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Button and Bundle Cover Release

Button and Bundle.jpgIt's especially fun to talk about an upucoming release when the book is written by someone you know. Even better when it's a critique partner! Introducing Button and Bundle (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019) by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan and illustrated by Gillian Flint.

The Story Behind the Story in Gretchen's Words

Button and Bundle is a story very close to my heart. I was raised in a highly-mobile military family and moved more times than any young heart should bear. Some good-byes were tougher than others, but none as tough as saying good-bye to my first friend. We both loved dolls and made clothes and furniture and homes for them. After moving away, I can't remember ever playing with dolls again. I don't know what happened to my doll either. Button and Bundle is the story of what happened in my heart.

We can often mark the changes in children's lives by what they are playing with, as well as what they are ready to leave behind. Favorite toys are vehicles for rich imaginative play between young friends. When children are abruptly separated, they lose this unique world too. In Button and Bundle, Button honors and finds a way to keep alive the world she created with Bundle. Button is resilient, like I was, and moves forward to make a new friend and create new worlds. And she learns, like I did, that true friendship lives forever in the heart.

When I committed myself to writing for children, I was led by the beauty of the form of the picture book and a desire to give voice to the unheard child. I didn't meet myself in print until I was an adult and read a sociological text about growing up military. That experience was both a homecoming and an awakening, and I pledged to give this experience to others to the best of my ability. I pledged to represent the experience of the nomadic child, the Third Culture Kid, particularly the military child, in literature so they wouldn't have to wait as long as I did.

Yet my stories are for all children. In an interview in Children's Book Insider (March 2017), my editor was asked to describe a book that she knew right away that she had to buy. She responded, "I recently acquired a picture book text that I fell in love with immediately. It's the story of two little girls who are best friends, and one of them has to move away. The author managed to evoke so much emotion in such a spare, simple text that it blew me away."
Later, in an email to my agent she wrote, "From the moment I opened this submission, I knew it was a special one. As I began to read ... I knew this manuscript had everything I was searching for. It's incredibly sweet and gorgeously written, with just the right amount of sensitivity. I love the way the author honors very young friendship, and accomplishes so much in the spare text."

Button and Bundle is ultimately a story for those who understand the true meaning of friendship. I am humbled and glad that this story will be in libraries and bookstores as of February 19, 2019 and deeply grateful for my terrific agent, Karen Grencik, my amazing editor, Karen Greenberg, and her team at Knopf and my extremely talented illustrator, Gillian Flint, who brought my Button and Bundle to life.

Button and Bundle is dedicated to my first friend, and to first friends everywhere.

What was the timeline for your book from writing it to publication?

Button and Bundle's life on paper began in March 2015 when I wrote the first draft longhand. I work back and forth between longhand and the computer, printing each draft to read aloud, workshop and revise. I submitted what I was calling The Cheer-up Yellow Balloon to my agent a month later. Our search for the perfect editor and house ended with an offer from Knopf in August of 2016. I wanted to shout my news to the world, but had to practice patience until my contract and the illustrator's were signed. Knopf announced the sale in May of 2017 in Publishers Weekly. I got a sneak preview of Gillian Flint's sketches that July and her beautiful final art in October, 2017. It's always a huge thrill to receive the "folded and gathered" unbound pages of a new book. The F&Gs for Button and Button were in my hand in May 2018, and I got to hug the hardback book for first time in November 2018. Now I'm waiting to celebrate Button and Bundle's book birthday/release date on February 19, 2019 with small cakes and lemonade. I hope you'll celebrate with me too.

Author's Bio

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools as an author. She is an active member of SCBWI and writes chapter books and middle-grade fiction as well.

Gretchen grew up as a global nomad, daughter of a career Army officer, and lived on three continents. Gretchen had to leave many friends behind, but they lived on in her heart. She has settled in Camas, WA where she lives with her husband, cat and dog, stunt squirrels, marauding neighborhood chickens, and celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. Children will find a home in her heartfelt books about community, courage and compassion.
When she isn't writing or teaching, Gretchen can be found reading, playing word games, baking, sewing, hiking in the woods, cross-country skiing and attending plays. Please visit Gretchen at gretchenmclellan.com for more information about her books, events and author visits.

