Friday, April 24, 2015

Interview with Amberly Kristen Clowe

Today on my blog I have Sci Fi Writer Amberly Kristen Clowe! She wrote the book Axel and Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy. Want to win a book and bookbag for the series? Click here to enter now!

I just got my copy of this book in the mail today (technically yesterday by the time you read this) and haven't had a chance to read the whole story. The story is fast paced and very cute. I love the colored illustrations done by Katy Huggins. They are so much warmer than the old black and white!
About Amberly: An avid story writer since elementary school, Amberly Kristen Clowe truly discovered her passion for writing after enrolling in a college, children’s literature class, where they read and analyzed children's books. After completing her BA in early childhood education she began her teaching career. “After my first year of teaching second grade, I had so many ideas swirling around in my head, I had to write. I might have gone crazy if I didn't!” Clowe expresses.

Axel & Theo is the first chapter book series for ages 7-12 written by Clowe, though
she already has two other children’s picture books in print, for which she has received
accolades and the Emerging Novelists “Children’s Novel of the Year” award in 2011.

Win a copy of the book and a Axel & Theo Lunch bag!*

*Contest is limited to those living in the US and Canada. Lunch bag colors are available in red, green and yellow. Picture of the lunch bag below!

Dani: Why write Sci Fi children's literature?

Amberly: This genre came very easy for me. I've always loved the idea of a different, often improved, world than our own, and who doesn't love cool gadgets! I still can't believe I get to imagine worlds with crazy characters for an actual job. I so enjoy the Axel and Theo series as an adult. I would have been ecstatic as a kid. Kids have the ultimate imaginations. They can truly lose themselves in what they're reading without that nagging thought that plagues many adults: “That could never happen!” Sci-fi for kids is the perfect fit for me.

Dani: Is your dog (or any of your fish) an emperor of a faraway galaxy?

Amberly: Unfortunately, we have no emperors at our house (at least none that have revealed themselves…yet). Believe me, if my dogs could snap their paws and get a t-bone, they’d be snapping away!

Dani:  Finish these thoughts:

Cats are...


Yeah, cat-people are so not going to like that one.

I want to write...

YA fiction. At the moment, I’m thinking about dabbling in the young adult genre. I love to read this genre but haven't taken that plunge. I think once I wrap up the second book in the Axel and Theo series, I might try my hand at an outline and go from there.

Readers should know...

Um…for me, coffee makes any bad writing day, a good one. And biscotti with coffee—well, that makes for a GREAT writing day.

Dani: What's special about your work?

Amberly: I’m really not one to toot my own horn, but you did ask, so…what I find, and have been told, is special about my work is its voice. I am one of those total optimists. I often use humor to make a situation bearable. I like humor. My writing reflects that. I enjoy one-liners, and the Axel and Theo series is full of them. To write a science fiction adventure and wrap it in humor, yeah, my eyes just fill with cartoon hearts.

Dani: What is your ultimate goal in life?

Amberly: Whew. I think I broke out in a sweat just reading that question.

Well, my main goal in life is to please God in all I do. To me, that means striving to be the best mother I can be, wife, daughter, sister, niece, friend, teacher, writer, and the hat-list goes on and on. I want to have the kind of love for others that Jesus Christ lived. I want to use my passions and gifts in a way that helps others and makes my creator proud.

Deep, right? You did ask for ultimate. 


Theodore Howard wants a white flag. The kind of white
flag that will show Riverwood Elementary’s biggest bully,
Theo’s given up on ever surviving the fourth grade, and
achieving his dream of becoming a real-life astronaut.
But, Theo’s seemingly pathetic future gets a glimmer of
hope in the form of a very talkative weenie dog named
Axel. Theo learns that his best friend on four legs, is
actually an alien from the planet Doglin, and just when
he begins warming up to the idea of having an alien for a
best friend, Axel is kidnapped by two cats from the
planet Catlat. Theo chases after Axel and his
kidnappers, embarking on an adventure he could never

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Update Post -- April 22nd

My friend, Dan Burke, sent me something in the mail today! It's a copy of his game Hollytown Talent Agency. It's got some beautiful artwork and the card games looks great. I can't wait to play. I have it hidden in my art room right now so little hands can't destroy this gift. While he's not allowed to touch I did allow David to model the game. I've got more pictures of the game (and my son as Vanna White) below so check it out. Of course my update post is there somewhere, too. Thank you so much for the game Dan!


