Remarkable Finds

Critterkin is activating young readers in a whole new way

Final Kindness Quilt - Paper1

Jena Ball, author of the children’s CritterKin Book Series, is taking the way kids read and interact with her stories and characters to a whole new level. As part of the “CritterKin Be Kind” project, Ball has been working with 43 third graders from Bellevue Elementary School’s summer reading program, not only fostering literacy in children, but also imagination by taking her books and turning the themes into a tangible expressions of kindness called the “CritterKin Kindness Quilt.”

During the three week program, Ball has helped these children to experience, learn about, and use kindness. Not only did the kids have read an entire book, they also created three versions of a ”CritterKin Kindness Quilt” (paper, fabric and digital) while blogging and writing poetry about their adventures, as well. In a grand finale today, the children will be performing the last chapter of the book as a play . The play will be open not only to the  local Bellevue, Nebraska community, but to the entire world as well. Since technology has played a huge roll in the project, the play will actually be mass broadcast for anyone to tune into on a custom Google Hangout.

We sincerely applaud all of the effort that has gone into this initiative and hope that you will consider joining for what promises to be a wonderful, giggle filled celebration of 43 terrific kids and  their work:

WHEN: Friday, June 20th at 1:30 pm (CST)
Google Hangout: Visit this Google+ Page for the link:

To learn more about the book, Lead With Your Heart,  that inspired the program and the play, please visit the CritterKin books page:

To see how you can start your own “CritterKin Be Kind” project, visit the CritterKin “Be Kind” page:

Meet NaNoWriMo Accelerator Author: Laura Harris

What first motivated you to write a book?

I’ve been writing stories as long as I remember, probably since I was about six or seven and I realised people write the books I loved to read, so I could write them too. This book in particular was originally prompted by lyrics to the song ‘Demons’ by Imagine Dragons and developed from there into my NaNoWriMo 2013 project, which I was desperate to win after failing miserably in 2012.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge about the writing process?

I think the main problem I have is staying focused on writing and not getting pulled away by the rest of life. It’s why NaNoWriMo is so helpful because it offers motivation and gets me into the habit of writing. Every year it rolls around and gives me a kick to start writing and stop procrastinating.

If you could offer an aspiring author any piece of advice, what would it be?

Find other writers. Through school/university, a local writing club, NaNoWriMo – it doesn’t matter how, but find people who you can discuss your story with, who will understand why you’re tearing your hair out over a runaway character, who you can write with so you don’t leave a story alone for months on end.

Tell us a little bit about your book…who should read it and why.

The basic premise is that sixteen years prior to the start of the book, human-dragon politics reached breaking point for various reasons, and dragonslayers won. To save themselves from extinction, dragons fled their bodies and hid their souls in human hosts. This book is the culmination of that. The presence of two souls weakens the human body and is slowly killing them off, meaning the dragons can’t hide any more. There are two main characters; Giselle, an orphaned gold smuggler who’s grown up with a voice in her head, and Corran, the youngest son of a dragonslayer desperate to prove himself. Read it if you like dragons. Read it you like sword & sorcery fantasy (although there’s less of the sorcery in this, magic is limited to dragons). Read it if you like coming of age stories. And hey, read it even if none of those things is your normal reading preferences because why not try something new?

Why did you chose to write in this genre?

I’ve always liked the escapism of fantasy and the concept of magic. The majority of my bookcase and DVD collection involves magic or the supernatural of some kind, so it’s just natural to write more of that.

Has writing and completing a book been the experience you thought it would be?

The writing part is normal, I’ve been doing it for so long. Completing something is just a matter of writing day after day, week after week and staying motivated – and then editing. The editing a book to completion is what I’ve never quite managed before and it is a lot more work than I expected. There are so many parts to it (plot, make the reader keep reading, improving the writing itself) and it takes just as long as writing the book. It’s been a great learning experience though.

What has been the biggest surprise so far in your author journey?

The work that goes into marketing a book. Going into it alone is much more difficult than I imagined and there are so many things to consider like social media, cover design, promotional materials. Just having a book out there isn’t going to do anything – you need to make sure people know about it.

Will you write another book?

Of course! For one thing, I need to wrap up Giselle & Corran’s story in the final Firesouls book, but I could never stop writing for too long. The story ideas pick at my brain until I’m opening a new document and start typing away.

Is there anyone you would like to thank who helped or supported you?

To avoid repeating the acknowledgements already in the back of my book which is several paragraphs long: thank you to every single person who encouraged me in writing over the years, and everyone who gave me advice and/or criticism because that helped me improve.

Meet NaNoWriMo Accelerator Author: Alyssa Fisher

Fisher_FINAL_pdfToo Far Gone by Alyssa Fisher. A story about three teens who are destined to stop the apocalypse and save the world. –

Too Far Gone by Alyssa Fisher. A story about three teens who are destined to stop the apocalypse and save the world. – See more at:
Too Far Gone by Alyssa Fisher. A story about three teens who are destined to stop the apocalypse and save the world. – See more at:

What first motivated you to write a book?

