The Joy of Making People Laugh: Author/Illustrator Sal (Salvatore) Barbera Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: My guest today is Sal (Salvatore) Barbera, author, illustrator, and artist. Welcome Sal. Please tell us in three or four sentences a little about yourself.

Sal Barbera: I’m an “it’s never too late to start writing” writer. I wrote my first book a few years ago. I believe laughter is the best medicine, and that’s actually why I wrote my first book, to make my mother-in-law laugh. I heard that Charley Chaplin once said: “ A day without laughter is a wasted day.” Those are words I live by.


Ferrante: Why did you choose to write picture books as opposed to any other genre?

Barbera: I’m a visual person and I love to draw. When I write, I draw the characters as I’m writing the story. It helps me to visualize it as I go along. I didn’t actually choose to write picture books, it just turns out that what I write and draw is also ideal for picture books.

Ferrante: You have written “I show kids how to deal with difficult personal and social situations using humor, diplomacy and intelligence.” What kind of situations are you talking about?

Barbera: In Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, she arrives at a new farm where every single cow has spots, and she’s totally spotless. She’s instantly thrown into an adversarial situation when they immediately don’t like her and won’t have anything to do with her. It’s a situation ‘different’ kids experience when they’re at a new school or camp or even the community pool. These are stressful situations for children, and they need to figure out how to get their peers to like and accept them. There are many kids that have to deal with being somehow different from the other kids. And being ‘different’ can lead to bullying and prejudice.

In another one of my books, Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog, Ernie can’t understand why he can never seem to do what the other frogs can easily accomplish. In every situation, he seems to fail or lag behind, while the other frogs do the same thing so easily. The surprise of this story is that there’s a very good reason why this happens. And that’s what makes him different from the other frogs. The themes of love and friendship are woven through this story as well as a big dose of humor and diplomacy.


Ferrante: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Barbera: I’m a writer. But for me, it’s very much an inspiration thing. When I hear or see something that sparks an idea I go into writing mode. I don’t sit down every day at a set time and write just to write something. But I do think of something funny or interesting every day, and many times I’ll write that down as an idea for a story.

Ferrante: Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about exclusion. Why did you feel this was such an important topic? What personal and social ramifications do you think exclusion causes?

Everyone wants to fit in and be accepted. Especially by their peers. Children can be profoundly hurt by being excluded from a group. It’s a horrible feeling to be rejected or ignored by people that you want to like and accept you. The key is what you do when that happens. You can be dejected and turn against them. You can be sad, feel rage or worse, become suicidal.

It’s how you deal with exclusion that determines your character. The secret is to figure out a way to turn their cold shoulders around and be welcomed into the group for who you are.

That’s where humor, diplomacy and using your intelligence (brains) comes in. Mary Elizabeth was rejected by the entire group at first. But she figured out a way to not only overcome the rejection and make friends, but also to open their eyes to the unfairness of their prejudice. Proving, in her case, that it’s what’s inside that counts more than appearance. And, that she is a lot of fun to be around when you get to know her.

 Click here to buy Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

Ferrante: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

Barbera: It’s not typical to find an author that’s also an artist and does their own illustrations. My unique drawing style, fun relatable characters and humor throughout the story make my book stand out. I love to draw animals, it’s a lot of fun to make them ‘human’, and this story is filled with wacky and whimsical looking cows. It is a journey of discovery for kids and their caregiver’s while reading this story. The ‘aside’ humor for adults makes reading Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow a welcome addition to every children’s library.

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write about a cow instead of a child or any other animal? What challenges did this race?

Barbera: I chose cows because of the spots. All ‘Prejudice’ needs to fuel it is someone or something that’s different. Spots. No spots. If all the cows couldn’t see, spots wouldn’t be an issue. If one cow couldn’t see, that cow would be different and probably treated differently. Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about social prejudice. The biggest challenge created by using cows was figuring out how to overcome the spots to become accepted. I think it’s neatly accomplished and makes for a better story.

Ferrante:  Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow has her own television show on the web. Tell us about this. How is it created? Who performs in it? How often is it aired?

Barbera: Thank you for asking about the upcoming web show! We are launching on YouTube mid August. (Fingers crossed). My wife, Sheri, and I came up with the concept for Sweetles® TV Show (web series) a few years ago. The first idea was to help kids learn about social skills and good behaviors in a fun and wacky way. Think Sesame Street meets Monty Python. It’s evolved into more of a comedy/variety show for the entire family to enjoy. 

The show includes nutsy goofballs (people), silly animation, assorted puppets, music, comedy and a lot of fun! All of that meant learning a whole bunch of new software programs to create and edit video. Plus making, buying or modifying and animating an assortment of puppets and other show characters. Once that was finally accomplished, then we researched how to set up a studio for filming. That took over two years. It’s truly been a labor of love.

We’re currently at the stage of writing the scripts and filming the show! So far, there are four of us writing, performing and filming. The goal is to post Sweetles® TV Show once a week, with a segment just for kids called “A Sweetles Dream®” featuring my children’s book characters including Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow. Even her sister, Sister Mary Catherine: The Holy Cow With a Bad Habit, makes an appearance! It should be a lot of fun.

Ferrante: What your plans for future projects include?

Barbera: I have a number of books in the works in the “A Sweetles Dream®” series. And we’d love to license my characters for products to go with the books. We already have a wonderful Mary Elizabeth puppet that’s ready to go into production. And, if Sweetles® TV Show is a hit, it would be great to bring it to television. 

three random questions

Ferrante: What type of service to others or good deed done for other people do you personally find the most rewarding?

Barbera: It’s Laughter. I try to make as many people laugh as possible. Every single day. There’s nothing more rewarding than to see someone’s face light up, smile and laugh. Especially if they’re tired, sad, lonely or seem depressed. My father-in-law is in an assisted living home, and my wife and I always make a point of getting people there to laugh every time we visit. Laughter is the best medicine.

Ferrante: What is the coldest you have ever been in your life, and what is the hottest?

Coldest?  We used to do Christmas decorating when we lived on the East Coast. Putting up Christmas lights outdoors in New Jersey when it’s 2F (-16C) degrees. “It looks beautiful”, I said, through chattering teeth.

Hottest? I live in Arizona. Even after visiting here for the first time in 1989 when there was record heat of 118 (48C) degrees! We still loved and and still moved here. But, as Frank Sinatra said, “it’s a God forsaken blast furnace!”.

Ferrante: 118F would kill me but 2F is a lovely winter day where I live.

If you could change the ending to any movie you have ever seen, what movie would it be and how would you alter the way it ends?

