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.

Early Chapter Book Favs

Growing up, I do not remember there being a lot of options for chapter books when I first started reading. I remember reading Frog and Toad, and Amelia Bedelia before I got into “real” chapter books that didn’t have any pictures. As I am now reading similar books to my four year old daughter, I have learned just how much has changed. There are so many wonderful options available, but I’ve narrowed down some of our favorites that would be just right for someone beginning to read chapter books, or like in our case, a good book for an adult to read at bedtime. The chapters are shorter, the font is bigger, and there are pictures to help tell the story. Last week I talked about the Dory Fantasmagory series on Instagram for #storymamasbookaday, and here are some others in addition.  Happy reading!

 

Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van DusenIMG_9061

This series tells the adventures of a pig named Mercy Watson, and her human owners/parents, Mr. and Mrs. Watson. Mercy has a love of buttered toast and seems to get herself into a funny pickle in every book. There are six total books in the series, and they have colorful illustrations on almost every page.

 

 

Tales from Deckawoo Drive series by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van DusenIMG_9064

This is a spinoff series of Mercy Watson. It tells the stories of the other people that the reader was introduced to in the original series, such as Leroy Ninker and Baby Lincoln. Not to worry, the beloved Mercy Watson makes appearances in all of the books. There are currently three books published in the series, with the fourth coming out in October.

 

 

The Chicken Squad series by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornellimg_9060.jpg

This is a spin-off series from one of Cronin’s other series, The Trouble with Chickens. There are four chicks that make up the Chicken Squad, and despite being adorable and small, they are brave crime fighters, solving mysteries. These little chicks will keep you laughing throughout. The fifth book in this series comes out in November.

 

 

The Princess in Black series By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen PhamIMG_9065

This series tells the story of frilly and pink Princess Magnolia, who leads a double life as the Princess in Black. Her alter ego uses trap doors, wears a black ensemble to keep her in disguise, and bravely fights monsters. The character is a good, strong female role model for girls, and the illustrations truly make the story come to life. There are currently four books in the series, with the fifth coming out in early September.

 

Are there any early series that are favorites in your house? Stay tuned for more recommendations!

 

 

 

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

 

Abby Cooper Talks About Her Babies

3 Question’s about Sticks & Stones

What three words would you use to describe Sticks and Stones?
Quirky, magical fun!

How did you come up with the disease cognadjivisibilitis?
It took a lot of thinking and a LOT of revision! I knew I wanted to explore what it would be like if a character had words on her body. But that can’t just randomly happen – there needs to be some sort of explanation. I thought a skin disorder seemed like the most natural cause. From there, I brainstormed the longest, most complicated-sounding name I could think of (because most real disorders have them), came up with symptoms, causes, treatments, etc., and cognadjivisibilitis was born.

What do you want readers to leave your book thinking?
I wrote this book to remind readers how important it is to be kind to others, and how important it is to be kind to themselves. Developing positive self-esteem can be a major challenge for kids (and grown-ups!) I hope Sticks & Stones helps readers appreciate all the wonderful, unique qualities that make them who they are.

3 Question’s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
I was a school librarian before I was an author, and that was the best job in the world (besides this one, of course!) I would happily do any job that allowed me to work with kids and books. I would also love to be a professional cupcake baker, though that’s more of a fantasy as I have very few kitchen-related skills. (Maybe I could be a professional cupcake taste-tester instead. Is that a thing?)

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

Frindle by Andrew Clements is my all-time favorite book, and it has been ever since my third grade teacher, Mrs. Huntley, read it to my class. There was just something about it, and whatever that something was, it inspired me to read like I had never read before. It’s interesting, because I’ve gone back to re-read it several times over the years, and each time I discover something new or take away something different. I love that books can do that.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I’m kind of a dessert-o-holic. It’s bad. And yet so good. I currently have a giant Ziploc in my fridge filled with cookies, brownies, fudge, so on and so forth. Besides the fact that I’m obsessed with dessert,  I guess this would also tell you that I am strange (in a good way, obviously) and like to think outside the box. I’m pretty sure most people don’t keep these things in the fridge. I’ve arbitrarily decided that doing so will somehow make them last longer, even though desserts never last long around here regardless of where they’re stored.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

What can fans of Sticks & Stones expect from Bubbles?
Bubbles is similar to Sticks & Stones in that it falls in the magical realism genre; it’s a realistic novel except for one magical element, something you typically wouldn’t see happening in our world. In Bubbles, you’ll find another tween girl experiencing something very unusual. Like Elyse in Sticks & Stones, Sophie must navigate her magical challenge and the ways it impacts her relationships. I hope readers will enjoy Bubbles as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Follow Abby Cooper on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. Also, check out her website to learn more about her.

