Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Talk with Kim Sponaugle

Interview with Children's Book Illustrator Kim Sponaugle

Kim Sponaugle is the illustrator of 13 children's picture books. When she was 8 years old, her grandmom entered her picture in a "color the bunny" contest. She won. The prize was a paint-by-numbers set. But Kim soon got bored with the numbers and began painting on her own. With time, her love for drawing and painting grew stronger, which led her to earning a degree at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. She has sketched hundreds of children as a cartoon pastel and mural artist. Many of her children's books are to be released in 2008.

Thanks for being here today, Kim. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

I like to research projects before I begin. I like to develop character backgrounds, so I sometimes ask authors a list of questions about their characters likes, dislikes, backgrounds. It helps me know them better before I bring them to paper. I also like to go to auctions, flea markets and yard sales. You can be inspired by an old tin, beat up toys and stuffed dolls, or piece of pottery. I especially love magazines like Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle from the 40's and 50's. Great family images of moms, dads and children and I love the advertising.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

Yes, it's Picture Kitchen Studio, which is my main site along with a “display case” for Picture Kitchen Studio which features authors and the books we have worked on together, new releases, sketchbooks and helpful links for picture kitchen at my blog.

What are you working on now?

I am working on the first picture book in a series entitled “Randy Kazandy” that is a rhyming book about a little fellow who refuses to wear his new glasses! (wish I had that one for my son when he was five!) I have been working on a Tibetan folktale chapter book (The Little Swan) for Keene Publishing which I am really enjoying. The oriental patterns, faces and landscapes are so rich and far different than what I am usually illustrating and is a great challenge regarding the research. I try to be as accurate as possible, so good research is vital to make the story believable. I am also finishing A Very Dragon Christmas for Dragonfly publishing which will be out in September/October and have just begun sketches for a little Christmas elf book which looks like a lot of fun. Thanks to God for being able to do what I really enjoy and the great projects and great folks I have been able to work with.

Where are your books available?

I think they are all available on Amazon and there are links on my site for purchase.

What was your experience in working with an authors?

I have had mainly terrific experiences working with authors. I try to find out what they envision for their book, clearly define the project, have a good basic contract, honor deadlines and keep in good communication with authors. This helps to make a great working relationship.

What advice would you offer aspiring illustrators?

Keep working at your craft and do your best to be the best that you can be. Try to be teachable-- there will always be someone who knows more than you do and has a skill better mastered, so accept that and try to learn what you can. Be helpful and concerned for others – if you care for others, usually, God provides someone to help you. Don't take yourself so seriously, sometimes a good laugh helps when “it's hitting the fan!”

What was your favorite book as a child?

We did not have many books when I was a kid, but there were friends like Winnie the Pooh, Dr Seuss ' Green Eggs and Ham and the Little Wonder books were floating around our house. I don't know why, but I happened to love the Dick and Jane books when I was a 1st grader. What also enchanted me was when the book mobile would come to our school and I would walk into the trailer and see all the beautiful book covers, with princesses, fairies, monsters, trolls and bright Disney books.

What is the best advice on illustrating you've ever received?

Keep seeking, keep asking and keep knocking-- be persistent & work hard. I think that may make the big difference between dreaming about something and actually living out a wonderful dream.

Interview by Mayra Calvani, Mayra's Secret Bookcase.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Talk with Sue Berger

Interview with Children's Book Author Sue Berger

Susan Berger is the author of Jamie's Dream, a children's picture book she collaborated with her son, Christopher Corbin.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: No. I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Then I wanted to be a nurse. (I was reading the Cherry Ames, Girl Nurse Series) Then I wanted to be a reporter. (I was reading the Beverly Gray, Girl Reporter series.) In my defense, I did not want to be everything I read. I never wanted to be an inventor (Tom Swift Series) or a detective (Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys) In my daydreams I wanted to be queen of the world so I could end all hunger and give all the orphans good homes. Then I wanted to be an actress.

By this time, I was twelve and knew myself for a fickle person since I wanted to be so many things. I did not want to be a writer. I knew I was a writer. I won my first writing prize at St Cyprians School in Cape Town, S. Africa in 1955. It was a very nice story about the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. It began... "Far away in the land of Holidays, where no mortal child has ever been, lived the Easter Bunny...." I wish I could remember the rest of it.

In 8th grade, in Westport Connecticut, I had a poem published in anthology of high school poetry. I suppose I wrote some more after that, but it must have been schoolwork. By the time I was in 9th grade, all my extracurricular activity was acting.

When I started to write again in 1992, the first story I worked on was Jamie's Dream with my son Christopher.