Barbera: That would have to be ‘Close Encounters of The Third Kind’. The movie ends with Richard Dryfuss leaving his wife and two children behind to go off in a space ship with a bunch of aliens. That’s not right. I would change his character to a bachelor.

Ferrante: I agree. It seemed as though he didn’t give leaving his children a second thought.

Thank you so much, Sal, for your interesting answers. I appreciate the time you put into them. Best of luck with your books and your upcoming web show. Send me a little note when it launches and I will alert my readers. It’s such a unique and gutsy enterprise I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow will be reviewed on this blog February 6, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

The Best of Two Cultures: Author Michael Samulak Three Random Questions Interview

Michael Samulak is a picture book author, full-time youth minister and educator.


Bonnie Ferrante: Your first book, A is for Africa, was inspired by a trip to Uganda. You worked with a local artist, Sswaga Sendiba, to create the illustrations. Tell us about that experience.

Samulak: I was traveling back and forth to Uganda in 2006 and 2007 for church and humanitarian related needs.  I took three trips, each about a month long over that time period. My dear wife had to hold down the fort while I was working and traveling in those days.  We had one child at the time and even moved just before one of those trips!  (Yes, I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world)

What I saw and experiences during this time in my life was so enlarging and inspiring in itself that I was looking for a way to share the beauty and wonders of that land and people with the youth in my circles of influence back home.  

During an off day I would try to explore the local scene whenever possible to take in and explore as much as possible.  On one of those days I happened by a batik painting of Mr. Sendiba in a local market area, I believe.  The piece caught my attention from across the road.  I bought it instantly.

Later in the day I noticed a similar Batik at another shop on the other end of the strip and I thought it must be by the same artist.  I hustled over to the shop owner and began to pepper them with questions about the piece and the artist. Sswaga would come by from time to time and sell them a few pieces if the shop could take on more. 

In the end, she was willing to take my local contact and promised to give it to Swaga the next time he came around. I purchased three more of his batiks from that shop, scribbled down the number of my host family and sent up a little prayer.

With one week to go in that first trip I got the call that changed everything.

We arranged a time and place to meet and with just a few days before my flight was to leave, had set in place a plan to illustrate various African wildlife, nature scenes, and of the native people that I would try to incorporate into an alphabet book or maybe even reading series that I had already been working on.  When I told him that I would need at least 50 pieces of his work to have a chance of being able to put a finished product together, I think he almost fainted.  I was more than happy to be able to support him and his work, even if I wasn’t able to complete the project.

Over the course of the next two years of researching, rewrites, tweaking, and more traveling, I was able to have Sswaga illustrate what I thought would be necessary to bring the project to life.  At the end of my last trip in 2007 I had almost 100 pieces from him that I eventually chose from for the final picture book.

Whew…like I said in the beginning, a story in itself, but it think that covers the basics.


 Click here to buy A is for Africa

Ferrante: I’m sure you made a wonderful difference in Sswaga Sendiba’s life. It’s awesome that you used an African artist and batik is such a unique medium for picture book illustration.

Two years later, you created a coloring book based on this picture book. Considering the adult coloring craze that is happening right now, will this picture book be suitable for all ages?

Samulak: The coloring book was produced almost because of demand; With each classroom visit I did once the original was published, the teachers would talk about the different ways they were intending to follow-up with my presentation. 

In terms of adult application – easy answer is, “Yes”.  I have definitely had many adults purchase the coloring book: teachers who wanted it for the classroom, animal lovers, artists, doodlers, etc. 

Ferrante: How serendipitous that this newest craze fits so well with your book.

A review of A is for Africa appeared on my blog on December 26, 2016.

Your latest work, A Wonderful Day, which is a Mom’s Choice Award winner, is based on a trip to the zoo. Tell us what inspired this.

Samulak: My works are often inspired and revolve around my own children and our experiences of this beautiful world and the adventures we have together.  The zoo has always been a favorite for all the kids during their younger years, so I felt it would be a very relatable subject as an early reader.


 Click here to buy A Wonderful Day!

Ferrante: Tell us about the illustrations.

Samulak: My publisher for the book paired me with the creative mind of Louise Charm Pulvera. Mr. Pulvera was one of a few illustrators that TATE gave me samples of based on my manuscript.  I believe it was a perfect fit and Mr. Pulvera helped to bring the whole written script to another level of life.

A Wonderful Day will be reviewed on this blog on January 30, 2017.

Ferrante: Is there an author or illustrator with whom you would love to consult?

Samulak: My two heroes of the author/illustrator world are Tomie Depaola and Patricia Polacco.  To spend anytime, anywhere, in any form or fashion with those masters of the world of words would be mind-blowing to say the least.  I think if such a dream-come-true would ever happen, I would enter into a state of suspended animation and be lost for words.

Ferrante: LOL. I’ve always loved Tomie Depaola’s version of Strega Nona.

Why have you chosen picture books over any other style of writing?

Samulak: As an early childhood educator I have a special place in my heart for picture books.  I feel that picture books are a unique platform to enable the delivery of a message, provoke feeling, translate experiences, make connections, and overall draw one into new worlds and ideas that can often otherwise be out of reach.

I believe that picture books are, generally speaking, many peoples’ introduction to literacy in a form that is beautiful and captivating while also being a genesis of knowledge and experience.  Many times these books can be a driving force for our children to be exposed to new ideas or concepts; even expanded in exploring deeper connections and/or feelings to the world around them. 

Ferrante: It’s a great responsibility to make picture books that are worth the parents investment in time and money and due right by the children. Do you have a favorite children’s picture book?

Samulak: Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco.  I found this book in my early years as a young educator seeking to change the world and help my students with their own love for literacy.  It rocked my world. I knew if I could be so moved and touched by a story, how could it not impact those in my classroom.  That book helped me to establish my “measuring stick” for quality:  If I love it…the kids will love it.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Samulak: I love coffee, chocolate, traveling, and my family.  They all are great influences in my life and sources of constant inspiration. 

three random questions


Ferrante: If you could open your own retail store, what type of merchandise would you sell?

Samulak: Coffee and chocolate.  I love them both equally so I could not choose between them if I was deciding which to have on the shelf.  You would have a balance for parent and child with a wonderful selection of stimulants and sweets.  There would be a great space for reading and conversation, obviously, that would have to be open at all hours whenever the inward cravings came a’calling.

Ferrante: I guessed that from your previous answer. <smile> If you had to describe your personality in terms of a zoo animal, which animal would you choose?

