Friday, April 17, 2015

Free Book Friday: The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book

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It's a Free Book Friday to honor Earth Day next Wednesday! Enter to win The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book, written by Kari Cornell with photos by Jennifer S. Larson.


Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Become a gardener in any season with these fun and easy projects. You don't even need a garden space—many of these activities can be done by planting in containers to set on a porch or a patio or even in a window. Try your hand at growing potatoes and strawberries. Plant bright flowers that attract butterflies, birds, and bees. Learn how to get daffodils to bloom in the winter! You can even make your own compost. 


Colorful photographs and simple step-by-step drawings make each project easy to follow for gardening success. Ready to get your hands dirty and your garden growing?
If you'd like to win  The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book, please leave a comment on this post (including your first and last name), or tweet this line: "Free Book Friday! RT to win THE NITTY-GRITTY GARDENING BOOK from @LernerBooks.  bit.ly/1OrSN"

We'll announce the winner on Friday, April 24, so check the blog then to see if you've won!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meet Alix Reid! [Part 1]

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We'd like to introduce the new Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab editorial director, Alix Reid! She officially started last week and was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for us. We're posting part 1 (about her editing experience and background) today; part two (about her favorite books, hobbies, and life in Chicago) will go up next week.



1.      First, give us a bio!

From the moment I could read, I always had my head in a book, and imagined I would be the next E. B. White or E. L. Konigsburg. But after earning an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College, I started working as a children’s book editor at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) and realized this was my true calling. I began my career as an editorial assistant, and during fourteen years at Harper worked my way up to become editorial director and vice president. I’ve also earned graduate degrees from Michigan and Harvard, and worked as a freelance children’s book editor while raising my daughter in Chicago.

2.      How did you get into editing?

After I graduated, I opened up the newspaper to look for a job in editing. There were dozens of jobs but my eye immediately gravitated to the editorial assistant job at Harper. Through my late teens and twenties, my secret passion was to read middle grade and young adult novels, and I couldn’t believe there was actually a job where I could edit these books! I thought I bombed the interview—I was so nervous I had to take the typing test twice—but I must have done something right, since I was offered the job the next day. I started working first for the legendary Marilyn Kriney, and then for Kate Morgan Jackson, who has been the editor-in-chief for over a decade.

3.      Name some notable books that you’ve edited.

My very first acquisition was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I loved the novel from the first, and remember running into Kate’s office saying we had to acquire the book right away. It went on to win the Newbery Honor and remains one of my favorite books of all time. I also edited Louise Rennison’s hilarious Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging series about the irrepressible Georgia Nicolson; the first book in the series won a Michael Printz Honor Award. That said, there are so many books I worked on that hold a special place in my heart: Julianna Baggott’s The Anybodies (written under the name N. E. Bode), Cynthia Rylant’s God Went to Beauty School, and A. M. Jenkins’s Out of Order and Damage. What I love about all the books I’ve edited is not only that they’re wonderfully written, but that they feel fresh and different, and have something important to say to their audience.

4.      What have been some of your favorite projects?

During my tenure at HarperCollins, I took on the role of director of foreign acquisitions. This meant I got to read the wonderful books being published in the UK (and elsewhere, but mostly the UK) and introduce them to a US audience. It was so exciting to meet my UK counterparts and I’m particularly proud of having acquired the Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng and The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver.

5.      What else would you like Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab readers to know?

One of the things I’m so excited about in joining the Carolrhoda team is their commitment to publishing only the best books. They keep their list small and no book is considered “mid-list.” Each author is nurtured not only by his or her editor, but also by the design team, the publicity and marketing team, our foreign rights director—essentially, the whole company helps publish each book. In addition, Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab have embraced working with new authors and publishing books that break boundaries—no topic is off limits. This philosophy speaks deeply to me, and I look forward to growing the list and staying true to its mission.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Author Hot Seat: Amber J. Keyser

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We were lucky enough to get Amber J. Keyser, author of Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes and The Way Back from Broken (coming October 2015), in the author hot seat! Below are her answers to questions about her favorite books, her writing process, and the first book she ever authored (teaser: the cover was crocheted!). 


What was your favorite book you read growing up?

Hands down, it was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. Ive probably read it thirty times. Oh, how I love Reepicheep! Close on the heels of this book comes My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I always wanted my own Frightful.

What are some of your favorite childrens/young adult books that youve read recently?

Okay for Now  by Gary Schmidt, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Rollergirl by Victoria Jamieson, Nation by Terry Pratchett, and Ill Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

Who are your favorite contemporary fellow authors?

I cant believe you are making me choose! That is a very cruel thing to do to a reader!

Right now Im still gushing over Gary Schmidt. I admire the subtle ways he allows his characters to reveal deep emotional truths. A. S. King does this too. The writing of both Jandy Nelson and Laini Taylor has a pell-mell, technicolor intensity that I love. Nancy Farmer is a bomb story-teller, and she can do anything from survival stories in Africa to Vikings to alternate reality drug dealers.

Why did you start writing?

Before I was a writer, I was an evolutionary biologist. These might seem like really different jobs, but at the core, they are the same. Im an observer. I want to understand how the world works and what makes people tick. Doing science and writing books are both ways to do this.

What are the hardest/easiest parts of writing for you?

