Aug 31, 2012

Author Interview: Greg Bancroft

Greg Bancroft is a father, a grandfather, and an avid baseball fan. Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, Greg and his friends spent a lot of time outdoors, playing baseball nearly every day in the summer. Over the years, he has followed teams in parts of the country where he and his family have lived, and his debut children's book, Betsy's Day at the Game (out this April), mirrors many of his own experiences at the ballpark with his family. In the book, his main character Betsy, goes to a baseball game with her grandfather and is eager to show him everything she has learned about scoring a game. Exciting things happen as she fills in her scorecard, but the most exciting event happens when one of her favorite players hits a foul ball right into her section!

A love of baseball really comes across in this book, and after talking to Greg for a little while, you can't help but share his love of the game.

1. What brought you to writing? And what made you decide to write books for children?

I have been writing for decades. As a perennial student writing countless papers; as a pastor writing countless sermons; as a teacher writing any number of class outlines, I have been writing most of my life. I have kept journals for years and am now writing frequently in separate journals for my grandchildren (thoughts, life-insights, reports of their activities that their parents don’t have time to record). It’s natural for me to write books for children because I am constantly telling stories. My kids and I would make up stories before bed. We would tell stories while taking long road trips. We would tell each other our dreams (or nightmares!). I love exercising my imagination and including my listeners, children or adults, in the process.

2. Where do you find inspiration for writing?

It’s just in me. It’s a part of who I am. I write and tell stories as a way to help me organize my thoughts, or work out a solution to a particular problem, or entertain others. Also, I am a voracious reader. I always have been. I read anything and everything, even cereal boxes. I just love words. Of course, not all my reading is necessarily enjoyable. Some, I just have to do (like email). Good writing, fiction or non-fiction, however, is such a passion of mine that I fear I might go crazy if not surrounded by books and the written word. I am also something of an introvert, in the sense that I live in the world of ideas. I love to ponder. I get energy from being able to think, dream, and wonder. Although I love being with people, and am naturally gregarious, I can be depleted by a crowd. Books help me re-charge.

3. One of the important themes in Betsy’s Day at the Game is family. Did you model any of the characters after members of your own family?

I did. The little girl is modeled after my daughter. She is and has always been a very strong, capable girl. Athletic. Smart. Open to fun and new adventures. She was the kind of girl who would dig up earthworms to go fishing, not minding the fact that she was chipping the fingernail polish off her tips. Catching the foul ball from her favorite players is modeled after my son’s experience of chasing down a ball from one of his favorite players.

4. Another great thing about the book is that it comes with a scorecard so that children can learn to keep score along with Betsy. Who taught you how to score baseball games? Is it something that you have taught your children and grandchildren as well?

Aug 29, 2012

Puppets at the Minnesota State Fair!

Here in Minnesota, the State Fair, or the "Great Minnesota Get-Together," is a pretty big deal. For two weeks at the end of the summer, millions of people flock to the fairgrounds in St. Paul for rides, exhibits, and good old-fashioned deep-fried food on a stick. Walking around, you'll see a lot of interesting things, but this year, one thing you might just come across is a giant fat cat puppet made by Nalah and the Pink Tiger author Anne Sawyer-Aitch. "Every once in a while, a really fun assignment walks in the door," Anne said, "This bad boy is made of papier-maché, muslin, and bubble-wrap, and requires four people to operate him. It took about 60 hours to complete."

So if you're in the Midwest―and heading to the fair before it ends on Labor Day―see if you can find fat cat! And if you do, snap a picture and send it to us!

Aug 22, 2012

Author Event: Bob Macdonald at Barnes & Noble

In a blog post last week, we discussed author events and what we think about when we're planning readings/signings for our authors. Last night at the Barnes & Noble Galleria in Edina, MN, we had an event with Knives on the Cutting Edge: The Great Chefs' Dining Revolution author, Bob Macdonald, and Star Tribune Taste editor, and author of the cookbook Come One, Come All, Lee Svitak Dean. It turned out to be a great event, with a lot of interesting conversation between Bob and Lee about the changes in dining over the last 20 years, sustainable food, what makes a great restaurant, and how to begin developing a palate for find food and wine. (Hint: Just show up and eat! Oh, and bring friends: food is meant to be shared, after all.)
Here are a few of the pictures from the event. To see more, you can visit our Facebook page. And if you were there, please let us know what you thought and make sure to tag yourself in the pictures.

 The books. Most of them were gone by the end of the event!

Bob and Lee's Q&A session
The audience listening intently to Bob
Signing books at the end of the discussion session

Thank you to everyone who came out--and to the Barnes & Noble Galleria--for making this such a successful event!

Aug 16, 2012

Thinking Outside the Box: Scarletta Press Events

We're a small indie publisher, so it's important that we use the motto "think outside the box" to guide all our marketing (e.g., events, social media, etc.). In Monday's Publishers Weekly Shelftalker, Josie Leavitt discussed "What Makes a Good Event?," and that had me thinking, what kind of outside the box thinking have we done to reach that "good event" status?

