proud to introduce Melody and hope she’ll serve as an important role model to girls, giving them the courage to use their voices to speak up about what they believe in—even when it’s not easy to do. A concept that’s just as important today as it was over 50 years ago.”

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It is my pleasure and privilege to share this interview with Denise Lewis Patrick, author of the new Melody book series:

Melody

Denise Lewis Patrick, author of the new Melody book series from American Girl, was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She attended local schools and earned a degree in Journalism from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 1977. That same year, she moved to New York City. She has been both a writer and editor in various areas of the publishing industry, particularly for children. In addition to the Melody series, she also wrote the three books on Cécile for American Girl.

In addition to being a published author, Denise is an adjunct professor of writing at Nyack College’s Manhattan, New York campus. She’s also worked with budding writers in an afterschool program, and has managed middle and high school writing programs.

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How would you describe Melody’s personality?

Melody has the musical talent that I wish I had! Plus, she’s a good friend and a good sister, and she wants to help her community. She’s sure of her place in her family, and they all support each other. But she’s also shy about standing out, and she has to learn that it’s okay to “let your light shine.” 

What do you hope Melody will do for girls?

Oh, I hope Melody gives girls today the courage to use their voices—in song, in writing, and in speaking—to stand up for what’s right and what’s fair.  I also hope readers will take away a message from Melody’s story to think about themselves in terms of their community and what they can do to help—to change—their community for the better. 

Can you describe what it was like to create and write about a character whose stories are set during the 1960s? Were any aspects of Melody’s story based on your own personal experiences?

I began by diving into background information provided by American Girl’s amazing research librarian. As the outline evolved, I could determine what additional sources I needed. One thing I love to work with in doing historical fiction is local newspapers from the period. That way I get both a broad and specific view of the community and what’s happening at the time.  I could see which national events in the civil rights movement were impacting the city, and get a sense of how the black community was involved on a local basis in civil rights issues. I did a ride-around in Detroit with one of the members of our advisory board who grew up there. She and another board member, who’s a Detroit native, gave me lots of anecdotal stuff that I could follow up on.

I’d say that many of Melody’s family experiences mirror some of mine, in the way she’s surrounded by extended family, the way they share a big meal once a week, the way they talk about justice and injustice as a matter of course. So what’s happening on the national stage is in the context of Melody’s understanding of the black experience. She has a strong sense of community, of connection and possibility. Although I grew up in the South, I was a girl in the 1960s and that’s very much what I was like. 

What were the most challenging aspects of writing the Melody series?

The real challenge here was translating to our readers the real types of discrimination that African Americans experienced in our country during the time in which Melody’s story is set. Things like not being able to drink from a certain water fountain, or not being able to buy your favorite chocolate cake from a neighborhood bakery—even when you had the money—are almost alien concepts to children today. However, children can understand and share in Melody’s sense of unfairness after what happened to her and Dwayne in the clothing store. And unfortunately children today are exposed to the reality of some people using violence, instead of dialogue, to solve problems. 

Why was it important to set Melody’s story in Detroit? 

I think the Detroit setting is very important because much of the history of the civil rights movement that most children learn about is concentrated on events that took place in the South. In fact, people across the United States took active parts in the struggle for racial equality and justice. 

Thank you Denise for developing such an inspiring character and stories!

Melody Ellison1

To further engage girls in Melody’s world and her inspirational message, American Girl is introducing the following activities and events:

  • Lift Your Voice with Melody: To encourage people to share their photos and videos of how they’re speaking up to make a difference, fans can watch the "Lift Your Voice with Melody" video at americangirl.com/liftyourvoice and then share their own inspiring videos and photos, using #LiftYourVoice.
  •  Melody Retail Events: At American Girl retail stores, girls can listen to music that inspired Melody and celebrate her arrival with special block party food, free Melody-inspired crafts, and a free doll T-shirt giveaway.
  •  Detroit Community Support: American Girl is partnering with the Detroit Public Library system (22 branches) and donating $100,000 in free Melody books for any area child who wants one through the end of 2016; $50,000 in funds to support the children’s area throughout the library system; and $25,000 in Melody dolls to be used for fundraising and incentives. The entire donation to the library is valued at $175,000.
  •  Melody Amazon Special: An original American Girl live-action special, Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win, an American Girl Story, will premiere on Amazon Prime Video this fall. The Melody special is an Amazon adaptation of American Girl’s original created stories.

