Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with Laura Sassi about Her New Children’s Book Bunny Finds Easter

Molly the Artsy Corgi and I would like to welcome back children’s author, Laura Sassi. Bunny, the main character in Laura’s new board book, Bunny Finds Easter, has also come along to help answer some questions and show you a cute craft.

Laura, let’s let Molly and Bunny talk a little and show the craft, and then you and I can finish up the interview.

Molly:  I love your Easter hat, Bunny. Did you pick out the ribbon and flowers?

Bunny: Yes, and I wanted the ribbon to go under my chin so it would stay on. My favorite part, though, is that there are two holes for my ears.

Molly:  Oh, wow, my ears aren’t as long as yours, but I need a hat like that, too! Tell me, Bunny, do bunnies really like carrots?

Bunny: Of course! They are crunchy and colorful and full of vitamins!

Molly:  I like the crunchy part best! I’ve never been on an Easter egg hunt, Bunny, but I think I’d be really good because of my super powerful nose. Would you please tell our readers what you do on an egg hunt.

Bunny: It’s just like it sounds. An Easter egg hunt is when you go on a hunt and look for eggs! Sometimes the eggs are real eggs- but colored. Other times the eggs have surprises inside them like chocolate and jelly beans!

Molly: That sounds fun and yummy. I want to have an egg hunt this Easter! What other things do you do on Easter?

Bunny: At our house, we bake Easter treats like hot cross buns and we decorate Easter eggs. We also get dressed up and hop to church!  Can you spot the church?  (HINT: It’s on the cover of the book.)

Molly:  I did see the church. It’s very pretty. I really like Ella’s illustrations. They make me want to jump into your story and go to church with you! Everything sounds like so much fun, but when did you find out that Easter is really all about Jesus and His resurrection?

Bunny: I learned about Jesus and His resurrection at church.  And do you know when I first heard the good news of Easter? It was when we were singing! Singing hymns is a great way to learn about Jesus and His gift of forgiveness and new life.

Molly:  Singing is a wonderful way to learn about Jesus. Let’s show children another super cute way to learn about Jesus and His resurrection!

Bunny: That’s sound like a hopping fun idea!

Supplies and Directions for Bunny Craft

Supplies:

  • small flower pot
  • pink acrylic paint
  • cardstock or art foam in pinks and flowery colors
  • Wiggly eyes
  • Pink pompom
  • Glue gun, markers

Here are the directions:

  1. Paint the flower pot pink
  2. Draw and cut out ears, flowers, and a bow
  3. Tuck ears into flower pot , add flowers to the rim, and glue in place
  4. Draw mouth with marker
  5. Glue eyes and pompom nose in place (get help from parents or grandparents to use a glue gun)
  6. Fill with plastic Easter eggs. Some of these could contain jelly beans but others may contain paper slips with written items to teach about Jesus and Easter or the items from Resurrection eggs.

Molly: Do you think it looks a little like you, Bunny?

Bunny: Yes, in PINK!

Kathy: while Molly and Bunny munch on a few jelly beans, can you tell us where you got the idea for Bunny Finds Easter, Laura?

Laura: As a young child I was confused about what we were celebrating at Easter. I loved coloring Easter eggs and hunting for jelly beans, but it wasn’t until I was a tween that I made the connection that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’s resurrection. Inspired by that memory, I decided to write a board book for preschoolers and toddlers that would celebrate those fun Easter traditions and, at the same time, serve as an introduction to the real gift of Easter – Jesus! I decided that an engaging way to do this was through the eyes of a sweet bouncy protagonist named Bunny who wakes up Easter morning determined find out what Easter is all about.

Kathy:  What a wonderful way to help little ones learn about Easter! Molly and I love to snuggle to read cute board books and look at the pictures together. Do you have some suggestions for how parents and grandparents can use Bunny Finds Easter to tell children about Jesus and His resurrection?

Laura:  Yes. First of all just enjoy the story with your little ones. Sniff along with Bunny as she sniffs those hot cross buns and hunt for the fun things she encounters along the way – like Easter lilies and baby animals and colorful eggs and Easter candies.

  • As you are reading, after thoroughly investigating each spread, ask your child, “Are these (insert items) what Easter is all about?  The answer is no, but maybe they are a clue as to what Easter is all about.
  • When you reach that final spread, celebrate together that JESUS is what Easter is all about.  Maybe even say his name together and rejoice that He is Risen!
  • Afterwards, you can review the message of the story by re-examining the items found in the story to see how each reminds us of Easter and God’s love.  Examples: Chocolate bunnies and jelly beans are sweet – like God.  The cross on the hot-cross bun is like the Cross at Easter.  The Easter bonnet – is joyful – just the way we feel on Easter as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection…and so forth.