It's the common case with all book events that you most likely won't get what you expect. Book stores, libraries, and other venues graciously welcome our authors in, so a good chunk of promoting the event and the store is up to us. When determining events or setting up any type of event, we ask ourselves a few simple questions:
     1. What can we do that's outside of the
        box or special for this event?
     2. What is the incentive for consumers to attend this event?
     3. What connects consumers to this venue?
     4. How can we creatively reach consumers who frequent the venue & those who
        do not?

Something that Leavitt said in her post really stuck out to me (because it's true!)

"What publicists and authors need to understand is that not every event is going to a crush of hundreds of people. But having a good event means that the folks attending will remember you and your work. They will tell their friends about how wonderful it was to meet you and talk to you about your work. And most importantly, they will now become loyal fans who will not only buy your books, they’ll give them as gifts."
So what can we do to draw those good consumers in?

Aug 10, 2012

Reviews for The Ice Castle

The official release date of Pendred Noyce's newest Lexicon Adventures book was only yesterday, but already the praise is piling up! We're so excited that everyone is loving this book as much as we do that we thought we would just highlight some of the lovely things people have had to say.

In a 4-star review, Marilyn at Compass Book Ratings said:
"THE ICE CASTLE, the second book in the Lexicon Adventures series, has many necessary ingredients that would entice young readers, i.e. adventure, fantasy, family member who don't get along, social commentary and a unique emphasis on music....Young adults will recognize that it reflects the real world they live in and will be able to see the social implications." Read the rest of the review here.

Teresa Bateman from Keen Readers said:
"There are puzzles to solve, traitors to catch, and friendships to forge. This is a well-written, thoughtful fantasy book that addresses issues of equality while providing interesting musical insights. Besides, it’s a great adventure!" You can read the rest of the review here.

And Denise LeBlanc, Director of Learning Experiences at The Discovery Museums called The Ice Castle:
"a beautiful symphony in which Ivan, Daphne, and Lila face various challenges and come to learn about themselves, one another, and human nature. This beautifully orchestrated book will delight and captivate readers of all ages."

You can find The Ice Castle: An Adventure in Music on, Barnes&Noble, or through your favorite independent bookstore on IndieBound. Happy reading!

Aug 8, 2012

Author Guest Blog: Robyn Parnell

Robyn Parnell is the author of The Mighty Quinn, a middle grade novel being published by Scarletta Junior Readers next May. But long before she started writing The Mighty Quinn she was volunteering in a creative writing group at her son's school in Hillsboro, Oregon. It was during that time that she not only met the children who would later become role models for characters in The Mighty Quinn but where she met a boy who would challenge her to find an interesting story in a town where supposedly nothing special ever happened.


Darers Go First

By Robyn Parnell
Can Zorgon the Magnificent speak truths without betraying secrets? Is it clever or cowardly for a Herculon Sentry to passively resist persecution? Should the Galactic Council's actions be dependent upon mitigating circumstances or unwavering doctrines? Must the Zirconium Raider Queen fight for every noble cause, or carefully choose her battles? Can Solarian Seekers cultivate new allies without discarding the Old Ways?
Max* was the most precocious of the students in the creative writing group I'd been asked to lead at my son's school. He incorporated universal themes into his character's dilemmas, but refused to cast those characters in our universe. His stories were situated on faraway planets in distant galaxies. While I saw nothing particularly wrong with specialization, for Max, space was the final, and only, frontier.
He was the first student to read his stories aloud, and the last to recognize that his critiques of the others' recurrent topics ("Dude, your villains always die in fiery crashes!" "Alyssa, another stray Rottweiler looking for a home?!") also applied to his own works.
Although the students had been chosen for the group due to their creative writing aptitude, they initially, rigidly, followed what I privately called the preteen's "anyone but us/anywhere but here" directives of storytelling:

1.) Protagonists must be extra-normal; ideally, super beings with super powers (Rottweilers included)

2.) Stories must take place "somewhere else" – another time, country, dimension, galaxy – in order to be interesting.
As the weeks passed and we discussed SCAC vitals (setting, characters, action, conflict), the students alternately supported and challenged each other through character matrixes and plot exercises. Few events in my writing life have been as rewarding as hearing a ten-year-old author's epiphany: "There's no suspense when mega-brave, mega-smart, mega-powerful characters get mega-fast solutions to their mega-big problems." (Yessssssssssss! They said it, so I don't have to!)

Aug 3, 2012

Read and Dine with Bob Macdonald and Lee Svitak Dean

Join Bob MacDonald (local foodie and author of Knives on the Cutting Edge: The Great Chefs' Dining Revolution) and Lee Svitak Dean (Star Tribune Taste Editor & author of the cookbook Come One, Come All) as they discuss the rise of celebrity chefs, the healthy eating movement, and other trends in the food industry. Hors d' oeuvres will be served - catered by Broders' - and there will also be a special treat made by Lee! Planning on attending? Let us know by joining the event page on Facebook, and make sure to share the event with your friends! See you there!