        AND....

  A Melody doll & book giveaway right here on www.kidsandeggs.com!

Melody Doll & BookTo enter to win your very own Melody Ellison doll and book, simply leave a comment on this post.   If your comment is selected by the random number generator, you'll win!  Giveaway ends 9/17/16 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!!

And the winter is:

Stacy H.

congratulations!

 

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Interview with Valerie Tripp - (plus an American Girl WellieWishers doll giveaway!)

I am happy to share in the excitement of the debut of the new American Girl Wellie Wishers! It is my pleasure and privilege to share a recent conversation that I had with the inspiring Valerie Trip, the individual who's imagination brought these characters to life through her stories.

Meet Valerie Trip!

ValerieTripp_Pic6Valerie Tripp is the author of more than 30 American Girl books, featuring the characters Felicity, Samantha, Josefina, Kit, Molly, Maryellen and many more.  She also writes for the Superkids Reading Program and the Boys Camp book series.  

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself - where you live, your family, and your interests?

I live in Silver Spring, MD with my wonderful husband, Michael, who teaches American History at a nearby college, and with our dog, Mr. Bingley. Our daughter, Katherine, is a graduate student in Seattle studying child development. Both my husband and I come from big families; my husband is one of 6 children and I am one of 5, and our noisy extended families often get together for parties, reunions, and weddings. Michael and I like to travel, especially to see our daughter, and we frequently to go to the National Parks. At home, my favorite pastime is reading – I LOVE to read – and I also enjoy walking-and-talking with my friends. I take lots of classes. Most recently, I’ve been studying poetry because I admire it so much. Here’s what Emily Dickinson wrote: “The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.” Isn’t that LOVELY? I visit lots of schools, libraries, scout troops, and book clubs and it is a great pleasure to meet the children who read my books. Truly, I’m interested and curious about EVERYTHING, and I do absolutely love to use my imagination – lighting that “slow fuse” of the possible – while I write.

Please tell us how your writing career developed and has grown with American Girl.

A year after I graduated from college, after I’d worked as a saleslady and a copy editor in Boston, I was hired by Pleasant Rowland to write songs, stories, plays, nonfiction essays, and skills book pages for a reading program called “The Superkids.” While Pleasant and I worked on the reading program together, we talked about the books we had loved as girls. Then Pleasant married and moved to Wisconsin and I married and moved to South Carolina. One day the phone rang and it was Pleasant. “I’ve had a great idea!” she said. Her great idea was American Girl: books about girls who lived in different periods of history written for readers of the same age as the characters. It has been my life’s privilege and delight that Pleasant trusted me to be the first “voice” of American Girl. In 1983, I wrote the first outlines of the stories for Kirsten, Molly, and Samantha. As the years went on and American Girl grew, I wrote about Felicity, Josefina, and Kit as well as the characters’ best friends: Emily, Nellie, Elizabeth, and Ruthie – and now Maryellen! So I began writing my American Girl books before American Girl existed, in a way, and it was all due to my friendship with Pleasant Rowland, the creator of American Girl. 

I learned while writing the American Girl books of historical fiction that if my reader became friends with my character, then my reader cared about what was happening to her friend whose family, for example, faces losing their house during the Depression, as with my character Kit, or Molly, whose father is off fighting in World War 2. I’ve applied that lesson of friendship to the WellieWisher stories. That is, I’m hoping that my WellieWisher reader will see how her friends in the garden solve disagreements, listen to one another, name emotions, use humor to apologize, have a conspiracy of kindness for a friend who’s in over her head.  My reader will feel welcome, will dive right into Welliewishers’ messy, adventurous, imaginative, giggly, goofy, creative play, where the rules of gravity in all senses of that word do not apply. They’ll share their great love of animals and the out of doors.

Though I’ve always loved research and thinking up stories, writing is still hard work for me. I’m persnickety and slow. I think I came to writing as a job because my favorite thing in the world is reading. (Don't you love books and stories and just immersing yourself in the world of a book?) Writing allows me to use my imagination, and I am grateful to have a job that requires me to create something new all the time. It’s a great challenge. 

