With Children’s Author, Lora Hyler

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I askIMG_6967 (1) a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Yay! New middle grade author, Lora Hyler is our contestant today. She just released her debut middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes. 


Below is a list of Lora’s categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.

APPLE:   Honey Crisp

BOOK MADE INTO MOVIE:   A Wrinkle in Time

COMEDY:   Fargo



FURNITURE STYLE:  Contemporary


HOBBY:  Travel (most recently, fixated on France)

ICE CREAM FLAVOR:  chocolate

JUGGLE (THINGS YOU):   Writing children’s books, marketing, spending time with family and friends. 

KICK (THINGS YOU):  laundry

LUNCH FOOD:  A great chicken or shrimp salad. Great leftovers.

METAL:  Gold

NOISE:   I use noise as a buffer to facilitate writing at coffee shops, libraries and bookstores.

OCEAN:   Pacific

PICTURE BOOK:   Anything illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

‘Q’ WORD:   Quaint

RESTAURANT: A great Mexican restaurant with fresh foods and inventive twists on old favorites. 

SYNONYM FOR GREAT:  fierce, as in “Michelle Obama is fierce!”

THEATER:  A place of creation

UNUSUAL PLACE:  The Catacombs of Paris

VAMPIRES:   I’m not much into vampires. There’s not much I like about them other than their ability to live such long lives! 

WEATHER:   Ideally, 75 degrees with a nice breeze

X-CITING NEWS:   I launched my first middle grade novel on March 6th! I’m thrilled with the response from kids and parents, teachers, educators, reviewers, librarians, fellow authors and book lovers! 

YOUTH IS:  A time of many mistakes. The key is building resilience.

ZIPS (SOMETHING THAT):  The family Russian Tortoise, Speedy. He got his name from zipping toward his food. Aren’t tortoises supposed to be slow?


ME:   You had me at ‘The Catacombs of Paris’! Did you explore them and what fascinated you the most about them?

LH: I read about the Catacombs during one of the several French classes I took to prepare for my May 2017 month-long artist residency at Centre D’Art in Marnay-sur-seine. I had seven years of French lessons prior to college, and nothing since! Although I’m headed back to France next year, this time to a residency in the south of France, in Cassis, I doubt I will visit the Catacombs. Too spooky for my very vivid fiction writing imagination. 


ME:   The spookiness of them is what had me hooked. If you hear any stories about them, I hope you write about them. 😊 If the cultures of Fargo and France came together in a new place, what do you think life would be like there?

LH: Wow. That’s an interesting question! I envision bankrupt Frenchman paying euros to have his wife kidnapped, only to get outsmarted by a very pregnant National Police officer assigned to track down the culprits. She catches the bad guy red-handed, stuffing his fellow henchman in the Catacombs.


ME:   I love how your mind works! If you write it, I will read it.

Animals are individuals and fierce at fighting humans stereotypes of them. Like your Russian Tortoise, Speedy. Please tell us more about him. 😊

LH: Who knew a Russian Tortoise is such a commitment? Unlike your IMG_7512furry animals, you have to bond enough with a hard shelled-creature to remember to feed them and clean their habitat. My husband and I joked that our son would have to take his pet to college with him. Fast forward eleven years later, our son is now 22 and Speedy is still going strong. Speedy races toward his bowl and sits on it when hungry. Otherwise, we are ignored in favor of sunning under the heat lamp and hiding from the world in a natural wood tunnel in his large glass enclosure.


ME:   Animals like what they like and do what they want (for the most part), much like children. What’s one mistake from your youth that you overcame and demonstrated resiliency?

LH:  I was an exceptional reader at a young age and was invited at age 7 or 8 to read at a statewide educator conference. Given my shyness at the time, it should have been no surprise to anyone when I stepped up to the microphone, took a look at the large audience, and bolted from Lora-Hyler-on-TMJ4-300x212the stage! Growing up, my parents did not speak of this. 

As an adult, I became a radio news journalist for NPR and ABC affiliates, served as a weekly two-year guest commentator on a live television newscast on Today’s TMJ4 in Milwaukee, and became a sought after public speaker, a public speaking instructor for my PR and marketing company clients. I also love to encourage kids and young people to reach their highest potential.