I’ve loved reading my entire life and that love of reading turned into a love of writing. I’ve always especially had an interest in the paranormal. A lot of research into mythological creatures gave me ideas of different characters and situations. This, in turn, motivated me to write about these characters and tell their stories. I love being able to introduce these characters to the rest of the world and share their journeys.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge about the writing process?

To me, the biggest challenge about the writing process was forcing myself to write. There were many days where I was just too busy or not in the mood to write and even more days where I consistently thought to myself “This is awful, why am I even continuing?” The hardest part was pushing myself through that and forcing myself to write, even just a little bit a day. And eventually, things started taking shape. Without pushing myself, this book would never have been completed.

If you could offer an aspiring author any piece of advice, what would it be?

One piece of advice that I would offer to an aspiring author is to just keep writing. Even if you think that what you’ve written isn’t good enough, just keep going. Write everyday, even if it’s just a little bit. One paragraph, one sentence, even just one word.

Tell us a little bit about your book…who should read it and why.

My book is about three teenagers: Brady, Riley, and Gabriel who are demon hunters. Together, these three must fight demonic forces that are taking over in order to stop the apocalypse. Anyone who is a fan of young-adult books, the paranormal and mythological, or just a fan of reading in general should read this book. It’s a fun and entertaining book that everyone should be able to enjoy with some mythological aspect as well.

Why did you chose to write in this genre?

I chose to write in the young-adult genre because I think it’s interesting how major events (such as an upcoming apocalypse) can shape and change what the character will be like in the years where most people discover who they are. I love finding out how major events can change the future path of a character and how they learn to deal with these events. I wrote in the paranormal genre because I’ve already been interested in the paranormal and mythological. I’ve researched into a lot of mythological creatures and find the subject fascinating.

Has writing and completing a book been the experience you thought it would be? Why or why not?

Writing and completing a book was much harder of an experience than I thought it would be. When I first starting writing I had no idea how difficult it could be. I sat down with the idea that I would just write and the perfect words would come to me. Instead, there were many days where I sat staring at the computer screen, desperately trying to come up with what would happen next to my characters. Later, editing the book was even more difficult as I parted with words that I loved that just couldn’t make the cut. At the end of it all though, there was a huge sense of satisfaction in my work and relief that it was finally finished which made everything worth it.

Will you write another book?

I will definitely write another book. I have a few books in mind for a continuation in the world I made with this book. I also have other ideas in mind with different characters and different worlds that I want to write about as well.

Is there anyone you would like to thank who helped or supported you?

I’d like to thank my family for always supporting me. It was my parents who got me interested in reading and later into writing. My mother specifically pushed me to continue writing as it was something that I loved to do. Without that belief in me, I’m not sure I would’ve ever finished anything.


Join Lulu’s new crowdfunding page

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 1.08.17 PMNeed funding? Crowdfund Your Book With Lulu and Pubslush

Crowdfunding, not only presents a unique opportunity for authors to raise funds for their projects, it also can help to collect preorders, market your book before publication, and build and engage with your audience. Even if you may not need money for publishing, a crowdfunding campaign may be a beneficial option for you.

Lulu is now offering authors the opportunity to crowdfund through the Lulu Crowdfunding Page, powered by Pubslush.

Why crowdfund your book?

  • Raise funds. One of the most obvious benefits of crowdfunding is that it allows authors to raise funds for their publishing costs. Producing a quality book is essential to stand out in the book market, but can get pricey. Crowdfunding helps authors to mitigate the financial risk and burden of publishing.
  • Collect preorders. Reward based crowdfunding allows authors to create rewards that supporters receive in return for their financial pledge. The most obvious reward is, of course, the author’s upcoming book. The reward model gives authors the opportunity to collect preorders from a broad network. Who doesn’t want to start selling books before publication?
  • Drive traffic to your book before publication. Marketing efforts need to start well before a manuscript is published, but it’s difficult to talk about a book that hasn’t come out yet. A crowdfunding campaign provides authors with a landing page to drive traffic to that encapsulates them as an author and their upcoming book. Marketing before publication just became easier.
  • Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 1.03.32 PMBuild a lasting connection with your readers. Authors are often left in the dark as to who actually purchases their book when it’s bought on popular marketplaces. With a crowdfunding campaign, authors have complete access to their supporters. Every successful campaign receives advanced market analytics to better understand their audience. Additionally, campaign supporters have more access to authors with the ability to provide feedback and build buzz around the book that can be used for future promotional efforts.
  • Share readership with other Lulu writers. Your campaign will gain visibility to other Lulu writers and their readers. As the community grows, so will the number of possible supporters for your campaign.
  • Continuous discoverability. Successful campaigns will live forever on Pubslush and the Lulu Partner Page. Once an author publishes, they can add the links to where their book is being sold to their project page. This will continue to drive traffic to the sales of their book post-campaign.
  • Risk free. There’s no fee to start a campaign. Pubslush only takes a 4% platform fee at the end of every successful campaign. This process is completely contract free J
  • Personalized Service. The Pubslush team provides personalized service to all authors on’s Crowdfunding Page. Have the power of the pros on your side for your crowdfunding campaign.