Your ideas have come to life in the form of books, illustrations, playthings, movies and animation. How involved are you in these processes?  

I always feel that the illustrations teach me things about my characters that I did not know; the illustrations add 100% more to the story. In the case of the WellieWishers, I wrote long art specs because for a reader of this young age, the pictures and words are equally vital to comprehension. I love that the dolls invite my reader to lift the stories right up off the page and “play out” the story adventures – and make up adventures of their own devising -- for the characters. I often suggest how the dolls should look, and I suggest products, too. For example, I knew that Kit wanted to be a reporter, so I suggested that she have a typewriter. (It is very cute!) I always say to children, “The typewriter symbolizes Kit’s desire to write, and the fact that her dad repaired it for her symbolizes his encouragement. Think of all the ways that YOUR parents encourage YOU.”

How does it feel to have your stories and characters come to life in these ways?

It’s fun to see the characters grow and change by being presented in different media. I cannot WAIT to see the WellieWishers animated! The artist has brought them to lively life!

6a01053643b439970b01b8d1fcd412970c-800wiTell us about your new series about the WellieWishers.  

The WellieWishers are enthusiastic, eager, earnest, and energetic six-year-old friends who play together in a garden. They are curious, messy, imaginative, adventurous, and joyful. Though they are often giggly and goofy, they can be thoughtful, too, and gentle. They are distinct individuals with unique talents, passions, and quirks, but they are all creative, generous, good-hearted, and kind. Oh, and they all love animals and being out of doors! 

How did you develop these characters and stories?  

It was tremendous fun! 

I wanted the characters to be five distinct individuals, and I wanted to show that that the quiet girl can be noisy sometimes, and the exuberant girl can be insightful and thoughtful. I’ve never done this before, but for the WellieWisher characters I wrote long essays that I called “Personality, Products, and Purpose” – or P,P&P, for short – to define the character and I also made a chart. Here it is: Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 2.21.26 PMDid you have any particular inspiration? 

As with every book I write, my reader was my inspiration. I thought about her life, joys, challenges, hopes, and dreams. I know and love this age group. In my undergraduate work at Yale and graduate work at Harvard, I studied them and I’ve been creating materials for children ages 4 to 7 on-and-off since 1974, working with Pleasant Rowland on The Superkids Reading Program, so I am familiar with this developmental stage in terms of ability, interest, Piagetian level of moral comprehension, and Ericsonian stage of self-awareness. Also, I spend an enormous amount of time with school-age children and their families because of school, store, book club, and scout troops visits. I’m on my way to speak to a group of girls and mothers in one hour from now!!

This age is where we see the first glimmers of radical empathy. And oh, dear, in those school visits I have ached to see how teachers are so overburdened with academic goals for even their youngest students – talk about overburdened, the students are, too, so much so that there is no time any more for the sort of slow, organic, experiential learning for social-emotional skills like waiting, listening, or compassion, or how to be a good friend. I’m hoping that the WellieWishers’ stories will be like their garden: an island of good friends who treat one another – and the natural world – with respect and kindness. I really can’t think of anything more important to teach -- ever so gently –than kindness.

Another of my inspirations and hopes and goals for the WellieWisher stories is to show girls that they don’t need magic wands or powers. Not that the garden isn’t beguiling and enchanting and transformative. But magic – miraculous transformations -- happen through creativity, patience, imagination, and hard work. That kindness is magic, maybe all the magic any of us needs. 

And another inspiration is very personal. During all those library talks, school visits, Daisy and Brownie troop visits, and signings at American Girl stores, I’ve met hundred of young mothers who greet me as an old friend, who say to me, “Oh, I read your stories when I was a little girl. I grew up with your stories and now I have a daughter of my own to share them with!” I throw my arms around them! I tell them that they are my alums. 

I want to say to my alums: the Welliewisher stories are a gift for you now that you are a parent. And here’s my promise to you: the stories will be age-appropriate, with humor and joy, and hit the spot where your curious, merry, goofy, intense girls are in their lives. The stories will respect the reader enough to present multiple viable views. They’ll encourage girls to challenge the given wisdom and challenge dusty assumptions without being snarky. They’ll show that there’s a difference between a cheerful skepticism and cynicism: one is smart and healthy and the other is a dead end. They’ll show that we can love people with whom we disagree and disagree with people whom we love. They’ll celebrate the values of tolerance and compassion as well as the values of drive, hope, creativity, individuality, change, and work.

