Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

NerdCampMI JR


I am lucky to live about 90 minutes from where NerdCampMI happens. This year, I was able to attend the Junior event.  My group got to meet Jarrett Lerner, Janet Tashjian and Hena Khan. Plus we heard Dav Pilkey and watched a draw off with Jerzy Drozd, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Judd Winnick and Travis Jonker.

The best part is meeting the authors and illustrators! I get nervous but it is my favorite part. Plus sometimes they recognize me first! You should attend these events because there are a lot of fun authors. A lot of the kids were super excited for Dav Pilkey and that is cool to see. I am not a huge fan of him but I was excited to hear from an author open about his ADHD. Yea – that is important for kids to hear especially kids with ADHD (like me).  Meeting authors makes books more real – you can learn more about how they got their stories together and even more fun, they introduce you to other authors.

Fun fact: my library asked me to read Kara LaReau‘s Bland Sisters, which I loved and interviewed her. From getting to know her, I found Jarrett Lerner and Debbie Michiko Florence.

My book pile has grown again, just in time for vacation.

I also met kid booktuber, Snazzy Reads, in person.  I like meeting kids like me who read and share about it. We just added a page to my blog to keep track of the “Cool Kids” I find out about.


Posted in Illustrators, Meet the authors

Meet Karen and Darrin

So, for starters we are totally amazed at your website and the intelligence and charisma that you have for your age, Bridget! We think your love of books and reading is so wonderful.


1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read? 


Not really, and because of I didn’t enjoy reading, I wasn’t doing very good in school. That was until I had a teacher who gave me a Nancy Drew Mystery Series book. After that, I developed a passion for reading, which has continued through this day. Since then, I just can’t read enough – too many books, too little time.

2. Who was your favorite author or what was your favorite story?


When I was young, it was Carolyn Keene of the Nancy Drew Mystery Series, who we now know was not really Carolyn Keene, but several different ghost writers.

Today, I love reading so many different types of books, that I really can’t pick one author. But of course, Dr. Suess will always be one of my favorites, and Shel Silverstein, and I like other books written by comedians (Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Tina Fey) and biographies.

3. How do you get your book ideas?

I always wondered about myths – aliens, Bigfoot, Champ. When I initially had the idea about myths, I started researching them, and that’s’ when I was hooked. If found it so odd and mysterious that so many people actually say they saw alien spacecraft, or that they saw Bigfoot, so I just had to write about it. And, at the time I started our series, our son Mick was ten, and I decided he would be the perfect main character for the book.

4. Is it hard to work together or does it help the process?

That’s a great question, and a lot of people wonder how a married couple work together – but since we have worked together since we did comedy together, it is actually a lot of fun, and yes, for us, it does help the process. We know that at times we might have different ideas for the art, but we can always laugh about it – and that is the key to getting through anything in life.

5. Why did you become an author and illustrator?

Karen: I was originally a copywriter, and wrote for radio, magazines, etc. Also, when we did comedy, although it was improv, we would write sketches, too. Years ago when Darrin was illustrating children’s book covers for other people, we decided  to do our own children’s books – especially since we love sharing our creativity and humor with children.

Darrin: I had been drawing since I was very little. I always loved creating art. I was working at a creative agency – which I still do now, I’m the VP of Creative for Helloworld. With Karen being a creative writer, and with my art, and our comedy background, it really seemed like the perfect mix for us to do our fun, scary humorous books for children.

6. What authors and illustrators do you like right now? Any recommendations on lesser known ones for kids?


Karen: I have so many that I love, it would take up your whole blog! I have always been a fan of many of the famous ones…But, there are so many wonderful local authors I enjoy reading, that are just as fantastic as famous writers and illustrators. My suggestion is to go to the Michigan section in the bookstore, or your local library and ask for Michigan authors. It’s amazing how many wonderful books are out by Michigan people.

7. Any advice for kids who want to be an author or illustrator?


Karen: To start with you have to have it in your heart – whether you want to be a writer or an illustrator, you have to have passion for it. You have to practice, a lot. Which means you have to sit down and do it, even when you don’t feel like it. As an author, you should also read as much as you can. And, go different places, see different things – to help your imagination grow (museums, parks, plays, etc.). Keep a journal with you so that you can take notes when you see things that inspire you. Also, have fun, laugh, and don’t take your writing or yourself to seriously, that way when you sit down to write – you can make it something fun. Oh, and practice – did I say practice, well yes I did…PRACTICE, a lot, and don’t judge yourself.