The hardest part is when I let myself get emotionally invested in all the parts of the writing business that are out of my control: reviews, book sales, contracts, awards, etc. The easiest part is committing myself whole-heartedly to the story. That is what matters most.

How do you gather ideas for your books?

Ideas are easy. They are everywhere for the gathering. The trick is getting enough ideas to glom together into a book. Anything that interests me gets added to a list in my GTD software (The Hit List) called Book Ideas. Right now it has 28 entries including horse genetics, bronc-rider George Fletcher, and something called The Doom Dimension. For the current book, several of these ideas developed a magnetic attraction and BOOM! Suddenly there was enough bubbling out of the explosion to make a whole novel.

Do you have a writing routine?

As soon as my kids get on the bus, Im at my desk. I take 15 minutes or so to glance at my email and check in on Twitter (@amberjkeyser) then I open Scrivener and get to work. When drafting, I try to hit 1,000 words before I take a break. When revising I try to work for at least three hours. Break time usually means a walk in the forest with our new puppy, Gilda. After lunch, I buckle down for another two hours.

How do you deal with self-doubt or writing blocks?

When the writing gets tough and Im agonizing over every word, I have to ask myself what kind of stuck am I experiencing. Am I struggling because my batteries are depleted and I need to take care of myself? Or is it hard because writing is painful and I need to keep trying? When it is the former, I go for a run in the forest. Otherwise, I stay at my desk and remind myself that even if what I write isnt great, I will fix it in revision.

Sneaker Century and The Way Back from Broken are really different books. How do you manage to write both nonfiction and fiction?

For me, writing any book requires the same things: free-flowing nonlinear creativity, deep research into the core elements of the story, detailed to-do lists on how to execute the plan for the book, and disciplined, grind-it-out time in front of the computer. They may occur in different proportions, but the ingredients are always the consistent. No matter the book, I have the same tasks: find the right structure to tell the story, create a voice that makes you want to read on, and bring the world to life with details you can sink your teeth into.

Do your kids influence your writing? If so, how?

Sometimes I write about very difficult subjects. You might assume that I would steer away from the edge for fear of what my children will think, but the opposite is true. They need me to be brave, incisive, and above all, deeply honest.

Tell us something we don't know about you!


My very first book, penned in 2nd or 3rd grade, was called Anatomy of a Bruise. I remember one particular illustration that I was very proud of. It depicted the inevitable consequences of an apple falling off a table and smacking the ground. Another showed a time lapse series of a bruise healing from purple to greenish-yellow to gone. Also, I crocheted the cover with orange and turquoise yarn. Clearly, I was a yarn bomber way ahead of my time!


Pick up Sneaker Century today, and look for The Way Back from Broken and another blog post from Amber this fall. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Amber!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I <3 Robots!

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Do you guys remember those robotic vacuum-cleaner commercials from several years back where customers enthuse, “I love robots!”? Well, allow me to geek out here for a minute, because I really do love robots. I was an early adopter of the vacuuming robot, and, several model upgrades later, I can’t imagine life without this little floor-cleaning miracle machine. I can’t see myself ever going back to an upright.

16858 My love for my own little household robot is just one reason why I was thrilled to work on our Robots at Home book (cover pictured). In addition to vacuuming robots, this book covers all kinds of techno-wonders that make our day-to-day lives easier, such as:

· floor-scrubbing robots, which render mops totally unnecessary

· pool-cleaning robots—because who ever dreamed of spending a perfectly lovely day scrubbing off a swimming pool’s grimy floor and sides?

· lawn-mowing robots. These little robotic helpers just might even convince me to move into a home with a lawn someday (because, let me just tell you guys, that’s never gonna happen if it’s me who has to do the mowing).

· alarm-clock robots, which launch themselves right off your nightstand and roll around on the floor, making noise until you get out of bed to turn them off   

· therapy robots, which keep people calm in stressful situations and can provide comfort to senior citizens in assisted-living settings

In addition to the marvels named above, Robots at Home covers many other types of household robots and talks about the exciting robotic developments that scientists are working on now. If this book doesn’t make a robot lover out of you, then…well…I just might trade in my vacuuming robot! (Then again, maybe not.)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Baseball Really IS Fun!

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This time of year always gets me nostalgic about going to baseball games with my dad. Every now and then when I was growing up, we’d jump in the car, head to the Metrodome, and settle in with some popcorn or an ice-cream cup and watch the Twins try to win one for Minnesota. What with the energizing music flowing out from the stadium speakers, Homer Hankies flashing red and white in the stands, and that certain sense of community that comes only from enjoying a game with fellow fans, it was always a special experience.

13067 And here’s the thing: I’m not at all a natural sports fan. In fact, if my dad hadn’t taken me to Twins games, I probably never would have discovered that I enjoy baseball at all. That’s the way with a lot of things in life, I find—if we don’t get early exposure to them, we may never come to appreciate them.

That’s why I was so excited to edit Baseball Is Fun! (cover pictured). This book exposes the youngest readers to the ins and outs of baseball. From the game’s rules and special equipment to what a baseball diamond looks like and the skills needed to play, all the bases truly are covered in this early reader. It’s my hope that Baseball Is Fun! just may lead a kid to discover his or her own love of baseball—even if (and perhaps especially if) he or she never makes it to a live game.