Some Awesome News!

Today I'm delighted to be able to share some good news with you! First off, my picture book Kailee Finds Magic IN Words is due out any minute. This was such a fun story for me to write that I can't wait for you all to see it. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I loved writing it. And don't worry, I'll be shouting it to the world once it becomes available.

Secondly, I've gotten another picture book accepted by FutureWord Publishing titled Hippo Bottomless. It should come out sometime in 2015.

Thirdly, and I am so thrilled about this opportunity, I have been put FutureWord Publishings permanent staff. I will be helping them with all kinds of things including an exciting contest they will be holding for non-published picture book writers. As soon as it's open, I will be sharing all the details with you. They are truly a couple of wonderful ladies to work with and I am looking forward to learning more and more about the publishing world.

Fourthly, I will be signing my book The Pea in Peanut Butter at the Lake Ponchartrain Craft Fair on Saturday, June 7th from 10-4:00pm. For anyone that lives in that area, I hope to see you there!

A Small Miracle

Have you ever thought that a real miracle has just happened to you?

My family known as "the Swopes" is made up of my parents, three sisters, and a younger brother. These people, besides myself, are some of the smartest people I've ever come across and I truly mean this. I can't even single one of them out as the most knowledgeable because they all amaze me.

I think I speak for all my siblings in saying that we experienced the best childhood a kid could ever have. Sure, our parents got on our nerves, but the morals they instilled in us never left us wondering who the boss was. I hear stories from friends whose children talk back terribly and do such awful things to them. I can't even imagine doing any of those thing to my mother. We weren't perfect and did our share of misbehaving (especially me); however Mother put us in our place immediately. She had 'the look' that made us cringe and go crawl in a corner. We were afraid of her but at the same time, we knew we could come to her with anything and she would try to understand. My mother was the real discipliner of our family and she did a great job of it.  She never disciplined us in a way that was even close to abuse but my brother and I did get the occasional "hairbrush wack on the butt" from her. I think my dad slapped me a total of once my whole life and ten minutes after he did so, he apologized. But more importantly, my parents made our youth fun and filled with what sometimes seemed like "magic."

My family never seemed to lack having what we needed. We didn't have much money but our parents gave us just enough, while teaching us to be grateful, that I don't ever remember wanting for anything. I was never one who needed name brand stuff, if it was cute... I was happy!

One thing my family has been cursed with though, is that none of us will ever be rich. We all have the ability and skills to take care of ourselves, each of us has our special talents, and we've all worked hard on our careers, our education, and moved up the
ladder. But we are still cursed with not making all that much money.

However, we've received our riches from other sources. We've all had relatively good health and have really never experienced (knock on wood) any real live threatening experiences.

Probably not all of my family agrees with this but to me our family has been blessed with the small miracle of having three of us become published authors. Any of you writers out there know how difficult this is and how hard we have to work at it. Until five years ago, neither myself nor my sis and mom had any idea what this would mean to us, much less that it would actually happen.

So although becoming an author hasn't made us rich in wealth, rich in fame, or rich in books (yet), we have had the small miracle of finally becoming rich in pride.

Cover Reveal

Good news, good news! I finally get to reveal the cover of my new children's picture book, Kailee Finds Magic IN Words. It's a sequel to my Pea in Peanut Butter story.

In this story, Kailee doesn't like to read. Until one day something happens that takes her inside the book she's reading. Kailee learns that words can take her on all kinds of magical adventures.
I'm really excited for this book which should be out by the middle of June. The illustrator, Valerie Bouthyette did an outstanding job depicting my words and making Kailee even cuter this time around. 
I can't wait to read this one to children. Hopefully I'll have the pleasure of watching their little eyes light up as they go on this adventure with Kailee. There's nothing like a little magic to make all our imaginations come alive! 
If all goes well...I'll soon be announcing the release and letting who's ever interested know where you can purchase a copy. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Hurricane Boy by Laura Roach Dragon

I am so excited to introduce to you the very talented author, Laura Roach Dragon. She has written a fantastic MG Novel titled Hurricane Boy about a young boys devastating experience during Hurricane Katrina. I have personally read this book and must admit it's one of the few books I've read that kept me totally glued with every word. I truly didn't want to put it down until I was completely finished with it. Once I read the last word, I was left wanting more and hoping so very much that she writes a sequel. I want to see where else her imagination can take those wonderful characters she has created.