Both Darrin and I read lots of books on writing and artwork. We spend so much time in bookstores and libraries (they are some of our favorite places).

8. Do you like hearing from readers? What do you like about it?


We love hearing from readers! It is our favorite part of our writing and illustrating. Especially when we do school visits, because if we are inspiring children to read, write and draw, and of course laugh – then we have accomplished our job.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

• Author website/social media: Twitter: @jtbigelow Instagram: @authorjamilah

• Tell me a little about yourself: I am an African American Muslim woman from Philadelphia, PA. I am married with two sons. I work for Mighty Writers, a nonprofit that provides free writing program for youth ages 2 to 18. I am also a new children’s book writer. I love children’s literature. My favorite types of kidlit to read are picture books and YA fiction.

• When you were my age, did you like to read? I’m not sure how old you are but I’m going to say yes because I can’t really think of a time in my life when i didn’t enjoy reading. I’ve always liked reading stories but as a little girl, I even liked reading newspapers even though I didn’t understand what I was reading. I liked trying to read difficult words and the feel of them on my lips.

1 What was your favorite story? I fell in love with a book when I was in 4th grade called The Shimmershine Queens by Camille Yarbrough. It’s not exactly well known but it was probably the first time I read a book about girls who had lives similar to mine and that made me feel good about myself.

2 How do you get your ideas? My kids give me lots of ideas and so do the kids I work with. Sometimes, I simply sit down and make myself start writing even if I don’t have an idea. Eventually, an idea will come.

3 What author do you really like right now? Right now, I love all things Jacqueline Woodson.

4 Do you have any new or lesser known authors or illustrator you would suggest? Look for Ashley Franklin in 2019. She has some pretty impressive work coming out including her debut picture book, Not Quite Snow White.

5 There is a lot of talk about the need for multicultural books. What do you think about this? I think we need to keep talking about it. There are still so many unheard stories and so many people who are not represented in kidlit. The quality of kidlit has improved with addition of more diverse voices. Let’s add more.

6 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author/illustrator? I would say read, read, read the types of books you like–the ones you wish you had authored. Then, imitate. Try to write your own version of that work. Try to recreate that art–again and again. Recreate and then put your own twist on it. Nothing will teach you more than imitating the artists who have already done it.

7 As an illustrator/author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? A little bit on social media. I am new so I don’t have many readers yet, but it does feel worthwhile when someone tells me how much they love my work or how my work made an impact on them.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Zac Gorman


– When you were my age (9), did you like to read?

I did! Like a lot of kids in the 90’s, I remember reading a lot of Goosebumps starting maybe around first or second grade. Early on, I was mostly into fantasy and horror stuff, as well as comics. Lots and lots of comics! I loved superhero stuff, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side. It was also around that time that I first read The Hobbit which really started my love of reading longer books.

What was your favorite author or book?

The first adult novel I read when I was about your age was Jurassic Park and it was a revelatory experience. I loved the book (although, in retrospect, I think I like the movie more) but the thing it taught me was that I could read pretty much any book I wanted! I still loved kids books—and I still do!—but the realization that I could read essentially any book in the library really opened up the world of reading to me, so it was very special for that reason.

how do you get your story ideas?

Everything is a mash up of the stuff I love. Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain has a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in it, a lot of Terry Pratchett, and little bits from all the fantasy and comedy that I enjoy. I think that you learn about telling stories by absorbing stories, then you take what you’ve learned and mix it all up in the blender of your brain. You analyze it, think about it, sleep on it, and hopefully a delicious book smoothie comes out the other end.

is it hard to write a book?

Yes and no! I’d have to assume that it’s hard to write a good book, which is why I recommend that most people instead try to write something that they enjoy. Writing a “good” book is next to impossible but writing something you enjoy isn’t nearly as difficult! It does still take a while though.

what authors do you like right now? Any lesser known ones you can recommend?

He’s not unknown but I always wish I’d gotten into Terry Pratchett when I was younger. Currently, I’ve been reading a lot of China Miéville and Clive Barker. Barker’s known for his adult horror writing but he also wrote a very underrated YA series called The Books of Abarat that’s packed with a ton of cool, imaginative ideas.

what is the best part of being an author?