Kathy:  Molly and I love those ideas! Where can our readers find Bunny Finds Easter?

Laura: The book is available at bookstores everywhere. If your local indie doesn’t yet have it, you can request it. I would also LOVE it if you recommended it for purchase at your church or preschool library, as well as your town library.  That way it can serve as an engaging introduction to Easter to even more children.

Thank you, Laura and Bunny for visiting our blog today to tell us all about your newest book, Bunny Finds Easter!

Have a joyful Easter Everyone!

Interview with Josie Siler and Howie about Her New Picture Book Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw

Molly and I want to welcome Josie Siler and Howie to our blog today. Josie has written an adorable picture book about Palm Sunday and a little donkey named Howie who’s sad because he thinks his hee-haw is broken.

I asked Josie some questions so you can get to know her and how Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw came into being. Then Molly took over to ask Howie some questions. So read on to learn all about this special pair and get a glimpse of some of the book’s illustrations.

Kathy: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

Josie: I grew up in small-town Wisconsin. I’ve traveled the world, but life with chronic illness has brought me back to my childhood home where I’m loving the small-town life. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never saw it as something I would make a career out of until chronic illness hit. I had a dream of serving the Lord overseas and that’s when I started writing. What began as a newsletter to my prayer team turned into a blog. The blog turned into a way to keep people updated when chronic illness hit and kept me from going overseas as planned. I discovered I loved writing and it snowballed from there. Now I write all kinds of things and God has used my words to spread the message of His love further than my two feet could have ever taken me!

Kathy: Isn’t it amazing how God leads us on paths we could never have imagined, but turn out to be just right for us and bring glory to Him? What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

Josie: This won’t come as a surprise, but I loved to read. I had many all-night reading binges as a tween and teen and have loved books for as long as I can remember. I also loved to climb trees and travel anywhere I could get anyone to take me!

Kathy: books and travel—two of my favorites, too! What were some of your favorite childhood books?

Josie: So many! My favorite picture book was The Muffin Muncher by Stephen Cosgrove. I just loved that muffin munching dragon! I also loved the Orphan Train Trilogy by Jane Peart and the Adventures of the Northland Series by Wisconsin author Lois Walfrid Johnson.

Kathy: I can see you were already interested in travel adventures! What is something not too many people know about you?

Josie: I haven’t shared this with very many people, but I’ve always had a secret dream of being the voice of a cartoon character! I also have my motorcycle license and I’m a huge fan of big trucks.

Kathy: Maybe someday, you’ll get to be the voice of a cartoon character who rides motorcycles! What do you like to do for fun?

Josie: Besides reading? I love to travel and explore new places. I love to shop small towns and photograph beautiful things. I enjoy a good movie and one day I would really like to ride in a hot air balloon.

Kathy: that would sure be an adventure! What was the inspiration for Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw?

Josie: One night when I couldn’t sleep God dropped this idea of a donkey with a broken hee-haw into my head. I wrote the first half of the book on the notes app on my cellphone that night and the next night when I couldn’t sleep again. I don’t think any book will ever come to me as easily as this one did. I feel like it was truly a gift from the Lord as He gave me the idea out of nowhere and words to write. Thank you, God- and insomnia!

Kathy: Wow, that’s amazing! I love how you’ve woven Howie’s story of realizing he’s not broken with the events of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem! What suggestions do you have for parents or grandparents to help children enjoy Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw and understand how unique and special God has made each one of them?

Josie: Kids (and adults) are constantly being told who they should be and that they’re not good enough. Parents can use Howie’s story to help kids see themself as God sees them. It’s so important to understand who we are in Jesus Christ. I encourage adults to speak Biblical truth to the little ones in their life. This will help them develop God-confidence instead of self-confidence! When we know who we are in Christ and that God doesn’t make mistakes, we’ll all be able to walk in the freedom of who God made us to be, broken hee-haws and all.

Kathy: Amen!

Molly the Artsy Corgi thinks Howie is the cutest donkey she’s ever seen, and she has some questions for him:

Molly: Howie, are donkeys related to horses?

Howie: Hi Molly! Donkeys and horses are in the same family, but we are a different species. So yes, we’re related but we have a lot of differences.

Molly: We corgis are good herders, so I bet I could herd donkeys really well! How will I find them? Are they all gray like you, Howie?

Howie: Oh no, us donkeys are a colorful bunch. Gray is the most common color, but my friends are also brown, black, white, or even multicolored.

Molly: I never knew that! I’ll have to keep my eyes open for those other colors. What’s your favorite food, Howie?

