Posts Tagged ‘kelly bennett’

I’m so thrilled that the super-smart, fabulously generous Kelly Bennett invited me to take part in the “Writing Process Blog Tour” that is taking over the blogosphere! You can check out her process here. Kelly is a true Picture Book genius. Don’t be fooled by her modest talk. And… Oh my. She knows how to weave a storytime spell! I could listen to her read picture books aloud all day long. On top of that, she can belt out pretty much any show tune you have an urge to hear!

And now, on to the 4 questions!

1. What am I currently working on?

I’m working on a contemporary YA novel that takes place in a small college town in southwestern Virginia, right down the road from  MY BEST EVERYTHING. It’s a rocky story–there are lots of ups and downs for my main character, but also actual rocks. Like boulders. Underground caves. An abandoned quarry. She’s awfully lost at the moment, so good thing there’s a boy who loves maps, too. 

I also have other projects that I work on when I get stuck with my novel. For instance, I am perpetually trying to write the perfect picture book. I also love writing short stories and poetry. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My characters tend to be older than a lot of YA characters. They’re hovering at that point where they are going to be stepping out into the world on their own – but haven’t stepped over the line to adulthood quite yet.

And boy oh boy are my characters rule breakers! They’re feisty and determined, and so unwilling to take no for an answer.

I adore match-making between two flawed characters struggling with tough issues. I don’t think I follow the typical romance pattern. I like my couples to figure out exactly why they’re right together and then let them deal with a whole lot of other kinds of trouble beyond their relationship. It’s them against the world! 

3. Why do I write what I write?

I write realistic contemporary fiction because I love to read it. I always have.

For me, real people in the real world are infinitely fascinating and complex. I never get tired of trying to figure out why someone behaves a certain way. I am a psychology junkie. 

As for love stories… I think falling in love, especially for that very first time – well, that’s enough magic for me. It really is a mysterious and wonderful thing. I adore hearing “how we met” stories. First loves have a way of getting deep inside us, and can change how we look at the world ever after – even though they rarely last in the long run.

4. How does my individual writing process work?

As far as actual logistics, I don’t have an office ~ instead I write at one end of my kitchen table.

I do most of my writing early in the morning before going to work. I get up realllllly early! I can sometimes revise in the afternoon, but for new pages, that early early, still dark, maybe even still night, time is best. 

As far as the figuring out the story, my process is messy! And ever-changing.

In the beginning of a new project, there is a lot of trial and error. I have way more questions than answers. So I write. I delete. I write again. I quit. I write. I get mad. I write long ranty emails to patient, sensible friends. I quit again. Sometimes I cry. I journal madly and wildly and incoherently. I cut pictures from magazines. I write. Delete. I call my super blog buddy and whine. I write. Delete. I walk my dog. 

And then, eventually, something clicks. The puzzle pieces start to fit together. I start making lists of scenes. I write them on post-its and try to figure out how they might fit together. I arrange, and rearrange. 

Once I THINK I know where I’m going, I get to work. 

It still looks a bit like what I’ve described above, especially the write, delete, rewrite parts; but I’m a lot more productive. I am not afraid of tossing scenes or starting over, but I do like to feel as though I’m on solid ground moving forward. (Even if I’m wrong.) I will sometimes write super rough drafts of future scenes just to have a target of where I’m headed, but I know they’ll look different by the time I get there. So it’s mostly linear with lots of circling back to “fix” things as I learn more about my story. 

Oh! I also nap. Naps are a crucial part of my process!

And now… let me introduce who’s up next! Two amazing women that you will adore. Anindita Basu Sempere and Darcy Woods

Anindita Basu Sempere
ANINDITA BASU SEMPERE: Anindita was one of my classmates at VCFA. She is a true Renaissance woman: brilliant in a variety of disciplines, as well as thoughtful and kind. She’s been busy in a whole new way lately which is why I can’t wait to read her post next Monday! 

Anindita is a writer, educator, book addict, geek, and occasional dog rescuer. She has MFAs from the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and Boston University’s Poetry Program. In 2009 and 2010, she co-directed the New England SCBWI regional conferences “Many Voices” and “Moments of Change” and is currently the Critique Group Coordinator and Webmaster of SCBWI-Switzerland. Anindita has been an educator for over ten years and co-founded TheWritingFaculty.com. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she loves to travel, read, knit, and bake.


Darcy WoodsDARCY WOODS: Darcy and I share an agent, but I “met” her on Twitter. Now we meet regularly through email where we ponder deep important things like the importance of bananas. She also makes super adorable emoticon cheerleaders – I’m working towards earning what she promises will be the extra super amazing version.