I want to say to parents: I know that you want your child to thrive and shine, and to learn about herself as she learns about the world. In fact, I believe that in our world where we’re inundated by factual information, EQ is more important that IQ, a resilient attitude is more important than aptitude, and perseverance, responsibility, empathy and compassion are the most important abilities we can teach our children for the future. 

The stories are a way for me to say thank you for entering the world of the stories that I have had the great honor and pleasure of writing of writing for American Girl, and holding those stories in your hearts and memories. With the Welliewisher stories, I want to say, Thank you for your friendship. I want to invite them into the garden. 

What’s next for you?

Oh, I’m always scribbling away at something. I’ve got lots of great ideas for more stories about the WellieWishers perking along in my head.

Anything else?

Well, now that I think of it, I have LOTS of hopes for the WellieWisher books. For example: Just as the American Girl books of historical fiction encourage girls to go deep and linger and not rush to be older, I’m hoping the Welliewisher stories will encourage girls to love being just the way they are right now. I hope the books will encourage girls to go outside!! Run around! Play! Use imagination! Get messy! Notice light and color and the seasons and animals and birdsong and the different joys of all kinds of weather! I hope the stories model how to solve problems both practical and interpersonal, how to be a good friend and daughter, and the rewards of being an observant, participatory, active appreciator of the earth. 

In celebration of the release of the new WellieWishers line of dolls, American Girl is generously offering one lucky Kids and Eggs reader one WellieWishers doll of their choice !

WellieWishersPick from:

CamilleEmersonWillaKendall, or Ashlyn.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below.  Comments will close by 9am CST on Tuesday, July 12, 2016.  The winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced on this post shortly after.

This giveaway is open to residents of U.S. & Canada.

Good Luck!

....and the winner is:

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 9.13.10 AM

Julie!

Julie said...

My daughter's are girl scouts & love American Girl Dolls. They are excited for the wellie wishers and would love one!

 Julie - you have 24 hours to claim your prize - congratulations! 

 

 

 


Wellie Wishers

WellieWishers World Doll Set-HR

Kindergarten-age characters wearing funky mud boots helping kids learn positive social skills through literature and play - this is right up my alley - and I get to share some fun with Kids and Eggs readers!

American Girl just launched a new fun line of dolls & books for girls age 5 to 7. The WellieWishers‬ friends--Willa, Kendall, Ashlyn, Emerson, and Camille--imagine and play in an enchanted neighborhood garden supervised by Aunt Miranda. Through their heartwarming and humorous adventures, the WellieWishers help a girl to learn how to "stand in another person's wellies" to discover the skills of empathy, kindness, and compassion that will help her be a good friend.

Stay tuned for an interview with author Valerie Tripp, a product review & GIVEAWAY!!!!  Wellie Wishers


Giveaway! Icy, Creamy, Healthy Sweet

I am so happy to share in the excitement of the release of:

Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet by Christine Chitnis.
CVR Icy Creamy Healthy Sweet_Roost Books copy

The book is full of beautiful photography and enticing recipes of refreshing, tasty and healthy frozen desserts that use whole foods and natural sweeteners.  

The first recipe we experimented with from the book was the frozen yogurt bark, which I was able to share on a post at mothering.com.  The recipe is a cool take on traditional chocolate bark that it lends itself well to experimentation.  You can add fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, seeds, toasted coconut or any tasty combination you can think of!  We tried this recipe out at our house using honey from our backyard hives, wild blueberries and some dark chocolate chips for good measure.  

Yum!

Frozen Yogurt BarkChristine is partnering with Vitamix and HawaiianShavedIce.com for a bi-coastal book tour this summer, including stops in San Francisco, NYC and Seattle. Be sure to visit her at christinechitnis.com for event details.You can read more about Christine in an interview I posted here.

Christine & Kids

To celebrate the launch of Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet I get to giveaway a copy to a lucky reader!  To enter use the rafflecopter below and post comments.

 

Good Luck!

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Dina Rudick (plus a giveaway!)

