Books by Rose Rosie Russell Children's Books Author Illustrator
How long have you known you wanted to be an artist? In other words, how did you get started? 

   Always!! Came from a family of artists so I have drawn for as long as I can remember!
Tell us what you use to create your paintings. 

   My first love is pastels. I have used other medium in the past, but come back to this.
Do you have a favorite theme?

   My very favorite is paintings for and about children.
Paintings of family relationships and childhood memories. Also peaceful paintings geared for adults.
I love being out in nature

For artists starting out, what suggestions would you have for them? 

   It's important to just keep putting your work out there, let it be seen. The more artwork you create, the more comfortable you become in creating your artwork.

Here is a wonderful write up on Laurie's Esty page:
Art for Kids and Their Grownups by LaurieShanholtzer 

   Paintings of family relationships and childhood memories. Also peaceful paintings geared for adults.

   A unique feature is that each artwork can be personalized as a print. This means you can add family or friends names, their hair color and a saying or verse especially for the recipient.

   My primary career had been as a portraitist. I have literally done hundreds of portraits, Including 3 for USA Senator Evan Jenkins. Portraits has never been my first love; I now paint what I love.

   A third generation artist, my family members include my grandfather, the nationally recognized muralist, Vincent Maragliotti, (example: Philadelphia capitol dome), Aunt Iris Guarducci, a Pulitzer prize winner in portraits and my mother, Gina Tetzlaff, a prominent New York dress designer and portraitist. You can read more if you care to in the “about” section in Etsy and “ABOUT THE ARTIST” on my website.

   Please  take a look at Laurie's artwork on the links below.  There are pastel paintings, along with reproduction prints. The prints are on lovely canvases in many sizes, as well as on all cotton art paper. Also invitations and cards using my art.

Thank you for your time Laurie! Your art is beautiful!








   Allow me to introduce to you a special author I met awhile back, Jennifer Milius! 
Jennifer is also a Motivational Speaker and a Radio Host!
    Welcome Jennifer and thank you for this interview!!

How long have you been writing children's books?

   That’s a great question! Although I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a young child, I started writing children’s books during the summer of 2011. The first story I wrote was actually the third book I published, Einstein & Moo and the Quest for the Catnip. It went through several iterations while I also worked on the first two books of the series, Einstein and the Leaf and Moo and the Case of the Mistaken Identity.

What inspired you to start writing them?

   First, let me tell you a little about the two characters, as they are our family’s real-life brother and sister tuxedo kitties, Einstein and Moo.  We adopted them in 2009 when they were about three and half months old.  They have brought our family so much joy! They are loving, sweet, and curious, but they have very different personalities. Einstein is quite talkative and will talk even more when it is close to mealtime; sometimes, he will play fetch.  Moo squeaks more than meows, and she loves to hide underneath the coffee table and wave one paw at your feet, like the monster under the bed.

   It originally started as a creative outlet to make up stories from their perspectives, especially considering they are indoor kitties. What might they think when they see a hummingbird go to the feeder by the window? What might they say to the squirrel or skink venturing on the porch during their backyard watch?  My husband would play along, and we would create some funny dialogues.  So, during that summer, I decided to take some of the ideas that I was verbally creating and put them to paper.  The first three stories started out as poems with minimal punctuation just because that was how I preferred to read them, unless there was dialogue or a specific inflection was needed, then appropriate punctuation was used.  

   As I was tweaking and polishing Einstein and the Leaf and Moo and the Case of the Mistaken Identity, I started to shift my thinking about how to turn them into published books and proceeded to figure how to make it happen.  For instance, I wanted to introduce each kitty individually, and then together, so the fact that the third story was still being revised was good.  

I see you have someone else illustrate your books. What advice would you give other authors that are looking for an illustrator?

   That’s correct. My stickmen are wonderful, but I wanted something more for the Einstein and Moo series.  Before I share some advice, let me share a little background for perspective.

   The first publisher I approached was concerned that there were no pictures and said I should find a friend or family member to do them for me.  I knew some talented people and reached out to them, but they all declined. They did not feel they could do the stories justice, but I continued to keep my ears open to new opportunities and eyes open to beautiful talent.  I also took each door closing as moving me forward to where I was supposed to be and not as rejection. At face value, it was a form of rejection, but I did not take it as a deterrent from my goal.

   After a couple of years and lots of “doors” ☺, but I connected with my publisher, who in turn, connected me with my illustrator.  It was important to me that the illustrations looked real because the kitties are real. I included pictures of the kitties to show what they look like and my publisher helped me by providing samples from various illustrators to see how they would capture a part of the story and the kitties. My illustrator not only captured Einstein and Moo's look beautifully, but also their personalities.  When I saw the samples, I saw love, and that was important to me. I knew I found the right person for my stories.

   So for advice, I would say: 

   Stay true to your vision.  There are many talented people, but you will know you found the right illustrator when you get that little feeling inside that lets you know this is the right step.  You will find the right publisher, illustrator, and path for you.
  • Read a lot – different genres, different authors. The different styles will help you improve your abilities as well as better articulate what you would like from an illustrator.
  • Be open to feedback
  • Don't give up
  • You can do anything you set your mind to – tell yourself positive things and really believe what you say
  • Take each door closing as moving you forward to where you are supposed to be - not as rejection

What is your biggest challenge/challenges being a children's author? 

   From the business perspective, I am challenged by how to increase marketing in an effective and efficient manner, but I see it more as an opportunity to creatively reach readers.  From a writing perspective, I am trying my hand at non-picture book writing, and there are times when I question myself, especially when I feel stumped or something isn't flowing. Writing about the kitties comes very easily to me. So when I feel stumped with other writing, I take a break from working on that piece and focus on another part of the business (i.e. read, lining up events, radio show, marketing, blog). I try it from a different angle, like changing the point of view or writing from a different point in the story. I also make sure that I am kind to myself by recognizing I'm doing the best I can do. I tend to think we can be our own worst critics, so sometimes the inner editor needs to be silenced until you are ready for that voice/helper to come out.  When I feel the inner critic, I will color or journal about what is on my mind, then when something starts to flow for the story I was working on, I'll resume that writing. I think it is important to make sure the inner dialogue going on is reminding you of your positive attributes. Let those positive thoughts encourage you, just like you would want them to do if you said them to a dear friend.