Samulak: It would be hard to choose one, but I’ll say, the beaver.  Soft and cuddly; always busy, yet never finished with his work; trying to be helpful to the environment around him while at the same time enjoying the fruits of his labor; and with a big fat flat tail that sticks out like a sore thumb…but eventually, to those who truly know him, find that it is actually his unique instrument of that labor of love which characterizes him.

Ferrante: If you could walk into any painting and actually experience the moment or scene that it depicts, which painting would you choose to enter?

Samulak: It is interesting that you ask this question.  I think I have already had dreams about the entering into the masterpiece by Van Gogh, A Starry Night.  This piece has often been a source of inspiration and help to me over the years.  I actually just want to know if it is a mountain or a mountain of fire that is licking the heavens and overshadowing that little village on that eternal evening.

Ferrante: Thank you Michael for your detailed and interesting answers. What a fascinating journey you have gone through for the creation of A is for Africa. Best of luck with both your books and all your future endeavors.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Our Roots Keep Us Strong: Author Becky Villareal Three Random Questions Interview

Becky Villareal taught early childhood in Dallas Independent School District for 23 years. For the past ten years she has been completing family research. She spent the last 10 years working on family research. She has written two books about Gianna the Great.

Becky V

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Becky. Tell us a bit about your writing and your most recent work.

Becky Villareal: I have worked with many children who come from multicultural backgrounds. Since I come from a similar background, I was always trying to place myself in a group. I wrote Gianna the Great to address those inner conflicts that children face and followed it by Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues to let the children know what happens when you don’t give up.

Ferrante: What research did you do for this picture book?

Villareal: Through working with the National Archives and multiple genealogy websites, I was able to piece together the parts of my family tree that have been missing. I used this research to develop this story.

Ferrante: Do you think it is important for people to know their roots?

Villareal: On my website I use this Chinese Proverb, “To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.”  When a person comes from a multicultural background and has little knowledge of that history or culture, they feel lost like a boat at sea with no shore in sight.  Once they feel they have found their place, they can embrace those strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in their own personalities that are part of their DNA makeup i.e. creativity, personality, intuitiveness etc..

Ferrante: Why did you create the character Gianna the Great?

Villareal: In truth, I created Gianna to express to all children how wonderful they are, how unique, and how special.  It doesn’t matter who our parents are, what background we come from, what matters is that there never was nor will ever be again someone just like them.


 Click here to buy Gianna the Great

Ferrante: What do you feel makes your writing original?

Villareal: When I am writing from Gianna’s point of view, my writer’s voice comes out in full force.  I want the reader to experience what Gianna is experiencing as she goes through her journey to find her family history.


 Click here to buy Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues (Gianna the Great Book 2)

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

Villareal: The most important thing I have learned is to trust the Lord to give me the insight into what I need to write.  He has given me the gift, now I trust His direction.  Also, never lose faith in yourself or your writing.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Villareal: Gianna is a series with a third one in the hands of my agent Jessica Schmeidler from Golden Wheat Literary Agency.  I am more than happy to help other novice writers by reading and reviewing their works.

three random questions

Ferrante: In all your travels, what is the most awe-inspiring bridge you have ever crossed?

Villareal: The bridge that goes into Galveston, Texas.

Ferrante: If you lived on a farm, which chore above all others would you definitely not want to do?

Villareal: I would not want to pick okra without gloves.  I did it once as a girl and suffered for it.

Ferrante: If you had to rearrange the letters of your first name to give yourself a new name, what would your new name be?

Villareal: Racebec

Becky’s Blog 

Gianna the Great will be reviewed on this blog Monday, January 9, 2017.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Review of Gianna the Great January 09, 2017.

Review of Halito Gianna February 11, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Powerful True Stories in Their Own Words: Author Eileen Doyon Three Random Questions Interview

Eileen Doyon’s series is Unforgettable Faces and Stories.  She has released six books, Dedications: Dads and Daughters/2013, Keepsakes; Treasures from the Heart/2013, Best Friends: Forever and Ever/2013, Pet Tales: Unconditional Love/2014 listed on Amazons Best Sellers list, Letters To Heaven/2015, also listed on Amazons Best Sellers list, and most recent, The Second My Life Changed Forever. Her books deal with death and other life-changing events.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Eileen. First, I have to say how courageous you are to write about topics that are so personal to you. Could you tell us about your series, Unforgettable Faces and Stories. How do you go about collecting these stories? Do you interview these people personally or do they send you letters? Is it difficult to find them or do you have more than you could ever use? How do you choose which ones will go to print?

Eileen Doyon: Hello Bonnie, thank you!  It is my pleasure to be here and to share. Unforgettable Faces and Stories is a movement……we are a community of readers and storytellers…YOUR story told by YOU. We give everyday people an opportunity to tell their own story about a particular theme.  It is their own words and their own storytelling platform of how they want to share. Sometimes I will speak with people on the phone prior to them participating/writing  I tell them about myself and my mission and answer any questions that they may have. As we grow and get the word out there both through social media and just meeting people every day, and through referrals, we network  with people to participate. Referrals played a big part on my most recent book. The decision process to choose which stories are printed has been streamlined and has worked for us up to this point.

Ferrante: After the loss of your father, you channeled that grief into your second book, Unforgettable Faces & Stories: Dedications: Dads and Daughters (Daughters Remembering Their Dads Who Served in the Military). This book seems to have touched a deep chord with the public. What kind of feedback have you received?

Doyon: This book was so dear and close to my heart. My dad was everything to me.  I wanted a tribute to him and this was the theme. He was a Marine and fought in WWII and was at Iwo Jima. I  wanted other women to feel the power of tribute to their dad. The feedback was and has been incredible. That is what made me come up with the idea of continuing  with different themes and run the series. People were touched, healed, helped in the grieving process, and it just made them feel good. On the reading side, people thought about the loss of loved ones in their own life and warmed their hearts as well.


 Click here to buy Unforgettable Faces & Stories: Dedications: Dads and Daughters (Daughters Remembering Their Dads Who Served in the Military)

Ferrante: That’s wonderful. Your latest book is The Second My Life Changed Forever. What was your goal in writing this book?

Doyon: My goal for this book was this……we as people in this journey of life have one second situations that change our life forever whether positive or negative. What an incredible learning experience for us all that everyone in life goes through something. We are not out there by ourselves and things just do not happen to us. It is life… shows readers that they can move forward in a negative situation, gives them hope, inspiration, and makes them feel not alone…on the positive note with that one second, it truly inspires people to take notice on the signs that are put in front of us sometimes and we just have to go for it and trust our gut.


