Tuesday, September 26, 2017

THINK QUICK with author Penny Parker Klostermann

Hi Penny! Congrats on the release of A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE.  I love how this story unites many different fairy tales through food. That’s a winning recipe! All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On practice:
Practice makes perfect or throw it together in a pinch?
Throw it together in a pinch. Which rarely works J

On Following your Dreams:
Fortify with failure or stop while you can?
Fortify with failure. Fortifying with failure can lead to fantastic things.

On Making Mistakes:
Embrace or Fix?
Embrace mistakes. Or go crazy.

On Happily Ever After:
Tried and true or too good to be true?
Too good to be true. We will have “happily” times but not “ever after” because life is life. So I try to embrace the “happily”, get through the “not-so-happily” times, and know life will bring both.

On Fairy Tales:
Cinderella or Snow White?
Cinderella. At least she got to know her prince before he returned her slipper and asked for her hand in marriage. If she hadn’t of liked him she had the chance to exchange her glass slippers for tennis shoes and sprint like the wind in the other direction. But Snow White is awakened by a kiss from a passing stranger and that’s that!

On Fairy Tale Food:
Apples or pumpkin?
Pumpkin. But only if it’s in a fairy tale and becomes a beautiful coach in which I can take an afternoon drive. And if that isn’t possible then a nice, warm loaf of pumpkin bread with oodles of butter would work too.

On Recipes:
Baked or boiled?
Baked all the way. I have a sweet tooth and what better way to feed it than baked goods?

On Cooking:
Love it or leave it?
Leave it…unless it’s baking!

Alone or together?
Together. They say too many cooks spoil the broth but cooking together can be fun and tasty. Especially if “together” is with my three sisters. The four of us never spoil the broth. In fact when we gather in a kitchen, everyone eats happily-ever-after!

On Books: (obvious answer just for fun)
A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale or A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale?
Very tough choice here. But I’m going to have to go with A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

Thanks for THINKing QUICK with us, Penny! I've whipped up a review for A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale:

(Review by Carrie Charley Brown)

Children's minds are filled with ideas about who they might like to "be" when they grow up. Sometimes those ideas change daily! It's fun for children to imagine themselves in different roles and one kiddy favorite is learning to bake or cook. Usually Mom or Dad or Grandma play a role in fostering this love as they work side by side to teach their children the secrets of a successful cook.

Kids will relate to author Penny Klostermann's main character, William, who has a long-time dream of being a chef. Although William produces delightful dishes that turn out just-right each time, he could not quite find the just-right place to work.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for the Three Little Pigs? How about The Three Bears or The Gingerbread Man? William has been there and done that, and despite his talent, he's faced more than a few challenges on the job. He makes a tough decision to do his own thing at home, but with no money to invest, he must tap into unexpected ingredients and new characters to make a difference.

Delightful tastes will surprise you at every turn of this clever tale. Additional tie-ins from Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella make this story a fairy tale mash-up unlike any other.  

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale and There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, both from Random House Children’s Books. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. Penny has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. You can learn more about Penny on her website at

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Reading-Writing Connnection

We spend a lot of time on our blog with one common topic at the heart of our mission: Reading and researching picture books.  But why? Every year, during the challenge month of March, we receive a common question from at least one of our new participants:

"How (or when) will all this reading help my writing?"
While I have my own response, I'm also calling in my partner, Kirsti Call, and our ReFoReMo blog contributors on this one. Let's see if you pick up on a common theme or mention in our quotes:

"For one who writes, a picture book takes you on a journey that goes beyond what the 4-8 year old reader experiences. The child reader is on a journey, experiencing something for the first time or reliving something they already know through the characters. While we bring our own set of experiences to the story, too, our brains are also wired for the inner workings of the book. The craft in each book unfolds before us and we analyze: How did the author build tension? What made me want to turn the page? How did they infuse humor, heart, or themselves into the book? What made me connect? What delighted my tongue? Inquiry takes over and we return to our stories knowing how others masterfully manage words and ideas. We take notes. We learn what works and what doesn't. Then, we write, letting our own passion and ideas lead the way."
-Carrie Charley Brown

"For me, reading informs everything that I do and think and feel. Reading infuses my mind with ideas and images and thoughts. Reading helps me understand what makes a good book. If I think about what I like most about my favorite books, I incorporate those qualities into my manuscripts. The more good books I read, the easier it is to write a good book!"
-Kirsti Call

"When you fill yourself up with reading, the pace, rhythm, humor, voice and heart of the picture book stories seep into your bones. The more you read, the better you write."
-Janie Reinart

"Reading what's new in the market helps writers stay abreast of what's getting published. Keep in mind when subbing to agents and editors, they often ask for comparable titles. Although the books out today were acquired two or three or more years ago, writers pay attention to word count, story structure, and what topics, characters and themes are popular in published work. Is your story strong enough or different enough to compete with all the others?"
-Keila Dawson

What common threads did you notice? We would love to hear your response to the same question! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Challenge- Write the Ninja Way

By Janie Reinart

A ninja writer is highly skilled. They are silent and strong in mind. A true ninja writer can overcome all obstacles. Have courage ninja writer.