 Last but not least, I see you are not only an author, but also a Motivational Speaker and a Radio Host? Can you tell us more about that?

   Sure! Encouraging people is one of my passions. I believe that each of us have something special to offer, but sometimes it takes a leap of faith to be willing to share that gift. I think this belief started when I was three.  I was in the children’s choir at my church, and one Sunday we were going to sing “This Little Light of Mine” during a service. We were all told to put one finger in the air while we sang these lyrics: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”.  My parents said I was the one who dared to be different by putting my whole arm in the air while wiggling it and my hips while I sang, grinning from ear to ear. I let my little light shine that day and believe that when we are following our passions, our little light shines because we radiate the joy we feel. We feel empowered and that what we are doing is adding value.

   So writing, co-hosting the radio show with my friend and fellow author Doug Huggins, and doing speaking engagements are extensions of that passion.  On our radio show, Encouraging the You in Success, we talk about concepts and applications around employee engagement, understanding and leveraging individual strengths, effective communications, and process improvement efforts while considering both a personal and a business perspective.  Whether you are an individual contributor or team leader, a spouse or your child’s team coach, you can make a positive difference in all your endeavors, and our show is about enabling people to do that.  

   Sometimes the encouragement needed is not about sharing your gift, but coming through uncertain times. Change can be difficult, even if the change is expected.

   I believe that our thoughts are powerful and that it makes a difference what we tell ourselves, so I focus on positive, encouraging thoughts. Being able to engage with people and offer support and encouragement to others has enabled that light in me to shine brighter than before.

Thank you for your interview Jennifer! You are so inspiring! 

Click on the links below to find Jennifer's website and books.

Facebook: /authorjennifermilius
Twitter: /AuthorJenMilius
LinkedIn: /JenniferMilius
Goodreads: /AuthorJenniferMilius

In addition to my website, my books are available at the following locations (I’ve included the links to my works directly):



Barnes and Noble

Books A Million

Rocket Science Productions (Publisher)

   Author Sandra Bennett is a mother of three boys, retired Primary School teacher. She appreciates the struggle of teaching reading to reluctant readers and understands the importance of hooking readers from an early age. Increasing literacy in our children has become her passion. Throughout her many experienced years in the classroom Sandra began writing stories to encourage and entice her students to develop a love of reading. She started by writing familiar stories about her students that they could easily relate to. These gradually became more involved, humorous tales that Sandra believed other children could benefit from also.

   Sandra had always wanted to write for children, even more so once she went to teachers college and began teaching. As she raised her sons and taught part-time she practiced the craft of writing, took a few courses and eventually grew in confidence to begin the process of helping early and reluctant readers with her own stories through independent publishing.  

I see you have four books currently out. Tell us more about those.

    First of all thank you for the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by you on your website and the chance to talk a little about my books and myself.

   As you know I currently have published four books. Two are the beginning of my short chapter book series for reluctant readers while the other two are part of a series of uniquely Australian picture books.

   Gingerbread Aliens and Alien Shenanigans are fun science based early readers designed with a bunch of pictures (for aid in comprehension) and a huge dose of humor to encourage reluctant readers. They have easily relatable characters, suspense, twists and hooks along with intrigue and often gooey science experiments for kids to try.

   The main characters are three mischievous brothers and one particularly cheeky little alien. You won't believe the antics and trouble they get up to together.

   I have written the third book in the series and hope to publish it next year. I introduce a new female character in  book 3 ( Alien Milkshakes) to encourage young girls to read the books even though so far I have found my boy characters does not seem to have limited  my readership.

   My Australian picture book series uses our beautiful wildlife to tell tales that help children explore their feelings and emotions while also learning about the birds and animals that are so unique to our country. I always add fact pages at the end of the books to learn a little about each character.

   Emma the Eager Emu is a bird with tenacity.  She is determined to learn to fly just like all her friends at flying school.  Emma has to learn a different way of flying and in so doing discovers her own very special qualities. On reading the story children also learn that it is okay to be different, and that if they have a goal, they can strive to reach it if they practice and don't give up.

   Frazzled Freya is a timid frill neck lizard much too frightened to join her friends and play in the heat of the desert sun no matter how much she desperately wants to join them. She must learn to reach out of her comfort zone to face her fears. Children come to realize that not all their fears are so bad after all.

   I am now working on two kangaroo stores where little joey must learn to listen to his parents and one about a playful platypus discovering the important lesson of stranger danger.

   Each tale is told with the moral tale being subtle so that children enjoy the story first and the lesson behind it second. I don't like to make it too obvious I like to encourage thinking and family or class group discussion.

After teaching for twenty-five years, what changes have you seen in the way literacy has been taught? Or in other words, would you say things have greatly improved in this area?

   In the 80's when I began my teaching career literacy was taught in a more holistic approach, a sort of one size fits all. It is great to see the changes that have arisen through the years since then. Now students are taught more individually, their different learning styles are taken into account. Guided reading groups and directed reading and writing are tailored to suit a wider range of needs within the classroom.
   I began with teaching on a chalkboard, progressed to a whiteboard and today we have smart boards. The introduction of technology has dramatically changed the way we teach and children learn. The days of rote learning have disappeared in favor of a mixed bag of strategies to enhance how to learn, research, discover, and grow. 