She is the author of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 (Peachtree, 2017), I'm Done! (Holiday House, 2018), When your Daddy's a Soldier (Beach Lane, 2020), and No Party Poopers (Little Bee, 2020).

Marchini-Agent-Photo-cropped.jpeg
Tracy Marchini
is a Literary Agent, freelance editor and children's author. Prior to joining BookEnds Literary, she worked as a Communications Manager, an agents' assistant at Curtis Brown, a children's book reviewer, a newspaper correspondent, and a freelance copywriter for Scholastic Book Clubs.

As an author, her debut picture book, CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, is forthcoming from Creative Editions (Fall 2017). She is an Amazon bestseller that's been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer's Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A in Writing for Children from Simmons College and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric from Binghamton University.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

CHICKEN Wants a Nap smaller.jpgWhere were you when the idea for this book came to you?

I was actually working on my MFA in Writing for Children and the assignment was to write about a character's best or worst day. I was so tired that night but still had so much to do, that the idea of taking a nap became the end-all be-all. For Chicken, being able to take that nap kind of defines her best/worst day.

I was also inspired by Remy Charlip's Fortunately, which I'd been introduced to years before at a keynote speech by Brian Selznick when he was talking about The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This was probably a bit more of an unconscious thing when I was writing, but I've always loved the kind of humor that Fortunately uses.

What makes your book unique?

Well, I think it's a barnyard tale that's still relatable to parents and kids. Who doesn't feel better after a good nap? And I think there's a lot of humor in the page turns, as Chicken keeps getting her perfect nap interrupted. I especially love what Monique Felix did with the final page. It's my favorite beat in the book!

Your website says, "loves ducks." Did you ever think of making this character a duck instead of a chicken?

Honestly, it was always a chicken. I do have other stories about ducks in the works, but I guess I wasn't feeling in tip-top, ducky shape when I originally drafted the story!

And why do you love ducks? 

Honestly can't point to a particular reason. They're just one of those animals that always makes me smile when I see one. Domesticated ducks make great pets if you have the right space for them (alas, I don't), and will even act as "guard ducks" to protect their human family. Plus, they start as ducklings. Who doesn't love a fluffy duckling?

This is your first picture book. Have you written others that didn't sell? If so, can you share about your journey.

Sure. I've written other picture books that made it to editorial boards but weren't picked up, and some that never made it that far. The truth is that the majority of writers won't sell everything they write, and some projects can be shelved for years before the market conditions make the project viable again.

But ultimately, I think my journey is similar to a lot of writers, in that I wrote for years and in that time turned out a couple of real clunkers. But I kept reading, kept writing, kept submitting and eventually got to that place where I could write a marketable picture book.

Finally, I think it's good to remember that everything you write is a step towards publication - even if that particular manuscript will never find a home on the shelves. As long as you're taking the time to revise and learning how to improve your craft - be it through conferences, strong critique groups, or a more formal program - then that time or project isn't wasted.

What challenged or surprised you about writing this story?

Chicken Wants a Nap is written in a tighter, more rhythmic prose than I usually write. So when it was time to revise, there was an amazing amount of time spent finding just the right word that still fit into the structure. The book is 160 words or so, and yet the revisions took much longer than you would expect for a manuscript that fit on one page.

(That's the nature of picture books though, isn't it? They look so deceptively simple, but you can spend months to years perfecting those 400 - 500 words!)

Do you sell your own books or do you also have an agent?

I was previously represented, though this book I sold myself. I had worked with Tom Peterson, the Publisher, when I was working at my previous agency, and so when the manuscript was ready to go out I immediately thought of him and The Creative Company.

How do you balance all your different hats--writer, freelance editor, agent?

Well, sometimes I am still looking for that nap! But I tend to split my day the way a lot of other writers do. Agenting is my full time job, so I spend the majority of my time getting work done for my clients. My other work is done on evenings and weekends. (I'm typing this on a Saturday afternoon!)

But I'm also just very careful about how much I say "yes" to, how I schedule my time and the barrier between the three. There have been pitch contests and critique giveaways that I've had to say no to because I was already booked to work on something else at the time. And when I go through my submission pile as an agent, I'm always reading with the knowledge that I'll probably read the book another three or four more times. So I have to really love what I take on, because I know that for me, as an editorial agent, there's got to be enough passion about the project to sustain the whole process.

