Check This Out: Yoga Frog

With me on the blog today is one of my wonderful classmates from Vermont College of Fine Arts—the awe-inspiring Nora Carpenter. Nora is here to talk about her picture book for young readers, Yoga Frog, which debuts today, people!

 

Nora is represented by Victoria Wells Arms. Yoga Frog was published by Running Press Kids and was illustrated by Mark Chambers. Nora also is the author of Yoga Frog: Reflections from the Lily Pond, which was written for adults and published in April (also illustrated by Mark Chambers). Check it out here. One of you will be given a copy of the Yoga Frog picture book for for young readers. Stay tuned after the interview to find out how. (Or skip ahead if you so choose. But you won’t be given any cake.)

Let’s talk to Nora!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Nora: 1. I grew up in rural West Virginia, where my closest neighbor was a mile away. I loved roaming the woods, but the distance from people was also challenging because I’m more extroverted than introverted.
2. I’m passionate about the environment and conservation, so I’m a super active board member and incoming president of the Friends of the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, where I now live. The Nature Center is an AZA-accredited zoological park that cares for animals that either couldn’t survive in the wild or are part of species survival and management programs.


3. I’m a Suzuki-trained violist, though I’ve been known to fiddle on occasion. 
4. I have three kiddos, ages 4 months, 3-1/2 years, and 6 years. I am . . . busy. And need to practice lots of yoga and mindfulness. LOL.

El Space: How did Yoga Frog come to be?
Nora: I’ve been practicing yoga since the early 2000s and became a CYT—certified yoga teacher—back when I lived just outside DC. I taught both adult and children’s classes, but I really fell in love with teaching yoga to pre-K kids. At that time, there weren’t a lot of quality materials for teaching yoga to young children, so I decided to write the book I wish I’d had as a teacher. It turned into a collection of yoga poems for children, and my graduate reading at VCFA included some poems from that collection. Several years later, a fellow alum who loved the poems went on to work for Running Press Kids, the publishing house that approached me about writing the book. I had never let go of the dream of introducing the healing world of yoga to kids through literature, so of course I jumped at the opportunity!

El Space: How long did it take to write? What was the path to publication for Yoga Frog?
Nora: Once I found the right framework, it didn’t take me super long to write, because I’m a yoga teacher and have had a yoga book idea for years and years! But like everything I write, the book went through numerous drafts. The first draft was a story about a little frog who learns yoga from Yoga Frog, whereas the final draft ended up as nonfiction with Yoga Frog as the sole character. Maybe one day I’ll revisit and reshape that original story. But I think Yoga Frog is definitely a better teaching tool in its final form.

Illustration by Mark Chambers

El Space: The illustrations are great! What was it like working with the illustrator, Mark Chambers? How much input did you have in regard to the illustrations?
Nora: Aren’t they adorable?! I’ve only met Mark virtually, because he lives in the UK, but he’s incredibly talented and kind. He made a Yoga Frog activity sheet for me to use at presentations, which was just so nice. And I LOVE the way he brought Yoga Frog to life. I viewed numerous versions of the illustrations and poster, including preliminary pencil sketches. My input included minor changes to the character’s body position to make sure Yoga Frog was clearly and accurately modeling each pose. Oh, and once I noticed that on one page he didn’t have eyebrows. LOL. But really, Mark did such a great job that I didn’t need to make too many suggestions. Also, he taught himself animation, which you can see in the Yoga Frog book trailer.

   

Book poster. Lemony Limes especially loves the resting yoga pose.

El Space Note: I wanted to feature the book trailer. But this post went live before the book trailer went live. You can find it online.
El Space: In 1935, famed author Margaret Wise Brown said, “A book should try to accomplish something more than just to repeat a child’s own experiences. One would hope rather to make a child laugh or . . . lift him for a few minutes from his own problems.” Would you agree? Please explain. What do you hope children will take away when they read Yoga Frog?


Nora: I absolutely agree. I designed the opening lines of Yoga Frog to help kids identify with Yoga Frog, but also to set a fun tone that will, I hope, take them away from their own problems for a bit. I also hope that the book gives them a fun, accessible way to manage those problems and stresses, which is why the poses have kid-friendly names in addition to their Sanskrit names. If kids have fun practicing yoga, they’ll want to do it again. And again. And again. Before they know it, they’ll have developed a life-long healthy habit that they can practice anytime they feel anxious or need a little mental or physical boost. The book includes an Author’s Note for parents with more explanation of yoga’s benefits for kids.