Spending your days writing, reading and researching and getting to call it work!

What do you use to complete your illustrations?

I draw almost entirely digitally, on either my Cintiq or iPad. I usually draw in Clip Studio or Procreate but occasionally I still use Photoshop too.

any advice for a kid who wants to be an author?

The obvious advice is to write a lot but I hate to be too obvious, so I’ll say that you also need to consume a lot of stories. And I don’t mean just reading either! Obviously, if you want to be a writer, you need to read a lot, but also you need to watch TV and movies, play video games, read comics. And when you do, don’t just consume these things passively, think about what they’re trying to say, about how they’re saying it. Think about what works when you watch or read something. Think about what you like about it and what you didn’t like and how you’d do things differently.

– If you could portal into any of your works, which would you portal into?

This is probably the most boring answer ever but I like where I am! I put too many monsters into my books and if I’m being honest, I’d much rather write about monsters from the safety of my comfy office than have to confront them in a dark alley.

Posted in Illustrators, Meet the authors

Meet Chad Sell

I am @chadsell01 on Twitter and Instagram, and the official CK account is @thecardboardk on IG and Twitter.

When you were my age (9), did you like to read?

Yes! Although I read all kinds of things, I was obsessed with comic books! I would eagerly seek out the comics section in every book store (if they even had them) and beg my parents to take me to comic shops whenever we took trips!

What was your favorite author or book?

Since I was such a huge comics nerd of the 90’s, my favorite comic was probably Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men!

how do you get your story ideas?

I think a lot of my writing naturally emerges out of whatever it is I’m thinking a lot about. But it can be hard to take those big ideas and make them into a story! It takes me a long time to work through different options for a character and many drafts of a script. Sometimes I get stuck on something, or I don’t know how to resolve part of the plot. Most of my breakthrough moments are during long walks that I take to clear my head!

is it hard to write a book?

Yes! Very! That’s why I had a team of ten writers to help me with The Cardboard Kingdom!

what authors do you like right now? Any lesser known ones you can recommend?

Oh wow! Well, I still read a lot, so I have several recommendations. I loved The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. One of my biggest author crushes of the past several years is on Leigh Bardugo – I love all the books in her two different Grisha series! And Molly Ostertag wrote the wonderful graphic novel The Witch Boy.

what is the best part of being an author?

Being an author can be very difficult. It can also be very lonely! But the best part is seeing my work spark a reaction in another person – whether it’s my editor, my collaborators, or the kids who read it!

What do you use to complete your illustrations?

Most of my work is done digitally. I have a desktop computer with a tablet monitor hooked up to it, which allows me to draw right on the screen! I use a program called Clip Studio Paint – 99% of my work on The Cardboard Kingdom was done with that software!

any advice for a kid who wants to be an author?

Creativity is wonderful! If you are a creative person, you should treasure that about yourself. You should seek out opportunities to develop your craft, but you should never expect perfection. Don’t let your own self-criticism or the negativity of anyone else keep you from making what you want! The important thing is to keep developing as a person, an artist, and an author. You are capable of great things!

– If you could portal into any of your works, which would you portal into?

That’s a good question! Although I love all the kids in The Cardboard Kingdom, I feel like I already live in their world of creativity and cardboard. Especially since I see so much of them in their creators, whom I get to chat with all the time! Maybe the world of THE CLOUD ( because it’s about a cloud who becomes an adorable superhero, and I think he would be a great friend to have.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the Author: David LaRochelle