I also feel like each hat works in a kind of synergy with each other. Sometimes when I'm editing for a client, I also realize that my manuscript has the same problem - e.g. maybe both need another look at their respective character development. Or maybe I'll be thinking about potential projects to write, and I'll have an idea that I realize I would love to read but don't feel ready to tackle myself. Well, that ends up on Twitter as a #mswl!

The other truth is that I love the three hats - so even when I'm working, it doesn't always feel like it!


THANKS SO MUCH for this interview and your insights, Tracy!

Reader, if the hashtag #mswl doesn't mean anything to you, read this explanation here.


Enchantress Sacrifice

Enchantress Sacrifice.jpegEnchantress Sacrifice (Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2016) by Denice Hughes Lewis is a YA fantasy with an interesting premise.

Destined to save her world, Elandra is born aware. She doesn't breathe air, but light. (It sounds odd, but works.) Her mind and body grow fast under the protection of her two guardians. When she has 16 seasons, it's time for Elandra to go out of the caverns and learn about the island. She must also learn how to control her sense of other's feelings, and discover her powers to save everyone from Aru. But there's other danger awaiting her--from her mother's tribe, the Kepyrs, and from her father's tribe, the Ice Lords. Sworn enemies, either tribe will kill her if they see her. Elandra wonders why she has to be the one to sacrifice herself to save everyone. Can't she just be a normal girl?

Told in present tense, the book is fast paced and compelling. A sequel is in the works--I can't wait for it to be done.

An interview with the author

1. Where were you when the idea for this book came to you?
At home. I always seem to have a dozen nebulous ideas for stories roaming around in my head. The idea of a baby being left in a forest and being raised by a monster was one of them. It wasn't until Suzan Noyes, playwright, screenwriter and artist extraordinaire, talked me into going to a writing retreat with her that I decided I needed something to read aloud. I wrote the first few chapters and the ideas kept nudging me to continue.

2. What inspired you to write this story?
I love fantasy--the unique and different. I wanted to write a story for teens who feel isolated and those who struggle with emotions and how to control them. I set it in a more confined world with higher stakes to highlight Elantra's choice between being selfish or sacrificing herself for the greater good.

3. How long did it take you to write this book?
That is a difficult question. Five years on and off. It was not a project at the top of my priority list. I also co-wrote two screenplays, directed three plays, worked on my picture books, attended writing conferences online and off, and added a middle-grade ebook to Amazon during that time. That doesn't count life that always sidetracks writing goals.

4. What challenged or surprised you about writing this story?
It's always interesting to see how a novel evolves and how our creative muses inspire us.
I just started putting words to paper for this book. It was the first piece of writing I
had ever done without an outline or plan other than how I wanted to start it and end it.
Later, I made a basic fifteen point outline described in Blake Snyder's book, Save the Cat. Although he wrote for screenwriters, his methods work well for any kind of writing. I used these points for the direction of the plot elements and the changes necessary for the
evolution and emotional growth of the character.

The most surprising was the change in the Daniel character. In the beginning he was not from the modern world. By changing him, I had the much needed conflict and a more interesting, stronger love interest. It didn't hurt that his desire to return home became the impetus for a sequel.

5. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I was a two-time graduate of the Institute of Writing Children's Literature before the onslaught of the internet. Although I submitted for years, I got the usual rejections. This was a time when I was the mother of two children and life was more important than a career. When they left home, I decided to devote my time to writing and screenwriting. It just seemed logical to self-publish due to the financial benefits and the differences in the time frame for reaching the public. Marketing is the major consideration for all writers, but these days, a writer is often responsible for most of the publicity surrounding his work even if he is published traditionally. All writers who want their works read have to learn marketing, whether or not they want to. Self-motivation and initiative are two other requirements to self-publishing due to the decision-making process. It is also important to me to have control over the physical appearance of the book after spending so many years with my mental image.