An Interview with Bridget Hodder author of The Rat Prince

 

 

3 ?s about The Rat Prince

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Magic, adventure, and surprises!

Did you research rat/mice behavior before writing the book?

Yes! I read all about rats’ super-strength, super-stealth, and super-intelligence, to the point where I scared myself. Fortunately, Prince Char and the rodent inhabitants of the Northern Rat Realm use their powers for good.

How many versions did you write? How did you decide which parts of the original fairytale to keep and which ones to omit?

Lady Rose and Prince Char’s story came to me fully developed, as a lightning bolt of inspiration. When the book went to my editor, she told me that most books go through 3 or 4 revisions before it’s finalized…and of course, that’s how it happened!

I tried to maintain the traditional framework of the fairy tale, while leaving out or modifying elements I found problematic. For example, I was never comfortable with how the original story emphasized Cinderella’s physical beauty as her most outstanding characteristic. So my story turns this idea around, and takes it to the extreme: what constitutes true beauty? Is it something on the outside, or on the inside? Can something (or a little furry someone) we’ve ignored, or even reviled, actually turn out to be a thing of great beauty?

 

3 ?s about You

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

In a way, that question’s already been answered– I’ve been an archaeologist and an autism therapist, among other things–if only I could do all of them at once! But since you’re giving me the opportunity to make a wish, here it is: I’d love to be an Angel Investor in all kinds of awesome startup companies that would go on to make the world a better, healthier, happier place!

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

Ooooh, this is a terribly hard one. I can’t choose! There are so many books that qualify. Classics like A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, and THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER by CS Lewis were important to me as a child. Recently, for adults, the biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon called ROMANTIC OUTLAWS held me spellbound for weeks; as did the gorgeously written adult-level lit fic by Anna Solomon, LEAVING LUCY PEAR. I’m also looking forward to a bunch of 2017 Middle Grade and YA debuts!!

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

About six pints of blueberries and strawberries, with another pint of whipping cream. Let the summer begin!

 

Follow Bridget Hodder on Twitter and check out her website to learn 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

Week in Review…

This was a busy week!  We wrapped up our first series of giveaways and shared a lot of great titles.  Click on the links below to learn more about the authors and illustrators from this week.

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7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar

Illustrated by Ross MacDonald

 

 

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Super Narwhal and the Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton

Chalk by Bill Thomson

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

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You Can’t Take a Ballon Into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman

Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

 

 

 

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When Life Gives you OJ by Erica S. Perl

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere by Elise Gravel

 

 

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The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Illustrated by Patrice Barton

 

 

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Red Car, Red Bus by Susan Steggall

 

 

 

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The Gingerbread Man series by Laura Murray

Illustrated by Mike Lowery

 

 

 

Week in Review


This week we shared books about art, history, science and had our first book giveaway! See below for a review of the books we are loving this week! Also, follow us on Instagram and/or Twitter @storymamas to find out why we loved these books! You can also click on the link for each book to find more about the authors and illustrators!

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light

Greenglass House by Kate Milford and Jaime Zollars 

This Book Thinks Your a Scientist by London Science Museum and Harriet Russell 

The Legend of Old Abe A Civil War Eagle by Kathy-jo Wargin and Laurie Caple

Today by Julie Morstad

What Will I Be by Nicola Davies and Marc Boutavant

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Frazzled by Booki Vivat

Ordinary People Change the World series by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos

 

Moo Moo, Monsters & Middle Grade Books!

This is the week in review! Check out @storymamas on Instagram and Twitter to learn more about our picks this week! week 3 story mamas review

Fish in a Tree

Moo Moo in a Tutu
Wolfe the Bunny
The Lion Inside
My Teacher is a Monster
Tek- The Modern Cave Boy
#authorsaturday Elise Gravel

Week in Review

#storymamasbookaday #authorsaturday

Here are the books we recommended this week. Also, follow us on Instagram and/or Twitter @storymamas to find out why we loved these books!

week 2 blog storymamas

A Sick Day for Amos McGee – Philip C. Stead

https://instagram.com/p/BUE5elaBqwv/

Pass It On Sophy Henn
Zoe’s Rescue School – The Puzzled Penguin
Counting Crows – Kathi Appelt
The Donut Chef – Bob Staake
Happy Dreamer – Peter Reynolds
# authorsaturday – Jennifer L. Holm