Author Archives: Jennifer Swanson

We have a Winner!

The winner of the special Prize Pack from Author Donna Gephart is

Kelli Rapaport!!

Congratulations Kelli!  You have won:

AN  EDUCATOR/LIBRARIAN PRIZE PACK — A SIGNED BOOK, READING/ACTIVITY GUIDE AND A COUPLE DOZEN BOOKMARKS

Check your email, I will be sending you a message soon.

A HUGE thanks to all who responded with the fantastically funny TP stories. They were fun to read.  :)

 

Interview with Author Donna Gephart — and a Giveaway for Teachers and Librarians!

I’d like to welcome one of my favorite middle grade authors and one I am happy to call my friend:  DONNA GEPHART!

2934511Donna Gephart’s first novel, AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN’T BAD ENOUGH,MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award.  Her second novel, HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL, received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal and landed on these state reading lists:  Texas, New York, Louisiana and Illinois.  Donna’s new book, OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN, about a girl determined to get on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!, received a starred review from Kirkus!
 
 

Donna’s books are hilariously funny. They make people laugh. They make people cry. They touch your heart.  Her first three books are all fabulous:

                     

I am thrilled to be able to share her latest book with you. It’s called

Death by Toilet Paper! 

Fans of How to Survive Middle School will welcome the adventures of a contest-crazed seventh grader who uses his wits and way with words in hopes of winning a big cash prize to help his family avoid eviction.
 
Benjamin is about to lose a whole lot more than good toilet paper. But even with his flair for clever slogans, will he be able to win a cash prize large enough to keep a promise he made to his dad before he died?

 

“Gephart’s generous view of humanity’s basic goodness shines through, and she leavens her characters’ difficult situation with plenty of humor. . . Readers can’t help but enjoy this heartening book about hanging in there.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Ben is a character kids will root for, and he’s surrounded by family and friends who help him see things will be okay, a message that may comfort readers facing similar circumstances.”–Publisher’s Weekly 

Here’s where we find out the genius behind the creation:

Donna, tell us about your latest book. Was it fun to write?

Locating facts about toilets and toilet paper that head each chapter was fascinating and fun.  Did you know the first stall in a public bathroom is the least used, therefore, the cleanest?  I got to study books like, Sarah Albee’s Poop Happened!:  A History of the World from the Bottom Up and call it research.

 

 Your books are hilariously funny, but they also have a thread of real-life, and you cover difficult topics at times, such as divorce, separation and even death. Why do you feel the need to do this?

I love reading books that make me care enough to cry . . . and laugh.  That’s my aim when I create books – humor and heartbreak — so my work can also serve as an emotional roadmap for readers.  In Death by Toilet Paper, Ben Epstein figures out how to navigate the impossible stages grief and ultimately move forward with hope.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Trader Joe’s.  Seriously, I LOVE that store.  When Trader Joe’s is closed, though, I get my ideas from paying attention to unusual names, hobbies, jobs, conversations and stories.  Podcasts, like This American Life, are great ways to get my mind thinking of story ideas.  Reading the Sunday newspaper usually gets me thinking as well.

 

What is your writing process? Do you have a set time to write every day? 

Every day . . . except when life gets in the way, which it sometimes does.  Most days, I exercise outside then make a big cup of hot tea before I begin writing.  I use the Pomodoro Method, which is a program of set times for work and breaks.  I found a free Pomodoro timer online, and it has increased my productivity and kept me off the Internet while writing.

 

Why did you decide to become an author? 

When I was ten and bored, I wrote a story about a horse, although I knew NOTHING about horses.  My mom read my story and made a big fuss.  That’s when I decided I’d be a writer.

But the drive to write probably hatched years earlier in the children’s section of the Northeast Regional Library in Philadelphia.  That place was a life-changer for me in the best possible way.  I was lonely and bored and found excellent company on the shelves.  A Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes resonated with me back then . . . and still.

Can you name one teacher that inspired you to write or had an affect on your life? 

Heck yeah!  My 10th grade teacher, Myra Durlofsky, inspired me with her creativity and energy.  She was a great role model.  I put her in a couple of my novels, and I still keep in touch with her!

Also reconnected last year with my childhood librarian, Miss Irene.  I walked into the main library in Philadelphia with my niece and there she was – Miss Irene – looking very much like I remembered her thirty-five years before.  That was a happy reunion!

 

  Donna speaks at elementary and middle schools, book festivals, libraries and conferences, including the S.C.B.W.I. National Conference, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, F.A.M.E., the Conference on Children’s Literature, etc. She also does Skype visits to connect with schools across the U. S. and internationally. 
 

You do Skype visits for your books, what does that entail?

I LOVE doing Skype visits.  They’re so much fun.  After my interactive presentation with lots of show-and-tell, students ask questions.  And I ask them questions about their favorite books and authors.

 

How do you interact with the students during a Skype visit?