 Click here to buy The Second My Life Changed Forever

(Unforgettable Faces & Stories) (Volume 6)

Ferrante: Which of your books was the most challenging to write? Why?

Doyon: For myself, probably The Second My Life Changed Forever. I wrote about my mom. To be honest Bonnie, even my husband never really knew what happened to my mom. I still to this day, do not vocally tell the story. It is too painful, so I wrote it as part of my healing.

Ferrante: I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s truly admirable that you could use that pain to help others through theirs.

What event triggered your decision to become a writer? If that hadn’t happened, do you think you would have been a writer anyway?

Doyon: The grieving process for myself when my dad died triggered my decision to write a book. I do not think I would have had a desire without my dad’s death affecting me so much. It’s funny, I would ask my dad a question growing up and even in my adult life, and he would smile at me and say “you writing a book?” I truly believe now looking back, this is my calling.

Ferrante: Are you working on a book all the time? Do you write every day or do you spend some days reading possible stories for your book? How do you structure your writing time?

Doyon: I have several books in mind to do. My head is always spinning with ideas. I work on some of my marketing daily, as much as I can, and learn new things about social media and expanding Unforgettable Faces and Stories globally. I do have one writer from Australia. I am an early riser usually at 4:30am. I work on my social media and book ideas and networking til around 7:00am and then go from there.

Ferrante: Are you working on a new book right now?

Doyon: Right now I am working on the marketing side. I am doing a lot with video currently and love it. I have a theme pretty much secured and have a plan to roll it out starting October/November.

Ferrante: What did you learn from your first book that you would like to share with beginning writers? Is there something you did differently after that or is there something you found very successful and would always do?

Doyon: The best thing to share is just do it now! Did I know everything about writing a book and collecting stories, publishing, marketing, and everything else that goes along with it, NO I did not! But Bonnie, I learned….some things I did poorly in the beginning but my message to all is that at least I started and would want everyone not to be afraid to start, or to fail, or not to do everything correctly the first time.

Ferrante: That’s great advice.

three random questions

Ferrante: If, like the newspaper or milk, you could have anything of your choice delivered to your doorstep every morning, what particular item would you want it to be?

Doyon: Coffee!

Ferrante: LOL. That’s probably a popular answer. What is your favorite time of the day?

Doyon: Early morning/4:30am

Ferrante: Now that’s probably not a popular answer. What event in the next few months are you looking forward to more than anything else?

Doyon: Ahhh, I wish I could tell you my plan for my rollout for my next book, but I cannot….so……I would say September 2nd.  My husband is taking me to see Rod Stewart!

Ferrante: So, readers, mark that date on your calendar and keep an eye on Eileen Doyon.

Thank you, Eileen, for this candid and inspiring interview.

Eileen Doyon’s YouTube Channel

on Twitter  @FacesandStories


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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





Can a Scarecrow Help a Grieving Child? – Author Sandra Ann Horn Three Random Questions Interview

Sandra Ann Horn’s first picture book was Tattybogle about a happy scarecrow. It was made into a musical for schools by Ruth Kenward. She has written picture books and adult self-help nonfiction books.

Sandra Horn

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Sandra. You have two distinct genres of writing. One is picture books for preschool to school-age children. The other is for adults on self-help topics such as bereavement, stress management, and coping with pain. How do you juggle two such distinct kinds of work? Are you ever working on a picture book and an adult book at the same time?

Sandra Ann Horn: Thank you for inviting me, Bonnie. I was writing the self-help books whilst working as a Health Psychologist. I took early retirement to concentrate on the children’s books and stopped writing the others then, so luckily there was no need to juggle. I don’t think I could have managed both at the same time – different head spaces needed!

Ferrante: Why do you write about the self-help topics? Are your insights from personal experience or do you have professional qualifications?

Horn: I was/am a Chartered Health Psychologist with a special interest in stress and pain management.

Ferrante: Which of these books has received the most positive response from readers? Do you ever get feedback on whether the books have been helpful?

Horn: Probably Relaxation: modern techniques for stress management, as it has advice on methods and several people have let me know it was helpful to them.

Ferrante: That’s wonderful.

You have 15 picture books listed on Amazon. How long did it take you to complete a picture book from concept to final draft?

Horn: Often, many months because every word counts in picture books, as does the rhythm of the words. Then there is the need for editing once the pictures arrive, so many, many drafts are usually needed.

Moonthieves cover Nielsen

 Click here to buy The Moon Thieves

Ferrante: I so agree. Too many picture books have excessive wordiness or poor rhythm.

Which picture book are you most proud of? Why?

Horn: I think it is Tattybogle, as, to my initial surprise, it has been used in hospices and also to help children prepare for the death of a relative, with its message of renewal. The musical has also been performed world-wide and is still going strong.


 Click here to buy Tattybogle

Ferrante: Which picture book was the most difficult to complete? Why?

Horn: The Mud Maid, written for the Lost gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, was tricky as it needed to match a walk round the gardens and there were changes along the way. There were pigs in the woods when I started, which then disappeared, and Karen the illustrator changed the location of lake I’d envisaged! We got there in the end!


 Click here to buy The Mud Maid: A Story of Heligan

Ferrante: That must have been frustrating. 

Babushka is based on the classic Russian folktale. I believe the rest of your books are original stories. Why did you choose this one folktale to retell?

Horn: My children had a version of Babushka in which she never caught up with the Three Kings and was doomed to wander the earth giving the presents to other children because she had not reached the Christ Child. I thought that was dreadful! No redemption, and just because she made one mistake. I’d always wanted to re-write it with the ‘right’ ending, as I saw it: the redeeming power of love. I found out, by the way, when researching it, that it isn’t a Russian story at all! That was an invention by a playwright in the 1920’s.


 Click here to buy Babushka

Ferrante: Really? I’m surprised.

Your picture books are illustrated by different artists. Why have you chosen a variety of partners? How do you find them? Do you work in collaboration?

Horn: I didn’t have a say when the ‘big’ publishing houses were producing my books; they chose the illustrators, which was fine almost always, but now I’m an independent publisher I can choose. Yes, it’s collaborative and mostly with people I’ve worked with before.

Ferrante: You offer unique programs to accompany each book when you visit schools and other child-based environments. Where do you get your ideas?

Horn: My mind is a ragbag of ideas, some from my own childhood, many from sitting and scratching my head about what might work, some from exchanging tips with writing friends. I like using toys, songs and silly dances so the children can join in telling the story and don’t just have to sit still.

Ferrante: Are you working on a new project?