Dina_Rudick_author_3                                                                                                                                         

I am happy to share a recent interview with author and photo-videographer Dina Rudick!  

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with Dina and to be able to glean some insight about who she is as an individual and what inspired her to write her first book, Barnyard Kids - A Family Guide for Raising Animals.  Given my lifestyle and interests, the book caught my eye.  When I got Dina's book in my hands, I was immediately drawn in by the captivating photography and great content.

After speaking with Dina, learning about her unique story and a little bit about her values, purpose and drive, it was quite apparent that she is a pretty remarkable individual - one that I hope to have the opportunity to meet in person some day.  

I hope you enjoy the interview!

Dina_Rudick_author_2Can you tell us a little bit about yourself ?  

I grew up in the countryside of Northeast Ohio.  During my childhood I grew up around all sorts of animals including goats, chickens, geese and horses.  

My life then transitioned from living in a rural area to life in the city.  I have a career as photojournalist.  I currently work for the Boston Globe.  I live with my husband Erik, who is also a photojournalist and our 2 1/2 year old son, Wendell, who we named after Wendell Berry - who inspired us as a farmer, writer and philosopher. 

After living the big city life, my husband and I were drawn to our spiritual roots - and actual roots - and our dream of running an organic farm.  My husband attended a year at The Farm School - a specific farm that is run by adult student farmers.  There he was taught everything, ranging from organic vegetable farming to raising farm animals.  From that experience we developed our enterprise - Plough and Star Farm - a CSA in Massachusetts.

My interests?  I am longingly interested in yoga.  I just lack the time to commit to my practice the way I could pre-baby and pre-farm! I like walks in the woods and to be outside.  I like to cook, especially cooking for people that I love.  I also enjoy down time with family.

Jacobs_family_Jacobs_Fields_tractorsmall
What inspired you to write Barnyard Kids? 

My husband and I shared a lot of writing and imagery on our blog ploughandstarsproject.com.  We wrote about what is is like to be city-folk photographers who would like to be farmers.  The publishers at Quarry Books reached out to us to write a book.  At first I said no, but they kept asking and I pitched this book as they were looking for great instructional books that were intelligent for older kids.

Can you tell us about the process of writing the book?   

All of the photos in the book come from my husband's year at The Farm School.  When organizing the book I first decided on the structure of the book, then which animals I was going to include, and then I how it would be best to learn the information.  I spent a lot of time researching each animal in succession (chickens, pigs, sheep & goats, cows, horses and rabbits).  I wrote the book not from the perspective of an expert, but that of a researcher and compiler - not just giving my opinion, but offering practical, research grounded information - and from that the structure of each chapter would flow.

077feedinggoat-2
Out of the farm animals that are highlighted in your book, do you have a favorite? Why?

Oh a favorite?  It is hard to choose.  First I would pick chickens, because they are incredibly useful, easy and fun -and sometimes hilarious.  After chickens I would say sheep.  I love whitnessing the process of lambs being born, especially the nuzzle ewes get aroung the time of pregnancy.   Then there are pigs.  I respect pigs.  They are sturdy cylinders of muscle.  Pigs are smart and cunning, they have unique personalities, but are easy to underestimate.  Horses are great, but they are a big investment - and goats, goats are like big dogs.  I guess I really do not have a favorite, but I do know I would really like to get my own flock of sheep.

Anything else?

One of the things that I have learned is that raising animals is a lot like raising kids.  There is always more than one answer to a given situation and a multitude of strategies.  When writing the book I had to be careful of what to say.   I needed to be sensitive, aware and right - but not exclusionary.

Thank you so much Dina for your conversation!   

Now for more fun!

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To enter my giveaway to win your very own copy of Barnyard Kids - A Family Guide for Raising Animalsleave a comment below.

Comments will close by 9am CST on Saturday, December 26th.

Winners will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced in this post shortly after.

comments closed, the winner is:

Heather S.

photo credits in this post:  image 1 & 2 Juliette Lynch/http://juliettehalsey.com/, photo 3, 4, 5 & 6 Dina Rudick and Erik Jacobs 

Congratulations and thanks for participating! 


Interview with Christine Chitnis (plus a giveaway!)

Littlebites

I am so happy to have an opportunity to share with you a recent interview with one of my writing mentors, Christine Chitnis!