6. Who are some of your favorite authors?
As a teenager I liked mystery and only read Nancy Drew books. I grew up loving movies and Disney. They made my imagination soar. I read the classics in school, but it wasn't until I was married that I started reading fantasy. I find my greatest favorites belong to the English writers who write for young people. They have so much more history, geography and myth to draw from. C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper and J.K. Rowling are some of my favorites. I write full-time and don't read as much as I would like. Marissa Meyer has my awe for her Cinder series. To escape and laugh, I enjoy Janet Evanovich and her mystery-numbered series. There are so many good writers in all genres, that it's a feast for all readers and I do regret not being able to read more. Right now I gauge my reading choices on what my 14-year-old granddaughter is reading since she's in tune with the most popular fantasy writers who are very good.

About DeniceDeniceHL.jpeg

Denice Hughes Lewis is a wife, mother and grandmother who loves kids, animals, movies, theater, nature and especially adventures in unlimited imagination. She's an award-winning ebook author and screenwriter. When she isn't writing, she's walking her Pomeranian dog, taking care of her 31-year-old blind pony and her 150-pound goat. Her other interests include writing plays and music, art and directing for the stage.


Bottled

Bottled453x680.jpgBOTTLED (Clean Reads, 2016) by Carol Riggs is a YA Fantasy that's a modern take on a genie story.

Adeelah Naji was seventeen a thousand years ago when she was turned in to a genie. She's still seventeen. And still imprisoned in a bottle and having to serve masters who don't care about her. Adeelah wants to find Karim, the boy she fell in love with, but has to have her master's permission to search for him. She's also on the run from Faruq, although masters have a tendency not to believe he is a threat.

This book snagged my attention from the start and pulled me through it quickly. I sympathized with Adeelah and love the humor: "I must say, this guy isn't the swiftest camel in the caravan." The story really ramps up when Adeelah ends up with a seventeen-year-old master named Nathan.

I got to interview Carol about this story for some background info and what she's working on next.

1. Where/how did you come up with the idea for Bottled?
From watching "I Dream of Jeannie" when I was young. I loved the magic in the show, even though the chaos of Jeannie messing everything up before she fixed it drove me nuts. At the time I wrote BOTTLED, there also weren't any genie novels around that I knew of, so I thought it was unique. Now, there are a number of genie novels, but I still feel BOTTLED is different enough to bring a fresh slant to the subgenre.

2. What kind of research did you do into genies and the Arabian culture?
I didn't do a TON of research since most of the novel is set in the U.S. (and a chapter or so in Kenya), but I did research the history and geography of the Arabian area, coins, insects, and foods like sage tea and al kabsa. I checked out Arabian names. I delved a little into djinns/jinns, and decided I wanted there to be a difference in Adeelah (main character) versus a "real" genie/djinn that I described as evil spirits like demons, beings that aren't wise to be associated with.

3. How long did it take you to write the book?
I started BOTTLED in early 2011, got interrupted by life and line-edits for my debut, and finally finished the rough draft in 2013. So it was pretty stretched out due to other commitments and projects. I revised it off and on since 2013, and tightened and polished it up again just before submitting it to Clean Reads in January 2016.

4. I know you have another book coming out this fall. What's that one about and who is publishing it?
My next book is a YA light sci-fi by my debut publisher, Entangled Teen. I wrote it in 2010-11 (right before BOTTLED), and I'm delighted it's finally going to be released in October. Originally the title was SAFE ZONE, but my editor wanted something zippier and less "stiff" so now it has now been retitled as THE LYING PLANET. It's the story of a teen named Jay Lawton who lives on the terraformed (made to be like Earth) planet of Liberty, and finds out everything he thought he knew about his world isn't true. Which of course throws his life into chaos and causes lots of hopefully interesting conflict. It's on Goodreads already but it doesn't have a cover yet.

Keep up with Carol on her website and twitter.

More Author Interviews

I also blog on Kidlit Central about a variety of topics. Below are links to interviews of central US children's authors from Meet and Greet Mondays.

nonfiction - Stephanie Bearce living in Missouri

historical fiction - Louise A. Jackson living in Missouri

children's and young adult fiction - Sharelle Byars Moranville living in Iowa

It's been fun learning more about these authors I've met. If you'd like to check it out, I have more interviews scheduled on Kidlit Central News, plus there are entries from a number of other midwest authors. Always something new to learn.

Button and Bundle Cover Release

Enchantress Sacrifice

Bottled

More Author Interviews