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Several months ago, during the STORYSTORM event, Annie Lynn was inspired to begin writing a song based on Megan and Jorge Lacera’s book, ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! Megan and Jorge loved this idea and knew that Annie was the perfect musician for this project. And so they began to collaborate….

Which brings us to TODAY.

The launch of the ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! theme song!

Before you listen to the song, I asked Annie Lynn and the Laceras to give us the story behind the music. (Oh, I feel like VH-1!)

Annie: So let’s start with the book the song is based on. Why did you write ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES!? Is it based on anything or just a funny idea you had?

Megan: Our son is a huge inspiration…he loves “the scaries” and has always gravitated towards monsters, creatures, and spooky stories. He is also a very picky eater and simply wouldn’t touch vegetables for a long time. It wasn’t until we started to explore veggies in a more fun way…gardening, looking at seeds, talking about colors, types, smells and textures that he began to open up to giving veggies a go. We thought it would be fun to turn the whole thing on its head…what if the kid was begging the parent to try vegetables? What if he were a zombie, living in a zombie culture, who actually wasn’t allowed to eat carrots, turnips, and tomatoes? The idea grew from there.

Jorge: We also very much wanted to create a book that centered a multicultural family in a unique way. As someone who was born in Colombia, but grew a native Spanish speaker in Miami, I rarely saw picture books that appealed to me as a kid. There is more now, but we still had a hard time finding books for our son that featured families like ours.

Annie: What were your goals with this book?

Megan: Our goal was to create a book together that was “us.” A story that we loved, that tapped into our quirky, slightly dark sense of humor, that featured a family that loves each other wholeheartedly, even though each member is imperfect, sometimes stubborn, often making mistakes. Our hope was that by being true to ourselves, we could create a story that resonated with kids and families in a genuine way.

Jorge: And we wanted it to be published and be read all over the world!

Annie: I feel the same way about my songs!

Jorge: Yes! Hey Annie, it feels like you really love music and creating songs for kids. Can you share how/why it sets your heart on fire?

Annie:  I took every skill and schooling I had and used them 14 yrs. ago, to open AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, my music publishing company, and now full service recording studio. Since then, I’ve relied on all of my diverse experiences… as a B.S.Ed. and classroom teacher, a litigation paralegal, studio recording singer, Mom, and musician…to create meaningful musical experiences. I am betting most of us who ended up in kidlit, did so organically, using all our past jobs and experiences.

I started writing kids songs (leaving a country-bluegrass radio career) when my son Alex was about 10. At first they were silly radio songs. Then my school ran out of money to license more songs the rest of the year, so I wrote a bunch based on professional development workshops we were sent to.  Some were Social and Emotional Learning based, others Social and Environmental Justice, and we used them that year and they still do. 

That was also when I realized what a great tool music is for learning educational content—and soon found that my self-discovery was supported by research and data. I put my songs on Youtube, and teachers internationally began asking me to use them in their classrooms. I love knowing my songs are being used in other countries. It makes the world seem a little smaller. 

My heart is set on fire hearing kids singing my songs, in the studio and in schools, and I treasure the videos I’m sent of performances. That’s where I can see how they connect with our songs, and sometimes how they affect them. They get really mad and passionate singing STOP THAT!, our bullying-prevention song.

Megan: I love that. Connecting with kids is one of the most powerful things in the world. We treasure every message, photo, and video from kids.

Jorge: Annie, we love creating as a family…and we’re excited to learn that you also work with your family. How are your husband and son involved in your music creation? What is your process together like? How has is it gotten easier or harder?

Annie:  The three of us, my husband/writing partner, Walt, son Alex, and I each seem to have a skill the other two don’t, and we are learning to defer to each other’s opinions and areas of expertise. We went from a lifetime of people and businesses licensing what we wrote for ourselves (low pressure, usually no deadline) to working on a deadline and custom crafting songs for books and kidlit occasions. That took some getting used to. Now it is simply exciting & we KNOW we can connect and deliver.

It also helps that we have a neutral party in our sound engineer/musician/co-producer/co-writer Chris Arms. When we’re all trying to come to an agreement, he usually has the right answer.

Megan: Speaking of process…you told us that STORYSTORM played such a huge role in the birth of the ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! theme song. How so?

Annie:  STORYSTORM allowed me to create…with no judgement, as all the illustrators and authors kept reassuring us on Tara’s blog. I liked that it was ok to “suck.” That freedom got me wading into the dozens of kidlit books I have on display in the recording studio. I used both Fiction and Non-Fiction picture books. Some were educational, historical or scientific, others were just plain fun, with a great message and magical illustrations.

