Around the Web with OAV Authors: May 2017

How about another themed edition of our “Around the Web” feature, this time with a Throwback Thursday flavor. Our Online Author Visits members are always busy creating new works, but their earlier ones are just as fun to discover (or rediscover, as the case may be). The following roundup offers a clickable gem from each OAVer’s storied past!

Erik Brooks wrote and illustrated The Practically Perfect Pajamas, an adorable picture book about being true to yourself. It came out in 2000, and one teacher reviewer noted that it’s a perfect read-aloud for Pajama Day at school!PerfectPajamas

Kirkus called Dia Calhoun’s 1999 YA novel Firegold (her first!), “A heartfelt, emotionally trenchant coming-of-age adventure with a lightly mystical bent.”

Speaking of first novels, Patrick Jennings published Faith and the Electric Dogs in 1996, and Publishers Weekly said he took “a soaring flight into magic realism in this captivating tale narrated with brio by a Mexican street dog.”

For the October 2011 issue of Odyssey magazine, Laurie Thompson wrote the super-fun science article “Wanted for Breaking the Law (of Viscosity).” (It’s about non-Newtonian fluids. Activity included!)

Visit Dori Jones Yang’s website to learn the story of her collaboration with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on their popular 1997 business book, Pour Your Heart Into It.

Did you know that Martha Brockenbrough wrote a humorous book chronicling her pregnancy (and more) in 2002? It’s called It Could Happen to You: Diary of a Pregnancy and Beyond.

Here’s where you can find Suzanne Williams’s first-ever book, Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name. It launched in 1996, and according to School Library Journal, “It’s a fun, crazy book that works extremely well.”

Clare Hodgson Meeker’s lovely picture book Who Wakes Rooster? was a 1997 Bank Street College Book of the Year selection.

Talon, published in 2007, was the first novel in Janet Lee Carey’s Wilde Island Chronicles series.

Dori Hillestad Butler is known for her mystery series. Check out her 2003 nonfiction title Whodunit: How the Police Solve Crimes for a glimpse at a real-world process that informs her work.

In 1995, Booklist said, “Readers too young for Stephen King will find satisfaction” in David Patneaude’s eerie book Dark Starry Morning: Stories of This World and Beyond.

Former weather forecaster Trudi Trueit wrote Storm Chasers — one of her many, MANY informational titles — back in 2002.

Deb Lund published the sweet Tell Me My Story, Mama in 2004. Visit her author site for help tracking down a copy for a young one you know who’s about to become a sibling for the first time.

This looks like lots of fun: a 2004 picture book by Joan Holub called Geogra-Fleas! Riddles All Over the Map.

Click over to Lisa L. Owens’s website, then scroll down to see Booklist’s turn-of-the-21st-century comments on American Justice: Seven Famous Trials of the 20th Century.

And here you’ll find info on 2013’s BOB Books: Rhyming Words boxed set featuring Dana Sullivan’s always fetching illustration work.

That covers our whole crew. If you’d like to learn more about our members and consider booking one of us for a virtual or in-person visit, be sure to check out our Author Profiles page.

Happy #TBT, everyone — hope to see you again soon!




A Creativity Tsunami


It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do that will make a difference in the tsunami of suffering and hatred that bombards us, whether the cause of that tsunami is external or internal.

But there are creative ways we can all make a difference.

As children’s book creators, teachers, parents, and as all people (because we’re all creative)…


Your acts of creativity, your willingness and passion for sharing your gifts, and your concern for young people is a good place to begin.






I can hear you now. “But I don’t have any talent!” or maybe you’re the one thinking, “Yes, I create, but it’s just for me.” Or this—

“I’m just a teacher, not an artist.”


Creativity is not talent. Creativity is a problem-solving practice.

Everyone is creative.

From dinner plans to business plans, we create on a daily basis. Being creative is an action, not an inborn trait. It’s about keeping your mind open, seeing possibilities, mashing together unlike objects to form something new.

Creativity rarely happens all at once. It’s a process, but it’s one that doesn’t always look or act the same.

Sometimes we get an idea and then either knowingly or unknowingly identify it with previous experiences. At this point, we might not have a clue where the idea will lead us. Often, we don’t quite get to the next step—discovering which qualities from those past experiences will transform the idea into something new.

And when we don’t make that connection, we call it failure.