To get started, sign up at Pubslush using the promo code Lulu to receive The Guide: Tips To Successful Crowdfunding and join the Lulu Community today!!

Lulu Celebrates the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Movement

Earlier this week, we posted about the growing #WeNeedDiverseBooks Movement, which is drawing world wide attention to the need to have more diversity represented in children’s literature. As part of this movement, we’d like to highlight some of our favorite Lulu children’s books that celebrate diversity.

I am a Big Girl by Estella Johnson

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 1.32.45 PMThis charming story follows the daily fun of a toddler who believes she is a Big Girl. From dentist visits to finding new friends, this is a great story for young children about growing up.



Dakota’s Easter Wish by Vasilisa Hamilton

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 1.42.28 PMMore than anything, little Dakota wants to win Pleasant Mount Sunday school’s Easter egg hunt. Indeed, she was the only child who had never won. Dakota’s Easter Wish is the humorous but touching story of how a child’s quest for a prize leads to a “malodorous” outcome.


The Lion’s Share by Said Salah Ahmed

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 2.04.21 PMA Somali-English Bilingual Children’s Picture Book. The hungry animals of the Somali forest have worked together to kill a big fat camel. Now they must decide how to divide it. Will the portions be equal? Not with the lion in charge! Read this popular Somali fable and see why, as the other animals come to understand, “the lion’s share is not fair!”

The Pink Monkey by Kari Wells

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 1.59.41 PMThe Pink Monkey is a fun and engaging tale about the misadventures of a little monkey hero who teaches everyone around him a valuable lesson about tolerance and acceptance of others.




I’ll Find a Way by Irma Y. Luna

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 2.01.03 PMI’ll Find A Way is an inspiring non-fiction story of Alejandro’s perseverance and inner strength. This book will inspire and encourage young readers who are facing any type of disability in their lives to follow their dreams no matter how great the obstacles.





CritterKin, National Teacher Appreciation Week, and Saying Thank You

As the school year comes to a close, it’s time to pause and thank the people that have some of the biggest impact on our lives…teachers.

This week marks National Teacher Appreciation Week, a time for all of us to express gratitude to those who have not only molded our minds, but provided us with inspiration, direction, guidance, and confidence.

Today, we want to shine the spotlight on the amazing work of author and illustrator, Jena Ball. Jena, a consummate animal lover and former teacher, wanted to develop a series that taught children the importance of kindness and compassion. The result: CritterKin Book Series. Her books are designed to teach children that animals (critters) are family (kin).

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.51.24 AMThe CritterKin books have been especially inspirational for young students and teachers have been reaching out to Jena, asking her to present to their classes. Momentum for this movement has grown. Jena now collaborates with teachers all over the county on project-based learning campaigns (check out the video on the right to see highlights). Entire schools are now getting involved and working on projects to teach kids the importance of emotional intelligence while incorporating core-based learning skills.

Our never-ending gratitude goes out to people like Jena, and teachers all over the world who work hard to ensure a brighter future for today’s younger generation.

Take some time this week, remember the key teachers in your life that went the extra mile, took elevated interest, and generally worked to see you succeed not only in your studies, but in your life. And say thank you.



#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Join the conversation

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 1.06.37 PMRecently a group of authors launched a social media campaign to raise awareness around the significant lack of diversity in children’s literature. These authors, including Ellen Oh, Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher, hope to bring this issue to the forefront of people’s minds.

To put it plainly, we couldn’t agree more. There is a true need for diversity in the books we read to our children. As they learn and grow, exposing young minds to the vast and varied cultures across the world will help foster respect and recognition in the value each of our beliefs and customs offers. It is up to all of us as independent authors and storytellers to share our experiences with the world as a way of exposing others to our cultures.

So far, we have fallen short of achieving this goal. A 2012 report conducted by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that only 3.3 percent of children’s books published in the previous year were about African-Americans, 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans, 1.5 percent were about Latinos and a mere 0.6 percent were about American Indians.

Clearly, there is a true call for us to take action and write. As Johannes Neur perfectly captured in her blog post for the NY Public Library, “literature has the power to instantiate universal human truths through stories told around the globe, across gender lines, and from varying religious perspectives.” Think of Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and – one of my personal favorites – Zora Neale Hurston. They all had beautiful and powerful stories to tell and with each one, they opened our eyes to a world we may have otherwise never known. At times their books would make us smile, while at others we’d share the pain and emotions of the characters they created.

The We Need Diverse Books Campaign began last week with a plea to the public to visit the project website where they are asking readers to take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because …”. Check out the submissions so far, and we encourage you to join the conversation and use your networks to bring awareness to this movement. Simply tweet your support using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. You can also follow @diversebooks for ongoing updates.

It is our duty to celebrate this diversity so that the next generation can see themselves in their books and develop their own self worth and love of literature. Share your stories however you are able. If you need a platform for your voice or a little help along the way, we are here to support you.

Start writing and share your experiences and culture. Tweet us to let us know you’re helping us make a difference or post a picture of yourself with your book (or your favorite) to show the rich diversity among independent authors.