ME:  Encouragement is a wonderful gift to give; it has so many positive outcomes. Noise can go either way. Regarding using noise as a buffer to make writing in public places easier, are there any noises that aren’t conducive to your creative process while writing in public places? 

LH:   Screaming children! I could always crank up my headphones, but sometimes that defeats the purpose since I am there to write and plot.


ME:   I am so excited for you that your new book kicked off in March and that I will be reading it this summer! Are any of your category answers connected to any upcoming projects of yours? If so, and allowed, what can you tell us about it/them?

LH:  Vanessa Brantley Newton is an amazing illustrator, fantastic public speaker and a memorable individual. I had the opportunity to meet her at a SCBWI Fall Retreat in Green Lake, WI. I’ll always remember how movingly she spoke of Ezra Jack Keats, author of the Snowy Day, featuring a child of color on the cover. She saw herself for the first time in a book. This left a lasting impression on me. Here’s her Ted Talk. 

I’ve become a voice for children. Let’s face it: it’s a national tragedy that the publishing industry has failed to keep pace with our nation’s changing demographics. Each child, deserves, and needs to see herself or himself within the pages of a book for healthy self-esteem and self-realization. Absence equals denial. 

Each adult has a role to play. I’m speaking to teachers, educators, parents, grandparents, guardians, publishers, bookstore owners, and librarians. Seek out a book for a child in your life with an image that mirrors them, and seek out a book to provide a window into another child’s reality.


ME:   You make excellent points, Lora, about the children of our world not having their voices shown or heard, and not seeing themselves in books. Happily that is changing. Godspeed the full inclusion so the norm will be beautiful, culturally-diverse books where the children of the world see themselves in them. The time of ‘diverse book unicorns’ is over. Ezra Jack Keats gave a wonderful start to inclusion; it’s about time the publishing world catches up.

Readers, thank you for joining us today. You can connect with Lora on the link below:


Have a fantastic weekend!








With Children’s Author and
Founder of, Elaine Kiely Kearns


The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to 1689651_10203358320463552_2133165971_nhave fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Today our contestant is children’s author, and founder of one of the top-rated websites for children’s authors and illustrators,  KIDLIT 411 …Elaine Kiely Kearns!

KidLit _ Nancy Colle 100

June kidlit411 banner illustrated by Nancy Colle. 

Below is a list of Elaine’s categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.

ALL CHILDREN: need love and books


COUNTRY: Ireland                                                                       

DESSERT: coconut cake

EXERCISE: walking

FRUIT: ripe summer peaches


HOMOPHONES: write/right

ICE CREAM FLAVOR: Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road


KNOW HOW TO: read people through body language (usually accurate)

LANDMARK: Statue of Liberty

M&M COLOR: brown

NOCTURNAL ANIMAL: crickets (insects count, right?)

OLYMPIC SPORT: 3 day eventing in horseback riding

PASTIME : reading/writing

QUICK THINGS: a blink, a breath, a computer

REPTILE: crocodile



UNIQUE FONT: noteworthy

VITAMIN: Flintstones (yes, I am an adult)

WEATHER TERM: bombogenesis

X WORD: xylophone

YOUNG ADULT BOOK: Girl Man’s Up by M-E Girard

ZODIAC SIGN: aquarius

ME:   Do you watch both the summer and winter Olympics? Is it safe to say the 3 event in horseback riding is your fave?

EKK: I love to watch the Olympics! The 3 day event in horseback riding is my favorite.


ME:   Bombogenesis is a magnificent storm and fun to say. (I swear it could be an onomatopoeia word.) However, as fun as it is to say, it packs a wallop when it hits. What weather conditions work best for you while writing?

EKK: Oooh, good question! I guess if I am in the middle of solid revisions, I prefer that it’s raining or cold out, so I don’t feel too guilty about staying in.


ME:   Same here regarding writing and weather. I think living in Ireland, would be an ideal country to live in for writing weather. Have you ever been to Ireland? If yes, what was your favorite part about it? If no, and you were offered a dream vacation but had to choose between Ireland and Italy, which would you choose and why?

