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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/539699522804809/ ]

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




Please come visit me at www.paulettebogan.com. and sign up for my newsletter to find out about new books, fun activities and appearances!

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”.

Courageous Women, Fairies & Viking Ghosts: Author P.J. Roscoe Three Random Questions Interview

P.J. Roscoe is an award-winning author of three books and short stories in various anthologies. She has two more books in the works. She has been married to Martin for 22 years and has a daughter, Megan, who has autism and dyspraxia.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome P. J. You have had three books published this year. To what do you owe this burst of creativity?

P.J. Roscoe: My first award winning (best e-book in the Paris Book Festival April 2013, Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival 2012) novel Echoes was actually written on/off for seventeen years. I finally self published in 2012. It won three awards and it was taken on by a publisher, but I left them in January 2016 to go it alone again and re-launched it.

Freya’s Child was written in 2014/15 and taken on by Crimson Cloak publishing and re-launched in September 2015. My Adventures of Faerie Folk is available from July 2016, but it’ll really be launched at a faerie festival in August. I’ve also been working on the audio-books for Freya’s Child and Faeries so they should be available by the autumn.

My creativity never stops! I have two books coming out Autumn/Winter 2016 and I’ve another coming out 2017, plus I’m researching the prequel to Echoes. I also have ideas for another three, plus 15 other faerie stories to bring to life and five supernatural short stories to decide what to do with!! My imagination makes me feel alive, so I use it whenever I can!

Ferrante: Your first book, Freya’s Child, has a fascinating tagline. “What would a parent do to save their child? Fight the dead? Defy the gods?” I’m sure every parent reading this is thinking, yes and yes. 

Roscoe: What if you are told your whole life that the gods require sacrifice and that person would be honoured and live a wonderful life in the halls of the gods? In early cultures it was considered an honour to die for your tribe.

So I looked at it from a modern family and a Viking family’s points of view. A parent loves their children unconditionally but for different people – does this mean the same?

My father’s family come from the Wirral and I grew up with the stories of the Norse finds that still continue to this day. I spoke with archaeologists and ‘The National Trust’ as it’s their land I base the archaeological dig – they were great. 


 Click here to buy Freya’s Child

Ferrante:  Adventures of Faerie Folk: Volume One was published in July. Are these original stories? Have you used any traditional stories for inspiration?

Roscoe: I wrote many original stories years ago for my daughter when she was between 3 and 13. I would send them out to other parents to read to their young children and get feedback on them. My daughter, who is now 18 has autism and dyspraxia, and was being bullied and the other girls refused to play with her by the time they reached 9/10 years old. I wrote ‘The Rose Faerie’ to teach Megan that it is okay to be different. Genuine people will love you for who you are and look beyond the disability.

Ferrante: Do you try to have a moral in all of your stories?

Roscoe: I wrote stories to inspire the young to take care and be thoughtful in every action as it has consequences. I do have a moral in every story. The first book, Annabelle learns that kindness has many rewards and Kate learns that being horrible makes you prickly!


 Click here to buy Adventures of Faerie folk: Volume One

Ferrante: The book is designated as Volume 1. Have you already started working on Volume 2?

Roscoe: I have the next four volumes ready, but illustrations cost a lot of money, so need to sell a few books before I can get the next one illustrated! Also finished the audio for the faerie book and it’ll be out through Crimson Cloak Publishing and Audible.

Ferrante:  Echoes seems to be a slight departure from the other two books. I love this line in your blurb, “Ghosts, past lives, evil and Tudors – what more could you possibly need?” I can’t imagine. It sounds delicious. 

Roscoe: Echoes started out as a short story that I wrote following the death of our son. I needed to occupy my mind and wrote it, but over the next months, it became a novel. It more or less wrote itself. When I look back on my writing, I cringe! No wonder it was rejected! Through experience and learning, it became a winner and I’ve begun working on the screenplay as I’m told so many times, how it would make a great movie.

