Watch Out for the Jumping Cactus! Not Kidding: Illustrator Guy Porfirio Three Random Questions Interview

Guy Porfirio has illustrated over 18 picture books. Grandpa’s Little One was #3 on the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Books, and Junk Man’s Daughter was featured in the Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year list in 2007. His latest release is Jump.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Guy. Is your newest book, Jump, the first one that you have also authored? It’s about a cactus, correct? Could you tell us how you came to choose this character and a little about the story?

Guy Porfirio: Yes, I have illustrated many picture books, but “Jump!” is my first as Author/Illustrator.

The story for Jump originally came to me while visiting relatives in Tucson Arizona when I was 12 years old. Having grown up in Chicago, the idea of cactus was as foreign to me as thin crust pizza. Be that as it may, I was willing to accept both ideas with an open mind. That is, until we took a family hike through the desert where my aunt turned to me and said, “Watch out for the jumping cactus.” What? At that point I was ready to be airlifted out. I remember thinking, I didn’t sign up for this. No one told me that there would be deadly cactus parts flying through the air. Whose idea was this anyway? The worst a plant could do in Chicago is give me poison ivy. Let’s go home, I’ll take my chances.

Years later, and now living in Tucson, I decided to take a walk through the desert to mull over several story ideas I had been considering. I made it back to my studio unscathed — but not alone. A small cholla, aka, jumping cactus, had somehow stuck to my shoe and followed me home. My aunt’s words came flooding back. It occurred to me as I studied the stowaway, perhaps jumping cactus is just misunderstood. Everyone knows nothing ever happens in the desert. What if jumping cacti are just plain bored? What if they just want a change of scenery? What if they just need a vacation once and a while? …Light bulb! New story idea!

I named the main character Barb for obvious reasons. Barb is a clever cactus with a great sense of adventure and plenty of spine. All she wants is an adventure. But, in the desert, nothing ever happens, and nothing every changes. Barb sees an opportunity. She holds her breath, takes the leap of a lifetime, and never looks back… until she realizes that having a great adventure is not that great if there is no one to share it with. Which is when things really get interesting.


 Click here to buy Jump!

Ferrante: That’s hilarious. Tell us a little about your writing process from the perspective of an illustrator.

Porfirio: Through my years of illustrating books I’ve trained myself to look for the less obvious – to put an unexpected spin on things. Whatever the most interesting aspect of a character or a scene may be, it’s even better when it comes from a surprising point of view. When I see a thing, or have a thought that strikes me in a funny way (and just about everything does – just ask my family), I sort of come up with a quick back-story complete with dialog snippets and voices to go along with them. If they crack me up, I’ll share them with my wife. I figure if I can make her laugh I just may have something.

Then, I start making lists. I write down everything I can think of that pertains to the character, its situation, its goal, why it can’t reach its goal, and how it reaches its goal anyway — you know the drill. Then, I start sketching scenes. When I get stuck sketching, I switch to writing. When I get stuck writing, I switch back to sketching. If all else fails, I take a long walk.

Ferrante: Grandpa’s Little One, written by Billy Crystal and illustrated by you, was #3 on the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Books, a phenomenal accomplishment. Did you collaborate?

Porfirio: Collaborating with Billy Crystal was quite an amazing experience. Billy was very easy to work with. I learned a lot about the creative process though our collaboration. We communicated through emails and phone conversations. I’d send him sketches and we’d discuss them over the phone, batting new ideas around till the story was working just right. I was able to meet Billy in Phoenix while he was doing his 700 Sundays show tour. I’m proud to say that I actually made him laugh a couple of times through the process, a true badge of honor.


 Click here to buy Grandpa’s Little One

Ferrante: You have illustrated several books for Harper Collins but you have worked for other publishers as well. How does this come about?

Porfirio: I’ve had publishers call me seemingly out-of-the-blue, or as a result of my agent’s work, or, having one of my promotional post cards come across their desk at just the right moment. The trick is to get your work out where it can be seen. Maintain a website, send out promotional materials, be on social media. Just keep putting out your best work on a regular basis and people will notice.

Ferrante: Good advice. Do you set aside time to free draw daily?

Porfirio: Always, no matter what I’m working on. It’s very important to make deadlines, but it’s also important to keep the creative river flowing. I think there is a real need to keep a sense of wonder and possibility while working on anything creative. The obvious answers to concept and composition will always be at the shallow end of the creative ocean. You’ve got to swim out a ways to get the good stuff. Sketching and drawing unrelated pieces helps the process along. Being creative feeds on being creative.

Ferrante: You illustrated Junk Man’s Daughter, released in 2007 and written by Sonia Levitin. It was chosen as one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. Could you tell us about the book and this award?

Porfirio: Junk Man’s Daughter is the story of Hanna and her family emigrating from Germany, because, as Papa explained, “In America, there are streets of gold!” Papa couldn’t find work in America, and the family’s hopes and dreams vanished. Until Hanna saw something winking out of the snow, which turned out to be bottle caps, milk bottles, soda bottles, bent nails, and tin cans — the beginnings of a thriving junk business.

Both sets of my grandparents lived similar stories to this. Understanding and identifying with this project came pretty easy for me. I worked hard to imbue the artwork with a sense of era and hardship.  The book has done very well.

The Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the year includes more than 600 titles chosen by the Children’s Book Committee as the best of the best published in any given year. Committee members consider literary quality and excellence of presentation as well as the potential emotional impact of the books on young readers. Other criteria include credibility of characterization and plot, authenticity of time and place, age suitability, positive treatment of ethnic and religious differences, and the absence of stereotypes.


 Click here to buy Junkman’s Daughter (Tales of Young Americans)

Ferrante: Which book was the most challenging to illustrate?

Porfirio: Actually, my first book dummy was the most challenging book project I’ve ever worked on, period! I had such a hard time getting used to working within the 32 page, 16 spread format. Planning the scenes. Deciding what to illustrate and what to leave out. How to introduce characters, how to lead the viewer’s eye. I actually tried to give the project back at one point. Thank goodness I was working with an editor who understood what I was going through more than I understood storytelling. My editor listened to me, then said, “I know you’ll get this, and once you do, you’ll never forget it.” And I never have.

Ferrante: Wonderful. Which book did you have the most fun illustrating?

Porfirio: Well, first of all, I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve illustrated, but Jump! tops them all. Having complete creative control over story and imagery is a dream come true!

Ferrante: I can see that and it’s probably good that it wasn’t your first book as well. What advice would you give a beginning illustrator that you wish someone had told you?

Porfirio: I wish someone had told me not to spend time comparing my artwork to artists’ work I admire. Other than being spurred on and inspired artistically, comparing one’s artwork to that of another artist’s work is a complete waste of time. Don’t ever suppress your own uniqueness by trying to be like someone else.

Ferrante: As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Is there anything else you would like to share?

Porfirio: I’d just like to say how important to have fun while you’re working. Having fun doing something keeps the creative sparks flying. If I’m not having fun, I find a way to make it fun. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing focus. But, if all else fails, I opt for a diversion: A walk, a movie, lunch, or, a good night’s sleep.

three random questions


Ferrante: If you could bring back any deceased superstar for one final performance in their respective fields, whom would you choose?