Q: Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?
A: I was attending the 1992 Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. They gave out an exercise. "Write about a saying as if it were real" i.e. 'There is a skeleton in my closet.' I chose "Buy a Dream". I came home and discussed it with Christopher. I asked him "Where would you go to buy a dream?" He gave me that LOOK that children give grownups when grownups are being particularly stupid. "Dream's R Us, of course" he answered. And so our collaboration began. Chris was 9, but he was going to a school where writing was highly valued. His school mornings began with 20 minutes of creative writing. Then they read their work aloud. They critiqued each other, just as they did in my adult writer's group. He was a great partner. Over the next 12 years, Jamie was sent out many times. It was rewritten at least 16 times. Then Guardian Angel said they wanted to publish it. The joy of that moment is equaled only by the moment I first saw Kim's Illustrations.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: This week I worked on Disasters Happen: Earthquake which will be published by Guardian Angel in 2008. It is a non fiction book for the science series. It is aimed at first - third graders. (What causes earthquakes? Can we predict them? Where do they happen? How do we prepare for them? What to do during a quake? What happens afterwards.)
I am also working on a storybook called Brittany's Wall, (Needs a better title.) and a mid grade chapter book called Tasha the Magnificent. Brittany is going into its 8th rewrite. Tasha is going into its 9th rewrite. I have contacted the SCBWI for a new critique group for Tasha. I find re writing to be both drudgery and magic. When I finish a story, I am always convinced that I have written the best story I am capable of writing. It is amazing to see how much better it can become.

Q: What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
A: It is not your business to question your talent. It is your business to show up at the page. (okay, it's short, but it's great advice.)

Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
A: Yes, Jamie's Dream Page, and there's Christopher's pages. I am looking forward to making another website where I can list other books as they come out and link to other authors.

Q: What is the IMDB?
A: It is the internet movie data base. It is a wonderful site. You can look up any movie or TV show and see the full cast and credits. You can also look up any actor and (hopefully) see what movies and TV shows they have done. I say hopefully because I cannot seem to get my Hannah Montana Episode added. I don't have a large Movie and TV resume. Most of my professional work is theatre.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?
A: Andrea says to Melina in The Magic Violin, "I'll tell you what's magic-believing in yourself. That's magic!" Jamie says in Jamie's Dream "But mom, you said I could do anything I believed I could do." I think Andrea and Jamie's mom give very good advice. May you always find the magic.

Interview conducted by Mayra Calvani. Mayra is an author and book reviewer. Her latest release, Dark Lullaby, is a supernatural thriller set in the Turkish countryside. Check out her website. For her children's books, please visit Mayra's Secret Bookcase. She keeps several blogs: Mayra's Secret Bookcase, The Dark Phantom, and Violin and Books.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Talk with Jennifer Gladen

Interview with Children's Book Author Jennifer Gladen

Jennifer Gladen has written for most of her life. Her first children's picture book, A Star in the Night, will be coming out this summer by Guardian Angel Publishing. Jennifer is also working on another book which comes close to her heart, a story about a little girl waiting for a liver transplant.

Q: Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?
A: Yes! Even as a child, I could always be found writing something. I wrote stories and poems for my teachers. I wrote in my journal every day. In short, it’s always been a part of my life. Growing up, I was a quiet little girl. Writing was my way of communicating with the world.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: I sure did! It wasn’t until I took a few courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature that I realized this was something I really could do. I’m grateful that I chose to follow my dream. If I didn’t, I’d be missing out on the greatest career in the world!

Q: Tell us about your children's books.
A: My first children’s book, A Star in the Night, will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing sometime this summer. It is a Christmas themed e-book about a boy, Andy, going home on Christmas Eve. Andy, accompanied by a shimmering star, encounters three experiences, which change his view of Christmas forever.

Q: Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
A: Yes. My official website is You can also find me on my blogs. JenGladenBlogspot. JenGladenWordpress.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: My current project is a picture book about a little girl, Olivia, who needs a liver transplant and her brave journey to get it. While many children are wondering if they’ll learn to ride a bike, Olivia is wondering when that life-saving transplant will happen. We see the struggles and complex feelings in which she deals with daily. JenGladenMusings.

This book was inspired by my own daughter who needed a liver transplant. When I looked for good books to read to her, I saw nothing which could help a child of her age cope with this situation. “There should be a book about this,” I complained to my husband. Voila’ – Olivia was born.

Q: What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
A: My advice to aspiring writers is to stick with it. Be persistent in your dream. Don’t give up in the face of rejections. Just pick up your manuscripts, dust it off, revise (yes – for the umpteenth time) and send it out elsewhere.