I adore history, always have. The Tudors were a mercenary lot, especially Henry Tudor and his son Henry VIII. How the story evolved, I couldn’t tell you, but it had to be set near Shrewsbury and involve Henry Tudor and the battle of Bosworth somehow! Thus began years of research on and off. I wrote several historical articles for a Welsh magazine. I found pieces of information during my research that went into the book! Throw in some personal supernatural experiences and there it was! 



 Click here to buy Echoes: Some injustices refuse to be forgotten

Ferrante: I’m so sorry about the loss of your son. 

Your books feature females in positions of strength and courage without presenting them as mutant superheroes. Do you think we need more books like this? 

Roscoe: I don’t believe we need to be ‘superhuman’ to show strength and courage. I have endured a lot over the years and fought to survive – I made it. Women are portrayed in the media as objects to be used and abused by men. We are desexualised and made to appear weak and in need of domination. Women are strong, beautiful, courageous people and I want to show through my books that women can survive any obstacles, and keep going regardless of what is put in their way. Women have read my books and they feel every emotion and go through the journey with my characters.

I still cry, feel joy, feel excited with my books and that’s what I want every reader to experience. The suffragettes would be turning in their graves if they saw how some behave and how men still treat us. Every book I write has strong women. Between Worlds due out Christmas 2016 and Where Rivers Meet due out 2017 are the next two. Diary of Margery Blake that came out September 2016 was a book that had to be written to show that even in such awful times as the 19th century, with no rights, women could still find courage.

Ferrante: What are you working on now?

Roscoe: As I type these answers to your questions (July) I am on third edit of Diary of Margery Blake Due out on 17th September. Also editing Between Worlds we want out by Christmas 2016.

Ferrante: What is the single most important thing you want readers to know about you that I haven’t asked?

Roscoe: I live life, I don’t merely exist. Life is not a rehearsal so enjoy it, but harm nothing.  I face the fear and do it anyway!

three random questions

Ferrante: If you can be the CEO of any corporation in the world, which one would you choose?

Roscoe: Lush – they are an ethical animal free 100% vegetarian cosmetics/toiletries company and I’d take down those companies who still believe it’s okay to torture animals for vanity.

Ferrante: And their product smell and feel so good!

If you could know without a shadow of a doubt the answer to one question that has always troubled you, what question would you want to have answered once and for all?

Roscoe: Gosh so many!! First one that springs to mind is – was it really an eagle I saw sitting on a log with a rabbit in its talons down a country lane in North Wales before whatever it was opened its wings, which were huge, and flew away over my head, as I’d stopped the car and got out!?

Ferrante: If your taste buds could be altered so that the taste of anyone food would be dramatically intensified when ever you ate it, which food would you choose?

Roscoe: That’s a hard one! I’ll say grapes. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and I love my wine, so if I say grapes, then the wine should also taste fantastic!!

P.J.’s twitter handle Twitter@derwenna1

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

Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/103527633975026566283/posts

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/p-j-roscoe-8b895a66?trk=hp-identity-name

Goodreads Blog https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6575717.P_J_Roscoe

Freya’s Child was reviewed on this blog Monday, February 13.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Authentic & Important Environmental Mysteries: Author Bonnie J. Doerr Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie J. Doerr writes eco-mystery novels for tweens. For over thirty years, she taught reading and writing skills to students of all ages—from kindergarten to college. Her mystery/adventures are based on true events. Her books have received recognition from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration. She has been an Epic  e-book award winner for an outstanding children’s book and one of six finalists for the YA Green Earth award.

author by mangroves more light

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Bonnie. I’m looking forward to this interview. Your book has inspired some important questions.

Bonnie j. Doerr: Thanks, for the invitation. This Bonnie is happy for the opportunity to reach out to you, Bonnie, and your readers.

Ferrante: You used news accounts of the killing of an endangered deer as the catalyst for your book Island Sting. Other books have been fueled by a sea turtle caught in a net and the pelican with a slashed pouch. How do you take such tragic and brutal events and change them into a story that leaves young people with a sense of hope?