Porfirio: That’s easy!  N.C. Wyeth, just so I could watch him paint one more cover from start to finish.

Ferrante: Cool. In your opinion, what is the most beautiful man-made object in the world?

Porfirio: I think the X-Wing Starfighter from StarWars comes pretty close to perfection. But, if I have to choose from earthbound man-made tangible objects I’d have to go with the 2016 Jaguar F-Type V6. I’m not really a car guy, but I think I could get the hang of it with one of those parked in my driveway.

Ferrante: I’ll bet you could. If your name were given as the description for any one word in the dictionary, behind what word would people find your name?

Porfirio: Storyteller. 

Ferrante: Apt choice. Thank you for sharing your funny and fascinating stories with us today.

Jump book trailer

Web site





Rio Chico Books for Children


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The book Barb was reviewed on this blog on February 24, 2017.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Not Afraid to Write the Truth: Activist/Author Eric Lotke Three Random Questions Interview

Eric Lotke is a writer, an attorney and an activist. His writing and advocacy have impacted the American criminal justice system even leading to new laws.

Lotke Eric headshot

Bonnie Ferrante: Your first book, 2044: The Problem isn’t Big Brother, It’s Big Brother Inc. discusses the problem we seem to read about at least once a month where amazing inventions and progressive practices are shut down so that powerful industry can continue accumulating wealth. Does your book offer any solutions? 

Eric Lotke: My novel 2044 starts where George Orwell’s 1984 left off. In 1984 the problem is the leviathan government, personified as Big Brother. In 2044 the leviathan is the private sector, which has taken over everything, including the government. The story in 2044 follows an engineer who discovers a cheap, easy way to take the salt out of seawater. The new discovery is good for everyone — except the giant corporations who control the water supply.

 I snarkily call one corporation Big Brother, Incorporated, and even give it the sunny Orwellian slogan, “Big Brother is Looking Out for You.” But both stories were intended as wake-up calls not as predictions or policy briefs.


Ferrante: Your book, The Real War on Crime: Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, must have ruffled some feathers. How was it received?

Lotke: The Real War was groundbreaking. Published in 1996, it outlined the issues that define criminal justice to this day – mass incarceration, hyperactive policing and radical racial disparity. It offered solutions that remain relevant today – treatment not jail, and true community policing. We described minority communities as “overpoliced and underprotected.” They still are.

The Real War definitely ruffled feathers. It was an early step around a corner that’s (finally) starting to be turned.


Ferrante: Making Manna is your latest fiction novel. Why did you change from nonfiction?

Lotke: I still write non-fiction in my day job. Fiction is just more fun. 2044 ends in despair but I’m not a pessimist. So I wrote Making Manna to give myself a happy ending. Making Manna is a Horatio Alger story. It explores real-life issues but it gives the reader (and writer) a very different experience. 

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write about 14-year-old girl who flees an abusive home with her baby instead of a using man as your major protagonist?

Lotke: I didn’t choose the characters. I chose the story … and the characters are simply the people who would populate a story like that. Making Manna explores the justice system from the victim’s point of view. Who needs justice more than the victim of a childhood sex crime? I started with the worst crime I could imagine. Then I wondered: What does she need? What does the system offer her? What happens next? That’s Making Manna. BTW the 14-year-old girl shares the stage with her newborn baby, a boy. As the story matures, so does the baby. One smart reader called it a “coming of age” story of both mother and son at the same time.

Both characters are finding their way in the world. The son wants to learn the truth of his parentage; the mother needs to heal her own wounds and make peace with her past. The story feels real because it solves real problems the way real people would.

But don’t worry. The bad stuff happens off-screen. You know it happens but you don’t have to watch. Yuck! I want you to have a good time. My challenge was to turn dire circumstances into an uplifting tale of healing and hope.

Ferrante: What does the title mean?

Lotke: Thanks for asking.  The title operates on many levels. At a fundamental level, Making Manna is about food. Food appears throughout the book, as a matter of both physical subsistence and personal independence. As the story develops, so does the characters’ relationship with food. First they eat from the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. Later they learn to boil spaghetti, and still later to bake their own bread. That’s literally “making manna,” I think.

Obviously it’s a biblical reference, too. But in the Bible, manna comes from heaven. In the real world, people need to make their own. Whether manna is food or money, we have to take care of it ourselves. Manna doesn’t fall from the sky.

This isn’t rugged individualism, though. Sure, they have to make their own manna. But they aren’t truly alone. People survive in partnership. Everybody is always giving and receiving help from others.

Ferrante: What was the most challenging thing about writing fiction? What have you learned from this experience that you could share with other writers?

Lotke: I didn’t find it all that different from non-fiction. Even when I work with data (I usually do) I think of it as helping the numbers to tell a story. These are the figures: what do they mean? How can people relate? I feel like I’m doing the same thing both times.

What have I learned that I can share? Give it a try. See if you like what you wrote – but honestly make changes or quit entirely if you don’t.

Ferrante: You must’ve done a huge amount of research for your nonfiction works. Did you draw on this for Making Manna or did you have to do new research? How much do you research before you actually start writing?

Lotke: Making Manna comes from my non-fiction life. I worked in and around the justice system for more than a decade, and before law school I earned my living as a chef. All of that goes into the mix that became Making Manna. With that factual baseline I could research specific questions as needed. For example, I knew enough about criminal trial work but nothing about appeals: I needed to research that. But just enough to support the story. Making Manna is not a legal thriller.

I wanted to be accurate even at the most trivial level. When they first learn to bake bread, one character shouts instructions across the kitchen to another. She’s shouting a real recipe. You can bake from it if you want. Angel’s favorite recipes on page 208 are my favorites, too.

Making Manna is also about parenting. Anybody who has loved a sick child or struggled to find (or pay for!) day care will know what I’m talking about. It would have been a very different book if I weren’t a dad. But that isn’t research. That’s life.


Ferrante: All of these books must’ve been emotionally draining to create. What do you do to stay positive in your personal life?

LotkeIt was strange. I found that when I wrote a sad scene I was gloomier at bedtime. When I wrote a happy scene I was in a better mood afterwards. To put myself in the mental state of my characters I needed to go there myself.

How do I stay positive? Just like everyone else with a stinky job or sickness in the family. I think positive, eat well and get plenty of exercise. I’m lucky because I have a crush on my wife and two fabulous children. They’re even nice, even if somehow they got to be teenagers.

Ferrante: What are you working on now? Do you plan on continuing in the fiction genre?

Lotke: I’m conceiving a new story that’s fundamentally about labor unions. I’d like to continue working in fiction but it’s so hard to market except in a fixed genre with a target audience – young adult fantasy, adult romance, horror, police detectives, whatever.

When I get a good weekend, I’ll take my own advice. I’ll bang out chapter one and see if I like it. Stay tuned … but no deadline, please.

Some readers of Making Manna have asked for a sequel. That’s tempting, too.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you could be the editor in chief of any magazine in circulation, having significant input as to the style and content of the publication, which magazine would you choose?

LotkeThat’s easy. I want to be in hard news. I’d want to edit Time or Newsweek. I think they can be less stupid and still sell copies.

Ferrante: Which punctuation mark would best describe your personality?