   Children arrive at school far more equipped and ready to learn to read than ever before. What we taught in Kindergarten 25 years ago, is now taught in preschools. Sight words and reading strategies are abundant as classrooms continue to evolve to find the most suitable solutions. Reading records are constantly being updated and checked to ensure children aren't left behind. 

   Parent helpers are welcomed and encouraged to listen to children read and become more involved with the daily classroom routine and activities. 

   As an author now, I enjoy the opportunities that enable me to be invited into classrooms to read to children. I remember from my teacher college days being taught that a love of reading, and reading aloud lots of great stories produces readers. The more words a child hears and sees, the more they become familiar with the written word. If children enjoy my stories, then I am still helping in some small way towards developing their literacy without being in the classroom full time. I can now share my stories to many more students instead of one class at a time.

Who are your illustrators for your books and how did you find them?

   Diana Querubin is my illustrator for my alien short chapter books. I originally had another illustrator however have moved on. Dianna has now produced the illustrations for all three books in the series even though Alien Shenanigans is the only published one with her illustrations at present. We work really well together considering it is all via email as she is in the Philippines. We met through the company that has helped me self-publish. When I said I was looking for a new illustrator, Dianna was recommended to me and I haven't looked back.

   Dianna Budd is my fabulous Australian illustrator who designs all the gorgeous drawings in my picture books. We met at a mutual friends book launch in Canberra where we both live. We began talking over a glass of champagne and hit it off instantly. I mentioned I had a couple of stories I really wanted to make into picture books if I could find the right illustrator. Dianna asked me to send her the manuscript to Emma the Eager Emu, which she adored and the rest is history. I loved her work, we developed a mutual respect and have worked together ever since. When I sent her the manuscript to Frazzled Freya she simply replied with "A Freya Fan."

   It's funny how both my illustrators have turned out to be named Dianna. It can be a bit confusing at times. At least I can distinguish between the two by the number of "n"s in their name. Mind you Diana does all her illustrations through computer graphics, while Dianna uses fabulous vibrant pastels. They both have very different and unique styles. Each suitable to the age group the books are targeted towards.

On you website, you mention you do many school visits. What advice would you give other authors for visiting classrooms when sharing their books?

   The best advice I would give anyway about school visits is be prepared.  By that I mean organization beforehand and during the visit. 

   Prepare a letter to be sent to parents and teachers at least two weeks prior to your visit introducing yourself with a brief explanation of what you plan to do with the children. Does it fit into the current curriculum? Give them a reason to want to see you there. 

   Also forward a poster for the school to display so that the children and school community become familiar with you before your visit.

   Ask permission to send a pre-order form of your books for parents to prepay. It saves handling money on the day.

   Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to introduce yourself to the organizing teacher or librarian and have plenty of time to set up.

   Be courteous at all times and set expectations from the outset regarding behavior. E.g. welcome children for their good behavior as they enter quietly. Thank them for using their listening bodies etc. 

   Things don't always go to plan, so have alternative strategies and activities or books to read. The more
material you have up your sleeve the smoother the visit will go.

   I like to use puppets to help read my stories and talk about our wildlife. Find something about your books that will engage the students and keep their interest.

Last, but not least, what advice would you give new authors starting out? 

   My advice to new authors starting out is never give up. If writing for children is your dream, then go for it! There are so many wonderful authors just willing to give support and advice never hesitate to ask. I love being a part of this wonderful writing community, it has given me so much encouragement and help, and I want to keep paying it forward. Write every day, keep honing your skills, seek reviews on your work and when you are ready to take the plunge and let your baby out into the world, dive right in. You'll never know if you don't give it a go!
Thank you for your awesome interview Sandra!

To find Sandra, here are her links to her website and books:



Amazon: Frazzled Freya -

               Emma the Eager Emu -

               Gingerbread Aliens -

   Shelly Sangrey is a mother and a home school teacher that offers her great day to day advice for those interested in home schooling. 

Hi Shelly!  What made you decide to home school? 

   I'm a mom of 11 beautiful children from 3 to 23 yrs. old. We are in our 8th year of home schooling, and what a journey it's been! My passion in life is encouraging new and struggling home schoolers. I've been blogging consistently at There's No Place Like Home for almost 7 months now, and it has been such an amazing opportunity to reach as many home educators as possible. Besides talking my husband's ear off about home schooling, I am an avid reader who would honestly move in at the library if they would just install a snack bar!  

   There were so many factors that culminated in our decision to home school. At the time, our school district was having frequent bomb threats and some difficulties with classroom management of unruly children. Besides that, the quality of education in our district leaves a lot to be desired and seems to focus entirely on test prep instead of actual education. I also was finding with my oldest son, who was in 9th grade at the time, that I wasn't in agreement with a lot of the things he was being taught. 

    When I began home schooling, I had just given birth to my 7th child and was finding the morning and after school rush to be terrible. Each morning we'd be frantically searching for missing homework papers, toothbrushes, shoes, name it, we lost it. After school, it seemed like a stampede, with everyone needing me to sign something, sell something, or help them with homework- all at the same time.

    After meeting a family with 6 children who home schooled, I thought to myself, "Hey. Maybe I can do this!" I'm so glad we did.


What does a daily schedule look like at your home for running a home school?

   I know this is going to seem confusing to some people, but I'll try to explain our routine. :)

   Since we have 10 kids being homeschooled, I've found it easiest to break them into 3 separate groups- the littles (ages 5, 6, 8, and occasionally the 3 yr. old when she feels like it), the middles (ages 9, 10, and 12), and the teens (ages 14, 16, and 17). We try to start at 10 am each morning with the littles. We begin with a Bible story and then move on to our "table time." This is usually spent one-on-one with each child while they are working on phonics/reading and math. As I'm helping one, the others usually just play outside or upstairs until I call them down for their turn. Afterwards, we all read a book together, and we do cross-curricular activities which pertain to the book. (This is called a unit study.)

