Monday, November 14, 2016

Guest Post by Picture Book Author Julie Murphy

SPECIAL GUEST! I’m ecstatic that I have a guest post from picture book author Julie Murphy about her latest book Gilly’s Treasures. Take it away Julie.


Hi, June, and thanks for hosting me on your blog to help celebrate the October 11 release of my picture book for children (4-8), Gilly’s Treasures.

Writers often see the advice, “write about what you know”. I have always loved the beach and often spend my holidays there, so it was natural to write a story set at the beach. And that story evolved into Gilly’s Treasures.


One of my favorite books as a child was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I loved it so much that I still dream of visiting Cornwall one day, where the story is set. And of course, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull is a story for all ages. Contemporary children’s books set at the sea that I love are Magic Beach by Alison Lester (fiction), Tanglewood by Margaret Wild and Vivienne Goodman (fiction), and When Elephants Lived in the Sea by Jane Godwin & Vincent Agostino (creative non-fiction).

My daughter and I loved snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef
My husband, daughter and I still often visit the coast for our holidays. We have quite a few gorgeous natural places within a days’ drive. Plus we are very fortunate to have visited some more distant places, such as the Great Barrier Reef, and Ningaloo Reef in north-Western Australia where we saw green turtles!


One of the green turtles we saw at Ningaloo Reef

I love animals so, after school, I trained as a zoologist before working as a zookeeper for a decade. It wasn’t until I left that job to have a baby that I became immersed in the wonderful world of children’s books – both as a reader and a writer. My love of picture books really took over from that point. Many of my favourite picture books are about animals, as well as the ones I write.

I have been writing picture books for about a decade. My training in zoology helped me get a foot in the door with work-for-hire projects, which I wrote to specific briefs provided by the publishers. Most are non-fiction books about animals, but it is only by chance that many are also about the sea. Ocean Animal Adaptations, Coral Reefs Matter, and Anglerfish are just a few examples.

I am proud of my non-fiction books, but I must admit to being extra excited to welcome Gilly’s Treasures into the world. It is my first fiction picture book, and began as my own idea (rather than to a publisher’s brief). With the feel of a traditional children’s fable, it tells the story of Gilly; a seagull who is so busy finding pretty, shiny things at the seaside that he forgets everything else – even to eat! Thankfully, with a little help from his partner, Swoop, he eventually discovers what really matters most to him. Illustrator Jay Fontano has done a wonderful job bringing Gilly and Swoop to life, and balancing my fable-like story with fun, friendly illustrations. I especially love the new character he introduced - a cute little crab who children will love spotting on each page.

I hope that children who read Gilly’s Treasures will want to visit the beach and another natural places for themselves, and maybe find a treasure or two of their own. And it might even spawn a conversation about what they think is most important in their own lives.

I think it is important for children to visit natural places. It gives them a chance to unplug from their devices, slow down, breathe the fresh air, and learn something about the real world. Who doesn’t find nature relaxing? Even a back yard or local park will do the trick. I think it not only benefits the child, but also conservation because kids will be more likely to look after what they know and care about.

My daughter (3) has always loved exploring the beach.


Where to learn more about Julie and her books?

Julie’s web site –

Facebook page with book preview -



Gilly’s Treasures is available from many on-line book stores, including Cedar Fort’s sales page, Books & Things (free for most parts of the USA):


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Concept to Completion: Librarian Matthew Winner

So we’ve come to the end of the series from Concept to Completion. The part where someone with money (adults) buys our books for readers (mostly kids). The people with more experience than any other when it comes to getting books into the hands of a young reader is a librarian. I’d like to welcome Matthew Winner, Elementary Librarian, Podcast Host, Author, and super nice guy.

Welcome to the Blog Matthew. So why did you and how did you become a librarian?

 I taught 4th grade as a general educator for a few years, but began work right away on my Master's in School Library Media after being inspired by the school librarian where I taught. I became a school librarian soon after when a nearby school had a position open and I felt the calling to step out beyond the classroom into a role that served the whole school. It's been a great career so far and there's not much better than watching readers grow and championing global citizenship through books, authors, literacy, and technology.