Howie: I really love fresh carrots for a special treat!

Molly: I love it when Kathy chops carrots and drops some for me. I think we’d get along really well, Howie! Thanks for these websites where we can find out more about donkeys. It has pictures of donkeys of different colors!

https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/what-we-do/knowledge-and-advice/about-donkeys

https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/uk/files/2020-02/safe-treats-and-tempters.pdf

Molly: Howie, children may wonder how you got your name. Can you tell us?

Howie: I love this question! Do you want to know a secret? When Josie first wrote her book, I was a girl donkey named Hallie. Josie had lots of people read her book and help her make it the best it could be and one of those smart people reminded Josie that a colt is a male donkey. I’m so happy that mistake was caught because then I got to be Howie! When Josie picked my name, she wanted to keep it short and start with an H so she looked up lots of names. Josie and I both think the meaning of names is important and I’m really glad she picked a good one for me. Howie means “heart brave.” I really needed a brave heart to do what Jesus asked me to do!

Molly: How wonderful that your name means “heart brave.” But sometimes you look a little lonely and sad in the pictures. How did Jesus help you feel special and brave enough to help Him?

Howie: I love Jesus! Before I met Him, I felt like I was broken and that I wasn’t good for anything. But then Jesus picked me out of all the other donkeys and said that He needed ME! I felt so special because Jesus saw me. He told me that I wasn’t broken and that my Hee-Haw, Hee-Ha-La-La-Lay-Lu-Ya is special and that I was made to praise Him. I finally understood that I was made on purpose and that I have a great purpose in life. You’re special too, Molly. Never forget how important you are to Jesus. He loves you so much!

Molly: You’re right, Howie. Jesus is so wonderful! Sometimes when we’ve done something we shouldn’t or have trouble feeling special, it’s so good to remember He loves us! Your Hee-Haw was just right to sing Hallelujah to Jesus!

Let’s head back now to to my interview with Josie to find out where readers can get their very own copy of Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw!

Kathy: Josie, children will love to snuggle up to hear and look at the pictures in Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw. Can you tell us where we can find this wonderful picture book?

Josie: Of course! You can find my book lots of places. Your local bookstore might have it. If not, you can find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Christianbook, Walmart, and if it’s sold out some places, you can always get it right from my publisher, End Game Press. I have a list of places with links on Howie’s page on my website. Come visit us at

https://josiesiler.com/howies-broken-hee-haw/

Molly and I want to thank Josie and Howie for visiting with us today. We enjoyed getting to know you and hearing all about Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw!

Thanks so much for having us. We both had so much fun with you and Molly!

 

 

 

Interview with Children’s Author Nancy I. Sanders

Molly and I are pleased today  to tell you about a wonderful bedtime  story for children, called Bedtime With Mommy.

To help us, we’re hosting its author, Nancy I. Sanders, on our blog today! Nancy has written numerous children’s books, and her latest is called Bedtime with Mommy. Nancy is a Mom and Grandma, so she knows how important those last snuggles before bed are for little ones. Bedtime with Mommy is sure to become a favorite with your child or grandchild, so let’s meet Nancy and learn how she came to write this cute board book!

Welcome, Nancy, to Kathy the Picture Lady blog!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

A: I’ve always loved reading, so when my two sons were little and I began reading infant board books to them, I wanted to write books just like that. Little did I know that 35 years and more than 100 children’s books later in a variety of genres, I’d finally get to write a board book, too! The beautifully illustrated padded board book, Bedtime With Mommy (published by End Game Press) arrived just in time this fall to celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday.

What a special way to celebrate your granddaughter’s birthday! I’m sure she loved snuggling in to read your book!

Q: What’s your favorite “Mommy” memory from your childhood?

A: I’m the youngest of seven children and grew up on a dairy farm. One of my favorite memories of my mother was when I was a preschooler. I remember waking up many times in the early hours of dawn when I heard my father leave the house for the morning milking as he headed up to the barn. I’d climb out of the double bed I shared with my older sister, tiptoe through another sister’s bedroom, and arrive at my parent’s bedroom. I’d climb into bed and snuggle with my mother, falling asleep for a short time in her arms before she had to get up and start cooking a full breakfast for our household of nine. I cherish that memory even today!

This is such a wonderful memory to cherish, and I bet it contributed to your idea for Bedtime with Mommy.

Q: Did you have a pet when you were a child?

