We are happy to welcome children’s author Chantal Fournier and her fabulous new release, Silent Words, to the Highlighted Author. Silent Words is a particularly beautiful write up on a child’s journey of discovery to the power of words. I hope you enjoy reading this feature as much as I enjoyed compiling it! Sincerely, Jo Grafford
Evolved Publishing presents a wonderful journey into the discovery of language, with Silent Words, the colorful children’s picture book by Chantal Fournier (author) and Nicolas Lajeunesse (illustrator). [DRM-Free]
Zelda loves to talk. She always asks a million questions, and her head is full of words like apple, bunny, cartwheel and dwizzledoodle. But when a sudden storm turns Zelda’s world upside down, all her words go silent. Zelda must embark on a quest across mountains, forests and oceans to find her parents—and her voice.
This moving tale about loss and hope will tug at your heartstrings. Author Chantal Fournier’s poetic storytelling style and illustrator Nicolas Lajeunesse’s evocative artwork combine to create a poignant story in which a child discovers comfort in the power of words.
“Silent Words is a book about grief, about not being able to express your sorrow. It is sad, yet beautiful and leaves you with the feeling of hope.” ~Inga, Goodreads
“The story and illustrations are amazing. As in every children’s book, it has a moral and it is a sad and realistic one “ ~Vidya-Books Are Magic’s Reviews
Originally from a small-ish city not too far from Montreal, I now live in Toronto, Canada, after a long stint on the beautiful Canadian West Coast. As I was growing up, my head was full of stories – but I never took the time to write them down. My partner’s amazing art and generous encouragement convinced me to finally put pen to paper or rather, fingers to keyboard!
Silent Words, the story of a girl floating on a peculiar cloud, is my debut book. It is the fruit of a long collaboration with my husband, Nicolas. We are currently working on several other book projects, and I am in the research stage for a “grown up” novel involving cows and Nazi officers…
Join me in welcoming Natasha Yim to Highlighted Author.
Natasha is a Northern California children’s book author, freelance writer, and playwright. Her first picture book, Otto’s Rainy Day, was published by Charlesbridge Publishing, and her picture book biography, Cixi, The Dragon Empress, was released by Goosebottom Books in October 2011. Sacajawea of the Shoshone, the amazing story of the Native American teenager who traveled the west with Lewis and Clark hit the bookshelves in October 2012. She has also published non-fiction articles in the children’s magazines, Highlights for Children, Appleseeds, and Faces, and for adults in local and regional publications such as Mendocino Arts, Vibrant Life, and UnchARTed magazines. Her ten-minute plays have been produced and performed in venues around Northern California–Ukiah, Santa Rosa, Guerneville—as well as in Los Angeles, and Sydney and Brisbane, Australia.
Born Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong. She came to California in 1979 to attend Dominican College (now University) where she graduated with a B.A. in English Literature with a Writing Emphasis and a M.S. in Counseling Psychology. As a Social Worker, she worked primarily with emotionally disadvantaged children in group home and foster home settings, and with Child Protective Services. Since 2000, she has been busy raising three children and working on her writing. She’s on tour with her new release, Sacajawea of the Shoshone, and I’m proud that she has made Highlighted Author part of her world wide web travels.
Welcome, Natasha, when did you decide to be an author? Do you remember how old you were? The moment? (tell us about it)
When I was in 7th grade, an English teacher gave us a creative writing assignment in which we had to create an island, illustrate it with made-up lakes, rivers, mountains, towns etc., and write a story about it. It was so much fun, I’ve been hooked on writing stories ever since. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 11, and used to journal daily and write poems and short stories in my teens, but I didn’t get serious about my writing until after college.
What genre do you most enjoy writing? Reading? Why?
