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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

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Author Spotlight

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Author Spotlight:
Barbara Renner

By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home – This is a story about a baby loon looking for his home. He tries to convince his mom where he would like to live but discovers there is only one place he can call his home.
Lonnie the Loon Learns to Fly – When Lonnie is a little older, he asks his mom a lot of questions about nature that surrounds him. He discovers more about life than just learning about his surroundings.
Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call – This is a story about a loon coming of age. Lonnie forms a relationship with his dad as he learns the four common loon calls. Readers can listen to the loon calls using a QR Code Reader App.
Lonnie the Loon Flies South for the Winter – Lonnie and his friends fly south for the winter and end up on a desert lake when they are blown off course. Lonnie forms a friendship with a little quail named Quincy who teaches him about living in the desert. The reader can hear animal sounds in this book also.
Quincy the Quail Leads His Family on an Adventure – Quincy is a little clumsy, but he is still the leader of his family. He takes them in search of food in the desert, but it turns into an adventure as Quincy is almost washed away during a sudden rainstorm.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?barbara-1

I’m fond of both Lonnie and Quincy. I’m excited about Quincy because he’s a little clumsy, but that doesn’t hold him back from considering himself as a leader. I’m a little clumsy myself! I want children to realize that even though they may have shortcomings, they also have strengths.

As a children’s book author, which comes first – writing the story or creating the images? Is there a reason for that?

I’m not sure about other authors, but I write the story first and then give the manuscript to my illustrator. My illustrators have been wonderful about working with me and revising their illustrations to match what I have in mind. When I write, I probably describe the scenes with a little too much detail. Then I have to delete words once the illustrator can picture the scenes in his/her mind. My new illustrator for Quincy put together a storyboard, which makes it easier for her to picture what I want in the book. I just have to quit writing so many words and have the illustrations speak to the reader! I’m still learning!

barbara-1A quail and a Loon are the stars of your children’s books. Why did you choose these animals when they’re less recognizable to kids?

When my husband and I first starting going to Minnesota for the summer, I discovered loons for the first time. I fell in love with them and did some research about Minnesota’s fascinating state bird. I thought everyone should know about loons, so that’s why I wrote my Lonnie the Loon books. I have facts about loons in my books, so children can learn about them too. I’ve had adults who’ve lived in Minnesota all their lives tell me they learned something new about loons. When I started promoting my books in my home state of Arizona, they didn’t sell as well as in Minnesota. That’s when I thought of writing a series about Quincy the Quail. I love watching the little quail covey run down the street in my neighborhood, so I tried to incorporate that visual in my books. I’ve had a lot of interest in my quail books here in Arizona and am enthusiastic about writing three more books about Quincy. My Quincy books have facts about quail also. I love reading my books to elementary school classes so they can learn about loons and quail – and receive a little geography lesson too.

Do you hand draw the images or are they computer generated? I doubt most of our readers are familiar with how children’s books come about, so what is the process for that?

I’m not sure how my illustrators create their images. I’m pretty sure Davina Kinney, illustrator of my Lonnie the Loon books, does all her illustrations digitally. I think my Quincy the Quail illustrator, Amanda Wells, makes sketches by hand first and then transfers them to the computer. Davina lives in Florida, but Amanda lives here in Arizona. It would be fun to have a book signing with her some time so she can explain the process to our customers. I think the illustrations are fantastic – and I’ve had a lot of compliments about both Lonnie and Quincy.

What authors have inspired you to write?

I enjoyed reading Mercer Mayer and Stan & Jan Berenstain books to my children. I also love Shel Silverstein, all of Dr. Seuss’s books, and all of the Amelia Bedelia books. I guess that tells you what era I’m from!

barbara-1What age were you when you started writing?

