Three Random Questions Interview with Author-Firefighter Danual Berkley

Danual Berkley is a full-time fire fighter, husband, father of two little boys, Army vet, and a guy with a dream. His dream is to one day become a well-known children’s author providing positive representation for black men, while tackling the lack of diversity in children’s literature for people of color.

 Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Danual. I’m so glad you agreed to an interview. You’ve gone from being in the army to being a fire fighter, both requiring huge acts of courage and selflessness. Why do you choose these kinds of careers?

Danual Berkley: Hello Bonnie. Thank you so much for having me! I chose these two careers for two separate reasons actually. While in high school, I always kept pretty good grades. I had no idea how to use those grades to get scholarships to pay for college, nor was I really interested in doing another 4 years of school after being in school my entire life. I knew that going to the military would put money in my pocket, and later on they would pay for me to attend college as well. I wanted to go infantry at first, but my older brother David talked me out of it because he was worried about my safety.  Instead, I decided to drive trucks. The funny thing is, once I found out that I was deploying to Iraq, the military changed my job and I became a gunner in the 66th Transportation Gun Truck Company. My job was to provide security for convoys that we escorted throughout Iraq.  This turned out to be a job that was just as much, if not more, dangerous than being an infantryman.

It was also my brother that led me to the fire department. I wanted to be a S.W.A.T officer on a police department. I was seeking a job with action. My brother called me up one day and told me the fire department was hiring, and that they paid very well. By this time, I was in my 3rd year of college, and had my first son on the way.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to provide for my son, if I was lucky enough to get the job. After a year of testing and waiting, I was offered the job. I went to the fire academy and learned that firefighting was actually the best job there was and offered tons of action. I’ve been hooked and loving it ever since! I’ve been on six and a half years now.

Ferrante: You have recently entered into the field of writing children’s picture books. What  made you choose such a divergent enterprise?

Berkley: I didn’t discover I had a talent in writing until I was in the 11th grade. My English teacher made it mandatory that the class entered the Young Author’s Competition. The choice she gave us was to write either a poem or a short story. I wasn’t really trying to do a lot of work, so I wrote a short poem that it took me all the way to the State Competition where I took 3rd place overall in poetry. After that, I wouldn’t write again for years until I found myself fighting in the Iraq War. In order to escape my reality, I started writing again and making up different kinds of characters in faraway places. As I became more serious about my writing and became published, I met Amariah. Amariah was my first encounter with someone who was actually very successful creating children’s stories. She was the one that introduced me to writing picture books, because up until then, all I had been writing were books set to be a collection of poetry. With that said, I encourage all people to continue trying new things because you never know how much you’ll love something or how good you are at something, until you try it!

Ferrante: Your book, Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure, features an African-American family. The little boy is the hero who saves the family from the sea monster and turns the sinking ship into a submarine. Picture books should always make children feel empowered. Looking at the dedication in the front of your book to your sons, “Don’t ever let someone’s misunderstanding change who you are.” I can see that that is deeply important to you. Do you feel there are enough books out there for your children to feel culturally included and valued?


 Berkley: Based on my personal experience (as well as research), no. There are not enough books out that represent children of color. Whether or not that child feels culturally included or valued, varies with each individual child. I do know as a kid growing up, I didn’t really have the opportunity to read or see books with African-American families, but as an adult, when I see a book with African American families I get excited to see characters in the stories both my family and I can relate to. It feels good seeing a reflection of yourself in a story.

Ferrante: Previously you mentioned negative stereotypes about black men, one being that they don’t raise their children. In a cosmic moment of serendipity, I heard a comedian, Mark James Heath, speaking on the expressions of surprise when Caucasian people see him engaged with his children. In this regard, it seems as though literature has not caught up with television. I see a number of shows with involved black fathers but picture books seem rather rare. This is unfortunate since they are often the earliest stories of families children experience.  I have two questions. How does your book address this topic? How can Caucasian writers help in this area?