I enjoy writing for children. I’ve published mostly picture books, but I also like writing for an older audience and have some middle grade/young adult projects in the works. At one point, I thought that I would try my hand at an adult novel at some point, but I’ve discovered that I actually have no interest at this time in writing for adults. There’s a certain awe and wonder that children exhibit when you put a good book in their hands or read them a story they really connect with that’s not only refreshing and delightful, but very rewarding to an author. Most adults will read a book they like once then pass it on, but kids will ask for a favorite book to be read over and over again. My reading tastes are a little eclectic. I like to read anything from the classics (Jane Austen is still a big favorite of mine, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Lucy Montgomery) to contemporary writers like John Irving and David Sedaris. I tend to favor humorous books and am a great fan of Louise Rennison’s The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Young Adult series. I’ve also been reading a lot of Young Adult and middle grade novels lately because that’s the genre I’m currently interested in writing and also because my daughter is reading those books so I’m trying to find out what she’s reading.
You’ve been very busy with your appearances at schools and organizations. What’s it like to share your books and skills with others? Please tell us about it.
When I had my first reading/book signing for my picture book Otto’s Rainy Day at a local bookstore twelve years ago, I was petrified! In a debilitating way. I asked my brother-in-law to read the book! But Practice makes Perfect, so the more I do presentations, workshops and appearances, the more comfortable I am in front of an audience, and now I don’t really get that nervous anymore. Believe me, it took a lot of pushing myself to get up in front of people and to grab any opportunity for speaking engagements to get me over the hump! Sometimes you have to jump blindly into the fray, because the only way to get over that fear of public speaking is to do as much of it as possible. The key is preparation. The more prepared I am, the less nervous I get. I used to be terrified of doing school visits too, and in the beginning, I’d much rather go to a school five different times to visit individual classrooms than to do one huge assembly in front of 300 kids. I did my first assembly in Spring of this year, and have done several since then, and now I really enjoy them and school visits in general because you get to connect with the kids who are your audience. They have such openness, tremendous curiosity and they LOVE meeting authors. We have a certain rock-star status with kids that’s really fun. At events, I try to focus more on connecting with the audience than on the nuts and bolts of my presentation and this helps to alleviate the anxiety. I’m a people person and I like the give and take of interaction. I’ve also discovered Power Point which takes a lot of the stress out of appearances because you can do really fun visual things on a screen which then takes the focus off you as the speaker. Kids love to see pictures of my family and pets and old pictures of me as a kid. It brings the author down to their level—hey, we were kids once too and we have normal families just like them. They also love it when I show all the editorial mark-ups I get on manuscripts, just like when a teacher corrects their homework. It makes them realize that writing is hard work and stories don’t just appear in book form as they see it at the bookstore. I also enjoy sharing my journey and process as a writer with other writers at workshops and conferences. We all had to start somewhere and I like to encourage other writers to keep trying and not give up in the face of rejection because we’ve all had to go through it. One of my favorite quotes is from Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.
Would you share the radio interview with the Stories for Children show on the World of Ink Network that you appeared on so that we can listen in?
My picture book biography Cixi, The Dragon Empress, which was released in Oct. 2011, is part of Goosebottom Books’ six-book series The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames. Each book in the series is written by a different author. Gretchen Maurer, the author of another dastardly dame Mary Tudor, Bloody Mary is a friend of mine. We live in the same town and have been in the same writing group for years so we decided to join forces and share the costs for our blog tour with World of Ink which occurred during the month of November 2011. As part of the blog tour package, we were interviewed on the Stories for Children network on blogtalk radio which aired on November 14, 2011.
Who do you find to be your greatest supporter? Why?
Other writers. I’ve been a part of two writing groups, have attended countless writer’s conferences and workshops, am a regular participant in the Green Gulch writer’s retreat, and have networked with many writers over the years at these events. Large as it is, the children’s book writing community is very close knit. Everyone is extremely supportive of each other. I think mainly because we all have struggled to get our foot in the door and to get noticed by an editor or agent, we know how hard it is and how much work it takes, so there is a lot of encouragement and support and “don’t give ups”. It takes another writer to know what you’re going through as a writer in terms of rejections, revisions, writer’s block, mediocre sales, poor turnout at book readings or signings and other literary disasters.
Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
Inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere. The idea for my first book Otto’s Rainy Day came to me while I was staring out of the window at the rain. I have another project I’m working on that was inspired by a friend’s son’s love of dance and theatre. In recent years, I’ve been more interested in tapping into my cultural roots and have focused more attention in including multi-cultural elements into my work. The topic of Cixi, The Dragon Empress was already selected in that the publisher selected the six dames they wanted to feature, but the authors got to choose the dame they wanted to write about, and I chose her because she was Chinese and I was interested in Chinese culture and history. I currently have two middle grade/young adult novels I’m working on that have female Chinese protagonists. One’s a contemporary Chinese American girl and the other is a historical fiction set in China.
Being a busy mother, what does your writing schedule look like?
I try to get up at 5 every morning and write till 7 when my kids have to get up for school. I used to allow for Sundays as my sleep-in day, but my kids sleep in on weekends, so now I still keep to the 5 am schedule when I can as I can usually squeeze a little more writing time in. I also try to get a few hours of writing in while they’re in school, while trying to weave in workouts at the gym, grocery shopping etc. and volunteer time at my kids’ school. There is just never enough time in the day!
Tell us about your featured book.
Sacajawea of the Shoshone, which has just been released in October, will be a new addition to Goosebottom Books’ first series The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses. It’s the biography of Sacajawea, the Native American girl who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition of the American West. She’s an amazing woman with a fascinating story and I’m so lucky to be able to write about her.
Now, don’t be shy with this one. I’d like you to share some tidbits of praise for it.
Since it’s just been released, I don’t have any reviews yet (please feel free to write one) but librarians and teachers have expressed a lot of interest in it.
However, here is what people have said about my last book Cixi, The Dragon Empress:
“It is a wonderful read and an evocative story that most kids will be able to sink their teeth into. It is a sad and inspiring story at the same time. But it has a depth that is rarely found in a children’s picture book.”—BlogCritics, Irene Roth
“Natasha Yim has done an excellent job of putting together this factual book. The history and behind the scenes look at a woman who crumbled an empire will have young readers turning the pages and looking up the history for themselves.”—Good Reads, Kristi Bernard
Would you share an excerpt with us?
Sacajawea of the Shoshone
Clouds of dust swirled across the plains, kicked up by galloping horses. Screams shattered the autumn air. Arrows arced in the crisp blue sky, sprung from Shoshone bows, but they were no match for the Hidatsa warriors’ guns. Through the smoke of musket fire, Sacajawea saw men fall. Her heart thudded against her chest. She raced over brush and brambles, the berries she had been picking scattering around her feet. If she could cross the river, she might be able to get away. One minute, her legs churned against the swift current, the next, a pair of muscular arms scooped her up, carrying Sacajawea far away from her tribe and family—and into history.
In November, seven months after Sacajawea set off from Fort Mandan, she finally heard the roar and crash of ocean waves. She felt their force as they rocked the boats at the mouth of the Columbia River. The Pacific Ocean was near! But these powerful waves made it impossible to get any closer to the sea along their water route. They had to camp inland a few miles away. As winter was approaching, and deep snow in the Rocky Mountains would make it impossible to cross back over, they decided to wait till spring to head back east. They built a fort in a protected grove of pine trees, and sheltered there through the damp, gloomy days.
One day, a local tribe brought the Corps blubber from a whale that had washed up on the beach. Lewis and Clark thought it was delicious, and formed a small group to see the “Big Fish” and get some more blubber. Sacajawea wasn’t included. As you can imagine, she was really upset. She had come such a long way, and she still hadn’t seen the “Big Water.” She wanted to see the “Big Fish” too! The Captains finally agreed, and Sacajawea made the five day trek with Pomp to the Pacific.