LotkeHeavens! I’m a semicolon. Semicolons are infrequently used and subtle in their purpose. Semicolons connect parts that are different yet related, and that can be considered together or apart. They are often misused, but perfect when used correctly.

Ferrante: Considering all the big screen movies that you have ever seen, which one do you believe had the greatest emotional impact on you?

LotkeHmmm. I can’t think of any knock-outs. But I do enjoy Shakespeare in Love, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the original Terminator. And I never want to go more than a few years without seeing The Princess Bride again. I was jealous when my wife and daughter watched Thelma and Louise without me, but I understand why they did.

Ferrante: Thank you, Eric, for participating in my interview series. I am in awe of your courageous and important writing. Congratulations on writing Making Manna.

Making Manna was reviewed on this blog on January 13, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

A Childhood Toy Never Forgotten: Author Gina Lobiondo Three Random Questions Interview

Gina LoBiondo has published two award-winning picture books. She is presently working on her first novel.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Gina. Pegasus was your first published book. You hired an illustrator to create 25 black and white illustrations to keep down the cost of the book. In 2011,you changed it. Why?

Gina LoBiondo: Hi, Bonnie, first thanks for having me here!  Yes, the original illustrator did the artwork in black and white.  I have several editions of Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI, which have black and white illustrations, so the decision to do Pegasus that way was mine.  I thought the artwork was adorable but no one else seemed to like it!  I had several judges at book award competitions that really criticized it so I made the decision to redo the artwork in full colour.  In addition to that, I also changed the size of the book from the original 6×9 to the current size of 8×10.  After I made the change the book started to sell and win awards so I guess I made the right choice.  I think the most difficult part of creating the book was that neither Stephanie nor I knew about saving the artwork at 300 dpi.  Once she gets the time, we plan to redo the illustrations and I’m going to add to the book, with sections similar to what I did with Button Nose the Sad Little Bear.


Click here to by Pegasus — A Dragon’s Tale

Ferrante: Pegasus won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Category of Children’s Interest. Please tell us about this award and how your book was chosen. Why do you think it has so much appeal?

LoBiondo: Well, according to the website, the Pinnacle Awards are chosen based on book content, quality, writing style, presentation and cover designPegasus is the story of two young bear cubs who find and raise a baby dragon and follows the friendship of the three characters.  Since I’ve been writing for so long I’ve pretty much got the quality, style and presentation down pat.  As for the cover, I designed it myself, as I’ve done with all my books.  I think the story is so appealing because it touches on something that many children’s books today don’t – real friendship and the bonding of the three characters.

Button Nose the Sad Little Bear is based on a toy you had as a child and found again on eBay as an adult. Why did this bear appeal to you so much? Why do you think it connects so much with children today?

LoBiondo: You know, Bonnie, it was just one of those things where this little bear was just so appealing to me.  I think it was his sad little face that must have touched my young heart ‘cause I hugged him and cuddled him all the time.  Even today I still love him to pieces and was so thrilled when I found him on eBay. I also had a medium sized bear and a very large bear that I called his mommy and daddy, but I wasn’t attached to them like I was to him. I really don’t know if kids today have that kind of bear – Knickerbocker went out of business years ago!  I love the Build-A-Bears and even got one for myself after giving several as presents, but all their bears are smiling and I don’t know what else is out there.  I think the more sensitive kids like me are missing out.


Click here to buy Button Nose the Sad Little Bear

Ferrante: Did you approach your second picture book differently than your first?

LoBiondo: Actually, yes I did.  I had already learned about saving in 300 dpi, so I made sure when Brittany had her artwork scanned she did it that way.  Then, I added more reviews at the beginning and then the photo gallery and other books section at the end in order to expand the book.  With Pegasus being only 34 pages, I had a hard time finding a printer who would print the info on the spine.  Many bookstores refused to carry it because it lacked the spine info.  I use CreateSpace to print Pegasus and they won’t print the spine info on books less than I believe either 120 or 130 pages.  Fortunately, I use Lightning Source to print Button Nose and they will print spine info at 48 pages. With the added information, Button Nose came out to 54 pages.

Ferrante: Both your picture books have received a large number of awards. Do you feel the effort and expense of entering these award opportunities is worth the increase in sales of your books? Or are you looking at the long tail?

LoBiondo: I’m still weighing the awards – I have spent quite a bit entering the competitions but, sadly, I don’t think they’ve really made much of a difference in sales, at least for the short term.  Since Pegasus has been out for 5 years, I’ve sold more books and have sold some of Button Nose, but not nearly as many and sales seem to be stalled on both books.  I’m hoping that will change closer to the holidays.

As for the competitions, I do enjoy entering them and especially winning.  I actually created one label to put in the corner of the books that says “Multi Book Award Winner” instead of putting award labels all over the cover.  I think the single sticker looks much more professional.

Ferrante: I understand your next book will be a novel based on the Cinderella story. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

LoBiondo: Yes, the title will be Cinderella – A Love Story and it’s my own retelling of the classic faerie tale.  It was always my favourite story as a child – I had a beautiful book illustrated by Catherine Barnes that I read a gazillion times – so it was only natural that one day I’d write my own.  I originally wrote this story as a full-length, 2-act stage play – I had taken a theatre course in my last year of high school and loved it so I decided I’d try my hand at it.  By that time, I had already been writing for 6 years.  My version is the traditional tale but with a twist that no other version has that really makes it unique.  It doesn’t happen until chapter 8 so you have to just keep reading.

Ferrante: You have posted chapter 1 of your Cinderella novel on Create Space asking for feedback. Have you received many responses? Have they been helpful?

LoBiondo: Sorry to say I’ve only received 7 responses – they’ve all been good, though, except for one guy who complained.  He said the story was so familiar he didn’t feel the need to read any further.  However, when I was trying to find an agent years ago, I had one tell me “Taking on faerie tale icons is a tall order and you’ve done a good job.”  So that was encouraging.  Everyone who has read this book has given it positive reviews so I think it will do well.  My only problem now is the one I’ve had for years, that being I can’t find the right illustrator.  It’s kind of frustrating ‘cause I really want to get this book out!!!!!

Ferrante: I think 7 responses is worthwhile. It isn’t that easy to find feedback on a work in progress.

three random questions


Ferrante: If you could at this very moment to take a ride on anything in the world, what would you most want to ride?

LoBiondo: My bicycle!  I used to ride all the time before I got my driver’s license; when I was a teenager there were still Blue Laws on Sunday, where all the stores were closed.  So my brother and I would ride up to our local shopping centre and just ride from one end to the other as fast as we could!  It was awesome and boy, do I ever miss doing that!!!!!

Ferrante: What is one major problem, either in your own nation or throughout the world, that you honestly feel we will have pretty well solved within 20 years?

LoBiondo: I’m hoping for a cure for either Alzheimer’s, diabetes or ALS.  I lost relatives to all three so it would be awesome if they could all be part of history during that time.

Ferrante: What is one vacation destination that many of the people think is just fabulous, but which you personally have no desire to ever visit or (revisit)?

LoBiondo: I would have to say Mexico or South America, and this is in no way saying anything against the people there.  They’re just not places I’d have any interest in visiting and I, personally, can’t see the appeal.