This is your dream and your goal. The only one who can assure your success is you.

Interview conducted by Mayra Calvani. Mayra is an author and book reviewer. Her latest release, Dark Lullaby, is a supernatural thriller set in the Turkish countryside. Check out her website. For her children's books, please visit Mayra's Secret Bookcase. She keeps several blogs: Mayra's Secret Bookcase, The Dark Phantom, and Violin and Books.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Talk with Lynda Burch

An Interview with Lynda Burch,
Guardian Angel Publishing Publisher

Q: When did you start Guardian Angel Publishing?
Lynda: We incorporated and went online in the fall of 2004.

Q: What made you decide to become an e-publisher?
Lynda: In the late 90’s I invented a new way of writing for kids- musical eBooks. None of the traditional publishers knew how or what to do with them. They liked the concepts but weren’t keeping up with the trends. I knew a great future in eBooks existed and I couldn’t stop reading & writing kids eBooks. And that’s how Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. came into existence. I saw the need and acted on it.

Q: What kind of books do you specialize in?
Lynda: Our books have healthy, wholesome family values with educational activities thrown in.
We like our books rated G for an general audience of any age child from infant on up: infants and toddlers being read to by parents, siblings or grandparents; older children learning to read; easy readers; beginning readers; storybooks; chapter books for middle-grade readers and up.

Q: How does Guardian Angel Publishing differ from other e-publishers?
Lynda: We publish eBooks in more electronic formats (FLIP; PDF; LIT; Mobipocket; Palm; HTML), on CD’s and downloads, than any others we know of and also offer a Print on Demand option for the more traditional readers.

Q: What difficulties confronted you in the beginning?
Lynda: I think the hardest part was marketing. Having books for sale on a website is only the beginning of selling books. I’m convinced hard work in planning and distribution are what’s necessary for success.

Q: How did you deal with them?
Lynda: We went to the big boys in the industry for sales and distribution. GAP eBooks and print are sold on own site and have distribution partners and networks to sell our books, also. Follett Digital Resources (one of the largest distributors in the world to libraries and schools) sell our eBooks. LSI distributes our books to a network of wholesalers; Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertrams, Gardners and retailer websites: like Amazon. We also contracted with Mobipocket, Readers Eden and are researching a few more markets.

Q: What was the initial response from writers about e-publishing?
Lynda: The savvy writers either knew about eBooks or were willing to learn. We turn away 100 writers to every 1 we accept into our fold.

Q: Has that changed?
Lynda: Yes, most writers would not have found us if they weren’t already online and learning about e-writing and e-publishing. And more discover us daily.

Q: What was the initial response from the consumer?
Lynda: Kids are the knowledgeable ones that absorb computer skills like they drink water. Once they get their hands on eBooks, they adore them. Flipping the pages in the FLIP book format with kids in control sells adults immediately on the concept.

Q: Has that changed?
Lynda: Yes, our consumers are growing rapidly as they explore more ways to read books to kids than ever before. With reader technology expanding into so many other models than computers sitting on a desk, people can read books to their kids on phones, handhelds, laptops and personal devices.

Q: What kind of feedback do you get about your books?
Lynda: I always save comments. We like good customer service.

Here are a couple:
Thank-you, we have downloaded the story successfully and it looks fantastic. Regards, Jane A.

I want to thank you again for the CD. I received it yesterday. We gave Noah the book this weekend and he LOVED it. I really appreciate all that you did to make up for the hassle that I went through at the beginning of ordering this e-book. Thank you so much. C.

Q: Which are more popular downloads or books on CD?
Lynda: Right now I would say downloads. But seasonally it changes.

Q: What does e-publishing offer writers that print publishing does not?
Lynda: We often work with first time published authors and give them more time and effort to make their book the best it can be.

Q: What do you think the greatest benefits are in buying e-books?
Lynda: Portability, Price and Product! You can load many more ebooks in a tiny reader and take it to the beach than packing a stack of books. Its hard to beat a great full color book for $5.00 .The quality of eBooks is quite exceptional and beautiful with our varied style of artists and wonderful storytellers.

Q: What do you think the future is for e-books?
Lynda: EBooks are here to stay. Schools and colleges are moving toward a print free system. As our global future moves forward and our trees disappear we will soon be seeing the luxury of print books going extinct I’m afraid. I love a good book in hand to read as much as the next person ( I read a couple hundred books a year besides kids books) but traveling is so much easier with one hand held reader.

Interview conducted by Sharon A. Soffe
(c)2007 Sharon A. Soffe