Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Happy Mamas Book Blog Stop -- Author Q&A with Kathleen Pelley #HappyMamas

Disclosure: This blog post is a partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Kathleen Pelley. all views shared are mine and mine alone.

I was so excited to join the blog tour for Kathleen Pelley's new book, "Happy Mamas" as I have been a fan of her books, and the girls and I like snuggling up and reading them at bedtime. And, when I was given the opportunity to interview the author, I jumped at the opportunity. Below you will find my Author Q&A with Kathleen Pelley, as well as more information on her book "Happy Mamas" that mamas and babies everywhere will enjoy reading together. And, be sure to read on until the end as I have a great giveaway where you can win an autographed book and more thanks to the author. :-)

First, here is more about the book...
Written by Kathleen Pelley
Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper
Publisher’s Synopsis:
"Happy Mamas is a lyrical read aloud that pays tribute to the universal joys of mothering in the animal and in the human kingdoms. Charming illustrations depict all the activities that bring joy to a mama and her baby over the course of a day: feeding her little ones bundles of bamboo shoots, teaching her calf how to trumpet loud a jungle cheer, playing peek a boo, watching her little ones fly from the nest, singing a serenade to the man in the moon, or crooning owly lullabies through the deep dark woods. But as the moon glows and the stars shine, what is it that makes all Mamas from desert to jungle, from forest to field, from land to sea happiest by far?
Mamas and babies everywhere will delight in this happy romp – a perfect ode to Motherhood. Perfect for one on one sharing or for use in the classroom. Ages 3-6 Ages 3-6 | CWLA Press | October 10, 2016 | 978-1587601606"
Available Here:
And, now my Author Q&A with Katheen Pelley...

Tell me about your book.  How did you come up with the idea?

For many years I used to run a mother/daughter book club at my home and no matter what story we discussed, whether  it was Tolstoy’s, “The Two Brothers,” or a classic fairy tale such as Jack and the Beanstalk, it seemed we always circled back to this whole notion of happiness.  What was it?  How did our main character find it….or lose it?  Were rich people happier than poor people? These were the kinds of questions we grappled with.
Around this time, I also noticed too that there was a bounty of books on this topic and one of them, The Pursuit of Happiness by William O’ Malley referred to the ancient Greek definition of happiness as the evolving of a soul. This description resonated deeply with me, because of course, happiness is never actually static, but rather continually unfolds and evolves over time, and seems much more connected to the interior life than the exterior life. 

O’Malley also mentioned watching his Golden retriever swimming in a pond to retrieve his ball, and how the dog would literally continue swimming and retrieving to the point of utter exhaustion. Why? Because he was in his element – doing what he was born to do, to swim and to retrieve.
That was my “Aha” moment, because it seemed to me that we humans are born to do two things -to love and to create.  And what can be more loving and creative than – MOTHERING!
I wrote Happy Mamas as a way of exploring the myriad ways human and animal mamas love their babies over the course of a day and to show how mothering and happiness are inextricably entwined.  Any mother will tell you that what she wants most in all the world is for her child to be happy – and that happiness is completely and absolutely related to – GOODNESS – to the evolving of a soul.

How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?

I first fell in love with stories by listening to them on the radio during the BBC children’s story hour, and later my gentle Irish father fanned the flame by feeding me his tales of fairies, leprechauns, and banshees.  So decades later, I was drawn to write in the picture book genre, because these books require beautiful, lyrical, rhythmic language that begs to be read aloud.  Also, I think picture books really distill some beauty or some truth to its finest essence – so that some whiff of wonder or some bolt of beauty should linger with the listener long after that last page is turned or final word uttered – that is the challenge I like to tackle when I sit down to write a picture book.

Favorite authors?
Of adult books – Frank McCourt – “Angela’s Ashes”
. Katherine Boo – “Behind the Beautiful Forever “– best narrative non-fiction ever – set in slums of Mumbai)
  Rohinton Mistry –“A Fine Balance “–set in India too) One of my daughters lived and worked in India for 5 years and so I do have a penchant for novels set in India.
Elizabeth Strout – “Abide with Me.”