Ferrante: I enjoyed seeing the Mayan ruins in Mexico and I love the food. I guess it all depends on what appeals to you.

Thank you for talking with me today. Good luck with Cinderella.

Book Trailers  for Pegasus  for Button Nose

Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale was reviewed on this blog January 16, 2017.

Dueling Parasols & Steampunk Mysteries: Author Jayne Barnard – Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Guest Post: What’s the Motive?


Tuesday’s Tales: Bonnie Ferrante


I believe a positive attitude is essential for happiness. This includes being mindful and grateful. In Buddhism, there is a saying, “We make the world with our minds.” I could write an entire book on what that means but basically what we focus on influences the internal and external world in which we live. I keep this in mind in my writing for adults, young people and children. I was a grade school teacher for 33 years, 10 of those years as teacher librarian. I believe it is important to create picture books that help them develop interpersonal skills and internal strength.


Flying Squirrel Secrets: Author Nancy Gee Three Random Questions Interview

Award-winning author Nancy Gee is an entrepreneur and business owner. For more than 30 years, she has owned and operated Maywood Industries, Inc., a certified woman-owned wood fabrication and building materials supplier. Her books have earned the prestigious Mom’s Choice Awards, and are distributed throughout Europe.

For generations, her family has called Orland Park, IL, home. Nancy’s two main characters (Al and Sal the flying squirrels) frequent the woods in her backyard, and give her lots of story ideas. She loves writing rhyming picture books that open children’s worlds to unique information and the joys of reading and storytelling.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Nancy. Your first book, The Secret Drawer, is based on a true event. Would you like to tell us a little about that?

Nancy Gee: The Secret Drawer began when an unknown animal got into my sock drawer. We didn’t notice, but our family cat did! Odis guarded that drawer for two days until the drawer was opened! We didn’t know what it was. Later, we learned this amazing creature was a flying squirrel.

As you might guess, this was a favorite story of my grand boys, who were nine and 10 at the time. They loved having me tell and retell the events and asked me to write a book for all children to enjoy. I was thinking I already have a full time job, so my initial response “I don’t have time to write a book.” They promptly reminded me that I always tell them “You can do anything! We challenge you to write a children’s book!” And the rest is history.

Ferrante: What was the inspiration for your second picture book, The Secret Path?

Ferrante: What is the most interesting fact you have learned about flying squirrels?

Gee: Just one? There are so many fascinating facts about the flying squirrels, starting with I don’t know they lived in the Chicago area. As for most interesting, I would have to say it goes to their babies. Flying squirrel babies are born with only one tooth and in one week they have four.

Ferrante: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? How do you manage it?

Gee: My greatest challenge is pacing myself. My creative ideas are limitless, and I am always thinking about new ideas. I laugh that I have two full time jobs. My daytime job is running my company and my full-time night job is writing my books.

I manage by simply putting in a lot of hours and sleeping a little less . With a strong desire, drive, and high energy level it just happens. 

Ferrante: Who is your favourite picture book author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Gee: I have a passion for rhyme, so it is probably no surprise that my favorite children’s author is Dr. Seuss. I find his writings absolutely amazing, magical, and still capturing the hearts of children. His books are simply ageless.

Ferrante: You are quite a determined and inventive marketer. Can you tell us a little about your most successful strategies?

Gee: Being a business owner, I know how important marketing is; and being an author is a business. Those books don’t just appear in the hands of children and families. The only way to get them there is through tireless hours of marketing. I have worked on marketing every hour of every day since the day The Secret Drawer was published in October 2014.  My enthusiasm is relentless and never tires.

Believe me, marketing has a lot of closed doors and disappointments but those things only encourage me and energize my enthusiasm. Failure is only success turned inside out. My most successful strategies is listening to my child readers, as they have directed my journey.

Ferrante: Out of all the awards contest out there, why did you choose to enter the competition for The Mom’s Choice Award? Do you feel it is helped your sales or brand recognition?

Gee: Being a Mom’s Choice Awards Honoree was very important to me. The Mom’s Choice Awards is not a competition. It is a product evaluation company, where books and other products are measured against a very strict metric, not compared with peer products. The company’s commitment to identifying the best in family-friendly products speaks for itself, and awarded products provide families, educators, librarians, and even booksellers a guideline for making good, healthy family choices.

Children think it is fun to have an award sticker on their book. For parents it is meaningful to know that what they are looking for in reading material for their children is what Mom’s Choice awards represent.  As an independently published author, having that sticker on my books helps it stand out on the bookstore shelves. So to answer your question, yes, I believe having the Mom’s Choice Award gives parents a comfort, makes the book even more special, and makes my books stand out for my buying audience!

What stood out for me was their commitment to its award winners. The MCA team stands by its commitment of building a relationship by providing Honorees lifetime marketing support.  The company offers a lot to its Honorees and helps me, as an award-winning author, in any area I might need help. I cannot say enough positive things about the Mom’s Choice Awards.

I would add, though, that the recognition that comes with awards is great, but the greatest awards have come from the children with whom I share my books.

Ferrante: What methods/routines/steps do you use to create a picture book?

Gee: When I begin my books, I rehearse the story over and over, first. That repetition helps me formulate the pages and flow. I start with an outline of what I want to have on the page conceptually. Then sketch the visual for the page; after that, I add the words. I repeat the same process for every page and go back over it again and again until I am satisfied that I have capture the magic of where the story is going.

Ferrante: Are you working on a third book? Tell us about it.

Gee: My third book is completed and in the hands of the illustrator! Our release date is Spring 2017, so winter is going to feel long to me. Like The Secret Drawer and The Secret Path, the next book is also based on a true event!

When I was doing an author event at a local library this spring, I noticed a dog and a handler in a room next to where I was reading. My curiosity got the best of me, and after the event, I just had to know what was going on. When I went in, I discovered a dog laying while a child read to him. I had no idea about this pet therapy program in our library, and learned that many other people didn’t either!

One of those “creative ideas” I talked about popped into my head! That day I decided to write The SECRET ROOM. I want to celebrate reading and also bring awareness to this amazing program.

There is no shortage of ideas. Books four, five, and six are all well underway.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Gee: Always remember you are not writing for yourself but for your audience. In my case, children. Listen and observe what your listeners say. They bring me endless ideas and directions for my writing and similar projects.

three random questions

Ferrante: What is the longest line you have ever stood in?

Gee: March 2016 at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. I was trying to get home after my international book signing. We stood in line for well over five hours trying to get to the counter to confirm our tickets. This was right after the Terrorist attack in Paris.

Ferrante: What is the one item you own that you really should throw away but probably never will?

Gee: I was going through one of life’s moments, and my daughter gave me Go Dog Go! by Dr. Seuss, with a note that read “You always made me happy when you read this book to me when I was a kid. So I thought it might brighten your day!!”

Ferrante: If you could stand at the pinnacle of any natural object or man-made structure, what would it be?

Gee: Man-made structure would be standing in the Sistine Chapel looking up at the wonders of Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling.

For a natural wonder, it wouldn’t be the pinnacle, but immersed in it. Standing in the Redwood Forest, surrounded by those majestic trees. The smells and silence of nature. Breathtaking, peaceful, inspirational, and restorative.