I first met Christine at a Squam Art Workshop a couple of years ago. Then I became one of her students in an online class that she offered.  In the class Christine was able to give me some practical knowledge and confidence to pitch my writing, which led me to the opportunity to write a monthly School Days column for Minnesota Parent Magazine.

In the November issue of Minnesota Parent I was delighted to see a recipe featured from Christine's most recent book Little Bites: 100 Healthy, Kid Friendly Snacks.  As it turns out it was a surprise for Christine as well! We were both happy to have made this unique connection in print.  And, I must say, ever since I got my hands on her book, I have had a lot of fun trying out some of the recipes with my own little ones.  Most recently I made the Carmel Apples with Sea Salt & the Broccoli and Cheese Soft Pretzel Knots, both which I highly recommend!

Apples

Pretzels

Yum!  
To add to the fun, I have an interview with Christine to share with you and an opportunity for you to win  a copy of Little Bites!

Enjoy - and good luck!

Christine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

When I'm not busy writing and photographing, I can be found chasing after my two wild boys or escaping to my studio for a bit of sewing and knitting.  I am an avid home cook, passionate about feeding my family wholesome, delicious, seasonal fare.  I live in Providence, Rhode Island with my family, three chickens and overflowing community garden plot.  You can follow along on my adventures here: @c.chitnis (https://instagram.com/c.chitnis/) or christinechitnis.com.

ChristineChitnis

What inspired you to write Little Bites?  Can you tell us about your collaboration with co-author Sarah Waldman on the book?

Our goal with Little Bites is to offer recipes for simple, wholesome food made from ingredients that everyone can recognize, and to leave families with the feeling that making their own snacks is easy and enjoyable.  Children think of snacks as fun, tasty, easy-to-eat foods, but we parents know that the very best snacks are all that and more: when done right, snacks give our kids a needed boost of energy and they deliver dense amounts of nutrition in a small package.  

I worked on Little Bites for a year with my co-author, though from the initial idea to publication took over two years!  As Sarah worked on the recipes, I would focus on photographing the seasons and the food, along with helping her test the recipes.  We felt strongly about writing and cooking with the seasons, instead of trying to rush the process.  I also wrote each chapter in season, which really helped me capture the seasonal feelings that I wanted to convey.

Little-bites3

Do you have a favorite recipe in Little Bites?
 
I can honestly say that I love every recipe in the book so it makes it tough to pick favorites.  Since it's fall, I'll highlight a few of my fall favorites: on the savory side I can't get enough of the Roasted Pumpkin Hummus.  We eat a ton of hummus in our house, and I really appreciate this seasonal twist to add a bit of flare to our regular recipe.  When it comes to sweets, the Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies are insanely delicious!  I've had a bumper crop of carrots from my garden this year, and I'm thrilled to be able to turn them into something sweet.
 
Tell us about your upcoming book.
 
My third book will hit shelves in April of 2016.  Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet: 75 Recipes for Dairy-Free Ice Cream, Fruit-Forward Ice Pops, Frozen Yogurt, Granitas, Slushies, Shakes and More.  I'm all about healthy eating but I don't like the idea of making certain foods off-limits.  We eat dessert all the time in our family, but I make it from scratch from real, whole foods ingredients.  These frozen treat recipes are all free of refined sugar, instead relying on natural sweeteners and fruit for their flavor.  They are light, delicious desserts that you can feel good about eating, while still satisfying your sweet tooth.  It is a gorgeous book, I have to say: hardcover, luscious matte pages, and full page pictures of each recipe.  I really love Roost, my publisher, for their commitment to producing books that feel and look beautiful.  It is truly an honor to be counted among their roster of authors.
 
Thank you Christine!  
9781611801774_2_1
*photos are from www.christinechitnus.com - except the images of the salted carmel apples and pretzels -
 

To enter my giveaway to win a copy of Little Bites: 100 Healthy, Kid Friendly Snacks, leave a comment below:

Comments will close by 9am CST on Saturday. Winners will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced in this post shortly after.

Comments closed - The winner is:  #8 Kelly with the comment:

Thanks for putting her book on my radar - looks like one I'd like to add to my collection. Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies? Yum.

Congratulations Kelly!-