Sometimes, I do a Jeopardy!-style quiz with the students, which gets them totally engaged.  I ask questions and have them guess the outcomes as I tell stories.  There’s no substitute for in person school visits, of course, but Skype visits come close and they are good for the environment – no travel involved.  (Also, I may or may not wear bunny slippers during Skype visits.)  http://skypeanauthor.wikifoundry.com/page/Donna+Gephart

 

What is your favorite part about being an author? 

The creative responses to my books that I receive from both educators and young readers.  I’ve gotten freshly baked lemon squares, paintings, drawings and sculptures of characters and book covers, student-created videos, etc.  And I treasure the letters and emails I get telling me how my story resonated for a particular reader.  The connections I make with readers are what I really value.

If I could tell the lonely, bored girl choosing books from the shelves at the Northeast Regional Library that she would someday grow up to have a literary life, filled with reading, writing and people passionate about literature, I think she’d be quite pleased.

 

Anything else that you’d like to add:

For funny videos, word games, trivia, reading/activity guides, writing advice, etc., check out my site:  www.donnagephart.com.

Thanks for joining us Donna and giving us a peek into your creative process. :)

Donna has graciously donated a very special PRIZE !!

An  educator/librarian prize pack — a signed book, reading/activity guide and a couple dozen bookmarks

To enter, simply leave a comment below. In the spirit of the Donna’s latest book  let us know your funny encounter with toilet paper OR how you would  use a bunch of money you won in contest!  You have until December 10th to enter.

 

 

 

 

 

December New Releases!

Looking for a great stocking stuffer? Check out some of these fantastic new books!

 

Origins of Olympus by Kate  O’Hearn   (Aladdin paperbacks)

Emily and her winged horse, Pegasus, face an ancient challenge of Olympic proportions in this fourth book of an exciting series.
A deadly plague has struck Olympus. While the Olympians fade one by one, Emily’s heart breaks as she watches, particularly when Pegasus begins to slip away. Determined to save him, she embarks on an investigation that takes her back in time to the origins of Olympus and to the deadly battle between the Olympians and the Titans.

 

The Keeper: An Unguarded Story of Tim Howard by  Tim Howard (Harper Collins)

In this uplifting memoir adapted for young readers, Howard shares his remarkable journey from a challenging childhood in which he was raised by a single mother who instilled in him a love of sports and a devout Christian faith that helped him deal with the onset of Tourette’s in fifth grade. This book includes an 8-page full-color photo insert and a poster on the other side of the book jacket.

 

Who Was Genghis Khan?  by Nico Medina  (Grosset & Dunlap)


Named Temujin at birth by his nomadic family in early Mongolia, the great Genghis Khan used his skill and cunning to create the Mongol Empire and conquer almost the entire continent of Asia. As ruler of the largest empire in human history, he was as respected as he was feared. Learn more about the man and the legend in Who Was Genghis Khan?

 

Warriors: Dawn of the Clan 2  by Erin Hunter  (Harper Collins)

The mountain cats from the Tribe of Rushing Water followed the Sun Trail to a new territory, convinced that in a land with more prey, their lives would be free from strife. But while no cat has gone hungry, tensions are rising. The once firmly united group has split in two—and a young cat named Thunder is caught in the middle.

 

 

The Genius Files #4: From Texas With Love  by Dan Gutman  (Harper Collins)

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The wackiest road trip in history continues in book four of the New York Times bestselling Genius Files series, following twins Coke and Pepsi as they dodge villains and visit weird-but-true landmarks from Texas all the way to Roswell, New Mexico!

 

 

Horses of the Dawn #2: Star Rise  by Kathryn Lasky  (Scholastic Press)

An unforeseen danger threatens to destroy the pack. A boy with a special gift is lost in the wilderness, and only the horses can keep him alive. But to save the boy, the herd will have to abandon their quest, and risk galloping straight back into the hands-and harnesses- of their captors.  And so, it’s up to Estrella, the herd’s unlikely leader, to make a life-changing decision. Should the horses accept the orphan boy as one of their own? How do you choose between freedom and friendship?


War of the World Records (The Fantastic  Family Whipple ) by Matthew Ward  (Razorbill)

 

The rivalry between the Whipples and the Goldwins escalates to an all-out war as the World Record World Championships draw near. When sinister clowns Overkill and Undercut cause a regulation game of hide-and-seek to go horrifically wrong, recordless Arthur Whipple and his unlikely ally, Ruby Goldwin, set out to catch the clowns’ mysterious boss, known only as “the Treasurer.” The young detectives follow the clues through darkened alleyways, dingy nightclubs, and the gothic halls of the World Record Archives, where they unravel the mystery of the Lyon’s Curse and the secrets of their fathers’ shared past. In the end, Arthur must fight to save his family as he struggles to earn his first world record and prove himself worthy of the Whipple name.