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Update - Winner Announced! Celebrate Valentine's Day with Kris Tarantino!


Update 2/13/2024: Congrats to Sharalyn Edgeberg for winning Kris Tarantino's Book Giveaway! And thanks to everyone for tuning in!


 

2/5/2024


Hi, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! #SeasonsOfKidLit is officially kicking off our Valentine's Day Celebration in a very sweet way. Debut author, Kris Tarantino, is here sharing her and Cori Derrfeld's monstrously-good book, Be My ValenSlime. When Snoodle, a sweet monster, tries to celebrate Valentine's Day with her monster friends she finds out monsters don't do Valentine's Day. Will Snoodle be able to throw the perfect celebration and convince them to be her ValenSlime? Want to know more about Kris, her adorable new book, PLUS want a chance to win your own copy? Read On...




Q:  Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! We’re thrilled to host you, and to hear about your book, Be My ValenSlime. It’s a monstrous amount of fun! Can you share a little about your journey in becoming a kidlit author? 


A: Thank you, Heather!


My journey started back in 2011, but I really didn’t get serious about writing picture books until 2016. Over time I joined SCBWI and 12x12. I attended SCBWI conferences, watched webinars, attended workshops at the Writing Barn (Austin, TX), learned the craft, drafted new story ideas, surrounded myself with other kid-lit writers, found critique groups, worked with two different mentors, and submitted my work.


I had many agent and editor “near-misses” - almost signing me and stories almost selling. There were times I felt on fire. There were periods when I had no ideas. There were stretches I wondered if I’d ever get published. There were slumps when I felt like quitting. But I kept going.  


I’m on my second agent. My first agent decided she didn’t want to sell picture books anymore, so we had no choice but to part amicably. My second agent is awesome. She’s quick and responsive, has great business sense and is great editorially.


My big break came like this—I attended a virtual writer’s conference (during Covid). I had a One-on-One with an editor and chose to spend my time pitching her as many of my stories as time allowed. I wanted to gauge her interest in each story because we all know that writers are only allowed to send one manuscript to a faculty member post-conference. It turns out she was looking for holiday books and lit up when I pitched Be My ValenSLIME. Did I know that when I started writing the manuscript? No. It shows that you don’t know what’s churning around within a publishing house. Just do the work. Put it out there. Go to conferences, attend webinars, and try to connect. It will happen.


Back to the story—the editor asked me to send her By My ValenSLIME post-conference (which I did). And then said they only work with agented authors. Gulp. I told her I was working on that.


Post-conference, I signed with my (second) agent. Hooray! As this was happening, the editor got back to me and said there was internal interest and would I be willing to revise and resend? I replied yes, and told her I just signed with an agent!


First, my agent and I went through two months of revisions. After the R&R was sent, the editor got back to us quickly. The acquisitions group was interested, but no offer, yet. They wanted to see more storylines developed with Snoodle and the monsters. There was talk of making this into a picture book series, maybe, no promises. Did I hear that right? A possible series?!


I had to think of 6-8 additional story summaries. I’d never done this before, but I was determined to try. After another 4 weeks, the series ideas were done and sent. Shortly after that we received a formal offer! Even though the offer ended up being for one book (and not a series) the acquisitions team still thought a series was a future possibility.


Fast forward to today and Be My Valenslime is out in the world, and a series is now officially underway! Coming 2026 and 2028, look for more books featuring these slime-loving monsters – Snoodle, Iggy, Zee-Zee and Fleck!


Q: We’re HUGE monster fans at #SeasonsOfKidLit and love that you mashed spooky and sweet subjects together. What inspired this story?


A: The idea for Be My ValenSLIME came together after years of experiencing people who repeatedly demonstrated a lack or void of love and kindness. I found myself saying, This doesn’t feel like love. What’s love anyway?



Q: What made you decide to tackle this difficult, but important topic?


A: The idea of exploring What’s love anyway kept rolling around in my head. And I thought what better way to get down to the kid-level on the topic of ‘love’ than with the opposite kind of character—a mash-up of monsters (typically viewed as a nasty unloving group). But they all couldn’t be monster-y. Then Snoodle burst on the page, along with the fun title, and the rest was history.


I knew I hit on something—the hooky title, love, slime, valentines, Snoodle who loves everything, and her grumpy monster friends.


The story brings together the definition of everyday love on a kid-to-kid friendship level that reminds kids that love is patient, kind, and forgiving and that they can show love to others every day of the year!


Q: I absolutely adore how your book shares a touching message of being patient and kind - perfect for Valentine’s Day or any month. Can you share more about this aspect of your book and any tips you have for incorporating important messages for kids in non-didactic ways? 


A: I wanted to write a story about how kids can show love to each other. I also wanted to share how love is worth it, at its best and at its messiest. 


Two suggestions. First, get down to your inner child and ask, How would a kid approach this? How could a kid solve this? Try to see things through the lens of a child.


For example: Looking at the scene when Snoodle’s monster friends pop all her party balloons, we see Snoodle calming herself down by counting (something a child can do), and turning to a different bubble-blowing activity (bubble gum being very relatable to children). The “message” that’s layered on—Because love isn’t quick to get angry—is more of a summary of what’s taking place on the page verses “telling” the reader.


Second, play with emotion. Ask yourself, How can you connect with the reader? I especially love writing humor with heart. In Be My Valenslime, Snoodle finally cracks the code with her grumpy monster friends when she creates and gives them a Be My Valenslime valentine which visibly (and emotionally) affects them. Turn the page, and they all “need a hug”. Aww. That's an emotional connection.




Q: What's something surprising you learned along the way in your publishing journey?


A: I wish I would have asked more about professional reviews and what they meant. When Be My ValenSLIME received a starred review from School Library Journal I was stunned and thrilled! After years of hard work, it was wonderful to receive such recognition, especially being a debut author. And then to celebrate our SLJ starred review, WaterBrook/Random House created two special social posts, which I blasted all over social media! In addition, we received praise from Publishers Weekly.




Q: Bonus question: What is your favorite Valentine’s Day Candy? And, what candy would your main character, Snoodle, more than likely eat? 


A: My favorite is Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Caramel in the center. Snoodle would prefer Chocolatey Sour Slime Bars.


Readers, want to know what we thought of Be My ValenSlime? Click here to see our review! You can also find our reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.



Would you like to leave a sweet treat for the readers?


Yes - I'd like to leave a Tip and a Treat!


Tip: Persevere.


Treat: One lucky winner will win a copy of Be My ValenSLIME.


Thanks for such sweet treats!


Giveaway Details: To enter to win a copy of Be My ValenSLIME, leave a comment below and let Kris know why you can't wait to check out her book. If you share this post on social media, let us know that too (for an extra entry into the raffle). The winners will be announced on or about Monday, February 12th, just in time for Valentine's Day.


*Note: books will be shipped in the US only.


About Kris Tarantino:

Kris Tarantino is a children’s book author. She is a member of SCBWI and the 12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. She has participated as a faculty speaker on several SCBWI Writer/Illustrator Panels, and has won numerous writing and mentor awards. Kris holds a B.A. in Business, Marketing, and Art. Prior to writing children’s books, she worked in marketing, licensing popular characters for companies that make fun products like toys, books, and balloons. Kris is represented by Keely Boeving at WordServe Literary. You can find Kris online at www.kristarantino.com, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.






For more about Kris, check out the below links:


Facebook: Kris Tarantino


For more about Cori Doerrfeld, check out the below links:


Facebook: Cori Doerrfeld


To purchase Kris's book on Amazon, or to leave a review for it, click here.



 



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