EKK:  Yes! I have been going to Ireland since I was a baby because both of my parents were born there. It was going “home” for us. My most recent visit was this past November, and for me, going home means going to the South-West of Ireland to County Kerry and County Limerick where my parents were born.
Fun Fact: I have dual citizenship (as well as my kids and husband) so we are also Irish citizens!



ME:   Awwww! I’m envious, as I’m part Irish and have wanted to visit Ireland since I was a child. I love the dialect and stories that come from there. Their culture is fascinating. Reading people’s body language can be compared to having a superpower. In what situations have you found this ability to be most superpower-like?

EKK: I freak out my critique group and my family out with my spidey-like senses. It has been particular helpful when I have to ask someone for something and I know just when to do it to get the most favorable answer.


ME:  Coconut cake, ripe summer peaches, or Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road: name a sax player.

EKK: The one and only John Coltrane

ME:   Good choice. What do you think would be a popular response to seeing the Statue of Liberty, blink or take a breath?

EKK: Both!


ME:   Homophones cause problems only because they are misused.  However,  sometimes their misuse is entertaining. Do any homophones give you trouble in your writing and what new projects are you working on that you can share with us?

EKK: Hmm, I think if I am tired I will mess up it’s and its from time to time. I am working on lots of projects right now but they are all top secret!


ME:   So, no spoiler alerts here. But you have created suspense for us! 😊 When you can share your secrets, I can share them on this website.

Thank you Elaine for playing the ABC Game with us today.

Readers, you can learn more about Elaine here:

Elaine Kiely Kearns




Our next game play date is June 21! Have A fantastic weekend everyone.



UPDATE: Deborah has released three new books this spring that you can order or buy from your local bookstore.

PART-TIME MERMAID (released March 27, 2018, by disney-Hyperion)
SUPER SAURUS AND THE EGG (released May 22nd 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
MONSTER AND MOUSE GO CAMPING (released May 29, 2018, by HMH Books for Young Readers)


With PB, CB and NF Author, Deborah Underwood

Friday, November 24, 2017

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. Deborah and cat

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Happy Friday  Everyone! Today’s  contestant, Deborah Underwood,  rocks the picture book world in both fiction…

View original post 1,316 more words


With Literary Agent, Sean McCarthy 

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to mccarthy small headshothave fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Today, Sean McCarthy, owner of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, joins us as our ABC Game contestant. His agency specializes in representing  both authors and illustrators for all ages of children’s books.

Below is a list of Sean’s categories from A – Z and his answers off the top of his head.


BLUE: Jackets (I love the NHL playoffs, even if my Rangers didn’t come close this year).

COLOR: Yellow

DESSERT: Ice cream (or pretty much any frozen dessert, be it sorbet, gelato, or even sherbet)

EXERCISE: Cycling (definitely not running)

FOUND IN RAIN FOREST: Howler monkeys (saw these in Costa Rica – cute at first, but the howler part of their name is accurate)

GAME:  Any type of card game – pitch and Hearts are my favorites.

HOLIDAY:  4th of July (as long as it’s not raining)

INDOOR SPORT:  Bowling (not sure if it’s a sport, but I enjoy it!)

JELLYBEANS:  All of them, even that weird Buttered Popcorn one from Jelly Belly.

KITE FLYING REQUIRES:  More patience than I have.

LIQUID:  Seltzer. So much seltzer.

MONOPOLY SPACE:  Marvin Gardens. (I just Googled this to make sure I was spelling it right, and it turns out that the “real” neighborhood name in New Jersey is Marven Gardens, but Monopoly spells it wrong in the game.)

NON-FICTION BOOK:  Anything by Bill Bryson


PIZZA TOPPING:  Pepperoni, even though it’s super boring.

QUOTE:  Everything Takes Forever (My father is a CPA and has his own tax practice, and he has a sign in his office that says Everything Takes Forever so that he can point to it when people ask how long their tax return will take. I think it’s equally applicable in publishing.)

ROAD SIGN:  Yield (mainly because of the Pearl Jam album with the same name)

SYNONYM FOR AWESOME:  Thrilling (I say this way too much on Twitter and am trying to cut back)

TRANSPORTATION:  Trains (though I’m thankful to be working from home with how bad the NYC subways have become of late)

UNUSUAL COMBINATION:  Dill Pickle Potato Chips. They shouldn’t work, and that first bite is always strange, but they’re so good.