Berkley: To answer your first question, In Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure I address the topic indirectly. I don’t come out and say straight forward that I’m a black man raising my kids. I simply show myself being an involved father throughout the story. I have other books I’ve written that have yet to be published, that shows the love and compassion I have for my sons a lot more. The actions in the story speak louder than any words could express.

In regards to your second question, Caucasian writers who do have large followings could help by also writing books that show positive black male fathers.

Ferrante: What other attitudes toward black men do you hope to influence in your writing?

Berkley: Other negative stereotypes say black men don’t settle down with one woman and get married, as well as being violent individuals. All of my stories are geared to show how untruthful these stereotypes are. Black men do settle down and get married, and black men are not people you have to fear. We are here to love and enjoy life just as any other person would want to.

Ferrante: Do you intend to write more books featuring Davy and his family or are you considering other characters?

Berkley: I have several other unpublished books where all of the characters in Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure play lead characters. In the back of Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure, you can find the backstories of all of the characters. I did this because each character will be seen again in other stories, and it ties them all together. Readers will be able to develop relationships with each character and experience stories from that character’s point of view.

Ferrante: Have you ever considered writing a firefighter picture book featuring a black man or a black woman for that matter? By the way, I live in northern Canada where most black immigrants take a look at the winter weather and head south so I’ve never seen firefighter of African descent. Is it common in your firehouse?

Berkley: I do have a firefighting story already written with Davy as the main character. As of now, there are other stories we plan to release before that one is to be published. The next book will most likely star my younger son as the main character.

In regards to how many black firefighters there are on a department, it varies by population. I live in a predominantly white area, so most firefighters in our department are white. I’m sure there are other places where the majority of firefighters are people of color.

Ferrante: Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you would like to share with my readers?

Berkley: Please check out my website and social media pages to learn more about my work at the following links:

Ferrante: Now for the unusual part. My interviews always feature three random questions so here we go.

1. If you could play a sport at Olympic level, which one would you choose?

Berkley: It would definitely have to be snowboarding! Although I have never been snowboarding in my life, it just looks really fun to do, and it allows you to be as creative as you want. I love sledding here during the winter, so I can only imagine how awesome it would be to snowboard down the side of a mountain.

Ferrante: 2. You really do love action.

 If you could give a gift to every new parent, what would you give them?

Berkley: It would have to be a dishwasher. It’s impossible to keep up with the amount of bottles, plates, baby accessories, and breast feeding equipment on top of the dishes you use yourself. The only way you can survive is by having a dishwasher, so in words of Oprah, “You get a dishwasher, you get a dishwasher, everyone gets a dishwasher!”

Ferrante: 3.  LOL. That brings back memories.

 If you could be an animal for a day, what would you be?

Berkley: If I got to be an animal for one day it would have to be a rodent! I watch a lot of Animal Planet, and being a rodent seems really adventurous and exciting. I’m sure I’d probably regret that decision instantly if I ever really had the opportunity to be a mouse. But in all of the movies I’ve seen, being a mouse seems like a good time!

Ferrante: I did NOT expect that answer. 🙂

 Thank you for participating in my interview and answering both my serious and silly questions. Best of luck with your wonderful book Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure and all your future enterprises.

Lost in London Duplo Adventure

My granddaughter and I made a mini travel adventure with Duplo about Egypt. Of course she wanted a mummy in it. I decided to make it into a mini video and a series was born.

I created a  Lego Dyplo adventure in London, England next. The two biggest problems were having enough Duplo for the large structures and convincing my granddaughter I had to take Buckingham Palace apart in order to build the next set. She wanted it to cover the dining room table forever. I added songs to this one and used PhotoShop to improve the pictures.

Lost in London: Using legos (mostly duplo) Cassie visits several historic sites in London, England but can’t enjoy herself until she finds Polly. What has happened to her best friend? This video is a great jumping off point for kids to write an adventure about Polly, whose appearance might surprise you. Sprinkled with variations of Mother Goose.

Check it out.

Three Random Questions Interview with Deborah Bruss and Matt Forrest Esenwine

Bonnie Ferrante: Today I am trying something new in my Three Random Questions Interview. I’m chatting with the joint authors of a children’s picture book entitled Don’t Ask a Dinosaur, Deborah Bruss and Matt Forrest Esenwine. Welcome to you both.