Darcy was the winner of the prestigious 2013 Golden Heart for Best Young Adult Romance for SUMMER OF SUPERNOVA. She wears her heart on her sleeve and writes hilarious romancy YA. When it comes to stories she loves funny, whimsy, and strong girls who know how to wreak just the right amount of havoc on the world. 

Be sure to check out both Anindita’s and Darcy’s posts next Monday!

Sarah Tomp




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VampireBaby-72dpiThe other day I ran across the promo materials for the book Vampire Baby (Candlewick, 2013) written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Paul Meisel. I was blown away. The materials were everything book promo materials should be; entertaining, creative, colorful and built to enhance the reading experience. In my opinion, the materials were a perfect example of how to promote your book. I felt I had to share this with our readers. I have asked author Kelly Bennett a few questions about the creation of the materials and her answers (including links) are posted below:


1. Did you develop the kit on your own with your illustrator or did you have outside help? 

Sure . . . perhaps . . . maybe I could have developed my own promotional materials, but it would have taken loads of time and research—time I could be writing! Besides, why would I when I have an amazing bunch of creative colleagues who are experts? And as for that elephant in the room—money-moola-jingle-cash—$$$ wise professional-quality materials costs less than you’d imagine…much less.

Yes, I have worked with illustrators on promotional materials, but it is not the norm. Terri Murphy, illustrator for two of my books, Dance, Y’all, Dance and One Day I Went Rambling, (Terri Murphy: http://www.terrimurphyart.com/) created SWAG, and our Blog Tour promo material. Vampire Baby illustrator, Paul Meisel, (Paul Meisel: http://www.paulmeisel.com/) served as consultant and adapted art for the Vampire Baby Story Hour Kit and Book Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acEzh7iOhVU&feature=youtu.be.  What’s nice about working with the illustrator is that the cost and promotional materials can be shared.

I always check with the publisher’s marketing department to ask if they are creating promotional materials for my books. And if they have ideas about what materials are especially effective. (I also ask if they are willing to help with costs—sometimes the answer is yes!)

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.23.29 AM

2. How much time do you spend creating additional activities for your books?

Even though I don’t “create” my own supplemental materials, I do take an active part in their creation—from brainstorming ideas, defining themes, choosing activities, creating copy, coordinating efforts, proofreading—all of which does take time. I begin jotting down ideas for support material as soon as I have signed a contract on a book. Once the book goes to print—about a year before the publishing date—I begin seriously working on supplemental material and SWAG. My goal is to have the Teaching Guide and Activities posted on my website, and SWAG in hand prior to pub date.

I keep a “When my book get published” file with ideas for each book. Of course, I check out what others are doing, and the best ideas go into my file. TeachingBooks.net’s database of instructional materials to support K–12 reading and library activities is an excellent source.

Too, as my books are traditionally published, I need to secure permission from my publishers, and when art is involved, from the illustrator, for any/all promotional material, activities, guides, SWAG, trailers, etc. Which takes time, too. (Additionally, some publishers have specific guidelines regarding supplemental material, what can and can be posted on your website, etc. So be sure to check!) The folks at my publishers are delighted with these efforts and are eager to help. However, as any/all materials relating to my books also reflect on the publisher, they do expect final approval.

Don’t Freak or Stress if you don’t have time or jingle to do all of this before your pub date!

In fact I think it’s better not to post everything at once. Adding new material later is a nice way to freshen your website. Besides, new material=new news to share on social media= new energy and attention for your books!

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.24.10 AM3. Do you have some suggested resources for our readers?

Here is the contact info for the talented band of creators with whom I work. Contact them for pricing, availability and help creating supplemental materials for your books!

Picture book author, retired K-teacher, puzzle wiz, Doris Fisher creates puzzles & activity sheets—mazes, word searches, matching, crossword, etc. http://abcdoris.com/

Author, Educator, Consultant, Deb Gonzales (who’s Simple Saturday blog featuring a new fun, inexpensive craft each week Simple Saturday: http://www.debbiegonzales.com/simple-saturday/), creates CCSS Annotated Teaching & Activity Guides. http://www.debbiegonzales.com/

Library/School Story Hour Kit and I Vant My Vampire Baby=Free Books for Your Library Contest was created by marketing maven Kirsten Cappy of Curious City. http://www.curiouscity.net/

Vampire Baby Book Trailer was created by Tech wiz, author & artist Nathan Hale of Ink in Motion http://inkinmotion.wordpress.com/

Graphic genius, Lindsey Cousins of Bayside Graphics designs and has printed bookmarks, brochures, stickers, postcards, posters, etc. https://www.facebook.com/LindseyBayside

TeachingBooks.net, online multi-media resources for K-12: http://www.teachingbooks.net/

Thank you Kelly, for sharing this information with our readers. If you’d like to win a copy of Vampire Baby for your library details can be found on Kelly Bennett’s website. And while you are on her site be sure to check out some of the other great promotional materials for Kelly’s other books.

