Meet Lou and Pea

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3 Questions about Lou Lou and Pea and The Mural Mystery

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Friendship, Whimsical, Multicultural

Lou Lou and Pea are such good friends, was their relationship modeled after one of yours? Which character are you most like?

Lou Lou and Pea’s friendship isn’t modeled after one particular relationship in my life, but it is a mash-up of many. I have been fortunate to have many wonderful and supportive friends, both as a child and an adult.  These friendships are some of my most valuable relationships so it seemed natural for them to inspire the book!

I’m similar in many ways to both Lou Lou and Pea. I actually made a little character chart* to determine which friend readers are most like and I ended up with a tie.

*Want to see which character you are more like? See chart below

Did you have the ending in mind when you wrote the book? Was there consideration to not have the mystery and have a book that taught us about the culture and traditions in the town?

I didn’t know the ending until I was very close to finishing my initial draft. I always intended this particular book to be a mystery. However, the second Lou Lou and Pea book, LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE BICENTENNIAL BONANZA is not a mystery (though it has mysterious elements) and focuses a lot on the culture and traditions of El Corazón.

 

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

I’d want to be a professional figure skater because they have such beautiful, sparkly costumes and they’re so talented, graceful, and strong! Unfortunately, I’m incredibly uncoordinated and I don’t do well in the cold.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

I have a special place in my heart for the Ramona Quimby books. I recently found my copies of The Ramona Quimby Diary (yes, I have two copies) from first and second grades and reading through them was hilarious.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Sriracha. I’m a little bit fiery, but I can be a good complement for others, and I like to wear red.

 

Character Comparison Chart – Created by author Jill Diamond

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To learn more about Jill Diamond checkout her website or follow her on twitter

Perfection in Finding Perfect

We had the Opportunity to meet with Elly Swartz, creator and author of the book Finding Perfect, and the not yet released Smart Cookie, coming out January 2018. All three storymamas agree Finding Perfect is a book that will stick with us forever. Elly chatted about her book, her journey as an author and what you might expect to find in her refrigerator.

THE BOOK


Finding Perfect is a story about Molly who has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is a story about her difficult and emotional journey trying to navigate through middle school with this disease no one knows she has, including herself.

One of the many reasons we fell in love with Finding Perfect was because it’s a book filled with  emotion through Elly’s words and her development of characters. Elly describes her book using three words: heartfelt, authentic and informative. As non-writers we can only imagine how difficult it must be to write a book with such feeling and emotion, but Elly explained that it wasn’t really an easy or hard book to write, just that it was emotional. Many times she would be writing through tears because the emotions her characters were experiencing were her own. While she doesn’t have OCD, she has friends and friend’s children who do have OCD, and she explained in order to create authentic characters it is important to allow the emotions in your own life to guide your writing. While writing this book she would go back to the places in her own life where her heart was hurting. She went to the difficult or dark places in order to create authenticity.

Elly’s hope after writing this book was for it to become universally relatable, and in our opinion, it completely is. As readers, teachers, and mothers, we were able to connect and feel for Molly throughout the book. This is one of those books that makes you gain a better understanding of not only someone struggling with OCD, but also feel empathy for those struggling with any type of anxiety or stress, which is a part of everyone’s life. Children and adults are constantly looking for how to connect with others and when there is a disconnect it can be very scary. Elly explained that there are moments when we all think, ‘What’s going on with me? I’m so scared to find out, scared to actually know and scared to tell anyone there is something going on.’ We all have to overcome hard and difficult things that can feel scary and Elly wants to make sure kids know they aren’t alone in that journey. She wants kids to know nobody’s perfect and no one’s life is untainted by difficult moments.

THE AUTHOR

When Elly writes she usually has a morning routine that goes something like this…

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Workout
  3. Shower
  4. Get dressed
  5. “Put her brain on”

But when she’s really in it, there are times she doesn’t get out of her pajamas, has her coffee, and the next thing she knows she has missed lunch because she’s in the zone.

However, just like other writers, Elly can sometimes get stuck. When she does, her trick is to go somewhere she usually doesn’t associate with her writing, like a coffee shop or to head to the doctor’s office an hour early. This way she says no one sees her and no one sees what she’s doing and there is no pressure.

