Author Archive

I don’t think there’s anything more important than connecting the “new people” in the world with nature. After all, they are the future of this planet of ours! I’m always seeking new ways to do this, both through my books and in my life. So this is the first of a series of blog posts on this theme.

Many bemoan technology for taking away time that children could be spending outdoors. But sometimes it can help kids make those all-important connections.
cover of It's a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree
For instance, one evening I was in charge of two girls, 2 and 4. We read It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree, a lovely picture book about a girl catching fireflies–and letting them go–with her father. Since we live where there are no fireflies, at least anymore, I wondered, How can I show them that fireflies are real creatures and what they look like when they flash?

Then I had a flash–and went to youtube. Searching on lightning bugs, I found a home video of a little girl catching fireflies in a jar while her dad filmed her on a summer evening. The girls were transported, mentally putting themselves in the midst of the action. And when Daddy came to claim them, they couldn’t wait to tell him all about fireflies.

Have you got a breakthrough moment when you’ve helped kids connect with nature to share? Please comment! I’d love to hear your stories.

Way Down Below Deep cover
My newest rhyming picture book about the mysterious and elusive creatures of the deep ocean will be swimming its way into bookstores in September. Stay tuned for news and event updates! Meanwhile, you can preview or even pre-order.

Gingerbread nativity scene based on Flamingo's First ChristmasFlamingo’s First Christmas inspired my fellow Southern Breeze SCBWI member Wendy Salter to make a gingerbread nativity scene featuring Flamingo. She entered it in a hotly contested cookie contest, and–lo and behold–took first place. Plus, she made lots of new friends for Flamingo. Way to go, Wendy!

She is working on a play based on Flamingo’s First Christmas to be performed at the middle school where she works in Metter, GA, next Christmas.


Tadpole Rex book coverIt’s official–Kurt Cyrus will be the illustrator of my picture book, What in the World? Sets in Nature, coming from Beach Lane Books in Fall 2015!  He will use the same distinctive style he mastered in Tadpole Rex–a terrific read-aloud he wrote AND illustrated about a tadpole who finds his inner tyrannosaur.  ROARRRR!

Come October 12, I’ll be presenting a workshop at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Southern Breeze chapter Writing for Kids conference in Birmingham, AL.  In the workshop–“Avoiding Common Picture Book Pitfalls”–I’ll share my more than 10 years experience critiquing picture book manuscripts with beginning writers.

In connection with that, fellow Southern Breeze author Laurel Snyder (Bigger than a Breadbox and more) posted an interview with me on her blog hereNancy Raines Day.


I am excited to now be represented by Tricia Lawrence, newest agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. EMLA sells more picture books than almost any other agency. Plus, it fosters networking amongst all its authors and agents–sounds like a win for everyone. I look forward to a long and happy association with Tricia!

This is the first guest blog on my website. I’m happy to present news of Lisa Cocca’s debut YA novel. She is an awesome writer and person, and it’s gonna be a big thing indeed!

lisa coccaMy Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged by Nancy Raines Day, the delightful author of Way Down Below Deep and my gracious hostess on this blog.

After I post answers to the Q & A, I will pass the blog on to authors Lizzie Friend, Beth Fehlbaum, and Elisa Nader, all fellow Merit Press authors, who will pick up the tour on August 1st.

What is the working title of your next book?
Providence, which will be published in March 2014.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Some years ago I saw a piece on the news about a young girl who found an abandoned baby on the roof of her apartment building. She immediately went to her mother, who called the authorities. When they interviewed the little girl, she was disappointed to learn they couldn’t keep the baby. It seemed simple to her – the baby needed a family and a home, and she and her mom were a family with a home.
The news story started me thinking about how many people would instinctively want to care for an infant in need and about how many babies are still being abandoned in unsafe places despite our nation’s safe haven laws. This was the seed from which my story blossomed.

In what genre does your book fall?
It’s contemporary realistic fiction.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A resourceful teenage runaway finds an abandoned newborn in a boxcar and both of their lives are forever changed.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Anyone capable of showing Becky’s unique blend of strength, gentleness, and vulnerability would be fine with me.