Doerr: Wow. You jumped right into the meat of these stories. Yep, I use actual heartbreaking events as motivation for my plots. Some are even personal observations. But hope arises from observing the real life heroes featured in my books who rescue, rehab, and release injured and abused animals.

Watching the selfless work of everyone involved in these organizations leaves me, and if I’ve done a decent job, readers with a deep appreciation for the greater kindness and loving hearts most humans have. These heroes inspire my characters’ actions. And what reader doesn’t want to see themselves in the hero?

The tragic facts are all background for the young teens who solve the mysteries by asking questions, discovering clues, participating in dangerous and devious events, arguing about tactics, taking wrong turns, until finally, just before things get brutally dangerous for them – these heroic teens crack the crimes. They were never without hope!


 Click here to buy Stakeout

Ferrante: Sounds both inspiring and fun. When did you decide that you wanted to merge your passion for preserving nature and your educational skills into fiction writing?

Doerr: I was teaching middle school science years ago when my search for a fun read to support my environmental curriculum came up empty. I thought then maybe one day I’d take my shot at writing such books. But it was many years before I found the time to study the craft and go for it.

TL cover 2

 Click here to buy Tangled Lines

Ferrante: After writing your first mystery, did you change the way you approach writing a book?

Doerr: I think writers are always learning what works better for them. But many habits remain. I’m constantly reading news in every format, human interest stories, conservation magazines, books in many genres. Add to that listening all while awaiting the spark of an idea to research. I keep lots of short notes for plot events, character ideas, plot scenes, snippets of conversations, people to interview in a notebook. Very sloppy notebook, I might add. It’s hard to predict how it goes beyond that point, but some combination of panstering and plotting takes place on my laptop. I can’t seem to change being a “planster.”


 Click here to buy Kenzie’s Key

Ferrante: That’s probably the method that gets your creativity flowing.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the senseless destruction of the environment and the animal world?

Doerr: To be overwhelmed is to feel helpless and hopeless. Such surrender would demean and deny the work of those who are saving and protecting our environment around the world every day (http://bit.ly/1TC8udQ). NASA’s Commander Bolden says this about collaboration in outer space, “… we’re traveling together as a human race that’s looking to expand the outer bounds of human possibility and progress.”  I believe his words can be applied to working for the health of our planet right here on Earth.

Ferrante: What do you do to refuel yourself?

Doerr: Science tells us everyone can refuel by spending time in nature (For example, this reference: http://bit.ly/1pfM8hq). I live surrounded by woods along a lovely greenway path and park. So this escape is easy for me, and truthfully, if I couldn’t easily commune with nature I’d likely go nuts. Escaping into the world of a book is also a major refuge. Recently, I read that for those who can’t easily get outdoors imagining the experience is doga worthwhile retreat. Research has proven nature scenes alone provide comfort and healing to hospital patients (http://bit.ly/1pjF4Fn). Imagine what immersion in an outdoor adventure book can do for people who spend too much time indoors. My novels offer just that kind of experience. I also recharge by traveling to new places, experiencing other cultures, and by spending time with friends and with my rescue dog, Salty (named after the dog in my books), who always puts a smile on my face.

Ferrante: I, too, love being outdoors (except when it’s 30C below). My favourite sound is listening to leaves rustling in  the wind.

Have any of your readers ever expressed their involvement in an environmental group because of what they have read in your books?

Doerr: My former editor told me she learned one reader established a green teen club at school as a result of reading Island Sting, but I never learned more about it. I wish I had. My readers are just under the age group that’s active online so I don’t often hear from them directly.


 Click here to buy Island Sting

Ferrante: Please tell us about your research methods. 

Doerr: Most of my research is done in the field. I maintain contact with people I meet during my research and often refer to them when my memory fails, my notes are incomplete, or I need more detail. The field research is the most fun for me. The people I meet always show up on the page as bits and pieces of the good guys. Besides who wouldn’t want to spend weeks in the Florida Keys?

Ferrante: I would! I would!

What other topics do you think you might tackle in the future?