   

Left photo is Nora teaching an interactive presentation of the book at the Greensboro Bound Literary festival. Photo on right shows Nora’s sons.

El Space: Based on what you’ve learned in writing Yoga Frog, what advice would you give to a newbie picture book author? Why?
Nora: That’s a big, important question. Definitely READ current picture books, of course. Lots of them. And write. Constantly and ferociously. The longer I write, the more I understand the necessity of looking fear in the face and tackling your project in spite of it. This applies to all kinds of writing. Heck, any creative endeavor really. If you’re like me, there’s always that inner critic nagging at you: What if I’m not writing this story the right way? What if no one likes my idea? What if—heaven forbid—I make a mistake? To the best of your ability, tell those What Ifs where they can go. You’re going to make mistakes. You must. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not writing enough, and you’ll never uncover the rich ideas beneath them, the ideas that wouldn’t have emerged if it hadn’t been for those previous mistakes. Oh, and get yourself a writing group whose members will both give you honest, constructive feedback AND boost your confidence when you need it.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Nora: I’ve got a couple projects up in the air, but my primary writing focus right now is my next young adult novel.

El Space: Thanks for being my guest, Nora.
Nora: Thank you so much for having me, Linda! Always great to chat.

Looking for Nora? You can find her at her website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Looking for Yoga Frog? You can find it at your local bookstore or online at Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com., and Indiebound.

One of you will receive a copy of Yoga Frog just by commenting. That’s right. Comment below and you’ll be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on June 11. Why then? Because another classmate is coming on the blog soon. That’s right. I’m hosting two giveaways!

Now, free cake for everyone! It’s gluten free!

Author photo, book cover, Nature Center sign, book illustration, and yoga photos courtesy of Nora Carpenter. Author photo by Chip Bryan Photography. Yoga Frog illustration by Mark A. Chambers Book birthday image from romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com. Goodnight Moon cover from barnesandnoble.com. Cake from goodtokmow.co.uk. Lemony Limes photo by L. Marie. Lemony Limes Shoppie doll is a registered trademark of Moose Toys.

Check This Out: Warlord of the Forgotten Age

Hello! Happy 2018!

One of my favorite ways to celebrate a new year is to host a giveaway. With that in mind, on the blog today is the awesome Charles Yallowitz.

Those of you who have followed me for a while have seen many posts featuring Charles’s books from his Legends of Windemere series. Well, today he’s here to talk about the final novel in the series: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. Let’s celebrate with Charles by talking with him about this milestone in his series.

Cover by Jason Pedersen

   
El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Charles: 1. I was born premature and required two blood transfusions before I could finally go home. Been told that my head was shaved to allow for the wires and sensors they put on me. Part of me wonders if this introduction to the world is why I have such a visceral fear of needles. It’s to the point where trying to give blood can result in me fainting.
2. Pizza is my favorite food and I use it as a reward for hard work. I don’t get it for myself when I’m working on a project. Once I’m done, I pick a day where I go to the local pizza place and get a few variety slices. My favorite is a Rigatoni Ala Vodka slice.


3. According to my parents, I was given a Gonzo (The Muppets) prototype plushie when I was a kid. The story goes that a family friend in the business suggested they test their upcoming plushie line on me. She showed me the toys, but I was upset that there was no Gonzo. This led to me getting a Gonzo toy a few weeks later with a cape and this soft plastic nose. I chewed that part up a lot and always shared my gum with him, so any value was pretty quickly destroyed.
4. I used to have a habit of watching an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion when I was depressed. To explain, I get blue and down periods a lot if I’m under a lot of stress. No real urge to do anything and I can’t find a real source of the gray mindset. So, I’d put this anime on, which is strange because it can get really dark and depressing itself. Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t really a happy, pick-me-up series, but I kept watching it for some reason because it made me feel better.

El Space: In completing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson said on his website:

I’ve reached the end of the journey and set down my burdens. It’s wonderful, relaxing, and solemn all at once. I love the Wheel of Time. It’s also great to be done.