My first question is for Deborah. Your book was originally entitled Don’t Ask a Porcupine. When you couldn’t get a publisher for that, you changed it to dinosaurs. Why that particular animal? You also enlisted the aid of a poet. What made you decide to turn it into a rhyming book?

Deborah Bruss: The original title might have been, Wild, Wild Birthday, though I wrote so many versions I’m totally confused. The original characters were popular zoo animals; the porcupine tried to blow a balloon up, the snake tried to tie ribbons. After countless revisions and attempts to sell the story, I stashed it in my file cabinet. Then one day, I thought, “What genre of picture books never goes out of style?” Dinosaurs! At that time I was also working on a story that wove many Mother Goose poems into one rhyming tale about Little Bo Peep’s sheep. Matt and I, who attended the same children’s writers’ group, began emailing altered Mother Goose (some of which were not appropriate for children) to each other. Matt impressed me with his quick wit, creativity and talent for writing poems. I brought the dinosaur version of the story to the writers’ group because I was stuck. From their I steered the the story into Matt’s hands, and it took off from there.

Ferrante: I’d like a peek at those Mother Goose rhymes.

You have written several children’s books and you contributed to the non-fiction series America’s Notable Women. I imagine that required a good deal of research. Did you find that helpful when you decided to write a book about dinosaurs? Surprisingly, the facts about dinosaurs change over time as more discoveries and corrections are made. What strategies did you use to be completely up to date on these fascinating animals?

Bruss: I loved doing the research for the America’s Notable Women series, so much so, that I put off writing until deadlines loomed. With “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur,” I kept the research fairly simple, googling “weirdest” and “most popular” dinosaurs. Matt became the research fanatic – he wanted to include dinosaurs that had been recently discovered and came up with some wacky looking ones, such as the Therezinosaurus with it’s wicked long claws.

Ferrante: Matt, you are a well-established poet whose works have appeared in a number of publications suited for adults. In 2017 you made the jump to writing a picture book called The Flashlight Night. Why did you decide to take this new route?

Matt Forrest Esenwine: It was actually around 2009 or so that I decided I wanted to make a concerted effort to become a published children’s writer, so I joined an SCBWI critique group, then joined SCBWI itself, and then eventually attended my first conference, where I learned a great deal about the children’s lit industry and community. One thing led to another, and I ended up with my first published children’s poem, “First Tooth,” which was featured in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ board book anthology, Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams, 2015).

Interestingly, I met my Flashlight Night editor, Rebecca Davis, through Lee – and signed the contract for the book the very same month that “First Tooth” was published!

Ferrante: Critique groups are essential, especially when trying a new genre. I believe there are a number of similarities between writing poetry and writing picture books, precise, clear and vivid writing is needed in both. Have you found your poetry experiences affect your picture book writing?

Esenwine: Absolutely! Although I never refer to myself as a poet, I always approach my writing from a poet’s perspective: trying to think in abstract terms, staying away from “easy” rhymes and tired phrases, and utilizing poetic devices like internal rhyme and unusual words. But every book is different and requires its own unique style. I never try to force rhyme upon a story; while most of my manuscripts are rhyming, a few are written in prose and I have at least three poetry collections I’m submitting, as well.

Ferrante: Any one or both can answer the following.

What are you most proud of about Don’t Ask a Dinosaur?

Esenwine: That our editor, Jordan Nielson, loved what we worked so hard to do – which was to incorporate the dinosaur species’ names into the text as seamlessly as possible, while still maintaining a structured rhythm and rhyme scheme without any of it feeling forced. There’s a reason this thing went through 20 revisions before we started sending it out.

Bruss: That Matt and I pulled this off with never an argument, though maybe he secretly pulled his hair out over some of my ideas.

Ferrante: Who do you think will most enjoy this book?

Esewine: Any child who loves dinosaurs! We have some very familiar faces like T-Rex along with several very unusual ones like Therezinosaurus.

