Welcome, readers, writers, and all you monster-lovers out there! We have the amazing Sue Ganz-Schmitt sharing her and Luke Flowers's book, That Monster on the Block. Monster is excited to have a new neighbor...that is until he finds out the most horrible creature imaginable moved next door. Will Monster be able to convince the others the creature doesn't belong, or will he have a change of heart? Want to know about Sue, her sweet and hilarious monster book, PLUS want a chance to win an amazing treat, too? Read on...
Q: Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit, Sue! We’re thrilled to have you Trick or Treat with us, and hear all about your book That Monster on the Block. Please share a little about your journey to becoming a children’s author.
A: Thank you, I am so excited to be here! I decided to write picture books for children when I was five years old.
I had a big brother who bullied me and one day while taking cover under our kitchen desk, I had an “AHA!” moment that I would create books that helped little sisters not be bullied. My favorite part of kindergarten was story dictation time. A parent volunteer sat down with us each week and they typed up our story and we illustrated it.
Here is one of mine.
And here are my first two traditionally published books (notice a theme?!)
I have always been crazy about space since watching the rocket launches leading up to the first moon landing:
Q: Your book That Monster on the Block sure looks like a fun treat for trick or treaters! Is there anything from your personal life that influenced the story?
A: Yes! I LOVE halloween and all the kid-fun not-so-spooky characters! The haunting season of October is one of my favorite times of the year—but That Monster on the Block is a story that is relevant all year long.
Around the time this story started brewing, I had just been accepted into a graduate program in writing for children and young adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. My first residency in Vermont coincided with a presidential inauguration. I was still in a state of shock at how so many people supported someone who used his bully pulpit to literally bully people and create fear of “others”. It made me sad to see how people were given permission (and encouraged) to behave without compassion and kindness. I was feeling pretty down about how many adults were role-modeling their worst selves to children. Then, I considered that while I could not change the way people were treating each other. I could reimagine it for kids.
I thought of my own neighborhood growing up and how some neighbors wouldn’t let their kids play with me and my siblings because we were Jewish. My grandparents were redlined into areas where Jewish people and others were marginalized. There were few areas were they were “allowed” to live. Deeds in our city prohibited certain groups from integrating into society. I started writing and turned a devisive “monster” into an inclusive friend.
My stories take inspiration from goings-on in the real world and pair them with childhood memories and feelings, dreams (both the sleepy and awake kind), joy, and inspiration. Story creation for me is like putting these ingredients into a blender and (hopefully) coming up with something that will be pleasing when all whipped up together.
So all of these elements blended up into this story idea:
Monster is excited to see what kind of creature will move into Vampire’s old house on the block. He even starts practicing his welcome growl for the new neighbor. But when the moving truck pulls up, it’s not a greedy goblin, an ogre, or a dastardly dragon that steps out. Instead, it’s something even more terrifying than Monster could have imagined! Monster quickly rallies the other neighbors to unite against the new guy on the block. But what if the new neighbor isn’t exactly as bad as Monster thinks? Join Monster as he confronts his fears at what it means to accept others who are different from us.
Q: Was Clown based upon anyone in particular?
A: Ha! Well…here’s my mom, Jeanie:
Halloween was her favorite holiday. She would deck out the house and open her door to neighbors, friends, family. Anyone who wanted to share the spirit. She loved dressing up at any occasion. One Halloween she dressed as this very clown and burst into my too-serious workplace, skipping around our meeting room and tossing candy from a basket to everyone. Only one friend knew who she was. When my very grumpy boss boomed out “Who is this CLOWN?!” my friend and I locked eyes, slunk into our chairs, and did not say a word. Luckily my mom skipped right out and no one knew that clown was my mom. Sometimes people did not get her joyful, spirited nature—she could be misunderstand by neighbors and others. But it never stopped her from being herself, just like my character, Clown.
Also, I had read an article a couple of years earlier about how bad-clowns had given party-clowns a bad name. Stephen King didn’t help their reputation either. So when I had to have a neighbor who would terrify my protagonist Monster, I knew a clown would do it.
Q: Tell us about your sequel to That Monster on the Block!
A: The incredibly talented Luke Flowers is working (as I type) on the illustrations for the next book in our series, Party Monster on the Block which is due out for next Halloween! It’s been a wildly fun party planning this with Luke, our editor (Marilyn Brigham) at Two Lions and my agent at the Unter Agency (Jennifer Unter).
Q: What is one of your favorite things about Halloween?
A: It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! Nothing says Halloween to me like the Peanuts gang and Charlie Brown and Linus yearning to find the Great Pumpkin.
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What candy pairs the best with your book?
A: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—featuring two flavors that you would not have expected to go so fantastically well together. Just like new BFF’s Monster and Clown.
Thanks again for joining us, Sue! We can't wait to check out That Monster on the Block and its sequel!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: A Treat! I'd like to give a personal bedtime reading (October 2023 via Zoom) for a little one and a signed copy of That Monster on the Block.
Thanks for such a monstrously great treat!
Contest Details: To enter to win this amazing giveaway, make sure to 1) share this post on social media and 2) leave a comment below and let Sue know why you can't wait to read her book! Feel free to throw in a clown GIF, too. ;) Since Sue would love to do the reading before Halloween, this giveaway ends in one week, on October 14th.
*Books will be shipped in the US only*
Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.
About Sue Ganz-Schmitt:
SUE GANZ-SCHMITT is an award-winning children’s book author, mother, musical theater producer, and philanthropist. She co-founded the SCBWI Emerging Voices diversity grant and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) in writing for children and young adults—where she specialized in the use of vulnerability in picture book text. Sue has performed in RENT on Broadway, run marathons, and loves other very scary challenges.
Sue’s books include: That Monster on the Block, Now I’m a Bird, Planet Kindergarten, and Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit . That Party Monster on the Block and her first picture book biography, Skybound!: Starring Mary Myers as Carlotta, Daredevil Aeronaut & Scientist, both release in 2024.
For more about Sue, check out the below links:
Book Trailer: That Monster on the Block Official Book Trailer
For More about Luke Flowers, check out the below links:
To purchase Sue's books, or to leave a review on Amazon, click here.
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!