What are some of your thoughts at the conclusion of your series?
Charles: Wow, I feel like I need a cool quote like that now, but I keep feeling like I’m at a crossroads instead of an exit. Legends of Windemere has been a part of my life for so long that it feels weird knowing I no longer wake up to working on it. Yet the survivors can show up in other adventures. I spent a lot of time planning future series. I keep saying that it’s bittersweet when I write about it, so that’s definitely the best word. Is it great to be done like Sanderson said in his quote? I wouldn’t say it’s great, but I definitely feel proud about making it to the end of such a big adventure for both my characters and myself. Guess just like with the champions, I have to accept the ending and move on too.

El Space: Your series began almost twenty years ago. Looking back at your initial vision for the series, did it come out the way you envisioned it? Why or why not?
Charles: Since this was based on a D&D game, the vision was always a little fluid. Yet the initial version is very different from what I came out with. Merchant of Nevra Coil, The Mercenary Prince, and Path of the Traitors weren’t part of the original idea. Those stories stemmed from me seeing some characters who were interesting, but underutilized. On a more detailed level, the character relationships stayed pretty much where I expected them as far as the champions themselves. I stumbled onto various secrets and surprises as I wrote, which changed the vision and world building slightly. Mostly, it involved how magic and various cultures worked since this series was also designed to set the stage for future series.

    

Covers by Jason Pedersen

I always wanted to have a lot of action, humor, and entertaining characters to draw my readers into the world. I think that’s stayed relatively stable while the pieces have changes and morphed over time.

El Space: Without giving any spoilers, which character(s) was/were the most surprising to you in their development? Why?
Charles: All of my characters have thrown me curveballs from time to time. But the reigning champion has to be Kira Grasdon. It might be weird to pick a supporting character, but the surprising part of her development is that she had any in the first place. Way back when, she was a nameless blonde in the background of Beginning of a Hero. Then she got the name Linny and became a mouthy character in one chapter. At some point, I decided she would be better as a decoy for something and gave her more scenes. Things rolled with her proving to have more sparks with Luke than his original lady love from the game and the entire Bor’daruk culture was created around the newly dubbed Kira Grasdon. So, she’s a nameless figure that managed to grab more and more attention in every edit until she became an essential player. The series wouldn’t be what it is now without her even though I know she’s ruffled a lot of reader feathers over the years.

Kira illustration by Kayla Matt

El Space: Who will you miss writing about the most? Why?
Charles: Luke Callindor will probably be missed the most. He was my character in that D&D game, so there’s a closer bond between us than with the other champions. It was always very natural for me to write his scenes and dialogue, which might stem from me being him for so long. There will be a few other characters like him in other series, but Luke could be considered my first surrogate. That and I always felt like I could do more to him than the other characters without feeling as much guilt or getting in as much trouble.

         

Luke illustration by Kayla Matt; cover art by Jason Pedersen

El Space: What advice do you have for newbie authors who’d like to try their hand at a fantasy series?
Charles: Since we’re talking about series specifically, I would advise that new authors put a lot of attention on continuity. World building is very important to fantasy, so you need to make sure your magical systems, cultures, monsters, and everything else are consistent. It’s hard to keep track of after a few volumes, so developing a system of notes is highly recommended. Readers are very quick to point out inconsistencies in the world, so never be afraid to go back in the series to make sure you’re keeping things the same.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Charles: My next series is going to delve into the world of the Dawn Fangs, which are the day-walking vampires of Windemere. It will reveal their origins and the vampire civil war that ensued between them and the old worlds. Right now, it’s looking like nine books at most, since this is going to be another foundation series for Windemere. Aside from War of Nytefall, I have a one-shot spinoff of Legends of Windemere that I plan on publishing next summer. So, I’m planning on staying fairly busy, even if I take it a little slower in January. Maybe just focus on outlines during that time.

Thanks, Charles, for being my guest!

Looking for Charles? You can find him at his blog, Twitter, Facebook.

Warlord of the Forgotten Age can be found on Amazon. But one of you will win a copy of this book. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on January 15, 2018, along with the winner of another book you will hear about soon!

Warlord of the Forgotten Age cover and author photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Legends of Windemere cover art by Jason Pedersen. Character art by Kayla Matt. A Memory of Light cover from Goodreads. Rigatoni ala vodka pizza image from gfcookiesxo.blogspot.com. New Year image from happynewyear2018photos.net. Finale image from grandbanktheater.ca. Neon Genesis Evangelion image from taringa.net.