Horn: I’m working on a colouring-in story book with amazing artist Bee Willey. It’s called Rainbow! Bee also wants to animate it and so I’ve recorded it with sound effects. Good fun!

three random questions

Ferrante: In your opinion, what is the most significant event that has occurred in world history during the last thousand years?

Horn: I think the discovery of the Americas set the World on a new and previously undreamed-of course which helped to shape how it is today.

Ferrante: Which month of the year do you think would best describe your personality?

Horn: Hmm. April? Some sunshine, some showers, but always looking forward with hope.

Ferrante: If, instead of actually writing out your name, you now had to sign your name with a simple drawing of something, what would you draw each time to represent who you are?

Horn: A scarecrow! Like Tattybogle, my head is ‘full of straw and cheerful thoughts’, and even my very best friends wouldn’t call me a snappy dresser.

Ferrante: Thank you for participating in my interview series. It has been interesting getting to know you.

The Moon Thieves was reviewed on this blog Monday, December 19, 2016.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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




Feeding the Minds of Kids While Keeping Them in Suspense: Author Gail Hedrick Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Gail Hedrick is a middle-grade fiction author, freelance writer, editor and proofreader.

Welcome, Gail. Tell us a bit about your writing and your most recent work. Is it a departure from your usual writing?

Gail Hedrick: I write for kids and their parents. I’ve written and sold articles on subjects from grandparents to organizing your underwear drawer or your locker, to why socks were invented, underage drinking, cinnamon, decision-making, and more.  My published poems and activity verses have been on subjects like bedtime, setting the table, holidays like the 4th of July and Groundhog Day, smells and school. I enjoyed the challenge of short stories and published pieces on fitness, fears, and change, and most recently, completed and sold two middle-grade mystery books to Tumblehome Learning.

Actually, I had written two other middle-grade fiction books, but they remain in a drawer, and I look at them as my practice books. I don’t really think of my books as a departure from my other writing, just where I’d always been heading.

Gail Photo

Ferrante: It seems you write both fiction and nonfiction. Do you approach them differently? Which one do you find more challenging?

Hedrick: I am probably not the best one to ask about process, but it feels like I approach both kinds of writing about the same. Lots of gathering of information precedes anything I write. It may be newspaper clippings, articles, bookmarked pages on my computer, maybe a phone interview or photos, and once I have a folder of stuff to refer to, then some fleshing out gets going. It’s kind of an outline, or rough idea of where it seems like I should begin, stuff I might include, and potentially, where I’d like to end up. I like writing both fiction and nonfiction, but I find nonfiction pretty challenging as it’s more than ‘just’ data. You are trying to assemble a collection of facts into a fun, interesting story. You also want to let kids see what excited you about this information in the first place.

Ferrante: What research did you do for this novel?

Hedrick: For Something Stinks! – I had to learn what might have killed fish in large quantities in fresh water in a climate like Southwestern Virginia. I needed to find out if it was environmental, industrial, natural, and man-made. Depending on the answer, I then might need to find out things like if it was industrial-what kind and how it might occur. I had to research water testing, how county law enforcement and newspapers worked, different types of fertilizers, farming practices, and water quality issues.

Gail Hendrick book

 Click here to buy Something Stinks!

For The Scent of Something Sneaky – I had to find out how drug trafficking can occur, especially through the southern US, how steam engines, septic tanks, and smells work and affect us, how bed and breakfasts operate, labor laws for kids, drug testing options, retail operations, residential electricity/wiring, beekeeping and hives, levers, and home or residential fires.

Ferrante: A lot of work but worth it for authenticity. Why did you choose this genre and age?

Hedrick: Seventh and eighth grades are pretty vivid in my memory. There are friend issues, parent issues, striking out on your own-in that you want to, yet you are scared, you’re a kid one minute and sprouting body parts the next. I also loved mysteries from mid-elementary on-those and biographies. I could barely finish one before I’d start another and still love them.    

Ferrante: How many versions did you write?

Hedrick: For Something Stinks! there was really only one. I just kept expanding the scenes, and when it looked like it was becoming a science mystery, some additional work had to be done to flesh out the science to help to tell the expanded and more complex story. There were five line by line revisions.

For The Scent of Something Sneaky there were three (and two were awful!) versions. When I finally got the third version, then there were a number of revisions, perhaps six or seven. About mid-way through this whole process, I sat down, did an outline, and wow, it saved me!

Gail 2

 Click here to buy The Scent of Something Sneaky (An Emily Sanders Mystery)

Ferrante: Yes, if you make a lot of changes it’s necessary to do a new outline.

What do you feel makes your writing original?

Hedrick: I think it’s my dialogue, which is kind of funny as I’m pretty shy, and not much of a talker. And, even worse, in real life, I’m a terrible story teller, and usually forget the punch line.

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

Hedrick: Hmm, that it’s hard, but fun; that it leads you on a journey, and even if you get lost, the travel was always worth the trip.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Hedrick: It’s probably a good idea, even if no one else interviews you, to ask yourself some questions like these. It reminds us why we get up in the morning!

three random questions

Ferrante: What do you think is the best conversation piece in your home?

Hedrick: Our photo wall, of our immediate family, grandparents on both sides, our kids from birth to adults, us when we were young(er), and now our grandchild.

Ferrante: Which particular historical document (or portion thereof) do you think every American should know by heart?

Hedrick: The Preamble to the Constitution.

Ferrante: What is something you forgot once that you will more than likely never forget again?

Hedrick: When running errands, with list in hand of what needed to be done/purchased, I forgot to look at the list before going home. Trust me, if you make a list – read it, use it!

Ferrante: Ha! Good advice. I usually lose it.

Thank you for sharing your ideas and books with us. Something Great Happened Here.

Something Stinks will be reviewed on this blog on February 25, 2017.

rThe Scent of Something Sneaky was reviewed on this blog on December 5, 2016.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Tough Guy with a Soft Heart: Author Darrell Bain Three Random Questions Interview

Darrell Bain writes humor, adventure, mystery, science fiction, suspense and thriller novels for adults, as well as short story collections. He has about 50 books in print! Yes, that’s not a misprint.

Darrell Bain: Actually, it is a misprint. I did have more than 60 books in print, but a few months ago I withdrew all my books from one publisher, about 20 of them. Some I am going to allow to remain permanently out of print, another publisher has picked u a dozen or so of them, and I’ve self-published two and will have two more self-published within a month or so. A few I am looking for another publisher for.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Darrell. According to Amazon, you have published eight books in 2016 in the year is only half over. That’s more than one book a month. How is this possible?

Bain: All but two of these are re-edited and re-published again with new covers by Twilight Times Books.

Ferrante: Do you work on more than one book at a time? 