A: Living on a 750-acre farm just a mile out of town, our barn became a drop-off place for unwanted cats, kittens, and dogs. My father had a policy about these unexpected abandoned pets—all were welcome! Twice a day during milking time, Dad filled up a huge roasting pan with dogfood and milk and all were well fed. In exchange, the cats helped keep the rats out of the hay mow and the dogs helped keep the groundhogs out of the fields. From Bassett hound to collies to a fluffy orange Angora cat, I have many happy memories of countless dogs and cats and we loved them all!

How fun to have so many dogs and cats to love!

Q: What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

A: It was seasonal. In the winter, I loved to ice skate on the pond and roast marshmallows with my brother and five sisters at the nearby bonfire. In the spring my oldest sister led us on hikes to visit the vernal pools to find the tadpoles. Summer days were spent digging up prized arrowheads from the ancient Iroquois trail that ran through our property. And in the Fall we’d climb the pear trees and wild apple trees to collect fruit for applesauce and tarts.

Ice skating was one of my favorite things to do in the winter, too! I grew up in Maine and we had lots of ice for skating!

Q: What were some of your favorite childhood books?

A: Oooohhh, I have so many favorite “friends” from childhood. Our house was overflowing with books. We even had a bookcase of books in the bathroom! Here are a few that come to mind: Charlotte’s Web. Winnie the Pooh. The Secret Garden. The Jungle Book. Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. Little Women. Freckles. Here’s a photo from my blog where you can see the childhood copies I still own today.

I love how you describe your house as overflowing with books!

Q: What is something not too many people know about you?

A: My husband Jeff and I play in a community orchestra that welcomes all levels of skill. (In the photo, we’re sitting on the left at the back of the stage behind the timpani.) Jeff plays the double bass. I played marimba in high school so now I’m one of the percussionists and help play glockenspiel, claves, the guiro, cymbal, timpani, and any other part a classical piece calls for. My favorite concert was when we performed the Nutcracker Suite a couple of years ago. I got to play the tambourine for the Russian dance!

As a percussionist, you have to have a good sense of rhythm, which I’m sure helps you when you write in rhyme!

Q: What do you like to do now for fun?

A: Writing is always my first choice for fun! But my husband and I also like to go camping at the nearby beaches or mountains. We also raise monarch butterflies in our backyard milkweed patch. I’m a Citizen Scientist and help track birds that visit our backyard. We’re right next to a riverbed that flows to the ocean and get some interesting varieties even though we live in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Raising monarchs and tracking birds sounds like lots of fun!

Q: What inspired you to write Bedtime with Mommy?

A: We have four grandkids and reading a book (or more!) at bedtime is a big deal. I wanted to write a bedtime board book about the special relationship a mother and child have. My hope is that this book becomes a favorite.

Bedtime with Mommy shows that relationship so well. I think it will quickly become a favorite bedtime book!

Q: Bedtime with Mommy has so many delightful pictures of mommy animals and their babies from all around the world. Do you have a favorite from the book?

A: The panda Mommy and baby are so sweet. The illustrator, Felia Hanakata did such a wonderful job. Plus I love the words:

It’s bedtime in the FOREST.

Bamboo stands tall and straight.

My mommy shares a bedtime snack

Before it gets too late.

 I hold my special Bible.

We find my favorite Psalm.

We read about God’s promises.

I’m peaceful now and calm.

Q: Bedtime with Mommy is written in rhyme. What do you enjoy most about writing in rhyme?

A: The best part about writing in rhyme is when you’ve worked hard over days and weeks on one particular stanza and filled pages with notes and potential word pairs. Then suddenly there comes that magical moment when you read the stanza out loud and it practically sings because the rhythm and rhyme finally metamorphosize and come together.

Q: I love how you weave prayers and songs into the story! And that the book ends with a human mommy tucking her child into bed. Do you have any suggestions for parents or grandparents to help children enjoy Bedtime with Mommy and share God’s love with little children?

A:  Bedtime is such a prime time to share God’s love on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or wait until everything’s perfect. It can start tonight. Just say a simple prayer as you tuck your little one into bed. Or choose a faith-filled book such as Bedtime with Mommy and read it to them before you kiss them goodnight. You can sing a praise song together as you’re helping them into their jammies. Or tape a Bible memory verse on the bathroom mirror and say it together as they’re brushing their teeth. And of course if you already have a bedtime routine, you can weave in all these wonderful faith-filled moments and more!

These are wonderful ideas, Nancy! I’m sure parents and grandparents will love them.

Q: You’ve written so many wonderful books for children. Can you tell us a little about any new projects you’re working on?

A: I just signed the contract for the next book in the series, Bedtime with Daddy! So be sure to watch for it next Fall in September, 2022!

Molly and I will be sure to watch for Bedtime with Daddy!