I wrote goofy little stories and melodramas when I was in elementary school, and my friends and I acted them out. I took a creative writing class in high school, but didn’t pursue my writing then. During my career hopping as an adult, I wrote and edited a variety of newsletters and journals. I started blogging when I was 61 because it was the thing to do! When I retired from teaching at age 63 I was bored to tears. That’s when I wrote and published my first two Lonnie the Loon books.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

All the time!! I don’t write enough – that’s the key. I need to write every day to keep the creative juices flowing.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I outline in my head – crazy. Then I sit down at the computer and hammer it out. That’s when what I thought I was going to write about changes directions and the story takes a different path. I haven’t written anything longer than 5,000 words, so if I write a novel, which I plan on doing one of these days, I may have to outline my story on paper or post-it-notes first.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

The only challenges I had were trying to decipher the 30-page contract with the publishing company; learning all the buzz acronyms like POD; and writing the book blurb! I jumped in with both feet and didn’t do enough research about publishing; but it turned out okay and I’m pretty happy with who I chose. However, what I thought was going to be a hardcover book the size of “Make Way for Ducklings” turned out to be a paperback the size of the Berenstain Bears.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

My first three books aren’t written using a typical storybook model. They don’t have a conflict or a climax or a solution to a problem. They are more educational. But, I’m okay with that; I’ve sold over 200 copies of each book. If I had to do it over, I probably would have written a better “story” and get involved with a critique group. Instead of asking my hubby and friends for feedback, I should have joined a critique group. I thought I could do it all by myself. As far as publishing goes, I’ve learned that it’s very important to have a spine on your books, which mine don’t. Libraries and bookstores don’t like to display your books on a shelf without the title and publisher printed on the spine. I would have found a different publisher to ensure my books had spines.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’m continuing with my Quincy the Quail series, and they will have sounds that the readers can listen to. In the next book a hummingbird bullies and scares Quincy’s chicks.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I guess the toughest criticism comes from Arizona residents when they ask “Why loons?” My friend told me, “I don’t get it.” I look at rejection as criticism also. I sent copies of my Lonnie the Loon books to The Audubon Society and The Loon Preservation Committee to see if they would carry them in their online gift shops. I never heard back from them. Other than compliments on the illustrations, the best compliment I received as an author was from a librarian when I showed her my first book. She said she liked the fact that there weren’t a lot of words on each page because fewer words were better for children ages 3-5. She said a lot of picture books are too wordy for small children.

barbara-1Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

I guess I would say to read a lot and write a lot, whether it’s writing stories, blogs, newsletter articles, etc. The cliché is “practice makes perfect.” Nothing is perfect, but practicing will make everything you write a little bit better. Also, become involved with a critique group. You can read the works of other writers as well as have them give you critical feedback on your own writing.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Well, I don’t have any good luck charms like blue Smurfs sitting on my desk. Sometimes I get my story inspirations when I walk or hike, then I type the story on my computer. After I type it out, I let it rest or “cure” for a couple of days and then go back to it to revise it.

What others are saying about Barbara Renner:

“Getting my niece to last to the end of the book is usually a miracle. With this, she wanted me to read it again. She was mesmerized by the birds and the way they’re portrayed. It was really great to see.”

“Lonnie the Loon Learns to Fly is a great book for a small child to read as they start to take notice of the world around them.”

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!


See all of Barbara’s books HERE!

Find Barbara on Goodreads HERE!

Like the Young Adult Author Rendezvous on Facebook HERE!

 

Author Spotlight: Rita Goldner

rita-goldner   By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your works and can you tell us a bit about them?
Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy is my first printed book. Before that I wrote/illustrated two Kindle books about a boy, Jackson, who gets bored with traditional school, and instead uses his art to learn and explore other things. They are: Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
I fell in love with orangutans even before I wrote Orangutan, but I think Jackson is more versatile, kids can relate to him more, and I can use him for future books.

Orangutan is an interesting book. It not only entertains kids, but teaches them as well. Is there a reason you chose this animal to focus the book on?
I sketch and paint animals from life at the zoo often. I just bring my own folding chair, and really enjoy myself. Over the years, orangutans became my favorite, and I became more aware of their endangered plight. So I started doing research, and decided to write the book.

The images in Orangutan are incredible. Do you do them yourself? And if so, how are they done. Drawings? Computer generated?
They started as sketches of live orangutans. Then after studying the anatomy and expressions, I moved their limbs and bodies around to poses that fit the story. I scanned the final drawings into my computer and tweaked them, colored them, and added texture (hair) digitally. (I use an inexpensive program called ArtRage.) 