Against all odds and form rejections, a ninja writer must believe in their ability and rebound fast on the keyboard. A ninja writer must master the element of surprise on the mission to be published. I was enlightened and selected my words for this intro by sneaking into this master storyteller's book--NINJA by Arree Chung

By Arree Chung

 A ninja writer is one who endures many years of practicing their art. They exaggerate setting and characters in their story like NINJA BABY by David Zeltser. 

“When Nina was born, the doctor gently thumped her bottom to make sure she was breathing. Nina karate chopped her right back.”

My favorite line is when the parents bring home a baby brother aka Kung Fu Master.
"What's your secret?" she asked him.
He just looked at her. 
It was like listening to the wind in the bamboo. 

By David Zeltser

 Kiya! Get ready for a chance to get empowered not devoured by reading HENSEL AND GRETEL NINJA CHICKS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez.
This punny story is a fractured fairy tale. My favorite line:

The fox said, " Surrender?
No way, chicken tender!
Your cheep little threats are absurd!"

From then on the chicks made it their mission to rescue, protect, and defend.

By Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Now you are ready ninja writer. Use your mystical powers, follow a strict diet (of chocolate and perhaps wine) and go to work in your dojo.

1. Select a character type or combine two: eg. ninja, ballerina, pirate, baby.
2. Read picture books about your character type.
3. Make a word bank of terms from the picture books you read.
4. Brainstorm story ideas. Don't forget to karate kick in a surprise ending.
5. Play and practice your ninja writing skills.

What obstacles are you overcoming in your writing?  


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Author Lori Alexander Talks Mentor Texts

Lori Alexander writes lovely read-alouds filled with humor. I'm excited to talk with her on ReFoReMo about how she uses mentor texts! 

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  

Thanks for hosting me on the ReFoReMo blog, Kirsti! I have learned about so many wonderful children’s books here. 
I do utilize picture books as mentor texts! I read new PBs for enjoyment first and then I read them many more times to learn how they’re structured. Sometimes I’ll type out the text to get a feel for the words per spread, the pacing, and how the page turns are used to build suspense.

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer? 

I gravitate toward short, funny picture books. Years ago, my daughter’s preschool held a Love of Reading week where parents volunteered as “guest readers.” I chose to share JAKE GOES PEANUTS by Michael Wright. Making a room full of kids laugh is addicting. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since!

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of Famously Phoebe (or any other upcoming books)?

In Famously Phoebe, my main character sees herself as a bit of a starlet, what with her family constantly snapping her picture! The text has lots of Hollywood-type language. Phoebe likes to travel “first class” (on daddy’s shoulders) and she feels like a “personal assistant” once her “new co-star” arrives (baby sister). Phoebe swiftly “complains to the producers” (mom and dad, of course!). I wasn’t sure how far I could take the fame concept, so I checked in with other texts that follow a similar pattern of comparing everyday kid experiences to another concept.

THE BOSS BABY by Marla Frazee

Marla Frazee does an amazing job of incorporating workplace themes into her story of a demanding new baby taking over his parents’ lives. “He conducted meetings. Lots and lots and lots of meetings. Many in the middle of the night.” I love the spread with the corporate perks, especially the “executive gym” (bouncer toy) and the “drinks made to order” (bottles of milk). Although some of the jokes might land better with older readers and exhausted parents, there’s still a lot for young ones to get in the adorable illustrations.

KEL GILLIGAN’S DAREDEVIL STUNTSHOW by Michael Buckley; illustrated by Dan Santat

Here, the main character, Kel Gilligan, is compared to a stuntman, making his way through one daring feat after another (using the potty, bathing, getting dressed without help). The artwork is over-the-top fantastic and the reactions of Kel’s captive audience (his family) will make you laugh out loud. I especially love the crowd’s responses to Kel trying broccoli. “This kid has a death wish!” “Is he out of his mind?” After hearing a scary thump in the night and calling out to his mom and dad, Kel learns “some stunts are best left to the professionals.”


One of my all-time favorites—I find this book perfect in many ways! It tells the story of Brian, a hardworking boy who is juggling school, violin lessons, soccer practice, dog walking, babysitting, and more. After eight years of being a kid, he decides to retire. He flies to Florida, to the Happy Sunset Retirement Community. At first, the new setting can’t be beat. He meets interesting people, plays golf, and takes naps. But being retired means listening to hip replacement stories, prune juice smoothies, and accidentally sitting on Ethel’s false teeth. Soon, Brian is remembering “the good old days” and how much he loved his old job—being a kid.

What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

There are so many ways to use mentor texts, I’m not sure if one is best. Some writers may read them before drafting a new story. Others may wait until they’re stuck on something in particular, and then grab a stack of PBs to examine voice, or opening lines, or point of view, or endings. A few tips: If you are a writer only, it’s helpful to use mentor texts from authors who are not the illustrator. That way, you can see which details the author included and what was left out for the illustrator to capture. Also, if you are seeking an agent/editor, it’s good to know which mentor texts are similar to your story and have those comparison titles ready for your query letter or pitch.

Thank you, Lori!  To read my review of Famously Phoebe, go here

Lori Alexander is the author of BACKHOE JOE (Harper Children’s), FAMOUSLY PHOEBE (Sterling Children's) and the upcoming ALL IN A DROP, a biography of scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She lives with her husband and two children under the star-filled skies of Tucson, AZ. You can find out more about Lori on her website at lorialexanderbooks.com or follow her on Twitter at @LoriJAlexander