Happy Promoting,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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It seems fitting that today, Father’s Day, is when I am hosting a delightful author-illustrator team who created the oh so charming One Day I Went Rambling. My father was a great rambler, in every sense of the word. He wandered and discovered and delighted in finding unexpected treasures. Just like Zane, the main character of this picture book written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Terri Murphy. This rhythmic rhyming story celebrates imaginative play – I think teachers from preschool through elementary could use this book as a jumping off place for lots of fun lessons  and inspiration.

I’d love to read this with a group of kids, then take them exploring. We’d write about our finds — we could write fiction and/or non-fiction, and then we’d have an art lesson using the “treasures,” we’d chart and graph to organize our finds, and we’d make a treasure map… the ideas go on and on!

This busy duo took the time to answer some questions for us here at Writing on the Sidewalk. (WOTS)

WOTS: Please tell us about your writing/illustrating journey.

KELLY: No big surprise that I’d write a book about Rambling. I’ve gone down many different paths, from writing confession stories with titles like “He Was King of the Rodeo While I Was Stuck Back on the Ranch” and “Trapped in an Elevator With a Naked Man,” to Harlequin-style romance and non-fiction for Kindergarners about Labor Day and Chesapeke Bay. Rambling is never the most direct route: More than six years was spent traveling throughout North America meeting storytellers and tribal elders while collecting Native American legends about Spider and Tricksters; 4 years focused on  Cambodia in order to research a memoir about a boy’s struggle to survive the Khmer Rouge; umpteen and counting years collecting doggy puns for a beginning reader mystery series that remains to be sold (and about which I remain hopeful), countless dollars and hours creating fishponds after becoming obsessed with goldfish while dreaming up Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, and who knows how many megabytes of memory writing magazine articles. Rambling as I do means I’m never first and I miss some opportunities.  But boy am I seeing and learning a lot along the way – from parenting to traveling, otters to orangutans, craters, dead bodies and leaches. Every bend, twist, upset, experience is writing fodder. 

Terri: As a kid who loved to draw, I vividly remember that thunderstorms inspired me. I’d smell rain coming and lay out art supplies on the kitchen table as the sky darkened and the thunder cracked.  Later I painted for fun, but I never thought of it as a way to earn a living until I was in my early-twenties. I went to art school and freelanced before my two sons were born.  Then the world of children’s books opened up to me and I didn’t know who was having more fun with bedtime stories, them or me.  Soon I had a revelation…I could do this!  A lot of years of learning the art of picture books and rejection and waiting and small victories were part of that terrain.

WOTS: Did you know each other prior to working on this book?

Kelly: Terri and I met the summer after our first book together, Dance, Y’all, Dance, was published (Bright Sky Press, fall 2009); prior to that we had never met, spoken, texted, or tweeted. I happened to be in Chicago for an IRA Conference and Terri and I met to begin planning a picture book workshop for SCBWI-Brazos Valley. That first meeting was a little awkward at first, sort of like a blind date. But soon after exchanging howdys, we were chattering away, and the workshop was a blast! So I was delighted to have another opportunity to work with Terri on One Day I Went Rambling. But even then, although we knew and liked each other, and exchanged emails occasionally, we didn’t discuss Rambling until the art was almost complete.

Terri: Kelly and I published a previous book together called Dance, Y’all, Dance with the same publisher, Bright Sky Press. We met once in Chicago, and in Texas we facilitated a conference together on picture book writing and illustrating.  I enjoy Kelly’s humor and easy going style, in both her stories and in life.

WOTS: Have you discovered any treasures in the rough as you ramble along?

Terri: The word “yes” is a pretty good treasure. The slow stories of old men, diamonds dancing on waves, rekindling sparks with long lost friends, the odd look of recognition in a stranger’s eye, a hug that lasts one moment too long, dandelion bouquets, the smell of newborns.  I have a theory that we can choose the moments we wish to replay before our eyes when we leave this earth, so as they happen I make a silent wish to “remember this one.”