There are no records of Sacajawea’s reaction, but it must have taken her breath away to see the wide expanse of water stretching for miles to the horizon, and to finally breathe the salt-laced air. The sight of that immense whale, the largest animal any of them had ever seen, must also have struck her with awe and wonder.
Thank you so much, Natasha, for being with us today. It was wonderful having you.
Thank you, Charlene, for hosting me. It was a pleasure!
Join me in welcoming Rhonda Edwards to Highlighted Author.
Rhonda teaches fifth grade in North Charleston, SC. She is also an adjunct professor for the English Department at Trident Technical College. A Fellow of the Charleston Area Writing Project (CAWP), she received this honor the summer of 1994.
Rhonda was a stay-at-home mom until her son began school. She then became active in PTA and as a substitute teacher. Encouraged by her husband, Rhonda completed her undergraduate work at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, where she graduated with a BS in Elementary Education in 1994. Rhonda then went on to receive her National Board certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist and received her MA in English from a joint program with The College of Charleston and the Citadel in 2005.
I am conservation minded. I grew up in SE NC on a farm. I can remember raising pigs, cows, and chickens for food. My dad hunted for deer and venison was added to our diet. I feel that we should live as the Native Americans lived: killing for food but not for sport. Yes, I understand that overpopulations need to be controlled and I think the DNR does a good job of that with hunting seasons. The balance of nature is important.
Most of my books are perfectly aligned with third grade curriculum standards. Animals, habitats, preserving nature, etc. are things I teach. What better to write than of things we know more?
Many of my ideas come also from newspaper stories. My husband is an avid reader of the news. He is so different from me. I skim for topics while he reads every story, section by section. He might skip ads. When the SC Aquarium acquired Alabaster, the albino alligator, I got the idea for Adora the Albino Alligator. I have used newspaper articles in all 7 of my children’s e-books. Research is a large part of my brainstorming/prewriting phase of writing. Only when my research is complete will my story flow.
Knowing a topic is critical in writing for children. Children can so easily pick up on being false. I think one of the most wonderful comments I heard from a reader of Adora the Albino Alligator was the fact that she had learned things she did not know about alligators. That was an awesome moment. The thrill of teaching drives me. Learn something new every day, is a saying that I use. I think this is my challenge to us all.
I guess I have sidetracked from my topic which should be about the book I wish to highlight. The second in a chapter book series for grades 2-6, Pirates at Pawleys is about a special love of mine. For years now, my mom, sister, and I have had the privilege of going to Huntington Beach State Park and being a part of their sea turtle program. We watch for loggerhead sea turtles to make their nests in the dunes off the beach, look at these nests as we walk toward the jetty or toward Atalaya, and return to see those left behind in their nest as they are released by DNR rangers. I will never forget the one nest where one loggerhead’s right fore flipper was crumpled. My sister and I wrote about one like this in our book, Old Faithful A Loggerhead Sea Turtle’s Story.
Pirates at Pawleys’ main characters are fashioned after my nephew and granddaughters. They are the Carolina Cousins because my nephew is from NC and the girls were born in SC. Historically there was no north and south, only Carolina. I use their reactions to situations as my way of keeping in touch with what this age reader would do and say. The setting is a favorite spot for all of us in my family. My husband and I have been going to Pawleys Island for years. Our granddaughters love to spend time there. My mom, sister, and I own a condo at True Blue on Pawleys Island. My stories are written and/or polished when I am at Pawleys. The beach is a place where my spirits are lifted. Here the cobwebs are blown away.