VILLAIN:  Madvillain (one of my favorite albums of all time, featuring the rappers MF DOOM and Madlib)

WEATHER:  70s and partly cloudy. Anything else and I’ll get sunburn immediately.

X WORD:  X-Ray (this is why I’m an agent and not an author – my ideas are terrible!)

YEAR AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT1986 – the last time that the Mets won the World Series (maybe this year!)

ZOO ANIMAL:  Pandas (or pretty much any uncoordinated bear).


ME:  (Laughing out loud…[I’m tired of the acronym 😊]) Which animals were more fun to watch pandas or howler monkeys? And have you seen other animals, native to other countries in their own environment?

SM: It was incredible to see the howler monkeys in the wild, although it Sean Lion Photobecame less charming when it became clear why they’re called howler monkeys, I will never tire of Internet videos of pandas falling down and being clumsy, but I’ve never seen that in person, so I will go with the howler monkeys. 

I’ve also had the chance to travel to Zambia when my brother was living there, and got this amazing photo when we were visiting a lion sanctuary. I should point out that as soon as my brother took this picture, I was back on my feet and practically sprinting away.

 ME:  Understandable! Ghosts tend to have that effect on people also, but as soon as I read “GHOSTS” in your first answer, I was hooked. What made you decide to read that book? Is it a clients’; was it the title; you recently met a ghost and wanted a little insight?

SM: It’s an adult sci-fi novel that I’m reading for fun. I don’t get as much time for pleasure reading as I would like, so I tend to read adult when I do (otherwise, it all starts to feel like work!). I found it via the incredible Book Concierge feature on NPR, and I’ve been on a big fantasy/sci-fi kick lately, so I was instantly hooked.  

ME:  Fantasy/SciFi readers, heads up, Sean just gave you an excellent recommendation.

Clarification…you say “thrilling” or “awesome” too much on Twitter? I ask because besides the word ‘great’, ‘awesome’ is another word used too often by most people. Which is why I often use this as a category. Do you have a favorite word (any word-not category specific) that you wish people used more often in conversation?

SM: I like to share all my good news about clients on Twitter (along with the occasional wry complaint about the Mets). I realized that I was starting every other Tweet with “Thrilled to see…” (or something similar), so I’m looking to expand my praise vocabulary. I’ve been trying to use “copacetic” more frequently in business emails, but it hasn’t caught on yet.

ME:  Last time I heard ‘copacetic’ was on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

And you are correct about bowling. It is an indoor sport! My mother was inducted into our City Sports Hall of Fame for her long term bowling career and dedication to promoting the sport. Do you bowl and if so, do you know how the term ‘turkey’ came to be in this sport? 😊

SM: That’s amazing about your mother! I confess that I had to Google the etymology of turkey (apparently, the origin is a little unclear, but it’s most likely that actual turkeys were given away as prizes during bowling competitions to anyone that bowled three strikes in a row). It’s amazing how much bowling lingo is out there – one of my favorites is Fast Eight, which is when it looks like you’ve thrown a great ball, but only wind up with eight pins down instead of a strike. I throw way more of those than I do turkeys!

ME:  Frozen turkeys should be given away for throwing strike balls and ending up with the 7-10 split, then bowlers may not get so frustrated. Just a thought.

I’ve always believed the Monopoly spaces were connected to New York City so I am really happy you clarified that Marvin Gardens is actually an area in Atlantic City, NJ where the Monopoly spaces were named after. Have you played Monopoly and if so, what is the longest time your game lasted?

SM: I used to love playing Monopoly as a kid, and I could play for hours (I was usually the one demanding that we keep going, as long as I wasn’t losing too badly). There’s a fascinating podcast about the history of the game (from 99% Invisible), and that the original purpose of the game was to teach people to work collaboratively and to show how toxic monopolies can be. 

ME:  You are absolutely correct about the original purpose. The originator of the game, Elizabeth “Lizzie’ Magie, created it as a medium to educate people about the then current state of economy (too many monopolies) and promote Henry George’s (her political hero) economist ideas about putting the burden of taxation on wealthy landowners. The game’s history goes back to 1903!