Wed 04/22 - Update Post -- done!

Thursday 04/23 - Tweaking and polishing some artwork for Picture Books.

Friday 04/24- Interview with Amberly Kristen Clowe

Saturday 04/25- Attending the Creative Ink Festival today! I will be a part of two panels.
One at 2:00pm and the other at 4:00pm

Sunday  04/26 - Sending out a picture book package to an agent by this day. Fingers crossed!

Monday  04/27- Making up new names for my son.

Tuesday  04/28 - Maybe another trip to the beach?

Wednesday  04/29 - Update Day!


Toddler Minding 
So the diapers are gone. At least during the day!

I went to the beach Tuesday. We had lots of fun.

*What's up Wednesday is part of Jamie Morrow's summer writing intensive: "Ready. Set. WRITE!" There are other host 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Interview with Scott Soeder

Today I'm interviewing the fantastic Illustrator Scott Soeder on my blog. Scott is a digital artist that creates vivid and humorous characters. Earlier this year Scott received an AIGA award for his "Pop Wheels" series.

Scott has worked with startup company Reelio Inc., the band 311 and has his work in Highlights magazine. If you like Scott's work you can buy prints off of his website. For more of his work check out Scott's website at

Dani: Why Children’s Illustration?

Scott: I suppose it's because all the cool characters are in children’s Illustration.

I grew up watching Looney Tunes, reading Dr. Seuss, reading Peanuts, and trying to draw all those characters (Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss and Charles Schulz are likely my biggest influences). I loved those characters and soon was drawing my own and making up silly stories to go along with them. Books, comic strips and cartoons all blended together. I loved them all. Among my friends I had the reputation of being a Good Drawer. I would get requests from my friends to draw Garfield, Bugs Bunny, and later I would draw some of our favorite rock stars. So I suppose it is just something I have always done.

Dani: What did the monsters tell you?

Scott: Oh, the Pesky, Chatting, Opinionated Monsters? All artists know them. Reminding us that there is someone better out there, that our ideas aren’t good enough, etc. I try to keep those kind on a diet. I don’t share my snacks with them.

The kind that show up in my sketchbook however, are great. Those kind thrive on imagination. I love feeding them!

Dani: Finish these thoughts:

My first drawing…

is often my worst drawing. Every now and then that first one works straight away. You keep drawing, but end up using the first one. It happens. But not all that often. A tennis pro doesn’t get good and stay good by NOT playing tennis. Drawing is a skill that has to be practiced and maintained. I remember reading in one of Chuck Jones’ books that everybody has about a 1000 bad drawings in them. The sooner you can get through those 1000 bad drawings, the better. Warm-up sketches help. I do some quick sketching at the beginning of a work session to loosen up which often are sketches of musicians that I like.

I won’t forget…an easel that my grandfather made for me when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I thought it was so cool and I felt like a real artist when drawing at it. I would sit for hours and work at that easel, churning out drawing after drawing.

I draw…and draw and draw again. I enjoy drawing and the process so much. I love looking at pencil sketches from other artists and pencil tests from animators. They are often packed full of life. My wife got me a DVD player years ago and included in the box was a Powerpuff Girls DVD. While the cartoon was playing you could hit a button on the remote to switch between the final cartoon and the pencil tests. I was thrilled. I don’t know many guys that would be excited to get a Powerpuff Girls DVD!

Dani:  What special about your work?