Thank you so much, Nancy for sharing with our readers about Bedtime with Mommy! While Molly and I snuggle down to read it together, would you tell our readers where they can learn more about you and your books.

A: At my website at www.nancyisanders.com.

And I love to connect with readers online! Here’s where you can find me on the Internet. Please follow me if you’re on these platforms and like my pages!

Blogzone (for writers): https://nancyisanders.wordpress.com

Christian Children’s Authors: https://christianchildrensauthors.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nancyisanders

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nancyisanders

Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/NancyI.SandersAuthorPage/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NancyISanders

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nancyisanders/

Amazon Author’s Page: www.amazon.com/author/nancysanders

Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Teacher-Plus-Writer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/95924.Nancy_I_Sanders

Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyisanders/

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Annette Whipple, Children’s Author

When Winslow Homer painted The Country School in 1871, children had few books to learn from, but today things are much different.

Our guest today, Annette Whipple, loves to research and write books for children. Molly and I love her Truth About animals series.

The series now has 3 books, Whooo Knew, the Truth About Owls; Woof, the Truth About Dogs; and the newest book, Scurry, the Truth About Spiders. Lots of fascinating facts and colorful, up-close photos will delight children and adults.

Molly is excited to learn more about Annette and her beautiful books, so let’s get started!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

A: I wasn’t always a writer. I began writing as a blogger because I wanted to share my daughter’s speech journey as she overcame verbal apraxia with others. Eventually, I realized I could be an even better writer, so I took some writing courses. Later I had some magazine articles published in magazines for adult readers. In 2014, I had my first idea for a children’s book, so I studied the publishing industry, took lots of courses, read a ton, and attended my first conference a year later. Like most children’s writers, I was an overnight success when that book idea became a book in 2020—The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. (That was a joke! Writing for children is much more difficult than most people realize. It’s also a long, rather slow process.)

Q: Writing is a long, slow process, but we’re so glad you’ve written such fun and informative books! When you need a break from writing, what do you like to do for fun?

A: For fun I enjoy going for hikes or baking treats for my family. I enjoy movies, too! Of course I love reading—lots of kids’ nonfiction. 😊

Molly would love to taste some of those treats you make!! And I bet you do some of your research on your hikes and in your reading, too!

Q: What was the inspiration for The Truth About series?

A: The Truth About series began with the idea for a book about owls. I knew so much incredible information, that I knew I could fill a middle grade book. But I quickly realized it wasn’t working. I set it aside for a couple of years (while I finished The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide). When I returned to it, I completely changed the structure and audience. Now it’s a fraction of the length as a picture book! I was thrilled when Reycraft Books wanted to turn it into a series!

Those owl eyes are mesmerizing! I’m an art teacher and one class does an art project about owls, so I plan to have your book, Whooo Knew there for children to enjoy as they work.

 

Q: Please tell our readers a little about Scurry, the latest book in the Truth About series.

A: Scurry! The Truth About Spiders is a question-and-answer picture book. It includes tons of beautiful photography as well as humorous art illustrations. It’s packed with facts about our 8-legged spider friends.

Molly and I enjoy the question and answer format of your books. And we love the little creatures in each book that add humor!

 Q: Some baby spiders launch into the world on passing breezes. When does Scurry, The Truth about Spiders, the 3rd book in your series, launch into the world?

A: September 30, 2021—but the publishing world is experiencing all sorts of problems with the supply chain. So it may not arrive in bookstores or library shelves until a bit later. (Please be patient!)

 

Q: We love the up close and colorful photos in Scurry and the other 2 books. Do you have any favorite photos?

A: In Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, I love this photo because at first glance, it looks like it could be the owl’s tongue—but it’s not!

Yikes! It’s a mouse! We see its little feet!

 

This puppy is irresistible in Woof! The Truth About Dogs.

Molly totally agrees with you !

 

And in Scurry! The Truth About Spiders, I appreciate how we can see all the silk threads from the spinnerets in this spread.

That’s fascinating. I’ve never seen such an up-close photo of a spider making its silk!

 

Q:  Woof, The Truth about Dogs also launched recently–in July. What interesting thing did you learn about dogs that you didn’t know before?

A: So much! But I probably most appreciate how much dogs explore their world through their sense of smell. I knew it was important before, but now I understand the science behind it, too.

Molly loved learning more about her doggy cousins in Woof!

Q: What suggestions would you give parents, grandparents, and teachers to help children enjoy your books?

A: Have fun going deeper to learn about any of the topics I write about. Here’s a guide featuring owl STEM activities, crafts, and books! https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/10/owl-stem-crafts-and-books.html

Q: What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?