Doerr: I’m trying to boil down my ideas. Since I’m a bit superstitious, I don’t want to say more than my setting will be geographically different. I may even take a break from environmental issues.

three random questions

Ferrante: Aside from any family, friends, or pets, what would be the most difficult thing for you to give up in your life?

Doerr: I wouldn’t be me if I had to give up living with trees, flowers, plants – all things nature.

Ferrante: Me too. I love visiting big cities but I love coming home even more. Next question. Forget about soft sounds like babbling brooks, gentle showers, and warbling birds. What is your favorite loud sound?

Doerr: Dang, you took away what I’d most hate to give up. Truth. There is no loud sound I like. Loud sounds make me tense and hyper. I cover my ears at concerts, and thank goodness for closed captioning on TV. But the loudest tolerable sound I can think of is a seventeen-year cycle of singing cicadas. But how often do I have to hear that chorus?

Ferrante: I’m not a fan of loud either but I think I’d like to hear those singing cicadas at least once.

If you could live in any state other than the one in which you currently reside, which state would you choose?

Doerr: Gosh, I’ve lived in ten different states. Other than North Carolina where I live now, I can rule all of them out. Maybe I’d choose Vermont, but no, I can’t tolerate winter. So… hmm… has to be warmer than Vermont … but green… Oregon! It would be Oregon. Wait, maybe Washington. But it’s cooler than Oregon. Except I need frequent blue skies, so neither one. Wyoming – big blue skies. No, too landlocked and cold. You made it hard. No fair. I like the state where I now live. It may be cheating, but I’m going say Virginia. It’s only an hour’s drive to the state line from home. *wink*

Thanks for the fun, Bonnie!

Ferrante: Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring answers. It’s been great getting to know you. It seems these two Bonnies have a few things in common.

Bonnie Doerr’s website


Tangled Lines will be reviewed Friday, February 10, 2017 on this blog.



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

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-1

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-2

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-3

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Finding the Forgotten: Author, Documentarian, and Archivist Ronnika (R.J.) Williams Three Random Questions Interview

Ronnika (R.J.) Williams is a documentarian and archivist who has used her skills to create her first children’s book, Adventures of Alleykats – The Missing President.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Ronnika. The seed for becoming an archivist was planted quite early. Can you tell us a little about it?

Williams: Hi Bonnie, Thanks for having me! I was surrounded by historical artifacts/documents growing up, I would say around the age of five is when I became fascinated with old photos.  I caught on quickly the importance of preserving them.  I know this is going to sound weird, but I would make sure that my parents, and grandparents saved an obituary from every funeral they attended.  Why? I loved reading about a person’s life and their family. 

Ferrante: Photography/videography is also one of your passions. Where has that led?

Williams: It led me to the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.  I’m currently a student there, and it has broadened my awareness of how complex both photography and videography truly is.  Before I never cared about lighting, I would just click and shoot, or simply record.  Especially when it comes to certain projects I’m working, and with freelance.  I’m more critical of the finished product.

Ferrante: Tell me a little about your partnership with “Savvy Sessions” to provide educational tools for elementary students.

Williams: My sister is an elementary school teacher, so this is her baby.  She provides the blueprint, and I strive to bring the lessons to life through storytelling.  Focusing more on summer activities to keep the students minds sharp all year round.

 Ferrante: Your first children’s book, Adventures of Alleykats – The Missing President, is receiving rave reviews. It seems parents and children love it. Why did you choose this topic on which to base a children’s story?

Williams: I was a summer intern at the Museum of Confederacy (Now the American Civil War Museum) in Richmond, VA for three summers.  Whenever I would tell people where I worked I would either get weird stares (why are you working there, or what’s that face).  I wanted to find a cool way to bring awareness to a place, person, and time in history that’s often omitted from the history books.  I’ve always wanted to know all sides of a story.  The good, the bad, and the truth!


 Click here to buy Adventures of Alleykats: Historical Sleuths: The Missing President (Volume 1)

Ferrante: What strategies did you use to merge factual history and fictional events?