Bain: Yes, most of the time I am working on two or three at once.

Ferrante: Do you get feedback on your books before they are published?

Bain: On some now, but in the past, no.

Ferrante: How much do you write in a day?

Bain: Right now I’m lucky to get a page done because of back problems. I’m having surgery in about 6-8 weeks, the sooner the better. Prior to that, I wrote until I got tired, usually about 5,000 words but sometimes as much as 10 or 15,000 words a day.

Ferrante: You’ve worked in the medical field, do you draw upon this in your novels? Which ones? You’re also a Vietnam veteran. How does this affect the topics you choose and your style of writing?

Bain: Yes. Medics Wild was drawn entirely from my medical experience in Vietnam. The Long Way Home used a lot of my microbiology and hematology experience, as did Alien Infection and a number of others. The military background in some of my novels, e.g. the Apertures Series, is drawn from 13 years service. I can’t really say it affects the topics I choose. Most are drawn from some everyday experience that sparks my imagination.

Ferrante: Your book, Samantha’s Talent, was written with Robyn Pass and The Y Factor was written with Stephanie Osborne. What are the logistics of co-writing a book?

Bain: It depends on the co-author and the book. Most of the ones were books I was either stalled on or had more and better ideas I wanted to get on with. Robyn was different. It wasn’t really a collaboration since she didn’t do any of the writing but she did help edit it and provided some useful ideas, enough that I listed her as co-author and gave her a % of my royalties.


 Click here to buy Samantha’s Talent

Ferrante: How do you research for your science fiction novels?

Bain: The same way as or any other novel. I try to get the science right and history right and any other background right. I can’t say I always succeed but I do try my best.


 Click here to buy The Y Factor (Cresperian Book 2)

Ferrante: Which was the most difficult book for you to write? Why?

Bain: The Melanin Apocalypse. The writing wasn’t difficult but I knew in advance that I would get a lot of flak and be called a racist, a white supremacist and other names. I put a lot of research into it and still one reviewer said the science was ridiculous. Not true. Every bit of it was possible and is becoming more possible every day. I had to really put some thought into the subplot and was called an anti-Muslim bigot, too. Nevertheless a science fiction reader’s club picked the book to debate and I did some radio interviews as well.

Ferrante: Out of all the books you’ve written, what is the one you’re most proud of?

Bain: Now that’s a hard one to answer. If I had to be pinned down, I suppose I’d pick Savage Survival. The idea for it bloomed in my mind one night fully plotted and the book practically wrote itself. On the other hand, I’m really proud of the two books I’ve written as tributes to two really unusual dachshunds we’ve owned (or that owned us, I’m not sure.) One, Doggie Biscuit! followed the life of Biscuit, the most intelligent, people-oriented dogs I’ve ever even heard or thought about and the book followed his life faithfully, other than exaggerating a few true events for humor or dramatic purposes. The other, Bark! was about Tonto, a runt of the litter who was cross-eyed, had only one testicle and was afflicted with the doggie version of Aspergers Syndrome. He also had ADHD. He went his own silly way, marching to the tune of a different drummer than other dogs. He would spend hours arranging garden hoses left lying in the yard around the porch steps into a pattern only he knew the meaning of. He was a tool user and made his own tool for a specific purpose, which is supposed to be impossible for a dog, but not for Tonto. He was fascinated by water and…but read it yourself. It’s out of print right now but you may be able to find some used print copies. I plan on bringing it back as soon as possible, even if I have to self-publish. If any publishers are reading this, please take note. And I can’t write any more about either dog right now because I’m crying over them again, as I’ve done many times in the past. Damn. I knew I’d do that as soon as I thought about Biscuit or Tonto.

Ferrante: Aren’t you running out of ideas? How do you keep generating new topics for books?

Bain: I don’t understand how any author can run out of ideas, especially a science fiction author. I’ll run out of life before I ever run out of ideas. My mother once said she thought I could write a story about anything. She asked me if I’d write her a romance and I did, Hotline To Heaven, although it is a rather unorthodox romance.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you were invited to be the main guest on a new run of the famous show “This Is Your Life,” what three people from your past would you love to see making a surprise visit on the show?

Bain: I assume that’s a TV show. The ones I’d most like to see are all gone now, but if they could be brought back to life, my Uncle, T.C. Masters would be the first one. He liked to write but had a big family to support and his businesses took up his time. I get tears in my eyes when I think of him. He was a peaceful, slow talking man but a literal, self-taught genius. Everyone who knew him loved him. The next would be my maternal grandfather. Mother always said I resembled him in my thoughts and actions, and like me, he was never satisfied to stay in one place. He was constantly moving his large family around. He like to write but couldn’t get anything published so he bought a printing press and published his own work. No one saved any of it but I’d dearly love to see some of what he wrote. T.C. talked about him a lot. And the last would be Travis, one of T.C.s brothers. He died young in automobile accident. He could tell the most fantastic, outrageous stories and make us kids believe him, but he was never mean.

Ferrante: What is one field or profession that you never pursued, but that you think you would probably have been quite good at?

Bain: A medical doctor. Even as poor as we grew up, I would have had a chance at it, and did when the army sent me to college to get a degree as a lowly PFC who dropped out of high school in the ninth grade because I had such high test scores but I blew it because of an amphetamine habit I had as a young man.

Ferrante: What is the most incredible weather event you’ve ever been through in your life?

Bain: My wife was driving as we were on the way home from a visit and ran into a sudden violent thunderstorm pouring down an enormous amount of rain. We were on a highway entering a town and couldn’t even see how to pull over the rain was coming down so furiously. Nothing to do but keep going and hope for the best. We got through the town and finally came out of it. We learned the next day that we’d missed being carried off by flood waters by about a minute, from eleven inches of rain in little more than a half hour. Incredible and we were lucky to get through it, much less miss the flood!

Darrell Bain’s book Alien Infection will be reviewed on this blog on Friday, December 9, 2016.

Click on the covers below to buy a book by Darrell Bain.


and there are more!

Alien Infection will be reviewed on this blog January 27, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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

Making a Difference for Non-English Children: Author/Publisher S. J. Bushue Three Random Questions Interview

sj-bushueS. J. Bushue owns, operates and writes books for The Little Fig. Her post-graduate studies have focused on special education. Sherry is published in children’s books, newspapers, poetry collections and was a columnist for a magazine with focus on large families.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Sherry. Please give me a short genesis of The Little Fig.