   After they are finished, the middles begin their homeschool day- usually around 11:30. They follow basically the same routine as the littles, except they do math and spelling/copy work instead of phonics. We begin with a devotional and move on to a read aloud together, after which they do their table time. While they are waiting for their turn with me, they usually read silently and write what they read about, do some math review worksheets, and then play outside or upstairs. 

   At 12:30 we take a lunch break until 2:00 to allow them to eat, play, and do a quick clean-up before my husband arrives home from work. 

   At 2:00 we are usually still finishing up our table time. Once that is finished, we read another book together (yes, I'm reading 2 separate books to them...I AM a bookworm!) and then we move on to their unit study, which is usually based on character traits. For example, right now we are focusing on inquisitiveness by learning about the scientific method and famous scientists. Each day, they complete a note booking page, which is similar to journaling, about something they learned that day.

   My teens are a bit tougher to describe because they all work on their own and do everything completely differently from one another, although they all have one thing in common- a 4-day week with Fridays as their day to make up any work they needed more time on or missed altogether.

   After I finish working with the middles, usually around 3:30 to 4:00, I touch base with my 16 year old to give him his unit study assignments for the day. His homeschool routine has taken a lot of tweaking and creativity because he has ADHD and simply cannot sit for long periods of time. 

   Once I tell him what's on the agenda for his unit, he tackles it right away. These usually involve either hands-on activities, documentaries or YouTube videos, writing assignments, and field work. Every Monday I give him a planner for what is expected of him for language arts, algebra, reading, and note booking, so he usually completes that at night once the house gets a little quieter.

   My 14 year old prefers to learn through living books- biographies, historical fiction, trade books, etc. Like my 16 year old, she only uses textbooks for language arts and algebra. Everything else is done through library books and note booking. She is very meticulous and prefers to schedule her own work for the week. She has always shown much responsibility in this area, so I don't have a problem with that. She tends to work on her assignments off and on throughout the day, leaving algebra for after the kids are asleep (or are at least SUPPOSED to be), so that I can help her if need be.

   My 17 year old is the only child I have who prefers textbooks. She wouldn't admit to it, but she is very studious. She recently started working part-time, so most of her work is also done at night (which she would rather do, anyway). Since I wasn't able to find textbooks we liked for all of her subjects, she also uses some living books and notebooks through them to help her retain the information. Beyond that, she is extremely creative and loves to paint, make paper mache crafts, draw, and study the Japanese language and writing characters. 

   I leave a window of time open every night for the teens to come to me for help with any school work- usually math-related or chemistry.

   It's taken us some time to find a routine that flowed well for all of us, but it was well worth it and has helped to relieve much of the stress that can accompany homeschooling multiple children.

What are the challenges of home schooling? 

   Home schooling does present some challenges, but none that can't be overcome and none that are worse than when my children went to school. As I mentioned earlier,  multiple children definitely takes some flexibility. You have to be willing to change things up if they don't seem to be working. It's crucial to remember that homeschooling does not have to look like school. In fact, for most of my kids, the less it looks like school, the better they do. It can also be tricky when you've got several kids who all have different learning styles. It takes time to really get to know your child's preferences for learning and find ways to integrate it. Although it might be easier (in theory) to make all of the kids do things the exact same way, in reality, kids are individuals, and that really comes through in how they like to approach things.

   Another challenge is home schooling when you've got babies or toddlers in the house. As with everything else, it just takes some creativity and being willing to try new things until you find a way that works for your family. Two of my teens get paid a small stipend for helping to watch the littles when the middles are home schooling. If they're not available for some reason, I like to keep a basket of special activities for the younger kids to be brought out only during school time. And I'm willing to admit that when all else fails, I will turn on a movie to keep them occupied for a while. I say, whatever works!

What is your favorite part in this journey? 

   There are so many things that I love about home schooling that I could write a book about it! I'll try to narrow it down. :)

-I love having such a close-knit family.

-I love learning alongside my kids.

-I love reading aloud to them every day.

-I love our lazy mornings drinking hot chocolate, being aware of how blessed we are that we're not out rushing around to get the kids to school.

-I love being there for every new milestone my kids reach- Learning to read, add, and subtract. Watching their eyes light up when they make a connection about something we're studying. Watching them proudly write their name and write "Mom" and "Dad" for the first time. 

-I love that we can do school in our pj.’s if we feel like it and that my kids CAN chew gum in class. :)

-I love that we are able to tailor their education to fit them, and not the other way around.

-I love our trips to the library, and our animated discussions about books that we've read in common.

-I love that my teenagers sit down and talk to me every night and rest their head on my shoulder during church.

-I love that my 16 yr. old son tells us he loves us in FRONT of his friends.

-I love the fact that even though life is hectic, I wake up every day excited about what the day will bring.

Last, but not least, what suggestions would you recommend for others that may be considering home schooling?

   I love to work with new homeschoolers and encourage them. This is what I always say:
   Think about what a typical day looks like in traditional schools and throw that image out the window because homeschooling is not school at home. Find out what interests your kids, how they like to learn, and what they want to learn about. The library is a treasure trove for homeschoolers- anyone could easily homeschool practically for free by almost exclusively using the library. 

   Don't get stuck on a curriculum. Textbooks are a tool; that's it. Most kids actually do better when textbooks are not used, but excel through hands-on activities, field trips, living books, and educational videos. 

   The most important thing is to get to know your child. Ask for their input on what they'd like to do and incorporate it. Children who learn what they are interested in retain the information better than those who learn things simply because they're told they have to. 

   If you don't believe that's true, think back to your own days in school. How much do you actually remember? Did memorizing the dates of Charlemagne's rule stick with you? What about trigonometry? How much of that do you remember? Sentence diagramming?


Now think about what you DO remember. Chances are, the information that's stayed with you is information that interests you or has been beneficial to you in some way. This is why it's so important to take your child's opinion into consideration.