Laura Roach Dragon lives in the New Orleans area of Louisiana. She works with children at a local hospital and has just released her first book, a middle grade novel called Hurricane Boy about a family's ordeal after Hurricane Katrina. 2015 is the tenth anniversary of the hurricane and the city has come far with its recovery. It was a long difficult journey.  
Here's what Laura says about going through Katrina herself and how her book came to be:

I experienced several hurricanes while living and working in Louisiana but nothing prepared me for Hurricane Katrina. I evacuated with my dog and two cats to Florida and then joined my hospital coworkers who were sheltering at a sister hospital in Memphis and what began as a three day evacuation turned into a three week banishment from my city. My condo was flooded and it took a year before I could move back in.

When we all returned from Tennessee, we found that the hospital where we worked suffered almost no damage, so I was fortunate to still have a job. But everywhere I turned, I was made aware of the power of Katrina. Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, patients, all had been impacted. My parents and sister ultimately moved away, closer to my other sister in Pennsylvania. My father told me they were sick of the “hurricane roulette” we were all forced to endure year after year. They asked me to come, but I decided to remain in the New Orleans area.
So I went back to work and we all, friend, coworker, staff and patient had this huge, dramatic, ongoing stressor in our lives. I began to research different aspects of the Katrina event to better work with my patients and to deal with my own feelings of loss and pain. I met with people who stayed, people who evacuated, people in the Superdome, in the Convention Center, in the Astrodome, and people who were separated from their families. I researched everything I could get my hands on, especially the personal stories in the Times Picayune. (The Times Picayune has an excellent Katrina Archive online:
The idea to write a book, something I’d always wanted to do, tugged at me. I settled on the issue of the separated children because it seemed to be a neglected piece of the Katrina story.

My research continued and the book began to take shape. I wanted it to be for children because I worked so much with kids. I spent the next seven years writing and rewriting the story. I joined a critique group, Realms of Fiction. We met at Barnes and Noble on Veterans. They were enormously helpful. Then, Cheryl Mathis, a woman who joined Realms the same day I did, and also wanted to write for children, mentioned SCBWI and we both joined that group as well.
Pelican Publishing was the first place I submitted the story. They kept it for a year and rejected it. I rewrote it and submitted a few other places, working on it all the way. Despite the story taking on a greatly different shape than it was when I first submitted it to Pelican, it never occurred to me to resubmit to them.
And then a friend of mine, Mary Faucheux, went to a writer’s convention and met with a Pelican representative. Upon being told that her story wasn’t a fit for Pelican, Mary did something few people would think to do. She pitched a friend’s story. Mine. The representative mentioned an interest in a story about the separated children, Mary told me and I immediately contacted Pelican and brought up my book submission of several years before. She remembered the book. I asked permission to resubmit and she said I could. Approximately a year later, I was offered a contract.
Hurricane Boy
The storm pulled them apart. Can they stay strong while far away? In this dramatic coming-of-age story, Hollis Williams matures in the traumatic events of Hurricane Katrina. Living with his siblings and his grandmother, Hollis's greatest wish has always been to reconnect with his absent father. Through the turmoil of the storm and the ensuing tests of his determination, Hollis keeps this dream alive. Their home destroyed, Hollis and his younger siblings are taken to a shelter in West Virginia, where he discovers what family means and finds his own inner strength
Laura's books can be found at the following locations:
Maple Street Bookstore, New Orleans, LA
Barnes and Noble
and can be ordered at any bookstore
You can find out more about Laura on her facebook page or on her blog address.
Thanks so much Laura for being my guest today and telling us a little bit about your writing process. I hope that everyone will feel compelled to buy a copy of your book and I wish you much success!