Kelly:I am always on the lookout for treasure. I have a carved wooden pyramid-shaped cupboard from Indonesia in which I keep my finds. The cupboard has 4 levels of drawers, and each drawer is divided into tiny cubes. I tag each treasure with the date and place I found it and put it into the cupboard for safekeeping. Every so often, I open a drawer and peek inside. 

But I’d be remiss, and untrue to my calling, if I didn’t note the best treasure of all that comes from rambling, and that is stories, the stories we only learn when we slow down enough to watch and listen.

WOTS: What tempts you toward procrastination? 

Kelly: Every-single-thing, except television (and probably only because I don’t know how to turn our set on.)

I’m like a cat. I circle, circle, circle, clean, prune, purr, grumble, circle more, before I can settle down to work. It’s as though I have to be on a deadline, and if I’m not on one, I’ll impose one on myself as a way of putting on the needed pressure. I actually have to set a timer to make myself sit down. It works!

Terri: I’m a true believer in procrastination as long as it’s mixed in with a healthy dose of work.  It’s a time to regenerate, think differently, play attention (I misspelled that but I think I’ll leave it!) and see the possibilities. It’s Rambling Time! I’m still a kid at heart so my sons’  humorous banter and roughhousing will draw me in every time, even though they are now taller than me.  I also like to eavesdrop on conversations, follow dragonflies, photograph nature, write in funky cafes and sometimes just drive down the road and see where that takes me.

WOTS: What’s next on your journey?

Kelly: Ah, the road ahead leads down a dark, twisted path toward… Vampire Baby, my next picture book. It’s being published 2013 by Candlewick Press.

Terri: More rambling! Although I’m known for my style of children’s illustration, an artist becomes stagnant and bored if they keep doing the same thing.  This summer I will discover new and inventive ways to digitally incorporate my macro nature photography as patterns in illustration.  Here is one that has a graphic novel feel to it. Time to ramble, to play attention!

Here are the bios for this incredible and  creative team!

Kelly Bennett, all set for Girl Scouts!

Kelly Bennett is the author of many books for children – mostly picture books. Her stories, such as Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, Dad and Pop, Your Daddy Was Just Like You, and Your Mommy Was Just Like You, Dance, Y’all, Dance, and her newest release, One Day I Went Rambling, celebrate imagination, families, friends, pets… all that goes into being a kid!

A native of California, Kelly has rambled through all 50 states, 3 continents and 19 countries on all kinds of transportation from tuk-tuks to tricycles, bajai to bicycles, ojeks, rickshaw and rafts, trains and planes, helicopters and horses, dogs, elephants, camels – oh yeah, cars and feet, too! She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. Visit her at www.kellybennett.com.

Terri Murphy is in her second childhood, and there she plans to stay. Born to immigrant parents, she spent a lot of her time as a child observing people, their expressions, and the natural world as she learned the language. Her favorite toy was a pair of binoculars. Now she surrounds herself with with sketches and paint and is once again, immersed in another language.

Terri is an illustrator for children’s books and magazines, educational materials, music cds, and outdoor murals. She is also the representative in Illinois for the Illustrators Network of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). In 2013 she will be the premier illustrator for Illinois’ summer iREAD program, creating posters and illustrations that will be shown in all Illinois libraries and 24 countries.

When not illustrating for children, Terri hosts traveling art workshops, is a nature photographer and enjoys rambling/ finding treasure in the ordinary. See Terri’s illustrations at www.terrimurphyart.com

Thanks for rambling on by today, Kelly and Terri!

Sarah Wones Tomp


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My brain is a mish mash of distraction at the moment. I haven’t been able to settle on one post topic, so here goes a mash and mish.

1) Happy Birthday to my dear sweet hubby! The world is a better place because he’s in it. He’s looking awfully nifty today…

2) Congratulations to my Super Blog Buddy and the rest of the crew who put together the first ever Children’s Book Festival in La Mesa – a fantastic collection of creative and passionate people presented and celebrated children’s books.

3) It’s always a treat getting together with a friend who lives far away – but it was a treat with sugar and spice on top visiting with writer rock star, Kelly Bennett! Thanks for the moonshine lullaby, Kelly!

4) I’ve been thinking of antagonists, and forces of antagonism – and what that looks like. Whatever makes your character want to give up – try to avoid real life versions.

5) The daughter child is wrapping up her high school life. Graduation looms. On that note, here’s a video from her team’s recent Dive-a-thon. The getting back on the board from the water is harder than it looks.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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Yikes! The book festival is only three days away.

I mentioned in a previous post that I am on the planning committee for the Children’s Book Festival in La Mesa here in San Diego. Time is closing in on us and the festival is only three days away.

Are we ready?