Bruss: Dinosaur fanatics, of course, but also kids (and adults) who like a rip-roaring disaster of a tale.

Ferrante: How did you structure working together? What were the rewards and challenges?

Esenwine: After I wrote the initial first draft, I sent it to Deb, who made some revision of her own. From there, we worked via Google Docs (now Google Drive) which allowed us to make change in real time and see what each of us was doing. The fact that we knew each other via the SCBWI critique group helped, because we were close enough geographically that we could call each other up or even visit in person to talk about things.

Deborah: Structure? My life operates on the squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease system, and it seems Matt’s does, too, except he is adept at greasing several squeaky wheels at one time. (Matt, I do apologize if I’ve blown your Zen-like cover). Fortunately, our humor clicks, but we also brought our own strengths, which complimented each other. I had already created the story arc, and then Matt added his talent for writing poems. Also, what Matt said is true. As far as challenges, I love having the constant and quick feedback when writing with someone else. Bouncing ideas off one another seems to create more ideas and enthusiasm, keeping writers’ block at bay. The downside? To be honest, feeling that my co-author is more competent than me.

Ferrante: Is it more difficult to write with a partner? What advice would you give writers considering this? What do you wish you had known before you started?

Bruss: It all depends on the partner. If you don’t click, it won’t work. Even if you do click, it might fall apart. Matt and I didn’t create a signed document that spelled out how we made decisions, though I’m sure there are many cases where this would be a really good idea.

Esenwine: Well, as Jane Yolen has said, writing with a co-author is twice the work for half the pay! Which is true, because one cannot simply be happy with one’s own edits – both writers need to be happy! – and ultimately, you end up splitting the advance and royalties. But this was definitely twice the fun, too, because Deb and I had the same vision for the book and were constantly improving the manuscript every time we revised it.

Ferrante: Both of you please answer the following questions. Don’t look at each other’s answers until you are done.

If you could invent a new ride for a theme park, what would it be?

Bruss: I love the wet and wild rides, so perhaps a raft ride through herds and packs of dinosaurs. Just think of the splashes a dinosaur tail could make!

Esenwine: As long as it involved getting drenched with water, I’d ride it all day long. They already have roller coasters that splash through water – why not a Scrambler that sends you into a wall of water?

Ferrante: If you could go back to any age for one day what age would you choose? Why?

Bruss: I’m not sure. All ages have their ups and downs. There are several specific days I’d happily repeat, including the day I got married, a hot summer day on my favorite lake, the day my family of four adopted twin girls.  But since the question is about age, not a day, I’d chose a 21-year-old body but not the confused mind that went with it. Or maybe 7-years-old, when I had a new best friend, a teacher I adored, and not a care in the world. 

Esenwine: Great question! There are so many things one could do or change at different ages, but I think I’d spend a day when I was about 6, either at the beach with my folks or on Christmas Day. Six is the age where you’re able to do lots of things for yourself, you’re starting to grow and mature more, but you have no responsibilities and you still believe in the honesty of the world, the infallibility of your parents, and magic.

Ferrante: What animal would you choose for your totem or spirit animal? Why?

Bruss: Either a turtle or an elephant. Or maybe a telephant or a elurtle. One is quietly determined; the other is wise and compassionate. 

Esenwine: A house cat. I’m a cat person, anyway, but I really appreciate their independent nature. When a dog comes over to you to be petted, I get the feeling it’s because that’s all they know how to do; when a cat comes over to you, it’s because you’re special!


Ferrante: I’m a cat person too but a telephant sounds pretty intriguing. Thank you, Matt and Deborah, for your interesting responses. I loved the book, by the  way. My review was posted April 18th. Good luck with all your endeavors.

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” (Pow! Kids Books) in stores April 17, 2018!

Three Random Questions Interview with Author Joy Heyer.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Joy Heyer to my blog. Duck, Duck, Moose seems to be your first book. If that is correct, what inspired you to use animals in your book and feature such an unusual take on a child’s game?