That’s wrong. Creativity requires risk, perseverance, and a willingness to fail.

That’s where you need to change your story. Not a story you may be writing, but the story you may be telling yourself.

I’ve had lots of those stories. I attribute them to Miss Midge, my inner critic.


I was 25 when I first submitted a manuscript. It was rejected. I didn’t send anything in again for 15 years, using the near-universal belief “I don’t have time to write.” But then, as a pregnant 40-year-old, I knew I’d never have time, so I began. My husband would laugh at how I celebrated rejection letters. I gave myself a new belief, which was that each rejection meant I was a step closer to finding a home for the manuscript.

It’s like checking off a list. We just don’t know how many items are on that list until the end arrives. You need to hold out until you reach that unknown quota.

So how does creativity make a difference?

Creativity promotes wellbeing. We gain satisfaction from seeing what we’ve created, which helps to foster and maintain a positive outlook.

Just think what we could do with more of that!

But it’s not just about us. And that’s not all creativity can do.


Creativity opens minds and hearts. It increases understanding, confidence, collaboration, and empathy. It creates communities and lays the groundwork for making a difference in the world. And it’s contagious.

Creativity breeds more creativity.

We model art through our creative actions, which can inspire others to do the same. The problems we deal with need creative solutions. Practicing and promoting creativity inspires out-of-the-box problem solvers.

So, where do we start? At the beginning! We need to ensure that creativity is a valued part of our education system. But just how do we help students claim their creative birthright and be the problem solvers we so desperately need?

First of all, we give them basic skills, knowledge, materials, and activities that strengthen creativity. Then we encourage risk-taking and confidence. Oh, and along with that, they’ll need safe places to develop their own ideas and harness their own passions. In other words, we need to actually teach them techniques, tools, and applications of creative expression, and then get out of their way so they can take leaps and reach heights we can’t imagine.

Because it’s their imagination, their creativity, their ideas and expression that will solve our problems.

Along with that, of course, we need to give teachers the tools they’ll need to facilitate teaching creativity. They need workshops, strategies, models, and mentors. They’ve weathered enough and need a little creativity to solve the current educational issues. Let’s get out of their way, too.

The tsunami is real, but we who commit time and energy to nurturing creativity will help change the tide. Ripples can make waves. With enough of us, we could start our own creativity tsunami.

Who’s with me?

Where and when will you start?


GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment to enter a raffle for your chance to win one of two FREE picture books from Deb Lund! One lucky commenter will receive Dinosailors, and another will receive All Aboard the Dinotrain. The contest will close May 31, 2017.

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!


Trudi Trueit has a new book out for tween readers, MY TOP SECRET DARES & DON’TS (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX). It’s the story of 12-year-old Kestrel, who travels to Whistler, BC to help her grandmother run the family ski lodge. However, Kestrel soon realizes the business is in dire trouble and it’s up to her to save it. SIGNED hard cover and paperback copies of the book are available through University Books in Mill Creek, WA. To order yours, call (425)385-3530.

Also, Trudi has inked a deal with National Geographic for a new middle grade fiction series, called EXPLORER ACADEMY. The books will focus on a twelve-year-old boy, who joins an elite group of young explorers. They travel the world, uncovering artifacts, protecting endangered species, and making new discoveries. Naturally, danger, intrigue, and more than a few family secrets give him plenty to tangle with in this illustrated action series with a dash of science fiction. The series will debut in 2018. Watch for more details or sign up for Trudi’s e-newelstter at