And remember that learning and living cannot be separated. Everything that your child does is a learning experience. The longer you homeschool, and the further from your mind you push your image of school, the clearer this truth becomes.


 Live a full life. Read to your kids. Cook with them. Take them with you on errands. Show them how to take care of household tasks. Stock up on art supplies and let their creative juices flow. Make frequent visits to the library, and let them explore the world around them. 

For the vast majority of recorded history, children learning at home was the norm. Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Lewis Carroll, Pearl S. Buck, Ansel Adams, and Virginia Woolf are just a few historical figures who learned at home and flourished.


Homeschooling can be such an amazing opportunity. All it takes is some creativity, a bit of planning, and, most of all, love.

   It’s a great honor to introduce to you a friend of ours that we have known for a very long time. I want to say thirty-five plus years. In the past few years, our friend Gary has performed at a gathering that we have at a yearly reunion with friends.

How long have you been playing the guitar?

   My earliest memory of playing the guitar was when I learned a D chord on my neighbor’s guitar. I was 11 years old then. My parents loved music and had stacks of 78 records. My mom especially loved Pete Fountain, a jazz clarinet player. My dad played the guitar on his lap with a metal slide. He only knew a few songs, but it was always a fun time when he played.

Who were some others that influenced you in getting into music?

   Some of my early music influences were Motown artists like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. I remember wearing out the 45 record we had on our Silverstone hi-fi, "Sock it to me baby." I also had a record by Archi Bell and the Drells, “Tighten it up baby” when I was just about 12 year old. Then came the 1960's, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, all great songs and fertile ground to learn how to play the guitar.

How did you get started?

   I joined the service when I was 17 years old and became a missile crewman, this gave me the GI bill.  When I was discharged, I started college at Penn Valley Community College, and took music theory and harmony, and class piano. I was invited to join the Penn Valley Jazz band, playing guitar. I was already in my first real rock band called the "Highland Blues Band", this is the first band I remember, and we practiced in my kitchen at 71st and Highland. 

I understand you write some of your songs. Can you tell us more about that? 

        It was during junior college that I remember starting to write songs, about 1978. It was common to be in several bands, some just basement jam bands. It was easy to start a chord progression and when the band got it going, and if you were ready with verses, a song was born. I later started doing this with an acoustic guitar, which is kind of backwards, because a lot of people who write with a guitar start with an acoustic. A friend on Facebook, who I was in one of those jam bands with, recently asked me about "Mental Duress." I wrote that in the late 1970's and recorded later in 2008. It’s about a girl I saw at a concert in Sunny Side Park in south Kansas City, and he was happy to hear it made it on iTunes.

Do you have a favorite song you have recorded and why?

“Mental Duress” is one of my favorites I have recorded because it blends rock and jazz elements together. All of my songs are written from the heart and have a message. I continue to write and have many new songs in the works. We are releasing a band version of, “All I Know," this fall.

Last, but not least, what would you suggest to others that are starting out in creating music or a band?

   For young songwriters or musicians, get your hands on an instrument as early as possible, and start playing and listening to music. There are many tutorials on Youtube on how to play most any instrument. If you have ideas for songs don't be afraid to try and put words to music. It's art and there are no rules! Keep it fun!

   The current band I am in is the "Not Too Late Players" formed to perform some of the songs that I have written that are on most digital platforms. We are currently active doing selective gigs and having fun playing music. !

Thank you Gary for your time and sharing your inspiring talents with us. 
   Introducing this great band, Crosseyed Cat and longtime friend, Karen Baum.

Your band is called "Crosseyed Cat." What can you tell us about this unique name? 
   We named the band after one of our favorite Muddy Waters songs. Jeff Graefe, our lead guitar player, and myself started the band and we are both are cat people and Blues people, so it seemed fitting.

   The song is about a man leaving his woman because she has a crosseyed cat that does not like him very much. I thought it was very funny and I took a bit of a liberty with the last line of the song;
You know my man says he’s so sorry, but he’s gonna leave me all alone
You know my man says he’s so sorry, but he’s gonna leave me all alone
But I’m not really by myself you know, I got a crosseyed cat living with me in my home.

How long has the band been together?

   We have been together for over eight years, with mostly the same lineup the whole time.
Blues, Rock, and Swing is what your website says you play the most.  Can you tell us more about that?
   We are generally a Blues based band, meaning that most all we play is based in the Blues and we can really rock it out! We do Blues covers and originals. Our harmonica player, Chris Ryan, brought his love of West Coast Swing music to the band. We do unique bluesy West Coast Swing covers from Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Rod Piazza and others, along with original Blues Swing that we have written.

How many people do you have in your band?
We are a five-piece band;
Jeff Graefe
, on Lead Guitar
Chris Ryan, Harmonica and Vocals
Tom Tipton
, Bass, Vocals and Songwriting
Ron Still, Drums
Karen Baum, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals and Songwriting
How did you get together?
   Jeff, Tom and I knew each other from local Blues jams around town, and Jeff and I were part of another band for a short time before forming our own band. Tom Tipton and I have been writing songs together for years. In the beginning we had the core band of myself, Jeff, Tom and Greg Fowler on drums. We then met Chris Ryan at a Blues jam and really liked the sound of his harp playing. Chris had just moved to Kansas City from Iowa after being transferred by his day job. I believe he has one of the best harp sounds I have ever heard! Ron Still, our drummer, we brought on board about 3 years into the band. Ron is also the drummer for the Rick Bacus/Journeyman Band in town and has been playing locally, regionally and nationally since he was 14. 

I understand you are a songwriter!
   Yes, I’ve been writing songs since I was about nine, sending away for my first copyright when I was 10 years old. I got serious about being a songwriter when I was in my twenties. Together with my ex-husband we had a studio in our home, where we wrote and recorded. We shopped our songs in Los Angeles and New York, but it was hard doing it from Kansas City with three small boys. Came close a few times to getting one of our songs in a movie.