Joy Heyer: I love puns and word play so when the phrase “Duck, Duck, Moose” popped into my head, I immediately pictured a fearful duck riding on the back of a moose. How did the duck get to the moose? Where was goose? What would it be like to play duck, duck, goose with a moose instead? Or a pig? Or a porcupine? And suddenly I had a picture book.

Ferrante: When did you begin writing and why have you chosen children’s picture books as your genre?

Heyer: I studied writing and illustrating children’s books when I was in college but it wasn’t until 2009, when a friend invited me to join her writing group, that I really started seriously writing and illustrating.

Ferrante: You have four children and are now a grandmother as well. Have you used your family as inspiration for your book?

Heyer: Oh yes! My children have been sad, grumpy, and lonely many times because their best friends were out of town. Watching them decide to be happy and make new friends is always a delight.

Ferrante: I see we have similar interest in reading, writing, painting, sewing, and dreaming up home-improvement projects. How do you balance these interests? Do you switch for a break after a long period working on one craft or do you do several at a time? How does this impact your writing?

Heyer: Drawing and painting are my favorite things to do so I have to make sure I set aside time for all the other things that need doing, including reading and writing. Fortunately, reading, writing, and drawing are interconnected so I find myself doing at least a little of each every day. As for home-improvement projects…well, maybe someday I will get to them.

Ferrante: Your bio mentioned that you have a dog that goes crazy whenever you leave the house. Do you think this pet might show up in one of your future books?

Heyer: Definitely. He provides me with lots of great story ideas—so many I hope to create a whole series of books with him as the main character.

Ferrante: That sounds fun. As a new author, what have you learned the hard way that you wish you had known earlier?

Heyer: It takes a lot of hard work and practice to be good at writing and illustrating. Who knows? Maybe I would be discussing my tenth book instead of my first book if I had started practicing earlier!

Ferrante: Absolutely. What are you working on now?

Heyer: I continue to draw and write everyday (practice, practice, practice!) so when the next project comes, I’m ready. In the meantime, I’m enjoying sharing Duck, Duck, Moose with everyone. Maybe I could start a home-improvement project…

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

Heyer: I would encourage everyone to find someone who is lonely and be their friend, even if at first they are grumpy. Just like moose and duck.

Ferrante: If you could MC any television show which one would you choose?

Heyer: PBS Masterpiece Mystery! I LOVE mystery shows and books. It all started with my first Nancy Drew book. Maybe one day I will write a mystery book, maybe a dog who solves crimes…

Ferrante: Go for it! If you could compete at an Olympic level, which sport would you pick?

Heyer: Snowboard Half-Pipe. I would love to have that talent. I can’t even handle little rollercoasters so all that twisting and spinning they do is doubly impressive to me.

Ferrante: That’s a gusty choice. What is your favourite children song and why?

Heyer: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, though in our home it is the Eeby-Beeby Spider because that is how one of my daughters sang it when she was little. It reminds me of the happiness one little song sung by a child can bring.

Ferrante: There’s nothing sweeter, that’s for sure. Thank you for answering my questions and sharing your experience with us. Best of luck with Duck, Duck, Moose and your future writing.

Book review of Duck, Duck, Moose

Recycled Sundays – Writers’ Ten Commandments

  1. Writing is your career and your destiny and you shall put no other jobs before it… Except what you need to get paid the bills.
  2. You shall not take the spelling of your craft in vain, but be sure to use both a spell check and grammar check. There is also nothing wrong with cracking open a dictionary.
  3. Remember your deadline day to keep it prompt, exceptions made for destructive forces of nature such as hurricanes and sick children.
  4. Honor your editor and illustrator, without them your work would be smoke.
  5. You shall not sleep with your editor until after your work has been published unless s/he is your spouse then, by all means, make that person happy.
  6. You shall not commit plagiarism, but may quote, and on occasion misquote, in order to fill your word content.
  7. You shall not malign your fellow writers even if they malign you. Just keep writing and improving until you pass them on the best seller list.
  8. You shall not covet the marriages of other professionals. The artistic are seldom understood. There’s nothing wrong with a cat. Or a dog. Or a cat and a dog. Rescued, of course.
  9. You shall not permanently delete today’s work for tomorrow you may need it.
  10. You shall not covet the bank accounts of other professionals, you are a bloody writer after all.