I ended up taking two commissions based on approximately 20 ideas generated from picture books.  I chose to work for 30 days, but not sweat the 30 ideas part. STORYSTORM allowed me to create for free…kind of like a consultation. To be forthcoming though, I had spoken for many months with both you and Jorge, about a song for ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES!, as well as Author/Podcast Host/Publisher Michele McAvoy her book COOKIE AND MILK with illustrator Jessica Gibson. We all felt it would happen, just the timing had to be right.  These two books had a tractor beam pull on me.

Megan: It’s really cool how there are similarities between writing music and writing books…and how STORYSTORM inspires both. What was it about Zombies that “pulled” on you?

Annie: When you first messaged me the name of your book, your song’s chorus flew into my head. I probably wrote back right away saying something like “Woman…..that title screams to be a song.” It really does. And once I read the book, the song kept running through my head. Kidlit knows how I am by now! Everything’s a SONG!

Megan: The ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! theme song doesn’t sound like any of your other songs. How do you push yourself artistically in new directions?

Annie: For kidlit, I instinctively recognize that every new song will have to fit the time period & location the book is set in, as well as the cultural style. During STORYSTORM, I learned about comps and back matter, and recognized excitedly that what I am doing musically, you guys are doing in kidlit. So much of the kidlit advice offered by the community also pertains to songwriting, and I’m grateful to be learning. Thank you everyone, seriously.

Because ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! is a mix of English and Spanish, I knew the song should reflect a Latin music feel. I knew Jorge was born in Colombia, and that you both wanted a song that matched the tone and feeling of the book so I spent time immersed in the music of the country. I found a style I liked, and Megan confirmed that the musical artist (Carlos Vives) I picked out as a “comp” was one of their favorites. From there, I studied what he did, what instruments were used and how and when. I sent Jorge a drum track after he requested to try rapping in Spanish, and he nailed it, upping the appeal of the song. 

I’m now working on a reggae tune, another stretch out of my comfort zone. I’m loving the education. The puppets are grooving to it too!

Megan and Jorge, I’m curious…from your point of view as book creators, how do you think a song might be useful? 

Megan: Having worked in entertainment for years, we know the power of a song to make a story, concept, or idea stick with you. Look at Disney…think about how many kids (and adults) can belt out LET IT GO! at the drop of hat and there you have it…songs stick.

Jorge: To get really specific, here are some ways we’ve all talked about how a ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! theme song can be used:

  • In classrooms, with lesson plans to help reinforce learning and engage students in new ways.
  • For our author visits, at schools, conferences, festivals
  • During Library story times and events
  • To add movement, dance to activities with kids (so many kids learn/retain more when they’re able to move)
  • At home; families can read together then sing and dance together
  • Children’s radio and podcasts

Annie: Hey, did you think you’d be writing the lyrics? (I did🤣!)

Megan: Well, you are the musical maven, so we wanted to follow your lead. And we knew you had the chorus already! But when you suggested that I write the lyrics, I was excited. I’ve written lyrics for other projects—start-ups, brands, marketing videos—but it was a whole new level of fun (and pressure!) to work on a song for my own book.

Jorge: I love the lyrics and the way Annie sings them—everything feels so seamless. We can’t stop singing it at our house.

Annie: Thank you, that makes my heart full of joy. We set out to create an earworm…a song that runs through your mind repeatedly, and usually, enjoyably.

So without further ado, here is the world premiere of the ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES! theme song! It is definitely a fun earworm! Click the book cover and be transported to SoundCloud!

For blog readers, Megan and Jorge Lacera have a signed copy of the book, and Annie Lynn will give away the MP3 files of her album No Time for Hate…and Other Songs for Schools (for personal use only).

Leave one comment below to enter and two winners will be randomly selected, one for each prize!

Good luck!


Annie Lynn is President and Chief Composer at AnnieBirdd Music, LLC. Visit her at AnnieLynn.net and follow her on Twitter at @AnnieLynn215. Listen to more her toe-tappy, kidlit-happy music at SoundCloud/Annie-Lynn-6

The dynamic husband-wife creative team of Megan & Jorge Lacera are online at studiolacera.com and Twitter @MeganLacera & @StudioLacera. Seven-year old Kai Lacera serves as Studio Lacera’s Chief of Research and Story Development. 

Today we have debuts up the wazoo! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

When Dawn Babb Prochovnic contacted me about debuting her new book trailer, I was intrigued because she collaborated with Annie Lynn, a songstress I knew from Twitter. (Which means today not only is there a trailer debut, but a musical debut as well. Yes, we are dropping music this week just like Taylor Swift!)

Of course, come on my blog! I said. But first, tell me about this awesome collaboration!

Dawn:

There is so much to love about the song that Annie and her team created for the WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? book trailer.