A: Readers make the best writers! So read! Also…keep writing. Take classes and value others’ opinions! Also, check out this blog post about how kids and teens can get published. https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/07/how-can-kids-and-teens-get-published.html

That’s such good advice, Annette. Molly and I hope all our readers are listening!

 Q: What are some upcoming books in The Truth About series?

A: Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs comes out in spring 2022 followed by Meow! The Truth About Cats. We’re really excited for these titles!

Molly and I are excited, too, and we’ll be watching for these 2 new books in 2022!

Q:  Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

A: Readers can learn lots by following me on social media or visiting my website at www.AnnetteWhipple.com.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: My books can be requested at any bookstore or library! Of course, they’re also available online, but I prefer to support small businesses.

Thank’s so much, Annette for taking time to visit Molly and me here on our blog. We and our readers have enjoyed getting to know about you and your Truth About series. I know 1 or more of these great books will be on my Christmas list to give as gifts!

Annette, Molly and I hope you’ll visit again when Ribbit and Meow come out! Molly said she might take a walk, though, while we talk about the Meow book!!

For Molly Fans: here are  ways you can enjoy great art from a Christian perspective, as well as get related devotions, art activities and interviews with children’s authors!

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

 

Interview with Jean Alfieri, Author of Zuggy the Rescue Pug books and Alexandra Ruiz, the series’ illustrator

If you liked the art project of a cute little pug with a butterfly perched on his nose in my last post, you’ll enjoy today’s interview with author, Jean Alfieri, who knows all about pugs, because she’s rescued two! She loves their lap-dog size and cute, mooshed-in faces so much that she’s written a series of picture books about them!

And Jean has a give away! Enter the Pick your Favorite Pug Picture Contest with your vote, and you could win your choice of a Zuggy book!

Now please welcome Jean Alfieri, Award Winning Author of Zuggy the Rescue Pug book series and Alexandra Ruiz, the series illustrator. You’ll enjoy learning more about them, the pugs, Zuggy and Zoey, and these colorful picture books!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

A: I have always loved reading and writing, as far back as I can remember. I entered a short-story contest in 6th grade. That entry was selected to advance to a State competition for my age group and it won!

I had forgotten all about this accomplishment until some 20 years later. I was entrenched in Corporate America when I ran into my former junior high classmate who had also entered that same competition. Her book had taken 2nd place in the State contest.

When she asked what I was doing now, and I told her, she replied with shock and disappointment, “Oh no! You should be writing! I read your story back in 6th grade and it was great!”

I had no idea it had left such a strong impression on her, but those comments started the wheels turning again!

Q: Did you have pets when you were growing up? What pets do you have now?

A: My love of dogs was resisted by my parents for several years. To get around that, I sort-of adopted a couple of the neighbor dogs. We lived in a rural area that was mostly horse farms, so the dogs (an Irish setter and a white lab) traveled a couple acres to visit our house. I made sure it was worth it. We’d make forts, search for frogs and salamanders at the nearby creek, and occasionally I would convince my mom to buy dog biscuits from the store (even though we didn’t have a dog)!

Finally, when I was 7 years old, my parents brought home a handsome red Doberman. Rumble was the joy of my childhood. He was dressed up in nightgowns when I had friends sleep over. I decorated his collar with lilacs each spring. He was pampered and loved but he was no “softy.” He was a fierce protector of me as I grew up.

To date my husband and I have adopted over a dozen senior rescue dogs. (We love the vintage puppies!) Running the house now are: 8-year-old Silly Sally Sue (former Airedale show-dog), 11-year-old Princess Zoey (blind pug), and 15-year-old Sir Reginald (6 lb. toothless chihuahua).

I love the names you give your dogs!

Q: What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

A: Reading was one of my favorite things and my mom and I made weekly trips to our local library. Summer was (and still is) my favorite season. I loved to ride my bike and play in the shade of our front-yard sandbox.

Q: What were some of your favorite childhood books?

A: I couldn’t get enough Dr. Seuss. I was as riveted with the crazy illustrations as I was with the unpredictable word choice and enchanting rhythms of his stories.

One non-Dr. Seuss book that I read repeatedly was “Noisy Nora,” by Rosemary Wells. I reached out to her a couple years ago to thank her for being an inspiration. You can imagine my delight when I heard back from her! In her email she wished me well in my writing journey.

Q: What is something not too many people know about you?

A: I’ve flown in a hot air balloon over a dozen times in 4 different states! (I was part of a hot air balloon chase-crew in my early twenties.)Wow, I bet the view was amazing!

Q: What inspired you to write the Zuggy stories?