This series of chapter books will find the Carolina Cousins on adventures of solving historical or natural mysteries about the Carolinas. Pirates at Pawleys is a natural history in that loggerhead sea turtle nests are being poached. Blackbeard and piracy in general is mentioned as well. What I was excited and proud of was this book’s ending. I love reading authors who are able to create a tension at the end which is unraveled by a twist. This is what I tried to do with Pirates at Pawleys. My gauges were my mom and sister. My mother, Priscilla has always been a reader. She encouraged my reading habits by allowing me to join a Harlequin book club when I was young. I can remember getting excited when the books came each month. Living in the country, I don’t remember going to the library except at school. My sister has a degree in education and Library Science. With these two around, I get a lot of suggestions on editing and revising. Well, when my mom read Pirates… I was very pleased with her outrage turned surprise, but when Wendy, my sister, neared the end she was so upset I thought she would never finish so that she could get to the resolution. I was thrilled! I am nowhere near the writer that I want to be and hopefully, my writing will improve with age and opportunity. My craft will never be perfect because I am a work in progress.
In Book 2: Pirates at Pawleys, the Carolina Cousins catch their pirate as they take the reader through some history of pirates along with conservation efforts of Huntington Beach State Park’s Sea Turtle Rescues. I even included photos from our family experiences finding turtle crawls onshore, actual nests, and of DNR counting and releasing loggerheads.
If there are any teachers out there who wish to set up a Skye interview, I am ready!
Pirates at Pawleys
“Oh my goodness! That is criminal!” Katie exclaimed aloud. She sat at the breakfast table reading the local newspaper. Jesse, her golden retriever, lay at her feet, enjoying the fact that Katie always dropped crumbs on the floor. Encouraged by Grandpa Nick to read the newspaper daily, Katie was a source of news for the family. Today, the article that had caused her reaction was focused on a local Loggerhead sea turtle nest that had been pillaged.
“Not time for the sea turtle to hatch, no sign of animal tampering, and no damaged egg shells as evidence. The entire nest of eggs had been dug up and stolen,” she read from the paper..
“According to the Department of Natural Resources and local sea turtle volunteers who patrol the beaches during nesting season, the plundered nest was intact earlier that day. The conclusion was that this had been a planned theft,” Katie continued.
A week into their yearly summer vacation at their Pawleys Island condo, the family was enjoying a leisurely breakfast. The adults present were Prudence and her daughters, Savannah, and Winni. Eric, a rising sixth grader, Katie, a rising fifth grader, and Cally, a rising fourth grader, were cousins. Eric’s mom was Winni. Katie and Cally were Savannah’s granddaughters. They spent summers with their grandmother while their parents who were photojournalists for a prominent magazine were off on assignments. They did most of their work in the summer so that they could be home during the school year with Katie and Cally. Jesse, an 11 year-,old golden retriever, was claimed by everyone in the family. So it was that four generations of family were gathered once again on this specific summer morning.
“I cannot believe that anyone would do something like this!” exploded Eric so loudly that Jesse got up and moved to the living room where it was a little quieter. Everyone in the room agreed with Eric’s declaration. Living near the east coast and loving nature were just two reasons this family was appalled.
“According to the World Wildlife Organization, sea turtles are endangered because of illegal trade. They are sold and made into food delicacies, jewelry, ashtrays and instruments,” continued Katie. “Sea turtles are hunted for their meat – for calipee (cartilage found in the plastron or the shell on the underside of the turtle) – which is used to make soup. The article also says that guitars and rattles are made from the remains of sea turtles.”
The outrage of the family was immediate. How could anyone deliberately set out to rob and benefit from the sale of sea turtle eggs?
The family set aside their thoughts of finishing breakfast and made plans to contact the park rangers at Huntington Beach Park’s Education Center to see how they could help.
True Carolina cousins, Eric lives in North Carolina while Katie and Cally live in South Carolina; hence why everyone called them Carolina Cousins. Last year the cousins had banded together to solve a mystery at Atalaya, the summer home of American sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington. The mystery that they would unravel this summer had already revealed itself; and this one was dear to the hearts of everyone in this family. Sea turtle rescue was top on their list of volunteer activities and they would add Pawleys Island to their beloved Huntington Beach State Park turtle watch.
Where you can get your own copy of Pirates of Pawleys: