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I am ridiculously far behind in picking winners. So without further ado, here they are!

WINNER of CRASHING EDEN by Michael Sussman:

MIKE ALLEGRA! (heylookawriterfellow)

WINNER of THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN by Tiffany Strelitz Haber:

LESLIE G!

Congratulations, guys! I’ll be emailing you shortly.

I’m sorry if you didn’t win, but everyone’s leaving with a consolation prize. No, not a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax. (Do they even make Turtle Wax anymore? If you ever won a lifetime supply on Let’s Make a Deal you’d be ripped off.) Instead, it’s a piece of picture book writing advice:

Think BIG and carry a SMALL manuscript.

One of my favorite quirky picture books is OTTO GROWS DOWN by Michael Sussman, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Michael has a new YA novel, CRASHING EDEN. Well, Michael is crashing my blog today and he’s leaving behind a paperback copy just for you.

“Dr. Suss” (as I like to call him) is a prolific, versatile writer who has published books in diverse genres. So I asked him how he shifts gears to different formats and what obstacles he faces in doing so.

TL: Michael, you’ve written medical books, picture books, and now a young adult novel. How did you adjust from writing one genre to another?

MS: The toughest shift was from writing nonfiction professional books on psychotherapy to writing fiction. About 20 years ago I first tried my hand at a novel. Looking back at that manuscript, I cringe at how stiff and wooden my writing was—especially the dialogue. Thanks to practice and critiques from writer’s groups, my next novel was considerably better, although it too went unpublished.

After reading hundreds of picture books to my son, I decided to start writing for children. That transition was a breeze. Writing for kids totally freed my imagination and allowed me to be much more playful and fantasy-based. The result was OTTO GROWS DOWN, a story about a boy who becomes trapped in backwards time.

In writing for young adults, I benefited from having already spent years honing my novel-writing skills. There were, however, two major differences. It was a stretch to write with the voice of a teenager, and that took a great deal of revising to get right. Secondly, I had to revisit my own adolescence, and that was no picnic!

TL: Which genre is your comfort zone?

MS: When it comes to writing, I’m such a perfectionist that I’m not sure I have a comfort zone.

Writing picture books is probably easiest for me, since the sky’s the limit when it comes to letting your imagination run wild. In terms of novels, I think I feel most comfortable writing thillers and mysteries, especially with a comic edge.

TL: How did you get the idea for CRASHING EDEN? What made you decide to tackle the YA genre?

I started trying my hand at fiction about twenty years ago. I wrote a psychological thriller and a comic mystery novel, neither of which were published. I developed severe writer’s block, which was immediately relieved when I began writing for young children. Looking back, I think I was working out unresolved issues from my own childhood. Next I turned to writing for young adults. Consciously, I chose YA because the market was hot! But unconsciously, I believe I realized that it would give me the chance to work on issues from my mostly miserable adolescence.

The genesis of CRASHING EDEN began with the title, which had floated around in my mind for nearly a decade. I’d been interested in world mythology for many years, and especially intrigued by the widespread myths suggesting that humans have degenerated from an ancient state of grace, symbolized by Paradise or the Golden Age.

I began to wonder what might happen if we were somehow able to recapture the state of mind supposedly experienced by people before the Fall. What if a device could be built that altered our brains in such a way that we felt like we were back in the Garden of Eden?

This led to speculating about how the God of the Old Testament might react to trespassers in his Garden. That’s where the story takes a controversial turn.

TL: What an intriguing premise! So, what YA reads have really stuck with you? To which books would you compare your style?

MS: My favorite YA novels are Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, FEED by M.T. Anderson, UNWIND by Neal Shusterman, and MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francis X. Stork.

I’d like to think my style is unique, although I’d say it’s strongly influenced by two of my favorite novelists: Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore.

TL: How do you hope readers will react to your book?

MS: My ideal reader loved OTTO and is curious about the title of my novel. She’s intrigued by the notion that the widespread myths of a Golden Age were based on something real, and by the idea of returning to Edenic consciousness. She feels empathy for my troubled protagonist and gets caught up in his many dilemmas. She enjoys the humor and suspense of the story and finishes the book in one sitting. Then she recommends the novel to all her friends, posts glowing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and sends a copy of the book to her uncle, the filmmaker!

TL: Ha, ha! Don’t we all wish! So, with all those genres floating around in your head, do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Yes, I’ve definitely had periods when I couldn’t write a thing and couldn’t come up with a single idea. It feels awful. With other types of work you can just phone it in, but not with writing.

With mild writer’s block, I can overcome it by exercising, being in nature, taking a hot bath, meditating, or simply taking a break from writing. With more serious cases, it takes some psychological/emotional exploration. The blockage may be due to depression. It may stem from avoiding something that you need to write about. In one case, my writer’s block evaporated when I shifted from writing for adults to writing for children!

TL: I love that. Writing for children definitely frees the imagination and lets you go places adult fiction doesn’t.

Thanks to Dr. Suss for offering a paperback copy for me to give away! Just leave a comment to enter. You get one entry for your comment plus an extra entry for each share on social media, just let me know in a separate comment! A winner will be selected in one week. Good luck!

Want it now? Crashing Eden is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

And visit “Dr. Suss” online because he’s hilarious and talented (and a good friend)!

by Michael Sussman
with illustrations by Casey Girard

The struggle for new ideas can frustrate even the most creative writers and artists. For PiBoIdMo 2009, I unveiled my revolutionary device—the IdeaCatcher™—employing the latest in windsock technology to snag ideas from the air. Despite a very reasonable price of $29.95, sales were disappointing.

Undaunted, I’ve returned to the drawing board, and this year am pleased to offer not just one but two ground-breaking products, available exclusively for PiBoIdMo 2010 participants and lurkers.

Exciting new developments in neuropsychiatric research have revealed direct links between literary genres and specific regions of the brain. Mysteries, for example, are generated by the prefrontal cortex, and science fiction is associated with the anterior hypothalamus.

The human brain is a remarkable organ, but to function optimally it sometimes requires a little prodding. That’s where Whack-a-Plot™ comes in! Using this ingenious device, you can stimulate your gray matter to spew forth a story in the genre of your choice.

The Whack-a-Plot™ kit includes a titanium mallet and a detailed map of the skull, pinpointing the exact region of the brain responsible for each literary category. Need an idea for a pop-up picture book? Simply locate your posterior cingulate gyrus and pound away! Within seconds of regaining consciousness, you’ll have your story.

There may be times, however, when your mind is so sluggish or crammed with useless information that no amount of whacking will do the trick. In such cases, you’ll need Brano™. Just as Drano® flushes out clogged drains, and high colonics rid the colon of accumulated waste, Brano™ purges your mind of stale ideas. Two squirts in each nostril and you’re good to go! Out with the clichéd phrases and stale storylines, and in with the brilliant epiphanies!

Kiss writer’s block goodbye forever! Purchase Whack-a-Plot™ for just four payments of $19.99, and we’ll throw in Brano™ for free! Call 1-555-IDEA-NOW today! (Offer not valid in Tennessee or District of Columbia.)

Michael Sussman is a clinical psychologist and writer who resides in the Boston area. His debut picture book—OTTO GROWS DOWN—was published by Sterling, with illustrations by Scott Magoon. Dr. Sussman is also the author of A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy, and the editor of A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice.

Casey Girard is a freelance designer and illustrator working out of Boston. Her main business is marketing design for trade books and she is currently working on polishing up her own book ideas.

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
black kite

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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