Children’s authors – Roald Dahl, E.B. White, William Steig, Sarah Stewart,
Some of my favorite picture books
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl
Amos and Boris by William Steig
The Wild Boy by Mordicai Gerstein
The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart and David Small
The Name of the Tree by Celia Barker Lottridge
Child of Faerie, Child of earth by Jane Yolen and Jane Dyer -a beautiful tale, reminiscent of a poem by WB Yeats, “The Stolen Child.”  The story’s theme addresses the age old human dilemma of yearning and longing for something which you can never have – in this case, neither the faerie child nor the human child can live in each other’s land. As someone who married a “foreigner” and ended up leaving my homeland to go and live in “another land,” I know that dilemma full well! From a storyteller’s perspective – this is an exquisite example of the ideal story – the perfect marriage of picture, text, and that circular quality that we Celts love (when St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, he acknowledged the Celtic love of the circle and so placed it over the cross, and thus we have the CELTIC CROSS) and so the end of this story circles back to the beginning with an admonition, “Be brave be bold be unafraid and join that.
(I offer free online video read alouds and story casts (audio only) from all of my favorite picture books that I have been reading to children at an inner city school for over twenty years) – go to Storytelling.

Typical working day?

Walk dogs for an hour –home, grab coffee and start to write for about 2-3 hours.  I write lots and lots of terrible first drafts, but I have finally accepted that this is just part of the process – I just keep writing until I finally uncover what it is I want to say...  And of course, I always read my work aloud over and over and over again.  It might take 6- 9 months of writing about 2-3 hours a day before I am ready to type it up on my computer and send it off to my critique group.   I also keep a book journal where I jot down notes about my current project – challenges, worries, random thoughts or snippets from other books I have read or chunks of poetry that might relate to theme I am writing about.  Afternoons are spent on marketing “stuff,” emails, setting up school visits, or composing a new power point for an upcoming presentation.  I enjoy speaking to children at schools and to parents and educators about the power of stories in our lives – so just have to maintain a balance between my writing time and my speaking time. Evenings – always like to catch a Zumba class, then walk dogs again, and then relax with my knitting and watching some kind of BBC offering on Netflix!

Where I write?  Kitchen table and at my feet, I have my Golden muses!

Muse # 1 - Isla

Muse #2 – Fergus – sadly we lost him last year, and so we got…
Muse #3 – Fiona

Writing goals?  I don’t have a set number of words or pages as a daily writing goal, but I do try to adhere to setting aside those 2-3 hours of writing time five days a week, but in recent months, with this upcoming book launch, promotional activities have eaten into this writing time. 

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

One of the hardest parts of writing for me is choosing what to write – I have lots and lots of ideas for picture books, but in this glutted market, you really have to think carefully about what is already out there, and what is marketable.  I actually love writing for picture books with longer text and ones that have more of a folk tale feel to them, but alas, these types of picture books do not sell well anymore and so publishers shy away from these.

What is best thing about being a children’s author?

E. B. White, that marvelous children’s author said, “All I want to say in books, all I ever wanted to say, is – I LOVE THE WORLD.  Despite all the gloom and doom we read about on the news, there are still many wonderful things to love in this world and every single day, there are people all over the world, who demonstrate kindness, compassion, bravery, and love.  My job as a writer, is to find little pieces of heaven on earth and write about it – what can be better than that?

What am I working on now?  

Revising some picture book texts that didn’t work first time around and seeing if I can infuse new life into them.  I never really like talking about the specifics of any stories I am working on, because I feel if I talk about a story before it is written, that somehow sucks some of the life out of it…..or maybe I’m just superstitious.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you want to write children’s books – read hundreds of them and read them aloud – and make sure they are good ones – filled with rich lyrical language.
Read poetry aloud and memorize chunks of your favorite poems.
Joins SCBWI.
Find a critique group.
Read Brenda Ueland’s book, “If you want to write.”
Read “The Nuts and Bolts Guide to how to write picture books” by my friend and acclaimed author, Linda Ashman -
Go to conferences and learn your craft.
Set aside an hour or so to write every day.
Remember the adage – it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything – I do not think there is any shortcut to becoming an author and you have to love the process, as along the way, you meet amazing kindred spirits and you learn a lot about this business of living and loving.