Williams: I still love a good mystery, and adventure.  Something that keeps me guessing, so I honestly talked with teachers, and they provided me with books that the children were into these days.

Ferrante: Was there ever a missing President?

Williams: He’s missing from the history books.  There’s so much that’s missing from the history books.  Hopefully my series can help bridge the gap.

Ferrante: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Williams: I want my readers to have fun while learning.  It’s just that simple.

Ferrante: What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book? The least?

Williams: I love how the story was constantly expanding.  I wrote the outline over 3 years ago, while I was in graduate school.  Working with the illustrator truly brought the story to life. I would say the least would be the editing process.  That was stressful, and a hint of perfectionism was creeping out every time I received a revision.

Ferrante: It seems as though the first book is the beginning of the series. What are your plans for subsequent stories?

Williams: I’m currently working on Book 2.  It’s going to be another adventure of course.  I want to be able to build upon the series, and provide unforgettable content to be used in classrooms.  I want the Alleykats to be a household name.

Ferrante: My deepest condolences on the loss of your father. I read that you promised him three things “before he passed away after a battle with cancer, that she would finish graduate school with high honors, pursue her love of documentary studies, and publish a children’s book series.” It seems that you have fulfilled all of these promises. Where is your journey taking you now?

Williams: Thank you Bonnie!

My journey has led me to give back to my community with my ongoing documentary project.  My current photography campaign (final48.org) focuses on stories, and photos of individuals talking about their journey with grief.  Even though it is very different from the Alleykats Series, it keeps me writing, and traveling the country collecting the stories. It truly gives me a lot of joy. The type of joy when someone tells me they love “The Missing President.”  I know that every decision I’ve made has unlocked another amazing opportunity.  Accepting that internship was definitely one of the best decisions I could have made for my professional career. I know that all of my sweat and tears for all of my projects has been worth it. 

Ferrante: What were your favorite children’s books growing up? Do you feel they have influenced your writing?

Williams: My parents gave me a book when I was little girl that was full of African American biographies.  They were in alphabetical order. I’ve asked my mom has she seen the book lying around in my old room. I’ve moved so much I know it’s in a box at her house. I had to do a book report on W.E.B. DuBois, but I was constantly distracted by the other figures in that book.  That goes back to what I said before.  I’ve always been fascinated with “the dash” of a person’s life.  That book was my Wikipedia back in the day.

I was a HUGE Goosebumps and Nancy Drew fan.  I can remember challenging my friends that they couldn’t finish a Goosebumps book in a day.  Other than attending summer camps, I would sit in my room, or in the backyard, and READ.  I was able to finish a couple of Goosebumps books in a day.  Talk about an accomplishment that was before going to middle school. 

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

Williams: I love hearing from my readers.  I’m in the process of revamping the Alleykats website, but social media is quite active.  Feedback is always welcome, and whenever I receive a new Amazon review it totally makes my day!

three random questions

Ferrante: If snow could fall in any flavor, what flavor would you choose? (Being from Michigan, I assume you get snow.)

Williams: Oh yes, I have a Ph.D in tasting snow, and quite an imagination growing up with my neighborhood friends.  I’ve always wanted the snow to taste like the different flavors of KOOL-AID! I would have to choose Lemon-Lime or Cherry.  I can’t pick one!

Ferrante: If you could know one fact about every person you ever meet, what particular fact would you want it to be? (Assume that the other person would not have to be aware that you know this fact about them.)

Williams: Their level of optimism.  These days I choose to surround myself with people that prefer to encourage, enlighten, and uplift.  If there is a problem we are striving to find the solution.  What is that person doing to make the world a better place.

Ferrante: If you could have the original of anything in the world, what would you want it to be? (Assume that you would never be allowed to sell it for money; you must simply enjoy it for what it is.)

Williams: I would want the original of my father’s U.S. Army photo.  I found his uniform with his plane ticket home in his pocket, and later on found the photo.  The photo is damaged inside of the picture frame, so I would want his original draft photo.  Nothing in this world could compare to that.