Who is publishing your book?
Merit Press Books, a new Young Adult imprint spearheaded by best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I honestly don’t remember. I wrote and revised this many times. My first draft of anything often looks like someone else’s outline. I get the main points down and then go back and fill it in.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?The Secret Life of Bees cover This question sent me into a tizzy when my publisher asked this. My agent said it reminds her of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I actually don’t wait for inspiration to hit me over the head. I just sit down and write.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Although most of us will never face the challenges Becky does in the book, I think readers will relate to the big picture situation. Like Becky and the people she meets, our lives interlock with those around us like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The picture would not be complete without our little piece of it.

Nancy Raines Day

The Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged by Nikole Brooks Bethea, the energetic author of G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet.

After posting answers to the Q & A, I passed the blog on to children’s author extraordinaire David Schwartz and debut YA author Lisa Colozza Cocca (guest blog above).

What is the working title of your next book?

Way Down Below Deep will be published in Spring 2014. The illustrator will be David Sheldon, who also illustrated Into the Deep and Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I have always loved the ocean. We moved near the beach when I was six, and my mom took us every day in the summer. I learned to swim and explore tide pools there. My favorite summer days were spent getting knocked around by big waves at Jones Beach. I never missed watching Jacques Cousteau’s program on TV.

I have managed to live near (and swim in) the ocean–whether Atlantic or Pacific–almost ever since. I go to aquariums whenever I have the chance; Monterey Bay is my favorite. I’ve been thrilled to be part of underwater life snorkeling in Hawaii. On cruises, I always look into the ocean and wonder what is right underneath me. I’ve long been amazed by how little we know about such a large part of our own Earth–it really is the final frontier. Once I read about deep sea discoveries that have turned what we thought we knew on its head, I had to write about it.

In what genre does your book fall?

It’s kind of a creative nonfiction hybrid. I’d call it a poetic nonfiction picture book.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Told through the eyes of a marine biologist’s daughter on an expedition, this book introduces a fantastical but true-to-lfe cast of deep ocean creatures in Seuss-like rhyme.

Deep-sea Anglerfish
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Since the main characters are deep ocean animals–including the giant squid, anglerfish, lanternfish, vampire squid, glowing sucker octopus, and siphonophore (a collection of organisms that together make the world’s longest creature–yes, bigger than a giant squid)–I think they’ll have to play themselves.

Who is publishing your book? Pelican Publishing Company

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The research took months–reading books (children’s and adults’), visiting websites like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s, watching videos of deep sea life and explorations, and taking detailed notes. Once I had a mental map of the information and how I might organize it, the first draft almost wrote itself. I thought I would be writing prose, but it came to me in rhyme. That happens to me sometimes. Of course, there were months of revising, too.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Not many deep ocean book for children are written in rhyme! Other good informational books for early elementary readers are Steve Jenkins’ beautiful Down, Down, Down and Weird Sea Creatures (National Geographic Kids).Down Down Down cover

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As a child, my favorite Dr. Seuss book was McElligott’s Pool. I loved the boy narrator’s logical assertion that the farmer’s pond might be connected to larger and larger bodies of water, which leads him to imagine the fantastic fishes that just might show up in that pond–if he persists in fishing there.

When I read about the amazing creatures that actually exist in the deep ocean that we’ve only recently been able to film, I wanted to share with children how truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers will learn how deep ocean creatures that look like aliens live–and thrive–in extremely cold or hot habitats with no sun, little oxygen and crushing pressure. The beginning and ending emphasize the rate at which we’re discovering new species. With only 1.4 million known species on the rest of our planet today, the ocean depths may hold 10 to 30 million species that still need discovering!

Nancy Raines DayFlorida’s Amelia Island is beautiful in April, and folks really turn out for its annual book festival. This year, Elizabeth Kostova (The Swan Thieves) and Debbie Macomber are among the author/stars who will be on hand.

I will be visiting Yulee Primary on Friday, April 26, sharing A is for Alliguitar: Musical Alphabeasts as part of the Authors in Schools program. I’ll be on hand Saturday, April 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to meet people, talk about, and sell all my books. Come visit at the Atlantic Rec Center. I’ll also be reading at the Kids Fun Zone there at 11:30 – 11:45 a.m.

Windy Night silkscreen poster




George Bates, illustrator of On a Windy Night, has silkscreened a shivery skeleton image to celebrate the book’s third season. Perfect Halloween decor for your home, bookstore, library, what have you. You can purchase on his etsy site.