Scott: No one is making art with precisely the same ingredients. What makes my work special is that it is made by me. And by me I mean the unique mix of influences, personality, technique, perceptions, subject matter and so on that contribute to the artwork. Otherwise known as “voice”. We artists’ are always working toward finding, using and refining that voice. When seeing my kids off, I often say “have fun today!” When enjoying my work, I hope that the viewer thinks of the word fun or has a sense that I had fun making it!

Dani: What is your ultimate goal in life?

Scott: To create characters, stories and art as vivid as my heroes. To be a great father and husband. To be remembered.

And to drive a Lamborghini Countach just once. I love those cars. :)


Twitter: @sesoeder

Monday, April 13, 2015

Creative Ink Festival

I am going to be at the Creative Ink Festival on April 25th! This is the first year for this festival. I know this is a bit late for an announcement like this, but I wanted to let everyone know. This festival is for Writers, Artists and Readers. This event is in Burnaby, BC so if you are in the area please come by! Tickets for this event are only $25 online and $30 at the door. It's very much set up like a conference, so there will be a lot to learn. 

I will be on two panels this year: "Growing up a Reader" at 4pm - 5pm and "How To Finish What You Start" 2pm - 3pm. If you are going to be in the area for this time, please let me know! We'll go get coffee, or lunch/dinner depending on the time! I'm really excited for this event. Next year I hope to be a presenter at this event. Register for this event here: If you can't make it to this event, then consider donating some money to help make next year's 3 day festival even better!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Interview with Sue Irwin

Sue Irwin is a tiny bit of a hockey fan. I mean it's only important enough to her for her to be an avid hockey watcher, research hockey and write a book about hockey. Okay, maybe she's a big hockey fan. She's from southern Ontario and we are all hockey fans here! Sue has a great personality and is just full of so much love.

Sue's book "Safety Stars" was just released in March. Her book is about the great hockey players like Jacques Plante, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby who all helped make hockey safer. Did you know that hockey players didn't start off using helmets? Can you imagine thinking it's silly to wear a helmet while playing hockey? Some players thought it was silly to wear a helmet. Also many players, hockey fans, reporters and managers were upset at those trying to get hockey to wear a helmet! This wonderful book explains the dangers of hockey, and the brave players who paved the way for a safer game.


 Dani: Why nonfiction?

I’m a curious person. I love to read and learn. And I’m especially fascinated by other people and the things that they do – for their work and for fun. So, when I catch a glimpse into their lives, I love to share what I've discovered with my readers – by writing biographies.

Dani: How safe were you as a kid?

I was really quite safe. I endured the usual bumps and bruises as a kid, but I never broke any bones, suffered a black eye, or even needed stitches for cuts and scrapes (yawn). Secretly, I envied my friends who, after breaking a leg or an arm, returned to school wearing a cast. When they came back to school, our classmates always gathered around, eager to cover the cast in witty sayings and jokes. The writer in me wanted to compose something brilliant, but no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up just signing my name.

Dani: Finish these thoughts

My greatest injury

happened when I was about 18. My brothers, sister, and I used to go skating on a pond behind our cousins’ place. To get there, we had to hike a fair distance – crossing a set of train tracks, and walking single file along a path that twisted past a grove of trees, then down a steep slope. After this particular afternoon of skating, we girls decided we'd just walk up the hill in our skates, rather than taking the time to change into our boots first. So, I followed my cousin as she led the way back up the path, and my sister followed me. When I reached a slippery patch of icy mud, I slid backward. I could just imagine tumbling all the way down the hill – and taking my little sister with me. Instinctively, I put my hand out behind me – and skated backwards, over my thumb. This injury certainly wasn't half as serious as any injury that the players in Safety Stars suffered. But you can still see the scar that the skate blade left on my thumb!

I love

time with family and friends

old black and white photos


every shade of blue

chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate pudding

watching my favourite hockey stars play the best sport in the world

snow days

did I say chocolate?

children’s laughter

goldfinches at my feeder

warm mittens and cozy, mismatched socks

the satisfaction of knowing that I did my best


and of course, chocolate

(is that too many?!)