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twotruthsandalie-hc-convertedLaurie Ann Thompson‘s upcoming book, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE: IT’S ALIVE! (co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette) was chosen by the Junior Library Guild as a Fall 2017 selection for the Elementary Nonfiction category (for grades 2-6). It also received its first professional review, from Kirkus Reviews, which called it, in part, “An engaging, entertaining compendium that will inform and confound.”
And, there was good news for EMMANUEL’S DREAM, too. First, it was selected to the 2017 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. Second, Brooks Global Studies elementary school in North Carolina chose EMMANUEL’S DREAM as their all-school read during the month of March, which included Skype visits with Thompson for every grade level and a surprise in-person visit from Emmanuel! You can read more about their event, and even see a video, here.
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Dana Sullivan is at work on revisions to his sketches for MY RED VELVET CAPE and apologizes to the legions of readers for keeping them breathlessly awaiting news about whether this book would be published or not. YES! It’s to be published Spring 2018 and the art is due in August. But first he’s got to get the sketches revised and approved. A book is really a team effort, with everybody pushing to make the book the best it can be. The team includes an art director and mine is helping me with pacing to get the most emotional bang for your book. (Ha! He says he’s gonna keep that one.) The revisions are not huge, just tweaks to make things clearer, especially to young readers. For instance, the art director asked that these two spreads
be combined into one to keep the flow moving along.
In this image he was asked to remove the teacher, because at this age, kids really do NOT want a teacher to help them get into the bathroom (even if they might need it).
Dana really loves that teacher, so he’s moved her to another page. Her name is Vanessa (“Vern”) Aquilaria, by the way.
Now it’s back to work on revisions for Dana!
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Here’s a covers reveal for Lisa L. Owens‘s titles in Lerner’s new Primary Source Explorers series. Both books will come out in August 2017.

LLO_PSE covers

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Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams are celebrating two new releases this month. NYX THE MYSTERIOUS (Book 22 in the GODDESS GIRLS series for ages 8 – 12), and HERNES AND THE HORSE WITH WINGS (Book 13 in the HEROES IN TRAINING, created by Joan and Suzanne and written by Tracey West for ages 6 – 9.)

In NYX THE MYSTERIOUS, Nyx, the bringer of night in Greek mythology hopes to convince the students and staff at Mount Olympus Academy of the importance of her job. But no one seems appreciate what she does until, quite by accident, they experience what it’s like to have unending day.

In HERMES AND THE HORSE WITH WINGS, Zeus and his fellow Olympians are on their most important quest ever; to find the winged horse that flew away with Zeus’s beloved magical thunderbolt.
Goddess Girls Nyx the Mysterious Joan Holub Suzanne Williams (1)
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Dori Hillestad Butler‘s brand new KING & KAYLA series has received nice reviews from Booklist (“This title is a delightful series start that will have kids returning to read more about Kayla and King. It’s also a great introduction to mysteries, gathering facts, and analytical thinking for an unusually young set.”), Kirkus (“Dog lovers will fall hard for this series.”), Hornbook (“Repetition both within and between books helps boost confidence in beginning readers, as do the generous, plot-reinforcing illustrations…Each book allows plenty of room for predictions and provides a glimpse into the great payoff reading can deliver.”) and YA and Kids Books Central (“It’s great to see books with diverse characters, and King is a very appealing dog, with his love of all things food and his devotion to Kayla.”). Both books were selected as Junior Library Guild selections this spring and both books will appear in the May Scholastic book orders.

Book 3, KING & KAYLA AND THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS MOUSE will be out in September and it was also chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection for Fall 2017. Here’s a cover reveal:

king and kayla3 cover

In other news, Haunted Library #1 is now available in Czech and books #2 and #3 are now available in Japanese:

Joan Holub, Author of the Month: How a Night Owl Gets Day Things Done

Do you get up early, feeling immediately creative?

If so, I’ve always wanted to be like you. Alas, I’m a night owl. To me, the evening hours feel all cozy and less interruptible by outside forces. My energy peaks and my brain sparks with creativity. I get a lot done…

Coming in 2017:
Tool School  Scholastic picture book
Vampoodle  Random House early reader

But I can’t live out of step with most of the world. I have to get started earlier than comes naturally. So I begin my day working on something that doesn’t require me to be at peak creativity. Research. Emails. Designing a book postcard.

Then I ease into writing–the kind that doesn’t require me to dig deep. Morning is not the time to start a new story or make critical creative decisions on one I’ve begun. Instead, I might do revisions on a first draft Goddess Girls series manuscript—not the final-stage fine-tuning kind. No, the easy kind, like perusing Google images to get a consensus on a new mythology character’s hair color, or moving hunks of story around for better logic. Organizing facts is easy and fun for me in the mornings–probably one reason I write nonfiction in addition to fiction.

I’ve been thinking about what it is to be a night owl a lot lately because Nyx is a night owl. She’s the star of Nyx the Mysterious, the newest book (#22) in the Goddess Girls middle grade series I co-author with the amazing Suzanne Williams. Nyx is the bringer of night in Greek mythology. An important job. Yet no one at Mount Olympus Academy seems to get that. (I do, Nyx! Honestly, would they really want it to be day all the time?) Evening and night have beneficial qualities. Darkness serves us as a time to dream, both creatively and in a rejuvenative sense.