A: When my first rescue pug died, I was heart-broken. I adopted him when he was 5 years old and we were blessed with almost 10 years together. I didn’t just miss his physical presence. I worried that all our wonderful stories and his sweet-stubborn personality would be forgotten. So, I started journaling. The more I wrote, the more I cried and laughed and cried again. After a year of writing, I was able to look at those pages from a different perspective. I’d captured some really funny stories. I decided to put a few of them to verse, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Journaling is such a great way to capture memories and emotions, and now others can enjoy those stories, too!Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Almost every Zuggy story is grounded in some element of real-life, and then I add the proper embellishments to ensure it’s entertaining. You can’t beat real life for great material! My current pug, Princess Zoey, is the new “Zuggy” mascot. She stars in some Zuggy stories as his little sister.Q: Do you have a new Zuggy book in the works?

A: Yes. Zuggy’s newest book, “Spooky-Ooky Stories” will be released in time for summer break, on May 20 – for National Rescue Dog Day!It is a collection of three suspenseful scary stories: 1. The Whispering Ghost 2. Secrets of the Haunted Barn, and 3. Fright Night. Any of the three can be read separately, but they are all related and build on each other.

It looks like a spooky-fun read!

Q: How does your Christian faith impact your writing?

A: No writing would be accomplished without His guiding hand. The ideas aren’t mine. The words I struggle with aren’t mine. I pray for guidance and help when writing, critiquing, and revising. It really feels like a partnership and in many respects, that takes much of the pressure off. I can have fun, knowing the Lord is leading. That isn’t to say it’s not a considerable amount of work. I want to produce the best stories to glorify God.

I pray over the manuscripts before they are sent to my illustrator and again before they go to my print design and lay-out person. Sometimes the stories reflect a Christian theme. Other times they don’t. I believe the right person (child or grown-up) will read the right book at the right time for them.

Q: You volunteer at the Pikes Peak Humane Society. What do you do?

A: I’ve done a variety of jobs over the years. One of my favorites is being a “matchmaker”. I get to introduce people to the dog they’ve selected to meet. It’s heartwarming to see when the relationship clicks, and a connection is made.

Recently, I’ve been making “rescue runs” to pick up dogs from partnering shelters around the State. If there are dogs struggling to be adopted, we drive out and transport them back to Colorado Springs. Our community embraces pet adoption so this provides them a greater chance at finding a forever home.

Being a dog-walker is also great fun. It’s important the dogs get exercise while at the shelter. It’s good for their physical and mental health. The Humane Society welcomes new volunteers. Those interested can find more information at: www.HSPPR.org

What a great idea to volunteer at the Humane Society! I’m sure some of my readers would love to help rescued dogs!

Q: Do you always write in rhyme? Is it hard?

A: I don’t always write in rhyme. In fact, none of the stories I’ve written for various publications that have been selected to be “traditionally” published are in rhyme. Hmmm – maybe that should tell me something!

Creating a story in verse is challenging. That’s what I love about it. It’s like a puzzle and there is only room for the perfect words. The rhythm and rhyme must be compatible to give it the right cadence. Some of Zuggy’s poems have taken years to polish!

Q: What would you like children to take away from your books?

A: The joy of reading. It should be fun, or kids won’t be interested. Poetry is mind-tingling. It helps younger readers learn new words and gain a better command of the language. But all of that is a bonus. I just want them to laugh and keep turning pages!

Just like you and Zoey!

Q: What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?

A: Life offers an abundance of material …if you pay attention. The struggles and victories you travel through can feed and inspire your writing and help others along their path. Keep your chin up. Writing is not an easy job, but it is one, if it’s truly your passion, that is incredibly fulfilling.

Q: You have 2 new books out that are not part of the Zuggy series. Can you tell us about them?

A: As Zuggy was coming to life from all the stories of my first rescue pug, I realized how much of our personal stories are lost in just a single generation. I wish I knew more about the lives my grandparents led, where and how they met, who influenced them, their dreams and accomplishments, even what they learned from their failures. Sometimes we don’t write down our great memories because we simply don’t know where to start.

I decided to create a guided journal. “Blessed to be Me” is designed to help people capture their great life stories. “Blessed to be Your Dog” was requested by those who bought the first journal! They wanted a dedicated place to celebrate the stories of their fur heroes. As a fellow dog-lover, I completely understood! Both books are filled with a variety of long story-starters and short prompts, coloring pages, inspiring quotes, and plenty of space to write and doodle. They are a fun and easy way to create a treasured keepsake.

These sound like lots of fun and journaling is how you got back to writing!

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your upcoming projects?