Only time will tell. We’ve ordered stages, arranged for tables chairs, a DocuCam for the illustrators, and yes… PortaPotties. We’ve contacted vendors, authors and illustrators for booths, delivered hundreds of thousands of bookmarks, and made countless telephone calls. Time is closing in on us and the festival is only three days away.

What’s left to do? 

There are a million and two last minute details that need to be completed before Sunday. Double check the space for the green room, print programs, pick up the t-shirts, contact the authors with last minute schedule changes and plan the author meet and greet dinner. Time is closing in on us and the festival is only three days away.

What’s happening at the event?

Along with the author/vendor booths, we will have face painting, hands on illustration demonstrations from Samantha Cerney, Terry Naughton, Billy Martinez, Steve Gray, Rich Arons, and Mark Ludy. The Bilingual Village features; crafts, bilingual story tellers and authors Mara Price, James Luna, and Rene Colato.  Our Storyteller stage will feature professional storytellers, a dance troop, local dignitaries sharing their favorite children’s book and authors Kathryn Cloward, Henry, Josh and Harrison Herz, Donald Samson, Kevin Gerard and Eleanore Garner.  The Main Stage will feature; Ned Vizzini, Lin Oliver and Theo Baker, Tom Kirkbride, DJ MacHale, PJ Haarsma, James Burks, Kelly Bennett, a drama group doing Doctor Seuss songs and me. Add a little PGA Neighborhood Golf, and Reading to Rover and you have what we hope is a full day of fun and entertainment. Time is closing in on us and the festival is only three days away.

So I’m off…

It’s time for some last minute emails, shopping, Facebook and Twitter posts.

Time is closing in on us and the festival is only three days away.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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My mom came to visit recently.

She brought me this:

In case you can’t read my youthful handwriting, it says

I Love you so much I can’t say it I have (to) write it

Love Sarah

I think that explains a lot. That must be why I write. It’s still true!

I just can’t say it.

When I start a new story, I don’t always know what I am trying to say – I have to write to find out.

This is a good reminder as I am trying to find my new story in the mess I’m making.

And it takes so long.

And it’s hard.

But as I wade around in my mess, I will be checking in with Kelly Bennett’s blog – she’s kicking off a Year of Inspiration!

Sarah Wones Tomp


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I love Kelly Bennett’s post on goal-setting.

This past summer my 11 year old son was on a mission. Sports Illustrated for Kids had a list of “50 Things to do This Summer.” He took this as a personal challenge – not merely as a list of suggestions.

It was amazing how many he mananged to complete – and the more he managed to do, the more the rest of us got sucked in and wanted to help make sure he achieved as many things as possible.

It’s the reason he ended up with – not one, but THREE autographs from his heroes on the San Diego Padres. (Thank you David Eckstein, Chris Donorfia, and Chase Headley!) I’m so glad my boy knows how to dream big.

I am so bad at making goals – and admitting out loud what I hope for – that I should start with making a goal list of how to set goals… But I am going to try. If I don’t know what I want to achieve, then how will I know when I get there?

With bravery and bucket lists in mind, huge congratulations to my Super Blog Buddy, Sue for her upcoming author event tomorrow!

See our side panel for the details – I am so proud of her!

Sarah Wones Tomp


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Father’s Day is coming! What better way to celebrate Daddy than to read books together?

Kelly Bennett, author extraordinaire, has two new books that might be just right for your family.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Kelly is a dear friend and classmate of mine from VCFA. But she is also a brilliant picture book author.

And if you ever get the chance to hear Kelly read, be there!  She has the power to awaken and delight your inner pre-schooler. Really and truly.

On to the books!


This pitch-perfect rhythmic love song is a celebration of growing up – with mistakes and all – and unconditional love.

It starts:

Your daddy was born puny and red-faced. Just like you.

First he crawled, then he tippy-toddled. He said oogie boogie bah bah lou. Just like you.

It’s funny and sweet and a joy to read aloud. Perfect for a grandma to give, but could also be from a wife or sister or even from Dad himself – someone who knows that Daddy is special, but far from perfect. (Just like you.)

And then there’s DAD AND POP: AN ODE TO STEPFATHERS (Candlewick Press)

Again, I marvel at Kelly’s mastery of language – she gets it just right. Her lucky narrator has two fathers – different as can be except in the way that matters the most.

Both of these books are like Kelly – just the right mixture of humor and heart. They are sure to be favorites among young readers – and the adults who love them.

If you’d like to get to know Kelly better, be sure to check out Kelly’s Fishbowl – her (always entertaining and surprising) blog.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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