When I first connected with Annie, my thought was that I would send her a copy of the book, and she would read it and magically be inspired to write a song. Instead, she nudged me to write the lyrics for the song before she ever saw the book.

Her feeling was that I knew the heart of the story better than she or others would or could. That nudge opened up a whole new creative channel for me—I’m so proud to have been involved in the making of this song, and I’m so grateful that Annie and her music came into my life. I sincerely feel like the song is an extension of the book, versus just a fun extra.

That said, the song is a work of art in its own right that could stand alone without the book’s scaffolding. It’s so kid-friendly and ridiculously catchy. I find myself humming it ALL THE TIME. Good thing I love it!

Well then, let’s hear it!

Annie, how did you get into writing songs for kidlit?

I was lead to kidlit the way I was lead to kindie music (kids + indie musician = kindie). By accident….OR WAS IT????

Sometimes life gives you signs, and if you pay attention, and put the pieces together there is often an exciting path open to you. I went from recording kids music with my son and the students I was working with at an elementary school, to kidlit, as a result of reading with kids.

My first kidlit song was 2 years ago. I gifted OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE by Elise Gravel to my kid neighbor. We read it together out loud and I felt strongly that the words needed music (yes, I do that constantly, lol). I took 97% of her words, added music, made a demo, and ended up asking Elise for permission to share with the world and she said yes. She said she loved it and I could use it as I like. But that’s when I found out that songs are most valuable before the book comes out, especially for book trailers and value-added content for the book. Lesson learned. Completely different model from radio!

My next kidlit song was for Author Patrick Adams. He has this fun kidlit travel series LISA GOES TO… with this stuffed toy bear, Lisa, who can do amazing tricks and is guardian to 3 kids.

That brings me to our latest collaboration, with author Dawn Babb Prochovnic.

We were connected by mutual friends…one knew an author who wanted to write a song with a musician for a book trailer for her upcoming book, the other knew a children’s songwriter. See? THAT is the synchronicity I was just talking about.

However, that songwriter was tied up recording her next album, but had a friend who had been working a few years in kidlit, writing songs. We were introduced in a lovely email, and then began chatting on the phone about concepts and instruments. It quickly became apparent that I had been SENT one of the most lovely and kind people I had ever met. And she likes to talk and joke as much as I do, so we had some memorable, very funny conversations.

I lucked out with Dawn in that I gained a professional Author mentor, as well as learning about word pacing in picture books.  I was used to being Free Range Annie, writing about whatever I wanted to, whenever the Muse visited. If you listen to the back and forth exchange between the Captain and his crew in the book trailer song for WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? there’s a rhythm pattern that would not have occurred to me until Dawn wrote it out on paper. I kept thinking “Wow…she’s good. I just learned something new and useful.”  I also gained a friend and mutual supporter for life.

I also appreciate Dawn’s enthusiasm and vision for music in kidlit, and she has wonderful educational ideas that send my creativity into overdrive. She revealed that she recognizes the power music has to pull all the different pieces together in putting out a kidlit book trailer. And I can’t wait to hear kids singing this song to her on School Author Visits. She can now send it ahead of time, to any school she is visiting. They can learn it and sing along with the video. Kids will love singing her song to her. I always love how excited kids get when they sing my songs for me. And they can see me beaming, which makes them feel good too. Get ready to beam, Dawn!

I also need to mention that this song taught me not to take myself so seriously….I was writing an environmental doomsday song for an enviro group when she called. I needed a little break from heavy subject matter, and a song about a Pirate needing to find a potty quickly sure did the trick. My son is the Captain in the song and my husband Walt and I are the crew. Chris Arms plays guitar & mixed. We laughed so much recording this song. We tried to vocally make seal and dolphin sounds, til we realized we needed to sample the real thing. Listening to samples of seals and dolphins for an hour will make you laugh your butts off! And from downstairs, it sounded like seals were in my studio. I wrote to Dawn in tears after that….the really happy kind.  She brought us a memory that we will always cherish. And it got Alex off the darn PS4! He hasn’t been able to record with me since his voice changed. He’s really happy and proud of his performance; we are too.

Thank you, Dawn and Annie Lynn, for sharing your experience collaborating on kindie/kidlit music! I have a feeling Annie Lynn is about to be inundated with musical requests!

But first, a couple of giveaways!

From Dawn, you can win either a copy of WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? or a picture book critique! Your choice!

From Annie Lynn, you can win a music CD: SONGS FOR SCHOOLS!

Just leave a comment below to enter. Random winners will be selected in September!

Good luck!

Follow these creative ladies on Twitter: @DawnProchovnic & @AnnieLynn215 

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THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
2021

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HarperCollins
2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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