What question have I always wanted to be asked in an interview?

Well, I don’t think I have ever actually thought about that before now.  But recently, at a Family Literacy event, a little girl asked me a question that I thought was quite sophisticated for her age, and gave me pause to ponder.  “How do you cope with rejection?”
My first response was –“Badly!”  But I mustered my wits and reminded myself – you are the adult here, you need to come up with something a bit better than that!

So, I think I said something along the lines of:

Rejection is never easy, no matter how many books you have published (well, maybe if you are JK Rowling, it is easier, surely?).  Writing is an act of courage in many ways as the writer is working not just from her head, but from her heart and soul, and so it can be gut wrenching to discover that what you have spent maybe years of your life working on, is just simply not “good enough.”  However, I try to console myself by remembering all those stories that were rejected before my first book was accepted were really the stepping stones to finally being published.  So, just as Aesop’s fable Lion and Mouse, reminds us that no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted, so too, I believe, no act of writing, no matter how often it is rejected, is ever wasted!  Ultimately, everything we write from our hearts and souls helps us to become a better writer and a better person.

And, as promised...


Enter to win an autographed 6 picture book prize pack from acclaimed author Kathleen Pelley. The prize pack includes finger puppets, adorable stuffed animals, and Happy Mamas (illustrated by Ruth E. Harper, illustrator of the NY Times best seller The Kissing Hand).

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
Value: $150.00+

Three (3) runner-up prize winners receive:
  • A copy of Happy Mamas autographed by Kathleen Pelley
Value: $14.95

Giveaway begins October 10, 2016, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends November 10, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

Giveaway open to US and Canadian addresses only.
Prizes and samples provided by Kathleen Pelley.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Kathleen Pelley was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but spent most of her childhood summers playing on her grandparents’ farm in Ireland. Her passion for stories stemmed from listening to them on the radio during the BBC children’s story hour. Later, her gentle Irish father fanned the flame even more by feeding her his tales of fairies, leprechauns, and banshees.

So much did Kathleen love stories, that off she went to Edinburgh University and earned a degree in HiSTORY. She didn’t much care for all the facts and dates and numbers, but how she loved the stories of Rasputin, Napoleon, and Bonnie Prince Charlie! One character in particular captured Kathleen’s imagination—Florence Nightingale. After completing her degree, Kathleen studied to become a children’s nurse, but it was a brief and disastrous dalliance. For much as Kathleen loved children, she did not like to see them sick and suffering. However, decades later, Kathleen now sees herself as a kind of a nurse, because she believes that stories can heal the hurts in our hearts.

As a former elementary teacher, Kathleen enjoys sharing her passion with people of all ages. She has been a regular speaker at Regis University on “Nurturing a Passion for Stories,” makes frequent presentations at schools and conferences, and has been telling stories at an inner city elementary school for the past 20 years. She believes that one of the best ways to teach our children empathy is through stories that help them “walk a mile in another man’s moccasins.” When she’s not reading, writing, telling, or listening to stories, Kathleen enjoys knitting, Scottish music, and hiking with her husband and two Golden Retriever dogs along the trails of sunny Colorado.



Ruth is a self-taught English artist who fancies herself as a spiffy writer-in-the-making. She is the illustrator of #1 classic The Kissing Hand and Sassafras, and Happy Mamas is her 3rd book for CWLA. Powered by dark chocolate, she heartily knits stories together with letters, pencils and paintbrushes. She is often snatched up by breezes and colors and pint-sized things like rocks, leaves, shells, bugs, feathers, and creatures. You may also find her gardening, hiking, wildly dancing, and riding her bike really fast in an odd looking helmet. She now breathes easy in Iowa with an adorable husband, a dog, two cats, and six marvelous kids between them (with handfuls of grandbabies!). See her art at

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