Monthly Archives: September 2012

And The Winner Is….


Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read the Spotlight on Dianne Ochiltree and her newest picture book, Molly, By Golly!

I’m currently traveling so Trixe couldn’t draw the winning name this time – sorry! But I did use the random number generator and the lucky winner was entrant number one!!!! Who is that? Why, it’s the lovely Jama of Alphabet Soup! Jama – be sure to email me your mailing address and I’ll pass along the info to Dianne so she can send you your prize! Hooray! Congratulations!
Happy reading!

Welcome To The Spotlight: Dianne Ochiltree and Molly, By Golly!


Hooray! Today I’m putting the spotlight on Dianne Ochiltree and her newest picture book, Molly, By Golly (illustrated by Kathleen Kemly)! Stayed tuned (below) to find out how you can win a signed copy of this informative and fun picture book!

Congratulations on the release of your newest picture book, MOLLY, BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter (Calkins Creek), fabulously illustrated by Kathleen Kemly.  You first became interested in Molly when you came across her legend while researching another book.  What inspired you to turn this into a picture book?

First, it was the great spirit of volunteerism that is at the heart of Molly’s legendary tale.  What Molly lacked in experience she more than compensated for with her courage and strength.  It was a great opportunity to inspire future firefighters and other community helpers.  Second, it was a chance to show kids how fires were actually fought in early American times.  I was meticulous in my research of these details, and so was illustrator Kathleen Kemly—the firefighting history experts who double-checked our efforts were equally meticulous—because we all wanted to present as accurate a picture as possible.  Kids will certainly get an appreciation for the modern equipment we have today. Third, Molly’s legend was filled with the type of action and emotion sure to inspire fabulous illustrations…which is just what happened!

I was fascinated to learn how intensive and exhausting firefighting was in the 1800s! What part of your research for this book surprised you the most?

The biggest surprise was learning that the earliest pumper engines were not transported to the scene of a fire by a team of horses as I’d always assumed—PEOPLE did.  The cobblestone streets were very narrow and bumpy, and it was often easier and safer for humans to maneuver the heavy pumper in tight spots. Also, since there were no paid fire companies at the time, there were no funds for buying, feeding and housing horses to help fight fires.  There were no firehouses as we know them today, either.  The volunteer companies only had equipment sheds for their very basic tools. No “sliding-down-a-fire-pole” fun for these early firefighters!

Molly was a cook for firefighters.  You share some delicious-sounding dishes in the book!  What are some of your favorite comfort foods?

My favorite comfort foods:  Pad Thai Noodles, Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Carolina Pulled Pork—but not all in the same meal!  I had a wonderful time researching early American cookery, and just loved the quaint-and-quirky names of dishes that Molly might have fixed for her ‘fire laddies’.  Recipes for all the dishes in the book are posted on my author website, collected in “Molly’s Cookbook.”

Dianne Ochiltree is the author of several acclaimed picture books for the very young, including CATS ADD UP!, TEN MONKEY JAMBOREE, SIXTEEN RUNAWAY PUMPKINS, AND LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, an ‘Imagination Library’ selection for the Dollywood Foundation’s national childhood literacy program.  She is a freelance editor and writing coach; a book reviewer for; and frequent workshop presenter at writers conferences.  She tweets publishing industry information from her twitter address, @Writer Di.  She lives in Sarasota, Florida, in a bungalow by the bay with her husband, Jim; a chocolate Labrador retriever named Sally and Simon, the family’s Maine Coon cat. For more information about Dianne and her books, go to

Win a signed copy of Molly, By Golly!

Dianne has generously offered to send a signed copy of her fabulous picture book to one lucky winner! Please follow the directions below (most of you know the drill)!

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me what your favorite comfort food is. Mine is roast chicken and gravy. Oh, and potato salad. And ochazuke and umeboshi (Japanese rice and tea with pickled plum).

2. Leave your comment by midnight EST Sunday, September 16th. The lucky winner will be announced on this blog and will be contacted by email on Tuesday, September 18th. Late entries will not be included in the drawing (sorry).

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

And The Winner Is…


Thank you to all who stopped by to read up on Anne Marie Pace and her new picture book, Vampirina Ballerina!

I used a random number generator and the lucky winner is comment number 17! Carmelia, YOU are the winner of a copy of Vampirina Ballerina!  Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) with your mailing address and I’ll get your prize into the mail ASAP! Congratulations!

And just for laughs, here’s a picture of me when I was a ballerina (not a very good one) when I was 6 years old and living in San Francisco:

Happy reading and happy dancing!

Welcome to the Spotlight: Anne Marie Pace and Vampirina Ballerina!


I am so very thrilled to welcome Anne Marie Pace and her brand new picture book Vampirina Ballerina to the spotlight! Stayed tuned (below) to see how you can win a copy of this fabulous picture book!