Of course, with love, there is never too much of anything! 

I want to see

the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup!

Dani: What’s special about your work?

As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed reading books and articles that make me catch my breath and say, “Wow!” or “Ooooo!” or “Hey! I wanna try that!” My goals as a writer are to educate, entertain, and inspire. And I’ve been happy that most of my published writing has given me the opportunity to inspire others. For example, my first published piece was a biographical magazine article about Hannah Taylor from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Written for children from 8 to 11, Love and Ladybugs tells the story of how five-year-old Hannah began to advocate for homeless people. Now 18, she continues to raise money and awareness of their needs, through the foundation that she started – The Ladybug Foundation.

Safety Stars is the only book that I know of that combines the topics of hockey and serious health and safety issues (such as concussions and sudden cardiac arrest), and presents this information in a story-like way. Although it includes a summary of hockey history, and a section on past athletes, the majority of the text deals with current NHL players – and events that took place just a few months ago. Because of its focus on how these players fought to bring change to the sport, I hope that Safety Stars will show readers that they, too, can have a positive impact on others around them – just like their hockey heroes!

Dani: My ultimate goal in life

is to be a light in my corner of this world. I want to make a difference in the lives of others – by simply sharing a smile, giving an encouraging word, or helping those in need. I believe that love is the “greatest gift” – and that’s my ultimate goal.

Follow Susan

Twitter: @sueirwin88

You can also find me at Goodreads!

To read more about Safety Stars:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Goodbye To What's Up Wednesday!

Last week I jokingly announced the ending of my blog. It wasn't until after I started posting that I realized that Jamie Morrow and Erin Funke were no longer doing What's Up Wednesday posts (ended March 25th). I still think it's beneficial to me to have weekly update posts, so I will continue to do so. I may make changes over the coming months. It also may not always be on Wednesday (especially days where I have something else to share).

 Interview Schedule:
April 10th - Sue Irwin
More interview questions being answered as I type this.

All of the longest books my kid owns.

I'm working on brushing up my newest dummy. Going to send it out soon. Going to have 

Every Day Possible
Dummy Work!

Wed 04/08 Writing my real last What's Up Wednesday! Post. Done! 

Thursday 04/09-  Watching two 4 year olds destroy my house.

Friday 04/10- Dummy work!

Saturday 04/11- Finishing up any Dummy work that needs done and hopefully sending it out. Also going to opening T-ball ceremony for my kiddo.

Sunday  04/12 - I think I need Ice Cream this day.

Monday  04/13- Assuring all the people that I scared last week that I am not going to send them videos of me singing. 

Tuesday  04/14 - Winning all the things!

Wednesday  03/25 - Update Day!

Candy, and lots of it!


Toddler Minding 
He keeps screaming. Oh god the screaming!.

I went to the beach!

Dan Burke, This Bud's for you!

*What's up Wednesday is part of Jamie Morrow's summer writing intensive: "Ready. Set. WRITE!" There are other host 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Interview with Marla Lesage

I have the Fantastic Marla Lesage on my blog today. She is both a Writer and an Illustrator. She has a wonderful style as an Illustrator. Her work is fun and engaging. I believe she uses colored pencils and watercolors to achieve her pictures. I love the picture of the baby floating off on a ring with balloons attached. How lucky that giraffe was there to save him! If you want to see the picture it's the 9th image in Marla's portfolio here. Stick around for the interview first, though!

Besides having her art for sale at the new Shannex Parkland art gallery in Fredericton, NB Marla has been working on a lot lately. Her recent work includes: A story, "A Song for Dedi" which will be published in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada" and cover art on the spring 2015 issue of "Stepping Stones" magazine!


Dani: Why Children's Literature?

Marla: I've always been a bookworm and having children reintroduced me to the genre. We read a lot of children's books at home. I love reading picture books, the simplicity, the complexity. And the length of picture books is perfect for me right now.

Dani: Which famous story would you like to illustrate?