Ferrante: That would be priceless. I lost my father at age 29 so I understand how meaningful these things become.

Thank you, Ronnika, for sharing your thoughtful and open-hearted answers with us today. I look forward to the release of your second Alleykats book. Good luck with all your amazing endeavors.

The Missing President will be reviewed on this blog February 3, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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

A Life-long Mission of Equality and Inclusion – Author Janet Ruth Heller Three Random Questions Interview

Janet Ruth Heller is a fiction writer, poet, playwright, educator, memoir writer, and literary critic.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Janet. When do you find time to sleep? 

Janet Ruth Heller: I have retired from teaching and write full-time. I published two books while I was teaching, but I have published four books since I retired in 2010.  I still visit schools, libraries, book fairs, conferences, and bookstores to give creative writing workshops; discuss multicultural literature; discuss good books, movies, CDs, and videos to help children deal with bullying; give anti-bullying workshops; read my poetry and prose; and present my scholarly research on literature.

Ferrante: I found teaching not only took most of my time, but most of my creative energy as well. Retirement is so freeing.

I reviewed How the Moon Regained Her Shape on May 2, 2014.  What were your goals and intentions with this book and how well do you feel you have achieved them?

Heller: I got badly bullied by various classmates when I was a new student in kindergarten.  This abuse continued for several years.  The bullying included name-calling, exclusion from activities, pushing, and stone-throwing.  I did not know how to discourage my harassers, and I did not tell the teachers about the bullying.  I wrote my fiction picture book How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006; 3rd edition 2012) to help other children understand bullying and to urge them not to remain silent. By telling friends, family members, teachers, coaches, neighbors, etc. about bullying, children and adults can make it difficult for harassers to continue their power trips. 

Teachers tell me that after I visit a school to read How the Moon Regained Her Shape and to discuss bullying, students are more likely to report harassment. 


 Click here to buy How the Moon Regained Her Shape

Ferrante: Fabulous. We need to get it out in the open.

Your book has been included in two collections, Astronomy Set and the Overcoming Adversity Set. How did this come about?

Heller: My publisher, Arbordale (previously Sylvan Dell), often puts together groups of books with similar topics. I wrote the essay about bullying in the “Character” section online. I also edited the “For Creative Minds” section with activities for children at the end of the book How the Moon Regained Her Shape.

Ferrante: Your first picture book has won several awards (2006 Children’s Choices Award [Children’s Book Council and Int’l. Reading Association] 2007 Ben Franklin Award [Publishers Marketing Association] 2007 Moonbeam Gold Award) and received wonderful reviews. However there has been some negative response from First Nations peoples claiming that this is a distorted aboriginal folktale. Would you like to address this?

Heller: When I wrote How the Moon Regained Her Shape, I was researching Native American legends, customs, and folktales for an article that I was writing about the poetry of Judith Minty, who is part Mohawk. I also have a Native American friend who helped me during many crises; she is one of the people whom I dedicated this book to. The story in my picture book is completely my own. I did not borrow any words, ideas, or sentences from Native American authors. However, because I admire the lyrical style of First Nation stories, I tried to write my book with a similar style. I also love nature and agree with First Nation people’s view that the natural world is not separate from the human world.

Many educators complain that few books for children have people of color as main characters. How the Moon Regained Her Shape has two Native American main characters, Round Arms and Painted Deer. It also has a large group of First Nations women dancing with the moon and Round Arms. I created all of these characters from my respect and love for Native American culture.

Ferrante: What were your sources for your newest book, The Passover Surprise?

Heller: I was born in 1949 and am the oldest of five children in a Jewish family. When I was nine, my father set up a competition for a stamp album between my next-oldest brother and me. Although we both spent the same amount of time and effort collecting stamps, my father gave the album to my brother without any explanation. I did not know the words “sexism” and “favoritism” then, but I knew that something was very unfair, and I felt alienated from my father. However, I was too young to know how to confront him about his obvious bias.