   Songwriting is my first love! Besides playing in my band, I also have an acoustic solo and duo act with original songs that are more in the alternative or roots genre. I host an Open Mic Night at The Piano Room bar every Wednesday and have been for over two years. It is located at 84th and Wornall Rd, in Waldo - Kansas City.  This Open Mic is very dear to my heart. I call it The Anything Goes Open Mic, as we welcome originals and covers from any genre. There is a piano set up and ready to go and most folks bring acoustic guitars, but we have also had banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, bag pipes, flutes, congas, even a saw! We also encourage spoken word, rap and acapella singers.

If you were to encourage our readers out there to start their own band, or write their own songs, what advice would you give them starting out? 
   Just do it! Get your core group together and practice, practice, practice. Then get out and play as much as possible. The more you play live, the more you can see what works and what doesn’t. Don’t get discouraged if a club or owner won’t hire you right away. Some of our steady gigs took years of nicely bothering the owner/club before we were given a shot. I would discourage anyone from playing for free or for less than the going rate. It ends up hurting all bands in what we can charge. Most of all … have fun!

Do you do much in the way of charity events?
   Crosseyed Cat band does quite a few benefits each year and we love supporting KKFI Community Radio, 90.1 FM. We have participated their band auction every year for the past eight years! I have also done a few solo acoustic gigs for different causes.

Do you have a CD?
   We are in the studio right now working on our first full-length CD. It is full of fresh original Blues and a few of our favorite covers. I’m very excited about this CD! Each song is unique and we have some great guest musicians lending their sound with Hammond B3, Accordion, Boogie Woogie Piano, Saxophone and more! It’s truly been a group effort and labor of love.
How can folks find you?
You can find the Crosseyed Cat band, some of our music and our schedule in several locations;
Facebook –
Website –
ReverbNation –

My solo music;
Facebook –
ReverbNation –

Thanks for your time and answering these great questions Karen!
   Author and illustrator, A.J.Cosmo is a talented writer with engaging stories. His illustrations will keep readers turning the pages for more. 

1) How long have you been a KidLit author and illustrator?

   My first children's book came out in the winter of 2011, so I've been doing this professionally for about five years now. I have always drawn and written in one form or another and have found children's books to be the perfect intersection of those talents. It also help to have the creative mind of an eight year old. 

2) How many books do you have out? 

   As of this writing I have sixty-nine unique titles (there were some anthologies created.) This equals out to a little over ten titles per year. My pace has slowed down significantly as my focus has shifted to doing detail oriented illustrations and complex narratives.

3) I see you have stories for younger readers and stories for older ones. What grade level is the most challenging for you to write for and why?

   I can't say that any of them are more challenging than the others, however, each one has a challenge in relation to the demands of that audience. What I have found is that reading level is fluid for children. Some children read beyond their level while others prefer easier titles. I've met six year old readers who are almost on young adult and I've read to a class of sixth graders that preferred picture books. The true difficulty in all this is communicating what grade level you intended to read the book when you made it. That's something I still haven't mastered.

4) You illustrate all of your books. Can you give us an example how you do this? 

   Sure, there are two main techniques I use to make the pictures. One is to do a completely digital process that uses a combination of Manga Studio Pro and Adobe Photoshop to create the images. There's a video of this process for "Nuts" you can watch here. The drawing is done with the help of a Wacom Intuous tablet which allows for natural pencil movements. The other method uses pencil sketches which are then scanned into Photoshop and colored. This is done mostly for speed, as the computer programs cannot do any of the work for you (there's also the added perk of being able to undo mistakes.) Coloring in Photoshop involves a lot of layering and "pushing" of color in order to get rid of the digital feel and make it look organic.

5) Last, but not least, what you want readers to walk away with after reading your stories. 

   My stories are intended to teach imagination and heart to children. They cover a wide set of topics, characters, and tones, but the main themes always involve understanding other people and including them. Beyond that, I just hope that the children are entertained and that they have shared a special moment with their parents.

Thank you for sharing your inspiring work!

To find A.J. Cosmo's books,  click on the links below:

A.J.'s Website:



I also welcome any and all emails :)

   What a pleasure it is to feature Author D.A. Hawes and illustrator Maggie Parr! Their book, “Ogopogo Odyssey” will warm the hearts of young and old.

   Here is my review. Five Shining Stars: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 "Ogopogo Odyssey" written by D.A Hawes and illustrated by Maggie Parr will delight young readers with the tale of the famous lake monster known as Ogopogo from Okanagan Lake. He is known to live in an underground cave near Rattlesnake Island. Colin meets a mysterious stranger on the beach that tells him all about the tales and history of Ogopogo. Readers will enjoy the enchanting illustrations with crystal blue waters, the beautifully drawn pirates and mermaids, of Colin's imagination. They will love the drawings of Ogopogo that will leave them with a smile.

   See more reviews here from Promontory Press: 
    Watch this fun book trailer: 
   Listen to this podcast with Author D. A. Hawkes and illustrator Maggie Parr:
                                                                 Illustrator Maggie Parr’s website:

1) How long have you been writing and what inspired you to become a children's author?

   I guess I've always considered myself a writer in one sense or another. When I was a student in elementary school, I loved to write stories that came out of my imagination. In university as an English major, I did a lot of academic writing, which was interesting but not as much fun as writing stories for children. I became most interested in writing for children when my own kids were young and we spent so much time in the library and reading picture books voraciously!

2) Tell us about your story "Ogopogo" and how this darling tale became about?
   I grew up in Vernon, a small city located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. We swam in Okanagan Lake during the summer months and I grew up hearing lots of stories of the mythical Ogopogo. This rather famous Canadian icon was featured on tourist brochures, postcards, t-shirts, mugs, etc. and many of the parks throughout the Okanagan had large caricatures of the Ogopogo. Before dropping us off at the beach to swim, my parents would often jokingly tell us to “watch out for the Ogopogo!” Later in my life, once I had children of my own, I decided to write a story based on my own childhood recollections of the Ogopogo. Given the many sightings of this mysterious creature over the years, I tried to imagine the excitement of a young boy who believes he has an encounter with the Ogopogo. I also felt that including the story of Chief Timbasket and his encounter with N’ha-a’itk was an engaging way to show respect for the First Nations heritage in our province. 

3) Your illustrator, Maggie Parr, did an outstanding job with your story! Tell us more about her and how you found her?
   Maggie Parr has been a gift to Ogopogo Odyssey and has transformed this book into a visual delight for children and adults alike! Maggie and I met in a rather serendipitous manner at the San Francisco Writers Conference many years ago. We happened to be standing in line for an event and began to chat, and at the end of our conversation we exchanged business cards. Her business card featured a caricature of an adorable looking dragon and the first thought that entered my head was, “This is exactly the sort of art work I picture for Ogopogo!” When I returned to Canada, we began to correspond by email and I finally had the nerve to ask this very talented Disney artist to illustrate my book. Lucky for me, Maggie agreed and so began a long-term collaboration.

4) Do you have more stories to come in the future?
   I am currently working on several manuscripts, some of which I wrote a few years ago as well as others that are new ideas and concepts for future books. I am also working on a YA novel which is a new venture for me but I'm loving the process.

5) I see you are a teacher and teach Senior English at St. Michaels University School. What advice would you like to share to young writers starting out?
   The best advice I could give is to never give up! It took me a long time to see this book come to fruition, but after many attempts with various publishers, I finally found the right fit. It's important to believe that you have a voice and that your writing is unique and worthy. And most of all, just keep writing and writing, and editing and editing! Always put away your drafts for a day or two and then revisit them. It's surprising how much you will discover after your work has fermented for a while!

Dorothy also offers this wonderful teacher’s resource guide for K-5:
Teacher resource guide for Ogopogo Odyssey 2016.pdf

   Thank you so much for your time Dorothy! I enjoyed visiting with you! It was fun learning more about your interesting tale, “Ogopogo Odyssey.”

   You can find Dorothy at the following sites:
Author’s website:

Facebook link -

Link to amazon:

Link to illustrator Maggie Parr:

Link to book company:
My interview with author and illustrator Rhonda Paglia last fall. Enjoy everyone! 

   I’m so please to introduce you to a special author friend of mine! I know you hear me talk about her and the wonderful books she has written for young readers! Two of her books are written for ages 10 and up. Please welcome Rhonda Paglia (also known as "Grammy Pags") of “Grammy Pags Stories for Kids.”

1) Before becoming an author, you were an elementary school teacher. With the start of the school upon us, what advice would you give parents and students to assure that they have a successful school year?

   Hi Miss Rosie, Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in your back to school blog!! I’m now a retired, but I was an elementary teacher for 26 years.  One of the most challenging things I remember was the time it took for kids (and teachers) to transition from summer vacation mode to the back-to-school mode.  

   Every family and family schedule is unique, but here are a few suggestions to help kids transition:

   Make sure your children get some down time after their long school day.  Kids should have time to play outside, read for fun, work on hobbies, take a nap, or just have a little time to focus on their own interests.   

   Make sure there is enough time to complete homework assignments. 

   When my own kids were young, homework time was right after dinner.  After assignments were complete, the rest of their time, until bedtime, was “free time.”  This schedule seemed to work for us.  I know a lot of kids participate in after school activities, so scheduling time for homework can be a challenge, but it’s so important that it is completed before bedtime.

   Finally, make sure your kids get proper nutrition and plenty of rest to keep their batteries charged and ready for success. Have a great year, kids and parents!!

2.  Tell us how many books you currently have available to readers and a little bit about them.

   Thanks so much for asking!  Currently I have independently published 12 books.  They are available in soft cover and for Kindle.  Ten are fiction books for kids ages Pre-K to grade 3.  Two are non-fiction for kids ages 10 to adult.  Here’s a little summary for each of my books: 


What advice would you give authors that are starting out with the journey of writing children's books? 

Rosie, here are a few suggestions, but I am still learning!!

1.    Writing books for kids is not for the fainthearted! It is a journey – so be patient, pace yourself, and become your own best cheerleader and promoter. 

2.    There are two routes to an author can pursue:  traditional publishing, through a publishing agency, or self-publishing, where you publish your book yourself. 
a.    If you decide to pursue the traditional publishing route, be very careful.  There are many ‘predatory’ book companies out there that will happily take your money.  These are the “pay to publish” sites – stay far, far away from them.
b.    If you decide to independently self-publish, be prepared to spend most of your time on marketing and promotion.  Marketing and promotion often takes more time than the writing, editing, and creation process.

3.    Find your niche groups and build your communities.  Social media groups like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, plus your personal blogs and websites are where you will find your supporters.  When you become established, your “groups” will help you share and promote your books.

4.    A few other suggestions:
a.    If you decide to go the self-published route, have your work professionally edited.  My author friends and I can look over our manuscripts 100+ times, but we still sometimes miss those darn little mistakes.  Of course we don’t find them until AFTER our books are published – and the mistakes just pop off the page!  Yikes!  So I would suggest hiring a professional editor – it’s worth every penny!
b.    Your cover also needs to shout “professional!”  (I’m working on this!)  If you cannot create a professional looking cover, then hire someone to help you!
c.    Finally – readers DO judge a book by its cover, especially the BACK cover!  I read that readers will give the back cover a 30 second scan.  That 30 seconds will make or break a purchase.  The back cover is the place for your “hook.”  Professionals recommend that the text be no more than 150 words - or less!  So every word must count!! (I’m learning this too!)  Good luck! 