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illus. by LeUyen Pham (Disney Hyperion Books/2012)

Vampirina wants to be a dancer, but vampires must take certain precautions before enrolling in a class. Night class, for one. Vampirina is different from the other girls in her class – and not quite as skilled as they are. She tries hard to do the dance moves, but when flustered she turns into a bat. When the big night of the performance arrives, Vampirina finally becomes part of the group. Hooray! The illustrations lend a touch of humor to the sweet story of a girl chasing her dream. I especially love the end papers – the front cover shows Vampirina trying to dance (and turning into a bat)  while the back cover shows Vampirina with her classsmates, dancing, and everyone has a cape like Vampirina’s!

Spotlight on Anne Marie Pace:

What was the initial spark for your picture book, Vampirina Ballerina?

I was listing opposites and contrasts, and when I wrote down “vampire ballerina,” I started brainstorming things ballet dancers have to do that vampires might find difficult.  When I shared the idea with my agent, Linda Pratt, she chuckled politely, but not enthusiastically, and I forgot about it for a while.  Then five or six months later, I came back to it, wrote the first draft, and shared it with her.  This time, she saw what I wanted to do and was on board from that point on.

What was the journey to publication like?

I think my journey has been fairly typical, with all the ups and downs, the acceptances and rejections, that most writers experience.  I have always loved to write, but didn’t know much about writing for publication.  Once I decided that publication was a path I wanted to venture down, I started hanging out at the online children’s writer waterholes (starting with GEnie, then on to the Yellow Board, and finally Verla Kay’s Blueboards and Live Journal).  I joined SCBWI and attended conferences.  At one of these conferences, I met my agent, and we’ve been working together for about five and a half years now.   As far as Vampirina’s journey to publication goes, it was rather quick.  Linda sent the manuscript to Hyperion in late summer 2010, and Hyperion acquired it that fall.

I love the sweet story of a vampire girl wanting to become a ballerina. Vampirina is so different from the other girls in her dance class and yet she perseveres and sticks to it, because she loves it. How did Vampirina evolve as a character as your wrote the story?

My original manuscript was a how-to, instructing vampires in the steps they need to learn to dance.  I imagined it as a parody of those mass-market 8x8s you can buy at Wal-Mart, and in fact, the working title was simply, “How To Be a Ballerina.”  When we started working on revision, my editor Kevin Lewis and I had a long conversation about what is important to six-year-olds, and Vampirina herself emerged from that conversation.  It is still instructional, but it’s in Vampirina’s voice.  She is trying to teach others, in her slightly imperious vampire way, what they need to know in order to achieve success in the ballet studio and on the stage.

The illustrations partner perfectly with the words. Did you and the illustrator, LeUyen Pham, work together at all? What was your initial reaction to the illustrations? Did it mesh with you had in mind?

Kevin coordinated a terrific collaboration among the three of us.  Uyen saw the manuscript in early stages, so she was able to offer ideas that we incorporated into the text throughout revision.  It’s not the typical way a picture book is created, but I think we are all quite pleased with the result.  As for meshing with what I had in mind, I have been observing the world of picture books for a long time, seeing other writers’ experiences, and I know at some point you have to let your text go and let the illustrator do her thing, so I wanted to stay open-minded about whatever might happen in the art.  Of course, Uyen is an incredibly gifted illustrator and I never worried that I wouldn’t love what she did, even before I knew exactly what that was.  If anything, I love her work more than I possibly imagined I could.  The amount of telling detail in the art makes it worth going through again and again.  The Margot Fonteyn thread is probably my favorite, but I also love Vampirina as a bat.  I wrote only, “resist the temptation to turn into a bat,” and Uyen used that as a recurring event that both develops Vampirina’s character and encapsulates her journey.

When you were Vampirina’s age, what was your passion, if not dance?

Well, at age six, it definitely wasn’t dance.  My experience with ballet was similar to Vampirina’s first class (lots of stumbles and missteps), but she persevered and I didn’t.  Mostly, I loved books.  Trips to the school or public library were the highlight of the week, and I always checked out the maximum number allowed.

Despite the oft-quoted adage to write what you know, Anne Marie Pace has never been a bear, a vampire, or a ballerina.  She is the author of Vampirina Ballerina, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, and published by Disney-Hyperion, as well as two original paperbacks for Scholastic Book Clubs, Never Ever Talk to Strangers and A Teacher for Bear, both about bears.  With other children’s writers, she publishes The 4:00 Book Hook, a free email newsletter for adults who share books with kids. She lives with her husband, four teenagers, and two poorly-trained dogs in Charlottesville.

For more about Anne Marie, check out her website and Vampirina’s website.  For an interview with illustrator LeUyan Pham, click here.

Win a copy of Vampirina Ballerina!

Just follow the rules!

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me what your passion is! Mine is writing and reading, but that’s probably obvious, so I’ll add collecting elephant figurines!

2. Leave your comment by midnight EST Friday, September 7th. Winner will be announced on this blog and will be contacted by email on Tuesday, September 11th. Late entries will not be included in the drawing (sorry).

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!