Spotlight On: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

If you’ve never heard of or interacted with Debbie Ridpath Ohi, you need to immediately! We met her a few years back at Nerdcamp Michigan, when she had just come out with her debut picture book, Where Are My Books?   

During our chat we asked her if she’d Skype with our students in the coming year and she was thrilled to do so. Boy, are we glad we asked her. Our students had the best time “meeting” her. She had boundless energy and was also able to do a demonstration of how she created her found object art. During the Skype she turned a crumbled up piece of paper into a beautiful ballerina wearing a tutu.  One of the questions I asked her toward the end of our session was “what advice would you give to these students?” Her answer was incredible and the message she spoke about is still mentioned to this day, over two years later! She told my kids she had wished she knew earlier, that you don’t always need to be perfect the first time! Here’s a tweet a student sent her following the Skype session:

Besides being a wonderful person, I want to talk about her illustrations. We were so excited to read her new solo book Sam and Eva that came out a few weeks ago. The illustrations tell a lot of the story, but the book itself has many important themes. If you have not read this book, it’s a great one to add to #classroombookaday to discuss friendship, flexible thinking, or how art can tell many stories!

We are so happy she continues to come out with new books so often. Whether she is doing both writing and drawing or just illustrating, you will love her work! Debbie was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her. Enjoy!

3 questions about the book

What can fans of your work expect from Sam and Eva?

A fun creative clash between two young artists, inspired by cartoon wars that a friend and I had back in our university days. Sam is drawing when Eva arrives, wanting to collaborate. The creative clash that ensues when their drawings start to come to life is fun and chaotic…but then both children realize things are getting out of hand and decide to work together. Sam & Eva is about art, creative collaboration and friendship.

What does your workplace look like?

As you can tell, I do not have one of those spacious, sunlit artist studios that overlooks a verdant meadow blooming with wildflowers. My office is in the basement, and I have covered up the windows with colourful scarves because (1) I never look out the windows anyway when I’m working, and (2) one window “looks out” under our deck and the other is blocked by bushes.

My husband Jeff and I call my office my “cave.” And I do so love my Office Cave.

What was your process for writing and illustrating Sam and Eva?  Was it the same as when you created Where Are My Books?

For Sam and Eva, I came up with a picture book dummy (a rough mock-up of the picture book) ahead of time and sent that to my editor, Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster Children’s. He accepted it the next morning! I had to put off working on Sam & Eva for a while since I was working on other book projects first, so I had to reread it several times when it WAS time to work on the book to remind myself of the story.

Then I worked on the text with Justin, improving the story flow, page turns and language. Although I started working on character sketches earlier, I didn’t start working on the layout sketches for the interior spreads until the text was finalized. During the art phase, I worked mainly with my art director at Simon & Schuster, Laurent Linn. Laurent helped me figure out how to improve the visual aspect. I’ve worked with Justin and Laurent on my other picture books with S&S, and I learn so much from them with each project!

In contrast, Where Are My Books? took a lot longer to finalize the story and art. The main reason? It was my first solo picture book! I felt like such a newbie and had so many questions. Hm…in many ways, I still feel like a newbie and do keep asking a lot of questions! I figure that’s a good thing, however — it means that I’m still learning.

3 questions about you

If you weren’t an illustrator/author, what would you want to be and why?

A songwriter/musician. I’ve always loved making music with other people, and have written and co-written songs for my music group as a fun hobby, plus have done a few session musician gigs. A couple of the songs I wrote made it to national radio! In a parallel universe, I think I’d try to make a living writing music and playing music. It’s a whole other type of creative collaboration.

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

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It’s the first book that made me aware of how voice can enhance my reading experience.

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

Ha! Fun question. Hm, let me think. Ok, how about this: some radish tops, leaves attached. Most people discard this part of the radish but I like saving them for potential found object art. Also: some shrivelled up basil leaves – I had been planning to use them for found object art but, um….forgot!

Thank you Debbie for chatting with us!

To learn more about Debbie please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

World Kindness- #middleschoolpicturebook

Last year I wrote a post about how I use Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco in my classroom for a special Thanksgiving activity. Please take the time to read that post here. 

Today is also World Kindness Day and although I am currently staying home with my two boys for the year and don’t have a class to do this activity with, I decided to become my own student and show kindness to an old teacher. Last night I reread the book and then wrote a thank you letter to an old teacher in my life. I picked a woman who was my cooperating teacher for my student teaching in 2001! I have been in contact with her off and on through the years and decided I wanted her to be the recipient of a letter from me. I hope I hear back from her. Please keep your fingers crossed with me.