Marla: My own. But alas I haven't written any famous stories yet. So I'll go with Froggy Went A Courtin' - one of my favorite traditional songs. ( illustrator Feodor Rojankovsky won a Caldecott for the 1956 version by John Langstaff.) I'd like to give it a modern feminist twist.

Dani: Finish the following thoughts:

Children don't...
have a filter (preschoolers at least). They'll say the rudest thing in public like "Look she's really fat!" or "He only has one arm!" And it's completely innocent because they haven't learned about society's stigmas yet. As a parent it can be embarrassing. But I think as writers and illustrators, it gives us the opportunity to influence the next generation in positive ways.

Art is...
everywhere. It's not confined to galleries or museums. It's on our clothes, in our houses and our hearts. Mother Nature is the ultimate artist. I think we try to mimic her expertise.

I need...
more time. I have so many story ideas and art ideas. I have to remind myself that I don't need to do everything now. I can tuck the good ideas away for the future. I just keep trying to take baby steps towards my goals and see where it leads.

Dani: What's special about your work?

Marla: It's mine. I'm always amazed at my creations. Not in a conceited way though! It's just really satisfying to create something yourself when we live in such a commercial society. I think we sometimes forget that a real live person created the art we see around us.

Dani: What is your ultimate goal in life?

Marla: I want to be a positive influence on the people around me. Especially my children, but also my community.

Follow Marla:




Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Book - Circus Train!

Yesterday my son and I got a wonderful package in the mail! Inside a big brown package we found Jennifer Cole Judd's "Circus Train". This is a fantastic book! Wonderful rhyming throughout the whole story. It's engaging and a ton of fun. Melanie Matthew's pictures are simply gorgeous. My son just went nuts when he saw this book. It's his new favorite. Thanks Jennifer! We will cherish this book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What's Up Wednesday! April 1st - The Last What's Up!

So today I announce that I'm quitting picture book creation, shutting down my blog and becoming a street performer. It's really the only thing that I can go into that's going to make me any money. I'm not a great singer, but I have a profound knowledge of the world around me and boundless enthusiasm. I will be on Vine every day documenting my newfound career.

It's not like anyone reads my blog anyway. What's Up Wednesday was officially canceled by Jaime Morrow Last week. It is time for me to go as well! Please, no tears for me!

 Interview Schedule:
This was my interview schedule, but that's done now.
April 3rd - Marla Lesage
April 10th - Sue Irwin

I've worked something out with the local drama group. I direct them, and they will act out every story I ever want to read. I will literally never have to read again.

The only thing I'm writing now is song lyrics. Enjoy this taste of my musical WIP:

Pour your weight into your right foot.
Lift left foot and move it forward
Lit left foot.
Raise right hand to chest
Raise left hand to the North East
Move hand inward

I don't want to say anymore online. My first performance will say it all. 

Every Day Possible
Singing this new song that I wrote.

Wed 03/18 Writing my last What's Up Wednesday! Post. Done! 

Thursday 03/19-  Finishing my song and preparing to sing.

Friday 03/20- Living in silence so I can mentally prepare my voice.

Saturday 03/21- Living in silence  and standing on one foot while I physically prepare my body for the unorthodox dance moves I will be doing while I sing.

Sunday  03/22 - Singing in the highest pitches possible to increase my range.

Monday  03/23- Singing in the lowest pitches possible to decrease my range.

Tuesday  03/24 - Experimenting with chocolate

Wednesday  03/25 - Experimenting with drug shaped candy.

Do, Re, Me, but not Fa, So, La & Ti


Toddler Minding 
Crafting my kid a cardboard house so he can come on the road with me.

I think my song may be notes from the Tai Chi class I took. It's funny how we can be a poet all our lives and never know it!

Dan Burke, This Bud's for you!

*What's up Wednesday is part of Jamie Morrow's summer writing intensive: "Ready. Set. WRITE!" There are other host blogs including: Erin L. FunkAlison MillerKaty Upperman, and Elodie Nowodazkij.