 How do you stay on top of what to purchase for your library? There are so many choices.

I read a lot. Mostly I'm reading for my podcasts (All The Wonders podcast and The Best Book Ever [this week]), but I also read reviews monthly in School Library Journal and daily across various library a teacher blogs. Beyond that, I try to listen really closely to the interests of our students and the needs of our teachers when selecting materials for our library.

How do you match up books to readers?

Ahh! This is the art of being a school librarian! Knowing readers, knowing their interests, and knowing the reading level where they feel most comfortable as a reader as all things I take into consideration when helping to connect kids with books. Often they are excited to read whatever I'm excited over or whatever we put on display. I think they've come to trust the hard work we've put into building a really strong collection, so they know there are endless excellent choices for them in our library.

 I know I was always grateful when my librarian handed me a book she thought I’d like! Since you are also a writer, how does that affect the way you look at books that come into your library?

I'm aware that I don't write for all kids and I acknowledge that the books in our library were also not written for every single reader. I know what I like to read aloud and I know what books move me or make me smile or keep me thinking about them long after I read them aloud. Being a librarian and reading books aloud as regularly as I do has helped me to understand and identify those qualities that make good books work so well. As I write I try to keep in mind those qualities in addition to those readers I see every day. If I can picture the faces for which I'm writing, I can usually tell if I'm on the right track.

Are you ever shocked, impressed, or amazed at the books kids end up loving?

 I'm amazed by my students every single day. I'm amazed at their avid reading habits (I was not an avid reader as a child). I'm impressed that they read and retain as much as they do (I have memories of the emotions I felt reading books, but not so much of the stories themselves). I wouldn't say I'm shocked by what books they end up loving, but often I'm taken aback when they read a story and tell me a personal connection stirred up from reading the book. Some of the experiences my students have lived already at such a young age are quite profound. But I'm never ever surprised when they love a book, no matter what the book is. After all, that book was written for them.

I'm never ever surprised when they love a book, no matter what the book is. After all, that book was written for them.

What a perfect thought! What are your top three favorite picture books?

My favorites change all the time, but my students would probably say Shh! We Have a Plan! by Chris Haughton, Press Here by Herve Tullet, and A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins.

I love A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals. So clever. What do you wish you had in your library? Do you see any holes in the bookshelf that need to be filled?

We're always in need of more stories depicting diverse individuals, backgrounds, and experiences, but quite frankly the thing I wish I had more of in our library is space. We're blessed to have a revolving door of students visiting us each day, but having more space (and maybe even more time) would allow us to better serve as a place for the students to call their own. But if you're in need of picture book ideas, we could use more books featuring talking boats that enter dance competitions with stories themed around friendship , acceptance, and navigating the choppy waters of pier pressure.

 Okay... that was a long way to go for a joke. But, seriously? There might be something there!

 Yup, that on was a long hull… J What fuels your creative time? Chocolate, coffee, music?

Podcasting fuels my creative time. I scheduled interviews at least once a week and I find that I think about the things I've talked about with guests throughout the rest of the week. Being connected with others. Having a platform to be enthusiastic over their work. Helping others to know their work matters to a much greater audience than they may realize. That is what it's all about for me.

Thank you, Matthew, for joining us. I can’t wait to see more of your podcasts and your future books!

BIO: Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, Maryland. He is the co-founder and content director of, a children’s literature website and more, and host of the All The Wonders podcast, a weekly podcast where Matthew talks to authors, illustrators, award winners, up-and-comers, and everyone in between. Matthew is represented by Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary. For more information, connect with Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewWinner or online at

Concept to Completion: Sales, Publicity, and Marketing

     So after the writing, editing, and art are complete there are magical folks that make book sellers and libraries want to carry your books. The Sales team gets your work out there.

Publicity and Marketing get people interested and curious about your book.  

I imagine they all work their magic around a cauldron, brewing up the necessary trailers, promos, and swag.
Then they spell the book to make it irresistible.

While I was not able to pin anyone down just yet for an interview (the flying monkeys are working on that for me) I’m using this post as a place holder. Then we’ll learn the truth from an insider.