Another reason I want bring this book up is because I want to reiterate how important picture books can be for all ages. Right now there is a movement called #classroombookaday, which has many elementary, middle and even high school classes taking the time each day to read a picture book. I feel this book is the perfect #picturebooksformiddleschool! Published in 2012, it is a heart warming story about a bright girl, who has difficulty reading, finds comfort in drawing, and in 5th grade finally meets a teacher who helps her become a reader. Every time I read it I get tears in my eyes when she reencounters her teacher at the end. This is a great time to read it aloud in your classroom and have the students give thanks to the many teachers who have helped shaped who they are.

Please leave a comment on how you’ve used this book or any other “giving thanks” favorites!

 

Keith Haring – The Boy Who Kept Drawing

 

I grew up just outside New York City, starting when I was young, my family went into Manhattan quite a bit for dinner, theater, etc. Each time we drove down the FDR (a highway on the East side) we would pass this giant orange wall with fun people drawn on it and above the people I was always able to read the words, “Crack is Wack”.  Little did I know what crack was at that age or that it was the work of artist Keith Haring. But the image made a lasting impression on me and my family. I learned that Keith was the artist of that wall many years later when my sister bought a print of his and had it hung on her bedroom wall. Then as I got older I enjoyed seeing his work pop up in different places.

I was so excited when I heard there was a picture book written about him. The same day I discovered it on one of Donalyn Miller’s Books for a Better World slides,  I ran to get myself a copy. To my surprise the book was written by Kay A. Haring, Keith’s sister. The book explores his journey as an artist and how he felt that anybody should be able to enjoy his art. I loved learning that his exhibitions always brought a diverse group of people, ranging from celebrities, collectors, and families.  I think his passion for art and sharing it with the world will really resonate with kids. 

Kay was kind enough to provide us with more pictures of her and Keith as well as answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

Kay and Keith

The Haring Family


3 Questions about Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

What was your process for writing Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing?

I always wanted to tell my brother’s story emphasizing his generous nature and over the last decade had drafted at least three different storylines. About five years ago I joined a writer’s group and needed something to present, so I resurrected those drafts and combined them into one.  I knew then that I had to pursue this project, so I started to explore the process to publish, and joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I found an agent the first time I made queries and within three months we met with four publishers and had two offers. After accepting an offer, it took three years to bring to print. Much of this time was spent on carefully selecting and integrating Keith’s artwork with Robert Neubecker’s illustrations.

The actual content of the story was easy to write. I wanted children to experience Keith’s generosity and his easy going, fun-loving personality. While there were dozens of scenarios I could choose from, there were a few situations that stood out as hallmarks of Keith’s dedication and commitment to community.  The difficult part of a story like this is to edit it down to a reasonable length. Many scenes had to be cut or combined in order to shape the final message.

Because this book is so personal, were you able to pick the illustrator?

No. That’s not the way it works when you use one of the big publishers. I was fortunate, however, that the editor believed it best that we collaborate and it turned out the illustrator lives in our vacation town, so we were able to meet in person a number of times. Plus, he lived and worked in NYC in the 80’s. Robert Neubecker’s understanding of and contributions from the art/street scene was invaluable.  

What do you think Keith would say if he read this book?

Do I really look like that? (He always had a sense of humor!)

 

3 Questions about You

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

A Park Ranger in the National Park system. I love nature and science, because they hold inevitable truths and incredible beauty.  How awesome would it be to walk beneath the trees everyday and expand the minds of children (and adults) by exposing them to new elements in nature?  One of my favorite volunteer jobs was to introduce people to sea urchins and hermit crabs at the Waikiki Aquarium.  I learned invaluable lessons about people and how they interact with their environment and hopefully encouraged a few kids to pursue biology and conservation.

 

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

While living in Hawai’i, I read the novel “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert, and was fortunate to visit Kalaupapa and walk the trail leading down – and back out – of the former leprosy community.  The novel portrays a personal glimpse into the life of someone exiled because of a disease and how the human spirit triumphs no matter the circumstance.

In the children’s picture book genre, an unforgettable one is “You Made Me a Mother” by Laurenne Sala, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.  Not since I read “Love You Forever” to my kids, thirty years ago, has a story made me tear up, every time.  And now that I know more about the serendipity that is involved in combining words with illustrations, I recognize this as a true masterpiece.

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

Half & half – for my morning coffee. 🙂

Kay talking about Keith and the book with kids

Thank you so much for allowing us to interview you! To learn more about Kay visit her website.  Also, proceeds from the book go to Berks County Community Foundation, an organization in her family hometown that benefits the youth. To find out more visit them at bccf.org

Being Yourself -Upside Down…

Happy Almost Book Birthday Beatrice Zinker!  We are so excited that tomorrow you are being showcased into the world. We had the pleasure of meeting Beatrice prior to release from an ARC. Shelley Johannes, author and illustrator has done a great job capturing what it’s like to be an unique individual. Beatrice has heart, is a good friend, but is often misunderstood because, well, she thinks upside down. This early middle grade novel is perfect for a read aloud promoting individuality in all elementary grades. We can see Beatrice having a line of independent readers waiting to read her book, (while sitting upside down). We thank Shelley for spending time thinking about our interview questions. We learned so much about her and the book from the answers. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

3 Questions about Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Beatrice is always a bright spot for me. She makes me laugh, reminds me to have fun, and motivates me to look for the good in everything. I hope she does the same for readers—so I’m going to say:  funny, fun, and sunny-side-up.

We loved reading about this free-thinking, be-your-own-person-character; who is she modeled after?

Thank you! When Beatrice first showed up in my brain—dressed in a ninja suit, hanging from the ceiling—she was a manifestation of my own guilty conscience. She amused me endlessly, and eventually became her own person, with her own story.

If you were to pick a character from another book to be Beatrice’s friend, who would you say?

There are so many possible answers! Carter Higgins recently joked about writing some Beatrice/Dory fan fiction. Now I really want to arrange a friendship! I think Beatrice and Dory Fantasmagory would get into lots of fabulous, unintended trouble together, and have a ridiculous amount of fun.

3 Questions about You

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

My first career was architecture— but at this point, if I weren’t a writer, I’d want to be a school librarian. Watching kids get excited about books, and helping them find one they love, is a magical experience.

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

The “one book” condition is almost impossible! I’m going to cheat and fit in two. As a child, Anne of Green Gables was that book. As an adult, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen wrapped itself around my heart.  Both Anne and Annabelle represent my favorite type of hero—the girl who refuses to become jaded. Deliberate optimism is a form of bravery I cherish.

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

There are several pizza boxes and lots of Mountain Dew. Read into that at will.  =)

To learn more about Shelley Johannes please visit her website or feel free to follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram.

Back To School #booksnaps

In early June I was intrigued with #booksnaps when they kept popping up on my twitter feed. I would see a photo of a page from the book, the tweeter’s bitmoji and typed up text. Although most of the time I hadn’t read the book, I felt their fuel, their fire, their reaction to whatever they were reading. Wow!  If I was enjoying learning about what these people were thinking and learning during their reading, I am sure this would be a great tool to to use with my students, as they would love seeing each other’s #booksnaps and learning more about each other. It turns out the creator of #booksnaps presented at the International Society for Educational Technology (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio where 2 storymamas had the privilege of attending. We attended the ignite session for Tara Martin, #booksnaps creator. She shared during this session that she wanted to find a way to use the app her son couldn’t put down (Snapchat) to do some visual storytelling. And shortly after #booksnaps was born and has been taking the social media world by storm. Her session showed the power of #booksnaps and how it helps get into the student’s head on their thoughts and feelings toward text and how it relates to their life. Also, by using a book snap, it allows the reader to comprehend the text and internalize what the author is saying. Tara has been amazing and has created a website full of information and how-to videos on making #booksnaps. Although it started with Snapchat, she has made videos using many other apps, including Snapchat, Seesaw, Book Creator and more. Check it out! Free resources are great! Thanks Tara!

Shortly after the conference I made my first #booksnaps while reading the ARC copy of Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz. I used Snapchat, but as Tara’s website shows, many different apps can be used.

Using #booksnaps has helped me look deeper into text, share my thoughts, and also remember more parts of the story. I can only imagine the impact it will have with my students when I introduce it to them. Beside the impact, I know the students will be engaged in the process. I had so much fun finding the right words to write and bitmoji to use.