4) Last, but not least, what do you want your fans to walk away with after meeting you and reading your stories?

Oh gosh – I would love for my young readers and fans to know the following:

* I hope you enjoy my stories.  Some of my characters are a little whacky, but fun!  I hope my stories and characters make you smile and laugh and stir up your imaginations! 

*I would certainly encourage kids to read and read a lot!  Reading will make you smart and empower you!

*Read a variety of genre – include both fiction and non-fiction.  Read about what you are curious about and topics that you enjoy. 

·         I also would encourage kids to write!  There are times throughout our lives that we need to write.  So practice!  The more we practice, the better we become. 
          Finally, this is a little off topic, but it’s important to me.  We all must remember that every person has unique gifts and talents.  We need to use our gifts and talents to do good things at home and in our communities.  We also need to recognize the gifts and talents in others and support them too.  When we do good things - we help lift up our whole world and make it a better place for everyone.  In my book, “The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission” – the little lambs ask that we follow their special “BE messages!” (BE kind, BE a friend, BE a leader, etc.) So please follow the BEs!

Thanks everyone – and thanks Miss Rosie for letting me share my books and time with you!  Have a GREAT school year!  Love from Rhonda Paglia of Grammy Pags Stories for Kids

To read more about Grammy Pags Stories for Kids – here are some links:


Amazon Author page:

Barnes and Noble Author page:





PS – I’m working on a NEW project - “The KINDNESS KIDS Project!” Watch for details!! 

Don’t forget to watch for: “Doonsey ReturnsThe Great Rescue. Part 2 Coming 2017!!!

   In our Kidlit Parade Group, we discuss many things each month. Science was our focus back in the month of May, 2016. We researched and shared how students and children explore,"Writing for Science"
   Allow me to introduce to you our niece, Sophia McCall! She is a Scientist. See how she has been inspired to choose this field.
   Sophia has a Bachelor’s of Science in Geoscience, a Minor in Environmental Science, and a Minor in Urban Planning and Design. She's little over halfway through her Master’s of Science degree in Physical Science. Her title when working at 
APAC Kansas City, INC and The Midwest Regional Division was: "Environmental, Health and Safety Professional." 

   In a interview, we asked her the following questions.
                                                                                                 Sophia McCall
What inspired you in both writing and science?
   Science experiments and writing down the hypothesis and comparing the results. For example, my
daughter loves it when I do science experiments with her. We will pick an experiment and then I ask her
what she thinks will happen in the experiment. We write down in a notebook what we think the
outcome will be, then we do the experiment and compare the actual results with what we thought
would happen. I think it’s important to do things that are hands on very early. The messier the better! I
think getting a book full of science experiments and reading through each one testing out theories and
ideas is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday exploring the world around us. I’m a scientist and I still do
this. I do it with my daughter and I do it because no matter how much schooling I have had or how old I
get, I always want to learn more—and there is always something more to learn. It’s a lot of fun!
Here are some links to come up with ideas.

                                                                                              Image from
 Any special projects or work that inspired you to become Scientist? 
   When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I actually started college out as an English major. I liked it but it wasn’t very challenging. I have always been interested in Science. So, to make school more challenging I took an Environmental Science course and I loved it! From that point in college forward, I took every science course I could, biology, chemistry, bio II, physics, anything geology or hydrology I could possibly enroll in—I did. Science was so cool! There was a whole universe that you couldn’t see, that you could see with a microscope—a whole world in a drop of water! It was amazing to me and I wanted to know and see everything! I wanted to know how mountains were made, how oceans were formed, how rain worked and why tornadoes, volcanoes, and earthquakes happened, I wanted to know everything and reading about science seemed like a great place to get some of the big and small questions I was curious about answered. I loved reading, writing, and science so I found a way to combine all of them together. I get to write reports on my scientific studies and research new topics and get paid to do it! I love being a scientist and helping people! Several different writers in science inspired me, but I particularly loved Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. There is a whole series of books called the “Who was….” series. If you want to learn more about a person who helped to change the world, they have books on scientists like Marie Curie and Rachel Carson they are very fun and informative to read. Here is a great link to look up!

What does writing and reading mean in your work? 
   Reading and writing are very important to my work on a daily basis. I need to be able to tell people how and why something works the way it does so I can help fix big problems. Reading is equally important to my work. It’s important for me to stay up to date on new methods of investigation in science and technology. This helps to have more knowledge on different topics in science so I can make the best decisions possible.
                                                                                  Image from

Sophia, when you were out teaching children about what you do, what type of things, activities, etc. did you do with them?  
   When I took children out to show them what I do first is teach them about the rock cycle, I show them all the really cool things we use rocks for and how we get the rocks out of the earth (blasting). I talk to them about the science behind how we use chemical reactions to get the rocks out of the earth and how we safely do it. I go out and collect fossils, pyrite (order from a vendor), and calcite then spread it out in gravel at the quarries so the kids who come see how quarries work and can hunt for fossils and learn about rocks hands on—they get to keep what they find which is always fun for them. I give them safety vests and hard hats that they wear while at the quarries and we take a tour in a bus where they can see the big machines at work. They ask questions and we talk about how other items in the environment like water and air help shape the surroundings that we see, we talk about geological time and how important it is to take care of our environment after we get done mining. 

What's a good way to get children excited about science?
   The children in my experience are super excited about science when I start talking to them about rocks— some of them say they never have really thought about it.  Some of them tell me about their rock collections that they have at home. It really depends on the kids—but they all seem to really love the experience. It’s one of the best parts of my work. I get to show kids how cool it is to be a scientist and share what I love so much with them!

   Thank you Sophia for visiting with us and sharing your great knowledge. 
I hope this has encouraged boys and girls to look into the Science field if this is something they find interesting.  

   Please leave a note if you have any questions. 
As always, we would love to hear from you!

Books by Rose Rosie Russell Children's Books Author Illustrator