My father served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and told me many stories about his experiences.  As an adult, I also read his letters home to his parents and an autobiography that he wrote.  I used details from these in The Passover Surprise.

When I was young, my family celebrated the Passover Seder with the family of my mother’s twin brother. The joint celebration with my aunt and uncle and my first cousins made the holiday very special. I adapted details from these Seders for The Passover Surprise.

I am a devout Jew. I often help to lead services at my synagogue, and I frequently chant from the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) and the Jewish prophets in Hebrew. I have also been a principal and a teacher at two Jewish religious schools.

No one has a right to discriminate against other people due to skin color, race, national origin, etc. The Civil Rights Movement emphasizes equal opportunity and fairness for everyone. 

Also, just as many women in the 1800s got involved in the Women’s Movement after fighting for the abolition of slavery, many women in the twentieth century got involved in the Women’s Movement after fighting for civil rights for people of color. I attended my first feminist conference at Oberlin College around 1969, and I coordinated women’s organizations and rap groups at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago. I’m a founding mother of the feminist literary journal Primavera, and I co-founded the Rape Crisis Center in Madison, Wisconsin. 


 Click here to buy The Passover Surprise

Ferrante: Wow, that’s impressive.

The Passover Surprise raises the topic of sexism. Do you feel traditional religions need to address this topic?

Heller: Yes, I feel that many religions discriminate against women. In Jewish families, boys often get favored over girls. Until the 1970s, women could not become Jewish rabbis or cantors in the United States and in many other countries. The language of many prayer books and Bibles addresses primarily men and refers to God in masculine terms such as King and Lord, instead of using gender-fair nouns like Sovereign and Creator, etc. Such language makes women and girls feel left out and diminished. 

I have been pushing for more inclusion of women in leadership positions and more egalitarian language in worship for many decades. We have adopted a gender-fair High Holiday prayer book, and we will soon vote on which of several gender-fair prayer books to use for the rest of the year. We have had many more women presidents of the synagogue recently.

Ferrante: That’s great to hear.

three random questions

Ferrante: Besides your real birthday, what is one other date on the calendar that you think would have been a great day to be born?

Heller: My summer birthday is the date of my parents’ first anniversary. This has made the date doubly special to my family and to me. I would also like to be born on the Jewish holiday of Passover because of its emphasis on freedom and human dignity.

Ferrante: Whenever you’re having a bad day, what is the best thing you can do to help cheer yourself up?

Heller: I take a long walk to make myself feel better. I used to walk with my father when I was young. 

Ferrante: What is your all-time favorite scene from a movie?

Heller: One of my favorites is in Sense and Sensibility (1995) based on Jane Austen’s novel by the same name. Elinor Dashwood, played by Emma Thompson, has been waiting patiently for at least a year to find out whether the man she has adored, Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), still loves her and can marry her. He was engaged to Lucy Steele previously. Elinor and Edward have been separated for many months. She has heard rumors that he has married Lucy. However, Edward comes to visit Elinor toward the end of the movie. She finds out that Edward’s brother married Lucy, but Edward is free to and wants to marry Elinor now. During this scene, Elinor’s tears turn to laughter and joy. Thompson plays this scene powerfully. The audience feels a great sense of relief that Elinor’s long wait is over and that she can soon live happily with Edward.

Ferrante: We all love a happy ending.

Thank you for spending time with us today. Best of luck with The Passover  Surprise.

The Passover Surprise was reviewed on this blog on December 30, 2016.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Jayne Barnard’s Great Tips on Reading Your Work Aloud

Posted on Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop Blog


“We’ve all seen them, and many of us have been them: authors standing up front with their nose in the book, mumbling, inaudible beyond the second row. The audience isn’t fidgeting because they don’t like the writing; often it’s the delivery that’s killing you. Yet you can land the basics of good delivery in a few minutes of practice a day. You’ll give better readings and enjoy them more (or dread them less)…”


Jayne will be interviewed on my blog March 22, 2017.

Click on the book cover for information on her latest work.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages