Ella listens to the rain drip, dribble, drop. While others stay indoors, Ella hustles outside with her new umbrella and listens to the rain fall a cappella. Join Ella on her jazzy journey through the rain as she explores all the interesting sounds a puddle-filled rainstorm has to offer.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Courtney Shannon Strand whose book Ella’s Umbrella charmed me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love children’s books but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Courtney Shannon Strand will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Courtney Shannon Strand!
Courtney Shannon Strand is a writer, editor, and creative thinker who has a knack for writing catchy jingles for children. Courtney won first place for her picture book titled “Ella’s Umbrella” in the PNWA.org writing contest.
Kicky Cane Press publishes her books. Courtney has two more books set to release a picture book titled “Roundup Rodeo” in Jan. 2021 and a concept book titled “In the Deep Blue Sea” in Jan. 2022.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and has worked for About.com, AOL City’s Best, and Martingale Books. She also has a Master’s degree in Marketing Communications where she has consulted for several companies. Her life motto is Character Matters.
Courtney grew up in “Big Sky Country” Montana and now lives and works by the Pacific Ocean in the beautiful Pacific Northwest in Washington State with her husband, Jeff.
Now, how wonderful does Courtney Shannon Strand sound?! Courtney Shannon Strand is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and the author and I hope that you enjoy Courtney Shannon Strand’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself
Thanks Aimee and thanks to your readers for tuning in! Let’s see, I was raised by a single Dad. He always says if you can’t find Courtney she is probably in a corner reading her favorite book in her rocking chair (my Dad saved my childhood rocking chair I read in as a kid, I have it today!). That pic cracks me up, sums up my childhood perfectly.
I remember reading books on my own by the time I was 3 years old. I love to read. I am a card carrying library member and I have my own library of my favorite books in my home. My love of reading and storytelling landed me a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and then after working in my career for 15 years I went back to school and earned my Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications. The two degrees set me up perfectly for concepting, writing, editing, and marketing my children’s books.
In my free time, I enjoy trail running, hiking, biking, rock climbing, and playing tennis with my supportive husband, Jeff. We also love to travel the world and we’ve been so many places! My favorite place to travel to so far is Malmö, Sweden (I want to live there!).
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
I was inspired to write the book Ella’s Umbrella because I felt in the children’s picture book world the writing was becoming too dark with messages of if you steal, you’ll get eaten. I remember finding joy in my picture books as a kid and I wanted to offer a joyful book for kids today, especially for early learning as I believe in early literacy.
I sleep with a pen and pencil on my nightstand so I can write down ideas that pop in my head when I wake up from sleeping. I wrote down the first stanza of Ella’s Umbrella this way. It took me five years to write the book working with critique groups and attending children’s writing conferences such as SCBWI (https://www.scbwi.org/) working with my peers, agents, and industry editors on my book. It went through several revisions to get the cadence, verse, and timing of the words just right. Then I let the book rest for two years (I put it away and started working on my next book) before I deemed Ella’s Umbrella ready for publication.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
Join a critique group for your genre (SCBWI offers in person and online critique groups). Revise your manuscript by getting feedback from others including children! Not your own children or children you know, test it out on classrooms of children you don’t know. I partner with local elementary schools to have students critique my manuscripts. Their feedback is the most authentic. Teachers and librarians are great resources for feedback as well.
Attend writing conferences, enter unpublished manuscript contests such as PNWA.org (http://pnwa.org/) and try to win an award (great for marketing your book with), and join SCBWI then set up your own author page on the site. University of Washington Seattle offers a children’s book writing certificate that I found helpful in writing my picture books. The instructor, Jolie Stekly, also helped me fine tune my manuscripts as well. (https://www.pce.uw.edu/courses/writing-childrens-literature-picture-books)
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
Words that sing. Well-written picture books, in my opinion, are the best for raising engaged readers. I remember in grade school thinking if books could read like a song I would retain the content better. I wrote Ella’s Umbrella so the words can also be sung like a song to help with retention (I plan to release the book as a song in an Audiobook in the next year). A good picture book offers playful language that is shown in pictures but with surprises in the background that is not said in the text. I’m lucky to work with my talented illustrator Jennica Lounsbury (http://www.jennicalounsbury.com/) who understands that concept well. We will be collaborating on more children’s books together soon.
What is your writing process like?
I don’t write every day. Instead, I read a lot and observe the world. I listen to what children tell their parents when they are reading a book together in bookstores. Then I write down jingles that come in my head based on what I read, observe, and hear as potential picture books. When I’m ready to write, I have a long list of catchy jingles to pull from. Once I write a children’s book I get it critiqued (several times, this can take a long time) and then I put it away for a couple years. Let it marinate. Then I continue working on or marketing the next children’s book. After a couple years, I revisit the manuscript I put away and I make more edits I see, these changes are obvious to me now and would not have been seen when I first finished the book. It’s a process that helped me win first place in the PNWA.org contest.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I read well-written picture books. I study best-selling picture books that have stood the test of time to see what worked and why. My amazing Dad saved all the picture books from my childhood that I can reference and I check out picture books at my local library. Then, I type out my favorites to study rhyme and meter and cadence. Next, I storyboard out my most finished manuscript to see how the words and cadence and beats are landing in a 32-page picture book. Then I look for page turns. Does each page offer the motivation to turn the page? If it doesn’t, it’s back to editing the words in the manuscript.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
Yes, I read a lot. I have a growing list of books I’ve read saved on my Goodreads page (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19785707.Courtney_Shannon_Strand).
My favorite authors for kids are E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web), Shel Silverstein (Where the Side Walk Ends), Mem Fox (Where is the Green Sheep), Doreen Cronin (Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type and Boom Snot Twitty), Aaron Reynolds (Creepy Carrots), and Gary Paulsen (Hatchet).
My favorite authors for adults include Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), David Sedaris (Holidays on Ice), Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), and Craig Thompson (Blankets).
The Character of Ella is so cute. Have you thought about making a doll?
Good question! My family gave me the idea to offer an Ella doll to my readers. Right now, I am currently working with Budsies.com on a doll design. If I decide to market a doll I’ll share it on my blog (http://www.courtneyshannonstrand.com/elements/blog/)and social media. Your readers can follow me @CourtStrand on Instagram and Twitter. Or follow my author page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CourtneyShannonStrand).
When can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
Thanks for asking! I have two more books set to release a picture book titled Roundup Rodeo in January 2021 and a concept book titled In the Deep Blue Sea in January 2022. After that, I may have more written to publish!
Any last words of advice for aspiring children’s book authors?
Thanks, Aimee, for the interview and the review of my book Ella’s Umbrella! (https://redheadedbooklover.com/ellas-umbrella-courtney-shannon-strand/)
My last words of advice would be to have a thick skin as the children’s book publishing world can be a sea of rejection. Keep a positive mind and start working on your next book! Be a good listener and observer in the world. Lastly, remember children’s book writing is a marathon not a sprint.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Courtney Shannon Strand! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,
Purchase Links for Ella’s Umbrella: Amazon U.S. – Amazon U.K. – Barnes & Noble – IndieBound – iBooks – Kobo – Chapters – SCBWI – Goodreads
Courtney Shannon Strand: Website – Blog – Instagram – LinkedIn – Facebook – Twitter – Pinterest – YouTube – PNWA Award – SCBWI Article – Readers Favorite 5 Star Award – Download FREE Coloring Page – Upcoming Releases