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March 24, 2017 Helping Out a Friend – The Secret Path by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Kathleen Newman. Book Review on this blog.

February 27, 2017. Trapped! – The Secret Drawer written by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Raye Ann Saunoris. Book Review on this blog.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Dueling Parasols & Steampunk Mysteries: Author Jayne Barnard – Three Random Questions Interview

Jayne Barnard has written for children and adults in the genres of history, mystery, and lately alternate dimensions. Her fiction awards include Saskatchewan Writers Guild, Bloody Words, and Unhanged Arthur, as well as a shortlisting for the UK Debut Dagger. Her YA Steampunk Mystery, Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, is a finalist for the Prix Aurora and the Book Publishing in Alberta Awards, and a winner of the eFestival of Words Award for Children’s Literature. Her special genre is steampunk.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Jayne. Tell us a little about yourself.

Jayne Barnard: I grew up on Canadian Forces bases in 6 provinces, 3 US states, and Europe. This exposed me to a lot of cultural differences quite early. I finished high school in Kapuskasing, ON, 300 miles from any city, immediately after living on a NATO base in Germany, where I could ride my bike to France any afternoon. Talk about culture shock.

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write steam punk mysteries? 

Barnard: Steampunk appeals to me because of the adventure elements, the sense that anything is possible. The fathers of Steampunk are H.G. Wells, A.D. Doyle, Jules Verne. Yet I also grew up reading Enid Blyton adventures, and Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and other teenage sleuths. My Steampunk sleuth, Maddie Hatter, is barely out of her teens; she goes on adventures by airship and steam-carriage rather than in a blue convertible, but she’s as dedicated as Nancy Drew about solving the mysteries that fall into her path.

Ferrante: Your short stories have won several prestigious Canadian awards and honors. Did you begin with short story writing and then evolved into a novelist, or have you been writing short stories and novels side-by-side throughout your career?

Barnard: I won my first short fiction award in 1990 for a story, written for my daughter, about a princess solving a dragon problem by using arithmetic. Novel-writing came later, but I still return to short stories between the longer projects, often as a mental distancing technique between finishing a manuscript and beginning to edit. I had a post-apocalyptic short crime story published last month in Enigma Front: Burnt, and have a more traditional crime story coming out in The Whole She-Bang 3 this November, both written while I was editing longer works.

Ferrante: Do you approach writing a short story the same way as you do writing a novel?

Barnard: Since my B.A. in Theatre, I see every piece of writing like the scenes of a play. A short story has fewer scenes and charges onward to the end. A novel has more scenes and many rises and falls of tension before rising toward the climax. Novel scenes have to not only carry their own weight but also carry the pace appropriately for their place in the overall story.

Ferrante: Every now and then a writer introduces me to something new. This time it was parasol dueling. There seems to be no hitting or violence involved. I discovered you are a leading member of Madam Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Dueling League for Steampunk Ladies. Could you explain what parasol dueling is?


Barnard: Parasol dueling is, at its simplest, like playing rock-paper-scissors. Certain ways of holding one’s parasol beat other ways of holding it. The holds, or ‘figures,’ are based in the social uses of parasols from Victorian and earlier times, such as to pretend you don’t see someone you don’t want to talk to (called a Snub). World Parasol Dueling Championships are held in Calgary, AB every September; there are lovely photos and videos of that on the group’s Facebook Page

 [link: ]

Ferrante: I’m glad you explained that. I totally misunderstood what was happening.

I haven’t really read much steampunk. My misconception was that involved a lot of goggles, loud clanking steam-driven machines, black clothing, and dirigibles. However, I’ve seen a lot of other things on your sites such as royalty watching. Are there different types of steam punk? What is the quintessential definition?


Barnard: There’s no single definition, but it’s rooted in the Victorian era. Canadians were part of the British Empire, so our Steampunk clothing reflects that. I write against a background of social class and the queen, also important to the British. Americans emphasize the Civil War and Wild West, more egalitarian. If a story uses petroleum technology instead of steam machines, it’s called Diesel-punk, and if it uses computing devices and internet-like communications, then it’s Cyber-punk.

Ferrante: Diesel-punk is a new term for me. The mystery genre has been popular for decades. Why do you think steampunk mystery is developing such a strong fan base?

Barnard: I think Steampunk mystery combines the enduring popularity of mystery with the endless possibilities of the adventure novel. Mysteries set on space stations or in fantasy universes are also very popular. I don’t think the classic crime novel will be displaced by cross-genre fiction; rather, they act as gateways to each other.

Ferrante: Give me a teaser about your latest work Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond.

Barnard: Miss Maddie Hatter is scraping a precarious living as a fashion reporter when the story of a lifetime falls into her lace-gloved hands. Baron Bodmin, an adventurer with more failed quests than fingernails, has vanished in circumstances that are odd even for him. As the last reporter to see the potty peer alive, Maddie has a chance to become an investigative journalist, no easy feat for a young lady in 1898. If she can locate the baron or the Eye of Africa diamond he was hunting, her career will be made. Somebody out there knows what happened, but nobody is talking….


Click here for more information on Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond
Ferrante: As soon as I heard the title, I thought of the mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Is that suggestion deliberate?

Barnard: Alice in Wonderland is one of the Victorian era’s best-known fantasy tales, and for that reason it’s much admired by Steampunks. So yes, Maddie’s name is deliberate. The rest of Deadly Diamond owes more to the game of Clue which, while not a Victorian invention, is not far removed from some Victorian parlour games.

Ferrante: Your knowledge of high fashion clothing during the Victorian era is impressive. I see that you also sew your own costumes for special events. How have you learned to do this? How often do you dress up?

Barnard: I’ve always loved fabrics and playing dress-up; that’s partly why I went into Theatre in university. In costuming classes I learned fitting and sewing. Nowadays health issues keep me from acting, but Steampunk allows me to dress up every few months to improv the part of Madame Saffron, the alternate-Victorian professor of applied botany and parasol dueling.

Ferrante: The vocabulary in Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond is quite rich and the writing style is more formal than what young adults are used to reading. Who do you think are your most devoted fans?

Barnard: Girls 10-13, although fans range from 7 to 85. Our test readers said they loved the ‘juicy’ words like vindicated, precocious and copious. They mostly figured out meanings from context, and they were engaged enough that stopping to look up some words didn’t throw them out of the story.

Ferrante: Are you working on another steampunk mystery?

Barnard: Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge comes out next April. It’s set in New York City in 1899, at the height of the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors and lavish mansions. Lots of scope for my love of fine fashions and furnishings, but the mystery gets dangerous really fast.

three random questions

Ferrante: If your life were literally flashing before your eyes, what are three moments or scenes from your past that you would expect to stand out?


  1. Acting the Three Witches’ opening from MacBeth at my Grade Five Halloween assembly, which set me on the acting path (and the corollary: seeing MacBeth performed at Stratford last spring).
  2. Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria when I was 12. It’s the world’s most fairy-tale of castles, and mad King Ludwig, who built it, took strong hold of my young mind.
  3. Having so many friends, new and from decades ago, show up to the launch for Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond to help celebrate that I had finally achieved my lifelong dream of a book with my name on it. The book made #1 on the Calgary fiction bestseller list for that week because of all those wonderful people.