After talking with Elly for over an hour we learned she is a very dedicated and persistent person, in all the best ways possible. Fifteen years ago her writing journey began, she had read Mick Harte was Here by Barbara Park with her then 4th grade son, and while reading, she felt so many emotions; she was so moved that she decided she wanted to be a storyteller. She started writing, writing, writing. Young writers would be very surprised to know that her journey to getting Finding Perfect published was a long and hard one. Finding Perfect wasn’t her first book, it was actually the 5th book she wrote and it took 8 years to write. Talk about persistence! Even after getting the book sold she spent four years working with a pediatric specialist to make sure her story was authentic and relatable. She wanted to get it right and it was imperative to do so out of respect for the OCD community.

Interestingly though Elly has had many other jobs as well as being a writer. She’s a lawyer and for twenty years she wrote and edited law books with her father-in-law and her husband. Six years ago she started a business to help families navigate the college entrance process. She has a love for helping kids in such a pivotal time in their lives. But she’s been writing all along.

ADVICE

One would think with the very long, and what sounds like a difficult, journey to publish her first book, she would give up, but no. Like we said, she’s extremely persistent. She has a very strong support system and that helped when she wasn’t getting published. Even with the rejection she said, “I love writing more than I hate rejection.” She would give herself 48 hours to be mad or sad but every time she’d end up back in her chair writing. Elly compares writing to the switchback trails in hiking saying, “you see a lot of gems along the way that you wouldn’t have seen if you went straight down”. During the fifteen year journey of writing this book she was fortunate enough to be a part of a writing community where she learned a lot about herself and met some of her closest friends who helped her writing along the way.

When we speak to our students during their own writing, some advice Elly gives is to use your senses in your writing because it helps create authenticity. How does something taste, feel, smell, etc. But they don’t have to be huge moments, they can be “the little slivers in life.” Use what you have; the emotions you’ve experienced to write. Even as simple as the best pizza ever!

THE FRIDGE

Inside of Elly’s fridge you can find:

  • Vanilla Coffee-mate because she always starts her day with a humongous cup of coffee
  • In the summer a bottle of white wine because that is how she ends her day
  • Lots of green vegetables, salads
  • Something yummy that she will cook that night because she likes to cook
  • Twizzlers (not in the fridge but around the house all over) because she love them and so does Molly, and she can eat them because of her allergies.

Storymamas highly recommends Finding Perfect and we hope you will pick up a copy because it is truly amazing. It will make you feel so many emotions while reading. It will make you want to hug Molly, the main character. It will make you want to read her next book too Smart Cookie.

Check out Elly’s website http://ellyswartz.com/ to learn even more about her.

Meet Margaret Dilloway!

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3 ?s about Momotaro Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Imagination, friendship, adventure

What made you decide to change gears and write middle grade books?

I guess it wasn’t so much as I decided to write middle grade books as it was that I had a specific idea, and the best way to execute that idea was through writing a middle grade book. It was a pretty big learning curve for me, with many drafts over several years, but a lot of fun! I worked on it in between other projects.

How did you get the ideas for Momotaro?  I know you visited Japan for your research, but how did you arrive at the Japanese fantasy genre?

I’m half Japanese and I had a Japanese board book about Momotaro that my mom would read (translate) to me. I thought the story could be compelling for Western audiences and I wanted to find a way to present it to them.

Xander’s biracial because I am, and I didn’t read about any biracial characters while I was growing up.  I also thought it’d be a way for a Western audience to relate to the Japanese cultural stuff– Xander’s a bit of an outsider and raised in the West, as well. I was also raised in San Diego, with only my mother as the link to the entire Japanese culture.

Additionally, I wanted to explore some ideas about being mixed race, and also what that would mean for a mythological hero that was always the same race. Will his powers be weaker? Stronger? Different? How does his mother’s heritage affect him?  It parallels ideas and fears people have in the real world about races and cultures intermingling. And, I wanted to leave open the possibility that Xander’s mother’s myths would cross-pollinate with the Japanese myths.

 

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

A detective, because I observe things and make connections other people commonly do not, and I am extremely nosy!

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

That is like the #1 Impossible Question for writers! I will say THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie because after I read it, I had a breakthrough about Momotaro.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

The big ol’ jar of coffee.

 

Follow Margaret Dilloway on Twitter @mdilloway or on Instagram @margaretdilloway.

You can learn more about her and her other books by visiting www.margaretdilloway.com