Kid lit author Robin Newman is a great friend of KidLit TV. She was a guest on our original show Read Out Loud and is a supportive community member in our online social groups. So, we were more than happy to make her our Featured Member this month; to let parents, teachers and kids know which path she took to become an author. Let’s start sleuthing!
We know a ton of kids who want to become authors when they grow up, what made you decide to become an author?
This is a long story. You may want to grab a seat and a snack. Do you like carrot cake?
Once upon a time, I was a miserable attorney. That’s miserable with a capital M. One day, I quit. And while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, aside from eating my way through the chocolate éclair section of my favorite bakery (it wasn’t pretty), I ended up becoming a legal editor. As an editor, I loved the creative work, writing the blurbs and marketing materials, but it wasn’t until I was pregnant that I truly got the writing bug.
After my son was born, my husband encouraged me to take a writing class—my first writing class. I signed up for a children’s fiction writing workshop and as soon as I walked in, I knew I had found my people.
I love writing for kids!
What are some activities you do with your books that parents and teachers can use at home or in the classroom?
The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake is an early chapter book detective mystery about two hardboiled mouse detectives. They are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators, and in their seminal case they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. The book is perfect for introducing children to the mystery genre, and in particular, the detective mystery:
- Who are the characters? (detectives, suspects, witnesses, victim(s)),
- What’s the problem/crime?
- Where did the problem/crime take place?
- Who are the suspects and what are the clues? Red herrings?
- Can you crack the case?
Some activities include:
Join the MFI and make a detective badge.
Read The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and chart each potential suspect’s name and evidence for or against a suspect’s guilt.
Have a mystery visitor run into the classroom and take an item. What did the visitor take? What was the visitor wearing? Recall any other details? Chart the class’s results.
Discuss what evidence is and the various ways detectives collect evidence. Take fingerprints with non-toxic paint and mug shots of potential suspects, or create wanted posters (include picture, case no., date, location).
For more activities, download The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake teacher’s guide.
Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep is a fractured fairy tale about a witch whose quiet neighborhood has been turned upside down with the sudden noisy arrival of the big bad wolf, old lady living in a shoe, and other fairy tale characters. What does poor Hildie have to do to get a good night’s sleep?
Some activities include:
Discuss your favorite fairy tales. What do they have in common? What is a fractured fairy tale? Do you have any favorites? What do they have in common?
Find as many fairy tale and/or nursery rhyme characters (written and/or illustrated) as you can in Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.
Write and illustrate your own fairy tale or fractured fairy tale.
Make a Hildie Bitterpickles paper doll and work on a word puzzle.
For more activities, download the Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep teacher’s guide.
If you had to give kids advice about being an author what would you tell them?
Read. Write. Rinse and repeat.
Just like riding a bike, writing takes time, patience, and lots of practice. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be as a writer. Reading goes hand-in-hand with writing. Reading introduces you to new worlds, different writing styles, and gets your creative juices going when you’re stuck and need inspiration.
Rewrites and more rewrites. Does rewriting the word “rewrite” count as a rewrite?
Most writers don’t get it right the first, second, third or maybe even the 100th time. Don’t expect your early drafts to be perfect.
Be open to criticism.
Nobody likes to hear a story that he or she has worked on for months or years still isn’t working, but sometimes criticism can point you in the right direction and improve your work.
It’s part of the job. Even published writers, including J.K. Rowling, have gotten rejections. But, as you become a stronger writer, you will notice that the rejections get better and some are very encouraging. Just keep going.
If you end up becoming a writer, especially a writer of children’s books, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s the best job in the world.
Our audience is parents, teachers and of course kids! If you had to make one of your books into a play which one would it be and why?
Such a great question. I’d love it if ALL of my books could become plays or animated cartoon series. (A little fantasy of mine. A writer can dream.) But if I had to choose one, I would pick The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. The text is principally dialogue and could easily be adapted as a script. And I could totally see it as an interactive play with audience participation. As soon as the audience walked in the theatre, they would receive their MFI detective badges, notepads and pencils, and would work with Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold to help interview witnesses and potential suspects, pick up clues, follow up on leads, and ultimately help the detectives crack the case. Moreover, after the play is over, Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold could sit with the audience and open it up for questions and answers, and maybe some carrot cake too!