I imagine writing a children’s book has its own set of difficulties outside of the fiction world. What are some of the things you have to consider?
I wanted it to be scientifically accurate and educational, but never at the cost of fun. I also didn’t want it to be sad, and the danger of extinction is sad. I chose to leave that out of the story, since there’s not much a little kid can do about it.

Why have you chosen such a young age group to focus your books on?
As I mentioned above, a young child can’t do much politically, but can fall in love with orangutans, and when he grows older, help their critically endangered status. I also have another audience, the adults who read to the child. Hopefully, they can become aware about global environmental responsibility, and habitat protection, and help with their votes and contributions.

What authors have inspired you to write?
Good illustration is so appealing to me it almost eclipses the writing. When my kids were young, I read Richard Scarry books to them, mainly because the pictures were so much fun. I loved Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, too, for the same reason. In recent years, I was fortunate to have Molly Idle, a recent Caldecott Honor recipient and a fantastic illustrator, as my teacher and my inspiration. You’ll notice I said “almost eclipses”. I consider the writing vital, too, and I was influenced when writing Orangutan by several expert wildlife veterinarians, especially at orangutan rescue centers in Borneo. They weren’t writers, per se, but were so passionate about getting the word out, that they motivated me to write a story that would inspire children.

What age were you when you started writing?
I wrote poetry in high school, and occasionally wrote for fun while raising my family and having a different career. But I didn’t take it really seriously until I retired. 

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
All the time, as all writers do. But I also share with them the nutty experience of having writer’s “Aha!” moments in the middle of the night, while trying to sleep.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I always have an outline, and a ton of research, and a picture-book dummy I make for myself, so I can see the flow, and pacing. I also want to have a rough idea of the design while I’m working, and where to put the pictures.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
It was actually serendipitous. I hired my editor to edit four books. I didn’t know she also owned a publishing company, and she then asked me if she could publish Orangutan. Her company only publishes books about the natural world, so she wasn’t interested in the other three, but did an excellent job editing. One of the others was the e-book Jackson’s History Adventure, which I am now re-writing as a coloring book. I plan to self-publish this time, and expect a boatload of challenges.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?
Not really, my publisher/editor is great. Without even knowing what I was doing, I fell into the good fortune that my colleagues search for, for years. Before I met her, I had submitted other books to several agents and publishers, and collected my huge share of rejection letters, but I gave up doing that.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I’m using my black and white drawings, for the reader to color, but it’s a story book, not just a coloring book, with text and “Fun Facts”. It’s about Jackson time-traveling back through centuries of civilization and all over the world to draw and paint his school assignment of a history report. It’s designed for left or right-handed colorists, so the coil binding is at the top. 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
A piece of really good advice, that’s a lot of hard work to follow, I got from my marketing group. It is to create a book that is as perfect as you can make it, in readability, presentation, and quality of writing, printing and binding. This is not just because of all the competition out there, but because anything less is a disservice to your readers.

What has been the best compliment?
The compliments have been mostly about the illustrations, which I found easier than the writing. My favorite compliments are about kids liking and re-reading it.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
You have to pay a professional editor, and this is much more than a proof-reader.

With any luck, you can get proof-readers for free from among your school teacher friends, in return for your services. The manuscript should already be perfect in grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage before the editor gets it. Then they help you make it interesting to your audience.

I also think if you’re self-publishing, you should use a smorgasbord approach to buying services. Research and find an editor, a book designer, an illustrator if you need one, and a printer. I think this is cheaper and gives you more control than getting a package deal from a paid publishing company.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
I get a really slow befuddled start in the morning, sometimes not getting rolling until noon. Then I build up a head of steam in the late afternoon, and hit my stride at night.

What others are saying about Rita Goldner:

“The information relayed is very educational, but it’s the illustrations, which are so colorful and vibrant that give this book its appeal. Young kids will be entranced, particularly those who love monkeys (and oh so many kids do!).”

“Combining beautiful art, a nice story and good scientific facts’ this book for children get its act right. With fun facts in each page, kids are introduced to orangutans and their environment.”


Rita’s Young Adult Author Rendezvous page is HERE.

Rita’s Website is HERE.

Michelle Lynn at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

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