What is the worst flavored Jelly Belly jellybean you have ever eaten? Feel free to consider flavors of their Bertie Botts Every Flavour Jelly Bean.

SM: I’ve never been a fan of the Apple Cinnamon one (it was a bit too spicy for me, which should tell you about how well I handle legit spicy food).

ME:  Yup, it, along with your LIQUID answer, does explain your handling of spicy food. However, you visited a spicy region of the world…Costa Rica! What a thrilling or in your new word, copacetic, place to visit. Besides the howler monkeys, what other animals did you see in the wild while you were visiting? And anything else you’d like to add to this interview?

SM: My brother was living there (where there) was a white-water rafting guide, so we took a few days off to travel to Puerto Viejo and explore the area. While we were walking in a nature preserve, we thought we spotted a small creature in the forest, and we excitedly got our cameras ready. After waiting patiently for the animal to venture out from the brush, we got some great photos, and felt such a sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t until we were back in our hostel and looking through our camera that the animal we had breathlessly waited for was a raccoon, and identical to those that are found all over the US. 

ME:  (Laughing out loud). 😊 I bet you made that Costa Rican raccoon feel special.

Thank you for playing the ABC Game with us Sean, and giving us a glimpse into your world outside of work.

Readers, you can find Sean on…

Twitter: @mccarthylit

Facebook: @mccarthylit





[header photo credit:]

With less than 30 in the entire world, the vaquita porpoise, is vanishing to the point of near extinction. 

These beautiful, shy cetaceans, were discovered back in 1958. They can only be found in the northern part (armpit) of the Gulf of California off the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

download (3)

How and why did this happen you wonder? This is the how (taken from Save the Vaquita campaign at :

‘Gill-nets: The Invisible Killer

The single most significant threat to the vaquita’s survival is accidental entanglement. The small animal frequently gets caught in fixed fishing nets (gill-nets), as by-catch. Unable to surface for air, the entangled animals drown within minutes. This threat is accelerated by illegal fishing for another endangered species that lives in the vaquita habitat, the totoaba ─ a large species of fish sought after for its swim bladder, driven by demand from China where it is considered a delicacy with medicinal value.

Gill-nets are particularly dangerous because they are indiscriminate. While usually designed for a single species, large amounts of unwanted by-catch are inevitable. More than 300,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins get entangled in fishing nets annually. Most of them die, and the few that get away do so with severe injuries.’

This is the why: 


This is the hope to stop them from going extinct.

[‘A young juvenile vaquita was the first animal to be rescued by VaquitaCPR in October. Sadly, it had to be released shortly after when it showed signs of stress. Photo: VaquitaCPR’]

‘A last-ditch attempt to save the vaquita ends without achieving its mission’ means there are now only about 20 of these amazing sea mammals left but there is still a sliver of hope to save them and they need your help. 

Check out the links below to learn more about the vanishing vaquitas and ways you can help with this timely effort to save them.

The easiest free way to help is to bring awareness by sharing this post on your social media and telling children and teachers about the desperate need to save this near extinct species. 

Saving the Vaquita

Extinction is permanent

Scientists begin bold conservation effort to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction


The edge of extinction…




Please do what you can to help them survive and hopefully thrive in the future. There are many ways to help besides donating money. (read the articles in the links above for ways of donating and writing to Mexican and US government officials) 


Extinction is forever. Please help save the vaquita. 



With Associate Agent, Jennifer March Soloway, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. 

jennifer-march-soloway-bw_1My series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Today we welcome, Jennifer March Soloway, Associate Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

Below is a list of her categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.

AWARD: Golden Gloves


CARTOON CHARACTER: Garnet from Steven Universe

DISNEY MOVIE: The Incredibles

EVERY CHILD: should be allowed to opt out when it comes to Brussels sprouts.

FLOWER: Cherry blossom




JELLY OR JAM: Strawberry Jam



MOOD: Happy



PARADISE:  Highway 1 along the Northern California coast

QUOTE: One morning in September, Mrs. Barrington rolled out a big poster with all of the president’s pictures on it.

Grace Campbell could not believe her eyes. ‘Where are all the girls?’” 

GRACE FOR PRESIDENT, by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 

I agree, Grace. Where are all the girls?