We know you’re big on kid lit swag! What do you usually bring to your classroom visits/book signings?
I love giving away goodies to the kids. And I enjoy thinking up good promotional giveaways to accompany my books. (I’d list some of them here, but I like to keep an element of surprise for the kids.)
And I love, love, love visiting or Skyping with schools and talking to kids about books and writing!
If I’m doing a school visit, aside from bringing a bunch of swag, I have two Powerpoint presentations:
My first presentation focuses on The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and is primarily geared for first through third grade and discusses my road to publication, what happens when a publisher acquires a book, and introduces kids to the mystery genre.
My second presentation focuses on Hildie Bitterpickles Needs her Sleep and is primarily geared for kindergarten through second grade. In my presentation, I discuss my road to publication and introduce kids to the genre of fairy tales and fractured fairy tales.
Each presentation is accompanied with craft projects.
All of my school visits and author appearances are free. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than getting kids excited about reading and writing. If anyone is interested in having me do a school or Skype visit, or an author appearance, please contact me via email at [email protected].
Tell us a little more about your exciting journey as an author!
It took me about eight years from start to finish before I finally held a copy of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. That translates to:
or 417 weeks 3 days,
or 2,922 days,
or 70,128 hours,
or 4,207,680 minutes,
or 252,460,800 seconds,
But who’s counting?
In 2012, I signed with my incredible agent, Liza Fleissig at the Liza Royce Agency. In 2013, Liza sold both The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep to Creston Books. I am grateful beyond words to both Liza and my amazing publisher and editor at Creston Books, Marissa Moss, who took a chance on my mouse detectives.
I have two more books coming out. The first, The Case of the Poached Egg, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books), is the second book in the Wilcox & Griswold series. Poor Henrietta Hen’s egg, Penny, has been poached. The question is has she been poached as in boiled, or poached as in stolen. To find out how Wilcox and Griswold crack the case, stay tuned for spring 2017.
The second, No Peacocks! illustrated by Chris Ewald (Sky Pony Press), is a feathered tale of three mischievous peacocks on the hunt for a taste of the world’s best mac ‘n cheese. The story was inspired by Phil, Jim, and Harry, the three mischievous peacocks, who reside on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. No Peacocks! flies onto bookshelves fall 2017.
What do you think parents, teachers and kids will find the most useful at KidLit TV? What do you like most about us?
I love that KidLit TV gets parents, teachers, librarians, and kids of all ages excited about reading, writing, illustrating, and books! Where else can you learn how your favorite author finds rewrites to be really hard work, or that your favorite illustrator draws with fountain pens, or that when your favorite author gets stuck writing a story she talks it out with her dog? (Okay, I confess. That last one was me. Meet Madeleine. She’s a great listener … especially when you feed her cheese.)
In this day and age, where kids are bombarded with electronics (my own child included!), it’s wonderful that KidLit TV is a resource to help children explore the world of books.
At my first school visit, one of the kids came up to me and said, “You’re the first author I ever met.” KidLit TV makes it easy to bring authors, illustrators, and books to kids. What could be better?
Now that you know more about Robin and her books, be sure to get your copies today to continue the adventures!
A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake – When food goes missing on Ed’s farm, Detectives Wilcox and Griswold do what it takes to track down the thieves. In this case, Miss Rabbit’s carrot cake has disappeared. Has it been stolen? Or eaten? Or both? Who dunnit?
Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep – Hildie Bitterpickles is a witch who needs her sleep. Her quiet neighborhood has been turned upside down with the sudden arrival of the old woman in her shoe, big bad wolf, and other fairy tale characters. What will Hildie have to do to get a quiet night’s sleep?
WATCH ROBIN’S READ OUT LOUD EPISODE HERE!
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