David LaRochelle author photo 2014
Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m a former fourth grade teacher. I’ve always loved writing and drawing. While I was teaching, another teacher convinced me to send one of my stories to a publisher, and that became my first book, A Christmas Guest, which was published 30 (!) years ago. Even though I loved teaching, I decided to focus full time on writing and illustrating, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I still visit many schools every year to talk to kids about books, writing, and drawing, so I guess I haven’t left teaching after all.
When you were my age, did you like to read?
I’ve always loved reading. I couldn’t wait to start school so that I could learn how to read. During the summer, I always loved taking part in our library’s summer reading program and keeping track of how many books I had read.
What was your favorite story?
When I was in early elementary school I loved any books by Dr. Seuss. I also loved Beverly Cleary’s books about Ramona, Beezus, and Henry. When I got to 5th grade, my favorite books were the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and the “Magic” books, starting with Half Magic, by Edgar Eager.
How do you get your ideas?
That’s the question I get asked the most and I wish I had a good answer. I can get my ideas from anywhere. The idea for my book The Best Pet of All came from a writing contest where entrants were asked to write a children’s story in 500 words or less. The idea for my my book Moo! was that I wanted to see if I could write an entire story using only one word. I have lots of notebooks where I doodle and jot down ideas. I will look through these notebooks and get an idea for a story from something I jotted down months, or even years ago.
What author do you really like right now?
I admire the creativity in so many of Mac Barnett’s books, such as Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. And I think Andrew Clements does a great job of writing realistic fiction stories about elementary age kids, such as Frindle and The School Story.
Do you have any new or lesser known authors or illustrator you would suggest?
Both Rick Chrustowski and Mike Wohnoutka (who has illustrated several of my books) are wonderful authors and illustrators. John Coy writes both picture books, middle grade novels, and books for young adults.
There is a lot of talk about the need for multicultural books. What do you think about this?
Everybody should be able to see themselves represented in the books that they read. I also think it’s important, not to mention interesting, to read about people who are different than us. I think it’s great that there are more and more books with a diverse range of characters.
What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author/illustrator?
It may seem simple, but the two most important things that anyone who wants to be an author can do are read and write. Reading is a great way to learn the structure of stories, increase your vocabulary, and get ideas…and it’s also a lot of fun. And without practicing writing, you’ll never get better. I know a lot of adults who say they want to be an author, but they never write anything. I’d also encourage young people to not worry about getting published now, but just enjoy writing for its own sake; you can worry about getting published when you are older.

For young illustrators, my advice is similar: draw as much as you can. Also, look closely at illustrations by other people. You can learn a lot simply by noticing how other people draw.
As an illustrator/author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
One of the reasons I enjoy visiting schools so much is that it gives me the chance to meet kids who are reading my books. Most of my time is spent alone when I’m working on a book, so it’s wonderful to find out that people are actually reading my stories. When kids tell me they enjoy my books, it energizes me and makes me want to keep writing.

If you could portal into any of your works, which would you portal into?

If I could portal into any of my books, I would choose to visit Arlo’s ART-rageous Adventure, a book that I both wrote and illustrated. In the story, the pieces of artwork in the museum come to life in unexpected ways. I’d love to visit a museum where the people in the paintings talk to each other, the statues dance, and the animals leap out of their frames – although it might be a little frightening depending on what comes alive.

I wonder what book you would like to portal into, Bridget?


Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author/illustrator: Dan Dougherty


Website/social media

Tell me a little about you: I’m a writer and illustrator of comics and children’s books, probably best known for my comic strip Beardo. I live near Chicago with my wife, daughter and son.

– When you were my age (9), did you like to read? I loved to read! My library card was my best tool, I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins and anything dinosaur related.
What was your favorite author or book? Definitely Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. My mom would hand me one of those books when she needed me to chill for a bit so she could get some work done! It explains a lot!
– how do you get your story ideas? With Beardo, I just pulled directly from my life experiences. With some of my more scary comics, I try to think of things that would be scary if I were the character!
– is it hard to write a book? It’s hard if you’re writing about something you don’t know about. When I find myself stuck, it’s usually because I need to learn a little bit more about the context of what I’m writing.
– what authors do you like right now? Any lesser known ones you can recommend? I really enjoy Bodie Troll by Jay Fosgitt. It’s an all ages comic about a troll who wants to be feared but is too lovable and cute to be taken seriously. (Bridget note: Me too!)
– what is the best part of being an author? When someone connects with something you wrote.
– I met you at a Comic Con. What is that event like as an author? It’s great! You get to see all your fellow artist and author friends, and meet the people who have read or will read your work. I always look forward to comic con!
– any advice for a kid who wants to be an author? Read as much as you can! You might not enjoy every book you read, but there’s a lesson in everything. Maybe you don’t like a story, ask yourself why it isn’t working for you. Maybe you love a story, so can you explain why it works so well? Take things apart and see how they function, and then go write your own!

final strip full.jpg