October 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Rejections – Recycled Sundays

A fellow writer was asked which magazine ran her articles and stories.

“Oh, I write mostly for rejections,” she joked.

The inquirer responded seriously, “I don’t think I’ve read that one.”

None of us have. That’s the problem. With the increase of multimedia entertainment, and the spiraling cost of books, publishers are far less likely to gamble with new writers. The buzzword is “marketability.”

To be fair, there seems to be more new writers than ever, many victims of unemployment. A popular or prestigious magazine may only have space to publish one out of hundreds of submissions. The competition for books may be even worse.

Take a look at what’s available in children’s books today. There are still incredible works of art and charm, like Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, but they are competing fiercely against the “market-driven” fluff generated by Saturday, and daily, cartoons. Not only does every superhero, cutesy puppy, and valiant pony cartoon generate lunchboxes, stuffed toys, action figures, and clothing, but books as well. Many of these books have as much art, depth and originality as a cereal box.

Sadly the scene is not much different for adults. The public’s voracious appetite for talk shows has spilled over into writing. By the way, you’ll know they’ve run dry when they feature talk show host’s interviewing talk show hosts. Magazines run more sensational pieces than they used to as in “women who cheat on their husbands… And don’t feel guilty,” followed up by, “husband’s who know their wives cheat… And don’t feel angry.”

Spill your guts novels are rampant as in The Life Story of The Girl Door: Alcoholic, Sexual Compulsive, Self-mutilater and Collector of Hood Ornaments. Many of these are written with the same/and report style as a talk show.

Still there are editors and publishers who’ve managed to keep their standards intact. Swamped by submissions, they do not have time to personally critique a writer’s work. You may find it strange that and “emerging” writer will be happy to receive a private comment on a rejection form. The personal connection can be enough to spur a three-month rewrite. There are those, though, who find it painful because they still don’t know where to head.

For example, Lisa Powell’s fictional biography of Elizabeth Tutor has received the following rejections:

“This is indeed an outstanding historical and lives up to all the fine things you said about it… As I admired it, I didn’t feel we could do the right job with it in the current market.”

And another, “… There’s so much to admire here that it is with great regret that I’m returning the manuscript.”

And again, “this is a beautifully written and exquisitely researched historical on the Virgin Queen… It would probably be a high risk project in today’s market.”

“You should not be at all discouraged by the fact that we will not be making an offer for the book because this is an extremely publishable novel and a more commercial publisher, I’m certain, will positively leap at the chance to publish it.”

Lisa’s waiting for that leap, net in hand. Should any publisher give the smallest hop in her direction, she’s ready.

Some editors try to soften the blow with humour here’s one I received:

“Congratulations! You have been chosen to receive this beautiful hand-lettered rejection slip! We know you will be proud to add this attractive notice to your personal collection. For additional copies send your contributions to:… Note: in the event that your next contributions accepted for publication we cannot send you another card, and you will just have to be satisfied with money… Sorry – the editor.”

Satisfy me, already. I can take it.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, May 30, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Making a Simple Action Based Copy Cat Book with Your Child

You will need:

  • an example book such as Elephants by Rebecca Heller
  • 8″ by 14″ sheets of paper
  • old magazines, catalogues, tourist pamphlets etc. that contain pictures of people being active
  • child scissors
  • glue
  • fine point marker or pen
  • needle and thread or sewing machine
  • strong tape to reinforce spine
  • optional thicker paper for cover

If possible, read the sample book to your child. Explain that the elephant is doing actions. Talk about actions your child likes to do.

Have the blank book and picture selections ready ahead of time. Have 8-10 pages prepared ( you only need 4-5 plus the cover) . (You know your child’s interest sustainability.) Sew the pages down the middle and fold them to make a book.

Get out magazine pictures you have preselected, outlined, and labelled (about double what you need). Make sure each one has a different action. Discuss the actions with your child.

 She choses her favourites and cuts them out.

She glues one on each face-up page (not the cover).


Print the two (or three) word sentence below each picture. Keep the sentence structure the same. For example:

  • A boy drums.
  • A girl rocks.
  • Girls drive.
  • A cat meows,
  • A minion hugs.
  • A man waters.
  • A girl gardens.
  • A boy looks.
  • A dog barks.
  • A boy reads.
  • A Barbie dances.
  • A girl pushes.
  • Kids build.
  • A boy slides.
  • A girl jumps.
  • A boy crawls.
  • A girl shoots.
  • Cats climb.
  • A girl carries.
  • Boys ride.

An older child might like to draw the pictures. This would stretch the project out for many days. You can print the sentences first.

A child might like to search a safe site for graphics using action words and print the pictures instead.

Make a cover by hand or using a computer before or after the book is completed.

AMBITIOUS?  Personalize it. Print photographs of your child being active instead. They can cut them out and glue them. For example:

  • Kayleigh jumps.
  • Kayleigh slides.
  • Kayleigh laughs.

Echo read the book with your child until she can read it alone. Send her to read it to every human and stuffed toy available.

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF your child insists on different wording or otherwise derails your plans. Go with it. There will be at least one page they can read easily.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Mom’s Choice Award – Is It Worth It?

The Mom’s Choice Awards are not just for books. The site reads:

The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for children, families and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. The organization is based in the United States and has reviewed thousands of items from more than 55 countries.


There are two prices to enter, $500 US to $1500 US both of which are on the very high range compared to other awards. The book has to be mailed to the United States.


Winners receive promotion for a short time. The product is left on the site for longer. Recipients varied widely in their opinion of the amount of promotion with “a little” being the most common.

Winners may feel there are too many winners at once making it difficult for their book to stand out.

Winners are inundated with ongoing requests for more money for more publicity.


There is no trophy.

There is no prize money.

Winners who pay $500 may use the Mom’s Choice Awards seal “for marketing and promotional purposes” BUT must pay the $1500 fee to actually put the seal on the books. Unless you purchase the stick on seals, 100 for $50.00.

Applicants are told winners receive “100 Award Seal Stickers” but when they win they find they must pay shipping. To Canada

$46.55 — USPS Priority Mail International

$120.90 — FedEx International Economy

To the US

$9.44 — USPS Priority Mail

$23.94 — FedEx Ground Home Delivery

The “free” certificate is a picture file the winner must print out.


Most winners said sales showed no increase at all with one saying it increased a little.


Although my book was a silver place winner, I don’t feel it was worth the cost and will not be entering again.

The Award blog articles are based on Survey Monkey responses, emails, and comments I received on social media as well as research and some personal experience.

If you have entered any of the contests listed below and would like to share your experience, please either:

  • write to me at Be sure to say if you wish to be anonymous.
  • or
  • make a comment the day the blog post is published.

The awards covered  in October will be:

  • October 18 – Kindle book awards
  • October 25 – Children’s Choice Book Awards

Reader’s Favorite Award

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Reader’s Favorite Award – Is It Worth It?

Deadline April 1, 2018.

The Readers’ Favorite Award site says:

Contest Features

  • Chance to win one of $50,000 in free prizes just for entering.
  • Chance to have your book made into a movie or TV show.
  • Chance to be published by an award winning traditional publisher.
  • Chance to be represented by a leading author marketing and PR firm.
  • Chance to attend one of the country’s largest book award ceremonies.
  • 20 more features including medals, stickers, certificates and publicity.”


“We receive thousands of entries from all over the world. Because of these large submission numbers, we are able to break down our contest into 140+ genres, and each genre is judged separately, ensuring you only compete against books of your specific genre for a fairer and more accurate competition. We receive submissions from independent authors, small publishers, and publishing giants such as Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, with contestants that range from the first-time, self-published author to New York Times bestsellers like J.A. Jance, James Rollins, and #1 best-selling author Daniel Silva, as well as celebrity authors like Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), and Eriq La Salle (E.R., Coming to America).”