For us naturally-night-owl authors, the point is to find things we can do in the early part of our day that will act as bridges to what we hope to accomplish every afternoon or evening—create something new and surprising on the page.

Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl like Nyx and me, it’s really all about getting started. About finding a way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be!

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *
Nyx the Mysterious
Book birthday: April 4, 2017
Goddess Girls series
Middle grade, ages 8-12
Simon & Schuster / Aladdin
Giving away two copies signed by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams.
Please post a comment to enter (with contact so winners can be notified win).

Joan Holub is the New York Times bestselling author of Mighty Dads, illustrated by James Dean. She is the author and/or illustrator of about 150 books for children. To read more about Joan and her books, visit:


Around the Web with OAV Authors: March 2017

This edition of “Around the Web” is focused on online sightings of our member authors doing one of the things they love best: talking with young readers about books and writing.

Check out this Rogues Gallery of OAVers in action! And if you’re interested in booking one of us for your next virtual or in-person event, head on over to our Author Profiles page to learn more and see which author might be a good fit for your group.

Lisa L. Owens, Author of the Month: That Flow (and How to Get It)

Spend time talking craft with a fellow writer or a hundred, and sooner or later the topic of creative flow will come up. It’s that sense of being completely immersed in what you’re writing. Deep in the throes of flow, I’m rendered spellbound by the process. (Charmed, I’m sure.) I feel one with the story — and maybe even the universe. Everything else falls away.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll posit that the gist of most writers’ feelings about that zone is . . .



It’s a heady drug. We want it. We gotta have it. And once we’ve blown our minds on it, we’re willing to chase after more of the same, even if that means we end up chasing our own tails.

For me, flow comes easily at times. It might last an hour or an afternoon. The stars align and my fingers fly over the keyboard. My spewed-forth words take shape and make sense. Or, just as likely, they don’t, but the text shows me enough clues about how to clean up my mess.

On a few occasions, I’ve written whole first manuscript drafts in flow, including the books pictured below (I wrote Pilgrims in America in one marathon sitting and Frenemies: Dealing with Friend Drama in three consecutive daily spurts). This happened again recently, when — up against a publisher’s deadline — I discovered a bit of faulty research that affected the content of the book I’d just completed. The manuscript had to be revised, and I spent one full day trying to spot-fix only certain parts of it. I wanted to preserve as much as I could. The next morning, though, it became obvious I couldn’t properly address the problem without a full rewrite. Ouch. But I soon saw my way forward, and I banged out a new “angry draft” with unusual speed and a serene ease, proving the line between love and hate is awfully thin. (Side note: The rewrite turned out better than the original, so I’ve since forgiven it.)

Now, please don’t misunderstand: I am not cruising through this writer’s life luxuriating in a blissful state of All Flow, All the Time. Au contraire, mes amis! I slog through my fair share of crummy writing days. I can get bogged down in the business and the busyness of writing as thoroughly as anyone. I can inexplicably feel uninspired while writing something I’m genuinely excited about. I can also do all the so-called right things to organize my approach or my day, yet still manage to stare at the screen for who-knows-how-long, struggling to even start or just picking a fight with a single random sentence.

The good news is that warring with and blankly staring at your text is normal. (Is TOO!) Plus, you don’t always need to feel creative flow to produce good writing. Some of my best works have been untouched by the flow phenomenon; and some writings that seemed fun and breezy and smart as they gushed onto the page have turned out to be objectively awful enough to be pronounced DOA.

The even better news? You can help creative flow find YOU. I say “help,” because much like you can’t pencil in finding love or happiness and expect real results, you can’t force flow. You can, however, make yourself emotionally available for it to wash over you while also taking concrete steps to further your chances that it will. The payoff is totally worth it. All you have to do to open yourself up to letting flow organically happen is . . .

(1) WRITE!

Show up for your writing work, early and often. Write what you know, write to learn what you want to know, write what you don’t know but can imagine. Write a story, write a poem. Write a letter, write a journal entry, write a to-do list. Write something every day.