A: www.JeanAlfieri.com This site connects to both Zuggy’s website and the website for my guided journals. Readers can connect with me to schedule a Virtual Author Visit (best for first and second graders). There are also links to purchase my books and a Zuggy photo library as well.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: They are all available on Amazon. The links are on my website and Zuggy’s: www.ZuggythePug.com   Anyone interested in shopping locally can find them at the Covered Treasures Bookstore in Monument, CO. They also carry stuffed Zuggy toys and tote bags, which make great gift packages!

A Zuggy tote bag! How fun!

Q: You have said it was interesting how you met your illustrator.

A: My first book was released through a small publishing company. I was able to select my illustrator but was not allowed to work directly with that person. I had to communicate through my rep.

It was recommended that I create a social media platform not just for me as the author, but for Zuggy, my main character. I was reluctant but was ultimately very happy I did. Turns out, Zuggy’s social media posts are much more popular than mine!

And just a couple month after Zuggy’s FB page was created and the book contract ended (so the publishing rights returned to me), the illustrator found me via Zuggy’s FB page! She introduced herself and said things I knew had to be her! It was so wonderful to finally be able to tell her how much I appreciated her incredible work. We have been working together ever since.

And that brings us to Alexandra Ruiz, who has created the delightful illustrations for your Zuggy books! Welcome, Alexandra!

Q: They’re so colorful, Alexandra. Tell us about the tools you use and who has influenced your artistic style.

A: I use a drawing tablet. It’s a handy tool which enables me to draw on my computer using certain programs such as Photoshop instead of having to draw traditionally on paper and scanning it onto my computer. My art style is basically a mix of Western cartoon and Anime. A huge inspiration for my works is Disney, specifically the works of Glen Keane who was one of the legendary animators who worked on Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and other classic Disney animated films and Aaron Blaise who worked on animating Raja from Aladdin, The Lion King and who also directed Brother Bear.

Q: What are your favorite things to draw?

A: I enjoy drawing portraits of people and making fan art, but I love drawing animals the most! There is just something about their innocence and playfulness that makes me happy when I draw them. I have three cats of my own and they play a huge part of my life as well as my inspirations for my drawings. Zuggy is a very lovable and playful pug and when I illustrate him, I also use one of my cats, Munchkin, as an inspiration because they have very similar personalities and playfulness.

Mary Cassatt, the artist I wrote about to begin this series about dogs, loved to paint people and used her pets as models sometimes, too!

Q: Does your daily work allow you much creative “freedom and flexibility,” or do you illustrate mostly for individual projects?

A: I am currently working as a freelance artist, so my daily schedule is pretty flexible. Fortunately, most clients I work with allow me to have creative freedom. This is great because it lets me think outside the box and with collaboration, I’m happy to know they love the finished work. I also like to constantly update my clients with my progress, that way if they want to have something changed along the way it’s easier to edit before I finalize with coloring.

Q: What else about your work / passion would you like to share?

A: Other than character drawing I’m still practicing on drawing backgrounds and scenery since it’s one of my weakest points. I will admit that there are times I get discouraged seeing other artists’ works that are better than mine, but I like to take that feeling and turn it into inspiration to help me improve.

Growing up, I was that student who filled her notebooks and books with drawings and there were times I was told to “slow down” and focus on more important things. But I think art is just as important as anything else. And especially in these dark times right now, art is one of the things that helps me escape and keep my mind off the negativity happening around us, so I’m glad my art can brighten people’s days.

Q: This is such a great attitude for your work and how you worked to improve! What other advice would you give an aspiring artist?

I’ve had people ask me for tips on how to draw, and I always tell them one thing: to practice. There is no other way to improve than to keep practicing and not let anyone or anything stop you from doing what you love.

Molly and I couldn’t agree more!

And Molly and I thank you both, Jean, and Alexandra, for visiting and telling us and our readers about yourselves, your work, and the wonderful PUG picture books about Zuggy the Rescue Pug!

 If you’d like to learn more about Mary Cassatt, her painting, and her dogs, and enjoy a cute pug art project, please go to these 2 previous blogs. https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/mary-cassatt-american-impressionist-artist/

https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2021/04/24/a-fun-and-easy-art-activity-make-a-playful-pug-picture/

 And now to thank all you readers, here’s the Pick your Favorite Pug Picture Contest!

Chomping my Toy / Santa hat /  Toothy smile.

Chomping my Toy

Santa hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toothy Smile

All entries will be entered to win a “Zuggy the Rescue Pug” book of your choice. The drawing will be held on May 10th, and the winner will be announced and notified via email.

All you have to do is comment and tell us which one you think is the cutest.

You can also send your vote to: ZuggythePug@gmail.com

Please only vote once!