So for today we thought it would be fun to use three back to school books to show you how to use #booksnaps when reading a picture book. All 3 storymamas picked a book and tried it out.  We are all new at this and are learning as we go, but are excited to use with students. We can see it in our reading workshops and it would be great in content areas! Please feel free to comment on how you are using #booksnaps in the classroom! We hope you enjoy the books we chose and our #booksnaps!

 

 

     

 

 

Thank You Second Star

#authorsaturday brings you a tribute to all the amazing authors and illustrators I have met at Second Star To The Right Books . I wrote about this independent bookstore before in a post titled Friendsgiving From the moment you walk into this store they make everyone feel at home.

Over the past 2 years I have encountered many wonderful authors and illustrators! Meeting them has allowed me to bring new books into my life to share with my kids, students, and storymamas audience! If you are ever in Denver please go visit them. If you aren’t in the area, please look to local independent bookstores or even public libraries for author events.

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Second Star for embracing me and my boys and for helping me grow as a mom and educator. I will miss everyone as I move to a different city!

Here is a list of the authors/illustrators I met and are featured in my picture collage above:

Abby Cooper

http://www.abbycooperauthor.com/

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

http://jenniferchamblissbertman.com/

Lauren Allbright

http://www.laurenallbright.com/


Todd Fahnestock

http://www.toddfahnestock.com/


Miriam Busch

http://miriambuschauthor.com/
Larry Day

http://larrydayillustration.com/

Claudia Mills

http://www.claudiamillsauthor.com/


Leuyen Pham

http://www.leuyenpham.com/leuyenphamstudios.html

Shannon Hale
http://www.squeetus.com/stage/main.html


Andrea Wang

http://andreaywang.com/


Melanie Crowder

http://melaniecrowder.net/

Carmela LaVigna Coyle

http://carmelacoyle.com/

 

 

Be Better…

She makes you want to be a better…

… friend

…citizen

…teacher

…parent

…stranger

…everything

She’s Amy Krouse Rosenthal (AKR). An amazing leader of kindness, a creative writer, a filmmaker, an exceptional thinker. Yesterday I visited the Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago to see the Amy Krouse Rosenthal: A Beauty Salon exhibit. It was moving, magical, thoughtful, creative, heartfelt; I could go on and on about how unbelievable it was. The beautiful gallery was filled with a huge yellow wall with words of truth and kindness, beanbags, coffee, AKR’s work, movies and of course books, lots of her gorgeous books. I love her books, I love her word play, I love her out-the-box thinking. She has so many wonderful books and you’re missing out if you haven’t read one, or let’s be honest, every single one of them.

If you’re around the city in the next few days, definitely stop in the gallery, the exhibit closes on August 12th.  

If you’re not in the city and aren’t able to make it before then, here are a few highlights from my day today:

Her work and her ideas…

The amazing “I Was Here” wall…

It is meant to be interactive. A place you can share your thoughts, drawings, sign your name or respond to a prompt. Some of my favorites were:

While the prompt changed a few times throughout the exhibit, yesterday it said, “Think about what ATM stands for in your mind, grab one of these pens, and write it.”

To Amy, ATM stood for Always Trust Magic. Here are some ATM’s. Mine is up there somewhere. What would you write?

The movie that made me tear up…

The Money Tree

I leave you with this (even though it wasn’t in the exhibit) but because you’re a reader of our blog, which most likely means you’re a booklover like us, just marvel at a video AKR made of her Book-Filled House (you can find more of her videos on her blog).

Inspired? Exhilarated? Want to do something kind? You can…you can read her books to children, you can participate in acts of kindness, you can donate to the AKR Yellow Umbrella Foundation, you can do something, anything that shares happiness, love and kindness with others.

3D Printed Miracle

The storymamas had the opportunity to “meet” Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, the authors of the new non-fiction book Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle.  They collaborated to tell the story of Beauty, a bald eagle that lost part of her beak to a gunshot wound.  Her injuries healed, but her beak did not.  When Janie, a raptor biologist, met Beauty, she felt compelled to help.  Her compassion for the eagle was relentless, and she worked with others to help create a prosthetic beak for Beauty using a 3D printer.  Janie worked with Deborah, an accomplished science writer, to share Beauty’s story with the world through an engaging narrative format and vivid photographs.

Beauty and the Beak would be a wonderful narrative nonfiction text as a read aloud and an addition to your classroom library.  It provides a concrete example of design thinking and perseverance.  By thinking through different ideas, Janie and her team were able to come up with a solution that allowed Beauty to regain the use of a beak.

The end of the book is full of additional resources and an educator’s guide can be found several places; on Deborah’s website, www.deborahleerose.com, Janie’s website at www.birdsofpreynorthwest.org and from the Cornell Lab Publishing Group’s Educators page https://cornelllabpublishinggroup.com/educators-2/?v=7516fd43adaa
We can’t wait for the world to hear Beauty’s story!

3 Questions about Beauty and the Beak

What three words would you use to describe this book?

Deborah: uplifting, inspiring, eye-opening

Janie: labor of love

How did you hear about Beauty/get hooked up together to create this story?

Deborah: I had read about Beauty in several articles on animal prosthetics—the story of her pioneering prosthetic beak was reported worldwide. I wanted to know much more about Beauty herself, about Janie’s work to help her, and about bald eagles, so I called Janie at Birds of Prey Northwest, the raptor center she founded and directs in Idaho. From that first conversation grew a fantastic, ongoing collaboration to coauthor Beauty and the Beak. I ended up learning so much, thanks to Janie’s encyclopedic knowledge about bald eagles and her long experience in speaking about Beauty and other raptors to public audiences.

Janie: I had wanted to work with a science writer on Beauty’s story. When Deborah called me, and I learned that she was both a national science writer and award winning children’s author, I knew together we could capture Beauty’s powerful story in a children’s book. I already had lots of photos from Beauty’s beak surgery, by amazing photographer Glen Hush; once we found the incredible bald eagle photos available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library, we knew we could tell kids about Beauty beginning with her life in the wild, all the way up to what her life is like today at Birds of Prey Northwest.

What was the process you used to create the story together?

Deborah: There were so many wonderful steps to the process—including my meeting Beauty face to face in Idaho!—which happened over the course of the last three years. We spent countless hours by phone and email finding out the best way to tell Beauty’s story through both text and photos. Janie and I wanted children (and adults) to understand how critical Beauty’s beak was even from the time she was born, and how disastrous losing her beak really was.

Janie: We reached out to many people for insight and help including other raptor biologists, wildlife experts, engineers, 3D printing specialists, STEM educators, and wildlife photographers. The Idaho STEM Action Center helped us with 3D printing, to make life-size replicas of Beauty’s prosthetic beak that we can share with public audiences. And even beyond Beauty’s story, we wanted to tell about the natural history of bald eagle populations in the United States—how bald eagles nearly went extinct on the U.S. mainland, how scientists worked to reintroduce bald eagles to areas where they had nearly disappeared, and what risks bald eagles still face today. We were very lucky, thanks to our publisher, to have Cornell Lab of Ornithology add special content to the book about bald eagle conservation.

 

3 Questions About You

If you weren’t able to do your current job, what would you want to be and why?

Deborah: I have been a science writer for a long time, and would always want to  work in some way to communicate science to public audiences.

Janie: My dream is to open a raptor education center that millions of people could visit from all over the country and the world.

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

Janie: A book that has stayed with me since I was growing up is Aesop’s Fables. I especially love the story about the wisdom of the crow, because it’s about problem solving and the intelligence of birds. Science continues to prove how intelligent birds are across their many species. After all the years I have worked with raptors, I continue to be amazed by their intelligence.

Deborah: The book that affected my whole career was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I adored it as a child, because I could fully imagine myself in the story even though it was as far from my city life as you could imagine. I read it again as an adult, and discovered an even deeper reason that I love it–because the character of Charlotte is truly a writer, who understands the power of words to teach, entertain, inspire and even save a life.

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

Janie: Tiny bits of salmon—to feed orphaned baby ospreys. There is always something in my frig that will be used to feed the raptors who are in my care.

Deb: Whole wheat pastry flour—I love to bake my own muffins. It took me a while to perfect my favorite recipe, and that process was a lot like creating a book!

 

Can’t wait to read about Beauty?  You’re in luck!  We are giving away THREE copies of Beauty and the Beak, thanks to Deborah, Janie, and their team.  Head on over to @storymamas on Instagram to enter!

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.

#storymamassummerselections

Check out our @storymamas Instagram and Twitter feeds for more information about the books we chose this week!

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli 

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Burnett

Double Take! A New Look At Opposites by Susan Hood

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Hiding Phil by Eric Barclay

#authorsaturday Mo Willems