Do you work better with goals in mind? Great! Set a daily word-count or timed writing goal and honor it. Forgive yourself when you don’t hit your mark, and start fresh the next day. If you find that you’re consistently unable to meet your writing goals, experiment to identify more realistic ones.


Put yourself out there. Becoming part of the writing community helps you find supportive colleagues with whom to discuss this flow thing, as well as all the other writing things. Your people congregate at conferences, classes, and bookstore and other literary events. They belong to writers’ organizations, critique groups, and numerous online forums. You need them! They need you!

Read books and take classes on the craft of writing. Stay current on industry news and the market you write for.

A soul-feeding day at this beach in Paia, Maui, helped attract that creative flow.

And don’t forget to feed the rest of your inner artist. Ideas: Read widely, see a play, take in a concert, make your own music, enjoy time in nature, spend time with your friends, pursue your hobbies, play some games, support a cause, try something you’ve never done before, and make time to get away from it all (writing included) once in a while.

Proactive moves like these naturally boost knowledge, confidence, and inspiration — flow magnets, all.


Rack. Up. Those. Words.

One thing I know for sure about all this: The more I write, the more I write. For me, the act of writing brings more new book and story ideas bubbling up to the surface than any other activity. It fuels my imagination, strengthens my facility with language and structure, and vastly increases my odds of, oh by the way, just slipping into that joyful state of absorption I crave.

Keep writing, and before you know it, you, too, will find yourself basking in the glow of that flow, and then doing everything in your power to get more.



Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Martha Brockenbrough’s novel, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, is up for an Audie Award in the YA category. These are awards given to the best audio recording. Susan Hanfield reads the book, and the audio version includes three songs Martha co-wrote with jazz singer Victoria Contreras.

And here’s the cover of her Sept. 5 release, a young adult biography of Alexander Hamilton.

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The first two books in Dori Hillestad Butler‘s new KING & KAYLA easy reader series launch on March 1. KING & KAYLA is the prequel her Edgar award winning BUDDY FILES series. Book 1, THE CASE OF THE MISSING DOG TREATS is a Junior Library Guild selection for March. Kirkus says, “Readers will connect with this charmingly misunderstood pup (along with his exasperated howls, excited tail wagging, and sheepish grins).”

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The revised digital version of David Patneaude’s EPITAPH ROAD is now available from Amazon. Kirkus says, “Will hook readers of The Hunger Games trilogy.”


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Laurie Ann Thompson was excited to receive the Advanced Reader Copies for her upcoming book, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE: IT’S ALIVE (co-authored with the fabulous Ammi-Joan Paquette). It’s equal parts thrilling and nerve-wracking to think that book buyers and reviewers across the country will soon be evaluating your book!

Her book EMMANUEL’S DREAM showed up recently on some very nice lists, including 10 Great Picture Books on Heroism (from Waking Brain Cells), 35 Picture Books for Young Activists (from All the Wonders), and Making an Impact: 25 Mighty Girl Books About Charity and Community Service (from A Mighty Girl). She also learned that it is the “One School, One Book” selection that all students, grades K-5, will be reading in March at the Brooks Global Studies Extended-Year Magnet School in North Carolina!

To top it off, she’s had several fantastic in-person school visits in the last month, which are always energizing and inspiring!

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For kids who love learning about natural disasters, Trudi Trueit had two new titles debut recently, DETECTING AVALANCHES and DETECTING VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS. Each book features simple text that explains how scientists use technology to predict these catastrophic events. The books include “How It Works” spreads, fun facts, sidebars, a disaster preparedness checklist and more! For readers ages 7 and up. Trudi is also OAV’s February Author of the Month, and she’s GIVING AWAY an advanced copy (ARC) of her upcoming fiction book, MY TOP SECRET DARES & DON’TS. Click HERE to enter the contest!

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Dori Jones Yangftb-cover-image is delighted to reveal the cover for her new middle-grade novel, THE FORBIDDEN TEMPTATION OF BASEBALL. It’s a lively and nuanced story about two brothers sent to America by the Emperor of China in 1875, as part of a group of 120 boys who were to live with American families, learn English, study technology, and return home to modernize China. Readers will experience culture clash and some of the difficulties immigrant children have in adapting to life in the United States. For readers aged 10 to 14, the book will come out August 15, 2017, with SparkPress.