Ferrante: If you were told that you could watch only one television show a week for the next 12 months, which show would you choose to watch?

Barnard: Funny you should ask that. Right now I’m re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation – admittedly more than one episode a week – and marveling at the concise dialogue and tight plotting that goes into almost every episode.

Ferrante: I loved STTNG. I’m in awe of Patrick Stewart.

If you could wake up every morning, open your bedroom blinds, and look out a huge glass window at the perfect view, what would that be?

Barnard: Across a wide, sunlit bay to snow-capped mountains. It’s almost the view I get from my winter place on Vancouver Island, except that we can’t quite see the Comox glacier from our deck. Between that and the past year’s writing successes, I’m very close to living my dream.

Ferrante: That’s awesome. Good for you. Thank you for sharing your work with us. You’ve opened a whole new door for me. Best of luck with your new Maddie book.

Want to know more about Jayne and her work? Go to Clockworks and Crime.

Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond was reviewed on this blog on Monday, March 6, 2017.

NEW NEW NEW from Jayne Barnard

The book trailer for MADDIE HATTER AND THE GILDED GAUGE is now up on Youtube. Here’s the link if your readers want to check it out:

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Amazing Dog, Unparalleled Boy: Author Tracy Aiello Three Random Questions Interview

Tracy Aiello is a former first grade teacher, business owner, columnist and all-around storyteller. She is the author of the Miracle Dogs series.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Tracey. Why did you choose dogs as the focal point for a history series?

Tracy Aiello: I actually came up with the title first. While vacationing in Portugal, I had numerous encounters with dogs doing miraculous (read: human) feats. There were dogs playing a form of soccer, dogs obeying traffic signals, dogs in restaurants and taverns, all seemingly without owners informing their activities. My traveling companions and I started calling the dogs the “miracle dogs of Portugal,” and the name had a wonderful ring to it.

I started out my career as a first grade teacher and had a dream of writing a children’s book one day. Combine the perfect title with a passion for writing for children and the result is my book, Miracle Dogs of Portugal.

Ferrante: Would these books be considered fiction or nonfiction?

Aiello: As the “blurb” says, the books are “almost true” stories. They are based on historical events, with fictional detail added.

Ferrante: Your blurb says: Miracle Dogs of Portugal is the almost-true story of historical figure Henry the Navigator and the dog that saved his life – Milagro the Portuguese Water Dog. How did you learn about this event?


Ferrante: If I remember correctly, Henry the Navigator ushered in the age of discovery. Did this event take place when Henry was a child? How did you research it?

Aiello: After coming up with the title “Miracle Dogs of Portugal,” I stumbled upon the Portuguese Water Dog breed that helped sailors throughout Portuguese history. I knew the importance of Henry the Navigator to world history and, having been to Sagres, I knew Henry had established a school for the study of navigation in the seaside city.  My story married the two concepts, and I set out to write a book that taught children history and encouraged them to have courage and follow their dreams.

Henry established the school for navigation later in his life, I made him a child for the story. He also designed the boats that Christopher Columbus ultimately used to reach the Americas. I researched Henry the Navigator in the traditional ways – books, the internet. To understand Portuguese Water Dogs, I actually contacted the Portuguese Water Dog Clubs of America and met dogs in my area.

Ferrante: You’ve written the second book in this series, Miracle Dogs of the Missouri. I couldn’t find it on Amazon or Goodreads. Is it brand-new? Tell us a bit about it.

Aiello: I haven’t published Miracle Dogs of the Missouri as yet, but the story follows the same themes as Miracle Dogs of Portugal, with a child that follows his dreams and becomes an explorer.  It is the almost-true story of Meriwether Lewis, the leader, with William Clark, of America’s exploration of its west. The story unfolds as Lewis, as a child, learns the ways of the river and the native peoples with the help of a spunky Newfoundland. He comes to believe he could use the river to travel distances farther than any other man.

Ferrante: Why do you call these “miracle dogs”? Is there a religious component to these books?

Aiello: There are not outwardly religious themes, just miraculous meetings (with the dogs) that remind the characters (and us!) to have faith in themselves and follow their dreams.

Ferrante: Do you have the third book in mind for this series?

Aiello: Not specifically outlined, but I’d love to tell the story of a courageous female character that led the way, such as Amelia Earhart or Harriet Tubman.

Ferrante: You used to be a first grade teacher. Have you ever considered writing picture books for that age? What drew you to write early chapter books?

Aiello:I did set out to write a picture book, but my strength is telling a story through words, not images. I relied on my illustrator, Kent Barnes, to help visualize my story.

Ferrante: When did you begin writing books? Do you write every day? You have a process that you always follow?

Aiello: I started Miracle Dogs in 2004 and have been writing ever since. For many years I wrote in the early mornings, about 5:30 – 7:00, on various projects. My husband and I had our first child in February, 2016, so I have taken a writing sabbatical, to say the least!

Ferrante: Did you do anything differently from your first experience in creating Miracle Dogs of Portugal when writing your second book?

Aiello: Yes, since the age level was a bit older than I originally set out to write, I really catered Miracle Dogs of the Missouri to 2/3 grade readers.

Ferrante: Is there anything you’d like to share with us that I haven’t asked?

Aiello: One of the things I love most about being a published author is sharing both my story and the writing experience with children. I conduct writer’s workshops in elementary schools around the country, teaching children the “bones” of writing and encouraging creativity. Kids often think they hate writing, but with a little encouragement they come to realize how they come up with stories all the time!

three random questions

Ferrante: What is your favorite day of the week?

Aiello: Thursdays! Hopefully I’ve accomplished a lot for the week, have one more day to work and then I can rest and plan ahead.

Ferrante: What is something you always used to love to do that, during the last year or two, you feel like you’ve outgrown or lost interest in doing?

Aiello: I became a mom in February (2016), so everything in my life has changed. Now that our son is old enough to start participating in activities, I’ve actually regained interest in the things I loved as a child – such as libraries, swimming, children’s books and music classes – because we are experiencing these things together.

Ferrante: If you could get one thing back that was either lost or destroyed, what would it be?

Aiello: I don’t put much stock in possessions, but I do wish I could have many of my years back!

Ferrante: Wise answer. Thank you for chatting with me today. Good luck with your books and enjoy this precious time with your baby.

The Miracle Dogs of Portugal was reviewed on this blog February 20,2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

When Is It OK for a Child to Paint a Wall? – Author Paulette Bogan – Three Random Questions Interview

Paulette Bogen has had her illustrations published in The New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, Business Week, Scholastic Magazines, Publishers Weekly, United Features Syndicate, and Newsday. She now writes and illustrates picture books. One of the books she illustrated, Chicks and Salsa, is featured on the PBS Children’s Show, Between the Lions!

Link to Between the Lion reading of Chicks and Salsa:


Bonnie Ferrante: Hi Paulette. Welcome to my blog. I love the story of your first “artistic experience”. Would you share it with us now?

Paulette Bogan: We had the chicken pox, all four of us! My mother called us into the playroom and handed each of us a paintbrush and said, “Get started! This wall is boring.” And so we spent all afternoon (and the next few days) painting a mural on the playroom wall.