ROCK BAND: Valiant Dischord


TALENT: I can bend the tips of my fingers with straight knuckles



WONDER (THINGS YOU WONDER ABOUT): What motivates others

‘X’ NAME:  Xena

YOUNG ADULT BOOK:  My most recent favorite: GENUINE FRAUD, by E. Lockhart (but I love so many, it’s impossible to choose just one!)

ZEBRAS…: are striped.

ME;  In 2016, A.J. Andrews became the first female to receive a Rawlings Golden Glove award. A fantastic year in history! What were your thoughts when you read or heard this terrific news? Do you play softball or baseball?

JMS: Ha! I didn’t realize there was a Rawlings Golden Glove award; and I’ve never heard of A.J. Andrews, nor do I play softball or baseball. In fact, I’m hopeless with a ball—both throwing and catching. When I mentioned Golden Gloves, I meant boxing. I competed in Golden Gloves and was a finalist in my weight category. My last fight ended after a minute and thirty-six seconds. My opponent broke my nose, and I decided I’d had enough boxing. 

ME:  Wow! How cool is that, that you were a boxer! Any thoughts about ever getting back into it?

No. It was an incredible experience, but after I broke my nose, I retired from amateur boxing and took up running. Since then, I’ve run seven marathons, including Boston twice.

Again, WOW! You are ever inspiring, just like the cartoon character you named. Please tell us more about Garnet of the Crystal Gems in Steven Universe.

JMS: I love Steven Universe. It’s whimsical and silly with a catchy theme song that warms my heart every time I hear it. Garnet is the strong, reserved member of the Crystal Gems, and she has this lovely, rich voice. I love strong, female characters full of wisdom and grace. 

ME:  Me too because too often, strong females are portrayed as being pushy broads which is not only stereotypical, but often unjust.

Now, about those Brussels sprouts…blecch!  I totally agree that every child should be able to opt out of Brussels Sprouts. 😊 Kids know what they like. Therefore introducing them to a new food or book can be a great thing! You quote Grace Campbell from Kelly Di Pucchio’s GRACE FOR PRESIDENT.  Grace has a solid point. What other books would you recommend for readers to help change the mindset that a president can only be a man? 

JMS: Hm, good question. I can’t think of any others at the moment. However, there are many wonderful picture books with stories to encourage and inspire girls. Off the top of my head, two of my favorites include: 



ME:   Terrific recommendations!

Do you or have you ever played piano? If so, did your talent for bending just the tips of your fingers with straight knuckles help or hinder?  

JMS: I have taken piano lessons, and I studied classical guitar as a child, although sadly, I was never good. The fingertip trick was just something I practiced until I could do it on every finger, excluding my pinkies. Same with raising one eyebrow. I practiced and practiced until I could raise my left eyebrow, but I still can’t raise the right side.

ME:  Maybe someday… 😉

Hwy 1 along the Pacific Coast Highway is paradise for you. For us readers who have this on our bucket list, where are some of your favorite places to stop along this highway and why? 

JMS: I highly recommend Sea Ranch, which is on the Sonoma coast just below the Mendocino county line. There are beautiful trails on the bluffs above the beach, and in the spring, you can see baby seals with their mothers. 

ME:  Awww! I think you have us hooked with the baby seals.

Please tell us about a song that is a keepsake to you and fill us in on anything else you would like readers to know.

JMS: I am moved by music and associate certain songs with specific times in my life. One of my favorite songs is Blackbird, by the Beatles, which always gives me a sense of calm and hope. 

ME:  Thank you Jennifer for stopping by today to play the ABC Game with us and letting us into your world. 😊

Readers, You can follow Jennifer

on Twitter: @marchsoloway 

and, Manuscript Wishlist

Thank you for spending a little time with us today. Hopefully, spring has finally sprung in your neck of the woods.

Have a fantastic weekend!











#ABCGame: New Look and New Day

My ABC Game just got a new look which debuted last Friday with Julie Hedlund’s game play. (If you missed it, click here: )

But starting in May, it will be featured the first and third Thursdays of the month, starting this Thursday, May 3, with Associate Agent, Jennifer March Soloway, of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 



With Julie Hedlund, Children’s Author & Founder of 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all.