S.J. Bushue: First, thank you for this opportunity. The Little Fig’s name originated in 2014 from my love of figs, more precisely, Fig Newtons. I visualize fig trees and children’s education as being quite similar in their potential; starting from a tiny seed then rapidly cultivating in environments worldwide. There are 67 different languages spoken in my district’s elementary schools alone. Teachers, librarians, parents and caregivers shared their concerns that very few children’s books, if any, were available for the young ones whose English is not their native language. “I believe that children are our future” (a quote from “The Greatest Love of All” music composed by Michael Masser and Linda Creed) perfectly describes my passion of planting seeds by creating children’s books that incorporate languages, music, and vividly bold illustrations for all children to read, be nourished and develop into awesomeness.

S J Bushue Author

Ferrante: That’s wonderful that you have committed yourself to filling this need. As a former (Canadian) grade school teacher, I know how much books like this are needed.


 Click here to buy “Frog Has No Fur”: “La Rana No Tiene Pelo”

(So Big & Little Bit Adventures)

The Little Fig has books in Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Korean, Portuguese, Arabic, Urdu, Vietnamese, and a language I never heard of, Telugu. How did you choose the languages?

Bushue: Telugu is reported to be the third most spoken language in India. Teachers in our Midwest regional elementary schools stated they had absolutely no books to offer the young ones who spoke Telugu. I chose those languages as they were the top 10 most spoken languages in the United States (after English). Research was based on the most recent US Census.

Ferrante: I wouldn’t have guessed that. Are all your books English and a second language?

Bushue: All the titles are available in at least two languages. Literal rather than conversational translations allow the children to read along in their native language. Native speaking parents and caregivers can read to the child at home, helping them to learn English too. I encourage anyone to email me at to express interests in additional languages.

Special concept titles are published in one language per book to allow focus on the concept being learned. Potty in the Potty Chair is an example of an independent book for each language.


 Click here to buy Potty in the Potty Chair

Ferrante: For what age are your books written?

Bushue: The multilingual and special-situation children’s picture books’ genre focuses on pre-school and early-elementary-school aged children. They are written with the intention to be both entertaining and educational, teaching concepts, facts and, usually, a second language. Many books incorporate children from numerous cultures and/or use race-neutral, gender-neutral animal characters.

Ferrante: Awesome. Most of your books have accompanying songs and downloadable activity sheets. You also have an impressive YouTube site where all of your books are read aloud in their non-English version. You also have songs, such as Momma Said I Could Have a Cat Theme Song. I am very impressed with the quality of this YouTube site. Children could enjoy the music even if they haven’t read the stories. You have an amazing team of professionals. How do you coordinate and generate all of this from a simple book idea?

Bushue: Thank you for checking out our YouTube site.

Jenni Smith is part of The Little Fig team. She composes the theme songs and jingles from the book manuscripts and visuals of the illustrations. She and hubby, Alex (a drum master) then record the music professionally produced at Chapman Studios in Lenexa, Kansas. They are both very talented musicians.

Coordination of the book idea, the translations, the audios, and the music was a concept at the formation of The Little Fig. I noticed that most children are drawn to vividly colorful illustrations, engaging repetition of words or phrases and perky melodies that get stuck in their little heads. I also wanted to provide teachers, parents, librarians and caregivers material to enhance learning. I interviewed numerous illustrators, musicians, and translators before finding this incredible, fun loving group of professionals who are now part of The Little Fig team. All of them are truly undeniably talented and superbly awesome people! I love them all! You can check them out here.

Ferrante: Here are some of the books published by The Little Fig:

Frog Has No Fur which teaches about the difference between amphibians and mammals

Herds of Birds which identifies the names of groups of animals Click here to buy Herds of Birds, Oh How Absurd!: Las Manadas de Aves, Que Absurdo! (So Big & Little Bit Adventures) (Volume 1)

Happy Happy Holidays which explains American holidays Click here to buy Happy Happy Holidays: Felices, Felices Dias Festivos (So Big & Little Bit Adventures?) (Volume 1)

Potty in the Potty Chair, a humorous support for potty training


You authored each of the above. Do you choose your topics based on your personal interests or on what you think immigrants and English as a second language people need?

Bushue: Great question! I was born with a most inquisitive mind. That curious nature is simply a part of who I am. Most of the topics are based on personal interests and experiences combined with something I have heard or seen. If you look above each title’s cover you will see a section called “Behind the Story”. A sample of this is here on our site. I welcome any and all ideas from others who also have stories to tell.

Ferrante: What are your writing plans for the future?

Bushue: The most current title, “Dinosaurs Count / Los Dinosaurios Cuentan” will be available for the holidays. Cassie Allen has created gorgeous, endearing, anatomically correct dinosaurs that will be loved by all. This title will help wee ones learn to count and give the adults English and Spanish pronunciations for each dinosaur. Jenni Smith’s music composition for this title will be one that kids will sing for years to come.

I have boxes, bags and shelves of ideas for continuing to write and publish multilingual picture books. Plans also include music, products and videos that compliment the characters in the books.

This year my interests have expanded to include helping other writers fulfill their dreams to publish. Community services and donations to special causes will continue. There is also a new program that is near to being launched, but that will be revealed later.

three random questions

Ferrante: In your own not-so-humble opinion, what is your most likable quality?

Bushue: I find peoples’ stories absolutely fascinating. I have been told that I rarely meet a stranger and will talk anytime to anyone about anything. Smiles are contagious. Laughing out loud is infectious. Both of those combine with my curiosity to show people that I am truly approachable.

Ferrante: If you had a great voice and had the opportunity to record a duet with any singer living today, whom would you choose as your partner for the recording?

Bushue: Oh my! I am laughing hysterically at this question. “If I had a great voice” is an enormously tall stretch of the imagination. I have been told that I have an extremely soothing voice, both in person and on the phone. However, I have also been told that I am horribly off-key when attempting to sing. So, instead of a duet I would choose an entire room of eclectic talents like George Benson, Vicci Martinez, Ed Sheeran, Tracy Chapman, Enya, Taylor Swift, and the Lonestar Band who could fill the room with beautiful harmonies and place me behind an unplugged microphone to cover up the wailings that may escape my vocal cords. Just kidding.

Ferrante: What was your favorite thing to pretend when you were a young child?

Bushue: I was very much a tomboy in my youth. I never quite saw the fascination with dressing up dolls or playing house. I was too busy climbing the neighbor’s Chinese Cherry tree, racing bicycles with the boys from one house to the other and creating mud slides while swinging on the tree vines that would not always release us in the center of the creek behind our home. I do remember imagining that when I finally reached the tip-top of the tree, a flying unicorn would swoop by and soar me to worlds never seen before. I almost always dream in color. Frequently I dream of being on top of that unicorn sailing across the sky. Great dreams!

Ferrante: Thank you for all your detailed responses. This is a longer interview than I typically print but I felt that the information you gave would be very important to parents and teachers. Hopefully they will share this site with anyone for whom English is a struggle. Best of luck with your worthwhile endeavors and The Little Fig.

Frog Has No Fur will be reviewed on this blog on December 16, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Should Disabled Pets Be Put Down? – Author Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf Three Random Questions Interview

Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf has written newspaper articles and features, poetry, and the picture book. She is also an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA) and the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA).

Lauren and Penny Medium Sized

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Lauren. Your first book was a collection of poetry. What was the impetus for your switch to writing a picture book? Did writing a book of poetry help you prepare in any way for writing a picture book?

Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf: Writing Priceless Penny was actually my husband’s idea.  After watching Penny scale our three foot pet gate, he told me that I should write a children’s book about Penny and how amazing she is.  I do feel that writing a book of poetry better prepared me for the children’s book.  I had already established a brainstorming and outlining process that I used for the poetry book, which came in very handy for Priceless Penny. I also had a more clear idea of how I wanted the book to look based on the look and feel of my poetry book.

Ferrante: Your picture book is entitled Priceless Penny. It is about an abandoned dog with the deformity. If it is not adopted quickly, it will be put to death at the shelter. It is based on your dog who has a severe overbite and a stumpy front paw. If you had not encountered this dog, do you think you would have written a picture book anyway? Or would you have continued in poetry?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: Had I not met Penny, I believe that I would have still ended up writing a children’s book, eventually!  My mom was an elementary school teacher and I always loved getting to come and read the children stories or help with activities.  Watching them really get into a story is truly an amazing sight to behold.  I feel that I have always been drawn to the idea of writing for children and Penny helped me realize that dream.


 Click here to buy Priceless Penny

Ferrante: You own a number of rescued cats and dogs, several with disabilities. Are you going to write any more picture books about any of these pets? Do you have a project in the works now?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: I am so glad that you asked!  Priceless Penny is actually the first book in a series of children’s books that will star Penny.  The second book is entitled Penny Meets Miracle.  Penny’s world gets turned upside down when her parents bring home a two week old kitten that they found in the middle of the street.  In Penny Discovers Hope, the third book in the series, Penny gets a new furry sister.  Hope is differently-abled, just like Penny.  She was born without eyes and is completely deaf.  Penny soon learns to see the world through Hope’s perspective.

I also have two additional books in the works for adults.  The first is entitled Adriel’s Adventures:  Life as a Therapy Dog.  This book will chronicle Adriel’s journey to becoming a certified therapy dog.  The second book is entitled Having Hope Always: How My Blind/Deaf Dog Taught Me to See the World.  This book is dedicated to our mini double dapple Dachshund, Hope, and tells the tale of how my husband and I learned to adjust to life with a blind/deaf dog and all of the lessons that Hope has taught us.

Ferrante: What advice do you have for people considering adopting an abandoned, abused, or physically challenged pet?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: My advice when it comes to adopting any animal is to realize that having a pet is a full time commitment.  This is especially true of abused and physically challenged animals.  Abused animals need more time to adjust to their new surroundings and need kind humans to show them what it means to be loved.  Animals that are blind or deaf or have other physical complications may need to have special accommodations which can include medications, training or therapy sessions.  It has been my experience that my rescue animals have taught me as much as I have taught them.


Ferrante: James Sell is the illustrator for Priceless Penny. How did you connect? Did you collaborate on the illustrations?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: James Sell is such an amazing illustrator!  He actually lives in England.  We met through LinkedIn when he responded to a post I created seeking illustrators for my project.  The illustration creation was so much fun!  I actually sent James photos of Penny as well as some of the other animals featured in the book and he worked his creative magic.  We had a very open dialog if there were any changes that needed to be made.

Ferrante: What have you enjoyed the most about creating your first picture book?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: What I loved most about creating my first picture book was seeing it all come together.  I actually made a binder filled with items from the project including multiple versions of the manuscript as well as all of the storyboards that James sent me.  To be able to flip through the binder and literally see the story come alive before my eyes is truly breathtaking.  I cannot wait to begin production of the second book!

Ferrante: What advice would you have for other writers starting their first picture book?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: My advice for other writers is to never give up on your dream. If you are passionate about something, write about it.  If you want to create a picture book, be sure to select an illustrator that has the same vision for the story as you do.  You should always be able to work with your illustrator as a team.

Ferrante: What you find the most difficult about writing and how do you manage it?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: The most difficult aspect of writing is the dreaded writer’s block.  It can be very frustrating to feel stuck in your writing.  When this happens to me, I usually take a break and go outside for a walk.  You would be amazed at how much inspiration is all around us.  I also find that listening to music helps to clear my mind and allows the ideas to flow more freely.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you were a multimillionaire, where would you be and what do you believe you would be doing at this very moment?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: If I were a multimillionaire, I would buy acreage within my current town of Freeburg, Illinois.  My husband and I would then build our dream project, which is an animal shelter that would be named The Duchess of Spots in honor of our first dogs.  I would then spend my days rescuing animals and writing about my adventures.  I would also donate money to some of my favorite animal rescue groups so that they can also continue to do their life saving work.

Ferrante: If you had to come up with one question for national opinion poll, what question would you most want to pose to the American public?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: This one is a stumper!  My question would be: Do you believe that the city/county should have the right to limit how many pets you are allowed to have?

Ferrante: Of all the great success stories that you have ever heard or read about, which one do you find the most inspiring?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: Actually, the most inspiring success story is that of my dad.  When he was in high school, a devastating tornado ripped through our town of Freeburg.  At that time, there were no outdoor warning sirens to alert the community about the impending storm.  In the wake of the tornado, my dad wrote a petition demanding that the town procure the life saving sirens.  He and his friends would walk around town on the weekends collecting signatures.  Our mayor was so impressed by all of dad’s hard work that he was later appointed to the position of Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (E.S.D.A.) Coordinator.  He has been serving in this position for over 30 years.  I am so proud every time that he performs the monthly siren test.  Because of my dad, our town will receive the advanced warning it needs to keep our townspeople safe.

Ferrante: Thank you for such an interesting interview. It’s wonderful how you have opened your heart and home to these special pets.

Penny’s Official Website:

Author Website:

Penny’s Facebook page:

Penny’s Twitter page:  @PricelessPennyP

Penny’s Instagram account:  @PricelessPennyP

Priceless Penny will be reviewed on this blog on December 12, 2016.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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