Ferrante: That’s one amazing mother.

You have 15 books listed on Goodreads. Do you write/illustrate full-time? How many hours a day to put into your work?

Bogan: I am a full time author and illustrator. I am useless in the morning as far as drawing, or writing, or even thinking clearly! Mornings are for exercise, chores, or my favorite – sleeping in.

Bogan: After noon I am much more creative and productive. I will spend the afternoon in my studio drawing, writing, or procrastinating. (Sometimes my best ideas come when I am procrastinating.)

studio B Ferrante P Bogan

Ferrante: How did you go from illustrating to both illustrating and writing your own picture books?

Bogan: I didn’t start writing professionally until I was in my thirties! I went to Parsons School of design and majored in illustration. My mother always told me I should write and illustrate children’s books. Of course I didn’t listen! I graduated art school and went on to do political illustration and editorial illustration for quite a few years.

I finally listened to my mother when I was pregnant with my first child. After a lot of hard work and many rejections, Nancy Paulsen at Putnam Children’s Books published my first book, Spike, in 1998! I’ve never looked back. Moms are always right. SpikeCover_Bogan

Click here to buy a copy of Spike


Ferrante: Which comes first for you, the illustrations or the story? What is your process?

Bogan: Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a story, and sometimes I’ll sketch a character and the story evolves around them. But because I’m an illustrator first, I always think visually.


Legal pad B Ferrante P Bogan






My writing process always starts on a legal yellow pad. I revise and edit on paper making a lot of scribbly sketches in the margins. After many edits I’ll go to the computer. The act of typing gives me another chance to look at my words and make more revisions.

My next step is thumbnails. Thumbnails allow me to see the whole book at once and understand how the story is flowing. Finally I will make a dummy. I like to sew the pages together and form a blank book then glue stick my pages in.Bossy Flossy thumbnails B Ferrnate P Bogan

Now it’s off to my editor for many more rounds of revisions and changes!

Dummy B Ferrante P Bogan

Ferrante: You were given Children’s Choice Book Award for Lulu the Big Little Chick. It’s about a little chick that runs away because she is sick of being told she’s too little to do things. How do you put yourself in the perspective of a small child?

Lulu the Big Little Chick cover Click here to buy Lulu the Big Little Chick

Bogan: I get inspiration and ideas for my stories from my childhood, my children, and everyday life! I never try to teach a lesson.

For instance, I was watching home video of my daughter Sophia when she was about six years old directing a play that starred her two little sisters and the dog. She was very bossy, but also very direct and concise about what she wanted. So when I was writing Bossy Flossy I tried to keep in mind her innocence, her directness, and her frustration. If I switch into thinking like an adult my writing becomes preachy and didactic.

Lulu the Big B Ferrante P Bogan

Ferrante Virgil & Owen and Virgil & Owen Stick Together are both “Mom’s Choice Awards Recipient” Gold Medal for Picture Books. Both books are about friendship. Why do you think they appeal so much to parents?

Bogan: Making friends is hard! Virgil and Owen are two “kids” with completely different personalities. Owen, the polar bear is quiet, steady, and sweet. He likes to think things through and take his time. Virgil, on the other hand can’t do things quickly enough, has a hard time sitting still, and is NOT a “look before you leap” kind of guy.

 Both Virgil & Owen and Virgil & Owen Stick Together provide an opportunity to talk about how friendships work, the importance of sharing, learning patience, and accepting each other’s differences.  Virgil and Owen show that “polar opposites” can be friends.
Click here to buy Virgil & OwenVirgil & Owen cover P. Bogan





Virgil & Owen pg. 16-17 B ferrnate p bogan

Virgil Owen Stick Together cover P. BoganClick here to buy Virgil & Owen Stick Together

Virgil Owen Stick Together page 30-31 B Ferrnate P Bogan

Ferrante: Spike in The City won the Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice Award in 2001. Spike in the Kennel was a 2002 IRA-CBC Children’s Choice. Tell us about Spike and why you think he appeals to readers.

Spike is an everyday, normal kind of guy. Sometimes he’s bored, sometimes he’s scared, and sometimes he makes mistakes. But like most children he learns a little each time he goes through something.


Click here to buy Spike in the City
Ferrante: It seems that your books have messages for young children. Do you feel it is important for authors to help instill good values and social skills in their readers?

Bogan: I think if an author tries to hard to teach a lesson the book won’t work. The message has to come naturally through the characters and their personalities and the situations they get themselves into.

Ferrante: You have two books in progress, Bart the Bloodhound and One Dog. Can you tell us a little about them?

Bogan: Bart the Bloodhound is in contract with Henry Holt for Young Readers and is slated to come out Spring 2018. Bart is from a vampire family of dogs, but he is more “doggie” than vampire. He’s finding himself!

One Dog is a counting to ten book about a little boy who is a bit bored with his one sleepy pet – Dog. He has a dream that night and has quite an adventure with his not so sleepy dog! The two wake up happy to be together. One Dog is looking for a publisher!

One Dog Cats B Ferrante P Bogan


three random questions

Ferrante: If, for your next birthday, someone offered to make you the ultimate dessert of your choice, what great concoction would you request? Be deliciously specific.

Bogan: The ultimate dessert for me would last all day! For breakfast I’d start with a black and white milkshake so thick you need a spoon. Then for lunch I would like an angel food cake with chocolate icing.  For dinner I’d like a Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bar, which consists of crushed Oreos, melted butter, chocolate drops, cereal, condensed milk, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate drops all layered and baked together!

I would end the day with a midnight snack of one scoop of coffee ice cream, and one scoop of sea salt and caramel ice cream.

Ferrante: When people find out that you are a picture book writer, what is the most typical question that they are likely to ask you regarding your job?

Bogan: #1 “Where do you get your ideas from?”

 #2 “How do you get published?”

Ferrante: Suppose that instead of having a name, you had a letter, and people would always refer to you as that letter. Which letter of the alphabet would you want to take the place of your name?

Well, my initials are PBJ, which is fun! But if I have to pick just one letter I am very attached to the letter P.

Letter P B Ferrnate P Bogan




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Listen to Paulette read Spike in the City 

Listen to Paulette read Lulu the Big Little Chick

Check out Paulette on facebook


A review of Bossy Flossy appeared on this blog on January 6, 2017.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Children In Need – Author Cleo Lampos Three Random Questions Interview

4139881Cleo Lampos has written several books on important issues:

  • A Mother’s Song: a Story of the Orphan Train
  • Rescuing Children: Teachers, Social workers, Nuns and Missionaries Who Stepped in the Shadows to Rescue Waifs
  • Second Chances: Teachers of the Diamond Projects School Series
  • Teaching Diamonds in the Tough: Mining the Potential in Every Student
  • Miss Bee and the Do Bees: Teachers of the Diamond Projects School Series
  • Grandpa’s Remembering Book (Alzheimer’s Disease)
  • Cultivating Wildflowers: An Urban Teacher Romance
  • Dust Between the Stitches

Bonnie Ferrante: Your biography on Goodreads is phenomenal. Why did you to return to university and earn a Masters degree in Learning disabilities while working in the LD/BD Clinic as a diagnostician?

Cleo Lampos: The events in one’s life defines a lot of their character. This is true for myself. At the age of three, my father died of heart failure and several years later my mother married a man with an alcohol addiction. Both of these life changing events influenced my decisions as an adult. I became acutely aware of children suffering from low self-esteem or the effects of abuse. As such, I eventually earned a Master’s degree in behavior disordered/emotionally disturbed education and taught for 26 years.

Ferrante: What inspired you to write about the orphan trains?

Lampos: Having spent a year in foster care, the idea of a mother giving up a child for adoption or allowing them to be fostered out for their own safety intrigued me. The realization that adult women could not protect or provide for their children helped me to delve into the research of the orphan trains in which 250,000 children rode the trains from New York City to the Midwest for a chance at a better life. The historical novel A Mother’s Song is the result of a lifetime of experiences.

 Click on the cover to buy the book or for more information.

Ferrante: Teaching is an emotionally and physically draining career that can easily take over your entire life? Were you able to write while you were teaching? Were you writing about teaching or something else?

Lampos: Writing provided an outlet for therapy and coping with difficult situations. As a teacher, I journaled in order to make sense of the trauma, drama and triumph of the classroom.

Ferrante: How do you find time for writing with all the volunteer work that you do? Do you have a routine you follow?

Lampos: Most of my writing has been done early in the morning when my mind is clear and the house is quiet. This writing routine spans decades of my life.

Ferrante: Many of your books are about serious and difficult subjects such as Grandpa’s Remembering Book and A Mother’s Song: A Story of the Orphan Train. Previously, I read about the orphan trains and found the story of what these children encountered to be emotionally painful. Alzheimer’s Disease has touched almost everyone’s family or friends by the time they reach my age and even though we know it is prevalent, it is a difficult thing to accept. How do you deal with researching such heartbreaking events?

Click on the cover to buy the book or for more information.

Lampos: Researching the issues of adoption, attachment difficulties, Alzheimer’s, or foster care breathes life into me as I begin to understand these conditions. For many years, these nuggets of insight provided narrative for magazine articles and Sunday School take-home papers.

Ferrante: Many of your books, even your romance Cultivating Wildflowers: An Urban Teacher Romance, feature orphaned or abandoned children. If you could get one message across to your readers pertaining to the situation, what would you like them to understand?

Lampos: The overriding theme of all my writing is the inherent value and potential of every child regardless of their circumstances.

Click on the cover to buy the book or for more information.

Ferrante: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Lampos: I love to volunteer and meet people. Rather than watching television, my husband and I work in the local community garden, pack lima beans for a group involved in hunger, teach at the local senior groups or local colleges, and help out in projects. The feelings from being part of a well organized outreach is priceless.

Ferrante: Tell us about your latest work.

Lampos: My latest published book took five years to research, including reading my mother’s diary from the Great Depression. The historic novel, Dust Between the Stitches, presents the difficulties of a rural teacher in the Dust Bowl as she tries to help her grandfather keep the family homestead from bank foreclosure. During the course of the book, the teacher falls in love and creates a quilt from the feed sack scraps she collects. Despite depressing events, this is a book of hope in the midst of challenge.

Click on the cover to buy the book or for more information.

three random questions

Ferrante: Almost everyone can recall a missed photo opportunity because he/she did not have a camera. What moment above all others do you wish you could have caught on film?

Lampos: If I could have been caught on film, I wish that I had been photographed with my students ten years ago as we made leaf rubbings in the autumn.

Ferrante: If you could float in a hot air balloon over any city or place in the world, what would you choose to float over?

Lampos: On a balloon ride, I want to float over the beet farms near Greeley, Colorado, and trace the irrigation ditches.

Ferrante: What is your favorite day of the week? Why?

Lampos: My favorite day is Sunday, because I love to sing hymns and again connect with hope.

Ferrante: Thank you for sharing with us today. Your books sound wonderful. Good luck with your writing.

Miss Bee and the Do Bees was reviewed on this blog January 14, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.


Can Silence Save Yesterday? – Illustrator Carl Angel Three Random Questions Interview

Carl Angel is a visual artist who does commercial illustration and children’s  books illustration. He also creates paintings exploring personal themes.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Carl. What is your latest book about?

Carl Angel: The Girl Who Saved Yesterday is about a girl named Silence, who is sent by the trees to save Yesterday. She doesn’t know what her task is, only that it is important. Returning to the village that cast her out, Silence recognizes her purpose: to join the dead with the living in an act that celebrates their memory.

Click here to buy The Girl Who Saved Yesterday

Ferrante: What did you use to illustrate it?

Angel: Acrylic and color pencil


Ferrante: Did you collaborate with the author?

Angel: I was not directed by the author in terms of how I should approach the imagery. I was able to do that myself based on how incredible the text was, but because the text was so rich, the challenge was to come up with imagery that added to that richness and create something bigger than the sum of its parts.


Ferrante: Are you self-trained or university trained?

Angel: I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, but I did seek further instruction at a couple of art schools in northern California – California College of the Arts and Academy of Art University, respectively.

Ferrante: When did you first develop an interest in illustration?

Angel: Since I had read illustrated classic books and comic books as a child. I loved mythology and fantastic imagery (still do). I actually used to draw on the walls of our house when I was three years old before my dad would bring home some paper from his office for me to draw on.


Ferrante: Who is your favourite illustrator?

Angel: That’s a hard one, because I have many, and I like seeing how the style of the illustrator relates to the era in which the work was created. However, if I were forced to be trapped on a desert island with only one illustrator’s work, it would have to the work of Howard Pyle. 


Ferrante: If you could go anywhere in the world to practise your art, where would you go and why?

Angel: Italy, just for the sheer artistic brilliance of both aesthetic and spiritual inspiration. Food’s not bad either.

T73 JY AW 2-3A

T73 JY AW 2-3A

Ferrante: What is the most important thing you have learned about illustrating books?

Angel: That illustrated books are needed more than ever.  While I love video and am a total cinephile, a powerful still image that is well crafted deserves to be visually savored and appreciated. It’s why museums are built; to reflect and meditate on something beautiful.

Ferrante: What advice do you have for other illustrators?

Angel: Love what you do and realize that visual narrative is a huge part of culture, and that you are part of something important.

three random questions

Ferrante: What is something you really enjoy doing that is a chore or a bore for many people?

I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning, especially while listening to music. I find it meditative and since I’m working mostly at home, I like that environment to be as organized as possible. Doesn’t always work out that way, of course…

Ferrante: If you could design any new ride or attraction for Walt Disney World, what would it be?

I would probably design a virtual reality experience that would put you through the life experience of an inspirational historical figure.

Ferrante: What is one item you own that has virtually no monetary value but has such sentimental value that you would not sell it for anything?

I have a dog-eared copy of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces that reminds me of what I strive for in terms of my ambition as a storyteller.

Ferrante: Thank you, Angel, and thank you also for lengthening your answers at my request. You’re a man of few words but those words are profound. I think you also tend to speak through your amazing artwork. Best of luck with all your future endeavors.

Click on the cover to buy Howard Pyle His Life His Work 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Girl Who Saved Yesterday will be reviewed on this blog on March 27, 2017.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.