Julie hedlundMy series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

TGIF! We have founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge who is also a children’s author, Julie Hedlund, as today’s ABC Game contestant!



Below is a list of Julie’s categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.


BEATLES SONG: Yellow Submarine


DINOSAUR: Brachiosaurus

EVERY CHILD: should be cherished

FLOWER: Lilacs




JAMMING SONG: Anything by Prince

KEEPSAKE: Grandma’s ring

LINE IN A MOVIE:  Technically, Dunn was under Oveur and I was under Dunn.” (Airplane)

MUSICAL:  Les Miserables

NAME AN ‘N’ STATE:  Nevada



QUOTE:  ‘Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’ – Rumi 

‘R’ ANIMAL:  Raven

SPORT:  Michigan Football

TALENT: Writing

UNUSUAL COLOR:  “Love Symbol #2” (Pantone purple in honor of Prince) 

VILLAIN:  Phantom in Phantom of the Opera

WONDER (THINGS YOU WONDER ABOUT):  Why are you always starving 10 minutes after eating Chinese food  

X-RAY (THINGS YOU): Hang on your kids’ walls

YEAR AND WHY?: 2003 – birth of my first child. Motherhood began

ZOO: San Diego

ME:   You are a Prince fan! Me too! How many times did you watch ‘Purple Rain’?

JH: Oh, too many to count! Going to a tribute concert at Red Rocks this summer. Can’t wait!

ME:  That should be amazing! And speaking of movies, you quoted a line from one of my all-time favorite comedies, AIRPLANE! That movies’ play on words was brilliant and hilarious. You and a friend are going to the movies and it’s your turn to choose. Do you choose based on genre, who’s in it, reviews, or the previews?

JH: Mostly the reviews, but genre too if it’s something I think my kids will like.

ME:   What about Italy makes it paradise for you?

JH:   Everything. Italy is a feast for all five senses. It’s impossible to be unhappy there. 

ME:   Bugs Bunny had several different ‘villains’ in his cartoons. Which one would you put up against the Phantom and why?

JH: I’d have to go with Witch Hazel. She’d stick him in a stew. 

ME:  Hahahaha! Yes she would! 😀

The musical, Les Miserables, is amazing! Is it your favorite, yes or no, and why?

JH: It’s my favorite because I saw it for the first time in London, and it was the first musical I’d seen as an adult. The music lives inside me now. 

ME:  Which gift would Aphrodite prefer to receive: lilacs, a raven, or a yellow submarine and why?

JH: Lilacs because they are beautiful, sweet smelling, and rare (only around for a short time each year). Kind of like her, I suppose.

ME:  Good choice, I believe Aphrodite would approve.

Do any of your category answers relate to any of your upcoming projects? And if so, please share with us!

JH: Not yet, but I WILL write a book that’s set in Italy one day. Hopefully many. Of course, I’d have to travel for research… J

ME:  Of course! Excited to read those stories in the future. 😊 Thank you Julie for playing the ABC Game with us today!

Readers, If you want to learn more about Julie and her mantra check out her webpage here:




Common knowledge is that women in children’s publishing receive much less recognition than their male counterparts. Which is odd because just as many women as men work in children’s publishing whether it’s writing children’s books, illustrating them, editing, etc. 

My concentration for this series is women illustrators in children’s publishing. I have been fascinated with picture books since I was a young child. My fascination was specifically with the art medium used to create each visually stunning page. Back then I didn’t pay any attention to who created the art, but the art itself. And up until a year or so ago, after an online article pointed it out, I didn’t think anything about women not getting as much recognition for their creativity ( or any part they have in children’s publishing). 

I am continuing this series a little differently than Part 1 and 2. I am not breaking down the work into categories but rather listing the illustrators alphabetically by first name and why I love their work. This series will be monthly. 


Adriana M. Garcia

Adriana M. Garcia 2 Adriana M. Garcia 3


What I love about Adriana’s work is the fluidity of movement using color and shapes. My eyes want to take in and be a part of the moments created in each illustration. These are from her new book, ALL AROUND US, written by Xelena














Alison Murray

Alison Murray 3

Alison Murray 2 Alison uses simple lines in her illustrations in DINO DUCKLING (which she also wrote), showing the reader what the text is conveying.  Basic emotions are shown which are fantastic for the very young readers.  The colors are soft with dashes of brightness.