They accept manuscripts, published and unpublished books in English.

“The contest entry fee to enter your book in one genre category by the April 1st Early Bird Registration deadline is $89, by the May 1st Regular Registration deadline is $99.00, and by the June 1st Final Registration deadline is $109. ” US$

Books are submitted online. (No shipping cost.)


Winners felt they received quite a bit of publicity.

There was a Gala dinner in Miami with press present.

Winners’ books were displayed at Miami Book Fair.

The win was widely broadcast over the internet & more.

Winners received PR photos.

Winners are listed permanently on the website.

“If you do not already have a Readers’ Favorite review for your book, we will provide you with one as part of your contest entry. Your review will be posted on our site, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest. You can also post our review in your Amazon Editorial Reviews section…

All 5-star reviews receive a FREE “Five Stars” digital seal for your website and a high-resolution version for your book cover. Our seal can be seen on book covers from indie authors to iconic publishers like Simon & Schuster. All reviews come with a Readers’ Favorite Review Page and a host of free features to help you promote your book and your new review.”

“We announce our contest results to 115,000 libraries, 85,000 bookstores and 300,000 schools (elementary through high school) nationwide. We use a white-listed email company that professionally maintains these lists to ensure they are current and accurate. ”

and more.


There is a maximum of five possible level winners in each category. Although there are numerous categories, you book has a good chance of being noticed.

EXTRA BONUS PRIZE MONEY: “All authors are automatically entered to win one of more than 200 prizes worth a combined total of $50,000 just by entering the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. Prizes are generously donated by industry experts who support our contest and our authors. Winners are picked at random, and it does not matter how many categories you entered or whether you won an award or not.”

SEALS: “Gold, Silver, Bronze and Illustration Award winners will receive a free roll of 250 1.5 inch high quality, embossed award stickers ($50 value) to affix to copies of their book.” Winners outside of US had to pay shipping costs. As well, winners received a digital seal to place on their books.

Winners received a certificate.


Winners said sales increased a little.


“I recently entered the Readers Favorite book award contest, and won a bronze medal in the humor category for my book “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive”  It boosted sales slightly — and I got a lot of attention for it.  What I really liked about it, though, was the review.  It’s good to have a relatively credible review on a third party site.  And it my book cover looks much better with bling on it (in the form of a sticker.)  What was annoying was that I had to look up myself to see if I won.  Is a form letter email that hard?”

  • Lori B. Duff
  • Ghostwriter (boo), Legal Writing Expert, Blogger, Humorist, and all around Fun to Be Around
  • Amazon Bestselling Author of “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,”  “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket,” and “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive”

If you have entered this contest, please leave a comment about your experience.


This looks like a lot of bang for your buck. I would probably enter this contest. However, Self Publishing Advice recommends caution.


The Award blog articles are based on Survey Monkey responses, emails, and comments I received on social media as well as research and some personal experience.

If you have entered any of the contests listed below and would like to share your experience, please either:

  • write to me at Be sure to say if you wish to be anonymous.
  • or
  • make a comment the day the blog post is published.

The awards covered  in October will be:

  • October 11 – Mom’s Choice Award
  • October 18 – Kindle book awards
  • October 25 – Children’s Choice Book Awards

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Gratitude, Thanksgiving, and Harvest

In Canada, this is the time of year when we give thanks. October 9th is Thanksgiving Day. Not having Pilgrims in our history, we tend to focus on harvest and gratitude. I will be reviewing a few children’s books on this theme.

However, I am also reworking one of my own picture books, Rayne Shines, on how gratitude increases happiness. It has averaged four stars on Amazon and 4.21 on Goodreads. Readers love the story but not everyone likes the illustrations. Sales aren’t great.

I chose frogs instead of people because I didn’t want the annoying characters, Rayne’s parents, to resemble any real people. As a retired teacher, I could imagine some child saying. “The mom looks just like yours.” I’ve come to realize that is unlikely and am re-illustrating and tweaking the words as well. I’m not sure if it is working so I’m posting some old and new pages and would welcome feedback.


several pages between


several pages between