April Chu 

April created funtastic end papers for this new book of hers, DOWN BY THE RIVER, written by Andrew Weiner. And she takes us right into the action with the aerial illustrations.

April Chu

April Chu 2








Celia Krampien

In these illustrations, Celia showcases spacial visuals. The reader can see what’s going on in the entire building and then reigns it it for a close-up int he next illustration which also shows what the cat sees from her window.

Celia Krampien 3


Celia Krampien 2









Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett

Immediately, Emily infuses humor into her illustrations in every book of hers I have read. WOLVES, both written and illustrated by her is no exception. Look over the left side photo fully. You’ll see what I mean. In the bottom photo, Emily exaggerates what the Rabbit sees in the book he’s reading. There’s not a lot going on in this illustration which is what gives it the huge impact it has on the reader. Simplicity is key here.





Emily Gravett 2

Jackie Urbanovic

I love animals and stories about them whether as non-fiction or in fiction especially if the animals are the main characters. Jackie Urbanovic’s illustrations in NO SLEEP FOR THE SHEEP! written by Karen Beaumont had me laughing and giggling. Check out the illustrations below to see why.


Jackie Urbanovic 3

Jackie Urbanovic 2

Jami Gigot

I love the playfulness showcased in Jami Gigot’s illustrations for MAE AND THE MOON, which she both wrote and illustrated.

Jami Gigot

In her newest book, SEB AND THE SUN, Jami uses the dark illustrations to convey the gloom of the community, that Seb is trying so hard to brighten. The mood is clear, unmistakable. We feel what Seb is feeling.

Jami Gigot 2

Janell Cannon

The end papers in Janell’s STELLALUNA, give us additional story bits to chew on before and after we read the story.

Janell Cannon 2

And in the book itself, she shows us character and heart in a fun way.

Janell Cannon 3

Kathryn Otoshi

Wordless picture books can either be fantastic and alluring or boring. DRAW THE LINE proves to be fantastic and alluring. The illustrations are not busy at all, but simple in context. And with that simplicity, Kathryn can convey raw emotion in the two characters of this story. Check out the three photos below. Like children, emotion can change in a moment.

Kathryn Otoshi 2

Kathryn Otoshi 3

Kathryn Otoshi 4

Molly Idle

Molly is illustrator only in RODEO RED. And she knocks humor out of the park with her illustrations to match the hilarious story written by Maripat Perkins.

Molly Idle 2 Molly Idle 3


Nikki McClure

Nikki McClure 3



Monochromatic illustrations really pack a punch when used appropriately. Nikki does it just right in MAY THE STARS DRIP DOWN by Jeremy Chatelain. The focus of the book is the magic of the stars and using monochromatic blues, Nikki creates that magic and she starts with the end papers as shown in the photo below.





Nikki McClure 2

Pat Cummings

What I love about Pat’s work is the vibrancy and realism of her illustrations as shown below in THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST written by H. Chuku Lee.

Pat Cummings 2

Simone Shin

In RUMBLE GRUMBLE…HUSH, written by Kate Banks, Simone uses crisp lines with soft colors to convey an active day turned into naptime for a child. The balance is just right as as a bedtime story.

Simone Shin 2

If you would like to learn more about these wondrous #kidlitwomen illustrators, click on their names. 








What happened to ABC Game Fridays?

If you have been missing ABC Game Fridays, no worries. My website is under going reconstruction right now, when I have time to work on it that is, so my ABC Game feature will post once during each month. There is no set Friday for these posts, but rather when I have contestants to play.

In addition to updating my website, I am also updating my ABC Game logo which will premiere with the next ABC Game play.  (PHOTO CREDIT: Traci Bold. I used this photo of a female ruby-throated hummingbird just for fun since I took it recently while on vacation.)

If you would like to play the ABC Game with Family and Friends while you patiently wait for the next ABC Game play, for each of these three categories:




make a list from A-Z. How specific you want to be is up to you and whoever you play the game with.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!


Fun with words, creatively. For all ages.

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